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Like locusts

Someone asked me today what it's like getting ready for the beginning of the semester and I responded it was like having locusts descending on me. I had a full book of appointments and practically every minute of the day was spent trying to get various fires put out: set up this, fix that, create this other thing. It's nice to feel wanted and needed.

The house progresses forward. The change in the appearance of the house as the new siding goes up is really amazing. They're making good progress. When you look from the front, the house looks essentially done. There's still a bunch of stuff to be done, but it's remarkable how the various parts fit together.

Apparently in s.c.e, the discussion of the ELNA name change came up, so the editor of Libera Folio asked me about the issue. I wrote a bit and he took some of the bits and wrote a nice little feature. The rest of what I wrote is here.

I also wrote a little snippet for ADTC today.

Getting ready for classes

I spent today helping people getting ready for their classes and starting to get ready for my own. There's still a lot left to do and the time is slipping away faster and faster. I got schedule roughed out and moved over the project and prep pages from last time. I updated the syllabus and began the long process of updating everything. There's still a long way to go. In addition, I had a nice day chatting with people and looking at the on-going work on the house.

D-ro BarlowZane stopped by to see me. She was wearing a new hat that she'd knitted herself, having taught herself over the holidays. We had a nice chat, catching up on various intersession happenings and discussing strategy for the upcoming semester. Zane is one of the people that make the Biology Department a special place to be.

I went to one of the research labs today and saw a student using a computer monitor that had no cover, so the guts were exposed. I pointed out, a bit uncomfortably, that I hoped he was aware there were high voltages exposed that could produce potentially fatal shocks. I think it was even more disturbing to me to see him pale and admit that he wasn't aware of the risk. I suggested unplugging it from the wall and not using it again until there was an appropriate cover on the monitor. Or to find a different monitor. And called back later when I realized I hadn't pointed out that the capicitors in the high-voltage circuitry of a monitor can still carry a lethal charge hours or days after it's been unplugged.

Renovigo de eksteraĵo komencasI left work a bit early today to come home to see the on-going work on the house. They've begun stripping off the old siding and replacing it with tyvek and insulation. Once they get the house wrapped, another team will install the vinyl siding. I anticipate it will be a dramatic improvement of the insulation of the house. And we'll get a nice tax credit, though not till next year. I'm excited to see what the house will look like when we're done. As with the windows, I'm not primarily concerned with the aesthetic issues, but that will also be a welcome improvement, given the lamentable appearance of the peeling paint on the house. It should never have been painted in the first place, but the cheapskate owner of the house before us wanted to put it on the market at some point and slapped a bunch of paint over the stained shakes. These have all been outstanding issues with the house that we knew it had when we bought it, but haven't been willing to address until now. The changes will also increase the value of the house a lot, although that's not our primary concern as we have no intention of ever selling the house. I'm sure it will increase our property taxes, though. Sigh...


Nova planko en banĉambroToday we got replacement floors in both bathrooms and some of the fixtures replaced in the downstairs bathroom. The toilet in the downstairs bathroom had a crack in it when we bought the house, which had damaged the floor. When they repaired the floor, they checked to make sure it was just the plywood that was damaged -- the structure of the floor was still sound -- good, cedar construction.

As with the windows, we did the work primarily because it was needed, in this case to prevent water leaking and damaging our home, but it makes a big difference in the appearance of the room too. I picked out the new flooring. When we went into the company, we asked whether we should get one piece that could cover both bathrooms or get two separate pieces and they said it didn't make any difference, so we picked out two separate patterns. Then they said, "Oh, by the way, it'll cost $300 more to do it that way", so we got them both done in the same pattern. I like it.


I try to write a brief article every week or so for And I try to keep up with what is being posted there. There is a fellow there who reports regularly from Nepal. He has been describing the perspective as a "king" who installed himself via a coup d' etat has been taking steps to consolidate power and repress the ability of people to make statements objecting to his dictatorial rule. Today he wrote that the opposition had called for a demonstration on Friday (today) and so the "king" arrested leaders of the opposition and has imposed a curfew: for the next three days it is illegal to leave your house. Cell phone service has been stopped and most network addresses are currently blocked. Can you imagine it?

European morons

Someone who claims to be representing European linguistic policy has set up a website that has a FAQ page that disparages Esperanto. It says:

How about an artificial language? By definition such a language is no one?s native language, and words with no relation to a history or a living culture are not precise enough in meaning for legislation.

I sent them a email this evening:

I believe it is a very foolish and short-sighted policy to discriminate against artificial languages, saying that they have no native speakers, history, or culture. The statements in your website go beyond foolishness, however, and disseminate false and misleading statements to the public. By including these statements, you demonstrate profound ignorance on the part of yourself and the organization you represent.

Esperanto is an artificial language that has thousands of native speakers (children who grew up in familes for whom it was their everyday language) and has more than 100 years of history and culture. Moreover, it's speakers being drawn from more than 100 countries around the world, Esperanto has already confronted and dealt with many of the critical issues of international communication in ways few other languages have.

Because it's speakers are drawn from many countries, Esperanto has little political power and it may seem trivial to disparage it. But as Europe seeks to confront the linguistic imperialism of English, Esperanto may be the only hope to prevent the destruction of minority languages and cultures. It may not be in your power to support Esperanto, but I encourage you to at least remain neutral. Stop spreading malicious and false information about Esperanto. If you can do nothing constructive, at least do no harm.

It probably won't do any good, but if enough people point out their lies and mendacious statements, maybe they will at least retract them, if not come around to a more productive point of view.

Stunningly, staggeringly busy

Although the intersession is, in many ways, a brief respite in the usual madness, I have been incredibly busy due to the variety of projects I've been trying to squeeze into every available moment. Read more to hear about them.

The biggest project this week has been setting up a pair of servers with Randy to implement LON-CAPA at UMass. We special-ordered two servers from Amherst Computer Works, installed Fedora Core 4 on them, installed LON-CAPA, and are now trying to figure out how to make it work. George did the heavy lifting on ordering the servers last month. Randy wanted to be more hands-on, so I've been trying have him actually do as much of the work as possible, but in teaching him linux along the way, its actually taking more time than if I just did it myself. It's been fun and there have been a few places where my experience with linux was really valuable. For example, the new machines use very new Intel motherboards that are not supported, so we had to do some searches and, eventually download updated RPMs and burn them to CD to install them. Other than that, it has worked pretty well, but has taken a fair amount of time.

Although we did a huge amount of work at the LAN party, the New ELNA website continues to require significant ongoing changes. I've been trying to keep up with all the email and actually participate in at least some of the on-going discussions. I've been really happy with Phil Dorcas being a facilitator and moderator among the various competing voices.

The ADTC is also requiring input -- not too much yet, but increasing as the caucuses approach. I continue to try to write brief notes in my blog there. It's interesting to me how many people were interested in the idea of having blogs there, but who haven't gotten around to trying to write anything. Peter wrote one entry and promised to write more and find more people to contribute. But he hasn't. I'm actually writing this at the Loose Stool waiting to meet with him. We were supposed to meet at 3pm, but it looks like he's not coming. He seems, if anything, even busier than I am.

The house continues to progress. They've been dropping off the supplies for the siding. Today, Alisa and I picked out replacements for the horrible porchlights that the house has. I'm really excited to see what the house is going to look like when we're done.

But at least it's Friday. Friday! I can't wait to go home, kick off my shoes, and relax in my recliner. Friday!

Windows and siding

Mia domoWhen we bought our house 7 years ago, we recognized that the house really needed new windows and siding. We had to do the roof first, and in the interim, installed WindowQuilts to cut our heating bills until we could get new windows. This year, with the increasing price of oil, we're finally getting the windows and siding done.

I took this picture that shows the downstairs windows replaced with the upstairs window still original. From the outside the difference is not terribly apparent, but from the inside the result is striking. Not only do the rooms receive more light, you can actually see out the windows. I find myself standing by windows and looking out purely for the novelty of being able to. The old windows were dirty and essentially impossible to clean. The new windows are sparkling clean and clear and seem to bring the outside inside, which makes all of the rooms seem larger and brighter.

There is a notable reduction in drafts as well. I can sit by the window with the windowquilt open and not get a chill from the breeze blowing in. We anticipate the new windows will substantially reduce our heating costs.

The siding should be done sometime over the next couple of weeks. I'll be sure to post some followup pictures then.

Followup on Austin LAN party

D-ro Read has written a nice followup on the LAN party. I thing he's exactly right. For many things, discussion on the Internet(s) will work fine, but at some point, you can be a lot more productive when you have everyone face to face. The work on the webpages was critical, but there were several other things that took place that are probably equally important.

Getting everyone up-to-speed and on-the-same-page is a lot easier face-to-face. As everyone worked, we could listen and one person would explain to another what we were doing, or how something worked, and join in if what that person was saying was different than what we thought. This back-channel communication was really valuable for achieving concensus on building the site. We also could easily change modes, from "work" to "discuss" to "play". This leads to my next point.

Bringing everyone together creates a stronger peer-bond. Most of us knew one another from before, but working and playing together helps cement personal relationships. Having us jostling one another and grunting like children while getting into the car seems trivial, but those kinds of experiences can help tie the group together and build trust.

Finally, having a few relaxation periods: watching Blade III and looking for the Esperanto references, taking a stroll in the park, acting out good-armadillo/bad-armadillo, created a pleasant atmosphere and gave us a variety of opportunities to reflect on what we were doing and why. It's a great model for getting stuff done, which I think we should all consider doing more often.

Back from Austin

Well, I'm back from the LAN party in Austin. It was an intense weekend. We started working on Friday evening and worked pretty much straight through until Sunday night. We did it! We brought up the new ELNA website. There is still work to be done, but I feel comfortable saying that we did what we set out to do. We made some pixels too: I was invited to draft an article for Libera Folio.

Staying with Dr. Read was very comfortable. He and his family were particularly welcoming and hospitable. I was pleased this morning that, when Hannah was grumpy, I was able to cheer her up. She didn't get enough sleep because she was asleep when we took her brother Kelvin out for dinner (to Shady Grove, an excellent restaurant that he had recommended). But when we got back, Hannah had awaken and needed a sandwich to assuage her sense of indignation for not having been able to join us, and, therefore, didn't get to bed on time.

Back to being grumpy, Dr. Read pointed out that he and his daughter shared the trait of being grumpy if they didn't get enough sleep. I pointed out that I had a snake like that. Hannah couldn't help smiling, and soon we had a pleasant and far-ranging discussion about snakes, pets, fungi, and zoology songs. I sang her the beaver song. She said she'd already heard it and that I was getting the hand-motions wrong, but she humored me by smiling anyway. She has a very pretty smile.

We stopped by Nodog's place to pick up Jacob. I decided that they ought to be "nehundo" and "j-hundo". If you don't get it, don't lose any sleep over it. After going through security, j-hundo and I had a nice cup of coffee talking about a bunch of the various ideas that had come up over the weekend. We both had flights at the same time, so we split up around 10:30 to catch our respective flights home.

The flight home was uneventful. The flight to BWI was packed, but at least I didn't have to sit in the middle. I hate that. I was able to find a place for both of my bags and I survived, so I can't really complain. It only took about 12 hours from door to door. Now I'm getting myself around a drink and wrapping up loose ends before I got to bed in my own bed for a change.

Rolling back into Amherst, I realize how at-home I feel here. I haven't felt so much at home anyplace before. Driving through town, each corner, building, and sign has become dear to me. I feel like know each pothole and pebble as we turn the corner onto My Street and into my driveway. Home. I'm home. What a wonderfully great feeling to be home.


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