On the road

May 12, 2007

Since Diane and I both work in academia, we have taken trips in mid-May following Spring finals. This year, we are en route to North Carolina for business and pleasure (a bit more on this in subsequent postings). At present, we are staying at the Sleep Inn in Meridian, MS, near the border of Alabama.

Diane and I enjoy taking road trips, even if they can get a bit wearing after several hours. Despite the lack of trunk space, we decided to take my Civic Hybrid to see how much mileage it could get under constant highway driving conditions. So far, we have gotten between 42 and 44 miles per gallon. As for luggage, we decided just to cover what we couldn’t fit in the trunk under a blanket.

On this trip, we didn’t play any music until after lunch. We began with a brand new CD that arrived from Amazon yesterday, whose arrival I awaited with great anticipation. It has soprano Nina Stemme singing the final scenes from two of Richard Strauss’ operas, as well as his Four Last Songs. The disc begins with the final scene from Salome, Strauss’ 1905 shocker about the titular character’s insatiable desire for the prophet Jochanaan. Under Antonio Pappano, the Orchestra for the Royal Opera House (Covent Garden) plays briskly, and Salome’s final paroxysm has the spine-tingling and transcendental effect one expects from the best performances. The disc follows with two excerpts from Strauss’ 1942 opera Capriccio, including the ethereal Moonlight music, as well as the final aria sung by the protagonist Madeleine, who has to decide between two suitors: a librettist and a composer, symbolizing the eternal debate about the preeminence of words or music in opera. The mood differs substantially from Salome, but the Capriccio excerpts have the vitality one expects from Strauss’ music. The disc concludes with four songs Strauss wrote in the final few years of his life. He didn’t intend them as a cycle, but they have been performed as such since their premiere in 1950. As one listens to the songs, one can’t help but muse upon the distance in years and mood between them and Salome. Nevertheless, Strauss worked his magic with orchestration a final time with those songs, and the opening notes of Im Abendrot (At Sunset) never fail to open the tear ducts. (Never good while driving, but I managed somehow.) Some critics, likely with an ax to grind and taking his disparagement of organized religion as a cue, have dismissed Strauss’ music as lacking in spirituality. However, his final songs certainly have a spiritual element that I find difficult to ignore.

The music mood differed the rest of the trip, and we played music from Diane’s iPod. We listened some excerpts from music performances on David Letterman’s show (rousing stuff with the Dave Matthews Band, Aretha Franklin, and Lenny Kravitz), and we wound up our trip with a complete run-through of U2’s The Joshua Tree. Then on to the crazy traffic loops around Meridian. For a relatively small city, it’s quite confusing to maneuver around, especially at night. Getting to Red Lobster for dinner wasn’t easy, and trying to find a Wal-Mart where Diane could get yogurt was even worse (we managed to end up in the countryside somehow afterwards). Nevertheless, we made it back to the hotel, and settled with Letterman. We couldn’t miss tonight, with Dave’s mom being on and all.

Anyway, that’s all for tonight. Atlanta should prove a bit more exciting, so the odds of a posting tomorrow seem quite slim. However, if excited enough, I’m sure I’ll crank out something…

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I noticed that my two Search!Down! Comeback Special installments contained seven of the best false drops that led searchers to my blog. So, I have decided that subsequent installments of this third incarnation of The Search!Down! will go by the title “The Search!Down! Seven.” This semi-regular feature will appear whenever I get seven good false drops. Now that I have seven, here’s the first installment:

    who is trophy wife woman in nutrisystem

    Sorry, she’s already taken. Besides, what traits could you possibly have over a guy who jokingly calls his spouse a “trophy wife?”

    annoying nutrisystem commercial

    As opposed to the Nutrisystem commercials that are not annoying. I eagerly anticipate those…

    videogames prepare for real world

    Speaking for myself, I have yet to encounter aliens, demons, elves, ogres, orcs, zombies, and heavily-armed sylph-like valkyries in gravity-defying t-shirts. As I’ve always suspected, I guess I’m living in a fantasy land.

    video game playing and laparoscopic surg

    You must’ve realized midway through typing that playing videogames during any kind of surgery would lead to disastrous results. Multitasking may save time, and having fun at work supposedly makes employees more productive, but c’mon…

    stanley wilder feral librarians

    You have the wrong underground film director’s nom de plume. It’s actually “Billy Kubrick” who has that obsession.

    sexy librarians undress

    See also Librarian, Annoyed (Finding).

    (In case you’re curious, the searcher probably ended up here. If you’re at work and want to check it out, I can assure you that it wasn’t a proximity search.)

    famous people from montpelier, ohio

    A bit of a misnomer, unless you count the man who first coined the term windchill and somone who was rumored to have written scripts for the Lone Ranger radio show. Yours truly has a ways to go, however.

For previous Search!Down! installments, visit here and here

Via Walt Crawford’s blog, I learned about a Pew Survey where you can figure out your ranking among technology users. For those who are interested in the report, it’s available as a PDF file. For those interested in where yours truly ranks, read on…

After taking the survey, I felt some surprise in finding out that I ranked as an “Elite Tech User” among American adults. Putting it in perspective, however, 31% of those who had already taken the survey for Pew fell into this category. When I think of “elite,” I generally think of those who are maybe among the top 5%-10% in some area of endeavor. Although this “everyone gets a trophy” (or at least 1/3 of everyone) approach doesn’t count for much, the Pew study divides technology elites into four almost evenly-divided categories, which make the rankings more useful. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) “omnivores” and “connectors” constitute the top 15%. Those who use ICTs to enhance productivity round out the bottom 8% of technology elites. I fall into the category just above that, which the Pew survey refers to as “lackluster veterans” (LV).

In his posting on the survey, Crawford takes issue with the label, which makes the LV subcategory sound like the “wet blanket” group among elites. It also makes the skeptics among elites sound like grizzled warriors who’ve seen it all, done it all, and don’t want to deal with technology anymore. However, LV sounds too much like a misnomer. Crawford’s suggestion for using the term “experienced skeptic” seems more appropriate, because we realize that totally disconnecting from ICTs offers few good options. On the other hand, we also have concerns about an overemphasis on these technologies in our everyday lives, and we realize the importance of finding balance so that our myriad devices don’t end up running our lives.

Listed below are paraphrases of the questions, and how I answered them (yes, I know the questions are phrased a certain way for survey purposes, but I figure my wording is close enough to get the gist):

    Do I feel overloaded, or do I like having lots of information available? I picked the first category, but my feelings are more complex in reality. I like the ability to find lots of information fairly quickly and easily, but I also get the sneaking suspicion that I’m missing something with which I need to “keep up.”

    Does technology give more or less control over our lives? The choices were “more,” “less,” or “no difference.” Again, my opinion doesn’t fit neatly into any of those choices. I think we can have more control if we use technology wisely, and less control if we let technology drive us. I considered “no difference” as an option to balance both, but the technological changes of the past several years have changed our lives quite a bit. I think I selected “less” control, but only because my concerns outweighed my warm and fuzzy thoughts about technology at the time. (I’m overwhelmed with things right now, anyway, which probably influenced my answer as well.)

    Frequency of going online at home: 3-5 times a week. I get on most days (more because of the class I taught this past semester), but being on the computer much of the time at work makes me want to disconnect while at home.

    Devices: With the exception of a video camera, Diane and I have or share at least one of each device listed in the survey: desktop computer, laptop, cell phone, PDA, iPod, digital camera, and webcam.

    Do you watch TV shows or news on devices other than a television: I actually don’t understand the appeal of watching something on a portable device. It might work for news or low-kinetic visuals, but I prefer to see shows and movies on larger screens.

    Text messaging: Something else I don’t understand. If I want to talk with someone immediately, I phone them. If I don’t need an immediate response, I send an e-mail and wait.

    Online activities: I have an online blog, but no webpage. I submit content for webpages where I work, but another department in the library handles design. I share some creative works (mainly photos) and I post comments to others’ blogs, but I don’t do remixes… at least not yet. Remixed film trailers sound like fun, but I just need the time, technological capabilities, and talent to pull my “visions” together.

    Availability to others due to electronic devices: As long as people understand boundaries, the ability to connect through portable communication devices seems useful. I like them for emergencies, or for contacting long-distance friends and relatives. However, I am vigilant about the possibility that some people might take unfair advantage of the expectations established by such connectivity.

    Assistance with electronic devices: I am generally self-sufficient, mainly because I focus on the essentials. However, just last weekend, my mother-in-law kept asking about certain features on a digital camera, which Diane and I don’t bother to use. She didn’t understand why, so I kept trying to explain that we only focus on the essential features. (I think one can safely say that Bradford’s Law also applies to features on electronic devices.)

    My productivity has increased due to electronic devices: I do most work-related stuff on electronic devices of some sort, with the exception of scribbling notes during meetings. Since I’ve been at the same job for the past several years, and I have used electronic devices that whole time, such an assessment seems difficult for me to make.

    Have ICTs improved your life?: In the sense of pursuing vocational and avocational interests, as well as communicating with friends and family, I would have to say yes.

As you can see, I have mixed feelings about ICTs. They can enhance the way in which we work, pursue hobbies, and communicate. On the other hand, I also feel that we need to remain vigilant about the expectations set forth by greater connectivity… especially if they prevent us from being able to disconnect and focus on the other things that matter in life.