Sunday, March 30, 2008

Union Artists

I'm not opposed to the concept of labor unions. It's true that, in a lot of ways, they've outlived their usefulness; some of the bigger, more powerful unions have essentially crashed their industries as a result of years of making some rather unreasonable demands, and other heavily unionized industries are starting to feel the bite. On the other hand, unions provide the important function of keeping a bit of power out of the hands of the upper 1%. You really can't overestimate the importance of organizations that provide a bit of balance to the otherwise unrestrained power of the people who write the checks. Reference the recent Writer's Guild strike.

But I've recently heard of some trauma involving union artists. A dancer friend was recently performing in Ohio with a major symphony. Because of weather and traffic, the show ended up starting late. And, at 10pm, seven minutes from the end of the show, the musicians all stopped playing, packed up their instruments, and left. The dancers finished the last seven minutes of the show to canned music, once the live musicians left the building. The symphony musicians were union, see -- the hall didn't pay overtime, so they stopped when their three hours were up. They're just like bricklayers. They're not paid to build a house/perform a work, they're paid to put one brick/note on top of another until the clock runs out. They apparently respect their union contract more than they respect their audience and their fellow performers doing the dancing, and certainly more than they respect the composer or their art in general. An artist should be appalled at the idea of leaving a performance unfinished, with an audience watching. They weren't. They're wage slaves, not artists.

I've recently had some experience with this myself. The play we've got in the Artsgarden for the next few weeks is an Actor's Equity production, the union for stage performers and stage managers. And we stopped rehearsal five minutes from the end of the show on Wednesday because the union workday was over. It would've been nice to have a full rehearsal before dress rehearsal, but the union's rules are apparently more important than the show itself. Stopping five minutes short of a full rehearsal because of union rules didn't go over well with me, in the middle of a 90-hour week, with 50 of those hours being volunteer time for the show. The message is that my time isn't important, the show isn't important. But Equity rules ├╝ber alles!

I think my biggest problem with union artists is that it messes with my concept of what art is. I still hold to the romantic ideal that art is a sort of calling, a passion. That artists do art because it's meaningful, that they have a message they need to communicate to the world through their art. As soon as artists unionize, this is no longer true. You can't simultaneously claim that you believe in your art as a sort of pure force or energy, and stop playing your instrument because it's ten and the hall doesn't pay overtime. As soon as you've got the ability or obligation to go on strike, you're no longer doing art -- you're doing a job. And I'm fine with doing a job and getting paid for it.

Just stop pretending it's art.

Back in the world

Wow. It's been so long since I've done a full-scale theatrical production, I had almost forgotten what production week is like. We just opened our first drama in the Artsgarden, and from last Saturday until last night I worked something like 90 hours. It's still 15 hours from my record week at the Artsgarden, but it was still busy enough that I never had a free consecutive five minutes at a computer until today. On the plus side, Laura's the lighting designer, so we got to do a show together again. Even before I was romantically interested in her, I was impressed with Laura's design work and with how good she was to work with; doing a show with her has always been fun, and we don't get a chance to do it often.

The show is Midwestern Hemisphere, produced by the a new theater company in town, the Heartland Actors Repertory Theater. It's about a subdivision that gets trapped under an invisible dome, told through the eyes of six residents. (comments on the show redacted, until the run is finished)

And it's been interesting watching the show evolve. Laura and I watched two staged readings of the show, and a lot of the fun has been seeing how the show changes over time, as the script goes through revisions and the cast changes. I'm amazed at how much a character changes when he's read by a different actor. And also amazed at how much difference a few words of script change can make to a character's personality.

At opening night, I ran into two movers and shakers in the theater community who both said they enjoyed the lighting (one of them didn't know that Laura and I are a couple, which adds weight to the compliment). I don't think the Heartland guys realize exactly how much having Laura as the lighting designer added to the show. There's the obvious fact that she's extremely good at what she does. And there's also the less-obvious fact that I did a lot more work for Laura than I would've done for any other designer. I would've given another designer a copy of our light plot, refocused as needed, and bought gel for them. For Laura, I re-hung every single theatrical lighting unit in the building, added new LED units to color the backdrop, bought Source Four ellipsoidals for front light, and relocated a huge portion of our dimmers and wiring to give her what she needed to make the show happen the way she wanted it to. This would be way above and beyond for anyone else, but I'll gladly go the extra couple of miles for Laura.

Also, I don't think the Heartland guys know that I'm essentially volunteering for their show. I'm contractually obligated to work no more than 40 hours per week at the Artsgarden; as a non-manager, they have to pay me overtime if I work more than 40 hours in a week, and they don't have overtime pay in the budget. The Arts Council is frequently audited, and they can get in trouble if I work extra hours and don't get paid for them. And while we've been in production for MidHem, I've still had to do the rest of my job too: performances, events, phone calls, et cetera. So all the time I've spent at rehearsals and doing lighting work and generally making the show happen doesn't appear on my time sheet. I'm not paid, ergo I'm a volunteer....

Friday, March 21, 2008

The weather: I am under it.

I spent yesterday being sick. I mean, really sick. I went downstairs exactly once all day, to grab a 7-Up from the fridge, and that was a major expenditure of energy. I was so sick, I didn't do anything other than lie in bed and make frequent trips to the bathroom. I didn't read, I didn't play video games. I didn't even listen to podcasts on my iPod; it was in the studio, which was about ten feet off the bed-to-toilet path, and that seemed like too far to walk. Yesterday was the only day I can remember when I never put on my glasses. On the plus side, the cats were very supportive and spent a lot of time keeping me company. In the ultimate gesture of cat/human solidarity, during one of the times I was in the bathroom being violently ill, Koko came into the bathroom and horked up a hairball on the floor next to me. It's the cute kitty way of saying, "I feel your pain."

I'm doing better today. I've eaten solid food (six saltine crackers so far), and with luck I'll be up for some bread later. But I'm still not feeling my best. On the plus side, I've got two days off this weekend, and I don't really have anything to do, so I'll be able to relax a bit.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Obsolete, amazingly prevalent technology

I'm taking a stack of floppy disks to work today. Because I actually need floppy disks. I've got hardware, some of it brand new and of recent design, which only interfaces via floppy disk. I've got a much larger collection of hardware which requires a serial (RS232) port. I checked at Best Buy last week, and they don't sell a laptop with both a serial port and floppy drive. Not one. But lots of companies still sell gear which requires one or both. And, since we've gone Mac in the office, I no longer have a computer here that has a floppy disc or a serial port. To make this more complex, a lot of this gear isn't friendly with USB-to-serial adapters. I haven't tried an external USB floppy drive; I suspect they work fine, but I'm not sure how well they deal with surreal disk formats (my lighting controller, f'rinstance, uses a floppy formatted to something like 704k).

The other oddity is that a lot of this gear is new; it was designed when floppies were already on the way to obsolescence. I had to ask the designer of our lighting system about it -- why not use flash memory of some kind? The answer is that it's easier at the factory. A floppy drive requires no processor to run, and takes no complicated programming. A flash reader takes an actual processor and internal memory to work, and therefore makes the entire system more complicated. Still, I'm seeing a near-term market in old laptops that still have native floppies and serial ports. At the moment, it's just a minor inconvenience. But in ten years, when our architectural lighting controllers are still functioning, we'll have a serious problem finding floppy drives -- and blank disks to use in them....

Monday, March 17, 2008


Laura and I usually share the bed with the cats. We've usually got the Meeping Cat sleeping somewhere in the vicinity of our knees, with Koko sleeping between us at hip level with occasional forays to my chest or Laura's pillow, and Emmett joining us occasionally to keep our feet warm. And Koko acts as our snooze alarm. Five or ten minutes after the alarm goes off, he'll hop up on my chest and paw at my face until I wake up and pet him. Many days, I awaken to a view like this:

Last night was a rare cat-free night; the boy cats spent the night outside, Chaka spent the night in the laundry room, and Emmett took advantage of Chaka's absence to spend the evening on Chaka's favorite chair. So we had the bed all to ourselves. We enjoy the cats' presence, generally, but they do wake us up in the middle of the night occasionally. Nothing catapults you to full-awake mode like a pair of cats fighting on your chest. And, even if they're calm, I suspect we get better sleep when they're elsewhere. But the cute factor generally outweighs the minor sleep deprivation.

The Meeper wasn't in the best mood when we let him inside this morning; he came in and started hurling invectives, announcing his displeasure. More or less. By "displeasure," I mean "indigestion"; by "invectives," I mean "rodent parts"; by "hurling," I mean, well, hurling. But I managed to clean it up before Laura got downstairs....

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Walking: the oldest means of transportation

I walked home from work today, mostly because I was curious how long it would take me (65 minutes) and if I was in such bad physical condition that a 4.3-mile walk would wear me out (not really, but I could tell I wasn't wearing good shoes). I could see jogging to work this summer, if I'm feeling inclined to be healthy and active; four miles is a reasonable jog, though twice daily might be a bit much.

Amazon carries over 900 books about walking. I didn't read any of them before walking home today, yet I made it without any problems (I might be some sort of walking prodigy). I'll have to pick one of the books up at Borders tomorrow and glance through it; mostly, I'm curious how you can fill a few hundred pages with walking. Possibly you talk about shoes a lot, and clothes, and monitoring your heart rate, and the importance of staying hydrated, but beyond that I can't see what belongs in the book. Do they talk about common-sense rules, like not walking at night through scary neighborhoods? Do the authors stress the importance of looking down occasionally while you walk, so you don't step in mud or dog poop? Do they discuss technique at all, or do they assume we've all mastered the basics of one-foot-in-front-of-the-other? Are there chapters on the importance of arm-swinging while you walk? These are all questions I want answers to. I'll find out at Borders tomorrow.

The Wrong Bus

My bike chain broke when I started pedaling earlier this week, so even though the weather has been nice (for lunatic-cyclist values of "nice") I've been taking the bus to work the last few days. I don't mind riding the bus. Given gas prices, I figure it costs as much to take the bus as it would cost us in gas for Laura to drive round-trip from home and drop me off. And I generally bring a book and get a bit of reading done while I'm on the bus. People on the bus are generally friendly, or at least not actively hostile or crazy, and I'm scruffy enough that I blend in and don't look like a target to the occasional thug or scam artist. And the bus drivers tend to be good at what they do. This morning, though, I found out that there are some routes I'm happier avoiding. The bus I was on is, coincidentally, the one than runs by the Saturday-morning methadone clinic. A bus packed with strung-out junkies doesn't make for a relaxing ride. At least none of the arguments turned into actual fights.

Really, I'm not unhappy with Indy's bus system. Some of the buses are pretty old and ride pretty rough, and most of the routes stop running earlier than is convenient for me (and none of the routes run past midnight). But the buses are generally clean and on time. If I don't mind walking a bit I can get almost everywhere in Indy in about two hours at the most. A few more routes, and some newer buses, and Indy would have a pretty competitive public transit system. If I had to overgeneralize, I think the biggest problem with the system is that the people who make all the decisions never ride the bus. They probably don't even know anyone who regularly rides the bus....

Friday, March 14, 2008

Tax "reform", local politics, and other news

The state legislature just passed a bill which "reforms" the property tax system. Problem is, it doesn't actually change the total tax burden -- just shift it around a bit. And it shifts it towards the lower and middle classes, by trading property tax cuts for sales tax increases. Think about who gets hit harder by this, and who benefits. The poor? They mostly rent. The property tax cap for rental properties is double the cap for homeowners, and landlords will pass the tax along to their renters. And, poor people tend to spend all of their money; everything they spend, they lose 1% of to the sales tax increase. Middle-income families? They'll come close to breaking even. Their property tax is capped at 1% of their assessed value (with, I should mention, no agreed-upon standard for how this is defined). But they also pay the sales tax increase on all the money they spend, which is all or most of their money. The upper 2% comes out ahead on this deal, though. Not only are their property taxes capped like everyone else's, but they only pay the sales tax increase on the percent of their income they spend. No sales tax on money they invest or save. People who earn and spend money pay a sales tax increase; people who invest, who just have money, end up with a net savings from the tax "reform" plan.

And, the politicians acknowledge that it's not really a tax savings. Cuts in property tax revenue will force increases in local income taxes, which will nullify the property tax savings. And, the net effect will probably be an increased individual tax burden; businesses also had their property tax capped, but nobody's mentioning the possibility of increasing any business taxes. And, keep in mind that the current property tax fiasco was partially caused by the elimination of the business inventory tax. The loss of revenue from business taxes will be balanced by increased taxes on individuals. One state rep called the tax reform bill "the largest tax increase in the history of the state" (Rep. Craig Fry). Another acknowledged that the bill was passed largely so the bill's supporters could claim it as a political victory, and that the bill's shortcomings would come to light soon enough; "we all know we'll be back next year, fixing this all over again. I hope one of these years we can get this right" (Rep. Ryan Dvorak). My favorite lawmaker quote from this whole mess: "[this bill] is a skunk thrown into the legislature by Governor Daniels, now gussied up with some deodorant" (Sen. Lindel Hume). So much noise, but nothing really changed for those of us who pay taxes.

And, let's not forget that our old mayor was voted out of office primarily due to anger over the summer's property tax hike. General consensus is that he was voted out by taxpayers who were angry about the tax increase. Or, let me specify: by ignorant taxpayers who had no idea that the mayor has no control over property taxes.

The new mayor hasn't really done much of substance in office so far. He took control of the recently-unified police department from the sheriff, which I'm sure will radically reduce crime somehow. I don't get the rationale for this. The speech I heard, when they announced the leadership shift, said that the public needed to see control of the police department in the hands of a responsible elected official. Umm, I thought that "sheriff" was an elected office. But having the mayor in charge of the police will apparently boost the morale of the police, which will reduce crime.

Let me make sure I understand this. A change in leadership will make the police happier, which means they'll start caring about their jobs, which means they will start actually doing their jobs well for a change. I feel safer already.

Other thoughts on the week's news:
  • Best headline ever, from the Indianapolis Star: "Bomb Squad Defuses Turnip"
  • Eliot Spitzer: my biggest thought on this is, exactly what service do you get from a prostitute for $5000? And, that's apparently $1000 an hour. What do you do for five hours? This seems like a long time to perform the horizontal bop, unless I've been doing it wrong all these years....
  • Least surprising AP headline ever: "Congress Fails to Pass Earmark Limits".

Brain Cats

I'm glad to see someone finally acknowledge the problems those of us with Brain Ferrets suffer while trying to get stuff done. Though in my case, I suspect they're Brain Cats.

The aspect of Lore's thoughts on his brain ferrets that interested me most: our four indoor cats map pretty precisely to the four ferrets. Meeper would be the Kinetic Cat; Koko would be the Visual Cat; Chaka is the Cognitive Cat; Emmett is the Auditory Cat. So when I try to do something at home, I've got to not only appease the internal mental cats, but also placate the actual physical cats....

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

No Rose.

So, I didn't win a Rose Award. But I had a great time at the dinner, and it was nice meeting the other 62 nominees and getting to know a few of them.

Thanks for the good wishes, though -- I appreciate the support!

Sound-guy pet peeve

I spend a lot of my professional time doing live audio production. I have a blast with it -- I get to work with some excellent performers, and I enjoy the work. But there are things performers occasionally do that tend to irritate sound guys. One of my favorites: relocating microphones. I'll set mics for a band, and I'll turn around a minute later to see the performers have moved them around. Attention, musicians: I'm the sound guy. I know where the mics need to go, and I don't place them at random. I put them in the best possible place. Therefore, anywhere you move them is probably a change for the worse. A lot of the time, mic placement is a collaborative effort: where will it give good sound, while not being in the performer's way? So if you're not happy with where the mic ends up, let me know. We can work something out. But moving it without telling me is a bad idea.

I recently worked with a band that was really bad about this; one guy moved the microphone three feet further away from his instrument. I asked him about it, and he said he wanted more of an "area sound". Yeah. One of his bandmates, apparently fuzzy about which direction the directional mic was pointing, moved his sax mic so it was pointing at the keys. The mic picked up some sax, but mostly the clicking of the action. And, around the same time, I had a praise band consisting of three guitars and a keyboard. I set lines for them, they plugged in, and while I was walking back to the sound board they all switched which channel they were plugged into. This would be a cute practical joke to play on a sound guy, not something you do seriously....

I want to stress that this was not a problem with today's performers, the flute and harp duo of Gayle Schnepp and Jay Miller. They're not only professional and friendly, they're also excellent musicians and fun to listen to. Catch one of their shows if you get a chance.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Costume Drama

Tomorrow night: the Rose Awards. Tonight: the pre-Rose Awards laundry and clothing panic. The invitation said that formal dress is not required; a suit or sport coat would be fine. Oddly, I can do formal dress more easily than a suit or sport coat. I own my own tuxedo, but no suit parts or blazers or sport coats. Part of me is tempted to hit the mall and pick up some appropriately semi-formal clothing. I'd like to look professional, and I'd like to represent the Arts Council well. On the other hand, a dress shirt and tie and clean pants is probably dressy enough, and I already own them. As for looking professional, I'm a tech guy. We've got different standards of professional dress, which I'll already be violating by not wearing a belt full of tool pouches, a hat of some kind, and shoes I can climb steel in.

I'm not sure why, but I've never been particularly comfortable at formal events. I've done enough of them that I'm a bit surprised they still bother me. But I never feel like I belong. I've always got a bit of the sense that I'm some kind of impostor, a tiny bit of fear that people will discover that I'm just faking the class and dress and manners. Then they'll, I don't know -- maybe mock me or throw me out of the room or something. I'm not saying this is a rational fear. But it's there nonetheless.

So wish me luck for the awards, and social graces for the dinner.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Blast from the past

One of my former high school students, Terri, is back in town for a few days after spending the last few years in Korea(!), and before moving to Arizona. A friend of hers organized a get-together lunch for her Indy friends, and I was invited. I hadn't seen any of these kids for years, and I'm glad I got to get a bit reacquainted. It was nearly a complete collection of my favorite students, plus Terri's husband(!!), who she met in Korea.

It's strange seeing a pile of my former stage crew kids, and realizing they're all adults now. I have a tendency to let my mental picture of people freeze at the point when I last see them. I haven't really spent any time with this gang since my Warren days, so my mental picture of them is at least six years old. It took me a minute to mentally adjust to the fact that they're not kids anymore. I remember how much I changed between age 18 and age 24; I was a radically different person between the time I graduated high school and the time my brother and I went to Europe. And that's how much important time my former students have had to change since I last knew them. I really can't make any assumptions about them now, based on what I remember from then. Given that, though, in some ways they've hardly changed at all. Still familar, though different. And it was good to see them again.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Trying to invent a word: Amafaking? Vampazon?

I'm trying to think of a word for what you're doing when you browse reader reviews of a nonfiction book on Amazon so you can acquire familiarity with the book. I don't often need to do this, but I occasionally work with speakers, motivational, keynote, and other, who have written books. I like to familiarize myself with their work; it'll let me know what to expect from their talk, and it's handy if their book comes up in conversation. But I'm not inclined to actually read the whole book on corporate leadership strategy or Nascar drivers or selling event branding. I've got a stack of books piled up waiting for me, books that have come with serious recommendations from friends, books that continue series I'm already reading, books that finally appeared at the library after weeks or months in the hold queue. I can't justify spending my valuable reading hours on books that don't appeal much. The Amazon review trick lets me talk about a speaker's work without sounding like an idiot. And it's not technically dishonest, as long as I don't claim to have read the book. This might be splitting hairs ethically, but I can rationalize it pretty well. And I'd never dream of doing this with a work of fiction.

I've been doing this for years when I worked with speakers, since before Amazon existed. Pre-Amazon, I'd check the book out of the library and skim it, get everything I can from the book in half an hour of contents-flipping and speed-reading. Amazon reader reviews save me a trip to the library, and are a lot better at giving me the key (and sometimes controversial) points.

It occurs to me that I'm probably better able to intelligently discuss an unread book whose Amazon reviews I've perused, than a book I actually read more than seven or eight years ago. This is scary.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

A strange kind of service animal

I had a first at work just now. I spent a few hours this evening sitting at the info desk, and I had a Conrad guest stop to ask me a few questions. On a leash, she had a toy poodle with painted toenails and pierced ears with fake (I hope!) diamond earrings. I wasn't going to kick her out of the Artsgarden, but I mentioned that she couldn't take the dog into the mall, as the only animals permitted were service animals. She said that the poodle was a service animal; it kept her calm and emotionally stable, and she apparently had documentation from her psychiatrist. It's a sign of our times that I truly have no idea if she was serious.....

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Random observations (and a recipe) from the sickbed

  • At the pharmacy yesterday, I parked next to a truck advertising "24-hour emergency pet grooming". I can't picture what would constitute a real pet-grooming emergency. I think this is a recession-proof niche business; the people for whom it's essential to have their poodle's nails painted at 2am, are probably, sadly, not going to get hit by a recession at all.
  • While watching the review panel score grant applications Monday, I heard one of the panelists applaud an arts organization for being "more diverse than the general public". Is this even possible, by any rational definition of "diverse"? I think you can only be less diverse, but in a non-standard direction.
  • I have to be careful what I read when I'm sick. When I have a fever and my brain isn't hitting on all eight cylinders, I have trouble reading new books, so I generally re-read favorites. And I'm happier reading light, funny, happy books, rather than dark, creepy books; when I'm sick, what I read makes a strong impression on my mood and tone. Re-reading Discworld books or Old Man's War is a good thing. Re-reading Jeff Long's The Descent is not.
  • There's no rationale for what sounds good to eat when I'm sick. Right now, chicken noodle soup sounds highly unappealing. Toast doesn't even sound good. But I'm having an odd craving for powdered donuts. And black tea sounds better than water.
  • Even better than an electric blanket: a pile of housecats. Earlier this morning I was sharing the bed with a pillow cat, a chest cat, and a feet cat, and they kept me nice and warm.
  • I mentioned that I made Laura homemade chicken-noodle soup for sick people. We got the recipe from a non-food-oriented magazine (Runner's World or Outdoor Life or something, I forget) a few years ago, and we've since modified the heck out of it. Our current recipe:

Asian Chicken Noodle Soup to Fight a Cold

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 lb. whole wheat pasta (macaroni or shells are nice, but alphabet noodles are always amusing)
2 tsp olive oil
2 leeks, trimmed, sliced thin (discard darker-green parts; too tough)
2 large carrots, peeled, thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
4 cloves garlic, minced OR 1 tablespoon crushed garlic
1 1/2 tbsp minced, peeled fresh ginger

Heat oil in soup pot over medium heat. Add leeks, carrots, and celery; saute 5 minutes.
Add chicken broth, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger. Bring to boil, reduce heat to low, simmer 25 minutes.
While simmering, steam chicken until cooked through, about 12 minutes. Do not overcook. When cool, tear into bite-sized chunks.
Also while simmering, cook pasta according to package directions.
Add chicken and pasta to soup pot; simmer 5 minutes. Serve.

Total time, from "soup sounds good tonight" to "honey, it's on the table", is under an hour. If you're quick with a knife, it can be as short as 40 minutes. And it's yummy. It's got a vaguely Oriental flavor from the soy sauce and ginger. If these don't sound good, omit them, but add a teaspoon or two of ground black pepper to keep it from being too bland. Unless you're genuinely sick, in which case bland might be good.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Sick days

I talked to our pharmacist today while she filled Laura's prescriptions. She told me about the last time she was sick, right after she got the flu vaccine, and she lamented that it had to happen on her day off. It occurred to me that Laura and I, and a lot of our peers, have the opposite reaction; we'd much rather get sick on our days off, because at least that way we could take care of ourselves and relax. I can barely relate to occupations in which you can actually take sick days when you're ill. I've always done tech work, and until now I've never had anyone who could cover for me when I'm not around. So being sick has always meant that I went to work sick. I've focused lights with a 102-degree fever, I've run sound with a trash can under my board for when I had to puke, I've even run a fourteen-hour call the day after I finished a week-long hospital stay. And Laura's the same; she's the designer, the stage manager, the production manager. When she's sick, nobody can cover. She was originally planning on opening a show this Friday, but she ended up dropping the show when the production schedule changed. It ended up being a good thing. She would have no problem running a show when she's sick, but if this were a production week, she'd probably be in the hospital before it was over. As it is, I suspect she's going to violate her bed-rest order to go to an important, non-reschedulable meeting tomorrow. She'll probably wear a mask, so she doesn't get everyone else sick; they're also people who can't really take sick days, so she'll do her best to keep them healthy. It's the theater-person's version of professional courtesy.

More sick

Laura's starting to feel a bit better. Last night was bad. Her fever peaked around 103.8, which is .2 less than my drive-to-the-hospital threshold, and her breathing wasn't good. I don't think I've ever seen her in such bad shape. We visited the doctor first thing this morning, and he gave her oxygen while she was there. He even talked about hospitalization. He did the quick test and found out she's got influenza A, a reasonably bad case. She got better quickly with the oxygen and a breathing treatment in the doctor's office, so no hospital. But she's on good drugs and mandatory bed rest today and tomorrow. Again, think her some healthy thoughts.

Also, Laura and I share numerous disease vectors; my catching this from her was an inevitability. I'm just starting to show symptoms now, beginning with sinus pressure and muscle aches. These things tend to hit Laura harder than they hit me, but even so, after watching what she's been going through since Saturday afternoon, I'm not looking forward to it. On the plus side, the gang at work has been very cool -- I might almost say insistent -- about me taking a few days off, to take care of Laura and get over it myself. I quote: "keep your cooties at home!"

I should mention, it's been less than four weeks since Laura's insurance coverage and prescription plan went away. Nice timing. I'm also amazed at how quickly we've gotten used to paying a fortune for drugs. After our first $120 per month for her Singulair and $190-ish a month for her Advair, we're pretty jaded to drug prices. How can I tell? When we picked up her Tamiflu at the pharmacy today, we were both shocked that it only cost $80 ($8 per pill). On the plus side, the prednisone only cost $2.90 for the entire course. I thought about it today, and figured that if it wouldn't have cost us so much, my hospital thermometer threshold probably would've been 103.5 or so.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Laura: home! And, sick.

Laura's back from Virginia! I picked her up at the airport yesterday, took her out for a nice lunch, and brought her home. She's happy to be back, and the kitties and I missed her. We did a little unpacking and took a quick afternoon nap, planning on making dinner when we woke up. We scrapped the dinner plans when Laura woke up with a 102-degree fever and chills and aches. The flu that's going around apparently has come to the Glover-Mountjoy household. Laura spent the evening shifting from the bed to the couch to the bed again, and she spent yesterday feeling boku miserable. I've been taking care of her nonstop, doing everything I can think of to keep her happy and get her healthy. I had to run to work this morning, and she was in bad enough shape when I got home that I think she's going to cancel her afternoon meetings. And Laura never cancels meetings. Wish her some healthy thoughts!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Daylight Savings (minus the savings)

An article in this week's Indianapolis Star debunks the idea that daylight savings time saves energy. The Star reported a study by UCSB professor Matthew Kotchen which concluded that, contrary to popular thought, DST actually costs Hoosiers an extra $8.6 million dollars a year; the lighting savings is offset by greater heating and cooling costs. This isn't much -- just a few dollars per household. But I was happy to see the debunking of another DST myth.

I also never bought the economic-development line. The theory was, because Indiana didn't change its clocks, it put us at a competitive disadvantage with other states; doing business here would somehow be more difficult. I never bought this. For one thing, not changing our clocks is easier than changing clocks. There can be no local confusion about what time it is, because we never reset our clocks forward or back on an apparently randomly-selected day. And as for making it difficult to do business with companies in states that change their clocks, I'm amazed they even raised this argument. I'm not particularly interested in attracting businesses that are so poorly run that they can't figure out time zones. Any sufficiently large company is already used to doing business across time zones, on different coasts or in different countries. Anyone who lives near the right border can be a few minutes' walk from a neighbor in a different time zone, yet these people seem to cope. And Indiana's been pushing to draw international business for a while; we're opening a huge Honda plant soon, amongst others. It can't be a big selling point to someone from a non-DST country (many countries have tried DST, but quite a few have switched back), when the governor explains that for vague nonscientific reasons, we all change our clocks by an hour, twice a year. It would be like explaining to prospective business partners that we're all legally required to wear silly hats every July for the entire month (for reference, Indiana doesn't have any kind of silly hat law. Yet.) I would think that not being on DST would be a selling point.

The thing that really bothered me about Indiana's switch to DST was that I couldn't see the angle. I still can't. It's pretty obvious that the arguments raised in favor of DST were fatuous or faulty, but no politician pushes so hard for something likely to be unpopular with a lot of people, if it doesn't benefit someone. So who comes out ahead in the switch? The official list is short, populated by companies that run golf courses and similar outdoor after-work activities. And the list of economic losers is longer than the list of gainers. The options are that either somebody powerful is making out like a bandit from the DST switch, but they're so good at covering their tracks that I can't see who; or that our governor is easily swayed by pursuasive snake-oil men. Neither option makes me happy. Of course, there is a third option: the governor prefers later tee times....