29.4.10

WE MIGHT BELIEVE YOU IF YOU USED YOUR INSIDE VOICE. Onetime pollster for President Clinton, now regular on Fox Opinion, Dick Morris has collaborated with Eileen McGann on How Obama, Congress, and the Special Interests are Transforming ... A Slump into a Crash, Freedom into Socialism, and a Disaster into a CATASTROPHE ... And How To Fight Back. Maybe the title will be longer than the resulting Book Review No. 8, or at least longer than my comments on it. It's not a Regnery book, and the mustering of statistics is impressive and the analysis at time reasoned. But I'm going to repeat something I wrote about a previous policy polemic. "The class of polemic that pins its hopes on the right people taking power in Washington tends not to impress me." A longer and more carefully documented polemic that pins its hopes on the same thing ... in this instance specifically praying for Republican victories in upcoming special elections -- yes, I'm behind on my Book Reviews, and the authors specifically had Virginia and New Jersey and some outside hopes for Massachusetts in mind -- is ultimately an unimpressive polemic, particularly if it first notes that the troubled assets and fiscal stimulus programs in place as of early 2009 are forms of corporate welfare, next that some of Congress's most Vocal Tribunes of The People are in fact rent-seeking Privileged Insiders, only to make the case for replacing those insiders with Genuine Tribunes of The People, rather than proposing something more fundamental, such as limiting the scope of the National Government because that would be in The Public Interest. (Such a development would not be in the interest of Earnest Washington Polemicists, because they'd have less by way of rent-seeking or outright corruption to write about.) And, not surprisingly, there is no such philosophical consistency in Catastrophe (I think the rest of that is a split sub-title). There is, for example, a chapter calling for the (subsequently enacted) specification of obligations air carriers have to passengers on delayed planes, who become Tarmac Hostages. Here, the rent-seeking is in the form of air carriers influencing Members of Congress. Pretty crummy influence, you'd think the carriers could pry loose some money for more airports or for improvements in the air traffic control system, rather than blocking so-called Passenger Bills of Rights.

And for all the charts, and the naming of names, the authors' case for objecting to health care reform rests on a few horror stories out of Canada rather than on a principled and intellectually consistent argument.

OK, I'm now longer than the title and sub-title, but I'll let Lynne Kiesling summarize.
I think that those who want barriers to corporate forms of political expression because of its injection of money into politics are naive in the extreme. Put another way, money has always influenced politics, and it always will, so comparing real-world politics to an idyllic, utopian republic is an exercise in futility. Wherever we use political institutions to decide outcomes that affect the well-being of any collection of individuals, those individuals are going to attempt to influence the processes leading to those outcomes. Even under BCRA restrictions on corporate political expression, lobbying, rent seeking, and money have continued to determine political outcomes.
I suspect that will be true no matter how many polemicists of how many stripes argue along the lines of "their representatives corrupt, our replacements better."

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)
WHEN THE SPORTS BUBBLE POPS. A USA Today investigation of the positional arms race in college basketball suggests that it's much harder for a program such as Butler or Northern Iowa, let alone Cornell, to become a presence in the national tournament than it is to make the odd appearance.
Schools with less budgetary cushion, such as Northern Iowa, can't keep spending their way into a regular basketball tourney spot. "I think the hurdle is more in sustaining than it is in achieving," Northern Iowa athletics director Troy Dannen says.
There is anecdotal evidence to this effect elsewhere, with, for example Wisconsin-Milwaukee supplying Bo Ryan to Wisconsin and then supplying Bruce Pearl to Tennessee.

A Brian Goff post at The Sports Economist suggests the basketball tournament is not as much of a them-that-has-gets organization as USA Today suggests.

The decade long performances of programs such as Gonzaga, Memphis, Xavier, and Butler are very impressive. To find programs averaging more than a win per year, one has to look at places like Kansas, North Carolina, and Duke. Their performances stand above past national champs such as Louisville or Louisville and way out front of champs-turned-strugglers like Arkansas. The talking heads who like to refer to how Gonzaga hasn't beaten X or advanced past the Sweet 16 in more than a decade just don't get it.

While my interests here lie mainly with individual team performance, some interesting conference comparisons jumped out also. For example, five different teams from Butler's relatively obscure Horizon league have won NCAA tourney games, four from Gonzaga's WAC, and a whopping seven from the Missouri Valley have won. More competition at the conference level, such as the MVC, both helps and hurts individual teams -- helps by playing better competition, raising seeds and hurts by making it tougher to make the tournament.

With students and trustees questioning increased spending on sports in the face of falling state support and broken endowment funds, whether the relatively obscure conferences can continue the positional arms race remains to be seen. The table in the post, however, suggests that the tournament seeding committee consider sending fewer middle of the pack teams from the so-called power conferences and more second-place teams from the mid-majors to the field of 65 or 68 or whatever it is going to be.
LOWER THE STRESS LEVEL. A traveling carnival set up on Annie Glidden just north of the old graduate student apartment building. It's a student project called Spring Fever Carnival. The timing -- during the so-called Reading Day and the Saturday and Sunday before finals week -- is not to everybody's liking. But cramming is unproductive, and an opportunity to unwind -- within reason -- that doesn't involve the usual heavy drinking appeals to me.

28.4.10

IF YOU CAN'T EXPLAIN IT, DON'T TRADE IT. There's a Peter Lynch video depicting some Boston middle-schoolers researching companies to do their Stock Market Game (TM) projects in which Mr. Lynch tells the students not to buy a company if they can't explain what it does. Presumably those students will not be foolish enough to buy tranched mortgage-backed securities, even if the president of the investment banking house is making the pitch. That's one of the nuggets in Michael Lewis's The Big Short, a timely Book Review No. 7. The incompetent president in question makes a cameo appearance on page 218. And fans of the military aphorism "Bullshit Baffles Brains" will find the glossary on pages 126 and 127 particularly instructive. An overpriced bond is "rich." The s*****est bonds (thank you, Senator Levin) in the packages of bonds that are themselves convex combinations of mortgages in which the commingled interest and principal payments are the income out of which the package pays interest are the "mezzanine tranches." If nothing else good comes of the shakeout in financial markets, perhaps we will see the end of MBA bafflegab and the cult of the CEO.

It helps, however, if a few individuals (perhaps someday our Stock Market Game (TM) students) do more than see their way through the bafflegab and wordnoise, and figure out how to hedge against the complicated financial products. That's what Steve Eisman and Michael Burry, who gets off one of the greatest lines in the history of obsession, "Only someone who has Asperger's would read a subprime mortgage bond prospectus" (p. 183) did. The currently notorious John Paulson, of the Goldman Sachs trades, makes a cameo appearance, but most of the action is on the up-and-up, and it features people who made a straightforward inference: some assets will fail catastrophically, and valuing them with a model in which failure occurs according to a slow and manageable stochastic process leads to a stinking pile of rich mezzanine tranches. Which, if the proper short contract exists, can make the person holding that contract stinking rich when that catastrophic failure occurs. Which it did. And what's more amusing was how cheaply the people who created those short contracts made them. None of the Smart Money believed those contracts would ever come due. Until they did. Oops.

The book also notes, in more than one place, an important tradeoff in the creation of mortgage-backed securities, tranched collateralized debt obligations, and default swaps. When those instruments were working correctly, people who otherwise might not have been able to obtain houses were able to obtain houses, and banks and savings and loans were able to originate more loans than otherwise they could. Had the lenders been more careful, the new financial products might have become accepted as ways to enhance the wealth of people previously consigned to rental housing. If memory serves, other spectacular failures including junk bonds and the technology stocks, also had the effect, for a while, of enhancing the wealth of people otherwise consigned to the margins of the asset markets, or to doing business with loan sharks.

The book makes clear some rather technical ideas, and it is a quick read.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

27.4.10

THE BOOKWORM IS IN REHAB. It's easier to read books than to type up reviews. But with my left arm slowly regaining function, and with the semester winding down, there should be time (first stolen as procrastinating with the grading, then as required to decompress) to unleash another sequence of Book Reviews. Whether we will see the fifty remains to be seen. First, though, the first quarter report for 2010. Please follow the link for the date the report was posted to read the diary entry, or book review, at Fifty Book Challenge. I evaluated some books as particularly good (+) or particularly bad (-).

  1. The Best Years: 1945-1950, 10 January 2010.
  2. Super Freakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance, 16 January 2010. (-)
  3. No Less Than Victory: A Novel of World War II, 29 January 2010. (+)
  4. The American Civil War: A Military History, 4 February 2010. (+)
  5. Secrets of The Lost Symbol: The Unauthorized Guide to the Mysteries Behind The Da Vinci Code Sequel, 13 February 2010. (-)
  6. An Imaginary Tale: The Story of i, 28 February 2010. (+)
I'll start another bookworm.

Ooooooo

(Cross-posted to Fifty Book Challenge.)

26.4.10

WHAT A PAIR OF E UNITS CAN DO. The latest issue of Railway, featuring the final twenty years of British Railways, includes a brief tribute to the extremely successful High Speed Trains, still going strong after thirty years of service. As built, these were a pair of 2250 hp power units, one at either end of an eight- or nine-car formations, with enough power to cruise at 140 mph (officially on test, unofficially until the Road Foreman and the Master Mechanic put some overspeed governors that would cut the trailing unit out). Some of the prime movers have been replaced, but the trains themselves continue to make the case on the Great Western and elsewhere in the United Kingdom that fast running need not require catenary and exotic tilting mechanisms.

In North America, the idea of putting a pair of souped-up Genesis diesels (perhaps with better lines) at either end of a ten car formation of double-deck California cars and giving the resulting train free rein to 110, or to 140, appeals. (Once upon a time, you would run a pair of E units around the train and you'd be limited to 117 for short times. The British concept with the power at each end goes one better.)
IT'S NOT THE CRIME, IT'S THE COVERUP. Jack Bauer lands on the Fox-5 helipad, but does not force his way past the receptionist to get to Glenn Beck's blackboard. Meanwhile, the Lady President stands godmother to the peace agreement while Natasha Fatale gets waterboarded and Richard Nixon gloats as William Ruckelshaus resigns on principle.

Why am I even watching this?
PICTURE OF THE DAY. The role of Nature in CO2 emissions is not necessarily greater than human action.


25.4.10

IF WE'RE STILL FREE, IT IS NO THANKS TO YOU. On Patriots' Day, MSNBC's Chris Matthews closed his evening show with a commentary challenging Tea Party adherents and other opponents of the Obama administration and the MSNBC worldview to, if they continued to enjoy their freedom in ten years, admit that much of their current campaigning is hype and fear-mongering. That challenge came a day after guests on Mr Matthews's Sunday morning show accused Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh of conduct approaching sedition. Donald Sensing provides additional context, and some fact-checking. Mr Matthews revisited the sedition argument on this morning's show, with no retraction forthcoming. That comes as no surprise.
No one is more authoritarian than a successful left-wing revolutionary: he rises to power by extolling dissent, then stays in power by suppressing it.
The rest of the article is hyperbolic: but keep in mind that the mind-set of the current administration is that of the practitioner of liberating tolerance.
THE TIME OF THE TROLLEY. Yes, that's the title of a Kalmbach book about the 1890-1958 version of the streetcar. The American Association of Retired Persons, however, would have its members believe that the time of the trolley is now.

For decades 95 %, or more, of federal money for transportation has been used for highways that encouraged sprawl development far away from urban centers. Recently, more investment has been made in rail and bus transit for commuters from the suburbs to get to urban centers. Now, there’s a new emphasis -- make these urban centers attractive places to live, work and play a 24-hour city with diversity and appeal for all ages. Access to mobility without a car is crucial to the success of this movement, so the Obama administration is supporting so-called urban circulators, public transportation projects that help people get around within a community. Last spring such projects, if shovel-ready, were eligible for money from the federal stimulus package. Last December the administration announced $280 million for urban circulator projects, with an emphasis on streetcars. Announced in February, a new round of federal grants totaling $1.5 billion will help out several streetcar projects.

Streetcars “fit in very well with the concept of livable communities,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told the AARP Bulletin last fall. “You’ll see neighborhoods really embrace the idea.”

At least 40 cities—Tucson, Ariz., and Detroit among them—have lines in the works, and the next one is scheduled to open in Washington, D.C., by 2012. Encouraged by easier access to federal funding, as many as 40 more cities—from tiny Cripple Creek, Colo., to sprawling Los Angeles—are exploring the possibility of building new lines, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

The language of the excerpt is instructive. Some opponents of public spending on rail projects claim that doing so takes money from road projects that people use. But people use the roads because money that could have been spent on rail projects, or left with the taxpayer in the form of lower fuel, tire, and property taxes, was spent on the roads to encourage people to relocate in such a way as to take advantage of them.

The original streetcar systems expanded in such a way as to connect to streetcar systems in neighboring towns, and thus was born the interurban. And Hilton and Due's The Electric Interurban Railways in America is available in paperback, should readers be interested in how the first interurban network evolved. (There is, of course, a hardcover version in the Cold Spring Shops research library.)
THE ABDICATION OF MR. CHIPS. Jonathan B. Imber argues that professors themselves have the responsibility for degrading the academic vocation.
The transformative seeds were already planted in post-war enthusiasms for an academic culture in which gaining grants would eventually be matched by how many "public intellectuals" a school can boast. New opportunities to escape the timeless responsibilities of teaching abound. A controversy has ensued over what is being called the "outsourcing" of grading, taken out of the hands of the instructor (and/or teaching assistants) and given to companies who employ graders in Singapore, India and Malaysia. Along with accounts of the growth of adjunct faculty hired to teach a lot for very little, students and their families, it is argued, are hardly getting their money's worth. Editorialists at the Harvard Crimson complained that outsourcing evaluation "brings up concerns about the quality of contact that students are receiving in large classes." Outsourcing is the wrong description for giving over this particular responsibility of teaching to anyone other than the teacher. After all, teaching assistants have been overseeing grading in large lecture courses in universities for many decades. But this oversight was in principle part of learning to teach by learning to evaluate. Of course, it is easy to view such a principle cynically and to acknowledge that graduate students seeking to unionize have been given over to another kind of class struggle that marks the end of teaching as it once was embraced and practiced.
That's not to say that the faculty-student non-aggression pact isn't part of the problem.
Perhaps where evaluation is outsourced, instructors no longer feel compelled to observe even the pretense that the students they teach are persons of sufficient complexity to deserve being taught with that in mind. I fear a degree of complicity on the part of students and teachers alike where real evaluation is evaded for reasons that do not need to be spelled out too clearly. The willingness to commit $50,000 a year to maintain as much distance from teachers as possible is not entirely the fault of teachers. On the other hand, the willingness to work for an organization that charges $50,000 a year in order to enable faculty to avoid students as much as possible degrades the academic vocation in ways that Nisbet, Rieff, and Bloom already saw on higher ed's horizon.
Why not buy a degree from an online university, Professor Imber seems to be suggesting, if many of the faculty and students at the high-end universities are effectively e-mailing it in anyway?
AUTHORITIES AND AMENITIES. An American Heritage article on interurbans, written by longtime traction expert William D. Middleton shortly after the North Shore Line quit business and sold its Electroliners to Philadelphia Suburban, noted that the 'Liners' tavern lounges probably faced an uncertain future after the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority takeover. "The new trains contain a vanishing amenity, a bar-lounge section for suburban commuters. How long this service will last is problematical, especially in view of the impending takeover of the line by a transit authority. Authorities and amenities rarely go together." The bar cars remained in service as long as the 'Liners did. Mr Middleton, however, was a prophet. The last common carrier commuter bar cars, on the New Haven line to rich peoples' country, may not be replaced.

Having survived numerous attempts at prohibition and outlasted its brethren in the suburbs of Chicago and New Jersey, the bar car out of Grand Central Terminal is now facing its gravest threat: the great recession.

A new fleet of cars will soon replace the 1970s-era models now used by commuters on the Metro-North Railroad line heading to Connecticut. But with money tight, railroad officials said they could not yet commit themselves to a fresh set of bar cars, citing higher costs for the cars’ custom design.

“They’re being contemplated,” said Joseph F. Marie, Connecticut’s commissioner of transportation. “But we have not made any final decisions.”

Notice my use of "common carrier commuter bar cars." Metra removed the sales racks from the vestibules of selected cars assigned to the Milwaukee North and West, Wisconsin Division, and Rock Island lines in order to provide more seats and more vestibules for in-a-hurry commuters to block. But one subscription club car (the article incorrectly states its age, it's rebuilt from a postwar lounge car once assigned to the Overland Route) continues to roll from Chicago to Kenosha, primarily for Lake Forest swells.

Authorities have to consider the opportunity cost of amenities.

Defenders of the boozy commute say it helps raise revenue: After expenses, bar cars and platform vendors made $1.5 million last year, up from $1.3 million in 2008. (Officials would not say if a bar car makes more money than a car with the normal number of seats.) So far, 300 new train cars have been purchased, featuring airline-style headrests and graceful luggage racks. But officials say the bar cars remain a low priority, and may not be ordered.

“A decision was made early on that more seats on the trains was our top priority and that bar cars — as popular as they are — could wait,” said Judd Everhart, a spokesman for Connecticut’s department of transportation, which operates New Haven Line trains in conjunction with Metro-North. “It was about that simple.”

That "more money than a car with a normal number of seats" is significant. The Dining Department of the North Shore Line operated at a profit right up to the end, but there weren't enough riders buying Electroburgers, Mellow-tang Wisconsin cheese sandwiches, and cold Blatz with their tickets to save the railroad. But catch that "A decision was made." Mr Everhart doesn't want to be the target of the swells' wrath.

Among the anxious is Cesar Vergara, a Ridgefield, Conn., resident and a veteran train designer who created the interior of Metro-North’s new commuter cars, known as M-8s. As part of his contract, Mr. Vergara designed several concepts for a modern-day bar car, including more space for group seating and a smaller, more streamlined bar to replace the current cramped setup. But he acknowledged that his vision may never become a reality.

“The M-8 bar car, right now, is in a very political realm,” Mr. Vergara said. Indeed, Connecticut rail officials would not provide images of the prototype designs, which have been reviewed by focus groups, although Mr. Marie, the commissioner, mused a bit on what might work. “It would be nice to create a row-bench type of environment,” he said. “Kind of like in a pub.”

Mr Vergara is better known as the stylist who came up with the slab-sided Genesis diesels detracting from the front end of Amtrak trains everywhere outside the electric zone. "Kind of like in a pub" is unlikely to work in a rail environment, although a configuration with a passageway along one side of the car, a serving counter in the middle, and lounge areas to either end has possibilities.
MORE FUN TO WATCH IT IN PERSON. The Northern Illinois School of Music now provides live Internet streams of concerts, including today's spring steel pan concert. (The highlights have not yet been uploaded to the You Tube channel.) While streaming video is a great benefit to our friends on the islands and in South America, there's nothing quite like watching the performers close up and in 3-D. The next concerts will be November 14, 2010, and April 17, 2011, the latter including an appearance by the steel band from Miami University of Ohio.

24.4.10

THE ALL WEATHER MODE. Trains Answer The Call – Record Passenger Volumes On Numerous Train Routes Seen. The experience, however, might not be positive enough for European travelers inconvenienced by that volcano to ride again.

By Friday the no-fly zone has spread to much of France, Germany, Holland, Scandinavia, Belgium and Poland. Already by Thursday evening passengers in the UK began flooding Eurostar’s terminal in London’s St. Pancras station in hopes of taking a train to either Paris or Brussels and then continuing on to other European destinations by any transportation means available. The sudden rush on Eurostar train ticket counters prompted Eurostar to issue press releases that only confirmed ticket holders should appear at the rail stations. This move was misinterpreted by a few news agencies, including CNN International, as a possible sign that there were technical difficulties due to volcanic ash with Eurostar trains. In fact there were zero technical issues on Eurostar, only incredibly high demand.

But difficulties on the rail system in continental Europe did exist. A labor strike against certain TGV rail lines was underway in Paris and other parts of France and later on Saturday morning in Hamburg, Germany vandals torched a truck parked underneath a railroad bridge in the harbor city. The fire from the vandalized truck in turn severely damaged cables for the track signals between Hamburg Hauptbahnhof (central station) and Hamburg-Harburg station, thus severing rail corridor between northernmost Germany as well as Denmark from the rest of Germany and Europe for at least the rest of the weekend.

In Britain a window for trans-Atlantic flights to land and take-off from the airports in Prestwick and Glasgow opened up for a brief period over the weekend. But rail transit had to play a major roll with the moving of thousands of passengers to/from Manchester, Birmingham and London and southwestern Scotland. Recently completed upgrades to the so-called “West Coast Main Line” helped keep passengers moving reliably and quickly along this important rail corridor.

In the massive Frankfurt airport waiting lines for ICE trains to Cologne, Amsterdam, Berlin, Hamburg and Munich at the airport’s high speed rail station approached 500 meters long as Germany’ flag carrier, Lufthansa, entered a total flight shut-down, the first time ever in the German airline’s history. Similar stories were repeated across western Europe, including Paris CDG airport, Amsterdam, London Heathrow and Gatwick, Copenhagen, Z├╝rich and Milan.

Nearly all major European rail lines responded to the crisis by adding extra trains where they could and increasing staffing at train stations in or near major airline hubs. Ulrich Homburg, president and general manager of passenger train operations for Deutsche Bahn, stated that the rail company was doing everything possible to transport airline passengers by placing its employees on high alert and ramping-up staffing of stations, trains and call centers, as well as taking measures to increase and maximise the amount of rolling stock in operation over the coming days. With the volcanic activity in Iceland apparently intensifying, the well-developed rail network in Europe is proving to be an invaluable back-up to its traditional rival.

(You mean this volcano did what Dowding and Harris never managed?)

Keep scrolling and you'll find a post that answers a question that might have occurred to some observers.
Trains are in general powered by diesel engines or electric motors. In both diesel engines and electric motors, cooling air velocity is substantially lower than in aircraft turbine engines. In diesel engines, combustion temperatures are likewise significantly lower than in a modern aircraft turbine engine, while peak temperatures in electric traction motors are many hundreds of degrees below the melting point of volcanic ash, in-fact just slightly hotter than a common hair dryer. In addition, a diesel engine is not dependent on small, fragile compressor blades for its power. Even the turbocharger in train engines is a centrifugal design which is not nearly as sensitive to erosion induced problems as the bladed axial-flow compressors in jet engines and turboprops. And in most rail applications both the intake air for diesel engines, and the cooling air for electronics and traction motors is cleaned by either filters or centrifugal dust/ particulate separators or both. The reciprocating engines (gas or diesel) in automobile engines are similar to diesel engines in trains as far as sensitivity to airborne sand and grit, in other words, as long at the air filter is not clogged, there is no issue with operation in volcanic dust.
We're not talking about snow outside the Chunnel here, people. And have you ever looked closely at a moving train ... it kicks up dust. Highball!

(That said, Burlington Northern shut down in Oregon and Washington for a few days when Mt. St. Helens, which it owned at the time, blew up in May 1980.)
QUESTION THAT FAILED MODEL. I use a four-word formulation to summarize what higher education is doing wrong. Access refers to lowered admission standards. Assessment does everything but perform market tests and enable professors to make mid-course adjustments to fine-tune student performance. Remediation is the consequence of access. Retention ensures that the unprepared receive something resembling a degree, all the same.

Although the formulation is mine, I may not be the most caustic observer in my corner of the academic blogosphere.

Far be it from UD to keep you from attending an exciting summit with the vice-president’s wife where the international news media films you wringing your hands over your obnoxious students. If that’s the picture of your college you want to broadcast to the world, go to it.

But there are other things you can do about the situation.

What she said.

That's the second act.

Why hold classes if you can’t hold classes?

UD’s heart goes out to this writer — this still-serious student. If it’s not too late, and if she can afford it, the student should drop out of UMaine and find a serious school.

Retention problem, Cold Spring Shops version: the ambitious students are the ones who are leaving.
EVOLUTIONARY STABILITY. I'm still working on a longer post on the impossibility of a Surf City equilibrium in higher education. It should be up before Surf City is overtaken by events.
[T]he most profound impact of our college culture isn't in the voting booth but in the four walls of the home, as a generation struggles with the long-term effects of the degradation of male-female relationships. But he also reminds me that there is hope; that students are not the pawns of their environment and can reverse course. That which has changed can be changed back. There are ebbs and flows of cultural fashion, and the common currency of one generation is counterfeit to the next.
Be sure to read the post's sources.
All of the ideology in the world can't replace reality, and the reality is that sex has emotional consequences and that the two sexes do not experience those consequences in the same way. A culture of men without virtue or heart and women stripped of any sense of real connection is not ultimately sustainable — no matter how many times tradition is denigrated and gender roles are mocked.
I may have to change the masthead:

Social Construction is Subject To Constraints.

22.4.10

THAT NEBULOUS GREATER GOOD. President Nixon indeed had something on the Russians. But Jack Bauer was able to scare a biznesman (on trial for some minor offense in New York) into confirming that the GRU, or whatever they call themselves these days, had indeed planted Natasha Fatale in CTU. (Although she has the physique of a body-builder, she's probably a little too young to be an East German marathoner born Helmut.)

But despite the Ball-Busting Woman President having ample evidence that the Russians facilitated the murder of the president of Somewherestan as a way of impeding the peace agreement, the process is more important than the truth. Never mind that when the truth comes out, the peace will be broken in ways more dramatic than whatever she's trying to avoid. Nuance begets failure.

Perhaps, however, the truth will come out. At the end of the episode, Jack Bauer skips his debriefing by hijacking a helicopter. Perhaps, given that the next hour begins at 10 am Eastern, he's going to crash Bill Hemmer and Megyn Kelly's morning news show, it being prudent to land on a Manhattan helipad before one of those CTU drones establishes missile lock on him. I hope the final two hours of the show will not be he and Glenn Beck diagramming the vast conspiracy behind all the episodes on that famous blackboard.
PASSING THE TORCH. Hobey Baker award winner Blake Geoffrion begins his professional career with the Milwaukee Admirals. The Admirals, of the American Hockey League, are in a playoff with their traditional rival, the Chicago Wolves. The Wolves recently signed another Wisconsin hockey star.

"It was unbelievable," said Geoffrion, who also won the Hobey Baker Award last weekend. "On the ice for the first time with him, I was kind of in awe a little bit even though my dad said not to be like that at all.

"It was pretty cool. I said, 'Hello, Mr. Chelios.' He was like, 'What's up, kid.' That was my little moment with Chris Chelios and I'll remember it the rest of my life."

Mr Chelios, who also wore the red sweater for a few seasons, has at least one championship ring from Wisconsin, in the early 1980s.

15.4.10

RIDING THE RAILS. Some good news from Amtrak. There's more ridership on the midwestern corridor routes.
More travelers seeing the benefit of rail over air travel for trips of 500 miles or less, as evidenced by the quote from Amtrak spokesman, Marc Magliari, "While Amtrak considers the car its primary competition, the rail service has captured about 16 percent of the combined air-rail market between Chicago and St. Louis."
That the airlines seek to make the boarding process even more unpleasant by charging for use of the in-cabin storage compartments -- so you funnel through that one door even more slowly as the transactions take place is only inducing further substitutions.

Give them free rein to 110.
THE ECONOMICS OF TENURE. As laid out by a self-described conservative mathematician.

Grant seeking and salary protection largely negate the "protection" to pursue work underappreciated by the broader community. As long as a significant portion of my income arises from research grants and as long as my yearly raises (and self esteem) are strongly dependent on the quality of my research (as judged by the community - not me), I have a very strong incentive to produce work that the scientific community highly values.

More positively, tenure allows me to pursue ambitious projects which have high possibility of failure. Andrew Wiles's dogged and ultimately successful pursuit of the Fermat conjecture gives a wonderful - but rare - example of tenure's support of ambitious but risky projects.

If tenure only rarely fulfills its putative role of promoting intellectual risk taking (at least in my field), what role does it serve? First, it lowers the cost of employment. Faculty exchange some salary for employment security. This is especially important in fields like mathematics and physics where there is a mythology asserting that your best work is done early in life. In sports, the expected diminution of talent with age is accompanied with early career salaries that suffice to fund the rest of your life. In academics, your employment is protected, but you are expected to redirect your energies to greater teaching and administrative work if your research productivity declines in later years.

That last sentence is not completely accurate: more than one colleague has joked about receiving tenure because a vacancy came up on an important committee, and it's not clear whether the research decline precedes or is precipitated by the tasks that get in the way of real work. Go read and understand the entire post. Note that the institution of academic tenure might have evolved to reduce transaction costs idiosyncratic to knowledge production, and accordingly ought not be overturned without careful thought about the consequences.
SELF-SELECTION. Elites, not masses, rule America (apologies to Dye and Ziegler). That's no more and no less true of Tea Party adherents than it is of any other collection of politically active people.

Highly informed and politically active individuals are a small subset of the American public, and they are much better educated and more wealthy than the general public. A minuscule percent of Americans has attended a political rally; it's sometime like 5%. If someone knows what the tea party movement is, even if they haven't even gone to one of their rallies, they represent a small, elite fraction of the American public.

The New York Times failed to compare Tea Party supporters with other politically involved Americans. So, their findings about the comparative wealth and education of the Tea Party supporters are meaningless.

Great theater that it provides for Our President's cheerleaders on a few cable channels notwithstanding.

12.4.10

MORE SOCIALISM, GOOD BUDDY. What does that make public spending on railroads and waterways?

Freight trucks are a major problem in our transportation system, causing rapid deterioration of the highway infrastructure to the point where state departments of transportation cannot keep the roads in a state of good repair. And they are a major source of congestion and deadly accidents. To address these problems, the U.S. Dept of Transportation wants freight to be moved as much as possible on rail and water and keep shipments off trucks until the “last mile.”

Deputy Secretary John Porcari said in his testimony to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in a March 24 hearing that DOT’s preference is to “keep goods on waterways and rail as much as possible, getting them away from trucks except for the final delivery.”

Developing.
STILL THE FOCUS OF EVIL. Never mind the peace process, it's renegade elements in the Russian Government that want to keep the parties in Somewherestan and environs at each others' throats. They even manage to get an agent into the New York emergency medical team, and the agent recognizes that Sherlock Holmes's smarter younger cousin is a threat. But President Nixon has something on the Russian Ambassador.

11.4.10

THE COST OF DESTROYING THE PASSENGER RAIL NETWORK. The Mayor of Milton, Wisconsin (which once had freight rail service to the Fox Cities, Chicago, Milwaukee and Madison, and passenger service linking Chicago to Madison) wants the taxpayers to widen Interstate 90.

For nearly three decades, Thomas Chesmore has jockeyed with other commuters and trucks on Interstate 39-90 to get to his day job as a mechanic at the Simmons Manufacturing mattress factory on Janesville's south side.

Now Chesmore, the mayor of Milton, says the time has come to widen the heavily used corridor between Beloit and Madison, relieving congestion and making the area more attractive to business.

"It's nuts," Chesmore said of the traffic, which squeezes from three northbound lanes in Illinois to two in Wisconsin. "When I started driving that road 28 years ago, there was minimal traffic except on holidays. Now every day is like a holiday there. It's bumper to bumper."

Additional lane capacity is unlikely to do anything about the speeds. But it isn't going to be cheap.

The state studied the idea earlier this decade but hasn't committed money for the project that could cost between $700 million and $1 billion and be one of the largest in the state, according to Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan, D-Janesville.

The project would replace existing pavement along the 45-mile corridor, add a third lane in each direction, replace two bridges over the Rock River and reconstruct 11 interchanges.

By comparison, the Marquette Interchange in Milwaukee - where two Interstates and a spur highway intersect in a dense downtown - cost about $800 million to rebuild. The 32-mile expansion of Interstate 94 now under way between Milwaukee and the Illinois border is budgeted at $1.9 billion, according to state officials.

At the earliest, construction on I-39-90 likely wouldn't begin until 2015 or 2016. And when the project does start, it probably will take four to six years to complete.

The pavement on the section of Interstate is nearing the end of its useful life and increasing traffic counts indicate a need for more lanes, said Joe Olsen, director of the DOT's Southwest Region. It's unclear when the construction would happen if no one lobbied for the improvements.

Gee, you could collect a fee from current road users and use that to pay for road improvements, that is, if sufficient drivers were willing to pay the fee.

At the moment, no funding is available for the project, but some hope it can be placed on the DOT's schedule and receive state and federal funding.

"We can't afford not to do this," Sheridan said. "This project will certainly benefit the state-line area but this is a main artery of the state. We think it will be good for the economy across the state."

It's interesting how a few years changes things.

Leaders of the group say the project would make the highway safer, the area more attractive for business development, and aid the state's tourism industry, which draws many of its visitors from south of the border.

"When you cross the border, there might as well be a sign that reads, ‘Here is where modern infrastructure ends,'" said Dan Cunningham, vice president of Forward Janesville. "If you don't talk about something like this, it might get done eventually, but by talking about it to people who make decisions, you're only improving your case. We've tried to get really aggressive."

The state funded a study of the project in 2001, but since then, the DOT hasn't had the money for the project, said Chris Klein, executive assistant for Frank Busalacchi, the state's transportation secretary.

What's changed is that the Illinois Tollway, which has resembled the Burma Road the last few years, is currently widened from Rockford to the state line. With no work zones in place, and few speed traps, that road will have a few years of realizing its potential, at least until the semis pound the paving apart again.

And people act like the $800 million to provide additional train service is unproductive.
COORDINATION FAILURE. New York Times columnist Albert Hunt (via University Diaries) raises a principled objection to the expansion of the basketball tournament.
This would encourage mediocrity and make more money. The latter is the dominant concern of too many leaders of higher education; it trumps the academic interests of the players and institutions and the desires of fans, whether it’s the basketball tournament’s expansion or the insistence on keeping the antiquated football bowl game schedule.
Oh, please. It's amateur sport. It has nothing to do with money. It may not encourage mediocrity: coaches who are hoping to hold onto their jobs a bit longer by making the expanded tournament are likely to be disappointed. (The proliferation of archival journals for not-very-good research doesn't produce more pathbreaking research either.) The new format will probably lose money. And USA Today columnist Mike Lopresti identifies a constituency that is not going to like the new format, with 32 play-in games and 32 byes.

Among the proposals sure to run into trouble, when this goes from committee meeting to real life, is handing byes to the top 32 teams.

Let's return to the 1980s, when there were 48 teams. The top 16 were given byes. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

Then those teams started dropping like confetti in their first games. Turned out a bye wasn't a reward, but a liability. The high seeds atrophied in idle, while the lower seeds kept their edge with a tournament game.

Coaches complained, of course. So the NCAA moved to 64 teams; enough room for the powerhouses, and Cornell. Everyone on the same page. Bingo. The Mona Lisa of postseason formats.

Which, Messrs. Hunt and Lopresti agree, the governing body is bent on destroying, in the expectation of additional money that is not likely to be forthcoming.
AN INHERITANCE YOU CAN'T TAX. This year's Hobey Baker Award honoree is Wisconsin senior forward Blake Geoffrion. There's something familiar about that name.
[F]ather Danny skated with the Montreal Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets from 1980-82 ... grandfather Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion is a Hockey Hall of Fame member who won six Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens and who is credited with popularizing the slap shot ... great grandfather, Howie Morenz, is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame after winning three Stanley Cups with Montreal and becoming one of the seven players in the Canadiens franchise to have his number retired (7).
He's from Brentwood, Tenn., and will be playing for Nashville.

The Badgers didn't quite have enough boom-boom for Boston College, although it might be more accurate to note that Boston's players got into the passing lanes and to the loose pucks with a bit more alacrity. Tight game for the first 45 minutes, though.

7.4.10

GO FOR STEVE'S CHEESE. Hi. (With a link to Robert Nozick's article on collectivism and resentment among faculty. That might be the ur-text for the genre.) An Inside Higher Ed column suggests influences on belief systems earlier in life -- not those of the graduate seminar -- matter. That proposition is being deconstructed at Phi Beta Cons.
DESTROYING THE 400S WAS NOT A BARGAIN. The Political Environment breaks down the bill for upgrading the existing expressways of southeastern Wisconsin.

The reconstruction and widening of SE Wisconsin's freeways (which are not free) was estimated in 2003 at $6.4 billion, but I think it could end up being more expensive.

Why?

$810 million went into the Marquette Interchange component, $1.9 billion is ticketed for the North/South leg of I-94 to the Illinois state line now undeway, and the Zoo Interchange estimate has ballooned to $2.3 billion.

That's $5 billion right there. Out of $6.4 billion.

Do we think the remaining major segments, with their new lanes and property acquisition and rising fuel, materials and labor costs, can be done across Waukesha County on I-94 to the Jefferson County line, I-43 north through Milwaukee and Ozaukee Counties, plus I-43 south across Walworth County - - and the Big Daddy Of Them All - - the controversial rebuilding and widening on I-94 past Story Hill and Miller Park, perhaps double-decked - - can all be done for the remaining $1.4 billion?

Take a look at the map of the freeway system at this official site and ask yourself if all the portions left - - large and small - - look doable to you for about 20% of the pot?

And when -- if (?) -- all that work is done traffic speeds will be no faster than they currently are.

That $800 million to rebuild the Watertown - Madison line, and the annual operating subsides, are a bargain, when the alternatives are correctly viewed.
PERHAPS THERE WILL BE SITH RITE MASONS. At the beginning of this year's 24, I was almost right.
I'm guessing that New York's traffic is going to figure in one of the subsequent plot complications, particularly if the action moves off Manhattan.
Yup. Some rogue elements in the U.S. military fake a terrorist raid to obtain President Hassan (a moderate element from Somewherestan) to swap to the real terrorists in exchange for the terrorists' dirty bomb (do we call it hostages for arms?) Jack Bauer is trailing the car with the terrorists and the president along Riverside Drive.

That's where it gets weird. The mole in Inspector Lestrade's office CTU alerts the bad guys that they are being trailed just in time for the bad guys to make an evasive maneuver into a parking structure ... where another car is waiting for a latter-day version of the crossover fakement??

The car appears is the property of either a Russian whore or perhaps a biznesman. Whoever they are, they deliver the president to an apartment block, where live action somewhere switches to videotape, too bad for the president. The apartment block is guarded by heavily armed jihadi types on the roof ... and the local successors to the Jets and the Sharks never checked them out??

But one of the jihadis has a bluetooth on his ear, and the Russian ambassador turns up at an inopportune time, and President Nixon Logan returns from San Clemente. Perhaps the final few hours will reveal exactly what the real cabal of plotters is all about.
SKEWING THE BENEFIT-COST RATIO? The editorial board of the DeKalb Chronicle object to the Illinois Department of Transportation choosing the more convoluted Big Timber - Belvidere - Rockport routing to Galena and beyond.

That’s when, after months of debate, the Illinois Department of Transportation, in an application for federal funding, selected a route that would run through Genoa rather than a route through Belvidere that was endorsed by [state senator Bradley] Burzynski and pushed hard by Rockford regional officials.

IDOT officials cited an Amtrak study that showed the route through Genoa would cost less to upgrade, be less cumbersome to develop and would carry more riders. But when the project failed to get approval for funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, both the funding decision and the route was back in the state’s hands.

The editors properly question the rationale, endorsed by state senator Bradley Burzynski, that the routing would make a future extension of Metra commuter train service to Rockford possible. That rationale is questionable, as Boone and Winnebago counties would have to become part of the Metra tax district, or to set up a passenger transport authority to purchase service from Metra, to make the scoots happen. (The tax district has perpetually been a hard sell in DeKalb County, where there is a large population of potential passengers at Northern Illinois University.)

5.4.10

TRY SOME REAL GRIPES. There's a tradition of academicians attempting to make sense of the propensity of professors to be left in their politics. Sometimes it's about egalitarianism and higher sensibilities. Sometimes it's about resentment. A recent Thomas C. Reeves essay is in the second tradition. It's less than convincing.
Take the issue of money--always a good place to begin with things American. Academics outside business and the sciences often labor for many long years in college and graduate school in order to obtain a doctorate. More than a few collect their diplomas sporting some gray in their hair along with a briefcase full of debts. If we are lucky enough to land a tenure-track position in higher education, a large "if" over the last four decades, we frequently start at a salary that a skilled blue collar worker might expect a few years out of high school. Don't think about salaries at Harvard; consult the data on most academics published in the Chronicle of Higher Education. A friend's son, a brand new pharmacist, recently started work at a local drug store with a salary that exceeded my University of Wisconsin System salary when I retired as a full professor.
That's long been the case. My dad walked away from Massachusetts for the electrical equipment manufacturers in 1955 for that reason. And yet the supply of professors replenishes over time. (There's a connection between salary compression and tenure that I could address, but I'd like to finish this essay before my arm gives out.)

First a job, then a place to live.
The affluent suburbs, where the successful in other fields gather, are out of the question, of course. And so many of us move into older, deteriorating, often dangerous areas, telling all who listen that we made the choice deliberately and that we, being humanists, have a natural desire to live among the poor and oppressed. In my experience, some English and anthropology professors actually believe this nonsense, and enjoy dressing as factory workers and displaying furniture obviously purchased at a rummage sale.
Aren't there other options? Schoolteachers and police officers as neighbors? (Whether those slumming pseudo-prole academicians could actually operate a vertical milling machine, nay, an electric can opener, is another matter.)
Many academic families have two incomes, and some have other sources of private income. These professors can and often do enter the less exclusive suburbs, only to find that they have very little in common with their neighbors. They aren't invited to join the country club, as everyone understands that professors lack the necessary funds. They aren't invited to join the yacht club for the same reason. It's difficult to join a cocktail party discussion on the joys of owning a Lexus when you've just driven up in an older Corolla.
Are those the kind of people you'd want to socialize with? Come off it.

It goes on in this vein, but I want to finish tonight.
Thirdly, there is the issue of occupational mobility and professional advancement. High income neighborhoods have constant turnover because of promotions and advancement. Professors, on the other hand, are more often than not (especially the white males) stuck on a campus for many years without a prayer of moving up or out. They have little or no control over their annual salary increases, if any, and having attained the rank of full professor have only "more of the same" and retirement to look forward to. Watching their former students scale the heights of prosperity and power can cause considerable chagrin.
My dad bailed as an assistant professor. If the perquisites of the job don't offset the salary ... The tenure system probably makes the academic job market more rigid (mid-career academics: accept committee assignments and other institution-specifici projects carefully.)

The expression "generalizing from one's own experience" comes to mind.
THE INCENTIVES ARE THERE. Washington Post education columnist Jay Mathews (via Betsy's Page) finds an instructive economics paper.

Two economists who work 2,274 miles away have identified the essence of parenthood in the Washington area since 1995. It turns out we have been spending all that time with our older children — chauffeuring, applauding, coordinating, correcting, planning, obsessing — because we have a deep need to beat the other stressed-out parents in getting our kids into good colleges.

The researchers are Garey and Valerie A. Ramey, a married couple at the University of California-San Diego. They have done the hyper-active parent thing themselves and have a son at Stanford University to show for it. They also admit that most of this exhaustive parenting is done not by men but by women, including, by her own account, Ms. Ramey herself. To sum up, college-graduate soccer moms are trying to outdo all the other soccer moms to get their children into a good school so their daughters can repeat the cycle with their own children.

The Rameys met at the University of Arizona, where both graduated summa cum laude. They are brainy academics who like playful labels, so their study is titled “The Rug Rat Race.” They cite national time-use surveys to show that between 1995 and 2000 the hours spent by college-educated women caring for or handling travel and activities for their older children increased from 6.6 to 10 a week. This was driven, they say, by the “increasingly severe cohort crowding at quality schools” like the University of Pennsylvania, Rice University or UCSD. “Increased scarcity of college slots appears to have heightened rivalry among parents, taking the form of more hours spent on college preparatory activities,” they conclude.

Note carefully: the Rameys met at Arizona, an institution that transcended its traditional party school image when the tight academic job markets of the late 1970s onward enabled them to hire up. And note the presence of UCSD in the list. Once upon a time there was California (as in Berkelium and Californium and Lawrencium.) Then came UCLA (motto: On! Wisconsin!). San Diego's campus was always well-placed to take advantage of a competition for faculty and students, once it got the resources, and its economics department famously raided Wisconsin during the early 1980s recession and rescissions.

Cohort crowding, however, is within the control of administrators at universities not currently the objects of those positional desires. There's no reason not to raise your academic profile, either slowly, or dramatically. To do otherwise subjects cash-poor but academically-striving students to something less than a higher education. (An amusing sidenote: Penn State's academic departments received additional resources once a dean discovered that the academic profile of a northeastern land-grant was, shall we say, somewhat lower than the academic profile of a midwestern land-grant. The reason? Penn State joined the Big Ten for sports.)
DOING IT RIGHT. Professor Munger, Duke professor, not fan of Duke basketball, makes a trenchant observation.

The real story (and frequent readers here know I am no Duke fan) is that Duke, in spite of being 1/4 the size of its most frequent rivals, consistently wins, doesn't cheat, and graduates all of its players with actual college degrees in actual college subjects. Why isn't THAT the story here:

Duke University provides education to students who otherwise could never afford it, and manages to win while doing it!

That not-very-good (his assessment) Butler team is keeping the game close with the clock in single digits. And Butler's players with 8 am and 9 am classes attended them this morning.

4.4.10

EMPATHY. Milwaukee Bucks center Andrew Bogut is out for the season after dislocating his right elbow and breaking his right hand.



That sounds a lot more painful than a left radial head fracture, nondisplaced local. I'm keyboarding with two hands, although holding this aircast out for any length of time hurts. Persevere.
AN INCOMPLETE HISTORY. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel takes a look back at the now life-expired Zoo Interchange.
"The Zoo Interchange is a perfect storm of design deficiencies, based on what we know now," said Kenneth R. Yunker, executive director of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission. "The left hand on- and off-ramps, the move from one side of the freeway to the other, the service interchanges located just too close to the major freeway interchange."
A not insubstantial amount of money has gone into rebuilding interchanges to have all slow speed exits and merges into the right lanes, preferably in a configuration with more space for merging and more room for deceleration and acceleration than the archaic cloverleaf interchange.

Joseph Looper was part of a team of consulting engineers on the project. He worked for Howard, Needles, Tammen & Bergendoff, now known as HNTB.

Looper, retired and living in Colorado, said the Zoo Interchange ignited a "difference of opinion among engineers." Some wanted the cars to enter and leave the freeway system on the right. Others, like Looper, favored what was known as a directional interchange, meaning that cars and trucks could exit on either the left or right.

The directional interchange won out.

"It was an interchange of roadways that were all free flowing," he said. "The whole idea of the interchange was to design and build it in such a way that traffic could use it without conflict."

Looper, now 84, and others also favored the use of concrete box girders in some parts of the Zoo Interchange. These hollow girders integrated the bridge deck to the supporting structure. While they were more attractive, corrosion from water and salt deteriorated the steel rebar used to reinforce the concrete.

"We didn't anticipate the heavy traffic volumes and the wear and tear, the actual salt on concrete in the wintertime caused a great deal of difficulty for the freeways," he said.

The freeways aged. So did the Zoo Interchange.

It probably handles more traffic than it otherwise would because other expressways were never built. It's probably been beaten to pieces by overloaded trucks, running at weights, lengths, and speeds not envisioned by the designers.

What the story doesn't tell readers about the summer of 1963 was that the Chicago and North Western's Twin Cities 400 and Minnesota 400, which operated the rudiments of a passenger train network connecting the Twin Cities and Rochester with Madison, Milwaukee, and Chicago, made their last runs in June of that year. The subsequent completion of Interstate 94 across Wisconsin in 1969 sealed the fate of the Afternoon Hiawatha. That history is germane to today's transportation policy debate, in which restoration of those early diesel-era train timings takes a lot of money, but an upgrade -- if not an expansion -- of the expressways takes even more.
ACCUMULATE THOSE SMALL ADVANTAGES. Women's Hoops finds a report from Dayton on Florida State's game day preparations.

The NCAA isn't very subtle about how it treats basketball royalty and its No. 1 seeds. UConn is housed in the preferred hotel that sits conveniently next to the University of Dayton campus. The arena is about a dozen Maya Moore fast breaks from the hotel, no more than a three-minute charter bus ride from door to door.

Meanwhile, Sue Semrau's Seminoles are assigned to a hotel 8.2 miles away. It's easy to find: Just head south on I-75 to Miamisburg, take a left at Exit 44, drive past the gas stations, take a right near the Arthur Murray Dance Studio, go past the Chuck E. Cheese's and the Blue Byrd Tattoo and Body Piercing on the left, aim the rental car toward the Montgomery County Water Tower and you're there.

Hanging above the modest lobby is a blue NCAA tournament banner. Someone from the Florida State traveling party has placed an FSU decal on an aquarium near the front desk. That's about it for March Madness ambiance.

Semrau doesn't care. When she took the FSU job in 1997, the Seminoles were 0-for-ACC the previous season. They were the gimme on everyone's schedule. Now they're the co-champions of the league for a second straight year and have advanced to the program's first Elite Eight.

As a reward, the Seminoles get to play UConn, the USSR of women's college basketball.

The game plan? Develop Knights before Bishops, castle, double the Rooks, checkmate!

I'm serious.
The game plan is surprisingly uncomplicated. Instead, it emphasizes the most basic of philosophies: Impose your will on the opponent.
Yes, but to quote Kotov, how often does the novice player get a strong position against a grandmaster but the grandmaster goes on to win? More frequently, the novice player gets nervous and fails to establish a strong position.
"Boy, they make you play ugly," FSU coach Sue Semrau said, shaking her head. "We missed a ton of shots but that's because they did such a great job in every area."
I watched that game, and a number of those shots were hurried semi-open shots before the rest of the team could get in position. When Connecticut loses, it's likely to be a team that works patiently for its shot and makes its opponent play defense for the duration of the shot clock. But it might also be because Mr Auriemma walks away from the game ... in an interview with ESPN tonight he might have been blowing smoke about getting bored if the streak is still going in December, or he might be giving further voice to his frustration with money-losing athletic directors not engaging in another resource-draining positional arms race.

3.4.10

A GALLERY OPENING. The Office of Support and Advocacy offers an art auction to raise money for a remembrance tree. The art will be available for viewing this Wednesday, April 7, beginning at 6 pm, in the Diversions Lounge.
THE EFFECT OF INVASIVE SPECIES? There aren't many aphids in the Victor E. Garden. The orange Asian beetles take care of that. But entomologists are working to save several species of the traditional red North American ladybug.
The South Dakota researchers work with colleagues at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., to find out more about what type of bugs live in which parts of the nation. Three species are the prime targets of the Lost Ladybug Project: the nine-spotted or C9s, the transverse and the two-spotted.
They're getting by with a little help from some kids.
Children and others who find ladybugs are asked to enter descriptions and photos at the project's website, LostLadyBug.org. The search is nationwide because ladybugs are found in all 50 states, Losey says. The number of images on the website is nearing 5,000, he says.
The schools and 4-H are assisting the effort.
DEVELOPING HUMAN CAPITAL. Arnold Kling seeks to understand a recent paper exploring the effect of social standing on college major choice.
If I am reading their table 6 correctly, it suggests that majors in science, math, and engineering tend to come from the relatively advantaged groups, majors in education and business tend to come from relatively disadvantaged groups, and majors in social science and humanities tend to come from groups in between. I tend to think of majors in science, math, and engineering as having obtained skills, majors in education have obtained credentials, and majors in business, social science, and humanities as having obtained neither.
Time permitting, I will read the paper more carefully. The problem with business and education degrees is that they provide entry-level credentials. The corporate suites, crowded though they might be with MBAs, are more likely to have engineering or liberal arts baccalaureates.
THAT FOOLISH OBSESSION WITH CONSENSUS. This year and next, Easter as reckoned by the Julian calendar (render unto Caesar?) and Easter as reckoned by the Gregorian calendar (render unto God?) coincide. The National Council of Churches sees an opportunity for process and consensus.
This is Good News indeed! And yet almost every year the Christian community is divided over which day to proclaim this Good News. Our split, based on a dispute having to do with ancient calendars, visibly betrays the message of reconciliation. It is a scandal that surely grieves our God.
Rev. Johnson's Midwest Conservative Journal is not persuaded.
Why exactly is a major celebration of Our Lord’s resurrection from the dead on two different days a problem?
The message is straightforward enough.
THE GALENA & CHICAGO UNION, REDUX. The DeKalb Chronicle reports that the restored Amtrak - Illinois Department of Transportation service to the North West Frontier will call at Belvidere, ending, for the moment, the wrangle between Genoa and Belvidere over the routing.

The train, should it ever begin operating, might involve three railroads: the old Milwaukee Road Omaha line to a flyover west of Randall Road on the west side of Elgin, where a new connection to the Galena & Chicago Union, currently Union Pacific's Belvidere branch, and a connection to the Illinois Central line at Rockford for Freeport, Galena, and Dubuque.

West of Rockford, the line is twisty enough that a Talgo train might make more sense than it would on the relatively straight Madison to Milwaukee line. But Illinois will probably use cars released from the Hiawathas once those Talgos start running.