Friday, May 28, 2010

Rainy Days and Fridays

I like coming to work on Friday. Well, that's relative to the other days of the week, at least.

Since we only have one Friday a month during furloughs, there are no hearings. Most of the public doesn't know we're open, so only the ones who don't know about (or understand) the furlough program show up, but that's very few people. We get almost no attorneys or their assistants coming through our front door asking questions they've asked before.

The best days at work are the days where there aren't any people.

If I could move my work week to Friday through Tuesday in an office setting, I'd be so very happy.

Too bad that's not going to happen. At least not until the idea of a weekend is eliminated from the US workplace entirely.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


The thing we use to move the arrow we point and click with on our computers is called a mouse. If I have more than one, is it still called "mice" or is it "mouses"?

Also, it's a verb. I use my mouse to mouse. Theoretically, when we learn how to make vermin super intelligent, I could watch a mouse mousing with a mouse.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

More On That Fan Fiction Stuff

A major problem with a lot of the better fan fiction out there is dialogue.

See, the thing is, the better stuff has the broad strokes down. The writers understand the characters enough that if they have them change, it's for a reason other than the-story-wouldn't-make-sense-without-the-change thinking. There's a plot, of some sort, or if there isn't the character study is interesting enough that plot doesn't matter.

Then, there's the dialogue. It tends to be stiff and unnatural sounding. It's like the words in the characters' mouths are how the writers think people should speak rather than how people speak.

One of the big things they do is drop contractions. Yes, Data from Star Trek: TNG doesn't (can't?) use contractions, but everyone else on the ship does. People in life tend to drop their contractions for two reasons: 1. It extends the time you can think about what your saying allowing for a better constructed argument. And 2. dropping contractions helps to put emphasis on certain words and makes meaning stronger. English, as it's spoken, is a language that gets slurred, a lot, it's probably where contractions come from in the first place.

The other thing that really jumps out at me is the awkward word choices, like having character saying "fled" instead of "left" or other words or phrases that aren't used much in regular life. If one character chooses to use more archaic (for lack of a better word) or Latinate words, that helps to define a character. Awkwardly phrased dialogue can be used to show a flustered character, if it's used in the proper context. If all the characters speak with that kind of language, it becomes cumbersome and boring and sounds totally false. (Even worse is when it's only the characters using that kind of language and the narration is written very conversational.)

I think that the reason those writers write such poor dialogue is because they aren't listening to what they're writing. I know, that sounds crazy, but there's music in spoken language and, in my opinion, writers need to try and transfer that music to the page so that as people read it they can hear the music in their head. Like music, spoken language changes over time, what sounded natural 100 years ago doesn't necessarily sound natural today. I wish they'd listen to the dialogue they write rather than just read it.

Part of the problem is that I only really notice it when the rest of the writing is strong. Like I wrote above, these writers are decent with a strong sense of character and a reasonable sense of plot. Also, they have basic grammar down. There's the occasional mix-up with homonyms (I'm sure I fucked up some theirs and theres and they'res in this post.), but everything else is strong. And that strength is what makes the stilted dialogue stand out, at least for me.

Since it is fan fiction, the better writers are going to have lots of stories, which is nice. The problem is that these writers, at least so far, don't seem to improve. You can read a hundred thousand words worth of stories and not be able to tell which ones were written earlier and which ones were written later. I'm not sure if these writers don't want to improve or what. It's a shame.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Just Don't

I shrugged into my sweatshirt, zipped it up, and waved good-bye to everyone.
As I turned to leave, the youngest, who can walk, told me to wait.
I stopped.
He hurried over to me, wrapped his arms around one of my legs, and said good-bye.
I hunched over, sort of hugged him back, and said good-bye.
He let go and so did I.
I turned and walked out the door and down the path to my car.
As I climbed in, I didn't feel anything.
I thought I should, but wondered what it should be.
I recognized the moment as touching.
He knows my name. He recognizes me.
I'm not around that much and he's quite young.
He choose to come close to say good-bye.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

That River In Egypt

Normally, I'd post this on that other blog, but I can't get to Blogger anymore, so I'll put it here.

From NewScience:
Here's a hypothesis: denial is largely a product of the way normal people think. Most denialists are simply ordinary people doing what they believe is right. If this seems discouraging, take heart. There are good reasons for thinking that denialism can be tackled by condemning it a little less and understanding it a little more.

Different, But The Same

Got this on Monday:

May Revise 2010-2011: Employee Compensation
  • Current furlough program scheduled to end 6-30-10.
  • Components of 2010-2011 employee compensation savings:
    • 5% increase in all employees' monthly pension contribution to CalPERS;
    • 5% reduction in all salaries;
    • Additional 5% reduction in all salaries in exchange for 1 day/mo. personal leave; and
    • 5% departmental salary savings by reducing size of State workforce.
  • The first three changes will require collective bargaining and/or statute changes.

Increasing Employees' Pension Contribution
  • Increasing the employee's share of pension contributions will help lower the State's costs of providing pension benefits. This change will apply to all retirement categories (misc., safety, peace officer/firefighter, patrol, and industrial).
  • Most State employees ("misc" retirement category) will see their monthly CalPERS payroll deduction rise from roughly 5% of salary to 10% of salary.

5% Pay Cut
  • Applies to all employees in the Executive Branch, including civil service, non-civil service, and non-elected officers. (Elected officials' salaries are set independently.)
  • Pension calculations will be based on this revised (lower) salary level.

Personal Leave
  • Salaries will be reduced equal to one day of pay per month (roughly 5%). In return, employees will receive eight hours of personal leave each month.
  • This personal leave will have no cash-out value, nor will it adversely affect any benefits such as health or retirement.

Capping the Size of State's Workforce
  • Administration previously directed departments to implement plans to reduce their payroll an additional 5% effective 7-1-10.
  • Departments may use employee attrition to achieve this savings target. If attrition will be insufficient to meet this target, the department must lay off employees to meet it.
  • A department may continue hiring to fill vacancies if doing so does not cause it to exceed its "workforce cap."
  • The Franchise Tax Board's direct revenue collection functions will be exempt from this workforce cap to avoid adverse impact on State finances. The Constitutional Offices will be exempted as those offices' budgets had a permanent reduction in FY 2009-10. 
All this means to me is that I'll continue to have the same pay without the days off. The funniest thing about this is that two of the things the Governator wants to do were in the contract members voted to support 18 months ago. (The contract had that unpaid "personal day" and a 5% increase to medical.)

Life sure is grand.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Look at the time, 1984 already.

(That is a quote from Daria, which is still a spectacular show, even though it's missing the music.)

Websense has entered the department here at work today.

I found it out a couple hours ago while trying visit PPMB to read what's goin' on... Wait, no, it was geekier than that, I was at the Daria wiki to double check an edit I made earlier this week and it the page was blocked. No social networking or message boards/forums or something like that.


Checked the comics I like to read, none of them worked. The reasons, oddly enough, varied. Most were marked as entertainment, a few as forums, a couple as social networking, one as shopping. The shopping one was odd, so I checked and saw the Amazon was working just fine. Still does. Funny, seems to me that if part of its job is to block shopping sites, then shouldn't it block all shopping sites? Isn't this the sort of thing that the Net Neutrality hearings and such are about?

Oh, well, for today, at least, I can blog through my e-mail, since it's been up all day. Tomorrow, who knows. When I log in in the morning I may not be able to access my g-mail account. I can also read the feeds from Google Reader, but that may not last.

Oh, yes, it's an exciting time to work for the state.


I may have tested this before, but now it's more important!

God speed, little e-mail.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Losing the Heights

In The Heights is in SF for the next couple of weeks. Its a show that I'm very curious to see. It won a Tony, so it's probably petty okay, even if it might not be great.

There are three problems with going to see the show:
1. The with work, cheapest ticket is $64 dollars, since it hast to be bought through TicketMaster, the fuckers.
2. Doing overtime, which is what will give me some extra money next month, I could only get into SF on a Sunday to see it.
3. The show is leaving on June 18th. That give me four Sundays, one of which I will not be here for and all of which are before the overtime check will be in my chubby hand.


Maybe I'll just wait and go see Young Frankenstein when it gets back to SF in July. That might be fun.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Interpretations, in the End

The first time I ever learned that there were people out there who didn't like the ending to My Fair Lady, I was in college. I was admiring a picture of Audrey Hepburn (I'm pretty sure it was from Breakfast at Tiffany's, but memory fades.) my friend had up on the wall of his bedroom and mentioned it to him.

"I love Audrey Hepburn," he said, "except at the end of My Fair Lady."

I didn't ask why. Although I wondered.

Years later, talking with another friend and her husband My Fair Lady was brought up (probably by me, but I can't be sure about that) and she mentioned how she preferred the end to Pygmalion. I asked about the difference since I hadn't read the play, and she said the difference was that in Pygmalion Eliza doesn't go back to Higgins.

I don't remember discussing it any more, but I do remember thinking that if Eliza didn't show up at the end of the movie then My Fair Lady would have to end either after Higgins sings (or "sings" when talking about Rex Harrison) "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" or after Mrs. Higgins says, "Bravo, Eliza." Both seem logical endings, with the former being much more sad.

I wondered, though, if something was wrong with me that I've never felt disturbed by the end of the movie/play. I can see why my friends would prefer Eliza not to show up in the study at the end: she's freed herself from a controlling, self-centered, arrogant, asshat of a man and taken her fate into her own hands. (If it had ended this way for my whole life, I would probably agree with them.) Most people who like the end probably like it because they think Eliza and Higgins are in love and now -- sigh -- they can be together, forever, and get married.

Me? Well, the more I've thought about it since that first time the more I realize that I like the end of the movie/play because Eliza has taken hold of her life and, frankly, I think she's chosen the best life for herself that she could find in early 1900s London.

She doesn't return to Higgins because she's in love with him. Yes, she cares for him a great deal, she probably loves him, but she is not in love with him, as seen here:
Higgins: In short, you want me to be as infatuated about you as he is, is that it?

Eliza: No, I don't. That's not the sort of feeling I want from you. I want a little kindness. I know I'm a common, ignorant girl, and you're a book-learned gentleman, but I'm not dirt under your feet.

What I done-- what I did was not for the taxis and the dresses, but because we were pleasant together and I come to-- came to care for you. Not to want you to make love to me and not forgetting the difference between us, but more friendly like.
The important bit again: "Not to want you to make love to me and not forgetting the difference between us, but more friendly like."

She cares about him, probably does love him, but Eliza Doolittle is not in love with Henry Higgins. I've always thought that she looked at him as the older brother she never had or the father she wished she had (although the father position is probably better filled by Pickering).

And Higgins isn't in love with Eliza. "I've Grown Accustom to Her Face" is a song about fondness. About how he likes that she's around. He sings, "I've grown accustomed to the tune that / She whistles night and noon." because it's part of the background of his life making what he thought was a nice life even better and more comfortable. "I've grown accustomed to the trace," he sings, "Of something in the air; / Accustomed to her face." She's made his life better in a smaller, simpler, and, perhaps, stronger ways than he made her life better.

Then why, if it's not love, does she come back to him, right?

Academics and economics.

When she first comes to Higgins she wants to be a girl in a flower shop. She wants to earn a better living for herself. She wants to move out of her social class and into a class that she sees as better. Eliza never expects to live with Higgins, though. She thinks she'd do it like her friend who took French lessons. She'd come to Higgins's house once or twice a week, clear up her accent, get a job in a shop, and move on with her life.

By moving into Higgins's house and working with him on a Daily basis, Eliza is pushed into the world of academia. As she speaks her vowels and practices her "h" sounds and says those tongue twisters she also overhears Higgins and Pickering discussing dialects and the human condition. It's easy to imagine that sometimes she might have even join in the discussions, once she starts to speak-up.

After the ball, knowing that the grand experiment is over, what's she to do?

Can she go on and work in someone's flower shop and be happy?

Can she really marry Freddy?

I don't think she can do either one.

Marrying Freddy's out because he's self-centered and an idiot. If there's any conversation to be had between the two of them, it'll be about him. (His song is about how he feels to be near her, which is sort of flattering, but I'd have more respect for him if he sang about how it felt to be with her.) It's like he thinks she's a trinket that he can put in a case and admire because it makes him feel good to know he has something so nice. There's only status in him, no vigor or life, no real thought. By the end of My Fair Lady Eliza learns how to think and isn't likely to marry just for money.

Working in a flower shop could be more likely, but where's the challenge to Eliza. She's been working and learning for months. Not only does her way of speaking change, but her view of the world (and the world's view of her). Before, she knew how to read and write, but that was all. After, she knows how to analyze what she sees and reads and use it to her advantage. The ball was where the audience sees her using the things she had been taught to her advantage: adapting as the situation changes, and letting the people think of her what they want. Working in a flower shop isn't a place where she could stretch her mind.

She couldn't marry an idiot (if she had, I would hate the movie/play with a passion). She wouldn't be happy simply selling flowers. What other choices did a woman, with no money, have in the early 1900s?

Eliza had another choice. Was it the perfect choice? No, but I think it was better than the alternatives.

Perhaps what really gets to the people who don't like the ending is that the last thing Eliza tells Higgins before showing up in his study at the very end is that she can do bloody well without him, but she, in the end, decides she does need him. I can understand how that could stick in their craws, but I still think that, for the time she lived in, she made the best choice.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Gulf Oil Spill

Sometimes, I think it's unfair that such a horrible thing can be so beautiful. Click for much bigger.

Taken from GeekDad.

Thursday, May 06, 2010


A lost paper full of madness. (Click to make it bigger. You really want to click to make it bigger, trust me.)

If yours, please come back and explain the highlighting of the "a"s in the last paragraph and what the drawing is suppose to be.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Classic vs. Cliché

When it comes to the ending of a movie or a book or short story, how can you tell when the ending is classic (an homage) or cliché?

Example: Kid gets cool toy. Toy has artificial intelligence capabilities. AI is nice and helpful to kid. Kid helps AI to learn and AI helps kid get through problem, or whatever. In the end, AI ties up kid and kid's family. The end.

AI betrays its creator/master/friend is a "twist" that's happened a lot in science fiction. It's happened so much that when I read something that introduces an AI that's important to someones survival that I expect it to betray and when it doesn't (*SPOILER* watch the movie Moon *END SPOILER*) I'm surprised.

So, when is that sort of an ending a classic and when is it a cliché? Is it only a classic ending when I enjoy the story and a cliché when everything building up to it is boring and painful? Is it still a cliché even when I, or you, enjoy the story/movie/novel? Are all classic elements -- plots, character archetypes, endings -- of stories that keep getting repeated cliché, or are they something else entirely?