30 March 2008

Explosions in the Lou

Last night I saw my favorite band, Explosions in the Sky, play live at The Pageant, their first time in St. Louis.  Explosions is a "post-rock" band that plays instrumentals with three guitars and drums.  Their music is experimental, beautiful, aggressive and delicate, cinematic (they scored Friday Night Lights) and full of dramatic tension and resolution; it's rare for music to be so abstract and still so emotionally appealing.  They're more about music than attitude, but it was thrilling to watch them shredding on their guitars in the more aggressive sections.  Except for a few transitions, they didn't play anything newer than last year's album All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone, which was a little disappointing because their music seems to get more contrapuntal with each album and I can't wait to hear where they'll go next.

The opener, Lichens, was less dynamic and more experimental, wordless vocals and guitar drones with feedback. It was interesting enough for me to buy an album after the show.

I'm on Explosions in the Sky's mailing list, which tells me about future shows, but it never mentioned St. Louis.  I wouldn't have noticed they were coming if a good buddy with excellent musical taste hadn't pointed it out to me.  Thanks, Scott!

22 March 2008

Basketball and a fun waste of time

It's a great time for my basketball teams.  The Wash. U. men just won the Division III national championship.  The Texas A&M men are leading no. 2 seed UCLA at halftime and would meet a low seed in the next round.  The A&M women (notice the "whoops" in the URL!) are a no. 2 seed and are cruising so far.  The North Carolina men are top-ranked and favored to win it all; the women are ranked second in the country.  (My favorite NBA team recently won 22 straight games, but who cares about the NBA in March?)

I'm not much for online games, but Untangle is really fun.  As a computer scientist would see it, you're basically given an undirected graph and are asked to construct a proof that it's planar.  I finally got to the EVIL level and beat it; can you?  What strategies work for you?

11 March 2008

Big computer science

I've been busy trying to finish up my Ph.D. and find a faculty position in computer science.  A week ago today I spent all day at the airport trying to get to a campus interview, but the snow was too heavy and each new flight I was put on was eventually cancelled.  So the interview was postponed a week.  Tomorrow's weather shouldn't be a problem, but for good luck I'll be listening to one of my favorite albums, Laurie Anderson's Big Science, while I wait for the flight.  A lyrical excerpt:

Here come the planes.
They're American planes.  Made in America.
Smoking or non-smoking?
And the voice said:  Neither snow nor rain nor gloom
of night shall stay these couriers from the swift
completion of their appointed rounds.

On the other hand, the first song on the album tells a story of an airline pilot who turns out to be a malicious prankster.  Maybe I'll skip that one.

06 March 2008


I love modern classical music.  Two of my favorite composers were born 100 years ago: Olivier Messiaen (who died at 83) and Elliott Carter, who's still alive and composing.  Carter is now the oldest published composer in history, a record he took from Leo Ornstein, whose son Severo became a computer scientist and worked at Wash. U.  Hello small world!

By the way, I'm not the only one who feels the way I do about year pronunciation in the new century.

01 March 2008

Involuntarily abstaining

I'm still registered to vote in Texas while in school in Missouri.  I applied to vote for Ron Paul in the Republican primary by mail but they sent me a Democratic ballot by mistake.  There isn't enough time before election day to have them send the correct ballot, so I called to see what my options were, and they said that basically I've been disenfranchised and all I can do is complain officially.  I considered just voting in the Democratic primary after all since I vastly prefer Obama to Clinton, but I have no opinions on the rest of the ballot, and besides voting for the lesser of two evils is still voting for evil.  (A principled voter who studies the manipulation of voting systems—a contradiction, I know.)  As for Ron Paul, he'll just have to win Texas without me.