February 23, 2010

Mighty Mustaches

I used to get annoyed at the pointlessness of some USMC drill and ceremony. I had no idea how bad it could have been.

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February 18, 2010

Trip or fall at work?

Courtesy of the BBC's "Horrible Histories" kid's series (itself based on a book series), I give you a strangely familiar ad: .

Nicked from Overlawyered.

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Nothing Is Real These Days

Here's a disturbing video about how chroma key ("green-screen") has become ubiquitous on modern TV.

via Boing Boing.

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February 16, 2010

I Am Home Safe In My Room

1705 Campus police, Amherst police, and the Buffalo SWAT team are currently evacuating the Lockwood library on campus.

My Facebook feed is about to catch fire from all the updates and rumors. I've got class in an hour two buildings away from the library, but I suspect class is canceled.

1735 The entire campus is now being evacuated. I guess this means I didn't need to do the readings for tonight, eh? Similarly, some of my more irreverent FB friends have created an event "Lockwood Zombie Attack" scheduled for right now. Until we find out if anyone is hurt, I think that's kind of inappropriate.

Word is, there is a person in Lockwood Library with a gun. Whether said gun has been employed is unclear.

1740 The Public Safety "current alerts" page is loading very very slowly; I assume that their server is about to catch fire. The most recent alert is for an on-campus robbery back in early December. Most likely the entire force has turned out, and the dispatcher is too busy to update the page. Still, official confirmation of the campus closure would be nice.

No news on the general "MyUB" campus website either. It is also loading very very slowly.

1742 Got an email from the Office of the University President:

UB Police have evacuated Lockwood Library on the North Campus. Please stay away until further notice.

That's not terribly informative.

1750 While doing a Google News to see if this had hit the wires yet, I turned up an interesting example of academic fraud announced earlier today. I am assuming they are unrelated. Still, it's an interesting news story.

1752 Another official email from the Office of the University President:

UB Police have evacuated Lockwood Library on the North Campus. All classes on the North Campus this evening have been cancelled. Please stay away from the campus until further notice.

Less than a minute later, this email from the account of a Public Safety officer:

University Police has an unsubstantiated report of a person with a weapon in Lockwood Library.  Lockwood Library has been evacuated and all classes on the North Campus been cancelled for the remainder of the day. Until further notice, do not go to Lockwood Library or other buildings on the Academic Spine. 

At least it's officially "unsubstantiated" at this time. That suggests no casualties.

1801 The Buffalo News has a story out. With a photo. This is the reason a night editor stays in the building after the rest of the newspaper staff has gone home.

According to the article I just linked, the police have announced there is security camera footage of someone walking into the library with what might be a rifle. The student paper is reporting eyewitnesses to the gun, but UB's student paper is about as reliable as all such rags.

1807 Some good news: I've got an acquaintance that works in that library; he went home shortly before all this started.

1814 The Buffalo News now has a photo gallery up, or so they claim. The website keeps timing out. Again, I suspect their server is getting beaten into the ground.

1811 Someone has wisely pointed out that there is no shortage of people taking film classes that aren't too bright. Back in the late nineties there was a group of students filming a "shootout" with replica weapons in a parking lot just off campus. They were rather surprised when a horde of police descended upon them. So even if this is not an overreaction to an ambiguous item, it might be a dumb film student.

1822 The fuzz have definatly busted out the AR-15s and M-4s. Some decent photos at the Buffalo News. The cops are not very good at finding cover. I suppose that's good, I'd rather they practice their "community policing" skills rather than tactical skills.

1835 Local news channel:

It includes reports that there are students stuck inside the locked-down library, at least one of which has been texting her mother that she and her friends saw an armed man. Still no reports of weapons fire.

2026 Another email; they've apparently given up on finding a potential gunman.

The University Police have determined that Lockwood Library and the academic spine are safe.  Students can circulate around campus.


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February 14, 2010

Notice There Is No "Panic" In Our Pool

The fourth member of the workout squad showed up for swimming Saturday, and now I know why he bowed out with a feeble excuse the prior week. He's afraid of swimming. He's got a good reason to be afraid, though: he can barely swim.

Three of the four of us are grad students, and I'm almost there, so there is no shortage of teaching enthusiam. I'm the second-worst swimmer, so I let the other two take the lead in technique. By the end of the day, we had taught our inexperienced swimmer a second stroke.

Strangely, the only stroke he knew was the sidestroke. We taught him how to dog paddle, on the principle that every human being should know the doggie paddle. It is beyond me how he learned a more advanced stroke without getting the doggie paddle first.

With too many teachers, there was some discussion over the next step. We seem to have settled on breaststroke next. There are also ominous mutters on making me learn how to do the forward crawl in a way that involves less thrashing.

Downside is, I've got a terrible earache this evening, and I'm wondering if it is an infection. Tomorrow afternoon, if it's not better, I'll head to the campus health clinic. They make me buy insurance, I may as well get something out of it.

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February 13, 2010

"Physical limits in technical 3- and 4 ball patterns juggling"

This dude has talent.

I bet he could be a great pickpocket, too.

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February 11, 2010

PT PT Almost Every Day

Late last semester, I joined some friends in bewailing the sad state of our unfit bodies, withered away with advancing years.

This semester, we resolved to do something about our advancing decrepitude. We're meeting at the campus athletics building thrice a week. Weekends are lap swimming, but Tuesdays and Thursdays we go to the fitness room: free-weights, cardio machines, and other similar exercise gear.

Of the four of us, I'm the one with recent experience in formal workout leadership, so I've been providing the plan. First day we did the Marine Corps Daily 15, which is a series of calisthenics that take very little room. I had to back the numbers down, doing about a third the reps that I used to. I was good for more, but two of the guys in the group are far behind me in fitness, and I don't want to give poor Jack a heart attack.

The second time we did crunches and POWs; the POW is an upper-body workout of supreme unpleasantness. It got it's name from the impression among the enlisted that no enemy torture could be as bad as this exercise. I kind of like them, in a Stockholm Syndrome way. Then we ran for a while, or rather, I ran while the other guys walked.

It's kind of a problem. I want to work out together, but I'm at a higher fitness level. (Not that my level is all that high, mind you.) My plan is to get them up so we can run together.

Now I've got to head off to our fourth session, and I'm out of new ideas. Maybe we'll just do the Daily 15 again.

UPDATE: We decided to do weightlifting today. I've not done any of that since high school, so the other guys took over the daily operational plan. It worked out well, I'm quite sore. I also went for a run afterwards, which the other guys took a pass on.

I need to dig out my pace-counting beads. My university's arena has a 1/6 mile indoor running track, but I keep losing count when the lap number gets into the teens. A pace-counter, which is kind of like an abacus bracelet, would let me keep track.

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February 03, 2010


Prepositions have always been the hardest part of foreign languages for me. It was trouble in French, and it's trouble in German. The problem is, prepositions are "overloaded" in that they mean lots of different things, and the useages are not generally obvious. Thus, in English, one is in a building by the shore, on a ship at sea, et cetera. Then the prepositions get extended to non-location uses: on the radio, at play, with child, under great stress, on top of the world, in the lead. Foreign languages have the same sort of issues, except that I learned the English prepositions gradually over the course of many years, while I have just this week to decide if one is auf Arbeit, bei Arbeit, zu Arbeit, um Arbeit, an Arbeit, ├╝ber Arbeit, or in Arbeit. An excellent German-English dictionary's list of "at {prep}" has all those and more. That's because "at" is overloaded in English with meanings, and the same is true for similar words in German.

For the record, one is bei der Arbeit if you are in the process of doing your job, auf der Arbeit if you are located at the place you work, and in der Arbeit if you are located at the place you work, and that place has restricted access. Those answers may change if you speak a dialect of German, of which there are several.

The existance of the blog post is an admission of my procrastination.

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I have a class on the Early American Republic. Last lecture we were doing the start of the War of 1812. The instructor likes to have a discussion at the end of his lecture, in the class's remaining time.

In the class there is one student from Canada and another from England, so their perspective on the war was eagerly sought. The English guy confessed that the war wasn't even mentioned in his earlier schooling, as it was really a tiny sideshow to the Napoleonic Wars. That was the feeling of the British at the time, too: the British Cabinet was astonished at the American declaration of war, over what they thought were minor legal quibbles.

The Canadian woman said it was covered extensivly in Canadian high schools, but the war was blamed on an American desire to conquer Canada, and the war was cast as "Brave Canadians fight to defend their homeland!" This is a little amusing to my ears, as while there were some people that wanted to aquire Canada, they formed a block of less than 10% of Congress, so it wasn't all that widespread a desire. The main reason for the war was British naval policies (impressment of American sailors, seizure of American shipping, attacking American warships, etc.) As for it being a moment of Canadian pride, almost all of the troops were British, as in 'from the British Isles'. Very few Canadians did any fighting at all.

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February 01, 2010

Learn Something New Every Day

Turns out my phone has a special Emergency Mode. When you dial 911, it won't let you dial any other numbers until you enter the phone's password.

I was riding the campus shuttle bus home from class. We were about to take a left turn, just before entering my apartment complex. The car in front of us took that left, only to get clipped by a school bus that ran the red light! It's cold as hell outside, but I have first aid training, and I have been heavily conditioned to deal with emergencies personally. So I asked my bus driver to let me out right there, I dropped my satchel on the sidewalk, and took charge of the situation.

The bus had cleared the intersection and pulled over to the side of the road. The car was stalled in the middle of the intersection. The driver was unhurt, but kind of shocky, and not a native English speaker; under the stress she was not communicating well. I went to the bus to see if anyone needed medical aid. The driver politely told me that, as none of the students seemed in immidiate danger, civilians like me were absolutely not permitted onboard. I'm confident that such is SOP, so I didn't argue.

With no one needing emergency medical aid, I called 911. My phone predates E911 localization, so the first words out of the answer's mouth was "Town and location of your emergency?" I told him, and he immediatly said "School bus accident?" Looking back on it, not only were there plenty of people in cars with phones (while I was freezing outside), the bus had its own radio.

The struck car was still sitting in the intersection, and people were starting to try to edge their cars around it. That seemed unsafe. So I pushed her car out of the way, which sucked, as I think it was still in gear. About the time I got it out of traffic, the first campus police car arrived. I reported, left, and here I am at home, trying to warm up. My heart rate is a little elevated, too, so I've still got some adrenaline going.

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