Monday, March 26, 2007


Walk with me for a couple of minutes.

Take the famous Fibonacci sequence which is defined as "after two starting values, each number is the sum of the two preceding numbers." As in 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233...etc. As in the first two numbers 0+1 = 1, the next two numbers 1+1= 2, the next two numbers 1+2 = 3...etc. Got it?

Now, there's a whole lot going on here that has to do with the Golden Mean, how the sequence shows up in nature, rumors of its use in art, architecture and proportions of the human body among many other things, but we're not going to go there right now. Google it and/or look it up on Wikipedia later.

Instead, take that same Fibonacci sequence and introduce the element of randomness. As in flipping a coin (heads = adding the two preceding numbers together, tails = subtracting the two preceding numbers). My understanding is it has been taught among math students that in coin flipping 50% of the time it will land on heads and 50% of the time it will land on tails (this 50/50 rule has been disproved, apparently, but I'm not a math person so I don't know this for certain). Soooo we can say the probability is 1 (half the time it lands on heads/half the time it lands on tails .5+.5 = 1).

Here's an example from Science News Online of a randomized Fibonacci sequence: "[S]uccessive coin tosses H H T T T H, for example would generate the sequence 1, 1, 2, 3, -1, 4, -5, -1." If you remove the minus signs (thereby taking the absolute value of the terms), you will find that "the exponential rate at which the average value of a random Fibonacci sequence increases" is a constant which has the approximate value of 1.13198824.

1.13198824 is known as Viswanath's Constant.

Now I know almost nothing about math. I failed pre-algebra twice, I can barely add, subtract, multiply and divide and I have a severe case of mathphobia, BUT even I can be in awe of the beauty of Viswanath's constant.

What does Viswanath's Constant mean to me? It means order within chaos. It means below what appears to be completely random activity is a lovely, simple progression.


P.S. Since I am not a math person, feel free to comment with corrections to the text and/or my explanation.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Mailbox at the Intersection of 4th Street and Howard Street

This actual United States Post Office mailbox is right down the street from the Aquarium. I checked the website there just now and all I found was a teaser saying something about "two forces uniting." I suppose I'll find out more later when the website is updated. In the meantime, here's a link if you want to check it out.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

On Board the Lifeboat

Things have changed a bit these last couple of days. It seems I don't really have to keep tossing these messages in a bottle overboard all the time. In fact, it occurs to me that all those bottles lead straight to me anyway and if someone wanted to get a hold of me, he could.

This means I don't have to keep this Shackleton wooden lifeboat steady in these treacherous, unfriendly waters. I can take those oars and make my way to the Island finally. This is good. I don't know what I'll find on the Island, but I've heard it's teaming with wildlife.

I welcome the opportunity to be back on terra firma and to get warm. Being splashed all the time with cold seawater is draining, not to mention unhealthy.


I hear the distinctive flapping of wings and I look up. The homing pigeon Mr. Gryphon, my imaginary friend, has procured these last few weeks has returned with a message. I unroll the small scroll carefully while the pigeon pecks at some seeds I've given it. The message says:

Come back to the Island! Don't make me come out there myself and get you!

I write a quick response and send the pigeon back. Time to get going. What I thought was my mountain of woe is actually my mountain of jewels. Imagine sitting on a treasure trove and not seeing it for months and months. Imagine all the best gifts in the world being presented to you and batting them away. Not very smart of me, I'll admit it.

I place the oars into the water and start rowing. It's slow going at first, but the sea helps me along. I'm no longer fighting the current. The exercise feels good. It won't take long for me to get there.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Miss Turtle and Her Demons

Good folks who read my blog:

I'm having a bad time of it. It could be a permanent thing, something that's hanging around for this week, perhaps it will pass after I walk the dog, eat something, and go to bed.

I'm just warning everyone right now. I hate whining on this blog because I keep thinking that's not why people come to here. They don't want to read about my dark state of mind.

Someone once told me that, like him, I don't fight against the outside world instead I'm fighting myself. He observed that he is a formidable opponent. I'm sure this is true, but while he's just got himself as an opponent, I have entire Universes inside me. Whole armies and countries and planets are waging war with me. What's worse is they all have magical powers or supernatural abilities. I'm being overrun on a regular basis. Or at least right now.


Just a warning.

Attempted Antidote

All right. To counterbalance the downer of a post I just did a few minutes ago here's a list of things I've always wanted to do.

  1. Travel the world. No, not just some major European countries, but the World.
  2. Make a film. There I said it.
  3. Write a novel. I know. I'm farther along than most of the population that says they want to write a novel.
  4. I could say I want to be in a relationship. It's true. I want someone who loves me, who will hold my hand, who will tell me I'm so cool, who is proud of me and who thinks I'm pretty.
  5. Give the penguin lecture while feeding them. This is a tough one for me. Public speaking is difficult enough, and I've spent many years talking about the penguins to groups of people, but standing there with a microphone headset talking about them while a bunch of people are staring at you, and trying to feed them at the same time just paralyzes the hell out of me. Especially since I'm so used to talking to the penguins while feeding them.
  6. I want to create collage boxes sort of in the mode of Joseph Cornell.
  7. I want to finish my short story "56 Days" and start another one and another one.
  8. I want to take some classes about history, literature, astronomy, attend some lectures, go to the museums, see some architecture.
  9. I want to finish my review of Kurosawa films and start another film review, perhaps the films of Fellini, or Leone or great silent comedies.
  10. I want to learn more about the Sumerians, the Greeks and the Romans.
  11. I want to live in a place with a marvelous bathtub.
  12. I want to read a whole lot of books.
I want to share all of this with someone.

Christ, I need a fucking vacation in the worst way.

Things That Go Bump in the Night

It's getting pretty dark for me, I must admit. I was supposedly feeling better, doing better, but I must confess that it's getting darker again.

I wake up, get ready for work, walk my dog, commute, work and stare at the fucking database all day, go to lunch (sort of, I'm on a self-imposed, I-don't-want-to-go-to-lunch-with-anybody type thing right now), work some more, have superficial, completely pointless discussions, leave work, commute, come home, stare at this computer, write (usually), surf (usually), walk the dog, stay up too late, eat crap for dinner unless I go out. Sometimes I have things planned. Sometimes I talk to my good friends. Sometimes I clean my apartment and do my laundry.

This is my life, people, and it's about as uneventful as you might guess.

I just spent an hour or so shutting down one of my old email addresses. I had to move all the old emails to my gmail account. Brought back sad memories, feelings of regret, feelings of disgust at my own behavior, feelings like I would stick an ice pick in my eye if I only had one.

Fortunately that feeling passed (the ice pick one, anyway).

Back when I was enduring the shattering pain of my divorce, I used to think the only reason why I didn't just kill myself was because it would really upset my dog. She's very sensitive. I'm glad to be out of that dark place, but it seems I have settled into another one.

I read about the Law of Attraction, about how you draw to you what you ask for or think about all the time. It's true, I know it works. I did ask for this scenario: I wanted to be alone, living in my own apartment so I could focus my time on writing and I wanted to be here in SF. I got what I asked for.

I can't see the point of it, though. I mean, why write at all? I suppose if it makes you happy, then perhaps you should do it, but there are no guarantees that you'll be successful. Of course, you never know until you try, but still the odds are that no one will see what you write. Or care at all. Besides what is a story anyway? Something people read and then forget about. Human beings have a short attention span. They read, move on and forget about it. Most human beings aren't like me: they aren't affected by what they read. It doesn't burn in their soul for hours and days, coming back at odd times to remind you of how moved you were, and how moved you could be by everything in the world. Because let's face it, most people aren't moved worth a shit. I am constantly amazed by how so many things in the world affect me, but most people aren't like me. They are not moved, they don't even notice shit half the time. They're too busy plugged into their iPods and on their cell phones, unreachable and preoccupied.

In fact, why do anything at all? Why try to be happy when you know you're just going to be sad again? Or angry. Or afraid. Isn't all the same thing anyway? The problem with this thinking is sitting here in front of the computer being brutally honest about my current state of mind doesn't feel right either. I keep telling myself I'm too fucked up to be in a relationship anyway, that probably the whole world knows that, sees that and so shies away from me, but I don't know what to do with myself otherwise. Shouldn't I learn to be happy with myself first? What if I've been there and done that already? I have proved that I can be alone and have a decent time. Now I retreat and having been retreating for a long time. Now I live in state of self-imposed isolation with no one but my dog for company.

It's a good thing I have a dog. She keeps me interacting with the world even when I don't want to be.

What I don't understand is why do I have to be so smart in the first place? Why am I so damn curious? Why do I love to learn new things, experience new things? Why do I have so much damn depth? It's a curse, is what it is. I wish sometimes I could be content listening to my iPod all day long and then coming home to watch 4-6 hours of TV, be happy shopping and gossiping with everybody, but I'm not.

Sometimes I think of grabbing my dog, my Eagle Creek Switchback, some clothes and just disappearing into the sunset forever. Maybe you'll find me wandering in the desert, jobless and looking for water. Maybe you'll find me in some foreign country with a military dictatorship. Maybe you'll find me on the street in some huge bustling city, living on handfuls of change.

Most likely, you'll find me at home. Sitting in front of this computer doing the same thing day in and day out.

In the Middle of Nowhere with Nothing

The futility...I know.

Today a day of novels and memories of pale ladies in bookstores. I go where I shouldn't go. I know. Stop it. They say.

They're right, of course, but they don't know shit. There's a difference between being right and knowing something about the world. Being right is narrow, stupid and smacks of egotistical fear. Knowing something about the world is at the very minimum, broader and more open to interpretation. Sometimes, if you're lucky, it's kinder too.

Their world is busy, full of shopping for expensive bargain skirts and two for one pairs of boots. They scoff at my 1941 first edition Steinbeck. They say rude things to me and don't apologize.

They tell me I'm imagining things. "It's not good for you," they say while taking that $85 check I'm handing over. In the meantime I search for a psychic counselor to shed some other type of light on things. I study my Zen Osho cards. I look at my tea leaves for recognizable shapes. The search goes on, not that it will yield any results, but it occupies my time.

What do they know? Have they even seen a Godzilla movie before? Do they realize how comforting the Big Lizard is to me? How he used to help me ward off monsters that lurked in my bedroom at night when I was small and felt helpless?

I continue to throw my messages in a bottle over the side of my small wooden lifeboat. It's the same one Shackleton used when he went in search of South Georgia Island. I pinched it from the Museum of Natural History when it was there last. At least I have that going for me, that and the water pumps.

They ask me how I am when really all they want to do is be nosy and snoop around. They don't know anything. They don't notice my small art drawings on the bulletin board. They don't ask me why my feet hurt when I wander around MOMA all by myself. They don't know anything about Joseph Cornell or fishes that try to fake being sick just so they can get more food.

I want the walls that he walked on. I want the temples and the wells and, yes, I want him there with me. I want the whole kit and caboodle. The whole she-bang. The whole enchilada. I want those airport transfers, the waiting in the wings. I want all of it even in the middle of nowhere with nothing.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

NaNoWriMo Novel Update

As many of you know, I participated in the National Novel Writing Month where I wrote a 50,000 word novel in less than 30 days.

Just now, I finished my first reading of the novel since I typed "The End" back in November. Having now read the entire story in one shot, I can safely say I am proud as hell of myself.

I didn't do any major revisions or anything like that. I did make a "map" of sorts which tracks the main action in the order of the story and will be useful when I do start the revision process. I also made a list of questions I had about the story as I went along and finished up with writing a little blurb of what I thought overall.

This is the time I get to say I'm really happy with this novel and it's definitely worth getting ready for publication. Much work needs to be done on it, but unlike my most recent short story, the basic structure and plot are all there. There are many twists and turns and behind the scenes machinations going on. All of this is very good.

In my email to my friends right after I finished the novel in November, I remarked that I didn't know who killed the doctor who dies face down in his soup during a dinner party. At the time, two characters had very good reasons for killing him. During this reading, it was crystal clear to me who the murderer is and why he was killed.

As before when I was writing the novel, I was completely surprised by some of the story developments. I did almost no planning at all and just had a vague idea of what the story would be about. In fact, I was surprised at the end, but it made sense in the context of the characters and their motivations. Also I thought the story would go in a different direction than it did with a different character emphasis. The story I wrote down is much superior to the one I vaguely had in mind. I'm really happy about that.

In the novel there are three key scenes between the two main characters. I love those three scenes. They were really fun to write and now that I've read them, I love them even more. All three will prove to be pivotal in the story.

Much work still needs to be done, but I'm sooo happy about it. I can't wait to get started!!!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Movie Musings: The Host

Yesssss. Yessss. YESSSSSSS!!!!!!!!

I just came back from seeing The Host (Gwoemul), a South Korean monster movie. In case you can't make out what the quote at the top of my movie poster says I'll repeat it for you. Yes, it says:

"One of the greatest monster movies ever made!" - New York Magazine

Is that true? GODDAMN right it's true! I like to think I know something about monster movies seeing as the original King Kong is one of my favorite films of all time, I grew up on a steady diet of Godzilla movies and films by Ray Harryhausen (Clash of the Titans, the Golden Voyage of Sinbad and Jason and the Argonauts to name a few). Yes, Miss Turtle can appreciate a good monster movie when she sees one, but this isn't a good monster movie, fellow moviegoers, this is a GREAT monster movie. I won't ruin the plot for you, wouldn't want to lessen your enjoyment of this funny, scary, poignant, thrilling movie.

Don't believe me? Check out the reviews. Enjoy yourself. Enjoy life. Enjoy those gymnastic-style swinging water monsters.

As many a snobby film reviewer is no doubt gasping/grasping, South Korean cinema is really coming into its own. I have been enjoying South Korean cinema for a couple of years now (and even own several films) so this near perfect monster movie is icing on the cake for me.

Oh, and my favorite Korean actor is in it: Song Kang-ho. Sure other Korean actors are more good looking like Yoo Ji-Tae, and others have tremendous range and skill like Choi Min-Sik, but Song Kang-ho ripped my heart out and then stole it away in "Joint Security Area." I'm going to have to get all the rest of his movies now.

Some of the images in The Host are marvelous. One that comes to mind are three men running frantically in the grass all screaming and firing shotguns in the pouring rain. The movement, the panic and the poetry is beautiful. Another image: a man is throwing molotov cocktails in the middle of a smoky toxic cloud as his target moves among the concrete pillars, appearing and reappearing in the cloud. The camera follows all of this in slow motion. I could go on, but I won't.

Ahhhhhh. There's nothing like a great movie to start the weekend right. Enjoy.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Revision/Despair as Creative Fuel/Thin Mints

A quick three beautiful things post:
  1. Sometimes the only way to revise that short story/novel is to sit your butt down on the chair and throw every technique, idea, question, template, Wikipedia research and Google searches at it until something starts to emerge that speaks, moves and makes sense to you.
  2. Sometimes the very best writing comes out of the deepest, most painful despair.
  3. My favorite way to eat Girl Scout Thin Mints is when they've been frozen and after I've had a hit from a joint (I've only used this technique once, but it was heavenly; eating them frozen with no "enhancement" works very well on its own, and you can share with the kiddies).

Friday, March 09, 2007

Comments from this Week

"I'm not calling you a liar, I'm just saying you are mistaken."

"Hey, you beat me with a straight, but look at the pair I have."

"The word 'labia' means lips, but it means a lot of other things in this poem."

Me: "I like those pictures of you and the elephant."
Him: "Yeah, and there are about two hundred more from where that came from."

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Aquarium Life: Cleaning the Octopus Tank

A Pacific Giant Octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini) is arguably the largest invertebrate. It is also the most intelligent and capable of solving complex puzzles, even removing a piece of fish from a jar by unscrewing the lid. During my almost two decades of volunteering at the Aquarium, I've experienced and heard many stories about these animals.

The first time I got a tour of the old Aquarium in all it's worn concrete, wet-rushing-water glory, I got to see the octopus tank. The tank was triangular shaped with concrete on two sides and the viewing window on the third. It wasn't a very large tank, but big enough for the octopus. If you wanted to see into the tank itself you had to climb onto the walkway and lean way over so you could peek inside.

"Why is there Astroturf on the sides of the tank openings?" I had asked. I thought this was for the person working in the area to hold onto.

"That's to keep the octopus from climbing out," my old friend Lloyd had told me. My friend Lloyd has passed on now, but I know he'd like that I was telling you this story. He went on to explain that the octopus would sometimes try to escape and they found the best way to keep them inside the tank is to put pieces of Astroturf or burlap around the openings. Apparently, an octopus doesn't like rough surfaces.

"But why is there Astroturf on the pipes over the tank?" I had asked. The ceiling of the old Aquarium was a twisted maze of pipes, some labeled "hot fresh" some labeled "salt," many with no labels at all.

"An octopus can swing it's legs high enough to grab the pipe and pull itself out of the tank," he explained. Then without further comment we moved on to the tropical section of the Aquarium.

I couldn't really pay attention to what Lloyd was telling me after that. I would have to learn about the tropical saltwater fish later on because I was too busy being stunned by visions of a giant octopus grabbing the pipe with one of its arms and swinging itself out of the tank, much like I used to swing on the monkey bars when I was in grade school.

A few years later Curator Biologist convinced me to take on the task of cleaning the octopus tank. I'm sorry I only did this task for a short period of time because it was such a blast.

The procedure was I had to drain the water out of the tank to about knee level, climb inside in my hip waders, carefully pick up Dungeness crab shell pieces while not startling the octopus, climb back out and refill the tank. I forget how many gallons the tank was, something like 400-500 gallons comes to mind, but the tank was deep enough for me to swim in.

While the tank was being drained, the octopus would move to the lower left corner where the viewing glass was and huddle there. It's arms would be constantly moving along the surface of the water, checking for when the water level would start to rise again. Once the water was shallow enough for me to stand in, I would pull myself over the top of the tank. The walls of the tank were thick enough for me to sit on. Then I would carefully drop into the tank, making sure I kept an eye on where the octopus was at all times.

The first time I did this, I was surprised at how cold the water was. The average air temperature in Battery A where the octopus tank was located was probably somewhere in the middle 60s. The temperature of the water in the octopus tank was in the lower to mid-40s. I would stand there with my plastic bucket picking up large crab pieces and start shivering from the cold.

I would move slowly and carefully. Although the octopus never moved far from that lower corner, I was still intimidated by its arms moving around constantly. Since I was visible to the visitors they were always rapping on the glass. I would turn, smile and wave. Sometimes they would take my picture although I'm sure the picture never came out well since the tank glass was always foggy.

A dilemma came when I was finished picking up all the crab shell pieces, but the octopus by now would feel a little bolder and start to move slowly along the viewing window glass. This meant that the octopus was sitting on some pieces of crab shell I needed to pick up. What to do? The first couple of times, I left it alone. I mentioned this dilemma to another volunteer and she said you can sort of shoo the octopus back into its corner by nudging it gently.

I was very skeptical about this idea, but after the third or fourth time I tried it. I moved until I was standing next to the octopus and then gave it a gentle nudge so it would get out of the way. This was the first time I had ever touched one and it was amazing. If you look at an octopus you might conclude that they are slimy to the touch. Instead, they are very soft and smooth, almost silky. If you were to pick one up, it would sort of ooze between your fingers and hands.

I never tried picking one up, but people who have had the pleasure of doing so assure me this is true.

When I was done, I would climb out, turn the water back on and perch myself on the end of the tank while the water refilled. This was to make sure the tank did not overflow and to make sure the octopus was all right.

I sure did love that little task, but it's not likely there will be another opportunity to do something like that in the new Aquarium. If there is an octopus, it will likely be put into a very large tank that people would have to dive into in order to do maintenance and I'm not a diver.

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Hallway Outside My Door, Part 2

The folks in charge finally installed the carpet today.
(see the my ramblings about the hallway in part 1)

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Miss Turtle's Desk

My computer screen is a 32 inch widescreen LCD TV. I only use it for watching DVDs and for working on the computer. I almost never watch TV. I don't have Cable and it's not set up to get channels. On the rare occasions I do watch TV (like the Oscars), I'll go to my Mom's house.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Two Steps Back

The last two days have been tough. Things are going along just swimmingly for me and then BAM, something throws me for a loop. Sometimes my response to these loops is to do something stupid. The good news is my stupid behavior probably won't be noticed this time, or at least ignored. Maybe.

Several people have told me the best way to deal with these situations is to be nice to yourself, pamper yourself a little (get a massage, buy some shoes, things like that). After pondering the alternatives I went to Nordstrom and plunked down a ton of money for a makeover. "I need to stop wearing makeup like I'm in high school," I told the very nice lady who helped me. She was stunned when I told her I would be taking everything she used on my face along with some alternative eye shadow colors for my eyes. I kept telling her that I viewed this makeover as an investment in my overall appearance.

I look great, by the way. See?

Whether I can duplicate the same results later on remains to be seen. However, the very nice lady did provide me with a cool coloring book style "face chart" where she colored in all the products so I could follow along at home. I love makeup the same way I love that 64 box of Crayola crayons. So many colors! So many possibilities! Too bad I was better at coloring than I am at putting on makeup.

At least if I fall flat on my face later, I'll be looking damn fine. Grrrg.