Currently browsing the archives for May 2006

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Trends

Professor Marc Lynch writes with details on how to perform a Google trend analysis on search terms. Here is a fun example. Not sure if the extra searches done for Williams versus Amherst mean anything . . . other than that your hard working staff at EphBlog is always on the prowl for news!

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Trivia

Trivia is tonight. You really ought to play at least once in your Williams career. Announcement is below the fold, but the best line is:

Trivia. Pull an all-nighter without getting anything done.

Kudos to all the Ephs who keep this tradition going.

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Photo ID, #46

This professor has been rumored to read EphBlog (rumored? it’s more like a certainty since David has memorized the IP address of every office on campus), and he has certainly been mentioned often (at least seven times) here. Many current students recognize him, but I wonder if alums, who certainly know who he is, would recognize him by face.

Is it Professor Dudley? Sorry, no, this professor hasn’t been mentioned quite that often. Professor Cruz? No, actually this guy didn’t go to Williams. Hint: This professor is walking to lunch. So if you know where he is walking, and which direction lunch is, you can tell where he is coming from. (I’m giving hints because I am sorry that there is a shadow over his face.)

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Oh, and here’s an even better hint: In February I asked this professor if it was okay for me to put pictures of him on EphBlog. “What sort of pictures?” he asked. “Do they involve clothes?”

There is a second picture in the extended entry. Unfortunately a truck went by just as I was taking it, which is why it’s not on the front page.

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Binging Caterpillars

College Confidential makes me laugh.

I hear that the caterpillars have been caught engaging in serious binge drinking..

In fact, preliminary results from a Hopkins Hall survey indicates that, in the last week, 75 percent of catepillars have ingested 5 or more thimble fulls of pesticide in one sitting. Among athlete caterpillars (those that dangle from trees), nearly 97 percent have ingested 5 or more thimble fulls of pesticide in one sitting, and an astonishing 50 percent reported intoxication levels so high that they were unable to emerge from their cacoons.

Frankly, I’m appalled by these statistics. What do you think needs to be done?

I’m mostly concerned that the caterpillars seem to self-segregate and form their own culture. I think they should be merged into the new clusters.

Ha!

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Channel for Charity Diary

12 May 2006

Our new website is up! You can see it at www.channelforcharity.org. It’s still not finished, but it’s far closer to the eventual final version than it was previously.

What do you guys think about it? We’ve edited a lot of the text and added more now…and obviously redone the design.

We also had an article about us in the Record last week (http://www.williamsrecord.com/wr/?view=article&section=features&id=7924). While we’re certainly hoping for more publicity, the Record’s piece is an exciting start. One of the many challenging things with this swim is knowing exactly where or how to get publicity (and to fundraise for that matter).

Anyways, I’ll post when the website’s done–we still need to get our About Us section up, which I’m sure will be interesting to a lot of alumns (many of you are probably wondering who are these students crazy enough to swim the Channel haha).

I’d write more now but, well, I’m pretty beat from the training we’re doing. More later!

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Photographing the caterpillar infestation

I am apparently the official photographer for the infestation. (See the entry below for photos of the chalkings.) I take this job very seriously. Thus, I have attempted to take artful, specific pictures of the infestation today. The product of that effort is below.

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Outside the Route 2 entrance to Hopkins Hall

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On the way from Stetson to Mission

As usual, click on a picture for the full-sized version. There are more caterpillars in the following link:

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More caterpillar chalkings

Here are some more caterpillar chalkings. Some of them are hard to read, because they are in highly trafficked areas, but so it goes with chalkings.

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There are about 10 more exclusive, never-seen-before on the Internet pictures of chalkings, now with high resolution so that you can make it your background or something, at the following link:

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1405?

There is a fun discussion about athletics going on at WSO. Good points made all around. One comment surprised me. Nicholas Fersen ’08 claimed:

Just a little sidenote to add to this conversation. Next year’s incoming tips for the football team have an SAT average of 1405. So the argument that tips are getting into Williams with low academic standards is somewhere between absurd and down right insane. Maybe the Record staff should do their homework before attacking athletes as the cause of all problems at Williams.

Really? Now Fersen plays linebacker, so we can assume that he has good sources on this topic. But 1405 (I am assuming this is math + verbal) would be a shockingly high average for the football tips for the class of 2010.

Why is this “too” high? Don’t forget that the average SATs at Williams is around 1420. The bottom quartile starts at 1340 or so. Traditionally, it has been the case that this bottom quartile is dominated by two broad categories of students: tipped athletes and under-represented minorities. (There might also be some very poor students and some donor children in this area, but their numbers are small.)

If football tips are no longer in the bottom quartile, who is?

I suspect that Fersen might be (unintentionally) wrong. Note that there are many (25? 40?) men in the class of 2010 who played football in high school. (Recall Dick Nesbitt’s description (here and here) of the pool.) Some of these are “tips,” meaning that the football coach highlighted them as high impact players who would not have gotten into Williams if they were on the coach’s list. Some of these are “protects”, meaning students with Williams-caliber academics who might or might not have gotten in without football talent. The rest might try out for the team and might even make it, but they would have been accepted to Williams even without football.

I think that there are around 14 tips for football and 7 protects. There might also be another 10 or 20 football players who are most likely to end up on the rugby team.

I find it surpising that the average for the 14 football tips is 1405. The average for tips and protects might be 1405. The average for every incoming student who played football in high school could easily be 1405.

Recall Nesbitt’s report that the 66 tips had an average SAT score that was 100 points lower than the class as a whole. If the 14 football tips are only 20 points lower, than it is hard to believe that this difference still holds true.

Is Fersen really talking about just the 14 tips? I’ll e-mail him and ask.

UPDATE: Fersen confirmed that the 1405 average referred to the 14 football tips in the class of 2010. Interesting. This would suggest that the 66 tips as a group are much closer than 100 points to the overall average. (I can’t imagine why admissions would have lower standards for others sports.) This also suggests that we will see a non-trivial boost in the overall SAT average at Williams, assuming that other policies (like preferences for poorer students) haven’t changed significantly.

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Sawyer U

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Info

This Williams College Info is interesting, although all it currently has are some (well-selected) links. Who runs it and why?

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Farley Roast

Dick Quinn sends news.

Dick Farley is being inducted into the College football Hall of Fame August 11-12 and he will also be roasted here at Williams on Sept. 30th at 7:30 p.m. in Chandler Gym.

Info on the Farley Roast may be obtained from Ralph White, head Coach of Men’s & Women’s Track & Field — Ralph.E.White@williams.edu — ph: 413-597-2447.

Sounds like a nice event. Although I have given Farley a hard time on occasion, there can be little doubt that he was everything an Eph football coach should be.

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Kagan’s ’89 Comfort Zone

Shirley Kagan ’89 gets a mention in a New York Times article about all male colleges like Hampden-Sydney.

On the other hand, gay Hampden-Sydney graduates participated in a recent seminar on gay issues. And a theater teacher, Shirley Kagan, a Williams College graduate from New York who considers herself a feminist and a liberal, says she finds her students at Hampden-Sydney to be curious, open-minded and responsive.

”They gain something from being in their comfort zone, but, of course, it can cut both ways,” she said. ”When they get out of here they’ll be dealing with women and minorities on a larger basis than they do here. We do our best to prepare them for that.”

If any Eph can hold her own at an all-male, southern, rural college, it would be Shirley.

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The caterpillar infestation

Here are some pictures of the caterpillar infestation that has recently appeared on the Williams campus. Caterpillars are small, but they are all over campus. At first glance, these pictures may seem not to have many caterpillars in them, but this is not the case. The best way to appreciate the scope of the infestation is to click on the small picture that is here, so as to bring up a very large version (may take some time to load). Then you can carefully look at it and see the caterpillars hanging from the trees and covering the surfaces. It’s truly disgusting.

Exhibit A: Hopkins Hall. The caterpillars are all over the railings and the steps, as well as hanging from the archway.
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Exhibit B: In front of Morty’s house. This tree is tall, with its lowest branches (pictured here) at least 15 feet above the ground, but the caterpillars are hanging down to face level.
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Exhibit C: If you are walking from Morty’s house towards the Greylock Quad, you don’t walk on the sidewalk. And if you’re riding your bike and don’t notice this in time, you’ll be very sorry.
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Exhibit D: The back entrance of Bronfman. Absolutely horrendous. I have heard multiple accounts of people rushing out of this door in a hurry, only to stop in horror at the caterpillars dripping from every twig. (The doorway itself is not pictured here.)
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There are more graphic images if you click on the following link:

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Caterpillar chalkings

Here are the caterpillar chalkings. I took these pictures starting in the Odd Quad, walking to the science quad, and then to Hopkins Hall.

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There are two chalking camps: Pro-caterpillar and Anti-caterpillar. There is also some disagreement on the spelling of “caterpillar.” There are about 20 more pictures, the last of which are the best, if you click on the following link:

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Pictures of caterpillars

Here is a picture of some caterpillars at Williams.

If you click, you will get a picture so big it will make your skin crawl along with your computer screen. Maybe now you are not so glad that David asked for a picture of some caterpillars…

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Kill the Caterpillers!

Mystified by all the caterpiller talk at WSO? No worries! The College is not afraid to act.

To the Williams Community,

People have asked about the sudden appearance of, shall we say, rather a few caterpillars on campus and in other parts of town and what’s being done about it.

No, we’re not living in a Hitchcock movie. They’re called forest tent caterpillars, because of the tent-shaped nests they build in trees. They were here last year, too, and are capable of eating almost all the leaves on a tree.

To prevent this, grounds staff is applying to affected trees a bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).

Bt is the only microbial insecticide on the market that is a naturally occurring bacterium. It is commonly found in soils throughout the world. Bt produces proteins that shut down the caterpillars’ digestive systems in a couple days. It’s considered non-toxic to people and to all non-target species. Its use is even recommended for food crops.

The current infestation is significantly worse than in prior years. The populations are so high that the caterpillars are moving from tree to tree via silken webs, looking for additional food sources and are feeding on plant material not normally attacked. For this reason it’s very difficult to establish a precise spray schedule, so spray sites are determined almost daily as the caterpillars arise and new foliage emerges.

We anticipate applying Bt for the next 2-3 weeks during the caterpillars’ most vulnerable stage. It’s impractical to spray every tree on campus so we’re concentrating on the most significant ones. We’re also sensitive to people and property and so are making every effort to minimize the impact on both. Trees that have been sprayed will be posted for 24 hours with a yellow caution sign.

Please call me at x3304 with any questions. Or contact our Service Desk at x2486 to notify us of an outbreak in your area of campus.

Meanwhile, we also recommend you keep your car windows closed since some people have returned to their cars only to find a large furry wriggling surprise.

Eventually they’ll turn into moths, which will prove a boon to the local bat
population. But that’s a story for another time.

Regards,
Dave Fitzgerald
Horticulturist and Grounds Supervisor

“Considered non-toxic” by whom, I wonder. Are naturally occuring pesticides regulated by the FDA and/or OSHA? I suspect not.

With luck, Diana will post some photos here.

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Mandelbrot

Brent Yorgey ’04 has a nice post on the Mandelbrot Set.

The most amazing thing is that no one made up these pictures — they have existed forever, built into the mathematical structure of the universe, just waiting for someone to come along and iterate a certain function and make a picture out of it.

Pretty pictures all around.

UPDATE: Spelling fixed thanks to comment below.

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Senior Statesman

Or would it be “senior stateseph?” However you spice it, Esa Seegulam ’06 has moved from College-Council-rousing sophomore to senior wiseman. Consider:

All of you people calling for this discussion to end are selfish. There are many, many kind souls out there working on their theses, nursing broken bones and recovering from mono, who look forward to the bitchiness in our bitchfests like a hummingbird for the nectar. This is a service to the community, you selfish, inhumane people! We are needed now more than ever.

Just like EphBlog!

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Michael Weiner ’83 takes on George Mitchell

Michael Weiner ’83 is General Counsel of the MLBPA. He’s in the news of late for crafting the MLBPA’s legal responses to the steroid controversy, reminding baseball agents that their communcations with their players are bound by the equivalent of attorney-client privilege.

Michael Weiner, general counsel of the MLB Players Association, shot off an email Friday to players’ agents telling them that the requests overstep their bounds and to inform the union if any clients are contacted by [lead investigator and former Senator George] Mitchell and his staff. . . . Weiner wrote, “The scope of the investigative efforts to date are plainly inconsistent with the provisions of the basic agreement, related agreements and other statutory rights of all players.”

(via WSJ Law Blog).

Wow, between Michael Weiner, The Boss, Fay Vincent, Jim Duquette… I guess that the Williams Art History Mafia isn’t the only organized group of Ephs and alums to have a disproportionate impact on a field.

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Summer in Williamstown

What’s the best advice EphBlog has to offer? Listen to Brother Smartness and spend a summer in Williamstown.

One of my fondest memories of Williamstown, MA was the summer I spent up there in quasi-solitude. Besides the theatre festival and a few good friends, I had the trees and mountains to keep me company. Born and bred in New York City, New York’s capital of pollution, the Williamstown’s air that ran through my lungs afforded me a clarity of mind I had never known before.

Writing papers and attending meetings during the regular semester made it difficult to enjoy the beauty of those mountains that were then mine; mountains that no longer belong to me the same way they had while I was a student there. And though marriage and children are years away, a part of me can’t wait to reclaim those mountains by having my own son or daughter admitted to my alma mater.

Those years will go faster than you think.

What frightens me however, is that while those mountains will still be around in the next hundred years, there are other places I have yet to visit and fall in love with that my children will never get to see. Climate change has threatened species with extinction. The sea level is likely to continue climbing.

Blah, blah, blah. The silliness over global warming among very smart Ephs never ceases to amaze me. But it does provide an excuse for story telling.

In the 1985-1986 school year, I knew a senior, Chris, who was a leader of the campus environmentalists. I think that we were in the last class that Jim Burns ’39 taught at Williams. One evening Chris and I got into a lengthy argument over global warming, rising sea levels and the like. He sounded 20 years ago exactly the why environmentalists sound today. But I pushed him hard on the rising sea level part, pointing out that my grandfather lived near the beach in Naples, Florida. I argued that the evidence for rising sea levels couldn’t be very good since so many people lived in places, like Naples, that would be flooded.

He said, “Tell your grandfather to move.”

Needless to say, I didn’t. But I also missed a huge opportunity. If I had taken some modest savings, invested it in Naples real estate, and then borrowed and levered up for the last 20 years, I would be insanely rich today. Another blown opportunity!

Anyone who is certain that they know what sea levels are going to be in 20 years is an idiot.

Think Deeper.

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Give Theurer ’85 Liberty

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Former Eph basketball player Lynne Theurer ’85 gets a nice mention (and picture!) in a New York Times article on the WNBA Liberty.

Larry Weinstock of Huntington, N.Y., and Lynne and Harold Theurer of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, then toasted the 10th anniversary season of the Liberty, whose first game is May 20 at the Connecticut Sun.

“I’d give up my Knick season tickets before I’d give up my Liberty season tickets,” Weinstock, 47, said recently during lunch with the Theurers in Manhattan. “It’s not even close.”

Season-ticket holders from Day 1, they never doubted that the Liberty and the Women’s National Basketball Association would survive despite the number of women’s leagues that had come and gone before 1997, the W.N.B.A.’s inaugural season.

Before one game last season, the Liberty locker room was open to fans, including the Theurers’ 10-year-old son, Harold Jr.

“Vickie Johnson and Becky Hammon signed a jersey for Harold,” said Lynn Theurer, a former point guard at Williams College. “Just watching his face light up was one of our most memorable moments.”

A nice story.

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Everybody Wins

How can you have an informed opinion on al-Qaeda’s strategy without reading Marc Lynch?

I’m struck at how quickly so many people are rushing to the conclusion that bin Laden’s message “fell on silent ears” or demonstrated his isolation. Based on what evidence? That the Sudanese government and Hamas – both explicitly criticized by al-Qaeda – rejected his statements? That some Arab newspapers – explicitly criticized in the speech – criticized the speech? That the American government said so?

Bin Laden doesn’t necessarily care about the same things that Americans do. The full transcript of his speech, as I pointed out yesterday, suggests that the battle to shape identities and to sharpen the frame of a clash of civilizations takes top billing – not Iraq or any of the particular issues (Darfur, Hamas) which are dominating our headlines and op-eds. I’d direct attention back to the whole Danish cartoons episode (as did bin Laden, at great length): it came out of nowhere for most Western and mainstream Arab analysts alike, and incredibly quickly came to dominate the public agenda for weeks and weeks. The potency of that issue, the speed with which it caught on and the intensity with which it was felt, suggests that the project of reshaping Arab/Muslim identities and reframing the politics of meaning is proceeding rather well . . .

I think that many Neocons would agree with this analysis. Moreover, some (most?) of them probably regard it as a positive development. They always argued that the Islamic world was fundamentally broken. Any success that Bin Laden has in sharpening the conflict is useful because a full scale conflict is inevitable. The sooner it occurs, the better (for the West).

In other words, the Neocons and Bin Laden benefit (or think that they benefit) from controversies like the Danish cartoons. Everybody wins!

See also here.

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Photo ID, #45

Summer has come to Williamstown. Here is what it looked like on the science quad yesterday:

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Feel free to identify anything or anyone you like. It is a Photo ID, after all.

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Aren’t you impressed that I caught the frisbee in the air? I thought so. As usual, click for the larger-than-desktop-sized (for most people) version.

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Cornel West an Eph?

So says Postgraduate Musings. Is this true? I could find no record of West teaching at Williams, but perhaps he was there many years ago. Does anyone know the exact dates of his appointment?

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Food Pellets

Fun article on Jenn Mattern from the Eagle.

She said a big appeal of blogging is the instant feedback. Hers features a running peanut gallery of commentators, including her own mother, who goes by “The Mater” (and who recently started her own blog).

Most of the comments are positive and supportive, Mattern said, which presents a bit of a problem in itself.

Unlike writing plays and prose which can mean months of solitary work without feedback, the re-sponse from her blog readers can be almost too comforting.

“I almost feel like a rat hitting the lever for food pellets,” she said.

Excessively positive and supportive feedback is not a problem we face at EphBlog. Thank goodness!

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Poisoned

KC Johnson writes on Duke’s poisoned campus culture.

In response to the scandal surrounding the men’s lacrosse team, Duke president Richard Brodhead has initiated a “conversation on campus culture.” The first installment provided little insight. To Mark Anthony Neal, a professor of African and African-American Studies, recent events showed that “we need an innovative and brave curriculum that will allow our students to engage one another in a progressive manner.” It’s worth remembering that only two years ago at Neal’s institution, a department chairman jokingly explained the faculty’s ideological imbalance by noting, “If, as John Stuart Mill said, stupid people are generally conservative, then there are lots of conservatives we will never hire.” It seems rather unlikely that Duke’s curriculum lacks a sufficiently “progressive” nature.

Read the whole thing, as they say.

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Reasonings for Econ Changes

Many thanks and kudos to Professor Ralph Bradburd, the Economics Department and the CEP for permitting EphBlog to publish the official set of recommendations (all of which have been accepted, I believe) on changes to the economics major. See below the break for the entire report. Comments:

1) The more open and transparent that Williams is about these sorts of decisions, the better for all concerned. Why not publish all the recommendations that CEP received this spring?

2) The more you know about how Williams operates, the more proud you become of the institution and the people who run it. You might not agree with every decision here, but there can be no doubt that some experienced and thoughtful economists spent a great deal of time and energy on the topic.

3) On balance, these are good changes. They are consistent with the direction in which economics is evolving, especially in terms of more focus on empirical work. If I were a member of the department, I would have voted in favor.

4) It is still a shame that the department refuses to offer ECON 101, a one semester introduction to economics for majors and non-majors alike. A biologist or art historian looking for an overview of modern economics should not be forced to sit through 2 semesters.

5) I have strong opinions on how such a class should be constructed. Short version: classical readings (Smith, Marx), lots of writing, topical debates, and a dash of empirical work. Williams has never had a class like this. Longer rant some other day. I wonder if anyone in the department agrees?

CEP Report excerpt:

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Article featuring Chris Murphy ’96 …

on the front page of the New York Times. Good stuff. Hopefully we’ll soon have a third Eph member of Congress.

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Going to Graduate School

Was a full set of information and opinions presented at this forum on Art History graduate school? I hope so. For example, any discussion which does not mention cautionary tales (e.g., here and here) is highly misleading to undergraduates who might not know any better.

It is fair to say that Ephs coming out of Williams in my era did not, as a group, get good advice about graduate school.

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Obnoxious Questions

Helen Caldicott is speaking at Williams tonight.

As one of the most visible advocates for nuclear peace, Caldicott has been awarded many citations for her work.

I am for “nuclear peace” as well, whatever the heck that means.

Those with long memories will recall that Caldicott spoke at Williams 20 years ago. At the time, she was leader in the nuclear freeze movement. Although my memory is dim after all these years, I think that I asked her the most obnoxious question of the evening during the Q&A, something along the lines of “Do you accept President Reagan’s characterization of the Soviet Union as an ‘Evil Empire’?”

Those were the days.

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