Week 31: Swarthmore

Locations: Chapel Hill, NC; White Post, VA; Swarthmore, PA


Dates: 3/16/97-3/22/97

Sunday Nao and Stephen both had busy days, but I didn't have much to do; Stephen got me some miscellaneous system software I needed and I spent the day installing it. Later, the three of us played wraparound Boggle until it was time for Stephen to go prepare for the evening's service. I followed an hour later; I'd stayed a few days longer than planned in Chapel Hill specifically so I could attend this practice Taizé service (in preparation for the actual service on Good Friday, I think). Unfortunately, Nao wasn't feeling well, and—apparently because there was an NCAA game that evening—nobody else showed up. Stephen and the other person with whom he was running the service did a quick practice run-through, and I joined in on a couple of bits, but it wasn't really quite what I'd had in mind. Ah, well; at least I had a couple extra days with N&S.

Monday morning I packed all my stuff back into my car, said goodbye, and drove north. Stopped for an ultra-greasy fried chicken lunch; was surprised at how ordinary the Shenandoah River looked; dawdled at various nice views; took a photo of some touristy concrete dinosaurs. Arrived at Joshua's place around 6 pm. It's a huge, rambling house on a farm, filled floor-to-ceiling with books (plus other cool stuff, like relatives, and motorcycles, and paintings of his ancestors). I chatted with Joshua and various of his very entertaining family for a few hours, called my grandfather to wish him a happy birthday, then got suddenly very tired and crept off to sleep. Slept longer than I'd expected to, and barely made it downstairs in time to have a bowl of cereal before Joshua left for work, at which point I left too.

Dinosaurs in VA
Dinosaurs in VA
Trees and sky in VA
Trees and sky in VA
Trees in VA
Trees in VA

Drove north, then east, then north again. Considered taking a long detour through Maryland to see if I could find the area corresponding to the fictional town of Crisfield from Cynthia Voigt's books, but the only one of her books I had with me was too imprecise about its location, so I decided to wait for some other trip. Arrived in Swarthmore around 1 pm, but wasn't feeling remotely social so didn't go on campus to find people; instead I searched for a movie theatre, found one, and took in a matinee.

Still wasn't feeling social. I updated my sadly neglected journal, wandered up to campus and checked my email, had dinner at Renato's, and spent an hour reading Le Guin stories in the Swarthmore public library. Finally showed up at Jim and Jere7my's door a little after 9 pm. Brought in a bunch of my stuff from the car, watched j7y play a Nintendo game with way cool 3D graphics. Eventually went to sleep on their sofabed.

Got a lot accomplished on Wednesday. Lounged about, sent various papermail items, went food-shopping, bought an Official Parking Permit. (On previous visits I've just parked in the Mary Lyons parking lot and figured there was enough space there nobody would notice; this time I wanted to be legit, and to not have to worry about getting towed or ticketed. The trade-off being that now I have to worry about the car getting broken into or stolen, since it's several blocks away on a dark side-street.)

Also did laundry. Then checked email and found Arthur had sent me a couple of new scenes for our screenplay; inspired, I wrote a couple new scenes and sent them to him. When I dialed up to mail them I found he'd sent me another scene, so I wrote a few more and sent those off too... The most productive writing day I've had in months. Took my car over to its new space, called Arthur to talk over the work remaining on the screenplay to finish the first draft—only a dozen more scenes to go, most of them short. We've got 116 pages of script so far... The biggest fiction project I've yet been involved with. A lot will have to be cut to bring it down to feature-film length, of course, but better (in the first draft) to have extra scenes that can be trimmed than not enough scenes to fill the time...

Thursday, updated travelogue and made plans, food-shopped, failed to obtain a plumbing part at the hardware store, did obtain a perfect-sized envelope at the stationery store, and got a lot more writing done. Exciting to have the writing going so smoothly for once; makes me want to rush on and finish the screenplay. Of course, I probably ought to direct some of that energy toward re-sending out the two or three rejected stories I've received back in the past few weeks...

Thursday night Jim and I went across the street to look at Hale-Bopp. (See Hale. See Hale Bop.) Clearly visible to the naked eye, more clearly with binox, but I still couldn't see much of the tail. I've never been able to see stellar objects as well as I gather others can; probably some combination of general poor vision and specific partial colorblindness.

Friday I read comic-strip books and generally allowed Jim and J7y's eminently distracting apartment to distract me. Spent some time online searching for limerick sites on the Web, for my column. Spent far too much time downloading, installing, and trying out RealSpace Traveller, which I believed to be the only VRML 2.0 browser for the Macintosh. In actuality, it's the only almost-VRML-2.0 browser for the Macintosh; it actually won't read VRML files at all, only its custom-format files which look almost like VRML files but not quite. After I discovered the problem, I wrote them a long impassioned email begging them to (a) make it clear on their Web site that their browser can't read standard VRML files, and (b) fix their browser (I suspect that I could do it in fifteen minutes, and I told them just how to do it) so it can read standard VRML files, making them the joy of Macintosh users everywhere. No response as yet.

In the evening, a bunch of folks came over and we all played board and card games—a game from Cheapass Games called Bleeding Sherwood (a tarted-up bidding game with the premise that players are merchants trying to fleece the newly-rich peasants near Sherwood Forest; interesting play dynamics), Illuminati, Cosmic Wimpout, Can't Stop, and others. Spent way too long (from about 1 to about 2:30 am) watching people play Nintendo 64 games—mesmerizing, even though it would seem to be a step down from TV in terms in interactivity. The N64 is quite a game system. Especially fun (for me) to see how the game creators are using SGI technology (both hardware and software); I strongly suspect the 3D graphics are done using a close relative of SGI's high-speed 3D graphics library, Performer, which I documented one version of. (It goes beyond Performer in some ways, though; I wonder if it uses any of the Alias/Wavefront 3D-effects software.) The fog and the particle systems are particularly cool effects.

Sorry—any non-graphics-geek readers can come back now. I get a bit carried away.

Saturday morning I got a slow start, but made it to the SWIL meeting almost on time. SWIL was much as I remembered it ("only the names have been changed..."); I spent most of the meeting, as has been my wont ever since I stopped being president, making side comments on the proceedings. I have less patience for collegiate silliness than I once did, but I'm fine with it in relatively small doses. Saturday evening I went with Kendra, Melissa B, and others to an a cappella concert on campus—Swat's all-male group (16 Feet) was hosting three other all-male college groups (from Oberlin, UIUC, and Stanford). Not bad, though I would've enjoyed less schtick and more singing; apparently a cappella groups these days are required to spend 10%-40% of their stage time doing sketch comedy having nothing to do with singing. Some of the singers could also have used a little more projection. But hey, it was free. After the concert, Kendra and I watched J7y finish Turok (a Doom-style N64 game; ultraviolent, but with amazing graphics).

There was another a cappella concert on Sunday afternoon, but I didn't go to it.

Movies, Books, etc.

A Solitary Blue, by Cynthia Voigt
Another in the Tillerman Family cycle of young-adult books, this one focusing on Dicey's friend Jeff Greene; not as gripping as Dicey's Song and a couple of the others, but not bad either. I didn't realize until this book how strong the theme of parental abandonment is in almost all of Voigt's books that I've read; powerful stuff.
Gift From the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh (on tape, read by Claudette Colbert)
I feared this would be a simplistic and flakey self-help kind of book, but it turned out to be full of thoughtful and thought-provoking musings about how best to live a harmonious life. Many of the things she says (particularly about the need for occasional solitude) resonated with me; some were conclusions I'd come to long ago on my own, others were new ideas to me, and though I had occasional nitpicks (mostly due to assumptions about men and women, partly due to the period when the original book was written), I liked the book (even parts I didn't expect to get anything out of, like the section on middle age) well enough to want to get copies and distribute them to friends.
Jerry Maguire
Funny, romantic, perhaps a little too heartwarming, but worth seeing if you're not in a cynical mood. Cuba Gooding Jr. and Bonnie Hunt are particularly good. (Note: Bonnie Hunt's character, Laurel, reminded me of the best-friend character (Kate) in Only You—unsurprisingly, as it turns out, since the latter part was also played by Hunt...)

(Last updated: 25 March 1997.)

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