Saturday, September 30, 2006

On (not) writing

I'm trying to spend as much time as possible writing. It's hard; my life is full of distractions, of things that aren't writing that I can be doing at any given moment. I've got movies and TV on DVD, I've got laundry to fold, I've got a pile of good video games, I've got household chores galore, and I've got four inside cats that constantly clamor for my attention.

The cats were a problem, because they all like loafing in my lap whenever I sit down. But I've figured out how to deal with them: I'm training them to lie down in such a way that they aren't in the way of my keyboarding. As an added perk, in those breaks between sentences petting the lap cat is very calming. And the cats are good listeners if I need to work through something out loud.

I think at this point, my biggest distractions are on the computer itself; I don't even have to leave my chair to indulge in time-wasting. I've started keeping the play discs for my games out of easy reach. With some of my games, I've even managed to misplace the play discs; though it was unintentional, it helps a lot knowing that even if I really wanted to play Rainbow Six, I'd have to spend a lot of time digging through stuff to find the CD. And that's a lot harder to rationalize than gaming itself.

A bigger problem is all the stuff that's easier to rationalize. Writing here on Random Thoughts almost counts as Writing. E-mailing is definitely a kind of writing, too. Reading good books is writing-related; I can let myself be inspired by others. Reading the blogs of professional authors is almost the same as writing, isn't it? Organizing a "Writing Music" playlist on my iTunes feels somewhat writing-related too. And I definitely need a snack and some tea; I can't be expected to write when I'm hungry or thirsty....

My other struggle is fighting all the ways I distract myself during the actual writing process. The list of tangential distractions would have to include:
  • "I had better make sure I'm using this word right; where's my dictionary?"
  • "Writing problem. Let's flip through my e-book collection and see how other writers solve this problem."
  • "I just had an idea for something else. I should stop and make detailed notes."
  • "I'm getting frustrated with this passage. I should take a break and do something else for a while."
  • "I should re-read everything I've written so far. It might need some quick editing."
I actually really enjoy writing. But it's hard work. And I'm fundamentally lazy. So it's always easier to distract myself than get down to the fun -- but frustrating and difficult -- work of putting words on paper.

But I'm getting better about it. I owe a debt to the voice in the back of my head that says, "you should be writing," whenever I engage in a time-wasting activity. It's an easy voice to heed, partially because it's always right. And partially because the voice won't shut up. It starts as a gentle reminder. I'll start up a game of Splinter Cell, and I hear the whisper: "just so you know, time spent playing games is time spent not writing." Five minutes into the game the voice starts getting louder and more insistent. Another five minutes, and the voice starts singing. By the time I hit the twenty-minute mark the voice is a full choir, with the sopranos arpeggiating the word "writing". I think a few times I've gotten Sam Fisher's ass shot off because the embassy guards were alerted to his presence by a full 200-member chorus chanting in rounds, "you should be writing, turn off that game, your word processor awaits!"

I've also started using non-writing moments as exercise breaks. If I notice myself spending time at the computer feeling blocked or distracted, I make myself get out of my comfortable chair and exercise a little. A full workout would be another distraction in itself, so I just do a few minutes of push-ups or crunches or dynamic tension exercises, or I just stretch. Then I sit down to write again. The theory is that even if I'm not writing, I'm at least getting in shape. And eventually my dislike of push-ups will condition me to write more.

Okay, enough distracting myself. Back to the Actual Writing, wish me luck!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The New Lighting

I just had a problem-solving experience that I thought I'd relate, mostly because I feel all clever about it. I've spent the last month or so trying to write what's essentially a device driver file for the new LED lighting I got at work. They're so new, the manufacturer doesn't have drivers yet; my fixtures' serial numbers are "00001" thru "00048". The lights function, but I couldn't control them from my lighting console without the driver files. And, they look cool. See for yourself:

But being able to actually control them from my Hog 1000 would be so much nicer than having to crawl around to the controllers and manually change colors. So I decided to write my own drivers. It didn't seem too hard: each fixture plugs into a controller, each controller can handle six fixtures, and each controller also handles seven channels of effects for the fixtures. Factor in that the controllers have five modes (each requiring its own set of drivers), and that I have two kinds of controllers for two kinds of fixtures, and I figured I'd be done in around a thousand lines of text.

That wasn't the case. It turns out the manufacturer has a good reason for not releasing a driver file: you can't write one. I figured out after much trial and error that the metaphor the console uses to think about lighting units doesn't apply to the new fixtures. It can't conceive of separate fixtures grouped into a single-address controller. So instead of treating the fixtures like parts of a single entity, I'm writing the code pretending that each fixture head has an independent address and writing separate code for the master effects channels. All told, I'm getting it done for around 120 very concise lines of code. The trade-off is that setting it up on the light board is a little more complex. But compared to the troubleshooting process for the eight builds of driver files I tested, a little patching is nothing.

So that's my dive into tech geekery for the day. For the non-technical, I added the pretty picture so it wouldn't be a complete waste of your time. And, you'll notice I didn't post a link to the fixture's page at the manufacturer's website. That's because they're so new, the manufacturer doesn't have one of my two fixture types online at all. And the other one still has the pre-production specs online; the pinouts and connector types aren't even correct on the online user manual.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Gaffe, anyone?

A bit of a nasty House race going on in Illinois. During a debate, the GOP candidate, Pete Roskam, accused his opponent, Tammy Duckworth, of wanting to "cut and run" in Iraq. Great choice of phrase, dude: Mrs. Duckworth lost both legs in Iraq. My long-distance esprit de l'escalier fired up and cranked out a pile of witty comebacks; hers was to simply state that she couldn't believe he'd say that to her.

I'm not sure why this isn't making headlines. When Trent Lott said something equally tasteful about Strom Thurmond's run for president, the fallout cost him his leadership position in the Senate. I think the difference is that Roskam's attack doesn't specifically offend any interest groups, just common sensibilities and good taste. With nobody to spearhead the charge (especially not the pansies in the Democratic party), it gets brushed aside. Dems, you could really run with this one; grow a spine and don't let it slide!

Monday, September 25, 2006

The travel delay

We weren't happy to leave Murphin Ridge yesterday. We were even making noise about sticking around another day, figuring out how to arrange our schedules so we wouldn't have to leave until Monday morning. But we decided to be responsible and get home on time. We loaded up the Jeep, hopped in, and discovered that it wouldn't start. We took this as an omen and checked to see if our cabin was available for another night. Unfortunately, it was already booked, so I had to actually figure out what was wrong with the Jeep. After much playing under the hood, I figured out the spark plug wires were wet. We finally got the car started; until the wires dried out, it sounded like someone had wired a bug zapper under the hood. All's well now, but I get to give the Jeep a tune-up and change the plugs and wires sometime this week.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Review: The Murphin Ridge Inn

Laura and I spent our anniversary at the Murphin Ridge Inn in southwestern Ohio. Our long weekend was completely enjoyable, made more so by the wonderful bed-and-breakfast Laura found for us. Darryl and Sherry, the owners, were great hosts, friendly and attentive and clearly enjoying what they do. As an added bonus, they didn't grouse at all about our mild quirkiness -- like me showing up at closing time asking if they had any honey I could take back to our cabin, or the fact that we always split an entree, or our strange off-menu requests, or the fact that we drink a lot of tea.

We were in one of the newer cabins (the Celebration Cabin), and it was a perfect spot for a getaway. Too many B&Bs have ornate, lavishly decorated rooms crammed with pouf and chintz and uncomfortable antique furniture. The Murphin Ridge Inn cabins are comfortable, spacious, and almost undecorated. No art graces the walls, no strange antiquities fill the corners. And, as a special touch, the cabins don't have televisions. It's a simple, friendly place to spend a few days.

I don't want to make the cabins sound spartan; they're luxurious. But it's a practical luxury, not given to ornamentation. The cabins all have gas fireplaces and two-person hot tubs, the beds are comfortable, and terry-cloth robes wait for you in the armoire. The in-room coffee is decent (the coffee in the dining room is excellent), and the coffee maker has a timer so you can wake up to hot coffee. The lights are on dimmers, and the shower has a huge rainfall shower head. The chairs on the front and back porch are comfortable for long stretches of loafing, and the back porch manages to be both open and private. They paid much attention to the important stuff that makes a place nice, and paid no attention whatsoever to the ostentatious ornamentation that, for tasteless people, define luxury. I respect that.

We ate all of our meals at the Inn. The breakfasts were yummy and the portion size was perfect. Friday morning's pancakes with fresh, chunky apple sauce were so good I had to inquire about the recipe. The breakfasts are accompanied by fresh fruit, homemade breads (our three days featured biscuits, baked cinnamon toast, and whole-grain wheat toast), homemade granola, and fresh-squeezed juices. The boxed lunches were a perfect size to split between the two of us, and they threw in an extra apple and beverage. The sandwiches, thick and meaty on homemade bread, reminded me of the signature sandwiches at the now-closed Brother Juniper's in downtown Indy. Dinners were likewise enjoyable. The menu was somewhat more limited than a traditional restaurant -- chicken scallopine, pork chops, New York strip steak, vegetarian ravioli, a fish of the day, and a shrimp dish -- but everything we tried was excellent. The desserts were great, and the apple crisp is one of the best I've ever had.

The walk from our cabin to the Inn took us next to the fire pit. It sits in the middle of a clearing, and every night, even in the rain, Darryl made sure a fire was blazing. We spent at least a few minutes every night sitting around the fire chatting with our fellow guests. On a clear night, you can lean back and see a million stars stretching across the sky. I didn't realize Laura had never seen the Milky Way before; I'm glad I got to share it with her.

The Inn sits on a large plot of land and has its own hiking trails. In a clearing a few hundred yards through the woods from our cabin is Stonehedge (picture Stonehenge, at 1/20 scale), which we thought was hilarious. Even more so, when we found out the owners have never seen This Is Spinal Tap. We did a lot of walking on Thursday, which worked out well; it rained all day Friday and Saturday. The rain wasn't bad, though. It inspired us to stay inside (or on the porch) a lot and spend some nice, relaxing quiet time together.

Two of my favorite things at Murphin Ridge were Red Dog and Chester the cat. Red Dog is the Inn's adopted dog. He was fun, but a little antisocial; he liked women a lot more than men. Chester and the other cats have apparently been a problem. The cabin doors have signs warning guests not to feed the cats or let them inside. The signs describe them as a "manipulative barn cats", who "lack inside manners". I'm guessing they are referring to other cats, because Chester is an absolute sweetheart. She arrived damaged at the inn a few months ago in the engine compartment of a car, but has since healed and is walking fine. She spent a few hours Saturday curled up in my lap napping while I read a book on the porch. She's very cute and purry, and she seemed pretty friendly. She was very good company on a rainy day.

So, in short: if you're looking for a relaxing, romantic getaway, it's worth the drive to the Murphin Ridge Inn in Ohio. You'll be glad you stayed; we are!

UPDATE: The honey was for our tea. Really.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

like another honeymoon

Laura and I got married five years ago this Friday, and we're celebrating by taking a mini-vacation. This trip is going to be all about the laid-back; we're going to a bed-and-breakfast in the middle of nowhere in Ohio. They're out of cell-phone range, which is fine. We've got a hot tub and fireplace in the cabin, which is better than fine. I'm fine with being out of touch, as long as Laura's there. So wish us a happy anniversary and a great weekend; see y'all on Monday!

Chocolate Fest!

Today was ChocolateFest at the Artsgarden. It's an annual chunk of chocolatey goodness that raises money for Young Audiences of Indiana, with the added benefit of introducing a huge quantity of chocolate desserts to downtown. Local hotels, chocolatiers, and restaurants all donate desserts that Young Audiences sells, with all proceeds going to provide arts programming in schools. It's a good cause, and it's also one of the most popular events at the Artsgarden. Check out the menu of desserts available; it's impressive!

Some of the chocolatiers had chocolate displays that I liked a lot. The Conrad hotel set up a huge display of chocolate spires and butterfly wings and curvy art-deco pieces made of hand-painted chocolate. The chef from the University Place Hotel showed up an hour early and made roses by hand, petal by petal, out of proofing chocolate. The Ivy Tech College cooking school made a chocolate dollhouse. All three also had good chocolate for sale. If you ever find yourself at University Place, grab a Pot de Creme.

For a change, I didn't gorge myself on chocolate this year. My only chocolate for the day was a baggie of chocolate-chip oatmeal cookies from Great Harvest. Everything looked good, but I've hit a point where I can't rationalize eating that much chocolate in one sitting, and where I can't rationalize spending money on a pile of desserts. Maybe I'm actually developing moderation as I get older, god forbid. In any case, I didn't actually try any of the desserts except for the cookies. But trust me -- they were all yummy.

The prez: "disappointed"

So, President Bush just announced that he's disappointed in the military coup in Thailand. Let me make sure I understand this. The PM of Thailand was caught on tape admitting that he's basically done nothing for four years and lied to get into office, after which huge protests erupted and the military -- with popular support -- booted him from office. Our president, who cheated his way into office, and who has spent six years digging us into a financial and military hole, thinks the Thai solution is bad. I'm thinking it hits a little too close to home for him....

UPDATE: I'm blending stories; thanks for noticing, David! The military coup was in Thailand, and it was (mostly) about corruption. The PM caught on tape was in Hungary. Oops.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Ahoy!

Avast ye, it be Talk Like A Pirate Day! Ye should be expecting a picture later, arrr, of my pirate puppet and one of the kitties in an eye patch!

Monday, September 18, 2006

computer dependency

The Arts Council offices are moving for a few weeks while our landlord repairs the flood damage we suffered earlier this year. Everything is moving with them: furniture, computer hardware, phone system. The only thing that didn't move is the Artsgarden's data connection to the main office, so we're experiencing computer deprivation. No network connection, no voice mail, no e-mail. It's strange not having access to everything. And, it's hard not having access to all the important stuff that lives on the server. I didn't realize exactly how much of my job is computer-dependent until now. A lot of my job is tech stuff, involving wires and microphones and soldering irons. But a lot of it is about e-mail and voice mail and forwarding documents, and that part is on hold for now. Thankfully I have Crimsonland on the hard drive, instead of the server. :-)

And, in case you're wondering, I'm able to post this because wireless networks are really, really easy to hack. 'nuff said.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Laura: football fan

Ours is a radically non-stereotypical household. This afternoon I'm doing laundry and dishes, and my wife is parked in front of the television watching football games. She's not drinking beer, though. And I'm not wearing an apron. We're not anti-stereotype, we just don't conform.

Laura's a pretty die-hard football fan. She's a Redskins fan, so she's very psyched about tonight's Skins/Cowboys game. Apparently the two teams are archenemies. It's a home game for the Cowboys, which makes tonight's game roughly akin to Batman vs. The Joker, contest to be held in the Joker's evil amusement park. They aren't playing in Washington, since nobody is supposed to know where the Batcave is (this is where the metaphor breaks down, since everyone knows the Batcave would be under FedEx Field).

I grew up with no real sports fanaticism in the household, so Laura was a bit of a shock to me. I really didn't see how someone could care that much about football. I view it as a marketing tool; football is mostly a way to get people to sit through television commercials and buy overpriced jerseys and season tickets. Laura takes it really seriously, though. She owns a Redskins jersey and a collection of Colts and Skins hats (including the uber-cool limited-edition Joe Gibbs Redskins cap), and she schedules her weekends around catching the Redskins games. My other shock was the realization that, as football fans go, Laura's pretty mainstream. The real fans wear pig noses and dress in drag or paint their bodies blue with white horseshoes.

I enjoy the fact that Laura yells at the television. She yells and screams when the good guys score, she berates refs for bad calls, and she says encouraging words to players she likes when they appear on screen. I'm positive she knows that they can't actually hear her, but she does it anyway. I do this too, mostly during horror movies, mumbling things like, "Don't open that door!" and "Run, you fool!" to people on the screen. I think Laura's better at it than me, though; through her on-screen encouragement, Peyton Manning is the league's top quarterback and the Redskins are outperforming expectations. But the people in the horror movies never listen to me and tend to die at the hands/claws of maniacal puppets and berserk security robots.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Peace Corps

I recently spent some time talking to someone who just finished two years in the Peace Corps. I have a lot of respect for people who essentially volunteer to spend two years of their life to better the plight of people they'd otherwise never meet. You can't do it for the money; you'd earn more with a part-time job behind the counter at Subway. And you must really want to do some good in the world if you're willing to spend two whole years out of normal contact with friends and family to improve life in a third-world country. I don't know that I'd be capable of doing it, so I'm highly impressed with people who actually do it.

I asked her if she experienced much culture shock when she went to extremely rural Central America. She really didn't; she knew what she was getting into and didn't find too many surprises. She said culture shock really hit when she got back to the U.S. after her tour of duty ended. The first time she walked into a grocery, she just stood in the middle of an aisle in shock for a few minutes. Her thought was something like, "I can't believe I'm in a country where people actually think they need two hundred kinds of toothpaste." She spent a few weeks having moments of shock when she'd see people getting in their cars to drive down the block, when she'd see people spend hundreds of dollars on a dress they were only planning on wearing once, when she saw the myriad of little wastes and squanderings that define consumer culture.

I think if you could keep that sense of shock and outrage alive, the biggest benefit wouldn't be the good you did there, it'd be the good you could do here when you get back. Just talking to her gave me a change of perspective, and I'm hoping she can share that with lots of other people too.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

WMD's: found. Sort of. Not really.

I was reading something written by an online wacko talking about the fact that we keep finding chemical weapons in Iraq, but that the media never reports it. What separated him from other wackos is that he cited a source for his info. I checked it out and found this article stating that they found 240 chemical weapons in Iraq last month. That's true if your definition of "chemical weapons" includes empty munitions capable of delivering chemical agents. They didn't find sarin, no mustard gas, but artillery shells that could be loaded with them. That brings the number of WMDs found so far to over 700, none of which contained any active chemicals. When you hear lunatics talking about the fact that we actually found chemical weapons in Iraq, this is where they get their data. When you hear lunatics talking about the media not covering this sort of story, they're right, because it's not news. Finding barrels of sarin would be news; finding a SADM (that is, Special Atomic Demolition Munition) would be news. Finding empty artillery shells? Not news.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Mark Your Calendar

Just wanted to make sure everyone knows that a week from today, Tuesday September 19, is annual Talk Like A Pirate Day. Arrrr! I, for one, am planning to observe the day in full colors; I'll be digging my pirate headband and pirate hand puppet out of storage. And boning up on my usage of the Five A's of talking like a pirate: Ahoy, Avast, Aye, Aye-Aye, and Arrrr. And I suspect I'll be able to fit a few Ya Scurvy Dogs and Land-Lubbers into my day, too.

Monday, September 11, 2006

TV commercials

We don't watch television unless Laura has to see a football game, and last night's Manning versus Manning Colts/Jets game was a must. I can't help but notice that televised football games are ridiculously content-light. Last night's game had a total of 126 plays; I'll be generous and say an average play lasts for ten seconds of actual action. That means the three hours you spend glued to the tube contains less than 20 minutes of actual football, at least 40 minutes of commentary and footage of guys lining up, and a whole lot of commercials.

We watch television shows occasionally, but they're in the form of DVDs. So we rarely get the full television experience, by which I mean commercials. It's always informative to see what's changed in marketing's proving grounds, and since I see commercials so rarely the changes are more obvious than they would be if I watched regularly. We still have dumb slogans -- "The pizza that eats like a meal!", for the new lasagna pizza from one of the big pizza chains, might be the grand prize winner. At least I'm assuming it's a dumb slogan. We do have a growing (heh) obesity problem in America; I'm hoping there aren't people who order pizzas as a snack before their actual meals, as the slogan implies.

I'm also interested in how marketing people use language. The one that jumped out at me last night is the shift from "optional" to "available" in car ads. I think they're legally required to display verbiage that means, "this is the most tricked-out car we make, so any car you buy won't necessarily look like this". They used to do this with a little subscript that said, "shown with optional equipment". I noticed last night that this has changed to, "shown with available equipment". It's a potent change. Optional is opposed to necessary, and implies "you don't need this." Available is a better sales tool; it implies, "look what you can get! This car is attainable; you can have this car if you want it!"

And, I'm constantly amazed by the raw implied dumbness of the viewing public. I wasn't shocked when the 4X4 pickup ads in which monstrous trucks bounce gleefully over boulders and tree trunks started showing verbiage that said something like, "trained stunt driver, closed course, don't try this at home you morons!". I'm sure there are pickup-owning guys who would try some of these stunts and hurt themselves, guys who actually believe they can ford rivers in their trucks just because they saw it on TV. These guys probably won't read the disclaimer, but it at least lets the car company say, "I told you so!" in a courtroom. Then the same verbiage appeared in ads featuring luxury sedans driving sedately around urban streets. I'm still not sure who they're targeting with it; the message seems to be, "don't drive around on streets, you morons!" But the pinnacle of this stupid-warnings movement came during a car commercial last night. In the commercial, all the GM cars on a crowded street levitated above a traffic jam and flew to their destinations over the heads of the bewildered non-GM owners. Some of the sportier cars did snap rolls as they flew. And, in the bottom of the screen, came the warning. I wish I could remember the exact wording, but it was something like: "Cars do not actually fly. Obey all traffic laws."

[Update: I saw the same commercial a week later, and they removed the cautionary verbiage. Guess I wasn't the only one who saw no legal liability in the flying cars.]

An aside, I was looked at askance when I didn't place my hand over my heart during the national anthem. Because obviously patriotism is all about proper hand positioning. I felt better when I saw the mayor of New York City in the stands with his hands at his sides.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Random calendar entries

I make my computer keep all of my old appointments in Outlook; instead of automatically purging all entries of a certain age, I delete old entries manually. I write some important stuff on my calendar, and I don't want to lose anything on a scheduled delete. This means I have to go through my old calendar entries every few months and scrap the stuff I don't want to save. In the process, I find some highly cryptic calendar events. On the recent purge list of old appointments:
"little bready things"
"call guy"
"cat"
"finish book"
"remember"
"food items"
"scrounge for parts"
"fix stuff"
I'm sure it all meant something at the time, but now it's a blank. I'm a little curious about the entry for "little bready things". It was an untimed appointment on a Tuesday, and I have no idea which bready things I was referring to. Little ones, obviously, but beyond that I don't know. Given my job and my duties at home, though, I might save "fix stuff" and make it a daily recurring event. And, given the size of my pending reading list, I might do the same with "finish book".

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The creepy serial killer guy

Persistence of memory is a strange thing. If you go to a restaurant for the first time and get bad food, you'll probably never go there again. But if a restaurant you like starts serving bad food, you'll probably eat the bad food several times before you give up on the place. First impressions and early impressions are important in our memories out of proportion to their actual significance. This is especially true when you meet new people; if someone acts like a jerk on your first encounter, it'll take a lot to stop thinking of him as a jerk, even if he's normally a great guy.

I've noticed this is true even when you first "meet" the person by seeing them on stage. In the past few years I've seen a couple plays in which one of the characters is a creepy serial killer (welcome to modern theatre!). A friend of Laura's is now dating a guy who I first saw playing a serial child murderer in a play called The Pillowman. He's actually a great guy, but it took some time to erase the axe from my mental picture of him. I mentioned to Laura that it seemed strange that he was such a nice, normal guy. Then I mentioned another actor I had recently seen for the first time in a serial-killer role, and said he was probably a nice, normal guy too. I was surprised when Laura said that she had met him in a social setting before seeing him on stage, and her first impression was that he probably had a freezer full of heads. Maybe it was typecasting.

Rule Of Thumb

Yesterday I heard someone repeat an apocryphal etymology of the expression "rule of thumb". The story goes, the phrase dates back to middle-ages England. To prevent undue abuse of women, a man was allowed to beat his wife with a stick no larger in diameter than his thumb. The beating was completely legal, as long as it was more of a switching or caning than a clubbing. I know that my first politically correct thought should've been something like, "That's terrible! I can't believe they'd institutionally approve of spousal abuse!", but I have a better understanding of history than that. My actual first thought was, "That's unfair -- they should've used her thumb as a guide. If you want fair beatings, you should use the size of the victim as a guide instead of the size of the abuser. Better, they should've found a way to require that bigger, stronger guys used smaller sticks than smaller, weaker guys." Yeah, I might be evil. :-)

I don't think I need to mention that I think beating unarmed people with sticks is bad (for a martial artist, I'm somewhat of a pacifist). And I'm absolutely non-sexist: I think hitting a defenseless woman is exactly as wrong as hitting a defenseless man. I'm fuzzy on why it's supposed to be worse.

On the other hand, stick fighting among equals is great fun. I'm not a complete pacifist, after all....

Thursday, September 07, 2006

satirical lighting

My Wife Rocks. I keep finding new examples of just exactly how much she totally kicks ass, and I found another one tonight. I just watched Musical of Musicals: The Musical! (that might be punctuated wrong -- there might be more exclamation points) at Phoenix Theatre, and it was entertaining. The show is satire. It's five short musicals, each in the style of a different Broadway entity: Sondheim, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Kander/Ebb, et cetera. Each of the musicals follows the basic plot:
A: "I can't pay the rent."
B: "You must pay the rent."
A: "I can't pay the rent!"
B: "You must pay the rent!"
C: "I'll pay the rent!"
And it's funny. The more you know about musical theater, the funnier it will be. The cast is great, too. It's somewhat reminiscent of Forbidden Broadway, though more musical-oriented. If you get a chance, it's worth the ticket price.

Laura designed lights for the show. If you would've asked me in advance, I would've told you that there's no such thing as comical lighting. But Laura somehow managed to do satirical lighting, and it made the show that much funnier. I was highly impressed. She so totally rocks.

Starting With Art

Today is Start With Art, the Arts Council's annual kick-off-the-arts-season luncheon for around 800 people. It's a huge event, and people who do this kind of thing a lot have said it's the best in the city. A lot of work goes into it -- and a lot of stress. Thankfully, almost none of the stress is mine; I'm good at what I do. This is just another show, not even an exceedingly complex one. We at the Artsgarden do hundreds of events and performances in a year, so we're very comfortable with it; for the rest of the Arts Council's staff, it's their only event. There's naturally some stress involved.

I do get a little of the stress, but none of it's about the event. I have to confess, I'm stressed about clothing. I never know what to wear to these things. I stand in my closet and stare at my pile of clothes, and none of them are really right for this. I'm expected to wear a suit, though I've managed to slip by without a suit coat or sport coat; I've never worn one, and nobody's ever mentioned it. The tie is non-negotiable, though. I can dress up if I need to, and it's even fun sometimes; I always get tuxed up for Laura's annual DK event, and I have a great time. My problem is that dress clothes are really impractical, and for Start With Art I'm actually doing work. I'm expected to wear a suit, and also to carry tools. While other staff members are schmoozing guests (clearly a suit-wearing activity), I'll be tearing down a band on stage (clearly a tool-using activity). But the dress code still applies. And they don't make a special class just for me. I think they should; after all, they do have a special-case rule that says that Laura's ineligible for Arts Council grants. Or, it says that immediate family of staff members are ineligible. And she's the only artist married to a staff member. So if they're going to do that, I think they should have a rule that says that staff members who climb ladders are allowed to wear comfortable shoes, and that staff members whose job description is "tech guy" are allowed to dress like a better class of tech guy instead of a lower class of business executive.

I just finished standing in my closet staring at my pile of clothing, and I ended up going with some nice dressy black pants that Laura says are really cute on me (which I take on faith; I think they look like dork pants, because they seem a little short) and a black dress shirt, and a black tie. And black slip-on shoes, because I like comfy. I don't usually go for the all-black look, but it's a sign to those around me that I'm working, not schmoozing.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Edited dialogue

I'm taking a short break from the bad, bad mystery novel, and while I'm on hiatus I'm editing bits of the first few chapters I've finished. Thought I'd share a few snippets of dialogue that I cut:

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"What is that scary thing?"
-"It looks like a flensing knife."
"What do you do with it?"
-"Flense things, I guess. Maybe you should look it up."
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"Where are we going?"
-"Out."
"'Out'. You're not narrowing the choices much."
-"It's a better preposition than about or among. Less innuendo-prone than down, too."