Monday, August 30, 2010

Day 19 - A Talent

This isn't a "pity me" post, but I've been thinking off-and-on for the past few days about a talent I have, and I haven't been able to come up with one that actually seems interesting. I mean, I'm not saying I'm not talented in any way, but I think I'm pretty transparent in terms of people being pretty aware of what I'm good and not good at. I'd think that a post like this would be good for talking about a "hidden" talent, and I'm not sure that I have one of those.

So, I guess it is best to just throw up this post and stop delaying the rest of the challenge topics.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Day 18 - Whatever Tickles My Fancy

This is going to be a short one - I just wanted to show all of you a small bit of ridiculousness that graced me with its presence on the screen as I was watching last week's "Project Runway."

Apparently it was raining in New York?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Meme time! Plus societal speculation.

Part I -

I've already seen those algorithms that identify whether you 'write like a woman' or 'write like a man' based on a pasted sample of your writing. It always comes up that I write like a man, which I suppose explains why when I post under gender-neutral monikers and people decide to start shit with me, I get called "dude" or "asshole" as opposed to "bitch."

Anyway, I was never satisfied with those, even though my anecdotal experience seems to confirm it, because the ones I've seen seem to primarily function by counting certain words in the sample that men allegedly tend to use more than women and vice versa. I guess the claim that overall men and women write significantly differently is so tenuous that the only testable factor the algorithm designer could come up with was word counts.

I did find something in the "paste a sample of your writing" camp that I liked, even though I haven't been able to find where on the page it cites their methods for generating the result. This one scans your writing and tells you what famous author you write like. I like the idea of this a lot more because it has the potential to be a more interesting analysis: I'd like to believe that syntax and sentence structure could be analyzed, in addition to use of colloquialisms and the general sophistication of diction used.

I submitted a couple of different samples and received this result most often:

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Now, this is a person who, admittedly, I had not heard of! But Wikipedia fixed that problem for me and now I have someone new whose work I'd like to check out. So yay for silly memes and quizzes that can teach me new things!

Part II -

A large part of feminism is understanding privilege - that is, "a special advantage or right possessed by an individual or group. A privilege is a right or advantage gained by birth, social position, effort, or concession" (thanks!.) Socially, privilege amounts to a series of factors that are completely out of our control; yet, those factors automatically form the framework for a hierarchy of status. The accepted primer on understanding privilege is a paper by Peggy McIntosh called White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. Feminists have used this basic idea to create similarly worded and themed Male Privilege Checklists that, using McIntosh's framework, associate 'white' with 'male' (as the privileged class.)

Privileges do not stop there. How can you tell if you have privilege? Well, you probably have it any time you're part of a hegemonic group that you (perhaps unconsciously) consider 'normal' compared to others. Think gay people are weird or gross? That's your straight privilege. Etc. Etc.

I read an interesting article about a month ago about geeks and hacking - If You Were Hacking Since Age 8, You Were Privileged. Summarily, it's about how geeks (usually male) often cite how young they were when they started hacking as validation of their geek credentials and bragging rights, but they don't exactly realize what a privilege it was for many of them to have access to a computer at the time; thus, treating hacking-while-young as a merit badge disadvantages current hackers who had enter the computer science/hacking field several years later out of necessity.

Reading that article led me down the internet rabbit-hole to find a shorter list of items, several of which few people probably think twice about, but that can collectively serve to indicate a measure of class privilege. As in, the more of these items apply to you, the more likely it is that you're in an economic/social class that confers advantages. The blog that posted it invited others to post the list on their blogs and indicate what items applied to us, as a way of examining our privilege. So - that is what I am going to do now! Bolded items apply to me.

Father went to college
Father finished college
Mother went to college
Mother finished college

Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor.
Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers
Had more than 50 books in your childhood home
Had more than 500 books in your childhood home
Were read children's books by a parent
Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18
Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18

The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively
Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18
Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs*
Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs*
Went to a private high school
Went to summer camp

Had a private tutor before you turned 18
Family vacations involved staying at hotels
Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18
Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them
There was original art in your house when you were a child
Had a phone in your room before you turned 18
You and your family lived in a single family house

Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home
You had your own room as a child

Participated in an SAT/ACT prep course
Had your own TV in your room in High School
Owned a mutual fund or IRA in High School or College
Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16
Went on a cruise with your family
Went on more than one cruise with your family
Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up
You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family

It's crazy. I've never thought as my family as 'rich,' and I've practically never felt like my family had more money than most of the people around me. But lists like this really force me to think about things that I took for granted, that so many people in this country and around the world don't have access to. It's good to have a kick in the face like that every so often to keep us grounded.

Life 2.0

So right smack in the middle of the 30-day blogging challenge, I went through a major life transition: I finally moved out of my parents' house! Yay! As I mentioned before, it was that major move where my old room at home was completely emptied and is now transitioning into a full-use office for my parents (my mom did buy a nice sleeper sofa for me to use if and when I need to stay over.)

So, outside of all of the financial preparations I have made - including setting up a very stringent budget and documenting all of the purchases I make on credit - there's a million other adjustments that I've been working on that have kept me away from the computer a bit, and particularly away from blogging because my energy to actually put out thoughts in plain English has been, well, stunted. That thing about preparing and cooking my own food? Sucks. I've kind of been living on eggs and salad, which hasn't been the worst so far, but I do miss chicken and lamb. I've never broiled anything myself before, and I'm scared to try, screw it up, and waste money because what I've made is too gross for me to want to eat it. So I eat things I know I can make, which is eggs and salad.

There's also the problem of getting used to the way things in the apartment work and how they're different from what I expect at home. For instance, the faucet in our kitchen sink sits at such an angle that thus far I've found it impossible to not get water all over the place (including myself) when I wash dishes. Therefore, washing dishes takes twice as long because I have to turn the water pressure way down, and clean up all of the spills afterward. It's annoying.

And then there are the things that, when we move in, we notice are already broken. My screen in my bedroom window was completely busted, so I am still unable to open my window and get fresh air in my room without letting in all manner of whatever wants to crawl through my window space (humans, bugs, stray cats - you are all NOT WELCOME, sorry.) We have a major ant problem. My roommate's toilet has been running constantly ever since we moved in three weeks ago (I think they are fixing it today?) And on. And on.

But! As evidenced by this post, I'm feeling blogging competent again. And I have some stuff to say, so expect me to pick up where I left off with the challenge, and hopefully get some other posts in here too.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Day 17 - An art piece (painting, drawing, sculpture, etc.)

I think these count:

Alexander McQueen Spring 2010

I love(d) the late McQueen's work. It was visceral and intellectual, stunning in its impracticality, and for me, the pinnacle of how fashion can aspire to be true art. I'd die and go to heaven if I could trip and fall in these shoes (because god knows I wouldn't actually be able to take two steps in them.)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Day 16 - A song that makes you cry (or nearly)

Ok I actually love this question. For some reason recently I am very easily moved to tears. I didn't cry much or at all in middle school, a little bit more in high school but still not a ton, and then starting when I was at UCLA and up until now I'm actually kind of a crybaby. Sucks for my hardcore image! Anyway.

I've actually posted this song before as a "song of the day," but I don't mind the opportunity to post it again because it's so beautiful that it does get me a little verklempt sometimes when I listen to it. Actually, a lot of stuff by M83 has this effect on me. So I'll post two and give you something new as well. The first one, "Skin of the Night" is the re-post. The vocals are ethereal, the bass is literally a heartbeat, and the rest of the sound is minimal enough to create a truly breathtaking crescendo at the chorus. It's got a very synth-80's sound, which I mentioned before, but it doesn't sound dated - it actually moves you to be nostalgic, which I think is part of the reason why it's such a lovely song. Like Don Draper once said on Mad Men: "Nostalgia - it's delicate, but potent. [I was told] that in Greek, 'nostalgia' literally means 'the pain from an old wound.' It's a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone." So give it a listen, please, and tell me I'm not alone in my gushing over this song here.

"Teen Angst" is another pretty much perfect song. (There aren't many of those for me - "Bittersweet Symphony" probably falls into that category, as does "Sex on Fire") Again, the synth moan in "Teen Angst" feels like a tangible time machine sucking you willingly through your favorite memories. The background vocals are stunning. And if the song itself doesn't fill you with t3h emotionz, just go ahead and watch the video. I dare ya!