I'm irritated at all the self-righteous windbagging that has gone on, that brought me psychologically to the point where my only reaction when a person dies is, "finally!" That just shouldn't be. Relief, yes; there are certainly cases out there where the end comes as a blessed release from the suffering of a painful life. The current case started out that way.
But the blogs, the newspapers, the televisions, the churches, the political meetings, and just about every damn other place you turn, they've all taken this poor woman's situation and blown it into a full-on proxy war about everything from abortion to health care, when really all it ever was was an unfortunate family dispute regarding whether a spouse has total decision-making capability for the mentally unfit (or mentally departed, as the case may be). I was---we all were, I think---getting so sick of it. There was a dread in the pit of my stomach that a feeding tube would be reinserted at the 11th hour, a cruel and unusual treatment dragging the whole mess out for months or years more.
Now, it's over. I have no illusions that the publicity will stop, but I can hope that at least the rancour will settle down a bit, and it will become a more civil debate. And politicians will have to stop using it as a smokescreen for whatever new crap they're pulling this week.
"It's like the pull-out-and-pray method of birth control--really, it's one of the most sinful methods of birth control because it sucks at preventing unwanted babies, and the point of Catholic dogma is that life should be desired, not that our methods of preventing life must be shoddy." --Jonathan Prykop
Today I discovered a teaching aid that is so mind-bogglingly useful that it served in not one but two completely unrelated classes: Artificial Intelligence on the one hand, and Data Structures on the other. What is it, you say?
A big bag o' D&D dice. :)
In AI we needed to learn conditional probabilities and all the various little details that come with that; so I can ask things like "What's the probability of rolling a 3 on a green die?" or "What's the probability of rolling a 7 given that the die I drew out of the bag was a d12?" before moving on to advanced topics like "If the bag has 8d4 and 4d8, and I randomly draw one die and roll it, what's the probability that I roll a 2?"
And in data structures, today we started work on the Bag data structure. Having a number of real-life Objects that I could point to made that introduction a total breeze.
"I've always been rather pro-life, but where in God's Word does that mean arresting and detaining people who perform or seek out abortions? For me, the "culture of life" means cultivating a world in which life is wanted, not forcing life upon the world whether it wants it or not." --Jonathan Prykop
In a fit of irresponsibility, I stayed up late last night for the sole purpose of finishing Going Postal by Terry Pratchett. As I mentioned earlier, Pratchett has entered a new(ish) era over the last few years; there's no magic left. I mean, there never was much magic actually performed (and even less that was performed correctly). But there was a lot more ambient magic, even in ones that didn't deal with Unsene University, the witches, or a certain Anthropomorphic Force Of Nature.
Don't get me wrong; I love that his last two books have had significant references to information theory and networking. Almost makes you wonder if he's getting a CS degree on the sly. But I think I need to go back and reread some old ones; the new style's good but I miss the old one.
This one wasn't as overtly political as Monstrous Regiment, but it definitely has its moments. Here there is less of a prescription on what to do, as a cautionary tale on what not to allow: runaway laissez-faire capitalism encourages corruption and does little to enhance anything but the ledger amounts of the richest venture capitalists. No surprise or disagreement here; it's why I favour some level of government oversight to keep things from getting out of hand. (Ah, would that we could have a benevolent despot like Lord Vetinari. Too bad it's so easy to get the second half and so utterly impossible to guarantee the first half.)
"It's not that it's impossible to be intelligent and a member of both the NRA and an anti-abortion group. It's just that it's not done." --Michael Kimmitt
Knox's Commencement speaker this year? Barack Obama. Oh yes.
"In Schiavo's case, God must wait in the wings until the courts and Congress are through playing Him...." --Burt Constable
Arnold Zwicky over at Language Log writes today (well, late last night, actually) about the pronunciation nucular as used by an awful lot of people. He's quite dismissive of the metathesis explanation that I and others have put forth before:
Metathesis of the /l/ and /i/ of /nukliər/ would give /nukilər/, with primary accent on the first syllable and secondary accent on the second (as in nuclear). To get towards nucular, that second syllable would have to lose its accent (this is not particularly unlikely), yielding /nukIlər/ or /nukələr/. This isn't all the way home, though, because there's still that /y/ to pick up. It looks like Safire is assuming a metathesis and then a reshaping to match other -cular words, which would supply a /y/. But direct reshaping is a more parsimonious account of the phenomenon; the metathesis is unnecessary (as well as insufficient).
But here's the thing: even when I'm pronouncing the word "correctly", it's more like /'nuk.lə.jər/, although the second syllable's vowel is perhaps a bit higher than schwas I produce in other contexts. It's definitely quite different from the vowel /i/ as in "beet" or for that matter "pricklier" (which is /'prɪk.li.ər/). The reason for this difference is probably morphological as he indicates, but once this still-"correct" pronunciation for "nuclear" is in place, it seems like it's a straight shot over to "nucular" by way of metathesis.
Of course, I still haven't read Geoff Nunberg's book Going Nucular, which Zwicky's post references; it's been on my to-do list for ages. If he's already addressed this argument, I guess I'll just feel dumb. :P
"it really sounds like you're trying to put a nail in a wall using only a cheese danish and a variety of expletives." --Neal Groothuis
A few days ago, news broke that the Bishop of San Diego had forbidden all parishes within his diocese from holding a funeral Mass for one John McCusker, on the basis that he owned a nightclub and a gay bar. Denying funeral rites to (the family of) someone the Church disapproves of happens extremely rarely, on the order of once a decade, notably for people like mob bosses and such. News of this sort of specific dig at specific people is about the most frustrating thing for me to read about as a Catholic; the general policies like forbidding birth control or denying marriage to same-sex couples are things that I know will change, in time, and I can be patient. But the sheer nastiness in pronouncements like this, coming from reasonably high up in the hierarchy, is almost too much to bear.
But when I see, a few days later, that Bishop Brom has apologised and will in fact celebrate a Mass in McCusker's memory, that sort of news is eminently reassuring. I'd love to have been a fly on the wall in the bishop's offices over the last few days. But in any case, I can accept that human nastiness will surface occasionally, even if we try to fight it. When the good men in the church hierarchy realise what a horrifically awful thing they've done, and rectify it as best they can, I have a great deal of hope for the future.
And hey, if he hadn't so thoroughly denied the funeral in the first place, none of this would have been even remotely national news. Now, though, if anyone on a more local level---a pastor or other priest---was thinking of trying something like this, it's been made clear that that shit don't fly.
On Unbreakable: "It's times like this when I wonder why everyone else's taste in movies SUCKS. Tori, I can find you many beautifully filmed movies that don't drag on like a homily in latin." --Jonathan Prykop
I picked up my course evals today, and my 141 kids totally panned the class. Which is pretty surprising, since I didn't make any structural changes between fall and winter, and if anything I thought the winter term went smoother. But this last term's 141 was rated as disorganised, lacking clear goals, and overall poorly taught. Which is both disappointing and highly worrying, because a lot of that I didn't see coming. I'm thinking of fishing for clarifications, so I can at least figure out what they didn't like.
Now, the "too much work" eval, that I was expecting. I'm still not sure what to do about it, but at least I understand it.
"What's jousting? Jousting is when two guys strapped in armor charge their horses at each other while trying to knock the holy bejeesus out of each other with long wooden poles. Or one guy on a flying bird trying to turn enemy birds into eggs. Depends on what generation you belong to." --The Self-Made Critic
In Catholic churches, part of the Palm Sunday liturgy is the communal reading of the Gospel, broken out into four parts: Jesus (taken by the priest), Narrator (taken by the deacon or a lay lector), Voice (other individual people, e.g. Pilate, Peter, taken by a lay lector), and People or Crowd (taken by the congregation). This is one of the very most disturbing things that we are ever asked to do, liturgically; remember the things the crowds say during the Passion? They're downright nasty. They are the ones that provide evidence to convict Jesus, demand the release of Barabbas instead, and taunt Jesus then and while on the cross. The congregation is also given the part of the woman who calls out Peter for being "one of them".
For a few years running, I refused to say it at all, because I reject that whole mentality. Lately I've treated it as acting; obviously an actor doesn't agree with every line he's given, or every character he plays, and someone needs to be reading the lines---what if everyone refused to say those lines? Of course, I'd be pleased if everyone at least went through a phase where they refused to say them, as a rejection of that mean, nasty part of human nature where our lizard hindbrain pushes us to call for the blood of the people who wrong us, or maybe just scare us or disturb us.
I really wonder what goes through everybody's head when they read along with that part. Do they just read along, since it's the part in bold? Do they at least get to step one, which is "how can they say those things about Jesus?" How many get to step two, which is "they didn't know he was the Christ---how can they say those things about anyone?"
And yet, human nature hasn't changed a bit. Crowds still routinely get whipped up into a frenzy of nastiness. I read "the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas but to destroy Jesus", and I think of Fred Phelps and his evil little "God hates fags" cadre, or of Rush Limbaugh and his apologetics for the Abu Ghraib sadists, or of the so-called 'pro-life' activists that go around and scream at and attack, even kill, people who have anything to do with abortion clinics.
This reading of the Passion should inspire everyone to ask themselves: "Have I ever said things like this? Have I ever let myself get caught up in a group that drove me to call for the death of an innocent person---or even one I thought was guilty?" The mockery, the call for vengeance, it all comes too easy; it is part of human nature, and that's why we must be all the more vigilant for it.
"Sadly, the G.I. Joe cartoon never really bothered to tell us what the other half the battle was. Perhaps it is composed of a dozen or so smaller things, all individually negligible in the face of knowing." --Chris Sedlack
I started and finished Terry Pratchett's Monstrous Regiment this week on the ski trip. Pratchett makes quite the foray into political allegory here; I suppose it could be said he's done a lot of political allegory, but I'd say that most of it is really more social commentary than specific allegory. (Except, of course, for when he's doing a pastiche of a well-known literary work.)
This one, though... the book starts off with a girl of perhaps 15 decides to go off and join the Borogravian army, which has a metaphorical "No Girls Aloud" sign pinned to the door, and continues in merry Pratchettian fashion through mild absurdity. Who belongs in the army? Why should we select for anything other than merit?
I'm not going to talk about that, though. I am going to talk about the style shift I'm seeing. It was interesting to realise how very different this book was from the older Pratchett stuff; much more serious-feeling. Less footnotes. More explicit thinking.
Not that that's bad, of course. And it's not like he's abandoned his roots completely; characters like Sergeant Jack Jackrum have the usual larger-than-life quality we've come to expect, caricatures of people we don't actually know but now feel as if we did. And it's nice to see Vimes and the rest of the Watch make an appearance. But still, not at all like, say, Reaper Man or Guards! Guards! or the like.
It may be a permanent shift. I'm a few chapters into Going Postal, and I think I see where it's going; different subject, but the same sort of aura of being About Something. Quite good in any case, and if this sort of stylistic shift is what he needs to do to keep fresh (he's written, what, thirty books now?), well, carry on.
"The overwhelming majority of people who feel strongly about consent laws are the teenagers themselves, and they (a) don't vote, and (b) quickly fall into the conservative camp once they have kids of their own. A close runner-up is the powerful NAMBLA lobby, but politicians are curiously unwilling to publicly align themselves---or appear to publicly align themselves---with the pedophilia bloc." --Mike Peil
I drove back to Galesburg this morning via Galva, to pick up my dog. Nutmeg must have enjoyed his time at the Lucky Dog Lodge, because when I arrived he ran out to greet me, shaking with excitement, and then immediately tried to run back in. :) He got an A+ on his report card, and I'm quite happy with the service---I fully plan to use them again if I need to kennel Nutmeg for more than a day or two. (My vet's kennel is a lot more convenient for the shorter stays.)
The road to Galva was simply plastered with signs welcoming back the National Guard unit that (just this weekend, I gather) arrived back from Iraq. They started several miles away from town, and literally every changeable-letter sign along the way had some sort of "welcome back" message. That was pretty cool.
Back in Galesburg, I set about getting things back in order. It seemed a little chilly in my apartment; it often does when my downstairs neighbour isn't home for a couple days, since she controls the thermostat and without her coming and going, her apartment doesn't cool off as much. But I checked a thermometer and it was actually just 60°! And colder downstairs. I put a call in to the landlord, but until I get a response I do at least have a space heater. And just a few moments ago I thought of hanging a sheet across the doorway into the kitchen, which is already being surprisingly effective at keeping heat in. Then I made tea, and I'm just about to take a pizza out of the oven. I'll have to bake something tonight. It'll keep the kitchen livable at least. :)
The best case: Get salary from America, build a house in England,
live with a Japanese wife, and eat Chinese food.
Pretty good case: Get salary from England, build a house in America, live with a Chinese wife, and eat Japanese food.
The worst case: Get salary from China, build a house in Japan, live with a British wife, and eat American food. --Bungei Shunju
Days two, three, and four of the ski trip proceeded in similar fashion: Mom got up about 8 and took a shower, then I got up and dressed and the two of us went out to the "tropical atrium" for breakfast. Dad follows about twenty minutes later, and then eventually Kathy gets dragged out of bed and we all head over to the ski mountain. There were some variations in the pattern---day three included a rousing (and loud) argument between Dad and me on the subject of Social Security, for instance---but generally Kathy and I were back on the mountain by a bit after 10.
Skiing itself is something that I continue to find surprisingly easy. I think part of it is because I'm so analytical, so I can ask very specific questions about what I'm supposed to be doing at any given time, but that's not all; the trick of parallel traversing is something I seem to have intuited on my own, and am now merely refining. I really wonder if that's not partially due to the ballroom dancing, as the particular way that you lean into a bent knee, weight over the inside ball of your foot, is quite similar to the American latin motion of, say, rhumba, as is the way you switch from one support leg to the other, although the timing is of course quite different. But I've only ever skied one day at Villa Olivia (near Chicago), two days at Killington, and the three and a half days of this trip, and something was letting me figure out how to handle black diamonds.
Kathy is something of a natural too, which might support my theory, although there it's also a matter of raw leg strength; the first time we went over into a blue intermediate area, she led off and Dad and I watched as she snowplowed straight down the middle. (There was also some minor screaming involved, as I recall.) She, too, was trying the black diamonds by the last day, although in her case there was a some reversion to snowplowing here and there, as she can only reliably parallel-traverse in one direction. (How many people can snowplow to a stop on a steep hill? I mean, really.)
Dad managed to throw out his knee on Day Two, so he was out for the rest of the trip, unfortunately. Meanwhile, Mom, who was worried about her back and reluctant to shell out big bucks to rent equipment she might not be able to use, discovered their Wednesday special: night lift tickets come with free ski rental. And since "night" starts at 4pm, she'd be able to try it all out for a cool $25, which is cheap enough to not induce money-guilt if it doesn't work out.
In the event, it worked out fine. She hasn't been skiing since before I was born (really!), so she felt a bit rusty... but once she got going, she looked like an old pro (which, really, is pretty much what she was). It was like watching an expert in some field go through each exercise in an introductory workbook. She started with a straight snowplow, which she did perfectly. Then she turned the page and started on left and right snowplow turns, which she did perfectly. And so on, until by the end, she was swish-swishing her traverses down the (shallow) slope with casual ease that made it look like she'd been skiing forever. Next trip she's definitely up for renting equipment for the full time.
So now we're trying to figure out when we can put together a ski trip out west. Taos keeps coming up as a possibility, which would be awesome. We're all pretty psyched about it. We'll see!
I kind of enjoy holding vociferous opinions, and people are only really allowed to hold vociferous opinions when they know what they're talking about. Morally, I mean---in practice, most people who do hold forth vociferously are painfully ignorant. --Michael Kimmitt
I'm writing this from a Best Western in Wausau.
For the first time in nearly twelve years, my family is taking a vacation; Kathy's spring break and mine coincided, and my mom organised a ski trip at Granite Peak/Rib Mountain. We left Palatine this morning at 10:30 or so, stopped for a late lunch, and got to the motel at 4.
Kathy's ski trip nearly ended early, when in getting out of the car she wiped out and whanged her arm---briefly being scared that she broke it. That would have been a great story, eh? "Yeah, I broke my arm on a ski trip. No, no... no... not that... it was sort of when we were getting out of the car...."
After a lot of going round and round about what to do tonight, we decided to do night skiing, with Kathy snowboarding instead---just for today, and then she'd go ahead and skit tomorrow.
Funniest thing ever.
I was on regular skis, at which I'm moderately competent, and watching her was really funny. Wish I had a camera for some of the more spectacular ones. Getting off the lift the very first time, her heroic efforts at staying upright earned her the nickname "Grace" from the lift operator. About a half hour later, at the bottom of the hill, a teenage girl asked "Grace" if she was having fun. Happily, this girl did give Kathy some tips and helped her down the next run, to the point where it wasn't completely ridiculous and she had some things to practice.
Eventually, Kathy, Dad, and I got tired and we went to dinner. The place we went was "Hereford and Hops Brewhouse", and the food was fantastic; their headline menu item is steak that they bring out raw and you grill it yourself. Kathy and I exercised this option, she with a 7 lb filet that she requested be thick so she could make it rare; the waiter brought out a steak that was almost literally a cube. It may have even been taller than it was wide. She had no problems keeping it rare. :) My ribeye was incredibly tender and tasty as well---I cooked it more rare than I usually take my steak, but it was all for the good. Their in-house root beer was also good, and Dad quite approved the stout that he had.
And finally, we came back and hot-tubbed for a while. Kathy's still really sore from today's escapades, and claims great relief that she's going to be skiing instead for the next few days. Me, I can't wait to get going on the intermediate hills....
On Tomb Raider: "Nonetheless, the movie did have its moments. Especially when they strung Angelina Jolie up and had her kick ass on wires. Unlike Crouching Peter Hidden Pan, the wires were *supposed* to be there, and it kicked all the more butt because of this." --Jonathan Prykop
I finally took the plunge. Details forthcoming.
In other news, my 141 exam is about 2/3 graded, and I finished grading the 141 project yesterday. So I'm well on track to finishing up all that tonight. With a little luck, I can wrap up 262 before leaving tomorrow....
Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, if he gets angry, he'll be a mile away; and barefoot. --Ancient Chinese proverb
This guy clearly has an appreciation for the finer things in life.
Edit Feb 2016: I went looking for this post because, for real, I wanted to make oatmeal for the first time in a while and I wanted the oatmeal recipe. And it was gone! Alas the impermanent nature of the website. But the Internet Archive came to the rescue; and because this recipe for oatmeal is truly a work of art, I preserve it here:
How to Eat Oatmeal · 19 November 2001
When it comes to mornings I am a confident coffee-drinker, cigarette-smoker and pill-swallower; I am also a task-avoider, phone-ignorer and a staunch advocate of delayed rising. In negotiating the vast expanse of time that falls before noon I am also preoccupied with breakfast.
With the exception of kedgeree and white cake muffins, I like all known forms of breakfast, but I like oatmeal most.
There’s no point pretending that oatmeal is anything but a dour grain stigmatised by centuries of Scottish poverty and the feedbags of horses. But it must be eaten – for health and spiritual well-being – and it must be eaten right.
What you will need: a coffee cup, a clean cotton cloth, a bowl, a spoon, a heavy-bottomed pot (with lid) and a stove, water, salt, brown sugar, cream, and of course oatmeal: none of this ‘quick’ folderol in a cardboard tube or (for heaven’s sake!) instant nukable crap in foil packets with flavourings of fruit and spice. You will need oats. Rolled oats. You can buy them bulk, or in a bag, for not much money. You will need already to have consumed some of your morning coffee: this is careful work and you can’t make oatmeal in a haze.
Decide how many souls deserve your oatmeal this morning (it may only be you, it may only be you), and with the coffee cup measure out (cold!) water from the tap: two cupsful for each person, into the pot. When the water is measured out, dip your cup into the pot and steal some back. Onto the fire. Between your thumb and forefinger take a pinch from the ramekin of sea salt beside the stove and add to the water. (Should you not have a ramekin of sea salt beside the stove, you don’t deserve oatmeal.)
While the water heats, carefully dry out the coffee cup with the cloth, making sure not to leave a hint of moisture behind. Just as the water boils, add oatmeal, one cupful per person, in a gentle, rocking side-to-side pour (had you not dried the inside of the cup, there would be a sticky mess of oat crumbs inside, but because you did there’s only a dusting of oat flour, see? So much better).
With your spoon, stir. Turn the fire down to its weakest point, leave off the lid and go open the paper. Do not set a timer or consult the wall clock, because you are honing instinct. When all water has been absorbed, after, say, two front-page articles, turn off the fire, put on the lid, and read one more front-page article.
Note, as you scoop into the bowl, how the oat grains have puffed up to a lovely fat creamy consistency. Sprinkle brown sugar on, then pour cream (do it the other way around, you don’t deserve oatmeal).
"Well, it's a type A planet, so it should at least have Roddenberries." --Leela, _Futurama_
I got in to work today about 11 as planned, and read email over coffee and a donut. Then I pursued some miscellaneous on-campus errands and eventually started lapsing into my bad old habits---websurfing, mostly---that would preclude getting any much-needed grading done.
Around 2:30 or 3 I headed over to the Gizmo with grading in hand. Sans internet and other distractions, I can more easily force myself to get work done. Some of my best, most quality grading time has been in the Gizmo.
I got about half a problem graded when I was joined by Matt Raffety, with whom I had a lovely and very long conversation. (I think he was also procrastinating on grading. ;) It was one of those rambling conversations that hits lots of topics and usually occurs at about two in the morning. Indeed, it was dark out when we finally left (he had to go play basketball).
At that point, of course, I had to go home, because Nutmeg really needed to be let out. And at home I have my usual raft of distractions, which brought me through to the Daily Show and now back to the internet, where I'm blogging about procrastination. Not exactly a new topic for this blog.
Well, try, try again. Maybe I'll get through a bunch tonight.
"Sometimes I wish software was corporeal so I could wring it's throat good and proper." --Brian Porter
I caught my dad using the alternate pronunciation of "influence" this weekend. He suggested that the stress goes on the second syllable when it's an active verb, but on the first if it's a passive participle or a noun, so
"I believe that there are UFOs; I just don't know who's driving them." --Peter Jennings
Just got back from the Cyclone Ballroom Classic. Iowa State is, I think clearly, the epicentre of college ballroom dancing in the Midwest. There are other schools that have some ballroom presence, but not many; and the ones that do tend to have small programs, or don't focus on competition. Not only does ISU have a good-sized team, it operates a good-sized and growing competition, under the loving guidance of Ed Simon, an awesome New York dance pro.
It's too bad that this weekend was the last before the end of the term, because that meant a lot of Knox kids didn't go to the comp who otherwise would have. However, I did get one couple to go, and Andrew and Rachel did fantastic: they competed eight events, did respectably in all of them, and placed first in Newcomer American Tango and Newcomer International Rumba. Woo! And they did great in the categories I deem even more important: having fun with their dancing and being able to dance with lots of different people.
Now my thoughts turn to program-building. I need to poke the students working on making us an official club, as this will provide a source of money for travelling and competing. I need to psych up the students about competing, so that they'll be up for competition next year. And I need to advertise the success so I can bring in new people for the spring term. :)
"We believe that labels are important, but mostly for bottles of wine." --Christo and Jeanne-Claude
The term is winding down; it is the end of week 9, the last day of classes is Tuesday, and my exams go out on Monday. I've been making good progress in flushing my queue of backlogged grading; two homeworks and a project went back in my 141 class this week, and hopefully I'll get a 262 homework done tonight, bringing me up to the stuff turned in just this week, which I feel less guilty about not having graded yet.
My students are wrapping up their projects, although I bribed the 141 kids with a nine hour extension if they came to class, so hopefully I won't have people turning it in "on time" and then going home to sleep it off. We'll see how it works, but in the abstract I like the policy better than making it due at 2am.
This weekend is the Cyclone Ballroom Classic. Because it's so late in the term, initial interest in attending waned a bit, and we ended up with just two Knox kids going. That's ok, though, since it's really our debut as a college team, and I certainly don't mind starting small. Andrew and Rachel are good, too, and I think they'll really represent Knox well.
Between now and 5 tomorrow, though, I have a lot to do: pack, drop off my dog, assorted miscellaneous errands that can't wait until Monday. No rest for the wicked, I guess.
"I'm convinced artichokes are actually an extremely sessile animal; perhaps an extraterrestrial species. They're Meat Plants." --Sam Walker