June 27, 2003


Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 11:23 PM
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.

June 26, 2003


Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 9:19 PM
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.

June 25, 2003


Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 8:08 PM
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.


Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 11:54 AM
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!

June 23, 2003


Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 7:15 PM
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???

June 18, 2003


Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 1:16 PM
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.

June 15, 2003


Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 10:43 AM
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!

June 14, 2003


Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 4:37 PM
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.

June 13, 2003


Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 11:44 PM
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!


Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 10:02 PM
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.)


Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 3:02 PM
Last night I dreamed that I had to clean the old apartment again. This was because, in the dream, I'd needed a venue for a D&D game, and since my new place is full of boxes I somehow decided it would be a good idea to go play at the old one. (It does have a lot of room, now that there's no furniture, but under waking logic seems a bit uncomfortable that way.) As the dream continued my problem solved itself (rare for my dreams); I went home to pick up some cleaning supplies and on my return the entire house had been demolished, as if by a hurricane. The final image of the dream is Phil using a broom to sweep debris off the basement floor, now out in the open.

I think the proper interpretation of that one is, Damn, it's good to be out of there.

I've been devoting my thoughts to optimization in various forms lately. Certainly as far as setting up in my new home, but also I've had a flood of ideas about how to improve the software that runs our experiments. For example: wouldn't it be nice to configure a measurement and queue it up while another one is running, so you don't have to wait for it to finish before going to lunch? I'm also looking for ways to make new types of measurements easier to set up, which has been a big problem all along - somebody wants to do it in a slightly different way, but the change in the program is not so slight. Implementing all these things I've thought of will require rewriting the software from scratch - a big task, but not impossible. It's sometimes even necessary, since the peculiarities of Labview imply that "spaghetti code" becomes a visual rather than conceptual metaphor after enough editing.

Internet access from home any day now. Today was the due date quoted to me over the phone when I made the request last week, but that was tentative.

June 10, 2003


Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 4:19 PM
I called SBC yesterday to have a technician come out and get my phone working. I scheduled it for Thursday morning, and then came home to find that the phone had started working while I was in lab. Talk about service!

(Actually, I suspect it was somehow tied to turning on my DSL - which is not, as of this morning, completely set up, but is close enough that I can get to the username/password stage of the log on process. This means I should soon be back to my 24/7 online state, and will never get my boxes unpacked.)

June 7, 2003


Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 3:05 PM
I'm out of my old residence, right on schedule. All my stuff is still sitting around in boxes; I'll have to work on that.

At the beginning of last week I was discussing my move-out plans with Phil, the landlord. He wanted to know when he could start showing the place. I'm getting out ASAP, so the easiest thing is to start showing it once I'm gone.

"I'll need to get my stuff out, and then clean up--"

"Oh, it doesn't need to be clean to show it."

I give him a funny look, so he follows up with:

"I'll just tell them to use their imagination; it'll be clean when they get it."

Bet you rent a lot of places that way, Phil.

I hired some guys to move my furniture. I call the company on Monday and scheduled a truck to come the next day. The guy on the phone tells me exactly what I'm going to get, and says he's sending the information on to the branch office, so I figure I'm all set. To my recollection he didn't say anything about needing to call the branch office to confirm. So on Tuesday I spend the morning getting everything ready, and then when the truck hasn't arrived I call the number he gave me for the branch office. "Did you make a confirmation call?" D'oh!

(By the way, this seems horribly inefficient. Why not list the local branch number in the yellow pages, instead of making people call the main number and then the branch number?)

Anyway, I reschedule the truck for Wednesday. They tell me it'll arrive between eleven and three. Everything's ready this time, so starting at 10:30 I'm sitting on the couch waiting and indulging my newfound Golden Sun addiction. I get my ass demolished by the kraken's fighting technique, and start my game over after realizing that I have missed no fewer than six djinni.

At 3:15 I call the branch office again, asking "Dude, where's my truck?"

The answer is that it broke down that morning. They have another one that just came back, and they promise it in half an hour. It shows up at 5:00, and I get my stuff moved.

This is where the girl with the beer shows up. (See my previous entry.) She was there to welcome me to the building with beer and sweet lovin'. That's what I'd like to say, but actually she was moving out herself, had just had a party, didn't drink beer, and needed to get rid of it. Needless to say I wasn't about to turn down free beer. With the experience I was having so far, I was going to need it.

I go back to the old apartment to get the last batch of stuff. Batches, really - I'm going to renounce my pack rat tendencies from this point; I hauled a lot of useless stuff away from that place. My plan was to put it in the storage room that comes with the new place, but my key no longer opens the lock. Was it rekeyed by mistake when the woman with the beer moved out? I still have yet to track down the building manager to sort this out, so there's a huge pile of boxes in the middle of my floor with nowhere to go. Maybe this will force me to go through them and get rid of stuff.

The other annoyance is that my phone still does not work (so don't try to use my new number yet). SBC assures me it has been connected, so it's another thing to harass Fred about.

The good part? I no longer wake up at 7:30 every morning to the sound of kids yelling. No one is coming in to play my video games while I'm gone. And, I have beer.

June 4, 2003


Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 11:09 PM
The move is proceeding, finally. Later perhaps I shall relay all the numerous twists and turns in escaping my dark confines, but for now I will just pass on this excerpt:

So I open the door to my new apartment to let the movers in with the first batch of stuff. Shortly thereafter I hear a voice behind me. "Are you moving in?"

I turn around, and standing in my doorway is a woman. She is holding all of the following:
  • A two liter bottle of Coke
  • Two bottles of Anchor Steam
  • A six pack of Dos Equis

Did I just walk into a commercial, and if so, what's it for? Or is this all a dream, and am I going to wake up realizing that I have to move all over again? Or, have I gone off the deep end into John Nash fantasy land? Or, is this story not as interesting as it sounds? Must be the latter, since this is another cliffhanger entry. Tomorrow - the exciting conclusion!

June 1, 2003


Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 10:43 PM
Ah, the joy of moving. It's a testament to my desire to get the hell out of here that I managed to move anything today (especially when the alternatives were Dynasty Warriors 4 and Planetside, the time-devouring games that consumed last weekend). In any case, I managed to move the Library today, which takes care of most of the heavy stuff (at least, the heavy stuff that I can handle alone). (At some point I got into the habit of referring to different areas of my apartment as if they were separate rooms: Library, Gameroom, Study... makes the place seem larger.) Tomorrow I'll attempt the bulk of the moving, and see if I can get some burly men to help with my bed (and the other furniture).

Who needs the Matrix - I can slow down time just by waiting in line at the Target. I'd prefer the opposite effect, but I guess the clerk was running on obselete hardware or something.

Tomorrow: the exciting saga of how many dishes I break while trying to move them. Place your wagers in the comments!