27 Sep 2004


For a couple days I'm dogsitting---Mom & Dad are visiting Kathy in Ames, and they dropped off Cinnamon at my place. It's interesting seeing the two of them interact; they really have very different personalities. I don't remember this happening when Nutmeg visited my parents, but I think he's a little jealous of when I give attention to Cinnamon....

And Cinnamon is much more canny when it comes to getting into things. Nutmeg has for months been successfully blocked in the kitchen by the simple expedient of leaning a card table in the doorway. Cinnamon instantly figured out that he could stick his nose in the narrow gap between the bottom of the card table and the door jamb. Even after I blocked this gap with my wine rack, it took him less than an hour to charge the bottom of it to make it tip over.

Today, I pushed the card table flush with the doorway and held it up with a chair (with a heavy box on it to prevent him from moving or jumping on top of it. Also, I again pushed the wine rack to block where the gap used to be before I pushed the table flush. I'm still not sure how, but in the six hours I was gone during the day, he managed to move the wine rack out of the way and pull the card table back, enough to give him and Nutmeg room to wander the apartment.

Tonight, before I left to supervise the programming contest practice, I put another chair in front of the table. So now there's a collapsed card table, two chairs, and a wine rack blocking this doorway. It worked! We'll try it again tomorrow.

It is not necessary to say anything the opposite of which is absurd. --Clive Moss

Posted by blahedo at 11:22pm | Comments (0)

26 Sep 2004

It worked!

My little plan that I hatched seems to have worked beyond my wildest imaginings. I figured, more people would sing in church if I made a specific point to ask them, and if we practiced. And if we worked the music in gradually. So this week I gave a short little speech before Mass, sang the Holy Holy, exhorted the congregation to sing it with me, and then went back to the choir.

Not only did the whole congregation sing it during the Mass, we also had much higher than usual participation in other songs, like offertory. It was amazing! I can't believe something so simple worked so well.

In other news, an odd juxtaposition: I got an envelope in the mail with three peelable stickers on the front: "Free lunch", "Free love", "Free issue". It was a typical mail offer---if I wanted to get a risk-free free issue, I affix the third sticker to the enclosed postcard and send it back. At the top of the blurb, it says, "Did you make the right choice?" All pretty standard fare, right? The text of the blurb begins: "If you like making up your own mind, Utne magazine is the magazine for you..." Nice. They let you make up your own mind, but only one choice is correct. :)

"He tried to kiss me. And he kissed like a PEZ DISPENSER! His head fell back 180 degrees, and his tongue popped out!! Like I'm s'posed to give him Communion!!" --Judy Tenuta

Posted by blahedo at 4:19pm | Comments (2)

22 Sep 2004

Barbecue sauce, this time

Dammit, that's twice in two weeks that I've needed to make use of Emergency Pants. What do people who don't keep Emergency Pants around do? I know I'm not that much klutzier than the average person.

"If I ever do get a car it will be something to tinker with and be small, old, and British. Just like my mum." --Simon Jansen

Posted by blahedo at 3:19pm | Comments (0)

20 Sep 2004

Fridge expedition

Well, I dredged my fridge for debris, and it wasn't as bad as it might have been. A few things out of date but not scandalously so (and therefore not too unpleasant to remove and throw out), and really only one horrible item: a hunk of finely aged tofu. Fortunately, it was sitting in one of those disposable ziploc tupperware things, so after draining it (which was quite smelly enough), I could just pitch the whole thing. Then I did dishes, and now my kitchen is actually moderately clean. If a tad untidy.

"If there's a gender trend, I think it's, 'Human beings will often choose dishonesty over an irate woman.'" --Jonathan Prykop

Posted by blahedo at 11:16pm | Comments (0)

18 Sep 2004

Always the Women

Tonight I saw a one-woman show in Kresge called Always the Women. It's an amalgamation of stories from the four Gospels featuring women. Not only the stories, but the language itself is taken; the script is basically a cut-and-paste job from the NIV translation (with some minor adjustments).

A potentially interesting idea that only worked moderately well. In the Q&A session afterwards the actor, Nina Thiele, pointed out that it was important and difficult to make it more than a recitation of Bible verses, and she's right. I think the problem was that she didn't draw from a broad enough palette of emotions (and overdid the ones she did use); everyone was either furious or ecstatic or incredulous. Except Jesus, who was frequently not emotional at all.

There were a few great moments, and these served chiefly to provide a contrast against which to judge the rest of it. These moments had in common that they contained no articulated words---they were voiceless interjections that were pure interpretations, and brought us the sense that she was depicting real people.

The "narrator" character deserves special note, because it was the most frustrating. The narrator spent most of her time amazed, and the amazement was either 1) "I can't/Can you believe this is happening" or 2) "I can't/Can you believe these people don't know what's going on". I don't think either one worked very well, and they worked especially badly in combination. (I think the second kind was accidental, as after the show she mentioned that she was largely trying for a "this has never happened before, incredible!" sort of approach.) I see what she was getting at, but it just wasn't working. Maybe if it had been a little lighter: "wow!" instead of "OMG!!!11".

I do have to say that one of the best, most genuine moments is the very last one: as Mary Magdalene she says (approximately) "He had to tell his story, and he told it to me!" I'm not seeing it in any of the four (the rest of the scene was definitely the version from John), so this may have been one of the few additions; a good one, imo.

I've been going back and forth all evening as to whose fault the problems were. On the one hand, by restricting herself to the exact wording of the Bible, she's set herself a big task and some very difficult hurdles to overcome, and many of the problems might just be the fault of the "script" not being chiefly designed for a dramatic presentation. On the other hand, there were definitely a lot of places where I could envision a specific different way she could have said the same words to improve the scene immensely. But in the end, it's probably a combination of different things. I'm not sorry I went to see it, but I can't really recommend it to anyone else (which is too bad, because Ms. Thiele seems really nice and sincere).

"Osgood, I'm a man!"
"Well, nobody's perfect." --Some Like It Hot

Posted by blahedo at 11:32pm | Comments (0)

17 Sep 2004

Speedy indeedy

So, I remembered, after I got in the shower and just after I got my hair wet, that I had said that Fridays 2nd hour (starts 9:20) were going to be one of my office hours. That was twenty minutes ago. I'm at work now. Whew. I even managed to walk my dog in there.

"We import 61% of our oil. There is no possible way to drill our way out of this mess. We have to invent our way out of it." --John Kerry

Posted by blahedo at 9:35am | Comments (0)

16 Sep 2004


Getting a table at the Carnival of Clubs seems to have really paid off. Tonight, at the first ballroom class of the year, I had loads of people! Even better, the gender balance was fairly close---I never managed to really count, but I think I had nine or ten guys and maybe twelve or thirteen girls. All of them seemed to be having a lot of fun, everybody got to meet and dance with a lot of other people. I fully expect to see most if not all of them back next week. Wooooooooo!

"If I ever get elected God, one of the policies I'm going to implement is massive and real penalties for the board of directors and CEO (or equivalent) of any company that puts out a product with a planned obsolecence. It's a crime against humanity." --Sam Walker

Posted by blahedo at 9:56pm | Comments (0)

Mandatory reading

Long-time readers of my blog (both of them) know that from time to time, I run across something so important, or outrageous---often both---that I require all my readers to look at it. I don't do it very often, or I would just irritate people. But once again I have found something that I find it extremely important for everyone to read, and pass around, and show their friends. Thus, "mandatory reading".

Everyone knows that the Republican National Convention was in New York City a few weeks ago, and most know that there were protests. Peaceful protests. On the Sunday before the convention a half a million people participated in a violence-free march protesting the President and his policies. Smaller groups continued with gatherings and marches during the week.

Unfortunately, those people lost the benefit of numbers, and during the week the NYPD arrested hundreds and hundreds of people whose only crime was---gasp!---walking on the sidewalk. Or listening to someone on a soapbox. At last count over 1,800 people were arrested; many were held for more than 24 hours in horrible conditions.

But don't take my word for it. You need to read this account from someone who was there, including pictures and videos. I can't adequately stress how important it is to publicise accounts like this without sounding like a fringe crank, and that in itself may be indicative of how important I think it is.

There are other accounts, too. Look around. My friend Zach was there, too. Look around the various IndyMedia sites for more first-hand accounts. Don't let the mainstream media's total failure to cover this major event let you think that it never happened.

"They're called sweetbreads for the obvious reason that if you called them thymus glands or whatever you couldn't give the damn things away. The art of euphemism goes back a long way." --Cecil Adams

Posted by blahedo at 4:37pm | Comments (0)

15 Sep 2004

Dude, lighten up.

So I'm walking my dog this morning, and as I'm walking past an apartment building, a guy pulls up in a pickup truck to go into the building office. But when he gets out, the grumpy old man starts yelling at me. It seems that I should be keeping my dog in my yard, as "this is an office, and people are coming and going through this area". Buh? I think Nutmeg peed in the grass there, although I wasn't really paying close attention; he certainly hadn't left any presents there (and I would have cleaned that up anyway). I responded in a somewhat befuddled manner that he'd only peed, and the guy said, "yeah, but people still have to walk through it!" Then he made a loud noise of disgust and stomped off into the building.

Bizarre. I mean I'm not going to be losing any sleep over this, but I just had to share.

"It's true! He totally is! In a roundabout way, he reminds me of Chris Rock's stand up routine where he says that people have two options: good relationship and boring, or bad relationship and exciting.... Alan Keyes is the GOP's bad boyfriend." --Leigh Anne Wilson

Posted by blahedo at 10:16am | Comments (2)

14 Sep 2004


By the way: if you want to link to a specific article, click on the [+] at the end of the post; this will take you to that post's page in the archives. The URL for that page will not change, so linking to it will actually work. (And for the record, I have no problem with deep linking. :)

"The great thing about ebay is that it was a huge success precisely because it seemed like a terrible idea at the time, and so nobody else tried it, until ebay locked in the network effects and first-mover advantage." --Joel Spolsky

Posted by blahedo at 2:17pm | Comments (0)

13 Sep 2004

On flip-flopping

I'm getting sick of hearing the word "flip-flop" over and over again. It is used to mean a lot of different things, and not all of them are bad (though all are painted with the same brush when that word is used).

It just happens, from time to time, that someone with an honestly-held, well-considered opinion is presented with fresh information---or at least a fresh perspective---and after some further consideration, changes their mind. It's the mark of a thoughtful person leading an examined life. To act otherwise is to live in unreasoning stubbornness. Calling this sort of thing a "flip-flop" is a disservice; we want people to be always thinking critically and to never be so attached to a certain view that they will hold it to the point of absurdity.

It also happens, for most of us, that there are some issues that we just don't care about that much. Or maybe we care, but we're still undecided. It seems to me that for a politician in this position, an entirely reasonable course of action would be to poll carefully and take the stance supported by a broad majority of the electorate---at least until some further evidence comes up that might support a different view (see previous paragraph). We clearly don't want a politician whose entire worldview is blown by the prevailing winds, but I'm not sure that simply following constituents is necessarily bad, in moderation. I remain somewhat partial to the politicians who actually deep-down agree with me, but the poll-followers can at least make a claim to being representative.

The kind of flip-flopping that's really problematic is when a politician holds one belief but flat-out lies about it, saying one thing in public speeches but doing another when constructing budgets, ruling committees, or otherwise exerting authority. For the all-too-large segment of the voting public that will believe what is said in the speeches (which they agree with) and never hear what is actually done (which they would disagree with), this sort of thing undermines the basic fabric of the democratic process. Now, some blame might lie in the person who neglects to fact-check, or the media that neglect to report, but dwelling on that is counterproductive; the lion's share of the blame lies on the shoulders of the lying politician.

It can be hard to tell, absent context, which sort of "flip-flop" is occurring in any given case, if all you have is a simple "before" and "after" snapshot. The first and second sorts of "flip-flop" are hard to tell apart in any case, but if you look at the bigger picture they are both characterised by a basically consistent profession of one belief, leading up to some point in time from which all subsequent declarations are of the new belief. The third tends to be accompanied by a lot of back-and-forth, playing both sides, saying one thing and doing another over and over again. As the first two are basically honest behaviours and the last is a basically lying sort of behaviour, they're sort of incompatible; people who change their mind or blow in the breeze are likely to do so on more than one issue, and people who try to blatantly snow the public are not going to restrict their deceit to just one issue. So it is instructive, not just to look at long-term patterns within an issue, but also to seek patterns across a politician's entire platform.

There are three kinds of flip-flops: the considered change of mind, the populist poll-follow, and the out-and-out lie. Kerry might do either the first or the second, but Bush is a coarse flip-flopper of the third kind.

"It used to be sad that the Republican Party couldn't find more black candidates. Now it's tragic." --Brent Spillner

Posted by blahedo at 11:51pm | Comments (1)

12 Sep 2004


I call shenanigans on the whole damn Bush campaign. It turns out that Illinois wasn't the only one they blew off a deadline for: they did it in Florida, too.

They knew perfectly well that having a September convention would make them miss deadlines, and they just didn't care. They knew that if the Dems tried to call them on it, they could cry "technicality!" and in the end the Dems would look bad. I'm annoyed that they think the Rule of Law doesn't apply to them, and I'm appalled that they appear to be correct. (Meanwhile the other parties are trying to follow the law, and being beat back with thoughtful arguments like, "oh, you're not a real party anyway.") I bet this doesn't even make the national media, just like the Illinois kerfuffle stayed mostly local. I wonder how many other states this is going on in....

"I pity the bacterium who lands on MY chili." --Eva Sweeney

Posted by blahedo at 5:22pm | Comments (1)

Two movies

Last night, I saw Some Like It Hot at the Orpheum. I've seen it on video before, but this was the first time on a big screen. (It was a DVD version, not film, as became clear when we saw that the subtitles were on---in French!---until they fixed it and turned them off.) It remains a really funny movie, even decades later. Some of the movie conventions of the time seem quaint and even confusing now; like the flashing lights that represent gunfire, or the fact that the darkest nighttime scenes were filmed in broad daylight. That didn't detract, though. The movie is accidentally topical, touching on the subject of same-sex marriage, but what is most impressive is how non-judgemental it is on quite a lot of issues of sexuality that are controversial even today. Also, it's simply riotously funny. :)

This evening I was flipping channels and saw The Royal Tenenbaums. This was another one I'd already seen, but I didn't mind seeing it again. (Notwithstanding FX's new habit of not only placing advertising bugs in the corner of the screen, but having them make noise for like twenty seconds as they cruise across the bottom and bottom-right of the screen. Really fucking irritating, guys. Way to completely turn me off of whatever it was you were advertising.) This darkly funny movie is all about the characters: there's not a lot of action per se, but it seems like a lot is going on. None of the characters are particularly 2D, although some are painted in relatively broad strokes; there's only so much you can do when you have more than a dozen characters to set up in a feature-length movie. My favourite, though, was Etheline, played by Anjelica Huston. She's probably not the first one that would spring to mind for most people, but she's so delightfully subtle. Most of the other characters were well-fleshed-out because of good writing, but hers was done through acting. Then again, I've always been a sucker for the well-played supporting role.

"Yet people crave change, which is why we have seasons in the first place. Places with insignificant temperature changes may brag about their perfect climates, but even perfection requires contrast to be appreciated. Theirs, which they may neglect to mention at the time, tend to be hurricanes and earthquakes." --Miss Manners

Posted by blahedo at 12:49am | Comments (0)

9 Sep 2004

Best musicals

In today's Register-Mail, there was a little feature posting some of the staff's picks for the top five best musicals. A response was invited, so here's mine:

  1. The Music Man

    Easily the best out there. Pretty much an archetype of the ensemble-cast musical genre. The plot is interesting without being convoluted, there are a lot of good characters, and the music is simply excellent.

  2. Evita

    This musical has less parts than it seems---there's really only three, four if you count Magaldi. Plus the chorus, of course. But the show manages to be epic in spite of its really small cast; and the music is really diverse (and, again, excellent). I also have to confess that I was floored by the movie version of this, which had great promise and then went ahead and exceeded it. Madonna can act! Antonio Banderas can sing! Who knew?

  3. Moulin Rouge

    It could never be effectively made into a stage musical, but this show is such a clever amalgamation of a classic plot with stunning visuals and a surprising array of music from pop culture. I fear that it won't stand the test of time, but for now it definitely belongs on the list.

  4. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

    Musical theatre's answer to the screwball comedy, any decent production of this show will have you in stitches by the end. The music isn't quite as good or as memorable as with the first three, but it's well-suited to the show. Its chief liability (one it shares with some other pretty good musicals like Joseph and Seven Brides) is that it has a good-sized cast but very few decent female roles, so it doesn't get put on very often.

  5. The Sound of Music

    I had a hard time picking one show to fill this last slot, but in the end I settled on Sound of Music. It gets a bad rap because it is overplayed, but it's overplayed because it really is good. It's just a bit too cheesy to make it to the top of the list, but the wide range of catchy, memorable songs let it buy its way into the top five.

"I mean, look at poor Ann Landers: That woman was always stressing out about fake letters making it into her column---and where is Ann Landers today? Dead! No doubt from the stress of worrying about fake letters making it into her column! Personally, I'd rather have margaritas carry me off." --Dan Savage

Posted by blahedo at 11:03pm | Comments (3)

6 Sep 2004

Brief check-in

Well, I'm back from my most recent sojourn to New England, once again to attend a wedding (and this time to be a groomsman in it). A big shout out to Greg and Carrie Seidman. I'll post more about the weekend eventually, hopefully. There's at least two posts of material there. ;)

Meanwhile, I'm incredibly glad I installed the bayesian blogspam filter when I did. It was only a week or two before I was regularly getting slammed with occasional batches of a couple dozen spams. This weekend, between Thursday afternoon and tonight, I got well over a hundred. Happily, none of them made it out to the public, although one nonspam was temporarily held until I approved it. If any of y'all run a blog and haven't got hit yet, you're lucky---but I don't advise waiting to install some sort of filter.

"Paperwork alone is not really an excuse to press someone into military service. "All-volunteer military" has some ethical weight to go along with its practical benefits; paperwork tricks like this diminish that ethical value." --Jonathan Prykop

Posted by blahedo at 11:52pm | Comments (1)

2 Sep 2004

Ongoing madness

My cable was out last night, and so I was unable to watch the RNC speeches. At the time, I was disappointed, because I wanted to follow them. Reading some of the transcripts, it's probably just as well; I may have saved myself an apoplectic fit or two. Rhetoric and propaganda are one thing, and if they have a place at all, it's certainly political conventions. But they just keep making statements that are demonstrably untrue! That is, lying.

Zell Miller's speech deserves especial attention. The main thrust of his arguments seem to be that A) Kerry is unpatriotic to even run for president against Bush in these turbulent times, B) the Democrats are even more unpatriotic for supporting him, and C) anyone who protests against the current administration is damn near treasonous. We have many words for countries where those sentiments prevail, but "first world" and "democracy" are not among them.

'To my selective hearing, however, the mom's sales pitch sounded like: "Gush, gush, gush, cat urine, gush, gush, cat urine, gush, gush, gush, the urine of the cats, gush, gush, missing puzzle piece, gush, gush, gush, bowel obstruction, gush, gush, gush, $2,000 for kitty surgery, gush gush."' --Burt Constable

Posted by blahedo at 4:58pm | Comments (1)