Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Campus Life

I have been remiss of late in posting news because (a) no one has sent me any and (b) I am dealing with mid-terms. Mid-terms is half-way through the semester, when papers and exams pile up at faculty doors and all the students skip off to enjoy a week of vacation from their jejune duties.

Well, this time I am leaving ahead of them, going to Wisconsin for a week of rest and hiking. I will have e-mail access via a local cafe that grants wi-fi to patrons "who are willing to buy a little food," the owner says, so I'll try to stay in touch and not spill coffee on my laptop.

In case you wonder what a professor does, Joel Achenbach of the Washington Post recently wrote a column describing a course that he took with me. He's also mentioned it in a book, so I guess he wants me to change his grade. (Just kidding; he was a star pupil.)

That picture is of Princeton, but not my classes, for I prefer to teach indoors. And I do have some news to impart about a '58, so stay tuned for my next report.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Autumn Leaves

The University of Illinois Extension maintains a beautiful site for leaf-peepers, The Miracle of Fall. It has information on driving, hiking, and picture-taking for many areas across the USA. Updates on the progress of fall color, tons of photos, and even live Foliage Cams will help you plan a trip or enjoy the fall at home.

The image above is from the site of Matthew Kuehl, a talented photographer and musician from Grayslake, Illinois. All of his pictures are available for sale as custom enlargements; he provides an e-mail address at his site.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Elijah Iles House

Springfield's newest historic museum is its oldest standing house, occupied by Elijah Iles (1796-1883), the town's first merchant. He was a friend of Abraham Lincoln and fought with him in the Black Hawk War of 1832. Iles later helped Lincoln bring the Illinois capitol to Springfield, and he supported Lincoln's campaigns for political office.

The Greek Revival house originally stood at the southeast corner of Sixth and Cook and later at 1825 South Fifth. In 1990, the Iles House Foundation incorporated as a non-profit group to give the home a new location on the northeast corner of Seventh and Cook. The foundation has raised funds to sponsor a restoration of the building as a museum and conference center.

Much of the Foundation's work has been a labor of love for Dick Hart, husband of Ann Tobin Hart. A Springfield attorney, Dick has tirelessly raised funds, hired architects and builders, and moved the project along to its grand opening date, September 23-24, 2005. He supplied this picture and many others for a blog I maintain on the Iles House.

In time, the House will anchor a neighborhood devoted to the history of Springfield, making our home town a premiere center for antebellum preservation in the Midwest. Dick and Ann have pursued this vision for two decades, and Springfield owes them much thanks.

If you would like to become a member and support historic preservation in Sangamon County, write to The Elijah Iles Foundation, P. O. Box 144, Springfield, Illinois 62705

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Gas Prices

To folks in the USA suffering from gasoline-price shock, CNN presents a little table of "Gas Prices Around the World" that offers cold comfort.

Even at $3.00 a gallon, the US is far behind the average $5.50 charged in the United Kingdom. Most European prices are in the $4-5 range. In Asia, the average price is $2-3.

To get rock-bottom gas, you'd need to live in Moscow, Tajikistan, or Azerbaijan; and good luck on finding Western-style amenities.

In Venezuela the price is 14 cents a gallon, although the government monopoly charges far more at its 14,000 Citgo stations in the USA.

Rising prices hit hard at commuters and fixed-income retirees. What are you doing: driving less, riding a bus, or (gasp) walking? Comments are welcome.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Mother Jones

54 miles south of Springfield lies the village of Mount Olive, Illinois, featured today in the Washington Post as the last resting place of Mary Harris Jones.

Known as "Mother Jones" during her long public career, 1870-1930, she was a tiny, white-haired woman with a gift for passionate oratory. She fought against low wages and poor conditions in mines and factories, helped organize labor unions, and often went to jail for her beliefs.

The monuments to her today are Mother Jones magazine and her grave in the United Mine Workers Union Cemetery in Mount Olive. She asked to be buried there, with other martyrs of the labor movement, 75 years ago this summer.