Sunday, April 29, 2007

Argh. I was just talking to my dad on the phone, and since he just got back from a trip to China recently, the conversation was mostly me asking him questions, and at one point I caught myself reaching for a pen and notepad because he had said a couple sentences that sounded especially quotable. As if I were writing an article. About my dad. And I caught myself thinking in those terms later on as well, just repeating key phrases to myself or something. Either I got way too little sleep last night, or I've been working way too hard.

And I should elaborate on that. Working "too hard" may sound weird in light of how I'm so often worrying about procrastination. But I do put in long hours, regardless of whether the work during that time is intense or not. This very morning, for example, I was with the selectboard and a town road guy from about 8 a.m. to about noon. I wouldn't even wonder if this quirk was caused by too little sleep, if not for the fact that the actual work this morning was very little like an interview over the phone.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The previous post was kind of a wake-up call about just how pointless my anonymity habit is. I've pretty much always blogged in such a way that someone could get from the blog to my real-life identity pretty easily, mostly just because avoiding that would be a whole lot of effort to avoid what is really a very tiny risk. I would have to redact every single identifying detail, and/or just not post on personal matters at all. What's the point? This blog is used for thinking out loud, for personal writing rather than work-related styles and topics, and for keeping friends up-to-date about what's going on in my life, sort of. If I were going to write so restrictively that some troll who disagreed with one of my rare political posts couldn't find me, or some rival in a flamewar on another blog like I mentioned in the last post, there would be no point in writing at all. Both of which are pretty unlikely in the first place, of course.

However, it feels like I've read a lot of articles about applying for a job and the prospective employer simply Googles the hapless applicant and finds a "Girls Gone Wild" picture or a incoherent hateful rant on a blog. Or, more relevantly, just a personal post to get something off his chest that a person might reasonably write, but that he might reasonably not want a boss to read, and I've taken pretty much all possible precautions against that. So the point of all this is, it's easy to figure out who I am from details around this blog, but I've tried to make sure it's difficult (though admittedly not impossible) to meet me in real life, or read something printed under my real name, and then find this blog. A week ago, Googling any version of my name would have turned up a whole lot of stuff I've written for publication, a story or two about my family or from the local paper back when I was in high school, and some stuff posted to USENET, but it did not find this blog.

But when I started the previous post, it would have been a major pain to fix the fake press release. Take out all instances of my dad's name, and ideally replace it with something related to his real name but not actually it, and then check to make sure that I don't have to take out any of the other "Vermont" details, and then explain for clarity's sake that the name in this blog's version of the press release is a pseudonym - it would have been ridiculous. And it would be all the more ridiculous because I rarely post anything remotely inflammatory here. I can't say I never will, but on the whole, it's just not worth the effort.
In Which I Wonder If I'm too Gullible
This is a press release that my editor forwarded to me this morning.

Poet, Former NPR Commentator Dana Cole-Levesque* to Give Reading at Green Mountain College

Poultney, Vermont -- The public is invited to an evening of "Poetry, Music, and Politics" with writer and school administrator Dana Cole-Levesque at Green Mountain College on Thursday, April 26, at 7 p.m. in The Gorge of Withey Hall. Cole-Levesque is author of seven books of poems, eight plays, a novel, a collection of short stories, a picture book for children, dozens of essays, introductions, speeches and book reviews, the libretto for an opera and is a performance poet on two CDs, plus the father of two children - one particularly intelligent. He was for a time a commentator on National Public Radio's All Things Considered and his poems are frequently read by Garrison Keillor on the NPR feature, The Writer's Almanac.
Cole-Levesque tours occasionally with avant-garde bassist and composer, William Parker and drummer Hamid Drake. In 2003 the three released, Songs for a Suffering World: A Prayer for Peace, a Protest Against War. William Parker and Cole-Levesque also released in 1999, Zen Mountains-Zen Streets: A Duet for Poet and Improvised Bass, a two-CD set of a live performance which is available on the Boxholder Records label.
This event is free and open to the public.

My father has been a bureaucrat and a school principal, and has made a few appearances on the news in those two jobs, and he has worked in several other careers as well. And that's just in my memory: I've heard about jobs he did before I was born, so if it turned out that there were a couple more on his résumé that I didn't know about, I would not be surprised.

However, I'm pretty sure he has never ever been in an opera, I've never heard of William Parker and Hamid Drake in my life, and while one or two poems or a short book written in the late '70s could easily have slipped under my radar, eight plays and "dozens of essays" would have been pushing it. And, of course, a commentary on the intelligence of the guy's children would stick out like a sore thumb in a real press release. So why did I have to scrutinize the picture that came with the press release before definitively saying that this was a joke?

What really happened was, my editor got a press release about a public appearance by some David Budbill, and he thought Budbill looked a lot like my dad, so he forwarded it to me after substituting all instances of Budbill's name for my father's and adding one or two details specific to my dad. I was laughing before I finished reading the press release, and if I had paid more attention to detail I would have noticed that it couldn't be him — I'm pretty sure he won't be around that Thursday, and I barely read the second paragraph at all — but the only clincher was the fact that my dad's nose is crooked where he broke it playing basketball as a teen, but Budbill's nose isn't.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

I've kind of taken my blog-reading habits for granted at work. Sure, I procrastinate, but so what? I get everything done in the end, and my bosses have complained to me about some problems when they have come up, so if they haven't said anything about deadlines recently, I can assume they don't think procrastination is serious. I suppose waiting until it gets to the point of being a problem is the wrong attitude, but that's life. Sometimes I see the seasoned professionals reading sports news, or the eager rookie (admittedly, only slightly more junior than me) reporter writing e-mails on a personal account; if they can do that, I certainly can read political blogs at least a bit.

That's my attitude towards blogs as a procrastination enabler, buuut earlier today I got a wake-up call about a different problem. I was reading a comment thread on the Magic: the Gathering Web page responding to an article previewing a card from the upcoming set*. And some of the comments just blew my mind. They** were calling the writer a sellout for uncritically hyping this card. A weekly columnist for the company that makes these cards writes about the impressive aspects of a certain card on the company's Web site... and for this, he's a sellout. What the hell did those children expect? Some others were quick to pronounce this card far too overpowered and therefore bad for the game, within an hour of first seeing it***, but that "sellout" comment is what really stood out to me.

Stupidity is no surprise, of course, online or off. But I've been commenting on blogs less recently, partly because of how the threads go on the blogs I read most often. On some blogs, almost everyone agrees, so there's not much fun. On others, there are plenty of people who disagree with me, but they never change their minds or have good arguments of their own, so arguing with them is little more than looking for an opening for zingers. Except for on some blogs, where they are better at it than me. So I've slowly been losing interest in most of such discussions on blogs, and seeing a columnist get called a sellout for writing a column — "He's not being true to the art of what it really means to play the game!" — wow.

"Hi, I'm Cyrus, and I'm a textbook case of that joke about arguing on the Internet." Thankfully, I don't think I'll ever have to go to a Commentariat Anonymous meeting, but let's just say that a month ago it was more likely than it was yesterday, and yesterday it was more likely than it is today.

EDIT: Hmmm. This is the preview article and this is the comment thread, but I only see one ad hominem attack on the author, and it's accusing him of laziness, not a lack of integrity. The only sign of what I thought I saw was this comment by a moderator saying that he has deleted "many" posts that were not "polite, respectful, and on-topic."

Well, not that it matters, and for all I know, the commenter(s) is(are) perfectly nice in real life, or I may have imagined the whole thing. At this point, it's only worth the update in case any of my Magic-playing friends are curious about the card that set this whole thing off.

* I'll try to remember to link to it after work, but that seems too non-work related for even me to go to while at my desk.
** I think I remember at least two people saying something like this on that thread, though it might have been only one with this specific complaint.
*** Forget theory, how does it play? It is indeed similar to a famous and powerful card, but there's a big difference; exactly how important is that difference? What is the rest of the set like? Hell, what is the set following this one like?

Monday, April 02, 2007

1) A relationship founded on guilt is a bad idea.
2) "Normal" is a tough thing to define, it's nearly impossible to seek out, and doing so is often not worth the price of trying. Despite all that, specific kinds of non-normal situations are just plain untenable. EDIT: Maybe the problem is just the reliance on the word "normal," then. After all, that makes it sound like this particular problem is just a failure to fit an accepted social role straight out of a sitcom, but that's not it at all.
3) It was an interesting weekend. By the straightforward measures, it was a bad one, but there's been a ray of hope or two.
4) Being cautiously optimistic is a very unfamiliar feeling, so much so that it was almost uncomfortable. I'm not sure if that's how I'd describe my mood this minute, but it fit me a week or two ago. And to be clear, it's not just optimism that was unfamiliar — if that were the case, yes, it would be extremely sad — but that specific kind of it. In the past, I've been either pessimistic (Think of it as a time when I would say "Things aren't that great right now, and they'll probably get worse") or optimistic (A time when I'd say "Things are pretty good right now, and they'll probably get better"), but it's been five years at least since I've been able to say "Sure, things aren't that great right now, but they'll probably get better."