June 19th, 2003

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every now and then i fall apart

Yesterday Shar et al dragged me out to karaoke night at the Gladstone. Back when I was in college, I thought karaoke was a great idea, but surprisingly couldn't get anyone to come with me. Later, I realized this fundamental fact: not only do you get to go out and sing (badly) on stage, but you get to spend most of the night hearing others sing equally as badly, if not worse. And I started to see how this latter part might make the night less fun than expected. There's an additional complication in that the Gladstone is this seedy country bar, to the best of my estimation. So how did the night go?

Actually, it went really well. I arrived before anyone I knew (though Mike, whom I almost recognized, was already there), and got to sit by myself, drinking beer and listening to songs. The MC/DJ/KJ/? did a really good version of "Bad Timing," and then another guy butchered a couple of songs. Then it went to country, which, though I could tell when it was being butchered and when it wasn't, I didn't care for much in either case. And then Brian arrived, and right away did a great version of "Sweet Transvestite." That man can both sing and perform well.

Other people started to arrive, and shortly after 11, most of the club was filled with geeks and goths, my friends or friends of friends. And that made it a lot more fun. First, the song selections moved into a direction I enjoyed more, and second, watching your friends sing is always fun, even if they're doing it badly. We basically took over the bar; kind of reminds me when we took over alt.niggers, replacing the charter and claiming that NIGGERS was an acronym for "Number theory, Integration, Graph theory, Group theory, Enumeration, Recursion, Set theory."I got to see Shar, Angela, and Suzy do a trio of a Dixie Chicks song "Goodbye Earl." It looked so authentic; Angela even had a cowboy hat. Dr. Petroff did "99 Luftballons," reading the German lyrics off a card. We even danced to that one. And, the piece de resistance was "Paradise by the Dashboard Lights," again by Brian with a couple of friends for the female parts.

Of course, I was goaded into singing, too. I spent a long time deciding what to do, and finally settled on "Total Eclipse of the Heart." Every now and then, I did get a little bit nervous. Well, actually, I was nervous the whole time, but when it gets to the quiet, emotional part, I apparently did a great low voice. "Very manly," Brian said. After this, I was a little encouraged, and decided that I couldn't leave until I sang an "ABBA" song. They didn't have "Winner Takes It All," so I had to settle for "Dancing Queen." I had had an extra beer, and so was much less nervous, which is not to say I was singing better. Especially since I lacked the range and got to trail off on a couple of the low notes.

Lessons learned are: 1. It's much harder to control your voice at a higher volume, and 2. karaoke can be fun, with the right people. I'm trying to decide whether the corollary to these two is 3a. I need to sing quieter and hope that the mic does enough amplification, or 3b. I need to practise singing. But I suppose this is all moot anyway, since I don't have enough Bay Area friends who'd be willing to take over a karaoke bar. Ah well...
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conversations

One of the things I like most about visiting Canada is the large number of conversations with all sorts of people that I get to have.I'll mention some of them here, since I'm interested in what others think and talk about, and hence you might be, too.

On Monday, Dan and I talked for quite a bit about American and Canadian politics. On the US side, we talked about the motivations of the "evil right wingers," i.e. Ashcroft, Rumsfeld, Cheney... What I find interesting is that despite the temptation to label those people as dumb and/or evil, I know that they are neither. There's got to be some motivation behind what they're doing that's not purely malicious, and the fact that I disagree with their policies so vehemently is surely a sign of either conflicting goals for the world (Cheney), or some misunderstanding as to how to achieve them (Rumsfeld), or both. Canadian politics was more reassuring; we were talking about how Chretien is able to make all these politically difficult changes (same sex marriage, campaign reform) because he is about to retire and doesn't care about re-election. We also talked about my proposed electoral reform, which I will write about some day soon.

Tuesday, Dan and I had breakfast; I went for a run around Waterloo park (turns out that running does use different muscles than biking), and then met up with elliptic_curve. Unfortunately, we didn't talk for long, so it was mostly catching up on each other's lives. She did mention to me that the new CSC was much nicer than before -- people who are more interested in learning, rather than just playing RPGs. I compared it to the CSC circa '94-'95, which had a bunch of interesting people who actually had some social skills. When I walked by the club office during my brief visit to MC, I noticed that I didn't recognize anyone there, which is I think a big plus. "Some things never change, but some things do."

Then I got a chance to drop in on Prabhakar Ragde, my all-time favourite professor. We talked a bit about Berkeley and about Waterloo, about fluctuations in enrollment, communities, etc. He had an interesting argument for becoming a professor in Canada -- apparently, you get to spend much less time applying for grants, and most of the ones you receive are merit-based and fairly open-ended, as opposed to the project-specific ones you get in the US. Granted, they're not as lucrative, but they are enough to have a few grad students and travel to some conferences. Doesn't sound too bad, really. Now, if only UofT had stronger people doing security.

Anyway, time to run off to go sailing and have more conversations and a sail!