“I have really had a great experience, even if I am a loser and graduating single. I think I heard somewhere that I get a tuition refund or something like that.”

--Cameron Rosenhan


The wonder of homeschooling

Mr. Brymer,
I know that your ideas (see Homeschool Benefits?) for your children's socialization are well-intentioned, but I don't believe "Fad and Peer Pressure Day" will work out. You see, your kids can play with each others' toys, so that competition doesn't even make sense. Competing over clothes will also be useless, especially since mothers like to buy matching outfits for their children. And won't the car competition be suspiciously lopsided in favor of you and your wife for about the first 16 years? That's a long time for children to be consistently losing and is likely damaging to their mental state, especially if they have an older sibling that has a chance to win. Talk about sibling rivalry!

The cursing idea has some merit, except that it may cause conflict when your kids are unable to reconcile these "socialization" moments from your "parent" moments when you teach them values. Strange things can happen when people are unable to distinguish the roles of different authority figures in their lives, you know?

Yet, the best idea of all is that you will dye your hair and rip your jeans in the same way. This way you can avoid the messiness of teaching your children how to respect others' views and still keep their own. In their cloister they'll never have to realize that people can be different than they are and still good and beautiful children of God.


Parking woes

All major universities, unless supplied by a very efficient mass transit system, have problems with sufficient parking for students and employees. I imagine the problem is especially bad in large cities, like our billowing metropolis of Provo, Utah. The issue recently struck the shores of BYU in a new form. As BYU is surrounded by strait and narrow streets, the overflow of parking in nearby neighborhoods is not only inconvenient, but a safety concern. The DU recently reported on the university's solution: Make parking permits free. That's right, instead of finding some way to encourage less people to bring their cars to school, BYU has decided to draw them in even closer. But don't worry, even though more than half of the article argues this new policy will keep students from parking in neighboring communities and clear the streets for emergency vehicles, Lieutenant Barber assures that,

If the number of people who park on campus didn’t decrease with an increased price for permits, then it will probably be the case that the number of people who park on campus will not increase with parking permits being free.

Even if this statement had the remote chance of following logic in some parallel universe, it immediately contradicts the stated purpose of making the permits free. Instead of attempting to paint both sides of an irreconcilable argument happy, maybe we should spend more time learning that there is more than one concern here. Like the fact that the new policy benefits car owners, who tend to be doing better financially (with their own accounts or their mom and dad accounts) than those who can't afford a car. Or what of the concern I've heard most among my peers of the adverse affects on Provo air. Everyone here seems to become incensed by someone smoking, but do we stop to think that hundreds of extra cars, pacing around full parking lots, will sully the air far more than any cigarette?

(Update--This letter was written in the Reader's forum for Sept. 6. Surprise, surprise.)


Preemptive Article

No one makes it through their teenage years without someone pointing out to them that sarcasm is the lowest form of humor. Be that as it may, it is an extremely effective tool for young people to express their distaste for a situation even though their brief sojourn on this earth has not yet provided them with enough experience to be intelligently cynical. Given more experience, the sarcastic tone begins to melt; revealing a refined cynicism (albeit icy and bitter).

It seems that every year the Daily Universe presents an article on the wonders of being a freshman, and they use actual quotes from actual freshman displaying actual dribble about how exciting and scary it is to be a freshman. "Wow! It’s Exciting AND scary to be a freshman? Never would have guessed that, thanks Captain Obvious!" (That is a classic example of sarcasm). There are few topics that are more worthy of the aforementioned cynicism than the incoming freshman to BYU. The poor saps have no idea what’s in store for them. For the sake of time, we will only discuss two of these groups.

The first group hails from other states and holds the preconceived notion that everyone from Utah has grown up in a bubble, and that they will be personally responsible for showing the Utahans how backward they are. BYU gets enough of these every year to match the Marriott school in size and pretension.

It will take them a few years, old prejudices die hard, but they will realize that growing up in Sandy is not that different from growing up in the suburbs of Los Angeles. They all watched the same T.V. shows, had friends who threw parties with alcohol, were exposed to the same sports, and listened to Weezer. I think it’s all of the church movies that only show Utah during the 1800's and the 1970's. Perhaps the BYU acceptance letter should come with a copy of SLC Punk.

The second group grew up attending or watching BYU football with Dad the Alumnus. In their house, they have the fold out of the general authorities and Lavell Edwards has been pasted between the apostles and the seventies. They have been taught from their youth that one day the constitution will hang by a thread, and the BYU MFHD majors will sew it together again. They have attended EFY and education week as soon as they were old enough to take notes, so they know the campus and half the religion department.

These poor souls will now have their faces shoved up closer to the glass and will have to come to terms with the following facts: BYU football is responsible for more rapes per annum than all the other university sponsored clubs put together, the sports where we truly excel are the ones that few watch and fewer wish to participate in, not all the classes will bring you closer to heaven (chemistry will prompt more thoughts of euthanasia than Million Dollar Baby), and attending church every week in the same room that you bombed your calculus quiz causes you to question your faith and plead the question, "Why do bad things happen to good people?"

That’s the real world that awaits these intrepid young freshman, but you’d never know it from the DU’s treatment of the subject. They should just bag the whole article, and when they send out SLC Punk with all the acceptance letters include a card that says, "Your first year will be exciting and scary!"


'Dead Wrong'

For those who missed the documentary "Dead Wrong: Inside An Intelligence Meltdown" that aired on Sunday, do what you can to see it. CNN has posted a rush transcript here of the documentary. This is all very well documented stuff, don't be the petty partisan and label it a smear. You've got interviews with the former Acting Director of the CIA, a former NSC official, a CIA analyst, another CIA officer, the CIA Director of Operations, Colin Powell's chief of staff, the Chief Weapons Inspector in Iraq and several other high State Department officials.
In fact, Secretary Powell was not told that one of the sources he was given as a source of this information had indeed been flagged by the Defense Intelligence Agency as a liar, a fabricator.
--David Kay, former Chief CIA Weapons Inspector

The source was the infamous Curveball. The following comes from a documented email:

The day before Powell's speech, a CIA skeptic had warned about the defector's reputation as a liar. In an email reply, his superior acknowledges the problem but adds, "This war is going to happen regardless. The powers that be probably aren't interested in whether Curveball knows what he's talking about.

There was serious conflicting evidence against the case for WMD and any connection to Al Qaeda:
Sheurer: Mr. Tenet, to his credit, had us go back through CIA files and we went back for almost 10 years, reviewed nearly 20,000 documents, which came to 65,000 pages or more and could find no connection in the terms of a state sponsored relationship with Iraq. I believe Mr. Tenet took it downtown, but it apparently didn't have any impact.

Indeed, it had no impact.

RICE: Clearly, there are contacts between al Qaeda and Iraq that can be documented. There clearly is testimony that some of these contacts have been important contacts and there's a relationship here.

I'm not entirely sure what did happen, but it is clear to me that some need to put to rest the sidestepping claim that this is all a smear. The evidence is not going away. Something happened between intelligence analysis and policy, for there were plenty of warnings given about shaky ground. Someone needs to fess up. Again, read the transcript.


Getting the most out of your students

Friend of mine: Education Week this week... I like it a lot better than EFY, because Ed Week people don't come to the pool as frequently.
Me: You're certainly right. Education week is better than EFY.

I agree with myself...in a sense, the sense that people at Education week are more tolerable. However, the week itself is far scarier than an entire summer of paired-up cougar cubs swarming around campus. For though the kiddies prick and pester life on campus, the third week in August brings the threat to our doorstep...and throws us out on it. Education week: a time when, according to landlords in Provo, students can live in tents for all they care.

And some do. Just two years ago, several of my friends went camping for a week since they had no place to stay. Others, like myself, are lucky enough to have a new landlord let them pay an extra two weeks of rent to stay in their vacated apartment. Yet others, like my friend quoted above, experience the joy of living out of boxes for two weeks in either a hotel or some other apartment.

But regardless of your choice--tent, boxes or luck--landlords and the housing department have justified a full month's rent for contracts that miss around 13 days of that month. During those 13 days you get to pay (in our case $200 per apartment) for professionals to "deep clean", i.e. perform regular wear and tear maintenance, an apartment that you were fined for if you didn't clean before moving. My landlords not only afforded me this pleasure, but they made me pay for the place to be air conditioned while the crew worked.

I hear your thought: "Well, you signed the contract; you should have read it closer." But one little point halts my concession. This housing market is not free. If the market were free, competition would offer other choices for students and contracts would drift to more reasonable terms. As it is, students are required to live in BYU approved units.

The requirement artificially inflates demand and decreases supply, resulting in landlords concerned about landlords and not about tenants. I lost count the number of times we requested to have doors fixed with no response, a broken light fixture, loose door locks. Under threats we finally received a functioning vacuum cleaner and working window blinds. These stories are not new. The landlords barely stay within BYU regulations by charging a deposit of a full 2 months of rent, then don't send the deposits back within the required 30 days (60 days have passed for my roommate).

The negligence is illegal. But the exploitive nature of the contract terms (I didn't even mention inflated rent), though sanctioned by the BYU Housing Code, seem to be just that--exploitive, and thereby wrong. However, both are arguably created by the approval system. I don't propose that there is an easy solution, but the issue should be addressed. Besides, 2007 brings a more diminished, one-mile radius supply. Will rent inflate more? Will negligence increase? Will NASA learn how to make sturdy foam? We can only wait.