What Happens When Two Geeks Marry?

September 29, 2008

And more importantly, what do they serve in their Geek (wedding) Buffet?

Congratulations Dana and Mark!

Best wishes for a long and happy marriage from your fellow geeks!

(Please add your greetings in the comments below.)

Office hours

September 28, 2008

As so often, I’m headed to office hours to get help with my B521 homework. When I show up, the room is packed; there’s my professor, his two assistants, and two other students presumably looking for help.   “Lindsey! Come in; sit down. Would you like a piece of pizza?”

Score. I go inside and wedge myself into the one available chair. The chair next to me is occupied by a fresh, hot cheese pizza, which looks delicious, but I figure I’d better try and get my homework taken care of first. I pop open my laptop and peer at my half-written, half-working code, which is done up in white and green on an attractive blue background. The credit for those pretty colors is due, of course, to my programmable text editor — and to the wizards, now sitting across from me, who have patiently helped me customize it to the point where it now handles just about every programming-related task for me.  Except think.  And convert carbohydrates to ATP.  Speaking of which.

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Life in the Hutong

September 22, 2008

Hutong 2

Central Beijing used to be filled with hutong—single story courtyard homes on narrow lanes. They started in the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) but the current structures mostly date from the earlier part of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

Expansive compounds, where several branches of the same family had multiple courtyards have since been divided and subdivided into small, cramped apartments. The hutong neighborhoods are known for their communities and for their historic architecture.

They’re also known because the Beijing government is using eminent domain and razing large swaths of them in order to build fancy high rises in their quest to become a modern metropolis.

China watchers mourn the loss of Beijing’s old-world charm.

Lonely Planet: China (2008) says:

“Hutong may still be the stamping ground of a quarter of Beijing’s residents, but many are sadly being swept aside in Beijing’s race to manufacture a modern city of white tile high-rises. Marked with white plaques, historic homes are protected, but for many others a way of life hangs precariously in the balance… Old walled courtyards are the building blocks of this delightful world. Many are still lived in and hum with activity. From spring to autumn, men collect outside their gates, drinking beer, playing chess, smoking and chewing the fat. Inside, trees soar aloft, providing shade and a nesting ground for birds.”

It of course, glosses over the extreme (but picturesque!) poverty of the situation: Read the rest of this entry »

David Foster Wallace on suicide and the moral life

September 14, 2008

David Foster Wallace’s postmodernism was always about morality.

Whatever anybody said, all the Great Big American Novelists of our lifetimes have shared that itch. But for Wallace it must have been a fever. Morality was never below the surface of his art — even though the art was usually so dazzling that some people couldn’t see anything else.

To cheer me up after his wretched, untimely death, here is some advice he gave about literal and figurative suicide, from his 2005 commencement address at Kenyon.

The full speech doesn’t betray Wallace’s trademark floridity, the habit that’s going to be talked up in all this morning’s papers. Instead, it’s flat almost to the point of crassness. It’s a slap in the jaw. It’s worth a full read.

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7 things The Dark Knight taught me about democracy

September 10, 2008

Okay, the hype’s over. They’ve made their billion. (As I write this in mid-September, Batman remains the number-three movie in the country, having dipped below 4th place for exactly one of the last 60 days.) Our pulses have slowed and we can all take a deep breath.

And start overanalyzing. Finally.

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