Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Reports of my death have been mildly exaggerated

Recent work on list: 9 (not sure how many are relevant at the moment), 12 (15 inches and counting), 20, 22, 67, 69, 94.

As is not terribly surprising, I've gotten bad about updating this thing, in the midst of my general unproductive laziness. This term's class structure basically prevents me from getting the sort of research done that I normally do, so I'm just working on things like an article I'm supposed to be writing--and thus I feel bad not knowing how far along I am on item number 9. However, it's now been a month. To stay on track to get this list completed on time, I need to average 1 item completed every 10 days. It's been just over 30 days, and I've made 4 of them (and, arguably more--last racquetball match against my instructing friend was 15-14, 15-14, 15-11, for example. So I could claim that I've learned to play racquetball, despite wanting to hold off until I beat him). I haven't even resorted to the really simple ones yet. I'd make some comment about which ones those are, but I do plan to build my snowman soon. Possibly even in the next few days.

Anyway, I'd post something actually thoughtful, but that would require too much effort at the moment. I just needed to post something so that I didn't let it go yet another day without doing so.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Dream

This is a long weekend for me (in the sense that I don't have class tomorrow), because of the Martin Luther King Jr holiday. As such, and particularly because I'm in this year's Michigan, this provokes definite thoughts about race.

This November, Michigan passed its controversial Proposition 2. For those unfamiliar with it, the exact wording of the initiative was as follows:
A proposal to amend the state constitution to ban affirmative action programs that give preferential treatment to groups or individuals based on their race, gender, color, ethnicity or national origin for public employment, education, or contracting purposes.

The proposed constitutional amendment would:

Bad public institutions from using affirmative action programs that give preferential treatment to groups or individuals based on their race, gender, color, ethnicity or national origin for public employment, education or contracting purposes. Public institutions affected by the proposal include state government, local governments, public colleges and universities, community colleges and school districts.

Prohibit public institutions from discriminating against groups or individuals due to their gender, ethnicity, race, color, or national origin. (A separate provision of the state constitutions already prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin.)

This passed by a 58-42 margin, and is thus currently the law of the land in Michigan. needless to say, my university is not terribly pleased about this. MSU did manage to avoid having to immediately comply with all aspects of this, in that they may continue to use the same admission policy for the rest of this admission cycle that they were using back in October - in my view, that's only fair. And though I should find a link for it, I read in the past few weeks that this apparently doesn't completely control hiring practices here, as we receive federal money, and the EEOC requires affirmative action for all institutions receiving federal monies.

Much to the chagrin of my more liberal friends, though, I'm glad this law passed. And it astounds me that so many people claiming to be following the teachings of MLK are angered by this. A quick look at Merriam-Webster defines racism as: "1 : a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race 2 : racial prejudice or discrimination" So, in other words, it's boiling people down to primarily their skin tone, and treating them according to that. Since affirmative action is a policy whereby historically underrepresented groups are given preferential treatment in admission and enrollment practices, I can't see how such a program is not, inherently, racist. That strikes me as completely antithetical to King's speech of his dream that one day, all would be treated not "by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

It would be easy to dismiss this as me simply advocating a policy that favors me. All of the ancestry I know of is white (assuming, of course, that you count Irish as white--it wasn't that long ago that it wasn't). The most probably ancestry for me to have which I don't actually know of is Jewish (there's likely a reason that roughly half the people I meet think I'm Jewish), but that's not a group that's historically underrepresented in education or the high paying jobs which come with that, so it wouldn't help me at all. But it should be noted, also, that I'm planning a career in academia. Even though I'm in science, most of my classmates are girls, and while I'm in one of the whitest areas of science, the numbers of students of Chinese, Indian, Korean, and other Asian ancestry are growing all the time. But these groups are not proliferating due to affirmative action policies. They're proliferating because (in very broad patterns, not necessarily at the level of specific individuals), they come from families which hold education in high esteem, they applied themselves in their classes, and they aren't primarily seeking financial rewards for their abilities.

To me, two wrongs don't make a right. To the extent that there are still discriminatory practices in admission and employment due to race, sex, ethnic background and whatnot, those are wrong, and should be eliminated. But you don't get rid of discrimination by institutionalizing another form of discrimination. It shouldn't matter if my competitors for a position, a fellowship, or whatever are black, white, yellow, polka dotted, men, women, or hermaphrodites. I should get the position if I'm the most qualified, and the most capable of doing the job. If I'm not, I shouldn't, regardless of whether the organization has fewer skinny dark-haired white guys than you'd expect based on demographics.

Those people who are advocating the continuation of affirmative action policies for reasons such as the idea benefits of increased diversity outweigh the costs of the programs have a point to argue. But they need to stop saying that it's about equality. Holding people to different standards because of their skin tone or reproductive organs or whatnot is not equality. It's discrimination. And if you want to discriminate, you need to be able to justify that form of discrimination, rather than try to claim that you're not discriminating.

List update 070113

Items worked on: 14, 15, 20, 69, 79

I have other things to talk about besides this list, but they're less time critical. Not that I have basically any readers at the moment, but I don't want to lose track of accomplishments.

Racquetball continues to come along. The most recent loss was 15-9, 15-11. So I'm not far from being at a reasonable level. This was on Thursday night, followed immediately by a few hours of pick-up volleyball. I like the general level of play there, so I think that's going to become a regular Thursday night activity for me. We'll just have to convince some of the other players of minor things like...set the ball when you have the second hit.

Today I dealt with the long-distance run. You know, I had never viscerally understood the concept of the runner's high. I was told that this is because I hadn't run far enough, and that it kicks in around 3-4 miles into it. Today, I ran 5 miles. And you know what? The runner's high is bunk. That 5th mile was really painful, and it hurt even more when I stopped. But I got it done in under 50 minutes, so I never have to do it again. I took a really long hot shower afterwards, and my calves started to relax, but they've become more seized since then. I may try a hot bath before bed--I'm really hoping I don't end up crippled for a few days. Well, really, I'm hoping I don't end up crippled at all, not just that it's delayed.

Number 79 got taken care of with Ugly Betty. I've met America before, and someone told me that one of the minor characters reminds him of me, so I decided to watch it. And I definitely see the resemblance, so I have a new celebrity as the "famous person I most resemble". Plus, the show is pretty funny, despite my completely not caring about fashion. I think it's fun watching people act like the fate of the world depends on something which is fundamentally unimportant.

Anyway, that's it for the lsit update at the moment. I'll try to write non-list-related things tomorrow.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

List update 070107

Items worked on today: 15, 20.

Today's racquetball went a bit better. 15-6, 15-4, 15-14, 15-8. I'm still not swinging enough from my elbow and wrist, and I'm having a hard time letting the ball get past me, but I have at least pretty much stopped trying to clear an imaginary net. I'm getting a bit better about not trying lob shots, but I still do every once in a while. I think once I can beat someone who knows how to play, I'll consider myself to have learned how to play racquetball.

And, today in amusement, I saw a commercial for a home pregnancy test stating that it is "easily the most advanced piece of technology you'll ever pee on." That did, admittedly, make me laugh aloud, but as I'm very unlikely to ever take a home pregnancy test, I figure it's more likely that the most advanced piece of technology I'll ever pee on will be an advanced toilet. Particularly if I ever visit Japan.

Friday, January 5, 2007

List update 070105

Items worked on today: 9, 12b, 12c.

So it turns out that I was wrong on one of the sub categories of item 12; it's a 2 mile run in 16 minutes, not a 1.5 mile run in 10:30, so my trying to extablish a baseline today on that one failed. Now I know, and knowing is half the battle. The much easier half, of course, as I'm not good at long-distance running despite having the build of a distance runner. But I can scratch off the other sections of it, as I did those today--admittedly, I just barely managed the pushups. Actually, I wasn't expecting to be up to standard on the pushups yet, so that was a pleasant surprise.

As I have nothing else interesting to say today, I think I'm just leaving it at that.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

The state of future pain

Items worked on today: #20, #9, #19 (Through Hanlon exercise 2)

Today saw attempt number 1 at playing racquetball. As is no surprise, being a decent tennis player was a mixed blessing. On the one hand, I do largely know how to swing a racquet. On the other, I tended to swing far too much from the shoulder and hip, and not enough from the the wrist, so when the ball bounced off the back wall, I had a really hard time getting the ball up to the front wall. I'm too used to being able to hit a lob shot, which doesn't work very well when there's a ceiling. I also tended to hit the ball higher on the front wall than was at all necessary, as I seem to be mentally adjusting for a net which isn't there. Still, 15-5, 15-5, 15-8 isn't bad for my first time playing. Next time, I'll make an effort to grab the correct bag out of my car, and thus have shorts to play in. My jeans were loose enough, but boy did it get hot in that court.

As for the title of the post, I'm fairly sure I'm going to have blisters on the inside of my feet tomorrow. They don't hurt right now, but I'm anticipating less than pleasant moments putting on shoes for a few days.

And, in my other fun moment of the evening, I made veal patties for dinner. For some reason, the package warned me that it contained beef. Um, yes, yes it does, being veal. This isn't quite as good as the time when I had a bag of airline mixed nuts with the label "Warning: may contain nuts", but it's pretty good nonetheless.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Getting the party started, and all that

I spent part of this evening fiddling with the new version of DreamWeaver. Overall, I find it less user friendly than the old version, so I figured I'd give a shot at creating this thing over here on Blogger, rather than purely on my personal site through school. We'll see how that goes.

However, the point remains that I now have a blog. I'm clearly not going to be as obsessive as, say, Brendan, in updating this thing, but I think it's a useful idea to have a) a site where friends and family can occasionally see how things are going in my universe, and b) have an outlet for any tirades I feel like composing.

At the moment, though, I don't really feel like composing anything past my fights to format the list over on the right hand side nicely, so this is good enough. For now.