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[OCTOBER 2010.]

Our Motto

"If I work incessantly to the last . . . "

Dark sky, not yet night: violet, squared-off buildings pass behind the train window.

Madame de Stael: Corinne, or Italy

There is another device which the run of preachers often use to produce an effect; it is the square cap they wear on their heads. They take it off and put it on again with incredible speed. One of them attacked Voltaire and particularly Rousseau for the period's irreligion. He threw his cap into the centre of the pulpit and gave it the task of representing Jean-Jacques. In that role he harangued it, saying: Well, Genevan philosopher, what have you to say against my arguments? Then he would be silent for a few moments, as if waiting for an answer, and as the cap would say nothing in reply, he would put it back on his head and would finish the conversation with the words: Now that you are convinced, let us say no more about it.

Our office is on the sixth floor of a fine crappy building that still remembers an era when it was not crappy. The front side, decorated with national flags, huddles between the newer, taller buildings like an old drunk on the subway who still thinks he's the snappiest fellow in the car and who, if given an opening, will tell you all about the time he got to hold Ginger Rogers's coat. Around the building's backside, all pretense of gentility collapses and it becomes clear that structural elements are hanging on by force of habit. This is the side where we have our window, but aside from the window itself (which has a note: "ACHTUNG - DO NOT OPEN") things are not so bad. We have a preposterous incarnadine carpet that gets a vacuuming fairly often, and nine or ten feet of air under the ceilings jigsawed out of the usual acoustic panels and fluorescent tubes, which we never turn on, since even on rainy days San Francisco sits in a weak glow like tarnished silver.

J. has made me bold, and now I take my bike on the train and ride from Fourth and King up to Market: two long blocks on Townsend, then a turn onto Second and a fairly intense (for me) ten minutes up and down a mild hill with traffic signals every hundred yards, no bike lane as such, and taxis and vans and motorcycles and the other bikes of other programmers all on their particular errands. Safer than it sounds, and exhilarating. I'm alert mornings and evenings both: this in contrast to those times in my life when I shambled between errands like one of Lovecraft's idiot sub-monsters. I get to the office full of oxygen—great God! The Krebs cycle whirring like a billion pinwheels!

I like the intermittent squalor of Market Street, and all the peculiar businesses it fosters. San Francisco as mythos is always looking fifty years backward. I know it's a symptom, but I love striking that slight sepia tint every time I go across the street for coffee. Our sixth-floor bathrooms are terrible; all the doors are frosted; our suitemate and business partner spends his day cursing in Russian at the speaker phone. Блять! I think of noir in its small aspects: shoes propped on a desk, the deprecated spelling 'marihuana' that shows up in Chandler.

"The Krebs cycle whirring like a billion pinwheels!" I just got a great big nerd happy out of that.

Life at a Startup

For God’s sake hold your tongue, and let me code!

Lilies of the field

Business. A man steps out and plants his boot on the face of the world.

The malleable world, the world that you alter for your own ends: it's a new idea. I got so used to the world as the stone cliff you dash your head against, the lead suit you have to wear. That's the sullen modern reading of Romanticism for you: Lukács on the fatal mismatch between the size of the world and the size of your soul, or Benet's Inspiration and Style, as I was just reading:

No barrier can prevail against style, insofar as it encompasses the writer's power to break a far sterner, far more rigorous and far more permanent siege: that imposed by the dictates of reality. It is a strange power, for the reality that surrounds him is infinite in its extension and depth. This reality confronts the writer under a double aspect: as persecution and as field of action. So long as the writer has no recourse to an instrument for dominating it, he finds himself persecuted; but one day its siege is broken, and all its immense and compact host goes over to form a part of the artist's ranks, like that dubious army of mercenaries always ready to fight for whoever pays most. So that the enemy - that indefinable and infinite reality - becomes his ally.

Something like that has been my horizon. But when you finally climb into Procrustes' bed, and push on it, and discover that it too changes size?

J. passed her oral exam triumphantly; it was like watching a cheerful morality play about virtue finally being rewarded. We get a few years in Palo Alto, I hope quiet ones. The rainy season has finally started down here, a gentle affair, fine droplets from a silver sky and a faint general warmth, the tactful sun shutting its eyes in heaven.

Doth like a snake renew

Sorry I been away. New server, new backend over here; not too different an experience for you all, I hope, except things might break less often. HOLD FOR TRANSMISSION

“Having a cold is like having your body taken over by this awful Stalinist government who declare that, for the good of the working class, it is necessary to produce five thousand gallons of mucus as soon as possible—and all your resources are pressed into service for this horrible and unnecessary task.”

Viral hilarity!

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