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In The Old Dominion

Holy Toledo, the better half is eating dinner with our former governor! Let's just hope he's no Bill Clinton. I hope Mrs. Dean is watching with the eagle eye.

Me, I'm in Virginia, a place so wonderful it completely defeats my prose. The traffic isn't so admirable, but everything else about Charlottesville I like, from the grits in the morning all the way to the summery late nights downtown. The town is dominated by the University of Virginia, so there are busts of Thomas Jefferson on every flat surface, and young fit joggers careening down every street. Even the door to my hotel is decorated with the mysterious slogan "Wa Wahoos!" - when I first saw it, I thought it was some kind of pidgin dialect for "No Wahoos Allowed!", but now I I assume it has something positive to do with the local sports team. So, wa wahoos! UVA!

Many of the students I overhear have the kind of Southern voice that makes one irresistible to electorates and Yankee women. And a lot of people are dressed to the nines, unlike our intrepid protagonist. I wish I had loads of time to spend here, and a better fashion sense.

I'm in Charlottesville to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities. IATH is a neat institution - it started out when IBM contributed a whole bunch of no-strings money to the University, and has spun off a cycle of cool online projects in the humanities. I was most closely involved with the Valley of the Shadow project, which is a historical database of tax records, newspaper articles, letters and other archival material from the Civil War years, sampled locally and in Franklin County, PA, to straddle the Union/Confederate divide. I had never read old Civil War newspapers before, or really any primary sources from the 19th century, and I spent more than one hour of search engines design time just reading through the hundreds of articles. Tobacco spitting hooligans infesting our towns! Republicans encouraging their women to marry the sons of Africa! Latest battle reports, thousands dead! Impeach Lincoln!

It's one of those projects that makes you wonder "why on Earth isn't there more stuff like this on the web"? IATH is full of initiatives like that, big and little. I get to come back in a few weeks to plan some more projects together, and I'm already looking forward to it.

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