A "traditional" yet alternative arrangement of a traditional New Year's piece: Auld Lang Syne
2010: I cannot complain overly much about this year. I think we finally turned a financial corner here, and we grew tons of tomatoes. Both of us have jobs doing what we love to do. Our health remains decent (though like most people, we could stand to drop a little bit of backside...)
We had the usual complaints, of course: not enough fishing, not enough hunting, not enough time to get chores done, not enough sewing. And the ending of this year was certainly bittersweet. We will miss Dad terribly on New Year's Day, when we sit down to watch the Neujahrskonzert from Vienna. He loved the Redetsky March. On the other hand, we will bring in 2011 knowing that another Mojo will be with us, a little boy whom will surely drive us nuts but such is the cost of being parents.
Our country: hard to tell, the signs are mixed. But you don't need a PhD in history to understand this statement: if those in power do not recognize why things shook out the way they did, they are doomed to fail. That means you, Republicans! And you too, Democrats, if you're even bothering to listen...
Tonight I am being dragged down to the In-Laws for a while, but we will return to the house long before things get totally wild. I will likely stop and buy a big boomer from the fireworks stand and set it off around midnight. Tomorrow will be the traditional blackeyed peas and cabbage meal, along with the Neujahrskonzert on TV.
And here's once again to you, Dad!
Proßit Neujahr 2011!!!
(UPDATE: I found Barenboim conducting last year's Konzert and he's pretty awesome --though I do miss Maazel)
Friday, December 31, 2010
Thursday, December 30, 2010
NAS - The National Association of Scholars :: Articles and Archives Is Academic Freedom a License to Indoctrinate? Peter Wood: nevermind that I just lost whatever respect I had for the state of Pennsylvania, you should read this piece and consider the implcations. There's an upside to all this!
Either a) I can use this as inspiration to begin to completely trash the Marcuse/Zinn/Foner approach that so many of my colleagues use in the name of bringing Austro-Straussian wisdom to my students;
b) I should maintain a relative sense of balance in my class, which necessarily means including libertarian, paleo- and neo-conservative critiques of orthodox historiography and my colleagues can bloody well keep their yaps shut about it.
Win-win! Three cheers and a tiger for me!!!
Friday, December 24, 2010
[NB this was one of Dad's favorites.]
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.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Today I bury my father. Okay, technically we entomb his body today, but if we're going to argue semantics today that might actually be appropriate given my father's love of such things, so I will indulge you...
A bit from his obituary:
Jerry was born in Beaumont’s Hotel Dieu to Jacob Carl White and Thenoba Gwendolyn Boyett White on May 8, 1931. He graduated from South Park High School, and was vice-president of the first full four-year class at Lamar College of Technology. He married the former Norma Ruth Plettman on September 8, 1963. He was President Emeritus of White Tire Supply, having worked there from the age of eleven. He served on the board of directors of the Texas Tire Dealers Association, the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence, and the National Tire Dealers and Retreaders Association. He received numerous awards, including the very first Lifetime Achievement Award from the Texas Tire Dealers Association, and was just inducted into the Tire Industry Association’s Hall of Fame. He was an active member of the Beaumont Rotary Club, and a Sunday School teacher and elder at First Christian Church.Jerry loved learning. He always tinkering and asking questions, often to the confoundment of those he questioned. He had a passion for travel, and he and Norma were always looking forward to their next adventure.
I stand on the shoulders of a giant. In so many, many ways I am my father's son. I grieve that I cannot tell him to his face that the family name will carry on (yes, it's going to be a boy, we found out a day after he passed). I am at peace with it, though it will be hard to make Original Wee One understand where Granddad has gone.
Hail to you, Father. We will strike up the band close to noon.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
WikiLeaks: Cuba banned Sicko for depicting 'mythical' healthcare system. Most of us with more than half a brain cell realized that Sicko was a typical Michael Moore hatchet job from the get-go. I mean, honestly, when the best Cuban doctors are sent to Venezuela for oil, how good can it be at home? (No, really, how good can it be at home?)
But this is too rich! The Cuban government bans a film which is supposed to make itself look good, because it knows it's a farce and can't even risk showing it to its own people. How do we know this? Because of Wikileaks, the organization founded by that international playah-on-the-prowl, Julian Assange.
That would be the same Julian Assange whose recent bail was partly financed by... Michael Moore.
Friday, December 17, 2010
Saturday, December 4, 2010
This coming week marks the end of the semester. Strangely, this has left me in a funk. I think it's because of the increasing number of students whom I'm forced to fail because they try to cheat and then claim ignorance of the law. I think I'm going to push in the Faculty Senate that we do something further to crack down on this sort of thing. Meantime I'm bombarded with appeals to the better angel of my nature --and threats of appeals all the way to the college president.
Also, my father is in the hospital. Minor nasal surgery resulted in his throwing a blood clot which ended up in his heart. A mild heart attack ensued, but no tissue damage was evident in any scan. However, should the clot break free without being completely dissolved, lots of bad things are possible. So we are sweating that.
I think the real reason I'm in a funk is because I want to go do gardening work and I have no trailer to haul mighty loads of compost from the landfill. Here is a picture of my new toy, and damn it, I want to USE it!
Monday, November 29, 2010
Comedy Legend Leslie Nielsen Dies At 84: and with him a dear piece of my childhood. Airplane! is still one of the funniest movies ever made. And he was a WWII vet, serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force.
In pace requiescat.
Technorati Tags: humor
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
This morning, Mrs. Mojo beamed as she showed me the dress that Nana bought the (no longer so) Wee One for the holidays. I sputtered, "Humbug! It's too early to deal with Christmas, go put that away!" And instantly I knew that was a mistake because I got The Look, but more to the point she responded, "Look at the calendar, it's thirty-one days to Christmas!"
Every year we have this spat, and every year I lose. To my mind Christmas should be a time of reflection, reverence and a bit of ribaldry. And stretching that out over umpteen days dilutes it. So I have made it a rule --"it is now a law of the Medes and the Persians and the Mojos" that we do not begin serious preparations for Christmas until three weeks out (discussions of logistics for major gifts and holiday dinners excepted).
Or so, at least, runs my official party line. However, Mrs. Mojo loves this season and takes it seriously. As the youth choir director at church, she begins preparations in mid-October(!). Being a prudent woman she does her shopping in early November. And as we approach Thanksgiving she begins tidying the house, not in preparation of company but in anticipation of putting up decorations. (NB one of the compromises that permits us to remain happily married is that I have zero role in holiday decorating other than erecting the tree itself [and the crêche, the years we have one].) And this rankles me, and so every year we have the argument about when the decorations actually go up and when we begin to play seasonal music (other than Christmas programs, which has already gone on for weeks).
And every year, right around this time, I lose the argument. LIke it's a ritual or something!
[Note: as Mrs. Mojo is growing increasingly expectante this time around, I have been promised that the actual amount of decoration this year will be limited. Mind you, I've heard that one before...]
Monday, November 22, 2010
Al Gore: I shouldn't have supported corn-based ethanol: I'm going to love reading history books fifty years from now when they call him for the utter fraud that he is.
Monday, November 15, 2010
The Cranky Professor: Our friend the brussel sprout . . .: wherein a well-meaning colleague feeds brussel sprouts to his students. Oh the horror!!!
(Pace Mrs. J, whose sprouts are the only ones I will willingly eat...)
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Twenty years ago, people made fun of guys like me who played D&D on the weekends, even though we did not dress up like wizards and warriors, let alone go running through the woods rolling dice (I'm looking at you now, Mrs. Professor Mojo!). Now your'e telling me that cool young collegiates are doing this because they think it's cool?!?!?
Dothiel Tienve. >
Community College Spotlight | Ivy League admits few veterans: why is this, hmm?
The Devil’s Workshop Annual Most Highly Selective Survey of Undergraduate Veteran Enrollment
Wellesley No reply
Brown No reply
Mount Holyoke 3
William & Mary 24
Bunker Hill Community College 367
I can think of a few reasons. Military vets tend not to think of themselves as Ivy material and so do not apply. The perception is out there that Ivies don't like vets. Ivy profs hate vets --they spoil the accepted narratives by providing primary source material that cannot be simply dismissed in-person as "war-mongering and biased" --except by a notable minority of tenured bloviates.
I am proud to teach a number of vets every year. It it a disservice to them to stereotype them in any way as to attitudes and abilities. And since I charge considerrably less for my services than my colleagues at the Ivies, I would suggest to vets that they look me up. I'm not that hard to find.
Monday, November 8, 2010
Mobile phone kits to diagnose STDs | Society | The Guardian: oh brave new world in which we live!
(I could make a comment about a particular ex-flame of mine who turned out to be Tetched In The Head, but I'll refrain.)
Thursday, October 28, 2010
We've just had Exam Two here in US History to 1877. And I'm seeing something that I have not seen hitherto.
My "traditional" essay prompt for this exam --which covers the time period from 1763 to 1814-- calls for students to "[d]escribe the differences between the Jeffersonian Republicans and the Federalists" and to "compare those differences to those that exist between today's Republicans and Democrats." At first blush this should not be a terribly challenging topic, but then again many of my students a) don't study, b) don't pay attention in class and c) don't bother keeping up with the news. Actually, most of them do a passable job with the first part of the question, but not the second --at least until this time around.
Now I am no fool. I realize that like most young Americans, my students overwhelmingly supported the election of B. Obama to the Presidency. And in past semesters, their essays have reflected the mindset of Democratic-leaning supporters, e.g., "today's Republicans are the party of the wealthy elite, just as the Federalists were," and "Jeffersonian Republicans were the party of the 'little guy' like today's Democrats."
Not. This. Time.
I was genuinely shocked to see students talking about "today's Democrats are all about the expanding of power like in health-care reform, while today's Republicans are like yesterday's Republicans in wanting limited government." I've always had one or two Tea Party types among my population, so I have seen this line used before. But the sheer number of essays written by my students --who have to get through an Eric Foner textbook as their main reader!-- that reflect *gasp* skeptical cynicism is enough to make me blink.
It gets better. I'm also seeing essays along the lines of "today's Republicans are strict constructionists, while today's Democrats are firm believers in implied powers" --and I never used to get more than one or two like that a semester! My students are suddenly taking a deeper interest in the Constitution. Why is this??? [NB we do read the entire thing line-by-line in class.]
Now some of you may be a bit "oh they're just mirroring you, Mojo, you big honking fascist!" [I am not a fascist.] Well, I haven't been particularly strident this semester, and I do make an effort to play up the logic and benefits of a loose constructionist position in the name of balance --in short, I haven't changed what I do. It's the students who are changing what they're saying.
And given the demographics that I reach, that's a huge warning sign to those in power at the moment. If you're losing MY students, in the long run you are toast.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
UPDATE: BEFORE YOU VOTE, PUT THIS APP ON YOUR PHONE! The Voter Fraud Mobile app for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad: you may not have to use it, but you'll be glad if you do.
In North Carolina as well as in Nevada, voters trying to vote straight-party tickets on machines have reported problems with the ballots being "defaulted" to some previously-set parameter --in other words, the ballots were pre-set to vote for "the other guy."
I have already voted and I noticed no such irregularity on my ballot. But be aware that This Sort Of Thing can (and does) happen. Be diligent when casting your vote: make sure your final ballot is the one you selected. Remember that in many states (including mine), going down-ticket to vote in races where your party runs no candidate will invalidate your straight-party vote at the top of the ballot.
Of course, the simplest and best (if not shortest) solution is not to vote the straight-party option at the top of your ballot, but to vote separately in each individual race.
But whatever else you do, do go vote. Display Your Civitas!
Iraq did have chemical WMD, WikiLeaks documents reveal - NYPOST.com: not the first time this sort of thing has been reported, but that's not why we should care. First, it should finally put a rest to "Bush lied, people died." (But I doubt it...) Second, it has long been speculated that Iraq did have much more in the way of WMD but managed to secrete them elsewhere in the run-up to the invasion. This is not proof of that, but it it does cast doubt on the counter-claim that there were no WMD in the first place.
Monday, October 18, 2010
This would never get a second look at the State Fair of Texas unless it were first deep-fried:
The Faculty Lounge: Another Sign That the American Empire Is In Its "Decadent Decline" Phase:
I'm having a calorie coma-by-proxie....
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Hire an Atheist to Watch Your Pet After the Rapture:
(not original to, but brought to my attention by The Volokh Conspiracy)
You’ve committed your life to Jesus. You know you’re saved. But when the Rapture comes what’s to become of your loving pets who are left behind? Eternal Earth-Bound Pets takes that burden off your mind.
We are a group of dedicated animal lovers, and atheists. Each Eternal Earth-Bound Pet representative is a confirmed atheist, and as such will still be here on Earth after you’ve received your reward. Our network of animal activists are committed to step in when you step up to Jesus.
We are currently active in 24 states. Our representatives have been screened to ensure that they are atheists, animal lovers, are moral / ethical with no criminal background, have the ability and desire to rescue your pet and the means to retrieve them and ensure their care for your pet’s natural life....
For $110.00 we will guarantee that should the Rapture occur within ten (10) years of receipt of payment, one pet per residence will be saved [I take it that’s not in the theological sense of “saved” –EV]....
Okay, to me this has SCAM written all over it, beyond any tongue-in-cheek interpretations. Presumably, this is a safe gamble for anyone involved on the Earth-Bound end. If no Thessalonian-style Rapture occurs, the money stays there --unless it's like an insurance policy where you can cash it in upon maturity, in which case it's at best a poor investment on your money and EEBP still gets to keep the interest, so again, a scam.
On the other hand, if the saved are all called up at once, who will be around that has standing to file suit for breach-of-contract should said services not be provided, either by malice or by force majeure ("And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth...")
Monday, October 4, 2010
Education Professors vs. Education: (read and follow links)
A recent study by Steve Farkas and Ann Duffett should strike fear into the parents of students across America.
This new study, entitled “Cracks in the Ivory Tower?: The Views of Education Professors Circa 2010,” takes an in-depth look at how today’s education professors view their role in society and in preparing the future teachers of our nation’s children. The results are distressing. Observe this nugget from the study’s key findings:
Asked to choose between two competing philosophies of the role of teacher educator, 68 percent believe preparing students “to be change agents who will reshape education by bringing new ideas and approaches to the public schools” is most important; just 26 percent advocate preparing students “to work effectively within the realities of today’s public schools.”
We've been trying "new" approaches since Dewey infamously led pedagogues astray in the early 20th century. We haven't ever recovered.
Meanwhile, the study points out that “Just 37 percent say it is ‘absolutely essential’ to focus on developing ‘teachers who maintain discipline and order in the classroom.’” This is despite the fact that discipline in the classroom and student management is, as Jay Mathews at the Washington Post calls it, “the hottest topic among young teachers.”
Tell it on the mountain!!!
Over the weekend we thought that Mrs. Professor Mojo had suffered a miscarriage. The last 48 hours have been hell.
But when we went into today for what was supposed to be a post-mortem ultrasound (to see if D and C was necessary), we were (to quote Chesterton) surprised by joy: the baby was still inside and waving at us!!!
Evidently, the Mrs. had some sort of blood clot that passed, but otherwise left the baby intact.
We intend to spend the rest of today laughing and rejoicing and generally being much-relieved and muchly-thankful.
Technorati Tags: News I Can Use
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
"[It is] a position that has not grown old under the weight of a gigantic, parasitic bureaucracy, a position untempered by the doctoral dissertations of a generation of PhDs in social architecture, unattenuated by a thousand vulgar promises to a thousand different pressure groups, uncorroded by a cynical contempt for human freedom. And that, ladies and gentlemen, leaves us just about the hottest thing in town."
Technorati Tags: history
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
[FALL 2010 UPDATE: First Exam Weekend has come and gone in these parts. Oog... This was not a Happy Fun Time for a lot of my students. Scores were down across the board. Of course, the ones who failed almost all failed to do the main essay. Sadder but wiser... At least I didn't bust anyone for plagiarism, I think I got that point across loud and clear. Yet now I will be 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.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
"So, the Great Society programs began around 1965, students. What effect did they have on the poverty rate?"
"Examine the periods when poverty rates were in decline. What correlation was there to the price of oil?"
"Compare this graph with the graphs on government spending (absolute, inflation-adjusted, and as % GNP/GDP. What correlations do you find?"
Friday, September 17, 2010
Teachable Moments from Facebook :: Accuracy In Academia: but the Internet per se will still be operative. And so will the phone lines and cell phone access. As will public transportation, which can quickly and easily move people to pretty much anywhere else where Luddites aren't running the show, such as the local Starbucks.
Today marks the anniversary of the formal signing of the U.S. Constitution. As my classes do read the document line-by-line later in the semester (and since I don't have lecture today), we are not part of any formal observance. But I do bring it to everyone's attention, and remind them that to understand everything else that goes on, you need to know the framework on which everything hangs.
Go read it.
But a warning: you may not like everything you see. You may conclude that some parts are just plain stupid. You may think that the government has gone far beyond anything the Philly Fathers envisioned. And you may be right.
I keep a copy of Herbert Storing's What the Anti-Federalists Were For handy. You may want to sit down and read it sometime after you've read the Constitution and the Federalist Papers. Those Anti's weren't all paranoid loonies, and many of their most important objections could be literally inserted into today's write-ups of Tea Party quotes.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Monday, September 6, 2010
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Monday, August 23, 2010
Read all of it. You'll see this graph there as well. Burn it into your mind. When government spending increased, Very Bad Things Happened. Keynesian multiplier, my hairy backside!
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Class consciousness, says Marx, produces class ideologies. The class ideology provides the class with an interpretation of reality and at the same time teaches the members how to act in order to benefit their class... Of course, not every class comrade is an author and publishes what he has thought. But all writers belonging to the class conceive the same ideas and all other members of the class approve of them. There is no room left in Marxism for the assumption that the various members of the same class could seriously disagree in ideology. There exists for all members of the class only one ideology... If a man expresses opinions at variance with the ideology of a definite class, that is because he does not belong to the class concerned. There is no need to refute his ideas by discursive reasoning. It is enough to unmask his background and class affiliation. This settles the matter. But if a man whose proletarian background and membership in the workers' class cannot be contested diverges from the correct Marxian creed, he is a traitor. It is impossible to assume that he could be sincere in his rejection of Marxism. As a proletarian he must necessarily think like a proletarian. An inner voice tells him in an unmistakable way what the correct proletarian ideology is. He is dishonest in overriding this voice and publicly professing unorthodox opinions. He is a rogue, a Judas, a snake in the grass. In fighting such a betrayer all means are permissible.
And this explains academia in a nutshell. It's more than Kissinger's famous adage about the stakes being so vicious precisely because they are so small. In the minds of academics, to deviate is to be a class traitor. Ostracize! Ostracize!
Technorati Tags: academia
"In tarnishing for-profit schools with a broad brush, the implication is that the noose of federal regulation needs to be tightened on the entire for-profit sector.To Ferguson, this is part of an entirely predictable process. It begins when the Obama administration takes an interest in a particular industry: “If the administration gets its way and the regulatory regime continues to tighten, the for-profit education industry won’t cease to exist. More likely, it will regress into a form of state capitalism, as kind of a government utility: utterly dependent on government subsidy, hence utterly submissive to government authority, which can set prices and profit margins. The health care industry, with the passage of health care reform, is halfway there already.”
Interesting point. But to my mind, there's another factor or two at work here. For-profit colleges tend to be oriented to business or technical degrees. The clientele they attract tend to be more conservative than the norm. Certainly the faculty tend that way. Together they represent a huge potential challenge to the overwhelmingly non-conservative professoriate at bloated non-profit institutions. Stifle the competition while you can! Or better, co-opt them into being another arm of the octopus/leviathan. You can bet Harkin et al. wouldn't be so strident if for-profit faculty were all good members of the AAUP.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Beloit College Mindset List for the matriculating Class of 2013.
Last week was a Hell Week. I will not be going into it. But today is my birthday!
Thursday, August 5, 2010
Just having “go to a good college” as a goal isn’t cutting it anymore. Except for the very wealthy, folks just don’t have the money and spending 100K+ for a four-year “experience” isn’t going to cut it...
A lot of students/parents are now looking at getting core classes done at the relatively inexpensive local college and then transferring to a school where one can do the remaining work towards a very specific goal.
Yay! Demand for my services will increase! (At least until the gummint is finally forced to either quit giving out money for higher ed, thus ending the air stream inflating up the bubble; or else advise that student loans will be deducted directly via payroll deduction from future paychecks, which will scare the holy hell out of every one and ending demand.)
Monday, August 2, 2010
I mean, even back in Big Midwestern Elite Liberal Arts Grad School, the lefty profs would warn us about the dangers of relying on Howard Zinn. It's simply not good history that he's writing, I was warned.
So go read this: The File on Howard Zinn :: Accuracy In Academia and follow the link to the FBI files and judge ye. As I have noted previously, the big meme in 22nd century historiography will be how corrupted American historians were in the 20th and early 21st centuries.
Friday, July 30, 2010
Saturday, July 17, 2010
I tell my students that the prime reason to get a college degree is to be able to land a job where you can work in A/C during the summer months. I was brought up not to be afraid of hard work --I just became averse to sweating on anything other than my own terms.
I am teaching what amounts to beyond-a-full load: six classes. That's a lot for a regular term, so you can imagine how draining it is for the summer, which is compressed into two five-week terms. June and early July saw me teaching non-stop from 8 to 3:30, with no prep period and very little lunch time (plus it was more draining than high school, since there was no time for group work, worksheets, grading, etc. to break the routine). I have it "easier" this part of summer, I don't have to start until 10:30. And don't forget, that does not include time at home on the laptop, doing prep and grading things.
But the money is good, and damn if I don't actually enjoy doing what I do. Little time for blogging, and for that I express my regrets.
Technorati Tags: academia
Sunday, July 4, 2010
It's obvious, isn't it? No one "automatically" deserves special treatment. Everyone can live, be free and do what they need to do --and no one can take that away. The whole reason government exists is to make sure of that. And if it can't --or won't-- then it should be changed so that it will, or else eliminated. (Me, in class, just the other day)
It has long been fashionable to criticize --from the Left and from the Right--the nation known as the United States I mean, look at every bad thing under the sun --racism, sexism, statism, classism, corporatism --and inevitably we can say, "it's America's fault!" And I myself am not entirely convinced still that we're ever going to get it completely right.
But the very second we throw out the inspiration --in that instant that we forget those immortal words, we are no longer men. We are the servants of whomever takes command, be they lefties or righties. And our children, too, for ever and ever, and they will damn us for it.
No, the United States hasn't always been great. But the idea behind it is ultimately more powerful than anything else yet mortal man has created. Make very loud noise tonight with pyrotechnics. Give thanks and rejoice. Share the blessings of liberty with your family and friends. And let no one deny the power of these words, the translation into 21st-Century-Studentese I gave above:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Technorati Tags: history
Saturday, July 3, 2010
CARPE DIEM: As Share of Income, Americans Have the Cheapest Food in History and Cheapest Food on the Planet: and especially consider the point made about wholesale milk prices. Think of how much cheaper still milk would be if we eliminated dairy subsidies! Choke on that, "oh, big agribusiness is horrible for everyone" folks!
[Yes, we can quibble about hormonal additives and genetic engineering of the American diet, very true. But the infrastructure is nonetheless in place: we could be super-groovy-healthy in a matter of years without significant food price increases --thanks to agribusiness]
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
FuturePundit: Climate Engineering With White Clouds: which talks about how relatively easy it would be to perform "emergency" climate alteration.
I've warned folks about this before, but I'll say it again: the hysteria needs to end, before someone is convinced that The End Is Nigh and takes drastic action that will cause The End.
Famously, Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert is challenging Americans to jobs that Americans won't do. How frightfully clever! And yet I'm not entirely happy with the response here, in Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert Challenges Americans to Do Jobs Illegals Won’t. Free market capitalism does provide a long-term solution to the lettuce-versus-jobs debate, but it is somewhat incomplete. I would offer a few observations of my own:
- Construction jobs in the Southwest that pay upwards of $20/hour are dominated by Hispanic workers, a good many of whom are undocumented. This is not because Americans won't do those jobs. It's because construction unions priced Americans out of those jobs long ago. Union scale today would be closer to $25 an hour by my estimates.
- But it's irrelevant now. You can't get a job in construction now without being highly fluent in Spanish, which most Americans are not --and the ones who are can't be bothered with taking a blue-collar job. As I've always said, the people who are least nervous about immigration are the ones whose jobs are not at risk.
- I'm tired of "undocumented immigrant" --it implies a level of legality that simply is not there. But I also don't want the stink of being labeled a hater for using "illegal alien." I will now use "unauthorized worker" and have no qualms about it.
- I mow my own damn lawn.
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Okay, now this is the part I dislike about living where I live, region-wise: unless you have immediate access to a swimming pool, there is no realistic outdoor activity that you can do with small children between 10AM and 6PM around this time of year. It is simply Too Hot. We went to SETTFest 2010 yesterday and Wee One could not play on the playground because the equipment was too hot to safely touch. Even in the shade it was stifling. So we had to leave earlier than I wanted. I think next year we'll go early in the morning so that she can have playtime while we're out there.
I have a ton of mowing to do today. That will probably happen sometime after 6PM. I'm not risking heat stroke over tall grass. Why is there never a wandering yard crew when you need one?!
Meanwhile, grading exams is always a good A/C'd activity. First exam of summer term is behind us now. The gutshot students will probably tuck tail and run. I warn them and warn them about how summer courses are an unholy trap if you are trying to work 40-hour weeks and/or dealing with small children, but a combination of self-delusion and financial-aid greed always seems to keep them around until they realize that they have no hope of passing --oh and by the way, it's too late to get more than 25% of your money back from dropping. They're adults, though, and those who do not learn must feel...
Friday, June 4, 2010
Keynesianism Questioned by Harvard Researchers : "Contrary to the Keynesian theory that government spending can spark economic growth in times of recession, a new study demonstrates that pork, at least, may damage corporations within the states that receive these federal dollars."
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
...than to open it and remove all doubt.
Remember: most perps are stupid and/or egotistical, and cannot help opening their yaps under questioning, even after being told their rights. But police have been hampered by Supreme Court doctrine that self-incrimination was a sacred cow. Not quite so much now.
Berghuis v. Thomkins was handed down yesterday by the Supreme Court, in a serious revision of the Miranda Rights that we all know by heart. I was always of the opinion that Miranda went too far (thank you, Warren Court!) and this is a good move back towards center. Short version: you can still remain silent, you still never have to answer any questions unless you want to, but the cops can still ask you the questions unless you clearly tell them, "No, I want counsel present before answering any questions."
For more, see Power Line - Miranda pruned.
Technorati Tags: history
Thursday, May 27, 2010
I appreciate that a boat can be like a hole in the water into which you throw money. I accepted that when I bought it ten years ago this summer. I certainly know that Very Bad Things Can Happen, including blown cases and cracked hulls (yes to the former, no to the latter). But when a routine maintenance job goes over two weeks, I get steamed.
I took my boat in for its yearly checkup over two weeks ago. I specifically told my guy, "I need the boat ready for Memorial Day Weekend. I need you to call me if Something Expensive is about to happen. "
"Yes, Teacher [that's what he calls me], I can do it!"
Called last week for an update:
"We just started on it, should be ready soon."
Called two days ago: "We're just about done overhauling the carbs and are going to put in the new theromostats."
Okay, they were both needed. But a bit of heads-up would've been nice. And certainly overhauling the carbs could've waited until AFTER the holiday --I can deal with a poor gas-usage situation for a bit longer. Now I'm facing a long weekend at a lake cabin without a boat.
I Am Unhappy.
Technorati Tags: boating
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
A Brief History of Nakedness by Philip Carr-Gomm is reviewed by the Times of London.
(*and Post-Midnight Nude Bathing Excursions --true stories, they were once something of a sordidly grand [or grandly sordid] tradition I inaugurated back in the Nineties in my circle. Hazards included mosquitoes, bottle rockets and ranging cattle.)
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Thursday, May 13, 2010
As my granddaddy once told me, "You dance to whatever tune that makes the cash register bell ring." Too true, even in my world.
Not that I'm a huge fan of The Nation (I gave a subscription one year to a friend as a joke), but even a broken clock is right twice a day, and this piece - Big Tobacco and the Historians - really hits hard. We academics like to think of ourselves as being "above" and "superior" to That Sort Of Thing. Buelle Chitte. Research grants are the mother's milk of academics. I can remember one of my seminar being taken out for beer by a very senior member of faculty, who proudly stated that at least part of this was being paid for by his new grant. (Not that unusual, but he made me present the final paper of the semester after I'd had about half a pitcher. Tricky b*st@rd! I showed him, though, and he admitted it to me later...) You show me an academic without a grant, I'll show you an adjunct (or someone with more years under tenure than I've had hot dinners).
I bring this up only because of this comment from Jim Lindgren's piece on The Volokh Conspiracy regarding the nascent kerfluffle over Michael Bellesiles's new book (over which I posted yesterday myself):
After the Bellesiles affair was over, I asked a law professor who had in the past received funding from the NRA why the NRA was so savvy to stay out of it and let the academics handle it in the normal way. The answer I got is that the NRA wasn’t savvy so much as it is suspicious of academics, whom they neither understand nor trust. If the NRA pays for something, they want to control the message — and most academics won’t take money on that basis. [emphasis mine]
That's a bit of a howler! And it's sad that it has come to that. The Body Academic is has been injected by a dose of arsenic --or gold, in this case.
Or maybe it's just ideology. There is some suggestion that a few historians aren't entirely unhappy that Venona was only a brief glimpse into the Soviet archives. At the very least, there seems to be a certain amount of ostrichism, if not ostracism, regarding some of this, as "A Hidden History of Evil" by Claire Berlinksi in City Journal suggests:
Stroilov says that he and Bukovsky approached Jonathan Brent of Yale University Press, which is leading a publishing project on the history of the Cold War. He claims that initially Brent was enthusiastic and asked him to write a book, based on the documents, about the first Gulf War. Stroilov says that he wrote the first six chapters, sent them off, and never heard from Brent again, despite sending him e-mail after e-mail. “I can only speculate what so much frightened him in that book,” Stroilov wrote to me... Stroilov sees in these events “a kind of a taboo, the vague common understanding in the Establishment that it is better to let sleeping dogs lie, not to throw stones in a house of glass, and not to mention a rope in the house of a hanged man.” I suspect it is something even more disturbing: no one much cares.
There have always been rumors among the John Birchers, for instance, that the Commies paid off professors during the Cold War --and a few ex-Soviet types have even vaguely hinted at that themselves. Right-wing paranoia? Surely yes, we know academics never get... wait, nevermind. [UPDATE: Ron Radosh responds to Berlinski here]
And don't even get me started on Professor Michael Mann. I may not agree with the recent decision by the Virginia AG's office to begin a corruption investigation, but it never should even have come to that. But very few scientists are willing to disrupt the grant gravy train. It's not group-think with global warming advocates, it's rational self-interest! Quo vadis, Al Gore?
I think one of the key themes of the early 22nd century historiographers will be the examination of just how corrupt academics became in the mid-late twentieth century, extending well into the twenty-first. It will probably be at least that long before there's a sufficient revolutionary paradigm shift to the right that will allow for academic self-examination.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
History News Network reports that former Emory University scholar and former Bancroft Prize winner Michael Bellesiles is publishing a new book, this time on the year 1877. I use "former" for both descriptives because this clown --and that is a generous term-- was stripped of both his tenure (!) and his prize for his infamous book on colonial gun policy. It seems that someone may (or may not) have faked his research...
At any rate, that's not the spit-take part. That's here, from the publisher's blurb:
"Michael Bellesiles is perhaps most famous as the target of an infamous "swiftboating" campaign by the National Rifle Association, following the publication of his Bancroft Prize-winning book Arming America (Knopf, 2000)—"the best kind of non-fiction," according to the Chicago Tribune—which made daring claims about gun ownership in early America. In what became the history profession's most talked-about and notorious case of the past generation, Arming America was eventually discredited after an unprecedented and controversial review called into question its sources, charges which Bellesiles and his many prominent supporters have always rejected."
News flash: the man lost his tenure! Now for the bien pensant world of academia to turn on one of its own, there has to be something so seriously wrong that it cannot be ignored without calling academia's own credentials into existence. (Note that this was before climate change and the controversy over Professor Mann, so maybe that's no longer 100% true.)
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Sunday, May 2, 2010
Book Review - Winston’s War - Churchill, 1940-1945 - By Max Hastings - NYTimes.com: wherein we read, "For all Churchill’s exalted words about the “English-speaking peoples” fighting for freedom together, the fact is that Anglo-American forces played a subsidiary role in the European war."
The point about Soviet vs. Anglo-American casualties is a just one; there's good reason why Stalin dubbed this "The Great Patriotic War" and why Soviet textbooks de-emphasized the role of the other Allies. But the above statement goes entirely beyond reason. Is he seriously (by implication) arguing that Stalin would have beaten Hitler without Anglo-American aid? That Lend-Lease meant nothing? That Allied air superiority --to which the Soviets contributed nothing until they managed to occupy the Yugoslavian refineries where jet fuel was being produced (and that long after air dominance had been lost) -- was of no help in hampering German production? That Hitler's divisions tied down in France and Italy would have made no difference to fighting in the East?
On Friday, I co-sponsored a campus screening of Not Evil Just Wrong. It was well-attended. There were a few objections about the motives of the film-makers, and I thought those were good points.
But this would have been an absolutely devastating response: Roger L. Simon » Has Al Gore given up on global warming?: "Al Gore’s purchase of a near nine million dollar Montecito mansion with an almost comical carbon footprint (nine bathrooms!) probably means that he has given up on the global warming movement and decided to become a Hollywood producer (not that he ever made much of a distinction between two)."
Saturday, May 1, 2010
[UPDATE: and right on cue, there goes the Governor of California]
With great sadness I watch the news about the huge oil spill in the Gulf. I'm old enough to remember the Bay of Campeche's Ixtoc I disaster in 1979 that had oil all over our beach for two summers. This could be worse.
Thank you, BP!
I'm also old enough to remember Three Mile Island. I remember the absolute hysteria, the sense of panic, the overarching and irrational fear that pervaded the media. And I full-well remember the aftermath: no new nuclear plants. And just how has that worked out for us? A power-generating system that today remains dependent on coal (which our current leader wants to phase out) and natural gas (which also comes from under the sea). And in the minds of the American public, the prospect of more drilling for offshore oil is about to be perma-welded to stricken shore birds and ruined wetlands. And there will be no more drilling, and no more new oil fields brought into production.
Thank you, BP!
(Does anyone seriously believe the Chinese, in international waters off Florida, are going to stop drilling?)
The Volokh Conspiracy » Victims of Communism Day: lest we ever forget. Some of us are old enough to remember the Cold War. Whenever I see some someone wearing a Che shirt (particularly around my campus), I ask them if they are aware of how many innocent Cuban civilians he murdered. But the eradication of history is what Orwell warned us all about, and we have seen it come.
Technorati Tags: history
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Y-12 gears up to dismantle B53 bomb parts | Frank Munger's Atomic City Underground | knoxnews.com. A fun read. Wow, that's a big ol' bomb! Just look at that photo. You'd need a honking-big plane or missile to deploy that puppy.
Nine megatons. My students have no clue about what an atomic weapon can do (thank God). I tell them that the Oklahoma City bomb was the equivalent of 5-10 sticks of dynamite, each weight about a pound. Now, a ton of dynamite/TNT would be 2000 sticks. A kiloton is a thousand tons, so that would be equal to ("I was told there'd be no math....?") 2,000,000 sticks. Hiroshima was 15-20 kilotons, so that's 30-40 million sticks. A megaton is a thousand kilotons, so a nine megaton hydrogen bomb like the B-53 would be 9 x 1000 x 2,000,000. That's 18 billion sticks of dynamite. How many acres would that cover to a depth of one foot?
So much power, my students wonder. Why did they ever develop it? "Because would you want to be caught without one if Hitler had one?" And there's the rub: the inevitable peacenik leap logic follows from one of my students that "then we should all agree to ban the bomb!" "What would you do if someone broke the ban?" "Uhhhhh..." And then at the end, I make the point of arguing thusly: if the Cold War and its ensuing consequences were so horrible, think how much more horrible it could have been if neither the United States NOR the Soviet Union had feared annihilation. Particularly someone like Stalin...
The Big One: too scary to use, but equally scary not to have.
How to End the Slavery Blame-Game by Henry Louis Gates. I could be flippant and say that the White House beer loosened him up, but again, that would be flippant. His points are good here. Sadly, the slave trade continues to exist, it just goes by other names and is ignored.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
It's the time of the semester when what I call the "drop-dead" date approaches: after this point, any student on the roster must receive a letter grade at the end of term, no withdrawals allowed ("W" on the transcript). And every semester I get the same stories: "I can't drop the class, and I can't fail."
Sorry, padawan. You are incorrect on both counts.
I'll deal with the second part first. I don't deliberately try to rope in students with promises of miraculous passing grades at the end. If a student is struggling, I try to send very clear signals that All Is Not Well. I notify the counselors and suggest tutoring. I gently try to hint that if they don't improve after two exams, it's unlikely they will magically begin acing things in the second half of the term. And I am always, ALWAYS honest when a student asks me for my opinion on progress or lack thereof. Yet every term I get the ones who suddenly realize they may have to repeat and mirabile dictu it's MY problem as well as theirs. Huh??? You had AMPLE warning that this was coming! What makes you any more special than the thousands of other students in the system, that you "cannot" fail a course?! Oh wait, you can't afford to fail the course because it would hurt your average. And this is my problem how, exactly? Most everyone else is in the exact same spot, and they're getting the work done. Not to be overly cruel, but a mistake on your part (not studying, not taking class seriously, blowing off assignments) in no way constitutes an emergency on my part. If it's that hopeless, and you can't afford to take an F, drop the course.
"I can't drop the course, it will affect my financial aid!" Ahhhhhh!!!! Now we get to the heart of the matter! It is a twisted and bizarre circumstance, but many students believe that it is more important to get aid money than to actually pass their courses. No, really! There is a tiny grain of truth in here: some students' aid packages are tied to how many courses they complete, regardless of grade. For international students, their visas depend on competing hours, and dropping a class guarantees that the hours won't happen.
Let's clear some of this up right now. Many students ignore the long-term effects of bad grades. Look, an F is the same as a W: you will end up repeating the course for credit and spending more money. The W doesn't affect your GPA, and since you are planning on transferring the credit at some point, and since the institution to which you will be going will be looking at your GPA first and the number of W's you've earned second, you need to focus on what's going to hurt you the least. And let's not forget that if your aid is dependent on grades, you're in deep doo-doo anyway and, again, should do the thing that hurts you least.
But that's the catch, innit: many students are actually in it only for the m-o-n-e-y. We see it every term: students getting big checks and then dropping all but one or two of their courses, spending the rest on phones and what-all-else. And the sick sad thing is that they don't realize that most of the aid money isn't really "aid" --it's a LOAN! Meaning, you will have to repay it! And that means having a decent job sooner rather than later, which means getting to a four-year school ASAP to finish your degree, which means NOT screwing up your GPA with an F if you don't have to!!!
And again, your situation has no effect on my response. We have thousands --tens of thousands!- of students in our system, and it is in no way fair, justified or acceptable for me to treat you any differently simply because of your situation. This Is Real Life. There are consequences to decisions. Your whining cheapens the efforts of the vast majority of students who work hard, sometimes fail, but always try their damndest WITHOUT asking for anything beyond the chance to show what they know. I have students who don't get aid, who are paying for school entirely on their own dime, and they have been known to struggle just much as anyone having to borrow money. I should insult them by giving passing grades to you? I think not.
If it really is hopeless, you can do something about it. But don't whine to me about "can't." Bottom line: you can fail, and you can drop before it's too late.
Friday, April 16, 2010
Building the Perfect Carbonara: The Recipe | Houston Restaurants | 29-95.com: yes, you should make this and yes, you should go back and read the first three parts of the series. I've known the author for over 35 years.
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
I grow old, I grow old
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled
--T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland
I have a rule when I'm doing my heavy iron-pumping: when one of three designated body parts loudly proclaims "Screw you, Mojo, we're done for the day," then I must immediately halt my workout session and go home. It's called Being Older And Wiser And Knowing One's Limits. I had a really good lift with the legs on Monday, but yesterday my lower back (the holiest of the three) twinged ever so slightly and so I gave myself the day off. Today I was back in the gym, merrily going from set to set acting all He-Manly, when my right elbow began to scream at me. This was a problem; I have recurring tendonitis in that part and if I don't immediately stop and go ice it down at that juncture, I will be done for at least two weeks. So I quit for the day and went home --and ended up working in the garden in my workout jeans and getting them throughly soaked at the cuffs. And as I rolled them up I looked like a total dork and the words of the poet came flooding back to me.
Man, time is starting to catch up to me.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
The Lie of the Liberal Arts Education: I have a sneaking suspicion that, someday, this will happen with me as well.
So I want to tell any of my former mentors who are (secretly) tracking me that A) you knew I was an eccentric and irascible soul back when I was a student; B) some of you probably realized that I had substantially more than half a brain, so you had faith enough to back me up in my endeavors; and C) any one of you is more than welcome to tell me where to get off --just as long as you can stand toe-to-toe with me in an intellectual exchange without pejoratives or non-sequiturs. (Hint: I don't need a pitcher of beer in me to confound an entire seminar.)