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More Technical Difficulties

This is my first attempt to post something directly into WordPress, as opposed to having a not-yet-published post imported from Movable Type. Hope it works! Comments:

1) Thanks to Eric Smith ’99 (and our genius intern Michael) for help with the process so far. Although the pain is great now, I hope that the benefits will be even greater later. Thanks also to our authors for their patience and our readers for their feedback.

2) The problem with misattributed posts may only be solvable by committing WordPress “suicide,” i.e., deleting everything and doing another import from the old Movable Type installation. We will try that now. This means that any new comments (and posts like this one) will be lost forever. Sorry!

3) With luck, things will stablize in the next few days. We will be contacting some authors in the near future with information on how they can start posting.

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Thankathon

Why not cut out the middle man from this?

Help support the Alumni Fund and earn additional funds for your Williams student athletic team, club, or organization. Each hour that is spent by each student sending Thank Yous to Williams Alumni for their contribution to the Alumni Fund is counted toward the 25-hour goal, which is necessary for each reward.

So, I send in money to Williams so that it will fund student organizations that I care about. Great. The College then bribes students from those organizations to send me a thank you note. Perhaps we should cut out the middleman by having me send my money directly to those student organizations. Remember Ephs Choose? Read that post. Most of my goofy ideas are too nuts to work. But not that one! That one was genius. More to come in 2008 . . .

By the way, it’s the last day for 2007 charitable donations. Feel free to suggest worthy Eph-related causes in the comments. I’ll start with A Window Between Worlds, founded by Cathy Salser ’88. Other recommendations welcome.

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Hotness Cools

Greg Crowther ’95 reminds us that “over time, hotness cools.” He also notes that:

Most scientists now consider the “bar magnet” model of human interaction to be inadequate. The preferred current model is that of the enzyme-substrate complex. In brief, you and your partner should complement each other physically, and physical proximity should lead to chemical changes. But beware of competitive inhibitors!

Indeed.

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Use SPF

DeWitt Clinton ’97 claims that he has nothing to do with a recent outbreak of text-spam.

I awoke this morning to see numerous emails in my personal inbox reading:

To: dewitt@gmail.com
From: nnnnnnnnnn@vtext.com
Subject: Stop texting me!

Now obviously I’m not spam texting anyone. Not via the phone, not via email.

Sure, DeWitt. Whatever you say . . .

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Technical Difficulties

We are in the process of moving EphBlog to a different hosting company and switching to WordPress from Movable Type for our blogging software. There will, no doubt, be teething pains. Apologies in advance for any difficulties, especially for authors trying to post new material. The process should be complete before the start of Winter Study.

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Academic Communities

Three years ago, David Ramos ’00 wrote

If Williams wants to engineer additional communities, why not build real academic communities? Environmental Studies comes together every week for Log Lunch, and CS meets for pizzas and colloqiua. My department, English, did nothing of the kind, barring once-a-year socials.

Good question. Which departments/programs do the best job of creating an academic community? I have heard wonderful things about MATH/STAT. Is that still true? What departments do a poor job? English? What ideas could the bad departments easily steal from the good ones? Now is a good time for department chairs to start thinking of New Years resolutions . . .

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Modest Proposal

Interesting video of Wendy Shalit ’97, author of Girls Gone Mild, discussing mentors.

There is a story about a Williams professor toward the end. Previous Shalit posts here.Related (?) is this Record article about Liz Osthus ’96, the only (?) Eph stripper.

For graduating students, entering the real world often means following a dress code. Sometimes it means wearing a three-piece suit, or sometimes it means wearing Abercrombie & Fitch. For Liv Osthus ’96, also known as Viva Las Vegas, it means wearing her birthday suit. It’s not that Osthus doesn’t ever wear clothing for her job; it’s that she takes it off while she works, because while most Ephs start work at 9 a.m., Osthus’s job at her Mary’s Club doesn’t begin till at least 4:30 p.m., or 9 p.m. if she’s taking the night shift.

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It’s been about 10 years since Osthus started stripping. “I was trying to be a musician and a writer and so I needed money to allow me to do those things,” Osthus said. “I thought I’d just be doing it for a year. I had a lot of loans from Williams and I thought I’d do it for a while and get my loans paid off.”

Another reason to be pleased with Williams move to a no-loans financial aid policy? Just asking! Previous posts about Osthus here.

“I’ve been writing my book for the last four years,” Osthus said. “I would like to have stopped [stripping] before now, but I still love my job – and I can still afford my mortgage.” And it’s not just through her well-roundedness that Osthus shows her Eph background. She has put her Williams education to good use – she speaks five languages and has used them all during her act.

“I met Sean Penn, and he just spent some time in East Africa so I spoke Swahili with him,” she said. “I speak French, German, English, of course, and I studied in Bali for a semester and east Africa for a semester. Both are very, very rusty but we had a whole bunch of sailors from Indonesia and I was able to talk to them, and a missionary dude from east Africa.”

Am I a bad father for hoping that my daughters don’t become strippers, for Indonesian sailors or anyone else? I can’t come up with the exact culture reference, but isn’t it the father’s job to “keep his daughter off the pole?”

Her old classmates have been supportive as well, and many have come in to see her act. “They knew I was a wild card, and I think most have been in to see me dance,” Osthus said. “They’re always shocked by how normal it is – I just happen to be unclothed and dancing.”

Even her father, the preacher, supports her now. “He was initially very upset and disappointed, but I’ve taught classes on it and even the philosophy of it,” Osthus said. “It’s my pulpit when I get on that stage – he gets that. It’s so not about the sex, it’s about performance and I love it.”

A good father’s love is unconditional.

I have exchanged e-mails with both Shalit and Osthus. Best to both during the holiday season.

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Phonefare

Greg Crowther ’95 defines “phonefare” as the “that brief musical ‘fanfare’ that cell phones emit when they are turned on or off.” Given EphBlog’s Google juice, I expect this to be the top hit for the term shortly. Spread the word.

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Due Date

Grades from professors are “due” to the Registrar today. Cale Weatherly comments, “You are significantly likelier to receive grades on time from professors who do not have tenure than from professors who do.”

Indeed. And this would make for an interesting senior thesis! What is the pattern of timeliness among professors when it comes to getting grades in? You could even run some randomized experiments by sending out reminders to some professors but not others. You could look for department effects. And so on.

I realize that this might seem like a stupid topic. Shouldn’t a senior thesis tackle a bigger problem? No! The more narrow the topic, the better the senior thesis. The more Williams-focussed, the more likely that anyone will ever read it. Thousands of people have read selections from Lindsey Taylor’s ’05 thesis. Moreover, this small topic will provide all the complexities of a bigger issue.

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Merry Christmas!

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Can you guess this Eph Santa and his elf, and the occasion for their merriment?

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A Christmas Wish

Particularly ill-informed thread on WSO about Herb Allen’s ’62 op-ed. Don’t kids today read EphBlog!? Could a student reader please add a link to our discussion to that thread? Consider it a Christmas present for me and them.

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Nice Boots

Nice picture of Ian Poirer ’07 in the December issue of Skiing.

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Not exactly what I look like on the slopes . . .

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With all respect …

For the intellectual rigor of the agnostic and the aetheist,
and for the sincerity of those who guide their lives by the principals of their religion,

but with approbation for the sales-over-last-year Whirlwinds of Walmart
and the practitioners of PC prattle who triivilaize language and meaning,

May I wish this community a very Happy Christmas!

Dick Swart 1956
Hood River, Oregon

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An Application Metaphor

Stephen O’Grady ’97 writes:

When I was in high school, and it came time to apply to college, my primary goal was as straightforward as it was unambitious: to get in. Obviously I had certain preferences, but like musical chairs I more or less didn’t want to be the one left standing. Most kids, I’m sure, are of the same mindset, which is why they labor through the often tedious application process for so-called “safety schools” that they would prefer not to attend. What differentiated me then wasn’t the fact that I applied to a safety school, but rather the fact that I applied to about a dozen of them.

Recognizing that my relative indifference towards academics and a lamentable lack of real athletic talent did little to distinguish me from my peers, I fell back on the shotgun approach. Apply to enough institutions, my thinking went, and somebody would have to accept me.

Fortunately for everyone – or at least me – Williams rolled the dice and everything worked out nicely. After a positively abysmal freshman year, anyway.

Perhaps because the tactic played a role in the fine education that I received, I find it curious that so few enterprises are willing to embrace it when entering markets with which they are unfamiliar. Many if not most of the vendors we speak with focus, understandably, on the science of community and software development. But while the science has its place, the fact is that the software world is, like the MLB Playoffs, a crapshoot. And success is often far more art than science.

Consider the evidence. . . .

Not sure that the metaphor works in this case, but who am I to begrudge a tenuous connection to All Things Eph?

Let he who is without purple-tinged memories, cast the first stone.

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Solstice Story

A beautiful solstice story for the shortest day of the year from an anonymous Eph.

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Alarming

David H.T. Kane ’58 and he-who-is-now-only-Aidan point to today’s New York Times op-ed by Herb Allen ’62.

The separation of the wealthiest from the rest of the country is alarming.

Uhhh, not so alarming that Herb Allen deigns to fly commercial like the rest of us plebeians.

But it would be even more alarming if we recognized that income isn’t the only measure of wealth. Health and education are forms of wealth, too, essential to happiness and a strong society. Yet in the discussion of America’s growing wealth gap, they too often go unnoticed.

True, and not just education and health. See my contribution to last year’s CGCL.

Disparities in health care and in education are widespread. In the realm of education, however, there’s a particularly corrosive shift that’s taking place, one that has tremendous consequences for the development of America’s best minds: the growing gap between super-wealthy colleges and universities — and the rest of the academic world. There is a widening division that gives top colleges and universities a huge financial advantage over their poorer counterparts.

Is that really true? There is no doubt that the existing division between elite schools like Williams/Harvard and everyone else is large. But it is growing? Is Williams wealthier relative to, say, Bennington or UMASS than it was 50 years ago. I am not sure, but I have never seen a good study of the topic. Color me suspicious.

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Prof. Pasachoff Speaks

Prof. Jay Pasachoff has a letter to the editor published in today’s NY Times. The proposal laid out in his letter seems reasonable on its face, but perhaps is a little naive.

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Cycling in India, Part II

Liked Porfessor Joe Cruz’s description of cycling in India? Part II is ever better.

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Taking One for the Team

Kim Daboo ’88 reports that “the uterus, she is closed for business.” She also has a question for her male readers.

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African Food/ Townie Wisdom

I figured I would comment on the recent posts about African food. I have spent some fairly recent time in East Africa. About seven months, in fact. The best food I had there was Lebanese food.

The Lebanese are everywhere, by the way. A great majority of lebanese live outside of Lebanon. There are millions of Lebanese livings in Africa.

I found the African people I encountered to be very friendly and polite. There was minimal crime. Almost everyone had a curiosity about America that revealed hesitating admiration and trust. Most Africans that I met still held guarded hope for a strong and good America that delivered friendship and the promise of a better future.

I also encountered extreme separations of wealth, desperate poverty, and the rampant corruption that is prevalent in many African Nations. It is a sad place, in many ways. Very hard for me to express in the written language, but when I think about Africa, I get mixed feelings of joy, remorse, sadness and hope.

Has anyone ever heard of the theory “Relative Deprivation“? From what I have observed in my travels in life, I believe it is the most accurate criminology theory ever written. I do not believe that crime has anything to do with genetics, race, or even poverty. It is cultural.

Our views on class and race are always a work in progress. No one is ever “right” about such matters, but there are plenty of people who I know are wrong.

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Gul Website

The Gulielmensian website is clean and well-organized. Well done. I still think that the Gul should, like most high school yearbooks, come out in May. Sales would rise and students would have a fun time with yearbook signings. (Being a total freak, I had my Williams friends sign the previous year’s Gul.) Previous discussion here, here and here.

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Mobile Enabled

Stephen O’Grady ’97 offers advice on “How to Kill Time w/ Your Web Enabled Phone.”

Everything’s coming up mobile this week, or so it would seem. Not so much on the news front – it’s been far too long since I saw a good Android conspiracy theory – but with everyone else: clients, friends, colleagues – everyone. Hell, I can’t say that I’d be terribly surprised if Az up and started inquiring as to my preferred mobile applications.

To own the truth, that portfolio has changed very little since I asked you folks for suggestions. Apart from Gizmo Mobile, which I’ve done nothing more than toy with, the only mobile applications I use with any frequency are the browser, Gmail, and Google Maps. The latter has improved dramatically, both in performance and with the addition of features like the usually-broken-but-magic-when-it-works My Location.

Fortunately for me, and, I’d guess, many of you, Web 2.0 has broken its desktop shackles and is beginning to throw its weight around on mobile handsets. Even those that are not iPhones. Considering that del.icio.us, my favorite social bookmarking service, has yet to make an appearance on my Nokia N75, I thought it might be instructive – both for present edification and for future reference – to snapshot the sites that make comprise my mobile bookmarks as of this particular moment.

Check out Stephen’s list. I am sure he would like to get some suggestions from fellow Ephs.

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MESS MoCA

Apologies for the delays in posting this story about MASS MoCA.

The scene at the federal courthouse in Springfield, Mass., in the countersuits of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art v. Christoph B�chel, seemed more like a bitter divorce than a dispute about a work of art. On one side of the hearing on Sept. 21, much anticipated in the art world, was the estranged Swiss sculptor, B�chel, complaining of a lack of commitment from his partner. On the other was the jilted museum, known as Mass MoCA, which had shelled out more than twice the $160,000 budgeted for B�chel’s artistic materials–the two-story house, the mobile home, the movie theater, the police car–but balked at the requested airplane. The museum had taken the unusual step of exhibiting B�chel’s proposed shopping list, which also included (according to Roberta Smith’s extremely pro-B�chel assessment in the New York Times) four prosthetic legs, a hospital bed, eight voting booths, and much more. Not exactly Imelda Marcos’ closet of shoes, but still.

No worries. Williams College will donate enough money to make everything work out. (Just kidding!) Anyway, the whole story is an interesting read with no clear villains. Yet anyone interested in becoming a member of the Williams Art Mafia should study this case closely and learn from it.

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Cook ’98 Talk Location

Captain Bunge Cook’s ’98, USMC talk to night at 6:30 is at the Dedham Community House at 671 High Street in Dedham, MA. All are welcome. I will be there and, if drinks are available, the first round is on EphBlog!

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Almost Mugged

Dan Drezner ’90 was almost mugged last night.

Last night I met Daniel Drezner for dinner at an Ethiopian place near my house. As he had fifteen minutes or so after dinner before he had to go to the airport, he walked over to inspect my new digs.

As we neared the gas station kitty-corner to my house, a very large man started following us along the street. He was walking way too close to us, but not so close that two compulsively well-mannered blue-staters were going to ask him to step back. He tailed us through two intersections, just a few feet behind us. Because Dan doesn’t actually know where my house is, we turned off U Street later than I normally would, and the guy very obviously changed direction to stay behind us.

Everything worked out in the end. The race of the “very large man” is never mentioned. Is that because a) It is irrelevant or b) It is assumed known or c) Politeness? Can you guess the race?

UPDATE: The initial version of this post failed to note Drezner’s class year. Also, Drezner comments on the same incident here. Crime stories (and foiled crime stories) merit a spot on EphBlog. Recent example here.

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Story of My Baby

Was it just two months ago that I brought the name Rielle Hunter to your attention, dear readers? Indeed, it was. Hope you were paying attention! Now the ex-girlfriend of Jay McInerney ’76, and inspiration for his book, Story of My Life, is accused by being pregnant with presidential candidate John Edwards’ love child.

Time for McInerney to write the sequel . . .

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The Eph Who Changed the World of Oil

Ben Mezrich’s latest best-seller, Rigged: The True Story of an Ivy League Kid Who Changed the World of Oil, from Wall Street to Dubai, tells the story of John D’Agostino ’97’s “grapples with heroes, villains and intrigue in oil markets from Wall Street to Dubai.” You can purchase the book at Amazon or at most book stores. You can also listen to John’s discusison of the book on NPR. According to this month’s class notes, the book will soon be made into a movie as well.

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Come on Eph

Well sung version of “Come on Eileen” from the Ephlats.

Cailin Collins ’07 is the soloist. Here’s a live version.

Only other mention of “Come on Eileen” at EphBlog is here. Classic! And that post provides us with a trip down housing lane to David Ramos ’00 comments on the importance of the Odd Quad.

I’m cranky, too, because this plan would destroy the only social institution that kept me from transfering out of Williams – yep, the Odd Quad. Now, I can hold my alcohol. I have no interest in role-playing. I consider myself an organizer. But I had no interest in the majority culture at Williams, while the Odd Quad fit nicely. The Odd Quad, however, was essentially a residential community, based around its own dining hall and a small collection of dorms; the Quad’s would-be members who lived elsewhere, basically, did a lot of walking and sleeping on air mattresses.

And what do the Odd Quaders do now?

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Stem Cells

iBerkshires provides this update on the College’s donation to MASS MoCA. (Previous discussion here.)

Williams College is strengthening its collaboration with Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art by using $1.8 million to seed a regional fund drive for the modern art museum.

The museum, which has spent years surviving on the knife’s edge, has raised nearly two-thirds of the $36 million goal it set for an endowment and program support. Standing in the framework of what will become the Sol LeWitt gallery, museum officials on Monday kicked off the regional campaign to raise $5.8 million. The donation from Williams covers nearly a third of that goal.

Even if Williams never gave MASS MoCA a dime, the museum would still be fine. There are lots of rich people who like modern art. Go figure.

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Cooke ’98 Talk About Iraq

From the Boston alumni e-mail list:

Captain Warren C. “Bunge” Cook ’98 of the United States Marine Corps is giving a series of talks and slide shows, followed by discussions, about the experiences of Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st US Marines in Iraq last summer. The event is sponsored by the Marine Corps and is being held at various sites throughout New England this month.

Bunge was among the first American soldiers to enter Baghdad in 2003. His talk about Lima Company will concern his unit’s recent activities in Iraq’s Al Anbar Province, and it will provide, he says, “a story you haven’t seen or heard in the US media.”

Bunge will be speaking at the Dedham Community Center in Dedham, MA, at 6:30 on December 19. He will speak the next day at the Cumberland Club in Portland, ME, at 5:00. For more information, please contact: The Holderness Alumni Office at 603.779.5228 or alum@holderness.org

Great stuff. I plan on being there.

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