Penn State deems all outdoors an Unsafe Space

Here’s an article from the Philadelphia Inquirer (thanks to several readers for calling this situation to my attention). Click on the screenshot to read the piece about PSU (Pennsylvania State University) and its new decision.

What happened? Here’s the skinny:

A backpacking trip in the Rothrock State Forest and day hikes in the Laurel Highlands and Shenandoah National Park in Virginia were among the Penn State Outing Club’s 2018 spring-term events.

After this weekend, though, the 98-year-old organization has nothing on its calendar, and unless things change, it won’t.

The Outing Club isn’t allowed to go outside anymore.

According to an announcement posted by the club on its website last week, the university will not allow the club to organize and run outdoor, student-led trips starting next semester.

“This is a result,” the announcement said, “of an assessment of risk management by the university that determined that the types of activities in which PSOC engages are above the university’s threshold of acceptable risk for recognized student organizations.”

After a two-month review that did not include consultation with student Outing Club leaders, the university’s offices of Student Affairs and Risk Management made the determination that the hiking, canoeing, kayaking, trail building and camping activities the student-led club has long engaged in are too risky. The club is one of the oldest entirely student-run organizations at Penn State.

. . . The other two outdoor recreation organizations, the Nittany Grotto Caving Club and the Nittany Divers SCUBA Club, were also judged too risky and directed to end trip offerings. Club sports that passed the risk review include the Archery Club, Boxing Club, Alpine Ski Racing Club and Rifle Club.

Note that the decision didn’t involve any of the students, and, worse, the University won’t even tell the students why they nixed the outings.  Is it getting more dangerous out there? I suspect not.

“Student safety in any activity is our primary focus,” Lisa Powers, a Penn State University spokeswoman, said in an email response to questions about the school’s assessment.

Ms. Powers said the university conducted reviews of all campus recreation-supported student groups — 76 sport and three outdoor recreation organizations — to evaluate student safety risks and produce assessment reports. She declined to provide a copy of the assessment report for the Outing Club, saying it is not a public document.

This is ludicrous and embarrassing, especially in view of PSU’s refusal to consult with the clubs and come clean about its decision.

Of course none of us know what really happened, but I think this is a result of universities increasingly deciding they really have to act in loco parentis since students are increasingly becoming consumers; the university thinks that the consumers must be safe. In this case, however, the University— probably afraid of being sued—made the decision against the wishes of the students. The University is, in effect, acting as a Big Helicopter Parent, trying to shield its charges from all possible harm.

Most of us older folk have noticed this on a parental scale. Kids aren’t allowed to play on their own anymore—not without a parent watching. When I got home from grade school, or wanted to do stuff on the weekend, I’d just get on my bike and ride off on my own, sometimes not even telling my parents where I was going. That was when I was ten years old or so. Everybody played unsupervised then, but it’s unthinkable now, despite children actually being safer in today’s world.  So if the world is safer, what is Penn State’s beef? Why, in a safer world, do colleges want even more supervision? You tell me.

Regardless, the students don’t like it one bit:

On a Penn State Reddit site, and the Outing Club’s Facebook page, reports of the university’s decision to shut down the club’s outings were derided by many as hypocritical.

Some of more than 80 Reddit posters wondered if the school will shut down its highly ranked men’s and women’s rugby teams, full-contact club street hockey, and even football because they were risky and potentially injurious.


Travels in New Mexico: Taos

I arrived in Taos two days ago after a too-short drive over the famous High Road from Santa Fe, a road that goes through lovely scenery and appealing small towns. Although it was Sunday, and hardly anybody was to be seen, I enjoyed the quiet.

But before I left Santa Fe, I had to return for breakfast to the place where I got those fabulous blue corn pancakes with roasted pinon nuts. Tecolote, which has moved in recent years because of its popularity, now lives in a strip mall, but who cares when the food is that good?

This time I had another house special: Huevos Yucatecos, described like this on their menu:

I had posole, known in English as “hominy.” This belly-busting breakfast also came with a bakery basket containing three sizable muffins: jalapeño, blueberry, and raisin. It was a superb meal, and kept me full till dinnertime, a dinner that consisted of a salad and some fruit (I need to detox before I resume my gluttony):

Out in the parking lot I saw this license plate, which I’d dearly like to have on my car:

The High Road (see link above) goes through scenery that looks like the next two pictures:

In the small town of Las Trampas sits a well known adobe church, San José de Gracia, which Wikipedia describes this way:

The San Jose de Gracia Church, also known as Church of Santo Tomas Del Rio de Las Trampas, is a historic church on the main plaza of Las Trampas, New Mexico. Built between 1760 and 1776, it is one of the least-altered examples of a Spanish Colonial Pueblo mission church, with adobe walls rising 34 feet (10 m) in height. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1970.

Shortly after arriving in Taos and booking a cheap room (yes, they left the light on for me), I headed for perhaps the most famous of New Mexican adobe churches, San Francisco de Asis Mission Church, built between 1772 and 1816, and also a National Historic Landmark. Its rear faces the road, so it’s easy to miss. But the rear of the building is, as artists have found, more visually interesting than the front:

The front, with two cross-topped bell towers:

One reason the church is famous is that it’s been depicted by many painters and photographers, most notably Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams:

Here’s O’Keeffe’s painting (below) and her take on the building:

The Ranchos de Taos Church is one of the most beautiful buildings left in the United States by the early Spaniards. Most artists who spend any time in Taos have to paint it, I suppose, just as they have to paint a self-portrait. I had to paint it—the back several times, the front once. I finally painted a part of the back thinking with that piece of the back I said all I needed to say about the church. I often painted fragments of things because it seemed to make my statement as well as or better than the whole could. And I long ago came to the conclusion that even if I could put down accurately the thing that I saw and enjoyed, it would not give the observer the kind of feeling it gave me. I had to create an equivalent for what I felt about what I was looking at—not copy it.

And an Ansel Adams photograph:

The entire landscaped front:

And, of course, since this is a Catholic church, there’s a recent “memorial to the unborn.” It wouldn’t be as affecting if the picture was the single cell of a fertilized zygote.

The inside of the church with its wooden ceiling:

The main altar, repainted in 1981:

One of the two paintings flanking the entrance. The Mary and Jesus is complemented on the other side by Jesus holding his bleeding heart.

A closeup of the adobe exterior, showing the straw mixed with the dried mud:

Of course all of us amateur photographers have to have a go at a picture, too, and this is mine. Sadly, the morning light wasn’t great and the photo turned into what I call “Adobe Buttocks”:

My next visit was to what is probably Taos’s premier visitor destination: Taos Pueblo,  The website says it’s the oldest continuously inhabited community in the U.S.:

Taos Pueblo is the only living Native American community designated both a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and a National Historic Landmark. The multi-story adobe buildings have been continuously inhabited for over a [sic] 1,000 years. The Pueblo is 3 miles northeast of Taos Plaza.  Archaeologists say that ancestors of the Taos Indians lived in this valley long before Columbus discovered America and hundreds of years before Europe emerged from the Dark Ages. Ancient ruins in the Taos Valley indicate our people lived here nearly 1000 years ago. The main part of the present buildings were most likely constructed between 1000 and 1450 A.D. They appeared much as they do today when the first Spanish explorers arrived in Northern New Mexico in 1540 and believed that the Pueblo was one of the fabled golden cities of Cibola. The two structures called Hlauuma (north house) and Hlaukwima (south house) are said to be of similar age. They are considered to be the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the USA.

Below is a photo of the “north house” (I couldn’t approach the “south house” as it’s off limits; as Wikipedia notes, “The Taos community is known for being one of the most private, secretive, and conservative pueblos”.).

The two “houses” are big adobe apartment buildings, with each door opening into a single-family unit. There are up to three stories, with the upper units accessible only by climbing a ladder. (I wonder how the older people manage that). There are also isolated, smaller houses.

Other views of the north house. There is no electricity or running water; water comes from a creek running through the pueblo that debouches from a pure mountain lake in the mountains behind. It’s a sacred lake, and was made 100% Tiwa-speaker property by decree of Richard Nixon.

I have no idea how many people live in the Pueblo. I took a tour from a woman who was a member of the tribe and studying biology at a local college, intending to go into “native medicine.” She told me there were 15-20 people living there permanently, but others visit from time to time or during ceremonies. Each unit is passed down within a family.

The way to get to an upstairs unit:

Some of the residents sell basked goods and handicrafts from their homes. Their own baking is done in outdoor adobe ovens that look like this:

It’s a breathtaking structure, and of course requires maintenance to keep the adobe uncracked.

I am told that the wooden racks are used to dry vegetables and other foodstuffs:

Some adobe bricks ready to be used:

A view from the courtyard of the local church, built by Indian labor under the Spanish whip:

Red Willow Creek, the source of the Pueblo’s water:

The Pueblo residents fiercely resisted Spanish occupation, attacking the killing several priests and the Governor General. Their last big revolt was in 1847, when the Spanish attacked, forcing the residents to hole up in this original church, which was then knocked down with cannons. The bell tower and original bell remains, surrounded by a graveyard that one isn’t allowed to photograph:

The rest of the day I wandered around downtown Taos, including the plaza, which is full of ritzy stores. Nearby is the home and grave of the famous Kit Carson (1809-1868), a frontier polymath, or, as Wikipedia describes him, “an American frontiersman. . .a mountain man (fur trapper), wilderness guide, Indian agent, and U.S. Army officer.” His deliberate murdering and scalping of many Indians has taken a lot of the shine off his image. Here are the first and last known photos of Carson, followed by my photo of his grave:

Finally, the home of Mabel Dodge Luhan (1879-1962), a wealthy heiress who moved to Taos in 1917 with her third husband, becoming a patron of the local art scene.  She also entertained many famous artists and writers. From Wikipedia:

D. H. Lawrence, the English author, accepted an invitation from her to stay in Taos, arriving with his wife, Frieda, in early September, 1922. He had a fraught relationship with his hostess, however, later writing about it in his fiction. Dodge later published a memoir about the visit entitled, Lorenzo in Taos (1932). Editor and book designer Merle Armitage also wrote a book about this time in New Mexico. Taos Quartet in Three Movements was originally to appear in Flair Magazine, but the magazine folded before its publication. This short work describes the tumultuous relationship of D. H. Lawrence, his wife Frieda, artist Dorothy Brett and Mabel Dodge Sterne, a wealthy patron of the arts.

. . . In New Mexico, Dodge and Luhan [Tony Luhan, her fourth husband and a Native American] hosted a number of influential artists and poets, including Marsden Hartley, Arnold Ronnebeck, Louise Emerson Ronnebeck, Ansel Adams, Willa Cather, Walter Van Tilburg Clark, Robinson Jeffers and his wife Una, Florence McClung, Georgia O’Keeffe, Mary Hunter Austin, Mary Foote, Frank Waters, Jaime de Angulo, Aldous Huxley, Ernie O’Malley and others.

All those luminaries stayed here:

I didn’t go inside, but you can see more pictures of the house, inside and outside, here. And here, left to right, are Mabel Dodge Luhan, Frieda Lawrence, and British painter Dorothy Brett.


Tuesday: Hili dialogue

by Grania

Good morning, and happy birthday to Barbra Streisand (1942) who gave us the Streisand Effect as well as a lot of music and movies.

On Twitter today:

Dogs & Cats

If you enjoy falcons you have a fantastic opportunity to watch a family via webcam. There is live footage of a family of peregrine falcons from Nottingham Trent University. You will need to enable Flash if you want to view the webcam stream.

This looks legit.

Factoid of the day

And a new variation on an old familiar face.

Finally, a pun.

(If you don’t get it, this will help)

Over in Poland the felids have plenty to say today.

Leon is exploring and punning.

Leon: Look, a pussy on a willow.

Hili is engaging in her favorite activity: food critic.

Hili: I like it, and afterwards crunchy cat food with beef, please.
Zuza: You are very demanding.

Hili: To lubię, a potem poproszę o chrupki z wołowiną.
Zuza: Jesteś bardzo wymagająca.

Hat-tip: Barry, HStiles.

A New Yorker evolution-cartoon contest

In a recent post on The New Yorker, several readers beefed that they no longer like the cartoons. Well, I still like most of them, and always read the cartoon contest on the magazine’s last page, where an artist submits a cartoon drawing without a caption; readers submit their own caption, and the editors pick three of the best. The next week the winning caption is announced.

Reader Mark sent this one, but I don’t know if it’s new. He says the last caption is the best. Judge for yourself—and invent your own caption if you wish, though it’s too late to enter the competition.

Cunk on Britain: Episode 3

I believe I’ve posted the first two episodes of Cunk on Britain, Diane Morgan’s very funny take of the history of Old Blighty. I’m surprised that the episodes are still up (#1 here and #2 here), as the BBC tends to take these things down. Well, watch them soon.

This episode covers the nineteenth century, and there are some real gems. There’s of course a bit on Darwin (from 12:49 to 15:25).  You get to hear Philomena say her best word, “monkey” (pronounced “mahn-kee”), five times, and hear her description of Darwin’s classic book The Oranges of the Peaches.

h/t: Julian

New York Times cries “fake news” about real news from Palestine

You may remember the reporter and anchor Campbell Brown, who worked for NBC and then CNN before the latter dropped her for low ratings (I liked her reporting). She then took to writing op-eds and turned herself into a well-known advocate for school choice, becoming more openly conservative along the way.

Now, as Nellie Bowles just reported in the New York Times (click on screenshot below), Brown was hired last year by Facebook to act as a media liaison and fix the company’s tarnished reputation as a purveyor of news.

One of the projects in which Brown is engaged is producing news shows for Facebook alone—shows featuring name anchors. I don’t know whether this is wise, or will succeed if it’s tried, but at any rate this post is not to criticize Brown, but rather Nellie Bowles and the New York Times.  For in her article, Bowles holds up as “fake news” the report that the Palestinian government pays terrorists for killing Israelis, both civilians and soldiers. Here’s what she says (my emphasis):

Facebook — with its reach of more than 2.2 billion users — already holds enormous power over the news that people consume. But now it is making its first venture into licensed news content. Facebook has set aside a $90 million budget to have partners develop original news programming, and Ms. Brown is pitching publishers on making Facebook-specific news shows featuring mainstream anchors, according to two people involved in or briefed on the matter, who asked not to be identified because the details were confidential.

Once those shows get started, Ms. Brown wants to use Facebook’s existing Watch product — a service introduced in 2017 as a premium product with more curation that has nonetheless been flooded with far-right conspiracy programming like “Palestinians Pay $400 million Pensions For Terrorist Families” — to be a breaking news destination. The result would be something akin to an online competitor to cable news.

As Tablet magazine points out in two pieces (here and here), however, this is not fake news or a “far-right conspiracy theory, but is in fact true. It’s well known to anybody who even knows a bit about this situation (the figures are publicly available) that the Palestinian Authority (PA) pays stipends not only to Palestinian terrorists who are convicted and languish in Israeli jails (the money goes to their families), but also to families of “martyrs” who kill Israelis—both soldiers and civilians. Here’s some information from the two Tablet pieces, which also notes that the PA budgeted $403 million for this purpose in 2018:

Every year, the PA has released a similar sum, roughly over one billion shekels (approx. $320 million dollars) per year for the past four years. I’m only providing the past four years as an example, but if we went back further, we would see that the number has also been higher than one billion. Due to international pressure, the Palestinian Authority decided that it was unable to directly pay the money, and so from its budget, through a trick that satisfied many international entities, they transferred the money, not directly to a ministry responsible for payments to prisoners, but to the PLO so that the terrorists’ salaries could be formally paid through Palestinian National Fund, which was declared afterward by the Israeli Ministry of Defense to be a terror-supporting organization. But this money all comes from the Palestinian Authority’s own budget.

The PA’s official support of terror is a deliberate and official act of state: It occurs on the basis of PA laws that have been passed since 2004, and provide legal grounds for payments to incarcerated terrorists and the families of Terrorist killed carrying out terror attacks against Israel. These are explicit PA laws, which mandate payments to prisoners of war, or as they call them “al-asra”; a normal prisoner is “sijir” in Arabic. “Prisoners of war and released prisoners of war,” says the second clause of the law,“are an inseparable part from the fighting sector of Palestinian society.” On that basis, the PA has determines that Palestinian terrorists are entitled to “heroic treatment and recognition.”

I’m appalled that the New York Times (which I see as becoming increasingly authoritarian Leftist) would impugn a fact as a “conspiracy theory”. If you don’t believe the Tablet, do some Internet digging yourself.

And, by the way, these payments are illegal under international law. But of course Western media, committed to its narrative, chooses not to mention this.  Only one country in the Middle East is repeatedly accused of violating international law. But you won’t find Israel paying IDF soldier, or anyone else, a bonus for killing Palestinians. From the Tablet:

. . . Palestinian payments to terrorists and the families of terrorists who died carrying out terror attacks stand in complete contravention to all signed agreements in the Oslo Accords, and they stand in complete contravention to international law. The problem is that until now the international community and Israel have willfully overlooked the problem of the Palestinian Authority terror payments. There is a fear in Israel and abroad that if Israel or the West acted against these payments that the PA would collapse, resulting in even greater security chaos. In addition, the international community has excused these payments by defining them as social welfare payments to families, and not as to what they really are, rewards for terrorism, and incentives to commit future terror attacks.

h/t: Malgorzata

New Mexico: Santa Fe 2

I spent two nights in Santa Fe as there’s so much to see and do—and eat. People watching is fun, too, as the town harbors a mix of wealthy locals, aged tourists, and aged hippies, as well as a “woo” culture (see below). The food is good, too, though I’m trying to restrain myself: no more than two meals a day.

Here are a few holiday snaps from Day 2:

This is the New Mexico Museum of Art, right off the central plaza. I didn’t go in, as I feared I would eat up the whole lovely day looking at their collection of 20,000 pieces. It’s got a good reputation, and is New Mexico’s oldest art museum.

It was Saturday, so things were hopping: it was market day, when the local Native Americans come to town to sell their arts and crafts, including jewelry, blankets, and assorted lovely items. The vendors line the arcade along the Palace of Governors.  I didn’t buy anything (I already have too much stuff), but I greatly admired a handmade obsidian knife with a deerhorn handle made by a nice guy who chatted with me. I didn’t photograph it (I should have), and anyway it was $450: a piece of art, not cutlery.

I noticed that the obelisk in the center of the Plaza, a memorial to the settlers of the state who died while killing off the locals, had been defaced, with a word missing and another one written in:

I asked a tour guide who was leading a group around what word had been there before. He said the word was “savage”, and that one day, in broad daylight, a guy (I think a Native American, but am not sure) walked up to the monument and hacked off the missing word. I don’t blame him, as the indigenous people were no more “savage”—and probably less so—than those who displaced and killed them. I think someone else wrote “resilient” later. The story of the destruction of the indigenous peoples is a sad one, and this graffiti is just one form of reparation.

There’s a newer plaque on the other side of the monument that tries to make amends for the old, offensive words. This is one correction I don’t mind:

Tourists. I was surprised that many of them were older, but maybe they are “snowbirds” who come here to escape the chill of the north:

Jewelry for sale. If you like Native American style turquoise, this is paradise, but prices are, I suspect, very high:

A lovely piece of greenish turquoise (Wikipedia has a nice article on the gemstone, noting that it’s been debased in recent years by artificial coloration, synthetic “stones”, and imitations.)

There is woo in town. I went into one rock and mineral shop (I’m a sucker for rock and fossil shops) and noticed that, in the rear, they were selling “gemstone water”, water in which gemstones are placed, conferring on the liquid a “healing power”. Pure bullshit, of course.

And here’s some other woo.  I’m sure that some of the warm drinks are okay, though without medicinal properties, but what on earth is Belly Bless™? Note the crystal- and aromatherapy.

But I also found four instantiations of my Spirit Animal. The first one is particularly lovely (notice the baby):


Two pumas outside an antique store:

The San Miguel Chapel (also called the “San Miguel Mission”) near downtown may be the oldest church in the United States. The adobe church was, according to its website, built between 1610 and 1626, but has been damaged and rebuilt several times since then. However, the original adobe walls are still largely there under the newer stucco. (Adobe is a building material made of mud, straw, and sometimes manure, that’s dried in the sun and used as large bricks. It’s fairly durable in dry climates, but requires attention and repair even then.)

I love the adobe houses and churches of the Southwest; I’ll show more on a Taos post later, as it’s the stuff from which the Native American pueblos are made. Here’s San Miguel:

Many of these churches were built using Native American slave labor under the direction of Spanish Catholic missionaries.

Across the street is what is reputed to be America’s oldest house: the De Vargas Street House, whose age is in fact unknown, but probably was built in the 17th or early 18th centuries. Well, who knows, but it’s a lovely adobe structure that you can enter and photograph. Here’s the outside and a reconstruction of the inside (it actually once had two stories). You can see the adobe bricks where the stucco coating is gone:

Finally, my second and last meal of the day (I did have a salted caramel milkshake as a pre-bed snack). I wasn’t hungry till about 3 pm because I’d had that huge breakfast of blue cornmeal pancakes with pinon nuts, butter, and syrup, which stayed with me for hours.

A nice woman at the tourist office recommended lunch at one of her favorite places near downtown, Del Charro’s, which has good draft beer and decent local cuisine. I had the blue corn chicken enchiladas, washed down with a superb local red craft ale, not too hoppy. (I deplore the tendency of brewers to overhop their beer in America, almost as if they’re in a contest to make the bitterest one-note ale.) This is a record day for me: I had blue corn food for both breakfast and lunch.

Tomorrow (or when I get a chance): a visit to lovely Taos.

Monday: Hili dialogue

By Grania

Good morning, and welcome to the new week!

Today is the anniversary of New Coke (1985), the sugary abomination created by Coca-cola in attempt to be more like Pepsi’s sweeter beverage.

In 2005 the very first Youtube video was uploaded by Jawed Karim (a co-founder of the platform).
It’s not the most profound 19 seconds ever recorded, but it was an important step towards the democratization of video publishing. Well, before Google went and ruined it all.

Here’s an interesting photo. Nancy Reagan looks like she really wants to be somewhere else.

Cat attack imminent.

This cat on the other hand, well, who knows.

Interspecies love

An interesting display of interspecies solidarity, well, except for the orcas who are ruining their reputation.

Finally, over to Poland where Hili seems to have stumbled upon a secret that has probably won more than one White House candidate their term in office.

A: You’ve thrown down my pen, again.
Hili: Audacter calumniare, semper aliquid haeret.

In Polish:

Ja: Znowu zrzuciłaś mój długopis.
Hili: Audacter calumniare, semper aliquid haeret.

The Latin: “Slander boldly, something always sticks”.

Hat-tip: Tina and Matthew

A lower bar for Christians?

Today’s Doonesbury, sent by reader Taskin, shows clearly how much American churches have had to bend on dogma and faith to retain their flocks.  Or is this simply a way to show that Trump is still an exponent of “Christian values”?


The effect of helicopter parents on their kids

“Helicopter parenting” refers to parents who incessantly hover like a helicopter around their kids.  Some have blamed this style of parenting on the palpable entitlement felt and exercised by this generation of college students. Reader Brian called my attention to this short (2-minute) video from the Atlantic, one of a series on parenting. The Atlantic gives some background:

“Initially, helicopter parenting appears to work,” says Julie Lythcott-Haims, author of How to Raise an Adult. “As a kid, you’re kept safe, you’re given direction, and you might get a better grade because the parent is arguing with the teacher.” But, ultimately, parents end up getting in the child’s way. In the first episode of Home SchoolThe Atlantic’s new animated series on parenting, Lythcott-Haims explains how helicopter parenting strips children of agency and the ability to cultivate their own tools to navigate the world. “Our job as parents is—like it or not—to put ourselves out of a job,” she says.

This episode of Home School was produced by Elyse Kelly.