There was a power outage on campus yesterday, so when I arrived today my computer was off and my monitor in power-save. I turned on the computer, and the monitor... did nothing. Switched it off and on, nothing. Tried logging in blind, and the computer clearly responded, but the monitor remained in power-save mode. Powered off the computer and back on again, nothing.
I got the help desk person up here, who tried a couple things, and nothing worked. Including a different monitor. Which is really bad because it means it's the computer itself, or at least the video card. Ugh. He goes off downstairs to file a help ticket on the thing; I was thinking that at least it happened just as I was leaving for a month.
Just as I was getting ready to leave the office, I don't even know why, I tried powering it off and on again. Works perfectly. *sigh*
"As to things which do not strike at the root of Christianity, we think and let think." --John Wesley
I felt my first earthquake about an hour ago! It was weak here---there was a brief creak and then the whole building shook for, like, two seconds. Just long enough to make me pretty sure I hadn't imagined it. Naturally, my first instinct was to post to imsasun, which I did, and about ten minutes later someone confirmed that they'd felt it in Wisconsin, and then a few more from the Chicago area. Meanwhile, the usgs site was not listing anything, even on its "realtime" maps, so about twenty minutes after the quake I filed an "I felt it" form for an "unknown" quake.
About 1:45 the quake went up on the site; apparently it was a 4.5 just outside Ottawa, IL, and the "I felt it" responses are plotted on a map, which is cool.
"My unofficial title is President of the Matt Zanon groupie fan club." --Cathy Veal
In the homily Deacon Jim gave today, much attention was given to the permanency of marriage and the casualness with which it is entered into (and exited from) these days. A subject which, for the record, I mostly agree with him about. As one of his arguments, though, he discussed the pre-nuptial agreement, and asserted that people that are bothering with a prenup ought to rethink getting married, because obviously they aren't committed enough. It is, he said, like preparing for disaster.
Of course, it is preparing for disaster. People write wills with some regularity, and we run through fire drills and tornado drills, and in none of these cases do we hope for or necessarily even expect the disaster to occur. But it might, and if it does, we'd rather have it be a minor disaster than a major one, or at least to make it less major than it otherwise would be. So it is with prenups: if it turns out that despite everyone's best effort the couple needs to undergo a civil divorce (which is not necessarily a spiritual divorce!), then at least there won't be the further disaster of a messy dispute over what goes to whom.
This attitude that preparing for disaster equates with desiring it is not a new one. It's the same thing we hear from the abstinence-only idiots, who argue that arming kids with information about birth control and safe sex will necessarily grant permission to go forth and be promiscuous. It's not so; there are many ways to transmit the knowledge about things like condoms and birth control pills, and at the same time that having casual, premarital sex is immoral (not to mention usually a bad idea). We have the numbers to show that poorly informed teens are vastly more likely to get pregnant and/or contract STDs. Not preparing for unintended circumstances doesn't prevent them; it just makes them worse when they happen.
In the bulletin was a photocopied statement from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops on Catholics in Political Life. I have pretty mixed feelings on the document, which despite its title is entirely about the politics of abortion. I'm annoyed at the disingenuousness of sentences like "The legal system as such can be said to cooperate in evil when it fails to protect the lives of those who have no protection except the law." I object to their positive assertion that lawmakers "have an obligation in conscience to work toward correcting morally defective laws." Again with the moral=legal argument.
On the other hand, I was encouraged to see them say explicitly that "as bishops, we do not endorse or oppose candidates." They do reserve the right of individual bishops to decide about denial of Communion (and the rest of that paragraph makes it clear there was a very contentious debate about this), but their concluding paragraph pretty roundly condemns the practice:
The polarizing tendencies of election-year politics can lead to circumstances in which Catholic teaching and sacramental practice can be misused for political ends. Respect for the Holy Eucharist, in particular, demands that it be received worthily and that it be seen as the source for our common mission in the world.
Hear that, guys? Sacraments are not to be misused for political ends. It's divisive and it's disrespectful to God and the Church.
"This is like worrying about Bin Laden trying to get nukes. Sure, it would do a lot of damage, but terrorism is about terror, not weapons of mass destruction. If there is anything to be learned here, it is to stop layering on more armor on our helmet and notice the fact that we have no protection below the knees." --Kevin Colby
I got up bright and early at 6:30 this morning to get an early start on getting to the IAA day. I was about the fourth person there at 9:40, and even by the time it was supposed to start at 10, maybe ten people had showed up. Some things never change. :)
It was nice seeing everybody in person, but there were two real highlights. One was when everyone wanted one of my business cards, and I got to pass them out. The other was at the alumni/faculty tea, when a few of us were chatting with IMSA's CIO, someone mentioned I was a CS professor, and he says, "we're trying to get someone to teach computer science! Why are you at Knox when you could be here?" He's big into getting alumni involved in everything. The icing on this particular cake is that about this time, IMSA's executive director Dr Marshall walks over, and concurs that I should think about teaching at IMSA! And it would be fun for a little while, but I would certainly miss teaching the more advanced stuff, not to mention that the load is heavier (4 classes per term) and I like it here. Maybe during a sabbatical some year.
Anyway, things wound down around 5 and I headed back. The long, boring drive nearly did me in, and I had to stop at the BP in Dixon (well, at the Dixon exit off the Reagan Expressway (hee)) to walk around and get some coffee and a cinnamon roll, which turned out to be really tasty, especially for gas station convenience store food.
On the Jack Ryan debacle: "Becoming the Republican nominee under these circumstances (would be) like having a cancer transplant." --Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-IL)
This is really a movie that everyone needs to see. More than in his previous work, Moore has constructed Fahrenheit 9/11 from clips of publicly broadcast speeches and interviews. Stitched together with some interviews made for this movie, of course, in classic Michael Moore fashion. But it's a little harder for the pro-Bush folks to spin this one---what can they do, claim Bush didn't say those things?
The movie is, of course, about the 9/11 airplane hijackings to some extent, but its real thrust is exposing just how deceitful our President and his men (some would say our President and his puppeteers, but it doesn't really matter) have been. If there is a single thesis to the movie, it is this: Bush is spending vast numbers of innocent lives, both American and foreign, in order to make himself, his family, and his friends lots and lots of money. A secondary theme: the Bush family is a lot chummier with the Bin Laden family than a lot of people seem to realise, including a lot of Bush detractors.
The thing that I found most shocking about the movie was that, with all the bad things that I've been saying and thinking about George Walker Bush, it's even worse than that. There were a bunch of things in the movie that I already knew. There were a bunch of things that I knew, but had forgotten about. And in addition to all that, there were even more bad things that I wasn't even aware of. (Most of these related to the Bin Laden family and the House of Saud.) Even if you're up on this stuff, Michael Moore does a really good job of putting it all together and reminding you just how bad it all is.
There were two things I was hoping would be in the movie, that were not. One is a little thing: I remember the speech Bush gave in March of '03 announcing the invasion of Iraq, and the most shockingly blunt line of that speech: to the people of Iraq, "Do not destroy oil wells." Unbelievable. Not in the movie, though. (There were other clips from that speech, however.)
The second thing I was hoping he would call specific attention to was the status of women in postwar Iraq. Every time someone says or implies that life is better for the Iraqis now, I think about how that is demonstrably and patently false. It may be better for some, and I won't argue that point though privately I'm not convinced. But every single woman in Iraq is in a worse position than before. Before, they could walk openly on the street; and forget burqas, they didn't even need headscarves. They were safe, they could have jobs, and to some extent they could hold positions of authority. It wasn't exactly a model of equality, but it was quite good for a Middle Eastern country. Now? Rape is the order of the day; women rarely venture out, and when they do, it is with an escort and some serious head covering. It's not at Taleban levels, but it's bad and the trajectory is not promising.
But I was talking about the movie. I'm irritated that they didn't give it a PG-13 rating, because there was not really anything there to warrant an R. I'm especially annoyed at the people that were chirping about them showing a beheading---I was envisioning a Nicholas Berg-style video, and what was shown was a huge gathering of people with, I guess, the beheading on a platform in the distance. I didn't even see it, though I've been assured that it at least happened during the onscreen part of the scene. No, there is essentially no onscreen violence; a little bit of swearing, although not much; and a few bad injuries, although nothing really grotesque. It's not like an R rating actually prevents anyone from seeing it, but it still was a completely politically-motivated rating that pisses me off.
So, yes. Go see the movie.
"Now I live in Washington, D.C., a place where everyone's sissy student-council president goes to live, eventually." --Hank Stuever
The short list (which includes a few things not on the long list, and may not include the final one, but hey):
I should probably google and make sure none of these are taken.
"MORNINGS ARE NOT MY CUP OF TEA. I prefer lipton." --Kathy Blaheta
Some brainstorming on the name thing yielded the following list (including a few from my faithful readership):
Has the advantage of being true. Rather unwieldy, though.
Alternately, Principal of Laziness.
I never did figure out how to fill in the blank, but it would have been cute if I could find some word in French or English that started with T or rhymed with "ta" or "tot".
Seems like some obscure Java programming reference, but it's actually an obscure Galesburg reference.
Volkswagen has for my entire life had the catchiest damn advertising.
Say that ten times fast. Heck, say it once.
True on the face of it. Seems to have a deeper meaning, but I'm not sure what.
Doesn't quite mean anything, but it almost means like four different things.
I won't go with this one, but I just wanted to say this would be a great name for a Jewish dinner club.
If only I played bridge more.
I don't really do enough graphics work for this one.
It means "leaf". It's just a cool word.
With a capital T.
It's a theme in my life. Perhaps you've noticed.
More true than I'd like, really.
Also would be a great band name.
Like root beer.
That was the original point of the blog, after all.
Illinois 17th. Check it out.
... not beer.
Think a second, you'll get it.
And I'll probably end up with something not on this list anyway.
"WinFS, advertised as a way to make searching work by making the file system be a relational database, ignores the fact that the real way to make searching work is by making searching work." --Joel Spolsky
I finally found a groove on the course prep work I've been wanting to do for cs141 in the fall. I started typing a few hours ago, and I have five dense pages of text down. (That'll probably be nine or ten in the final course pack.) Go me!
On learning foreign languages: "If you can't say what you mean in conversation, then instead mean something you're able to say. (For a while after I'd studied the Hindi future tense but hadn't yet learned the past tenses, whenever someone in our house asked me at the dinner table what I'd done today, I'd just say "I don't remember" and go on to talk about what I was planning to do tomorrow.)" --Kim Plofker
The name of my blog is long and unwieldy, and isn't really all that directly related to what I tend to talk about. While still a big part of my life, I rarely blog about either linguistics or dancing. There are a fair number of books (and movies and concerts and such), but that alone doesn't really reflect the main thrust of the thing.
What is the main thrust? Well, in the last 75 entries I've had 11 about politics, 7 about my dog, 13 about school, 12 reviews of stuff I'd read or seen, and just one each about knitting and linguistics. Plus a bunch of other random miscellaneous stuff. I guess I could go the "Politics, School, and..." route, but that doesn't address the "long and unwieldy" problem.
So anyway, right now I'm thinking about what to rename it to. Either something short and relevant, or something short and it's-just-a-name meaningless. (In that last category, by the way, "Bloghedo" has already been considered and rejected, ucchhhh.) The URL will stay the same, of course.
"I really can't trade the hope of liberty for security, sorry. Unfortunately, I get the feeling much of the rest of liberal America is willing to trade my liberty for their security. It's depressing." --Jonathan Prykop
In light of the current flap about Jack Ryan's recently-released divorce records, I find myself in the odd (and slightly irritating) position of defending the Republican Senate candidate.
The allegations made by his ex-wife were basically that on vacations to a few different cities, he took her to a few sketchy clubs where couples (and, he expected, they) would have sex in public or semi-public areas. Not with random people, note---just with the person they came with. So, basically, even if the allegations are all true, they mean that Jack Ryan is (drum roll...) an exhibitionist.
There's no question that he played this badly, of course; had he come out with this information earlier (perhaps after the primary) it would almost certainly have gone better than dragging it out until late June. But ultimately, who the hell cares? I want Obama to win, but I'd be irritated if it were as a result of something like this. I hope that any would-be Ryan voter who is offended by the allegations (note that they're not even proven yet, and Ryan's denying them---stupid if they're true, but what can you do) will sit down, take a deep breath, and think about all the other things that Ryan stands for. I think he's wrong on a whole lot of things, and I agree with Obama on most things, which is why I plan to support and vote for Obama in November. But if you agree with Ryan's platform, seriously, don't let this thing stop you.
"Patches set upon a little breach
Discredit more in hiding of the fault
Than did the fault before it was so patched."
--Shakespeare, King John
Feeling generally crappy today, developed a cough, and decided to slouch around the apartment all day. But there's good news!
In pretty much every science fiction story written since about 1940, space has figured pretty strongly. Most acknowledged that the elbow of the progress curve would be about when private interests started successfully attaining space.
Well, here we are, then. A team based in California has made a reusable spaceship and a reusable launch plane, and piloted the sucker above the accepted "space boundary" of 100km/62mi. It was in flight for about 90 minutes before reentering the atmosphere, and glided to a landing in the Mojave Desert. They'll probably make an attempt at the coveted X Prize later this year.
The downside is that the Republicans will probably use this as an excuse to defund NASA. :P But even so, we're (finally) moving into a whole new era of space exploration; we may soon see the fulfillment of some of the promises given to our parents' generation in the 60s.
"We teach these children, not because they are Catholic, but because we are." --Dr Mary MacDonald
Last night I rewrote my handin script (it's not perfect, but it's a lot better). Today, I responded to a really obnoxious chain-letter, cleaned off my desk, and rearranged my office, as I've been itching to do for months now. Now, I can still see out my door, but I can also see out my window. Even in the winter months when the foliage is thin, I will not have glare on my monitor. And when students come to see me, I don't have to trip over them to get to my whiteboard. Excellent.
"Urban areas belong to all of us---whether we live there or not." --Dr Mary MacDonald
Today's accomplishments: I set up spamassassin, collated and filed all my students' projects and exams, and put away all the handouts from the last two terms, preliminary to actually organising my office. On the home front, I'm caught up with all my reading (newspapers and magazines) and have tidied a little bit. My dog is shedding like crazy, but hourly brushing (!) is preventing it from getting all over the apartment.
"The problem with nominating a weak vacillator who puts politics before principle as our standard bearer is that he vacillates and puts politics before principle, and makes us look weak." --Michael Kimmitt
On Thursday evening I went to see the third Harry Potter movie, having read the book on Monday. It's already become cliché to comment on how the series is "growing up", so I'll pass on that whole line, but I will say that (as usual) the movie was true to the book in spirit and largely in letter, without being a slave to the book. The tone and basic ideas carried over perfectly. A few of the details were modified, but usually to good effect.
(In the rest of the review, I'll avoid mentioning any spoiling info except inside a spoiler box, which should appear as a blank box you can highlight to reveal the text inside. A "book spoiler" is a detail common to both the book and the movie, so you can read it if you've read the book. A "movie spoiler" is something that might surprise you even if you've read the book, so you might want to skip those.)
Still, there were a few details I was unhappy about. In the opening scene of the movie, Harry is hiding under his bedsheet, doing magic! This is prohibited in the strongest possible way, as has been mentioned in the previous movies and indeed several times in this one. I understand that it made for a more visually stimulating show of him surreptitiously doing his homework, but it was still irritating that it was never even explained.
When Harry first sees the dog in the shadows, it really shouldn't be growling at him. It should be looking menacing and with the scary eyes glowing; but I disliked how they tried to make it more visual (I guess) by actually bringing it forward and growling and such.
BOOK SPOILER (highlight to reveal): I was also really unhappy about the look of the werewolf. We were told earlier that the difference between a werewolf and an animagus was subtle and needed to be looked for; but this werewolf was clearly quite different from an animagus dog or wolf. It's kind of a gangly CG nasty that doesn't really look like anything in particular. Disappointing.
But all that was easily brushed aside in light of the rest of the movie. The score was fantastic; clearly John Williams felt bad about slacking off a little in HP2, and tried to make up for it. The music is linked to that of the earlier two movies, but is a whole new score in its own right.
The scenery is---as usual---stunning. In a typical book/movie departure, a few scenes that were short in the book get drawn out in the movie as an opportunity for some awesome panoramic cinematography. (These scenes often, though not always, involve flying.) This is exactly the sort of thing I mean when I say that the movie was not enslaved by the book; purists might want it to be strictly an illustration of the text, but judicious use of this sort of variance is what makes it a creative work in its own right. It was a little alarming to see Hagrid's hut move from its former location in the first two movies, but one can imagine a story of some magical reason for it. Maybe the Hogwarts faculty transported his hut to its new location to better facilitate his new position. Whatever.
Book spoiler: A time-travel scene can make or break a movie. It is an opportunity for an otherwise good movie to go terribly, horribly wrong; but a time-travel scene well done makes a great movie outstanding. This movie is an example of the latter. It knits together the two time threads seamlessly, with many junction points between them for the sci-fi geeks in the audience to get thrilled by. And there are a few little twists that they throw in that were not in the book, that make this sequence even more fun.
Movie spoiler: For instance, I was initially a bit miffed at how they handled the werewolf scene the first time around---an ill-advised liberty taken with the script, I thought, and how were they going to actually get the werewolf away once Harry confronted it? When the other werewolf howled, I sort of sighed in disgust. What a cop-out! And it didn't even sound like a real wolf; the sound techs had really fallen down on their job. (Not kidding. I registered that it was a female human howling, and didn't make any further connections.) Then, of course, when Harry and Hermione were witnessing the Sirius-and-Harry conversation the second time around, it suddenly dawned on me what happened (and how they were going to actually get rid of the werewolf). Really cleverly done! The book was two-days fresh and I still managed to get roped in by smart, suspenseful time-travel play.
Oh, and speaking of knitting: in this movie, Ron is wearing the most amazing parade of really horrible sweaters that I've ever seen in my life. There must have been at least six or eight of them---competently knitted, but absolutely atrocious designs that just scream "my mother made this and I have to wear it!" Which, of course, is spot-on for the story. Just another example of attention to detail that me and, like, five other people in the world are likely to catch on to. :)
Some casting notes: Brilliant work on recasting Albus Dumbledore; Emma Thompson as Professor Trelawney is lovely comic relief; Sirius Black was good, for all that we really don't see much of him. Prof Lupin seemed like a bad cast at first (my mental image of him was much better-looking), but he grew on me during the movie. (It took me nearly halfway through the movie to figure out where he looked familiar from---he's the bad guy in Moulin Rouge, and the characters were so very different that it just wouldn't register.) The various children, both major and minor, seem to be growing up at about the right rate, so I don't know what everyone is chirping about---when they're supposed to look fifteen, they'll look sort of mid-teens, when they're supposed to look eighteen, they'll appear to be, surprise!, young adults.
At this point in the series, we just need to hope that we can sustain the entire main cast through another four films. I'd hate to have to resort to the good old soap-opera "the part of Ron will be played by..." trick. :P
UPDATE: The guy that plays Lupin is, in fact, not the guy that plays the Duke in Moulin Rouge. I still say he looks like him, though.
"Miss Manners does not minimize the amount of self-control it takes to look on with equanimity while one's property is demolished. It takes practice. But it sounds as if the circles in which you move are prepared to offer you that." --Miss Manners
I submitted grades today at 10am. Then I amended one of my senior's grades, having realised that the final project was a tad (just a smidge!) harder than I estimated last week, and he really deserved to have that minus removed from his grade. Then I realised that one of the kids I thought was taking an incomplete, and for whom I'd thus submitted an F, was in fact not taking an incomplete. So I sat down and graded two homeworks and two projects, and submitted his revised grade, along with profuse apologies to the registrar's assistants, who by all indications have not yet begun to hate me. Which is fortuitous.
I still just don't understand people who completely fail to turn stuff in. Not missing a homework, God knows I did that myself often enough. But missing all of them? Or skipping a project? It's frustrating as a teacher to, on the one hand, see a student who is perfectly capable of doing good work, but just blows off so much work that their final grade plummets; or on the other hand, see a student who probably would be able to do it if they sat down and worked on the homework, ever, but don't, and therefore do very poorly on the few things they do attempt. But what can I do, other than send them the occasional reminder? I'm a terrible procrastinator myself, so I can understand where they're coming from, but I guess I'm better at pulling it out in the last moments (or perhaps just better at dealing with sleep deprivation---useful skill, that).
Anyway, I'm pretty loopy with sleep deprivation right now, what with having stayed up all night to finish grading final exams and projects in time for the 10am deadline this morning. (Did I mention I...? Yes, yes I did.) So now I will go to sleep. Well, after letting my dog out. I'll let my dog out, and then I'll go to sleep. After taking my contacts out. I'll let out the dog, take out my contacts, and then go to bed. And maybe laun---no! There is no third thing. Only the dog and the contacts. Now, where was I?
"I'm more in there if you s/wrong/distasteful/g." --Kevin Colby
I did it again last night---having gone to bed (well, flopped on the couch) at about 3pm after Commencement, I didn't move except to get up and take Nutmeg out back and immediately return to the couch, until 9:30am this morning. Even then, my body resisted actually getting up, as I'd apparently slipped into catch-up/hibernation mode.
Anyway, I caught up on the last week of local newspapers, and then I've been bouncing along creating a procrastination stack for the first time in ages. You know how it goes---I'm going to work on this now. Oh, but in order to do this more efficiently, I should work on that first. Ah, and that would go easier if...
I've actually accomplished something (changing the bulb on my halogen torchiere lamp), and gotten a healthy list of projects on tap. Still no grading, but hey, I've got til Wednesday, right? (I should probably check on that, actually.) I'm actually rather enjoying this.
"A motherless child is helpless and adrift; even a poor choice is better if it's the mother's." --Eva Schillace
I don't know why I always procrastinate this sort of thing so much, given that I feel so much better after I get it done. Anyway, I finally booked my Great World Tour for July---I'm taking the train from Chicago to Boston on the 8th-9th, then hanging out there for a week, flying from Boston to Barcelona via Amsterdam (yay KLM!) on the 18th-19th, and then flying from Barcelona to Chicago (again via Amsterdam) on the 29th. KLM is totally my hero: the other airlines were quoting me prices in the thousands for every possible configuration involving Chicago and/or Boston and Madrid and/or Barcelona, and significantly more if those configurations were not a straight-up round trip. Not KLM though! My BOS-BCN-ORD trip came in under $900 including tax. And the train trip is only $85, too.
I still have to reserve the car rental I plan to do in Boston, but that's less vital. I also need to actually register for the conference, but that's totally not time sensitive as long as it's done in the next week---the prices aren't randomly fluctuating and there's no worry of being closed out.
It's also an incredibly good thing I idly mentioned to my mom that I needed to find my passport. She suggested I check my safety deposit box, which was of course exactly where it was (and remains), but I had totally forgotten about that. I would have torn the apartment completely apart looking for the damn thing.
Anyway, so anyone who will be in Barcelona or some plausibly nearby locale in Spain or France around that time should let me know. My conference is the 22nd--26th, and the rest of the time I'm bumming around looking at churches and museums and stuff, but I'd love to actually hang out with someone if possible.
"What's going to be awesome is what (if any) culture emerges on Mars. The combination of "you must be this familiar with the utility of educated action to enter" and "the environment is seriously trying to kill you" will weed out a lot of the libertarian and fundie bullshit that's holding us back right now." --Michael Kimmitt
I slept upwards of fourteen hours last night (not counting two hours on the train yesterday), and then I spent the day catching up on various things (though not, yet, the blog). I'll catch this thing up at some point. Maybe tomorrow.
"My head was exploding right and left during that story. At the end all I was left with was a stubby brain stem weakly throbbing out waves of judgmental astonishment at the whole durned story." --Tori Bryan