• The Old New Thing

    On live performances of Star Trek


    Spock's Brain is generally considered to be the worst episode of Star Trek. That may be why in 2009 Mike Carano decided to perform it as a theatrical production. Here is the opening scene, and here's Carano talking about the show's genesis. In the second video, skip ahead to 2:40 to see more clips from the show, or go to 4:35 for the fight scene.

    Whereas Carano played the show for laughs, the folks at Atomic Arts in Portland (yes, that Portland) played it straight for their Trek in the Park series, but they still get laughs because Star Trek.

    2009 Amok Time
    2010 Space Seed
    2011 Mirror, Mirror
    2012 A Journey to Babel
    2013 The Trouble with Tribbles

    And yes, when the Enterprise is hit, everybody jerks to the left or right, even the unconscious bodies in sickbay.

    Their five-year mission complete, the Atomic Arts folks are unloading their larger set pieces, so if you always wanted a pair of sickbay beds that can pump Vulcan blood, well now you know where to go.

    But just because Trek in the Park is over doesn't mean you should give up on Star Trek live in the park yet. Seattle arts group Hello Earth Productions continues to stage Star Trek episodes in public parks under the name Outdoor Trek. Hello Earth aims for a more creative interpretation rather than trying to do a perfect impersonation of the original.

    2010 The Naked Time
    2011 This Side of Paradise
    2012 (hiatus)
    2013 Devil in the Dark (bonus Horta content)
    2014 Mirror, Mirror

    They are currently holding auditions for Mirror, Mirror.

  • The Old New Thing

    Why Johnny can't read music


    In the book He Bear, She Bear, the musical instrument identified as a tuba is clearly a sousaphone.

    (For those who are wondering what the title has to do with the topic of musical instrument identification: It's a reference to the classic book Why Johnny Can't Read.)

  • The Old New Thing

    What two-year-olds think about when they are placed in time-out


    My niece (two years old at the time) was put in the corner as punishment for some sort of misdeed. At the expiration of her punishment, her grandfather returned and asked her, "你乖唔乖?" (Are you going to be nice?)

    She cheerfully replied, "仲未乖!" (Still naughty!)

    In an unrelated incident, one of my honorary nieces was being similarly punished. She told her aunt who was passing nearby, "In a little while, my daddy is going to ask me if I'm sorry. I'm not really sorry, but I'm going to say that I am."

  • The Old New Thing

    A simple email introduction: Fan mail


    One of my former colleagues on the Windows kernel team wasn't afraid to make changes all across the system when necessary. If the engineering team decided to upgrade to a new version of the C++ compiler, my colleague was the one who gave it a test-drive on the entire Windows source code, and fixed all the warnings and errors that kick up as well as ensuring that it passed the build verification tests before updating the compiler in the official toolset. Beyond that, my colleague also ran around being a superhero, writing tools that needed to be written, fixing tools that were broken, and generally being somebody.

    Since the effect on the Windows project was so far-reaching, everybody on the team knew this person, or at least recognized the name, and as a result, my colleage ended up receiving a lot of email about all different parts of Windows, be they bug reports, requests for help using a particular component, whatever.

    And when the question was about something outside my colleague's sphere of responsibility, the message was forwarded to the correct people with a simple introduction:

    From: A
    To: XYZ-owners, Y
    Subject: Problem with XYZ

    Fan mail.

    From: Y
    To: A
    Subject: Problem with XYZ

    Blah blah blah blah

    I've used this technique a few times, but it's been a while. I should start using it again.

    Bonus chatter: At least one of you has come out and said that you post your complaints here with the expectation that the complaints will be forwarded to the appropriate team. This expectation is false. No such forwarding occurs. This Web site is not a complaint desk.

  • The Old New Thing

    Nieces sometimes extrapolate from insufficient contextual data


    My brother-in-law enjoys greeting his nieces when they come over to visit by throwing them into the air and asking, "叫聲我?" (Who am I?)

    The nieces happily reply, "舅舅." (Uncle.)

    He then tosses them up into the air a second time and says, "大聲啲!" (Louder!)

    And the nieces happily shout, "舅舅!"

    One time, my wife was talking with her brother at a normal volume, and his niece came into the room and said to my wife, "大聲啲! 舅舅聽唔到!" (Louder! Uncle can't hear you!)

    Update: Per Frank's suggestion below, changed the niece's outburst from "舅舅冇聽到!" The incident occurred many years ago, and I cannot remember exactly what was said, so I'll go with what's funnier.

  • The Old New Thing

    The Grand Duke's monocle is an affectation


    In the Disney adaptation of Cinderella, the Grand Duke wears a monocle. The monocle moves from eye to eye during the course of the story.

    The Grand Duke's monocle is an affectation.

    Either that, or he needs a full pair of glasses, but is very frugal.

  • The Old New Thing

    When someone proposes marriage, bear in mind that there is a question that needs to be answered


    A colleague of mine was at a restaurant, and he spotted a young couple at the next table. The woman fawned over a classic diamond engagement ring, and when she put it on her finger, he decided that it was safe to ask them about it.

    They had gotten engaged earlier that day, and the man told the story of the proposal, up to the point where he asked her to marry him.

    My colleague then turned to the woman and teasingly asked, "And what did you say?"

    The woman chuckled, then suddenly her eyes opened wide with the realization that she had skipped over this important technical detail. She became dead serious and very, very clearly said to the man seated across the table from her, "Yes."

    My colleague paid for their dinner.

    Related story: When I proposed to my wife, the first three things she said were, "What are you doing?", "What's this?", and "Oh, my God!"

    If all you knew was that these three sentences were uttered in response to a marriage proposal, it would be difficult to determine with certainty whether the proposal was accepted or rejected.

    Fortunately for me, it went well, but after the hugging and kissing, I had to remind her, "You haven't answered the question yet."

  • The Old New Thing

    The heavy metal umlaut encroaches into Seattle real estate


    The heavy metal umlaut is creeping into Seattle real estate.

    I submit for your consideration the condominium known as Bleü. I can't even tell what language they are trying to pretend to be.

    There are other properties in Seattle with dots, but at least the dots aren't gratuitous.

    Hotel Ändra in Belltown takes its name from the Swedish word meaning to change. (The hotel is consistent with its use of the dots, but outsiders frequently omit them, changing the hotel's name to Andra, which means "Others".)

    Hjärta Condos takes its name from the Swedish word meaning heart. Hjärta is in the Ballard neighborhood, the traditional center of Scandinavian life in Seattle. (The people who run the Web site can't seem to remember to put the dots over the a. They often spell it Hjarta, which is not a word in Swedish.)

    Note that in Swedish, the dots over the a and o are not umlauts nor are they diaereses. They're just dots. The ä and ö are not variants of a and o; they are letters in their own right. Sort of how like Q and R are like O and P with a tail, but nobody thinks of them as related letters. It's just a superficial graphical similarity.

  • The Old New Thing

    Excuses I learned from babies


    I was visiting a friend of mine, and his young daughter was being unusually cranky. He explained, "Oh, she's teething."

    I filed that away as an excuse I could use the next time I felt cranky. "Sorry about that. I'm teething."

    Here's another excuse you might want to use:

    "No, I'm not drunk. I simply lost interest in remaining upright."

  • The Old New Thing

    The United States Team uniforms for the opening ceremony is rather hideous, and illegal, and a bit anachronistic


    By the time you read this, the opening ceremony for a large sporting event organized by a lawsuit-happy organization may already have taken place. As part of the ceremony, the team representing the United States entered wearing ugly uniforms. They're so ugly that even the hideous Christmas sweater in your closet, the one with the reindeer and wreaths and candy canes, actually steps out, points, and laughs, saying "Ha ha, what an ugly sweater!"

    If you study the picture carefully, you will observe a number of things.

    First of all, the incorporation of the flag into the sweater pattern (and once in the pants) violates Title 4, Section 8, paragraphs(d) and (j) of the United States Code.¹

    (d) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. …

    (j) No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. …

    Of course, this section of the United States Code is violated constantly because it specifies no penalty for violation. Therefore, you can break this law all you want; even if caught, there is no punishment. (Exception: Penalties are specified for violations within the District of Columbia. So the Olympic Team had better not wear those sweaters when they meet with the President. Actually, that's probably good advice anyway from a fashion standpoint, completely ignoring the legal angle.)

    But more interesting is that if you look closely at the picture, you might notice that the giant flag in the background has 48 stars on it, which means that this photo was taken some time between 1912 and 1959. I guess they've been working on this uniform for a long time. Either that, or they decided to kick Alaska and Hawaii off the team.

    (Actually, if you're kicking states off the flag for not being part of the team, then the flag should have only 39 stars because there is nobody from Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, or West Virginia.)

    ¹ There is disagreement over whether a flag pattern counts as a flag. Since there is no enforcement, it doesn't really matter, so work with me here. I'm going somewhere with this.

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