[VOID] Carpe diem.

I Find Karma (adam@cs.caltech.edu)
Wed, 9 Dec 1998 15:42:31 -0800 (PST)

The Extremely Egocentric History of the Universe up until now: On this
day 30 years ago, the mouse every one of us is probably using to click
on this very message was born. A year later, I was.

For 29 years, I have been (among other things) cynical and petty and
cowardly and weak. Carpe rectum was my motto: seize my ass.

Recently, however, I was reminded of my own mortality.

And you know what? I decided I *wanted* to live. That living was no
longer a passive thing to me that I thought nothing about. No, now
living was about taking an active role in the facets of my life. Like
that stupid Robin Williams movie, I now actually believe in seizing the

Right now I decided to stop for a moment and take personal inventory.
Since my mortality wakeup call came after my marriage in September,
*getting* married was not a proactive decision on my part. However,
recently I've been trying to improve the quality of life of the poor
woman who's stuck with me. I really, wholly, truly, deeply love her.

So what have I done that has been proactive? Not much. Little things.
But like a string of pearls, I think that life is a bunch of little
things that wear well and feel wonderful when threaded together...

Here's a sampling, in no particular order:

1. My wife and I chose an exquisite frame for our wedding kotubah.
(That's like a Jewish wedding license, painted like a nuanced picture.)
We also framed several pictures that till now were stuck on the walls
using poster tape. Anything worth looking at, is worth looking at

2. I finished the final draft of my master's thesis, which just may
qualify for the smallest quality-to-time-taken-to-write ratio in the
Extremely Egocentric History of the Universe. I clocked in at just over
five years in writing this thing. All I'm waiting for is my advisor's
final comments and approval, and I have some *closure*.

3. I called the American Red Cross and made a substantial contribution
to their hurricane relief fund. 1-800-HELP-NOW if you are interested.

4. My wife and I moved to a bigger, nicer place. Life is too short to
live somewhere if there's any possibility you can move to a better

5. I spent a bunch of money online at Amazon, Gap.Com, Ebay, Etoys, and
Reel.Com -- I'm voting with my wallet for e-commerce whenever I can now.
PinkDot.Com is next!!!

6. My wife and I bought furniture. Not Ikea disposacrap furniture
McNuggets, but *real* furniture that will move with us when we get the
heck out of Pasadena.

7. When American Express called to offer me a platinum card, I accepted.
I don't think any other splurge in the Extremely Egocentric History of
the Universe has given me such a burst of happiness. Sad, eh?

8. I started writing in my greenbooks again. For the uninitiated, the
greenbooks are little diaries I carry with me wherever I go, to write
down any consuming yet fleeting thought that pops in my head. Many of
Rohit's ideas are in past books; many of the quotes at the end of my
FoRKposts recently have come from those books. I hadn't written in a
greenbook since August. Four of the greenbooks are still with DanK.
Incidentally, the covers of the greenbooks are no longer green...

9. I got a kicking desktop machine for home. 21" 450MHz 16Gig 384Mram
Cable Ready with DVD and CDRW and Boston Acoustics surround speakers. A
kicking laptop is on its way. 14.1" 266MHz 8Gig 64Mram with DVD. I
know these aren't Apples, Tim, but at least they were free...

10. Four words: big screen television.

11. I sold all my shares in mutual and index funds, and bought stocks in
companies I like. My holdings may be inconsequential and small (one
friend at Excite and one at Yahoo are each now worth several hundred
million, a friend at Infoseek and a friend at Inktomi are each worth $50
million, several friends at Microsoft are worth a few million, and I'm
worth a paltry four figures -- in binary!). But at least they are mine.
I've worked out a budget and a savings and investment plan for myself
and my wife. Also, I've opened Roth IRAs for both of us. I tried to
open Roth IRAs for my cats, too, but wouldn't you know it, they wouldn't
let me. Frigging IRS.

12. I make sure to tell my kitty cats every day how much I love them.
They never seem to respond.

13. I met with my advisor for the first time in months last week. I
really did miss him.

14. I met with Rohit for the first time in months last week. I really
did miss him.

15. I'm thinking about planting a garden in our new backyard.

16. Surprise, I bought some CDs. Today I found Bruce Springsteen's
"Santa Claus is Coming to Town," a single I had been looking for for
nine years. It's the B-side of "My Hometown," if you were wondering.
Not available on any album. But I haven't been listening to that for
the past hour. Instead, I've been listening to an eCard my wife sent
me from work for about 60 minutes straight now... it's been in the
background as I'm typing this...


Incidentally, other recent CDs I really like are Cake's "Prolonging the
Magic," Sheryl Crow's "Globe Sessions," Ice Cube's "War and Peace,
Volume 1," 2Pac's greatest hits, Offspring's "Americana," Metallica's
"Garage, Inc.," Jewel's "Spirit," Alanis Morissette's "Supposed Former
Infatuation Junkie," George Michael's greatest hits, various artists'
"Pure Moods II," the "You've Got Mail" soundtrack, and, of course, The
Simpsons' long-awaited "Yellow Album."

While I'm on music, Dr. Tim asked:
> From tbyars@earthlink.net Wed Dec 9 09:37:24 1998
> Subject: Question for Adam
> Since your the mark for Madonna's new album. Can you possibly explain
> the song about the old woman and her burning flesh and rotting bones
> to me?
> Sorry, I just don't get the point of it.

It's about seizing the day. Life is short, and all of us will one day
have burning flesh and rotting bones. Don't put off till tomorrow
telling someone you love them. It's never too late to go back and try
to fix broken relationships. Save and invest in yourself and the people
who mean anything to you. Take the opportunities that life has given
you. Don't sit around waiting for life to happen.

Or something.

17. I attended the movie premiere of Adam Rifkin's latest work, "Welcome
to Hollywood." It was pretty good. He is awesome.

18. I wrote long letters to my grandparents.

19. I invited my parents to come visit my wife and me for a week at the
end of December. They accepted. I'm very happy. I plan on telling
them how much I love them.

20. I used my frequent flier miles to purchase first-class tickets for
my sister and my brother to come visit me. She's coming for 3 weeks at
the end of this month, and he's coming for several weeks in February. I
plan on telling them how much I love them, too. In a low-key way, so as
not to freak them out.

21. 12 hours ago, for no particular reason, I got in my car and drove to
Cantor's to get a black and white cookie in the middle of the night.
Rohit, you were missed. If you were there, I would have gone to
Damiano's or Toi, too. Hollywood was eerily empty at 3 o'clock this
morning. No cars, no people on the streets begging for money, no one at
Cantor's. Eery.

22. I donated several boxes of my clothes and nice shoes to goodwill.
Also, I've been sorting through my other stuff looking for things to
throw away, file, or donate.

23. I've thought long and hard about my short-term and long-term
dreams, visions, goals, objectives and plans. Still no definitive
solutions, but at least I'm thinking about the fundamentals.

24. I buried a lot of the hate I was carrying around inside me.

25. I cancelled my several year relationship with my shrink. I can do
it now on my own.

26. I called my car insurance company and updated the status of my wife
and I and our vehicles. We also signed up for renter's insurance and
bought a firebox. We signed up for credit card protection from loss,
theft, and fraud, too. And, I am seriously considering sending Caltech
the $500 to buy my lifelong email address, rifkin@alumni.caltech.edu
(I'm an alumnus once for my Master's Thesis, but I still have one to
go... :)

27. Three words: minidisc player.

28. I bought some really nice pieces of jewelry for my wife. Whoops,
lets hope she got bored and stopped reading around post 3. I also am
gonna try to bring her flowers sometimes even when I haven't screwed up
anything big lately.

29. I've all but stopped answering email. Hey, I am no longer a slave
to my email! I have broken free!!! (Although, I am grateful for each
of the 81 emails wishing me a happy birthday so far... frightening!)

30. This month, I paid all of my bills on time and BALANCED MY
CHECKBOOK. This is most unprecedented.

31. I am making a concentrated effort to set my bed every day, to take
out the trash, to put the toilet seat down (and to actually aim when the
toilet seat is up), and to wash the dishes whenever I can. Litterbox
duty I'm still having trouble with, though: WHO is the PET in this
relationship, anyhow? If anything, these cats should be cleaning MY
toilets, not the other way around...

32. I have been stone cold sober for several months now. No alcohol at
all. Unless you count NyQuil. (Mind you, I'll probably break this
trend soon, maybe even tonight, but to go months without drinking has
really been quite illuminating.)

33. I went to see "A Bug's Life" and stayed through the ending credits.
I want to see "Life is Beautiful" in the theaters sometime soon.

34. Sometimes I used to be too busy to floss. Now I try to floss every
day. Flossing is a good time to think.

35. I threw away the clothing that was so ripped or so out of style that
I would be ashamed to give it to goodwill. This is really a big step
for me. I hate throwing out something I can still use, even if it's
underwear barely hanging together by a single thread.

36. I actually showed my ugly mug at Caltech. In fact, I plan on going
there again after I post this...

I still have a long way to go. Self improvement is a never ending
process. But I do think it's a worthy one. And I thank you for
listening while I unburdened my soul about it. I wish you all the best
and a wonderful holiday season, and a happy, healthy 1999 filled with

And remember to stay optimistic about the future in 1999 even though
we're going to be hit with Y2K panicktalk from the media in every
direction. It is the faith by us that the worldwide system is resilient
that will keep the worldwide system from crashing and burning as we
asymtotically approach January 1, 2000 in the next 386 days...


If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap.
If you want happiness for a day -- prepare a nice meal.
If you want happiness for a year -- inherit a fortune.
If you want happiness for a life -- help someone else.
-- Chinese Proverb