Archive for June 2008

the usual

June 30th, 2008 — 8:37pm

That was very strange. There was a large truck parked in front of my house this morning and it was bristling with antennae, like one of those Channel 7 NewsVans! trucks, complete with micro tower on top of the roof. I thought perhaps it might be one of those ‘to catch a preditor’ situations, but no one was around. The truck was gone by the time I left for lunch.

Comment » | random crap

galley slave

June 27th, 2008 — 3:39pm

An unfortunate problem with finding new work is that not caring tends to be a huge red flag with employers. Personally, I consider not caring to be a rational response to a workplace environment composed of meaningless, unsatisfying tedium, but I suppose if it were my money going out the door I’d want fake enthusiasm too… It’s not that I don’t work hard, it’s just that I fully realize I am selling a piece of my soul for survival.

I picture a Roman Centurion behind a counter, horsehair fringe atop his brass helmet as he interviews prospective galley slaves.

“Have you done this kind of work?”

“Yes! Well… to some extent.”

“Which is it?”

“Well, sir, I’ve always wanted to be a galley slave.”

“So you’ve never rowed a ship?”

“I’m a born galley slave, sir.”

“You know it’s not always a warship. Sometimes you’ll have to row a cargo boat, sometimes we might be in dock and you’ll have to be chained to a post in the hot sun for weeks at a time. And whipping. Lots of whipping, you sure you can handle that?”

“Sir, I’ve been whipped most of my life. I really take to whipping.”

“Years of whipping experience?”

“…uh, three?”

“You’re not sure?”

“Well, I was beaten at first.”

“Beaten isn’t the same thing as whipped, is it? Whipping is a whole different LEVEL of pain. Whipping leaves marks. Any jackass can be beaten. Takes a lot more dedication to be whipped all day. “

“Please, sir, I need this job.”

“Well, we’ve got a lot of applicants… You really have to burn for this kind of work. I don’t know… I don’t think you really WANT this…”

And the sad thing is, when I Googled “business galley slave” there were SO many cartoons to choose from…

Comment » | anxiety, office, Whining

a new hope

June 26th, 2008 — 5:29pm

It does sometimes seem as if random chance just totally throws you a bone now and then. As I was getting ready to tell the Tommy Chong-soundalike ex-punk, that I for some stupid reason designed a mortgage lead generation site for, that I was done with him, I received an email from someone who claims to know my father. Who is dying. Of cancer. Or at least there was some connection of a connection that lead this person who used to be in the military to check out my resume site. Definitely sounded like a military man.

Anyway, this person’s company needs some interactive work done. Best of all they’re from Europe (the Emissary Group?), so American money is cheap to them!  Going to meet at some point in the future. Anyway, sounds like they are located nearby: corner of Genessee and Pico…

Comment » | Whining

must go back to work now…

June 24th, 2008 — 4:26pm

The human brain is a bi-lobed control system, either side of which, in an emergency, can operate the entire body. Those few people who have had one half of their brain removed are usually able to regain control of their bodies with the exception of the arm opposite the excised lobe, often with no discernable loss to the personality. The American political system is a bi-lobed system of control, and one of the two parties seems to always have control of congress at any given time. After a switch such as the one recently, the opposing party innevitably begins investigations into the excesses of the previous administration. So this leads me to wonder if there is an analogous operation at work between the two lobes of the brain. An iterative program rewrites itself constantly, but the easiest way to rewrite a program is to do so from outside the program. Perhaps the bi-lobed brain allows for a better means of checking the ongoing development of the overall human running system by switching between its two control lobes, each one in turn corroborating and addressing change issues in the other. This might be testable by measuring the extent to which neural firing from one side of the brain addressed activity in the other side…

Comment » | consciousness, science

Their Kampf

June 24th, 2008 — 2:22pm

My work is not being criticized, so it isn’t personal for me. However I can’t help but feel sympathy for the woman who was shoved out of the discussions regarding the proper navigation for the online beauty retailer account management pages.

First of all, the fact that so many people would care enough to make enemies over the navigational properties of a few web pages that will allow shoppers to track their cosmetics deliveries is shocking, or would be shocking if I weren’t already so cynical. But this woman worked on the wireframes, had me mock up some layouts and was then quickly elbowed out of the way by two other parties who felt that her logic was flawed.

So yesterday I created a new layout along these new guidelines and today the controlling parties have refined their wireframes for the landing page… and it’s looking more like the original. This time though, it’s THEIR idea, so it’s better.

I’m just the child who is sent shuttling back and forth between bickering parents. I’ll design any page they want as long as everyone involved is reasonably polite. But the sheer weight of the tedium created and energies expended by all parties in this extended monthlong argument over control is so disheartening. Perhaps a constant jockeying for power is just an innate quality of all human interaction. In that case I should try to work in emergency situations or where important life or death decisions are being made. At least then the struggle for control would seem warranted…  Anyway, back to the drawing board, or the Photoshop page. Luckily I keep every iteration; I have a feeling we might just design ourselves right back to where we started.

Comment » | anxiety, design, office, Whining

Furthering the cause of modern capitalism

June 23rd, 2008 — 9:01pm

Two of the teams that I have to make happy have joined forces and let it be known that I can only accept changes from them.

In an attempt to prevent office friction I will refrain from mentioning this to the excluded parties unless it becomes absolutely necessary. Today will be spent urgently putting together this new version of the landing page for the members’ section of an online beauty store, one of two such sites owned by this company.

As a kid I used to watch Warner Bros. cartoons from the ’40s and ’50s, and I still remember the ones created to explain capitalism to an ignorant populous. Competition is the driving force behind improvements in our collective standard of living; I get that. This is the primary reason why Microsoft sucked for so long: lack of competition. But I can’t help feeling that this particular use of human labor could be better spent looking for, I don’t know, a vacine for malaria, better methodologies to conserve energy, school curriculums to help our children get out of next-to-last place in the list of developed nation’s knowledge of science…

Three different teams are obsessing and fighting over the exact manner in which some midwestern mother of five is going to be able to check on the status of her anti-wrinkle cream. We’re not discovering water on Mars, people! If I have to obsess over something, I want it to matter.

1 comment » | design, Whining

proactive tension

June 23rd, 2008 — 2:37pm

It’s Monday and a third party has been added to those who have a stake in this design project, which means that I have to somehow make three different people happy with the design, while making each one feel as if I am responding to his or her sometimes contradictory suggestions as to how the project should progress.

A new set of wireframes arrived from the brand director, all of which means that the twelve pages I’ve designed so far are now scrapped. Also I have to make sure I work extra hard so this new party feels I am trustworthy and reliable. This makes future dealings with her easier, but means that I have to frantically apply myself to this new redesign, something that becomes more difficult with every new and potentially meaningless change to the format.

Not only is each of the three groups striving for control, but I believe the Pres, in a typical display of sharky wisdom, has instilled in each a fear of failure. All of them seem to think that the success or failure of the project will bear a direct reflection on their future at the company. This kind of intentional tension might make for a better product… sure don’t make for happy employees. One thing I can say for sure: all about CONTROL.

Comment » | Whining

the usal

June 18th, 2008 — 2:37pm

So I’m in the office today, because we’re having a meeting which will flesh out the new direction they want for the membership pages.

Which means there’s nothing for me to do until after the meeting… which means, since this is an open office and all the cubicles have walls that are 12 inches high –proto-cubicles really, the half-formed foetus of cubicles– I have to pretend to be working for an hour. I can’t just pull out a book and read because that would earn resentment; some of these people were already working hard when I got here at 8:30, and some will be here after I leave. I am very close to pretend-designing a logo for the membership pages, just so it looks like I’m not flaking off…

This open-planned office is the albatross around the neck of early 21st century workers. Bosses love it because it encourages accountability. They claim to love it because it supposedly creates synergy (a very 20th century word). Employees hate it because it is distracting, because it is patronizing, because it means that during the work day your every movement is monitored.

But, on the other hand, this morning I discovered free frozen waffles in the office refrigerator.

Welcome to the Panopticon.

Comment » | office, Whining

Von Neuman is Unintuitive

June 17th, 2008 — 12:20pm

A Von Neumann machine is linear processing. First one thing happens, then another. It is the way of rigid logic or geometry proofs, and seems more or less to form the foundation for western thought.

A parallel processing machine is one that uses simultaneous and independently operating algorithms. The brain is a parallel processing machine. But consciousness feels as if it is a Von Neumann machine: Consciousness appears as a stream, always possessing a direction. But beneath conscious thought there are simultaneous streams of semi-consciousness  knitted together, sometimes long after the fact, to provide what seems to be linear narrative. The self is a Von Neumann machine simulated on a parallel processing machine.

But there are benefits and limitations to each form, and often I see brilliant people who have come to rely so much on Von Neumann logic that they can talk themselves into blatantly absurd positions. The smallest inaccuracies in initial conditions, after multiple operations, can lead to absurd results.

A logical chain of reasoning can lead to amazing and yet counter-intuitive results, like General Relativity, but it can also lead you down rabbit-holes of craziness, like the reviewer for The New York Times who managed to convince himself that “Don’t Mess With The Zohan” was funny because its politics and humanism were admirable.

Intuition seems to me the ability to allow the brain’s parallel processing aspects to operate below the level of consciousness to avoid the limitations of a simulated Von Neumann architecture. The Myers Briggs psychological test divides human personalities into four sets of polarities: Introvert/Extrovert, Sensing/Intuiting, Thinking/Feeling, and Perceiving/Judging. They seem to have done pretty well for themselves with the success of that test, so I assume that they are at least partially accurate. Here are their ideas on intuition:

Extraverted Intuition: Sees possibilities in the external
world. Trusts flashes from the unconscious, which can then be shared
with others.

Introverted Intuition: Looks at consistency of ideas and
thoughts with an internal framework. Trusts flashes from the unconscious,
which may be hard for others to understand.

Comment » | consciousness, science

My New Painting(s): parthenogenesis

June 16th, 2008 — 11:53pm

Desperate to come up with new art, I pulled one of my unsuccessful paintings from the garage and decided to turn it into a triptych. I scratched out with a pencil the areas that will become the three new paintings I hope to make from this single crappy one. It’s a close up of a woman’s face, with agrammatical text (which seemed more interesting when I wrote it) “fruits of an eye where mouth can’t speak.”

I am fascinated with agrammatical text, but I seem to be the only person in LA who sees it as anything other than a gimmick. This non-sentence was supposed to define the concept for an audience, but it seems cloying in retrospect. The point of it all is that we are bound by the strictures of our thinking, which itself is bound by the structures of our language. So by breaking that structure and forming sentences that are incorrect in standard English, we can on occasion reach thoughts that would be unattainable in any other fashion. For this to make sense you have to believe that thought is composed of language or at least that language is a requirement for conscious thought to exist. Most people don’t believe this.

Most people assume that language is a way of describing an inner life. They think they have thoughts that are TRANSLATED into language. This, I believe, is bullshit. There is a reason why transcendental meditation requires you to clear your head of words. Without language, it would be impossible to understand the concept behind this very sentence. Your understanding of that sentence is different than the thought OF the sentence. In other words, you have a feeling that you sense as you understand a sentence like the one earlier, but that feeling is the result of conscious thought composed of words, it could not give rise to the words that created that feeling.

All of this doesn’t make my original painting any less crappy. I created it on a computer and then had it painted in oil in Vietnam (along with 12 more of varying degree of success). An interesting point, or criticism, that no one has bothered to make because no one really likes the idea, is that this concept—that words CREATE thought—is denied by the manufacture of the painting itself. That’s because with this series of paintings the ideas did come first; the idea (or Platonian original form) was created in the computer. This expression of the idea (created by Vietnamese laborers) is merely the playing out of that generative force.

None of this has any bearing on the fact that the original painting is lame. But now it will become three paintings. Hopefully one of them won’t suck.

Comment » | art, consciousness, language, Whining

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