June 19, 2007

Remembrance of Things Pasta

There are three kinds of people in the world: phone people, email people, and village people who live simple lives in the Third World without ever having heard a ringtone. Me, I'm an email guy. I'm in constant touch with lots of people by mail and mostly use the phone to say no to political push-poll takers.

So last night we went to dinner at a friend's house. All communication about the meal was done by mail. Here's the condensed version that took place over a 24 hour period:

Him: Interested in coming over around 6 PM tomorrow for dinner?
Me: Love to. What can we bring?
Him: Excellent. How about a dessert?
Can you and June both do a pasta dish that contains olives, sun-dried
tomatoes, and artichokes?
Me: We can indeed. See you then!

Now, like most human communications, there might be some ambiguity here.

Look over the transcript and tell me what you would have done in my place:

A) Brought a dessert and assumed that the pasta part was left over from an earlier draft of the note
B) Brought a dessert and a pasta dish while puzzling over how specific the requested ingredients were and enjoying our friend's apparent vision of June and I laboring together over its creation.
C) Picked up the phone and asked for clarity just to make sure.

Choose your answer and then read the first comment to see what happened.

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January 02, 2006

New Year's in Denver

What a long hard semester it's been. Too much on my plate at work, plus getting QuestGarden off the ground, plus chairing a search committee that had 163 applicants to weed through. With a listless Christmas behind us, the family was ready to get out of here and smell different air.

Off we went to Denver, partly because one of my oldest friends lives there and partly because it's a city we don't know very well. We would have had a great time except for the fact that Alex got hit with strep throat right at the start of it. A half-day in the ER and lots of penicillin got us back on track, but that left a lot of museums unseen.

They end the year in Denver with fireworks shot from the tops of buildings on 16th Street. Very smartly, they do it twice: once at 9pm for families with kids and fifty-somethings too pooped to stay up late... and again at midnight for a second group more full of whimsy and booze. Naturally, we did the 9 o'clock show and went back to Tom's house for dessert.

Happy new year to all. May the news be brighter this year.

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June 13, 2005

Brothers Reunited

God, can it really be 35 years since I graduated from WPI? Apparently so, and to celebrate our collective shock a crowd gathered in Worcester for a fabulous reunion. I hadn't been back for these things since the late Disco years, so it was great to see the new versions of some old familiar faces. We all skipped the formal reunion activities and made our own fun with just the members of Sigma Pi Fraternity.

After a few hours of chat, we walked down to the house at 17 Dean Street which is still boarded up after a fire last year. The active brothers opened it up for us so that we could poke through the rubble and revisit the scene of our Nixon-era crimes and triumphs. After that, a meal at The Boynton, drinks and ear damage at Leitrim's Pub, and dessert at Cafe Dolce.

June and I were only there for essentially one day, but I'm so glad we went. I don't think we'll wait another 35 years to do it again.

Click here for a larger version of the group shot, and here for a slideshow.


January 31, 2004

Global Gluttony

Worked on getting things in order for taxes most of the day. Then we all went to the Food Festival at St. Bridget's in Pacific Beach with JoAnn and Michael. They had food there from twenty or so countries, so we grazed for dinner. Several tables had a bit of ethnic booze as well, so my tapas and baklava and ravioli and Nigerian goat rice and pirogi were washed down with some Scottish scotch, Swedish glog, and Trinidadian rum punch. Then the circle dancing began.

We continued the home Russian film festival with Stachka, a silent Eisenstein film from 1925. Cruel piglike capitalist factory owners drive workers to strike. Chaos, intrique and pain follow.

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January 17, 2004


The whole family went to the Kelly's for dinner (home of jedimike.net) and after dinner we played a number of card games. The hit of the evening, though, was Spoons, a game I'd never heard of.

That last link describes it exactly as we played it, and apparently that's how it was done in Jo Ann Kelly's family since the dawn of time. But after poking around on the web, I'm amazed to see how many variations there are. Here are some of them:

Simple though it sounds, it was hilarious. A great time was had by all.


September 01, 2003

Five Years and Three Days in Syracuse

Came back last night from my first trip to Syracuse since defending my dissertation on a snowy day in 1982. It was a kick to return to the IDD&E program where I spent five years learning instructional design, motivation theory, research methods and generally growing up somewhat.

They kept me busy for three days starting with a presentation in the same classroom in the Newhouse building where I was a teaching assistant in my first semester. It seemed cosmically weird to come full circle to exactly the same place exactly 28 years later. Then on to a brownbag lunch presentation for students and faculty in the School of Information Studies followed by a Q&A webcast for a joint IST/IDD&E course. On Saturday morning I did another Q&A with students and faculty of the IDD&E department. Pretty good turnouts all around given that it's Labor Day weekend.

Then, finally, I had some free time to wander and reminisce. Walked up the hill past the architectural marvel of the Toilet Bowl Dorm and gazed awhile at 560 Allen Street, 925 and 940 Westcott Street... three of the five places that I lived in. Due to 70s wackiness or maybe just bad luck, I had an unbroken chain of amazingly bad roommate experiences. One programmer roommate smoked continuously, never showered or washed his clothes and filled the apartment with a ghastly stench; one was arrested for shoplifting and accused the rest of us of rifling through his stuff; three were such emotional rollercoasters that everyone within 100 feet of them suffered vertigo. One exception, though, was sane and smart and went on to become a pioneering author of hypertext fiction.

The best part of the trip was spending time with my sponsor Ruth Small, Tiffany Koszalka, Ray and Gisela von Dran, Don Ely and especially Phil Doughty, who took me out to his camp on Lake Oneida and boated us to a restaurant. It was great to see the IDD&E department stabilizing after almost being wiped out by the previous Evil Dean.

What did I learn from this journey back in time? I guess I'm surprised at how little it felt like coming home, how unattached I felt to a place where I spent five years. I was also surprised to realize that in all that time I probably went into only six of the dozens of buildings on campus, and that I hardly ever went downtown or anywhere else. That's partly because my car was a rolling deathtrap and partly because I focused on courses and flailing my way towards a dissertation. Still, if I could have a serious talk with my Disco Era self, I'd advise him to get out and live a little more. I wonder if my 2031 self would say that to me right now.

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March 30, 2003

The Way We Was

There's been a flurry of emailing among a dozen or so of my fraternity brothers in the last few weeks, and it's been great to hear from some that I haven't seen since the Nixon Era. One of them, Jack Kaferle, dug into his archives and came up with this picture taken in Washington Square. God... I don't remember this trip and I barely remember being this guy. Note the spiffy Sigma Pi jacket.