Friday, August 31, 2007

Not Enough People Have Watched This

Here is a link found through another friend's blog to the niftiest (and most pleasant to listen to) example of Theremin playing I've seen.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

How (Not) to Contact Your Representatives

Congresswoman Melissa Bean visited the place I work today to take a tour and give a talk. It was a short talk, but at the end she opened the floor for questions. I asked her what the best way was to get in touch with our representatives if we have a concern or an opinion. Her answer was worth sharing: email is the best way, getting a group together of like-minded people to all email on the same topic is even more effective, and using the Postal Service is a good way to make sure no-one sees your letter for 90 days.

As I suspected, they get thousands of emails, so their staff reads through and condenses it all into a report for the representatives. Numbers make a big difference here. If you are the only person writing on a topic, it doesn't get as much notice. If suddenly many people start showing concern about an issue, the representative can see that from the report. She said that on "common" topics, you can expect a pre-prepared response in about 2 weeks. On more unusual topics, you may be waiting 2 months because it can take a while to form a new position.

Congresswoman Bean was careful to point out that using "Snail Mail" really slows down the path of your letter. Because of the screening that is done, mail will take about 90 days to move through the system and get to someone who cares about its contents. If you have to mail a physical letter, she says to send it to the branch office instead of Washington D.C.

Here is a jumping-off point to find out who your representatives are, and how to contact them.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Classic College Humor

Going through old files, I found a clipping from the Rose Thorn's humor page. A news article on the back of the paper dates from 10/24/97, so this would be from Freshman year for all of us from the class of 2001. Author is unknown:

"So, what are you going to major in? Find your match with the Rose Thorn's Guide to the Majors"

Applied Optics- Can't see past your glasses because they're "just so darn interesting."

Chemistry- Looks under a sink and immediately figures out how to build a bomb.

Chemical Engineer- Leans over Chemistry major to tighten pipes.

Civil Engineering- Fascinated with asphalt or dirt.

Computer Science- Writes an IRC chat program to talk to roommate.

Computer Engineering- Can't decide who to hate more: Intel or Microsoft

Economics- Commits white collar crimes as a class project

Electrical Engineer- Stores static electricity in capacitors for "special occasions."

Mathematics- Does taxes in Base 11

Mechanical Engineering- Decides that all joints are to be connected by duct tape.

Physics- Arrested on behalf of the Humane society for performing the Schrodinger's Cat experiment.

That's it. For those of you familiar with Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology today, you might not have known that in 1997 the list of available majors was a lot shorter. We hadn't even won that U.S. News #1 ranking yet. Our laptops had CD drives (not burners, and not DVD drives) that you had to swap with the floppy drive, and no USB ports. The drama club practiced on stage in the old auditorium with the rifle team practicing in the audience. (The old auditorium is now the home of the CS department, which used to be located in the basement of the library.) A lot changed on campus in 10 years!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Nonfiction Book Suggestion: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

I just finished reading a book (checked out from the local library) titled "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, a Year of Food Life" by Barbara Kingsolver. I highly recommend it as entertaining and informative. She writes about her family moving to a small farm in Virginia and only eating locally for an entire year. Her husband interjects each chapter with a worrisome piece of information about the state of American agriculture, often tying in to the state of the American diet. Her daughter ends each chapter with a glimpse into the way this strange (for our times) way of eating affected her life as a teenager. I can't say that I agree with some of the doomsday predictions in the book, but people should at least be aware of this angle on the subject. If you get a chance to read actual books anymore, you should check this one out. As far as its influence on my life, I think I'll be buying more produce from Goebbert's when it is available.


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