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cofounded AllThings.Go (tm) "Go isn't
everything. Go is the only thing - zhuge" with Master badvogato
a while back. The only project comes to fruit at the moment
is blindforthcoming

contact: nunia at SDF dot org

tradition has never upheld this right ( on
ownership, on the right to private property) as
absolute and untouchable, on the contrary, has
always understood this right within the broader
context of the right common to all to use the
goods of the whole of creation: the right to
private property is subordinatd to the right to
common use, to the fact that goods are meant
for everyone."

- Laborem Exercens, His Holiness Pope John
Paul II

"We imagine
that there is a gap between the world of our
private fantasies & the possibilities of
meaningful action & so it becomes easy to talk
& talk on what is lacking, to discourse on the
end, & yet feel impotent. "What's to do."
But this gap is a measure not so much of desires
or depression or impotence but of ourselves. It
has been the continual failure of Marxist
aesthetics to insist that this gap is simply another
illusory part of our commodity lives It is at the
root of our collectivity."

- Charles Bernstein
"Three or Four things I Know about Him"

so it becomes easy to code &
code on what is lacking, to CVS on the end, &
yet feel impotent. "what's to make money or
what's to make a better world" But this gap is a
measure not so much of "which language is better or
which OS is better or which chip is cheaper and
better" or depression or impotence but of
ourselves. It has been the continual failure of
GNU/Linux aesthetics to insist that this gap is
simply Free or Proprietary of our commodity code,
it is at the root of our collectivity, namely,
programmers spent 90% of their hours coding and 10%
of their hours thinking that other segments of
industry and our society at large have to adopt
programmer's methodology through their programs.

free software movement must extend its
creativity and channel its exuberant energy into
changing social and economic landscape.
"Immense development of technological means is
an advatageous and positive phenomenon, on
condition that the objective dimension of work
does not gain the upper hand over the subjective
dimension, depriving man of his dignity and
inalienable rights or reducing them."


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Institutional Isolation

Commentary by Katherine Dunlop

When I went to hear Melanie Thernstrom read from Halfway Heaven at the Cambridge Public Library, I had what turned out to be a unique chip on my shoulder: I seemed to be the only person in the audience who lived in Dunster House in May of 1995, when junior Sinedu Tadesse stabbed junior Trang Ho, her roommate, to death and then hanged herself. To the extent that the tragedy was a part of my life, I resent those who have sensationalized it and are profiting from Dunster House’s notoriety. Immediately after the incident, and again a year later, students were besieged by reporters intent on recording our grief—in words, on tape, or in still photos—when all we wanted was to come to terms with our experiences in private. I was also suspicious of Halfway Heaven for another reason: as one review noted, it was a book about isolation at Harvard written by the “ultimate insider.” Thernstrom graduated from Harvard in 1987, was a tutor and instructor in the English department, and is the daughter of Professor Stephan Thernstrom and scholar Abigail Thernstrom. Melanie Thernstrom never specifies steps Harvard could take to improve student life, yet she seems to be a part of the institution she shows to be severely flawed. Suppose Thernstrom wrote her book to document Harvard’s misconduct. If her Harvard connections enabled her to uncover the actions she criticizes, don’t those connections oblige her to do something about the problems, or at least to suggest solutions?

I didn’t ask Thernstrom about these issues, but some of her comments addressed them. When questioned about Harvard’s culpability, she said that interpreting events in that way was a “misreading” of her work: “You can’t see an institution as responsible for something like murder.” Thernstrom never explained why she accepted the New Yorker assignment that culminated in the 1996 article which Halfway Heaven expands, but she did tell us why she made the article into a book: her Freedom of Information Act request unexpectedly won her access to Tadesse’s diaries. Thernstrom described the book as an “attempt to understand what happened, to get inside Sinedu’s mind, to unravel the mystery.”

Focus on Harvard

Thernstrom’s account of her motives sounds good, but it isn’t substantiated by Halfway Heaven, which does not quote Tadesse’s journals until its halfway point. Early in the book, Thernstrom presents moving biographies of Tadesse and Ho, but Harvard soon became the focus. In the chapter which catalogues the reactions of Harvard and Dunster administrators to the tragedy and to previous signs that Tadesse needed help, Thernstrom describes the experiences of three other Harvard students as evidence of “Harvard’s incompetence at dealing with students suffering from psychiatric disorders.” Even if Thernstrom isn’t responsible for the jacket blurb, which mentions Harvard’s “calculated efforts to whitewash the story, and to protect and promote its distinguished reputation at the cost of its own student body,” her book is generous in providing ammunition to critics of Harvard’s administration.

What exactly did Thernstrom discover? The disclosure she made in her New Yorker piece is still one of the most disturbing: the Dunster House file on Tadesse contained a long letter she had written in 1993, a letter describing her misery and alienation which she had sent to randomly chosen strangers (one of whom forwarded it to Harvard). Thernstrom quotes a police report as saying that Master Karel Liem knew of the letter, but he seems never to have taken any action based on it. Halfway Heaven also reveals that Tadesse saw a therapist at UHS’s Mental Health Service for her three years at Harvard. This therapist, an Ed.D., saw Tadesse only infrequently and admits that he did not realize the extent of her illness. Thernstrom suggests that UHS did not identify Tadesse’s problems because it wasn’t looking for them; she says that Dr. Randolph Catlin, head of the Mental Health Service, told her that its staff is “oriented toward and trained in dealing with ordinary neurotic problems of adjustment, not psychoses.” But as a prominent psychiatrist told me, depression screening “can be done in only a few minutes and should be routine in a student health service.” Thus UHS’s failure to screen for cases of severe mental illness is inexplicable as well as tragic. Even if Tadesse did not disclose her homicidal and suicidal thoughts, she went to UHS because she felt profoundly alienated, a symptom often seen in major depression. If she had been screened and referred to an MD, she might have been successfully treated.

Lack of Coverage
Thernstrom is courageous enough to discuss the paucity of treatment options available to students who suffer from severe mental illness, even when they are correctly diagnosed. UHS’s own personnel admit that the facility is not equipped to handle long-term, intensive treatment. But the insurance plan forced on all students without their own coverage is typical in that its provisions for mental health are stingy, especially compared to its coverage of physical illness. The plan, which covers services provided outside UHS, gives students only $500 worth of outpatient treatment (and 60 days of inpatient), which probably translates to fewer than five visits to a clinician in a year. (Some Harvard administrators claim that the Bureau of Study Counsel helps take up the slack, but the BSC’s clinical staff does not include any MDs or nurse practitioners, so it cannot prescribe medication.) While Thernstrom makes good points, the conspiratorial tone she uses to talk about Harvard undercuts her content—in truth, the lack of parity in mental health coverage is a catastrophe that extends far beyond Harvard.

I think, though, that Thernstrom’s instinct in linking the structural problems with mental health services to Harvard’s climate of denial is probably right. The most damning aspect of the discovery that Tadesse was seen by a UHS therapist is that Harvard had specifically denied that fact. Similarly, Thernstrom reveals that Ansgar Hansen, an off-campus Dunster affiliate who committed suicide in early 1995, was being counseled by Senior Tutor Suzi Naiburg at the time of his death, contrary to Naiburg’s public statements. Harvard, which could have held this information confidential, lied about it instead—a strange choice in light of the University’s confidence that its student services are irreproachable. While Harvard cannot be blamed for the Dunster House tragedy, it is subject to one categorical criticism: it has refused to even consider that the tragedy might indicate that it neglects its students; in fact, it has refused to discuss its role in the tragedy at all. What Liem told Boston magazine, “That [Tadesse] could keep [her problems] to herself without any indication to others, I find it remarkable,” was just the party line. Dunster affiliate Harvey Silverglate has it right, for once, when he says that Harvard’s public silence “is precisely part of the problem. The outrage is that they’re [Harvard’s administration] more interested in preserving the reputation of the university, when its real interest should be in getting people to talk about the tragedy as much as possible to figure out what went wrong.” Harvard’s silence is personally offensive as well: those of us who knew Sinedu and Trang found it very strange to return in the fall of 1995 to a campus which almost never mentioned them.

Unclear Motives
Thernstrom deserves some credit—her book does talk intelligently about the tragedy, and seems to be prompting dialogue at Harvard as well as outside it. And although Harvard eclipses other aspects of the tragedy in Thernstrom’s treatment, she writes thoughtfully about other issues, such as the isolation that afflicted Tadesse as an Ethiopian immigrant. Even so, Thernstrom’s motives remain unclear. When she writes about the attempts of Harvard bureaucrats to stymie her investigation, she describes the change in her own feelings toward Harvard; it’s interesting stuff (despite its petulant tone), but it sounds a little like an inappropriate identification with Tadesse. Just because Harvard doesn’t comply with the requests of a New Yorker reporter doesn’t mean that that reporter knows how it feels to be a socially awkward, poor, 21-year-old foreign student. In fact, some of Thernstrom’s personal experience is searingly relevant: when she was an undergraduate, her best friend, Roberta (Bibi) Lee, was murdered by a man Lee was dating. But she mentions the incident only infrequently in Halfway Heaven.

My questions regarding Thernstrom’s intentions were answered when I read the author’s book about Lee, The Dead Girl. The Dead Girl is a wildly intriguing, manifestly sincere, 400+-page memoir of Lee’s life and examination of her death that makes almost no reference to domestic violence as a broader social issue. Clearly Lee’s murder was an instance of a wider phenomenon, and it seems likely that Thernstrom’s detailed narration of it could contribute to our understanding of domestic violence (and, incidentally, putting the issue into political terms might have helped Thernstrom marshal her emotions). But The Dead Girl is worthwhile despite this lack of scope. And to the extent that Halfway Heaven depicts the individuals Trang Ho and Sinedu Tadesse, it keeps them from becoming, as Thernstrom kept Roberta Lee from becoming,

“any Dead Girl … who died young and violently, who was beautiful but tragic, and whose memory people mourn … [Sadness] is seductive if you tell it well. People will cry for the girl who died if you tell it well enough, although all that is said in that kind of story is that the girl is dead. [She] is forgotten among the glamour of symbolism, the pose of the photo, the closure of narrative.”
Politics of the Personal
This passage could be used to justify Thernstrom’s focus, but Halfway Heaven’s single-minded pursuit of the personal is still objectionable in light of its blatantly political implications. Thernstrom sets down the ways in which Harvard failed Tadesse and Ho in exhaustive detail, but she balks at analyzing the story closely or taking the next logical step: explaining how Harvard could keep from failing other students like them. Doing so would not commemorate what was unique about them, but it would still be a way to honor them. Thernstrom’s emphasis on narrative is most distasteful when the subject of the narrative is Harvard. Harvard is a glamorous subject for readers outside it, a subject uniquely accessible to Thernstrom, and (perhaps because it’s a subject) she points out its flaws but does not suggest how it can be changed—all very well, unless you have a bigger stake in Harvard’s character because you happen to live here. What is “personal” about Harvard as an institution is necessarily political for us.

——北宋 · 蘇轼 · 《留侯論》

When everything has faded they alone shine forth,
encroaching on the charms of smaller gardens.
Their scattered shadows fall lightly on clear water,
their subtle scent pervades the moonlit dusk.
Snowbirds look again before they land,
butterflies would faint if they but knew.
Thankfully I can flirt in whispered verse,
I don't need a sounding board or winecup.



By a broken bridge of deserted outpost,
No more master no new post
yet opens spring plum blossom

Dusk falling, its melancholy is itself
or perhaps wind and rain in its company.

Willingly to let spring season hurry by,
full of envies from hundred other blossoming flowers

Its kindred self being scattered and turning into dust
Only a whiff of sweet scent lingered long after.

卜算子1·咏梅 by Mao Zedong



Voting right, what counts as a vote in our civil society?
{ this article didn't pass the approval thresh hold on by alienable admin... in June 2018 - the gist of complaint is about Quora moved _all_ of my past 'comment' to questions on their site )

One always had to pick a battle to fight, so that the next Joe might gain benefit of your fight. Why requires stringent 'naming policy'? Their rep even asked me to provide government issued ID for my legal name verification. I've been on the internet governance since 1995(?), so I have quite some baggage to wish the Net do more than e-commerce! All I wish to 'express' on Quora is to vote other's saying UP or Down... but I need to give AWAY my Identity for doing that? What State of Union are we living NOW ?

And my rational is anything said to a total stranger via internet should NOT be construed as 'legally' binding utterance. As there is too many abuses from all sides, I am unmoved on my own resolve. Our lack of intelligence and common sense at maintain any meaningful dialogue as a nation of all people has already been severely curtailed due to bankruptcy in literature and art of letter in general. ( let alone interpretive power in 'other' tongues.)

None the less, it is interesting to read others opinion on this strictly 'enforced' policy

540 older entries...


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