Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Some of My Best Friends Are...

So it turns out that one of my favorite authors turns out to be a raging homophobe. Should I care about it?

Most of the authors I read I don't know a single thing about. Maybe some of them eat babies or run dog fighting or something, how would I know. Somehow it's gotten out that Orson Scott Card has a thing about gays. I guess it's fairly consistent with his Mormon beliefs.

Thing is, I always thought I did know something about OSC. Sometime back in the past I read an afterword in one of his books where he explains that he was starting a theatre and only became a sci-fi author to try to keep the theatre afloat. Something in that alway resonated with me. I felt a connection.

I do have to say that even without knowing his stance on gays I have been having a little trouble with OSC of late. I've been reading his page and his blog and there's more and more every week that I don't agree with. He's a big Bush supporter, he's critical of a lot of entertainment, we're just not on the same page.

But that shouldn't take away from Ender, or from Magic Street, or Alvin Maker. I wonder if I'll be able to separate the man's work from the man's views.

Monday, January 28, 2008

That Speech on the TV Tonight

Think Progress has a nice blow-by-blow of several of the components of tonight's state of the union. Worth a look through for the "fair and balanced" among us.

Think Progress: "SOTU: Veterans Health Care Has Gotten Worse Under Bush »

Bush said: “Over the past 7 years, we have increased funding for veterans by more than 95 percent. As we increase funding, we must also reform our veterans system to meet the needs of a new war and a new generation.”

FACT — 1.8 MILLION VETERANS LACK HEALTH INSURANCE: “The new study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, estimated that in 2004 nearly 1.8 million veterans were uninsured and unable to get care in veterans’ facilities.” [New York Times, 11/9/07] expand post »"

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Nope, Not Surprised

The Zombie Robert Heinlein Rises From the Grave Yet Again to Annoy the Politically Correct

Whatever: "Beyond this point, science fiction has a long and proud tradition of irascible loners with contrary politics, and there are more of them than you think. I doubt there’s a single Ron Paul supporter in the land who doesn’t have a well-thumbed copy of either Farnham’s Freehold or The Moon is a Harsh Mistress or both. Being politically incorrect is not actually a liability in science fiction."

Desperately Seeking Stimulus

The Nation: "Once it was real-er, this economy that we have. But that was before we got polarized into the rich, the poor and the sinking middle class. Gross social inequality is what has 'de-coupled' growth and productivity from wage gains for the average household. As far as I can tell, 'the economy,' as opposed to the 'real economy,' is the realm of investment, and is occupied by people who live on interest and dividends instead of salaries and wages, a k a the rich."

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

What the Financial Markets Could Learn From Industrial Motion Control

Lemmings. I can't help but think that the current state of financial markets takes quite a bit from lemmings. Some guy at Apple drops an iPhone and Apple's stock takes a dive. Some guy in India says "I think I'd like a car" and the price of oil triples. As a rule, it seems like market participants are too reactionary and too quick to follow the herd - right over the cliff. Lemmings.

Like many things in our culture it seems like the infrastructure around the financial markets might be optimized for when the stock prices were monitored on a tickertape. It's been a long time since anyone has used a tickertape in that manner. When it took weeks for news to spread or when every single occurrence at every little company wasn't reported maybe this system worked. But we don't live in that world any longer. It's too reactive.

Interestingly, reactivity is a problem in motion control as well. When you send a device to a position, it isn't enough to know where it is; with only that information you just cruise right by your limit without stopping. You also have to know what direction you're going, how far off you are, and how fast the values are changing. Engineers have come up with a system called PID to deal with this. PID has three components: proportion, integral, and derivative. Proportion adjusts a value by how far you're off. Integral modifies the proportional change based on how quickly the values are changing. The derivative component adjusts the rate of change of the controller, basically this is the term that allows the machine to power up to a stop without overshooting.

Without all three terms in a PID solution motion control systems become unreliable or can develop unstable oscillations - jumping from one side of a limit to the other indefinitely. Our current financial systems seem to suffer from similar ills. They're just too nimble for their own good, enabling the lemmings.

It seems like we need something more robust, something less nimble. Maybe it should be harder for people to make deals, or take longer, or have some sort of "never mind" bailout for once we've thought it over. To follow the motion control analogy, we seem to have the P and the I components, but we're missing the D, the fine control, something to keep the masses from overcompensating. Some structure to account for this would probably be a benefit to us all.

This is Pretty Funny

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Posting to Post

I never took off my pajamas today.
I thought that would be a good excuse for not posting.
That's all I have to say.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Founder is leaving Apple Tree Theatre

chicagotribune.com: "The board of directors of the Apple Tree Theatre in Highland Park has announced the resignation of its founding artistic director, Eileen Boevers.

A key figure for years in Chicago theater, Boevers has led the company since its founding in 1983 in the Highland Park church basement that also launched the Steppenwolf Theatre Company."

Sunday, January 20, 2008

MLK Day


"I have a dream..."

Out With The Old...


And in with the new...


The Slingbox installation has been proving more difficult than anticipated. I'd managed to get it working on our network, but not I nor the tech people at Sling could get it to work over the internet. After some scrounging online I decided it was a hardware configuration problem and before I fixed it I thought I would see if I could upgrade our DSL equipment.

So we've gone from two devices to one and from 802.11b to g. There's a pretty crappy "maintenance fee" Verizon is apparently charging now, but I think I can live with it if everything else works properly.

Still don't know if the internet connection works - have to wait until tomorrow for that.

(ooh, I took these pics with the camcorder instead of my camera. They're only 640x480 native, but I still think they came out pretty good, just peachy for net posting anyway.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Ellipses...

Julie likes ellipses... I think the Slingbox is cocking up my network connection... I gave a test today, a pre-test to gauge prior progress. One of the students said "please don't show this to the other teacher's, they'll cry." I am not sure this is the result I was searching for... I didn't really miss the Golden Globes. Not sure if I would even miss the Oscars... Should we have a Super Bowl open house? I think maybe... While at Moto I missed the last Steelers game, after hearing about it I am kinda glad I did... Someone is really goofing around with the controls of the weather machine... My boss's boss's boss (sorta, it's not that simple at that level) called me a "hero" today. That should be worth something... The Powerball lottery is up to like $90 million, maybe I should get a ticket... The new Gladiators is pretty much the same as the old Gladiators, except Hulk Hogan is no Mike Adamle... Today we had a welcome back reception, there was hummus... My home office is a disaster area... Mrs. TANBI got a Santuku for xmas. Today she cut herself with it... I still haven't completed that list from the other day, or the laundry... I think another one of my former students is leaving the business. I used to have that as a goal, now I'm not so sure... Watching The Wire is better than reading Salon and Slate pieces about The Wire, except I would like more Omar... The pricing at Don Pablo's is confusing... I now have more than 10 books in my "to read" stack. In the meantime, I have been reading Spook Country for about three or four months now. Blogging, feeds, and Civ really cut into the reading time. I think I will have to start paying someone to read my feeds... Today at The Six, Sean and I demonstrated what Bad Carp/Worse Carp looks like... Hurry up and have that South Carolina primary already, I need some news ellipses...

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Cam-pain

Am I the only person thinking maybe we don't know much about the person we elect President? I think perhaps the caucus/primary/campaign/convention system is past its time. Even in a cycle like this one where we got started WAY too early, by the end we're still not really going to know anything. Everything is too prepped, too spun, too handled.

Frankly I think most people vet the guy that cuts their grass better.

It would be nice if maybe we could see the candidates measured against some objective scales, and I mean something other than releasing their tax and health records - although I guess that's a decent start. Also, I think I would like to see them make some decisions and perhaps even interact a little bit in a non-scripted way. I believe that's the intent of the debates, but I don't think it'd be much of a debate to say it isn't working. Candidates don't answer questions so much as pivot to talking points. Talking points are the enemy of the informed voter.

So, an idea. Let's schedule national Presidential interview week. It could be the first week of January, although really I think the first week of February would be better. We could let the superbowl happen and get into the desert of sports and pop culture that spawned the SI Swimsuit Issue. Maybe scheduled there people would actually pay attention. As is, well I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to hear more people watched the Seattle/Green Bay game than the South Carolina Republican Debate - even amongst Carolinians.

It would be illegal to engage in any legitimate campaigning prior to the release of the results of National Presidential Interview Week. Really, what's the point of listening to someone who won't be a legit candidate anyway. It's sort of what we do now, but instead of using money and media attention we can use some sort of real rubric.

Here's my thought for a rubric, masquerading as a week long schedule of activities:

Monday Day - Candidates take the TOEFL exam.
Monday Eve - Candidates participate in a no-limit Texas Hold'em Tournament

The TOEFL, for those of you not in higher education, is the Test of English as a Foreign Language. I don't know about you but I am tired of Bushisms. How someone can have his level of language mastery and purport to lead the country's education effort is quite beyond me. The poker tournament would give us some information as to temperament as well as provide an informal environment for candidate interaction. All the days here will be tests, something that will objectively measure the candidates command of knowledge; and all of the evenings will be games, to show us interaction and tendencies as well as maybe fill in some of the "street smarts" we seem to value so much.

Tuesday Day - SAT
Tuesday Eve - Trivial Pursuit

Wednesday Day - ACT
Wednesday Eve - Risk

I would I think accept CivIV as a substitute for Risk. It might be nice to see how the various candidates manage in a computing environment. Really though, I think it might be beyond most of them and the board game would have to suffice.

Thursday Day - MCAT
Thursday Eve - Chess

This is tough I guess, because most of the candidates will probably do poorly on the MCAT. But again, I think if someone is going to be "the decider" of national medical policy than we as the voting public deserve to know just how well informed they are. Besides, in the wide view none of them should do a whole lot worse than any of the others. A chess tournament would be cool because it would pair people off and we could see them have to deal with another person they can't get away from.

Friday DAY - LSAT
Friday Night - Candidate Game Night

So here's a way for them all to finish on a high note. One would assume that most of these people are going to be lawyers, so their LSAT scores ought to be decent, yes? So even if they can't speak English, have poor reasoning and general knowledge, and know nothing about medicine, doing the LSAT last should give them something positive to point to. The Candidate Game Night would be an opportunity for each candidate to choose a game them self for all of the candidates to play. Here we'd learn something both from what they pick and how they play. Probably we want to limit this to board games and card games, although I wouldn't mind seeing video games too (candidate Wii, anyone?), but we would want to make sure we didn't wind up with athletic contests.

All five day's test results would be announced the following week in one release. Game nights would be televised C-Span style with no anchor or commentary - there will be plenty of time for commentary after. But the idea is for people to see and make their own judgments without a talking head to pre-chew it for them.

Stupid? Can't be worse than we do right now.

A Few Things

I couldn't do it, I tried but it just didn't happen so we can't cross anything off yesterday's list as of tonight. I did manage to get a couple of things done. I got a haircut I've needed for about a month, and I set up one of the holiday gifts but all that documentation - less so.

The new class is coming together for me though, percolating. I am a strong believer in creative abrasion, the process by which ideas rub against each other in your head even when you're not actively thinking about them. Last night I think I cam to a preliminary content list:

1. Building Materials
2. Tools
3. Shop & Theatre Safety
4. Woodworking
5. Standard Scenery
6. Basic Rigging
7. Fabricating Scenery
8. Installing Scenery

16 weeks, two sessions per week makes 32 sessions. 8 topics and 32 sessions makes roughly four sessions per topic. I think I can work with that. Each of the topics could likely be its own course, but that's not the point of this class. If need be I could swish sessions around some; I don't think I want to talk about materials for four sessions, and "tools" has probably been covered fairly extensively already. That's good though as it will leave more time for some of the other topics.

I think we'll also continue the NewsPage and bring back the materials report, incident report, and add a "new gear" report. I'm also fairly certain we will solve one scenic piece each class. We'll also probably need "crew issues" which I haven't really needed for like two years. On top of that I am toying with the concept of asking this class to attend each put-to-detail and install scheduling meeting - seeing as how the class is "fabrication & installation" I can't think of any more specific means of bringing production to lab than that. Well that and then having the class available for production projects involving building or installing scenery.

So that's almost a class.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Here's some unsolicited advice for the people running TV.

I know the writers' strike is starting to play havoc with the available content on air. I can tell by the dwindling new shows in the DVR menu. So a few thoughts...

First, don't make Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert do their shows without writers. It's not the same. Even they know it's not the same; Stewart said the first night back "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart has writers, without them it's just A Daily Show with Jon Stewart." Here's my thought, instead of their normal shows have them do a one hour Match Game in their place. Stewart could host and Colbert and the rest of their reporters could be the panel. They could bring in their writers as contestants. The game phrases could all be political: "Hilary Clinton it so emotional" (HOW EMOTIONAL IS SHE?) "Hilary Clinton is so emotional, when reporters asked Bill how she was holing up he said: It's even worse then when I blanked!" It would likely be better entertainment and it would draw continuous attention to the fact that the strike continues.

Just a thought.

Then also, I believe we ought to get right on the American version of Ninja Warrior. SpikeTV has the Japanese version of this show on right now and I think they could get decent ratings doing an American version...



... the Japanese version has athletes, celebrities, and even regular people; here they'd have a stable of TV actors, athletes, reality stars/champions, Playboy playmates, society celebrities - it'd be WAY cool. Someone get on that.

And another thing.

There are great shows on some of your more obscure cable channels that in all likelihood most of America hasn't seen that could make nice filler on network. Things like The Closer would be cool. I think Ice Road Truckers or Dangerous Catch would have legs - hell, if he could run I would vote today for Sig Hansen for President.

But the show I think would have the best chance would be Hustle...



It ran on AMC up until recently and is just fantastic. I am sure even I haven't seen all the episodes, and I know I would like to.

Of course, I guess there's also something in the idea that if they don't fix things it's better for us all in the end.

Oh, and Doctor Who and Torchwood wouldn't be bad additions either - but that's just me.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

The end of all productivity.

Tonight I installed a Slingbox on the Cable/DVR we have. It was a gift from my parents and should pretty much mean I will never accomplish anything ever again. For those of you that don't know, this is a device that streams the output of a video device over a computer network.

The upshot? Using our WiFi network we now have TV (and the contents of our DVR) anyplace in the house where we have a computer - as I type I have a crappy SciFi movie running in the upper right corner of my display (right over that annoying ad on the AIM console). So without buying another TV we have TV in my office, Mrs. TANBI's library, the kitchen, the workout room, the laundry room, the garage, the yard... you get the idea.

But wait, there's more!

See the Slingbox also serves the media over the internet, so when I get around to it I can download the player app at work and have cable TV (and the contents of my DVR) on my computer at work. I'm going to need Louis to rig me up dual monitors.

Maybe I should look again at that class up top and see if there's a place for episodes of The New Yankee Workshop streamed to class from my bedroom. Could work nice (and my Dad thought he knew how to use TV for class - ha!)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A List

Didn't we just finish "making a list, checking it twice" season?

Realistically for Monday:

  1. Spring Stagecraft Locals
  2. Spring Stagecraft Locals Schedule
  3. Crazy Scheme Schedule
  4. Schedule for Spring Studiocraft
  5. Spring Studiocraft Syllabus Addenda
  6. Come up with content for Scenic Fabrication & Installation
  7. Scenic Fabrication & Installation Syllabus
  8. Scenic Fabrication & Installation Pre-Test (I think)
  9. Basic PTM Schedule
  10. Basic PTM Syllabus
  11. Schedule a "CAD Catchup" Workshop
  12. Come up with content for a CAD Catch up workshop
That may be a realistic inventory, but I don't think its much of a realistic list. Plus you know the copier is on its last legs if it isn't broken already. And on top of that, the list above doesn't have the single biggest thing for the weekend on it: Laundry.

Maybe I should start scaling back now. Monday only really requires 4 & 7. I guess I can use that as a fall back position. Or maybe I should farm it all out. I've got someone working on #3, maybe there are people out there to do the rest too.

I'll have to give that some thought.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Food Adventure

I just got back from a trip to Chicago to see my folks. Probably the high point of the trip was a dining excursion to Moto. It's an ultra modern, molecular gastronomy experience (It also costs a whole bunch - but it's worth it).

The restaurant is on Chicago's West side, tucked into an industrial district right where you wouldn't expect it to be. We tried to get a reservation online but were told that the soonest we could get in would be a month away. My sister called them though and managed to get us in. We were seated in the basement dining room; a room that was decorated in such a way that you really wouldn't realize it was a basement. For most of the meal we had the room and two servers to ourselves. The place is immaculate and the service impeccable.

You find you're in for something interesting right from the start when you get your menu...



The menu is printed on a champagne cracker and is customized, the last line of ours said "Welcome to the Bogart Party." The cracker comes with a lemon jelee, some creme fresh, and a sous vide pear for dipping. When ordering you have a choice between a 5 course, a 10 course, or the "GTM" - the Grand Tour Menu. The whole table has to pick the same service so that the dishes can be properly timed. We were going to do the five, but we managed to fundraise and pressure each other into doing the 10. Ten courses took approximately 3 hours. I cannot imagine how long the GTM takes.

You can see above, we ordered cocktails. Three of us had a Lemondrop Martini. This is a drink we'd had before, the missus and I had them at our wedding reception. Moto does them a little differently...



That lump on the spoon is a gelatin ball filled with a real strong liquid lemon filling. The first of us to get to it, my sister, got a real surprise and puckered up as the liquid rushed out. Cool, and unexpected - which might be a catchphrase for the entire menu.

The first two courses are Greek Salad and Greek Salad, Again...





The first Greek Salad is an Octupus on a puree of parsley and feta cheese accompanied by crackers made from kalamata olives dipped in liquid nitrogen. They bring the crackers out in a bubbling cauldron that looks like something out of a production of MacBeth. The Greek Salad, Again turned out to be a shot of greek salad consomme. A totally clear liquid from which you would taste lettuce, cucumber, olive, feta cheese, everything that would be in a Greek salad, just surreal.

Next came the fish course...



This is a fish called Walu, from Hawaii. It was served with two chunks of spice rubbed Pineapple presented on a cold grill - that little lattice you see is frozen. This doesn't look like a lot of food, and most of the dishes were served this size. By the end of the meal we felt that the portions were perfect - there turns out to be quite a bit to come. This was about half the table's favorite dish.

Next, Pork...



This is Bar-b-que pork shoulder cooked for 12 hours. This photo was actually taken in the kitchen for me by one of the waiters as I was so intrigued by the thing when it came out that I forgot to take a picture. The pork is on a corn bread puree along side a saute of collard greens and masutaki mushrooms. The "noodles" you see are made from baked beans, and were cold. My pork was kinda fatty, but I feel like a jerk criticizing any of the food from this meal.

Next, Quail...



In this glass we found dehydrated elbow macaroni and chunks of fried quail covered with a white truffle powder and smoked Gouda sauce. This was AMAZING. I could just see the kitched staff hanging out eating dehydrated macaroni. It was way cool and I could have eaten four of them, if I didn't have to eat the rest of the meal.

And then Beef...



This is sort of "Steak and Eggs." It was three slices of rib-eye steak with a cube of hash brown potatoes, and another cube of hard boiled egg. The egg had a pablano chili sauce. I think in the entire meal this was the only thing I was afraid of as I thought the green sauce would be on fire. It wasn't.

Moving on, Desert #1...



Mrs. TANBI says the correct proportion of entrees to desserts is 6:4. The first desert features carbonated fruit, grapes and a honey poached apple on a crushed walnut crumble. This stuff was unreal. The waiter told us to get right on the fruit so as to get the most of the bubbles. It was like the grapes had grape soda in them, and the apple, apple soda, as if anyone has ever heard of apple soda. Just upstage of that you see a praline chip and a white chocolate/cheese sauce. My sister thought this was just the best.

But just when you've had one dessert, it's time for another...



This is cotton candy. The first is a piece of paper with a picture of cotton candy, that tastes like cotton candy. The other was a white chocolate truffle with sprinkles and a liquid cotton candy center. In some ways, this was the least significant course, but looked at another way, it did seem to be the most innovative. Also, even though this turned out to be like three bites (and we were warned to take the truffle all at once, lest we decorate our shirts), I don't think we could have handled another full size dessert.

And then, more fruit...



This is a poached persimmon (I incorrectly guessed sorbet), with persimmon sauce, apple foam, hickory nuts and two tiny little brownies. Some of our diners thought this whole thing wound up tasting like hickory as the scent was overpowering. I didn't know what to make of this, but it was pretty good.

Fruit, Candy, Fruit, and then Ice Cream...



You see before you a Chocolate truffle with a liquid graham cracker filling, a toasted marshmallow, chocolate ice cream with miniature marshmallows and graham cracker mixed in, cocoa nibs, and a bed of ground graham cracker. Cracking open the truffle and having the liquid graham cracker ooze out was definitely the highlight of this dish.

So that was 10. I got up to go to the restroom. On the way there they passed me with another dish (they actually asked if I would like them to take it back to the kitchen and serve it when I'd returned - I declined).

The final bite...



This is a caramel corn lollipop and edible packing peanuts with a white frosting. The cool part about this is that the lollipop had some kind of pop-rock action, so when you took a bite it fizzed in your mouth. I actually used the line "It's like a party in my mouth and everyone is invited!"

And then it was over. I can't wait to do it again, but I will have to start saving soon. If you're in Chicago and have a load of cash looking for a home you should definitely try Moto.

Gotta Love This

David Asks

Anyone use something like this for CAD? I keep thinking that there ought to be a modified keyboard or mouse that might make things cooler, but aside from the odd trackball user I haven't found anyone using anything all that innovative.

Have you?

Thank You New Hampshire

Clinton and McCain, outstanding. Now, I have some requests for Nevada and South Carolina. If it's at all possible, I would love to see Bill Richardson win in Nevada. And then in South Carolina I think it would be peachy if an Edwards/Romney result could be arranged.

Anarchy, turmoil, you know a campaign.

I have a dream, and that dream is that the people running the newsrooms in America will remember that they have a real part in this process and that part isn't a drumbeat to coronate the early winner. Three or four different winners in the first three or four contests would really be good for this country. It would shake up media coverage, contributions, advertising; and it would make some of the votes in the later states actually have a real bearing on who gets to run in November.

It just should never have become about who has the most money in Iowa and New Hampshire, and thankfully this time around it really isn't. (I think I read somewhere that Romney wound up spending north of $10,000 per vote cast in the Iowa caucus. He probably could have really bought the vote with half that if he'd found a way to put that money in voters hands or to direct benefit of their community instead of putting it into the coffers of TV and Radio stations.)

The more bizarre it is the more people will actually have to listen to what these people are actually saying, look at the records of what they've actually done, and maybe look at the cast of characters around each candidate - the last thing we need is another legion of doom like we've had lately: Cheney, Rove, Addington, Libby, Gonzoles, Miers, Luthor, Bizarro, Mr. Freeze...

And then, if Giuliani could somehow win in Florida - DOGS AND CATS SLEEPING TOGETHER!!!

If only.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

+4 Shirt of Credibility

Today a did a workshop for the regional KCACTF festival. Two hours on "rigging scenery." I figured it was a good opportunity to break out some instant credibility:

I'm not sure that's what the people at the ETCP had in mind when they made the swag, but it seemed to have the effect I was going for.

At the end of two hours I was not sure what I had covered, but the session was well attended and people appeared at least to be interested. I guess that's all I can really ask for.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

First Night 07/08

Well, it didn't rain.


Our Rocket made another appearance...


This year I built little roofs to keep out the rain...

... did I mention it didn't rain?

No confetti this year. Last year we used this dissolving confetti. Some of it is still there:

So the city decided they neither wanted more glued on dissolving confetti or to pay for people to clean up normal confetti. So, no confetti; as it turns out there was plenty to clean up anyway.

Mrs. TANBI had some new stuff this year. There was a gobo effect at Penn & 9th...

... to commemorate Pittsburgh's 250th birthday.

There were also three new looks in the show...

Dancing Happy Birthday:

Happy Birthday with bubbles:

And snowflakes:


I tried to shoot video of the finale again this year and again my camera wouldn't really cooperate. So there are two videos (which youtube squashed some), one for the top and one for the end...





All in all it was the big fun and a good gig. Thumbs up!