Life of Megan

Monday, January 29, 2007

To catch a thief

Friday was a strange day. I was working in the lab, sitting at my desk, which is separated from the lab-portion of the lab by 8-ft bookcases. All the other kids who are normally around were doing lab orientation and machine-shop safety and were out in the hall somewhere. A student came in and asked me whether Pranav (another grad student working in the lab) was around. Pranav wasn't, so I told him he could wait a few minutes by Pranav's desk (i.e. where I could see him) or out in the hall. He said he'd just stop by later and left. I checked the clock to see what time it was so I could tell Pranav he missed the guy. I asked his name but promptly forgot. I looked at him long enough to be able to describe him accurately to Pranav.

About thirty seconds later, I got a weird feeling and headed out to the lab portion to check things out. The student had left, and I didn't see anything out of the ordinary. I went back to work, this time without my headphones.

Pranav came back at 2:00 and was really upset that he'd missed the guy. About fifteen minutes later, Sam, one of the undergrads who does a ton of work on robots, came back. His laptop was missing. The peripherals (minus the charger) were still sitting on the desk. After talking to people in the lab to see if it had just been moved, etc., he called the police. This is how I came to discover that something was stolen right in front of me (albeit beyond a wall of bookshelves so I couldn't see). We asked everyone who works in the hall and who was in the machine shop if they'd seen anyone unusual. The guy looking for Pranav was noticed by just about everyone.

The police arrived 15-20 minutes later, and it's now close to 3:00. Pranav has been trying to call this guy. It turns out they had met at the ISSO, and Pranav had been keeping some medicine for the guy while the guy traveled. Pranav didn't know him well, and he feels about as bad as I do. We tell the police everything we know--I gave a really complete description (hadn't been long), including a description of the laptop bag he was carrying. The policeman says he's going to look up the student and go question him, having only one suspect. He doesn't take fingerprints of the peripherals. I'm disappointed about that. The policeman heads out around 3:30.

At 4:00, Sam gets a phone call. It's the policeman. He has Sam's laptop. He stopped the suspect, carrying Sam's laptop, as the suspect left his dorm. He hadn't changed his clothes. My description was enough that the policeman readily identified him on sight. Sam got his laptop back at 4:30 and decided not to press charges, but to fully support the on-campus handling of the matter (through the JA). He didn't want to lose his laptop to evidence.

So that's the story of how a friend's laptop was stolen while I was in the room with it, and then how I managed to get it back for him (though Pranav's willingness to give the police all the contact information he had was the main help). Some files had been deleted, but Sam didn't suffer any major losses. Now we are all being a bit more careful with our possessions and with lab security when everyone is working at the desks.

In other news, Jud and I went furniture shopping this weekend and came away with a table and chairs (image from the Ashley Furniture website).

We aren't big fans of the upholstery, but we're told it's easy to change, and that there's a JoAnn's fabric shop nearby. We got our set during what turned out to be a huge 50%-off sale, so it only cost us $550, including tax and delivery. Our table and chairs will be delivered in two weeks or so... In the meantime, we are preparing the room. We cleaned and primed the walls last night. Killz--nice primer, but you might as well be painting with Elmer's glue.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Hooray for the Ithaca Beer Company!

This week, instead of doing its typical "wines of the times" column, the New York Times covered "ales of the times"--more specifically, brown ales.

And our little Ithaca Beer Company made the cut with its Nut Brown Ale! Receiving three out of a possible four stars (meaning: excellent), the Nut Brown Ale was among the top ten beers tasted by the panel, and it was included in the multimedia feature!

As some of you may know, Judson and I have long recommended the Nut Brown Ale to those seeking a delightful, thirst-quenching local beer. It's one of my favorites. So today, I am even prouder to be an Ithacan.

In other news, a Clemson Tiger spoke at our MAE colloquium yesterday! Best colloquium I've seen in a long time. =)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Today is MLK day. It's one of those holidays appreciated only because it happens to give most of us a day off. But Martin Luther King, Jr. is the sort of person who ought to be remembered, even if it's just for teaching us that within our own lifetimes, if we embrace a great cause, we can see progress even without resorting to violence. So I found and copied the "I have a dream" speech for anyone who still bothers to read my blog. Enjoy.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"