Town & Gown Hamlet

Of any play, this is the one I know the best. In 7th grade, we were supposed to do this play. Not an abridged version, but the whole thing. I was only Barnardo, and even memorizing that stressed me to the breaking point. Thankfully, I was able to transfers schools and get out of it. At the new school, in 8th grade we just read it because 9th grade did Romeo and Juliet and I got Polonius. Then we read it again in 10th grade for British Lit where I got Laertes and watched the local college production. How did I get out of having to study it in college? Oh. Those English courses were about writing and none were British Lit. And I’ve somehow seen Oliver, Branaugh, Gibson, Tennant, and Hawke all play Hamlet in movies.

Which made me wonder if I really wanted to see it at the local community theatre. How much is enough?

I try to see something from the Town & Gown Players at least once a season and thought I had not. So I gave it a shot. In retrospect, I reviewed their calendar and saw “See How They Run” at the start of the season. So the at least once reasoning only applied because I relied on very faulty memory.

This Hamlet was pretty good. No surprises like everyone lives. Lines were delivered pretty well. The costumes looked appropriate. Either I never noticed or forgot Hamlet comparing his father to several Roman / Greek gods. Or maybe it was in how the lines were delivered. Here is the speech and in bold the gods.

Look here upon this picture and on this,
The counterfeit presentment of two brothers.
See, what a grace was seated on this brow?
Hyperion’s curls, the front of Jove himself,
An eye like Mars to threaten and command,
A station like the herald Mercury
New-lighted on a heaven-kissing hill—
A combination and a form indeed
Where every god did seem to set his seal

I also enjoyed the little things like Ophelia and Laertes, sister and brother, elbowing each other while Polonius, their father, delivered his big monologue. The set design was very simple and versatile. Unlike other plays I’ve T&G do, the actors did not have to change the set every scene. Because of this, scenes changed by actors leaving the stage and not needing to go dark.

It will be around one more weekend.

xmllint

This Linux tool is my new best friend. We get thousands of XML files from our clients for loading user, class, and enrollment information. Some of these clients customize our software or write their own software for generating the XML.

This means we frequently get oddities in the files which cause problems. Thankfully I am not the person who has to verify these files are good. I just get to answer the questions that person has about why a particular file failed to load.

The CE/Vista import process will stop if its validator finds invalid XML. Unfortunately, the error “An exception occurred while obtaining error messages.  See webct.log” doesn’t sound like invalid XML.

Usage is pretty simple:

xmllint –valid /path/to/file.xml | head

  1. If the file is valid, then the whole file is in the output.
  2. If there are warnings, then they precede the whole file.
  3. If there are errors, then only the errors are displayed.

I use head here because our files can be up to 15MB, so this prevents the whole file from going on the screen for the first two situations.

I discovered this in researching how to handle the first situation below. It came up again today. So this has been useful to catch errors in the client supplied files where the file failed to load.

1: parser error : XML declaration allowed only at the start of the document
 <?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?>

162: parser error : EntityRef: expecting ‘;’
<long>College of Engineering &amp&#059; CIS</long>

(Bolded the errors.) The number before the colon is the line number. The carat it uses to indicate where on the line an error occurred isn’t accurate, so I ignore it.

My hope is to get this integrated into our processes to validate these files before they are loaded and save ourselves headaches the next morning.

TED Talk: Taryn Simon

My favorite quote from Taryn is, “Photography threatens fantasy.” Disney uses intricate interior design, photography, and video to construct fantasy. Advertisements, magazines, weddings, and portraits are about showing others the ideal instead of the reality. Have you seen the Dove Evolution video? (This one has music and singing by a Baha’i musician Devon Gundry.) What about the Ralph Lauren photo?

Reality bites. Hard.

(See Taryn Simon photographs secret sites on the TED site)

TED About this talk: Taryn Simon exhibits her startling take on photography — to reveal worlds and people we would never see otherwise. She shares two projects: one documents otherworldly locations typically kept secret from the public, the other involves haunting portraits of men convicted for crimes they did not commit.

Also: Taryn on Charlie Rose, Discomfort Zone (Telegraph)

TED Talk: Is Play More Than Fun?

In the Q&A, Stuart Brown, co-author of Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, rejects the idea play is a rehersal for adulthood. Stopping an animal from playing doesn’t prevent the animal from being a successful predator. REM sleep provides the rehearsal needed for learning. Play is the next evolutionary step. The video is a little too heavy on repeating the same generic idea over an over with different examples. However, they are amusing examples.

The types of play Brown references usually involves multiple individuals in a social interaction. This play teaches survival skills like socialization, adaptation, flexibility (our selfish genes at work).

The origin of this play research was in identifying the next Charles Whitmore, the University of Texas Tower sniper. In studying mass murderers, he found Charles and others like him consistently grew up in environments where play was not allowed. By not playing these children developed into dysfunctional adults.

I found a particular claim quite interesting. “The opposite of play is not work… It is depression.” That is almost word for word out of his book on page 126, which Google Books has a copy. Later he better explains the part about play and work are not in opposition:

The quality that work and play have in common is creativity. In both we are building our world, creating new relationships, neural connections, objects…. At their best, play and work, when integrated, make sense of our workd and ourselves. (Play, p.127)

This agrees with Adam and Jamie from the Mythbusters to Moira Gunn for the Commonwealth Cluf of California about their work. Just look at Adam’s face before triggering a test on any episode. The complete and total joy is a testament to the power of dopamine.

I think the opposition to depression involves movement which is exercise. Exercise produces serotonin which is crucial to fighting off depression. So my work, sitting in a cube all day long problem solving is good for dopamine but not a producer of serotonin. However, a good game of tag would produce both dopamine in anticipating tagging a playmate and serotonin from the movement. (Why can’t work be more like tag?)

If Dr. Brown is right, then suppressing the rough and tumble playing children enjoy is the best way to place in society malfunctioning adults who are more likely to be violent. Things like recess (just half an hour) during the day will keep our prisons less full 20 years later. <sarcasm>Maybe the No Child Left Behind meant all the children will end up in prison?</sarcasm> More likely children will fit their play in less supervised situations and get their fill.

Videogames in the Classroom?

Yes!!

Videogames in the Classroom? – Newsweek Education – MSNBC.com:

Where parents see hours wasted in front of a screen, these scientists see potential. An FAS study released this week, titled “Harnessing the power of video games for learning,” reports that best-selling games are built in surprisingly pedagogical ways. Players improve at their own pace. Beating a level requires experimentation, failure and learning from mistakes. Most new games can be played online, requiring collaboration and leadership. Game play is precisely calibrated to balance challenge and progress. It’s a stark contrast to a typical classroom in which one teacher tries to engage 30 students with printed information. “It’s like hiring an individual tutor for every student,” says FAS president Henry Kelly of using videogames to teach. “There’s a big argument going on now about whether kids are being tested too much or too little. In a game, you’re continuously being tested and you don’t mind it.”

Admittedly, I agree that most games on the surface don’t appear very educational. Also, saying these things are there and measuring their effects are two different things. What are the negative side affects? C’mon people, hawking something without overwhelming evidence is pretty underwhelming. 🙂

Dragons

This series is my LOTR (the books I have read over and over). From 7th grade through 11th grade I read them at least once a year, usually twice. I replaced my first copy with another as the covers were nearly destroyed.

So, now I know how the fanatics feel (not true, . I so would love to see this be a great set of movies. At the same time, I know fanatics generally dislike the movie adaptations.

Dragons’ Weis Likes Movie | SCI FI Wire:

Author Margaret Weis told SCI FI Wire that the upcoming film version of her book Dragons of Autumn Twilight necessarily cuts a lot of the book’s plot to make it fit into 90 minutes, but, she added: “I read the script, and I like it. It’s very faithful to the book.” Dragons of Autumn Twilight, the first in the Dragonlance series of books, is being adapted into an animated film written by George Strayton and directed by Will Meugniot.

Weis added in an interview that she and her co-author, Tracy Hickman, always hoped that the series would be made into movies. “While we working on the book 20 years ago, Tracy and I used to joke, ‘This scene would look great in the movie!'” Weis said. “And now it will.” How does she feel about the upcoming production? “Very pleased. Very excited. And a little nervous.”

The series of books is based on the universe of the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing games. Dragons of Autumn Twilight begins with a group of adventurers who seek the truth about missing gods, then become involved in a quest to learn more about a staff with the power to heal. The series grew to more than 100 titles. Weis co-wrote 10 novels and wrote several by herself. She has also edited stories for Dragonlance anthologies.

The Dragonlance “world is fantastical, romantic, with lots of political intrigue and characters people can relate to,” Weis said. “The heroes are not kings or princes. They are ordinary people—middle-class working types—who get caught up in extraordinary situations. And, of course, there are dragons.” —Carol Pinchefsky

UPDATE 2010-JAN-16: I watched this movie a while back. While a fan of the books at age 14, the movie made me nauseas to watch. The voice acting sucked. Animation 1980s Saturday morning cartoon quality doesn’t belong in a movie made for the late 2000s.

Origins of Brazilian Soccer Scorer Names

The link is for the article at Slate. A good teaser paragraph.

How Brazilian soccer players get their names. By Nick Schulz:

Brazil’s affinity for nicknames might stem from the country’s historically high illiteracy rate. As such, shortened spoken names are typically used more often than longer birth names. In Brazilian society, the use of a first name or nickname is a mark of intimacy. It’s also often a class signifier. Lula, for one, is known for his working-class roots.

This might help those a little confused about Ronaldo and Ronaldinho.

Players with the same first name often change their moniker to differentiate themselves. In recent decades, there have been several Ronaldos at the national level. One became known as Ronaldao, meaning “big Ronaldo.” Another became Ronaldinho, meaning “little Ronaldo.” When another Ronaldinho came along in the late 1990s, he was called Ronaldinho Gaucho—that is, “little Ronaldo from Rio Grande do Sul.” Eventually, the first Ronaldo left the Brazilian national squad, so Ronaldinho became Ronaldo. Ronaldinho Gaucho became Ronaldinho.

Yeah, its a tad complicated…

On Siege

Who wants to starve out the enemy? Break down his defenses! Mmmmm… a 300 pounder! Watching this show on siege engines reminds me of two favorite things from my life.

The first, and best was the week my aunt and uncle let us come stay for a week in England. By far, that was my favorite vacation. Castles, museums, and trains filled our days there.

The second memory is the many hours spent playing Dungeons & Dragons. Towards the end, I doscovered a kind Risk variant calle Greyhawk Wars that was awesome. I never really got a chance to integrate it into our normal game. 🙁

NOVA Online | Secrets of Lost Empires | Medieval Siege | NOVA Builds a Trebuchet

Like medieval military engineers did before them, the NOVA crew fine-tunes its attack using trial-and-error. Neel believes that if the sling is shortened, it will add arc to the stone’s flight and give it more distance.

His hypothesis proves right: The next launch travels the right distance but lands a few feet to the wall’s right. They shift the giant trebuchet just one inch to the left. This time they are on line but just overshoot the wall. They pull the sling in six inches and this time, it hits its mark.