31 Mar 2003

Another helicopter went down (for

Another helicopter went down (for "undetermined reasons") in southern Iraq, killing three of our marines. Seriously, should we be using these things? I've lost track of how many we've managed to crash by now (six?), but I know the human losses have been significant (thirty? forty?), and this is ridiculous. Have we even lost that many men in the actual fighting? By now, probably, but still, wow.

And here's a delightful little story, hidden as a quiet little paragraph in the middle of a story from the LA Times:

During Sunday's encounter, a car approached a U.S. checkpoint along a road outside the city. This time, airborne commanders said, American troops spotted three armed men inside and called in a mortar attack. One round destroyed the car and killed the men.
This is after a car bomb the previous day had killed four US soldiers (and one suicide bomber). At first, it seems pretty straightforward: our military is defending itself. But... they saw armed men in a car? Yeah, no kidding, I'd be surprised if there was anyone around there that wasn't armed. But more importantly: they saw three armed men in a car? What? Suicide bombers don't come in threes! They send in the minimal number of people to staff each bomb, usually one, occasionally two for really complicated stuff. But a simple car bomb only needs one. Those weren't suicide bombers. But even that isn't directly relevant: the US has now established that it believes it has the right to lob artillery at and utterly destroy stuff for any reason at all. "We thought it was a carful of suicide bombers."


On a slightly lighter note, I was amused at the byline on this article. Usually they put a city there, like "WASHINGTON", or "NETANYA, Israel". Here, they put "WITH U.S. FORCES IN IRAQ". God only knows where.

"It's not PDA! We weren't making out, we were just french kissing. And it wasn't public, it was on a bus." --Carly Robinson

Posted by blahedo at 9:31am | Comments (0)

It's snowing outside. Surely the

It's snowing outside. Surely the calendar is off by a day.

"If I were him and somebody gave me a chance to be me, I'd be a lot more excited than *that*." --Lincoln Pierce, 'Big Nate'

Posted by blahedo at 8:14am | Comments (0)

30 Mar 2003

Learning to knit

Theresa taught me how to knit today! Also we watched Dave, which remains a great movie.

"I've figured it out. Here in Rhode Island, people are catching all the Rs people are dropping up in Boston. They're all up there pahking their cah, and the Rs migrate down here so my landlord calls me Thereser." --Theresa Ross

Posted by blahedo at 10:10pm | Comments (0)

28 Mar 2003

I have three thoughts for

I have three thoughts for the day. First of all, it's official: I just signed my contract with Knox College, and am an employee thereof as of 1 September this year.

Second, Richard Stallman is an interesting person with interesting ideas, but a terrible public speaker. He has a hard time staying on topic and keeping his talk to a reasonable time, rambling off on semi-relevant topics. He does speak without aids or notes, though, which is kind of impressive.

Finally, I have said for a while that 21 is the last relevant birthday before 30; to the extent that I often had to stop and think for a second when asked how old I was. It's just that the difference between 22 and 23 is so minimal as to be unnoticeable. But I was wrong about it being the last before 30: 25 is also a relevant and rememberable one, because at that age you can rent a car, and on another level, it puts you more than halfway through your twenties. Odd.

"Dictators have an uncanny habit of not dying from natural causes." --Adam Hirsch

Posted by blahedo at 6:52pm | Comments (0)

27 Mar 2003

Ugh. The Palatine High School

Ugh. The Palatine High School choirs and bands were planning a senior trip this year to New York around Memorial Day; students had been saving up for years for this thing. And they had paid their money in, gotten their itineraries and everything.

When the war started, the school decided to forbid the groups to fly. And they wouldn't give them an extra day off school to take the train. In fact, they're probably just going to cancel the trip.

And keep the money.

Some things they can get refunds on, like the plane tickets. That money they're just keeping outright. Other things they can't, like the $80-a-head tickets to see Lion King on Broadway, and they're going to donate them to the Make-a-Wish Foundation to get a tax writeoff.

I'm hearing this via my sister Kathy, whose boyfriend Ryan is getting jacked on this along with a bunch of her other friends; last year they did the same thing (cancelled a trip to New York), but they did it right after 9/11, so the money hadn't been paid up yet and they had time to plan a trip to St Louis. It's not clear whether this year's seniors will get any trip at all, but they've made it pretty clear that they aren't getting their money back in any case.

I can just barely understand that the school is able to do this---although the students are contributing all their own funds, they're technically travelling in the school's name---but it's difficult to see why they would, and it's unfathomable to me that they have the right to keep the money anyway, or to unilaterally donate all the Lion King tickets and keep the tax writeoff. I think the kids should contact a lawyer. How completely obnoxious.

"It's not so difficult---[Bush] does what rich people want, and he does what ignorant, violent people want. So he has lots of money and a huge constituency." --Michael Kimmitt

Posted by blahedo at 11:39pm | Comments (0)

Québec notes

To all those people who thought we'd go sweep through Iraq, shoot Saddam, and bring democracy to this poor beleaguered nation, I have to say We Told You So... and it still sickens us to be right.

Anyway, about my trip. I've spent the last few days up in Québec. In fact, I'm typing this on Tuesday night in a youth hostel in Québec City, although I won't be able to post it until I get back. That's because I have no internet access, which is a little weird for me, along with no phone access, which is weirder. Nice, though.

Theresa and I arranged to leave on Saturday at about noon, which we hit pretty well---we left my house at 12:10, stopped at the biomed center to pick up her hat, and then hopped onto I-95 north. Amazingly, despite not starting packing until 11 that morning, I managed to forget nothing more crucial than a belt. Anyway, we cruised up to the New Hampshire border, stopped for lunch at a lovely little Italian diner called Luisa's in, I think, Londonderry (and also stopped at the Ben Franklin next door). I took over driving and continued north.

Driving a Volvo is pretty neat; a big change from my little Prizm. See, Volvos are sturdy cars, with heavy steel frames and solid construction. You have much more of a feel of piloting the thing down the highway than in other cars, and where they have good pickup you get this sense that it's entirely due to having a huge engine under the hood, rather than being a small, zippy little car. It's pretty cool.

(I'm sitting here in the lounge of the hostel, and a guy just walked in with an iPod he plugged in to recharge. I actually saw the charger first, and recognised it and laughed, then saw the iPod itself. Theresa noticed and asked me a question about my iPod, which brought the guy into the conversation. His name is Hervé, and he's from Strasbourg. He's teaching French at Oberlin for a few years before going back to France to teach high school. He has an iBook, and I think I just talked him into getting a wireless card for it.)

A little after Burlington, VT, we stopped again to put some gas in the car and feed Theresa's caffeine habit, then continued on. We crossed the border with no fuss (we had our passports out and didn't even need them; the border guard did ask if we had alcohol, which was ok to bring in but apparently we weren't supposed to tell him it was a gift), and continued on to Montreal.

Now, let me explain the situation. We had an address in Montreal, and we had one of those little four-inch inset city maps that are around the edge of a larger map (in this case of Québec and the Atlantic Provinces). We also knew that the address was somewhere near McGill University. How hard could that be? Theresa seemed confident in my ability to remember the city I'd last visited in 1998, to go to a conference. Ack! Oddly enough, I actually put us on exactly the right road---Rue Sherbrooke---as stopping at a gas station confirmed, and we found the apartment with no further event.

The apartment wasn't locked (you've seen Bowling for Columbine, right?), and we went up. Our host wasn't there, but one of her housemates was, and he'd been told to entertain us until we got back. So he showed us around and took us up to the kitchen, where he did his laundry and chatted with us. Now, let me explain that I was there because I was Theresa's friend, and Colleen is one of Theresa's best friends from home, and Shannon is Colleen's sister who goes to McGill. All of Shannon's housemates were nice and welcoming and everything; how much better does it get?

That night, we went out to the Shed Cafe for dinner, which was excellent; we took a cab back to the apt and were going to go out again, but we had inertia and basically just sat around talking, and doing a crossword puzzle, until two in the morning, when we got out our stuff and went to bed.

In the morning, Theresa and I got up and went to Mary Queen of the World church---rather, to Marie, Reine de la Monde; it was in French. I love that stuff. I followed a surprising amount of it, and occasionally leaned over to fill Theresa in. I'm a little mad that I neglected to pick up a little booklet with the mass music in it---I'd actually looked for it, didn't see it, and assumed that the music would be in the books in the pews---but at least the books in the pews had the order of the mass, with all the prayers and responses and stuff. Fantastic.

Afterwards, Colleen met us and we went across the street to this weird mall-tunnel thing (most of the stores had storefronts on the street, but were connected inside; it was kind of like a one-storey mall, but not exactly), where we went to a restaurant called Marché Mövenpick... it was so cool. You get a card they call your "passport", then you go around to all these stations where you get food and they stamp the passport with what you got. You can eat for a while, then go get more, and at the end you pay for all the things that got stamped. There is a whole station for coffee, one for crepes and waffles, another for pastries, one for salady sorts of things, and a bunch more for all sorts of different things. Not cheap, but not terribly expensive, either, and I highly recommend it.

After that, we wandered down to the Vieux Port, where we did a little window shopping and just admired the architecture and the cobblestone streets and such. Then we turned up Rue Bonsecours, which turns into Rue St Denis, a great little street where we got coffee (which I ordered in French, go me) and did more rubbernecking before returning to the apartment. We had originally intended to continue on to Québec that night, but Shannon asked us if we wanted to stay; we considered it, and ultimately I realised that I'd much rather drive to and arrive in Québec while it was light out (this, in retrospect, was an excellent idea). So we stayed.

Theresa and I went to an Afghan restaurant about a mile east of there, which was excellent. It's a lot like Indian food, with similar names and similar dishes; a little less spicy, and just plain different in some ways, but good. The sauce they served with the appetisers was amazing, so much so that we asked after it and bought a whole jar of it (they don't normally do that, but for just C$15 a jar they could just about create an export market for the stuff). I gather that it's relatively new, but it was shockingly empty; if you go to Montreal, I highly recommend tracking down this place and going there.

After we got back, we sat down with everyone and watched the Oscars. Not as political as I expected, but still worth watching (boy, did Michael Moore ever get them riled up). Steve Martin had just the right level of funny, and the organisers kept things moving. Interesting that there were five awards to people who weren't there to accept them. To be fair, one had died---and his son definitely gave the best speech of the evening, though Peter O'Toole's was pretty good too. Nicole Kidman looked uncharacteristically terrible---her hair was too light and in a bad-for-her do, the dress was unflattering, and her arms looked downright skinny. Her incoherence on getting the award didn't help things, though of course I can't blame her for that part. And I'm pleased that she got an award, though I haven't yet seen The Hours. (I will now, eh). I do think Queen Latifah should've gotten Best Supporting over Catherine Zeta-Jones, though. After the Oscars, I stuck around for awhile and tasted a bit of the fast food the guys had ordered---called 'poutine', this is essentially french fries baked in gravy with a layer of cheese on top, quite good; did I mention these friends-of-the-sister-of-my-friend's-friend were nice?---and went to bed.

In the morning, we got up, packed up, and left. I drove us out of Montreal (making a coffee stop on the way) and onto Autoroute 40 to Québec. My iPod's car adapter celebrated its inaugural trip with first a mix of country music and then a Paul Simon mix that carried us into Québec. We had better maps this time, so despite having some one-way issues we found the youth hostel with no great incident. It's right up in the old city, inside the walls, close to everything. We got a two-bed room for C$50 a night, so that's about US$16 per person per night, not bad at all. We headed back out to wander around the city for a while, in a sort of adirectional way, vaguely looking for food. A few hours later we decided that we'd start seriously looking for food and eventually that we'd take the next food place we found even if it was more expensive or not exactly what we were looking for, and it turned out to be both cheap and exactly what we were looking for: the Casse-Crêpe Breton served up savoury crepes for about four dollars each.

After we ate, we headed back up the hill to the Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral, which was in a completely different style from the Montreal cathedral---much more gold leaf and such. There was an exhibit on Monseigneur de Montmorency-Laval, the first bishop of New France, who was beatified in 1980 and is awaiting canonisation. Between his two names, he contributed the names for about fifty or sixty things throughout the province, including a town, a university, and a bunch of streets, rivers, and lakes.

At this point, we headed back to the hostel and signed up for the tour that was starting later, and then went out to get coffee. At about 7 we realised that we hadn't eaten dinner, so we each bought a muffin (I ordered in French again, go me) and went back.

(CNN's reporting just included a summary of recent political cartoons, one of which was apparently captioned "Boy, I hope they don't come to liberate us!" I laughed.)

The tour was given by a German woman named Sieglinde, in both French and English, a linguistic feat that rather impressed me. The tour itself took us all around both the Haute-Ville and the Basse-Ville, the former being the walled portion atop the cliff and the latter being the even older original settlement at its base. We took the ferry across the Fleuve St Laurent and back, and then walked up the hill and finally back to the hostel. Theresa and I both pretty much collapsed in bed at the late, late hour of 10pm.

This morning we got up at 8 and had breakfast at the hostel while deciding how to plot out the day. First, we hit the Musée de la Civilisation, which was free because it was a Tuesday, and had a few nifty exhibits; the one about the Amerindians was good, as was the one that was everything you ever wanted to know about skin, and the really big one about the history of Québec. The strangest part was an apparently well-established local art form that has very blocky ceramic human figures; at first it seemed like clumsy children's art, but it soon became clear that it was old and consistent.

We stopped briefly in the church of Notre-Dame-le-something on the Place Royale; it was apparently the oldest church in Québec, and among the oldest in North America. Very small and cosy, more of a parish church than any of the others we'd seen. We continued down the rue to a little shop where we bought lunch---soup and (for me) a ham croissant, plus of course coffee---and then some sweets, which were expensive but good.

(More "friendly fire". If I haven't lost count, the ratio of US-UK forces killed by other US-UK forces to those killed by Iraqi forces is something like 15:1. Lovely.)

We took the funiculaire up the cliff and then walked around the fortress walls, getting some nice views but mostly wet feet---you'd think they'd shovel the walk, no?---before proceeding down to the Musée des Urulines, a museum attached to the cloister of Ursuline nuns right in the heart of the old city. Interesting place, and they had a whole room on the sacred art created by the Ursulines; when you are a member of a semi-contemplative order, you have a lot of time for stuff like that, and the artwork is beautiful in addition to being very technically demanding. Interesting history, too; despite being a cloistered order, they have an educational mission, taking in girls and giving them both a religious and a secular education. The first religious order of women to be "implanted" in the province, they started teaching French boarders and day students as well as a number of native girls, starting in the early 17th century. Wow!

Having done everything planned for the day, we decided to head back to the hostel to chill for a while. And here I am! More later.

"I think I can see some senators out there; I think I see some members of Congress, and I think I see a President of the United States of America. Pursue public service---it makes all the difference." --Janet Reno

After I wrote that, we stayed at the hostel a while and then went out to get dinner; there's a Lebanese place on Rue d'Auteuil that serves wraps of high quality for cheap, a lot like East Side Pockets in Providence. Afterwards we read for a while and then went to bed.

This morning, we got up, checked out, and went on a quest for yarn shops that Theresa had tracked down via her knitting mailing list. One had closed down, but the second one we tried was a cute little shop called La Dauphine at the west end of Québec just before Sainte-Foy. The shopkeeper spoke a bit of English but was vastly more comfortable in French, so I did a fair bit of translating for Theresa, and held a great conversation about why we were there, where we were from, relative merits of the vacation systems at Brown and at Université Laval, and various other things, all of which I did in French, which she complimented. Best Canada experience ever.

On our way out of the Québec City area, we looked at the map and realised that since it was basically straight north of Boston, the route through Maine was probably more direct and in any case vastly more scenic (boy howdy), not to mention that I'd never been to Maine before. So we went that way. The border crossing was tiny, but enough to have a duty-free shop at which to spend the rest of our Canadian money and our tax refunds (I got a keychain and a shotglass). And then we were on an amazingly scenic road in Maine that paralleled a partially frozen river. Absolutely stunning.

Round about Augusta, there was a split in the road---we could turnpike our way down to Portland, or take 95, which had the benefit of being more direct as well as cheaper. And it went through Brunswick. Brunswick, ME is the home of Bowdoin College, and not incidentally of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain; he was the president of the college when the Civil War broke out, and he left to lead Maine's volunteers for the war, eventually commanding the left flank at Gettysburg and distinguishing himself there. Theresa had been there before, but it was basically on our way, so we stopped there. We found a really cute little bookstore named Gulf of Maine, which tragically has no internet presence, but check it out if you're in the area; and then we ate at a restaurant called The Great Impasta, where I had a really tasty seafood lasagna.

And with that, we headed finally home. Where I discovered that I had not only neglected to mention the upcoming trip to Canada on the blog, but also sort of forgot to tell my mom or anyone back home that I was leaving for five days, totally incommunicado. If I'd realised that, I would've been a lot more concerned with calling home from Canada! Oops.

"We cannot continue to be a strong, vital, vigorous nation when only 20-30% of our people go to the polls." --Janet Reno

Posted by blahedo at 12:18am | Comments (0)

21 Mar 2003

ARGH. I had bought lunch,

ARGH. I had bought lunch, brought it up to my office, and taken exactly one bite before remembering it was Friday---and it was a ham and turkey sandwich. Had I remembered before I got up here, or even just before I'd unwrapped it and taken a bite, I could've just given it to one of the homeless folks that reside on Thayer Street, and gotten something else. But as it was, I would've had to throw it out, and I hate being wasteful. So I ate it. And it didn't even taste good, then. Why couldn't I have remembered after I'd eaten it? :P

(For those unfamiliar, not eating meat on Fridays during Lent is a suggestion/command for Catholics. Some take it more seriously than others, obviously, but I've been trying to follow it. And no, to forestall the inevitable objection, I don't think I'm a bad person or going to hell or anything so cliché now, but it's still really annoying.)

"All punishment is arbitrary, or has the potential to be arbitrary... and with the death penalty, you can't take it back." --Janet Reno

Posted by blahedo at 12:18pm | Comments (0)

Recap: Serbia had its prime


  • Serbia had its prime minister assassinated, and is turning into a police state with over a thousand arrests connected to the murder
  • Central African Republic was taken over in a coup by a top general, possibly with assistance from neighbouring Chad
  • North Korea has stepped up its threats, done missile tests, and generally tried to beat its chest and scare us
  • Zimbabwe had a national strike and threats of a repeat, and nearly half its population goes hungry from famine
  • Venezuela is finally off-strike, but the overall situation continues to degrade
  • Israel's economy continues to suck, they continue to do nasty things to Palestinians, and we continue to bail them out with billions of dollars in aid
  • Hong Kong has been hit with a new and deadly... something... that the doctors can't even explain, which is spreading in a big way to Vietnam and Guangdong province, and has been detected in Canada, US, and UK
  • The UK's governing bodies are having a rocky time of it as top ministers resign and the prime minister tries to fight an unpopular war
  • The US is facing huge war protests, some turning violent and leading to the arrests of thousands
  • And, of course, Iraq is being invaded and its civilian population is dying, so that W can get his hands on more oil.
Not exactly a good couple of weeks, huh?

"The most difficult balance to strike is the balance that must be struck in time of war or time of peace, the balance between liberty and security." --Janet Reno

Posted by blahedo at 3:43am | Comments (0)

20 Mar 2003

My laptop is on its

My laptop is on its way to Boston right now, to assist Dave in giving his presentation. Apparently Shriram's is on the blink, crashing randomly, and we don't have any department laptops for this sort of thing. So I set him up on mine and sent him off. Being away from my laptop for so long is scaaaaaary!

"Ladies and gentlemen, we can protect our security at the same time as we protect our great blessings of freedom for posterity, and it doesn't have to be either-or if we do it right." --Janet Reno

Posted by blahedo at 1:01pm | Comments (0)

19 Mar 2003

And awaaaaaay we go.... "If

And awaaaaaay we go....

"If the war's supporters can't stand the fact the people of Europe have their own minds, how much more contemptuously will they regard the will of the people in the Arab world? Am I supposed to believe people who want European leaders to defy 80 and 90 percent of their populations are concerned about democracy?" --Brian Rainey

Posted by blahedo at 11:35pm | Comments (0)

I'm not a militarist---that is,

I'm not a militarist---that is, I don't know much about military deployments, and what you might call the technical details of war. So I can't verify that what the BBC reports in this article is true, but it certainly sounds plausible. In which case... what are we doing? It's bad enough that we're going to go to war, but how much worse that we might manage to bungle the job! The silver-lining part of my brain is telling me that a badly-run war might finally burst Bush's weird popularity bubble, but the rest of me cringes in horror that it might come to that.

"We cannot base our military strategy on the assumption that Saddam is weak and at the same time justify pre-emptive action on the claim that he is a threat." --Robin Cook

Posted by blahedo at 9:44am | Comments (0)

17 Mar 2003


"DO NOT DESTROY OIL WELLS"??? Does he even care how transparent he sounded? This statement was greeted by raucous laughter by the 500 or so people... hm, I should back up.

Tonight, Janet Reno gave a lecture here at Brown. There was, predictably, a packed house to hear her, and the line when I arrived at 6:15 (the talk was at 7:30) was already a couple hundred people long. Just before she was to speak, they announced a format change: instead of an hour-long talk, she'd just give a half-hour speech, then they'd display the President's speech live on the screen there in Salomon, then we'd go to fifteen minutes or so of questions.

It was a frustrating talk to listen to. She may once have been an excellent public speaker, but she seemed to have a lot of difficulty tonight; she clasped her hands or gripped the podium most of the time so that they wouldn't shake, and her speaking was definitely suffering as well. She kept losing her train of thought in mid-sentence, putting emphasis on strange parts of the sentence, totally forgetting details like Yaser Hamdi's name (which must have been in her notes, but she went off-notes a few times, and I wonder if she was having a hard time reading them). She also repeated herself a lot. She certainly had the strength of her convictions, though, a passionate belief in freedom of speech, privacy, and the importance of an informed populace.

At 8 we broke for W's little speech. It was good to watch it with a crowd---there was a palpable air of "did he really just say that?" A few times there was nervous laughter as he said something that was just too outrageous to be believed (of which "do not destroy oil wells" was but the most egregious). Predictably but depressingly, he lied to the populace several times, as when he claimed that France had declared its intent to veto any resolution that asked Iraq to disarm, when of course it had done no such thing (it was rather only going to vote against a resolution to send the US to go "peacekeep", or whatever we're calling it these days). He moved on to the second half of his speech, which was purportedly to the Iraqi people, who were listening "in a translated radio broadcast"---as if the Iraqi government would translate his subsequent remarks accurately, or at all---and gives instructions on what to do when we invade their country, namely that they should let us. This was, of course, propaganda directed at Americans, who can now feel guilt-free about the war: "well," they can say, "Bush told them we wouldn't hurt them if they would only throw down their weapons and follow our instructions." Of course, we've been there before, and the Iraqis would be stupid to believe us this time around (assuming they could even hear).

Perhaps he had some hope that they would actually hear what he said, hence the "do not destroy oil wells" command. Where some other statements got some nervous laughter from some of the audience, this was greeted with loud, raucous laughter from all present. Simply unbelievable.

I would like to warn the world of the consequences of letting Bush get away with invading Iraq, but someone else said it better:

The cause of peace requires all free nations to recognize new and undeniable realities. In the 20th century, some chose to appease murderous dictators whose threats were allowed to grow into genocide and global war. In this century, when evil men plot chemical, biological and nuclear terror, a policy of appeasement could bring destruction of a kind never before seen on this earth.
I suppose I should maybe cite the speaker of that quotation. That would be W, towards the end of his speech, about an hour and a half ago. Funny how that works.

After the speech, there was a dull shock and dead silence for a moment. The dénouement was bound to be banal, but I have to say that Ms Reno did a lot better with the off-the-cuff questions. One of which, I'm proud to say, was from me: I commented that a lot of government groups---and their records---had been merged under the Department of Homeland Security, and I asked her whether that was a net plus or minus, what the privacy implications might be, and generally what she thought of it. She said that she was particularly concerned about the role of the CIA in the new Department. "We are a nation that doesn't like to be spied on," she said, "especially by our own agencies." She further commented that we, the people, need to be vigilant and ensure that the DHS doesn't abuse its powers.

And that's about all. I still can't believe he said "do not destroy oil wells."

I don't care
if you really care
as long as you don't go. --The Cardigans, "Lovefool"

Posted by blahedo at 9:54pm | Comments (0)

Like rats from a sinking

Like rats from a sinking ship...

"God forgive me, but Isaac was really a bit of a schmuck." --Fr Henry Bodah

Posted by blahedo at 2:18pm | Comments (0)

We tend to think of

We tend to think of South Africa as a relatively backwards, bigoted place sometimes---apartheid wasn't that long ago---but then they go and do something like this. The US still has much too much prejudice floating around to do anything similar, at least as a whole country (individual states are another story, of course).

Oh, and it looks like the war with Iraq is going to start any minute now. I've got my black armband made and ready to go; do you have yours?

"'Satellite' is like my favourite song ever, except for a few other ones." --Rebecca Santoro

Posted by blahedo at 9:48am | Comments (0)

14 Mar 2003

I am now the proud

I am now the proud owner of a brand new 10G iPod. Words simply cannot describe my coolness.

"I was under the impression [Bush] was fairly up front about his advisor-happy leadership style. If I didn't horribly disagree with his basic goals, I'd probably find it commendable." --Jonathan Prykop

Posted by blahedo at 2:01pm | Comments (0)

13 Mar 2003

I should not be afraid

I should not be afraid to use my computer. I should not have to worry that if the hard drive runs out of space, I'll lose files that are already safely ensconced on it. It is a basic notion of software engineering that you don't remove the old version until you're sure the new version is saved. That's something I expect out of a class project, and you better believe I expect it in production software.

Which is why it's so desperately frustrating that so much of Apple's software seems to violate these expectations. I have now lost all the comments I typed into iTunes, my entire calendar that I'd stored in iCal, and 40 photos off my camera with iPhoto. I've posted complaints, as non-nasty as I could bear to make them, in the Apple discussion forums; we'll see how that goes.

"It's wishful thinking to hope that American fascism will be anywhere near as stylish as conventional fascism. I see a future filled with red white and blue jumpsuits." --Jonathan Prykop

Posted by blahedo at 11:48am | Comments (0)

12 Mar 2003

I went to daily Mass

I went to daily Mass today. I can't even put into words why, but I just really wanted to do that before I called in my acceptance. It's a lot of things, I suppose; this job is quite potentially the only real job I will ever hold, and I may well hold it for upwards of forty years. The decision to take it is Significant. And as I was at Mass, my thoughts were running to things like the worldwide-ness of the Church, and the fact that it is one of the most---perhaps the most---ancient institution in the world, and I'm part of it. So maybe that's why. I dunno. I'm glad I did, though.

Also, I called in my acceptance. It's official. (Well, technically I guess it's not official until I sign the contract, which I'll get in a few days, but you know what I mean.)

"I am absolved of my sins every time I clear my browser history." --Sam Walker

Posted by blahedo at 12:45pm | Comments (0)

And today, because two regions

And today, because two regions of instability weren't enough for the world, Serbian prime minister Zoran Djinjic was assassinated. It's difficult to fathom the mindset of a person that would kill the man largely responsible for stabilising the country and improving its economy and the quality of life of its citizens.


"The Creator definitely intended for breakfast cereals to only be brown." --Winona LaDuke

Posted by blahedo at 10:52am | Comments (0)

11 Mar 2003

I sent out an email

I sent out an email about ten minutes ago mentioning that I got the job, and I've already gotten five congratulations, two by phone, one in person, and two by email. Talk about living in the digital information age.

Another email arrived as I was typing this. I love it.

"There is a direct correlation between the development of the United States and the underdevelopment of Native America." --Winona LaDuke

Posted by blahedo at 3:02pm | Comments (0)

I just received an offer

I just received an offer for the position of Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Knox College in Galesburg, IL. For form's sake I didn't accept immediately, but I'm having a difficult time envisioning possible worlds where I didn't accept it. I suppose maybe I should wait for the email with details to arrive before I call to accept the offer.


"Sacajawea and Pocahontas---why is it that Americans know those two? Those would be the helping-out-white-guys women, hmm?" --Winona LaDuke

Posted by blahedo at 2:37pm | Comments (0)

Note to self and all

Note to self and all programmers: if you have a memory leak, and you are using inheritance anywhere, make certain that your destructors are virtual. Stupid C++.

By the way, the last few and next few quotes are from a talk I went to last Monday by Winona LaDuke, an all around cool person. At this point she's probably best known for being VP on Nader's ticket, but she's long been an activist for native rights and environmental causes. She's also very smart and very funny, and if you have a chance to see her talk, do so.

"You probably already go a little bit outside your arena of comfort---go a little bit further. That is what activism requires." --Winona LaDuke

Posted by blahedo at 11:15am | Comments (0)

10 Mar 2003

I hate computers. I've spent

I hate computers.

I've spent all day trying to track down a stupid bug in memory allocation; there is clearly a leak somewhere (the memory usage keeps going up) but every place I'm allocating I print out the pointer value, and it keeps being the same one---meaning that the previously-allocated pointer is in fact getting deleted after all. And yet the program keeps sucking down memory. Grrr.

"I think patents are for toasters. They should not be for life forms." --Winona LaDuke

Posted by blahedo at 8:31pm | Comments (0)

Apple clearly has a bunch

Apple clearly has a bunch of FUCKING MORONS working for them. I just went to download the 100 or so pictures from my camera from the second day of the comp; the download failed partway through but iPhoto still told the camera to delete ALL of the pictures. GOD DAMMIT. We've known since, like, the SEVENTIES that when you are moving files from one place to another, you copy them, make sure they've arrived, and ONLY THEN do you delete them from the source. (iTunes actually suffers from the same problem with regards to its index file, but that at least can be rebuilt.)

"I have been trying to work on Ralph for years, on his wardrobe. I was thinking a cape. With a big R on it." --Winona LaDuke

Posted by blahedo at 1:25pm | Comments (0)

I just read an interesting

I just read an interesting column in today's BDH: College education an opportunity, not a reward. It brings up some interesting points that aren't often mentioned in the affirmative action debate; when we hear people say things like "that minority person stole the spot of a more-qualified white person", why is it that we never question whether the white person was in fact more qualified? What, really, are the qualifications one needs to get into college? Certainly one would hope for some amount of basic, general knowledge, but that often seems to be a convenient bonus rather than a prerequisite (God knows that even the good schools don't seem to be teaching kids how to write well anymore). If we assume for the sake of argument that motivation and intellectual curiosity are the dominant, or at least major, factors in "being qualified" for college, then grades and scores are at best a poor proxy for this information, which may approximate the motivation and curiosity of people of some backgrounds (i.e. well-funded suburban and magnet schools), but works considerably less well for others.

Much of the rhetoric about affirmative action---both pro and con, actually---regards college primarily as an entitlement of those who got the best grades in high school. The pro-AA folks may have missed the boat by allowing this as an axiom of debate and settling for the weaker argument, which boils down to "sure, we're violating the entitlement, but it's worth it in this case." They should consider the bolder but truer "no, college isn't an entitlement for anyone, and the prime qualifications are not measurable quantities---we think that race and economic background should be used to help interpret the grades and the scores when trying to determine whether someone is motivated and intellectually curious enough to attend college."

"You want to hang out with Dick Cheney and Doctor Evil, or you want to go hang out with the Indians, and ice cream?" --Winona LaDuke

Posted by blahedo at 10:55am | Comments (0)

9 Mar 2003

This weekend I was at

This weekend I was at the Harvard comp... it keeps getting more prestigious each year. This year they had an octifinal at the open level in latin---33 couples competing. God, that's huge. As usual, our team washed out of latin without placing, although we (meaning Dave, mostly) placed some in the other sections. As a whole, the team placed 5th in the American team match, from a field of 18 or so, which is quite good. (We even beat out MIT's B-team by several points, which was cool. Susan and I made finals with our tango, which was quite a pick-me-up! :) I have about a million (ok, maybe only two hundred or so) pictures, which I'll post sometime this week---I love my digicam, it takes great shots and the ability to delete makes you really fearless on snapping a lot of shots, so you really get some good ones in there.

I've been thinking about it, and I've decided that I'm really content with the possibility of not getting a job right off. For one thing, it takes off the thesis pressure; if I finish in September, eh. As such, I'd be able to ease up a bit for the next month to dedicate lots of time to practicing for MIT comp; I'm really into ballroom again (it was fading a little last semester), and it kills me that I don't have time for it right now. Maybe if I practiced enough, I could get a first place ribbon in something; I've never done that before. And without a job, I could spend next year travelling: I could make that Europe trip that I've been claiming I'd do someday, and I could spend some more time visiting Mike in Hawai`i again, maybe this time when school's not in session.

Of course, I'm not going to complain if I do get a job, either. I'd buy an iPod to celebrate, and then I'd hunker down and see about writing two theses in a month. I should find out soon, either way, and I'll be sure to let y'all know.

"Actually, the Democrats took a lot of votes from the Greens." --Winona LaDuke

Posted by blahedo at 8:56pm | Comments (0)

This weekend I was at

This weekend I was at the Harvard comp... it keeps getting more prestigious each year. This year they had an octifinal at the open level in latin---33 couples competing. God, that's huge. As usual, our team washed out of latin without placing, although we (meaning Dave, mostly) placed some in the other sections.

I've been thinking about it, and I've decided that I'm really content with the possibility of not getting a job right off. For one thing, it takes off the thesis pressure; if I finish in September, eh. As such, I'd be able to ease up a bit for the next month to dedicate lots of time to practicing for MIT comp; I'm really into ballroom again (it was fading a little last semester), and it kills me that I don't have time for it right now. Maybe if I practiced enough, I could get a first place ribbon in something; I've never done that before. And without a job, I could spend next year travelling: I could make that Europe trip that I've been claiming I'd do someday, and I could spend some more time visiting Mike in Hawai`i again, maybe this time when school's not in session.

Of course, I'm not going to complain if I do get a job, either. I should find out soon, either way, and I'll be sure to let y'all know.

"Actually, the Democrats took a lot of votes from the Greens." --Winona LaDuke

Posted by blahedo at 8:49pm | Comments (0)

7 Mar 2003

Whew. Finished the paper. Now

Whew. Finished the paper. Now I just need to find someone tomorrow to sanity check it. I'm actually really proud of my exposition on the perceptron algorithm... maybe I'll post it here later.

This article is a bizarre little excursion into the wild world of automobile cupholders. I'd make some snide comment about the state of journalism these days, except it actually was pretty cool. (And it was in the car section, to be fair.)

"If you want to have a democracy, you gotta figure out how to have one, here." --Winona LaDuke

Posted by blahedo at 3:48am | Comments (0)

6 Mar 2003

Of course, snow has its

Of course, snow has its downsides, too. Ouch.

dad@hvn, ur spshl. we want wot u want &urth2b like hvn. giv us food & 4giv r sins lyk we 4giv uvaz. don't test us! save us! bcos we kno ur boss, ur tuf & ur cool 4 eva! ok? --Matthew Campbell

Posted by blahedo at 1:04pm | Comments (0)

It's so hard to keep

It's so hard to keep at work with this much snow coming down outside my window. What a view. So pretty.

And yet, the writer's block finally broke, and I may actually finish this paper by 5 tomorrow. That'd be good.

"I would be a good girl." --David Tucker

Posted by blahedo at 11:09am | Comments (0)

5 Mar 2003

Today was Ash Wednesday. I

Today was Ash Wednesday. I went to Mass at noon, and as usual, it was one of the most crowded Masses all year (partially attributable to the APEX Catholics, but mostly because it had a lot of faculty and staff that go to their home parishes on weekends). And yet, rather to my surprise, I ran into no less than three people who had never seen that before, never heard of it, and (this probably goes without saying) thought it was bizarre. One was from mainland China, so I can at least assume that she hasn't met very many Catholics in her life; but the other two were from Seattle and New Zealand, both of which have a reasonably hefty Catholic population. Maybe they just weren't paying attention?

"The Yankees? Yeah, they're a baseball team. They're from the Bronx. Like me." --Dave Tucker
"And J Lo, too." --Yana Kucheva

Posted by blahedo at 9:01pm | Comments (0)

Why haven't I posted in

Why haven't I posted in a while? Boy howdy have I been busy.

  • Saturday, I danced at the Yale comp. That was fun, if a little odd---though the venue was otherwise fantastic, we were dancing on a polished concrete floor! Just asking for shin splints, really. Anyway, I got callbacks in silver samba/jive with Marissa, which was sort of exciting, and in the team match where Carrie and I were dancing American tango. (And the team placed sixth, so Carrie and I must've done a few things right!) Dave continued to have the magic touch (probably has something to do with all that practicing he does), and ribboned in all but one event, taking home at least one ribbon of each colour. The only events he didn't place in were tango/foxtrot, in which someone stepped on his foot and knocked him over (he bounced!); and the same-sex cha-cha, which was mostly because the floor was so damn crowded and we kept running into people. Ah well.
  • Sunday I managed to while away the day at Matt and Pat's suite---after talking after Mass for an hour we headed there at 12:30 for brunch, and I ended up not leaving until almost 4! Funny I call it Matt and Pat's suite---that is how I think of it, but that day Pat wasn't even there, and Matt kept going off to drive people places, so I had a lovely afternoon mostly talked to Seth and Michael (who doesn't even live there). Then I got home and I needed to work.
  • And work.
  • And work. See, I'm trying to get back into working on my linguistics thesis, so this week I was trying to get a few pages written on the related work. In addition, there is a conference deadline this Friday that I really need to get something written for.
  • Also, I'm going to Harvard this weekend. Last semester, my interest was starting to fade, and I didn't mind going to comps but didn't want to put a lot of practice time in. This semester I'm totally psyched and want to put in all this practice, but I just don't have time. ARGH.
  • As if that all weren't enough, this weekend is also the recruiting weekend for the CS department, where we fly in a couple dozen prospective grad students and try to show them why we think Brown is so cool. I actually ran the weekend for the first two years we had it, and then helped out significantly the last two as FGL, but this year I've been too busy. It makes me sad. :(

So, yeah. I've been busy.

"It's hard to come up with a single journalist/pundit appearing on television who is even remotely as far to the left of the mainstream spectrum as most of these conservatives are to the right. To find the same combination of conviction, partisanship and ideological extremism on the far left, a network would need to convene a 'roundtable' featuring Noam Chomsky, Alexander Cockburn, Vanessa Redgrave and Fidel Castro." --Eric Alterman

Posted by blahedo at 6:18pm | Comments (0)