A preternatural quiet hangs over the campus at 9am the morning after Flunk Day. Unsurprising, really; but I've really never seen so few students (or other people) around campus at any time of day, even when the weather was bad. I actually biked through the middle of campus and saw just one student on my way to SMC (and only three faculty, for that matter).
"Yeah, but then your ass would always weight 15 lbs. even when empty." --Joe Shidle
And the day was great fun, except for the one super-scary moment.
After this morning's post, I went home to let the dog out and brought him back with me. He was super-excited to meet all the people (and eat all the crap they dropped in the grass). I meandered through the festivities, from lunch on the patio to the other side of Seymour where a big group was playing Ultimate and they'd set up a variety of different inflatable games (like an obstacle course, a gladiator game, and a human foosball arena). Oh, and the mechanical bull. Everywhere, students---who never see dogs---were gushing with adoration for my cute little puppy.
After over an hour of this, I ran into Chris, who wanted to meet at some point today (and who can blame him---we've set a partial deadline of Friday for some of his thesis work!), and we decided to just meet then. Dog and all. :) Initially, Nutmeg was ok in the office, but he just kept crying to go back outside, which made things a little difficult, but we managed. Then I went back to wandering around, and eventually he started barking at random things, so I took him home.
At home, he finally got to meet Judy's other dog Rusty, which was cute and ate up another twenty minutes before I brought him in and blocked him in the kitchen so I could go play softball.
At 4:00 was the Faculty-Friars softball game. A "Friar", in this context, is one of the twenty or so people that got woken up at 3:30 this morning to go off, start drinking, and then run Flunk Day. (Sensible, no?) And every year, in the afternoon, they face off with the faculty in a friendly game of 16" softball. (Which, by the way, a number of the new faculty had never even heard of, to my amusement.) Apparently, it's usually pretty close.
This year it wasn't, really; and they didn't even seem that drunk---the faculty creamed them. Go us! I played outfield, and caught the second out of the game, and fielded another ball later on that was decently played but didn't amount to anything; and all my at-bats resulted in respectable hits, although I never got to run it in.
The top of the last inning, the faculty was at bat and had brought in a few runs, when one of the scariest things I've ever seen happened. One of the profs swung the bat and it slipped from his hands at extremely high speed, straight at the faculty dugout area, at about eye level. One prof ducked and another threw her hands up---thank goodness, as it would've got her square in the face otherwise and probably, seriously, killed her. As it was, in the two seconds it took everyone to get to her side, the back of her hands already had inch-high mounds on them from the broken blood vessels. I ran to the relief table, which had gatorade and band aids but NO ICE, but someone grabbed a cup and ran into the cafeteria to get some, which I ran back. Both hands had huge lumps on the back of them by this point, and a moment later security pulled up in their Mule to take her off the field. Another prof went to the hospital with her. Here's hoping nothing was broken, but I don't really see how that's possible!
By common agreement, we continued the game (the fac dugout moved back a bit, though), and for the bottom of that inning we even gave them loaded bases and three extra outs, but we still won. Yay us.
Now to head home and pick up Nutmeg to go to our first day of obedience school. Should be fun!
"Pot takes an obnoxious asshole teenage boy, and makes him kinda tolerable." --Dan Savage
...because what more is there to life, really, than public nudity and drunkenness before 9am? Only a little bit of the former, but a lot of the latter.
We'll see how the rest of the day goes---they certainly picked a perfect day for it---but it seems pleasant so far. I think when I go back to let Nutmeg out, I'll just bring him back with me; dogs are technically not allowed on campus, but then, neither are a lot of the other things that go on today. Given that there will be a petting zoo for the fac/staff kids, a little dog should be a pretty inoffensive addition.
I tell you what, though: I'm glad I didn't stay up late working to finish (or start, as may be) my lecture for second hour today. Not least because, having gotten up at 7 to work on that, I was able to get in by 8:45 to witness the mud pit debauchery (which, to be sure, was a little scary, as I was never 100% sure that some enterprising student wouldn't decide to toss me into the pit, but it was still fun to watch).
"Don't look at me as if you've never stuck a finger in a guy's ass!" --Dan Savage
This morning I drove out to Galva to take a tour of the recycling plant there (Eagle Enterprises)---they were running an open house today, and it seemed pretty cool. It was!
The basic plan of the thing is that they have trucks to pick up recyclables from a few local towns, and a few others (e.g. Galesburg) have their own recycling trucks but drop off their stuff there. They even get some stuff from as far away as Chicago! Generally, they are paid for the task of sifting through the stuff, although if people show up with loads of specific pre-sorted things ("this is all aluminum cans", etc), they can get paid for them.
All the unsorted recycling goes in a humongous pile on one end of the warehouse. Once the conveyor line is running, a bobcat lifts loads from the pile over to the base of the belt, where it is carried up an incline to a flat portion where people start sifting. The first few open any bags and pull out the cardboard, then various other paper products are pulled, and then people to grab the various forms of plastic and glass. Steel is pulled out by magnets, and then there is some sort of machine that pulls out the aluminum cans from what's left (i.e. trash); this is called an "eddy current separator", and one guy said it involved moving magnets to repel the aluminum while another said it had something to do with "polarity" that got the aluminum spinning real fast and shooting off the edge of the belt (while the other trash just falls off the end). Only about 5% of the output ends up in the trash bin---people are pretty good about only putting recyclables in there.
The lines are all elevated so that the various sorters can just drop their items straight down into bins. For things like paper, the bins are really just walled-in sections of floor; when they fill up, they open up one wall and start forklifting stuff over to the baler. For more airy things like bottles, they use wagons that can be rolled in and out from under the belt, because it takes multiple wagonsful to make up a full bale of recycled material. Everything except the glass is fed into another machine that carries the material up high and drops it into a pile; and when a laser detects that the pile is high enough, a ram comes in and compacts it into the bale. The bale is then tied off and awaits purchase by one of the companies that uses the materials.
Who buys it? Lots of people. The glass gets sold to a company up in Chicago that removes the label and grinds it up into kiln-ready glass gravel; some of it gets reused into glass containers, some into a mix called "glassphalt" which is apparently a superior paving material, some into plain old fiberglass. The aluminum gets remade into more aluminum cans, mostly. Cardboard goes all over the place, to be made into more cardboard---they've even had inquiries from places in China. The plastic can't be reused for food containers, but it can sometimes be used in detergent bottles, or motor oil containers.
Myths debunked (or at least, things no longer true, at least not of all recycling plants): you do not need to remove the labels from your cans and bottles. You don't even need to remove the cap. You don't need to remove staples or plastic windows from the paper stuff; it's all done automatically. You don't need to get them perfectly clean, either, although a quick rinse is only polite for the workers on the line.
Cool tidbit: the truck they do pickups in is an old NYC garbage truck; and it's "dual-drive", meaning that it can be operated by one driver (on the left) and one loader (on the right); or by one guy that both drives (on the right) and loads. Much safer than making the driver keep getting in and out on the left side in order to do loading!
Anyway, that's all for now. I have a bunch of pictures, which I may or may not ever get around to posting, as usual.
"Oral sex is sex. Did we learn nothing from the Clinton impeachment?" --Dan Savage
This weekend's offering at the Studio Theatre is Jeff Hendrickson's Pika-Don (ピカートン). Jeff is a student here at Knox---I've seen him in a couple other theatrical productions---and he's made excellent use of the Studio Theatre facility to produce this play.
The title of the play refers to the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima ("Pika" being a bright flash of light and "Don" being onomatopoeic, the word was coined by Hiroshima residents shortly after the attack). A surprisingly powerful device used in this play is that the scenes taking place in Hiroshima are conducted entirely in Japanese, in the style of Noh theatre. Oddly enough, I feel that the language barrier was not nearly as much of a problem as my lack of familiarity with the conventions of the Noh form; it is highly stylistic form that makes use of gestures to convey various emotions. Even despite all that, I was impressed with how expressive a mostly-mute foreign-language masked character could be. Both Jeff and his co-star, Sylvie Davidson, showed a good presence and understanding of movement---I was reminded several times tonight of Sylvie's performance last term as the mad Cassandra, where she nailed the unnerving dance of an insane prophetess without looking either choreographed or like she was just flailing around. That body control appears to have served her well in learning the surely-unfamiliar motions of Noh.
The Japanese scenes alternate with scenes in English, taking place in modern New York, with just-out-of-college kids (played by the same two actors as in the Noh scenes, with costume changes between) doing the thing young urban folks do---trying, with mixed success, to find work and make ends meet. As I read up on the Noh form, I'm discovering that even these follow it after a fashion---the stylised Noh plays are usually interspersed with more dialogue-ful interludes called Kyogen. The percussive music and even the stage design seems to have all been at least inspired by Noh.
Pika-Don presents a newer perspective on the tragedy of Hiroshima and tries to address the fact that already people have "begun to forget the horror we inflicted on ourselves just over 50 years ago." I hope that someone out in the world takes note of this play; the skill set required of the actors is somewhat unique and demanding, and it will always fall into something of a niche market, but I do hope that it gets wider distribution than just Knox College; it'd be such a shame if it didn't.
"Aaah, you can take a 'venti' razor and shove it up your ass, you 'tall'-brained moron." --Foamy Squirrel
Midterm grades are due tomorrow, so I really need to pull myself out of this backlog of grading today. No time for other stuff. Clearly, that's why I'm posting to my blog right now.
And the Dan Savage quotes just keep on rolling out.... Did I mention he's really quotable?
"Blah, blah, blah, who put a nickel in me?" --Dan Savage
Happy birthday to Kathy. (Backdated to actually be on the right day, even though I'm posting this late, although I did call on the actual date, even if she wasn't answering her phone. Perhaps it was more rioting.)
"If you do really crazy kinky things with Doris Day playing, you just feel so dirty!" --Dan Savage
The other day, I'd left Nutmeg alone for maybe seven hours---longer than usual---and so of course when I got home he really wanted to go out. We did, and the neighbourhood kids converged on him instantly. He sort of ran his shoulder into the ground, like he kind of wanted to roll over and let them pet him, and kind of not. One of the kids asked what was wrong with him, and I said he probably just needed to go to the bathroom. Sure enough, the kids eventually got him on his back and started petting him, and he managed to release a stream of urine that arced over his head, narrowly missing the kids. Then they let us go over to the other side of the yard to take care of business. And you know what? Now they don't pester us immediately after we hit the door. Overall, I consider the whole thing a positive learning experience.
The worms came back on Thursday, and this morning I gave him the second dose of the worm medicine. Hopefully, that's the end of that.
This morning, on our walk, we saw a snake! It was the first time I'd ever seen one in person, aside from at a zoo or that one time the animal guy came to our school when I was in junior high. Maybe about a centimetre in diameter, and it would have been about two feet long if it stretched out, I think. I didn't really get a good look at its markings, because I was busy pulling Nutmeg back and walking on, and fortunately it wasn't aggressive or anything. Freaked me out, though.
And finally, just now, he fell off the back of the couch. After I stopped laughing, I pulled him out. He's now rather reticent on laying down up there, although he still wants to be able to see, so he gets in the weirdest positions. :)
"The gay community can do nothing 'for gay youth', other than keep our hands off 'em." --Dan Savage
One of the Studio Theatre plays this term is The real Inspector Hound, by Tom Stoppard, which I just saw tonight. (Trivium: this play's first US performance was at Brown, in 1970. Neat!) This play is so meta it just hurts your brain to think about it. I can't even really say anything else about it without giving away more than I'd like. It was well done, although much as in Lysistrata, there were a few people who would have been much funnier if they'd played it just a tad straighter.
Oh, and a command performance by Jason Cascio, as Higgs.
"The most reliably anti-gay, anti-gay-marriage folks out there are over sixty, and thank God, they're going to die." --Dan Savage
I finished reading Heinlein's I will fear no evil. Clearly one of his later books, it is not part of the Future History series, taking place in a rather different future US. It's an exploration of gender identity, yet another of his attempts to answer the question "If a woman was exactly like a certain man except for physical sex, what would she be like?" In this case, the mechanism is a brain transplant.
The book itself is fairly good, but it drags in the middle---that middle two hundred pages really needed to be about fifty. Other than that, it moved relatively well. It's clearly a product of the sexual revolution; Heinlein was never against sex even in his early books, but by 1970 (when IWFNE was written) he's definitely gotten freer about it. The book is also very gay-friendly for its time; written about the same time as the Stonewall riots, when most of the country was either denying or disgusted by the existence of homosexuality, he comes right out and says it's no big deal. Most of the characters have tried it, with no value judgement attached, and two of the characters are in a gay relationship. This is all the more surprising as it's a reversal of Heinlein's stated position in previous books: as recently as 1961, he had written of homosexuality as a disordered state, in Stranger in a Strange Land. The topic of transsexuality was curiously absent from IWFNE, though, considering that it was basically the main theme---no mention was made of any of the varieties of "trans", nor of SRS, although that was certainly not unknown at that time.
I don't think it was RAH's best work, but it was certainly a good book, and I recommend it.
"The senator doesn't have to come for a visit every time you have anal sex, folks." --Dan Savage
Way back when I was TAing CS 17/18 at Brown, we had a policy of making kids sign a statement on their exam saying, basically, that they hadn't cheated. Cheating was disallowed in any case, of course, but the thought was that by forcing them to put their name to such an explicit statement it would make it harder for them to rationalise; it also made it clear that the otherwise liberal collaboration policy didn't apply to tests.
Working from essentially the same templates I used then, I went to write my first exam back in the fall, and my first thought was that I no longer really needed it. Knox has its Honor Code, after all. But it occurred to me that while I no longer really needed them to promise they hadn't cheated, the statement still served the useful purpose of calling attention to the exam's non-collaboration policy, in contrast with the relatively liberal homework-and-lab collaboration policy.
I didn't really change the wording, though, and a student just pointed out to me that as it is, it's a little insulting. The current text of this statement is
All work on this exam is my own. I have not discussed the problems or their solutions with anyone except for the professor.which is really just a rehash of the collaboration policy stated in the previous paragraph. On some level, it says the the student "even though you've read the policy and signed the Honor Code that says you'll follow it, I don't trust that enough and want you to sign again". As soon as he pointed it out, it was blindingly obvious to me that this was at best, a terrible phrasing.
So I've fixed it. Well, I'm in the process of fixing it. I'm turning it into a statement that affirms that the student has read the instructions (you'd think that'd go without saying, but I've seen the counterevidence); the fact that they'll abide by the policy is implicit, as it should be. It now reads:
I have read and understood the above instructions regarding how and when to hand in, and the specific collaboration policy in effect for the exam.I'll probably still go through another couple of iterations, but now that I've changed the focus, I actually like it a lot better.
"I didn't come up with 'pegging', my readers did. (My Aunt Peggy was really upset about it.)" --Dan Savage
This morning I sat down and paid bills. Bills are not relaxing for most people, nor are they really for me. But when you've been putting them off for a long time, and you can sit down and pay, like, five of them at once... boy, is that a great feeling. Yay! No more bills!
"Rick Santorum is the enemy of your blowjobs!" --Dan Savage
Today I was walking my dog, and as dogs do when out on a walk, he found a spot and started to poo.
It seemed to be taking longer than usual, and then he moved a little but was still in that funny stance, and I walked around to look---the last bit was stuck to him and not going anywhere. Yuck.
Lacking a better response, I put on the plastic bag with which I normally just clean up after him, and try to knock it out, thinking it just needed a little jostle or something. It wouldn't release, and of course Nutmeg was Not Very Happy about all this, and kept scurrying away as I tried to swipe at his butt with a plastic bag. I couldn't hold him, of course, because my one hand held the leash and the other was busy with the bag.
Finally I managed to grab onto the turd and pulled at it. There was the faintest little snapping feeling, Nutmeg (poor dog!) yelped higher and louder than I've ever heard him before, and having solved the problem I realised what it was: at some point he had licked up a strand of my hair, which had proceeded to embed itself half in the shit he'd shat and half not. Oops!
The net result was a slightly discomfited dog, a slightly grossed-out owner, and a slightly late Operating Systems class. The things we do for our dogs.
"So, if you're a sparrow with a whale... fist 'er." --Dan Savage
The book I finished listening to on the trip home this weekend was Deadlock, by Sara Paretsky; the main character is V.I. Warshawski; I think this was the first of the series.
The novel is generally pretty good; a well written detective novel. In the way of detective novels everywhere, it takes a basically uninteresting topic---grain shipments around the Great Lakes region---and weaves in an interesting murder mystery. Along the way, you pick up a fair bit of knowledge about the random topic, too!
What really made it fun, though, was that A) it took place in Chicago, and B) it took place in 1982. Not so long ago, but imagine a world with no cell phones---they have to keep checking in with their answering services---and no internet---at one point, she can't figure out where a town in Canada is located! Not to mention the incidental stuff, like the Oldsmobile Omega she drove at one point. And the Chicago thing is neat too, because a lot of the goings-on were in places I knew to some extent. Vic (the title character) lives in an apartment on Halsted just north of Belmont, about a block from my uncle's house where my cousins were growing up. She has an office right next to an El line downtown. At one point she's driving along the Dan Ryan, then up the JFK to the Edens Junction. Et cetera, et cetera. Now I have to seek out the other V.I. Warshawski novels. :)
"Basically, I just give talks that are long digressions." --Dan Savage
No clue how long I'll manage to keep it up, but I've semi-automated my picture-posting process, which means I might actually post pictures once in a while. They're posted at my pictures page, and currently include one shot of Dan Savage from Wednesday, and three of Nutmeg that I took last week. Cheers!
"Yes, I did get a pre-nup. It's about as thick as a phone book. 'Cause my boyfriend was really upset about all this." --Dan Savage
...but now there's competition. For my car, that is. I no longer own the only Mini in Galesburg! I was walking my dog just now, and parked on Seminary was a brand-new red and white Cooper S. It was purchased in Indianapolis (according to the plate holder), and the temp plate is a 31-day plate that expires on 10 May, so this thing must've been purchased yesterday. It was no longer there when I came back out after bringing my dog in, so I couldn't ask the owner about it... I'm guessing it's a Knox student, though. I hope it wasn't somebody just passing through, but such people are unlikely to be parked on Seminary. ;)
"Puritans... were the original Moral Majority types. They didn't come here for religious freedom, they came here for the right to religiously persecute anyone they could get their hands on." --Dan Savage
I went to Peoria tonight to see Dan Savage (of "Savage Love") speak at the Bradley student union. It was awesome. He spoke for maybe twenty minutes and then opened it up to audience questions, both vocally and anonymously via note cards that people would fill out. It's a format that works well for him, and lets him answer the questions and make interesting digressions.
The major news of the thing is that he's getting married tomorrow. What, you say? What about his boyfriend? Well, it turns out he is friends with this lesbian couple, who (during the whole San Francisco deal) applied for a marriage licence in Seattle, and were turned down. But he went with one of them back to the licensing bureau and explained that he was a gay man, she a lesbian, no attraction to each other whatsoever, would never have sex, have kids, anything else, were they able to get a licence? Of course! The sanctity of marriage is clearly much better preserved by this sort of joke marriage than by letting either of them marry the committed partner they'd been with for years and years. So he's going to do it, presided by a preacher, hosted in a gay bar, and armed with a phone-book-size pre-nup agreement. And then get divorced 55 hours and 10 minutes later (ten minutes longer than Britney!). He'll write it up in Salon in a few days, but hey, you heard it here first. :)
On ordering food in foreign countries: "It is all about sign language and gesturing. Of course it helps if you can make out some of it, but I alway consider it a sign of success if I can get the waiter to physically try to imitate the type of animal to help explain what type of food you are ordering." --Matt Wicks
This morning I saw a 2001-vintage bumper sticker. On the left side was an American flag, with the canton a charcoal grey with perhaps a hint of blue, and the field an array of very faint light-grey stripes from which all the red had been entirely bleached out.
The right side? "These colors don't run." Evidently they just fade away. I'm generally a fan of leaving bumper stickers on even after their nominal relevance period has passed (if Kathy hasn't taken it off yet, there's still a Nader 2000 sticker on my old car), but it seems like an exception might be made in this case....
"It would be relatively easy to form a wheat cartel, seeing as there are many fewer countries which are large-scale producers of wheat than there are large-scale producers of oil. The U.S., Canada, Argentina, Russia, and the Ukraine could basically starve the rest of the world. That is not, however, politically expedient." --Michael Feltes
Well, that's a slight exaggeration. But I've been taking a lot of afternoon naps. Rare is the night that I get less than six hours of sleep (maybe two or three times a month), and more often than not I get seven and a half. That's in addition to the naps. *sigh*
Tomorrow is my day off teaching. Will I manage to get a little ahead on lectures and writing homeworks? Will I manage to sit down and make the assorted phone calls I need to make? Both of these things seem unlikely, but I guess I'll give it a shot.
"How do the Talibanies feel about homosexuality? I thought they were against it, but when I hear about their anti-women rules, I have to wonder what they're actually up to." --Mark Hardwidge
Yesterday as I was taking Nutmeg for his morning walk, I made a discovery. I went to clean up after him, and sitting there were about three little worms. They looked like angel-hair pasta or something; about two or three inches long, maybe a millimetre in diameter, and definitely round. Ugh. So, after I got back to the house, I called the vet and asked about it.
Since I had just administered his heartworm medication on Thursday evening, that probably made a few of them let go, and that's how I discovered them. But to really get them out of his system I needed to give him some roundworm medication---1cc of banana-flavoured medicine that I have to put in his mouth with a funky syringe thing, once now and once in two weeks. Subsequently, the heartworm medication I give him once a month should keep away any further infestation.
"Apple doesn't support the plus sign." --Apple tech support
I know that a lot of people seem to think Marlon Brando is an amazing actor; he's an emblem of a generation, yadda yadda yadda. I haven't really seen him in much of anything, so I never was really able to judge. Last December when I was visiting Matt one of his housemates was watching On the Waterfront, and I started sort of watching it, but it was just too painful. Brando sucked. He was reciting his lines and giving the audience no connection whatsoever. Bad bad bad. So I figured, he's probably overrated, but maybe this just wasn't one of his best.
I just read that not only was that one of his Oscar nominations, he actually won the Academy Award. Unbelievable.
'In its heyday, "hussy" was the sort of noun that attracted intensifiers ---any woman worth labeling a "hussy" would almost certainly, upon closer examination, turn out to be a "brazen hussy," a "shameless hussy," or at least a "bold hussy."' --Evan Morris
I had been planning to go to this month's movie at the Orpheum, which is Sunset Boulevard, and so I was eating my dinner and reading the paper, planning to leave shortly to get to the 7:30 show. And I noticed, at exactly 7:03, that there was an ad in the paper for it---starting at 7:00. Argh. Just late enough that I wouldn't go. If it were something I was dying to see, I'd probably run over there and just miss the first ten minutes, but I was just planning to go because I've heard it's a good movie and hey, it's at the Orpheum. Ah well.
"Back in 2000 a Republican friend warned me that if I voted for Al Gore and he won, the stock market would tank, we'd lose millions of jobs, and our military would be totally overstretched. You know what? I did vote for Gore, he did win, and I'll be damned if all those things didn't come true!" --James Carville
My dog has just discovered how to climb up and walk along the back of my couch. This gives him a great view out the window, even when he lays down (on the back of the couch).
I'm beginning to wonder if I have a mouse or something back there, because he discovered this tactic in a relentless effort to get at what's under/behind my couch. I've looked a couple times, with no result, but he's really persistent. It's freaking me out a bit, to be honest.
"I'm trying to keep her from killing your wife!" --Will Parker
"Mind your own business!" --Ali Hakim, "Oklahoma!"