mangosteen: (Default)
From last Thursday until today, [livejournal.com profile] lifecollage and I were away in the San Francisco Bay Area on vacation. There was much doing and shlepping and conversing and other such things, but I don't feel like listing them right now.

Observations: A few notes from the trip.

California is a complete state filled with "have it your way". There is very little of the "we're all in this together" you'd get in denser regions of the country, or those with harsher weather. Social rituals to smooth mundane daily interactions just aren't as necessary. More on that below.

It is still possible to terrorize California drivers with Boston driving skills.

It's easy to look at the tech culture of the bay area and say that tech people in the bay area have no work/life balance as we know it in the northeast; but that's not precisely true. It may at first glance look like a bit of "let's all act like friends until business gets in the way" hypocrisy; but that's somewhat misleading. It's just that the boundary is a bit more fluid.

The finance and insurance companies of the northeast are built on the bedrock that allows the start-ups of the bay area to grow in tectonically unstable soil.

I'm a city boy, but I couldn't imagine living in SF. Its infrastructure is just too dysfunctional in too many ways. The alternative (some random subdivision in the peninsula) scares me just as much, though.

Contrary to what I thought before breakfast on Saturday, *French* cuisine is the one with the tiny portions, *not* Californian. All I needed is one bigger-than-my-head omelet to correct that one.

The Toyota Camry is a very Beige car. It has all of the personality of a sewing machine, and I don't mean one of those $2000 Japanese sewing machines that do everything but pick out the fabric for you. The handling is a bit loose, and its center is vague. That being said, it's the fastest version of Beige I've seen yet.

If one is driving fast enough southbound, it doesn't feel like one is driving down a highway, as much as one is dropped down from the top of the road. I will note that going 93mph on I-680 is one circumstance where that can be said to happen.

I forgot how quiet gasoline engines could be.

Walking up to the State House in Sacramento and touching it was a very odd experience. Given how alienated I've felt from state and (especially) federal government over the past 6 years or so, it felt *good* to actually be able to walk up to a building that contains the governing body for the 7th largest ecnonomy in the world and confirm that it physically exists, as opposed to it being some locked-down and inaccessible phantasm, as is my current image of the Capitol Building in DC.

The next conservative friend I have who tells me that I live in "Taxachusetts" will be beaten over the head with California. Repeatedly and a lot. After that, they will be beaten over the head with the 26 states that have a higher average state/local tax burden than the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Following *that* beating, I will tell them that they are wrong.

As I walked into [livejournal.com profile] xthread's office, I noticed the smell of outgassing industrial carpet. The last time I smelled that particular smell was 15 years ago when my father was doing consulting work for a small tech startup in Palo Alto. That smell will always be associated with "promising new tech startup" for me.

Note to self: I will not get offended when a tech person's immediate reaction to "I work for a university." is "You're in semi-retirement, then?" Oh, screw that. Of *course* I'm going to get offended by it. I'm just going to politely nod, smile, and then decisively correct them.

Seeing someone essentially start their social life from square one at age 60 is a hard thing to watch sometimes, but it makes me incredibly happy, all the same.

And one big one, to finish it off:

Here's the theory. If one grows up in the northeast or the midwest, there's an overriding thought process that goes something like "If I don't make arrangements for myself, the winter is going to come, and I'm going to die." To my mind, this has a small bias on everything one does, from building community, to social conventions, to many other sorts of value judgements. Having to "buckle down for winter" provides an implicit penalty for failure, i.e. "If I screw up often enough, winter is going to come, and I'm going to die." The west coast has no such implicit penalty for failure, and I believe that that has a small but profound effect on social and work behaviors.

So, that being said, for a long time I knew that there were several differences between the west coast's" no penalty for failure" thought model and the northeast's "buckle down for winter" thought model, but I couched all of them in terms of the more stolid and reliable mien of the northeasterners vs. the flakiness and easy life of the Californians. It never occured to me to look at it in terms of the idea that tech people in the bay area really do think that anything is possible, because they don't build in the assumption that they have to hunker down for the winter. It makes them less... afraid, in a way. The contrasts between Silicon Valley and Rt. 128 in Boston make a bit more sense now, but there are a couple of books to read on the subject before I firm up my thoughts on it.
mangosteen: (Default)
So, as I was saying.....

Yesterday began at 0620 EDT, when my sweetie and I got up to catch a plane to PDX.

"Yesterday" ended at 0300 EDT, having just come back from belting out "Baby Got Back" at a karaoke night at a tiki bar in Northeast Portland.

I'll call that a success.


What is there to say about the flight from BOS to PDX? It was as uneventful as such a flight should be, including the six hour layover in CVG. For one thing, six hour layovers aren't all that bad if you know they're coming. I have books, I have a laptop, and I have a statistically significant reading list.

Observation: It's only when I genuinely lack net that I actually start reading again. Net is fast. Reading is slow. However, reading is fast when there's no net, because plane flight is slow. More on "fast" and "slow" later.

All the things I read en route... )

So, long (section of the) story short, we touched down in Portland, made it over to Darklady Estates in beautiful Northeast Portland, regrouped for an hour or so, and then headed out to dinner at a tiki bar. Why? Because when the hell else am I going to do it? Travel allows me to live out-of-context, and I'll be damned if I'm not going to take advantage of it.

So [livejournal.com profile] bookteacher, myself, Darklady, and her housemate were at a tiki bar. On karaoke night. Perhaps I should mention that, for all that people might think I would be uniquely tempermentally suited to karaoke, the last time I had been looking at the business end of a karaoke microphone was around 15 years ago, during freshman orientation at my alma mater. It has been a combination of lack of opportunity and lack of inclination since then. Still, if being in a tiki bar on karaoke night with a couple of beers in your system and full knowledge that you're still likely in the lowest quintile for drunkenness isn't a perfect opportunity to sing heartfelt renditions of songs that you almost remember the lyrics to, I don't know what is.

List: A brief listing of Karaoke styles for American rock music, as noted by yours truly.

  • "I know the chorus really well, but I have no bloody idea how the rest of the song goes." (Amusing, esepcially when they kind of mumble through the verses, and then reach up from their colon to belt out the chorus of "Heartbreaker")
  • "I know the song, and the lyrics, but the rhythm fairy never came to visit." (arguably the most painful).
  • "I heard the song on the radio, but the lyrics on the screen are new and interesting." (This can actually end up well.)
  • "I'm going to try to dance along to the song, and occasionally remember to sing." (Has aesthetic appeal, but somewhat misses the point.)
  • "My friends bet me that I wouldn't sing this song." (Tell your freinds to stop. They're hurting America.)


After much encouragement by others at the table, I put myself in the rotation. Living by the guideline that if you're going to make an ass out of yourself, you have to go all the way, I decided on "Baby Got Back" by Sir Mix-A-Lot. I will note that by this time, Johnny Barleycorn had lowered the good-idea bar to the point where this sounded like an utterly reasonable proposition.

"I LIKE BIG BUTTS AND I CAN NOT LIE" ....and so it begins. Every lyric a gem of booty glorification, being sung by a white guy who has rhythm, a bit of soul, and an utter disregard for looking like an idiot. This included the apprpriately timed pelvic thrusts, pantomimed booty smacks, and other such things. You really had to be there.

Observation: Getting high-fives from ten people you've never met upon the completion of a karaoke song will make you do something silly... like putting yourself back into the rotation.

The next song was "Piano Man". I managed to make the right motions to get people to put arms around each others' shoulders and sway along. This one is a no-brainer to please the crowd, except that Billy Joel made good use of the two-octave range that he had when he wrote the song. It's evidently really easy to screw up, but I ended up making it sound pretty good. Another bunch of high-fives ensued. At that point is was around 3am EDT and we'd been running non-stop for 21 hours. Having decided to declare victory and go home, we headed back to beautiful Darklady Estates, and unceremoniously passed out.

Not bad for the first day.

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Elias K. Mangosteen

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