Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Output of a "Honey-Do" List

My wife had me put up one of these decorative clocks that comes in a very big box--and she noticed the packaging material below.  "Could you use this in the shop?"

"Yes," I said.  "But even better--it's a ruler for people who don't believe in absolutes."

I Keep Hoping For Some Common Sense And Justice

This August 26, 2010 Las Vegas Sun article about the first situation where a judge has actually gotten involved in the Righthaven suits gives me a little hope.  Federal judge Johnston did a phone conference with Steve Gibson and the defendant, Allegra Wong:

Johnston then asked about provisions in the copyright law allowing him to order damages of just $200 for unwillful infringement and for him to use discretion in awarding costs and fees.

"It sounds like this can be a lot less than four figures," Johnston said. But the judge didn't elaborate on whether the "less than four figures" comment referred to potential damages, or costs, or both.
From what I have read, the $200 fine for unintentional infringement is actually more typical in such cases.   But Gibson won't hear of it.  More importantly, Judge Johnston asked why Righthaven didn't just write a letter to Wong--instead of spending a pile of money (about $1300 to $1500, apparently) on filing a complaint and having her served.  And Gibson's response was to claim that they did not know where to send the letter.

Maybe they didn't know where to send a letter to Wong.  But it would have taken about five minutes to find the phone number and mailing address for the vast majority of the defendants in these cases.  I have yet to talk to a defendant who received any pre-filing contact at all. 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Netflix Viewer

I mentioned yesterday that I found a wireless unit.  It plugged in, worked perfectly--if anything, easier to set up than the Vizio unit that I returned to Wal-Mart.  The brand name is Insignia, which appears to be a Best Buy house brand.  Where the Vizio unit seemed a bit sluggish on some functions, the Insignia worked reasonably quickly (remembering that it is working through an 800 kilobit/second connection to my ISP).  I think the Insignia unit actually produces a better signal to my TV, also, through the RCA phono jacks.

On the downside, at the close of watching the first two episodes of season one of Torchwood, it asked permission to do a firmware update, which I told it to do.  This evening--it would not connect to my wireless router.  It stopped at the attempt to connect to, and so quickly that it was clearly not a timeout.  I started calling Insignia customer support, but thought, "What the heck, reboot it."  Sure enough, it seems to work fine now.  I believe that it was supposed to do a reboot after the firmware upgrade--perhaps it didn't do it.

Torchwood was such an interesting series.  In some respects, it is cliched--aliens coming through some rift in time and space.  At the same time, John Barrowman does such a spectacular job as Capt. Jack Harkness (the American who heads the Torchwood unit) that you can somewhat ignore the really stupid plot lines.  There is at times some actually fairly crisp dialog to it--and nice cinematography, too.  (I'll ignore Barrowman's preferences, because he is such a pleasure to watch perform.)

The sad thing about Torchwood is that it really does capture what has gone wrong with Britain: a nation where Christianity has gone completely moribund, and the highest aspiration in life is getting drunk and having sex.  Theodore Dalyrmple's essays on this subject are spectacularly depressing; Torchwood really reminds you of how little there is left to a spiritual side to Britain anymore.

I've read that part of why Islam is taking off in Britain is that large numbers of British women are desperate for men who have a spiritual dimension to their lives--something deeper than getting wasted and sleeping around--and in Britain, that means Islam, since Christianity is pretty well dead there.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

All Things Considered, A Pretty Positive Result

My doctor has been concerned about my blood pressure, and I was rather worried that the stress of this lawsuit was going to do bad things on that front.  I had to go to the doctor on Tuesday morning to have some skin tags removed.  (These are one of those mild indignities that often come with old age.)  To my surprise, my blood pressure before they started causing me pain was 122/78--a perfectly respectable blood pressure.  I am also pleased to report that my treadmill speed is being to work its way up, sometimes for considerable periods of four miles/hour.  Progress!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

An Encouraging Sign

I just finished writing my monthly column for Shotgun News, and it was about how dramatically the world has turned around with respect to gun rights in the last twenty years.  I cited both U.S. v. Skoien (7th Cir. 2009) and U.S. v. Williams (7th Cir. 2010) as examples of how deferential the courts have become to the Second Amendment.   I would never have imagined, when I started researching For the Defense of Themselves and the State, how rapidly what I was writing would become the norm in American law.  (It was kind of cool to read Skoien and see a paper by me cited, too!)

UPDATE: Skoien has worked its way back up to the 7th Circuit, where an en banc panel upheld the law this time around--almost certainly provoking an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Bought A Blu-Ray Player That Includes NetFlix Support

Of course, I couldn't find one that works with a wireless network--only a wired Ethernet.  (There is an USB port, but that doesn't talk to the Netflix connection--for no apparent reason.)  I really don't want to make yet another run through the crawlspace to get another Ethernet cable.  Does anyone know of a cheap device for bridging an wired Ethernet connection to wireless?  I'm sure that there's some way to do that with my spare laptop (which has both an RJ45 connector and wireless) in bridge mode, but I couldn't immediately figure out how to do that, and I would prefer something dedicated.

UPDATE: Here's another reasonably cheap solution.

UPDATE 2: And here's a better solution--$30 more, and the Wi-Fi is included.  I will return this unit to Wal-Mart tomorrow.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Mildly Frustrated With Blogger

I have tried to find a way to restore just some posts from the old blog--but without success.  There is supposed to be a way to import the old postings, without publishing them.  That works.  But once they are restored, and appear as Imported, there does not seem to be any way to publish individual postings.  Very annoying.  There's a lot of good stuff back there.  I just manually restored a bunch of postings about sinuses and BreatheRight strips because they were being referenced by something on my web page--but that means edit and copy from the non-public blog to the public blog.  For six or seven postings, not a big deal.  For thousands?  Hopeless.

Even CBS Covering Marijuana Mental Health Risks

A CBS News report on the California marijuana legalization initiative mentions a recent study from the University of Bath in Britain that concluded that marijuana increases the risk of hallucinations and delusions.  As I have previously blogged, a number of published studies have found a connection between regular marijuana use and schizophrenia.

Interesting Twist on the Notion of Implicit License To Copy

This August 19, 2010 TechDirt article points out that there is a somewhat similar case involving a Las Vegas lawyer who put up some articles, encouraged Google to cache those articles, registered the copyright--then sued Google for copyright infringement.  Apparently, one of the other defendants in the Righthaven suits is pointing out that
the LVRJ gave an implicit license for a similar cache-with-link by putting the content up for free and by failing to limit the ability to copy & paste the text via technical means. On top of that, they point out that the LVRJ explicitly encourages people to "share" the articles on its site (something the LVRJ still does -- including quick links to share it with 19 different services).
This August 18, 2010 Las Vegas Sun article provides more detail on the motions that defendants a bit higher up the queue are making with respect to the 2006 suit by Blake A. Fields v. Google. Not only did Google win the suit, but Fields was ordered to pay $25,000 in attorney fees to Google.

It is an interesting point--if you encourage people to copy and paste your stuff--but then file suit if someone copies and pastes too much--isn't this a bit like the civil equivalent of entrapment: encouraging you to do something, then suing when you do it?  Obviously, there's a line between "that's okay" and "that's too much," but you can see how there is a likelihood of confusion about exactly where that line might be, and such mixed messages add to the confusion.

In a great many states, there are "no trespassing" signs on private property that really mean, "If you enter our land, and get hurt, we aren't responsible for your injuries."  They don't mean, "We are going to call the cops if you hike through our land."  Putting up a web page that encourages you to copy and paste their articles on social networking web sites while also asserting copyright just adds to the confusion.

In Case You Are Wondering....

The DMCA Contact posting, and the link to it in the header, are there to make sure that if someone  unknowingly infringes copyright in a comment, that the copyright owner is obligated to contact me before filing suit.  This could be done by accident, by malice, or by employees of a firm looking for a chance to sue.  It doesn't do any good for anything that I intentionally post here, of course.  But it does provide some protection for the actions of a commenter.

If your blog allows comments, you darn well better have a DMCA Contact information link somewhere on every page of your blog.

UPDATE: It appears that you need to register with the Copyright Office for this to work--which is $105.  Nope.  I'm just going to moderate all comments.  It's a pain--but the alternative is turning off comments.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Rod Serling

I've just finished reading two collections of Rod Serling's short stories, The Season to Be Wary and The Twilight Zone: Complete Stories.  As you might expect, nearly all of these are from the 1958-64 television series.  I grew up watching these.  I am pretty sure that I only saw Twilight Zone in re-runs--since in 1964, I was barely old enough to really understand the complexity of the ideas in most of these shows.  Still, by 1966 and 1967, I was thoroughly hooked!

My wife's M.A. is in Literature, and she thinks Serling is one of the most underrated writers of the 20th century--and a writer who never thought he was very good.  Reading through these stories you are reminded that these are all adaptations of screenplays--and it is a reminder of how the need to fit something into 30 minutes (minus several minutes of commercials) forces you to master the skill of storytelling.  At times it may require a bit of compression or oversimplification of a character--but all the more reason that you need to be very, very good at doing so.  Keep the story moving--so you don't notice the unlikeliness that the people of Elm Street would so rapidly turn to violence over a little thing like a power failure.

I have long maintained that there are great writers and great storytellers.  A great writer is extraordinarily skilled at his use of language and dialog to convey a feeling, or express an idea in a very subtle and yet unmistakable way.  A great storyteller may not have such a spectacular ability to write--but the stories that he tells are so compelling that you are prepared to overlook that. 

Many of those regarded by literary critics as great writers may not tell particularly compelling stories.  I don't think that either Larry Niven or Jerry Pournelle are great writers--but they tell great stories--and on those few occasions when they have written novels together, the results are clearly far better than either alone.  Some novelists who start out as great writers and great storytellers don't stay that way.  James Clavell's King Rat was far superior to later works, such as Shogun, and sticking all the way to the end Whirlwind was a bit of a chore.

Serling, however, is both a great storyteller and a great writer.  He comes up with great ideas, inspired by the trauma of his times: McCarthyism; totalitarianism; the Holocaust; the civil rights movement.  And his writing is also impressively evocative--especially when he does what every writer is told to do: write what you know.  "The Big, Tall Wish" tells you the story of a prizefighter at the end of career--and tells it powerfully well because Serling had been a boxer in his youth.  "A Stop at Willoughby" captures a sensitive young man working in the soul-destroying business of a big Madison Avenue advertising agency--and you can tell that if Serling didn't feel this need to get off the train in such a final way for this reason, he certainly knew people who did.

Part of what I find so powerful about Serling's stories, and The Twilight Zone, was how it was something of the last call for traditional American liberalism--before liberalism morphed into something almost the exact opposite of what it was in 1960.  Serling's worldview wasn't particularly religious--but it recognized that religion was a powerful solace for the suffering and a moral restraint on those who needed something to keep them in check.  My guess is that Serling would have much agreed with this letter that Ben Franklin apparently wrote to Tom Paine, upon receiving Paine's Age of Reason:
At present I shall only give you my opinion, that though your reasonings are subtle, and may prevail with some readers, you will not succeed so as to change the general sentiments of mankind on that subject, and the consequence of printing this piece will be, a great deal of odium drawn upon yourself, mischief to you, and no benefit to others. He that spits against the wind, spits in his own face. But were you to succeed, do you imagine any good would be done by it ? You yourself may find it easy to live a virtuous life without the assistance afforded by religion; you having a clear perception of the advantages of virtue, and the disadvantages of vice, and possessing a strength of resolution sufficient to enable you to resist common temptations. But think how great a portion of rhankind consists of weak and ignorant men and women, and of inexperienced, inconsiderate youth of both sexes, who have need of the motives of religion to restrain them from vice, to support their virtue, and retain them in the practice of it till it becomes habitual, which is the great point for its security.... 

I would advise you therefore not to attempt unchaining the tiger, but to burn this piece before it is seen by any other person, whereby you will save yourself a great deal of mortification from the enemies it may raise against you, and perhaps a good deal of regret and repentance. If men are so wicked with religion, what would they be if without it?
It is difficult to read Serling's stories, or watch the series that is so indelibly associated with him, without coming away with a somewhat similar view of both men: people who had some rather abstract notion of God, but recognized that there was something there--and who shuddered at what mankind might "without it." 

"The Night of the Meek" must have been originally presented on Christmas Eve.  Like many Twlight Zone episodes, it is set in a world of "what if"--but a "what if" where decency and the supernatural can redeem an alcoholic, and make even a New York City ghetto just a little nicer of a place.  It is a world where for all man's deficiencies and sins, there is hope, and the possibility that we can muddle through, exceeding our natural sinful desires, to something just a bit better.

I guess that this is what I find most disheartening about how rapidly the Western world has collapsed in just two generations.  There was sin and depravity aplenty in 1960.  But we didn't celebrate it.  ""Hypocrisy is a compliment which vice pays to virtue."  A world in which depravity and evil were embarrassing was a world in which at least many children did not have their noses rubbed in the gutter prematurely.  Is it so much to ask that children wait a few years before they are forced to confront what a dirty, depraved, and evil world this is?  Is it so hard to ask that a society celebrate honesty, integrity, and decency, instead of treating greed, dishonesty, and the abuse of others as being equivalent?

Secret Warranties

I've heard that many manufacturers have what are effectively secret warranties--that if you push a bit on a problem that is widespread and expensive, but out of formal warranty, they sometimes meet you halfway on the costs.  According to this account over at Corvette Forum, the widespread and very expensive ABS repairs on the Corvettes are in that category--especially if you can demonstrate strong GM brand loyalty.

That wouldn't be difficult.  What GM vehicles have I owned? 1964 Chevrolet Malibu station wagon (bought new by my parents, gave it to me when I graduated high school). 1973 Chevrolet Caprice wagon (used). 1977 Chevrolet Nova (new). 1978 Camaro Z28 (new). 1979 Pontiac Grand Am (new). 1983 S10 Blazer (new). 1984 Cavalier (new). 1986 Celebrity Eurosport wagon (new). 200 Corvette (used). 2000 Impala LS (new). 2001 Malibu LS (new). 2005 Equinox (new). 2007 Trailblazer (used).

It's worth a try.  Even if it knocked the costs down to several hundred dollars to get the ABS repaired, it would make it practical to get the Corvette fixed--which would make it a lot more sellable.

UPDATE: Apparently, there was a chance, but not for a car more than ten years old. Oh well, it was worth a try.

SQL Question

I have a SELECT statement that returns a couple of fields. 

SELECT olh.ofndr_num,blc.body_loc_desc FROM ofndr_loc_hist olh, body_loc_cd blc
WHERE olh.end_dt IS NULL AND olh.body_loc_cd = blc.body_loc_cd
AND blc.loc_typ_cd = "N"
ORDER BY blc.body_loc_desc, olh.ofndr_num
I would like, when blc.body_loc_desc changes value, to spit out a line with null, and blc.body_loc_desc in it.  (I need to feed this into iReport, which doesn't seem to want to do grouping the way that it should, and I need something that gives me a clear break between groups.)  Any suggestions how to do this with Informix SQL?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

And Now, A Kind Word For PBS

I can remember watching Nova in the 1980s and being absolutely incensed at how blatantly it was often propaganda.  One show that I watched was nominally about autopsy--with a really gruesome, unwatchable segment where the M.E. was drilling into this guy's head to retrieve a .380 ACP bullet.  A good 15 minutes of a 60 minute show theoretically about the job of medical examiner was really an excuse to bang the drum for gun control.

Something certainly seemed to change by the late 1990s.  I just watched a Nova called "Mystery of the First Americans" (2000) about the problems of Kennewick Man, and the rapidly changing science of pre-Columbian anthropology.  There was a pretty clear implication that victimhood for American Indians because the Europeans arrived and took over their land was in grave danger of getting...complicated.  Are these ancient pre-Columbian skeletons with Caucasoid traits (in North America) and Australian aboriginal traits (in South America) indications that someone might have been first?

Anyway, getting the first class off to a discussion of the problems of conquest in the New World is one of the reasons that I am going to show this video.  It's important to get students to think in more subtle terms than, "Noble Savage/Evil White Men," which is the grossly oversimplified message that many lower grade teachers, as well as films such as Pocahontas and Avatar promote. 

As the Geico commercials remind us: Neanderthals are victims, too!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rebuilding The Walls

I was pretty upset at first that none of the gun rights groups thought that The Armed Citizen was important enough to be worth their assistance in this legal fight--especially because I know some of these groups were actively using our archives for article research, and others relied on me to provide them with historical research.

I am still not happy by the lack of assistance.  However, I am really touched by how many people have contributed to The Armed Citizen's legal defense fund: students making $10 contributions; complete strangers kicking in $20 or $25; names of regular readers kicking in $50; people with more resources and names that you have heard of making $100 and larger contributions.

Others have contributed in labor, helping The Armed Citizen to prepare a project that was ongoing when this suit struck, and which we expect will contribute significantly to the fund.  As my wife and I were praying before bed, it struck her how apt Nehemiah ch. 3 was to all of this, in its description of the rebuilding of Jerusalem's walls.

It wasn't a task of a big organization or even of the government, but of individuals, each doing his litttle part:
1 Eliashib the high priest and his fellow priests went to work and rebuilt the Sheep Gate. They dedicated it and set its doors in place, building as far as the Tower of the Hundred, which they dedicated, and as far as the Tower of Hananel. 2 The men of Jericho built the adjoining section, and Zaccur son of Imri built next to them.
 3 The Fish Gate was rebuilt by the sons of Hassenaah. They laid its beams and put its doors and bolts and bars in place. 4 Meremoth son of Uriah, the son of Hakkoz, repaired the next section. Next to him Meshullam son of Berekiah, the son of Meshezabel, made repairs, and next to him Zadok son of Baana also made repairs. 5 The next section was repaired by the men of Tekoa, but their nobles would not put their shoulders to the work under their supervisors. 
 6 The Jeshanah Gate was repaired by Joiada son of Paseah and Meshullam son of Besodeiah. They laid its beams and put its doors and bolts and bars in place. 7 Next to them, repairs were made by men from Gibeon and Mizpah—Melatiah of Gibeon and Jadon of Meronoth—places under the authority of the governor of Trans-Euphrates. 8 Uzziel son of Harhaiah, one of the goldsmiths, repaired the next section; and Hananiah, one of the perfume-makers, made repairs next to that. They restored Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall. 9 Rephaiah son of Hur, ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, repaired the next section. 10 Adjoining this, Jedaiah son of Harumaph made repairs opposite his house, and Hattush son of Hashabneiah made repairs next to him. 11 Malkijah son of Harim and Hasshub son of Pahath-Moab repaired another section and the Tower of the Ovens. 12 Shallum son of Hallohesh, ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, repaired the next section with the help of his daughters.
 Instapundit has a book called An Army of Davids, about how individual efforts that aren't much, properly coordinated, can collectively turn into something really quite astonishingly powerful--as this fundraising effort has been.

Big organizations are dinosaurs.  They get something done, no question, but not very efficiently--and like most big organizations, shortly after they get full time staff, they start to become more concerned about maintaining their organizational budgets and individual jobs.  From then on, they get a fraction of the work done that their resources should produce.

And that's where you, this Army of Davids (some of you even named David!), rebuilding this wall really show your strength and power.  Individually we are tiny; collectively, we are powerful.  Never forget that.

No, I Don't Think This Is Political

I have received a lot of emails asking if Righthaven's actions are politically motivated--and pointing out that Steve Gibson, Righthaven's CEO, worked in the same law firm as Michelle Obama, and that the Stephens Group, which owns the Review-Journal, has a lot of connections to the Clintons.

No, I really don't think so.  The publisher of the Review-Journal is a pretty fierce libertarian.  The targets of these absurd suits cross the entire political spectrum and include completely apolitical nonprofits.  This is all about uncontrollable greed.

The Rough Wooing

This is the term later used to describe a war started by Henry VIII against Scotland to get them to consent to a marriage between his son Edward and Mary, Queen of Scots.  That's what came to mind when I saw this quote from the August 16, 2010 TechDirt in which the Las Vegas Review-Journal's general counsel explains why they have Righthaven suing people:
"My hope," says Hinueber, "is we will raise awareness of copyright laws, and have more links back to our site, and have less of our material infringed on the Internet."
As TechDirt points out:
Yeah, right. Suing people linking to you is going to get more links? Considering that some of the examples of sites being sued included one that posted just 4 paragraphs of a 34-paragraph article... with a link, it seems that these lawsuits are almost guaranteed to lead to less linking.
It makes me wonder how Hinueber goes about getting a date.  Does he file suit against a pretty young thing to make her more interested in seeing what kind of a man he is?  Or does he have someone kneecap her, so she'll be interested in his company?

I guess the phrase, "You catch more flies with honey than mustard" must be news to Hinueber.

How To Make Sure You Don't Accidentally Visit Organizations That Don't Want You

To make sure that you don't unintentionally copying and pasting too much, and getting sued by Righthaven LLC, it is perhaps wisest to not visit any of the news organizations associated with the Stephens Group--who apparently are funding at least part of Righthaven's actions.  The Stephens Group has a lot of different newspapers.  While the list of these organizations has been floating around for a couple of weeks, someone pointed out this useful Firefox add-on.

1. Install this Firefox add-on by clicking this link and following the instructions:

2. Copy the following into a .txt file and save it somewhere on your computer. The easiest way to do this is Start, All Programs, Accessories, Notepad.  Come back to your browser, then select the following text with your mouse, and pull down the Edit menu and pick Copy.  Then go back to Notepad, and pull down Notepad's Edit menu and pick Paste.


This puts this list in Notepad.  Now pick File, Save in Notepad, and save the file in My Documents with the file name SummersEve.txt

3. Goto Tools > Add-ons in your copy of FireFox and click the Preferences button for the BlockSite add-on.

4. Make sure the blacklist radio button is selected and use the import button to import your list from My Documents\SummersEve.txt.

5. Enable BlockSite, warning messages, and link removal.

Now, you won't be able to unintentionally visit one of the Evil Empire's websites.  Obviously, you can disable the Add-On, or change the list if you need to.  This is primarily to protect yourself from the infamy of putting even a fraction of a penny in the pocket of these creeps.

UPDATE: From the comments here:

There is an extension for chrome called 'SiteBlock' that seems to do the same thing for that browser.
 And from a comment over at Snowflakes in Hell:
If you want to join in on the Stevens Media boycott with Safari, GlimmerBlocker is an open source proxy based solution for Mac OS X (10.5+).

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Instapundit Put Up A Link To The Armed Citizen's Fundraiser

There's an hysterically funny suggestion sent to him by a reader that is a bit too crude for me to quote, but has the germ of a good idea in it.

By the way: when Instapundit speaks, people listen.  And contribute.  Based on what has arrived just since he put up the link, I think tomorrow evening is going to be spent just sending thank you notes.  There may be enough money available to not only do something impressive for us--but in the process, do some serious good for bloggers who lack the resources to do anything to defend themselves (and there are a lot of them out there, getting sued).

Legal Garbage Just Gets More And More Ridiculous

Once this is over, I'm going to tell the full story of what we are being put through.  This has nothing to do with justice, or even law.  I knew that our system was bad, but I had no idea how bad.  The temptation to leave America forever when this is done gets stronger and stronger.  This country is now run by people too evil to share a nation with any longer.  Other readers are telling me the same thing--America is finished.

UPDATE: For those who think that this could be settled out of court cheaply: think again.  Other defendants who have approached Righthaven without a lawyer to settle this matter have been told variously, "$7500" or "low five figures" for a single newspaper article infringement. 

Now, if something like this went to court, it is almost certain that a jury would award at the absolute bottom of the range for infringement: $750.  Potentially, because of the vague nature of fair use for noncommercial purposes, it might even be the $200 statutory penalty.  A judge might even reduce it below either of those levels (which they have within their discretion to do) because the actual economic damage is so slight.   But it would cost at least $10,000 to get to trial--and there is essentially no chance of getting any of those legal fees from the plaintiffs, even if we won the case completely.  Theoretically, judges can award defendant's costs if the plaintiff loses his case.  But I've discovered that there is a lot of stuff that is theoretically possible in law, but doesn't seem to actually happen.

You Should Probably Email This...

Telling someone about this danger might just get, "What?"
One in Five U.S. Adolescents Has Hearing Loss; Earbuds May Be to Blame

Just Another Typical Idaho Burglary

Well, not really!  The August 17, 2010 Idaho Statesman reports on a burglary in which more than 200 guns were stolen from a woman's home: pistols,, antique M1s, AR-15s.  No, amazingly enough, this is not a typical Idaho home!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Configuring JUnit in MyEclipse

I'm using MyEclipse 5.5.1, and I am trying to figure out how to configure the userID and password that the various JUnit tests use for connecting to the database.  It has to be here somewhere--but it is not obviously in a property file.  I would expect that to be something that is user specific and configurable--but I have no idea where.  All of these JUnit tests were written (and apparently last used) many years ago, so no one still here has a clue how this stuff works.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Weaponizing a Lecture

The pastor of the little church we attend in Horseshoe Bend called last night about 10:30 PM.  His father had, just a few minutes before, passed away.  This wasn't any great surprise--but nonetheless, he was too busy dealing with family and funeral to preach this morning--so he asked me to do whatever I could to fill in.

I took a lecture that I had given about the rise or Christianity in the Roman Empire, based on sociologist Rodney Stark's The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal, Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries (among other sources), and "weaponized" it, by adding Scripture to what is fundamentally a discussion of the role of demographics, how the early Church dealt with plagues, and the relatively higher status of women in the early Church relative to pagan society.  (And if the "weaponized" doesn't seem the right word for adding Scripture to what is fundamentally a secular historian's view: consider Matthew 10:34: "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.")

I do not think this is something that I am especially suited to--but it was gratifying to be able to step in and help.

First Weekly Question

I suppose it is worth trying out the question on my readers for clarity before inflicting it on my students.

Week 1 Question

The assigned reading in the textbook, and the excerpt from Bernal Diaz del Castillo's The Conquest of New Spain (1632), tell us quite a bit about how the Spanish conquistadors regarded the Aztecs (or Mexica, as they called themselves). Describe the motivations and justifications that the Spanish had for their conquest of the Aztecs. What do the readings tell us about Aztec views of conquest and power? How would you describe the range of beliefs of Spaniards about their rights to conquer the Indians? Were Spaniards of one opinion about the rightness of what happened? If the situations were reversed, how would the Aztecs have treated the Spanish?

While I am not going to impose the following reading on my students (since it is a bit amateurish work I did as an undergrad), I thought some of you might find it interesting and enlightening.

Aztec Human Sacrifice

by Clayton E. Cramer

What distinguishes human sacrifice from the other intentional homicides to which mankind is so very prone? Human sacrifice is a religious ritual in which a person, sometimes voluntarily, more often not, is consecrated to a god, then killed in a prescribed manner. While the purpose of human sacrifice varies from culture to culture, it is different from capital punishment in that those killing the sacrifice do not consider him or her a criminal. Indeed, the high standards for selecting victims often prevents combining human sacrifice with capital punishment.

Human sacrifice is not a peculiarly New World phenomenon. Indeed, human sacrifice appears to have been widespread throughout the world in different eras.[1] The pre-Christian Celts performed human sacrifice (drowning of females), as did China (the king's immediate servants were buried with him, at least intermittently, until the 17th century).[2] The Carthaginians, like the Phoenicians from whom they are descended, sacrificed children to their chief god, Baal Hammon — and other Mediterranean civilizations criticized them at the time for doing so.[3] The Scythians not only sacrificed captured enemies to their war god, but also sacrificed and buried a chieftain's wives, principal servants, and "50 men from his bodyguard" with the chieftain.[4] The funeral of the Mongol Genghis Khan required the strangulation of "forty girls young enough to be virgins."[5]

Not surprisingly, Christianity played a part in the ending of human sacrifice in those places where the sword backed up the cross. Other religions and even the effectively secular government of the Roman Empire also suppressed human sacrifice. Both Tiberius and Claudius prohibited Celtic human sacrifice (apparently to a god of the sun), and St. Patrick did likewise in Ireland several centuries later. British colonialism demanded that sacrifice to Dravidian village goddesses substitute animals for people, and Buddhism similarly replaced human sacrifice with dough offerings in Tibet.[6]

Human sacrifice in Mexico was not uniquely Aztec. Some other New World cultures engaged in human sacrifice, including the Maya ("young maidens were drowned in sacred wells"), and the Incas.[7] The Incas engaged in high-altitude burial of live children, though some dispute exists whether this particular form of human sacrifice was originally an Inca rite, or a custom of local tribes that the Incas adopted.[8] Spanish accounts of Inca sacrifices, as well as archaeological evidence, suggests that the child, before being buried alive, was made drunk with alcohol.[9] Alvar Nuñez Cabeça de Vaca described a Texas coastal tribe that killed their male children in response to dreams, though it is unclear from Nuñez Cabeça de Vaca's account if these were strictly human sacrifice.[10]

Previous cultures of central Mexico, such as the Teotihuacan, had engaged in both human sacrifice and cannibalism. At Azcapotzalco a bowl "contained the remnants of the piéce de résistance, the upper legs and hips of a human being, the most succulent portions for festive consumption." Individuals buried under temple foundations and "shallow dishes, cut from the top of skulls, testify to other rituals involving sacrifice and death."[11] Sacrificial knives, depictions of human hearts, blood as a sacred liquid, child sacrifices to the rain god, and the cult of the Flayed God (from which came the custom of dressing up in human skins), were part of Teotihuacan culture as well.

What may be the Aztec's peculiar addition to the custom of human sacrifice is that such sacrifices sometimes involved thousands of victims over a few days. This appears to be distinctive in the history of human sacrifice.[12] The popular image of Aztec human sacrifice is of a prisoner of war, sacrificed to Huitzilopochtli, the sun god, by a priest ripping out the still beating heart. Yet this was a relatively merciful death compared to the less common forms. In sacrifices to Huehueteotl, the fire god, the captives were bound hand and foot, and dropped, one by one, on to burning coals:

Before death could intervene to put an end to their suffering the priests fished out the captives with large hooks and wrenched the hearts from their blistered bodies.[13]

Many sacrificial rites included ceremonial cannibalism, though mercifully, the Aztecs waited until the heart had been removed before carving up the meal.[14]

Perhaps more distressing to the Spaniards were the sacrifices not of adults, but of children. Ten of the eighteen 20-day months of the Aztec year had human sacrifices as part of the ritual calendar; four of the ten involved children. Even the driest description of the rituals is horrifying: "Child sacrifice to Tlálocs to bring rain;... fertility rite, drowning boy and girl in canoe filled with hearts of sacrificial victims;... sacrifice of slave girl impersonating goddess..."[15] A nearly contemporary account indicates that child sacrifice to the rain god also included sealing slave children five or six years of age in a cave to die.[16] Recent archaeological digs at the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan corroborate both written and drawn accounts of such sacrifices. One recent discovery includes the skeletal remains of 42 children apparently sacrificed to Tláloc, from infants up to the age of 7 or 8.[17]

There is an element to Aztec human sacrifice that complicates simple outrage at this callous and bloody disregard for human life. One historian claims that the sacrifices appear to have accepted their fate as either inevitable or even desirable. At least for some types of sacrifice, the captives were regarded as a "personification of the god." Furthermore, there was a fatalism associated with the Indian religions that caused many captives to accept calmly deaths that must have been extraordinarily painful. In addition, those sacrificed to the god of rain believed that they were going directly to a paradise not available to those who died of old age.[18]

Motolinía's account of Aztec sacrifice (done closer in time to the events in question, but also when outrage at human sacrifice was more strongly felt) denies the willingness of the victims:

Let no one think that any of those whom they sacrificed by killing them and cutting out their hearts, or by any other form of death, were voluntary victims. On the contrary, they were sacrificed by force, bitterly mourning their death and frightful suffering.[19]

With the gruesome details now having been laid out on the table, what is their significance from the standpoint of the Spanish destruction of the Aztec culture? It seems clear that the Spanish felt a genuine repulsion at these bloody rites. From the standpoint of the moral code of Christianity, the destruction of this culture as an abomination would have been completely justified. Indeed, the Old Testament gave sanction to the extermination of entire tribes that engaged in child sacrifice. To the Spaniards, merely destroying the Aztec temples and religion must have seemed generous and merciful.


Besom, Thomas, "Another Mummy," Natural History 100:4 [April, 1991] 66-67.

Broda, Johanna, David Carrasco, and Eduardo Matos Moctezuma, The Great Temple of Tenochtitlan: Center and Periphery in the Aztec World (Berkeley: University of California Press. 1987).

Coles, Bryony, and John Coles, People of the Wetlands: Bogs, Bodies, and Lake-Dwellers (New York: Thames & Hudson, 1989).

Davies, Nigel, The Aztecs: A History (London: Sphere Books, 1977).

Dillon, Myles, "Celtic Religion." Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th ed. (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1983), 3:1071.

Faherty, Robert L., "Sacrifice," Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th ed. (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1983), 16:128-135.

Lamb, Harold, The March of the Barbarians (New York: Literary Guild of America, Inc., 1940).

Linwen, Lou, "Living Buried With Dead 5,200 Years Ago," Beijing Review 33:5-6 [January 29, 1990], 44-45.

Moctezuma, Eduardo Matos, The Great Temple of the Aztecs: Treasures of Tenochtitlan, transl. Doris Heyden, (London: Thames & Hudson, Ltd., 1988), 77.

Motolinía, Toribio, Motolinía's History of the Indians of New Spain, transl. Elizabeth Andros Foster, (Berkeley: The Cortes Society, 1950; reprinted Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1973).

Monaghan, John, "Sacrifice, Death, and the Origins of Agriculture in the Codex Vienna," American Antiquity 55:3 [July, 1990], 559-569.

Nuñez Cabeça de Vaca, Alvar, Relation of Nuñez Cabeça de Vaca, transl. Buckingham Smith (New York: 1871; reprinted Ann Arbor, Mich.: University Microfilms, Inc., 1966).

Rice, Tamara Talbot, "Scythians," Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th ed. (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1983), 16:438-442.

"Sati," Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th ed. (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1983), VIII:913.

Schobinger, Juan, "Sacrifices of the High Andes," Natural History 100:4 [April, 1991] 62-69.

Vaillant, George C., Aztecs of Mexico: Origin, Rise, and Fall of the Aztec Nation, 2d ed. (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1966).

Warmington, Brian H., "History of North Africa," Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th ed. (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1983), 13:145-155.

Widengren, Geo, "Iranian Religions," Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th ed. (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1983), 9:867-872.

[1] The use of the word "appears" shows a sizable problem in itself. In the absence of written accounts, archaeological evidence is insufficient to distinguish capital punishment from human sacrifice. As an example, some of the bodies recovered from Northern European peat bogs are believed to be human sacrifices, but the presence of contemporary accounts of both capital punishment and human sacrifice that roughly mirror the methods of death of these "bodies in the bog" makes it difficult to determine with any certainty how many of these victims were criminals, and how many were ritual offerings. Bryony Coles & John Coles, People of the Wetlands: Bogs, Bodies, and Lake-Dwellers (New York: Thames & Hudson, 1989), 191-197.

[2] Robert L. Faherty, "Sacrifice," Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th ed. (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1983), 16:128. Lou Linwen, "Living Buried With Dead 5,200 Years Ago," Beijing Review, 33:5-6 [January 29, 1990] 44-45, describes recent discoveries of human sacrifice as part of chieftain burials in China. Unfortunately, the article is insufficiently detailed to understand how the archaeologists determined that the bodies found in the tomb were buried alive.

[3] Brian H. Warmington, "History of North Africa," Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th ed. (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1983), 13:148. Also see Lev. 18:21 (NIV) for prohibitions on sacrificing children to Molech, an Ammonite god similar to Baal Hammon.

[4] Tamara Talbot Rice, "Scythians," Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th ed. (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1983), 16:440-441. Geo Widengren, "Iranian Religions," Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th ed. (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1983), 9:868-869.

[5] Harold Lamb, The March of the Barbarians (New York: Literary Guild of America, Inc., 1940), 92-93.

[6] Robert L. Faherty, 16:128-131. Myles Dillon, "Celtic Religion," Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th ed. (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1983), 3:1071. The Indian practice of sati, in which a wife either voluntarily or under compulsion joined her husband's funeral pyre, has many components in common with other forms of human sacrifice. "Sati," Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th ed. (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1983), VIII:913. Sati was prohibited by both Mughal rulers, and the British.

[7] Faherty, 16:128-131.

[8] Juan Schobinger, "Sacrifices of the High Andes," Natural History 100:4 [April, 1991] 64-67.

[9] Thomas Besom, "Another Mummy," Natural History 100:4 [April, 1991], 66-67.

[10] Alvar Nuñez Cabeça de Vaca, Relation of Nuñez Cabeça de Vaca, transl. Buckingham Smith (New York: 1871; reprinted Ann Arbor, Mich.: University Microfilms, 1966), 102-104.

[11] George C. Vaillant, Aztecs of Mexico: Origin, Rise, and Fall of the Aztec Nation, 2d ed. (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1966), 76-77.

[12] Nigel Davies, The Aztecs: A History (London: Sphere Books, 1977), 169-170. John Monaghan, "Sacrifice, Death, and the Origins of Agriculture in the Codex Vienna," American Antiquity 55:3 [July, 1990] 559-569, interprets a pre-Conquest Mixtec codex concerning the relationship between agriculture and sacrifice. The Mixtecs, while sharing with the Aztec and Teotihuacan cultures the significance of blood and life as symbols of agricultural sacrifice, do not appear to have satisfied their gods with the death of humans, but regarded the burial of their dead as part of, "We eat the Earth and the Earth eats us."

[13] Vaillant, 205.

[14] Vaillant, 200-201. Toribio Motolinía, Motolinía's History of the Indians of New Spain, transl. Elizabeth Andros Foster (Berkeley: The Cortes Society, 1950; reprinted Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1973), 67.

[15] Vaillant, 200-201.

[16] Motolinía, 68. At first glance, the relationship between a god of rain, and caves, seems obscure. However, the Mixtecs believed that "cloud-forming vapor issues from the Earth in several places... The houses of the Rain are caves..." Monaghan, 564.

[17] Eduardo Matos Moctezuma, The Great Temple of the Aztecs: Treasures of Tenochtitlan, transl. Doris Heyden (London: Thames & Hudson, Ltd., 1988), 77. Johanna Broda, David Carrasco, and Eduardo Matos Moctezuma, The Great Temple of Tenochtitlan: Center and Periphery in the Aztec World (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987), 85.

[18] Davies, 171-173.

[19] Motolinía, 64.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

12 VDC Heaters

I've been looking for a way to come up with a renewable energy solution for some time--and I have not been terribly impressed with the options.  Photovoltaics are still not cheap enough to pay for themselves over any economically sensible time.  Our wind speeds aren't high enough here (or in many other parts of the U.S.) for most wind generators to pay for themselves in any economically sensible amount of time.

Part of the problem is that someone needs to come up with a wind turbine that can produce power at very low speeds.  If you can produce electricity at 5 mph, your generator will be running almost continuously in places like this (and probably where you live, too).  The problem is that the power that you get out of wind isn't linear based on wind speed.  The power is the cube of the increase in wind speed.  As a result, if you want to use low speed wind generators, they either have to be incredibly inefficient, or incredibly cheap.

Windtronics has an elegantly clever idea that Honeywell is marketing--a gearless wind turbine where the generator is the housing!  Brilliant design, and one that might actually be useful in places that have consistent but low speed winds.  But it's an expensive unit, and the last I checked, not actually shipping yet.  Worse, the price tag (because someone has to pay for the development costs) means that it still not economically sensible.  (Note: factoring in big tax credits by your state and local government doesn't make it economically sensible; it means that taxpayers are subsidizing your "Look how much I love Mother Earth" posing.)

Part of what makes all alternative energy systems spendy isn't just the cost of the wind generator, or the photovoltaic panels--it is what you do with the electricity now that you have it.  Because both wind and sun are intermittent, you have to store the electricity in batteries (for use when the sun or the wind goes away).  Or you use a grid-tie inverter to feed excess electricity back to your utility company when you are producing excess power.  This runs your electric meter backward.

Both of these are good things, no question about it--but there's a pretty sizable capital investment in either the battery backup or the grid-tie.  Battery backup has additional problems: regular maintenance; storage space; occasional replacement of batteries.  Suddenly, whatever merit the PV panels or wind generators had has become a lot more expensive--and that much harder to justify as economically sensible.

Let's simply the model.  What if you didn't need the battery backup or the grid-tie?  My oldest sister was talking to some people who build small wind generators from surplus, and apparently pretty cheaply.  (How cheap?  Still waiting to get an email back.)  They produce 12 VDC output (as do most PV or wind generators).  Instead of all the complexity of trying to make the generators replace the grid--identify something useful that you can do with 12 VDC.  That means that you need some system where 12 VDC supplements an existing system--but does not replace it.  More importantly, it needs to supplement an existing system of your house without requiring any changes to your existing house systems.

Lights?  Nope.  Even if you changed everything over from 110 VAC to 12 VDC, the power from wind generators is necessarily intermittent--and you don't want intermittent lighting!  Refrigerator?  Same problem.  It is too expensive to use an inverter that switches back and forth.

But what about heating?  At least where we live, our strongest and most consistent winds are in winter--when we get some real howling storms through here.  My guess is that many parts of America have that same experience.  Take the 12 VDC output from the generator, and feed a couple of 12 VDC electric heaters to warm your house.  It isn't going to replace your current forced air furnace--but if that heater warms your house even five degrees, that reduces the amount of LPG or natural gas your forced air furnace uses, and the amount of electricity to run the fan on the furnace.

The electric heater does not have to be terribly efficient, as long as the electricity from the wind generator is free, and as long as the wind generator isn't hideously expensive.  Where I live, even a five degree gain in overall house temperature would probably knock about $10 a month off our our gas bill, and perhaps $3 a month off the electric bill.  As long as the purchase costs of the wind generator and the heater is low enough, this can make economic sense.

I am still waiting for word on the cost of the surplus wind generators.  Any suggestions on inexpensive 12 VDC space heaters?

UPDATE: Of course, if you take this bare bones direct to application approach, maybe even photovoltaics start to make sense.  Sun Electronics is offering 190 watt blems for $338.20.  (That's less than $2/watt--very impressive pricing.)  I'm not sure how much loss there will be from running a hundred feet of 12 VDC wiring to a heater--but the goal is to provide heat.  All the loss that takes place within the house turns into resistance heating, right?  If you managed to get 140 watts of the output of this panel released inside the house as heat, and you managed to get it to happen for 3-4 hours a day during winter, that's 420-460 watts that don't have to be produced with a forced air furnace.

Another attractive aspect to this bare bones approach is that you don't need to hire an electrician to do something like this (unlike anything that involves connecting to the grid, or your house wiring).  Any reasonably competent handyman can install one of these panels outside, and run wiring into the house.  Making it look pretty might be a bit challenging, of course.

Here's a 1 Kw wind generator for $429.  That's at 22.5 mph, of course, which we don't get very regularly up here.  At more typical speeds for our location (5-8 mph), I suspect it will be more like 150 watts--but perhaps for a big chunk of the day.  Again: this probably doesn't make economic sense, once you spend several hundred dollars on the grid-tie inverter, and a couple hundred for an electrician to install it, and couple hundred for a tower.  But if you can get something like this directly running a DC heater, the capital cost comes way down--and even a continuous input of 120 watts of heat for ten hours a day into the house in winter makes sense.

UPDATE: This is discouraging.  A couple of readers tell me that gearboxes on wind generators are actually not life of the unit--and are effectively common maintenance items, as are various generator parts.  There's a reason, I guess, that all this alternative energy stuff needs gobs of subsidies: it probably doesn't make any sense, except as a fashion statement.   Eternity Road has a depressing example of what happens when environmental activists decide to help the downtrodden with their alternative energy needs.

History 111 Syllabus

I thought that I would share the syllabus for the class that I am teaching in the fall.  If you notice any typos, please let me know before the students see it! Some of the formatting, of course, didn't handle the translation from Word very well.


Office Hours: By appointment

History 111
Fall 2010

Course Description

Examines United States history from its beginning to the Civil War. An emphasis will be placed on tracing the development of the American political system, economic institutions, and the U.S. culture during the Colonial Period, the Age of Revolution, the National Era, the Jacksonian Period, the Civil War, and Reconstruction.

Course Schedule

F 2:00 PM – 4:45 M (section W01)
Ada County Campus – Room 1318
Regular 15-week session

Course Focus

The America we live in today is the product of the American past.  There is a mixture of both proud and shameful moments in that past.  Understanding what happened and why can help us avoid repeating the mistakes—and build on the best parts of our history.

Course Objectives

Upon completion of this course, the student should be able to:
1.     Assess the impact of the contact and the interchange between the New and Old  Worlds.
2.     Trace the patterns of settlement and the social, political, and economic developments in colonial North America.
3.     Analyze the factors leading to the American Revolution.  Describe the events of the Revolution and its impact upon the people who lived through it.
4.     Trace the social, political, diplomatic, and economic developments during the
Federalist and early Republican periods, 1787-1820.
5.     Trace the social, political, and economic developments of the Age of Jackson, 1820-1840.  Account for Jackson’s popularity and explain how he symbolizes the democratization of American politics.
6.     Account for America’s westward surge during the 1840’s and assess the impact of western expansion.
7.     Account for the growing sectionalism in the nation.  Explain the outbreak of the Civil War 1861-1865, and trace the major military, political, economic, and social developments of the war.
Outcomes Assessment:
We will evaluate how well you (and I) have met the course objectives by multiple-choice quizzes every week (20 points each), the multiple-choice final exam (100 points), and the weekly question based on the assigned reading (20 points each).  This means that you will have to keep up on the assigned reading—but it also means that if you miss or do badly on one quiz or weekly question, or even two or three, it should not destroy your grade in the class.

I do not generally allow make-ups on quizzes.  If you have a note from your doctor explaining that you were too sick to make it to class, I will arrange a make-up quiz.  Missing one quiz, or even two quizzes is not going to destroy your grade.

The weekly questions can be turned in up to one week late—but with a 25% reduction in grade.  More than one week late, I will not accept them.

Textbooks and Required Materials

The assigned textbook is James L. Roark, Michael P. Johnson, Patricia Cline Cohen, Sarah Stage, Alan Lawson, and Susan M. Hartmann, The American Promise: A History of the United States, 4th ed.  This is bundled with Michael P. Johnson, Reading the American Past, 4th ed., a collection of primary source documents.

Methods of Delivery

This class will be primarily lecture and discussion.  The more you come to class having read the assigned reading, the more lively and interesting the discussions will be.  There will be some use of videos, partly because some students learn visually more effectively, and partly because three hours of me talking is too brutal for both of us.  My objective is to take a five-minute break (and only a five-minute break) every hour—but sometimes, a video will take precedence.

Student Contributions

The average student can expect to spend approximately six hours per week preparing for class, including reading, answering the weekly question, and studying for quizzes.

Classroom expectations: cell phones off; no texting; no listening to music once class begins.  Students are reminded to read the CWI Code of Conduct in the Student Handbook.  I do not mind if you use notebook computers to take notes; I strongly object to you using your notebook computer to keep yourself entertained.  There are people who can do several things at once, and do them all well.  My experience is that many people who think that they can do this are mistaken.

ACADEMIC DISHONESTY: All work submitted by a student must represent his/her own ideas, concepts, and current understanding. Cheating or plagiarism in any form is unacceptable and violations may result in disciplinary action.

Course Evaluation

A: 90% and above
B: 80% and above
C: 70% and above
D: 60% and above
F: below 60%

Your final grade will be based on the fourteen quizzes, the fourteen weekly questions, and the final exam.  While I do not formally keep track of who is participating in classroom discussions, if you are on the edge between two grades at the end of the semester, it is definitely in your interest if I can remember who you are.  Classroom participation is a pretty effective strategy for making sure of that.

The Quizzes
There will be a twenty-point quiz every week starting with week two, covering the assigned reading and lecture from the previous week.  I cannot emphasize strongly enough: the lectures and discussions are not a substitute for the assigned reading.  There is more material in the assigned reading than you could ever get from a lecture.  I will tend to emphasize especially important material in my lectures—but you should expect that there will be some questions on the quizzes and the final that we may not have covered in class.  Quizzes will be multiple choice because there are objective facts that you need to know about American history.  The quiz will take place during the first fifteen minutes of each class.

The Weekly Question
Starting with the second week, you will turn in a 1-2 page paper answering a question based on the assigned reading, concerning the major ideas and events contained in that reading.  Your essay will be worth twenty points (the same value as a quiz).  The act of thinking and writing about the question will burn these ideas and events into your memory more effectively than just reading the assigned material.  It also forces you to write—and like most skills, your writing will improve the more you do it.


1. When I say “1-2 page paper” I mean at least a full page of double spaced, 10 or 12 point type. 

2. A proper essay consists of an introduction, a series of paragraphs, and a conclusion.  Think about the question before you start writing.  Expect that you may have to revise the essay a couple of times along the way.  Few students can write a serious essay like this in twenty minutes. 

4. I will be grading your weekly essays both on content and writing skills—and my expectations will increase as the semester passes.  Content is most important, but I do expect complete sentences and coherent writing.  I will be putting some helpful guides to writing up on Blackboard.

5. A poor weekly essay is way better than not turning one in at all.

CWI E-mail and Blackboard Accounts
All registered CWI students receive a college email address and Blackboard account. Every course at CWI has a Blackboard component.  It is the student’s responsibility to access both accounts regularly to avoid missing important messages and deadlines.  Please access Blackboard both to keep up your grades, see announcements, as well as any additional online reading assignments.

Drop Policy

It is the student’s responsibility to drop the course.  Students are responsible for adding and dropping courses.  At the end of the first week of class, faculty may perform faculty initiated drop for non-attendance.  Beyond the first week, it is the student’s responsibility to drop any course he/she does not intend to finish.  Students who stop attending a course without filing a drop request will receive a grade of F.

Special Accommodations

Students with disabilities who believe that they may qualify for accommodations in this class are encouraged to contact the One Stop Student Services Center and discuss the possible accommodations with an Enrollment Specialist.  If you have a diagnosed Learning Disability, please initiate this contact as soon as possible to ensure that such accommodations are implemented in a timely fashion.  Please contact the One Stop Student Services at 562-3000 or Room 107 – CWI Main Campus.

Suggestions for Success

  1. I strongly encourage you to take notes in class.  Even if you never read your notes later, writing information down helps most students to retain information more effectively than if you only read it in the assigned readings, or hear it in lectures.
  2. Read the assigned pages the weekend before the week for which they are assigned.  Remember that the quiz each week will cover material assigned the previous week.
  3. If parts of the reading confuse you or raise questions, write down your questions and ask them in class.  Even if the questions do not appear on the quiz, wrestling with the material helps to make it stick in your memory more effectively—which has to help your grade.

Course Calendar

Week #
American Promise
5-30, 35-46, 62-65
Why History Matters; Study Habits; Indian America;
The New World
Ch. 3
17th Century Southern Colonies
Ch. 4
17th Century Northern Colonies
Ch. 5
18th Century Colonial America
Ch. 6
Colonial Crisis
Ch. 7
Ch. 8
The New Republic & The Constitution
Ch. 9
Crisis & The Character of George Washington
Ch. 10
One Party Rule
Ch. 11
Ch. 12
The West and The Free North
Ch. 13
The Slave South
Ch. 14
The House Dividing

Thanksgiving Break
Ch. 15
The Civil War
Ch. 16
Finals Week
Final Exam (cumulative, of all material covered in the course)