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September 28, 2008 - 9:50pm
Okay, so we're running a huge national debt, financed largely by borrowing from other countries. As I understand it, the value of dollars on international markets drops as more of them are held out there in reserve; in other words, the more we borrow, the less our dollars are worth. This is part of what's keeping the price of oil high despite worldwide recession, since it's priced in a declining currency. (There's also 'peak oil' and rapid industrialization in China, but the declining currency factor plays a role.)
September 28, 2008 - 5:45pm
It you live in the USA or Canada, there's an election going on in your life. I'm not going to tell you what color (oops, I mean "party") to vote for, but I do have an opportunity for you to knock some of the rust off your perhaps disused voting skills before the big day arrives. Also a chance to watch some pretty good environmental videos -- no extra charge.
September 26, 2008 - 1:30pm
Yesterday, the N.Y. Mercantile started auctioning mandatory carbon allowances under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. They're mandatory, that is, if you're an electric power producer, located in any of ten northeastern US states, whose generation process burns fossil fuels. (So if you're a chemical plant, or have business operations only in Alabama, or you're strictly into wind- or hydro-powered generation, your don't really care.)
September 26, 2008 - 12:20am
I have a friend in my discipline whose mother recently became ill. It is a relapse of cancer that she and her family thought had been resolved. It goes without saying that her family is devastated. This friend is also a professor who is struggling to maintain her classes and research while attending to the needs of her family. Her relationship to her department is strained, to say the least. She is asked to do too much, taken advantage of too often. Although she loves her work, it sometimes takes over her life.
September 25, 2008 - 11:36pm
I think the kids picked up the 'obsessed with language' gene. Two vignettes from last night's dinner: The Wife: TG, tell Daddy what you said at school today. The Girl (earnestly): Daddy, 'tushie' is more appwopwiate than "heinie." So now we know. Later: The Boy: During recess, Dylan got hit in the you-know-whats. (pause) TB: You know, the nuts. Got it, thanks.
September 25, 2008 - 3:04pm
Like everybody else, I'm following what's happening in Washington with regard to the possible bailout of financial markets. What strikes most me is the paucity of actual thought involved -- in the proposed solution (spend lots of taxpayer money to buy assets which the market currently considers worthless), in the sales pitch (if you don't do this right now, America turns into a third-world country -- trust us both to understand the problem and to administer the solution without oversight), and in the lack of substantive press coverage (will Democrats? won't Republicans?
September 25, 2008 - 11:08am
Suicides, especially the suicides of sensitive writers we love (Virginia Woolf, Randall Jarrell, Sylvia Plath, David Foster Wallace), are a serious body blow. They anger and demoralize us. They make us brood. Even if he'd left a tightly argued, thousand page suicide letter -- with endnotes -- we'd find what Wallace did mysterious, unaccountable. Yet if suicide is a million miles away from our experience, it's also luridly intimate.
September 24, 2008 - 11:48pm
Some issues are difficult. They feature the conflict of valid goods, a shortage of critical resources, or clashes of identity or behaviors so central to one's personhood that rational conversation becomes nearly impossible. Other issues, by contrast, are so obvious that any sentient being should be able to dispose of them immediately. This is one of those.
September 24, 2008 - 3:52am
A new report from the American Council on Education (see it here) entitled "Too Many Rungs on the Ladder? Faculty Demographics and the Future Leadership of Higher Education" manages to notice something this blog has been saying for the last four years: a dearth of young tenure-track faculty now means a serious leadership vacuum in higher education in the near future. Some of the stats cited in the report are worth checking out. Among them:

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