Marital Telepathy & Narrowly Averted Info-Crisis

Here’s an example of marital telepathy and a harrowing tale of a narrowly averted information crisis.

Yesterday, Xy was doing some work at her classroom, with a little help from our friend James. (It seems someone donated a million dollars of supplies to the schools at the beginning of the year and the administration waited until this week to give the boxes to the teachers, simultaneously demanding said boxes be unpacked and packing slips returned immediately, precipitating a nervous breakdown on the part of my wife — but I digress.) They were going to get some lunch at Hooters (blame James) and James wondered if they should pick up something for me. Xy replied that I was working on our basement, a dirty and messy job, so I probably didn’t have my CrackBerry on me. “At least I hope he has the good sense not to take his CrackBerry down there,” she said.

James called me anyway. He got my voicemail. But not because I’d had any good sense at all. Quite the opposite.

I was scrubbing the chainwall in our basement, with the CrackBerry clipped to my pants pocket. As I stood up, the CrackBerry came loose and fell — right into my bucket of dirty, soapy water. This happened at exactly (well, approximately) the moment that Xy was saying she hoped I didn’t have the CrackBerry with me.

The poor CrackBerry was totally immersed for about ten seconds, maybe less. It took me a few seconds just to realize what was going on and scoop it out of the water. It was freaking out, vibrating, the little alert light blinking frantically. I quickly put it out of its misery by removing the battery. Then I put it out in the sun for a while.

I was really worried. Not about losing the device itself, which is just over two years old and pretty beat up. It probably needs to be replaced anyway. No, I was worried about the data. I keep my calendar and address book on there, and it’s been months since I synced it up with my computer, because I misplaced the cable.

A couple hours later, I put the battery back in and the CrackBerry tried to boot but stalled out. I removed the battery again, found these helpful hints, and put the CrackBerry in a container with some rice overnight. That’s supposed to pull out the moisture.

Today, about twenty-four hours after the immersion, I replaced the battery and to my immense relief it booted up without incident.

Note to self: Buy a new cable ASAP and back that data up.

Update: As a result of this mishap, I didn’t get a text from Michael inviting us to join them at Oktoberfest until a day later — but because my phone’s clock was also a day behind, I didn’t realize that the message was dated. So Xy and I made our way to Deutches Haus, but there was no fest. Xy made me take this picture of her in front of the locked gate.

Xy

Checkup

I’ve never had a steady doctor here in New Orleans, for a variety of reasons, not least among them the fortunate fact that I’ve been in remarkably good health ever since I moved here eight years ago.

Still, I’ve always heard that once you turn 40 you should get annual checkups as a matter of course. So I went to the website for my employer’s health plan, punched in my address, and found a physician just two blocks from our house.

But my appointment yesterday left something to be desired. The doctor did not inspire confidence. Her manner was so awkward and uncertain and diffident that it made me uncomfortable. Also, the idea that I was just coming for a checkup, out of general principle without any specific complaint, did not seem to compute.

There’s something else that puzzles me. I keep hearing references in the popular culture to a certain procedure that’s conducted on males at the doctor’s office. I think it’s related to checking the prostate. Do I have to spell it out? OK, I’m talking about where the doctor sticks a finger up your asshole. There, I said it.

I have never had this done to me. What I don’t understand is, why? If all my fellow American men are getting goosed on a regular basis, why have I been spared? Is my ass somehow repellent to the medical community? I thought maybe, now that I’m 40, I would finally be subjected to this indignity, but no. I didn’t even have to take my pants off. And I couldn’t hardly bring myself to ask about it. “Aren’t you going to stick your finger up my asshole?” I don’t think so.

For the record, I do not crave having a finger (or anything else) inserted into my rectum. I really would rather avoid it if at all possible.

However, there is a history of prostate cancer in my family, so it’s a concern. Of course, I’ve been practicing my own preventative regimen with great faithfulness.

Information Loss Creates Illusion of Slowness

So, I was listening to Kenny G’s Intelligent Design show on WFMU yesterday, and he starts playing a piece by Steve McLaughlin called “Run for Your Life.” The piece consists of all of the Beatles albums, from Please Please Me to Let It Be, played at eight times normal speed. The whole thing is just over an hour long.

About the time it got to the White Album, I decided to hijack a little of the audio and see what it sounded like if it was slowed back down. I used Peak DV to slow it down 800%. Hmm, that’s odd, I thought, it sounds too slow. I concluded that the 8x figure must have been (at least slightly) inaccurate. But when I tried other speeds, I realized my ears were playing tricks on me. After having been sped up and then slowed back down, the music just sounds slower. A lot of information has been discarded in that process, and the result seems to be a psychoacoustic illusion of slowness.

For your listening “enjoyment,” and I use the term loosely, here are three tracks:

  • Revolution 1 – If you’re familiar with the original, I think you’ll agree this sounds as if it’s slowed down. But it’s not. It’s four minutes and fifteen seconds long, just like the original.
  • I Will – Which has the advantage of being shorter.
  • Julia – I think the effect is actually kind of beautiful on this song.

Kenny G said he’s going to play these on his show next week. I am going to be famous at last.

Update: Kenny G posted on the WFMU blog, and here’s one more mp3: Happiness Is a Warm Gun. The great thing about this one is that each part of the song gives a markedly different effect.

Tile

Juan Molina’s crew has been working on our house since Monday morning.

They’re doing two separate tile jobs. One is the floor of the back room:

Tile in Place

The other tile job is the shower. I got two different colors of tile and told them to just randomly mix them up:

Tile in the Shower

Unfortunately the grout I special ordered is still not in, and won’t be for a few days. That means that once they get all the tile in place, Juan will have to put his crew to work elsewhere. The tile will just have to sit there and wait. Hopefully not for too long.

Turkey Fish

This morning I noticed something kind of strange.

This new graffito, on the back of the RTA facility…

Small Fish, Big Sea

…bears a striking resemblance to this older one just a couple blocks away.

Squak.

Do you see it? The head of the turkey is the exact same shape as the fish. I can’t recall how long the turkey has been there — it seems like years — but the fish is brand new.

Odd graffiti in any case.

Reading Material

Just got a package of books from my friends in Montana, J & Day. It arrived here at the University ten days ago, but for some reason it was just sitting down in the post office. I wonder if they would ever have called me if I hadn’t called them? Anyway, now I’ve got some new reading material:

Thanks, guys.

Ivory

By late Friday night it was evident that Depression #10 was not a serious threat to the Gulf Coast, so Saturday morning we hit the road and headed out to Orange Beach, Alabama. Better one night that none at all. We drove through bands of rain and sunshine to get there. We were able to frolic in the Gulf and swim in the pool. It rained repeatedly, but only for short periods. Dodging the showers was actually kind of fun, especially when we took refuge in a faux cavern while playing miniature golf.

My favorite moment was probably our moonlit stroll along the deserted beach. The clouds, the waves, the moonlight. It still staggers me to think such vistas are virtually the same as a million years ago — until you turn and see the Holiday Inn Express towering overhead.

Crab

Xy might have had a little too much boiled seafood, judging by her gastrointestinal reaction. But that didn’t stop her from hitting the beach again in the morning.

Xy at Orange Beach

I tried taking a picture of us with Xy’s cameraphone. Unfortunately it was hard to see what I was doing and get us both in the frame.

B & Xy on Orange Beach

The 14th anniversary is traditionally celebrated with gifts of ivory, but in our case we had to settle for the ivory sands of the Alabama Gulf Coast.

As my co-worker Jim pointed out, if all goes well, this will be the last anniversary we have to ourselves for many years to come. It’s also the first we’ve ever celebrated by traveling. So, I’m very glad we were able to get away, even if it was cut in half by weather worries.

Depression #10

I thought it would be nice if Xy and I got out of town to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Nothing fancy, just a day at the beach. After our trip to Vero I resolved that we’d get out of town every few months for the mental health benefit.

So last week I booked a couple nights at a condo in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

It’s been nothing but trouble.

First of all, I was overcharged. Instead of the (very attractive) $190 advertised online, my bank account reflected a charge of $357.90. Then, when I called to complain, I got the classic runaround. Seems there’s one company that runs the website, another that runs the hotel, and a third that actually charges your credit card, and they all blamed each other.

After repeated phone wrangling, I came to suspect that the page I stumbled on was not even supposed to be online anymore. It was a page on lodging.com, but you can’t even get to lodging.com anymore since they were apparently bought by Orbitz. Customer service reps were mystified by my conformation number which didn’t show up in my system.

I finally got a supervisor to agree to refund half of the $167.90 overcharge. Half? I won’t be satisfied until I get the other half refunded too.

But here’s what really sucks: the weather, and the timing.

See, our reservations are for this weekend. There’s a system in the gulf, which right now is being called “Subtropical Depression 10.” It might strengthen to a tropical storm — but then again it might not. If it does, it will be named Jerry, but for now it’s just Depression #10. It’s supposed to bring a lot of rain, move slow, and make landfall somewhere between southeast Louisiana and Pensacola on Saturday.

And there’s the rub. The whole area’s under a tropical storm warning, but if the weather veers toward Pensacola, then Gulf Shores might not even see any rain. If it heads toward Biloxi, then Gulf Shores will be on the wet side and New Orleans might stay dry.

Of course, it could also strengthen rapidly and veer toward New Orleans. Unlikely, but possible.

As it stands, there’s just too much uncertainty. A weekend getaway is supposed to be fun, not stressful. So it’s looking like we will stay put. Unfortunately that means we’ll have to eat the expense.

But, on the bright side, there’s no better place for a romantic anniversary dinner than New Orleans.

Black ‘Em Out Day

Many people on campus today are wearing black in support of the Jena Six.

I’m reminded of my high school days in Greenwood, Indiana. We often had “Spirit Weeks” to support the football team with different dress-up days. One time we had something called “Black ‘Em Out” day. Everybody was supposed to wear black.

One guy thought it would be funny to come in blackface, with a doo-rag, to look like a “mammy.” One of his friends got wind of this and thought it would be even funnier to come dressed in a Ku Klux Klan robe.

The amazing thing was, to get the robe, all he had to do was reach into his closet and pull it out.

Both boys were sent home. They may have been suspended. I don’t know. A picture of the boy in blackface was published in the yearbook.

I remember Greenwood as a mostly white community — almost completely white. According to the 2000 census, that’s still the case. Greenwood is 96.54% white. The African-American population is 0.44%.

Greenwood is a suburb of Indianapolis, which is 25% black. The only thing separating Greenwood from Indianapolis is County Line Road. So how to account for the disparity? How does Greenwood stay so very white?

I never heard of nooses hanging from trees there, but I do remember when the Klan handed out leaflets at the Greenwood Park Mall. That certainly sends a message. But I believe that event and “Black ‘Em Out Day” were just the tip of the iceberg, overt examples of a racial hatred that is mostly under cover.

Eyes are focused on Jena, Louisiana, today, as thousands converge in what may be the largest civil rights protest in recent memory. I think that’s a good thing. Racism must be confronted.

But I’m also given pause to think about the town where I grew up, and to reflect on the fact that racism is not limited to Jena.

Utility

I spent much of the weekend cleaning the “utility room,” the biggest room of our house. I’m still sore from all the bending and scraping. There was a lot of sheetrock mud on the floor, and a few magazine pages which had adhered to the concrete during the flood.

Cleaned

I think I still need to scrub the baseboards and chainwall. Then I need to caulk up some gaps and it should be ready for paint. Once it’s painted, then we’ll install a washer and dryer.

I figure this room will be the first room to be finished in our post-flood renovation. It’s my hope to have this room done by the end of October, and to have the whole basement done by the end of the year.

Xy doesn’t think I can do it.

Panel

I participated today in a panel discussion at Loyola, sponsored by the Society of Professional Journalists. Kind of funny, given that I am not a professional journalist. The topic: “Online User Comments and its impact on news coverage, news Web sites and freedom of speech.” My fellow participants were all involved in one way or another with nola.com.

I don’t know about the audience, but I found the discussion thoroughly engaging — no credit to me, as I didn’t contribute much. It was fascinating to hear about the phenomenon of reader comments on a news site from the insider perspective. Apparently this is the hot topic in journalism right now.

The nola.commers claimed that comments which cross over a certain line and violate their terms of service are generally deleted within three to five minutes. And they have to delete lots of comments. The most provocative comments tend to be related to race/ethnicity or sexuality. They can turn off comments for any given post, and do so when commentary becomes extremely problematic. There was a lot of talk about the first amendment.

At least four people have gone to prison as a result of comments posted at nola.com. When online disputes spill over into real life, it can get ugly.

My personal blog (you’re reading it now) doesn’t have any terms of service. My readership is several orders of magnitude smaller than nola.com’s. I have no illusions about this blog as a constitutional forum. I’ll zap any comment I please. It just so happens I’m very tolerant, and in the three years I’ve been blogging I only recall deleting one comment (an insensitive remark made about Helen’s death).

Note to self: In future, don’t be shy about inquiring as to the topic and participant list, and preparing in advance for such events. If I’d had a clearer idea in my head about this forum, I think I could have prepared and been a better panelist. For example, I would have reviewed the case of Kathy Sierra. I would certainly have re-read Maitri’s post on Mainstream Media Blogs from back in May. I don’t agree with Maitri completely, but I could have at least represented her viewpoint. It would have added some spice to the discussion for sure.

Moderated Monday

I administer an online discussion group for my neighborhood. With 432 members at last count, it’s been fairly successful, and we do our best to promote it as a higher-quality alternative to the notorious nola.com forums.

However, there’s always room for improvement. After toying with the idea for months, I decided to try an experiment in spot-moderation. Today is our first “Moderated Monday.” Here’s the message I sent which explains it all:
Continue reading Moderated Monday

Unsolved

There will be a segment about Helen Hill‘s unsolved murder case on America’s Most Wanted tomorrow night. I believe they’ll be using some video I shot of her jazz funeral.

Also, Helen’s brother, Jake Hill, is in New Orleans to hold a meeting and press conference at the Sound Café (2700 Chartres) this afternoon (Sept. 14th, 2:00pm). He will announce an increase in the Crime Stoppers reward related to the case. I understand he will be distributing informational packets and asking for volunteers to help put up reward posters. Please come by.

Note that if you’re in San Francisco or Ottawa you have a chance to see Helen’s animated films at local festivals.

Helen will not be forgotten. I wonder how she’d feel about all this attention? Probably slightly embarrassed. I’m sure she’d rather we focused our energies on solving broad societal problems rather than solving the mystery of her murder. I don’t have much hope that we’ll ever know what really happened. Still, I know that solving that mystery is important for her family, her friends (including me) and the community.

Update: I attended the press conference. The reward for information on Helen’s murder is now $15,000. Drawing forth an informer is surely the only chance of any progress in the investigation.

I took some pictures:

The Media

Jake

Warren

I also split a grilled cheese sandwich with Antoinette K-Doe. Thanks, Antoinette. Talking to you really lifted my spirits.

Update: The piece on America’s Most Wanted didn’t use my footage of Helen’s jazz funeral after all. But they did make prominent use of a snippet from the vegan lunch segment of ROX #90. The highly pixelated image made it clear they’d snagged the video from the web. As for the segment, it really got me choked up, especially hearing Dave Cash performing the song he wrote in Helen’s honor. But for some reason they didn’t even mention the reward.

Update: Another (very moving) story of the press conference and a picture of the flyer at Humid City.

Update: Download the flyer from CrimeStoppers. Print and post in your neighborhood.

Bring a Presidential Debate to New Orleans

Friends of New Orleans is mounting a campaign to bring a presidential debate to New Orleans.

I have mixed emotions about this.

The presidential debates are something of a farce. They should be organized by a nonpartisan group, but they’re not. They’re organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates. They claim to be nonpartisan, but they were founded by the Democratic and Republican Parties and have strong ties to them. They’re also funded by corporate underwriters. In my view the debates are highly problematic at best.

Having debates in New Orleans would surely lead to some campaign promises regarding federal assistance in the recovery. These promises would be easily made and easily broken. If New Orleans becomes a political football, it could actually do us substantial harm depending on how the dialog evolves and who actually wins the presidential election.

Debates here would bring a little more media attention to our tragic city, but that in and of itself is not an unqualified good. The slow pace of recovery could be viewed as a negative by a nation that’s become accustomed to instant gratification and quick fixes. We could be further vilified and hated by those who are tired of hearing about our problems.

Still and all, I think it’s a chance we ought to take. I’ve outlined the dangers, but in the final analysis the fact is that having the debates here would represent an opportunity for New Orleans, and we desperately need to take advantage of every opportunity we can get.

Furthermore, it might be good for the nation. The Friends of New Orleans put it this way:

It makes sense that discussions about the nation’s domestic agenda take place in New Orleans, a city that is rebuilding its infrastructure and confronting social, environmental, and security issues on a daily basis.

So if you agree, please, take thirty seconds to add your voice to the campaign. Do it today, and please share this link with others.

Humberto

Humberto is hitting Texas, but we’re feeling the effects all the way here in New Orleans. I stopped and took this picture on the way to work this morning.

Big Cloud

If I hadn’t paused, I might have made it to the office relatively dry. As it was, I got a soaking. But as my friend Kevin “Toast” Kennedy used to say, “What’s pain when there’s art to gain?”