Friday, August 12, 2011

I’m an old man: What I learned from Taylor Swift

I own copies of two Taylor Swift albums and a single. This is about as much as I own by any artist, excepting the Beatles. I'm pretty sure my liking for her music flies in the face of the stereotypes that are typically applied to me: most computer geeks don't (openly) listen to her, and I'm not sure that most men my age do, either. Despite the seeming incongruity, I love what she has done. She has a gift for melody and another for words. More importantly, her songs about love are usually about love and not lust - a sadly rare distinction but one that is very important to me.

As with the work of any artist, some of Taylor's works speak to me less than others. For example, I like that Mean fights back against abuse but think that the vengeful attitude it portrays won't solve the problem. I have a problem with The Way I Loved You because I've felt like the nice guy who finished last too many times. I don't really get the whole kissing in the rain thing (Taylor: feel free to contact me if you'd like to educate me). And some of her songs have rubbed me wrong because they are so wholly about emotion - and because they sometimes depict an unrealistic idea of emotional satisfaction. Being as left-brained as I am, this is fairly natural. But, at least in this last regard, I'm beginning to experience a change of heart.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Geeks in large groups

Three weeks ago, I attended CAV, an academic conference about formal verification (proving that computers actually do what we think they do). Yesterday, I attended a practice run for some of the talks that will be given at SIGGRAPH, a conference about computer graphics. Despite the fact that the two conferences treat very different topics, I had a very similar experience with both events. Some of my observations are of an academic nature. The rest are insights into geek culture.