Space Opera

While traveling, Jean has a pretty hard time resisting flea markets, and some years ago, we stopped at one that gave me a particular amount of trouble. I prefer to avoid them since my common sense abandons me and I end up with odd things I end up wondering “what was I thinking?”  In any case, I emerged with 2 shopping bags full of trashy science fiction from the fifties, sixties and seventies, including a bunch of Ace doubles.  Ace doubles each generally had two novellas, which were printed from both ends of the book, meeting in the middle.  So each book had two lurid covers, with each side of the book being the front, the two books being upside down relative to each other.  Am I making sense? image of ace double I’m told that in book circles, this is referred to as “tête-bêche”, from the French, “head to toe”.

In any case, it was a lovable gimmick for Ace books, and there is some wonderful stuff in these things.  So I have two of the large paper shopping bags with the string handles full of these things, and I get a funny look from some other guy who was also dragged in by his wife. “It’s my retirement plan”,  I say.

image of space operaWell, this has nothing to do with Ace doubles, but I’ve been enjoying a 1965 Jack Vance novel from the retirement collection called “Space Opera”.  It would make a funny image of Marginalia in Space Oepramovie, set in a fifties sci-fi future with a Margaret Dumont character who wants to bring opera to alien races.  Vance has a gift for inventing cultures and the attitudes that go with them, so of course nothing goes as expected.

One of the previous owners of the book used the flyleaf to  make out a budget.  Maybe I’m more interested in budgets now that I don’t have a paycheck.  It lists Lazarus, a Columbus department store that was destroyed by Federated, but is still a household name in central Ohio. The list is a weird juxtaposition of 1965 reality with a nutty alien vision.   We have expenses for all the expected categories, including church and haircuts.  But I don’t see anything for, um, trashy science fiction…

 

Driving to the Moon

After months of a restructuring study, it can’t be good to find yourself scheduled for a meeting with your VP at 8:15 am on the first day back after a holiday weekend.  Ascending in the elevator, the today’s-the-day atmosphere was palpable.  I had a brief meeting with the VP and a lady from HR, and I am now retired as of the end of the month.

When asked what it is I do, I must admit I have a hard time summing up.  My job (former job) has evolved over many years in a surprisingly fertile corporate ecosystem, the product of which was “interactive media”.  Our shop developed world-class internal and external websites, had outstanding video production facilities and personnel; we produced around 40 live webcasts annually from a well-equipped in-house studio, hundreds of on-demand videos, tens of thousands of DVDs.  A talented graphics staff produces print materials and carefully branded graphic and animation elements for web and video.

My role in this began as a video producer long ago, as pretty much a one-man-shop for training and public affairs videos for our coal mining division. Over several years I moved from the coal business to utility operating company to the corporate center.  I managed the in-house corporate studio for several years from the U-Matic tape to Beta-SP days, and began using computer controlled editing and the fabled Video Toaster, and eventually began non-linear digital editing on the Immix VideoCube.

old mousepads

Fossil media mousepads from the tape-digital layer.

It was obvious that computers were the future of video production, and that formats, platforms, and standards would continually mutate; operating systems would ebb and flow in importance.  As the department grew, I increasingly  became the person dealing with file storage, hard drives, operating system and application issues, hardware compatibility, upgrade management, servers, and networks.  I bid content a fond farewell and embraced codecs, compression, archives, and workflow automation. I deployed video across our corporate intranet with Real then WinMedia then QuickTime, and, as soon as it supported multicast, H.264 with Flash Media Server.  I set up digital asset management with Canto Cumulus, then Extensis Portfolio. Video assets were backed up with Retrospect, then as assets reached terabytes, on a Quantum tape library using Archiware Presstore. I looked after the Win Media servers, then QuickTime Servers, and when those retired, I set up Flash Media Server on a virtual Win Server 2008 box. The stupid fun of the whole thing is that whatever you do, it will be out of date shortly; the platform will change, a new architecture will emerge, or you just outgrow an application.  I learned to edit with 16mm film; now I’m ready for H.265.

I’ve had a long commute since moving to the countryside with my wife in the 1990’s and have often reflected on the stupidity of driving that far to go to work. About a hundred miles a day!  Fortunately Jean and I have been able to drive together since we both have worked downtown for most of that time.  Anyway, in the idle moments, it occurred to me that I put on enough miles to drive to the moon, which I put at about 250,000 miles. (It’s less, Wikipedia says it averages 238,900 miles, but 250 thou is easier to work in your head.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo if I drive 100 miles a day, about 250 days per year, that’s 25,000 miles a year.  So in a mere 10 years, I get to the moon.  I started the long commute in 1993 or so, so by 2003, I was at the moon, and suppose I’ve been driving back ever since.  By the end of 2013, I’d be back in the Morrow County Spaceport.  But I’m a bit short of that, and seem to have fallen the last few miles.

Crash landing

I got a treadmill for Christmas, that, yes, I asked for.  So I’m trading one treadmill for another.  I seem to put in about 2 or 3 miles a day on it, in this fairly brutal winter of 2013.

schwinn treadmill

Perhaps some other celestial destination is in order.  The Space Station is only about 250 miles…I could be there in a few months!