Happy New Year...in one minute.

Yes, this post is pre-scheduled. :D

My Ancestors were Racists

I don't know exactly how to relate the feeling, but there occasionally comes a moment when I realize something to be true. It's different than reading a factoid in a book, or seeing a picture; in these cases, I learn a concept or gain some new knowledge of the world. I can learn what the Eiffel tower looks like, read of its history, and know that there's a massive girth of girders next to the Seine in Paris, but I cannot realize the Eiffel Tower's size and scope until I see it in the flesh.

Until then, it's a mental concept, instead of an emotional reality. It's like the feeling I had as a child when I broke something: I knew I was going to be in trouble, but there was still some other feeling when the parent discovered the damage. My apprehension would give way to sadness or sorrow, just as my eyes widened upon first approaching the Tour Eiffel. I knew I had won a scholarship competition when they announced the 2nd place winner, leaving me in front by the process of elimination, but I still had to have my named called.

In any case, I had another of those moments a few days ago while reading my paternal family's history. I was fortunate enough to have a great-great uncle, or something like that, who wrote up all of the Slack trees back in the early 1900s, and I occasionally looked at the book while growing up. Now, with my super college reading speeds, I gave it another glance and found a passage that had previously escaped my eyes. I don't recall the specifics, but it was something about the family wisdom and the obvious foolishness behind ideas of racial equality.

At that moment, my knowledge that my ancestors were racists was realized. I couldn't emotionally deny it (I think I had been doing that, at least a little), because the words were on the page, and it sent a little shudder through my core. In retrospect, such a feeling seems foolish - our family owns a bit of old silver that was polished by slaves, and I knew my ancestors had made their living off of plantations, but it wasn't quite real until that moment.

To be honest, I don't know how to react, or if this post is itself an overreaction. But something in me says that this knowledge of legacy matters - I don't think I'll read about slaveowners quite the same anymore, or so easily dismiss legal racism as a thing of the past: the genes that enabled it so long ago live in me, and I cannot escape my history. It doesn't make me feel guilty, wrong, or culpable, but it makes that legacy mine. I can no longer draw upon my family's traditions of education and service without passively acknowledging their foolishness. I think it's a part of growing up - I have long since realized that my parents are people like the rest of us, and I think my ancestors just joined the club. I would condemn them if I felt it could help anything, but to be honest, I think mass generalization is possible for each of us, no matter our race, and in condemning them, I condemn my own human condition.

The cliche is that we are all imperfect, but I like to say that we are all broken. Everyone has burdens that make our joys a little bit heavier, goals that we never satisfied, and dreams that we cannot attain - the great gift of our society is that we have the freedom to reach for at least one of those dreams, but there will always be pain, if only because we will not always remember everyone's birthday, no matter how much Facebook reminds us. My ancestors were racists, and I cannot escape that, but I can live with it. Our legacies are resources, sometimes subject to legitimate praise or scorn, but they are mine, and they are yours. You have a legacy, and you will leave a legacy. History is happening today.

Books to read

An old article from the Guardian:
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Bible
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by JRR Tolkien
1984 by George Orwell
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

It's a good list, and may the basis for further "serious" reading of mine. My primary reason to trust it: every book on that list that I've read has been fantastic, especially The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon.

Thompson Chapel

Settlement Freeze = segregation?

I'm confused:
The freeze is an edict that the public cannot tolerate. It is not democratic, nor is it humane. It hits hard at the pockets of law-abiding citizens and embitters their lives. But at its foundation, either intentionally or by accident, is pure and basic apartheid - it is forbidden for Jews to live in certain places. It is forbidden to build. It is forbidden to develop. And it doesn't matter what the reasons are.
Riiiiiiiiight. Show me a Right of Return, and then I'll listen to you about not being able to build settlements. No, thank you? Can't say I'm surprised.

You can't claim that a settlement freeze is apartheid when you block the people on the other side from living in your land. I hope I'm missing something obvious, because this op-ed rationale makes no sense to me.

Stupid: That stupid bomber man is Obama's fault

From Politico:

Republicans have wasted no time in attacking Democrats on intelligence and screening failures leading up to the failed Christmas Day bombing of Flight 253 — a significant departure from the calibrated, less partisan responses that have followed other recent terrorist activity. [..]
“In the past six weeks, you’ve had the Fort Hood attack, the D.C. Five and now the attempted attack on the plane in Detroit … and they all underscored the clear philosophical difference between the administration and us,” said Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee.
Talk about nonsense. 9/11 wasn't Bush's "fault," and it wasn't Clinton's "fault," just as these attacks (or attempts) aren't Obama's fault. The executive still bears responsibility, but to suggest any sort of culpability is just dumb. When we politicize terror, and turn such incidents into political footballs, we bring the ignorant terrorists exactly what they seek: attention. Secure against them and then, ignore them.

From Class, to Television

The Advocate has the story:
Williams students get real with new TV show - By REBECCA DRAVIS
"The Mountains" premiered Dec. 17 at the college before beginning a six-week run on WilliNet on Jan. 4 (check willinet.org for show times). And indeed, the students appeared to be having fun making the show, even though it wasn't what Lane had in mind when she first created the film class.

Lane said she thought the class would focus more on traditional live television, utilizing the equipment and studio the college already had, but the students changed direction.

"It became really obvious they were more interested in a reality TV format," she said. "Television is changing, and they wanted to represent what contemporary television is all about."

FiveThirtyEight on the Internets

From the talented Nate Silver:
Let me advance a proposition for you. It's going to be a controversial one. Ready?

The proposition is this: the Internet is really important!

OK, so I'm joking -- sort of. That tagline sounds so ... 2006. But I think people may nevertheless be overlooking the importance of the Internet in shaping the political landscape that we have today. In other words, a lot of the things that feel "new" about politics circa 2009 are in fact new, but have a lot more to do with information technology than is generally acknowledged.
Rest the rest. I think Silver's right, but I take issue with his conclusion that politics isn't changed in anything but appearance. I think the media has changed politics and polarization - the past partnership won't work now that media is so changed, and that it's time to update the politics to take advantage of new media.

Free Speech, Jack Bauer style

This makes me proud of my country:
The genre of the right-wing pro-torture thriller is on a roll, propelled by Beck and Limbaugh. Jason Zengerle has a terrific piece in the new TNR on the phenomenon:

With Chapter 50 of Pursuit of Honor, Flynn appears to be angling for a new level of conservative street cred. The chapter finds Rapp sitting in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has asked him to explain his torture of a Saudi terrorism suspect. After being scolded for his “immoral techniques” by Carol Ogden--a California Democrat (and thinly veiled send-up of Barbara Boxer) who “moved in the elite circles of her party, listening to the trial lawyers, academics, and the nuttiest of the crazy special-interest groups”--it’s Rapp’s turn to address the committee. “[W]hat do you think is more morally reprehensible,” he asks, “dislocating the arm of a terrorist … or sticking a steel spike into the brain of an eight-and-a-half-month-old fetus and then sucking his brains out[?]”
As much as I don't care for the polarizing, ridiculous commentary, I'm glad to live in a country that tolerates its own citizens calling each other evil. I will continue to work against such calls and feelings, but it will be with a smile on my face, and thankfulness that even the most crazy must be convinced (or ignored) and not arrested.

Thompson House

Settlers in Israel

Something to remember, in reference to this:

There are a LOT of Israelis and Palestinians living in the Middle East, and despite the high number of publicized attacks, life is still possible and regular for many of them. That's not to say that there aren't constant injustices, like rocket attacks or discrimination at checkpoints (which aren't equivalent), but for the most part, the people are normal. They aren't all bombing or displacing or war-making; that's just all we hear about.

New Posts Below!

I screwed up, and published some posts for tomorrow under today's date. Therefore, look below to see them.


Why we need process reform:

The TSA's screening system is not and, under current conditions, cannot be completely effective. The "bomber" who got some explosives aboard was blocked by one of two factors that have made us safer in the air (not my list:

1. Reinforced cockpit doors and pilots who won't open them.
2. Aware and vigilant passengers.

Granted, some level of screening makes sense, if only to keep idiots from bringing a gun aboard, and in that sense, I think our screenings are appropriate. The idea, though, that we should put laptops away in the last hour of flight, and whatever else, is absurd, as if the idea that the TSA should prevent anyone from secreting explosive in their rectum, or in our shoes.

See Brian Williams:
On other flights, no luggage is allowed beneath the seat in front of you.  On still others, no one is allowed to have any reading material for the last hour of the flight.  Blankets and pillows?  If you can find one, just don't keep it in your lap.  All of this is in response to an incompetent would-be terrorist who lit portions of his private parts on fire while on final approach to Detroit on Christmas day.
That these ridiculous rules could attain power is my first presentation of why we need process reform.


Rove's Divorce

This is needless and foolish.
Yet, like so many of his like-minded pious comrades, Rove seems far better at preaching the virtues of "traditional marriage" to others and exploiting them for political gain than he does adhering to those principles in his own life:
The logical outcome of such articles is going to be forcing prominent social conservatives to stay in unhappy marriages, and that's just dumb. If someone feels that they should limit someone else's civil rights, then you push that argument back in the civil arena. If they believe something as a part of their religion, it should, generally, stay out of the public sphere. There's no need for such personal attacks - they may feel good, but they accomplish nothing.

Furthermore, its just mean. Does anyone think Rove would prefer to divorce? Goodness, indeed.

The Media and Palin

Ezra Klein:
One of the jobs the media does is deciding what true things count as news and what true things do not count as news. That should be easy, but since newspapers need to sell copies and cable programs need to secure viewers, there's a tension with the fact that some news is boring, while some not-news is really interesting. Palin sneaks onto the front page because she seems to square that circle: Her utterances seem like news (former vice presidential candidate and 2012 hopeful Sarah Palin says ...) but actually aren't. The continuing irony of all this is that for all the enmity between Palin and the press, no one has a closer and more mutually beneficial relationship than Palin has with the media, and no equivalently powerless political figure receives anything near the free coverage that the media lavishes on her.

No Internet!

Christmas Day brought a different sort of gift: a tree fell down the block, pulling over a few utility poles and some cables out of homes, along with parts of the walls. Whoops. No one was hurt, but AT&T is taking is sweet time getting everything restored, so I sit at the Coffeeshop, catching up with Facebook messages, notifications, wall posts, and Twitter feeds, as well as 109 blog posts on Google Reader.

I'll be drafting more in the future, but these three days have been a reminder: as much as I value my online activities, life can go one without them, and is often simpler for it.


Check Twitter for links...

I have too many friends to see and errands to run to keep up a 4 post/day pace. The buildings series will continue, but please consider the blog to be on a bit of a holiday break.

China wrecked the Copenhagen deal?

If this is true:
Copenhagen was a disaster. That much is agreed. But the truth about what actually happened is in danger of being lost amid the spin and inevitable mutual recriminations. The truth is this: China wrecked the talks, intentionally humiliated Barack Obama, and insisted on an awful "deal" so western leaders would walk away carrying the blame. How do I know this? Because I was in the room and saw it happen.

China's strategy was simple: block the open negotiations for two weeks, and then ensure that the closed-door deal made it look as if the west had failed the world's poor once again. And sure enough, the aid agencies, civil society movements and environmental groups all took the bait. The failure was "the inevitable result of rich countries refusing adequately and fairly to shoulder their overwhelming responsibility", said Christian Aid. "Rich countries have bullied developing nations," fumed Friends of the Earth International.
I don't trust the Chinese; I don't care how offensive or shameful it is, but the idea that a regime can block out history as if it never occurred runs counter to EVERYTHING I believe abotu government. I think this is possible, and shameful. While the US should realize that the entire world can't have our standard of living, the Chinese played politics, because unlike in other countries, they aren't accountable to elections.

That's a pity.

Businesswest features Williamstown

An article about the wonderfulness of Williamstown:
“This is one of the easiest towns in Massachusetts to live in,” said Town Manager Peter Fohlin. “We don’t have choking traffic, there’s lots of outdoor recreation space, and we have a great variety of restaurants and entertainment. The college provides a great deal of opportunity for people to take part in cultural events, music, and drama, and we are centrally located — just a few hours from Boston, New York and Montreal. Where else would you want to live?”
I'm not quite convinced. Decatur is where it's greater.

Ephs top Learfield Sports Directors' Cup competition after fall season

CLEVELAND, OH -- The National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) announced today that the Williams College Ephs lead the NCAA Division III Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup standings at the conclusion of the 2009 fall championship season.
Points are awarded in the Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup competition based on an institution’s finish at NCAA Championship events. This fall the Ephs scored in five of the seven NCAA team championship events.

Williams, winners of the last 11 consecutive Directors’ Cups and 13 of the 14 awarded in NCAA Division III, tallied 367 points to post an 18 -point lead over runner-up Calvin College (MI), which has accumulated 349 points. Washington University (MO) holds down third place with 319 points. Messiah College is in fourth place with 290 points and Johns Hopkins University is fifth with 278 points

Archrival Amherst and Middlebury are the other two NESCAC teams in the top 10. The Amherst Lord Jeffs are sixth (225), while the Panthers of Middlebury are in 10th with 197 points.

Leading the five Eph scoring teams was men’s cross country, which accumulated 90 points based on its second place finish at the NCAA Championship Race. Men’s soccer’s third place finish added 83 points, while the women’s cross country team contributed 66 points with an 8th place finish.

Women’s cross country is the only Eph fall team to score in all fifteen years of the competition. The Eph women harriers have finished in the top 10 every year except 1997 when they came in 14th. Additionally the women’s team has finished in the top five nine times and won the NCAA title in 2002 and 2004.

Women’s soccer and women’s volleyball both chipped in 64 points with 9th place finishes.

This marks the seventh time in the 15 years that Williams has led at the end of the fall season and it is the first time since 2004 the Ephs held the lead this early in the academic year.

The Ephs 367 points is just nine short of their all-time fall best of 376 posted in 2002.

Top 10 NCAA Div. III Teams – Fall 2009
1.   -- Williams -- 367
2.   -- Calvin  (MI) -- 349
3.   -- Washingtion U. (MO) -- 319
4.   -- Messiah (PA) -- 290
5.   -- Johns Hopkins -- 278
6.   -- Amherst -- 225
7.   -- Christopher Newport (VA) -- 224
8.   -- Salisbury (MD) -- 214
9.   -- Lynchburg (VA) -- 200
10. -- Middlebury -- 197

Left: Volleyball 9th at NCAA

Right: Women's Soccer 9th at NCAAs

Women's Cross Country 8th at NCAAs


Journalism and "The Media" are not the same thing

I honestly don't know if I could reason with John Bolton

Markos Molitas essentially thought I was naive. Bolton would seem to miss the point entirely, based on this:
Perhaps most importantly of all, Cheney knows that the personal attacks on him, as offensive as they are, in reality constitute stark evidence that Obama and his supporters are simply unable to match him in the substantive policy debate. An old lawyers’ cliché says: “If the law is against you, pound on the facts; if the facts are against you, pound on the law; if the law and the facts are against you, pound on the table.” Obama and his supporters are doing the political equivalent of continuous table-pounding, because that’s basically all they have to offer.

I see nothing but policy criticism of Cheney, with personal attacks to boot. The difference is that Cheney's response seems to be that anything short of what he wants will risk American lives. That's a personal attack, nothing more or less.

I do think Cheney has good motivations. I just don't understand how he thinks we'll have anything close to decent intelligence capabilities with a consensus that we're the bad guys. Public diplomacy matters; it's the difference between a tip and a car bomb.

Don't trust the capitalists...

Adam Smith used to say that landowners were ignorant about the economy, but benefited from its success, and that laborers didn't have time to learn about the economy, but were even more tied to a strong economy, because of the need of employment. He warned against trusting the owners of capital, for they would look out first for their particular industry, and would not specifically profit with the general economy.

It's a simplification, but it's definitely how I feel at the moment. I read story after story about how much those of wealth and power pursue policies that ignore the needs of those who can't advocate for themselves (though others seek to), and I get discouraged. Is it even possible to work a real job and to learn enough for change?

I don't know, and while I know I'll feel better later, the world's not looking up at the moment. It makes me want to withdraw to steadfast friends, but I still feel like I can, in some small way, help the world, and I'll keep trying to learn how best to do that.

Because I definitely don't get it yet. It's not a matter of ego or attention, either: I don't need or want either. I would appreciate a little trust, though.

What Google thinks about "Open"

From the Google blog:
There are two components to our definition of open: open technology and open information. Open technology includes open source, meaning we release and actively support code that helps grow the Internet, and open standards, meaning we adhere to accepted standards and, if none exist, work to create standards that improve the entire Internet (and not just benefit Google). Open information means that when we have information about users we use it to provide something that is valuable to them, we are transparent about what information we have about them, and we give them ultimate control over their information. These are the things we should be doing. In many cases we aren't there, but I hope that with this note we can start working to close the gap between reality and aspiration.

It's a long, interesting essay.

Obama's Campaign Pledge

From Ezra Klein:
But whether you love the Senate bill or loathe it, whether you're impressed by Obama's effort or disappointed, it is very hard to argue that the bill Congress looks likely to pass is fundamentally different from the approach Obama initially advocated. "The Obama-Biden plan both builds on and improves our current insurance system," the campaign promised, and on that, for better or for worse, they've delivered. You can debate whether Obama should have lashed himself to such an incremental and status-quo oriented approach, but you cannot argue that he kept it a secret.
I have a hard time believing that Obama was aiming for this the whole time. Then again, I should really do a little research and figure out what "this" is. It's hard to be informed about a policy debate without knowing the policy. I'm just assuming that liberals are trying to solve a problem with more gov't intervention while conservatives resist - makes me wonder what happened to the value of Occam's Razor. Why can't we just expand Medicare, again?

Or, why can't we fix the underlying problems? As long as healthcare costs rise, someone will have to pay.

Another take on healthcare

Analysis from Ambinder:
(3) Both sides bemoan the lack of a bipartisan consensus on health care reform, but keep in mind that politics has changed over the past 20 years: it is virtually impossible, given the way interests have aggregated themselves in Congress, to build bipartisan coalitions on issues like these. And, truth be told, when President Obama laid down the marker that, rather than blowing up the system, he wanted to preserve and expand upon the current system, he made a significant concession to Republicans. When his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, insisted on bringing in the hospital, insurance and pharma lobbies, the administration effectively incorporated ideas that were anathema to its party. The White House worked for months with a variety of Republican senators, often successfully persuading House and Senate Democrats to incorporate their concerns.

I sense a little spin here. Obama didn't make these concessions because he wanted "bipartisanship;" he wanted votes and political power. I don't doubt for a moment that the White House wouldn't have gone to a more liberal policy if they didn't think this was possible.


Kristol's advice to the GOP

Besides the fact that Kristol cites Wikipedia as a factual source, I have a few other problems with this article:
2. But don't fight only on health care. Republicans need to expand the battlefield. The rest of the past week's news--some Gitmo prisoners being released back to the battlefield, while others are to be brought to the U.S.; the Copenhagen farce and the EPA CO2 regulation; an Obama-appointed "safe schools czar" who's more interested in safe sex than safe schools--reminds us that there are many fronts for conservatives and Republicans to fight on, ranging from economic policy to social issues to national security. The criticism of the Obama administration needs to be broad-based, because you never know just what issue is going to take off, and because the opposition needs to knit together all those who object to the Europeanization of America.

I know I'm agreeing with the Dish here, but you make your critique on issues that are important, not everything. This column is entirely political & about how to get into political power, but it says nothing about the impending policy disasters that neither side seems really capable of confronting. This applies just as much to leftist people who seem to think that Obama should do what they want, ramrodding legislation through. That's also ridiculous.

Please, please: show me the policy first. Doing nothing is not an option: we are experiencing MARKET FAILURE.

When you don't fact-check....

From the Dish:
"The editorial ‘Sonograms, child porn’ ” which ran in (a recent) opinions section was completely inaccurate and based on false sources. No bill has been passed in North Dakota that states a picture of a fertilized egg is now considered child pornography … We wrote an editorial based on what we later learned was a satirical piece. … We at the Targum deeply regret the error…please accept our deepest apologies for not checking our sources," - The Daily Targum, Rutgers. From Regret The Error's annual list.


Sen. Arlen Specter has declared that the Senate has lost its title as the world's greatest deliberative body, and I entirely agree. In fact, such a thing occured many years ago. The 60-40 partisan line vote conclusively showed that what happens on the Senate floor doesn't matter, since everything has been pre-decided through negotiations and not debate. Politics is too big a business - no longer is a Senator expected to understand policy - there's a Legitlative Assistant to recommend votes in each policy area and a Legislative Correspondent that justifies whatever view the Senator holds, not withstanding all of the lobbyists. This is what gov't gets for regulating - everyone affected shows up to Washington and starts asking to increase their pie. No wonder Smith said trust capital owners was a bad idea. :D

Politics is a formula now. I could have predicted this result 6 months ago; no matter how many negociations took place, all that ultimately mattered was getting to 60. Nelson effectively controlled this bill, and while I don't understand it all, I do know that we haev to do something. Insurance is not a regular market, and it needs special regulation.

There's something wrong with the 60 rule too, because as political rules currently stand, neither side in a 50-50 senate will want to give on anything unless it's the subject of lots of attention and impatience. The bases are kingmakers and breakers in politics today, and they do not value weakness, of what they see as weakness.

Personally, I find that absurd. Members of Congress worry more about fund-raising numbers than policy; campaigning is now a full-time job, and there is no more room to discover a new perspective. Evey side is already locked and loaded, and has no interest in negotiating. I don't think my reps actually represent me anymore, except in getting jobs and federal money for Georgia. They represent the 50% + 1 who elected them, and that's just sad.

The good news is that there's widespread recognition of these trends. All we need now is the leadership that can stare the parties down. Of course, it might be that this is a simplification, and that I'm missing the ball one way or the other. But, I really don't think so. Obama is too much of a politician to risk choking on this, but I hope someone will step up and be recognized. There is far too much at stake for us to get lost in our polarization.

PS - I would welcome an interesting facts or stories about President Truman, in preparation for an upcoming interview.

Administrative Announcement

To the Williams Community,

Greetings from Baltimore. As the fall term winds down and April 1 approaches, I’m eager to be with you more regularly. As the next step, I’ll be focused on Williams matters generally one day a week, often in Williamstown, from January through March.

In other transition news, I’m pleased to update you on the terms of service of the faculty’s senior administrators.

Karen Merrill has decided that her term as Dean of the College should end as planned this June 30th. I’m impressed by the dedication and care that she’s brought to this position. She certainly can return to fulltime teaching and research with a deep sense of satisfaction. I’ll be consulting with the Faculty Steering Committee on selecting her successor.

Following consultation with the Committee, I’ve asked Bill Wagner and Bill Lenhart to serve as Dean of the Faculty and Provost, respectively, through the 2010-11 academic year, and they have agreed. I hope you’ll join me in thanking them for the distinguished service they’ll continue to provide to the Williams community in these roles, and in the case of Bill Wagner for his exceptional and ongoing responsibilities as Interim President.

Andrea Danyluk will remain Acting Dean of the Faculty until Bill Wagner resumes those duties April 1. To her, as well, we are all grateful.

Williams is fortunate to have faculty willing and able to fill these important and demanding roles. It’s one of the many reasons why I’m so looking forward to joining this remarkable community.

Adam Falk


Travel has to be, by far, the worst thing about coming to Williams from so far away. I live outside of the one-day car radius, and therefore must often fly. ALB-ATL isn't exactly cheap, so I've often gone through Boston. In fact, this post is being written in the Boston airport, as I hopefully wait to get bumped to a later flight with a >$100 flight coupon. I actually MADE money on a trip two summers ago because the bumping compensation was greater than the rest of my expenses, including the round trip ticket.

Operating this blog for a week has been a little crazy. While I'm exploring other options to blog, the fact remains that the only author is yours truly, and that I chose to start this project during finals week. That was, perhaps, not my wisest move, but I've enjoyed every bit.

Now home for break. I've got lots of people to see, and counsel to seek, before heading back up. TSA has added security on our flight; how odd?


Spot the American!

Over the Christmas break, I'll be posting the report I wrote about my month this summer in France. I was in the little town of Taize, France, which is home to an ecumenical monastic community of about 100 brothers (monks wouldn't be a inapplicable descriptive word). The community hosts thousands of youth from numerous countries during the summer who come to meet and pray, and I had the privilege of staying there for a month both as a regular pilgrim and as a long-term volunteer, which are called "permanents" in Taize's odd version of English. Many of those permanents are in the photo to the right, though this group is more Euro-dominated than most pictures I have. More postings on this subject to come.

There's something about having a physical letter in your hand....

...that makes it all the sweeter. I won't get one of my presents, a letter from Germany, until I get back to Williams. There are amazing people all around the world.

My Neighborhood Proposal

I'm not wedded to this idea; it ignores the social component, but I do think its the best way to allocate housing. Here goes:

"It is highly significant that satisfaction with NGB programming does not translate into neighborhood desirability. Housing trumps all else, and it is conclusive that the neighborhoods are not equal in what they offer. It is also folly to renovate with the specific idea of improving neighborhood equality, as this implies an opportunity cost of not making the most needed renovations overall.

Having visited the campus of Rice and read about similar housing situations, I now understand much better what the 2005 CUL was trying to achieve with the Williams "House System." Residential colleges are a staple at Rice; my brother's first-year orientation was essentially an indoctrination to Brown College (Motto: We're the ____ ), and he loves his college, its faculty master, and his fellow residents, who live and eat together in the Brown Commons. Williams does not possess the needed physical plant to facilitate this sort of system, and building such a plant has a prohibitive cost, at least in the short and mid-term view.

The statements by minorities are incredibly important. Even as someone who went to a 50/50 black/white high school, with plenty of cross-racial interaction, I've yet to really meet or talk with the two black women who live tow floors below me. I've only had meaningful interactions with the people in my suite, one of whom has said somethings that might have made a person of color uncomfortable. While we don't want a return to theme housing, there may be an incentive to make it such that people of different clusters can live in proximity without taking over a house.

Thus, I submit a compromise suggestion for the committee's consideration. In this compromise, 4 groups of housing remain, but each one consists of a roughly equal portion of the Williams Housing Pie. I took the dorms and split them up into 6 clusters - the Greylock Quad, the Berkshire Quad, the far houses, the Row Houses, the most central houses, and houses of some quality very near a dining hall. I have also split Morgan and Prospect into two halves.

The undesirability of Lehman compared to Morgan or West has led me to stipulate that Spencer must be including in the Lehman group, but otherwise, dorms in the below set-up can be switched around for whatever numerical mix desired without making neighborhoods unequal. In addition, this allows for a 50% expansion in the number of co-op beds, though this number can be raised or lowered by moving the Dodd Row Houses in and out of co-op status.

What does this mean?

Teams and groups will not be able to take over one house, because they are still split between clusters. However, clusters of houses could attain "party status," such as the Row Houses and and Far Houses. This allows for students interested in that sort of thing to pick into those houses such that we have limited segregation by interest, but without making any particular house attain a definite status or dominance. It means that social groups can arrange to live on the same quad (if they give up better housing options), but that interactions with their house can still remain free.

This is a compromise, and will not solve many of the problems that students have with residential life, but it does not exacerbate those problems, will probably reduce some of them, and will eliminate housing inequality.

Summary of Compromise:

Pluses -
  • Eliminates extreme isolation that some students feel by allowing students of different clusters to live near each other.
  • Allows all students to live near where they have many classes/activities
    • Berkshire Quad for Griffin,
    • Greylock for Theatre/Dance kids, who have been known to sleep in the '62 Center).
  • Eliminates neighborhood inequality
  • Up to 50% increase in highly desired Co-Op housing
  • Allows for limited themes, hopefully such that all students have a quieter living option.
  • Maintains NGBs and CC Representation.
  • Maintains current event planning, which is becoming more successful.
  • Keeps student groups split, avoiding explicitly themed houses.
  • Low administrative costs of switching, can be done through current lottery process.
Negatives -
  • Housing groups still not completely equal as compared to free-agency.
  • Students may have to choose between a better room and a "theme they disagree with"
  • It could be difficult for students to coordinate picks in the same housing cluster.
  • Students still don't have free choice in housing.
  • Does not seek to solve many intrinsic issues the Neighborhood system sought to fix. (might be a plus?)
  • Eliminates group/neighborhood housing in the same area of campus
An arbitrary set-up, specific mixes to further review


Far, far away
T. Annex
Near food

Row Houses

Morgan 1





New Co-ops

Goodrich -11
Hubbell - 21
Parsons - 9
Sewall - 11

A good thought on Free Will

From a Daily Dish reader:
Imagine for a moment, a six-sided dice. Since time immemorial, dice have been used in games of "chance" to simulate randomness. Yet consider the fact that if we knew every minuscule factor that could possibly affect the outcome of a die roll, from the angle that it falls from your hand, to the barometric pressure of the room, to the hardness of the surface it hits, to the moisture or trace skin oil reside left on the die by the palm of your hand (and so on), we could predict with 100% accuracy what the outcome of that roll would be. Everytime. We could measure velocity, acceleration, centripetal force, friction, run parametric equations, find vectors, etc. But there is such an unimaginably large amount of physical variables involved in the possible outcome of that dice roll, that attempting to measure them all for purposes of a 100% accurate prediction would require a meticulous and painstaking effort so monumental in its scope that the effort becomes practically impossible for human beings to undertake fruitfully. So for all intensive purposes, we tend to accept the outcome of any die roll as a random event, because the immense difficulty involved in trying to predict its outcome is for all practical purposes, impossible given the extreme number of metrics and near infinite number of variables involved in predicting its outcome.

Weston Renovation to begin ASAP

From the Berkshire Eagle:
There should be a new football facility under the tree at Williams College.

The long-awaited renovation to Weston Field should begin as soon as possible, perhaps as soon as the college can unwrap the gift.

A lighted turf football facility could bring Super Bowl or playoff games to Williamstown, and will be great for the football Ephs, for students to play intramurals on, and for the local high school teams to practice and play.


Adam Smith

1. Because the division of labor is born from the power of market exchange, it is also limited by market exchange's limits. For example, a very small market offers little incentive to specialize, and some industries can only be in cities. In some rural areas, each farmer has to be butcher and baker. Those who specialize do so broadly: carpenter is also "joiner, a cabinet maker, carver, wheelwright, ploughwright, a cart and wagon maker." Thus industry complicates near areas of easy transport: waterways make it cheaper, and land travel is can prohibitively expensive. The division of labor is splitting different types of work so that people can specialize in a specific kind of work, and allows production technologies to only be needed once than for everyone. However, mental mutilation is a factor, though Smith recommends education as a rectifying formula. Human propensity to truck, barter, and exchange. Better to create one good, though this isn't possible in small markets.

So goes my study guide, through #40 and beyond. I'm ready for you, POEC final.

Ephmazing People

So given that this post is on the internet, and there are possibly creepers out there, names shan't be mentioned, but you know who you are:

I have known some of the absolutely most amazing and fantabulous people here. Many of them are close friends, many aren't, but they knock my socks off each and every day.

There's PN, who managed stunning academic success while providing extraordinarily capable student leadership to the student body. I once spent 4 hours in a room with him essentially designing a Constitution, and actually enjoyed it.

There's MR, who manages to be nigh magnetic with charm, grace, and wit, and whose interest in engaging the world through artistic endeavors far surpasses anyone else I've met.

There're BB, KB, and MD, whose endeavors and abilities in dance surprise and touch me with each performance, and whose kindness and spirit lighten every day I see them. One of them owes me cookies too, and another has given me cookies she baked herself at least 5 times.  :D

There's WH, who is good, honest, and excited about the world and esoteric (at least to me) topics.  He once stole the show with nothing but a single appendage, and has many secret abilities to boot.

There's RP, whose jazzy skills on the keyboard blew me away the first night we met and played together, and whose efforts have improved many a concert or meet and greet. I'm listening to R at this very moment. There's AJ, who can sing a song like no one else, though EK on the piano was plain old amazing as well. WS is already making waves as a freshman, and another WS is going to make waves next year doing something else.

Follow across the jump for many, many more.

The Decade in Photos


50 Photos in 10 years. All excellent, poignant, and heart-breaking.

Photos of Child Labor in Bangladesh

These images are happening right now:

13-year-old Liyakot Ali works in a silver cooking pot factory in Old Dhaka. The children work 10 hour days in hazardous conditions, for a weekly wage of 200 taka (3 USD). Dhaka.

Faculty House

Reader Joke from Daily Dish

This is pretty good:
Young Chuck moved to Texas and bought a donkey from a farmer for $100. The farmer agreed to deliver the donkey the next day. The next day the farmer drove up and said, 'Sorry Chuck, but I have some bad news, the donkey died.'

Chuck replied, 'Well, then just give me my money back.'

The farmer said, 'Can't do that. I went and spent it already.'

Chuck said, 'OK, then, just bring me the dead donkey.'

The farmer asked, 'What ya gonna do with a dead donkey?'

Chuck said, 'I'm going to raffle him off.'

The farmer said 'You can't raffle off a dead donkey!'

Chuck said, 'Sure I can. Watch me. I just won't tell anybody he's dead.'

A month later, the farmer met up with Chuck and asked, 'What happened with that dead donkey?'

Chuck said, 'I raffled him off. I sold 500 tickets at two dollars apiece and made a profit of $898.00.'

The farmer said, 'Didn't anyone complain?'

Chuck said, 'Just the guy who won. So I gave him his two dollars back.'

Chuck now works for JP Morgan.

$346.9 Million Investment Hit

From the Boston Business Journal:
By Craig M. Douglas
Williams College, a liberal arts school located in Western Massachusetts, saw is balance sheet shrink by 20 percent in the most recent fiscal year on some $427 million in nonoperating losses.

Most of those losses stemmed from a $346.9 million hit to the college’s investment portfolio, according to financial filings. [...]

The college’s total assets were valued at $1.64 billion, down 20 percent from the $2.06 billion on its books a year earlier [...]

Richardson writes about Williams Track

From the Salem News:
Joel Richardson has written another book, this time focusing on the Williams College track program. The name of the book is easy to remember: "Williams Track", and is available on Amazon.com.... [I don't see it there yet -Will]

"I wanted to tell how the athletes could integrate the values and what they learned in class to putting that into practice in their performance (in track)," said Richardson, who ran for the Ephs from 1978-80, competing in the 440, 600, and 880 meters. His name is on the school's all-time indoor list at 500 meters (600 yards).


Mondays, Thursdays, and Sundays have ceased to exist. There are now but three times of importance:

Reading Period: AKA, the time that you know you should be studying for finals but spent it saying goodbyes, hanging out, and wasting time on the computer, unless you're taking a take-home early.

Finals: Study, write, take exams, eat, sleep when possible.

Done: Freeeeeeedom and immediate escape.

Most common question on campus: "Are you done?"

Harvard's Epic Financial Fail

From Bloomberg, via an Ephblog comment:
The swaps, which assumed that interest rates would rise, proved so toxic that the 373-year-old institution agreed to pay banks a total of almost $1 billion to terminate them. Most of the wrong-way bets were made in 2004, when Lawrence Summers, now President Barack Obama’s economic adviser, led the university. Cranes were recently removed from the construction site of a $1 billion science center that was to be the expansion’s centerpiece, a reminder of Summers’s ambition. The school said last week they will suspend work on the building early next year
Ouch. "Smartest guys in the room," indeed.

Crazy Chemistry Reaction


I've never seen such a thing, though I think Thermite is "cooler."

Yes, that's exactly what this was.....

David Paterson crashes a rival's party:
Gov. Paterson made an attention-grabbing appearance last night at a birthday-bash fund-raiser for his political rival, state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo -- the likely 2010 Democratic nominee for governor over the poll-challenged incumbent.

"Andrew looked shocked," said one guest. "The governor bum-rushed him. They greeted each other. It was stiff and cordial. It was like seeing your old girlfriend at the prom."

2 Points to Burger King


CIA & Palestine

Marc Lynch:
A story in the Guardian yesterday about alleged CIA co-operation with Palestinian security forces involved in torture has exploded across the Arab media today.  There isn't all that much new in the story, since such allegations have been widely circulating for years and have been investigated by a wide range of human rights organizations.  But the way the story is playing out now is all too familiar.  It will likely further discredit the Palestinian Authority and Salam Fayyad's government, give greater traction to the widespread complaints about the role of U.S. trained security forces, and strengthen the Hamas arguments within the Palestinian public.

Holophonic Sounds

Prepare to be amazed (with headphones).

Reality from Megan McArdle

Glad to read this about Healthcare reform. It's not like this result wasn't predictable.
Negotiation doesn't work that way.  There is a zone of possible agreement (known to those who study this sort of thing as the ZOPA).  You can't negotiate your way out of that zone no matter where you start.  Nor does starting from a more aggressive bargaining point always mean that you will do better in the negotiation. It can often mean you do worse, because you poison the process.[...]

Ultimately, the moderates had a very good alternative to negotiated agreement, and the progressives didn't, and that was crystal clear from Day 1.  That meant the progressives were never, ever going to get very much.  This was not a failure of political will or political skill.  It was the manifestation of a political reality that has long been obvious to everyone who wasn't living in a fantasy world.

May the Longhorns be defeated

Jon B. Terry files a unique legal motion:
Jon B. Terry, a defense attorney for a gentleman accused of something that involves DEATH, has requested a motion to continue his client's trial because the current trail date -- January 4, 2010 -- conflicts with Alabama's appearance in the BCS Championship Game and would thusly prevent him from attending said national championship game. The legalise is not particularly, um, objective: [...]

6. Attempts to resolve this conflict directly with the Plaintiffs has been unfruitful as the reply has been that they are for the other great team in this State who did not make the playoffs. Unfortunately, that response remains short-sighted as they may one day find themselves in the same position that the Defendant attorneys are in and, unfortunately, the BSC Title Game is no longer scheduled on January 1st, but has been moved to January 7th.

[...] considering the magnitude of this event and its impact on this State, and the fact such an event only comes infrequently during a person's lifetime and is an achievement of such a magnitude that all involved in this litigation should want everyone to fully participate in this achievement.

9. ROLL TIDE!! (although my secretary is for the other great team of this State, she feels that I need to attend this championship game!); and may the Longhorns be defeated.

I can't decide if I should laugh at the lawyer's misfortune because he's a 'bama fan, remain solemnly silent/neutral because of the serious nature of the case, or wholeheartedly endorse the motion so that karma doesn't come back to get me when UGA or Tech make it to the championship.

Most Popular on YouTube, 2009 Edition

From Google:
For these lists, we looked at view counts of YouTube's most popular videos (in some instances we aggregated views across multiple versions of the same video):

Most Watched YouTube videos (Global):
1. Susan Boyle - Britain's Got Talent (120+ million views)
2. David After Dentist (37+ million views)
3. JK Wedding Entrance Dance (33+ million views)
4. New Moon Movie Trailer (31+ million views)
5. Evian Roller Babies (27+ million views)

Most Watched music videos on YouTube (Global)*:
1. Pitbull - I Know You Want Me (82+ million views)
2. Miley Cyrus - The Climb (64+ million views)
3. Miley Cyrus - Party In The U.S.A. (54+ million views)
4. The Lonely Island - I'm On A Boat (48+ million views)
5. Keri Hilson - Knock You Down (35+ million views)


Gov't Stupidity, Sex Offender Edition

From Ann Arbor:
Freeman told the trooper Pittsfield Township police told him “it shouldn’t be a problem” to live near the school. He had registered with Pittsfield police 27 days earlier using his family's Dalton Avenue address.

Freeman told the trooper he was on the Michigan Sex Offender Registry because he had “sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend when he was 17.” He also said his girlfriend’s mother got “upset with him and pressed charges.” [...]

Freeman, 23, is charged with a school safety zone residency violation, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. He was arraigned Dec. 4 and is scheduled to return to court Friday.
There's got to be some other label we can apply here that doesn't imply rape. Stories like this weaken the label when it's appropriate as well.


We’re suffering from an incoherent institutional set-up in the senate. You can have a system in which a defeated minority still gets a share of governing authority and participates constructively in the victorious majority’s governing agenda, shaping policy around the margins in ways more to their liking. Or you can have a system in which a defeated minority rejects the majority’s governing agenda out of hand, seeks opening for attack, and hopes that failure on the part of the majority will bring them to power. But right now we have both simultaneously. It’s a system in which the minority benefits if the government fails, and the minority has the power to ensure failure. It’s insane, and it needs to be changed.
I don't understand why the filibuster is so common now, except as a part of polarization.

Yay, Torture.....

From Hardball:
"I don't believe that we should limit waterboarding - or, quite frankly, any other alternative torture technique - if it means saving Americans' lives." - Aaron Schock
Well, at least he's honest, though I think this sort of thinking is both strategically and morally flawed.

Smuggling SOLO Cups

From Katherine Tandler in the UK:
The Williams kids, noting this enthusiasm (which often manifests itself in Spaghetti Western interpretations and hilarious attempts at New York accents), planned and threw an America-themed party, complete with American music (from John Cougar Mellencamp to Miley Cyrus) and real red SOLO cups "like in American teen movies!" Aside: SOLO cups do not exist in England and had to be smuggled in via guests who were visiting from the States. Many thanks to the Victor family for somehow managing to squeeze about 100 of them into their luggage.


From my old blog:
The Discipline Committee (of which the Honor System Committee is a part) is one of the great institutions at Williams. Faculty and students come together make hard judgments about difficult cases and, having done so, report to the community the results of their deliberations in detail (but with all names removed). The reports make for interesting reading. Which infractions are your favorites? Does anyone know when the 2008-2009 Report will be available?
Judging your fellow Ephs is an important but often thankless job, so kudos to all involved, especially EphBlogger Peter Just, chair of the Committee this year and former EphBlogger Will Slack ‘11.
eph22 says:
I disagree. They do not do a good job. I have known of cases where they failed students for a minor offense. The purpose of college is to educate and if you make minor mistakes, such as not footnoting or something, you don’t ruin a persons 4 years by flunking them. You give them a warning and then if it happens again, you take action.
So while they might be praised, I do not believe they are doing students a good service.

I have no favorite infractions. I've been on the committee for 2 1/2 years now, and every hearing has been difficult. They are emotionally wearing and often frustrating, because it is so easy to sympathize with overburdened students who, at 4 AM, lost their self-control and made a bad choice.

Yet I don't regret a single one of the convictions, and I think our sanctioning method is appropriate. In fact, we're quite a bit lighter than other schools, some of which automatically dismiss or suspend a student for cheating. In direct response to Eph22, I've never heard a case where a student "forgot to footnote." These are cases of true and deliberate plagiarism and cases when a student accidentally plagiarizes by being careless, but it's much more than forgetting to include a [1]. Without the Honor Code, we wouldn't be able to have take-home exams or tests. We wouldn't have faculty give exams without a proctor, and we wouldn't have so much collaborative learning. The privileges for the Honor Code are part of the admissions package, and there are consequences for abusing those. 

What's a professor supposed to do when a student hands in a plagiarized piece and gets a warning? The honor code is the only thing every student at Williams has to sign each year - you don't get to forget about it, and no matter how tired you are when you decide to cheat, you ALWAYS have the opportunity not to turn in your problem set or essay. Failing the assignment is always an option - it's just rarely our option in assessing a sanction.

I can answer questions about how this committee works to anyone, though I have to maintain confidentiality.


4 days of reading period. 6 days of finals. That's 10 days of 240 hours, and somehow I don't seem to have any of them free. Regular posting shall resume in a few days, though the buildings series is still set up.

How many Eph frosh have been a "Unit Production Manager?"

From the Homer Tribune:
Noomah, who spoke from her dorm at Williams College in Massachusetts, said a lot more goes into producing film than what people might think – including some rather detailed logistics during each stage of the process. She and Edminster began making movies after she had roped him into a project while they were in the eighth grade.
“Then he called me out of the blue two years ago and asked if I would like to help him make this movie,” she said. “I made sure the actors had what they needed and made sure they had all the props. I carried a lot of things around in my car, which was pretty much a costume box.”


Prison Reform

From a Dish Reader:
I grew up in a small town in Georgia.  Many - at least half a dozen - of my (white, upper-middle class) friends got into trouble with the law during high school or college.  Alcohol and other drug charges, DUI, assault, vandalism; you know, the kind of stupid shit that young men often do.  For example, one of my friends got caught by the with multiple doses of LSD and ecstasy; he's now an anesthesiologist.  These kids almost always got off with minimal punishment after a few crucial phone calls were placed.  It was a huge corruption of the legal system, and I've wondered since just how widespread the problem is, especially in small towns.  It was funny how these Republican parents were all about law and order until their children got into trouble.  See, they child was really a good kid who had just temporarily gone astray.  The ultimate message was that prison time was for "the other."
It's amazing how much mandatory minimum have put DA's in the driving seat of the justice system instead of judges.

Atlanta, 70 years ago

From Jay Bookman:
History has such a funny way of playing tricks on you. Just when you think it’s headed in one direction, something or other has already come along and begun to alter its course profoundly, in ways that are visible only in hindsight.

Seventy years ago today, for example, Atlanta was throwing itself one helluva party. The occasion was the world premiere of a little movie called “Gone With the Wind,” and judging from eyewitness accounts, the event became a celebration of the highly romanticized Old South and a vindication of the stories that Southerners — or at least white Southerners — liked to tell themselves about the war and its aftermath, including their relationship with their African-American countrymen.
h/t: Brian Williams

Williams ED Decisions went out yesterday

I remember that day, three years ago.

I was in the middle of my giant epidemiological research project, and asked to drive home in the middle of the day to get some papers I had forgotten. While the decisions were in the back of my mind, I wasn't really expecting them until the next day, but I was a little pleased to have the papers as an excuse.

I drove up my driveway, then walked back down to the mailbox. There was a 8.5x11 sized large envelope, and as I reached for it, I was quite worried. I had bookmarked the UGA Foundation Fellows website right AFTER the page that stated I had to send in regular UGA application materials, with the result that I applied for the program without asking for admission to UGA. Oops. I had already been accepted to Tech, but I knew that a small liberal arts college was my best bet.

Yet Cornell had been too depressing, Davidson too accommodating, Swarthmore too self-important, Wesleyan too quirky, Princeton too snooty and uncaring about those without privilege, Hamilton too weak in every area not food related, and Amherst too mean. Williams was the only LAC that I had visited and still liked, and while I was ready to apply to Middlebury, Bowdoin, Colby, and others, I hadn't gotten very far on the applications. I had faith that my recs, Georgian background, and religious activities would provide a hook for admission. Now knowing quite a bit more about the admissions process, I realize that I was being foolish, but at the time, I had a bit of a "Williams or bust" mentality.

I opened the envelope. Out of respect to everyone who will be getting this particular piece of mail, and in the hope that they will share my experience, I won't say what the thing said, but I can say that my first thought upon reading it was not "Yay, I got in!," but rather: "My college is so fly."

I called my parents, went back to school and told a semi-friend that my decision had come; she went home and got her acceptance to MICA the same day. I don't remember much more, but Williams's approval certainly made my January much easier on the nerves as I finished my research project. I also had a wonderful spring semester, which might be the main reason why I remember high school so fondly.

The Senate's Healthcare Reform

The bill has now been watered down such that it's acceptable to all of the 60 needed to pass it. This means Senator #60 has full control of how far the bill goes. Strange.

There are two perspectives from progressives:
There's been a little bit of revisionist history in the post-mortem over the public option. The fact is that progressives did very, very well to get to within a handful of votes in the Senate on a weak-ish public option -- perhaps as close as one or two votes on the latest compromise, the Medicare buy-in.
Insurance companies win. Time to kill this monstrosity coming out of the Senate.
I haven't done the reading to understand this, but with a polarized Senate, it wasn't exactly unpredictable.

Manzi on America's Edge

Jim Manzi:
The United States is in a tough spot. As we dig ourselves out from a serious financial crisis and a deep recession, our very efforts to recover are exacerbating much more fundamental problems that our country has let fester for too long. Beyond our short-term worries, and behind many of today's political debates, lurks the deeper challenge of coming to terms with America's place in the global economic order.

Our strategic situation is shaped by three inescapable realities. First is the inherent conflict between the creative destruction involved in free-market capitalism and the innate human propensity to avoid risk and change. Second is ever-increasing international competition. And third is the growing disparity in behavioral norms and social conditions between the upper and lower income strata of American society...
I wish I had the brainpower to analyze more, but this will have to wait until after finals.


Joe Wilson in World Context

While George H. W. Bush made a few blogs for condemning Mr. Wilson's outburst, the US Rep has nothing on Paul Gogarty.
Mr Gogarty said that the Green party had succeeded in getting the size of the social welfare cuts reduced. As he continued to speak, defending his support for the Bill, he was heckled by Labour party TDs.

Turning to Labour TD Emmet Stagg, he shouted: "F*** you, Deputy Stagg, f*** you."

Mr Gogarty then apologised for his “unparliamentary langugage". He said he was outraged that somebody should question his sincerity.
It reminds me of when Jean Schimitt called Rep. Murtha a coward.

Urbanist Design for Williamstown

From here:

New Urbanist Design for Williamstown's Downtown Superblock
7:00 p.m., Griffin 6
Environmental Planning Workshop (Envi 302) Final Public Presentation by Will Harron '10, Chris Law '10, Sophie Mason '10, Amy Siedlecki '10, and Sara Wild '11. Refreshments will be served. Everyone is welcome.

The event should be interesting - another like it for North Adams is being held down Route 2. I'd like to congratulate my friend (and freshman roommate) Will Harron, who appears to be both a senior and a JA - at the same time. :D

The NYT Covers the WSJ, media fight ensues

David Carr:
Mr. Baker, a neoconservative columnist of acute political views, has been especially active in managing coverage in Washington, creating significant grumbling, if not resistance, from the staff there. Reporters say the coverage of the Obama administration is reflexively critical, the health care debate is generally framed in terms of costs rather than benefits — “health care reform” is a generally forbidden phrase — and global warming skeptics have gotten a steady ride. (Of course, objectivity is in the eyes of the reader.)
The WSJ responds:
The news column by a Mr David Carr today is yet more evidence that The New York Times is uncomfortable about the rise of an increasingly successful rival while its own circulation and credibility are in retreat. The usual practice of quoting ex-employees was supplemented by a succession of anonymous quotes and unsubstantiated assertions.
 Is Carr right? I don't know; we don't get the Journal on campus and I also read Peggy Noonan's column irregularly. But it underlines the point that as news gathering becomes easy and free, thanks to the internet, most of the people buying papers will be those that care the most about politics. That sub-section is, by definition, probably more partisan, which makes partisan journalism a winning strategy. Lame but true.

Marketing in a Menu

While I hadn't thought about this subject before, this piece on menu marketing is surprisingly relevant:
2. The Anchor
The main role of that $115 platter—the only three-digit thing on the menu—is to make everything else near it look like a relative bargain, Poundstone says.

4. In The Vicinity
The restaurant’s high-profit dishes tend to cluster near the anchor. Here, it’s more seafood at prices that seem comparatively modest.

Sometimes, there's naught to do but laugh.


Brian Williams:
While I don't know what was visually suspicious about my bag, I was headed for the Steel Table of Shame.  I travel a lot—100,000 miles a year on average—so, like George Clooney's character in the new movie, I've got my travel act down pretty good.  But not this day...not with this particular TSA shift. It’s about to get much worse.
My bag was searched, and then the swab came out.  The carry-on equivalent of a cavity search.  The alarm sounded. My bag had tested positive for TNT. [...]
The man can certianly write, and his Daily Show appearances are some of the best.

B&L Building

Honorary Degrees

After Nick Arnosti and I were elected to the Honorary Degrees Committee, I didn't realize how quickly I would be thinking about commencement, which was at that point over two years away. I can't comment publicly about the process, and I don't need any names from non-juniors, but I wanted to share this quote. It's why I sometimes like reading old memos:
"With the awarding of an honorary degree, the College recognizes
distinguished achievement.  It may be personal achievement in contributing
to social progress or the advancement of knowledge or culture; or public
achievement in the service of government, business, an institution, or the
community.  In general, the candidate's contributions should reflect the
principles and objectives for which the College stands.  And in general, the
candidate should bring honor to the College, and the College should bring
honor to the candidate."

I don't think Bernard Moore likes me anymore

Google "Bernard Moore" and see why.

Semester's End

One of the negative aspects of finals is how much they de-sync the end of the semester. After so much writing, study, and thought, we Ephs are weary, and ready to get home. Because many profs give out self-scheduled exams or essays that can be written from home, we can sometimes be free to go while others have four exams to take. In addition, the different schedules each person sets for studying and writing often don't match up.

This means that instead of one big WORK IS DONE! blowout, we have pre-finals parties, and then celebrate being done on Facebook. This means that my friends will be leaving as I take my tests; we won't have time for much of a goodbye before some fly away to foreign countries, and there won't be any event marking the end of the semester. Williams gets around this problem with senior week in the spring, but the rest of the classes have to improvise. While I would never want to have to stick around in the tundra after finishing work, the semester's fading end is a reminder that no policy or freedom is without some other, unanticipated consequences.

Good Logic Puzzle

Two integers x and y are selected such that 1 > x >= y > 100. Player A is given the product x*y and player B is given the sum x+y. The following dialogue takes place:

A: I don’t know the values x and y.
B: I knew you didn’t know. I don’t know them either.
A: Now I know x and y.
B: Now I know them too.

What are x and y?
h/t: Redditer Vitanza