January 2006 Archives

Mad props out to goodguyseatpie tonight, and a note to self to check my department mail more often. The thoughtful fellow went and sprang for a gift membership in the Union of Concerned Scientists. Going by the date on the envelope I assume this is intended as a Christmas present. Many thanks, friend.

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that means he thinks I should talk about global warming more often. I think I've got a request on that front from Connor, too, from a while back. Other suggestions, leave 'em under the question of the week, below.

I forgot to mention, I will in the future be crossing Michigan off my states-I-haven't-visited list as a result of the Movie Marathon trip. While we didn't actually stop in any cities, I got in a most enjoyable pre-dawn drive through its snowy western bits on the way back. It's fair to assume I'll be back, and will actually interact with people the next time, so it's not cheating all that badly.

Passing on miscellaneous other stuff of interest...

Via 3quarksdaily, Donate to the NYU strike hardship fund! (Lots of background links there, too.) Now that the new term's begun, most of the grad students have returned to the picket line, and the administration has carried through on its threat to "terminate the fellowships" of strikers. Which may be the best euphemism I've ever heard for "fire their asses," once again oh-so-cleverly suggesting that teaching isn't work if you're a grad student.

Or more precisely, that grad students are just moochers who get paid to live out of the goodness of the trustees' hearts. Moochers who just happen to spend every waking hour teaching classes out of the goodness of their hearts. Completely unconnected to the money, as it happens. Anyhow, not being a Ph.D. student, my sister is kind of only peripherally affected by all this, except insofar as she's currently working as an adjunct, which is exactly the kind of slave labor the NYU administration is trying to turn the grad students into.

Big story of yesterday was that Canada lurched suddenly to the right, in a metaphysical vindication of all things Bush. Except that that's, you know, completely wrong. Via LGM, a decent overview of what actually happened, which turns out to be not much.

The big news for today, of course, is the Palestinian elections, which Hamas didn't win by a startlingly small margin. More on that as things unfold over the coming weeks, but it's safe to say that this will get interesting.

[Update: 26 Jan, 8 AM] The situation has evolved considerably over the past few hours; preliminary vote counts now indicate that Hamas has narrowly won an absolute majority in the Palestinian parliament, meaning that it will form the next government. This may or may not be a bad thing, ultimately, as it is widely believed that participation in governance has a moderating effect on extremist groups. I offer the following quote from the above-linked article (updated many times overnight), for instance:

As news of the results started to trickle in, Hamas senior officials began outlining the organization's policy as the ruling Palestinian faction. Senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar told Al-Arabiya television it was possible for Hamas to sign an accord with Israel without recognizing its right to exist.

According to al-Zahar, a diplomatic-security-economic accord can be reached between the parties based on a "hudna" (truce) as part of which the Palestinians would agree to establish a state on the territory they are given.

Back in Circulation


I am, for the record, back in circulation. With oral exams done with, I took off this weekend for a 30-hour science fiction movie marathon at Case Western. 30 hours of movies, plus about another 30 of driving to Cleveland and back ... it's good to know I can still do 60 hours of excitement on four or five hours of car-napping. DrSpiff, who's responsible for dragging me into this thing, has got a by-the-numbers summary of the adventure.

Having declared a new year for myself, I'm also turning a bit of new attention to this here blog. I don't plan on doing enough travelling in 2006 for it to really qualify as a "travel blog" anymore, although it will continue to draw heavily on the mechanics and implications of place.

So the question of the week is: What would you like to see discussed more on EGAD?

Orally Examined


I passed. It is done.

There is much to be done that has been left undone for the last month, last semester. I declare today my new year. It's time to get to work.

But first I shall get some sleep. And leave y'all with a picture or two.

On New Years Eve we went out to watch the fireworks display. It was a big deal, since the state of Texas was under a total fire ban. There was some surprise when, after not having seen a single cloud for days on end, a luxuriantly opaque fog came sighing in for the night. 2006:01:01 00:44:27
Not that we couldn't experience the fireworks. The horizon would glow pale red, green from one end of the sky to the other, and cottony booms reached us through the shroud. And the neighborhood kids, flaunting the burn bans, launched pyrotechnics of their own. We found this way that the fog became entirely opaque at a distance of about four blocks. 2006:01:01 01:04:29

Hamas does Mr. Rogers + Checking In

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Oral exam tomorrow. My practice talk went well enough, but I've got some work to do before I'm ready for tomorrow.

Turned up during the present web break: Hamas does Mr. Rogers. Friendly guy hangs out with kids and oversized stuffed animals, plays fun games, and teaches important lessons like cooperation. And that Jerusalem is the Palestinians' birthright and must someday be retaken. Important life lessons like that. And now I have had my recommended daily allowance of postmodernism.

In completely unrelated news, the conventional wisdom holds that Democrats lost any chance to beat the Scalito nomination when they made his wife cry, because now they're just big meanies. Naturally I suspected at the time that the boo-hooing just might have a whiff of stagecraft about it. Cold comfort, though, to see that I was probably right on that count.

In keeping with the pattern of these things, I leave you with another installment of Impromteau Photojournalism.

The Cathedral of San Fernando began as a parish church in 1738 by settlers from the Canary Islands sent by the Spanish government as a bulwark against possible French incursion. The present facade, seen here, dates to the 1870s, when the church was recommissioned as a cathedral. Not so long ago, the plaster walls were black with soot, and oozed the scent of frankincense. Since then renovations have restored the walls to a more historically and structurally appropriate finish, but the pervading aroma of incense will take a century or so to return.

NYT evinces sense of humor

Taking a short web-surfing break, and the funniest thing I find is an article in the Times. The accompanying graphic, anyway, ripped from the headlines of the Journal of Imaginary Genomics.

Fun with author lists and bristlecone pines. Actually, many things about the Times would improve if they stopped taking themselves so seriously.

Given that today is today, a good roundup of MLK linkage can be found at Six Impossible Things. The moral of which is: celebrating Dr. King's birthday is a poor substitute for honoring his legacy.

I leave you with another photo.

The Tower Life Building the day after Christmas, seen through the spans of the Arsenal Street bridge over the San Antonio River, and through the diffuse nebular emission common to every nocturnal cityscape. Not tallest nor most massive, its unique shape and lighting cause it to nevertheless define downtown San Antonio's skyline. The aggressively central location and gargoyles help in this respect. Yes, gargoyles. 2005:12:26 22:50:21

Because, you know, I can. I've got like, fifteen major photo-essays just waiting to be written. Someday.

In Minneapolis, my house's little plastic tree. We had a fun night of making ornaments out of beads and paper and string. It's bright outside because the ground is covered in snow. 2005:12:17 15:47:19
In San Antonio, my family's Christmas tree. It's bigger, which is good, since it's got to fit several decades worth of accumulated ornaments on it. Thankfully it's been many years since we've had indoor cats spry enough to have much interest in climbing adventures. It's bright outside because it's about 90° in Texas. 2005:12:25 09:58:09

So I present a comparison of Christmas trees. We actually had a grand plan to drive out to wherever it is people drive to, and cut down a tree of our own. Preferably finding one on a Charlie Brown sort of scale. But sadly, even that turned out to be overly ambitious for my housemates, because we are busy people. So once again, green plastic carried the day.

The San Antonio tree, on the other hand, was gloriously real, if curiously green given the heatwave and 10% humidity.

Another Checkpoint

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Another post, the primary function of which is to reassure the world that I'm still alive in here. My oral exam is Wednesday, after which I can get on with having a more structured season. Which will be kicked off with a 30 hour sci-fi marathon. In Cleveland. I'll be roadtripping there with DrSpiff on Friday early, back Sunday.

Fine, so "more structured" was probably a misnomer.

Tentatively, there will be a side trip to Michigan on the way back, so I can cross that off the 'ol list. I'd be obliged if Connor would offer some suggestions for a couple-of-hours sidetrip to lower MI.

The wider world is successfully being uninteresting of late, as present newsworthies are largely the foreseen playing-out of the set scene. Still, a most pleasant morning was had sitting around listening to the radio. This was probably an influence of the bread-maker that arrived on my porch the other day. While some readers may recall my "tool of the Devil" rants about the contraptions, I was pleasantly won over by the experience of having freshly baked bread for breakfast, courtesy of this wonderful contraption called a "timer."

Say, who's up for doing a sandwich day sometime for lunch? You bring the fillings, I'll supply the loaf.

Check In

Tomorrow I relocate from Texas back to balmy Minnesota. Pardon the relative silence of late, but your blogger has been busy. Principally with preparations for my oral exam, a week from Wednesday. I might get in some photoblogging, but no posts of substance until after that.

Which is unfortunate, as the world is interesting of late. I suggest Ha'aretz to observe the continuing fallout from Sharon's abrupt departure from the world stage. Josh Marshall has been doing excellent Abramoff coverage for some time now. Bird flu's still out there, some miners suffocated, and Russia "accidentally" turned off half of Europe's natural gas for a spell, so go take your pick.

The destruction of Pilgrim Baptist in Chicago, on the other hand, is a noteworthy and significant loss.

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

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