"Awesome!" A Blog.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Into the Memory Box

In celebration of the centennial of the San Francisco earthquake, my mom apparently spent the day clearing their garage of flammable materials. Chief among them were, of course, my old grade-school papers and "1982-83 2nd Grade Spelling Bee" trophy. I won't show you the trophy, because it is small and depressing, but here are a few choice samples from my early career in academic publishing, which are now in my garage.

Computer Programming in BASIC

Need help programming that computer to create a mad-lib? Then just consult my manual, which was largely written by looking at the manual that came with our Apple //c. I think this dates to 1986, and the motivation to publish it was that I had a shiny sticker I could put on the cover.

Thomas Alva Edison

"Thomas Alva Edison," my senior honors thesis at Stanford, was widely reviled by the department for my argument that most, if not all, of Edison's inventions had been copies of inventions by Francis Bacon.

Actually, I think I wrote this in the fourth grade. There's a juicy bit of reasoning in the detail below the cover:

I suppose one could argue that dependence on massive power grids that draw heavily on nonrenewable natural resources for their energy isn't technically "practical," but then one wouldn't be in the fourth grade, would one? Nope, it's "go with the flow" for this kid. I've got light bulbs, I've heard that candles cause fires, and oil lamps look pretty corny. Light bulbs for me, ten times out of ten, please.

I've got stacks of these things, including a series of illustrated, informational books about Alaska, Colorado, Norway, and the Early Explorers of California. In one, a teacher chides me for hyphenating a one-syllable word in order to make it wrap. If you're lucky, I'll have the patience to scan them before I think better of using my time this way.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

I learned how to play the Lottery.

So, like I said, I'm about thirty and up until last week I didn't know how to play the Lottery. I assumed it was easy, but there are about seven options when you go in to buy a ticket, and I didn't want to look like a rube. How is the novice gambler expected to choose between:

1) Scratchers
2) Super-Lotto
3) Mega Millions
4) Fantasy 5
5) Daily Derby (twice daily)
6) Mega Scratchers
7) Paul DeLillio's Fantasy Scratchers

What finally got me over the hump and into the liquor store? We were out on our morning walk, and I saw a Lotto sign in the window that said something like, "$43 million!" I thought, "that'd put a dent in the car payment. Let's give it a whirl." Mind made up, I bravely asked my wife how to play the Lottery. She gave me that one-eye-squint look she gives to me when I ask how to do basic life functions, and then said to give the man at the liquor store five dollars and ask for five Quick Picks (these are Super Lotto terms, I discovered).

Armed with this Lottery terminology, I walked into the liquor store. It was sort of dry-feeling, and smelled dusty, though there was no visible dust. Interesting place. I handed the five-dollar bill to the man behind the counter, and before I could speak he pressed a button on a proprietary-looking green machine and handed me a small orange "Super Lotto" sheet with a matrix of numbers on it, five rows tall. How did he know I wasn't there to buy $5 worth of Mega Scratchers? Or $5 worth of "Leg Show," for that matter? Do liquor stores still sell remaindered copies of Leg Show by the pound? I'm proud to say I no longer know.

That done, I held the winning ticket (what I called it, at the time) all the way home in my hand. "How easy it is to win the Lottery!" I mused.

Later that evening I checked the Lottery website and I had gotten none of the numbers. The winning set was something like 1, 2, 3, 4, 46. Ridiculous! Not even a machine would pick that kind of spread. Oh well, at least California public schools had gotten 36% of my investment (about 54% went to Abe Padrascus of Tarzana, CA, who said he planned on using my portion of the pool, as well as the rest of his $43 million, to "not get a Rolls Royce but maybe just a Lexus, that's good enough for [him]". What the hell does Abe Padrascus know about cars? Is he worried that the Rolls won't have a trailer hitch for his Ski-Doo? Jesus. Talk about a guy who pulls his testicles away from his body with both hands.)

That soured me pretty well on the whole Lottery experience. From now on, when I go into the liquor store, I'm going to try to find something else to spend my $5 on. Maybe they'll have a fancy ziggurat-shaped bottle of something called UNFAIR MESOPOTAMIAN GOD.