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December 8, 2011
My first peer-driven learning classes are over. It was, by and large, a success.
December 8, 2011
My condolences, once again, to everyone at Virginia Tech.
December 8, 2011
I often begin classes in Economics with a discussion of how values of things are determined. I point out that the price of some things may or may not accurately reflect their importance in our lives. For example, water and air are vitally important in our lives, but often very inexpensive. Alternatively, diamonds are very expensive, but do little to sustain or improve our lives. The reason for this apparent paradox is found in the fact that prices are determined by the interaction of both supply and demand, allowing rare things that are not vital to our lives to become expensive, and important things that are readily available to become relatively inexpensive. I thought of this lately as I looked around at the current bustle and remembered a sign I saw in a store many years ago. Trying to encourage seasonal buying, it said "We make Christmas Cheaper."
December 8, 2011
Raise your hand if you are not on the tenure track, but long for the space and time to think, write, reflect, and create? I know that faculty do many many things beyond research and writing, (teaching, advising, service, etc.),  but it is almost exclusively faculty who get to conduct research and publish results. 
December 8, 2011
The Hartford Courant, ever vigilant to trends seen likely to affect the insurance industry, noted that 2011 is already the year with the most billion-dollar-plus weather-related disasters in US history.  This year already has twelve such incidents; the previous record-holder (2008) had only nine.
December 8, 2011
While the “Occupy” movements seem to be quieting down this week, higher education received some attention from the White House. President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan met with a select group of college presidents and provosts on Monday to discuss how to make higher education more affordable.  With his usual rhetorical grace, Obama referenced this issue again in Kansas on Tuesday.
December 7, 2011
I have been invited to present a seminar paper at the Institute of Historical Studies in London in December, but my excitement is tempered by the inevitable visa application. As a South African citizen, I need a visa to gain entry to most of Europe and Asia, all of North America, and parts of Latin America. Most people need to apply for visas for long stays for study or work in foreign countries, but those of us from the developing world need visas for short visits as well. I am not going to add to the debate about the fairness or otherwise of the visa system, but, instead, want to describe its impact on my work as an academic in a developing nation.
December 7, 2011
A longtime reader wrote me a mini-rant occasioned by frustration at an overwhelming pile of applications for a faculty position at his university.  As he characterized it, the vast majority of the applications weren’t even vaguely appropriate for the position, and he resented the loss of time in filtering through them all.  As he put it,
December 7, 2011
Committee work may be time intensive. And committee work might not be as relevant as we'd like for promotion. But committee work is not hard work.



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