Saturday, May 31, 2008

Billboard Cameras

Image from NY Times

I read this article in the NY Times today, and was alarmed to read that cameras are now on the streets, recording what you and I are looking at. I have no problem with cameras being in private establishments where owners record the movements of the people entering their private space. I have no problem with law enforcement recording the movements of people in public spaces. My problem with this, is that a private company is being permitted to watch, and possibly record, data about people in public space. I am not a fear mongering Big Brother believer, there's just something frightening about a camera being set up to watch everyone. Especially when that camera is not regulated by the strict parameters of the members of law enforcement. Right now, it's just used to record the number and types of people who look at billboards, and that seems inocuous enough. What happens when someone was shot in front of that billboard? Do we call the police? But what happens when a mother grabs her daughter's ear in front of that camera? Do we call Child Services?

I don't know, I'm just not easy knowing that If I walk by a billboard, someone's camera is spying me out saying "I see you." If I ever see one of these billboards, I'm putting a sticker over the camera.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Getting Ready for Chicago!

So, for those of you who keep checking back here every day hoping to see pictures of Norah, I apologize for leaving the palm leaf manuscript up so long. We've just been ultra busy with closing the building and getting ready for the big move.

We leave on June 7th for Chicago, and we're a freakish mix of elated and anxiously horrified all at once. It's tough. I keep waking up at 2 or 3 in the morning with a pit in my stomach thinking "What are we doing? We don't have jobs, we don't have money, we can't afford to do this! WHY ARE WE DOING THIS?!" Then I lay awake for an hour, and resign myself to not sleeping the rest of the night. So, I go in the next room and watch forensics shows and wonder when Rachel will be taking out a life insurance policy for me.

I can't wait to start studying, (in fact, I'm currently plodding my way through Durkheim's Elementary Forms of Religious Life to prepare myself a bit for UChicago) but I'm nervous all the same. But let's be honest, you're here to see pictures of Norah, and boy do we have some good ones. As usual, I've posted them to Flickr, but I'll throw the best pictures up here. Go to Norah's Flickr album to see the rest.

As I'm sure you'll see, Norah has suddenly started noticing things and being excited way more. She lights up when Rachel or I walk into the room, and is just so much more emotive. It's really fun to watch her and she's waaay more entertaining now that she seems to know what things are and how to reach for them. Anyway, here are the pictures:

Norah and her WJU college buddies at the Senior Reception a few weeks ago.

We found a Rhododendron on a walk and Norah loved it in her ear. She kept it there for most of the walk. (I can't believe she tolerates that stuff.)

And finally, the cutest freaking costume EVER!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Tamil Palm Leaf Manuscript

I have an old RA / Friend who is from Chennai State in India. He is a really great guy, and I enjoy catching up with him when I get time. (He keeps offering for us to come to his parents house in India for a visit. I very much hope to take him up on that sometime later in life.)

During one of our more recent catch-ups, we got to talking about Tamil, the language his family speaks in India. He showed me some of the Tamil characters, and I was blown away. The alphabet is just about the coolest looking alphabet I've ever seen. It's all a bunch of curly cues, and dots and coils. I was so interested by the letters he was writing for me that I went and did some research on it. It turns out, the alphabet was largely influenced by the fact that it was written on palm leaves. The scribes during the time would carve the letters into a palm leaf, and then rub the whole leaf with charcoal. The charcoal would collect in the areas where they had carved the letters, and when the rubbed away the excess charcoal, the characters would stand out on the leaf.

The printing press arrived in India in the 19th century, so they stopped writing their manuscripts on palm leaves right around then, but the alphabet remains much the same as it was. Meaning that Tamil is still the coolest looking alphabet I've ever seen.

I found a few images of the characters in the alphabet, and I was going to write about it and post those pictures, but time got the best of me.

Fast-forward to a few days ago. I saw Lionel on campus and invited him to a little cookout picnic I was hosting for our current RA staff. He couldn't come, but said that he was going to come by later to give me something. Sure enough, we got back from the cookout and Lionel showed up with a small plastic sleeve with some weird looking thing inside of it. He handed me the sleeve, and out slid an original Tamil Palm Leaf Manuscript. I couldn't believe it. This thing has to be at least 200 years old, and I'm holding it in my hand. 42 pages of palm leaves straight up full of the coolest looking characters I've ever seen.

I have no idea what it says, and Lionel said that he can't read it. He is able to read contemporary Tamil, but the characters on these leaves are different from the contemporary Tamil characters, so he isn't able to read it. I'm eager to find out what this manuscript is and hopefully some of the people at U Chicago will be able to help me when I get there. Until then, and since I don't imagine any of my Blog readers are able to read 200 year old Tamil, I figured I'd just throw up some pictures of the leaves. You can go here to see all the pictures I took of the manuscript if you're interested.

Here is the manuscript in the sleeve, as Lionel gave it to me.

I believe this is the front of the manuscript, out of the sleeve.

Here is a close-up of the characters on the front of the manuscript.

Here is a picture of the reverse side of the third leaf. Almost every page of the manuscript looks like this, chalk full of characters.

And here you can see the manuscript is not quite finished. The letters here have not yet been filled with the charcoal... I wonder if the manuscript is complete.