Wednesday, 10/10/01

The verge of exhaustion is not normally the best place for writing, but I'm going to try it anyway. It's been an interesting day. The story begins sometime last week, when the landlady intercepted me on my wearisome journey back from retrieving the mail. You see, I live in a house at the top of a hill. At the bottom of the hill live our landlords, which is itself an awkward enough situation. Between our houses is a house-to-be, under construction by the very same landlord, who happens to be a contractor as well. This means I get to use the excuse "I can't move my car because a cement truck is blocking the driveway" far more often than you do. At the very bottom of the hill is the mailbox.

So, on this fateful afternoon, as I trudged up the hill with Michele's "Victoria's Secret" catalog in tow, the landlady approached to inform me that they are refinancing our house. Unclear on the relevance of this fact, I nodded politely. She went on to explain that the house is in her name, and far as the bank is concerned, she is the primary resident. The bank does not know, and should not know, about the seven of us actually residing here. On Wednesday morning, she continued, an appraiser would be visiting the house for an hour. Before that point, we would naturally be expected to remove any external signs of our existence, such as ourselves and our cars, and mask any obvious indications that the house residents are not part of the landlord's immediate family, such as photographs and anything displaying our names. She would arrive shortly before the appraiser to scatter some pictures of herself around the place and generally make herself appear at home.

Last night, we did our best to prepare for the ruse. The house was cleaned, pictures were hidden, mail and postcards were put away, anything college student-like in public areas was concealed. We did nothing about the fact that all five bedrooms contained quantum physics textbooks -- we simply hoped that the appraiser would be unsuspicious, or better, rock stupid.

This morning I arose after three hours of sleep in order to greet the landlady at the appointed time and then make myself scarce. I hadn't really decided where I would go on my temporary exile, but in the end, there really was only one place I could go. The bookstore.

Arriving at Barnes and Noble shortly after they unlocked their doors, I skimmed through my usual haunts (the Humor and Computers sections) and found nothing of interest. Passing the Graphic Novels section, I somewhat arbitrarily pulled Watchmen off the shelf and settled into a comfy chair to look it over.

Nine hours later, I had finished the book.

Wow. Incredible stuff. Dare I say it, even approaching Nausicaa-level quality. It was the finest piece of work that I've read in a long time.

(Granted, I have learned to be somewhat wary of literary judgments made while within the bookstore. On a recent trip to Borders I read through the first two volumes of Mai, The Psychic Girl and was so impressed, I bought all three volumes and returned home to read the third. I then discovered it was utter garbage. So either the creators got two-thirds of the way through their story and then decided to blow off the rest and go fishing, or Muzak and hard wooden chairs significantly impair my ability to evaluate the quality of a comic book.)

Anyway... Watchmen. Amazing stuff. Probably. I returned home just in time for a band practice which I had forgotten about. Hrm. We had a gig on Saturday which was just as miserable as the previous one, but everyone else said it went well, so hell, what do I know? We've got another one in two weeks, and one a week after that, so... we'll see.

Also in a few weeks, I will go to ICCAD and try to speak convincingly on a subject which I do not care about. Somewhat in preparation for that, I finally got around to PDFing and posting my thesis, which was a procedure that took many full days of pain and frustration and anger. Converting TrueType fonts into PostScript Type 1 fonts that are useful to DVIPS is not an easy process, nor is it clearly documented anywhere. I'll just say that when I finally discovered that the fonts I needed were sitting on my hard drive all along, and I had essentially been wasting my time for the last week, I felt nothing but happiness and relief.

Anyway, thesis up. Many pages. Probably nobody read, but oh well. On a more amusing note, I recently received an email inviting me to speak at an invitation-only conference in Italy. After assuring me of the prestige and exclusiveness of the event, the email went on to state that most of the invitations were given to members of three groups: the most referenced scientists in the field, presidents and CEOs of companies with revenues over $1 billion, and "young talent who ... created outstanding work in the past 3 years". I don't really fall into any of those categories, so I'm a little puzzled by the invitation. But they even addressed me as "Dr. Victor", so I'm inclined to dismiss it as a case of mistaken identity. Regardless, I have no plans to travel to Italy, or anywhere else for that matter. Here is nice.

Hope it stays that way.