Wednesday, April 11th, 2007

If you've visited my classes page lately, you'll have noticed that I'm taking Hebrew this quarter.

Although it's not part of the class, I've spent some time figuring out how to set up my computer to type Hebrew. It wasn't all that difficult — you have to go to the Languages tab on the Regional and Language Options control panel, check "Install files for complex script and right-to-left languages," and then click "Details" where you can "Add" the "Hebrew" keyboard layout. You need your Windows XP installation CD. After a reboot, you'll see a new Language taskbar, and you'll be all set to type in Hebrew.

Before you reboot, though, you might want to activate some keyboard shortcuts to make switching between languages easier. You do that on "Key Settings" in the dialog box where you add keyboard layouts. Check "Switch input languages" and then choose whether you want to use CTRL + SHIFT or Left ALT + SHIFT to switch languages. If you don't do this when you first set up language support, or if you want to change this afterwards, you have to reboot for the changes to take effect (ugh @ Microsoft).

Language bar
Click on
this every
time I want
to switch
When I started I ended up with CTRL + SHIFT as the hotkey for switching languages, and I repeatedly found myself in Firefox with Hebrew turned on when I didn't want it. Finally I realized that's because CTRL + SHIFT + TAB is Firefox's shortcut for switching to the prior (next one to the left) tab, something I do all the time.

So I brought up language settings again, switched the hot key to Left ALT + SHIFT, rebooted, and was happier. But not completely happy. I don't think ALT + SHIFT is part of any other shortcut I use, but I still would find myself suddenly with Hebrew as the active keyboard layout when I hadn't intended for it to be. Not a horrible big deal. Look down at the language bar, confirm that yes, HE is showing, press Left ALT + SHIFT, see it switch to EN, backspace over stuff and start typing again.

But today, after a couple weeks of it, I figured I couldn't be the only person annoyed by it. One solution is simply to turn the hotkey off for switching languages, but that would mean having to use the mouse when I did want to type in Hebrew, not something I find acceptable (I really, really like being able to use the keyboard to do things). Luckily, after some determined Googling, I found that in fact Mike Matsnev (a student or a professor in the Computational Mathematics and Cybernetics department at Moscow State University) was so annoyed by all this that he wrote a utility that lets you set up any key to be the hotkey to toggle languages. I went one more time to language settings, turned off the hotkey, rebooted and then typed "lswitch 19", and presto, my Pause key, a key I never use for anything ever and won't accidentally hit, switches me between English and Hebrew. Beautiful!

Of course just because it's easy to switch between English and Hebrew keyboard layouts doesn't mean that it's easy to type in Hebrew. Besides the fact that I'm learning a whole new alphabet (alefbet)...

Sorry, while I'm on the subject of the Hebrew alefbet, if you're not familiar with it, you may have heard that it has only 22 letters. The English alphabet has 26 letters, you might say to yourself, how hard can it be to learn the Hebrew alefbet? Well whoever says Hebrew has only 22 letters is misleading you. First there are 5 letters that have a different form if they fall at the end of a word. Then there are 3 letters whose pronunciation changes if a dot is added to them. That makes 30 letters by my count. But these are just consonants. Modern Hebrew omits vowels. But if you're learning Hebrew, in particular Biblical Hebrew, which includes vowels, you have to learn additional "letters" or "points" (Niquid) for the vowels. There are over 16 combinations of those points for vowels. So by my count the alefbet has over 46 letters.

But that's not all. Just as some letters in English appear differently when printed as opposed to when written in cursive handwriting, so does Hebrew. To my mind (just now grappling with learning Hebrew), the differences between Hebrew printing and handwriting affect just about every letter, so that's almost double what I have to learn.

... I have to learn the Israeli keyboard layout, which is designed for the convenience of native speakers and typers of Hebrew, not for American English speakers. (For example, to type a Bet including its Dagesh dot, I have to type [with caps lock on] SHIFT-C SHIFT-=.) There are some helpful sites that have charts of how to type Hebrew, but I didn't find any that had everything. Plus I found a font for Hebrew handwriting, Shalom, which lets me prepare cheat sheets, etc., as they'd appear if I'd written them out. The deal with Shalom, however, is that it's mapped differently than the Israeli keyboard, with letters mapped to keys based on how they sound (to type a Daled in Shalom you press "d" instead of the "s" you'd press in the Israeli layout).

So I created a handy-dandy chart of my own that lists all the letters both typed and handwritten along with the English letters I have to type on my keyboard to get either print or handwriting. And the last column has the sound each letter makes. Nifty, huh?
Friday, April 13th, 2007

Seven years ago
I had a letter
in Savage Love
Exactly seven years ago today Dan Savage told me I was an idiot. I'd sent Dan an e-mail on February 17, 2000, asking a question about my closeted live-in boyfriend, and Dan saved it for a special "Closet Cases" column. Well, my relationship ended in flames, and I was an idiot, but I never thought to write Dan to tell him he was right. I figure he wouldn't have been surprised.
Saturday, April 14th, 2007
Seven years ago I was still working as IT director for an educational publishing company and had worked there for 17 years. Much of my time there was good and enjoyable, but by the last few years, when I’d risen to the point where I reported to the president and was part of the executive team, it was often rather mind-numbing.

Today I happened to run across some old backup CDs and discovered the following notes from a meeting held in July 2000, the year before I left. I don’t particularly remember this specific meeting, but I do remember many meetings held over the years with highly paid consultants hired to re-engineer the company using whatever corporate buzzwords or acronyms were in vogue at the time (TQM is the one I remember most, following by “thinking outside the box”).

Read and enjoy, or skip past the bullshit.
Meeting 07/05/2000

Start of process over next 2 to 3 months

Bill’s thoughts on organizing values
  • value creation for customers, employees, shareholders
  • reward employees for contribution
  • become more flexible and adaptive, using continuous learning and improvement
  • increase work collaboration amongst divisions
  • grow value of company at 15% per year
  • integrity and ethical management
New strategic operational structure
  • strategic team to set corporate goals and make strategic decisions apart from operational concerns
Miles Kierson, consultant with JMW Consultants (Stamford CT), will act as moderator
  • Bill looked for outside experts on organizational development
  • How to create new leadership and management style
Miles gave overview of his company, which does two major things:
  • Organizational transformation: companies with a goal for the future that requires a different structure to get there
  • Break-through projects: e.g., work in Canada with oil company alliance extracting oil out of oil sands and need to do a $2 million project for $1.8 million
100 people, in business for 18 years, offices in Connecticut and in London. He’s been consulting for 20 years. Worked for CSC Index. Alan H used to work there also. Miles has been at JMW for 2 years now.

Concept: background and foreground conversations
  • foreground are what you say normally, out loud (“Oh, yeah, that sounds great”)
  • background are what we don’t normally say out loud but think in the background (“Is he out of his mind?”)
It’s important for this process to get more of what we think out on the table.

Miles’ activities:
  • Meetings with Bill F, at least once a week
  • Two 2-day offsite meetings of strategic team (probably next month and the month after)
  • Two 2-hour on-site strategic team meetings
  • Two 4-hour operational group meetings
  • Individual discussions with all managers
  • Collaborative design of the process
  • Coordinating organizational communication
Deliverable of this process:
  • A vision of the future that we’ll have created together and to which we’ll be committed and alignedA clear set of strategies on how to meet the goals we’ve set (a specific plan for the next year, something less specific for beyond that, and a process for continually reviewing the plans)
  • We’ll all know our roles in the plan and will be organized as teams that can work together effectively.
  • We’ll have gained skills and insights about ourselves and begun a process to develop ourselves as leaders of this company.
“There’s always room for more ‘straight’ talk.” If we don’t have “straight” talk, it will impede our progress and minimize our success. Improving straight talk involves our willingness to increase the background thoughts that we’re willing to say out loud.
Doesn’t that last bit just kill you? Imagine a roomful of white executives all wanting to keep their jobs, thinking about what they could say that would pass for “straight talk,” unable to say what they really thought, which would be along the lines of “what bullshit!” Or perhaps some of them really bought into this stuff, but I know I didn’t. Looking at my calendar for the day of this meeting, I see I spent 5 hours of an 8-hour day in meetings. Mind numbing.

A year after this meeting, I’d be gone from the company, involuntarily, but I’d also be going to Europe for the first time and back in school. I should have quit long before and done something different, but I was still scared of change, despite having gone through some. I’m not quite so scared any more.
Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

Have you met Fred? I've known Fred since October of last year. I was reading the Dayton Daily News online, and Fred invited me to join his site in order to win stuff, so I did (join, that is — haven't won shit). I haven't paid Fred much attention since, only checking in on him if he or one of his friends e-mails me, which doesn't happen often but did happen today.

Fred is Cox Ohio Publishing's answer to MySpace, but Fred is to MySpace as Dayton is to New York City, or perhaps actually as Fairborn is to New York City. As of right now, Tuesday afternoon, the newest post is actually from "late morning" today, but the 10th newest (Fred shows you the 10 latest "blogs and announcements") was from "evening time" on the 15th. In other words, less than 10 posts a day, so you don't have to check constantly to avoid missing anything.


When I visit Fred I like to check out how many men (350), women (409), marrieds (61), singles (100), breeders (190), queers (only 7, including me, so Fred won't be replacing any time soon) he knows. Neither marrieds + singles nor breeders + queers adds up to the total number of men + women, so I'm guessing people have to pick a gender but not the rest. Adding men + women shows that poor Fred has only 759 friends. I'm surprised Fred isn't ashamed to give these various totals. Even Hillary Clinton has 10,734 MySpace friends.

One person who's not Fred's friend is David Esrati, who mocked Fred shortly after his birth and likes to mock Fred's family. No, I don't know Esrati's MeetFred screen name.


I'd always thought Fred was a local creation, since back when Fred knew only 4 queers, shortly after his birth, I'd been surprised to discover that I knew two of them, a couple who live in my apartment building on my floor and both of whom actually work for Cox taking care of, among other things, Fred. But Esrati seems to think that Fred runs on Drupal, and looking at the headers of the message I got from Fred today, I realized that Fred actually lives in California, at DreamHost, not with his folks at CoxOhio.

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

If you see this woman off-campus, you might assume she's armed.

If you're a gun-toting homicidal maniac with ties to Wright State and thinking of pulling a Virginia Tech there, you might steer clear of the departments of Religion, Philosophy and Classics, whose secretary is in favor of allowing (properly licensed, I assume) people to bring concealed weapons on campus and has seen the announcement by Wright State President David Hopkins of a special observance honoring the Virginia Tech victims as an opportunity to lobby for Wright State's ban on concealed weapons to be lifted:

From: Siobhan Semmett
Sent: Tuesday, April 17, 2007 8:14 PM
To: David R. Hopkins
Subject: Re: [OFFICIAL-L] Observance Honoring Victims of Virginia Tech Tragedy

Dr. Hopkins,

I am speaking only for myself here: I believe everyone at Wright State would be far safer if the restriction against conceal carry on campus were abolished.

One mature individual, registered with the police and trained in the use of firearms, might well have prevented the carnage at Virginia Tech. Such an individual would not legally be permitted to carry a weapon at WSU. In the case of such an horrific event, all of us are, like the VT victims, essentially defenseless until the police eventually arrive.

It seems to me that the students & faculty of VT were victimized twice, once by their assailant, and once by the administration which had decided that they were somehow better off being completely unable to defend themselves.

Lifting the ban on conceal carry would add an extra measure of safety to whatever plans the university already has in place.

Thank you.
Siobhan Semmett

On the other hand, if you are in fact planning an attack, you might want to go before the ban's lifted and while this secretary is still defenseless.

Thursday, April 19th, 2007
Don't back up in drive throughs

You'd think this would be obvious, and maybe the heading should actually be "Be sure your car is in drive before applying the gas," but a little while ago a woman in a big maroon Oldsmobile picked up her order in the drive through at Arby's on Patterson Boulevard downtown and then proceeded to put her car into reverse and back into the car behind hers, which, of course, was mine. No damage but incredibly annoying. She's either having a bad day or is too stupid to drive an automatic vehicle. Probably the former, but right now I'm thinking it's the latter.
Saturday, April 21st, 2007

Remember when Joan Crawford, towards the end of her career, filled in for her daughter Christina on the soap opera The Secret Storm, playing the part of a character 30 years younger than she was? Okay, I don’t remember it either, except from Mommie Dearest, but from all accounts, it didn’t go well. I saw something this afternoon that reminded me of that, another actor playing a part 30 years younger, but apparently this actor’s been doing it for over 30 years. Ugh.

Ted Neeley in 1973
Ted in 1973 as JC
Ted now
Ted now
Which actor? 63-year-old Ted Neeley, star of the 1973 (yes, 34 years ago) film, Jesus Christ Superstar, come to Dayton in the national touring production of Jesus Christ Superstar: The Farewell Tour. Now I’d never heard of Ted before today, although I did see a production of JCS once, a local one in Centerville a few years ago, which I enjoyed in large part because of the cute actors playing Jesus and the apostles. So the bright young cast comes out on stage for the overture and I’m prepared to sit back and watch some eye candy, and imagine my surprise when the brilliant heavenly white spotlights focus on wrinkly weathered Ted! Jesus Christ you’re old!

It didn’t take long to get to a point of wicked irony. Voluptuous Tiffini Dodson, well cast as Mary Magdalene with her ample bosom about spilling out of her harlot’s costume, throws herself all over JC as Judas sings that JC’s relationship with her might be construed as inappropriate. It was all I could do not to stand up and shout, “Yes! It’s inappropriate! He’s old enough to be her grandfather!”

Next we have JC wailing (showing off his “vocal range,” as Wiki puts it, by alternating between high-pitched screeches and gravelly grumbling) about how he’s had three long years of ministry but it seems like 30 and he’s tired, and amazingly no one in the audience laughs, even though I was pretty sure even Ted thought it was funny. He likes this line so much he did the number in both acts, altering after intermission to three long years that seem like 90. Why do I get the feeling that despite the word “farewell” being in the tour’s title, Ted would love to still be playing JC when he’s 90?


The second act brought another point where most people weren’t laughing, although I was, laughing with pleasure actually, at the appearance of Aaron Fuksa as King Herod, decked out in his pajamas and bathrobe, backed up by a set of palace courtesans as he gaily dared JC to do a trick to prove his divinity. And I do mean gaily, because if this Herod wasn’t gay, then I’m straight!

As for the rest of the cast, there wasn’t a lot to impress. Ted’s highly-billed costar in this production, Corey Glover, lead singer of the band Living Colour, who played Judas, didn’t impress me either; Glover’s singing wasn’t unpleasant, but he violated one rule of musicals which is to sing so the audience can understand the words. And there were multiple times when various members of the company had their small solo bits and whoever was working sound wouldn’t activate their mikes soon enough.

I was a bit surprised at the overall depiction of JC, which seemed to waver between showing him as a man and as divine. Ted’s certainly got the benedictory hand gestures down pat, which, if the historical JC did as much as Ted did, would make me think he was a bit full of himself. But they did show JC as being tired of his duties and unsure of his future, both not wanting to die and doubtful as to how he’d be remembered. Yet in Gethsemane talking to God he ends up calling what’s about to happen God’s will. Earlier talking to Judas JC says Judas has to do what he’s going to do, and later Judas too says God chose him to carry out his plans. All this should meet with the approval of conservative Christians who see the Crucifixion as the only way God could save us all from eternal hellfire (the only way an all powerful God could save us?!). Yet the Crucifixion is the end of Jesus Christ Superstar — there is no Resurrection.

Actually that’s not quite true. Ted did his agonizingly long dying on the Cross and ascended into heaven (very theatrical but not at all Biblically accurate) to thunderous applause, and then shazam! he’s resurrected along with the rest of the cast, taking their bows before Dayton’s provincial audience who rewards them with a standing ovation. Jesus, Dayton’s faithful Broadway Series viewers will give anything that comes to town a standing ovation, but that’s another blog entry.

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