Caveat: Venter

Think about all of the things that make your brain itch. These are mine.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Unofficial Dress Code

I made a deal last year, but it was a bad one. I am usually good at making deals, but I caved to the persistent pressure laid upon me by both my mother and my wife. The deal was a that I would get a hair cut (bye-bye pony tail), which I did on January 11th, and start dressing "more professionally" for work.

I want my long hair back. I liked the weight. I liked the feel of it on my neck. It's a tactile thing, though there is still the convenience to consider. Now I must get my hair cut more than once a year—six times, at least, truth be told—and that's a costly hassle. Now I may have to start putting things in it to keep it under control, but I am tempted to grab a razor first. A shaved head must be lower maintenance than this!

Clothing is another matter. While I could use some new jeans, slacks and a belt hardly seem right. This is not the 1950s or 1960s, so I wonder if perhaps my mother's perspectives on how a college instructor (this is a community college, remember, not a university) might not be a little dated. I wear good shirts, but my wallet has done damage to my right back pocket. My wife says I look like a hobo. What? I listened to one woman whose only on-campus experience with a community college was a series of nursing refresher courses in the 1980s and another whose experience on community college campuses measures lower than Bush's experience making good environmental policy decisions.

Half of my male colleagues dress down, on a regular basis, as much as I like to, but neither my mother nor my wife will believe such a claim. I walked in one day in a pair of Dockers, a button-down shirt, and shoes from Coscto and was more formally dressed than the department chair (he had jeans, a button-down shirt, dark socks, and Birkenstock sandals). I felt out of place.

And is it wrong for dressing in a way that makes me feel comfortable? in a way that invites my students to talk to me? in a way that, quite frankly, expresses my relaxed classroom mood. My "sneaky bastard tricks" are key in keeping my students showing up every week, in getting them to do things they start off swearing they will never do, in keeping them awake. Sneaky bastards don't wear Dockers. We wear jeans. We talk to the students as people with more potential than they ever would have ascribed to themselves. We make them believe us when we tell them that they will succeed because we don't come across as if we are inherently superior. We aren't.

I went to community college. It took many instructors to convince me that I could achieve something, and without fail they weren't distant and formal. Those who succeeded in reaching me were razor-challenged and satorially inept. They were in the trenches standing beside me. That's what I want my students to feel. I don't want a wall of formality between them and me. Am I wrong with this?

Monday, March 28, 2005


It is pretty clear after all these days and the legal wrangling that Terri Schiavo will die soon. I will mourn her passing as much as I mourn that of anyone else I do not know. I don't mean to be cold, but I have no emotional stake in her life or death. It's that simple.

The politics is less simple. Perhaps thousands of people in this country are in conditions that are difficult to diagnose. In many cases, doctors disagree about those diagnoses based upon different interpretations of medical evidence. What bothers me is that not one member of Congress is a doctor qualified to evaluate the medical condition of Terri Schiavo. Furthermore, none are acting jurists qualified to evaluate the legal merits of any aspect of any case or appeal. Despite this, however, they weighed in with a vote just over a week ago.

President Bush followed Congress' lead and signed the legislation (which may well come under fire for possible spearation-of-powers violations). Gov. Jeb Bush has finally looked at the limits of office and opted out of the fray. People, if you think the government should do more, ask just how for you are willing to let government intrude upon decisions.

It's a sad state of affairs. And now, we are told, there will be a legal battle over how she will be disposed of. Her parents are fighting for the right to bury Schiavo in the ground, yet hubby Michael is gearing up for a cremation. This was just round one, and we could see something amounting to a state funeral by the time round two is over.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Musical Memage!

This thing has gotten too focused on music, and now it's going to get more so. Oh well. I got this one from Scrivenings.

Choose a band/artist and answer in song TITLES by that band: Yes

Are you female or male: "Dear Father"
Describe yourself: "The Gates of Delirium"
How do some people feel about you: "Endless Dream: Talk"
How do you feel about yourself: "I Am Waiting"
Describe an ex-girlfriend/boyfriend: "Long Distance Runaround"
Describe your current girlfriend/boyfriend: "I Would Have Waited Forever"
Describe where you want to be: "On The Silent Wings Of Freedom"
Describe what you want to be: "Astral Traveller"
Describe how you live: "State Of Play"
Describe how you love: "Madrigal"
Share a few words of wisdom: "Open Your Eyes"

Spring Spin

I have managed to be unproductive in fine fashion for most of my break, and it feels good. As things stand, I will have six weeks to numb my mind during the beginning of summer, but things could change. It could be zero. So, back to iTunes I go, far from trying to redo undocumented Javascript or learn enough foundational calculus to manage complex vector spaces.

"She Will Have Her Way" by Neil Finn, from Try Whistling This
"Walk" by Ryuichi Sakamoto, from Love Is The Devil (my other Sakamoto is on tape, OK?)
"Only When You Leave" by Spandau Ballet, from The Singles Collection
"Heading For The Light" by Traveling Wilburys, from Vol 1
"The Old Apartment" (Live) by Barenaked Ladies, from Rock Spectacle
"Transmitter" by Daniel Lanois, from Shine
"Fall Free" by The Alan Parsons Project, from On Air
"In The Real World" by The Alan Parsons Project, from Stereotomy
"Another Cup Of Coffee" by Mike + The Mechanics, from Beggar On A Beach Of Gold
"Confusion" by Electric Light Orchestra, from Discovery

Wow! And there are still people in this world who say that a little break doesn't do any good. I listened to one of these in my car today, and two more are on my driving CD. Three from my car, which has only 10 CDs in it, is doing pretty well. The rest is pretty solid as well.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Back In iTunes

Well, my friend off in Central Europe was pleased by the mention, but she never told me whether or not she found anything. Maybe this time I will get a report. So away we go . . .

"World Of Light" by America The Complete Greatest Hits
"Rest" by Tim Finn, from Say It Is So
"Two Sides Of The Moon" by Asia, from Arena
"Last Train To London" by Electric Light Orchestra, from Discovery
"Koyaanisqatsi" by Philip Glass, from Koyaanisqatsi (Soundtrack)
"Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" by Elton John, from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
"Love Conquers All" by Yes, from Yesyears (Disc 4)
"Number One" by Styx, from Brave New World
"Toilet" by Ryuichi Sakamoto, from Love Is The Devil
"The Border" by America, from View From The Ground

Well, it certainly qualifies as a mix. I can't say what to make of disco right after Asia. Then again, I have no excuse for having bought that Styx album, unless people will believe me when I say I had expected they could have done better. Still, on the whole it's not as bad as it could have been.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Programmer Needed


One hungry programmer, ideally working in Java or Objective-C with knowledge of Macintosh APIs. Need a coding project for a CS class? I have just the thing. Why design a calendar or a game when you code a game that someone has already designed? Remove that first step in the process and sit down to code up a storm!

OK, so here's the deal. If the reps aren't going to take it, then I want this thing out there in front of people. I can slap together a little this and a little that, but I can't, in the end, do real programming. My functions are hacks, and my objects are bloated. The last time I took a programming class, I used a state-of-the-art Commodore Vic 20 (the first time, of the two classes I took, we used brand-spankin'-new Commodore Pets).

My profile here contains all of my contact info, so get on the horn if you are interested!

More Bridge

Back on the fourth, I mentioned that I had created charts for bridge hand shapes and high card point (HCP) totals. Six days later, I finished the project by creating a table that contains all of the same information, only with both sets crossing one another. The result is the number of hands with a given HCP total for each distribution that can have that HCP total. This also means that I can look up the frequency of distributions for a given HCP total.

OK, so that is rather silly, and it doesn't do a whole hell of a lot for more bridge players, but it has its uses. If you play bridge and are interested in seeing the information, drop me a line. It has uses for people who are considering a change in bidding systems, especially if that change may be dramatic. You can see, for instance, that a Goren bidder will open 47% of the hands he is dealt; whereas a SAYC or 2/1 bidder will open almost 61%.

Anyway, I think I am done with that data for a bit. Now I need to find a programmer, but that is the subject for another entry. Hmm, I guess you may see that first, though.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Friday Spin (here's wishing Elena luck!)

OK, I will decrypt that. A friend's fiancée, who lives in Romania, visits my blog and tries to track down these tunes. The problem is, of course, that a lot of what I get for these random lists is hard to find, even on CD. She and I am plotting evil musical things, but more on that when we hatch our plans. Well, I'll get this underway and see how she does with this batch:

"Slow Down" by Brian May, from Another World
"Waiting In Vain" by Annie Lennox, from Medusa (sorry, Bill, have not gotten the new one yet)
"Home And Dry" by Gerry Rafferty, from City To City
"Dance Of Ranyart / Olias (To Build The Moorglade)" by Jon Anderson, from Olias Of Sunhillow (this is not for the faint of harp)
"Amy Hit The Atmosphere" by Counting Crows, from This Desert Life
"Walking On Air" by King Crimson, from Thrak
"Bennie And The Jets" by Elton John, from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
"Holyanna" by Toto, from Isolation
"The Day Before The War" by Asia, from Arena
"Leaves That Are Green" by Simon and Garfunkel, from Sounds Of Silence

That scores points for being more than a little mixed. We have ten different artists; in fact, there is no cross-pollenation between these artists on these tracks. That is a first for my Friday lists here. I predict four will be within easy reach, E.

Great People and Why They Hate Americans

Monday, as I was walking to the bank, I encountered a young man (I say "young" because he was probably at least a decade youngr than I) who was taking a picture across Grand. I can't say I saw the value of the composition, either from an aesthetic or tourist standpoint, but then I see the view a couple days a week, so perhaps I am jaded.

In any case, as I approached, her looked at me and held out the camera, managing to ask in fair English if I would take his picture. As I was in no hurry and since, despite what some people believe, I am a nice enough person, I agreed. He took up a position that allowed me to get a row of taxis and the bank sign in the frame (it has a picture of a bear on the sign, so it looks very "California," I suppose).

Afterward, motivated by my curiosity on hearing his accent, I asked where he was from. "Poland," he told me. I nodded as he explained her was working on a ship. I welcomed him to the city and wished him a good visit. He thanked me for taking his picture. We parted ways.

But then—and I know this is a familiar refrain, but I will repeat it here—it struck me that he had worked to be clear in his request for my help and the exchange that followed. When I have traveled abroad, I have done what I could, but I don't speak Italian or Greek (I was able to manage a little in Italy by piecing together bits of Latin, but that was for little more than directions). We ask visitors to speak English when they are here, but we expect everyone to help us by speaking English when we visit them. Who need al Qaeda when we can just make people hate us with our linguistic demands?

Saturday, March 05, 2005

I Missed Friday!!!

But then I was early with my shuffle last week, so maybe it balances out, hmm?

"Good Together" by Tim Finn, from Say It Is So
"The Pump" by Steve Lukather, from Luke
"Candles Still Flicker In Romania's Dark" by Bill Bruford, from Earthworks Live—Stamping Ground
"Bag O' Tales" by Steve Lukather, from Luke
"Fire On High" by Electric Light Orchestra, from Face The Music
"Take The Money And Run" by The Alan Parsons Project, from Live
"Colorblind" by Counting Crows, from This Desert Life
"Book Of Saturday" by John Wetton, from Chasing The Dragon
"Don't Walk Over Me" by Paul Carrack, from Blue Views
"Every Time I Hear That Train" by Poco, from Running Horse

Not a bad list. Of course, I have a studio track that appears on a live album and a live track that comes tomy collection by a studio album, so there is a little confusion (the Earthworks piece really is live). Interestingly, most of these tracks are by people who have managed tenuous solo careers, despite reasonable critical receptions. Finn is from Split Enz and Crowded House; Luke is from Toto; Bruford played with King Crimson and Yes; Wetton was a member of UK, Roxy Music, King Crimson, and Asia; Carrack worked with Ace, Squeeze, and Mike + The Mechanics.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Boredom Takes Hold

OK, so it isn't really boredom so much as curiosity mixed with something that's been nagging me for a couple of years, but it is still a little sick. I play bridge (no, an AARP card is not required), and while it is easy enough to go out and find some information on the frequency of certain combinations of cards and such, it's tough to find it all collected in one place. So I decided to collect it.

First off, while I enjoy playing with numbers, so long as the formulae don't get too crazy, I was not quite certain how I would derive everything I needed, so I poked about until I found confirmation of the base formula I needed. I wanted to know how many hands, using Charles Goren's point count system (4 per ace, 3 per king, 2 per queen, and 1 per jack), how many 13-card hands would have each High Card Point (HCP) total from 0 to 37.

I basically made a 4-digit base-5 number that represented every combination of the zero to four of each card rank, ace down to jack. I had my spreadsheet total the number of cards in each combination and eliminated all that had more than 13. Then I had it calculate the HCP for each combination and sorted based on that number. Another column calculated the number of 13-card combinations for each such arrangements, and then I totaled up each group that represented a given HCP figure. It makes a pretty chart.

Then I went crazy and did the same thing for suit distribution (number of cards in each suit) so that I could see which combinations were most common (though I had seen the numbers for the top five before). The chart for that is a little wilder, which for someone as damaged as I can be quite cool.

Oh, brother. I need serious help. On the other hand, if you happen to want the data, just let me know where to send it.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

I guess I am IT now...

Please pardon my corrections to the initial questions. Some things I just cannot let go.

1. Total number of music files on your computer right now:
1,500, unless you count music files used by games and those purchased from iTunes for my wife, but the latter have been moved to her machine and only remain on mine as backups.

2. The last CD you bought was . . .
CD? You mean that physical disc thingy? Oh hell, now this will take a moment. Let me go look.
OK, without the receipt, I can't say which was last, so you get all four, each of which I own on casette as well.
90125 by Yes (including six remixes and unreleased tracks)
Toto by Toto
Hydra by Toto
Toto IV by Toto
Those last three were packaged together.

3. What is the last song you listened to before reading (responding to, in this case) this message?
I was listening to "The Old Apartment" by Barenaked Ladies, but the last one I got all the way through was "Top of the Morning" by Mike Oldfield. They are the third and second tracks, respectively, on my drivetime CD.

4. Write down 5 - 10 songs you often listen to or that mean a lot to you.
"I'll Find My Way Home" by Jon and Vangelis
Even some friends who don't like Jon Anderson's voice cave on this one. He just soars with hope, going places he doesn't always reach when he is singing with Yes.

"Spanish Steps" by Toto
I guess it's a combination of the sound and the familiar scenes of Rome. I shot the picture at the end of this post (I'll get it working) at 10 a.m. on Easter Sunday 1986. The church pictured there stands at the top of the Spanish Steps.

"It Will be a Good Day (The River)" by Yes
I can lose myself in the lyrics. When Yes is on with an arrangement, I find myself drifting. I must have listened to this one ten or twelve times while waiting for the bomb squad to clear ONT of a piece of abandoned luggage suspected of being a bomb. It really didn't feel like a two-hour delay before my flight with this song to keep me going.

"Heaven and Hell, Part 1" by Vangelis
I refer specifically to the excerpt that was used as the theme for Cosmos. Carl Sagan, stoner that he was, could have picked no better music for carrying 1980 into outer space.

"Party in Simon's Pants" by Los Lobotomys
OK, if the title seems weird, think about nicknames for drum solos. Add to that the drummer's name: Simon Phillips. He and Steve Lukather were, according to the liner notes from Candyman, simply jamming . . . in 17/8 time (yeah, like that is so darn simple) and came up with an annoyingly difficult piece to appreciate for the first 90 times through or so. After that, though, there's no denying the sound.

"No Matter" by Colin Hay
Hay's post-Men at Work career is superior to what made him famous. I don't even know if I have the right name for this little hidden track (it is appended to the last official track, though there is a blank 2-second track right after), but it is beautiful in its simplicity, edited to sound like some interstitial afterthought, a snippet of a song never finished.

"Sandman" by America
I won't say this is America's best song, but there is something about "Cuz I understand you been runnin' from a man who goes by the name of the Sandman. He flies the sky like an eagle in the eye of a hurricane that's abandoned," that gets me as it drags me from Dewey Bunell's appropriately plodding recounting of years past and opportunities unrealized.

"Ghost Train" by Marc Cohn
Damn the iTMS for not selling this tack, but maybe I just need to buy the album on CD. Cohn did something too few people in music manage anymore: he earned his Grammy for Best New Artist. His debut album hasn't a bad track on it, though a couple are just OK. "Walking in Memphis" is fine, and "True Companion" has more thoughtful lyrics than perhaps any other love song I have heard, but this one is my favorite by him.

"Crystal" by Elton John
It's not a good song, really. But a friend was going through a tough time while her sister was in labor. The baby had a 50% chance, which was a damned sight better than the mother had. Mother and child made it, and the baby was named Crystal. When I returned from the hospital, I found that my brother's girlfriend had given me a tape. Side two, track one was "Crystal." She had no way of knowing.

"Every Time You Go Away" by Hall & Oates
This is the original, and anyone who doubts that these two came to have their names connected with soul by any means other than their songwriting has clearly not heard this tune. Sure, the cover made a fine addition to the final scene from Planes, Trains and Automobiles, but Paul Young never understood it to sing it properly.

I can tag three people? Hmmm. OK. David at Scrivenings, Fluffy at fluffy as a cat, and Bill at Twelve Two Two Fondue.