Further evidence that I’m not really in a target demographic for normal businesses

Name shack

Last night at a screening of short films, I was being introduced to a new guy who kept claiming bad hearing and getting everyone’s name wrong.

(1) This would be a good gimmick for business men who obsess about remembering everyone’s name. You’d have an excuse to repeat the names a lot, plus you could “jokingly” get them wrong and everyone would find you charming. (2) This guy’s misheard names were way better than our normal names (Sarah = Sierra. Jessica = Destiny. Galen = Hayden. We are instantly teen idols or brands of vodka!).

I think he should go into business in some way. Maybe you could call him up and tell him your ideas for naming your pets or the characters in your new novel, and he could just repeat them back to you through his auditory filter of awesomeness. Maybe he could deliver some sort of televised oral history newscast.

Surprise! Hope you’re more vain than paranoid!

Two nights ago, I was talking about web design rates with my friend Michael, who is making a site for a private detective. His ladyfriend Erin suggested he just trade services, and then we were all sort of hoping to be the subject of Michael’s bartered private investigation, just so we could get some weird surveillance photos of ourselves. And now I think that should be a business of its own: just the surveillance photos.

Real detectives probably don’t take big, black and white glossies anymore (nope), but my non-investigative, non-incriminating surveillance photography service sure would. And we’d make a special effort to get shots of the subject holding up her collar against the wind while stepping into a taxi, laughing in a restaurant with an unseen dinner companion, or generally looking over his shoulder all the time. If surveillance is going to be biased and weird, it might as well be biased towards glamour and intrigue.

I can’t stop thinking about what a great (weird, confusing) birthday present that would be for an unsuspecting friend. “It’s… is this a threat?”

Internet wish: find likely pornographic typos

Any page offering advice on choosing a domain name will insist you consider common typos and misunderstandings. No need to end up the latest sexchange URL (lawyersexchange.com, editorsexchange.com…). And nobody wants to end up a typo away from hardcore porn. Especially if your website features Christian hymns.

So why can’t I find a tool to check these things?

I just got an email from a web design client (who really does make Christian hymns) saying that one of their customers had accidentally found porn while trying to type in their website address. “They probably just made a typo.”

But darned if I can figure out where this typo porn actually is. None of my misspelled attempts are registered domains, and I can’t find a tool that suggests similarly spelled URLs that exist.

There are lots of tools to find websites with similar content, but none to find websites with similar addresses. This second tool is what I wish for.

Compassion for teenagers

I get the Baby Fever off and on, and I usually try to remember that babies don’t stay babies, and that if I want to spawn I’ll have to learn to love a teenager. The hormonal creepiness, the narcissism, the volume levels. I’ve actually been practising this, more because I like new skills than because I am laying away emotional supplies for a baby event. I am like a bird-watcher, for teenagers, except I don’t follow them to their nests or anything.

My favourite teenager thing right now is watching little groups of 14 year old girls out on their own. Physically, they are hilarious— even in groups of eight or nine kids, you only get one of each kind. Small and skinny, big and moosey, tall and gangly, eerily voluptuous: nobody has caught up to anybody else by 14, and nobody understands her own hair. I call these groups Variety Packs.

I’ve come to realize that an easy way to love teenagers is to basically laugh about how ridiculous they are. It’s about camp: “Oh, they’re so terrible— I love them!” I’m working on finding a less condescending way to appreciate pupating humans, but for now, the I’m so bershon Flickr pool is feeding my addiction.

Three indie thesis tips, while I get organized

I’ve talked to about four people since I declared ““thesis on!”:/2006/08/10/i-call-it-an-indie-thesis” and already I’m overwhelmed by notes. I’ve got this grand plan involving a wiki, but while I get the squirrels up to speed, here are three solid tips that have immediately become apparent.

3 tips for learning to write a thesis without going to school

  1. People love to talk about their own education. Sir Ken Robinson’s excellent, funny presentation about education from TED 2006 covers this, and so far it’s my experience as well. My friend Towagh just gave me about three hours worth of explanations and advice about Masters work, starting from “OK, a thesis… what’s that?” (Thanks, Towagh!)
  2. If you are going to have a three hour meeting over coffee, pick somewhere with a convenient restroom.
  3. A tip from Towagh that strikes me as hilarious: if you want to talk to a professor, even an imposing, famous professor, call up their Department and ask for their office hours. Do many non-students sneak into office hours? I’m a little suspicious that I should keep this tip under my hat, that I might encourage the one yahoo who will abuse Office Hours and ruin it for all of us. (You know, all of us who want to talk to professors about critical problems without enrolling in school.) It will be a sad day, when office hours have some type of warning sticker attached.

Got any thesis tips of your own? I’d love your comments. (And I should mention: I’d love them even if you’re from the future, and you’re reading this in 2012 and you presume the conversation is dead. I’m posting here while the site is still semi-secret, so don’t feel like a latecomer.)

The best thesis since Xena

I helped my granny pick her peach tree on the weekend, so I took the opportunity to explain my new thesis project to her and ask for her input about mortality and dying.

She’s 86; she grew up on a farm; she’s had her funeral and burial plans pre-paid for years; she tells a story about her experience speaking with the spirit of her recently deceased sister; and we often have conversations about my grandpa’s advanced Alzheimer’s dementia and the merits of burning out versus fading away (elder nursing home version). I thought she’d have lots to contribute.

The first thing out of her mouth?

“Oh darling, there’s a book I’ll have to give you when I’m finished. It’s about one of those… those men who never die? (Well he could die in a fight, but not of old age.) And he’s supposed to hunt evil? It goes back centuries. Just centuries.”

(The name she’s looking for is Dark Hunter, and he surely owes his existence to Boris Vallejo.)

Dark Hunter novel cover

I know that I need to start narrowing my topic as soon as possible— at the moment I’m reminded of my aunt’s high school independent research project on the entire history of ancient China— but for now, while I scope out the lay of the land, it’s pretty cool to just ask everyone I know if they have any tips or resources about dying, to see all the different angles that pop up. I would not have thought to examine sexualized immortality in post Buffy pulp fiction if granny hadn’t suggested it.

A start: normal dying processes

I’ve heard a lot of stories of dying people needing to get a good sleep before they have enough energy to die, or of dying at contrived times like right before an annoying doctor is due to show up, or right after seeing a new baby relative.

I’m sure a lot of those stories are coincidence, but I’m intrigued by the idea that dying is an action the body takes, rather than an event that just happens when the body fails. Zoe pointed out the other day that many people think of death as a failure of medicine, rather than as a normal event in everyone’s life. To me, thinking of death as an active, biological process makes it seem more like a normal function (which I’m interested in, for now).

This morning I’ve been hunting for information about the normal dying process, and how it varies, and whether there are conflicting models for “normal” death responses the way I’m familiar with different, biased models of sexual response from working on my vagina website (and indeed, Kubler-Ross’ stages of grief seem to draw similar controversy to Masters and Johnson’s model of the human sexual response cycle).

Zen Hospice has a great overview of the physical changes a person goes through as they die, from a hospice perspective. I recognize all of those symptoms from the few people I’ve known at the end of their lives. I can see immediately why there are so many comparisons between giving birth, having orgasms, and dying: all involve extreme physical responses that start to seem normal when you know what to expect. Learning about the physical symptoms of dying feels a little like getting to know the birds in your neighbourhood or something: gaining context.

Graceful Exits:How Great Beings Die apparently deals with conscious dying and dying on purpose, such as the idea of elders wandering off alone into the woods to die. It sounds a bit flaky (i.e., possible use of ambiguous generalizations like “aboriginal cultures”), but still really compelling to me. I’m all for special skills, and this intro sort of makes dying sound like a superpower:

Then the person is left alone. He or she sits down, and within a matter of minutes is able to intentionally close down the body and die.

That would be both more and less useful than being able to cry on command.

But, from my scattered reading this morning, I gather that I should do some searching for literature about “deathing” and “timing of death” rather than the process of dying. It’s a bit weird that “dying” gets used more as adjective than as a form of the verb “to die.” When a person “dies” that describes the moment of death fairly precisely, but when a person “is dying” that could refer to almost any stage of life or illness or injury.

This is the kind of jargon I should figure out soon— it’s hard to organize notes when you don’t know the names for things (and stuff).

Ready the moisturizer

This sensory-deprivation floating tank sounds like something I could make at home, using my accidental stockpile of Epsom salts. (I tend to buy supplies, then come home and discover I’ve already bought some. Ask Galen about the quantities of cornmeal we amass before I remember to make polenta.)

Why have I never thought to make a super-floaty bath? Saturating a bath with 10 pounds of Epsom salts would be a good way to use up that part of my craft stash.

Having made several small projects without putting a noticeable dent in the stash, I’m remembering that my original intention with the stash manifesto was to make huge craft projects. Things you can only accomplish with ten pounds of origami paper, not small things here and there. Floating tank, several pints of Epsom salts… I think it counts.