May 1, 2013
“Probe” comes from Latin probare, which is also the root of our word “prove.” By the early 15th century it had come to refer (says etymology.com) to an “instrument for exploring wounds” and also to “an examination.” It’s nice to know that “proving” has come to involve “examining.”
We have come increasingly to use “probe” to refer to satellites, spacecraft and odd wheeled vehicles that are exploring the world beyond planet earth — our solar system and the universe beyond. Today, NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day gives us an accounting of the various probes we have in use:
In the upper right hand part of the picture are the probes in use on and around the planets nearer to us. In the lower left part of the picture are the probes in use on more distant planets. APOD provides a fuller explanation here.
April 15, 2013
I was reminded yesterday of “POSSLQ,” a Census Bureau term introduced in the 1970s to collect data about co-habitation in the United States. “POSSLQ” is an acronym for Persons of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters. The term even entered common parlance as people hunted around for acceptable terms for life partners to whom they were not married — along with “sweetheart,” “live-in boyfriend,” “main squeeze,” and “significant other.” CBS Newsman and radio poet Charles Osgood even produced this lovely bit of POSSLQ verse (with apologies to John Donne):
Come live with me and be my love,
And we will some new pleasures prove
Of golden sands and crystal brooks
With silken lines, and silver hooks.
There’s nothing that I wouldn’t do
If you would be my POSSLQ.
You live with me, and I with you,
And you will be my POSSLQ.
I’ll be your friend and so much more;
That’s what a POSSLQ is for.
And everything we will confess;
Yes, even to the IRS.
Some day on what we both may earn,
Perhaps we’ll file a joint return.
You’ll share my pad, my taxes, joint;
You’ll share my life – up to a point!
And that you’ll be so glad to do,
Because you’ll be my POSSLQ.
Drawing on POSSLQ, the Census Bureau data showed a marked increase in opposite sex co-habitation (across all races) from the 1970s to the 1990s:
From Lynne M. Casper, Philip N. Cohen, and Tavia Simmons, “How Does POSSLQ Measure Up? Historical Estimates of Cohabitation,” Census Bureau, 1999.
In the midst of the current sea change in attitudes towards same-sex marriage, it is striking to look back at POSSLQ with its assumption that co-habitation was a phenomenon of interest only with regard to opposite sex partners.
It is also striking to look at the steady rise in such opposite sex cohabitation and listen to claims that same-sex marriage will be the death knell of “traditional” (that is to say opposite sex) marriage. Clearly, marriage and its alternatives have been in transition for quite some time.
April 14, 2013
In Friday’s New York Times, health economist Uwe Reinhardt writes a column about “The Governance of Nonprofit Hospitals.” He comments on the recent, much discussed, article by Steven Brill in Time magazine entitled “Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us.”
Every question Reinhardt and Brill raise could be asked about nonprofit colleges and universities. Reinhardt begins by noting the disclosure that is required of for-profit hospital corporations, and how easy it is, because of disclosure laws, to find out information about their finances and performance. And then he asks,
Is there anything like this transparency and public accountability in the nonprofit sector? Indeed, who actually owns these entities? To whom do they render account for the sizable real resources and finances under their control? And what benefits do they deliver in return for the exemption from income taxation they enjoy?
Those are fair questions, I believe. In higher education, we have much better disclosure today from public (state-sponsored) institutions than from independent ones. Why don’t these non-profits make much more information easily available about their finances and performance?
I especially like this question: “what benefits do they deliver in return for the exemption from income taxation they enjoy?” For higher education institutions, benefits would largely be gains in student learning. Why don’t independent institutions voluntarily disclose more information about what they know about student learning?
March 27, 2013
Bob (Robert M.) Mantock passed from this life the day before yesterday. He was not a graduate of Earlham, but he made himself a valuable member of the Earlham community through service as a member of the Board of Trustees from 2000 to 2009. The obituary from the Muncie Star Press is here.
Bob became a Board member through his membership in Indiana Yearly Meeting. He was a member of Muncie Memorial, a Friends Church with historically strong ties to Earlham. When he said yes to service on the Earlham Board, I wonder if he didn’t have some concerns about what he was letting himself in for. He quickly became one of Earlham best friends, equally committed to both the College and ESR.
I especially remember a moment early in his service when the Board decided to add sexual orientation to its non-discrimination statement. With Indiana Yearly Meeting having a Minute from 1982 declaring homosexuality to be a sin, this was a potentially difficult moment, one quite likely to spark conflict between Earlham and the Yearly Meeting. I dutifully wrote the IYM superintendent and presiding clerk of the decision, and I could sense the rumbles of a gathering storm. But that storm never came. I later learned Bob had received an upset phone call and driven over to the Yearly Meeting offices to explain why this decision made sense for Earlham and why it would be wise for the Yearly Meeting not to oppose the decision. With quiet courage, he put himself on the line.
Given that Indiana Yearly Meeting would later (2012) tear itself apart largely over the question of how its members should view homosexuality, and that Muncie Memorial should find itself cast out of IYM, his forthrightness and integrity shine all the brighter a dozen years later.
Another reason for gratitude: Bob served as a member of the Board’s Property and Finance Committee, and as its chair for the last several years of his tenure. He proved a dedicated, steady, wise steward of Earlham’s resources. Several of the large facilities projects recently completed or now under construction first germinated during his time of service.
I will miss Bob’s ready smile, his generosity, and his absolutely reliable willingness to be of service to others.
March 25, 2013
Or perhaps we could call this “Does Sports Build Character: Honesty Edition”? Here’s a fascinating piece reprinted in its entirety from Inside Higher Ed this morning:
U. of Maryland Didn’t Keep Copy of Big 10 Contract
The University of Maryland at College Park doesn’t have a copy of the contract it signed to join the Big 10, The Washington Post reported. The Post filed an open records request for the contract, and was told that the university didn’t have a copy. The Big 10, which is not subject to open records requests, keeps all such copies. Maryland officials said that not keeping a copy was in line with Big 10 policies, which are designed to reflect that most of its members are public universities, subject to open records requests.
That will teach people integrity and honesty.
March 22, 2013
From the Washington Post’s Outlook section, we have the list below of phrases to be avoided. Avoided why? Mostly because they are clichés or stereotypes. But where do the terms “cliché” and “stereotype” come from? Both come from the world of printing:
1832, from French cliché, a technical word in printer’s jargon for “stereotype,” supposedly echoic of the sound of a mold striking molten metal, thus pp. of clicher “to click” (18c.). Figurative extension to “worn-out expression” is first attested 1888, following the course of stereotype. Related: Cliched (1928).
1798, “method of printing from a plate,” from French stéréotype (adj.) “printing by means of a solid plate of type,” from Greek stereos “solid” (see sterile) + French type “type.” Noun meaning “a stereotype plate” is from 1817. Meaning “image perpetuated without change” is first recorded 1850, from the verb in this sense, which is from 1819. Meaning “preconceived and oversimplified notion of characteristics typical of a person or group” is recorded from 1922. Stereotypical is attested from 1949.
By the way, “TK,” which shows up frequently in the list, is journalese for “to come” — indicating something to be filled in.
THINGS WE DO NOT SAY IN OUTLOOK
At first glance
As a society (or, “as a nation”)
TK is not alone
Pundits say (or “Critics say”)
The American people (unless in a quote)
The narrative (unless referring to a style of writing)
Probe (as substitute for “investigation”)
A rare window (unless we’re talking about a real window that is in fact rare)
Begs the question (unless used properly – and so rarely used properly that not worth it)
Be that as it may
It is important to note that
Needless to say
[Anything] 2.0 (or 3.0, or 4.0…)
At a crossroads
Outside the box/Out of the box
TK is a favorite Washington parlor game
Yes, Virginia, there is a TK
Midwife (as a verb that does not involve childbirth)
Call it TK
Pity the poor TK
Imagine (as the first word in your lede)
Palpable sense of relief
Rorschach test (unless it is a real one)
Effort (as a verb)
Little-noticed (that just means the writer hadn’t noticed it)
Tightly knit community
Rise of the 24-hour news cycle (it rose a long time ago)
Remains to be seen
Feeding frenzy/feeding the frenzy
Dons the mantle of
The argument goes (or its cousin, “the thinking goes”)
Shutter (as a verb)
Paradigm shift (in journalism, all paradigms are shifting)
Unlikely revolutionary (in journalism, all revolutionaries are unlikely)
Unlikely reformer (in journalism, all reformers are unlikely)
Grizzled veteran (in journalism, all veterans are grizzled – unless they are “seasoned”)
Manicured lawns (in journalism, all nice lawns are manicured)
Rose from obscurity (in journalism, all rises are from obscurity)
Dizzying array (in journalism, all arrays make one dizzy)
Withering criticism (in journalism, all criticism is withering)
Predawn raid (in journalism, all raids are predawn)
Sparked debate (or “Raised questions”)
Ironic Capitalizations Implying Unimportance Of Things Others Consider Important
Provides fresh details
But reality/truth is more complicated (oversimplify, then criticize the oversimplification)
Scarred by war
Shines a spotlight on (unless there is a real spotlight that really shines)
TK is no panacea (nothing is)
No silver bullet
Situation is fluid (code for “I have no idea what is going on”)
Partisans on both sides
Mr. TK goes to Washington (unless a reference to the actual movie)
The proverbial TK (“proverbial” doesn’t excuse the cliché, just admits you used it knowingly)
Growing body of evidence
Increasingly (unless we prove in the story that something is in fact increasing)
Tapped (as substitute for “selected” or “appointed)
Any “not-un” formulation (as in “not unsurprising”)
There, I said it (more self-important than “voicey”)
To be sure
March 21, 2013
“The NCAA Tournament is a reminder that the economics of college sports is bonkers.”
That’s the headline of a blog post by Neil Irwin on Ezra Klein’s Wonkblog for the Washington Post. He’s right, of course, and you don’t even have to read the piece to know that. Really. You know that already. But go ahead and read the piece.
I especially enjoyed this:
“It makes no real sense that the job of educating the workforce and the job of offering sports entertainment should be provided by the same institutions. No one in Europe is trying to recreate our system, getting people excited about Stuttgart State playing the Sorbonne in soccer. It would seem to violate the idea of specialization: Is there any reason to think that the managers who are best at running an educational institution are the same as those who are best at running a minor league sports league?”
Nope. No reason at all. It makes even less sense that we should shelter this kind of economic activity from taxation on the fiction that Division I athletics has anything to do with education.