30.12.14

THE YEAR'S NEW ROLLER COASTERS.

We saw, earlier this year, that Hoffman's Playland of Colonie, New York succumbs to the Opportunity Cost Principle, while Conneaut Lake Park in northwestern Pennsylvania is subject to a sheriff's sale, now scheduled for February.

There are, however, still some amazing rides in Pennsylvania.  We start at Waldameer Park, on the west side of Erie, Pennsylvania.  Erie has long been a first night stop on Cold Spring Shops road trips to the east, which generally begin with a morning departure, a prayer to the Patron Saint of Fluid Tollways, and some fast running to get into Erie before the amusement park closes.  The running is faster now that Indiana and Ohio allow legal 70 mph driving.

A check of the archives, though, shows that Waldameer has not been the subject of a post.  There's opportunity to correct this oversight. and recognize the resurgence of Waldameer as a place for the roller coasters.

For years Waldameer operated as a picnic grove, with attractions primarily intended for the younger set.  The Comet roller coaster started running sometime in the late 1940s or early 1950s.


The Comet has cousins operating close to Cold Spring Shops headquarters.  Here's Meteor at Little A-Merrick-A near Waterloo, Wisconsin, which was moved from a private picnic park southwest of Chicago.



And here's the story of Little Dipper, moved to Six Flags Great America, from the late, lamented Melrose Park Kiddieland.


And yes, I did get one last ride on Little Dipper, and the free Pepsi, before Kiddieland closed.


At Waldameer, on the other hand, everything old is new again.


There used to be a gully coaster called Ravine Flyer at Waldameer.  There's again a gully coaster, in the same place, with a different layout, called Ravine Flyer II.  I'm more careful about bringing cameras onto roller coasters than I once was, thus you'll have to take my word for it that it doesn't let up.


That first drop leads into a gully and thence to a right hand turn.  I wonder if this Bob & Tom is the same drive-time duo that used to push the envelope in Indianapolis.

But that's not the only new coaster at Waldameer.  Steel Dragon shows the track configuration of a Galaxi with a few Wild Mouse-like hairpin turns.  But the four-passenger cars pivot!


And on a pleasant Wednesday evening, July 30, there are clear skies and a waxing crescent moon, also shining on the riders at Cedar Point to the west.


The next week brings us to Knoebels Grove.  We've been following progress on the Flying Turns for years.  It's now open, and queues form before the attractions open.  Knoebels, if you have never been there, is a large picnic grove with a collection of attractions of various kinds.  Free parking, too, and visitors can buy unlimited riding, or tickets to suit their fancy.


I'm told that this Flying Turns is neither as tall or as long as the originals at Euclid Beach or Riverview, and I didn't see any blue grease on the tracks, a feature someone who rode the Euclid Turns recalled.  Whatever the reason, this Turns runs short trains with a weight limit on each car.


Used to be, I'd buy the unlimited ride pass and enjoy the park all day.  This time, I purchased a bundle of tickets and rode selectively.  That included the Turns.


On this Friday, August 8, though, that did not include the Yellow Submarine.


It's there, though, along with numerous other attractions to please any constitution, and crafts, and food.  And summer is coming.

29.12.14

BEARDING THE LION.

Another Festive Season, another Black and Blue Division title for The Green Bay Packers.


Last year, the Aaron Rodgers drama was a return from a broken collarbone, and a last-minute, fourth-and-long victory in Chicago.  This year, the Aaron Rodgers drama was a touchdown pass to Randall Cobb off a cramping leg, a cart ride to the locker room, and a return to play in the third quarter.  Followed by another touchdown pass to Randall Cobb, and on the next scoring opportunity, this generation's version of "31 Wedge and I'll carry the ball."

But before that series started, television showed Mr Rodgers stroking some gentleman's beard.  The Lions, however, contributed to their own undoing, with center Dominic Raiola serving a suspension after accidentally on purpose stepping on a Chicago Bear, and during the game defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh accidentally on purpose stepped on Aaron Rodgers, which means he's suspended for the wild card game at Dallas.

Last year, it was Detroit and Minnesota conducting purges of Stalinesque proportions.  At the time, I  speculated about Dr. Strangelove, too intellectual for Chicago.  And this year, the purge of Stalinesque proportions is in Chicago.

The Packers will next play in the division round of the playoffs.

THE LIMITS OF A TOURIST ECONOMY?

The Michigan tourism bureau sell the recreational life under the Pure Michigan banner.  Not surprisingly, the emphasis is on the waters or the winter sports or the piney woods, not so much on the Rust Belt or Jackson Prison.  And the emphasis on tourism, particularly of the upscale variety, is evident in the infrastructure.

Here's the entrance to Ludington Harbor, in August 1982.


In the next thirty years, the use of beachfront real estate has changed.  May 23 was a good day for a lake cruise, although a winter jacket was handy on the fore-deck.


The photo platform is the same, onetime Chesapeake and Ohio car-ferry Badger.  (There are candids from this trip in the June archives, from Muskegon.)

Sister car-ferry Spartan has served as a source of parts (you don't go to NAPA for Skinner Unaflow engine components) since probably 1970.  But in 1982, the dock area was obviously a (now less-used) railroad yard.


Spartan is still in the same place, but gentrification encroaches.


The three slips were once home to City of Midland 41, which was cut down for a barge some years ago.  (The reinforced lower hull of car-ferries makes them attractive candidates for such reuse.)


That's from a crossing I made in July of 1983.  Today, Badger has to dodge a lot of yachts on its way to the lake.


Those probably aren't the weekend toys of United Auto Workers members any more.  What remains of the old Ludington downtown is at the center and right of the picture.  By the looks of the stores and the commercial activity therein (it's along the main highway to the interior of the mitten) the residents of the condos and beach houses schlep their provisions in from elsewhere.

The downtown of Manistee is a commercial strip with the expected taverns and craft shops, as well as clothing and book dealers.  There is a river walk along the south bank of the Manistee River, and several of the taverns offer outdoor service.


But on the west shore of Manistee Lake, one of several natural harbors well inland from Lake Michigan on the Michigan side, a townhouse development encounters a reality check.


That's a preserved Grand Trunk car-ferry, City of Milwaukee, in the background.  Guided tours are available at weekends during the summer.


Because Grand Trunk never offered scheduled passenger service, there was no reason to upgrade the interior to go after passenger traffic.


But across the highway from the ferry museum, which also offers tours of retired Coast Guard cutter Acacia, a motel is for sale.


And the tough economy in Michigan ... tourism having not fully compensated for the self-immolation of the Big Three, means there may be an opportunity to buy a State Patrol post.


To the south, Muskegon features a reconfigured downtown, with rebuilt streets and a lot of vacant commercial buildings.  There's an ice cream stand along the road to the Milwaukee Clipper museum that offers a good variety of treats, and does a good business with the locals.  Grand Trunk didn't bother going after the passenger traffic on its Muskegon - Milwaukee run, because Clipper did that.


Food service, bars on two decks, a dance floor, a movie theater, staterooms, and sleeping sections.


In preservation, Clipper occupies the former Grand Trunk docks.  Tourist Michigan has not yet expanded into its neighborhood.


Muskegon's harbor, however, is another of those sheltered anchorages, and the Lake Express has about ten minutes of inner-harbor maneuvering before it can go all ahead flank to Milwaukee.


That's Clipper all by its lonesome.  The channel narrows, though, and the upscale properties are close to Silversides, a preserved submarine.


Then it's time to hustle west to Milwaukee.

27.12.14

LET THERE BE LIGHT.

The Waterman and Western Railroad has strong support from its friends.
Pete Robinson didn’t realize how much people treasured his Holiday Lights Train until vandals damaged the display. Now that he understands the train is valued, he’s determined to take donations he’s received and to repair and improve the estimated $20,000 in damage.
Financial support, both in the donation box at the railroad, and the crowd-funding site, has given Mr Robinson reason to augment the illuminations.
Robinson will begin work on larger displays to debut next year. He said he plans to replace the three 20-foot tall arches that make up the snowfall display with four arches that will be 2 feet taller and have more snowflake lights.

He plans to create a new display at the beginning of the tracks featuring elves bringing presents to a lighted Santa.
And, consistent with my impression, ridership during the weekend before Christmas was strong.

THE CONSEQUENCES OF DECONSTRUCTION.

Let's start with an angry passage from Roger Kimball's "The Use and Abuse of Democratic Freedoms".
This brings me to the core piece of deception that is operating in the protests against supposed police brutality.  It is a textbook case of the radical left using and abusing democratic freedoms in order to destroy those freedoms. On the one hand, you have the contention that the protests are simply a healthy expression of peaceful democratic protest. You’re not against free expression of political differences are you? Thus we have “progressive” Mayor de Blasio defending the protests: “Do we tell people they’re not allowed to raise their voice?  Do we tell people they’re not allowed to march?”
The deconstruction is being enabled from On High.
With their non-stop racist interventions, Barack Obama, Eric Holder, Al Sharpton, Bill de [Blasio], abetted by their enablers in the media and the academy, have pulled back the healing scab covering the atavistic passions of tyranny. What happens next is anyone’s guess. But these people already have blood on their hands.  The only question is where it all will end.
Mr Kimball is not the angriest voice at Pajamas Media. Here's Walter Hudson.  It's the usual tu quoque that passes for argumentation these days (one reason I'm dialing back my consumption of opinion media) and yet worked to a fine level of anger.
The absurdity of blaming the Tea Party for acts of violence emerges from the fact that violence is antithetical to that movement. The principles of the Tea Party, and the broader conservative/libertarian community, center on the sanctity of individual rights – including the right to life.

By contrast, a considerable segment of the Black Lives Matter movement has been defined by violence. We watched Ferguson literally burn as rioters expressed themselves by stealing and destroying their neighbors’ property.
And yet, something more ominous is present.
The Black Lives Matter movement shares profound moral responsibility for the killings of  Ramos and Liu, not because they dared criticize the police, but due to the particular actions they have advocated and modeled. They’ve created a sense of war between the police and the broader community. It should hardly surprise us when a sense of war produces combatants.
Here, from a different perspective, is sociologist Corey Robin on where that might lead.
Listening to these cries from the cops—of blood on people’s hands, of getting on a war footing—it’s hard not to think that a Dolchstosslegende isn’t being born. Throw in the witches brew of race and state violence that kicked it off, the nearly universal obeisance to the feelings and sensitivities of the most powerful and militarized sectors of the state, and the helplessness and haplessness of the city’s liberal voices, and you begin to get a sense of the Weimar-y vibe (and not the good kind) out there.
Professor Robin's working hypothesis is that nearly half a century of neo-liberalism has left the city's elite without a way to respond to the police.  Perhaps, though, that bad Weimar vibe is actually the cost of what the cognoscenti think of as the good kind of Weimar, namely the avant-garde intellectual currents that laid the foundations for post-modernism and deconstructionism.  The risk, though, is that where there are no foundations, the resulting trashy, splintery culture is fertile soil for authoritarianism.

THE QUINTESSENCE OF A NOSTALGIC OLD HIPPIE?

Here's Madison-style traditionalism, as covered by the Badger Herald. Soglin worried State Street is losing traditional feel.
The increased number of restaurants and bars on State Street has Mayor Paul Soglin concerned it could turn into a street of “megasaloons,” with the new establishments crowding out small retail shops.

The original intent of State Street was not to compete with shopping centers, but to create a space for local businesses to sell original merchandise, Soglin said at a news conference Tuesday.

“We want to keep it a street where thousands and thousands of people every week  can walk and enjoy their principally locally-owned businesses, where you don’t get the feel that you’re in an outdoor mall,” Soglin said.

Nearly 30 percent of the 350 downtown businesses downtown are retail, 40 percent food and drink and the remaining are service businesses such as salons, spas and fitness centers, Mary Carbine, executive director of Madison’s Central Business Improvement District, said.
The last time I was there, much of the sidewalk was taken up with the outdoor cafes, which might be contributing to the sense that it's an outdoor mall, or Madison's answer to the San Antonio River Walk, or Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

Read on, though, and you see that incentives matter.
State Street’s success over the years has driven up the property costs in the area; this makes it challenging for local businesses to pay the high rents when competing against liquor sellers, Soglin said.

In order to maintain the “flavor” of State Street and stop the shrinkage of retail, Soglin said he hopes to start a city-wide conversation about the curtailment of places that sell food, alcohol and coffee.

Instead of the addition of new restaurants and bars to State Street, Soglin said he hopes to see the retention and implementation of more local independent bookstores, art galleries and retail stores.

Soglin said he believes retail stores downtown are too few and far between.
How does that policy initiative square with the marketing strategies of the University of Wisconsin, which, while not quite a business model party school, is revenue-driven all the same, and the revenue is from upscale Coasties whose parents will spend freely on football, basketball, and comestibles?  Let the Wisconsin residents go to Milwaukee.  Evidently, there are not enough patrons left for the head shops or Third World crafts or radical books.

THE MORE THE CLIMATE CHANGES.

A local advertising supplement called The MidWeek includes excerpts from newspapers of 125, 100, 75, 50, and 25 years ago.  Here's one from December 11, 1889.
Such summer-like December weather astonishes the old settlers. Monday the thermometer in the sun registered 104 degrees above zero, and the farmers were at work finishing their plowing. The editor has picked from his garden a bunch of pansies every few days for two or three weeks, and the grass is springing up as green as in May.
Thermometers in those days might not have been as accurate, and leaving one in the sun produces misleading readings. The flowers (if dandelions sprout in the next couple of days, I won't be surprised) are there for real. The archives for December 25 also remarked on the warmth. "The thermometer indicated 60 degrees above zero in the shade yesterday."

Another item from the same archive echoes. "There is such a western demand for freight cars that the railroad companies are unable to either buy or borrow enough for their needs." Yup, and that's just after the passage of the Act to Regulate Commerce creating the Interstate Commerce Commission.  The railroads may have gone from participating in pools to a cartel to consolidation into six major systems, and yet car shortages persist.

23.12.14

MARKING OFF.

Lionel trains are a year's end tradition at Cold Spring Shops.



Good night and sweet dreams.

WATCH THIS SPACE.

There's progress to report on the railroad.


Surveying the terrain, 5 October 2014.


The same area with the sub-roadbed in place, 17 November 2014.


Along the north wall, 18 December 2014.

Three different modelled lines will go into staging here.  Most of the heavy track-laying at the north end of staging was completed in April.


East wall, 18 December 2014.

I've been installing the backdrop for the British display that occupies the upper level.  The main level, featuring New England railroading, divides along the high benchwork at right.  There will be more progress to report on come the New Year.

COMPARE AND CONTRAST.

Michael Barone, deconstructing "The Rape on Campus Epidemic."
It's not surprising, however, that these abusive frenzies have taken hold at the nation's colleges and universities. Increasingly, they are our society's least free, least fair and least honest institutions.

Consider campus speech codes. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education -- FIRE -- reports that 58 percent of the 427 colleges and universities it monitors have speech codes banning and penalizing speech that is protected by the First Amendment.

The good news is that the number of speech codes is declining, partly in response to FIRE's advocacy and lawsuits. The bad news is that the Obama Education Department continues to use threats to cut off funding to get universities to ban "sexual harassment," defined as "any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature." As FIRE notes, "This is an overbroad definition that is not in accordance with the First Amendment."

The rationale for speech codes? Usually it is so that students, especially racial minorities and women, should not encounter anything offensive on campus. Thoughts that someone doesn't want to hear, administrators evidently believe, should not be allowed to be expressed. The authors of the First Amendment had a different idea.
Radhika Sainath, "When 'Civility' is Code for Suppression."
By the standards of the powerful, the Free Speech Movement of the 1960s was not civil. Protests against the Vietnam War were not civil. The movement to boycott South African apartheid was not civil. The "No Justice, No Peace" slogans and rolling street protests we see in response to police violence against Black and Brown communities are not civil.

These movements were and are controversial, divisive, and made some people uncomfortable. The movement for justice in Palestine is no different. Civility is all too often selectively invoked as an excuse to repress political activism; what ultimately matters is not civility but the causes of justice and freedom and the right to fight for them.
I'll let Mr Barone summarize.
Kangaroo courts, speech codes, racial discrimination: I suspect that some older readers cannot believe that such practices have become standard operating procedure at American colleges and universities -- indeed, the major focus of many of the administrators who now outnumber teachers on the nation's campuses.

Historically, universities and colleges saw themselves as havens of free speech and fair play, insulated from the larger society to protect those things from interference. Now they insulate themselves in order to violate due process, suppress speech and discriminate by race.

There's still some good scholarship and teaching on campus. But it exists, uneasily, amid a culture of lying and intellectual corruption.
Justice, freedom: still contested territory.  Whether it is black or Palestinian or male lives that are being diminished by the administrative ethos, it is the administrative ethos that is wrong.  If there's no chance to play with controversial ideas in the university, where do they get played with?

22.12.14

LOWLIVES.

I can't even publish a holiday cheer story without the cultural rot creeping in.
When Pete Robinson first discovered the damage that vandals had done, he had to stop and think whether to continue to operate the Holiday Lights Train this season.

After about 10 minutes, however, he got to work. With the help of about 10 friends, he was able to repair some of what he estimates is $20,000 in damage to the various displays, lights and other set pieces around the one-quarter scale Waterman & Western Railroad in Waterman Lions Park.

“If these people want to be the Grinch that tried to steal Christmas, they’ll have to go someplace else to steal it,” Robinson said Thursday. “My wife [Charleen] and I already made the decision we’re going to continue.”
The vandalism took place the weekend of December 13-14.

Come Friday, December 19, there were two trains running, with substantial turnout to ride, and to donate.


There's also a Go Fund Me appeal, to crowd-source the cost of repairing the illuminations.

CALLING OUT THE PERPETUALLY AGGRIEVED.

Narrative Kills.
Do any of them spend even a cartridge of ink speaking out against the teacher’s unions that enslave black children to ignorance for their own gain? Do any of them waste a word speaking out against the sexual practices that lead to rampant illegitimacy in poor black neighborhoods and enslave their generations to poverty? Do any of them ever stand up for the huge majority of decent, law-abiding African Americans whom the police protect lest they be enslaved by the thugs and criminals in their midst?

Dependency. Helplessness. Victimhood. Division. That’s all these people sell. Every damn day. What did they think would happen?
Now that it is the dominant paradigm, it is time for a new dominant paradigm to be subverted.

BEER-'N-CIRCUS IS THE BUSINESS MODEL.

George Leef is radical, in the sense of getting to the root cause of higher education's underachievement.
Moral decay and academic decay spring from the same root. That root is the federal policy of trying to ensure “access” to higher education for almost everyone. The supposedly well-intentioned Higher Education Act with its manifold subsidies transformed higher ed. What had formerly been a good that a few Americans saw as worth striving for and saving to afford, was turned into a near entitlement, mostly paid for by government money and easy, cheap loans it made available to all. (That’s the same story as with the disastrous housing bubble.) Over time, the percentage of weak and disengaged kids who just want to have fun has steadily increased, and most colleges decided to accommodate their desires (watered-down courses, lax discipline, lush amenities) rather than risk losing tuition dollars.
His Pope Center comrades recently filed a report from the University of Georgia.
Athens is the quintessential “college town,” a place where partying is a professional endeavor. Underground fake ID syndicates? Check. Ever-flowing cheap beer and mixed drinks at bar after bar after bar after bar? Check. The religion of SEC football and its concomitant tailgating, which is treated like a high class social affair rather than the glorified redneck debauchery that it is? Check. Vacuous sorority girls and frat boys? Check.

My profile of the average UGA student—which jibes with most of the depictions in the article above—is not a flattering one. The booze-addled matriculants who populate the otherwise quaint town of Athens seem to have no real interest in doing challenging work. Spending every penny on their prepaid credit cards at nearby bars (thanks, Mom and Dad), finding every shortcut to make it through their coursework (and then whining about the slightest encroachment of academic rigor), and dutifully cheering on the football team—which is worshipped on campus—appear to be more pressing matters.

Yes, there are always exceptions, and yes, there are no doubt bright students doing really good work on the campus. But I’m describing what, to me at least, seems pervasive. I’m describing a chunk of the student population comprised of the lowest common denominator, of students too smug and incurious to ever enhance their university’s educational atmosphere, and who do a big disservice to their more earnest classmates. They’re shuffled through the system in four or five or six years, having gleaned nothing but a few hazy memories and a framed piece of paper. It might be hyperbolic to say that such students and their ilk are now the majority at American colleges and universities, but I doubt it.
In that excerpt, author Jesse Saffron might be riffing off a recent Chronicle of Higher Education report that apparently in all earnestness aggregates Athens with Eugene or Ann Arbor or Chapel Hill.  Leave that aside.  Mr Saffron correctly identifies what higher education might do to defund the bars.
Institutions of higher learning should be places where students are intellectually and ethically prepared for adult life and professional careers, not sequestered from one vice or another, or sheltered from society’s more nefarious elements. With that said, however, there is a role for colleges and universities to play in terms of discouraging the moral bankruptcy which now seems so widespread on campuses.

By adopting a more selective admissions process and strengthening academic rigor, schools would help to weed out at least some of the aforementioned problems, and would send a signal to applicants (including the parents and  K-12 schools molding them): we demand more here.

In a recent article titled “If Students Have Time to Get Drunk, Colleges Aren’t Doing Their Job,” the New America Foundation’s Kevin Carey writes that “the most effective alcohol abuse prevention policy is to be a better college: a place where students are continually challenged, provoked, and engaged by the difficult work of learning.”
It may not be for me to finish the task, and yet I will not give it up.

21.12.14

STANDING ON A CORNER IN WINSLOW, ARIZONA.

On the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe.


That's the eastbound California Limited making its meal stop.  Fred Harvey still cater the station.


West of Winslow, the Canyon Diablo viaduct.  There's enough space on the benchwork to show the line relocation that took place here.


And some operators are serious enough to fill in their time books after completing a run.  We may be looking at a model railroad, but trains move under timetable authority, with extras authorized by the dispatcher and obligated to keep clear of timetabled superior trains.

AN ATTEMPT TO UNDERSTAND ADMINISTRATIVE ARBITRARINESS AT MARQUETTE.

John Protevi argues that Marquette Warrior's John McAdams exceeded his authority as a professor in calling out graduate assistant Cheryl Abbate for the way she managed a classroom discussion.  He also offers an explanation for the non-suspension-suspension the university imposed on Professor McAdams.
As to Marquette's current course of action, I find it troubling, but I would hazard a guess at to their motivations, based on a presumption that university administrations use a risk management rationality: MU may think that their risk of losing a Title IX suit or OCR complaint claiming that they did nothing when a student was subject to the creation of a hostile work or education environment was greater than the risk of their losing a wrongful discipline case by McAdams, as well as the cost to their reputation if people cast this as an academic freedom issue and the cost to their donor base by alums who take McAdams's side.

The above is an explanation, not a justification. The university's risk management calculations might converge with normative values if one feels that a claim of academic freedom does not excuse the creation of a hostile environment for a student.
Put another way, the national government have an unlimited war chest the Office of Civil Rights can draw on.  Or there are two principles that come into conflict.  That is, in higher education, one ought not rule ideas out of bounds lightly, and one ought not call out the apprentices harshly.

His next observation, however, perplexes.
Finally, there is the question of what we are to make of McAdams's role in the hate mail that Abbate received? Can McAdams just say "hey, I didn't write that hate mail"? This seems a recipe for enabling harassment by proxy, for clearly none of the vile creatures harassing Abbate would ever have heard of her if it weren't for McAdams.
True, Ms Abbate did not inject herself into public debate with a conspicuous display of moonbattery, the way Michigan's Susan Douglas did.  On the other hand, it's possible that Ms Abbate might have been called out by College Fix or No Indoctrination or Accuracy in Academia or Rate My Professors anyway, leading to what Professor Protevi calls harassment by proxy, an interesting locution to describe the sending of grouchy electronic mails or the posting of blog comments to somebody who says something you disagree with after you find a story that sets you off, which might not be hard to do on a website laden with politically correct shibboleths.

I further suspect that without National Review or Inside Higher Ed picking up the story once Marquette's administration stepped in it, public interest in the story might not have gotten beyond Ryan Road.

RETROSPECTIVE PROSPECTIVE.

More housecleaning, this time an Economist feature, from 2007, on the first fifty years of the European Union, "The European Union at 100."
The EU is celebrating its 100th birthday with quiet satisfaction. Predictions when it turned 50 that it was doomed to irrelevance in a world dominated by America, China and India proved wide of the mark. A turning-point was the bursting of America's housing bubble and the collapse of the dollar early in the presidency of Barack Obama in 2010. But even more crucial were Germany's and France's efforts later in that decade, under Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy respectively, to push through economic reforms.
Right on the housing crash, incorrect or incomplete otherwise, although there's still half the decade to go.
These reforms produced a sharp fall in unemployment just as Europe began to enjoy a productivity spurt from the spread of information technology. The eventual result was a growing labour shortage, which was not resolved until the arrival of Turkey and Ukraine as full members in 2025. The accession soon afterwards of the first north African country, Morocco, helped to prolong Europe's boom.
Wishful thinking? Tsar Vladimir would likely view Ukrainian membership as an encirclement too close. Asia Minor and North Africa: first the Moslem fundies have to be tamped down.
Of course it was not all plain sailing. The great Italian crisis of 2015, when the government of Gianfranco Fini quit the single currency just as David Miliband's Britain was about to join, cast a long shadow. Yet although Italian bondholders took a hit from the subsequent default and Italy's economy was soon overtaken by Spain's, financial markets proved forgiving, and the government of Walter Veltroni managed to rejoin the euro fairly quickly. Since then no country has been tempted to repeat Italy's painful experiment.
Promises to be an interesting year, if there's any basis for this forecast.
The other cause for quiet satisfaction has been the EU's foreign policy. In the dangerous second decade of the century, when Vladimir Putin returned for a third term as Russian president and stood poised to invade Ukraine, it was the EU that pushed the Obama administration to threaten massive nuclear retaliation. The Ukraine crisis became a triumph for the EU foreign minister, Carl Bildt, prompting the decision to go for a further big round of enlargement. It was ironic that, less than a decade later, Russia itself lodged its first formal application for membership.
It gets more fanciful from there.

19.12.14

MARQUETTE'S ADMINISTRATION BECLOWNS ITSELF

Although Marquette's John McAdams is still serving his non-suspension suspension (better not to be drinking coffee and reading the administrative circumlocutions) he's not silent.  Perhaps the reason the REMFs refuse to call his situation a suspension is that a suspension has procedural obligations.
In all cases of nonrenewal, suspension, or termination for absolute or discretionary cause, except Section 307.02(1) and (3), death, and permanent, total disability, the appropriate appointing authority of the University shall notify the faculty member in writing of the University's action.
Of what follows: nothing.
In fact, all of Section 1 was violated by the letter of suspension we got, which did not specify the statute allegedly violated, the date of the alleged violation, the location of the alleged violation, and any of the supposed facts of the violation.

Since this was about a blog post, there were plenty of witnesses, but none of them were named.

We were also told that the “university is continuing to review your conduct” but were not told the nature of any “contemplated action.”

Did university officials rattle off the letter without consulting counsel?

Did they think they could blow off their published rules? In any legal action, Marquette’s failure to follow its own rules will have negative consequences.
Readers of a certain age will understand that there don't have to be published rules for Double Secret Probation.  "Under review, with pay" might come under that rubric.

There's more at Inside Higher Ed.
Brian Dorrington, a university spokesman, said via email that he could reveal some information about McAdams’s case, given that he “has shared his personnel information on his public blog.”

Dorrington said that Marquette has been reviewing since last month “both a concern raised by a student and a concern raised by a graduate student teaching assistant. While this review continues, [McAdams] has been relieved of his teaching duties and other faculty duties. His salary and benefits will continue during the course of the review.”

The spokesman also pointed to a Nov. 22 memo – sent days after the story broke -- from President Michael R. Lovell to faculty, staff and students affirming the university’s commitment to “respect, professionalism and academic freedom.”

“I believe all these values must be present if we as a community are able to have productive discussions, even in the midst of disagreements,” Lovell said in his letter. “This is a matter of official policy, but it’s also a matter of our values. Respect is at the heart of our commitment to the Jesuit tradition and Catholic social teaching.”

Lovell added: “We are dedicated to uphold academic freedom and to maintain an environment in which the dignity and worth of each member of our community is respected, especially students. We deplore hatred and abuse directed at a member of our community in any format.”
That might play well among the administrators, but as an academic principle, it's weak.
Universities, it seems to me, shouldn’t just take the most liability-avoiding, speech-restrictive position in such situations — if they want to continue being taken seriously as places where people are free to investigate, debate and challenge orthodox views. A professor at Marquette (not Prof. McAdams) tells me: “[T]he new harassment training, which McAdams mentions on his blog and which we as faculty all had to go through this fall, has a chilling quality to it, … then basically urging people, when in doubt, to refrain from expression.” A sad thing to see at a university.
Particularly because "when in doubt" and "teach the controversies" have non-empty intersections.

WHY IT MATTERS.

An instructive column from the Indianapolis Recorder. "Let’s be honest, it’s not every day you come across a guy named Abdul-Hakim Shabazz with a conservative-libertarian political bent." It's in your frame of reference.
In the late 1980s’, my dad’s government obligations had us relocated to Europe. We lived in West Germany and I attended college in Munich. Most revealing for me was a trip to Prague in what used to be Czechoslovakia. We were taking a tour of the city when I saw hundreds of people in line outside of a store. I asked the tour guide what they were in line for? I thought they were there for concert tickets, but it wasn’t, it was shoes. He told me people stand in line for hours for shoes and are lucky to find two of the same size.
That's before he started university, which gave him a perspective his classmates lacked.
That image was fresh in my mind when I came back to the United States to finish my education. I was attending Northern Illinois University. I had discovered talk radio and was listening to WVON-AM, the local urban talk station, on which I heard a steady stream of people complaining about the misery of their lives and how white folks wouldn’t give them anything. After seeing real poverty abroad, I couldn’t believe how people whined that they weren’t getting enough food stamps and government assistance. I found it annoying but that’s not what pushed me over the edge.

What sealed the deal for me was my attempt to join a “Black” campus organization. My Dad had encouraged me to join one of those groups, so I decided to follow his advice and re-establish my “roots.” Here I am in a room full of young students, who for most were the first generation of their family to go to college, so they are under tremendous pressure. Instead of messages of encouragement and support, they gave the “You know these white people don’t want you here. They just want your money and then they will kick you out. The only people that really care about you are us. Any questions?”
Plenty.
That is when I politely stood up and said, “You negroes cannot be serious!” And left. I could not believe the idiocy I was hearing. Instead of encouragement and support, these guys perpetuated the victim mentality. These kids needed hope and reassurance, not fear mongering.

I had already switched my major from engineering and computer science to broadcasting, so now I get the added benefit of bringing a message of self-empowerment and assurance to folks who truly needed it. The same thing was true for graduate school, law school and most of my professional commentator life. I have been preaching the message of self-reliance, individual liberty and personal responsibility.

Yes, I get a lot of grief for my opinions, but I came by them honestly and I don’t apologize for them.

THERE'S STILL MAGIC IN MACROECONOMICS.

Here's Robert A. Samuelson, in April of 2013.  The End of Macroeconomics' Magic?  It's in the Washington Post, that makes it valid, right?  Perhaps, in the large, the policy nostrums (nostra?) worked.
Perhaps the anti-economist backlash has gone too far, as George Akerlof, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, argued. The world, he said, avoided a second Great Depression. “We economists have not done a good job explaining that our macro policies worked,” he said.
And yet, nearly six years into Hope and Change, there's precious little hope, and change not necessarily for the good.
Still, the subsequent record is disheartening. The economic models that didn’t predict the crisis have also repeatedly overstated the recovery. The tendency is to blame errors on one-time events — say, in 2011, the Japanese tsunami, the Greek bailout and the divisive congressional debate over the debt ceiling. But the larger cause seems to be the models themselves, which reflect spending patterns and behavior by households and businesses since World War II.
That, as regular readers know, means an opportunity for further research.
“We really don’t understand what’s happening in advanced economies,” Lorenzo Bini Smaghi, a former member of the [European Central Bank’s] executive board, told the conference. “Monetary policy [policies affecting interest rates and credit conditions] has not been as effective as we thought.” Poor economic forecasts confirm this. In April 2012, the [International Monetary Fund predicted that the euro zone (the 17 countries using the euro) would expand by 0.9 percent in 2013; the latest IMF forecast, issued last week, has the euro zone shrinking by 0.3 percent in 2013. For the global economy, the growth forecast for 2013 dropped from 4.1 percent to 3.3 percent over the same period.

Since late 2007, the Fed has pumped more than $2 trillion into the U.S. economy by buying bonds. Economist Allan Meltzer asked: “Why is there such a weak response to such an enormous amount of stimulus, especially monetary stimulus?” The answer, he said, is that the obstacles to faster economic growth are not mainly monetary. Instead, they lie mostly with business decisions to invest and hire; these, he argued, are discouraged by the Obama administration’s policies to raise taxes or, through Obamacare’s mandate to buy health insurance for workers, to increase the cost of hiring.

There were said to be other “structural” barriers to recovery: the pressure on banks and households to reduce high debt; rigid European labor markets; the need to restore global competitiveness for countries with large trade deficits. But these adjustments and the accompanying policies are often slow-acting and politically controversial.
Economics graduate students, however (and via Newmark's Door), have discovered and acted upon some of the research opportunities, with a fifth of current Ph.D. dissertations in the highly-regarded departments concentrating on macroeconomics.  There appears to be a power rule in the choice of other dissertation topics, and I'm grateful not to have to assist with a macroeconomics search this year: on prior such searches I often desired a fifth of something strong after reading the packets.

Policy makers, however, are of a different mind-set.
With hindsight, excessive faith in macroeconomic policy stoked the financial crisis. Deft shifts in interest rates by central banks seemed to neutralize major economic threats (from the 1987 stock crash to the burst “tech bubble” of 2000). Prolonged prosperity promoted a false sense of security. People — bankers, households, regulators — tolerated more risk and more debt, believing they were insulated from deep slumps.

But now a cycle of overconfidence has given way to a cycle of under-confidence. The trust in macroeconomic magic has shattered. This saps optimism and promotes spending restraint. Scholarly disagreements multiply. Last week, a feud erupted over a paper on government debt by economists Kenneth Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart. The larger lesson is: We have moved into an era of less economic understanding and control.
Perhaps the beginning of understanding is to understand the limits to the span of control, either by model builders or by policy makers.

THE CASE FOR RECLAIMING BOURGEOIS VERITIES.

National Review's John O'Sullivan, a year ago.
When courtesy is abandoned, we invent speech codes, which are blunter in their impact and repress legitimate disagreement along with insults. When female sexual modesty and male sexual restraint are discredited as puritanical, we draw up contractual arrangements to ensure that any sexual contact is voluntary on both sides. This means that sexual relationships (and their consequences) may occur more often but that they do so in an atmosphere of mutual suspicion and legal wariness that poisons relations between men and women over the long run. Above all, when we no longer protect and strengthen the family on the grounds that it is a patriarchal institution harmful to the life chances of women, we encourage the family breakdown that leaves women worse off financially, pushes men into an irresponsible life, and damages their children socially and psychologically.
I've seen nothing in "Yes Means Yes" or "Black Lives Matter" that refutes a word of the above.

18.12.14

ELEVEN SECONDS TO SHOOT.

The most famous gap in Presidential history of the past fifty years may not be the eighteen minute gap in a Watergate-related tape.  It might be a six-second pause in the Zapruder film.
In 1963, Abraham Zapruder was the 58-year-old co-owner of a Dallas dress manufacturing company, Jennifer Juniors, and an avid amateur filmmaker. Yet he didn’t bring his top-of-the-line home movie camera to work on November 22 even though the president’s motorcade was scheduled to pass right by his office sometime after noon. Only after his secretary suggested he would regret not capturing JFK on film—after all, how often is a president less than a block away?—did Zapruder dash home to fetch his Bell & Howell Zoomatic.

An important fact to realize is that the film he shot that day consists of two parts. The first segment, 132 frames (seven seconds long), shows police motorcyclists riding by. Zapruder stopped recording the advance escort because he did not want to run out of film. He restarted his camera only after he clearly saw Kennedy acknowledging the crowd from a gleaming blue stretch limousine. Thus, the 19 seconds of Zapruder film everyone is familiar with begin at frame 133—well after the Lincoln Continental had already negotiated the sharp turn onto Elm Street, putting it about 71 feet into the plaza.
By which time, this Newsweek report suggests, Lee Oswald had already fired the first shot, the one that missed.  The Warren Commission had an opportunity to suggest that possibility, but didn't make the case.
On May 24, 1964, when the commission restaged the assassination in Dealey Plaza, the main thrust was to show that the “single-bullet” hypothesis was correct. The theory has since been endorsed by every reputable investigation, to the point where it should be called the “single-bullet conclusion.” Yet its corollary—if one shot had hit two men, then one of the three shots missed—was mostly ignored. That unaccounted-for bullet was a pesky problem but one the commission could not explain. No matter how many times it ran the Zapruder film through the projector, the missing shot could not be pinpointed in time.

No one realized that the commission, despite its crucial revision of the FBI’s analysis, had also been Zaprudered. Squeezing the shooting sequence so that it fit inside the film made Oswald’s feat of marksmanship appear to be much more difficult than it actually was. The commission’s scenario, the one that reduced the shooting down to not just six but as little as 4.8 seconds, was all but impossible for expert marksmen to replicate. The commission’s riposte was that the report didn’t claim it happened that way—just that it could have. Since this legalistic answer verged on the absurd, the net effect was to cast doubt on the commission’s probity.
Simplest explanation: Mr Zapruder's camera starts again after the first shot.  As Newsweek notes, it's a record of a shooting in progress.  But there is additional evidence the Commission made less than full use of.
Dallas Deputy Sheriff Luke Mooney discovered the three spent rifle cartridges on the depository’s sixth floor. The hulls had fallen in a distinctive pattern: two were close together, just below the window sill, and the third was several feet away. When Mooney testified, he tried to offer his opinion about what this signified, but assistant counsel Joe Ball was not interested. Six days later, though, assistant counsel Melvin Eisenberg exhibited considerable interest in the matter while questioning FBI agent Robert Frazier. That’s because cartridge ejection patterns are predictable and routinely used to determine shooting positions. The pattern found on the sixth floor suggested that one shot was fired with the rifle aimed more or less perpendicular to the face of the building, with the ejected cartridge bouncing away unimpeded, while the other two shots were fired with the rifle pointed in a direction nearly parallel to the building’s face, with the spent hulls bouncing back to the sill after hitting the book cartons Oswald had stacked behind him in order to stay hidden. Unfortunately Frazier did not have Mooney’s insight.
The pattern of the shots as fired, and the presence of street-side obstacles, suggests Lee Oswald had to reload, and then re-acquire his target.
Oswald, in keeping with his Marine training, had fired at the first good opportunity; that is, just after a good portion of the president’s upper torso came into Oswald’s sights at Position A. [image] The only reason this first shot missed was because it hit the only obstacle (apart from the tree) blocking Oswald’s line of sight during the entire procession: the traffic mast arm. He could not get off another shot before the limousine became obscured by the oak tree, so he fired his second shot at the first good opportunity: the instant the president’s main body mass appeared out from under the oak tree. This bullet pierced Kennedy’s upper back and was quickly followed by an utterly devastating third shot.
In the image, you see that in position A, Oswald is aiming directly out the window, he must then traverse to the right to reacquire on the other side of the tree.  Thus,
Instead of presenting three possible scenarios, the Warren Report would have described a shooting sequence that took slightly more than 11 seconds, with intervals of approximately 6.3 seconds and 4.9 seconds between the three shots. The misleading but sibilant meme first put forward in Life — six seconds in Dallas—would have been debunked, an accomplishment nearly as important as proving that one of the three shots hit both Kennedy and Connally. Because the shot by Oswald that missed was his first one, when it occurred defines the time span of the assassination. It also shows that Oswald’s allegedly remarkable feat of marksmanship was no feat at all, especially for an ex-Marine who once qualified as a sharpshooter.
And the evidence was all there, if only the experts had seen it.

CHICAGO'S B1G TEAM.

Let's call the roll of who they're not.

The Bears: another year, another quarterback controversy.  As a Facebook friend quipped, money spent to benefit the Green Bay Packers without affecting the salary cap.

Northwestern: they have aspirations, but went 0-for-Illinois this fall.

Illinois: somehow drew Louisiana Tech in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.  (Do they play on a grassy knoll?)  All the Group of Five fans are Techsters for that evening.

That leaves us with Northern Illinois.
I have a team for Chicagoans to root and cheer for that deserves to be rooted and cheered for. A team that knows how to win and has proven it year in and year out. A team that does things the right way, some would say the hard way. A team that receives little Chicago media coverage despite its university having 200,000 alums living in yhe Chicagoland area, but it doesn’t care because it’s too busy making it to five consecutive MAC Championship games under three head coaches. If you guessed the NIU Huskies you’ve guessed right.

In what was supposed to be a rebuilding season – losing the likes of Heisman finalist quarterback Jordan Lynch, first-round safety Jimmie Ward and the entire defensive line – the Huskies put together an 11-2 season, won their third MAC Championship in four seasons and will play the Conference-USA champion Marshall Thundering Herd in the inaugural Boca Raton Bowl 5 p.m. Dec. 23 in Boca Raton, Fla.
Seems like a good way to start the Christmas festivities. Name the other two bowl games featuring conference champions.

RUNNING COSTS ARE AVOIDABLE, SUNK COSTS ARE SUNK, SOMETIMES WAITING HAS VALUE.

We began the week with a look at the effect of oil price movements on the marginal suppliers of crude oil, and of bio-fuel substitutes.  These don't all go away when the price of crude falls.  Here's John Palmer with the economics primer.  "But for the short run, very little if any of the existing wells will be shut down."  There's the traditional shutdown analysis, which causes introductory students no end of trouble, and which midwived the discipline of "managerial accounting" so as to end the fetish of fully allocated costs and the recovery thereof.  Sometimes you have to do something to lose less money.
So long as the oil companies are receiving enough to cover these marginal costs, they will keep pumping the oil. And that will occur so long as the spot price of oil exceeds about $40/bbl.  Pumping oil at those prices will cover the variable costs of pumping and make some contribution toward covering some of the overhead/fixed/sunk costs.
Then comes a harder proposition, one that a lot of novice students understand on a gut level, but which the discipline couldn't handle without Ito calculus, value-matching, and smooth pasting.
There is an exception not addressed in the article, however. If the costs of stopping and starting the pumping process are low, some oil companies may choose to stop pumping if they expect oil prices to rise in the future.

In this case, the marginal cost of pumping oil now is not just the extraction, transportation, and marketing cost; it is also the present value of lost higher revenues in the future, which of course depend on the expectations people in each oil company have about future prices for oil. If they expect prices to rebound in the near future, they may want to curtail some pumping; if they expect prices to remain low for the foreseeable future, they may decide to keep pumping.

Note, though, that this decision depends only on their expectations about future prices of oil and has very little to do with the marginal costs of pumping. Or, to put it differently, the marginal opportunity costs of selling oil for cheap now are the possible foregone revenues from waiting.
Or, to get wonkier, when you sell a barrel of oil today, you have killed the option of holding the oil and selling it for a higher price tomorrow. I have to go back to my notes on absorbing barriers to work out whether that option value is greater when the current price of oil is lower, or if that current low price drives that value of holding the option to zero.  Then all that matters is covering the running costs.

INTERACTING FOR MUTUAL BENEFIT.

Earlier this month, I noted overreach by a distinguished anthropologist, just the latest True Believer using his stature as an academician to create and then burn a straw-man of radical individualism.  Sheldon Richman correctly dings that academician for treacherous fabrication.
What people like Terrell don't realize — or perhaps realize too well — is that the fundamental point in dispute is not whether the individual is a social animal or a creature best suited for an atomistic existence. No libertarian I know of subscribes to the latter notion. The point in dispute is whether proper social life should be founded on peaceful consensual cooperation or on compulsion.
That comes after a brief survey of serious classical thinking about the citizen and the state.  Repeat, as repeat I must. "That's not too bad a case for limiting the power of communities or societies to dictate the behavior of members, while at the same time recognizing that the power to exclude disruptive or non-cooperative individuals has value."  So mote it be.

17.12.14

THE CYCLONE INFERNO.

Years ago, the American Coaster Enthusiasts' Roller Coaster ran a short story involving several young coaster enthusiasts, lost on the back roads somewhere near the Ohio - Pennsylvania border, who heard the sound of a distant roller coaster that, upon investigation, had an amazing first drop and some subsequent features to deliver sinful souls to Satan.  It wasn't their time, which is why their story was able to be told.

Now comes the Euthanasia Coaster.
Here’s how the world’s oddest suicide method would work: First the rider would face a long, slow climb up to more than 500 meters, giving him or her a few minutes to think back on life and contemplate the decision. At the top, there would be time to say a prayer or blow a kiss to relatives (or bail) before pressing the “Fall” button and plummeting into the long steep plunge followed by the first 360-degree loop. That’s where most riders would die. According to [inventor Julijonas] Urbonas, traveling at 100 meters per second, the person would experience a G-force-induced loss of consciousness due to cerebral hypoxia (lack of oxygen reaching the brain), which often causes a sense of euphoria. Just in case that first one didn’t do it, six more consecutive loops would finish the job.
The concept, not surprisingly, does not appeal to more mainstream death-with-dignity advocates.
No surprise the idea’s attracted no commercial interest, though perhaps it will end up being featured in some futuristic, scary movie. The debate around the right to die is already contentious enough without trying to turn it into a show.
Just modify the plot slightly, move the loops underground, and the screenplay has already been written.

JOHN MCADAMS BANISHED.

A few weeks ago, Marquette University reprimanded philosophy department head Nancy Snow for berating political scientist and weblogger John McAdams in the cafeteria.

The other shoe has dropped.  Professor McAdams is suspended with pay.

Here's the letter from his dean.
The university is continuing to review your conduct and during this period--and until further notice--you are relieved of all teaching duties and all other faculty activities, including, but not limited to, advising, committee work, faculty meetings and any activity that would involve your interaction with Marquette students, faculty and staff. Should any academic appeals arise from Fall 2014 semester, however, you are expected to fulfill your obligations in that specific matter.

Your salary and benefits will continue at their current level during this time.

You are to remain off campus during this time, and should you need to come to campus, you are to contact me in writing beforehand to explain the purpose of your visit, to obtain my consent and to make appropriate arrangements for that visit. I am enclosing with this letter Marquette’s harassment policy, its guiding values statement, the University mission statement, and sections from the Faculty Handbook, which outline faculty rights and responsibilities; these documents will inform our review of your conduct.
In a radio interview this morning, Professor McAdams noted he has received permission to continue, on campus, work on a book under contract for February.

Marquette is on the naughty list at Minding the Campus, and here's John Leo.
Marquette University, the Jesuit school in Milwaukee, has shot itself in the foot again. Weeks ago in a “Theory of Ethics” class, philosophy instructor Cheryl Abbate listed several possible topics of discussion, but said one of them –gay marriage—could not be addressed because any opposition argument would offend homosexual students, and besides society has already agreed that gays can marry. This is a strong pattern for the campus left: topics they want to talk about (e.g., the Keystone pipeline, abolishing fraternities) are discussed endlessly, even in classes where the topics have little or no relevance. But topics they don’t want discussed are banned as “already settled” or as harassment.
Ms Abbate's story has nuances. "Perhaps Ms Abbate was working under time constraints, or perhaps a student posed a difficult question, or perhaps she was being censorious." I don't have enough information to disentangle or to deconstruct the narratives.  But Marquette's administration have fired up the activists at The College Fix and Turning Point USA are organizing protests.  During the winter break.

MORE ON HIGHER EDUCATION'S ANXIETY MACHINE.

Here's how it's playing out in Canada.
Changes to postsecondary education over the last few years, particularly larger class sizes, have increased demands, professors say. In a controversial report on faculty workloads issued last spring by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario, the group suggested that universities hire more faculty who would be primarily devoted to teaching, possibly leading to smaller classes. Such positions are increasingly common across Canada.
Student credit hours per faculty member is a crappy performance metric. So is salary per student credit hour, the metric that has led to universities relying more heavily on cheap and contingent labor.  On the other hand, the Northwestern model that hires lecturers on a long-term basis, and treats them as professionals, including limiting the Distressed Material masquerading as students, might have some effectiveness.

In Canada, as is true everywhere else, the crappy performance metric leads, inevitably, to crappy performance.
In the meantime, many professors have made changes to the structure of courses to decrease assignments that require extensive written feedback.

“As an English prof, my pedagogical values tell me that if students are going to be learning they have to be writing, and they have to be writing a lot, and they need to get feedback on that writing,” said Kathleen Cawsey, an associate professor at Dalhousie University who recently received tenure.

Prof. Cawsey is spending part of the winter break deciding whether or not to include a final essay in one of the courses she is teaching next term. At the beginning of her career, she asked students to write multiple drafts of a paper and provided feedback on each one. With larger class sizes – one of her winter courses will have 90 – that has become impossible.
That has long been a tradeoff. It might have been a tolerable economy in first- and second-year courses that served as weeders, but eliminating writing assignments from upper division courses in the name of student credit hours per credit hour makes for a lousy education at Dalhousie.  And publish-or-perish is now get-funded-and-publish-or-perish.
Research funds are also difficult to access. New funding rules that emphasize commercial potential, particularly in the sciences, mean that professors have to deal with the prospect of their careers being cut short if they don’t win grants to run a lab.

“My younger colleagues are having to survive in stressful situations that I never had to survive,” said Larry Moran, a professor of biochemistry at the University of Toronto. “Government policies have redirected research funds so that it’s hit and miss if you get grants. ... When you fail at this job, there aren’t a lot of other places to go,” he said.
That's Canada. I don't know if the funding expectations have become as nasty as they are in Britain.  There's always the possibility of becoming a free agent: if you're spending all your time preparing proposals and budgets, think in terms of business plans and loan applications.  Then there's no upper bound on how much income you produce.
As a result of these multiple sources of pressure, some graduate students are cautious about entering academia. Christin Moeller, who is studying toward a PhD in applied social psychology at the University of Windsor, is taking a program that gives her the option to work in industry or government. She was all too familiar with the lives of academics from researching faculty mental health and stress as part of her graduate work.
Yes, if the pipeline of aspiring professors dries up, the universities will have to treat their faculty better. But the professoring gig is one in which people are willing to knock themselves out, if in pursuit of the right goals.
“What makes academia unique is that everything is important and that faculty need to be excellent at everything,” Ms. Moeller said. “We feel really passionate about our work … but personally, I am not sure that those types of demands until I retire are what I’m looking for.”
No, everything is not important. Working with motivated students: important. Giving a lot of consideration to special pleadings from weak students: not important.  Getting the words right in a research report: important.  Getting the words right on a committee report: not important.

There's some perspective from the Superman-comics-inspired-named Xykademiqz that will reward careful study.  A sampling.
Everyone in the academic enterprise is smart, and most people are smart enough to be successful. There is a great degree of luck in success, but personality also plays a role in how things turn out. There are a few aspects of my personality that I think have been useful for me to have. I am not saying they are necessary or even anywhere near ideal in general, but I think they are strongly correlated with my professional and personal standing (I am happy with both) in the overall mishmash that is my personality.
Go and read the rest.

16.12.14

FÜR SOLCHE SCHWEINE SPIELE ICH NICHT!

Herzliches Geburtstag, Herr Beethoven.


The post title is from a Beethoven letter.  There's a collection of these letters, read by Konrad Beikircher.

Ten reasons to love Beethoven.

15.12.14

HIGHER EDUCATION'S ANXIETY MACHINE.

Kate Bowles's Music for Deckchairs contemplates the downside of higher education's productivity chase.  Her main message: it requires the sanction of the victim.
Put more simply: throw together a crowd of smart, driven individuals who’ve been rewarded throughout their entire lives for being ranked well, for being top of the class, and through a mixture of threat and reward you can coerce self-harming behaviour out of them to the extent that you can run a knowledge economy on the fumes of their freely given labour.

They will give you their health, their family time, the time they intended to spend on things that were ethically important to them, their creativity, their sleep. They will volunteer to give you all of this so that you can run your business on a shoestring, relative to what you intend to produce, so that you can be better than the business up the road. They will blame themselves if they can’t find enough of this borrowed time—other people’s borrowed time—to hand over to you.

Just wait while I send this email. Start without me. I’ll be along in a bit. Do you mind if I don’t come?

They will do this at all levels of the career, even if you pay them by the hour at a real rate that disintegrates to something approaching casual retail work once you factor in all the things they’ll have to do on their own time to get the job done well. They will do this especially if they’re also trying to run alongside the speeding train that might represent their future career hopes.
Academic research has always been for the obsessives and the ambitious. Some of the complaint is about the proliferation of administrivia that is crowding out the scholarship. But follow the links in the posts: Professor Stefan Grimm, toxicologist at Imperial College, faced firing for insufficient grantsmanship (despite having raised grant money, some REMF was of the view that the research would be "insufficiently impactful," whatever that means); took his own life.
This is not, I shouldn't have to say, how academia works. Peter Higgs, of Higgs Boson fame, said that there was 'no Eureka moment' to his work, and he only has 4 papers listed on Google Scholar: but what papers! Science rarely has a Eureka moment: it's rather a series of careful, thoughtful developments of work done by one's forebears and peers. A management which demands a Eureka a day is one which doesn't just not 'get' academia, it's a management which contradicts the academic method and it's one which has forgotten that it's meant to serve the needs of science, the arts, students and researchers, not the insatiable maw of attention seeking 'Leaders' (that's the word they use now) and the PR office. It's also a management that kills.

I am not Stefan Grimm and my university does not have the same reputation for bullying that Imperial has, but I've been a UCU caseworker for long enough to be able to recount (were it not for professional confidentiality) a long list of stories almost as awful as Stefan's. Thankfully none of my colleagues have killed themselves, but I've seen careers ended in bitterness and failure because individuals didn't fit into a corporate vision of efficiency and attention-grabbing Eureka moments. The twin demands of a marketised HE sector and the deforming and frankly dumb priorities of the REF conspire to distort educational and research processes, aided in many cases by management structures which hire those who've forgotten the basic notions of collegiality and progress through community. 'We' are just a workforce to be exploited and 'they' are the equivalent of commodities traders, ramping up the share price and being rewarded for short-termism.
Or not: when the research enterprise imitates The Glass Bead Game, or when the professors with some capability to achieve Eureka moments begin to insist on the kind of severance protection the football coaches routinely receive, the rotten structure will collapse.