Thursday, December 30, 2004

oh come on, guys, chill out

I'd have a LOT to comment on regarding this article - I am very vehement about my feelings towards absolutely intolerant and ignorant people - but we're having a bad morning here at work: the pipe system is fubar, and thus we have no working toilets. I'm kind of dancing in my seat, trying not to think about anything liquid. I think I'll leave early...for now, here's the article that is pissing me off:


(AP) -- At the University of North Carolina, three incoming freshmen sue over a reading assignment they say offends their Christian beliefs.

In Colorado and Indiana, a national conservative group publicizes student allegations of left-wing bias by professors. Faculty get hate mail and are pictured in mock "wanted" posters; at least one college says a teacher received a death threat.

And at Columbia University in New York, a documentary film alleging that teachers intimidate students who support Israel draws the attention of administrators.

The three episodes differ in important ways, but all touch on an issue of growing prominence on college campuses.

Traditionally, clashes over academic freedom have pitted politicians or administrators against instructors who wanted to express their opinions and teach as they saw fit. But increasingly, it is students who are invoking academic freedom, claiming biased professors are violating their right to a classroom free from indoctrination.

In many ways, the trend echoes past campus conflicts -- but turns them around. Once, it was liberal campus activists who cited the importance of "diversity" in pressing their agendas for curriculum change. Now, conservatives have adopted much of the same language in calling for a greater openness to their viewpoints.

Similarly, academic freedom guidelines have traditionally been cited to protect left-leaning students from punishment for disagreeing with teachers about such issues as American neutrality before World War II and U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Now, those same guidelines are being invoked by conservative students who support the war in Iraq.

To many professors, there's a new and deeply troubling aspect to this latest chapter in the debate over academic freedom: students trying to dictate what they don't want to be taught.

"Even the most contentious or disaffected of students in the '60s or early '70s never really pressed this kind of issue," said Robert O'Neil, former president of the University of Virginia and now director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression.

'It puts a chill in the air'
Those behind the trend call it an antidote to the overwhelming liberal dominance of university faculties. But many educators, while agreeing students should never feel bullied, worry that they just want to avoid exposure to ideas that challenge their core beliefs -- an essential part of education.

Some also fear teachers will shy away from sensitive topics, or fend off criticism by "balancing" their syllabuses with opposing viewpoints, even if they represent inferior scholarship.

"Faculty retrench. They are less willing to discuss contemporary problems and I think everyone loses out," said Joe Losco, a professor of political science at Ball State University in Indiana who has supported two colleagues targeted for alleged bias. "It puts a chill in the air."

Conservatives say a chill is in order.

Prof. George Wolfe of Ball State Univ. was accused of anti-Americanism in his peace studies course.
A recent study by Santa Clara University researcher Daniel Klein estimated that among social science and humanities faculty members nationwide, Democrats outnumber Republicans by at least seven to one; in some fields it's as high as 30 to one. And in the last election, the two employers whose workers contributed the most to Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign were the University of California system and Harvard University.

Many teachers insist personal politics don't affect teaching. But in a recent survey of students at 50 top schools by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, a group that has argued there is too little intellectual diversity on campuses, 49 percent reported at least some professors frequently commented on politics in class even if it was outside the subject matter.

Thirty-one percent said they felt there were some courses in which they needed to agree with a professor's political or social views to get a good grade.

Leading the movement is the group Students for Academic Freedom, with chapters on 135 campuses and close ties to David Horowitz, a one-time liberal campus activist turned conservative commentator. The group posts student complaints on its Web site about alleged episodes of grading bias and unbalanced, anti-American propaganda by professors -- often in classes, such as literature, in which it's off-topic.

Instructors "need to make students aware of the spectrum of scholarly opinion," Horowitz said. "You can't get a good education if you're only getting half the story."

Conservatives claim they are discouraged from expressing their views in class, and are even blackballed from graduate school slots and jobs.

"I feel like (faculty) are so disconnected from students that they do these things and they can just get away with them," said Kris Wampler, who recently publicly identified himself as one of the students who sued the University of North Carolina. Now a junior, he objected when all incoming students were assigned to read a book about the Quran before they got to campus.

"A lot of students feel like they're being discriminated against," he said.

Divergent opinions
So far, his and other efforts are having mixed results. At UNC, the students lost their legal case, but the university no longer uses the word "required" in describing the reading program for incoming students (the plaintiffs' main objection).

In Colorado, conservatives withdrew a legislative proposal for an "academic bill of rights" backed by Horowitz, but only after state universities agreed to adopt its principles.

At Ball State, the school's provost sided with Professor George Wolfe after a student published complaints about Wolfe's peace studies course, but the episode has attracted local attention. Horowitz and backers of the academic bill of rights plan to introduce it in the Indiana legislature -- as well as in up to 20 other states.

At Columbia, anguished debate followed the screening of a film by an advocacy group called The David Project that alleges some faculty violate students' rights by using the classroom as a platform for anti-Israeli political propaganda (one Israeli student claims a professor taunted him by asking, "How many Palestinians did you kill?"). Administrators responded this month by setting up a new committee to investigate students complaints.

In the wider debate, both sides cite the guidelines on academic freedom first set out in 1915 by the American Association of University Professors.

The objecting students emphasize the portion calling on teachers to "set forth justly ... the divergent opinions of other investigators." But many teachers note the guidelines also say instructors need not "hide (their) own opinions under a mountain of equivocal verbiage," and that their job is teaching students "to think for themselves."

Horowitz believes the AAUP, which opposes his bill of rights, and liberals in general are now the establishment and have abandoned their commitment to real diversity and student rights.

But critics say Horowitz is pushing a political agenda, not an academic one.

"It's often phrased in the language of academic freedom. That's what's so strange about it," said Ellen Schrecker, a Yeshiva University historian who has written about academic freedom during the McCarthy area. "What they're saying is, 'We want people to reflect our point of view.' "

Horowitz's critics also insist his campaign is getting more attention than it deserves, riling conservative bloggers but attracting little alarm from most students. They insist even most liberal professors give fair grades to conservative students who work hard and support their arguments.

Often, the facts of particular cases are disputed. At Ball State, senior Brett Mock published a detailed account accusing Wolfe of anti-Americanism in a peace studies class and of refusing to tolerate the view that the U.S. invasion of Iraq might have been justified. In a telephone interview, Wolfe vigorously disputed Mock's allegations. He provided copies of a letter of support from other students in the class, and from the provost saying she had found nothing wrong with the course.

Horowitz, who has also criticized Ball State's program, had little sympathy when asked if Wolfe deserved to get hate e-mails from strangers.

"These people are such sissies," he said. "I get hate mail every single day. What can I do about it? It's called the Internet."

[again, from CNN - 12/30/04]

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

oh, deer!

The excitement of the morning: there is a beautiful deer with a broken leg on the street outside my parents' house. She is so frightened; it's so sad! I called the police a few minutes ago and Animal Control just showed up, the woman is talking to the deer to calm her down...and they've just shot her. Oh, the poor, sweet deer... Well, at least she is out of her misery now. She kept struggling to move further, and I know it must have been hurting her something awful. My goodness, I wonder what the neighbors are going to think when they return to their house and find their yard covered in deer blood and frantic deer tracks!

What a start to the morning...wasn't exactly what I was hoping to have to see.

Friday, December 17, 2004

hey you Vassar kiddies

This has been in my AIM profile for years; I figured it's time to retire it, now.

I scored a 93% on the "How Vassar are you?" Quizie! What about you?

I also just realized that I've been an AIMer for almost 10 years now. That's an awful long time. Heh, my geekiness shows through all over the place...

But not nearly as much so as when I look at my old code from my old computer science classes...I cannot believe how long ago that feels, by now! But today I logged into mote33 (the Vassar CS site) for the first time in ages, and spent some time poking around, checking out our old pimped-out ASCII versions of Checkers and Connect 4 and Battleship, among other things. Ah, I miss C++ so damn much. I hate having a job where I'm writing in VB all the time. Because when the work day is done, the last thing I want to do is sit in front of a computer and code more! =\ Even though my dream is to one day write a computer game...

Ah, I'll stop bitching. Well today I'm headed back to CT! I have been in Long Island for the past week visiting my oldest sister; we both work during the day (I love telecommuting - all I need is an internet connection and my cell phone and I'll all set anywhere!) and then hang out in the evenings. Last night we even went to see one of those drive-through Christmas light thingies. I'd never seen one, and while it was fun, I have to admit I was a bit disappointed. I was expecting LIGHTS, LIGHTS, LIGHTS EVERYWHERE! But didn't quite get was still neat, though.

We also did some crafting earlier this week. Sarah made different kinds of tree ornaments, and I managed to finish one entire sock (my first ever)! YAY! (Well, except for tying up all the loose ends, it's done.) Now I'm about 1/4 of the way through my next one. Then I'll have my first pair completed! (Duh, I know - but I had initially been planning on knitting one sock for Sarah, then two for Bethany, then one for Sarah, so that Sarah wouldn't get the 2 bad beginner's socks and Bethany the more "professional" ones...but Bethany's yarn hasn't yet arrived. I'm so sad!)

Well, I ought to go finish packing for the potentially long drive back to CT (I am scared to see what the traffic will be like at 5 today) and of course getting some work done. I will add more some other time, I am sure.

Ciao for now!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

who knew??

Well, apparently SOME people did, but I certainly was not aware of this:

(again, from - 13 December 2004)

STUDY: Christmas deadliest day for Americans

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Christmas is the deadliest day of the year for Americans with 12.4 percent more deaths than normal, researchers said on Monday.

More Americans die from heart attacks and other natural causes on Christmas, the day after and on New Year's Day than on any other days of the year, the researchers reported.

It is probably because people are feeling too busy or too festive to go to the hospital over the winter holiday season, the researchers wrote in Monday's issue of the journal Circulation.

The researchers, sociologist David Phillips of the University of California San Diego and colleagues there and at Tufts University in Boston, found a 4.65 percent increase in heart deaths and just shy of a 5 percent increase in non-heart deaths over the 14 days spanning the December holidays.

They did not count deaths from suicide, murder or accidents and took into account the perilous effects of a cold snap on health.

"We found that there is a general tendency for cardiac and noncardiac deaths to peak during the winter, but above and beyond this seasonal increase, there are additional increases in heart attack and other deaths around Christmas and New Year's," Phillips said in a statement.

In all, Phillips and colleagues counted more than 42,000 "extra" deaths during the holidays over a 26-year period. Only two years did not see this phenomenon -- 1973, when oil prices peaked and people tended not to travel, and 1981, when a severe recession also kept Americans at home.

"Of all the things we considered that might impact the increase in holiday deaths from natural causes, only two were consistent with our data," Phillips said.

"One possibility is that people tend to delay seeking care for symptoms. Another is that there are often changes in medical staff during the holidays and, consequently, the quality of medical care might be compromised."

The report fits in with a study published in March that found heart attack patients sent to hospitals during the winter holidays are more likely to die than those admitted during the rest of the year,

Clinics, emergency rooms and other health facilities do not operate at top efficiency over the holiday period, said Dr. Trip Meine, a cardiologist at Duke University in North Carolina, who led the study released at an American college of Cardiology meeting.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004


I thought this was pretty intriguing. And quite impressive:

FROM CELL PHONE TO SUNFLOWER: Scientists make phone cover that turns into flower.

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (Reuters) -- Scientists said on Monday they have come up with a cell phone cover that will grow into a sunflower when thrown away.

Materials company Pvaxx Research & Development, at the request of U.S.-based mobile phone maker Motorola (MOT.N), has come up with a polymer that looks like any other plastic, but which degrades into soil when discarded.

Researchers at the University of Warwick in Britain then helped to develop a phone cover that contains a sunflower seed, which will feed on the nitrates that are formed when the polyvinylalcohol polymer cover turns to waste.

"It's a totally biodegradable and non-toxic plastic," said Pvaxx spokesman Peter Morris.

"This is the first product that we've made public. We're working with blue chip companies and will introduce several products next year," he said, adding it would be used in electronics, horticulture, ammunition and household cleaning.

The company's new plastic, which was created over the past five years but was in development for longer, can be rigid or flexible in shape.

Some 650 million mobile phones will be sold this year, and most of them will be thrown away within two years, burdening the environment with plastics, heavy metals and chemicals. A biodegradable cover can offer some relief for nature, Warwick University said.

Motorola said it had not yet decided if it would introduce a model built with the new plastic, and that it would take until at least the second quarter of 2005 to get a commercial product.

"(To improve) the quality (of the plastic) is something we're working on," said Motorola project manager Peter Shead, adding the new plastic may be used in snap-on covers first.

Many young consumers buy cheap and interchangeable plastic covers to personalize their standard phone.

from - 7 december 2004

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

so not right

I just had a dream that Barb (Dan's little sister) took pony-riding lessons. On a horse that had blue hair. And that we had to fill it up with gas before the next rider could take her turn.

All very, very odd.

I wonder what's going on in my mind...

I'm also very upset right now because I'm working on knitting the first sock in the 2 pairs I am making my sisters for Christmas, and while everything is going okay, I just cut THE WRONG PIECE OF YARN off of the project!! I'm so afraid that's going to ruin everything. :( :( Cross your fingers for me that that's not the case!!!

Today is my appointment with Dr. Mills in Boston (FINALLY!). I hope that it's all good news. I haven't been nearly as good about my PT lately, since my hip really feels good and I have been using it pretty much as normal lately, and thus haven't felt the need to do exercises so much as just USE the thing. But my physical therapist should know better than I what's good for I hope I didn't just fuck everything up.

We'll see! I'll be sure to keep this journal updated.