Friday, August 27, 2004

Small theater groups near Bloomington

Looking for some great, yet inexpensive, live entertainment? Try one of these groups:

Little Theater of Bedford

Bloomington Playwrights Project

Brown County Playhouse

Shawnee Theatre

Indiana University Theater

Play review: Caught in the Net, Ray Cooney

We went over to the Brown County Playhouse to see this. As of tonight, I am officially a Big Fan of Ray Cooney; I thought before we went to see the play that I'd recognized the name, and reading the program I recognized a couple of other titles of his that I'd seen. I'm not a play-going afficionado by any means, especially since the three-year-old was born, but I try to get to a few plays every year. Cooney specializes in the British farce; that is a play where the main character tells a lie to cover some indiscretion or problem of his, then has to go on inventing bigger and bigger lies to try to keep holding everything together. In this one, the main character is a man with two wives in different parts of London, and a teenaged child by each one, who eventually meet over the Internet.

As it starts out, you assume the man (played by Jonathan Molitor) is going to be the main prevaricator, since he has been holding the two households together for many years, but it soon turns out that his reluctant buddy Stanley Gardner (Scot Purkeypile) has the real creative genius, coming up with a series of lies to tell every character, and almost holding the whole thing together until the very end. I was impressed by Mr. Purkeypile, who had a real sense of physical humor. He had just finished playing Froggy in The Foreigner, and I kept looking at him and thinking how perfect he must have been in that part.

The play started out a little rough. Watching comedies, I pay a lot of attention to timing, and I thought the timing of a few of the lines was a little rough. But things quickly smoothed out, and midway through the first half I was lost in the action and trying to keep track of which character knew what. That's always how I know a play's gotten good, if I'm no longer paying to the dynamics of it. Before the end there were plenty of moments that had the audience rolling in the aisles.

Playhouse tickets were $17, even before you get into the ridiculous Ticketmaster fees. (I once tried to order tickets to a museum through there, and children under 10 were free. Ticketmaster wanted to charge me a $3 handling fee for my free ticket. Wrong.) You can get them without additional fees at the IU box office, but it still strikes me as a little high. Maybe I'm getting old, though; I think most things are ridiculously overpriced. Oh well, I'll certainly be back next year if another Cooney play is on.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Book review: Emma, Jane Austen

It's an interesting thing to note, that if you go searching for information on Emma on the web, 90% of the hits you get will be aimed at kids. I'd assume high schoolers, since I wouldn't assign the book to younger readers myself, but still, questions like "How many characters marry in Emma?" make me cringe. I think the correct answer is, "All of them", more or less. Then there are the Austen online biographies, of which there are roughly three million. I don't know how much I'd have to wade through to get the answers I want, to the questions I have, none of which I can remember any more. The edition of the book I read wasn't annotated much better, either. We learn that "Imaginist" is a word Ms. Austen made up which means, "One who imagines", and that's great, but somehow I think I could have figured it out all on my own. On the other hand, every so often there is an allusion or maybe just something going on behind the scenes, that I'm sure was perfectly clear to every contemporary reader of the book, which left me saying, "Now what exactly did you mean by that?"

My favorite thing about reading these older books is the unconscious descriptions of the society. You can hear people saying, "Oh yes, back then women were practically forced to get married, they were always addressed as Mrs. or Miss, and they always took their husbands' names" but you don't really feel it until you read a book like Emma, where things like this aren't discussed, aren't mentioned, they simply permeate the book and the telling of the story. They are basic facts of existence Without Which One Could Not Exist. You don't get the same effect from reading a modern novel that is merely based in that time.

Anyway, it's a good book. You have to enjoy the "Novel of Manners", as I've heard them called; there is a surprising lack of car chases, death scenes, or even bank robberies; the point of the book is simply: how does one get what one wants in a society in which behavior is so strictly regulated? You soothe, you hint. You avoid ruffling feathers. At one point Emma is obliged to spend an afternoon with Mrs. Elton, whom she truly dislikes, in order that her degree of dislike not be known. (The utter uncouthness of Mrs. Elton simply cannot be described; she refers to her husband as "Mr. E", if you can imagine.) But once you get into the feel of thing, the lack of manners is truly grating. I think I'd prefer to bang my head against the wall rather than read over one of Mrs. Elton's obnoxious speeches again.

I'm not going over the plot. Google for "Jane Austen Emma" for many many descriptions - primarily in words of one syllable - and you'll find everything you need to know. It starts a bit slow, but by the time Emma has managed to get herself well and truly tangled in her attempts to matchmake for everyone around her, it's impossible to put down without finding out how she extricates herself. Read it. And always be polite.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004


I don't get what Technorati is about. I blogged last night about losing weight, right? They claim they index blogs, right? Yet, if I go there and search for "Losing Weight", I get three pages of entries that don't include mine. If I search for my name, I get "No results found". So am I not indexed? If blogs aren't being indexed, what's the point of Technorati? It's not like spiders can't find this page. Now, if I don't show up because I don't have anyone linking to me, that's cool; but I wish I could find that information out somewhere on the site. I even went there and "Claimed my blog" one day, I think. Username and password are long lost. So what are they doing over there? Anyone know?

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Losing weight

So I gained a few pounds on vacation. I had a goal of losing 20 pounds this year, and I was doing pretty well until vacation, when we went out for meals, drank quite a bit, and ate snacks in the hotel in the evening. Still, I managed to hit the treadmill three times during the week, so I thought I'd be doing ok, if not great. So I was really irritated when I got home and found I'd gained six or seven pounds for the week.

Of course, that was a bit high; probably quite a bit of water. I managed to work most of it off with soccer and Ultimate Frisbee the first couple of days back, but I was still 7 pounds shy of my goal for the end of August, so I've really been trying to cut back on calories since then. I'm still probably two or three pounds too heavy with a week to go yet, with one soccer game yet to play. Ah well, maybe I can find a few minutes to run as well.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Back from vacation

Wow! A whole week in exotic Evansville, IN. We really live it up on our vacations.

In all seriousness, we did spend most of the time in Evansville, and had a great time. I wish the hotel had had Wi-Fi, and I would have blogged each day, instead of the couple of sentences I'm going to provide now. We spent the first couple of days in New Harmony, IN, the site of some Utopian experiments in the early 1800's. Most people could probably do the town in a few hours, but we were interested enough to come back the second day to look at the things we missed. I especially liked a recorded lecture over a miniature layout of the city. We also visited the State Park and the Wabash River, which was bigger than I remembered.

We visited the George Reitz house, a very nice old house, where we were guided by a very knowledgable tour guide, who kept throwing things out like, "We're having the restorers come in next week to see if there's any old wallpaper behind this whitewash", which is a nice change from the rather bland from-memory speeches you often get in this sort of house.

We went to French Lick and West Baden, to see the old hotel that has been recently remodeled. We didn't get to see much, they had big No Trespassing signs everywhere. But there was also a train museum in town, which was very nice, although we didn't actually take a ride.

We visited another train museum in Evansville, as well as the Museum of Arts and Sciences and the Children's Museum. The train museum was a great value for $2. The Children's museum was a bit on the small side, although we would definitely be members if we lived closer.

We visited Angel Mounds State Park, to look at the old Indian mounds. I preferred the inside displays to the outside ones, which mostly consisted of "Don't walk here" signs. We did see a Snowy Egret in the wetland.

We drove over to Kentucky to visit the Audubon state park. Very nice birdfeeding stations, with dozens of hummers and a few other things. The audio tour of James Audubon's life was nearly an hour long, and discussed a surprising number of exhibits in a very small space.

We went to Connersville and, in our third train museum, finally took a train ride, from Connersville to Metamora and back. The museum had no less than five Thomas the Tank Engine train tables, and an extensive Thomas gift shop.

We watched lots of Court TV and gained lots of weight, at least I did :) All in all, we vacationed good and hard, and now I'm happy to get back to my desk and relax!

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Book review: Chicago River, Libby Hill

I have a habit, when we take a vacation, of picking up a book with some local history or some interesting information about a site, since I read voraciously I prefer a book as a souvenir to some knicknack that I'll never find a place to keep. (The downside, of course, is that I constantly need more bookshelves.) So on our Chicago trip I picked up this history of the Chicago river, which is chock-full of information and fascinating research on the river. I'm looking forward to our next trip, now, to examine the mouth of the river with my new understanding that it is now engineered to flow outwards from Lake Michigan and, eventually, empty into the Gulf of Mexico. I had no idea.

The author has done a lot of what I like to do, which is to wander out to some random place and say, "Wow, I wonder what this looked like 20 years ago? Or 50, or a hundred?". If the place is on the Chicago River, you will find out in this book. Tons of details, with discussion like, "The tiny creek actually flowed into the river just south of the Mini-Mart on Calcutta Avenue." If I were a native this kind of detail would be terrific, and I would be sure to swing by Calcutta Avenue some time and see if I could actually find the ditch. Since I'm not, I have to wish someone would write a similar book about Spanker's Branch, the tiny creek that runs through the Indiana University campus here in Bloomington. I think I'll be waiting a long time.

The book tails off a bit in the end, with some pieces that almost seem like propaganda concerning various nature preserves that now exist on or near the river banks, and there is a map in the back showing "Golf Courses on the Chicago River", as if I might be interested in spending a summer golfing down the banks. Judging from the number of courses, I probably could.

But the first 80% of the book is terrific reading for local history buffs. There was a series of books many years ago on rivers - maybe a depression-era public works project? Employ those writers! - and that had a Chicago River book as well, which is referenced by this updated version, but this one is obviously a labor of love. The older books spend a lot of time discussing the people who happened to live on the river banks rather than the river itself. I bought one on the Ohio River as a souvenir of a trip to Cincinnati, and I haven't managed to slog through the whole thing yet. But if an update comes out that is as good as the Chicago River book, I'll be in line to buy it.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Book trading site

Thought I had a great idea for a new web site for a minute; a book-trading site, where you would agree to send used books to other members if they would send books to you.  I know, I know, trading sites don't make profits and went out in the 90's, but I don't think that's the goal; any more than the little old men in carpet slippers who run used brick-and-mortar bookstores are really in it to make a profit.   The goal is to get around the godawful prices of books these days, and to find them nice homes when you're done with them.
But I did a quick search before I really started to look into it, and I found this one.  I skimmed for reviews and users, and found...nothing.  I don't think they've been open for more than three months, so I'm thinking I just missed the boat here.  Well, book trading is my goal, so I'll give them a try.  Hope they don't do anything evil with my credit card number.

Thursday, July 15, 2004


Went to Chicago for the weekend.  It's turned into an annual event for us, just to go up and visit some cool stuff; the art museum, the field museum; the Navy Pier.  Well, that last one wasn't so hot - somehow I just can't get too excited about a place that charges a buck for a refill of iced tea.   I hate to think what their profit margin on that must be.  We visited the children's museum too, which was...not terrible.  They had some nice stuff for the two-year-old, but it was pretty jammed together.  They could have used quite a bit more space.  The children's museums in Indianapolis and Bloomington - and Cincinnati, for that matter - are nicer.
But of course, the highlight of Chicago for me is the museum campus.  We only went to the Field Museum this year, but the aquarium and the other museums can't be beat.  We actually walked from the Navy Pier to the campus this year - a couple of miles, and pushing a stroller!
Topped it off with a quick visit to Indiana Dunes.  We went, unprepared, to the beach.   Swimming in Lake Michigan beats swimming in Monroe Lake, surprisingly enough.  The visit was way too short.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Book review: Against All Enemies, Richard Clarke

Okay, so I'm a little late with this one. But at least I read it, and all the way through; bought it on eBay for $15 and you couldn't have done that six months ago.

It's a good book. It opens with a description of what Clarke was doing on September 11, and it is riveting. It's exciting to hear what was going on at the White House: "They did what? What else can they do? Shut down this! Close that! Scramble the fighters!" Very cool stuff.

Clarke is clearly a Clinton fan. I was at Goodwill a few weeks ago and picked up George Stephanopoulos' autobiography, so I've read two sympathetic books in the last few weeks, and my opinion of Clinton has gone up a lot. I always thought he was a good president due to his domestic agenda, the balancing of the budget, and the roaring economy, but I was at least willing to give Bush the benefit of the doubt and say that he's done an okay job against terrorism. When the Iraq war started, I was on-the-fence to negative, thinking that the war would probably do no more harm than good. The utter incompetence at the peace process, however, has pretty much turned me into an Anyone-But-Bush'er.

According to Clarke, however, Bush has totally screwed up the war against terrorism as well. Starting with the lack of planning that allowed 9/11 to happen, followed by an indecisive response in Afghanistan, and of course the leap to conclusions that started the Iraq war, Clarke shreds the Bush administration top to bottom. I can't say for sure that it deserves to be shredded, from my own knowledge; more reading is needed here.

That's the big talking point of the book, of course. We've all seen the headlines: "Former Bush aide writes tell-all!" The fact is, though, the Bush administration is covered pretty quickly in the last couple of chapters. The meat of the book is about the Clinton administration, and the claim that Clarke makes that I'm surprised didn't get a lot of airplay, was the claim that Clinton did a darn good job against terrorism. Clarke blames bureaucracy and the intelligence services for the failures on the Clinton watch.

So is it true? I can't say it is for sure. But what I do know is that 9/11 happened under the Bush administration, which is demonstrably incompetent at so many things, and it sure wouldn't surprise me to find that "Preventing Major Terrorist Attacks" is another area where Bush gets a failing grade.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Counterterrorism Wiki

So I started reading Against All Enemies this week. I'll do a book review of that when I get done, too, but the thing that really strikes me is how hard it is to follow all the information in it. I'm not reading it with an agenda - well, yes I am, Bush stinks - so trying to really understand in my head what was going on is pretty tough. And Clarke does a lot of things like blaming the CIA and FBI for problems, where I'm sure that if I read a book about the CIA I'd hear a pretty different version of events. So I went over to SeedWiki and started up a CounterTerrorism wiki. What I've written on it so far is just a few things and links I've found, but I really only have one goal for it - understanding what the heck Clarke is talking about. Due to the nature of Wiki's, of course, it may end up being something else entirely.

Sunday, July 04, 2004


My child is nearly three. It won't be long before we have to think about a school for him. One of my top choices is Harmony School, but I wonder if I can be accused of elitism if I want to send him to a private school? I think my dad would say he needs to be exposed to children of diferent backgrounds than us, and I am sympathetic to that. But some kinds of diversity I don't want. For example, I would be perfectly happy not having him exposed to:

- Students who don't feel that education is important.

- Students who believe that the world owes them a living.

- Students who are just marking time until they are legally allowed to leave school.

- Lawyers.

Well, OK, I suppose that last one isn't a big issue in preschool.

So am I an elitist?

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Book review: The Wee Free Men, Terry Pratchett

For the sake of full disclosure, I'm a big Pratchett fan. I breathlessly wait for every new novel and run out and buy it as soon as it comes out. (In paperback, that is. I'm not made of money here.) So it's convenient that in his recent forays into the children's market (like Amazing Maurice), if there was ever a hardback version I didn't see it, and got to buy the paperback version as soon as I knew about it.

But even so, I was hesitant to read Maurice. A good author for grownups does not necessarily make a good author for kids, and I was very ready to be disappointed with what made the Discworld interesting for kids. But I wasn't. When you read Pratchett, you can always expect to see the conventional wisdom turned on its head. The witches are heroes, the handsome prince is a bad guy. If you stay true to yourself and follow your dreams, you'll get your rear kicked by the guy down the street who works for a living. And I was very glad to see this pattern continuing in Wee Free Men.

As a matter of fact, it's hard to say what really makes this a kid's book. "Teen fiction" is where you'll find it categorized, but the only difference, really, between this and any other Discworld book is maybe just a slight lack of depth in the characters. Even then, it's just as likely that they will show up in other books to become more rounded out. The Nac Mac Feegle have already appeared in Nanny Ogg's kitchen, for example, and I read one review claiming that the aerial Night Watch officer in that book was one as well, although I missed that when I read it. I'll check more carefully on my next read.

And it has to be said, Tiffany Aching, the nine-year-old pre-witch, is a compelling character. It'll be clear to readers familiar with the series that she has all the right attributes to be a talented witch, unlike, for example, Magrat Garlick, or Tiffany's would-be mentor, Miss Tick. Tiffany not only has the smarts, but also the sense to know when it's better to whomp a monster on the head with a frying pan rather than close her eyes and magic it away. I wonder if we'll get to watch her growing through her teen years to adulthood, like Death's granddaughter Susan. We can hope.

All in all, I just have to think of this book as A Discworld Book, and that is how I will categorize future Pratchett "teen fiction" offerings; to be bought as soon as they are available.

And speaking of that, Mr. Pratchett: I'm done with this one. May I have another?

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Onine church calendar

I was asked to look at online calendars for church this month. I spent a few hours on it and came up with three: Calendars Net, Super Calendar, and Hunt Calendars. The most important thing I think I found is that there wasn't a whole heck of a lot of distinguishing features. To write up a report for the church, I checked prices, and tried to compare ease-of-use and reliability. But I don't think I did it right, because my recommendation actually was questioned because I'd rated the only calendar that wasn't free highest :) Super Calendar costs $20 a year. But I recommended Calendars Net, mostly because it was free and allowed sending reminders for free, the only one of the three that did that. But maybe I missed something...if you know of a better online calendar or a better idea for calendars in general, post it in the comments.

Friday, June 18, 2004

How To Blog by Tony Pierce

Keepin' it real here. My only issue is, I searched all over the site and never found the bloody RSS or Atom feeds. What am I supposed to do, read it in my browser or something? (Thanks Hugh)

Monday, June 14, 2004

Mt. Rainier is in sight

That's right, I'm in Seattle today. Flew in for a two-day conference at Microsoft. It's really cool that both Microsoft and my hotel have wireless access; I like being able to turn on my laptop just about anywhere and have access. Cathy would have liked to make it a family trip, but that would have meant Jesse not going to Vacation Bible School, and I really can't conceive of six hours in an airplane with a two-year-old. Maybe next year. I can't decide if I made the right decision not to rent a car. Cab ride to the hotel was $35, and $35 back again of course, but I think finding a very easy bus route to Microsoft was the clincher. A buck fifty for a four-mile ride, and I imagine renting a car would have been more than $100, plus all the parking headaches.

I subscribe to Dana Epp's blog. Can't believe they're scheduling a dinner just a few days after I leave!

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Evangelism and IT lessons from a church

Scoble is one of the most-read bloggers around, so I don't know why I'm linking to him. Good article though, and good reading if you are - like me - on a church's Outreach committee.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Rough day today

Rough day today. After an extra-long church service with Communion and new church members, went downstairs for a potluck dinner and baby shower, and the little one got his fingers caught in the door. Off we went to the health clinic, where we proceeded to wait. And wait. Eventually I went off to McDonalds to feed the troops, ignoring the comment in the room saying "No food allowed!" Finally we did get the fingers X-rayed, and it looks like there are no breaks, so Jesse gets lots of Advil and some very sore fingers for the next few days.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

My pastor has started a blog! I've been encouraging lots of people to blog; the CEO of my company, my dad, the pastor. It's bad form, they say, to make your first entry about blogging itself, and Annette avoided that error - unlike me - but the art form is new enough to be interesting, and widespread enough to be a real social phenomenon. What does it mean when this many people can post their thoughts, publicly, and be widely read by even more? It is, in a lot of ways, the way that Americans can stop Bowling Alone, and reconnect with their communities, and it seems to me that religious leaders should be in the forefront of that movement.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

I sent a message to the webmaster of the local paper this week, saying, "Are you offering RSS feeds? If not, when will you start?"

Got a message back a couple of hours later saying, "Sounds like a good idea - try this feed out and see if it works."

It didn't at the time, but a couple of iterations later the local paper is now offering RSS feeds! How cool is that?

Herald-Times RSS feed