Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Molly Ivins dies

Sadly, Molly Ivins died today.

She was a great woman who spoke truth to power. Powerful, punchy political writing that always cut through the bull. There's so much false civility today - an unwillingness to call the President a liar and a tyrant. Even Patrick Leahy made it sound like the President is good when he turns over documents about the secret wiretapping program after a month of stalling.

Molly Ivins called it like she saw it. Her voice of truth will be sorely missed. We needed her now more than ever.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


What does Animation mean, anyway?

If I use computers to make a bunch of pretty things, that are completely impossible, but have people dance in front of a camera and make the computer reproduce it, am I an animator?

Happy Feet got a nomination for Best Animated Feature.

As this blogger points out, it's not really animated. It's computer assisted puppetry.

Savion Glover did all the dancing, and deserves credit for it.

But should the actual animators who created the motion in Cars be compared to the technicians who computerized Savion Glover's dancing? (Assuming you think comparing artists and giving them awards is a relevant task to begin with.) Happy Feet is a better movie, with better writing and characterizations. But is it animation?

Monday, January 29, 2007

Lessons from Improv Class

So, I'm taking my first theatre class ever.

It's sort of like theatre church for me. I haven't learned anything new, but it's been pleasant to have a space that honors the ideas and spirit of theatre. A place to go each week, where it's ok to fail, and no one judges you.

Which is interesting, because I did make snap observations about personalities, even as I didn't give those observations moral character. I ((judged)) them without |judging| them. (Only Daniel will understand those symbols.)

I also have learned a few new games, and played several old games with new people. And even playing old games in new combinations lets you observe new things. The most striking new game is known to me only as Diagonal, although it has a more obscene name I'm not yet privy to.

In the game, you're told a gesture. There's a set of options: up, down, in, out, diagonal. You then repeat the gesture: you act it and say it. THEN, you say a different gesture, while acting a DIFFERENT gesture. While looking at another person, to pass it on. Tell the truth, then lie. (There's no one syllable word for truth telling. Speak? Talk? Anyway...) It really hurts the brain. It's hard to get a rhythm of truth/lie. It's really easy to screw up. And even the most experienced improv actors fail, and have to let go. Which is a good spirit to get into for improv.

Best. Game. Ever.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Thank you, Internet

At last, ABC is going to release episodes of Day Break. It took their lawyers a month to decide they could air the episodes on the internet as well as on TV.

Despite the fact they'd cancelled the show, and the episodes will never air.

My grapes are sour, but without the internet, I'd never know how the mystery ends.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Star Wars fan movie

This is excellent. You have to watch this one to the end. This is an honored classic style of Japanese hand puppetry, put to amazing post-modern use.

Friday, January 26, 2007


My commute is getting a lot easier.

It's very nice to be back on my bike. Invigorating. Driving, because the gravel on the roads would kill me, or just not biking because I'm traveling to conferences or home sick - these have been my path for the last 3 weeks.

But they haven't cleaned up all the gravel from Stormageddon 2007: Icepocalypse.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Medical system

If I'm home sick for more than 3 days, I need a doctor's note to use sick time. (Nurses' notes tend to count.) Costs me $20 to prove I have a cold and need to wait it out.

It turns out that my employer will reimburse me for that copay. Which is kind. But it still seems like a waste of my doctor/nurse's time, if I don't have anything treatable.

And yet I see the point in making sure I'm not skiing in Idaho when I claim I'm home sick with the flu.

Although I'm still trying to get the insurance company to pay the rest of the bill for when I was sick in mid-November. Grr.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Tram Riding

I got to ride the Tram today. OMSI is partnering with OHSU to show Bodyworlds, so they invited us to ride the tram for free.

It's definitely a box swinging on a rope. A very strong rope. And unless they let you use a bus ticket to ride, it will be good for OHSU only, and useless for everybody else. If I could ride up for $2, I might use it to boost my bike to the top of the hill on the way home. Or bike to OHSU, then tram/streetcar around downtown. But $4? Just enough to make it a luxury.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Obama as Hegel

Having recently finished The Audacity of Hope, the "I'm running for president" book by Barack Obama, I'm struck by its thoughtful eloquence.

His essence is that of a law school professor. He thinks through the ideas of things, and is able to communicate that thought process clearly.

In particular, he has a clear expressive thought about our history. He describes honestly but with admiration the unity of the 50s. Then, how the 60s included more people in our society, but created anarchy in the process, and how the conservatives of today are striving for certainty in reaction/antithesis to that anarchy.

I hope he can synthesize a new, better way forward. I think he just might.

Whether you agree or disagree with him, it's good to have smart, eloquent people involved in our national dialogue.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Nixonian Presidency

So, not only does the President do signing statements and declare he has the right to listen to our phones, read our mail, and torture us.

He's firing all the federal prosecutors who might disagree.

Not even Nixon planned that well. He didn't fire the prosecutors until AFTER they came after him. Wow. If he could fire judges, you can be sure he'd do that, too.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

My recent travail

Did you know that the word travel and the word torture come from the same Latin root?

It's so true.

I have finally returned from my weeklong journey to the East Coast, Texas and back.


My first flight to Cincinnati was bumpy. Very bumpy. Roller coaster, falling for 2 seconds, motion sickness for the rest of the week bumpy.

And the Cincinnati airport is weird. Big waiting room with doors that don't have any relationship to a normal "gate". Confusing. Although they do have a cool bus between terminals that lets you get up close and personal to the planes. My dad would love that.

Once in DC, I had the experience of meeting people I've had phone calls with for months. I recognize their voices, but had to learn to attach their faces (and heights) to their personalities. We never imagine people looking like they actually do.

I had a great visit with my DC relatives, Al and Brian and Susan and Tim and Mary Jo. Al hosted us at his apartment and cooked us dinner.

When I left for Philadelphia, the delay between the subway and the Amtrak train was 10 minutes. Very smooth. I love riding the train. I even felt warm and fuzzy riding the Maryland commuter train from the airport into DC. If only I'd figured out that the hotel was one metro stop from National Airport, I might have paid more for the flight, but that's water under the bridge.

So I had a great visit with my 93 year old grandmother. We played a scrabble game where we each had over 300 points, with final scores separated by 9.
We also went for a walk outside, when it was 60 degrees, and saw many cardinals. When my mom visits next month, she should be happy.
And Uncle Ted came down from Conneticut, and it was a good visit.

Then it started snowing in Dallas.

So I call US Airways to check on my flight, to see if it's been canceled. LIES! They tell me it's still flying until I'm at the airport. They send me to - DC National Airport - because they lie and say a flight out of there will still happen. When I arrive, 15 minutes before the flight is scheduled to take off, the computer says it's on time, but doesn't list a gate. LIES! I talk to a person, and they admit it's been canceled. I'm not impressed by US Airways. They didn't cause the storm, but they didn't communicate well. I could have visited with my grandmother for many more hours.

But Al graciously hosted and fed me for the 12 hours I was stranded in DC. I'm sure sleeping in his guest room bed was much more comfortable than in the airport.
Cell phones are great!

So, the 6 AM flight to Ft. Worth/Dallas actually took place the next morning. The cab ride to the DC airport was quite nice, since the subway doesn't run that early in the morning. (Neither do most of the food concessions, so Al's fruit made a great breakfast.)

My suitcase didn't make it into Dallas until 16 hours later. It had several key props for my demos. And my clothes and toothpaste. The airport in Dallas is huge. And the new security rules screwed it up. If you have a ticket, there's a train between terminals. But if you are outside security, because you went to get your baggage, there's a very inconvenient shuttle bus. The place is huge, designed with Texan land use philosophy in mind. Which really sucks if two airlines are making you go back and forth between their terminals because you switched airlines to get there because one of them canceled all their flights but didn't tell you about it, and they didn't put your suitcase on your plane.

Not that I'm bitter.

In other news, taking a cab from DFW to a Ft. Worth hotel can cost $75!

Then we had a great science museum meeting. I got great suggestions for improving my demos, met colleagues, and got a lot of ideas for where the nano project will go next. TONGS!

We also spent one evening at the rodeo. Mostly, bull riding. Beginning with a very Texan prayer for a good show. Some impressive spectacle, impressive smells and impressive athletics. Little kids riding sheep, and horses with lots of haunch glitter.

So, then it started snowing in Portland.

I called American Airlines, and they admitted that my flight would be delayed. I ceased planning to arrive at the airport before others, and the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History staff drove a group of us to the airport. Very nice of them. Had a great networking meal in the giant, inconvenient airport. Departed 3 hours late, arrived 3 hours late. Which meant my church board meeting that had been scheduled to be 30 minutes late so I could come and help us reach a quorum was canceled. But since it wasn't entirely safe to drive outside, it was probably best everybody stayed home.

So, I'm home. I have all my belongings. But I can't get to work, because there's snow and ice on the road. They closed the museum yesterday, but are operating on regular hours today. Couldn't go with a 2 hour late opening, NO!

My car is resting against the fence at the bottom of my condo's parking lot.

But I'm doing well. I'm not on fire, I'm warm and fed. And I'm home.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Dragon sausage

Yes, you heard it here last.

Welsh Dragon Sausage will have to be renamed because they don't contain any actual dragon meat.

I've never seen the package, but I imagine it has something to do with the flag of Wales, land of my maternal ancestors.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Worst grossing movie ever

There's a movie out there that grossed 30 dollars. Wow. That's a total loss. 3-6 people saw it.

This website is trying to track down the people who saw it. If you care (Hi Mom!), you should know the webpage there swears a bit. You know, PG level cussing.

Zyzzyx Rd. What a bizarre movie. I don't think you could pay me to sit through that thing.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Roman Holiday

I saw the movie for the first time this week, and I find myself wondering whether journalists have an obligation to reveal their intent to their subjects.

Gregory Peck, journalist hangs out for the day with Audrey Hepburn, princess. He knows who she is, and she thinks she has him fooled, and that he's a manure importer.

I enjoyed the classic movie, with pretty darn good acting. But don't reporters have to tell people they're interviewing that they're reporters? Isn't it unethical to do a story on someone without revealing that you're the press? I should ask the friends of mine who are reporters.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Monkees equals Monkees

48 minutes into this episode of This American Life, (same one that has the subtext play) you hear an amazing list of rock bands compared to TV shows. U2 equals MASH, because they both got preachy at the end.

It's a selection from Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs written and read by Chuck Klosterman.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Good morning, Mr. President

So, in addition to reading our emails and listening to our phone calls, the President has declared he has the right to read our mail.

First, he did this in an unconstitutional signing statement. For a man who has vetoed exactly one law, it's enormously frustrating that he acts as though he can edit laws passed by the legislative branch of government.

More importantly, who do I see about the loss of my freedom? I feel like I have a reasonable expectation of privacy when I write a letter, make a phone call, send an email, or talk to my girlfriend. But that makes me an enemy combatant, without a right to a trial. Or the freedom to not be tortured.

I should demand my Democratic senators and congressman keep this nation democratic. I'd write a letter to the President, but since he's reading my email, apparently I don't need to.

Subtext play

25 minutes into this episode of This American Life, there's an awesome play.

It's a short play, all in subtext. No actual content, but a clear story nonetheless.


Thursday, January 4, 2007

Muslim Congressman uses Jefferson's Bible

Yes, the first Muslim US Congressman will take the oath of office with his hand on a Koran once owned by Thomas Jefferson. Ironically, the lead idiot who thinks this is a problem represents the area in Virginia where Jefferson was born.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007


I learned recently of the most popular language in Ethiopia, Amharic. It's a semitic language, apparently.

And the only one at Kaiser that they offer translators for which I'd never heard of before.