Monday, March 31, 2008

So I've Been Meaning to Write This for a While

I've been thinking I should have written about this ages ago, but the script got nominated for a Hugo, and I just heard that the same writer got a script in the next season so now's as good a time as any.

I really, really liked the Doctor Who episode "Blink." You can read all about it here - easier than retyping the whole thing. It's a really well done, very tight time travel paradox story. Usually paradox stories don't work out logically - it's like someone got it in their head that they don't have to work that that's the paradox. That's a total cop out, they do have to work, they have to work better. A really tight paradox story is a lovely thing indeed and this is one of them.

There's also a cool alien: the "weeping angels." And as a Doctor Who episode it's unique because the Doctor is basically not in the episode. I guess they do "Doctor-lite" episodes so they can do parallel filming schedules. So mostly the Doctor is in this episode as a series of "easter eggs" on commercial DVDs that another character sees. Actually there's an artifact like that on each and every DVD she owns - and only those. They form the basis for a scripted conversation across timelines, a really cool concept, and even original science fiction I think (also really very rare).

The coolest part of the conversation device is that you wind up saying "Hang on a minute!" because it is logically falling apart, and then pretty much just at that moment, the moment you are doubting that the story is as tight as you thought it was, they fix it. Too cool.

So I am blathering, but I think it's likely that Scifi will rerun last season before the new season comes on. So if you get a chance to see "Blink" you shouldn't miss it.

Read Science Fiction? Help me out?

I would like to try to compile a list of artists and artforms from future fiction. Fictional people doing things considered in the story to be art but as far as we are concerned are science fiction. Off the top of my head I can think of:

  • Phil Fry and the Holophoner from Futurama
  • Waldo and the Zero Gee Ballet from Heinlein’s “Waldo”
  • Bobby Chumbo (I think) from Gibson’s “Spook Country” – he does “locational meta-tagging” as visual art
  • I guess the band “Disaster Area” and the planet building Magratheans from Adams “Hitchhiker’s Guide” also qualify
That’s the sort of thing I am after.

If you can come up with anything, put it in the comments or send me an email.


Sunday, March 30, 2008

I'm With McCain?

Seems like this week everyone running for president had something to say about the credit crisis. Billions here, billions there, re-write mortgages, forgive debt... I never thought I would say it, but I think I'm with John McCain. It isn't the responsibility of the government to step in and save the fortunes of people that made bad investments.

Once again businessmen made bad decisions in an effort to enrich themselves, they failed rather catastrophically and at that moment they get religion, turning to a government they loudly protest ought not be involved in their business and taking all the money they can get telling us the best thing for them is in this particular case also the best thing for us.

I think not.

McCain made his position public this year: they made their bed, now they should have to sleep in it. You'd think the Republicans would be ecstatic, if it weren't so many of their friends who made the bad choices to begin with.

And maybe I don't agree completely either. But if we're forgiving mortgages don't think there's a single homeowner that wouldn't be saying "hey, line forms here!" So if there is going to be some kind of bailout we ought to keep our collective eyes on the ball.

I buy the idea that we can't let the financial institutions collapse. With the interconnected nature of all the world's finances and the lemming nature of today's markets it makes sense to help the companies stay intact. But... There's no reason why anyone involved in the inking of the deals, or in the conceptualization of the troubled financial instruments ought to keep their jobs. These people made crappy decisions that effect everyone. They should be fired. And really, not only should they be fired, but if they have anything substantive in the way of assets they should be seized and used to finance the bailout. No job, and no parachute. We can save the companies, but you greedy jerks who got us here, you need a new line of work, in a new place.

So, ok, bail out Bear Stearns. Just make sure you do everything possible to protect us from "next time."

And I buy the idea of helping homeowners with their ridiculous mortgages, I guess. When we were buying our house (amidst this hoopla) I did at one point find myself talking to a broker with a no money down, 1.5%, 3 year adjustable rate, 30 year mortgage. And we were like "too good to be true?" And after a little, really a tiny little bit of reading I discovered that the mortgage could adjust quarterly and that there was no cap, and that the payments didn't increase but if you didn't pay the full computed payment the balance would be added onto the principal - you'd owe your soul to the company store. These are the loans that many people are trapped under now. I've got sympathy, but not much sympathy.

Still a blizzard of mortgage defaults are good for anyone so I guess a bailout is in order here too. But again, we need to stay focused. So people with one of these crazy mortgages on their primary residence, they can have a publicly funded mortgage refinance. Developers, brokers, investors, flippers - they all should have known better. These greedy jerks also ought to lose their gigs, and any substantive assets they have should also be seized to help finance the bailout.

We can help homeowners from winding up on the street or losing their nest eggs, we can keep banks and markets from going down and dragging all of us with them, but our money doesn't need to find its way into the pockets of anyone that helped create the problem in the first place. So I guess I have a little Obama, or a little Clinton strategy in my head, but there's quite a bit of Mr. McCain's "you're on your own" in there too.

Oh, and one other thing, for our present administration who just the other day woke up and decided that the regulatory structure needs restructuring: please, please do nothing. It was your regulatory posture that lead to this fiasco - markets followed toys, food, water, air; why would we be surprised. People know there's a problem now, and thankfully the financial world will not implode if we wait until next January, and a new outlook to fix the problem. We don't need any of your repairs.

Friday, March 28, 2008


Reason Magazine - Hit & Run > Biofuels are a Scam: The New Conventional Wisdom at Long Last: "One groundbreaking new study in Science concluded that when this deforestation effect is taken into account, corn ethanol and soy biodiesel produce about twice the emissions of gasoline. Sugarcane ethanol is much cleaner, and biofuels created from waste products that don't gobble up land have real potential, but even cellulosic ethanol increases overall emissions when its plant source is grown on good cropland."

Then Why am I So Tired?

The Caffeine Click Test - How Caffeinated Are You?
Created by OnePlusYou - Free Online Dating

Plan Ahead

The payoff for plug-in hybrids: 95 years? | Green Tech blog - CNET "Plug-ins, in fact, only cut gas consumption by about 88 gallons a year over regular Priuses in urban driving. That comes to an annual savings of $158 to $250 (when you factor in the cost of electricity too). With the conversion running around $15,000, the payoff would take decades."

Yeah, Right

Same-sex ceremony leads to an Unhappy Valley: "'Such unions really violate the plan and purpose of God,' he said. 'They're built upon a sinful basis rather than the purpose of righteousness.'"


The snot, thankfully, is gone... I was going to do a post about all the things I am worried about, but I am worried people wouldn't like it... LOL Politicians are funnier than LOL Vouge, but LOL Cats are still the best... I have yet another contact with Cirque, I wonder if this is the one that will actually get my kids a gig... If someone says "we'll call back to make arrangements" they ought to call back I think... I always forget just how dismal the weather in Pittsburgh in the spring can be... Not sure if I should do the precollege thing this year... Obama tried not to parse this morning, so the pundits did it before the speech was even over... USITT was cool, even if I was in more sessions than I attended... Really, what happened to air travel in this country? It used to be cosmopolitan even... I think I can never go back to TV without a DVR... I downloaded Firefox 3 in beta, I think it is cocking up everything... It was nice to see the President show some gumption last week and veto that bill so we can torture with impunity, not... I am thinking about putting adsense ads on the green page... Before Houston I ran out to Vegas quickly, that Bette Midler is not getting any help from the rest of the creative team... Next week there's no Drama classes; students=playground, staff & faculty=spring break II... I am giving a test for the eigth time tomorrow. I think it might be time to write a new test... The Commedia gig is just going to be what it is going to be, might just be time to sit up and embrace the pain... I bought too many lanyards... It was on the radio today, the price of gas is about speculators and not about supply and demand. Fucking speculators... The nachos at the Hard Rock Cafe are bad, like send them back bad... Top Chef is back. It feels too soon... I gained 8 pounds. My doctor admonished me. Admonishment has never been much of a motivator in my life... There should be more Skittles... I forgot to clean the catbox again, Mrs. TANBI is going to be cross... One week to BSG - Woohoo...

Thursday, March 27, 2008


Blog canceled on account of snot.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Finally, Some Pics

So here's the picture from today's session to go with the slides I uploaded last night:

(Shannon, Joel, Jean, David)

The session went pretty well. There were a good number of people there and most of them stayed for the whole thing. We filled all the time and didn't stammer much, and at the end there were questions - so I guess there was genuine interest. It was much better than my Louisville session, and that alone makes it worthwhile.

Here's a picture I really don't belong in:

That's me, David Conte from Clark Transfer, John Lee Beatty of Broadway fame, and Tom Sullivan from Hudson Scenic. David chaired this panel on touring and asked me to sit in as the voice of education and training. I didn't have much to say in the grand scheme but I said yes anyway. Even without me it was a great session. Tom had pictures and drawings from The Color Purple Broadway set and touring set and we got to go through them and listen to John Lee talk us through the changes. Pretty neat. Also I got a real nice jacket from Clark Transfer as SWAG.

Home tomorrow. Cross you traveling fingers for me.

6:07 am

Attention, attention, attention... an emergency has been detected... all occupants proceed to the nearest stairway exit and await further instructions, do not use the elevator... attention, attention, attention, attention...
Do you think everyone is getting free breakfast? Could that be the emergency?

For the record, I never received "further instructions."

What'd I Do Today?


Read this doc on Scribd: Shop Structures

Too much fun. We'll see how it goes in the morning.

Friday, March 21, 2008

I Made It

Well, I am at USITT - woohoo!!!

Off my game a little though, so no pics tonight. Maybe tomorrow.

Just got to the booth to drop stuff off and then went to a commission meeting today. I think I got through it without picking up any more work.

Tomorrow I have to have meetings to figure out what's going on with both the sessions I am in on Saturday.

The hotel is nice. Dinner was cool. So far two thumbs up (if you can overlook the entire travel fiasco).

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Why Barak? Why?

I'll tell you why.

Here's a short list of reasons why someone might decide to stay a member of a congregation even when they know the leader is batshit crazy:

  1. Easy to park
  2. Close to home
  3. Great casino night
  4. That hot redhead you want to meet goes there
  5. Your boss goes there
  6. You like the choir
  7. You play on their softball team
  8. You want your kids to be able to enroll in their school
  9. It's your family's congregation
  10. Their seats are more comfortable
  11. Their service is typically over before the game
  12. It's somewhat entertaining
  13. Your Ex doesn't go there
  14. You've already paid your money
  15. They've put you in a leadership position
  16. You like the charity work they do
  17. You like the people
  18. They use a better text
  19. They do a great fish fry
  20. Their special services are incomparable
We always tear candidates down for making every decision in their life based on what it will mean to their eventual electability. Here's someone that hasn't exactly done that and we're getting him for not doing it. We suck.

People pick religious institutions for a myriad of reasons. The sermon is only one tiny factor in the decision and I believe it really does have to compete with parking. Would we be giving Obama a hard time if the church's parking lot overflowed into the street?

Pick pick pick. Grow up.


I am supposed to be in Houston.

I am not in Houston.

I was supposed to fly to Houston yesterday, but when I got to the airport I found they'd canceled my flight and rebooked me for today.

I was supposed to fly to Houston today, but when I called this morning - yes it occurred this time for me to call, darn OrbitzTLC has me spoiled - I found they'd canceled my flight and rebooked me for tomorrow.

I wonder what happens tomorrow?

If it is the same thing as the last two days I think I am just going to abandon the whole Houston idea.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke RIP Muse Arts: "Clarke died in his adopted home country of Sri Lanka, the Associated Press reported, citing an aide. He had suffered from post-polio syndrome for the last two decades of his life and was confined to a wheelchair. Clarke had lived in Colombo, the Sri Lankan capital, since 1956 and held citizenship there."

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Oil prices explained...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Because I Have To

It's been a while since I posted anything. We're into spring break; actually, it's half over already and I haven't much notice it started. For some reason I feel like I have been working more during break than during classes. We were off starting Friday, but I had to go in for a search meeting. I went in on Saturday just to organize the work I knew I had in front of me. Sunday was all about grading, and then the same on Monday because mid-semester grades were due Monday evening. Though not completely about me, I wound up entering my last mid-semester grades with about 45 seconds to spare (its a team taught course and I was waiting for some grades). While I was trying to plow through things on Monday the show kept coming into my office - the shop is working through the break. That lead to a two hour pseudo-production meeting on Tuesday.

And then all of a sudden it's Wednesday.

I am teaching again on Monday, there's still some grading to do, and also the matter of eight weeks of crew calls to schedule. Time for Tom Cruise in Risky Business. I am going in for a couple of hours tomorrow and then Mrs. TANBI and are are fleeing the area code. I think I don't care what I ignore, I am getting some break in this break.

Of course, after Monday I am off to Houston for USITT, and then a week after that we have no class for a week for Playground, so in some ways this semester is just one long rolling break. But that's not really the same.

The grading orgy got me thinking I would do a post about the trials and tribulations of grading assignments, but the urge may have passed. Probably it will come back again at the end of the semester.

If you are on break, I hope you are having a good one.

Sunday, March 09, 2008


There's only one hour of The Wire left. I miss it a little already.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Please Be Seated

We're hearing a lot about the Democratic delegates from Florida and Michigan. Who would have thought when those states decided to move up their dates that the race would be so close and the penalty in the rules might actually be substantive?

Some people (probably Hillary people) are saying that the results from those races should count and the delegates should be seated at the convention, business as usual. Of course, this is total horse shit and they should be embarrassed that they are even suggesting it. You can't tell the candidates it's going to be one way and then change the rules after the fact. Obama wasn't even on the Michigan ballot, not because he hates Michigan or because his people are incompetent, but because the DNC told them that Michigan would not count due to a rules infraction.

Representatives of the states are saying it isn't fair that their voices aren't going to count. What kind of teenage lawyering is this? They were told not to do something, under terms everyone agreed to, they did it anyway and then what they were told would happen did happen; and now they want a do over. Right, because that's how this country works.

Aside from the parental discipline angle, isn't letting them do over at the end making their elections disproportionate important? All funding issues aside I don't like the concept of rewarding the states that broke the rules with more responsibility - especially since Florida hasn't really demonstrated they are capable of accurately counting votes.

Also, it's not like either of these states is going to be a landslide, and with proportional awarding of delegates the end result after adding those seats will be no different than the result before: not enough delegates to capture and the decision is left to super delegates.

And if I may be permitted a brief aside here, who decided to call these people "superdelegates" anyway? It's not like they can fly or anything. They only get one vote. Maybe "at large delegate" would have been better, or perhaps "party insider delegate." But until we see one of these people leap a tall building in a single bound I vote we stop calling them super.

But back to the teenage bargaining.

This "our voices should count" thing is total BS as well. They will get to vote in the general election just like everyone else. The primary process is up to the political parties and if they don't want to listen to everyone they actually don't have to. Some parties don't even have primaries and just skip right to the convention. Quit whining and refine your general election procedures - oh yeah, and vote out everyone in your state legislature and executive that decided to more your primary after they learned the consequences.

So what's the solution?

It looks fairly certain now that baring any negotiated settlement between the two camps we're going to have a brokered convention. So one of two things has to happen, yes? Either the nomination will be decided on the first ballot by the at large delegates or the pledged delegates will wind up voting for someone other than who they are assigned to. So here's my suggestion for Howard Dean and the Convention Committee: seat all of the delegates from Florida and Michigan as at large delegates, free to vote for whoever they want - but, they don't get to vote until the third ballot.

Holding them back until the third ballot preserves the state results from the races that played by the rules and gives two chances for whatever maneuvering will happen with the "super" delegates. If they can't work it out in the first two votes then its going to be "all bets are off" anyway and adding in the people from Michigan and Florida will not impact the race in some artifact in violation of the primary rules.

There, Howard Dean gets his rules compliance, Florida and Michigan go to the convention without breaking the rules and without disproportionately effecting the outcome, and we can stop talking about it.

Hot off The Wire

Taking a stand?

The Wire's War on the Drug War - TIME: "If asked to serve on a jury deliberating a violation of state or federal drug laws, we will vote to acquit, regardless of the evidence presented. Save for a prosecution in which acts of violence or intended violence are alleged, we will — to borrow Justice Harry Blackmun's manifesto against the death penalty — no longer tinker with the machinery of the drug war. No longer can we collaborate with a government that uses nonviolent drug offenses to fill prisons with its poorest, most damaged and most desperate citizens."
Or just trying to get out of jury duty?

Friday, March 07, 2008

Larry David Rings In On the Democratic Primaries

Larry David: On the Red Phone - Politics on The Huffington Post: "A few weeks ago, I started to feel sorry for her. Oh Christ, let her win already...Who cares...It's not worth it. There's not that much difference between them. She can have it. Anything to avoid watching her descend into madness. So I switched. I started rooting for her. It wasn't that hard. Compromise comes easy to me. I was on board."

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


Tuesday nights are a TV graveyard... Damn, I missed Kasimir Pulaski day... If I've said it once I've said it a thousand times: the trouble with assigning homework is that you have to grade the homework... It is possible the wife and I have too many cats... Anyone who doesn't think there's such a thing as global climate change did not spend the last week in Pittsburgh... The Critical Path/Rube Goldberg project is due Thursday. I wonder if they're going to make it... I am going to miss Jeff Healey... Today I got what appeared to be an empty envelope in the mail... Last night I called the Comcast people and said "why is my bill so high?" and they gave me a discount... I wrote a list this week. I haven't got to it yet... I attended an info session today in which I received exactly zero info... We watched The Prestige the other night and upon further consideration I think the end was somewhat unsatisfying... The day after the day after tomorrow is mid-semester. Where did the spring go... One more day until we know if Christian really is sort of a big deal... Somebody tell Ben Bernake that I would also like the bank to write down some of my mortgage... Only one more episode of The Wire. I am totally bummed - and it's not just because they killed off Omar... If you were Lowes, what would you want in exchange for a $2000 donation? I'm hoping the answer isn't $2000... The last episode of The Sarah Connor Chronicles was really quite good, and the last 15 minutes was particularly special... I bought a pair of Calvin Klein jeans. I hope it's ok to keep wearing underwear... Decent night for Hillary I guess... Should we have a movie party for the new Stargate SG-1 movie? Maybe we should wait for BSG to return... I guess Gary Gygax just couldn't make the roll...


Backstage at » Blog Archive » Impeach Bush Now: "It’s national Impeach President Bush day today."

Sunday, March 02, 2008

No Child Left to Answer

A depressing survey of what high-schoolers don't know. - By Bonnie Goldstein - Slate Magazine: "These aren't exactly brainteasers, but when the new education-advocacy group Common Core posed these and 30 similar questions about history and literature to 1,200 17-year-old high-school students (below on the following four pages), it discovered that American teenagers are 'stunningly ignorant.'"

Saturday, March 01, 2008

What Should She Say?

It's like Agent Smith has Hillary Clinton in a bear hug in the subway, and off in the distance we hear a whisper "Yes we can." And Smith says to her "Do you recognize that sound Mrs. Clinton? That is the sound of inevitability."

Would that all she had to say at that point would be "My name is Neo!"

But that would be stupid. There is however a resonating sound of inevitability coming from the electorate, and if she really does want to be President Hillary does need to come up with something to say to stem the tide.

Obama is getting a lot of mileage over saying that on the day it mattered, when they voted on the use of force in Iraq, that Hillary made the wrong choice. He's spun it this way and that. We've hear him ask things akin to: Is it more important to be ready to govern on day one or to be ready to make the right decision on that day?

I have to believe that the Clinton people are letting him run roughshod over the truth here. The rhetoric is so good that they are forgetting to really mount a defense. Interestingly I think that they have most of the pieces in place, they just need to align them to oppose this specific and very damaging attack. And so I wonder:

Does anyone actually think Hillary Clinton wanted to go to war in Iraq?

I mean clearly she voted for it, it is on the record, but voting for the authorization and wanting war in Iraq are in reality two different things. Now earlier in the campaign cycle she did try to explain to the people that the vote wasn't for the war and that she never expected the President to do what he did and whatever, but I think maybe that was too nuanced. And definitely there's the Kerry "I voted for the war before I voted against the war" thing to look out for, but I really think its salvageable. Actually I think in a kind of political judo using your enemy's weight against them way an opportunity to turn his very clear attack into a monumental weakness.

Obama didn't have the opportunity to have to make the decision she did. I think I am correct in saying he's told us that if he'd had to make that choice he would have voted against the authorization. He uses this as his justification for coming down on her for voting for the authorization. That when it mattered, on that day, Hillary made the wrong choice.

But if you check the record, it's not like you'll find that authorization passed the Senate 51-50 with Cheney breaking a tie. It's not like it came down to one vote.

This ought to provide an opening, an opportunity for the Clinton campaign. Looking at it, Obama is flaunting a decision that proves her biggest point. She should be able to parley his saying he would have voted against authorization into a damning demonstration of his political naivety.

There must be records or people that could speak to Hillary's opposition to the use of force in Iraq, so it ought to be fairly simple to demonstrate that her vote and her position were in conflict. She should be able to demonstrate that from a position of governance it turned out to be more important for her to vote for the authorization than to vote against it.

"Barak, voting for the authorization, voting for the war was the difference between making a point and making a difference.

It's the difference between politics and governance. Sometimes in order to position ourselves to continue to have influence we have to make difficult choices. On that day I made the choice to vote for something I abhorred. I did that so that I could continue to work on a solution rather than labeling myself a pariah and taking myself out of the process.

People with experience in government could explain to you that on that day it was too late. When you say on that day I made the wrong decision; I could not disagree with you more. The problem is that the decision wasn't made on that day. Real leaders understand that the vote is only the facade. Most of the time in Washington something doesn't even come to a vote until the outcome is largely known.

I made two decisions on the authorization for the use of force in Iraq and you can check the record or talk to the others that were in positions of power at the time. Everywhere it could possibly have had an effect, any place it mattered I campaigned tirelessly to prevent it's coming to pass. I used the influence I had at my disposal to keep us from dropping into this folly. But ultimately the support for the bill clearly outweighed the opposition. This is when I made my second choice.

As a leader, in the face of an authorization that's passage was inevitable myself and several other Senators decided our access to and favor with those in the White House and those who were going to be on the winning side of the vote was more important than stubbornly trying to drive home our point.

Was everyone on either side of that vote swept out of office? No.
Is anyone that voted against that authorization still in this race? No.
Would my voting against that authorization on that day have lead to anything positive? No.
That's just not how it works, and I know that.

With all due respect Mr. Obama, leadership is making hard decisions not shouting at the wind. I stand before you today as someone that has already made those hard decisions and stand ready to continue to make them, from day one."
Or, she could just pull the "Democracy isn't easy" speech from The American President. Although with how things have been going, she ought to make sure she gets permission first. My stuff? She can use that without my permission.