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Archive for August, 2004

On Incentive Packages:

August 9th, 2004 by olly

This is a real job. He will have to amuse and provoke — although failure to do so will no longer risk beheading.

Words fail. (Hat tip: Anna.)

Is There Any Way We Can Make The Big Tents Smaller?

August 8th, 2004 by olly

This isn’t on the same level as the latest mortification of the Volunteer State, but is like a delicate lilting counterpoint: the Washington GOP has apparently accidentally nominated Bruce Miller (or metric equivalent) for a state position. Wanting to field some candidate – any candidate – they neglected to actually consider his platform, and the results are – well, see for yourselves.

How often does this happen? The guy in Tennessee is running against a safe incumbent, this fellow is going against a three-term winner; presumably no sensible career politican wants to get set up for a fall in races like these. So I imagine there are lots of eccentric major-party candidates out there. Please keep your eyes open. (Especially you, WWB.)

The Roving Balls of Ashland

August 8th, 2004 by Tyler

Its late, Im tired, and I have to wake up early tomorrow for another day at Ye Olde Sandwich Shoppe. But before I head to bed, I thought Id share this bit of news from my home town, Ashland. Its about a group of protesters who decided to stage a nude game of croquet outside of the City Council to protest a new law outlawing public nudity in the park. Its a rather nostalgic reminder that, although Im a few hundred miles from my old stomping grounds, Im really not that far away at all. We can protest with the best of em in A-Town.

The protest was headed by one Ryan Navickas, whos something akin to Ashlands version of Zach Vishanoff. My brother went to school with the guy, and according to him as reliable a source as Ive ever had Navickas lives in a self-constructed tree house with his girlfriend, a recent transplant from New Hampshire. He also owns an organic farm — a farm that is so organic that Navickas tills and hoes the earth with his bare hands. He actually squats in the earth and digs at it with his finger tips. Perhaps there is a connection between his living in a tree house that he constructed from spare lumber and his actions as a farmer.

Heres my favorite quote from the story: He urged them –quoteNOT to criminalize the human body.

I just find it funny that the writer actually wrote the word “quote” before a perfectly delineated quote. The quote is pretty funny, too.

The Trailblazers Got Nothin’ on Us

August 7th, 2004 by Skeletor Ogboggle

Since I’m in Reno for the summer, I thought I’d give y’all a little update on sports news down here. The University of Nevada, Reno has had a few problems with its football team in the past couple years. Not only is the team just plain terrible, having not had a winning season out of the last four, but in the past 19 months at least 9 players have been arrested for felonies.

Highlights include:

–Felony battery after an “incident” between a player and his girlfriend.
–Burglary and obtaining money under false pretenses (for a forged check scheme).
–Felony drug charges (for two players, this time) for dealing coke downtown.
–And my personal favorite: just two days ago, the twin brother of the player who had been charged with burglary was arrested for robbing a Wells Fargo Bank. The player then confessed to several other robberies around town.

However, there is a silver lining to all this: The Wolf Pack did beat the Huskies this past season, 28-17.

Rick James, dead at 56

August 6th, 2004 by Sho

Rick James was found dead, apparently from natural causes, in his home in LA today.

More Fun News from Tennessee

August 6th, 2004 by Sho

The only Republican candidate in a Tennessee race for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives is an unabashed racist and a proponent of eugenics. James L. Hart has run for the seat before and has drawn little attention. However, people began to notice him when they realized he was the only Republican on the primary ballot.

Another Republican, Dennis Betrand led an unsuccesful write-in campaign to get himself on the ballot. He gained only 1,554 votes compared to Hart’s 7,671, or 83 percent.

If elected, Hart says he will work toward keeping “less favored races” from reproducing or immigrating to the U.S. In his campaign literature, Hart states that “poverty genes” threaten to transform the country into “one big Detroit.”

In November, Hart will face incumbent Rep. Jack Tanner, a Democrat who has held the seat for 15 years.

The Republicans would do well to kick these wackos out of the party, lest they encourage more to run under their party’s banner.

(Thanks Lauren, for catching this story.)

Jimmy Hoffa Got Off Too Easy

August 5th, 2004 by olly

Weep for me, for this is my representation.

[Union president Eric] Lindgren said the mathematics and biology departments hire undergraduate graders as a rule, adding that this also violates the GTFF contract because the University has to offer that work to the GTFs first.

So, this has become a bit of a local controversy, and Lindgren’s statements here are, shall we say, not universally shared. (For anyone reading this who doesn’t already know, I am a graduate student in the math department. A GTF is a graduate student who teaches a class, which we all do. The GTFF is our union.)

One could make the case that graduate students in mathematics who are currently unsupported should be considered for grading jobs, rather than undergraduates. This isn’t the case that is being made, though, because there aren’t any of these students. The department takes care of us very well and gives us, you know, actual classes to teach (Hence the T in GTF, you would think.) Personally, I would prefer to see our undergraduates used for this kind of work, because they have more recent experience of the classes they’re covering, are more competent, and can use the opportunity to hone their skills. Still, I would be amenable to having down-on-their-luck grad students from other departments pick up some of the slack. The real problem, though, is economic. A grader makes $7.50 an hour, four hours a week, which comes to about $900 over the course of a school year. A GTF makes about ten times that. Plus tuition waiver. Plus health care. There is absolutely no earthly way that this can work without monumentally fucking up the organisation of the department. We have enough trouble funding our own people; we can’t take care of all the errant sociologists as well.

As I said, our department looks after us, and we have an excellent relationship with the faculty. I am genuinely sorry that graduate students in some humanities departments get shafted. However, I am also sorry that our union seems to consider the appropriate response to try and pull us down to their level.

“I would like to see the University argue that undergraduates are more qualified for that kind of work,” Lindgren said.

By this logic, you’ll notice, graduate students shouldn’t be going through homework with the answer manual, putting ticks and crosses next to right and wrong answers, since professors would be much more qualified.

[VP of research Richard] Linton said hiring undergraduates for this sort of work is standard practice for all research universities.

True, but who cares? Welcome to silly season.

Visiting Iraqis Barred From Memphis City Hall

August 5th, 2004 by Sho

Seven Iraqi civic and community leaders received a less than warm welcome from the city of Memphis when they were prevented from entering Memphis City Hall after city council chairman Joe Brown feared that the group was a security threat. The Iraqis are on a State Department-sponsored tour of American cities to learn more about the workings of American government. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“We don’t know exactly what’s going on. Who knows about the delegation, and has the FBI been informed?” Brown said. “We must secure and protect all the employees in that building.”

Elisabeth Silverman, the group’s host and head of the Memphis Council for International Visitors, said Brown told her he would “evacuate the building and bring in the bomb squads” if the group entered.

Adding to the problem encountered in Memphis, two of the Iraqi visitors were robbed at gunpoint on Tuesday.

Memphis city officials issued an apology to the Iraqis yesterday.

At Least The Dinosaurs Weren’t Labelled “Dinosaurs”

August 4th, 2004 by olly

So it’s his last piece, after a lengthy tour of duty, and the ODE not only can’t be bothered to bring in a decent cartoonist to mark the occasion, they saddle poor old Jan with a Sullivan offering that doesn’t even have anything to do with the column. Dissed!

(Incidentally, hope all’s going well in California, Jan.)

Empty Campus Day

August 4th, 2004 by olly

Hey, where is everybody? Oh, right: it’s August. Very cunning. Do join us tomorrow for Still Empty Campus Day.

Empty Campus Day tomorrow! WOo!

August 3rd, 2004 by Sho

The GTFF is holding an “Empty Campus Day” tomorrow in a “show of solidarity” before it goes into arbitration with the University. GTF will teach their classes at off-campus locations such as Lane Community College (which is about 4 miles from campus and a 20-minute bus ride). The Emerald editorial board has a response here.

What does this mean for the undergrads? Well, for my brother it means that all but one of his GTF-taught classes are canceled for tomorrow and the uncanceled class will be taught on campus. So much for solidarity.

DoJ Requested Libraries to Destroy Law Books

August 3rd, 2004 by Sho

Last week, the Department of Justice asked that public libraries destroy five public documents that the department deemed not “appropriate for external use.” The documents, two of which are texts of federal statutes, cover forfeiture and include information on how citizens can retrieve items that may have been confiscated by the government during an investigation.

Yesterday, the DoJ reversed that decision after the American Library Association submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for the materials in order to obtain an official response from the DoJ. Now the publications will remain in libraries. If the libraries had followed the DoJ’s request the documents would only have been available to those who have access to a law office or law library.

(via Boing Boing)

Very Old Media

August 3rd, 2004 by olly

Megan McArdle/Jane Galt, proprietrix of the indispensible Asymmetrical Information, has a new blog project up called Unpopular Culture. It sounds like a fine idea.

Memo From The Sports Desk

August 2nd, 2004 by olly

The Utah Jazz still haven’t quite found a worthy successor to John Stockton, but you have to admire their moxie.

Computers Evaluating Essays?

August 2nd, 2004 by Sho

A text-analyzing computer program known as e-reader is being used to score essays for the GMAT and is under consideration for use in the GRE, college admission tests and English proficiency tests. The software grades essays on grammar and structure, but is obviously not advanced enough to evaluate logic. Because computers are cheaper and faster than human graders, e-reader has grown in popularity since the GMAT adopted it in 1999.

Critics of the computer program remain unconvinced of its accuracy:

“When machines can provide a good summary of the Federalist Papers and a competent commentary on their style and cogency, I will then believe that they can replace competent human readers on important assignments,” said Will Fitzhugh, founder of several groups, including the Massachusetts-based National Writing Board, that promote high school research and composition.

(via Boing Boing)