Geeks Gone Wild

A coupla profs at Xavier are doing a workshop today called “Geeks Gone Wild,” about how they’ve used QuickTime clips to jazz up some of their classes.

To promote the workshop, they produced a short video spot, which they planned and shot and edited on their own. Then they asked me to help tighten it up. I said I’d do it so long as my name wasn’t associated with it. There wasn’t much to do; I just cut out a little dead air here and there, added a short voiceover and a closing graphic. The video was posted online and should be available for a while.

When the link was sent out to all faculty, my name was included after all. Sure enough, all day Friday people were telling me how much they liked the video and that I’d done a good job. I replied that the real credit goes to the profs who did most of the work and that my involvement was minimal.

When I ran into MaPó, she asked me, “What’s up with this ‘Geeks Gone Wild’ thing?” I replied again with the story of how I wasn’t supposed to be credited — but it turns out she hadn’t even noticed my name. She saw the title “Geeks Gone Wild” and instantly thought of me. She said that I’m a “poster child for geekdom.”


Note: Geeks Gone Wild has nothing to do with Gimps Gone Wild.


Xy and I are celebrating our steel anniversary. Twelve [sic] years ago today, we got married.

In the mix this morning:

  • “Anniversary” by Tony! Toni! Toné! (Of course. And not the short version either. Nothing but the full nine and a half minute odyssey will do.)
  • “Good Eleven” (Multiplication Rock)
  • “Eleventh Earl of Mar” by Genesis
  • “Feeling Hot Hot Hot” by Trinidad Steel Drum Band
  • “Earth Crisis” by Steel Pulse (not to be confused with the band Earth Crisis)
  • “Fistful of Steel” by Rage Against the Machine
  • “Livin’ After Midnight” by Judas Priest (from the British Steel album)
  • “Metal Gods” (ditto)
  • “Sun and Steel” by Iron Maiden

Who are we trying to kid, anyway? We’re fucking stoner metalheads. Is that redundant?

We won’t be going out for a fancy dinner, though, since we blew our wad three weeks ago.

Why I Call Myself an Atheist

The word atheist provokes a strong and negative reaction amongst many of my fellow human beings, so I thought perhaps I should explain why I use that term to describe myself.

This is not a label I picked for myself; it has been thrust upon me by circumstance. I am surrounded by theists, by people who believe in a God or gods. A lot of my family and my fellow countrymen are Christians. There are a lot of powerful Americans who profess Christianity, though we sometimes doubt their sincerity. America also has many people of other religions, and if you consider the entire world and the whole history of humanity, these other religions loom even larger: Islam, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism — to name only a few. These many diverse religions have at least one thing in common: They are all theistic. They all believe in God, or in some cases, in multiple gods.

I don’t. In my heart of hearts I do not believe that there is a God. Certainly I do not believe in a personal creator god of the sort envisioned by these religions. So I am not a theist, by definition.

What do you call such a person? There’s one short and simple word: atheist.

Some will object that this is a negative term. That’s true. It is negative because it defines what a person does not believe. It defines on the basis of a rejection. It says nothing positive. This bothers me to an extent. A Christian living in an Islamic country would probably not go about introducing himself as a non-Muslim. That would seem rude and weird. Instead, we would expect such a person to introduce himself as a Christian. By analogy, as I am surrounded by Christians, it would seem rude and weird to introduce myself as a non-Christian, and so I don’t. As I am surrounded by theists, it would seem weird and rude to introduce myself as an atheist, and so I don’t, as a rule.

But sometimes, religion comes up. Sometimes I find myself talking with my friends about deep and serious things like morality, God, the meaning of life, and so forth. I love those conversations. And when we are baring our souls and talking about what we believe, there’s one word that lets me quickly and easily locate myself on the map of possibilities. I’m an atheist. And I say so. It’s just that simple.


The autumnal equinox approaches. It is only a couple hours away.

I’ve sometimes had arguments with people who think the seasons always begin on the same day every year. They don’t. Instead, they shift around a little bit. Autumn begins with the autumnal equinox, which sometimes falls on the September 22nd and sometimes on September 23rd, at least lately. I understand that if you look at a longer calendar the autumnal equinox may fall as late as the 24th.

I remember speculating in the past that day and night must be of (almost) equal length on the equinox, and that this must be true no matter where on the planet you are. But this was just based on some reasoning I was trying to do in my head, based on my extremely tenuous grasp of astronomy, and I wasn’t sure I had it right.

Thank heavens for Wikipedia.

On the equinoxes the sun rises exactly at East and sets exactly at West everywhere, and the length of the day equals the length of the night.

Indeed, it seems that the very meaning of the word “equinox” is Latin for “equal night.”

Update: Friend Anal pointed out the following:

Huh. So in Anchorage, the sunrise and sunset are closest to 12 hours apart on the 24th. In Austin, it will be the 26th. In New Orleans, it will also be the 26th. In Missoula, it will be the 25th. All this according to, anyway.


Note that none of those days is the actual day of the equinox. This confused me. My understanding was that day and night would be of equal length on this day, everywhere on the planet.

Wikipedia sez:

For terms of measuring the length of day on the equinox, sunrise starts when the sun is half way above the horizon and sunset is when the sun is halfway under the horizon. Using this definition, the length of the day is precisely 12 hours.

This led me to theorize that typical sunrise and sunset times (such as on are calculated differently. And, indeed, the following passage from Stars and Planets by Peterson Field Guides seems to bear this out:

Although day and night are theoretically equal in length on the days of the equinoxes, that would be true only if the sun were a point, not a disk, and if the earth’s atmosphere did not bend sunlight. However, the top of the sun actually rises a few minutes before the center of the sun’s disk–the point used in calculations. Also, the earth’s atmosphere bends sunlight, so we can see the sun for several minutes before the time sunrise would occur and after the time sunset would occur if the earth had no atmosphere.

(I got this quotation from the handy Sunrise, Sunset website’s FAQ list.)


The Times-Picayune is calling Saturday’s election the “biggest election fiasco in modern Louisiana history.” This is not buried on the op-ed section. It’s on the front page. The article mentions an online petition but gets the name of the website wrong, so I thought I should post the link here in case anybody wants to sign it (though I am skeptical about the efficacy of online petitions).


Election results are in:

  • Should we amend the state constitution to forbid gay marriage? Most Louisiana voters said yes, surprise, surprise. What a fucking stupid idea.
  • We’ll be seeing a big turnover on the Orleans Parish School Board, which seems like a good thing. Sandra Hester didn’t win, but she came in second with a very respectable showing, something like 16% or 18%.
  • But the big story is the fact that at some 50-odd precincts, voting machines were not present when the polls opened, so people were turned away and told to come back later.

My Ears Are Clean

The Green Party had a media training workshop; since it was at Xavier I had to be there for the duration. Attendance was not so good; in fact it was pathetic. Blame it on Ivan, or the fact that it was an election day, or both. Besides myself and Debbie (the organizer) and Scott (the trainer) there were only two people who showed up. But the quality of the information was good.

Afterwards Xy and I voted.

Once every three years or so, I take out my earrings and clean them, whether they need it or not. And they always need it. They are hollow and they get filled up with wax or dead skin cells. Anyway, that’s what I did Saturday night.



I’m so excited I could just about piss in my pants. Today I got my Special Edition Double-Disc DVD Set of Slacker, which comes in a gorgeous box and includes a 64-page book. Wow. I am blown away just by the packaging. Even the case for the DVDs themselves is stunning. Hell, even the discs themselves are cool, one printed to look like a water meter cover, the other like a storm sewer.

There’s a quote from Godard in the booklet, but I can forgive that.

I had to have a copy of Slacker. I still remember seeing it in the theater back in 1991. Or was it 1992? It was the first time I had ever seen people in a movie who I thought “looked like me,” i.e., like real people my age, my peers in Bloomington.

Plus, it is a kick-ass movie.

Dairy Overdose

Xy and I went to an art extravafreakoutganza at the Big Top Gallery, something called Meow Mix that Heather Weathers put together. Everything had a feline theme. For example, they were serving some sort of “milk punch,” which actually tasted as nasty as it sounds. Xy took advantage of the grooming station to get her hair cut. All the performers were female. There was a stand-up comic (Marcia Wall) and burlesque dances by the Storyville Starlets and a “Hairy Pussy Slide Show” by Heather. Trista Douglass read The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss, but she was dressed as the Cat in the Hat; while she read, Thing 1 and Thing 2 ran around and caused quite a ruckus, shattering a couple pieces of glassware, including my pint glass of beer. But what’s a few shards of glass between friends?

The event ended earlier than we’d expected, which gave us time to stop by the Creole Creamery. This is a relatively new Uptown ice cream shop, but it was disappointing even to Xy the ice cream addict. In fact she couldn’t finish her treat. Too much dairy for one night, perhpas?

Then we saw Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow at the Prytania.

Optional Work Day

There was some confusion as to whether Xavier was open today or not, so around 8 a.m. I called campus info and learned that campus was “open for staff” but that school would not be in session until Monday.

So I took my time. Xy and I went to City Park and tried to play tennis. The courts were closed, but we bounced the ball off a wall and then took a nice long walk. Came back home and had a breakfast of eggs and leftover potatoes and pork chops marinated in red wine. I showered and shaved.

At last I rode to campus; I got there shortly before 11 a.m., just in time to learn that they were closing the library. The police officer let me go up to my office, where I watered my plant, then turned around and left. I could have stayed, but no one else was there and I would have had to call the police to let me out. As it was, the officer locking up the library kept asssuring me, “You’ll get paid anyway.” OK, OK, twist my arm.

So almost this entire week has been a vacation of sorts, though not very restful. I’d been planning to take next week off, but now I think I’ll work instead. Today I’m puttering around the home office trying to get things in order.


I went for a jog around the bayou this morning. It’s a very pleasant day. Kind of breezy, which is nice. There’s a little debris here and there that got blown about last night, but no damage that I could see. The grass was not wet, because we didn’t really get any rain.

34,000 people did lose power in the metro area, but not us. Xavier’s website has been down for the duration, but I didn’t even lose my Internet connection once. In fact, I used a combination of the Web, radio and TV to stay informed about what was happening, and I note the Washington Post has a story about online coverage of the hurricane.

New Orleans got lucky once again. Ivan veered north and east, much as the models predicted. Pensacola got hit worse than Mobile. Hmmm… Bonnie, Charles, Frances, now Ivan, and guess what? Hurricane Jeanne is taking aim. Florida is really taking a beating this season. And it’s an election year. Clearly, it’s a Republican plot.

We stayed home and rode out the storm, only it turned out there wasn’t much storm to ride out. I’m relieved, but I’m not patting myself on the back. I think Xy and I need to review our hurricane plans and be a little better prepared to leave or stay. I also want to know what exactly those worst case scenarios would mean. I’ve read lots of stories about 20 foot floods in the Quarter, but what would that mean for us in Mid-City? Would our second floor be submerged? Our house has about 30 windows; covering them all with plywood just doesn’t seem feasible. So are there some alternatives? I bet we could do something to better prepare our lower floor for a minor flood.

But for now, here’s a nice picture to remember Ivan as he looked yesterday:

Ivan Water Vapor

Hurricane Mix

I took a bike ride. The I-10 was just about empty. At Xavier they were putting some newspaper dispensers on the back of a truck.

Homan came by with some hurricane mix. We made a few drinks and, with Xy, took a walk to the Bayou St. John to see what we could see before the curfew was imposed. Jason joined us there with a couple friends. We did observe some national guard troops passing by in trucks, but other than that there was little to see.

Even now, no rain, little wind. Looks like Mobile will be getting it bad, though.

Here’s what’s in my hurricane mix in iTunes:

Butterflies and Hurricanes	Muse
Calm Before The Storm	Fall Out Boy
Electrical Storm (William Orbit Mix)	U2
Hurricane	Bob Dylan
Hurricane	Roots, Common, Dice Raw, Mos Def
Hurricane (weather patterns)	something corporate
Hurricane Party	Cowboy Mouth
Hurricane Storm Warning #1	Leopolds
Hurricane Storm Warning #2	Leopolds
Riders on the Storm	The Doors
Storm (Feat. Jay-Z)	Lenny Kravitz
Stormy Blues	Billie Holiday & BB King
Stormy Weather	Billie Holliday
Stormy Weather	Nat King Cole & Ella Fitzgerald

I would have included “Rock You Like A Hurricane” and “Ridin’ the Storm Out,” but I can’t really stand to listen to the Scorpions or REO.

Outside Chances

We’re now outside the projected cone of possibility.

Outside the Cone

That’s nice, but it hardly means we’re safe. Hundreds of thousands of wiser people have left, but hundreds of thousands of fools remain. Fools, and of course the poor, people who have no way to get out.

Xy and I moved all the potted plants in front of our house to the shelter of our downstairs porch, and parked the car . We have brought most of our valuables up to the second floor: old journals, ROX tapes, etc. I’ll grab a few more things, like the CPU of Xy’s old Mac, if flood waters appear.

The city has opened up the Superdome as a shelter for people with special needs, and they’re considering whether or not to open shelters for the general public. Curfew goes in effect at 2pm. Homan said he’ll come by around noon for a drink. We’re out of hurricane mix, bit we’ll scare up something.

I expect heavy rains at the very least, probably starting in a few hours. There’s a good chance we’ll lose power. We have plenty of water, food, batteries, and other such supplies. But whenever it rains heavily, BellSouth seems to have trouble with my Internet connection. This could be my last post for a while.

Winds are picking up now…


The National Hurricane Center’s projections continue to predict Ivan will take a turn to the north.


(Per M. Whybark’s request, I’ve marked the location of New Orleans with a big purple dot.)

Here’s hoping they’re right. Ivan has been heading north by northwest, and if it doesn’t turn, we are in deep shit.

Hurricane Storm Warning

Hurricane Storm Warning

We’re under a hurricane storm warning now. Xy and I took a walk around the neighborhood, watched people boarding up their windows, stopped in for a drink at the Red Door.

I notice that the New Orleans doomsday scenario is getting some play on the Internet. That’s the scenario wherein the hurricane sucks Lake Pontchartrain down into the bowl that is our fair city, flooding us for weeks, with massive loss of life and destruction of property. The story in USA Today bears a strange resemblance to the story in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer… Even the photos are similar… I guess they must be editing the same wire story.

I’ve heard it all before, of course. And, make no mistake, I believe it is all too possible. Maybe this hype will mean some measures are taken to improve the situation in the future, though I doubt it. Bob Breck (a local weatherman) has been ranting about how people are stuck in gridlock trying to get out of the city, asking why contraflow wasn’t put into effect sooner, and recommending people not leave the city just yet. What’s the point when traffic isn’t moving? I just talked to my boss and it took him something like six or eight hours to get out to Slidell. (And why is he going east? Turns out he wanted to drop off his chickens at his in-laws’ house before heading west to Baton Rouge.)

It looks like Ivan will make landfall to the east of New Orleans. That would put us on the weak side of the storm. In any case, Xy and I will probably ride it out, which is a bit of a gamble. Ivan could turn at the last minute. No one knows what these storms will do. But we are packed and ready to leave at a moment’s notice. I’ll check the scenario at four o’clock tomorrow morning.

If we had kids, we’d have left last night. So I tell myself.

On the way home from our walk, I saw a chef in front of a neighborhood restaurant, in his puffy chef’s hat, washing his dog with a hose. I thought that was a great pre-hurricane New Orleans image.


Ivan Cometh

Ivan cometh. New Orleans (and much of the Gulf Coast) is under a hurricane watch. The university is closed today and tomorrow. So is NOPS.


The National Hurricane Center says there’s a 20-49% chance that the eye of Ivan will pass within 75 miles of New Orleans within the next 72 hours.

Panama City Beach is in the 10-19% range, but MAD bugged out for Indiana. Here in New Orleans, Homan says he’s staying no matter what. The neighbors are staying for now. I don’t know what our plan is quite yet. Xy doesn’t seem inclined to take this very seriously and refuses to have a real conversation about it; right now she’s grading papers. It’s a sunny day here with beautiful blue skies and fluffy white clouds. I’ve gotten calls from friends both panicked and cavalier.

If they evacuate the city we’ll leave for sure, even though at that point we’ll surely be peeing in a cup. I hear it takes hours and hours to get out of the metro area during an evacuation. The real question is: What critical determining factor would cause us to leave early? A hurricane warning? A strike probability of over 50%? I think we’ll wait until tomorrow morning and see.

We do have a hotel reservation for Wednesday night in Baton Rouge, thanks to my boss.