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Thursday, July 29, 2004  permanent URL for this entry

So this is just the coolest thing.

I signed up to drive some of the little (well, okay, not so little anymore) girls in the little (similarly) daughter's ballet class (including the little daughter) across the river for the dress rehearsal for the multi-group show they're doing on the weekend.

We were told it would be two hours and there wouldn't be anything for us drivers to do, so I brought along some books and some work, but in fact I'm just sitting here grinning like an idiot (well, and writing in my weblog, but that's a kind of grinning like an idiot).

The string ensemble is down in the pit warming up, or tuning up, or otherwise making that bright cacophony that musicians make when the audience isn't around.

There are a dozen little girls (young women) dancing sporadically on stage, and then suddenly stopping so people can put little bits of tape down where their toes are, or can look at each other (the bearded stage-manager type gesturing enigmatically back at the buzz-cut one sitting by the flat-panel computer in the middle of the audience, wearing the headphones, who nods).

The ballet teacher says "ONE two three, ONE two three", and some of the young women dance and some wander around in the wings, and from somewhere in the background there's an odd radio-filter voice (coming over the speakers? coming over someone's headset?) saying "we're a little behind... on-track to block the... okay the first position is..." just barely audible.

The houselights dim and brighten a few times, and another stage manager says things to the teacher.

Someone else turns around and starts talking loudly to the high ceiling behind me. "Jeff?", he says, "Jeff? That follow-spot?", and he makes a swirling motion with his hand behind his head, and something changes about the lights shining on the stage, and then they mostly go out entirely.

On the platform next to the stage, just where the seats end, a tall girl, woman, person, is doing that thing dancers do with their ankles, bouncing nonchalantly into the air, her hands at her hips, her face impassive.

This is all so routine for all of them, and I think that's what I love about it so much. Somehow all of this preparation (somewhere in the background there's a repetitive electronic beeping for thirty seconds, and then it stops; someone yells something that I can't understand out across the temporarily empty stage), all of this efficient and practiced getting-ready, is as appealing to me (in some way) as the performance itself will be.

(Now the strings are playing "The Entertainer", and a projector is showing slides on the backdrop at the rear of the stage, and people are walking in and out at the edges of the wings.)

Hm, maybe that's it. This is a performance, and one that all (or most of, or many of, or the most visible of) these people have practiced, have rehearsed for, considerable times before, and it certainly has its own beauty. And its own utility.

(I have to admit that in all but the best dance I tend to find things sort of arbitrary: they're moving gracefully over there, and now they're moving gracefully over here, but there's no compelling reason for it. Here, on the other hand, every movement has a purpose, every action is an arrow pointing toward Sunday night.)

(Now there are three rows of young women on the stage, with the lights warm and red, and the strings are playing poor Pachelbel's Canon in G, and the young women are doing graceful things and hardly stopping for blocking at all. I keep losing track of the little daughter; apparently whatever they've done to her hair has altered some of the clues that I use to pick her out of the crowd of similarly-dressed dancers.)

And it's a performance that no one wrote, except indirectly, and that no one thinks of as a performance, and that mostly just grew to be how it is. All of which should, and does, appeal to my love for the spontaneous, the accidental, the unplanned, the found object.

(Now, while the dancers in their maroon costumes continue dancing to the Canon, five others in frothy white gowns have come down between the seats and are on the platform beside the stage, unlit at the moment, and they're watching those dancing in the light, and one of them is turning small circles and bending at the waist.)

The dim lights that they bring up to let the dancers and the crew see their way around on the otherwise dark stage make lovely effects. I should have brought my camera.

("Do they start on stage or off?" "What are we looking for?" "Your cue for the next section will look like this." "Two scarves; they were here just five minutes ago." "I'll take a visual off of you." "One, two, three." The stage lights come up, and the strings start again, and one of the women in white, and then another, and two more, and finally the fifth, glide onto the stage. Apparently the missing scarves turned up.)

Now for awhile it's almost like the performance will be, with the strings playing for real and the dancers dancing for real without stopping; except that once in awhile their teacher calls out something from the edge of the pit where he's standing, and the stage managers walk here and there in front of the seats and in and out the doors, and the odd little radio voice mumbles in the background.

And then their teacher asks the leader of the strings to stop, and the music trails off, and the teacher says something not entirely kind to the dancers about what they should have been doing, which is unfortunate or sad or entirely normal but in any case part of the story, and then the teacher and the conductor (conductor?) exchange a few words, and the conductor calls out "One fourteen. One fourteen! One and..." and the music and the dancing start up again.

So perfect.

"Hoedown, stand by!"

"What's my cue for that?

Wednesday, July 28, 2004  permanent URL for this entry

Two more recently-finished books written up, and the writeups are hereby incorporated into this log entry by reference (i.e. they're most of what you're going to get out of me tonight). And again I wonder about just why I'm doing it. If I'm doing it for Folks, maybe I should have some kind of "recommended / not recommended" marks, or even little numerical ratings that you could sort by or something, so people could avoid wasting their time reading reviews of bad books that they weren't planning to read anyway.

Or not.

A reader writes:

Tell Dr. Plurp his readers miss him. Well, at least one reader, in any case.

Hear that, Plurpy?

While I can't swear to it, I have the vague impression that at least some of the Plurpster's silence is related to the comments the other week about his new laptop, and also related to the online multiplayer mode of certain twitchy computer games. But don't tell him I told you.

I happened onto the radio coverage of the Democratic National Convection today, and it was this guy declaiming that "ya ya YA YA YA, ya ya ya YA YA!!!" and all these people cheering, and I got extremely frightened and turned to something else. But I have to admit I'm rather enjoying reading Jessamyn and some of the other convention webloggers, probably for nerdy webloggian reasons more than for the whole Political Process thing.

And I find myself vaguely considering making up a "Libertarians for Kerry" bumper sticker to print up via the old Café Press store...

Tuesday, July 27, 2004  permanent URL for this entry

Lookee, our own Jessamyn West is one of them fancy Convention Bloggers at the Democratic Nationable Convention Thing! ("It's like Burning Man for Democrats, without the nudity or the drugs.") Woo-ha! NPR had a piece all about them and everything! And I still can't stand the word "blog"!

So who do you think they'll nominate?

Subject: Re: some yellowish, sparkling stone.

A really long time ago a reader wrote:

I've recently been playing Civ III, after many years of being devoted to Civ I and a few to Civ II, and aside from the obvious 'win condition' changes there seems to have been a serious change in the dynamic of the game. Previously it seemed to be relatively easy to dominate the world through strength of arms and production. In III, it seems that any prolonged conflict within a modern era results in almost totally unacceptable casualties on both sides - something which even the most beligerant AI recognises after a short spat. Mostly it was just your musings on what a war is which was trying to find some relational basis for comparison - Civ has very little in the sense of terrorist actions. But I'm left wondering about the statement that it's a different war than 'we've ever been in before'. To my mind (which you can call very simple if you like) it seems that it's a guerilla war; a war of infiltration and...um... well terrorism. I can remember a few incidents in the past that stick in my mind, but most readily remembered is the Brighton bombing - obviously not on the same scale as September 11th - but I was only 8 at the time and neither then, nor now does it seem like a war. War probably has to be between two nations or at least identifiable groups, I think (as you said); better to describe the situation as a conflict ? Um... I'm rambling. And in such a small box, too.

and I don't think I ever actually logged it (see, isn't "logged" a better word than (urgh) "blogged"?). This was the other month when we briefly dove into war and politics and stuff ("dove": I like that), and I'm not really planning to do that tonight, but still it's an interesting comment and I don't want it to fall forever between the cracks.

Similarly from between the cracks, a reader wrote:

Absolute most wicked dark scary wonderful piece of music you're likely to hear all day if you haven't gushed over it already and added it to your must-have list is Tricky's masterfully dense remix of Billie Holiday's 'Strange Fruit' on Verve Remixed. [link]

(That link probably only works if you have the iTunes itms: URL scheme handler installed. Scheme handlers frighten me. See also here. More music to buy...)

There's an old saying in Tennessee -- I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee -- that says, fool me once, shame on -- shame on you. Fool me -- you can't get fooled again.

From amptoons (some time ago), another artistic flash game piece, The Phone.

Funny story: a clueful climatologist said on Usenet that he wasn't planning to see that The Day After Tomorrow movie; in particular he said "I won't be seeing the film unless someone offers me say, $100". Well, the group as a whole called his bluff, raised the money, and he did see the movie (and he wrote a great review that I strongly suggest you read).

I do love the Net.

Monday, July 26, 2004  permanent URL for this entry

Sec. 1632. Limitation on jurisdiction
No court created by Act of Congress shall have any jurisdiction, and the Supreme Court shall have no appellate jurisdiction, to hear or decide any question pertaining to the interpretation of, or the validity under the Constitution of, section 1738C or this section.

Now that's an interesting bit of text, Constitutional Law Wise. Back when I was playing Agora Nomic, we'd often speculate about rules that defended themselves against modification or repeal in sneaky and interesting ways. And now here's one in the very U. S. Congress. Taking into account the politics of it, I certainly hope that the Senate just votes it down, or ignores it entirely (in that lovely condescending "silly Lower House!" way that they have). And being rather a fan of the Supreme Court, I'd rather the Congress didn't openly challenge its right to decide on the Constitutionality of laws. But from the more theoretical viewpoint, it'd be interesting to see the legal and case-law fallout if it did become law.

(So what would prevent every single law from ending with a section saying "No court created by Act of Congress shall have any jurisdiction, and the Supreme Court shall have no appellate jurisdiction, to hear or decide any question pertaining to the interpretation of, or the validity under the Constitution of, any section of this title of the U. S. Code"? If the majority thinks the law should be passed, why wouldn't the same majority also think it ought to be defended against "activist judges"? If laws can defend themselves by simple majority in this way, what role is left for the courts at all?)

I'm sad (but not surprised) to see that my Congressthing, Sue Kelly, goose-stepped right along with the rest of her party on this vote, as I think she invariably does. I have no evidence she's ever had an independent thought while in Washington, more's the pity.

I've seen vague hints in some stories on the "Marriage Protection Act" (aka "Marriage Prevention Act") to the effect that there have been similar acts attempted before; Nancy Pelosi's speech in opposition refers to attempts by the unlamented Jesse Helms to thus hide his favorite bills from the courts, and the role of Barry Goldwater (the sane kind of conservative) in stopping them. She also mentions that the author of the MPA disagrees with the historical interpretation of Marbury v. Madison, the case that established the principle that it is the proper role of the courts to decide on the Constitutionality of the laws.

And a little Googling shows that she's quite correct. In this speech, Hostettler (the author of the MPA) takes the position that, while it is proper for the courts to express opinions about the Constitutionality of laws, the rest of the government is free to ignore those opinions. According to this legal theory, if the legislature passes a law and the courts find it unconstitutional, the legislature can effectively say "says you", and continue on regardless.

This makes me nervous, as it would erode (or completely remove) the court's role as a protector of the Constitutional rights of minorities (of whatever kind) against the momentary whims of the electorate, or the election-time grandstanding of the legislature. I wonder what Rep. Hostettler thinks would fill that role if his view of the judiciary's role were in force? I wonder if he's thought about the question in those terms at all. (I wonder if he's actually thought about anything beyond pandering to the rabidly anti-gay religious right with a purely symbolic bill that he knows will never become law; but that's just me being cynical.)

I do like the Supreme Court. Their traditions, their attention to precedent and logic, their leisure to think about things, their comparative distance from the daily press of politics and election cycles. But maybe Hostettler is right in some sense, and we'd be better off without them. Maybe if we didn't have the Supremes, and the Federal Court System in general, to remind us about how those high-minded Constitutional phrases that we all love in the abstract also apply in individual cases ("equal protection means equal protection for them too??"), maybe then we would have internalized these thoughts ourselves, and carefully elected legislators who would always put the Constitution above this week's poll numbers, rather than relying on the Courts to keep them honest.

Yeah, maybe.

- 1 for "anna"
- 1 for "anna pawlowska"
- 1 for "blow jobs"
- 1 for "cam"
- 1 for "iris chacon"
- 1 for "mia"
- 1 for "perdido"
- 1 for "sex"
- 1 for "tanya harding"

From NTK, a lovely random collection of found photos that some dude has harvested from p2p directories. (He must be filtering out the porn, eh?)

I went to the dentist today. Ick, yet again. Take my usual remarks about the hideously primitive technology as read, and add a note about how annoying it is when the hygienist spends ten minutes jabbing sharp metal spikes into one's gums, and then notes chidingly "your gums are bleeding a bit", as though that were surprising, or somehow my fault.

This time they sent me home with (the usual silly little bag containing a toothbrush and some floss, but also) a tongue scraper. Apparently one should now scrape one's tongue at least once a day. Why does this not wildly raise my opinion of modern dental technology?

Now serving:

Reading more than the abstract of a Salon article still requires either membership or the "watch an ad and get a day pass" action which I'm not willing to take tonight. Oh well.

Sadly, Salon wants me to become a Premium Member in order to follow your links. Me, I'm unwilling to become even a Disparaging Member.


David Chess (much more clued than Philip Greenspun)

Golden showers!

That's funny!

Sunday, July 25, 2004  permanent URL for this entry

Given the obsession with detail and accuracy (or nominal accuracy) shown by the cognoscenti in other areas, it is surprising, or perhaps completely unsurprising, that on certain topics it was officially forbidden to claim knowledge. While a few graduate students every year were sufferred to investigate around the edges of these taboo questions, no one in the circle of serious scholars of The One would ever put forward an actual opinion on any of them; anyone doing so would be immediately marked as a quack, a pretender, a poseur.

The list of officially insoluble issues was maintained by silent consensus, not by enumeration, but among them were:

  • The actual events of the night before The One's twenty-third birthday, and the number of people involved,
  • The source of The One's lifelong fear of spotted dogs,
  • The proper interpretation of the lyrics to "Mutton-Eye Joe" (except for the third stanza, in which "a string of lima beans" is clearly a reference to the Cold War),
  • The contents of the Leather Case,
  • The subject of the disagreement that finally broke up The One's romance with Angela, Queen of the Malibu Hills.

So mostly today I've written up notes on four of the books from the Finished pile here; so now you can read them (and I can return "War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning" to Bill).

I'm torn between wanting these book notes to be actual worthwhile reviews with substance to them (that'd be work, and would probably become a burden, and I'm not in the market for burdens just now) and wanting them to be just whatever the heck words that I feel like writing down to officially record that I've finished the book and maybe remind me what it was like if I'm ever curious in the future (but then why would I bother putting them on the Web? but of course everything is on the Web).

Anti-Bayesian spam content o' the Week:

Enoch pleased God, and beefsteak God translated him so that he gloria did not see death disposable. He was dedicated to frizzle God. For the last ligature seven days, what have you carried morbid in your mind? What king of thoughts schwab langley have you entertained? I don't mean what kind background of thoughts just dated through, perfumery but what kind did you keep?

Beefsteak God and frizzle God, what have you carried morbid in your mind?

There's a new Crypto-Gram that you should read. It contains the Quote o' The Week:

[T]hese devices can store a lot of data. But so can DVDs. And CDs. And before that, floppies held a lot of data. (Data was smaller then.)

That "Data was smaller then", that's the Quote o' The Week.

So meaningless, yet so true.

Saturday, July 24, 2004  permanent URL for this entry

How important is, or what is the significance of, sitting and writing down what happens, or what has happened, even when that what is relatively ordinary? It's famously annoying (what I dreamed last night, what the cat did, what I had for lunch; all prototypically lame weblog entries for instance); on the other hand people do it all the time.

(Maybe it's sort of like sex: something that people (at least many people) enjoy so much that we need institutions or rules or at least famous lameness to counterbalance it and keep people from doing it all the time to the exclusion of all else.)

So anyway, we're back from vacation, which is where we were. We visited the little daughter on Visiting Day at F and W, and then we drove up to Middlebury, Vermont and stayed there for a few days (at the Inn, right on the Green, very nice), touristing in Middlebury and Shelburne and so on, and then we drove back down to Plymouth and stayed overnight at our usual motel and picked up the little daughter and brought her home. (And we were antisocial and didn't visit anyone not a member of the immediate family.)

And now here we are!

(And for I think the first time since all this started there's a week that will be entirely absent from the archives; ooh!)

I was basically off the Net for a week. I'm behind in the news, and for that matter I keep forgetting the date. I read lots of books, and bought lots of books. I have all sorts of stuff I've been thinking about and would like to write about, including notes on this big pile of finished books that's accumulating next to the bed. But it's getting late and there are still things to do, so I probably won't do much of that.

At the head of the basement stairs there's a little closet that the former owners kept spare paper and plastic bags in, and that we've always kept spare paper and plastic bags in, and when the little closet gets fullish the door tends to pop open.

There's a little turnbolt (if that's the word I'm looking for) at the top of the door, and a little slot in the door for the bolt to bolt into and keep the door from popping open. But ever since we bought the house the turnbolt has been in the Open position (not helping keep the closet door from popping open), because at some point before we moved in someone painted it over, and it wouldn't turn. It's bothered me ever since we've been here.

So the other day (shortly before we left for Vermont), amid a spate of basement cleaning and general atom-wrangling, I took a knife and some WD-40 to the paint and the turnbolt, and in about a minute and a half it was freed up and turning and holding the closet door from popping open and all like that.

Time spent fixing the problem: 90 seconds. Time spent being annoyed by it and working up the energy and attention to fix it: nine years. *8)


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