I Don’t Know Where Ideas Come From, But I Know Where They Go

Sometimes when I’m at work, I’ll get have an idea that I want to explore in an essay. But of course I can’t do anything about it right then. I have a meeting to attend, or a call to make, or a call to wait for, or I’m on ice because someone said that they’ll be available between 2pm and 5pm, so could I wait for them at my desk during that time, fully available to be interrupted?

So I plug a one-line summary of the idea into my drafts folder, and then forget about it until I get home.

Of course, when I get home, I’m in no shape to do anything with the idea. For one thing, half the time I have no idea what I was thinking when I wrote the summary, rendering it meaningless. Even when I kind of remember, I still can’t do anything with it — because at the end of a long day, all I want to do is pull my puny little brain out of my skull and crush it like a grape.

I’m tired, is what I’m saying.

This sort of thing doesn’t stop some people. They either don’t get tired, or they push through their tiredness. Luckily for them, they can still produce readable work in that state. I, however, cannot.

What to do, what to do…

Back in Action!

I took last week off from work because — well, because it was my last chance to use up some the time off that I had accrued. (I’m still going to lose about 40 hours of the PTO that I’ve saved up over the past two years.) Seeing as how most of my income goes towards my mortgage and other bills, I spent the entire week sitting at home. Which was rather grim.

The bulk of my typical day is spent either up to my eyeballs in work, or wrapped in the communications blackout that results from riding public transit without a mobile data plan. The couple of hours of free time that I have at night is largely devoted to being a sympathetic listener — the people I live with have no one else at whom they can vent their miseries. (I’ve suggested blogging to them, but…) These things are not pleasant. But they are distracting.

So you can see, the idea of suddenly having a ton of free time fills me with a certain amount of dread. In that respect then, I share at least one thing with Warren Zevon: I never take vacations.

I probably should have written something, but I was in a very dour mood.

On LA (Briefly)

Seeing as how I am a native Northern Californian, the following statement may come across as a confession, but here we go: I don’t hate Los Angeles.

But I don’t get it, either.

Of course I realize that people come from there — people are born and grow up there, like anyplace else — but it always surprises me when I meet someone who says that it’s their old home town. (I’m only writing this now because I read that essay I just linked to, you might want to check it out.)

This may be because very few of the people that I meet who claim to be from LA actually are: “I’m from LA. Well, actually Riverside/Long Beach/Orange County/Anaheim/San Bernadino/etc.”

I kind of look a people with an LA childhood in the same way that I look at people from New York. They both possess an ineffable glamor. It’s not fair of me to think that, but I still can’t help but imagine their early years as being a profound (though ultimately benign) distortion of the supposed “standard model” for American youth. I wonder how it made them who they are.

I’ve been down there loads of times, but that doesn’t seem to help much. My mental picture of the city features mostly long stretches of freeway above an endless expanse of rolling suburb, and an indistinct skyline representing a downtown area that’s hard to get to, and provides no rewards for making the attempt. There are strip malls and gas stations and fast food joints, and everything feels slightly worn down and shabby. It feels a lot like Sacramento actually, except that it all stretches a great deal further — it feels like you could be lost forever.

The other thing I think about when it comes to LA is Johnny Carson and the aerospace industry, because every member of his audience that got to play “Stump the Band” worked for a defense contractor, building missiles or something.

‘Tis a silly place.

(I would also recommend the video essay Los Angeles Plays Itself, which used to be available in full on YouTube, but has now been made private — pending its official release, I presume. Oh well, all things must pass.)


Everybody’s N*ked

With regard to the recent leaks of private celebrity photos, the moral and sociological dimensions have already been addressed by people more intelligent and eloquent than myself, and I defer to their statements. Additionally, the examination of the technology and subculture from which the breach came has been adroitly handled as well. Personally, I think the whole thing is gross — and frustratingly typical.

If you take anything away from this mess, I hope it is this: Everyone is at risk. The people who want to destroy your privacy and security have lots of powerful, easily obtainable tools at their disposal, and your protection from them is practically nil. If you have never been the victim of data or identity theft, it’s only because there are so many other potential victims out there that the crooks just haven’t gotten around to you yet. (Or you never had an angry ex-boyfriend.)

How does security technology get better? By responding to the last intrusion when it’s already too late for the poor victims. The victims are collateral damage, sucks to be them,  and the rest of us get to download a new Windows or iTunes (or whatever) update, which is pointless because the crackers have moved on. Thus, the cracker will always be a step ahead of the target.

Yes, of course there are things you can do to mitigate the risks of being online, but the bad guys know exactly what people are doing to protect themselves (they’re probably doing the same things themselves, and a lot more besides), and they’re working every minute of every day on making those protections useless.

Is the answer to go completely offline, then? Good luck with that. Some countries are talking about classifying Internet access as a basic right — a good sign that such access is pretty difficult to do without. And while this might keep your naughty bits from showing up on the web, your bank, your realtor, your employer, your phone company, your insurance company — all of these business have loads of information about you that’s worth stealing, and all of them are online with it even if you smashed up your laptop with a hammer.

There needs to be a paradigm shift in privacy protection and security. I don’t know what it should be or what it should look like, but something tells me that if we can’t rely on prevention, we need to get a whole lot better at recovery. How do that I don’t know, and is probably a different hasty rant in any case.

PS: Excuse the obfuscation of a normally innocuous word in the title there, but if you track top search terms at all, you’ll understand. There’s certain kinds of traffic that I don’t want.

Very Loosely Linked

This piece at The New Yorker is about an interesting historical person named Eleanor Kirk. It also mentions the abbreviation “SASE” which I’m not sure is well remembered, so here is the wiki article on that. (I find it oddly fascinating, as I certainly remember them — if you wanted tickets to a game show, for example, you had to send an SASE.)

And, of course, whenever I read or hear “SASE” I can’t help but get this song stuck in my head, and what kind of host would I be if I didn’t allow others the same opportunity.