Friday, January 30, 2009

Some shorts

  • I can't be bothered to find the links at the moment, but job ads for faculty positions are down 15% in history and 21% at the MLA, and rough estimates are that actual hiring is down 40%, due to freezes after ads are posted.
  • "The failing economy has taken its toll on academia like it has everywhere else. Here are just a few of the (potential) consequences of the crisis."
  • The Turnip Truck stopped selling Theo's Chocolate, which is my favorite. Much sadness.
  • Make this page more bacony. Via Made of Meat.
  • My 2009 goals are to through-hike Indiana's Knobstone Trail, complete my Cumberland Trail 50-mile patch requirements, and hike in at least two new states. My sister and I will be visiting Isle Royale in the summer, so Michigan will be one of them.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Society today

  • Confession ... I saw this article when I woke up in the morning and checked my email while lying in bed, using my iPhone. You'll see why this is relevant if you follow the link.

  • The great intergenerational transfer of wealth has been a big idea in philanthropy for the last decade, although I've always been something of a skeptic. The idea is that the generation now close to death (to put it rather bluntly) has a lot of money to pass down, and hopefully a lot of it will go to charity. How much is a lot? $41 trillion. My skepticism arises from wondering (first) to what extent people will pass down their money, rather than spending it in their lifetimes, and (second) whether they'll do much for charity as opposed to giving it to their heirs. (This could be in the form of living gifts rather than bequests.) Third, I'm just a pessimist about the future.

    But now it occurs to me that in the current economic crisis, my third reason for skepticism was much more on target than I thought it was - our inability to predict most things is starkly visible to all of us now. With the economy in the toilet, how much of that $41 trillion still exists?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Good post about taking too long to finish the PhD. There's a lot in there, but I point you to it for the financial analysis of stretching out the PhD.

Two articles I read in a row worked together nicely. The premise of this article is that the internet allows for extreme participatory democracy, where a million battles are raged over tiny causes that everyone else ignores, where the combatants are polarized rather than engaged. The second article focuses on the early days of the American newspaper, which in some ways is similar to internet democracy. Newspapers had no ambitions of objectivity, and everyone was allowed to participate. Yet according to this piece, this was a good thing. So why is internet democracy so different?

My first stab at an explanation is the sheer scale of the enterprise. The number of participants in a local debate in 1775 was much lower than the number of potential participants in anything on the internet today. (And even national debates were fought in the local presses then.) Add to that the sheer difficulty of "posting" back then; even those folks who could easily toss off a vituperative missive had to get it printed to share it, and according to the second article it took 16 hours just to typeset a weekly paper. This means that saying anything required more investment.

But I wonder to what degree the commentators of 1775 were really more intent on converting minds and hearts than are the commentators of 2009 - and to what extent today's commentators are simply bad at it rather than uninterested.


St. Cloud State: Assistant/Associate Professor of Higher Education Administration.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Cumberland Trail Adventure Part II

White way
Originally uploaded by TheTurducken
Day 2, continued: We bail on the Cumberland Trail and decide to live in the lap of luxury by going to Cracker Barrel for lunch. We chat over nice, hot food in a nice, centrally heated restaurant, and two of our group decide to head back to Nashville. The rest of us decide that even though we can't do the trail as planned, we can tough out a second night in the cold. So we head out to Frozen Head State Park, one of my favorite Tennessee parks, and set up camp.

Day 3: We wake up to a winter wonderland. It is actually slightly warmer than the previous night, but the snow is falling and everything looks very picturesque. We don't do a real hike - just .6 miles to DeBoard Falls and then back. Then we pack up and head back to town.

All in all, it was cold but fun, and it was nice to know we could handle everything that came our way. Next time we go camping, though, it'll be a little warmer.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Cumberland Trail adventure

Big pack
Originally uploaded by TheTurducken
Day 1: We start the Smoky Mountain segment of the Cumberland Trail later than intended. It's pretty strenuous. We have to camp before we reach our intended campsite. We camp at Duncan Falls, which is pretty - although frozen. Instead of the low being the promised 20-something, it reaches 9F, plus wind. We all go to bed early to stay warm.

Day 2: Due to the mileage and strenuousness, plotted against our capabilities, we opt to head back to the car.

Day 3: Coming soon ...

(This photo is from Day 2, which was somewhat warmer, and I had put my extra layers in my pack, making it very tall.)

Friday, January 16, 2009


Originally uploaded by TheTurducken
We're going backpacking this weekend, probably because we're insane - or at least everyone seems to think. I have backpacked in colder weather (let's skip over the fact that I didn't enjoy it at all), and hey, we are in the South, and our low is liable to be 20F. People sleep in tents in Antarctica, after all. People sleep on snow. People live in igloos.

So my biggest concern is packing warm. I'd rather carry a bit too much than not enough. My sleeping bag is rated to 15F, but I sleep cold, so I'm also bringing a fleece liner. Add in a Platypus bottle filled with hot water, and I should be cozy.

I'm also taking along my new tent. It's lighter than my old old one (it weighs 65% as much) and has more headroom. I put them side by side, and you can also see how much smaller it is. Yes, they're both one-person tents.

I think I'm pretty set. I'm doing last minute laundry and have a few items to pick up at the store. If I do freeze to death or get shot - oh yeah, didn't I mention there was a youth big game hunt on this weekend? Cold doesn't worry me nearly as much as adolescents with guns do.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Wilderness Trail

Not the big view
Originally uploaded by TheTurducken
On Sunday we hiked the Wilderness Trail on the shore of Cordell Hull Lake. It's 6 miles long and as much elevation gain as you'll get around here - about 300 feet per mile. However, this is a horse trail, and so the trail goes straight up the hills rather than switchbacking, making for a rather vigorous experience.

The trail is a good workout and pretty but not gorgeous. Perhaps it was just the weather bringing me down, since it was overcast and cold. The hike offers a lot of views of the lake, but they are all through trees. In the summer you would be able to see much less. (It would also be very overgrown in the summer, and hot + ticks + steep hills = no thanks.)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Scouting Piney River

Originally uploaded by TheTurducken
On Saturday we headed out to the Piney River segment of the Cumberland Trail for a scouting hike. We wanted to check it out before leading a trip there with the hiking club; the descriptions I had seen made it sound like a lovely hike without being terribly difficult.

The trail itself is about ten miles, so it's best done one-way with a car shuttle. The route we took was slightly different from the one I think I will use when leading the trip, and I can't decide which direction is best to hike it in. The way we hiked it, the most beautiful stuff was in the first half of the hike. This made the second half somewhat anticlimactic. On the other hand, if we do it in reverse, perhaps folks will be too tired to fully appreciate the scenery.

Because there was a lot of scenery to appreciate. The trail follows the Piney River, and there's something comforting about hearing the roar of a river while hiking. The eastern third of the trail stays high above the river, but the western portion follows close by, with five bridges crossing the river or its tributaries. Along the way there are many good river views, ranging from deep turquoise waters to shallow rapids and foamy white waterfalls. We were told that you can tube the river, suggesting to us an intriguing hike/tube combination trip.

The trail is at a high enough elevation that there are good number of evergreens. There is also a good bit of mountain laurel, which suggests it would be a good spring hike, when the laurel is blooming and there is still enough water to keep the river moving. Winter offers the advantage of even more scenic views where the leaves are off the trees, although there are enough vantage points that the summer hiker would not notice their absence.

I should mention that the weather on our hike was gray and misty, with occasional rain showers. Mist is attractive but eventually becomes tiresome, and this hike was still spectacular when we were damp.

All in all, the hike lived up to my expectations for it, and I'm excited about returning with the group to see it again.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Hiking in 2008

In 2008, I hiked 300.25 miles, nearly double 2007. I accomplished my goals of hiking Walls of Jericho, backpacking at least one night, and hiking the Sewanee Perimeter. The last was almost my longest hike ever.

Since I started keeping track in June 2002, I have hiked a total of almost 800 miles. I've hiked in 13 states: WA, OR, WY, IN, TN, CO, KS, HI, NC, AR, AL, KY, GA. (Before I started counting, I got MT in as well.) I've hiked about 780 miles since that time. By comparison, the Appalachian Trail is 2174 miles; at this rate, it'll take me another 14 years to hike its equivalent. But if I hike at this year's rate, rather than at the average since I started counting, it'll only take me another 7 years and a few months.