Thursday, December 31, 2009

And As 2009 Draws To A Merciful Close...


Some appropriate music: Auld Lang Syne




I could go Old English on everyone and wait until January 16th (or even March 25th) to declare the New Year begun, but I'll go with the flow and declare January 1st the start of 2010.


2009: I have a bad way with odd years. Yes, this was the year that saw my long sojourn through Adjunct Hell come to an end. Even so, this was not a very good year. The summer drought pretty much ruined most of my tomato and vegetable harvest, to say nothing of my lawn. There was almost no time for fishing after early June, and water levels were so low as to render most local venues near-unusable. Financially, summer was as close as I've ever come to going completely broke (zero liquidity) --and in fact, I had to admit that I had a problem with playing too much poker when I had no business doing so. (Not very proud to say it in public, but there it is...)


And did I mention the country is now officially careening toward a complete and utter repeat of the Seventies combined with the Thirties?


Thusly I rank this year right up with 2003 (my true anno horribilis) as a year to whom I will gladly and proudly and eagerly show my Hairy Backside come Thursday night. I will smoke a clay pipe, as is the traditional English custom, and smash it in the fireplace before midnight. I will go outside my house (in my totally unincorporated subdivision) and chase away the evil spirits with large amounts of pyrotechnology. I will kiss my wife at midnight and play a copy of "The Blue Danube" to celebrate 2010's arrival. Friday morning I'll prepare black-eyed peas and cabbage and jerk pork (the Mrs. hates ham) and get ready to watch the Neujahrskonzert from Vienna.


And on your behalf, anno horribilis 2009, I invoke Cromwell:

You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately...

Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!



Now therefore let us welcome 2010.

Proßit Neujahr!!





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Thursday, December 24, 2009

In Hoc Anno Domini - WSJ.com


In Hoc Anno Domini



So the light came into the world



When Saul of Tarsus set out on his journey to Damascus the whole of the known world lay in bondage. There was one state, and it was Rome. There was one master for it all, and he was Tiberius Caesar.

Everywhere there was civil order, for the arm of the Roman law was long. Everywhere there was stability, in government and in society, for the centurions saw that it was so.

But everywhere there was something else, too. There was oppression—for those who were not the friends of Tiberius Caesar. There was the tax gatherer to take the grain from the fields and the flax from the spindle to feed the legions or to fill the hungry treasury from which divine Caesar gave largess to the people. There was the impressor to find recruits for the circuses. There were executioners to quiet those whom the Emperor proscribed. What was a man for but to serve Caesar?

There was the persecution of men who dared think differently, who heard strange voices or read strange manuscripts. There was enslavement of men whose tribes came not from Rome, disdain for those who did not have the familiar visage. And most of all, there was everywhere a contempt for human life. What, to the strong, was one man more or less in a crowded world?

Then, of a sudden, there was a light in the world, and a man from Galilee saying, Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's.

And the voice from Galilee, which would defy Caesar, offered a new Kingdom in which each man could walk upright and bow to none but his God. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. And he sent this gospel of the Kingdom of Man into the uttermost ends of the earth.

So the light came into the world and the men who lived in darkness were afraid, and they tried to lower a curtain so that man would still believe salvation lay with the leaders.

But it came to pass for a while in divers places that the truth did set man free, although the men of darkness were offended and they tried to put out the light. The voice said, Haste ye. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness come upon you, for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.

Along the road to Damascus the light shone brightly. But afterward Paul of Tarsus, too, was sore afraid. He feared that other Caesars, other prophets, might one day persuade men that man was nothing save a servant unto them, that men might yield up their birthright from God for pottage and walk no more in freedom.

Then might it come to pass that darkness would settle again over the lands and there would be a burning of books and men would think only of what they should eat and what they should wear, and would give heed only to new Caesars and to false prophets. Then might it come to pass that men would not look upward to see even a winter's star in the East, and once more, there would be no light at all in the darkness.

And so Paul, the apostle of the Son of Man, spoke to his brethren, the Galatians, the words he would have us remember afterward in each of the years of his Lord:

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

This editorial was written in 1949 by the late Vermont Royster and has been published annually since.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

In my class, this would be academic dishonesty...


Climategate goes SERIAL: now the Russians confirm that UK climate scientists manipulated data to exaggerate global warming – Telegraph Blogs: "On Tuesday, the Moscow-based Institute of Economic Analysis (IEA) issued a report claiming that the Hadley Center for Climate Change based at the headquarters of the British Meteorological Office in Exeter (Devon, England) had probably tampered with Russian-climate data."



Read all of it. I'm all for reducing pollution and cleaner energy. But the people who are supposed to be at the forefront for making the case are really looking like con artists trying to hustle governments into huge research grants, allied with enviro-nuts who want us all to return to a Luddite paradise. And if any of my students pulled this crap, I'd throw them out of my class so fast their heads would spin like tops.


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Monday, December 14, 2009

Oh Brave New World! (or, Then And Now)


CARPE DIEM: Christmas Shopping for a TV: 1958 vs. 2009:


In 1958, American holiday shoppers paid $269.95 for Sears’ “best 24-inch console TV” (Update: black and white) in its Christmas catalog.... [I]t would have taken 136.34 hours of work at the average manufacturing hourly wage then of $1.98 to earn enough income (ignoring taxes) to purchase the TV.



Today you can purchase a Sansui 26-inch widescreen LCD high-definition TV on the Sears website for about $350 (or chose from the several hundred other TVs available), which would be a “time cost” today of only 19.03 hours of work at today's average hourly wage of $18.39, and this represents an 86 percent reduction in the cost compared to the 1958 TV. 

Monday, December 7, 2009

Lessons Learned


I have been winding down the semester, putting out fires of various kinds. This term has led me to re-evaluate some of my practices, and there will be some changes next time out.

For starters, I am going to be far less charitable in my attendance policy: hey, the college's handbook says X absences and you cannot pass the course. If that much else is going on, then you need to focus on that. Your grades will improve when you're not distracted, and we'll all be happier with that.

Next, I am revising my bonus policy for very good attendance. The current system can be streamlined very quickly into one-size-fits-all. I want my students to come to class, but I'm going to cut out the penalties for excessive absences below the college limit, relying instead on the system policy of "X misses and you're done."

Third, I am going to really take more advantage of the "hybrid" category and give more online work, especially for materials that I don't like to emphasize in lecture. The students are supposed to be picking up some of the slack, anyway.

I will not be taking a full break over Christmas. I will be teaching a mini-term --the money is good and it will get me out of the house and out from underneath the Mrs.'s feet.


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Monday, November 23, 2009

A Funny Thing Happened to Me Today...


I had a student tell me "I lost respect for you a long time ago." Thankfully this had nothing to do with my mastery of the material. It had everything to do with interpersonal issues. I will not violate FERPA here and now; suffice to say there was an issue and the student did not feel I was being "appropriate" in my response.

Still, the idea of a student losing respect for me... Should I care? In this one case, the answer is definitively "NO." But in general, I do want to be seen at the minimum as someone who is consistent. No one will accuse me of favoritism. In that, at least, my conscience is clear in the present circumstances.

Oh, and no good turn goes unpunished, I have learned.

[Post redacted from earlier version out of concern for FERPA. I never use names, ever; still, no sense being any more than appropriately vague on the specifics]


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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Why Johnny Can't Add


Who Needs Mathematicians for Math, Anyway? by Sandra Stotsky, City Journal 13 November 2009: read all of it. When education professors tsk-tsk me for being so instructor-centered, I silently resist the urge to find a more appropriate use for the paper on which their diplomas are printed. Constructivist approaches have their uses, but they never should have been allowed to take center-stage. Long live Ausubel! (oh just go look it up already...)


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Monday, November 16, 2009

'Equalizer' star Edward Woodward dies at 79


'Equalizer' star Edward Woodward dies at 79




"The minstrel boy to the war is gone,
In the ranks of death you'll find him;
His father's sword he hath girded on,
And his wild harp slung behind him;
"Land of Song!" cried the warrior bard,
"Tho' all the world betrays thee,
One sword, at least, thy rights shall guard,
One faithful harp shall praise thee!"

Friday, November 6, 2009

Remembering Communism


Paul Hollander - Remembering communism - washingtonpost.com:


In the aftermath of the fall of Soviet communism, many Western intellectuals remain convinced that capitalism is the root of all evil. There has been a long tradition of such animosity among Western intellectuals who gave the benefit of doubt or outright sympathy to political systems that denounced the profit motive and proclaimed their commitment to create a more humane and egalitarian society, and unselfish human beings.


We could go all the way back to Lord Chesterfield, if we wished, to see the source of this emotion. I see many of my colleagues as his misbegotten intellectual children: railing not for progress but to a return to a sometimes-idealized-sometimes-actualized past where an oligarchic few exerted control over what they feared to be an over-energentic and far-too-clever-for-their-own-good movement of entrepreneurs and optimists --in other words, a form of aristocracy is what they wanted to perpetuate. Dress it up in whatever language you wish: communism, socialism, progressivism, they all inevitably have at the root a small group of people who really want to control a much larger group of people, weal or woe being beside the point.

I will not mourn the fall of the Soviet Union, and I hope to live long enough to see the history community join me whole-heartedly in that.

UPDATE:




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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Sweet Jeebers! Is This Person Secretly Enrolled In My Class?


Investors.com - The Ghosts Of '38: discussing the impact of the New Deal agenda on the actual Depression, the author makes three points:


  1. Amity Schlaes in The Forgotten Man demonstrates FDR's own version of "trickle-down" economics centered on giving union workers higher wages to stimulate consumer spending, which did not work.

  2. Recent scholarship, led by Cole and Ohanian strongly suggests the New Deal actually prolonged the Depression; and

  3. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy argues that the Fed's actions made the Depression worse, not better, particularly in regard to the "depression-within-the-Depression" of 1937-38.


I discuss every single one of these points in my New Deal lectures. Man I'm good!!!


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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Views: Is Tenure Conservative? - Inside Higher Ed


Views: Is Tenure Conservative? - Inside Higher Ed: while nodding my head in agreement (even though I'm at an essentially non-tenure institution), I had to laugh out loud at this, because it's so true:



[M]ore slyly, what possible objection could there be to speaking frankly about topics in which most people have utterly no interest? Most academic work, especially in the humanities, is published for an audience smaller than a successful cocktail party..."



[Emphasis added, because it's so true...]

Again: Everything You Know About The Great Depression Is Wrong!


Hu versus Sarkozy | Steve H. Hanke | Cato Institute: Commentary:



"There is no more reliable rule than the 95% rule: 95% of what you read about economics and finance is either wrong or irrelevant. Just reflect for a moment on the most frequently repeated lessons drawn from the Great Depression (1929-33). According to most accounts, the stock market crash of October 1929 was the spark that sent the economy spiraling downward.

"How could this be? After all, by November 1929, the stock market had started to recover, and by mid-April 1930, it had reached its pre-crash level. Contrary to the received wisdom, massive government failure — not the stock market crash — pushed the United States into the Great Depression. It was the Federal Reserve that ushered in that terrible nightmare. During the course of the Great Depression, the money supply contracted by 25%. This sent the economy into a deflationary death spiral, with the price level falling 25%."




Read all of it --it's not that long.


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Charter Schools Help PUBLIC School Students!? Wow!


Charter Schools Help Public School Students - WSJ.com: wherein we read about something that, if causation were firmly established, completely obliterate one of the strongest arguments against charter schools --that they take away bright students from struggling public schools and make those schools look worse. To the contrary, charter schools may actually help local non-charter public schools! Again, I would like to examine this more closely; correlation does not necessarily indicate causality. Still, wow....


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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Rescuing the University; or, Welcome To My World Yet Again


Rescuing the University: read all of it. This is the reality I face every day at work.


The writer references the importance of publishing or perishing. I admit that writing was never a strong point of mine and that's part of the reason I never went beyond my masters back in the day. But did any of my advisors ever stop to wonder why I wasn't interested in writing? Could it have been that most of the writing around me was over the intellectual equivalent of poppycock? That the paper used for most of the topics I was seeing would better have been used towards composting my veggie beds?


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The Fall Garden


Ordinarily I would be fretting about the small window of good temperatures for tomato-setting, but this year I don't have any fall tomato plants, so my life is less complicated. Just peas, broccoli and cauliflower --plus the Thai pepper and the odd volunteer basil (took a long time this year for any to come up). I weeded the old bed Saturday before last but have been unable to get to the new bed owing to schedule and inopportune rains. I have given up on trying to control the Malabar spinach vines, they just keep coming back and will continue to do so until a killer frost hits in conjunction with an extended cold snap. It's not that they taste bad, but they're not really good (IMO) unless they're in some sort of combination like a casserole or stew. At least they're thriving --I suspect I'm going to have to do major amending of the soil before spring, everything else is in a sort of "go-slow" pattern. Last soil test indicated serious deficiencies across the board in N, P and K. I foresee much manure spreading in January, along with rock phosphate and epsom salts.


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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tell It On The Mountain, Mr. Welsh!


Patrick Welsh -- To Explain the Achievement Gap, Examine the Parenting Gap - washingtonpost.com: "A kid who seldom came to class -- and was constantly distracting other students when he did -- shot back: 'It's because they have fathers who kick their butts and make them study.' "



Amen and amen. It breaks my heart, sitting here and mentally reviewing the faces of each and every one of my students, that out of over sixty this semester, I have three black males. And if I were to take them aside today and ask them, I guarantee I would hear that each them had a strong male in the house who made them study.

I had the privilege long ago of teaching a young man who went to Duke University on a basketball scholarship, and who could've gone pro his junior or even sophomore year. He did not, he waited until graduation, because I knew his father would kick his backside if he didn't finish college. And this young man made A's and B's throughout high school without special tutoring or extra credit --because his dad was on his case the whole time (as was his mom).

Mr. Welsh shows yet another reason I abandoned public education for academia:




Perhaps nothing shows how out of touch administrators are with the depth of poor students' problems more than the way they chose to start this school year. The Alexandria School Board had added two more paid work days to the calendar, a move that cost more than $1 million in teachers' salaries. So the administration decided to put on a three-day conference they dubbed "Equity and Excellence." We were promised "world-class speakers." If only that had been true. As part of the festivities, Sherman formed a choir of teachers and administrators that gave us renditions of "Imagine" and "This Land Is Your Land." Sherman closed the conference by telling us that if we didn't believe that "each and every" child in Alexandria could learn, he would give us a ticket to Fairfax County.

Now, six weeks into the academic year, some 30 fights -- two gang-related -- have taken place at T.C. Williams. I wish those three days had been spent bringing students to school to lay out clear rules and consequences, and for sessions on conflict resolution and anger management.




Administrators aren't paid to actually solve problems, only to address them. If schools didn't have problems, administrators and educational consultants would not have jobs. But some of the problems they face are beyond their immediate control, and they should start by facing up to that knowledge and tackling those aspects that they can control head-on.

So tell it on the mountain, Mr. Welsh! I'll be hollering back from the next ridge.


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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Uh, No?


973. Getting Out of Grading « Tomorrow's Professor Blog: wherein we read of one instructor's attempt to ditch grading by letting the students grade each other.


I didn't even need a bachelors degree to know how inane this idea was. When I was in high school, I did a project for a physics class. The teacher let the students assign the grades. I got a "C" because most of the other kids hated me for wrecking the curve on every exam. As our most recent Economics Nobeleans would argue, there are limits to the rational-choice approach in that rationality has finite limits. Or, there are alternatives to "normal" rationality that completely screw up the model. Or, perhaps, it's what I call "hyper-rationality" or "meta-rationality" that goes beyond the classroom parameters. Simply put, absent a control mechanism the students will all agree to give each other maximum grades. Even a Prisoner's Dilemma control could be subverted (cash!).


But mainly, I just want to tell her Gird yourself up, for Chrissakes! You're a professor, own up to it! Sheesh!


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Words of Wisdom for Roman Polanski, Bill Clinton, Mark Foley and many other menfolk


Courtesy of Tightly Wound: A Future Note to my Son: [WARNING: use of the word "penis"]





In light of all the current hoo-ha regarding a certain has-been film director, and the perplexing apologias for his behavior, I’m writing this down now, so that when the time comes for this particular heart-to-heart I will have the text ready.  Feel free to pity The Boy in advance for having to listen to this particular diatribe from his somewhat blunt and outspoken mother.  Text is below the cut, to shield delicate eyes from repeated use of the “p-word.”



Son, as someone who has your best interests at heart, I thought that I would take a moment to remind all of you of one helpful fact:



You are in charge of your penis.  Only you.  No one has the ability to “make you” do stupid things with it.  It’s all on you.  Because last time I checked, you were a Homo Sapien and had higher brain functions that translate into being able to CONTROL YOURSELF.  In other words, the penis  is not interchangeable with the medulla oblongata, no matter how much you may want to believe this is so.



So if, for example, you decide to ply an underage girl with drugs and booze and then do unspeakable things to her, you do not get to flee the country, blame it on her mother, her physique, or your “needs as a man.”  Your penis is not an independent actor.  It does not wander the earth like Kane looking for enlightenment.  It is attached to you, and while you may have trouble learning to control its tendency to become engorged at inopportune times, you are still in charge of where it goes and what it does.



Remember this.  And if that doesn’t work, and you find that your penis is still giving you trouble, then I leave you with those age-old words of wisdom:  think about baseball.  Or geriatric nudists playing beach volleyball.  Whatever works.






As I said
previously, once you hit the age of 13 or so, a certain Someone demands the prerogative of assuming control of the bus anytime the fancy strikes (so to speak). This passes for most men after 40, but for some (Clinton, Foley, Polanski, JFK, FDR, Harding among others) it remains a lingering bug.

November Will Mark the 20th Anniversary of the End of the Cold War


The Unknown War - Reason Magazine: "On August 23, 1989, officials from the newly reformed and soon-to-be-renamed Communist Party of Hungary ceased policing the country’s militarized border with Austria. Some 13,000 East Germans, many of whom had been vacationing at nearby Lake Balaton, fled across the frontier to the free world." Okay, that was back in August. November was when the Berlin Wall came down. I remember it well, I watched it on CNN. One hell of a moment and today people could care less.



I may have to do something about that...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

And this man had tenure?!


E.J. Dionne Jr. - Obama Right to Weigh Afghanistan Options:



At a White House dinner with a group of historians at the beginning of the summer, Robert Dallek, a shrewd student of both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, offered a chilling comment to President Obama.

"In my judgment," he recalls saying, "war kills off great reform movements." The American record is pretty clear: World War I brought the Progressive Era to a close. When Franklin D. Roosevelt was waging World War II, he was candid in saying that "Dr. New Deal" had given way to "Dr. Win the War." Korea ended Harry Truman's Fair Deal, and Vietnam brought Lyndon Johnson's Great Society to an abrupt halt. [italics mine]





Say what???

I may not have tenure, and I may not have taught at Columbia or UCLA, but I do have my own rebuttals to Prof. Dallek's assertions.


  • World War I: Prohibition (a long-time middle-class reform wish of the Progressives) becomes law when Americans equate alcohol consumption with anti-Americanism (and Hoover pushes the diversion of grain into export via the Lever Act). Women's suffrage becomes law after President Wilson gives his public support because women supported the war effort in large numbers. And we haven't even broached the precedents set by Wilsonian government expansion (National War Labor Board, Food Administration, nationalization of the railroads).

  • World War II: civil rights makes progress during the war for African Americans, as increasing numbers are allowed to serve in combat details. Moreover, the war convinces many white soldiers from the North that support for segregation in the South is incongruous with the critique of Hitler's "master race" thesis, thus laying a critical plank of support for the modern civil rights movement. The war of "Rose the Riveter" had the long-term effect of enabling the next wave of feminism a la Betty Friedan.

  • Korea: integration of the armed forces completed by Truman.

  • Vietnam: let's leave aside the critiques of the Great Society for now. The war, in giving life-blood to the New Left, advanced the cause of suffrage for 18-year-olds via the 26th Amendment.


[I reserve the right to make additions and linkages later; I have to lecture now...]


Friday, October 2, 2009

Monday, September 28, 2009

What Can And Cannot Be Taught


The American Spectator : Who Is College Material?: "[Y]ou can teach facts. You can teach skills. But you can't teach intellectual curiosity. If students haven't caught the bug after twelve years of elementary and secondary school, if they don't prize knowledge for its own sake, nothing their college professors do or say is going to remedy that lack."



True true true.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

UPDATED: Teen Unemployment At A New High


UPDATE: The dead end kids: unemployment for Americans aged 16-25 has now hit over 50%. Of course, any linkage between the minimum wage and entry-level jobs doesn't exist in the eyes of the New York Times, except if Wal-mart is somehow involved.


Oh What a Time to Be Young! - Economix Blog - NYTimes.com: wherein they tapdance around the "why," putting on the decision by older Americans to keep working. I thought they didn't like trickle-down theories in Manhattan! But they don't make any observations whatsoever (surprise surprise) about the hikes in the minimum wage that push entry-level jobs out of the market or into the underground sector.


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Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Question Michael Moore MUST Be Asked . . .


The Question Michael Moore MUST Be Asked . . .: "The interviewer should have asked Moore if the crews on his films own the projects they work on for him [or work for capitalist wages." HEH!!!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

REPOST: "Ahh, I see Professor Mojo has given his first exam of the term..."


[First Exam Weekend has come and gone in these parts. The last few days, I have been dealing with the inevitable ones who didn't listen to instructions, and who are in Deep Trouble over Things Which Have Incurred The Wrath of Professor Mojo. As is tradition, here is this post marking the occasion:]



"Ahh, I see Professor Mojo has given his first exam of the term: his students look like they've been gut-shot."


I try to keep class upbeat, lively, and not boring --oxymoronic aims for a history lecture, one might say (and yes, there are days when even I get bored by the things I have to cover). But I never intentionally mislead my students. From Day One, I warn them that if they don't study for the exams --and especially if they blow off the essay questions -- they will fail. But there are a significant number who simply do not listen.


And so every term, I get Exam One grades (out of 100) like 55. 38. 18. Welcome to the world of Community College Education.


For what it's worth, I also tell the students that this happens to everyone, and that I will take significant improvement into account when final grades are calculated. My mission is to improve these students, I don't get paid extra for failing them --that's how I justify it. Even so, I also know from past experience that only half of those students who bomb Exam One (bomb: = = anything less than a D/60) will even bother to finish the course, they'll head for the door at break and keep on going to the registrar to withdraw. It makes me sad.


But I can only do so much. I'm not legally allowed to use a war elephant (with howdah) to chase down those counselors who push students into classes for which they are absolutely unprepared; nor can I use Invoked Devastation on the schools which produce these students. I can only encourage and work with those who stick it out, and at least get them on the Path of Right Learning ("Study! Read! Think!").


The really sad part is that many of them will "shop around" for an "easier" prof next semester, and then end up failing again when they don't bother to study. This is college: I'm not doing any favors by reinforcing the bad habits they picked up in high school. And yes, I can throw stones at high schools, I used to teach high school, and I do know what it's like.


[FALL 2009 UPDATE: actually, I had very good results this time out. Yes, there were failures, and inevitably the majority of those were students who refused to heed my warnings about the cut-off timer and/or would not write their required mandatory "I-told-you-on-Day-One-there'd-be-one-on-every-exam-and-without-it-you-won't-pass-this-class" essays. But more students passed and passed well than did not pass. I hold that as evidence that I am Doing Something Right.]



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Sunday, September 20, 2009

If True, I Would Not Be All That Surprised


Corruption: Banks Lending UNSECURED To Terrorists? - The Market Ticker: wherein we learn that one of the accused terrorists (the one from Denver) arrested this week had managed to run up over $50,000 in credit card bills, despite being a foreign national with no tangible assets. Even worse, some of those charges may have been terrorism-related. Even more worse, the entities that gave him the credit cards without a second thought got bailout money from our government!!!


Not confirmed fully, but I can't say I'm surprised. Credit card companies deserve NO bailout for engaging in stupid behavior. My Banker Buddy (who I've fished and hunted with for over twenty years) and I saw this coming years ago. You flood the market with free credit, you shouldn't be surprised when a lot of it comes up toxic. But to think that Persons Up To No Good could've gamed the system and that the stupid companies who enabled them are going to get rewarded! --that is just pathetic.


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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Letter to Yale University Opposing Removal of Mohammed Images from Book -- NCAC


Letter to Yale University Opposing Removal of Mohammed Images from Book -- NCAC: read it and take note: if violence is allowed a "hecklers veto" over academic freedom, it will not end. It is craven appeasement. Would Yale University Press refuse to publish a book on the civil rights movement if white supremacists threatened violence over pictures of Bull Connor's men attacking peaceful protesters? Would they refuse to publish a book on World War II if neo-Nazis threatened violence over pictures of concentration camps? I fully support the sponsors of this letter, even the usually-suspect AAUP.


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Today is National Constitution Day.


I recommend reading it in its entirety: U.S. Constitution.



Today I talked about the role of the 14th Amendment in the Progressive Era. You can hear the barn door creaking open if you read between the lines in
Muller v. Oregon: "While the general liberty to contract in regard to one's business and the sale of one's labor is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment, that liberty is subject to proper restrictions under the police power of the State." (208 US 412)

"I HATE Illinois Nazis..."


Actor Henry Gibson dead at 73, spokesman says - CNN.com. I also liked him on Boston Legal.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Man, I'm Old!: Beloit College Mindset List for c/o 2013


Beloit College Mindset List for the Class of 2013. I look forward to this every year.

Read all of it. Here are a few that stood out for me:


  • "For these students, Martha Graham, Pan American Airways, Michael Landon, Dr. Seuss, Miles Davis, The Dallas Times Herald, Gene Roddenberry, and Freddie Mercury have always been dead." In order: never a dance fan, Pan Am food made me sick, I preferred Polaroid to Kodak, I AM the original Thing Two, the Legendary Stockholm Concert is still amazing, print media has been dying for years, Rick Berman is still haunted by the ghost of Gene (and Majel, too, as of late), and I have been listening to Sheer Heart Attack in my workout rotation for a few weeks now and my appreciation for that man's talents only increases with time.

  • "Rap music has always been main stream." To our everlasting shame and mortification! And I can say that as someone who listened to "Straight Outta Compton" by NWA when it first came out. It was better when it wasn't. (No we are not going to have a lengthy discussion on rap as music form.)

  • "The KGB has never officially existed." How soon the Cold War is forgotten.

  • "There has always been a Cartoon Network." Wow. I can remember being p.o.'d that Dexter's Lab was beaten out by The PowerPuff Girls for Best Cartoon Cartoon. Of course, they both got their own series. Justice Friends, Assemble!!!!!! Oh, and thank you for JuneBugs every summer (until they consigned all the classic cartoons to Boomerang) and for Dragon Ball Z.

  • "Members of Congress have always had to keep their checkbooks balanced since the closing of the House Bank." Congressman Rangel...paging Congressman Rangel...

  • "CDs have never been sold in cardboard packaging." Sure they are, just go to your local bank. --I say that only half in-jest. I lived to see the CD come and go as a medium of choice. Flash technology and high-speed Internet downloading have rendered this obsolete in most respects. CDs, however, have the advantage of permanence, for all practical purposes.


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Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11


If you're going today to plant a tree, do so in memoriam. If you're going to do community service, start by saying "I'm doing this for those who cannot."

Me, I'm not going out. You see, I belong to a community service organization. We do service projects every month, not just one day in September. I don't need a government leader to tell me to go do something --I already am.

Who Said This? And What Does This Mean?


Too late for Obama to turn it around?:



Why has the Democratic Party become so arrogantly detached from ordinary Americans? Though they claim to speak for the poor and dispossessed, Democrats have increasingly become the party of an upper-middle-class professional elite, top-heavy with journalists, academics and lawyers (one reason for the hypocritical absence of tort reform in the healthcare bills). Weirdly, given their worship of highly individualistic, secularized self-actualization, such professionals are as a whole amazingly credulous these days about big-government solutions to every social problem. They see no danger in expanding government authority and intrusive, wasteful bureaucracy.



And


[A]ffluent middle-class Democrats now seem to be complacently servile toward authority and automatically believe everything party leaders tell them. Why? Is it because the new professional class is a glossy product of generically institutionalized learning? Independent thought and logical analysis of argument are no longer taught. Elite education in the U.S. has become a frenetic assembly line of competitive college application to schools where ideological brainwashing is so pandemic that it's invisible. The top schools, from the Ivy League on down, promote "critical thinking," which sounds good but is in fact just a style of rote regurgitation of hackneyed approved terms ("racism, sexism, homophobia") when confronted with any social issue. The Democratic brain has been marinating so long in those clichés that it's positively pickled. 



It's Camile Pagila, noted feminist scholar and (almost needless to say) leftist bête noire. She speaks truth to power (you go, grrl!). Valid points, all of them. Elite schools have become the salons of the Left, catering to an aristocracy increasingly out-of-touch with ordinary people. And it's not just the elite schools: a trickle-down effect, if you will (bad when talking about economics, evidently, but good when talking about ideas), has made these influences felt all the way down to local schools and public education. This is my world.



And while she doesn't pull punches talking about Republicans (nor should she --Republicans should harken to
Nietzsche: that which does not kill you will make you stronger), she gives ample evidence to a point I like to make in my classes:



Throughout this fractious summer, I was dismayed not just at the self-defeating silence of Democrats at the gaping holes or evasions in the healthcare bills but also at the fogginess or insipidity of articles and Op-Eds about the controversy emanating from liberal mainstream media and Web sources. By a proportion of something like 10-to-1, negative articles by conservatives were vastly more detailed, specific and practical about the proposals than were supportive articles by Democrats, which often made gestures rather than arguments and brimmed with emotion and sneers. There was a glaring inability in most Democratic commentary to think ahead and forecast what would or could be the actual snarled consequences -- in terms of delays, denial of services, errors, miscommunications and gross invasions of privacy -- of a massive single-payer overhaul of the healthcare system in a nation as large and populous as ours. It was as if Democrats live in a utopian dream world, divorced from the daily demands and realities of organization and management.



Prof. Paglia should come right out and channel Marshall McLuhan. The Right has been effective lately because they understand (for the first time in a very long time) the media --this time, the use of the Tea Party Movement and Facebook and Twitter. And thus it has been since the time of Zwenger and Paine. The faction that best communicates with the common voter is the faction that holds power. McKinley, TR, FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Clinton and Obama: modern Presidents who gained power by understanding how best to use mass media to seize a moment and make it their own. The faction behind the learning curve remains so at its peril --witness the Republican cluelessness viz. the Internet for so long.



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Thursday, September 10, 2009

On Brisket


I like to think of myself as a decent producer of barbeque. I own a smoker that has a side-mounted firebox, and I maintain a cord of hardwood specifically for barbeque production.


Brisket is easy in principle, yet it can take a lifetime to master. On paper, nothing could be easier: you take a hunk of meat, you throw it on a smoker, you take it out several hours later, and Wah-La! Oh, if only!!! There are many things that can go awry for the novice. First, you need a half-way decent brisket to start. The biggest difference between what the Barbeque Gods are making and what you are making is that they have access to better briskets. Let's face it: if you're going to Kroger's and buying the 99¢/lb stuff that's on special, it's probably not as good as one you would buy for twice that at any decent meat market. AND FOR THE LOVE OF PETE DON'T BUY ONE THAT'S PRE-TRIMMED! Rub: keep it simple. Salt, red pepper, black pepper are your basics. I like garlic powder, onion powder, and a bit of dry mustard as well. Remember that the smoke is doing most of the flavoring.


Next is the set-up for cooking. Brisket as barbeque has to be done slowly. S-l-o-w-ly. Too quick (hot) and it's going to be flavorless and overdone on the outside. Of course, you can overcook one, and with the cheaper ones especially the longer you go the tougher they can become. But the main problem here is temperature control. You can't do slow-and-low over a direct fire. You need a side set-up, one with the smoke going only indirectly towards the meat. This also makes fire maintenance easier. And it also makes having a water pan an easier proposition. No water pan equals drippings everywhere, also equals hotter drier fire equals drier overdone meat. Beer in the pan is optional, as is beer in the belly.


Wood: don't bother with fancy wood, this is beef. Hickory, pecan, oak or mesquite. Mesquite burns very hot, so be judicious in loading the fire box. Time: An hour per pound is a good guide if your heat is about right (190-210 Fahrenheit). A meat thermometer is always nice. Wrapped or unwrapped: I've been going unwrapped of late and I think that's why I've been doing lack-luster (IMO) briskets lately. Wrapping doesn't keep out as much smoke as you might think, and it keeps the outer portions from drying too quickly. I quit wrapping because 1) I'm lazy and 2) it's always a pain draining out the juice. I may solve that by making drainholes.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Teen Unemployment At A New High


Oh What a Time to Be Young! - Economix Blog - NYTimes.com: wherein they tapdance around the "why," putting on the decision by older Americans to keep working. I thought they didn't like trickle-down theories in Manhattan! But they don't make any observations whatsoever (surprise surprise) about the hikes in the minimum wage that push entry-level jobs out of the market or into the underground sector.


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Friday, September 4, 2009

No Wonder The Mrs. Thinks I'm A Gibbering Idiot When I Talk To Her


Men lose their minds speaking to pretty women : "Talking to an attractive woman really can make a man lose his mind, according to a new study."



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Again: Doesn't Anyone Think About Unintended Consequences?


Danish Think Tank Calls to Focus on Geoengineering Solutions to Global Warming:



The Copenhagen Consensus Center, a controversial Denmark-based think tank focused on the environment and international development, proposed Thursday that world leaders should focus on a geoengineered solution to climate change in the near term rather than mandating cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

The group, headed by statistician Bjorn Lomborg, issued a report by five economists that suggested it made more sense to spend money on marine cloud whitening research and green energy development than to protect forests, clean up diesel emissions or significantly raise the price of carbon.

"You need to find a short-term way -- meaning the next 50 to a hundred years -- to deal with climate change," Lomborg said, adding that making artificial clouds by spraying seawater into the atmosphere could address global warming at a cost of $9 billion. Theoretically, these clouds could reflect sunlight back into space and, therefore, curb global temperature rise. "If it's that simple, we would want to do it. We need to check out if it's that simple."




Didn't I say a while back that there were dangers in going this route? You'd better know damn well what you're doing. All this bell-ringing and shouting is going to convince people that a unilateral "simple" solution --one that could be done by even a second- or third-rate power-- will solve all our problems at a blow. Unintended consequences, folks, unintended consequences...



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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Why People Don't Like Teachers Unions


Joel Klein vs. New York City teachers : The New Yorker: it's long but it's very worthwhile reading.


As some of you know, I used to teach public school in a state where teachers unions are effectively outlawed/emasculated/whatever ---teachers have no legal right to strike in this state. I always hear teachers complaining about how horrible the system can be, how awful a lot of administrators are, how entirely disagreeable their lives are --and yet year after year there they go back into the classroom. I can sympathize to a point. But time and again we get reminded of the other side of the picture, where teacher unions run the show. Contra the assertions made by some of the Rubber Room Residents, I will testify that there are many mediocre teachers out there. Even in this state, it's such a hassle to get out a bad teacher that the path of least resistance is to send them elsewhere along the food chain.



And let's be totally totally honest here: teaching, when you're good at it, is a sweet sweet gig. And even if you're not that good at it, it's not so bad if you know how to get along and keep everyone happy (read: pass all the kids, don't be a pain in the ass to your bosses). Teacher unions upset the applecart by reminding people of what they should be ashamed of (teachers are underpaid considering how much you'd have to pay to babysit those youngsters all day) and using that to make exorbitant demands. The kids are generally forgotten. And the public turns against the teachers, which is ultimately a terrible thing.


I'm not saying administrators are all universally enlightened. As I've often argued before, something about getting a masters in education with emphasis on administration turns roughly 83% of good teachers into total morons. Sad, yes. I have seen some good admins but I have seen some gosh-awful ones. It's the Peter Principle at work. So yes, unions do occasionally have the point that someone needs to be out there standing up to the admins. But along the way they became as bad --if not worse-- than the very evil they were trying to remedy. And the kids are the ones who pay the price.


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Revenge of the Unintended Consequences!


Alert over new wave of exploding fridges caused by 'environmentally-friendly coolant' | Mail Online: "Luckily no-one was hurt when Kathy Cullingworth's fridge exploded but the damage bill was £10,000. A series of violent fridge explosions is believed to have been caused by leaks of 'environmentally-friendly' coolant." Really, is it me or is no one checking these things out ahead of time???


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Monday, August 31, 2009

Bad Mojo! Leave That Alone...


I had to do it. I went a-Googling, looking for a sleeping dog. That sleeping dog, yes. Did not find aforesaid creature. Glad I got it out of my system, though.


I'd let it sleep forever but forewarned is forearmed. The price of freedom is, indeed, eternal vigilance.


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Friday, August 28, 2009

Why I End Up Invariably Being The "Go-To" Geek


...because I learned long ago to follow this chart: xkcd - A Webcomic - Tech Support Cheat Sheet:


[and no, I was not the first in my immediate circle to post this; however, I did learn it of my own accord long ago...]


Tech Support Cheat Sheet

On The Death Of Repair Departments And Product Quality


The tiller (of which I have blogged before) suffered a near-catastrophic failure when Yours Truly pulled the starter cord clean off the flywheel several weeks ago. (HE-MAN!) As it was the hot part of the summer (no, the real hot part of the summer), I put off getting anything done to it for a while. But with fall gardening just around the corner, I figured it was about time to Get Things Done.


So I pulled off the outer housing cover and examined the interior. Threading the cord back onto the flywheel was an issue --they don't make it easy. But I knew something else was wrong when I finally got everything buttoned up and I pulled the cord and it did not zing! back into readiness. Uh oh. Off to the vendor I went. And that's when the first annoyance occurred: the location in question (part of a national chain) required me to bring in the entire machine for inspection. Nevermind that the man behind the counter (who knew what he was talking about, to be fair) diagnosed the problem with 95% certainty (worn-out or broken return spring in the inner flywheel housing). Store policy was that I bring in the entire unit.


I put this off for a while, as the store was somewhat of a distance from my place. I finally got around to it today. And that's when I made the second annoying discovery: they didn't actually do the repairs on-site. No, they would charge me $29.95 as an entry fee (a "diagnostic fee" but we'll call it what it is here...). And then, they would examine the machine NO! They would wait for the once-a-week truck to come collect it and take it to their central parts/repair depot, where they would repair it NO AGAIN! they would ship it off to the regional repair shop. In Dallas. So we're looking at two weeks of transportation just to get it to the place where it would be examined. "Or you could take it to the depot yourself and save a week, here are the directions...." Oh well, it was on my way back to my part of the world.


After a further half-hour of driving --the directions were essentially accurate, but the promises of "oh, it's just off thus-and-so street" were, shall we say, distorted-- I found the depot. Oh look, they actually do some on-site repairs here! And they stock parts! Well now!!! I went inside and talked with a parts guru, who was able to bring up the Briggs & Stratton parts diagram on the screen, and together we came up with a simple solution: buy a new housing unit (cord, flywheel and all) and have it shipped directly to Casa Mojo. Joy!!!


Would that this were an aberration in the customer service world. But it is not. Bean-counters and "efficiency experts" long ago decreed that repairs should at all costs be taken out of the hands of the end user to ensure profits higher up the food chain. Later this asinine reasoning was extended to take repairs out of the hands of local vendors. And that's just plain stupid. While there is a certain level of redundancy in having every retail outlet also having a repair shop, it's that level of customer service and dedication that builds brand loyalty --and brand loyalty means long-term profits! American auto makers never did learn that lesson, constantly making cars harder for drivers to work on or repair or even have routinely serviced --and American cars need lots of service because the folks making them quit giving a rat's hind end years ago. American manufacturers of appliances never learned that lesson, either, and so you simply do not see as many American-built products. People want to be able to get things fixed when they break, and fixed sooner rather than later. And we don't want to have to buy a $400 piece of equipment when a $3 part breaks.


And this becomes even more meaningful in an economic downturn. I came from a family in the tire business. We always did more sales of mid-high end tires in bad times because people traditionally kept cars longer and thus were more inclined to buy tires that would last longer. (The low-end tires, by contrast, actually sold better in good times because people would buy a new set to put on before they sold their old jalopies.) Repairs also went up in bad times because people would pay to have their clunkers kept running rather than stretching to buy a new one. But what good does it do now when you have to jump through multiple hoops (some of which are sometimes aflame) to do simple repairs? If the intent is to encourage consumption of new merchandise, it's ultimately self-defeating, since people will remember those things and buy (usually foreign-made) merchandise that lasts forever. There's a reason I remember so many people in the Eighties and early Nineties driving Hondas, Toyotas and Nissans --the damn things would last forever if kept up. And all this says nothing of the ecological impact of never reusing or recycling --how horribly "incorrect"!


At any rate my new part will be here next week and fall gardening prep can begin in earnest. (No, Roy, the Atikinsons died despite my best attempts, it was simply too hot.)


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Why History Gets Rewritten III --Another Lesson In Not Sticking With The 'Draft Narrative'


BernardGoldberg.com: "A Lost Fact in the 'Rathergate' Mess", wherein Goldberg discusses the overlooked part of the whole Rathergate brouhaha: not just if the documents were fake, but if CBS (or more specifically, the producer in charge of the story) knew in advance that there was evidence to support that point out. (Advance knowledge = knowledge aforethought, for those keeping score...) Money excerpt:



Until now, the controversy over the Rather/Mapes story has centered almost entirely on one issue: the legitimacy of the documents – a very important issue, indeed. But it turns out that there was another very important issue, one that goes to the very heart of what the story was about – and one that has gone virtually unnoticed. This is it: Mary Mapes knew before she put the story on the air that George W. Bush, the alleged slacker, had in fact volunteered to go to Vietnam.



Who says [that CBS knew something wasn't right ahead of time]? The outside panel CBS brought into to get to the bottom of the so-called “Rathergate” mess says. I recently re-examined the panel’s report after a source, Deep Throat style, told me to “Go to page 130.” When I did, here’s the startling piece of information I found:



Mapes had information prior to the airing of the September 8 [2004] Segment that President Bush, while in the TexANG [Texas Air National Guard] did volunteer for service in Vietnam but was turned down in favor of more experienced pilots. For example, a flight instructor who served in the TexANG with Lieutenant Bush advised Mapes in 1999 that Lieutenant Bush “did want to go to Vietnam but others went first.” Similarly, several others advised Mapes in 1999, and again in 2004 before September 8, that Lieutenant Bush had volunteered to go to Vietnam but did not have enough flight hours to qualify. [emphasis in original]



You still do not have to like Shrub or Bushitler if you don't wanna. Goodness knows there is much fault to be found. But that is no excuse for what CBS played at. And it's yet another reason why we can't let reporters and their enablers alone write the first drafts of history. They simply cannot be trusted.


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Thursday, August 27, 2009

P.J. O'Rourke Channels Paul Simon (to a point) and Makes Me ROTFLMAO


Still 'Crazy' -- And Proud of It: "[T[he fourth estate has been alarmed once again by the Burkean proclivities of our nation's citizens." And to think that all this time I dreaded ever being called a burke...

P. J. O'Rourke, by the way, should be required reading for all college students. Period.

Take a Vet to Lunch


Take a Vet to Lunch: a new take on Veterans Day.


It’s a very simple thing.  It’s appreciative without being overly ceremonial, and simple enough that most Vets will accept it without too much fuss.  I have found most Vets to be humble in their acceptance of any fanfare for what they consider to be a dutiful task, while themselves being almost aggressively thankful to others who have made similar sacrifices.


Thumbs up.


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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Hurricane Preparedness: The Oddball Bits -REPOST


[NB I was going to post this a few weeks ago but it's been so quiet until recently that I forgot about it. ]


Today's discussion centers around evacuation procedures. We're not talking about which route to take or when to get --that's for another time. This is the oddball "dang I shoulda thought of that!" discussion.


  1. Gas in the vehicle really isn't about being ready to evacuate pre-storm, it's about being ready post-storm. Unless you live in N'awlins or Galveston or a similar low area, you generally don't consider evacuation unless 120+ winds are going to be coming to your immediate neighborhood. Well and good, you get to do triage to your property and get your pics for the adjuster (aside: wonder if you can pre-schedule one ahead of a storm...?), but if the power is out for a few days --or worse, the water pressure goes out and there's no drinking water --you're going to think about leaving, and then it hits you: you can't get gas because the stations are closed in your area. Or the refineries won't start deliveries for a few days. Whatever. Same problem: you don't have gas. Helpful hint: you have a boat that doesn't make you pre-mix the oil into the gas? Then you have a back-up gas source! Just make sure you have some kind of siphon hose and don't swallow!

  2. Obviously the preferable option is to evacuate well in advance of a coming storm, but if you choose to ride it out (and can do so safely), you need to have your game plan laid out for post-storm evacuation. I can guarantee that every hotel, motel, guest lodge and bed/breakfast within 300 miles is going to be booked up solid. Make nice-nice with in-laws, old college roomies or third cousins (this may mean reciprocity agreements and/or barbeque dinners) and have your options all laid out.

  3. Your animals are not going to evacuate themselves, nor do they know how to operate a can-opener if you are not present. Any evacuation plans should include dealing with family pets. I will point out (as a custodian of 30+ years experience) that cats with outdoors experience and access to an ant-free dry food dispenser and a large water supply may be left alone for a few days or even a week, but that's in extremis, and certainly you should never leave a cat behind to face a storm alone, even if they have indoor/outdoor capability (pet door). Dogs can't be trusted to conserve food, they will gorge on dry food until it runs out and then they will go hungry. The best option is to evacuate cats and dogs along with everyone else. Birds, too! Aquarium fish, alas, are generally out of luck.

  4. Before you leave, make sure you're not setting up nasty surprises for yourself upon return. Shut off the electricity, or leave only the breaker for the refrigerator and the freezer. Ditto the natural gas, and if you don't know where your cut-off valve is, shame on you. Secure your outside --there have been lawsuits involving wind-blown items crashing into someone else's house from someone else's property (think "reasonable expectations" and you have the basis of a tort). Board or tape windows, and secure doors. Locate ahead of time the neighborhood diehard who will not evacuate unless the storm surge is over 15' in the immediate vicinity, and bring him (or her) beer, hard liquor and/or ammunition and make nice-nice. This is the person who will be standing tall until you get back.


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Friday, August 21, 2009

How Charter Colleges Can Rekindle Innovation: NAS


How Charter Colleges Can Rekindle Innovation: taking the charter school concept to academia. Money excerpts:

Most public universities have tenure and promotion rules that reward faculty members for little more than publishing in academic journals. Most have swollen administrative budgets and employ legions of staff members who contribute virtually nothing to what goes on inside the classroom. Most have byzantine, often secretive decision-making processes. And most have special programs that cater to narrow constituencies and drain resources away from general education.

We should have revisited all of those practices long ago, but bureaucratic inertia and organizational rigidity stymied any such attempts. Without greater institutional flexibility, progress will be painfully slow at best. Innovation would be unshackled if we could organize charter colleges on the campuses of our public-university systems -- where they would have access to dormitories, gymnasiums, libraries, and laboratories -- or as free-standing institutions.


The typical response from long-time academics is that this would promote more anti-thetical (to academia) entities such as the Hoover Institute. My response is two-fold. Firstly, why should academics fear the marketplace of free ideas? Do they honestly believe that these will draw sufficient funds away from mainline schools to imperil their existence? And secondly, what's to say that a George Soros wouldn't want to fund something like this from the Left? It doesn't have to be a one-way ticket to Rushville.

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The Five Commandments of Anonymous Blogging


I am a semi-anonymous blogger. Which is to say, while I make an effort not to proclaim myself in big bold letters, it doesn't take a degree in cryptoanalysis to figure out who I am. Still, I was inspired by [t]he coming-out stories of anonymous bloggers [on] CNN.com to come up with a list of commandments for anonymous blogging.


  1. Thou shalt not commit libel. Truth is an absolute defense against a charge of libel, but one had best be ready to document things just in case. Defamation of character is a bit trickier, but I don't want to go into that.

  2. Thou shalt not disparage thine own employer by name. Whistleblower laws may vary from state to state, but it's a given that most employers have some sort of employment codecil that allows for dismissal on the basis of the employee making harmful remarks about the company/organization in public. In other words, the hands-that-feed don't like being bitten and are within their prerogatives to put you outside.

  3. Thou shalt not hold thy fellow employees in contempt by name. This goes towards the "public image" argument. It also dovetails into the general area of "creating a hostile work environment." If your remarks single out a person or persons by name, you bring the organization into disrepute. You also may be tugging on Superman's cape while believing you are simply tweaking Clark Kent --you never know what sort of connections folks have. And this most especially includes gossip --which can leave you exposed to the lower standard of proof available to plaintiffs in a defamation lawsuit.

  4. Thou shalt know the laws by whence ye live. If your company expressly forbids discussing company business in any public forum, you are open to summary dismissal. Another example of interest to education bloggers is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA). This is the one that (in)famously has led many entities to forbid posting of grades and even recognizing high-performing students in class without prior consent. You mention a student by name, you court disaster. It's this simple: breaking laws is simply not a good idea.

  5. Honor thy elders. Certain topics never get discussed by senior employees; this does not mean that they are cowards, toadies or part of The System. It means that they have Been Around and know the limits of public discourse. It is wise to pay them heed.


"So what's the point, then?" The point is you will still have a job at the end of the day. If you feel so strongly about Bad Things that you are willing to put your neck on the line to say something, then you should either go through proper channels or be prepared to find alternative employment. You probably aren't very happy where you are and on some level are looking to get out. I like where I work, so I don't have a lot to say about my institution. Many of my gripes concern academia in general, not my immediate colleagues or my students. And you can bet that the second I crossed that line, there would be repercussions. So I respect it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Proof Positive: Once More, I'm CANDY!!!


It's true: all the taken men are best - life - 17 August 2009 - New Scientist: "A new study provides evidence for what many have long suspected: that single women are much keener on pursuing a man who's already taken than a singleton." No wonder Mrs. gets peevish when I forget to put my ring back on.


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Mojo On The Job!

Orientation is over for "new" faculty (I've been here five years, folks, how new am I? --of course, I say that and they had "new" full-timers who'd been adjuncting/part-timing it for fifteen years, so I guess I'm lucky...). I got up to campus today and found what every adjunct dreams of: an office cubicle and computer of my very own. Modified rapture!

I have no phone yet. Which is to say, I have a Cisco phone system that I can't operate beyond basic telephonic functions, and my number is still listed as that of the former occupant, who left in disgrace not terribly long ago. Put it this way: I'm not in any hurry to see what voicemails students may have left on this number.

I can see the sky from my spot, which I consider to be a Very Good Thing. I have long disliked the tendency to build educational buildings like warehouses or prisons to cut utility costs. Sunlight boosts everything --that's a good mantra. I am right next to my other history colleagues, so we can talk shop as the need takes us. I am also within striking distance of several of my favorite colleagues from other disciplines, so life is good.

But I must confess: today was terribly boring. I got my teaching schedule (ugh: 8AM at the across-town campus!), and the grand irony is now I'm going to make more money but my actual work load (considering driving) is actually going to be less. I got a few websites added and tweaked my office computer a little bit (note to self: get extra Ethernet cable for laptop Mac). I did a very little bit of paperwork. And now I'm going home. Turnips and peas, I can't wait to have students again! Weird, since I just got done with finals last week.

--It just hit me why "weird": I'm only getting one week off between the end of summer and the start of fall. That's because my system is still behind from weather disruptions last fall and this is when the Great Leap To Catch Up takes place. Oh well.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Housekeeping: New Blog Template

--ooh, I like this layout template much better.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A 'New' American Revolution? Read and Discuss


Puttering around while students are taking their finals, I began rereading a section of Gordon Wood's Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Radicalism of the American Revolution. And the following passages struck me:


"Mob actions by cross sections or ordinary people, artisans and laborers, were nothing new in colonial America. In all the colonies mobs had erupted almost continually in the eighteenth century, aiming at particular targets in protest against problems that the regular processes of government seemed unable to solve. Far from being symptoms of democracy, these mob protest simply demonstrated the extend to which the society was still hierarchically and paternalistically organized. Although those eighteenth-century mobs were undoubtedly anti-authoritarian and could on occasion temporarily turn "the world upside-down," by their actions they always recognized "the world right side up" and seemed to pose no lasting threat to the political and social order; which is why they were so often tolerated by the gentry." (Woods, 244).


1) Evaluate this argument with regards to the anti-Bush protesters during the Second Iraq War.


Continuing,


"What alarmed the gentry of the 1760s and 1770s, however, were the growing ideologically backed claims by ordinary people to a share in the actual conduct of the government. It was one thing for ordinary people to take part in a mob or to vote; for them to participate in the deliberations and decisions of government was quite another. By classical republican standards such participation would imply the participation of private "interests" in government, with the participants becoming judges of their own interests. Yet this was precisely what democracy in America came to mean." (ibid.)


2) Discuss this argument in the context of the Tea Party movement and the anti-health-care-revision protests of 2009.

3) Attack or defend the following proposition: the anti-Bush protests, although successful in driving the Republicans from office, were ultimately less revolutionary than the anti-government protests of 2009.


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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

MOMENTOUS NEWS CONCERNING PROFESSOR MOJO!!!


It is with great pleasure that I announce that a full-time offer has been extended to me by my institution, and I have accepted. No more will I be Adjunct Professor Mojo.... that's MISTER Professor Mojo to you now, bub!

And Now For Something Completely Different: A Twit-opera


Line-by-line Update « Royal Opera House Blog: which is not, pace any comments about who goes to such things, what you might think. It is an opera whose libretto is being composed ad hoc via Twitter.


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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Why History Gets Rewritten II --How You Can't Even Trust Historians!


Conservative History Journal: Historians in denial: read it. The guy is dead-on, some of those late-Eighties histories (written immediately before the fall of the Iron Curtain) read as badly as Sivachev and Yakovlev's Russia and the United States, which came out during the heydey of the Brezhnev Era and is about as in-house a Soviet history as you'll find. A useful corrective to such palaver is John Lewis Gaddis's We Now Know --or even better, his revised The Cold War: A New History.


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