Ode to Science Fairs

April 29, 2008

Today I helped judge a science fair for 4th-9th graders. It was about what you’d expect for those age groups–some presentations showed sciences of thoughtful, work-intensive research projects appropriate to the age, but likely coached along by the parents, especially in the realm of presentation. Other projects were pretty awful, ranging from the funny (spelling fertilizer “fertilize” throughout a project, dozens of times) to the odd and half-finished (completely lacking data and/or conclusions).

And then there was the one that won we judges’ “Most Inappropriate Science Fair Project of the Day Award.” On this project in the 4-6th grade section (presumably about some unique botanical or chemical research affair, I don’t remember which) were taped a number of photos–all related to the project. Except for one little comic, that happened to be taped to the backboard in triplicate. I can only imagine that an innocent 4th grader taped this up, not understanding its significance and needing to fill space, or a deviant parent played a trick on their aspiring naturalist. Either way, I laughed so hard that I came home and Googled the image. Adults only below the fold (no pun intended).
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Mugabe Sucks

April 28, 2008

Looks like a fair run-off election in Zimbabwe is less likely every day:

Farmers from Masvingo, Mashonaland East and Manicaland Provinces who worked on behalf of the opposition and were interviewed by telephone in the past week described a pattern of ruling-party gangs visiting under the cover of darkness to beat and evict them.

Villagers from Manicaland said they were roused from sleep around midnight one night this month by young marauders who had come to punish them for voting against Mr. Mugabe. They said the gangs pelted them with stones fired from slingshots and dragged some from their homes.

The next day, rather than protecting them, police officers ordered them to empty their small huts of their meager possessions, witnesses said. Then the young thugs returned to the small settlement just north of the city of Mutare, bashing down people’s homes with iron bars or setting them ablaze.


The Sting of Defeat

April 28, 2008

Behold their mighty wrath!

“And the heads of thine enemies shall be laid up in piles.” -1 Keller 10:17


The Chinese Media on Tibet

April 14, 2008

Heresy Corner has an excellent little article contrasting the official Chinese media’s account of the Olympic torch relay with the photos that have been dominating Western media. An excerpt:

The Notting Hill Gate in west London greeted the Beijing Olympic torch on Sunday morning with a mini carnival reminiscent of the annual carnival that draws over one million revelers.

People with families and toddlers turned out in the hundreds braving wintry snow to line the streets in Notting Hill Gate and celebrate the Olympic torch.

And a picture:
london olympics protest

Of course, the Chinese media description of the relay locations is actually largely accurate, in the sense that in many locations people turned out to cheer on the flame, including many Chinese who live abroad. So here Heresy Corner has used (though arguably to a much less serious extent) the same tactic as the official Chinese media by showing only photos that match with the story he’s trying to share (ridiculing the Chinese media). The criticism of the Chinese media is legit, but it’s also an interesting observation on how the way the dominant media sources portray an event has a huge impact; Western news coverage that concentrates on the protests is not reflective of everyone’s opinion. But violence is good news for media.

I’m torn on the whole idea of protesting. I think it’s justified, yes, but my pragmatic streak makes me question its effectiveness in getting the Chinese to change their ways. Are we just furthering existing divisions and turning the Chinese youth against America? That’s basically the argument made by Matthew Forney in this op-ed:

Educated young people are usually the best positioned in society to bridge cultures, so it’s important to examine the thinking of those in China. The most striking thing is that, almost without exception, they feel rightfully proud of their country’s accomplishments in the three decades since economic reforms began. And their pride and patriotism often find expression in an unquestioning support of their government, especially regarding Tibet.

As for political repression, few young Chinese experience it. Most are too young to remember the Tiananmen massacre of 1989 and probably nobody has told them stories. China doesn’t feel like a police state, and the people young Chinese read about who do suffer injustices tend to be poor — those who lost homes to government-linked property developers without fair compensation or whose crops failed when state-supported factories polluted their fields. . .

Barring major changes in China’s education system or economy, Westerners are not going to find allies among the vast majority of Chinese on key issues like Tibet, Darfur and the environment for some time. If the debate over Tibet turns this summer’s contests in Beijing into the Human Rights Games, as seems inevitable, Western ticket-holders expecting to find Chinese angry at their government will instead find Chinese angry at them.


The Varsity Sport of the Mind

April 11, 2008

I’m in St. Louis right now, where me and the other members of CU’s “College Bowl” team just checked into our hotel. Next we’ll be heading out to register for the NAQT quiz bowl national tournament. The questions are brutally hard, and the competition is brutally nerdy, so wish us luck.

Reading note: Today I had the pleasure of finishing Woodward and Bernstein’s All the President’s Men, which I’d been meaning to read to learn more about Nixon’s lovely Watergate antics (such a sweet, cuddly man) and now I’m starting in on Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. I like having travel time, as its about the only time I’ve been getting to read lately.


The Hill

April 10, 2008

I’m sure it’ll get old very quickly, but there’s a new Stuff White People Like rip-off, it’s Stuff Hill People Like. That’s right, in case working on Capitol Hill doesn’t make one busy enough already, now there’s a blog about it.

The things Hill people like so far?

1. Business cards
2. Interns
3. The West Wing
4. Gchat
5. Recess
6. Their Parents’ Money
7. Blackberries

As a former Hill intern, I liked this quote from the Interns post:

An intern’s “official” function is to do the mail, answer the phones, and give tours to constituents. When interns aren’t around, these are all things Staff Assistants are made to do, so Hill People love interns because interns are essentially everyone’s bitch. Plus, when you’re fresh out of an Ivy League college and working a job a dyslexic six-year-old could probably do, you really need to degrade and humiliate an intern every few hours to remember how super awesome you are.

Now I’m gonna go watch another West Wing episode . . .


Powerful Imagery

April 9, 2008

What can you do for human rights with a degree in graphic design?

beijing 2008

Of course, people from all academic backgrounds are welcome and encouraged (by me at least) to join the protests today in San Francisco.

h/t David