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

http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2009/12/the_decade_in_news_photographs.html

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).

Finals


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

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=680106771263243162&hl=en#

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


Driscoll


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)

Cole


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.

Ungovernable?

Yglesias:
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.

Honor

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.
Comment:
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.

Finals

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.”

Clark


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.
and
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.

Brooks


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.

The TSA

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

Vote for Women's Crew!!!

Go here to vote for Williams's Women's Crew for Row2k's CREW OF THE YEAR!

Results here: help them out!

Loopholes

Oh, America:

At least several hundred mile-junkies discovered that a free shipping offer on presidential and Native American $1 coins, sold at face value by the U.S. Mint, amounted to printing free frequent-flier miles. Mileage lovers ordered more than $1 million in coins until the Mint started identifying them and cutting them off.
Coin buyers charged the purchases, sold in boxes of 250 coins, to a credit card that offers frequent-flier mile awards, then took the shipments straight to the bank. They then used the coins they deposited to pay their credit-card bills. Their only cost: the car trip to make the deposit.
h/t: Daily Dish

Lovely Weather


 I didn't go to Williams for the weather (though I thought the snow would build character), but this fall has been fantastic. There have been at least 4 sunsets that absolutely took my breath away, a rainbow, a "Mountain Day Miracle," as seen at right, and a nearly complete lack of snow until the Lessons and Carols service. All is well with the weather, and while the Spring's slush won't be fun, I don't think I'll mind so much.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ledges/ / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
From a NYT story about a "controversy" about a White House Hanukkah party:
Rabbi Shemtov, who has attended Hanukkah parties at the White House, said he raised an eyebrow when he received his invitation, but noted that the Bush administration once sent invitations out with Christmas trees on them.
“This is all one big overblown latke,” the rabbi said.
“I feel that we need to save our communal kvetching in reserve for when it’s more called for and really matters,” he continued.

Obama and Afghanistan


First, from Lynch:

The July 2011 date should be understood as an inflection point, not as the end of the American military mission. There is no “mission accomplished” here. The American commitment to Afghanistan and Pakistan will continue. The pace and location of withdrawals will be dictated by conditions on the ground and, indeed, the date itself was carefully chosen based on the military’s best calculations of improved security and political conditions. It was not drawn from a hat, or determined by the domestic political calendar.
The deadline is essential politically because it will provide the necessary urgency for Afghans to make the institutional reforms that will ensure their own survival. An open-ended commitment creates a terrible moral hazard in which Afghan leaders, assuming American troops will always be there to protect them, may make risky or counterproductive decisions. A limited, conditional commitment creates the leverage needed to generate the institutional transformation necessary to cement any gains made by the military.
I'm mostly going to take Prof. Lynch's word on this, mostly because it sounds reasonable, I'm ignorant, and I think that getting all of the info for such a decision would get me arrested, but I did want to make an additional point in response to views like this one about his Nobel Speech:
In accepting the award, Obama eloquently apologized for America's past failures — going back to Woodrow Wilson — and credited himself with "banning torture" and closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. In a brief "presser" afterwards, he once again took pains to emphasize his arbitrary and unprecedented July, 2011 withdrawal schedule for the troops he just ordered to combat. [...] Would a "war president" devote 92 percent of his public commentary, speeches, lectures, media appearances over the past 10 months to everything but the war? His "economic stimulus plan," TARP, the government takeover of the auto industry, the plan for government-run health insurance, global climate change and "carbon limits" have each generated more presidential words than "the war."
Talk about spin; let's looking at what Obama actually said:
We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth:  We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes.  There will be times when nations -- acting individually or in concert -- will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King Jr. said in this same ceremony years ago:  "Violence never brings permanent peace.  It solves no social problem:  it merely creates new and more complicated ones."  As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King's life work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence.  I know there's nothing weak -- nothing passive -- nothing na├»ve -- in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.

But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone.  I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people.  For make no mistake:  Evil does exist in the world.  A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies.  Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms.  To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism -- it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

I raise this point, I begin with this point because in many countries there is a deep ambivalence about military action today, no matter what the cause.  And at times, this is joined by a reflexive suspicion of America, the world's sole military superpower.

But the world must remember that it was not simply international institutions -- not just treaties and declarations -- that brought stability to a post-World War II world.  Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this:  The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms.  The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans.  We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will.  We have done so out of enlightened self-interest -- because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if others' children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.
Col. North description of the above as an "apology for past failures" falls flat on its face. Obama made himself appear as a war President in front of the world, and he had the guts (or rudeness, I suppose) to do so while receiving the Nobel. He defended the American use of force, and did so while acknoleging King and Gandhi. This sort of move embraces complexity, something I admire, and it makes me trust his abilities to represent America all the more. He's given the military the tools it asked for to accomplish an Afghanistan mission, instead of firing those who suggest his policies are wrong-headed. I certainly hope it's the right course, though I imagine the US will claim victory if everything within a day's walk of Kabul is stable, and there aren't regular large-scale bombings.

And regardless of political affiliation, we can all agree on this: his war decision angered the left and the right, so he must be headed in the right direction, right?

I don't know why I like this kind of music.....


I'll be gone from KORB on Vimeo.

Agard


Images in this series are all credited to Facilities.

Wolfson and Duggan on All America Teams

From the Berkshire Eagle:
Two Williams College women's soccer players have been named to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America All America teams. Midfielder Brianna Wolfson was named to the second team, while defender Kara Duggan earned third-team honors.
Wolfson, the 2009 NESCAC player of the year, had 4 goals and 8 assists in 2009. In her career, the senior from Brookville, N.Y., scored 30 goals -- 11 game winners. Duggan, a junior from Poway, Calif., anchored a defensive unit that allowed only nine goals in 20 games. She also scored three times.

Now we just have to see how the freshman develop over the Spring and Summer. I think that made a big difference last time.

Psychology in Christmas Shopping

From Ryan Sager:
A recent study in the Journal of Consumer Research found that when pens were priced at $1.99 and $4.00, only 18% of the participants chose the higher-priced pen; but when the pens were priced at $2.00 and $3.99, 44% of the participants selected the higher-priced pen. That one-cent price drop makes the $4 pen seem a lot cheaper.
h/t: Daily Dish

A very large treehouse

This is quite the architectural feat:
Located just outside of Crosville, Tennessee, the 97 foot tall tree house/church is supported by a still living 80 foot tall white oak tree with a 12 foot diameter base, and uses six others as further support.
h/t: Daily Dish

Williams ED Applications Drop 15%

From the Wesleyan Argus:
The University’s peer institutions have witnessed mixed results in this year’s Early Decision process as compared to previous year’s. Bowdoin College experienced a 5 percent increase from their ED pool last year. Williams College dropped about 15 percent. After last year’s record high, Yale’s number of Early Action applicants dropped by 5 percent. Brown’s applications rose by 21 percent following a dramatic drop in 2008.

On your left on Route 2

I love the first architectural impression one gets of Williams when driving down Route 2. After passing the blocky brick Greylock Quad, one goes by the soaring '62 Center, then the more Roman-style (?) Faculty Club. After Park Avenue and a hedge, one reaches the President's House, which I would ignorantly describe as "Georgian." Next is the New England plain-white Congregationalist Church, then the newfangled Schapiro Hall. Hopkins Hall's red brick is next, then the looming Gothic tower of Thompson Chapel. The last building on the left is Griffin, which is in the Federal style.

Williams is certainly not Duke, which has an all Georgian campus and an all-Gothic campus, and I like it that way. Our buildings truly run the gamut, which makes every part of campus different, and maintains a unique, possibly idiosyncratic character. That's certainly how I prefer to think of it: it would be quite another thing to say that Williams was built-up with absolutely no master plan, but anything's possible. I actually have a map in my room of Williams's bicentennial plan - it featured expansions to Sawyer, Griffin, Stetson, and Adams, and somehow neglected to foresee the new science center, theatre, student center, or academic buildings. Come to think of it, I'm not sure anything on that map actually came to pass. Nevertheless, I have my story, and I'm sticking to it.

The picture is an upload from Google "Streetview" - try out the drive for yourself.