Monthly Archives: June 2003

messages/identification

This is of course not an appropriate forum for personal messages. However, I don’t intend to let that stop me.

Jeremiah Spur: The answer to your IM question may be suggested by the fact that I was in lab at the time you sent it. Being in lab on a Friday night is especially annoying; it’s not like I had a date tonight or anything, but that’s the night I’d really rather be at home with my feet up. (Or right ankle.)

The person waving and calling what sounded like my name from a car window at Shattuck and Center: Apparently your eyesight is better than mine, as I was unable to recognize you. Let me know who you are, because now I’m curious.

Rocket Scientists: I’ll see if I can drop in to Planetside tomorrow. (I don’t think any of you are reading this, though.)

The Forces of Chaos: Damn you, my ankle hurts.

followup/healing

For those of you concerned about my health – the pain in my ankle is down by an order of magnitude, and I’m no longer walking like Verbal Kint. It’s not completely healed by any means, but it definitely wasn’t a very serious injury.

With all the weeping and gnashing of teeth I do here about our goverment, it’s nice to see them get something right. Today the Supreme Court reaffirmed the constitutional right to privacy. I’d like to see such a right go in explicitly as an amendment, so there wouldn’t be any question about it, but realistically decisions like this are the best case. Justice Scalia points out in his dissent that this decision would open the door for gays to be married and serve in the military, and render state laws against masturbation(!) unconstitutional. Oddly, he seems to regard these as arguments against the decision.

excuses/twists

The Forces of Chaos have arrayed against me again, this time to prevent me from going to karate practice. (Last month they tried, unsuccessfully, to prevent me from finishing the semester.)

I twisted my ankle while performing the incredibly complex task of walking down stairs. Since the ensuing pain turned even my walk to the BART into a long and arduous trek, I doubt I’ll be donning my gi tomorrow night.

Since I have to walk around on the edge of my right foot to walk at all, maybe I should consider it fumikomi practice.

linkage/random

This update will be a big pile of randomness. Are we in another Week of Chaos? Or is it just the beginning?

First, around the web:

Vectors of Justice: Somebody proves mathematically what we already knew: there are fewer than five independent minds on the Supreme Court. In addition, almost every decision can be decomposed into a linear combination of (approximately) a unanimous decision and (approximately) the particular 5-4 split that occurred in Bush v. Gore, among others.

Politics and Physics: the perfect Doonesbury strip (as far as this page is concerned).

Harry Potter: I’ve been holding off on the new Harry Potter book – too many other things to do. If I do get around to reading it I’ll probably make some effort to get a British edition (assuming there are still differences). Does ordering from amazon.co.uk work from the US? Also, someone tell Tycho about Amazon. (I love the shadowy, wide-eyed figures in the background of the second panel.)

Summer Fashions: I’ve seen some nice t-shirts lately, and won’t be surprised if I start seeing these designs on Telegraph Avenue. Hmm, I could use some apparel for the Alaska trip…

Everybody and His Big Brother: It’s George Orwell’s 100th birthday, and William Gibson has a NYTimes op-ed piece on the subject of Orwell and the idea of the transparent society. (David Brin has written about this as well.) The concept is that surveillance technology is cheap and available (I’m thinking X10 wireless cameras here) so anybody can be watching, rather than just Big Brother.

And the remainder of our program, some non-Internet items of interest:

Golden Sun: I guess I’m about a year behind the times, but I finished this last weekend and started the sequel. As I guessed earlier, the ending is basically “Please insert disc 2″ except disc 2 is the Golden Sun 2 cartridge. Not having my older model GBA and link cable in Oregon, I painstakingly transcribed the 260-character password required to transfer my data and then entered it properly on the second try. Anyway, it’s a fun little RPG with emphasis on puzzles and treasure-hunting (yes!).

The Da Vinci Code: In reading this book I frequently found myself wishing the boring action scenes would end so the characters would get back to talking about art. The book is chock-full of well-researched data about medieval secret societies and hidden messages in works of art, which is all very fascinating. Unfortunately it has to have a plot to go with it, which is not nearly so interesting. I found myself wishing I could read the protagonist’s scholarly writings on the subject instead, but The Da Vinci Code makes a decent substitute.

Karate Practice: Starts Thursday. Really!

report/ashland

Shakespeare Festival Report!

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival was fantastic, as usual. I could probably go on and on about it but I’ll try to restrict it to a few comments on each of the plays.

Romeo and Juliet: I never used to like this play when we had to read it in high school; I tended to agree with my tenth grade math teacher that the tragic outcome hinged primarily on stupidity on the part of most of the major characters, especially Friar Lawrence. On this viewing it seemed that the problem was more part of a consistent pattern of overly hasty and drastic actions by the eponymous pair, and Romeo in particular. This is a guy who hangs around his mortal enemy’s compound at night in the hopes of getting a glance at some chick he just met at a party. (Romeo, in today’s world we would call you a stalker.) Is it any wonder that he’s also the sort of person who will run off to Juliet’s tomb and take poison without a second thought? He seems like the obsessive type in general – it’s not clear that his feelings for Juliet are at all different from those for Rosaline in Act I, except that in the former case they are requited.

The play was presented in modern costume, with an urban gang look – not so original, I guess, since the 1996 movie took a similar approach. The set was very minimalist and stark – empty white floor and white walls angled towards the rear of the stage. The walls had “IN FAIR VERONA” written across them in huge thin letters. At the back was either a clock or a gigantic photo of Juliet, which was a little creepy. Visually the set was much more impressive than the costumes, creating a sense of conflict and creeping doom.

Richard II: This play is hindered by having too straightforward a plot (compared to the Machiavellian twists of my favorite of the histories, Richard III): Angry, exiled noble raises an army and overthrows the unpopular reigning king. After his removal from office Richard bitches endlessly until some guys put him out of his misery, presumably while wearing earplugs.

There are some familiar themes here, though. We have an unserious ruler who believes he has been chosen by God and launches a war he can’t pay for against a weak nation (Ireland) to rob it of its resources. Meanwhile he ignores growing domestic trouble and real foreign treats.

On the other hand, Richard takes land and money from a wealthy family, so the parallel only goes so far.

The production itself was very solid, and did a good job with what was dry material compared with the rest of the season’s offerings. The costumes were fairly medieval looking, with lots of guys in chain mail and wearing swords.

Hedda Gabler: This is the only play we saw not by Shakespeare (it’s by Henrik Ibsen). It took me a while to realize that I’d seen at least some of this before. Only the second half was very familiar, and I realized I’d seen it at Caltech. Is it possible TACIT performed just the last two acts? Mohi would know, but I believe she’s in India at the moment, so she can’t tell me.

The costumes were period, and it seems like this one would be somewhat tough to modernize, since it relies so much on the social customs of the time it was written. The set was nicely done; the setup in the rear of the stage just hinted at french doors and autumn trees in the backyard.

There’s a lot going on in this play and I don’t feel like I’ve completely digested it yet, so I won’t have much to say. It did remind me of something I read on Plastic about borderline personality disorder, and I wonder if Hedda could be so diagnosed. I’m probably way off on that one, though.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream: This is another one that has never been one of my favorites. For one thing, the “Pyramus and Thisby” play-within-a-play always seemed tacked-on, since all the major conflicts have been resolved at that point. Also, the effects of the fairy magic have in the past struck me as more cruel than humorous.

This production, though, was absolutely amazing. It was by far the best one we saw this year, and I was laughing at even the parts I don’t usually find funny. The four main characters were hyperactive and over-the-top, which helped tremendously – it’s hard to feel sorry for Hermia when she’s treating Lysander in a manner reminiscent of Lina Inverse’s relationship with Gourry. (Wouldn’t the Slayers characters in an anime version of Midsummer Night’s Dream be awesome? Xellos would make a great Puck.) Oberon was especially entertaining, which was quite a surprise.

The costumes had something of a fantasy 19th century look to them, perhaps appropriate to a stage version of Alice in Wonderland. Theseus was wearing an outfit that wouldn’t look out of place on an anime villain. One interesting interpretation was a strong parallel drawn between the courts of Theseus and Oberon. The actors playing Theseus, Hippolyta, and Philostrates did double duty with Oberon, Titania, and Puck (respectively).

I still think “Pyramus and Thisby” is tacked-on, but it was very funny.

Antony and Cleopatra: Every year there’s at least one play I would have liked to have seen but didn’t. This year it was Antony and Cleopatra. Last year was Macbeth.

Tomorrow I may comment on some non-play things I experienced over the last few days, like the end of Golden Sun, The Da Vinci Code, and a white water rafting trip. And maybe… KARATE PRACTICE???

random/golden

I will be at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival tomorrow through Sunday. I’ll probably be more or less without an Internet connection for that period, so it’s likely I won’t be updating until Monday.

The djinn I was missing in Golden Sun turns out to have been in the secret dungeon that I missed. I only discovered this after reaching the final boss and resorting to a FAQ. (I knew that was final dungeon music! Don’t ask me how, although I guess it sounds a bit like Secret of Mana’s. I earlier managed to identify the music composer as the incomparable Motoi Sakuraba, after recognizing certain signature elements in the port town music that were giving me Star Ocean 2 flashbacks. This explained why my playing Golden Sun mysteriously coincided with a rapidly developing urge to replay The Greatest Game of All Time. I’m on Chapter 3 now, and Llewellyn sucks.)

So once I grab this djinn and return to demolish the final boss with my now-overpowered characters, it’ll be reassuring to know that Golden Sun 2 is already out. Especially since the first one only ends about halfway through the story; as far as I can tell from my incomplete perspective, the sequel picks up the rest, with an interesting twist. I was looking at the package in the store, and checked out a screenshot which displayed the character names in battle. “Can this be right? Those are the bad guys!”

This is probably interesting to very few of you, so I’ll quit now. I’ll look more sophisticated on Monday, when I’m talking about Shakespeare plays instead of video games.

recommendation/fathers

Need a last-minute Father’s Day gift? Why not get your dad a copy of the hot new mystery novel that’s flying off the shelves?

No, not The Da Vinci Code. I refer of course to The Night of the Dance, a book your dad will be sure to enjoy.

Unfortunately I think my dad already has a copy or two, so I’m giving him free Web advertising. This way he can reach the coveted market of people who search in Google for “gazebo’s”.

Happy Father’s Day!

linkage/justice

Terrible weather today – terrible to be stuck in lab, that is. It’s also terrible weather in the lab, where all the pumps are running, but the A/C is off for some reason, so it’s rather warm and we can’t close up the pump box to suppress the noise (since they’ll overheat). In this atmosphere, I’m continuing the recent torrent of posts. While I’m waiting on a calibration, here’s some linkage. Today’s topic: justice in the United States.

Some of you may remember the arrest of American citizen Jose Padilla a year ago. Word from the Justice Department was that he had been plotting a “dirty bomb” attack, but he has not since been charged with any crime. Instead he has been held as an “enemy combatant” for a year, without access to a lawyer. Why don’t more people care about this? Because he’s a “bad guy”? Because we can trust the Justice Department to do the right thing, and if they do it without transparency or regard for the Constitution it’s for the right reasons? I thought I lived in the land of the free, here. If he’s guilty, charge the bastard and give him a trial like everybody else.

Salon has a piece up about the implications of a Bush appointment to the Supreme Court this term. How does it look for the democratic process if, having been appointed as President by conservatives on the SCOTUS, Bush turns around and appoints a like-minded replacement for one or two of these justices? Not so good, concludes the author, and he suggests that either no one should retire from the court in the next 18 months, or Bush should hold off on an appointment until he has an actual electoral mandate. The piece rightly notes that neither scenario is likely.

And while we’re on the subject of judicial appointments, Bush’s nominee for the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, William Pryor, is a real man for the new millennium – if the year were 1003. Echoing a number of other commentators, I have to wonder where they find these guys. And who he’s considering for the next SCOTUS vacancy. If this weren’t such an anti-cloning administration, I’d conjecture that even now they’d be searching for DNA from Joseph McCarthy, or perhaps Torquemada, in order to grow the perfect candidate for a U.S. judgeship.

rant/foundations

Kenneth L. Woodward writes in the New York Times today about how shocked he is that the godless Europeans decided not to mention Christianity in the preamble to the EU constitution. “[T]he eliding of the Christian foundations of Western culture is morally and intellectually dishonest,” he says, and he should know, since he’s obviously the master of intellectual dishonesty. Check this out:

And it was the canon law of the Catholic Church, the oldest legal system in the West, that nurtured respect for law long before the rise of Europe’s nation-states.

Interesting idea, but I heard there was something called the Roman Republic, and I seem to recall that they had laws – and people even respected them! And I bet if you go back further you find other states with laws. I’m sure what he meant was “oldest surviving legal system”, but given his argument, eliding that qualifier is rather intellectually dishonest, don’t you think?

That bit, though, is just stupidly disingenuous. It’s not astonishingly offensive, like the next paragraph:

In the language of the French Enlightenment, the preamble extols Europe’s “underlying humanism: equality of persons, freedom, respect for reason.” But as we all know, these “humanist” values, separated from religious faith, crumbled in the blitzkrieg and disappeared at Auschwitz.

That’s right, he’s saying what you think he’s saying. Joe Lieberman is content to claim that there’s no morality without religion, but this guy takes the next logical step in suggesting that atheism caused the Holocaust.

I don’t know where people get this idea that atheists are evil. Nevertheless, Woodward is in good company with his notion that morality requires a religious foundation. I’m sure he’d agree with the man who said, “Secular schools can never be tolerated because such a school has no religious instruction and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith…. We need believing people.”

However, in considering the notion that the crimes of Auschwitz were due to a lack of religious foundation, we should take note of another quote from the same man, “Therefore, I am convinced that I am acting as the agent of our Creator. By fighting off the Jews, I am doing the Lord’s work.” That’s from his book, Mein Kampf.

Update: I am still not done with this guy, even after comparing him to Hitler. (He was the one who started tossing the Godwin-bait around in the first place, anyway.) Anyway, what I logged back in to say is: Given that Christianity’s contributions to the European heritage include the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, witch-hunts, and the suppression of a slew of major scientific and cultural advancements, no wonder they want to just skip over it!

announcement/bond

I’m back online at home.

I got the letter today saying today was my activation date. I suppose part of my monthly DSL fee pays for the pastel colors that are splashed all over their correspondence. Anyway, it turned out that I had to call tech support and have them read over the phone an ID, password, and web address so that I could re-register my account information. Isn’t all that a little excessive? Are they worried about Ernst Blofeld stealing my DSL and using it for nefarious purposes or something?

“Do you expect me to talk?”

“No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to dial-up!

(Yeah, I know that was Goldfinger and not Blofeld.)