30 Nov 2005


After a two-week hiatus, the roof guys are back today, and I'm getting cold just looking that them. It's sixteen degrees outside! Evidently, temperature is not a reason for them to take off work....

On Wikipediasurfing: "It always starts out with some modern presidential factoid. It seldom ends less than 90 minutes later, more recently than the 18th century, or farther up the line of succession than Secretary of the Treasury." --Matt Stanislawski

Posted by blahedo at 7:26am | Comments (1)

23 Nov 2005

Washington, take note

This is how you win hearts and minds.

But somehow, I think Washington will be taking a different message from this action....

"I still feel at home in churches brimming with demons; they're just fixer-uppers, is all. Like a junk room that's starting to attract rats, one of the worst things you can do is to continue not going in there." --Jonathan Prykop

Posted by blahedo at 3:38am | Comments (1)

22 Nov 2005

Dammit, not again

I fucking hate bringing Honor Board cases. I hate the way they cast doubt on everything that student has done, I hate the way the student thinks that I won't notice that they've copied wholesale, and I really hate how it makes me feel like the bad guy. God dammit.

"It takes serious mojo to perform a sacrament." --Jonathan Prykop

Posted by blahedo at 4:03am | Comments (1)

20 Nov 2005

Like the good old days

Not being tired yet at 1:30 or so, I figured I'd maybe get a problem graded on the 141 exam before I went to bed. I got on a roll and just kept going. I just finished problem 4 (of 6), and now I'm thinking I might as well stay up, and maybe get another problem or two done. :)

I seem to be back to my good old "yeah, I had mono last week, why shouldn't I be playing bridge until 3am?" self again. I wonder what happened back there that zonked me out before midnight for a few weeks running.

"As soon as they tell me, I'll be on it like "uh" on a switchboard corpus." --Don Engel

Posted by blahedo at 7:01am | Comments (0)

With dignity and compassion

That's how Knox College students reacted last week when Fred Phelps and his hate cult came to Galesburg. That's the "God Hates Fags" guy, only now he's moved on to attacking the military (for being taken over by fags, natch); and about two weeks ago, a Galesburg native died in Iraq, so Phelps decided to protest at his funeral last Tuesday.

Various student groups got wind of this, and there was some lively discussion as to how to counter-protest, along with warning to be very careful, since the Westboro Baptist Church is extremely litigious. (It's how they fund themselves, actually.) Then the word came from the family of Sgt. Wehry: please, no counter-protests. There was a bit of luck, because---not knowing the layout of the town---the cult applied for a protest permit in the area nearest the street address of Bethel Baptist, but that's on Academy, which is just where their church office is. The main entrance and such are all on Fremont. Nevertheless, even if they were going to be way off to the side, it seemed difficult to let this go by with no response at all.

So the members of Common Ground and the Alliance for Peaceful Action at Knox arranged an action that was, in my opinion, the most effective demonstration performed in the last three years. They went to Phelps' group's protest and... stood in front of them. That's it. They stood there with their backs to the hate group, partially blocking them from the view of funeral attendees and otherwise completely ignoring them.

I was really proud of them. They didn't let the nasty protesters and their sick message ("Thank God for dead soldiers"? Ugghh.) get to them or bring them down to that level. And their effort was much appreciated throughout the town. On the Common Ground mailing list, at least three or four people have mailed the group to thank them, and in the paper, they've gotten 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 letters to the editor thanking them, and an editorial. These students are a credit to Knox, and to the community.

"We think different problems are attacked better in different languages, and that software engineers and computer scientists should not be restricted to a single semantic arrow in their quivers." --Weiser, Demers, and Hauser, The PCR Approach to Interoperability

Posted by blahedo at 1:26am | Comments (2)

18 Nov 2005

It oughtta be illegal

It should be a crime to create sites this mesmerising. I have now spent an embarrassing amount of time looking at it. And though I thought I was done a week or two ago, someone posted the site on a message board today and---strangely possessed to actually revisit the site---I discovered that they'd changed it. It's got some of the same elements as before, but a lot of new ones, and they're laid out differently.

Totally safe for work, but only if you mute your volume.

Incidentally, the music that plays is apparently the "breakfast machine" theme from Peewee's Playhouse. Which explains why it seemed so appropriate; the first time I heard it, I thought, "oh yes, this is truly Rube Goldberg music." Guaranteed to get stuck in your head for weeks at a time (and it loops, which makes it even worse, or perhaps better).

"It looks like a tiger, it quacks like a tiger, but it's actually a Martian robot." --Polly Jacobson

Posted by blahedo at 11:29am | Comments (0)

16 Nov 2005

At the end of the day

I have snow on my lawn, no shovel, and no roof.

I have a persistent sore throat and a nascent cough.

I have 33 papers, 20 projects, and 20 final exams to grade.

BUT: I have no more classes to teach, no more homeworks to write, no more meetings to attend, no deadlines for weeks.

So, generally, I'm in pretty good shape.

"The American Revolution was in large part a revolt against corporations, which are bodies formed to allow rich people to shirk responsibility for abuses. The Founding Fathers thought corporations immoral, and they were illegal here during the first 50 years of the Republic." --The Progressive Review

Posted by blahedo at 11:56pm | Comments (1)

15 Nov 2005

More news

Oh, and I got a phone call today.

Me: Hey.
Kathy: Guess what I bought!
Me: A car.
K: Yeah!!
Me: ... wait, really?
K: Yeah! Guess what kind!
Me: A PT Cruiser?
K: No.
Me: A Mini?
K: No.
Me: A Beetle?
K: Yeah!
Me: ... wait, really?
K: Guess what colour!
Me: Blue.
K: Yeah!
Me: Ok, that part doesn't surprise me. You bought a car?

So, my sister bought a car. Crazy. Mine's still cuter, though. And I bet hers isn't even a stick shift.

"The purpose of Historical Jesus seminar is to place the Bible in context by understanding the events surrounding it. This is essentially inimical to Protestant Fundamentalists, as it requires them to actually analyze Biblical texts, a process to which their faith simply cannot stand up." --Michael Kimmitt

Posted by blahedo at 10:52pm | Comments (2)

Exposing the evil empire

I saw the Walmart movie tonight (the anti one). It wasn't very good. Its production values sucked---the sound mixing was terrible, and frequently drowned out the speaker with "background" music---and if I hadn't gone in knowing a bunch of stuff about Walmart, I would still be a little skeptical. In one interview, they kept flipping the image horizontally, I suppose to make it look like multiple camera angles. In nearly every interview, there were obvious splices, right in the middle of sentences, and while this may have been done to make the speaker sound more coherent, it's also hard to be convinced it wasn't changing the meaning of what they were saying.

I did learn two things, though, that I didn't already know: 80% of crimes committed at Walmarts occur in their parking lots, making them one of the highest-crime areas in many towns they invade; and appraised property values automatically go down throughout a town as soon as Walmart arrives, because the appraisers know that so many stores are about to close, empty space will soon be available.

It was neat to see that the showing required not one but two overflow rooms to seat everyone---many college affiliated people, but also some from the town---and that a lot of the attendees stuck around for discussion afterwards. There was actually a really good one in the room I was in, because there were two guys who were, if not pro-Walmart, at least pro-big-business and very free market about jobs (after all, if Walmart's not paying enough, the workers can just leave, right?). It's good for me to actually have to argue against an opponent in person every now and then. (One of the others in the room was a R-M reporter who took my name---I hope I'm not quoted to say something ridiculous tomorrow. :P)

In other news, I woke up with a slightly sore throat this morning, which maintained itself all day and started getting worse about two hours ago. And yet, all I can think is, if I was going to get sick, THANK GOODNESS that it waited until now. The very last immediate-deadline anything that I have for this term is FP meetings tomorrow; then after that, grades are due in two weeks. So I have time to recover, whew.

Mein bratwurst has a first name,
It's F-R-I-T-Z,
Mein bratwurst has a second name,
It's S-C-H-N-A-C-K-E-N-P-F-E-F-F-E-R-H-A-U-S-E-N. --Tony Nuval

Posted by blahedo at 10:47pm | Comments (2)

14 Nov 2005

It was the music!

Who knew that music would make such a difference? I'd been having increasing difficulty over the last few months, and especially the last few weeks, in staying awake even a tiny bit as late as I was accustomed to doing since, well, birth. Seriously, if I tried to sit at my desk and work, I was drifting off even before midnight. Which, since all my time management habits (such as they are) are based on being able to work undisturbed from midnight until 3, 4, 5 in the morning, was wreaking havoc on my ability to get anything done.

Tonight, I'm not sure why, but I decided to hook up the stereo that has been sitting in pieces on my desk. What a difference. I've had no trouble getting to 4 in the morning on just a can of soda, and I just made my first cup of coffee. The final I've written for my cs141 students is a masterpiece. (I hope they agree.) Now to finalise and record the grades for the last homework, and enter all my participation notes for the other class. I may or may not get to sleep tonight, but it doesn't seem to matter, actually.


Posted by blahedo at 4:22am | Comments (0)

11 Nov 2005


I just saw the strangest show.

This week's offering at the studio theatre is Titanic---no, not that one---directed by Jason Cascio. As is my wont, I entered the show knowing nothing about it; and in this case, I think that was an exceptionally good idea. If you're at Knox, go see it tomorrow, then come back and read the rest of this post. But get there early---I arrived ten minutes before the show started and the main seating area was already full. I'm not sure if they turned anyone away, but in the end they were seating people upstairs in the tech loft....

So anyway, the show started with several well-to-do folks eating a meal, dressed in turn-of-the-century costume, obviously on the real Titanic. So innocuous! Saras Gil's polished accent contributed to the atmosphere of elegance, and we settled in. But after a few moments, her character and her husband get into a spat, and she informs him that Teddy---who is there---is not his son. His response is that Annabella is not her daughter... wait, was this a comedy?

Rather. A lewd and extremely funny one. Aside from a few of the actors cracking smiles early on, there was little to mar the humour and bizarreness of the show. The floppy blue silicone dildo was a nice touch. I did see the gun in Brent's jacket, or at least, I saw something in there and intuited that it was a gun. But I certainly wasn't expecting it to actually fire!

I do hope whoever's playing the captain's wife takes every opportunity to cause mayhem. I mean, when the cast can see you and the audience can't, it's practically your duty to do something.

And Jamie Bellian's character-establishing monologue was masterful. I don't think she's a regular in the theatre crowd here---this is the first thing I've seen her in---but she must have had incredible fun with this part. How often do you really get a chance to reach under your skirt and feed a well-embedded seagull, after all?

And let me post an addendum to last week's notes about Noises Off. A thought that ran through my head then was, "huh, funny---this time Evan Sawdey is the only guy who we don't see running around in his underwear," a comment that may only make sense if you read my post about last winter's mainstage. I decided not to post it, because I'd look obsessed, or something, but I'm really starting to think it's not me that's obsessed with guys running around stage in their underwear. In this show, three of the four male characters spend a considerable amount of time wearing nothing but undershirt and boxers. That makes four shows and something like eight different characters in the last year, and that's just of the shows I've seen. This can't be a coincidence.

Not that I'm complaining. The underwear merely adds to the suave, elegant ambience established by the dildo and the hamsters. High literature it was not, but I found this show to be enormously fun.

"Another possible economic factor in explaining the roles of Utica and Rochester in the religious revival is that Finney arrived in both places at a time when the boom brought on by building a section of the canal had declined, and the townspeople had reverted to more thought upon their religious condition and to concern about "sin," a commodity that moved with considerable facility along the canal." --Hermann Muelder, Fighters for Freedom

Posted by blahedo at 9:52pm | Comments (0)

5 Nov 2005

Knox does it again

Just got back from Urbana (again), where this week it was the Knox computer programming team competing against teams from a lot of colleges bigger than us. It went a lot better than last year (not hard), and Knox acquitted itself well: our two teams were 5th and 7th at the site (of 17, including three UIUC teams that beat us), and 23rd and 54th in the region (of 121).

So our teams did about as well as last year, but the competition was much smoother. Learning from our mistakes, the site coordinator set up the lab in advance and gave the entire group fifteen minutes in the morning to try out the judging system, submitting known-bad and known-good submissions and so on. Good for the teams, and great for the judges; as a result, we were much more confident that everything worked. And it did; not a glitch in sight. The judges got to have their usual frustrating and fun time seeing what errors people were making (and making, and making) in the course of writing their programs.

And now I'm sitting in the middle of a raging thunderstorm, marvelling that a thin sheet of tar paper (or its modern equivalent) is successfully keeping my attic dry. On the drive home, I was starting to get a bit worried...

"That's why it's called pseudocode, jackass." --overheard

Posted by blahedo at 10:42pm | Comments (1)

Noises off!

Kathy will be jealous: I saw the Knox mainstage production of Noises Off! tonight.

Unfortunately, despite my eager anticipation, they didn't make use of the fact that Harbach's stage rotates (due to the fact that the proscenium side has extra rows of seating). Too bad. On the other hand, the set they did use was pretty damn impressive; it was a single enormous wagon that took ten people to rotate between acts. Each rotation actually garnered applause from the audience. And it was solidly built, with each of the seven doors being heavy wood doors that closed with a satisfying ka-clunk (that is, when they weren't closing with a satisfying slam). Of course, the set layout is the same one in every other production of the show, since nearly everything about the set is plot-crucial, even moreso than in most English farces. Still, it was quite impressive.

Other technical work was decent if not overwhelming. Of course, the real goal of the techie is to make you not notice their work, and in that sense the, say, lighting design was good (hi Chelsea!). The costuming was fine, although several of the skirts and dresses just didn't appear to fit and flow right. The makeup was overdone, as usual; this seems to be a running thing for Harbach mainstage shows that use the front of the thrust stage, where the actors are much too close to the audience to be able to count on bright stage lights washing out their faces. I could see distinct lines---and not just chin lines---on nearly all the actors' faces. :P

The three acts of the show take place in very different contexts, and I found that different actors did better in each one. In the first act, the most normal of the three, with the company in rehearsal, the action was establishing the characters both of the actor-character (i.e. the actors being played in Noises off) and of the character-characters (i.e. the characters the Noises off actor-characters are playing in the play-within-play entitled Nothing on). In terms of line delivery, Doug Porter and Nathan Thompson stood out most here, Doug for his pouting and fainting as Frederick (Phillip) and Nathan for his delightfully understated wit as the director. Many of the others seemed to have trouble slipping into their inconsistent array of British accents, or were overplaying their character a bit too much. (Although as far as that goes, Mikah Berky seemed at first like the worst offender, but in retrospect that may have just been a reasonable interpretation of Belinda.)

They made up for it later, though. Act two is a ballet of sorts, in the "shhh!" backstage of the show in actual production. It's got to be incredibly tricky to pull off, because even without actors saying lines to draw attention to the action, the audience still needs to be able to follow what's going on. Morgan Cohen (Dotty) really took over here, I thought, successfully turning up the volume on her body language so we could hear it way out in the audience. I wish I could see the whole show, and especially act two, about a hundred times; even knowing more or less what was going on, it was very hard to remember where to look next. And the action moves around a lot, handing off a hatchet, a cactus, three bouquets, and a fifth of jack between all the various actors making their entrances and exits, and unable to carry these items onstage with them. (Morgan reportedly used a pedometer and clocked her movement during act two alone at over a mile and a half. I can believe it!) Even with the fairly precise instructions in the script correlating the offstage and onstage action, choreographing it all to the specific set and props, and making it work, is a really impressive bit of ensemble work, with credit due to Doc Bob and all the actors for managing it.

It's too bad that the show has to go on to act three. It's definitely the weakest act as written, and it's hard to sustain the energy to the end of the show after things completely fall apart. Still, these guys did good work with what they were given. In this act, I think Meghan Reardon as Brooke (Vicki) did her best work, playing an actor-character who's sort of an ingenue playing a character-character who's sort of an ingenue, but who is at this point more with it than most everyone else. She keeps dragging the show on, kicking and screaming, even as nothing goes right and everyone else gets flustered. Evan Sawdey deserves extra special mention for an amazing fall that seems like it could not possibly have been just a stage fall, and which appeared to pose a real danger of snapping off a bannister. I found myself checking whether he was breathing.... Doug also gets a mention in this act, since I wrote down what a great, smooth pratfall he'd executed over some slippery sardines, but it appears from some post-show consultation that this part was, ah, not exactly in the script. Nice recovery, though. :) And throughout the cast, the actors kept deceiving me into thinking they were doing some really good ad-lib recovery for mistakes, e.g. when Morgan laments forgetting the sardine, espies the plate sitting on the end table, and exclaims, "Oh! No, I didn't! ... I'll go make myself another plate, to celebrate!" Of course, I reminded myself, they were scripted to do so. (That's good acting too, though!)

This show is the ultimate meta show. The action occurs, and is funny, on so many levels, it makes your brain hurt. And boy howdy does it ever make you laugh. I have not been to a production of anything here at Knox that had the audience so riled up as this one. Being a fairly loud and rowdy laugher myself, I was happy to not have to keep it bottled up for a change. Now I just wish I hadn't had stuff all the other nights it was on; I really should have come to see it at least a few times. Maybe I can speed back from Urbana tomorrow night and catch it then (7:30 in Harbach, if you're in town---don't miss it!).

"Povsyuda idu, iz Londona do "da Bay," I vsegda "Hammer idi, Hammer yo, Hammer M.C. Hammer, I drugiye mogut idti igrat'!" --as translated by Mike Peil

Posted by blahedo at 1:25am | Comments (1)

3 Nov 2005

Bang bang boom

After an eternity of waiting (ok, really not much longer than the four weeks they quoted me), I now have roofers dismantling the roof of my house. By sometime a week or so from now, I will be several thousand dollars poorer, but with a brand-spanking new roof. With no gutters, but that's a minor detail.

Right now, sometime today, I need to pick what kind of shingles I want. I've eliminated white, beige, and anything that requires a special order, but I'm left with a range of greys from medium-light to nearly black ("onyx") to choose from. I would be leaning towards one that is approximately slate, with just the slightest hint of bluish grey in there, except that I'm not sure it'll go with the red brick. :P

"A cure for those bugs that eat cloth,
Is steal," said old Heinrich the Goth,
"A flatulent pony."
He's wrong, but if only...
A stolen roan gasses no moth.

Posted by blahedo at 9:47am | Comments (1)