Website Wednesday: Library of Babel

Website Wednesday is a (mostly) weekly feature in which we highlight one (or a couple) of sites from the Billions floating around the Intertoobz that just might help you with your Herculean task of educating inquiring minds. Any and all suggestions for future editions are welcome.

I love Jorge Luis Borges’ short story, “The Library of Babel” as much for what it is as for the literature it has inspired–especially Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose–but because every time I read a book with a library in it–from Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore or The Strange Library to Carlos Luis Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind (which I didn’t even like that much) to children’s literature like Lissa Evans’ Horton’s Miraculous Mechanisms–I can’t help but think about it again. And there’s so much to think about!

Anyway, you can imagine my delight when I encountered this article about a Brooklyn author who has created a virtual Library of Babel. And then, I found this explanation by the creator himself of his project and motivations.

And then I went to the Library of Babel, itself.

I browsed around a bit, and then decided it would be more fun to search. What did I search for? This: “When others paint a biased and incomplete portrait of all of our contributions, it is critical to state the facts clearly so that everyone at CCC and all of Chicago can continue to rightfully take pride in the great endeavor in which we are involved” and there it was on page 56 of Pkjyfjzj.pbfen Qdbxcp located in 137y3o6u9dvns
xb8l7n393oqcbc2i6djh1nu2ys…-w1-s4-v02

Though, to be honest, that’s only one location. According to the search engine there are approximately 10 to the 29th power other matches, too. Kind of a goofy way to spend time, but it beats stewing, I guess, and it definitely beats grading midterms. At least for a little while. And if it doesn’t, then go find some Borges (or something) to read…

Collegial Consent for Spirit Lifting Only

Michael Heathfield, the one and only Michael Heathfield, sent  the following to me with a request to post it in order to gather input from anyone willing to offer some, and I am only too happy to, belatedly, oblige in the hopes of seeing a good old-fashioned, English style cod-walloping gobsmack of a rant with a bunch of words I’ve never seen in that particular order (or at all)! And so, here you go. Help the man out:

My birthday has passed and my delusion that I was going to gracefully glide towards retirement has gone. I have a stack of grading at my side, some of the best students ever, a poor old dog who will not be with us much longer, and a fast approaching publisher deadline. I have long subscribed to the belief that humor in the face of adversity is a much-needed skill. So I am going to practice it…

My survival strategy (meaning avoidance) is to ask my unbelievably stellar HWC compadres which distracting activity would lift our communal spirits more? I have the urge to write a small piece for the Harold Lounge but I am not sure quite where to start or where to go. Those of you who know me will understand this is why I don’t drive.

I have a tempting palate of posting possibilities but have been told by colleagues, too many times, to cut the words and focus. So I want to enlist your support and guidance as to which one should actually exist (cue catalogue floating out of view). Dave is brilliant at handling the technology of electronic voting, so I trust he can help in this respect. Here are my imaginary posting headlines as I seek democratic community consent as to which one should exist in our realities:

I invented seven to symbolically represent the individually accredited institutions that make up our system and then added one for District. I never said I wasn’t clever! Molly Turner will no doubt explore with me my overuse of the exclamation mark when I try to slip into journalistic mode!

Please join me in my spiritually uplifting task and take a little time to vote. Let’s hope we can have a turnout over 35%! I promise to get Dave to post the winning article before the end of the year when, regardless of the consequences, a Mexican margarita has my name on it. Again. Again.

Mike Heathfield

New CCC Web Sites: Check ‘Em

I was poking around the other day, putting off some mid-term grading, and I happened across the Web site for The Herald, our college’s student run-newspaper, and I was startled by the look of it. It was not what I remembered. I wondered if I was misremembering or if it had in fact changed. A few days later I ran into someone who would know who told me that it was new (this semester), and entirely designed by HWC student, Jonathan Post.

“How about that?”, I said. “It looks great.” Exciting stuff–check it out.

Then, still procrastinating, I wandered over to the Truman Lounge, and saw that they have a new blog just for their (new) Center for Teaching and Learning, run by Franklin Reynolds, and it looks like they’re going to populate it with teaching resources. It’s worth looking at, too, if you haven’t seen it. Click HERE to do just that.

Oh, and in case you missed it, Wednesday featured a flurry of new posts on the Reinvention Blog. Check them out, too.

The Provost must be busy, though…almost a month since “this week’s topic” was posted…I’m not saying, I’m just saying is all…

Math and Estimation

Apropos of nothing (other than a vague sense that a lot of people are doing a lot of estimating this week–students estimating their grades, teachers estimating student grades, Richardson estimating how long he can put off reading stuff he doesn’t want to grade before getting in trouble with either the students or his family, etc.), I came across this article on (one of) the nation’s foremost expert in estimation.

Talk about a great party trick…

Oh, and just in case you missed it, the New York Times awesome Math Series, which I’ve highlighted before, is still going and they had one on probability theory last week that was pretty phenomenal (and included some information on estimation). You can check it out here. Or thereabouts.

Put Off That Grading–Make Music!

This is amazingly cool.

In “Piano Etudes” (2009), I use technology to make the open score accessible not only to performers but also to audiences, inviting everyone to experience and participate in the work’s creative process. I notated these four short piano pieces as sets of musical fragments connected by arrows. The structure is reminiscent of a choose-your-own-adventure novel, of a flow chart, or of the hyperlinked structure of the Internet. Each version of the piece simply follows the arrows to create a unique path through the score. There are an almost infinite number of possible versions.

I also developed an interactive Web site in collaboration with Akito Van Troyer. On the site, anyone can create a remix regardless of musical experience: the notation is graphical and you can hear your version as you build it. You can share your versions on social networks or on the site’s gallery, download them as audio files, and print them out as musical scores for live performance by a pianist.

Here is the author’s Web site where you can make your own music. The grading can wait! Make some music, people!