Archive for November 15th, 2003

UMass Online Enrollment, Revenues Soar

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UMassOnline, the University of Massachusetts’ web-based learning
division, today announced that online education program revenues and
enrollments grew 40 percent and 33 percent, respectively, in 2003.

Revenues from the combined online programs at the University exceeded
$11 million, up from $7.8 million in 2002, while enrollments reached
13,375, up from 10,039 in 2002. More than 90 percent of the revenues
are retained by the UMass campuses to support education and research
programs.

from
University of Massachusetts Online

Some Things Don’t Translate

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Boy George musical savaged in NY

The Boy George musical Taboo, backed by the former chat show host Rosie
O’Donnell, has opened to poor reviews in the US.

The Broadway version, which tells the story of the pop star’s life and
stars
George as performance artist Leigh Bowery, opened on Monday.

The New
York Times
said the musical was "a disastrously overcrowded tableau
of a show".

from
the BBC

Do-it-yourself Jackson Pollock

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Creating
a computer program that mimics Jackson Pollock’s painting technique may
sound like a daunting task, but it is just the kind of challenge that
Daniel Shiffman enjoys. Mr. Shiffman, 30, a media artist with a background
in math and theater, wanted to develop a program that would "paint" an
abstracted screen portrait of whoever was in front of the display, slowly
repainting and revising the picture as the viewer moved.

from
the New York Times

More Shiffman art

A Plague of Plagarism Hits UK Universities

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This is a real problem for teachers everywhere these days.  Moreso,
I would imagine, in large impersonal classes where the insructor doesn’t
have time to get to know the students and their writing individually. In
my classes, we have seen enough student writing by the time we
get to research papers (week 8 of a 13-week semester) that most plagarism
is easy to detect.

Also by assigning unique or specific analytic questions involving local or personal aspects one can make
it extremely hard to find a sorce on the internet addressing the same
issues. However, this requires thought and planning.

For Anna, 22, a final year student in south-east England, internet plagiarism
is a natural part of undergraduate life.

For the past three years, she says, she has been submitting essays bought
and copied from the internet and passing them off as her own.

She is currently working on her final-year project and most of the materials
in the dissertation are coming off the net.

Anna (not her real name) says she cheats because it is easy to get away
with it.

"
It is easier, because sometimes when you go to the library you can’t
find the necessary books or you have too much to read," she says.

from
the BBC

Quote of the Day

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We have a criminal jury system which is superior to any in the world; and its efficiency is only marred by the difficulty of finding twelve men every day who don’t know anything and can’t read.”

Mark Twain via Adam Curry

Blasts Rock Istanbul Synagogues

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ISTANBUL, Nov. 15 — Two truck bombs exploded Saturday
morning outside a pair of synagogues crowded with families celebrating
bar mitzvahs,
killing at least 20 people and injuring more than 300.

The car bombs exploded nearly simultaneously, destroying parts of the
temples and killing many of the worshipers inside. Both of the synagogues,
Beth Israel and Neve Shalom, the city’s largest, were jammed the family
and friends at the time of the explosions.

It was the scene of a massacre," said Zafer Tatu, 39, still in
shock as he stood next to his shattered lamp shop, just down the street
from the Neve Shalom temple.

"
I saw people awash in blood, all kinds of body parts spread around," Mr.
Tatu said.

from the New York Times

Will Cannibal Apology Remove Curse?

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A Fijian warrior holds a traditional war axe during a ceremony of
apology for British missionary Rev. Thomas Baker, who was eaten in 1867,
in Nabutautau, Fiji, Thursday, Nov 13, 2003. Descendants of Rev Baker attended
the ceremony in the remote community high in the hills of the South Pacific
Island of Viti Levu where the residents say their community has been cursed
since Baker and eight Fijian followers were consumed 136 years ago.

from
AP
(Photo/Samisoni Pareti)

No Offense, No Defense – My Game

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The Dowbrigade learned early in this game that you can’t please
all of the people all of the time.  In one of my very first blog
postings, I reported, in what I thought was a somber and equitable manner,
on the
tragic
death of a Massachusetts English teacher
whose car was struck
by a Moose, or visa versa. Equitable because the post lamented the loss
of life on both sides of the collision.

Since the original article was unillustrated, and we didn’t wish to
photographically implicate an uninvolved moose in the incident, we went
with a drawing of our favorite fantasy moose, the ever-amicable Bullwinkle.

Sure enough, we soon got an offended comment from one Aaron Shafer,
a friend of the human deceased, who accused the Dowbrigade of "very poor
taste."

Thus began a series of offenses against decency and decorum of which
we are neither proud nor repentant. One persistent complaint does bother
us, however, and because of the respect we have for its author we would
like to address it.

Somewhat to our personal chagrin, the Dowbrigade’s all-time most-read
post was the unforgettable "Gadzooks!
Fellatio Reduces Breast Cancer Risk
". Almost immediately the Dowbrigade
received notes from numerous helpful readers informing us that the site
promoting the supposed finding was a hoax. Frankly, the most surprising
aspect of the whole affair to us is that ANYBODY took the story seriously.

One reader in particular insisted that we print a retraction. Richard,
whose blog Just a Gwai Lo is dynamite and definitely worth a read, felt
we had an obligation to explain that the linked site was not "really"
CNN. We disagreed, for the following reasons.

1) As our prominently displayed disclaimer clearly states "The Dowbrigade
is FICTION. I am not a journalist, nor do I vouch for the veracity of
any of the items I pass along. If you do not have a sense of humor, please
go away." 

2) The only comment accompanying the article said, "Who knew? Who knows?
Judge for yourself…" This was meant to be a tip-off that we were not
vouching for the source.

3) The Gadzooks! in the title was another perhaps-too-subtle hint.

4) The first four comments on the posting declared in no uncertain terms
"THIS IS A HOAX"

For all of these reasons we did not think it necessary to post a retraction.  However,
we hate to see Richard so upset, so here goes: The article on Fellatio
and Breast Cancer was a hoax! Who knew?

These are not isolated instances.  It seems that almost everything
we post offends someone, somewhere. Sometimes the offense is a question
of political correctness.  Last month, in a posting
on my son’s then impending and now canceled marriage
, we obliquely
referred to him as a "mongolian idiot". Almost immediately a comment
flew in from the
Marmot
in Korea, another blogger
we like, reporting that HE was about to wed, wouldn’t you know it, a
wonderful Mongolian
woman, and they were both deeply offended.

Now, we always thought Mongoloidism was a medical term, like Elephantiasis
or Siamese Twins or Crone’s Disease, which had become divorced from whatever entomological
origin originally spawned it. Is this not akin to the Native American
groups currently asking the Cleveland Indians to change their name? Are
we going to get flamed
by
Gypsies every
time we gripe about being gypped by unscrupulous merchants? Every time
we castigate Godless Sodomites, will the descendents of the original
inhabitants of the Biblical city of Sodom descend on us in righteous
indignation?  Will those same Native Americans so upset about the
Atlanta Braves start carping about Americas fixation with Siouxing anything
that moves? Should the Dowbrigade, as a Jew, be offended every time we see the word Jeweler, for its association with averice and concentrated wealth? So Sioux me….

It should be obvious by this point that trying not to offend is a losing
battle.  The Dowbrigade, therefore, has decided to take off on a
daring new tack.  Our new goal is to, before we are done, offend
EVERYBODY at least once.  How are we doing? Have we offended you
yet?