Saturday, July 29, 2006

Phillip-Morris Does Not Approve!

Scientists are developing a vaccine for nicotine!

STORY

The drug is intended to prevent nicotine from reaching the brain and activating the pleasurable response associtated with smoking a cigarette. It may not work; they're currently doing prelimary testing.

But if it does, I predict that the smoking companies will not be thrilled. They'll move quickly to quash it. Expect a hostile buyout and a study that links the vaccine to impotence and flaming anal leakage.

Friday, July 28, 2006

I met my twin....he may or may not be evil.

I made a trip to St. Louis today. As I was leaving Kansas City, I noticed that there was a green Honda following my green Honda. Behind the wheel was a guy, wearing glasses, with blond hair. He looked a lot like me. It was a strange coincidence. Perhaps everyone who's like me drives a green Honda. Or maybe he does, and all of us are like HIM. That's disconcerting.

I got passed on the highway by a small car. Came flying around, doing probably 20 MPH faster than I was and recklessly driving (car threatening to go on two wheels as he whipped around traffic). His bumper sticker said "Don't Worry: God will take care of it." I pondered the strange juxtposition of this information.

As soon as I got off the highway, even through closed windows and air conditioning, I heard the cicadas. I didn't realize I *wasn't* hearing them in Kansas until I heard them here. Strange.

My wonderful tape adapter I used with my MP3 player managed to last 3/4s of one trip home. It worked all the way back to Kansas City last time, but died halfway across the state this time. Frustrating. The sockets no longer spin, so the player thinks the tape is at the end, and kicks it out. Over and over. Darn it.

I passed by the filling station that always reminds me of the trip when I crossed the state while reading a Cosmopolitan (or Redbook, I forget). A fascinating look at the field biological research of women concerning men and concerning women. My traveling companion assured me that, Yes, the magazine was right: turtlenecks are bad, as are horizontal stripes.

I had no idea. That's two strikes, Ernie.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Making something ELSE feel insignificant

My last post with incredibly unbelievable numbers was focused on fantastically, astronomically huge concepts. Now, I'll do the thing that....ummm....the other thing that's not that.

I don't know how many of you care about computing parts, but remember that it wasn't that long ago when computers filled buildings, used vacuum tubes, and ran on paper punch cards. Today, INTEL released its latest generation of microprocessors for personal computers. They aren't kidding about the "micro". The new chips contain spectacularly small parts. Parts of circuits are now mass-manufactured at 65 nanometers. One hundred transistors could fit on a red blood cell. The chip contains 291 million transistors.

I can't even begin to comprehend the technology involved in creating something that small, repeatedly, on the millions of processor chips that INTEL will eventually make. How small does your solder gun and hammer have to be to create stuff that small? Obviously, there's no way a human could accomplish it. The slightest hand jolt would destroy millions of transistors!

A single transistor at 65 nanometers is about 10 times as small as a single wavelength of green light.

For more perspective, I point you to the original mind-blowing science class film. "Powers of Ten" The special effects may be a little cheesy, compared to George Lucas' ability to digitally remove all the fun and magic from his space opera, but it's still amazing.

This short film isn't about gigantic numbers, but it is thought-provoking. It's a little slow, and it's British, but don't let that turn you off.

And, if you REALLY want to have your head messed with, I encourage you to contemplate the infinity of all possibilities of existence in an inifinite number of universes (what's the plural of "universe"? I suppose there isn't one.). You'll need the current version of Flash Player. Just follow the navagation bar to "Imagining the Ten Dimensions."

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

I have completed the paper.

After saving the final copy of my research paper in preparation for printing tomorrow morning, I felt my concentration rushing out of me. I am now a minor expert on Dmitri Shostakovich up to World War II. I savor the taste of victory.

In case you're wondering, this particular victory metaphorically tastes like cookie dough ice cream, which I supplemented by ACTUALLY indulging in cookie dough ice cream. I have manifested my desires and acted on them. Nietzsche would be proud (Der Wille zur Ice Cream).

Now, to bed.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Three-fourths Generic American

75% General American English
10% Yankee
5% Dixie
5% Upper Midwestern
0% Midwestern


From the results of a language quiz. I suppose this makes me generally understandable, to a large portion of the population, with no significant regional dialect. I am your typical generic American. Have your photo taken with me! I wonder how I got away with growing up in the Midwest but escaping the language.

But what's really important is what I call that fizzy, sweet drink you get with value meals at McDonald's.

That's what really matters.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Another Day, another heap of spam

When I left my undergraduate college, I knew they were going to disconnect my email address. I signed up through one of the major "free" carriers, and I've carried that email along with me as the closest thing I have to a "permanent" email But it's got spam. Lots. Of. Spam. At some point, I must have plugged it into an unscrupulous website, or someone ELSE did (wittingly or no).

It receives, on average, about 800-1000 pieces of spam a day. My great sanity-saver is that Yahoo does an excellent job of filtering. Most go straight to the Bulk Folder. I hope no one ever sends me anything that's mistaken for spam, because it goes in with all the other refuse. I simply don't have the time to sort through it all.

Occasionally, a piece will slip through the filter and end up in my inbox. It's usually pretty obvious that it's spam, and as a rule, I never open attachments that are sent to me, unless I double check with the sender.

There's been a new trend in my filter-dodging Spam, though. I don't know if it's fiendishly clever, or moronically stupid. This trend is spam without a purpose. Usually, Spam is trying to get you to use their services for prescription drugs, refinancing, etc... Here's the latest piece of spam I got.

Subject: Home is where the heart is zlevzw
Sender: Jannie Bryant [janniebryant20495@xxxxxxxx.xxx]


HOMEOWNERS -- REFINAANCE NOW!

Consolidate your bills, minimize montly mortggage payments and save a lot more than before.

Apply Now no matter of your past credit - especially if you are in bankruptcy
or Foreclosure - for only Cash Out or Consolidate Bills household refinaance l0an


Internet Qualification is FREEE
with no catch

pocus moment boastful abdicate heroin.. sanction.sandburg.


abe.


There was no link included. There is no return address. There was no attachment, or HTML coding, or anything other than a few lines of text. How can anyone make money from this? I assume the whole point of Spam is to make money, but I can't imagine how anyone could from this. Are they just hoping that by seeing this, I'll think, "You know, I should refinance! Ethel, fetch me the phonebook" and call up my local financial agent?

I do like the little Dadaist poem there at the end about boastful heroin. Very telling imagery. I should end my posts that way.

pandowdy noblesse myriapod cogent skald..,3 gossa8mer tropology manga&

P.S. The '8' in gossamer is silent, in case you were reading out loud.

P.P.S. Since most search engines work by indexing complex words from webpages, I may be in for some interesting search traffic. Just like when I mention a three letter word that begins with 's' and ends with 'ex'. Horrible things come out of the depths of the Internet when you use that word lightly.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

July 23....Age 28

Today is my birthday. I'm 28 years old. As they say, you're only as old as you feel. I don't feel like I'm 28. Age has been almost completely irrelevant to me. As I was saying to someone last night, for most of my primary education, I was young. Having a summer birthday can sometimes do that to you. So I ended up at the low end of my age bracket, and was one of the last to get my driver's license.

Now I'm old, relative to my classmates. I'm doing doctoral study, and most of my academic contemporaries are undergraduates and masters candidates. That makes me the old man on the totem pole. I don't mind that, though. Age isn't a measure of someone's value, according to my way of thinking.

And in some ways, I'm quite young. Hopelessly naive and trusting. I am perennially surprised by bad behavior. Foolishly optimistic. Eternally hopeful. Forgiving.

So, really, my age is nothing more than a signpost. It lets me know where I am. But on its own, a sign doesn't do anything. It doesn't show me where to go. I don't plan my trips from one signpost to another.

Since I'm immersed in writing a research paper, I'm glad to be typing about something other that Shostakovich. Here are some interesting links I found, relating to my birthday or my age.

A Unfortunate 28 Year-Old - I'll take "Natural Beauty" for $1,000.00

Bankrupt - 38,000 pounds is a lot of money.

Today in History - Ice Cream Cone Invented (Maybe)

I also found a site with a lot of mail-order Russian brides available. Many were 28 years old. I chose not to link it. The Internet is a scary place.

I've been having a lot of conversations about maturity lately. People wishing they had some, wishing OTHER people had more, etc. I'm starting to wonder if "maturity" isn't simply taking the time to consider how my actions might effect other people. I don't neccesarily need to change what I'm doing; just being able to put my mind in their circumstance seems to be enough.

Is maturity just a form of situational awareness?

Saturday, July 22, 2006

"Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they do not understand,

but the passages that bother me are those I do understand."

--Mark Twain


Would you like to see something I find horribly offensive and indescribable disgusting? I promise there isn't anything gory or otherwise "horror film" about it. It's just a small group of people who are terribly and sadly goal-oriented.

Article from Harper's Magazine

The author collected some postings from a "Rapture Ready" message board. They concern people finding a reason to get excited about the current unrest between Israel and Lebanon. I'm not even going to comment on the ghoulish nature of such thoughts. I'm more concerned with the mental state of someone who believes it.

At one of my previous universities, there was an administrative assistant who I had contact with on a daily basis. She was in charge of assigning my work-study workload. She was a nice lady, a mom who loved her daughter, and always cheerful. I think one day she was reading a "Left Behind" novel. I commented on her choice of reading, and she said something to the effect of "oh, it's very interesting. Especially since it's going to happen one day."

Like putting too much current through a light bulb, my brain shorted out. I put my lips together, nodded, and went about licking more fundraising envelopes. The longer I sat there, the more I stared a hole in the wall. "Maybe she was joking?" I thought to myself. "Surely she doesn't believe in this work of fiction?"

How do you live your life expecting the world to end? Is there any reason to try to improve the world we live in, if it's just going to be handed over to Satan? Some of these zealots don't care about pollution. They're not concerned about it; they may even welcome it. If anything, it just adds even more proof that the world is going to end.

Why are these people so excited? Sure, it sends some people off to heaven. And I guess it promises an end to mortal suffering if you're one of the few drinking the proper Kool-Aid flavor. But what sort of person is in a hurry to get there? If you live a full life and die, you'll probably go to Heaven. Why be excited to have your life cut short? It's like getting excited about suicide. Except you aren't ending your life. God is doing it for you.

Are these the kind of people who, if there were a giant asteroid heading for earth, wouldn't be interested in funding research on how to push it out of the way? They'd be the ones attacking NASA with torches and pitchforks for attempting to interfere in "the plan."

I don't want people to think that the world could end at any time. That sort of quasi-defeatist attitude is scary. I want people to think it's NOT going to happen soon. I want us all to be struggling to improve ourselves, understand each other, and reaching for the unattainable when the Celestial Oven Timer goes off. POP, we're all in Heaven.

"Oh, that was today! I guess I'll need to finish making that lasagna up here."

Friday, July 21, 2006

Familiar, but not.

I watched The Hours this evening. I didn't know anything about the movie, other than I remember it being mentioned a few years ago concerning Academy Awards. It's a moving film. More than any other movie I've seen lately, the acting was so natural that it made me feel as though I was just watching things happening through a window.

The movie is chock-full of good actors. A theme seems to have been hiding them behind all sorts of masks. The most famous is probably Nicole Kidman's false nose, which does amazingly change everything about her face. More than that, I was amazed at Ed Harris, who's character is dying from AIDS. He looks awful. Beyond the makeup, in retrospect I'm fascinated with his body language.

Even the small roles are excellent. Jeff Daniels, who is playing a character so different from what I'm used to that I had to try to figure out if it actually was him. Allison Janney, who has a short amount of screen time but manages to give her character a place in the film, such that it would be less without her.

The press (and even the back of the DVD box) talk about this film being a meditation on suicide. That is certainly a powerful force throughout. But it seems to me it's more about choices. Choices, and who we live our lives for.

All of the characters have to make choices. Choices about whether or not to continue living their lives the way they have until that point. It seems to me that this is the sort of movie some would consider depressing, but I found it largely life-affirming.

Not to mention that it gives me plenty to mull over. I love that about movies. Unfortunately, I'm starting to expect superior quality from my movies; I may be setting my standards too high, or setting myself up for disappointment if I accidently see something awful or even mediocre.

I was telling someone earlier today about going to the movies with a date who was astounded that we actually watched the movie. She'd never gone to a movie on a date and had that happen. I, naive as ever, couldn't imagine paying 20-some dollars (total) and not watching the movie.

No doubt I missed the point, as always.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

We need not fear the machines yet


After trying to install a virus scanner, my computer began seriously misbehaving. The problems have become so bad I need to shuffle everything important off my computer and give it forced amnesia. Luckily, it comes with a function that allows me to undo everything good and bad that has ever happened to it. It reverts to the condition on the day I bought it.

The tedious part will be tracking down all the information that I don't want to lose. I'm not worried, because I'm totally paranoid about losing data. This means I'm extra careful about looking in all the nooks and even some of the crannys. It seems strange to not be worried because of paranoia, but there you go.

If I don't get a chance to update, that will probably be the reason.

Oh, thank goodness!

STORY

A bunch of jellyfish clogged part of the salt water cooling system used by a Japanese nuclear reactor. This lowered the efficiency of the system designed to remove waste heat. As a result, the plant reduced capacity by 30% or so until the jellys could be removed. Power production was restored to full later in the evening.

It's sort of a non-story, except for the fact that there's something humorous about jellyfish, I guess. But what caught my attention is a quote from the site spokesperson.

"No radioactive material leaked out due to the incident."

Gosh, I hope not! I guess when you work at a nuclear plant, you have to be sure to let everyone know everytime something goes wrong what their ACTUAL risk of radiation poisoning was.

"Birds flew past the site today. Because the steam from the cooling tower may have obscured their vision, we reduced operating capactity briefly. No radiation was released."

Perhaps some people would believe an absence of a radiation report might indicate a serious problem. "They didn't say ANYTHING about radiation levels? Quick! Into the yellow suits."

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Gilmore Girls

Lord knows I may tread on more toes than all my religious posts put together with this one. Just so you know, my opinions are mine. They apply to me. They do not necessarily apply to you. My perceptions come from a background of ignorance.

I was encouraged to watch "Gilmore Girls" tonight. Apparently, this dearth marks a great gaping hole in my existence, which must be remedied tout de suite. This evening the WB was showing back to back episodes. I settled in. Here are my impressions and observations.

First of all, the series is available in HD. That helps to put it on the right foot right off. Since our human perception of the world is in a rectangular shape, I think it only makes sense to have our TV that way, too. It also makes a nice philosophical debate about the horizontal rectangle of the screen versus the vertical rectangles of the people. Deep stuff.

Second: Phillip Glass. Gotta love him. Anywhere his music makes an appearance, especially for comedy's sake, I approve. He's a good friend of one of the composition faculty at DePaul, and I met him briefly.

Third: No doubt I was missing the point, but there was a trombone in the scene at the U.S.O-themed dinner. I think it was a King 2b. I think there was some dialogue at the same time.

Fourth: I couldn't tell if the matre'd was a good actor doing a bad French accent on purpose, or if he was just supposed to be a French emigre that ended up the middle of Connecticut, or wherever in New England this is set. If you study at the "Inspector Clousou" school, stuff like this happens.

Clousou: Duz your dog bite?
Man: Non.
Dog: Le GRRRRRR!
Clousou: I thought you said your dog duz not bite!
Man: Zat iz not my dog.

Fifth: I realize the women are the point of the show. That much is obvious from the characterizations, the plot development, and the general direction. But there's something odd about the show or me when the only character I can identify with is the grandfather. I kept hoping the grandfather would show up in scenes so I could identify with how my surrogate acted. It doesn't hurt that I enjoy Edward Hermann as an intelligent actor. His character does give off a strong "Mr. Bennett" vibe.

Sixth: A Birkin Bag. I've only heard of these things in two places: both were TV shows where it acts like catnip to women. I bet this falls in the same category of stuff with Jimmy Choo shoes. Stuff that people like and is very expensive, and even more expensive because people like it. I'm sure to a person like me, it would just be a purse. Just as likely to hold dirty, wadded up kleenex and a dozen pens as something useful. If someone talks to me about Choo shoos, I just want to warn you: you're going to get an Abbot and Costello routine.

Seventh: The commercials are a good gauge of who the advertisers think is watching a particular show. Since I don't have TIVO, I watched them all. And almost without exception, I have no idea what brands they are for. I'm obviously not in the target group, though.

-Cream for Opening Pores. Sold with cream for closing them back up afterwards.
-Lots of different kinds of shampoos, infused with fruit. Raspberries were falling into the bottle! But apparently fruit sells, because....
-Flavored water. I can't tell if this is also carbonated, but it's made by the people who make 7-UP, so I wouldn't be surprised. Everyone look at your water bottles. If your water has ingredients, you're probably wasting your money.
-Lots of teenagers on cell phones, with fancy plans for talking a long time. Gets the obvious mom/daughter connection.
-Toilet Paper. So this is where they advertise! Huh.
Again, I guess this audience is likely to be the ones buying.
-A McDonald's commercial with some very strange small print. When a kid was drinking healthy milk (found in a Happy Meal), the text said "Milk different in Alaska." This sounds interesting! How is milk different? Is it so cold that it just comes out as ice cream? Inquiring minds wish to know!
-Midol. I think this is a given. I can't hear about this without thinking of Bill Cosby's take on Midol. Again, I'm not the target audience.
-A car commercial. Not that unusual, but this one had a woman in it. Atypical. It also wasn't for a mini-van. It did involve the way a new technology allows women to put on lipstick without smearing from inertia (when the man who's driving accelerates), so I guess it still has the sexist angle covered.

Going into this, I'd never seen a complete episode, just a few snippets when channel surfing. I had heard about this show, though. The fact that the characters talk fast, the script has twice as many pages as a typical television hour, etc. It's true, they do talk a lot. Is now a good time to mention that because of smaller vocal chords, woman can talk more than men with less effort for longer? Probably not...

Anyway, my biggest impression of the show? It's like third-species counterpoint. I know what you're thinking: "Andy is a bigger music nerd than we thought!" For those of you not in the "biz," counterpoint is like the Swiss-watch intricacy of J.S. Bach's pieces. They're not composed as much as they are architechturalized (what?). Designed to a very exacting set of standards. First species entails every time you move a note, the other voice moves in lock-step, a one-to-one ratio. Chopsticks is a good "in a pinch" example, for the most part. Second species involves two-to-one. For every time the top note changes, the other will change twice. There are very specific rules for all this.

That's great, you say, but what does this have to do with Star's Hollow? Well, third species is where you have four (or three) notes against one. And it turns out that while every note change is significant in first species (because there are so few) by the time it gets to third species, some of the notes are just filler. They often "tread water" until the next big change in the other part, because that's what truly controls the action.

"Gilmore Girls" is like that. Everyone talks fast and furious, but the actual advancement is measured. They're able to come up with fantastically witty rejoinders without even taking breathing space. L'esprit d'escalier is unknown, unless it's called for by the writers. But while everyone's talking fast, the plot seems to move slowly. The scene mechanics (how the scenes lie in the overall script) develops very deliberately. Everybody gets a chance to figure some things out well in advance of the characters. Was anyone surprised that Loreli, who was so eager to change street names, would end up with one that was awful and detrimental to business? Was anyone surprised that her boyfriend (who runs the diner) seems to express zero frustration at the beginning of the episode, but then eventually gets "really mad" at the end? Of course not. It's played for laughs.

I was more interested in the undercurrent that all of the women on the show are fantastically manipulative, in one way or another. Not only that, but few of them seem to actually be getting along at this point. I'm sure several seasons in, lots of things have happened to turn things upside down, but WOW. Instead, they all have a guy to talk at about all the things they should be working out with other people.

Which brings me to the guys. I feel like their big thing is to be caught up in the whirlwind that surrounds their women, and then tell the women to shut up and do things when the time requires them to. Plus, there's some truly strange behavior going on. When Rory's boyfriend buys her the most desired bag on the planet, she doesn't know what it is. He also doesn't bother to explain it to her. Why not? If you don't want her to be weirded out by a bag that cost more than all her years at Yale, why buy her one? If you do want her to acknowledge that it's a serious gift (more serious than she thinks it is), then why not give her some background? If you're afraid of her "putting on heirs" because of the fancy gift, then why not buy something nice from Target? She'd probably have reacted the same.

The whole situation seems to me that he's thinking the same way as her mother. The bag is something that you need to "be seen" wearing. So, why does he give it to her? So that his date can look nice? So that they can have a fight later on when she lets her dog accidentally chew on it? I dunno. Something about him feels a little disconcerting. I have no idea if this is intended, or just my own personal bias.

Man, this is long. Time to sum up. Interesting show. Characters and pacing not quite like anyone else on TV. As an added benefit, I know understand a little bit more of many of my acquaintances like this show.

It's all about the dog.

That's just disgusting.

For the last two weeks, whenever I've gone to the bathroom in the music building, I've entered the "gents" just as someone else was leaving. And without fail, that person has failed to flush the urinal. First of all, that's disgusting. Second, is pressing the lever so hard? Have we as a culture descended so far that the auto-flush toilets are the only hope we have?

My thought was, "perhaps they don't want to touch the flush lever. After all, where has it been? Attached to a toilet!" But quite frankly, all but the most ardent obsessive-compulsive would be hard pressed to find a problem with touching for the one second required to get the machinery going. Plus (and maybe this is new) they have these things in bathrooms. I think they're called "sinks". And they come with soap for washing hands, killing bacteria, and making your hands smell strangely perfumed.

But, oh! Folly! These guys also didn't wash their hands on the way out. So...I guess they really wouldn't want to touch it. They might be heading straight to lunch. And who wants to eat lunch with toilet-lever hands? Not me!

If only there were some way to clean my hands! Alas! Verily, alas. And alack.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

"World Famous ... in Poland!"

-- "Frederick Bronski", To Be or Not To Be (1983)

For once in my life, something that I'm associated with actually showed up on the first page of an internet search for my name. Behold! Of course, I would have been EVEN MORE excited if that list of professors at the University of Missouri-St. Louis had been kind enough to list me as a trombone or euphonium instructor, instead of trumpet. But hey! They spelled my name correctly. What can you expect from something three or four years out of date? Why is it the incorrect stuff that hangs around? Murphy's Web Law, I guess.

I was much happier to find this webpage while searching for myself. All of that information is true and correct. I know, because I wrote it myself. Except for that last paragraph. That's just the P.R. speak. I found this by typing in "andrew schwartz music kansas". That might be stacking the deck in my favor.

Right now at the music store, however, I'm teaching more trumpet students than trombone. It's ok, though. They're beginning trumpet; how bad could I possibly mess them up?
Just blow through the notes.

It's so hot that...well, you know.

Readers may remember that particular day when I was unprepared for the cold weather. Now is the time when I want to revel in such entries. I'd like to pull those days out of the bank. Hopefully I can replace the next few days, all forecasted to be around 100 degrees. I'm glad the classrooms are air condititioned. It would be unbearable otherwise.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Waiter! Earthquake for one, please.

I received a piece of news today. The sort of news that's lamentable, sobering, pulse-quickening, joyful, and heartbreaking, all at once. It's the sort of news that at first isn't very remarkable, but gradually you begin to spiral around it. And as you go around, you get further away. It touches more things that you didn't even think were connected. As you speed up, you feel the strange unsettled feeling that some people call "butterflies". That feeling that you've just been stretched out, and no longer have your proper center of gravity, and you really need to sit down because your head is heavy, and your neck feels thin.

And every time you spin around, you keep seeing the center, the first time you heard the news. You can see how far the spiral has become. And even if you close your eyes, you still feel the motion. Everything is in flux, there is little to hold on to. Every thing, every feeling, every thought is moving relative to everything else. No place to hold on.

An earthquake.

But eventually, you can't see the center anymore. You're too far out on the spiral to see back that far. You can't feel the dizzying motion anymore, just as you can't feel the Earth move about the sun. Everything calms down. And the spiral, instead of feeling like a racetrack you're trapped on, is only really ripples on a pond. Waves that barely disturb the surface, until even they vanish.

Then, you relax.

Pardon My Dust

I'm in the process of updating my blog template. Never fear, you've reached the same blog you always have when you click on this link.

EDIT: Okay, I got that all sorted out. I consider this an improvement, if for no other reason than it makes the pictures (which I'm fond of including) stand out a little more. There are still some residual issues. If you previously clicked on the post title in order to reach a page of just that entry (if you want to see it but it scrolls off the main index), you now have to click on the "permalink" button below. It does the same thing. If you were always using the "permalink," then you're all set.

Second issue. If you actually follow a permalink, you'll see that those pages still show the old template design. I need to do a couple of other maintenence issues before I completely republish. So if you like the new format, stick to the front page. If you like the old format, go hunting in the links.

Also, please enjoy the new photo I've included over on the right. It's me from New Year's Eve, in 2002, I think. If you look closely, you'll notice the hat was ridiculously small for my head. People always like putting funny hats on me... Luckily, New Year Andy doesn't seem to care.

Plus, the object that's in my right hand but conveniently cut off? Definitely not a beer can. And definitely not Natural Light. Kids, stay in school.

The Future is Now! (actually 2004)

Are you still using pokey dial-up connections? Does your internet involve a bunch of cumbersome cables and network settings? Behold the future!

Follow the link to experience Wi-Fly.

The linked blog entry details an experiment in the cutting edge technology of PEI. This massively powerful wireless data transfer service has a 100 km range; possibly even greater! Imagine not having to worry about your ISP or wireless access points. If you're under blue sky, you may be able to receive PEI! (Service grid still expanding. Coming soon to your area!) Some data tests have show that the data transfer rate can exceed that of standard DSL connections. But I haven't even gotten to the most amazing part.

PEI comes standard with a technology so advanced that even the leading scientists studying nanomachines have yet to achieve it. The PEI data transfer system comes complete with automemetic self-replication! Starting with only a few data carrying nodules, in time the number will double, triple, and eventually increase by a power of ten. (Construction materials must be provided) Isn't that amazing? Given enough time and nodules, the amount of data transferred at one time (your bandwidth) could be conceivably beyond your imagination!

Act now! The future of the past is fast becoming tomorrow's history! Doesn't that sound impressive? Don't wait!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Musical Bones

So, if anyone's wondering what constitutes as a major piece of breaking news for Baroque music nowadays...

Italian Scientists Exhume Farinelli's Body

They're trying to figure out anything they can about his lifestyle and physiology. I don't know what the scientific applications are of this research are, but I'm sure there's got to be something in there about lack of normal amounts of pubescent testosterone. Farinelli died in 1782.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Victory Dance!

I managed to sneak into the class I needed for the fall semester. Now the financial aide department will stop sending me threatening letters. And I won't be stuck taking the history of opera, again! I like opera, but there's only so much an instrumental musician can get out of repeat trips through a class. There's the French. They like dancing in opera. There's the Germans: they really like emotions. Oh, and chords. Then there's the Italians. Every word ends in a vowel, so they're good at vocal lines. And rhyming. And that's it. Until the Americans come along: they like operas that are either hummable and questionably-operatic (see "Candide") or involve famous Americans and lots of repeated words for easy clairty (see "Nixon in China").

Come to think of it, maybe I could use another pass through....

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Quality of Mercy

Last night, I watched the most recent film version of The Merchant of Venice, released in 2004. Tonight, I watched it again while I was cooking supper. It is not, strictly speaking, William Shakespeare's version. Several notable passages have been removed and bits of dialogue here and there are finessed to serve the filmmaker's vision.

What this production does very well is making clear that this is not a comedy, like "Much Ado About Nothing" or "Love's Labours Lost". There is seriously weighty drama. Very little is "funny" in the traditional sense. This production also tries to justify everyone's actions. Shylock does not crave Antonio's flesh because "he is a Christian," but because he has lost control of his world. His daughter has run away, turned her back on her faith, and stolen from him, but the one thing he can control is the redemtion of the bond.

Even though he is consumed with an irrational bloodlust, it was excruciating for me to watch Shylock collapse in on himself as all his legal grounds for claim to flesh are removed. To watch him lose the settlement offer. To watch him lose all of his worldly possesions, half to the state, half to Antonio. And then for him to suffer the last and greatest punishment, as he is forced to convert to Christianity.

This last punishment seems needlessly heartless and vindictive to me. In the logic of the play, it is an expression of dearest mercy. Antonio sees that in order to save Shylock's soul, the Jew must become Christian. So he wishes the conversion to save Shylock from himself. But it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Perhaps because I realize that women don't have to masquerade as men to be heard in the courtroom, and fathers don't set elaborate tests for their daughter's suitors long after the father dies. Lending money for interest is no longer described as an un-Christian evil and deplored by all religious scholars. We've left many of the more deplorable attitudes of the play behind as our culture advances.

But we still have the many religious leaders (of many faiths) declaring that their way is THE way. All others (the incorrect believers) will be consigned to either Hell or the "not quite as nice" Heaven or Purgatory or left behind while the faithful proceed. What does it say about our cultural advancement when people still use the basest method of convincing: the threat? In our country, the law doesn't have the power to make you change your religion. But what about countries where the law is the religion? I would not be suprised that forced conversions still occured somewhere.

Is it moral for me to feel sorry for and attempt to convert other people who I may not believe are going to "Heaven"? Is our worth in how much we prostrate ourselves before the Unknowable? Or is it how much we strive to resemble the paradigm of perfection? Who makes the better follower: one who has seen much and chooses to follow, or one who protects themselves from disorder and strives for purity?

If the Eternal creates us and gives us free will, should not everyone's personal faith be sacred? Like a river, it flows from beginning to end and carries us along.

IRONY, n.

An expression or utterance marked by a deliberate contrast between apparent and intended meaning.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Straddling Two Eras

If I mention "Mozart," everyone probably thinks of a long time ago. I mean, he dies in 1791. No doubt a great deal of time has passed; more than 10 generations since his death. This interesting story relates to him, or at least his wife, Constanze Weber.

Photo of Mozart's Widow Found

It seems that someone found a copy of an old daguerreotype taken of her when she was visiting another family. I wouldn't have thought anyone with the name "Mozart" would have been around to have their pictures taken. Instead, I picture formal portrait sittings spaced over weeks.

Makes me realize how early photographs came on the scene, and how late Frau Weber was alive. In 1840, when this photo was taken, Martin Van Buren was president here in the U.S., only the eighth since the founding.

They Make Movies In Color? Whoa!

Apparently, there's a movie coming out about some ride at Disneyland. I think it has Johnny Depp in it, maybe. Judging by all the beads, scarves, and billowing shirtcuffs, I think it's about Liberace. I'm not sure. If only there was more advertising, maybe I'd know what's going on...

I can't seem to go anywhere on the internet without Johnny Depp's head appearing, often surrounded by flames, which I guess is kind of "piratey." Pirates use fire, right? I know Mr. Depp was the only thing that saved the first "Pirates" movie from just being regular old popcorn summer entertainment, but COME ON! Every McDonald's around town has a big picture of his face on it. For their sake, I hope busty wenches come around with goat-bladders of grog and caffine-free grog (free refills dining room only). I bet they'd get a ton of publicity, although the movie might suffer, since none of the teenage boys of America would be in the theater.

Not content to rest on their laurels as a publicity engine, McDonalds is also getting into the technology market. They're on the bleeding edge, and that edge is: using your phone to send numbers to other numbers! They're running some contest that tells you to send in the tear-off numbers from whatever food isn't selling well and/or has higher profit margins, by usuing your phone to "text" them.

But don't worry if your phone doesn't do that. And I quote, "Still old school? No problem. You can also enter your code at www.playatmcd.com." Boy, technology moves fast. Using the internet? Nice try, GRANDPA. You're not the big market anymore. I can remember my first year in college, when web-browsing was new and instant messaging was called "UNIX Talk." Now, if your phone doesn't alert you when your sports team scores, beep you when your shoes go out of fashion, and serve three kinds of espresso, you're OLD SKOOLZ.

The codes are available on Big Macs, large fries and large sodas. The fine print says, "Limit 7 entries per day." Assuming you're not fishing unused codes out of the trash, I shudder in revulsion of anyone who fills his quota for a single day, let alone several days. Why is America fat again? Oh, right. Because Johnny Depp wants us to win pirate swag.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Gullible's Travels

So, I got taken advantage of today. Stopping at the gas station, I fell for the story of a fellow there and gave him $21 dollars. Though there's the spoken promise of repayment, I knew as soon as I opened my wallet that the money was most likely gone. I may yet be surprised and receive the proverbial check in the mail, but I doubt it. And it doesn't really matter.

I've agonized over this situation, so I decided to write it out in hopes that by organizing it on "paper", it will leave my thoughts and give me some mental peace. My dilemma is that I knew his story wasn't true, but I still gave him money. What kind of person does that? It's certainly not the way to succeed in business. And it's not the way I usually handle people asking for money, whom I turn down. After living in Chicago four years, I'm no stranger to people hitting me up for money.

It's strange for me to be confused by my own behavior. Usually it's everyone else that acts confusingly. Here's the core of the issue: I gave him the money freely because he wanted it. That looks really stupid to write out, but I can't see how to explain it any other way. As I asked questions that gradually picked his story apart, he didn't even seem to realize or care. He was focused on something else. It wasn't that he was "out of it". It was more like he had no other artifices; if I made it through, there wasn't anything on the other side. I felt like I was deconstructing him right there at the gas pump.

So I gave him money. I don't have any illusions about it being "unintentional charity," or trying to clothe myself in a metaphysical idea of "doing good". I can't even embrace the idea that karma will do right by me. I might as well have thrown the money into the fire. I was struck by the realization that the entire time he spoke to me, I was in control. And that's ultimately why I felt sorry for him. Not because of the story, but because of the flimsy nature of the lies.

Why won't it leave my head? It's not because I lost the money, it's because I saw into and through him with the clarity of an X-ray. And he was hollow. Do bad acts force some part of "you" to shrink, leaving a void behind? That's what I saw today, and I think it will haunt me.


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For those playing the home game, today's post was the 101st for my blog.

Also, some people expressed interest in the Liberty Hill memorial. It's currently undergoing significant expansion and renovation. Many parts are closed. In December, it will reopen as a National World War I museum. The site is still worth visiting, but if you don't like dust and "exhibit closed" signs, I'd advise a waiting period. Also, the website (http://www.libertymemorialmuseum.org/) indicates that since one of the galleries is shut, the other has no admission charge temporarily. The remaining gallery is worth visiting for the Pantheon de la Guerre, a reproduction of a portion of a mural in remembrance of the War.

It still costs to climb the tower, though.

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Is it significant that Blogger's spell-checking program doesn't recognize "blog" as a word? It recommended I change it to "bloc," so perhaps I should start saying it as though I have a French accent.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

"Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"

--"Ozymandias", Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1817

Today my class went on a field trip, just like in the Goldene Dayes of Yore. We went to the Liberty Memorial and Museum. It's a memorial in remembrance of the dead of World War I. We don't hear much about World War I nowadays, aside of "Who was Arch-duke Franz Ferdinand?" being a question on Jeopardy now and again. (Believe it or not, I had more difficulty trying to spell "Jeopardy" than remembering who the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne was.)

The memorial is moving. It's the portion visible above ground. The architechture is Egyptian influenced, giving it a timeless feeling, right down to the sphynx in front. The oblolisk in the center is 271 feet tall, ascendable, and gives a fantastic 360 degree view of Kansas City. All sandstone and marble, the three structures are set far apart, making me feel small. The heat and lack of green gives you a feeling of desolation and stark simplicity.

I am a very minor scholar of World War I, and this being the closest I've ever been to one of its battlefields, it was sobering. The "war to end all wars" suppressed an entire generation, who became horrified and dissillusioned that humanity could bring such ruin on itself. The sphynx at the memorial each have their faces covered by their wings. The one facing west sees into the future. Its face is covered because it fears what may come next, given the present situation. The one facing east looks into the past. Its face is covered because it has no desire to remember.

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When I got back, I had some interesting emails waiting for me. Spookily enough, two concerned relatively new monuments that had been dedicated. They have nothing to do with the Great War memorial. Hopefully, my line of asterisks is enough to separate the hallowed from the tacky.

First, allow me to show you Touchdown Jesus! He's from Ohio, designed to appear as though he's emerging from the waters. He's about 60 feet high and faces the interstate. They want to submit him to the Guiness Book of Records as the world's largest Christ. I didn't realize that was a category, but...

It raises an interesting point. Can a statue of less than half a person be considered a "complete" Christ? What's the percentage, size-wise, that constitutes a person? The famous Cristo Redentor in Rio de Janeiro is a complete figure who stands at 120-some feet. Can this partial Christ in Ohio compete? If I build a hundred-foot tall toe and call it part of a Jesus statue, can I rightly claim it's the world's largest Jesus? Somehow I doubt it.
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Now say hello to Lady Liberty! She's a very recent arrival in Memphis. Unveiled on the Fourth of July, like many women over the age of 100, she's had a little work done. Instead of the familar Torch and Tablet, she now carries a large gold cross and the Ten Commandments. Also, a single tear has been added on her cheek.

The statue cost approximately $260,000 and stands about 72 feet from ground to the top of the cross. But don't worry about the church that built it, they can afford it. The World Overcomers Outreach Ministries Church is what some would call a mega-church. The pastor claims 12,000 members. According to the article, it has on campus: a school, a bowling alley, a roller rink, and a bookstore. I would presume there's an actual church there somewhere, also. Maybe they pipe the sermons into the bowling alley.

The pastor, Apostle Alton R. Williams, who runs the church with his wife, says that the tear on the statue's cheek represents "the nation's ills, including legalized abortion, a lack of prayer in schools and the country's promotion of expressions of New Age, Wicca, secularism and humanism."

Responding to questions that perhaps the money could have been spent in better ways, Mr. Williams says that his church already gives to the needy and "I personally feel that the answer for the poor is Jesus Christ."

I have two thoughts on this.

1. If Jesus were here, I bet he'd be knocking over the rollerskate racks and chasing out the bowlers. He's been known to clean house when houses of worship contain questionably "religious" activities. (See John 2: 13-16)

2. If I can paraphrase "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade", why did Mr. Williams build this statue? For God's glory, or his own?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A Front Seat

I watched the shuttle take off on Tuesday afternoon. From the comfort of my own computer chair, I was able to get an up close view. I was literally watching out a window as the Solid Rocket Boosters separated, and the main fuel tank disconnected.

Isn't the flow of information amazing? NASA just throwing billions of bits of data out onto the web, which when properly arranged yield a picture from 150 miles up, going 7000 miles per hour.

Also, I couldn't help but get excited watching the shuttle take off. It reminds me of being a kid and wanting to be an astronaut. Seeing the Earth from way up there must just be unforgetable. The Big Blue Marble, indeed.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Thoughts on the First Day of School

Some of this has nothing to do with school; be warned if your expecting all academic talk.

*Gray hair with young faces is an interesting visual paradox. I'd never really thought about it, but I figured I wouldn't notice it too much. When I saw someone today who had a liberal amount of gray-stippled hair, I actually noticed. It belied their young face and neck, which made for a very interesting dissonance.

*My history course isn't so much an academic exercise as it is a brief lifestyle change. I spent two hours in class this morning, and a roughly equivalent time in the library (after a brief lunch break) listening to recordings, browsing scores, and writing preliminary analyses. I expect this everyday. Certain days will involve paper writing, which I expect to fill the balance of the afternoon and into the evenings. It's a much more immersive "academic" experience than I've ever had. I'm eager to see how it goes. It feels more like I'm more a sort of research fellow than a student. I guess this is what all those musicologists do whenever we're in rehearsal.

*I saw someone who looked extremely atractive to me. I admit that I stared unabashedly, while my body endlessly looped the last pattern of action I just finished: pulling books out of shelves, opening to the table of contents, and replacing them. After I while, I became self-conscious and DIDN'T look, but then I began to worry that maybe me "not looking" was too conspicuous. I don't know why, but many people I know have that same feeling. They feel that someone who doesn't know them will be able to scan the room and find them as the one person who's thinking of looking, but not actually looking. But, who can understand why we think what we think?

*I was worried that there might be lines at the bookstore, before my 9:00am class time. That turned out to be groundless. The store was empty. Not even a cashier at the front when I entered. Spooky. In fact, much of campus seemed that way. Somewhere in my head, I know that summer term has a miniscule percentage of students enrolled, but it didn't hit me until today. It felt like times I've been on campus when a snow day has been declared. Except that if it snowed today in 98 degree heat, not only would it have been a meterological miracle, but I think the flakes would have caught fire on their way down.

*I stared in open wonder at the woman behind me a stoplight who was managing to eat something from McDonalds, talk on the phone, and apply lipstick simultaneously. My wonder turned to fright when the light turned green, because she proceeded to drive with her hands still occupied. I laughed when I realized that even having a hands free phone, she would still be a few hands short to be doing everything she was doing while driving a Yukon. I hope she doesn't kill anyone.

*While walking from my car to various places on and around campus, I realized that even though it's hot, having a breeze helps. Moving air somehow allows you to believe that the moving air is cooling you, even though in reality it is so humid that your sweat doesn't evaporate, and water actually condenses out of the air onto your skin. Perhaps a realization like this is the first step towards dying of heat stroke. After all, the first sign of hypothermia is that you start to feel warm.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Back to School?

My summer history class begins tomorrow. It feels strangely dirty to go to school in the summer. I believe I am currently suffering from the scoffing of my inner child, who knows that the summer is many things, but most especially NOT TIME FOR SCHOOL.

It's a four week course, four times a week. This approximates the 16-week school year, and to celebrate, we get Tuesday off for the Fourth of July. This equates to an entire week of school off. I offer this idea to appease my inner child. Ice cream may also be required.

Speaking of ice cream, someone very knowledgable told me that ice cream, taken in moderation, can be used for weight loss. If this idea were a strangely dressed lady at a dinner party, I would point and laugh. Since ice cream is basically 1) FAT, 2) SUGAR, and .... umm.... 3) COLDNESS, I fail to see how eating ice cream could bring about more weight loss than, say, eating rocks. After all, rocks contain essential minerals, fill your stomach (no more hunger pains), and clunk together when you walk! Best of all, though your weight may increase short term (from eating heavy rocks), soon enough the rocks will leave your system for a nice suprise on the scale.

Back to music history, many people have expressed eagerness to take a similar class. It's music history from 1900-1940. People seem to think this is going to involve fun things, like jazz or ragtime. In reality, it's going to entail things like Varese and Berg. I like Varese. He writes contrabass trombone parts. But he's firmly in the "music you must think about to enjoy" camp. Also include liberal splashings of "music you have to hear several times until it grows on you" in that formula.

And while I like Berg, I feel I may start crying for "Blud" if I have to write one more paper about Wozzeck. Maybe I'll try to write about Five Songs on Picture Postcard Texts by Peter Altenberg instead. The premiere was interrupted by a riot. Sounds like feel-good music!