succumbing to peer pressure

Friday, January 07, 2005

Share the Love

My friend Sameera, about whom I spoke earlier regarding his visa troubles, is a native Sri Lankan. Thankfully, he and his family are all ok. He's been volunteering with the Red Cross, and had this to say regarding donations:
If you guys or any one else you know is thinking about donating, please donate to UNICEF. Anna was right in saying all aid to all organizations is worthwhile. But UNICEF deals with children. And it is the children that need the most help. At the moment UNICEF seem to have the most comprehensive plan to deal with all aspects of relief concerning children, including their psychological well being. I believe you can make online donations through website.

Also, just FYI, the UNFPA is doing great work helping women through the crisis (just because your house no longer exists, or the local hospital collapsed, you don't magically become un-pregnant) and CARE is a reliable organization, rated very highly as far as percentage of donations that actually go to those in need and whatnot. Just my two cents, should you be looking for places to toss some dough.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

What will you be doing on January 20th?

I thought about looking up last minute flights to DC, even considered throwing April in the car and driving the 12 hours there. But honestly, I can't afford to be anywhere other than here that day (can't afford it financially or academically since that also happens to be the first day of classes). So instead, I've decided to spend my day doing things that I consider to be the antithesis of all the negative things I associate with this administration. Conveniently, the Martin Luther King, Jr. awards ceremony, given out by a committee on which I happen to be a member, is during the evening of January 20th. So I'm off to a good start, honoring organizations that reach out to some of the poorest children in Atlanta, provide shelter and a little dignity to those dying of AIDS, and provide support to the mentally ill, just as a few examples. Organizations that actually work to help people, instead of just paying lip service to "compassionate conservatism." Unfortunately I do have classes all day, so I may have to spread some of this into the following weekend (hell, Bush'll probably be celebrating into the weekend, why can't I?). And come to think of it, simply attending school, learning something new, and listening to people tell me things I might not necessarily want to hear also fit the bill for this day, don't you think? Maybe I'll finally get back to volunteering with HandsOn Atlanta. I don't know yet what all I will do. But if the misbehavior of this administration motivates more people like me to do more than just talk, well, that's a silver lining I can live with.

Monday, January 03, 2005

The Great Return! (or something like that)

Back from 10 wonderful days on the beach, trying to catch up on some thoughts...

In the good news category, the first person ever has survived rabies, which is, well, neat. The doctors are still hesitant to call what they did an effective treatment (they'll have to save more than one life before they call it that), but it's amazing that this teenager survived with no vaccination (either before contracting rabies or before exhibiting symptoms).

In the food for thought category, there's this article about conservative students complaining about liberal professors. This is something I've mulled over before, and as usual, I offer two disclaimers - as a liberal, it's obviously difficult for me to always see a "liberal bias" and as a student of statistics, there aren't many opportunities for a prof's personal opinion to bleed into a lecture ("Well, technically Bayes' Theorem says that the probability of B given A equals the joint probability of A and B divided by the marginal probability of A, but I think Bayes' was a moron, so I like to use the value of 6 instead"). What worries me in this debate, and what gets lost all too often in the politicalization of the debate, is that many of the legitimate complaints coming from students have nothing to do with politics and everything to do with bad teaching. And by couching the argument in liberal versus conservative crap one loses the somewhat objective opportunity to discipline (or attempt to improve) a mediocre teacher and instead we get stuck saying, well, that's their opinion and they have a right to it. For example, one Israeli student claims that a professor asked him "How many Palestinians did you kill?" Which, I think, we can all agree, is wildly inappropriate (and remains wildly inappropriate independently of one's political leanings, or at least, it should). On the other end of the spectrum, teachers should tell us things that piss us off, things with which we vehemently disagree. And, in an appropriately tolerant academic environment (the ideal to which we are supposed to aspire, up in our ivory towers), we can discuss and debate and change our minds (or not) and stretch and grow and learn. That is, after all, why we came to college, right?

In the makes me sick, but really, by now I shouldn't be surprised, category - "...inaugural planners organize a $40 million pageant for President Bush this month." In contrast, "The fourth inauguration [for FDR] was conducted without fanfare. Because of the expense and impropriety of festivity during the height of war, the oath of office was taken on the South Portico of the White House. "

Ok, I have other thoughts, or rather, I want to float my Dad's thoughts, on social security, for the peanut gallery's comments, but it's time for me to get cleaned up and run out to the airport to pick up andy, so you will all just have to wait on that one.