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December 2005 Archives

December 2, 2005

Playing it safe

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“Safety is a responsibility shared by everyone,” emphasizes a University safety awareness manual. In an environment where dangerous chemicals are handled on a daily basis, who cautions researchers and cleans up hazardous spills? Who gauges radiation safety and conducts on-campus food inspections? Who makes sure employees don’t get carpal tunnel syndrome?

Meet the University’s Office of Safety and Environmental Affairs. Headed by director Steven Beaudoin, the office coordinates all campus emergency plans, supervises inspections, monitors industrial hygiene, and, through its workspace-assessment program, keeps individuals’ desks ergonomically sound. New nonacademic University staff members attend the office’s mandatory training class—a 40-minute session—where they learn about critical safety tips: for instance, the difference between a Class A fire that involves “ordinary combustibles,” such as paper or cloth, and a Class K fire—an emergency with kitchen cooking oils. (The former is fought with a pressurized-water or dry-chemical extinguisher, while the latter responds only to a wet-chemical device). The course also covers emergency events, which range from Category 1 (“affects only one department or division”) to Category 3 catastrophes like tornadoes and acts of war. Fortunately, noted Beaudoin at a training session earlier this year, those are rare. To date, the University has had only one forced shutdown of its operations—during the massive Chicago blizzard of 1979


Photos: University safety training manual (top). The safety office encourages employees to protect against computer eyestrain (bottom).

December 5, 2005

On the map

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Call it the power of the Internet. In 1949 the University of California, Berkeley, bought the Mitsui family’s library, an extensive private collection of more than 100,000 items, including about 2,300 historical Japanese maps from the 17th through 20th centuries. In the half-century that these maps have lived at Berkeley’s East Asian Library, said Yuki Ishimatsu, head of the library’s Japanese Collections, in a campus lecture this past Friday, only seven people have physically viewed and handled them. But thousands have seen the maps online free of charge, thanks to the library’s digitization project. With help from David Rumsey Map Collection Cartography Associates, the library has scanned and put online some 900 of the maps so far. When the New York Times reported on the project in 2003, the Web site received more than 40,000 hits in three days.

Ishimatsu guided the audience through the Web site, demonstrating its functions and showing numerous examples of the four categories of maps: screen, scroll, city, and travel. Users can add notes and links to maps; save them to a file; and open up multiple maps simultaneously, comparing them side-by-side or superimposing one onto the other. By zooming in on the same spot in four different maps, a visitor can see how a given site has changed over the years. Within the next two or three months, users will be able to take advantage of a new feature: placing Japanese historical maps over Google Earth images.

As a librarian, Ishimatsu said, he sees it as his duty to provide scholars with interesting content. Librarians are like fishermen, he said, while scholars and researchers are like chefs, cooking the fish they find at the market for their colleagues and students. He hopes the Web site will both help academics by making these rare materials more readily accessible and increase general interest in Berkeley’s maps. “We’re very proud that this is open to the public,” Ishimatsu said. Perhaps that is why, though “many people have told me we should charge for this service,” the library continues to provide the images gratis, for anyone with an Internet connection.

Hana Yoo, ’07

Photo: 1877 pocket map (top). 1864 pocket map (bottom).

December 7, 2005

Songs in the key of Advent


“It’s like the craziest dessert bar you’ve ever experienced,” the University’s director of choral activities, James Kallembach, told the black-clad Rockefeller Chapel Choir and Motet Choir singers standing before him this past Sunday. “It’s all the fanciest desserts.” “No pudding,” interjected a choir member. Kallembach was referring to what the group had just finished rehearsing: the program for Advent Vespers, an annual worship service and concert held at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. The final run-through concluded, the singers scattered for a half-hour break before the event’s 5 p.m. start.

The candlelit evening’s selections included Benjamin Britten’s Hymn to the Virgin, Carl Rutti’s O Magnum Mysterium, and, in its U.S. premiere, Eric Robertson’s Un Instant Mystique. At different points in the performance, music rang out from the chancel, the chapel’s side and rear balconies, and the center aisle. Organist Thomas Weisflog both accompanied the choirs and played several pieces solo, including a dramatic postlude by Marcel Dupre. Flute, cello, glockenspiel, and percussion also accompanied the singers. Following the musical sustenance, attendees flocked to the narthex (chapel-speak for vestibule) for doughnuts and hot cider.

Hana Yoo, ’07

Photo: The crowd takes in the Advent Vespers program.

December 9, 2005

What's ahead for 2006

“Next year I expect that growth will be a little bit slower in the United States and marginally slower in the rest of the world.” That was the 2006 economic word from Michael Mussa, AM’70, PhD’74, at Wednesday’s Business Forecast Lunch. “Some of you will say that’s a pretty boring forecast,” Mussa, a senior fellow at the Institute for International Economics, admitted to the audience of GSB alumni and other Chicago business leaders. “But in economics, boring is good.”

Since the Graduate School of Business began the forecasts in 1954, the annual event has expanded far beyond Chicago. By the end of February, ten prognosticators will have shared their best guesses with alumni in 13 cities, including Brussels, Hong Kong, and London.

Joining Mussa at the leadoff event (and doing a reprise the next day in New York) were GSB professor of economics Randall Kroszner and GSB professor emeritus of business administration Marvin Zonis. Kroszner, who served on President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers from 2001 to 2003, batted .500 on his 2005 forecast. He came in on the money on trade balance (absolute value) and real government spending but overestimated real business investment—instead of the 9.5 percent growth he predicted, 2005 actuals are at 5.6 percent. Like Mussa, Kroszner sees more of the same for 2006, including a continuing “disconnect” between economic performance and public perception: “Despite the terrible tragedies of Katrina and Rita in August and September,” he pointed out, “the GDP data released last week show that the economy grew at 4.3 percent during the third quarter. No major industrialized economy in the world has had such strong growth over the last couple of years.”

Zonis, a principal of Marvin Zonis + Associates, political risk consultants, offered rapid-fire assessments of global hot spots and bright spots. On the upside, he said, “a new dynamic is beginning to spread in the Middle East, driven largely by Muslim revulsion at the violence perpetrated by the terrorists against other Muslims.” On the downside, “President Bush thoroughly misunderstands the nature of the Iraqi conflict.” Rather than continuing to see Iraq as “the central front in the global war on terror,” Zonis said, Bush should look “in Pakistan and Afghanistan—home to terrorist leaders—and to Western Europe—where terrorists are generated.”


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The first of the GSB's Business Forecast Luncheons, held in Chicago on Wednesday, filled a Hyatt Regency ballroom; Michael Mussa, AM'70, PhD'74, punctuated a prediction; GSB dean Ted Snyder moderated the panel of prognosticators (from left: Marvin Zonis, Mussa, and Randall Kroszner).

Photos by Dan Dry

December 11, 2005

Anything goes

Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House debuted in 1879 amid scandal and controversy, shunned by many for its bleak view of the roles that Victorian marriage forced women to play. What was once shocking is now old hat, but in Mabou Mines Dollhouse, director Lee Breuer gives contemporary audiences something fresh to talk about with his avant-garde staging of Ibsen’s melodramatic morality play.

Most immediately striking about the Mabou Mines production, which premiered in New York in 2003 and is still evolving on tour, is how it plays with scale, turning Ibsen’s metaphor of marriage as dollhouse into a literal setting. As Nora, the play’s heroine, actress Maude Mitchell is dolled up in a blue-and-white costume (her daughter and her daughter’s doll appear in miniature versions of the same dress) and a china-doll face. Her voice—Lucille Ball doing a Norwegian accent—is as squeaky and mannered as a talking doll’s, and her movements are equally akimbo. At almost six feet, Nora is a long drink of water, as are the other females in the play. In contrast, Breuer has cast small actors—ranging in height from 3’4” to 4’5"—in the men’s roles, and the women must bend, crawl, and kneel to descend to the childlike level their menfolk expect.

Although many lines are played for laughs that most directors of Ibsen would work hard to avoid, the sight gags and bawdy humor don’t make the evening’s truly operatic ending any less tragic—or shocking—than it was back in Ibsen’s day.

A coproduction of Court Theatre and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Mabou Mines Dollhouse runs through Sunday, December 18, at the Museum of Contemporary Art.


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Ibsen meets Mabou Mines (left to right): Actors 1. Honora Ferguson, Maude Mitchell, Mark Povinelli, and Ricardo Gil get cut down to size; the Helmers (Maude Mitchell as Nora and Mark Povinelli as Torvald) share a marital tête-à-tête—and wax operatic before an audience of dolls.

Photos by Richard Termine.

December 14, 2005

Let’s talk cosmology


It didn’t take long for moderator Ira Flatow, host of National Public Radio’s Talk of the Nation: Science Friday program, to set aside his prepared questions for the four renowned scientists seated on the Millennium Park Harris Theater stage. Audience members—who almost filled the 1,525 seats at the free public panel sponsored by the University’s Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics, the Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum, and the Illinois Humanities Council—had lined up six and seven deep at two microphones with their own queries.

These folks had done their reading. “Are dark matter and antimatter the same thing?” one questioner began. “And does the existence of dark matter put in question the big bang theory?” In fact, answered Harvard physicist Lisa Randall, the two are different concepts. While antimatter can “annihilate matter,” dark matter is “dark” because it doesn’t interact electromagnetically, or with photons. It does, however, interact with gravity. As for the big bang, dark matter is actually consistent with the theory.

When Flatow said he’d like to move on to extra dimensions, a corner of the crowd shouted that there was another audience question. The moderator could be forgiven for overlooking the asker, an elementary schooler who couldn’t reach the microphone without his father releasing it from its stand. “Is matter energy?” the boy asked. “And that tiny spark that started the big bang—how were matter and energy formed?” Chicago cosmologist Rocky Kolb joked to the child: “We’re hiring graduate students.” To answer his first question, Randall offered, “Matter is a form of energy in a sense.” Responding to his other query, she said, “We wish we knew that, but we don’t.” Flatow followed up with, “And what came before the big bang?” Case Western physicist Lawrence Krauss noted that Stephen Hawking would argue that “isn’t a good question.” If time arose only after the big bang, then what came before it doesn’t matter. Randall added, “It’s somewhat analogous to asking, What’s north of the north pole?”


Photo: The discussion over, Flatow thanks the panelists: Wendy Freedman, Lawrence Krauss, Rocky Kolb, and Lisa Randall.

December 16, 2005

No U of C Apprentice


With a broken ankle for much of the 13-week interview that comprises The Apprentice, Chicago-based business journalist Rebecca Jarvis, AB’03, earned her fellow candidates’ respect and proved qualified and experienced beyond most 23-year-olds’ ability. Yet on last night’s finale, Donald Trump chose Randal Pinkett, the 34-year-old, five-degreed Rhodes scholar who runs a consulting firm. Trump was clearly impressed with Jarvis, who began a nonprofit at age 15, was named one of “20 Teens Who Will Change the World” by Teen People magazine in February 2000, and earned a Point of Light from President Clinton. After telling Pinkett, “You’re hired,” he actually asked Pinkett if he shouldn’t hire Jarvis too, to work on a separate Trump project. Pinkett, tarnishing his nice-guy image, nixed the idea. “It’s The Apprentice,” Pinkett said, “not Apprenti.”


Photo: Rebecca Jarvis.

December 19, 2005

Better to give

Need last-minute gifts for your favorite Phoenix fan? We’ve got ideas. Try some U of C cufflinks, a women’s jersey tee, or a travel coffee mug from the University of Chicago Bookstore. Begin your favorite toddler’s Chicago education early with a building-blocks bib, a teddy bear, or a onesie.

If Chicago-wear isn’t your thing, visit campus museum shops. The Oriental Institute’s suq offers archaeology and history books, jewelry, and even the reconstructed Royal Game of Ur, including instructions and game pieces. The Smart Museum shop sells museum publications, children’s books, Indian paper products, and hand-made textiles and jewelry. And the Robie House store includes art and architecture books and loads of related gifts.

Now on to wrapping paper.


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Photos (left to right): Gifts for men, kids, and the curious.

December 21, 2005

Analyze this


For readers whose minds have not yet left for vacation or turned to mush from that constant office-chocolate rush, UChiBLOGo points you to the Research at Chicago Web site. Collecting some of the most noteworthy and fascinating research under way at Chicago, the site features groundbreaking faculty discussing their work. Computer scientist Partha Niyogi, for instance, studies how children learn language as a model for programming computers. Other interviews include law professor Cass Sunstein discussing his Chicago Judges Project, Martin Marty, PhD'56, analyzing Martin Luther, and Raghuram Rajan exploring India’s recent growth.

The site also delves into student research, the many U of C–affiliated institutes, and Argonne National Lab—including the current management-contract competition. It’s a place for brains still working—or wanting to vacation in the life of the mind.


Photo: Niyogi talks kids and computers.

December 23, 2005

UChiBLOGo bears online gifts


While UChiBLOGo takes a break until January 3, we don’t want to leave our readers without work or home distractions. Here are some of our favorite holiday-themed Web activities and sites:

Make a Flake: Remember as a child, folding a sheet of paper into a triangle, cutting out various shapes, and unfolding it to find you had made a one-of-a-kind snowflake? Recapture the magic without the mess here.

The 12 Fads of YTMND (You’re the Man Now, Dog): A kitchy, pop-culture version of The 12 Days of Christmas. Turn up the volume.

Make Your Own Droidel Dreidel: Make an R2D2-inspired dreidel by printing out the Star Wars PDF and following the site’s directions. (found via grrl.com)

WXRT’s Holiday Music Channel: For holiday music that’s more John Lennon than Bing Crosby, set your computer to this holiday station. You’ll gain a whole new appreciation for holiday tunes.

A Christmas Story
in 30 Seconds (and re-enacted by bunnies): The movie’s funniest parts take on a life of their own. (found via Joy Olivia Miller)

A Beginner’s Guide to Hanukkah: Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Everything Is Illuminated, assembles a New York Times newsletter as an antidote to Hanukkah cynicism.

A Very Special Sedaris Christmas: For This American Life and David Sedaris fans, these Real Audio clips will delight. (found via Joy Olivia Miller)


Photo: A UChiBLOGo snowflake.

Photos of the Week: December 2005 (Postcards from the Quads)

No vacation yet 12/23

Continue reading "Photos of the Week: December 2005 (Postcards from the Quads)" »

About December 2005

This page contains all entries posted to UChiBLOGo in December 2005. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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