Monday, December 14, 2009

Introducing Cultivars!

Hi all!
Well, it's been a long-time coming, but at last, here is the very first volume of Cultivars, the annual, community-wide and carbon neutral newsletter from the UHP. This newsletter features articles by and about current students, faculty, staff, and alumni in the Program!

We hope you enjoy it! And should you want to contribute anything to the 2010 issue, please come by the Honors Office, or email Jenny at
Jenny and all the wonderful work study students in our office who made this possible!

Friday, December 11, 2009


Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile

By: Matt Mahboub

New York is awake around us. New York is throbbing with life. The park we sit in lies in the shadow of four buildings. It is a haven in the city, a place to escape. The trees, flowers and birds in the park live just as fully as New York, but in a different way. Yellow taxi cabs blur by, honking their horns obsessively as the birds in the old sycamore tree behind me chirp pleasantly. The dried wood of the bench beneath me scratches my legs as I adjust in my seat. I sit next to an elderly woman in a wheelchair, with my mother. People chatter around us, relaxing in the warm New York city afternoon.

“Who are you?” she says, with a smile on her face. She is always happy to meet new people.

“You’re nephew, we’re family,”

“I’m Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile,” her voice floating off as she observes the world around her.

“Nice to meet you, your highness,” I say smiling.

“Do you live here?”

“No. I’m from Albuquerque.” I respond, knowing what she is going to say next.

“Really, I have family in New Mexico, Silver City.”

“I know Aunt Cleo, remember, I’m your nephew.” I state the obvious once more.

“We’re related?” she asks innocently.

I have patience with her. She doesn’t understand. As she sits here in this park with me, she suffers from dementia, a broken leg, and ovarian cancer. She is old and dark, having lived most of her life, chasing her dreams. The dreams she had as a small child of acting in a “big city.” However, I only learn about her fanciful life through her lapses in memory, she tells me erratically when she needs to leave the park for work, or that her housekeeper didn’t work today and she needs to return to her apartment to clean. When she’s in this park, she doesn’t realize she’s 93 and living in a dreadful retirement home. Here, she is young again. She sits quietly for a moment, smiling happily just looking around at the people and the sky. Many greet her as they walk by; she returns their greetings with glee. She doesn’t recognize many of them, but she still talks to them. It isn’t until a short elderly man walks up that her confused responses change to understanding.

“Jim!” she exclaims.

“Hello Cleo,” the adoring old man says gently.

Jim Sobrino is blind, or near it. He is the one person in Cleo’s life who has been there through thick and thin. He is the one person she still recognizes; the only person significant enough in her life to remember. Though he can no longer see the details of her face, he loves her. They have been friends for a long time. At times they were more than just friends. Their story is secret. It can only be gently uncovered by the musky glances given to one another. In these short looks, words are spoken, secret and hidden, a language that only the two can understand.

“Is everything alright Tamara, Matthew?”

“Yes, we are just sitting here enjoying the afternoon” my mother responds gently.

“Has she eaten?”

We look at each other, “No.”

Jim looks at his best friend, his comrade and sternly says, “You need to eat Cleo.” I can tell it hurts him, seeing the one he loves slowly wasting away. The look on his face spills the feeling of his soul, strong, aged, yet fragile. He knows the end is soon for her, and it worries him.

“I’m not hungry,” Cleo snaps indignantly, “I’ll eat later.”

Quickly, Jim responds, “Have you eaten today?”

“Yes,” she lies like a child.

“Oh really,” Jim says with a sarcastic smile on his face.

Jim sits down next to me with a small, elderly grunt. His cologne, a thick musky fragrance burns my nose. Feeling the eyes of someone watching me, I look to Cleo. She is staring at me, smiling her whimsical smile.

“You’re so handsome.”

“Thank you,” I say a little too modestly.

“Who are you?” She is always happy to meet new people.

“You’re nephew, we’re family,” I say simply.

“I’m Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile,” her voice floating off once more, observing the world around her.

“Nice to meet you, your highness,” I say smiling

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Preview Night

I'm curious to know as to what everyone signed up for. What are some classes that you found especially appealing?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Be Careful on Facebook

Here is a link to a very short video on BBC that interviews a Facebook employee who works on keeping bullies off of Facebook. Some of info may be helpful to avoid receiving warnings about you Facebook behavior. Some of the things they monitor may surprise you.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Beowulf-The Film

The other night, as we were watching the film, a elderly man (VERY OLD) commented on the "inappropriate laughter" throughout the film. I, of course, immediately considered it to be the laughter of my classmates and I since we were the youngest in the room, however, it also made me think of something else. What makes laughter appropriate in the classroom? In your opinion, is learning really education without enjoyment? Do you believe that a student will retain more with laughter? And finally, do you think that education is the FULL experience, including the laughter in class? "All work and no play makes jack a dull boy." Let's not be an 150 year old Jack like the man in the forum.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Why am I an Honors student?

While completing an assignment for my Honors Legacy class several days ago, I began to think about why exactly I decided to be a part of the Honors Program at UNM. I am sure that my reason is the same as many others: I was always an Honors student in high school and figured that I would continue with it in college. However, I never before stopped to think about why exactly I thought this way. During the aforementioned Legacy assignment, I was discussing fear and what exactly my fears are. I realized that one of my biggest fears, probably the biggest fear, is that of failure. Failure in life in general. I am absolutely terrified of not completing the 4-year plan that I recently made myself to complete my double major and minor. This may just sound like me tooting my own horn, but it is the exact opposite. The reason that I try to do so much, take the hard classes, and do things like join the Honors Program is because I want to make sure that I do everything possible to accomplish my dreams. Now, I just have to learn that joining clubs, taking the hard classes, and signing up for the Honors program is simply not enough. By doing those things I was passively pursuing my dreams. It's time to become active and make sure that I do not let another day slip by without doing everything possible to make my life what I want it to be. And I encourage all of you to do the very same.

To everyone who has ever wanted to run a marathon

Follow the link this documentary called "Spirit of the Marathon" on Hulu. If the link does not work then go directly to hulu and search for the film. This is an excellent and very inspirational documentary that proves anyone can run this amazing race! A must see for all fans of sports and the human spirit.

I Dare You...

In the interest of keeping this blog at least semi-academic, I dare you to explain your wildest midterm (or exam) moment! I know, I know, this sounds a bit odd. But just roll with it for a little while. I am currently sitting up, at 4:00am after studying for not only the entire day and night, but the past week at least! This is ABSOLUTELY ridiculous and I need some inspiration to keep me going in the future.

Staying true to my nature as a college student, I am sitting here thinking of the things I want to to in order to avoid what I need to do (which is obviously to continue studying). So I ask you to share your 1) Most hilarious midterm moment (like turning a study session into a gossiping session like I did with the lovely and talented Co-President, Jessica Mazzie, just the other day), 2) your most terrifying midterm moment (like forgetting the test was tomorrow or studying the wrong chapters, etc.), or 3) your most outrageous midterm experience (like locking your keys in your car while picking up a redbull right before the exam)! All of these would be in the very least interesting to read, especially coming from the Honors crowd.

I can honestly say from experience, while we may be the best at what we do academically, sometimes you just can't fight the truth that we too do some pretty childish/odd/funny/moronic (yeah I said it) things.

I wonder which of us will have the best story?!

- Christopher Hicks

Friday, October 16, 2009


I scoured the kitchen…looking for caffeine. A preliminary search revealed little hope. Soda, which I’ve had too much of in my life (trying to cut back, you see) is out. Tea, which is good for morning, but not so much for certain metabolisms in which the caffeine might not affect the system in the same manner in the midst of altered mindsets (i.e. Sleep Deprivation) of certain people (me), is out as well. This left… coffee. Mmmm… coffee… Knowing how tired I was earlier, and knowing my fourth (or is it fifth?) wind would give out any second… I tried a mixture…

As with most things coming from a kitchen at two in the morning, the aroma, while pleasing, left an awful aftertaste and stained my teeth. This was the strong stuff. Albeit mixing brewed coffee and instant coffee might seem, well, redundant, it was two in the morning and I was already suffering from sleep deprivation. as stated earlier. I tend to repeat myself in such dire times. I tend to repeat myself in such dire times. The substance made my teeth itch, and made my insides turn an awful color I’m sure. I tried to pour some cream into the… well, I dunno what to call it. Anyway, the darkness existing in this already shaking mug (or is that my arm?) enveloped the cream quickly - never to be seen again. I took a sip and it reminded me of fishing with some buddies from work. It was early and the sugar was at the bottom of the supply box and, afraid to look like a sissy, I settled for a dab of creamer in my coffee and was able to hold it down. Consequently that’s the same trip in which I learned to appreciate the amphetamine affects of pure percolated black coffee. Back to tonight. I barely suppressed my gag reflex for several reasons, one, I need the caffeine to set in, but mostly because I was afraid of the vomit - the taste, the smell, I wondered about the color as well. You would understand if you saw that coffee.

After the first mug, my arm wasn’t shaking any more, just the rest of my body. And the room. Probably the world, too. A wolf howled in the distance. I offered some coffee to the man standing next to me, before I realized that it wasn’t a person, but a manifestation of my spirit outside my body, taking refuge from the ill effects. That is, the vomiting. He took some anyway though, and then he promptly rushed to the bathroom. I wasn’t distraught, mostly because I knew I didn’t need a soul to write my English paper. The world stopped shaking, and an evil spirit rose from the cup and forced me to add butterscotch chips to what I can only assume is now a living mixture. It also possessed my body to force a cup of butterscotch pitch black slightly creamed instewed (instant + brewed) coffee down my piehole. I wondered where the word piehole came from when I regained control of most of my bodily functions; however I was still unable to stop my heart. Amazingly, at this point my gag reflex gave way and as a courtesy to the readers at home, or really, wherever you are, I will omit this…colorful description of my… pitch black… uncontrollable… projectile… nevermind.

The world gave up shaking altogether and decided to spin instead. I sat down, and poured whatever was left down the drain. Dad says the plumbers will be out on Tuesday and until then we’ll need to go to other places for running water and bathroom privileges. Also he said the drains have never been cleaner. He inquired about the butterscotch chips and I admitted dairy related addiction, and I go to a group on Friday. The English paper isn’t written, and this paper you are reading now (or that is being read to you) represents a quality thirty minutes of procrastination. My spleen is singing Irish drinking songs that I’ve never heard of and my stomach still refuses consolation. An MRI would surely reveal black spots along major blood lines and important organs, and I am neither surprised nor distraught, because those are merely aftereffects of said coffee and I’m sure they’ll wear off promptly after death. Even if they do match my shoes. My eyeballs philosophize about colors and higher meaning when my ears get involved. Tensions are only stressed when they take sides and once again my teeth are forced to mediate. As with most debates, things get political and my ears fire-bomb my eyes, resulting in bloodshot…ness. My nose has yet to forgive me for other reasons. I’m shaking again but only because it’s cold, and the letters on this paper are fighting with odd Yiddish weaponry. Mostly Throwing Stars of David. My bed welcomed me as a weary traveler welcomes cacti. Slowly fading into unconsciousness, I realized that sleep was impossible and remembered my English paper. I was suddenly aware that I hadn’t blinked in an hour and a half and I realized that I was hungry. I lazily walked to the kitchen, and evaluated my options. After ten minutes of this, I decided to experiment.

As with most things coming from the kitchen at two-thirty in the morning…

Monday, October 12, 2009

Trick or Treat: Halloween '09

Hello fellow UHP students/faculty!

I was just sitting here wondering what I should be for Halloween. It is my absolute favorite holiday, if only for the fact that more horror flicks are on, and everyone gets to dress up in terrifyingly outrageous costumes. So to get to the point, does anyone have any great costume ideas or like to share what they will be dressing up as this year?

Finding a costume for a guy is difficult because the only real male costumes I have found are ridiculous. They are all along the lines of some hefty version of a normal costume, something extremely perverse, or just plain stupid. And as far as female costumes go, they are generally all the same (a skimpy version of a well-known character, etc.).

Why is it SO difficult to find a good costume?! I guess I could always make a costume, but that is where all of you come in. I need the ideas in order to choose the perfect one. So please, share your ideas on future or past costumes, and hopefully in your attempt to help me, you can gain some insight as well.

Thanks :)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Short on Reading?

"Short on Reading" is a new Noticias weekly feature that former Uber-Editor Molly Sroges writes every week. While I don't always have time to read the books Molly suggests, I do love reading her reviews!

"Short on Reading"
by Molly Sroges

Life of Pi by Yann Martel
By now, there is a good chance you're familiar with Yann Martel's Life of Pi: a young boy stuck in a lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with a tiger. I will tell you something else: Pi has three religions, and that's why I opened the book. By the time I closed it, it had found its place among my favorites. I have heard others argue that it drags, it's unbelievable, and it's just downright weird, but you have to try it for yourself before you can criticize it. A bit of advice if you do pick it up: read the Author's Note at the beginning. It's more of a prologue really.

It's the book for you if... you dare to believe in God.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Thoughts from the Scholars Wing: Noticias in the Blogosphere

Hello! My name is Andrea Schoeny and I am the Uber-Editor of Noticias, the weekly newsletter of the Scholars Wing, the Honors residence in Hokona Hall. I have been asked to share snippits of our newsletter with you, and am happy to do so. I'll try to post as often as I can. Enjoy!

Goodbye to the Fireflies by Ioan Belovarski
Birds call onward in the evening sky –
Their flutter of wings, a faintest goodbye –
As blue sky recedes to the natural black
And night embarks on its fated track

And all the while I look out dead –
There’s little left in my emptied head –
But I see the moon make its steady rise
Midst the quiet buzz of the fireflies

Thus one thought springs in my reverie –
It’s not something I would wish to see –
I simply cannot help but wonder at why
I choose to live and not just to die

When everything tells me there’s no more light –
The future’s not clear, but it’s also not bright –
Should I even bother to continue my stay
And fade as fireflies do in the day?

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Age of Stupid

I attended the "Age of Stupid" global premier on September 21st with 32 countries around the world participating. This is a 2009 film by Franny Armstrong, director and Lizzie Gillett, producer with Peter Postlethwaite starring as a man living alone in the devasted world of 2055, watching archive footage from 2008 and asking "Why didn't we stop climate change when we had the chance?"

What stood out for me was the comment that WE (adults living in 2009) have the ever-narrowing chance to save the planet from global warming. Armstong points to grassroots initiatives that have led to major changes: the US civil rights movement, anti-Vietnam War protests, investment boycotts that helped unravel South Africa's apartheid regime--so we can get involved and make a difference now, too.

Science is clear on what needs to be done--keep global temperatures from rising more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit compared to pre-industrial times, and make sure greenhouse gas emissions peak no later than 2015. World leaders will be meeting in Copenhagen in December. So our job is two-fold: contact our US leaders so that Copenhagen does not become another Kyoto and (2) reduce our carbon footprint ( I produce 55 tons of CO2 annually --what about you? Dr. O

Thursday, September 24, 2009

100 Awesome Open Courses for Those Who Want to Change the World

Check out the courses on the list from "Select Courses: It is never too late to learn." The list is divided into nine sections spanning topics from health to environmental science to engineering, politics, religion, and education. Some amazing ideas for courses and topics to pursue.

100 Awesome Open Courses for Those Who Want to Change the World

Friday, September 18, 2009

Fraternities and Sororities

I was pondering on the issue of fraternities and sororities and how they seem to have a bad reputation; I would like to know (based on facts and data) the reasons why they have such a bad image? Some say all they do is drink and party, and that you pay for the friends you have. However, from the people that are part of fraternities and sororities I have been exposed to a completely different side of the story. Yes, they admit they like to have a good time, but doesn't everyone else outside of them too? They have stated to me multiple times that they are men of commitment, respect, integrity, and the like, but nonetheless they are still college students. I think these groups get stereotyped horribly, mainly due to the media, but from what I've been witness to, these guys and girls seem to be just like any other student, but having more of a social life. Can anyone tell me, based on cold facts, why they are viewed as "partiers", "drinkers", etc?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mac users can be very strange

This documentary is funny, strange, historical, cult-like, and bizzare. It tracks the strange cult behavior that emerged and survived decades from the birth of Mac computers. Some people are way too into their computers don't ya think?

Robby Ortiz
Peer Advisor

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Preview Night Debate

One, two, three, four: I declare a debate war!

Other Honors Colleges across the U.S. who also have Banner are experimenting with year-long scheduling, meaning that each March (for example) students register for their Fall, Summer AND Spring classes.

So this post is two-pronged. Presidents and Provosts at these campuses say it will help them provide better course offerings (more of what students want) and more sections of what students need. To me, it feelsl ike going into the grocery store and buying everything I'll need for the next year for which the store manager will then make better selections for when I come back (in 365 days)...but if what I need is not one shelf, how would I ever buy it? So I'm curious if UNM ever moved in this direction (and I'm not saying we will as UNM tends to do things differently from the rest of the country), would this be helpful to anyone making their schedules?

My other thought directly relates to Honors on a year-long schedule. Every semester we have Preview Night so that students and faculty can come together as a community and get a look ahead at the next semester's courses. It takes about 2 hours to go through 1 semester of courses (with each teacher speaking for a max of 2 minutes!). So if we were on a year-long schedule, we could then presume Preview Night would take 4-5 hours!!! Holy Cow! Thus I open up the topic of Preview Night for a fun hypothetical debate. If you, the UHP student reading this post, were the new "Dr. O-director" of Honors, what would you do with Preview Night? Put teacher presentations online for students to watch whenever? Do away with it completely? Span it over 2 days? This is all hypothetical. Pretend there are no limits to technology or money.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Senior Exit Packets Are Now Available Online

Honors students who are graduating in December now have the opportunity to download the senior exit packet from the Honors website. Just click on the "Senior Exit Packet" link and you will be able to download the packet as a Word document.

A senior exit packet is required for all graduating Honors students who wish to receive a designation of Summa, Magna, or Cum Laude. If you are not sure whether or not you qualify to graduate with Honors, take a look at the Student Handbook on our website to review the graduation requirements.

Packets are due in the UHP main office (Rm 21) by Friday, November 6th at 5 pm.

Please be aware that the senior packet consists of several pages and requires a meaningful reflection of your experience in the Honors Program. It will be to your advantage to start this packet EARLY in order to complete all requirements by the deadline. If you have any questions, feel free to call 277-4211 or e-mail

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Antonio’s Gun and Delfino’s Dream

UNM's Provost chose Antonio’s Gun and Delfino’s Dream by acclaimed Los Angeles Times journalist Sam Quinones as this summer's inaugural work for the Lobo Reading Experience, a summer reading program for UNM Freshmen. So, who read this book over the summer? What did you think about it? What did you think was most successful about the book? Least successful? Was it a good selection for UNM students? Why or why not?

Literature-- Why do we bother?

Not that I don't love Frank's math videos, but it seems time to get some discussion going about non-math topics. So, what about literature? Why do we bother with it? What makes a classic a classic? And why should we read classics at all?

One of my students recently raised this issue and I believe it is an important one-- central in fact to the role of humanities education in this century. Most "great" literature is so far removed from our lives in the 21st century as to be almost in another galaxy. Those of us who teach literature talk about relating it to our students' lives and those students may even tell us that they learned a lot from a text they read. But what do we actually learn about our own lives when we read "classics"? Why is it "good for us" to read such literature? Why does having that kind of background still make people consider us more educated?

In other words, what would we actually lose out on, if we just started studying and/or teaching books we enjoy rather than those works that others have stamped as works of great literature? How many of us actually enjoy the classics and would pick them up to read on our own, without being required to read them for a class assignment? To get specific here, how many of you read Shakespeare before you go to sleep or on a plane trip? Beowulf? Steinbeck, maybe?

Math Made Almost Bearable: Statistics (Made Almost Bearable)

In this episode of Math Made Almost Bearable Frank Kelly explains some of the mathematical AND philosophical techniques employed by statisticians in order to make statistics almost bearable!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Math Made Almost Bearable: Why 30?

In a previous episode of MMAB Frank mentioned that in statistics, 30 is considered a "large" sample size. In this episode of Math Made Almost Bearable Frank will explain the mystery behind the number 30 as it pertains to statistics and will also reveal one of math's dirty little secrets!

Math Made Almost Bearable: The Birthday Problem

The human population on the earth is increasing at what could seem like an alarming rate. Many people would say that if the population continues to increase that this rate that the earth will not be able to support human life for much longer! In this episode of Math Made Almost Bearable Frank examines these and similar claims about population growth and shows that things are not always what they seem!

Math Made Almost Bearable: Population Growth

The human population on the earth is increasing at what could seem like an alarming rate. Many people would say that if the population continues to increase that this rate that the earth will not be able to support human life for much longer! In this episode of Math Made Almost Bearable Frank examines these and similar claims about population growth and shows that things are not always what they seem!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Travel Abroad

I know there are others who took advantage of the opportunity to travel this summer. I think it would be nice to explore and reflect with one another on the experiences and insights gained. What did you expect from your trip? Did it surprise you? Were you able to broaden your outlook on life? Why so, and in what ways? Really the topics within this discussion could be endless...

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Math Made Almost Bearable: President Garfield's Proof of the Pythagorean Theorem

Name the New Laptops

Name the New Laptops Conest! The UHP just lucked out and acquired 4 new mini-laptops for our classrooms, but they need names. Our current laptops are Micaelangelo, Leonard, Donatello & Raphael, while our wifi routers are Jubilee, Rogue & Storm. Make your entry here or on facebook. Anyone can play. Be creative. An independent panel will vote on 7/31. Happy naming and good luck!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Antonio’s Gun and Delfino’s Dream

UNM's Provost chose Antonio’s Gun and Delfino’s Dream by acclaimed Los Angeles Times journalist Sam Quinones as this summer's inaugural work for the Lobo Reading Experience, a summer reading program for UNM Freshmen. Antonio’s Gun and Delfino’s Dream is recommended (not required) reading for freshmen enrolling at UNM in the fall of 2009. The book will be used in numerous discussion groups and selected class assignments early in the semester, and a further series of events is being planned around a visit by the author later in the term.

So, has anyone in the Honors community (not only freshmen) yet read this book? If so, what did you think about it? Was it a good selection for UNM students? What did you think was most successful about the book? Least successful?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Math Made Almost Bearable: Episode 2: Math as a Performance Art

In this episode I sit down with Frank Kelly to discuss what it means for math to be considered as an art, namely a performing art. Don't worry though! on the next episode we'll be right back to PERFORMING math for you as in episode one!

Math Made Almost Bearable: Episode 1: Fractions and Repeating Decimals

This is the first in a series called “Math Made Almost Bearable” One of my favorite professors, Dr. Frank Kelly and I are collaborating on this little project. The goal is simply to present short, interesting and intriguing facts about math in an approachable and engaging way. This first episode is called “Fractions and Repeating Decimals”.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Explore Latin America

Explore Latin America with all your senses taking one (or two) of these
courses on Latin America offered in the Fall 09:

- "Drums and Dreams of Liberation: Latin American Music as Text"

To experience this class before you take it go to:
Username: student 09
Password: honors09


- The Magic and the "Reel": Literature and History in Latin American
Cinema, with student teacher Katya Hafich

More about this class at:

Friday, April 10, 2009

Combatting the Cost of Texts

In response to current economic spasms, Dr. Otero has asked that all UHP instructors try to keep the cost of books down to $50 per course or less. This means that we will be relying more on other ways to access texts, including E-Reserves and hardcopies of course readers which can be purchased through the UHP office. Jenny has also suggested that we might even provide course readers on disk, which would be cheaper than paper versions. (Incidentally, the UHP does not profit from these readers—you are charged only what it costs to produce them.) In the case of E-Reserve documents, students need not even pay directly for printing out the readings if they use the main university computer pods. (Of course, in this case, your student fees help defray the cost of paper and ink, so technically, this isn’t entirely free.)

My question, then, is this: given a choice, would you prefer E-Reserves, hardcopies of readers, or copies of readers provided on disk? So far in my two classes, students have overwhelmingly voiced a preference for E-Reserves, but some are interested in the disk option. Let us know what you think by commenting here; your preferences will definitely influence the choices many of us make about how we help you access texts for classes.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Spirit of Debate

   I had my exit interview with Leslie Donovan yesterday, she asked me some questions about the strengths and weaknesses of the Honors Department that got me thinking.  I feel that the open discussion of ideas between people in different disciplines, with different interests and perspectives on the world is the great strength of the department and what we call our 'interdisciplinary approach'.  I hope that anyone who has taken an honors class knows by now that this does not mean we always have to agree, or that if other people don't agree with our views at the end of class that we have failed.  This type of communication is important and unique because it helps us to put our own views in a larger perspective, and it helps both (or all) parties come away having gained insight into their own views and the views of others.  What helps to foster this spirit of debate helps the program; what keeps people's views insular and narrow hurts the program.  In the spirit of constructive debate, I would like to share a great essay written by Paul Graham entitled "How to Disagree."  It is a great crash course on rules of argument, and how (and why) to attack the argument and not the person making it.  He has many other great essays, which I would recommend if you have time: The Age of the Essay, Hackers and Painters, Copy What You Like, Microsoft is Dead, Holding a Program in One's Head, Keep Your Identity Small, and Cities and Ambition are all good places to start. Feel free to comment with ideas or inspiration from other great debaters.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Economics and Finances

Since Michael Thomas will be talking at this Friday's IDEX about what the current financial crisis might mean for college students, let's start talking about it here. What has the current economic crisis meant for you?

I know I am consciously cutting back where I can and worrying more when I have to use my credit card for something. Stock that I had counted on as my emergency fund has gone so far down that it would no longer fund any emergency. So, there goes all of my savings/emergency funds. Other than these, I'm holding up OK.

But, what about you? Has the current state of the economy affected you much at this point or not?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A New Honors Seminar

Well, Friday is the workshop for Senior Teachers, as well as the info-session for would-be senior teachers, and this has me thinking: If I were going to propose an Honors seminar, what would it be?

Working Title: Time Travel and the Angst of Humanity
Time travel pervades our literature, our cinema, our music, our art, and our fantasies. As a reader, writer, and movie fanatic, I find I have an insatiable appetite for this particular topic. Judging by the extraordinary popularity of so many time travel books and movies, I am inclined to think I'm not the only one. In class we could feed our imagination on sumptuous texts like Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Dickens' A Christmas Carol, H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, Clarke's Time's Arrow, Rafferty's Rainbird, and so many other amazing authors like Ursula K. Le Guin, L. Sprague de Camp, John Kessel, Connie Willis; on and on the list goes. We could gorge on discussions about the physics and mathematics of time travel theory: from wormholes to cosmic strings; from special relativity to the speed of light. We might snack on the theories of Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan. We could nibble the current research and actual experiments conducted by experts like Lijun Wang or Günter Nimtz. And most importantly, we should indulge our hungry eyes with the wonders of films like Back to the Future, Groundhog Day, Somewhere in Time, A Sound of Thunder, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, Flight of the Navigator, The Philidelphia Experiment, Les Visiteurs (my all-time favorite and all-time-awful Jean Reno movie), or Planet of the Apes, La Jetée, Time After Time, and Primer. Our futuristic feast would not be complete with TV series like "Buck Rogers," "Dr. Who," "Land of the Lost," "Quantum Leap," "Futurama," which deal exclusively with time travel, and others like “The Simpsons,” which just dabble in its possibilities. And for dessert, we must have Star Trek and Star Wars!
Whether we move forwards or backwards, by centuries or by seconds, time travel is a means of releasing the angst of mankind; our preoccupation with consequences; our yearning for lost eras; and our desire to know the unknown.
What else would you add to this time-travel banquet? What class would you teach?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Feedback for UHP

In addition to giving us a place to share ideas and learn from each other, we hope this blog will also provide a place for input and feedback about what UHP is doing and how well it is working. So, please notice the poll to the right side of the page asking about the Legacy experience. Any other ideas for future polls?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Honors has Wireless?

One of the things that bugged me most when I got here is the spotty (i.e. non-existent) wireless coverage here in the basement of the Student Health Center. We've been told that we're on a list at ITS to get a wireless transceiver in the forum, but that list is apparently long. Even when we do get wireless, from the Forum there's no guarantee it will reach back down the hall, say to Scribendi and the eastern most classrooms. For a time, I was making due by dragging a portable router with me to class each day, but that got old fast. Jenny and I at least have been chomping at the bit to do something about this, and we recently spotted some cheap wireless routers online. They were easy to set up, but harder to name.
Now we have three access points: Storm, Rogue, and Jubilee (well Jubilee's with me right now, but she'll be back later today). These should provide wireless coverage to our Forum, halls, and classrooms. So if you're setting up a laptop for presentations, hopefully this means one less wire for you to connect, and if you've got your laptop for anything else, the entire distracting and information filled intertubes should be at your fingertips.

If you have suggestions for names, we're shooting for a natural trio (I left out Jean Grey on purpose) of powerful women.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Thinking about my relationships with feeds

It wasn't so long ago that I began reading and using feeds (rss, atom), but today I see that feeds have totally changed the way I interact with the internet. For anyone who doesn't know the first thing about feeds, this short video from produced by Commoncraft and part of the 'in plain english' series should be of help.
For those of you who want the gist of a three-minute video without watching it, feeds take the old direction of internet reading:
me------>favorite sites
and reverse it:
me<------favorite sites.
I notice this simple reversal the most in how it has enabled me at long last to experience the joy/boredom/frustration/routine I had always noticed among my parents and others as they habitually worked through the morning paper. Sometimes the experience is relaxing, a gentle introduction to the day, think a cup of coffee and warm sunbeams streaming through the kitchen window. Sometimes you just don't have time to get around to reading and the experience breeds a certain kind of guilt as you see events piling up on your table. But the basic and overriding similarity is that news (or comics, or classifieds, or whatever) come to you.

If you still think of blogs (or whatever other word you might apply to periodic content delivered on the internet) as a hinterland, this is not the time or place for me to convince you of their importance and ubiquity, evan and especially compared to only four years ago. But I won't leave you empty handed. The Pew Research Center and Technocrati keep track of some of the raw numbers, and the same outfit that produced the above video also produced this little gem, another three-minute introduction, this time to blogs.
Getting back on topic, the main difference between my day-to-day experience with feeds as compared to 'reading the newspaper' is that this new newspaper is infinitely customizable, in both content and form. I can constantly choose what it is I'm reading, who it's coming from, how much of it I see at once, the medium in which it's presented, etc., etc.. The second difference is that even though the main arrow of interaction is:
me<------favorite sites
reading feeds is not a passive, one way street. Any item is an invitation to discussion in either the original context of creation (e.g. a comment feed attached to a blog post) or among any of the other distributed communities on the internet to which I belong. The extent of intercommunicative affordances of feed readers or aggregators (the user-side tech that does the work of presenting the content you subscribe to) themselves increases at an incredible pace. Just yesterday, my main reader Google Reader implemented a more robust method of holding these conversations. It's as if the newspaper included the watercooler as well.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Summer Reading for Entering Freshmen

UNM is considering choosing one book each year that they ask entering freshmen to read over the summer before starting classes in the fall. The idea is to give students some common ground to discuss and then be able to connect with each other about. As the Provost's memo explains "The basic concept is a recommended summer reading for all new students, the goal of which is to foster a common experience that will help develop a sense of community with their new environment and introduce them to a part of the academic life they are beginning." Books other institutions have used for such programs include:
Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed in America
Levitt and Dubner, Freakonomics
Suskind, A Hope in the Unseen
Kolbert, Field Notes from a Catastrophe
Hosseini, The Kite Runner
Prejean, The Death of Innocents
Salzman, Iron and Silk
Hakakian, Journey from the Land of No
Kidder, Mountains beyond Mountains
Urrea, The Devil's Highway

For a memo about this Lobo Reading Experience program, follow this link.

What do you think? Would this be a good idea? What other books might you suggest for such reading?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

DNA and Due Process

My friends will tell you that I love a good legal debate (even though I am not a law school grad). I love the intricacies of the arguments, the evaluation of evidence, and the importance of precedence. I also love the sound and rhythm of words like "jurisprudence," "preponderance of evidence," "substantive vs procedural," "pejorative meanings," and “penumbras of interpretation.”

Yesterday evening, while stuck in the usual, bad traffic along Alameda, I was delighted to hear a reading of the transcripts from a recent Supreme Court case on NPR. The case involves William Osborne of Alaska who, in 1993, was convicted of raping and beating a prostitute. Prosecutors did use DNA evidence, but the methods of DNA testing 16 years ago were only about as good as a blood test. DNA testing now is so accurate, that the odds of two unrelated people sharing the same DNA are one in several trillion, explained NPR judicial correspondent Nina Totenberg. As such, Osborne sought a federal appeal to have evidence from his trial tested under new methods and compared with his DNA. The federal appeals court ruled in Osborne's favor but the State of Alaska has now appealed this ruling to the Supreme Court. Does the State of Alaska not think that DNA evidence is reliable? Do they not trust it? No, they trust it. But the state of Alaska contends that Osborne was given a fair trial and given access to DNA testing available at the time. Not only that, but his victim identified him, and he also admitted guilt before a Parole Board in 2007. All of his deadlines for appeals have expired and essentially Osborne has exhausted all of his options under due process of the law. And that granting this post-conviction examination of evidence would place an undue financial burden on the state if other convicts were allowed to apply for the same process and essentially “game” the system.

To hear what I heard on NPR:

So, by the time this report has ended, my car was still creeping along between 4th Street and Rio Grande. With time to kill, I began to wonder: what’s really at stake? Alaska is among 6 states in the U.S. that does not allow convicts to access DNA testing AFTER a conviction has been made. But why not? Doesn't the Constitution guarantee all citizens the right to confront and cross examine evidence and witnesses brought against them? Yes, it does under a little clause called due process in both the 5th and 14th Amendments. No person shall be…deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of the law. But Alaska feels they gave Osborne due process. Essentially, they are worried about the finality of criminal proceedings. And that makes sense because if convictions are not final, then defendants can file an unlimited number of appeals, thereby backlogging the courts. I agree we definitely do not want that to happen, because then all citizens might lose access to the judicial process to which they are entitled. On the other hand, the due process clause does not invoke a time-frame. And in the end, due process ultimately obligates the courts to establish guilt or INNOCENCE based on evidence. DNA testing serves simultaneous roles: to release the innocent (wrongly convicted) AND to capture the guilty. There are some 232 recent cases which have been overturned thanks to re-examination of DNA evidence, as well as the case of Ronald Cotton, who was exonerated of rape 11 years after his conviction. The victim in that case identified Cotton and was more than 100% sure she had accused the right man. DNA evidence showed her real attacker was actually a man named Bobby Poole, who looked somewhat similar to Cotton. If modern DNA testing had been around when Ronald Cotton was arrested, then Poole would not have been able to roam free for 11 years committing six more rapes. If Osborne is innocent, then who has been roaming free the last 16 years?

In the end, the question I am left to grapple with (until the Supreme Court rules on this case) is the same question Justice Kennedy posed: Do you think there is a right to establish innocence based on new evidence after conviction? Lawyers for the State of Alaska ultimately responded that they did not believe there was any such Constitutional right, but I’m not sure I agree. I do open this question up to debate here.