1. We had a house full of chemists baking cookies today, and the jokes just write themselves don’t they? But everyone seemed to have a good time, the house smells really nice, and to the best of my knowledge there were no beakers involved. My contribution was mostly to stay out from underfoot, though I did make pizzelles before everyone got there even though the last chemistry class I took was in 1982 and my teacher at the time made it clear that that really ought to be my last chemistry class, for the good of all concerned. But you can’t beat a warm batch of pizzelles on a cold day.
2. I really hate it when engineers think they know better than I do what I want to do with their product. Every so often I get one of those “save everything you think you might want to refer back to someday because we’re shutting your computer down whether you want us to or not and You Will Be Upgraded” messages that those engineers provide as a courtesy, and I have learned that resistance is futile because they really will just shut everything down whether you want to be upgraded or not. You have no choice in the matter. So I said okay to the notice, and about five or ten minutes later it shut everything down – they lull you into a false sense of security that way. Three and a half hours, two phone calls to IT departments on two different campuses, and an in-person visit from the IT guy on my own campus later, the computer almost works again. For some reason I keep coming back to the fact that everything was fine until it was optimized.
3. I have yet to discover the holiday spirit this year. Given that I’ve got about a week and a half to get this corrected before it becomes moot, I suppose I should get on that. I might start Christmas shopping soon, for example. I did fix the Christmas lights I put up last week, though, so now they all work. Progress.
4. The impeachment of der Sturmtrumper rolls along. The evidence is clear, overwhelming, conclusive, and damning. There is no way any patriotic American with more than five working brain cells can defend or support this corrupt, tyrannical, and immoral president, and it is clear that he should be impeached, tried, convicted, removed from office, taken directly to a criminal court, tried again, and imprisoned. Naturally the GOP leadership defends him and his base continues to support him, and that says all you need to know about the modern GOP and his base.
5. I am trying to clean off the paper from my various offices. The joy of letting it pile up like that is that one is constantly making interesting if somewhat delayed discoveries.
6. We’re still taking care of Lauren’s chickens while she is abroad, and those chickens still manage to amaze me with the rock-bottom level of intelligence that they display. Today I had to cut a block of dried chicken poop off of the foot of one of them so it could walk normally again, because that’s just my life now. As I get older I find myself saying a great many things I never thought I would say, and so many of them involve poultry.
7. I finally made it to the barbershop for one of my periodic shearings and now I don’t look like Hungover Ben Franklin anymore, which is nice.
8. This year several of my students seem to have taken it as a project to introduce me to Modern Culture. I tell them that I am the parent of teenagers and therefore not unfamiliar with the idea, but this cuts no mustard with them. So now I know some new bands (most of which I liked, much to their surprise – hey, good music is good music) and I can do a credible imitation of what one student informed me was her age and ethnic group’s signature handshake style. I am not sure what I will do with that last bit of information, being both old and not a member of that group, but it is nice to know and I’m glad that my students feel comfortable sharing that sort of thing with me.
9. If you ever get a chance to see Peter Jackson’s They Shall Not Grow Old – especially if you can see it in the theater – you should do so. It was astonishing. Afterward there’s a half-hour bit where he comes back and explains how it all got done. Basically he had access to about a hundred hours of WWI footage of British soldiers, which he narrowed down to about 90 minutes for this film – front line footage, recruiting footage, training footage, rear-echelon footage, all sorts of things. He and his crew synced it all up to 24 frames per second so the motion looked natural (quite an achievement given the wildly different frame rates those old hand-cranked movie cameras had), colorized it so it looked right (the hardest part, he said, was getting the grass to look like real grass – admittedly less of a problem in the footage from the trenches), and made it unobtrusively 3D. Then he found lip readers to tell him what the soldiers in the film were actually saying and hired actors from those regions of the UK to speak those words. The only other words you hear during the film itself are from interviews the BBC did with WWI vets in the 1960s and 1970s. And when you put all that together it’s just astonishing how those men seem to come alive in ways that they just don’t with the original footage. I was deeply impressed.
10. Looks like the Christmas cards will go out in January again. Tradition!