Is That Why I’ve Been Feeling Poorly?

Posted on April 2nd, 2014 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

In Politico, Ben Schreckinger writes on “The Death of the WASP,” an article that probably hasn’t been written in, oh, a year or so.

It’s an ignoble end for a proud people. Once upon a time, climbing to the top of New England politics practically required membership in a mainline Protestant church, the remnants of an old shipping, banking or textile fortune, and your family’s name on either a nearby town or a building at the local Ivy League campus, preferably both (as in the Lowells, the namesakes of the Massachusetts municipality and the Harvard hall, among many other things). As Richard Brookhiser wrote in his 1990 book The Way of the WASP, “They wrote the rules; everyone else played by them.

If you were to really track the declining influence of WASPs in American politics, this phenomenon has been a long time happening; I’d trace it back to the election of JFK (Henry Cabot Lodge to Vietnam—off you go!) and the discrediting of the best and the brightest in that war. Who was the last influential WASP in politics that you can think of? (Bill Weld, maybe?)

This does point up an interesting thing about web-based journalism, though. Ben Schreckinger, from what I can tell, appears to be about 25. Now, I’m all for young journalists, and I don’t want to sound like a defensive old guy when I write this, and a web search suggests that Ben Schreckinger is a talented guy with a great future. But because of the economics of web journalism—it makes little to no money, so the people who do it are poorly paid young people—the journalists involve tend to be young, and don’t have a great sense of history….

Facebook vs. Yankee/Red Sox Fans

Posted on April 1st, 2014 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

This chart released by Facebook has gotten a lot of sharing in the past couple days. It shows the geographic boundaries dividing Red Sox and Yankee fandom.

It’s pretty interesting, and some of it, such as the distribution of fans in the western states, are curious. Why?

It’s also interesting, of course, because it is just one example of how much data Facebook collects from its users, and how powerful that data could be…

By the way, the baseball season started perfectly yesterday: the Red Sox and the Mets both lost tough ones.

Now if we could only get 322 more results just like that….

Now We Know Why He’s Been Calling Edward Snowden a Russian Spy

Posted on March 28th, 2014 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Because GOP congressman Mike Rogers, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee—who in recent weeks has repeatedly accused Edward Snowden of being a Russian spy, while never providing a shred of evidence—is retiring to launch a new career in talk radio.

And that’s the kind of hate-filled inanity you spew on conservative talk radio. Rogers’ appearances on the Sunday punditry shows now appear to have been, essentially, a tryout.

Somewhere very hot, Father Coughlin and Joe McCarthy are looking upward and applauding.

Thursday Morning Music

Posted on March 27th, 2014 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Wild Beasts‘ “Wanderlust.”

Is This the Future of Harvard Athletics?

Posted on March 27th, 2014 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Here’s a one-paragraph paper for an “independent studies” class that earned a UNC football player an A-minus.

The Red Sox in Chaos

Posted on March 27th, 2014 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

As murder embroils a second Boston sports team, the Red Sox center fielder slotted to replace now-Yankee Jacoby Ellsbury is hitting a buck sixty-seven.! I don’t wish any young player ill, but, well…he is a Red Sox.

As everyone says, it’s only spring training. But you have to like the way the Yankees are looking. (Yes, Red Sox fans, you do too. I insist.) The starting rotation looks excellent, Mark Texeira is back, Derek Jeter is back, Jacoby Ellsbury hasn’t gotten (seriously) injured yet, and the team’s new players are generally performing well.

Here is my prediction: We are going to crush the Sox like small, foul-smelling bugs!

Sorry, no, wait.

The Yankees will win the division.

Also: At some point, winter will end. Not going to say when, though.

Is Rick Levin Cashing In?

Posted on March 25th, 2014 in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

The former Yale president has signed up with MOOC master Coursera, becoming its CEO.

According to the New York Times,

Mr. Levin, who has been an adviser to Coursera since January, has been experimenting with online education for years, beginning in 2000 in a partnership with Stanford and Oxford. In 2007, he started Open Yale Courses to make dozens of classes taught by Yale professors available without cost.

Levin is apparently particularly attractive because of his past work with Yale and China; Chinese constitute the second-biggest users, after the U.S., of Coursera’s online courses.

“The main thing we will work on is to establish this model so our partner universities feel that offering large-scale MOOCs is an important part of their mission that helps faculty expand their reach, and benefits the world,” Mr. Levin said.

Well, that’s sort of true and sort of isn’t. The main thing they’ll be working on really is finding a way to get millions of people in emerging markets to pay for these courses, which are generally free now, so that the company can create a revenue stream and go public, making Levin wealthier than he already is. He made quite a nice wage as Yale president—some $1.7 million in 2009-2010, according to the YDN.

Is this a bad thing? I guess you can’t really blame Levin for doing it. He’s still a pretty young guy and online education does have some idealism to it; there are worse ways to make a lot of money than by spreading knowledge around the world.

And, of course, MOOCs might one day be a viable competitor to places like, um, Yale, which are so astonishingly expensive that many people can’t imagine sending their children there. Whether or not Coursera proves to be a supplement to Yale or a threat to it is something of an open question.

And, since I pointed out a few months ago when Larry Summers joined the board of online “university” Minerva that he was actually joining a competitor to Harvard’s online edX, it’s only fair to point out that Coursera is presumably a competitor to Yale’s edX equivalent, Open Yale.

So that part is a bit awkward, then.

The question is really, What’s a former university president to do? Not many now want to go the way of Derek Bok, to write serious but little-read books on education policy. There already is a baseball commissioner, even if he is kind of a joke. Levin’s not about to be Fed chair. Sticking around campus is tough on your successor. And Yale’s former president Benno Schmidt, alas, has already pioneered the idea of going into for-profit education. (It hasn’t exactly elevated his stature.)

Why not cash in? Everyone else is doing it.


A Tip of the Hat to Harry Lewis

Posted on March 19th, 2014 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

A couple months back, he blogged that it was technically possible for the NSA to record every phone call made in the United States.

Turns out that the NSA did record every phone call of a country—just not this one.

Pretty impressive analysis on Harry’s part…

Stop the Cyborgs

Posted on March 19th, 2014 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Fascinating—and encouraging—how Google Glass is provoking a culture war.

Here’s an anti-Google Glass/Glasshole site selling “Stop the Cyborgs” t-shirts and stickers that say “Google Glass is Banned on These Premises.”


Highway to Adelaide/Hell

Posted on March 19th, 2014 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Touring Australia, Bruce Springsteen covers AC/DC, with Harvard grad Tom Morello on guitar. Pretty great.