31.3.08

WE SOLICIT YOUR ATTENTION. A quilting bee is in progress.

Northern Illinois University Libraries is asking local quilters for help in creating a memorial quilt dedicated to the victims of the Feb. 14 campus shooting that left six people, including the gunman, dead and 16 others injured.

The king-size quilt will have 288 red, black and white squares, NIU associate professor Rebecca Martin said. The 11-by-11-inch fabric squares will be distributed to people in the community, who are invited to decorate them before returning them to the library. A group of library staffers will then assemble the decorated squares into a finished quilt, Martin said.

There is a due date.

Any member of the community can pick up a free quilt square from the information desk inside Founders Memorial Library on Normal Road in DeKalb. The squares will be given out on a first-come, first-served basis.

Squares can be picked up from Monday through April 8, and finished squares must be returned in person or by mail no later than April 30.

The finished quilt will become a display in the library.
CONDOLENCES. Voluntary Xchange's David Tufte reports the death of his father.
RULES WRITTEN IN BLOOD. College admission season requires admissions personnel to temper principle with practicality.

In the first admissions season since the shooting rampages at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University, college administrators say keeping students safe is of paramount importance.Yet despite questions about the psychological backgrounds of the two gunmen, officials say federal privacy laws prevent them from seeking more information about applicants with possible mental illnesses.

"There's no question that schools are being pressured to do something," said Doug Lederman, editor of Inside Higher Ed, an online daily journal that covers academia. "But what that should be remains an open question."

The growing national debate is accompanied by little consensus on how schools might spot red flags. While many advocates welcome the dialogue about depression, bipolar disorder and other diseases, others worry that increased scrutiny will lead to more secrecy, not less.

Consensus might not be reachable. Perhaps the laws err on the side of laxity toward individuals who are dangerous to themselves or to others. But a revised policy provides incentives for applicants to conceal their troubles, in hopes of passing as ordinary.

On the other hand, perhaps the academy will lose its fascination with transgressiveness.

Dr. Victor Schwartz, a psychiatrist and dean of students at New York's Yeshiva University, has heard that officials might rethink how they evaluate some essays.

"Ten years ago, an applicant writing at length about her struggles with an eating disorder . . . might be considered interesting or edgy," he said. "In the post-VT era, it might be more likely for an admissions committee to approach this applicant more hesitantly.

"When colleges are given access to confidential information, "it is often being weighed differently," said Schwartz, co-chairman of an American Psychiatric Association task force on the issue.

And thus, the revelation problem again. But "eating disorders?" Something there is about sorority pledge classes???

Moreover, we have to keep our therapies straight. An "eating disorder" is not a "learning disability" is not "certifiable."

After the shootings at Virginia Tech, a government report noted Cho's special-education plan did not follow him as he moved from high school to college.

Typically, students with a prior treatment history don't tip their hand, not when some highly selective schools admit less than 10 percent of applicants. Once accepted, though, the student often reveals the disorder and, with proper documentation, is eligible for accommodations ranging from textbooks on tape (for a reading disability) to a single room (for an anxiety disorder).

Some officials, insisting the system has too many holes, have been pushing for more candor.

These are different policies with different incentives. Because the College Board does not disclose who among the test-takers have made a case for extended time, the dominant strategy for applicants who don't mind shopping for a learning disability diagnosis is to get the extended time, then submit the application without the disclosure, then use the disclosure to obtain additional "accommodation" on tests and assignments. That's an abuse of higher education, but it ought be viewed differently from the abuse that follows from treating differences as "socially constructed" and susceptible to deconstruction or reconstruction or no construction. That's how people get killed.

But again, there's that disclosure problem.

If it were legal to "out" students, they would be less apt to get mental help in earlier grade levels, said Dr. Paul Appelbaum, an expert on psychiatry, law and ethics at Columbia University, which is holding its first conference on campus violence this week.

"Many students who have psychiatric histories thrive and excel in college, while others who experience problems have no such history," he noted.

A smarter strategy: Provide adequate mental health services and insurance coverage for students and implement outreach programs that encourage them to use the services, he said.

Dr. Peter A. DeMaria Jr., a psychiatrist at Temple University, is also anti-sleuthing. But he endorses vigilance once the student is enrolled.

Since the Virginia Tech shootings, Temple has created a "care team" that brings together staff members from different disciplines—security, counseling, academia—for weekly meetings, to ensure a freer flow of information. So the same student who has threatened his roommate and a professor may point to a larger problem.

Is it working? Said DeMaria, "We're very, very busy."

Even with support, though, people relapse. One North Shore mom whose child with bipolar disorder had a "meltdown" freshman year wonders if it would be more prudent to take a cautious approach.

"Perhaps kids on psych meds should not be permitted to 'go away' to college, but should stay closer to home, taking a few classes at a community college and gradual steps into independence. This is what we were advised, but we ignored it," said the mother, who adds that parental denial is a key factor.

"We all want to believe the kids are going to be OK," she said.

Hmmm. It takes a village, but the village has to have standards. Or perhaps other informal methods.

In a practice adopted at one college after another since the massacre at Virginia Tech, a University of Kentucky committee of deans, administrators, campus police and mental health officials has begun meeting regularly to discuss a watch list of troubled students and decide whether they need professional help or should be sent packing.

These “threat assessment groups” are aimed at heading off the kind of bloodshed seen at Virginia Tech a year ago and at Northern Illinois University last month.

“You've got to be way ahead of the game, so to speak, expect what may be coming. If you're able to identify behaviors early on and get these people assistance, it avoids disruptions in the classrooms and potential violence,” said Maj. Joe Monroe, interim police chief at Kentucky.

The Kentucky panel, called Students of Concern, held its first meeting last week and will convene at least twice a month to talk about students whose strange or disturbing behavior has come to their attention.

Such committees represent a change in thinking among U.S. college officials, who for a long time were reluctant to share information about students' mental health for fear of violating privacy laws.

“If a student is a danger to himself or others, all the privacy concerns go out the window,” said Patricia Terrell, vice president of student affairs, who created the panel.

Note: the problem cannot be worked without rethinking the privacy laws, and perhaps the concepts of access and accommodation. There is also the potential for abuse under the more formal procedures being implemented.

Students are encouraged during their freshman orientation to report suspicious behavior to the dean of students, and university employees all the way down to janitors and cafeteria workers are instructed to tell their supervisors if they see anything.

“If you look back at the Virginia Tech situation, the aftermath, there were several people who knew that student had problems, but because of privacy and different issues, they didn't talk to others about it,” said Lee Todd, [Kentucky] president.

High schools have been doing this sort of thing for years because of shootings, but only since Virginia Tech, when a disturbed student gunman killed 32 people and committed suicide, have colleges begun to follow suit, said Mike Dorn, executive director of Safe Havens International, a leading campus safety firm.Virginia Tech has added a threat assessment team since the massacre there. Boston University, the University of Utah, the University of Illinois-Chicago and numerous others also have such groups, said Gwendolyn Dungy, executive director of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators.

Bryan Cloyd, a Virginia Tech accounting professor whose daughter Austin was killed in the rampage, welcomed the stepped-up efforts to monitor troubled students but stressed he doesn't want to turn every college campus into a “police state.”

“We can't afford to overreact,” Cloyd said, but “we also can't afford to underreact.”

Tradeoffs everywhere. Mr Cloyd's closing remark is significant, given the propensity of many a college campus already to approximate a "police state" where political nonconformity is concerned.
SAMUEL INSULL MIGHT APPROVE. Skokie Swift is back on weekends.

The weekend service will undergo a six-month "experimental evaluation," which will help determine if the service will be made permanent, said Wanda Taylor, a CTA spokeswoman.

The agency expects between 900 and 1,000 boardings a day on both Saturdays and Sundays, Taylor said. The weekend service is being funded by a federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program grant, Taylor said.

Sunday's resumption came with no fanfare. That afternoon, some of the cars ran empty, and some had up to eight people. CTA officials said the Yellow Line provides about 1,800 rides on an average weekday.

No sign at the Howard station announced the new service. But in Skokie, the mood was different. Outside the Dempster station was a large sign announcing the resumed service, and nearby business owners such as Cohen and other locals expressed excitement.

We await resumption of service to Old Orchard and Edison Court.
L-ITE EIGHT.The Chicago Tribune brings you the Rapid Transit bracket. There might be complaints about the entire right bracket being seeded from the Northwestern.



30.3.08

FAILURE IS THE OBJECTIVE. So much for Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Caroline Flint, the housing minister, will unveil the measure when she publishes planning guidelines later this week for up to 15 "eco-towns" across the UK, which will house 100,000 people.The Government wants the towns designed and built to encourage people to stay out of their cars.

It will introduce the low speed limit as a means of getting people to use public transport, walk more or use bicycles, with the aim of cutting pollution and increasing the quality of life for local residents.

Via The Transportationist, who links the article without comment.

I will show no such restraint. Where to begin?
Under the plans, the central areas of the new towns would be pedestrianised, with the 15mph limit introduced on "key roads" into the centre. All homes would be built within 400 yards of public transport stop and 800 yards from shops.
It's easy enough to limit vehicle speeds WITHOUT drawing up any expensive plans. All one need do is underestimate the growth potential of a city or town and then not build any new roads. Chicago's suburbs have been managing that for years. For that matter, there are townhouse and apartment clusters within half a mile (that's 880 yards) of many of DeKalb and Sycamore's new strip shopping developments. (My house also qualifies.) Do the planners really expect people to take half-mile bus trips to do the marketing? Or to do their marketing by frequent trips and small purchases that can be schlepped by foot or in a backpack on a bicycle? Perhaps there will be no parking spaces near the shops in order to further encourage such behavior. That is, if the communities don't become self-selected smuggeries with stagnant property values, as people exercise their option to live elsewhere.
WHERE THE RESPONSIBILITY LIES. Two Rate Your Students posts make the case that academic mediocrity requires enablers. Sometimes it's retention run amok.
My institution use to have a policy that if a student missed more than six hours of class time they could be withdrawn by the instructor. Then some a****** in middle management decided that was unfair to students who only enrolled to keep their full time status and collect grants and loans. The result on attendance is just what you would imagine.
The effect on the poster's morale is evident.

Sometimes it's a convex combination of assessment and faith in a business model.
At my university, instruction is assessed along three metrics: student evaluation numbers, number of drops, and class grade point average. This is a brilliant bit of administrative jujitsu that allows chairs, deans, vindictive senior faculty etc. to punish nearly any non-tenured faculty member they want. People with high student evaluation numbers almost always either get rid of the deadwood early on (leading to high drops), or grade easily (leading to high class GPA). On the other hand people with low drops and/or low class GPAs get worse evaluations.
Not assessed: the job placement and career paths of the graduates. There are market tests.
GEGEN DIESEN IDIOTEN MUSS ICH VERLIEREN? Thus Aaron Nimzovitch's unusual resignation of a chess game, and thus some Wisconsin Sports Bar post-mortems on Davidson excusing Wisconsin from the basketball tournament. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel columnist Michael Hunt provides the unsparing annotations.

But as [Wisconsin coach Bo] Ryan so rightly noted, the Badgers could've won with [Stephen] Curry going off like that. But they had no chance when Davidson's supporting cast, forwards Thomas Sander and Andrew Lovedale, made all of their shots. Or when the Wildcats reduced UW's rock-steady swing offense to rubble by keeping the ball out of the guards' hands and denying the big men their customary shots up top.

Where the Badgers almost never got hurt in transition throughout 31 victories, the Wildcats beat them down the floor. Where Wisconsin denied shooters the ball and open looks beyond the arc, Davidson made half its 24 three-pointers. Where UW prided itself on being the better-prepared team, Davidson knocked the Badgers so far off their game that they bore scant resemblance to the outfit that had not lost since Feb. 9.

That left, as God intended and Bob Johnson used to provide, the men's hockey team as the last of the major winter sports teams playing, with an at-large bid and home ice (something that happened with some of the lower seeds in the women's basketball tournament as well). The combination was good enough for a win over Denver to make the round of eight, but North Dakota somehow overcame a two-goal disadvantage to prevail in overtime. North Dakota next face Boston College, who ousted overall top seed Miami of Ohio. Miami of Ohio???

Looks like Blogs for Industry got so excited about Texas A&M ousting the Duke women from the basketball tournament that he left a link tag open.

26.3.08

ENOUGH. Now it's Western Illinois University coping with a threat alert.

According to the Office of Public Safety Director Bob Fitzgerald, an employee of an apartment complex near campus reported receiving a handwritten note in the complex's payment drop-box that indicated there would be a shooting on the WIU campus today.

Residence halls are locked and accessible only by residents with keys. Students who wish to remain in their residence halls and apartments will not be penalized for missing classes today (March 26). Faculty and staff who wish to be absent should contact their supervisors.

"While this is an anonymous off-campus threat, it is imperative that we take all necessary precautions to ensure the safety of our students, staff and faculty," noted WIU President Al Goldfarb.

We had one of these lockdowns, leading to postponement of some final examinations, last December.
FACILITATING INDIVIDUAL ESCAPE? The local news includes favorable public reactions to the City University of Rockford, with the mayor being more specific about this involving the existing higher education infrastructure rather than starting something new from scratch. The venture, however, has potential unintended consequences.
If the community seems to be in decline, should part of the mission of the cc be to facilitate individual escape? Given Florida's correct insight that age-based losses are hard to recoup, doing right by individual students could have the unintended side effect of hastening the decline of the service area. That's a tough sell to local taxpayers. “Help us drain this festering craphole of young talent!” It doesn't look good on a billboard.
A Richard Florida post suggests the effort has merit on equity grounds.
The ambitious and the resourceful may be able to navigate this spiky terrain, but many, many more will become stuck. This will lead not just to rising economic and geographic inequality but rampant political polarization, a greater cultural divide, increasing fear and anxiety, declining social cohesion and greater political and social instability.
Ambition and resourcefulness are attitudes that people can pick up. Does it really serve the declining region to not help develop them?

24.3.08

TIME FOR RECRIMINATIONS? After the memorials, the investigations.

Acknowledging the Feb. 14 shootings raise issues beyond the scope of the current police investigation, Northern Illinois University officials this week will consider creating a task force to review how the campus responded that day.

Cherilyn Murer, chair of the NIU Board of Trustees, told the Tribune she plans to ask President John Peters to appoint a special panel when the board meets Thursday. Officials also must debate whether gunman Steven Kazmierczak's mental health record should be more thoroughly reviewed to see if it contained warning signs, she said.

There are opportunities for both the university and the public to reconsider their policies.

"This is an issue that is a national issue, and I think we should look beyond the four walls of our university," Murer said.
In any such conversation, there will be tradeoffs.

Analyzing the campus' much-lauded response to the emergency will be an easier task than pinning down how institutions responded to the mental health issues Kazmierczak had struggled with since high school.

Authorities have confirmed the shooter had stopped taking mood-stabilizing drugs in the weeks leading up to the killings, but they have not publicly addressed a troubling psychiatric history that included an abrupt Army discharge, a proclivity for self-injury and a year in a group home.

"I think that's a long discussion," Murer said. "You've got issues of privacy and human rights, and you've got issues of the greater public safety."

That only scratches the surface. There is much more for this task force, and other policymakers, and the public, to consider.

Murer, however, suggested the investigation's scope should be widened after the Tribune questioned whether the current inquiry was broad enough to address public concerns about violence and mental illness on college campuses.

Her comments come as law-enforcement officials acknowledge there is no timetable for the investigation's completion. Once Kazmierczak killed himself, the pressure and expediency that comes with arresting and prosecuting the killer evaporated.

Perhaps that conclusion follows if one limits the investigation to clearing the crime. There is, however, still reason to consider what the evidence says about the academic culture, at Northern Illinois specifically, and within higher education generally.

Authorities have been mum on Kazmierczak's mental state or any unheeded warning signs. The Tribune has spoken with dozens of the gunman's relatives, childhood friends, professors, neighbors, fellow students and associates since the shootings. Those willing to talk have helped paint a complex portrait of the graduate student, but many acknowledged they were withholding specific information at the request of either Kazmierczak's family or school officials.

Family members were sympathetic to the public's hunger for answers, but said they did not want to upset Kazmierczak's father, Robert, or his sister, Susan. Indeed, his godfather said the family refused to give him details about any funeral plans after he spoke to the media.

Officials at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where Kazmierczak had been working toward a master's degree in social work, have refused to discuss his academic performance or behavior on campus. Professors and students who knew Kazmierczak say high-ranking faculty members have warned them against speaking to the media.

Campus officials have no plans to conduct an internal review to determine if any warning signs were missed, a U. of I. spokeswoman said.

Still, information about Kazmierczak's struggle with mental illness has trickled out. Friends say he took Lithium, a drug often used to treat bipolar disorder, in high school. After graduation, he lived for roughly a year in a Thresholds psychiatric group home in Chicago, where his therapists worked to help him find steady employment and get him to take his medication, house manager Louise Gbadamashi said.

While in the group home, Kazmierczak became a "cutter," a term used to describe people who intentionally hurts themselves, Gbadamashi said.He never showed a propensity for violence during his time at Thresholds, Gbadamashi said. Rather, when he became upset, he would avoid eye contact, buy video games and threaten to return home.

Circle the wagons! We can't have people asking questions about whether the university's vaunted inclusiveness makes campuses more dangerous. We also can't have anybody raising questions about privacy and disability-rights rules, as Virginia Tech's investigation discovers.

The Virginia Tech report questioned whether privacy laws prevented the university from giving Cho proper psychological assistance, a move the report suggests could have thwarted the 2007 killing spree. Gbadamashi wonders the same thing about Kazmierczak's deadly rampage.
The day before our shooting, I took issue with a Virginia Tech diversity statement that paid more attention to affirming "socially constructed" notions of difference, rather than recommending a "tougher policy toward loonies", to quote my post. At the time, I suggested a different stance, including a second look at both our privacy and disability-rights laws as matters of public policy, and at a nonjudgemental stance in the academy that borders on making a virtue out of extreme difference, might be more effective. There is nothing in the investigation of our own shooting that persuades me to think differently today.
THE CIVIL WAR TO COME. That's my sometimes gloomy prediction about where arguments over water will lead. In the State Line, access to Lake Michigan water follows county boundaries, which leads to some unusual situations.

The compact would allow for Great Lakes water to be pumped into counties that straddle the Great Lakes basin dividing line, provided treated wastewater is returned to the lakes' watershed. Waukesha County communities would be eligible for such diversions under the compact.

The potential problem for Mukwonago, about 30 miles west of Milwaukee, is that a wedge of it lies in Walworth County, which is entirely outside the basin. A sliver of that wedge apparently includes part of [retired schoolteacher Tom] Gustafson's new four-bedroom, 2 1/2 -bathroom home.

Gustafson only recently learned he is living atop what could become one of the 21st century's most contentious borders - the line that could someday separate those who have access to Great Lakes water from everybody else. But Gustafson isn't sweating it.

Most contentious -- are others as pessimistic as I? Elsewhere, communities that straddle the crestline face a similar problem.

Mike Rissky knows all about the problem of living on the wrong side of the Great Lakes line.

The retired federal employee moved to New Berlin from Chicago 20 years ago, and one of the first things he noticed about his adopted home was the foul, salty taste of the water. He has always shunned his own faucets at home in favor of gallons of drinking water purchased at the grocery store.

Rissky's problem is he lives on the wrong side of New Berlin. The city straddles the Great Lakes basin dividing line, which is the existing boundary for most communities to legally access Great Lakes water. The east side of New Berlin is inside the line, and under current law, homes on that side of the line are allowed to take their drinking water from Lake Michigan.

Rissky and everyone west of the line who is hooked to the city public water system are left to suck from what is left of a shrinking and increasingly contaminated aquifer. To meet federal drinking water requirements, the city limps along in winter on the handful of wells left that don't exceed radium standards. During peak water use in summer months, contaminated wells are put back on line, pushing the city beyond Environmental Protection Agency limits for radium.

It's a problem everyone agrees must be fixed. New Berlin is pondering a $4 million filtration system to clean the contaminated well water. City officials say that will provide a fix for the next 20 years.

But New Berlin Mayor Jack Chiovatero said the problem could be solved more cheaply - and permanently - if the city's whole public water supply could be linked to Lake Michigan, something he says could be accomplished with a small number of new valves and pumps.

The technical fix to provide safe water to all residents on the city water system might be simple; the political issues are a different matter.

The new Great Lakes compact is still not settled in the United States. Somewhere in this development comes a treaty with Canada. In both countries there are representatives of states or provinces that do not adjoin the Lakes, who might have ideas of their own. The states that do adjoin the Lakes do not agree.

The compact would solve New Berlin's problem.

Because it allows diversions for cities split by the basin line, provided the treated waste water is returned, New Berlin would be a slam-dunk for approval under the new rules - its sewer system is already linked to Lake Michigan via the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District. That's why Chiovatero supports the compact.

The nearby city of Waukesha is facing similar radium problems and also hopes to one day get Lake Michigan water, though unlike New Berlin, it would have to build a new sewer system to return the water to the lake. Still, Waukesha Mayor Larry Nelson has also endorsed the compact because he sees it as the surest way for his city to tap Lake Michigan.

Despite the mayors' support, not everyone sees the compact as a good deal for Wisconsin.

The eight governors spent the better part of five years drawing up the compact in a process that included more than 60 public meetings and generated more than 13,000 public comments, and it is now up to the Great Lakes states' legislatures and Congress to decide whether to ratify the deal.

It has breezed through the legislatures in Minnesota, Indiana, New York and Illinois, with more than 90% of lawmakers in those states voting in favor. The Wisconsin Senate approved it, 26-6, on a bipartisan vote this month, despite [New Berlin's state senator Mary] Lazich's protests.

The article goes on to note potential disagreements with Michigan, a state where almost all runoff returns to the Lakes, and with Illinois, with the Chicago diversion grandfathered in (and currently providing fresh water to Plainfield.)

The war fears also arise in an article describing hard times in Dixie.

People hoping to protect the Great Lakes from becoming a Paul Bunyan-sized water cooler for an increasingly thirsty world like to invoke frightening language.

They say we'd better act fast to build a legal dike around the world's biggest freshwater system, because wars in the coming decades won't be fought over oil. They will be fought over water.

It can sound silly, especially in a shore-side city like Milwaukee, where the sun always rises on a horizon of boundless freshwater.

But there is nothing silly about what's unfolding less than 500 miles south of Lake Michigan. The Southeast is in the midst of a drought so severe some have been putting bowls under their air conditioners to capture the condensation dribble, and cities as big as Atlanta have stared down the prospect of literally running out of drinking water.

There are serious proposals to revise Georgia's borders, which do not square with an antebellum survey. What appears to be missing from discussions of southeastern water policy is any mention of pricing.

There is a history of water wars closer to home.

On the surface, the lake-freckled landscape in the Milwaukee suburbs of Waukesha County is as green as any you will find in the Midwest.

Settlers didn't even need to dig wells. The place bubbled with natural springs whose water quality was so famous that residents in the 1890s had to pull out a cannon to turn back laborers from Chicago who arrived with equipment and a devious scheme to pipe the water to the World's Fair in Chicago.

Although the famous Waukesha springs are tapped out, outlanders continue to covet water.

Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin told media last fall it would probably be a good idea for the city to start looking at laying pipelines beyond its basin borders to tap distant water sources.

New Mexico Governor and then-presidential hopeful Bill Richardson said last fall it was time for the water haves to start sharing with the have-nots.

"I believe that Western states and Eastern states have not been talking to each other when it comes to proper use of our water resources . . . states like Wisconsin are awash in water," Richardson told the Las Vegas Sun in October.

Reaction in the Great Lakes, where water levels have been flirting with historic lows, was swift and shrill, and Richardson quickly backpedaled on the statement.

The pressure on the Great Lakes is only going to increase as the Southeast and Southwest continue to swell.

Note, though: no discussion in any of these articles about pricing.
QUOTE OF THE DAY. Professor Munger, on organizing to limit positional arms races.
But, if lazy folks could form a lobby, and lobby for the benefits inherent in BLOCKING smart, energetic people from being able to work hard to give good signals, how much would that be worth? A lot! So, even lazy people might work on that. Or pay somebody to work on it for them.

The problem is that EVERYTHING [Cornell's Robert] Frank points out as a cost is FAR less costly than the rent-seeking orgy he wants to start instead. Giving out the bennies he thinks are "good public policy" would cause a riot of rent-seekers. "Make smart people talk slower." "Yeah, and they don't get to wash their hair. I don't wash my hair, so people who DO wash their hair have an unfair advantage. Legislate that away!

"Rent-seeking is what people do to obtain favorable regulation. The competition for the kind of benefits Frank wants to give out would DWARF, in terms of costs, the tiny effects he claims to be worried about.
More here.
BUSTED THAT MOVE. Me, last week, on Delaware faculty time-slipping Housing for daring to offer curriculum.

The Perpetually Aggrieved among the faculty would no doubt be happy to continue the same ideological themes, albeit for credit.
The editors of the Delaware News-Journal, over the weekend.

The Faculty Senate carved out a bigger role for itself if the ill-crafted program is revived. But the faculty's weasel-worded recommendations didn't repudiate the program that ruined many students' freshman experience.

As one student who was forced to participate in the program put it: "It's basically going to be the same crap, different people."

Via The Torch, where Greg Lukianoff sees the cartel incentive at work.
The prospects for the future of the program remain ominous. Are the faculty really thinking of just replacing RAs with more experienced indoctrinators?
Naturlich. The public interest would be served by an expansion of service from the established providers.

23.3.08

DO AS WRITTEN.

Elevation and dimensions on paper, fittings in brass.

Next: a bit more fettling of the crossheads, installation of the ledges in the crosshead guides, fabricate some hangers for the front, non-articulated crosshead. The extra crosshead is to divide the weight of the main rod. There is also a divided eccentric to reduce the weight of any one component.
CART, HORSE. Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey proposes a City University for Rockford.
Morrissey pointed out only 13 percent of Rockford Residents have a college degree, putting the city at a competitive disadvantage. The Mayor has had numerous discussions about the location for the university, as well as how it would be funded. But Adam Smith, the city's education director, says it could happen. Smith adds, " We are committed to making this happen....we can't sit and wait for the State to come in and offer a State University."
I fear that the mayor is misreading his Richard Florida. Sure, there are vibrant and prosperous urban areas, and those often have a lot of university graduates, or perhaps a university just down the street from the Bloomingdale's, but the objective conditions are not likely to be satisfied simply because somebody has set up a university. Rockford might simply find itself in the position of exporting human capital, something that Wisconsin is attempting to stem, and that has been the reality elsewhere in the Rust Belt for some time. (For instance, after our shootings, one master's degree holder and two presidential merit scholars who had attended Wayne State inquired about things at Northern Illinois. None of them inquired from Michigan.)

The state has already committed some resources to Rockford, including Rock Valley College, a Northern Illinois University outreach center, and the University of Illinois medical school. A different article suggests the mayor would really prefer to work with the cartel, rather than against it.

He wants the city to partner with already-established colleges in town to offer a chance for the 87 percent of Rockford residents who don’t have a college degree to get one. Together, he said, local schools can increase the ease and accessibility of college without hampering any one school’s institution.

“A lot of people are intrigued,” he said. “They want to see what direction we’re going to go with it.”

That's a separate issue. Perhaps the mayor would like to have more Rockfordians equipped to finish college, that is, to not be among the inefficiently many people in institutions pretending to offer higher education. That, however, is a call for stronger common schools, or perhaps stronger commitment to the Habits of Effective People among Rockfordians.
OPEN THE BACK DOOR. In college hockey, Wisconsin's men's team secures an at-large bid with home ice in the first round, despite a losing regular season record. Duluth's women's team denied Wisconsin a third straight title.
INDUSTRIAL ARCHAEOLOGY. With the coming of spring, here are suggestions for road trips to vintage, resurrected, and reused breweries. Nearly every Wisconsin town with any ambitions once had one. There's an intriguing State Line tour: Janesville - Monroe - New Glarus - Potosi.
ACCUMULATION OF SMALL ADVANTAGES. Once upon a time, chess was an exciting game. The preferred style of play involved gambits and counter-gambits, and good chess etiquette made it a faux pas to refuse the offer of a pawn. Thus would the attacking player place additional material en prise in order to open attacking lines, while the defender would attempt to husband the material for a winning ending. First, though, came the middle game.

Then came Steinitz, and after him Nimzovitch and Portisch, who demonstrated that the way to refute a gambit was to accept it, then to return the material in such a way as to achieve equality, by forcing the gambiteer to accept an inferior position otherwise. The commentariat began to refer to chess as "boring" as the lines with fireworks and Queen sacrifices and alley-oops proved to be unsound.

So let it be with basketball, where Wisconsin have been conducting a clinic in breaking opponents through the accumulation of small advantages.
You could see it in the [Kansas State] Wildcats' frustrated body language not long after the Badgers began to exert their dominance, and you could sense it in [highlight film aspirant Michael] Beasley's exasperation as he made just two field goals in the second half. Per the Ryan way, the Badgers played Beasley straight up, mostly with Marcus Landry. And in keeping with the UW custom, they took it right at Kansas State inside; you knew it was their day when Greg Stiemsma, sometimes going over the top of Beasley, scored a career-high 14 points in 14 minutes off the bench.
Via Wisconsin Sports Bar, a Kansas City Star columnist who concedes the same thing.
Saturday, though, [Kansas State] were not exactly ordinary. No, they were just beaten by a better basketball team, a college basketball team that contests every shot, and controls the tempo and finds the open man. That’s a team that knows exactly what to do and then does it. NBA scouts may not agree. But that’s talent.
Here's the columnist reacting to Kansas State coach Frank Martin.
“That’s not the team you want to play on a night you don’t make jump shots,” Martin said. But the thing is, nobody makes jump shots against Wisconsin. That’s the whole point. The Badgers gave up 53.8 points per game this year. They have not given up even 73 points in a game since early December. This is like the old Tim McCarver line about how Bob Gibson was the luckiest pitcher ever because every time he pitched, the other team didn’t score any runs.
Position, overprotection, all that is missing is a poisoned pawn. Note the slow diffusion of the idea through the tournament. Michigan State, where Tom Izzo has already won a national title after getting past Dick Bennett, the father's, Badgers in a semifinal game the commentariat mischaracterized as a "throwback", are still playing, as are Washington State, coached by Tony Bennett, the son; and are Tennessee, with Wisconsin transplant Bruce Pearl demonstrating the praxis of his system. Meanwhile, scratch Marquette, scratch Duke, scratch Georgetown.

21.3.08

OPPORTUNITY COSTS. The Student Association continues its open meetings on the future of Cole Hall.
Among the lesser-voiced opinions Thursday night was to reopen the building without renovations.

“There are other buildings on campus that are in far worse shape and could really use the funds,” said student and campus custodial worker Pete Suffield, who added he understands the sensitivity surrounding the issue. “Those auditoriums are crucial, and leaving them closed for an extended period of time isn't right. We are facing a space crunch.”
The editorial board at the Northern Star issues another challenge to apathetic students.
Please show up.

Or start to shine to the idea of attending class in Blago Hall in a few years.
In related news, some future Huskies changed their birthday plans to help us.
Two local seventh graders gave a big gift to NIU on Thursday in memory of the victims of the Feb. 14 shootings.

Jaylene Thompson and Nick Bourdages, both 12, gave up their birthday gifts this year in favor of making a large donation to NIU. They held a combined birthday party March 13 and had friends donate money instead of gifts.

The pair raised $580 dollars from 35 of their friends to donate to the Feb. 14 Student Scholarship Fund, set up by the university to memorialize the fallen students.

“We wanted to give to charity,” Thompson said. “And when the shooting occurred, NIU seemed like the perfect one.”

Both Thompson and Bourdages are students at St. Mary School in DeKalb. Bourdages’ older brother, Austin, is a freshman at NIU.

President John Peters accepted the donation Thursday, thanking Thompson and Bourdages for their gift and rewarding them with gift bags of NIU apparel.

“My faith is renewed in our young people,” Peters said. “I’m strengthened in my commitment to make sure they get a good education.”

Peters said there have been more than 900 donors to the scholarship fund, totaling more than $200,000.

“This will continue, from what we know from Virginia Tech,” Peters said, referring to the large number of donations received after last year’s shooting at VT. “I can’t think of a better way to memorialize our fallen students.”

Peters was eager to meet the two students, saying there must be an outlet when the people in the community are moved to make such an effort.

“I never miss an opportunity to meet with young people,” Peters said. “I see so much potential in them. They are the future of the country.”
Today was our first open house since the shootings (Good Friday often functions as a school holiday leading into spring break, church-and-state notwithstanding.) The turnout was good, with yet another snowstorm providing a confounding explanation for any fall-off in attendance. The storm made for truth in packaging: this is Northern Illinois. There is one weather-related inconvenience. Cole Hall offers a 100 yard shortcut out of the elements between the central and west campuses. That shortcut has been unavailable.
WORK IS WHAT WE DO BETWEEN MEETINGS. That is Professor Munger's best riposte to the REMFs. In a related post, he suggests that compulsive meeting-organizers pay for the privilege. Now comes a productivity tool to do just that.

Free time on workplace calendars is available for all to see and reserve.

That's why Mike Monteiro came up with meeting tokens - bumblebee-colored poker chips good for 15 minutes of a colleague's attention, inscribed with a warning, “Don't Waste My Time.” Monteiro, the director of San Francisco-based Mule Design Studio, designed the tokens after tiring of disorganized and lengthy office meetings.

“I think this actually could work,” he says, although he hasn't used them in his office. In his utopian vision, workers would receive a pack of tokens each Monday. A 30-minute meeting with two colleagues would cost four tokens; an hour-long call with 12 folks from three department: an unaffordable 48 tokens. Some bags would contain the prized Red Merlin, which ends any meeting on the spot, no questions asked, with its imposing slogan: “We're DONE Here.”

That token is named for Merlin Mann, part of a new generation of productivity gurus who have moved far beyond the File-o-Fax and color-coded folders of the workplace of yore.

Mann has attracted a following among “knowledge workers” with an empowering message: your time and attention are scarce and valuable, so give them away wisely. (How to tell a knowledge worker? Smooth hands and an ability to take lunch whenever, Mann says.)

The article includes a number of suggestions short of holding a Demsetz auction for meeting organizers, some of which reinforce the Mungowitz Block characterization of e-mail, instant communication, and all the other ways to hold a meeting on the spot that leave people saddled with tasks that others think are urgent (for the moment) but which are not important. I've touched on some of these before, such as in this review of Never Check E-Mail in the Morning,
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR. I've recently noticed nostalgia for the 1950s, particularly among self-styled "progressives." Now comes Howard Zinn, who would like to set the Wayback Machine(TM) for the 1930s.

Still, in today’s climate of endless war and uncontrolled greed, drawing upon the heritage of the 1930s would be a huge step forward. Perhaps the momentum of such a project could carry the nation past the limits of FDR’s reforms, especially if there were a popular upsurge that demanded it. A candidate who points to the New Deal as a model for innovative legislation would be drawing on the huge reputation Franklin Roosevelt and his policies enjoy in this country, an admiration matched by no President since Lincoln. Imagine the response a Democratic candidate would get from the electorate if he or she spoke as follows:

“Our nation is in crisis, just as it was when Roosevelt took office. At that time, people desperately needed help, they needed jobs, decent housing, protection in old age. They needed to know that the government was for them and not just for the wealthy classes. This is what the American people need today.

Pedant's note: that admiration for Lincoln is a recent phenomenon. Visit the Lincoln Presidential Library to see what his defenders would characterize as Lincoln Derangement Syndrome, had they had the vocabulary.

On to the substance of Mr Zinn's article. A lack of decent housing, when brand new McMansions are available at foreclosure prices in many neighborhoods? (Puzzlement: why do realtors place a "Foreclosure" notice on their For Sale signs? Is it required by law in some states? I see it as a large invitation to drive a particularly hard bargain.) A lack of protection in old age, when Mr Roosevelt's Social "Security" is soon to run afoul of its actuarial design flaws, abetted by the propensity of Democratic Congresses to use the trust funds to mask the size of the annual deficit? Come off it.
“I will do what the New Deal did, to make up for the failure of the market system. It put millions of people to work through the Works Progress Administration, at all kinds of jobs, from building schools, hospitals, playgrounds, to repairing streets and bridges, to writing symphonies and painting murals and putting on plays. We can do that today for workers displaced by closed factories, for professionals downsized by a failed economy, for families needing two or three incomes to survive, for writers and musicians and other artists who struggle for security.
Note the conjuring tricks. Closed factories? Must public policy repeat the preservation of manufacturing for its own sake what it has done for farming? Two or three incomes to survive? How many times must I remind readers of the Say Aggregation Principle? Or perhaps Mr Zinn doesn't want female labor force participation rates to approach those of males. Writers and musicians and artists? Why ought their hobbies rate subsidies? Is it really a "failure" of the market system that MFAs and Ph.D.s in the evergreen disciplines fail to grasp the signal in their pitiful starting salaries and the paucity of tenure-track jobs? What gives the guitarist a claim on the public purse that a railway preservationist does not enjoy?

“The New Deal’s Civilian Conservation Corps at its peak employed 500,000 young people. They lived in camps, planted millions of trees, reclaimed millions of acres of land, built 97,000 miles of fire roads, protected natural habitats, restocked fish and gave emergency help to people threatened by floods.

“We can do that today, by bringing our soldiers home from war and from the military bases we have in 130 countries. We will recruit young people not to fight but to clean up our lakes and rivers, build homes for people in need, make our cities beautiful, be ready to help with disasters like Katrina. The military is having a hard time recruiting young men and women for war, and with good reason. We will have no such problem enlisting the young to build rather than destroy.

There he goes again with those houses. On that military recruitment, follow this and weigh the evidence. Then take a road trip to one of the national forests and note those Corps projects: monoculture tree farms particularly sucsceptible to pests or disease or fire. But the Brain Trust knows what's best.
“We can learn from the Social Security program and the GI Bill of Rights, which were efficient government programs, doing for older people and for veterans what private enterprise could not do. We can go beyond the New Deal, extending the principle of social security to health security with a totally free government-run health system. We can extend the GI Bill of Rights to a Civilian Bill of Rights, offering free higher education for all.
Lovely. Does that mean a two- or four-year degree for all? There are already inefficiently many people in college, with inefficiently much capacity devoted to access-assessment-remediation-retention, and he wishes to have more.

"We will have trillions of dollars to pay for these programs if we do two things: if we concentrate our taxes on the richest 1 percent of the population, not only their incomes but their accumulated wealth, and if we downsize our gigantic military machine, declaring ourselves a peaceful nation.

“We will not pay attention to those who complain that this is ‘big government.’ We have seen big government used for war and to give benefits to the wealthy. We will use big government for the people.”

If there is any consolation, the true believers appending favorable comments to the post are even sillier than Mr Zinn.
THEIR WORK EXPANDS TO FILL OUR TIME. A few weeks ago, Inside Higher Ed quantified the proliferation of REMFs, which prompted the dean at Anonymous Community to note, not at Anonymous. (And, as a generalization, not in community colleges, where stingy budgets also place cheap and contingent labor in positions where experience and stability are helpful.) The rising tail-to-tooth ratio at the four years, whether they be obscure, mid-major, land-grant, or high-priced private, provoked this Rate Your Students call for observations.
I'm only in my second year of teaching, but it seems to me that there is no end to the terrible ideas, suggestions, and mandates that come down to mere faculty from the administration, the Dean's office, and the department chair. Everything seems designed to make the job harder, to give more and more power to the lowest common denominator, and to suck any of the joy out of being a college proffie. What's the worst "new idea from the President" or "program change for better education" that has ruined your job?
The call elicited multiple responses. I can classify many as self-defeating efforts under the rubric of access-assessment-remediation-retention, and most of what remain as respect-destroying attempts to lessen the proper social distance between student and professor. I wonder, though, whether any of the colleagues who sent these anecdotes in have ever done anything to change the academic environment at their university.

I wish to exclude the post's gripe about writing-across-the-curriculum from either characterization. Life after college is more than likely to be a sequence of reports than a sequence of scan-trons, and life after graduate school is a sequence of term papers (to crib from Dale Jorgenson or Mike Rothschild or perhaps it was Robert Solow.)
A LATTER DAY MINSTREL SHOW? So much for the student in student-athlete.

[Oregon neurobiologist and co-chairman of the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics Nathan] Tublitz concedes that there's only so much that the NCAA can do [to maintain some integrity in intercollegiate sports]. The bigger problem is with a sports-mad American culture that doesn't care how college athletes are admitted, if they graduate, or if they ever make it to the NBA. All most fans care about, he says, is winning championships -- whatever the cost.

"You have to stop the drift away from academics, and our universities are the standard-bearers for maintaining academic standards," Dr. Tublitz said. "Thus it seems appropriate for our universities to be the first in line to say we should reverse this cultural trend and not continue to look the other way when students are accepted primarily for their athletic prowess."

More important, schools aren't doing these kids any favors by admitting them when it's unlikely that they will succeed academically. "We bring in 17-year-old kids, some of them from the inner city," he said. "We wine and dine them. They have female chaperones. We put them up in fancy hotels. They come here and see an incredibly fancy locker room with individual TV screens, air conditioning and videogames. They go in and see the new football stadium and the new $200 million basketball arena. They see a medical training facility that is stunningly beautiful with waterfalls, treadmill pools, and state-of-the-art medical and dental equipment.

"They come here and are treated like royalty. Until they break a leg or get put on the second string and then they get set aside. Many don't earn a degree. They don't have the training or the skills to be independent after they leave the university. They're lost."

Indeed, only about 3% of high-school basketball players will get a Division 1 scholarship. And less than 3% of those who do will have a meaningful NBA career. "What about the 97%?" Dr. Tublitz asks. "We need to give them the tools to succeed beyond athletics, and we're not doing that."

And, of course, many of these kids are African-American. "It's no coincidence that basketball has the lowest APR," Dr. Tublitz said. "One of the major determinants of college success is socioeconomic status. Kids from privileged backgrounds, on average, do better. As educators, we need to make sure that those kids from underprivileged backgrounds are given the skills to achieve their potential. We need to put more resources into that group of students."

In fact, the trend is just the opposite. According to a report last year in the Journal of Sports Management, alumni giving at the nation's 100 biggest athletic departments was up significantly, while academic giving at the same schools remained flat. That's a significant shift. In 1998, athletics gifts accounted for 14.7% of all donations. By 2003, the figure had increased to 26%.

With these increased donations, often comes increased pressure to win. "There's a correlation between Oregon's attempt to have winning teams and the quality of students that they have to attract in order to achieve that goal," Dr. Tublitz said of his own campus. "This is not rocket science. It's not neuroscience. There are many extremely talented athletes for whom academics is not their primary goal at university. The fact that many people are OK with that says a lot about who we are and what we value."

The flip side of the positional arms race in sports, academic integrity excluded, is the positional arms race for prestige degrees, sports standing irrelevant. See University Diaries for more from Professor Tublitz on Oregon's academic slippage. The Berkeleys and the Northwesterns and the Carletons don't have to come for the students; they can win by default. They can come for the faculty, particularly if the faculty have sponsored research to bring.
SORRY, PREPPIES. Hey, Harvard, on paper you may be ranked first. You're only as good as your last game.

Erika Lawler scored once and added an assist to lead the Badgers past Harvard, 4-1, in the semifinals of the 2008 women's hockey Frozen Four.

Jinelle Zaugg scored twice and Jasmine Giles once for the two-time defending champions, who will face Minnesota-Duluth for the second straight year in the title game Saturday.

Meghan Duggan had two assists, and Jessie Vetter stopped 33 shots for the fourth-ranked Badgers (29-8-3).

The loss was the first in 22 games for top-ranked Harvard (32-2-0). It was only the second time this year the Crimson allowed more than two goals. It lost both games.

SIEVE!

Next up for the Badgers will be tournament hostess Minnesota-Duluth, on what promises to be a busy sports Saturday.

ONE! TWO! WE! WANT! MORE!

19.3.08

CONSENSUS IS DIFFICULT TO ACHIEVE. The Lutheran Campus Ministry has raised six crosses, to represent the six dead in our Valentine's Day shootings. Not everybody agrees with the gesture.

A wooden cross from the Lutheran Campus Ministries memorial site was found burned Monday morning.

Sometime between Sunday night and Monday morning, an unmarked cross from the memorial site at Lutheran Campus Ministries, 401 Normal Road, was set on fire. It is believed the suspects attempted to light the cross on fire at the site and then moved it to a spot 100 feet north of Lucinda Avenue and set it on fire there, said Lt. Gary Spangler of the DeKalb Police Department.

The article notes that no person's name has been assigned to any of the crosses, although an Army scarf, honoring veteran Julianna Gehant, is on one of them. There are notes honoring each of the dead, including at least one to Stephen Kazmierczak, who was a prize student in sociology, on the crosses. The crosses are on church property, not university property, and variants of Lutheran theology have the dead, however they got there, with God, or being judged by God. Thus six crosses. Debate the theology if you wish. Write letters to the editor if you wish. I really don't want to deal with a replay, even on a smaller scale, of Sterling Hall, where some people get tired of talking about it and do something about it, a phrase from a communique issued by the bombers.

But when you talk, perhaps you'll not reach agreement. President Peters would like to have a "consensus" on what to do with Cole Hall, preferably by early May. I'm no fan of consensus. A quest for consensus will degenerate into an agreement on something empty, if it doesn't culminate with the most persistent faction cajoling or mau-mauing or bulls****ing everyone else into accepting something just to end the misery.

We don't have the option the New England Puritans have of setting up a Northern Illinois Center and a West Northern Illinois and a Northern Illinois Heights so each faction can have "consensus" with like-minded people.

Although the university has great support from residents of the State Line in recovering our spirits, there is much less support for spending large sums of money to replace a still-serviceable building. The quest for consensus over Cole is impeding other, potentially more urgent permanent improvements. Word has also reached me of an even more dangerous elevator on campus. The north elevator in Zulauf is going to hurt somebody. There is one in Stevenson that has the potential to kill somebody.
IT'S NOT IN YOUR JOB DESCRIPTION. The faculty at the University of Delaware have time-slipped the division of Residential Life for calling a voluntary activity a "Residence Life Education Curriculum."
The Student Life Committee of the Faculty Senate believes that Residence Life should have relied on the faculty in the development of a Curricular Approach to Residence Life.
That is, if the intent of somebody at Delaware was to develop a curriculum.
The Student Life Committee of the Faculty Senate believes that there was not a clear understanding on whether the participation in the Residence Life Curriculum was voluntary or mandatory. Considering the nature of the topics, it would be imperative that students clearly understand that it is voluntary rather than having the impression it was mandatory.
And if it is a curriculum, it is supposed to be the responsibility of the faculty.
The Student Life Committee of the Faculty Senate believes that there was an inappropriate reliance on resident assistants in the implementation of the curriculum. It was not in the best interest of either the residence assistants or the residents that certain activities were not led by qualified professionals.
But only after the faculty curriculum committees, in best regulated industry fashion, eliminate all possibility of wasteful duplication or incompetent provision of service.
Use of “curriculum” and “educational” on a university campus implies academic content that is typically conveyed in classroom or laboratory settings. This content has withstood rigorous review by faculty members and academic departments. The committee feels the term “educational” still conveys a classroom image and not an extracurricular activity that should be enjoyable as well as mind-expanding. To avoid any confusion, when talking about education that is planned to occur in residence halls, it is recommended that the term curriculum be replaced with “residence life program”.
At The Torch, Adam Kissel commends the faculty.

The first and [unquoted by me -- SHK] third points look like the main reasons that the faculty committee continues to have no patience with the Residence Life proposal to run an educational program with any agenda, much less its own highly politicized one.

Well done, UD faculty!

A point he does not quote suggests a more cynical interpretation.
Given the unique opportunities that exist because of the residence hall setting, learning opportunities related to study habits, personal development, citizenship, community, sustainability, and diversity can and should continue to be available in the residence halls. To that end, it is recommended the mission statement and activities of Residence Life continue to address these opportunities; however, the specific learning outcomes, goals and implementation related to these opportunities must be revised. Residence Life should also be proactive in communicating with the students to determine which types of programs should be offered and what issues should be addressed.
The Perpetually Aggrieved among the faculty would no doubt be happy to continue the same ideological themes, albeit for credit.
TEAMWORK WINS GAMES. Chris at The Wisconsin Sports Bar has an insightful description of Wisconsin's basketball team.

In some ways Wisconsin is like a Steroid version of a Mid Major kids who play as a team and play 3 to 4 years, kids who buy into the coaches system and execute it to perfection.

I guess I am going back to my the Whole is greater than the sum of its parts theory.

In chess terms, it's about the accumulation of small advantages. One can see the will of the individualists on other teams (frequently described by the ignorant as more "athletic", which is really a consequence of defensive breakdowns they can exploit in a showboaty way) crumble as the advantages accumulate, most recently in the Big (11) Ten title game where, at about eight minutes to go, it was clear that many of the members of the other team were ready to get back on the bus to whatever prison they'd been paroled from.

In other basketball oddities, consider this ordering: Northern Illinois - Akron - Ohio - Maryland - North Carolina.
COMMODITY BUBBLES. Harvard's Jeff Frankel explains the economics of easy money and commodity price increases.
A monetary expansion temporarily lowers the real interest rate (whether via a fall in the nominal interest rate, a rise in expected inflation, or both – as now). Real commodity prices rise. How far? Until commodities are widely considered “overvalued” — so overvalued that there is an expectation of future depreciation (together with the other costs of carrying inventories: storage costs plus any risk premium) that is sufficient to offset the lower interest rate (and other advantages of holding inventories, namely the “convenience yield”). Only then do firms feel they have high enough inventories despite the low carrying cost. In the long run, the general price level adjusts to the change in the money supply. As a result, the real money supply, real interest rate, and real commodity price eventually return to where they were.
There is money to be made, if one is able to be among the earliest to join the "widely considered" set.
3. 4. 5. Tony Canadeo. Brett Favre. Paul Hornung.
Mark Murphy, president and ceo of the Green Bay Packers, said Wednesday that the Packers plan on retiring Brett Favre's number sometime this coming season.

18.3.08

THEY ARE BEGINNING TO CATCH ON. In the comments to a Bellows post on freight rail expansion (which suffers from an Official Region perspective: let them come to Cajon Pass or to DeKalb or to Downers Grove and see what private capital is accomplishing) a commenter objects to the arbitrary and cartel-inspired speed restrictions.
That FRA rule for 79 mph (unless you install in-cab signaling) is another example of the horrendous regulations still placed on the railroads. Back in the day, the railroads managed to operate their express trains without in-cab signals and without problem - those passenger trains would routinely operate faster than 120 mph on straight sections of track - some of them, such as the Hiawatha between Minneapolis and Chicago, were actually steam trains operating at those speeds. The FRA regulation is not only unnecessary, it’s completely arbitrary.
The ensuing discussion ventures somewhat off the topic of freight railroad improvements to consider the tradeoffs inherent in government mandates of train speed or of crashworthiness (the two work to cross purposes in places.)

For historical accuracy, let us stipulate that Hiawatha speeds in the 100 mph range were routine, with 100-110 possible until the Roadmaster asked the engineers to tone it down a bit, around 1940.
LEARNING TO WIN. The women's basketball team makes the best of adversity.

It’s hard to find bright spots in a season filled with injuries and tragedy.

Despite a 10-18 overall record, it‘s hard to judge what the Huskies did and didn’t do with so many outside factors affecting the entire season.

“There were some obstacles that we had to overcome,” NIU head coach Carol Owens said. “I was proud how our team overcame the obstacles.”

These hurdles affected both the team and the individual athletes during the season.

The Huskies were picked pre-season to finish second in the MAC West this season, but fell very short of that mark. NIU finished fourth with a 6-8 conference record.

That's the bad news. Now for the good news.

One highlight included a three-game winning streak with a road win over eventual MAC Tournament champion Miami.

Also, the Huskies pulled out an emotional win over Western Michigan in its first game back after nearly two weeks off for the Feb. 14 shootings.

“It was a season of growth and a season of maturity,” Owens said. “I was proud of how they handled things, with the injuries and playing ball without key people for a while.”

Next up: finishing the semester and staying in shape in the off-season.
SO SAD. Record-Setting Young Pilot Dies at 26.

Vicki Van Meter, celebrated for piloting a plane across the country at age 11 and from the U.S. to Europe at age 12, has died of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound, the Crawford County coroner said. She was 26.

Van Meter died Saturday and her body was found in her Meadville home on Sunday.

Her brother said she battled depression and opposed medication, but her family thought she had been dealing with her problems.

"She was unhappy, but it was hard for her to open up about that and we all thought that she was coping," Daniel Van Meter said. "This really is a shock, because we didn't see the signs."

So much we have yet to learn about people dealing with their inner demons.

There's food for thought here, too.

Later she earned a degree in criminal justice from Edinboro University in Pennsylvania and spent two years with the Peace Corps in Cahul, Moldova. She recently worked as an investigative agent for an insurance company.

"She led a full and interesting life. ... She had more guts than any of us could ever
imagine," said her mother, Corinne Van Meter, 57.

Corinne Van Meter said her daughter had recently begun applying to graduate schools and wanted to study psychology.

Our condolences to the family.
BRING BACK THE EUROPEAN AND NORTH AMERICAN. New name, same old Guilford.

Lawmakers in Maine are looking at a possible takeover of Pan Am Railroad operations in the state of Maine, according to the Blethen Newspapers of Maine.

“State lawmakers’ latest plan for improving freight rail service in Maine essentially comes down to this: engineering a hostile takeover of the rail lines owned by the state’s largest railroad,” wrote reporter Tom Bell. “A legislative committee believes the state could use an obscure federal statute to force Pan Am Railways to sell the company’s lines in Maine to the state. The action would put the state in the position of choosing another railroad company to operate trains on the lines.”

Shippers who have criticized the railroad, formerly known as Guilford Rail Systems and controlled by Timothy Mellon of the famed banking family, for poor service have been pressing for state intervention because of the rising costs of transportation, increased highway congestion, and the need to compete more effectively with other parts of the nation that have more extensive rail service.

“Legislators allege that the railroad fails to provide timely and consistent service to many of its manufacturing customers, particularly smaller companies,” wrote the Blethen paper. “There is no evidence that the railroad has improved service since the Legislature first began prodding it to do so three years ago,” the newspaper quoted Rep. Stacey Fitts (R-Pittsfield) as saying. His district includes Pan Am customers. “He said the railroad’s poor service is hurting the manufacturers’ ability to compete because they can’t meet their customers deadlines. In some cases manufactures are shipping heavy products by truck, which is not only more expensive but causes additional wear and tear on the state’s road system.

“We are putting them on notice,” the paper quoted him regarding Pan Am Railways. “If you don’t respond and treat us seriously, we will have to take serious action.” Maine manufactures are already operating at a competitive disadvantage because of high energy costs and distance from markets, said Sen. Philip Bartlett, D-Gorham, Co-chair of the Utilities and Energy Committee,” the paper reported. “Unless rail service is improved, some companies could leave the state,” he said.

Perhaps that statute is obscure for a reason. A state that condemns a railroad once can condemn the property again, which is likely to give pause to a bidder looking to pick up the franchise.
THEM THAT HAS GETS. Marquette gets a bye in the Women's NIT in part because eight of the teams that finished ahead of them in their conference went to the cartel's tournament. Wisconsin also received a bye, with Green Bay having to play in the first round. (Powers of two, baby, powers of two.)
"I'm disappointed," [Green Bay coach Matt] Bollant said. "It's hard to tell why we didn't get in, but it seems they give preferences to the bigger conferences when it comes to at-large berths."
Yes, there's a lot of play value in having reprises of the Southeastern and Big East tournaments.

17.3.08

OUCH. Talking smack at Cafe Hayek.
It's astonishing how prevalent is the view that economies are "run" by people pulling levers -- or should be, or could be, run by people pulling levers. This misconception is the economics equivalent of the belief that the earth is flat, or that volcanoes won't erupt if they are fed a sufficient number of virgins.
Appropriately for St. Patrick's Day, there appears to be a drunken brawl in the comments area.
STOP CRYING WITH YOUR MOUTH FULL. Cheryl Miller.

It's just soooo hard to be a young professional in Manhattan and live in a walk-up apartment and only get to go out occasionally to nice restaurants while people in Grand Rapids, MI are living off the fat of the land in huge McMansions and have three SUVs. Even the cereal is more expensive in NYC! Plus, the loans from Harvard Law School are killing me.

People are aware they can move, right? There's this company called U-Haul and you can lug all your sad IKEA furniture in one of their trucks and head out West to start anew. Americans have been doing it for centuries. But wait, your cool job in publishing/journalism is only here on the East Coast? And you really like all those nice restaurants? And then there's the museums, the live music and the great social scene...All good points, I agree. Let me introduce you to the notion of trade-offs.

The comment is a reaction to a post that, let us say, does little to refute the stereotype of a latte liberal.
IT WAS FUN TO WATCH. Learning to win.

Teams with great chemistry can still play poorly while other teams can barely get along and still succeed. In the case of Northern Illinois' women's basketball team, this year fell somewhere in-between.

This year could be considered a yearlong lesson in chemistry for the Huskies. The result? A 10-18 season that provided plenty of lessons and offered some hope for next season.

The expectations weren't high entering this season. NIU needed to replace nearly its entire scoring load outside of wing, and eventual All-MAC Second Team member Whitney Lowe. The Huskies essentially needed nametags at the start of the year and it showed with an early five-game losing streak.

“I think the interesting thing about the team this year is what we had to replace in some of our girls that left,” said coach Carol Owens. “To lose that kind of scoring power and then see the growth and maturity of these girls.”

Indeed. The team that was on the floor in January and February was very different from that of November and December.

16.3.08

BACK FROM SPRING BREAK. Classes will resume Monday.


O SCALE SPOKEN HERE. The March Meet has come, and with it a few more head-end cars for the railroad. I concentrated on storage mail and postal cars this year. There are still some bargains to be had in remaindered kits, although the latest ready-to-run cars at under $100 a unit are opportunity-cost competitive with the kits, particularly given the level of built-on detail.

At the Fox Valley O Scalers, a view from the railing of a Mississippi River steamer.


Thanks to all the participants at the meet who inquired about things at Northern Illinois. Your interest helps.