Frustration

I am writing tonight because I want to have a blog; at least, in a very general way. I like the idea of a blog. I have read how important it is to have one from many sources. A blog can help me accomplish x, y, and z.

There are times when I have lots of ideas about what I can do and what I should be writing. In many cases taking the time to write a blog post takes away from the time I could be writing something else that feels more important at that moment. Sometimes it just leads to doing nothing, which is the worst possible outcome.

I am not feeling it right now. Could be a phase; could be insight. I am not understanding the utility of a blog in my case.

I can’t even say that it has anything to do with frustration. I know I do not have thousands of followers waiting for me to write my next post. That is ok with me. I do not mind shouting in an empty room.

I have read numerous books and watched youtube videos about increasing my audience. I don’t want to have to do all that work. Additionally, sitting down to write another blog post seems tiring.

I think I would rather be reading.

More Thoughts on Horror

AV Club is one of my favorite websites. Reading the articles allows me to keep abreast of pop culture in general and exposes me to things that I would never find on my own because they are so far outside of my interests. I visit the site daily unless I am on vacation or otherwise occupied. I recommend the site to anybody with an interest in movies, television, music, and the people who create them.

I was reminded of my fondness for the movie The Exorcist after reading a recent article on the AV Club site. The article talks about the film in some detail; anecdotes about the making of the film along with analysis of the impact of the film upon popular culture. One of the more interesting conclusions author Tom Breihan draws about the movie concerns the overall conservatism of the story. He writes, “The Exorcist seems like a transgressive work of art, but it’s built on reverence of tradition. It has trust in institutions.” I thought it was an interesting observation. I have decided to watch the movie again with this in mind; when I can find the time.

Horror is not always about the things you think it is about. I suppose any literature major can tell you that. I am starting to learn. Horror is designed to get us to think. The gods and monsters that plague people within the genre typically point to something greater outside of ourselves that we have the power to defeat, whether individually or as a community, if we can only figure out the solution before we meet our doom.

Skunkiness

So I mentioned the other day about my dogs getting sprayed by our friendly neighborhood skunk. I wanted to expand on that story a bit. I also wanted to offer a little advice about what to do when you or your pets get sprayed by a skunk.

I let the dogs out (they usually sleep inside) just before 1:00 in the morning. They will start barking to let me know they are thirsty or need to use the restroom. I will sleepily get up and let them out.

Last Thursday (October 17) when I let them out they went to the fence the bisects the yard and barked noisily. In an attempt to calm them down I went outside to see what the commotion was about. I walked to the gate and saw nothing in the other half of the yard. They both continued to bark ferociously. I opened the gate and they ran into the back half of the yard.

So, as you can guess, that was a mistake. They quickly ran to a corner of the yard hidden away by grape vines. Then, in a move that surprised me in my sleepy state, they immediately ran back.  I caught a whiff of a terrible chemical smell. I immediately thought I smelled hydrogen sulfide. My excuse for this is that I was half asleep and the smell did remind me of the hydrogen sulfide scents I was warned to strenuously avoid in my brief time working in petroleum refineries as a young man.

I rushed the dogs back into the house not wanting them to suffer any injury from the noxious gas. Second big mistake. The smell was terrible and woke up my wife. She figured out the source of the smell and ushered the dogs outside. It was, however, too late. The dogs had already managed to spread the rank smell throughout the house.

Left to their own devices, the dogs attempted to get rid of the smell by shoving their head through dirt, the result being they were now stinky and very dirty. We attempted to wash them with tomatoes, but this did little to help the situation.

After a few hours we attempted to sleep. We woke up, not quite refreshed, and did some research on how to properly clean the dogs and remove the smell from the house. Then we spent the next couple of days cleaning the dogs and the house.

First thing to know, tomatoes and tomato juice don’t seem to work; at least they didn’t for us. Cleaning the dogs alternately with hydrogen peroxide and water or vinegar and water helped to mitigate the smell but could not get rid of it. These same mixtures also came in handy removing the smell from around the house. We spent days mopping and scrubbing to get rid of the smell with varying degrees of success. We discovered Nature’s Miracle Skunk Odor Remover which helped but, like everything else we tried, didn’t completely get rid of the smell.

Jasper’s head still smells nearly a week later, though not nearly as bad as it was the first night. Ginger seems to be odor free so she probably didn’t get blasted as much as Jasper. The house smells fine. We sometimes catch a whiff of something that could be the lingering scent of the skunks or it could be our weary and now overactive imaginations.

Remember, don’t let your dogs chase things at night. Don’t let them in the house if they smell like a skunk. Don’t start trying to clean them before you have all the proper mixtures and equipment (rubber gloves, clothes you can throw away). Most important, leave the skunks alone.

Three Miles

A couple of years ago I ran into a gentleman in the business section of Vroman’s.  He was looking for a copy of Adam Smith’s An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. We started a discussion about economics and inequality. A few minutes into the conversation he asked me if I ever listened to This American Life. He recommended that I listen to the Three Miles episode.

I listened and re-listened to the episode a number of times. The story involves a group of public school, University Heights High School, kids from a lower class neighborhood who visit an elite private school, Fieldston, just three miles from their neighborhood. What I heard sounded familiar. However, I was having a hard time analyzing the stories.

What initially struck me was this quote from Melanie, a University Heights High School student who disappeared after visiting the private school:

When we went there, we looked like a bunch of hooligans. I would say we looked like the goonies walking in a Wall Street building. I felt like you knew we weren’t from there. Like, who are these ghetto kids walking in? We just– we knew we didn’t fit in. We didn’t look like the rest of the students.

I recognized the signs of structural violence in the story. One of the most important ideas I have in analyzing structural violence is the economic concept of information asymmetries. Signaling, which is the idea that parties convey information to each other and screening, which allows one party to discriminate toward appropriate parties, are considered strategies to combat information asymmetries. They are also useful in imposing information asymmetries and conducting structural violence.

The private school, Fieldston, was certainly signaling class and status to the visiting students from the public school with its “18-acre campus on a hill” and “landscaped paths.” The screening is most certainly the $43,000 tuition. It was also noted in the program that Fieldston’s student body is 70% white.

The University Heights High School students were certainly signaling, going back to Melanie’s quote “we looked like a bunch of hooligans.” It appears that the signaling from Fieldston and its students was certainly overwhelming to the University Heights students based on another quote from Melanie, “I felt like a ratchet ass girl from the hood. I felt like I didn’t belong there. I just felt like I have no business in this building.”

The idea about signaling and screening is reinforced in this quote about Raquel, a young woman from University Heights High School who attended and graduated from Bard College, “Raquel has to not look at the mountain of evidence that what she’s working toward will not be possible, and instead has to repeat to herself, you do deserve this. You deserve this. You do deserve this.” Her boyfriend Jonathan suffered from a similar sense of self-doubt; his reaction upon learning of his acceptance into college, “My main thing was, who am I to be accepted into a college?”

There is also the implication of profound positive conditioning that affects the Fieldston students:

A lot of Fieldston students do go on to be politicians, and run Walt Disney and the New York Times, and host evening news programs, and design major American cities. And part of the point of programs like these that try to bridge the divide is– seeing as the private school kids will likely go on to be important, influential people, maybe write education policy or finance new businesses– it’s good for them to know not everybody’s life looks like theirs.

It has been difficult for me to understand why this profound negative conditioning has been so difficult for the University Heights High School students to overcome. I have had some academic success personally, so I found this story particularly frustrating; especially considering that I could not quite put my finger on why this was happening.

Then I found this quote from Dr. David Hernandez of Mount Holyoke College:

My first job was at UCLA and I remember one time we were talking with colleagues … about drinking and dive bars, and I said, “Oh yeah, I grew up in a bar. My dad was an alcoholic and so I spent a lot of time in this bar when I was a kid.” It completely changed the vibe, people looked uncomfortable, some excused themselves … It just felt like everyone was looking at me differently, like I wasn’t that same scholar anymore because I had this weird background that was foreign to them … It made me realize that my PhD didn’t level the playing field. Because it’s my pedigree that matters more.

I have visited elite private high schools here in Southern California. I have noticed that the students of these schools seem to be praised for even mediocre work. I graduated from a public high school in a poor neighborhood where it seemed that you could only win praise by outcompeting other students; only winners were celebrated. So the idea of pedigree is starting to make sense to me as an explanation for these phenomena.

I found an analog to this idea in the writing of William Deressiewicz. In his article The disadvantage of an elite education he writes:

In short, the way students are treated in college trains them for the social position they will occupy once they get out; At schools like Cleveland State, they’re being trained for positions somewhere in the middle of the class system, in the depths of one bureaucracy of another. They’re being conditioned for lives with few second chances, no extensions, little support, narrow opportunity–lives of subordination, supervision, and control, lives of deadlines, not guidelines. At places like Yale, of course, it’s the reverse.

I am starting to see the whys and wherefores of this conditioning I am writing about, and the role of pedigree. It will take much more research and analysis to truly understand. I will have to stop before I end up writing a preliminary thesis statement; I could go on and on.

Home Network, Part 3

The last time I posted anything was just shy of a month ago. The work related to keeping things clear enough for the electricians to work was nonstop the entire period they were working (September 21 through October 5 for my wife and me). On Sunday October 6 my wife and I were off to San Diego for a wedding on October 7, which was the day the city came to inspect the job. It was also the day the networking part of the job was finished. We got home late from San Diego that night and then we flew to Savannah GA for a week. We got back home (after a long, long travel day) on Sunday, October 13.

This is the first week I have had any time to play with the network. Monday was a day off and we spent most of our time recovering. Back to work on Tuesday, which was tiring and left me with little motivation to do any technical work. Besides, cleaning up my office became the primary task. Wednesday there was a doctor’s appointment which gave some time to play, but again, cleaning up the office was of paramount importance. Wednesday night I let my dogs outside and they got blasted by a skunk. This kept the wife and I up all night. I took Thursday off from work to deal with the skunky dogs; plus I had a dentist appointment that day. I went to the dentist and now I had to take Friday off as well to deal with the pain.

Cut to tonight, Sunday, and I am finally over the dental pain, mostly. I have set up my network minimally at this point. The most important part is setting up my printers. I have three: a small inkjet, a laser, and a large dedicated photo inkjet. I have to figure out a way to put them in the same space in my office while simultaneously making sure that each has the room to be operated easily. I also need to make sure I have room for the many other things I have to store in my office.

All this to say that though I have been preoccupied with setting up my home network for the last month, I am just now starting to work on it in earnest. The office is 95 percent clean at the moment, though I am going to mop it before I move things around in order to get rid of some of the skunk smell that still lingers. Also, the skunk scent lingers on the dogs as well, though I am loathe to get rid of them.

At any rate, I am back and have other things to write about. Hopefully this is the week that I get back into my groove. Wish me luck.

Home Network, Part 2

So I have decided how I want my data network to be set up. To start with I need ethernet connections from my living room, garage, and office to terminate in my office. In my office I will have an area set up where the ethernet terminates (like a patch board) and with adequate power outlets (a dozen?). Of course this will take some planning and effort, but I believe it will future proof my home, data wise at least.

I need to get a switch, perhaps a NAS server, patch cords, and on. I think a shelving system is an important choice. I need to make some changes in my office.

The data part, while important, is not the end of it. There is also the stereo part. I don’t know if it should be based on Bluetooth or Wifi. I even found out about Apple Air Play 2 (yet another thing to research). I have been doing constant research on this for the past week, to the neglect of some other things I should be doing (reading and writing).

Along with that my wife and I have been clearing out the needed space in the rooms for the electricians to work. It has been quite a lot of work. Exhausting! It is amazing how many things you have stored away in your life that you completely forget about.

I have had to throw out a lot of things in this process. Things I forgot I had. Things I no longer need. Things I do not now understand that I ever needed to begin with.

All of this because I am getting the electrical in my old house (built in 1939) updated. Funny how this process, which is seemingly outside of myself, causes so much self-reflection. Reflection on what is important to you, along with how much it is worth to you in monetary terms.

What I know is that music and computers are important to my wife and I. Also important is that my house not burn down due to the lack of outlets and the knob and tube wiring. I suppose that as this process unfolds (which begins tomorrow morning) I will learn even more.