Tuesday, March 29, 2005


Carl Sandburg

Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders;

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I have seen your
painted women under the gas lamps luring the farm boys.
And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it is true I have
seen the gunman kill and go free to kill again.
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the faces of women
and children I have seen the marks of wanton hunger.
And having answered so I turn once more to those who sneer at this my
city, and I give them back the sneer and say to them:
Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be
alive and coarse and strong and cunning.
Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on job, here is a tall
bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities;
Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning as a savage pitted
against the wilderness,
Bulding, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with white teeth,
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man laughs,
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has never lost a battle,
Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse, and under his
ribs the heart of the people,
Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of Youth, half-naked,
sweating, pround to be Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.


Thursday, March 24, 2005

Chicago Skyline

Via Byzantium's Shores and via the Chicagoist I see Chicago's skyline has been named fourth greatest in the world, by some people who took it upon themselves to name these things. They judged purely on number of floors, and not aesthetic quality, obviously.

Ken's moving into the apartment that I too will eventually be occupying, soon, and we've decided we want Chicago art, so I've been looking at skyline pictures, lately. Check out some of the posters I want to buy.

(I actually asked the photographer about a poster-sized print of this picture of Wrigley field too, but it sounded expensive.)


Sunday, March 20, 2005

Optical Illusions

Today's blog entry is brought to you by Ken, who is always finding the coolest links. I really ought to let him take over here.

These make your head spin. You're not drunk; they're optical illusions. My favorites are the Buffy-themed set.

Most of these are static (however they may appear) and work in print-out form too, but here's one which is designed for a screen. The creators have all sorts of theories about what it says about brain hemispheres, but I am skeptical. I think it's just neat-looking.

Ken also brings us a follow-up to the Einstein jokes, a whole page of geeky groaners. Enjoy.


Sunday, March 13, 2005

Eugenics and Politics

An article that's worth reading about the connection between the politics of the 1930s and '40s and the political issues today: The Long Road of Eugenics: From Rockefeller to Roe v. Wade.

Before and even during World War II, a large part of mainstream society accepted the notion that whites were superior to other races, that Nordic whites were superior to other ethnicities, that aristocratic families were superior to poor people, as not only self-evident, but proven, by recently invented IQ tests and other new "scientific" methods. When birth control was new and Darwin's ideas not that old, a lot of people believed that the world would be a better place if only the poor and the dark-skinned and the handicapped could be stopped from breeding, and the aristocrats encouraged. A lot of the people who believed this were aristocrats themselves, and had political power. Some of them continued to believe it after the war. And they all were in favor of the sexual revolution, and the liberalizing of the laws that went with it.

It's worth keeping in mind, as those liberalized laws are debated today, what the original proponents thought that they would accomplish by passing them.

Details and documentary evidence are in that paper. I know that the author is credible and her research intensive, because she's a lawyer with a distinguished history of public service, and also my mother.


Jokes with Einstein

Chad Orzel links two flash cartoons: jokes with Einstein and the sequel, jokes with Einstein 2. As one of the comments on his post says: just don't tell anyone if you find either of them funny...


Friday, March 11, 2005

The End of the World-- uh, the Quarter

Lots of real life stuff going on as Northwestern's academic term ends, so blog entries may continue to be boring. We've got important people coming to review how we used our research funds and hold lots of meetings and conference presentations, so Ken's got long hours in the lab right now, trying to put together things we can show them and things our advisor can say. I'm at the very edge of all this activity, as the experiment I've been working on is not funded by these people and is therefore on hold until after all this is over. But I've been given a few assignments, making parts of a poster about our project as a part of the general "isn't our lab impressive?" push. And, of course, there's a dozen papers I'm supposed to read... And one more thing to write, for my quantum optics class. I just finished homework and grading. So now I should work on the talk I'm supposed to give.

Also booking things for the wedding, and then the trip to Europe. I can officially announce the wedding date as July 11. Small, immediate family service at the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. I am in process of picking out poetry. Ken's letting me hog the fun on that. Meanwhile, if anybody knows any train-accessible, internet-bookable campsites in the Loire valley for less than thirty Euros a night, please let me know. That's the last reservation we have to make.

It's nice that we've bought all this camping gear now, because, as those who know me will know, I confidently expect the apocalypse any day now. Civilization seems very fragile to me. Now, when it happens, we've got shelter and beds and huge backpacks we can live out of. We are both assured by two quizilla quizzes (this one and two) that we stand an excellent chance of surviving. Especially if the threat comes from zombies. Don't laugh, the government considers zombie threats to be terrorism. Good thing Ken's seen every zombie movie ever made, and now we have this book.

Remember -- you have to destroy the brain.


Thursday, March 03, 2005

Virtual Communities

I know at least a few of my readers are fellow alt.fan.pratchett veterans, and so will know all about the social dynamics of internet communities. About flame warriors and trolls and vampire threads, about inside jokes, meet-ups, and very real friendships and even marriages that are born in text only.

Some of them have also done IRC, and also know about flooding, and being kick/banned by the channel op, which is the natural result, about moderated and unmoderated channels, about /msg and /dcc, about lurking and joining topicking.

Some may have done fidonet, dial-up BBS, AIM, mailing lists... I've done all of that except the dial-up BBS, but I've got The Discovery Channel Bulliten Boards (alas, now vanished, as far as I can tell) and the Prodigy message boards too. And personal webpages. And public profiles. And now I've got a blog, besides posting comments to other people's.

So for those, like me, who remember when some of the slang in the jargon file was invented, who sometimes think in acronyms... I present a link which, unlike most of the others here, you may actually not yet have seen. Via Teresa Nielsen-Hayden an interesting essay on designing social software.

And, as an aside for people who want to use social software to communicate top secret information, a link I just found while browsing the Jargon File: a biography of Alice and Bob. Remember them?