Posts Tagged with "sociology"

Ghost in the Machine

August 27th, 2008 at 12:36 pm by Mark
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     For whatever reason, the house I’m in now has some pretty bad wiring.  It’s a relatively new house — built in the 70’s, perhaps early 80’s — and shouldn’t have the problems it does. 
     Unfortunately, that’s one of the things you’ll always get into when you own a home.  There are quirky things about most every house.  In this one, the fuse box may even be a bit overloaded…

     Last Friday night, I had an overwhelming sense of dread.  I felt like someone close to me was in trouble, and there was nothing I could do.  I was distraught, and I couldn’t shake that feeling.  My car had messed up the night before, and just everything seemed to be going the wrong way.  And what should happen but every time I came into the room and sat down on the bed, the ceiling fan would begin this eerie whining, and shake violently back and forth.
     But it only happened when I came back into the room and sat down on the bed…

     I tested that theory seven or eight times, and finally decided to pull out the voice recorder and leave it running in the otherwise silent room for a few minutes… I mean, a little EVP never hurt anyone, right?

     And so, two things became obvious:

  1. Those weren’t ghosts.  They were telephone signals.  There’s obviously a massive amount of Extremely Low Frequency radiation pointed at this upstairs room from “somewhere,” and somehow, it’s bleeding through.  Perhaps it’s the fault of bad grounding in this house’s wiring, or perhaps having a telecommunications transmitter inadvertently pointed directly at this room is the whole problem with the wiring.
  2. The ceiling fan was never mounted straight, and it was extremely loose.  I opened and closed the door each time I moved from the bed, walking into the hallway, and just that amount of air pressure was enough to make the ceiling fan go crazy.  A few twists of the screwdriver fixed the problem, however, it’s still off balance… just not so much that the door makes it appear to be a murder weapon from the afterlife.

     This really made me give a lot more thought to the whole EVP phenomenon.

     Sure, you can make recordings in silence, and end up with all sorts of noises.  Ambient and background noises, wind and air pressure changes and other miscellaneous sounds that you wouldn’t normally notice become amplified.  Since the dynamic range of most microphones is significantly wider than that of the human ear, and the fact that the final recording becomes compressed to fit into an audible bandwidth — not to mention the problems of noise from the internal mechanism on tape recorders and sounds created by digital processing on voice recorders — you end up hearing all sorts of noises that can sound rather ghastly.  It’s the perfect illustration of the old saying, “ghost in the machine.”

     You simply have to take a scientific approach to this sort of thing, otherwise, you’ll end up convincing yourself of all sorts of crazy stuff.  As another old saying goes, “Enough research will tend to support your theory.”

     Inspired by movies like Stir of Echoes, Sixth Sense and White Noise, and entertainment television shows like Ghost Hunters, I know too many people who run around recording EVP.  Most of them are convinced that Ghost Hunters is real, as they’re unable to distinguish the difference between science, pseudoscience and entertainment. 
     These types also totally buy into most of the crazy conspiracy theories going around.

     But, like they’d assuredly tell me … I’m just too cynical… *rolls eyes*

     As for that “feeling of dread” I had Friday night (and through the weekend), I was more than right — in fact, I was dead on, right down to times.  As cynical as I might be, there’s still the fact that I perceive things that I shouldn’t be able to.
     You either get used to that or you don’t.

Inappropriate Laughter

April 2nd, 2008 at 9:46 am by Mark
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     Everyone knows everything everyone else does small towns, although they live quite a distance apart.  One day, in my best redneck accent (I do voices quite well, and though it’s dead-on, you’ll rarely meet anyone who sounds as inbred as I do when I do it), I quipped, “By God, you could fart at one end o’ th’ county and by the time ya git to th’ other end, ever’body knows what it smelt like!”
     They died laughing, although they didn’t like that I said “fart.”

     Good thing they don’t hear some of the other words I say on a regular basis…

     One of the things I’ve always known is that there are many factions in small towns.  There are people who it’s okay to talk to, and there are people who it’s not.  That’s kind can get tricky, because quite honestly, I talk to everybody and don’t care about that kind of stuff.  Generally, people don’t bother to get upset with me about it, because I’m a “nice guy.”
     One of the unique things, tho, is the constant use of the archaic word “queer” to describe these people you’re not supposed to talk to or “watch out” for. Although, it has nothing to do with someone’s sexual preference, and is pronounced quite differently…  
     One day, I asked, “Quare?  How ya spell ‘at?  Like ‘square’ without the ‘s’?”
     This resulted in the age-old, universal, one-fingered gesture in my general direction.
     To which I replied, “Well, ain’t that mighty Christian of ya?!”

     Also good for a laugh.

     A couple of weeks ago, after hearing about how everyone in town was “queer,” someone asked me, “So, Mark, how ya like it here?”
     I said, “I dunno.  They’s too many quares.”
     “What?” they asked, shocked.
     “Yeah, by God, ever’body I talk to, they tell me, he’s quare, she’s quare, and by God, they even told me you was, too!”
     The blank look was priceless.

     Give it a minute, give it a minute… Yep, they died laughing.  😉

     Another incident happened when an elderly gentleman came up and said, “Oh, man, it’s a beautiful day!  I’m gonna home and work in my garden!  Do you have a garden, Mark?”
     “No, sir,” I replied.  Keeping a straight face, I added, “My girl won’t let me play with hoes.”
     One person who overheard the conversation cupped her hand over her mouth to keep from laughing.  It took him a minute to catch on.

     Now every time I see him, he laughs, and tells me, “Stay away from them hoes!”

     Another day, I was answering questions about some software when I leaned forward and hit my funny bone on the edge of the desk.  My uncontrollable reaction was to blurt out, “Motherf…” at which point, I caught myself and stopped the profanity midstream.
     She ignored it, and continued her explanation of the software issue without skipping a beat.
     I gave her the answer and showed her an alternative method to do what she was asking.
     She responded to the answer, and added, “And, by the way, I know that must have hurt.  But next time, just go ahead and finish the word because we all knew what you were thinking, anyway.”

     Laughter is always good medicine.

     And being just slightly off-color does tend to relax even the most uptight people.

     Older people, especially, seem to enjoy it even more…

Stock Photos

All I Did was Hold a Door

October 25th, 2007 at 12:27 pm by Mark
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     There’s something that’s bothered me for a long, long time, and it’s changed my behavior a little.

     If I walk up to a door to open it, I glance around to see if anyone else is close.  If they are, I hold it open for them.  It’s a simple thing, that most people don’t do at all any more.

     Some people are semi-thankful, but can’t really be bothered to do much more than nod or half-grunt a, “Thanks,” before continuing to walk blindly around not paying attention to anyone else around them.

     Occasionally, you get one of the uber-Feminists who will rip you a new butt for holding her door open.  She’s perfectly capable of doing it herself, and what a chauvanistic piece of — *BONK!* — as the door hits her in the face, because she’s too busy complaining to note that you let it go and walked away… at which point, you’re demoted to misogynist, and… *rolls eyes* 
     I always wonder how those types react when they see me hold the door for the guy at the next door…

     Unfortunately, most people these days are asshats and don’t care that I hold the door for them, at all.  Why, no!  I should be privileged for having held their door!  I’m not antisocial (I’m really not), but stuff like that is exactly why I think the vast majority of people should get bent.

     Needless to say, it is due to the above three classes of people that I don’t stop, hold the door, and wait for people to go through ahead of me.  Bloody hell, half of the population are so brash and rude that they will jump right on through while I’m holding open for my lady, who I really wanted to walk in with…
     Thus, I’m very good about holding it behind me.  And, if I accidentally drop it as someone’s coming, I even go so far as to apologize to them.
     Weird, eh?

     But today, as I walked up to the door to a store, I noticed an elderly woman with a very young teenager approaching.  Ignoring my usual instincts, I stopped, grabbed the door, held it open, and said, “After you!” as I ushered them inside.
     The two looked me right in the eyes, and with large, genuine smiles, said, “Oh, thank you!” in unison.
     Genuine thanks?!  That’s so rare!  I couldn’t help but say something, and when I opened my mouth, “My pleasure!” came tumbling out.
     Again, more smiles.  As they walked on into the store arm-in-arm, they leaned and whispered to one another, patted the others’ arms as they went.

     Simply amazing.

     Nostalgic, even, remember how people used to act when you did some random act of kindness…?

Good Ol’ East Tennessee Values

July 5th, 2007 at 10:49 pm by Mark
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When I was growing up, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents (my father’s) and with a family of sister’s in Knoxville.  Since there weren’t any other kids to play with, I ended up spending most of my time with people who were at least close to retirement.  And it was pretty cool.
They’d tell me about the things that they did when they were kids, places they’d gone, people they’d met in their lives.  Sometimes, when you’re very young, you don’t understand what they’re telling you.  As you get older, and they fall away, sometimes you’ll remember their words like it was yesterday.
Their stories, their words, people who grew up here in East Tennessee, probably shaped me more than any parables and punishments my parents ever gave me.

I can remember a time when people were helpful.  If someone fell, people showed concern instead of walking around them like they didn’t exist.  If someone dropped something, someone would pick it up for them.  If someone was walking with their arms full of shopping, people would open the door for them.  If they saw someone stuck on the side of the road with a dead car, they’d stop, lend a hand, or, when all else failed, a ride to a gas station.
Those are values that were instilled in me.  If I see someone lying on the ground, I’ll help them up.  If someone drops something — even money — I’ll pick it up and chase them down to give it back.  I hold the door open for anyone who can’t quite do it, and behind me for everyone close.  And if I see two guys trying to push a dead van off the road, I’m certainly gonna stop and lend a hand.
East Tennessee, even Knoxville, has always been that way.

Unfortunately, we’re getting a lot of people moving here these days.  Knoxville, especially, is a real-estate boom town where we get The Happy House Cleaning London to help on our house cleaning.  People are moving here in droves, eager to pick up cheap real-estate and perhaps even know their neighbors. VA home loan help from professionals grant them a possibility to purchase or refinance their home mortgages.
Local culture is changing from the open, community-based ideal that we used to enjoy to a selfish, greedy, don’t-get-involved mentality.  It’s starting to feel like Washington, D.C.

I hate watching things go downhill.

Tonight, after ordering a pizza at a place which usually takes thirty minutes to prepare one, I got there to find that they’d lost my order.  Now, I was starving, so I’d called ahead.  I told them no bother, decided to go up the street to a restaurant.
As I left and started back home, traffic was heavy.  I had to wait some time before being able to leave the parking lot.  As I drove down the road, I saw two guys in their late 20’s, maybe early 30’s, pushing a van towards a gas station — with great difficulty, up a small hill.  I didn’t have a place to pull over and help, so I turned around and came back.
I got out, and gave them the extra leverage they needed to push the van into the parking lot they were trying to get to.

As I got back in my car, they yelled, “God bless you, man!  Thank you!”
“No problem, guys,” I yelled.  “Hope it gets better.”
“Man, thank you so much.”
“You’re welcome.  Take care.”

The sad thing is, at least 30 other drivers didn’t give damn.  Maybe they had to be somewhere quickly.  Maybe they were elderly and couldn’t lend a hand.  Maybe they just didn’t see them (*cough* right).

So why was I different?  Why did I have the two minutes to stop and lend a hand where no one else did?
I was born here.  I grew up here.  It’s what we’re supposed to do.

We should be showing the influx of people from other places what it means to be East Tennesseeans … to know our neighbors … to have friends … to walk around giving a damn about someone other than ourselves …

It saddens me that us East Tennesseeans are losing that…

Quite honestly, I’d rather get taken a couple times than turn down someone who legitimately needs help.  You can sort of tell…

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Combining Some Themes: Art, Technology and BS

June 16th, 2007 at 1:24 am by Mark
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     I had some blogs saved up complaining about a Web 2.0 meme I couldn’t finish (sorry), a Wikipedia Article, and the fact that I couldn’t find a suitable Time Lapse artist on the 2nd … So … Here we go …  

     Web 2.0 is an old concept.  We were using the term back in 1999 at a Web Design studio where I worked at as a lead developer… It had to do with the separation of form and function, an optimized user experience with nearly seamless transitions from Desktop to Web, and ability to allow clients to manipulate that experience in a way that helped them make sense of the data they were viewing.
     Despite the Wikipedia article which says O’Reilly Media quoted it in 2003, the term’s been around for more than 10 years… Seriously,believing that is like believing Al Gore created teh Internets.
     Also contrary to popular belief (especially to a lot of anti-Microsoft asshats), the first real “Web 2.0” app was Microsoft’s old Exchange Webmail client — thrown away due to its instability, instead of fixed and re-packaged — which boasted more features than even Roundcube Webmail can get away with now.

     This video, however, has only a little to do with any of that. Instead, it’s a great piece of artwork which highlights the things that’ve happened over the last ten years and gives us some things to think about as we go through our cultural transitions.

Tip: Sir Rantzalot, more commonly known as Rantz, who, for all practical purposes appears to be a gentleman and a scholar. Or something. heh