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23 September 2009 @ 01:45 am
There was a recent article in the AV Club about their favorite movie cliches. The first one mentioned is one of my personal favorites: the big speech.

"I love the big speech scene, when the hero takes center stage and delivers this brilliant monologue that just kills everybody else in the room. I’ve always been infatuated with the idea that if you could just get the chance to explain everything—if everybody would just shut up for long enough for you to lay it all out—then you could fix any problem, win any argument. Sometimes this works in movies; Atticus Finch’s closing statement in To Kill A Mockingbird is pretty impeccable, and has the added bonus of being futile as well as beautiful. (Maybe the futility is part of what makes it beautiful.) But I’m a sucker for it no matter how cheesy the movie around it might be. Pacino’s “coward” speech in Scent Of A Woman? I’m there. I have no idea if Sam’s talk about stories at the end of The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers is good or ridiculous, because it just gets to me in a way that renders me useless as a critic. I love the illusion that, given the chance, we could all find someplace inside ourselves that’s eloquent enough to meet the demands of any moment."

I found another good example last last weekend when I was watching Across the Universe with Elise. It's made even better by the fact that its not the big speech, its the big song. He sings out All You Need is Love and everything is right with the world.

This brings me to my all-time favorite cliche/plotline ever, at least for musicals: art in the face of adversity. It's the general "Let's put on a show" trope, but its not about raising money. It's about doing something because you love it. I realized this when someone asked me what my favorite musicals were. Topping the list is fairly obviously [title of show], where despite the fact that Hunter and Jeff haven't written a Broadway show before and only have four weeks, they end up getting to Broadway, by staying true to themselves and doing something that they're passionate about. A Chorus Line is the story of 17 dancers who put themselves through a hellish audition process just to be in a show, and even though someday they won't be able to dance anymore, they "won't regret, can't forget what they did for love." And what could I not love about Curtains (spoiler alert), the story of a man with a career he likes, but accidentally gets involved in the theatre through his work, and ends up starring in the show.

All it takes is a few stars to align to find happiness.

Star #1 is the being married. That's been going rather well. Top differences between married life and single life: more jewelry, new appliances and more pressure to write thank you cards (they're coming, I swear!).

There's also some exciting new developments in my personal research world. I've been doing a "rotation" with Bill Smart, the robotics professor. He just got a huge grant to work on some quite interesting things involving modeling human robot interaction by way of human actor interaction, with the goal being transferring some of the skill actors use to convey their motivation and internal state to robots.

Not only that, I did something last month that I haven't done since year 4 of undergrad: get cast in a play where not everyone got cast! Meaning someone actually wanted me as an actor. It's an interesting play about two high school seniors who work on science projects and talk. Well, there's actually a bit more to it than that, but I don't feel like revealing everything online. The auditions were actually over a month ago, and I just never blogged about it. It's actually Hell week right now, with the show going up this Friday, running Friday Saturday Sunday for two weekends. [details]

Last, but not least, we just finished auditions last Saturday for the med school musical. Finished deliberations in 2 hours flat. Woot.

So, summary: very busy, but happy. There's a cliche for ya.
03 September 2009 @ 05:24 pm
Poor Mr. Met
20 August 2009 @ 09:48 pm
A collection of links I've accumulated and procrastinated blogging about for going on a couple months:

  • Lipstick on a pig? - An incredibly, ahem, timely article about the cleaning up of St. Louis for the All Star game</a>
  • St. Louis Tea Party vs. All Star Game - A fairly boring article, followed by some rabid discussion, the latter of which I actually got involved in under the pseudonym "Tom Hanks". Surprisingly, my point was met by the troll rather well.
  • Digital Eyes Will Chart Baseball’s Unseen Skills - A fascinating New York Times article about new sensor systems in ballparks that track the gameplay very precisely. Computational Vision wooo!
  • Cool Calendar - Ahhh...time lapse tilt shift photography, when aren't you entertaining?
  • Film Scores as an entry to geekdom - As someone whose first CD was the soundtrack to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, I appreciate this article.
  • Mario AI - And where was this when I was looking for an AI project last year? It's even in Java!
  • [title of show] in St. Louis! - Why did no one tell me this? WHY! [waits patiently to buy opening night tickets in hopes that the authors will be there]
29 July 2009 @ 06:50 pm
I always find it interesting when people tell me to blog more. I appreciate it, but usually I just see it as an indication that I need to spend more time just talking to that person. However, this time, that's clearly not the case. It was actually one of the people I talk to the most that requested an update. So here goes.

So other than the fact that I'm 25 and people comment on my blog, what has happened since June 1? (i.e. what do I need to talk about before this whole wedding thang.) Let's see...

One project that's ended up being a decently large undertaking is reformatting this whole blog. I've been slowly making the conversion to blogger. If you follow that link, you'll see a boring looking blog (for now), but I did manage to move over all of the content from the past 4 years, including comments. Now I'm just slowly going through it, tagging things, fixing grammar and whatnot. Then eventually I'll reformat the whole thing so it looks pretty and includes all the material from probablydavid.com. All in good time.

Theatre review! After I saw A Chorus Line at the Fox, I realized the awesomeness of the $25 student tickets. So I went to see RENT, with the original Mark and Roger, and, since I was alone, I got a seat 11 rows from the stage right in the center. Twas awesome. I'm a little sad I don't have someone here in St. Louis that I normally hang out with to see plays with randomly. Oh, and last weekend I also saw an original play at the Tin Ceiling, where I did my most recent 24 hour plays. Elise and I also have seen a Sinatra impersonator with the St. Louis Symphony.

I've also seen 3.5/5 of the Muny shows thus far, most of which I had never seen before. 42nd St. was fun, but definitely old school and a bit predictable. I also thought that Lullabye of Broadway was the closer of the show, but it turns out its just in the middle of Act II. I skipped Annie, but then saw Meet Me in St. Louis. Also, old school, but a little less unconventional in terms of plot development. Good concept, perhaps, but maybe could be tightened up a bit to move things along a bit. It was fun to see the final scene at the 1904 World's Fair at the site of the 1904 World's Fair. Then I watched half of Godspell. I was expecting it to start with Prologue, which Matt Hall introduced me to many years ago, but it didn't. I then spent the rest of the act trying to figure out if it was actually from this musical (it was). I don't think I inherently have a problem with religious musicals, but for me, Godspell lacked plot and character development. So, since I was sitting in the free seats anyway, I left. (I also had other stuff to do). And last week I saw the Music Man, which was great. I'd forgotten how much I love that musical. There might be a nostalgia factor there, since it was the first musical I saw New Paltz High School do, but I think it has what a lot of the other shows lacked: everything moves along a central plot line, with a slew of well developped characters, and a couple of twists at the end that make it interesting. And I'm hoping to see Camelot on Thursday with my friends and family.

In sports news, softball has been a little slow lately due to my other time commitments and the weather. But in the most recent game I played, I went a solid 3/5, with 2 runs and a good play at the plate. I also hit my first double, which could have been a triple (maybe), but its been so long that I've had to round first, I nearly ran into the first baseman. I'm going to avoid the topic of the Mets, who I believe to be punishing me for living in St. Louis and cheering for the Cards.

The other huge thing that happened in June was Elise studying for and eventually taking her boards (i.e. the big scary test that comes at the end of the first two years of med school). They can be best summed up with a quote from Harry Potter 6, which I am currently rereading.

"I know I messed up Ancient Runes," muttered Hermoine feverishly, "I definitely made at least one serious mistranslation. And the Defense Against the Dark Arts practical was no good at all. I though Transfiguration went all right at the time, but looking back...I know I've failed everything!"

And we all know what happened to her. I rather enjoyed the latest Harry Potter movie, especially when I talked through the various motivations for some of the changes that they made. I still would have liked to see a bit more of the final battle, but overall I was impressed with how often the filmmakers were able to translate subtext into nonverbal scenes.

Meanwhile, in my own non-Hogwarts academic work, I've been moved onto a grant based on improving the teaching of computer science. This is giving me an exciting opportunity to try to make some changes to courses to make them not as dry as they previously were, and increase the active learning portions of the classes. I'm currently gutting the old sequence analysis assignments of the class that Michael teaches, and putting in a more open ended competitive assignment. Gene prediction for the win, literally.

I also took my oral qualifying exam, which was a big todo. Compared to taking boards or some of the other trials that other departments put people through, my exam was quite simple (although not trivial). I had to read three semi-related papers and synthesize them into a presentation on the state of the field. Followed by a rigorous questioning by three faculty. Funtimes. I passed! Hooray. I now know more about flux balance analysis than I would have thought possible. I'm not sure if its what I'm going to do my thesis on, and most of my current work is for the teaching grant. We shall see.

Brief poker interlude. I went over to Zeke's for poker one evening. Fun times were had. Later into the night, I ran out of chips and rebought. Unfortunately, the blinds were so high that after I rebought, I was still short stacked. First hand, I was dealt a Ace Jack suited. Ended up going all in, with my five dollars in chips. It didn't work.

That hand I lost. However, I did get dealt an exceptionally sweet hand. My parents decided to sell me and Elise my mom's old car, where old means 2006 Toyota Corolla. It's pretty sweet, and nice to have air conditioning, working windows and back doors.

OK, July! Go! Fourth of July was spent on the nearby rooftop of a friend. We could barely see the fireworks that were downtown, although for a while you could see the silhouette of the Arch. However, we were able to see fireworks in nearly every other cardinal direction. It was even better than last year when Elise and were driving across Kansas watching multiple fireworks displays.

Elise and I trekked up to Madison, Wisconsin for the wedding of some old college friends. It was the first time that Twitter was almost useful for something. I ended up being DD for the bachelorette party. So, I was hanging out at a fair trade coffee shop in Madison and twittered so. Then I discovered that mookieghana was also in Madison. So we began to make plans to see each other....only to realize we were in town for the same wedding. So it was cool to talk to him and his wife for a bit. The wedding was fun too, although fairly tame, considering Elise, her friends and I were the most active people in terms of dancing. Madison is a nice town too, and we went to an arts fair the day after. That bumped it up a couple notches on the post-grad school city list.

The All Star came and went without me attending any festivities in the stadium. I considered going to the homerun derby outside left field fence, but decided it was a little too unlikely that I'd catch anything. However, it would have been cheaper than the $400 they wanted for tickets. I did run the All-Star Game 5K. That was a lot of fun. I did get to high five Fredbird and a couple other mascots. Unfortunately, my hopes of crossing the finish line and high fiving Mr. Met were not ...met. To make matters worse, on the train home, I managed to leave a ziplock bag holding my drivers license, school id, phone and house keys on the seat. FORTUNATELY, the driver managed to find them at the end of the line and responded to the text message I sent to my phone. WHEW. MAJOR RELIEF.

Finally, the lady and I went to a Coldplay concert last weekend. This was the first megaconcert I've ever been to, bringing the ratio of normal concerts to Weird Al concerts I've attended almost to one. It was definitely a unique sensation for me to be at an event with so many people, all of whom were on the same plane as I was (as opposed to baseball games, where people are on multiple levels). The concert did not disappoint.

And that's it. Nothing much exciting I guess :). The first wedding guests have already begun to arrive. Spent a few hours hanging with Evan today, which needs to happen more often. Now I have to go off and do the last little bit of planning. Wish me luck.
I'm 25. Whoa.

And now a list of random show tune lyrics that mention how old people are. Bonus points for guessing all of them.

  1. After all, science has shown a person's character isn't really established until at he's at least 5 years old.
  2. There was the time Avram sold him a horse that he said was 6 years old, when it was really 12.
  3. You'll be 40 and I'll be 9
  4. There's a lot, I am not, certain of...Hello 12, hello 13, hello love.
  5. The best and the worst and the most and the least and the crazy and the scary and we are just about to turn 13.
  6. When you're a skinny child of 15, wired with braces from ear to ear...
  7. I am 16 going on 17, I know that I'm naive.
  8. She was just 17 you know what I mean.
  9. I'm 19, but I'm old for my age.
  10. I'm 19 and male, I play squash and raquetball.
  11. Why can't you stay 29? Hell, you still feel like you're 22. Turn 30 in 1990, Bang! You're dead, what can you do?
  12. It sucks to be broke and unemployed and turning 33.
  13. Then again, how many times do you get to be 35? Eleven?
01 June 2009 @ 10:30 pm
How's this for a one-two punch. Last Friday/Saturday, I participated in the 8th annual "7/24", the 24 hour play festival at the Tin Ceiling Theatre. This is my first opportunity to act in a play since the 7th annual "7/24". Then, on Sunday I catch a matinee of "A Chorus Line" at the Fox Theatre, a musical about people who spend their lives on the stage. ONE TWO.

7/24 was fun this year, although not as much fun as last year, but then again, what could possibly stack up against vampire fights. As I did last year, I picked a monologue that had a bit of double meaning. I did the "Coathanger Sculpture" monologue from "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown", which is all about how hard it is to judge art. I figure its a good attitude to go into an audition with.

The play I ended up in was Texts From Last Night: The Play. The basic idea was there is a guy in a high powered financial firm office who slept with two of his female coworkers, and they all text each other throughout the meeting, to which their boss is oblivious. I played the guy/man-hoe, but interestingly enough, the part was actually written for a woman in an office with 3 men (as opposed to 1 man and three women). So I played Lance instead of Lindsey. Reverse sexism I suppose. We actually had a fairly diverse cast, including myself, a professional actress, a girl in high school whose parents are Elise's professors and a recent immigrant from Poland. The latter had a little problem with the language, but then again, we all did. Half of the play was in "txt" form, and the other half was financial gibberish jargon, a la "We're looking at about 5 to 7 cents per $100 of second-quarter assets, plus Tier-1 capital. However, my source does indicate that we should be able to cap our premiums at 15 basis points per deposit." (My line, which I apparently still have memorized.) So a good chunk of rehearsal time was spent trying to spit out those delightful turns of phrases. In the end, it wasn't the funniest play of the night but did get a couple of good laughs.

Afterwards, Elise and I went out to dinner at Wildflower, and she and I conversed about acting at length. I asked her honestly how she thought my acting stacked up against the other actors. She confirmed what I had suspected, that they were mostly a cut above me, which is what I thought, but wanted to make sure it wasn't just my self-derisiveness. It makes me a little sad, because I honestly believe I don't know what to do about it. I came to the conclusion that no director had ever really challenged me, partly because I'm often cast in smaller roles which don't require as much attention, or because other things take precedence over working with me as an actor. The latter was the case for Texts From Last Night; we were focused on the language and the unorthodox staging more than really developing the characters.

Far be it for me to place all the blame on the director though. It's just that I feel I've reached as far as I can on my own, in terms of acting. I have a lousy inner eye, and when I'm acting, I can't really judge myself, especially when I'm concentrating so hard on acting. I put the onus on the director because I feel like I can't simultaneously be "in the moment" and evaluating the moment. The only person who ever did call me on stuff like this, and coach me second to second was never my director. It was Louima, my college voice teacher. He would stop me if I was thinking about what I was doing. He'd stop me if my attention wavered, even if I didn't realize it.

The conclusion Elise and I came to under the stars in the Central West End was that if I wanted to get better, I need to get some outside help. Otherwise, I'm stuck in a Catch-22, where I can't get better at acting without getting cast in stuff, and I can't get cast in stuff without getting better at acting. Then again, only acting once every year can't help either.

The next day, with all this weighing on my mind, I took in the matinée of the touring version of "A Chorus Line." I was hesitant about seeing it since I had already seen it in NYC a few summers ago. However, despite this, I went and still found myself emotionally affected by the show. It made me think about singing, and acting, and my friends who do these things. I'll avoid my usual spiel about missing artsy people, but will note that I wish I had more friends in St. Louis that I could go see shows with. Friends who AREN'T studying 18 hours a day for boards.

I'm reminded of the philosophy of music class I took for my Take 5. Some definitions of what music/art is depends on its relation to other people. If I play trombone in the woods, and no one hears it, is it still music? That sort of thing. In some way, art is not something that can be experienced alone. It's why I love going to art museums with Elise. OBOC was fun because it was all-inclusive, and you were up there with 50 other people doing the same thing as you. I guess its lacking that connection that can make me feel quite lonely at times.

Hmmph. Sounds like the kind of angst that one could write a musical about...
21 May 2009 @ 11:51 pm
Handheld Nintendo Gaming Device

In scholarly news, my latest paper is in Google Scholar. Now you can go read officially all the wonderful things there are to know about cDNA to Genome alignment. While you're at it, you can read my undergrad thesis and Elise's undergrad thesis as well. I am working on getting my undergrad work going again, to some sort of publishable state. There's a conference that I'm hoping to submit my transcriber to. In Kobe Japan.

Went to Columbia over the weekend and saw Star Trek again. Still good, but enough with the shaky cam already. Also had the pleasure of seeing Ben Rossetter for lunch. We only managed to see each other for about an hour, but that is par for the course for our relationship: see each other for ten minutes over food before one of us zips off to far off lands. Speaking of Bens, Ben Snikoff is now technically a law school graduate, and starting a podcast called TechnicallyLegal. I haven't listened yet, but if its anywhere near as hilarious as jury duty or as intellectually profound as Ben's improv, it should be good.

In addition to Star Trek, I also saw Bottle Shock, starring Captain Kirk, Snape, the President of the United States and Echo. Plus, I also finally saw Slumdog Millionaire. I really enjoyed the movie. My biggest complaint comes after watching the deleted scenes. There's a scene in the movie where all the boys are stealing from the audience members at the opera in front of the Taj Mahal. Nothing really happens, and then later, they're back in Mumbai, looking for LatikuLatika. I thought the movie would have been much better with the deleted scene that fits in there inserted back in, with an opera patron explaining that the opera is "Orfeo ed Euridice", which tells the tale of how Orpheus goes to hell to get his true love back. This inspires Jamal to get Latika back, so they go back to Mumbai. Perhaps I just like it when people's major life decisions are made on the basis of music.

In sports news, the Mets are on a clever little losing streak. Just when you think they've got everything together...bam! Disaster. Maybe they'll rebound...let's see who they're playing next. Oh. Crap. Well, at least the Mets were good 23 years ago, and some of my favorite tv. shows mention them.
The Mets on Dollhouse and HeroesCollapse )

In tech news, , there's a contest to see who can encode an image in 160 characters the best so that you can post images on Twitter without links. It's really tempting to drop everything and try to code up something.

Lastly, in arts and entertainment, with any luck, this weekend I'll be in the 24 Hour Play Festival here in St. Louis that I did last year. To think that one year ago was the first time I'd heard of robots doing theatre...

And that about does it for me tonight. Join us tomorrow at 11. And here it is, your moment of zen.
11 May 2009 @ 12:05 am
Various news snippets...

  • The Mets are on a bit of a hot streak. The Cardinals, not as much, although they both are at the top of their respective divisions. I started feeling like the Mets and Cardinals could not both be good at the same time this season (a feeling helped by the Cardinals sweeping the Mets back in April, grumble grumble). However, statistics show this not to be as bad as I thought.

    As you can see in Figure A, the Cardinals, while they haven't been consistently winning recently, they've been floating at about 8 games over .500. Meanwhile, the Mets dive under .500 came right when the Cards got hot.

    Figure B shows when the Mets winning and the Cards winning coincide. This turns out much better than expected, since I expected both teams winning to be under-represented. It can be read optimistically or pessimistically. Pessimistically, most of the time, both teams don't win. However, optimistically, at least one team wins most of the time.

    Anyway, I need to head down to Busch more often. Oh, and I forgot to post this awhile ago, but I've been reading The Wright Stache, a whole blog about how David Wright and the Mets would be doing better if Wright had a mustache, or to use their neologism, a Metstache. Right before the season started, I was growing my own Metstache, setting a modern record for longest time without me shaving (two weeks!). Not coincidentally, this happened to coincide with the week that Elise had finals and the week that Elise was away on spring break. By the end, I had a pretty sweet goatee going. And by "pretty sweet" I mean sketchy/good if you squint. Anyway, said blog posted a link about the Mets and Cards playing back in the 2000 NLCS. I must say, I got very nostalgic reading those rosters. Piazza! Alfonzo! Ventura! Franco! Wendell! McEwing! Agbayani!

  • The most useful bit of code I've written in past weeks has been a Java graphing package. I always find myself trying to graph data quickly, but usually resort to some lazy swing visualizations. But on a whim/challenge by my labmates, I wrote a wrapper package to the Google Charts service, which makes quite pretty graphs with relatively low effort. (They produced the graphs seen above)

  • Last Monday the Tony nominations came out. Perennial blog-favorite [title of show] got nominated for Best Book, but that was it. I was very disappointed it didn't get a best musical nod, which probably means they won't be performing at the Tonys. Reading bunch of the NYTimes coverage, it seems in general, Tony nominations were doled out more heavily for plays that are still open, which could be a reflection of the hope that the nominations will increase ticket sales for those plays, and help broadway as a whole. This seems rather cynical, yet all too possible. Overall, I was a bit confused by the nominations, with a lot of things that I didn't think were deserving getting nominations. However, then I realized that I've only actually seen one show in the entire last year ("13") and it got zero (0) nominations.

    I've come to realize that I have a love/hate relationship with the Tony's, in that in many cases, it's rather lopsided. In my mind, it seems like a continuation of the OBOCracy, where the most-talented get all and the slightly less talented get little. Sure you get something like [title of show] or In the Heights breaking through occasionally, but most of the time, shows like Gypsy and Billy Elliot get 40 awards and somehow that's fair? [title of show] not getting more nominations would bother me more, I suppose, if it wasn't a central part of their mantra that they'd rather be nine people's favorite thing than a 100 Tony voters ninth favorite thing.

  • Speaking of talented, singing underdogs: the Muppets. What is the name of the piano playing dog? Now say the name out loud. Say it again. Now read this overthought treatise on the "correct" pronunciation.

  • I saw Star Trek on Friday night with Zeke, Elise and the med students. An awesome, awesome movie. I had very few complaints, namely the soundtrack not being overly awesome, J.J. Abrams desire to make monster movies, and Nimoy seeming a little tired. However, nearly everything else seemed to work. Zachary Quinto did not disappoint, and I loved Scotty, although that might just be the engineer in me showing. The script was tight, and the alternate reality plot worked really well. Overall, a very satisfying experience.

  • Finally, in the latest installment of my Culinary Adventures, I have now made the following dishes: Apple Pizza, Black Bean Enchilada Casserole, Stuffed Shells and a Tofu Tower.
04 May 2009 @ 11:37 am
From the Riverfront Times, an article about an Austin, TX mayoral candidate warning about Austin becoming more like St. Louis, the analogy being that St. Louis was once a great city and now it's not, and Austin is a great city. I think the comments had some interesting points (for once). Someone likened the general response to criticisms of St. Louis to "Custard and baseball." But my favorite has to be, "I’m familiar with 1904 St. Louis. I’ve studied 1904 St. Louis, and Austin, you’re no 1904 St. Louis!"