Archive for the ‘housekeeping’ category

Belatedly…A Bloggy Announcement

October 28, 2010

It’s been quiet around here the last few days (and more or less for a while).

The highly episodic nature of this blog for the last few months has been due to the usual stuff — summer, then the sheer joy of the start of the fall semester, combined with the shock of a new gig at the ‘tute.  But over the last couple of days something else has been going on…

and that is, thanks to the very kind (and/or certifiable) hospitality of John Cole, I’m guest blogging over at Balloon Juice.  I’ve put up a couple of posts there so far, with more to come.

So, while I’ll try to be more conscientious than I’ve been to flag posts over there over here, that’s where you should check in for my stuff — and all the rest as well.  It’s a great place to hang on the nets, and I’m honored and very happy to be sending stuff that way. (I’ve been talking thuggery and Godwin, but if you want to check out a relaxation, politics-free post on good science writing, the Krebs cycle, and how many hydrogen atoms died for this post, check this one out.

Image:  Abraham Solomon, “(Travelling) First Class” 1862


They keep us alive to serve the machine: vacation edition

June 21, 2010

Through a concatenation of circumstances too complicated to explain (involving as it does an odd personal slice through 20th century history and a bit of the dynamic of globalism in recent years) I am sitting in the drawing room of the residence of the South African ambassador to Sweden.

It is a glorious day here in Stockholm, made better in my corner of it by the two-nil halftime lead enjoyed by Bafana Bafana.

But, as the kind of sophisticated readership that this blog enjoys I’ll have inferred, I’m on something of a holiday just now, and will be until early July. So while it may seem I’ve been enjoying an extended excursion for the last month or so, now it’s for real.

And in fact I actually hope to do a bit more blogging over the next little while than I’ve managed lately — something about long lazy days with no office phone (and I do mean long: sunset at 11 pm plus tonight) — but now you know.

Now for a bit of cured fish and a suitable libation. See y’all soon.

A Bleg

December 8, 2009

Dear readers,

I’m thinking about moving my blog to a host that allows me more flexibility than WordPress allows.  I’ll be redirecting from here, so there will be some continuity, but I wonder if anyone has any thoughts about the new domain name.


Or is this a distinction without a difference?

Hive mind help gratefully appreciated.

Image: Dr. Marcus Gossler, The subject catalogue (“Schlagwortkatalog”) of the University Library of Graz. 2005.

Apologia Pro Vita Bloga (With apologies to Mrs. Small, who taught me better Latin.)

November 17, 2009

No blogging for more than a week!  Massive fail.

My only excuse:

November is the cruelest month, at least as far as my particular academic calendar goes.  As my students toil, so do I (the part they never tell you about when you step sideways into the Academy).

So, a couple of posts are slouching towards Publish’em…but a humble plea for indulgence in this, my untoward silence.

See you soon.

Image:  Johann Heinrich Füssli, “The Silence” 1799-1801.

Housekeeping and another review or two

August 10, 2009

Dear all:

This week I’m moving from my home of the last fifteen years to the money pit made infamous in this post.  (Though I have to say the honey was the best I’ve ever had…)

It’s a complete madhouse, as I’m sure anyone who’s ever moved with more than a year or two’s accumulation of stuff and inertia knows.  Plus, the sale of our current house is a tale told by an idiot…..

All of which is to say very light blogging this week.

But I wouldn’t be doing my duty as a relentless self-promoter if I didn’t mention the fact that Newton and the Counterfeiter (AmazonPowellsBarnes and NobleIndiebound) is (a) approaching its British publication date (pre-order here) and (b) has garnered a ton of unmentioned but much appreciated notice over the last couple of weeks.

I really, really have something to say about the pain of the transition from a centrally dominated, print based book reviewing world to a diffuse web based one in my next and much promised-and-delayed Diary of a Trade Book entry. And in that next entry or two, I’ll try to capture all of the folks who have had something nice to say about the book.  But for now, let me point to my new blog BFF, Renaissance Mathematicus, who  did me the honor of a very thoughtful two part review, first all praise, second an engaged serious criticism of what RM sees as problematical about my book — and the first two major British newspaper reviews, from The Financial Times and The Sunday Times.

Money quote from the FT:

A vivid portrait of the seamier side of the City three centuries ago, Levenson’s book is a gripping tale of unrelenting revenge and obsession.

And from Murdoch’s entry:

Levenson’s wonderful book has a humbling coda. Newton became rich, established, lauded. He had depicted his God as “a being incorporeal, living and intelligent, who sees the things themselves intimately, and thoroughly perceives them” — a figure not unlike a scientist. But then came old age, and an unprecedented failure of judgment. Tempted into the South Sea investment bubble of the 1720s, Newton lost a small fortune. Even the most radical of thinkers and dogged of rationalists, it seems, could not foresee how greed and deception might lead to the collapse of markets.

More to come, on Newton and everything else, when every pore no longer smells of cardboard and fresh paint — and perhaps (I hope) sooner than that.


June 24, 2009

Sorry for the posting hiatus. I’ve been clearing out a few promised bits of writing in support of Newton and the Counterfeiter (you’ve heard I recently published a book?  Oh.  You have.  Sorry.) and I just hit the point where it was time to put my head down and write the last of them, which I have now done.

So onwards:  more answers to questions nobody asked.*

*The pro’s definition of a sermon.

Image:  Niccolò da Bologna, 1494-1502, J. Paul Getty Trust.  From Wikimedia commons:  This illuminated letter ‘S’ is one of twenty known large historiated initials made for a choir book commissioned by the Carthusian monastery of Santo Spirito in Lucca.  The image depicts the Pentacost, the moment at which the gift of speaking in tongues descends upon the Apostles, enabling them to preach to the nations of the world.

Assimilated by the Borg: Twitter Dept.

May 9, 2009

Ok.  So I have the great pleasure of welcoming Carl Zimmer to my class in the Graduate Program in Science Writing this last Wednesday.

So we have a really interesting discussion along two axes:  for one. the experience of discovering and then developing a focus within science writing (how Carl went from a humanities education at Yale to being so deeply immersed in the present currents and history of biology that he’s writing textbooks in the field now).

For the other:  what we all need to do to come to grips with the incredibly rapid changes in the types of media within which he, my students, and lagging behind, my tongue hanging out, me too are all trying to communicate.

In that context I admit that I do not Twitter.  I mutter the usual shibboleths — who wants to know what I had for breakfast? (A buckwheat waffle, a couple of bites of bialy, and to complete the cultural confusion, some bacon — but you never heard any of that here.)

Carl laughs me out of my seat.  He points out that he tweeted his visit to my class, and received in return a couple of requests to pass on hellos from blogospheric friends I haven’t seen since January (hello back, Dave); that a growing audience exists to feed him almost real time reactions to questions; that whatever I might think there is a hierarchy of information, and if I ignore the swift and the short, then I lose my chance to talk to people in conversations each party values….

And then my students piled on, not needing any sophisticated argument to point out that I am simply a fossil — and worse, one petrified by choice.

And so, for my sins or perhaps for yours, I can now be found on Twitter as TomLevenson.  It’s been fun, at least so far (eight tweets in).  I’ll do my best to keep the content-to-phatic communication ratio appropriate.

And anyway, as someone who described the results of a conversation with my agent and my newly acquiring editor for my Newton book thusly:  “I was strongly enjoined to constrain my garrulousness,” the 140 character straitjacket might not be the worst discipline to accept.

Image:  Jules Pascin, “Café Scene.”

A Nice Milestone

April 6, 2009

This blog passed 200,000 site visits this weekend — a number that does not include the readership of my hardy RSS subscribers.

That’s a modest number compared to some — but the quality is unsurpassed, and our numbers have been growing.  Soon it might be said that we surround them…;)

Thanks to all — and from your humble proprietor, a promise:

I know it’s been slow around here for a couple of months (and you should see my other blog). A combination of various day job demands and that thing we call …wait for it…what was it?…oh yeah….family, the wife and child…I’ll get their names in a minute…have put a bit of crimp on blogging time.   But there are lights at the end of various tunnels that may not all be oncoming trains, so I’ll be getting a bit more frisky soon.

You have been warned.

But all excuses and show-me promises aside, again, my thanks to all who have stopped by. Stick around.  More to come.

And in the meantime…enjoy the classic anthem of pomo science rock and roll:


March 23, 2009

For near total blog silence over the last month.  The hideous realities of academic admin have overtaken me, and I’ve almost forgotten how to spell my own name.  (X….his mark — ed.)

But with spring break upon us, and a temporary respite from all the delights of just one more, I-promise-you-it-will-be-quick-meeting, blogging resumes. It’s a target rich environment out there on the science and politics front…so I hope to be back in regular mode within a day or so.

Again, my thanks to all those who’ve been patient with my unaccostomed quiet.  Time now to both rock …and roll.

Apologies, wrapped in a truly scary picture

February 2, 2009

I’ve been conspicuous by my absence, caused more by the disasters that attend a newly installed department head in the first days of term.

I’ll be pretty sketchy in my posts here for a bit, trapped between that admin cr*p, the rigors of getting my upcoming book properly launched, and attending to the birth of yet another Darwin project.  So by way of eye candy and apologies — enjoy this gorgeous vision of the apocalypse.  (Full page of Redoubt Volcano images from teh Alaska Volcano Observatory here.

Image:   Giorgio Sommer, “Pompeii,” before 1914.