Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Great 2012 Email Purge


That's the very best I could do. After a top to bottom culling of email the best I could manage was seventy emails.

I have a fairly decent email management regiment. At the end of every day I try to go home with an empty inbox. I've got a "ToDo" folder and a "FollowUp" folder. Before being filed pretty much anything that can't be solved immediately winds up in one of those. Over time some other folders have popped up. There's a "reference" folder and "things to buy."

It makes for a fairly good system. Most of the time I don't lose things I need and don't have too much to wade through in order to get my job done.

Every now and then I'll dump the entire "to do" folder into my inbox and re-triage. I find that there's some real satisfaction to being able to delete or file a message without ever doing anything aside from setting it aside. About a week ago I supersized this effort. With the end of the year I took every message in every holding folder and replaced them in the inbox.

It was hundreds of messages. Some still needed action, some had been mooted, and some needed another solution. I have this questionable habit of emailing myself things. I keep sites that look like they have use for classes, items that might make good personal projects, things I just think are cool, whatever. This has always made for a lot of email chaff. This time around I decided that instead of archiving these things with email I would try to use Evernote and Pinterest.

Of course now my Evernote and Pinterest are a disorganized mess. But you can't have everything I suppose.

Just like the work emails that had been mooted, many of the things I was saving turned out to not be there either. Either the sites had been reorganized or the merchandise had been discontinued or who knows why. One of the tools I used to use to email myself was an option through the StunmbleUpon toolbar. The folks there must have changed how their software works because most of those links were dead. I wound up having to infer what I had saved and search for it. It wasn't the most successful project.

Of course there was another problem trying to deal with all the email: it kept coming. Every time I thought I had a shot at completing the chore Outlook would beep again.

Still, 70 isn't so bad. More than half that number are emails from active projects, probably half of those are part of that unfortunate trickle that just... wouldn't... stop. There's still some pretty fossilized stuff in there like a half dozen messages from iTunes explaining how to unlock files I bought ages ago. The oldest email is from 2009. I guess maybe I ought to do those things or be done with them.

Maybe next spring.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Some Crit Extras

A couple of loose ends from the Spring 2012 Semester Reviews cycle.

 Early Reviews:

There were a couple of folks that had to blow town early for their summer gigs. We did their reviews on the final Thursday of class.

First up is Sophomore TD Daniel:

... he had to run off to Asia to help work on a themed environment project.

Next is Grad1 TD Luke...


... he had to wing off to New Mexico to build operas.

The Giant Ipad:

For quite some time now I have thought that the new way to fill out crit presentations should be projections.  We've had some projection content before, but not like this...

... Jackson has upped the bar for the future.  Let's hope it is a persistent positive influence.

Senior Session:

The seniors did a really cool integrated photo collage...

... They all did their own presentation after, but did the composite display on the top of the boards.  They had a compilation video too.  All in all pretty cool.

In Town Showcase:

For the third year running we did a DP Showcase here in Pittsburgh the Saturday before graduation...

...  This year there were chicken fingers.  If you are in Pittsburgh next year you should come by.

Contrivance Project:

Kevin's last TD4 project this year was just sort of "Make something that does something."  Dale did this:

I think it's pretty cool.  I wonder if he calibrated it if he could make a really cool clock out of it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Spring 2012 Senior Crit

We changed up the schedule this year.  There was at least one Senior dawdling in LA so I put them on the last day, and the numbers worked out that the last day could be a half day.  So just like that we had "Senior Afternoon."

The students provided a nice buffet, they bought me a present, ran a compilation video, and set up a very cohesive set of crit boards.  I can't wait for the Picasa facial recognition to take a stab at these.

The video proves that college is real different now than when I went.  Now you pretty much have to assume that whatever you are doing, saying, or wearing, someone is recording it.  Spooky; but a lot of laughs.

So, the roll call:

Graduating PM/SM Brooke...

... off to be a Houston job seeker.

Graduating TD Charlie...

... probably LA bound.

Graduating PM/SM Chris...

... spent the semester managing Anne.

Graduating PM/SM David...

... is probably hoping the video doesn't go up on YouTube.

Graduating Senior Ethan...

... spending the summer in Aspen and then looking for West Coast theatre work.

Graduating PM/SM Hannah...

... already starting to think about Grad School.

Graduating PM/SM/TD Katherine...

... has decided she probably doesn't want to PM, SM, or TD.

Graduating PM/SM Liz...

... off to Seattle with an SM gig in her pocket.

Congrats to all the graduating students.  Great work all around!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Spring 2012 PTM Thesis Presentations

iPhone photos on Thesis day.  I've taken better pictures.

The morning session started with Brian's thesis: "What Note?"  The title is actually longer but I think I like just the opening bit.

The point of this thesis was to examine the nature and distribution methods for rehearsal and production notes in an effort to figure out how to get better response rates from production teams.

The second PTM presentation of the day was Calvin's "Better Production Meetings."  It has a subtitle too, but again, the long titles don't seem to me to help the projects.

This project was about applying contemporary business theory concerning meetings to theatrical production meetings.  With the Basic PTM class I feel like I eat and breathe this stuff.

After lunch we were treated to Devorah's presentation "A Study of" NSFW "Content in Production."  Her title is WAY longer than that.  While I was editing with her I just switched to using "NSFW" as shorthand.

This thesis is an investigation of how various theatre school production departments handle "sensitive" content in their productions.  It left me wondering how theatre schools handle sensitive content in their classrooms.

Last up was Tom's project thesis.

Tom has been working on an Arduino based, "off the shelf" 110V 20A automation axis - actuator and control.  It's not quite there yet, but if he finishes it the thing could be a very interesting club in the bag for many small theatre TDs.

Congrats to all on their presentations.

Monday Semester Reviews

The weekend is behind us and we're back for more semester reviews.

Monday AM Session:

First up is PM/SM/Sound Designer Becca...

... I guess we're going to find if that combination of programs actually works.

Next up is PM/SM Brian...

... Brian has been our resident TEDx expert.

Moving along to Grad1 PM/SM Jamila...

... Thanks to Tina for the photograph.  When it came time I could not find my subject.

Rounding out the morning is TD Tiffany...

... Tiffany is going to Aspen for the summer.  I can think of worse places.

Monday PM Session:

The afternoon kicks off with Ariel...

... She has one of those masks that made my face sweat.

Next up is PM/SM Jessica...

... Eagle eyed TANBI readers have seen that ear before.

We finish up the standard crits with TD Wyatt...

... Thanks this time to Sean for the photography as Wyatt had escaped.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Friday Semester Reviews

And we're on to the second day of  semester reviews.

Friday AM Session:

We begin with Sophomore PM/SM AJ...

... This session had a bumper crop of AJ's.

Next up Junior PM/SM/Mathematician Brian...

... Brian started to explain Discreet Maths and then stopped.

Moving along to TD/Lighting Technologist Robert...

... I think I saw that nameplate last time around.

Then we have Junior TD Sonia...

... Sonia wanted to make sure we all knew about books.

Rounding out the morning is Tim...

... That's a Disney Badge in the frame.

Friday PM Session:

Session starts with Grad1 PM/SM Cat...

... all her paperwork appears to be a little slanted.

We finish up with Junior PM/SM Devrie...

... Absolutely killing that Camo jacket.

Day One Semester Reviews

Delinquent at posting photos.  Delinquent in so many things...

Thursday AM Session:

Dale starts us off with his Baron Munchhausen contrivance...

... Dale also starts us off with Crit Camo.

Next up is program splitter Sophie...

... diligently trying to split a Scene Design and Production Management track.

Next comes the top half of Taylor...

... Grad2 PM/SM in Crit Camo.

Rounding out the AM Session is Zoe...

... Undergrad Sophomore PM/SM with a jaunty pose.

Thursday PM Session:

We begin with Jake and his sand-wheel contrivance...

... if I am not mistaken those are his wedding shoes.

On to Matt...

... who very much wanted to update his pose.

Moving on to Meg...

... sporting some upper body Camo.

And finishing out the day with Shannon...

... I think there's something on her foot.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

More on Free Points

Just finished grading my third set of finals.  This one also had the dimension of getting out of questions by posting comments during the week.  Posting 5 comments got you out of the 10 Newspage questions on the final.

But once again even if you comment out, you can still answer the questions.  That's an opportunity for 10 free points.  10 points on an exam with 100 points to begin with - that's a full letter grade improvement.

Pardon my bolding.

Since the test was comprehensive over the content of the entire semester the newspage questions were word for word questions which had been on the weekly quizzes over the length of the semester.  Weekly quizzes which we go over and discuss in class.

But wait, there's more.  For the first final that was the end of the story.  This final has another facet.  This final was a take home, open note final.

Not only are they free points, not only are they questions they've already seen, but here they ought to have the key sitting in their notes.

10 points for comments and 10 points for repeat quiz questions.  20 total points; two letter grades.

In the end several, but not nearly all of the students got the 10 comment points.  The most points from answering Newspage questions was 6, with most getting only 2 or 3.

Not one person in the class attempted all 10 questions.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

A Thought or Two...

... upon the grading of final exams.

Yes, really, you should be able to write decipherable handwriting.  My recollection is that most people are able to do this round about the third grade.  As a college student you really shouldn't be causing your instructors to think about your handwriting.  Yes, I know, you type everything now so it isn't fair that writing an exam longhand should have to be legible - and besides everyone knows that doctors have terrible handwriting and they are very smart.  Sometimes life isn't fair.  Take a weekend and work on your penmanship.

Would you think you'd have to comment on penmanship in college?

How about this: when I offer you free points, take the free points.  My finals often have questions on them you can skip if you've done some outside exercise.  But even if you can skip them, you also can answer them for extra credit.  That's free points, take them!  Guess if you have to, there's no penalty for wrong answers, just extra credit for getting it right.  Why on Earth would you leave those questions unanswered?

Read the questions and the instructions.  If a question says: "List and Define" you have to both list and define.  If a questions says: "give two reasons" then you have to give two reasons (and no, I wouldn't be a whole lot happier with three reasons).  The questions are specific.  The instructions say "Be sure to answer the ENTIRE question."  And yet, there are page after page of half answered questions.  More points down the drain.

I can't imagine a teacher likes giving an exam and having people do poorly.  I certainly don't.  The questions aren't designed to trip you up.  Follow the instructions.  Don't leave points on the table.  Why make it harder than it has to be?

Friday, May 04, 2012

Worth a Look

Here are a few posts from the last week of the Greenpage that might be worth your time:

Artist Payments at Nonprofits, By the Numbers

hyperallergic.com: As a supplement to “Why Are (Most) Artists (So Fucking) Poor?” here is some of the data from the 2010 W.A.G.E. survey of payments received by artists who exhibited with nonprofit art institutions in New York City between 2005 and 2010.

Heather Knight and Data: A Researcher and a Robot Walk Into a Bar...

Creating - WSJ.com: When they appear on stage, Heather Knight, a robotics graduate student, and Data, her stand-up-comedy-performing robot, seem like a futuristic Odd Couple. Ms. Knight is tall, blond and human while Data—sheathed in a white plastic shell and about a third her size—resembles a RoboCop action figure. Data plays the feisty star; Ms. Knight takes on the role of the "straight man." At a performance last year, Data, perched on a stool, waved to the crowd. "I would say it's a pleasure to be here, but I am a robot and don't know emotion," he said in a fittingly electronic voice. Then he turned his head slowly toward Ms. Knight and pointed at her with his left arm. "Heather, how about you get working on that emotion program?" he asked. "I am, Data!" she responded, in a mock-defensive tone.

How Grad School Changed (and Didn’t Change) My Life

HowlRound: For some, the experience was positively transformational, but several of my friends simply returned three years later older, poorer, and more disillusioned with the profession than when they left. Many were quietly humiliated to have to return to the temping or the barista counter—the only difference now being the three letters behind their name and a percentage of their infrequent artistic paychecks going to union dues and their new-found agent/manager.
Am I being unfair? Perhaps.
You see, as Clayton Lord points out in his Intrinsic Impact essay, any time you try to apply an economic model to an art form, the results are disappointing. Going to grad school merely to “improve your career” is like starting a theater company merely to spur economic growth in a community. It’s missing the point, and for a long time, so was I.

The Wire’s David Simon Teaches Us How To Spot Fabulists Like Mike Daisey

The Daily Beast: No one could ever accuse David Simon of a lack of ego, but in recent days, even his most devoted fans might have had trouble figuring out why, exactly, the creator of The Wire had grown so weary of their love. In an interview with The New York Times, Simon expressed “amused contempt” toward viewers who discovered the series long after it went off the air, or who found the show’s characters more compelling than its treatment of larger social issues. Although he later apologized, he still seemed to insist that those who enjoyed the show for its drama and storytelling—for “all the things that television usually affirms”—were missing the point. His remarks were widely picked apart online, but for those of us who have been watching Simon for years, the interview was only the latest in a long series of prickly, hectoring, often belligerent public pronouncements from one of our most talented writers.

In Silicon Valley, designers emerge as rock stars

Reuters: Five years ago, Justin Edmund arrived at Carnegie Mellon University, a floppy-haired freshman, with artistic talent and dreams of joining a venerable design firm like IDEO or Frog. But during his sophomore year, a recruiting pitch from a Facebook employee turned his head, and prompted a detour of his ambitions.
"It didn't even occur to me that working at a tech company was something I could do," Edmund said. "I switched my trajectory completely."

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Vote for Comment of the Week

Last week until August. 

Comment #1: a new comment on your post "Video Pick: A New Way to Think About Creativity":
What a beautiful way to think about creativity. Creative work is particularly difficult and trying to the artist largely because the artist is required to put so much of himself into the work. Their art is then judged in a very subjective way by a large audience. If the work is unsatisfactory to the audience there is no one to blame but the artist. In other fields of work, there are many other factors to be blamed in the case of failure. If a student flunks out of school, it is blamed more on the student and their family than the teacher. If a new computer product fails, it is the company that is forced to shoulder the blame, not any of the individuals who developed it. When an artist produces a piece of work that is a wild success, they alone are given all of the praise and they are regarded as a genius by society. This is an expectation that no one can live up to. Take a look at JK Rowling’s success with the Harry Potter books. Now, no matter what she publishes, it will be compared to one of the most successful book series ever. It’s difficult to not fall short when the expectation is so high. I really like Elizabeth Gilbert’s suggestion that genius is not an internal thing that some artists possess, rather it is an external being that every so often decides to grace a human with a brief period of genius. I think this would help all creative people live happier lives, knowing that some aspects of their work are out of their control.
Comment #2: a new comment on your post "One Hundred and Twenty Seconds":
While I do agree broadly with what this author has to say, his list is completely compiled of plays only theater people are going to know, if even that. I think that this desire to have more diversity is a good impulse but I think that it can be misguided. Just wanting to have diversity for diversities sake is counter productive it will just mean that once the craze of being diverse is over none of the plays will stick. No one will feel they are meaningful or important to produce just that they were good to do to save face. This does not mean that there should not be diversity within seasons, people should strive to look for plays that are written from different perspectives because that will tell better stories to a broader audience. Companies should try to include everyone in the dialog that they are putting out into the world. And one would hope that what they are trying to say is broad enough to reach everyone.
Comment #3: a new comment on your post "Visual effects artists aim to create better work e...":
Amen Zoe! Her "zombie walks" remind me much of the runs around Purnell we take when pulling all nighters. Every hour, when the numbers are the same (1:11, 2:22, 3:33, 4:44, 5:55) we take a lap around the 3rd floor of Purnell in order to wake ourselves up. It works every time. I agree that there is absolutely no reason for people who slave so hard over special effects to have to do their work in a bad environment. I can't understand why anyone would treat the people that will most likely make their movie a hit like dirt.
Comment #4: a new comment on your post "Pyrotopia hopes to blaze trail for eastern fire-ar...":
Apparently no one else cares about this, but I'm going to post a follow up comment anyway. Pyrotopia was awesome. There was a variety of fire art, a really funny announcer, and a great overall atmosphere. The thing that impressed me the most was a musical-fire setup some genius designed. There was a square of four big flames on 7 foot...sticks...forgive me, I don't know pyro terms, and the 'player' stood inside the square, and hit pads that resembled the pads on an electric drumset. Each pad corresponded to a flame, and when pressed, the flame would go BOOM and become 8ft tall for a second and make a sweet sound. So the player pounds out a pattern...and then the machine repeated the pattern by itself, kind of like the programmable water fountain at phipps. I thought this was a really creative art piece that mixed fire with electrical looping equipment (again, don't know terms) and seemed pretty musical as well.
Comment #5: a new comment on your post "Artist Payments at Nonprofits, By the Numbers":
This is a wonderful argument. “Art is important”. A lot of most people will agree with that. “I am willing to pay out of my own pocket to support an artist.” Now that list becomes much shorter. I am curious about the patronage of arts. For many years it was the monarchy, the church or both. The state has produced some very substantial art. (19th century Russia being fine example) American artist are more the pay as you go kind of scheme, though we have created many great artist, they are often from poor up bringings. I am bewildered and the dichotomy of art and entertainment in our American society. People will pay cash money to see the pirates lose or Nickelback rock through their Wednesday night set but the true artists in Pittsburgh are indicative of the artist in NYC. “Starving”. I have yet to reach a suitable conclusion to this matter.