Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Simmer

Yesterday was the first dinner date with S_, a wonderful blind date set-up who is intelligent, sporty, and cute. I went home at my early time. In a large bit of optimism I wanted to make my apartment smell nice and the best way to do this is to slowly simmer soup. I chopped up the usual assortment of cauliflower, potatoes, and mushrooms, added both apples and brussel sprouts for a bit of oomph, and let the concoction simmer in chicken stock. The smells of a healthy lifestyle wafted through to my living room that the house cleaners had just attended.

With the soup slowly reducing and feeling the need to relax a little before the date I decided to a small workout at the 24-hour Fitness down the street. There were a couple of exercise bikes available and I picked the one farthest from the window. The pedals had the straps that go across the top of a foot and let you pull up as well as push down. About a minute into my routine the strap on my right side became down and I reached down to buckle it back. This was a bad idea.

The buckle had a metal hook that attached it to the strap, and this spike went deep into my right thumb. I tried to pull up but the metal had been clamped in by the plastic part of the buckle and pulling sideways was going to take off most of the flesh. I politely asked the head trainer a few machines over "Could you please help?"

He came over and looked incredulous about how I did that. He and the other trainer quickly removed the entire strap from the exercise bike and equally quickly came to the same conclusion that the spike was hooked in deeply. It was 6:15, the date was an hour and fifteen minutes away, and while I think it is important to show that you exercise I don’t think you should show up to a dinner with actual equipment still lodged inside yourself.

I went to the emergency room. Normally there is a quite a wait to be seen, but if you are bleeding with a hook in your finger they don’t make you fill out as much paper work. I was quickly given a tetanus shot, but had to wait a bit to get x-rays. The technician was a bit of an artist and constantly wanted to shift the angle of my hand for the perfect exposure, but the movement caused the spike to shift around my thumb and the pain chilled me. Thankfully a few minutes later I finally got a local anesthetic. A few minutes later a doctor using a clamp unlodged my thumb. It was 7:15. All I needed was the nurse, Ian, to come over to clean and dress the wound.

I waited and kept watching the clock.

7:20 Nurse Ian goes down the hall.

7:25 Nurse Ian chats with the front desk.

7:30 S_ is probably at the restaurant.

7:35 Nurse Ian goes down the hall again.

7:40 S_ is probably a little upset that I haven’t shown.

7:42 Nurse Ian comes into dress the wound. He tells me that he would rather take his time and be thorough rather than patch me quickly. Since infection is a real risk with a puncture would I am not in a real position to argue, but it is slowly becoming

7:44 ...

7:46 Nurse Ian is finished and I run to the restaurant

7:51 I arrive at Chez Nous, but S_ has left. There would be no date.

I lumbered the few blocks home and realized I missed my opportunity. It took two weeks to get a day that S_ was available, and she is not unusual for people in this city. We are perpetually burdened by work or hobbies. The scant openings in schedules occur less often than rainstorms. The city is not a place where relationships build slowly with continuous stirring; there isn't enough time to let things simmer and instead we have microwave dating, the brief intense meetings arranged by the radiation of cell phones or email messages. The city is hooked on speed.

I made it home and rushed to the phone to apologize to S_. I promise if we go out again I will spend the entire day beforehand away from sharp pointy objects. She might be available sometime next week, but I can feel the hesitancy in her voice. I am sure that when she dreams of her ideal man, the word "klutz" isn’t mentioned much.

We chatted briefly about her Minnesota thanksgiving, and then said goodbye. I am left in my cold apartment and I realize that the burnt smell coming from my kitchen is what happens when things don't correctly simmer.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Someone Like You

Normally during my lazy Saturday morning breakfast I stick to the sports section to learn how our local teams are either heading south in the standings or location, but this last time while nursing my mocha I stumbled across in the entertainment section a particular event, Couples, Computers, and Gaming day. I almost spilt my mocha. For a late thirties single guy, hearing that there would be an all day event at the Ruby Skye featuring among other things a female Swedish Quake team who all lived in the same house, was a discovery somewhere between finding money that it made through the laundry and stumbling across that the cable company had accidentally unscrambled the Spice Channel. Ruby Skye is one of the hippest nightclubs in San Francisco, a place known for its DJ's pulsating out techno music into a room filled with epilepsy inducing strobe lights, a place where the acid trips of the sixties morphed into the ecstasy raves of the nineties, a place where just perhaps a group of Swedish women would be for an afternoon of coupling and computers.

This could have been the best day ever.

I arrived anxious. The club had the velvet ropes out in front, the traditional barrier separating the cool from the unworthy, and a larger bouncer worked the door. I tried my best to work the nonchalant geeky chic, the kind of confidence that comes from having the finest wireless devices stashed in one's pockets. Granted I didn't have the latest technology, but I doubt this mountain of a man was going to know.

The ticket booth was harder to pass. Two women worked the counter, and when I started to buy the ticket they asked the tough question: "Only one?"

"Yes, only one," I muttered feeling the same way I do when my parents ask if there was anyone special I want to bring to a holiday dinner. I hadn't realized that the event was BYOP (bring your own partner), and had sort of hoped that it would have more of a Burning Man kind of vibe, a day where cables weren't the only thing being hook up. With my palm pilot turned off and my cell phone set to vibrate I quickly went into the main dance area. There I saw something completely unexpected - a panel discussion.

It was a talk about games.

On the stage four women sat in folding chairs as a moderator passed a microphone between them. In front of them on the floor a crowd that was at least 90% male if not also 90% wearing sweatshirts watched the discussion. I felt I was not the only person there who wore a Star Trek uniform for Halloween.

The eldest of the panelists began by telling how great it was that Laura Croft had a breast reduction in the new version of the game, Tomb Raider. She added that if publishers wanted to attract female gamers that they should have a way to skip the combat sequences and to have options where there isn't as much score keeping. I think she was going to continue about how there should be more cuddling after game play, but the next panelist started her session.

She was the publisher for the Desperate Housewives game that mimics the television show and allows the gamers to redecorate there own suburban home, gossip with characters from the show, or hook up with the pizza guy (tastefully off screen). Apparently there wasn't an option that lets the self-absorbed yuppies get crushed by a bad mortgage (or preferably space aliens), but there is always hope for the sequel. She talked about how she met her husband through gaming and that every week they host a Halo party. So far only guys attend the parties.

The next panelist began that she met her ex-boyfriend through gaming. The use of the "ex" couldn't have made the crowd more excited unless it was followed by the word "box". The bliss was short lived; the speaker lost 80 pounds by playing Dance Dance Revolution and then dumped the guy for an upgrade. She now hosts Star Wars fashion shows on the massively multiplayer version of the game where Wookies compete in the best evening gown or swimsuit. This to me seemed to be a complete waste of the furry creatures, because I thought their perfect use would be gunning down the Desperate Housewives, and I am deeply hoping for some conference synergy.

The last speaker was the Swedish Quake player, and the crowd had long given up that she might be single. She talked about the house and how she and her friends crush guys in tournaments. She went into the training that sounded triathlon-like in terms of commitment. Her wrist has been injured, and she wore a leather brace that Billy Idol would have if he ever got carpal tunnel syndrome. I have no doubt her team destroys everyone.

The panel was then open up to questions. I missed the first one, but the first panelist answered with how sexy a plain white shirt could be and repeated how great it was that Laura Croft had a breast reduction. The moderator then went out into the audience to the mid-thirties guy seated a few rows ahead of me. As he stood, he wiped the top of his balding head. After a quick "test" into the microphone, he began his question in a soft voice to the Swede.

"Where can I find someone like you?"

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Maps of Our World

There are later stages of an origin, the ones after the moment is no longer innovative but still interesting enough to be spread out into the world, that can matter. Our universe began with a Big Bang, but the longer simmer was equally fascinating.

John Mather and George Smoot won 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics for their work in cosmic background radiation. In 1964, Penzias and Wilson had unexpected noise when conducting radio experiments. This disruption caused by the prevalent background radiation of the cosmos, was the first evidence to support that the universe was expanding as opposed to being in a steady state. If the universe was expanding then it would cool as it grew since atomic particles would have further to travel before collisions. When the temperature dropped enough to allow protons and neutrons to form hydrogen atoms, roughly 400,000 years after the start of the Big Bang, radiation became transparent that caused the noise discovered Penzias and Wilson. In 1989 this radiation was better mapped by satellite called COBE that John Mather and George Smoot were the principle investigators. The world indeed looked to be expanding.

The Internet also has had a simmer after the great bust.

Its beginning came out of the defense department and existed for a couple of decades to mostly connect scientists with the people who gave them grants. The origin was more like the beginnings of eukaryotes. The primordial soup long had been fermenting for a billion years and testing out various evolutionary recipes until it stumbled across a combination that worked like Johnny and The Moondogs kept trying new drummers until they found this guy named Ringo Starr and changed their name to the Beatles. They had early hits like “She Loves You,” just the Eukaryotes who billions of years earlier formed their own super group called multi cellular organisms had early hits like “Mitosis”) The internet’s big hit, a web browser, was remarkable in that it was the first piece of technology to come with a built in metaphor about arachnid domiciles already built in. Technologist and hack writers, like this author, have been abusing language ever since. The first major linguistic abuse was putting the letter “e” in front of words like commerce, bay, or pets. This lasted for a few years until the venture money ran out or Bush got elected, and quickly the visionaries shifted by switching to the letter “i” in front of words like tunes and pod. Only a brave futurist will guess whether the next Internet wave will start with the vowel “o” or move into a more exotic constant like “h.” or “j”

For the less brave futurists, the Internet is harder to grasp. It seems to exist everywhere in a constant hum of emails, text messages, podcasts, pictures, and videos – the background radiation of our modern world. One of the great cables that is used to extend it is Ethernet, and the term captures the umbilical chord nature of the wire that goes out of our machine into a place that we really aren’t sure. It is ether.

But what has been happening recently is that there is a branch of the Internet that is being tied to maps. Granted driving instructions have been around for a while, but with Google Maps it is now possible to create your own version of world and link the markers and routes of your existence. (This is a good set of instructions). This technology is being combined with blogs (, events ( ), and cute girls in Colorado( has a more complete list.

I have started to add my own such as haikus made about cheering marathon runners and a race I did in Alaska. But I am a relative latecomer compared to those who have built out maps for the world of warcraft or where Oscar winners were born. The new branch of the Internet is more of an Intraweb with the ideas of the world now mapped to physical locations. We had that kind of context before in yellow pages, but what makes it different other than being able to search for everything near a given location is that anyone can contribute. The world has expanded to where the information has been broken down into protons and electrons, and people are free to build out new mashups of their own by mixing particles of knowledge and geography.

Now if someone could just create a site that could find my keys…