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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Vote for John Bonifaz

Massachusetts voters: I know that nobody pays much attention to the election for Secretary of State (officially, of course, known as Secretary of the Commonwealth in Massachusetts), but don’t just vote automatically for the incumbent! Cast your vote for John Bonifaz in Tuesday’s primary.

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Saturday, September 09, 2006

Melinda & Melinda

Barbara and I just watched Woody Allen’s 2004 film, Melinda and Melinda. It’s well worth watching — and thinking about. It won’t give anything anyway to say that it opens with a scene that deliberately recalls My Dinner with Andre, with a philosophical discussion between Wallace Shawn and a dining companion (not Andre Gregory this time). They argue about tragedy vs. comedy, and the rest of the movie plays out a story in two different ways, tragic and comic, based on similar beginnings.

In some ways it’s a meta-film, not so much a film about films but rather one that distances the viewers from the story instead of drawing them in. So don’t watch it if you want a traditional story-based movie. But if you want to see some good acting and think about the relationships between tragedy and comedy, between filmmaker and audience, between actors and characters, then you should definitely watch it. After writing this, I think I’ll see it again; I bet I missed a lot the first time around.

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Thursday, September 07, 2006

"Correction" of "typo" destroys math joke

In a shocking development, an innocent math joke was destroyed this morning by a well-meaning “correction” of a “typo.” My department head put the following announcement into today’s Daily Announcements:
MATH TEAM: first official practice is Wednesday Sept 13
after school in Room 5. Everyone welcome. First meet is
October 5! (No, that's not October 12th.)
I scratched my head over that one. It turned out that the text had been “corrected” and was supposed to have read as follows:
MATH TEAM: first official practice is Wednesday Sept 13
after school in Room 5. Everyone welcome. First meet is
October 5! (No, that's not October 120th.)

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

They're nerds in a good way

As usual, I picked up Barbara after work, and we asked each other, “How was your day?” I relayed three brief anecdotes to her:
  • Just before one of my classes was about to start, I overheard one student say to another, “I just discovered that my social security number is prime!”

  • It was the end of another class. Students were packing up and leaving. One said to another with great enthusiasm, “Now we have Latin! And next year we get to take AP Latin, which they’ve never offered before!” I don’t whether Weston has really never done so — it seems likely that it must have offered AP Latin back in the ‘60s at least — but as someone who studied Latin for seven years I certainly have to applaud both the decision and the enthusiasm.

  • “Given four points, each of which is on the side of a square, how do you construct the square?” Our department head gave this problem to all of us. None of the math teachers managed to solve this completely, but one of our students did.
“What nerdy students you have!” was Barbara’s observation. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that...”

I assured her that these were not exactly typical Weston students, but it certainly brightens one’s day.

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Monday, September 04, 2006

Saturday

What an interesting novel! I have just finished Ian McEwan’s Saturday (on audiobook), a slow and powerful exploration of 24 hours in the life of an English neurosurgeon. But it’s full of flashbacks, so the reader gets much more than 24 hours’ worth of knowledge and emotion. It’s all about consequences, fear, love, morality, disease, class, and choices. If you are willing to put up with a lot more introspection than plot, it will be well worth your while to read this novel. Some reviewers thought that it was too full of rich detail; I didn’t.

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Saturday, September 02, 2006

A Cry for Self-Help

As a mystery combined with a satire on newage human-potential groups, Jaqueline Girdner’s A Cry for Self-Help is occasionally amusing. But there are too many nearly indistinguishable characters, far too many stereotypes, and almost no plot. Don’t bother reading it.

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Friday, September 01, 2006

More dim sum at Chau Chow

In my post of May 9, I had promised to review the new branch of Chau Chow that recently opened in Dorchester. But then, alas, my blog went on hiatus, so you’ve seen no review from me. Here, at last, is what I’m sure you’ve been waiting for:

Barbara and I have been to Chau Chow once for dinner and four times for Dim Sum, and we highly recommend it. As for the dinner, a single Chinese dinner shared between only two people is really insufficient to provide an adequate basis for judgment, and I no longer remember the details, so suffice it to say that we had no complaints. I’ll review the dinners more in the future.

The dim sum, on the other hand, is easy to be enthusiastic about. They serve it every day from 9:00 to 3:00, and we made the mistake of trying it the first time around noon on Memorial Day. Apparently the rest of the world was there too; the restaurant had recently opened, and it was a holiday, so it wasn’t really a surprise to find the place packed. There were at least 200 seated customers, along with at least 25 more waiting to be seated, but we got right in because there was very little demand for tables for two. Almost everyone was Asian, which is presumably a good sign. We subsequently returned on three weekdays, the last of which was at 9:00 in the morning on a summer Wednesday, and there were plenty of available tables.

As expected, far too much food came around — always on carts, always hot, fresh, and delicious. I don’t know the names of everything, but we especially liked the shrimp-and-lobster dumplings, the meatballs, the shrimp shumai, the roast pork buns, and the latkes — I mean fried taro pancakes.

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