Friday, December 21, 2007

Stories of the Road, issue 28: Escape from LA

Thursday, 12/13, was my last day working in Beverly Hills, so to commemorate the occasion I wore my favorite suit. On our last night in town, our dinner was comprised of great Italian food and cupcakes. The only celebrity I spotted while I was there: Jon Voight, in the lobby of the Beverly Hilton.

LA was the most interesting and most glamorous location of all my work assignments - not my favorite but pretty high up on the list. While there, I could never shake the thought that somewhere, at that very moment, while I labored away in front of a computer reconciling my client's bank statement, people far better-looking than I and far richer than I'll ever be were doing things I can't afford to do with famous people who I'll never meet. Of course you can really say that at any time of day no matter where you are; the idea just seems a little closer, a little more omnipresent in LA. This is a terrible thought to carry around, I know. I blame Bret Easton Ellis.

I spent a lot of time out there thinking about why people (the American public in particular) are so interested in the lives of the rich & famous, about how psychological research has shown that attractive people are perceived as being more intelligent & successful & friendly, about whether or not I even give a damn about being rich or famous one day. It was an interesting experience and I think I came away from it with the right ideas. Spending an extended period of time exposed to that lifestyle can fuck with you, even the people who live there admitted that to me occasionally. LA has an energy and a magnetism that I don't fully understand, and from which I'm not entirely immune.

Thanks to everyone who came out last weekend to make our party such a success! Special thanks to the evening's performers: Oreo Dory, Blazed Doughnuts, Paul Parts, Secret Sceptre, and Daniel Knox. I've posted a gallery with about 20 of the best pictures of the evening. The gallery contains a Blazed Doughnuts video, which is also featured on YouTube - and has somehow collected 150 views before I even told anyone it was up. There's a video of Paul Parts' silhouette playing a song as well, but it's not as nice as any of Victor's videos from that evening.

I walked to the Arlington Park train stop after work on Tuesday and the race track has put up a Christmas light show. It costs $10 to drive through in your car or nothing to walk through if you come in through the back entrance.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Searching for John Horstman

I expect that almost everyone reading this has Googled their own name at one point. Three years ago, I held the 10th spot among the Google results for "john horstman" with a link to my senior design project web page, Audio Spatializer for Headphones (now replaced with an abbreviated description here - awarded Most Marketable project of Spring 2003 and totally the idea of my friend Jon Boley), and had another hit on the next page of results with a link to my Physics 398EMI project, "Modification and Assembly of a Fender Deluxe Reverb with Patchable Ring Modulator" (super-boring monster lab write-up here).

All of the top 9 other spots were held by John Horstman of Elgin, IL, who was arrested in 2001 for carrying a gun in his fanny pack while out for a bike ride in DuPage County. Evidently, someone had reported a man exposing himself on the bike trail, and when the police stopped John Horstman as a potential suspect they searched him and found a 9mm handgun and loaded magazines. (John Horstman was not the flasher and the handgun charges were later dropped.) There are a number of gun advocacy web pages that discuss this incident, one of which begins with: "John Horstman did not set out to be a hero on Tuesday, July 25th..." This John Horstman retains the coveted top search result to this very day - which means that anyone who Googles "john horstman" will see a web page that reads "Yet one day when John Horstman of Elgin, Illinois, decided to take his unloaded gun with him, concealed in a fanny pack..." as the first link. Imagine how reassuring this was when I was job hunting.

A few more John Horstmans have jumped into the mix and knocked me out of the first page of results. John Horstman result #2 is from Fulton, MO, and earned his search result standing by catching a record-breaking crappie.

According to Wikipedia, "Henry John Horstman Fenton (1854-1929) was a British chemical engineer who, in the 1890s invented Fenton's reagent, a solution of hydrogen peroxide and an iron catalyst that is used to oxidize contaminants or waste waters. Fenton's Reagent can be used to destroy organic compounds such as trichloroethylene (TCE) and tetrachloroethylene (PCE)." Right on, Henry John Horstman Fenton!

John Horstman, 13, of South Middle School in Arlington Heights, collected and created 388 Health Kits for Church World Service. Wooo! John Horstman!

This John Horstman is one of the top results of Google Image Search for his position on the Maryland-Delaware-DC Moose Association Board of Directors (plus he is a sharp dresser):

The highest-ranked page that returns a result for yours truly comes in at a respectable #17, and it's my recently-revamped homepage, I'd like to get on the first results page someday, and maybe, God willing, all the way up to that #1 spot. At least I still own the top spot for "john karl horstman"... on the list of results for the University of Illinois student government elections as a write-in candidate for student trustee, student body president, chief of staff, and a number of other positions.