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The New York Times has a fascinating article about Institutional Review Boards and the humanities and social sciences.
Institutional Review Boards began as a federal mandate to control human experimentation – but the definition of ‘experimentation’ has broadened. A lot.

Bernadette McCauley, a historian at Hunter College, said she ran into trouble a couple of years ago when she tried to help students working with the Museum of the City of New York on an exhibition about Washington Heights. She asked if a few nuns who had grown up in that neighborhood and whom she knew from her research would talk to the students. And that, Ms. McCauley said, was “when things went haywire.”
The review board discovered the request and lambasted Ms. McCauley for failing to consult with it, she said. The board also demanded proof that previous research for a completed book did not use any archival material involving living people and banned her from doing any research.

Don’t you love that audit of her previous book? The possibility for abuse without appeal is enormous. For instance:

Debbie S. Dougherty and Michael W. Kramer, two former members of a review board at the University of Missouri, Columbia, who wanted to study review boards, had to first get their own board’s O.K. Although they thought their project was exempt from board approval, the only entity authorized to make that decision is the board itself, and the only appeal if the researchers had rejected the ruling is also the board.

An unintended consequence of this? Well, more historians might actually work on, you know, dead people. That part I could get behind.

Al Gore – Big Fat Electricity Hypocrite

Read it and laugh. I’m not surprised, but then I’m from Tennessee and know about those Gores.
further: Asserting Carbon Offsets don’t automatically win arguments. Serious people disagree about those. Look here, read the comments. It’s complicated. Kind of like life. Is Al Gore a hypocrite? To the extent that he tells people to reduce usage while increasing his own (whatever his financial balancing act), I don’t see how he can be defended from the charge. I think his defenders are mainly saying “He isn’t so bad because he buys carbon credits,” not “his house isn’t huge and wasteful.” He is intending to change his ways, but he clearly hasn’t yet. So, is he currently a wasteful energy consumer who intends to model for the rest of us how to be a better energy consumer? Perhaps. But has he done it yet?
In our local version we did two things in the last few years, but only one of them actually as opposed to notionally reduced energy use. We bought LCD panels for all (or almost all) the campus computers. We paid the utility company to tell us that some of our power came from wind generation. One made us feel good. The other did something. Al Gore may feel good about himself, but he’s sure driving his electric meter fast.
An indulgence doesn’t mean you haven’t sinned. An offset doesn’t mean you don’t use electricity.
still further. Here’s a very amusing post about the realities of energy costs per square foot of housing in West Nashville by a well-off neighbor of the Gores. His conclusion:

And the facts are this. Four and a half years ago Al Gore bought a large home and made it larger, but did very little to reduce his own energy consumption. Instead, he spent the same time telling you how to reduce yours.

That’s what amuses me. I don’t care how he justifies his ‘carbon use’ to himself. What I care about is that as many people as possible realize that far from being an oracle or moral leader Al Gore is another predictably selfish politician who prefers that we do what he says than what he himself does.
It occurred to me after reading a number of threads on the topic that if he’s using a lot of compact fluorescent bulbs and other energy savings devices and still running up bills like the ones reported that I have no idea what he’s doing! Heating the swimming pool with electricity? Oh, well – part of the fun here isn’t mocking Gore’s carbon footprint, it’s pointing out his real estate footprint. The Gores obviously live in a really big house to be using that much power. This is a man whose entire family fortune was won by politics. Ain’t dynasticism great?

Is Repressed Memory a New Syndrome?

This is an interesting use of literary history! From a story at the Washington Post:

. . . when researchers recently mounted an exhaustive effort to find examples of trauma-related amnesia in literary works before the 19th century, they drew a blank. If repressed memories are one way the brain deals with painful memories, why would there be no literary examples of the phenomenon that are more than 200 years old?
In an unusual study, a group of psychiatrists and literary scholars, led by Harrison Pope of Harvard Medical School, recently argued that the psychiatric disorder known as dissociative amnesia (often called repressed memory) is a “culture-bound syndrome” — a creation of Western culture sometime in the 19th century.
Pope pointed out that Shakespeare, Homer and other pre-19th-century writers show numerous characters suffering from other psychiatric disorders: the disjointed thinking that we call schizophrenia, or the persistent sadness that marks depression. Because art draws its inspiration from life, Pope said, this shows that those disorders have been around forever. In the opening lines of “The Merchant of Venice,” for example, Antonio vividly describes what it feels like to be depressed:

In sooth, I know not why I am so sad:
It wearies me; you say it wearies you;
But how I caught it, found it, or came by it,
What stuff ’tis made of, whereof it is born
I am to learn.

Pope said a wide search of literary texts in European languages, Arabic, Sanskrit and Chinese has produced no convincing example of a character created before the year 1800 who suffered a traumatic event, repressed the memory and later recovered it. The scientists recently published their findings in the journal Psychological Medicine.

First Lake Erie, then the Thames, now the Bronx River?

First Lake Erie, then the Thames – that was a post I wrote a while ago. Now the Bronx River has “things living in it again.”
Many people really don’t believe in the recuperative powers of the natural world – they really don’t. They really believe that global warming will somehow break things, and that it’s all our fault.
Here’s a story about a beaver living in the Bronx River. Read the various forms of disbelief, from the scientist who says that beaver habitat is shrinking* when a beaver is showing him that beaver might be able to live in non-pristine areas. Read the politician’s cyncial disbelief quoted above. Then wonder what these people think all the spending on the environment is – penance? It doesn’t seem from the things they occasionally say in public that they believe anything can be done.
*oh – anyone who believes that New York is less forested now than it was in the 19th century is delusional. The forest may be different, but there’s more tree cover. Pristine it’s not, but the reduction in farming and the industrial use of waterways Upstate is so remarkable that it would be a shock if the beaver don’t start causing serious flooding problems eventually.

Ripped from the headlines…

Who will Law’n’Order cast as the psychic housewife who stabbed her psychotherapist husband - a man she’d met when she was 14 and his patient? Goodness!
This is my favorite part:

Under cross-examination from his mother, Adam Polk said she was “bonkers” and “cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs,” referring to a breakfast cereal catch phrase. Friday, he told his mother that he did not know if he would ever be able to forgive her.
“If he were here today, he would want you to find the best head doctor in the business and get help,” he said.

Je reviens. . .

I was lucky enough to see The Terminator for the first time in French. You know, in Paris you sometimes have the choice of English and French showings. In Rome in 2003 I got to where I found things in Italian helpful – I saw X-Men in Italian but chose to see Spiderman in English. Who knows. Maybe I was feeling more desperate?
So I’m watching The Terminator now in English.
I think Arnold did his own French dubbing – given the emotional complexity-level of Terminator 1 it isn’t all that improbable – and “I’ll be back” in heavily accented English is just as good in heavily accented French, for once: Je reviens. There are at least 4 other folks out there somewhere who if they said this out loud in an Arnold-voice would fall down on the floor laughing. I miss ‘em. Andy Schwartz, where are you?

Posted in Art

Higher Education in Independent Palestine

Is it a civil war when the two universities in Palestine are like this?

Islamic University is closely identified with one of the main Palestinian factions — Hamas — while Al Azhar is a stronghold for its main rival, Fatah. For three days this month, from Feb. 1 to 3, the side-by-side campuses became a battleground for gunmen from the two factions while the universities were on winter break and largely deserted.

Though the New York Times headline, “Palestinian Universities Dragged into Factional Clashes” [my emphasis], seems inaccurate when one reads this part:

The Islamic University, founded in 1978, has nearly 20,000 students, a majority of them women, and caters to those who seek a religion-based education. All the women wear black abayas, or long robes, as well as head scarves, and some wear full veils.
Many Hamas leaders in Gaza have some link to the university, among them Prime Minister Ismail Haniya.
At Al Azhar, established in 1990, there are more than 12,000 students, and most offices feature a large photo of Yasir Arafat, the longtime Palestinian leader and Fatah chief who died in 2004.
As competition between Hamas and Fatah has increased, students from the two universities have waged occasional stone-throwing clashes, as happened last spring.

A large photo of Arafat sounds like the al Azhar university entered into factionalism. Let’s not be disingenuous – if I.U. was already tied to Hamas, can’t we wonder whether Fatah FOUNDED al Azhar?

Did you know that James Brown hadn’t been buried yet?

Well, neither did I. Evidently the family has just settled that part.

Brown died Christmas Day at age 73. His body is in a confidential location, said Charles Reid, manager of the C.A. Reid Funeral Home, which handled Brown’s funeral.
He said he checked on Brown on Tuesday, opening the gold casket to view the body.
“I do that constantly,” Reid said. “That’s the only way I can actually check him … go in, open the casket and close it. And he’s fine.”

A picture set from the BBC of the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif Project

Here’s a photo set from the BBC of the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif Project – not a very good one. There’s a photo from inside the current temporary bridge, but no view of that bridge (which would have been interesting).
There’s a very simple drawing of the project here (click and scroll to the bottom), but it’s hanging in white space – it doesn’t show where the bridge STARTS, only that it leads to the platform.