Thursday, February 24, 2011

More Firefly???

Could we actually get that lucky? Please, Internet, make it happen!

"Wanting Sumptuous Heavens"

"Wanting Sumptuous Heavens"
Robert Bly

No one grumbles among the oyster clans,
And lobsters play their bone guitars all summer.
Only we, with our opposable thumbs, want
Heaven to be, and God to come, again.
There is no end to our grumbling; we want
Comfortable earth and sumptuous Heaven.
But the heron standing on one leg in the bog
Drinks his dark rum all day, and is content.

That pesky space-time continuum...

Today my nephew Aidan turns 6 (which is hard to believe!). I just called and sang "Happy Birthday" to him. I asked him, "Are you having a party?" He answered, "Yes, and you're invited!" That broke my heart a bit because he and my other nieces and nephews are always saying stuff like that, and 90% of the time, I can't be there because I am just too far away.

So I explained that to him. "I wish I could, little man, but I am too far away."

"No problem," he replies. "You can just find a wormhole and be here in no time."

Not bad for a six-year-old, right? Gotta love his optimism!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The View from Your Window

The post's title comes from a daily feature that appears on Andrew Sullivan's The Daily Dish. You can read more about "The View from Your Window" series here (also the link for a book compiled from the posts). A few months ago (maybe longer?), the folks at the Dish started doing a weekly contest, where they post an image and readers try to guess the location. People are scarily good at this contest. I never even try to guess, but it's fun to read the results every week. Anyway, the results of this week's contest will stay with me for a long time. Give it a read.

That was depressing...

Day two of humans versus the computer on Jeopardy did not go well, at least not for the humans. Watson wiped the floor with the competition. And watching it was 30 minutes of well, not fun. Blake Eskin over at The New Yorker says it pretty well:

"When its data-processing algorithms are on target, it is indomitable, and even its runner-up guesses and slipups made you think about how it works. But after one round of questions, its novelty was beginning to wear off. Our television critic, Nancy Franklin, observed on Twitter, 'On the fun/tense scale, things on Jeopardy are leaning toward too tense, not enough fun. Watson just hits the button faster than people can.'...Of course, Watson’s servers have been optimized for correct answers, not for pleasure, ours or its own....If Watson does not eclipse the best human players by Wednesday, one assumes it is only a matter of months before it would blow them away. Watson has many potential applications in medicine, law, science, and other fields, but its prospects for a career in television are no better than Brad Rutter’s. Who would want to watch a computer win seventy-four nights in a row?"

Simply put, it just hasn't been enjoyable watching these last couple of days, maybe because playing Jeopardy with a computer is like playing Scrabble against a dictionary (yeah, I know that's not a perfect analogy...). Take the humanity out of Jeopardy contestants (their individuality, their strengths and weaknesses) and it's just not the same game.

TV's most datable characters... has a fun poll going on right now asking which TV characters are most "datable." There are quite a few attractive candidates on both sides, but you know my votes went to Eric and Tami Taylor from Friday Night Lights. (I was awfully tempted to vote for Chuck or Richard Castle, though.)

Anyway, below the voting boxes, there are some "fun tidbits from the nomination round." Be sure to check those out. The one that stood out to me: 11 people were willing to date Dexter. I wonder what it says about me that I thought, "Oh yeah, I get that."

Monday, February 14, 2011

Tee hee...

News that matters. Check out what the folks of Fort Wayne want to name their new city county building. Major props to the reporter and to the anchors for getting through this story without laughing.

Links, links, and more links...

These have been sitting in my bookmark folder for awhile now:

1) Some takes on the new Great Gatsby movie. We talked about this in my ENGL 301 class (after reading Gatsby). I am going to withhold judgment for now, but I do find Ta-Nehisi Coates' points quite compelling:

"As in so many of the books I love, I found the plot in Gatsby to almost be beside the point. Whenever I see it translated to cinema, the film-maker inevitably crafts a story of doomed romance between Daisy and Gatsby. It's obviously true that Gatsby holds some sort of flame for Daisy, but what makes the book run (for me) is the ambiguity of that flame. Does he really love her? Or is she just another possession signaling the climb up? I always felt that last point—the climb up—was much more important than the romance. What I remember about Gatsby is the unread books. His alleged love for Daisy barely registers for me."

2) Random, but kind of cool: Kevin Harvick's wife is a 1996 graduate of UNCG's English program. See, you can do anything with an English degree.

3) I've been wrestling with how to help students in my advanced composition class write stronger reviews of the Buffy episodes we are watching. Carrie, my friend/colleague, pointed me towards a terrific TV critic, Heather Havrilesky (most recently, she worked at Salon). Here's a link to Havrilesky's take on Glee that rings pretty true to me. I think the show is more great than awful, but it can be so very bad and still doesn't seem to know what the heck kind of show it wants to be. She's got another keeper on Modern Family.

4) A study from The University of Chicago that isn't surprising at all: "Writing about worries eases anxiety and improves test performance." Composition teachers have been saying this for years, but I guess we've got scientific proof now. 

5) And this one is from way back in January: healthy cats pretend to be sick when we annoy them. Duh. They are geniuses that way.

Do it for humanity!

So the long-anticipated match between Watson the computer and the two great Jeopardy champions begins tonight. I am a bit surprised at how much I am emotionally invested in this match-up. It's like a preview of Maximum Overdrive or something. The humans must prevail. Seriously.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Pettitte's retirement...

I've always been an Andy Pettitte fan, so I am sad to see him go, but I get why he's doing it. Check out this piece about why he deserves a spot in Cooperstown.

"I'm just trying to win ten bucks here. I don't wanna die."

I've been rewatching Freaks and Geeks this afternoon. It's been awhile and I've forgotten how good it is. And little John Francis Daley is so freaking adorable.

Not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon!