Caveat: Venter

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

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Grey and Green

Sunshine and I are lounging around our hotel room after a fair drive out to wine country for our fourth anniversary getaway. Mind you, it really is more about spending time away from all of the usual stuff and getting time together than doing anything specific. And that's fine with us, quite frankly. It's the way we are.

The hotel is nothing wonderful, and I say that with great charity, but it was one of the few that had anything available this weekend. It turns out that what I had hoped would be has become what is: the ride up fantastic. We have always lived along the 10; we met while both of us lived in Claremont, we got a place together in Upland (east of Claremont), moved east again to Ontario, and finally far west to Los Angeles. The problem with the 10 is simple: it's too crowded. Between the coast and the 15—a stretch of pavement around 60 or 70 miles long—there is what we sadly refer to as civilization. City blends into city, and the only seams are in the pavement. All there is to see is a series of overcrowded municipalities periodically punctuated by trees that city employees fight to keep alive.

The 101 is different. Once we had left the city behind us by half an hour (miles don't much matter when following a freeway for close to three hours), we found something we had not seen in California since we drove down from Washington back in 2002: trees. Yes, there are trees along the 10, but these were trees in orchards, trees on hillsides. There were cattle and horses. There were vineyards. The ride up made the trip. Everything else, including the ride back . . . well, it's our anniversary.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Rident Stolidi Verba Latina

Ovid wrote that. It translates to "(only) fools laugh at the Latin language." Our Latin Club t-shirts in high school had that quote on them. It was all a cute little trap, laid out for those who would mock us. I even managed to spring it. Once. But that's not quite what this is about.

I recently had a rapid exchange of (non-IM) messages with someone who seems to have forgiven me my past rudeness and downright insensitivity, though perhaps the depths of my viciousness (at the time) are as yet unclear. But it brought to mind what Eric Leadbetter, my Latin teacher for four years, vocabular development teacher for one semester, tour leader in Italy ('86) and Greece ('88), and friend wrote in my senior year annual. These words I cherish more than any others written in one of my year books:

Vale mi amici. Iter breve erat.

By that time—mid-1987—we had been to Italy together and survived. He had helped me through what turned out to be the worst day of my life, though maybe one or two since have come close (they never beat it because there was always a reason for them). I worry that with my holiday schedules and family budgets as tight as they both are I won't have the chance to sit down and have a cup of coffee with Mr. Leadbetter. When I walk into a classroom, I am as an echo of Mr. Leadbetter that mixes with an echo of my maternal grandfather, another high school teacher.

Whether or not we ever have that cup of coffee together, I already know what I will say on that day I learn of his passing (may it be far from today): Vale mi amici. Iter breve erat. If I am fortunate, I will hear an echo back that reminds me of the brilliance inherent in the dual meaning of "vale."

This Is An Italian Trap

See, someone may well find an irresistable urge to post here. I am almost certain it is someone who is not, or at least was not 19 years ago, well versed in the proper method of short-sheeting a bed, whose skills in practical joking I hope have improved. But I push too hard, I think, and perhaps am being unfair. Allow me to elaborate.

Think back to late March 1986. Where were you? I was on a plane, first for New York, and then for Rome. The person to my right on the first leg of the journey (actually, beside me the whole way) kept talking. I had a plan for my flight, and it didn't involve chatting with a person I didn't know, so I tormented my fellow traveler with a comment that went something like this: "Oh, look like we just lost the number one engine." Given that I had been flying since before I was one, and my fellow traveler had never set foot on an airplane before, that was rather cruel of me. I can admit that (I would have then, had anyone asked).

Later on, my two roommates and I played a practical joke, on April 1st, of course, that resulted in a resounding crash that echoed through the halls of a three-star hotel in Florence (fantastic city!). Two of us were trapped in our room, lights off, praying that the hammering on the door and the calls of, "Open up! We know you're in there," would end in short enough order that we might effect an escape.

We were horrors, American blights on the human landscape of a foreign country, the history of which we respected more than the present. We were teenagers, for God's sake! Still, though the comparison to Dr. Chilton is perhaps not the best I can make for myself, I do enjoy my petty torments. Thankfully, in 2005 all involved may enjoy them, I believe, with at least small corners of our mouths turned up.

The bait is set. Now, will a comment be made?

Fun Project, Anyone?

I have to do it, but there is no way I will accomplish it alone. I will need people to help out. A lot. What, you might ask, is the loon venting about now? Well, it's an idea I had some years ago but have never implemented (I'm good at that). It's called

Yeah, I know the name is kinda long and has lots of W's, but I like it this way. It has a good rhythm, and that helps in memory. Speaking of memory, the site would be dedicated to memories. Start with a timeline running, perhaps, back to 1910. Make each decade clickable so that it zooms in create a detail timeline (in my mind it is a color-coded navigation below the main timeline).

A user could navigate to any point in history (within the scope of the site) and select a time frame to see what events took place during that period. By zooming in on a given event, the user could learn a few simple facts (dates, times, major players, etc.) and then read user-submitted memories that, having received editorial approval, have been posted.

Consider this: If a person navigated to the 1980s and then selected 1986, one of the first events would be on January 28, the day of the Challenger explosion. I know where I was when I got the news, and many of my friends have similar recllections. By putting all of these together, we create an informal history of the lifetimes of our users. (Note how I am already including you as my colleagues in this project. Is it helping?)

Anyway, let me know if you might be interested in joining in on something like this. I need help in graphics and (I hope) editorial. If all goes well, it will have too much work for one person.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Death Penalty? Why?

Zacarias Massaoui admitted to everything we said he had done. He was part of the team of terrorists working on crashing commercial aircraft into buildings, and his target was to have been the White House. Whether or not you think that would have been any real disaster based on the man who called it home at the time, the building is of historical value. That said, we should not execute Massaoui.

Let's clear the air right now. I don't support the death penalty, though death penalty proponents would do well to get behind me in this case. No, it's not because Europe, most notably Massasoui's home country of France, is opposed to the death penalty, especially for people who are citizens of countries other than those carrying out the sentence. Nope. No, my reason is rather different, and perhaps more mean-spirited.

Massaoui, following in the tradition of the order originally called assassins, probably believes that if he dies because of his commission of (or attempt to commit) an act of violence against the enemies of Islam (as defined by his hash connection, if we wish to make a joke about the original order), he will go to heaven and be rewarded with all the pleasures he could want: women, drugs, fine food, etc.

By refusing to execute Massaoui, we stick him in a prison cell. And while he could probably get his drugs, and perhaps a few men to treat as women, he's not going to get the food, the clothes, the palatial quarters. By choosing imprisonment over execution, we deny Massaoui that which he was promised for his part in all of this. Think I'm nuts? Why, then, would he confess to everything with no expectation of leniency and no deal in place? What? He wanted to save the taxpayers money? After all, the 9/11 attacks were all about saving the U.S. economy. Let's see this confession for what it is—Massaoui's best shot at getting to the good part quickly—and mete out the punishment that will most hurt: life in prison.

The "Tuftsian Aura"

OK, let's set the stage. Sunshine and I attended the Kingsley and Kate Tufts poetry awards. Now, Pulitzer Prizes are great, but the Kate Tufts Discovery Award is for the year's best first book of poetry by a promising poet. For $10,000, that's a good gig if you can get it. The Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award is conferred upon a rising star in poetry—one who has not yet peaked in his or her career. I rather prefer the $100,000 prize for this one, though I lack the talent to earn consideration for either honor. Oh well.

While my primary reason for attending is the poetry readings (OK, yes, I also like watching $110,000 being given away, even if I get none of it), I was more than a little giddy by the time Ieft this year's ceremony. I'm not into hero worship, mind you, though some may be tempted to think otherwise before the end of this entry. Robert Pinsky—poet laureate during the second Clinton administration, founder of the Favorite Poem Project, and one of this year's judges—proved more than properly eloquent in someopening remarks. Robert Wrigley, a former Kingsley Tuft Award winner (2000) and upcoming recipient of another national award (to be presented next month in New York), gave valuable insight into how the judging is conducted each year. Other notable poets, including most of the judges and a few past winners, were also in attendance.

The poetry resonated with me in a way that the 2004 readings failed to do, recalling instead the point during the 2003 awards that Sunshine turned to me, tears having already traced wide trails down her cheeks, and told me that she finally understood why I love poetry. We have Linda Gregerson to thank for moving my wife so deeply, by the way. And while all of this, set in the Pompeiian Room (Java warning) at Mt. Saint Mary's College, was why we had gone, with our friends Victor and Britt in tow, it was not the highlight of my evening. Getting my copies of the winning books signed is a tradition when I attend, but the best part, for me, came after.

I walked up to Robert Pinsky, an eminently approachable man, and thanked him for the Favorite Poem Project, to which his reply was gracious. He pointed out what I had, to my discredit, missed. The latest compilation to come out of the Project, An Invitation to Poetry, is not only out but includes a DVD of selected readings by contributors. He was kind enough to ask my name and where I taught, though neither, I am sure, is a piece of information that has any place in his schedule. Had that conversation been the end of the night, I would have left a happy man, but there was more.

One of the preliminary judges, Derick Burleson, whom I thought I had recognized when he had walked in from the awards banquet, approached me and introduced himself, asking my name and where I worked. He had thought I had looked familiar, and though we were unable to find, in 15 minutes, any connection, we enjoyed a fine talk about poetry, education, and the people who might have been bridges between us. Again, had that been all, I would have been more than simply delighted, but Robert Wrigley walked up as Derick and I were talking and asked if Derick had a cigarette. My pack was closer at hand, so I offered him one (as I had done when speaking with Alan Trachtenberg many years ago), and the three ofus stepped outside for a smoke.

The conversation turned to stories of students, the "lightbulb moment," which is a term I settled on in the late 80s, though I have since found numerous others who also derived it, Derick included, the things we do and the things that happen in class. I discussed E. A. Robinson, who is my favorite poet, and my passion for Borges (my apologies to a translator who may soon get a disk in the mail). Robert asked me if I was considering returning for my PhD, and I said I wanted to but foundmyself torn between Robinson, Borges, and others. He told me to pursue the PhD and do my work with Robinson, whom Wrigley said, "needs to be brought back." That was my first impulse, and I have used that precise wording many a time.

We had to leave, but I found myself reinvigorated. It was not hero worship, though. I respect these poets, but that is far different. This was a validation of the path I had set before myself many years ago, even as I put forth other, equally valid paths in these discussions. Can I do it? Can I return Robinson to a place of respect within the canon? I don't know. Despite what people have said about me ego, it isn't large enough to allow me to claim I could effect so great a change. I just have to try (my apologies to George Lucas and Frank Oz). The only honor greater than being told that the path a respected poet regards as my best is the one among those before me I have felt most strongly about would be success on that path. How is it possible that the future can be at once dark and blinding?

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Academic Blogging

Yes, many of you know that academics blog about their work, their students, and their local academic politics; however the last twenty-four hours has been quite an eye-opener for me. Every faculty member got a flyer about a presentation to be given next week about the "educational potential of the iPod in the classroom." Mind you, the presenter teaches ESL, and the value in that setting is almost certainly greater than in composition courses, but it's still an interesting idea. But that's not what this is about. Nope. Check this out.

Matt, over at Matt's Blog (no one said we had to be creative) is using a blog to contact his students. Mind you, this ends up looking much like an old-school bulletin board, but it still intrigues me. Is this something any of my readers involved in education, from either side of the big desk and at any level, use in some way?

Is the use of a technology such as a blog inherently unfair in a commuter setting like a community college, where students may or may not have access at home? where many can only be on campus during class times (and sometimes not even then)? where incomes are not perhaps what they might be in the households of students at private universities?

Is this the most democratic form of all? Does this level of access level the playing field by allowing students who might be afraid to speak up in class the freedom to do so in front of a computer screen (though let's not say anonymously)? Does it give time, that most precious (though most often squandered) student resource, back to the students? Does it promote classroom discussion? interfere with it? alter it in any way?

I would love your thoughts on this, especially if you have experience.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Star Wars Indeed!

It seems that the U.S. military is ready, should we decide to go with space-based arsenals. The U.S. Strategic Command, or USStratCom (gotta love the military's idea of an abbreviation) has some interesting little notes on its "Military Space Forces" fact sheet.

Apparently, part of USStratCom's mission is to "[assure] U.S. access to and freedom of operation in space, and [deny] enemies the same." I suppose that leaving that out of a national defense plan would be rather silly, but it doesn't have a very good ring to it, and I would hate to be the one charged with spinning that to the public, never mind foreign governments with whom we may be having a spat. Still, that's not the disturbing part.

Under the heading "Force Application," USStratCom claims that it is involved in "Researching and developing space-based capabilities that have the potential to engage adversaries from space." Ouch! Good thing it continues with the note, "Requires policy change before implementation." Yeah. I'd say I hate to spin that one, but I have a really bad feeling that I just quoted the spin doctor.

(My thanks to SiteMeter and the "Next Blog" button. I randomly landed on a blog entitled "Catholics for Senator Rick Santorum." Yes, you read that right. No, I didn't stick around. The fun part is that it posts the recent referrers right there on the page, and my blog was in the list. Someone from USStratCom followed the link back to my blog for as short as visit as mine at CfSRS, and that's how I found this info. Fun huh?)

Yogurt + AIDS = Health?

OK, but I made you look, right. Actually, the theory is the same, as Wired News explains. A researcher at UI Chicago has taken a different approach in the search for a cure to AIDS than most before. Lin Tao led a team of researchers on a quest for a bacterium that would glom onto AIDS, surrounding it and feeding off of it, preventing, in the process, the spread of the disease.

Apparently, Tao team isolated a couple strains of bacteria that munch on the specific sugar that surrounds HIV. Because these strains of lactobacilli are hungry and have a habit of noshing on a sugar known as mannose, when they are in the human body, they surround HIV, making it impossible for the virus to spread, starving it, effectively, as they stuff themselves.

What's cool about this, aside of the brilliant news that, if it works in humans, it has the potential to cure HIV, is that it's cheap. Merck, Pfizer, and friends may well have to eat huge losses on this one because our bodies already make this stuff, albeit in quantities to small to be very effective. Grab a few samples, grow it, get it into a subject, and BOOM! starving HIV. Let's hope it works. Now we just have to work out what success means for Social Security.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Alberta's War On Drugs

Let me start by saying that I have no interest in debating the degree to which decriminalization or legalization of drugs could affect the need for assistance. I support at least limited efforts in those areas, but that's not what this post is about.

CBC radio program As It Happens had a story last night about Alberta's new law, slated to take effect on 1 July 2006, allowing parents of minors to intercede with the support of the courts when those minors are addicted to drugs. Now, this is the tricky part.

If a parent has evidence that the child is involved with drugs, he or she may go to a judge and put forth that evidence. If the judge then agrees that there is an issue, he or she may issue a seizure order that allows the parents, backed by governmental authority, to forcibly take the child into custody for a mandatory 5-day detox.

The original bill also included a follow-up mandatory 90-day counseling period, but that was deemed dangerous from a legal standpoint and was pulled. Toothless as the stripped-down version may seem, this demonstrates an amazing amount of will to fix a problem in a (relatively) non-punitive manner. These kids are not being thrown into jail, though their freedoms are being restricted for almost a week (try being grounded); instead, they are puking their guts out enough that they will have a chance to see the world without a meth-induced haze interfering with their thoughts.

OK, that said, let me add this: It will almost certainly reduce sustained drug use by teens in the province, but it doesn't address the issues of supply, production, or initial use. It's better than what many countries offer, less good than it might have been. I'm still ambiguous on this one, but my initial reaction is that this is the right way to fight the war, at least while the drugs are illegal. I don't suppose anyone would happen to have drug use figures from Alberta and British Columbia, would they?

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Can We Leave Early?

Yes, almost every class I teach has someone who turns some form of "Can we leave early?" into a running joke. Mind you, I keep it going. I find that my students pay closer attention if they think they'll miss a random one-liner by drifting off, and they have indicated that it's one of the things they like about my class. One even said that mine was the only class in which she didn't fall asleep.

It's interesting, too, that while such a phrase usually identifies the class clown (yes, they still exist in college), those class clowns usually end up writing great papers. In one of my classes, I have a student with hair that I expect gets shaven off a few days before class, considering how short it is. He sits in the back. He's an excellent student, and though he makes the jokes, he also comments on the "cool stuff" he learns in class.

Just goes to show how stereotypes fail us so often. I love that about stereotypes.

Private School Access

While channel surfing, I passed a little interview with author Mona Charen on C-SPAN 2. She was going on about school choice and how liberals were denying access to quality education to people whose only hope of getting ahead in the world is a "good education." Mind you, she didn't bother to say overtly what she implied: students attending public schools aren't getting a good education. Really? Wow! I should just sue my parents and Bellevue Public School District 405. They must be why I have not gone back for my PhD yet.

It's one thing to say that some private schools will provide a higher level of education than some public schools, but to suggest that opposition to voucher programs actively harms people is a little bit of a stretch. True, English schools are better than American schools, and their "public schools" are privately run, have tuition, and are subsidized by the government at the same per-student rate as the government schools. That almost equates to a voucher system. Almost.

Voucher systems allow people to send their students to private schools while receiving a government subsidy equal to what would be paid to a public school for having that student. Sounds good so far, and I like it. Wait, though; it changes. In England, public schools may not turn away students who wish to attend. Oops. Find a voucher program that will support that stipulation here in the U.S.

I am a product, in part, of the British public schools. My father's job for Boeing took my family to The Netherlands in late 1970 and England in 1973. There, at the age of three, I entered kindergarten at Little Saint Mary's school. I proceeded through Prep 1 and Prep 2, finishing before we returned to the U.S. in the summer of 1976. Was I ahead? Well, let's do the math: I started two years earlier than my American counterparts and spent more days in school every year. Yes, I was ahead. They ask more of their students than we do. They don't coddle their students as we do. They don't squabble over different forms of sex education, dragging the curriculum into the courtroom; we're masters of litigating education.

I have no problem with—wait, I want to rephrase that—I would endorse a voucher program, but it must be one that allows any student to attend any school accepting the vouchers, with no other test but means. Tuition could not be based upon whether or not a student or his or her family attended or identified with a given religious group (Cathloics and non-Catholics would have to pay the same at a Catholic school, for instance). And the state would have to retaain the right to audit the fairness of any decision to remove a student.

It's not that difficult to write the law. It's not that easy to get the schools to sign off on it. Of course, any school could simply choose not to accept vouchers, though I would want a provision guaranteeing that any student accepted under a voucher program would be allowed to stay until he or she was legitimately removed (does not require a school shooting, mind you) or finished the highest grade offered (assuming we are not talking about repeating a grade five times or some such nonsense). Who's with me?

WiFi Ethics

I was listening to NPR as I drove out for some Sunday food. A story came on about the ethics of using other people's WiFi networks, whether at home or around town. The ethicist (pardon me, I do not remember his name and do not feel like looking it up right now) concluded that it was perfectly OK, at least from an ethical standpoint, to do this, provided the user is paying for internet access already.

OK, let's look at just that. Let's say I am paying for one of those $9.95 dial-up connections, but that my laptop, outfitted with WiFi, can connect to my neighbor's $39.99 cable access. Is it ethical then? If so, can we go a step beyond and into territory the ethicist on the radio said went into the unethical? What happens if I am not paying for access while I piggyback on my neighbor's connection? Is that unethical?

I disagree with the claim that such use goes beyond ethics. This is not the same thing as leaving your front door unlocked and still being able to claim that someone who robs you broke the law. Your home is your property, protected by B&E laws. You can, however, secure your internet connection with two simple steps: first, use a password, and second, list the MAC addresses of every card you want to allow on your network. Those two things alone will keep out all but the hackers.

It doesn't even take five minutes to secure the network from random users who seek hotspots, and most WiFi management software that comes with routers these days encourages users to include passwords. Given the prevalence of networks and computers able to use them, it seems to me that anyone wanting to make a closed network should opt in. If I were a little more comfortable with network security, I would open my WiFi network for other users. I guess, then, it comes down to my ISP's ToS. Welcome to the IT age, full of acronyms, in which we abbr. too many things.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Willoughby Syndrome

I decided, two nights ago, that what the United States suffers from is something I have dubbed "Willoughby Sybdrome" (apologies to Rod Serling). This was writer Serling's favorite episode from the first season of The Twilight Zone, and there is much to recommend it.

In brief, Gart Williams, a man torn between torture at work and torture at home, fallls asleep on his commuter train. On waking, he finds he is being offered the chance to get off the train in the idyllic 1880s town of Willoughby, where it is summertime (even though he fell asleep in the snowy winter), where children play in the town square, where everyone is happy because life is simple and good. Willoughby is everything his world is not.

His wife thinks he is crazy, his boss keeps pushing at work, and by the end he decides that Willoughby is the place to be. Sorry to spoil it, but I must to make my point. He, in a dream state, leaps from the train and dies by the tracks, where his body is packed into a hearse from the Willoughby mortuary, of which there is no evidence he has ever heard.

What is happening in this country is similar, and I fear it may lead to a similar end. Ever larger numbers of people are clamoring to a return to the values of old. "Family Values" is, of course, the favorite catch phrase. The problem is this: They never existed. June Cleaver—a happy one, anyway—is a myth. Those times and values people say they want never existed, much like the (twice) fictional town of Willoughby. People are trying to reshape our nation and culture to meet the impossible standards of a time that never was. There was no Rydell High School as portrayed in Grease. That 70s Show isn't the 70s that I or anyone I can find remembers. Let's hope the hearse was just a dramatic turn by our dear Mr. Serling.

Thursday, April 14, 2005


I went heavy-handed. I just went back to the beginning and put my customization back in. It's OK, then.

Aw, Hell!

I tried sticking in Haloscan trackback code, and what should happen? I have to take their lame comment system too. I don't have the time to hunt down every little piece of Haloscan code right now, but I will fix it. Sorry.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Passions And The March Of Years

We humans are anything but static creatures, so perhaps it should come as no surprise to me that I have moved away from many of my former passions, but I still wonder what has happened to them. Why did I let them fall by the wayside? Will I ever return to them in any meaningful way?

I graduated from high school in 1987, and since then my passions for photography has waned. Someone I knew in high school recently pointed out that far too many people who own cameras consider themselves photographers, but I am glad to say that while I have won awards in small contest and drawn paychecks for camera work, I am not among that set of self-deluded folk. It's not really so much that the passion has waned as that my ability to pay for everything involved and my access to darkroom facilities has declined significantly. I always enjoyed the process of developing my film, composing the prints, and getting everything to look just right. Hell, I loved the odor of photochemicals that in high school was like some odd perfume or cologne we photography students seemed incapable of cleaning off, letting it linger on our hands like our secret bond.

Music, once so much more than an accompaniment to driving, has moved into the background. I once chased information with such fervor that I would spend hours flipping through bins of vinyl, searching for those hard-to-find gems that would round out some obscure corner of my collection. I still enjoy listening to music, and iTunes, my iPod, and my CD burner make that easier than ever before, but it's lost its luster. Even the stores selling used albums now have good lighting, which negates one of the biggest draws I had to such places a couple decades ago.

I was also an avid game player in those days. Don't get me wrong, I still play computer games. I play bridge—be it against the computer, online, or in person—far more than anything else, knocking off anywhere from a dozen to a couple hundred hands in a night, but without Sunshine as my partner, it isn't the same. When she finishes her MBA, perhaps, things will return to the way they were in that regard, but who knows.

These and so many smaller things have dropped from the more central roles they once played in my life. True, I have to set aside time to grade assignments, I have to go to work and help shape the next generation of writer, and I have to do laundry and other household chores that were either not mine or were more broadly distributed when I was younger, but still I wonder: will I ever reclaim these things? Maybe it was the difficulty in pursuing them that made them so precious. Maybe it was having to develop my own film, cue up tapes and LPs, and arrange those game nights that made them seem like escapes from the mundane. Now they are the mundane. Digital photography is convenient, yes, but it has never matched halide photography for me. Maybe I just need to find that next passion. Maybe I have and don't know it yet.

Elevator To Nowhere

I live on the sixth floor of an eight-floor complex, with the lobby on the third floor. Given that the stairs are not placed for convenient use, we generally take our nearest elevator. It's an Otis. Of course, there are placards with all the usual comments about not panicking if the elevator gets stuck. There is very little chance, we are told, of running out of air. Very little? Fabulous! But that's not the craziest thing.

Los Angeles has to send out an elevator inspector for each unit every year. This person comes from the city's engineering division to ensure that these marvels of modern life not only function, but do so in a safe manner. On the posted form, there to assure us that the elevator we are using will remain safe for yet another orbit around the sun, are numerous ratings. It is designed for 3,000 pounds, or 20 people. I'm pretty wiry as people over six feet go, and I'm over 150 these days, if only by 10 pounds. I remain lighter, however, than many much shorter than I. Someone needs to update the math.

Better still, these elevators are rated for "1 to 10 Landings," and that's the part that really puzzles me. We have nine landings (garage plus eight occupied floors), and that works well. Our north elevator doesn't go down to 1 or the garage, and that's probably because no one wants to live or park that far under the hill that rises to its peak in the northeast. It does, however, still manage seven landings. What I want to know is this: what is the point of an elevator that serves 1 landing? You get on and press your floor, but guess what? You're already there! Civil and mechanical engineers, or perhaps the L.A. beaurocrats really need a lesson in reasoning, though I must admit to being afraid of the cost of such a correction.

Good Grief!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Horrid, I know

I decided to re-work my look, and this is an intermediate step. I will do some color differentiation, but I am looking for a good blue. Once I have my colors down, I will tweak the tag board, though, truth be told, I should probably dump that thing. It really doesn't do anything useful for my site, and I can find better application for the real estate.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Will iTunes Know?

Can a piece of software possibly sense why I was unable to perform my weeky random 10? You say it can't? I guess I am about to find out.

"Why Don't You Write Me?" by Simon and Garfunkel, from Bridge Over Troubled Water
"Don't Answer Me" by The Alan Parsons Project, from Live
"Eye In The Sky" by The Alan Parsons Project, from Live
"Jamaica Jerk-Off" by Elton John, from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
"Stop Loving You" by Toto, from The Seventh One
"Sweet Dreams" by Yes, from Yesterdays
"Do You Believe In Magic?" by The Lovin' Spoonful, from Do You Believe In Magic
"The Raven" by The Alan Parsons Project, from Live
"No More 'I Love You's'" by Annie Lennox, from Medusa
"Be My Yoko Ono" by Barenaked Ladies, from Gordon

OK, that was a little spooky. I got three songs from Parsons' live album. And while "Why Don't You Write Me?" is, superficially, about writing a letter, it does sound like the play begging to be written. I swear, however, that I took from the full library the first ten that came up.

24-Hour Plays

Thursday, when I got home from work, I received an email informing me that the Claremont Colleges had 24-Hour Plays going on this weekend. I found out about the last one a week after the production, so, not wanting to miss it again, I headed off to participate as soon as I left work on Friday.

By way of explanation, 24-Hour Plays come about every semester (well, we missed one semester in the last three years, but that's not bad for an ad-hoc production). Volunteers sign up to write, direct, and act. Some people choose to wear multiple hats, as I have done twice before and would have done again today, had we not encountered problems. In any case, the writers assemble at a designated location at 9 p.m. on Friday. There they receive instuctions about what they must include in a play (in the past it has been a fencing mask, a pencil, or a floppy disk; this time it was blanket, either word or object) and how many characters they may have. Then they have 11 hours to write plays, on script per team. They deliver the scripts by 8 a.m. on Saturday.

At 9 a.m. on Saturday, the directors gather, read scripts, and threaten one another with paper cuts in a battle over who will (or won't) direct which plays. The actors assemble at 10 and get cast. By 9 p.m. on Saturday, 24 hours after the writers assemble, the curtain goes up on the first play. Thus, the name comes from the period between the gathering of the writers and the start of the first performance.

It's a rather silly exercise (we didn't invent it, so don't blame us), but it can be great fun staying up long hours preparing a script that is almost inevitably filled with silliness. This time, my friend and I wrote about people who live near a campus coffee shop in a post-apocalyptic world; their entire culture and mythology is based up a book of Peanuts cartoons, and their leader is the Linus, protector of the Blanket. All of our actors but one flaked on us, and we dumped on of the three plays early. A second was relegated to being a dramatic reading. Ours survived as a full production, but it would have been better to have produced all three.

I look forward to working with (now) experienced producers in the Fall. The lessons of a low turn-out, combined with techniques that have drawn triple-digit audiences before, should go far in making the next round a bigger success. Soon, however, the production will have to move beyond a few people. We'll see if we might be able to turn it into an institution.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Great News!

I just got an email message from Bill over at Twelve Two Two Fondue about an amazing event. Back in January, when I first listed Bill's site on my sidebar, he sent me a kind message that contained these words (I doubt he'll mind the quote):
I think you may be the first site on the Entire Internet that posted a link to our site . . . Now that we have a readership, albeit perhaps one person, the pressure is on to produce a higher level of hilarity.

Well it seems someone else joined me. Bill just sent me another note indicating that he has been picked up by Dooce, a blog that scored four of the 2005 Bloggie Awards, and these weren't awards like the Academy gives the night before the Oscars; these were Best American Blog, Best Tagline, Most Humorous, and Best Written. Dayum!!

Anyway, it seems the writing that drew me to Bill's blog has earned him an overnight tenfold increase in hits. Bill, if you drop by, as I think you will because you'll catch my not-too-cryptic note in the e-mail, help 'em stuff their bellies. The fastest way to a blogger's belly may be Jack-in-the-Box, but you now have the chance to change that for a few (speaking of which, we really need to go shopping soon). And when I can toast your success this weekend, it shall be with the version of "cheers" used in Iran (because I like being different and learned it from a terribly cool grad student), "Noosh!"

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Link Changes

I have made one change (two, if you want to get picky about separating removal and addition) to my links list. As I noted when I first created it, there would always be ten links. In order to add one, I must remove one. Such changes will always involve commenting links out, so those who wish to find the information on removed links will find that information between comment tags when viewing the HTML.

In any case, as much as I enjoy the content on Juan Galis-Menendez's Philosophical Dialogues, I rarely take the time to read the extended entries he creates, skimming them when I do go there. I have added a link to Xaotica. You won't find the same kind of writing there as in other blogs I have links to, but I know the writer, and she seems to have recently discovered that I have this blog and linked to it.

Now I really do need to take a look at tweaking the look a little. I like neutral background with a number 5 grey or darker, but the text style and color could get updated.

The Pope

Living in downtown Los Angeles, I have many sounds all around, regardless of the hour. One sound that is common for a good number of hours each day comes from Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral: the quarter-hourly Westminster Chimes. Yes, their bells announce every fifteen-minute period and toll the hours. It's like our very own Big Ben, sounding out time across the city. Normally.

When I got home on Friday, I turned on the TV to watch news of the Pope's condition. Mind you, I am not Catholic, but I respect the man in much the same way I respect Mother Theresa. Both, in their lifetimes, did much for people who were seeking quidance and assistance. I made arrangements with my wife and our friends for later that evening, but then I noticed something at 6 p.m. The bells sounded the Westminster Chimes, but not the hour. An hour earlier, Cardinal Mahoney had initiated a prayer service in honor of the Pope, and I couldn't help but wonder what significance such a change in the bells might have (with or without 15 microwave trucks parked outside).

Now I wonder how many times—for how many situations—this change may be made. Does it happen when a President dies? Will they do it again if we have another incident like 9/11? Is it, perhaps, reserved solely for the Pope? It was an eerie experience. I was prepared to count off the hours, and then the bells fell silent. Less than a day later, so did the Pope.

Friday, April 01, 2005

iTune Winter Out

It's the last official friday of Winter, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed for something seasonal—it could be saying farewell to Winter or hello to Spring—in my iTunes spin today. Let's see how I do:

"Living For The City" by Toto, from Through The Looking Glass
"Shotgun & The Duck (live)" by Tomorrow (with Steve Howe), from Live & Unreleased 1967
"Wonderous Stories" by Yes, from Going For The One
"Down Home Town" by Electric Light Orchestra, from Face The Music
"Heart Of The Sunrise" by Yes, from Fragile
"She Spreads Her Wings" by Semisonic, from Feeling Strangely Fine
"Where Will You Be" by Yes, from Talk
"Bus Stop" by The Hollies, from The Hollies Greatest Hits (Remastered)
"Dança Do Ouro" by Jon Anderson, from Deseo
"I Can't Look Away" by Trevor Rabin, from Can't Look Away

OK, "Bus Stop" mentions "summer" and "August," but those are no help, and that is about as close as I got. I couldn't even get (the badly titled) "Holy Lamb (Song For Harmonic Convergence)" or "A Hazy Shade Of Winter"? Maybe "April Come She Will" would have been fitting, hmmm? I missed "Seasons" by four tracks on Deseo. I would have even taken "Celtic Rain" for the implication of green things, but no. Oh well.