Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Guest post on Hack Library School

As I mentioned briefly in a post on my Italy blog, I was able to write a guest post for a great blog, Hack Library School, which is aimed at library students and the transition from library school into the world of working as an information professional.

My post is about my efforts in starting to bring the Florence library and study center into the digital realm. You can read it here:

http://hacklibschool.wordpress.com/2011/12/08/fsuflorence/

And here’s a teaser for anyone who’s deciding whether or not to click the link:

I’m in a unique position. In the second year of my MLIS program at Florida State University, I’ve been granted the opportunity to work and study abroad in Florence, Italy. I’m now using the practical knowledge I’ve learned so far in library studies to supervise FSU’s Study Center Library in the heart of one of the world’s most-visited cities. So what’s the catch?

What do you think, Sarah Palin?

I wrote this and posted it a year ago on a new blog that I thought I'd maintain as a venue for my extended political and philosophical rants. After a year, this has remained as the only post, so I thought I'd shut it down and migrate the one post here, unedited.

The title of this post is something I never want to hear a broadcast journalist, political commentator, or really, anyone on TV ever ask… ever.
Alas, the national media is out to crush my hopes and dreams, since Mrs. Palin was asked to be a political commentator for none other than (come on, you know what’s coming, right?) Fox News. Link check:
Now, just this morning, I was reviled by the Huffington Post for “covering” the “debut” of Mrs. Obama’s new haircut… at the funeral of Joe Biden’s mother. This is not news, and I don’t want to support an outlet that reports on such triviality. Unfortunately, I still follow HuffPo on Twitter, and soon thereafter, I saw the link to Dave Letterman's cut-down of Palin's new appointment. I hadn’t heard about her upcoming Fox News gig, so I was, frankly, surprised.
I was also surprised when Karl Rove joined the Fox News team. But that made infinitely more sense. He was a great (albeit underhanded… which in the political world, I suppose, still means “great”) political advisor/planner/manipulator, and he had spent some important years advising some of the most important men on the planet (the Bushs).
I think Republicans try to distance themselves from media figures like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, and I know Beck tries to come off as some sort of independent voice among the legions of stupid people in politics. But nobody’s fooling me. It’s all about the money and what sells, and what sells in politics and TV alike is sensationalism. Violence (war coverage), child abductions (Nancy Grace), Patriotism (O’Reilly / Fox News as a whole). Political sex scandals (Mark Sanford), political abuse of power scandals (Blagojevich). These are the things, apparently, that get America talking. But they are also the things that distract Americans from real issues. (As a side note: I do think that abuses of power should be made public and punished, but I don’t think the day-to-day media coverage of the level of the Blagojevich scandal should take place. It gives him celebrity status — a new power that he’s able to abuse — which only serves to corrupt things more.)
And what do you think Sarah Palin will be talking about on Fox News? It won’t be about real matters in foreign policy, because she doesn’t know any. It won’t be about real matters in domestic policy, because she doesn’t know any. I agree that at times, she was harshly criticized during her political campaign for vice president, but then again, she was in contention for VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. This is not a figurehead position. Palin and McCain wanted to turn the Executive Branch into the only branch of government, basically. Most pieces of media criticism during the election coverage focused on just how uninformed Palin was. And everyone was right. She didn’t know Russia from dogshit on her shoe, but she and McCain still got a significant vote from people in this country, and that deeply disturbs me.
When she stepped down as governor of Alaska, I was grateful. I thought she might prolong her celebrity status with a TV show, maybe a talk show like Oprah has. But I should have known that she would still try to be the innocent “new” face of the Republican party. You know, the one that cares about American values and smalltown values and small government power (despite her comments about enhancing the powers of the executive branch) and fuckall else that doesn’t really help to solve the nation’s problems. This is a branch of political ideology that is very deceptive. They talk about all these philosophical values that can’t possibly affect any sort of real-world political/national problems, and then they do whatever they want behind the scenes, and go to all efforts to cover up their tracks for the public when something goes terribly wrong (see: the reign of George W. Bush). (Of course, yes, yes, the democrats cover up their shit, and Obama espouses American values as well, but it seems to me that he’s giving more of an effort to speak in plain, constructive terms on issues and to offer solutions that he actually tries to implement. But maybe that’s just my liberal, ideal self interpreting him.)
Palin’s appointment to Fox News as a political commentator just serves to solidify my certainly biased views against both her and the station. In short, it’s sickening.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Facebook Politics

I occasionally get sucked into political diatribes on Facebook. Sometimes I take the bait.

---

Michael _______:
I have not been to a public library in years. They are no longer relevant and are a drain on the local tax base. Amazon.com has a much better selection of books.

---

Me:
Michael, I know you're just looking for an argument. I'll begrudgingly take the bait. I'm glad to hear that you are financially well off enough (by pulling yourself up by your bootstraps or whathaveyou) to not have to put up with public libraries. But what about the other people living in Williamsburg? Since you enjoy Wikipedia so much, perhaps you should look at this page: http://bit.ly/qIHhuC — “The per capita income for the city is $18,483. 18.3% of the population and 9.3% of families are below the poverty line.” While you may have the financial stability to buy books from Amazon (which has a bigger selection anyway), what about the nearly 1 in 5 of the people around you who live below the poverty line but still pay taxes that go to providing them access to public libraries? What about their desire to rise above their socio-economic trappings? Would you have them pull themselves up by their own bootstraps without having access to information? Oh, but they have Wikipedia, right? On their laptops and internet connections at home? That they’re able to afford comfortably while they’re living below the poverty line?

You’re also in a very historic area, famous for being near the first colonies in America. Have you thought of the millions of immigrants around the United States who have used public libraries? They read materials in their own language, yes, but many also learn English at their libraries. They meet there with librarians to learn about technology, with book groups to discuss readings, with conversation groups to learn how to speak other languages. Libraries are much more than book repositories — they’re social spaces, they’re information hubs, they’re technology hotspots.

And how about this other Wikipedia factoid: "In various cost-benefit studies libraries continue to provide an exceptional return on the dollar. A 2008 survey discusses comprehensively the prospects for increased funding in the United States, saying in conclusion 'There is sufficient, but latent, support for increased library funding among the voting population.'" — http://bit.ly/q6jLFl

[I'll note here that all this discussion was couched within a thread that was started about Rick Scott's insensitive comments about the study of anthropology.]

The problem with Rick Scott’s statement here about anthropology is that he pretended to know something about higher education, the liberal arts, and how they fit into the economy. The problem with your statement here about libraries is that you don’t know jack shit about libraries because you never go to them.

You write about benefiting the individual American, but when you say that — admit it — you really just mean yourself.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Troy Davis

Troy Davis was executed last night following 20 years in prison. His case had become famous internationally for the doubt that had been cast on the trial and conviction. The basics are that he was convicted in 1991 of killing an off-duty police officer (the killing took place in 1989), there is no DNA evidence tying him to the crime, there were some eyewitnesses at the trial, and many of these eyewitnesses recanted their testimony following the trial. As is true with most anything, you can get a very detailed description at Wikipedia:

Seven of nine eyewitnesses signed affidavits changing or recanting all or part of their testimony. The limited ability to appeal his conviction, due in part to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, brought his plight to international attention. Prosecutors argued that it was too late to present the recantations as evidence. Davis maintained his innocence.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troy_Davis_case

And here's a post about events leading up the execution:

Troy Davis Executed After Supreme Court Rejected Appeals
http://gothamist.com/2011/09/21/after_temporary_delay_supreme_court.php

This is certainly not the first execution that has been called into question (see my July post, Incarceration. The death penalty is certainly not an easy topic to consider. I'm even trying to just think about the basic premise of it (without having to read the long Wiki entry). Any kind of analysis done here, now, would not be enough. But the basic premise that society should be protected from random, preventable violence by government is well taken. And to what extent should society have to pay to keep a proven murderer alive for the rest of their life?

Still, the bit against capital punishment, about how it should be determined who lives and dies (and how things get "proven")... that is also well taken. Especially when you have a Supreme Court Justice say something like this:

I have yet to see a death case among the dozens coming to the Supreme Court on eve-of-execution stay applications in which the defendant was well represented at trial... People who are well represented at trial do not get the death penalty.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader

If you take that statement to its logical conclusion — that having good representation means paying good money for it, AKA, the rich have significantly different legal outcomees from the poor — it all leads back to social class and capitalism. And that's not even considering racism. This is just one area (in a huge grey cloud) where the clear-cut basic premise of the death penalty gets very murky.

So: how to trust a society that gives the best healthcare and the best resouces to its rich and executes its poor?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Office in Italy

In case you don't already know, most of my blogging nowadays is happening over at my Italy blog. I'll be in Florence for a year. But I'll still post here (on rare occasions) for things that are not particularly relevant to my stay in Italy.

Although I have a TV here, I don't watch it. I have been, however, rewatching the entire series of The Office. Well, I have seasons 1-6 and I'm on season 3 now. Sometimes I feel stupid for watching The Office in my apartment in Italy, but then I remember that you can't completely soak something in without breaks. You get overwhelmed. That's why we as humans need sleep. That's why those little slivers of ginger are there next to your sushi. You need to cleanse your palate so you can fully enjoy the next taste.

So when I'm not walking around looking at art and architecture, eating some magnificent food, working, studying, reading, juggling, or playing guitar, I am sometimes watching The Office.

I first saw the show in a quick burst several years ago when a friend lent me and my then-roommates the first two seasons. Rewatching it is nice. You pick on some nuances. It's still funny. It's still emotional.

This exchange comes from an episode that I found to be particularly funny. Darryl asks for a raise, which leads Michael to ask for a raise of his own. This dialogue comes during Michael's negotiations with Darryl, when Darryl realizes that Michael is wearing a women's suit:

Kevin: Who makes it?

Michael: Umm... [opens jacket revealing pinkish/purple coat lining and tag] MISSterious... And it is mysterious because the buttons are on the wrong side. That's the mystery.

Phyllis: It's got shoulder pads. And did you see that lining? Did you see it?

Michael: Would you stop it. Please?

Jim: So none of that tipped you off?

Michael: It's European, OK? it's a European cut.

Pam: Michael, the pants don't have any pockets.

Michael: No, they don't. See? [Michael turns around and rubs his hands on his butt.] Italians don't wear pockets.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Incarceration

I just read a very long, very good article about the execution of a man in Texas:

Trial By Fire
By: David Grann
September 7, 2009

The basic point of the piece comes in one of its last sentences: "There is a chance, however, that Texas could become the first state to acknowledge officially that, since the advent of the modern judicial system, it had carried out the 'execution of a legally and factually innocent person.'"

Since this was written two years ago, there have been a few updates to the investigations into the case. From the relevant Wikipedian entry: "A four-person panel of the Texas Forensic Science Commission investigating evidence of arson presented in the case acknowledged on July 23, 2010, that state and local arson investigators used "flawed science" in determining the blaze had been deliberately set."

After reading through all this tonight, I found myself looking up some basic information on prisons. (The article presents a stark view of prison life.)

Also from Wikipedia:

As of 2006, it is estimated that at least 9.25 million people are currently imprisoned worldwide. . . .

In absolute terms, the United States currently has the largest inmate population in the world, with more than 2½ million or more than one in a hundred adults in prison and jails. . . .

As a percentage of total population, the United States also has the largest imprisoned population, with 739 people per 100,000 serving time, awaiting trial or otherwise detained.


This is definitely some food for thought. I knew that the United States had a large number of prisoners, but I didn't realize how it compared to other countries. The same Wikipedia page has a small comparative chart:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prison#Population_statistics



Prison population per 100,000 inhabitants

Country - Prison population per 100,000 inhabitants

United States of America - 756
Russian Federation - 611
New Zealand - 186
United Kingdom - 148
...
India - 22



So at first I thought that maybe the USA just had a larger number of people (which wouldn't make logical sense anyway, since it's a measure of a percentage of the population)... but look at that last figure. India is the second most populated country in the world.

We should be constantly questioning whether our penal system is working to create better Americans. I think there is a real danger for everyone to (1) want to find swift justice in heinous crimes (aka, want to quickly find a guilty criminal, to prove that justice can be done in the world by simply taking out the bad seeds) (2) want our prejudices and hunches to turn out to be true so we don't have to be proved wrong (3) lock up the 'criminals' so we're safe (4) bring down other humans so we feel better about ourselves.

Also, as a final aside, the idea that a state governor is in many cases a final arbiter of who is deemed guilty and who is deemed innocent, who is granted life and who is granted death (through their ability to grant a pardon), made me yet again question the competence of Governor Rick Scott, who, incidentally, started out his career by practicing law in Texas before he went on to lead Columbia / HCA, the healthcare company that had "the largest fraud settlement in US history."

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Old poem I found on my external hard drive

I'm trying to organize everything in preparation for a big move. I stumbled across this poem I wrote in November of 2007. (Final revised text: 10/22/2007, 1:44 a.m.)

Enjoy.

Children's Wear

I don't remember clearly, but my mother says
she wrapped my tiny body, low in termperature,
in my soon-to-be favorite, tight-knit blanket,
a bright red and blue affair, a Superman's cape

two years later for an energetic boy fighting crime
with his dogs and hamsters, who alternated between the roles
of trusty sidekicks and maniacal arch villians
bent on total destruction.

My mother doesn't know where that blanket
has gotten off to — perhaps it was a prisoner
of childhood wars, stuffed into a forgotten crevice
by a forgetful sibling after a battle of freeze tag

or hide and seek or monkey in the middle,
and overlooked by a family focused on leaving
the cold behind to set up a new home
in a rented house down south.

A painting by my balding father helps me
to remember next a woolen cap pulled down past my ears:
I'm treading through the soft snow, cheeks ablaze,
my sled floating magically behind me while my cap

devours my smooth skull. My mother says that portrait
reminds her of my grandfather in the winter,
whose bald head could not afford to lose
what loving warmth he had left to spend in his old age.

I wore that cap until it was beyond repair, the crown
of my head weathering a hole into its thinning fibers
like a group of unrelenting gases pushing through
a single spot in the Earth's atmosphere.

---
[Edit: And here's an earlier incarnation of this one:
http://uniqueoriginal.blogspot.com/2007/10/childrens-wear.html.
Forgot I had posted it.]

Monday, July 04, 2011

Stephen Colbert On The American Dream

Stephen Colbert is motivated by the American Dream:

"And that dream is simple. That anyone, no matter who they are, if they are determined, if they are willing to work hard enough, someday they could grow up to create a legal entity which could then receive unlimited corporate funds, which could be used to influence our elections."
—"The Serious Implications of Stephen Colbert's FEC Stunt," The Atlantic Wire, 14 May 2011

He just formed his own super PAC. If like me you didn't know what a super PAC is or does, the Christian Science Monitor has a good simple rundown here:

In time for Election 2012, a Stephen Colbert super PAC. What is that?

You can read the FEC decision here.

Or you can just watch Colbert's victory speech:

Friday, June 10, 2011

Love foods

[Actual email]

From: Dave

Love foods - pursuit of aphrodisiacs
May 03, 2011

Love Foods

History is rife with the human pursuit of aphrodisiacs in many forms. Scientific tests have proven that some aromas can cause a greater effect on the body than the actual ingestion of foods. Here are some common foods of love used through the ages.

Alcohol: lowers inhibitions and increases confidence; however, over-indulgence has a sedative effect not conducive to a romantic tryst.

Asparagus: three courses of asparagus were served to 19th century bridegrooms due to its reputed aphrodisiac powers.

Banana: due not only to its shape, but also its creamy, lush texture, some studies show its enzyme bromelain enhances male performance.

Caviar: is high in zinc, which stimulates the formation of testosterone, maintaining male functionality.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Two Questions

[The following is by far the most surreal exchange I've had in 3.5 years of working at my current job.]

A stranger walks into my office and says, "I have two questions for you."

Stranger: "Have you ever read Ayn Rand?"

Me: "No."

Stranger: "Oh. OK."

Me: "..."

Stranger: "Do you know where the Geography building is?"

Me: "...the Geography Department is on the third floor."

Stranger: "Thank you."

[The Stranger walks out the door, hesitates, spins around and walks right back into the office.]

Stranger: "I think you would like Ayn Rand. Are you realistic?"

Me: "I think I'm pretty realistic, but I've heard about it and..."

Stranger: "There's an essay contest. You write something about Atlas Shrugged and you can get $10,000."

Me: "..."

Stranger: "Atlas Shrugged is about the government being run by machines. I'm from Haiti, you know, and the government there doesn't work."

[As she dotes on the machine aspect of the novel, the Stranger lifts her arms up and starts to pantomime being a robot. I think of mentioning Graham Greene's The Comedians, but before I can say anything...]

Stranger: "I think you should read Ayn Rand. You look like you'd like it. What's your name?"

Me: "Justin."

[The Stranger extends her hand, her irises as dark as her pupils so it looks like she's just come, dilated, from the optometrist's...]

Stranger: "I'm Erica, God bless."

Exeunt.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

What Maya Angelou Said

A few weeks back Jessica and I were watching the old boob tube. Flipping around, we (she) eventually landed on the Oprah Winfrey Network, which was airing an interview with Maya Angelou. I heard a very powerful thing then, though I don't have the quote verbatim. Angelou was saying that no matter what she sees another human doing, she must accept the fact that she herself is capable of doing that.

Whoa.

This is something like total empathy. It's much different from saying "I can understand where that guy was coming from when he embezzled a million dollars from needy orphans." It's saying "I am entirely capable of embezzling a million dollars from needy orphans." In essence, she's saying we're all human — all this depravity, violence, greed, etc. in the world is shared completely by everyone on the planet. She didn't go into much more detail on this, but this small bit is enough on its own. Because it's easy enough to vilify someone — it happens every day. If we vilify someone, it creates a distance between us and them and it comforts us to know that their "evil" is unique to their being and so we're safe. This is a psychological safeguard.

While logging on this morning to compose this post, I noticed a quote on Facebook that someone attributed to the Dalai Lama:

Each one of us is responsible for the whole of humankind. We need to think of each other really as brothers and sisters and to be concerned for each other’s welfare. Rather than working solely to acquire wealth, we need to do something meaningful, something directed seriously towards the welfare of humanity as a whole.
-The Dalai Lama's facebook post today.

A good tie-in, no?

I suppose I started thinking about Angelou's quote again this morning after (1) viewing Blue Velvet this past weekend and (2) reading David Foster Wallace's take on David Lynch in his (DFW's) essay entitled "David Lynch Keeps His Head" (the link is to the Premiere magazine article version; I had read the extended version in Wallace's book A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again).

On viewing Blue Velvet: It was a movie I didn't really connect with emotionally. I felt the clichĂ©-like atmosphere, the campy old timey detective stuff, mixed in with the starkly portrayed sexual depravity and violence to be, in short, disturbing. I didn't feel like the movie said much to me — I felt it was awkwardly paced and trying to hard too be symbolic.

Wallace argues that the disturbing nature of the movie is what makes it so great. Lynch doesn't vilify Frank Booth. He gets the audience to see the sexual depravity through a naive, young man's (Jeffrey's) eyes, and then Lynch shows that this young man is also capable of this depravity and violence. And since Jeffrey is the main "eyes" of the film, this means the audience is implicitly capable of this depravity and violence.

Wallace is particularly focused on his own emotional involvement with Jeffrey's participation in sexual battery and in the scene where Frank Booth sits in the front seat of the car, turns towards the camera (AKA Jeffrey AKA the audience) and says "You're just like me." There is much more analysis in Wallace's essay, if you're interested in that kind of thing.

Wallace argues that the disturbing nature of the film goes against the typical Western narrative of "bad" bubbling up from underneath some dark dank orifice and "good" rising to the occasion to defeat it. He's saying "bad" and "good" work in tandem in the film, even after (spoiler alert) Frank Booth is shot in the head and Jeffrey gets the (good) girl in the end.

So maybe the disturbing stuff I felt during the movie was more of a need to vilify and distance the evil from myself. I felt a similar depravity throughout Funny Games which, I think, was more depraved and more meta and less artistic than Blue Velvet. I wonder what Wallace would have thought of that movie.

In the end, I think it comes down to what you experienced during the art. I'm very interested in the experience of art and what people like and why and why people continue to go see certain types of movies (books/plays/etc.) and not other types of movies (books/plays/etc.). Kanye West, at one time or another, more or less yelled out "Well, did you like the song or not?!" (Which, I think, is [justifiably] every artist's basic response to professional critics.)

You can judge the effectiveness (and maybe even the "goodness") of a piece of art based solely on your emotional/visceral experience. But be reminded that intellectualism is also part of what it means to be human — this is why Maya Angelou must constantly remind herself that she is capable of doing anything that any human does. She must tell herself this because she doesn't naturally feel this (but she knows it).

What I mean is that you might think a movie is trash, which is fine. But then if you read about the movie and see what other people got out of it... it complicates things. And maybe it changes the way you respond to art. And I suppose this is why professional critics exist — to give the intellectual side of the art, however pompous and ineffectual that is (compared to the art itself) in order to deepen the experience of the art.

I'm an artist and a critic myself and I've been wondering for years what role critics play in everything and why criticism is needed. And I didn't know it when I started writing this post, but I think I just figured out a little answer to that.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Homeless Person or Graduate Student?

Never has any money.

Always complains about never having any money.

Always asks to borrow money.

Yet always keeps a Steel Reserve around for the morning after.

Has no way to secure a steady income.

Has no real job prospects.

Is easily excited by the idea of receiving anything for free.

Is especially excited about offerings of free booze and free food.

Has facial hair growth that is inversely proportional to head hair growth.

Considers showers to be an unnecessary luxury.

Maintains a healthy addiction to cheap tobacco.

Has little knowledge of common etiquette and social customs that are outside of his or her immediate environment.

Offers lengthy conversations about convoluted and entirely incomprehensible topics.

Never gets tired of vulgar jokes.

Relies exclusively on secondhand clothing; is always at least two fashion trends behind the times.

Is attracted like a moth to a light to businesses that are open 24 hours.

Reeks of booze, vomit, urine, and despair.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Work Email Exchange

Hello,

I was wondering if we could reserve a Bellamy classroom that holds 40 people for a class dance workshop to be held...

Wed, June 8
9:30 – 10:45 a.m.
For: [REDACTED]

I believe all classrooms in Bellamy have laminate / tile floors; that was one request that the instructor had.

Thanks!

Justin



Justin...A couple of questions before I say yes. Will there be music, dancing, etc? If so...a room in say Montgomery Hall would be more appropriate. The class instructors adjacent to the "dance workshop" might not understand and probably would have a very low tolerance for an event of this nature. Now if this is just a seminar on dance...I don't think there would be a problem, but the request for laminate/tile floors makes me suspicious. See if you can find out exactly what the room will be used for.

Michael



Upon further inspection of the matter, the instructor said that there will only be a short demonstration during the class (about 5 minutes) by one dancer, and the floors are needed only so that the dancer’s shoes can properly slide. Music would be kept at a level no louder than (and most likely quieter than) a movie that would be shown in class. The remaining time for the room reservation will be spent lecturing.

Best,

Justin



Justin...I am still a little reluctant to allow the music and dance routine. I seem not to have good experiences with reservations of this type. I usually end with a call from an instructor that the group next door is having a Broadway Play with music, instruments and dance! If it's what you describe...I guess it will be okay.

Michael

Friday, May 13, 2011

Higher Ed & Healthcare

Two issues that I've become increasingly interested in and vocal about are the state of higher education in America and the state of healthcare in America.

As a 7th-year student of higher ed (through two bachelors programs and smack dab in the middle of my second masters program), I feel I'm an expert on the student side of things. And as an administrative worker at a large public university, I feel like I'm reasonably well-informed on the other side of the fence too (I probably know more about the tenure process than some current faculty do). Speaking from my somewhat narrow experience at this one large public university I've attended and worked at, it seems that I can reasonably generalize that at every level of higher education there are some severe problems that will likely lead to a significant downward spiral in terms of the quality, affordability, and sustainability of higher education in America. (Some are saying the spiral is already happening and that there's no quick fix available.)

I recently read the following Nation article, which presents a number of the problems that higher ed has been having and also gives a good summary of recent (shocking) news of the budget cuts and the extreme measures that some universities have been taking.

Faulty Towers: The Crisis in Higher Education
By: William Deresiewicz

The article was actually emailed out to the department I work in by a fairly prestigious tenured professor, who, by simply sending out the piece, was doing his part to increase awareness of the problems that graduate students and professors face (especially those in the humanities). It is a long read, but well worth the effort (even though it only marginally addresses student loan debt, which is a major issue that can essentially debilitate students who cannot find proper employment, and even many of those who can find proper employment).

Secondly (and not entirely unrelated; both problems are directly related to the upper echelons of society screwing over the lower classes), today a friend of a friend on Facebook posted an excellent essay he wrote on the state of healthcare in America:

Fire, Feces, and Healthcare
By: Reg Darling

I think everyone in America should read this. It artfully presents a view I've formed of American healthcare: How can we reasonably enjoy life and liberty and pursue happiness in America if at any moment all of our financial security could be swept away by one unpredictable disease? I've had enough personal experiences and I've read enough of other people's personal experiences to know that American healthcare can completely debilitate people. For rich politicians to insinuate that universal healthcare is socialism or that it is tantamount to enslaving physicians makes me really concerned that American capitalism, which in many respects has enriched humanity, has ultimately left Americans as greedy opportunists who feel no empathy for their compatriots.

I personally would jump at the chance to pay higher taxes so that anyone in a medical emergency or anyone with a disease whose treatments or medications are now not financially feasible could receive healthcare free of charge. A friend of mine complains that it's not fair if he (as a healthy person who takes care of himself) would have to pay taxes into universal healthcare so that his fellow cheeseburger-loving, pack-a-day smoking Americans, could reap all the benefits of his (my friend's) hard work. I say (like the link above) that it's simply the cost of living in a civilized society. And the healthier the people around you, the healthier you are. It's something that's been scientifically proven in various arenas. (Sorry that I do not have the proper citations here. If you're interested, maybe start with this: Happiness Is 'Infectious'.)

It's all too easy to ignore these problems when they're not directly affecting us. But, in a way, by affecting our fellow Americans on a daily basis, these issues are indirectly affecting us on a daily basis. Food for thought.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Wilco - Live at the Saenger Theater, Mobile, AL, May 3, 2011

Ashes of American Flags
Bull Black Nova
I am Trying to Break Your Heart
Kamera
At Least That's What You Said
Handshake Drugs
One Wing
A Shot in the Arm
Country Disappeared
Impossible Germany
When You Wake Up Feeling Old
Airline to Heaven
Jesus, etc.
Misunderstood
Spiders (Kidsmoke)

---

The Late Greats
Red-Eyed and Blue
I Got You (At the End of the Century)
Hate it Here
Walken
I'm the Man Who Loves You
[New song, Lady Madonna-esque riff, guitar duel]

Monday, April 25, 2011

So-lil-a-kwee

To PhD or not to PhD. That is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of the destitute job market and the debilitating misfortune of student loan repayments, or to take arms against a sea of academic troubles, and by opposing, end them? To DIS, to sleep no more; and by a sleep to say we spend the heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks that term papers are heir to: 'tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. To work full-time, to sleep; to sleep, perchance to dream — ay, there's the rub: for in that half-lidded sleep of dissertation death what academic dreams may come, when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, must give us pause — there's the respect of the profession that makes calamity of so long life.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Strangest Spam Email

Received this email. No links or attachments or anything:


-----Original Message-----
From: Mr. Paul [mailto:scheidtk780@gmail.com]
Sent: Saturday, March 26, 2011 8:26 AM
To:
Subject: "Check your Mail Fast"

Hi,
Check your mail Fast It's Urgent.


Thanks
Your Friend
Paul

Monday, March 21, 2011

The internet 13 years ago



This makes me think I should take some video of me surfing the web at work and release it in 13 years.

Everyone will all be like

"Wow, it's cool how you sped up the video with the music,"

and I'll all be like

"NOT SPED UP, ACTUAL TIME."

And they'll be all like

"Wow, that's a lotta tabs. Why did you sometimes hold down Ctrl+Tab and then switch to Ctrl+Shift+Tab,"

and I'll all be like,

"BECAUSE I WANTED TO SEE THE INTERNET FLY BY REAL FAST FORWARDS. AND THEN BACKWARDS. ZOOM ZOOM ZOOM."

&c.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Google Reverb Effect

I browse the internet in Google Chrome. I stay signed in my Google account the whole time I'm browsing. So I've noticed a lot of customizations, things that Google has built into its search software to try to help me along to what I'm looking for.

I should have suspected that there would be some kind of holdover effect from search to search, but it was still kind of surprising when I did the following two isolated searches to do some light research for a tweet I was writing. (Click on pics for larger views.)

Search 1: "the hold steady"


Search 2: "twitter"


These searches were done within a minute of each other. You'll notice that the term from the first search has influenced the results of the second separate search, as the band The Hold Steady's Twitter account appears as the #2 link in a Google search for "Twitter." Just to be sure this wasn't an exactly organic result, I opened up Firefox and did a search for "twitter" without logging into my Google account:


I also did a back-to-back search in Firefox of "the hold steady" and "twitter" again, and it didn't influence the results the way it did the first time.

Although the lingering influence in this particular instance is relatively insignificant, I think this method of carrying over information from previous searches can be counter-productive to those who are used to working with Google a lot. I'm sort of a proponent for "pure search" in terms of seeing what everyone else sees when I search for a term. This, of course, doesn't happen for several reasons, one being that Google automatically maps to your geographical location to provide more relevant data, which is nice and convenient about 90% of the time.

Anyway, the bigger problem here is that Google is trying to make search idiot-proof. In doing so, their measures make it slightly more difficult for users who have adapted to Google's searching methods. There are a couple of ways to customize your search experience (by turning off instant search, for example), so hopefully Google will not try too hard to fix something that's not broken.

Radiohead - The King of Limbs (Play by Play)

Radiohead surprised everyone last Monday (Valentine's Day) by saying that their album would be available in 5 days' time. They really meant 4 days' time. If you've pre-ordered the album, go here to login and download it. If you haven't and don't plan on buying it, enjoy this video:





And here are my impressions upon first hearing the album...


Only 8 tracks?

Bloom? In Bloom? Nirvana? Some scattered frantic beats reminiscent of Amnesiac. When Yorke starts singing, it starts to remind me of his solo disc, The Eraser. I left my cord at home — can't load this album on my iPod. Dammit. [Musical interlude, swells, standard dramatic stuff.] I'm thinking I shouldn't even try to parse words during the first listen. I think he's saying "I'm moving out..." Is this about when he moved out of his parents' house? Bloom?

Not a particularly strong opening track.

Hope the second one grabs me like "Bodysnatchers" did before.

Morning Mr Magpie ... more schizo beats. Did I just drop 50 bucks on The Eraser 2? Gimme at least one bangin' track here, guys. Throw Jonny on a solo or something. I can appreciate their need to not make In Rainbows 2, but, uhh... There's nothing like several seconds of silence at the end of a track... I paid for this silence... but it's not the thoughtful silence at the end of Kid A... it's the annoying silence.

Little By Little shows more promise straight out of the gate. Still got an electronic beat feel, but it's got a bit of ummph to it. And some weird castanets thing going on. And a mechanically droning bassline, and backwards guitar. I can dig it. [Thank god for Blogger's auto-save feature. I just accidentally closed the blog tab! Talk about suspense...] Why have I never noticed that Yorke's singing has been more and more like Enya. Or Mira (for you Tallahassee local band buffs). What's up with that? Primal vowel sounds. No idea what he's saying. Little By Little just went into a weird lurching slump-thump. Yeah, I can bump to this one.

Aaannd Feral sounds pretty much like the first two tracks here in the first minute. If I wanted some looped beats, I'd go to an ecstasy-laden rave at Club Rayn or wherever. Or I'd go listen to Kid A and Amnesiac again. I mean: I get it. Trance-like. Get in the zone. What a fucking waste of a track.

Lotus Flower: Not that art should be judged on how long it takes (otherwise Chinese Democracy would be the best album of all time, amirite?), but I seriously wonder how long it took them to cobble together these beats. I can recognize that Yorke's default now is electronica and I'm sure he rocks back and forth listening to these tracks and fucking chills the fuck out. And, I mean it sounds good. He just did a reverberated delay on his vocals. So. You know, if you're looking to mess around with technology that has been around for quite a number of years, check out the new Radiohead. Ok... it's not that bad. I guess I just need to digest this.

On a side note, I can't remember how long it's been since I've listened to Hail to the Thief. I thought that one was the bee's knees when I first got it. I listened to it quite a bit. Then it kind of fell by the wayside. Kid A has been a good go-to. And I played the hell out of In Rainbows. And then there's the back catalog, I mean... oh, new track started.

Codex has got some light piano. "Videotape"-type piano, but... not as good? Srsly, though, did Radiohead even listen to their older songs? Maybe they just forgot what they recorded before. Codex is like half over now and "Videotape" beats the shit out of it. At this point, I'd rather they take some risks and have it fail than do stuff like this. What if Radiohead did a straight-up pop album? I saw them cover "The Headmaster Ritual" — it'd be great if they went all straight 4/4, synth, bubblegum pop on us. They could do it well, I think... Lemme guess. Another 30 seconds of silence at the end of this track now. Mm-hmm.

I'm hoping there's some really good artwork with the package that gets mailed to me. Because I'm on Give Up The Ghost and I'm kind of ready to strike this album from Radiohead's discography. Can we pretend it didn't happen? Can we go back to when you guys said you wouldn't make albums anymore because it's a single-track download culture now? Because then you could have just released Little By Little and be done with it.

I'm also slightly embarrassed that this material is entirely workplace-friendly. When I play hip-hop at the office, I feel like a fucking badass. When I play this... I could play Give Up The Ghost at a nursing home and it might go over well. But somehow I expect that there will be above-average reviews for this album. The world needs Radiohead, and every new review is a chance to grab a new person and show them that Radiohead has a wonderful catalog, despite having a few missteps. (15 MisSteps? lulz.) I think this track is wrapping up, though, so I get to start a new paragraph.

Separator is at least named in an In Rainbows vein. (You know, like "Reckoner," which is a great song name, I think.) Let's see how it comes out........ Ok. I guess I need drugs for this... "Every woman... does a goblin?" What is he saying here? I can't understand it. I feel like a cranky old man. Like, for example, this percussion loop. I could easily create this in less than five minutes. Where's Phil Selway? I'm thinking if anyone quits, it's him.

I expected more.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Academically Adrift

Commenting on links in Facebook can be invigorating, but can then feel like a wasted effort that will soon fade away into the wave after wave of information posted there... So I'll post it here!

A Lack of Rigor Leaves Students 'Adrift' In College

It's clear to me, after 7 years of higher ed, three of which involved working full time administratively assisting graduate students, that college is not for everyone. Graduate school is not for everyone.

But America doesn't understand this. Parents don't understand this.

College is so many things all at once — as much as it's a classroom education, it's (usually) moving out of your parents' house, moving out of your hometown, setting your own schedules, buying and making your own meals, making new friends, exposing yourself to new activities. If the drive to learn how to think, how to process information, how to manipulate information, and how to see through information manipulation — if that drive is weaker in a person than the drive to alter physical states with drugs and alcohol, to try out new foods, music, clothes, parties, attitudes, images, etc., etc., then college is nothing more than a four-year or longer postponement of entering the 9-to-5 grind.

There are so many other factors involved — sense of entitlement, sordid state of financial practices (predatory student loans! healthcare!), sordid state of payment for graduate students (overworked! underpaid!) — that I'd be very, very surprised if more than half the student population DID learn how to think, reason, and write. (I'd venture to say that every instructor I've had took for granted that every student in the class could write properly. Wasn't a problem for me. Was for others.)

Monday, February 07, 2011

Proposed Florida State Park Cuts

Office of Governor Rick Scott
State of Florida
The Capitol
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001

7 February 2011

Dear Governor Rick Scott,

I recently read in the Orlando Sentinel (online) that “Fifty-three state parks, including three in Martin and St Lucie counties, could be closed” in response to your plans for cutting the state budget. I know the state is facing a lot of financial turmoil, but I urge you to reconsider where these budget cuts will be taken from.

My favorite places in Tallahassee are parks. I’ve lived here for seven and a half years, and I’ve had the opportunity to explore many of the parks around here, from the enormous places — Tom Brown Park and Maclay Gardens — to the tucked away places — Lafayette Park, Winthrop Park. I assume these are not among the state parks targeted for cuts, but their presence in the city has been invigorating for me and I assume that other Florida state parks are equally invigorating to the Floridians who frequent them. I can still remember the feeling I had when I got out of my car after driving down to Ochlockonee River State Park to visit it for the first time. I was surprised, utterly taken aback, by the silence of the place. There were no car sounds to be heard, and no one else was at that park on that Saturday afternoon. But as my fiancĂ©e and I stepped out of the car, we were rendered breathless by the awesome power of nature. This quaint anecdote goes to show (to me at least, hopefully to you as well) that even if it is only a few people who visit a park in a given year, that park can still have a great impact on the local culture, on society’s psyche.

These days we are battered nonstop by technologies that bring us further from nature. I have a cell phone and iPod that beep at me daily with dozens messages. I am glued to a computer screen at my job for 40 hours a week. However, in the evenings and on the weekends, I am able to experience a complete detachment from hyper-civilization by walking through these parks, these places of natural beauty. As the Florida State Parks website says, “More than eight centuries ago, Native Americans inhabited the area around Lake Jackson, just north of Tallahassee,” and, on the weekends, I can go there and see the same things they did — see their burial mounds and experience much of the same natural settings that they did. That, to me, is more amazing than our technology. Preservation is important to us as a way for people to understand their place on the planet, and city, state, and national parks contribute to this process in an irreplaceable way.

Upon reading this news of proposed park closures, I wondered whether these spaces would eventually be opened to commercial development. This would be one of the worst ideas. Before Tallahassee, I lived in Melbourne, FL from 1990–2003, and I witnessed a great amount of natural landscapes there torn down and paved over to make way for strip malls. These were areas that weren’t protected as parks. Dirt paths in woods that I would bicycle through where I can now purchase eyeglasses and medical supplies.

So I have a simple request. I respectfully request that you and your administration visit every single state park on the budget’s chopping block. And get out of the car. And walk around. And take note of the wildlife. And breathe the air (free of exhaust fumes). And feel the breeze. And hear the cicadas. And see the children having a birthday party. And then imagine it all being turned into a McDonald’s.


Sincerely,


Justin de la Cruz, M.A., B.S., B.A.
Floridian
Taxpayer
Parkgoer
Florida State University Administrative Support Assistant, Department of History
Florida State University Graduate Student, School of Library & Information Studies

Juice v. Petty

I heard this Juice Newton song over the weekend. Is it just me, or...

Juice Newton — Queen of Hearts (1981)
(if you get an advertisement, skip to ~1:22 in the song)

Tom Petty / Heartbreakers — Runnin' Down a Dream (1989)
(~0:43 in the song)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Arrested Development Week 1

The week before Christmas 2010 I was the only person in my workplace. Everyone else had taken time off, so my goal was to watch as much Arrested Development as I could (via Netflix streaming).

I'd never seen it before.

I only made it through Season 1.

But I snapped some awkward screenshots along the way.

Here they are.




Google search vs page place discrepancy

There's a wrong listing of a phone number that appears on the Google Search page, but appears correctly when you click over to the Google business Place page. Any ideas on how to correct this, or will it auto-correct when Google gets newer search caches?

The result is that someone in my department is getting all these calls intended for the university's student health center. (Other Google Place pages for FSU institutions are also listing this phone number incorrectly, presumably also on the Search pages.)

(Note: I've edited the Place page, sending a note that the phone number on the search page should be changed. Does that go to a Goog Admin?)

Pics and links (click pics to see them bigger):

Search Page


Place page

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Today I

Wrote a five-page paper.

Printed out a book for someone.

Scanned a book for myself.

Got a little bit older.

And a little bit blinder.

(I'm waiting on a new pair of eyeglasses.)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Twitter Town Hall

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rick_Scott#Twitter_Town_Hall

On Thursday, January 20, 2011, Scott held what was called a Twitter Town Hall, where the governor responded to questions from his constituents via the popular social media service Twitter. Questioners were told to direct their inquiries to Scott's Twitter account, @FLGovScott, and to use the hashtag #flgov. Scott would then retweet (re-post) the question and send a response. Scott responded to 22 questions during the Twitter Town Hall, but near the end of the session, he retweeted a question from Twitter user @PrettyTwister — "So what, are you gunna fire everyone and hire Walmart employees? Yeah, thats great... you jackass." — without answering it. This was an apparent mistake on the governor's part, since he ended the Twitter Town Hall five minutes later and deleted this re-posting from his Twitter page.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tallahassee Hidden Spots Part 1

Occasionally, I spend good amounts of time writing comments, emails, and other communications online that don't end up anywhere else. But just now I figured, if I'm going to do all this work, I might as well slap it into a quick blog post.

I've always wanted to blog stuff about Tallahassee's Hidden Spots. Too many times, I hear from people moving here from bigger cities complaining that TLH is pretty boring. I'll admit that it's no NYC in terms of nonstop things available, but if you start poking in different directions, you'll see that Tallahassee starts to give way into a deeper world of arts, parks, restaurants, and just plain old weird places.

Anyway, I found this blog today and wrote up a comment with suggestions on places that Tallahassee has to offer. So here's the short list (predicated on the notion that I will do a more robust list at a later [probably much, much later] date):

Ochlockonee River State Park – A bit of a drive, but worth it. Near Sopchoppy, beautiful.

St. George Island – A longer drive, but still worth it. Pristine white beaches.

Lake Talquin State Park – Big lake, but this is the best spot to view it from what I’ve seen so far.

Hamaknockers BBQ – Best BBQ I’ve had around these parts.

Silver Lake – There’s also a chain of lakes out here linked by dirt roads. Good for stargazing because there’s no light pollution out there.

Lake Jackson Indian Mounds

Samrat – Good Indian food.

Five years ago I would have added Sunland (an abandoned children’s hospital), Vinyl Fever (THE record shop), and Rice Bowl (an awesome Thai / Chinese / Japanese restaurant) but all those places have gone away.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Twitter-esque blog post update en masse

I won a trip to Italy! Did I say that on here yet? (The dates are Aug 2011 - Aug 2012; this link is to an old posting.)

I got an iPod Touch! Did I say that on here yet? Jessica done bought it for me for Christmas 2010! The inscription reads:

[REDACTED, IN CASE I NEED TO STATE THE INSCRIPTION IN THE FUTURE IN ORDER TO IDENTIFY THE IPOD IN CASE OF ANY FUTURE THIEVERY. NICE TRY, GUYS]

I need a haircut! Did I say that...

I'm reading Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project! (Too lazy to link now.)

I'm sitting in one of my online classes.

The professor described the scientific method, replete with flow charts and custom highlighting.

I am trying to blog more in the new year.

I am going to try to revamp my website before August 2011. (Web 3.0 FTW!)

I started counting calories on my iPod Touch (I will spell that out every time; I do not like the word blend / elision "iTouch") via the My Fitness Pal app... (Too lazy to link, still.)

...which shows that JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING is fun when done on a touch screen.

My class just finished...

...which means I now get to go to Steak N Shake.