Saturday, May 28, 2016

Image of the Week #22: Shut The Door!

The Wellesley News (05-02-1918) 01

What Is It

A joke from the Wellesley News, the student newspaper of Wellesley College, from the late 1910s. 


Why I Find It Interesting

Who doesn't love a good French language joke?  As someone who has challenges in hearing and making sense of English and other languages because of my dyslexia (for those that don't know dyslexia can affect hearing--not just vision), I appreciate this particular joke as I often suffer from this issue of mis-hearing or just not being able to make sense of what someone is saying. 

This submission is part of the Image of the Week series.  For access to all photos, which are open for reuse under a Creative Commons License, check out the full album on Flickr.

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Letter to the Editor: The state is underfunding public colleges

Last month I had another Letter to the Editor published.  This particular letter was in response to this Our View at the Salem News.  

"We love to talk about running higher education “like a business.” But when it comes to paying leadership a competitive market price, we balk and cry “that’s egregious!”

I call foul on The Salem News for whining about public higher education leadership pay while contrasting it with cost students are paying. When have they have ever complained about the product’s cost in relation to the pay of the CEO? But these are public funds, you say, and it’s not fair to the citizens? OK, I’ll take up that argument."

For the rest of the letter, click on through to the Salem News.


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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Review: Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life

Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life by Annette Lareau
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lareau's book explores the challenges that class offer up to children, particularly as it relates to outcomes and opportunities. What I really liked about this book is how she is able to connect the various ways that class does substantively change what youth are aware of and available to act upon based upon the class dynamics of their upbringing. This is particularly true when it comes to the education and job process.


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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Review: The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century

The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Steven Pinker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I heard much about Pinker's book when it came out last year and put it on my To-Read list. I've been a big fan of Pinker in general and his book, The Better Nature of Our Angels is still one of my all-time favorite books. I rather enjoyed this book too, in part, because Pinker is eloquent and clear. This style guide is something I'm likely to purchase and revisit as it really does layout some fundamental guidelines while simplifying writing and not being preachy. It's a must for anyone who wants to find better ways to improve his or her writing.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Article Summary #21: Redesigning for collaboration in learning initiatives: An examination of four highly collaborative campuses

CitationKezar, A. (2006). Redesigning for collaboration in learning initiatives: An examination of four highly collaborative campuses. Journal of Higher Education, 77 (5), 804-838.
Word cloud of Kezar - Redesigning for collaboration in learning initiatives

Summary:  The increased external pressure, the decrease in support, and the burgeoning research on collaboration encourage institutions to look internally at opportunities for cross-discipline, cross-departmental, and cross-function collaboration.  However, institutions are not set up to do this in a smooth or sustainable manner.  Few models exist to encourage collaboration within higher education, but there are models to borrow from in the corporate sector.  The study looks at four institutions that engage in collaborative activities to deduce how those institutions are using and adapting strategies that already exist and are promoted within corporate literature.  More specifically, this study looks at how institutions create the institutional context that fosters collaboration since little literature exists that addresses this issue and few institutions are able to do it successfully.Integrating interviews, document analysis, and observations, Kezar uses a case-study methodology, recognizing that there are few institutions that create a successful context to foster collaboration and therefore, it would be useful to have substantial details that can be derived through case-studies. The study chose four institutions that demonstrated numerous collaborations within the institution in the forms relating to:  "interdisciplinary teaching/research, learning communities, community-based learning, team-teaching, student and academic affairs collaboration, and cross-functional teams" (Kezar, 812) and based on four criteria:  number of collaborative initiatives, clear indication of restructuring the institute to make collaboration happen, reputation for collaboration, and perception of depth and quality of collaborations. One result from the research is that in order for institutes to foster collaborations, it needs to be a part of their mission, and that mission needs to be a clear and well-known or the mission needs to flexible to be inclusive of collaborations that meet the mission's other aspirations.  Another result illustrates the importance of fostering a strong campus network that exists outside of standardized central networks of the college.  These networks emerge largely from the institute providing many different social and professional opportunities for different campus representatives to be together and exchange ideas.  It was also helpful to have nodes in the campus who proved highly interactive with many other aspects of the college.  Other strategies included serving on campus governance, creating campus space for faculty besides offices, and increasing transparency and participation.  Institutions that were successful also made full use of cross-institutional teams, created centers or institutes to address collaboration, and addresses how such changes worked within the accounting, budgetary, and computer systems within the institute.  Finding direct and indirect ways of rewarding collaboration also increased participation.  Also, the leadership proved critical in emphasizing the need for collaboration throughout the institute. Any organization looking to foster collaboration should think strongly about whether it is trying to develop a collaborative institution or only looking to make collaboration an institutional norm as the implications for each will impact how the organization moves forward.  Institutions seeking collaboration should make sure that focus should include addressing the mission, the structure, and the rewards. Crafting a narrative about the importance of collaboration can be used internally but also address external pressures. Kezar also provides ten recommendations for institutions attempting to emphasize collaboration at their institutes.


Keywords: collaboration, restructuring, cross-campus, integrating resources, organizational structure, resource management, 



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Monday, May 23, 2016

Short Story #386: The Haunter of the Dark by H. P. Lovecraft

Title: The Haunter of the Dark

Author:  H. P. Lovecraft

Summary:

Book cover to H. P. Lovecraft: The Complete Collection with Accompanying Facts from Red Skull Publishing
The narrator begins by explaining how investigators have assigned a reason for the death of Robert Blake but that careful inspection of Blake's journal and other circumstantial evidence tells a more supernatural and dark tale than the mere idea that he received some electrical shock that did him in.  The narrator proceeds to introduce us to Blake who is a writer that dabbled in the darker tales--somewhere between horror and science fiction.  He took up residence near Brown University in Providence and in his room, he could see some church tower in the distance that always draws his attention.  While renting his place, he finds that hee is able to produce some rich content and it's only after a while that he can't resist the urge to visit this place that he sees from his room.  He goes in search of it but finds no one willing to tell him where it is or explain what it is, even when he is in the neighborhood.  When he finally finds the place, he sees that it is closed down and closed off to the general public but he does find a way in.  Those in the area watch in horror as he enters the building.  He makes his way round until he finds himself in the tower, where he uncovers a dead body, oddly shaped artifacts and a strange box containing a curious relic.  On the corpse, he finds the manuscript of a reporter who had been discussing the history of the church and its connections to the occult.  He disturbs the place and realizes that with darkness will come some kind of danger so he quickly flees.  But the anxiety of what he has disturbed weighs on him.  He has his own experience in dabbling with the dark arts and therefore knows there is something to be afraid of.  He continues to watch the house from afar, deeply scared by what awaits him.  It's at this point that he because fixated on being in the light, weary that in the darkness the creature that he has disturbed will venture out and capture him.  However, during a particular brutal August thunderstorm the power appears to go out.  Many believe it is aa result of the storm, but in truth, people gather in front of the church and feel the dark power stirring so that it eventually brings down the church and some essence is seen bolting forth from the church in the direct of Providence.  The next day it is discovered that Blake is dead. The narrator explains that his journal which grew increasingly erratic in its final entries ends with an enigmatic message from Blake, raising question of if he has actually died or just been called to another plane by the Haunter of the Dark.


Reflection

I liked this story but I feel it would have been more powerful and yes, haunting, if I had read it in  one sitting.  Instead, it was over the course of three sittings because I was interrupted.  I liked the slow build up and even the fact that though we know Blake is dead, we don't quite know what did it--thus we are left to wonder just what are those things that go bump in the night.  Additionally, Lovecraft plays with the audience telling us we can accept it straight according to the facts or be left to wonder if this was a case of the supernatural.  

Rating:  3 (out of 5 stars)

Source:  I read this version  of a the complete works of H. P. Lovecraft from Red Skull Publishing (that's their book cover too).  However, you can find all of H. P. Lovecraft's work for free at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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Saturday, May 21, 2016

Image of the Week #21: "The Problem of the Near East"

The Wellesley News (05-02-1918)

What Is It

An article from the Wellesley News, the student newspaper of Wellesley College, from the late 1910s. 


Why I Find It Interesting

It doesn't entirely surprise me that nearly 100 years later and we are still incapable of respectfully or usefully discussing the politics and religions of the "Near East."  I'm curious if "Mohammedanism" was a generally used term by the West at this time and curious to know what kinds of images this evoked in the common person and of course, what Muslims made of this term.  This story ran about six years before The Thief of Bagdad (1924) and that makes me wonder what were the contemporary images of Muslims in the 1910s.  The West's fear of the "Holy War" seems to be something that still dominates many individuals' abilities to understand and meaningfully interact with followers of Islam. But to know that this misconception has been ongoing for generations reminds me of how hard it is for people to break through their learned and cultural biases.   


This submission is part of the Image of the Week series.  For access to all photos, which are open for reuse under a Creative Commons License, check out the full album on Flickr.

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Allowing the Public To Vote? A Question to Answer

Recently, a friend on Facebook asked me the following question.  This is a friend of a different political viewpoint from me and on occasion, we get into a debate about different things.  I appreciated the open question without limited judgement embedded in it.  Distilled down to its basic idea, it's an interesting question and thought I would share both question and answer.  Feel free to also chime in with your thoughts.

Question:  
" I have a pet peeve, and I'd like your opinion on it. Also want to make sure I'm being reasonable and all.  Here goes:
IF a person decides that they are going to forego work, class, a nap, or what have you to join a protest against a candidate or political party, shouldn't they be required to know and understand what that party or candidate represents? More importantly, shouldn't they be able to speak intelligently regarding the party or candidate they're supporting? This type of exasperating comportment brings about substantial doubt in the voting public."

Answer:

Interesting question...I would say there's no easy answer.


Word cloud of this blog post.
If you want to TLDR version, it simple:  No to both questions.

However, if you want to understand how I come to that, feel free to read on.

On one level--the pretext of the American idea is that--a person doesn't have to know anything in order to do whatever one wants to do--that's a part of our "freedom".  You are just as free to be peeved as someone else is to be protesting.  We all do things often based on little knowledge, incorrect knowledge, or without actual understanding of what our actions say or result in...and that is really the cornerstone of our nation.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson says, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines...Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day."  It is an intentional quality built into the system.  If we all would only be able to act when we have achieved knowledge & understanding of things, we'd so very rarely act.

Additionally, we need only look at the First Amendment to see that there is no stipulation for intelligence.  "the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."  There have been limitations on this amendment such as requiring permits and such, but the knowledge isn't one of them.

To get to the question a bit more, I guess I would go further:

"Required" by whom?
I'm assuming you're meaning "morally required" but if not, I guess I would ask who gets to be the gatekeeper.

If "morally required"--I refer back to Emerson above but also raise the question of whose moral systems are we talking about?   Should we be concerned that none of us attain the moral perfection we espouse to and should that be taken into account for whose morals we using to deem something morally required?  That is, should the moral failure of a protestor be held as anything more or less than the moral failings of the person judging?

"Know and understand" to what degree?

The thresholds you provide are insubstantial in that they create no standard upon which all could actually agree.  Knowledge & understanding--according to whom?  To what degree?  If a person can speak eloquently about 3 policy issues on a candidate they support or are protesting, but can't on 10 others, is that an acceptable threshold?  What if those other 10 issues don't matter to the person?

And how do we assess what the protester/supporter knows?  Do we rely on media soundbites that purposely create and manipulate content to illustrate how smart/inept the people are?  Do we administer a quiz to each person to determine their knowledge and understanding?  Should we make them write essays or speeches to explain?  This sounds pedantic and silly (and obviously clearly written by someone who thinks a lot about teaching & learning)...but my point is, who gets to make that judgment call about whether a person knows or understands who they are supporting or protesting?  We can all easily play the game of judging others based upon a few pieces of information we know about them and the assumptions we derive from that about the person and use that to decide if someone "knows and understands"--but to me, that's a weak approach that usually only allows one to reinforce their own biases without doing the work of listening and learning what that person knows or understands and how they come to that.  After all, if someone has forgone other activities to attend a protest or a rally, it means something meaningful has moved them--but meaningful to that person isn't necessarily going to be meaningful to us.

To add another level of chaos and confusion to this is that each party & every candidate puts out thousands of bits of information daily--none of which any one of us can responsibly know and still maintain a functional life.  This was why things like "literacy tests" were abolished as part of voting because they were often clearly used to prevent populations from voting.  Whoever was deciding the threshold could easily move the field posts however they wanted.  We can all play "gotcha politics" with one another based upon what we don't know about our candidates.

"To know and understand what that party and candidate represents"

That's a problematic consideration as well because it assumes each party has a singular meaning and they don't.  There are too many parts to a political party to be seen as singular in a way in which could be agreed up.  Therefore, if people can't even agree on what a party represents (or the dynamics between what the party says and what the party does), defining what a party represents is an impossible act because people who are protesting are likely to have a particular collection of facts in the form of narrative while those attending in support, may have different (or similar) facts but a different narrative that sees the party in a positive light.  In essence, it's impossible for us to "know and understand" a party or a candidate.  Besides being so far removed from said party or candidate, we are all operate with bits of similar and different information that is filtered through our preferred media outlets and into our own understanding of the narrative of politics.  

And of course, you have people within the party that can't agree on what it means or represents--so if the internal members can't, the external are also unlikely to do so.

All of which means that your threshold for the knowledge and understanding of a protestor for a candidate you have sided  with is likely to be profoundly different than what I beleieve should be the threshold or what someone else might be.

As to the second question, I would further add, what does "speak intelligently" mean?  Who gets to decide that threshold?  "Speak intelligently" is in the same hazy space as "to know and understand."  What defines "speaking intelligently"?  Who defines what level of intelligence?  Should it matter if the person is intelligent in area X but not area Y or area Z?  Should it matter if the person doesn't care about area Y or area Z?

Does it only mean "speak" and should the actual speaking abilities of the individual matter?  Should it matter if they are an introvert or extrovert?  Should the context matter?  How someone might "speak" at a rally for their candidate may not be elegant or intelligent--given that most events are just orgiastic love-fests of repeated slogans, cliches, and "we're #1" speak, people's intellectual abilities are often not at their peak.  Where we talk has much influence on how we talk, which means what the camera captures is mediated even before the media play with it.   I'm assuming you mean more than speaking, but that only exasperates the dynamics upon what we judge their abilities.  

All of this is to say that embedded in American ideal is the individual.  The individual has inalienable rights that include protesting and voting.

Does this bode badly for democracy? I would say it has been a feature of democracy in the US since the start--misinformed or uninformed people has always been voting.  If I were to improve the structure of democracy--that's probably not where I'd be looking to change or fix things or be frustrated by.  Even myself, I know, as much as I try to be politically aware, I miss a lot and am misinformed in many ways.

Probably not the response you were looking for, but hopefully not a total waste of your time ;)  I appreciated the question and the opportunity to reflect on it.


What about you, dear reader?  What are your thoughts on the question posed or the answer supplied?


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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Review: The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum

The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum by Temple Grandin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A co-worker first introduced me to Temple Grandin when telling me about a biopic of her featuring Claire Danes. I watched the movie (being a fan of Danes) and was impressed to find out about Grandin's work in a variety of fields. So when this book came across my desk to review I was pretty excited and it definitely came through. Grandin and Panek do a great job exploring autism through the brain and understanding through the latest technology and research how to make sense of autism, recognize the challenges it can represent, but also the innumerable ways it can add value to people's lives. She doesn't present it as a gift by any means but she does excellent in emphasizing what benefits and opportunities are available if we more consciously and sincerely integrate autism into our culture.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Review: Ben Franklin: Unplugged: .... And Other Comic Monologues

Ben Franklin: Unplugged: .... And Other Comic Monologues Ben Franklin: Unplugged: .... And Other Comic Monologues by Josh Kornbluth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Now, as some of my readers will know--I'm a fan of Josh Kornbluth--the mastermind behind one of my favorite films, Haiku Tunnel. When I found out that I would be reviewing his latest collection of comedic monologues, I did do a little dance. I really enjoyed it and keep an eye out for an interview with Josh Kornbluth that I will post sometime soon. Anyways, this collection of comedic monologues is a real hoot as Kornbluth explores his resemblance to Ben Franklin, finally decides to pay taxes, finish his decades-old thesis, and contemplate Jewishness and Andy Warhol. Through it all, he's must face off against his arch-nemesis and true dramatic foil...himself.

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