me

I'm in a Book

Just received my courtesy copy of a book I'm in. It's called the Modern Library Book of New York Diaries and it has diary excerpts from New Yorkers going back to 1609. They included an excerpt from my much reblogged post about 9/11, written on 9/12.

It's a lovely volume and you can buy it via the widget to the right.

The new Literate Machine

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The new version of Literate Machine is now online!

Go check out loads of downloadable comics, ebooks, magazines and more.

I For One Welcome My New French Overlords

MeWithID

Today I started my new full-time job (my first as-such in years) at Hachette Filipacchi Media, publishers of many fine magazines and a division of Lagadère -- an enormous, multinational company based in France which also owns Hachette Livre which in turn owns Little, Brown (among other imprints), publishers of David Foster Wallace and Iain Banks and many other fine writers. So, good company anyway. (Ha, I made a pun. I am the funny.)

At first I was nervous during HR orientation when they told me that they didn't give root access to all computers to their users (so didn't let you install your own software) and didn't allow you to use your own computer (I'd brought my laptop in case they didn't have a computer set up for me yet). I was also nervous they would saddle me with a Windows box and make me use it. But then my superior showed me my desk, which had a PC AND an iMac, both of which I had root access to, and the PC was preloaded with VMWare with which I was able to easily install Linux. The PC has two monitors, so now I have Ubuntu Linux running on one monitor, Windows on the other, and then the iMac which setup looks something like this:

Photo 8

My New Computers

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What follows is a whole lot of computer geekery.

If you know me, you know I love computers. Ever since my family got an Apple //e when I was 6, I've been hooked on the things. It's hardly surprising that I now make my living programming them. (My résumé, if you're curious.)

We Lose

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As has been widely reported, Ed, Sarah, Levi and I lost the fabled Literary Trivia Smackdown against the PEN America center. I blame Ed for not listening to his better half. Even my offer to bribe the judge did us no good. Sigh. Maybe some other year we'll have our revenge!

At least I got a free bottled water out of the deal...

Also, had a lot of fun at the Independent and Small Press Book Fair, bought far too many books (as always), and had a very interesting conversation with Kelly Link, who, in addition to being interviewed in an event, also manned the Small Beer Press table on the floor and was all-in-all an extremely generous and intelligent speaker.

L'Shana Tovah!

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Happy Jewish New Year everybody!

Jewish Sculpture
Sculpture across the street from the Choral Synagogue in Moscow

Some Things I Learned on My Vacation

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  1. Russia is cold, England is wet
  2. There exists in this world such a thing as an Uzbek restaurant/sushi bar.
  3. People in Moscow do not know how to drive, and do not care about personal safety or the safety of others while driving.
  4. Hot borsch and hot tea will warm you up, no matter how cold it is outside or in a given room.
  5. Do not try to mail things in Russia or to Russia.
  6. Meat pies + cask ale = Crazy Delicious
  7. Russia has the best metros, England has the best cabbies.
  8. There's no place like home.

Back Home

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I'm back in New York! I have lots more blogging to do about my trip, but was too busy to do it at the time... stay tuned.

Russia is Fun

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From the last couple posts you might think I haven't been having a good time in Russia. That is not the case.

For instance, last night we went to a restaurant called Cafe Margarita, named after the protagonist from Bulgakov's amazing novel Master and Margarita. The cafe was across the street from Patriarch's Pond (where Master and Margarita opens) covered in art depicting scenes from the book, and a live band composed of two violins and a piano played riotous Russian dance music as the increasingly drunken audience called out numbers and cheered. Though I ordered myself a Sprite, people seemed to keep buying me vodka, and the next thing I know I'm at the piano playing Ziggy Stardust.

Cafe Margarita, Moscow

We made friends with some Texas tourists who were driving their way across Eastern Europe, and some Georgians took my phone number and promised to call me when they came to America.

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Marina in front of Patriach's Pond. I take pictures better when drunk out of my mind.

Mugging with Mayakovsky
Mugging in front of the statue of Mayakovsky on the way home from Margarita. This is a country that appreciates its writers. And builds statues of them. Lots and lots of statues. I like that.

Surviving Russia

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Russia is not forgiving to visitors. In St. Petersburg, you're lucky if you can find a street sign. In Moscow there are more than four streets named Tverskaya-Yamskaya which all intersect. In general the simplest things are much harder and take much longer than they should.

All this cannot be better illustrated then by the trouble we've had simply finding the hostels with which we were booked. Fist there was 71 Griboedeva Hostel. One would think it would be located at 71 Griboedeva Street. However, at that location there is an unmarked door to a residential building. Fortunately we met with a friend who had a cell phone, and after calling the hostel we found out that we had to go around to the opposite side of the building, which is on a completely different street, and there we found the plaque telling us there was a hostel there, and instructions to dial up to the hostel's floor number and wait for someone to buzz us in. Why there is not the merest notice that you must do this at the address which is THE NAME OF THE HOSTEL is beyond me. And do they then give you a key or passcard to get into the building, like most other hostels I've stayed at? No, you must ring up any time you want to enter, which wasn't so great at three in the morning when it took the person at the desk about 20 minutes to answer.