Balloon In A Box

I may have to spend the first month of coming back home doing nothing but watching DVDs. Thanks to everyone for wishing me a happy birthday, and special thanks to my family for sending me a helium balloon. In a box. GENIUS.

Surprisingly, this is my first birthday away from home; when I was at Manchester, it was always in the Easter break. Which makes today a little weird, but I'm sure I'll get used to it.

I didn't mention this yesterday, but the professor was very impressed with the slides I made for last week's lecture. Nice to know I did something right.

DVDWatch:

Updating, because I can: Oh dear. So that's why they're changing me $800 for a flight home. And for those of you fretting about me not celebrating, Rishi is seeing to that tomorrow, so worry no longer.

I've just finished watching the Three Colours Trilogy. The ending was cute. I did, however, get a similar feeling as when I re-read the Pirate sections in Watchmen — stop hitting me over the head with the colour symbolism! Please!

currently playing: Altered Images - Happy Birthday

Fair And Balanced

Did you know that during the run-up to the November 2000 Presidential Election, over 50,000 people were excluded from the Florida electoral roll, due to having a criminal record? And that not only were these names never checked to see if the exclusion was correct, some 500 people were disenfranchised for committing crimes supposedly in 2007?

Greg Palast is an American investigative reporter who currently writes for the Guardian and the Observer newspapers back in Britain (plus some Newsnight reports on the BBC). He can't get a job in the USA, because of the stories he writes. Over the past few years, he's exposed corporate involvement in the death of Tanzanian workers in gold mines, Enron's finances and manipulation of the Californian energy crisis, and the 2000 election. Katherine Harris calls him "tyrannical and a maniac".

He's got a book out, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, which is a collection of his writing for the Guardian/Observer (with some extra material which was subject to D-Notices or removed for libel law reasons in the UK), and today he visited Chapel Hill as part of a book tour.

As you can imagine, he's not particularly enthused with the current Administration. He brought a raft of letters and papers, from the closed FBI file on the bin Laden family (re-opened on 13th September 2001, fact fans), to the letter that Katherine Harris received from Jeb Bush about the 'scrubbing' of suspected felons from the Florida vote. Plus lots of jokes. It was an interesting way to spend an afternoon; full of strange connections and fun stories of interviewees suddenly realising that they've going to be asked awkward questions, and calling state troopers to remove the interview crew.

One question though. Palast kept mentioning that in British law, truth is not a defence for libel. Now, my knowledge of libel law is limited to things I've read about Ian Hislop, but I thought that British law gave two exceptions - one for truth, and the other for 'fair comment'. Care to explain (or is it that the burden of proof is on the defendant in the UK, while US law places burden on the prosecuting side)?

currently playing: Dexy's Midnight Runners - I'll Show You

Wanted: Something

Hrm. Something ate today's original entry. Probably for the best. Imagine some pointless mumbling and apologising for not answering email. And a predictable joke involving Saddam Hussein and Mötorhead. You didn't miss much, honest.

currently playing: Sleater-Kinney - The Remainder

The Rules of Four Squares

Something to remember if you're ever planning to stage a picnic in a national park: if it has been raining heavily for the past week, it's probably a good idea to phone ahead to see if, say, the park is completely flooded and they won't be allowing visitors for some time. Still, the car ride was nice...

Anyway, after not finding any open entrances to the park, we went back to the hall and had the "cook-out" there (yes, it's much the same as back home, except there's no alcohol anywhere). Then I was introduced to a popular playground game, Four Squares.

It's a fantastic game; like French Cricket, it has no concept of scoring, or really any point at all, except to start playtime arguments. It goes like this: The game is played inside a large square subdivided into four smaller squares. Each square contains a player, with everybody else lining up by the side of the court. One square is called the "King" square, and that person gets to serve (oh, by the way, it's played with a football). The idea is that the ball has to bounce once in your square, and then you have to get the ball inside another person's square before it bounces or goes out of the court. If you fail to do this, or your shot goes out of the court before bouncing, you go to the back of the line. The rest of the players on the court move anti-clockwise to fill up the empty space, and the person at the front of the line enters in the free space. And so on.

Simple. Pointless. And we spent over two hours playing it.

currently playing: Mint Royale - From Rusholme With Love

Rage Against The Coming Light

HULK SMASH PUNY FIRE ALARM! HULK CRUSH ALARM! HULK IS THE SLEEPIEST THAT THERE IS!
currently playing: Godspeed You Black Emperor! - The Dead Flag Blues

It's Jackanory Time!

At least, it was at 1am this morning, when Kavi was reading her current book assignment to me. I'm still not entirely sure why she thought that was the best use of her time, but anyway...

I have presents! But they're wrapped. Boo. And some hiss. They're just sitting underneath my bed, saying "Unwrap us! No-one will ever know!" Of course, we all know that that's not true, so they'll just have to stay wrapped up until Tuesday.

Also, I'm going to write this down here so I remember it in the future: when the forecast says it's going to rain, it probably will, so it's your own fault if you get caught in flood conditions while walking to Carrboro. Silly.

Get Your Syria On. I'm really hoping that someone, just someone in the Bush Administration has their head screwed on. Or are they simply going to conquer the entire Middle East?

Yesterday's fun juxtaposition: the Iraqis being freed from their oppressive leader, while back in Congress the groundwork begins to make the PATRIOT Act permanent. And here's the Secretary For Education, who obviously needs a good kicking. IS THERE ANYBODY IN POWER HERE WHO ISN'T INSANE? ANYONE? BUELLER?

You know, I was fairly happy when I started writing this entry...

currently playing: Echobelly - Give Her A Gun

Fastest Lecture In History

I think it almost managed to last twenty minutes, after I dragged it out to include corrections to the previous homework assignment. It was terrible, but as someone pointed out to me afterwards: at least I made the slides myself and didn't stop in the middle of the lecture to realise I'd made a mistake ten minutes ago...

In today's other news, I have been visited by the Vending Machine Pixie. This morning I got two cookies from the CS department's machine for the price of one, and the machine downstairs gave me a bottle of Cherry Coke in addition to the Diet Coke I wanted.

Senator John Kerry is kicking it old-style. He's looking like the most interesting Democrat candidate so far (although I can't quite shake off the McGovern similarities); not that it'll probably matter. Mind you, the original Bush had a huge popularity rating after Gulf War I, and look what happened to him...

Dick Cheney! They let him out! I feel so much safer.

No, I don't know why they're arguing about the Belgians either.

I want to stab the TV with a thousand white-hot knives. "I'm so proud to be an American!" Take that, you anti-war scum! Is it so hard to imagine that people can be pleased that the Iraqi people are freed from the old regime, yet still abhor the way that America went about starting the war in the first place?

This must be a hoax. Please, tell me it's a hoax. I don't want to live in a world where such things are possible. What's next, Citizen Kane 2004, starring Seann William Scott and Clare Kramer? My Fair Lady starring Catherine Zeta-Jones? The Italian Job starring Mark Wahlberg and...oh. Get my gun, would you?

currently playing: Garbage - Only Happy When It Rains

Dana's Insane Dating Plan

Words of encouragement from Sona and Laura. The window option is still quite tempting, though.

Today's educational moment: a "cook-out" is American for what we would normally call a barbeque, apparently. I've been invited to one on Saturday, so I'll report on further differences then...

Obviously, the cockroaches just couldn't wait for a nuclear holocaust. We're DOOOOMED!!!

currently playing: Saturday Looks Good To Me - Typing

Oh, Manchester

However, the broadcaster did not feel that the use of the word "tosser" had been inappropriate for inclusion in a programme whose presenters made much of their Mancunian bluntness.

Sigh. I miss Mark and Lard. Mind you, in just a month's time I'll be able to listen to them again.

The professor has complete confidence in me. I, on the other hand, appear to be in for two more sleepless nights. Hurrah! Or something.

This war is confusing. You turn on Fox, and we've already taken most of Baghdad, met minimal resistance, and everybody loves us. Go over to Iraqwar.ru, and Russian military intelligence seems to indicate that the US/UK forces are having a hard time holding onto the airport, let alone securing Baghdad itself.

At last! A situation where knowing what P = NP means actually turns out to be useful...

currently playing: R.E.M. - She Just Wants To Be

Should Have Stayed In Bed

Since I got out of bed this morning, there has been precisely one event which didn't make me regret venturing out of my room. And I'm fairly sure I managed to screw that up anyway.

But yes. A frantic call from the professor. He has to go to Ohio later this week, to attend his uncle's funeral. Which means I have to give Wednesday's lecture. Oh dear. I still think that attempting to fake my death on Wednesday morning is the best option. Or, turn up in a SARS mask and refuse to hold the lecture on health grounds.

I don't have the words to describe how I feel about this. Well, actually, that's a lie, but most of them aren't printable. Blackmailing for Jesus!

Finally! A Democrat contender with a spine!

John Simpson's interview.

currently playing: All Girl Summer Fun Band - Samantha Secret Agent