Monday, February 26, 2007

Lost time

I looked up and said to myself, hmmm, I haven't posted for a week. That was a moment ago. Then I looked up and said, wow, what happened to that other week.

We have been a little exhausted. I had a throat thing and lost my voice for a little while. I've needed cough drops to fall asleep, and I've woken up in the middle of the night coughing too.

I got a haircut and gave myself my first structured facial hair (by structured, I mean hair that I have left on my face deliberately rather than negligently). It's a goatee. I'm sure it will show up on Sarah's blog sooner or later. I like it ok, but some of the hair seems to be attacking my upper lip. As so much else about my appearance, I'll probably get back to ignoring it soon. We are considering a nice clipper/trimmer so that I can ignore it slightly less before interview time.

We have lacked sleep, we have lacked time. My father gave up sugar for two weeks worth of Lent (that is all refined sugar, even as an ingredient in something) on the condition that his children would give up sugar with him. It has been wild, but I've made it through the first six days all right. Naturally, I bought two ice cream just before I heard about the challenge, so they have been sitting, waiting, whispering. Peanut Butter Cup. Peach.

I've been reading this Gene Wolfe epic for a long time, but it's almost done.

I am consulting at WestWords to train someone to take over one of my old jobs. A year later, and my replacement left without really training his replacement. The orderly transition of power is important. Fortunately, when I arrived at the office, I found all the documents I wrote to train the last guy still intact on the servers, so the orderly transition was from myself (then) to my future (present) self.

I am finishing experiments for my thesis. I should defend on time.

My dad cheerfully offered to move us to Seattle if I don't have a job by graduation time. This actually relaxes me. My parents redid the basement when it flooded, and it's turned into a massive, much-needed renovation. There will be plenty of space down there. I can't wait to see it, and, if necessary, live in it.

Alex is still not talking much, but he is making letter sounds and experimenting with vowels. Ooo eee, he might say. Ahhh yuh. One doctor says that intense daily speech therapy would be helpful, but we are having trouble signing him up for the next couple of months before everything is up in the air.

We got the second season of Angel on DVD. It is way better than Season 1 so far. It's a sort of strange situation because Sarah and I have watched all of Buffy, but the Angel seasons happened concurrently: Buffy 4-7 happened at the same time as Angel 1-4 and sometimes the storylines crossed each other. On a typical week, back then, you would see Buffy Season 5 episode 6 back-to-back on TV with Angel Season 2 episode 6. It would take a lot of energy to simulate this experience, swapping out the discs one episode at a time, watching about 50 episodes to get to the ends of the two simultaneous seasons. We might get to it one of these years.

We also saw Man of the Year, the Robin Williams film about a sassy Jon Stewart type who runs an upstart independent campaign for President, only to be elected by a voting machine company without a paper trail. It was a little preachy, rejecting the partisanship of Washington in favor of government that actually works, I think. The last time we had a government that worked, of course, it was divided government by a man who governed from the center. Then he got impeached on partisan lines and acquitted on partisan lines.

This is not a movie for our time. This partisanship in Washington did not spring fully formed from the inscrutable mind of Zeus. It was pushed and promoted by our radical president and his minions, by their propaganda machine and the leadership of the Republican party. They did it because they sensed an opportunity to destroy bipartisan comity and still hold onto the reins of power. They did it for six long years. They're still doing it even though we have divided government again. They've forgotten how to do anything else.

In the current political climate, "bipartisanship" is a code word that means "everybody get together right now... and support the President's open-ended occupation of Iraq." This is obvious if you read editorials by Joe Lieberman, or listen to interviews of Dick Cheney, or watch the President say "support the troops" dully and repeatedly.

On this definition, it is time now for partisanship. It's not just a coincidence that the public elected Democrats in the fall and that the vast majority of the public favors retreat from Iraq. The Republican party favors staying in Iraq, the Democratic party favors leaving Iraq, and it's that simple. For evidence, see, among other things, this handy table of the declared 2008 presidential candidates' positions on Iraq. All 8 of the Democrats are opposed to President Bush's plan to escalate the Iraq occupation by sending tens of thousands of troops. 7 of the 9 Republicans are in favor of the increase. 6 of the 8 Democrats favor explicit deadlines to end the Iraq occupation. 1 of the 9 Republicans favors an explicit deadline.

If you oppose the senseless waste of life that the Iraq occupation has deteriorated into and favor a foreseeable end to it, bipartisanship is not actually an option. The debate for you begins and ends under the big tent of the Democrats.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Funner things

About 10 years ago, Mr. Willems showed us all something very funny. IB Theory of Knowledge kids, you know what I'm talking about. Or you will. I've been looking for this clip for quite a while, which was difficult until I finally, today, remembered part of the name.

All the Great Operas in Ten Minutes

Coincidentally, one of the comments on Youtube says, "I've been looking for this video for over 10 years! Thanks for putting this out there!!"

Another one of the comments says, "Hey! That's my film! I made the film when I was in film school way back in '92... I'm glad people are still enjoying it! I have DVD copies of this film for sale, if anyone is interested."

In between the saga of my friends and a paper submission deadline, I have been trying to keep a cool head. So, naturally, I read The Shining. It's the story of a man who is stressed out and tired and shut up with his family, snowbound for the winter, in a remote mountain hotel. I never saw the movie, but I saw the Simpsons parody, so I know the guy goes crazy and tries to kill his family. It turns out that the book feels very different from the 8-minute Simpsons rendition. I thought it was a real winner, again, just a really well-executed and deeply felt Stephen King book. Up next, The Stand, Cujo, and Christine. He wrote in On Writing that he was totally high when he wrote Cujo, so I'm not expecting monumental things from it, but The Stand is supposed to be one of his best.

[Stephen King digression: I am going more or less chronologically; I started with The Eyes of the Dragon, then On Writing and The Dead Zone. After that, Misery, I think, then I went back to the beginning, starting with Carrie.]

I also read How Much for Just the Planet? by John M. (Mike) Ford, an amazing writer who passed away last autumn. It is a Star Trek (Original Series) tie-in novel. It is the only Star Trek musical. I laughed and laughed.

I'm almost done with The Knight (the first part of a two-parter) by Gene Wolfe. I was just about done with high fantasy several years ago, when The Wheel of Time, a colossal 12-book epic sort of ran aground as its author, James Rigney (aka Robert Jordan) developed a rare disease and started to fight for his life. It wasn't all bad, but I had the feeling like it was pulling out all the stops and just not making it for me. Except for Bujold, who has five or so fantasies out now, I stayed away.

Gene Wolfe really changed that for me. It is a stupendous story about a boy who slips sort of sideways into another world, falls for a faerie queen, and longs to be a great knight to deserve her love. I really can't do it justice. This is the most perfect straight fantasy novel I have read in a long time. It looks like I'll have to look up the rest of his oeuvre, which is extensive. (Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is another great one, but it's really an alternate-history fantasy set during the Napoleonic Wars.)

Monday, February 05, 2007

Another exhausting week

Hi friends. For those hanging on for news of my friends' baby, she's had open heart surgery for her narrowing arteries, caught a fever, and is recovering. I don't know her long term prognosis, but I am told my friends are in somewhat better spirits.

I've been physically, emotionally, mentally overwhelmed this past week. I hope your time is going a bit better.