Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Barack Around the World

What a night last night! You can see some of my experiences at the Grant Park Rally on flickr here. After you get done checking that out you can then go over to K-Rock’s collage of various front pages from around the world announcing our new president, Barack Obama. Which will have to do ya because all Chicago papers sold out toot sweet, and even extra printings of the Tribune, Sun-Times, and RedEye (really!!??!?) are hard to come by.

Chicago baseball postseason dreaming

The Cubs and White Sox are still looking great as baseball fans start peering into the possible postseason. Both teams are looking so good that even an article in The New York Times had to mention the possibility of a Chicago vs. Chicago World Series. If you’re a Cubs fan, you might want to stay away from the Times article since its focus is on the White Sox and their manager Ozzie Guillen at his quippiest.

I agree with the White Sox players quoted that a Cubs versus White Sox World Series would be awesome. My anticipation for this cross town face off is such that I’ve started reading the book When Chicago Ruled Baseball by Bernard A. Weisberger. It’s a nonfiction retelling of the last time the Chicago Cubs played the Chicago White Sox in 1906. Besides stoking my dreams of a Chicago World Series, it is also great to read some of the old time sports reporting, and descriptions of Chicago neighborhoods as they were one hundred and two years ago. My hope is that I can get enough people to read this book that the mental will of Chicago will create the World Series of my dreams. Or, more realistically, folks can get exposed to a great book about Chicago sports history.

Dylan Quoting Sandburg Quoting Lincoln

Ron Chester traces the saying “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time” back from a Bob Dylan lyric to an 1858 lecture in Bloomington, Illinois by Abraham Lincoln, with stops along the way at Carl Sandburg and Illinois Governor Joseph Fifer.

(via Daring Fireball)

Shock Therapy

For the past few days, I’ve had my head buried in Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine, a book outlining a process whereby unpopular economic theories (think widespread privatization and drastic cuts in social programs) are instituted following a crisis, be it a hurricane, a war, or the onslaught of an enemy (real or imagined), when the people are too shocked and disoriented to protest. For those of you familiar with something called 9/11, this should trigger disconcerting recollections of the creation of a booming industry in the name of “homeland security,” not to mention the vast sums of money allocated for rooting out the “enemy” abroad, as well as the use of “interrogation techniques,” also known as torture, which were practiced openly by the US government without fear of prosecution, thanks to the rewriting of a few pesky laws.

You may be wondering what in the heck this has to do with Chicago. Well, it just so happens that this wonderful theory of economic upheaval was created by Milton Friedman, the late University of Chicago professor, and he and his ardent followers have been instituting their particularly harsh brand of capitalism around the globe, acting as high-ranking advisors to politicians in Chile, Argentina, Indonesia, and the United States, among others. Pretty scary.

Check out the short film created by Klein and Children of Men director, Alfonso Cuaron, to learn more.

Hot Chicks at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry

PhotobucketMy first visit to Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry was as a fifth grader on class trip from my hometown in Indiana, and I’ve been in love with the place ever since. I recently revisited the museum and, despite the disappointing absence of the Dippin’ Dots kiosk, I had a pretty marvelous afternoon. What’s not to love?

They have the only Nazi U-Boat captured by the United States, the U-505. It’s a mammoth, awe-inspiring piece of metal, and the exhibit surrounding the ship draws you deeper and deeper (literally and figuratively) into the fascinating story of how the nabbing of the U-505 meant turning the tide on Germany’s technological advantages, and ultimately, the war itself. Also, one marvels that men can endure a terrifyingly tiny living space with sweaty unshowered men and the lingering odor of sauerkraut for long periods of time without going bananas on each other. Or should I say bananen?

Then there’s the Henry Crown Space Center, where my companion and I nibbled on the cosmic deliciousness of freeze dried ice cream sandwiches, the favorite of astronauts and cosmonauts alike. (Wait, cosmonauts are still around, right?) And don’t leave the museum without taking your turn on the shuttle simulators that allow you to heroically land a spacecraft with your cool nerves and steady hand, or, like me, make three attempts to grab space cargo with a giant robotic arm and instead push it helplessly tumbling out into space every single time.

And finally, as my photo choice suggests, my favorite exhibit, the Genetics and the Baby Chick Hatchery, where you can walk through a huge 3-D model of a human genome and peruse other features I sped through to get to the cute part: the tremulously hatching eggs and resultant little yellow fuzzy-butted chicks running around squeeching at each other and napping together in adorable little clusters. But please don’t scoff — there is a lot of hard science behind cute, and I’ll be happy to explain it to you as soon as I finish chapter three of my latest Hello Kitty fanfic.

Photo by Bryan Bowden.

Evolutionary Excrement

Evolving Planet at the Field Museum

I won’t be sending this post to any of my friends, because once they find out that I’m blathering on about the Field Museum’s Evolving Planet exhibit yet again…well, it won’t be pretty. I guess you could say I’m a little obsessed with it, but trust me, I have good reason. I mean, where else could one traipse from the Precambrian to the present in under two hours, taking in such dazzling wonders as authentic Wooly Mammoth turds and suggestive fertility sculptures?
And if you’re in similarly dire financial straits, don’t forget to pick up a Museum Passport from your local library and kiss that pesky admission fee goodbye.

[Photo courtesy of Luke Schierholz.]

Math and Politics

As someone who teaches math, I’m always on the lookout for math related news items. As a teacher, I am always on the look out for political news (since my job is tied to political decisions). Two weeks ago this interesting article popped up on Newsweek about the math of voting. Turns out, as mathematician Donald Saari says, “Election outcomes can more accurately reflect the choice of an election rule than the voters’ wishes.” This is most clearly reflected in the presidential outcomes in 2000.

The article directs readers to a website that gives the online community three methods of voting: 1) selecting your top candidate 2) selecting all candidates you think are acceptable for president and 3) ranking the candidates. As of right now, the top vote getter for all three methods is local boy done good Barack Obama.

However, with the complexity and oddness of the leviathan we call the primaries, the nominations are still up in the air. For the democrats, it looks like it might come down to the super mysterious super delegates. They are getting lots of chocolate and flowers this week from the Obama and Clinton camps.

I have to be honest. I understand the flawed BCS system for choosing a college football champion better then I understand the American primary system. However, I understand it enough to find primary outcomes decided by a cabal of political insiders a bit unfair.

And that’s not just me saying that it would be unfair; that is math saying it would be unfair. Of course, math has been saying that No Child Left Behind is unfair, but, politically, few have listened to that noise.

Everyone, please listen to math (5000 years of history can’t be wrong). Also, go celebrate Pi Day on March 14.

The Chicago Beer Riot of 1855

The latest issue of Modern Drunkard Magazine has the story of The Chicago Beer Riot of 1855:

When Mayor Boone and his lackeys set out to restore order, they beganby asking themselves a question. Why was Chicago such a dangerous vice-sodden cesspool? Well, answered the [Know-Nothings], two factors lurked at the center of the issue. One, there were too many foreigners in the city, particularly on the North Side, which was populated almost exclusively by Germans; and two, there was too much liquor, especially beer—-beer brewed, as it happened, by those same treacherous, non-English-speaking Germans. So, you want to rid the Windy City of crime? All you gotta do is get rid of the beer and the Germans. And while you’re at it, you might consider doing something about those Irishmen and Scandinavians hanging around.

(Thanks, Shaun)

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