No Comments on Seemen!

No, the title isn’t a typo.

Saturday night I managed to get into a SEEMEN art show in San Francisco. I got there early and was able to take a bunch of pictures before the crowd built up, and then even more pictures once Ringmaster Kal started the show.

Low-light conditions meant long exposure times, and most of the pieces had considerable motion in them, so a lot of the pictures had considerable blurring. Bahhh! The rationalizations I make for crummy photos. Still, there’s one that particularly rocked.

I was especially happy to get to be the guinea pig in one of the pieces.

About Amsterdam

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I just got back from two weeks in Amsterdam. Here’s the Reader’s Digest Condensed version of different thoughts and memories of the trip:

Amsterdam is all cobblestones, brownstone buildings, unbelievable churches, canals. It was cold, blustery, misty, foggy, and occasionally outright raining. It was just the strangest juxtaposition of Old World Europe and Mtv. You could find a wood-working shop that wouldn’t have been out of place 200 years ago, and just around the corner would be a Gap and a Footlocker. Strange.

Taxis in NY and SF look like they are from the great depression. Horrible sedans with some relic of a meter device grafted onto the dash with baling wire and chewing gum. Taxis in Amsterdam look like they are from the Jetsons. Brand new cars (often Mercedes sedans), in perfect condition, driven by immaculately groomed 40-ish men in coats and ties who speak five languages. Perfectly integrated into the dash is a computer console that plays television while you’re in Park, and while driving gives the driver full GPS read-out and directions and gives the rider nicely presented mileage and fare. Amazing.

Dutch food leaves a lot to be desired. Lots of fat; butters, thick slaps of goat cheese, thick cream sauces. Heart patients wouldn’t be happy. Service is odd too. The waitrons are very cheerful and pleasant, but they just don’t get in a rush for anything. After several experiences where it took 20 minutes even to be asked if we wanted something to drink, we simply bought a deck of cards and started playing cards at the table, at least up to the point that food actually arrived. The waiters seemed to think it was the most natural thing in the world.

Seeing actual Van Gogh paintings up close was pretty spectacular. Being able to actually discern individual brush strokes, and the tiny dots and swipes of color that look damn near random up close, until you pull back to absorb the larger picture… that was pretty great.

The Modern Art museum actually had a hall with original works by Robert Crumb, he of the underground comix scene. Nothing beats eavesdropping on Dutch schoolgirls reading Robert Crumb comix aloud to each other in a giggling, heavily accented voice. “Look at zee tits on zat gurl! I yam goink to schtick my dick in her!” Priceless.

While in Amsterdam, I bought a graphic novel (comic books for grownups; no superheroes in tights, bigger pricetag) called “From Hell”. This was the book from which they made the recent Jack the Ripper movie of the same name (starring Johnny Depp and Heather Graham). So, I would lie in the hotel fighting jet lag, reading this book about Victorian Whitechapel, cobblestones, brownstone builds, fog, men in overcoats, prostitutes and these utterly horrific murders. And then I would get up and got out to a coffee shop, traipsing through crowded streets of cobblestones, brownstones, fog, men in overcoats, past the red-light doorfronts. Nice mind games.

A tour book said outright, “Dutch men will piss anywhere”, and the city has yielded to the err, umm, flow of the people. Amsterdam has a large number of outdoor “urinoirs”; outdoor cast iron stalls you can walk up to and relieve yourself with some pretense of privacy. On the weekends they put out more modern versions, plastic columns with receptacles on it where you can walk up and relieve yourself with virtually no privacy at all. No such convenience for women.

Absolutely everyone spoke clear English. Thank goodness.

The exchange rate changed in my favor while we were there. The final bill for the entire trip was so cheap, I almost wept. Dutch currency is gorgeous. Bright, colorful, interesting to look at.

We went to a bathhouse in an Art Deco building from the 1920s that was absolutely stunning, like Hearst Castle on a budget. And, I highly recommend sitting in a mixed gender steamroom with teenaged Dutch girls. Wow. Antigravity actually exists.

At least at one time, buildings in Amsterdam were taxed based on how much street frontage they took up; the width of the building. Hence, buildings tend to be really narrow. The Dutch have a fondness for unbelievably small, steep spiral staircases that are a challenge for big fat Americans with size 12 feet. Our hotel was one such building. Still, the view from our room was worth it.

I took about 300 photos on the digital camera, and then weeded out the cruft and got the stack down to about 150 worth keeping, three that I am especially happy with. (In all fairness, the first was taken by a friend of mine.) Here are smaller versions of the three:

“Trip”, indeed.

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I’m going on vacation next week, to Amsterdam, of all places. I’m planning on taking a staggering number of photos while I’m there, and I was joking with a friend about the resulting web page of photos.

Here’s the “coffee shop” we went to after we landed.
Here’s a picture of my hand.
Dude, have you ever really looked at your hand?
Here are 50 more pictures of my hand.
Here’s a picture of a puddle on the sidewalk outside the “coffee shop”.
Here are 83 more pictures of the puddle.
Dude, this is, like, the coolest puddle I’ve ever seen in my life.

You get the idea. 🙂

First Impressions

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By nature, I’m very much an introvert in relationships. I’m very uncomfortable meeting new people, I rarely if ever make the first move, and I’m slow to warm to new relationships. I’ve been making a concerted effort to push myself outside my comfort zone in this regard during the past year, forcing myself to take the initiative, being more forward about meeting new people and seeing what happens. Thus far the results have been spectacularly underwhelming, but I’ve kept trying.

I recently found myself chatting for the second or third time with a woman on IRC. Each time the banter has been light and brief, but when I’ve made comments about having been in her neighborhood, she’s responded with “We should have lunch sometime” or something like that. A couple of days ago I made plans to head up to San Francisco for an art exhibit at a gallery, and it occurred to me to invite this person along and finally meet face to face. I sent her the URL to the gallery show, she seemed interested, and so plans were made to meet at the gallery. Yipes! Meeting a new person! What an adventure! (Yeah, yeah, I know. I told you, I’m an introvert.)

The exhibit was called “Beasts and Angels, Erotic Nudes by Kelly Grider” at a place called Eros Gallery. Okay, so the name of the gallery should have tipped me off. I totally didn’t think about it. Maybe I’ve been in the bay area too long. 🙂

Come Thursday evening, I drove up to San Francisco, parked at my favorite garage and grabbed a cab to the gallery. I hadn’t been there before, so it took a while to find the store front. Hmm, “Eros Gallery”. Hey, there it is. Get out, pay the driver, and approach the door. Hmm, no windows. Lots of posters outside. Posters of men. Men with big shiny muscles and bare chests. Hmmm… Okay, so I go inside. This isn’t so much a gallery; it feels much more like a hotel lobby. But it’s definitely the right place. The room is ringed with 30 or more framed photographs, black and whites and sepia tones, very well done, very professional. All of large muscular men, most with very visible, very erect penises. Soon I noticed the locker room just off the lobby. I also noticed the sign at the back of the lobby that said “No poppers or glass bottles past this point. The steam rooms are a “No Glass” area.” Oh, and look, there are naked men strolling about with their white gym towels hanging at their sides, walking through the room.

Great. I’m at a gay bathhouse. Looking at an exhibit of gay erotica. Where I invited a total stranger, a woman, to meet me.

I make a hell of a first impression.

Competency and Insecurity

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I’m building this theory that there’s often a correlation between competency and insecurity in people. That is, people who are very competent in their performance are often the very people who are insecure in their performance. In fact, I’d go so far as to guess that there’s a causal relationship here; that often people are competent because their insecurity makes them try that much harder to compensate.

One of the reasons I’ve been thinking about this has been because of some events at work. My manager recently relayed some compliments to me, which I grudgingly accepted. Yeah, I’m one of those insecure people myself. 🙂 Some time later, we talked about a new employee of mine who had missed some work due to personal issues, and her concerns that this might be negatively affecting her role in the team and with me. I was surprised, because I thought I had been very vocal and consistent in supporting this person, and additionally, this person has been doing great work in her brief time on the team. But I took the message; I needed to re-iterate my support for her.

So, at the next available opportunity I found this employee and asked her to walk to the cafe with me so we could get some coffee and talk. As we started walking, she took a deep breath and asked me, “Am I being fired?”

I wanted to laugh and sigh all at the same time. Here’s a person who is very bright, has been doing excellent work, has made an immediate contribution to the team, and is well liked by her co-workers. Yet the first thought that crossed her mind was that she was being fired. Amazing. And yet, I have to say, not an unfamiliar feeling.

I immediately reassured her that she wasn’t being fired, of course. And then talked for a bit about my theory about insecurity, and how it seems to drive the competency in some people, but it also undermines their ability to feel comfortable and secure in their abilities. And I talked about how someone might be able to hear praise intellectually, but not have it sink in emotionally, not really feel it in their bones. “So, I understand that I’m going to say this and it may not sink in, but I feel obligated to say it anyway. You are doing a good job. Everyone likes you. You are more than pulling your own weight. You are working on exactly the right issues. I am thrilled to have you on the team. The time you have had to be out of the office is not an issue, and I will do everything I possibly can to accommodate those events. You’re good. Try not to worry so much.” 🙂

I don’t know if it will stick, but she seemed to appreciate it, at least.

Junkyard Wars!

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I was watching Junkyard Wars on television Sunday, and it started me thinking. If you’re not familiar with the show, the premise is that a team is placed in a junkyard and given a task to complete in some fixed period of time. For instance, the team might be tasked with assembling a motor boat from scrap parts, in one day, sun up to sun down. They gather some crude pieces, bind it all together with baling wire and duct tape and then gather the following day for some terribly simple test. If the boat can pick up a passenger, circle a buoy, and return to dock, all without disintegrating, sinking or falling apart, the exercise is considered a grand success.

It occurred to me that this process bears a striking resemblance to software development. You get some assignment. You gather the raw materials trying to decide what components you need and how quickly they can be fit together. You work at a break-neck pace to assemble something that sort of works within the given time constraints. You forgo robustness, reliability, safety, maintainability or cost, all in the interest of being able to perhaps satisfy the limits of the stated assignment. You test it, and as long as the software accomplishes something vaguely resembling the original goals, and doesn’t blow up, killing the user in the process, the project is considered a grand success. Next week, you get to build a dirigible! Woohoo!


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You say “Heathen” as if it’s a bad thing. 🙂

I’m in a particularly profane mood this morning. I blame my reading material. Here’s some of the things I’ve found on the web lately that amuse me greatly.

Critique. I can think of worse ways to pick a religion.

Technical Virgin. Don’t stop at the first page; read a little further.

Divine Interventions. Is it coincidence that I found this one after having just seen a movie about the Marquis de Sade? Probably what Jung would call a “synchronicity”. Or Sting. I always get them confused.

Action figures of Jesus, God, Buddha and Allah. I’m so ready to write them a check.

A pokemon-style cartoon of the book of revelations.

Yeah, I’m going to hell. What’s your point?