31 May 2004

OFFICIAL

AM DOCTOR OFFICIALLY STOP DETAILS FORTHCOMING SOON STOP

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28 May 2004

Back in the big city

Providence is, unsurprisingly, much as I remember it. Last night I went to a CS department event (their 25th anniversary as a department is this year), and at the banquet they served haricots verts and lamb (or swordfish), with lemon charlotte for dessert. Meanwhile, Eugene showed old pictures of people and made funny comments about them. It was neat; I should've been schmoozing, but I wasn't really up to it, so I just caught up with some people I knew but hadn't seen in a while. We ended up standing outside and talking for about an hour until we were too cold to stay. ;)

Today I'm bouncing around seeing various people, and currently borrowing a spare computer in my old office in the CIT. Fun, fun, fun. :)

On the Afghan King in exile: "I don't see why you people care about someone running a country who didn't win an election. It's not like that doesn't happen in other places." --Kevin Price

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26 May 2004

WOOOOO

Last class. Done.

"I would argue that most Americans could tell you that Washington state (or at least, the city of Seattle) is in the Pacific Northwest. I would not necessarily expect them to be able to find any of the following things on a map or a globe, however: 1) Washington state, 2) Seattle, 3) the Pacific, 4) north or 5) west." --Chris Sedlack

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Cramming

Someday, I suppose, it's possible that I will write an exam sometime before the wee hours of the morning of the day it's handed out.

That day is, however, not today.

The old habits... they die hard.

"Y'know, DMT is produced in a small but measurable amount in the human brain. Should we make brains illegal as well? I know they won't be missed over at the DEA." --Sam Walker

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25 May 2004

Cars and trucks

Gas prices are high, and they'll be getting higher. And it's our fault.

Well, not my fault, really. Aside from trying to not drive very often, when I do drive it's in a car that routinely gets 30+ mpg around town and over 40 on the open highway. The problem is all those people who get really huge vehicles (SUVs being the worst, but vans, trucks, and even full-sizers are not exempt) and then drive them around all the time, everywhere.

It's not the case that these big cars are never appropriate, of course. Farmers and subcontractors are often hauling around a bunch of stuff in their pickups. Families with a bunch of kids make use of the extra passenger space in a van. And I'm sure someone has a legitimate use for an SUV.

But a lot of people get a big vehicle because, quote, "I want to be able to pick up a load of lumber at the Home Depot." If they give any reason at all, that is, aside from needing to make a public display of excess. The pseudo-legitimate excuses made don't hold up under further scrutiny: these weekend warriors are going out and getting something that requires cargo capacity maybe once or twice a month. Last I checked, most home improvement stores would rent you a pickup truck for an hour for about $25, easily enough to bring your load home and drop it off. And you'd save that much in gas in a month with a smaller car, not to mention the fact that a smaller car saves you a bundle up front. And even with the SUV you'll occasionally run into big lumber purchases you can't handle---not a problem if you're renting a truck on the spot.

More generally, to the extent that a lot of gas-guzzler drivers have occasionally legitimate uses for their vehicle, it is often so rare that they would actually save money just buying a smaller car and renting something big for a few hours. And the economic and environmental savings of not burning off such an excess of gas and oil, well, that's simply uncountable.

"Hey, don't make me take off my leg and beat the shit out of you." --Harley Jackson

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23 May 2004

Ancillary events

Last night's performance was bracketted by two weird little events that happened to me.

After I took my seat, about three in from the aisle but not right next to anyone, a girl who looked vaguely familiar, like I'd seen her around the Knox campus or something, appeared to be looking for a seat, and I turned my knees so she could get past; she declined and sat on the aisle, so I smiled and went back to reading my program.

A minute or so she commented on how cold it was in there, and I politely agreed (it was) and said something about how I often remember to bring a sweatshirt with me to theatre shows. And went back to reading my program.

Her next comment after another brief silence was, "Not much going on tonight, huh?" I guess she assumed I was a student or something---that's not the kind of comment a student usually makes to a prof---but I shrugged and said, "Well, there's this." She mumbled something about having to find something later, and when I went back to my program, she stood up and left.

It's that last thing that makes the whole situation sort of baffling. Small talk, sure, but then getting up and leaving? I suspect she was trying to pick me up, but it's not like she made any great effort before giving up and leaving. I wonder if she sat down somewhere else and tried the same routine on someone else.


The second event, then, came after the show. As I was mingling with various folks in the lobby, one of the choreographers for one of the pieces came up and joined the conversation, and she immediately started gushing about how cool I was because I actually came to everything (not quite true, but I do go to a lot of events). Of course, my coolness didn't extend to her finding out who I was, because she then said how seeing me at all these Theatre & Dance events made her say, "oh look! It's that guy!"

Great! My life's ambition: now I'm that guy. Surely I can make use of this somehow.

"I'm going to appreciate this two-weeks-straight-of-68-degrees thing as much as I can, and look back on it fondly when the entire state is on fire in August." --Pete McFerrin

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22 May 2004

Modern dance

Last week I went to the "informal" dance concert here, and tonight I went to the "formal" dance concert. They were certainly worlds apart on a variety of dimensions.

For one thing, there was a lot more diversity in the informal concert. The formal concert was ten pieces, all in almost exactly the same style. Many of the same people were in both concerts, but a number of the best dancers from last week weren't in this one. Several people were in many of tonight's pieces, and they definitely were not the best of the crowd.

It took me a while to really pin down what I found so unsatisfying about the performances tonight. It was that the dancers were so interested in Making Art and doing something with Meaning, they sort of slacked off on fundamentals like facial expression, elegance, and synchrony with the music or each other. It reminded me of a lot of gymnastic floor performances---they're up there doing some stuff, and there's music playing, but the dancing has little to do with the music. There are moments here and there where a few steps line up with a beat, but they're so infrequent that they seem more accidental than anything else. It makes one wonder why they even bother with the music.

And just as you're wondering, they throw in a piece where they don't have music, and then you realise that even if the music doesn't do anything else, it camouflages all the foot-stomping and the heavy breathing and the squeaking of feet along the floor. To be fair, the girls that did that one were better synchronised with each other than most of the other pieces were, which was quite impressive given that they had thrown away their most basic tool in that regard; and actually, it was one of the better pieces in the programme. I just wish they'd thrown in a soft instrumental track under the spoken-word accompaniment.

The exception to a lot of these comments was the third piece: April Morgan demonstrated that the dreary amusicality of (most of) the other dancers was not inherent to the form. Using many of the same moves, she managed to actually choreograph her dancing to the music, and to have a whole range of expressions ranging from happy to defiant to thoughtful. As her piece ended, she walked (in time, of course) diagonally across the stage, and tossed her head in a smile that was the most sincere emotion seen all night. And where all the other pieces got polite applause, people were loudly cheering on this one, so I'm not the only one who perceived its eminence.

I spent most of the night, though, observing how much these dancers felt that their pieces were Art; lacking other redeeming qualities, these pieces tried to rest on their Meaning, which I was generally at a loss to find. And it's true that carrying a meaning that only comes clear on further reflection is a feature of high art; but if that's the route you're going to go, you damn well better have something to hold the viewer's attention while they think about what it means to them.

There were a few pieces where I was considerably more impressed by the lighting work than anything else. There was some great technical design with the transitions from light to shadow and using footlights to create shadow play on the back wall; in a number of cases it managed to actually convey the mood that the dancers were totally failing to express.

"Most people would die sooner than think---in fact, they do so." --Bertrand Russell

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20 May 2004

Random highlight

Last Wednesday, I was pleased to actually receive my first dollar coin in change from a person. I'd gotten them from vending machines (USPS and mass transit) but never from an actual cashier. It was at the Econofoods on East Main, where I had run in real quick to pick up a blank videotape. I don't know if anyone else in the whole world would care, but I was pleased. :)

"I kind of thought that the point of the Nicene Creed was to lay out the stuff that Absolutely Had To Be Believed and imply that the rest of it was stuff that To A Greater Or Lesser Extent Really Ought To Be Believed." --Michael Kimmitt

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19 May 2004

Right now

My dog is methodically licking every square millimetre of the side of my desk chair. I have no idea what is so appealing about it, but he's not easily distracted from the task.

Been busy for the last week, but I do remain alive. (Ah, ha, ha, ha...) Hopefully I'll get around to posting more soon.

"Bush may not have been born stupid, but he has achieved stupidity, and now he wears it as a badge of honor." --Jacob Weisberg

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6 May 2004

Ah, Wilderness!

The mainstage show this term was Eugene O'Neill's Ah, Wilderness!. It was a good performance, but definitely the weakest of the four this year.

It's a very day-in-the-life sort of show that covers the growing-up experience of one rebellious romantic. The writing is excellent; unfortunately, there were a lot of scenes where it was the writing carrying the scene. Nearly every scene had at least one character that kept breaking my suspension of disbelief, making it difficult to really get into the show. While the women of the show gave uniformly good performances, the guys were generally spotty at best. The lead actor---playing the teenage romantic---kept reciting his lines, rather than acting, and seemed always to be trying very hard not to break into a smirky grin. Most of the others did at least have their moments. The father explaining the birds and the bees to his son (or not) was executed brilliantly. The alcoholic nodding off and commencing to snore gently was a real scene stealer.

But for the most part the guys looked like a bunch of college kids with powder in their hair. The only ones that didn't look like college kids were the little kid (who was perhaps ten, and is the son of a faculty member) and one of the characters who was supposed to be in college. (The other collegiate type was a short cameo by Doug Porter as a slick playa. He certainly seems to be versatile.)

The women were a lot more convincing. Sylvie Davidson's one scene was a delight to watch; her timing was perfect. "Well, fine, then. *pause* But what happened next?" Jacqueline Dehne as the spinster aunt had just the right faint aura of sadness about her. (She also appeared to be knitting on stage, although I couldn't tell if she was actually doing it---I think she might have been just transferring loops back and forth. She certainly didn't have the casual familiarity with the needles that she might have. ;) Having convincingly affected an English accent in Arcadia, Emily Richardson put on an Irish brogue as the maid in this show, and pulled off a fairly memorable part despite only having perhaps a dozen lines.

The technical aspects were, as usual, excellent. (Well, except for the part where they forgot to raise the chandelier and almost hit it with a set piece.) The set was particularly neat: although you can see that it is a raised platform over the regular stage, it is not apparent that it's actually several tightly-interlocking but irregularly-shaped wagons, until they start doing a set change. The lighting was the sort that you didn't really even notice until you thought about it, the sign of a job well done. The makeup was overdone, again, but not too badly.

Generally, I'm pleased to have seen the show. I just wish that it didn't bookend the theatre year (and I'm especially sad as it's the last show directed by one of our retiring professors---you just wish they could've had a spectacular show, considering). Ah, well.

"One almost gets the sense that [the Gospels] are steps in a developing oral tradition, rather than anything remotely resembling a report of fact." --Jonathan Prykop

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5 May 2004

Cinco de Mayo

I saw the first lightning bugs of the year last night when letting the dog out back. Actually, I don't really remember seeing them for the last few years, what with not really having yards and such.

Obedience school today? Nutmeg was not nearly so bad as last week. Even with all the other dogs there, I was able to keep him attentive to me and and doing what I said. Until, that is, Emily (the instructor) walked up---she had bits of hot dog in her pockets, see, and I just couldn't compete with that kind of hard cash. Clearly I need to go shopping before next week. :)

"We're all condemned to certain death, after which there may or may not be a bonus round." --Cary Tennis

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2 May 2004

Je suis environmentaliste

I'm such a bad environmentalist. There was an article in the paper today about a bunch of other professors that ride their bike to work nearly every day, and lately I've been driving almost half the time. At first when I got the dog, that was my justification, but now I'm just being lazy (and running late).

On the other hand, yesterday I put a load of laundry out to dry on a clothesline, for the first time ever. Then, naturally, it rained. So I had to leave them out overnight to re-dry, and this afternoon all but the jeans were done, so I took them in. And then about twenty minutes later there was a huge thunderclap and I dashed outside before it could rain again, and I took the mostly-dry jeans and hung them on my shower curtain rod to finish. Anyway, so I saved the environment (and my landlord) one load of electric/gas powered drying. It was so easy, I'll probably do it again!

"I could characterize myself as Mother Theresa but that doesn't make me any less of a hothead." --Joe Shidle

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1 May 2004

SLEEP

The last few weeks, I feel like I've just always been tired. Even when averaging over seven hours a night. Yesterday, after having gotten almost seven hours of sleep the night before, I got home at 2-ish to let Nutmeg out, and when I came back in, I sat down on the floor to play with him, and ended just laying down right there and falling asleep. Until, get this, 6pm. Which was when my dog woke me up; I took him for a quick trip outside and came back in, where I took off my shoes and figured I'd lay down in my bed for a few hours. I woke up at midnight, thought, "huh, never fed the dog, well, he's not complaining", and went back to sleep. Same again a few hours later. He finally got me up at 8am, for which I can hardly blame him. That was, let's see, about 18 hours of sleep. I must have needed it, but it's not like I've been particularly sleep deprived lately. Certainly nowhere near the levels I sustained for over a decade through high school, college, and most of grad school.

Anyway, I went to the vet this morning to wrap up Nutmeg's roundworm treatment and pick up his tapeworm treatment (ah, pound puppies), and also picked up a flea preventative. The tapeworm stuff goes in his food, so he'll get it tonight, but the flea stuff is a little bit of liquid that gets put on the scruff of his neck. He's now spent the last ten minutes freaking out about it; he didn't mind the application, but almost immediately afterward started rolling around and flipping over and growling. I can only assume a causal relationship. Perhaps next month I'll try the other kind of flea stuff.

"Yes [I swing that way], but whereas many of our gay friends prefer to swing for the fences, I prefer to bunt." --insafemode

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