How I killed my blog

You aren’t reading this. Once, you did. Here’s why.

In 2001 I started a LiveJournal entirely as a social networking tool. My friends were all signing up. We had a lot of fun sharing a circle of friends on LJ, and most of us ended up at least reading if not posting every day.

The social network expanded rapidly, and I made new connections. And I wrote more. I have a background in journalism and I’ve always written compulsively. With the spigot open, things sputtered out: personal confession, satire, sociopolitical conversations, culture, an avalanche of ephemera. It was mostly a good time, although the madness of myself and others provided some spectacular low points as well. (None of the madness has been removed. Good thing you’re not reading it.)

A few years into this I had a decent audience for someone who hadn’t tried. At best estimate the thing had 300 regular readers. If I wrote something interesting or challenging or unusually annoying I always got a few comments. Even a couple of my literary heroes showed up to say nice things about my writing. And the writing got better. There was a deadline feel to working on that LJ. I would think: “what should I write today?” rather than “should I write?”

Like others, I messed around with syndication and linking other services. There were all these ways you could stuff your LJ and photo service and other crap into one feed, but those weren’t popular in this case. A couple of times I started up a separate blog intending to put longer stuff there but didn’t use it enough or try to promote it really, and it sat there. This should have been a warning.

I never wanted to leave LJ, despite its “uncool” teen-angst image. It was a great platform for us, and a decent place to write. I had a built-in audience and a lot of daily reading for myself. But LJ started to get weird. Its ownership got passed around a few times, and the infrastructure and policies looked wobblier every day. When it was inhaled by an opaque Russian company it was looking like a worse and worse place to do anything a person might care about.

So, I made a WordPress blog and slurped up all the old LJ posts into it, and kept going here.

Whoops!

The social element is gone. Comments are rare and telegraphic. If I send a link to a friend I’ll get friendly and useful responses. Syndication to Facebook gets comments there. When comments are enabled on the syndication to the old LJ I get some responses from my friends there. But in general the thing is just dead. Traffic is awful.

As a result, I don’t write as much either. I never had too much invested in a big audience (good thing, because I didn’t have one!) but without any audience at all… Well, it’s like doing a late night shift on a radio station nobody hears. (Another story.) It’s boring and a little depressing.

I wasn’t the only one to abandon LJ, but it looks like most of the others went to Facebook for ephemera and socializing. That makes sense because the whole world is on FB, and because people don’t like uncool things (LJ). A lot of LJ’s benefits, like semi-anonymity and great filtering for audiences, are gone. But if your friends aren’t there, it’s not a social network, so, that’s the end of that.

Part of me wants to go back to LJ, but it’s not the same thing now. Mostly I want to keep the energy going with my own little thing, because I want to write and I need to control where it lives. Perhaps enforced write-every-day discipline would help.

In any case, I trashed something useful. LiveJournal was a good audience of friends and strangers and a wonderful conversation space, where I learned more about public writing than I had working full-time at a newspaper. Where did we go wrong? In any case, I met a lot (more than 50) of great new people I still have to talk to.

Anyway that’s how I killed my blog. If you’re reading this, something must be terribly wrong.

Good Los Angeles stories start in the high desert.

Airplane Nose

The Mojave desert is a mess. I love it, not in an ironic-slumming decay-hugger way, just love it. Chaparral crackles when there’s no other sound. Weird stuff grows out of nowhere and sits there daring you to find context. Ancient Mexican cowboys sell fruit to displaced urban black teenagers. The light is fierce and perfect and constant. Things break down and people just board them up and move on with their lives. All my life I’ve seen the desert as more functional, better adjusted, more of an organic whole than the city and the suburbs.

I want to say “don’t change,” Mojave, but I know you will, and I know you’ll always surprise me.

Chaparral and tears

A series of lists

  1. Things I observed taking the long way home from downtown through southeast Los Angeles today
    • Norms Restaurant with neon failure renaming it NOMS
    • Burger joint with neon failure resulting in BUGERS
    • Small business offering INTERNET AND COMPUTER HELP $2/HR WEB / MESSENGER / MYSPACE
    • Cop trying to fix his own cop car
    • One out of five businesses of any kind offering free wi-fi
  2. Things I lost today and then recovered
    • My wallet, which fell out of my pants and then under my car in the garage at work. Found during trip back to garage from office.
    • A credit card, which fell out of the wallet as the wallet fell out of my pants, arriving at a point under the car eight inches further. Found during second, more frustrated trip to garage.
    • A check worth way more than I can afford to lose, found in wrong envelope in small stack of things to throw away on seat of car.
    • Sunglasses (TWICE)
  3. Things heard on the emergency services radio on my scanner in the last week
    • Robbery with suspect being sought: six foot three male wearing oversized foam cowboy hat and carrying (stolen) inflatable parrot toy
    • Fire consisting of a “fully involved roll of toilet paper”
    • The Rodriguez brothers again
    • Person returning once again to store where he had stolen the same thing six times
  4. Phrases I heard at the Harbor & Adams Starbucks on the way home
    • “Standing in the studs”
    • “The Asian lady at the post office was particularly durable”
    • “Street monster”
    • “It was like I just kept flipping over rocks and seeing the same bugs each time”

DEATH TRUCKS.

Hi everybody!

I see a lot of weird stuff in the news lately about Death Panels and Death Books. I don’t know a lot about those but they sound bad. However, I know a lot about Death Trucks because I see them on the freeway every day. The Death Trucks must have the same schedule as I because the same ones always show up. They are:

THE MOLTEN SULFUR TRUCK. These may come from Hell. They are en route from south to north, anyway. I see at least one every day. I don’t know who uses entire tanker truckloads of molten sulfur but I don’t want to work there. I also don’t like being right next to that truck. I figure a molten sulfur truck crash would be final in an unpleasant way.

THE ODORLESS PRESSURIZED NATURAL GAS TRUCK. You know the gas in the stove? When it leaks you smell it which means you can run like hell and call the fire department before you are 1) asphyxiated or 2) blasted into liverwurst or 3) both. This truck has a truck-sized cylinder of the stuff, at high pressure, without the smelly stuff. So I’ll be clueless and/or asphyxiated and/or liverwurst all at once when the small hole in the cylinder is going FSSSSHT and I’m behind it.

THE VERY HOT ASPHALT TRUCK. It looks like the other two but with a sign indicating that it’s entirely full of the street, except the street when it’s 1000 degrees and bubbly. I have a vivid imagination and I immediately close my window when I see the Very Hot Asphalt Truck. I don’t want to be the street.

THE STAKE BED TRUCK WITH POISON CYLINDERS. This is your basic big pickup with a wooden stake bed in it, driven by tired and beery working men. There is all kinds of pump and spray and goop splatter equipment in the back, and then there are ten or so big gas cylinders which are PRETTY MUCH secured with chains. The truck and the cylinders are all marked with skulls and crossbones, or the hand with the caustic substance burning it, and the fire symbol, and maybe a devil’s head. The guys in the truck are beyond caring. You know, if a cylinder like that falls over and breaks its valve, it becomes a high speed doom torpedo spraying poison out the back. That would rule!

THE TRUCK WITH THE BIG SHARP HEAVY BUT BOUNCY ITEM ON IT. You know this one. It’s a flat bed with a huge metal item on it. The item is pointy and protrudes from the back of the truck a few feet, and is thick and heavy also. It usually looks like a poorly sharpened rail for a train. It bumps up and down cheerfully in the back of the truck, straining at the slender chains and ropes that are draped lightly on it. It’s almost always at eye level.

and last but not least

THE AMATEUR MOVING TRUCK. You know how old WW II ships on the History Channel try to blow up submarines? They have this thing on the back of the ship that dumps oil barrel sized bombs every half second or so, so they burble down into the water and blow up and mess up the submarine. These do that with sofas.

And that’s my death trucks.

I am Clouseau

Recent highlights from my career at Skynet:

I answer a phone call and immediately hang up on the caller because I forget that the desk phone is set to use the headset. I pick up the headset to say hello and hit the headset button, which causes the call to end. He calls back, and in attempting to answer the call properly and put the headset on, I only get out a "Hello" before I hang up again and simultaneously manage to pull the headset apart so that the headband bit pops off and flies across my cube, knocking over a pencil holder and leaving me with the earpiece in my hand.

I arrive at work without my computer. My contribution to the day consists of making self-deprecating jokes, attending the staff meeting, and going home early.

I am scheduled to deploy software in the early morning. I leave the AC adapter for my laptop at work, so that I only have < 2 hours of battery in which to do the deploy the next morning. The work can only be done on this machine. It’s a race against time, and DUM.

I expertly diagnose a problem by asserting flaws in a system completely unrelated to the issue, causing a minor panic and about an hour’s delay dealing with an outage.

I rip my pants at work. Fortunately this is only a small tear to the right of my "area." Once at home, I squat to pick something up and the pants rip straight down the leg. (Note: I have a history of pants explosions in work settings).

I march into a conference room with laptop and sit down among strangers, who smile at me in a welcoming way. My own meeting was canceled and I didn’t see the notification.

I carefully account for hours and submit my time to management on the time tracking system… for the next pay period, not this one. It is irrevocable for unknown reasons.

Stay tuned for more. Soon I will become Jacques Tati, or even Moe Howard. There’s no end to Workplace Theatre!

hey internet, want to hear about my day?

I woke up too late and then realized that I needed to go pee in a cup for my new job at Skynet [1] and I hadn’t yesterday, because I had forgotten to take the drug I take that among other things keeps me from forgetting things and therefore I forgot to go pee in a cup.

I took all my drugs! And then couldn’t find my wallet. Without the wallet I could not identify myself at the pee in a cup place, and also I would be totally screwed and have to reboot my life because it had a check card and drivers license and two credit cards in it, and long story short that’s “your papers” nowadays and if they’re stolen you have to reboot your life.

After lots of dramatic searching and sweating and swearing, it was determined that the wallet had gone into the laundry. Recent U.S. money washes well, so my $35 was intact, and the cards seem to work too.

Then I went and peed in a cup. They didn’t let me write down my prescriptions, so I will undoubtedly fail the test and have to fax them my prescription for the drug that keeps me from forgetting things among other benefits, because it is in fact SPEED. Boy this drug test thing sure is stupid!

Then I was a good son and drove my mom in her car to some philosophy colloquium but on the way the car, which already was idling too low, began to overheat. In fact, after I dropped her off the car overheated very badly and I just barely made it into a parking lot before it expired and huffed out a small mushroom cloud of steam.

I put a case of bottled water into the car (comedy, bottles, bubbling and spattering green fluid) and it seemed to calm down. This was a trick and a lie. I started the car up and began driving but it went nuts again and this time I barely made it into a gas station. After much waiting and cooling and addition of coolant and water I headed back to the university and the car once again overheated. Diagnosis: temperature type situation totally screwed, something broken.

When my mother stopped being philosophical I called AAA and sent her and the car away. Mrs. Greer was an angel and appeared later to drive me home.

Also my phone and laptop both ran out of battery at seriously inopportune times today, and the food processor thingy cut me out of sheer spite. I have always been kind to the food processor and I don’t understand this kind of random, senseless violence.

On Monday I start at my new job at Skynet and I have no reliable car, so I am renting one for a week although I cannot afford this.

Now you know all about my minor rich-person troubles!

[1] This is a pseudonym

Upon the occasion of driving to the house of a friend, and requiring medicine en route

So,

I took on a mission to bring salome_st_john coffee in order to get cookies.[1] On the way I needed to visit the 7-11 to get antacids, because I require them to avoid choking up and vomiting, always[2], and I was out.

I got the two coffees at Peet’s, secured them, and headed to the 7-11. I was nearly sick in the car on the way; past time to fix this problem. Delaying the inevitable with a long drink of water from the bottle in the car, I took a deep breath and charged in.

I got my Pepcid Complete[3] and trotted back out to the car to take it.

Pepcid Complete, as purchased in the 7-11, comes in a matchbook-like cardboard foldover. Inside there are two little envelopes, each containing one pill.

The envelopes are made from a foil-like substance[4] with a paper backing. On one edge of the envelope there is a line drawn, with a scissors icon next to it. The type says “fold on this line, then tear at the slit.”

I folded along the line, which was difficult; it was very close to the edge. Nothing like a slit was evident. Tearing at the line was fruitless. The situation was still urgent, and I used increasing force. Coarse words passed my lips. I bit and tore in a canine way, heaved at the thing with fingers and nails, repeated these things. A tear did open along the line, but this was too far from the center of the envelope to release the pill, which still sat swaddled and safe. The canine tearing resumed, with appropriate snarling included. No joy.

I now understood my fate. Modern medicine had been defeated by modern packaging, and I was in a suburban postmodern wasteland rotting from the inside, unable to reach my salvation, as in a bad short story.

Guzzling water and praying not to lose it again, I drove the mile to salome_st_john‘s place and rushed in, demanding scissors. I was saved.

Notes

[1] This is a very good way to spend two bucks.

[2] Since puberty I have had acidic stomach and GERD beyond belief. It’s crummy. Nothing fixes it. Oh well!

[3] This is a combination of chewable antacid and a dose of famotidine which is an ideal quick-acting solution to sudden acid indigestion. I recommend it.

[4] I have nothing but admiration for the inventors of this remarkable substance. At first it appears to be simply paper and aluminum foil. Fifteen minutes into the process I realized that I had in my hands some miracle of materials science, developed perhaps for the Stealth Bomber, which managed to be soft and ductile yet completely untearable; it could only be cut by a sharp blade. Kudos!

I gave up at friends/?skip=430

I am back from SF which was lovely. I ate and drank well, and enjoyed the company of many good people. Special thanks to zebulon_y for the use of a couch much longer than is considered polite. There is pork on the way.

I won’t try to summarize the trip because I am lazy.

If anyone huge happened in my absence, I may have missed it because skip=430.

Weekend Update

I am having writer’s block and a lot went on this weekend, but I do want to say:

1. miss_geek and vanmojo are the best dates for a nerd’s night out at a museum. Plus there was a mechanical dinosaur the size of a car wandering around, and we learned about dolphin brains and behavior, and there was ROCK MUSIC. What a good time! New rule for the Mountain Goats, though. Y’all have to play at least 10 miles away from USC. I’ll explain later.

2. A day with turnip and spork0 is a fine, fine thing. Three hours of gabbling over coffee and then a memorably good meal at Pomegranate Restaurant, an unexpected and amazing Russian/Georgian restaurant. Plus, you know, zee beautiful womenz. Unavailable: the best kind for true romance.

3. I live in the only place in the country with good weather right now.