spiraling towards contentless content
One year outside the ivory tower
Posted: 2006-05-25 22:28
No comment(s)
Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Journal

It is with a great sadness that I now look back on my childhood and everything that went along with it. I can remember so clearly having the feeling that, once I grew up, everything was going to be great. I can remember some of the things I promised myself; when I was about 12, I was fascinated with airplanes, and I couldn't wait until I could drive and had a car, so that I could drive to an airport and spend a whole day watching the planes coming and going.

I can also remember some of the foolish plans I used to have; at several points, by best friend and I thought we had it all figured out. One plan was to create a completely new video game console that would be blown the socks of anything on the market at the time (which was systems like Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis). We had fantastic visions for how it would have "totally real" graphics, and we'd even picked out a name, the "Dream Machine". Another of the plans, this one with a couple of other kids from the neighborhood, was that we'd start a business building excessively extravagant and elaborate pools for people. When we were younger, we all thought that we'd make it big playing baseball in the majors.

Jump ahead a few years; I've long since lost touch with the friends I used to have, got through four years of high school, and a year in at college. I'm not the most social person in the world, and I was having trouble making any friends at school. (This was perhaps the biggest reason I joined Alpha Sig — to get to know more people.) The classes for the first year were basically just a waste of time, but it didn't matter, because I was on my own for the first time.

By this point in time, I was completely set on going into programming as a career. (Given how much time I'd spent with computers and computer books up to that point, this was hardly surprising.) Now, the outrageous plans were gone, replaced with the more grounded idea that in a few years, I'd finally be finished with school forever, would settle into a nice software development job, and start to reap the benefits that went along with having a steady source of income and without the tether of school responsibilities.

Jump forward again to right now, just over a year after graduation. It's quite illuminating to see how many of my school-year ambitions have been shattered by cold reality.

For one thing, simply having a degree from a school with a good reputation isn't a ticket to a great job. It wasn't until I started interviewing for a "real" job that I started to realize that there were lots of other people just as qualified or more than I was, and that I wasn't simply going to slide into a great job. I went through interview after interview, until I started to consider the possibility that, come graduation, I wasn't going to have a job lined up. Where I ended up is nothing like what I had come to expect, and not in the good way. So now I'm feeling stuck in a not-as-interesting-as-I-expected job, dealing with a sometimes hellish commute, and making just enough money to cover all my expenses with little left over for savings.

This was probably the first serious disappointment I've had in my life. Through nearly all of school, I can't recall anything that I really wanted but couldn't get. I had no problem taking AP courses in high school, and even when it came to getting into college, I was never really worried about it. I was confident that I was going to be accepted to nearly everywhere I applied (and I was, the unsurprising exception being M.I.T.). I'd always managed to do well enough without having to put in too much effort, and I'd come to expect that this was going to continue.

Another thing I've come to realize is the truth of the adage "the grass is always greener on the other side." Since at least middle school I had felt that school was just a waste of my time, and I was chomping at the bit to get through it all and get out into the working world. I particularly liked the idea that, once five o'clock rolled around, work was over, and once I got home, I wouldn't have to worry about homework, or studying, or turning around and working at a part-time job. I expected that I'd have a lot more free time and the resources to finally start doing all those things I'd wanted but never had the chance.

Now that I'm finally out of school and part of the workforce, I've come face to face with all the downsides of work that I'd either been unaware of or had ignored before. Sure, work ends at 5, and even with the commute, from 6 on I'm free of any other responsibilities, but spending eight hours in the same chair, doing the same thing (or the same nothing) five days a week for nearly a year gets to be quite tedious after a while. With school, while there would be an assignment, project, or test looming that needed work outside of class time, there were nice, refreshing breaks between classes, which is something work doesn't include. With college, there was also a lot more flexibility in whether or not to attend class. For the most part, I could skip a lecture without any negative effects, and I could do this over and over. Try doing that with work, and see how long it is before you're fired. I do miss being able to blow off class to sleep in, or work on some of my personal stuff, or just do nothing at all.

I've also realized that, in spite of my preference for things to be neat, orderly, and arranged, I need to be able to "start over" with things different to keep myself motivated. A semester at school is just a few months long, and when it's over and you come back, the schedule is different. You're doing to different places at different times on different days for different things. Even within a semester, it was never really the case that two consecutive days were exactly the same. Work is roughly equivalent to a long lecture at school; the only thing is that work is every day, and it lasts for eight hours, when in school, in the worst case, the longest lecture was three hours a day, twice a week, during a summer session.

Having a new start is more than just refreshing, though; it gave me a very definite end to look forward to. I could start off a semester with little more than the resentment at still being in school, but by the time the end rolled around, I would be complaining about nearly everything. If I had to go in to each day not knowing when or if things would change, I think I would have gone insane. But again, that's the case with work. It isn't practical to pack up and start a new job every six months or so; even if it was, there's no assurance that I would be able to find a new job at that point. While I'm absolutely certain that I am not going to spend the rest of my life working at my current job, I also don't have any fixed end point to look forward or count down to. It's analogous to a running in a race; after a while, you'll start to get tired, and if you have no idea how far you are from the finish line, you'll want to stop and take a break. If you know that the finish is only a mile away, though, you can find the strength to keep doing, and to push yourself even harder, but it isn't sustainable.

I've also been surprised to discover just how much I came to depend on having friends around. I think of myself as a very independent person (and to some extent, an anti-social one, too) and quite often I'm content to do my own thing instead of going out or hanging around with people. Sometimes, though, I get sick and tired of sitting at my desk doing nothing on the computer, and it was always a nice break to take a trip to get something to eat, or just to sit around playing games or just talking about whatever. There's something about it that isn't captured by doing any of that alone.

So, as you might have gathered, one year on the outside hasn't exactly been good to me, mentally speaking. The bit of stubborn optimism in me can only hope that things turn around in the second.

Running on metric time
Posted: 2004-09-16 15:00
2 comment(s)
Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Journal

Philadelphia, as seen from the Art Museum steps / Phil Gengler

In what surely must be a sign of the end of the world, all the trains involved in a nearly 600-man-mile (99.8 miles to, 97.2 from) trip to Philadelphia ran on, or ahead of, schedule. Last Satuday, Marshall, John and myself decided to take full advantage of NJ Transit's 'free travel for college students' promotion and headed to Philly for some cheesesteaks.

Beginning at the Hoboken PATH station, our meticulously planned course first involved a hop to the 33rd Street PATH station. From there, a brief walk to Penn Station got us on a train bound for Trenton. A little over an hour, and nearly 60 miles later, we arrived at the Trenton station, the ugly mess that it is. I hadn't been to the train station in Trenton in years, and what I saw was nothing like what I remember. Urban decay, I suppose.

From Trenton, we hopped on the (relatively) new River Line, a light rail line between Trenton and Camden. Upon arriving at the Walter Rand Transportation Center in Camden, our trip shifted back underground with a short trip on PATCO, which by all reckoning, has not changed one bit since the 1970s. The trains look easily 30 years old, and the color scheme inside (of which I sadly do not have a photo) practically screamed '70s.

Minutes later, we arrived at the corner of 9th and Locust streets in Philadelphia. An arbitrary direction was chosen as south, and several blocks (and many curbside vendors) later, we arrived at our goal ... the seemingly magical intersection of 9th Street, Wharton Avenue, and Passyunck Avenue, home to two of the most famous cheesesteak places ever—Pat's and Geno's.

The two shops are situated across the street from one another, almost as if facing off in some conflict. In a sense, they are; one's preference in cheesesteaks could concievably be seen like a religious choice. At least it's a friendly conflict, and as such, we had no problem enjoying a steak from each. Prevailing opinion was that the Pat's steak was superior.

On the walk over to the region's cheesesteak capital, a plan was hatching. After steaks, we would head up to Center City and check out the Franklin Institute, an institution similar to the Liberty Science Center. As both Marshall and I had favorable memories of it from school trips in our youth, the decision was made to check it out. Some more walking, a short SEPTA trip, and yet more seemingly directionless walking later, we arrived at the Franklin Institute.

Upon entering the building, we noted that the price for a single admission was $12.50. After pausing to peruse a map and exhibit listing, all parties emerged disappointed. No doubt to do the subjectivity of memory, the place now seemed much different, and much less entertaining, than it did when younger. Having come this far, we were determined to do something, so we walked over the Art Museum (perhaps best known for being featured in Rocky). Admission was much more reasonable here, at $7 for a student. Most of our time was spent in the Arms & Armor exhibit, featuring all sorts of weapons and armor from eras long gone.

After the art museum, we began to reverse the previous course, leaving Philadelphia from the 15/16th Street Station. An uneventful northbound trip on the River Line ended not at the Trenton station, but at Cass Street. At this point our transportation changed to motor vehicle, and a short time later we arrived at my house for the trip's second purpose: retrieving an AI textbook for Marshall. After some pizza and some hot peppers, we were back on the road, this time to the Hamilton train station. Catching the train from there, we rode back to New York. With an earlier revelation that John had never taken the #126 bus from New York to Hoboken, despite working less than three blocks from the bus terminal, we trekked uptown a bit from Penn Station to the Port Authority bus terminal. Suffice it to say, the bus was taken and the trip concluded.

In the interest of keeping this update confined to the trip, I shall end here, with (hopefully) more, differently-themed updates to follow shortly.

interlibrary loan shark
Posted: 2004-09-01 22:26
4 comment(s)
Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Journal

A new semester is underway, and along with it comes the requisite mocking of jhaydu. From "kiddie pool shark" to the jhaydu schedule, things are off to an excellent start on that front.

As I probably mentioned before, I spend a large portion of my summer working. While the job did pay, and it's not like I had anything else to do with myself, the work I was doing (when there was work to do) was decidedly boring and tedious. Sure, I like typing, and I do it well enough, but spending the better part of an eight-hour day sitting at a computer transcribing gets to you after a while. It's not so much the typing that bothers me, it's listening to the same repetitive-sounding revocation opinions time and time again.

And then the summer was over. In under 24 hours I was transplanted from working in Trenton to being drenched in the most torrential downpour I've ever seen back in Hoboken. I was looking forward to the change of scenery, and to getting some work done with the free time I envisioned I would have during the week.

The original plan was simple: get back to Hoboken on Sunday, put out a special edition of The Stute by Tuesday night, and relax from Wednesday until Sunday. This delusion was quickly shattered, however, as the sheer amount of legwork required to assemble the content for the issue turned out to be far more than I had imagined. After a couple of 5 A.M. nights, the paper finally gone done sometime Thursday morning, and in my infinite wisdom, decided the best way to cap off working on the paper was to go home and fix a problem with my mom's new laptop (I had promised to do that at some point, but the choice of timing was more spontaneous). So the early morning saw me sprinting from my room to the Hoboken train station to catch a train as part of an elaborate system of transfers that would place me less than a half-mile from my house. After spending five minutes wrestling with the ticket machine at the station (and being short on cash with which to purchase a ticket aboard the train), I watched my plans fall apart as the train left Hoboken, sans me.

And so I fell back to plan B, which was to get home and figure out the rest later. So I took the PATH to Newark and got a later train to Hamilton. Naturally, this later train arrived after the departure of the bus I needed to take to get home, so I walked the three miles or so from the train station to my house. Upon arriving, I fired up the laptop and quickly found the source of the problem — this laptop has a small switch on the side that can enable or disable wireless connectivity. At some point, this switch had been moved to the 'off' position. The switch was restored to the desired position, and then it was back to the train station (I got a ride this time, as I was not about to walk back less than ten minutes after I'd just walked home).

At this point, I still had the illusion that I would have some relaxing free time before classes started. This was quickly eliminated almost immediately upon my return to Hoboken, as I realized that the freshman orientation events needed to be covered for the paper, and there still weren't enough staff members around to make it easy. That evening, I called a quick meeting for those who were around to assign coverage, taking on my fair share of the events, many of which were happening that evening (as was the arrival of the special orientation issue). Naturally, everything for that night fell to me, including distribution. As I hadn't slept in over 30 hours that point, and had already done quite a bit of walking, I was in no condition to handle all of that. After a brief nap, I awoke (I think) to handle distribution, only to find that the paper had not yet arrived. At that point I decided to blow off everything for the rest of the night and get some much-needed sleep.

By the time I woke up, it was Friday afternoon, and so the day was wasted for an imagined trip to the shore during the week. Instead, I finally got to unpacking the remainder of my stuff, and was then swept off to Home Depot and Applebees with jmikola. The need for organizing stuff for The Stute necessitated my skipping a work day (and abandoning any plans) on Saturday. Saturday night saw another road trip, this time with Krup, jerm, and Sneaky Gene. What was originally planned to be a mere trip to Krup's house to swap cars ended up with us at a bar, downing Long Island iced teas and Irish car bombs. Sunday passed without any noteworthy event, mostly cleaning and organizing from the mess I'd made over the past week.

And then there were classes. There's no need for any detail, except to say that every class I have this semester appears to be a complete waste of time.

My current reading material is the very strange and very fucked-up literary work that is The Illuminatus Trilogy (note the cheap plug for my reading list project there). Progress on the book thus far has been slow, since it's hard to follow and borders on frustrating.

That's about all that's worth mentioning now, and as always, another update will occur whenever I feel like it. This one is basically just a cover to use the phrases 'kiddie pool shark' and 'interlibrary loan shark' (both mpowers1 creations) and the picture of jerm's illustration for the former.

goin' to bahston for some chowda
Posted: 2004-02-10 06:26
1 comment(s)
Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Journal

Spurred into action by Jeremy's update, and whatever you want to call Jay's mention, I shall present my version of the events occurring both before and during a spontaneous road trip to Boston.

On the weekend in question, I had resolved myself to accomplish those things that has been put off during the week. This was a doomed plan from the start though, as a late-night gaming session and trip to Johnny Rockets quickly wasted away the most productive hours of a Friday night. Upon returning to my room, I found Jay in the process of trying to convice Jeremy to take a trip to Boston, motivated my the presence of Mr. Mikola's vehicle in the Eighth Street parking lot of Stevens. Naturally, Jay proceeded to try and involve me in the operation, to strengthen the case he was making to Jeremy. I was initially reluctant, but a scant few minutes were enough to have me berating Jeremy for his choice not to go.

After taking care of a few technical issues (namely, the condition of Jeremy's engine and some semblance of directions) and adding Mike to the list of those attending, we set off. Jeremy decided we should take the scenic route, and that the George Washington and Tappan Zee bridges were one and the same. It is for those reasons that we found ourself heading west on Route 17, backing up off-ramps to return to the highway and making a cut across three lanes while braking hard, only to once again utilize the Reverse gear and exit to the Turnpike entrance. The NJ Turnpike was then followed for several miles, eventually leading us south to exit 16W and onto Route 3 west.

It was during this period of travel that we came upon a vehicle clearly designed to amuse and entertain passengers of other vehices...a car with small LCD screens installed in several locations, namely the front visors and in the center console. These LCDs were hooked up to a DVD player, and following a good deal of signaling by Jay and Krup (I was on the wrong side of the vehicle for this) the driver of that car began playing a movie, identified as either 'definitely Bad Boys 1' or 'maybe it's Bad Boys 2'. In any case, we instructed Jeremy to keep his car slightly behind the entertainment-mobile, so that we could partake. To make a long story short, we found the Parkway, saw SARS (a Sears warehouse where the 'E' on the sign was out), got on the NY Thruway, ended up at the Palisades Mall, over the Tappan Zee bridge, and into Tarrytown, where we stopped at a 7-11 to stock up on food for the trip. A short while later we were at the home of Mr. Moiron, a small yet cozy residence on a small street in the town of Sleepy Hollow (yes, that Sleepy Hollow, for those who don't realize *cough*Jeremy*cough*).

After admiring the master craftsmanship of Jay's father, we 'borrowed' a 12-pack of Coke and piled in to Jay's Honda and the trip began anew. Following an unsuccessful attempt to find an open gas station in the area, we began heading north on the Saw Mill Parkway. A decidedly unremarkable road at night, its hideousness would soon be revealed on the return trip.

From the SMP, we exited onto northbound Interstate 684, which then exited onto eastbound Interstate 84. After spending far too much time traversing Connecticut (which, despite Jeremy's claims, is NOT 500 miles long), we came up to Interstate 90, the Massachusetts Turnpike. This renewed the vigor we felt at beginning the trip, as it meant our destination was close at hand. Less than an hour later, after enduring a brief but non-noteworthy snowfall, we arrived in Boston.

A first look at Boston is amazing. The area we entered consisted almost entirely of old brownstones, even as part of the campuses of the colleges we passed. The architecture of the city is amazing; the street planning, however, is not. None of the highways signs in Boston have any meaning anymore, since nearly every road and highway entrance is diverted to somewhere else because of the massive amount of construction taking place. Needless to say, Boston would be confusing enough even with a map or directions, neither of which we were in possession of.

After driving around for nearly 45 minutes, the decision was made to just park the car in a garage near the Quincy Market, a place held in high regard by both Krup and an anonymous driver who we questioned as to dining establishments. Quincy Market itself is an old building stuck inside a new one, likely designed to protect the old building from the elements. Inside are a number of vendors and food-court style food retailers. Despite the time being 9am, the local 'Boston Chowda Co' was open for business, fortunate for us because we were seeking some authentic New England clam 'chowda'. And let me tell you, it was the best damn clam chowder I've ever had.

But the hour grew late; Jeremy's need to return to Stevens by 3pm meant we had to leave. So without spending any more time, we got back in Jay's car and sought the entrance to I-90 south. With a newfound crappy brochure map in hand, I directed Jay through the sprawling streets of Boston, and in a matter of minutes we were out past the Boston city limits. From here, there is little else about which to write. We returned at approximately 3:30pm, bring our 4-state venture for soup to a close after 12 hours.

what difference does a year make?
Posted: 2004-01-07 02:18
1 comment(s)
Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Journal

What's the significance of a new year? For many, it's regarded as a time for a new start, as though the beginning of a new year is the beginning of a new life. To that end, people make New Year's resolutions, goals they set for themselves, things they hope to accomplish during the 360+ days before repeating it again on the next Dec. 31.

But what is a year now than just an convenient way of expressing a time? Sure, there are those for whom the length of a year means something, but even for those whose well-being depends on seasonal things (like the weather), this isn't determined by a calendar year. The seasons come and go as they please, with no regard to what we have printed on a calendar somewhere.

And what about those for whom a year is just a convenient way of measuring time? Many seem to have the idea that somehow, the start of a new year is the best place to decide to change something, or to start something, or to stop something. But what makes January 1st a better day than, say, March 25th, or July 17th? It's not as though the passage of another year changes people, or changes situations; the world on December 31st of one year is by and large the same world that emerges on January 1st.

The only thing that the first of January truly represents is the completion of another revolution around the sun. A complete revolution that began at a completely arbitrary point in our orbit. A year is completely arbitrary, just a division of time people find convenient and haven't had any real reason to change.

But this still doesn't answer the question of what makes January 1st so special; what makes it such a 'good' place for a new start, a new way of life. New Years Resolutions are made; things people want to accomplish in the new year. But why wait until January 1st to decide to start something new, or quit something, or change something? Starting something on Jan. 1 isn't going to increase the chance of succeeding just by virtue of it being the first day of a new year, just as starting any other day isn't going to lessen the chance of succeeding by it's not being the first day of a new year. But then, isn't every day the first day of a new year? 366 days from now (it being a leap year and all), it'll be January 7th again, a period of one year; what makes the period of January 1st to December 31st any more special?

As December, and with it the year 2003, started rolling to close, I considered a number of things I might try and do differently in the new year. And then I realized that it wasn't going to help anything to force something to start on a certain date; some things will happen when they happen, you can't force them, no matter how much you want to. I can't even guarantee that the things I want to do will be done in the 366 days before the next January 1st. So why should I try and predict things beyond my control, and instead just set general goals whenever I feel like it, to accomplish when an opportunity arises?

Take this new year and shove it.

a momentous occassion
Posted: 2003-10-16 22:35
No comment(s)
Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Journal

In the words of Lord Omlette, "it's usually a momentous occasion" "when pgengler updates". I'm not sure if I should feel privileged or insulted. While I'm mentioning Amit, I shall briefly mention that there was an AI midterm yesterday, which I took, and which Mr. Jain proctored. Having mentioned this solely to satisy the ego of Lord Omlette, I will move on to other things.

Jay has a new layout for his site, among his other accomplishments of late (his recent 'pwnage' of cut/copy/paste springs to mind). Which sure as hells put me to shame, because despite my massive To Do lists and the large amount of items crossed off due to completion, I haven't felt like I've accomplished anything this week. With the recent extension to the graphics homework, there hasn't been a pressing need to work on anything. I want to redesign this site, I want to make some progress on my myriad of other projects, I want to feel some sense of accomplishment. But I can never get myself to work on anything when I have the time, and when I'm ready to get working, I don't have the time.

So as not to be dismissed as a Jessica Blumberg, here's an abridged version of my todo:
* Write a script to provide easy access to ASP book inventory
* Work on CGI functions for C
* Work on Todo script (cross between Bugzilla and a to-do list)
* Graphics homework
* AI homework
* OS homework
* Graphics, OS, Comp Arch midterms
* Organize business closet
* Work through reading list (consisting of Neuromancer, Dune, The Great Hunt, Intent To Harm, and Hearts In Atlantis, not to mention Jay's collection or any other books that make their way into my life)

Depending on my progress tomorrow (assuming anything gets done), the most I will have gotten done this week woill be this update. Perhaps the addition of a bunch of new songs to the secretive lyric repository I threw together some time ago, but nothing of substance. No new version numbers, that's for damn sure. The weekend holds even less productivity, with Talisman (aka heavy drinking) tomorrow night, a night of standup with Dave Attel & Lewis Black Saturday, and the purchase of new sneakers (along with a viewing of Kill Bill: Vol. 1) on either Saturday or Sunday, and the requisite amount of sleeping for a weekend. And just to keep this update in line with my progress for the week, this is the end.

the stuff dreams are made of
Posted: 2003-10-07 21:02
No comment(s)
Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Journal

Earlier today, Jay recanted a strange dream of his which he had while taking a nap. As he explained the dream, it occurred to me that I haven't had any dreams that I can remember (or even remember having) in a long time. And as I was strolling down Washington St. not 15 minutes ago, it hit me that while I hadn't had any dreams in the sense of sensory hallucinations while sleeping, I also don't have any dreams. Not as in hallucinations, but dreams as in aspirations for life.

It's a very sobering experience to realize that you don't have the slightest idea what the future will bring, or even what you want the future to bring. I have goals, sure; graduating Stevens, getting a job. One of the most vague things one could bring to mind when contemplating the future. A job. Where? Doing what? I thought about it, and realized I didn't have an answer. Not because I told myself the future is uncertain, and it's best not to hope for something, because it rarely happens, but because I don't even have anything to hope for.

I've always considered myself a man without a past; it's something behind me that I rarely think about, because there's hardly anything worth remembering. This never bothered me, because what's happened has happened, and there's no way to change any of that; I always tried to focus on the now and the future. To realize that you have no plan for the future, no ideas of what you want to do, no hopes, no dreams, no aspirations can make you feel very empty and alone. I imagine that a more normal person would think back to their past, and see something there that would reassure them, remind them that the future can be bright, that good things can happen. I don't have that. I look back to my past and I see failure, I see pain; it's not the sort of thing that bodes well for the future.

So, without a past to turn to, the next logical thing is to look at the present. As having overcome the past, having turned things around. Sure, some things have changed, but plenty haven't. And some never will. The things that have changed are superficial at best, and it's not like the 'now' is any better for me than my past has been. The only things missing are the failures, and they've mostly been replaced by the fact that I never work on anything long enough to fail at it, I just give up instead.

No past, no present, no future. What a way to live.

cold as hell
Posted: 2003-10-01 04:27
1 comment(s)
Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Journal

I never really understood how it made sense to hear 'cold as hell' and 'hot as hell' both used to describe temperatures in the same day. It's possible for the outside temperature to be 'cold as hell', while if the heat is too high inside it's 'hot as hell'. Two very different temperatures, yet each is equated (by the same person in some cases) with that of hell, oft believed to be a place of fire and intense heat.

So what does that side trip have to do with anything? 'Cold as hell' is my reaction to the sharp decline in temperature of late. Despite a high temperature of 81 of our Fahrenheit degrees on Saturday, current highs are as low as 68 degrees, with overnight temps in the low 50s. This is the expected behavior of days on the far side of the autumnal equinox, but unfortunately means that the too short summer of 2003 has officially come to an end. Not that it's stopped me from strolling around in short sleeves, shorts, and sandals, but that was as much a holdout until October as it was appropriate attire for the current climatic conditions.

As the temperature drops, my belief that I am cold-blooded is reaffirmed by the lack of energy and motivation that's fallen over me lately. I manage to get enough done to get by, but I don't have the motivation to work on any of my myriad of non-assignment programming projects, or anything else that's not part of a homework assignment. I'm hoping that adding some of this stuff to my weekly to-do list will force me to get some of them done, and it seems to be working, since writing this update was one of the things added to that list.

So if I haven't been accomplishing anything lately, just what have I been doing? The answer is a simple one, and is the same as 2/3 of the other Room 3 residents (though for different reasons): gaming. While perusing SuprNova a few weeks back, I came across an SDL port of the classic shooter Raptor: Call of the Shadows for Linux. Having been an addict of this game in my youth, I couldn't resist the temptation to download this. After opening a .tar.gz inside a .zip inside a .tgz, I came across a 9 meg shell script, which after a quick glance didn't appear to try and wipe out my computer, I ran. Since then, I've torn through the game, completing all 3 sectors (this was the full game, much to my delight; I'd previously only had the shareware version and one sector). Mindlessly shooting stuff is like instant stress relief, though when you're relieving the stress of not getting anything done by wasting more time, it's bittersweet.

My musical leanings of late have been towards the wonderful band Boston, in particular the Third Stage album, which is one of, if not the, best album (as in the whole experience, not just a collection of songs) that I've ever heard. Having first come across Hollyann via random selection of a full XMMS playlist, I chose to listen to the whole album, and it was one of the best decisions I've ever made (which doesn't say much for the quality of my decisions). Amanda is a beautiful song, which for me brings back memories of a situation to which the lyrics have a personal touch. We're Ready just has something about it I can't describe, but it sticks in my head until I put it on. The Launch is an excellent lyric-less track, flowing right into Cool The Engines, which seems to get better every time I listen to it. Then things slow down a bit for My Destination, A New World, and To Be A Man, picking back up with I Think I Like It. From there, we have Can'tcha Say/Still In Love, another one of those songs that has a personal touch with me, but is damn good anyway. The album ends with Hollyann, another great song, much like Amanda. It's like the musical equivalent of The God Of Small Things in that it's so good you don't want it to end.

Now that I've written more about a 17-year old album than I have about any other things that's happened in the more recent era, I've come to realize that I don't have a whole lot to say. Or rather, not a whole lot to say that anyone would find the least bit interesting to worth reading. Not like that has stopped a certain individual, but I like to think I'm better than that.

Before I end up droning on, and in the tradition started with my last update, a random away message of mine from earlier in the week: "no matter what, make sure you avoid the purple jackrabbit".

is it a revival? only time will tell
Posted: 2003-09-17 23:34
No comment(s)
Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Journal

It's been far too long since I've written anything here. Mostly because I'd been trying to keep the front page for stuff about issues that I felt mattered, and tried to keep personal stuff (other than my opinion) on the issue off the site. This seemed to work, until I reached a point at which it no longer became worth it to write anything. It's fairly easy to predict where I stand on the sort of issues that I'd write about, and of late, my posts were less about my opinion (which was obvious) and more about propagating links and facts from other sites. I came to realize there were a ton of other sites who did the same thing, only better, and so I didn't add anything over here.

For now, I'm going to remove the separation between what you knew (the issues/facts/etc) and a weblog-ish sort of thing, which I should have a much easier time updating with stuff. Not because I feel I need to have something (though there are pressures to provide content of any sort), but because I just have things to say about the events which take place during the everyday course of my life. Whether anyone cares is not something I'm really concerned with, but daily recaps of even the most boring days seems to be working well for Lord Omlette.

And now, without further ado, I present to you, new words:

Significant progress has been made on the Graphics assignment; prior to last night, my program was capable of parsing the input file and opening a window. As of late last night, raycasting sort-of works. By sort-of, I mean, it almost displays a triangle. Instead, a 3-sided figure with subtly curved edges is presented to me (screenshot). This puts me somewhat behind Jay (whose program successfully displays shapes that don't have mismatched z-coords) but some steps ahead of Jeremy, who is yet to write a single line of code for this assignment. So with the onset of free time tonight comes bug hunting for what's virtually assured to me a very subtle and hard-to-find bug. Then comes the addition of lighting, with the possibility for multiple light sources and shadow.

Room 3 has become a markedly different place from what it was over the summer; the Daily Show, once a staple of weeknight TV viewing, has all but been phased out from memory. The most TV I watch anymore is catching half an episode of Star Trek on Spike TV when Joe (should I even bother linking to this page anymore? it's not like it's been updated at all in nearly 5 months) lounges on the couch and wastes his time with TV instead of video games.

It's a surprise to many that The Bet has gone on this far. Not that it's making a whole lot of difference, Joe is still on the '7 days off a week' plan for academics, choosing to fill his free time with watching TV and anime instead of playing video games. It wouldn't shock me to hear that Joe still hasn't attended a single lecture for CS-383; last I heard, he hasn't been any. Time-wasting will find a way, I suppose.

Having lost my train of thought due to a long sequence of dizzying events, I leave you with this: Nuke the unborn gay female whales for Jesus (courtesy of fortune).

too lazy to come up with a good title
Posted: 2003-08-06 15:07
No comment(s)
Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Journal

One need only look at my face to get an idea of how little I've actually been doing lately. A few weeks growth of facial hair, stemming from general apathy, has persisted, and so has my inability to actually get anything done.

My biggest accomplishment so far is the creation of a lexical analyzer, to support the compiler being created for CS-494. With development taking place on a Linux machine, and the target platform being the IRIX environment of guinness, the code was perfect; NetBSD seems to handle memory management in the most asinine and backwards way possible, despite the outrageous claims by jmikola that 'NetBSD is flawless'.

As time goes by, my financial reserves are becoming increasingly depleted. If I were to make the rent payments for the summer, I would be left with no more than $150. And the outlook for a coop job in the fall seems dim, as it's nearly a week into the final month of the summer, and after a whopping 2 interviews, I don't have a job. If coop fails to come through, I see part-time employment somewhere in Hoboken in my future.

Right now, I'm futhur diluting my willingness to do anything with several projects at hand; completing all the busywork for CS-442, presently working on the parser for CS-494, writing as needed for HPL-444, lots of reading (right now, my book of choice is No Logo, which is turning out to be an excellent look at how branding and advertising are affecting people's lives), and working on the revival of three, count 'em, three websites, whose names and URLs which will remain anonymous.

The month will not be all work; with planned outings to see Bruce Springsteen this Saturday and Aerosmith & KISS on the 29th, my summer will have at least some concert-going, though not nearly on the scale of last summer. One weekend, I intend to watch the entirety of the first season of 24, of which I've only seen the last episode. Thanks to mkrupnic my quest to posses all episodes of MacGyver has been accelerated, and by tomorrow, the 5th season should be finished downloading.

Hopefully, I will soon regain my will to write, and finally feel like updating the site because I have something to say, not because I hadn't updated in a while. In the meantime, however, I always have my crossword puzzles to keep me from getting any real work done.

Posted: 2003-07-17 05:34
No comment(s)
Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Journal

In his latest excuse for an update, Amit Jain (proprieter of Omlettesoft and spelling extraordinaire) has decided that Linux is the "lowest common denominator". A baseless statement, nay, an entirely incorrect statement, from one who has time and time again shown himself to be a Microsoft whore.

First, Linux can hardly be called a 'lowest common denominator'. Linux is a clone of the UNIX operating system that has been in existence since 1969. In the server space, where UNIX and Linux systems are most often used, it is Microsoft and the Windows operating system playing catch-up. In network environments, where many different operating systems are in use, it is Windows which is the lowest common denominator. Prior to Windows 2000, in fact, Windows lacked POSIX compliance in many areas which Linux excelled. Microsoft itself has listed the limitations on POSIX compliance in it's operating systems.

When it comes to interoperability, it is far easier to have 2 UNIX/Linux/MacOS X machines communicate with each other than to have either communicate with a Windows machine. UNIX/Linux/MacOS X have, included by default, the ability to share files and directories via the Network File System [NFS], which originated in 1984. To this date, there is no native support of NFS on Windows, nor is there any indication that there will be such support in the foreseeable future.

The issue of file systems is another in which Windows can again be considered the 'lowest common denominator'. MS-DOS and 16-bit versions of Windows (and early releases of Windows 95) included support only for FAT-12 and FAT-16 file systems. Later versions of Windows 95 and Windows 98 include FAT-32 support, and Windows NT, 2000, XP, and 2003 include the NT File System [NTFS]. A Windows system is only capable of accessing data on drives which are formatted with one of these file systems. A Linux system, on the other hand, can support a myriad of file systems, as seen in this list: ReiserFS, ADFS, Amiga FFS, the Apple Macintosh file system, BeFS, BFS, Ext2 and Ext3, FAT-12, FAT-16, and FAT-32 file systems, EFS, JFS, the Minix file system, FreeVxFS, stable read support and experimental write support of NTFS, the QNX4 file system, and the System V/Xenix/V7/Coherent file system. This is a total of 17 read/write file systems, and one read-only file system, that Linux supports. Compare this to the total of 4 file systems supported by Windows throughout it's entire history; only 2 of which are supported by the latest versions of Windows.

Another feature in which Linux again emerges on top is its support for pipes. True pipe support, of which a true functional equivalent cannot be found in Windows. Mere emulation of the simple pipe features can be found, but applications running on any *nix system can expect to have certain pipe features available; porting these programs to the Windows OS can require significant workarounds and hacks.

The layout of the file system is another area in which Windows has again emerged the lowest common denominator. UNIX, Linux, and MacOS X systems have a fairly standard organization for important files within the fs hierarchy. A basic set of commands can be assumed to be present, in fairly standard locations. Windows does not have these programs, nor does it even resemble the fs hierarchy of a *nix system.

Mr. Jain is clearly mistaken in assuming that merely because Windows is the majority desktop operating system in use, its status is automatically elevated above that of all others. No consideration is made to the server market, in which usage of Linux and Unix systems far surpasses that of Windows systems, nor is any consideration given to such basic factors as I have mentioned above. Market share is not an indication of superiority, a point which seems to have flown right over the head of Mr. Jain here, as indicated in the quote "By now, you think those crazy Linux folk would have figured out some way to be compatible w/ the rest of the civilized world, but no." When, in fact, it is Microsoft who is not compatible with the civilized world.

Furthermore, the choice by Mr. Jain to link the word 'Linux' to the Penny Arcade comic of June 30, 2003 is nothing more than an unwarranted, undeserved, and incorrect assessment of Linux users.

In his miscategorization of Linux, and of Linux users, Mr. Jain has committed several logical fallacies, which certainly detract from his attempt to discredit Linux, while instead making Mr. Jain appear nothing more than an astroturfer.

stuff (and laziness wrt titles)
Posted: 2003-07-16 02:40
No comment(s)
Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Journal

Damn, it's been a while since I've updated the main page. With frequent updates from arsjerm and a new one from nondeus, I've been left in the dust; to my credit, I'm still nearly a month and a half better than jhaydu. Part of the reason is that I just haven't felt motivated to write anything; there hasn't been a single event that's inspired to me to write something, and for that matter, there really hasn't been for a while now. It explains why the updates are a lot less frequent now, and why they're a lot smaller than they used to be.

Lack of motivation is becoming a serious problem for me, as I haven't successfully accomplished anything within the last 2 weeks, and not a whole lot in the time before that. Plans for a new backend for the site have been postponed indefinitely, incompatibilities between my code and PostgreSQL have made it difficult to port my Todo program over to a subselect-supporting database, and other projects have withered under the fact that there's no real reason for me to even be trying them. At least my reading has been somewhat constructive, having finished The God of Small Things (an excellent, excellent book that everyone should read) and made significant progress in Unequal Protection. Perhaps I'll move through some of the massive backlog of reading I have planned before I do any more coding. In no particular order, books on my agenda include The Future of Ideas, No Logo, What Liberal Media?, Indispensible Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent, and Stupid White Men, without even mentioning books 2-10 of the Wheel of Time series.

Jonas brought to my attention last night that summer was now more than half over, a fact I find rather depressing, despite having long ago accepted the fact that my summers were doomed for many years to come. My goal now is to put the remaining days of summer to use in a way that will justify it being summer. Just how this is to be accomplished remains to be seen, as finances are limited and sources of income are limited to sporadic findings of old, hidden birthday gifts which to this date have not been utilized.

In more random things to mention, my main computer has now been graced with Dropline Gnome, bringing a few useful changes and additions to my desktop. The discovery and subsequent use of the Gnome multimedia keys application has given new life to the otherwise useless 'right click' key, now serving as a mute button.

With all that said, I should be updating the main part of the site before this weekend (hopefully), but further updates are likely to be sporadic (which is nothing new). Hopefully, after making some reading headway, I'll again feel motivated to write, much as reading Copy Fights was an inspiration for writing Copyright's Unnatural Evolution.

Posted: 2003-07-12 23:15
No comment(s)
Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Journal

as i sat and played solitaire for a few hours last night, i became acutely aware of just how meaningless my life has really become. i'm trying to move forward, without any direction, without any destination, without any idea just what i'm doing, where i am, or where i'm going. the only thing i see is more and more powerlessness.

it's certainly an interesting feeling, that you have no control over anything, and that everything you do means nothing and accomplishes nothing. and that's just where i am right now. i drift in and out of coding projects, without actually getting anything done, and even the things i would get done wouldn't be for anyone, or for anything useful, just small things for my own amusement and convienience, assuming i use them, instead of complaining about how the quality is so bad. all my writings and beliefs about copyright reform, and for what? i get a few people to read the stuff i write, mostly people who already know exactly what i'm going to say, and agree with most of it. it doesn't change anything, or change anyone's mind, or change anything that's happened. all the time & effort i've put into familiarizing myself with all this stuff isn't doing anything, it's not being used for anything other than expressing thoughts, thoughts which don't do anything.

and then there's the fact that i'm powerless to change lives. things happen, things change, and no matter how much there may be something i want, i can't seem to get it. fate can be an evil bastard, something i thought i would have been able to forget. but my directionless, accomplishment-less life is nothing but a hude testament to the fact that fate fucks with you.

but, of course, since i've always found that i can find songs/song lyrics that describe my situation better than i can, here's some "good descriptions":

john mellencamp - jack and diane
oh yeah life goes on
long after the thrill of livin is gone
oh yeah say life goes on
long after the thrill of livin is gone, they walk on

gin blossoms - cajun song
well she's leaving today
i don't know
so far away
i'm feeling so blue and it shows
every single way

once, that girl she was mine
for such a short time
we used to spend every night
now all i do is cry

well they say that you can't miss
something that you've never had
so tell me why
why i could feel so bad

we used to walk down the path
just like lovers do
she'd hold my hand and we'd laugh
i would stare in her eyes they were blue

once, that girl she was mine
for such a short time
we used to spend every night
now all i do is cry

well say that you can't miss
something that you've never had
so tell me why
why i could feel so bad [x3]

protest it is
Posted: 2003-02-13 21:29
2 comment(s)
Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Journal

Ok, the polls are closed, and even after the confessed ballot stuffing by jmoiron, the results still favor attending. Which is what I had decided to do anyway, attracting all kinds of reactions. From my dad, simply 'ok, don't get arrested', from my aunt, "no way...stay away from is too scary", and concerns for my safety from nicole.

now that the dust & fud concerning the rally Saturday has subsided, we see the truth comes out, that the group behind the rally still has the necessary permit to gather (though it seems that requiring a permit to allow an assembly is a gross violation of the first amendment, since the city could not issue a permit, for any reason; and if the group gathering was arrested for that reason, that would be a gross 1st amendment violation), but rather the denial of a permit allowing the group to march from 49th & 1st past the U.N. I still don't feel it's appropriate for a restriction like this, and it's still just a gross a violation of rights, but to those not as fiery about things like this, it does serve to put some things into perspective.

In some site news, there's now a basic (and crappy) comment system, allowing you to reply to whatever it is I write here.
A discussion between myself and arsjerm was responsible for setting a new record for biggest thread on nondeus.
Scant more was completed on my Eldred v Ashcroft letter, though I completed reading the majority opinion, by the weekend I should have the whole letter ready to be mailed, following not far behind my previous letter to Sen. Corzine.

You know your country's intelligence program works well when, during questioning by Congress, the CIA director is taken completely by surprise when it's mentioned that N. Korea has nuclear weapons, or that they have missiles capable of reaching America's west coast. Complete lack of knowledge about something like this by the highest-ranking intelligence officer in the country is exactly what the government needs to reassure the people that everything is going to be ok.

In the process of braving the extreme cold that has become the winter in Hoboken to acquire a Valentine's gift + card for Nicole, I picked up a book from barnes & noble called Writing To Win, which claims to be "The Complete Guide To Writing Strategies That Will Make Your Case - And Win It", a reflection on the sharply increased interest I have in certain legal matters of late; if nothing else, it should be a halfway rewarding read.

And for a wonderful end to all this, the 'G' key on my laptop is being to suffer critical failures, not something you want from a fairly common letter when you're writing something.

Posted: 2003-02-10 21:21
1 comment(s)
Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Journal

mondays suck. after a weekend, having to wake up early to go to work ... and then not having a single task to do all day. kept myself busy by adding a poll to the site, i have no idea why, i should have added something useful like comments, but they'll get done eventually.

one thing i got done at work, made a list of what has my name spelled right ('philip') and what has it wrong ('phillip')...cubicle nameplate == wrong, email address == wrong, paychecks == right, lotus notes name == right (now how the hell is this right and my email wrong?), etc. etc. i still haven't been able to figure out how they managed to do this, it's truly something that can only be accomplished with several levels of beauracracy so there's so much paper, errors are bound to appear simply by random chance.

other things done on the day include joining the eff's action network (at some point, when i have more money, i will finally make a donation), wrote a short letter to senator corzine for co-sponsoring the 'data mining moratorium act of 2003', nearly finished off the silmarillion, and read a little more of the eldred v ashcroft decision, but am no closer to finishing my letter about that yet.

i'm a bit surprised by the surge of activism i've been feeling lately, i can't say it's anything i ever expected to see from myself, but i think i've been pushed to it from the way that this country is going (for those who are blind and/or ignorant: hell in a handbasket), and to at least feel like i might be making a difference is somewhat rewarding.

as evidenced by today's house meeting, i'm not the only one, jew rallied support for an anti-war march in nyc this weekend, and mike komitee brought up the patriot 2 to the whole house. nice to see there are those who also feel motivated to understand the issues and work to change them. how long now until we're all labeled 'terrorists' for not simply allowing ourselves to become a part of the collective ignorance that is much of america these days?

planned for tonight - hunt down a highlighter, finish off the majority opinion in e v. a, and get some sleep, or maybe echew sleep for justice steven's dissent and some more writing. which reminds me, i have figured out a purpose for the crappy laptops we were given - running emacs, so that i may compose letters from atop my bed.

and with that, i shall take my leave, in the hopes that i will accomplish something of note tonight.