Thirsty Ear

There’s a petition to Save The Thirsty Ear. Apparently the administration wants to close it down. Goddamn it, the Ear was one of the best things about MIT — open late, cheap beer, seedy decor, good conversation, friendly staff, and close to Kresge Little Theater. So if you’ve ever been there and had a good time, go and Save the Ear today.

sailor mongering

The US is pressing criminal charges against Greenpeace for “sailor mongering.”

Sailor mongering was rife in the 19th century when brothels sent prostitutes laden with booze onto ships as they made their way to harbor. The idea was to get the sailors so drunk they could be whisked to shore and held in bondage, and a law was passed against it in 1872. It has only been used in a court of law twice, the last time in 1890.

They are being tried for stopping ships bringing in illegally harvested Amazonian mahogany from Brazil. This brings up two questions: is this like charging the Mafia on tax evasion, and how many more ridiculous naval laws are there from the 19th century?

quantum focus

Download Prof. Biswas’s exciting game Quantum Focus! It will teach you about quarks and uncertainty and all that good stuff that they write about in plays like Copenhagen so that the vast majority of middle-class folks who know nothing about physics can feel privy to secret knowledge. Esoteric no more! Physics demystified and fun! Safe for all ages.

classic beatz

I thought of a great new album that I will have to make, perhaps sometime this summer when I have more time: Bangin’ Bingen : deep house anthems from DJ Hildegard.

Yes, I have officially started to lose it.

contraceptive branding

Another gem from Crooked Timber, written by Belle Waring:

What do you think of when you hear the word “Trojan”? Possibly, you think of the heartbreaking scene of farewell between Hector and Andromache, when little Astyanax is frightened by the nodding plumes of Hector’s helmet. But probably not. Probably, you think: Trojan horse. So consider the context. There’s this big…item outside your walled citadel, and you are unsure whether to let it inside. After hearing the pros and cons (and seeing some people eaten by snakes), you open the gates and drag the big old thing inside. Then, you get drunk. At the height of the party, hundreds of little guys come spilling out of the thing and sow destruction, breaking “Troy’s hallowed coronal”, as they say. Is this, all things considered, the ideal story for condom manufacturers to evoke? Just asking.

I suppose I hadn’t really thought of it before. It might make one rethink one’s brand loyalties. Then again, what do “kimono,” “rough rider” and “lifestyles” suggest?

academic blogging

One idea I’ve been batting around is to make a blog on information theory — an academic blog where there is discussion and posts of interest to the IT community, reviews of books, papers, and so on. It lacks a vision now, and the more I think about it, the less useful it seems.

In areas like economics, cultural criticism, literary/media studies, and journalism, academic blogging has found a good niche. John Holbo at Crooked Timber has two good posts on literary studies, and Wally has his essays on seriality and narrative. The strongest selling point is that blogging allows a sort of public hearing on a draft of new ideas without the formality of a graduate seminar or conference. It can enhance dialogue, which is good when you are trying to work out new ideas. These blogs deal with issues of interpretation.
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probability surveys

The professor for my Statistics class this year, David Aldous, is the editor of a new open-access journal called Probability Surveys. It highlights another problem in corporate journal publishing. Tutorial articles are often invited papers at the editor’s discretion or for special issues. This journal will be full of survey articles, and treads the line between those collections of research monographs and more bleeding-edge research journals. It’s not a profitable area for publication, because survey articles serve graduate students and intersted outsiders, and therefore do not lead to subscriptions, which is what commercial journals rely upon.

Of course, it’s not off the ground yet, but I’m pretty excited. I’m usually willing to spend an hour reading up on some subject I know very little about, especially if it’s an expository article.

princess leia

I wen to a songs and stories night at a coop named Lothlorien (yes, it is actually called that) in Berkeley. It was pretty packed. People were passing around bottles of wine and other things, performers would get up and do their thing, there would be applause, etc. All in all, a very Berkeley experience, almost stereotypically so. They have very strong communities here because of the coop system, and although I was an outsider, it was nice to see that kind of atmosphere in a place. It reminded me a lot of certain parties I had been to in Champaign-Urbana.

One set of lyrics stood out from the rest. it was an original song performed by two women dressed in white robe-like outfits with rope belts and their hair in buns. The background was from a projector showing Star Wars. The chorus:

I want your lightsaber in me
Use the force, use the force, use the force

It felt very sci-fi Liz Phair. Classic.