Currently browsing the archives for July 2015

Big Reaction


From the Eagle:

Williams College Summer Science Lab gets big reaction from students

There are plenty of creams, tablets and elixirs on the market that claim to cure health problems and ease ailments, but do they actually work?

During this month’s Williams College Summer Science Lab sessions, students were able to use professional tools to investigate household compounds, putting things like antacids to the test to see which ones really work.

“That’s why we do chemistry, so we know we’re not being lied to,” Darla Torres told her students during last week’s session.

Torres is a rising Williams College sophomore, and part of a cohort of five Williams students and three from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, who have helped teach the fifth- and sixth-graders participating in this year’s Summer Science Lab. The college students have been working with local teachers to develop science curriculum for North Adams Public Schools.


1) Good stuff! Kudos to Torres and the other students involved. Kudos also to the faculty/staff who made this all happen.

2) EphBlog’s position on local charity/community is simple: The College should, to the greatest extent possible, make its facilities available for this sort of work. The College should write few/no checks to local non-profits.

3) Love the expression on the little girl’s face, head in hands! The obvious thought bubble: “Thanks EphBlog! I love spending my summer in the science lab rather than being outside with my friends . . .”


Dead Civilians

From Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science David Traven:

How many dead civilians makes a war crime? Ask the UN, Israel, and Hamas

A few weeks ago, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) released a report alleging that Israel and Hamas committed war crimes during the 50-day conflict last summer in the Gaza Strip. While Israel has acknowledged that many Palestinian civilians were killed as a result of the war, it has denounced the allegations that it intentionally targeted civilians and that civilian casualties were excessive in relation to anticipated military gains. Despite overtly firing rockets at Israeli cities and towns, some Hamas officials claim that they only intended to hit military sites, not civilians.

Whether or not Israel and Hamas are being sincere, their claims reflect a widely accepted view that it is morally worse to intentionally kill civilians than it is to kill them either incidentally or accidentally. But when that moral intuition is written into international law, it can leave civilians exposed rather than protected.

Read the whole thing.


Losing Cryptowars 2.0

Interesting article from Elissa Shevinsky ’01.

We cannot bend software or cryptography to our will. Technology is science, not magic.

Government officials’ requests to weaken encryption are based on a fantasy of what technology could be – not the reality of what software is actually like in practice. And their backers, such as The Washington Post editorial board, are also swayed by it. Even President Obama, the same leader who has recruited top Silicon Valley talent to join him in the White House, wants to find a compromise.

The problem? It is not technically possible. There’s no such thing as a secure back door. The idea that the US government can have built-in access to encrypted data – while maintaining consumers’ security and privacy, and preserving American business – is flawed.

Exactly right. Read the whole thing.


Teach First Years to Sing “The Mountains”

To the JA’s for the class of 2019:

At the 1989 Williams graduation ceremonies, then-President Francis Oakley had a problem. Light rain showers, which had been threatening all morning, started mid-way through the event. Thinking that he should speed things along, and realizing that virtually no one knew the words to “The Mountains,” President Oakley proposed that the traditional singing be skipped.

A cry arose from all Ephs present, myself included. Although few knew the words, all wanted to sing the damn song. Sensing rebellion, President Oakley relented and led the assembled graduates and guests through a somewhat soaked rendition of the song that has marked Williams events for more than 100 years.

Similar scenes play themselves out at Williams gatherings around the country. At some of the Williams weddings that you will attend in the future, an attempt, albeit a weak one, will be made to sing “The Mountains.” At reunions, “The Mountains” will be sung, generally with the help of handy cards supplied by the Alumni Office. It is obvious that most graduates wish that they knew the words. It is equally obvious than almost all do not.

We have a collective action problem. Everyone (undergraduates and alumni alike) wishes that everyone knew the words — it would be wonderful to sing “The Mountains” at events ranging from basketball games to Mountain Day hikes to gatherings around the world. But there is no point in me learning the words since, even if I knew them, there would be no one else who did. Since no single individual has an incentive to learn the words, no one bothers to learn them. We are stuck at a sub-optimal equilibrium.

Fortunately, you have the power to fix this. You could learn “The Mountains” together, as a group, during your JA orientation. You could then teach all the First Years during First Days. It will no doubt make for a nice entry bonding experience. All sorts of goofy ideas come to mind. How about a singing contest at the opening dinner, judged by President Falk, between the six different first year dorms with first prize being a pizza dinner later in the fall at the President’s House?

It will not be enough to learn the song that evening. Periodically over the last dozen years, attempts have been made to teach the words at dinner or at the first class meeting in Chapin. Such efforts, worthy as they are, have always failed. My advice:

1) Learn all the words by heart at JA training. This is harder than it sounds. The song is longer and more complex than you think. Maybe sing it between every session? Maybe a contest between JAs from the 6 first year houses? If you don’t sing the song at least 20 times, you won’t know it by heart.

2) Encourage the first years to learn the song before they come to Williams. There are few people more excited about all things Williams in August than incoming first years. Send them the lyrics. Send them videos of campus groups singing “The Mountains.” Tell them that, as an entry, you will be singing the song many times on that first day.

3) Carry through on that promise! Have your entry sing the song multiple times that day. Maybe the two JAs sing the song to the first student who arrives. Then, the three of you sing if for student number 2. And so on. When the last student arrives, the entire entry serenades him (and his family).

4) There should be some target contest toward which this effort is nominally directed. I like the idea of a sing off between the 6 first year dorms with President Falk as judge. But the actual details don’t matter much. What matters is singing the song over-and-over again that first day.

Will this process be dorky and weird and awkward? Of course it will! But that is OK. Dorkiness in the pursuit of community is no vice. And you and your first years will all be dorky together.

For scores of years, Ephs of goodwill have worked to create a better community for the students of Williams. It is a hard problem. How do you bring together young men and women from so many different places, with such a diversity of backgrounds and interests? Creating common, shared experiences — however arbitrary they may be — is a good place to start. Mountain Day works, not because they is anything particularly interesting about Stone Hill, but because we all climb it together.

Until a class of JAs decide as a group to learn the words (by heart) themselves during their training and then to teach it to all the First Years before the first evening’s events, “The Mountains” will remain a relic of a Williams that time has passed by.

But that is up to you. Once a tradition like this is started, it will go on forever. And you will be responsible for that. A hundred years from now the campus will look as different from today as today looks from 1915, but, if you seize this opportunity, Williams students and alumni will still be singing “The Mountains.”

Congratulations on being selected as a JA. It is a singular honor and responsibility.


David Kane ’88


Feels Like Forever

Curious about Airbnb? This New York Magazine article is a good place to start. And it features a cameo by Andrew Goldston ’09.

It wasn’t long before some of these stories made their way to the office of State Senator Liz Krueger. Located in a non­descript office building on the far, far Upper East Side, behind a rack of scaffolding and a row of construction workers doing a ­modern-day reenactment of the famous photograph of guys lunching on an I-beam, Krueger’s tiny warren of rooms is basically the opposite of Airbnb’s airy headquarters. As are the senator’s opinions. “She lives to destroy us,” one person at Airbnb complained. But to be fair, she’s been trying to destroy businesses like Airbnb since Chesky and Gebbia were in short pants.

“How long have I been working on this, Andrew?” asks the blonde, chatty senator, peering out from behind her cluttered desk.

“It feels like forever,” says her earnest 28-year-old spokesman, Andrew Goldston.

I bet that, behind the scenes, Andrew was feeding the author lots of dirt about Airbnb. Not that there is anything wrong with that!


Williams & the Civil War: The Wrong Side, Part Two

One of a series of posts, as explained in “Williams & the Civil War: The Wrong Side – Introduction“:

At long last, 150 years after the Union prevailed “with a brave army, and a just cause” in the American Civil War, one of the most visible remaining markers of that conflict is on everyone’s lips and coming down…

Williams College, and most Ephs, reflect on the Civil War through a Union lens — correctly so, from both a moral and historical perspective… [s]o let’s use this occasion to learn more from and about Ephs on the subject of the Civil War and especially on the other side: the Confederacy.

Williams College produced three Ephs who ascended to the rank of General for the United States during the Civil War. James Garfield became President of the United States. But Williams also produced high-ranking officers who fought for the Confederacy. Two brothers, Joseph Lovell, Jr., and William F.S. Lovell, may be the most interesting of these men.

William and Joseph Lovell were two of the sons of Joseph Lovell, the 8th Surgeon General of the United States Army, and the first with the “Surgeon General” title:

Lovell was appointed Surgeon General to date from April 18, 1818, with Hospital Surgeons Tobias Watkins and James C. Bronaugh, assistants, one for each of the two divisions of the army. Apothecary General Le Barron was retained in his old position. Though only in his thirtieth year, his services in the hospitals on the northern frontier during the war and his appreciation of the needs of the service as evidenced by his reports made Lovell the logical choice for head of the service. Thus was established for the first time a permanent medical department organization. For the first time a career medical officer was made chief of the service. All of the former chiefs had been appointed to meet the emergency of war, real or expected, with an organization to serve the forces in the field. Again, for the first time was bestowed upon the service chief the title of surgeon general, which has survived to the present day.

Serving in the post for 18 years, Lovell founded its library, which today is the National Library of Medicine.

Son Joseph, Jr., entered Williams in 1840, where he spent only his freshman year. He moved on to Yale, graduating in 1844, then became a lawyer in New York State.

William entered Williams in 1845. He too lasted only one year at Williams, and soon thereafter entered the United States Navy as a midshipman, graduating from the Naval Academy in 1855.

In the 1850s, the brothers’ gazes turned south, towards Natchez, Mississippi. Through a third brother, Mansfield, a West Point graduate and the Streets Commissioner in New York City, the Lovells’ lives became entwined with that of General John Quitman, two-time governor of Mississippi. As a second lieutenant in the Mexican-American War, Mansfield served as an adjutant to Quitman, and they became close. This eventually brought Joseph, Jr. and William together with the Lovell family, and when General Quitman died in 1858, Joseph and William F.S. Lovell married two of his daughters. William resigned his commission in the Navy, and the brothers became cotton plantation-holders as partners.

Monmouth Plantation, Natchez, Mississippi - onetime home of Gen. John Quitman

Monmouth Plantation, Natchez, Mississippi – onetime home of Gen. John Quitman

Not surprisingly, when the Civil War broke out, both brothers entered Confederate service — as did Mansfield, who was named the Confederate general in command of New Orleans. Joseph, Jr. joined his staff as a General. William F.S. Lovell became a lower-ranking officer in the Confederate Army, where he rose from Captain of Artillery to Lieutenant Colonel of Ordnance, and ultimately to Assistant Inspector-General.

As an ordnance colonel, William put his naval training to use, taking command of a 200-foot sidewheel river liner, the William H. Webb, and two smaller vessels, and fought them in naval action on the Red River. William was later captured at the battle of Vicksburg, paroled, and then dispatched by the Confederacy on a mission to England, where he remained from 1864 until the end of the war.

The Lovell brothers were not forgotten to Eph history. They merited a footnote in it, or, more precisely, in. Leverett Wilson Spring’s “A History of Williams College,” which notes that “eight non-graduates entered the Confederate army.” And they appear in the Catalogue of Non-Graduates. But otherwise, they have been forgotten. And perhaps that is as it should be, except as an instructional to heed David’s advice: “Marry an Eph.” If the Williams of the 1840s had been coed, and the Lovell brothers had done so, maybe they wouldn’t have ended up on the wrong side of the Civil War.


Complete Accounting Fraud


Answer: Because he is rich! Other questions?


Cross the Vermont Border to Peter Hopkins’ New Home Brewing Shop

Hoppy Valley Hops photo, via Twitter

Hoppy Valley Hops photo, via Twitter

When returning to the Purple Valley after an absence, it can be hard for Ephs to leave the Williams College campus at all, even for draws like the Pine Cobble Trail or the Clark. But now Peter Hopkins ’74 has a new reason for Ephs to venture the two and a half miles north up Route 7 to Pownal, Vermont: his organic hops farm, Hoppy Valley Organics, is ready to supply everyone’s homebrewing needs, and offering tours:

The company is in its third year of growing hops on property on Route 7 and at end of July, the owners are opening up the yard for those sightseers to get a closer look.

Concurrently, the company is showcasing its new home-brew supply store at the nearby Hoppy Valley Vermont Tasting Room.

“Over the last 2 1/2 to three years, we’ve had hundreds of people buttonhole us, taking pictures,” co-owner Peter Hopkins said…

The home-brewing shop joins the “Vermont Tasting Room” that Hoppy Valley has been operating inside the Hillside House Furniture barn for the last two years. As the inclusion of “Organics” in the business name suggests, Hopkins and his partner (Hillside House proprietor John Armstrong), are focused on premium, artisanal hops:

The hop-growing operation isn’t typical though. Hopkins and John Armstrong started the business with a focus on returning to the “roots of Vermont’s” hop growing. The two handcrafted teepee-like structures with ropes to pull the hops up and down. The business even kicked off with a community hop planting party, which mirrored an old-fashioned barn raising.

“The structures we built were typical of 19th-century hop growing,” Hopkins said.

Besides growing four standard varieties — Cascade, Chinook, Centennial, and Nugget — the owners have traveled all over the state seeking the oldest hops plants they could find to grow.

Hopkins has also been supporting efforts to change Vermont law to authorize farm-brewing licenses to be issued to Vermont farmers brewing from their own ingredients:

Peter Hopkins, who grows hops in Pownal, said he believes the bill would boost Vermonters’ efforts to grow hops, grain and malt.

“It should bring the farmers and the brewers much closer together. Each will depend upon the other,” said Hopkins, whose farm is called Hoppy Valley Organics. “If all of a sudden there’s increased demand, there’ll be more hops in the ground,” he added.

But Vermont-grown hops can be significantly more expensive, said Todd Haire, operations manager for Switchback Brewing Company in Burlington.

Switchback has brewed with local hops through University of Vermont Extension, Haire said. He said brewers are willing to try Vermont hops but need a consistent supply.

Hopkins is working on that! Another legislative change that could help Hopkins and Hoppy Valley Organics would be a repeal/reduction of the drinking age. Williams students, with their interest in organic farming, are both a natural labor source and a likely market, if Hoppy Valley expands. If students could lawfully home-brew from the product of their labors, this could be a virtuous circle. And being just on the north side of the Williamstown border places Hopkins in astate that has considered, at least twice, reforming its drinking age in recent years.

Williams Students help plant first hops at Hoppy Valley, via Twitter

Williams Students help plant first hops at Hoppy Valley, via Twitter

Other Ephs from the Class of ’74 — and perhaps others from the “4” and “9” years who arrived early to Reunion 2014 — are likely already familiar with Hopkins’ hops from a Thursday night kickoff BBQ he hosted and catered last year. Other Ephs should make time for the short northward detour on their next trip to Williamstown, or even plan a trip for the weekend of August 1. Then, in conjunction with a home-brew festival in downtown Bennington on Saturday, Hoppy Valley Organics will host two events:an open house on Friday, July 31 from 2 to 8 p.m. Parking for the event will be located across Route 7 on the west side of the Pownal View Barn and food and beverage will be available. And the grand opening of the home brew shop will be held Sunday, Aug. 2 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

. You can keep up with Hoppy Valley Organics on Facebook and Twitter.


Virtually No Research

Psychology lecturer Susan Engel is clueless, at least to judge by this Boston Globe op-ed.

I have reviewed more than 300 studies of K–12 academic tests. What I have discovered is startling. Most tests used to evaluate students, teachers, and school districts predict almost nothing except the likelihood of achieving similar scores on subsequent tests. I have found virtually no research demonstrating a relationship between those tests and measures of thinking or life outcomes.

That standardized tests, especially well-designed IQ tests, forecast a wide variety of “life outcomes” is one of the most well-established facts in all of psychology. For a useful overview, see Intelligence: A Very Short Introduction.

But Engel does not need to trust me! She can just ask her colleague down the hall, Williams professor Nate Kornell:


Kornell is recently tenured so, with luck, he will feel more comfortable puncturing the PC beliefs of his colleagues in the future. Here’s hoping!

Suggestion for the Ephs behind Uncomfortable Learning: Organize a debate between Engel and Kornel on the predictive abilities of IQ tests like the SAT.


Lying Liars

Great article on the scam behind stock options from Bethany McLean ’92.

From Bill Gurley to Marc Andreesen, Silicon Valley’s smartest are asking if we’re in round two of the dotcom bubble. Many things are different this time around. But one thing is disconcertingly reminiscent of the late 1990s: The way stock based compensation is treated.

You may think, that can’t be! After all, in 2004, the Financial Standards Accounting Board, or FASB, mandated that the estimated cost of stock options be reflected in a company’s income statement, not buried in the footnotes.

But in present-day Silicon Valley, almost every company, from Twitter to Yahoo to Facebook to Google presents its earnings excluding the cost of stock based compensation. These are called “non-GAAP” earnings because they don’t follow the accounting principles mandated by FASB.

Back in 2004, a hedge fund manager named Cliff Asness, who is not known for mincing words, wrote a piece called “Stock Options and the Lying Liars who Don’t Want to Expense Them.” At the end of 2013, he listed his top ten peeves in a piece for the Financial Analysts Journal. Coming it at number 9 was “Antediluvian Dilution Deception and the Still Lying Liars.” In it, he wrote, “It’s amazing how hard it is to kill a scam even after you make it illegal to use it on the front page.”


Read the whole thing.


Woodward ’03 Carries On the Eph Religious Tradition

Twitter avatar of Eric Woodward '03

Twitter avatar of Eric Woodward ’03

Earlier this year, Rabbi Eric Woodward ’03 was named one of “America’s Most Inspiring Rabbis” by the Jewish Daily Forward for his work bringing young Jewish people to the synagogue and the faith. Woodward is being credited with a membership surge at Tifereth Israel, the Conservative synagogue in Columbus, Ohio, at which he is an assistant rabbi:

Since Woodward started at Tifereth Israel, 30 new families (the measure the synagogue uses to track membership) have joined the 950-family congregation. “They’re almost all young people, like in their 20s and 30s,” 34-year-old Woodward says.

Woodward takes advantage of millennial’s enjoyment of attractive “third-place” environments in his rabbinic work:<blockquote
Woodward, who grew up in Los Angeles and went to school in New York, meets one-on-one with young adult members and prospective members at coffee shops and restaurants—“a place that’s outside the walls of the synagogue, but it’s always physically near the synagogue, because it’s fun and it’s not about being in that building.” He recently started hosting well-attended social events for young adults on Jewish holidays, once at his house and once at Strongwater in Franklinton, in hopes of building “an intentional community to meet the needs of young people. My real goal is to have it be driven by some of the people themselves—not to be rabbi-driven, but to be community-driven.” He also plans to pair social events with opportunities to volunteer in the community…

“A lot of what I do is sit here (at The Angry Baker) in one of these chairs."

The Angry Baker is a trendy, chalkboard-menu bakery café in the Olde Town East neighborhood of Columbus, with scrumptious baked goods and entrees like BBQ tofu bowls. Nothing enables pastoral work like a comfy chair and the smell of fresh baking:

[I] talk to people about what’s going on in their lives and what’s hard,” says Woodward, who completed a clinical pastoral education, which required him to work as a chaplain during school. “And I think young people especially, especially in our culture, have to put on a happy face all the time. So a lot of this is just helping people realize, you know it’s actually OK if you’re in your 20s and you’re figuring out things are kind of hard right now. That’s normal, and so processing that is a large part of it. And I think that is a key way to reach people.”

Those who have spent time at the Jewish Religious Center won’t be surprised to learn that his time at Williams College helped lead Eric Woodward to the rabbinate:

[Woodward’s] interest in his Jewish heritage took hold while he was an undergraduate at Williams College.

“I really realized it was important to me to find a way to bring Torah and holiness into people’s lives, in the community” he said. “… A rabbi is someone who can authoritatively teach Torah to the Jewish community and facilitate Torah in that community.”

Woodward said his father and mother, an attorney an educational therapist, respectively, were surprised at his choice.

Apparently Woodward’s parents missed the Haystack Monument on their tour — Woodward is merely carrying on in a great Williams College tradition started by Samuel John Mills.

Woodward’s time at Williams helped develop not only his religious faith and rabbinic interest, but his political views as a liberal Zionist, as he recounted in a 2002 column in the Williams Record:

I’ll show my hand right now: I’m a liberal Zionist… But often it feels like there are no other liberal Zionists in America. They exist, that’s for certain. Yet for some reason their voices are quiet, or perhaps shouted over and drowned out. There’s Americans for Peace Now, the American branch of the Israeli leftist organization. There are rabbis — every rabbi I’ve met is liberal about Israel (though right-wing ones exist). And there are plenty of others. But I haven’t heard a strong liberal voice from Jewish students… We liberal Zionists must make ourselves heard. Chaverim, at your Passover seders, think of what it means to say that you were a stranger in the land, that you were oppressed and afflicted. And have this in your heart when you say, “L’shanah haba’ah biYrushalayim — “Next year in Jerusalem!”

My sense is that Amherst has produced more rabbis than Williams in recent years, although there are some, including Rabbis Jordana (Schuster) Battis ’98 and Rachel Barenblat ’96.


Sloppy Go

Evan Miller ’06 with a hilarious review of the Go programming language. A snippet:

Despite my misgivings over the absence of Sloppy Go, and the waking nightmares I have about the Go gopher wearing my Peter Pan pajamas and murdering me in my sleep, on the whole I’ve been enjoying my initial experiences with the Go language. I was surprised at how idiot-proof it was to build things — you just type “go build” and almost instantly have a self-contained executable. This does make me wonder how things went so badly with make, makemaker, autoconf, aclocal, and the rest of the Texas Toolchain Massacre.

The jokes only make sense to a technologist, but, trust me, they are great!


Changes in International Admissions?

Have there been changes in the quota with regard to international admissions? In January, I asked Jim Kolesar:

Nine (!) years ago, you kindly answered my questions about international admissions at Williams and, specifically, about the 6% goal/target that the College then employed.

Has that policy changed?

I ask because there was a big jump in international enrollment for the class of 2018, to 49 from usual numbers in the 30s. Of course, this could just be random fluctuation, but at almost 9% of the class, it is a big move up in percentage terms.

Links added. Jim kindly responded (and gave me permission to post):

The 49 figure is best understood as a result of the randomness of yield.

Fair enough. Knowing how many accepted students will choose Williams is a non-trivial problem, especially in situations, like international admissions, which feature significant change. It is harder to forecast yield from Shanghai than it is from Andover.

But then I read this news:

Nesbitt expects the final [2019] class to be composed of 38 percent of American students of color. He expects the class to be 12 percent black, 15 percent Asian American, 11 percent Latino and one percent Native American. Additionally, nine percent of the class is expected to be international students. First-generation students, meaning neither parent graduated from a four-year college, will amount to 16 percent of the class.

Class size is usually 550. Nine percent of 550 is almost 50. Yield randomness might explain 50 international students for the class of 2018. It can’t explain the 50 in both the class of 2018 and 2019. Don’t believe that something is going on? Consider the recent time series:

2013: 31
2014: 37
2015: 38
2016: 31
2017: 37
2018: 49
2019: 50 (estimate)

Number prior to the class of 2015 were (always?) in the 30s.

Has there been a policy change? If not, what explains the increase?


Praise for Canty ’04

CAITLIN-CANTY-RECKLESS-SKYLINE-DIGITAL-COVER-800x800-square-300x300NPR has compiled its useful midyear music highlights list, and Caitlin Canty ’04 makes the cut in the “Country/Americana” category:

Caitlin Canty, “Get Up”

The Vermont-born songwriter is going to feel right at home in Nashville if she can keep writing songs like this.

“Get Up” is the lead track off Canty’s Kickstarter-funded album “Reckless Skyline” (pictured above), but I’ve found “My Love For You Will Not Fade,” a few songs later, to be the song which keeps me hitting “replay.”

The album itself has received adulatory reviews. The San Francisco Chronicle:

“How can I belong to you and belong to me?” sings Caitlin Canty on “True,” a gorgeous lament from her new album, “Reckless Skyline.” The Vermont native with a casually devastating voice and unshakable poise is bound to be the next great Americana star — except nobody knows it yet. Recorded in just four days with money she raised on crowd-funding website Kickstarter, the 12 songs here sound wonderfully lived-in, with Canty’s easy way with folk, blues and country motifs driving standout songs… Canty is ready to be discovered.

Elmore Magazine:

She is a consummate songwriter who has collaborated with a number of different bands. This, her third full-length album release, is a fine collection of 12 songs that ranges from country ballads to dark blues and quiet folk. Ms. Canty’s voice is soft, sure and brings to mind Bonnie Raitt, Lucinda Williams and Gillian Welch. That’s pretty good company to be a member of!

The opening cut, “Get Up,” is especially compelling and sets the tone for the entire set. It urges the listener to “knock the breath out of your madness / burn your photographs at the edges.” In other words, shake off the blues and self-pity and get back to living. Ms. Canty’s lyrics are sharp, clear, poetic and steeped in nature … The album closes with a whimsical waltz, “Cold Habit,” that lingers on in the mind long after the fade out.

Caitlin Canty possesses a rare and intelligent talent that has earned her growing respect and admiration. This beautiful album can only advance a career that deserves much greater renown

Absolute Punk:

Reckless Skyline, produced by acclaimed singer-songwriter Jeffrey Foucault, is a staggering work and arguably one of 2015’s first triumphant efforts. The disc vacillates between fiery rockers, howling blues cuts and earthen folk ballads. Anchored by her dulcet alto, Reckless Skyline is a master class in precision. To put it simply, if you’re a struggling singer-songwriter and you want to know how to do it better, study this album and dive in. It will level you…

Though she is a tried-and-true New Englander, Canty also spends time in both Nashville and Idaho and no song on the disc is more Idahoan than the sun-drenched and rustic “I Never.” Easily her best lyrical song of the dozen, “ I Never” is also her most personal and her most vulnerable. To put it simply, we listen to music for songs like “I Never”…

You may be familiar with Canty from two previous solo albums, a number of performances with Darlingside, or from Down Like Silver, her musical work with the talented Peter Bradley Adams (Eastmountainsouth). Like many Eph musicians, her time at Williams College laid the foundation for her musical success: in Canty’s case, she took a songwriting seminar one Winter Study at Williams, and her songwriting talents are the bedrock of Reckless Skyline, most of which is her own songwriting work.

The album is available on CD from Canty’s website through the link above, or for MP3 download at Amazon. And catch her live in Manhattan at the Rockwood Music Hall on August 5.


Rape Culture Crusade

More from KC Johnson:

Ironically, the Post series coincided with publication of a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, which showed how training female undergraduates to resist assault had been “successful in decreasing the occurrence of rape, attempted rape, and other forms of victimization among first-year university women.”

This sounds like excellent news—but instead it has been met with outcry by victims’ rights advocates. Here’s Dana Bolger, an Amherst graduate who was a colleague of Amherst accuser AS in the campus victims’ rights movement, dismissing the significance of the study: “As a friend of mine once said, ‘If you’re pushing a woman to change her behavior to ‘prevent’ rape, rather than telling a perpetrator to change his, you’re really saying, ‘Make sure he rapes the other girl.’ There will always be another girl at the bar.”

Prevention, it seems, is not a legitimate goal.

Indeed. Recall our discussion a few months ago. Highlight:

Accusations of victim blaming are the laziest response of the censorious left. Imagine that I tell you to look both ways when using the crosswalk for route 2. Good advice? You bet! Of course, in a perfect world, you shouldn’t have to look both ways. You are in a crosswalk! You have the right of way. And, a fool might accuse me of victim blaming since, implicitly, I am suggesting that anyone who did not look both ways and was hit by a car was, at least partly, at fault. But “Look both ways” is still excellent advice. And so is “Don’t drink too much.”


Third Wave

From the Washington Post:

I consider the early days of AOL, from 1985 to 2000, as part of the first wave of the Internet. This was the period of building the infrastructure, connections and awareness that ushered in a connected world.

That second wave — from the turn of the century until now — involved a shift from building the Internet to building on top of the Internet. The focus moved from connecting people to creating new ways for them to access information and one another.

The third wave of the Internet is about to break. The opportunity is now shifting to integrating it into everyday life, in increasingly seamless and ubiquitous ways. These third-wave companies will take on some of the economy’s largest sectors: health care, education, transportation, energy, financial services, food and government services. These third-wave sectors — all now ripe for disruption — represent more than half of the U.S. economy.

The third wave will be different from the second — and will pay homage to some aspects of the first. Although there will be continuing opportunities for new apps and more lean start-ups, the challenges will be new in this next wave, and will require a different kind of entrepreneur.

I tell the entrepreneurs we’re working with at Revolution that to be successful during the third wave they will need to remember the three P’s:

Perseverance: Overcoming long-term structural changes within regulated sectors won’t happen overnight; entrepreneurs (and investors) will need to be more patient.

Partnerships: Just as partnerships were key in the first Internet wave, they will be key again in the third. Entrepreneurs won’t be able to go it alone in the third wave; they must go together.

Policy: Entrepreneurs will need to understand public policy in a more nuanced way. Entrepreneurs who choose to ignore government will do so at their peril, as governments aren’t just the regulators of many of the third-wave sectors — they also are large customers.

And the changes that are brewing as we enter the third wave aren’t just limited to what we do — they also will begin to shift where we do it. Although Silicon Valley will remain the most vibrant innovation region, we are beginning the see what I like to call the rise of the rest, as entrepreneurs start building great companies nationwide. And as partnerships become more important, this trend will accelerate. Coincidentally, last year, 75 percent of venture capital went to just three states: California, Massachusetts and New York. But 75 percent of our Fortune 500 companies are located in the 47 other states, and many of them will play a pivotal role in the third wave, as a new generation of partner-friendly entrepreneurs seeks strategic alliances to gain credibility and accelerate growth.

Is it just me, or is this wildly implausible and inconsistent with every bit of economic history? When region X becomes the hub for industry Y, then this first mover advantage often lasts for many decades, if not longer. NYC dominated finance 200 years ago, and it still dominates finance today. LA has been the center of the movie industry for 100 years. I would gladly bet that Silicon Valley will be just as important, relative to the “rest,” in 50 years as it is today. Who would take the opposite side of that bet? What historical parallel would give your view credence?


Feature on Traveling Children’s Doc Marna Schwartz ’87

MarnaSchwartzIn most places, the era of the traveling doctor with a black bag is long over. But in Alaska, with its many isolated communities with limited services, there’s an opportunity to have one of the most scenic jobs in medicine. The Juneau Empire recently interviewed Dr. Marna Schwartz ’87 about her work as a traveling pediatrician in Southeastern Alaska:

Pediatrics was a natural fit for Schwartz, even if it took her a while to get there. She said she always wanted to be a doctor as a kid, but in college she didn’t fit in with the pre-med crowd. Not long after graduating from Williams College in Massachusetts, Schwartz wound up in Alaska — another case of a never-ending “vacation.” She didn’t hop on that ferry heading to Washington, choosing to make Juneau home instead of returning to the Lower 48.

How often do we hear the concern that Williams too readily channels promising minds to medicine, to law, and to finance? Here’s an Eph who can serve as a counter-example!

Though she’s available to see all patients, 0-18, Schwartz has some specialized training in working with children experiencing autism and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

“I especially enjoy working with kids who are a little bit more challenging,” she said. “To pull all these pieces together, to figure out how to understand that child and figure out if there’s a problem, what’s causing it and how to approach treating it.”

Her work in FASD was motivated by her experiences in Alaska.

She’s lived in Juneau and Anchorage and has traveled all across the state, and said she “always had awareness of the impact alcohol had on all communities in Alaska. … It’s something I needed to be able to do when seeing kids here.”

Of course, Dr. Schwartz was in Williamstown before the great temperance movement of the last couple of decades had hit with full force, contributing to unsupervised binge drinking and other ills. Future Eph doctors today may develop an awareness of the impact of alcohol without stepping so far from their dorms.

SEARHC sends providers to Angoon, Craig, Haines, Hoonah, Hydaburg, Kake, Kasaan, Klawock, Klukwan, Pelican, Petersburg, Skagway, Thorne Bay, Wrangell and Yakutat.

Wow. Maybe a great internship/shadowing opportunity for some (deep-pocketed) pre-med interested in the outdoors or winter sports…


Triadic Philosophy

Stephen Rose ’58 is working on Triadic Philosophy:

Triadic Philosophy 100 Aphorisms is the foundation of a growing series of short books that will teach you to become consciously ethical and aesthetic without becoming mired in perfectionism or lured into a religion. Opting instead for a universal, global spirituality that is free thinking and iconoclastic, Triadic Philosophy stands for imperishable values can save the world from the useless divisions that threaten its future. Must reading for those who want to understand how the world actually works and how to think in a way that will work for everyone on the planet.

An ambitious project! Did any members of the class of 1958 predict, almost 6 decades ago, that Stephen would be working on something like this? If so, tell us about it.


Chick Flick

From Bloomberg:

Hollywood hasn’t released a notable female-led film set on Wall Street for 27 years. Not since Mike Nichols’s 1988 comedy Working Girl—starring Melanie Griffith as a plucky wannabe banker with “a mind for business and a bod for sin”—has a major film focused on a woman navigating the combative, competitive, and outright cutthroat offices at the center of the business world.

Now, two ambitious filmmakers aim to give the genre a much-needed update, and they’re soliciting feedback—and funding—from some of Wall Street’s biggest names. Equity, a movie about a female investment banker whose IPO is in jeopardy, is the product of interviews and meetings with dozens of former and current dealmakers, including James B. Lee Jr., a vice chairman of JPMorgan Chase, Barbara Byrne, a vice chairman of Barclays, muni bond maestro Alexandra Lebenthal, and Elaine La Roche, a former Morgan Stanley managing director who reigned as one of the most powerful women in finance in the 1990s.

The movie, which begins filming next month, is the brainchild of Sarah Megan Thomas and Alysia Reiner, actresses who met doing a play together a few years ago.

Thomas is class of 2001.

Byrne and Straight declined to disclose how much money they’ve put in, but Straight insists this isn’t a vanity project for her. “I’ve increased my investment level because I believe I’m going to make money on this film,” she says. Jimmy Lee, the storied dealmaker, offered ideas and brokered introductions for the film. Thomas graduated from Williams College, Lee’s alma mater, and he says he tries to help fellow grads who are trying to do something out of the ordinary. “I liked that they were getting dirt under their fingernails for this project,” Lee said during an interview in his Midtown Manhattan office, where he keeps a copy of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In on a book-laden coffee table.

This was the last news article mentioning Jimmy before his untimely death last month.

Kudos to Jimmy for helping out a fellow Eph! And the lesson to our readers: Use the Williams network!

Also, for all the future investment bankers among our readership, note how Jimmy ensures that the reporter sees (and reports on!) the prominent placement of Sandberg’s book. Keeping clients (and potential clients) happy is the secret to success in more industries than banking . . .

By the way, or any readers offended by my title for this post? I just copied it from the original title of the Bloomberg news article, which you can still see in the url. Since then, Bloomberg has changed the title to be — take your pick — less offensive or more politically correct.


John Simon ’79 is now President of Lehigh

Announcement here.

This provides a nice occasion to review all the Eph presidents of elite colleges. My list includes:

John Simon ’79 at Lehigh
Cappy Hill ’76 at Vassar
Nancy Roseman at Dickison
Clayton Spencer ’77 at Bates
Morty Schapiro at Northwestern

Who am I missing?

By the way, Wikipedia has a listing of Lehigh faculty. Shouldn’t we have the same thing for Williams faculty?


College Rape Hype

Latest from former Williams professor KC Johnson:

Since 2012, the New York Times has led the way in systematically biased coverage of on-campus sexual assault allegations and how colleges are responding. The paper has relentlessly hyped the issue, has smeared quite possibly innocent students while omitting evidence that they were innocent, and has cheered efforts to presume guilt and deny due process for the accused. It has also parroted egregiously misleading statistical claims used by the Obama administration and others to portray the campus rape problem, which is clearly serious, as an out-of-control “epidemic,” which it clearly is not. (In fact, the campus rate rape has plunged in the past 20 years.)

Now the Washington Post has joined a race to the bottom among the legacy media, in a June 12 package of two very long front-page articles and a third inside the paper that includes both the results of a Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll and detailed interviews of some respondents. The main headline: “1 in 5 women say they were violated.” The articles and the poll purport to confirm claims by the administration, its congressional supporters, most of the media, and campus activists that around 20 percent of female college students are sexually assaulted while at school. In this portrayal, the nation’s campuses are hotbeds of violent crime.

But like many other advocacy polls on sexual assault, the Post-Kaiser poll misleads readers—most of whom surely will assume that “sexual assault” means criminal sexual assault—by using that criminally charged phrase for shock value in the articles while deliberately avoiding it in the survey questions. As detailed below, those questions are so broad as to invite survey respondents to complain about virtually any encounter that they later regretted, including many that were not sexual assault or rape as defined by law.

Read the whole thing. Note, also, the ending.

KC Johnson is a professor of history at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center. Stuart Taylor Jr. is a Washington writer and Brookings nonresident fellow. In 2007, they coauthored Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case. They are preparing a new book about how the campus rape hysteria railroads innocent students.

Should we hope that Williams does or does not appear in this new book?


Williams & the Civil War: The Wrong Side, Part One

One of a series of posts, as explained in “Williams & the Civl War: The Wrong Side – Introduction“:

At long last, 150 years after the Union prevailed “with a brave army, and a just cause” in the American Civil War, one of the most visible remaining markers of that conflict is on everyone’s lips and coming down…

Williams College, and most Ephs, reflect on the Civil War through a Union lens — correctly so, from both a moral and historical perspective… [s]o let’s use this occasion to learn more from and about Ephs on the subject of the Civil War and especially on the other side: the Confederacy.

When it was published, EphBlog took note of William Lowndes Yancey and the Coming of the Civil War, Eric Walther’s biography of Yancey, the first published since 1892.

Yancey entered Williams College as a member of the class of 1830, but did not graduate. As a lawyer and a congressman, Yancey was a powerful orator for the cause of rebellion and secession. His

“sweet” and “musical” voice was one of the secessionists’ greatest tools. One auditor said of Yancey’s speeches that they were “seasoned with the salt of argument, the vinegar of sarcasm, the pepper of wit, and the genuine champagne of eloquence.”

As a Confederate senator, he took a leading role in the legislative debates of the Confederacy, and eventually became known as a potential rival to Confederate President Jefferson Davis. And when he died of a kidney infection in 1863, shortly after the Union triumphs at Gettysburg and Vicksburg turned the tide towards the United States’s ultimate victory, the New York Herald reveled in the death of the “arch plotter of this terrible Southern rebellion,” and Harper’s Weekly editorialized that he was “the most virulent, but not one of the most able of the traitors who have conspired for the ruin of our country.”

At the time of EphBlog’s prior coverage, the EphBlog budget didn’t support buying a copy of his biography, and so we were left wondering:

Does anyone know if Yancey’s time at Williams is described in any detail? He was apparently a member of the class of 1833, but only stayed at Williams one year and never graduated… If there were a lot of material on Williams in this book, I (and other EphBlog readers) might buy a copy.

We need wonder no longer — it is! And it’s not quite a story of a one-year dropout whose principal experience was being in disciplinary hot water, as suggested by the post and by Guy Creese ’75, drawing on Professor Fred Rudolph’s work.

Based on research in the Williamsiana collection and other primary sources, Walther reveals that Yancey survived multiple disciplinary episodes, was readmitted following an expulsion, and left Williams after completing his studies in the spring of 1833, just six weeks shy of graduation.

Yancey's law office in Montgomery, Alabama.  "Yancey Law Office 02" by Spyder_Monkey - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Yancey’s law office in Montgomery, Alabama. “Yancey Law Office 02” by Spyder_MonkeyOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

As Walther recounts, Yancey’s road to Williams began with his stepfather, the Reverend Nathan Sydney Smith Beman, a one-year attendee (in 1803) of young Williams College, who soon withdrew in favor of Middlebury, where he financed his education with “odd jobs.”

Beman directed Yancey’s education, first in Chittenango, New York, then in Troy, then at the Brick Academy in Bennington, and ultimately, at the Lenox Academy, which led to Yancey’s arrival at Williams. As Walther explains, his tour of schools likely stemmed not from financial difficulties, but:

from William’s already troublesome personality. His aunt Louisa Cunningham once warned his brother, Ben, “Don’t you be led away by William’s wild notions, who could never rest satisfied in one place 2 months at a time.”

So it is hardly surprising that Yancey lasted less than a year at Williams. As Walther notes, however, a short stay in college in 1830 meant a lot more than it would today:

[I]n an era when even the shortest attendance in a college was exceptional, it promised to expand and to challenge his mind, to allow him to mix with other young men of great ambition and a sense of self-importance… [so] in the fall of 1830, Yancey entered Williams College

On its surface, Williamstown, in northwestern Massachusetts, a village of slightly more than 2,000 people where pigs and cows roamed the streets, offered little to excite new students… [but] the College [] enjoyed vigor and growth after some lean years in the 1810s and the students Yancey encountered exhibited seriousness and energy… [d]uring Yancey’s first year, the legendary professor Mark Hopkins began his career there.

President Griffin had a direct and powerful influence on young Yancey, but never proved a satisfactory mentor or father figure. In fact, Griffin was a close friend of Reverend Beman’s and a prominent evangelist in his own right. Religious intensity ran high… and included several revivals in Williamstown led by Beman at Griffin’s invitation. Williams, like most colleges at the time — even state-sponsored ones — mandated morning and evening prayer services. The campus also had two temperance societies and was home to the Williams Anti-Slavery Society, among the first antislavery organizations in the state. And Professor Griffin himself — like Beman — combined religion and anti-slavery.

Walther clearly suggests that Yancey’s political shaping was in part a rebellion against this alliance of stepfather and college president. And it began to play out while Yancey was at Williams.

His interest in public speaking drew him to Williams’s Philotechnian Society, a group that met for debate and oratory on philosophical, religious, and political issues of the day [where] he had an immediate impact on his peers… the society’s secretary commented on the unusual spirit of [his] first meeting… Regular classroom work proved too passive and its rules ridiculous. For Yancey, oratory quickly seemed the way to attention, camaraderie, distinction, even power and triumph…

A milestone occurred for Yancey in the fall of 1832 when the Philologicians sponsored a debate on the question “Would the Election of General Jackson tend to Destroy the Union?” Yancey argued the negative, likely in part because of his stepfather’s opposite views. Although Yancey lost this campus debate, his efforts captured the attention of local Democrats, [who] asked him to stump for Ebenezer Emmons, a Williams College professor and candidate for the state legislature… Emmons won [and] the experience proved exhilarating for Yancey.

Yancey also worked as an editor on the Adelphi, a biweekly newspaper in which, in contrast to his future role as a secessionist, Yancey laid out strong nationalist views:

As the dispute grew over tariffs and sovereignty between President Jackson and South Carolina’s John C. Calhoun, [Yancey] clearly favored a strong nationalist position [as did] his most vehement political editorial, [which] also concerned the relationship between state and federal powers. In 1828, Governor George M. Troup began a survey of Creek Indian lands in Georgia for redistribution to whites… The administration of John Quincy Adams had objected that the matter lay under federal, not state, jurisdiction. Troup threatened armed confrontation, citing state sovereignty, and when [in 1832 the redistribution proceeded], Yancey bristled at this defiance of federal authority and power. “It will be the duty of the Marshal of the United States for that district to summon to his aid a posse comitatus, and of the President of the United States… to place the Army and militia of the United States at the service of civil authority,” the young editor demanded.

What of Yancey’s failure to graduate? Walther has little light to shed:

The final year Yancey spent at Williams began auspiciously but ended prematurely and a bit mysteriously. Named Senior Orator by his class and First Orator by the Adelphic Union, Yancey had obviously established himself as the leading student speaker… He finished his coursework six weeks prior to commencement and qualified for a degree, but did not stay to take it and never returned for it. This was not terribly unusual… the sixty-two colleges in the United States in 1832 produced only 670 graduates. Contemporaries drew very different explanations for Yancey’s failure to graduate. His uncle [] blamed it on Beman. Beman’s biographer claimed that family financial burdens [led to Yancey’s withdrawal]… Another explanation had credibility mostly because of Yancey’s character and conduct later in life. Years later, after he began to gain a national reputation for violence, two newspapers [in Boston and Troy] ran a story asserting that Yancey’s premature departure from college resulted from disciplinary action.

But Walther discounts this last story — involving the tossing of a pickle barrel into a church window — because it resembles too closely the 1831 incident (for which Yancey was disciplined) for tossing a cask of water into a Methodist church meeting.

Walther’s discussion of Yancey’s time at Williams concludes by stating that “[a]fter his return south, Yancey extolled both the College and the town as superior to Harvard and Yale” (just as is true today), and assessing Beman as a greater influence on Yancey’s views and oration than that of Rev. Griffin.

Walther’s account repeatedly returns to the power of Yancey’s oratory and how it propelled him to leadership in the secessionist movement, and ultimately, the United States into a Civil War. From the Adelphic Union of Yancey’s day to the Debate Union of today, public speaking has long been recognized as an instrumental part of the liberal-arts experience, but the silver tongue of a persuasive leader can be a double-edged sword.


Keep My Romance Alive


From the Wall Street Journal:

Jimmy Lee was able to cross social circles from an early age.

Mr. Lee, a famed J.P. Morgan Chase JPM +0.88% & Co. dealmaker who died unexpectedly Wednesday, was part of several different social groups while a teenager attending the Canterbury School, a Catholic boarding school in New Milford, Conn.

As co-editor of the school newspaper, The Tabard, he ruffled feathers while also serving as co-captain of the varsity hockey and varsity track teams, and a member of the football squad.

“While at Canterbury, I was early on regarded as a jock…but I also chose to write for The Tabard school newspaper and became its co-editor,” Mr. Lee said in a 2009 commencement speech at the Canterbury School.

“It was a major unconventional choice as it went against the grain: A jock hanging out with hippies.”

Mr. Lee started at the Canterbury School in 1967, soon after his father – also a Canterbury School alumni – passed away.

“I felt terribly alone,” he told graduates in 2009.

Mr. Lee, who grew up in New Canaan, Conn., soon learned his first Canterbury dorm room, on the top floor of what was then called North House, had been Jack Kennedy’s when he attended Canterbury School in 1930. “Bunk beds, smallest room in the school, a true cubicle,” he said in the commencement address.

Mr. Lee, who graduated Canterbury in 1971, applied to just to one college, going against his counselor’s advice. Williams College in Massachusetts, “was my choice,” he said in the speech.

Around this time he played guitar in a band, a passion he’d continue to seek out while crafting some of the largest deals at J.P. Morgan.

“He was like a little kid” while playing guitar, one of his J.P. morgan band mates said. “It was something from his history.”

During Mr. Lee’s senior year at Williams, he took the place of his then-girlfriend (now wife) for a job interview at a legacy J.P. Morgan bank, Chemical Bank. The interviewer asked Mr. Lee if he wanted the job, and he responded “I definitely don’t want this job, I’m just trying to keep my romance alive here,” he said in the speech.

Mr. Lee said throughout his early years and into his career he made “trust your instinct” choices that sometimes were unconventional, and that defined who he was.

Keeping the romance alive with your Williams girlfriend is highly recommended! Well-done, Jimmy.

By the way, we need official nomenclature for the someone who is your “then-girlfriend (now wife).” Perhaps TGNW?