I’m back in my old stomping grounds of Ann Arbor for the weekend, to celebrate the wedding of Sarah B and John. The wedding was de-lovely; held at a farm outside of town with an outdoor ceremony, tented reception (just in time for the rain), and dance in a barn with a jazz band.
Also, there were puzzles provided by yours truly. If you’d like to try your hand at them, they can be found here:
No knowledge of the bride and groom is required…
But back to the band… I heard them warming up, playing strands of De-lovely by Cole Porter, which I once arranged for SSAA and sang A2 on. (I also knew it was the wedding song as I wrote a puzzle around it.) So, I walked over and chatted with them for a bit where I learned that the Easy Street Jazz Band has been playing continuously as a band in some version or another for 40+ years and they were even nominated for a grammy in the early 80s, playing with Bonnie Raitt. And they learned that I have some singing experience, especially with De-Lovely.
After that, I had a brief chat with the bride and groom, and the next thing I knew, I was on for singing with the band during the bride and groom’s first dance, entirely unrehearsed and completely sight-reading the second bonus verse written just for the wedding. The key was a touch high, but I managed. I got a few compliments — the biggest of all probably being from a friend who didn’t realize it was me and had just figured that the band had a vocalist. Later I went back and sang Blue Skies in a key a bit more fitting for me. It was a hoot… and the band leader actually asked if I live in Ann Arbor and wanted to come out to their regular Tuesday gig. I’m a little sad that I don’t — that band is phenomenal!
So, thank you to John and Sarah for allowing me to indulge in one of my fantasies (just jumping in with a band like that) and for letting me be part of your wonderful day and your de-lovely moment. Congratulations on a wedding I’ve seen coming for years and best wishes on what is sure to be a long and happy marriage!
I came back to Ann Arbor this weekend to find my room infested with yellow jackets. But the good thing is, I managed not to get stung! I killed eight of them Friday night and Saturday morning and observed a flock of many more hovering outside the window. Then I went off to Kroger to pick up some bee killing spray and something to put in whatever hole I might find. When I got home, there was yet another bee hanging out on my window — so I killed it too. (Current dead bee count: 9)
Then, knowing there was a big bunch of them flying around outside the window, I went up to the fire escape where I found a hole and at this hole were about 50 or more bees. So, I aimed my bee spray (with a 27 foot range, says the bottle) and fired at them from the other side of the fire escape and they started dropping like… well, flies is the idiom but dead yellow jackets is more correct. Furthermore, any bee who flew over and tried to enter the hole seemed stopped by an invisible force field of poison and every so often a drunken looking bee would climb out of the hole and drop to the ground. (Current dead bee count: 9 + many)
Or so I thought.
Upon returning to my room (after a treacherous fall down the fire escape stairs — watch out, it’s slippery when wet!), I observed *at least* 7 bees on the window or flying around inside. Clearly I hit their hive, freaked them out and they escaped inwards.
I called the landlord, got our less than useful house manager to come over and do nothing but confirm that there were many more than 7 bees in the room while I went to see Wall-E. (Good movie, by the way.) After the movie, I stopped and got some fly paper and a “Yellow Jacket and Wasp Trap” (says the box). As I was setting them up in my room, I noticed that the bees were flying into the light fixture and frying to death. After plugging up the hole on the outside of the house, my housemate and I determined that the best thing to do was leave the light on and sleep downstairs.
This morning, I found upwards of 40 yellow jacket carcasses in the light fixture — and at least 15 dead bees on the floor while I cleaned my room. And yet, every so often a new one would appear seemingly out of nowhere and occasionally there would be a buzz coming from inside the wall. Eventually, I saw one fly out of the bottom of the window sill, where I found a hole. After plugging it up with aluminum foil (I don’t have anything better at this moment), I could hear a few bees poking at the foil from inside the window frame.
I’ve tasked a housemate to spray the nest again and flip on the lights for a few hours tonight after I head back up north. With any luck, that will take care of them.
Total estimated dead bee count: 100s.
As of Sunday evening, I am in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where I will be teaching Ojibwe students some computer science on the Bay Mills Reservation. More specifically, we are teaching them how to use Drupal to build a digital content management system to be the base for a virtual museum of their tribe’s history.
And while I’m doing that during the day, in the evening I am staying in an apartment at Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste Marie, MI. (Not to be confused with Sault Ste Marie, Ontario across the lake.) This evening I took a little walk at sunset down by the water and brought my camera. Based on maps, I thought I could just go from the backyard of my apartment and walk straight over to the water… but then I realized that there is a border crossing in the way. I didn’t think they’d smile too kindly on me hopping a fence just to cut through, especially since I left all of my forms of ID inside. Thus, I took a more roundabout way to the water instead.
The photos I took are here. Unfortunately, while I went to a lighthouse this afternoon, I didn’t have my camera with me. I’ll try not to make that mistake again…
|The “star balls” at the University of Michigan Planetarium (technical term, according to Nathan Crockett) courtesy of Arnab Nandi
One of my housemates, Nate, is an astronomy PhD student and the GSI (i.e. TA) for Astronomy 101. As such, he has been trained to run the planetarium in Angell Hall, which quite frankly I didn’t know existed until he told us about it. Last night he treated a bunch of us to a free show after hours.
It’s a small planetarium (seats 32), but that doesn’t mean it’s not awesome. For starters, before Nate got the appropriate software loaded, we were all highly entertained by the LED light arrays that lit up the screen with varying colors. Being that a high concentration of us were EECS nerds, we of course inspected the arrays and discovered that they were made by Color Kinetics! (Okay, I was the only one in the room who was excited by that, but I did call Johnston to let him know that we were using his company’s lights.)
Once things were up and running, Nate very professionally led us through the constellations as seen from various locations and time — I learned quite a bit. And he had to put up with a lot of backseat planetarium navigation: “Nate, move us up 10 degrees,” “Nate, show us an eclipse!” “Nate, can we see what it’s like in Alaska,” “Nate, show us an eclipse!” “Nate, we want to see the planets,” “Nate, show us an eclipse!” “Nate, back up a few days — no, no, other way!” (For what it’s worth, despite the fact that he insisted it couldn’t be done, he sort of managed a solar eclipse.) My personal favorites were seeing the planets in retrograde and making sound effects when the moon would zip around us.
Oh, and because I said I’d blog this… “This one time, I was trying to impress a girl with my three-inch refractive telescope…”
If anyone has ever wondered what I do, I made a poster. It’s for the prospective student visit day tomorrow and for the CRA-W conference (i.e. let’s give female CS PhD students a free trip) next week. The poster is pretty basic and contains no results because we’re working on getting them published and don’t want to be scooped (i.e. I’ve already considered and figured out all of the “Issues to Consider”). But at the very least, you can see the graph theory problem I spend my days thinking about. (And thanks to asarwate for the LaTeX poster template… and to my advisor for the comped copy of Omnigraffle.)
Two undergrad males debating whether Hillary or Barack would be most likely to be assassinated. They decided it would be Hillary, and therefore they decided that they should support Barack.
Sometimes the reasons people vote the way they do amuse me.
You come home from winter break to your house of nine grad students to find everyone abuzz about the Iowa caucuses. You all take a break from watching the cable news channels, because it’s too early to determine who the victor will be, and you head over as a group to the local indie movie theater to see the latest indie movie (Juno — excellent film, by the way). Because you’re there early, one member of your group whips out his iPhone to check in on the caucus returns and announces that Huckabee and Obama have won. After the movie, you all sit around the living room watching more cable news channels and make plans to carpool to the grocery store tomorrow and bring tote bags to help save the planet. Then you mock Wolf Blitzer and Rush Limbaugh, debate whether or not the country and the planet are really going to pot, and decide that having a house colloquium in which you all teach each other about your respective research is a really good idea.
And then you go to bed, thinking that your housemates are awesome and Ann Arbor is not so terrible after all.
We had a big blizzard this weekend — 8+ inches of snow fell on Sunday. One of my housemates is from Florida and has never seen snow before this year. On Sunday morning, he announced that the neighbors seemed to have a “lawn mower that eats snow.”
“Uh, that’s actually a snow blower,” we informed him.
A little bit later, when the discussion turned to shoveling the walk, he jumped at the chance to volunteer… I think he thought it would be fun or something. I checked on him after about five minutes. “It’s a lot heavier than it looks,” he remarked. He then decided that no, he didn’t want help this time because he said he’d do it. However, in the future, he’s probably not going to be so quick to offer his services.
Also potentially coming soon… photographs of our big fat snowman (who drinks instead of smoking a pipe).
This has the potential to be quite the comedy of a football season. As Michigan once again choked big time… well, actually, choke implies that at one point they were in a position to win. Let me start over… while Michigan lost its fourth game in a row to a fowl team (they’re the ducks, get it?), I heard a student proclaim loudly that he was paying good tuition money to go a good football school and he was getting ripped off. I related the story to a friend who had been in the bathroom at the time while we were walking out of the stadium. He insisted that I must have made that up because no one smart enough to get into Michigan would be stupid enough to say something like that. As he was protesting, we passed a mother and a son having the following exchange:
Mother: Now, you are here for academics and to get a degree.
Son: But, Mom –
Mother: No. What is important is that in four years you will have a diploma that says University of Michigan on it and that will help you get a good job.
Son: *whining* But, Mom, why can’t they just win once while I’m here?
Michigan fans are funny, and they don’t even know it. My friend conceded that I was not making it up.
This is the motto of today: Appalachian State is hot, hot, hot.
Today I walked into the Big House for the first football game of the season and told the people I was sitting with that I had decided to root for the opponent, a 1-AA team whose school I had only previously heard of because of an Internet viral video craze. My friends thought I was crazy, but I’m a sucker for the underdog and, unlike many in Ann Arbor, I definitely do not live and die by the Wolverines. Even so, when I made that statement, I never expected that I was going to be rooting for a winner.
Turns out, this was the first time a 1-AA team has beat a ranked D1 team ever.
I laughed a lot during the game at the tragedy of it all, and couldn’t help but feel a little glad for the Mountaineers as they stormed the field after the blocked field goal that ended the game (and almost resulted in another ASU touchdown). This is the sort of thing they make sports movies about… it’s just that I was sitting in the student section of the bigger, stronger, faster, and yet losing team. No one around me thought it was as amusing as I did.
I’ve never before seen a crowd leave a stadium in the shock that this one did. A freshman (I think) sitting near loudly declared that the remainder of his season tickets were for sale to anyone who would buy them. Another undergrad lamented that he should have sold his Ohio State ticket yesterday because now the going rate would surely plummet. Many, many people were heard on cell phones mourning with their loved ones about how “we” couldn’t ever get the 2-point conversion and how “we” couldn’t kick a field goal. Secretly, I was laughing then too, but I was a little afraid that someone would hurt me so I kept it to myself.