Sunday, September 17, 2006

What a former college president would have said

Via Lifehacker, I read a piece in the New York Times by William Chase, former president of Emory and Weslyan Universities, which details some of the advice he would have given students while he was president, but couldn't. While it doesn't offer any new insights, it's still worth a read, particularly if you are interested in the rapid changes within higher education in recent years.

"Laudable could be cheaper, but you wouldn’t like it. You and your parents have made it clear that you want the best. That means more spacious and comfortable student residences (“dormitories,” we used to call them), gyms with professional exercise equipment, better food of all kinds, more counselors to attend to your growing emotional needs, more high-tech classrooms and campuses that are spectacularly handsome.

Our competitors provide such things, so we do too. We compete for everything: faculty, students, research dollars and prestige. The more you want us to give to you, the more we will be asking you to give to us. We aim to please, and that will cost you. It’s been a long time since scholarship and teaching were carried on in monastic surroundings."

Friday, September 15, 2006

"You can buy anything you want to in Hyde Park, as long as it's a book"

The title comes from an old post over on the Volokh Conspiracy by then-Hyde-Park-resident Jacob T. Levy which. That post discusses the lack of commerce in Hyde Park, the neighborhood where the University of Chicago is located and my new home. There are no clothes

However, compared to University Circle in Cleveland, the area around my undergraduate university, Hyde Park seems near bursting with stores and restaurants. True, there are no clothing stores here, but there is an Office Depot, drug stores, and a decent grocery store. There's a very nice liquor store. There are a large variety of restaurants, though certainly not a restaurant of every cuisine one might desire, and very little in the way of upscale restaurants. There's Thai, Chinese, Jamaican, Korean, Japanese, and much more, all within walking distance. And let's not forget the bookstores: Hyde Park boasts some incredible book stores, including what is supposed to be one of the best academic bookstores in the world.

Levy also writes "[t]he area around the U of C looks nothing like the area around any other American residential college or university I know of." Mr. Levy has apparently never visited Case Western Reserve Univeristy.

University Circle in Cleveland, home of Case Western Reserve University, offers even an even greater shortage of food and retails outlets. The nearby CVS closed before I began my freshman year. The only grocery store within a reasonable distance from the main student housing area is a small store that specializes in health foods and natural foods. For food, there's Mexican, takeout Chinese, Middle-Eastern, Pizza, and Italian (though there was quite a lot of choice in Italian, as Cleveland's Little Italy is a brief 5-minute walk away.

Retail shopping is even more limited. There is a grocery store about a mile from the main quad and two miles from the dormitory area. Coventry (probably 1.5 miles from the main quad, and 2.5 miles from the student dorms), offers a drug store, bookstores, CD stores, and a plethora of restaurants. Beyond that, I don't know of anything that the students might realistically walk to.

So far, I'm very happy with the area. It may be because it does offer much more in goods and services than the area around CWRU did, and, had I come to Hyde Park from a college in a better location, I would feel let down by the lack of shopping here. While the majority of 1Ls (first year law students) here at the University of Chicago live in Hyde Park, I believe that the majority of 2Ls and 3Ls live in places north, in the hipper, more upscale neighborhoods. I'm not so sure that I will do the same when I am a 2L or 3L, as I'm as yet unconvinced that having more retail, eating, and drinking options is worth the daily trek to and from school that forces you to commute through downtown Chicago.

Orientation starts on Tuesday.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

An overcast day in Hyde Park

I've moved into my new apartment in Hyde Park. The move-in itself was pretty painless, though doubtlessly it was made easier because I brought no furniture from home. I've bought some used furniture here, but there's still a few more things that I need to pick up, chiefly among them a desk and desk chair.

ADSL service was included with the apartment, and I was very happy to see that the ADSL modem was already in the apartment when I did the walk-through and inspection. Later that day I plugged in my computer and had instant access.

The lease was interesting. It's old (I'm not sure how old), and it contains lots of outdated terms. The leasing agent just told me to ignore all of it. Out of curiosity, I read through part of it. On the first page it said:
  1. Leasees have to provide carpeting for 50% or more of all floor areas (the building is now carpeted, this requirement is from when it was tiled).
  2. Leasees are forbidden to paint walls.
  3. Leasees are forbidden to hang pictures.
  4. Leasees are forbidden to set up transmitter and antennas (say, for wireless internet access).
I asked about each of those and was told that the rule no longer applies. At that point I just gave up and signed the thing. Perhaps not the smartest move for a would-be lawyer.

Still getting myself up to speed on the building and the neighborhood. Need to acquire more furniture and finish unpacking. Much remains to be done.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Japanese succession crisis postponed - it's a boy

The New York Times is reporting that Japan's Princess Kiko gave birth to a boy, thus ending the recent drive to amend the rules of succession to allow a woman to become emperor and to allow the imperial line to pass from mother to child, rather than limiting it to passage from father to child.

As I discussed in my previous post on the subject, it's likely that Japan will face the same problem in the future. Also, it has likely dealt a blow to feminism in Japanese society. While Princess Masako, the Harvard-educated, former-career-diplomat wife of Crown Prince Naruhito, was first seen a symbol of the modern, successful Japanese woman, it's recently been possible to view her as symbolizing the way that Japanese society confines its women. She has reportedly been chronically depressed at her forced withdrawal from public service and has suffered under intense pressure to produce a male heir. Had the rules of succession been changed (there would have been a struggle, no doubt, but I think they would have been changed to allow female ascension of the throne), I think that Princess Masako's daughter Princess Aiko (who would have become empress, assuming today's birth had produced a baby girl and that the rules of succession had changed) would have symbolized major step forward for gender equality.


1Ls at the University of Chicago are broken down into six sections of around 32 students each, lettered A through F. Except for the legal reading and writing class (called Bigelow at Chicago), all the required first-year classes are taught to three sections at a time, but it's not the same three sections grouped together for every class. Thus, section A might be grouped with sections B and F for Criminal Law, but might be grouped with D and F for Property.

Section assignments will determine all but one class taken during the first year of law school: in the third quarter 1Ls are to select one elective. This year, the elective choices are: American Legal History; Copyright; Economic Analysis of the Law; Health Law; Law of Education; and Parent, Child, and the State.

Maddeningly, we can see, via the Law School's website, the class schedule for each section for the entire school year and the required book list for every first-quarter class. There are two weeks remaining before orientation, and we have not yet been told which section we have been assigned. If the Law School informs us of our section assignments in advance, we will have the luxury of obtaining books through whatever chanels we choose. However, I have heard that we will not be told of our section assignments until the first day of orientation, leaving little time for books to be ordered online and possibly forcing many students to buy their books in what is likely the most expensive way: new at the campus bookstore.

Tanner Jones faced this exact problem and offers an exhaustive economic analysis in his post on Waste and Pareto Inefficiency in the Columbia Bookstore.

Programmers at work

The issue that I was having with the Blogger system earlier seem to have vanished -- I am now able to rearrange the different sidebar elements. Kudos to the Blogger team, who spent some of their precious Labor Day vacation fixing problems. I've been very impressed with this beta for the few short days that I've been using it.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Salil Mehra guest blogging at Concurring Opinions

As you may have gathered from my previous post, I have more than a passing interest in Japan. I'm pleased to read that Salil Mehra, of Temple University's James E. Beasley School of Law, will be guest blogging at Concurring Opinions this month. Professor Mehra teaches, among other things, Japanese Law, and a quick glance at his SSRN page reveals that some of his legal scholarship touches upon Japanese computer and copyright law (thus, managing to hit two of my key interests at the same time). A sampling of his articles available there:

I'm looking forward to reading Professor Mehra's writings, both at Concurring Opinions and at SSRN.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Caesarean section and Japan's rules of succession

Japan's Princess Kiko is scheduled to give birth, via Cesarean section, on Wednesday morning (Japanese time). The birth is being followed closely by many Japanese, as it will likely affect the struggle to change the rule surrounding Japan's imperial family to allow females to ascend to the imperial throne.

Traditionalists claim that the Japanese imperial family has maintained an unbroken paternal link to its originators. Historians have been able to track the imperial line back to 600 AD. Under current Imperial Household Law, women in the imperial family relinquish all connections with the imperial family (including the imperial name and their allowance) when they marry, unless they marry another member of the imperial family. Thus, only the current emperor's sons may pass the Imperial name along to their children. Until this year, it looked as though neither of the emperor's sons' wives would give birth to male children, and that there would be a move to change the rules of succession to allow the imperial throne to pass to females as well, so that Princess Aiko, only daughter of the Emperor's eldest son, would become empress.

Then, in February 2006, it was announced that Princess Kiko, wife of the Emperor's second oldest son, was pregnant. The birth of a baby boy on Wednesday would likely spell the end, at least for now, of talk for a change in the rules of succession. Junichiro Koizumi, Japan's current Prime Minister and the most powerful proponent for change in the rules of succession, will step down next month. His probable successor, Shinzo Abe, is more conservative and is not believed to champion changing the rules of succession to allow a female heir.

If a girl is born, then the struggle for succession will continue.

The Independent has a good article on the controversy surrounding the succession and Wednesday's planned birth. It also discusses other problems facing the imperial family, particularly the discontent and depression of the Harvard-educated, former-diplomat wife of the emperor's oldest son, in part from the pressure to produce a male heir and in part because she has been forced to abandon her career and ambitions by the powerful imperial bureaucracy.

Even if a boy is born, experts are saying that it will only delay the inevitable: that the rules of succession will need to change. I would tend to agree. While the Imperial Household Agency (IHA), the bureaucracy which surrounds and, to some extent, controls the imperial family, is very powerful, it has not seemed to have had much success in pressuring the imperial family to produce more heirs. If the imperial family continues as it has for the past few generations, with small families of 3 or fewer children per couple (and more importantly, an average of less than two children per couple), it would seem to be only a matter of time before Japan is left without a male heir and is forced to change the rules of succession or watch the imperial line end.

The article says that only a system of imperial concubines allowed the paternal line to make it to the present day. Now that the concubine system has been abolished the imperial family has faced increased problems in producing enough male heirs to ensure a paternal line.

Also, from the previously mentioned article:

"Soon after Japan's 1945 defeat in World War II, 11 families on the collateral line, which served as a safety net to produce male heirs for the Imperial family, lost their Imperial status and became ordinary citizens.

Many opponents of the idea of a reigning empress have maintained that the Imperial status of those former relatives should be restored so they can produce a male who would marry a woman from the Imperial family to maintain the paternal line."

This sets up a possible (though somewhat obtuse) strategy that would allow the IHA to produce a male heir to the throne even if Wednesday's birth does not result in a new imperial prince. It would seem to run counter to current popular sentiments in Japan to rely upon an arranged marriage.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Ross Anderson's Security Engineering

Via Bruce Schneier's security blog, I learned that Ross Anderson's Security Engineering is now freely available for download.

While I haven't read the whole yet, I have perused some of the chapters. The book offers a very broad treatment of security design, with chapters covering not just technical aspects such as "Cryptography" and "Biometrics", but also chapters focusing on archetypal applications such as "Banking and Bookkeeping" and "Nuclear Command and Control."

During my brief glance at the material, the book seems mostly accessible to anyone with an interest in security. The "Cryptography" chapter delves into some of the nitty-gritty of the math behind the various systems discussed, but math doesn't seem to play an integral part of the rest of the book. The "Banking and Bookkeeping" chapter offers detail on how banks' computer systems work, how they communicate with each other, how ATMs work, and what has gone wrong with all of those. It is the descriptions of real-world systems like these that most interest me, and they require no mathematical formulae to understand.

I'll probably read the book in its entirety; I may post some additional thoughts here once I'm finished with it.