Saturday, December 31, 2011

Fare The Well, 2011 (worth an entire read and play)

2011 is slipping away, and I bid it farewell. The last twelve months and eleven days have been about partings in my family: first Dad, and then Mom. My brother and I are the adults in the room. Ours it is now to preserve the bits and pieces of multiple lifetimes for our own families. The winnowing will proceed for months. It is a long road.

But we do not travel it alone. Our families are close, and my own grew this year by a son. And that seems a good place to start.

I do not mourn overly. I have never been one for maudlin displays --and as a point of theology (which I will not expound upon here and now) I think it is counterproductive. My Uncle Albert buried his wife of fifty years and within a year was remarried to his soon-to-be-bride-of-twenty-five-more-years. Life moves on. Bad things happened to lots of people this year. The world has not made significant progress: springs have taken a fall, and change is what you find on the street. What occupies our attention fades and is replaced.

But move on. Unless the whole world moves backwards, you cannot advance by standing still.

I'm going out to buy fireworks now, and there will be loud noise and revelry tonight. Most of you know that this is actually my favorite holiday of the year, tied with July 4th.

And now, some lovely marching music to lead us into the New Year.

FYI: Joe and I were at this performance, as were Father and Mother.

Pro├čit Neu Jahr 2012!

Friday, December 23, 2011

In Hoc Anno Domini - (REPOST)

In Hoc Anno Domini - "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage."

Written in 1949. Still good today.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Tale of Two Students (and the perverse incentive to cheat)

Consider two students, both of whom are enrolled in a college class.

Both students fall woefully behind in their course work, to the point where their ability to pass is in Serious Jeopardy. And the day is the date of Last Drop and they both need to turn in a major paper, which they've had no time to complete.

Student A makes the painful decision to W the class rather than take the GPA hit. The next semester, Student A must retake the course but does so completely out-of-pocket. For Student A's financial aid is cut because Student A is no longer considered a full-time student.

Student B, believing the professor to be a short-sighted incompetent boob, copies a paper off the Internet and turns it in. But alas for Student B! The plagiarism is caught, and is so blatant and egregious (after multiple litanies to the class about the very thing) that the instructor has no choice but to record a course grade of F and deny the student access to the course for the rest of the semester. The next semester, Student B will retake the course as well, but will be given financial aid to do so. For Student B maintains a full-time load and is considered a full-time student.

What's wrong with this picture? Student A is penalized for doing right, and Student B is being incentivized to cheat. Most student grants specify completion hours, and a grade of F indicates a completed course, regardless of circumstance. Some colleges (my own included do have a grade of FX, indicating a student who quit attending after the date of withdrawal and who will be denied financial aid in the future (obviously the student was trying to game the system...) But they are not the majority. And colleges have no incentive beyond their reputations to challenge the system, as government funding is based on completion rates.

If you incentivize a behavior, expect more of it. My students don't even bother to try to deny cheating any more, they just try to give justifications and then beg to be allowed to stay in class: I can't afford to drop the course. Sadly, I think I hurt them more by saving their GPA with a Withdrawn than by giving the used-to-be-shameful grade of F.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Darth Mojo Teaches The Great Depression

So there I was today, lecturing over the causes of the Great Depression, when one of my more perceptive students had a Light Bulb Moment and began making comparisons to the economic crisis of 2007 and beyond. "Good, good..." I intoned. Class discussion became lively and animated at this point. Students began to make connections and I even was asked for an explanation of my approach; for what it's worth I am now publicly self-identified as an Austrian.

But it was after class that things got interesting. The same student who shared the epiphany with me asked me about why we don't hear about more comparisons to the 1930s and the causes of the Depression from historians. Then I got asked where to find more material along the lines I was presenting.

Instantly I responded, "Not from a Jedi..."

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years (minus one hour) Ago

It was another day riding herd at my school (the one public school I actually enjoyed, even though i was teaching Geography and not History). A fight had broken out in the cafeteria that morning and the usual vibes of the chest-thumpers were still reverbing in the halls. My phone vibrated and it was a text from my brother: a plane has crashed into one of the World Trade Center Towers. My very first thought was that it was a rehash of the 1945 B-25 Incident at the Empire State Building. It was a strange and sad curiosity, but probably nothing more.

Then the word came about the second plane, and my next thought was of Osama bin Laden. Even back then, I had been worried that this random nut job would try to pull a stunt like this in retaliation for the failed Clinton cruise-missile strikes of 1999, which in turn was retaliation for the embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. Well, he did it. And the rest of the day was spent dealing with the aftermath.

Parents ran to school to get their kids. Then kids began calling their parents to come and get them --it was a grand excuse for a holiday for many of them. Counselors emailed us with orders not to watch the news in class because it would upset the kids --and then to turn it back on so that the kids wouldn't be upset by not knowing what was going on. One kid was laughing about how many people got killed and if more planes would hit. I pointedly reminded him that he wouldn't be laughing if his own mother were in one of those buildings. And in the back of my head, i knew I'd have to spend the next several weeks talking about Afghanistan. And Islam. And yes, tolerance. Liberals' heads may explode about how our local state board of education has Rightened the curriculum, but they conveniently forget how Leftmatized it had been since the early 1990s, and it got worse in the immediate aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks. Tolerance, diversity and acceptance became the orders of the day after the initial burst of patriotism. The idea of fighting evil was discouraged. I did not blame any Muslim student for these attacks, for I knew better. But administrators everywhere gave instruction after instruction about sensitivity --as if a student might suddenly go jihadi and attack his classmates. Isn't that just as damaging, ultimately, as the assumption that all Muslims are terrorists? But questions that violate groupthink were not allowed.

I tried not to think of the families. It was simply too much. After Pearl Harbor, news of the ultimate death toll was censored for weeks, lest the full extent of the Japanese attack demoralize the war effort. We do not live in such an age now. The dead are used as agitprops by all and sundry. May they have peace instead.

Ten years later we are not done experiencing the reverberations of 9/11, nor will we be done in another ten, or even fifty. But for a brief moment, be silent. Be respectful. And remember that evil exists and it is for we the living to stand our ground and to see that it does not win.

And go love your loved ones.

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Monday, August 1, 2011

The Spending Is Nuts

Courtesy of the nice folks at Power Line, this video has just won their contest for best explaining the debt. Enjoy!

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

How Being A Big Burly BRUTE Almost Landed Me In The Emergency Room

So there I was at the gym today, doing Mucho Macho Mojo. For the uninitiated, this is my workout routine in the summer --heavy lifting three days a week, lighter lifting two days a week, and 45 minutes minimum of moderate-to-strenous cardio on each of those days (plus bike rides at home when the weather permits). It has been doing a decent job of enhancing my health and making me just brutally Hulk-like, but it does have its hazards. Over-confidence is one of them.

I was doing chest and upper back today. My first routine involved a Hammer wide-grip bench press machine. I work out alone, so plate-based free-form machines like those made by Hammer are ideal. I loaded four 45lb plates on each side, and then a 25lb plate on each side, and did my first set of eight. Wow! I am strong!!! Let's go for the gusto! I replaced the 25lb plates with 45lb plates, for a total of five 45lb plates on each side. Total combined weight: 450 lbs. And I did a set of six. HE-MAN! HE-MAN! I got so excited that I took a picture of the rack to prove it to Mrs. Mojo (who is skeptical that I do all these Manly Feats).

And then I did a third set. I did with gusto! I did it with speed! I did it with an abandonment of common sense and let the machine bounce at the end of rep #2, whereupon the outermost plate on the left-hand side slid off the machine and bounced on the gym floor inches from my foot. A plate that size really ought to have crushed most of my metatarsals from that height, but I was lucky. Only then did I turn to the nearest gym attendant and asked, "Well, a day late and a dollar short, but do we have any pins for these machines?" He shook his head no.

I think I may have to find another movement...

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Why Do Students Regard Reading as Torture? - Neil Tokar - Mises Daily

Why Do Students Regard Reading as Torture? - Neil Tokar - Mises Daily: this is today's required reading, although most younger teachers would use "whole language" instead of "whole word." Pain is watching middle-school students reading aloud and completely screwing up words and never even realizing it.

This is pure money:

...[L]earning to read independently was supposed to be the first goal of primary education; hence, reading seemed to be the most natural place to start. When I was in grade one, I had a red phonics textbook and had lessons that taught sounds, for example, the "ch" sound accompanied by examples such as "child" or "church."

But the whole-word method taught students to guess at words, not to actually read them. This paralyzed the rest of their primary and secondary educations. Primary and secondary schools failed to build vocabulary and content-knowledge levels. Then, when high schools sent these graduates off to university, the recent graduates were unable to engage in critical thinking

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Famous Historian David McCullough Makes Me Feel Better About Myself As A Teacher

The Weekend Interview With David McCullough: Don't Know Much About History - this is worth an entire read, but there are some parts that I need everyone to read, now.

One problem is personnel. "People who come out of college with a degree in education and not a degree in a subject are severely handicapped in their capacity to teach effectively," Mr. McCullough argues. "Because they're often assigned to teach subjects about which they know little or nothing." The great teachers love what they're teaching, he says, and "you can't love something you don't know anymore than you can love someone you don't know."

Another problem is method. "History is often taught in categories—women's history, African American history, environmental history—so that many of the students have no sense of chronology. They have no idea what followed what."

What's more, many textbooks have become "so politically correct as to be comic. Very minor characters that are currently fashionable are given considerable space, whereas people of major consequence farther back"—such as, say, Thomas Edison—"are given very little space or none at all."

Mr. McCullough's eyebrows leap at his final point: "And they're so badly written. They're boring! Historians are never required to write for people other than historians." Yet he also adds quickly, "Most of them are doing excellent work. I draw on their excellent work. I admire some of them more than anybody I know. But, by and large, they haven't learned to write very well.

Are you listening, Mr. Big-Shot Professor Who Wrote My Textbook That No Student Really Likes?

Are you listening, Snotty Colleagues of Mine Who Insist On Doing Things "The Right Way?"

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Evils of AP

A lesson in Advanced mis-Placement - this is worth an entire read, but it's not new to me. I saw this over a decade ago where I used to work. We were told by admins (and it's always "told" and never actually put into writing --can't leave a nasty paper trail) to identify students for placement into AP classes. This was a terrible deal for me, because it meant that I lost my best and brightest students to a program that was generally taught by someone with less actual field knowledge than me. But worse than that, students didn't want to go to the AP class because --and here's the fun part --they knew that AP isn't always good prep for college! Yes, there are good AP instructors out there, but not nearly as many as AP instructors think. Some students deliberately avoided AP because it would ruin their GPAs. Even more twisted, the ones who were in the AP sections getting A's were scoring 2's and 3's on the actual AP when they bothered to take it --because their own AP instructors discouraged them from taking the exam on the grounds that "minorities never get a fair shake on the APs."

So why even bother? First, it's a boondoggle for AP instructors, who get to have comparatively well-behaved students for most of their sections. They get a stipend for their trouble. And they can lord it over their colleagues that they get to teach AP. Second, it's a boondoggle for admins that get to pad their campus stats sheet (except for that pesky pass/fail number). And did I forget to mention that campuses get stipends based on AP enrollment? That's the part that's going on in the article. Admins get the credit for spiking AP enrollment and increasing campus funds (which are almost never spent on AP students, natch), while AP instructors get the heat for not doing a good job with students who have no business being there in the first place.

Full disclosure: I was, at one time, certified to teach AP U.S. History. I also work for a college system that heavily emphasizes and benefits from dual-credit classes which compete with AP courses for enrollment. But many of the same complaints apply there as well. Commonality: you tell the admins that their campuses will get money for doing a certain thing, and everything else goes out the door. I've seen it too many times.

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

IP Abolitionism; or, JSTOR Can Go Take A Flying Leap

The Four Historical Phases of IP Abolitionism: read all of it, but here's the gold:

"As Roderick Long notes in his 1995 article The Libertarian Case Against Intellectual Property Rights (one of the first sallies of Phase 4), 'Though never justified, copyright laws have probably not done too much damage to society so far. But in the Computer Age, they are now becoming increasingly costly shackles on human progress.'

"The digital information/Internet age made the problem of IP more obvious and serious, which led to our current modern resurgence of libertarian IP abolitionism, a position which seems to have grown and become dominant in the last 10 years, as [is argued] in The Death Throes of Pro-IP Libertarianism.

"The case against IP is today especially clear to Austrian-, anarchist-, and left-libertarians, and has intensified and grown significantly in recent years, and shows no sign of abating. The libertarian IP proponents are on the ropes and dwindling in numbers, or so it seems to me."

I have a beef with the JSTOR database administrators. My institution is a dues-paying participating member. Our students' IT feeds pay for their access to the system. I may research and download articles, as may my students. But Heaven forbid that I actually make one step easier for my students to (within a password-secure environment) access materials to which they already have paid access. So no HTML-converted PDFs for my students; they have to go through the permalinks and re-enter their passwords (again and again), which is a royal pain to my distance-ed students.

Oh well. The Internet is Carl Becker's revenge. Peer-reviewed journals are in ICU already. JSTOR can go take a flying leap.

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Monday, April 4, 2011

Facing the Inevitable

The Internet has changed, and myself along with it.

This blog will remain active but most of my updates will be via my Twitter feed and/or my Facebook feed (NB Facebook account is by invite; sorry, current students may not access my Facebook feed).

Longer updates will, by necessity, be posted here.

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Grind Grind Grind

The post-Spring-Break grind is upon me. While it's not so onerous now that I've moved from a four-exam to a three-exam semester format, it's still a grind in the sense that a) yes, I still have exams and what-not to grade, and b) student begin to pester me for extra credit. Why couldn't you care enough about your grades from the get-go to render this a moot point? But students will be students, after all.

There also myriad committee meetings, professional development meetings, reports, more reports, the transition to a new Moodle-based LMS from the old Blackboard Vista one --and no, we didn't have the funds to commit to an automatic conversion program, so everything must be (re)built from scratch.

And I am on full-time Baby Watch in case Junior decides he wants to come out to play prematurely.

What was it that Lloyd Bridges used to say? "Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue..."

Tumblr Les3Q3Jnhu1Qbg0Uuo1 250

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

What We Learned While Goin' Fishin' on Saturday

  • If in doubt about the cranking battery, get it tested at the nearest parts store before heading out on the water.

  • A change of dry clothes back at the truck (and a towel) is always a good idea (learned the hard way).

  • Seaweed in abundance is the sworn enemy of any impeller-powered rig.

  • 65 degree water is still too cold for comfortable swimming, let along going under the boat to clear a clogged intake.

  • The third time the boat refuses to start in a reasonable time, when it does get started it is time to head for the ramp.

  • Any day you catch fish and get back to the ramp under your own power is A Good Day, no matter what else happens.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Redux: How, Once Again, I Was Ahead Of The Curve And Am The Greatest!

UPDATE: I wrote this back in May 2008, and it bears revisiting now.

RealClearPolitics - Articles - A Step Back From Enviro Lunacy: "$3 a gallon gas didn't change anybody's mind about energy issues. $4 a gallon gas did. " That was today.

Now, compare this with comments I myself made elsewhere over two months ago: "We are still in the relatively inelastic range of the demand curve. You get gasoline up to $4.25/gallon in Houston, or $5/gallon in Los Angeles, and I’ll posit that you’ll see the beginnings of serious declines in consumption." I was off by about 25¢, but I still claim it as me own.

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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Concealed Carry on my campus?

My state legislature is currently debating allowing concealed-carry permit holders to carry firearms on campus. Naturally the natives are now Restless. "And can you do SOMEthing about our legislature forcing this down our throats?" sniffed one solon at the last Faculty Senate meeting to the incoming board chairman. Every other conversation in the office inevitably brings the issue up. I suspect a coordinated effort on the part of some SuperSekrit Wacko Faculty-List: Journolist for the community college set.

My colleagues seem to believe that the second this happens, students are going to start bringing Glocks and Colts to class with them and twirling them like six-shooters. I'm trying to figure out if their fear is motivated out of an instinctual (viz., left-wing) fear of guns as a symbol of Authority; or a reflexive spasm against anything coming out of our Republican legislature.

Puh-lease. If you're worried about a student shooting you, CCL holders are probably at the bottom of your list of potential suspects. Most students cannot afford the training. And the ones who are angry enough to actually gun you down, probably aren't going to worry about if they're going to be ticketed for lacking a permit. They'll either ignore the law (funny how gun laws seldom actually stop crimes...) or wait for you to be off-campus. Virginia Tech: that poor crazy so-and-so didn't care about a permit. Professor Crazy What's-her-face at Alabama-Huntsville: didn't have a permit, still came to the department meeting with heat.

And not to put too fine a point on it, but we have guns on campus already, the students are just being very cool and even (!) responsible about them. They're not the ones I worry about. The day some hothead gets angry enough to shoot up a campus near me, I hope someone is capable of stopping him quickly and forcefully, and more often than not such stoppage is going to involve superior firepower. This is reality, however distasteful and ugly it may be.

(Note: I would not oppose requiring those CCL holders who actively carry to register with campus security, should they chose to actively carry while on-campus.)

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Monday, March 7, 2011

What If the Biggest Solar Storm on Record Happened Today? --Nat'l Geographic

What If the Biggest Solar Storm on Record Happened Today?: this kind of thing I have noted before (as have others) and occasionally this keeps me up at night. My mania for gardening isn't just about playing with power tools....

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Disturbing --If Funny-- Conversation I Had With A Bold Student (Not One Of Mine) here I am in my so-called "office": a designated table out in the lobby of the satellite campus where I hold my Thursday classes. (Hey, I like it here, I can greet students by name as they come in, and it's something of a local tradition.) And I'm going about my business when I hear Bold Student (BS) talking to an associate thusly: "Man, that exam I just took was so hard, I had to get my mom to help me take iit." And I had to just stop and call BS out.

"Hey, are you serious?! You had to get your mom to help you take an exam?"[NB presumably a take-home]."

"Yeah, she's a[n expert in the subject area.]" [Job title withheld to preserve privacy.]

"Okay, fair enough, but she wasn't in class with you, she might not be familiar with the subject area."

"But she's an expert!"

"Even so, what're you gonna do if you fail the exam anyway? Yell at your mom???"


"And for the love of Pete, why are you talking about this out loud in the lobby of the college where at least one professor is hanging out and can overhear your entire conversation!?"

BS had no response for that one.

Of course this conversation was troubling on several levels. But arguably the most disturbing part was the mother's willingness to help her daughter cheat.; What does that say about the woman's professional ethics? (Hint: her field would, in fact, be distressed to know of such a thing.)

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

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

[SPRING 2011 UPDATE: Scores in the "Since 1877" class have been good so far. The change in format has only managed to shrink the standard deviation by a modest amount, and has probably benefitted some low-end students a bit in the process. Even so; I will be dealing with the inevitable students who are in Deep Trouble Over Things Which Have Incurred The Wrath Of Professor Mojo. As istradition, here is this post marking the occasion:]

"Ahh, I see Professor Mojo has given his first exam of the term: hisstudents 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 ("Read! Think!" "Write!").

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.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Wherein We Review The Concept of "Dawdlework"

Moons and moons ago I believe I coined the term "dawdlework" to describe doing things that, while necessary, are insufficiently high on a current priorities list to justify the level of energy expenditure devoted to them. This is generally more constructive than mere procrastination, and allows for a positive defense when accused by family and loved ones of "not getting anything done."

I am confronted every spring with this, and this one is no exception. In preparation for the coming of Sturdy Baby, the Mrs. and I have been doing various projects around the house. We still have too much junk. But my priority revolves around thinning the amount of Stuff that we have, and putting away the Stuff that we do have in some semblance of order and aesthetic appeal. But Mrs. is focusing on the nursery. At this point our opinions diverge. I feel (quite strongly) that we need to focus on other areas first, since we have already done so much in the nursery already. Mrs., firmly in Nesting Mode, disagrees. She offers as a positive defense, "But we need to have the nursery ready well before the baby gets here!" And while she has a point, I can't help feeling that this may be a bit of a dodge to avoid doing things like sorting boxes for storage, thinning for another garage sale, and such.

Mind you, I have utterly no hope of winning this argument, logically or otherwise. I've been married long enough to appreciate this.

However, my crafty ("male!") mind has taken a different tack lately. The weather is growing warmer. There are many projects that need doing outside, especially in the vegetable beds. I can reasonably claim that if work is not done now, we will be in March and March is going to be busy, plus March is into growing season and many things need to be done prior to this time. Thus, I go skipping merrily outside to do Manly Things.

This, friends, is dawdlework.

One of the key secrets to a happy marriage is agreeing to only tackle one project at a time, and to have a defined time-limit to said project (four hours on Saturday morning seems to work well for everyone here). Another is agreeing beforehand to reward cooperation with incentives like footrubs. But it also doesn't hurt to make sure that "dawdlework" also includes something that will pleasantly surprise the other party. I'm working on that one...

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Very Sad II

I have learned that another acquaintance of mine is going to be a Guest of the State of Texas. This person is a poker associate --and a bit of an ass, but I always gave him much more credit for brains than he showed.

He was a lawyer. He took a case for a client. While doing research on that case, he came across a different case still pending to which his client was a party. Without telling his client, he contacted the party in the second case and reached a settlement whereby the other party paid a generous settlement.

That was the part that eventually got him disbarred. What got him thrown into prison was the part about pocketing the settlement money. The state does not look kindly upon that sort of thing, especially coming from an officer of a court.

Ten to twenty. Tough luck, but arrogant hubris like that deserves a thunderbolt. And a flopped top set is still the favorite over an open-ended straight-flush draw, especially if one of the hole cards is of the appropriate suit.

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

So It Would Have Been Cheaper Just To Give Everyone Cash?

Did the Stimulus Stimulate? — Mises Economics Blog: (quoting NBER Working Paper No. w16759)

A cross state analysis suggests that one additional job was created by each $170,000 in stimulus spending. Time series analysis at the state level suggests a smaller response with a per job cost of about $400,000. These results imply Keynesian multipliers between 0.5 and 1.0, somewhat lower than those assumed by the administration... Grants to states for education do not appear to have created any additional jobs. Support programs for low income households and infrastructure spending are found to be highly expansionary. Estimates excluding education spending suggest fiscal policy multipliers of about 2.0 with per job cost of under $100,000.

In other words, it would have been cheaper just to give everyone cash up-front, say $40,000/person/year, and let them spend it and thus produce a non-mythical Keynesian multiplier. DOH!!! (But as the Instapundit would say, "less opportunity for corruption.")

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Monday, February 7, 2011

The Star-Spangled Banner --All The Words

UPDATE: okay, we can cut the lady some slack; here she is in Game 7 of the NBA Finals getting it right.

Just in case you've forgotten....

Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?

Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,

O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?

And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.

Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,

Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,

What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,

As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?

Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,

In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:

'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore

That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,

A home and a country should leave us no more!

Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.

No refuge could save the hireling and slave

From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand

Between their loved home and the war's desolation!

Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land

Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

READ: Michael Totten » The Iranian Revolution Echoes in Egypt

Michael Totten » The Iranian Revolution Echoes in Egypt: this is now Required Reading. The parts about Iranian middle-class modernization in the Sixties and Seventies are 100% what my Farsi-speaking poker buddies (who fled Iran after the Islamic Revolution) have been telling me.

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

"And Why Is This MY Problem?"

I got up to campus this afternoon and was greeted by my Esteemed Chair: "You have a student looking for you." After the shock wore off (no one EVER comes to visit me during regularly scheduled office hours!), I was briefed/warned about what to expect.

The student had been enrolled in my Christmas mini-term class. The student had never darkened the transom of my classroom, not one time. Consequently, I had dropped the student with a grade of "W." This was over Christmas. Now, almost two months later, the student has shown up with a giant sob story, about my having to change the W to an actual letter grade. It seems that the student's immigration status is now in question, and if I don't intervene promptly, s/he will be deported back to the Motherland to face All Sorts of Very Bad Things.

Of course, the prime reason the student didn't come to class (according to him/her) was that a full-time job prevented them for doing so.

Naturally, I have already composed my response to the student, thus: "And why is this MY problem? You could have shown your face several times in class and 'earned' an F, which (perversely enough) would not have negatively affected your visa status. You could have contacted me at any point prior to now and made your case, but evidently you were busy working --oh and never let's mind that as someone who holds a student visa, you have no business (legal or otherwise) working full-time. No no, you wait well after any and all deadlines have passed and try to lay some kind of guilt trip on ME, as though this were all MY fault?!?!? Get your [act] together and take it on the road, I'm not going to help you."

Brutally honest and cold? Yes. But it's not at all fair to the many international students who do work very hard to do everything properly, for me to help this ....person try to scam the system.

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Very Sad

Today I learned that a former colleague of mine will be doing a minimum two years as a Guest of the State of Texas. He let the monkey climb on his back and wouldn't make him get down. At heart he is not a bad guy, but he made a very stupid choice: he got involved with crack. And crack is a Very Bad Thing. It will make you stupid, in ways that alcohol or tobacco or marijuana won't do. The man is sixty-five years old, looking probably at two-to-five, with no retirement savings for when he gets out (he got a lump-sum and it literally went up in smoke) and no employment prospects (convicted felon: no college will touch him).

I will pray for him, and maybe try to help out his wife a little. But I am very sad.

Monday, January 24, 2011

So You Want To Be A History Professor?

(Courtesy of Cliopatria) This is entirely too true, and praise be that I do not follow these paradigms. (WARNING: some language NSFW)

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Friday, January 14, 2011

Urban Dictionary: Shatner commas

Urban Dictionary: Shatner commas:

December 20, 2010 Urban Word of the Day

Oddly placed commas that don't seem to serve any actual purpose in punctuation, but make it look like you should take odd pauses, as William Shatner does when delivering lines.

This what Shatner commas look like:

When, we get to, the restaurant, we should, order some, tasty, beverages.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Why Even "Extreme" Smack-Talk In Politics Is Okay, Despite Squeamish Objections

The Volokh Conspiracy » The First Amendment and Speech That Allegedly Threatens Public Officials: read all of it; partial summary as follows:

  • The Supreme Court has made clear that threats — including threats against the life of the President — can only be punished if they are “true threats."

  • U.S. v. Watts (1969), held that the Constitution protects even the statement "If they ever make me carry a rifle the first man I want to get in my sights is L.B.J.," said at antiwar rally.

  • If the concern is not that the President will feel threatened, but that some readers might be moved by such statements to attack the President, the speech remains protected.

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Friday, January 7, 2011

On The Other Hand

Ph.D. Octopus: if this is what today's grad students in history are like, I should be glad I'm not among them. Insufferable dilettantes!

But how much harm can they really do? Nine-hundred-something history PhD's produced in the U.S. last year are competing (even now, at the AHA meeting) for fewer than five six hundred faculty spots. Hope all that debt was worth it, boys and girls!

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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Big City Reforms: What Works And What Doesn't

Restoring the Social Order by Heather Mac Donald, City Journal 6 January 2011. This part is money:

Liberal urban policy was based on several core assumptions. Number One: multigenerational poverty was the result of structural forces—above all, of rapacious capitalism and racism. It could never be the result of bad decision-making or a deficit of personal responsibility. Number Two: though men were still, alas, required for conceiving a child, they were purely optional for raising one. (Corollary: the role of illegitimacy in creating and perpetuating poverty could never be acknowledged.) Number Three: low-wage work was demeaning and pointless. It was better to receive a monthly welfare check than to labor at an entry-level job. Number Four: crime was an understandable and inevitable reaction to economic injustice and discrimination. (Corollary: the police could not lower crime; only government social programs and wealth-redistribution schemes could.) Together, these four conceits composed the most dangerous idea of all: that the bourgeois values of order, self-discipline, and respect for the law were decorative afterthoughts to prosperity, rather than its very precondition.

In a nutshell, the utter failure of the Great Society Mentality is in its (presumably) unintended consequences. I say "presumaby" because there is some conservative postulation that the entire Cloward-Piven strategy was to break the system in order to build support for an even more radical version.

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