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Showing posts from September, 2008
As we are discussing Primitive and Old Regular Baptists in class, I figured my students would want to see (and hear) this:

Appalachia Old Regular Baptist (Baptismal) Ball Branch

This is a worthwhile consideration by Stephen Griffin of the distortion of Constitutional history by legal scholars, who write articles in non-peer reviewed law reviews and then cite their own scholarship to defend radical and ahistorical positions. One extreme of this technique is John Yoo and his invention of unrestrained executive power:

" Remember advocates of original meaning don’t like looking for subjective intent (how the notables actually thought). They elevate “objective” evidence of original meaning over subjective intent. But, as Woody Allen once remarked, “Objectivity is subjective” (maybe it was the reverse – see Love and Death). This means we can look for evidence of meaning anywhere in the eighteenth century (or earlier) regardless of how closely it is connected with the debates that led to the Constitution’s adoption. The search for “objective” evidence of meaning allows the subjectivity of the scholar to do the picking and choosing among possible worlds of meani…
Growing from 3 pages to 110, the bailout bill is at least giving the taxpayers marginally more value on a per-word basis.

Perhaps the theory is that if it is longer, nobody will read it.

The Washington Posthas helpfully provided a short annotated description of it part by part.
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We went to the Norfolk Botanical Garden this weekend, where I haven't been in seven or so years, it was a nice place to spend the afternoon. It didn't hurt that there is a large rubberized area colored like the globe with dozens of waterjets for Lark to run through. Here she is running along the west coast of Africa.



The Garden folks are no fools--make the kids happy with a waterpark in the middle of the garden and the parents are much more amenable to shelling out for the place.

Actually, it is a nice Botanical Garden as these things go, especially since this climate can support such wide diversity .

In the middle of it all is this tree, which seems a bit unimpressive save for the gate around it.



It turns out this is one of the rarest trees in the world, a Wollemi Pine. There are only 100 matures Wollemi Pines in the wild. They were discovered in Australia in 1994, though the fossil record of them goes back 90 million years.

(I am kind of surprised that the Botanical Garden …

"Green, mindless, unkillable ghosts"

My 'History of the New South' class talked a bit about kudzu this week, and at such a point it is always worth reading James Dickey's fine poem "Kudzu," which you can read in its entirety here.
This has been circulating, you may have seen it already. It's pretty funny:

DEAR AMERICAN:

I NEED TO ASK YOU TO SUPPORT AN URGENT SECRET BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP WITH A TRANSFER OF FUNDS OF GREAT MAGNITUDE.

I AM MINISTRY OF THE TREASURY OF THE REPUBLIC OF AMERICA. MY COUNTRY HAS HAD CRISIS THAT HAS CAUSED THE NEED FOR LARGE TRANSFER OF FUNDS OF 800 BILLION DOLLARS US. IF YOU WOULD ASSIST ME IN THIS TRANSFER, IT WOULD BE MOST PROFITABLE TO YOU.

I AM WORKING WITH MR. PHIL GRAM, LOBBYIST FOR UBS, WHO WILL BE MY REPLACEMENT AS MINISTRY OF THE TREASURY IN JANUARY. AS A SENATOR, YOU MAY KNOW HIM AS THE LEADER OF THE AMERICAN BANKING DEREGULATION MOVEMENT IN THE 1990S. THIS TRANSACTIN IS 100% SAFE.

THIS IS A MATTER OF GREAT URGENCY. WE NEED A BLANK CHECK. WE NEED THE FUNDS AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE. WE CANNOT DIRECTLY TRANSFER THESE FUNDS IN THE NAMES OF OUR CLOSE FRIENDS BECAUSE WE ARE CONSTANTLY UNDER SURVEILLANCE. MY FAMILY LAWYER ADVISED ME THAT I SHOULD LOOK FOR A RELIABLE AND TRUSTWORTHY PER…
Laugh line of the day:

""We certainly understand a lot of the questions up there," said White House spokesman Tony Fratto. "What the vice president and others will emphasize is that this is absolutely necessary to do right now. In no way should it signal any abandonment" of the free market system. "
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Here is a great picture I just happened across of some nicely dressed people hanging around some beehives in 19th century Tennessee.

I just heard from a student at Millsaps College in Mississippi that they are starting up beekeeping on campus there, which would be the second liberal arts college to do so after VWC. That is fantastic news, it is always great when someone newly gets into bees of course, and I am looking forward to seeing how their program develops. They are using a special kind of hive called a "top bar hive," which is also sometimes called a Kenyan hive. I have considered trying one on campus, perhaps this will be the year.
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This is the mission


These kind of military industrial complex billboards are all over the area here. This one says "This is the mission, this is the tanker". It is an ad for the Boeing KC-767 Advanced refueling jet. This billboard sits on a road called Military Highway, across from Kmart and looming above Big Al's Muffler Shop, (which, incidentally, features the dumbest and most anti-Italian advertising campaign you can imagine, which I can talk more about that some other time)

Now, it seems likely that absolutely nobody buying these jets will see this billboard. It is theoretically possible that someone leaving the airport will see it, since it is on a road that runs toward the interstate. But it is kind of hard to believe that just seeing this billboard will convince a procuring sort of person to buy this jet. I am guessing there are other kinds of refueling planes, but they don't advertise that I have seen. So how good could they be? I know what kind of refue…
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I've been wrapped up with political concerns here at Nunal and have consequently neglected my duty to post pictures of the irresistible Miss Lark.

Here she is walking near a particularly impressive tree in the park near our house.


And here discovering the many joys of sticks.


It is heartening to see that the Congress apparently learned its lesson from years of being servile to the Bush administration and is acting with some deliberation, as is its Constitutional mandate and requirement.

Weekends are good for developing this kind of perspective. I wonder if there has been a study of the role of weekends as pauses in historical crises?

A couple of good quotes from the sudden torrents of writing on this bailout:

Dan Froomkin is at his usual sharpness:

"Does President Bush's support for a radical financial bailout represent a reversal in his political ideology? Not likely....

... the plan concocted by two Bush appointees features some distinctive characteristics of major Bush initiatives past: It would be spectacularly expensive, primarily benefit the very rich, and grant the executive branch unlimited power with no transparency or accountability. "


Of all people, Newt Gingrich is making sense in his strident opposition to the bailout. I know he sens…
"We have no choice"

I've been hearing that a lot this weekend, from basically everybody I talk to and from the bulk of the writing out there. Too bad it is wrong. There is always a choice, we seem to be choosing one particular approach. But there are other choices.

One thing that struck me is Paulson's claim that even though he is asking for unrestricted access to $700 billion, it is likely it won't cost that much. Grab for your wallet.

Remember the last time the Bush administration told us that their policy would not cost much and could be pulled off effectively? Even Rolling Stone knows this one:

"
When America invaded Iraq in 2003, the Bush administration predicted that the war would turn a profit, paying for itself with increased oil revenues. So far, though, Congress has spent more than $350 billion on the conflict, including the $50 billion appropriated for 2007.

But according to one of the world's leading economists, that is just a fraction of wh…
This is an astounding statement from Paulson, made even more ludicrous by the fact that he has no clue what the American people care about since they have never been asked (and won't be asked in the future for anything but their checkbooks, thanks):

"Mr. Paulson, appearing on four Sunday news programs as the administration seeks to calm markets and reassure ordinary Americans, said that the $700 billion could be used to help not just American financial institutions but also, in a shift from the original proposal, financial institutions not based in the United States.

“The American people don’t care who owns the financial institution,” he told ABC’s “This Week.” “If the financial institution in this country has problems, it’ll have the same impact whether it’s U.S.- or foreign-owned.” The United States is also working with foreign governments to take actions of their own."

This means, friends, that the bailout funds will be appropriated and our wealth can thereafter be freel…
Here Sebastian Mallaby weighs in with some pointed and excellent comments and some alternatives:

"With truly extraordinary speed, opinion has swung behind the radical idea that the government should commit hundreds of billions in taxpayer money to purchasing dud loans from banks that aren't actually insolvent. As recently as a week ago, no public official had even mentioned this option. Now the Treasury, the Fed and congressional leaders are promising its enactment within days. The scheme has gone from invisibility to inevitability in the blink of an eye. This is extremely dangerous. "
...
Raghuram Rajan and Luigi Zingales of the University of Chicago suggest ways to force the banks to raise capital without tapping the taxpayers. First, the government should tell banks to cancel all dividend payments. Banks don't do that on their own because it would signal weakness; if everyone knows the dividend has been canceled because of a government rule, the signaling issue would…
The major storyline seems to be emerging that this historical moment of crisis in financial markets demands unprecedented and quick action--with no time for lawmakers to think or to consider other options. It is worth considering that the Constitution is not wired for speed by design. Rapid decision making and democratic governance are not generally the same thing. Add in the fact that this is being driven by two wholly unelected technocrats acting as agents for a lawless presidential regime, and the problems for rule by the people are clear.

Furthermore, the speed and scale of the bailout are reminiscent of the PATRIOT act passage, wherein most Congress members never read the bill. Only this time the Bush administration is asking for the cost of the failed, unnecessary, and horrifically overbudget Iraq War in a single lump sum, to be showered on financial institutions which have proven themselves to be untrustworthy and incompetently run. There does not seem to be a call for pu…
Just before I left for Korea last year I had a little bit of money to park in a cd. I was looking for a completely stable investment that would earn some interest while I was away.

I consulted a brokerage firm, which tired mightily to push me to invest in something with the greater promise of a return, though no FDIC insurance. When I mentioned that I was worried about that and preferred an insured investment, the stooge at the investment firm said something like "the day you have to worry about FDIC is a day you'll have much bigger worries."

Now it is clear that such a day where the unthinkable happens in the market has arrived. Turns out we do have these worries. However, the Federal government has virtually no hesitation to change all of the "free market" rules it had touted at a moment's notice, all to rescue irresponsible banks and investors of all stripes from bad choices made out of delusion, criminality, greed, or just plain old interest in makin…
This is a great Harold Meyerson column with a clear understanding of the economic tectonic shift we have been living through:

"During the late, lamented Wall Street boom, America's leading investment institutions were plenty bullish on China's economy, on exotic financial devices built atop millions of bad loans, and, above all -- judging by the unprecedented amount of wealth they showered on the Street -- on themselves. The last thing our financial community was bullish on was America -- that is, the America where the vast majority of Americans live and work.

Over the past eight years, the U.S. economy has created just 5 million new jobs, a number that is falling daily. The median income of American households has declined. Airports, bridges and roads are decaying. Rural wind-power facilities cannot light cities because our electrical grid has not been expanded. New Orleans has not been rebuilt. And as productive activity within the United States has ceased to be the prime…
Do as we said, not as we do

The speed with which the free market fundamentalists in Washington have changed their tune to begin nationalizing banks and insurance companies is quite fascinating.

This article details how that reversal is playing abroad, particulrly in countries where neoliberalism had been applied with a stern hand, such as South Korea:

" When the I.M.F. pledged $20 billion to help South Korea survive the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s, one of the conditions it imposed was that the Korean government allow ailing banks and other companies to collapse rather than bail them out, recalled Yung Chul Park, a professor of economics at Korea University in Seoul, who was deeply involved in the negotiations with the I.M.F.

While Mr. Park says the current crisis is different — it is global rather than limited to one region — “Washington is following a different script this time.”

“I understand why they do it,” he added. “But they’ve lost credibility to some extent in p…
I am also reading Obama's site, I must say that his announced positions are quite a bit more specifically laid out than McCain's. There may be no fewer platitudes when all is said and done, but there is definitely more data. The design is better too, but you would expect that.

Obama's site also has the issues pull down list in alphabetical order. You are likely thinking, well of course, this seems kind of logical. Even "eloquent," to use McCain's code word. Yes, it is true, Obama's webpage is eloquent. He has deployed basic grammar and other high falutin' stuff.

McCain issues skirt this fancy-panted alphabetizing and his pull down menu is instead ordered, I am guessing wildly, by signficance.

I wonder if this importance changes. Did "Economic Plan" go up a few notches (to the #2 slot) when it turns out that the poorly regulated but most significant banks in the United States were essentially playing dice? Why is "Government Refor…
I have been reading McCain's webpage for a talk I am giving and was interested to come across this ode to truth. Given his recent predilection to speak with forked tongue it stood out:


"John McCain believes it is essential to be honest with the American people about the opportunities and risks that lie ahead. The American people deserve the truth from their leaders. They deserve a candid assessment of the progress made in the last year, of the serious difficulties that remain, and of the grave consequences of a reckless and irresponsible withdrawal.

Many Americans have given their lives so that America does not suffer the worst consequences of failure in Iraq. Doing the right thing in the heat of a political campaign is not always easy. But it is necessary."
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A friend of mine sent me this link to the first picture taken of a machete, the Portuguese instrument which is the forerunner to the ukulele. (I didn't know that either, but poke around a bit (maybe here or here or here) and it does seem true)

This means that my daughter plays a machete, even if it looks like a pink ukulele.*

the picture:



What makes this picture especially interesting is that the girl on the left is Alice Liddell, the model for Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.

What makes viewing Alice in Wonderland holding a machete especially interesting today of all days is that we have seemed to have stepped through the mirror in terms of our financial future in the US. But that is another story.






*and by "play the ukulele" at this tender age I mean she can hold onto it and chase the dog with it, wave it around and scream, and hit it against the floor while grinning wildly. All part of the process.
This article is a nice accounting of the bipartisan interest in maintaining the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac shenanigans for so long. Though this one show clearly that the Republican party has historically provided much worse economic returns when in office: Politicians Lie, Numbers Don't.
My freshman seminar is reading about place and we'll be discussing Marc Augé tomorrow, along with some others. I thought they would be interested in some of this interview:

"There are many words that one uses because one is not sure of the concepts, and I do not claim to be exempt from this particular danger (laughs). What I disliked about the word “postmodern” was the sense of decadence, of a rupture with a lost ideality. If I spoke of supermodernity [surmodernité], it was in order to indicate that it is a question not only of disjunction, but also of continuity. I was thinking above all about the term “overdetermination” in Freud and in Althusser that describes a situation that is too complex to allow for only one interpretation. The principal factors of this increasing complexity can be distinguished in three excesses. First of all, there is an excess of temporality that translates into an overabundance of events: the acceleration of historical stages is amplified by the i…
Living through collapsing financial markets, and having heard the continual claims that this is the end of the tunnel, bottom of the barrel, darkest-hour-just-before-the dawn, can be an interesting experience, if only because of the historical perspective one can get.

The president is thinking historically, for instance:

“I know Americans are concerned about the adjustments that are taking place in our financial markets,” Mr. Bush said at a ceremony to welcome the president of Ghana.

He added: “In the short run, adjustments in the financial markets can be painful — both for the people concerned about their investments, and for the employees of the affected firms. In the long run, I’m confident that our capital markets are flexible and resilient, and can deal with these adjustments.”"

The only question is--which long run are we talking about? In the long run between 1928-1940, to pick but one example, there was that significant short run of 1929-1939.

The acute financial pain this is…
Today was Chuseok and we didn't locate any great Korean food though we were compelled to get some as I noted before. We've been making a lot of Korean food since getting home anyway so it was ok the restaurants were closed. We did get the makings for kimchi at least, as well as some impassioned and somewhat bemused advice for making it.

The recently opened Korean supermarket near us was actually open, to my surprise. Everyone working there seemed resigned to having their Chuseok ruined by work.

(This being America, where everybody has to work... unless they run the nation's largest banks, where apparently they play computer solitaire all day or make origami cranes or some other task while the banks run amok and hurry towards oblivion and failure)

One woman working in the food counter in the back of the store said resignedly, "oh, it is the same as it is every day--work." She didn't cheer up when we bought some gimbop from her.

This was gimbop in the regul…
I wasn't a huge fan of his work, but I am really shocked that David Foster Wallace is dead of suicide. From what of his I've read he never struck as directed in that way (unlike many others I can think of) and not least because of his self-referential approach. Suicide is so modern, isn't it? Or pre-post-modern? So it really is a puzzle to me. But I definitely don't have singular understanding of his books. It certainly means a rereading of his books could be in order

though I am looking at Infinite Jest on the shelf right now and reconsidering.
Speaking of excessive and illegal secrecy on the part of Dick Cheney, it turns out that could-be Cheney replacement Sarah Palin practiced the politics of corruption, deceipt, and secrecy herself in Alaska government:

"Throughout her political career, she has pursued vendettas, fired officials who crossed her and sometimes blurred the line between government and personal grievance, according to a review of public records and interviews with 60 Republican and Democratic legislators and local officials...."

Palin, it is clear, will not deviate from the Bush-Cheney line of abusing government power and sidestepping public scrutiny.

One of the most appalling aspects of this technique of corrupt governance is attempting to hide communication from the public. Remember the mysteriously missing White House emails, the RNC email accounts used to shield illegal activity in the Bush administration, and Cheney's absurd fiction that his office is not in the executive branch? Palin ce…
A lot of the background of the Bush/Cheney illegal, warrantless domestic spying program has been reported before, now there is a new book that tells the story with some additional detail (and quite a bit of dramatic writing) that is excerpted in the Washington Post.

"The staging had been arranged for maximum impact. Cheney sat at the head of Card's rectangular table, pivoting left to face the acting attorney general. The two men were close enough to touch. Card sat grimly at Cheney's right, directly across from Comey. There was plenty of eye contact all around.

This program, Cheney said, was vital. Turning it off would leave us blind. Hayden, the NSA chief, pitched in: Even if the program had yet to produce blockbuster results, it was the only real hope of discovering sleeper agents before they could act.

"How can you possibly be reversing course on something of this importance after all this time?" Cheney asked [19].

Comey held his ground. The program had to oper…
Look over there on the right of your screen (now you have to scroll to the top), you'll see a little box from ilovemountains.org that you can use to find out if your electricity comes from coal mined using mountaintop removal. This is a technique of totally annihilating mountains to get to the coal, as written about here before.

"ilovemountains.org" is one of the many important organizations fighting against mountaintop removal mining. It is not an easy fight, especially as most people pay no attention whatsoever where their electricity comes from (unlike oil) as long as it is there. People are horrified, outraged, and focused on the enormous social, environmental, and, of course, economic costs of pumping oil out of the Middle East, but few outside of the region bother to be concerned about the total and permanent devastation of the Appalachian landscape. Yet our electricity comes from it. You'll be surprised to see how much of your electricity comes from it as we…
This is intense language about Ike, it will be interesting to see if it pans out to be this huge and damaging, and what the political fallout might be.

"Officials said the initial flooding was only a preview of worse things to come, and one hurricane expert, Dr. Jeff Masters, warned that the storm “stands poised to become one of the most damaging hurricanes of all time” because of its vast size."

This is wild:

The winds at the center of the hurricane were on the low end for such a storm — about 105 miles per hour — but the storm measured more than 500 miles across and was causing 50-foot waves as it swept over shallow Gulf waters."

You might not be thinking of the annihilation of Galveston back in 1900, but that story was pretty incredible. I read the Courier-Journal and several other papers throughout that storm during my Watterson research and the shocked media coverage was really interesting since the storm essentially came out of nowhere by current standards.
It is a bit of nice timing that we had decided to definitely eat Korean food this weekend since we have a hankering for it and only then we realized that it was Chuseok weekend.

Too bad we can't get the good stuff here, but we are on a weekend mission for some jjukkumi if at all possible...
I just ran across this, and anyone in NYC should definitely go see this show, sure to be great. The singer performed in a film I wrote about on Nunal a while back, it is a really powerful and quite great pansori film called Seopyeonje. I haven't been able to find it here,. but now at least there is a chance to hear the music live:

The 14th Annual Concert, “Tuning into the Folk”

KTPAA, The Korean Traditional Performing Arts Association, is proud to present its 14th annual performance showcase featuring the renowned pansori singer and international award-winning actress, Oh Jung-Hae, who was the star of the popular film, Seopyeonje, the first movie about pansori and its importance in Korean culture. She will perform with Heo Yoon-Jeong, celebrated composer and geomungo player. The concert will also feature the "Sounds of Korea" which will present a spectacular array of songs and dances. Leading this ensemble will be Sue Yeon Park, President of KTPAA and a recipient of a Na…
Come visit beautiful Virginia Beach:



Beach police seek three men in shooting at apartments

Three men stormed into an apartment, robbed several people and sexually assaulted two women before shooting a teenage witness and escaping Wednesday night, police said.

When officers converged on Pembroke Lake Apartments, in the 4700 block of Windermere Court, at 10:55 p.m., they found the wounded male as well as people who reported having been assaulted and robbed during the home invasion, police spokeswoman Margie Long said Thursday.

Police said the three men were armed with a handgun, rifle and shotgun and demanded money, cell phones and other items.

During the robbery, the intruder s punched one man in the face and raped the two women. A teenager who arrived during the incident tried to run away, but he was shot outside the building by at least one of the men.
"The March of the Mind"

9-11 should be recognized for the singular event it was, and marked and remembered and commemorated as such.

My school chose to commemorate 9-11 with a service in the chapel (this is a Methodist school) and reflections on the deaths of innocent people over time. Bizarrely, this included remembrances of 9-11, Pearl Harbor, the Holocaust, and Darfur, and a reading of the Gettysburg Address. Huh? Which of these things is not like the other?

My history students discussed this today (one of them had gone). They seemed especially struck by the oddity of juxtaposing these unrelated events and by the absence of relevant events, like the bombing of the USS COLE, for example, or the bombing in Oklahoma City. Doesn't it render all of these events incoherent to mush them together into one "remembrance"? Isn't it not just possible but necessary to draw distinctions between unique historical events, especially when some have happened here in …
9/11 is inevitably a day of reflection. The task gets more difficult each year as the searing character of the day fades irrevocably and the astonishing and multiple failures of the political, military, and cultural response to the attacks on 9/11 continue to mount. As an individual and as an American I have a bundle of complex responses to the meaning of the day that I am still not fully capable of explaining and won't try here. As a historian, my understanding of the significance of the day continues to evolve. One thing I don't find useful or necessary personally is to plan, create, or attend memorial services, but I don't begrudge others who do.

I have found Andrew Bacevich's reflection to be interesting, as his stuff generally has been.

Last night, Alaska's Fiddling Poet Ken Waldman came to the VWC campus and played. I played some banjo tunes and one fiddle tune with him during his reading, which was fun. One way to mark Sept. 11 may be to read his series …
I was surprised to learn that most of the students in my "History of Virginia" class think that public humiliation would be a preferable punishment to having to pay a fine of a large amount of tobacco.

We were disucssing the punishment for fornication in Norfolk courts in 1641 (you can read the document here via google books). Said punishment for fornication was to stand on a stool in the middle of the church, during the sermon, on a box wearing a white suit and holding a white rod. It was essentially the punishment meted out at Abu Ghraib, though the color scheme was different.

Somehow my students (except two) found it much worse to have to pay a fine than to be put through this public humilation. A clear sign of the importance (or non-importance) of public ridcule among them perhaps and the relative weight of shame in contemporary youth culture. The reality tv shows have done their work.

Good thing fornication no longer occurs in Virginia since it was forever stamped o…
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I spent the weekend at an old time music festival in Buena Vista, Virginia called Rockbridge. It is one of the last festivals of the year and is always a favorite of mine . Like most of these festivals, it consists of people getting together to play old time music all night, so it is hard to beat. This one has some square dances as well, which are always fun. I saw a bunch of friends, got a lot of playing in, and generally had a good time.

The festival takes place at a park on the Maury River, with some mountains marching along. The Appalachian Trail passes very close to Buena Vista, as does the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The park is some kind of old plantation, with an impressive house on the top of the hill which is being restored.


The camping area spreads over a large flat area. I didn't take too many pictures, but here is a view of the campsites from afar.



Right next to Buena Vista is Lexington, where the Virginia Military Institute and Washington and Lee are located. On the W&…
If you like maps as I do (and even if you aren't a political junkie) I'm confident you'll find this collection of interactive electoral maps from 1840-2008 worth a look: Voting America, from the University of Richmond. They show how voting has changed by county since that time. The "cinematic maps" feature is the most accessible and probably also the coolest feature.

For those of you paying attention, you know that the new UR president is Ed Ayers, who himself is a technological pioneer among American historians. This is surely up his alley.