Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Risky Business

From a very interesting Louis Menand article about the value of college in America:

The most interesting finding is that students majoring in liberal-arts fields—sciences, social sciences, and arts and humanities—do better on the C.L.A., and show greater improvement, than students majoring in non-liberal-arts fields such as business, education and social work, communications, engineering and computer science, and health. There are a number of explanations. Liberal-arts students are more likely to take courses with substantial amounts of reading and writing; they are more likely to attend selective colleges, and institutional selectivity correlates positively with learning; and they are better prepared academically for college, which makes them more likely to improve. The students who score the lowest and improve the least are the business majors.

Menand goes on to point out that business is the number one major in American colleges, accounting for 22 percent of bachelor's degrees.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Writing Roundup

For the past year or so, my blogging pace has slowed a bit, but I've been trying to do around eight posts a month. This month I'm lagging behind and might not make it. I've been stymied partly by my own sloth and partly by the demands of the final weeks of the school year.

I have been doing some writing in other forums, however. For example, today I have a piece up at the Occasional Planet entitled "Racial Politics and Obama: A New Era?"

Having finished War and Peace at the beginning of the month, I've also written a couple posts about Tolstoy's ideas of freedom: one focuses on Tolstoy's ideas about history and freedom; the other focuses on his ideas about freedom and individuals.

If you're feeling cheated by this month's dearth of Corresponding Fractions, I'd be honored if you checked out one or more of these pieces.


Saturday, May 21, 2011


Today as I took out the recycling to the receptacle in the alley, I stopped to notice the weeds that inevitably grow up in the little strip of soil between the pavement and the retaining wall in our backyard.

It's so ordinary that it often goes unnoticed, but it's wondrous that life is so persistent, isn't it? That something will find a way to live in any little bit of dirt that gets watered by the rain?

The spiny specimen above seems well-suited for its inhospitable environment. As if it knows it's unloved and unwanted, it bristles menacingly, threatening to sting those who might casually try to pluck it.

Meanwhile, this weed, an unauthorized occupant of a more privileged space (the elevated flowerbed atop the retaining wall), gamely emulates the florid attractions that earn other plants the right to be there:

And these intrepid leaves poke up through the barest crack in the concrete, scrabbling out a photosynthetic subsistence:

Life, inexorably it seems, seeks to thrive wherever it can—just as the human mind, perhaps just as inexorably, seeks to make meaning and metaphor out of whatever comes into its purview.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Don't Bury Me 'Cause I'm Not Dead Yet

Some say that blogging is on its deathbed, overtaken by quicker forms of cyber-communication like Twitter.

Pshaw, says Chris Mattarazo, in this eminently sensible piece:

The content of blogs is so diverse that to say they are “dying out” is almost to say that people are going to stop saying diverse things in a free medium that offers instant world-wide publication. What are the chances of that happening?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Obama, Bush, and Osama

Over the past few months, I've re-worked some of my Corresponding Fractions posts into more fully realized pieces that I've published in the friendly confines of the Occasional Planet. You can check some of these out in the list entitled "Integers: My Writing Elsewhere" on the right side of this blog, underneath the "Favorite Fractions" list.

Last night, watching coverage of the President's announcement of the death of Osama bin Laden, I started writing a post in response to what I was seeing and remembering. Halfway through, I decided I would send it to the OP when it was finished. You can read it here.