July 30 – August 6, 2015

This is the thickest part of the work year for me. It’s not the most stressful — that comes in early spring, when we’re alternating between worrying whether we’ll have enough projects, and worrying whether we can source the right candidates to staff them.

This is just good old fashioned 10000 things happening at once stress. Printing posters, corralling interviewers, advising 16 interns on career decisions, making travel arrangements, dealing with a jillion little details, all culminating in a quick 3 days in Armonk, NY next week. And then the long low fade into fall, which isn’t really all that long or slow.

Friday night we watched Wet Hot American Summer (for the first time). It was . . . OK. It was fine. Light summer comedy for a Friday night. Pretty forgettable, but definitely diverting in spots. We don’t have Netflix but even if we did, I don’t know that we’d feel the need to dip into the new series.

Although given the recent news about Netflix bumping up their paid parental leave to a full year, maybe M & I should consider re-subscribing just to support that.

Sunday night we watched Ride With the Devil, the 1999 Ang Lee movie based on a really great book, Woe to Live On, by Daniel Woodrell, whose later novel, Winter’s Bone, was made into a much better movie. RWTD did a reasonably good job of compressing the events of the book into a movie, but it failed to fully capture the remarkable voice that Woodrell gave to his narrator. Plus it had a really heavy orchestral score that just weighed it down.

RWTD starred Tobey Maguire, leaving me once again to wonder why people like him & continue to cast him in movies. He’s so damp. I guess I liked him in The Ice Storm (because I remember liking everything about The Ice Storm) but that’s about as far as it goes.

Tomorrow night we’re seeing Kamasi Washington in a small rock club down the street. I have high hopes for magic; you’ll find out next time I find the time to sit down & write. Could be a couple of weeks, though.

Oh! One other thing — yesterday I was ruminating in the morning about the seeming precipitous decline in narrative pop songwriting after the end of the 1970s. That decade was shot through with all kinds of crazy bona fide pop narrative hits, from the country side (“Harper Valley PTA”, “Ode To Billy Joe”), the folk side (“The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”), the confessional singer-songwriter side (any/all Harry Chapin) to the, um, pop showtunes of “Copacabana” and “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)”.

But not long after the end of the 70s, things kind of dried up on that front. Sure, there were a few mini-narrative arcs (some Twitter friends mentioned things like “Jack & Diane”, “Fast Car”, even “Don’t You Want Me,” but none of them had the narrative-as-prime-factor that those earlier songs did.

We did a lot of chatting back and forth, talked about the rise of hip-hop (which is packed with narratives, everywhere, from the 80s to now) and the fragmentation of “pop.”

But the thing that really stuck with me — and seemed to hit closest to a workable hypothesis — was the notion that the rise of music video, starting with the debut of MTV in 1981, shifted the narrative role from the lyrics, to the visuals in the videos. So many early MTV video hits were fully-fledged narrative films, and at a certain point perhaps it even became preferable for the music to abandon narrative so as not to interfere.

July 30 – August 6, 2015

March 6-11, 2015

Friday night we watched North Face, the based-on-a-true-story German movie about the race to be the first to climb the north face of the Eiger. The short blurbs I had read did not prepare me for just how dire things got. It was suspenseful and great and sad, and M spent the rest of the evening reading Wikipedia articles about mountaineering in the Swiss Alps.

Saturday we attended a friend’s baby shower, which was baby showery, but with excellent brunch foods because our friends J & V are over-the-top amazing when it comes to hosting massive food-related events at their house.

Saturday evening we went to see What We Do In The Shadows, the New Zealand vampire mockumentary from Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi. It was OK. I don’t remember all that much about their previous film Eagle Vs Shark, which I suspect means that it was also OK. I loved Flight of the Conchords, but it becomes clearer & clearer that Jemaine without Bret is a less humorous entity. 

Monday night I stopped by the new restaurant & bar at the new 21c Hotel downtown. The hotel itself, and its accompanying contemporary art museum, aren’t open yet, but the restaurant & bar are. The space is absolutely gorgeous, with interesting art all over the place.

It was only their second night, so I won’t go into detail, particularly since I only had a couple of cocktails and a couple of dishes. The french fries with the burger were phenomenal – easily the best in town. Like scaled-up McDonald’s fries. The burger is one of those silly tall double-patty jobs, and it just tasted like underseasoned ground beef. There are plenty of other things on the menu, though, so I’m sure I’ll be back.

This week has been pretty rough, work-wise. We’re in the thicket of making offers and waiting for students to accept, and there have been a number of declines this week, which is always a bummer. By the time someone gets to the offer stage with us, we’ve interviewed them three times, and we’re pretty darn convinced that they would do well with us (and that they would enjoy the work they’d be doing). So while I don’t take declines personally, it’s still a drag.

OK I kind of take them personally when the person waits until the very instant of their deadline (or even later) to decline. I’m sure that their mental image of how we work involves us simultaneously offering to dozens of people, and building our teams from those who accept.

That’s not how it works, though. Every offer is a potential binding contract, and we have a finite number of slots, so we have to wait until one offer is declined before we can proceed with another. And because we’re an internship, we basically have to get all of this done in a fairly narrow window during the first quarter of the year.

So every day that someone stalls unnecessarily before declining is actually pretty painful. As I said, I’m sure they don’t realize this, but still.

Today I emailed a student to see if they were still available to interview, and they said that they weren’t, but some of their classmates were still looking, and they offered to forward my note to their classmates. This is what we need more of.

Today involved a huge discussion on my Facebook page about copyright. It didn’t need to go on for as long as it did (which is true of any Facebook discussion longer than 25 comments), and it mostly just cemented my opinion that the term of copyright should be recalibrated to that of patents, i.e. 20 years. If you want more details, go look at my Facebook page, I guess.

As I write this I’m also battling a DDoS attack on one of the WXDU servers. It’s not even one of the boxes that would be in the public eye – it’s a host that has a DJ-only music database on it. It doesn’t make any sense for someone to DDoS it and not, say, our actual public website. 

I don’t have a ton of experience in dealing with such attacks. This one takes the form of a flood of http requests to the IP address of the host, but requesting other random site URLs. So far I have blocked close to 2000 IP addresses. I haven’t yet gotten to the point where I’m ready to try to script & automate the process – I mean, I have the blocking automated, but I’m sanity-checking the list of IPs that I block manually, because there’s some legitimate traffic in there as well.

If it goes on for significantly longer, I’ll write something that can differentiate between legitimate traffic and this bogus stuff, and just auto-block all of it.

So yeah, that’s my week in a nutshell: pointless battles against undeserved frustrating crap. 

March 6-11, 2015

February 12-14, 2015

The cold I had this week turned out to be a pale imitation of the killer cold I had over the holidays – it peaked on Thursday & by Saturday morning it was essentially gone. And it was apparently too weak to even get a foothold with M.

Thursday night we ate at The Boot for the first time. It’s no Gocciolina, nor is it trying to be. The meatballs were excellent, as was the marinara. It was all very comforting & thus perfect cold/cold-weather food. I feel like it could use a little more atmosphere, but maybe that takes time. 

The late-winter rollercoaster of making offers to students & waiting for them to accept/reject has officially begun. Got some quick accepts right out of the gate, which is awesome, since the projects we’re running this summer are particularly kewl, as are the mentors. Glad these students picked up on that & reacted favorably. Still, we’re a long way from fully staffed & there will be valleys ahead.

Friday night we met up with friends, parked our butts in a banquette at Juju, and ate a duck.


We’re all in our 40s and 3 of us had colds & we talked about body stuff all night like elderly people. 

Saturday, fortified by the duckfat, more or less free of sickness, M and I had dinner at Toast, saw Maria Bamford at the Carolina, and then walked through insane wind and blowing snow to the DPAC to see Erykah Badu. 

Bamford was the winner of that particular showdown. Every choice she makes seems calculated for maximum impact accompanied by maximum discomfort. She spent most of the set wrangling with the micstand, leaning at weird angles, fidgeting, and just generally using body language to convey extreme discomfort, while simultaneously talking in her trademark mixture of screwball baby voice and guttural barks. 

Which was all the perfect setup for the [many] times she would impersonate a “normal” person: standing still, face composed, voice perfectly modulated, saying the most inane things. Which always worked, always seemed so WEIRD and WRONG in just the right way.

Erykah Badu got caught in weather-related travel hell, was still in the air when her set was due to start, and finally came onstage around 90 minutes late, and only maybe 40 minutes after her plane landed at RDU. Didn’t seem to faze her at all. 

I bought those tickets having listened to her in the past, but without having a clear sense of which tunes are hers. I just knew that she’s a genius & that I wanted to see her do her thing. That impulse was amply rewarded, although we still left a little after midnight, to walk home through streets filled with flying bits of plastic sheeting from all the construction sites downtown.

February 12-14, 2015

February 2-4, 2015

Starting to feel cautiously optimistic about this summer – after a LONG time spent either playing the email/wait/email/wait game, or helping my new coworkers in Austin (whom I love, mind you, but training has been time-consuming), I finally have some students actually matched to projects and interviewing with mentors this week. I would’ve liked my first offers to go out in December (or, hell, November), but February it is.

I’m still wanting to be completely done by April 1st, or at least before the first day of Full Frame. It’s not a vacation if you’re running home between screenings to jump on interview calls or fill out offer paperwork.

I swung by Dashi at around 7pm on Tuesday, their first official night in business. I didn’t even go into the downstairs ramen shop, although it didn’t look like there were more than 4 or 5 people waiting to be seated. I thought there might be a chance of slipping upstairs and trying the izakaya menu – but no, every table, stool & other horizontal surface was occupied upstairs as well. It’s amazing & awesome to see Billy & Kelli (along with the Cookery folks) be so wildly successful on their second venture … but I hope I’ll get to dine there again someday.

So I walked to Virgile & found the place slightly less crowded than it has been lately. Had the knockout fried oysters and the salad with duck (the same thing I’ve had the previous couple of times I have gone there for dinner). I hate to even mention this because they’re already doing good business, but: it’s a great spot for a casual supper, y’all.

I haven’t talked politics/public policy here for a while. I have mixed feelings about that. I kind of feel like we’re in a lull before the next great awful thing happens. Assuming we don’t count a rampant measles epidemic as the next great awful thing. I don’t even know where to begin with this science denialism thing. The death of Truth has been the most unexpected and consistently surprising/disappointing phenomenon of my adulthood. Stupid postmodernism/poststructuralism. Post-everythingism. I have to bear my portion of the blame – I did time in grad school in the early 90s and I wrote papers on postmodernism. We all did. I swear we didn’t think it would turn out this way.

February 2-4, 2015

December 22, 2014

I worked today. Originally I had set aside the full two weeks here at the end of the year (thereby using up my allotted vacation days that nobody really keeps track of anymore), but we have this enormous backlog of interviews due to A Lot of Circumstances so I got up & went in to the office & did two interviews & also did some emailing & other miscellaneous Things.

I will do the same tomorrow, and then I have the rest of the week off. But next Monday & Tuesday I’ll be back in there.

It’s like the good old days of being an hourly worker who works through holidays, except now instead of sitting around doing nothing & getting paid I actually have to work.

Anyway. Between interviews & emailing I managed to download the source for jackmeter, a kind of ancient (9 years old!) cmd-line digital VU meter for the Jack Audio Connection Kit.

I had needed a way to check input levels on our streaming server at WXDU, which doesn’t have any sort of X server or other GUI installed, so I poked around & lo and behold, someone had written just what I needed.

Only it didn’t work for us because I’m using an option on our jack server that didn’t exist 9 years ago.

So I downloaded the source, acquainted myself with gnu getopt and the basic outline of how one connects to a jack server, and then wrote a patch & applied it and … it didn’t work. And then I fixed the thing I screwed up and then it DID work and it was pretty thrilling, actually, because I’m basically a freshman-level C programmer. 

And then, in sharp contrast to literally every other time I have modified a piece of open-source software to suit my needs, I actually pushed the patch back up to github and submitted a pull request to the guy who wrote the thing (and who had already proved himself to be a good guy by responding to my random email about a little piece of software he had written 9 years earlier).

My first pull request! After years of haranguing students to get more involved in open-source projects.

If *you* need a console-based VU meter for your jack server that you’re running with a non-default name, here you go: https://github.com/wxdu/jackmeter

December 22, 2014

October 24, 2014

Work is work. Had a good chat with a potential project sponsor, got the first (of what will be many) warning that next year could be tricky, funding-wise. One good thing about our program is that we’re a hybrid recruiting / tech incubator program, and those demand curves don’t always mirror each other, which gives us a little bit of insulation.

Between calls, I played through this great little record three or four times:


After work, ran over to the Pinhook & checked out the setup for our WXDU simulcast of Sunday’s Know Your Poll show/party. 2 – 7 p.m. – we’d rather have you there in person, but if you can’t make it: 88.7 FM in Durham, or wxdu.org everywhere.

October 24, 2014