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29 October 2005

First couple of days with a new computer

So I’ve had the new Powerbook for a couple of days now.  Some quick impressions:

  • The size is actually pretty nice.  It can feel a bit small
    at times, but for about the same price as the difference between the
    two models I was considering, I can get a 17″ or 19″ monitor and
    external keyboard (already having an external wired mouse).  But
    once I get  a little carrying case, the portability seems quite
    nice.  That said, if Apple released a 14″ PB when the intels come
    out (same size as the big iBook), I’d be interested….
  • OS X is better than I thought.  I love Spotlight.  This
    is the feature that’s like Google Desktop on WinXP.  Type in a
    word or phrase, and it pulls up every file where that occurs, not just
    in the title but also in the actual contents….  For example,
    “jelly” brings up 9 files.  Weird and totally cool.
  • The transfer to OS X was prety easy.  All my documents came
    right over, since much of my work is on MS Office.  My Eudora data
    was a bit harder, but I found a set of programs at Andreas Amann’s site to deal with the transition from Eudora (even Windows Eudora) to Apple Mail.  Specifically, Eudora Mailbox Cleaner
    not only converts Eudora mailboxes, but it also converts the nickname
    database into a format that Address Book in OS X can easily deal with.
    (BTW, is Apple Mail in an interchageable format?  Does any reader
    • In essence, I got most of my stuff moved off my external hard
      drive to the Powerbook AND set up most of how I want to work in about
      three or four hours.  Not hard at all.

More to come as I encounter it.

Posted in Day2Day on 29 October 2005 at 10:52 am by Nate
23 October 2005

Finally did it

I did it.  I ordered a new computer.  A 12″ Macintosh Powerbook
I have to admit that I am still unsure whether I should have this one
or the “old” 15″ model (“old”, as in there was a slightly updated one
released last Wednesday).  But the $300 difference was a

So was portability.  I’ve had this desktop-in-a-laptop Windows
machine for a while, and I never take it anywhere because of its weight
and size.  And the lovely young woman I spoke with in the Apple
store noted that she loved her 15″(especially ’cause she has no room
for an external monitor), but that it felt a bit large at times for
lugging around.

(And just so it’s clear, I’m perfectly adept in Windows.  I have
configured drivers, I routinely search out and use funky little obscure
utilities to monitor things like process usage, and I have edited my
registry.  I play computer guy for many family and friends. 
But it seems like in the last few months, that’s been less of a hobby and
more of a task to keep the computer running.  I want to geek
around, but on my own terms.)

My thought is, if I need more screen real estate (especially when I
need to do spreadsheet work), I can get an external monitor.  For
about the same as the price difference between the two models.

I’m still dithering a bit, but if I really decide that I should have gotten a 15, I can always sell on Ebay.

Like all things in the Mac world, some people are really partisan about
the size of their computers.  Ask a group of real Mac fanatics
about the 12 v. 15, and they will go to the mat for their choice.

Posted in Day2Day on 23 October 2005 at 6:23 pm by Nate
19 October 2005

Harvey Mansfield and Judith Butler agree!

In my department here, our most conservative professor is Harvey C. Mansfield.  Mansfield is something of a lightining rod for many of the people and groups on campus.

Yesterday, he gave a talk to the “pro-life” group on campus (I only put
quotes around pro-life because that’s their self-preferred term, but
it’s arguable as to whether it’s the most value neutral term
available–“anti-abortion” would be better, I think).  It’s covered in the campus rag
Mansfield discussed his latest political theory work on
“Manliness.”  (This seems to me a topic worth investigating, as it
seems a substantial background concept in so much of modern political
theory, e.g., in Machiavelli’s works.  If you just dismiss
manliness outright [and the study of gender considerations generally],
you are likely to miss a lot of what these thinkers have to say. 
That said, I don’t agree entirely with Mansfield’s conclusions. 
But I am willing to engage them intellectually.)

Members of the GLBT student group are predictably outraged.  Their
response is that they’d like to organize a lecture on “Womanliness” with a Mansfield look-alike in drag.

I’ll skip over the fact that the point of such an action seems less to
engage on an intellectual level and more to vent anger and
humiliate.  And they can’t win in that way, I think.

More to the point, we have a report of the following:

Multiple students challenged Mansfield’s opinions concerning
gender and family in respect to gay and transgender people. Mansfield
responded that he thought gay and transgender people are on “society’s
margin” and should remain there.

“Substitutes for the traditional family are dysfunctional,” he said, “You wouldn’t want children to grow up in them.”

(I, BTW, don’t agree with the conclusion about the
dysfunctionality of non-traditional families.  Traditional
families enjoy no monopoly of functionality and no lack of dysfunction.)

Contrast his statements to what Judith Butler said in 2004, after the
legalization of marriage in Massachusetts, in a 7 March NYT article about the
ambivalence many queers felt about matrimony:

Many gay men and lesbians — in fact most of the ones I know — are not
jumping to jump the broom. They like their status as couples living
between the lines, free of all the societal expectations that marriage
brings. But since they don’t want to feed politicians using gay
marriage as an election issue, they are largely mum.

”It’s very hard to speak freely right now,” said Judith Butler,
a gender theorist and professor at the University of California,
Berkeley. ”But many gay people are uncomfortable with all this,
because they feel their sense of an alternative movement is dying.
Sexual politics was supposed to be about finding alternatives to

”I’ve been with the same
woman for 13 years,” she continued, ”and she jokes if I ever tried to
marry her she’d divorce me. I know many people who feel the same way.”

I think we can safely regard Butler and Mansfield on different sides
and even ends of a discussion about gender.  But both are
concerned with keeping some sort of marginal status for sexual

Perhaps they could work on a book together.

Posted in Politicks on 19 October 2005 at 1:06 pm by Nate
17 October 2005

Getting into Harvard

I’ve read a couple of reviews of Jerome Karabel’s new book, The Chosen,
about the admissions processes of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. 
I’m interested both because the subject matter concerns the institution
I’m at and the students I teach AND because Karabel is on (to my best
recollection) a friend’s dissertation committee.

There has not been much discussion of the book (at least, that I have
noticed) here on campus.  Not surprisingly, because the facts
about the admissions process here do not put Harvard in a good
light.  The attempts to keep the Jews and blacks and most people
out continued well up into the middle of the last.century. 
Karabel also points out that even the current system of admissions, in
giving priority to legacies and certain schools (the private boarding
“prep” schools of the Northeast seem curiously overrepesented here),
continues the trend of making sure that Harvard and its ilk continue to
admit and educate “the right sort of people.”

From Malcolm Gladwell’s review in the New Yorker:

In the 1985-92 period, for instance, Harvard admitted children of
alumni at a rate more than twice that of non-athlete, non-legacy
applicants, despite the fact that, on virtually every one of the
school’s magical ratings scales, legacies significantly lagged behind
their peers. Karabel calls the practice “unmeritocratic at best and
profoundly corrupt at worst,” but rewarding customer loyalty is what
luxury brands do. Harvard wants good graduates, and part of their
definition of a good graduate is someone who is a generous and loyal
alumnus. And if you want generous and loyal alumni you have to reward
them. Aren’t the tremendous resources provided to Harvard by its alumni
part of the reason so many people want to go to Harvard in the first
place? The endless battle over admissions in the United States proceeds
on the assumption that some great moral principle is at stake in the
matter of whom schools like Harvard choose to let in—that those who are
denied admission by the whims of the admissions office have somehow
been harmed. If you are sick and a hospital shuts its doors to you, you
are harmed. But a selective school is not a hospital, and those it
turns away are not sick.

Posted in Books on 17 October 2005 at 11:24 pm by Nate