Well, I guess without mordicai at my table I'm going to have to take over doing these myself.

Today was my San Francisco group's first full game day. I'd done two two-fers previous to this, as each pair got into the story differently, but now we are all on board together.

Something is moving in the world. A pervasive unease and anxiety lay across the land. It is just barely Autumn and snow is falling and the cold is bitter and dangerous. There are stories of armies - horrible things, inhuman things - waging campaigns of extermination in faraway lands, growing ever closer. Closer, from the north, armies of monsters and evil men have ridden out from some ... keep or temple ... under four banners: the red, the white, the blue, and the brown. Humanoid lords and lieges ride against them, setting up a kind of firebreak by evacuating and burning the farms and homesteads on the frontier, so the encroaching forces will find no towns and cities to loot, no treasure to take, no food to pillage. Armies march on their stomach.

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The story so far

I could talk about my life - but whatever, livejournal, there are more perplexing things going on right now.

Last night around midnight Edbury and I were gchatting about an interview I have coming up. Even though we're roommates we probably talk more often over gchat than in person - but also I'm not home. I'm house- and dog-sitting for a friend in Sausalito, across the bay from San Francisco.

I've gone through my texts and gchats with Edbury and put the events together in the following narrative:

It's midnight and I'm talking to Edbury about, I don't know, TV or the internet or something. While we're chatting, Edbury receives a weird text. It was from 972 676 9168, but according to the metadata appended to the SMS that's a proxy for 931 338 XXXX. The message reads:

half hour, union square

Now, we live just a few blocks from Union Square. Eddie and I were intrigued of course. Mysteries! I was kinda nervous about him being all alone, and thought he shouldn't bring his wallet or phone, and wished I was there to safety-wingman him for ... whatever it was. But: Sausalito. Mostly I was thinking it was some weird OKCupid person. While I don't think he's all Eyes Wide Shut in his personal life, he has had what I would consider to be very mildly unusual assignations through OKC, so maybe it was just a weird hookup thing. Weird, but just you know, lower case w.

We debate whether he should go at all, and he decides he will. And at the required time, Edbury leaves the house and starts walking over there. He responds to the text with

I'm ready.

and receives the response


Weird. Five minutes later Edbury messages me

There are like. Cops everywhere in the park and a guy on the corner clearly waiting with a briefcase.

The cop part isn't too weird. The Nike Women's Marathon is on Sunday, and the park is mostly taken up with the marathon's pavilion and registration tent, and is well covered by the fuzz for civic safety purposes, presumably.

But that guy. Just standing there. Briefcase. Edbury's description:

brown blazer and slacks
chin length hair, but clean cut

Edbury starts kind of circling around him, walking past and trying to surreptitiously take a picture. He definitely doesn't know the guy and definitely has never seen him before.

But also like, that could just be a guy who's standing near the park. At 12.30 at night. In empty San Francisco. Coincidence, right? Then the guy takes out his phone and dials a number and EDBURY'S PHONE RINGS.

The guy is calling me. It's def him.

Edbury is standing too close to him to answer the phone without the guy realizing Edbury is standing kind of near him (though Edbury has walked within a few feet of him several times at this point, and there's no one on the street). Edbury doesn't answer.

Also: the phone call? FROM A DIFFERENT NUMBER THAN THE TEXTS. The caller ID on the phone call reads 415 399 1613.

Yeah no idea who this guy is.
Okay what if I text him "just leave the case." ?
I'm kind of just waiting and watching from behind.

Edbury and I spend a few minutes gchatting and trying to figure out what to do next. Edbury is finally like, fuck it, and texts him

Just leave the case

The guy checks his phone, sees the text, looks at it for a second, then starts SPRINTING.

What do I do he's running down post and I'm like semi chasing


Nm I stopped wtf I can't chase some stranger

And that was the end of the night. Edbury watches the dude recede into the distance. It was like 1.30am at that point. Edbury went home and I got set up in the guest room here and we both went to bed. Sorta. Both of us sat up all night thinking about that shit.

This weirdness was the first thing on my mind when I woke up today. I was still inside this weird dream. And I immediately messaged Edbury and started trying to research the numbers on the internet. There are a bunch of boards where people talk about the robonumbers they get calls from. Mostly it's just like "Candidate for U.S. House of Representatives, left message in Spanish", but for the first number Edbury got the text from - 972 676 9168 - there are these two notes on, left on Mar 3, 2011:

I keep getting a text from this number with a +17864437089. The text goes on about us being friends and I need to let him know what's up. He adds little smiley faces and says his name is Guille...


Just got a text from this number followed by the word "Diamond"

The other, second number is registered to a Jeffrey Cox, age 59, 895 Chamberlain Ct Mill Valley, CA 94941.

A bunch of us who are fascinated by this started calling. The first number, 972 676 9168, just yields the message "Could not complete your call, please try again".

Will called the second one, 931 338 XXXX, the "Jeffrey Cox" number.

well I got through to the second number
and I said
and a male answered
sounded mid 20s/30s
and he was like
what? hello?
and then was like
you have the wrong number
and hung up

I called the 931 338 XXXX number myself an hour later and talked to the guy for a (very) little while. He seemed slightly older to me definitely more 50s/60s than 20s/30s. But he spoke with a distinct Hindi accent. Will thought it was Spanish-sounding, but I think he's wrong. The guy admitted he lived in California but refused to answer any of my other questions, and legitimately didn't seem to know wtf I was talking about. He said he didn't know anything about Union Square. A little while later he called me back wanting to know who I was. I didn't tell him anything.

James/Jim called the third number, 415 399 1613, the one Edbury supposedly received the phone call from. It's weird computer noise and James hangs up, frightened. I call it and record the sound:

Now I'm trying to find a program that can turn audio data streams into something more useful. Though Jim is probably right that it's just some handshake protocol, not actual data.

I try calling the 786 443 7089 number from the "Guille" comment, in case that's not a red herring or coincidence. Not in service.

Then: Edbury deduces the Indian guy is "uninvolved."

she* is like 90% sure the second number is spoofed
his number is just text content sent from google voice
but whoever owns that number could just set that

*[Edbury's computer-engineer co-worker, who is also investigating]

Edbury's Jim's theories:

some weird misguided silk road FBI thing
a viral marketing scam
and actual awkward and maybe shady wrong number

My theory in the comments. Right now I've been at this for like twelve hours straight and no matter how fascinated I am, I haven't had anything to eat or drink, and I need to put this computer down and go to the bathroom. And maybe try to get some work done today. But damn. It'll be hard to pull my brain out of this.

UPDATE 1.56pm PST The "Jeffrey Cox" number, 931 338 XXXX, at the end of which I spoke to a Hindi-sounding man, texts me asking what is going on, and saying "My phone was not with me". I reply asking if he is saying his phone has been out of his possession in the last 24 hours. Awaiting reply.

UPDATE 3.36pm PST Jeffrey Cox number redacted because it is in fact the number of a real person.

UPDATE 3.42pm PST Jeffrey Cox number texts me to say his phone was out of his possession yesterday at "orientation", and his friends - who wanted to play with his 41 megapixel camera - sent out texts as a joke, asking random numbers to meet them at Union Square. This would have been early in the day though, not at midnight. He apologizes profusely. But if that is true ... who was Briefcase Guy? Jeffrey Cox number doesn't seem to be able to check his phone to ascertain whether those texts were or were not sent from his phone. I wonder if he isn't just assembling fiction from the fact that I asked him about Union Square when we spoke earlier, and questioned him about whether texts had been sent from his phone. He says "if you say it was from my number its impossible to say or prove that it was not me".

Root root root for the home team

Went to my first baseball game in SF yesterday. I super don't care about baseball, or sports, but I do like going to ball games. The Giants got annihilated by the Mets (so, in that sense, hurray New York, I guess? And fuck you to the people behind me making toilet puns based on Shea Stadium being in Flushing) - the Mets were up 3-0 before Edbury and I even found our seats. People here - mostly kids - wear panda hats in the stands. I guess there's a player whose name rhymes with "panda" or something? But it just makes it look like the stadium is full of little Finns from Adventure Time.

It made me strangely angry to hear people singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game", like, viscerally angry. Growing up in New York, I think at some point in my development I associated a lot of cultural things that are generally baseball culture with being instead specifically New York baseball culture, and felt like everyone in the stadium was ripping off New York's shit. Get your own song! What? You guys play short ditties on an organ too? WTF.

I put on sunblock, but not enough, and I'm pretty burned. Which also means I'm pretty tired, in the way that our star leeches the life out of you. I slept for 10 hours last night.

Thinking about Giants just makes me want to play D&D. And my epicly awesome Saturday players - Rasheem, Lilly, mordicai, Alicia, Ken, Emma, Emily. As we were putting The Temple of Elemental Evil to bed, I was thinking what our next step would be. I'd set up both Spelljammer and Kara-Tur as narratively appropriate branches, but a big part of me wanted to continue on with the classic adventure progression and seque right into Against the Giants.

Today, I'm switching up my usual pattern and doing my writing and studying first, then clocking in for work in the evening. I'd been feeling like I was giving away the best part of my intellectual energy to some pretty monotonous and robotic data entry, so I'm going to eat dessert first, and do all my interesting exciting stuff, and then spend my night until bedtime just typing ISBNs in over and over again. Let's see how that goes.

I miss people. Yes, you.

Did Your Mother Come From Ireland

Movies I've watched: No Blade of Grass (boring, lame and exploitative - one rape gang is one rape gang too many; doesn't have any of what made Wilde's Naked Prey special), Let the Right One In (liked quite a bit - really good movie about kids), Colin (tiresome high-end student film about zombies), Christine (not the worst, but not John Carpenter's best either; strangely impersonal), Death Proof (110 minutes of modest charm for a 10 minute payoff), Planet Terror (literally unwatchable), and, kicking off my Libby-inspired Maysles brothers and Errol Morris jag: Salesman, about a group of door to door Bible salesmen in the 1960s. It was pretty great.

Oh, I went to the documentary club of Edbury's friends and co-workers yesterday. I watched Bill W., a very marginal, History-Channel-ish doc about the founder of AA. I had a really good time, though felt a pall because the hosts had just lost their husky in horrific circumstances. The quiet bag of dog food on the floor was the elephant in the room. To me at least. I considered reaching out today with a "hey, as someone who also lost ... " e-mail, but I thought the better of it.

I might start watching a lot of documentaries.

I've been having a hard time falling asleep. Maybe because I keep watching all these movies. I also started watching Fringe.

In advance of Google Reader's disappearance next week I spent a bunch of time this weekend pruning and curating my feeds. I've decided to stick with Old Reader (yo, sign up and friend me! be smart and curate for me!), despite its lack of some of the shinier features of its competitors, and I'm also maintaining my Feedly, just in case. But yeah, Old Reader ftw.

It made me sad to realize how many hundreds of my feeds - almost exclusively music blogs - have gone dark in the last year or two. I feel like the vibrant explosion of music that I got from these places leaves a serious void in my life. It's because of legal pressure, of course, and the last post on many of them say as such, even though a lot of that stuff qualified pretty easily as orphaned works. How do people do it now? I'm really curious. Plz don't say something like Spotify or torrent. Those are both great if you you want to hear like, that one band, but just don't cut the mustard when it comes to discovery. Can Spotify help you find those out of print 78s you've never heard? Or all the obscure, long, long out of print releases from that obscure German label forty years ago? Maybe one day, but definitely not today. I mean, I think the problem is that this specific use case would probably take a ton of resources to implement and would make a difference to really ... very few users I think. I dunno. The good news is that I already possess SO MUCH MUSIC that I could live off it happily a good long while. I'm still encountering amazing discoveries among the stuff I already own.

I'm gonna game tonight with Giulia and Alex in Edbury's Indigo game. Burning Wheel. I'm looking forward to it.

Art Girls Are Easy #11booksclub

This was the book club book for today's session, which must surely be just now winding down. First book club meet I'm missing. Sad face. I feel like I can imagine the conversation on this one pretty easily though. A clear consensus of opinion usually yields short, concise discussion, followed by drinking, goofing, and gossiping. Most everyone seemed to hate it, or at least regard it with a deep and sincere lack of enthusiasm, putting it down in one-star territory. I feel like mordicai's review encapsulates our other members' reviews on Goodreads pretty well, as well as my own feelings about it, though I am interested to hear both how Jennifer came to pick this one and also what motivated her three-star rating.

It's a pretty thin broth of unlikable character and unsurprising occurrences. Indigo is a jerk but, more egregiously, you get the feeling that so is the author. littlewashu's point about how comfortable the author is treating with casual cruelty the girl with the eating disorder ... yeah, it speaks to the book's central problem that it appears at first to be a satire of wealth and unearned privilege when it's actually kind of weirdly, uncritically, unapologetically celebrating those things? A lot of the stylistic choices read like weak Bret Easton Ellis-isms; there is so much marketing and brand specificity in the prose that you feel like she must be lampooning consumerism from some kind of angle, even if you couldn't yet suss out which. Early on I was willing to give it a pass to see where it was going, but it was an affectation that bore no interesting fruit.

I wonder what the reactions are among the ostensible target audience for this book - people who are of the sex opposite from mine, and twenty or more years younger. I didn't hate this book, but I definitely didn't like it - but also in a way that - like most manga - makes me wonder if I'm just missing an important apparatus to really get it.

Thinking in pictures

Been having really vivid dreams lately, which probably comes from having long uninterrupted sleep bedeviled by nighttime chilliness and that predictable spinal torment that comes from having bought the cheapest mattress in Ikea. Last night I had a dream about being great friends with a dude from work with whom I had a pretty severe falling out. The night before it was about being covered in hot escargot. Dreams of being warm have been kind of frequent since San Francisco is kind of chilly and I don't have anything to sleep under. I shipped my blanket with the rest of my stuff from NYC since it was too big to fit in either bag I carried to the airport, thinking it'd get to San Francisco shortly after I did, but that was a bit of a hash, and my belongings won't actually arrive until Monday.

I have to get out of this apartment. I'm turning into the shut-in roommate. I keep telling myself that'll change once I have my stuff and I have money in the bank. One of Edbury's co-workers (among other people, like literaticat's friends) has been super helpfully feeding me things to do, places to go, things to see, and she's a casual runner so I think I might have an at least occasional running partner. (I credit Nemtynakht for making me realize that's actually a fun thing to have.)

Couple days ago my friend Dina took me to lunch in town and treated me to a fancy repast, which was awesome. I have been reluctant to enjoy the food San Francisco has to offer until my money situation is conclusively sorted, so I've not been doing much beside drooling outside various restaurant windows. I had a pretty delicious monkfish though I think it made me realize I'm kind of done with monkfish. I haven't cooked seafood at home in years, but I used to make monkfish all the time: the poor man's lobster. It doesn't do it for me any more. I'm more interested in the rich man's lobster.

Been reading a lot, applying to a lot of jobs, suffering through a lot of "apply for this job" web interfaces (seriously, why are they uniformly atrocious?), watching a lot of movies. The last few days alone I've seen This is the End (weird, confused, a little funny), Warm Bodies (confused and unfunny), Iron Man 3 (horrible - and "better than the second one" is no kind of praise), that Danny Boyle sci fi thing Sunshine (compelling in a Boyle-ean way, mostly notable in making me finally realize his style is just about the dread of dying horribly), Hell Drivers (on ravenface's recommendation, and it delivered as much pulse-pounding commercial truck driving action as I'd been led to expect), and the 1985 Kiwi apocalypse pic The Quiet Earth (which was my favorite of the bunch, and is where the above image is derived from). That I was so into QE, and so much more than something like Hell Drivers (which I would have gone gaga over even a couple of years ago), probably tells you a lot about where my tastes are at these days. Comparatively low key and smallish budgeted curiosities from the 70s and 80s that hold surprising power despite a humble (or, in some cases, ludicrous) appearance. It also doesn't hurt that it addresses my own teleological obsession, or maybe that's just the echoes of my Catholic childhood speaking through me like a cardboard paper towel tube.

I'm going to see that Superman movie with Bernie tonight, and trying to keep an open mind about it, but I'm not expecting much.

First: the gym!

I waited too long to write this, now I'm sleepy

I find myself for the first time in a really long time wanting to watch movies. A lot of movies. In the way I've only wanted to watch a lot of television for a very long time. I revisited Wings of Desire tonight. I hadn't seen it in fifteen years maybe and I was afraid that I wouldn't still love it. I still do though. It's very beautiful. It also made me want to go back and rewatch all Terence Malick. Also I've torrented like a million horror movies.

I spent today reading's API documentation. I keep wanting to blog more about stuff like that. Not here, because why would anyone care about that. That's crazy.

In Lisbon, my mother and I went to the modern art museum, the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian. The modern art collection didn't exactly knock my socks off (the real meat of the museum is in its pre-20th century stuff) but we stumbled into a room that was some sort of installation or film screening by Filipa César. The voiceover described in a hypnotic monologue a character, a fugitive, acting among a cast of unliving images that moved and spoke as if unaware of the fugitive's presence, and the narrator went on to describe the apparatus that might capture and broadcast such images, and I realized the text was taken from Adolfo Bioy Casares's novel The Invention of Morel, which I'd read a bunch of years ago after the NYRB first put out their edition. And indeed when I looked the installation was called Morel's Yellow Pages. I remember, at first blush, the novel not knocking my socks off, but in the intervening years it's grown and taken root within me, and the fugitive has been a companion of mine the way the shadowy tourists on the island are companions of the fugitive. I feel I know that island. I should re-read the book.

I'm sleepy.

Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana

Today's Sunday. I've been living in San Francisco for 1 week + about 9 hours.

Due to some issues beyond my control, I still don't have any of my belongings or - somewhat relatedly - most of my money, which is gonna be fine, but is still putting a bit of a cramp in my emotional style, if you know what I'm saying. Still sleeping on an Ikea mattress on the floor of an empty room, still picking every last tiniest bit of meat from the bones and then boiling them for soup. (I really like soup tho, so it's cool.)

Was in a bit of a funk yesterday, partly because of the above reasons, partly out of homesickness, partly because my time here feels so high stakes in a way that it didn't in NYC. Which is kind of the point about moving here, but it's also really stressful to feel like every minute in which you don't accomplish something great is wasted. I mean, that's not a bad attitude to have about our ever shrinking and finite lives, it can just be a little nerve wracking. Like, this is time I took away from being with the ones I love, why am I not doing something more interesting with it than watching the wedding episode of Game of Thrones.

One thing about my apartment I'm really keen to solve is the fruit flies. Firstly, we don't have screens on the windows, and looking at the neighbors' windows this ... seems normal? I don't know how that is a thing. And there are kind of fruit flies coming in and chilling in the apartment all the time. It's not us; this was from day 1 before we'd even bought any food. I think it's because our kitchen and bathroom windows are directly above the building's compost bin. It's driving me a little nuts. Someone suggested putting out a saucer of vinegar, and the flies will drown in it and die, so I'm gonna go buy vinegar, but in case that doesn't work I have to research some alternatives.

Tonight I'm gonna hit the gym and then go out with some workmates of my roommate, Edbury, for the local equivalent of movie nite. We're gonna drink and eat and watch some documentaries, I think. It sounds like it's going to be pretty dope. Hooray for socializing.

Hitting the bricks #livejournal

Nearly the end of week 1 and I'm still mostly taking care of domestic affairs. Buying hangars, doing laundry, cookin' chickens. Now that my feet are on the ground here, I feel how keenly I'd missed playing house in the last year of my solitary existence. I really love coming home and opening a bottle of wine and cooking dinner. Having half a roast chicken in the refrigerator is a super comforting feeling.

I joined the Y last night, had my first workout in San Francisco. It turns out to be $62/month here, though my income is so low these days that I probably qualify for a reduced rate. I filed that poverty paperwork and crossed my fingers. The place is both small and vast. It is a giant, giant neighborhood community cultural center, there are classes and workshops and pools all over the place. The walls are covered in captioned Chinese characters for like, "social responsibility", which, hell yeah. In terms of weight training equipment, however, compared to the Y in Park Slope (or my old gym on Union) the place is strictly from hunger. There isn't one single power rack, so I just have to carry a bar from the bench press to the floor to do dead lifts, and I haven't really figured out how I'm going to do squats yet. (There is an assisted squat rack, but bleh on that.) On the other hand there were no more than ten people at any point working out, so I guess it's not like they need that much equipment. Tons of cardio equipment, though. Weight training is I guess not a super big thing around these parts. Which also means that I feel like I've gone from being an extremely puny small fish at my old gym to being like middle of the pack or even more than that. I've never considered myself a strong person and I'm used to being the guy with the least weight on the bar, and that was entirely reversed. Maybe I was just there when the serious dudes weren't.

Had my first SF job interview today. For a nice, pretty local bookstore; ultimately we were both like, this isn't for me. I don't mind being a bookseller for a little while - heads up, I'm super good at that - but I don't want to commit the next year or two of my life to it, which is what they wanted, and we parted happily with the agreement that if they needed any pinch hitters ever to give me a call. I do have to say that while the city is as expensive as everyone said, it's still really no more so than where I'm from, and wages seem generally higher to boot. Starting salary for basic book retail here is higher than I paid a lot of my more experienced staff in New York. To give you some perspective, minimum wage here is $10.55/hour vs $7.25/hour in NYC. I've applied for a ton of jobs; the bookstores have been the quickest callbacks so far.

We still have only very crappy internet in the apartment, based on a 4G hotspot that Edbury bought. It's not sufficient, but we've been having a hard time with the telecoms here establishing who should be serving our building. The landlord said - that some of the tenants have born out - that the building can only get internet via telephone landlines? Like just DSL? What? This is San Francisco! How is that even possible. But so far we've utterly failed to get any kind of faster providers to deal with us. Bleh.

OMG, is it Friday? Seriously? I am so adrift in time.

Today: laundry. Housecleaning. Reading. Eating cold chicken.

I live in San Francisco now #livejournal

I spent the last couple weeks giving away and throwing away almost all of my worldly possessions: everything I own in the world is now contained within 1 duffel bag, 21 cardboard boxes and 3 plastic briefcases containing D&D miniatures. I said goodbye to everyone I love and got on a plane and flew to San Francisco. I live here now. It feels surreal and hallucinatory and I still feel giddy but also a little emotionally shell-shocked. And awed by the newness of everything.

When I was eleven or twelve I did this thing where I carried wire cutters with me everywhere and would casually snip interesting ornaments off the hoods of people's cars. One day on the way to school, I took the ornament off some shitty Pontiac that wasn't even interesting because by that point it had just become a boring habit I had. And the owner saw me, and came charging out of his house. He seemed old to me at the time but I guess he was probably just in his late twenties or early thirties, and some kind of construction worker maybe. He was wearing navy Dickies and construction boots. I was kind of too startled to run, and stood rooted to the ground. He jogged up and told me to give it back to him, and I did, and then he punched me in the face. Then I turned around and kept walking to school as if nothing had happened. I don't remember it hurting much really. I was just stunned. It was the first time in my life I'd ever been really hit. I never told anyone, and I was in a daze for the rest of the morning. I feel like that all the time here.

The last few days were physically and emotionally rough. The wonder and generosity of the people in my life, was just ... Particularly that last night, seeing mordicai in ravenface's Preston Stagger, going to karaoke with all my nears and dears, was hard. Really really hard. The people I leave in New York are so precious, so loved, so special to me, part of me thinks that even though I have this marvel-stuffed new adventure ahead of me, I must be some kind of hateful lunatic to leave that. This place is beautiful and wonderful but I imagined I'd be surer of myself once I arrived. I said my goodbyes, and they were teary, and then I caught a couple hours of sleep with my girlfriend, a repose helpfully bifurcated when one drunken well-wisher called me up around 3.30am to say goodbye. Then I got in a car to a plane and flew to San Francisco, during which I polished off iphisol's road trip book Nevada, which was ... yeah, it was the precisely right choice. It was great, and had a huge resonance for me and I felt melancholic and intrepid and kind of magical in the sky as I read a wonderful book by a person I met on the internet while I was hurtling toward an ocean I'd never seen before.

Getting off the plane I met Edbury's friend Giulia and her beau Alex, they're really swell, charming people. The car ride to our new place, I was just kind of wide-eyed and agog. My apartment is in Chinatown which, compared to NYC's seems much smaller and airier, less close and mysterious. There are essentially two main drags in the neighborhood, Grant, which is the gaudy tourist avenue, where you go to get little pagoda souvenirs, and Stockton, where I live, which is more for locals, and seems to consist entirely of one impenetrable grocery store or fish market after another. I haven't really marshaled my courage enough to ford the human tide of those places and dive in to the mystery produce just yet. Soon. There's a YMCA on my corner, and a Whole Foods and Trader Joe's within easy walking distance. The apartment's nice, but I'm still sleeping on a cheap Ikea mattress on the floor. I'll talk more about all that stuff later. I need to go get started on dinner. I think I'm making a roasted chicken.