Archive for August, 2005

Gambling, addiction, and all that jazz

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005 | Erin Harkless
Dan Daranciang

This is the first part of a three-part series discussing the allure, addiction, and effects of the poker craze on WU’s campus and elsewhere. Look for the next installment on Monday, Sept. 7.

One monitor, four hands, potentially $60 or more made in one hour of play. For many young people, this could be a typical evening in a game of online poker, where the stakes are high, but the thrill of a potential win leaves the victor feeling even higher.

Junior David Barlow started playing poker in high school with friends. When he arrived at Washington University, he played in a few live games, but eventually turned to online poker. He felt he was a little better than the competition he was going up against in live games and therefore good enough to venture into the world of online poker. Although he was timid at first, he made the initial deposit of $50 and began to play. Now he feels he can win almost anytime he sits down to play.

“When I sit down, I expect to win. Losing is out of the ordinary,” said Barlow.

He noted that there was a huge percentage increase in how much money he made online, and at first, it was fun to play for that reason. While playing live poker games was more of a social activity and an opportunity to have fun with friends, Barlow explained that it is not necessarily the best medium for optimal play. There is more emphasis on making money in online play.

Early on, Barlow was playing anywhere from 30 to 40 hours per week. He said he doesn’t need a lot of sleep to function, so he’d play late at night. Initially, his playing wasn’t taking away from his studies-but eventually he felt it starting to catch up.

Now Barlow is playing closer to 10 hours a week at most, as he has a heavier class load this semester, along with less desire to play. Now, online poker playing is just another source of income for Barlow.

“It’s not necessarily fun anymore, but it’s a way to make money easily,” he said.

On-Campus and Online

In the past few years, America’s fascination with poker has grown. From ESPN’s broadcasts of The World Series of Poker and Tilt, its new series on poker players in Las Vegas, to the Celebrity Poker Showdown on the Bravo Network, poker is all over television. This increased visibility plus the ease of learning games such as Texas Hold’em has made poker a popular pastime or sport for people of all ages.

Psychology professor Leonard Green explained that a social activity like poker is a reinforcing behavior. The positive reinforcement of winning along with the visual enjoyment that comes from actually watching the goings-on makes poker a game that students can easily pass their time playing.

“It’s a type of virtual social engagement,” said Green.

Many students start playing live games with friends, but the higher stakes of the online game draw many to that arena. Popular sites include and Players can download the software online, and then must register a bank account or credit card so money can be put into the account. After the account is registered, play begins, often among individuals who do not know each other. offers a multitude of games, including Texas Hold’em, Omaha Hi/Low and Seven-Card Stud. In addition, a range of tournaments are available on the site for players to engage in. Wagering can be limited, no limit or pot limit. Buy-ins on the site vary depending on the stakes of the game, but are usually ten times the lower stake of the game. has been in operation since 2001 and claims to be the world’s largest poker room on its Web site. boasts over 20,000 players, 3,000 tables and close to 900 tournaments on its site daily. It also maintains a frequent player point program that rewards players for playing on their site and a statistical tracker that allows players to monitor the number of times they have played a hand in various positions or the number of times they have been dealt in.

On campus, students have found online poker to be an easy way to pass their time in their rooms, between classes, or even while at work on various jobs around campus that are computer accessible. Like Barlow, most started playing in high school and have continued with the game in college, where free time often seems to abound. Some students still play in live tournaments, but online games are a good way to increase the stakes and bring in more money.

For students looking for live games, numerous campus groups have sponsored poker tournaments on campus this year. Dan Marx, a junior, coordinated two poker tournaments this past spring as AEPi’s Thurtene fundraising co-chair. The tournaments usually had a $15 buy-in and lasted between four and five hours.

“People seem to have fun and it’s a good way to raise money,” Marx said.

Other players stick mostly with the online game, as they see it as the best way to test their skills and bring in a nice income. Sophomore Harrison Moffitt has used in the past, but plans on switching to because he will be able to take advantage of a rake-back deal. In most cases, the company’s take is known as the rake. An affiliate will offer Moffitt roughly $400 a month, mostly based on the amount of poker he plays. In this deal, he will be able to get some of his rake back and make extra money on top of what he earns from the actual games he plays.

The glory of Division III athletics

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005 | Justin Davidson
Dan Daranciang

Welcome to Division III sports. It is here that Washington University lays its allegiance, and despite the stellar athletic programs the University boasts, you won’t see thousands of fans storming the Washington University Field House any time soon. Nor will you see a number of Bears athletes moving onto professional leagues following graduation. And there’s no chance in hell that you’ll see more fans at the basketball game than at your weekly Beirut tournament, that’s for sure. But this is all we have, and beggars can’t be choosers.

Division III Sports: Don’t Knock It ‘Til You’ve Tried It

Let’s face it-Division III sports teams don’t hold a candle to your favorite NCAA sports team you go crazy for during March Madness. But that’s not to say that rooting for your Washington University Bears and attending games like you did for your high school football team should automatically be discounted because they’re Division III. Though the level of play may not be up to par with future NBA players, and the biggest rivalry you’ll see in the Bears’ conference-the University Athletic Association (UAA), a.k.a. “The Smart School Conference”-is probably with Emory University or Brandeis University, there are some unique features of Division III play that you won’t get anywhere else.

First, all D-III athletes must be students before athletes. No varsity athlete can have an athletic scholarship and, at least at Washington University, all athletes must first be accepted to the school through the same process and requirements that all other students go through. So what you see from our athletes proudly wearing the Red and Green is first and foremost a group of people who actually attend class, something you won’t see from the likes of most top NBA draft picks. In Division III, if a player’s GPA drops below a minimum requirement, he is suspended from athletic activities until he can bring his GPA back, regardless of who he is.

The ironic thing about this policy, however, is that for the overwhelming majority of these student-athletes at the University, keeping the GPA up is never a problem. The average GPAs of all the varsity athletes was significantly higher than the average GPAs of the rest of the student body last year, so it seems like these talented people have the Superman-like powers to balance a year-round athletic career with the demanding rigors of Wash. U. academia.

Being a varsity athlete is no walk in the park. A typical day can involve waking up at 5-6 a.m. to lift weights and train for a couple of hours, followed by five hours of intense class like organic chemistry lab, grabbing a quick bite to eat before a biology exam, then heading straight to a grueling afternoon practice. After that is a stop for dinner, then it’s straight to the library for a couple hours of well-managed and focused studying. Next: bedtime.

You really have to admire what a varsity athlete goes through during the year-an athlete’s social life during the season is basically reduced to nothing. Every day is an arduous battle just to get through it all, and yet if you ask just about any athlete, not one of them would give it up for anything. Though many fans might not seem to give a hoot, every athlete bleeds Red and Green through and through.

Bear Sports: “These Guys Ain’t Too F-ing Bad!”

So here’s a group of Division III athletes who do better than most University students in the classroom while also taking on the full responsibilities of a varsity athlete-clearly the Bears have too much going on to win games, right?

Wrong. Year after year we have teams competing for national championships and winning conference titles, and we have players pitching no-hitters and winning spots on All-American teams. Believe it or not, Washington University athletics are actually very successful across the board. When you have your volleyball team winning the National Championship what seems to be every year, or your softball team being the No. 1 ranked team in the nation before falling to the defending national champion in the Regional Finals, or when just about every other University team wins the UAA Conference Title every year, it proves that not only are these excellent students, but gifted athletes as well.

Division III athletics may not be the most glamorous thing in the world, but it can definitely be something that will surprise you if given the chance. And even if you’re not that much into Bear sports, going to home games and events are a great way to get free food. Red Alert is a student group that works to attract fans to go to home games by giving them all the free Dominos pizza they can eat. Add that to the potential prizes that can be won through raffles, and you just might have a great reason to show up.

Despite its relatively small size, Washington University athletics can be very exciting and worthwhile, and you would be doing a disservice to both yourself and your Bear athletes who put so much into representing the Red and Green by missing out.

Police Beat

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005 | John Hewitt

Wednesday, Aug. 24

10:35 a.m. THEFT, WEST CAMPUS BUILDING-Mail received requesting $26,500.00 be wired to an account in Japan. Request fraudulent. Disposition: Under investigation.

8:17 p.m. AUTO ACCIDENT, SOUTH 40 RESIDENCE AREA-One vehicle, no injuries. Disposition:ÿCleared.

Thursday, Aug. 25

12:56 p.m. THEFT, SOUTH BROOKINGS-Contractor reported tools stolen from South Brookings Hall. Tools were stolen from the mechanical equipment room, which had the door open for workers going in and out of the room. Theft occurred between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. ÿDisposition: ÿUnder investigation.

4:54 p.m. THEFT, STEALING OVER $500,ÿPARK HOUSE DORM-Victimÿ reported her wallet, including her ATM card,ÿ stolen between the hours of 3:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m.ÿVictim is unsure where the theft occurred.ÿValue to be at approx. $58.00. ÿDisposition: ÿUnder investigation.

7:15 p.m. THEFT, ATHLETIC COMPLEX-Victim reported his wallet with ATM Debit card to be stolen today between the hours of 6:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. The victim believes it to have been stolen from the Athletic Complex while his locker was left insecure between 8:50 a.m. and 9:40 a.m. The ATM card was used at several locations in the area. Disposition:ÿUnder investigation.

9:34 p.m. MEDICAL, MALLINCKRODT CENTER-Sick case. Disposition: Cleared.

Friday, Aug. 26

1:11 a.m. MEDICAL, FORSYTH HOUSE-Accidental injury. Disposition: ÿCleared.

12:38 p.m. MEDICAL, COMPTON HALL-Sick case. Disposition: ÿCleared.

2:09 p.m. THEFT, FRATERNITY ROW-Frat House 11 stored two large speakers and one mixer in their chapter room over the summer.ÿUpon their return the items were missing. Disposition:ÿUnder investigation.

4:28 p.m. AUTO ACCIDENT, SNOW WAY-Two vehicles, very minor. ÿDisposition:ÿCleared.

Saturday, Aug. 27

3:56 p.m. AUTO ACCIDENT, PARK HOUSE DORM-Report of an accident in front of Park Dorm. Vehicles involved were a Budget moving truck and a parked SUV.ÿNo injuries to report.ÿMinor damaged to the left front fender of the parked vehicle/SUV. ÿ Disposition: Cleared.

Sunday, Aug. 28

2:12 p.m. THEFT, MUDD-Bicycle taken from bike rack located on the north side of Mudd dorm between 8/27/05 at 6:30 p.m. and 8/28/05 at 2:00 p.m.ÿTotal loss valued at $100. Disposition: ÿPending.

Monday, Aug. 29

1:28 p.m. THEFT, HURD DORM-Stolen bicycle was last seen on 8/23/05, described as blue Gary Ficher Marlon bike. Disposition: ÿPending.
Tuesday, Aug. 30

2:57 a.m. THEFT, ELIOT HOUSE-Caller reports four students returning a ping-pong table to Thomas Eliot after they had stolen the same table.ÿCaller further advises the table was damaged. Disposition: Referred to Judicial Administrator.

Israel evacuates Gaza Strip settlements

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005 | John Hewitt
Dan Daranciang

Over the past month, a historical drama has been unfolding in a 360-square kilometer strip of land on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The withdrawal of Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip is an event fraught with controversy whose impact is felt on campus, where many students study the Middle East and participate in clubs devoted to discussion and advocacy of issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The evacuation of Israeli settlers began at midnight on August 15. It marked the end of a 38-year long Israeli presence in the region that started with the armistice at the conclusion of the Six-Day War. Living in a densely populated region home to 1.4 million Palestinians, the Israeli settlers were a tiny but highly political minority of 9,000. The potential effects of their absence are a subject of significant debate.

“The disengagement was a painful but necessary step towards peace.ÿBy withdrawing from Gaza, Israelÿhas shown its commitment to the peace process, and the world must now look to the Palestinians to see whether Israeli concessions will be met with calm or with more terrorism,” said sophomore Ben Yungher, president of Washington University Students for Israel. “Few question the legitimate grounds for discontent that settlers in Gaza have;ÿnobody deserves to be uprooted from their home.ÿ However, the Israeli government has recognized these problems and is doing its best to financially compensate evacuees.”

Securing Israel from further attacks is one of the original justifications for the maintenance of an Israeli presence in the Gaza Strip. Although Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldiers are still occupying the area, they will be withdrawn in late September according to the disengagement plan timeline. After the soldiers withdraw from their installations, the IDF will still control the region’s borders.

“While we feel that Israel has made a wise decision in pulling out of Gaza and several West Bank settlements, it does not settle the major problems that Israel imposes on the Palestinians. Their unilateral pullout will hopefully do much to prevent further violence in the region, but further withdrawal from West Bank settlements to allow Palestinian freedom of movement and employment will be a true test of Israeli intentions,” said sophomore Rashied Amini, internal vice president of Sakina, a Palestinian advocacy and discussion group.

“…While it is important to understand the grief and trauma suffered by those Israeli settlers who were displaced in the withdrawal, it is only a small fraction of what Palestinian refugees have been experiencing for over half a century,” said Amini.

Neither Amini nor Yungher’s views are meant to represent the stance of their respective groups.

The plan has been criticized as a method for freezing the peace process and bypassing solutions brokered by international law. Critics cite an interview in the Haaretz newspaper with Dov Weisglass, one of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s most senior advisors.

“The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process,” said Weisglass. “And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda…and all this with authority and permission. All with a presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress…”

“The disengagement is actually formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians,” said Weisglass.

Freshman class first to participate in AlcoholEdu

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005 | Alison Curran

Dean of Students Justin Carroll made a special request of this year’s incoming freshman class-he asked them to complete an online alcohol education program called AlcoholEdu this summer. The Class of 2009 is the first class required to complete the personalized tutorial before arriving for orientation.

“AlcoholEdu is a science-based, non-opinionated, online course specific to the user,” said Brandon Busteed, founder and CEO of Outside the Classroom, the creators of the AlcoholEdu program. The tool is used to help put students on the “same page” with their education of alcohol and its effects, he said. The program, which personalizes itself based on a student’s responses, asks students whether they are drinkers and whether they are male or female and surveys their attitudes on alcohol-related issues.

The two-hour tutorial presents situations involving alcohol that could arise in a college situation and uses video, case studies and interactive features. Students participating in the tutorial take tests at the beginning and end of the program to gage the program’s educational effects.

AlcoholEdu targets harm prevention for students who indicate that they do not drink and harm reduction for students who may be high-risk drinkers, said Busteed.

Washington University adopted the program with the related goal of helping students reach their fullest potential, said Melissa Ruwitch, coordinator of health promotion services.

“The greatest value of the program is to help students stay on track academically,” said Ruwitch.

So far, Ruwitch is pleased with the program’s results.

“We had fabulous results from the class,” said Ruwitch. “[As of Aug. 27], 95 percent of the class has taken the exam.”

The University is concerned with helping students grow in this academic environment and reach their full academic potential, Ruwitch explained. The health issues associated with alcohol and drug misuse include injury, accidents and bad judgment. Bad judgment can result in assault, sexual abuse, unsafe sex and vandalism.

She explained that students’ recreational choices affect their academics as well as their personal lives. “What happens outside the classroom does affect what happens inside the classroom,” said Ruwitch.

Busteed founded the program five years ago, just one year out of Duke University. He was motivated to start the program after meeting bright students who were limited by their drinking, he said.

“AlcoholEdu is currently used on 500 campuses and is growing rapidly,” said Busteed.

Busteed added that the program is currently a requirement in some capacity at one half of the top 100 schools, as ranked by US News & World Report.

New crˆpes, Asian food and no more to Kosher Cart

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005 | Laura Geggel

In an attempt to boost student turnout at Ursa’s, Bon App‚tit is shaking up the menu, adding crˆpes and a hot cocoa bar to the caf‚.

“We want to try to draw in more students, [so] we added a crˆpe bar. It will be sweet and savory with meat crˆpes and sweet crˆpes,” said Kathy Carmody, general manager of Bon App‚tit.

On a regular weekday, Ursa’s services between 400-600 students. Five times as many students congregate at Bear’s Den, with its larger selection and longer hours, at a rate of 3,000 students per day.

“We would just like to take some pressure off Bear’s Den,” said Carmody.

Now open from 6 p.m.-1 a.m., Ursa’s also has remodeled its coffee station. The new section boasts a cocoa bar where students can make cocoas with espresso and different flavored whipped creams, “just to bring something different there to try to draw students in,” explained Carmody.

Also on the South 40, Bear’s Den and Bear Mart underwent a few price increases.

“We didn’t change any concepts in there,” Carmody said.

Center Court also has new hours of 6 p.m.-9 p.m. to better accommodate students and business.

Other Bon App‚tit dining areas also have altered menus. The Village is now geared more toward vegan and vegetarian tastes and houses an array of vegetables that will change daily.

“You can make your own kind of thing,” said Carmody. “It’s like a protein bar that’s a mixture of raw and cooked vegetables and grains. You can pick the different items, like grilled asparagus, rice and lentils and put in what you want.”

While dining changes occur around campus, students will return to a familiar Taco Bell stand in the Mallinckrodt food court. The franchise’s contract expires in November, and, although no brand-name replacement has yet filled out a contract to take over the Taco Bell, Carmody said that Bon App‚tit and its parent company, Compass, are working to bring in an Asian-themed food service.

“Frankly, we need to meet with more students to figure out what we’re going to put in there,” said Carmody.

In response to last year’s controversy over how much Taco Bell’s parent company, Yum! Brands, Inc., paid its tomato gatherers, Student Union sent out a survey to all undergraduates last spring asking whether or not students wanted to boot the bell. More students replied that they would rather have Asian food instead of Taco Bell.

“[We’ll] put an Asian concept in there over Christmas break so that we have something for the spring,” said Carmody, adding that Bon App‚tit would be catering the Asian food until a brand-name food service agrees to move into Mallinckrodt. “We don’t have the time to do a branded Asian concept in there over Christmas. Obviously we can’t get construction done in a month,” she said.

Upstairs in Mallinckrodt, the Kosher Cart will not return.

“We did eliminate the Kosher Cart, but it will not eliminate the availability of kosher food,” said Marilyn Pollack, director of Dining Services.

“We had so many students requesting kosher food at [places like] Whispers, so we decided to have kosher food packs available at more units instead of keeping the Kosher Cart open,” Carmody added.

Kosher pre-packs will now be available in the Hilltop Bakery, Center Court, the food court at Mallinckrodt, Whispers, the Village, Bear’s Den and Bear Mart.

Overall, Bon App‚tit is trying to make healthier places to eat on campus.

“Our nutritionist meets with the executive chef several times a year to go over recipes to make sure we can reduce sodium and fat content. We have eliminated all trans-fats from any oil or butter substitute [and] we have low fat mayonnaise,” said Pollack. “We are constantly looking at ways to make food healthier.”

Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005 | Mandy Silver and Sarah Kliff
KRT Campus

Tulane University sophomore Chazz Howard helped freshmen carry suitcases into their new dorms as Hurricane Katrina, with winds gusting to 165 mph, headed for their New Orleans campus. Just hours after freshmen arrived, the evacuation notices came in.

“Halfway through helping freshmen move in, we heard that classes were cancelled and we had to get out of the city,” said Howard.

Freshmen, on campus for less than 24 hours, repacked their suitcases and headed home. While some of his friends remained behind, Howard and his roommate evacuated the city, leaving behind newly set-up dorm rooms and all belongings.

“All of my stuff is still there,” said Howard. “I was living on Frat Row. When you’re in a hurricane, you don’t know the variables so you get out as quickly as you can…I made the decision to grab some clothes, get gas and get out.”

For students returning to Tulane this fall, the typical hurdles of move-in became miniscule as the city of New Orleans braced for Hurricane Katrina. On Monday the hurricane hit the Gulf Coast, leaving dozens dead and the city of New Orleans flooded. With 80 percent of the city under water-in some places 20 feet deep-the city was evacuated on Sunday.

Howard spent one night at the University of Mississippi before heading home to Nashville, where he is hosting his roommate and waiting out the storm. He has been unable to get in contact with friends who have remained on campus because Tulane’s Web site and New Orleans’ phone lines are both down.

Howard’s only source of information from the university has been a temporary Web site set up at In the site’s most recent update, it tells students that the university “cannot determine at this time when employees and students should return to campus,” only noting that classes will not begin before Wednesday, Sept. 7. The site also confirms that “all of [Tulane’s] people are safe, including all the students and staff who evacuated to Jackson, Mississippi.”

With phone lines down, some Washington University students are also waiting for news from New Orleans. Senior Zena Johnson has yet to make contact with her family. She is still wondering if they are among the 20 percent of residents who remained in the city.

“New Orleans announces a lot of evacuations, and I know my dad never leaves,” said Johnson. “I don’t know whether he’s waiting to be rescued on a rooftop or if he got out in time.

“I actually have no idea where my immediate family is because cell phones and house phones are not working in the whole southern region of the state. I have been able to get in touch with my other relatives,” said Johnson.

While some Tulane students remain behind and others wait for the storm to pass, sophomore David Schwartz has no plans to return to the campus. A Texas native, Schwartz was about to board a plane for New Orleans when he received a call from his father, whose friend, an administrator at Tulane, had warned him of the disaster. Schwartz returned home and now plans to stay there.

“If I don’t transfer to [University of Texas], I feel like I’m going to have to get a job or just sit around for weeks or possibly months,” Schwartz said. “Recovery looked feasible at first, but there was a storm surge-Tulane is literally underwater, toxic waste is in the city, and dead bodies are floating around. There’s no way Tulane is going to open for the fall.”

While Schwartz makes alternate plans for his sophomore year, Howard awaits his return to New Orleans. Even if the campus does not reopen for the fall semester, he will continue to pursue his degree at Tulane.

“If I don’t go back in the fall, I’ll probably go to work,” said Howard. “I’m not going to abandon Tulane by jumping ship and transferring. I’m loyal to Tulane. I have a scholarship, and I like it there.”

Better living through blogging?

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005 | Margaret Bauer

This summer, tracking service Technorati reported that new online journals, or “blogs,” were being started at a rate of about 40,000 per day. Last November, statistics released by the Pew Internet and American Life Project indicated that 8 million Americans had started blogs. With the kind of growth rate Technorati is reporting, that number is surely much higher now.

That’s a lot of people slinging ideas around in cyberspace. Blogs not only allow people to publish their opinions, but they may also be changing the substance of our thoughts and interactions.

As any Washington University blogger could tell you, hyperaware, self-conscious bloggers invent tropes and memes at a phenomenal rate. Some of the resultant terms are bandied about in the popular media. We speak of “the blogging revolution” and “the blogosphere,” using bloggers’ own terms to describe the phenomenon.

I’ve tracked the blogging community for several years now as both a participant and a facilitator. Until this year, I was in charge of daily operations for a start-up blogging site, We provided a free blogging interface until a botched software upgrade last fall left the site’s 500 users, including myself, unable to access their accounts. That pretty much ended our foray into the blogging world.

The upshot of that experience, though, was that it allowed me to spend two years observing the “blogosphere” firsthand. One of the most striking things I’ve observed is the tendency for bloggers to rewrite their lives as they occur.

Such an approach to living our lives reflects a trend toward what author Thomas de Zengotita would call “mediated” interaction. In a recent book, “Mediated: The Hidden Effects of Media on People, Places, and Things,” de Zengotita posits the idea that everyone’s actions are mediated by the culture with which they come in contact. Everyone is a method actor, says de Zengotita. Each individual is living the movie of his or her life.

Those of us who are continually in contact with pop culture-including University students-become particularly vulnerable to this mindset. Advertisers and producers continually target us, telling us that our lives and our choices are paramount. Like the backyard basketball player who whispers crowd noise and cheers to himself, we begin to see ourselves as stars of our own show.

Why not? Reality TV says it’s okay. We see ourselves through the lens of the biopic that will be written about us when we die-except we want that screenplay to be written right now. Enter blogging.

The continual process of reinventing oneself that blogging engenders may not be a bad thing. A blogger can be Perry Mason one day and John Wayne the next, evading the adoption of a set persona. His writing may vary with his mood.

Such easy familiarity with the writing process constitutes progress by itself. More people are churning out more content all the time. Put a million bloggers in front of a million keyboards, … la mile Borel’s monkeys, and something good may come of it.

Yet blogging also puts perceptions through the mill of the writing process, subtly altering them to reflect the direction of the narrative rather than real life. As such, blogging may put distance between writers and their lives, blunting the sharp, direct experience of things as they happen. Bloggers begin to put stock in a post-hoc version of events.

I’ve witnessed situations where someone asked a blogger how he was doing, and he referred them to his blog, as it told the story the way he wanted it to be told. Bloggers sometimes assume that everyone who matters reads their blog, so they stop telling people about their lives directly.

Not only that, but we mine conversations for kernels of thought that we can blog about, much like the raconteur who saves his best stories for a particular audience. The blogging modus operandi becomes “write more, faster,” and we begin to shed the caution and judgment calls that initially accompanied the endeavor. After a while, our lives are lived for the page.

Blogs can be valuable tools for self-discovery, expressing individual choice and agency. Yet in a mediated culture like de Zengotita describes, blogging becomes an expression of our socialized desire to demand continual choice and agency in all aspects of our lives.

The fictionalizing that occurs in the writing of a blog post is a way of controlling the way we perceive ourselves and, in turn, the way the world perceives us. As millions of bloggers can attest, the blogging phenomenon reflects a real change in the way we move through the world.

A brown experience

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005 | Jill Strominger

Several men on campus decide they prefer the women’s restroom. A straight-A student earns her first C. The president declares a pre-emptive war on another nation. Our parents no longer tell us right from wrong. We all attempt to figure out how to reach our dreams. Our college experience is definitely brown; our world is brown. Before you begin another litany of complaints about reading Richard Rodriguez, step back and give his work a real chance. If you aren’t a freshman and haven’t read “Brown” (or if you are a freshman and haven’t read it yet-you rebel, you), take a serious look at what Rodriguez is saying-it applies directly to your life at this very moment. Rodriguez writes about “brownness,” not just with regard to race or ethnicity but as a part of every life experience.

I know you think the book is confusing. It confuses me, too. In fact, it confuses me more every time I reread it, but it’s supposed to be that way. Rodriguez tells us that “brown confuses.” It’s the “cement between leaves of paradox.” Paradox is confusing-it makes you hold your head in your hands and take thirty aspirin, but dealing with paradox is how we move forward as a society.

It doesn’t matter whether you are talking about confusion of identity within blended cultures, the twin paradox you learn about in physics or mathematical formulas suggesting that eleven dimensions exist. As humans we haven’t developed the capacity to understand reality accurately. In fact, if we assume that science will continue to disprove previous theories regarding the way the universe works, we can be pretty sure that a lot of the beliefs we now have about the world we live in are inaccurate. For example, if it’s true that eleven dimensions exist, as a four-dimensional being it’s impossible to even comprehend the physical world around us correctly.

To think on a deeper level, we need to become comfortable with brownness. Unfortunately, brown by definition isn’t comfortable. Rodriguez tells us it isn’t pure. We have trouble dealing with impurity; we can’t tie it up in a little package with a bow and classify it as x or y. “Brown bleeds through the straight line, unstaunchable-the line separating black from white, for example.” Brown is not knowing for sure what the right answer is or what the right action is. It’s making mistakes. It’s our life.

I invite those who classified the book as simply a piece about being Hispanic to look at the book again. I think this is something we should all read seriously. Within his work, Rodriguez has presented us with problems about the way society thinks and has challenged us to change the way we view our world-the first step to changing the way the world operates.

Don’t stop believing

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005 | Nick Loyal
Dan Daranciang

Freshman move-in day traditionally brings three things: weather that makes hundreds of East-Coast parents question Missouri’s status as a nondesert state, traffic quandaries that bring meter maids tears of joy, and, above all else, an undeniable feeling of optimism and excitement among the members of the entering class. Two days later, as upperclassmen move in, everything remains- except possibly the optimism.

In one case, a man who worked his whole life to learn sits in the town he grew up in because returning to this place for a second year is something he cannot wrap his brilliant mind around without feeling it falter.

In another case, a beautiful woman walks out of her apartment onto a campus that can give her everything she wants, only to be deathly afraid that she’s not good enough to be among the intellectual demigods she has made her fellow students out to be.

And in the third through 1,174th cases, youth on the brink of adulthood sit down in their first day of Orgo class wondering if they really want to be doctors-or if there is something else.

College, despite all of its joys, can be a place of considerable duress. Depression is common, self-destructive behavior is more rule than exception, and the collective weight of being away from home, adapting to a new way of life and planning the rest of one’s existence is enough to make anyone feel like you just can’t pull off everything that someone out there (or someone inside) is expecting you to do. Even the best four years of your life have their low points.

When I visited the University before my freshman year, one of the guys I talked to calmly informed me that for nearly every student on campus there is at least one time when they consider transferring to an institution that is less rigorous, less expensive and may actually care about organized athletics. I thought this was unusual until halfway through last March when I found myself standing in the admissions office of the University of Missouri filling out a housing request card.

Freshman year is the greatest year of your life, and those who are just starting it should not read this and think that their first six months at college will make them empty shells of their former selves. But for all the upperclassmen who may have ever felt this way, there is a reason that you’re still in 63105 reading this: You’re good enough.

Sure, that’s a little campy, but consider it my “convocation” for the year (only without a funny hat, glowsticks and free ice cream). For the Class of 2008, 1,452 matriculated out of 19,822 applicants. If you are a transfer, you did well enough in your previous work to be admitted. Everyone at this place is good-and for one reason or another, that’s why it’s so hard.

One of the best messages put forth at convocation is the notion that despite the intellectual brilliance of the people in the room, only 5 percent of the freshman class will be in the top 5 percent of the class. This is said to make sure that those phone calls home when John and Jill get Cs on their first Chem exams will be expected-but it’s the wrong message. Every student at this school can excel; we had to in order to get in. So rather than fear the hammer of the coming year, believe in what you can do. Take what is yours, earn the respect you deserve and never feel that you aren’t good enough. Granted, someone might do it better, but even the man at home, the woman in fear, and the pre-meds in Orgo weren’t the best at what they were doing. And you’ll never believe what they’ve done since.