Saturday, April 30, 2005

What could they do?

In hindsite I think I realize that there was really just about nothing they could have put on the screen that on some level would not have disappointed. In the end, one ought not go to see movies made from book they like. I can remember going to see Starship Troopers and being cranky about one plot point after another and thinking "did anyone associated with this film actually read the book?"

That's clearly not the case with Hitchhiker's. I'd angsted about this film a little, especially since production didn't really trip into overdrive until the author had died. That can't be a good sign. Still, at least he was one of the screen writers, and the movie is faithful to the book, both in content and in tone. And really perhaps that's all one could ask for.

The film owes very much to the BBC television series, and I think also to the radio series for many of the audio and visual decisions. Many of the things that I thought would bother me, or things that bothered other fans in the advance press turned out not to be a bother at all. The new plotline, the goofy solution to Zaphod's head - none of these things were really a problem. I did particularly like when they were waiting in line to authorize Trillian's release that one of the various assorted aliens waiting with them was the Marvin robot from the TV show.

I guess the biggest downside was that it had to move so fast, and that so much of the detail was left behind. I can't really tell if it takes away from the story or not. I know what was missing. Reading the Ebert review it suggests that the story is a little thin as is. Its different when you can fill in all the spaces in your head. Its strange what you find missing too. It's not entire stories, or that the bits are sometimes out of sequence, its the half a line here and there that were the biggest gaps to me. When Arthur says "I had to go to the cellar" and I'm thinking "I had to go down the cellar, with no lightbulb, to a file cabinet in a disused lavatory behind a sign that read beware of the leopard." I'm sure I've got that line somewhat crossed up, but I'm certain you get the gist.

Still, with the time they had I think they did spend it well. It seemed to me that the biggest indulgence timewise was spent on the Magrothean Factory Floor, and I thought that was great - as well as having been something that I didn't think succeeded completely in the TV show.

So, not a complete disaster. Certainly not as odd as Starship Troopers (which is still an ok film, but just has nothing to do with the book). Now I'll just cross my fingers for Ender's Game.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Time to go home?

Today is the last day of class. I told students they could turn in delinquent work or resubmit homework with prior problems until I went home tonight. It's twenty after seven. Is it time to go home yet?

I've already graded all the work from the Rigging class and posted the grades. I've graded all the CAD work I have, but there's another assignment that isn't actually due until Monday. Every semester I teach that class I try to move that assignment due date into the semester proper and every year I wind up giving them the last weekend. This semester was no different.

All things being equal I have like 17 drafting assignments to grade for Dick's class. M is at rehearsal tonight, the Bulls don't play until tomorrow, and SciFi Friday is all repeats. Maybe I'll just hang around a while and see if anyone else has work to turn in. Then I can knock down the drafting grading too.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

More ways to waste time

Because we all need more ways to piss away our lives, I present to you:

a game that shows a grid of images and then you have to guess the word than in a google image search would yield the pictures you are looking at. I got it off of jill/txt.

Sometimes it actually turns out to be more of a typing tutor than an image recognition game, and there are some fairly irritating artifacts like alternate spellings and singular/plural distinctions. Also, the database often repeats image arrays, so you can practice.

Object nouns and adjectives are fairly easy. Verbs and concept nouns are a little harder. Have the big fun.

Nothing Personal

But I don't think I would trust this guy to pick up my mail, sell me a car, feed my cats, do my taxes...

Not sure I would have said any better of any of the other guys though.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Gaming the System

The news out of the US Senate of late has been bugging me. The idea that when one group doesn't get what it wants they are compelled not to compromise but rather to change the rules is, well, irritating.

And yet, gaming the system is fundamentally American. Changing the game to your advantage, maximizing every little edge available, bending the rules until they break, and even breaking the rules until you get caught are really, although perhaps unfortunately, a fundamental building block of American life. In some ways it is one of the things that makes our country great.

There are examples of this all over the place. One need look no further than American sports to see this sort of thing played out in front of us. In football, the whole concept revolves around doing everything you can until you get caught. Its not against the rules to hold; its against the rules to get caught holding. Clearly the recent revelations about steroid use coming out of Baseball emphasize how players try to get every possible advantage. Nobody there seems to think they are doing anything wrong - and those are the players that actually do get caught.

I see it here at work in the shows I work on. Although things are structured collaboratively, there is at the beginning sometimes a little bit of competition between the creative team and the execution team with regard to what we can and cannot do within the resources. In times past not much evaluation was done and people simply burned out trying to realize their ideas. More recently we started to do a more realistic evaluation of budget in the scenery area. When that happened, the scope of the show didn't come down, but the weight of the work simply moved to paints. Suddenly everyone wanted to do huge paint shows because the sets area was being monitored more closely. Paints was where the advantage was. A little further down the road we started to look more carefully at paints and what happened? The weight of the design went to costumes, suddenly all the shows had puppets or exceptional creature costumes. In an effort to get everything they could, the creative team was running from the budget process - gaming the system to their advantage.

Politically one need only look to the efforts in the state of Texas, the gerrymandering of the legislative districts to change the federal representation. All gaming the political system to the Republican advantage.

Looking back to sports, the drive in the other direction has always been something I have liked about Ultimate. In Ultimate players call their own fouls and violations. You're much more accountable for fouling someone if the person you are fouling is going to be the one that calls the infraction. One would think that this would lead to a rash of called fouls when nothing had really happened, but Ultimate players are not Football players, and "the spirit of the game" outweighs our natural American tendencies. See in Ultimate it is a violation to break the rules - not to get caught breaking the rules. The whole culture is one that resists eeking an advantage. It is particularly refreshing. In all but the most competitive games players are normally able to behave in a civilized manner and call infractions when they happen and deal openly and honestly with their fellow competitors. Occasionally when the stakes are very high people's more American instincts take over. We have a name for that game too: "Uglimate." Players making calls to their advantage are universally ridiculed as failures to the spirit of the game.

Right now we are seeing this behavior demonstrated in a particularly high stakes arena. Uglimate has come to the US Senate. Faced with not being able to get absolutely 100% of their agenda through without a hitch, the Senate leadership has decided that they will change 200+ year old rules to accommodate themselves. Just like an Ultimate player in a championship game, it is absolutely within their rights to make this call, and just like that player who knows the disc hit the ground but calls it "up" anyway they are monumentally wrong.

The way forward in this situation is not to game the system to their advantage, but rather to work toward compromise and perhaps to realize that being the majority still does not bestow ultimate power.

Today I took a moment to tell both PA Senators that I would be very disappointed if they dumped the rules at this time. I think it would be cool if you did that too. You can access your Senator here:

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Trinity & Trinity

I should be grading papers.

Monday, April 25, 2005


Only one teaching day left for me this year... Passport photos are expensive, comparatively high gloss inkjet paper is not... There are 61 days, 11 hours, and 53 minutes remaining until the wedding... That assumes that the photo setups don't sink the relationship... There are 16 days, 17 hours, and 23 minutes until my 3rd Years' thesis projects are due... That assumes they don't run off to join the circus first... Snow, in late April, really blows... Three months later and my scanner still doesn't work... I'm really beginning to wonder about the whole "Crazy Scheme" thing for next year... Just the thought of Jamaica is really very nice right now... Trinity's tumor is bigger than a raquetball... If your not going to make any mileage, even if there's a point, or even just for spite, its probably not worth the effort anymore... I refilled the Critulia, love that Tarantula... Everyone appeared to finish their second mastery exam... Floppy disks are really quite over... Its not even May, and the summer is filling up right quick... The new truck has recovered it's new car smell... Amazon totally failed to alert me to the latest Spenser book, what's up with that?.. I believe there are probably more AIM buddies than people on Earth... Drinks just seem to taste better out of a pilsner glass... Department store ladies are mean... What am I forgetting to do?.. Someday I'd like to actually get to my list again... Asking friends to be creative is a somewhat largish imposition... Nothing like crab grass to really remind you you own a home... The cell phone people - like the cable people - just want ALL OF YOUR MONEY... It is never, never "all about the O"... Hitchhiker's better not suck... Its a shame to borrow a book all the way from New Haven on Inter-Library Loan and then never actually read it... Shane really is hot... Deadwood has ceased to be incomprehensible, thank goodness... Student blogging has really dropped off of late... The Uno's Shrimp and Crab Fondue tastes like neither Shrimp nor Crab... Will the coverage of the Pope thing end anytime soon?.. I'll never get to writing about any of this...

Sunday, April 24, 2005

More Hoops

So, not only are the Bulls in the playoffs, they are one of the top four seeds in the East. Either something really good is happening in Chicago or the quality of the league has taken a drastic tumble.

Today I saw the end of the Bulls first round game against the Wizards. I'm not certain, but I think the Bulls had not won a playoff game - even appeared in a playoff game since the Wizards were the Bullets. That may be overstating it some, but they did make their first appearance and their first post season win since Michael and Company put away Utah in the spring of 1998.

Eight years. That's a long time between playoff appearances.

Of course that's of little consolation to the fans in Washington who have had an even longer playoff absence and lost this game. But there was little expectation for the Wizards. The Bulls were afterall the team of the 90's.

So nothing against the Wizards fans, but its nice to see the Chicago franchise shake off the perennial doormat outfit they've been wearing. SO I have any illusions that they are going to go far in the playoffs? No. Is it nice to see the United Center being used for a post season NBA game? Of course. For one brief moment in time all is right with the world.


A few days ago I talked about how I was trying real hard to care about NBA basketball this season. It's really not working. The playoffs started tonight and if I hadn't been flipping I wouldn't have even noticed.

At the time I was asked why I would even consider caring about basketball with baseball spring training in full swing. I do have to say that I have been picking up the Cubs again with much more energy than I have been able to muster for any NBA team.

One interesting thing did hit me though. This season the Chicago Bulls made the playoffs and the Los Angeles Lakers didn't.

How on Earth did that happen?

Is it possibile that Laker's management made some poor choices in favor of the perceived Air's air apparent? That's really got to have them turning backflips, what with the Heat in the playoffs, and Phil Jackson getting wooed for yet another head coaching job, and their prized Lakers and Laker Girls gone fishin'.

I guess maybe Kobe is human after all. And maybe placing the fate of your team in the hands of such a young gun isn't the best idea in the end. But there are many more years before that story is really ready to be written.

The Bulls really caught me by surprise. I had thought in the deep pit of dismantling they'd found themselves that it would be another decade for them to be heard from again - if they ever recovered at all. It seems like they were bound to be the Chicago Clippers in many ways. So good for them. Way to bounce back and make a showing. Of course it will mean very little if they get bounced out in the first round.

And I will have to watch to see if that happens.

So maybe there is still hope for the season even at this late date. Unless of course the Cubs are on.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Earth Day

Friday was Earth day.

Did you get anything for the Earth?

Is it appropriate to exchange gifts on Earth day? Who would you give them to? Maybe everyone ought to do something nice for the planet. Something to conserve energy maybe. No driving maybe. Or turn the temp in your house up or down 50% depending on the season where you live. Maybe go out of your way to recycle something you ordinarily don't.

Maybe for Earth day we should remind everyone that the current administration don't care much for the Earth. I hope there was no gift for the Earth from the US Government. Something like another "Clear Skys Initiative." There's a present I am sure the planet would regift if it had the chance:

Overheard at Venus' birthday: "Oh Earth, how nice, a Clear Skys Initiative - I was hoping someone would help me clear up this condition of mine!"

Little does she know. Ha ha ha (demonic laugh).

Personally, with snow predicted for this weekend, I'm not feeling all that guilty about spacing on Earth day. I mean really, if you want nice things you have to treat people better. Snow in late April just don't cut it.

Later and later

I think I may have caught thesis from my students, I seem to be staying up later and later. I haven't had a bout of this since I lived in New Haven.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Its late...

...and I forgot to post, or maybe forgot is wrong, just never got to it.

I spent my evening trying to cram as much content into a course schedule as possible for our summer precollege program. Its tough because there are many goals:

  • get as much content as possible
  • employ as many people as possible
  • balance the content as well as possible
  • give instructors enough time to actually teach something
  • keep the load equitable amongst instructors
  • and build a show
I've really got the content crammer at work. I've made room for:
  • Basic Design
  • Drawing
  • Lighting Design
  • "Lab"
  • Drafting
  • Scene Painting
  • Stage Management
  • Technical Production
  • Sound Design
  • Drama Lit
  • Costumes
  • and Production Management
That's about two years of our regular program crammed into six weeks. I am now giving up and going to bed without an acceptable grid on my screen. I think I will live to fight another day - and besides, I should likely ask instructors about their availability before I try to nail anything down.

Tenured professor with no administrative duties this gig just 'aint.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Link of the Day

A true link of the day post. Today I present to you:

This has actually been on my mind a lot lately because the summer tours are being announced. I've used this site since I lived in Vegas. It's real cool.

With Pollstar, you can enter any city and see all the music acts booked in that city. Pretty much as far out as things are booked. There were some dates in Vegas I could see more than two years out. Those bookers really know how to get ahead. Putting in Pittsburgh (after telling it I mean Pittsburgh PA and not Pittsburgh KS) I can see dates through December. Not bad.

You can also enter any act and see any dates they have booked pretty much anywhere. So were REM on our honeymoon itinerary I would know that we'd have to go to Bonn, Germany. You can also select any venue and have it show you all the acts booked at that venue.

Its all rigged to crossreference too, so if you want to jump from act to city to venue you can.

Here's the coolest part though: if you register, you can specify I think up to four acts and every time they add a booking you get an email letting you know. I think I'm rigged for Aime Mann, Patti Griffin, Michelle Malone, and Indigo Girls (I get MLE announcements from somewhere else). So even without watching MTV or paying attention to Pittsburgh papers or radio I know when these acts are coming to town - Like Patti Griffin on the 30th. Plus I can see all the cities they go to, so if I want to combine cool music with a visit to a friend I get a heads up for that too.

Check it out.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Irritating Radio

Rush Limbaugh makes me so mad. Which is too bad because I used to enjoy listening to him. I've sort of talked about this before, lately he's just awful.

Today I happened to hear him talking on the radio while I was driving into work and got so steamed I had to turn it off. Click! Take that! Tell the sleep number bed people I will not be listening to their ad today.

Today's rant was about how "liberals" didn't want people of faith to serve as federal judges. How some people have faith and that gives them a compass to know right from wrong and that the Democrats were afraid of people that knew right from wrong and so they were blocking people of faith from serving.

He can't just be missing the point. He has to just be knowingly lying. Like Democrats or liberals have anything against people of faith. Right. Not.

The problem isn't faith, and its not people who know right from wrong. The problem is people who can't put those issues into perspective, can't weigh them against other factors. There's nothing wrong on the face about people who understand moral choices. The discontinuity is in the idea that judges make moral choices. There isn't a fear of people of faith, but I think there is a fear of people who don't see a difference between moral, ethical, and legal.

Often the moral choice isn't the ethical choice or the legal choice or vise versa. Judges make rulings of legality, is something either within or against the law. Sometimes those choices are messy. Sometimes those choices have undesirable consequences. Doesn't make the choice any less legal. Someone sitting on the bench that believes their faith gives them a better rubric to measure outcomes, that's scary.

I'll add two more unfortunate indices: popular and patriotic.

Lately we've been hearing a lot about how judges are making decisions that the people don't agree with. We see polling to show that there's been an unpopular decision (actually lately we heard that rant while seeing polling that the people did side with the judges - another problem with wonk radio). Then the people encouraging various histrionics will say that taking an unpopular position is also unpatriotic. It doesn't matter if a decision is popular. If left up to the people many things would never be upheld ADA, civil rights, taxes. People will find a reason to sue over anything they don't like. Just because they don't like it doesn't make it illegal. Doesn't make it subversive either. Some of our greatest triumphs have been in the face of popular opposition.

We need judges that will make their decisions based on the law. Is it ok if they are people of faith? Of course it is, and Rush knows it. But that's not good radio.

Monday, April 18, 2005

More Coaster

So, I wasn't there to see it, and Izzy has promised me pictures but I haven't got them yet. This did however run in the student paper today:

Which is very cool because mostly what I wanted to see was how it looked at night with lights.

All in all not too bad for the work of a handful of really overtasked artisans in a very real world calendar template. I think it is something the Drama School can be proud to have contributed.

Happy Birthday

It's my mom's birthday.
It's Val's birthday.

Happy birthday to both.

More humor of questionable effect

Found these here:

there are a few overlaps...

1. A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two dead raccoons. The stewardess looks at him and says, “I’m sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger.”

2. Two fish swim into a concrete wall. The one turns to the other and says, “Dam!”

3. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Unsurprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can’t have your kayak and heat it too.

4. Two hydrogen atoms meet. One says “I’ve lost my electron.” The other says “Are you sure?” The first replies “Yes, I’m positive.”

5. Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused Novocain during a root canal? His goal: transcend dental medication.

6. A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse. “But why?” they asked, as they moved off. “Because”, he said, “I can’t stand chess-nuts boasting in an open foyer.”

7. A woman has twins and gives them up for adoption. One of them goes to a family in Egypt and is named “Ahmal.” The other goes to a family in Spain; they name him “Juan.” Years later, Juan sends a picture of himself to his birth mother. Upon receiving the picture, she tells her husband that she wishes she also had a picture of Ahmal. Her husband responds, “They’re twins! If you’ve seen Juan, you’ve seen Ahmal.”

8. These friars were behind on their belfry payments, so they opened up a small florist shop to raise funds. Since everyone liked to buy flowers from the men of God, a rival florist across town thought the competition was unfair. He asked the good fathers to close down, but they would not. He went back and begged the friars to close. They ignored him. So, the rival florist hired Hugh MacTaggart, the roughest and most vicious thug in town to persuade” them to close. Hugh beat up the friars and trashed their store, saying he’d be back if they didn’t close up shop. Terrified, they did so, thereby proving that only Hugh can prevent florist friars.

9. Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him ..... (Oh, man, this is so bad, it’s good)..... A super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

10. And finally, there was the person who sent ten different puns to his friends, with the hope that at least one of the puns would make them laugh. No pun in ten did.

Shower Weekend

So I'm back from Chicago, with the shower behind me. All in all things went very well.

Here is perhaps my favorite moment of the trip:

It is left to the reader as an exercise to determine the intent of the people pictured.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

No Runs, No Hits, No Errors

I heard this on Car Talk while driving...

Outside a small Macedonian village a lone Catholic nun keeps a quiet watch over a silent convent. She is the last caretaker of this site of significant historical developments, spanning more than 2,000 years. When Sister Maria Cyrilla of the Order of the Perpetual Watch dies, the convent of St. Elias will be closed by the Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Macedonia. However, that isn't likely to happen soon, as Sister Maria, 53, enjoys excellent health. By her own estimate, she walks 10 miles daily about the grounds of the convent, which once served as a base for the army of Attila the Hun.

In more ancient times, a Greek temple to Eros, the god of love, occupied the hilltop site. Historians say that Attila took over the old temple in 439 A.D., and used it as a base for his marauding army. The Huns are believed to have first collected and then destroyed a large gathering of Greek legal writs at the site. It is believed that Attila wanted to study the Greek legal system and had the writs and other documents brought to the temple. Scholars differ on why he had the valuable documents destroyed - either because he was barely literate and couldn't read them, or because they provided evidence of a democratic government that did not square with his own notion of "rule by an all-powerful tryant".

When the Greek church took over the site in the 15th century and the convent was built, church leaders ordered the pagan statue of Eros destroyed, so another ancient Greek treasure was lost. Today, there is only the lone sister, watching over the old Hun base.

When she goes, that will be it. Thus, that's how it ends, with No Huns, No Writs, No Eros, and Nun on base.

Here's the site where I found it on the web:

Although that site doesn't have the other one from Car Talk, about Ghandi, which ended: "Super Fragile Calloused Mystic Hexed by Halitosis"

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Carnival Install

So today the kids moved the coaster out to the parking lot. They've finished most of the paint. Whatcha think:

They're installing the car and lights tonight. Hopefully I'll get a picture from when I am out of town so that I can see it when it is finished.


I'm supposed to be drafting. I took a side gig drawing the TV project here at school because all the kids are too busy. I should have realized I was too busy as well.

But I didn't.

So for the last two weeks I have been just about as lousy at time management and deadlines as any student I've ever had. Good thing I don't have to crit at the end of the semester. Still, I would have what I thing are going to be some nice drawings to put up on my board.

In the meantime, I lost something like 4 hours of productivity today to allergies. Happens every spring and fall. You think I'd be used to it by now. I've even talked about it before:

Oh well. Nature will be nature, and I guess I should re-up my Allegra.

On Snot
Please, just for a moment
I beg that you give me your attention.
I need to tell you a story.
A story about my congestion.

As I have stated in the past,
One of the best things going for me I’ve got,
Is that my head is so often full of ideas.
But today, today it’s snot.

Certainly if one were given a choice,
Allergies or a cold are not what one would choose.
But then, really it’s not a matter of selection
This persistent and annoying ooze.

And so, while trying to get through the day,
Off to the convenience store I go.
I must take something to stem the tide.
There must be something that will cap the flow.
Some thing that will let me breathe,
Without first, and constantly having to blow

Of course, in the haze of drugs
Work really can’t get done,
And so the deadlines slip.
I guess I’ll just take my nose home
Put it in bed and feel it drip.

Does someone out there have an answer?
Could you give it to me please?
But not now, I’ll need a moment
I can feel I’m about to sneeze.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Two days till opening

More coaster pics...

The blue really looks cool.

The car is coming along nicely.

Time is running out. This is the home stretch.

Monday, April 11, 2005

I must have one

The Dark Lord of the Spud

I've talked about Star Wars before. I haven't managed to get hold of the whole first trilogy. I think I will always be an episode 4-6 person, but this last one coming up soon seems to tie in with the old movies pretty closely. So I am kind of excited.

There's apparently a much bigger marketing tie in with this film than the past two. They must realize this could be their last dip at the Star Wars trough. I would normally think this is crass and unfortunate, but I guess I still have a spot in my heart for this crap. I never had many of these toys, but they were all around while I was growing up. To this day its hard not to pick up Star Wars themed Lego sets.

Somehow getting to see Vader's eyes popping out like that makes the whole character a little less threatening - or maybe its the potato body. Actually it reminds me some of the "Lord Helmet" character from Spaceballs.

Actually, with my recently changed appreciation of potatoes - under the South Beach Diet potatoes are the Devil - maybe this characterization is exactly on target.

"Luke, you know you cannot resist the power of the carb side - it is your destiny!"

I crack myself up.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

That's better

FTP back up. Roller coaster pics, day 2:

Plenty of work left to do. Keep your fingers crossed.

I'm not sure

But I don't think I am as thrilled about this as the article wants me to be.

They are all a-twitter about CT passing a law to recognize same-sex civil unions...

"Senators debated for nearly four hours on Wednesday before voting 27-9 in favor of the bill, which would give gay and lesbian couples many of the same rights as married couples. ... (snip)..."This is same-sex marriage by a different name," Brown said."

I don't know, but to me discussion about creating a different institution with all of the benefits of the first institution doesn't thrill me. Actually what it makes me think of is: "separate but equal" and I think we've already been through that line of thinking in American politics and abandoned it.

If Gays and Lesbians deserve to be married then they deserve the same recognition as hetero couples, not something separate but equal.

Of course this is where religion comes into the conversation, because "marriage" is a religious institution as much as it is a civil/secular institution.

Why don't all the state governments do everyone a favor and get out of the validating of religious commitments business. All couples could get a civil union in the eyes of the state. Those that want to can get married by religious officials, those having trouble finding acceptance from religious officials would not have to clear that bar before becoming a family. And 99% of the objections to "gay marriage" on moral grounds would crumble away having been made moot. Everyone would still get what they value, and nobody's institution would be lessened, and we could put the real impediment, the clergy, into the spotlight rather than government.

Just a thought.

Locked out of my FTP

I was going to post day 2 Roller Coaster photos, but for some reason AOL has locked me out of my FTP space. That's where I host images from. Guess I will have to try again later like the annoying little pop up window suggests.

Shannon worked on the thing today. She laid in the track pipes and its coming along nicely. They're going to have to sprint through the finish to have the thing complete with paint and lights and installed by Thursday morning.

Norm and Izzy have been pounding away on the car too. Its a platform for a sign for carnival. All in all things are looking good.

Which I would show you if it weren't for AOL.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Roller Coaster

Today was day one of our roller coaster company. For years now I've wanted to get a spring carnival project for the School of Drama. There's this "Midway Entry Icon" that I've always thought would be a good project for us. This year, a drama student was fairly high up in the carnival organization and got the icon as her own project. Before the early demise of my technical design class I glommed my people onto it. So, now we're trying to do it without the force of a class behind it.

Here's day one...

We laid out the "spine" and spaced out the track supports...

Fabricated match plates to make the ship breaks...

Assembled the parts we had to get a rough idea of the shape we wound up with. It turns out that a combination of some design errors and some fabrication errors by a sub gave us a profile that's a little more pointy than we want. But it still has the potential of looking cool if we do the tracks right.

We started to lay in the track pieces. That will be most of tomorrow. So far its pretty cool, but the SNAFUs are adding up. Keep your fingers crossed.


Well, I've lost this post once already, and the new, whiz-bang "recover post" feature didn't help. But I will try again.

Did you check out the post I referenced earlier? I'm really not certain where to come down on this one. One the face of it, I think that any smallmindedness based on what a person sounds like is just that - smallmindedness.

People have accents and we need to learn to talk to eachother. Also, I would imagine that a high percentage of times when this turns out to be a problem its when someone that isn't a native speaker is talking to someone who is a native speaker. In those cases I think the non-native speaker ought to get some slack just for having gone the length to learn the new language, even if they can't speak it perfectly.

On the other hand, if I went to another country, I would feel guilty if I couldn't speak the language and would not expect native speakers there to have to understand me if I couldn't be properly communicative, so is it wrong to expect the same of them here? I think that the sad part is that most Americans traveling abroad would not have the same feelings as I think I would in a foreign setting. People just expect that everyone will understand their English. That is likely smallminded too.

I have to say that one of the more frustrating moments of my memory concerns this. When I was in high school and working retail I once had a customer ask me for something over and over again and I simply could not figure out what he was saying. He clearly understood me, so I surmise it was in fact English that he was speaking, but I was at a total loss. In the end though, my frustration was with myself for not being able to piece it together, so with him for having an odd speech pattern. Here again, I think that the woman proposing the legislation is clearly laying the fault at the feet of the non-native speaker not with her kid or herself.

As far as teaching goes specifically, I think I have had two teachers who would have had trouble under this scenario where students that don't understand can get you fired. One teacher I had in undergrad had a fairly thick accent. Among other things he would pronounce "a square" as "esquar." It took a little getting used to, but it certainly didn't keep me from learning the material. In the end it was kind of distinctive too. To this day I still sometimes tell my CAD class "ok, now please draw esquar" and they all look at me like I'm loony.

I had a teacher with a fairly thick Asian accent in grad school. He would say "bo val" when he was saying "ball valve" and "dimameter" when he was saying "diameter." Again, there was a learning curve, but it wasn't detrimental. Sometimes there was even a small sense of achievement. When we figured out that "ampriveyecar" was "amplifier card" we all felt fairly proud of ourselves. It took us the better part of two months to suss that out. In the end though, this was one of the best teachers I have ever had, and I certainly wouldn't have traded him in for someone else that spoke more familiarly.

Also, I have to say that perhaps I don't relate to this the way other people do. When I talk to someone with an accent like this, I often find myself dropping into their cadence and intonation. I don't know how they hear it or perceive it. I hope they don't think I'm mocking. Its really something that I don't control, although I can hear myself doing it. One day I heard myself say "dimameter" to that grad school instructor. From the looks on faces around me I'm sure the rest of the class heard me do it too. We all braced for some kind of retribution, but it never came. Truth be told I think that if that's how you speak, you may not even be able to hear the difference. I just wonder if it is easier to understand someone that speaks back to you the way you speak to them, or if "proper" English would be easier, or if it makes no difference at all. Maybe I should ask our voice & speech faculty.

Perhaps though there is a situation where this smallmindedness might be at least minimally forgivable. I recall hearing a story on PRI about how American school districts were having trouble filling teaching positions to such a degree that there are now companies recruiting primary school teachers overseas, from places like Manila. Here's the story:

I guess I can see where if I had a small child in primary school, at a time where they didn't have much sophistication in their perception and when they are still training their ear, that maybe I could see a need to have instructors speak closer to what would be considered standard English.

But maybe that's stupid. In those same formative years is when we are supposed to be the most able to learn language. Maybe this is the best time for kids to hear a wide variety of accents to prepare them for what they will face in the future.

More than the accent issue, I find it a little depressing that we simply can't find these teachers domestically. That would seem to me to be the thing to get upset about, rather than that the teacher we've brought halfway around the world doesn't sound like they are from across town. The accent issues would seem to be implicit in the solution we've elected to the bigger problem.

Also, one would hope that the administration of the schools doing this kind of recruiting would be monitoring the intelligibility of their candidates. When we admit foreign students here they have to pass a language test. I would hope that these employers are being at least that diligent with their teachers.

And regardless of if the person is comprehensible or not, certainly this isn't something that we should be placing in the hands of the kids in the class to vote on! The teachers have a boss, that boss can determine if they are speaking within an acceptable range of intelligibility. Why on Earth would we have kids vote on it? This sounds a little bit like a dispute between a parent and a school administration, not an understanding problem between a teacher and student. I wonder if that's what is really going on.

In the end, I think that a wide range of sounds can only be an improvement. As long as we all approach the issue with an open mind.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Novel Thought

Tonight I found myself saying something I'd never thought before, and really couldn't have conceived saying at all:

We have rules in this house about walking around covered with poop.

Thankfully I was talking to the cat.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Proud to be an American

Have you checked out the blogs in the margin? Seen jill/txt yet? She's a college prof overseas.

Check out this post:

I don't know what to say.

Light Reading

The other day I got asked to send my thesis to a colleague. I converted it to a .pdf for him. What with the launch of the ETCP Certification program this fall I thought some more people might like to see it.

Just a little light reading.

Beware SATAN

This evening M related to me a story from the opera. It seems that today they had a rehearsal for their outreach program - you know 2000 kids come to the big city on the bus to get their culture on. In this case they are coming to see 30 minutes of the opera "Faust." In between three scenes (from what must be a 7 hour production - ok maybe it only feels that way) they talk to the performers to hear all about the magic of theatre.

At this point I should mention that when I did this as an HPHS student I slept through every act of LaBoheme. I also recall sleeping through a rehearsal for Madama Butterfly while a CMU student. So I wonder about the utility of such excursions.

But not for the same reasons as these students' parents.

The story goes that the director of outreach of the opera got a phone call from a principal about to send 500 of his most malleable minds to see the show. Some parents it seems took the time to look up Faust on the internet and discovered, to their horror, that it is a story about THE DEVIL. Apparently 500 years of western literature having previously eluded this particular demographic they did not know that Faust's interaction with the Devil doesn't work out too well in the end. And of course not knowing that, they related to said outreach director, that they were legitimately concerned that their children would return to them as full fledged Satan worshippers.

Red state opera outreach must be a rough gig.

Anyway, for those of you who like me would rather nap than go to the opera you now have another reason. Beware: SATAN!

New chair

and adorable kittens.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Bet you weren't expecting that

(Galactica Spoiler)

The Sci-fi Channel original series seasons wound up over the last two weeks. Both Stargates two weeks ago and Battlestar Galactica this past week. Kinda crappy that the shows wind up this early, but the new seasons premiere in July instead of the fall so I guess you have to take the good with the bad.

For what I think is the third year in a row, and obvious evidence of a conspiracy at USITT, I missed half of the Stargate finales while at the conference. What I did see was alright, but certainly nothing too special.

I have to say though, that when Boomer capped Adama on the finale of Galactica - in a million years I didn't see that coming. Most times TV sci-fi is fairly predictable, or at least conventional with its plots. This was the first time in quite some time I can remember having not even an inkling of what was coming. Really good stuff.

I can't wait until July to see how it plays out.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Link of the Day

Two for one here at link of the day.

I got some new cards printed. I thought I could use some freelancer cards that had my home information on them instead of my work info. I think they came out pretty well:

The full color, and glossy card stock weren't any more expensive than without, and they had a nice selection of images and compositions. It took about a week. If you are interested you can find them here:

They also have stationary and other stuff, but I can only speak for the business cards.

I found my way to iPrint through a new button I found on another site. For about a year now I have maintained an address book using an online service called Plaxo. It's a free service and they maintain your contacts online so you can get to them from any computer. It looks like the service has full implementation of everything you have in Outlook, or with the Palm OS - but since I've never been an Outlook person and my Visor doesn't turn on anymore I can't really speak to that.

The Plaxo service makes it real simple to update your contacts, the whole process is automated. Also, if another one of your contacts has a Plaxo account the updating is instantaneous and totally passive - it just always keeps that information current.

Recently they added a service where when a person has entered their birthday with their contact information the service reminds you and sets up to send an e-card. Very nice.

When I first joined (or really the first time someone queried me with the service) there seemed to be some angst around storing information this way. The service goes out of their way to have a privacy policy that is fairly iron clad and transparent. So they appear to take it very seriously.

I can say that in a year I haven't seen anything to lead me to believe that my data is being used by anyone but me.

Anyway, its a service I've really liked, and I thought I would spread the word. If you are interested in Plaxo you can find them here:

Sunday, April 03, 2005


Well, clearly I have been way too busy. Maybe its been all the Star Wars hype, but I failed to notice that Hitchhiker's is finally coming out - this month. April 29th, last day of class.

Might demand a party.

I was looking at trailers on the QuickTime site. Here's one of three Hitchhiker's trailers. My favorite of the three:

It's just possible that this erases the feeling of foreboding I had when I read the casting and some internet buzz about production earlier. I mean, this is a case where the book is so special that they can't help but fall short with the film. At least from the trailer it looks like they've given it a good shot.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Left of the Dial

It's Air America's one year anniversary. We still don't have a station in Pittsburgh, but you can stream it off the internet.

After listening to year after year of Dr. Laura and Rush Limbaugh I find the Air America shows much much more palatable. I probably listen to a little bit of Al Franken and Randi Rhodes every day, and sometimes I hear some of Unfiltered and The Majority Report. They're all good shows, and its nice to hear someone spouting something other than Right Wing propaganda (even though its often just as much propaganda coming from the left).

Truth be told, I still have the right wing show stations set in my car. Limbaugh moved to a new FM station and was replaced on KDKA by Sean Hannity. Hannity is much worse than Limbaugh - further to the right, and much more loose with the truth. After Rush on the FM station is Michael Savage. He's worse than Hannity. With all this time to fill you think someone would pick up Air America rather than continuing to slide right off the cliff to the right.

I swear it makes me long for Tom Lycus. At least he was just chauvinist.

To mark the one year anniversary, HBO is running a movie "Left of the Dial" chronicling the preparation and the first year on the air. The reason there's a movie is because there were significant business problems and they very nearly went out of business. I find that actually to be the least interesting part of the story.

What I found was interesting was that once they got established the following things happened with regularity:

Franken outrated Limbaugh,
Rhodes outrated Hannity, and
The Majority Report (Sam Seder and Jaeane Garofalo) outrated Savage.

So, when given a choice, people who want to listen to political talk very well might choose left biased talk over right. Granted NYC is a fairly diverse market, but it would be nice to have the choice in more cities.

I wonder if there's a Pittsburgh station looking for a format?

The end of the film shows last November's election. I remember listening to the anguish at the time, but it was totally different getting to see it on the faces. Watching the utter disbelief as the count comes in, you have to feel for these people even if you don't agree with their politics. It brought the whole thing back for me.

Anyway, the film is pretty good, you should check it out. And definitely check out Air America - over the air if you're lucky enough to have a station or streaming if you don't. There's always a link in the margin of this page.

Friday, April 01, 2005

More Kids Today

It must be porno week at McNews. Here's today's offering:

Its all about spring break in Havasu, Arizona. I used to hear about it a lot when I lived in Las Vegas. Havasu is another one of the places where the Mardi Gras beads for flashing caught on. I'm not sure anybody knows why.

The article touches on many dimensions of this behavior, and even raises the "free love" issues I posited the other day (is it possible the author is a "There are no bad ideas" reader?). I particularly liked this bit:

In this era, young adults view sex as an envelope to be pushed in ways that would make a '60s "free love" graduate blush. They also have a consumer-driven view of media, where iPods make anyone a disc jockey and camcorders do the same for aspiring directors. Why wait for reality TV to discover you when you can bring the world a bit of your own reality?

On the other hand, American society is still conflicted about sex. There is more of it on display than ever: Compare the raw sizzle of Desperate Housewives with the buttoned-up innuendo of Dallas. Yet certain boundaries are inviolable.

Last year, a popular Ohio news anchor discovered that her topless strut at a Florida wet T-shirt contest 10 months earlier had surfaced on the Web. Within days, Catherine Bosley, 37, was dubbed "the naked news anchor." A decade-long career ended with her resignation.

I have to admit having this thought when I saw the "collegeinvasion" site the other day. I was looking at the guys in the video thinking: gee I really hope one of these guys runs for Senate one day.

Do you think anyone would care? Or would it be just the poor decisions of a miss-spent youth? My recollection is that our current President really doesn't do too well if evaluated on his college days. Maybe it doesn't matter after all. Do you think the reaction would be different for a guy in a Shane's World video than for a girl in a Girl's Gone Wild video?

I'd like to think it would come down harder on the guy. But I bet it wouldn't.

Everyone. Don't let strangers tape you naked. That's for friends.