February 6, 2008
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Break Of Day

At Swarthmore, that land of long reading lists, we were astonished to find that our elders had been puzzled by the same perplexities that faced us as we balanced a thousand pages of American History, Laplace polynomials, nucleophilic substitution, and romance in a relaxing weekend. My roomate-in-law, now a distinguished Professor of Economics, discovered Donne as freshmen always do.

'Tis true, 'tis day ; what though it be?
O, wilt thou therefore rise from me?
Why should we rise because 'tis light?
Did we lie down because 'twas night?
Love, which in spite of darkness brought us hither,
Should in despite of light keep us together.

The Donne struck a chord, because back then you had to sign up for computer time. She wrote a response:

Arise! Arise! The hour is late!
The terminal's reserved for 8!
But Love, which 'spite of FORTRAN brought us hither
Should keep us infinitely looped together.

As personal computers became a reality, there was less need for those terminals and those signup sheets, but the problem persisted. A later roomate-in-law (now the director of a Foundation) and I had a long discussions over whether computers must be banished from the bedroom.

An interesting observation, then, from a current 20-something British student, in a comment on Charles Stross's blog:

I don't think this is true of everyone - actually, I have a friend who doesn't have a laptop - but I know that Carly and I can't sleep unless we can see the little blinking lights on our laptops.

I've never understood why the Mac laptops have this pulsing, glowing light. It doesn't bother me — I sleep fine with lights on — but I wonder about it. Is this the reason?