Monday, December 8, 2014

The Short Tragic Life of Robert Peace

I just finished a really well done book -- The Short Tragic Life of Robert Peace.  I am sorry that it had to be written.  I am glad that it was.

Robert Peace was a Yalie from Newark.  He played water polo, majored in MB&B, was a member of secret society.  And, a little over a decade after graduating, he was gunned down in Newark over drugs.

This book dealt with friendship, race, fitting in at Yale, and the struggles of one student to straddle the worlds of Newark and the academy. I can't say that I saw much of what Robert Peace saw at Yale, even though we played the same sport.  Seeing things from his vantage point through this book makes me reflect back on people I knew, experiences I had.  It made me wonder whether I really understood much of anything about where many of our classmates were coming from.

Check out some of the reviews by clicking here, or here.

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace

A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League

Reporting on Rape -- an Update on the UVA Story

Recently, I blogged about the coverage of rape on college campuses.  Since then, the Rolling Stone piece about UVA has been called into question.

Many have written about what the UVA story means, particularly now that some of the details of the account at the heart of the story that kicked off this debate have been called into question.  How allegations of rape, how sex and issues of consent and how women should be treated on campus are still important issues to grapple with.

Below is a piece I read on line at The New Yorker by
 Margaret Talbot.  Thought it was interesting.
What do you think?

Last month, Rolling Stone ran an article about an alleged gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity house, based on interviews with a student identified only as “Jackie.” It now appears that key details of the story, reported by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, may not be true. Other journalists—notably, my friend Hanna Rosin and Allison Benedikt, at Slate, and Paul Farhi, Erik Wemple, and T. Rees Shapiro, at The Washington Post—raised doubts about the reporting late last month, but Rolling Stone dismissed them. Then, on Friday, the magazine issued a statement saying, “In the face of new information reported by the Washington Post and other news outlets, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account.” (An earlier version of the statement had emphasized the magazine’s trust in Jackie, and regretted that it had been “misplaced”—wording that seemed to settle too much responsibility for the story’s shortcomings on Jackie and not enough on the reporter or her editors.)Rolling Stones statement did not enumerate the discrepancies, but the Post did.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sacred Journeys with Bruce Feiler --- Premiering December 16 on PBS


Sacred Journeys with Bruce Feiler

Join best-selling author/adventurer Bruce Feiler on an epic journey as he travels with contemporary pilgrims on six historic pilgrimages around the world and explores how these sacred landscapes and revitalized routes are reshaping faith

YaleWomen and Women Faculty Forum unite to examine gender rules

Check out the latest on the "Gender Rules" conference, in this report from

Hundreds of Yale women graduates, faculty, and students gathered for the "Gender Rules" conversation. (Photo by Amy Wong)
Nearly 300 Yale alumni, faculty, students, staff, and friends gathered on Nov. 1 for a day-long conversation titled “Gender Rules,” about gender diversity and access, outcome, and equality.
The meeting was convened byYaleWomen, the shared interest group for all Yale women alums that operates under the auspices of the Association of Yale Alumni, and the Yale Women Faculty Forum (WFF).
The two groups have taken root on campus and among the extended Yale community of alumni. The WFF was established in 2001 during university’s tercentennial year to highlight the presence of women at Yale and the accomplishments of Yale alumnae. YaleWomen was formed following the 2010 celebration of 40 years of co-education in Yale College, and has been the fastest growing group in the Yale alumni network.
The 2014 conference, the first major event undertaken jointly by the two groups, fulfilled the aspirations for “a way to tap into the talents of the women represented by a Yale women’s network of both faculty and graduates” that were voiced in 2001 at the WFF’s inaugural conference titled “Gender Matters,” by Linda Koch Lorimer ’77 J.D., then the vice president and secretary of the university and now vice president for global and strategic initiatives, and one of the moderators of the 2014 event. Lorimer in 2001 asked, “Could we imagine a ‘new sisters’ connection,’ one that had such a robust inventory of the resources Yale women represent (our experiences, talents and interests) that we could call upon one another to help address the larger issues facing our society?”

Oh, the botany! Corpse plant blooms, withers in day

Here's the latest about one of our classmates -- and one of my roommates! -- Rob Raguso.  I think Rob is one of the most successful of our classmates because he has followed his passions from the day he entered Yale and has crafted a professional and personal life that is true to those passions and his values.  An inspiration!  Here's a piece about Rob from the Ithaca Journal.

Oh, the botany! Corpse plant blooms, withers in day

Cornell University’s corpse plant bloomed at 4 p.m. Wednesday but in the overnight hours, it unexpectedly started to wither.
At 8:30 Thursday morning, visitors saw the plant’s purple spathe and the tall spadix starting to collapse.
“It’s fading early and we didn’t expect,” said Professor Robert Raguso, whose students have been documenting the plant, known as Wee Stinky, in two hour intervals.
It looked like it had lost water pressure, Raguso said. That was not expected until Friday.
The tall, tropical plant, found in the Sumatran rainforests, is named for the noxious odor it emits, described by some as “rotting meat” or “dead fish” when it blooms to attract flies and beetles.
The peak of the stink came Wednesday evening as predicted, the first day the plant bloomed. Crowds of people came and socialized while learning about the plant.
“I think it’s terrific, because it brings people together almost like an art installation, ” Raguso said.

Check out the new Yale Daily News interview with Carl Zimmer

In conversation: Richard Prum and Carl Zimmer

Photo by Elizabeth Miles.
Yale professor Richard Prum, who received the MacArthur Genius Grant in 2009 for his work in evolutionary ornithology, and Carl Zimmer ’87, English professor and science journalist for The New York Times and other publications, first met when Prum came to Yale in 2004. The two friends got together one Tuesday afternoon for a quick chat by the taxidermic bird collections of the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History.

On the evolutionary psychologist in the Jane Austen seminar  

P: The question I’m interested in is: how is the aesthetic change that happens in human acts like the aesthetic change that happens in nature? And really what it’s about is studying subjective experience, which most scientists are afraid of. That the fact that you like something — that’s a force in nature. What I’m trying to do is make that the subject of our study, and I think we can study it comparatively. So — two species had some ancestor that had the same song. And those two species no longer prefer the same song that the ancestor did — they sing different songs. So we can’t know what it’s like to like a certain song, but we can examine how changes occur … Subjective experience won’t be reducible to standard analysis, but we can create new ways to approach it and understand aspects of it that people are afraid of.

This whole work has led to a broader interest in aesthetics in human arts and in that case, I start with the body of work that is science and gradually move into a body of work that isn’t science, but somehow it is compatible with science. And that’s what I’m interested in now. How is it that the different bodies of knowledge are interconnected? But in a respectful way. I’m not a scientist walking into the humanities to say, “OK, let me explain. Once you understand this, you’ll understand your field.” That’s not what it is at all. What I’m trying to do is create a scientific perspective that supports work in the humanities and social sciences.

Z: I’m an old English major here, so I always find it kind of funny that evolutionary psychologists are barging into English departments and explaining Jane Austen to them in terms of fitness, and so on. It’s not necessarily that it’s wrong, but it brushes away important issues about culture and history and even just the kind of thing that literature is great at — exploring language and [how] language works in our lives and how it can betray us, all its complexities. Sometimes scientists seem to want to bring it down to some basic principles.

And that is an effort to explain away culture, not explain culture. And unfortunately a lot of people associate this with the mission of science. That reductionist relation is the value. And there are all sorts of examples in science where that failed and we gave up on it and moved on with better science.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Yale Glee Club

In the last several months, I have rediscovered the beauty of the Yale Glee Club.  At the convocation welcoming the new freshman, the Glee Club sang a song that was new to me -- Raise Your Voices, but the current Glee Club director, Jeffrey Douma.  (A YouTube video of it is below.)  Listen to the words . . . very moving.  I couldn't help but cry as I heard them.

Facebook, the source of all wisdom, informed me earlier this week that the Yale Glee Club concert at Harvard was being broadcast via livestreaming.  It was terrific.  If you'd like to hear future concerts, you can in the comfort of your own home.

Their next concert is December 7, and it is a sing along of Handel's Messiah.  Here are the details:

December 7, 2014 - 1:30pm
Join the Yale Glee Club and the Yale Symphony Orchestra for our Annual Messiah Sing-In and sing along to the chorus sections of Handel’s The Messiah. We will perform a number of excerpts from the timeless oratorio. Scores will be available for purchase, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit New Haven’s homeless.
Admission is free; $5 suggested donation at the door.

Sexual Violence on College Campuses

Over the last several years, there have been investigations into the treatment of sexual assault allegations at universities around the country,including Yale.   Last weekend, Yale Law Professor Jed Rubenfeld penned a thought provoking op-ed, entitled Mishandling Rape, about what appears to be a widespread issue with sexual assaults on college campuses around the country, and different responses to these assaults.  (Click here to read that piece.)   Now, there are terribly disturbing accounts in a recent Rolling Stone piece (see the article by clicking here) of sexual assault at the University of Virginia. 
In the last several months, I look at college differently, as a parent of a student and as the parent of three other children who will go to college some day.  How should colleges provide safe environments where young adults can study, socialize and form meaningful adult relationships, with all that entails?  Where can our children go to school free from worry that they will be assaulted?
These articles also make me wonder -- were there things during our college years we should have discussed more?  Are there aspects of our experience that were not positive for some of our classmates that we should discuss now?

What do you think?  It would be interesting to hear our classmates' perspectives on this.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Yale Travel

Have you checked out Yale Educational Travel lately?  Well, you might want to take a look.  They have broadened their selection a great deal, offering trips that suit families and are closer to many of us (and,therefore, must more doable).  Here is a brief decipription:

Yale Educational Travel offers very special travel opportunities.  We aim to provide memorable experiences by combining fascinating itineraries, talented faculty, interesting traveling companions, knowledgeable guides, and opportunities to meet with local alumni in the countries visited.  When you travel with YET you can count on a rewarding blend of discovery, adventure, and learning.  Our travelers are lively, inquisitive, and eager to broaden their cultural and intellectual horizons.

They are offering a Civil War tour booked for June, 2015, which really caught my eye:


Join other Yale Alumni, their friends, and families in a four night, three day guided tour of the battlefields of South Mountain, Antietam and Gettysburg representing of Lee's 1862-1863 northern incursions including illustrated talks by a Yale scholar

How A Group Of Yale Students Pulled Off The Greatest College Prank Of All Time -- From Business Insider

Saw this on Business Insider and thought I would share it:

How A Group Of Yale Students Pulled Off The Greatest College Prank Of All Time

Harvard Yale University Prank We SuckCourtesy of Mike Kai
Mike Kai and David Aulicino were seniors at Yale in 2004 when they, along with 20 friends dressed as the fictional "Harvard Pep Squad," boldly entered Harvard's football stadium and convinced close to 2,000 unsuspecting Crimson fans to help spell out two words — "WE SUCK."
The prank — brilliant in its simplicity — actually took more than a year of planning to properly execute. For the 10th anniversary of the "WE SUCK" gag, Business Insider spoke with Kai and Aulicino, who explained just how they were able to pull off one of the greatest college pranks of all time.
Yale University Students Harvard Prank We SuckCourtesy of Mike KaiYale students and prank masterminds David Aulicino (l) and Mike Kai (r) pose with a stack of red and white construction paper.