Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Evangelical churches and secular universities have much in common, writes William J. Stunz in TCS: Tech Central Station - Faculty Clubs and Church Pews. No, really! They do! And if they ever figured it out and got together to fight for the issues they both care about deeply, American politics could change drastically.

Monday, November 08, 2004

According to Edward L. Ayers, Dean of the College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Virginia:

"Librarians have been the real heroes of the digital revolution in higher education. They are the ones who have seen the farthest, done the most, accepted the hardest challenges, and demonstrated most clearly the benefits of digital infromation. In the process, they have turned their own field upside down and have revolutionized their professional training. It is testimony to their success that we take their achievement--and their information-management systems--for granted."

Ayers, Edward L. (2004). "The Academic Culture & the IT Culture: Their Effect on Teaching and Scholarship." Educause Review 39(6): 48-62. Available online at http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/erm0462.pdf.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Never go without pizza again! Use Google SMS to find local business listings (including pizza places), product prices, dictionary definitions, and more -- just by sending text messages with your cell phone!
On the lighter side, see Word of the Day: Nerdstick -- ResearchBuzz, October 09, 2004. Nerdstick: "those little USB-based portable hard drives, usually kept on a keychain or lanyard."

Time to go buy a nerdstick. I feel left out.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

For more evidence that our democratic principles are under attack by people who cannot tolerate dissenting opinions, take a look at the most recent editorial in The Lone Star Iconoclast, the newspaper in Crawford, Texas, that recently endorsed John Kerry:


These quotes from the editorial speak volumes about the perilous state of democracy in America:

"In the past, when individuals disagreed with an editorial, they would write a letter to the editor politely expressing a different point of view in contrast to the views of the publishers, which we have usually published. Occasionally someone would cancel a subscription or an ad, but this was rare... The new mode of operation, I am told, is that when a newspaper prints an editorial of which some sectors might disagree, the focus is now upon how to run the newspaper out of business."

So apparently if you disagree with an opinion, instead of writing an intelligent counterargument, you destroy the source of the offending opinion and thereby intimidate others who might be tempted to disagree with you publicly. Maybe that's the only recourse for people who are incapable of formulating an intelligent argument to support their opinions--or who hold opinions which cannot be supported with an intelligent argument at all.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Check out Bill Maher's Valentine's Day editorial on gay marriage, from the Boston Globe at http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2004/02/14/valentines_day_that_great_state_holiday/. A sound argument made with humor--just what you'd expect from Maher.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

I just ran across a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education that touched a nerve. In a column entitled, "Just Another Leftist Loon," James E. McWilliams, assistant professor at the University of Texas at San Marcos, writes about the hate mail he received after writing an op-ed piece for the Los Angeles Times about President Bush (the op-ed piece is available free online from the Dodge City Daily Globe, at least for now, at http://www.dodgeglobe.com/stories/112203/opi_1122030038.shtml).

So, why do I care that a professor in Texas got hate mail for criticizing the president? I find it disturbing that so many people cannot learn about and respond to issues rationally but instead are infuriated by any opinion that contradicts their own. A democracy, government by the people, requires that the people doing the governing can think and respond rationally. Instead, too many people in our nation respond to differing opinions with all the rationality of an angry mob carrying torches. Those who respond primarily with emotion rather than reason are easy to manipulate with emotional appeals, making them--and our nation--easy prey for an aspiring tyrant who can fuel their fears and kindle their anger for nefarious purposes.

And there are others who stand to benefit from a populace ruled primarily by their guts rather than their brains--marketers. Most advertising appeals to emotions, and often our less-honorable ones--greed, envy, fear, and lust come immediately to mind. The more people make decisions rationally, the less likely they are to fall for the latest spiel dreamed up by Madison Avenue. So, as a capitalist democracy, we face two conflicting needs: a well-educated, rational populace capable of effective self-governance, and a large population of not-too discriminating consumers to buy products and thereby fuel our economy.

Interestingly, our aversion to reasoned argument is a big part of the op-ed piece that prompted such angry letters. McWilliams argues that we Americans find the "yeoman with a sledgehammer" more appealing than the "smarty-pants with a book." Hence, according to McWilliams, the appeal of George W. Bush. But much of the McWilliams essay is devoted not to Bush but to his yeoman predecessor, Andrew Jackson, who also eschewed intellectualism in favor of instinct. As McWilliams points out, many Americans have long been driven more by the gut than the mind, yet our nation has survived and prospered in the 175 years since Jackson took office. In this fact I find some comfort.

People who dislike buzzwords and trendy slang will enjoy the annual List of Words Banished from the Queen's English, courtesy of Lake Superior State University. You can find the 2004 list at http://www.lssu.edu/banished/archive/2004.php. My favorite entry is "hand-crafted latte," an abomination I heard for the first time a few weeks ago in a Starbucks ad. Talk about pretentious--it's not a work of art, it's a !@#$% cup of coffee! Or, in the words of Orin Hargraves of Westminster, Maryland, who nominated the term for the list of banished words, "This compound is an insult to generations of skilled craftspeople who have mustered the effort and discipline to create something beautiful by hand. To apply 'hand-crafted' to the routine tasks of the modern-day equivalents of soda jerks cheapens the whole concept of handicraft." I couldn't agree more.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Welcome to Janet's world! In creating this blog, I am violating several fundamental tenets of good writing: I don't know who my audience is, I don't have a specific purpose in mind... I don't even have a topic. I suspect all of these will develop over time, assuming I keep this thing up. I read recently that the great majority of blogs (>80%) contain only one entry. Well, we shall see. If you stumble across my blog, please drop me a note (crumj@yahoo.com) and let me know what you think of it or what you'd like to see in this space. Thanks for reading!