Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Rare Michael Bérubé Sighting

The world pens an open letter to John McCain:

EARTH, July 25, 2008 -- The entire world drafted an open letter to Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) today, asking him to drop out of the U.S. presidential race and concede the presidency to Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois).

"Ordinarily we do not interfere in America's internal affairs," said a spokesman for the rest of the planet, "even when it has become clear, as in recent years, that American voters are about to elect ignorant, incoherent buffoons who will add immeasurably to our immiseration. But this time is different.

Check out the rest.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Taking it personally

In response to this ridiculous letter in the GT (it's the first one), I wrote my own letter. This is the important part:

I have to take issue with Jerry Duerksen’s July 23 letter defending landlords. The situation, at least for this seven-year Corvallis renter, is not the rosy picture Mr. Duerksen points out. A few years ago, I lived in one of the properties managed by his company. When I turned on the exterior water faucet, water leaked into the floor in my house, right where the baseboard heater was. Repeated letters to Duerksen and Associates got no response whatsoever, even when I cc’d them to the actual owner of the property. Needless to say, I didn’t stay long, and I’ll never rent from Duerksen again.

What does the GT do? It asks Duerksen to comment on my letter, and then runs his comment below mine:

Editor’s note: Jerry Duerksen’s reply: Dennis Dugan was an excellent tenant for over a year. He received most if not all of his deposit back and left the apartment in excellent condition. Obviously the water leak was repaired, or it would still be leaking today.

Anecdotally, it seems like the GT only ever goes to people in positions of power - city officials or business owners - to give them a sneak peek at a letter or op/ed and allow them to respond. Needless to say, if this is true, I don't think it's good practice. I feel a little sandbagged.

On the other hand, Duerksen's response makes him look even more out of touch. If the best he can do is claim that the water leak has been repaired at some point since I moved out (which has been a full two years), and that I was an excellent tenant, then.... why even respond? He didn't dispute my claim; he just complimented me and sounded clueless about the problem. To me, this just makes his original letter even less credible.

"Flash Forward: Pharmacy Flash Cards"

For some reason, I can't stop laughing at this.

Make sure to check out the "About" page.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Future of Education

From Rate Your Students, of all places:

The ongoing deterioration of high school. High schools no longer teach many basic skills. The expectation is that they shouldn't. Why? I have no idea. You can pick from two dozen AP courses designed to get you into college, but in most schools you can't get basic hands-on time with power tools or engines, can't learn how to balance a checkbook, build a budget, get a mortgage or manage a home.You can take a class requiring detailed discussion of the history of modern Europe, but not one in the basic requirements of informed citizenship. It's disgraceful. High school aren't "high" -- they're low-rent college prep, or a way to mark time on your journey to service-sector job hell.

True, False, Both, Neither?


The Man From Hope, Special Media Edition

Specifically, CNN's Candy Crowley's. From Washington Monthly (via Hullabaloo):

Candy Crowley on CNN: Barack Obama was, indeed, awesome in his Berlin speech tonight, but watch out! Americans might decide he was a little too awesome.

Not only is it easy for me to read that as "uppity black man," but it fits right into that ludicrous right-wing narrative that daring to dream of a better future is crazy, or impossible, or stupid, or all three. You know, the one I made note of here and here.

And this from CNN.

Can we admit that the mainstream media is simply not liberal in any meaningful way? Please?

Somewhere, we took a wrong turn

Via /. and from the Chronicle of Higher Education's free section:

Tucked away in a 1,200-page bill now in Congress is a small paragraph that could lead distance-education institutions to require spy cameras in their students' homes.

It sounds Orwellian, but the paragraph — part of legislation renewing the Higher Education Act — is all but assured of becoming law by the fall. No one in Congress objects to it.

The paragraph is actually about clamping down on cheating. It says that an institution that offers an online program must prove that an enrolled student is the same person who does the work.

Already, the language is spurring some colleges to try technologies that authenticate online test takers by reading their fingerprints, watching them via Web cameras, or recording their keystrokes.

Fuck that noise. Not only is this a ridiculous invasion of privacy (baaaaaaa), but it's unnecessary:

"It's going to reduce access," says John F. Ebersole, president of Excelsior College, an online institution based in Albany, N.Y. "It's going to increase costs."


"We're feeling a little picked on," says Lori McNabb, assistant director of student and faculty services at the UT TeleCampus, the online arm of the University of Texas system.

She says there's no evidence that cheating or fraud happens more often with its students than with students in face-to-face classes.


She and others say online instructors rely more on discussions, writing assignments, quizzes, group work, and "capstone" projects to judge their students' performance, and less on big exams. Tests, when they are administered, are often randomized so students in the same class get different questions, which must be answered quickly, making it difficult for those unfamiliar with the material to take tests for students. Instructors become familiar with students' writing styles so they can spot fraudulent work, officials add.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Two Seconds on the Blogging & Public/Private Split

I'm starting to think more and more about blogs as being a replacement for the loss of common, public space in our communities. Certainly LT, and to a lesser extent this blog, have served as spaces for (some) people to have conversations about what's going on with the LCSD.... on the other hand, given that LT and I have veto power over comments (comments being a form of speech), it sort of calls into question how public the spaces really are.

For the first time, I'm tempted to compare myself to a mall: A pseudo-public space that only exists due to the largesse of a private individual or entity. While it might have the superficial appearance of a public space where people have equal access, it's clear that someone can enforce arbitrary rules that violate some longstanding norms about access to public space.

Don't get me wrong: I think both this blog and LT have added, not subtracted, to the ongoing discussion in the community by providing some sort of quasi-public space to communicate that didn't exist before. However....

Hm. I should think about this more, but I doubt I will.

The Man From Hope, Redux

From a letter in yesterday's DH bashing Obama and supporting McCain:

“Hope” and “change” are just stupid slogans that mean nothing!

How dare Barack Obama challenge the narrative of fear. How dare he.

I can't stop laughing at that line. I want to make it a masthead somewhere, though I like my current one better.

It reminds of this post, wherein I noted the following: "Specifically, by attacking Obama's platform in such a way, people are implicitly suggesting that we can't hope for a better future, that we don't have the capacity to work together to solve problems."

You know, Hering was on vacation last week. And come Monday, there were nothing but unhinged letters. Coincidence? I hope so.

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