29 Oct 2006

There oughtta be a site...

Hey Google! I have an idea for your next hegemonic expansion: song searching. With some regularity I'll get something stuck in my head, and once in a while it's either instrumental or I can't remember (enough of) the lyrics, and so there's nothing to google for. So it gets stuck. Sometimes for weeks.

There's one I've had in my head for two weeks now, and tonight another has taken up residence beside it. The new one does have lyrics, but I can't quite put my finger on it. To make it even worse, I can't summon the entire melody, just little characteristic snippets. Argh.

Maybe someone here can help: song number one is kind of a mellow jazzy sound (vaguely reminiscent of the Peanuts theme, as Kathy pointed out). Its rhythm is 1-&-a-3-4-1, that is, a triplet of eighth notes, then two quarter notes, then a whole note. The melody is simply mi-mi-mi-re-re-do, supported by a simple I-V-I harmony. Next line is do-do-do-ti-ti-la, same rhythm, with I think a I-V-vi deceptive cadence support. After that it gets a little fuzzy in my head. Song number two is more of a pop song, still mellow, and its sung melody overlaps just enough with another song that I can identify that it's running serious interference. But the characteristic riff just before the refrain is an instrumental mi-fa-sol-do-do, even rhythm (3-&-4-&-1). Both songs are played as American Rhumba at social dances and competitions, so they're probably around 32 measures per minute (or about 130 beats per minute).

You can perhaps tell from all the information I'm giving that I've thought about this a lot. You tend to do that when your mind gets invaded. Arghh.

"Sex is good too, but you can't do that in the car on the way to Peoria." --Natania Rosenfeld

Posted by blahedo at 1:34am | Comments (2)

28 Oct 2006

A four-show weekend

I managed to catch tonight both the Terp show and the KJE concert, so with the play last night and the choir concert tomorrow, it looks like this'll be a four show weekend. I do understand the necessity of packing in lots of shows to one weekend (it's Family and Friends Weekend!), but it's still kind of irritating that it clumps like that.

About the shows themselves, I don't have a whole lot to say. Terpsichore was about as usual, a couple stand-out pieces and a lot of Very Modern stuff. There was one piece this time that was Indian (as in, the subcontinent)-style, which was really nifty and definitely worth the trip.

The show was short, so when I got to the KJE concert, they were just in the middle of their first piece. I grabbed a program and stood outside the door, peeking through the crack and waiting for the song to end. A moment later, a stream of about a dozen people just walked in the other door. Shortly after that, someone walked past me and said, "I'm just going in." So it was just me and a mother-and-son pair standing out there and not being rude; at least in the case of the one who went in on my side, it was even clear she knew the rule and was breaking it. Why do people do that? It's not like you couldn't hear them from outside the auditorium. There is just no reason you'd need to go in and distract all the people who got there on time. Grrrr.

Jazz isn't especially my thing, but I do like going to Knox Jazz Ensemble concerts. It's really amazing how much volume can be generated by twelve brass instruments! And with nearly the entire group being freshmen or sophomores—and really good—I can't imagine what it'll be like in two or three more years.

I nearly didn't make either one, though: after getting a bit of a slow start, I spent all afternoon doing assorted prepare-for-winter tasks around the house, mostly caulking my windows. After a long, hot shower, I really didn't particularly feel like going out again, although in the end I'm glad I did.

"Are we Christians going to be held to the same standard? Are we going to start hitting Google News every morning to make sure we apologize on our blogs or in letters to the editor for every atrocity committed in the name of Jesus Christ? Because that is what we in the West are demanding of Muslims---apologies for every single thing done in the name of Allah that we find wrong." --Chris Tessone

Posted by blahedo at 10:36pm | Comments (0)

27 Oct 2006

Our town

I remember that in my freshman year at St. Viator, the drama club put on Our town, but my main memory is that they put a sign over the auditorium door with GROVER'S CORNERS and its population—setup for a cast member to come out before the house opens, update the number, and announce to the waiting audience, "Twins!"

But I didn't actually see it (not sure why) at that point. So I was walking into tonight's show more or less cold. And sort of stayed cold for a while; the show had a very slow start, unusually so for a Knox mainstage. Everybody was stumbling over text that was written in light dialect but being enunciated as if Standard English. Few of the actors were up to the task of a prop-less set, with nearly every interaction with an invisible item, be it a horse or a teacup, looking awkward and not very believable. How big is that newspaper supposed to be? Have you ever even seen a push-reel lawnmower? (Exception: the missuses had their kitchen routine down pat.)

Happily, though, once the stage was "set", as it were, most scenes turn to a very strong focus on dialogue. The super-minimalist set only helps here, since with nothing but two people and a bunch of chairs on stage, well, you pay attention to the people. And so, from about halfway through the first act, things started looking up. They did a good casting job, and from there on out, the characters were permitted to shine. Every little nervousness, worry, joy, sadness, it all came through. The chemistry between George and Emily (Matt Allis and Eden Newmark—both of whom I've written of before) was positively electric (if I may be permitted to mix a metaphor). In the soda shop scene I was just a bundle of nerves watching the two of them. It was fantastic.

The graveyard scene was suitably creepy, and watching the character changes was interesting. It was at this point that I finally put my finger on something else about the staging: arranging the invisible sets as they did gave the whole affair a sense of displacement in a strict etymological sense. That is, it takes a basic sense of place, and bends it and twists it around. This grave is both over here and over there. This ladder is representing what actually lies up those stairs behind it. The patch of stage right there is either the lane leading up to the house, or the back of the kitchen, depending on what direction they're moving. This displacement, perhaps even more than the proplessness and the setlessness, engenders a sense that this, all this, is an abstraction of real life, and therefore much more broadly applicable than any mere concrete story could hope to be. Which is probably why, despite the (more or less) period costume and the age of the piece itself, this play doesn't seem dated and certainly is not a period piece. I really wish they'd done their usual dramaturgy for the show, because (aside from giving something to read during intermission) I find that reading the dramaturgical analysis gives me a foundation for this sort of speculative streak—not to mention a vocabulary with which to talk about it. :P

The ending was worth particular mention: through the wedding and through all the terribly sad stuff that happens in the graveyard, nothing, but when George walks out at the very end? Without even saying a word? I totally cried. How do they do that?

"All the 'tipping point' theories in the world won't protect Sprint from the basic truth that the LG Fusic user interface could basically serve as an almost complete textbook for a semester-long course in user interface design, teaching students of usability exactly what NOT to do." --Joel Spolsky

Posted by blahedo at 11:55pm | Comments (0)

22 Oct 2006


Working out in the yard today I got my regular shoes all muddy, and didn't have time to clean them, so I grabbed my gymshoes (well, I bought them in New England, so I suppose they're sneakers) to wear to ballroom.

They feel so weird! I haven't worn anything with this kind of arch support in a long time, and they're snug and springy. Also, and this seems perfectly obvious in retrospect but surprised me at the time, when I wear these instead of my usual hiking-boot-style shoes, my ankles get cold!

"The best part about YouTube is that it gives me still more childhood to relive, after I've run out of childhood that's already been sold back to me." --Matt Stanislawski

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


Tonight I finally managed to get to a KGS (Knox-Galesburg Symphony) concert. I've been meaning to for years but something else always managed to come up. KGS has a great reputation, and I'm pretty sure I've heard that they've won a bunch of state awards.

I confess I was a little underwhelmed.

Not that any of it was bad; I just had somewhat higher expectations. The first piece they did was entitled "Two Latino sketches", and it was a poor attempt at a fusion piece involving Latin American rhythms and orchestral styling. The second movement in particular was far too weak in the percussion to pull off what it was trying to do, and I found it extremely distracting that it kept almost but not quite quoting the overture to West Side Story.

The second piece was the one with the guest performer, a violinist, performing Sibelius's violin concerto. She had some technically very difficult bits that she executed quite well. But the piece as a whole failed to come together; if it had been a chorus I'd accuse them of not blending enough, though you might call it something different for instrumental work. The score also failed to keep my interest, and in this piece more than the other two I found myself drifting off and thinking about other things. Which is not a terrible thing, but not the optimal condition for a symphony concert.

After intermission was a symphony by someone named Carl Nielsen, whom I'd not heard of before reading the program, and it was certainly the best piece of the night. I'm not sure if it was just better-rehearsed or what, but it felt like the orchestra had it together a lot better. Although my mind still wandered a bit on this one, it both held my attention the best and sounded the best.

So overall I was a little disappointed. On the other hand, I certainly intend to come back for more; next month they're doing Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody, and in February they have a harpist as their guest performer; hopefully I can make it to those concerts too....

On 9/11: "We looked inward rather than outward, and sadly, did exactly what our president asked us to do. Kept shopping. Not conserving. And certainly not sacrificing. Most of us, myself included, have given up nothing except, of course, a few treasured constitutional freedoms." --Carol Marin

Posted by blahedo at 1:01am | Comments (1)

20 Oct 2006

Yes, yes I did

Anyone who's known me at all in the last ten years has almost certainly seen me in the green jacket I wear for most of fall and spring, which I bought from the QU bookstore during my senior year. It has "Quincy University" embroidered in a little patch about where the right breast pocket would be. This doesn't particularly inspire comment.

Until this week. I'm almost positive I never got comments on it before, but in the last seven or so days I've had at least four or five people ask me, "oh, did you go to Quincy?" (alt: "Are you from Quincy?") The first time it happened, I actually responded, "Yes, how'd you know?", because I had forgotten about the embroidered name. The questions have come from a variety of people in a variety of places (e.g. the barista at the Strawberry Fields coffee bar last Sunday). What the heck?

"The world of programming is very just and very strictly ordered and a heck of a lot of people go into programming in the first place because they prefer to spend their time in a just, orderly place, a strict meritocracy where you can win any debate simply by being right." --Joel Spolsky

Posted by blahedo at 11:07pm | Comments (0)

18 Oct 2006

Commercials: a reflection of modern America?

There's a commercial for one of the wireless providers that has a archetypal suburban family sitting on their porch, and the daughter asks why they can't get a good wireless network "like the Kumaraswamis", the family that lives next door.

There's a commercial for one of the Axe pheromone thingies that has a guy clicking a counter for every interested/suggestive glance he gets, and there's at least one guy's glance that he counts.

There's a Jimmy John's commercial for their delivery that is entirely in Spanish except for the tagline (though painted in broad enough strokes that you can understand what's going on anyway), with the family being Latino and the delivery guy being a white guy.

I saw these all within a day or two of each other, and I'm a little sorry they called themselves to my attention (i.e. it'd be neat if these examples weren't worthy of comment), but certainly pleased to see various minorities integrated in a way that the commercials themselves don't call attention to...

On modern America: "We have inherited something spectacular. We take it for granted, and that is a mistake." --Joan Lefkow

Posted by blahedo at 11:11am | Comments (1)

16 Oct 2006

A parody of themselves

Enjoying some of my first leisure time in about a week, I was paging through the Sunday paper. I got through the article on the (lack of) gubernatorial debates that actually mentioned the Green Party candidate Rich Whitney; and the nice little feature on a local apple orchard; and the "Sudorku" Foxtrot comic; and then I came to a full-page insert, paid for by the local Democrats. It said:


Now, don't get me wrong: it's clever, it's funny, and it calls attention to the relatively new law about early voting locations (distinct from absentee ballots) here. All of the factual information on the flyer is afaik 100% true. And yet....

"Giuliani v. Clinton would be like a wood chipper versus baby chicks. Why does our party do such a foul, foul job of picking candidates?" --Matt Zanon

Posted by blahedo at 11:52pm | Comments (0)

12 Oct 2006

Falling mercury

My furnace crapped out again today, same problem as last time ("pressure switch" something or other). Last time, they were able to say that the previous owner had not installed some warranty fix. This time, though? Well, we'll see. I could've called them in and paid them overtime rates, but I'm going to try to tough it out overnight and call them in the morning. Indoor temp 61°, outdoor temp 34°, both falling.

(Lest you worry, I'm certainly not going to freeze to death. First of all, I'm doing various heat-generating chores, like the laundry, and I'm making tea, and I may bake something a little later just cuz. Also, I have a space heater, if it comes to that. I'm pretty sure I've camped in temperatures lower than it's likely to get indoors.)

"Granted, some things require more involved assessments (like, say, James Joyce: I find his early work unparalleled in its style and its evocation of emotion, while his later writing became willfully opaque in a manner that leaves me cold). But other things don't require this sort of elaboration (like, say, John Grisham: He sucks)." --Seth Stevenson

Posted by blahedo at 11:10pm | Comments (0)

9 Oct 2006

Three more!

Just three more FP papers to grade. I have got to get this off my plate; they've been waiting a week. And I need to move on to other things. I just have no idea how the humanities profs handle the volume of papers that they do; it's insane how long this takes. (Well, I do have some idea: I imagine "years of practice" probably figures in somehow.)

"My stepbrother's wife is from Hawaiʻi, and when they got married, they were living out there and had the wedding there. They didn't have a honeymoon afterwards, but I have to wonder where Hawaiian couples go for their honeymoon—Nebraska?" --Brian Sebby

Posted by blahedo at 3:19am | Comments (1)

7 Oct 2006

But it avails him not

A dog who is about to get a bath but does not want one looks so sad. (Smells better afterwards, though....)

"Memo to the City of Chicago: Crossing the street should not require tide charts." --Shalom Owen

Posted by blahedo at 5:42pm | Comments (0)

6 Oct 2006

Drawn together

Drawn together is an offensive little show on Comedy Central that just gets better each season. Part of what makes it great is that although there's no shortage of potty humour and over-the-top cheap-shot jokes, there are layers and layers of funny, some of which are pretty subtle (and not explained!). The fraternity that Captain Hero starts this week? "[phi-alpha-gimel]"—that last letter is Hebrew "gimel". The Jewish fraternity is meant to be "[SH-L-M]"—i.e. "Shalom"*—although it's in fact "[M-L-SH]", because they wrote the letters backwards, in left-to-right order. The terrified little Greek kid shouts "[evcharisto]!"—which, not that the majority of the audience would know this, means "thanks!".

Ling Ling goes meta: since he speaks in pseudo-Japanese, you need to read the subtitles to know what he's saying, and just as you're cursing the bunch of idiots at Comedy Central who put a Daily Show ad up as a superimposed lower third—blocking the subtitles—the other characters react as if Ling Ling is talking about TDS ("Oh, I love that Jon Stewart"). Magnificent!

And that was just the linguistic and metalinguistic humour in this one episode. The best line in the show had to be the one tied to one of Toot's bizarre Asian-themed euphemisms:

I deserve this money! I've been letting Jun-Jee ram his tank into my Tiananmen Square!
(aside in confessional, mournfully:)
Sadly, he always ignores the little student.
Although the line about George Takei was right up there. By the time they flew to Greece and disembarked at Rydell High (get it?), I was just howling. The full-on musical number at the end was just gravy.

*Even this would be incorrect, as the Hebrew for "shalom" has a vav in it, I think. But, I'm pretty positive that's what they meant.

'Can't offer details on individual units, but Kim, TiVo was made for you. Somewhere deep in TiVo central, someone's saying, "I can't believe she hasn't gotten one yet. I mean, we made it just for her."' --Jonathan Prykop

Posted by blahedo at 11:55pm | Comments (5)

3 Oct 2006

It's taunting me

So here I sit grading FP papers, and I have this incredible urge to stop what I'm doing and paint another wall of my kitchen. It doesn't help that I'm sitting in my kitchen, facing the wall that I'd be working on next. *sigh*

"Are people who teach function-oriented languages in CS1 crazy? On the contrary, there is a method to their madness, and we would like to incorporate some of their madness into our methods!" --Franklyn Turbak et al, "Teaching recursion before loops in CS1"

Posted by blahedo at 11:39pm | Comments (1)

2 Oct 2006

Black vinyl

This weekend my mom brought up my grandparents' old record player, and a big box of records. I'm probably among the youngest people in the country to really remember records as more than a historical curiosity or a retro fad, and even at that, it's with the vagueness of any childhood memory. But I do get a certain nostalgic pleasure—no doubt partially external nostalgia, but with enough of my memory to be real—out of sliding the record out of its sleeve, balancing it on my hand and placing it on the turntable, switching the player on using an actual physical switch that engages a mechanical process involving gears and levers and a tiny piece of diamond to play music. If I switch off the speakers, I can still hear the music playing, tinny and soft, just from the stylus vibrating in the groove.

And then I run upstairs to blog about it. So, no luddite me. :)

"Of course, there are many mathematicians who are more or less honest. But almost all of them are conformists. They are more or less honest, but they tolerate those who are not honest." --Grigoriy Perelman

Posted by blahedo at 10:51pm | Comments (0)