Monday, February 28, 2011

A Problem With Commitment: Indeed

I say "indeed" a lot. Depending on context and inflection, it can have a variety of meanings, but I find it most useful when I have to acknowledge a statement without casting judgment on it.

For example, say you're in a social situation where custom frowns on calling someone a complete idiot, and you're faced with a statement like, "We should amend the Constitution so that cats have the right to vote."

Photo by Flickr user dbjorn, licensed under Creative Commons

A suitable response is "Indeed," followed by a polite excuse and hasty relocation.

("Quite" is a similar word, although you really have to have a clipped British accent in order to pull it off, and even then it sounds judgmental.)

Photo by Flickr user istolethetv, licensed under Creative Commons

The value of "indeed" is that it it acknowledges the statement, but doesn't commit to a decision, opinion or judgment in response.*

The Dark Side of Indeed

This is all well and good, but problems arise when you (okay, I) start overusing the word, using it in situations to create space around decisions that you're trying to defer, but where other people are expecting an answer.

An example happens around social gatherings and RSVPs: If the statement is "We're going to meet at the restaurant at 8pm," responding "Indeed" at that point really tends to annoy the other person.

This is because by giving a non-response, you're being noncommittal, and sending any number of messages (including "I can't be bothered" or "I'm waiting for something better to come up."). A response of "I'll have to get back to you" is better than the black hole of "indeed," which withholds even the promise of a response.

Looked at another way, it's infuriating in the same way as when you're trying to have an argument with someone who isn't arguing back.

It's almost ironic how an answer designed to be as inoffensive as possible can end up eliciting a strong response.

Very, very, very wrong indeed
Photo by Flickr user emsef, licensed under Creative Commons

Now, for the record, my own usage of "indeed" in this manner predates its popping up as a catchphrase in pop culture (such as used by Teal'c from Stargate: SG-1 or Omar from The Wire.)

Omar Devone Little, "Indeed".
Photo by Flickr user designwallah, licensed under Creative Commons

In fact, it goes all the way to high school, where Mr. Aragona, our G&T class teacher used it in just this very fashion.

*To my understanding, it's similar to some contexts of the Japanese "hai," where it can mean "yes, I understand" as opposed to "yes, I agree," which can make a difference when you're reading Miranda rights to Japanese nationals (according to a half-remembered memory of an article from the acclaimed legal journal, Readers Digest.)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Is There Anything Worse Than Going to the Gym on Valentine's Night?

I'm constitutionally unable to work out in the mornings. (Seriously, it's like my Eighth Amendment of the Gym -- the bit about barring cruel and unusual punishment. The First establishes the freedom to grunt; the Second guarantees the right to keep and flex big guns; the Fourth provides protection from unreasonable use of the squat rack for curls; and so forth.)

Since I continue to work stupidly late at the office (a trend that I've followed for years), that means I'll get to the gym at 8 or 9. The fact that this means I'll be on the shoulder press machine right outside the activity room just as the Zumba class gets out is just a coincidence.

After I work out, I'll start out being too tired to do anything else, followed up by being too keyed up to sleep. Which means I get to be really late, which means I can't work out in the morning, which means I stay at the office late, which means I work out late, etc.

It's a vicious cycle.

Now, as it happens, I did not work out Valentine's Night, an activity that strikes me as kind of... pathetic. If you're a singleton working out at the gym on Valentine's Night -- really, why are you even bothering? The only thing more pathetic would be staying late at the office, which, of course, is what I was did.

Gym Notes:

* I don't like it when they change the layout and lineup of the machines. This usually only happens after I come back from an extended hiatus, but this time around, they replaced the dedicated lat pulldown, upright row and tricep pulldown machines with another multi-function station unit. The first two are okay, but I liked being able to lean back against the tricep machine. Maybe you get more use of stabilizer muscles, I don't know.

What I do know, though, if my understanding of pulleys is correct, the weight label numbers lie -- since the weight stack on the multi-function station is topped by a movable pulley, the mechanical advantage means you're only moving half the weight.

* Tabata Intervals: Since I hate doing cardio, I've been focusing more on high-intensity Tabata intervals, where you do something 20 seconds at high intensity, followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated 8 times. It means you get done in 4 minutes, which appeals to me (unless you go around for another set, which does not.)

You can do Tabatas on anything where you can change intensity instantly. (So no treadmills or escalator-style stairmasters.) Mostly, I've been doing my Tabatas on the jump rope (shooting for a pace of at least 60 jumps in each 20-second interval, followed by rest periods of 10 seconds dogging it at a slow pace), though I've been trying to mix in burpees, and hitting the heavy bag. (I used to do them on the Versaclimbers, but they've moved those machines back to an inconvenient corner.)

* Lifting Straps: I finally bought and started using weight lifting straps. They're cheap, and you can use them for any pulling exercise where your grip gives out before the big muscles do (Primarily deadlifts and lat pulldowns. Shrugs, too, but I'm lazy.)  This video has a pretty good explanation of how you should place the straps (start wrapping from the side opposite the bar from your hand, to counteract the weight of the bar trying to peel your finger grip open.)

That's about it. I've been pretty good this month about going, and I'm plateauing right now, so next week I'll probably switch to lighter weights/more reps, and try to focus on my diet, which has always been my weak point -- I just don't vary my eating habits that much. Fortunately, since I can't really drink during the week any more (getting old), that makes things a bit easier.

Going to light reps will also give me a chance to reset on squats to work on my form. I've been doing leg press the past few months, mostly because I kept jacking my back up doing squats, then coughing my back out at various times (the new heat pump has helped with that, I think -- my place is a lot warmer now when I get out of my warm bed.)

Now, off to undo any benefit I made at this afternoon's workout.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Please Help My Sister Kickstart a Documentary About the Most Interesting Dad in the World (by Feb. 28)

IMG_3571[tl;dr: Please donate or share the link:]

This is my Dad. He was born in Malaysia. You can't tell from the noodles, but he was held by the Japanese as a prisoner of war during World War II. (That's the war you used to see on the History Channel before they started doing reality shows about pawn shops.)

He'd been, briefly, a mechanic in the Royal Air Force, before the Japanese Imperial Army made him become a copper miner for a few years.

After that, he served in the Merchant Marine, mostly on oil tankers. He was kicked out of the country for being an illegal alien. (Technically.) He was a U.S. Army tank driver during the Korean War. In New York, he worked with kids, as a waiter, and as a doctor. (Not at the same time.)
He went to medical school in Italy, and still speaks fluent Italian.

He has a lamp made out of an artificial leg.

He's owned both a VW Beetle and a Mustang. (Not at the same time.)

He's never been in an beer commercial, and I am admittedly biased, but I think he's the most interesting man in the world.

DSCF3641.jpg This is my sister. You may remember her from such films as Chicken Fat Music Video and Grandpa, the allegedly psychic spider monkey.

My sister is doing a documentary about my dad. She's raising funds through Kickstarter, and while she's hit her first goal for postproduction funds, if she raises a bunch more, she'll be eligible for matching grant funds.

Here's the trailer for the film, Every Day Is a Holiday:

My Take on the Title

When I was growing up, I used to forget my dad's birthday. He never made a big deal about his birthday, because after his POW experience, every day was a holiday. (Anyway, that was my excuse for forgetting.)

Although we're in the middle of public radio pledge week and you're probably already sick of being asked for stuff, if you can help out:
  • Please pledge whatever you can spare. Donations are tax-deductible, and I would appreciate it. Plus, you can get a copy of the movie or a producer credit if you kick in enough.
  • Share the link: Tweet, post to Facebook, or otherwise share the Kickstarter link --
    Donate to Every Day Is a Holiday:
This Kickstarter campaign ends on Feb. 28, 2011, so please donate. I would appreciate it.

Thanks -- Joe

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

My Photography Featured in The New Yorker

I saw on Saturday that one of my photos was featured on the web site of the prestigious magazine, The New Yorker:


If you want to get technical, or be "accurate," the photo was just illustrating a listing on The New Yorker's Events page, for a Cowboy Junkies concert (tonight, Monday, as it happened) at a place called City Winery in SoHo. It's a closeup of Margo Timmins that I took at the Cowboy Junkies show at the State Theatre last April.

It is not, I freely admit, a particularly good picture -- what is important, is that it's licensed  Creative Commons, Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0), under which I post most of my Flickr photos, without that often-vexing "noncommercial use" restriction.

Since I'm not a professional photographer (very obviously), getting a vicarious thrill from having other people use my photos is the only kind of compensation I'll ever get from them, which is why I license them that way. (Model rights and the like still apply, so you won't see them used in, say, an overseas advertising campaign. At least, you're not supposed to, and if it happens, you can take legal action against the publisher -- not me -- if it happens.)

At least with the attribution requirement, I can find when people are using my photo when I do a Google search on my name or Flickr username.  By making it pretty easy for other people to legally use my photos (just give me attribution, and flow down the license terms for any derivative works), I can pretty easily see where my photos are being used. (Image searches like TinEye exist, but I'm not going to image search my 8,500 Flickr photos.)

I've talked about my mullet and facepalm photos being used to illustrate the respective Wikipedia pages, so I won't get into that again. When it comes to bands, though, I'm happy to report that a few of my concert photos have made it on to the relevant Wikipedia pages. Again, it's a function of being liberally-licensed and well-tagged (so they come up in relevant searches), with a few of them that are actually not horrible photos (I'm strictly a "blind squirrel" snapshooter):

In my own small way, I'm adding to the cultural conversation. Or at least helping to illustrate it. And by requiring attribution, I can find out about it.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Things That Are Upcoming to Which I May Attend

I've been really slack, even negligent, about doing... stuff lately: Going to things like concerts, meetups, and social media unconferences.

Here are a few things to which I might be going in the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, February 2: 6:30-9pm, Slaviya (the former Left Bank) in Adams-Morgan, DC: Tech Cocktail DC Winter 2011 - I guess Frank got tired of numbering them all. As always, the afterparty action is across the street at Amsterdam Falafelshop.

Also that night is WTF Wednesday at Rock & Roll Hotel, featuring a Twin Peaks episode starting at 7:30pm

Saturday, February 26: 9pm - Los Amigos Invisibles play the Black Cat -- I saw them a long, long time ago open for Soul Coughing. (Up at UMBC, I believe.)

Sunday, March 27: 7:30pm - Over the Rhine plays at Birchmere

Friday, April 15 through Monday, April 18: 8pm - Dave Brubeck plays a four-night stand at Blues Alley. Tickets are... holy shit, $150.

***Sunday, April 17: 8pm - The Raveonettes at Black Cat -- definitely on the list, even if it is a Sunday***

Tuesday, April 19: 8pm - British Sea Power at Black Cat. I have an album of theirs. I think my sister gave it to me.

Friday, April 29: 8pm - Midnight - Hirshhorn After Hours, at the Hirshhorn Museum. Tickets on sale March 29.

Saturday, April 30 - Sunday, May 1 - Privacy Camp DC 2011, Center for American Progress, DC