Friday, July 30, 2010

a monkey in a tux

they show Fox "News" on the television in the lobby of one of the floors in the data center where i work. i have to wait by the television whenever i go in and out of this floor, while i wait for the locked man-trap doors to release. therefore, i always get little eyefuls and earfuls of that drivel.

it drives me crazy that it's matter whether you agree with it or not, it's at least too polarizing to be appropriate as background noise in a professional setting.

however, just now i saw the most fitting snippet ever: Glenn Beck was wearing a suit and glasses in a ridiculous attempt to appear erudite, as he was pointing at and blathering about a poorly drawn cartoon.

if that's not Fox "News" in a nutshell, i don't know what is.

Monday, July 26, 2010

the city that definitely sleeps

wow, chicago is a different city when you work the night shift.

this has been my first "normal" off-time since i switched shifts...after my first week of nights Mark came to visit and i moved, and after my second week of night shifts was HOPE. last night and tonight, however, it has hit me like a ton of bricks how few late-night hangout options there are in this city that aren't bars.

last night, i went to a circus out near wicker park. after it, i wandered through wicker park trying to find late-night food. i didn't want to drink. i didn't want to eat Drunk Food (TM) like flash taco or underdog. i wanted to eat something delicious. and, it was damned near impossible. i finally ended up at a place i always thought was a diner, since it advertised "late night dining" and was done up like a diner...only to find out that it was a douchey bar, and the kitchen was only open until 1am. fortunately, they took some pity on me and made me a flatbread pizza, but seriously...if you are advertising yourselves as a "late night dining" option, i shouldn't have to arouse your pity in order for you to make me some food at 1 o'clock in the morning.

tonight, i wanted to get out of my apartment for a while, drink some coffee, and use the internet. sure, i can tether to my phone at home, but it's slow as all-get-out, and i wanted to actually download stuff, update some software, that kind of thing. the lack of twenty-four hour coffee shops in this town is just...pitiful. i live at washington and damen, and the closest twenty-four hour coffee shop i could find with free wireless was at clark and argyle. sure, there are two closer twenty-four hour starbucks, but they don't have free wi-fi, and the dearth of power plugs in those places is just appalling. i had never been to the one at clark and argyle, but decided it was worth a try. i'm here now, and i have no's quiet, the connection is speedy, the coffee is good, and there are a ton of power plugs. however, the fact that i had to go from washington and damen all the way to clark and argyle in order to get late night coffee with a side of intertubes is just ridiculous.

(hint: if you're thinking of starting a business in chicago, start an all-night internet cafe in the united center district, or even the west loop. i will be there all the time.)

i knew this was coming. there's so much i love about this city, but it's just not the same between the hours of midnight and 6am. sure, if i want to go out drinking, there are plenty of places that will have me covered until 2am and 4am, depending on their license. but, as much as i like to go out drinking, sometimes i want to do something that doesn't involve going to a bar and dealing with the kinds of barflies who stay until closing time on a sunday night. then, on top of that, 4am isn't my bedtime. my bedtime is more like 9am or 10am.

sigh. i don't know how much i can do about this, and i should probably get some reliable intertubes and good coffee at home. still annoys me that there's so little here this late at night. it's the middle of the day as far as my body is concerned, and i don't want to have to be cooped up at home every night i'm off, unless i want to bar-hop. that's just depressing.


unrelatedly, apparently i write like cory doctorow. maybe this makes me a bad hacker, but i still have yet to pick up one of his books.

I write like
Cory Doctorow

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!


Sunday, July 18, 2010

a disjointed post-HOPE update

HOPE is over.

i'm exhausted, mentally and physically. i guess i always am, after a con, but i'm not used to this kind of exhaustion. by the last day of the con, my ability to socialize was basically zero. of course, i fought my way through it today and tried to be as social as possible, because the fact remains that cons are the only time i can see most of my friends who don't live anywhere near me. i wish i could put my finger on why i'm feeling this way, but i can't.

my talk went okay. honestly, i don't think i executed it quite as well as i did at notacon, but i don't think i bombed it either. i did get lost in my words a few times, though, and sometimes i didn't quite put my points as eloquently as i wanted. i got the dvd with the talk on there; eventually i'll watch it, although it'll probably take a few weeks (or months) until i muster up the nerve to watch it.

i went on radio statler, the streaming radio station from the con, a couple of times. friday night, a bunch of us went into the studio with murd0c for drunken silliness and randomness. there wasn't so much a topic for the show, it was just us goofing off a lot and talking about whatever crossed our minds, but it was a lot of fun to do. then, saturday afternoon, i had my planned timeslot. i did an advice show...although people asked some of the most ridiculous questions on IRC. (the phones weren't working so well, so we had very few calls in...most of our interaction was with people on IRC.) bunni3 and a few others dropped in to help give advice and banter on the air, and a good time was had by all...i think. :)

the hacker karaoke event last night was a lot of fun. there were some cool people who i didn't get to spend enough time with at the con otherwise, so it was a lot of fun to talk to them. i sang a lot of songs (five that i actually signed up for, plus a few that i was randomly pulled on to do...), and somehow my voice held up despite the fact that the event was right after my talk. people seemed to like what i sang and how i sang, so that was good.

anyway...this is rather disjointed, and doesn't make any sense. but, that's about all that's coming out right now, since the con just ended a couple of hours ago, and i'm just now getting some food in me and getting enough alone time that i can even begin to decompress. i have one more night in new york (i fly back to chicago tomorrow), and part of me really wants to figure out something fun to do tonight. maybe some of the HOPE people are going to be doing something, or maybe i'll head off to the party that alpha one labs, a hackerspace in brooklyn, is having tonight. who knows.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

an academic mess

kenneth howell, an adjunct professor at the university of illinois, was recently dismissed from his post. the news-gazette published the contents of two emails: an email written by a student who complained, and an email written by professor howell to the class.

on one hand, the professor's letter fails at a few points. for one, it gets really condescending at one point. he states that: "All I ask as your teacher is that you approach these questions as a thinking adult. That implies questioning what you have heard around you. Unless you have done extensive research into homosexuality and are cognizant of the history of moral thought, you are not ready to make judgments about moral truth in this matter. All I encourage is to make informed decisions." this is really patronising. i don't think it's a teacher's place to talk down to students, and this rings heavily of "maybe you think you disagree with me, but it's only because you're a greenie and i've been around the block a few times. when in doubt, trust me." i'm not sure what the test question was--whether it was to discuss how Catholics would critique utilitarianism, or if it required students to come down themselves on whether Catholic natural moral law or utilitarianism provided a better moral framework through which to organise our reality, but either way this part of the letter came off patronising.

secondly, his choice of an example may have been unnecessarily inflammatory. i sort of question his motives when a student question (or a perceived omission of a certain connection in a lecture) led to such a graphic screed against homosexuality. he knows it's a hot button issue, and he knows people are likely to get offended if such an example was used. on one hand, simply because something has the chance of offending people doesn't make it verboten as an academic topic--such an outlook would stifle academic freedom. but, on the other hand, i don't think the goal of proving some clarity about what utilitaritanism is and how it differs from Catholic natural moral law necessarily warrants using an example so likely to polarize the class.

finally, his implication that same-sex couples strive for a "man"-"woman" pairing is ridiculous. (note: i'm not discounting the existence of more-than-two-person relationships; i'm just rebutting an argument he made about two-person relationships.) sure, there are plenty of same-sex couples that have someone more classically feminine paired with someone who is more classically masculine. but, there are plenty of couples where both are more "butch" or more "femme"...and plenty of queers who blend so many aspects of masculinity and femininity that it's impossible to discern or even want to care which may "outweigh" the other. a woman doesn't date a butch lesbian because she should be dating a guy; she's dating a butch lesbian because that butch lesbian turns her crank. furthermore, what would this guy say about straight men who are more feminine than average, or straight women who are more masculine than average? his argument breaks down completely in that case. is a guy who dates masculine-seeming women dating them because he really would rather be with a guy? i'd say no...i'd say it's because he wants to date that woman.

on the other hand, one of the things the student said in his complaint email really, really got my goat. he stated that "Teaching a student about the tenets of a religion is one thing. Declaring that homosexual acts violate the natural laws of man is another. The courses at this institution should be geared to contribute to the public discourse and promote independent thought; not limit one's worldview and ostracize people of a certain sexual orientation." where does this student get to say that the "natural laws of man" are one unified thing that everyone agrees on, and say that this professor should be canned because his conception of natural law is something different from someone else's? the Catholic Church has a long history of defining what is or isn't "natural", and has been couching things in the terms of "natural moral law" for centuries.

do i agree that the Catholic conception of "natural moral law" is necessarily natural, moral, or the law? no. but, am i going to freak out when some professor is trying to tell me that something i find to be perfectly okay violates "natural moral law"? no. i'll divorce my analysis of what i personally think is acceptable behaviour from my analysis of what i think Catholic doctrine sees as acceptable behaviour. if the question asks me to flesh out what i think of the Catholic doctrine, i'll go to town on the many reasons why i think there's nothing wrong with same-sex activity, or same-sex marriage. if the question asks me to flesh out what the Catholic doctrine on same-sex marriage is or should be based on church teachings, i'll focus on that. that second case reminds me of the paper i wrote in college about Boy Scouts v. which i concluded through analysis of American legal doctrine and documents that the Boy Scouts could prohibit gay scouts because they were a private organization, despite the fact that i was personally disgusted that they would do such a thing.

so, how do i come down on this? i really don't know. i'm disturbed, and deeply curious as to why professor howell had to explain his alleged example of the failures of utilitarianism in the way that he did. it makes me think that the possibility is open that he was a little too much of a preacher, and not enough of a teacher. but...these emails aren't enough evidence, and all the media coverage i can find of the case is slanted so much toward one side or the other that i can't get any trustworthy information about how his classes were actually run. i still don't know the one sort of thing i'd really like to know before passing judgment on whether this guy should keep his job or not: did he actually discriminate based on students' worldviews? did he mark people down for criticizing Catholic doctrine when that criticism was relevant to the questions and ideas discussed in class?

i'd be okay with him continuing to teach if he graded on how well people knew the relevant Catholic doctrine when that was the question at hand in a test or essay, and then graded on the quality and support of arguments for or against that doctrine when that was the question in a test or essay. however, if he graded students' arguments for or against principles based on how closely it mirrored the Catholic doctrine when the test or essay question asked the students to formulate and justify their own philosophical points, then firing him would be appropriate.

kick me while i'm down, why don't you?

my wallet disappeared this afternoon. i had it at brunch. i had it to get on the bus after brunch. but, sometime after that, it disappeared. i have two theories: either it fell out of my pocket in the restroom at Union Station, or i was pickpocketed in the crushing crowd by the Megabus stop. since it wasn't at union station lost and found...either way, i consider it gone. stolen. appropriated for the benefit of people other than its rightful owner.

fortunately, i called and cancelled my debit and credit cards before they were used. it will suck not to have them for 10-15 business days (including my trip to HOPE...ugh!), but at least i can get cash at the bank locations, and i don't have to deal with filing fraudulent charge reports. also, there was only $10 or $15 in cash in there, so i didn't lose very much in that regard. my CTA card in there was also a 30-day pass on a Chicago Card Plus, so i don't lose money on my CTA account...i can get a replacement pass tomorrow, and transfer the account. sure, i'm not happy that my ID was in there, or my awesome TOOOL credit card lockpick set, but the long and short of it is that i did damage control as well as i possibly could have. i have ID out the wazoo at home, and the 7-day CTA pass that Mark used when he was here still has a few days on it, so i can go to the bank, the state ID office, and the CTA office to accomplish my objectives tomorrow with a minimum of trouble.

still...the world has a way of kicking me while i'm down. i was still standing at the Megabus stop waiting with Mark for his bus back to Detroit, and i had just gotten off the phone with the bank to cancel my debit and credit cards. this cracked-out looking guy walks up to us and asks us if we have any spare change, and he has a wad of five or ten $1 bills in his outstretched hands. i shook my head no, and he moved on. but, seriously...this cracked-out dude has more cash on him than i do, thanks to my missing wallet. i quipped that maybe he needs a little more money, since my wallet had so little cash in it.

in other words...sorry, crackhead. can't help you there.

about forty-five minutes later, after Mark's bus finally had come, i walked back to catch the Madison bus home. i'm sitting in the bus shelter, and another crackhead comes into the bus shelter. he issues a general plea to everyone in the bus shelter to donate their spare change to him, and no one responds. then, he sidles up to me, and asks me specifically to donate my spare change to him. i shake my head.

he calls me a bitch, and walks away.

now, i'm not saying i'd have given him money even if i did have a wallet. i generally don't respond well to crackheads asking for my money, since i know exactly where it's going to go. stings especially hard when the crackhead calls you a bitch after you refuse to give him money, when you have $0.00 on your person, and access to nothing but a few dollars worth of pocket change and leftover laundry quarters at home until the bank opens on Monday.

may your crack rocks tonight be made of nothing but baking soda.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

News Grad Students Can Use

dear graduate students,

if you really loved me, you'd enter the PhD Challenge. the task is simple...get the phrase "i smoke crack rocks" into the final version of your peer-reviewed academic paper.

the best part? you don't even have to be a crack smoker to enter!


p.s.: no, i am not in any way involved with this [dis]taste for reading or writing anything remotely resembling academic was rather clear even when i *was* in school, so i'm not the kind to devise even a whimsical academic writing competition. yes, i wish i had thought of the idea.

Friday, July 02, 2010

yes, my life is awesome.

i've been delinquent on posting here...but really, most of what i do anymore is work and sleep.

that's not such a bad thing, really. i'm a month into my job, and i absolutely love it. first of all...hello! they're paying me to play with computers, and it's just as much fun as i thought it would be! i'm learning a ton, and even though some projects get kind of frustrating, i always end up learning something in the end, and i feel a real sense of accomplishment if i help iron out something messy. it's a fun job, and a rewarding one.

also, the people i work with are really cool...i had forgotten what it was like to actually have things in common with my co-workers. i never quite felt that way in the law. i always felt like a i had all this awesome stuff going on, and all these awesome interests outside the office, but had to hide what made me interesting behind the facade of some douchebag attorney. i don't feel that way at my new job. things are a lot more laid-back, and i actually feel comfortable around the people i'm working with. i still try to keep a healthy barrier between my work life and my outside-of-work life, for the sake of professionalism and for the sake of my sanity, but i feel like i'm the same person whether i'm inside the doors of the data centre or outside of them. it's freeing.

today, i just had some excellent news. my company operates out of a couple data centers: one in the suburbs, and one in the city. originally, i was supposed to be working at the suburban data center at the conclusion of my training. i knew that from the time i interviewed, and knew i could get there readily on public transit. however, it was a very long commute--two hours each way. the other data center was a much shorter commute...about half an hour each way. my first two and a half weeks on the job i trained in the suburbs; the last two weeks i've been training in the city. i was supposed to start off in the suburbs on my normal shift this weekend--but i just found out this afternoon that i can work at the one in the city, effective immediately!


i am SO HAPPY about this. i liked being at both places, but i have a lot more energy (not to mention three more hours to myself per workday!) when my commute is that much shorter. things were already looking up careerwise, now that i have a job--not to mention one that's in my chosen field, one that's a lot of fun, and one where i can work nights instead of days. now, they're looking even better, since the commute time has suddenly gone from four hours a day to one...for the same job with the same company and the same night-owl hours.