Monday, November 22, 2010

Voice Blog - Maintenance

Finally, got the voice blog up. It's a YouTube video as a workaround for audio. You can view my shining face as you listen.

Anyway, this is a little excerpt from a bunch of word dumping I did around 1995. I would have been 21 or 22 then. I was working on my philosophy master's degree then and living in Oxford, MS, and the evidence of this drips from every slip of paper in the folder. Overwrought expositions on the nature of Being, written up as fiction? Check. Dallying with every southern litfic stereotype written? Check.

It's also quite clear that I was interested in this transition from childhood to adulthood at the time. Of course, when I was living it, I did not think of myself as young and unsure of where I fit in the world. I was just the same old me. But, I was in fact precisely a young thang, with an extended education, but not sure how it could be useful to me or anyone else. I assume in 15 years, I will see what I am now more clearly. None of this is to say that my characters were exactly me. They were not. It's just that I was apparently interested in these issues 15 years ago.

I have also, from the time I first put pen to paper around age 12, explored a female point of view when I write, and here I go at it again. Actually, I suppose this little bit is probably a male narrating a female protagonist story.

Anyway, here you go. Me writing at age 21, but I confess the me at 37 couldn't let the worst bits remain and did edit just a wee bit. But it's 95% the same as then. Okay, 90%.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Datamine this!

I was reading an article about web traffic on Yahoo! just now and I noticed an ad on the right for Air New Zealand.

Now, maybe, they just posted that ad because it's a US ip address, or there's a Hawaii campaign going on. If so, that's probably fine.

But if they targeted that to me because it's me... then I don't like it at all. I happened to be logged in under my paca-related account. Do my emails mention those key words? I really don't want Yahoo's computers looking for statistically rare phrases in my private messages* and then matching that with ads they can display. You are a computer. You don't need to know about me and give stuff to me that I care about. My friends can do that, because they are actual people that I have an actual relationship with. Honestly, I don't know how Yahoo would know my NZ connection. Do they have some info from Facebook? If so, even more, boo!

Now, I get that some people really do want to have things sent to them that they care about. They like ads targeted to them instead of completely useless stuff. That's fine. Give them a checkbox saying "please send me targeted ads" and then send away. Don't just datamine me though without asking. If I get mad enough about it, I will just stop using your software and you won't even get to send mass ads to me.

But maybe it's just an ad campaign to the U.S. and I'm not personally relevant. If so, this is just a hypothetical rant.

And for the record, no, I don't like cameras taking pics of public streets either just in case someone breaks a law. Yes, we can save money if a camera does it instead of a cop, but that's sort of the point. There's an actual cost when you have a real person watch the public and so the government only can afford to do it when it's possibly important. The lower cost it is to monitor the public, the more monitoring there will be.

We shouldn't completely cede public space to those who wish to make a buck from us or who have a laudable public goal. Yes, there is an important distinction between public and private areas, but just because it's "public" it doesn't mean you can treat me like crap.

So there.

*Yes, I know that emails should not be viewed as truly private, but more like postcards that could be read my someone else. But I don't want a company reading my postcards either, writing down my interests, and then sticking an appropriate mailer in my box either. Wasn't some guy convicted recently for hacking into Sarah Palin's emails? If so, then why do Google and Yahoo's computers get to do it? Yes, yes, it's sort of how we pay them. We get to use their service for free; they get to record what we do and sell ads. But that deal is nowhere near as upfront as it needs to be. Instead, we get a constantly changing deal where what we have given up changes, often without our knowledge or where we have to opt out.


Just this morning I received an email from Sprint about their privacy policy. Here are paragraphs 2 and 3:

"We collect information about how you use your phone, including the types of Web sites you visit and services you purchase such as ringtones or wallpaper downloads billed through Sprint. We aggregate the information, packaging it in a form that does not personally identify you (does not include identifying information such as your name, address, email address or telephone number). Then, we may share it with our partners. The purpose is to provide you advertisements about goods and services that may be useful to you. For example, based on your mobile purchase of a sports-themed ring tone, Sprint may, along with its ad partners, present an ad about an upcoming sports event on a Web site you visit using your device, instead of a random ad.

If you'd rather we didn't use this information for selecting the ads that you see, you may opt-out. To find out how to opt-out and to learn more about internet-based advertising and your privacy, click here."

Now, I applaud Sprint for actually saying this, and they don't just say it on page 11 of a user agreement. This was a three paragraph email and I copied two of the paragraphs above. So, for honesty, go Sprint. That said, they've got the choosing backwards. It needs to be opt in, not opt out. You don't start recording what I do and then only stop if I say so. If this is so helpful, tell me you can do it for me and let me choose it. Moreover, this is Sprint, I pay them hundreds of dollars a year so that I can use this phone and I would pay more for a data plan. This isn't ad-based broadcast television where I don't pay for the service.

In this case, it doesn't particularly affect me, since I don't use the web on my phone. The phone's getting so beat up and old, I can barely use it as a phone still. But at the end of the email, I did "click here."

voice blog on the way

Accidentally left the excerpt to be read elsewhere, so I will have to make the recording tonight. So... Saturday for most of you.


Monday, November 15, 2010

My EE dedication

Continuing the recreation of 2008, I discovered that this dedication to one of EE's anniversaries was way back then as well. Here's the original with comments that are better than the actual post.

And the post copied to 2010:

Ah, I remember it like yesterday. I was browsing along and umm uhhh somehow I uhhh ended up reading EE's blog. But I don't remember why. Maybe it was uhhh Miss Snark or something? Maybe ummm PubRants. And uhhh.

Well, I don't remember yesterday very well either. So I'll just make something up about my first week on EE's blog, which seems to have been some time in June of 2006.

A handsome young man sits at a desk; papers sprawl around him. He has been working for many hours but his strength and vitality are such that he is as energetic as any a man can be. He fiddles with a pen for a moment and looks at a mass of equations on the notepad in front of him.

"Just about there," he thinks to himself. "I've completed the proofs of each sub-module and the only thing left is to demonstrate the necessary convergence of the two systems into a single equation. And then the world will have it's Theory of Everything. When it's published I should finally obtain that position so I can help feed my family."

He stretches his arms up towards the sky.

"Just a quick breather and then it's off to implement the algorithm, collapsing the systems. Hm. What's this?"

He scans the page without emotion.

Then a corner of the mouth turns. "Heh. AFTER GOYA."

Then a smile. "Brutal eunuchs. Ha ha."

He sips his hot tea and reads further. Suddenly, he spews his tea all over the computer. "Vigilante sorcerors! OMG! That's too much! Oh crap, my ink is running on the proof. Well, that's alright. I know what it said. I'll just umm fix this bit here and- What's this? I can submit a continuation myself? Oooh, ooh. People will laugh at me! With me, with me." Click, click. Type, type. "I'll still remember the final equation even after I submit a continuation. Or two. Or three. Wow, how many are on this site? I must submit something for every single one of them!"

That night Paca is laying in bed after correcting about half of his tea-splattered theory of everything. "Choose mine, choose mine. It's the funniest. I know it is. Please, please."

The next day.

"F-ing Ril. What the hell, EE?! Clearly my clever twist in which the romance heroine is truly a brain-dead zombie is better. That's it. I'll try again." Paca types frantically into the keyboard.

When he goes home that night, his beautiful, hard-working wife asks, "honey, how's the development of the algorithm going?"

"What? Oh, yeah, going well. It'll converge. I'm sure it will. And then he'll choose mine."

"Someone will choose your what?" Paca doesn't answer, but his wife listens to him mumbling something about zombie deathfish all night long. Of course, aren't these academics always coming up with weird names for their ideas?

Next day.

"F-ing Ril! Yeah, so technically I would guess that this one from Ril is in fact, if you want to get into the details of it, actually funny, while mine was a contrived piece of garbage. Dammit!" Paca hurls paper from his desk and then falls onto the floor sobbing. "I'm a horrible writer! I'll never come up with anything funny! Oh, what will I do with my life? It's all been a waste. A waste. Oh god, in just two days this Evil Editor has exposed me as a fraud and a talentless two-bit... something. I can't even think of a way to curse myself creatively. I'm so pathetic."

At 6:30 that evening, there is a knock on the office door. Paca's wife opens it to find Paca sprawling with his pants half-way off, his head dipping over a pail of gin. It isn't clear if he's drinking it or about to vomit into it. She rushes to his side.

"Honey, Paca honey! What's wrong?!"

He mumbles something, but his tongue seems to be as effective as his sense of humor. He tries again. "I'm nussing."

"Nothing?" she asks.

"A human stale. A piece of filth. I've been teprending, te-te-pretending all my life."

"Your work?"

"Not just wok. Work. My bean. My bean."

"I thought we agreed you wouldn't call it that anymore, and you know I don't mind how small-"

"No, no. My being. What I wiv for."

"Oh, the algorithm didn't work? It doesn't reliably converge like you were sure it would and you've wasted 5 years of effort?"

"Algowim? Don't need no fucking algowim. You're crazy. Yes, I think you crazy. What's an algowim? Algowim! Algowim!"

We can see Paca's wife composing herself, repeating innwardly, "it's just the alcohol talking. Don't let it get to me. At least it's not as bad as that time with the silly puddy and tacks."

"I could just die now," the drunk concludes. "Do you think I would die if I sat on my own head?"


"I think I would. Look." Paca starts contorting himself in an attempt to sit on himself. "Watch. I'm gonna be dead once I sit on my own head."

"Hey, at least you can still rhyme even when you're being an asshole. Don't have a fit. Just look at it-"

Paca pops up suddenly awake again. "That's it!!"

"What's it?"

"Dying children! Now that's some funny stuff!"

She stares at him for a moment without speaking. "Maybe you should try the head-sitting thing again."

"No need!" He pops up from the floor, knocking the gin over. "I've got it! Take this, ril! Blogless! Little cute 'oala! Robin, you'll never flirt with EE again! You too, rhinothongbuttchurkodeldin! You'll never usurp my continuation position again!"

Next day.

Paca is scanning over the divorce papers as he hits refresh on his computer screen. Refresh. Refresh.



Happy Anniversary, EE!!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Disconcerting Fact 1

My current students, who are essentially freshmen in college, were in 4th grade (one said 3rd grade) for the September 11th attacks.

2008 - Redo!

Following Shona's lead and my laziness (I also just woke up and have a head weighing about 40 pounds), I'm reposting something from 2008 as part of Blogger Nostalgia Week 2010. This is me as a llama reading Freddie's story. It was one of Robin's voice posts.