Camilla Neppl Huber wins the RegRemix contest!

Camilla Neppl Huber, winner of the RegRemix contest, has kindly written up a pattern for her “Go to Italy, be a cobbler” design. If you know how to stitch and are looking for a new project, check it out– here’s the PDF. If you make something cool based on it, send me a picture! quinn – at –

Feel free to share widely!

Arabic graffiti in the Reg

Arabic is one of the most common non-English languages to appear on the walls of the Reg, but I haven’t had a go-to person for translating the pieces I come across. Sadly, the result has been a lot of photos in the multilingual graffiti set titled only “Arabic graffiti”.

A couple weeks ago, my Flickr friend, the awesome photographer Lauren Osborne, posted a photo of some mangled Arabic at O’Hare and I discovered she knows Arabic. So, courtesy of Lauren, I’d like to present some of the Arabic graffiti that hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves.

This says “al-kitab,” which means “book,” and is the name of one of the main Arabic textbooks used at the U of C, and most other places. And it looks like a beginning student wrote it.

So I’m guessing that’s supposed to be either a question mark or a wiggly exclamation point at the end of this one… and it’s not really a sentence so much as just a phrase, or an exclamation – probably out of frustration. The second word – al-`udhrī – means virginal, and when put together with love (the first word) it means “platonic love.” So you’ve got either “platonic love!” or “platonic love?”

Oh the difference a preposition can make. So it’s two sentences, with one added word in the first (top) one. The first one – ana `ala al-haqq – (the ` is a letter called `ayn, and it’s a sound we don’t make in English) means “I am right” or “I am in the right” in a very clear, indisputable way. The second one is just missing the preposition, so it reads, “ana al-haqq.” Literally it means “I am the real” (or “I am The Real”) – but al-haqq is one of the 99 names of God, so it could also be interpreted as meaning, basically “I am God.” This is one of the many ecstatic epithets uttered by the Sufi al-Hallaj that earned him the honor of being the first individual (that we know of) to be executed by the Islamic caliphate on ideological grounds. This statement was perceived as meaning just, “I am God,” but it is usually interpreted as being a sign that he had achieved a profound state of self-effacement into the divine. For more info see this article, or for people who don’t have academic access the Wikipedia article on him is really not bad and talks specifically about this utterance.

Lauren also helped identify the bismillah and a name written twice, once normally and once more like a signature. Thanks, Lauren, for all the Arabic help!

Crescat Graffiti: The Data Set

Until recently, I’ve thought of Crescat Graffiti as an art/anthropology project, and it never occurred to me to treat it as a data set. But now that’s what I’m doing as part of putting together a guest post for a science magazine. I love a good data set, but in the process of making it I’m finding myself wracked with indecision about how much metadata to capture. Sure, I could just type out all the words, and I could make a pretty word cloud or a word-count list, but I find myself thinking about what other avenues might be fruitful.

  • Differentiating walls from whiteboards from study carrels
  • Date
    • Quarter
    • Year
    • Month? Day?
  • Granularity
    • Word-level
    • Sentence level?
    • Graffiti-post level? – you could do things like count average number of words in a piece of graffiti
  • Writing implement?

I could do any or all of these, but I wonder how many of them are going to yield any actual interesting results.

Then there’s the question of format. I was initially thinking public Google Doc spreadsheet, but I prefer doing my data crunching using XSLT, which suggests XML. (And I find it easier to go from XML to spreadsheet than the other way around.) That said, if I’m going the XML route, I’m doing my own schema– no doubt there’s a way to encode all of the things I want using TEI, but I’d prefer to have at least an ounce of sanity left by the time I’m done with this.

The data set will be free for anyone to use, so if you’ve got preferences (other than using TEI) or suggestions for what metadata I should include, do leave a comment.

A Christmas wish from the study carrels

The Reg is short on holiday-themed graffiti. What’s more, I’ve only ever found two pieces of graffiti that reference Jesus. (To put that in context, there’s at least twice that many that mention Nietzsche.) So, in the spirit of hopes and wishes and so on, I’d like to share this gem from my latest pass through the study carrels. Merry Christmas, and/or happy University-sanctioned day off!

The study carrel disapproves of your slacking

Last Tuesday, I dropped by the stacks and discovered they’d been painted over immaculately (leaving me to suspect that I’d previously caught them having applied some sort of primer). With some time on my hands, and nothing to photograph in the stacks, I went back to the study carrels. Over the summer (perhaps in response to the LA Times article) they were cleaned fairly thoroughly, but there’s nothing like finals week to undo much of that work.

My impression of the contents was that there were more doodles than usual. Not much by way of love or sex (not that you see a ton of that in general, at least relative to other universities’ graffiti), and not many discussions– unsurprisingly, since those take time.

Particularly striking, though, was the number of disapproving or otherwise disgruntled faces. I think there may in fact have been more of them in this one trip through the study carrels than in the last two years combined. Make of it what you will (I’m not inclined to make much of it beyond there being someone inclined towards doodling faces studying in the Reg) but here are a couple for your enjoyment.

There’s more blog posts coming about that trip to the study carrels, but if you want to browse all the photos in the meantime, I’ve put together a set on Flickr.


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