Clancy's blog

Firefox 1.0.5 is driving me crazy

Yesterday I installed Firefox 1.0.5 and, like a dolt, didn't keep 1.0.4 around. I'm having the most infuriating problem, one that they're talking about on the forums: I can't open links in new tabs. When I right click and select "Open in new tab," nothing happens. I can't open links in new windows either. I have to copy the URL, open a new tab, and paste it in. I don't know if I can take this anymore. I've tried selecting the option that makes all links open in new tabs, and that didn't work. I tried installing the new version of Tabbrowser Extensions, and that didn't work either. I've looked online and can't find an earlier version of Firefox to download. If you can find a link to a place where I can get 1.0.4, please post it in a comment here. Or maybe they'll fix the problem in this imminent new release.

In a related story, was hacked.

Reading around

Three good essays I've read recently:

  1. Via Feministe and Strangechord, the article by Vandana Shiva in Ecologist Online. A couple of excerpts:

    If I grow my own food, and do not sell it, then this does not contribute to GDP, and so does not contribute towards ‘growth’. People are therefore perceived as poor if they eat the food they have grown rather than commercially produced and distributed processed junk foods sold by global agri-business. They are seen as poor if they live in self-built housing made form ecologically adapted natural materials like bamboo and mud rather than in cement houses. They are seen as poor if they wear garments manufactured from handmade natural fibres rather than synthetics. Yet sustenance living, which the rich West perceives as poverty, does not necessarily imply a low physical quality of life.

    [. . .]

    Because of dumping and trade liberalisation, farm prices in India are tumbling, meaning that the country’s peasants are losing $26 billion each year; this at a time when ‘development’ is all the while creating markets for costly seeds and agrichemicals. Unable to exist in the world that has been created for them, these now poverty-stricken peasants are committing suicide in their thousands. Patents on medicines increase the cost of Aids drugs from $200 to $20,000, and cancer drugs from $2,400 to $36,000, for a year’s treatment. Water is privatised and global corporations profit to the tune of $1 trillion by selling once free water to the poor. So, too, the $50 billion of ‘aid’ trickling North to South is but a tenth of the $500 billion being sucked South to North thanks to interest payments and other unjust mechanisms in the global economy imposed by the World Bank and the IMF.

    I'm much inclined to trust Shiva's expertise, but I'd be interested to know what sources those numbers came from. At any rate, it doesn't seem right to equate sustenance living with poverty. I would appreciate hearing a libertarian's take on Shiva's essay; I'm thinking here of that exchange between Laura and Megan McArdle a while back.

  2. What We Know, by Noam Chomsky. Good stuff that exposes some flaws in the reasoning of some occupants of positions of power. One example:

    In 1991, the chief economist of the World Bank wrote an internal memo on pollution, in which he demonstrated that the bank should be encouraging migration of polluting industries to the poorest countries. The reason is that “measurement of the costs of health impairing pollution depends on the foregone earnings from increased morbidity and mortality,” so it is rational for “health impairing pollution” to be sent to the poorest countries, where mortality is higher and wages are lowest. Other factors lead to the same conclusion, for example, the fact that “aesthetic pollution concerns” are more “welfare enhancing” among the rich. He pointed out, accurately, that the logic of his memo is “impeccable,” and any “moral reasons” or “social concerns” that might be adduced “could be turned around and used more or less effectively against every Bank proposal for liberalization,” so they presumably cannot be relevant.

    The memo was leaked and elicited a storm of protest, typified by the reaction of Brazil’s secretary of the environment, who wrote him a letter saying that “your reasoning is perfectly logical but totally insane.” The secretary was fired, while the author of the memo became treasury secretary under President Clinton and is now the president of Harvard University.

  3. The Power and the Glory: Myths of American exceptionalism, by Howard Zinn. In it, Zinn historicizes "American exceptionalism," the idea that "the United States alone has the right, whether by divine sanction or moral obligation, to bring civilization, or democracy, or liberty to the rest of the world, by violence if necessary," reminding us that it's a long-standing tradition that goes way past the George W. Bush Administration. Chomsky's essay provides some other "okay, but we're exempt from this rule" examples and is a good complement to the Zinn piece. I'll confess, I haven't read any Zinn, but I'd guess that this essay (based on a talk he gave recently at MIT) is a standard representation of the other work he's done. Is that the case?

Redesign time

A new design was long overdue. This one's from Too Good to Be True, Sweet Valley High #11. The dark-haired vixen in the picture is Suzanne Devlin, Elizabeth and Jessica's cousin from New York. The two families arrange it so that Suzanne comes to spend a week with the Wakefields, and Jessica goes to New York to stay with the Devlins. Long story short, Suzanne wreaks havoc on Sweet Valley, attempting to seduce beloved teacher Mr. Collins and claiming he sexually assaulted her (*cringe*), and Jessica, who has been left on her own by the jet-setting Devlins, is in over her head with those fast big-city boys. I attached the original cover to this post, so click the title if you want to download it.

I don't know how long I'll keep this one up, but I needed a change.

UPDATE: This one's for...well...let's just say someone begged me to make this my banner image.

New CDs!

I decided I couldn't hold out any longer, so I bought some CDs I've been wanting for a while:

  • Jean Ritchie And Doc Watson Live At Folk City, Jean Ritchie and Doc Watson (It has this great song, "What'll I Do With The Baby-O?" that I heard on NPR once)
  • Sketches of My Culture, Cornel West (Aaaargh. I tried to resist, and for a long time I did. But I'm just too curious.)
  • Ballads from Her Appalachian Family Tradition, Jean Ritchie
  • Mountain Hearth & Home, Jean Ritchie
  • Nouvelle Vague, Nouvelle Vague (on Collin's recommendation)
  • Rock Swings, Paul Anka (that Washington Post review totally made me want it)
  • Has Been, William Shatner (on Harrison's recommendation)

Bonk. Bonk. Bonk.

Yeah. That's the sound of my head banging against the wall of my office as I take short breaks from reading this thread at The Chronicle. Plenty of people, it seems, agree with Ivan Tribble. In case you don't feel like reading through the whole thing, common arguments in the thread include "there's a difference between having a private life and putting it out there in public" and "the hiring process is confidential, we don't take minutes at these meetings, and this person is going to be here 30+ years, so we should be able to use our discretion and maybe, yes, pass on candidates who blog." There was also this comment:

My experience is limited, but while I do have well-rounded colleagues who publish, the only colleagues I have had who were sufficiently into another field to devote the kind of time a blog requires (or attended Star Trek conventions, or was into sailing at a substantial level) have done this sort of thing at the expense of scholarly output. In at least 2 cases I know of people who did just the research needed to get tenure, and afterwards the hobby took precedence over the scholarship. Obviously this is what tenure means in a contemporary context, but if a department is trying to elevate its profile, the committee may look for signs that a candidate may have SUBSTANTIAL competing interests.

There's that assumption again -- a common one -- that blogging and scholarship are mutually exclusive. I certainly don't intend to single this poster out, only to say that I've heard this argument plenty of times, and I'm concerned about it. Of course I think academics should be able to write to a reasonable extent about their (our) personal lives without fear, but obviously many professors on hiring committees don't know a lot about research blogging, and I don't think we've done enough to communicate these other uses of weblogs. Academic bloggers who use our weblogs as research tools really need to get the word out that knowledge management is an increasingly common use of weblogs, and that using weblogs as research tools not only often opens up doors for scholars but also can reflect very well upon the universities where they work. I hope another professor on a hiring committee writes a rebuttal titled something like "Rollin' Out the Red Carpet for Bloggers" or "Bloggers We Wuuuuv You."

Privacy, blogging, ethics, and oh yeah, that Chronicle article

I recently ran across Bloggers' Expectations of Privacy and Accountability: An Initial Survey, published in the April 2005 issue of the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. One theme that jumps out at me is the researchers' findings about how blogging affects bloggers' careers; I found it especially pertinent in light of the now-infamous Chronicle article (my emphasis):

When asked to explain the kinds of problems they had encountered because of materials published on their blogs, respondents described the following situations:

A message that I posted insulted a co-worker at a non-profit where I work. The non-profit suspended me from my work for three months.
- a male blogger from New York

I got 7 extra weekend duties for criticizing an army officer, even though I didn't name him, but merely alluded to him on my blog. - a male blogger from Singapore

A TV station that I worked for […] found my writings about people at the station, from a personal standpoint and said that I had spoken to some in a (subjectively) non-flattering light. After seeing these public entries in my blog, I was fired.
- a male blogger from North Carolina

These stories echo those found on newspapers and magazines about bloggers who have lost their jobs because of materials they published on their sites (Bray, 2004; Phillips, 2003; Sarnataro, 2003; St. John, 2003). Clearly, the notion of what defines "socially acceptable behavior" on blogs has yet to be collectively defined.

[. . .]

Bloggers write not only about themselves but often also about other people with whom they interact. When asked whether they sought other people's permission to blog about them, 66% of respondents almost never asked permission, and only 3% said they always asked permission first. Interestingly, only 9% of the survey respondents said they never blogged about people they knew personally. Thus the great majority of respondents write about people they know but most of them never ask their permission to do so. Furthermore, no correlation was found between how private the content of an entry is and whether authors ask permission to write about the people they know. In other words, respondents who tend to write about more private situations or experiences do not ask permission from their friends or acquaintances any more frequently than those who do not write personal entries.

[. . .]

Will companies read candidates' blogs before making hiring decisions, similar to what happened with Usenet newsgroups in the past? One of the respondents in the survey alluded to this kind of situation:

Early on in my job hunt, I applied for a low-paying job and then agonized [on my blog] over whether to take it. The next day, I noticed several hits to my journal from that employer, and they never called me back. I have no way of knowing for certain, but I suspect my blog post may have cost me that job.
- a female blogger from Massachusetts

[. . .]

Despite the emerging privacy strategies described in this study, authors reported having difficulty negotiating privacy boundaries under certain circumstances. The workplace is one setting where such problematic situations regularly occur. Bloggers' privacy boundaries in the workplace have yet not been clearly established, either socially or legally. As the quotations in the previous sections illustrate, this is one area of conflict that greatly affects bloggers, at times resulting in authors being fired from their jobs. It is likely that, while disagreement over what constitutes acceptable blogging material persists, bloggers will continue to be reprimanded and employers will continue to be frustrated by their employees' blogging activities.

[. . .]

One recommendation that emerges from the findings of this study is that companies should share the responsibility of articulating what constitutes acceptable blogging behavior and what they see as problematic practices. Some companies have already started to enunciate blogging guidelines for employees. A few companies have posted written policies concerning personal blogs on their Web sites, including clear, point-by-point suggestions addressing issues that are sensitive to the company but that may not occur to employee bloggers when they choose to discuss matters related to the company's technology or business.8 Such policies could serve as the first step in a broader process of negotiation between employers and employees as blogging practices continue to evolve.

Now I'd like to point toward some of the considerations in the AoIR Ethics Report:

One broad consideration: the greater the acknowledged publicity of the venue, the less obligation there may be to protect individual privacy, confidentiality, right to informed consent, etc. (p. 5)

[. . .]

A broad consideration: the greater the vulnerability of the author / subject - the greater the obligation of the researcher to protect the author / subject.(p. 5)

[. . .]

Alternatively: Are participants in this environment best understood as “subjects” (in the senses common in human subjects research in medicine and the social sciences) – or as authors whose texts/artifacts are intended as public?

If participants are best understood as subjects in the first sense (e.g., as they participate in small chatrooms, MUDs or MOOs intended to provide reasonably secure domains for private exchanges), then greater obligations to protect autonomy, privacy, confidentiality, etc., are likely to follow.

If, by contrast, subjects may be understood as authors intending for their work to be public (e.g., e-mail postings to large listserves and USENET groups; public webpages such as homepages, Web logs, etc.; chat exchanges in publicly accessible chatrooms, etc.) – then fewer obligations to protect autonomy, privacy, confidentiality, etc., will likely follow. (p. 7)

That's it for now.

He will crush you like an academic ninja!

Been meaning to blog this one for a while: "He Will Crush You Like an Academic Ninja!": Exploring Teacher Ratings on It's definitely interesting; here are some excerpts that caught my eye (emphases all mine):

Students also commented on what information they value more at the statistical and visual elements (smileys, numerical ratings, chili peppers, etc.) or the actual written comments. Not surprisingly, students rely more on the written over the non-written portion of the evaluations. The students basically ignore the numerical ratings, but if they look at any, the easiness score is the one most consulted. The smileys, the students noted, are hard to ignore and are good for creating a first impression of the teacher and the course. For example, if the teacher has many "angry" versus "smiley" faces, this appears to influence their opinion of the teacher initially, but they will investigate further to read the actual written comments. The chili peppers are generally disregarded; students reported that they do not place importance on whether or not a teacher is rated as "sexy." One student summarized this idea by stating, "I think the hot tamale thing kind of takes away from the credibility of the site. If you're looking for a professor, obviously their level of attractiveness isn't really a top priority."

[. . .]

[Students] were confident that they could pick out the ones that are fair and honest and the ones that are vengeful and sarcastic.

[. . .]

Besides posting to pass along important information to other students, several of the students mentioned revenge or venting. If they had a bad experience in a certain class with a certain professor, posting to the site was their way passing along information, but also of "getting back" at that instructor. For example, one student shared her reason for posting. "I do it so people won't take that professor, but I think it's more my revenge in a way. It's my way of getting back at them."

[. . .]

One theme that emerged when discussing posting practices was the notion of posting a comment about a professor only if the students really liked or really disliked the professor. "I only post when I have a really strong opinion of a teacher, either really good or really bad," one student reported. In other words, neutral feelings about a professor did not motivate students to post. Students felt reporting about these specific instances would be most useful for other students.

[. . .]

The content of students' comments on the website and the statements recorded in our focus groups demonstrated an overall concern for teacher competence above other considerations such as appearance, race, or gender. Issues such as appearance and personality were less important to students as reflected in the present study. However, appearance and personality were related to ratings and to perceptions of instructors in general. We find confirmation of the primacy of teacher competence in the fact that focus group participants in the present study independently indicated that their posting priorities had to do primarily with the quality of the professors and the content of the courses. We cannot, however, rule out the importance of other factors such as perceptions of a teacher being easy, as we found a strong positive relationship between easiness ratings and overall quality ratings (cf. Felton et al., 2003).

Oh, also: "One interesting finding in [Ahmadi et al. (2001)] is that when asked if the results [of teaching evaluations] should be made public, over two-thirds said yes; students suggested publishing the information in newspapers and on the Internet."

Blog Balm

I'll be the first to say, I think the whole "Chicken Soup for the _____'s Soul" gimmick got very tired, fast. The other day I was at the grocery store and saw that they have Chicken-Soup-for-the-Soul-inspired pet food. But today I was trying to describe Jo(e) to someone. I said, "She has four kids, she's an academic, and she's really compassionate. I get a soothing feeling reading her blog." Her blog is, I have to say, rather chicken soup-y (in a good way!). As are Dale's, Jodi's, Heather's, and Zoot's. What about you all? What blogs are chicken soup for you?

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