Wednesday, 08 July 2009

Hello. My name is Michael and I’m a dork.

My friend Patrick has a great voice. Smooth, deep, like it was made for radio – maybe as the late night DJ for one of those booty-soul stations. It’s a voice I can imitate, sort of, for short periods of time.

Occasionally I start to think my voice would be good for radio, but then I hear a recording, typically a voice mail greeting. I’m immediately reminded where it belongs: reading farm reports on some AM station that nobody listens to, 300 miles from anything.

A former girlfriend has this outstanding, not quite husky, but great to listen to voice. When she gets a cold she complains that it sounds like Lauren Bacall – as if that’s a bad thing. It’s a voice you’d like to hear reading naughty bed-time stories. H. O. T. HOT.

When I have a cold, I can do a great impersonation of James Brown, but just of the opening “Yeeoowww!” from “I Feel Good.” That’s it. That’s all I’ve got; that and the farm reports.

While he doesn’t have all that low a voice, my friend Hjalmer is fairly soft spoken. When he does speak up, his voice takes on a certain authoritative quality. This is best exemplified by his voice mail recording. “This is the voice mailbox of Hjalmer Duenow. He would be…(long pause)…oh so grateful if you would leave a detailed message…” It reminds me a bit of the MoviePhone guy.

Like most people, I’ve been known to sing in the car. When I’m alone. With the windows rolled up. And the radio fairly loud. But once in a while, instead of singing, I’ll play with voices; practicing the low baritone of guys like Johnny Cash, Junior Brown, or Tom Brokaw.

So a couple weeks ago, driving someplace or another, I called Hjalmer and got his voice mail. Just for fun, I left a message in kind, imitating MoviePhone guy’s (and Hjalmer’s) presentation style.

And then I forgot to hang up.

A couple miles later, in the middle of a strange, extended riff that was a cross between MoviePhone and voice mail menus, I realized I was still connected to his voice mail. I croaked something, quickly hung up, then sent a text message imploring him to ignore my voice mail.

To Hjalmer’s credit, he has been kind enough not to mention the incident.

However, much like getting caught singing in the car, (or forgetting you’re in public when you launch into an extended air-guitar solo to the soundtrack that’s running in your head – not that I’ve ever done such a thing), it’s still mortifying. Quite possibly the most embarrassing thing I’ve done in quite a while.

Hello. My name is Michael. I’m 42 years old and I’m a monumental dork.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Importing some pictures from the past couple days, I happened across this happy accident:

I forgot the camera was in AEB (auto exposure bracket) mode, so it snapped three pictures when I made a test shot. On import, they just happened to line up so you get the top of my brother’s head in the one frame, then his shoulders and back on the next row.

I know, not terribly interesting and kind of lame, but it’s one of those things that make me chuckle every time.

Wednesday, 03 June 2009

with a Tweet from @gruber that said: “This photo seems ripe for a caption contest:

A quick Google search and a couple minutes with, we end up with:

Does that make me a bad person?

Saturday, 27 December 2008

I’ve been thinking about getting a tattoo. I’ve been thinking about it for several years now, but that’s as far as it ever gets. It sounds like a good idea in my head, and I truly envy some of the great artwork that other people have, yet I never get it done.

The first one I’d get would be a very particular thing. There’s this band I like. I take vacation time and travel to see them several days in a row. They have a glyph, their logo, of sorts, that I’d have done just below the crook of my elbow. Now, the band isn’t instantly recognizable, so the glyph is somewhat obscure, but I’ve seen other fans with the same tattoo… in the same place. Do I want to risk turning into a super-fan?

Part of my desire, and my hesitation, is that I want to be unique. However, so many people have tattoos, how unique can it be? It seems like a silly thing to get permanently attached.

My Aunt has a couple tattoos. One cluster is a set of, I think, violets. One for her mom, one for her daughter, and one for her grand-daughter. It makes perfect sense and seems like the perfect reason to me. But to me, personally, I can’t imagine doing it. While I love my mother dearly, and she means a lot to me, I don’t know that I’d want her with me 100% of the time. I’m sure the feeling is mutual.

I think that’s the main reason I don’t get a tattoo. There isn’t anything in my life that I feel so strongly about that I want it with me forever.

Sure, I know they’re not totally permanent. Tattoos can be removed if you have the money and the pain threshold. But who goes into it thinking they’ll just wipe it away when it becomes inconvenient? You go into it thinking it will be with you forever.

It’s not fear, it’s not the expense either. I can deal with both of those. So does it really just come down to ambivalence? If it’s just for the right, the high, why not sky dive, drive fast, or even just stand on the edge of a cliff?

What does that say about my life? Is it good that I don’t go into anything until I’m sure? Or is it just sad? Sad that there’s nothing I’m so passionate about that I want it etched into my body so as to declare it unto the world?

Everybody has their reason: love, lust, loss, lunacy; I’ve yet to learn mine.

Tuesday, 09 December 2008

Vanessa and I originally met at a Mensa gathering. We got to talking and seemed to hit it off. I had a great time, and was intrigued, but still too shy to trade phone numbers. Lucky for me, Scott was more bold.

A week or so later Scott called to say that Vanessa was having a Hanukkah party. She had made a special point that I should stop by. Normally I would have avoided any party where I didn’t know most of the people there, but something about the tone of the invitation compelled me to go. And, boy, was I glad I did!

The party was a blast; hours went by in seconds. Vanessa and I talked occasionally throughout the afternoon and I was still there long after everyone else had gone. We talked easily, almost like old friends catching up after a long absence. I finally left around midnight, but not before we had arranged a dinner date.

The next few months were a bit of a whirlwind. We spent most evenings together, weekends too, and talked on the phone at least twice a day. I was smitten – there’s no other way to describe it.

We would talk about our hopes and fears, dreams and disappointments. On walks together we’d point out how ours would be different than the house we were walking past, and what our wedding would be like. It was during those conversations, on one of our walks, that talk about “the one” came up.

I believe that each of us has a someone out there, but you may not find them right away. Sure, there are the high-school sweethearts that stay together forever, but other couples take longer and my not even meet until later in life. If you love someone and you grow apart, no matter how much you adored them, they were not the one.

Vanessa, on the other hand, was convinced we each have only one true love, and that hers was in a former boyfriend. Since they couldn’t be together, she could never really be happy. She refused to believe anything else and would let it short circuit parts of her relationships with other guys. I think that’s part of what happened with us.

I’m not entirely blameless either. It’s not like I really knew what I wanted at the time. I was bored with my job, my consulting business wasn’t taking off, and I still had a piece of carry-on baggage left from my divorce. But those are just excuses.

We started off strong, but she just wasn’t into the relationship – not as much as I was – and I wasn’t strong enough to fight for it. We simply drifted apart.

For a while I thought that she might possibly have been right. What if my one true love had slipped by? And did that ever hurt. But the more I thought about it, the easier it was to accept the fact that she wasn’t my “one.” I remember her and the relationship fondly, but it was apparently not to be. I remain hopeful, and convinced, that my true love is out there somewhere. When I find her, she and I will both know it.

That’s what makes the love true.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

This started as a simple reply to a link ( my dad sent me. It’s about Constitutional questions surrounding the RIAA’s litigation against people accused of sharing music via P2P.

My reply:

I believe a lot of what the RIAA relies on is that copyright, although drawn from Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, is in the Civil code, not the Criminal code. As part of civil code, they are not as tightly bound by the excessive fines and unusual punishment clauses of the 8th amendment. Besides, the constitution really only controls what the government can do, or not do (as it’s mostly prohibitions), to the people. It doesn’t so much control what one person can do to another.

There’s nothing to stop you from suing someone for $1-million because they stepped on your lawn. You’re just not likely to get it because the judge and the jury in a civil case aren’t bound to sympathize with you.

I’m not saying the RIAA is right. Quite the contrary. I think they’re hopelessly misguided in suing their customers in the manner they have. I think that copyright law, as it exists today, is hopelessly broken. I think the attempts to “fix” or “strengthen” copyright law (things like the DMCA) are hopelessly anti-consumer.

The entertainment industry routinely lobbies for trade agreements and treaties, which they then lobby other countries to sign onto, then come back to the US government cajoling (demanding?) they adjust existing laws and create new ones to support the newly ratified treaty that they essentially bought.

With that in mind, and as a creative artist, what do I think is reasonable? My photography is bound by copyright. Every creative work, whether writing, photos, video, music, software, etc. is. The creator, or artist, isn’t even required to register their copyright any more; although doing so provides extra protections under the law. So what do I want? What do I think is fair?

I think 25 years is fair. That should be plenty of time for me to realize any monetary benefit from selling or licensing my creative work. After that, it should fall to the public domain. If I can’t make money off it in those 25 years, then I’m obviously incorrect in my assessment of the value of a given work.

I don’t think that we should be able to perpetually renew a copyright, nor should it be able to pass down by inheritance to extend the 25 years to something beyond my passing.

25 years from date of creation, no matter who owns the rights. If my descendants want to make a living from my work, they will just have to hope I die early and leave it to them in my will — the clock is ticking.

Even after the 25 years, just having the older materials around doesn’t mean you’ll do something wonderful. I’m a photographer, so I’ll use Ansel Adams as part of my example. If all of his photos were in the public domain, I could assemble them into a book, but I’d still have to bring something to the table. I’d need to offer some kind of commentary or interpretation, or add color in some way. I’d need to do something to make my use interesting. Anything less and I’m just some guy with a fancy coloring book.

So, what about sampling and derivative works? 10% seems fair, with credit. That covers education and criticism too. It let’s everyone do something new and allows someone to be inspired by your work and hopefully create something new and interesting.

Sure, 10% doesn’t stop one band from using the bass-line or central riff from another band’s song. Sure they can build a song from that and still fall within the scope of what I’d allow. It’s a double-edged sword too. If your work isn’t interesting, you’ll only look like a schmuck.

10% won’t stop one film-maker from building their movie around a pivotal scene from that of another, but if their movie isn’t entertaining, then they’re just a hack. Remember, Hollywood has been doing this same basic thing for years.

The real problem comes in trying to figure out what to do when someone breaks the rules. What is an appropriate punishment?

The current laws provide for damages from $750 per use up to $15000 each. For some things that seems far too high (sharing a single song when the price is only $1 via iTunes) and other’s it’s far too low (that same song when it’s used in an advertisement). And what constitutes a single use? Each person that hears an ad, once for every time the ad runs, or just once total because it’s only one ad?

Any off-the-cuff thinking here quickly falls apart. At first 10 times the price of the original item seems like a good idea. A song on iTunes goes for 99 cents. Is 10 bucks enough to convince people behave themselves, especially when they may or may not get caught?

What if it was 10x original value with a $1000 minimum? While it would probably discourage the average consumer, what about commercial misuse? Even $1000 isn’t enough to prevent a radio or TV station from taking a chance on an infringing use. What would stop an advertiser from using any old song in their advertisement or a photograph as the background to a presentation for an internal meeting if all they’d have to pay is $1000, assuming they got caught?

Clearly I don’t have all the answers. Even as an artist I can only wrap my brain around maybe half of it before my head explodes.

Monday, 19 May 2008

I was headed to a friend’s house Sunday afternoon, driving West along 40th Ave in Woodbury, and it was in this middle-of-nowhere location that I came close to death. Much closer than I could ever be comfortable with.

40th is a two-lane road that is straight, flat, and open, with a 55 MPH speed limit. You can see what’s coming a mile ahead, easy. There are some groupings of trees here and there, but they’re set back from the road by 30-40 feet.

It was shortly after 1 PM and the sky was clear. Not being completely familiar with that section of road, I was doing a little under the speed limit. I saw the SUV pull up to the stop sign at a cross-street roughly 1000 feet ahead. They had a stop sign, I did not, so there was no reason for me to slow down very much.

Unless, of course, the SUV decides to enter the intersection…then stop half-way through completely blocking my side of the road. The driver either hadn’t bothered to look or didn’t see me. I’m thinking didn’t look, because I saw them pull up to the intersection and stop in the first place. Doesn’t matter, because there was no way they could have cleared the intersection before I got there.

When they pulled out I had less than 300 feet before reaching the intersection. That’s .06 mile — well under 1/10th mile. 300 feet until disaster. 300 feet from death. 50 MPH is roughly 73 feet per second, so 300 feet goes by in just a hair over 4 seconds. 4 seconds to realize what’s happening, evaluate options, and execute what you hope is the best choice. The 60-0 braking distance on my car is around 120 feet. That’s half the time I had before meeting with what seemed certain disaster.

That’s 2 seconds from death.

Luckily time stood still. I slammed on the brakes, swerved around the front end of the SUV, then punched it to get back my own side of the road before someone else came along. If I had a passenger, they could have reached out to touch the SUV’s front-end on the way by.

I have no idea why the SUV stopped. If they hadn’t, or if there had been a car coming the opposite direction, people would have died — not the least of which would have been me. There would have been no way to avoid it.

I don’t mind the occasional test of my car’s handling capabilities, but I’d rather do so on my own terms and without the involvement of anyone else on the road.

Thankfully the final 5 minutes of my journey passed without further incident, but I had to sit for 15 minutes just to stop shaking.

Monday, 17 March 2008

As a child I was never good at waiting for Xmas, and I’m no better now.

I want to rebuild my laptop and my work desktop. They both run Ubuntu, the desktop is 6.10 and the laptop is 7.04. Ubuntu 7.10 is the current version, but 8.04 is on the way — unfortunately not until 24 April according to the schedule.

I’ll wait it out at this point, but it’s frustrating. I’ve got some time to rebuild the laptop right now, but by the time I get it set up the way I like, 8.04 will come out the week after. It’s too close to not wait, but so far as to be maddening.

I do take some solace in 8.04 being an LTS (Long Term Support) version, so when I build the new server at home it will be stable for 3 years minimum. Actually, Ubuntu supports LTS Server for 5 years, but how often does hardware actually last that long?

Monday, 05 February 2007

or were the Superbowl ads just kind of lame? Sure, Coca-Cola introduced a couple new ones (and recycled an old one). Go-Daddy had a new one. But other than that, everything was either the same old ads we’ve been seeing, or just lame. I actually had to look at the list to remember them all, that’s how blah they were.

OK, the GM robot one was pretty good too — but only in an 80’s retro movie kind of way. (“No dissassemble!”)

And the game itself kind of sucked. Not that I’m a football fan in the first place, but how good can these teams actually be when they each gave up a touchdown in the first 10 minutes of the game?

Friday, 07 July 2006

I went to dinner with a very good friend last night and, as is our routine, we wandered over to a nearby CD store to poke around. It always strikes me how completely different our shopping styles are.

Mickey pokes around for things that friends have suggested or stuff she likes. She’ll pick up one disc, carry it for a while as she looks around more, then find something else and then put the first one back. She’ll do this with about a half-dozen discs, putting most of them back, and buy just one, maybe two by the time she’s done. I think it’s completely adorable — a fact she will undoubtedly find irritating. Honestly, I admire her self-control.

On the flip side, I do not have that kind of will power and it shows in the way I CD shop. It really comes down to two styles: one for going through the used racks, the other for just looking in general. If I start on the used racks, I have to finish. There’s something Zen-like about flipping through the trays. The rapid click click click as I scan covers each cover in the blink of an eye. But it still takes me a couple hours to finish and I don’t talk, really can’t talk, once I’m in the zone. It’s not unusual for me to go home with 15-20 discs.

Because I’d really like to keep Mickey as a friend, I spare her the torture and skip the used stuff when we’re out together. It’s more fun to wander the store largely with her, making the occasional suggestion and offering advice when requested. But while we’re wandering, I flit about, seemingly at random, as I think of this artist or that album that I want to check out. Along the way I’ll glance at something that catches my eye, sometimes put it back, but usually end up buying it and checking the item off my vague mental list. This typically results in only 4 or 5 discs following me home.

Along the way I was talking about an artist that a different friend had mentioned. Someone with a haunting voice, young, Katie M… I wanted to see if the store had any of her CD’s, but for the life of me couldn’t remember her name. Being such a music dork, it’s the kind of thing that would bother me until I figured it out. I had zero Web access there in the store, or I could have checked my wish list at Amazon. The store has those “Red Dot” stations, but they’re useless to look up people if all you know is their first name.

My eyes lit up as I picked up a Regina Spektor CD (another friend suggestion). The name I had been trying to remember for a good half-hour finally dawned on me! Katie Melua. I made a bee-line to the appropriate rack and picked it up.

Now, how the sight of a Regina Spektor CD made me think of Katie Melua is beyond all reason. Somehow that’s just how my brain works. I’ll come up with the strangest links and there’s no understanding the connections.

Of course I had to buy both the Melua and Spektor discs along with the other 4 I had already picked out. With that much work into it, I couldn’t leave them behind.