Dysmey Post Archive > Pages for 2002 > Mid-March 2002 Edition

Mid-March 2002 Edition

penn & teller

Last night after work I went to Ball State's Emens Auditorium to see the Penn & Teller show.

I got there a half-hour before opening time and looked around the place. Emens is a typical example of 1960's institutional architecture. My home town has such examples in the town hall, post office and elementary school. A pile of dogdoo is more lovely than any of these buildings. Emens itself is a well-kept but sterile tomb. The only thing good about it are the seats. Anyway, such buildings teach people to associate 'public' and 'community' with 'ugly' and, by an spurious but understandable inference, 'bad' and 'evil'. This is one of the many reasons why public life has declined.

Anyway, I took my seat. The auditorium filled up fairly quickly, and many of the audience were on stage. Why? A recording of Penn invited the audience to come up and inspect the boxes—one plastic, one hardwood. That recording also had chirping sounds simulating cell phones, beepers, frogs, crickets, and other annoying critters.

Then the lights go out and Penn & Teller walk out on stage. They do a series of ten or so acts, broken by a fifteen-minute intermission. Among these acts, we had Teller sealed in the two boxes above (and the unexpected way in which he escaped them); Teller and his amazing powers over polyester; Penn & Teller handcuffed to a park bench; Teller as the Needle King, swallowing needles and threat and pulling a string of threaded needles out of his mouth; and a disappearing/reappearing act, involving an American flag and the Bill of Rights, that originated with September 11.

Given that I knew of their act only from the movie that came out in 1989 (which featured Caitlin Clarke), the show was milder than I thought. Teller still says not a word during the act. Penn still talks a lot—in fact, lectures like a professor during the acts and in some of them plays the bass. The only other similarity with the film is, yes, Penn & Teller have a female manager (who does not in the least look like Caitlin Clarke).

lotus domino

I have been looking thought some learning CDs, which my boss bought last year. The language of those lessons so far is like walking through knee-high slush: utter babble. To understand what I am trying to learn, I given you this translation of the first lesson:

Domino is a software platform, on which you can build and install network and Internet programs. These programs can use Domino's native security, communication, and project features. Domino supports many programming languages as well as Lotus' own set of business programs. Domino has all the tools you, the programmer, require to build the software your company needs.

You can build effective programs in Domino by understanding how it is set up. For the programmer there are three basic parts of Domino: the Domino server, Notes client, and web browser. Each of these can run programs in languages Domino supports, and has services that support those programs. You can write programs for Domino with its own integrated development environment (IDE) using its own design elements, just like Visual Basic and Borland JBuilder have. Or you can also use these two to write Domino programs.

You may ask "Don't we have the Internet for all this?" Yes, but keep in mind that when the Internet became a public place, Domino and Notes were already years old and already IBM/Lotus offerings. Businesses were more willing to trust an IBM product than an unknown academic playground for their e-mail and project needs. And Domino/Notes adapted to the Internet with its own web/mail/news servers and the means to surf the Internet (or keep people from doing so).

Copyright © 2003 by Andy West. All rights reserved. Last updated 30 November 2003.