28 April 2006

Friday Random Ten: The "Who the Hell am I" version

I was seriously considering writing a serious post today. Howard Kurtz has an interesting post about blogs over at the WaPo site, which fed into some thinking I've been doing about the subject. That's going to have to wait a day or two, though.

My fellow graduate students have honored me by making me one of the four department grad representatives for the next year (put another way, there was a popularity contest and I lost), so I now have to suffer through the same meetings that the faculty go to. After 2 hours working on the question sets for the diagnostic exams that are given to entering graduate students, I am totally unable to put together much in the way of coherent thought.

So, instead of an incisive and insightful post on the broader implications of blogging, here's a Friday Random Ten. (Which you'll probably enjoy more anyway, so this is kind of a win-win thing.)

1: Silver Spring
Fleetwood Mac

2: Me and Bobby McGee
Arlo Guthrie (Live in Sydney)

3: Livin' in America
Black 47

4: Turn the World Around
Harry Belafonte

5: Appalachian Spring - "The gift to be simple"
Leonard Bernstein/New York Philharmonic

6: Snoopy and the Red Baron
The Royal Guardsmen

7: A Little Respect

8: Hawaii 78
Israel Kamakawiwo'ole

9: Downtown Baghdad Blues
Black 47

10: Jack and Diane
John Mellencamp

Yesterday's song lyrics, and today's problems

Waist Deep in The Big Muddy
Pete Seeger, 1967

It was back in nineteen forty-two,
I was a member of a good platoon.
We were on maneuvers in-a Loozianna,
One night by the light of the moon.
The captain told us to ford a river,
That's how it all begun.
We were -- knee deep in the Big Muddy,
But the big fool said to push on.

The Sergeant said, "Sir, are you sure,
This is the best way back to the base?"
"Sergeant, go on! I forded this river
'Bout a mile above this place.
It'll be a little soggy but just keep slogging.
We'll soon be on dry ground."
We were -- waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool said to push on.

The Sergeant said, "Sir, with all this equipment
No man will be able to swim."
"Sergeant, don't be a Nervous Nellie,"
The Captain said to him.
"All we need is a little determination;
Men, follow me, I'll lead on."
We were -- neck deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool said to push on.

All at once, the moon clouded over,
We heard a gurgling cry.
A few seconds later, the captain's helmet
Was all that floated by.
The Sergeant said, "Turn around men!
I'm in charge from now on."
And we just made it out of the Big Muddy
With the captain dead and gone.

We stripped and dived and found his body
Stuck in the old quicksand.
I guess he didn't know that the water was deeper
Than the place he'd once before been.
Another stream had joined the Big Muddy
'Bout a half mile from where we'd gone.
We were lucky to escape from the Big Muddy
When the big fool said to push on.

Well, I'm not going to point any moral;
I'll leave that for yourself
Maybe you're still walking, you're still talking
You'd like to keep your health.
But every time I read the papers
That old feeling comes on;
We're -- waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool says to push on.

Waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool says to push on.
Waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool says to push on.
Waist deep! Neck deep! Soon even a
Tall man'll be over his head, we're
Waist deep in the Big Muddy!
And the big fool says to push on!

27 April 2006

Some slightly belated carnie barking

The latest editions of my three favorite blog carnivals are now available. If you've got the time, take a look at them (and if you don't, what are you doing reading this, anyway).

The 11th Edition of the Carnival of the Liberals is now available at And Doctor Biobrain's Response Is... While you're there, be sure to take a look at today's post.

The 64th Carnival of Education is available over at The Education Works. If you're interested in learning more about education, that's the place to go.

Finally, the 52nd issue of Tangled Bank is now available over at The Inoculated Mind. Give that a look if you want to see some of the best science posts from the last couple of weeks.

My daughter's revenge

My daughter has been having some homework and study habit issues lately that have lead to some stress for her. She hasn't been doing her spelling homework, and she has been doing poorly on spelling tests. This issue came to a head a couple of days ago, when I received a note from her teacher alerting me to the problem.

The daughter and I had a bit of a long talk about this yesterday (punishment in and of itself), and she's been handed a substantial "no computer, no TV, no nothing" sentence as a result. She thinks that this is massively unfair, because it's not like spelling is really important, and said so. I told her she was wrong, and the conversation ended there.

Today, I did a talk to her class for career week. Instead of just doing a talk, I decided it would be fun to spend most of the time answering questions. In retrospect, that might have been a bit of a mistake.

The Daughter (hand in the air): "What does DNA stand for?"

Me: "Deoxyribonucleic acid."

The Daughter (attempting to radiate wide-eyed innocence): "How do you spell that?"

26 April 2006

Somewhere, John Henry is smiling.

I've got to admit it - when someone told me that Bruce Springsteen was going to be releasing a whole album of Pete Seeger covers, my first response was to yawn. I like the stuff he's done with the East Street Band, but I've never been much of a fan of his solo efforts. I really didn't know what to expect from this one, but it definitely wasn't much. I suppose I figured it would probably be another Bruce + guitar album - probably quiet, almost certainly acoustic.

When the album popped up in my Tuesday morning email from iTunes, I decided to take a couple of minutes to sample a track or two. I did that. Then I sampled a couple of more. Then one or two more. Then I bought the album.

I don't exactly know how to describe it, except to say that it's good. It's Shakespeare, the way it's meant to be done. Springsteen got together with a large group of musicians - fiddles, horns, drums, banjo, washboard, jug (I think), and recorded something that sounds like a really good jam session. It's not a choreographed studio album. It's a bunch of people making music and enjoying themselves along the way.

The song choices are pretty damn good, too. The title track (We Shall Overcome) was a little weak (it sounds like Bruce is trying to channel early Dylan), the rest of the tracks are a well-chosen mixture of civil rights related pieces (Jacob's Ladder, Eyes on the Prize), working man's songs (John Henry), and just plain fun music (Ol' Dan Tucker, Froggie Went A Courtin'). I really can't remember the last time I've found an album that I've enjoyed so much.

25 April 2006

But does Barbara still like him?

President Bush's has been having problems in the polls for a while now, and his numbers just keep dropping. A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll just released puts his approval numbers at under a third (32% +/-3). That's probably not the number that has him feeling the most pain right now, though. That honor most likely goes to the pitiful 33% approval number from last week's FOX News poll. If things get much worse, he's only going to have his immediate family left on the plus side of the equation.