Saturday, April 21, 2007

RBoC for a Saturday

A few random thoughts from the weekend:

  • Ran into a former student today. Learned that he is graduating as an Electrical Engineer next week, and that another student from that group graduated in December and is now working as an EE for Sprint. He was smiling, and so was I.
  • Its great to live and teach close to the WFU that most of my students attend. I see them around town, hear how they are doing, learn what things they really use after they leave my class, sometimes I even get them to come back and pass on some wisdom to the next crop of students.
  • One of them did just that on Friday, describing how he is required to solve an engineering problem and how many points get taken off for leaving something out.
  • A computer programming student thought that modern cars are less safe than older cars because they sustain so much damage in a crash. An pre-engineering student set him straight, which pleased me no end, and I elaborated with examples from the 60s ... when cars survived the crash and the passengers died, rather than vice versa. I know one thing I will emphasize in my gen-ed class this time around.
  • Profgrrrl may have a great new necklace, but what she really needs are donations for her marathon fund-raising effort. Pay her a visit and contribute what you can.
  • I will not point out that the Supreme Court's new inequality [woman's life > fetus's life > woman's health > any other not-a-legally-protected-human life] is a much more slippery slope than any of the slopes they thought they were working on. I also will not tolerate comments on what I did not point out, but will say that the chattering classes on both sides had very little to say about this very fine line that got drawn in the sand. They were too busy shouting from their respective scripts.
  • Today was a truly beautiful day.
  • I can't believe my brother has been writing computer code that our lives depend on for over 33 years, but I sure am glad that he is doing it. We should all be glad that he makes sure the guy with a degree from a fancy name-brand famous university, rather than the Enormous State U he graduated from, does not write a program that drops all of the bombs off of one wing of the airplane before dropping some of the ones off of the other. Can you spell center of gravity, children? (Love that story of his, which came up back when he first pointed me to profgrrrrl's blog. She wrote about overhearing future math teachers complaining about math being on their math ed exam.) Keep up the good work, kid. Wish I could send you some of my graduates, but they think it is too cold up there even though they hardly ever go outside down here ... because it is too hot.

... plus quite a few left over from the past week's events:
  • NBC owes 20 minutes of a network newscast and a full half hour of cable coverage to each one of the 32 murder victims, glorifying their lives much as they glorified the killer.
  • The other networks need to do the same, since they used NBC's actions as an excuse to evade having to explain their equally slimy actions.
  • For the news anchors who can't do arithmetic, that is one victim feature a day for the entire month of May, including weekends and holidays, plus the last day of April.
  • I was speechless when a talking head on NBC/MSNBC said, almost in the same breath, that the killer's actions were clearly intended to use murder as a way to get a national soapbox for his insane rant, but they were going to do it anyway. Other people deserved that attention, not the murderer. Did you notice I did not mention his name?
  • With a ratio of 5 faculty to 27 students killed, either he was targeting the faculty in each classroom or every one of them stood their ground and put the students first, just as we are trained to do in an emergency situation (such as a lab fire).
  • I lost count of how many mental health professionals (some psychiatrists, some not, some possibly licensed in Virginia) talked about the situation without once mentioning the court cases from circa 1970 that make it impossible to hold a person who is not, at this particular moment, certifiably a danger to himself and/or others.
  • I don't think I heard anyone, liberal, conservative, moderate, or progressive mention his parents. Perhaps this is because the living can sue for libel, but government agencies, NGOs, public figures, and universities cannot. Did they ever talk to his teachers during a PTA meeting? Did they know about his mental health treatment (or was that blocked by FERPA)? Or was this the other parallel to Columbine? Did they assume he would just turn out like his older sister if they went about their business?
  • All sides of the gun control question are as insane as the shooter. Apparently Virginia, like the state I live in, makes it illegal to have a gun on campus unless you are a law enforcement officer. He was not a felon, mentally incompetent, etc etc and he even followed the restrictive rules on time delays between purchases. If handguns were illegal, he probably would have legally bought a shotgun and sawed it off. If he needed a hunting license to buy a shotgun, he probably would have gotten one. If concealed carry was allowed on campus, what are the odds that freshmen in a french class or graduate students in engineering would be carrying guns on a random spring day on one of the safer campuses in the country?
  • That said, I do feel a bit safer in my classroom than I would at most universities, because I know that my classes contain persons who are perfectly capable of killing an armed gunman with their bare hands, and might even have done so in service to their country. A CC has quite a few returning veterans making the transition to university. I'd trust them with my life, just as they trust me with their (academic) future.
  • Someone pushing his website says parents should use it to check how safe a campus is before sending their kids there. He forgot to say that doing so would have told them that Blacksburg is a really safe place to go to school. Useless self-promotion, enabled by the cable news folks who never asked him what his site said about VaTech last spring. And is it now, on average, more dangerous than Columbia or Chicago?
  • Did the people who said this was the worst murder rampage ever in US history forget the mass murder that took place in Oklahoma City because it was more than a decade ago? What an insult to those families, and so close to the latest anniversary of that event.
I think that emptied the "clip" of bullets on the control panel, so that must cover everything. If not, it is close enough.

1 comment:

The Thomas said...

I keep hearing "worst school disaster" with little mention of the one that killed 45 people 80 years ago.