About the author

Selfie with Chernoff faces, circa 1993

I’m Brian Hayes. My main gig is writing about science, mathematics, computing, and technology, but that’s not what this website is about. After the election and inauguration of Donald Trump, I began work on forwichistan.us as a place to collect my thoughts on this bizarre development in American history. In these pages there will be some ranting about politics, but I’m also hoping to say something about everyday life under this strange new regime. Even in the most tumultuous historical periods, people fall in love, they go off to college or take their first job, they grow old and get sick, they sing poignant music, they learn new languages, they tell jokes. Life goes on.

For the record: I’m an American, a registered Democrat, middle class, white, of indistinct ethnic affinities and no religious affiliation. Also a husband, a father, a grandfather. I was born within three weeks of the midpoint of the 20th century, which means I am now emerging on the far side of middle age. Curiously, I find that as I get older I become more and more focused on the future. You might think it would go the other way, since my own future is sharply foreshortened, but no: I worry more than I used to about the state of the world in 50 or 100 years.

I live in Massachusetts. In the past I have lived in North Carolina, Minnesota, New York City and its suburbs, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, with briefer sojourns in California and Italy.

You’ll find some more background on my other website, bit-player, including a biographical sketch and a publications list.

About the title

For the story of how this site got its name, see the first post, Welcome to Forwichistan.

I’m not alone in having experienced a childhood puzzlement over the words of the U.S. pledge of allegiance, as Googling for various spellings of “forwichistan” will reveal. I take no position on which spelling is correct. If I had known how to spell when I first encountered that series of phonemes, I wouldn’t have been confused by it.

About the banner image

Here’s the original photo, which I made with a film camera in 1993. The building is 601 West Main Street in Durham, North Carolina, which was then a disused tobacco warehouse. Bricking up doors and windows was a thing in those days in Durham. The building has since been rehabilitated and is now home to boutiques and wine bars I can’t afford.

photo of a brick wall with a doorway that has been filled in with more bricks

The patch of blue sky and green hills in one of the banner doorways does not in fact lie behind the brick wall in Durham (as you doubtless guessed). I viewed and photographed that landscape through a quite different portal, in the village of Velia in southern Italy. Once upon a time this place was home to the philosopher Zeno of Elea, the one who wrote about races that never end and arrows that never reach their target.

photo of an arched passageway in a stone wall, revealing a view of distant hills and sky

What does it all mean? Mostly it reflects my mood of the moment. The mood may change, and the image with it.

Readers of dystopian fiction may note that in the banner image I have changed the number above the brick doorway from 601 to 101.

About the website

These web pages are assembled by a “static site generator” named Jekyll and are served from a machine I rent from Linode in a data center somewhere near Newark, New Jersey. In building the design I started with a Jekyll theme called Centrarium, published under an MIT license by Ben Centra. I am grateful to Centra for giving me this head start, although he probably would not recognize much of his work in the finished design. The fonts are Open Sans, designed by Steve Mattison, and Crimson Text by Sebastian Kosch.