The final from hell

Alright Swatties, and all my other elitist friends from around the world, take a look at this 8th grade final exam from 1895 and tell me how you would have done. In fact, how would you do now even with a partial college education?

That’s what I thought 😀

OK, so it’s not really fair because we don’t learn the 3 R’s in the same rote-learning way that they did back then, and some of these questions do strike me as useless and arbitrary. For instance, “Give the epochs into which US History is divided”? You can divide US History up any way you please, I’m sure modern history teachers do it differently from those of 1895. Knowing how your teacher divides up history doesn’t give you any useful information for use in the real world. It’s also interesting that we no longer have to have in-depth knowledge of battles in history… they specifically said in US History AP that we wouldn’t have to know the details of how battles went, just what their results and effects were. I liked that, since I’m a Quaker, and having to have in-depth knowledge of military technology and strategy in order to pass 8th grade would annoy me, but I’m not actually certain whether such knowledge is important or not. Knowing about guerilla warfare, for instance, is useful for understanding the current situation in Iraq. Understanding “principles” of history rather than arcane details is more useful (as the AP testers tell us). You’re going to forget the arcane details anyway.

Well, heck, learning how language “ought” to be written isn’t necessarily useful, since language evolves, and language that is effective for communicating meaning is well-crafted language, no matter whether it agrees with the grammar book. There is, of course, a good argument for standardizing language so that, no matter who you try to speak English with, you can always communicate. But one reason why English is a great language is that, unlike the French, we don’t have an official body that decides what words are in our language. Our dictionaries are descriptive, not prescriptive, that is they report how we speak instead of telling us how we ought to speak. The language evolves on its own to fit our needs, and is often useful and efficient in a way that a language imposed from above could never be.

I got me a LiveJournal

Well, it’s official, I have now joined the army of Swarthmore students who has a LiveJournal. I don’t really intend to post anything on my livejournal, however, because I prefer to keep control over my own blog. This may seem a bit paranoid, but who ever thought those lamers at would go and delete all of the mp3s on their website? If suddenly vanished without a trace, I’d be shafted along with all their other users. On the other hand, with my SCCS webpage, if SCCS suddenly upchucks and dies, I can go wail on the sysadmins, or bribe them to fix it, or become one myself and get the job done.

So yeah, if you have a livejournal, you can add me to your friends, or leave me messages on the page, or anything else that livejournal users tend to do 🙂 I got curious about livejournals for many reasons, one being the apparently huge number of Swatties who have them. I stumbled across one group of people who lived in Mertz with me last year who all had blogs, and were engaging in intense blogcest. I also wanted to try out the Mozilla extension for making entries in livejournals, Deepest Sender, which actually works very well indeed! I even got it to detect my currently playing music in XMMS, as documented on their help page.

All of this livejournal happiness can get a bit creepy though, so maybe I should get a DeadJournal instead. But then again, how cool is it to be dark and depressing anyhow? And annoyingly you have to be invited by someone with an existing account or shell out money. The thing is, they’re trying to limit growth, presumably because of server costs, and this is a good strategy for that… it can’t jump to unconnected communities of people. So much for DeadJournals. They’re dead. Ha, ha! I crack myself up.

First post (and last?)

Hey folks, this is my LiveJournal, but I prefer to retain control over my own blog, so I’m not actually going to post anything here, I’m going to maintain my weblog on my website.  Although I might use the “post only for your friends” option here, since I don’t really have a good way to control access to my weblog… You might also want to keep track of the activities of the Swarthmore Coalition for the Digital Commons, because that occupies most of my life 🙂

the cluetrain manifesto

The Cluetrain Manifesto is one of the coolest pieces of literature I’ve stumbled across in a long time. It’s a website, and it’s a book. You can read the full text online, but I think I might actually buy this one, because I want it on my bookshelf.

The basic idea of this document is that corporations are really good at dehumanizing business, which is going to be BAD for their business in the networked market of the internet. People want real communication with real people, and the artificial sales pitch just isn’t going to cut it, because when “consumers” can communicate amongst themselves, they become smarter than the corporations, and they can see right through the BS.

And that’s what the SCDC is about, people communicating person to person without a middleman, without an intermediary, because with the internet and modern networking technology, a middleman is no longer necessary. It is more possible than ever before to just be human with one another, because communication has become so much easier. If we can make business human, if workers can blog and speak their mind, if they can honestly try to help customers instead of toeing the company line, then maybe capitalism isn’t such a bad idea after all.

But don’t rely on my crappy summary, read it yourself! And if your employer is against blogging, if your boss wants the company to present a “professional” face, then buy him a copy of this book, and he’ll understand why that is a bad business decision.


Well, the moment of truth has finally arrived! Yesterday was the last day of classes, and now we get “reading week”, which at Swarthmore is actually only a “reading two days”, because we’re just that masochistic. Good grief, I’m screwed.

I’ve been riding my bike around campus despite the ice and snow, because I need to get wherever I’m going stat! This is a dumb idea, because my bike has these smooth shiny road tires, which do a lousy job of gripping on ice, not that any tires do a fantastic job. So I’ve taken to riding around with my feet out to the sides, so that when the bike falls over, I just land on my feet instead of on my butt. Surprisingly, I’ve only sustained one minor injury, where the gears on my bike tore a hole in my sock when I fell over. Hey, I’m a teenager, I’m invincible. Of course, this brings up the issue of what I’m going to say to myself when I turn 20…

Finally, in an exquisitely ironic turn of events, I left my last fork in the dining hall the other day, so now I can go back and steal one of theirs without remorse 🙂 The girls across the hall were nice enough to lend me one of theirs so that I could snack in my room and get some work done. A big thank you to Miriam, Jean, and Cynthia!

“Piracy” of “Intellectual Property” is like Terrorism, apparently

It was bound to happen sooner or later… the head of the World Intellectual Property Organization said IP piracy is like terrorism. Presumably this applies to “music piracy”. This seems like a pretty innocuous early occurance of the phrase, but it might just be the beginning of a McCarthyite witch hunt for P2P users. Just wait until Bush starts saying it. Next thing you know, they’ll be locking up filesharers without a trial in some hole in Cuba.