Launch.

Launch — in the blackest starriest sky, with Leonids streaking down on the Chesapeake, and ol’ UD thrilled speechless. On a little bluff beyond the oyster-cage-strewn Chincoteague harbor, with twenty or so other excited people, we gazed at the meteors and the galaxies and the high-lit Wallops blast-off site across the water. Even the dogs people brought were quiet; we held our binoculars and steadied our tripods and except for the occasional goose all was still.

A clustering of white clouds at the base suddenly; then a gold lozenge lifting into the ether, arching over our heads and disappearing as it shed its segments. Only when this stage was accomplished, when the invisibility trick worked, did everyone applaud and cheer.

We felt our ways back to our cars, to the honk of hundreds of indignant geese.

At five AM, the storm clouds finally lift over the space station.

I can see the pulsing red yellow and white lights of Wallops Flight Facility from my bed; I can also see miles of marsh and bay.

Sand kicked by the storm lies on the pier below me. The wind’s still way up.

Above, whenever the clouds part, astonishingly clear stars emerge, and it occurs to me that tomorrow’s dark clear early morning skies (we’ll be freezing under them along with a crowd of other people to see Antares lift off) might yield not merely a shattering rocket blast, but Leonids!

This cosmic amazement will happen with the Chesapeake flowing at our feet. If UD can for once in her life actually dress warmly enough to stand around for awhile in cold weather, she might be in for the sight of her life.

*********************

At tea yesterday, we talked to a disappointed scientist. Her muscle-growth experiment, part of Antares’ cargo, has been compromised by the delays.

I called the tearoom Thursday morning, fully expecting to be told that – in all this offseason chill – they were closed.

“Are we holding tea,” said a very British voice. “Now that’s a question.” I loved her voice; I loved the way she said Now that’s a question.

“Hold on. Let me ask the breakfast guests. Anyone here coming to tea at three? … Okay, enough guests are returning for tea, so yes, we’ll do it.”

In driving wind and rain, we walked through a half-English, half-Japanese garden to the inn’s front door and were greeted at the tea table by a young woman wearing a gray t-shirt with dripping black letters that read Walking Dead. The four-course meal was strictly British and just the thing for the bleak winter setting. Talking to the scientist and her colleagues made Antares much more real.

On our way out, as we readied ourselves for the tree-bending storm, I congratulated the innkeeper on her gardens, which shined through the gloom. “I love to garden,” she said, with the same flat, casually disclosing tone I’d loved on the phone, “but I can’t do it anymore. Can’t bend.” She lifted one of her pant legs slightly. “I call her Edna. Prosthetic. Cartilage cancer. I knew something was wrong and went to a local idiot here who dismissed it as arthritis. So I went to Johns Hopkins and they knew right away and did the surgery right away.”

“I always say,” replied UD, “that it’s very much worth living within reasonable range of a major metropolitan center.”

“Goodness, yes.”

“If I lived here, I’d help with the garden.”

Noh.

Yukata be kidding.

So far the only flying things we’ve seen are…

… lots of experimental aircraft circling the Wallops Flight Facility. The Antares launch has been moved to tomorrow morning, so we’ll spend an extra day here. Our desk clerk told us exactly where to go to get the best view – past the harbor, up a little knoll…

UD has so far walked the length of Chincoteague’s chilly desolate main street, sat on her hotel’s dock (from which she chatted with various people floating by in motorboats), and made a reservation for dinner.

‘On Nov 9 (Friday), Malaysian delegates to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on human rights in Geneva, Switzerland reportedly defended the practice of infant female circumcision as a “cultural obligation” in Malaysia.’

My Country

We’re proud to acknowledge that it’s
A cultural mandate to blitz
The joy of our girls
By taking their pearls
And blasting their pleasure to bits

God sayeth Lo cut off their clits!
Uncastrated woman commits
A sin in my sight!
Under cover of night
Take babies and rip out their slits!

UD’s Rocket is, er, Vertical…

… and ready for takeoff the day after tomorrow. Assuming the launch happens, UD will drive from her nearby hotel room in Chincoteague, Virginia, to Wallops Flight Facility so that she can watch real close-up.

It ain’t that UD‘s a space maven or anything – in fact, as I’ve noted on this blog in the past, UD has trouble believing in the reality of the solar system, much less the cosmos.

It’s clear that whoever created her gave UD one hell of a parochial mind… As in: The earth will do. Even the earth is a bit on the bulky side for UD… The east coast she finds intellectually manageable… As in the famous New Yorker cover…

But as you can tell from her trip to Shenandoah National Park/Big Meadow to watch meteors at 2 AM while freezing her ass off, she’s definitely up for fireworks, definitely interested in what nature can do, and what we can do, by way of celestial effects.

Staditonia: The cataleptic condition brought on by sitting in a football stadium.

Faced with empty or near-empty professional and college stadia all over the country, thoughtful observers offer explanations, theories… This Cal Poly fan, marooned in the stands, sketches a phenomenology of the game he fled at half-time.

[W]hy is Alex G. Spanos Stadium on Saturday nights as empty as a bird’s nest in the winter? One of the first things that comes to mind is the style of football Cal Poly plays. Cal Poly’s offense is a variation of the triple option, which is why you hear people in the stands calling for the Mustangs to “throw the damn ball.”

The goal of the triple option, in an extremely reductionist sense, is to almost always run the football while making it extremely difficult for the defense to identify who has the ball. However this entails a lot of repeatedly running right up the middle of the defense. While this bears a lot of strategic purpose, running straight into a wall of defenders is definitely not the most fun thing to watch, especially when it is the 30th time you’ve seen it in a game.

I suppose you could make a bunch of helmets bashing another bunch of helmets – or pocketbooks – over and over again interesting – or comic? – (“Repetition is the essential comedic device.”) – but interest and amusement is not really football, is it? Football is mad screaming hyperdrive…

The NRA hates her. She’s bisexual. She’s probably an atheist. She’s got a potty mouth.

And she’s the state of Arizona’s newest Senator.

For UD, this has always been THE great WWI poem.

Its third stanza has become part of my mental life.

******************

1. Prelude: The Troops

Dim, gradual thinning of the shapeless gloom
Shudders to drizzling daybreak that reveals
Disconsolate men who stamp their sodden boots
And turn dulled, sunken faces to the sky
Haggard and hopeless. They, who have beaten down
The stale despair of night, must now renew
Their desolation in the truce of dawn,
Murdering the livid hours that grope for peace.

Yet these, who cling to life with stubborn hands,
Can grin through storms of death and find a gap
In the clawed, cruel tangles of his defence.
They march from safety, and the bird-sung joy
Of grass-green thickets, to the land where all
Is ruin, and nothing blossoms but the sky
That hastens over them where they endure
Sad, smoking, flat horizons, reeking woods,
And foundered trench-lines volleying doom for doom.

O my brave brown companions, when your souls
Flock silently away, and the eyeless dead
Shame the wild beast of battle on the ridge,
Death will stand grieving in that field of war
Since your unvanquished hardihood is spent.
And through some mooned Valhalla there will pass
Battalions and battalions, scarred from hell;
The unreturning army that was youth;
The legions who have suffered and are dust.

— Siegfried Sassoon

Paging Woody Allen

The suit alleges that Rabbi Yechezekel Wolff reneged on an agreement whereby he would lease the building housing the synagogue on West 23rd Street in exchange for paying operating expenses and covering repairs.

Instead, Wolff ripped out old pews from the 100-year-old building and turned off the heat in the winter time in order to ‘kill off the congregation,’ the lawsuit alleges.

What do you have to do to lose your job at the University of Minnesota?

A UM professor keeps his job, but because he’s a moral degenerate he won’t be teaching or doing anything else there. Just collecting his salary.

As soon as he’s back from four months in prison (this was his financial fraud case, not his buying an arsenal of illegal guns case), he’ll rejoin his colleagues. I guess. I mean, will he even show up? No one wants him to. I guess UM would simply like to send him a big fat check every month.

Now if he takes a couple of those guns and shoots up the student center, then, maybe… Maybe he’ll get docked some salary…

Say it with me: Your tax dollars at work.

The University of Louisville!!!!!!!!!!!!!

[C]omplicating a personnel decision that might otherwise seem obvious is [football coach Bobby] Petrino’s $14 million [!!!!] buyout and U of L’s comparatively shallow pockets.

Having depleted the Hickman Camp Fund to pay Tom Jurich’s settlement [!!!!!] and Chris Mack’s buyout [!!!!!!] from Xavier, ULAA’s largest source of discretionary dollars has shrunk from $16 million to $8 million. Though Petrino would not have to be paid off in a lump sum — his contract calls for quarterly payments on an unspecified schedule — the costs associated with firing him (and, presumably, buying out his replacement from some other school) could create significant cash-flow concerns for a department still burdened by its exposure in Rick Pitino’s breach-of-contract lawsuit [!!!!!!!].

Moreover, financial irregularities found in [UL president] James Ramsey’s U of L administration [!!!!!!!] and recent budget cuts imposed across campus pose a contextual challenge to an eight-figure buyout. It promotes the perception of athletics as apart from rather than a part of the university [LOLOLOL] and, at a minimum, invites blowback.

This is a public university, kiddies.

UD harvests her neighbors’ …

… fall needle drop …

…and sticks it in her green watering can.

UD Views an Antares Rocket Launch…

…this Thursday on Wallops Island, Chincoteague. Will she and her sister have the whatever to leave their hotel at one AM, when the NASA facility opens, and wait there until 5:00 AM for the launch? Or will they simply watch the launch from their balcony? Will the launch be canceled (weather is supposed to be perfect, though)? Will (this is her sister’s question) the rocket explode?

Of course I’ll blog the experience…

‘Many people are close to the edge at any given time, for a variety of reasons. In a country full of guns, most of those that go over the edge choose the simplest path and take their own lives. And some act on other impulses. This will not change. This will get …

…worse.’

*************

There are many degrees of complicity in the moral universe, apart from simple guilt: unconscious collusion, deliberate negligence, and gross deliberate negligence among them. Historians of violence will consider all these in passing verdicts on our gun-obsessed society and on the politicians who did nothing to rein it in.

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Dr. Bernard Carroll, known as the "conscience of psychiatry," contributed to various blogs, including Margaret Soltan's University Diaries, for which he sometimes wrote limericks under the name Adam.
New York Times

George Washington University English professor Margaret Soltan writes a blog called University Diaries, in which she decries the Twilight Zone-ish state our holy land’s institutes of higher ed find themselves in these days.
The Electron Pencil

It’s [UD's] intellectual honesty that makes her blog required reading.
Professor Mondo

There's always something delightful and thought intriguing to be found at Margaret Soltan's no-holds-barred, firebrand tinged blog about university life.
AcademicPub

You can get your RDA of academic liars, cheats, and greedy frauds at University Diaries. All disciplines, plus athletics.
truffula, commenting at Historiann

Margaret Soltan at University Diaries blogs superbly and tirelessly about [university sports] corruption.
Dagblog

University Diaries. Hosted by Margaret Soltan, professor of English at George Washington University. Boy is she pissed — mostly about athletics and funding, the usual scandals — but also about distance learning and diploma mills. She likes poems too. And she sings.
Dissent: The Blog

[UD belittles] Mrs. Palin's degree in communications from the University of Idaho...
The Wall Street Journal

Professor Margaret Soltan, blogging at University Diaries... provide[s] an important voice that challenges the status quo.
Lee Skallerup Bessette, Inside Higher Education

[University Diaries offers] the kind of attention to detail in the use of language that makes reading worthwhile.
Sean Dorrance Kelly, Harvard University

Margaret Soltan's ire is a national treasure.
Roland Greene, Stanford University

The irrepressibly to-the-point Margaret Soltan...
Carlat Psychiatry Blog

Margaret Soltan, whose blog lords it over the rest of ours like a benevolent tyrant...
Perplexed with Narrow Passages

Margaret Soltan is no fan of college sports and her diatribes on the subject can be condescending and annoying. But she makes a good point here...
Outside the Beltway

From Margaret Soltan's excellent coverage of the Bernard Madoff scandal comes this tip...
Money Law

University Diaries offers a long-running, focused, and extremely effective critique of the university as we know it.
Anthony Grafton, American Historical Association

The inimitable Margaret Soltan is, as usual, worth reading. ...
Medical Humanities Blog

I awake this morning to find that the excellent Margaret Soltan has linked here and thereby singlehandedly given [this blog] its heaviest traffic...
Ducks and Drakes

As Margaret Soltan, one of the best academic bloggers, points out, pressure is mounting ...
The Bitch Girls

Many of us bloggers worry that we don’t post enough to keep people’s interest: Margaret Soltan posts every day, and I more or less thought she was the gold standard.
Tenured Radical

University Diaries by Margaret Soltan is one of the best windows onto US university life that I know.
Mary Beard, A Don's Life

[University Diaries offers] a broad sense of what's going on in education today, framed by a passionate and knowledgeable reporter.
More magazine, Canada

If deity were an elected office, I would quit my job to get her on the ballot.
Notes of a Neophyte