Thursday, September 26, 2013

IPM House

After a decade in our "new" house, we have been rethinking a bit of the land management. Our 0.31-acre property is certified wildlife habitat and does draw an impressive diversity of critters, especially dragonflies, pollinators, and birds. But invasives were really crowding out the beneficial flora to the point that we recently hired a goatscaping crew, who removed most of ten years of random growth in as many days.
A human landscaper with organic-farming expertise has been working with us as well, as we move toward slightly more active management along the lines of permaculture, which would make the land productive both in ecological and culinary terms.
With his help, we have also -- at long last -- installed a bat house. Since it is in close proximity to the university, we hope that it can be part of a broader effort to encourage IPM -- integrated pest management -- as an alternative to aerial spraying for insect pests.

Aerial spraying has growing support as mosquito-borne diseases become more common as a result of climate change. A large slice of public opinion simultaneously endorses this blunt-instrument reaction to climate change while denying that the climate is changing. We know the climate is changing, and would prefer not to poison our way out of the consequences.

So in addition to better management of standing water, bat houses (and purple martin houses, which we also have) can be part of a more nuanced approach that will not kill beneficial insects and worms along with the pests. Bats love mosquitos, leaving all the other insects for the birds!

Diversity Grant Guidelines

The document below is copied from guidelines for a diversity grant currently available at BSU. I am placing it here on my blog for the benefit of diverse stakeholders (alumni and community members) who might have ideas relevant to the grant, but who cannot access the guidelines. I apologize for the weird formatting.

ALL members of the campus community are encouraged to submit applications to fund their diversity-related projects.
Apply Now! Applications for Fall 2013 projects are due October 4, 2013
Awards recipients for fiscal year 2013 projects have been selected.
Deadlines for Fall 2013 and Spring 2014 projects
For projects occurring during Fall 2013:
  • Deadline 1: April 19, 2013
  • Deadline 2: October 4, 2013 (Maximum possible grant award is $10,000)
For projects occurring during Spring 2014:
  • Deadline 1: November 1, 2013 (Maximum possible grant award is $5,000)
  • Deadline 2: February 14, 2014 (Maximum possible grant award is $5,000)
About the Grant
The Promoting Diversity Grant is designed to promote, support, and encourage new and collaborative diversity and social justice efforts that directly benefit undergraduate students, including but not limited to programs, projects, workshops, series, events, and other creative initiatives.
  • Grants of up to $5,000* are awarded four times during the fiscal year: twice during the Fall semester and twice during the Spring semester. There are two application periods during both the Fall and Spring semesters
  • Grants are available to campus departments, offices, and officially recognized student organizations
  • All grant recipients will be required to submit the results of their project's assessments to the grant committee to gauge the impact of their program/project
  • Assessments are due 30 days from the date of the project's completion
  • Applications are judged based upon a scoring rubric
* Applicants may potentially be awarded more than $5,000 during a given cycle.  Any remaining funds from one application and disbursement cycle are rolled into the next application and disbursement cycle but only if both cycles occur within the same fiscal year. Funds remaining after the fiscal year are NOT rolled over to the next fiscal year. 
Grant Requirements
Projects that receive grant funding must meet the following criteria:
  • Relates to diversity or social justice
  • Collaborative
  • Fills a campus need or educational gap
  • Specifies learning goals
  • Conducts assessments to gauge effectiveness of program/project
  • Directly benefits undergraduate students
  • The submitted application contains all required materials and information
Preferred Criteria
Project developers are encouraged to create projects that have the following characteristics:
  • Intersectionality
  • Highly collaborative
  • Innovative or pioneering
  • Sustainable
  • Interdisciplinary
Read how the committee understands "diversity," "social justice," "collaborative," and "intersectionaliry" on our "definitions" resource. 
Grant Restrictions
Projects that include any of the below elements are not eligible for funding:
  • Funds that go to individual students to address personal financial need, including student travel to conferences
  • Projects that support a candidate for political office or ballot question
  • Projects that charge admission to BSU undergraduate students
  • Projects that include fundraising of any kind during the event
  • Funds that pay honoraria to BSU faculty or staff
  • Projects or programs that are off-campus
  • The grant will fund projects that offer gifts or prizes to participants, but the monies from the grant may not go towards those expenses
  • A project that has any expenses that violate federal, state, or local law, or BSU policies
Note: Grant recipients who fail to submit their project assessment results by the deadline are ineligible to receive funding from the Promoting Diversity Grant for one academic year.
The grant committee strongly encourages applicants to be familiar with the following:
1. The committee's working definitions of diversity and social justice, collaboration vs. cooperation, and intersectionality
2. Resources are available to help applicants write learning outcomes and assessments, potential assistance with writing outcomes and assessments from the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment is available to assist with developing learning outcomes and assessments
3. The committee's scoring rubric --the tool used to determine which projects will be grant funded
Assessment Guidelines
In a one page pdf document, summarize the results of your assessment. At minimum, include the following information based on your assessment data:
  • Specify how your project did or did not achieve your learning outcomes
  • Specify how your project did or did not benefit undergraduate students
  • Indicate if or how your project should be modified in the future to improve its benefit to undergraduate students

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Avast, Pull Together!

I am a big fan of fellow UU Robert Fulghum, and many years ago my favorite librarian and I enjoyed listening to All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten and other works as we spent many  hours on road trips in the Southwest. I was reminded of the title this morning, when I was telling a colleague about my new hobby of rowing. As he asked how I was doing, I almost responded with the "I'm busy" mantra of educators and other professionals, but I said, "keeping active" instead.

I actually meant it in the same way -- look at me and all I'm doing -- but as I said it, I realized that I really have been active for the past year in a way I was not previously. I told him that I had been rowing, and then I realized the beauty of a phrase I will be hearing later this evening: "Pull together!" It comes after we have all come to the harbor at the end of a work day, scrambling perhaps to get there in time, and then doing the complicated dance of getting ourselves into the boat and the oars out of the boat, and the whole setup into a safe place to begin rowing. The actual phrase is "... annnnnd: Pull together" as our boat steerer will lead up to the exact moment when everyone is perfectly ready, muscles taut and minds focused, so that we get the boat moving in a straight line.

This evening, that moment of pulling together will be our signal that it is time to do a bit of real work. Real work by the standards of a group of modern, middle-class professionals in need of a workout, that is: not real work compared to the rowers of the whaleship Essex, for example, or many others who toil daily in fields and factories the world over. It will be a bit more work than usual, only because of an upcoming regatta this weekend, for which we are doing some last-minute training.

And the reward for that work will be the other nautical word that I have come to appreciate: "Avast!" It means stop, which sometimes means there are more instructions coming. But it also means rest: take a moment to enjoy the privilege of being quiet on the water for just a few minutes. 

In my year of rowing, I have written several posts on this blog about the technical things I have learned. But these three words -- avast, pull together -- capture the true lessons.

And after we have enjoyed our moment of rest, it will once again be, "Pull together!"

Image: Whaling City Rowing

Fantasy League Rebound


It is once again time to talk about our friend, the pink unicorn, the emblem of free markets. In August, I mentioned the fantastical creature in connection with Spirit Level, an analysis of the deleterious effects of income concentration. That the rich get richer is bad enough; that many of them believe they are winning a game that is not rigged is just annoying. That many of them do know that the game is rigged is just wrong.

A couple of days later, my Return of the Pink Unicorn post described a temporary drop in stock markets that occurred when minutes of a Federal Reserve meeting suggested that the game might not be rigged quite as much in favor of investors. The impression was quickly reversed, and so were falling stock prices.

Which brings us to this morning. The Federal Reserve actually did meet yesterday, and it decided to keep stimulating growth, sending stock markets around the world up by more than one percent. The number at the top of this post is a very conservative estimate of the capital gains made JUST TODAY on the basis of that one announcement. I base the estimate on a report on world market capitalization from the American Enterprise Institute. The first word of its tagline is "freedom," but it is not really serious about that.

This news comes as Congress is debating whether to keep funding food subsidies for the poor, a program that has long had the support of conservative Senator Dole, who is aghast at his own party's selfishness these days. Cuts on the order of $4 billion per year are being contemplated by anti-tax fetishists in the House of Representatives who are both inhumane and bad at math. The result would be an unprovoked humanitarian injury that would also increase unemployment in the food sector and that would not balance the Federal budget.

Just as global capital "earned" more yesterday that Congress intends to save at the expense of poor people, middle-class families such as my own do also benefit. Those of use with typical retirement portfolios also "earned" as much yesterday as we can expect to spend in welfare-related taxes over the next several years. In this way, a game rigged for the top one percent earns the complicity of the next 10 percent or so.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Syria Q & A, Without the A

When in doubt, look at a map. If the situation in Syria were simple, it would have been resolved by now. Syria is a country drawn by arbitrary borders than enclose rival ethnic, religious, and linguistic communities. The distribution of political power among these communities is often imbalanced. And Syria is in a neighborhood -- the Levant -- in which this sort of geographic complication is common, but nonetheless dangerous. Max Fisher describes the background and importance of this map in more detail in his Washington Post blog entry of August 27, The One Map that Shows Why Syria is So Complicated.

I found the map as a link in his more recent post of August 29. In 9 Questions About Syria You Were Too Embarrassed to Ask, he provides information that is more specific about the current question facing the United States of whether, why, and how to intervene in Syria's terrible civil war. Far from uplifting or encouraging, he does explain how this truly is a conundrum, with no easy answers. He cannot address every nuance in such short articles, but these are very good places to become better informed about Syria.

These articles prepare the reader for another thoughtful piece, written by Jim Walsh for WBUR. His title also acknowledges the complexity and the importance of deicsions being made in Washington, London, Paris, and Moscow at the moment: So Many Questions, So Few Clear Answers on Syria and Chemical Weapons.

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