Saturday, June 27, 2009

What a weekend!

I am very much enjoying being able to blog about something happy! Yeah, I still don't have a job and propects are looking pretty grim for ANY job (let alone teaching), but at least I'm doing some stuff I really enjoy! Today I had 2 rehearsals for "This is Kirtland!" which opens next week on July 2nd! When I first saw the schedule, I was dreading this day as we had a 9 AM rehearsal followed by a 4 PM rehearsal. I wasn't too happy about the gap between the two since it takes me almost an hour to get to Kirtland from Kent, so going back home and then having to go back seemed like a huge waste and there wasn't much to do around where the show is. I certainly wasn't going to go visit all the historical sites! Don't get me wrong, I LOVE visiting Historic Kirtland, but I've been through the tour so many times I can give it. Seriously. I did stop over since the weather was nice and got a few pictures of the buildings. I was kinda happy there wasn't anyone walking around so I got some great pictures! Well, not only was rehearsal not that bad (which has been the case pretty much the whole run) but in between the rehearsals, a member of the cast who lives relatively close to where we practice (the Kirtland LDS stake center) invited all of us over for a cookout and general hangout. It was such a great time and I had so much fun not only getting free food, but also getting to know the cast members more. We really have a fun cast, which has made going to rehearsals something I actually look forward to more this year than any previous year. I have always enjoyed the cast, though, but there's something different about this year. Oh, our second rehearsal, which was our first time in costumes, wasn't too bad either, though I DEFINITELY need suspenders. Hot, yes, but still went well overall AND I'm finally getting the difficult couples dance which has two lifts. YES!

I was a tad worried I'd get worn out today after staying out WAAAAY too late last night. I went with my dad, his fiance Lisa, and her two sons to the Akron Aeros game. The Aeros are the AA minor league affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. The game was entertaining (Aeros won 3-1) and then there was a fireworks show. The fireworks show was spectacular! I was impressed even for a minor league park. The sound system at Canal Park, however, leaves much to be desired. It is worse than most high school PA systems I have heard. We couldn't understand a word that was being said and the scoreboard, while nice, was not very informative past the current batter and the score. I'm definitely spoiled having gone to so many Indians games at Progressive Field. What a difference between the majors and the minors! Anyway, after the game I got talking to Dad and Lisa and we ended up talking until just past 3 AM. I guess that's what happens when you haven't talked much in the last month! Thankfully I was able to get up and leave on time this morning and really never felt that tired during the day. I also enjoyed getting the chance to catch up with Dad and Lisa.

I drove home after rehearsal today and am very excited for the show to open next week. Even today being in costume and having a one-row "audience" (some relatives of the cast) watching made it more than just a rehearsal. I love to perform and be on stage. I love making people smile and laugh too. I only wish I had more chances to be on stage and perform, but so far this is it and I'm definitely grateful for the opportunity. It's been a lot of fun (and a lot of driving!), even days like today where I leave home around 8 AM and don't get home until 9 PM. If you're going to be anywhere near Kirtland, Ohio in the next few weeks, we open July 2 and run every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday until July 18 (except July 4). Come see us!
P.S. Thanks to Laura Ebie for the awesome poster she made!!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Living in exile

One of the downsides of having lots of time is being able to really think about stuff maybe a little too much. It's been over a month since we moved, yet I'm still not totally over the move and what happened. As I said in an earlier post, it will be awhile before I'm really "over it." That's not to say it dominates my life right now, but it's never really far out of my thoughts. I've had frequent dreams we're still at the house packing with limited time or we're back there knowing it isn't our house anymore trying to get things we left there by accident. For people who have never gone through something like this, it is hard to understand why it was basically so traumatic to go through. On top of being thrown out of my own home of 26 years, I am someone who has great attachments to things, especially something that has been a part of me for so long. The fact that something so personal-- not only my house but my little area of the world, my refuge-- was taken from me without my consent makes it even worse. I now have a small idea of what it's like to be exiled.

That's not to say we were truly exiled, but in a way we were. We were forced out and cannot return. Of course we can go drive past it or even knock on the door, but that's it. It's not ours anymore. I have chosen to not even go into our old neighborhood, though I drive past it every once and awhile. The last two times I have driven past the road that goes into our old neighborhood I couldn't help but think about everything. The local Wal-Mart is nearly within viewing distance of our old house, close enough that when it opened in the mid 1990's we could ride our bikes there. So, when I have had to go to that store, I have to drive right past our old neighborhood. I try not to think about it all since I have other things to worry about-- mainly finding a job-- but inevitably I do and it's usually very painful feelings of sadness and anger. I am definitely learning a lot about the concept of forgiveness and it is not at all easy. Not only do I still harbor bad feelings towards the main culprits, GMAC, but also most everyone involved: the real estate agent and most certainly our ex-neighbors who bought the house. True, they were just "doing their job" but so were the Nazi death camp guards. So yeah, I basically all consider them as accomplices, so I really don't have more animosity towards one than the other. In the end, the almighty dollar soundly defeated humanity yet again. I do think not having to deal with them on a personal basis has made it harder to move on. I really don't have such feeling towards my dad even though he arguably played as much a role in this as anyone. The difference is that I still see and talk to dad, so moving on has been much easier. On top of that he actually has expressed remorse for what happened and actually helped us move. The same cannot be said for the other parties involved.

So yeah, this blog is helping me express my feelings about the whole thing and hopefully move on. I've decided the only way I will ever set foot in my old neighborhood again is if I am buying our old house back. Going back now would be far too painful, especially since I haven't moved into my own place yet, so I have nothing to say "well, I'm better off now than when we lived there." I think here I just need some time and some positive experiences to really help me move on and "get over it."

Monday, June 22, 2009

History tidbit

As I mentioned before, I've been reading up on the history of Kent, Ohio, my hometown. I've found for a relatively small town (2007 population just over 28,000), it has a very interesting and colorful history and that's WAY before probably the most visible time of Kent's history, the Kent State shootings in 1970. One thing I thought was not only interesting but a little cool was reading about someone I happen to know personally in the history of Kent. This comes from the book Kent, Ohio: The Dynamic Decades, which was written by the Kent Historical Society. It is basically a continuation of the History of Kent by Karl Grismer, which covers from the beginning of Kent up until 1931. This book picks up around that time and ends in 1999. From page 162 in the section "Television in Kent: Channels 45 & 49, WNEO and WEAO":

"Hiring qualified television personnel was central to their plans. In 1960, Barton Derby was hired as Kent State University's first full-time broadcast engineer, a position that was critically needed for equipment and studio design decisions."

"In the late 1960's [Dr. Phillip A.] Macomber, with the help of Barton Derby, prepared an application for an operating license for a television station."

For those who don't know, Barton Derby is my grandpa, whom I am currently living with. He's pretty into history as well, so we have had a few discussions about the history of Kent and shared some of our resources. I asked him about this whole episode the book describes about applying for a license and the ultimate result being a consortium with Kent State, the University of Akron, and Youngstown State. Akron filed their request for a license right after Kent did, and according to my grandpa, just to keep KSU from getting it. As a result, he continues to have a low opinion of Akron to this day. While the consortium still exists, both YSU and Akron dropped their production studios by the early 1990's and the main studios for the stations, now known as Western Reserve Public Media, are in Kent.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Wikipedia junkie

Since I currently have waaaay too much time on my hand being out of school and unemployed, I have taken up many of my hobbies that I've let slide while focusing on school. Mostly I've really dived into history, particularly local history, reading two books I bought about the history of Kent. It's been fun reading them and learning new things. Along with that I've been going around town to take pictures of certain historical sites (when the weather is nice of course) and then uploading them into Wikipedia articles. Most of you know I am a total Wikipedia junkie. I love to read the articles and edit them, but I especially love to start new articles and expand them. On Wikipedia, they keep track of how many edits I've made ever and my total is approaching 3,000. I first registered back in October 2005, though I probably made some anonymous edits before then. That's cool and all, though I know some users that have somewhere around 50,000 edits to their name. That's some serious editing! I tend to edit in spurts; that is, I'll go through a period where I hardly make any edits and then I'll start making a ton of edits, several of which will be large.

Lately I've been working on articles related to the history of Kent mostly and then making edits as needed on other pages. Most of my edits on other pages are cosmetic (like removing large gaps in the text) or organizational like adding subheadings, breaking up paragraphs, or rewriting poorly written sections. The biggest problem on Wikipedia is the inclusion of material that is unsourced or worse, copyrighted. People will just cut and paste large sections of websites or use copyrighted photos and logos and not even think about it. As a result, many articles are less than neutral and too many have erroneous information or outrageous claims. I try to remove stuff like that or find a source to back up a claim. Sometimes the source is biased too, so you have to watch for truly neutral, third-party sources.

If you'd like to see some of the articles I've been working on, here they are. Many, if not all, of the pictures in each article were taken by me at some point and I have pictures in many places on Wikipedia. Here are my most recent projects:
Of course these are hardly all of them, but just the ones I've devoted the most time to lately. On my Wikipedia user page, you can see a list of all the pages I started and a list of many of the articles I have edited. At the bottom of that page is a small sample of images I have submitted. Most of my images, however, are on Wikimedia Commons, a sister project for the storage of public domain images. I have a very short user page there, but visit my gallery instead. It's a few pages long, so be ready! I still need to move several images from Wikipedia to the Commons. It's better there because they can be used in things besides the English language Wikipedia and it's easier to categorize them.

Anyway, I spent much of today editing the article on my high school, Theodore Roosevelt High School. I had spent some time the other day expanding the article's history sections, campus sections, and academics sections, but today I dealt with two editors who were making a mountain out of a molehill. It was insane and part of it was my stubbornness, but most of it was knowing that I did have experience editing on Wikipedia, while these two editors did not. Eventually it got to the point where one editor (who works for Kent Schools) just couldn't take my detailed explanations why I was reverting his edits while the other just started being disruptive. The guy who was a Kent Schools employee had the audacity to say it was my "ego" when he was the one who insisted on making changes that weren't needed or helpful and were trivial at best. True, I could've bowed just as easily and nothing would've come of it, but I had my reasons for standing my ground. It was very bizarre. Finally some experienced editors came and helped me out and gave us all some suggestions. I'm fairly experienced, but I'm not one to dismiss those who have even more experience than me. It's been weird. The Roosevelt article was the very first article I started way back in '05 and I've been the one who's been expanding and editing it almost exclusively since. All of the sudden in this last week there's this barrage of new editors who want to make a whole bunch if changes, hardly any for the better and most of them were trivial changes that didn't need to be made at all. It's nice to see more editors, but when they're all new and they have no idea about Wikipedia guidelines and standards, their excitement usually leads to poor edits that someone else has to fix. And in cases like this, an edit war ensues since the new guy feels like you're just being territorial and doesn't understand why he can't add whatever he wants and you won't let him do it.

I especially love when someone who is directly connected to the article topic (like the school employee today) tries to chime in and act like they have some sort of authority. They think because the article is about their employer, they have more say in what is published and how. Unfortunately for them, the articles are simply about a specific topic; they aren't in any way property or managed by that specific entity (like a school). Wikipedia has a policy against conflict of interest, so people with very close ties (like employees or family members and individuals in the case of biographical articles) have to be careful how much and how they edit. In reality, all editors are at an equal level, but those with very close ties to the subject actually have less say on Wikipedia due to conflict of interest.

When I first started on Wikipedia, I was totally one of those people who thought it was my duty to add whatever I knew to articles, even things that really weren't that important. I would add all sorts of trivial and unsourced information only to have experienced editors eventually remove it. What I learned is that just because I know something, doesn't mean it's important enough to be in an article and if I can't find a reliable source for it, how can anyone verify that what I say is actually true beyond my word? I do my best to only add things with a reliable, third-party source and I'm always checking sources on other people's additions to articles. Too often, a source will be listed that doesn't support the claim it's supposed to, or the source is from a site that isn't reliable (like another wiki-type site or a fan site). It's always fun too to find an article that was written by high school students. They're pretty easy to spot. I usually have to do some major re-writes to give it some structure and variety.

Oh, and for people who think you can't trust anything on Wikipedia, you have to know how to recognize good and bad articles just like with any source. You have to look at how many sources are used in an article and what kinds, which can be found at the end of every article. There are also tags placed on pages by editors to let readers know about problems within an article as well as a ratings system for every article found in the "discussion" tab at the top. Pretty much every article rated "good" and especially "featured" is as good as (if not better than) any article about the topic you will find even in a published encyclopedia. Even the poor articles are many times great places to start as they will have some basic info and useful links to relevant sites.