Sunday, October 26, 2003

Cell phone terrorism

I don't understand this, so I'll ask and see if it makes sense to any of my readers (both of you!). Laura got on a plane today, and I was thinking about the rule that says you must turn off all electronic devices on the airplane before takeoff. Why? We're not talking about ham radio sets; they mean CD players, Palm Pilots, everything. Somehow digital watches slip under their radar, though if they had an off button they'd probably want them off too. My twenty-dollar coffee maker has an FCC notice stamped into the plastic that says it doesn't emit harmful interference and accepts all harmful interference generated by other electronics; am I to understand that it meets higher manufacturing standards than a hundred-million-dollar airplane? People voluntarily fly on planes that don't cope well with a Sony Walkman ?!? With any other piece of equipment anywhere ever, this would be considered a serious design flaw. Why does this seem normal for airplanes? And, does Air Force One have this problem? What poor intern gets stuck with the job of telling Condi and Rummy to turn their laptops off at takeoff? I hope the terrorists never figure out about the damage they can cause with small personal electronic devices: "And then, while the plane taxis to the runway, we all turn on our phones! BWAHAHAHAHA!"

More trivia. As part of the Terrorist Information Awareness program (formerly the Total Information Awareness program; renamed because that sounded a little Orwellian, even for Dubya), all web pages get scanned and sorted by keyword by TIA computers. Writing this probably got me a nice comfy spot on some terrorism watch list. Hi, Big Brother!

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Sound Guy Random Thoughts

I'm working just one job now, and I have been since I started full time at the Artsgarden. It's been nice; I figured out that it's my first time with only one job since 1990. I was at the Warren Performing Arts Center for almost 12 years; during my Warren years, I went to school full time, worked at Holy Spirit full time, and worked at the Cabaret. I haven't set foot in Warren for over a year now. I don't miss the job at all, but there were aspects of it that were nice: I enjoyed the money (still my best hourly rate ever), I felt that working with the students gave me perspective, I felt like I could be a good influence on the stage crew kids, and I liked working on the road shows. I don't miss the administration at all, I don't miss dance contests, I don't miss the evil choir department.

I started thinking about Warren today when I noticed something else I miss about the job: having a sound booth. For the last year and a half at the Artsgarden, I've been running sound from a desk that's essentially in the middle of a pedestrian pathway. It's nice and social, but I miss having a room of my own. This came up when I was playing sound guy at the auditorium of the Indiana Historical Society. It's a nice setup; they have all the gear they need for everything they do, and not a lot of extra crap. They have an impressive video system, a fully-digital touch-screen patch bay, and a big Barco projector. I get a lot of variety at the Artsgarden--lots of different musicians and performers, and an impressive variety of rentals. But it's nice to have some variety of venue as well.

One of my favorite things/pet peeves about running sound at the Artsgarden is the BS guys. I'll be running sound for a show, and they'll watch over my shoulder for a minute before they say something like, "I've got one of those (gesturing at the sound board) at home." Half the time, they add: "But mine's bigger/better/newer/cooler." I get one of these every two or three weeks. There are people who have cool recording gear at home, but they're pretty few. So I fire off the BS Detector Question: "How many watts per channel?" (which doesn't apply to sound boards, only to home stereo amplifiers). The guys who really have a home recording studio tell me they have real gear at home, not a stereo system. Then we talk shop, which is always fun. But it almost never happens. If the guy answers with a number to the BSDQ, I know I'm talking home stereo, which is fun too. What I really enjoy, though, are they guys who start telling me they've got three 32-channel sound boards just like mine, with one hooked up to their 96-inch plasma screen TV, another running the twelve-speaker sound system in their den, and another in their basement recording studio. Are they trying to BS me? I'm the sound guy. I know better. I wonder if doctors get this, too: "I'm a doctor too, man! I've got scalpels all over my wall, and a twenty-inch stethoscope, just like yours but much bigger, and in stereo!". I suppose it makes them happy, so I usually let them ramble on. But it's occasionally irritating.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Matrix Reloaded: It Sucks.

Laura and I just watched The Matrix Reloaded on DVD together. SPOILER ALERT. I had seen it on the big screen, and I really didn't like it. But on the small screen it wasn't as bad as I remembered, and Laura liked it. I suspect the difference between her initial reaction to the movie and mine stems from the fact that I went into it with really high expectations--the original Matrix was one of my favorite movies ever, and I anticipated great things from the sequel. Laura, on the other hand, was conditioned by four months of my griping about how much I didn't like the movie; her lower expectations were easier to meet. We both want to see the third one; with my expectations sufficiently low, it might be good. Looking at it again, I could find amusing some of the things that bothered me the first time, like Morpheus's speech. The plot holes are still there. And some of the things that were mildly annoying the first time around were painfully irritating the second time; first on the list is the music that plays during the drawn-out, ridiculous fight scene between Neo and the hundred Smiths on the playground. The sex/dance scene was almost funny the second time around. And I was a little impressed with how un-sexy Carrie-Ann Moss (Trinity) was in Reloaded. Sexy wardrobe, but absolutely no heat. The highway chase was great, though. For those of you who've seen the sequel, here's my partial list of questions and plot holes:
  • Okay, so Neo is The One and can blast agents into their component bits and bytes, as he did with Smith in the first movie. Why doesn't he ever do it again? In fact, why fight with martial arts at all? If you can stop bullets, you should be able to hit someone hard enough that it's not a real fight.
  • So, the Sentinels at the end had bombs, which was apparently a new thing for them. The bomb was self-guiding; why not just EMP it out of the sky?
  • For that matter, the battle mech was cool, guarding the doors of Zion as they close. But why not just plant another EMP device outside in the tunnel by the door? It's such an effective weapon, why not use it more?
  • Why is it that all the effective weapons against the sentinels are ranged weapons, and all the sentinels' weapons are close-range weapons? Why don't these "intelligent" machines find some technology to cope with this discrepancy, other than the miniature-sentinel bombs?
  • The key system for "programmer access" is explained as strictly mechanical. Again, Neo being The One, why did this whole complicated mess about doors and keys and hallways apply to him? The power to shape the virtual world around him with his thoughts, and he can't pick a lock?
Enough whining. I'm looking forward to the last film in the trilogy, albeit with seriously low expectations. I'll tell you what I think when I see it!

Sunday, October 12, 2003

In New York!

Here I am in New York City, at Carnegie Hall, and I didn't even practice! :-)

Here are my random Palm Pilot scribblings from Laura's and my trip to New York:

On the southwest (?) corner of Central Park is a big silver framework globe in front of Trump tower. It seemed really familiar; I think it might have been the insignia for the bad guy in The World is Not Enough. Also on this corner of the park are Columbus Circle and the USS Maine monument.

I found my first crepe stand since Paris, also at the same corner of Central Park. It was great, and a bit of a flashback; I went an entire day in Paris eating nothing but crepes from crepe stands. During Mike's and my four days in Paris I managed to work my way through the entire collection of toppings, which included the surprise favorite "Nutella and banana". Today I went for the standard strawberry jam crepe, and it was great. They don't fold them the same way they did in Paris; these are folded to be eaten with a fork on a plate, whereas in France they're folded to make them easy to carry around and eat by hand. I didn't notice they were folded different until I tried to pick it up and eat it. I spent the next half hour walking around with sticky hands looking for a public bathroom.

I had pretty low expectations for the bathrooms in Central Park. Yesterday Laura and I went to a Starbucks in the East Village (?) so she could use the bathroom, and it was less pleasant than most of the state park outhouses in Indiana. So I was worried about what I would find in a public restroom in Central Park. I was pleasantly surprised when I finally found an open restroom, at the Boat House. It was clean, well-stocked, well-maintained, and had no grafitti or vandalism. It was the fourth restroom I checked in the Park, and the first one that was actually open. But at least it was clean!

I'm amazed by Central Park. The big rocks that stick up everywhere are really neat, and it's not at all flat; the rest of the city seems to sit on a level plain, but the park is full of hills and lakes and walking trails and lots of bikes. There are roads, but they're mostly for bikes and horse carriages. I only saw one car on the road, and it seriously looked like it didn't belong. An amazing amount of green space, and not a lot of people. I suspect it's busier on the weekends, but on a Thursday midday, it's not very crowded.

I got off the subway today at the Rockerfeller Center stop, but I was underawed. I was expecting the big plaza with trees, but it was just a bunch of office buildings. I found out later that the plaza was on the other side of the office buildings; close, but not quite there.

I'm pretty caffeinated these days, so I figured I should stop and get some coffee and snack food before the caffeine headache settles in. So I stopped and ate a giant chocolate-covered chocolate chip cookie with my coffee at a cafe' on Times Square. It was a great cookie. Usually when I eat a store-bought cookie I find myself thinking that I could do better. But this was a cookie on a par with what I make on my really good days. And did I mention: covered in good dark chocolate!

As for Times Square, it's intensely touristy and commercial, and cleaner than I expected. It didn't look much like I thought it would, but my only mental picture of Times Square is the aerial view you see on TV on New Year's Eve. That was my experience with a lot of New York: it looked familiar because I watch a lot of movies. The New York Public Library (Ghostbusters), Grand Central Station (a dozen or so movies), Central Park (another pile of movies): lots of NYC looks familiar.

I must look friendly and/or knowledgable; I had two tourists ask me for directions.

The subway wasn't bad at all; I found where I needed to go in a hurry, and everything is well-labeled. Of course, it IS designed for the average New Yorker, the same group of people who apparently need a key that says:
on their recycling schedules. And I liked the fact that it's easy to read while you ride; if I worked in NYC, I'd have all that extra reading time. I'm surprised more people on the subways don't read.

I forgot my cell phone; I might have to go back to Susie and Jeff's place and get it. Maybe take a nap, then come back downtown (uptown? midtown?) to the Met.

I asked a guy on a subway train for directions today. He looked pretty ordinary--an older gentleman, dressed well, friendly. I had no advance warning that he was actually speaking the words of Satan. I started in Manhattan at 81st Street next to the Museum of Natural History. I was trying to get to lower Brooklyn, and this guy sent me to the Bronx. The Indy metaphor would be: starting downtown, asking for directions to Carmel, and being sent to Greenwood. I eventually found my way, but it added over half an hour to my trip.

We went to the East Village tonight; Laura and Suzie were meeting people for a bachelorette party, and I stayed in the neighborhood so I could escort them home (that is, do the guy thing). I had a great time. I walked probably four or five miles, visited SoHo, found out where to get good drugs, got invited to a wild party, and ate the worst Italian food I've had ever, even worse than the reheated TV dinner some guy served Mike and me in Venice. I'm referring to it as Pirelli Parmesan, because it sounds more Italian than Michelin Parmesan. This was at a restaurant called The Cloister. It looked nice--they had a nice, big outdoor patio with vines growing over it, lit by Christmas lights. I was seated at a table near the street entrance for the patio, next to rows of plants growing in raised beds on the ground. I would take a bite of my "veal" parmesan, chew the good stuff off, look around to make sure the wait staff wasn't lurking, then spit the gristle into the flowerbed. They charged me for my coke refill, and were kidding about taking Discover card, and gave me the right bill but rang someone else's order on my credit card. But they were friendly about letting me stay a while and read, and they made a great mochaccino.

Laura here: I should have told him to stay away from The Cloister -- yes, believe it or not, out of the 52,000 restaurants in New York City I have eaten there (used to live in the East Village where it is located....). That particular restaurant does stand out in my memory as being the WORST restaurant experience of my six or so years of living in the City! Truly, I didn't think it survived the seven years I've been gone from there...ah well, sorry my huzzzband!

General NYC advice: when using landmarks to remember where you're going, DON'T use a Starbucks as a landmark. I did, and got lost, before I realized that there's a spot in Astor Place where you can see three Starbucks (if you count the one in Barnes & Noble). Oops.

Was on the subway with Laura this morning, and it was a little crowded. But, I finally saw a significant number of readers. Twelve people reading, only 3 in English; 3 in Hebrew, 5 in Chinese, 1 in some vaguely Cyrillic language. Good to be multicultural.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

New York: a little apprehensive

I'm going to New York with Laura next week. I'm kinda apprehensive about the trip; I have a rather negative mental picture of NYC. My only prior experience was a short bit of day trip with Laura when we were passing through on our way to another wedding. We spent three hours in a traffic jam apparently caused by one car broken down in the far right lane of a four-lane road; in Indy, this would've barely slowed traffic down. The drivers were rude to the point of being dangerous. Then we got to where we were going and, apparently through some sort of miracle, found a parking space only a block from where we were going. We were about to get out of the car when Laura and I had this exchange:
L: "You can't leave your jacket in the car!"
J: "Why not?"
L: "Someone will break the window and steal your jacket!" (I distinctly remember the "will", not a "might")
J (looking around nervously): "Is this a bad neighborhood?"
L: "No, this is a GOOD neighborhood!"

And I'm thinking, "People voluntarily live here?!?"

As a Midwesterner, I keep hearing bad things about New York City and its people, so I'm worried about the trip. Wish me luck!

Laura here: What Jeff neglected to also tell you about this particular wedding trip -- we got through Pennsylvania into New Jersey about an hour and a half outside of the City when we stopped for gas. I asked him for the keys so that I could drive through New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. He was being a really sweet boyfriend and kept saying, "No, honey, really. I've got a few more hours of driving left in me...." (I think we were eight hours away from destination at this point). But, my New Jersey-big-hair-girl-'TUDE came out in me and I demanded the keys of him.....Five hours later when we were in Connecticut after our traffic jam, mini-stopover to affirm that the jacket should not be left in the backseat, and the slalom driving conditions on the Major Deegan and I-95, Jeff was grateful that I drove him through New York. :)