Archive for June, 2007

Perturbations in the Field

Cross posted on my other blog.


There really hasn’t been to much to post about in the last few weeks, at least in regard to the college life. The Maymester (firehose) session…..well, enough about that. Lots and lots of writing, which served a very useful purpose, but I don’t think we’ll try that again.

Summer School is a blast. One course; sure, it’s a lot of classroom time, but the professor and my fellow students all seem to want to be there, it feels a lot less formal, and the learning is just as good. Sometimes it’s hard to stay on top of the work, but the learning skills are restored, and I can catch up if I suffer a lazy day or two.

What’s neat is seeing all the recent high school graduates that are cycling through the two day orientations, with parents and younger siblings along for the ride. I can’t look at them, all young and wide-eyed, trying to appear cool – but still drinking it all in, without wondering what they are thinking.

Yes, it’s a little slow around the campus, but we need the rest before we climb back on the beast in August.

Maybe This Explains It……..

Maybe this article can explain the thought processes of the brave admissions committee that agreed to let me re-enter the world of academe: admissions in favor of males admissions.

An excerpt:

Many colleges heavily favor male applicants to prevent women from dominating their student bodies, a U.S. News & World Report study of admissions data of 1,400 colleges shows. Women tend to be better students than men in terms of grades and the kinds of extra-curricular activities, like theater or music classes, that admissions officers look out for. If the same proportion of male applicants were accepted as female applicants, men would become a small minority at some small liberal-arts colleges.The small liberal-arts colleges in between, however, have to heavily tip the scales in favor of male applicants in order to maintain a gender balance. For example, in 1997, William and Mary’s admissions rates for men and women were close: 51% for men and 43% for women in 1997. Following a steep rise in applications, the gap had widened last year to a 44% rate for male applicants versus 26% for women. Meanwhile, the proportion of female undergraduates has fallen to 54% last year, from 60% a decade ago.

Then there is this nugget of advice:

Steve Goodman, an independent college counselor, advises male students to emphasize their maleness in applications by submitting pictures or playing up the sports they play.

If I had to compete with either of these students, I might still be putzing around in my unfulfilling job…..

In Memory of My Mother

I do not think of you lying in the wet clay
Of a Monaghan graveyard; I see
You walking down a lane among the poplars
On your way to the station, or happily Going to second Mass on a summer Sunday–
You meet me and you say:
‘Don’t forget to see about the cattle–‘
Among your earthiest words the angels stray.
And I think of you walking along a headland
Of green oats in June,
So full of repose, so rich with life–
And I see us meeting at the end of a town on a fair day by accident,
after the bargains are all made and we can walk
Together through the shops and stalls and markets
Free in the oriental streets of thought.
O you are not lying in the wet clay,
For it is harvest evening now and we
Are piling up the ricks against the moonlight
And you smile up at us — eternally.

By: Patrick Kavanagh

Lepanto – Watershed Event

In our history class last semester, Professor P… carefully stressed the importance of watershed events in history; literally events that changed the course of history. Today, in the second half of the sequence, Professor G…. casually remarked that the Battle of Lepanto was the watershed event in European history. Now, to me, that’s a pretty bold statement about the sweep of history and the tides of men’s affairs. But consider the facts:

  1. Islam was the controlling force for religion and government in the world, possibly excepting China, which was very self contained. It provided a unifying force that tied cultures, languages, races, and mercantile goods to a huge swath of the global population.
  2. The Islamic empires, either the Caliphate, or its heirs, the Ottomans, Mughals, and Safavids controlled the crossroads of the world, and thus controlled access to the riches of the Orient (spices, precious stones, etc) demanded by the growing populations of Europe. The ability to control that access caused enormous wealth to flow into the coffers of those empires.
  3. The European nations, forced to travel long distances for goods from the Orient, turned to the seas as an alternative to overland travel. In looking for the Orient, they unintentionally discovered the Americas. The wealth, in raw materials, of the Americas gave the Europeans equal footing with the Islamic empires in terms of purchasing and spending power.
  4. Had the Ottoman Turks defeated the European coalition (see, they used to be able to fight together, at least in the short term), the Turks would have been able to control the Mediterranean. From there, they would have been able to move into the Atlantic. Had that happened, argues Professor G…, the Islamic navies would have been in a position to interfere, if not control the Atlantic trade routes.

As Professor G…. said, imagine a South America where the predominant language is Turkish, or Arabic. One battle, in 1571, involving at most 75,000 men, changed, possibly, the entire history of the world. At least for 500 years.

Pretty neat stuff.

The New Globalization

The first day of Summer School. History. The professor tells us that our course will study some major themes in the history of the world, from 1500. The first theme will be a deeper understanding of an old story……globalization. Today, in Germany, thousands of progressive elements will attack police, throw fire bombs, destroy shops, and generally terrorize the city as they protest the evil forces of globalization. Without making any reference to today’s events in far-away Europe, he has reminded us of the sweep of time, and the of narrowness of our own, sometimes, uninformed view of the world. To blame the governments of the modern world for the imposition of this evil force does seem somewhat narrow minded, but perhaps my understanding of the process will undergo a transformation in the next few weeks.

Facebook for Old Farts

Please click on the link above for some background…..

Only last weekend, I was…. not ridiculed, that’s too strong, instead let’s say… given an incredulous look by a contemporary and his college-aged son upon their learning that I am a card-carrying member of Facebook. To the father, it may have crossed his mind that I am engaged in either a) lecherous behavior, or b) trying a mite too hard to be a college student. To the son, I probably come across as a hopeless nerd, wishing to be something I clearly am not, nor ever will be. Neither is exactly true, but I do feel slightly uncomfortable at the notion of imposing my desire for friendship on a total stranger who happens to be, say, 19. I mean, just the thought of such a request creates, in the back of my mind, images of my face on Dateline, as Chris Hanson interrogates me. But, no matter. The journey is the destination, and I will observe, as closely as I can, the aspects of the college community that were missed in the fog of my earlier career.

I mean, no one looks askance when I pull out my AARP card…’s just another group, isn’t it?

“Life’s hard, son. It’s harder when you’re stupid.” — The Duke.

Education is a companion which no misfortune can depress, no crime can destroy, no enemy can alienate,no despotism can enslave. At home, a friend, abroad, an introduction, in solitude a solace and in society an ornament.It chastens vice, it guides virtue, it gives at once grace and government to genius. Without it, what is man? A splendid slave, a reasoning savage. - Joseph Addison
The term informavore (also spelled informivore) characterizes an organism that consumes information. It is meant to be a description of human behavior in modern information society, in comparison to omnivore, as a description of humans consuming food. George A. Miller [1] coined the term in 1983 as an analogy to how organisms survive by consuming negative entropy (as suggested by Erwin Schrödinger [2]). Miller states, "Just as the body survives by ingesting negative entropy, so the mind survives by ingesting information. In a very general sense, all higher organisms are informavores." - Wikipedia

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