Monthly Archives: February 2014


The terms of the Creative Commons license impel me to explain the banner image on this Web site in somewhat greater detail.

Almost everyone agrees on the rules of the academic Web site. CVs should be displayed prominently, because most academic stalking relies on searching Google for “paul musgrave cv” to find out who, exactly, that guy on your ISA panel is. Similarly, everyone understands a certain amount of salesmanship, although professors who have attained distinguished rank may opt instead for a humbler approach. The requirements of the form allow for only a few types of images. Besides the portrait (which should have something scholarly in the background, such as a blackboard, a bookshelf, or Collegiate Gothic architecture), the principal personal touches the discipline allows are photographs of age- and class-appropriate hobbies, namely:

  • Hiking
  • Winter sports
  • Picturesque spots in the developing world
  • Picturesque spots in Western Europe

One must be very senior indeed to admit to an interest in, say, ham radio.

Since I don’t hike, don’t ski, and have few photographs of myself in Kenya or Venice, I needed something else. Hence, the lifeline. The banner image shows where I’ve lived since I’ve turned 18; each different section is sized (approximately) proportionally to the length of time I’ve lived in each place. Since most of these photos came from Flickr, let me credit the users who shared the originals here:

  • Evansville, Indiana (picture of Vanderburgh County Courthouse by Flickr user cmh2315fl)
  • Bloomington, Indiana (picture of Indiana University’s Sample Gates by Flickr user Yeat Wang)
  • Shanghai, P.R. China (Oriental Pearl Radio and Television Tower by Flickr user setiadi)
  • Indianapolis, Indiana (Monument Circle by Flickr user J. Stephen Conn.)
  • Dublin, Ireland (Customs House; photo is mine)
  • New York City, New York (Manhattan skyline by Flickr user Jose Maria Cuellar)
  • Anaheim, California (Statue of John Wayne at John Wayne Airport by Flickr user JuliaClark42)
  • Rosslyn, Virginia (Rosslyn Metro Stop by Flickr user periwinkled)
  • Washington, DC (Healy Hall, Georgetown University)
  • Doha, Qatar (Atrium, SFS-Qatar, by Flickr user Derek Bruff)

This, then, is my contribution to data visualization: a proportional image-based biography.

War Made States, and States Make Breakfast

Texas-shaped waffle.

Texas is really like that. College Station, Texas, February 2012.

Some presidential libraries are in major metropolitan areas, like the Kennedy Library in Boston, the Ford Library in Ann Arbor, and the Reagan and Nixon Libraries in the (greater) Los Angeles regions. A few, like the Eisenhower in Abilene, Kansas, or the Hoover in West Branch, Iowa, are (as their staff will readily admit) distant from large towns. The George H.W. Bush Presidential Library is in College Station, Texas, a nice in-between city: big enough to have multiple Starbuckses and its own airport with commercial jet service, but small enough that the drive from the airport to the town center took less time than it frequently takes me to cross the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

I spent two weeks in Texas, living in the La Quinta Inn and doing research in the archives. My first morning taught me that even if all of the stereotypes about Texas aren’t true, some of them are. Despite having lived there for two decades, I’d never seen a pancake shaped liked Indiana, but it took only one meal for me to eat deep from the heart of Texas.