foxtongue: (Default)
This past week was a crucible. I did something I've never done before and come out of it like a phoenix from flame, a new thing, my impurities burned off, the corrosion washed away. If I play my cards right, I will never be the same again.

It started with the unlikeliest thing, choosing while being chosen, seducing while being seduced, a photograph then a note, a reply then a phone number. Within ten minutes I was dressed, throwing a toothbrush in my bag, hopping for the door as I pulled my shoes on, still talking, fleeing from my life and towards the cab at my door. Another ten minutes and I was downtown, stepping from the vehicle, saying hello, saying thank you and good evening, everything set in motion, the confluence of a thousand superficial things coming together for this perfect fact, two impossibly complementary strangers in a hotel bar.

When any uniform magnetic field is applied across the cloud chamber, positively and negatively charged particles will curve in opposite directions, according to the Lorentz force law with two particles of opposite charge.

Just over a week later I am exhausted, every muscle of my narrative stretched, a pile of serious sounding business cards in a small pile on my desk, an entire new life hovering in the wings, waiting for me to settle in, work hard, and accept. I have moved back into my apartment, reintroduction shock and all, taken the appropriate pills, and abandoned nearly every scar I've ever gathered, given away like baby teeth as a gift to a new and extraordinary friend. My time away was a radiant miracle, equal parts unexpected and compassionate, as lucky as a random mutation that betters a species, the dream like paths of the particles seen in a cloud chamber made flesh. Now all that's left is to take what I've gathered, sort my thankful thoughts, and dig in and write.
foxtongue: (Default)
How Companies Learn Your Secrets:

The only problem is that identifying pregnant customers is harder than it sounds. Target has a baby-shower registry, and Pole started there, observing how shopping habits changed as a woman approached her due date, which women on the registry had willingly disclosed. He ran test after test, analyzing the data, and before long some useful patterns emerged. Lotions, for example. Lots of people buy lotion, but one of Pole's colleagues noticed that women on the baby registry were buying larger quantities of unscented lotion around the beginning of their second trimester. Another analyst noted that sometime in the first 20 weeks, pregnant women loaded up on supplements like calcium, magnesium and zinc. Many shoppers purchase soap and cotton balls, but when someone suddenly starts buying lots of scent-free soap and extra-big bags of cotton balls, in addition to hand sanitizers and washcloths, it signals they could be getting close to their delivery date.

As Pole's computers crawled through the data, he was able to identify about 25 products that, when analyzed together, allowed him to assign each shopper a "pregnancy prediction" score. More important, he could also estimate her due date to within a small window, so Target could send coupons timed to very specific stages of her pregnancy.

One Target employee I spoke to provided a hypothetical example. Take a fictional Target shopper named Jenny Ward, who is 23, lives in Atlanta and in March bought cocoa-butter lotion, a purse large enough to double as a diaper bag, zinc and magnesium supplements and a bright blue rug. There's, say, an 87 percent chance that she's pregnant and that her delivery date is sometime in late August. What's more, because of the data attached to her Guest ID number, Target knows how to trigger Jenny's habits. They know that if she receives a coupon via e-mail, it will most likely cue her to buy online. They know that if she receives an ad in the mail on Friday, she frequently uses it on a weekend trip to the store. And they know that if they reward her with a printed receipt that entitles her to a free cup of Starbucks coffee, she'll use it when she comes back again.

"We have the capacity to send every customer an ad booklet, specifically designed for them, that says, `Here's everything you bought last week and a coupon for it,' " one Target executive told me. "We do that for grocery products all the time." But for pregnant women, Target's goal was selling them baby items they didn't even know they needed yet.

"With the pregnancy products, though, we learned that some women react badly," the executive said. "Then we started mixing in all these ads for things we knew pregnant women would never buy, so the baby ads looked random. We'd put an ad for a lawn mower next to diapers. We'd put a coupon for wineglasses next to infant clothes. That way, it looked like all the products were chosen by chance.

"And we found out that as long as a pregnant woman thinks she hasn't been spied on, she'll use the coupons. She just assumes that everyone else on her block got the same mailer for diapers and cribs. As long as we don't spook her, it works."


And they're hostile about it, too:

When I sent Target a complete summary of my reporting, the reply was more terse: "Almost all of your statements contain inaccurate information and publishing them would be misleading to the public. We do not intend to address each statement point by point." The company declined to identify what was inaccurate. They did add, however, that Target "is in compliance with all federal and state laws, including those related to protected health information."

When I offered to fly to Target's headquarters to discuss its concerns, a spokeswoman e-mailed that no one would meet me. When I flew out anyway, I was told I was on a list of prohibited visitors. "I've been instructed not to give you access and to ask you to leave," said a very nice security guard named Alex.
foxtongue: (holy napa valley)


Entangled
, 12 ½"x10"x4 ½", handbuilt porcelain clay, by American sculptor Kate Mcdowell, via an essential interview with Scientific America.
foxtongue: (blowing kisses)
How Do You Know
Joe Mills

How do you know if it’s love? she asks,
and I think if you have to ask, it’s not,
but I know this won’t help. I want to say
you’re too young to worry about it,
as if she has questions about Medicare
or social security, but this won’t help either.
“You’ll just know” is a lie, and one truth,
“when you still want to be with them
the next morning” would involve too
many follow-up questions. The difficulty
with love, I want to say, is sometimes
you only know afterwards that it’s arrived
or left. Love is the elephant and we
are the blind mice unable to understand
the whole. I want to say love is this
desire to help even when I know I can’t,
just as I couldn’t explain electricity, stars,
the color of the sky, baldness, tornadoes,
fingernails, coconuts, or the other things
she has asked about over the years, all
those phenomena whose daily existence
seems miraculous. Instead I shake my head.
I don’t even know how to match my socks.
Go ask your mother.
She laughs and says,
I did. Mom told me to come and ask you.
foxtongue: (moi?)


Two doctors, Billy Cohn and Bud Frazier, from the Texas Heart Institute successfully replaced a dying man’s heart with a device—proving that it is possible for your body to be kept alive without a heart, or a pulse.


Link.
foxtongue: (misery)
I spent almost all of yesterday trapped in my apartment, mincing about on broken limbs, missing out on everyone's parties. I am so tired of chronic pain. Unbelievably, horribly tired. I need to get back to Seattle, settle in for an afternoon with a massage therapist friend who knows my case history, chat them up, offer them chocolate, and grit my teeth while my bones are re-placed, my flesh made malleable under their interesting hands. I've left it too long again, to the point where it's affecting my quality of life and extending the healing process, two steps backward with every step forward.

Oh well. Maybe next weekend. As with everything else in my life, it all comes down to money. The lack of it. It does not help that my boots died, too. Stitching popped, soles peeling into pages of failed rubber, and the final straw - a zipper that snapped mid-step - all in three days about a month after purchase. I couldn't afford new boots when I got them the same way I can't afford new boots now, but they were a necessity, even if I didn't like them, because everything else I own has a heel, which, given the current state of my injuries, grind the bones together in my ankle with almost an audible sound.

My back, too, I need to have looked at. The current theory is that I sprained my spine when my bicycle chain snapped under me in December, but the more I live with the damage and fall-out, the less I believe that to be what's crippling me now.
foxtongue: (Default)

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, from Moonbot Studios.
One of five animated short films that will be considered for outstanding film achievements of 2011 in the 84th Academy Awards.

foxtongue: (Default)
Remember that there are only three kinds of things anyone need ever do. (1) Things we ought to do (2) Things we’ve got to do (3) Things we like doing. I say this because some people seem to spend so much of their time doing things for none of the three reasons, things like reading books they don’t like because other people read them. Things you ought to do are things like doing one’s school work or being nice to people. Things one has to do are things like dressing and undressing, or household shopping. Things one likes doing — but of course I don’t know what you like. Perhaps you’ll write and tell me one day.

— C. S. Lewis, in a letter to Sarah, his godchild, on 3 April 1949


I gave notice at my job with the accountants yesterday in order to accept less reliable but potentially more interesting work. I don't know if it was the right decision. Even though there's a whiff of career about the whole thing, signing up to be the administrative assistant to a professional pyro, my track record of shockingly bad luck makes this move feel ominous, as if I'm getting back in line for another ride with disaster.

On the other hand, I just handed Sean my recently vacated job.
foxtongue: (my confession)
deconcrete: Neil Harbisson’s third eye:

"Neil Harbisson introduces himself as the first cyborg ever legally recognized by any Government (2004). He was born colour-blind; so he can only see in black and white (Achromatopsia disorder). An electronic device implanted in his neck allows him to translate colours into sounds. The camera that hangs from his forehead 24/7 was accepted as part of his British passport photo. By that very fact, the camera became congenital and not prosthetic to his body anymore. Thanks to it, light frequencies are captured and translated into sound frequencies by the chip, which in turn sends them to his brain. He literally listens to colours with his electronic eye. A standard eye perceives light, tone and saturation. Harbisson’s organic eyes perceive light, but tone is converted into sound, and saturation into volume through his third eye."


Tiny, mild hints of synesthesia have been slipping back into my life, like the waterproofed nylon pouches at work that smell like zippers running over my teeth or the barest trace of a taste being associated with a name, the way "Gavin" sometimes seems like a small white stone sitting on the center of my tongue. Though the experience is oddly natural, a far away corner of my brain fills with dread every time I notice it happening. To say I am concerned would be an understatement. Is this how it starts, the family madness? Are some six essential cells in my temporal lobe flickering in seizure? I do not know how to tell.

take on me

Feb. 3rd, 2012 08:55 pm
foxtongue: (post party sleep)
I woke up this morning with a gasp, as if surprised that consciousness had returned. I wish I could remember what I had been dreaming.
foxtongue: (Default)
After the cure, the obliteration. The body I've already exposed, the oblique columns of muscle and bone, to the odd flirtation with technology. Centuries, even decades ago, they dreamed of this. Now I'm just testing the feeling, drowning in colour as the night doctor operates. Steady hands, penicillin buzz, the names of the dead erupting from my mouth like a safety switch, the effects of sensory dilation as the silver cage of the time bomb was manipulated and armed under my skin.

From now on, I will bruise easily.

Where am I now? Recovering. The foreign molecules now stranded in my body have been part of a different universe and the penetrating fatigue of interstellar travel is taking its toll. My eyes have gone dark, languid and unstirred, but I can feel recovery creeping up. It is coming closer, like a long earred animal in the dark.
foxtongue: (Default)
The first interview went extraordinarily well. We talked in the owner's office for over an hour, chatting about theater, arts culture, the people we have in common, and my job history. The second interview, a more serious thing with the office administrator, went fairly well. It was less casual, more the regular check list of the sort of formalized corporate queries I always find awkward, like "what is your five year plan?", to which I gave near desperate answers like "to work steadily at something I like until I win the lottery and can move somewhere warm enough to open a sloth preservation foundation." Despite this, they called the next morning and offered me the job. (While someone else at the office was apparently still on the phone with one of my references.)

So now I have a real job.

*ahem*

NOW I HAVE A REAL JOB.

Just in case you didn't get that.

As of first thing tomorrow morning, I will be the new office administrator/receptionist-in-training at Stage One Accounting, a firm specializing in entertainment industry clients, which no, is not a euphemism. I am thrilled, intimidated, and incredibly relieved. On one hand, accountants, my justifiable fear of math, working on Saturdays, and joining a tax office in January. On the other, everyone I've met there so far has been smart, funny, interesting, and competent, the sort of person I always feel lucky to make friends with, and reliable, solid pay-cheques from a company not running on crazy. Heaven!

Of course, because the universe is a quirky place, to add an extra dash of ridiculous to the whole situation, I have turned down three very promising job interviews since accepting the job just yesterday. Three! THREE! That's as many as I usually have in a MONTH. I have saved their numbers, though, just in case, as I cannot get over the foolish notion that I will sleep in and blow the whole thing, just out of some sort of residual existential despair left over from two years of unreliable contract work. David has offered to make certain that I'm awake tomorrow at seven, but even so, I am sure that when I go to bed tonight, it will be in dread.

Oh! And I totally got to chat with William Gibson tonight! And though I was initially terrified of speaking, it turns out we like each other! He thinks I'm "funny and smart"! Hooray! Exclamation mark! Annnnd! AND! I fit into my kilt again, just in time for Robbie Burns! EEEEEEEEE! PERSONAL VICTORY DAY! HAVE AT THEE!
foxtongue: (the welsh got you)
WIRED has a really nice new piece (with photos and a video of some of the clock restoration!) on one of my favourite inspiring secret-art collectives, UX, the dreamy Parisian group that specializes in fantastical heritage restorations and interstitial spaces:


A mysterious band of hacker-artists is prowling the network of tunnels below Paris,
secretly refurbishing the city's neglected treasures.

Thirty years ago, in the dead of night, a group of six Parisian teenagers pulled off what would prove to be a fateful theft.

[...] This stealthy undertaking was not an act of robbery or espionage but rather a crucial operation in what would become an association called UX, for “Urban eXperiment.” UX is sort of like an artist’s collective, but far from being avant-garde—confronting audiences by pushing the boundaries of the new—its only audience is itself. More surprising still, its work is often radically conservative, intemperate in its devotion to the old. Through meticulous infiltration, UX members have carried out shocking acts of cultural preservation and repair, with an ethos of “restoring those invisible parts of our patrimony that the government has abandoned or doesn’t have the means to maintain.” The group claims to have conducted 15 such covert restorations, often in centuries-old spaces, all over Paris.

[...] UX’s most sensational caper (to be revealed so far, at least) was completed in 2006. A cadre spent months infiltrating the Pantheon, the grand structure in Paris that houses the remains of France’s most cherished citizens. Eight restorers built their own secret workshop in a storeroom, which they wired for electricity and Internet access and outfitted with armchairs, tools, a fridge, and a hot plate. During the course of a year, they painstakingly restored the Pantheon’s 19th- century clock, which had not chimed since the 1960s. Those in the neighborhood must have been shocked to hear the clock sound for the first time in decades: the hour, the half hour, the quarter hour.

[...] One summer, the group mounted a film festival devoted to the theme of “urban deserts”—the forgotten and underutilized spaces in a city. They naturally decided the ideal venue for such a festival would be in just such an abandoned site. They chose a room beneath the Palais de Chaillot they’d long known of and enjoyed unlimited access to. The building was then home to Paris’ famous Cinèmathèque Franèaise, making it doubly appropriate. They set up a bar, a dining room, a series of salons, and a small screening room that accommodated 20 viewers, and they held festivals there every summer for years. “Every neighborhood cinema should look like that,” Kunstmann says.
foxtongue: (Default)
"We just completed the 12 -- foot diameter, 500 foot deep vertical shaft for the 10,000 Year Clock."
We used a mining technique called raise boring. Take a look at the video -- it's an interesting operation. Instead of drilling down from the top, you pull a large diameter reamer up to the surface from the bottom using a smaller diameter pilot hole -- more efficient than a top-down drill because the rubble isn't fighting gravity. It rains down beneath the advancing bore and gets hauled out a horizontal shaft at the bottom. Our next major step will be cutting the spiral stairway using a robotic stone cutting saw. In parallel, we're also manufacturing and testing the Clock components.
foxtongue: (Default)
This place feels familiar, I think, in the same way I connect to the silent gestures of the person who lives here. Ikea furniture, matching sheets, off the shelf living. Not quite anonymous, it all feels lived in, but only just, in that way where some apartments function as places to work and sleep but not to eat. I have only rarely been here, and never alone, but I understand. How it was chosen and created, how it came together - the underpinnings of decision, of an entire person, laid out in a cluttered blast. Like most living spaces, it is the best sort of map. Tech casual, male, young adult, somewhere in their thirties. Clever, dependable, very little struggle, not a lot of travel, but enough to have some stories. There are some framed prints leaning against the wall, (probably line art or something Japanese), but half buried behind papers and other detritus, and very few actual decorations.

And so, curious, I look around. I see. An instrument case under the kitchen table, thinly coated in a breathy envelope of neglect, and an electric piano, folded with a basic black stand, equally unused, translate into a desire to be musical, likely long passed. I pick up a book, one of the many casually piled next to the bed, (on the other side, an empty wine glass that I, for no particular reason, believe to have been left there by somebody else), and note that it has been read, but not dog-eared, which I like, because it's the precise observation I expected and it's sometimes nice to be right. The whole place is like that, down to the toiletries in the washroom, (the correct, responsible array, but with too much dust on the multivitamins, I'm sure the bottles are still full), and the programs on the laptop, (expensive, a macbook, no stickers).

It makes me comfortable, but wary. I wonder at the wisdom of this visit. I like these places. I like the people who live in them. But. There is a proposal here, an offer yet unspoken, dreadful and heavy, laced with a false, Proustian nostalgia for a life I never had a chance to lead, "where feelings of tenderness would always be reciprocated". Not quite a lie, it rests in the back of my skull like an entertaining artifact from an imaginary era, something to dismantle and examine and potentially loathe.

We sit on the polished cement floor by the gas fireplace, turned on with a switch, click, and ignore the obvious question for more prosaic pursuits. I confirm my theories like dominoes, with only a few charming surprises, (which I also like), and gently offer too much history, the most toned down form of my best defense strategy: tragedy, violence, a childhood of poverty and occasional terror. Out of your league, it offers, a way to make a polite escape dipped in sad anecdotes of senseless destruction and death. An excuse for abdication, withdrawal without judgement. Usually this is the cue, exit stage left, pursued by bears, but instead it all diffused in the air, accepted.

I had wondered at myself while walking to meet him, why was I there? It's not like I had hope, even as I delighted in his company, but perhaps this was it, what I unconsciously expected: this gloriously uncomfortable acceptance. Superficial, possibly, and weak tea, but honest. Trust. Staying would hurt me, ruin me more, a proposition which under the circumstances I could not even pretend to accept, yet the visit was a feast. Within my boundaries, freedom. I woke up feeling absolutely amazing. All I needed was a break. There has been no one left alive to bear my weight.
foxtongue: (Default)
Oh gosh, I almost forgot! We have less than one week until the next Rabbit Hole Day!

Started in 2005 by the remarkably clever Dan Curtis Johnson to mark Lewis Carrol's birthday, the surreal and fantastical Rabbit Hole Day is celebrated by turning everything upside-down and inside-out until nobody is their normal self anymore. Better start planning your weirdness now!

Friday! Friday! Friday!

Previously: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011.

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