Sunday, November 25, 2007


We saw Enchanted this weekend, and highly recommend it to anyone, whether you have children or not. Indeed, I'd guess that half of it is wasted on children unless they have been raised on all of the Disney classic anime, but particularly Snow White (1938) with a strong bit of cross-polination from Cinderella (1950) and perhaps Sleeping Beauty (1959).

The movie was great fun. (Possible minor spoilers follow, but some might enhance your viewing experience.)

It's about time that Disney take a chance by poking fun at their competitors in addition to their own movies. I mean, was that a Troll or an Ogre that Prince Edward (!) captured? Could have been Shrek's cousin. And are they suggesting that the other Prince Edward is a bit dim? I'd love to hear a UK audience watch this movie!

As a fan of Disney animation, the opening scene was a delightful surprise. The long zoom through the woods was not quite at the level of Pinocchio (1940), but it was brilliantly done. (If you have never seen that movie, check it out.) I also found the ballroom scene interesting as a tribute to the dance scene from Beauty and the Beast, which was an early triumph of 3-D computer animation rendering the chandelier.

If you watch the entire frame, you might catch a glimpse of Totoro. I missed it, but my wife says a Totoro toy was in the lower right corner of the frame during a scene in the daughter's bedroom.

A real test of any movie is whether a scene is so good that it is not spoiled by having seen clips of it in the ads or in a trailer. That is definitely the case for the scene where animals (and insects!) clean the apartment. The actual scene has much more than they gave away in the trailers, and the ad version was pretty good. Best of all, even though it was obvious how it had to turn out, it was far from clear exactly how they would get there. As expected, they live happily ever after, but the details are entertaining as can be.

Susan Sarandon rocks as the evil queen. She looked like she belonged in NYC.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Disc for PG

This is not a compact disk, it is the real thing, posting inspired by Profgrrrrl's blog this evening about listening to an "old" CD by Billie Holiday.

I wonder if her digital CD will be playable when it is over 60 years old.

My Mom bought this 78, and others, with money she earned from her first job while in high school. This side, "Am I Blue", is a classic, her signature song. The "B" side is "Long Gone Blues" with Lips Page on Trumpet.

I find it interesting that this song is described as a Fox Trot, because it does not swing like the big band songs one would normally associate with that dance.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Finishing the Move

Monday will be a special day, as my parents move out of their home of 30+ years and downsize into a townhouse in a retirement community where many of their friends already live. (I think part of their anticipation of the move comes as they realize that they know more people within a few blocks of their new place than they know in their current neighborhood, as long-time residents have made room for young families. It is also a really nice place.) But that is for another blog entry.

Today (Saturday) was an even more special day. My brother finally moved the last boxes from his college days out of my parent's basement and into his own. It took two trips in the family minivan, I am told, although that included some items from the house that are going to him. But only some.

Just in case you can't guess how long they might have been down there, his oldest child graduated from college about 2 years ago. Yeah, those boxes have been down there about a quarter of a century. The word from my parents is that he has found all sorts of treasures he had forgotten he even owned.

All I can add is, just wait until Thanksgiving and Christmas. I know for a fact that he is going to get some really priceless gifts this year, since I got some great ones when my parents were here last month. I did not blog about any of it because I don't want to tip him off about what might end up under his tree, but one of them left me speechless.

Exactly where they are going to go in his house is the real puzzle, since the 2-car garage and basement are pretty well packed with ... well ... with a quarter century of accumulated stuff, mostly the prized possessions of his three kids along with all of the usual necessities of suburban life.

The interesting question for the future might be: How long will his kids keep their stuff in his basement after they get their own homes and families?

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Shakespeare never said this ...

I can't resist time-wasting junk like this (from Dr. Crazy via Profgrrrrl), particularly when it does not take much time to do it:

William Shakespeare

It is the physics,
The physics above us, govern our conditions.

Which work of Shakespeare was the original quote from?

Get your own quotes:

Heck, that was so easy that I will try another:

William Shakespeare

Come not between the Dr. Pion and his wrath.

Which work of Shakespeare was the original quote from?

Get your own quotes:

Heh, heh. That one is priceless!

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veteran's Day

Or should I say Armistice Day, as it used to be known?

In any case, Monday may be the official holiday, nationally and in some states, but today is the real one ... remembering the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 when the guns fell silent at the 11th hour.

So give your favorite veteran a call today. You never know which Veteran's day will be his or her last one, and it is not just the WW II vets who are fading away. Plenty of Vietnam vets are getting on in years along with the vets who got the Tom Brokaw treatment. Which reminds me: I really should give my brother-in-law a call.

I'm glad I know the story of how he won a major combat medal while doing what would seem to be the safe job of a court reporter at a field court martial that got a bit hot. He, like most men who have seen combat, doesn't talk about it much. Similarly, a good friend did not find out his father's combat history in the Pacific until after he died. For good reason, I suppose. If you ever happen to see the film shot by combat photographers as the Marines landed on Tarawa, you'll get the general idea that the experiment might be hard to explain.

My grandfather, who served in France during WW I and told a priceless story of Armistice Day, also said little about his service as a combat engineer. I only know about the time he took a shrapnel hit in the helmet and when he got a "touch" of mustard gas that sent him to a rear-echelon job driving an ambulance. Although this gas was not one developed by Fritz Haber, I still find it outrageous that Haber won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1918. Oddly enough, his contribution to using chemistry for mass killing during WW I is not even mentioned in the bio on the Nobel site.

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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Space Shuttle Reentry Track

The Space Shuttle will be landing at the Kennedy Space Center tomorrow (Wednesday) just after lunch. It will land at 1:02 PM EST if it comes in on orbit 238, and about 2:36 PM EST if it has to wait for orbit 239. The reentry track will take it across the continental US, offering some great viewing opportunities.

Information on the shuttle mission and maps of the reentry tracks can be found on the NASA shuttle web site.

The primary track will take it across the midwest (central Nebraska, NE Kansas, SW Missouri) at very high altitude, then across central Alabama, possibly right over Columbus GA, south-central Georgia, then heading south just west of Daytona Beach to KSC. It should be over Alabama and Georgia about 10 minutes before landing.

Based on past experience, you should hear the distinctive double sonic boom a few minutes before landing. It takes it a long time for sound to travel down from something like 200,000 feet (40 miles) plus whatever your sideways distance adds to the hypotenuse; meanwhile, the Shuttle is making pretty good time towards Florida at over Mach 10. If you are close to the track, the sonic boom is thunderous and unforgetable.

The later landing path takes it across Utah and Texas and then along the Gulf Coast, crossing Florida a bit south of Ocala.

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Saturday, November 3, 2007

Grading Jail

Prompted by Profgrrrrl's article about her grading jail. Mine is not nearly as fancy as hers ....

... maybe because I do this (grade lab reports) every week, not just for a few exams during the semester.

Note the distractions, which are necessary to maintain sanity when reading a dozen or so versions of the same thing, each with their own annoying errors.

Interesting that we both have a remote control in there. My "background music" is usually football or basketball. I really like to grade during Monday Night Football. You can work along and only have to look up when there is something worth watching in a replay.

One thing of note: These students are doing a really good job of preparing their reports. The nicely organized cover page with an executive summary of the results that you see is actually a typical one for this class, which is the second semester I have had them. I always have to remind myself to tell them that they are doing a good job of getting ready for the advanced labs (and massive reports) they will encounter in engineering college. They have come a long way. They don't even whine very much any more.

This also reminds me that I really need to get back to a pair of articles on teaching labs, and the role of reading and writing in physics and engineering. Later ...

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First Century

One hundred posts.

The statistics sure show the effect of a CC teaching load.

March (16)
April (20)
May (17)
June (18)
July (10)
August (7)
September (6)
October (5)
and this one in November.

There was a bit of early enthusiasm and a backlog of ideas at the start, but it is also the case that the only thing to do towards the end of the spring semester is grading related. All of the prep was done a long time before, and only a few exams remained to be written or fine tuned. I was even teaching during the first half of the summer, but that light load left lots of time for other things. The drop off in July was when I started prep for Fall semester.

Students don't realize that our work load is totally out of synch with theirs. They work the hardest toward the end of the semester, studying for exams, while we work the hardest early in the semester, or even before it. That is particularly true when coordinating courses (which is part of my additional duties, not counted in my contact numbers or teaching load). Everything has to be planned out in detail several weeks before the semester starts so syllabi can be printed and outlines given to the people teaching the courses I coordinate.

That is why faculty are so punch drunk about now, since we are finishing up the last exams for the year, grading, but also preparing for Spring semester. That has to be done before Christmas break, since the few days after New Years are not enough to prepare anything that has to be in either the student's or the instructor's hands by the first day of class.

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