Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Keep It Real

That's the card most of y'all should have by now. Sorry if I spoiled the surprise if you haven't gotten it, yet. The lovely watercolors are by Yesenia, while I provided the drawing and color pencil touches. A nice holiday collaboration, don't you think?

See you all in 2009. Actually, I may see some of you in 2008, still, but just not here; the Rambler is closed for the holidays. You don't have to go home but you can't stay here. Well, I guess you can stay here, but that's probably a sign of severe depression and you should contact a mental health professional ASAP.


Penultimate Ramble 2008

Tomorrow will be the last entry for the year - like every other blog on Virtual Earth, the Rambler has a tradition of taking off the last week of the year to recalibrate, recharge and all that other 're' stuff. In the meantime, some random observations:

- Been eating Cinnamon Life by the vat full, and it really is like a Proustian Rush in cereal form. And doesn't the name sound like a lost Fitzgerald novel? "Cinnamon Life, a tale of the jazz age."
- Spent about an hour today lugging my dad's old - and I mean old - Scientific Americans down from the attic. Three decades worth, going back to 1969. I'm tempted to enter Lileks territory and scan some highlights and mock them, but that would take effort.
- Got a major Flash tip from my 'source,' earlier, and though I'm sure he's tired of it, it really answered years worth of questions. Frankly, he's spent about five minutes over the last three months answering what, to him, are basic queries and it's made a light year's difference in my work. The site that I've been avoiding because I couldn't solve a couple of technical problems is now better than I could have imagined, so, Christine - do something appropriate to Greg for me.

See you all tomorrow - which I guess for you would be Christmas, wouldn't it? Oooh, the anticipation!


Monday, December 22, 2008

We Don't Even Need a Reason

The urge to search my back pages hit me hard, the other night. I'd just wanted to find one old journal from my 1996 trip to Yurp, specifically since that was the period when I got it into my head that keeping a dream journal would be a real boss idea, since I have markedly vivid and odd dreams. Sure, a couple of minutes every morning to jot down some stuff. I was also doing it because I'd had a few lucid dreams around then and really enjoyed them, and wanted to see if I could generate them at will - and, of course, the first thing they recommend doing is keeping a dream journal to improve your dream recall.

The recall part worked really well. I had to give up when I found myself spending the entirety of the train ride from Rome to Vienna chronicling one fucking dream. Seriously, the entry runs something like twenty-five pages. It's the dictionary definition of out of control.

So I never did explore my lucid dreaming, but at least I have a journal, somewhere, with a few really lengthy dream entries from the mid-90's, a particularly formative period in my adult life. And the journal is what I got a bug up my ass to find the other night. And did not find, finding instead pretty much every other thing that I own and need to find both a method of filing and a place to file.

The journal itself is highly iconic as a physical object - a small hardcover, with the above Richard Estes painting wrapping around front and back cover. I hope that the iconic nature of it doesn't mean it's irrevocably lost - it does kind of seem like things that assume a near-totemic quality in my personal Animism of The Things of Dave end up disappearing for good; the small gold coin I received for my Bar Mitzvah, the little rubber erasers in the shapes of fruit that I'm convinced still lurk somewhere in my father's old (and my current) office, my glow-in-the-dark magic window, etc.

But those objects really are lost to history. The journal will, I suspect, turn up in time, but it's going to make me wait until I've finally cleaned and sorted every object I own before it does so. I had planned to copy down that really long dream in serialized form for the last few Ramblers of 2008 - a blast from far in my imaginary past - but I guess it'll have to wait. You lucky people.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Living, Breathing Stockboy

Well, it's that time of year again - the homestretch into the New Year. I suppose this is the time that I'm supposed to sit back and take stock of everything that's happened over the last twelve months. I really wish I had some kind of elegant words for the passing of the old year into the new, but really: Fuck You, 2008. You sucked giant flaming demon balls. I only wish I had a foot large enough to wedge up your your massive, useless fucking ass on the way out.


Saturday, December 20, 2008


Had the big Kris Kringle party today, an all-day affair wherein I ate and drank too much, and now I'm feeling it. Tomorrow, I can tell, will be a low and slow day of recuperation.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Message to the Future

Occasionally, when I'm bored or having trouble sleeping, and trying to fill that particular set of empty hours with surfing, I'll dig through the archives of the Rambler and read about something I did over a year ago. And experience the odd thrill of remembering something I'd forgotten - some small detail, whatever.

That's something I've always liked about keeping a diary; given how poor my memory is for events in my own life,* it's nice to turn a page and find out what I did on this day last year. Apparently, on December 19th, 2007, I listened to Pink Floyd's More and wrote an essay about it - so the fluid content of the Rambler means I don't always get that small window into my life a year ago.

That having been said, I've always noted from the Rambler's inception that a blog that was just entirely about my personal life would be a real chore to read. But let me just drop in a few details of life today, so that when I check back here in a few months' time, I'll see what I was doing this week in Dave History. The rest of you may just be bored by this experiment in capsuling, so I suggest that maybe you try doing one of these for yourself, so that you can look back from the future and see the details of your life at one point in time.

For starters, I'm lying in bed while I type this, with Kiko on my left flank and Yesenia furiously crocheting away on a gift (recipient's name withheld) for tomorrow's Kris Kringle party. Although it's not that late- only a quarter to ten right now - we're both fairly beat. It's been a long week, with both of us finishing up our respective semesters, her with her translation classes, myself with Physics.

I had my Physics final earlier this week - a take home, which I was able to call in the assistance of friend Jim, who teaches Physics at the high school level. Some of the material on the test was a little tough for Jim as well, since it's stuff that he hasn't had to deal with since he was in college himself, two decades ago. But Jim is much more natural at math than me, and has a brain that can see the heart of a problem quickly, so he was an excellent help. I was pissed at myself for missing the opportunity to complete the first question, though - finding the final temperature of a milk/coffee mix. I thought I'd knock it off easily, having just done a lab on that, but I had a severe bout of math anxiety and couldn't see to the end of the problem, so I solved it to a point at 1 AM on the night before the test was due - six hours later at 7:30 AM - and just left it there.

Too, when I was on campus earlier this week, I stopped by the office of my lab instructor and found out that not only did I get a perfect score, I also got the highest grade in class on the labs. Which was by turns surprising, satisfying and a little scary, since I felt my grasp on some of the material was tenuous. But, still, the labs were done 100% by me, and I came away feeling more confident that I'd been all semester.

After having finished up all that, I spent most of Wednesday taking a well-earned space-out, thinking I might polish off my friend Kate's website, but not really mustering the energy to do so. Tuesday night, Yesenia and I got the tree, a Douglas Fir which turned out to be huge once we got it inside - but with a little trimming, it seemed just right, and Wednesday night, Yesenia came home and decorated. Our renter Chris lent a hand, while I worked on the Christmas card. Once I got the basic drawing done, Yesenia (by now finished with the tree) added watercolor.

We had pizza. Wouldn't we just?

Yesterday, took care of some small work-work, inked and added some color pencil work to the the card illustration, then had lunch with my dad at his house. Last night, the bad cover band had a first, an all-acoustic jam at Karl's (still new) house. I got to play a 12-string for probably the most extended period I've done in my life, which is remarkable when you realize that it's an instrument that I've long fetishized. The 12-string in this case is a Yamaha belonging to the BCB's Jim McDonald, and some curiosity about it required that it be tuned to D, meaning that the entire night it was capo'd to the second fret.

Playing a 12-string is hard to begin with; playing a 12-string with a capo is the advance level. I don't believe I mastered it or even amateured it, but I want one of those mothers even more than ever before.

First thing this morning, we took Yesenia's car over to a garage in Nyack, then I drove her over to work. The Jeep has been out of commission all week, with a knocking coming from the front driver's side tire. I had feared it would be a cracked ball joint, which would be expensive, and annoying, since we'd just spent about $1000 on repairs for the Jeep not a week before. Then the snow came, and by the time the garage called to say that it was just some loose lug nuts, there were closing for the day and we'd have to get the car on Monday. Which is fine, given that the party tomorrow has us home all day, and Sunday is supposed to snow again.

Speaking of snow, I did a little dig-out around 3 PM when I had to pick Yesenia up from work, but it was coming down so fast that it was filling in even in the ten minutes it took for me to dig out my car. It eventually stopped around 6 - 7 PM, and I went outside to really shovel every last inch of the driveway and sidewalk, since (as mentioned) we're hosting the Kris Kringle this year, and people will need to park. Thankfully, Chris lent a hand, so it only took about forty minutes to clear it all.

Afterwards, the town did their usual thing of marginally plowing the roads but still completely filling the bottom of the driveway with more mounds of heavy, dirty snow that I'll have to clear out again in the morning (the trucks are driving by right at this moment), but for now - well, that's probably enough mundane detail for one entry, don't you think?

Dave, see you in a few months. The rest of you, I'll see tomorrow.


The Cat is Asleep

And I should be, too.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Crunching Numbers and the Numbers Crunched Back

My take home exam is due tomorrow morning, and man does this fucker have a couple of doozies. See you tomorrow, after my head stops spinning.


The Words of Night

Instead of Rambling this evening, I'm going to catch up on some email. See y'all tommory.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Holiday Miracle

For decades, Hershey's has been the premiere brand of mainstream American chocolate. And they have some real classics in their line; Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, for example. Kit Kats. But for some reason, one fairly basic chocolate variation has eluded them: Hershey's has never had an idea how to make mint chocolate.

Oh, they've tried. It's not as if they're unaware of this gaping hole in their product line. Sure, they market the York Peppermint Patty, but they don't manufacture it - it's on license from Peter Paul. But that's not enough. It's clear that they want a definitive mint chocolate that bears the Hershey's name. For years, every product they've test-marketed has avoided hitting that - forgive the pun - sweet spot for mint chocolate lovers. Either too sweet, or with a chemical taste, or not minty enough, or the wrong kind of mint.

In the past, mint chocolate from Hershey's has tasted of nothing more than desperation and flop sweat, and I can tell you, those are not ingredients a mint chocolate lover wants in their special treats. Nothing to compete with the Peppermint Patty, After Eights, Andes, or Junior Mints, or even the holy grail of mint chocolate, Russel Stover's Mint Dream (which I've heard favorably compared with Heroin). But still they try.

Mint chocolate lovers, are you sitting down? Hershey's just got it right. I give you: Hershey's Mint Truffle Kisses.

Nicely waxed dark chocolate with a firm consistency, perfect mint flavor in a creamy filling in exact proportions. I'm vaguely disappointed in the decision to tint the truffle a neon green, but I understand it from a marketing angle, and, really, it's not like this is something that I need to eat in more than one bite.

The holiday angle is nice, too - the green and silver wrappings look good sitting in a dish on the coffee table or sideboard. So break out the acne medication and buy yourself a bag. These things are pretty addictive.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Hiber Nation

Been extremely beat the last couple of days, which would almost make me suspect I was (were?) coming down with something, but I think it's just end-of-semester/work-load crashing. Today, for example, all I did (minus a little PCMA business that shall go undiscussed here) was clean the rest of my crap out of Yesenia's upstairs office. Actually, that's more of an accomplishment that it sounds, because if cleanliness is next to Godliness, then I usually reside somewhere more like Bayonne.

Anyhow, it's all in advance of the holidays, as we're hosting two functions and it's years past time to deal with some of this crap.

Also for the holidays, I pulled all of the decorations out of the attic on Thursday, and Yesenia spent this afternoon spraying the downstairs with fluff and lights, and it did put me in a much better mood.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Best Music of 2008

Lord. It's around this time of year when the best of and critics polls for the end of the year start coming out, and I always have my moment of wondering what culture I belong to - because I've never even heard of any of them. I'm just not one of those 'new music' guys, and it always makes me feel a little deficient. It will pass, I'm sure: pursuing new music is one of those things that really has to be nearly a full-time avocation if you want to have a go at it, so things like having a job and school and a band and life kind of get in the way.

But still, it's a little embarrassing to be a musician and songwriter and generally self-identify as an artist and have zero interest in seeking out new music.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Geek Observer

For some reason, in the shower this morning (@ 6:30), here was my stray thought:

The engine for the plot of the film Tron was a basic case of corporate thievery. In the film, Kevin Flynn (played by a pretty damn svelte Jeff Bridges) has been forcibly retired from pre-Microsoft hardware/software/wetware giant Encom by CEO Ed Dillinger (played by eternal villain David Warner). The reason? While an Encom employee a few years before, Flynn had nightowled a few video games to keep himself entertained. One morning, the files are missing - only to turn up as authored by then-fellow programmer Dillinger. Encom releases the games, which are a tremendous hit.

No wonder - the graphics are years ahead of what could be found in any arcade in 1982.

The details are a little vague, but with Dillinger providing Encom with a huge cash cow, he's promoted. Flynn now owns an arcade, and spends his nights hacking into the Encom system, trying to find evidence that the games were originally authored by him.

Standing guard against these hacks is a program that Dillinger actually did write: the system's Master Control Program. Flynn is an expert programmer, but he can't really get access to restricted memory because the MCP is all over him. See, the MCP is smart, ambitious and not more than a little devious. In fact, the MCP filched the game files in the first place. Perhaps its skill at strategy and need to control is a lingering aspect of its beginnings as a chess program.* Perhaps not.

In either case, Ed Dillinger is made CEO because of the success of the games. And then Flynn finds his proof, and Dillinger is fired and replaced with Flynn as Encom CEO. Yay! The end.

And there's the stupid geek thought that hit me this morning: uh, wouldn't having created the world's first artificial intelligence actually be a much, much greater accomplishment than writing a few damn videogames? In fact, never mind the exponential advancement of several sciences that would have been - even taking away the AI aspect, the MCP is an incredibly powerful OS, one which can monitor every aspect of the system and is very, very, very immune to hacks. In fact, the only way that Flynn can actually hack into it is to physically enter the computer. Because, oh, by the way, Encom has also developed the world's first matter transporter. And apparently has storage capacity decades beyond anyone else, since it can store Flynn, who would take up an estimated 1,000 terabytes of memory - just for his brain alone.

And on top of the world's best and most secure multi-lingual OS, fully integrated on proprietary terminals, which also happens to be the world's first fully-autonomous AI, and also on top of having made real the ability to move physical matter from one place to the other in a beam of light, and on top of having super-RAM up the wazoo, Encom has also developed touch-screen technology of the kind that's just now starting to be made into a reality; Dillinger's desk is essentially, a fully-realized version of Microsoft Surface. In 1982.

And their big cash cow is a bunch of fucking Space Invaders ripoffs?

No wonder Dillinger got booted. He was obviously a CEO who had his business model wedged firmly up his ass.


*Never minding how a chess program eventually becomes an operating system. That's like finding out that Vista was developed from Minesweeper, or something.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Paper Tiger

Tonight, thankfully, marks the last big push I have to make before the end of the year. True, I still have my Physics final next week, and four (!) Algebra tests to fit in this week, but with the end of Physics Lab (I handed in the reports earlier today), and the clobbering of a couple of big projects for work, I'm feeling much, much better.

To coincide with this, I'm feeling a little under the weather, so I think I'm just going to assemble the brochure mock-up I have to drop off tomorrow morning, and then it's beddy for me.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Waitin' for the Mathematician

A completely schizophrenic day, split evenly between ad work and the final assembly of all of my physics labs - 12 of them, to be exact - which are due Tuesday. Mostly, those are done, now - but there's a bit of scribbling in my notebooks from the Torque lab where something was solved - using math. But I'm not entirely sure how, so now I have to re-solve it to put in the report.

Moments like this, I always think of that great cartoon by (also great) Sidney Harris.

Still, I do actually have a miracle of my own: my father, the PhD'd math whiz from Forest Hills. He's on his way home from school and should be home about 11:30, at which point he'll call me and explain how I can solve an equation that relies on three unknowns. Fuck explaining; I just want him to do the math for me, and then he can explain later when I'm not so tired. Sometime in June of 2009 should be fine.


Saturday, December 6, 2008


Headed into Manhattan this evening to attend a birthday party for PCMA chanteuse Christine - which was 8 PM at the corner of 6th Avenue and 56th Street. And if I'd actually given it even a moment's thought, I would have said, 'oh, we should park uptown and then catch the subway down, because Midtown's a clusterfuck at the best of times, and even worse come the holidays.'

Sadly, that thought didn't occur to either Yesenia or me until we were well-sealed within the immobile block of cars that thronged Midtown for that period of time that is longer than you want to be sitting in a Jeep in NYC. We finally got free, and had some basic plan to head up to 72nd or thereabouts and park - seeing as how we'd already sat in traffic for half-an-hour - but we kept laddering the streets, and nothing was opening, and we were past the point of wanting to get a garage. Eventually, we both came to the same conclusion that we wanted to be home with pizza, wine and Star Trek, so I had Yesenia proxy-text Christine, and we got on Riverside and headed home...

...taking with us the cookies that I'd baked for Christine. No fear; I'm bringing them to Karl's. And they are good. Happy birthday, anyhow. Next time: weeknight in Queens might be easier.


Friday, December 5, 2008

Hello, it's Been a While...

Spent a goodly part of the day at the recording studio, as Ryan called me last night and mentioned he'd booked some time. Frankly, I jumped at the chance to resume my role as producer/kibbitzer on his album - probably a sign of how badly I've been neglecting my creative self these last few months. I was fucking overjoyed to get in there and start working. It's not my money, true, but I definitely feel it's one of my missions to keep Ryan focused and thereby save him money.

Anyhow, it reminded me that's it's been quite a while since we've had a Weekend Listening 'round these here parts, and since class is winding up (all my lab reports are due this Tuesday, and my final exam is the 15th), that'd be a good feature to resurrect. Double-good, considering how content-starved the Rambler has been for the last few weeks.

On that note, I realized as well that I haven't yet put up the most recent KPMG College Recruitment Magazine comic. It was finished back in mid-November, but I was pretty hesitant to post it, since a) I didn't want to curse it while it was still in progress, and b) I didn't write the thing and don't really like the final product. But since the thing has been approved and invoiced, there's no longer any reason to fear reason #1 - and, reason number two... well, I've already told you I didn't write it, so I invite you just to look at the art.

Click the picture to see the big 'un.

Karl actually felt that this was the strongest visually of all the comics I've done since my revival. It's true that I've finally been getting a handle on how to blend my detailed pen and ink work with color - the needs of which are almost mutually opposed - but it's also a sign of how far I've managed to overcome a lot of the negative feelings I had towards my own art over the last fifteen years. But that's also symptomatic of the split I've been noticing in people's reaction to my comics of late - there are those who prefer the detailed pen work, and those who appreciate the more spare brush line that I've been favoring. Since the Art Director at KPMG likes the pen and ink work, I've been delivering just that - but I do feel like all that crosshatching is kind of a crutch, and I should stick to my guns on my own (theoretical) personal work and refine my brush technique.

People who follow the KPMG strips on the Rambler might notice that the characters look a little different - indeed, a little more generic - this time around. That's because the original characters were - to me - Yesenia and me, and when they sent over the scripts, I just didn't have it in me to use those specific characters saying that dialogue. In fact, i initially didn't even sign the comic, but the Art Director flagged it and asked me to do so. I did, with the stipulation that the writer also be given credit. Again, two reasons; 1) it's incredibly unethical to take credit for another's work, and 2) I just didn't like the script and didn't want my name associated with it.*

But that did put Comic Dave and Yesenia out of work. I hadn't realized it, but it turns out that I do feel a proprietary affection for the original characters, which means I should probably take Ansley's advice and start doing some personal comics with them. It would be nice, really, to take them out of their shallow set-up and punchline existence and put them into a slightly longer narrative with the Jessica Abel-like rambling verité style that I think would suit them better.

We'll see; I don't want to promise anything I can't deliver, but in all of my anxiety about jobs and money and future and all that, maybe there's nothing to fear in putting together a decent few pages of serious comic attempts - it seems like not such a waste of my time and resources. All of my writer/artist friends out there can expect to be hit up for writing and drawing advice on this when I do get something started. You have been warned.


*There's also the other comp sketches and a much more in-depth version of the story, but I think I'll save that for a Walrus Comix feature at some point. I'll let you know when that's up - don't expect it soonest.

Good for Bad

Since Yesenia and I both decided to go back to school at the same time, our credit cards have taken a hit - add to that the last-minute trip to Puerto Rico that Yesenia took last week (sick Grandfather), and it was time to figure out what to do about it. Thankfully, a few years back, we opened a line of credit with Washington Mutual, which we'd recently paid off.

To celebrate this momentous occasion, we took out another chunk, to be payable in fractional chunklets over the next couple of years. That money will all go towards eliminating our credit card debt - what our financial advisor calls 'bad debt' - and then we can pay WaMu instead. That would be the 'good debt.' It makes sense, certainly, when you realize that the credit card interest is what they call usurious - what is it, 372.8%, compounded hourly? - and the WaMu interest is civilized, in the mid-single digits.

I probably would have thought of this earlier, but since WaMu, you know, fucking collapsed a couple of months ago, it hadn't even crossed my mind that we could get anything from them. Anyway, I'm happy and relieved (in the global sense) that they're still functioning. Sure, the American economic train, she ain't what she used to be - but the wheels are still somewhat greased.