In the spirit of the weather here in Walla Walla, which right now is snowy and 10 degrees, here’s a photo from Flickr to put you in the winter spirit. While this photo is definitely not from Walla Walla (it’s actually taken in Germany) it’s very close to how the scenery around here looks. It started snowing on Friday night and hasn’t let up until this morning. It’s sunny today, but the temperatures are certainly not going to be melting any snow soon.
Since this blog is still very much in its early stages I was just wondering if anybody out there had suggestions for how to improve it. If you have any comments on the content or anything that you’d like to see the blog expanded to include leave a comment or send me a message. Thanks for reading.
I woke up this morning to an email telling me that my photo of St. Peter’s Sqaure (Flickr link) has been short-listed for the upcoming revision to the Schmap Guide to Rome. Schmap Guides are relatively basic travel guides, but the advantage is that they’re entirely free and electronic. You can download them to your computer and take them with you. Seems like a pretty interesting idea and I’m stoked that my photo got chosen; any exposure is good exposure.
There’s a fascinating article on The Atlantic right now (link) about how much the United States owes to China. It’s all from an interview that the author conducted with Gao Xiqing, a man responsible for overseeing $200 billion of China’s foreign investments, two weeks before the presidential election.
It’s that time of year and I can’t help but wonder why I do some of the work that I have to for college. So much of it seems to be simply proving my knowledge and regurgitating information. Even the long papers for classes rarely teach me anything (that is, anything other than how to write paper efficiently). One would think that if the purpose of a class were to stimulate learning then the assignments that make up that class would be inherently linked to its purpose: one would think they would teach you something.
Maybe I’m simply not recognizing the learning that is occurring below my cognizant level. Or, maybe the purposes of finals is not to further learning, but to judge the learning that has occurred in the last 16 weeks. Either way when I find myself halfway through a final exam in Greek and Roman Art and all I can think of is how I just need to linguistically vomit up my knowledge onto the page so that I can prove that I know the material something is wrong. So long as schools and classes are truly about learning finals should partake in that too.
Final exams, papers, presentations, any form of assessment I can think of, they all should force you to push the boundaries of your knowledge. They ought to allow you to critically examine that which you learned during the semester. They should provide for reflection on where you came from and where you are in the present. If a final is simply a reiteration of knowledge then its not doing its job.
Now I will go back to slaving away and work toward finishing the 22 pages of paper writing that I have to do between now and next week.
I’m reading Jodi Dean’s “Publicity’s Secret” (great book by the way) for my Politics class. In a discussion of the obsession with information that pervades contemporary society she writes:
Something or someone stands right outside us, our knowledge and our visibility, withholding our legitimacy from us, preventing us from realizing the rightness we claim, that should be ours. Include just a few more people, a few more facts; uncover those denied details, those repressed desires; do this and there will be justice.
I just found this interesting because recently I’ve been thinking about (and wondering why it is like this) how contemporary society holds those with more knowledge up as the “experts.” It seems to me that there has been a shift from the quality of knowledge of a subject to the quantity. Those who read more newspapers, blogs, writings, anything are more qualified to speak on something; they are the ones who are informed. It has begun to appear to me that America (maybe other places too) has become obsessed with acquiring more and more information and using that as a basis for expertise. What seems to get lost is any consideration or critical analysis of where the information comes from. It has become about digesting and regurgitating the most information and not about looking closely at quality information and truly understanding that in order to synthesize a personal opinion or judgement.
That’s an astounding number considering that until recently the app store had less than 10,000 apps in it. That’s an average of 30,000 downloads per app! Link to Macworld story.
Just found a great article on the Atlantic’s website by Todd Gitlin (link), author of “The World Is Watching” (an interesting look at the SDS, the New Left, and political change in the 1960s). In it he writes:
A president, of course, can do many things that a young state senator from Illinois cannot. He not only promotes a moral and intellectual style, but is also the master molder of the political agenda. To realize his transformative potential and consolidate a base for more, Obama must focus, bear down, deal hard, and deliver four crucial results: 1) an economic rescue that not only delivers an exit from the credit disaster but generates a more productive, more egalitarian, less predatory economy; 2) a green regearing of energy, environment, and job-producing investment; 3) affordable, comprehensive health care; and 4) a decent exit from Iraq.
I agree with Gitlin here in what he sees as “the four crucial results” that Obama must deliver. Underlying these and many other of what ought to be Obama’s goals is the notion that he must create a government that can survive and prosper in the coming century. FDR got the country through the Depression and set the stage for what, up until September, has worked so far. What Obama must do now is create a new stage for government that will last and adapt to changes. The auto industry has shown what happens when corporations become so bloated that they can no longer respond to shifts in technology and consumption. The government created by Obama needs to be one that can respond to shifts in economics and international diplomacy without crumbling. It needs to be one that can make use of the present world and present technologies in the same, powerful way that Obama’s campaign did. Here’s hoping.
Since the election over a month ago I have been torn about what to think of the transitioning Obama administration. On the one hand he is appointing some rivals to his cabinet, notably Clinton. On the other hand, though, some of his appointments, again sticking with the Clinton appointment, have simply continued the prevalence of “Washington insiders.” This has simply reaffirmed my hesitancies that caused me to actually not vote for either Obama nor McCain.
My concerns lie in the question of whether President-elect Obama will be bringing deep structural change to government or will he simply bring a vast cultural shift? While from my stand point as a liberal-leaning college student a significant change in culture would certainly be acceptable it is not the type of change that I believe is necessary after the current President Bush’s terms in office.
What I would like to believe the “Change” in Obama’s campaign stood for is real, structural change in the way in which the American government functions and regulates itself. This is why I am hesitant about appointments like Clinton’s: I fear that they will simply perpetuate the federal government current modus operandi. During the primaries I was hoping that Obama would be pushing for a critical reevaluation of federal spending and departments.
I hoped for more than reallocations of spending, but a new examination of the organization and operation of such agencies as the Department of Education. Using the example of the Department of Education I was hoping to see a reassessment of what the federal role in education ought to be. Instead, Obama is simply advocating a reform of the current laws. For example, in regard to No Child Left Behind Obama’s transition website states:
Obama and Biden will reform NCLB, which starts by funding the law. Obama and Biden believe teachers should not be forced to spend the academic year preparing students to fill in bubbles on standardized tests. They will improve the assessments used to track student progress to measure readiness for college and the workplace and improve student learning in a timely, individualized manner. Obama and Biden will also improve NCLB’s accountability system so that we are supporting schools that need improvement, rather than punishing them. (link)
This makes me worry that the type of change that Obama reiterated throughout his campaign will end up being something far different from a new form of governance. With a convincing electoral win as well as a Democratic majority in both houses Obama is presented with an opportunity to truly challenge the status quo of government.
It seems to me that he has the opportunity to affect the fundamental conceptions of what the federal government’s roles and duties are. He could redefine just what the role of the federal government is in things like education. He could either remove some aspects of federal involvement or even expand federal obligations and fully fund them. Instead, it seems that he will be focusing on what the perception of America is as well as what its culture consists of. I will not argue that America does not need a change in culture and mindset; I would love to see these things happen. After the last 8 years though there are many more pressing issues that deal with how and why the government functions. America needs a reassessment of its governmental structure so that it can survive the next century of change. A cultural shift is inherent within this, but it is not what should be given precedence.
While digging through some of John Gruber’s old articles today I came across this one which puts many of what I see as the most distinguishable and sometimes most frustrating differences between the Mac and Windows platforms into words. In it he diverges away from the title of the post and discusses the difference between an operating system being built upon a “windows-centric paradigm” (e.g. Windows) and one that is built around a “application-centric paradigm” (e.g. Mac). Money quote:
So the Mac paradigm enforces a three-level hierarchy: you’ve got the system, which runs applications, which display windows. The Windows paradigm tries to eliminate the middleman, presenting a system, which displays windows — i.e. the idea is not that your windows belong to applications, but that they belong to the Windows system itself. The problem with this is that it’s an illusion, in that Windows is still very much an application-centric system. It just doesn’t look like it. When it comes right down to it, Windows is almost every bit as application-centric as the Mac, but the Windows human interface attempts to disguise this, ostensibly to make things simpler.
Overall, the article is a great read and does a brilliant job of moving the Mac vs. Windows debate past the common “eye candy”, etc. themes.