Thursday, April 30, 2009

[rev.] Halleluja

Leonard Cohen is a powerful poet. One can argue about his qualities as a vocal performer; since I don't think opera or Broadway has a corner on quality, he's fine in my book. The Essential Leonard Cohen is on my Amazon Shopping List, and I'm struggling whether or not to buy it before the end of the school year, as a present to myself for finishing without totally losing my mind... or whether I ought to buy it now, because after losing my mind I'll .....

The whole reason I'm considering buying this album is because it has this Hallelujah. Perhaps I should say I really want that one track, and at $14, a 2-CD package of tons of other stuff is almost irresistible.

Hallelujah: There are countless arrangements on this theme. Going back 1800 years or so. This is the music/prayer sung immediately before reading the Gospel during Mass. The joyous celebration that there is a word of god to hear. We want to connect with the divine. Handel's glorious chorus is often what one imagines: perky happiness of the entire soul passionately seeing some true expression of joy.

But we aren't always (in fact, probably rarely) happy when searching for a way to connect with god ... What is one to do, looking at death, misery and the desecration if not destruction of the world, if one is trying to sing to the glory of God?

I recommend the Randal Thompson composition from 1948-ish. It was commissioned before World War 2, and actually written afterwards. It is mournful, very slow, in a minor key and anything other than joyous. Although it does perk up at the very end to "not morosely slow", perhaps having found some solace in the completion of sorrow.

Cohen's piece I believe, truly brings forth the sorrow of searching, and perhaps not finding, a god to praise. 'yearning but helpless prayer' was used to describe one of his more recent songs. The use of simple music behind the vocals in the verses mimics the minimalistic presence of god at times, erupting into a resigned but emphatic chorus of "Halleluja". Although, as the word is so often associated with Christianity, I do wonder if people notice neither of the figures referred to are Christian? Not a surprise, as he's a Jew; yet it appeals to my Catholic visceral response.

It doesn’t matter which you heard,
The holy or the broken Hallelujah
I did my best, it wasn’t much,
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I told the truth, I didn’t come to fool ya
And even though it all went wrong,
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but

I love the phrase "the broken halleluja".

The use of this in the recent flick "Watchmen" is nicely poignant. A paean to lost opportunities consummated perhaps too late in life.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

7 Deadly Sins - coming to your front door

A couple of geographers from Kansas State University wrangled up a host of national statistical databases, massaged the numbers and used them to quantify lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride on a county-by-county basis across the U.S. ... Greed was calculated by comparing average incomes with the total number of inhabitants living beneath the poverty line.
Graphs are located at:

Minnesota is pretty cold on most of them... except Envy, with Hennepin & Ramsey Counties leading the pack. This translates to Minneapolis & St. Paul.

Focus on what is truly important

I was just chatting with a classmate about kids & parents' delusions/obsessions about their children's astronomical intelligence/athleticism/whatever. She said there are studies indicating that - regardless of what the parents think - by the time kids are teenagers, they move toward a more obvious normal. That parents' beliefs/hopes of their wunderkind is based upon a child developing faster, not further.

As I told her, as long as my sons grow up to be self-sufficient men who are capable of giving and receiving love ... anything else is icing on the cake of life.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Well, that's a surprise. Or not.

Not long after Specter met privately with Republican senators to explain his decision (he just joind the Party of Evil), the party's leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell, said the switch posed a "threat to the country." The issue, he said, "really relates to ... whether or not in the United States of America our people want the majority party to have whatever it wants, without restraint, without a check or balance."

sure, as long as it isn't the Republican Party, I'm okay with that ...? WTF? The GOP has wanted that for themselves ... power hungry pricks just don't want to share. Oh, I guess the Democrats don't either.

Jr.Gopher #1: why do I have to share?
me: Because sharing means everyone is equally unhappy.

Specter's switch leaves them with 59 Senate seats. Democrat Al Franken is ahead in a marathon recount in Minnesota. If he ultimately defeats Republican Norm Coleman, he would become the party's 60th vote — the number needed to overcome a filibuster that might otherwise block legislation.

I think we just got doomed to our election dragging on and on and on and on and one ....

The powerhouses

Who's going to win the Olympic basketball games? Well, it's no longer a sure thing we will, but no one is going to write us off. Baseball? Well, I might start betting on Cuba or Puerto Rico, but no one's going to be surprised if we do. American football? No one else plays it, so who cares? Soccer? Only our women are seen as a serious threat internationally. Ice hockey ... hmmm....

Well, gone are the days of 1980's "miracle", mostly because all of the amazing Soviet players moved here. Still, they're retired. The Russians clogging the NHL now, that's different - or perhaps no so different.

Russia 7 : 2 France

They play ice hockey in France? Where?

Sweden is the powerhouse of ice hockey. The largest nationality group for the Red Wings is from Sweden. Sight unseen, if I had to pick a best bet, it would be them. Of course, no one is immune from failure.

Sweden 2 : 3 Latvia.

Do most people here even know where Latvia is?

“We are obviously going to need that killer instinct when we play the Swedes,” [the US coach] said. “They are a very good team, a puck possession team, and play a little different from what we’ve seen so far.” Well, it's good that someone has explained to them that you need to actually get your stick on the puck in order to score.

I'm curious as to why this is going on concurrently w/ the Stanley Cup. A couple of the teams have yet to announce their line up for the next round, due to the players being distracted by the Cup. Sorry, Mr. Gopher, the Fatherland is (probably) out by another one of the Germanic countries (CH), although we took out the other one.

Canada 9 : 0 Hungary

Sure, rooting for the underdog is great - but the finals are likely to be the same-old-same-old: Canada, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Czech, & Slovakia, and and the U.S. Although, just checking, the Russia-Switzerland game is 2:2. If I can't root for Germany, at least I can hope one of the other underdogs take down the big boys.

But, the power game for the Gopher household is tomorrow: U.S. vs. Svenska (Hey, Mr. Gopher, did you know Linköping has an ice hockey team?) The only way Mr. Gopher will cheer for us is if we're not playing Germany or Sweden. Unfortunately, 8:15 p.m. Central European Time isn't exactly coordinated with Minnesota Central Time. I suspect my professors won't be too keen on ice hockey rather than a boring goddamned waste of my time field trip tomorrow.

Monday, April 27, 2009

With a name like Dinkytown, do you wonder ...?

These are some seriously impressive photographs: from the riots Saturday night in Dinkytown (part of Minneapolis). “We understand celebrating spring, but it should not involve starting fires and breaking things,” Rinehart said.

What a nice break from studying. You start drinking at noon, are hammered by six, and nobody is wiser at the end of the night when flash grenades go off and your friends are together in being sprayed with chemical irritants. - editorial

Rewind to Morgantown. I was a student at West Virginia University from '83-87. The big wild party event each year was in Sunnyside (read: student ghetto) after the Pitt game. It went overboard into a riot '84 when we beat Penn State for the first time in 30 years. I had to walk through the area on the way back to my dorm. Walk through being the operative word. I and several other members of the WVU Marching Band left our uniforms on for the trek. A matter of personal safety. Those students were setting cars on fire. (the party goers, not the band :)

Michigan State University in '99 had so-called "riots" two years running, once after losing the NCAA basketball tourney, and the other after winning. That constituted overturning city police cars and setting them on fire.

There's a really interesting paper (2003) which references both WVU and U of Minn (there was a riot here in '03 after the men's hockey team's championship game).
  • WVU - over 1120 street fires have occurred since 1997 related to sporting events (five times the national average). In 2002, the City of Morgantown incurred over $430,300 in property damage as a result of “street” arson.
  • More than $250,000 in property damage occurred at Michigan State University following the March 27-28, 1999 riots that resulted in 132 arrests, including 71 MSU students.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Whimsey of my life

Sex, Lies & Tee-times
The court also determined the $35,000 was a reasonable sanction when Ali Dunham was told that her golf schedule was not a factor to be considered in scheduling her deposition in the case, but she "disregarded that directive by deliberately choosing to play golf at the time of her deposition," the court said. "She then lied to the court about her reason for failing to attend her deposition, lied repeatedly under oath when presented with the true facts about her whereabouts at the time of her deposition, and now refers to her lies as a mere failure to 'volunteer' information." The court said Audian Dunham then lied to corroborate his wife's story.

Industrial ventilation design:
what exactly is a degree-day?

Do you want to rent space at the Mpls city public gardening area?
I have such a brown thumb. I've never been able to grow anything. I managed to keep a couple cacti alive at BioPort for 6 years. Then it died, too.

2 cents
Advice from one lawyer to his son, who was contemplating doing something socially rude:
"You're going to run into everybody again. They may not remember that you're a nice guy, but they'll certainly remember you're a jerk."

The Cup
So, I’m checking the NHL stats. I haven’t looked in the past two weeks. I can’t really watch the games, unless Yahoo is showing them on line, and that’s usually in conflict with the rest of my life. It’s in the final stretch. Boston, Washington, New Jersey, San Jose, Detroit, and Vancouver are at the top of the two conferences. No need to wonder who I want to win. Who do I think will? Well, Boston has been fantastic, and fantastically consistent. Detroit has, on more than once occasion in the past 20 years, fallen on their faces in the first round. Of course, they’ve also won 4 times in the past 12 seasons. Ultimately, I really want to be able to watch fantastic hockey. This is quite apparently not occurring today, with Columbus being pounded like a baby seal. “Columbus has an all-time record of 247-328-43. Detroit, meanwhile, is 288-254-1 ... but that’s just in playoff games.”

How many U.S. Senators are there? 100? No! There are only 99.
Minnesota can't seem to figure out how to make political assassinations feasible, and then take out the loser (in more than one sense) who's holding up our right to representation. Our senator has - like many in the country - been doing two people's work without adequate resources.

... hmm... maybe this might keep them in touch with the reality of the Modern Workforce? ... given their guaranteed unrelated to performance "pension", I doubt it ...

[Sen. Klobuchar] noted that she had originally predicted that the Senate race would be resolved by the time ice-out was officially declared for Lake Minnetonka -- which occurred last week on the same day as the ruling of the judges.

"Now I predict this will be done when Minnesotans are allowed to swim in our lakes, which is Memorial weekend," she said Sunday.- Sen. Amy Klobuchar

Seriously, what will it take to make the GOP satisfied? If the only answers is “I win”, they sound like my 4 year old. You lost, Norm, get over it and go find a job. Not that you actually need one, with your senatorial retirement benefits.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A little bit of everything

I'm sitting in the Hosmer library struggling to estimate the operational costs for electrical energy (i.e., the bill from XCel) for the ventilation system I apparently screwed up in hte last homework. I have the little study room, so my computer has music playing without needing earphones. (nice)
iTunes is set to random tune selection. There are times when it really hits home how diverse one's musical tastes can be. It just pulled up:

Peggy Lee
Rocky Horror Picture Show
Carl Orf's Carmina Burana
Ralph von Williams
Cowboy Junkies
Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Leonard Cohen

Saturday, April 18, 2009

win-max = fn(η-min)

St. Olaf Professor of Physics Jason Engbrecht said you'll want to see this "because obscenely complicated machines are cool."

St. Olaf was not only the only liberal arts school in the competition, it was also the only school without an engineering program.

The annual competition aims to bring to life Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Rube Goldberg's drawings of complicated machines and gadgets that accomplish simple tasks. Using as many whimsical, counterintuitive steps as possible, the machines must complete a task determined each year by contest organizers. The contest is sponsored by the Theta Tau engineering fraternity (at Purdue) and rewards machines that most effectively combine creativity with inefficiency and complexity.

This year's task was to replace an incandescent light bulb with a more energy-efficient light-emitting design. It took 239 steps to turn off an incandescent light and turn on dozens of LED lights spelling "St. Olaf."

Team members built a record player from scratch that, as it spins, allows lasers to fire through pre-drilled holes. The lasers are picked up by light sensors, which trigger several other steps and eventually enable a gate to open and release a ball.

The team also constructed a Gauss rifle, a mechanism that uses a magnetic chain reaction to launch a metal ball at a very high speed, and a simple harmonic oscillator, a system that employs simple harmonic motion and magnetic induction to trigger the start of a car moving along a track. They even turned an ice auger into an Archimedes' screw that caught pool balls and took them from the machine's lower level to an elevated track.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Pictures of Death

Dover AFB open to reality again.
The DoD/USAF are again allowing photography at Dover for returning soldiers' caskets.

2nd Quarter Update

I added why I want to see it, if there's any particular reason beyond "oh, it looks interesting"

Still out there in the T.C.
Sunshine Cleaning (top choice for Anniversary Night Out next week)
State of Play
The Mysteries of Pittsburgh:
Slumdog Millionaire
Hannah Montana: The Movie

... just kidding

Coming Soon(er or Later) to a Theater Near Me:

Sin Nombre:
The Road: assuming it ever gets released
Drag Me to Hell: Sam & Ivan Raimi - how could I pass it up?
Star Trek: no, I'm not a geek, but it does look interesting
The Soloist: Downey Jr. what else is there to say?
Up: come on, it's Pixar!

Already gone, but not forgotten - this is why DVDs exist

Appaloosa: Mortenson & Harris in a re-match sounds good. Add Jeremy Irons, and it's a definite. Harris - god, he's prolific!
Coraline: Neil Gaiman is awesome
The Lucky Ones: intriguing plot
Cadillac Records:
The Betrayal:
City of Ember: Bill Murray is a serious negative. Even in the previews, he looks like the comic relief. There isn't supposed to be any comic relief. It's a dark story of childhood's ending and questioning the status quo. The book was wonderful.
Burn Before Reading:
Pride & Glory: Edward Norton
Defiance: Liev Schreiver, not Daniel Craig
Revolutionary Road: I'm totally cold to the whole Titanic re-match; the plot is what sounds intriguing: the insane self-delusion of the 1950s
Milk: Sean Penn is consistently great. Jake Gyllenhaal & Heath Ledger aren't the only masculine straight men who can be gay on screen
Valkyrie: serious doubts, especially with all the brou-ha-ha in the German media during its filming (esp. since Cruise is a Scientologist, which the German Government officially lists as a Cult ), but the reviews were good, so I'll try

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ban the Blue Jean!

Is That Really What You're Going to Wear?

Hell Yes!

No wonder the Left thinks the Right are out-of-the-closet Social Cookie-Cutter Fascists.

Monday, April 13, 2009


Some of the family from Germany were visiting for the week. Easter & the days preceding it had utterly beautiful weather.

Minnehaha Falls
just to remind you that Winter isn't really all that far in the past.....

This was taken in a reflecting mirror

Sophie & Tobias in front of the Mississippi

Jr.Gopher #2 at the Sculpture Park reading the art

Just hanging out in Minneapolis

Jr.Gopher#2 and his godmother, Tante Christiane

Jr.Gopher #1 take of the eggs.

He really looked much happier about the Easter Egg hunt at school than the picture would lead you to believe

Getting a lift around town
(we've no idea who the little girl is)

Dr. & not-Dr. Gopher

We hope you had a happy Easter

Friday, April 10, 2009

I wish I'd ...

There's an ad for the Peace Corps on several of the bus stops around town, with the slogan "Means you'll never have to say I wish I'd ..." A post on the News Cut blog on MPR was The War on Parenthood about how pop culture claims we influence our children's eventual moral and character development.

I thought about this, and my immediate response was there are two major rules to parenting:

Recommendation 1: Do the best you can. What else can the world reasonably expect of you?

Recommendation 2: There is absolutely no way you can possibly control the actions or thoughts of another person (like your children). Don't bother trying.

If my children become self-sufficient men capable of loving others, and respecting and loving themselves, I will have succeeded as a mother. Anything else is icing on the cake of life.

Then I thought about it some more during my 15 minute break from the panic of turning in homework late. and later. and an exam due in a few days that I haven't started ...

This obsession with blaming me for anything wrong in the future with my kids is simply a left over of the eugenics "your children are born with their character already predestined, which is why you're so poor and I'm not".

The journalist did a series of interviews with college students (of all ages) at the smaller colleges in Minn. One of them gave up her dreams of being an artist because her parents said "you can't make any money at it".

I really want to believe that I will never tell my children they shouldn't bother to at least try. The next Steve Yzerman? Go for it. A professional portrait painter? go for it. The next president? You're nuts, but hey, go for it.

Will they actually make it? Maybe not. My brother, STFU&GBTW no doubt heard "there are too many people who all want that job, go do something that you can succeed at". You know what you should do? Go watch his name zooming by on the next James Cameron movie. Or Lord of the Rings. Or whatever it is he's doing.

I read an old Life article when I was about 12 or 13 about a physician somewhere in BFE Appalachia who did housecalls for the destitute (i.e., just about the whole area). I was so inspired. I decided that's what I wanted to do with my life. Not the Appalachia part, but the improving the quality of people's health part. I thought you had to be a doctor to do it. So, I decided to go to med school. (That, at least, generally gets parental emotional support.) After about 3 semesters in college, I realized there was no way in hell I would ever make it through med school. I was so disappointed that I couldn't pursue this career. I didn't know what else to do, so I figured I'd just finish what I started and be a chemist. I am quite certain I would have made a piss-poor doctor.

Fast forward 30 years ...

You know what I really really wanted, back in 1979? I wanted to go into Public Health. A field which doesn't require being a physician (one who deals with the individuals); I wanted the large-scale public aspect of it. Had I ever heard of it? No. Would I have done it then? Yes. Would people have supported my idea of going to some third world country to make their lives better? I'm pretty sure not.

Where am I in 2009? The University of Minnesota School of Public Health. I finally figured out what I wanted. Am I doing it? Nope. I'm sitting in the midst of a good school - (well, I really wanted Johns Hopkins which I would have done, had I not married Mr. Gopher) - with a good global public health infectious disease program. Now that's what I wanted to do with most of my life. Nope, I'm in the Environmental Health Science's Industrial Hygiene program. Most people wonder if I clean teeth.

I'm still stuck in the "I wish I'd ..." If I hadn't been married and forced to confront the reality of balancing my life with someone else? Hell, yes, I'd have popped over to Baltimore for a few years.

But, you know what? That beautiful piece of paper which will say University of Minnesota Masters of Public Health doesn't come with an expiration date. I know what I want. Perhaps one of these days I'll get it. And, unlike the kid nextdoor who idolizes Wayne Gretsky ... at least I'm not too old to pursue what was once my dream.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

"I'm smooth"

BBC: A man in the US state of Pennsylvania accused of a robbery at a narcotics police convention has been described as probably the state's dumbest criminal.

Retired police chief John Comparetto was attending the meeting of 300 officers when he was allegedly held up at gunpoint in the men's toilets.

He handed over money and a phone but then he and some colleagues gave chase as the suspect tried to flee in a taxi.

They arrested a 19-year-old man over the incident near Harrisburg.

'Retired police chief John Comparetto says he was held up at gunpoint

Mr Comparetto was wearing an ankle holster with a gun, and when told to drop his trousers, he managed to conceal his weapon.

He described the suspect as "probably the dumbest criminal in Pennsylvania".

The Associated Press news agency reported that when a journalist asked the suspect for comment as he was led from court, he said: "I'm smooth."

Finally ...

Yes, it has finally happened! Finally! There actually exists something about basic science (Limits of Quantitation) that I know and Mr. Gopher doesn't. Wheeeee! I can die a happy woman now.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Cutting class


“I do realize they have a cause. Well, we also have a cause, too,” [UNC's coach] said. “We want to win a national championship, period, the end. And if you would tell me that if Michigan State wins, it’s gonna satisfy the nation’s economy, then I’d say, ‘Hell, let’s stay poor for a little while longer.”’

My professor is cutting class short tonight. The alumnus of UNC told us last week that if the Tarheels made it to the finals (i.e., tonight), class would be short, so that he could make it home in time for the game. He's apparently going to drive to campus, rather than take the bus to make sure class is at least more than an hour.

One of the other students asked if we could also skip, if our alma mater made it to the finals. At this point, it was already down to 4 teams. None of us having attended them, it was sort of moot. My friend then asks permission for me to skip, having attended MSU. I - embarassed - said "I didn't graduate". At the same time Prof. says "it doesn't count unless you actually graduated". Too bad the Mountaineers blew it in the first round. Although, I also think if the Gophers had made it this far, he'd have been willing to let us cut out early. Not awfully likely that.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Beethoven Quartet

Beethoven Quartet for 2 Honkers, Dinger & Cello:
The Chamber Music Society of Sesame Street with Yo Yo Ma

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Missing LInk

I was told this disappeared off my blog. Then the more I thought about it, the more I think I emailed it to a select audience. Anyway, here it is for public consumption. "It's a send up of the chord combination us music-theory dorks would refer to as I V vi IV"

I admire the scope of the comparison. Although i think the only reason A-ha got such a long segment was to show off the singer's falsetto range. I can only sing that high after warming up. If you got this as an email, the clip here is a "live" version, which is much funnier to watch.

Now, that said ... the options that pop up at the end of the video (scrolling across at the bottom), the poster obviously has an interest in music theory. One of the automatic YouTube suggestions, however, is in a similar vein. This is g.damned funny.

And, in case you're fond of instructional, how-to videos, the band (in the 1st video) also has:
How to Kill a Hooker
How to Bake a Scone
How to Catch a Duck

Friday, April 3, 2009

Collectible = ? = $ =???

Mr. STFU&GBTW mentioned the manga "Apocalypse Meow". The preview looks pretty cool. The library system here has the source book. I can check it out for free. Well, actually I can request it and get it in a few weeks.

Amazon carries it too. Available new for a measley $175. And, yes, that is a period at the end.

2016 Olympic bid: Ely

[April Fool's]
>>Why have the olympics in Ely, Minnesota?
Sarajevo. No one had ever heard of it before the olympics. And it's a lot easier to pronounce Ely.

Now ...
Ely is on the list of "You know you're a Minnesotan when you can pronounce the following cities:
Wayzata, Bemidji, Mille Lacs, and Ely. (the list is longer & none of which is pronounced the way you'd think. No, not even Mille Lacs, regardless of whether you're a francophone.)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

how often does "never" really mean?

A few days ago on the news:

... so many of these people don't have flood insurance ...


... during the big 1997 flood, these lands were dry corn fields. ....

well, I suppose if it was dry during that huge flood, one might expect it to be dry no matter what.

... they were told they'd never have to worry about getting flooded.
now, seriously, unless you live on top of a mountain, anyone in the Midwest who tells you 'you'll never need to worry about flooding' is lying or stupid. Or perhaps she's lying and hopes you're stupid.

I have flood insurance on our house in Lansing. And it sure as hell is not within sight of a big open plain near a huge river prone to flooding. I cannot comprehend the amount of flooding that would be necessary to get the Grand River up and into our basement there. But if it does do that 500-year flood, we're set.


well, after writing that, this afternoon I read:
In fact, only 4,558 homeowners in the entire state of North Dakota and fewer than 9,000 in Minnesota carried flood insurance as of January, the most recent figures available.

Fargo: 586 of 92,000
Moorhead, MN: 145 of 30,000