This Day In History: 05/09

Monday, May 09, 2005

Nine members of the East Waynesville Baptist Church were voted off the church last week, after failing to pass the Immunity Challenge. The Challenge was simple: Don't vote Kerry . It's okay to make fun of Baptists, though, according to Montgomery County's new sex education program which defends homosexuality against the intolerance of religious groups like the Baptists. The judge who wisely put a temporary block on the curriculum noted that "The Revised Curriculum ... paints certain Christian sects, notably Baptists, which are opposed to homosexuality, as unenlightened and Biblically misguided" .

You'd think that the group who persevered enough to get permission for a factual and balanced sex ed program would have enough common sense to not antagonize major religions in their curriculum. It doesn't take much logic to realize that if a pamphlet with the title "How to put a condom on a banana" can get the majority up in arms, then a pamphlet titled "How to put a condom on a banana when your belief system is intolerant and you smell like pee" is not going to nullify the original angst.

When I was in ninth grade I already had a full course load with band, art, and World Civilization, a history/English hybrid class taught by a quirky lady who had random outbursts in a foreign language which she claimed was Estonian that sounded like "Humnakakeshneeko", and an English teacher who thought everything was "tragic", told people who talked in class to "ostracize" themselves, and dictated word-for-word notes on various literature for a good 50% of each class period. With built-in entertainment like this, I already had to come in an hour early for the Early Bird period 0. I had to choose between "Fundamentals of Human Growth and Development" or Lunch for my last remaining period. I chose Lunch and got exempt from FHGD on religious grounds. I think it was against my religion at the time to skip lunch.

When I'm independently wealthy, having inherited a sizeable fortune from a string of poorly defended credit unions in the Midwest, I'm going to make a sex-ed book. It will not have a single vocabulary term or clinical sketch inside of it -- instead it will be one of those do-it-yourself pop-up books where you cut out the cardboard shapes and make the book yourself. Page one will have the instructions "Insert Tab A into Slot B". Page two will be the cut-outs. I'm not sure yet, how marketable a two-page book is, but there's something to be said for brevity.

Happy Birthday Emily!

Student suspended for call from mom

tagged as newsday, politics | permalink | 1 comment

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Repressed Memories Day: The Math Emporium

We shall build a utopian society where students will voluntarily come to take advantage of free Macintosh computers loaded with math software. Students will regularly revel in the bursting joy of mathematics.

This could have been the mission statement for the Virginia Tech Math Emporium, that ridiculous pork barrel project nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains that continues to harass students to this very day. Maybe it looked good on paper, or maybe they just had a bit of spare change they needed to spend before the next budget, but either way it just didn't work. I would like to meet the building planner who thought that this concept was a good idea and strongly suggest to him the medical benefits of testicular radiation therapy.

After a couple months of construction and liberal dipping into the Music Department's budget to cover overruns (despite news reports that it was done quickly and under budget), the doors to the Math Emporim opened with great fanfare in 1997. Administrators patted themselves on the back and waited for those math-hungry students to make their appearances. For some reason, they never showed. Perhaps it was the many paradoxes that made up the Emporium. It was billed as a campus building, yet you had to take a bus or walk a mile away to a shopping mall that made the malls in Newport News look urban. It sat next to a Pizza Hut, yet you couldn't have food inside. Its industrial warehouse look made it feel like a Costco or a Target, but the only thing you could find in bulk on the inside were the little red cups of doom.

Beer pong was frowned upon, but by placing the red cup on top of your workstation, you were supposed to gain access to smart graduate assistants who could help you solve problems or figure out how to use Mathmatica. Generally though, this was a bad idea, because the assistants rarely spoke English, often crashed your program while trying to fix Mathmatica, and would fall back on "Well, we can't do the work for you" if they hit any situation where they were clueless.

With the dearth of students, the Math Emporium was really just a big cold black hole full of user-friendly operating systems. You could have sat the entire football team in front of computers (after showing them which side the front was) and still had enough computers left over for all the children Britney Spears intends to have in the next decade. The mandate came down from someone up high to make it a more popular place to be. I was personally backing the plan to install the exotic dancing booths with the open bar, but unfortunately the staid Math Department chose to make visits mandatory instead. From 1998 on, almost every 1000 - 3000 level math class had problems that could only be done with Mathmatica. And to prevent the inevitable pirating of said software, they also decreed that every student had to spend at least two hours per week in the Math Emporium. This required you to punch in and out like you were working in a Mac Factory and present your signed timesheet in hard copy to your professor every week. Apparently they were smart enough to have a timekeeping system, but not smart enough to just look up all the student timings online.

So now the place was packed, but just as useless as before. Photographers were quickly called to the scene to get pictures of the filled up Emporium so the moment could be preserved as the "normal state of things". On some afternoons there was actually a line to use the computers.

Being a math minor by default, I had more than my share of Math Emporium time -- hours spent sitting in front of dysfunctional computers, crowding around a table with antisocial majors who never bathed and always smelled of curry, or waiting for lab partners who never showed up, but I finally found a great solution by the time my third year rolled around. I'd simply wake up at the crack of dawn on Sunday morning when the entirety of the campus was sprawled in an alcohol-induced stupor and mosey into the empty Emporium where I would lie back and take a nice two hour nap before going home to do my laundry.

Happy Birthday Emily Spellerberg and Christy Kull!

Police recover $16 from greedy bastards
Man with no legs beats man with no ears
Australian sex toys are tax-deductible

tagged as memories | permalink | 12 comments

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Memory Day: Assistantships

In most cases, graduate school is far cheaper than your run-of-the-mill college experience because of that nifty little occupation known as the assistantship. A graduate assistant is defined as the person who will do everything the professor doesn't want to do for one percent of the till and a rebate on tuition fees. Because academics are far too busy to actually want to teach anything, there are a million billion available assistantships all over the globe, and anyone who says they can't find an opening at even one university probably put as much effort into their search as Jim Swearingen puts into writing his band arrangements.

I was employed by the great state of Florida (which is just like California, but with rednecks) for the two years of my Masters program, 2001 - 2003. (I also had a full ride to the University of Kentucky with teaching responsibilities, but then I would have been in Kentucky, and that's just not good for business). For all my sweat and toil, I earned about a hundred dollars a week after taxes and paid a tuition fee that was actually pretty close to the real value of the classes.

Going into my first year, I was told I'd be a research assistant (there are two types of assistant, and this is the antisocial kind), and that the opportunity would be exciting!. Florida State University had been given an exciting! $831,000 grant to create an exciting! state-of-the-art electroacoustic music studio from scratch, and had enticed the exciting! electroacoustic music guru, Dr. Mark Wingate, to helm it in an exciting! manner. I didn't give a rat's ass about electroacoustic music, but figured the gig would be more fun than writing citations for some professor's useless paper about how the font in Bach's original manuscripts looks kind of like Arial if you assign each note a letter value and squint.

Within two weeks of arrival, that grant had magically disappeared (and the Drama department suddenly had a massive two-ton pallet of high quality pot). Instead of managing the lab of excite!ment, I spent the month of September scrambling with Dr. Wingate to submit a NEW grant proposal in hopes of re-winning the grant the following year. My duties included scanning blueprints, photocopying leaflets, and coming up with as many pork-barrel riders as possible.

You see, arts budgets all over the country dried up after 9/11/2001, and rather than rounding up the useless tenured professors and stranding them in Saskatchewan, they simply cut into the programs. We reasoned that a pure electroacoustic studio was no longer a viable grant idea, so we came up with ways to tie it into other music disciplines -- I even wrote a proposal, Compositional Pedagogy through Technology to argue that such a lab would be a boon to composers all over the world (since most composers are a cancer, and curing cancer is cool).

After October, it was apparent that the grant wasn't going to happen, and Dr. Wingate was understandably distracted by the fact that he had accepted a job doing something that did not exist. He didn't have the energy to come up with anything for me to do, so I spent the remainder of that school year playing pool at Mike's apartment and pretending that I could write good string quartets. It's nice to be paid for doing absolutely nothing, but my PEPCO internships had already given me much experience in this arena.

Since Kathy hates long posts, Part II of II of this Memory Day will air next Wednesday. See BU become a teaching assistant!

Happy Birthday Emily and Christy!

Museum of a Thousand Cockroaches
Welcoming the queen with a gaffe
Cocaine pulled from shelves

tagged as memories, teaching | permalink | 4 comments

Friday, May 09, 2008

Friday Fragments

♠ Last night's LOST was pretty good, and much better than the episode before it. Dave Matthews mercenary is still scary, and the lack of beach time was good. They should really give Desmond more to do than sit around looking Scottish though. There are no more episodes before the three-hour season finale (which will play out over the next couple of weeks).

♠ The energy of this season is another argument in favor of twelve-episode serialized dramas -- you get in, tell your story, and get out. A show with 22 forty-minute segments to fill is obviously going to have some stinkers in the mix (like Jack confirming yet again that he doesn't believe in miracles, or Sydney Bristow falling in love with a butt-ugly assassin).

♠ Speaking of twelve-episode serialized dramas, the fourth season of The 4400 was released on Tuesday and will be on my list of things to watch this month. Unfortunately, the show was cancelled at the end of the fourth season, but apparently the writers had a little time to edit the finale to be more conclusive (something which Veronica Mars, unfortunately, did NOT do).

♠ It seems like I'm reaching the tail end of good shows that aren't cancelled yet, thought Dexter and Prison Break will come out in the fall. I considered buying five seasons of QUANTUM LEAP, because it's probably the greatest 80s show ever made, but balked when I realized they were selling for $30-40 per season. One of these days, they'll release a boxed set that ends up on Amazon Marketplace for a couple euros (since by then Europe will have conquered the US) and I'll snap it up. Until then, I'll keep wasting my $12 a month on Warcraft.

♠ Speaking of Warcraft, remember the longtime URI! Zone reader, Asmodues, who I always annoyed by telling him that his handle should be spelled "Asmodeus"? I randomly bumped into him in a cross-server game of Warsong Gulch the other day. He was only level 50, but we won handily anyhow.

♠ Team Turtle has been winning so much that we finally made new characters on the enemy side (so we could split up and fight each other when the games got too one-sided). The problem with this approach is that everyone else got to Level 59 while I was in Europe. While I try to catch up, THEY steamroll ME in games, and I have no allies because they're all on the other side. Evil-Plinky is level 45 right now though, so it won't be much longer. I'm sure I'll be 47 by the end of today, because that's the kind of exciting life I lead (and because I have to go to bed early so I can't go out and party at CLUB DREAM DANCE HEAVEN LIQUID MAGIC like I would normally do on Fridays).

♠ Tomorrow, I'll be getting up at 3 AM and going down to Tech to attend graduation, since my sister is graduating from vet school. Congratulations! After that, she and her husband are signed up for another three years of residency in Blacksburg.

♠ I still love visiting Blacksburg, but I do wish it were a couple hours closer to Northern Virginia. Maybe Dan can put his EE skills to work and create an electromagnetic teleporter that will swap Staunton and Roanoke Valley so I could get there in two hours rather than four.

♠ Speaking of Tech stuff, Kelley Corbett, Jonathan Shachter, Scott Elliott, Skippy, and some interchangable horn player (redundant?) will be giving a free-admission concert at Harris Pavilion in Manassas on Wednesday, May 14th (next week) . Donations will go to charity. The first three performed in my Fifth-Year Recital in 2001 as Blue Ribbon Brass (Blue Ribbon is a beer). No doubt, Skippy is performing because Doobie is now married and not allowed to fraternize with bad influences anymore.

♠ The concert should be good because these clowns have been evading adulthood in various music schools across the country since leaving Tech, to the point where most of the degrees listed on their CVs are not made up. Come listen if you're in the Manassas area, because honestly, what else is there to do in the Manassas area?

♠ Happy Birthday to Emily Spellerberg, Allen Lutz, and Christy Kull! Have a great weekend everyone!

Expensive Santa Cruz Mountains search finds stoned teen
World record for tallest Lego tower
Great tits cope well with warmth

tagged as fragments | permalink | 6 comments

Monday, May 09, 2011

Questions Day

Because the last Questions Day was such a hit, it's time for another one! Question categories can range the gamut from things about me, the types of home appliances I might recommend, or just plain trivia questions that have stumped you for generations (the bicycles are a deck of cards). I will take to most interesting questions and answer them on Friday.

I realize that the literary content of this post is fairly low, but the payoff is an Answers Day on Friday, and sometimes in life, you have to wade through a few miles of manure to kill that cow for steaks.

Could Crows Have Helped Bring Down Bin Laden?
Tiny robots reveal why we share
Japanese lab invents Internet kissing

tagged as you speak | permalink | 5 comments

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Memory Day: Snapshots

This picture was taken in 1983, somewhere along the Potomac River (update: Pohick Bay Regional Park). I'm wearing that exact outfit in so many pictures from 1983 that only one of two conclusions can be drawn: I only owned one outfit, or all of the pictures were taken on a single, extraordinarily busy day.

tagged as memories, media | permalink | 0 comments

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Silver Linings Playbook (R):
I felt like this movie was oddly paced, which leaves me torn on how to rate it. The first half did a very good job building up the characters in a fairly realistic way and getting me invested. However, when Jennifer Lawrence's character lays out her price for helping to deliver a letter, it seems incredibly contrived and breaks the spell. Had the movie started closer to this point in the plot, it would have been any cheesy 80s movie, complete with montages. It's still worth a watch though, and hopefully we can see some more DeNiro/Cooper pairings in the future.

Final Grade: B-

The Mythical Man Month by Frederick Brooks, Jr:
This 1975 text is a seminal work in the field of software development, and introduces such rules as "Adding developers to a late project makes it later". The writing is academically dry, like any of my dad's enconomics books, and references software projects long gone from the public eye, which makes it more difficult to get engrossed. Also, with forty years of perspective, most of the hypotheses come off as common sense rather than visionary. Save $20 and read the Wikipedia summary unless reading this is on your bucket list.

Final Grade: C+

For True by Trombone Shorty:
This album carries the same fun-loving vibe of Backatown with a little more polish. It's overflowing with guest vocals, from folks as varied as Kid Rock and Lenny Kravitz. As before, the most successful beats are the ones without lyrics -- the title track, Buckjump is one of my favourites.

Final Grade: B

Somersault by Decoder Ring:
I stumbled upon this old soundtrack to an independent Australian film when searching for more music by Lenka. It's a typical atmospheric electronica soundtrack that you might find paired up with any particular student movie in the FSU film department, but it's pleasant enough for studying or coding to -- not unlike a less uneasy Twin Peaks soundtrack. Other than a single song's vocals, there's barely any Lenka at all here though.

Final Grade: C+

tagged as reviews | permalink | 0 comments

Friday, May 09, 2014

Questions Day

I'm opening up the floor (which from now on shall be called "trapdooring") to questions from the audience. What would you like to know? Leave me some questions in the Comments section, serious or fantastical, and I'll reply to them next week.

Happy Friday!

tagged as you speak | permalink | 3 comments

Monday, May 09, 2016

Weekend Wrap-up

This was another quiet weekend, most of which I spent working on open-source stuff and playing Overwatch while waiting for the rain to stop.

Once the sun finally came out, we went on a domestic errand spree, buying chairs for our newly expanded front porch, planting tomatoes in our side garden, and touring the apocalypse that was the going-out-of-business Sports Authority on Route 7, where merchandise was strewn across the floors like any given Walmart, and you could "fill a shopping cart with hangers and buy them for $25 (cart not included)". We also skipped the fitting room, which we could have bought for a cool $750.

In the evening, we had dinner at Mellow Mushroom and then started planning our summer vacation.

How was your weekend?

tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 2 comments

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Time-lapsed Blogography Day: Eighteen Years Ago Today

Eighteen years ago today was May 9, 2000, one of the final days in my fourth year at Virginia Tech. I was living with Kelley in East AJ, had already finished exams, and was just waiting to head back home for the summer (for my first internship at FGM).

On this day, Paige and I went hiking at Mountain Lake, whose only claim to fame was the fact that Dirty Dancing was filmed there. I'm not sure if this particular lake even exists anymore as most reports suggest that all the water drained out through a crack in the lake bed and down into China.

We hiked 3 of the trails over a course of about 5 hours, although much of that was spent sitting on giant rocks and admiring the view of the witch trees. Here are a couple pictures I took with my nearly-a-megapixel digital camera.

In the afternoon, I had lunch in the dorm room, played Starcraft with Kelley (co-op vs. the computer), and did a little trumpet playing on the loading dock much to the chagrin of the people in dorms directly across the street.

tagged as memories | permalink | 1 comment

Monday, May 09, 2022

Mouse Update Day

An anticlimactic ending to our mouse saga

The war against Little Asshole continued through the month of February and March. I scoured the house daily, using the presence or absence of mouse poop to triangulate the mouse's general living location. I applied flank pressure like a Civil War general to guide the mouse towards areas of the house that were easier to trap. Throughout, the mouse survived and avoided all traps. It even got one foot caught in a glue trap but managed to get free, unscathed, after a couple hours.

March 30 was the last day that I found new mouse droppings. On March 31, we took in some guest cats for a week. Unlike Amber, one of these cats was young and could actually smell and hear so we had hoped that she would finally catch the mouse. Unfortunately, the mouse never again made an appearance and we have yet to see or smell a mouse corpse.

The current working theories: The mouse ran outside to die of old age. The mouse prophesized the coming of the cat hero and fled. The mouse stole so much of Amber's food over the months that it is living safely in the walls and no longer needs to poop on my carpet. The mouse did die somewhere in the house but we won't know for sure until the hot summer months.

Hopefully this movie will not have a sequel.

tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 2 comments

 

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