Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

20 Jan 2002, 2:16 a.m.

"It was the kind of party that you hope never…

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2002 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

"It was the kind of party that you hope never ends..."
-- The Party Generation, Dar Williams

I threw a party last night and I count it as a success. People seemed to enjoy themselves. I don't want to get complacent about my recent high rate of success throwing parties; I especially worry that too many people will come to my next two parties and that I have to clear out more space in my apartment so that people will have room to decompress.

My guests at this party were, in vague order of arrival: Jeana, Zach, Matt, Adam, Paulina, Benoit, Seth, and Nandini. Jeana is my friend and former student; Zach is my friend via Shweta via Nathaniel; Matt is my friend via Sociology 3; Adam is my friend via many different pathways including Jeana and Matt; Paulina and Benoit are two of my new flatmates; Seth is my friend via Freeborn Hall (my freshman dormoritory); Nandini is my sister.

Matt is a geography major and laughed a great deal when he compared the sizes of France and Texas and I noted that each has a Paris.

Matt and Jeana misled me (probably accidentally) to believe that Adam had had a part in the making of a site I love, TripPlanner. Well, he's sort of connected, but not really. Adam is far more connected to Leonard's online heritage, even back to the BBS days, to the point of considering Dada Pokey a major influence on his personal development. I played various Leonard songs for Adam, such as Techno Schmeckno wit DJ Generik. (Techno Schmeckno mp3 file, 777Kb)

At this point I now realize that I am basically writing this entry for Steve, and possibly Benjamin and Leonard and Frances and Susanna and Kris... wow, that's far more than one person who wasn't there and who (I think) regularly reads my journal! Not as few as I'd thought.

Note that, despite my earlier prediction, several people came to the party who had no online journals; yet, for several minutes, the only people in my living room all had online journals. The weblogs connection did not escape us, and did not escape my sister, who mocked me. Fun was made of the fact that I remember lots from other people's journals, e.g., what day of the week Seth wrote an entry that he later unposted because of secrecy concerns. (Tuesday.)

"You know, I think you remember every part of me."
-- My Friends, Dar Williams

Zachary cooked absolutely terrific lasagna with ricotta cheese and spinach and everyone raved about it. Seth brought Chinese food that people also enjoyed. I supplied a few snacks and we were quite set. With regards to drinks, I had meant to dash out to Berkeley Bowl or the deli around the corner for sodas, but as it turned out, people didn't seem disappointed with orange juice, tea, and water. I pass the savings on to you.

Benoit is from France and Seth is from Massachusetts and Paulina is from Mexico and Adam is from Utah and I'm not really from anyplace and so on. We learned from each other, and we merikens [phonetic] learned a thing or two from our visitors. Example: I pointed Benoit to the old poster that says <<R�gardez-vous sur vid�o!>>. (I made it to advertise the movie Dave back in high school French class.)

Me: So someone recently told me that the last line doesn't mean--
Benoit: Anything?
He at least agreed that, if that line means anything at all, it means "watch yourself on video," and not "You! watch on video."

Oh, and later Seth told me that "video" and "audio" are Latin for "I see" and "I hear," respectively.

"I finally think I come from someplace..."
-- Road Buddy, Dar Williams
Benoit and I traded anecdotes about the new unified European currency. He told me that someone used the new Euro-like Monopoly money in a store and the storekeeper accepted it and gave him change. I told him the story that Leonard had told me. You see, euro coins, like our US twenty-five-cent pieces, have customized backs according to their place of minting. The apocryphal French baker said, "I'm sorry, monsieur, I cannot accept this, it is a Spanish euro."

Benoit and Paulina went outside to smoke once. That disoriented me a bit, since I don't smoke and don't often hang out with smokers, but I'll get used to it.

"Oni ni kurit, ne zanimayus' sexom... [They don't smoke, they don't have sex...]"
-- Intro to Straight Edge, Naif

People left and people left and finally Seth and I spent a whole bunch of time together and, like wizards, stayed up late. I showed him an essay entitled "The Good, the Bad, and Scarface" that I read back in my senior year of high school. Oh, boy, I have more to tell about that artifact, don't get me started, let me tell you.

Relatedly, I heard a story about his old high school. "A Foreshadowing of Seth!"

He and I talked a great deal about our personal histories and our problems and relationships and literature (that last topic included because any conversation of over an hour with Seth is bound to bring up a reference to Vergil's Aeneid).

"But when his drinking and lusting and his hunger for power became known to more and more people, the demands to do something about this outrageous man became louder and louder.
Hey hey hey hey hey hey hey hey
Hey hey hey hey hey hey hey hey"
-- Rah Rah Rasputin, Boney M

It can be much easier to play the game Taboo when the players know each other well. "I went on it this morning..." "The Internet!" or "Leonard's at one of these right now." "A wedding!"

Seth and I didn't actually play. We just went through a great many cards getting each other to guess the Guess Word without using the Taboo Words. At moments we complained that too few words were Taboo; a few Guess Words, however, stumped us for several minutes (example: "dollop").

Many humorous incidents, too many to list, but I can mention some.

  • "A state that starts with my father's first name." "Kennessee?"
  • "He has copyright extension legislation named after him." "Sonny Bono!" "Right!"
  • "He committed genocide, but today he has a day named after him." "There are so many!"
  • "Kick our butts." "Teenagers!"
  • We discovered that proper names as Guess Words are fun because one can reference other proper names. Seth didn't know what roles Bruce Willis had played, so I told him that his name was X Y, as in X Schneier and Connie Y [a computer security expert and a science fiction writer].
  • Another tactic: opposites. Dry ice could be "not-wet not-steam-not-water."
  • Taboo rules state that one may not gesture or say "sounds like" or "rhymes with." Seth ruled that I could not used "has a similar pronunciation to." But we hit upon a solution: instead of "sounds like," we would get the other person to say the sounds-like word, then give the other player an expectant look.

Seth observed that I don't talk about myself much in his presence. I find it hard to believe that. I think about myself a lot, and find myself talking with friends about my problems pretty regularly. Perhaps I just talk a lot more one-on-one and much less in public (such as at the party), and try not to whine about my problems in multiparty face-to-face contact. I want to be appreciated, and I want people to pay attention to me, but I don't want to scare them off or bore them by talking too much. And besides, I really admire people like Leonard for being concise and not speaking except to contribute a gem to the general discourse. And my mother often tells me that I should "talk less and listen more." Of course, maybe she doesn't mean to admonish me and tell me that I'm talking too much when she says that phrase. Maybe it's just a phrase that I shouldn't take literally and should interperet as "make sure you listen to people." But people seem to appreciate that I try to listen more and talk less. I don't know; I have no objective measure of whether I've calmed down "enough" when it comes to socializing and giving other people a chance to talk.

Sometimes I'm lonely. Yes, school's about to start, and yesterday I saw a fella I half-know walking on Shattuck, which really comforted me and gave me a spirit of togetherness. (Stockton isn't walkable and I don't know that many people there.) But even though I blathered on about San Francisco's geographic unity and how it fosters community and optimism and feasible mass transit, I still get sad. BART does not erase the melancholy of simply being human. Not completely.

I don't like admitting that I need support and love and appreciation from other people because I don't like being dependent on anyon for anything. Desires and perceived dependencies create sorrow. That's what I learned from Buddhism and Andrew Creighton and Steve Weber. But practically everybody has desires and dependencies, and I neither should nor can obviate all of them. I should admit them and try to ensure that they facilitate my life more than they cripple it.

I suspect fallacy in the life in pursuit of happiness, and fear that I have lived too long in pursuit of ecstasy. (No, not MDMA.) Somewhere I acquired this belief that happiness is something that happens to me when I'm doing a good job on a project, and not an object that I should or could try to get on its own. But sometimes I let myself relax, as I did at some moments Friday night, and I feel something that I could best characterize as a species of happiness. I don't know how to account for all of this.

But I've digressed from Seth's main concern. He basically told me, "you care a lot about other people, and you spend a lot of time and effort learning about them and paying attention to them and trying to help them be comfortable and happy, but it would be okay for you to not do that so much and spend more time caring for yourself and letting other people learn about you and appreciate you." Is my paraphrase right, Seth?

"And when I talk about therapy, I know what people think / That it only makes you selfish and in love with your shrink / But oh how I loved everybody else / When I finally got to talk so much about myself..."
--What Do You Hear In These Sounds, Dar Williams
I find it hard to believe that I could do certain things. For example, I'm afraid I won't know how to have any marriage other than one like my parents'. And I don't know how to balance altruism and selfishness because all my life people have criticized me for being too much of one or the other.

At this point my religious habits kick in and I find myself saying, O God, in my head. I certainly don't want to depend on some imaginary entity for strength and wisdom! How to "unlearn the habits of a lifetime"? There's The Practice of Programming and there is the practice of deprogramming. My mother is very upset with me because I've told her that I doubt the existence of God. She blames it on Leonard. A shy, sweet, clever atheist -- what a wicked influence!

I grieve the death of my God, I grieve that my mother is unhappy with me, I grieve that my behaviour can never completely please both my parents and myself, I grieve for victims of terrorists and war, I grieve for Avi Raina, I grieve for Michael Rogin.

Seth told me that in one Jewish tradition the mourners of a death stay in for seven days. Visitors come by, and bring food, "as though a baby had been born," Seth said. Grief is like a birth. It comes with great pain, and you must take care of it, at first all the time, and then less and less until finally it grows up and moves away.

Seth and I ate at Extreme Pizza and bade each other adieu.

"I'm sure you know / There's lots to learn / But that's not your fault / That's just your turn."
-- Teenagers, Kick Our Butts, Dar Williams

"Sometimes I see myself fine, sometimes I need a witness / And I like the whole truth / But there are nights I only need forgiveness."
-- My Friends, Dar Williams