29.4.06

TRAINS THAT GO AROUND IN CIRCLES. The press coverage I received (some time ago, nothing ever happens fast in the academy) as the local roller coaster expert earned me an invitation to go on a field trip, to be available as a resource person in case anyone was curious about the history of the rides or the economics of amusement park pricing.



A school bus on an Illinois tollway, even a recently maintained tollway, is not conducive to doing much talking in any event, although many of the passengers were able to nap both ways.


The Six Flags enterprise, which has a partnership with Warner Brothers, is celebrating its 45th year (that refers to the Texas location; the Gurnee park opened in 1976 and became a Six Flags property in the 1980s)

But we came here for the roller coasters. A number of the Community Advisors (that's Northern-speak for what I understood as "housefellows") asked if I'd like to tag along. Their objective was to ride all the roller coasters that were running.

First up is this combination of a Wild Mouse with a Tilt-A-Whirl.


On the lower level of U-turns, the machinery unlocks the coaster car, allowing it to pivot while the wheels below follow the tracks. No two rides alike.

On to more traditional fare.


Batman has received a new paint job (it used to be All Black) and it isn't as rough as it was a few years ago.


The shuttle-loop technology has morphed into these. The power source for this roller coaster is a linear induction motor. It still takes two runs through the field to achieve sufficient vertical velocity to reach this position.

The clouds look threatening, but the rain held off until later in the day. It's raw and windy this evening.

Six Flags makes a great deal of use of "rage" theming, perhaps not the best idea given that it is alongside a tollway full of Illinois drivers.

The tallest coaster is Raging Bull, with plenty of photo opportunities in the infield.



In the background is Viper, a twister inspired by the Coney Island Cyclone as well as my favorite at the park.

A legend remains in use.


The Whizzer, known as Willard's Whizzer in Marriott days, was supposed to be removed for a new attraction, but popular protest prevailed. The coaster is one of the few remaining Lionel-principle Schwarzkopf coasters with the electrified lift hill. (A few of the old-style scenic railways had third rail power at a number of points along the ride. Whizzer gets all its punch off one lift to the highest point.)

I'm not sure what this character is supposed to be.


Note the street railway tracks in the middleground. Like many a real city, Six Flags abandoned streetcar (well, horsecar) service but is a bit slow in removing or paving over the tracks. At one time, the tracks were used for an evening parade using battery-powered floats evocative of the Schuster's Christmas Parade.

We're a little out of sequence here, but that's because Superman was not functioning properly on our arrival.

It's running well later in the day.


Six Flags is a permissible Liberty Destination for recruits from Great Lakes. There is no North Shore Line shuttle from the Main Gate to the amusement park.


The circuit complete, my hosts were ready for some eats and some rest. Thanks!

And yes, if you see a picture of a roller coaster, you may conclude that the camera, which fits an inside jacket pocket, and its owner, did ride that roller coaster.

SOMEBODY MISSED THE EXTRA POINT? Brewers 16, Cubs 2. Cheap burgers at George Webb! No more work on tonight's schedule, that Sprecher Dopple Bock is good.

28.4.06

FRIDAY'S MODELS. A visit to the Rockford Modular O Scalers, who have relocated the modules more or less permanently in a private house.


An Elgin Joliet and Eastern transfer locomotive waits at the enginehouse.


An Overland DL-109 got lost at Maybrook; there's a Hiawatha tied to the express reefers.


The U.S. Hobbies Burlington O-5 is an early example of a ready to run brass locomotive. In that era there wasn't much difference between the ready to run products and good scratchbuilding efforts; it has become harder for the scratchbuilders to keep up.


Many O Scalers like big engines. (On visitors' day at the Fox Valley club, it's astonishing how many articulateds and Centipedes and the like turn up. I think I'm building the Quartadecapod to tease such people. Weaver's Consolidations and Pacifics, and Atlas's switchers and GP-9s are much more practical, as well as offering the novice some hope of being able to participate in the hobby without raiding the kids' college fund.)


These modules used to make appearances at the Midway Village show in the fall and the Jefferson High show in the spring, and they put the railroad in some sort of residential context.
TIME-SLIPPING THE ENGLISH DEPARTMENT. The state of student writing, as viewed by Inside Higher Ed.

I have been teaching first-year writing for many years, and I have directed rhetoric and compositions programs at two universities. During this time, I have had many students who demonstrate passive aggressive behavior when it comes to completing writing projects. The least they can get away with or the later they can turn it in, the better. I have also had students with little interest in writing because they have had no personally satisfying experiences in writing in high school. Then there are those students who fail to give themselves enough time to handle the complex process of planning, drafting, revising, and editing their work.

But let’s not just blame the students. Most college professors would prefer to complain about poor writing than simply refuse to accept it. Therefore, students rarely experience any significant penalties for their bad behaviors in writing. They may get a low mark on an assignment, but it would a rare event indeed if a student failed a course for an inadequate writing performance. Just imagine the line at the dean’s door!

The ensuing bull session is worth a few minutes of your time.
THE INTERNATIONAL IDEAL UNITES THE HUMAN RACE. That's from one translation of a May Day standard. The May Day to come is apparently to feature more immigration-rights protests, with a new Spanish language adaptation of "The Star-Spangled Banner." I say "new Spanish-language adaptation" as there is an older translation (which appears to have dropped one stanza) without the in-your-face identity politics in the adaptation that is provoking some controversy.

I have been using the term "adaptation" as more accurate than the popular description of this song as a Spanish version of "The Star-Spangled Banner." The National Anthem itself uses a British drinking tune (you really have to have a few pints in you to assay those high notes); "Let petty tyrants" borrows a hymn tune called Chester; Battle Hymn of the Republic is a new setting of John Brown's Body, which itself probably uses some British or Irish drinking tune (do I have any musicologist readers to help out?); and one can sing Deutschland uber alles to Beethoven's Choral Symphony.

That history of adaptation puts this comment from an advocate of tighter border controls in perspective.
"Would the French accept people singing the [c.q.] La Marseillaise in English as a sign of French patriotism? Of course not," said Mark Krikorian, head of the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank that supports tighter immigration controls.
Perhaps not, but that won't stop protestors from adapting the tune. I have a recording of the Worker's Marseillaise in Russian, where the title translates as "We Renounce the Old World." (Such recordings could once be cheaply bought on the Melodiya label, with the Evil Empire subsidizing the export of revolutionary culture to overcome our bourgeois false consciousness. Now imperialist Smithsonian bookstore has resale rights.)
MORAL HAZARDS. Looking for a research paper?

Believe it or not, there are repeat victims of an empty tank...people who probably have a fairly low opportunity cost for their time.

...and it isn't just happening in Virginia

Just for my own personal giggles, I've been tracking gas amounts given out by the highway helpers and comparing it to local gas prices. Is this a cool job...or what!?

Without a nationally representative sample to provide lots of what I understand as "dummying out" and what others call "controls" would anybody believe it?
WILL A DRAFT LOTTERY AND A RESERVE CLAUSE BE NEXT? There are all sorts of advantages to teaching in a more prosperous school district, including more motivated students, more support from the parents, and better pay. Under those circumstances, the poorer school districts have trouble retaining teachers.

Seventeen states are responding to the challenge by offering bonuses, scholarships and other incentives to prospective teachers who sign up for "hard-to-staff" schools, according to the Denver-based Education Commission of the States. For example, New York City is offering up to $15,000 in housing support to attract teachers of math, science or special education.

Nevada tries a different tack, giving principals at high-poverty schools first crack at new teachers. Instructors who refuse an assignment can be removed from the hiring list for a year.

Lottery schools. What a concept.
PRICE-GOUGING AND PROFITEERING. Where's the Congressional Investigation?

According to the March Beverage Digest report, last year's sales of carbonated drinks decreased .2 percent. However, companies reported profits of $68.1 billion in 2005, an increase of $2.2 billion since 2004. Companies attribute this profit to higher prices of products and new fast-selling products like energy drinks.

Since 1996, sales for carbonated drinks have shown less and less growth, leaving corporations to find new ways to stimulate the market.

The horror! Sugar peddlers taking losses in pop to subsidize entry into sports beverages.

27.4.06

A BATON, NOT A PUNCH. WGN reports a new conductor in Chicago. Bernard Haitink will be the next conductor of the Chicago Symphony.
WHY GETTING THE MISSION RIGHT MATTERS. Northern Illinois University is considering three finalists for provost.

“The Provost is NIU's chief academic and student affairs officer,” said NIU President John Peters. “He or she will bear much of the responsibility for helping us reach the goal we established five years ago: to be recognized as the nation's premier regional public university.

“Our next Provost must rise to the challenge of creating a great intellectual environment, enhancing the student experience, driving an aggressive research agenda, expanding our graduate programs, creating sustainable scholarly and creative initiatives, encouraging active engagement in our region and continuing our efforts to internationalize the campus.”

That surely does not sound like becoming a community college with a climbing wall, which is encouraging. But what, exactly, is a "premier regional public university?" Not quite a "flagship" campus? Active in research, but not overwhelming the major journals? Teaching our students, but not having the expectations a Northwestern or a Wisconsin might?

The answers matter. I have long maintained that Northern Illinois is one of the better-kept secrets in the state, despite mistreatment from the legislature and faddism from the administration. But the signs of strain are showing. The dean at Anonymous Community identified the problem going on a year ago.
The schools in between (i.e. if the name ends in “State,” or has a compass direction in it) often want both [access and excellence], and resolve the contradiction by demanding that their faculty, like Mary Poppins, be practically perfect in every way. That’s insane. Most of these schools started as teachers’ colleges – a perfectly worthwhile mission – and gradually grew in whatever direction seemed to make sense at the time. Mission creep, driven by politics, fashion, and funding, set in, and the near-impossibility of actually eliminating programs meant that change was usually additive, rather than transformative. Got an idea for a new program? Just glom it on. Over decades, the underlying shape gets harder to discern, and the add-ons make governance clunkier. Since these schools can’t attain excellence by focusing their resources, which would require actually saying ‘no’ to some programs, they try to get there by just raising the bar for tenure higher and higher, while cutting professional development money and stuffing class sections ever fuller. Let the faculty figure it out. Do more with less. Seek efficiencies. Form public-private partnerships. Charge faculty for parking.
Indeed. A comment on that post identifies what happens next.
I taught at Mission Creep U for many years. When I started, we were all told that MCU was going to be Research 1, that we should do the minimum of teaching and publish, publish, publish. Then we became "scholar-teachers," which meant that we still had to publish, only while teaching 50% more. Then we told that we all had to distance-teach. Then we returned to Mission #1. At the end of a ten-year period, everyone at MCU had been told at one point or another that what s/he was doing was worthless.
Presumably that is as the emphasis shifts from "premier" to "regional" to "public." Everybody is frazzled. An anonymous tenure-tracker at another Upwardly Mobile (I have some conjectures who and where but it would be beastly to reveal the information and there are at least three to five ways I might be wrong) has the questions that I hope somebody had the time to ask the provost candidates (the faculty forums conflict with my office hours, and with papers due -- remind me to time-slip the English department -- I will not cancel those hours to go to the forums.)

Thus, when we start talking about things like "improving quality, student success/retention, faculty morale, reputation of the institution" as if they are distinct from a goal of efficiency and more money, I think that we're being kind of naive. For example: what counts as quality, when one is attempting to get more funding for a university? How do we measure quality? How do we measure student and faculty satisfaction? How do we measure the reputation of the institution? And what factors do we value as we make those measurements?

Let's start with the last first. Let's say that the reputation of an institution comes from the way that others outside the institution regard it. Who are the "others" that we're talking about here? Are we talking about people in the general community around the university? What, for those individuals, would constitute quality? Is it the same thing that, say, our colleagues at other institutions would consider? Or are we talking about lawmakers at the state level? If we measure reputation based on the perceptions of lawmakers, how do the criteria for judging "reputation" change?

But why do any of these things matter? Do the gripes of a few journeyman scholars in the mid-majors amount to a hill of beans? Yes. There is accumulating evidence that the reputation of a university (particularly if it's as mis-measured as U.S. News has it) is less important in a student's success than the motivation of the student. The Northern Illinois student who applied to Urbana or Wisconsin has the potential to do as well out of Northern Illinois as out of the others. The responsibility of being a "premier regional public" is to provide an environment, and a critical mass of peers, in which that student realizes that potential. And with some more reputable (read visible) institutions and programs imploding (University Diaries has been on a roll. Start at the top, or if you're in a hurry start here and follow the trail here) the aspirants to "premier regional public" may have the responsibility of keeping the academic tradition alive.
THINKING ABOUT GAS PRICES. The Energy Information Administration's latest This Week in Petroleum details current gasoline inventories as the winter blends are used up and the summer blends brought to market. A service called The Oil Drum (via King) suggests that readers take two deep breaths and not look for top-hatted plutocrats hiding in Mr. Rockefeller's office car.
We strongly feel that the leaders of both political parties are not only headed in the wrong direction with respect to gas prices, but we also worry that they fundamentally misunderstand the factors behind the current situation at gasoline stations around the US. Public statements by political figures over the past several days would seem to suggest that oil companies and their record profits are the sole factor determining the price of gasoline. Not only is this untrue, but it is dangerous to give the American people the impression that only oil companies are to blame.
Dan Drezner surveys some of the commentary, concluding with a note,
The best answer might be that whatever is being proposed now is still less intervenionist than what happened in the seventies (even/odd days, anyone).
Yes, that was my fifteen minutes of fame a week into the Reagan administration. "Given two bad choices, the better of the two is to provide people with incentives to look for oil rather than steal license plates," live on the evening news, all over Southeastern Michigan and Southwestern Ontario.

Angry Bear's PGL reminds readers it is possible to shift the demand curve as well as to move it.

Turning to the political economy, Brad De Long offers a candidate for Quote of the Month, proclaiming anathema on all politicians.
Democrats are (because of the environmentalist wing of the party) generally in favor of higher gasoline taxes and higher gasoline prices--except when gasoline prices are high). Republicans are in favor of letting oil markets "work"--except when gasoline prices are high.
'Swar immer so. Professor Bob Lampman at Wisconsin was sure to alert aspiring policy wonks that efforts to offer politicians choices would always elicit a request for both. Lynne at Knowledge Problem is frustrated.
Here's a situation in which I really hate to say "I told you so". Even politics-hating, non-active me, I am ready to call my senators and try to teach them some economics upside the head on this one.
Econobrowser takes a more favorable view. It's a longish post, raising a number of instructive points.

The auditions for Crossfire are going on at Best of the Web. One of the posts the Journal takes particular umbrage at, from Matt Yglesias, captures the fundamental distinction between opportunity seekers and problem solvers.
High gas prices are very unpopular with the public. This presents an opportunity for the opposition party to score gains against a genuinely pernicious incumbent party by presenting itself as prepared to "do something" about the situation. But, simultaneously, the correct liberal point of view is that high gasoline prices are actually a good thing for environmental and foreign policy reasons.
That suggests my pet response to the question, "why can't we have fast trains like the Japanese or the Germans?" (And why might people ask me that question...) My response: I can get you those in five years, but you're not going to like it. First we put a $5 per gallon train tax on motor fuel. Then we make all the expressways toll roads. Also, suburban developers will have to build the roads to their subdivisions. Then we use the tax and toll revenues to build the trains and the fast tracks. And smaller houses using existing streets closer to the train stations will be relatively cheaper than the McMansions on the half-acre lots. So far, the tamest reaction I have elicited is, "you're right, I don't like it."

Tiger Hawk provides some insights.
Gasoline is still such a good value, we would rather consume it than turn our cars off and on, even at four-minute stop lights.
That might change at $10 a gallon.
I work in a suburban corporate office park along with hundreds of other people who travel great distances every day. While many of our employees are scattered, most live pretty near at least one other person, or along the same route to the office. I don't know of a single pair of employees who share their ride to work in order to save money. Do you? Until we see workers spontaneously organizing carpools, we can safely conclude that gasoline remains such a good value that people will not bear even the slightest inconvenience in order to use less of it.
Note that phrase, "spontaneously organizing." We don't know what that organization would look like, but we can suggest that there is some price of gasoline at which it would emerge. We also don't know the price of gasoline at which further research and development into improved batteries or fuel cells or Tesla free-energy coils might yield something of commercial value. The policy maker who would like to bet the future on corrective taxes to pay for trains to sustain current patterns of clustering and living might be right ... but it behooves that policy maker to note that placing the bet involves at least some foreclosure of unexplored alternatives.
T_E _ _EEL _ _ _ _RT_NE _ _ _ _LE _ _ _'LL NE_ER SEE. Tom McMahon composes one.
ANOTHER TRAFFIC BUREAU. Illinois Bloggers appears to be soliciting traffic from Illinoisans operating weblogs, irrespective of mission.
This site is open to all Illinois Bloggers to join regardless of your political affiliation or the size of readership. This site is intended to be a quick overview on what is happening across the Illinois blogosphere. The purpose of not identifying the blog name is to give all blogs equal exposure.
There's a handy script on the site for Illinoisans to enroll. (Were that the Wisconsin Expats section of the Badger Blog Alliance offered such a service.)
CONTEMPLATING DOMESTIC TERRORISM. The latest Carnival of the Badger serves brats and schnapps at Leaning Blue. One post teases, "Is Osama hiding out in the Cave of the Mounds?" (There are also a number of abandoned, some for a very long time, railroad tunnels in the State Line area.)

The substance of the submitted post is a comment on a possibly overwrought statement by a candidate for attorney general, with an even more apt hypothesis regarding Osama bin Gopher. But it also notes that terrorist operations need not have an Islamic cast.

I think a reasonable person can legitimately say there is a terrorism problem in Wisconsin. We have both the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front operating in our state. The FBI is still looking for whoever caused the power transmission towers in Oak Creek to fall, and a pipe-bomber in Madison. And it wasn’t that long ago “Dr. Chaos” was free and recruiting followers to commit acts of terrorism just to suit his vanity. The Department of Homeland Security even has a seminar planned on “soft targets” in the Milwaukee area.

And who will ever forget Sterling Hall?

So I think it quite reasonable for a candidate for State Attorney General to talk about terrorism during the campaign.

The candidate's talk, however, is less well researched.

(The Wisconsin attorney general race might offer a case study of weblogs in action. One prominent Milwaukee weblogger is very close to one of the candidates for that office. I'm not sure where the blogospheric action is on my side of the Cheddar Curtain.)
TABLOID FORMAT, TABLOID CONTENT? The editors of the Northern Star published my observations on the misuse of resources inherent in fencing off the emergent footpaths. Any disagreements I have with the paper about the fencing are strictly business.

This column, resurrecting some September 11 canards, is another matter. A site that sometimes reveals a preference for circulating such canards has a recent post debunking a number of them.

26.4.06

THE DAILY DOUBLE, AND A TRIFECTA. Displaced Cheeseheads of a certain age have two favorite teams, the Brewers and Atlanta's current opponent. Woohoo!
The Brewers used another strong pitching performance from Ben Sheets today to pull off their first series sweep ever over the Atlanta Braves, 5-4, at Miller Park.
Get up, get up, get outtahere ... gone with the wind, and take that chop with you!
WE USED TO SPEAK OF CADS AND GOLD-DIGGERS. I discovered an instructive post explaining how a concept called "heteronormativity" speaks of the same thing.
The particular topic we had in mind was how, using financial gain as the ultimate carrot, everything pushes women, from birth, either into heterosexual marriages or into prostitution as quickly as possible. In doing so, the privilege of wealth eventually comes to equal romance and love.
Yes, that argument has been out there for some time. Read on.
Many straight women I've met see a clear relationship between the size of their diamond ring and the amount a man loves them. Or they say any man who really cares will buy them fancy dinners at expensive restaurants. Or, like poor Katie Holmes, you get excited about a relationship because he's able to take you to Rome in his private jet. It's possible that this is worse in New York than anywhere else, as there are plenty of wealthy single assholes hanging out in bars just dying to force you to accept romantic weekend trips to the Hamptons and orchestra seats to every big show. It's very clear what they want. They want to make a woman constantly aware of her financial dependence so she won't complain when they coerce her to do things sexually that they couldn't get an equal to do by choice.
Again, I have seen this argument before. (Turn on the Generalization Alert!) But is it really the case that women in New York or anywhere else must submit to the attentions of these cads? (cf "gold-digger.") Have the various feminisms been so ineffective at raising consciousness that these primitive come-ons remain as evolutionarily stable strategies? Ladies, there are other ways. Master Laser sailing, for example. You'll be able to deck a cad with a tiller extension should it be necessary, although your social circle will include a better class of people, so it won't be necessary.
VISUAL-QUANTITATIVE IMAGINATION. Sean at The American Mind is coming to grips with supply-and-demand dynamics in gasoline pricing.
If someone knows of a site full of interactive or animated supply and demand graphs let me know. Seeing how the shifting curves affect prices helps me.
Charlie Sykes links to a series of animated economics tutorials. The one on supply and demand is most instructive for this problem (it also comes to grips with the confusion over "increase in supply" and "up," something my students know I'm fussy about -- an increase in supply is a right shift but the new supply curve is everywhere below the old supply curve) as it shows the price scissors at work. This tutorial -- and a lot of the commentary -- neglects a technical complication that is important for oil prices. I saw an article someplace mentioning how close current consumption is to current production of crude, which the writer interpreted as not much margin of error.

Partial credit. In a market in equilibrium, current consumption and current production are the same. The margin of error is in the ability of extramarginal suppliers to become suppliers should the demand materialize. Economists summarize that ability as "elasticity of supply" (yes, your eyes are glazing over, and the way most textbooks present the concept, properly so.) In the crude oil market, both the supply curve and the demand curve are somewhat inelastic, particularly in the short term. Thus relatively small changes in demand or supply lead to price changes large in proportion to the output change (a price increase of three percent, about $2 a barrel, calls forth a one percent increase in production holding the supply curve fixed and shifting the demand curve; in like manner a one percent decrease in production, shifting the supply curve and holding the demand curve fixed leads to a three percent increase in price. I leave the effect of a coup in Venezuela or a revolution in Nigeria or a nuclear accident in Iran to the reader as an exercise.)

There is a lot of useful economics commentary on oil prices around the web. Bear with me, and I'll provide some links.
CARNIVAL CALL. Carnival of Education No. 100(8) "So you go to the sixty-fours place. Sixty-fours??" (Tom Lehrer) hoists bannerline at The Education Wonks. Thanks for accepting my submission. Scroll down or hit this if you're in a hurry.

25.4.06

MUST BE TERM PAPER SEASON. If this site isn't about earth science, it certainly isn't about poetry (although I am going to brag on my wordsmithing skills in the near future.) But look at this hit for a search on "examples of symbolism in the Song of Hiawatha." (That's the one that goes Mallard-is-a-duck-Mallard-is-a-duck-Mallard-is-a-duck.)
... coaches, suggesting this is a corridor train, not a Hiawatha which ... possible to understand a couple of lines from a popular song ... limited knowledge, that's thinking about the plot and the symbolism ...
(August 2005)

Question: have I now positioned my site to really mess with the minds of late-night seekers of hidden meanings?
NESTED CARNIVAL CALLS. Entrepreneurs About hosts the latest Carnival of the Capitalists, complete with a link to Carnival of Entrepreneurship. (HURRY! HURRY! HURRY! (HURRY! HURRY! HURRY!)) (STEP RIGHT UP! (STEP RIGHT UP!)) They post! They link! They self-reference like Epimides.
QUOTE OF THE DAY. The Northern Star reports on the recently completed decorative fencing.

Tony Madsen, junior history major, had an idea to keep people from walking through the grass.

"It would be great if they made the sidewalks go directly to where people are trying to get to," Madsen said. "Instead the sidewalks are going around in a circle."

That summarizes, in one sentence, the difference between an opportunity seeker and a problem solver.

Question: Where shall we put the sidewalks between buildings?

Opportunity seeker: Let's think like an opportunity seeker. People will seek the opportunity to get to the door, or from the door to where they want to go. So let's give them the opportunity to identify those paths, and then pave them.

Problem solver: First, let's find an expert. Let's hire a landscape architect to draw pretty circles on a ground plan, and lay out pretty shrubbery in the open spaces. That way our campus will look better from the air.

(Opportunity seekers walk where they want anyway.)

NIU would never be able to maintain the landscape in the area due to the heavy foot traffic without fences, said Bob Albanese, associate vice president for Finance and Facilities.

"We hesitated to do it last year, but finally decided we need to," Albanese said.

Problem solver: Let's put in fences to compel people to follow the paths we, in our wisdom, have chosen.
The fences were put up to redirect students to the walkways, said campus planning coordinator Jim Murphy.
But the fences are not pretty.

Problem solver: Let's use them to protect aesthetic but thorny bushes.
"There are young shrubs on the grounds right now," Murphy said. "Once they mature, we may remove the fences because the shrubs will provide a solid barrier."
But the Superintendent of the Cold Spring Shops will snark at you. (And the fences will not go away.)

Problem solver: We'll spin it.
What some may not have realized is these fences actually serve a purpose beyond enhancing the appearance of the landscape.
Advantage: emergent distributed networks.

RUNNING EXTRA. The editorial board at the Northern Star demonstrates an unhealthy acceptance of spin. Walking on sidewalks: what a novel idea.
And while most people don't like being told what to do, let alone where to walk, we hope that everyone will respect the new design and actually use the sidewalks.
The Superintendent's riposte (which, although he's hesitant to pull rank, he's contemplating sending to the editors): Sidewalks where the people actually walk: what a novel idea (unless you're at Wisconsin.)

And a warm welcome to Knowledge Problem readers. Lynne gets dynamic emergent networks.
[Forbes's Rich Karlgaard] then goes on to discuss immigration and those currently trying to "solve the problem". You can add high gasoline prices to the list of problems that politicians think they need to solve. [Links added by S.H.K.]
You take the gas prices, Lynne, and I'll get back to immigration amnesties. Thanks!
QUESTION OF THE DAY. Economic Education:
The ultimate point of this post is that those students that wish to see us conserve energy, energy independent, or whatever, may need to ask themselves whether or not higher gasoline prices may actually give them what they want sooner. The market imposes choice. Those choices are reflected in our search for substitutes (for oil and for current transportation technology), and the income effect (increases costs of one good or service will reduce the funds available for other goods and services).
There will be a quiz on this, later.
CHAMPION OF EMERGENCE PASSES. Keith at Liberty and Power relays the obituary of Jane Jacobs, author of inter alia The Death and Life of Great American Cities, a book that, in addition to being required reading for urban planners and those who would take issue with same, provides some inspiration for the original Sim City. (The latest version of the game is here, the developer site is here, and if you don't want to come over and play with my Commodore 64, there is an interactive version of the original.)
SOME RETRO-TRAIN WATCHING. Yesterday's grading session at the coffee house with a view of the tracks was interrupted by numerous train movements. Union Pacific have several series of hoppers with reporting marks CMO, the AAR three-letter no-ampersand Class I required format for CSTPM&O, the old "Omaha Road." A westbound freight had a GE diesel numbered 3984 as the trailing unit. The next of the series is not like the others...
A LITTLE OUTSIDE MY AREA OF EXPERTISE. As of this morning, this site is the first entry for "Where do scientists think the fishapod lived?" Not bad for somebody who struggled to a B in college geology after a less than stellar encounter with general science in junior high.

24.4.06

RED STATES, BLUE STATES, GREEN STATES. Find the 500 most expensive zipcodes to buy houses. For Illinois: 60043, 60022, 60093, 60045, (on the North Shore Line) 60521, (on the Burlington) 60602 (Gold Coast.)
CRACKS IN THE FACADE? Arnold at Econ Log has a college age daughter.
Jackie and I cannot come up with any good reasons why our youngest daughter, who has the best grades and SAT scores of all of our children, would not be better off finding an apartment with a friend and attending community college. We're not persuaded that we got our money's worth out of sending the other two to four-year colleges.
University Diaries points to a subversive Forbes at MSNBC column making a related point.
According to a number of studies, small differences in SAT scores, which you take before going to college, correlate with measurably higher incomes. And, according to a report from the National Bureau of Economic Research, the lifetime income of high-school dropouts is directly associated with their scores on a battery of intelligence tests.
There's a sidebar offering five reasons, ranging from the canonical foregone earnings and return on investment arguments to the anecdotal, to consider skipping college.
QUOTE OF THE DAY. Forbes's Rich Karlgaard sees the advantage of emergent distributed networks.

[Virginia] Postrel's dynamists, or, as I call them, "opportunity seekers," love charging into the unknown future. They trust that things will work out if people are free to work and create, using capital that is free to seek a return. Opportunity seekers, in fact, are bored by static problem solving. This does not mean they are shirkers. It's just that they'd rather invent word processors than fix typewriters.

Problem solvers, on the other hand, see failure everywhere. They will grind away at a problem, even subsidizing past efforts that have never worked well and probably never will. Problem solvers tend to resist forward motion until all present-day problems are gone.

The post (nailed to Newmark's Door) has an intriguing diagnosis of the Bush Administration's difficulties.
George W. Bush is an opportunity seeker who has surrounded himself with problem solvers.
Possibly. (Anybody remember the summer of 1999, when then-Governor Bush was being hailed as a lock for Mt. Rushmore in some editorial cartoons?)
VARIABLE DUEDATE IS NEITHER REFERENCED NOR DEFINED. Inside Higher Ed's pseudonymous Shari describes the evolution of what University Diaries calls the Syllabum Omnium.

My attendance policy seemed clear to me — as did my requirements for rewrites. I had even made up an in-depth course outline, which listed due dates for papers, late due dates for papers which included a 10 percent grade penalty, quiz dates and test dates. I reasoned that any person accepted to college would surely be able to understand my course objectives and see how they could accomplish those goals. I was wrong.

Students still flooded the podium with questions about what exactly constituted an excused absence, what the penalty was for late papers, and whether they could make-up work when they didn’t come to class. And, one student asked, her tone petulant, exactly how late was late anyway? Sigh.

Well, I suppose if her college serves moonlighting Amtrak or airline employees, nobody knows what "on-time" is.

Finally I attended a valuable workshop on high- and low-context learners. Suddenly I could understand why certain students wanted to know about the whole semester’s work at the start of the first few classes. And why other students were happy to have information parceled out at two-week intervals. Desperate to improve retention, I rewrote my class materials again. I drafted a day-by-day course outline that provided not only important due dates, but guidelines of what we’d be doing in each class. Some were general ideas; others were specific instructions, listing handouts and work to be done.

My high-context students were thrilled. They immediately skimmed the course outline and highlighted certain dates. Armed with knowledge, they started to feel more accountable. Many spent more time on assignments, saw tutors, and turned in better work. My low-context students, of course, were not affected. They simply read what was immediately due the next day and accomplished that one piece. A few read ahead — if only to avoid scheduling problems with their busy social lives. Others only consulted the syllabus minutes before class started.

In other words, a course outline has to be as explicit as a FORTRAN PROGRAM(*).

You think I'm kidding? Read on.

Each semester taught me one more trick. In one case, I made a simple change that eliminated all the questions about when a student was supposed to have done the reading listed for that day’s work. Some may find this hard to believe, but some students actually thought that a reading listed for Wednesday’s class, for example, might be done during Wednesday’s class — or even after Wednesday’s class. No matter how many times I announced in class that readings were to be done before that day, some students claimed they didn’t understand that they needed to read ahead in the textbook in order to be ready for that day’s class.

To make my expectations even more clear, I started grouping the readings required and listing them as “homework” for the previous class. On the next class day, when the students were going to be quizzed on those readings, I listed a “quiz” at the start of the hour and referred to the readings they read as “homework.” Now under each class date, I had headings that instructed duties to be carried out at “start of class,” “in-class work,” and “homework.” Curiously, my students understood this system perfectly. The questions stopped and the majority of my students started coming to class prepared.

And you wonder why the positional arms race to get into the hundred or so colleges and universities claiming to be the country's top twenty goes on, despite accumulating evidence that the motivated will do just fine no matter where they go. The evidence of spoon-feeding and hand-holding at the less well-regarded institutions proliferates, and ambitious students and their ambitious parents know it, and sigh, and flood the admissions offices at those hundred with sufficient applications that, a fortiori, will peg the meter for "selectivity."

There is a lively bull session at Inside's comments, with some people seeing things as I do, and some seeing things differently.

(*)Regular readers of this site will understand that a FORTRAN PROGRAM is sufficiently explicit that a moron, in the old clinical sense, can execute it flawlessly.
AND THE WATERS PREVAILED. Daniel at European Tribune files an Earth Day report from Budapest with an update on the Danube flooding, which is now affecting Yugoslavia, Rumania, and Ukraine. There was a lot of snowmelt this spring. The Hirschenkogel web camera shows snow above Semmering; that, however, might have been from the Schneekanonen as the ski runs closed after Easter Monday. In the antipodes, a potentially nasty hurricane (typhoon? williwaw?) has turned aside, sparing Darwin a direct hit. (No news of flooded streetcars or school buses left below the levees.)
A NEW TRAFFIC BUREAU. Economics Roundtable appears to offer linkage to a great many economics weblogs. I discovered this service this afternoon when it picked up EclectEcon's link to my Chicago high schools post. As of this morning, the controversial Fenger weblog mirror site has been closed down again; perhaps a good thing in light of some of the slanging matches that were breaking out in the comments there.

23.4.06

COMMUNITY NEITHER IMPLIES NOR IS IMPLIED BY THE STATE. Thursday's Best of the Web takes some shots at a lengthy Michael Tomasky essay making the case that governance demands that citizens balance private interest with common interest. Best of the Web agrees with Mr Tomasky that the common interest is more congruent with a stronger government in times of war or of deep domestic crisis, thence to get off a jape reminiscent of 1942: "Don't you know there's a war on?"

But what if, as recent news out of Ohio suggests, the domestic crisis is a failure of the established institutions, particularly governments at all levels? Mr Tomasky has the old-time religion right.

This is the only justification leaders can make to citizens for liberal governance, really: That all are being asked to contribute to a project larger than themselves.

In terms of political philosophy, this idea of citizens sacrificing for and participating in the creation of a common good has a name: civic republicanism. It’s the idea, which comes to us from sources such as Rousseau’s social contract and some of James Madison’s contributions to the Federalist Papers, that for a republic to thrive, leaders must create and nourish a civic sphere in which citizens are encouraged to think broadly about what will sustain that republic and to work together to achieve common goals.

But what happens if there's little consensus on what those goals ought to be? Prior to September 2001, a notion called national-greatness conservatism surfaced raising arguments similar to these. Mr Tomasky and his colleagues at American Prospect could object to the goals of that project, but not the notions of shared participation that project came bundled with.

Has anybody considered the possibility that the project "larger than ourselves" is simply our own self-improvement, provided it's not done in such a way as to hamper the self-improvements of others? Why is it necessary for "leaders" to lead and "citizens" to follow? Do leaders necessarily do a better job than emergent distributed networks?
LOSERS ALSO WRITE HISTORY. Sometimes it pays to read it. Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully went through the surviving Imperial Japanese Navy records with the purpose of discovering what went wrong for what was at the time the most effective naval strike force in the world. Their efforts appear in Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway, tonight's Book Review No. 12. The Midway campaign, which in the Japanese records is a separate campaign, not a joint operation with an elaborate feint toward the Aleutians to draw the U.S. Navy out of port to be annihilated, is the culmination of a series of errors in inference beginning with the Japanese victory at Tsushima. The authors quote Navy Secretary Frank Knox. "Japan was either unable to understand modern war or not qualified to take part in it." Perhaps in theory, but in practice the submarine commanders were expecting a fight of ten years and it did take two nukes to underscore the obvious. Also, in practice, the Japanese expectation that their carriers could prevail under just about any circumstance led to foolish divisions of the force such as the Coral Sea campaign which ended with Shokaku in for repairs and Zuikaku short of planes (and no urgency to transfer Shokaku's planes to Zuikaku in order to bring another carrier along for the Decisive Battle) and the creation of several invasion and occupation fleets for Midway itself, just more ships for a proper reconnaissance to find. Messrs. Parshall and Tully make the case that in the Pacific Ocean, the Japanese might have done better limiting their operations to precisely those that were so important as to require all six carriers and those that could be achieved with none, particularly as the U.S. Navy got better at fighting, deploying carriers that could also turn up unannounced anywhere in the Pacific.

So what went wrong for the Japanese at Midway? We all know that three carriers were put out of action in about ten minutes midmorning of 4 June, with the fourth knocked out later in the day. The usual story has the Japanese Navy all but ready to launch a decisive counterstrike when the Helldivers arrive overhead. The reality is somewhat different. Those fighter planes that savaged the torpedo planes coming from Midway and the various carriers had to land to reload their guns and on occasion refuel. Aircraft carriers in those days did not have tractors to push planes about on the flight deck, and the same deck space had to be used for landing, or spotting planes, or launching planes. The strike could not be spotted while the flight decks were being used to service the fighter patrols, the fighter patrols had to keep landing to reload as long as the torpedo planes kept coming, and no air officer would risk spotting planes while his carrier was dodging torpedo attacks, as the maneuvering would lead to plane-handlers getting killed by planes rolling about the decks and off the decks. Serviced strike aircraft ready in the hangar deck, however, create an environment much more conducive to secondary explosions, and the dive-bomber strikes that did come proved to be more effective precisely because those planes one and two decks deep cooked off well inside the ships. For all that, all four carriers were scuttled by Japanese destroyer torpedoes.

The final strike proved to be more coordinated than most past records suggest. Yorktown, the most experienced carrier group on scene, brought escorted torpedo planes and dive bombers. The Japanese combat air patrol was already down low after having chased away the other torpedo strikes, and, keeping in mind the lessons of Coral Sea, focused on the threat of escorted torpedo planes. There were sufficient planes to hold the torpedo strike away from Hiryu, but nobody noticed the Helldivers ... Yorktown's accounted for Soryu, and Enterprise's the other two, but not the way Walter Lord or Gordon Prange would have it.

The Japanese action reports suggest a similar axis of approach of Hornet's torpedo planes, offering indirect confirmation of the reconstruction of Hornet's failed attacks in The Unknown Battle of Midway. There are numerous other nuggets in the Japanese reports. Read the book. It does have the annoying faux-anthropology tic of using selected Japanese words where English will do, e.g. the high-explosive bomb has a different tokaki (attachment point) than the torpedo (but throughout, bombs are bombs and torpedoes are torpedoes) and one must keep the kancho (four stripes on his sleeve) distinct from the kanko (the Japanese found kanjo kogekiki, "carrier attack bomber" a bit of a mouthful.) Our side called them "Val." Lots of good stuff in the appendices, including pictures of a piece of scrap aircraft carrier (not Yorktown) on the ocean bottom.
MORE CHICAGOANS LEFT BEHIND. Friday's Chicago Tribune reports that six percent of Chicago Public Schools' current freshmen will finish any kind of college by their mid-twenties. There is a lot of attrition in the high schools. The article's focus is on Chicago graduates' troubles at university.
The study, which tracked Chicago high school students who graduated in 1998 and 1999, also found that making it to college doesn't ensure success: Of the city public school students who went to a four-year college, only about 35 percent earned a bachelor's degree within six years, compared with 64 percent nationally.
The universities are devoting resources to providing information that perhaps the high schools might have provided.

Northeastern [Illinois University] officials said the study is unfair to the university, which primarily serves non-traditional students, including many part-time students who take an average of 9 years to graduate. Many students are older, low-income and work while in school, said Provost Lawrence Frank.

But Frank said the study does point "to things we need to address," particularly improving the experience for freshmen. The university next fall will require that all freshmen take a small seminar class with a maximum of 24 students. Sophomores will receive more advising about course selection and major.

Some of this work might fall into the category of "paying for the same work twice" that is troubling the dean at Anonymous Community.

Carole Snow, an executive associate provost at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said many students start college unprepared in math and writing.

The university recently opened a math learning center where students can get tutoring and work on study skills.

The article reports on remediation and advising efforts at several Illinois universities.

I have some private information to supplement what the article was unable to report.
To be sure, there were limitations to the study. It only provided graduation rates for students who enrolled full time in a four-year college. It did not include students from alternative high schools or those eligible for special education. Researchers also did not have graduation data from every Illinois college, and DePaul University, Northern Illinois University and Robert Morris College were among those left out.
Northern Illinois University internal research has about sixty percent of Chicago graduates leaving the University "in good standing." But thirty percent of those who enroll graduate within six years. That leaves another thirty percent who leave in good standing, often for lack of money, and forty percent who don't make it.

Several other news stories shed light on the problem of Chicago's high schoolers finishing college. A story the Tribune broke on Saturday refers to an angry anonymous weblog posted by a teacher at Fenger High School.

Typing rambling screeds in an anonymous blog he called "Fast Times at Regnef High," a Fenger High School teacher unleashed his frustration over the chaos he saw around him.

He labeled his students "criminals," saying they stole from teachers, dealt drugs in the hallways, had sex in the stairwells, flaunted their pregnant bellies and tossed books out windows. He dismissed their parents as unemployed "project" dwellers who subsist on food stamps, refuse to support their "baby mommas" and bad-mouth teachers because their no-show teens are flunking.

He took swipes at his colleagues, too--"union-minimum" teachers, literacy specialists who "decorate their office door with pro-black propaganda," and security officers whose "loyalty is to the hood, not the school."

In his blog, the teacher did not identify himself or his students, the exact name of his school or the city where he taught. But like most bloggers, he wanted an audience, so he wrote in his blog that he had leaked news of his site to a few co-workers. Soon enough, the 30-year-old teacher's name was the talk of the school.

And the you-know-what hit the blades ... A teacher has resigned from Fenger, and the Tribune reports the weblog has been taken down. There is a weblog using the same title currently on Blogger, but I offer no guarantee to its persistence or its authenticity.

The animosity stirred up by the blog fueled even more chaos in this beleaguered all-black school in Roseland on the city's Far South Side, among Chicago's worst performing. But the principal said the episode has galvanized the school in a way he had not thought possible--and is encouraging staff and students to talk openly about the problems and how to fix them.

"There is a silver lining," he said. "It brought Fenger together." Johnson said he plans to hold student forums next week to discuss the blog, both the antagonism it revealed and the challenges that need to be fixed.

"He was painting a picture of desperation, and I had a problem with the generalizations he made," Johnson said. "But some of it was true, and that was the tragedy. If he had gone about it in a different way, it could have been a great forum."

Students also were outraged by the characterizations in the blog, even while acknowledging many problems the teacher detailed.

Latasha Ivy, 17, senior class vice president, found out about the blog last week and read it with her mom. They were both angry about the crude stereotypes and didn't understand why the teacher stayed if he was so miserable, she said.

"These are things that happen at Fenger--fights, drug-dealing, gangs--it happens here like it does at other high schools. I already feel bad when I tell people I go to Fenger, because they go, `Ooooh, that's a bad school.' But there are still people here trying to do something with their lives," said Ivy, who has been accepted at the University of Illinois this fall and plans to study biology.

Perhaps it is time to think about the failure of the institutions to serve Fenger's students. Once upon a time, the common schools had as one of their goals the socialization of the young into middle-class ways. It was not done perfectly, as this European Tribune essay on the dirty secrets of class biases in the U.S. reveals.
When I was in high school, I was told that I was not college material. There was no place for the son of a divorced mother working for minimum wage in the Ivory tower, or so I was told. Have you considered shop class, they can teach you the skills you'll need in the type of work that will be available to you without a college degree. Shop class wasn't for me, and it's not that you can't make a good living and love you work as a factory worker or a firefighter. The best men I know, the guys who taught me what it means to be an honest and decent man, were these things. It's that I was told that I couldn't go to college because of who I was. It kicks you down, and it most be something like what it's like being told you can't do this or that because you're just a lazy ... I think you get the idea, and I'm not going to finish that off they way it normally would be by the type of people who look down on others. What matters in life is not whether you are wealthy or white, but rather if you are a decent human being.
So the schools don't track any more. And the schools ought not view any kid a priori as a throwaway. But the schools ought not be enablers of dysfunctional and self-destructive behavior for fear of being called out as classist or elitist. Many of Ms. Ivy's classmates are done in by the local mores long before they have a chance to fill out Urbana's, or Northern Illinois's, or Loyola's application packets.

And the dysfunctional and self-destructive behavior ought not be enabled among the white and wealthy either. The Superintendent's friendly connection at University Diaries sees the effect of that enabling in the behavior of the Duke lacrosse team.

That a number of the players drive SUVs slightly less gargantuan than Hummers, for instance, is not an innocent fact. I don’t have to leave it alone for fear of being labeled a stereotyper. Some people like aggressive and intimidating cars because these cars reflect their own propensity toward violence. Liking to scare and intimidate other people and flaunt their superiority to them, these same people tend to purchase vast and expensive houses that make people who enter them feel small, overwhelmed by the thought of their owners’ financial muscle.

Is there a word for these people? Yes. It’s “Americans.” Millions of Americans are like this. They use their considerable wealth to shut out the non-wealthy world and to keep it at arm’s length when they have to be out and about in it (hence the virtually armored cars). They raise their children with a sense of their untouchable superiority to others.

All you have to do is look at the imagery and language of many of the ads for the big cars I have in mind to see that they often appeal to these people’s aggressive acquisitiveness and aggressive display.

When this sort of community lionizes particular young men among it because they are good at playing a notably aggressive sport, when it rewards its most testosterone-laden population for all sorts of aggressive behavior, on and off the field, the problem of endemic cultural violence deepens.

And when such young men engage in sexual degeneracy as a group -- after which they close ranks about it as a group -- cultural generalization is not something to avoid out of fear of the preppie card, but rather something to take up as a moral responsibility.

In particular, if that sort of bad behavior trickles down. The yobs of the Hamptons are less likely to wind up rattling beer cups in front of Union Station, or dead, than the wannabees of Roseland. The moral responsibility is for the accomplished to cultivate a proper modesty about their accomplishments. (I think that old pejorative, noveau riche, contributed to that responsibility.)

The schools, and the policymakers, might also benefit by rethinking some basic notions of their purpose. Yet another blogburst has addressed the issue of protected speech in schools, this time over a student wearing a t-shirt protesting an official school cause. Professor Althouse asks,
Did the principal disapprove of the shirt because it was disruptive or because it contradicted the school's official message?
All Things Beautiful has multiple links, most addressing the possible erosion of the First Amendment inherent in the outcome of a court case.

But isn't all this fretting over the First Amendment putting process over purpose? Betsy's Page offers the thoughts of a high-school teacher (working in much better conditions than Chicago Fenger.)
My main feeling is that I don't want judges getting into the business of second-guessing school administrators on what they think is necessary for maintaining order in their schools. Once we accept the premise that administrators should be shown deference in making such decisions, do we really want justices in Washington deciding whether certain T Shirts are acceptable and others aren't. At my school, I would like to see a very open policy that would only bar obscene shirts or ones that preached violence. But, I can imagine that certain schools might have more of a need to keep a strict hold on what could disrupt the learning environment there. I might not agree on what they choose to ban, but I'm not at their schools and wouldn't want to say that the administrators don't know their student body better than I do.
That's the effect of a generously-applied constitutional principle trumping practicality. The ruling that "political speech is protected speech" from Tinker v. Des Moines led to the abandonment of school dress codes just in time for me to garner a few "sexy legs" comments in my yearbook, as shorts were no longer proscribed on hot days. At that time Milwaukee Hamilton was as close to whitebread suburban as a city high school could be, but the suburb I have in mind is New Berlin, not Bethesda. I suspect the current administrators at Hamilton might be struggling with what the purported Fenger weblogger (the comments to this post provide a bit more context) is up against.
Or are they so worried that this may generate media attention from inconvenienced parents who have to retreive their little darling's electronics and gang-banging hoodie and hat of choice, or may attempt to hold the school liable via bogus lawsuit threats for lost or stolen items? The fact is, Regnef has no idea as to its legal procedural rights. Confiscation of contraband is one of them.And why institute a standard blue/white dress code? I mean, it's so much more fun to decipher which gang is being represented by appropriately chosen colors, teams, symbols, etc. Amazing - 83% of the school gets government paid free or reduced (about 40 cents) breakfast/lunch, but 83% of the students at Regnef can also somehow afford $100 NBA jerseys, several pairs of gym shoes ...
The principle that political speech is protected speech gets stretched to prevent any proscription of gang symbols or positional footwear races, with the added threat that anyone proposing such proscriptions is at risk of being mau-maued as racist and classist. Meanwhile many of Chicago's high schoolers never get the chance to enroll at university. Does it make any sense to stand on a favored principle when its maintenance is enabling self-destructive behaviors?

I'll give Ms. Newmark's students the last word.
I'm always intrigued to see that my students (mostly 10th graders) are split in their opinions of whether it is a good or bad thing to give the administration power to regulate their freedom of speech. When I began teaching these concepts I expected that students would unanimously feel that there should be no limitations on their speech, but a surprising number feel that the administration should have discretion in keeping order.
Quite.
OPPORTUNITY COSTS. Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas, purchased additional web servers to support its distance education efforts. Students revealed a preference to engage in distance education via something called My Space. The college chose to block that service from its library computers.

The community college has blocked the site in response to complaints about sluggish Internet speed on campus computers.

An investigation found that heavy traffic at MySpace.com was eating up too much bandwidth, said August Alfonso, the school's chief of information and technology. Forty percent of daily Internet traffic at the college involved the site, he said.

"This was more about us being able to offer Web-based instruction, and MySpace.com was slowing everything down," President Carlos Garcia said.

Not everybody is happy.
"We pay for school and the resources that are used," said Zeke Santos, 20. "It's our choice, we're the ones paying for our classes. If we pass or fail, it's up to us."
Up to a point. But if the college provides resources that students are misusing, isn't its administration responsible, acting as an agent of the students' success, to prevent that misuse of resources? (I'm cutting Mr Santos some slack here. Presumably the notion of a congestable facility does not come up in the first two years of higher education.)
FOURTH TURNING ALERT. Before the new institutions evolve, the old institutions must demonstrate their irrelevance. A Chicago Tribune reporter discovers rumblings in Ohio.

With a litany of complaints that would resonate from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Ore., Ohio this election year is America in political miniature, a little shop of public-opinion horrors that speaks volumes about what bothers people nationwide. Like the state tourism pitch, "Ohio, the heart of it all," it's all right here.

"What you're seeing is an ongoing distrust of major institutions," said Mark Weaver, a Republican Party strategist in Columbus. "It's corporate America, it's state and local government scandals . . . and I think the war in Iraq and the price of gas fuel the discontent in that people feel they've lost control over events.

"For all of the polarization that permeates political discourse, the public dissatisfaction here has a bipartisan stamp only days away from a primary election. In the staunchly Republican community of London, about 25 miles west of Columbus, Melinda Conley still supports President Bush and calls herself a "die-hard Republican."But Conley, an interior designer and gift shop owner on Main Street, quickly says that she has done a lot of dying lately, a point driven home last week when she spent $100 on gas for her Ford Excursion--and that didn't fill the tank. She has no retirement plan. And business is tough.

"I keep telling myself that these guys know what they're doing, but is it going to get any better? I don't know that it is," Conley said. "Why is it harder and harder and harder just to live?"

The old nostrums fail to work, and the old remedy of putting the other rascals in charge is losing its appeal.

A recent University of Akron poll said 59 percent of Ohioans want to oust the Republicans, who have controlled state government for 16 years.

If U.S. Rep. Bob Ney, implicated in the Jack Abramoff scandal, is indicted, Ohio Republican Party Chairman Robert Bennett says he will pressure Ney to resign. Democrats acknowledge, though, that Republican troubles do not necessarily mean the public is clamoring for the Democrats. The political atmosphere is volatile.

The discontent with all the conventional wisdoms grows.

22.4.06

OUR NEIGHBORS AT WAR. The 1st Battalion, 121st Field Artillery of the Wisconsin National Guard ships out.

The day began on a festive note, like a huge Brewers tailgate party with bratwurst and cookies and the National Guard's band playing everything from the "The Liechtensteiner Polka" to Steely Dan tunes. But as the two commercial planes arrived to carry the soldiers away, the mood grew decidedly more anxious. The soldiers heard speeches by their commanders promising the best body armor and fighting equipment.

There were prayers for their safety, well wishes and a few sky-high dreams.

Amen.
SHOCK AND AWE. The Milwaukee Brewers tied a major league record, becoming the fifth team to hit five home runs in an inning, and the fourth National League team to accomplish that against Cincinnati. The only American League team to hit five in an inning is the Minnesota Twins, who did so in 1966, which was the last time this record was tied.

George Webb has a "6 for $5" promotion (click the link for the winning streak promotion) that kicks in whenever the Brewers score five runs.
Offer starts immediately after the 5th run is scored until midnight of the following day, available for both dine-in & carryout.
Today, the criterion for the 6-4-5 promotion was satisfied most dramatically. Get up, get up, get outta here! ... LET'S EAT!
TO THE LAND OF LINCOLN. The Illinois Department of Transportation is requesting appropriations to upgrade the Chicago-St. Louis corridor with faster trains and a few more trips each day. Destination:Freedom quotes a charmingly misinformed Watertown, Wisconsin newspaper editorial seeking an extension of the Hiawatha service with through trains from Watertown to St. Louis. (At one time, the St. Louis-Chicago service was through-routed with trains turning in Milwaukee. Delays on the south end delayed the Chicago departures for Milwaukee, and Milwaukee commuters protested. Some years later, selected Hiawatha trains went as far as Watertown to relieve road congestion during an expressway repair. Those trains were not well-scheduled for west-suburban commuters, although a few schedules were convenient for family outings to eateries in Brookfield or Oconomowoc. Perhaps some stories of these trains another day.)

This month's trip report is an inspection of the service as far as Springfield before the 110 mph service and the added frequencies commence.


Apparently when the private-party season ends, the "Great Hall" in Chicago's Union Station reverts to a waiting room. Most commuters use the escalators directly opposite the commuter train concourses and miss the down-and-out catching naps on the benches.


This passage under Canal Street leads to the concourse, which, despite a remodeling to separate the commuter and long-distance concourses, is still cramped and subject to crowding, especially at holiday travel peaks.

The St. Louis corridor does not yet have the frequency or the precision of the Hiawatha service but the three-Horizon-one-Amclub (food service and coach on one end, custom class on the other) are well-loaded and the train crews cheerful. Cub fans are enroute to St. Louis for their dose of frustration. Union Pacific has moved most of its St. Louis-Chicago traffic to other routes. The only freight train interference is at crossings leading into the Grand Trunk and CSX yards. There's enough recovery margin that the train is on time into Lincoln and Springfield.


The locomotive is not as pretty as an E unit, the time signal no longer comes over the telegraph, and the watches themselves may receive a signal from the atomic clock, but conductor and stationmaster at Springfield still compare their watches.


The Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices downtown.



Across the street from Lincoln & Herndon is the old capitol building, flying a 36 star flag.


The current capitol building is a few blocks from the old downtown, on the other side of the Alton Union Pacific tracks. This is Illinois, so be impressed by the hill it sits on.


From the west, the cruciform building plan is evident. Illinois is a larger state than Wisconsin, with a legislature that trades in many more favors, but the capitol building itself is smaller than Wisconsin's. There appear to be fewer state office buildings in the immediate vicinity.


The whitetail deer is the Illinois state animal (what, not a polecat?) and this sculpture at the capitol visitors' center might include parts salvaged from cars rendered inoperable by collision with a deer.


Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Dana-Thomas house in the early 1900s. The copper guttering is pretty but appears to be a maintenance nightmare. Amtrak runs through the alley on the one jointed-rail track shown here. (At one time there were two tracks through this alley.)


President-elect Lincoln and family lived in this house until early 1861. The National Park Service conducts visitors through it. The nearby blocks are closed to automotive traffic with roads maintained in something resembling 1860 conditions.


The President-elect made his farewell speech from a train about to leave on what was then the Great Western Railroad (no Grange Hall here) for Washington, D.C. Norfolk Southern (ex-Wabash) trains now use the tracks.


The former Illinois Central station, which was in use until Amtrak Day, is having its clock tower restored as part of a conversion into a museum. This station is next to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

It was too nice a day for me to spend much time inside, but I did tour the museum.


Generals McClellan and Grant confer. (Yes, I at first wondered what General Sherman was doing there.)


And look who is lurking at the Executive Mansion.

The museum collection includes a number of broadsheets and cartoons critical of President Lincoln. The most venomous of the broadsheets make this article a masterwork of lucidity, and the cartoons render this tame.

It was time to go home, and the up Ann Rutledge was on time despite having to contend with Union Pacific dispatching all the way from Kansas City.

At McLean, the train had to take the siding.


The color-position lights will not guard this interlocking much longer. The Texas Eagle has a clear road.


In due course, it shows up.


The color-position at the east siding switch protects the Eagle. Note that the pole lines and electrical lockers reflect the onetime double track through here.