Monday, January 30, 2006

Little Brothers Are Watching

I was thinking about cell phone cameras. I think in a lot of ways it's a good idea; it finally gives people the option to communicate via pictures instead of voice or text, and quite often that's more useful. They do come with downsides, though. A year ago, I remember reading an article about magazine "theft" via cellular cameras, that people in bookstores were photographing classified ad listings or recipes or articles from magazines, and leaving without buying the magazines. We've also seen news stories about camera phones being banned in locker rooms and hospitals for privacy reasons. It just occurred to me the other big downside to camera phones. We've got a creepy societal gremlin about Big Brother watching us; we don't want our privacy invaded by the government watching us through street-corner cameras, e-mail or phone monitoring, internet monitoring. But we've got another sneakier privacy risk: imagine everyone in the world carrying a camera with them, always available to snap a picture or shoot some video of anything that looks interesting. Then they send the picture to a friend or post it on their weblog. The government's not watching, but everyone else is; you're instant reality TV. That's what cellular cameras do: anything you do in public is instantly more public. You're not having a fight with your spouse in a McDonald's; you're having it in front of anyone with a high-speed internet connection. You're not kissing your girlfriend at a stoplight; you're kissing them in front of everyone who reads the website of the guy in the next car. You're not insulting a panhandler on a street corner; you're doing it online. These three examples, by the way? All on moblog. And there are entire websites devoted to up-the-skirt / down-the-shirt camera phone pictures of strangers. I'm thinking the bigger immediate threat to privacy isn't Big Brother, it's the millions of Little Brothers.

Art, maybe

We took down an art exhibit today at work, and I had to leave an empty case out to load in another exhibit tomorrow. I just e-mailed our Artist Services Manager about what to do with the empty case. I said:

I don't want to just leave the one empty case up in the Artsgarden; maybe I'll put a sign in it. Something like:

BLANK SPACE
an interactive art experience
Art is intuitive and personal. The potential art in this case
allows each viewer to fill the mental space with their own ideas
and structures of art, while at the same time challenging their
preconceived notions of the form versus the meaning of art. The
viewers then become participants in filling the empty space
with their own ideological thought-forms. Each participant then
brings their socio-cultural ideals into being through the medium
of the non-existing art.

Think people'd buy it? :-)

Friday, January 27, 2006

Privacy

I just heard a radio commentator talking about privacy rights, and that the U.S. Constitution doesn't guarantee them, and that the President's crew can listen in on anyone's phone calls if they think it's necessary. I'm sure this includes potential terrorists, but in the last few years, they've deemed it necessary to spy on librarians, animal-rights groups, conservation groups, and people attending peace protests. And now they're fine with the next slide down the slippery slope: no warrants or court orders necessary, just listen when you want. This was on Redneck Radio, or whatever show precedes Rush Limbaugh on WIBC; they broadcast from a studio on Monument Circle, and you can hear them when you walk by. The oldest, dumbest argument against privacy rights boils down to, "if you're not doing anything wrong, what are you worried about?" This assumes that "illegal" and "wrong" are the same thing and, worse, "wrong" and "private" are the same thing. Something doesn't need to be wrong to be private. I'm tempted to grab a video camera and follow the guy to his car. Or maybe put a webcam shot of his house online 24/7. I'm assuming he wouldn't be happy about it. Why not? He's not doing anything wrong, is he?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

All 24

We finished watching 24. It was enjoyable and entertaining, and was good at maintaining a pretty constant level of tension. As plot issues resolved, new ones sprung up. And the show didn't really wrap up until the last five seconds, if it wrapped up at all; it ended on a note of tension, too. I think we'll have to get season two from the library and check it out next.
I've hit the point where I don't think I can watch television any more. It's so nice, watching it commercial-free on my own schedule on DVD. And, it's easier to find out if you don't like something if you can watch a few episodes all in a row. Laura watches Arrested Development, but I really can't stomach it. I watch TV, in part, to get out of myself for a while: to experience other places, other people's lives. I think it'd be, if not always fun, at least interesting to live on a Firefly, or the Enterprise, or in Sunnydale. I think it'd be cool to be witty and clever like Mal or Jayne or Angel or Zander. I think it's a nice escape to temporarily be in Jack Bauer's head. But none of the characters in Arrested Development are enviable or appealing or respectable in any way. It has funny moments, but it's not witty or clever; mostly, it's the emotional version of watching a guy on crutches trying to navigate an icy staircase. It's a bit like Parker Lewis, substituting hateful, painfully dysfunctional family members for clever high school kids -- except that I really liked Parker Lewis. It even had amusing bad guys. I remember watching Reservoir Dogs and realizing that there were no good guys. It made for an interesting movie; with no clear-cut bad guy/good guy dichotomy, all of the characters had a kind of depth. There were still antagonists and protagonists, but they weren't divided by good/bad. Arrested Development takes the opposite approach: there are no bad guys, so all the trauma comes from the protagonist's family. It hurts my soul to spend any time with these characters.
Anyway. I'm heavily into TV on DVD, and I'm looking forward to catching some more occasionally; any recommendations?

Friday, January 20, 2006

Time sheets, updated

So, I'm still filling out a time sheet at work. And, I'm still making up the numbers on it. Just for kicks, I filled out my actual hours worked for the two-week period (89, it happens), but our accountant e-mailed me to tell me to revise it so it came to 80. And, she noticed that I didn't use holiday time for the New Year's holiday. That would be because I actually worked on Monday the 2nd. But she still wants me to write down my 89 actual hours worked as 72 hours, plus 8 hours of holiday. I just hope that when my comp time rolls around, I don't get in trouble for claiming 80 hours when I only work 70.
In the name of comedy, I'm not actually writing down five eight-hour days per week. I'm writing down my actual correct hours, and putting in a negative number on a day I didn't work so the total still comes to 80. The first two-week period, I worked -17 hours on a Sunday; the past two weeks, it's -11 hours. I don't think she'll ever notice; apparently, a spreadsheet does a total for her of vacation hours and hours worked, and she probably never looks at the actual spreadsheet. I think I might start writing down a pair of 40-hour Mondays per time sheet if it becomes too much trouble to actually track my hours and add negative numbers so the math works out. Because, really, once they say my time sheet doesn't need to reflect my actual hours worked, what does it matter exactly how inaccurate it is?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

sixteen of 24

Laura and I both had most of a day off yesterday, so we spent it on the couch watching the first season of 24 on DVD. We only made it to episode 16 (3pm to 4pm). It's pretty good so far; the thought I've had a few times is, "how can they make this last to 24 episodes?", but then something dramatic happens and new avenues open. It's interesting how they keep a large number of interlacing plot lines going. I haven't watched a TV series since Angel, because none of them seemed appealing. But this one is pretty darn cool.
Though I gotta say, it might have just hit a turning point; ep 16 ends with one of the main characters developing amnesia. That's pretty hard-core shark jumpage, even if you build up to it.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

What's on television?

I'm looking into the options for maybe getting cable. What I really want is high-speed internet at home, but it's pretty darn expensive to do that without some sort of package deal. So we might end up getting basic cable with our high bandwidth. Meh.
So, if we're suddenly going to have the capability to watch television, what's really on? There's not much that interests me. Reality TV? Pass. Same with daytime television and most evening television. I'm just not into sitcoms, and cop dramas are pretty overdone. I'm somewhat happy with our current arrangement, actually. We can watch anything we want, as long as it 's on DVD. No commercials, yay. And things are hitting DVD pretty quickly these days. Laura's watching Arrested Development, which is hitting the home market about one season behind broadcast, and we just got the first season of 24 from the library. I've heard good things, and I'm curious about it. I might post a review when we watch it.
Did I mention, we got a new television the day after Christmas! Our old one was free; we basically rescued it from a trash can. It lasted us two years and died before Thanksgiving. We spent a whopping $250, and got an open-box display-model 32" television. No hi-def, no plasma, no DLP, just a television. Our old TV finally died around Thanksgiving, so we spent a month completely televisionless. We even debated picking up a surround-sound DVD player. But, our television's upstairs in a pretty small room, at an odd angle to the couch; there's no good place to put the speakers for surround sound. So we're sticking with the stereo speakers built into the television.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

No fatal armpit maladies, whew.

Went to the doctor yesterday to have my odd lump looked at. On the little questionnaire you fill out when you arrive, I wrote: "Acute armpit edema, possible armpititis. Possibly requiring armpitotomy, or even armpitectomy." The nursing staff found it amusing. It turns out it's probably a lymphatic infection, so I'm on generic keflex for a week or two. The lump should start going away in two weeks, or maybe even a month; once the infection's gone, it'll still take a while for my body to digest the lump. If it gets worse, I go back and we start exploring the tests-and-surgery option.
But for now, it's antibiotics and hopeful thinking. I'm not worried. And I didn't even need my overnight bag!

Friday, January 13, 2006

potentially fatal armpit diseases?

So I have to go to the doctor today. I'm nervous about going to the doctor for actual problems; this might have started a few years ago when I went to get my hand x-rayed to see if I broke something, and ended up leaving the hospital seven days later. That happened when Laura was in a production week, so she couldn't visit much at all. And it was also really inconvenient in a practical sense: it took three days before I could get a contact lens case, and I didn't have a toothbrush the first night. I spent a week in the sweatpants (with the Bukti Negara tiger-and-eagle) I had in the back seat of my car. And, worst of all, I had no reading material. So this time I've got an overnight bag in my car, just in case. A few books, spare Axim battery, some knitting, socks, underwear, and sweats, plus my inhaler. Ready for the long haul, yeah!
So, my medical issue. Two weeks ago, I started developing a tiny pain under my right arm when I moved. This past Monday, I had a lump that was barely visible if you looked just right under good light. This morning it looks like I've got a golf ball stuck under my skin, and it's getting more solid and less squishy. I don't think it's anything too bad, but it's getting worse and making me nervous. So it's doctor time, and I'm apprehensive. Don't get me wrong: my doctor's a great guy, and good at what he does. It's just that I'm entering the unknown. And modern medicine is still pretty barbaric, if you really think about it. And it's also expensive, even if you've got insurance. If I didn't have insurance, I wouldn't be worrying about it yet; it'd have to be baseball-sized and making me keep my arm out at an odd angle before I'd go to the doctor. That's why insurance is good, and why the moral hazard argument fails. It doesn't factor in preventitive care or the value of catching things early. But that's a different story.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

wha?

Laura has all of the Dance Kaleidoscope performance music on mini-disc; it's a good format for performance. It's convenient for playback, it can be programmed with auto-pauses, you can name tracks. But for rehearsal, they need the music on CD. So a few times, I've gone through the somewhat messy process for converting mini-disc to CD audio. She asked me to do another one today, and I finally asked the obvious question: "All this music started on CD before it went to minidisc. Where's the original?"
"It's in my boss's CD collection somewhere, but he doesn't know exactly where."
"So, I'm spending a tedious hour or so doing this converting to save him the trouble of digging through his damn CD collection?!"
"Yeah, more or less."
"Well, excuse me while I hop right on that."
Unless they've got some really good excuse, I think I'm done with the minidisc conversion. Or, I should just charge them studio rate. I'll even give them a discount.

time sheets, sort of

So, the news came down this morning that I'm now expected to fill out a time sheet at work every week. Everyone else has already been filling out time sheets -- I think they're "project tracking sheets" -- for a while, so the PTBs can tell how many person-hours are consumed by different functions at the Arts Council. It's similar to what's done in a lot of offices.
But we're not an office at the Artsgarden. We're more of a theater. We work odd hours, and they don't always add up to an even forty hours a week. In fact, they usually don't. But we're salaried based on forty hours a week, so, apparently, the time sheets have to come to exactly forty. Regardless of whether or not we actually worked that much or that little.
Hunh? So, we're supposed to fill out inherently inaccurate time sheets for important tracking and record-keeping purposes. And lie to make the numbers work out right. I'm glad this came down from on high; if I had thought of it myself, I'd feel like I was committing fraud.

Monday, January 02, 2006

pithy quote?

I read this a few months ago:
"A developer is someone who wants to despoil pristine land to build houses. A conservationist is someone who bought their house last year."
I'm paraphrasing, of course. But I can't remember who said it first. Anyone know?

Football fans

A few important football games take place on New Year's Day. Especially this year, when wild-card playoff spots were up for grabs and important players played their last games. As we caught the end of the Redskins game yesterday, I couldn't help but wonder, "Who cares?"
I mean, really. It's completely artificial. Football is a bigger sport than, say, air hockey, even though air hockey has more players. It's a bigger sport than the decathlon, even though decathletes are better athletes. And individuals who don't even play the game have amassed thousands of dollars worth of team jerseys and hats and assorted memorabilia. Having Denver Broncos shirts with ten different players' names and numbers on the back isn't considered that eccentric. Yet having a similarly-valued collection of pewter Dungeons and Dragons miniatures is. I've known people to seethe with righteous anger over bad calls by referees -- people who, if you tell them that the U.S. recently rejected the international land mine ban, say, "so what?".
And, the act of watching football is pretty mind-numbing. A one-hour game takes three hours. And it's not even close to one hour of action. Here's some math: the Colts-Cardinals game yesterday lasted three hours. The game contained 121 plays (not all of which were televised). That works out to 90 seconds per play. And even a long play is under ten seconds. That's a pretty small amount of useful time. I've tried hard to care about football, but I've finally realized I really don't. What football players do is of absolutely no concern to me. Their fans? That's another story. We're still paying the "temporary" tax increase instituted twenty years ago to build the Hoosier Dome, and now we're adding another tax to it to build a new dome. And we're doing it to pretty widespread support (which would probably be lessened if you called the budget bill "The Irsay Welfare/Extortion Capitulation Act"). Sure, I understand that it's important for a city to have pro sports franchises; it helps attract people to the city and brings in money. But, really, the biggest chunk of that money ends up in just a few pockets. It's like convention business; if you own a hotel, conventions make you a fortune. If you work at a hotel, conventions mean you work harder for the same money.
Okay, done whining now.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

eclectic tastes

I did a little organizing over the holidays, and while digging through stacks of books and CDs I noticed how much my tastes have changed since my early college days. I used to dislike whole genres of music. (aside: http://www.brunching.com/loreallmusic.html) Now, if it's good rap, or good country, I'm happy to hear it. My sole music criterion is that it not suck. An eclectic taste in music is also an education. Music is a primary expression of culture, and listening to music helps you understand cultures you're not directly familiar with. Listening to a few hours of country music goes a long way towards understanding how George W got elected President.
And the same with literature. My tastes used to be pretty solidly thriller/horror/sci-fi/fantasy. Now I read just about anything that doesn't suck. I've still got favorite authors: Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Janet Evanovich, Larry Niven, David Morell, and a host of others. But I'll tend to read anything that comes with a hefty recommendation. Though I still have an instinctive aversion to "literary fiction". After all the required reading to get an English degree, and after all the required analysis of and writing about the required reading, I tend to be a little mistrustful of Important Books. The job of academia and the literary establishment isn't to decide what's good; that just starts a long series of discussions about how, exactly, you define "good". And, whatever they come up with, the answer is never that good equals what people enjoy reading. Critics tend to say that Atlas Shrugged and Ulysses are good, while the Harry Potter novels are bad. I didn't even make it through Atlas Shrugged, and I saw no redeeming features of Ulysses that justified the miserable experience of reading it. But I rather enjoyed Harry Potter's adventures. Sure, the writing wasn't fantastic (I experienced involuntary muscle twitches every time I ran across the phrase "dustbin-lid-sized hands"), but it's a children's book. The writing's supposed to be clear and descriptive, and it is. And it tells a good story. I've enjoyed too many books critics hated, and hated too many books that critics raved about, to pay any attention to what they say. But I'll read anything a friend recommends, regardless of author or genre.