TeeVee Tonight: Last Days in Vietnam

I saw the preview for this show a couple of weeks ago and got really pumped to watch this latest installment of American Experience. I’m addicted to the show anyway, so I would be tuning in no matter what. If you don’t use broadcast TV, it should be on PBS’ website and the Roku (best streamer period) channel. Anyways, here’s the preview:

Making Mead

Sunday was a day for brewing. I started the day early by driving to Denton and joining a friend to make mead. It was our first attempt after a few successful beer brews. I was surprised at the huge amount of honey required, as you can see.

We also enjoyed the always great Denon Arts & Jazz Fest. It wasn’t a packed as most years, since the torrential rain on Friday tuned everything to slop. Still fun, though!

The Disconnect

Here I go, thinking again…

Lots of changes in my job in IT these past few months. As the winds of downsizing and consultant lingo breeze through my campus, I’m prompted to think of how IT is usually handled in these situations and how we as an industry can use these opportunities for positive improvement.

I’m at the bottom of the totem pole. I’m Help Desk. I’m in the trenches, day in and day out, handling customer concerns ranging from the most simple login issue to the complex software and service issues and problems that faculty, staff, and students need resolved. I see the ebb and flow of the needs of the over ten thousand people that call on us to make University technology work for them. We’re a cornerstone of a modern University, since IT takes on a huge role in optiming the institution’s primary goal: discovering new ideas and enhancing the role of knowledge in a developed society. That’s a big responsibility. One that should be taken to heart by everyone in the organization.

No matter how intensely IT works toward that mission, the work is easily hampered by something that I’ve seen at all of the educational institutions I have worked at in my career. IT is somewhat of an afterthought to the powers that be. It’s understandable! How long did universities and school districts successfully educate the people of our nation without computers? What milestones of science and technology were crossed without the use of HPC clusters and IBM? A metric shitton! As technology combined with the educational process, it certainly helped out  the greater mission of academics as a whole, but simply as an add-on feature.

Because of this attitude towards IT, resources that are assigned to IT services are usually limited. Priorities are also shifted to where they may not need to be. Departments within an organization begin to spread out since space assigned is limited, so they take what they can get. IT services are then sprinkled all over campus.

Sure, there’s online services like Slack and whatnot to help splintered groups like this to communicate and collaborate, but there’s still the disconnect. Other groups never get to see what another group does first hand. Assumptions are made that a task can be completed in one area when it in fact needs to be sent to another. Customer service is paramount in one area when it’s unheard of in another. As the web gets more tangled, the core mission starts to fade from memory.

It’s not important for a service to simply work, but it’s also important for a service to work towards the mission. Beacuse of the changes taking place at my particular workplace, I’m starting to see improvements. Other teams are beginning to see what is done by their fellow IT teams. I’ve started to see how deeply engrained in the technical backend of our systems that our engineers are, and that appropriate, succinct, yet accurate information from my area is extremely important to working towards a accurate fix for the customer.

No matter how far apart we may be, we just gotta talk. 🙂

Sometimes we forget that we’re in a very unique position for IT workers. We’re in an environment surrounded by the learning process and a wealth of knowledge. We have to act the same way! Just like faculty members research their chosen fields of study, we have to research each other’s processes, systems, lingo, etc. in order to build our institutional knowledge. I’m looking forward to it. As we continue to look at our business in a more academic mindset, I think we could then achieve a higher level of understanding with our academic colleagues and be able to have better footing in terms of resource allocation. Sounds good in my head, at least.


Twin Peaks: It’s Happening Again

I was on Google+, reading some junk while chatting with a friend, when I found it. Shortly after, I received links from co-workers. I found out that Twin Peaks, pretty much the best fucking TV series of all time, was returning to Showtime in 2016 for a 9 episode run.

I was floored. The premiere date has been set to 25 years to the day Laura Palmer, the murdered prom-queen/coke fiend/troubled soul told Agent Dale Cooper that she’d be seeing him again in so many years. It was too perfect. If this was on purpose, David Lynch and Mark Frost may have just succeeded in the most elaborate long con even conceived by man. If it wasn’t on purpose, it was a deliciously good coincidence.

I’ve been obsessed with this show since my parents told be about it when I was probably a sophomore or junior in high school. When they told me about it, no DVD box set had been released yet, so I trolled the internet for bits and pieces. Eventually, I found the entire pilot on YouTube. This was when YouTube had a ten minute video limit, so it was broken up into tiny pieces to find and wait to load on my rural mom-and-pop DSL line. I eventually discovered BitTorrent and began downloading it where I could find it with some super-early version of Azureus. This tided me over until the box set came out and I ended up getting it for Christmas.

It was an incredible experience to watch the series for the first time, even over a decade after it first aired. It was my first foray into the surreal series that now dominate TV. Sure, Lost had already taken the country by storm by the time I watched TP, but this just seemed like something…I dunno…organic. Like found footage but with slick production. It changed me quite a bit. It’s what made me go to Radio, TV & Film school at UNT. I wanted to do weird shit like that.

Twin Peaks was never expected to come back by pretty much anyone. It was a self-contained two seasons, with a dynamite first season and an even better first half of a second season. Despite the mostly abysmal last half of the final season, it still was an amazing package to cherish, even with more questions unanswered than the amount of sailors passing through the Great Northern. You didn’t have to try and decipher it, since it was pretty much fucking impossible anyway.

Now we’re getting more. We’re going to be sent 25 years later into present day Twin Peaks. Maybe we’ll find out why Coop kept asking “How’s Annie?” or why everyone’s hands were shaking in that finale episode. Did Audrey really get blown to bits? Are the owls really not what they seem? We could just get no answers and thoroughly brainfucked by Lynch and Frost, but either way it will be a dream come true.

Let’s rock…

Sam Phillips: Keeping it Cool

This semester, I decided to take a course about the Cultural Politics of Pop, Rock, and Rap. It’s been an odd yet interesting course to say the least, and I have especially enjoyed our brief discussions regarding Sun Records, the label best known for discovering Elvis. It’s founder, Sam Phillips, seems to be a pretty badass dude, so I’d like to post one of the documentaries we watched in class not only for the random interweb traveler’s enjoyment, but also for my own reference. Here ’tis:

Dallas’ Central Library: A Beautiful Dump

A few weeks ago I hopped on the train, my expired library card in hand. Since the branch library just a few blocks away from me is closed most of the weekend, I elected to head to the central library, downtown. After a late lunch at the Friday’s in moribund West End, I walked over to the J. Erik Jonsson library.

I was greeted by the gargantuan, pre-fab concrete building as it pumped classical music, possibly from city-owned WRR 101.1, out onto the surrounding sidewalk with worn benches and dead pots of what was formerly greenery. Looks like they ran out of grounds money. The foyer is dark. Dusty, grimy (out of cleaning money), with very little in it aside from the cornerstone from the original library and Harry Bertoia’s Textured Screen sculpture hanging from the tall ceiling. Textured Screen came out of the previous and much better looking Central Library next to the Statler Hilton on Commerce. A few folks on cell phones and City of Dallas security guards sprinkle the hall. I proceed into the first floor circulation area.

They’ve placed a few lights on this floor, since there are actual books to read and work to be done in this area. The library staff are extremely friendly and welcoming as I hand them my card to renew. I decide to have a look around.

The new fiction is well stocked and very well kept, although nothing interested me at the moment since I still had a paper to write for a class before I could work back into leisure reading. One thing I had always heard about the main library was that it held one of the few remaining original printed copies of the Declaration of Independence. Most directional signs pointed out it’s location, so I headed on the rickety elevators and headed upstairs. As I was lifted to the local history floor, I was greeted by a poster of the basic rules of the library, including the important “NO BATHING” rule. Exiting the elevator, the local history floor contained a quiet glass-lined room filled with large tables and microfiche machines. The carpet was old and needed the wrinkles tightened out.

I continued to follow the directional signs until I reached an absurdly dark corner of the floor. Largely forgettable artifacts sat in dimly lit shadowboxes. Eventually I got to the Declaration of Independence. Even darker in this partitioned area, it’s hard to read the informational exhibit leading up to the item itself. Fumbling to it, I was stunned.

Here, in the decrepit, cash-strapped confines of the main branch of one of the poorest metropolitan library systems in the US, is one of the most important documents in US history. It’s ours. The city owns it. Dallas takes care of it. The library may not look nice, but the document is as pristine as a document from 1776 can be. Any Joe Schmo or destitute hobo can head to the 7th floor and see a document that everyone should have the pleasure of seeing. Dallas provides that pleasure.

The Central Library is one of the most affected victims of the Miller and Leppert eras of municipal governance. The libraries became an easy scapegoat for government waste and were cut mercilessly. Although the printed word may not be as popular as it may have been, city libraries are still a repository of information as well as a distributor of ideas and knowledge. The library is a great equalizer. More privileged folks can check out a book to see if they want to buy it; poor folks can check out a book since it’s the only way they can get it. People who can’t afford a computer can have access to the limitless information the Internet provides.

Libraries will need to continue to evolve, but their purpose remains the same: to provide knowledge to everyone. It’s been said that a city can be judged by its libraries. Dallas’ libraries do the best they can, but they will easily fail if not paid attention to by our city officials. If they do pay attention soon, we could proudly be judged by our libraries.