Category Archives: Unusual Stuff

I’m not sure what to make of this, even if I posted it.

Next Thing, They’ll Start Declaring Students as “Unmutual”

Syracuse University leads the way:

Syracuse University wants student to combat hate and report bias incidents to the administration when they encounter them on campus. Given how broadly the university defines bias, it’s surprising that students have time for anything else.

According to Syracuse, bias involves “telling jokes,” “excluding or avoiding others,” using the phrase “no homo” (does anyone even say that anymore?), making comments on social media, and a dozen other things.

Avoiding others?  Forced socialisation?  Reminds me of the classic series The Prisoner, where in “A Change of Mind” #6 is declared “unmutual” for his independent ways:

The series was, sad to say, prophetic.  Be seeing you!

What College Used to Look Like, and a History of Tau Beta Pi

What a “college man” used to look like, in this case my grandfather, C.H. Warrington, who is at the right. He started out at the University of Illinois but ended up at Lehigh, where he graduated with a Civil Engineering degree in 1912. (It was another eighty-five years before a member of the family would obtain another civil engineering degree.)

Lehigh is best remembered in engineering academia as the birthplace of Tau Beta Pi, the premier engineering honour fraternity, and gave the fraternity its seal brown and white colours. However, my grandfather wasn’t the Tau Beta Pi type, let alone a member; he was more comfortable with what was referred to as the “Gentlemen’s C.” My experience teaching has informed me that the Gentlemen’s C is very much alive and well in engineering!

Tau Beta Pi

Speaking of engineering’s premier honour fraternity, below is an account of the founding of Tau Beta Pi, from the 1912 Epitome, Lehigh’s yearbook (pp. 199-200):

THERE exist in the college world three well-known societies, membership in which signifies college honor, in the manifestation of high scholarship. They are Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi and Tau Beta Pi. The first of these finds its membership in the men pursuing literature and the arts. The second selects its men from those who have shown distinction in the sciences and who have performed some research work. The last, Tau Beta Pi, of which we write, enrolls the honor men in engineering courses. Of the three Phi Beta Kappa is the oldest, having been founded in 1776, while the dates of founding of the other two were separated by only one year-Tau Beta Pi, 1885, and Sigma Xi, 1886. The existence of Tau Beta Pi is owed to Prof. Edward H. Williams, Jr., an alumnus of Yale and of Lehigh where he became Professor of Mining Engineering and Geology. The motives leading to and the circumstances attending the formation of this society are interesting and worthy of record in a book of this nature.

As valedictorian of the class of 1875 at Lehigh, Prof. Williams had been elected an honorary member of the Sigma (New York) chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, and was anxious for the establishment of a chapter of that society here. There were, however, two obstacles standing in the way, first, the fact that the council, in whose hands the granting of charters lay, met only once in six years, and, second, the strong objection in Phi Beta Kappa against the admission of technical men into its membership. Owing to the highly technical character of Lehigh’s courses the likelihood of an establishment of a chapter here was very slight and even with a charter granted the membership would be confined to a very small number.

Prof. Williams was aware of the necessity for the recognition of a man’s ability other than the diploma which he received, and further that the recognition should be given while the man was still at college, and not as he was just passing out through her portals. The attitude which some men had towards a diploma can best be shown by the following incident: As the valedictorian of one of the ’80 classes came from the stage after graduation Prof. Williams congratulated him, to which he received the reply” …… ‘s got one too.” The fellow in question had flunked every examination in his four years of college. There was no limit to re-examinations in those days and he had taken enough until he had passed.

These were the motives leading to the formation of the society. The details of organization are briefly given as follows: Prof. Williams’ conception of the society was that its membership should be taken from those men whose grades showed them to be in the first quarter of the class. Their rating must be above 75% and they must have no conditions. In practice this was to work as follows: At the end of their Junior year the men standing in the first eighth of their class became eligible for election and at the beginning of the Senior year the first quarter of the class became eligible. The election of these men, however, was not to be on the basis of scholarship alone but in addition the men must possess high morals, qualities of good fellowship, and manifest a healthy interest and rational participation in college activities.

To start such a society so that election into it would be sought and so that its .establishment would be firm and give promise of vigorous growth was a matter requiring much careful work. How this was accomplished is best told in Prof. Williams’ own words, and we quote from a letter from him on the subject, giving the Editor of the EPITOME this information on request.

” …… Now, too many cooks spoil the broth of society building; so I decided to take nobody into my confidence. I knew what I wanted and I went to work alone.

“I first drew up a constitution and provided for granting new chapters, for an executive council, and for alumni advisers to act as a balance wheel to keep things going in line, and I made it hard to amend this instrument. I then drew up By-laws for Lehigh.

“Next, there must be a body of alumni behind the affair before the first undergraduate was let in. I delivered the valedictory for ’75 and so was eligible to the society. I took the old faculty records and calculated the standing of every man who graduated, during his four years; drew up a list of the men in the order of their stand. They must be in the first fourth of the class and also have a general average of 75. Having the eligible men of the past, I had Edwin G. Klose, of the Moravian Book Concern, buy a series of special fonts of type, which are now in the possession of the society, a lot of electrotypes of the society key, and some other matter and print a lot of diplomas. . ….. I signed them as secretary, to which office I elected myself. The answers I received from the boys were refreshing. One valedictorian said he would value it more than his diploma.

“Then I had my friend Newman, of John St., New York, file out a society key, to see how the thing looked. Then I was ready for the undergraduates. I went slowly, however, and it was May, 1885, before I told Irving A. Heikes, the best man in ’85, to stop after recitation, one morning, and asked him if he would like to be the first undergraduate to join a society. He wanted to think it over, and finally said ‘Yes,’ so I initiated him. He took post-graduate work, I think, and in the fall he and Professor Meaker, who helped me initiate the classes for several years, and Duncan, ’80, initiated the men from ’86 and the Wilbur man from ’87.

“For several years I was elected president of the society and directed the body till it began to have a good number of alumni and many representatives in the Faculty. It took like hot cakes and soon its elections were looked for. “I wanted to have Tau Beta Pi in full blast before Phi Beta Kappa came, as it would not then be looked upon as an imitation by a lot of men who could not get into the latter. In deference to the general tradition I limited the membership in Phi Beta Kappa to students in the liberal courses, and I had the charter given to a council of a few graduate members, Mr. Kitchel, Albert G. Rau, myself and a few others.

“This is the way Tau Beta Pi came to Lehigh. It was the culmination of a lot of work covering four years. I could not give as much time to it as I wanted, owing to the growth of my department. Breckenridge was elected an honorary member. Heck became president and a ‘member of the advisory board, and then it began to form chapters outside. While the founding is wholly my own unassisted work, the spread is due to others …….. “

In June, 1910, the society had a membership of 3680 divided among 24 flourishing chapters, located at institutions of acknowledged leadership in the instruction of engineering. The twenty-fifth anniversary was celebrated here at Lehigh last June and the attendance and enthusiasm in connection with the convention gave every evidence of the solidity and prestige of Tau Beta Pi. J. L. B.

Happy New Year, Comrades, and Thinking About the Class Struggle

To the right is a Soviet New Year card; I’ve featured these before.  If they look suspiciously like Christmas cards, well, that’s just the genre…

As it happens, this New Year isn’t one our counterparts on the left have looked forward to ever since That Man With the Big Hair won a couple of months ago.  There have been many recriminations about this.  For some of us the question is this: how could you people, who have showered trillions on the population while taking complete credit for it, miss running the table at election time?  (Same question in 2000, and 2004…)  I think the answer to that question comes in part from the country that produced that New Year’s card.

The left has traditionally had three wedges to drive into Euro-Christian civilisation: sex, race and class.  A fourth one, the environment, is used to underpin the other three.  This combination is a metastable one; it can work for a while, but can be only maintained with a great deal of propaganda while relying on their opponents to help keep the rickety chandelier together.

One way to simplify things is to de-emphasise one or more of them and concentrate on the others.  American conservatives like to characterise their opponents as Marxists.  This is not entirely true: there are very few real Marxists on the American political scene, even in academia.  That’s because, while Marx focused on one of those wedges–class–American liberals concentrate on sex and race.  That was certainly in evidence this last election cycle.  Had the American left struck a better balance among the three, Donald Trump–or any other Republican for that matter–would have never stood a chance of winning the White House, and that defeat would have probably taken the Senate with it.

But they didn’t.  Instead they took their stand with the pro-choice and identity politics–the latter of which is, in a sense, trying to revive pre-Enlightenment ways of governing society–and ignored the fact that income inequality only worsened under Barack Obama.  Bernie Sanders attempted to shift this back to a more class-based dialectic, but his attempt wasn’t entirely successful.  And, as we all know, the Democrat party leadership was in no mood to nominate him anyway…

Marx’ obsession with class–and that of his disciples–has its shortcomings.  The racism embedded in Russian society never changed during Soviet times.  The move to women’s rights didn’t go very far either, even though they had very liberal abortion and divorce legislation.  Their environmental policies were a disaster they are still suffering from.  But they built a nation to be reckoned with and a great industrial power.

The American left, however, is still pursuing its (or its parents’) hippie dreams of a land with free love and no need to achieve.

I still think that the American left could finish the job (close the deal, perhaps?) To do that, however, will need a lot better leadership then has surfaced up to now.  I used to say they needed to find their inner Lenin; I’m not sure they’ve got anyone at this point up to Otto von Bismarck or even Léon Blum.

Which, I suppose, is the best insurance for happiness for the rest of us…Happy New Year, comrades.

Prayer for Rosh Hashanah

From the Jewish High Holiday Prayer Book:

O God, divine Ruler of the universe, as the twilight of the old year fades into the night that marks the birth of another year, we gather together in Thy house with mingled emotions, mindful of the blessings and the sorrows Thou hast seen fit to lay upon us.

Thou, O Lord, art without beginning and without end.  Before Thee, time and change are as naught.  A thousand years in Thy sight are as yesterday when it is past, but as for man, his years are numbered; every hour is precious for Thou hast set a limit to his days on earth.  On Rosh Hashanah we become aware of the flight of time, the vanity of our possessions, and the uncertainty of life.  We feel the need of pursuing that which is timeless and indestructible.  O may our prayers on these Holy Days arouse within us lofty resolves.  Stimulate us to find richer meaning and fuller content in all our daily tasks and aspirations.

We pray that this year be for us and for all mankind a year of life and health, a year of sustenance and cheer.  Help us to make it a year of consecration to the Torah, of devotion to Israel, of loyalty to Zion and of service to humanity; a year of faith and wisdom to meet the perplexities and perils which may beset us.

On this Rosh Hashanah and in the days to come, may we acknowledge Thee our Father and regard all men as brothers.  May it be a year of peace, concord and serenity, a year in which Thy spirit will fill the hearts of all Thy children everywhere.  Amen.

Advice to Graduates: The Two Promises I Made to Myself

It may seem an odd time to do a pseudo-graduation piece. Obviously the University of Tennessee thinks so: this weekend I am supposed to officially receive my PhD degree, but the university, having spent a great deal of money on a new, traditional looking quad, doesn’t do an August graduation ceremony, with a graduation speech of any kind. So this will have to suffice.

In accreditation standards, this degree is referred to as the “terminal degree.” I agree: by the time you’re done with it, you’re just about dead. But I have other things to commemorate this year. One of those is the twentieth anniversary of our family divesting itself of our business. Accompanied by the loss of my father and brother, it was one of those times when everything was different at the end than it was at the beginning. In the wake of those events I took stock of things, sought God and made myself two interrelated promises that I have pretty much kept in the score that followed. I think they’re worth passing on because, in the midst of swelling words, it’s easy to lose sight of practicalities.

The first was that I would never again allow myself to be dependent upon one source of income. Up until that point the family business—a company with one product to boot—had been my main livelihood for eighteen years. In those years it was impressed upon me that, from a professional standpoint, the business should be like segregation to George Wallace: first, last and always. Although I had the usual consulting contracts, they wouldn’t last that long, and there were the equally usual non-compete agreements in them. With the unhappy memory of every day being a “hero or zero” event, I decided to diversify my income. It’s been very helpful. We’re supposed to sleep a third of the time; that decision made that third (and the other two-thirds) a lot happier.

One of those diversifications has been my online activity, which started the year after the business went away. It hasn’t been the most lucrative thing, but in the process of putting stuff up I’ve delved back into our family history. We’ve been successful since we’ve been here, and for my father’s family that’s about a century and a half. Much of that success has been due to the diverse nature of the income: my great-grandfather’s yachts, my grandfather’s cars and airplanes, etc. Even the “one product” family business, at the turn of the last century, had a diverse offering which included bridges, dredges, and other products. There was a historical lesson that had been forgotten, and this is a country which habitually forgets historical lessons.

To make that really work involves another family habit: living below your means and staying out of debt to the greatest extent possible. That flies in the face of a credit-driven society driven by instant gratification, and it isn’t always easy in a country where wages are compressed the way they are. That being so, without it, the advantage in your life will always shift towards those who make the payments.

The second was that I would never let my professional (or other) identity be taken over by another institution or individual. This will take a little more explaining.

When your family has been in our business as long as ours was, the public image of the two tend to run together. But which came first? My great-great-grandfather started the company in 1852, sold it eleven years later, his sons bought it back in 1881, we got out of it in 1996. It should be obvious that the company was ours as long as we had it. But that wasn’t the message I heard, especially from the family and those in the company. The message I heard all too often was that the business made us what we were and that we owed the business in perpetuity because of that. That justified the aforementioned idea that it should be the sole source of income.

Getting out of the business didn’t solve that problem. I worked for people who wanted my professional identity completely contained in the work and institution which they ran. That wasn’t any better at what was strictly a job than it was at my own business. But there are others who saw it to their advantage to let “me be me” and they reap the benefits from that. In those cases it’s been a “win-win” situation for everyone. (Remember that, in job hunting, they’re not only choosing you; you’re choosing them.)

There are two parts to this issue: the practical and the “theoretical.” From a practical standpoint, in a world where companies, institutions and even lines of work are in a perpetual state of upheaval, it doesn’t make sense to have one’s reputation in the marketplace dependent upon one institution. Sometimes one can end up the “last man (or woman) standing” in a profession, where the skill set has gone out of currency and you’re the “go-to” person. But even then the reputation needs to be yours, not your employer’s.

The “theoretical” part is a little trickier but just as important, because it goes to how you look at life in general, which in turn will determine where that life goes.

Christianity teaches that we derive our worth and value from God who created us and made our salvation possible. That being the case, it’s always amazing that, in what has been up until now a predominantly Christian country, that so many in church every Sunday pursue personal validation in this society with such gusto. We insist on driving the proper car, living in the proper house, and raising the proper children to communicate the message of success, when the Gospel tells us that none of these things is necessary for happiness.

Secularizing the country will only make this problem worse, because it takes away the alternative to worldly success without obviating the need for perpetual validation in the society. The enforced online groupthink, where we are forced to go along with the herd’s course or else, is only the most distasteful manifestation of this problem. Consider the matter of same-sex civil marriage; in a society as polarized as our is and where cohabitation is as common as it is, it’s really strange that neither or both sides could bring themselves to pitch the institution of civil marriage altogether. Everyone argued under the assumption that the state had to validate a marriage in order for it to be one. The same thing goes for our elite institutions. Whether they provide a better education is open to question; whether they confer on those who endure their degree programs a glow of respectability is not.

I used to think that my family I was born into didn’t like my Christianity because it put God in charge of things, not them. That’s true as far as it goes, but the more I think about it the more I realize that they didn’t like the fact that God defined who I was and not them. The person who defines who you are controls you, which is why identity is such a big deal in this society. My God loves and forgives, and that’s more than I can say about many people and institutions in this world.

These, then, are the two promises I made to myself past the mid-point. I am glad I did. I think you will be glad if you do too. May God richly bless you.

An American Children’s Book in the Name of Allah

1913OlcottsTheArabianNightsbyFrancesJenkinsOlcott-19No, this is not CAIR’s newest idea of subversion.  Look to the right at a page from the 1913 edition of the Arabian Nights by Frances Jenkins Olcott, an American librarian.  There at the top is the traditional Islāmic invocation “In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful,” which I have seen (with variations) in places like scientific and technical monographs.

I think it’s safe to say that Americans in the years before World War I were better informed about the tenets of Islam than they are today.  One example of this was the coverage given in Godey’s Lady’s Book about the Banner Named Barack.  There was also significant missionary activity in the Middle East in the waning years of the Ottoman Empire, and of course many of the Bible commentaries and reference books of the era contained information about the then-contemporary Middle East.

So, given what was known then and is known now, how could Olcott get away with putting this at the front of these stories? The simple explanation is that, then, the main face of Islam in the West was that of the Turk, and the Turk was having his difficulties, to say the least.  Islam in this country wasn’t perceived as much of a threat, and the Ottoman Empire’s loss of World War I only buttressed that perception.  (Europe was another story; the spectre of Islāmic conquest was always in the back of people’s minds, as Benito Mussolini knew all too well.)

Today we have two sources of misleading about Islam and the Middle East.  One from the right really doesn’t grasp anything different from what it has had, which explains George W. Bush’s quest for democracy in the Middle East.  One from the left discounts people’s beliefs in favour of their own artificial construct, which is why we careen from one failure to another these days.  Entertaining either or both of these fantasies will keep our world in turmoil.

Now Audi Cashes In on Ramadan

Not to be outdone by Renault, Audi has their own Ramadan special for Bahrainis:

AudiExtraReminder.115800For Americans, Renault is an abstraction; they have not marketed motor vehicles in this country for many years.  Audi is another matter altogether: not only are they active here but a part of Volkswagen, which has an American plant and is fairly major (if in trouble with the EPA these days.)

Renault and Ramadan Go Together

I’m not quite sure how it came about, but somehow I got on the list for a number of spammers in the Gulf States.  In any case, I’m passing along the following, an ad for Renault during Ramadan from Bahrain:

RAMADAN-PROMO-_CAPcvbvTUR_BAHRAIN_Emailer---8It also came in Arabic, but I’ll leave it at this.

Hope the dealership hides the munchies during the day…but note the showroom times: they open at 0900, close at 1300 and open back up at 1930 until 2330, except, of course, on Fridays, when they close at 1130.  The Imam at the mosque better be in top form to compete with his people’s dreams of a new car…

I’ve also seen hotels offer Ramadan feasts after dark.

Don’t Pack Heat When You’re Up for Tenure

Yesterday we, the faculty of the University of Tennessee (and this includes the Instapundit,) received the following from our President, Dr. Joseph dePietro (emphasis mine:)

On July 1, a new state law takes effect that allows Tennessee’s public colleges and universities’ full-time faculty and staff, who have handgun-carry permits, to carry handguns on campus. I want to share information about the law and the new safety policy we have adopted in response.

Safety Policy 0875 addresses how UT applies the many different state laws regarding firearms and clarifies when an employee may and may not legally carry a handgun on University property.

The policy, which also takes effect July 1, expands on the following key provisions of state law:

  • Full-time UT employees with valid Tennessee handgun-carry permits may carry handguns on UT property, if:
    • They are not enrolled as students; and
    • They notify the law enforcement agencies with jurisdiction over the UT property on which they will be carrying a handgun
  • Employees must display their handgun-carry permits on request of law enforcement officers
  • Employees must not:
    • Carry a weapon other than a handgun
    • Carry a handgun openly or in any other manner in which the handgun is visible to ordinary observation
    • Carry a handgun at certain times and locations, such as:
      • Stadiums, gymnasiums or auditoriums where University-sponsored events are in progress
      • In meetings regarding disciplinary matters or tenure

I encourage you to review the policy in its entirety and answers to frequently asked questions provided here.

Additional information about implementation efforts will be shared soon by each campus and institute. Questions can be directed to the law enforcement contacts listed within the policy.

I understand strong feelings exist regarding guns on campus and want to assure you of our unwavering commitment to the safety of our faculty, staff and students as we implement this change.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. I appreciate everything you do for the University.

I have to admit that I found the tenure proceeding exclusion a little amusing.  One would like to think that those who were up for this would have some maturity, but one can never assume anything these days.

I’m not sure about the student exclusion either, having spent the last five years as student and faculty at the same time.  I suppose that being a faculty member and student at the same time is so surreal that your mental state cannot be trusted.  I also had a student whose Mother’s Day tribute showed her and her mom at the firing range, so there are some students who could put the hurts on a potential mass shooter.

I’m not completely sold on this, we will have to see.  In the “old days,” if a person did carry on campus and saved someone’s life, the authorities would have been lenient, but we don’t live in that time any more.  But then again we’re coming up on the first anniversary of the Chattanooga shooting, and the perpetrator of that was a UTC Electrical Engineering graduate.