YouTube, MeTube

I didn’t expect to make the cut (which may mean there wasn’t a cut), but there I am on the “videoblog” fantasy author Gail Z. Martin made at ConCarolinas. Here’s the YouTube link. I’m the last person she talked to that day, right after GOH Mike Resnick.

Surprise, surprise, as Gomer Pyle used to say. And of course I didn’t take the opportunity to plug my web site. Ol’ dopey me.

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63% Oppose NC Forced Service Law

So far, that is, according to poll results I saw this morning on I haven’t seen any news stories on this the past couple of days, so I’m not sure what’s going on with it in the legislature, but I have seen a few other comments on the web. It seems the word is getting out; hopefully that translates to a few people letting the legislature know how they feel about it. (Thanks to those who already have!)

Those poll results, if you’re interested, are here. My original blog entry has a link to the sponsoring state senator’s office, if you want to let them know how you feel about the idea.

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Twenty Thousand

In my inchworm-slow progress writing the novel I’ve outlined, a milestone of sorts: crossing the 20,000-word mark yesterday. Considering the most recent additions were achieved in very small steps — a few hundred words here, another few there, mostly in between panels and in the morning before ConCarolinas opened — that ain’t all bad.

Now, to get the next 80,000 words done. Onward and upward.

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Legislating Charity

Squarely in the category of “that government governs best which governs least”: a proposed law (yes, LAW) introduced yesterday that would require (yes, REQUIRE) North Carolina college students to perform specific community service in order to get their diplomas.

According to the News & Observer story, “Tutoring rule proposed,”

Those seeking a bachelor’s degree in the state’s public and private colleges and universities would be required to spend 20 hours a semester tutoring or mentoring students in public elementary, middle or high schools if legislation introduced by Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand becomes law.

The proposed legislation is Senate Bill 2079, the “Eve Carson/Abhijit Mahato Community Service Program,” dated May 28, 2008. The text of the bill states,

The Board of Governors shall establish a community service program for baccalaureate degree candidates enrolled in the University System…. Under this program, students shall provide mentoring and tutoring services for a minimum of 20 hours per semester to public school-aged children across the State through school programs, faith-based programs, or other service programs…. Participation in this program shall be a requirement for any baccalaureate degree awarded after January 1, 2012.

So here’s a State Senator, Fayetteville Democrat Rand, who proposes to “honor” two slain students by requiring — in other words, FORCING — every other student in the state to perform community service in their names. And not only that, the law would require them to perform service for which they may or may not have any aptitude or desire: the program gives them no choice in the manner or method of their service, but would force them to work with public school children. The N&O said Rand believes this program will “instill a sense of community and responsibility in college students.”

It should instill a sense of outrage in college students. It’s one thing to encourage students to serve others at a time and place of their own choosing, but to force them into a particular type of community servitude in order to appease the legislature’s sense of what they should be doing? Student organizations across the state should mount rapid and vocal opposition to this proposal.

Furthermore, as if Rand’s proposal isn’t far-reaching enough, it actually goes beyond students in state schools to include every undergraduate: “The state’s private colleges and universities would have to impose the same requirement if they wanted to continue participating in two financial aid programs that the state provides to North Carolinians attending those schools.” Note that the students receiving the aid are not mentioned, but the schools: therefore, students receiving no aid from the state whatsoever would be subject to the same requirement.

This is a bad idea, and should be shouted down from the rooftops of every dormitory to the floor of the legislature. Not because community service is bad, but because lawmakers should not be trying to legislate it. If a college decides to require community service as a graduation requirement, students have the choice to go to another college if they don’t want to meet the requirement. If the state requires community service, students won’t have that same choice.

And since this proposed law mandates — requires — what would normally be acts of charity, what other ramifications does that present?

* First, it means that the community service is no longer voluntary, but compulsory. That may seem a small distinction, but what other compulsory service might the legislature mandate? Would our leaders require community service of all of us, and specify what it must be?

* Second, it means that those who don’t participate are by definition lawbreakers — and that the state would punish them by withholding the degrees they’ve otherwise earned.

* Third, it treats students as pools of free labor available to meet whatever pressing or passing need strikes the legislative fancy, when their primary purpose should be concentrating on their studies and learning the skills that will carry them with confidence into the future.

Good intentions, remember, pave the road to Hell. And politicians are full of good intentions.

The NC General Assembly web site includes this page on Rand, with contact information. Give him a call, send him an e-mail, tell him this is a bad idea.

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Vive La Difference

It’s nice to see research upholding what some of us have recognized and celebrated for so long: men and women are different after all. Unfortunately, that reality probably won’t quiet the yelling from the political fringes.

In her May 18 article, “The freedom to say ‘no’,” Elaine McArdle wrote (emphasis added),

Now two new studies by economists and social scientists have reached a perhaps startling conclusion: An important part of the explanation for the gender gap, they are finding, are the preferences of women themselves. When it comes to certain math- and science-related jobs, substantial numbers of women — highly qualified for the work — stay out of those careers because they would simply rather do something else.

… if these researchers are right, then a certain amount of gender gap might be a natural artifact of a free society, where men and women finally can forge their own vocational paths.

Aside from the curious idea of a “natural artifact” — why not just say “natural consequence” or “natural outcome”? — McArdle’s article gives a nice, brief overview of the central issue that many women simply don’t want to follow the same paths as men.

Christina Hoff Sommers wrote a more in-depth treatment a couple of months ago, with the provocative title “Why Can’t a Woman Be More Like a Man?” In her article, Sommers noted that

Women now earn 57 percent of bachelors degrees and 59 percent of masters degrees. According to the Survey of Earned Doctorates, 2006 was the fifth year in a row in which the majority of research Ph.D.’s awarded to U.S. citizens went to women. Women earn more Ph.D.’s than men in the humanities, social sciences, education, and life sciences. Women now serve as presidents of Harvard, MIT, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, and other leading research universities. But elsewhere, the figures are different. Women comprise just 19 percent of tenure-track professors in math, 11 percent in physics, 10 percent in computer science, and 10 percent in electrical engineering.

After noting an October 2007 hearing on “why women are ‘underrepresented’ in academic professorships of science and engineering,” she wrote,

As a rule, women tend to gravitate to fields such as education, English, psychology, biology, and art history, while men are much more numerous in physics, mathematics, computer science, and engineering. Why this is so is an interesting question — and the subject of a substantial empirical literature. The research on gender and vocation is complex, vibrant, and full of reasonable disagreements; there is no single, simple answer.

Yet the hearing apparently found the simple answer: “All five expert witnesses, and all five congressmen … attributed the dearth of women in university science to a single cause: sexism.”

Sommers took a bold stand in her article, charging that the political rationale is unidirectional:

If numerical inferiority were sufficient grounds for charges of discrimination or cultural insensitivity, Congress would be holding hearings on the crisis of underrepresentation of men in higher education. After all, women earn most of the degrees—practically across the board. What about male proportionality in the humanities, social sciences, and biology? The physical sciences are the exception, not the rule.

So why are there so few women in the high echelons of academic math and in the physical sciences? In a recent survey of faculty atti*tudes on social issues, sociologists Neil Gross of Harvard and Solon Simmons of George Mason University asked 1,417 professors what accounts for the relative scarcity of female pro*fessors in math, science, and engineering. Just 1 percent of respondents attributed the scarcity to women’s lack of ability, 24 percent to sexist discrimination, and 74 percent to differences in what characteristically interests men and women.

It seems that some people with power to gain from controversy, or perhaps with power to gain from exercising control, have a vested interest in provoking debates where little debate is needed. In this case it’s not enough, apparently, for them to let gender differences exist and accept them: they have to explain and challenge the differences for their personal pleasure or their personal esteem.

Or maybe some folks just don’t appreciate the differences.

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Memorial Day Tribute

For Memorial Day, here’s a link to a great rendition of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” forwarded to us by a former boss (and supporter of the “Anti-Campaign”). As the oft-forwarded message said,

If you missed hearing the US Army Band and Chorus welcome Pope Benedict XVI at the White House Rose Garden ceremony on 15 April, get a load of these high school kids. At the conclusion listen to the high notes on the trumpet … played by a high school kid! One of the fathers recorded it, added some graphic enhancements to the recording, and posted it on the web…. Be prepared … it will definitely send a few chills down your spine.

Here’s the link. Enjoy, and remember the ultimate sacrifices that paid for our freedoms.

God Bless.

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Fingers Crossed

The Phoenix Lander is scheduled to land tonight on Mars. As of last night’s report on Spaceflight Now,

NASA’s Phoenix lander closed in on Mars Saturday, healthy and on course for touchdown Sunday evening near the red planet’s northern polar cap. Engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., decided to forego a course-correction rocket firing late Saturday but left open the option for a final trajectory tweak Sunday eight hours before atmospheric entry.

Here’s the link to the Mission Status Center.

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New Anti-Candidate Positions Posted

The “Anti-Campaign” continues. This week positions on the environment and the economy went up in the forum; they’ll go on the web page at the end of the month.

On the environment, after noting what physicist Freeman Dyson had to say on environmentalism as a religion:

Here’s our article of belief: “The Earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” (Psalm 24)

We are stewards. As such, we should be careful not to cause more harm than necessary as we use natural resources.

Meanwhile, thank us for our SUVs: they’re keeping the next ice age at bay. 😉

Here’s the position on the environment.

On the economy,

We’re not rich. We’d like to try it sometime, but the “tax the rich” rhetoric we hear all the time kind of cuts down on the incentive. We won’t be releasing our tax returns; we’d rather you laugh with us than at us. Finally, money is a tool; it’s always good to have more tools in your toolbox; and when you loan this tool — whether to the government or anybody else — good luck getting it back.

Be forewarned, though: if you got a subprime mortgage, don’t read the position on the economy. It’ll just make you mad.

So again, if you don’t want to vote for any of the real candidates, vote for the GrayMan! He can’t do much worse than the politicians.

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