Thursday, September 26, 2002
There is such a thing as taking "Pay As You _____" too far. Case in point: my electricity company and its stupefying policy of making me charge up a keycard so that I can keep a positive balance on my electric meter. This way, I can enjoy "pay as you use the fan", "pay as you shower", "pay as you heat your food", and if I forget to go to the news agent to get it topped up, "pay as you freeze to death".

My best guess is that she (a) went and ate some pie, and (b) took a trip to see if 'East Angular' was really in a foreign country.

Thursday, September 19, 2002
Yes, I'm teaching another online biology course. It's really fun, but also strikingly bizarre, having fifty-odd people sitting 5,000+ miles away from me, waiting for me to grade assignments that I receive through the web. Even just a few years ago, this sort of thing was more dream than reality.

What is really exciting is that we share this gorgeous, numinous medium of the Internet, and through it, I can assign them readings like this one that get them thinking about science, the scientific method, and how people apply these to their own lives. I have to say that I've recently become a little disillusioned with the whole notion of science's authoritarian claims to knowledge, but if the alternative allows for people to believe they get some benefit from drilling their skulls, I'll believe for a little longer.

Tuesday, September 17, 2002
Equal parts trenchant criticism of Dawkins, Wright, and Dennett, and eulogy for perhaps the most important scientist of the late 20th Century, this piece animates Gould's legacy as a fox in the hedge of science. I can't imagine a better way to remember him.

Tuesday, September 10, 2002
After a year of crushing disappointment in sport (Case in point, Michelle Kwan's gutting 3rd place finish at the Olympics in February), things in the world seem right again.

As silly as it seems to say it, there is some sort of karmic propriety to last night's fantastic tennis.

Thursday, September 05, 2002
Critical nostalgia for 'the way things used to be' is one of my biggest pet peeves. It betrays a profound lack of understanding of change and context, and worse still, it is very often simply not based on any real degradation of status.

Here's a great excerpt from a panel discussion called 'In Search of the Educated American' that gives the lie to the crisis discourse around US schooling:

LAPHAM: Sarah, you're an historian of the American public school system. Have the odds against education always been this long? Was there ever a Golden Age?

SARAH MONDALE: Actually one of our biggest revelations during the film project was that there really hasn't been a Golden Age. I guess the most enlightening thing that I learned, and that a lot of people have taken away from the series, is that we, as a nation, have never really made a commitment to educating all of our citizens well. This is a new philosophical leap that we're just making in the past 20 years. You know, at the turn of the century, only six percent of 17-year-olds were high school educated, and the high schools were college preparatory institutions at that time. It wasn't until World War II that half of all Americans had a high school diploma. Even in the 1950s, the schools were segregated in the South. Many Mexican-Americans did not have access to quality secondary education. Disabled children were excluded in large part from regular classrooms and public schools.

Monday, September 02, 2002
Well, since Max linked to me for my UK pop extravaganza experience, I figured I should give some details about a day that saw Dan, my friends Susan and Su-Ann, and me languishing in the heat (yes, heat!) for several hours on a Sunday afternoon, waiting to hear the Sugababes (and Darius, Atomic Kitten, & Hear'Say) at Party In The Park.

I'll excerpt freely from my e-mail to Max, but here are the highlights: (1) Oxonians really enjoy kicking empty cola bottles and food trays onto my nice German wool picnic blanket, (2) hiring a decent sound person is always a good idea, especially when ostensibly important bands are playing... you see, early on in the concert, some soft-core porn star-turned singer got on stage to sing a song about being in love with a kitty, hit a very screechy high note, and blew half the speakers in the stadium. This took 2 hours to put right, during which time Lemonscent and Sarah Whatmore debuted their new singles, both of which sounded suspiciously like the Banana Splits theme filtered through a white noise machine. Simon Cowell says, 'it's fantastic'. (3) Hear'Say was a no-show because Danny and Noel are both 'too ill to perform' (read: in the throes of putting to sleep a band that should have been visited by Dr. Kervorkian in January), (4) Blazin' Squad's flaccid cover of "Crossroads" (yes, the Bone Thugs 'N Harmony song) makes me wonder how a bunch of pasty white children from suburban London can get away with singing about drive-by shootings. Essex in the hizzouse. (5) Darius was wonderful, though. He sang "Colourblind" and proved himself to be a genuine nice guy by asking three of the screaming pre-teens up on stage to 'give a kiss'. (Although disturbingly, he did ask one of them if this were her first threeway...yipes), (6) Sugababes were excellent, as expected. They sang "Round Round", "Freak Like Me", and a song I've since identified as "Supernatural", which might well be their next UK single. Short set, but I think it was worth the wait, especially since seeing most young British pop bands is a lot like seeing the Pope-- you're not too likely to get another chance.

Yes, yes. OK. I should have remembered Chekhov's (by-way-of Shaw, thank you Dan) adage that if you put a gun on the table, you'd better be prepared to use it. And in mentioning the Malta pictures, I evidently set a pistol down somewhere... so here's one of my favourite photos-- one Dan took of Gillieru Harbor with me blocking the view. The best thing about this photo is that it was taken after a long, 45-minute walk out to a cliff, where we sat and talked about books and England, throwing little stones off the side. It's one of my nicest memories of 2002 (so far).

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