Wasting time getting ready for class: Powerpoint tip

Someday you might use this:
I have two text boxes that I would like to appear repeatedly on a PowerPoint slide. For example I want box one to appear for five seconds, then box two, then box one again, box two, etc. This needs to appear on each slide in the presentation so I can’t set it up with each box on a separate slide and then repeat the show.
If the background is not a problem, here’s how I got it to work.
– Make two boxes (or objects) next to each other.
– Duplicate the box on the right and cover the box on the left with the duplicate. Make the duplicate  look like the background if necessary as this is just your cover for the box on the left.
– Group the cover box and the right box.
– Add an Emphasis animation: Blink, to the group.
– Under timing, set duration to 5 seconds, and set repeat  to: Until end of slide.
Now when you run the show, one will appear to go away while the other remains, alternately until you advance the slide. Copy and paste the objects to the next slide to repeat, or put the objects on your master. Replicating the background with the cover may present a problem, but should work on a flat color.
Nice.  For a text box duration = 15 seconds better.  Finding the emphasis animation timing options is not obvious, but eventually you will figure out which menu options to choose.
Posted in Burkina Faso | Leave a comment

Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad”

Whitehead’s novel is good.  The central device of the “real” underground railroad is imaginative and deftly deployed.  The horrors of slavery, the perversity of “benign” slavery, the tenuous freedoms of Indiana, and the interior life of the main character, Cora, are compelling.  Lots of powerful imagery and fine writing.  The subject matter, slavery, needs to be read about over and over again.  Whitehead does a tremendous job of an inherently impossible task: the awful pain of slavery has to be set in a novel where you want to keep reading, not as a voyeur, but as an empathetic and lucky survivor.  He succeeds.

That said, for me some parts of the novel did not work too well.  In particular, towards the end I found Cora’s regular “reflecting” back to earlier episodes in her life more like a novelist trying too deliberately to urge the reader to “Remember that great character I introduced earlier in the novel?  Sure you do, good old Ajarry, you know, the grandmother?”  For all of Cora’s reflecting back to her grandmother, she seemed not to remember that supposedly Ajarry’s cousins were possibly in “the City of Pennsylvania.”  Another part of the writing I did not like was the frequent use of clauses as sentences.  No verb.  Running into the woods.

But what do I know?  The reviews at NPR, The Guardian, LA Times, and NY Times are ecstatic.  Untempered praise.  Resonating with current political events.  Stand the test of time, maybe.

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Salient stories like these from the University of Oregon are worrisome to all faculty, whose job is “speech”

As a university professor, I know that much of my job involves engaging in speech.  I do that “live” in front of students, I do it on Youtube recordings, I do it on a blog, I do it in academic journal articles, and I do “speech” in email and hallway conversations.  All faculty know that occasionally they say or write things that could be misconstrued.  Oftentimes we are required to be spontaneous; we respond to audiences. When delivering impromptu speech, sometimes words come out in way that after reflection seems to not reflect our deliberate intent.  Academics, moreover, are the master practitioners of sarcasm, irony, devil’s advocacy, provocation, etc.  And academics disagree about many things, and are not always certain what is meant when something is stated to be a fact or by when someone says they are offended.

At the same time, faculty know that many of their colleagues, especially in earlier times, were, as Chuck D. once sang, “Straight up racist that sucker was.”  So institutions with histories of unacknowledged racism and sexism (think Georgetown’s sale of slaves, or my own institution’s (Santa Clara University) century-long refusal to admit women) and privilege have to cope now with a remedy of occasional sanction for certain kinds of speech.

I struggle every day with the balance of these considerations.  Long explorations like this essay in the Washington Post by Eugene Volokh can be very helpful, even if I do not agree with the entire argument he is making.

Last week, the University of Oregon made clear to its faculty: If you say things about race, sexual orientation, sex, religion and so on that enough people find offensive, you could get suspended (and, following the logic of the analysis) even fired. This can happen even to tenured faculty members; even more clearly, it can happen to anyone else. It’s not limited to personal insults. It’s not limited to deliberate racism or bigotry.

Source: At the University of Oregon, no more free speech for professors on subjects such as race, religion, sexual orientation – The Washington Post

Posted in Being a teacher, Santa Clara University, United States

Ha Jin’s Waiting

At a colleague’s Christmas party I had met the Stanford University economic historian Avner Grief, and he chatted with me for a long time about the role of clans in China and how that kin culture led to different institutional outcomes compared with Europe, where the limited liability city and then corporation emerged.  So maybe because I had China on my mind, I was looking at my shelf of unread books and saw Ha Jin’s Waiting (first published in 1999).  Something about the blurbs had turned me off way back when.  But I started in on it, and quickly found myself engrossed in the novel, a classic “marriage plot” with a backdrop of mid 1960s revolutionary through 1980s transitional China.  The focus is personal, but there are frequent anthropological-style descriptive passages (of people and their work, mostly).  The China described in the novel certainly could be Europe, so in that sense there is nothing culturally “different” about it.  The novel is quite compelling early on, because Jin takes time away from the plot to communicate the “thinking” of the several main characters.  The protagonist, Lin, is a diffident partner in his two relationships.  His thinking is often confused, slow, and incomplete.  The reader, if like me, understands but starts to get frustrated.  Towards the end the inevitability of a particular kind of outcome gets hinted at, so the denouement reinforces the tone of diffidence.  The novel itself seems to shrink back against a wall… read me if you like, it murmurs.

A nice review by Francine Prose at The New York Times.

Posted in Book reviews

Books read in 2016, ranked by “Ones I would encourage you to read first”

Looks like I read 20 novels in 2016 (though I will probably read a couple more over break).

  1. Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend
  2. Michael Faber’s The Book of Strange New Things
  3. Stephen Jarvis’s Death and Mr. Pickwick
  4. Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer
  5. The Dark Forest by Cixin Li
  6. J.L Carr’s A Month in the Country
  7. A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
  8. Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire
  9. Three Body Problem by Cixin Li
  10. David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas
  11. Q, by Luther Blissett
  12. Un Rude Hiver, by Raymond Queneau
  13. Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning
  14. Niq Mhlongo’s After Tears
  15. Niq Mhlongo’s Dog Eat Dog
  16. The Root: A Novel of the Wrath & Athenaeum by Na’amen Gobert Tilahun
  17. Tana French, In the Woods
  18. The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens
  19. Don Delillo, Americana
  20. Paula Hawkins, Girl on the Train
Posted in Burkina Faso

Every person claiming to be an American should know the basics of My Lai

Audaciously and on his own initiative, the pilot, Chief Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson Jr., swooped down and landed the copter. “Mr. Thompson was just beside himself,” Mr. Colburn recalled in an interview in 2010 for the PBS program “The American Experience.” “He got on the radio and just said, ‘This isn’t right, these are civilians, there’s people killing civilians down here.’ And that’s when he decided to intervene. He said, ‘We’ve got to do something about this, are you with me?’ And we said, ‘Yes.’ ” Mr. Thompson confronted the officer in command of the rampaging platoon, Lt. William L. Calley, but was rebuffed. He then positioned the helicopter between the troops and the surviving villagers and faced off against another lieutenant. Mr. Thompson ordered Mr. Colburn to fire his M-60 machine gun at any soldiers who tried to inflict further harm. “Y’all cover me!” Mr. Thompson was quoted as saying. “If these bastards open up on me or these people, you open up on them. Promise me!” “You got it boss,” Mr. Colburn replied. “Consider it done.” Mr. Thompson, Mr. Colburn and Glenn Andreotta, the copter’s crew chief, found about 10 villagers cowering in a makeshift bomb shelter and coaxed them out, then had them flown to safety by two Huey gunships. They found an 8-year-old boy clinging to his mother’s corpse in an irrigation ditch and plucked him by the back of his shirt and delivered him to a nun in a nearby hospital. Crucially, they reported what they had witnessed to headquarters, which ordered a cease-fire. By then, as many as 500 villagers had been killed.

Posted in Burkina Faso

Profile of Preet Bharara should give Democrats some pause

I just don’t follow U.S. politics close enough to be reasonably sure about many things.  Last night I was reading this profile of Preet Bharara, from the May 2016 The New Yorker.  The piece was presumably in part anticipating that Bharara would be in the running as Attorney General of a Hilary Clinton administration.  It makes you wonder about the demonization of Comey.

In debriefing Comey before his testimony, Bharara heard a more extraordinary tale than he had expected. On the night of March 10, 2004, Comey had learned that Gonzales, then the White House counsel, and Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff, were heading to a Washington hospital, where John Ashcroft, the Attorney General, suffering from gallstone pancreatitis, was in intensive care. Gonzales and Card wanted Ashcroft to reauthorize a government surveillance program that Comey and his staff had concluded was unlawful. Comey and Robert Mueller III, the F.B.I. director, raced, sirens blaring, to beat Gonzales and Card to Ashcroft’s bedside. In a tense confrontation at the hospital, Ashcroft told Gonzales and Card that, since Comey was Acting Attorney General, the decision was his to make.

Moreover, the article’s focus on Bharara’s prosecution of the leaders of the Democratic establishment in Albany, the state capital of New York, makes clear that petty corruption (only in the tens of millions) ruled the day.  If you were a Republican, might you not reasonably think that Trump was no worse than Sheldon Silver, Speaker of the Assembly?

Beginning in 2005, after Taub’s referrals began, Silver used a state health-care fund that he controlled to send a total of five hundred thousand dollars to the clinic. Silver’s disbursements to Taub illustrated his power as Speaker. As Bharara put it, “He was parcelling out money to this doctor, Dr. Taub, for his mesothelioma clinic, and nobody had to agree to it. There was no oversight, and nobody had to know about it, and his fingerprints didn’t have to be on it.” The circle was complete: taxpayer money went to Taub’s clinics, the referrals went to Weitz & Luxenberg, and the fees went to Silver.

Source: The Man Who Terrifies Wall Street

Posted in Burkina Faso