28.6.06

A NEW CARNIVAL. The Thomas Institute hosts the initial Roundhouse Roundup, with modelling efforts from 1/4 actual size to 1/48 featured. (I seem to recall some smaller scales ... those posts are certainly welcome at this carnival.)

SECOND SECTION. I'll leave this announcement near the top while I'm marked off.
MARKING OFF. Work on this.


This is yet another application of the Sudoko-generating algorithm I've been investigating. Designer notes to come ...
ONE NEVER STOPS LEARNING. Mazurka ... Masurian Lakes.


The connection dawned on me at Milwaukee's Polish Festival, our dinner stop after the train ride. More on the relevance of the connection in the near future.
KEEP YOUR HEADS DOWN. Asteroid Near-Miss Set to Happen July 3.
[S]kywatchers with good telescopes and some experience just might be able to get a glimpse of this cosmic rock as it streaks rapidly past our planet in the wee hours Monday. The closest approach occurs late Sunday for U.S. West Coast skywatchers.
THE FLYING TURNS IS NOT A FLUME RIDE. News reports are comparing the current flooding in the Upper Susquehanna Valley to Hurricane Agnes (the storm that sank the Erie-Lackawanna.) The Knoebels Grove amusement park has some high water marks in the center of the grove for Agnes and other floods. They may have to add another one. Here's the current amusement park web page.


Due to some EXTREME flooding in the park from our last tropical storm, we're sorry
to announce that Knoebel's is currently closed until further notice.
KUDOS. Joshua Hall at Division of Labour posts a tribute to West Virginia's Santiago Pinto, recipient of a college-wide Outstanding Teaching Award. Professor Pinto is a past winner of the Illinois Economics Association Graduate Student Paper competition. The Graduate Student Paper competition announcement for October 2006 is being circulated this week.
KEEP THE SPRECHER ON ICE. The Brewers infield and bullpen returned last night's favor. Can baseball analysts speak of "resistance levels," in this case a .500 record, the way securities analysts do?
THE EARL OF ENGLEWOOD, THE DUCHESS OF SOUTH SHORE. Ailing Cook County Board president John Stroger would like to place his son on the ballot in his place. Radio reports this morning included an alderman, whether in jest or not I don't know, seeking to place his daughter on the ballot.
REGRESSIVE TRANSFERS? Minnesota considers tuition subsidies for residents. King at SCSU Scholars is underwhelmed.
I end up agreeing with David Strom (this happens quite often) that "we're just making a flat-out subsidy for kids who could go to college anyway and most of whom would be able to afford it." It also has had the effect of increasing tuitions at Georgia schools, so much that the state had to cap the tuition payments to remove the incentive. Like in Georgia, this will most likely make it harder for students to get into the University of Minnesota.
There's lots of linked research.
EXCESS CAPACITY IN HIGHER EDUCATION? Rockford College is having money problems, but a merger with Northern Illinois University is not in the immediate future. Northern Illinois has previously expanded its offerings by buying capacity from private colleges, most notably the law school it purchased from Lewis University.
DR. SEUSS WASN'T ALWAYS A PACIFIST. Via Photon Courier, a Michelle Malkin video with a Frank Capra scripted, Theodor Seuss Geisel illustrated, and Mel Blanc narrated cartoon, "Private Snafu," with a loose lips sink ships theme brought to pixels.
CARNIVAL CALL. Carnival of Education No. 91(8) visits The Lilting House, which has potential as a name for the place with the barrel of fun and the air jets.
OPENING THE DOOR. Last night's Brewer win over Chicago was painful to listen to. In the evening only the Chicago radio broadcast is available at Cold Spring Shops. Poor Ron Santo was suffering through the error-riddled ninth inning that put the Crew ahead. He deserves better.

No report from Paul Noonan, who offered electric commentary from Wrigley on Monday night's clean kill. Phil Miller at Market Power contemplates the economics of a losing team in an upscale neighborhood.

27.6.06

UNLIKELY TO PLEASE ANYBODY. Inside Higher Ed characterizes the preliminary report of the Spellings Commission on Higher Education as "stinging."
The 27-page preliminary report — which is enough a work in progress that it lacks a conclusion — largely delivers the back of its hand to American higher education, which it describes as offering “equal parts meritocracy and mediocrity.”
The comments on the column are spirited and conflicting.
THE ALTON USED "ABRAHAM LINCOLN." Illinois transportation planners are considering themed names for the additional corridor service being contemplated. I'd like to see the permanent way improvements and the schedules first.
COST-BENEFIT ANALYSES. The editorial board at the Los Angeles Times is skeptical about a California bill that would ban push-pull commuter trains.
The bill would force rail lines to close off the first 10 rows of the lead cars in so-called push trains, in which the train is pushed from behind by a locomotive rather than pulled, and end push-mode perations entirely in 2010.
The bill would be the end of easy railfanning on trains in push-mode. More to the point, the editors assert it would not be cost-effective.
The bill might soothe the grieving with a feeling that all those deaths had at least resulted in a law that would save lives in the future. More likely, however, is that the measure would be costly and result in reductions in rail service without necessarily improving safety.
The alternatives are not cheap.
Rail operators estimate that it would cost more than $200 million to buy enough locomotives to put them at both ends of California's commuter trains, which could be necessary if push mode were banned. Other options could cost even more. For example, railroads could build "wye" tracks, which are configured like the letter Y and allow trains to reverse direction by performing something like a three-point turn.
One option that might have occurred to my overseas readers is a diesel with cabs on both ends. Such power is rare in North America, and the old practice of setting up a road-switcher locomotive for dual control operation raises questions about obstructed view. The cost of the double-ender option well might be as high as the cost of additional locomotives (or converting hulks to use as cabbage cars) in order to amortize the tooling cost of a one-off design with a limited production run that is being sold to a state agency.
If the bill would produce measurable improvements in safety, it would be worth the price. There is no evidence that it would. To head off future crashes, the Legislature should focus on things that could actually make a difference, such as more barriers to keep cars off the tracks and more grade separations where roads and tracks meet. But the state's transportation system should not be hobbled because of one man's apparent attempt to commit suicide.
As North American train frequencies and train speeds increase, the risks of level crossings, whether abused by suicidal individuals or misused by drivers in a hurry will also increase.
TODAY'S ACADEMIC READING. I Am Big has doubts about the academy aping business models.

What has taken over, really, despite all this attention to culture wars, is the business model, first with TQM, then with "best practices" and accountability and assessment measurements. Indeed, the corporate model has won, with universities downsized, facilities open for branding and product placement, cost-effective adjunct and instructor outsourcing on the rise, and students shouldering the costs for cheaper and cheaper goods.

At my university, I work daily with these new "accountability" practices, and not all of them are heinous. To construct a rigorous strategic plan for an English program does make some sense, and can actually enable faculty to teach more critically, productively, and collaboratively. But so much of the process results in endless paperwork for faculty, keeping us rather busy and occupied, producing binder upon binder of annual reports, just to document our practice toward continual improvement. At its worst, it's a Kafkian joke.

Via Newmark's Door, where today's theses include the best tagline from the linked post.
LET THINGS BE DONE DECENTLY AND IN ORDER. Colorado's chancellor has accepted the special committee's recommendation that ethnic studies professor Ward Churchill be dismissed for research misconduct. King at SCSU Scholars has the proper perspective on the university's appeal procedures.
Churchill now has ten days to appeal the recommendation to a faculty committee. I know, I know, another committee! But tenure is such that I prefer to see them work through the whole process. Hopefully the next committee continues to understand what the previous committee did -- regardless of your feelings over Churchill's "Little Eichmanns" statement and whether the university pursued him for this, academic fraud must be prosecuted and punished no matter what the motives of the prosecution.
Put another way, had Mr Churchill kept his professional house in order, a la Harvey Mansfield or Noam Chomsky, he would be free and clear of any politically-motivated calls for his job.

SECOND SECTION: Tightly Wound expresses similar sentiments, albeit more pungently.
Just because you can pull a con-job during the hiring process doesn't mean you should. And he would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for those meddling teenagers--oops, I mean if it weren't for his inability to follow the first rule of thumb for con-artists: stay below the radar.
Read the rest.
GET UP, GET UP, GET OUTTA HERE ... Gone for the Dopple Bock (must clear out the spring beers in anticipation of summer.) Brewers six, Cubs nil.
MOTORCADING. The Confidentials have posted video and still pictures of Sunday's steam train.

26.6.06

THE TARDIS IS QUIRKY. Where Worlds Collide notes liberties taken with Dr. Who's future transportation.
There's a gross and unforgivable error with the trains in the background. At the beginning we clearly saw a pair of Central Trains class 170s. But the episode is supposed to be set in 2012, and as everyone should know, Central Trains is due to be abolished next year. The presence of a First Great Western HST and a Wales and Borders 158 probably gives away the fact that it was filmed in Cardiff even though it was set in Essex.
Our entertainment business is at least that careless.
CARNIVAL CALL. Carnival of the Capitalists raises the bannerline at Financial Methods.
WE GET REFEREE REPORTS. Tom at Marginal Utility dissents from my summary of James Lileks.

Uh, sure.

BTW, that's Prof. Karlson of Northern Illinois University, beneficiary of the late liberal society's crazy idea that higher education for the masses is worthwhile.

Uh, not quite.

BTW, that's Prof. Karlson of Northern Illinois University, who has burned a lot of neutrons on this site in defense of the somewhat crazier idea that higher education for the masses ought to be, well, higher education.

Surely Mr Bozzo is not encouraging loyalty oaths for state university employees?

Or ought someone at the American Economic Review have recommended against publication of W. Lee Hansen's "Income Distribution Effects of Higher Education" (link requires JSTOR membership) because the knowledge that "higher education for the masses" was the slogan and "regressive transfer" was the reality was not something a beneficiary of the idea ought be making public?

Or should faculty at Wisconsin have dissuaded Professors Hansen and Weisbrod from further investigating the incidence of that regressive transfer? "On the Distribution of Costs and Benefits of Public Higher Education" appeared in the Journal of Human Resources in 1969. Although that issue has not yet been converted to online storage, their 1971 reply is online, with this lede.
Should economists still believe that their journal articles remain unread and even if read, politely ignored, our recent experience should quickly disabuse them. The Journal of Human Resources has already published five comments on our paper, and prepublished copies of at least two of the comments (by Joseph Pechman and Ira Sharkansky) have made their way to and through Washington officialdom, the higher education establishment, and our own university administration. These developments suggest that our results may have hit a more sensitive nerve than we had suspected by calling into question an important part of the folklore about higher education's role in income redistribution.
The debate continues. Here's a communication from 1975, and a clarification of the empirical issues from 1977.

On to the substance of Mr Bozzo's objection.
Anyway, demand curves sloping downwards and all, why would you want to signal — by exposing students to more of the cost of their education — that people should be investing less in their human capital?
Three possibilities. One, the Hansen-Weisbrod line of research suggests that the state subsidy is a regressive transfer. Thus the beneficiaries of the subsidy have a greater ability to pay: under one principle of public expenditure that suffices to require them to pay; under another principle to not require them to pay is vertically inequitable. Two, Cold Spring Shops maintains that the subsidies encourage inefficiently optimistic enrollment leading to an intolerably low completion rate. Three, the Wall Street Journal from time to time suggests a principal-agent argument, in which students are less likely to gripe about classes and textbook prices as long as somebody else (to consistently apply the vertical equity principle they ought consider absentee parents writing child support checks) is picking up the tab.
QUOTE OF THE DAY. University Diaries, on higher education policy.

High participation rates in systems of higher education that do not educate, and in economies that have very few jobs for graduates (see the absurd French employment system, which discourages employers from hiring employees, for instance) are probably a bad thing. You produce pseudo college people with high expectations for themselves that will not be fulfilled, thus insuring a restive population.

[California's John] Douglass [more here] asks that we worry about the fact that “the US has decently competitive rates of participation in tertiary education, but meager and declining rates of actual degree attainment.” I do think we should worry about this, but on the other hand the employment rate for most of this country suggests to me that many dropouts are getting jobs. More broadly, I don’t see college as something everyone needs in order to be gainfully and satisfactorily employed. On the contrary, the US needs to be far more serious than it has been about vocational schooling.

That last suggestion requires the common schools to take basic academic skills seriously. A youngster full of self-esteem might think he or she is capable of carrying my calipers, but just one hole drilled off center and improperly tapped will give the lie to that conceit.
GET A GOOD START AND SAIL ON THE LIFTED TACK. Rolex Yachtswoman of the year and former Pine Lake Cub Boat ace Sally Barkow is getting her team's fundraising efforts in order for the 2008 Olympic regatta in China.


Unattributed Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel photograph.

That is a Cub boat, otherwise known as the Inland Lake Yachting Association's "Class X" in the background, although the X on the sail designates the Pine Lake Yacht Club (A = Little Cedar, B = Beulah, I = Geneva, M = Minnetonka, V = Pewaukee.)

Our newly appointed provost was with Old Dominion for a while, although I suspect maintaining a finishing school for up-and-coming sailors (I know of several Inland sailors that have enrolled at Old Dominion) is probably not among his priorities here.

25.6.06

ABLE TO DEPUTISE FOR A BALTIC. The Milwaukee Road linking Chicago-Milwaukee-New Lisbon is the site of the world's fastest running with steam locomotives on tests and in regular service as well as the traditional routing for excursion trains that would bring passengers to the Wisconsin Dells from the big cities, turn at New Lisbon, and bring them home.

Although the high-stepping Baltics went for scrap fairly early in the diesel era, two of the Milwaukee's mixed-traffic 4-8-4 war babies made it into preservation, with No. 265 under roof at the Illinois Railway Museum and No. 261 returned to active service out of Minnesota.

On the weekend, the 261 reprised the steam era Wisconsin Dells excursion, with tickets also available for an all-day ride Milwaukee-New Lisbon and return and a Wisconsin Dells - New Lisbon turn for Central Wisconsin residents who might like an afternoon away from the tourists.

On the Milwaukee Road, "mixed traffic" means "powerful enough to move a troop train as a second section of a Hiawatha," which was the schedule under which some of the Dells turns operated as well. So we're not off to a leisurely day at the preservation railway.

At Milwaukee, the tray tables are all stowed and the seatbacks in the upright position for departure.


The train made a proper smooth start. Those coffees that had been drawn remained in the cups.

Some traditional railroading rituals persist.


At Cut-Off (no longer a tower) this Illinois Central and Wisconsin Central power cover the CNR service into Milwaukee that used to be a turn out of Fond du Lac on the Soo Line.

Some things are changed, changed utterly.


These two smokestacks are the last physical evidence of the Milwaukee Road's backshop and roundhouse complex that used to fill the valley from 35th Street west to the Menominee River.

The arrival yard for Miller Park is on the site of the old west arrival yard.


The train climbs out of the Lake Michigan basin through those towns whose names enable the locals to identify confused flatlanders and other visitors: Wauwatosa, Pewaukee, Nashotah, Oconomowoc, Ixonia.


The local news got the word out that a steam train was running. There were lots of spectators at trackside: the expected train enthusiasts, some choosing their photo spots with care, some attempting to pace along Highway 16, and lots of inquisitive locals, and kids everywhere. Here's the turnout at Pewaukee. I have not discovered a new form of pixel rot. I'll show you the source of the obstructed view at the Dells.

Look closely at the middle ground of this photo.

The level ground and the electric power lines mark the grade of the Milwaukee Electric Lines, whose tracks were close to the Milwaukee Road for a few miles west of Oconomowoc. Cars quit running here in 1939.

The weather was changeable, with clear skies in Milwaukee and some pesky storms parked over the Rock River. Wisconsin is a green and pleasant land.


Many essays about British steam trains note, sometimes critically, more often rhapsodically, the smoke and steam blowing past the coach window, all gone with the diesels. I suspect that's a statement about British humidity. During the rainy periods, the smoke and steam hung low to the ground, even at track speed (not 110, sorry) as the picture shows. When the skies cleared, the exhaust was well above the train.

The lead coaches call to mind the Boston and Maine and Maine Central named streamlined coaches of the late 1940s.


When Soo Line singled the Milwaukee through the Dells, they built a new passenger platform on the grade of the old westbound main line, but several coach lengths shorter than the old one, which extended almost to the overpass.

The schedule allotted 30 minutes to exchange passengers at the Dells. Some of that might have been a recovery margin in case the eastbound Amtrak Empire Builder was close to time. If it had been on time, we would have met it at the first siding east of the Dells.

The tour boat captains were aware of the train's presence and brought their passengers in for a closer look.


Captains have to be careful near the bridge, as there is a power company dam underneath the road bridge.

The Dells Duck operator had a flock of Ducks waiting at the station to meet the train. The Duck cruise is short enough to manage on a three hour layover, and the cross-platform connection is convenient.


I'll leave it to naval historians to decide whether Panay was to the late 1930s what Stark may have been to the late 1980s.

Passengers exchanged, servicing done, time to go.


Stand well back from a big steam locomotive when it starts. That's condensate and spent steam being blown from the cylinders.

I promised to explain that obstructed view photograph at Pewaukee.

Patrick Henry is a Pennsylvania Railroad car built for the Congressional and reequipped as a souvenir and bar car with tables at one end. "Join the Taste Revolution" is Miller's attempt to be topical. Preservation railroading is a business in which every revenue source matters, and Miller's advertising revenue might well be worth the obstructed view.

Bringing up the rear, a Milwaukee Road Super Dome and Skytop Lounge Cedar Rapids.


The Morning Hiawatha would have a dining car cut in between the dome and the Skytop.

Regular readers will recall that there is a roller coaster across the river from the station.

Avalanche Run has one of the steepest drops on a conventional roller coaster.


I have to use "conventional roller coaster" as there are numerous linear induction motor roller coasters and a few towed roller coasters with vertical drops.

Yes, I did take a ride.


I passed on the log flume.


There was time for a leisurely lunch as well before train time.


This Wisconsin Dells station is a near replica of the original Kilbourn station. Between the original and the replica there was a more modern station that was wiped out by a derailment in 1982. The idiosyncratic placement of the Milwaukee Airport and Sturtevant for Racine stations on the Hiawatha corridor reduces the structure's exposure to that risk.

The station building was locked, although the eastbound Empire Builder had not yet arrived (it was running about 4 hours late.)

The return move of the excursion arrived just before 3 pm. I took the "coming" shot on Kodachrome.


The diesel is to provide head-end power for the coaches. Thus far it has not been required as protection for the 261.

I had my goggles and cap along in order to safely use the vestibule (staying alert for approaching traffic.) The engineer is blowing the boiler down in anticipation of an extended stop at Columbus.


The train did not take up or set down passengers at Columbus, although it had a scheduled maintenance pause to oil around and grease the pins in each direction. In steam days the railroads maintained regular crews at major stations to do this work with the haste of a pit crew at the Milwaukee Mile. Today the crew and the tools must come along with the train.

Our train was authorized 60 mph (100 km/h) on this line. That late-running Empire Builder was closing us from behind at 79 mph (130 km/h.) We took siding west of Oconomowoc to be overtaken by the Builder (it came on us at a speed that startled some of the passengers) and we met the westbound Builder and a coal train at Nashotah.

Through Pewaukee, the train was doing every bit of the authorized 60.


This figure, indifferent to our passage, is either Captain Hook or the mascot of the local high school (the Pewaukee Pirates, unless that name has gone the way of the Milwaukee Hamilton spirit song.)

The jet-skiers were at play on the lake, and some sort of festival was in progress, but we still had plenty of people waving at the train.


Under the Milwaukee trainshed, approximately at the arrival time of the Afternoon Hiawatha.


Is there a Grant Wood composition in here? There is a bit of a surprise powering the passing freight train. Canadian Pacific named the Delaware and Hudson properties it acquired the St. Lawrence and Hudson. That's fitting, given the Delaware and Hudson boiler design the War Production Board required Alco to use on the War Babies. (The tender is Union Pacific, and the frame, Rock Island. No draftsmen were diverted from the war effort to design new locomotives.)

The dispatcher had a bit of a challenge keeping his station fluid. The late-running Builder got out of town ahead of us on station track 1, which is a short track closest to the station building. He wanted our train in on 1 behind the Builder, and far enough east to clear the west switch on 1 to allow the freight through on 2 and get a Hiawatha in from Chicago behind it. The engineer wanted to get the stack into the open east of the post office that straddles the tracks.

It worked out. Everyone disembarked, a media pizza party boarded.


And the train headed to Sturtevant, where it could turn and head for Milwaukee for Sunday's trip.

Which I hope went well, although the weather looked less promising.

(Cross-posted at European Tribune.)

23.6.06

I EXPECT TO BE PREOCCUPIED. Are you up to this?


There is method to this one as well. Designer notes, eventually.
ON MY WORKBENCH. Keil-Line interior kits for the basic Pullman types come with lots of useful details, as this illustration of the men's room end of Picacho illustrates.


We're close to having a fully detailed interior on this car. I'm working on some templates for getting the roof ends right in profile and cross-section.


The custom cars call for a bit more work. These are kitchen parts for Harvard Club. The wood block will become a refrigerator, that's a wood stove with the broiler cover under construction in the middle, and the hutch at the end of the pantry at right.

THE METROPOLITAN AND LAKE STREET JOINT LINE IS PRETTY IN PINK. The Chicago Transit Authority will obtain more paths for trains on the O'Hare and Median Strip service between the airport and Park Forest (change for the CA&E?) by routing the Cicero, er, Douglas Park branch trains over the Paulina Connector to the Lake Street line, thence around the Union Loop.

The change will break a connection people on the Douglas line used to have directly to Union Station, although it will provide one-seat service to La Salle and North Western.

"There's still a lot of people who don't realize what this is," said Michael Pitula, public transit organizer for the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, which opposes the line and has been passing out "Pink Stinks" fliers on trains. "I've met a lot of riders who think the CTA is just changing the Blue Line to a new color."

Wince Collins, a 29-year-old West Side resident who uses the Blue Line's Forest Park branch to get to his North Side retail job, is excited about the change, which will increase service on his branch of the Blue Line. The extra trains should reduce his waiting time for a train to 7 or 8 minutes from 15.

Shalini Gupta, 36, worries that the changes will lengthen her trip between her job at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Union Station, where she typically boards a Metra train to Aurora after taking the 54/Cermak branch from Polk Street to Clinton Street.

We'll see if the Loop is up to the additional traffic.
Although some riders are concerned that the Pink Line will jam up the Loop system, CTA officials say computer models show there's enough capacity to run the trains on tracks now used by the Orange, Purple and Green Lines.
We'll see if the computer is up to the levermen of the Charles Tyson Yerkes and Samuel Insull eras. At one time some train buffs claimed the Lake and Wells tower at the northwest corner of the Union Loop was the busiest railroad junction in the world. That probably wasn't the case, but until the subways were built during the Depression and the Cold War, all rapid transit service other than the Metropolitan, as well as all North Shore Line trains, came onto the Loop, which operated as two tracks counterclockwise (which survives in the Ravenswood's routing to this day.)
THE JOYS OF LAW ENFORCEMENT. Some incompetent al-Qaeda wannabees in Miami had designs against the Sears Tower that they were a little eager to share with somebody posing as being from Osama and wanting to help them. The authorities have the responsibility of taking all such threats seriously. The challenge they face is that there are individuals and groups with grievances real or imagined against American society who are acting completely on their own.
TO THE ENDS OF THE LINES. The Chicago Tribune introduces a new photo-essay series, Ends of the Line. First up: Joliet (thereby dealing with two different suburban lines at once.)


Chicago Tribune photo by Wes Pope.

Each essay will have candid shots from the town being visited.
BARBAROSSA BEGINS. Lexington Green of Chicago Boyz recommends a number of useful sources on the Russian Front in World War II, which opened 65 years ago. I did promise a few more book reviews on that topic, and hope to complete those in less time than it took to lift the siege of Leningrad.

22.6.06

THERE ARE SUBSTITUTION EFFECTS. The debate over what to do about illegal immigrants sometimes crowds out the reality of a legal immigration policy that offers all manner of difficulties to those who would like to work in the United States legally. (Regular readers know that I have seen, and commented on, the effects of that policy on colleagues in my department.)

The Anchoress links to an angry post at Big Lizards that notes,
No anti-normalization blogger that I've read has called for reform of a system that shattered long ago, which is now run by career "civil" "servants" who have as much concern for immigrants, legal immigrants, as cock fighters have for their roosters,
and a Called as Seen post that suggests,
At some point, people start to defy the laws the perceive as unjust, and when that reaches a critical mass - then the problem begins.
The paper I'm about to present at the Westerns adds one more incentive to the mix: the more difficult it is to enter legally, the greater the temptation people with ability have to sneak in illegally, raising the rewards to an amnesty.
THE STREETS BELONG TO THE PEOPLE. There's an urban insurgency going on ... in Milwaukee.
Frustrated by a weekend cruising ritual that gridlocks intersections and gobbles up officers' time, some Milwaukee leaders are pushing for new tools to fight the problem, boosting fines and letting police seize cars by declaring them a "nuisance."
It's not really cruising as I understood it. Cruising used to involve cars that moved, and some places have anti-cruising ordinances under which a driver can be ticketed for passing the same location more than three times in an hour. (Delivery cars are presumably exempt.) It is emergent and spontaneous.

Those who do it call it "being in traffic," police say.

At bar time on weekend nights, hundreds of people communicating by cell phones agree on a destination and head out. The traffic quickly jams, drivers put their cars in park, and a makeshift street party starts. Booze-fueled fights often break out. Guns sometimes are fired. Cars cut over lawns.

(We used to call that the aftermath of a Hamilton-Pulaski basketball game, without the gunplay.)

So the riot act now applies to clusters of cars.
They want to beef up the city's riot and illegal assembly ordinance. The proposal, which will be debated next week in committee, defines "unlawful assembly of motor vehicles" as three or more cars gathered in a manner that could injure someone or damage property. The proposal also would ticket people on foot who contribute to such a disorderly scene.
So much for Crazy Jim's demolition derby? So much for the Constitution?

Taking cars would raise civil rights concerns, said Stan Stojkovic, dean of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Helen Bader School of Social Welfare.

"There could be abuse. If you do something like that, you better think it through," he said. "There is no easy answer to this problem. You have to be vigilant. But you have to make sure vigilance isn't excessive."

Ah, the trade-offs of due process. The populace has to be sufficiently self-governing in order to enjoy freedoms?
YOU HAVE TO STAND FOR SOMETHING. Betsy's Page and James Lileks and Peggy Noonan weigh in on the emptiness of the latest Democratic Party proposals.
"Cut College Costs." Why? Because it's the job of the federal government to regulate the cost of a four-year degree in English lit, with a minor in textile history.
Priceless.
QUOTE OF THE DAY. The Economists' Letter on Immigration has been made public.

People from around the world are drawn to America for its promise of freedom and opportunity. That promise has been fulfilled for the tens of millions of immigrants who came here in the twentieth century.

Throughout our history as an immigrant nation, those who were already here have worried about the impact of newcomers. Yet, over time, immigrants have become part of a richer America, richer both economically and culturally. The current debate over immigration is a healthy part of a democratic society, but as economists and other social scientists we are concerned that some of the fundamental economics of immigration are too often obscured by misguided commentary.

(Via Alex at Marginal Revolution, who organized the project.)
TRAILING THEIR COAT. Chris at Signifying Nothing links to a list of allegedly libertarian professors that appears to be maintained by ... libertarian sympathizers? (I use the term allegedly with due deliberation. Some people whose past work histories and research, not all of which is supportive of libertarian hypotheses, let alone libertarian politics or the Libertarian Party, are on this list.)

Accurate or not, the existence of the list is evidence that faculty viewpoints are not as monolithically bolshie as some would have you believe.
THAT BALL AND BAR GETS AROUND. Going Underground has a collection of markers based on the London Tube logo at commercial establishments around the world. (I think the late unlamented Victoria Station eateries in the Midwest used a variation on it.)
SCHOOL CHOICE COMES BUNDLED WITH HOUSING CHOICE. Blogs for Industry comments on the disappearance of "middle-class neighborhoods" (as perceived by the drive-by media). The linked article includes this instructive quote.
"Dollars trump race. Many [minority families] choose not to live around poor people."
It closes with
Urban planners complain that exurbs such as Carmel are bleeding cities of the middle class. But [suburban Indianapolis resident] Jim Russell said he and his wife have made "the logical choice" by moving to a upper-income neighborhood that is safe, comfortable and better for their growing family.
Does such a decision come as a surprise as long as the common schools are more interested in hiring teachers with the right dispositions rather than socializing their charges into the ways of the upper-middle class? Professor Hu connects the article on residential self-segregation with an observation by Professor Mankiw.
You should want your kids to be in a class with (1) high-achieving kids and (2) low variance in achievement. And (3) you should care more if you have a smart kid.
(But if there's a preponderance of high-achieving kids, as (1) and (2) suggest, will there be grade inflation?)

Blogs for Industry suggests there might be a tension between what he calls "between-school tracking" (parents selecting neighborhoods on the basis of the test scores) and "within-school tracking" (grouping of students by ability, or not, at the discretion of the administration).
I would expect that rational behavior by parents would lead them to drive interschool tracking by moving to areas perceived to have better schools, but once there, since the middle and low achievers will always outnumber the high achievers within a school, I'd expect the majority of parents to oppose tracking. But effect 3 might mean that the parents whose kids would benefit most from tracking are likely to be more involved in school politics.
By definition, any population has to have an average performance level. But self-selection into neighborhoods might also mean that the average performance level is high relative to a state or national average (that's what the newspaper column suggests) and a majority of the parents will favor tracking because relatively few kids will be shunted onto the slow track. There is a good dissertation or two in here...
SPELLING OUT YOUR OBJECTIVE FUNCTION. Chemical weapon shells have been turning up in Iraq for some time. That information has been recently released. Austin Bay, in reporting the news, provides a cogent defense of the cassus belli.
In my well-documented view Saddam had to go because (1) our presence in Saudi Arabia was an Al Qaeda recruiting tool; which is intimately tied to (2) our 12 year war against Saddam had to end with victory, if UN resolutions were to have any substance (and his sanctions evading routines, including Oil For Food, were working); (3) tyrannies are the grounds that breed terrorists, and that is especially true in the Middle East; (4) rogue states want WMD– they are the most-likely supplier of WMD to a terror organization, and post-9/11 we had to show tyrants we mean it about stopping WMD proliferation; (5) Iraq, with its water, source of capital (oil), and comparatively well educated and motivated populace is the prime place to affect democratic change in the politically dysfunctional Middle East.
A BROBDINGNAGINAN WALKIE-TALKIE? James Lileks asks, "What does this look like to you?"


It's not for the spirit of Colonel Pillsbury to contact the spirit of Henry Villard and have a few boxcars delivered to the flour mill. It's the new home for the Guthrie Theater in the Twin Cities, and Mr Lileks is not impressed. The former jobbers' district of the Twin Cities is being converted into lofts and other properties rendered obsolete by warehouses at express-messenger hubs. The conversion is not without pretension or a sacrifice of aesthetics.
SOME SOLSTICE READING. Butterflies and Wheels recommends R. Joseph Hoffman on the popularity of The DaVinci Code.
Magic, codes, rings, and cryptographs, naifish spirituality, the occult, and the unbelievable are the pillars that prop up the symbolic roofs of Narnia, Middle Earth, and Hogwarts Academy. In tapping into a rich vein of early Christian eccentricity famous for its contempt for the historical Jesus, Brown has been able to mine the riches of a darker period, our own, known for its historical illiteracy.
Was there a fourth-century expression for "New Age nutter?"
IT HAS TO T-T-S FIRST. University Diaries has a variation on her E-I-S theme today. Apparently some humanities professors have in common with some trainspotters the notion of a time before E-T-T-S. Also, like many trainspotters, some humanities professors have a weakness when it comes to economics. Consider a whinge from one of the humanities types (it's behind the Chronicle of Higher Education and Denial of What's Really Wrong's subscription wall).
All show what happens when commerce is substituted for morality and ethics throughout society.
There's a difference? "Give me what I want and you shall have what you want" is immoral or unethical?
Performance is all that counts in society, in politics, in the arts, in business, and in our entertainments.
Same question. I'll never lack for work.
THE INCIDENCE OF PLAGIARISM. It's not as widespread as the drive-by media would have you believe, according to Unlocked Wordhoard.

The L.A. Times is reporting that "about 30% of papers are plagiarized, either totally or in part." As far as I can tell (the writing is poor, but hey, it's the LA Times), they are claiming to have gotten that figure from Turnitin.com. I'm calling BS on that.

Regular readers of this site will know that 1.) I hate plagiarism, and 2.) I think it is far too common. But there is no way that 30% of papers are plagiarized. I would guess that about 10% of the papers I see contain some form of plagiarism.

That sounds about right. It's also what one would expect of a bell curve, which one might see with a sufficiently large sampling of research papers. (If some papers fail on their own merits, perhaps the standard bell curve with 10% failing grades is too generous?)
THE SNOWBALLS HAVE MELTED. The snowball bush stays in bloom for a few weeks in May.


Next up, the peonies. If I were maintaining a proper garden, I'd have an assortment of plants to bloom at different times, such that there would be fresh flowers of different kinds well into the fall. I did well to get two flowers off this plant this year. More fertilizer in the fall.


The second clutch of eggs has hatched. Here's a robin hatchling that has yet to take on its adult markings. They are cute, and they cheep.


(Is there a collective noun for hatchlings? An Exaltation of Larks is a compendium of collective nouns for birds, including the parliament of owls and the murder of crows.)

The garden requires another visit with the hoe.


But there will be hot peppers, and tomatoes, and very soon, fresh lettuce and radishes for each night's salads.

And the lightning bugs are out in force.
A QUESTION FOR DISCUSSION. Henry at Crooked Timber. His hook is the Mommy Wars, but it's more general.
Why does it matter so much what is on other people’s plates? Why do we so often take other people’s choices as being value-judgements on our own in this area of social life?
His readers are tackling it.
INCENTIVE COMPATIBILITY. Cato's Neal McCluskey notes that it's difficult to grouse about rising college "costs" when nobody has any reason to contain those costs.

I agree that more taxpayer dollars won’t fix the college cost problem, but Ms. Kamenetz [debating Mr McCluskey] misses the main point: Not only won’t throwing more taxpayer dollars get at the problem’s root cause, it IS the root cause. As I wrote in my letter to USA Today, [scroll down] “clearly, aid is not shrinking. Indeed, that’s the problem: Like everyone else, colleges want as much money as they can get and will raise their prices if they think someone will pay them. All this aid ensures that someone will.”

It’s really fairly simple: As long as government is willing to increase student aid, colleges will inflate their prices to capture it. Moreover, as long as states continue to subsidize public postsecondary institutions with taxpayer dollars, we will see public colleges and universities waste massive amounts of money. Finally, as long as those subsidies continue, we will keep seeing tuition at public colleges and universities buffeted by the boom-and-bust cycle that governs most state budgets.

Frankly, there’s nothing laughable about any of the consequences of funneling more and more taxpayer dollars into the ivory tower, whether in the form of student aid or state subsidies. Hopefully, students and their advocates will soon come to realize that, end their constant demands for free higher education, and stop snickering about what they’re doing to taxpayers.

Neither is there anything laughable about the positional arms races that ensue among parents to buy houses in the best neighborhoods, and put away money for the most-highly-regarded colleges, to keep their issue out of the clutches of the advocates of mediocrity masquerading as crusaders for social transformation in all too many school districts and enrollment-starved colleges and universities.
TWO SYSTEMS OF BELIEF IN ECONOMICS? Jared Bernstein suggests that economics is a discipline with the purpose of Solving Problems.

For decades after the Great Depression, economics had two main policy goals: (1) ensuring that we as a society tap our collective potential and fully employ our economic resources, especially people, and (2) providing individuals with ample protections and publicly provided insurance against undesirable market outcomes-weak job creation, high unemployment, rising poverty rates, and falling real incomes-and other challenges like aging out of the workforce or becoming disabled.

This approach ran into trouble in the latter 1970s, when two villains who are not supposed to appear on the same stage-high unemployment and inflation-combined with another potent force to knock the dominant regime out of the box. That other force was the rise of "neo-classical" economics.

This approach to economics also has two goals: (1) getting rid of the policy set associated with the old economics and (2) making sure that individuals are offered the optimal incentives, the ones that should lead them to behave in ways that, according to the mathematical models, bring about the most efficient results.

In other words, the target of economic policy has shifted from maximizing society's potential through promoting full employment and insurance against market failures, to incentivizing the individual's interactions with the market.

In Mr Bernstein's view, the evolution of economic policy prescriptions into what he calls "You're On Your Own," or YOYO economics, has not been for the better.

Reality might be a bit more subtle than that. The first paragraph alludes to Congressional creation of macroeconomics as a policy discipline in the 1947 Full Employment and Price Stability Act. The second paragraph alludes to the manifestation of something that wasn't supposed to happen. One could trade a bit of price instability for more employment, or conversely, and some of the most daring of the macroeconomists envisioned fine-tuning the economy. It's just a matter of having sufficient instruments to move each target. (I remember something very much like this from income theory in graduate school, albeit without benefit of Power Points or Adobe Pagemaker.) But the second paragraph suggests that the instruments would counteract each other, or act in unpredictable ways (remember this?) such that the Keynesian nostrums (Mr Bernstein is using an extremely elastic definition of market failure; we're not talking about unpriced bads or goods -- negative or positive nonpecuniary externalities -- or nonrivalrous consumption -- public goods -- or missing markets -- costly to organize -- here.) His third paragraph illustrates the real policy problem. The targets he's talking about are aggregates -- the money supply and the interest rate and the rate of change of the price level and the unemployment rate -- but these aggregates reflect adaptations in a large number of markets for a number of assets and a larger number of goods and a variety of people, and the microfoundations of aggregation often suggest that individuals, free to act on their own initiatives, can use local knowledge either to their advantage, or to defeat attempts by the government to move the targets.)

That the government might have failed, for instance, to equip all its citizens with the proper bag of tricks to participate in an economy that rewards knowledge remains a neglected actor, both in Mr Bernstein's post, and in mine.
FINANCIAL EXIGENCIES. Craig at Division of Labour has been reading the New York Times from 100 years ago. Five professors, including the Chair of Political Economy (thereby involuntarily joining the leisure class) resigned from University of Chicago "because of the lack of sufficient funds to guarantee their salaries."
MASTERING MOMENTUM. There are advantages to moving stuff in quantity, whether we're talking about iron ore or people or lobsters or information. John McPhee, evidently a veteran New Yorker writer and Princeton faculty member, but we won't hold those things against him, collected a number of travel reports in Uncommon Carriers, Book Review No. 20. Mr McPhee goes on the road with an erudite chemical tanker (not to be confused with a farm pickup unit) driver , a towboat crew on the Illinois River (I must make a road trip to Starved Rock and file a report on the scenery and the waterway, it's a navigation challenge of a high order), a Union Pacific crew on the Powder River Line (Delay, Linger, and Wait, alluded to here), ship- and boat-masters on the world's most unforgiving ship simulator, old friends on Thoreau-era waterways of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and cargo-sorters in Louisville.

The common theme of the freight hauler is keeping something that is underpowered and underbraked in control while uninformed people operating small internal-combustion craft take long chances in close quarters. (Try stopping a ship in close quarters. A panic reversal of the screw will do nothing. A live-steam train scaled down as to weight as well as to dimensions will not stop in its own length if you shut it off The one I visited a few weeks ago will. Now bring a big rig down a hill using only your shifter to manage the speed. It's doable.)

One also learns that lobsters, like livestock, must rest and recover every 28 hours. Your Lobster-gram will have a lobster that has been tricked into thinking it is winter so as to keep it from molting, but it may have been kept in a holding tank for up to 10 days after being pulled out of the ocean, including those recovery intervals, so it won't taste like ammonia. They go from the coast of Maine to Louisville ... the UPS (I almost typed "United Parcel Service," but that's from my youth) sorting center to refit. Other products, some identified, some not, refit there. Somebody at UPS noticed a lot of traffic from individual consumers to service centers and offered companies the opportunity to set up a service center, or outsource the servicing to UPS, on the grounds of the service center. If you see a position announcement from UPS calling for a computer technician or an appliance repairman ... professionals study logistics.

The book compiles a number of Mr McPhee's articles in Atlantic and New Yorker, where there were some helpful illustrations. The book is not illustrated. The Atlantic version of "The Ships of Port Revel" included some illustrations that would put the ship simulator in context.


The small ones may look like your L. L. Bean duck skiff, but they weigh 7 1/2 tons and up (I know, ships are supposed to displace tonnage, but you don't want to fend off a 7 1/2 ton tanker simulator with your bare hands) with a small lawnmower engine for power and an index card for a rudder. (The classic Inland scows, which are notorious for their small rudders that can come out of the water on a screaming plane, have proportionately larger rudders as well as more maneuvering speed.)

In researching this post, I discovered reviews of this book from Town Topics, New York Times, and Washington Times, most of which find the lack of technical background unremarkable. It bothers me to read a book that offers an encomium to Great Lakes masters yet observes that "In swift-rising storms ore carriers have disappeared in thirty seconds." (After being in trouble for hours.)

21.6.06

NOTICE OF CARNIVAL. The Thomas Institute offers Roundhouse Roundup.

Roundhouse Roundup, a blog carnival of posts about model trains and the boys who love them.

Who: I will host the Roundhouse Roundup, at least at first. After it gets going a bit, then you can email me if you are interested in hosting.

What: Blog posts regarding any size model trains and the boys (any age!) who love them. Blog posts should be family- and work-safe. I, and any future hosts, reserve the right to reject posts that aren't about trains or that include inappropriate material. Yes, this is a judgement call.

Readers ... get your suggestions in. I certainly hope that female modelers will also be encouraged.

How: Please use the Blog Carnival submission form here or the Conservative Cat Carnival Submit Form here.

Further: Submitters are expected to help publicize the Carnival on their own blogs.

A CONSPIRACY SO POWERFUL THAT ... IT DOESN'T REQUIRE COURT INTELLECTUALS. Jeff at Protein Wisdom reacts more directly to the conspiracy hypothesis I found so amusing.
As regular readers know, I have, on occasion, decried the anti-intellectualism of the modern academy, and yet I remain sadly unfunded—this despite my rather scathing denounciations of specific programs that have insinuated themselves into the foundation of university culture, weakening it from the inside like so many “progressive” termites.

But perhaps my lack of remuneration for services rendered is just an oversight, and the check is in the mail. Otherwise, maybe it’s time I considered suing Olin, Scaife, et al. for back pay…
He links to alleged co-conspirator Cathy Young, who is not amused with the allegations.
CARNIVAL CALL. Carnival of Education No. 90(8) appears at Why Homeschool, with the bannerline arranged in a fashion that would please Miss Landers.
CONDOLENCES. Joanne Jacobs's father Alan Jacobs has crossed the final summit.
IT DOESN'T RUN ON RAILS. It's worth waiting for.


More construction shots here.

20.6.06

ECONOMISTS GOING CRUISING? I will be doing the harbor cruise at next week's Westerns. Hail me if you're interested in a meetup. (I will also be doing the more usual conference stuff in an immigration session and a technology diffusion session. Versatility, forsooth!)
QUOTE OF THE DAY. Market Power's Phil Miller, riffing off this.
I don't think I'd be a good policy economist since my advice to policy-makers would usually (not always) be something on the order of "It's probably best to largely leave people alone. Sure, people are fallible and they make mistakes (competition is largely trial and error), but they're pretty darned good at figuring out what they want and how to get it."
Which would frustrate a policy-maker who wants to Solve A Problem no end. Trade-offs frustrate policy makers also. Given a choice between two good things, their tendency is to want both.
HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE HAVE ROUTINES. Inside Higher Ed has two columns by writers who appear to be unclear on that concept. In "Summer Thoughts -- I" an academician in Hawaii observes,
But as the summer progresses I am beginning to realize that perhaps these differences between the student summer and the professor summer are illusory. My sense that professors are just grad students with health care grows. For while summer is supposedly a time of growth and improvement, it actually gets frittered away using the same techniques of procrastination and denial that one perfected during graduate school.
Yes, you have to put in some re-creation time during the summer, because you won't get it during the academic year, but you have to establish some kind of routine, even if you're not doing a summer class.

The pseudonymous Shari Wilson provides "Summer Thoughts -- II" with ample evidence that she's well-placed as a freeway flyer.
Not having a regular wake up time leaves me feeling dislocated. Sometimes I am grateful if a friend calls at 7:30 or 8 a.m. — if only to give me a start time for my day. Even when I schedule activities for a day, they don’t seem pressing. I move events from page to page in my calendar — even calling to reschedule a chiropractic appointment because I am too lazy to put on decent clothes and drive the half-mile to his office. Regular dog walks are the only constant. And my dog sometimes looks as though he’d like to sleep a few of those off, too.
So set the alarm clock, shower and make breakfast as if it's a school day, then put the Prokofiev on and write. Take a blogging break in the afternoon. Repeat as required until the next paper is done.
WE HAVE MUCH TO LOOK FORWARD TO. Northern Illinois University's administration has hired Raymond W. Alden III from Nevada-Las Vegas as provost. The Northern Star's coverage (summer classes began this week) includes this.
While at UNLV, the Campus Network awarded Nevada-Las Vegas second prize in their annual "Pollys," handed out to expose political correctness in academe, thanks in part to a punishment doled out by Alden. Alden headed a committee that suspended a UNLV professor for lecturing that homosexuals planned more for the short-term than heterosexuals in part because they are less likely to have children. The ruling was actually overturned by the university president, who said professors have a right to teach lecture ideas that are controversial.
If memory serves, the professor in question was an economist. If the new provost requires another mugging by reality, I'll have the coverage.

The university's press release includes the provost-designate's observations.

“NIU is a great university with a very bright future,” Alden said. “I was attracted both by the university’s growing reputation and by the themes President Peters established to guide NIU through its next phase of development. As I met with faculty and staff on campus, it became clear that NIU has a very strong ‘can-do’ attitude. That’s a quality you don’t find everywhere, and it’s going to be a critical component of the university’s success in the future.

“I’m very impressed with the progress Northern has made in a very short period of time and under very serious budget constraints,” Alden added. “The number of partnerships with schools, businesses, and national laboratories; the growth of multidisciplinary programs; the integration of classroom and extracurricular learning experiences – these are all signs of a very healthy, forward-thinking institution that’s growing in the way it needs to grow. NIU is at or near the top of a very short list of public universities making the transition from regional to national status, and I’m excited at the prospects of becoming part of that effort.”

Words are plentiful, deeds are precious.
MORE CONSPIRACIES TO CHASE. Marquette Warrior comments on "Professors of Paranoia," temporarily available to all from the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Students who take out large loans to pay for their college education (and parents who cought up many thousands of dollars) would like to think that college professors, as a group, are pretty sensible people.

Many are, and those who aren't are usually in thrall of some bizarre ideology: Marxism, deconstructionism, post-modernism or such.

But some are just outright crackpots. And these days, it's 9/11 government conspiracy theories that attract the crackpots.

Those crackpots, that is, who aren't seeking the powerful interests organizing the efforts of the rest of us who call b.s. on what has crowded out much of the higher education in higher education.

I'm going to grab some useful quotes from Chronicle reporter John Gravois before the electrons go behind the Great Gate of Kiev.

One of the most common intuitive problems people have with conspiracy theories is that they require positing such complicated webs of secret actions. If the twin towers fell in a carefully orchestrated demolition shortly after being hit by planes, who set the charges? Who did the planning? And how could hundreds, if not thousands of people complicit in the murder of their own countrymen keep quiet? Usually, Occam's razor intervenes.

Another common problem with conspiracy theories is that they tend to impute cartoonish motives to "them" — the elites who operate in the shadows. The end result often feels like a heavily plotted movie whose characters do not ring true.

Read the article further. The conference the featured professors are attending may not qualify as a proper academic conference, and the papers being presented, while they might get picked up by lesser elites attempting to get their message out, may not pass the scrutiny of peer review.
FOCUSING ON YOUR CORE OFFERINGS. Rockwell Automation will be selling some parts of its Dodge Power Transmission and Reliance Electric divisions. The news article I linked to relies heavily on the corporation's press release, which isn't much more instructive. It's not clear what bits of the product line are to be hived off. But the release does suggest that somebody at Rockwell grasps opportunity cost and economic profits.
This transaction stems from Rockwell Automation’s ongoing efforts to enhance shareowner value. The company does not expect this transaction to change its priorities for cash deployment, but will create an even greater focus on power and integrated control and information solutions to meet customers’ business needs.
I think that means "we are not going to be all things to all manufacturers, because we can make more money doing some things well." A cynic might interpret that "change its priorities for cash deployment" as "We're selling lines of business we had no plans to expand."

I'm not sure what to make of the disclaimer at the end of the press release.
This news release contains statements (including certain projections and business trends) accompanied by such phrases as “believe”, “estimate”, “expect”, “anticipate”, “will”, “intend” and other similar expressions, that are “forward-looking statements” as defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Actual results may differ materially from those projected as a result of certain risks and uncertainties, many of which are beyond our control, including but not limited to ...
The hoops we have to jump through because some people conflate a projection with a promise.
EXPANDING YOUR CORE OFFERINGS. Lakeshore Laments reports somebody's favorite seasonal wheat cooler beer will be available all year.
Guess this means the annual pallet buying of some drinkers of Berry Weis at the end of September will come to an end.
Indeed.

19.6.06

OPPORTUNITY COSTS. Poliblogger has some thoughts on whether weblogging gets in the way of other activities. This time, the issue appears to be time allocation among leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention. The general issue is simple enough.
The key assumption is clearly that whatever the main output for the given profession is (whether it be academic writing or winning converts) would be increased if people didn’t waste all their time blogging. Of course, this assumption can be made about blogging because it is a public undertaking (with timestamps and everything), as oppossed to many other actions that people might be engaging in, but that we aren’t made privy to on the internet. One cannot critique what one does not know about, and as such, blogging makes itself an instant object of critique because it is done in public.
Yes. One could substitute cooking or developing one's wine cellar or working on one's family tree or model railroading or building Legos as the activities that get in the way of work.
CONNECT THE DOTS. The dean at Anonymous Community takes a question from a colleague at some other Anonymous Community who is apparently fed up with the retention follies. The meat of the question:
For example, in California, over half the community college students never graduate with two year degrees nor do most transfer to four year institutions. Classes, on my campus, are crammed with hardcore, bully-students and severe remedials who are operating with about fifth grade skill levels. Yet, all these "diverse" students demand college degrees, except they don't actually want to attend class nor do they want to study or for that matter learn. When a student erupts in class, as they often do, raging at a professor, if the prof goes to a Dean, the student is supported.
(Tell us what you really think.) The dean's response:
If a college is mired in ‘survival’ mode, it will easily fall prey to short-term thinking: whatever you do, don’t lose a tuition-paying student! Anybody who has ever taught knows that this is self-defeating, since you’ll eventually hit a point at which the courses are so watered-down that the better students start to bail, out of disgust or boredom. It takes relatively far-sighted leadership to be able to instruct your middle managers (i.e. deans and department chairs) that the customer isn’t always right.
Or to recognize that the real customer might be the four-year college, or the heating contractor, or the body shop. That's the missing piece of a recent Inside Higher Ed post that opens with
Degrees from elite private colleges are increasingly limited to those who enroll as freshmen, even though increasing numbers of undergraduates nationally start their higher educations at community colleges, according to a summary of a report being released today by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.
(The foundation's recent releases.)

The column proposes that there might be gains from trade between the 100 claimants to the top 40 and the community colleges.
The idea behind the new report is to focus more attention on the transfer issue, in preparation for a conference the foundation is holding later this month on how community colleges can help increase the socioeconomic diversity of elite institutions. “Our best colleges and universities ought to open their doors wider to top community college graduates,” said Joshua Wyner, vice president of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.
Why? We're not talking about the New Haven Railroad and the Boston and Maine Railroad deciding that running a train from New York to the White Mountains makes more sense than requiring all the passengers to get off one train at Springfield, wait for another train, and board it. Presumably the "best colleges and universities" are able to dip into their endowments to subsidize enrollments by individuals who will diversify the student body. That appears to be administratively less cumbersome than attempting to evaluate a transcript from Retention-Obsessed-Grade-Inflating Community. Mr Wyner qualifies his statement with "top" but an overburdened admissions office at the four-year has some responsibility to its own students, job fair participants, and faculty to get that right.
IT'S A QUAGMIRE. Send in more troops.
Acting at the mayor's request, Gov. Kathleen Blanco said Monday she would send National Guard troops and state police to patrol the streets of New Orleans after a bloody weekend in which six people were killed.
The stakes do not appear to be control of an oil-rich country, or a major religion.

It was the first time the National Guard has been used for law enforcement in the United States since the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

[New Orleans mayor Ray] Nagin had sought the troops after five teenagers in an SUV were shot and killed in the city's deadliest attack in at least 11 years. Police said the attack was apparently motivated by drugs or revenge. Also, a man was stabbed to death Sunday night in an argument over beer.

Is it really constructive to send in more troops?

The killings over the weekend brought this year's murder toll to 53, raising fears that violence was back on the rise in a city that was plagued by violent crime before Katrina drove out much of the population last year.

Crime has been creeping back into the city: 17 killings in the first three months of 2006, and 36 since the start of April.

With other demands on the Guard, is additional commitment to New Orleans necessary?
Texas' governor sent National Guard troops to Houston Monday as torrential rainfall flooded homes and highways in southeastern Texas and parts of Louisiana, where more than 100 patients had to be evacuated from a nursing home.

OVERHEARD IN THE HALL. Student, chatting on cellphone with another student: "A senior philosophy major told me anthropology is better than sociology. It's more objective."
ADMINISTRATIVE BLOAT. King at SCSU Scholars comments on a power struggle in North Dakota.
A state university system chancellor asks his board for a vote saying he's in charge of the univerity presidents ... and loses.
What was that line from Star Trek about Chancellor Dunstan?