[VOID] Leaving Australia: the longest day of my life

Rohit Khare (rohit@bordeaux.ics.uci.edu)
Mon, 27 Apr 1998 02:43:20 -0700


Preface: Normally, when traveling abroad, I rely on Adam's green books to document the experience and let it go at that. I don't even think we FoRKposted barest notice of the Basel trip, what with Rob Harley coming down to visit from Paris, yet another nations' McDonald's, and a nine-course meal at the 3 Kings on the riverbank (one of the Leading Hotels of the World, as figures below).

However, I think I should be less lazy about it. Herewith, a series of hypertext nodes from my head on what went down. It's written mainly from the perspective of Monday morning, but realize that there are several clocks ticking: backward into my visit to Australia, forward from café to café as I write this, and one that ticks of its own accord, pacing off my inner life of ideas. (And then, of course, there's the editorial voice which cuts across all three to smooth out the flaws, insert analysis, and weave the nodes together, with complete disregard for the authentic flow of sentences: it's a document, after all, not a log file)

The top-line is that I'm trying to explore what it was like to be in a city surrounded by people socializing and having 'fun' 24x7 while being in 'conference' mode 97% of the time: squaring my lust for life with my lust for (techno) power. The choice has rarely been so stark.

"Of the gladdest moments in human life, methinks, is the departure upon a distant journey to unknown lands. Shaking off with one mighty effort the fetters of Habit, the leaden weight of Routing, the cloak of many Cares and the slavery of Home, man feels once more happy. The blood flows with the circulation of childhood" -- from the journal of Sir Richard Burton

Anyway,

Rohit Khare

====

[The Muse, OP, 0:12 AM PDT Monday]

I'm too drunk to drive. But I'm the only car parked on three blocks worth of downtown Old Pasadena seventy-two minutes into wee Monday morning, so I'll chance drunk typing charges loitering here instead. They can't do more than revoke my creative license :-)

I finally left Adam and Michelle's apartment at about 9PM. Mind you, we arrived back at LAX at 7:15AM -- so even after our journey, I spent fourteen more hours at their house lounging by the pool under the spring sun, watching TV, and arguing intently with Adam to keep rolling off the technical high from our flight notes. In that green book has germinated the seeds of a thesis that will finally get Adam out!

But short of forcing the point of spending all of Saturday together -- all 41 hours -- I decided to move on. I was still too tired to drive all the way home, though. I was so tired, when I got to Old Pasadena, I passed out in my car. Eventually, I ended up browsing at Barnes & Noble and them found a bar to start reading -- Adam said he might call later tonight. Muse is dark, industrial, neon, thumpin': a perfect contemplation spot, as tuned to my character as a Zen rock garden is the Japanese. Ordered a Bombay Sapphire martini; then another, but they ran out of gin yet comped a Manhattan alongside it. How a bartender assumes a customer on a martini kick would prefer a sweet drink, I don't know.

I'm reading a book I recommended recently, Arranged Marriages, by Chitra Bannerjee Divakaruni -- a certain friend of mine mailed me in Oz that I really should settle in and give it a read, finally.

There weren't too many people around on a late Sunday night, so I felt free to stagger against the wall and let myself feel the stories Chitra laid out. They hurt. They hurt because tales of strong Indian women jolt me out of my self-pity as merely an Indian man, beneficiary of the system. Itís a surreal environment to contemplate village life: dance music, rape scenes and wrestling on TV, chatting about battery with the waitress, blotting my tears on a Phillip Morris Corporation Marlboro napkin. Most all of the passages I quote here hit me the first time right then (consider these the best 3%) -- yet all were more powerful than the author had any right to expect.

====
[ Bats ]

The first story is about a battered wife attempting, in ever-more pathetically circumscribed orbits, to escape the clutches of a boor and the gravitational well of neighbor's insults -- from the girl's point of view. On their first circuit, mother and daughter end up back at the ancestral village, where a kindly uncle is finally forced to clear the orchard of bats with poison.

" I guess they just don't realize what's happening. They don't realize that by flying somewhere else they'll be safe. Or, maybe they do, but there's something that keeps pulling them back here."

====

That finally made me cry. I had been waiting for days now for the dam to break, to let those contradictory feelings of departure out. I miss the place, surely; but I miss more myself. I was uninhibited, ecstatic, cranky, niggardly, expansive, dashing, rude, all the things I normally am, but on doubleplus dynamic range. That's a fun self to be, not the brooding, overanalytic one who's writing this now.

====
[ The Word Love ]

You tried to tell him about your mother, how she'd seen her husband's face for the first time at her wedding...

"So?"

"She lives in a different world. Can't you see that? She's never traveled more than hundred miles from where she was born; she's never touched cigarettes or alcohol; and even though she lives in Calcutta, she's never watched a movie."

"Are you serious!"

"I love her, Rex." I will not feel apologetic

...

You went to the movies in secret, because Mother said movies were frivolous, decadent. But there were no secrets in Calcutta. When you came home from classes the next day, a suitcase full of your clothes was on the doorstep. A note on it, in your mother's hand. Better no daughter at all than a disobedient one, a shame to the family. Even now you remember how you feet, the dizzy fear that shriveled the edges of the day, the desperate knocking on the door that left your knuckles raw.

{"Are you doin' OK here, honey?" "As far as drinks, yes". 5:47 PM Brisbane time}

You do know this: you kept talking, even after the phone went dead.

"Mother..." you cry, The word ricochets through the apartment so the hangings shiver on the wall... the phone goes dead. You call again. Your fingers are shaking. It's hard to see the digits through the tears. Your knees feel as though they have been broken. The phone buzzes against your ear like a trapped insect. No one picks it up. You keep calling all week. Finally a machine tells you the number has changed. There is no new number.

When you fall asleep you dream of a beautiful dark girl knotting stones into her palloo and swimming out to the middle of the dark lake. The water is cool on her heavying breasts, her growing belly. It ripples and parts for her. Before she goes under, she turns to you. Sometimes her face is blank, a featureless oval. Sometimes it is your face.

[I was lounging by Adam's pool and plunged in this morning. For the first time, I sank. It was a wonderful feeling just plummeting slowly to the bottom: I have lost that much body fat...]

What did he know, you thought, about families, about (yes) love. He'd left home the day he turned eighteen. He only called his mother on Mother's Day and, if he remembered, her birthday. When he told her about you she'd said, "How nice, dear. We must really have you both over to the house for dinner soon."

====
[Fred 62, Los Feliz Village, 1:47 AM PDT]

Hey, can I sue Digital Equipment Corporation for shipping such crappy batteries on this laptop? In reality, it discharged right after my lede paragraph, so I had to chance it on down to my Hollywood hangouts right on the heels of those martinis. I mean, the risks! I think I added up seven separate officers of the peace on my drive down here, but I was peaceful enough, I'd have to say. The only downside, really, is that I'm on cocoa here at this little lime-green fantasy of a 50's noodle-diner ("Chef Joe 'RocketBoy' Mora" presiding at this hour), meaning that I'm slightly more sober than I'd hoped I'd have to be to tell my unexpurgated tale.

... After pulling myself back up off the banquette, I think I can try to do the math from my calendar, beyond the mere 17 hour time difference of the flight. From WWW7 Developer's Day on through Los Angeles International to a further day of local idleness and debauchery, I'd count the last, um, 64 hours as one continuous stretch. The longest and most emotionally extractive 'day' of my life.

... Looks like I nodded off yet again. Japanese soba noodles and veggie tempura arrived. Time to refuel before playing show-and-tell. Although, Adam insists FoRK is all-show and no-tell -- pure entertainment value.

{sorry, but speaking of which, there's a pair of 6' Hollywood models in ripped braless tanktops tickled by the typing Rohit -- brunette and a blonde and a pumped escort in a muscle-T -- at the next booth imploring me to pronounce "fartface" with a hindi accent. Pardon me while I acquiesce. Some combination of "Sweet Georgia Brown" on the PA and testosterone makes me an easy mark...}

This week has been a real roller-coaster. If I had to summarize, it though, it was my first WWWn outside the W3C {whoops, french-fry-fight with the blonde; glad I'm well-armed enough to defend myself :-) After all, everyone else at the restaurant is paired off in interesting permutations and knotted into one another; I think I'm entitled to a little carbohydrate circus act...} so I was actually kinda bummed to be off the center stage, running around organizing W3C track -- this time I only had a workshop, paper, poster, and report to present, after all. Adam, on the other hand, was the debutante at the ball, a fresh face for many to associate a face with. I'll let him speak for himself, but I think he had a manic week. And remember: "every time a friend succeeds, I die a little inside" (Gore Vidal).

{You're all experienced hypertext readers, so you can unpack the parallel timelines: the brunette is arguing with the fellow about minimum rental-age agreements; I chime in to support her with an Avis tale of mine. The blonde, peeved, got up to go to another booth by herself; fellow suggested I join her. Thought better of it and kept writing; now she's flirting with my waiter at the bar.}

In short, Brisbane turned out to be Ro-heaven and Ro-hell.

Shiny happy people in a shiny happy setting doing no visible work whatsoever. Temptation everywhere: good food, good beer, good people, good weather, gambling, drugs, public sex, and cheap to boot. And in this place I have come to work. To network, to write, to scramble. To play out all my Type-A fantasies of control in an isle determined to defeat it.

We started back in LA on Friday night, which as usual turned into an adventure in itself. We actually got to the airport three hours early: so early there was no one at First Class check in -- I was outraged at having to wait fifteen minutes for a United rep to recognize us waay at the end of the counter. We went early because I got an emergency note Dan Connolly missed his flight in from Austin and might need assistance in LA overnighting. In the meantime, Adam and I went to Encounters for dinner, leaving messages for Jim Whitehead and R at the United lounges, who were also on our flight.

Encounters is the reborn theme building restaurant, the parabolous spider at the heart of LAX. It's a full UFO-lounge treatment: chrome everywhere, 50's space-bachelor-pad music, Klingon beer taps that fire phaser sounds and lit-up soda stream guns. Architectural fantasies for dessert -- towers of chocolate -- and at the bar, since it seems to have become the gold-digging hotspot of the South Bay, with a 2-1 crowd of variously enhanced women posing with their martinis.

We saunter back across the access road to the terminal around ten, when I realize my phone had been ringing -- I missed two calls I presumed were Dan's. We're at the entrance to Terminal 7, so I tell Adam I'll try to run over to American -- the next terminal over -- and try to catch Dan. I ran like hell -- and kept running. Past Terminal 6, United/Continental, past Terminal 5, Delta, finally to Terminal 4. Adam calls me to tell me they've locked our luggage inside the 1K lounge, to boot. Panic, panic, panic, and nowhere a Dan to be seen. 10:25PM. It's a 10:40 flight, time to give up and run back. I descend to the semi-secret underground tunnel system, knowing it's faster than going back streetside and through security again. Run, run, running down the seemingly-abandoned linoleum chute, passing a stray panhandling guitarist for the Hare Krishnas -- they're everywhere, you know -- until I hitch a ride on a Delta golf cart to T6. I'm at a wall: I have to go all the way back out to the street, through security, and back out to the very tippy-last gate of T7. The PA blares four passengers' names to arrive immediately at the gate. I run. A porter stops to ask if I'm having a having a heart attack. I kid you not, I was panting like a gazelle run to ground before the kill on PBS. Run, run, past Puck's, past McDonalds. Now they are only announcing my name, mine alone. Up the stairs, and finally there's Adam, fighting off the harpys at gate control. It's only 10:33 when I plop down in my seat, directly in front of the entrance door.

And we wait.

And we wait.

Around 10:40, a United pilot takes an extra seat. Turns out some one passenger never made it. Turned out to be Jim Whitehead. Who was late -- only arrive 50 minutes in advance -- and got more money in United compensation for his error than I have ever seen United offer anyone, much less myself for all the shit I've put up with.

The flight turns out to be fairly innocuous, interrupted by a bout of duty-free (or is it care-free?) shopping. We stocked up on some consumables for the week: Hennessy XO (kosher) and Blue Label (not). As for the meal, it was extremely blah, even by United's standards. And for Adam, it turns out you can order Kosher-for-Passover or vegetarian, but not both. And when you go for vegetarian, they go for the triple: a meal that's simultaneously vegan, low-sodium, and bland.

====

"WARNING: This Product Contains/Produces Chemicals Known To The State Of California To Cause Cancer, And Birth Defects Or Other Reproductive Harm"

====

Arrivals in Sydney is a mess: they better pray the airport expansion completes in time for the 2000 Olympics. We race over to the Ansett terminal for our connection; on the bus I was still complaining about Dan, when the woman in the row ahead of us turns around and says "Hi Rohit" -- one I don't recognize for several sentences -- the first of many, many such encounters only a large, loud, Indian guy can attest to. It's a cheap sort of fame, but it works. (famous is one whom everyone knows but doesn't know everyone -- Jan L A van de Snepscheut). We, in turn are passed by a sprinting Murray Maloney, who graciously offered us a lift to our hotel in a stretch Cadillac limo.

It's a pretty decent hotel: efficient enough, connected to the convention center, with hookers on the room service speed-dial. (I kid you not: Karren's Executive Escorts: Attractive, Intelligent, Discreet. x1278). South Bank, Brisbane, has been developed into a mile-long stretch of park with cafes, nature preserves, and a meandering riverette for kids to play in. And they were all there: Easter is the blowout end-of-summer holiday and the place is thick on the ground with families. We step outside, and immediately run into an old colleague from San Francisco with his wife and son -- mind you there are perhaps 300 attendees in town so early in a city of 2 million, and this is only one of a half-dozen such random encounters! Later, taking the public catamaran up and down the river to see the sights, another German fellow comes up and reminisces with me for almost twenty minutes about Web conferences past, and I still don't know who that was.

We lunch at McDonald's, if only to tick off another country from our list. Besides, I just am not up for Burger King, even if royalist sentiment Down Under renames it Hungry Jack.

====

Dana International, an Israeli transsexual diva ("Prior to her sex change Dana, 26, was a Tel Aviv man named Yaron Cohen"-- the love child of certain freaky Seattle FoRKites? Inquiring minds want to know!). She has a great quote about normalcy in the face of religious conservatives' approbation: "The global media want only to show wars and soldiers, but there is another Israel, a 'regular' Israel, with people who eat at McDonald's, people who do not hate anyone." Thomas Freidman of the NYT looks like he's got the most durable Mickey D's-and-international affairs meme since the Economist's Big Mac Index (now in its tenth year as a measure of purchasing-power-parity in an online special survey at the web site). Namely, that no two countries with a McDonald's franchise have ever gone to war.

Oh, and she's a cutie, too. Stick that in your "things that aren't what they seem" collage, Adam.

====

We had dinner that night with Sally and Yves and Daniel and Henrik and Bert at Pier 9: I ordered the barbecued bugs, evolutionary ancestors of lobsters: all tail meat, no claws to protect it. Adam and I ended up in Sally's room talking relationships til 4:19AM. I forgot how much I missed her in all these hectic months we fell out of touch. Indeed, I hadn't acknowledged how much Ms. Khudairi fills in my mental portrait of the ideal woman: strong, creative, whip-smart, stylish, perceptive, willing to be cruel to be kind.

====
[ Doors ]

"Is this the same mother who was always at me to marry a nice Indian boy! The one who introduced me to all her friends' sons whenever I came home from college!"

"They were all brought up here, like you." Her mother refused to be charmed. "Not with a set of prehistoric values."

... "Me," said a third young man, adjusting his spectacles, "I'd go for an arranged marriage from back home any day, a pretty young girl from my parents' village, not too educated, brought up to treat a man right and not talk back..."

"I can't believe you said that!" Deepak stood up so abruptly that his chair fell over with a crash. "Women aren't dolls or slaves. I want Preeti to make her own decisions. I'm proud that she's able to."

====

One can talk about love and all its pathological forms until the sun comes up and back down again -- as humans have for so many millennia. Love is not an absolute to be discovered, it is a cultural construct subject to those myriad reconstructions. What's fun about talking to Sally is that we share more of a common understanding of love and piety and work than one would ever think of Hindus and Muslims -- but together those two cultures are still more closely aligned than the Americana.

====
[ The Ultrasound ]

Our husbands are kind and dependable and take good care of us. In the Indian culture, that is the same as love.

... I wept long, hot tears at the unfairness of a world which insisted not only that women had to have husbands, they had to be grateful to them.

====

Though, on balance, I'm still an American, incorruptably corrupt: my vision of romance is a joint adventure, a journey of personal completion, rather than just another turn on the mandala of life.

====
[ Silver Pavements ]

As a child in India, sometimes I used to sing a song, Will I marry a prince from a far-off magic land, where the pavements are silver and the roofs all gold?

(Americans, I'd heard liked their privacy. They liked their lives to be smooth and uninterrupted by the claims of relatives.)

I am struck at once by how ugly he is -- the garlands had hidden that as well -- how unlike Aunt, who stoops a bit to match her husband's height, her fine, nervous hands worrying at the edge of her shawl... I am a little girl again and spitefully I wonder how a marriage could ever have been arranged between a man like Bikram-uncle and my aunt, who comes from an old and wealthy landowning family.

With his hair brushed wetly back and chappals on his feet, he could be any Indian man sitting down to his dinner after a hard day's work. As I watched Aunt ladle more dal onto his plate, I have a strange sense of disorientation, and for a moment I wonder whether I've left Calcutta at all.

====
[Monday in Brisbane]

After only a few hours' sleep, Dan Connolly calls to say he arrived, and Jim blows down me door, too. Eventually, we stagger out for lunch, rendezvousing at Jimmy's on the Mall, a set of three interlinked outdoor 7x24 cafes on the main business drag -- our first taste of the overnightlife, even by day. We pick up Mark Gaither and Chris Lilley (last seen in Seattle, remember?) and some other passers-by who recognize us. Jim and I have to dash off to workshop-chairs orientation, though. The rest of that evening, he and I are working in the hotel room on our presentations for the next morning. Finally, around 10, we finally head out to dinner. A certain Mediterranean place in the middle of the South Bank Parklands recommended by Jim's Frommer guide. For about US$35, Jim and I split three cubic feet of crustaceans: crabs and prawns and bugs and oysters and fishsticks and fries nestled in a gigantic sculpture of pineapple and kiwi and passionfruit and berries. The weather is perfect, our waitress is charming, and we're right by the lolling waters of the park (which apparently has a couples-only rule after dusk, so where children frolicked in the afternoon now are a half-dozen necking water nymphets).

====
[Back at Fred's]

{Fella pokes his dick out of his shorts at the Blonde; she asks around the diner for a ride home and stalks off in a huff before I could possibly unwire the laptop :-( Turns out the trio are Silver Lake regulars; he may have some money; they must not have taste. Lull after they leave; it's down to one stoner, me, and the staff for a moment, when two more 9+s wander in wearing formal cocktail dresses at 2:56 AM. One has a stunning 3" wide multicolored glittered butterfly tattoo across her bicep. Her Latina friend dashes off to the unisex restroom while she volunteers: "I'm gonna be on the Internet, you know." It turns Loud Records was hosting a release party for a Reggae-rap artist of theirs and she flashed the promotional photographer at the club. I can't get more details; she doesn't have an URL from the photographer yet... They're planning a Wednesday night disco outing with a $20/hr limo (cheap!). Sounds like they're professional party-industry types, comparing promoters for example. I'm dyin' to get in the loop here. Oh, the mockery...

They're toasting a bagel; one of the quaint details is that Fred 62 has toasters at every table; I unplugged mine for laptop juice, though. There's a waiter here who's in love with my geekquipment, but he only ducked in for a few minutes and missed me (D'oh!). Hugh Daniel had him in awe of a ricochet connection. Sucks that we can get ricochet carrier, but not PCS signal in these converted-Chevy-bench-seat booths...

I started chatting up the other waiter; D. is from Dana Point with South American roots He couldn't find Fred's when he applied for a job, either! I told him after searching on the Net for a half hour, I couldn't find an address, home page, directory listing, or newspost with an actual ICBM coordinate either (a/k/a street address, hence how to aim an intercontinental ballistic missile). For the record, it's on Vermont just past Melbourne, across from the Los Feliz Post Office.

Chatted about the scene here and nightlife in Australia. He asked what the downsides were of moving out there and I'm like no way! There isn't a reason I can imagine not to vacation there; with a full-time IP connection, no reason not to live there, either. In fact, JimW was mentioning a standing offer by Simon Kaplan, a Brisbane hypertext researcher (late of Urbana-Champaign, where I proposed working with him three years ago!) to intern there for an academic year (read: summer) for any of Dick's students -- even Jim considered it before deciding WebDAV.

Apparently, No Doubt lead singer Gwen Stefani had her butt on the leather beneath mine earlier tonight. I am speechless with envy and begin sniffing the piping intently for traces of her goddesslike presence. (not the least because her bass player's Indian and she's been mocking me, personally, in embroidered silk lenghas and enjeweled bindis in recent photo shoots. Not tonight, though; Gwen was here with her boyfriend, the singer from Bush.

D. and I talked a bit more about his current relationship -- older women are a real revelation! -- and childhood crushes on rock singers like X's Exine Cernevenka. Turns out she co-owns that store which always tickles my funny bone cruising by on Sunset: You've Got Bad Taste. X itself is a testimonial to how quickly fortunes can change in this business: broken a year ago, now back in triumphant reunion with a track on the X-Files soundtrack. They have a show coming up in OC I should look up.

Back to the pair in the next booth: The Latina friend works at Boardman's, the oldest bar in Hollywood, and the Martini Lounge (pay attention, that fact arises again). She's all set for the "weekend": she doesn't start again until Thursday night, 4 4-hr shifts, very good money for 16 hrs/wk. One can't go back to waitressing from bartending -- you're responsible for your own drinks and your own tips, not like being at the mercy of the kitchen.

The brunette is a DJ for Loud Records (married -- and if that weren't high enough a pedestal, it'd be the 6" platforms). Pale purple hiphuggers, silver chain around tiny waist. Looking to craft a website, so as a proper geek, I proffer my Japanese "Technology Expert" card; drunkenly, I offer her one again before she left, prompting a stern "I already got one." On the other hand, she actually emailed me the next day. I wonder what she'll make of this cameo appearance in Fear and Loathing on the Gold Coast.

Furthest booth is a guy in leather pants ("I'm not human") sketching plans for a time machine. No kidding. Staggered in with a bloody nose earlier in the evening, I'm told, with his garment bag and drafting pad. Gay -- I think he meant the leather pants were enough of a reason he should hit on me (and he did -- what IS it with me this week? That's #4!) }

Who's a geek? Everyone, says D. I guess you could call him a geek, too: acting is about controlling a massive vortex of bits with vision. Everyone's gotta be passionate about something to be alive; and yet, 97%...

His better 3% is almost a decade older, and he has a lot to commend it; you can actually share conversations. Sure, you wanna gorge yourself on young Beaujoulais, but hold out for the premier cru vintages, really. Not that he'd thought this up beforehand; she picked him up. A final bon mot before I hit the road at 6AM: D volunteers, "Hey, I'm pretty surprised you don't have a girlfriend right now-- you're quite a guy..." I said, "if only I were ever in one place for a week."

{and come to think of it, I was in one place for a week, in Brisbane -- and that leads us into our next spot of trouble...}

====
[Gypsy Den, OC, 9PM Tuesday]

These pants have gotta go: black Polo jeans I've been wearing since Friday last, now rank with orange juice, cognac, whisky, amaretto, and now chai latte stains. And a few bodily excretions from the dance floor we won't even go into...

Tuesday in Brisbane was our big day: "Towards a New Generation of HTTP." Jim in blue shirt and yellow tie, Henrik in yellow shirt and yellow tie, Rohit in power suit and yellow tie (after all, if the industrials all show up in casuals, the grad students ought to dress up, right? There was a classic moment with Jean-Francois Abramatic, who was wearing shorts and short sleeves: "Who is the Chairman and who is the student?"). Unfortunately, I loaded the wrong version of my talk on the podium PC, so my slides were correct, but my delivery was off.

Lunch was a big rainy mess for us, but just another testament to easygoing locals, who just waltzed out into the light showers confident that a) they'd dry out later and b) everyone else in the city understood that was just dandy. As it was, though, it dampened spirits at the barbecue: chicken and steak and prawns and crocodile and kangaroo and ... Later that evening was the Microsoft Cocktail Party, which as usual overpromised and underdelivered: there weren't any cocktails and they ran out of food an hour early. On the upside, they left hundreds of Microsoft balloons for target practice. One fella made a ten-foot garland of them and tied it round his neck. Microsoft also sponsored the badge-holders, so everyone was wearing their fine logo around their neck -- prompting the subculture of Linuxites to take at them with black markers and improvise free-software ribbons instead (I merely fished out "normal" badge holders from the last half-dozen conferences floating in my bag).

I attempted to arrange a post-workshop dinner, but wasn't able to corral the most serious participants. Instead, we ended up as a social group at... Sirocco. We took over the place and assembled a large table and ordered jugs of beer and their salads-and-breads-and-kabobs-oh-my! buffet. In fact, that night, I had already recommended another group of ten there, and I was high enough I even saw a crowd dawdling outside led by balloon man and dragged them in, too. One of those crew members was a certain Shane from Ladies' Methodist College who had signed up for our workshop and didn't show, so I let him have it, in fine beer-belly-to-beer-belly drill sergeant style.

In the meantime, we're chatting with some of the waitresses, including ours from last night, and the blonde maitresse'd, V. Reinforcing my image of the cheap so-and-so's from Armonk, our IBM rep refused to pick up the tab for this gluttonous evening. OTOH, it's $36, a fabulous bargain for a 10+ year old classic restaurant in a hip setting.

====

The cost of going to Asia is plummeting. Air New Zealand was in my email with a $550 offer, r/t to Aus or NZ. Qantas is offering 4 nights in Melbourne and one in Sydney for $1678, all-inclusive. I gotta get back down under, but it's already dawning on me that time is passing. This week, I have to do an IEEE Internet Computing column and more; next is Albuquerque/Santa Fe; next is the Future of HTML in San Francisco; the next is the Bay Area Roundtable for an XML sessio n with Marty Tenenbaum (and I have to go back to LA in between for classes!); then later in May there's an HTTP workflow meeting in Costa Mesa. I've even had to turn down an all-expenses-paid lecture on digital signatures in Grand Cayman at a very highfalutin Offshore Banking conference to earn kudos from a professor on a panel, to my profound horror. Ah, the academic life.

Priceline.com is up: "name your price for airline flights". Every day, planes take off with a half-million unsold seats. With William Shatner as their spokesdroid, they claim to be doing loans and other auction items later in the year. Such flights will not garner FF miles, though I wonder if they're upgradeable. If so, it would be a good way to burn through my miles and get off the treadmill with United.

Business Traveler International rated the Sky Bar at the Mondrian in LA one of the ten best bars in the world. I wannago -- I've passed by its headsetted Borg-like black-clad bouncers on Sunset once too often to not be tempted.

====
[Sid's Newport, 11:18 PM Tuesday]

The top 1% of America has a greater income than the bottom third (2.6m citizens == 88m citizens). The NYT has a think piece on the classist politics of Fraiser: I love this paper. It would be the Niles of newspapering, thinking all the while of itself as the archly crossover Fraiser.

I want the Los Angeles magazine life, dammit. And, yes, I am guilty of the pursuit of women; which Adam finds horrifyingly reprehensible and the slippery slope to doom, but won't judge me on because I'm family. Jeez, that makes me feel all warm and tingly inside, that the #1 priority in my life is on his shitlist. Luckily we agree on #0, and we never make it past that one, anyway. Work, always the pretext. Unless Adam's gone -- then the mice will play.

====
[Brisbane, Tuesday night]

As it was, Adam was quaffing carafes of wine, but so little of the food was kosher, he was on an empty stomach. I had to leave the IBM rep and V and some emergent post-party plans behind to take him back to his room. At this point Adam had red wine and matzoh in his system, and while for Catholics that might transubstantiate into the blood and body of Christ, in a Jew that left me with a big mess to clean up in the bathroom.

Around midnight, I call around for people to go out, get pissed no one else will, and in a fit of pique, call a cab solo to a place our waitress recommended. I go back to the restaurant, and it turns out the rest of the party had already headed on (and what regret factor that was: I later heard V spoke 6 languages, had degree in information systems, and was completing her MBA by day. And she's a great dancer.) Anrgy, confused, and horny, I ended up on the nightclub strip in Fortitude Valley -- when I saw balloon boy on the street and halt the cab. First, we visited Café Scene: walla walla, 7x24 internet café service, baby! Then, we found Ric's; we go get some beers together and compare conference tales. I get shot down viciously by an anti-computer ad exec blonde hitting on the bartender; as crowd thins, another boyish blonde guy who tends bar at the Irish pub Dooley's drops by, with a sultry brunette who turns out to be a first-grade teacher who worked in England and Japan for a year each. Spin tales of the poor-little-posh-boy TRAVELMAN for what seems to be a happy quartet. She buys us a round; but before I can reciprocate, it's closing time. She tells me her place is ten minutes from here; I'm in shock that she thinks she's leaving with me, not her original date. But I feel we still have a quartet, so we wander over to The Beat, a landmark 7 x allnite mixed club. And then, hope against hope, both other guys balk at the cover charge. We start buying each other rounds of drinks, building what little rapport one can in a smoky, loud dance club serenaded by drag queens. She runs into a gay friend of hers, whose lesbian housemate confidentially asks me for tips on seducing. I simply can't multiply by -1 enough times to get my head around this one, though. Eventually, though, it's back to just us, in the middle of this dance club still in my suspenders and suit seducing this wonderful woman.

For you cryptographers out there, here's what I wrote when I staggered back to my hotel room around 5 AM. This has got to be a new raw low for FoRK. Do I really have the guts to post this version? No. I left it as a comment in the Word97 version. Call me, though -- I'll be glad to share one-on-one: 626 806 7574.

====
[ Silver Pavements ]

... (no arranged marriage like Aunt's for me!) After dinner he takes me to his apartment overlooking the lake, where fairy lights twinkle and shiver on the water. He pulls me down, respectfully but ardently, on the couch. His lips are hot against my throat, his ...

But here my imagination, conditioned by a lifetime of maternal censorship, shuts itself down.

====

This means the void which is my social life now involves more at-bats than at least five FoRKers I know of. Next time, though, I should really insist on getting her last name, at least.

Meta: where is this taking me? Lust, alcohol: these work, but what guilt? What rejection? Should I feel happy that I'm healthy enough to appreciate another woman found me fascinating, or like a creep for leaving her with my kisses and a FoRK url?

====

Crimson alum Elizabeth Wurtzel (Prozac Nation) is whining again: Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women. Reviewed by Karen Lehrman, an editor of Civnet, an online journal:

"The point of being a bad girl is not just to show your strength, feel completely liberated and 'have a hell of a good time.' It's also to shove good-girl behavior -- submissiveness, selflessness, niceness -- back at a society that has forever victimized women, especially overtly sexual women. Putting 'one's sexual energy out there for popular consumption no longer makes you a bimbo -- it makes you smart,' Wurtzel writes."

====
["Skin," Madonna, Ray of Light]

Do I know you from somewhere?
Why do you leave me wanting more?
Why do all the things I say
Sound like the stupid things I said before?
Kiss me I'm dying
Put your hand on my skin
I close my eyes
I need to make a connection
I'm walking on a thin line
I close my eyes
I close my eyes
====

We all seem to live in a very small world: our mutual six-degrees-of-separation maps overlap quite strongly. All week in Brisbane I mainly hung out with the usual suspects, the same few hundred people who attend all of these. And yet, there were a thousand other Australians at this conference, some even quite fetching, but I felt too caught up in my own web to expand it. So much of the excitement is at the margins, where the world impinges at random when you meet someone completely out of your circle. But will I ever see Amanda again?

Work can indeed be enough of a straitjacket to define your self, if you're blessed enough to have work that matters.

====
[Clothes]

The store. It seems more real to me than Somesh -- perhaps because I know more about it. It was what we had mostly talked about the night after the wedding, the first night we were together alone. It stayed open twenty-four hours, yes, all night, every night, not like the Indian stores which closed at dinnertime and sometimes in the hottest part of the afternoon. That's why his partner needed him back.

The store was called 7-Eleven. I thought it a strange name, exotic, risky... The store sold all kinds of amazing things -- apple juice in cardboard cartons that never leaked; American bread that came in cellophane packages, already cut up; canisters of potato chips, each large grainy flake curved exactly like the next...

"That's where the money comes from, especially in the neighborhood where our store is," said Somesh, smiling at the shocked look on my face... "A lot of Americans drink, you know. It's not considered immoral, like it is here. And really, there's nothing wrong with it." He touched my lips lightly with his finger. "When you come to California, I'll get you some sweet white wine and you'll see how good it makes you feel...." Now his fingers were stroking my cheeks, my throat, moving downward. I closed my eyes and tried not to jerk away because after all it was my wifely duty.

..."It's OK, we'll wait until you feel like it." I tried to apologize, but he smiled it away and started telling me some more about the store.

...But suddenly, as I am thinking this, I realize I cannot recall Somesh's face. I try and I try until my head hurts, but I can only visualize the black air swirling around the plane, too thin for breathing. My own breath grows ragged with panic as I think of it and my mouth fills with sour fluid the way it does just before I throw up.

...(I have never visited the store -- my in-laws don't consider it proper for a wife -- but of course I know exactly what it looks like.)

...That's when I know I cannot go back. I don't know yet how I'll manage, here in this new, dangerous land. I only know I must. Because all over India, at this very moment, widows in white saris are bowing their veiled heads serving tea to in-laws. Doves with clipped wings.

... I make myself think of the store, although it hurts. Inside the refrigerated unit, blue milk cartons neatly lined up by Somesh's hand. The exotic smell of Hills Brothers coffee brewed black and strong, the glisten of sugar-glazed donuts nestled in tissue. The neon Budwiser sign winking on and off like a risky invitation.

I straighten my shoulders and stand taller, take a deep breath. Air fills me -- the same air that traveled through Somesh's lungs a little while ago. The thought is like an unexpected, intimate gift.

====

I staggered back home around 5:30 AM, confused and happy. Adam had yet to turn the screws of guilt on me. Perhaps it was a connection, perhaps I actually was as desirable to her as she was to me, in that instant.

====
[ The Maid Servant's Story ]

"We should plan your wedding outfit," Mashi is saying now. "Who knows when you'll come visit us next. And weddings have a habit of happening suddenly."

====
[UCI, Monday Afternoon]

Actually showed up at the office Monday. Chatted with Roy, reamed him out for not warning me to take more time off Down Under :-) He relayed that my reputation preceded me too far with M's sister -- another Indian woman who thinks I'm too frivolous or weird. Greg tweaked me about another sighting at the student union, so I insisted on a late lunch -- I'm going to keep egging Roy on as my single buddy until we end up with an omelet... or egg on my face.

====
[South Coast Plaza, 1:30PM Tuesday]

They say SCP is the highest-grossing mall complex per store in the country. It certainly is the highest-end assemblage I've seen, and in true democratic fashion, even I can pad through here in shorts and flip-flops. (though I think the counterlady gulped when I marched into Mikimoto and asked to see a pearl-drop silver bookmark United Airlines once gave me, alongside some Tahitian black pearls -- a 1000x price difference, I suppose).

I'm here this afternoon trying to decide what kind of glasses to buy. I really had wanted new glasses -- a new look -- for Oz, but my trip to the optometrist resulted in a failed eye exam: 90 minutes and no prescription. Could have been from being out drinking with Adam the night before, since it was debilitating enough I never caught the name of the cute undergrad med tech whom I was bantering with while my eyes dilated. She wanted to see Dangerous Beauty, but I didn't get around to convincing her to join me.

Anyway, that meant I went to Brisbane with my ratty old aviators, held together at this point by twist-ties and grime in the frame. I even debated with Adam on the flight out that my gut reactions to contacts were that they were a mark of vanity alone, given the time and trouble and alternatives: contacts were for closeted geeks :-)

Nevertheless, Dr. Occhipinti ("painted eyes" in Italian, go figure) really wanted me to try contacts plus counteracting reading glasses. That's way too much hassle for me, what with my arbitrarily paced life. Indeed it has been so this week that I've been tying them out. This is all away from our main story, though. Namely, I wanted a radically new look.

In part that's because I'm in love with Henrik's new pair, which Sally's brother arranged for him (the entire Khudairi family must have some gene for visual taste!). In larger part, I've decided there's an even vainer reason: large frames definitely get in the way of a close kiss :-) Also, years ago, wave@media.mit.edu, a very cool fella indeed, once deconstructed mine and Ernie's eyewear and declared me a high geek, and Ernie the one wisely let others buy his... but wave's recommendation then was the same: l.a. eyeworks. Sort of like the Nordstrom's of fashion eyewear to LensCrafter's Macy's or Sterling's Sears. Time to move up a notch in the world, I thought -- but at what cost?

To their credit I was treated very well, even wearing Digital flip-flops (hi johnboy!) and three-day stubble. They rather accurately picked out the only three frames which were my taste up front, even as I browsed around the other thousand. That's a spectacular testament of statistics and salesmanship. OTOH, they were $300 or so, whereas UCI was offering 30% off at their own shop. Now what?

l.a. eyeworks had an ultra-thin titanium frame, gossamer yet indestructible. Door number two was a subtle coppery metalic octagonal thing, and the true temptation of fashion-statement was door number three, black matte metal bat-winged rectangles with a well-defined browline. Against those three, I went up to the Anaheim UCI-recommended place and looked at a black wire-rimmed pair from Armani, and a gunmetal Calvin Klein, for about $180 after discount.

{SCP is a fascinating place to people watch, because the Newport ultrachic, beach bunnies, girl scout troops, and Japanese tourists all get multiplexed together. The sterotype of married daytime shoppers is borne out, though: it's hard to reconcile the increasing US median age at first marriage, currently 27 male / 26 female, with the number of married young blondes promenading by. Or is that merely the bitterness of forbidden fruit?}

I guess in sitting down to write that I resolved my dilemma. I'm not a posh guy: I live with inflatable furniture and I sleep on the floor. Yet, I'm willing to pay for quality: Jhane Barnes weaves, Joseph Abboud silhouettes. I'm still stung from the accusation one fellow made in Brisbane that I'm too posh for words. I didn't grow up rich, and I'm not out to read other people's labels -- I'm a geek: which means I care about details and construction (even if the last thing you'd call my work habits are "detail-oriented). I know what I like in art, even if I'm not an artist. Call me a 'design appreciator'. (And, R: screw you. Besides, it was Albertville '92)

So I think I can swallow losing an extra week's dining-out budget to go for the radical set. While typing this, three or four guys have walked by with exactly the same narrow-eyed metallic look, and I'm not going to accept that mainstreaming.

====

"The Architecture of Reassurance: Designing the Disney Theme Parks". Now this is a show I'd like to meet someone at. Anyone visiting LA next month to force me up to this show at UCLA's Armand Hammer museum? "more than 350 plans, drawings, and models examines the desire to impose a comforting, albeit Tinker Bell-dusted order upon the chaos outside... Disney architecture is akin to entering the de facto Church of Walt to sample its many mysteries. (310) 443-7000. Newton Lee? I can only dream of meeting Aparajita from Imagineering again...

Also in this month's Los Angeles magazine: two swing-set lounge reviews. Lucky Seven, 1610 N. Vine St, and Kane, 5574 Melrose. "My personal guarantee: You will unequivocally adore every song you here at Kane. And if that's not enough, two hot-pants clad go-go dancers flank the deejay onstage." Also: Goldfinger's: "Spies, Bond girls, and the stray Avenger will be right at home sipping martinis and dancing in this gold-vinyl den" 6423 Yucca, 213-962-2913

Chicago is opening in LA this month, starring Jasmine Guy, the star of so many teenage dreams; I think I still have that edition of Rolling Stone's Hot Issue with her centerfold in the altogether. Adam approves: at least the three of us will do $70 seats sometime during the run (United Gold Mastercard also has reserved seats for pre-sale: LA FoRKcon time, anyone?) Ahmanson Theater, 135 N. Grand, 213-628-2772.

====
[Conference Day #1, Brisbane]

Wednesday was perhaps the most normal day of the set. Tim Berners-Lee gave a spectacularly inspiring opening keynote -- at least for the techies with Romantic visions of the perfectibility of computing. The rest of the cynics probably found it to be a mishmash of two talks on evolvability as a design principle and on RDF. It certainly charged me up for the year, though.

It was certainly a busy day for Tim, his one at the conference to cram in all the press events and pep talks of a week. I was pleasantly surprised, then, that he joined the hordes to head out to dinner (The Louvre, Great America, now a series of separate restaurants. Murray should have an easy time wowing us in Toronto next year). He didn't have a ticket, though, so I had to help schmooze him in -- as well as Adam, traveling on the poor-schmuck pass (although it's just as well he didn't pay A$75 for dinner -- they served him three courses of iceberg lettuce!). [We have some great photos of this evening]

Later, Mark Gaither and James Tauber and Dan and I ended up in Adam's room, drinking. I was in stark denial of the poster and technical talk I was slated to deliver the next day while they egged me on to tell the story of last night, inflating and reinflating the dimensions of lust involved. The only thing I do remember clearly, though, is that Dan had the temerity to feed his shot of Johnnie Walker Blue Label ($280 a liter, US retail) to the bushes. I think Mark held me back from smiting him down on the spot...

====
[ Affair ]

I retreated to the kitchen with its shiny rows of canisters, its racks of spices all carefully labeled, its gleaming tiles and faucets that usually made me feel sane and in control. But I couldn't escape the TV, where a very young, very blonde woman in a shimmery skintight outfit was sultrily singing about how you make me feel each night. I averted my eyes from the slow undulation of her hips, the pointy-red tip of her tongue moistening her lips. Her painted fingernails moving suggestively over her breasts. I knew Ashok was watching me, a mocking curl to his lips that seemed to say, Still suffering from your prudish Indian upbringing, Abha? But I couldn't help it. Sex for me was a matter between married people, carried out in the silent privacy of their homes and resulting, hopefully, in babies. I preferred not to think of its other aspects, and I resented American TV for invading my home with them.

Dancing was uncommon at Indian parties, at least among our friends, whose idea of a good time consisted mostly of a bottle of Johnnie Walker and a plateful of biriyani, with some spicy gossip on the side.

It was fun to be out with a man who wasn't my husband. In my entire life, I'd never done that. I enjoyed the little courtesies I wasn't used to -- someone to pull back my chair and refill my cup of Chinese tea before it was empty, someone to ask if I liked the food.

====
[UCEye@aol.com, 4:12PM Tuesday]

Julie and Julie, the two Asian optometrists' assistants who'd helped me pick out the Armani earlier today, were disappointed I didn't buy from them, but suitably impressed. "You like to stand out, don't you?" In the end, the black anodized Big Boys (I kid you not, that is its moniker) set me back $397 total. This better be better than a weekend in Hawaii, I tell ya...

====
[SCP, 4:48PM]

No, I don't have a reason to be back in the mall. I have to confess, it's a woman -- right after I bought the frames, I had to rush off to the lens shop, but I stopped in my tracks for this Indian/Persian woman, maybe 21, slinky black dress to mid-thigh, powder-blue sash across the top, black platform shoes, cherry-red toenail polish. We smiled, but didn't say anything. After dawdling a while, I actually turned back around and tailed her into Nordstrom's, ending up lost in the women's dresses section and writing it off. Just as I got to my car at the other end of the mall, bang, there she was again. In retrospect, I should have tried something out of GDT like dropping my bag, but instead I was pondering the old saw "once, chance; twice, coincidence; thrice, conspiracy."

So I did a circuit after coming back in search of #3. The cover was searching for a café with a convenient power socket; not to be. (that is, neither power nor power-skirt were to be seen...)

====
[Gypsy Den, 5:42 PM]

It's really, really eerie to be at the Gypsy Den so early in the day. It's light out! People are lounging on their couches chatting on cellphones, careerwomen in soft suits are ordering lattes, and the usual denizens' piercings are skittering in the afternoon sun.

I'm wearing contacts right now, and while they are the wrong prescription -- I can't see as far-- it is disconcerting to have nothing on my face to fidget with.

[6:16PM] must have dozed off there. The afternoon sun just keeps on going here: Energizer bunny summers are in store for a while; and I was thinking of interning elsewhere?!

Man, I should really get back to the main story.

{so this pleasantly pale 6' peaches-and-cream redhead walks in with a textured knit pale yellow top, knee-length black skirt, tiny patent leather belt and all-around competitor for an Audrey Hepburn sophistication award. And then follows this beer-bellied biker boy in black with raging tattoos across his biceps who pats her on the ass. If only any of this world made sense...}

{Chatting about well-formedness and validity with Mike, a business major studying philosophy at UCI -- did CG logo design, etc, for 5 years started at 15. Felt inhibited as an artist, though, since the tools weren't so powerful then. Tim Byars called to confirm dinner at this Cuban restaurant across the way and Suicide Kings for tonight's feature. Mike's girlfriend rushes in, leaving a distracting wake of gardenia scent eight inches from my nose, cooing over him. Lucky guy...}

====
[Conference Day #2, Thursday]

I awoke at 7:15 for an 8:30 poster session. Mind you, we didn't have a poster! I passed out, and Adam had only a pad of art paper and some Crayola markers. We had made a title slide before going out for dinner, but I was still too hungover to panic, thus depriving Adam of his well-deserved shocked-look-of-admiration for having stayed up until 5 AM covering our asses. He had put together a handcrafted set of illustrations to our poster on trust management now lost forever -- because the conference center goons just tore down the entire display at 11AM when we thought it would be up all day long!

In the meantime, I still lobbied hard to get people to vote for our poster -- we could use the money, you see -- but none of our hung-over friends showed up early enough to vote. Too bad, really, I was in my politician's best: double-breasted charcoal suit, rust-colored silk shirt, and international safety-orange tie. The majority of the audience was perky Australian teachers and librarians and farmers who seemed to be attracted to multiuser learning demos over the philosophy of distributed systems security, though.

I was also bummed because sometime last night I lost my badge -- and more importantly, my Web conference buttons for the last several years. We searched and searched, but it's gone. So depressed, in fact, that even the vision of H. couldn't lift my spirits. H., you see, was the head A/V goddess of the Great Hall. She was blonde, prim, efficient, single, and tailored into an exquisitely mannish blue suit and tie. Blonde geek in neckwear -- shoot me now. We'd chatted about convergence a few times, but Adam said he could feel the room get colder the moment I inquired for pub recommendations. Oh well. Better to reserve some pedestals for fantasies...

I had the last talk of the day, so the only thing I could think of to revive a somnolent audience was a stunt: I thudded dramatically off the podium in an effort to underscore a slide with my pointer. I rolled neatly back to the far wall, took the hit on my shoulder, resurfaced, and kept on prattling. That alone should have won best paper presentation, but no... On the other hand, Adam showed up with the missing badge: it was wedged between the mattresses in his room. Don't ask how.

The evening's event was a world-record attempt at the Internet café: most simultaneous logins from one spot. It was a logistical nightmare, as the rest of the week was: Sun came out looking quite poorly for its mismanagement of the café: the PCs worked fine. In between, Mike Sprietzer worked valiantly to arrange an HTTP-NG dinner, which I tentatively committed to, but had to bow out of at the end -- R. invited us to dinner. It was our excuse to go visit the Heritage, the only Leading Hotel of the World (TM) in Brisbane. A gorgeous colonial façade, cheery staff, a sumptuous bar, and a concierge known around the city: "Elvis, he ought to know" (frankly, I wish I'd met Elvis myself). A festive time was had by all, because if I say anything else, I'm a marked man (I probably already am, but who's going to read through an 18,000 word post to find this out?).

In the end, Josh and Adam and I went out clubbing again at the Wickham, and this time I discovered far more of The Beat than I had Tuesday night: there's an upstairs gay bar, a patio, a cool-down room, and more. We talked a lot about the challenge of having a sexual identity, much less a 'deviant' one. I admit, I've become far more understanding and accepting now that I have a few gay and lesbian friends than I was in the abstract. Josh also related to me a very powerful meme: 'gay age' -- the number of years since one came out. It relates well to the level of social maturity in dealing with interpersonal relationships and desires. I immediately countered with 'geek age': not the turning point of realizing one is a geek, but the moment one wants more out of life. Looking back, I'm barely even two at that scale: FoRK-archive is the story of my coming-of-age.

====
[ Affair ]

"I guess I'm more of a penguin, waddling along my everyday path. I knew it the first time I saw her, at the bride-viewing. I should never have let my parents arrange our marriage -- but she was so pretty, so alive. I thought some of it might rub off on me."

... "Penguins are beautiful when they're in the water," I finally told him.

[Habana, 7PM]

Stopped by a skateboard shop on the walk over: yet another chick wearing silver ball-bearing earrings: that's the fifth sighting in the last three days alone! It's just like learning a new vocabulary word and seeing it in the papers over and over again...

Time for another Bombay Sapphire martini, straight up, with olives. Let's get back to Oz.

{Sally called! What a pleasant surprise! I was actually thinking of tracking her down in Japan to send her a rose of friendship, and here she is on the cellphone. Well, there's a 1 second echo, but it's almost as warm as being there. Of course, she called to say she just went though my evolution-of-W3C paper with a set of X-Acto knives, but it's better to be thought of than not in my book :-)

I explained that it was a very, very hard decision to leave Australia that morning after our seven-hour conversation. I was torn between spending the day with her being irresponsible and working with Adam on the Grand Graduation Plan. In the end, priority #0 worn out again, as usual. The criticism of a true friend is always deepest... and sweetest. }

Actually, let's not get back to Oz: I'm finishing the NYT Book Review for the week. I have several recommendations, including what sounds like a great FoRKbook in the middle.

====

Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, by James C. Scott

It's about "high modernism" in the conception of the state as an agent with its own volition -- "it inspired such different figures as Robert McNamara, Walther Rathenau, Jean Monnet, the Shah of Iran, David Lillenthal, Lenin, Trostsky, and Julius Nyerere." [Mustn't it suck to be Trotsky, forever entombed in the worlds libraries and archives a few mere connectives from Lenin or Stalin? Can his name even been used in a sentence without conjuring up those evils, too?]

Meme: "the Soviet-American fetish" of "industrial farming". High Modernism: the attempt to design society in accord with what are believed to be scientific laws.

"Modern states needed standardized techniques of measurement o tax and monitor their citizens and mobilize the resources of society.... the introduction of straight, gridlike streets in cities; and the introduction of fixed surnames-- modern states have implemented systems of classification that allow them greater control over resources and lives of their citizens.

Reviewed by John Gray, Professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics.

(Can we endow a tenured chair of Valley Thought at UCLA?)

In a related vein: James Patterson is professor of history at Brown University and author of Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945Ė1974, which won a Bancroft Prize in American history. That's the era of my fascinations, too: I want to get inside the terrors of the American mind in the era it was truly powerful. If absolute power corrupts absolutely (and obsolete, obsoletely, as Nelson quoth), then I guess I'm into it because I want to know what power will do for me.

Or maybe I just want to know my parents' generation.

====

Brain Storm by Richard Dooling. Reviewed by Colin Harrison of Harper's (duck is one his fans). "[it] beats the hyphenationists at their own game. This novel can't be easily subcategorized because it is, among other things, a defense of free speech, a whodunit, a speculation about the way cognitive neuroscience is changing our perception of crime, a satirical portrait of the legal profession, a sex romp, a de facto essay on language, and, by no means least, a comedy. This book is packed... Exposed here are the brains of lawyers, lustful lawyers, criminals, monkeys, lustful monkeys, even a guinea-pig brain that lives in a dish by itself."

It looks really good. I'll have to wait until it becomes a bestseller to afford it, though.

====

The Meadowlands: Wilderness Adventures at the Edge of a City, by Robert Sullivan.

Kind of a Walden-esque meditation on the author's explorations of the vast, nonempty vacuum of the greenish stuff between the Turnpike and Manhattan. I remember an in-progress essay in the NYT Magazine of the author's quest to locate the grave of Penn Station, which was crushed, hauled out there and unceremoniously left to sink in the marshes. Took several years, but the finally found the columns, the dome, the marble work. And yet, it is not an environmentalist screed about a landscape scarred every inch by human activity and neglect: it is a call to see this as a fresh kind of wilderness, a wild coevolved with us.

====
[Back at Habana]

The cellphone rang: I was expect CobraBoy, since we're going out to see the mobster flick Suicide Kings (speaking of the Meadowlands...), but to my happy surprise it's Sally, from Tokyo. We promise to talk later, and after my evening feeling CobraBoy's pain and asking dashing young women what they're drinking at his fave dive, House of Brews, I called her back and we talked for two hours about Keio. I can only hope AT&T has mercy on the rate (don't look at me: my roommate moved in first and won't let me switch to MCI, even though they're offering 7,000 United miles :-(

====
[Pioneer Blvd]


The previous night, I loaned my TV and VCR to two Indian grad students down the block. They're both in the software group, so I know they're good for it:-) After sampling the various goodies one of them had just brought back from India, we decided to go to dinner in Little India.

I grabbed one of the local Indian newspapers to read during dinner, and turned to their youth supplement. You know, the edgy, rebellious side, articles by UCLA students and local highschool kids on the latest movies and music and so on: the second-generation voice. This month's package included a male and female perspective on dating. I was livid.

The woman's view article went on to explain how Indian men canít be trusted and you certainly shouldn't go out to dinner alone with one, and even then, you can't be seen to have been dating more than two men before you're married, you desi slut. I mean, yes, she's right that Indian men are sexist mama's boys, but what's with the sweeping generalizations? :-)

The guy's column goes on to explain that if you're interested in one of a group of friends, you're doomed to taking your crew and her crew out as a cluster -- he agreed that you can't have a one-on-one date, that asking a woman to dinner is being a "player." You gotta be within three degrees of separation or you're nowhere. And if you're new to LA and you aren't related to anyone here? Just go home.

Mind you, this is the generation cool enough to actually throw Indian dance parties, not just at school, but at nightclubs and so on. This is the generation which has grown up entirely within American frames, which would expect non-Indians to date exactly as proscribed here. Heck, they themselves would act differently with non-Indians.

And that's the sickness: it's an entirely self-aware repression. Both of these intelligent respondents know they'd like to be in a world with more freedom to define relationships and then choose to stay within its constraints. As I've FoRKed before, young adulthood is a new journey in my culture, both abroad and back home: there hasn't been an extended period of singlehood in the wheel of life before. So you can't ask your parents about it.

====

[ Meeting Mrinal ]

"Why couldn't you just tell her the fucking truth -- that he got tired of you and left you for another woman."

That's when I slapped him. It shocked us both, the action, the way it happened, involuntarily almost, while a part of me was still trying to fathom the depths of hurt and rage from which his words had erupted. I'd rarely hit Dinesh when he was growing up, he'd always been such an obedient boy. What frightened me now is that I'd wanted to hurt him, that's I'd put all the strength in me behind that swing of the arm. We stood there facing each other, my palm ringing with the impact, a splotch of red spreading over his cheek. I wanted to throw my arms around him and cry for what I'd just done, but all I could say, even though I knew it was totally wrong, was "never use that word in front of me again."

====
[Sid's Newport, 11:28PM Wednesday]

Nursing a pitcher of Nicky Brown (Newcastle), we forge ahead --a useful double entendre, eh? Weaving the web of lies, er, lives.

[Ironic aside: I never realized you can have a screen that's too bright -- but in this red-lit mahogany-paneled claptrap shack, any level of light is too high amidst the glee and musicians and thunderclouds of hormones wafting across the bar. So I had to detune the contrast so it's at least washed out.]

Picked up a tape at Ziba Music today, including a remix of Amma Dekh. I'm a crappy translator, but here's a feel for the big hit song of '96 (just imagine the rousing dance beat for yourself. It's a envious male narrator, fwiw):


Look ma! Look ma!
Your boy's losing it! Your son's being corrupted!
Cut his short hairs off
Teach him Hindi
Shut off the TV and video
Keep him away from movie halls
Pour lime juice in his whiskey
Keep him on the straight and narrow.

{there's an office gathering of half a dozen thirtysomethings at the next table. Still in their business best, but somewhat rumpled from a night of drinking. The blondes are out in full force, scribbling home numbers over business cards, the men outlining their hostelry for the fortnight. The 'consultancy affair' -- perhaps there's a Vanity Fair trend piece in there? Scott Adams certainly has an arch sense of timing: the strips for WWW7 week in the Dilbert desk calendar are about convention trips:

Dilbert: "I'm going to the big technology show... I will wade through a vast sea of mostly curly-haired guys with facial hair and glasses. And I will look at thousands of indistinct products... It's like salmon returning to its birthplace." Dogbert: "Except without the spawning opportunities."

Two of the blondes (not their real hair colors) asked me if I was single, on behalf of the passed-out third. The talker is a BA in child development and family studies. She asks if the men know how to really please a woman: she's describing the whole universe of STDs in the meantime. The second blonde howled in embarrassment over her tonguing style recommendations and got up to go to the bathroom. The semiconscious blonde is looking better and better...

Ran into the second out back, who was quite peeved at the turn of conversation and took it out on me, saying I should get back to my lonely laptop. Turns out the bathroom nook is also a nookie nook...

The first is back to talking about the morality of "Chester Molester" from her training courses: slimy desperate people who'd hit on a passed-out girl, or a drunk one. Embarrassed flashbacks to The Beat... }

Back at Sid's, I'm enjoying a conversation with J, a regular waitress there, but early-shift, so it's our first encounter -- I'm never here before midnight. She completely understands having to write in a bustling, noisy bar: when she was in college and tended, she used to come back to the same place and do homework in her off hours. Even the manager thought she was nuts, but we both know ya gotta be comfortable to concentrate. Beer and music help, as does muted red lighting :-)

She's traveled herself: I'm in awe of some of those tales. Some of 'em even make me seem sober... we discussed a guy from Brisbane she once dated, so she believed my tales of the Gold Coast. But, "I learned not to trust world travelers". Resigned, I told her my FF total...

The guitarist, Rob, is covering Simon & Garfunkel, the "lie-lie-lie-lie" chorus (which I must admit wasn't too difficult to parody in The Capitol Steps' dramatic retelling of Monica Lewinsky's testimony :-) He's good at choosing sing-along songs for the dregs of the drunken crowd at the bar. Turns out he's also a licensed massage therapist, and he offers some amazing rates to the help at Sid's -- I guess there's a cuteness discount I don't qualify for :-)

I was in a pretty good mood chatting with all and sundry 'til closing time, so when I got on the highway, I found myself aiming at the 405 North instead, and headed to Toi's on an impulse. It's a staggering thing to think of how wonderful our road infrastructure is: I'm going a distance for a snack which takes a day each way from Varanasi to Allhabad; even in Oz, Sydney-Brisbane is the same distance as LA-SF, but takes three times as long to drive without superhighways.

====
[Toi's @ 2:30AM]

I finally realized what they reserve the chess table in the bay window out front for. Dan Ackroyd was here in a beard, blue suit, House of Blues lapel pin, and leggy blonde (international safety orange strrretched cotton blouse, painted-on leather pants, Vanson racing leather jacket, better chess player than Dan :-) They were waiting for a massive takeout order. Didn't catch what he was driving, though, which is, after all, the sine qua non of LA status... because she was driving. But the man has class. He didn't tip on the charge slip, and then they realized there was a five in the tip jar. Turned out to be a fifty -- a worthy investment in celebrity because you never know where your actions might echo back... like FoRK-archive.

He left seconds after I settled into my regular writing table next to his, so rest assured the geek-celebrity barrier remains unbreachable. His fortune cookie, fwiw, was "enjoy what you have; there is more in your future." @@Did I ever FoRKpost the Penn & Teller Adventure at IETF-LA? I really need to. The punch line, though, is my fortune cookie that night was "Your magnetic personality will draw others to you".

On the upside, I'm regular enough, they have my order down without saying a word: Thai Iced Tea and Yum Nuah (grilled beef salad) -- and of that, they comped half. After three on a weeknight, it's usually just me and the staff, cleaning up and bullshitting about the day. Once in a while a hard-core regular wanders in who lives in the neighborhood or knows the staff. Once, it was a bohemian looking redhead carrying a purse repurposed from a 5lb Basmati rice bag from India. Annie was a barmaid at the Martini Bar further up Sunset and had an amazing sense of balance from her tales. Tonight, another woman entirely appeared at half past elegantly dressed to the 8's. The eyebrow stud should have tipped me off though. As it was, I ventured a guess it was the same Annie, if only because that was the only pretext of conversation I had: after discussing her bag with my mom, she said she had a ton of them stored in the basement back in Baltimore. A geek bearing burlap can't be all that abrasive, right? She was slightly stunned, but launched right off the suggestion with ideas for a mosaic wall hanging, bedcovers, dolls, and more -- she'd love to get a shipment for her birthday next month. She has a perceptive eye for style, from hearing her fashion exploits -- including a dissection of her current outfit I found so together, only $77, and 97% of that was an amazing bargain on a pair of knee-high leather boots. We compared notes about the Pacific Rim: she spent several months as an exchange student in high school (they teach Japanese in Portland public schools!) and saw some amazing sides of Japan in the countryside. It's also not too shabby being seen as a gorgeous goddess movie star, too: some of these towns rarely saw Americans, and she was treated extremely well -- if only to make up for being a curiosity in extremis (touching, rubbing noses, autographs, locks of hair...). She's hoping to join the production staff of a globetrotting educational film company, and travel the world on Hollywood's dime, and I have no doubt this brilliant, quirky, empathetic woman can seal the deal.

That's also what the waiter whom I thought was her boyfriend thought, too, when he left without her. I guess I'll try to find out next month, if I can get back those bags from back East. I finally left at 4:19, a happier man for knowing Annie exists, no matter what else.

====
[Fred 62 @ 4:30 AM]

Time for a smoothie. Not a single other customer there, though, to my shock. This means I might actually make progress finishing this post, since I'm recording more adventures from wandering around SoCal than I am from Oz.

====
[ A Perfect Life ]

Richard was precisely the kind of man I'd dreamed about during my teenage years in Calcutta, all those moist, sticky evenings I spent at the Empire Cinema House... watching Gregory Pech and Warren Beatty and Clint Eastwood. Tall and lean and sophisticated, he was very different from the Indian men I'd known back home, and even the work he did as a marketing manager for a publishing company seemed unbelievably glamorous. When I was with Richard, I felt like a true American. We'd go jogging every morning and hiking on weekends, and in the evenings we'd take in an art film, or go out to a favorite restaurant or discuss a recent novel as we sat out on my balcony and drank chilled wine and watched the sunset. And in bed we tried wild and wonderful things that would have left me speechless with shock in India had I been able to imagine them.

[If only life were as simple as 'sed /s/Richard/Rohit' -- but that would make me a marketer :-]

====
[Conference Day #3, Friday]

The final day of the conference trudged on like the rest. At the closing plenary, they announced that WWW9 in 2000 would be in Amsterdam: that should be a treat! In the hotel, as we were getting ready for the evening, Adam ran into Al Vezza and said perhaps ten words ("I'm a friend of Rohit Khare's and I'm finishing up a PhD at Caltech on event models") before he all-but offered him a job

"Al Vezza, of MIT's Project MAC... always made a good impression. He was sociable and impeccably articulate; he had a keen scientific mind and first-rate academic instincts."

-- Where the Wizards Stay Up Late, Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon

Sally and Jim and Adam and I ended up in Adam's room working over the Hennessy when Adam brought out some photos of Dan's kids which he'd left behind at Jimmy's in a fit of absent-mindedness. The photos were enveloped in a copy of The Evolution of W3C, which Sally finally read through while we were chatting and went ballistic over. After all, it is her job to portray W3C far more positively than my paper does, and the paper itself is only an early draft from a biased sources. I'm glad I didn't know this at the time, or I would have had to admit that a copy has been sighted on Billg's desk...

As it was, we patched up well enough to go the IW3C2 reception at the Old Customs House, where I promptly twirled a flute of champagne on to the carpet the moment the host speaker went onstage. The party was still quite a high, though. Especially for Adam: several groups approached him for his talents; no less than Tim Bray pronounced our paper as one of the very best at the conference (wow!). I also tried to make it up to Mike Sprietzer by finally arranging a technical dinner session (Dan Brickley, I was expecting you there: what happened? I heard you left on a real high, though! Long live RDF :-)

We ended up debating wire-protocols for interactive access to XML trees at the brasserie in the basement. Henrik, Dan, Jim, Mike and I had a geek chat at our end (with me under the serious handicap of inebriation) and Adam, Mark Gaither, and, shoot, two other guys doing the social bit. At one point, I believe Adam was trying to buy the earrings off of our waitress and failed; he set Mark on the task, who balked at the price... for my part, I was still wondering, 'what earrings?,' because a beautiful woman in a blue shirt and blue necktie is too much for me as it is. Turns out they weren't even solitaires, as I first thought, but tiny silver spheres polished to perfection.

In the end, Adam and I stayed behind to talk tech with Mike until midnight -- I think Mike was the most pleasant new friend I made all week, a real pleasure to debate with (and hopefully, work with). We ended up being kicked out and kept talking on the pier; I remember some comments about the night sky, but I was still trying to wrap my head around the nature of protocol evolvability.

====

"The revelation came without any special buildup, tacked onto a reminiscence about a trip to South America. One moment, Joseph DeMasi was telling his psychiatrist, Doulgas H. Ingram, that he had gone there to see the night sky in the Southern Hemisphere. The next, he was confessing an additional agenda: to meet a nice child."

Frank Bruni, in the 4/19/98 NY Times on a story about therapist confidentiality in a pedophilia case.

For me, I wish I at least had the free time to look up even once at the night sky in Brisbane. For me, the sky held only the harsh light of day, the moody gray of showers, and the hopeful streaks of dawn as I staggered back to the hotel. I think I saw the big dipper upside down from a piling by Old Customs House, but I was still caught up defending out-of-order markup delivery.

No comment on the second agenda, by the way.

====

After that, I wanted to drag Adam clubbing, but he finally got around to turning the guilt screws on me. He was scared straight by this evening's reception and wanted to get out for the first time in eight years. Instead of partying, we ended up at Café Scene, the internet café in the middle of the nightclub district. We plopped down in front of one of the picture windows, and while my right brain lusted out on the sidewalk and he interrogated my left to outline how event models fit together, and my corpus callosum just fried.

I do remember meeting Marc Jaeger, a local ISPreneur, though. Another couple at his table thought I was neat & flamboyant & mannish and hence gay (how is that? I mean, to me, that's the picture of H., the A/V mistresss...). After explaining that no, I didn't need to be warned away from Australian men, we tried to plan to get together the next night.

====
[Thursday in real time]

left Fred's at 5:58 AM; arrived home at 7 AM for a 9:30 class.

Crashed on the floor of my office for the afternoon; awoke to EJW's XML panic. Went to Taco Mesa, split the Pina Relleno, a hollowed out pineapple with a spicy stew of shrimp, pork, and chicken.

====
[The Lab, 4:56PM Thursday]

It's true: at this rate it's taking longer to record the events of last week than it took to live through. I can say this much in favor of the anti-mall, though: the staff is hotter than club night; the competition between these vintage, surf, punk, and haute fashion stands is played out daily across the plaza (by salespeople, rather than sales: there are downsides to aiming at the poverty-stricken Gen-X crowd). I also think I have a new phrase: "tight enough to show off her nipples... and her piercings."

{I feel so out of place here: everyone is my age, but adorned by hair color, tattoos, jewelry, sunglasses, fantastic colors. I'm just a geek on a couch with the Economist and a P100. That's cool: different is OK here.


But it would still be more successful to smoke. Sigh. That seems to be the universal icebreaker, still so many decades later: 'gotta light?'. The fuschia-haired girl in the shiny fuschia halter top just asked, and I had to say no. I should at least get a lighter, even if I won't smoke myself. Perhaps a real geeky kit, a portable butane soldering torch... and a micro Leatherman collapsible tool.

I really must get a digital camera for scenes like this.}

Let's talk about last Saturday night in Brisbane, the beginning of the ultralong day I began speaking of. Jim pinged me out of bed at nine AM to make sure we made it to James Gosling's Developer's Day keynote. The main thing I learned there was Peter Deutsch's Seven Fallacies of Distributed Computing, and a lot of recycled Jim Waldo.

1. Reliable delivery

2. Zero latency

3. Infinite bandwidth

4. Secure transmissions

5. Stable topology

6. Single adminstrator

7. Zero cost

And that was the end of the Great Hall: they started dismantling the Martian landscape minutes after Gosling got off the stage. I took a final opportunity to complement H. on her poise and thorough control of her job, and got a flustered smile and a quick goodbye. Sigh.

Later, the genii behind scheduling put the six hottest new technologies of the season on six parallel tracks across from one another: RDF, XML-Data, CSS2, XSL, HTTP-NG, and P3P. One of the highlights was pouring gasoline on a "Why hasn't CORBA taken off on the Internet?" panel by arguing the unrepentant worse-is-better, evolvable-is-essential Webhead tack. Corbites often feel genuinely offended something so inelegant is eating their lunch, but so it goes. Nothing succeeds like success.

The blowout final session is Ted Nelson holding forth on his demos of ZigZag and HyperCoin (kudos). It's a real joy to see a sorcerer trap an audience in the palm of his hands, casting that spell that has overflow crowds lying on the floor in rapt attention. Sure, the old master is trotting out the same old stories, but they have an urgency and freshness to this audience. There, but for the grace of God, go I, in some sense. We are both loud, frantic visionaries: the difference in the history books is who ships. Andrew Pam has helped write ZigZag, perhaps the first project of his that ever will.

This very tale is a marshalling process, trying to linearize a very multidimensional structure alive in my mind. We're telling three timelines intertwingled, that ZigZag would project as alternate dimensions: History going backwards through my week in Oz; the writing process hopping among LA clubs; and my readings and reflections going forward (merging my story with books like Arranged Marriages and Guerilla Dating Tactics). So if this is a fragmented narrative, all the better. I'm inspired to be looser still after playing with Xanadu's latest product, a sort of 'hyper-sheet' of hypertext cells projected into 3-space (finally onto textual 2-space in turn). [Hey, is that anything like Lisa's warrior princess cousin Xena, whose Microsoft email handle would have to be Xenadu? :-]

====
[Gypsy Den, 6:30PM Thursday]

Chatted with Adam, who's frantically trying to find (intellectual and financial) support for following up all the leads he collected in Brisbane. I spent parts of the day with Jim Whitehead, who had three extra days to tour the Gold Coast, who taunted me with visions of rain forests and parrots and topless white sand beaches and green-eyed eighteen year old surfers. He's a cruel bastard, deep down inside :-)

Jim and Dick Taylor and I and who knows who else are aiming to hold a two-day workshop on notification systems at Irvine August 6 and 7. I archly note that it's conveniently right after his honeymoon, leaving at least two weeks of pre-meeting scrambling to some poor sucker left behind at UCI...

====
[In-n-Out, 7PM Saturday]

It's official: this VOIDpost has taken longer than the realtime it purports to chronicle... Thursday night, I went up to visit Adam and work on his gauntlet to Microsoft Research: support me fully on what I want to work on, no less (MS: "ok"). We went out to Toi's and Fred's and talked event systems and co-eds until 4:19 in the morning. I panicked in the afternoon and woke up and finished off some of those drafts and scrambled through my back seat to find something to wear: I was supposed to meet a UCI med student at the Gypsy Den at 5PM. Borrowed Adam's new Bostonians to replace the Tevas and hit the road and got... nowhere. Truly a hellish day on the LA freeways: every reroute I took heralded a new bulletin of the SIGALERT up ahead. For you LA types, consider the absurdity of 110S->5S->10E->110S->105W->710S->405S: two hours for a fifty mile journey.

It was all worth it, though, since I think I made a new friend. I met J the first time at a poetry reading, quite by accident; turns out she was J's roommate, who works down the hall. She decided she wanted a home page, and I decided it would be my pleasure to give it a shot. Of course, peripatetic TRAVELMAN being who he is, it took almost a month to set a date...

I'm sure I made a terribly garrulous first impression, but that's not news, is it? On the other hand, constructing a home page is an insidious way to learn all about someone. She's quite a traveler herself, and we hit it off well enough for me to call up Tripathi-ji and cancel dinner plans out in Riverside. Instead, we went back to our apartment complex and installed the new page: where there's a 10BaseT Ethernet connection, there's a way. I was certainly being affected: I kept taking my glasses off to feel more approachable (turns out, she only puts hers on to drive). We met up with several more of her friends from med school -- all astonishingly laid-back and happy for a bunch headed into Board exams -- to see Object of My Affection. A terrible movie, but one I'm glad I saw, so I can share my gay friends' outrage at its simplistic, at times outright-insulting treatment of homosexuality. For the proper anti-Hollywood chaser, we went to Sid's for dinner -- although I must have seemed like such a player, since both of the waitresses came by to chat at length. We discussed jazz over salad and Objectivism over halibut.

I'm really looking forward to knowing her better. I'm pretty sure it'll be soon, since I borrowed a CD and owe her dinner (she paid for the entire evening !-)

====
[24 Hour Fitness, 4:09 PM]

Itís been a month since I've been to the gym, it seems -- any my Economist subscription is piling up. I'm forgetting all my rituals: where I keep my ID card, what to remove from my wallet before going in, etc. In this case, I left my car keys and my spare keys and my emergency key in the car when I slammed the door shut. Sat on the payphone for fifteen minutes for AAA (hi DanK!). On the other hand, I had a chance to chat with N at the front desk, a frosh looking to sign up as an engineering major; more power to her!

[Starbucks, 7:30PM]

After the workout, it's time to get back to writing, to finish off this beast of a post. Time to try a new setting, the Starbucks next to campus. Yes, that reeks of desperation in the beverage-quality deparment. I am saved by their own inanity: there are only two 110V plugs in the place -- on the ceiling. I am tempted to clamber over furniture, but think better of it. I decide to head to the LAB, but I'm short of gas and money.

[Chevron LaserWash 2000]

Trapped inside this multi-armed robot, I search for signs of intelligent party life. It's Saturday night, I'm still in suspended-work-animation, and I want to see a good movie to wash out the acrid taste of YAAF (Yet Another Anniston Flick). I called CobraBoy; I called Adam's high-school buddy Michael; no such luck.

[24 Hour Fitness, 7:58PM]

I also realize I was so distracted talking to N, I left my towel there -- and no self-respecting hitchhiker goes anywhere without his towel. I got there just before closing time (yes, 24 Hour Fitness is a name, not a promise). Saw a stunning Indian woman leaving aerobics class, and I actually tailed her out. She (seemingly) followed my car all the way home, but I took the one good parking spot. I decided to leave a note on her windshield later that night. Boy, am I taking risks these days...

[Irvine Spectrum Entertainment Center, 10:40 PM]

Still looking for something to do, I called Roy. He's making Masaman curry and is glad for the additonal experimental subject -- he would have called, 'cept he thought I was in Tijuana with CobraBoy. We wanted to go see The Big Hit, so off to the Spectrum -- but precisely as we got money out of the ATM, the 10:45 show sold out. Just like a few weeks ago with Tim, we got midnight tickets and went to Wolfgang Puck's for drinks and chatted with L, the UCI English major. Clear signs of shock and horror: I think Tim's tales o people suspended in midair by their body piercings must have left some kind of impression...

The movie was a hilarious farce. I am in love with China Chow -- she is as brilliant as her character, and she's dressed to thrill in that private-school plaid skirt the whole way through. Deep philosophical discussions to follow with Roy about how celebrity works: At the bottom of the pyramid the worlds of art, commerce, and science can be completely isolated from each other; public celebrity (as orthogonal from within-group fame and celebrity) climbs the pyramid of relationships to the 'commanding heights': the sleazy, shallow Los Angeles magazine life. But I still want to meet China and Alyssa and Sarah and all the rest: that's unrealistic my condition is making me.

====

Listening Now, Anjana Appachana's first novel. "each of the female characters recounts her own version of Padma's ill-fated liaison with her college lover, Karan, and its bitter consequences. Thirteen years after his disappearance, Karan remains a haunting, riddling figure in the lives of Padman and her daughter." Another first novelist recommendation in the pages of PaperMag's 99 most beautiful New Yorkers: Kiran Desai (yes, daughter of Anita), who likes to hang out in Riverside Park and abstract their tales. (China Chow is on the cover).

====
[Harbor House @ 2:30 AM Sunday]

Off to the Harbor House -- Dana Point edition rather than the one at Sunset Beach I go to with CobraBoy. We're out on the patio in a corner, because you can either have power outlets or people-watching... we're stuck with two very loud, very drunk parties while we debate how many messages can dance on the head of a pin.

The same two agenda items have been on Roy's to-do list after a year or so: Begin a survey paper for candidacy, and a 'quad chart' describing his problem area. That's clockwise from upper left: Background, Hypothesis, Approach, Schedule. Dick calls it the DOAS, the Dissertation-on-a-Slide. His helpful advice: "use as small a font as necessary."

I brought my laptop; Roy brought Computing Surveys (v17 n4) to read me the gripping lede of Tanenbaum and van Renesse's classic: "Distributed operating systems have many aspects in common with centralized ones, but also differ in certain ways." Also for MsgList: "Another way of expressing the same idea is to say that the user views the system as a 'virtual uniprocessor', not as a collection of distinct machines. This is easier said than done."

The difference between requests and notifications: requests are things you wait for; notifications are the result of subscribing to an event. You can implement both on the same technology same syntax. Events vs messages? An event is a state change, which may or may not emit messages. But, in my world, if a tree falls without sending a message, it's a nonevent.

The implementation choice to block or not block is separate again from the expectation of response which differentiates requests (nonresponse is an error) and subscriptions (nonresponse is a sign nothing happened!). Hmmm. That implies notification requires a strictly more reliable network (more powerful abstraction) -- that might torpedo the equivalence theory. Failure on a physically-connected network is now different from across-the-public-internet. Or do we need heartbeats to equivalence the two?

Debating the quality of Madonna's Ray of Light. Adam has no taste in music... he just buys it. There's no discernable pattern to what he likes (and he's proud of it). And yet the soundtrack to Harbor House segues to 70's soft-pop Ticket to Paradise ("Light up my world... love is the answer"). I dunno, I have no taste, I like both.

Once Roy starts reminiscing about Dana Point before people lived here, Irvine before it was tract housing, before the 23-lane I5, I know the evening's wrapping to a close... and we were still up until 4:19 AM discussing women, signals, and the IETF (in all their various permutations).

====
[The Lab, 4:19PM Sunday]

{another one of this hilarious non-Norman Rockwell moments. There's this Mehndi stall here in the courtyard where a demure Muslim couple offer temporary henna tattoos. A pair of buxom brunettes in blue jeans, having had designs painted on the smalls of their backs, are standing uncomfortably in the sun with their flies half-unzipped, pants low on their hips down to there, t-shirts pulled up to there, framing twin navel rings, chain-smoking, waiting for the ointments to dry. Or another: a purple-haired woman with vibrant tattoos all over her exposed arms and back in knee-high leather boots -- pregnant, cradling another babe in arms. Does no one in the body art trade believe aging will ever strike?}

{I really need a digital camera as a prop. A) I'd like to record those two scenes and B) I'd be forced to go over and introduce myself to request permission to post them, an obvious opener.}

{Anyway, we were just at the close of DevDay in the OzThread before I was distracted by this Tower Records clerk in vinyl pants, metal, mesh, studs, and gel at the anti-mall.}

Stepping outside, I ran into D from IBM, who mentioned he was famished, enough so to skip out on Ted Nelson, and that he wanted to go to a place recommended to him called the Breakfast Creek steakhouse. I whooped in recognition, and I was the first of so many people he had asked who did. In fact, my uncle in Perth recommended it from 3,000 miles away, so I knew it would be good. Indeed it was, a sprawling, funky beergarden with fresh meat for sale. Several kinds, apparently, not just cow (though it was the only one on the menu): I got hit on twice by guys who thought I was gay... and not at all by the bevy of blondes captivated by another Indian guy's besotted South Park imitations or the only, spectacularly well turned out silk-suited Indian woman (married, Christian). Nothing like getting tweaked by two about-to-be married colleagues in a palace of twenty-something flesh -- except adding in a middle-aged man vicariously turning the screws further. Of course, I might be a wee bit off cruising for a nice Hindu girl at a steakhouse :-)

[Australia, at least the East Coast and at least Brisbane, is a very white city. Myself, I'm pretty color-blind: I'm looking out to meet interesting people of any color or orientation -- but one can't help but feel invisible in return. I'm not on anyone else's radar when I'm out in the city.]

====
[ Silver Pavements ]

Now the others take up the word, chanting it in high, sing-song voices that have not broken yet, nigger, nigger, until I want to scream, or weep. Or laugh, because can't they see that I'm not black at all but an Indian girl of good family? When our chauffeur Gurbans Singh drives me down the Calcutta streets in our silver-colored Fiat, people stop to whisper, Isn't that Jayanti Ganguli, daughter of the Bhavanpur Gangulis?

====

D also planted in my head the notion that I should just give in and call United to extend my stay. Adam even agreed, so I started calling. I was shocked to realize that United had no 24-hour line in Australia; indeed, the next time they'd be open was after our scheduled take-off. D mentioned that times had changed, that one can call 800 numbers with AT&T Direct, so I put it off until we got back to his (much swankier) hotel. Indeed it was -- twenty-five foot ceilings, burnished mahogany, marble bath -- for $9 more than our shoebox! Moral: next time I get to Brisbane, it will be at the Heritage or the Conrad International, and it will be with Diamond VIP HHonors status...

I wasn't able to take care of the airline business with their concierge, though -- they were as stumped. So I split up and sent Jim and Adam to meet the various folks I'd been directing towards the Transcontinental pub all day, and I went back across the river to take care of this mess. Oh, and Adam wanted me to bring the dregs of the Hennessy and Blue, to finish before leaving the country.

He didn't leave me his key, though, and that was just the tip of the iceberg. First, I tried the 800# with MCI, failed on credit, failed on prepaid cards. Failed with AT&T because I didn't have my Universal card on me. Now, I don't have any other non-800# alternatives, a real screw-up on United's part. It's 4AM PDT, so I can't reach my agent. I really want an answer now, so I know how dissolute I can be on a Saturday night; the original schedule was outbound at 7:05AM Sunday. OK, I figure their local Star Alliance partner, Ansett Airlines, will come to the rescue. Wrong. After calling two or three of their offices, I find a liason who finds a supervisor who can tell me that most Brisbane-Sydney flights are booked out, but can't make any sense of my United ticket, "since that's their fare, not ours."

I finally called the Dulles airport Red Carpet Club collect, got busted, even as "1K Passenger" -- but they did leak the phone # of the Dulles 1K desk, which is normally impossible to extract. I try calling my mom, but I forgot that it's Saturday there -- and the voice-mail system wanted me to spell out her name, using letters Australian phones donít have! I call the 1K desk collect, get busted. Finally, just give up and dial directly to the 1K desk and endure a ten-minute call trying to explain the situation to them: it's highly likely I will not make the 7AM, thus the connection, and I want to confirm my options to leave later. They never called back. This is beyond unacceptable. I expect a very, very good answer from them and substantive apology, or that's it. As it was, the next day Ansett refused Star Alliance gold check-in, lounge access, mistagged our bags (leaving Adam to get the thrice-over at LAX trying to smuggle "my" bag through), and still separated our seats.

For further stress, Mike called to confirm I was heading to the Transcon bar, and I said yes, take a cab, I'll be right behind you. Josh Cohen took a cab there, too. Marc, an ISP entrepreneur I met at Café Scene the night before, also wanted to get together, so I played another round of telephone tag. Finally, I also promised to call Sally, another two rounds of tag. And, by the way, I had to call hotel security to break open Adam's room to grab the liquor.

Ninety minutes later, I finally left, shaking from the (self-imposed) stress. I walked to Sally's Hilton, and thence to Transcon, where we searched every nook of that overpacked, oversexed bar and found no one -- it turned out they waited for two hours outside the door having a tech chat and gave up mere minutes before we arrived. I hear that sorry coincidence ended up very, very well indeed for Josh, though :-)

As it was, I was devestated the evening had come apart, and that furthermore, I wasnít even allowed to paint the town pink, if not red with a 7AM flight to catch. Sal and I just talked. And talked. And talked.

And then I had to make one of the tougher decisions of my life: priority #1: spending the day on the town with Sal, missing the flight, enjoying our first time together in six months; or priority #0: doing the responsible thing and debriefing Adam and Josh on the 17 hour journey back. As it turned out, Josh never made our flight, so it was just me and Adam in stony silence until wheels-up, watching the Brisbane river recede below us, knowing I made the right decision.

I hate doing that.