Hunter Thompson at 79

Hunter S. Thompson, dead today in 2005.

A myth. June 24, 2010. I went to the Pollard Memorial Library in Lowell, Massachusetts to get Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. But it was checked out. Stay on topic. Look for other books by Hunter Thompson. What do we have here? The Rum Diary. A book of letters. Fear & Loathing in America: The Brutal Odyssey of an Outlaw Journalist. Is there a market for letters? Do people read this sort of thing?

It doesn’t matter. It was thick but I picked it up. And read it twice.

I didn’t know much about Doktor Thompson at the time. I knew there was a movie version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I knew it was about drugs. Right? Close enough.

The book of letters was surprising because they appeared to be the output of Serious Thinking. Often abusive, sometimes arbitrary, but almost always the result of some kind of intelligent being. I’m afraid that sounds like some kind of weak praise. But here we are. It’s not what I anticipated.

Imagine working for a large corporation, bathed in fluorescent lights and packed in gray cubicle walls. And trying somewhat desperately to fit in because… that’s what you do. Right? Go Along to Get Along. And then unwittingly you pick up this book that tears off the top of your head like a bottle opener tearing into a cap. I turned into a bit of a pit bull after that. I don’t think all of the results were good, but some of them were. Overall I don’t regret it.

I’m glad I didn’t find Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas first. I wouldn’t have taken the good doktor seriously. It would have been just another screwaround. But dig into the letters—Fear and Loathing in America, which is volume 2, and then The Proud Highway, volume 1—and it makes sense. Plus Fear and Loathing: on the Campaign Trail ’72. Plus the collection of journalism, The Great Shark Hunt. Plus Hell’s Angels. That’s a better way to approach it.

And then go for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. It makes more sense. Approached later in the cycle, it seems more like an epitaph of a generation and less like a big haha party.

We can find inspiration in strange places. What does an engineer need with HST? I don’t know. Start with lies and end with truths. Package fact as fiction and fiction as fact. You can describe a thing from the outside or you can dive in and explain how the thing works as you interfere with it. Taste success and become fat and lazy and useless. Not all the lessons learned are how to; some are how not to.

There he goes. One of God’s own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.

I am the battery giant

When I want to translate something from English to Chinese, I put in the time cross-referencing the translation to avoid making any embarrassing mistakes. Today I was going out to help one of my wife’s friends replace the battery in her 2007 Prius. In a hurry, while she was on the phone, I tossed “I am the battery master” into Google Translate. GT came up with 我是电池主人 (Wǒ shì diànchí zhǔrén). In a hurry, I used it 100% without checking it off Pleco or MDBG as I normally would.

A swing and a miss.

电池 is battery. No question there. 主人 is master or owner, but it came out as 巨人 (jùrén) instead of 主人 (zhǔrén). 巨人 is… giant. I am the battery giant. [sad trombone]

Not that 主人 is even the best. Maybe 专家 (zhuānjiā) instead.

Anyway. I don’t own a Prius, so I found these two resources were the best for figuring out what I was doing before heading out to the garage (PROTIP: the battery is in the back):

The best businesses come out of frustration

From NPR’s How I Built This podcast…

GUY RAZ: When you’re thinking about starting a business, where do the ideas come from?

RICHARD BRANSON: As I’ve said, I think the best businesses come out of frustration. If you have a bad experience with another business somewhere in your life, you think, “Screw it, we can do it better than this.” Even if you don’t know much about it, just do it, get in there. Many years ago I wanted to invest some money and somebody gave me a bit of paper, and at the bottom of the bit of paper it said, “Bid offer spread 5%.” So I happened to say, “What does that mean?” And he said, “That means we take 5% of your money before we start investing it. I thought, “Screw this, I’m going to set up our own bank.” And we’ll make sure there isn’t any jargon like that to hide the real charges. We’ll be a very transparent, a very open bank. Virgin Money is now the prime challenger bank in Britain. And I didn’t know… My experience with banks was bank managers coming and banging on my door and trying to put us out of business. So I didn’t know a lot about it, but I’ve found people who know a lot about it to run it, and left them get on with it.