29 May 2007

Vitamin D

Now, high school biology was a long time ago, but I'm pretty sure the only chlorophyll I have in my body is currently being digested from lunch. Which is why it's so astonishing and neat that it's at the very instant I step outdoors on a sunny day like today that I feel immediately and completely energised, no matter how bleah I was getting due to, say, a big pile of exam grading.

I guess it has something to do with vitamin D. Or maybe I'll just claim to have veins running with chlorophyll. Either way, this is a great time of year. :)

"Bagging correctly is actually quite an art; the stuff slides off the conveyer, and suddenly it's Grocery Tetris, and you have 5 seconds to get it all in there and done before the customer finishes swiping her debit card." --emjaybee

Posted by blahedo at 4:13pm | Comments (1)

25 May 2007


My teaching year ended at 4pm today. Of course, I still have grading and so forth, but there was a palpable decrease in pressure. Originally intending to go home and to bed, I dicked around in my office for a while and didn't make it out until almost 6. On my way home, mindful of the caffeine headache that had been developing for a while (all I'd had was a chai this morning), I decided to swing by Kaldi's for a coffee to go.

Great decision! On my way out, I started chatting with John-who-hangs-out-at-Kaldi's, and found that for the first time in ages I was free to spontaneously decide to just sit down and unexpectedly talk. Our conversation ranged from Discordian Universalism to FP to the Scottish National Party, and it was getting dark when I finally set off for home at almost 8:30. Man, did I need that. It put me in an unbelievably good mood: although I took a much needed retreat to Urbana last weekend, this sort of random-chance long and meaningful conversation is the sort of thing that I thrive on, and that I haven't gotten nearly enough of this term.

'"Choice" language is somewhat inadequate to the task---especially since it hides the fact that pro-choicers are not fighting for the right to pick (which is what choice language sounds like sometimes), but rather the right to decide.' --Chris Tessone

Posted by blahedo at 11:36pm | Comments (1)

17 May 2007

Things I learned this week

  1. How to change a tire.
  2. That even at a tire shop, the source of a leak is found by the super-high-tech method of pouring soapy water on it and looking for the bubbles.
  3. That inflating a tire, deflating it, removing it, patching it, replacing it, and reinflating it takes about ten minutes, if you have the right equipment and know how to use it.
  4. That the people that own this equipment charge $12 to use it for you and remount the tire.

So, a big shout out to the super-competent dude at Jimmy Walker Tires on Main that fixed my tire. Seems to be holding up just fine.

"If there's an afterlife for language pedants, I think it must be something like wikipedia. I'm just not sure if it's the equivalent of heaven or hell." --Ben Gold

Posted by blahedo at 10:53pm | Comments (0)

13 May 2007

Anonymous motherhood

I was reading today's funnies, and against my better judgement I actually read Family Circus this week. The actual content of it had Dolly musing about alternate mothers and Billy imagining a thought bubble with drawings of other funnies-pages moms. Which is a little odd, and I guess funny for some, but what annoyed me was that the little inset box explaining the joke captions the images as follows: "(clockwise starting at upper left) Blondie, Dennis the Menace's mom, Hagar's wife, and the moms in "Baby Blues", "Luann", "Zits", and "For Better or For Worse". (There is then a "happy mom's day to all mothers" balloon coming from the authors' signatures.)

Other than Blondie, who presumably got named because the comic strip is eponymous, all these characters have no identity of their own here. They can't really blame space considerations, because there would've been plenty of space to say e.g. "Blondie from 'Blondie'; Alice Mitchell from 'Dennis the Menace'; Helga from 'Hagar the Horrible'" and so on. And honestly, probably nothing would have even registered if they'd just gone the shorter route and said, "Moms from: 'Blondie', 'Dennis the Menace', ...". But the actual phrasing they used sort of made it sound like these fictional women have no character or relevance except in relationship to other people.

Thinking about it, the one that really started me off on this path was the "Hagar's wife". Hagar gets a first-name reference, and Helga is then identified only in relation to her man, not even by her motherhood (which might arguably be defensible given the message of the strip). Which highlighted the fact that none of the fictional women shown were actually named other than Blondie. And the fact that the actual body of the strip is pretty much devoid of content, except to say that mothers are basically interchangeable. And largely anonymous.

Which, in a lot of cases, I suppose they are. But rather than raising this as a troubling issue, the strip just follows along. I know I'm overreacting, but the whole thing bugs me. I guess that's what I get for reading Family Circus.

But, happy Mothers' Day, everyone!

"You have to be awfully desperate to leave your home behind, risk the crushing daytime heat and the cold nights of the desert, and set out for a country that wants your cheap labor but not the economic burden of educating your children and caring for your sick." --Carol Marin

Posted by blahedo at 3:03pm | Comments (1)

12 May 2007

The shape of things

Holy cow! Go see this show!

Tonight I saw The shape of things, a bit of a psychodrama about a relationship between an art student and a kind of dorky lit major. It turned out to be one of those Studio gems that gives the mainstage shows a run for their money (not that we have a mainstage this term). Unfortunately, it had the lowest attendance I can remember for a studio show; maybe thirty or so. Really too bad. Hopefully more tomorrow.

Because the show was really really good. The cast of four were all veteran theatre folks, and not one of them could even briefly be accused of just reading their lines. Mike Callahan was fantastically awkward and dorky, especially at first; his quivering lip when confronted with a high-pressure situation was just spot-on. What's more, and this is even clearer in retrospect, a lot of his little dorky mannerisms and awkwardness and so on really comes and goes as the character development dictates. Mikah Berky played a fundamentally very nice girl, not always very sophisticated but always trying to make relationships right and not afraid to speak up when it came right down to it. A lot of her best acting was when other people were speaking; I loved the expressive gestures and facial expressions!

Matt Allis was playing a rather different type than usual—no, that's what I end up thinking every time I see him, and one of these days I'll just figure out that he's a versatile actor. :) This time, he leads off as a boorish, self-centered ass that starts arguments and swears a lot*, but later shows quite a bit more depth. In the last few scenes, the boorish thing starts to seem like more of a façade—not an act per se, but a shield that the character uses to defend himself against emotional hurt. As the emotional drama develops, he comes across as pretty vulnerable underneath it all.

Meghan Reardon plays the manipulative artiste who starts dating the dorky lit major, and like the other three, felt really authentic. A little odd sometimes, and mercurial, but authentic. As the relationship drama unfolds, she is frequently the most sympathetic character in the group, with only the slightly annoying quirk that she's always asking her guy to change his style. He seems pretty amenable to it, though, and takes well to working out and so on, so this quirk seems to be a minor, forgivable flaw.

The show was really well-written, and that helped, of course. All four characters are really strongly developed, and we get lots of chances to get to know them, with numerous scenes with just two of them in dialogue. The relationship psychodrama develops in some ways that border on cliché, but are no less suspenseful as a result. And the script would have been for naught if the acting hadn't been so good. I frequently caught myself holding my breath in tense sympathy for one or the other of the characters that is being wronged (or that is about to be wronged). At a few points (notably near the end) I suddenly intuited the mind game that (I thought) one of the characters was trying to play on another, and the weight of what they were doing would suddenly crash down on top of me, make my heart race, and knock the breath out of me. That's some great presentation right there.

As I write this, I'm struggling a bit with how to say what I want to say without outlining the plot in complete detail; later developments recast the earlier scenes in a rather different light. Suffice to say that the nuanced performance of this ensemble of four was such that it worked great the first time through, and then works even better when seen through the lens of hindsight and complete knowledge. Bravo!

I do wonder a bit if I'm really off-base on this, actually. For the first time I can ever remember, I was the only person standing during the applause. Since I try to reserve standing ovations for when I really mean it, I often find myself in the reverse situation, and I've on occasion been the first to stand or one of just a few. In this case, it could be that the audience was mostly made up of people as picky as I am about standing up. Also, many of them may have known the sequence of events and ending; Kelly Hogan commented that the show hit her a lot more the first time she saw it, and that it lost a little something on re-viewing. Which may well be the reason for the general audience reaction—I think a lot of them were theatre students (like I said, it was tragically sparsely attended), and they may have already read the play.

I don't have a lot to say about the relatively minimal tech, but I do want to say that the straight-overhead spot on Meghan right near the end makes her look positively beatific, and it's a really cool effect.

Overall, though? Fantastic show. I'm told it's Mike Giese's first full-length directorial gig, which makes it even cooler. A great show to try to put on, good effort all around, and, I'd say, success.

*And incidentally, the swearing in this show was much better than in the last few I've seen. At least three of the characters were swearing in various parts of the show, and I never caught that "I shouldn't be swearing in a public presentation" hesitation, at all.

"The web is NOT the best front end for every goddamned piece of information in the world." --Sam Walker

Posted by blahedo at 1:18am | Comments (0)

7 May 2007


I'd just like to note with amusement that my lecture notes on the lambda calculus are still in the front page of Google hits for "lambda calculus". I finally got around to keeping a local copy, but it's the one on Brown's servers that will stay in the Google hit cache. :)

"The main issue appears to be that Gonzalez got caught lying to Congress, and Rove appears to have blood in the water. Again. So the Democrats are using the subpoena power and the Bush administration has no idea how to react to a Congress that doesn't just go "okah" when they tell a bald-faced lie." --Mike McCool

Posted by blahedo at 7:36pm | Comments (0)

1 May 2007

Even geekier dreams

Flunk Day is really at the top of everyone's consciousness right now, and I've probably had five conversations about it in the last day. As a result, I had the dream again, which officially makes it even geekier: it's now a recurring recursing dream.

"A teacher has to walk a narrow path: you want to encourage kids to come up with things on their own, but you can't simply applaud everything they produce. You have to be a good audience: appreciative, but not too easily impressed. And that's a lot of work. You have to have a good enough grasp of kids' capacities at different ages to know when to be surprised." --Paul Graham

Posted by blahedo at 9:01am | Comments (3)