Tuesday, December 12, 2023

@dartmouthalumni @dartmouthcollege Welcoming President Bielock

On December 11, I went to Chelsea Piers 60 to attend a Dartmouth Alumni function to welcome President Bielock, 19th President of Dartmouth College.  I don't think I had been to this location before, tho I had been a background actor at another pier.  I should have realized, based on the other pier, that this was going to be an enormous facility, but I didn't realize until I got there.

Before arriving, I had this fantasy that I might actually get to meet the new President personally and might get to say something to her.  Once I got into the room where the ceremony was to be held, that fantasy quickly faded.  

We were informed that New York City has the largest collection of Dartmouth alumni of any city in the world. Later, I talked to one of the Dartmouth staff who was there and asked how many people they had.  She said that 1300 had accepted, but the room where we were seated only held 950, and not all seats were full, so they had had some drop off.  

When you go to an Ivy League College, you get the feeling that you're special.  When you go to this type of event, you don't feel at all special -- just a face in the crowd, if that.  

I once joined a group that was supposed to be for all Ivy League graduates in NYC.  The organizer of that group said that there were 250,000 Ivy League graduates in New York City.  That *really* makes you feel *not* special.

President Bielock is the first female, but only the 19th, president of Dartmouth College.  Since the college was founded in 1769, this would appear to mean that the average president has served for slightly over 14 years.  There's a funny contrast there for me.  254 years seems like a very long time; but realizing that there have only been 19 presidents in that time makes it seem like not such a very long time at all -- sort of the opposite of the size of the room, which made me feel insignificant, the number of presidents made her seem more significant.

Next time, if I go to an event like this, I should try to go to a different location.  I bet, if I went to London, there wouldn't be more than fifty people there.  On the other hand, do I really want to go to London for something like this?

This is a photo of President Bielock.  I'm incorporating this photo by reference from the college website.  I hope they don't take it down.

She clearly knows how to smile for the camera.  To me, tho, the smile looks forced.  Am I going to get flamed for saying that?

I'm thinking back to a discussion that I had on Facebook with some female actress friends.  One of them was asserting that smiling is subservient behavior and demanding that women smile is dominance behavior.  I wonder about that, looking at this picture

I noticed that she asked one of the other speakers to address her by her first name, Sian, rather than President Bielock.  If I understood correctly, he declined.  While I'm a Quaker, and we have been historically opposed to the use of titles, I sort of like the idea of his not wanting to call her "Sian" in front of this huge gathering.  President Bielock seemed more appropriate.

Of course, on everyone's mind was the recent kerfuffle where presidents of big Ivy schools were grilled by Congress over alleged calls for genocide on their campuses.  NY Times op-ed  There were some noteworthy points about that congressional hearing.  One was the seemingly evasive and unsatisfying answers of the presidents of Harvard, U Penn, and MIT.  Another was that they were *all* women.  The representative, Stefanik of NY, questioning them in a commonly viewed TV clip was also a woman.  

So here was Dartmouth's first woman President speaking only a few days later.  She addressed this famous situation by assuring us that "threatening genocide" was a violation of college policies.  Everyone cheered.

Curiously, though, the question posed to the other presidents was whether "calling for genocide" violated their codes of conduct -- not "threatening."  I wondered about the difference.  Why did she change the wording?  To me, the difference is significant.  Threatening violence is clearly a violation of the code of conduct of most places.  Calling for violence might not be.  Why did she want to leave us to guess about how she might have answered the real question?  The introductions clearly presented a brilliant woman of sterling academic and administrative credentials.  It seems unlikely to me that she made the wording change by accident.

Dartmouth was credited publicly for having forums where different opinions could be aired in a safe way on the Israel/Gaza situation. NPR article This was mentioned during the presentation.  It was nice seeing Dartmouth come up in a favorable story in the news.  Usually, when Dartmouth appears, it's because something bad has happened, like murders.  

I don't really know the situation on campus recently, but Dartmouth always used to be a quite a different place from those other campuses -- smaller, more conservative, less overtly political.  When my mom, a Mt Holyoke grad, learned that I wanted to go to Dartmouth she said "Those people fought on the side of the British in the Revolutionary War and they've been like that ever since," clearly implying that a liberal, as she expected her daughter to be, should not want to go there.  I wonder if Dartmouth's response could have worked elsewhere.

Bielock did give a rousing speech.  She definitely knows how to make a speech.  Knowing how to make a good speech is an important skill for the position of college president, imho.

Fortunately, since I didn't take notes, the college has helpfully put up a summary of the key topics in that speech

  • Fostering mental health and wellness across campus
  • Creating “brave spaces” for open dialogue about challenging topics
  • Strengthening our community’s lifelong bonds with Dartmouth, particularly to promote  professional and career development
  • Becoming a real carbon zero campus to minimize Dartmouth’s contribution to global climate change and advance sustainability
  • Unleashing the intellectual firepower of faculty, students, and alumni to drive innovation and impact
There were so many things I wanted to say to her, in that fantasy conversation that never happened -- indeed I never located her in the crowd after her speech.  There were a couple of women who sort of looked like her, but, upon close inspection, I was persuaded that they were not her.

Of course, I didn't look for her until after I finished eating, so she might well have left by that time.  I ate with a couple of very nice, and much younger, female alums and one mom.  It was pleasant.  I got two new instagram followers.

I think I was the only one in that gathering still wearing a mask.  I should mention that it was quite the departure from my normal post pandemic behavior to even go into such a large crowd.  I did take off the mask to eat, but not the rest of the time.  

Ultimately, I decided, given that I *do* have a college education, I might write some of the things I would otherwise have said to President Bielock.  

One thing I noticed, despite her stated desire to be carbon zero -- on some timeline, which struck me as rather pie in the sky -- was that she said she drives her daughter to school every morning.  That's sweet.  However, presumably, the daughter has the option to either walk or take a bus to school.  Driving is an extra trip.  Even if President Bielock has an electric vehicle, the power she uses to charge it is likely not all carbon zero.  

I've noticed this amongst a lot of so-called environmentalists -- that going carbon zero is generally someone else's responsibility.  I went to a gathering of environmental activists questioning congressional candidates in the 2020 election, and the topic came around to protecting national parks.  I asked some of the organizers afterwards how they were getting to those national parks without burning fossil fuels.  The response was quite amusing, in a way, as to why, somehow, traveling to a national park didn't count as burning fossil fuels -- much, I suppose, the way cheating on a diet with high calorie foods somehow is thought not to count -- except that those calories do in fact show up visibly on people's bodies.  

Physics is actually real.  I say this as a former physics major.

I also did want to tell her about my own rather negative experience with seeking counseling at student health services when I was a student at Dartmouth.  I think I'll write about that to her directly.  

I also wanted to tell her that I still am not ok with the college having unilaterally reneged on its 19th century promise to have the alumni control 50% of the board of trustees of the college.  

I'm running out of steam here.  More to come.  I often edit blogs after publishing them.  This might be like that.


Oh, I should mention that this facility has a spectacular view of the New Jersey skyline at night.  During the day, it's an ugly sight, but at night it's glorious.  I only got one blurry photo.  I should have done more.

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Friday, February 10, 2023

@adskmaya @autodesk user interface challenges for beginners

  I have been studying 3-D modeling and 3-D animation with Maya for about a year and a half now. I wanted to talk about a couple of aspects of your user interface that have really caused me to make a lot of serious errors in my models and animation.

The first problem is the proximity of the alt key and the space bar . I’ve been a touch typist all my life.  I’m used to not looking that carefully when I hit the keys. In Maya, I commonly hit the spacebar instead of the alt key, which results in all kinds of bizarre artifacts in my files. It took me a long time to even figure out what was going wrong, as a beginning student.

The second problem has to do with the channel box. Quite often a field remains highlighted in the channel box, even though my cursor is really in another part of the interface. Since the field in the channel box is highlighted, I originally thought that meant that I could type into the channel box. In other software, if the field is highlighted, that means that you can type there. Instead, I often typed numbers into the viewport, which changed the viewport display.  Again this was very confusing to me as beginning student, since I didn’t understand what had happened. If the cursor is not really in the channel box, it shouldn’t look like the cursor is in the channel box.

I’ve been taking a course via zoom from Westchester Community College. The professor was not available in my home to look over my hands and see what was going wrong as a result of these user interface issues. It took me several months to figure out the cause of my problems.

I’m hoping that this feedback will help you improve the user interface somehow, especially for beginners.              

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Musings about Pacifism and Just War

Comment I made during FB conversation:

During the Viet Nam war, I felt completely persuaded that we were wrongly preventing self-determination of another country, based on unreasonable fears and prejudices. We also visited horrors on the country of Viet Nam. If you look at St. Augustine's doctrine of "just war," the Viet Nam war clearly failed the test.

This was seems different.  There is a country that has been wrongly invaded by someone else who is trying to remove their power of self-determination.  With respect to this war, we are on the side that the Russians were on during the Viet Nam war -- helping a country that was wrongly attacked.

It's a challenge for me, as a Quaker, to my pacifism.  I'm still praying about that.


During the Viet Nam war, the US military did not accept as conscientious objectors those who said that the Viet Nam war was not a Just War under the St. Augustine test.  You had to object to all wars.   

The US military should not be an arbiter of my pacifism, tho.

Monday, January 23, 2023

On mis-gendering trans women

 I get so confused having 2 trans women in my family. 

It's called being mommy brained, you know. My ex's mother, when my ex was small (formerly he), called all of her 4 sons "Nor-Frank-Al-Bruce, whatever your name is." That was all 4 of their names. 

It's not so easy to correct conditioned reflexes that have passed into the subconscious. 

I find myself hesitating whenever I say the word "he," even when it's a cis male. I have to stop and think and say to myself "wait, it's ok to call him, 'he.' He doesn't mind. He might even prefer it." 

Personally, when asked what my preferred pronoun is, I refuse to commit. I espouse no 3rd person pronouns, so long as I'm addressed with respect. 3rd person pronouns are for other people.  Let them say whatever.

Similarly, I'm having trouble using the Maya software that I am trying to get comfortable with, because there's a lot of pinky work in the left hand. You have to use shift, control, alt, and sometimes shift plus control. Then, on Mac, it's sort of confusing whether command or option is going to be the alt key, because it's not always the same. Also, on Mac, normally control click is the same as right click; but not in Maya. Maya does not recognize control click as being the same as a right mouse button click. I'm constantly pressing the wrong thing with that uncooperative pinky and having uncontrolled things appear on the screen that I don't even know what they are. I find that my left pinky has a mind of its own. That's very similar to what happens when I use the wrong pronoun.

I had something similar happen when I was taking dancing classes a few years ago. I could hear what the instructor said. I understood what instructor said. I knew that I wasn't doing what the instructor said. But my body wasn't cooperating. It wasn't willing to do what I wanted to do.  Some of us have neurological limitations.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Comments about avatar

This is a stub of a review of Avatar II.  I posted these comments on someone's post on FB.  He said he wasn't able to sit through the movie and he thought it was too full of stereotypical sequences.  

Here was my response: 

I sat through the whole thing, with one bathroom visit. I did have to take the glasses off when walking around, because they interfered with my balance and made me woozy. 

Yeah, these things do usually have the same plot of someone trying to destroy the world, though here it was not quite the whole world. 

One thing that was unusual was that the people were the bad guys and the aliens were the good guys. 

I was somewhat disappointed in the 3D aspect. I walked out of the first one feeling like I had been flying and craving more. This time the 3D effect was much more subtle and subliminal. I wasn’t conscious of it most of the time. 

I want to see more of the story of the adopted daughter who was said to have epilepsy, but turned out to really have some kind of deep spiritual connection. She intrigued me. I feel like they might have been setting her up for her own sequel. 

The suspense was much more intense towards the end. Really, literally got me up on the edge of my seat. 

I don’t feel that that part was at all stereotypical. I don’t want to put in spoilers, tho.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Protest of illegal "No Trespassing" sign, landscaping, and plantings

This is the text of an e-mail message that I have sent to Richard Slingerland, Village Administrator, Village of Tarrytown, NY

I hereby formally protest the placement of a "No Trespassing" sign and landscaping on the longstanding pedestrian pathway between Grove Street and Leroy Avenue adjacent the temple.

This is a longstanding pedestrian walkway. I have lived in this neighborhood for 33 years.  That walkway was already well-worn when I arrived here.  My family and at least one other family I know have been using the pathway for over 25 years.  

The New York State statue of limitations for adverse possession is 10 years (NY CPLR §212).  Many people have been openly and notoriously using this path for much longer than that.  Any right that the Temple might have had to block this public easement has long since expired.

The placement of this sign and of landscaping blocking and obscuring the path are illegal infringements on a public easement and right of way.

I hereby formally request that the village assist the public in forcing the removal of the illegal "No Trespassing" sign and illegal placement of landscaping and trees from the public right of way.

#Easement #PublicEasement #AdversePossession #BethAbraham #TempleBethAbraham #IllegalNoTrespassingSign #TarrytownNY