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Art Gallery

After years of random doodling on rare occasion, I took up drawing on the subway to and from work. It's an inexpensive and soothing hobby and something I've come to enjoy a great deal.

I finally created a web site to display the scans I've made of these pictures.

Stacey Leggieri's Small Art Gallery
http://sites.google.com/site/staceyleggieri/


A few people received emails inviting them to take an early look. Now I'm sending it out to a wider friend's list. Since any new folks to the party won't have any context to start with, I'll just say that most of these images are small enough to slip into my purse pocket when I leave the train. No materials rise beyond the level of bog standard office or school supplies.

The page is set up to allow for comments on category pages, individual images, or whole diatribes if desired on an extra comments page. However, Google Sites won't allow for purely anonymous comments. And maybe that's a good thing, since I'm not exactly looking to open a gallery show at this time. If you would like to engage with public comments or indulge in private ones, send an email to the address listed on my LiveJournal profile page.
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Digital TV in America

There's a lot of confusion about the American switchover to digital television. As an audiovisual specialist, I'd like to clear up confusion among my family and friends.

Since 2005, a law has been on the books that mandates that all local television channels switch from analog broadcasts to digital broadcasts on February 17th of this year. The purpose for doing this is to free up prime frequency spectrum that could arguably have been allocated more efficiently to begin with. (In the government's defense, few people cared about wasting wireless bandwidth until cell phones came along and portable computing became viable.) Once TV stations stop sending out analog signals, the original band of frequencies will be used to support new wireless services for portable devices plus modernized communications systems for emergency workers.

The original switchover date, February 17th, is less than two weeks away. However, there is now another date on everyone's lips: July 12th. Much confusion abounds due to uneducated bloggers who assumed last week when the Senate passed a bill for a blanket delay that it was a done deal. Of course, such a law is required to pass through both houses of Congress before being signed by the President. The House just passed a version that allows TV stations to switch to digital at any point between February 17th and July 12th. This inserts a little more confusion into the picture, but it also allows local areas to manage the transition based on their own particular situation. Some negotiation will occur to determine what exactly appears on President Obama's desk. Personally, I would prefer the President sign something closer to the House's version.

After the switchover occurs, television stations will broadcast in digital format only and on new frequencies. Many stations are already broadcasting in digital, with some stations broadcasting in both formats simultaneously for now. Customers who use cable or satellite services will in most cases see no change in their service. However, if your receiver box is over five years old, I'd suggest you call your provider sooner rather than later to see if you need a replacement box that may be offered to you for free.

The main trouble will be for people who utilize rabbit ears or building antennas to receive local stations only. These people may need new antennas and/or converter boxes for older television sets. The government has instituted a coupon program (https://www.dtv2009.gov) to provide consumers with $40 towards the equipment they need. This is most or all of the cost of a converter box for one TV. The idea is that you get your coupon in the mail - up to 2 per household - and use it to purchase the stuff you need.Collapse )

I never enjoy being the bearer of bad news. So the good news is that for most Americans, none of this will matter. Cable and satellite providers saw this coming and prepared well in advance. The bad news is that the most vulnerable among us may be less than two weeks away from losing their main lifeline to the outside world. Or they may have up to five months to wake up, smell the coffee, and get a coupon redeemed. For those who care about how the switchover will occur in their local area, I would suggest they check the web sites for their local TV stations for more details in a few days. For people using rabbit ears, this may mean taking a trip to the local library.

To some extent, no amount of preparation will keep some people from being caught surprised. Test studies in small towns verified what you and I could guess, that even places blanketed with warnings housed an alarmingly large number of people who thought they were immune to losing their TV channels. For some percentage of the unaware, simply buying a converter box may not be the best solution. It may be time to buy a new TV, subscribe to cable or satellite service, get broadband internet, or give up the boob tube.

As a last note, there are tools online where you can plug in a house address to compare today's public analog broadcasts to tomorrow's public digital broadcasts. If you like reading charts, you can even get an idea of which way to point your rabbit ears. Here's one tool I like: http://tvfool.com/index.php?id=57
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For my American friends

Regardless of politics, I hope my American friends will be voting in their presidential primaries. Tomorrow is "Super Tuesday," where 24 of our 50 states will hold elections. This includes New York, where I live. I applaud those who already participated in their state's primaries. They laid the foundation for the difficult choice the rest of us now face.

In most states, delegates will be awarded in a proportional manner. Your vote, whether it is a majority or minority vote in your state, will help to determine the ultimate winner. Voting for a candidate outside the mainstream is also arguably meaningful, as the increase of voting "outside the box" is increasingly being noticed and considered seriously. Those who fail to vote risk putting their needs and desires on the nation's backburner.

Please don't pretend that your vote doesn't matter.

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Pointing to Jonathan Coulton

There's a local singer/songwriter who's really gotten my attention. Those who know me well enough will realize that's is pretty rare for me to endorse a particular artist.

Like me, Jonathan Coulton (JoCo) lives in Brooklyn. His "office" is a table at a coffee shop where he answers his email. I got to see him perform locally, and I'd estimate there were only about 50 people in the audience at the time. This may not last.Collapse )

Coulton's latest catchy whatsit (not counting whatever he's concocting as I write this) is a song called Still Alive. The song plays during the ending credits of Portal, a video game extra stuck into Valve's Orange Box, which is basically a company variety pack. I'd recommend the game as well as the song, both of which are rather innovative approaches to video game storytelling. You can get spoiled here if you want.

Also, you can watch him live right now. (The videos of his sessions are also kept on archive.) I think this is the second time he's let people watch as he creates and records new songs. His evil scientist's recording closet reminds me of my job, actually.
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Adventures in WoW

Awhile ago, I grew disappointed with my experiences playing World of Warcraft.

So I tried to figure out exactly what was lost or different. Was it the gaming experience itself? I tried lower level WoW play and single-player video games, but they were far less engrossing. Was it the sense of community? I tried a Second Life community and found myself better immersed but lacking any sense of motivation there. Was it the simple combination of the two? I tried online ARGs (alternate reality games) and found myself only interested in being a creator, not a player. Yet ARG creation would require more time than I have to spare.

So I started reading about various aspects of MMORPGs, and that took me into social theory within media studies and in gaming circles. The conclusion I reached was that my interest lies in learning how to help cooperative virtual communities thrive over time. As a species, we must learn to overcome roadblocks like creating accountability in anonymous communities, relaying involuntary language cues over the internet, overcoming cultural differences when players span continents, and so forth. Future generations will likely rely on our solutions.

It wasn't so much that I'd been playing the wrong game. I had been taking it largely at face value. Instead, I should have been taking a far more meta approach to the situation. Collapse )

I'm extending an invitation to those reading who would like to join me and Peter in World of Warcraft on the server Ysera. Transferred Alliance characters and newbies alike are welcome. If you've made it as far as reading this paragraph, I suspect we'll be able to work together.

Our guild's web address is prime.guildlaunch.com.
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Doing well and a request

So Sunday was both my birthday and first wedding anniversary. (Thanks for the well wishing from some of you, and Happy Birthday to Sarah and Kate.) Peter and I went to a restaurant around the block called NoNo's kitchen, which stands for "North of New Orleans." They have the real deal on traditional creole and southern food, which is a bit of a rarity in New York.

Then we went back home to take care of drama and a raid for our fellow players in World of Warcraft. Peter inherited our guild when the former guildmaster left, came back on conditions, and then left again a few weeks later despite it all. A lot of our time has been shovelled into righting the boat. We've achieved a lot of success, but we couldn't do it 100% drama-free.

Sunday has made me reconsider, as I'd rather be happy than helpful once it gets past a certain point. I've cut back my WoW hobby time considerably and have started looking for something else to do with my time. I figure I can't control the way people treat me, but I can decide what kind of environment I choose to spend my time in. And I prefer one where I don't put my needs on the backburner and get kicked for it.

After Peter went to the Transformers movie, he came back talking about a mysterious movie trailer with no given title and no sign of where the terrific destruction on New York City was coming from. The movie is by JJ Abrams of "Lost" television fame and has been connected with an elaborate detective game on the internet. I figured, what the heck, I'm curious.

This marketing trick was connected early on to the marketing for what was revealed to be a completely unrelated product, a tabletop RPG called Alpha Omega. The mysterious internet puzzles related to that game have been frankly better and more interesting than those for JJ Abrams' movie. Huh, fascinating.

To make a long story short, I'm looking for someone who is about to head to Wizard World in Chicago or GenCon Indy in Indianapolis. There's a Mind Storm Labs trade booth I want you to investigate. And I would need to fill you in on what to look for. Cause if a new clue is there, it may be well hidden.
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A troubling theory on conservatism

Behind the cut is a theory on conservatism written in 1899. Please note that in the interests of brevity, I've cut the author's 31 paragraphs down to a mere six. The term 'leisure' class can be understood in our modern times to equal the 'upper' class. Conspiracy theory or common sense? Collapse )

Thorstein Veblen became an economist first and a sociologist second. Though his ideas were remarkably cynical and unorthodox, he remained an (albeit eccentric) man of his time. If you decide to read his works in full, you'll occasionally run across the thinly veiled misogyny and racism common to most Darwin-inspired sociologists of his era. You'll also read his favorite economic arguments dozens of times, sometimes within a single chapter, due to his circuitous logic and obvious love of language.

My sample is the result of careful culling of material on my part, plus some necessary reordering to maintain the argument's flow. I've tried to honor the general gist of the original, though many secondary points have been removed. My personal favorite describes the instinctive emulation of the leisure class by the productive classes through a 'cannon of conduct' - extending to belief in or miming of conservative ideology or to the injunction that advocation of social change is 'vulgar.'

All this comes from Chapter 8 (Industrial Exemption and Conservatism) from Veblen's early book, The Theory of the Leisure Class. The book, best known for coining the term 'conspicuous consumption,' is still referenced today by advertisers and advertising critics. It was billed as satire by its original publisher, though Veblen intended it to be read as serious economic analysis. One theory states that Veblen may have used satire to mask the harsh social implications of his theories.
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An interesting development in lawyer land

A gay lawyer for one of the top law firms in New York City has decided to sue them for discrimination based on sexual orientation. (No, it's not the firm I work at.) The allegations include a persistent managerial order to dissolve a non-existing relationship with another attorney and the falsification of a negative work review following a string of otherwise positive feedback. While the federal government has no law against discrimination for sexual orientation, it's against New York state law as well as the law firm's written policies.

In response, the law firm has decided to countersue the attorney. The law firm's complaint is that the attorney released sentitive business information both in his legal complaint and in subsequent interviews. Due to the principle of lawyer-client privilege, law firms are naturally concerned that any such breach might cause clients to consider moving their business elsewhere. Ironically, the firm's decision to publicize its counterallegations has resulted in more media play than the issue ever got previously.

I'll leave it to the reader to examine the initial complaint and countersuit documents if they wish. In my opinion, both sides are arguably guilty of mixing in charges of legal wrongdoing with tangential protests about personal affronts that courts of law aren't designed to address.

I still haven't seen what I'd consider to be solid reporting on the issue. Collapse )

This case may force uniformity on an issue that's been quietly stewing on the backburner with mixed results for years. Or it may raise tensions between partners and attorneys beyond what is already a troubling pitch in some minds. In addition to changing the atmosphere for openly gay attorneys - for better or worse - there may also be changes in treatment towards women, minorities, and to the entire culture of doing business. For a field where some bemoan a lack of diversity in the ranks, it really does matter. But mind you, this is just one opinion as a worker on the distant sidelines looking in.
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Mad food scientists

Not long ago, there was a pleasantly sweet smell in much of Manhattan. The cause was most likely a factory glitch in downwind New Jersey, where food smells are manufactured for mass distribution. Nobody will own up to it, though, in large part because the food industry wishes to keep secret its method of making unhealthy food seem palatable. Most likely it was a factory helping to turn high fructose corn syrup - a densely sugary concoction that skips past the body's sugar regulating systems - into "maple syrup."

Meanwhile, New York City is phasing in a new ban on trans fats. This is already causing restaurants to change their habits. Most of the locally owned establishments are switching back to the unsaturated or saturated fats of yore, if they weren't using them already. They're paying a bit more for cooking oil and buying it in somewhat smaller quantities. Collapse )
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Happy Holidays

As with most people suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, this is a difficult time of year for me. Feeling tired much of the time? Check. Having trouble making decisions? Check. Not in the mood to be around people? Check. Christmas shopping completed by the deadline? Eh.... not so much. ;)

Peter's unabashed enthusiasm for his family's holiday traditions helps, as does his insistence that being dragged along is present enough from me. Still, I'll likely have to give out "Januarymas" presents this year. With all the various traditions my friends follow, I figure I'm entitled to my own. Happy Januarymas in advance, everyone! :D

In case anyone missed it, the tackiest gift of 2006 was located by Saturday Night Live and Justin Timberlake.

Also of interest is the wedding slideshow (warning: 284mb) put together by a long distance friend by way of a college project. Nice job, Steve and thanks again!

That's about it from me. I'll be in Pennsylvania until the 26th.

Edited to add: I did at least participate in online gift giving through World of Warcract. My guild went to several low level areas and gave out armor, holding bags, holiday shirts, and snowballs to throw around. Very fun!