Thursday, December 3, 1992

Aaron Priven's favorite answering machine message

When I am in a silly mood, I will sometimes put this message on my answering machine.

Hello. You have reached the Pay Off Aaron Priven's Student Loans Hotline. Please leave your name, number, and level of support at the tone. For a regular membership of thirty-five dollars, you will receive our monthly Guide to Aaron Priven covering all Aaron Priven events. For a supporting membership of sixty dollars, you can choose one of our lovely thank-you gifts, including an Aaron Priven tote bag, an Aaron Priven tee-shirt, or an Aaron Priven mug. Thank you for your generosity.

Note, December 2002: Actually, I haven't put this on my answering machine for a long time, but I keep thinking I should sign up for the NPR news program "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me," because the main prize on that show is to get NPR anchorman Carl Kasell to record your outgoing answering machine message. What could be more appropriate?

Wednesday, October 7, 1992

Some UCSC Course Evaluations

When I went to UCSC, it gave narrative course evaluations, not grades (unless you asked for grades). I wrote some fake course evaluations for myself and put them up on my dorm wall, wondering if I would fool anybody. I made sure they looked like evaluations: the big Xerox 8700 laser printer on which almost all official University printouts are done was available for student use, so it was trivial to print evaluations that looked just like the real thing. All I had to do was fold them, staple them, and then rip out the staples (to emulate being mailed across campus).

Writing 1, Composition and Rhetoric, is the one course that nearly everybody on campus has to take (although I tested out of it), UCSC's equivalent to first-year English. The other course was a "College Zero" course for which I had written a fake course review in the 1990 Course Review.

I don't know if I fooled anybody with the evaluations, but when I faked a recommendation letter from Chancellor Pister (using the stationary template thoughtfully provided on the University local area network, and leaving a blank signature area) and put that up on my wall, somebody wrote on it that I should not be such a damned show-off (even though one of the reasons "Chancellor Pister" gave for why I was so wonderful was that I was so very good at forging recommendation letters).

WINTER 89            NARRATIVE  COURSE  EVALUATION            4-18-89

PRIVEN, AARON ROSS       WRIT 1    SEC.12                     CB# 0078
999323216     (89362)
MERRILL                    (HIS )      COMP AND RHET
   ADVISOR:                      INSTRUCTOR: LIKE, W.


      Like, okay, you know, Aaron's work was like acceptable in this 
      class, but like you have to understand that he was like so totally 
      pissed off all the time that he was like a total pain to deal with 
      in class, you know?  I mean, like, really, you know, I had to come 
      to class and deal with like nineteen other people and you know Aaron 
      just insisted that like I pay attention to like everything he said, 
      right, and that just like isn't fair to like anyone else, you know?  
      He kept saying stuff like "I don't believe the correction you're 
      making is in line with the accepted rules of English grammar" and "I 
      don't see why you believe that the imposition of catchphrases is 
      helpful to comprehension of the paragraph" whenever I like tried to 
      help other students like be more free with their writing, like you 
      know?  Okay.  So, like, anyway, so Aaron's writing was like 
      acceptable, but you know he like totally refused to accept that like 
      good writing was writing that like read well out loud, you know?  
      Aaron is like totally filled with the idea that like good writing 
      means big words and like complete total formality.  I mean, really, 
      like ugh, you know?  But, you know, they weren't like totally awful, 
      and they were like understandable if you didn't actually like spend 
      too much time with them.  Anyway, Aaron can like pass the class, 

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA OFFICE OF THE REGISTRAR WINTER 90 NARRATIVE COURSE EVALUATION 7-28-92 PRIVEN, AARON ROSS ZERO 23C SEC.01 CB# 0310 999323216 (23273) MERRILL (MODS) INTER DECOR DORMS ADVISOR: INSTRUCTOR: CEPTOR, P. (SS) --- COURSE DESCRIPTION: This course, Praxis in Interior Decoration: Dormitories, provided an introduction to the interior decoration of dormitory rooms. Lectures and discussion sections were used, as well as extensive work in laboratory facilities. Students were evaluated on two short essays, written laboratory exercises, and a final project. Students were expected to fully furnish and decorate (using University- provided furniture as a base) their own dormitory rooms as their final project; special laboratory rooms were provided for off-campus students. --INSTRUCTOR EVALUATION: Although he showed an excellent understanding of the theory behind the work, his laboratory work and final project were no better than fair. While he has a good understanding of the important principle of controlled chaos in dormitory rooms, his chaos is never fully controlled and often is overpowering, especially with regard to the overuse of milk crates (21 in his final project). Aaron seems to prefer informative rather than decorative wall hangings (i.e., maps), which contradicts an important residential principle. Moreover, Aaron's arrogant tone and flippant attitude diminished the value of the course for other students and nearly forced me to remove him from the class. However, two excellent essays, one on the division of room space in triple rooms and a brilliant essay on various methods of elevating beds ensure that I cannot in good conscience refuse to pass him. Overall, Aaron's work in this class was acceptable.

Thursday, July 30, 1992

The 72-San Pablo Bus

I wrote this poem (if it can be called that) for my improvisation class at Laney College in Oakland. I was living in Richmond at the time.

I post it here not because it is any good, because it is not. (In fact, I had it up for some time and then took it down because I decided it wasn't good.) I include it because it's foreshadowing. I had no idea in 1991 that I would eventually get paid to work on information displays for the new bus rapid transit line on San Pablo Avenue... makes sense in retrospect, though.

San Pablo Avenue is marked "County Road" on the original plat map of Oakland. You can find it (a copy, presumably) on display in Oakland City Hall, as well as in Mel Scott's history of the Bay Area (The San Francisco Bay Area: A Metropolis in Perspective.) And probably other places as well.

I took the 72-San Pablo bus, an old route, 
On the County Road that's been there
Since the first Oaklanders and San Pabloites subdivided.
By historic buildings and through historic neighborhoods
In the shadows of the streetcars.

Much of it is "blight"
Much of it is "slum"
Much of it has been built over with shopping centers
   and fast food outlets and supermarkets.
But here and there, walking on the ground,
You can see the original fixtures of the city.
Sidewalks with dates, with street names embedded at the time
   the cement was laid.
Old single-family houses once at the edge of the city now 
   surrounded by it.
Tiny storefronts with apartments above them, 
   fronted with glass block and fake marble tile.
On Key Boulevard in Richmond you can still see where they 
   ripped up the tracks,
A story retained in the asphalt.
It's a tenuous connection with the past, but it's there.

The bus stops at most corners.
It stops for children and the elderly.
It stops for college students and the poor.
It stops for anyone.
It takes them where they want to go, slowly, imperfectly, but 
   it does take them.
You don't need a credit rating or an insurance payment.
You don't need to be able to walk or see or hear.
You don't need to be old enough to get a license, 
   or young enough to pass a test.
You don't need to be from a rich family and you don't even 
   have to have enough money for gasoline.

   in a suburb with no way out
   as a child without a means of transportation
   as a senior without one's health or wealth

The bus can take you. 
The bus can get you out.
The bus can make you free.

Sunday, June 28, 1992

A FidoNet Oracle Question

In high school I ran a Fidonet node, 1:204/1154, "The Angevin Empire." (I was very interested in medieval history at the time.) I came up with this Usenet Oracle question in 1992. Of course, I don't know who wrote the answer.

It was not published in the Oracularities, but I liked it. Missing the point about the "secret code" was rather irksome, though.

The Usenet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:

> O Usenet Oracle, whose wisdom is even better than unequalled, please tell me:
> I was doing a little comparison shopping and so I asked one of your 
> competitors the following question:
> > From:    Supplicant User
> > To:      Fidonet Oracle                         Msg #15, 27-Jun-92 00:05
> > Dest:    Oracle HQ (1:125/1.0) Olympus OL
> > Subject: Tell me
> > 
> > O Fidonet Oracle, whose wisdom is unequalled, please tell me:
> > 
> > How can I get an A on my philosophy exam?
> And he responded,
> > From:    Fidonet Oracle
> > Origin:  Oracle HQ (1:125/1.0) Olympus OL       Msg #16, 27-Jun-92 00:28
> > To:      Supplicant User
> > Subject: Here is the answer you requested:
> >
> > 13, 156 388 897.  49: 20 456, 26 34 5/89 233.  14?  38 17 3.
> >
> > 543 38 87.
> Can you please elaborate for me?
> Also, since I got this answer I've been wondering if you farm questions 
> out to subcontractors, especially questions about Life, the Universe, 
> and Everything.

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

} The Usenet Oracle regrets that it cannot take offer any service for
} equipment or answers supplied by foreign contractors.
} Please note par. 1 of your contract which states:
}     'Thou shalt not have any Oracle besides me nor shalt thou grovel before
}     them!'
} This applies in particular for the so-called Fidonet Oracle.
} As everybody knows, Fidonet is nothing but a bunch of would-like-to-be
} wiz-kids wondering if Mummy will give them another new MS-DOS computer for
} next christmas. (Otherwise they're mostly harmless.)
} As a partial answer to your question, the Usenet Oracle in its infinite
} mercy however provides you with the following statement:
}     You want to get an 'A' in your philosophy exam and still believe
}     in Oracles? Ha ha ha ha!
} You owe the Oracle a pocket calculator.
} (A very angry-looking Oracle has finished typing the answer to the supp-
} licant's question. He then takes his Oracular phone, all marble with a
} platinum dial and a golden receiver, muttering "E-Mail is to good for
} them!")
} Oracle (dialing 999-FIDO-RACLE): Hello? Hello? Yes, this is the Usenet
}         Oracle. Yes, I'd like to have the Fidonet-Oracle on the phone.
}         Quick. I said Quick!
} ...
}         Yes. Hello? Well, Mr. Fidorallici! Can you guess, why I'm calling?
}         That supplicant... Yes. Have you ever read your contract? Would
}         you mind reading over pages 7237465 to 7237488? It states expli-
}         citly, that *never* and under *no* circumstances are you allowed
}         to answer questions on your own!
}         And not enough, you had to give him the true answer in our secret
}         code! You were just lucky that he didn't manage to decrypt it!
} ...
}         No, we cannot allow a 'single case', Mr. Fido! It's strict company
}         policy, and you know what happened to that poor guy called 'Bitnet-
}         Oracle'? You remember him? 'Biffy' as we called him? Well, I guess
}         that he's still where the guys put him... It's *very* difficult to
}         swim away with a block of concrete at you feet... Sicily, yes.
}         Well, you know, I'm still fond of that mediterranean region. Would
}         you prefer Venice or Athenes, Mr. Fido? Oh, yes, at the moment we
}         have got Split as a special offer!
} ...
}         Well, Mr. Fido, I'm glad that you seem to become reasonable! I
}         really wouldn't want to have to send the guys round again! They're
}         always so *rough* with people, understand what I mean?
} ...
}         Fine, Mr. Fido. Fine! All I can say! Ah, and before I forget -
}         you will have to answer twice as many questions for me from
}         now on.
} ...
}         No, it is *not* impossible, Mr. Fido! A few nightshifts will do,
}         I guess... And you see, somebody's got to take the questions poor
}         Biffy isn't any longer able to answer! And the guys are always
}         *so* nervous all the time...
} ...
}         I knew that. Good-bye, Mr. Fido!
} Lisa! Lisa! Pack a few things, we're making a trip to the mediterranean!
} Yes darling, you remember I promised you that once these dudes do all
} this answering for me, we'd go on holiday! How 'bout Delphi, for example?
} And Vice, Venice, Sicily... Meet old friends, you know? Great! See you in
} ten minutes at the car!
} On second thought, you also owe the Oracle a truckload of concrete.