Saturday, January 29, 2005


A solution or a perpetuation?

From the January 28, 2005 edition of the Daily Cougar (the student newspaper at the University of Houston):

Members of the Afrikan Student Koalition -- an umbrella group of student organizations from UH, Texas Southern University and Rice University -- called on UH to offer an African-American Studies major during a forum Tuesday in the University Center.

"This is the first in a series of forums being organized to find a solution to our problems," Benjamin Woods, president of the campus NAACP and the forum's organizer, said. "The purpose of this forum is to bring about unity among African students at UH, TSU and Rice, and to confront the issues that affect us as African people."

Comrade Snowball suggests that majoring in African American Studies will help folks find a solution to their problems about as much as spelling Africa or coalition with a k. The way for individuals to work through the many real problems in the world just might not come by treating individuals as members of groups. Unity of a group should not be subordinate to strength of individuals. Comrade Snowball suggests the money that might be spent on a Department of African American Studies would be better directed to scholarships in the College of Engineering.

Friday, January 28, 2005


Suggested Staff Members for Tom and Ray

Comrade Snowball suggests two additions to the staff at Cartalk:

Director of Sunrise Appreciation:

Dawn Zabraken

and her sister, Senior Surfing Consultant:

Wave Zabraken

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


What would they do with all that extra time? Study?

Athletes take issue with playing-season proposals

Seems the "student-athletes" at the NCAA are worried that certain new proposals will decrease the time they get to spend playing games. The ADs have trained them well.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005


Reportedly, the allegation is correct

Witnit has an interesting discussion of what he calls evil dictionaries and good dictionaries. He’s right. Words change meaning because of sloth or much more malicious reasons. Here's one of Comrade Snowball’s pet peeves regarding words and their meaning:

It’s too late for hopefully; it may never again mean “full of hope”. Perhaps, perhaps, it’s not too late to stop the unfortunate use of allegedly or reportedly. On second thought, it’s far too late. Anyway:

Consider a sentence you might have heard:

The suspect allegedly robbed three banks in the last three days.

Allegedly here is acting as an adverb. I understand modifying rob with adverbs such as quickly or carelessly but allegedly? Just how does one allegedly walk or talk or rob? If you were to walk across the street and then allegedly walk back Comrade Snowball is sure he couldn’t tell the difference.

This useage is lazy and evil in Witnit’s sense. Although we should always follow Strunk and White’s advice to avoid unnecessary words, the brevity of the sentence above changes the meaning. Consider this alternative:

The police allege the suspect robbed three banks in the last three days.

Notice the change: now the main action is the sentence is alleging, not robbing. Moreover, the folks doing the alleging are no longer anonymous. The light is on them not the suspect, who just might be innocent.

By the way, Comrade Snowball hopes it’s not the last three days. If so, then all this worrying about language usage will soon be a moot point.

Sunday, January 23, 2005


The truth cannot be offensive

"Good grief, shouldn’t everything be within the pale of legitimate academic discourse, as long as it is presented with some degree of rigor? That’s the difference between a university and a madrassa."

-Steven Pinker

No Athletic Director Left Behind

As the focus of college athletics shifts from football to basketball it is worth noting one practice at the core of college sports knows no season: spending other peoples’ money.

The difference between the spending habits of college athletic directors and those of a drunken sailor is that a drunken sailor eventually runs out of money and wakes up with a hangover.

Unfortunately, for college students across the country—and for their tuition-paying parents—athletic directors rarely suffer any negative consequences for exorbitant spending.

The athletic director’s wallet is perpetually overflowing; for example, over the past seven years, the University of Houston’s athletic department spent ~$50 million more than it brought in (the tab is $100 million over 15 years)—all money that could have been used to improve teaching and research or to reduce the cost of attending the university.

Athletic directors and drunken sailors do have one thing in common: They have a lot of fun. Athletic directors even bring fun to students and alumni who support the teams. But in the end, they all have very little to show for all that spending.

The overwhelming majority of sports programs at US universities spend more than they take in and it is a myth that multi-million dollar deficit spending by universities on sports will somehow bring a trickle-down benefit to the academic side of the institution greater than the up-front cost.
We learn this from a report commissioned by the NCAA that concluded that spending on sports at NCAA institutions has no effect on academic quality or on the amount of alumni giving. Furthermore, increased spending on big-time sports produces no effect on winning percentages on the field, and higher winning percentages do not produce increases in athletic operating net revenue. (remember: this is not the AAUP talking, it's the NCAA itself.)

Many will disagree with these conclusions, but this will be based mostly on the desire for the myth to be true and not on any data that suggest it is.

And yet next year every athletic director will express the hope that his or her program will soon join the handful of schools that manages to break even on sports—if they just can spend enough money—instead of remaining in the group of the hundreds that don’t. Maybe not next year, mind you, but soon.

They will fail at this despite the fact it is entirely within their means to succeed. Nothing requires them to spend so much; each dollar spent is a choice not an obligation and they spend it while simultaneously professing to care about the academic mission of the university. But it is by their deeds not their words that we should judge them and they clearly are more concerned with long jumps and linebackers than libraries and laboratories. Their promises to stop stealing from the education of America’s sons and daughters ring as hollow as the shallowest and most insincere New Year’s resolution.

None of this is surprising; it’s just not reasonable to expect folks charged with improving win-loss records to worry much about the production of an educated populace. The two are simply unrelated except to the extent that a university dedicated to teaching and research doesn’t need a sports program but a sports program dedicated to itself needs a university to pay the bills.

Saturday, January 22, 2005


Too true, too often

"Comrades!" he cried. "Do not imagine that we pigs are doing this in a spirit of selfishness. Many of us dislike milk and apples. I dislike them myself. Our object in taking these things is to preserve our health. Milk and apples contain substances absolutely necessary to the well being of a pig. We pigs are brainworkers. The whole management and organisation of this farm depend on us. Day and night we are watching over your welfare. It is for you that we drink that milk and eat those apples.

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