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land grants, chess, study abroad and coffeehouse commons…

March 31, 2011

bob's java hut, my corner coffeehouse stop.

dang!  i always come across heaps of cool stuff at the tail end of the month and then just get in an awkward position where i either have to withhold it or just dump it on you guys all in one go.  i’m not one to withhold information so i’m going to dump.  today pretty much all of my sharing is going to come courtesy of the good folks over at good magazine.  it wasn’t a conscious decision, they just keep posting really great stuff.

first up:  “the trouble with land grant universities.” this post hits real close to home for a number of reasons.  the most obvious is that i’m currently studying at the same school as this chick (university of minnesota), and when not stalking geography corridors can also be found at the st. paul campus where all of the exciting ag going ons go on.  i will be there all day today in fact.  i was there tuesday as well, eating a chicken salad sandwich with an ingredient list that read like this:  chicken salad, lettuce, bread.  so helpful.  anyway, i also happen to be working on an animal waste assignment for my food systems class, looking at what to do about the plethora of animals (and their associated wastes) that are (present tense for the purpose of our assignment, though in fact it’s actually more of a past tense ‘were’ situation now) housed on the st. paul campus.  the setup is somewhat unique in that it is right smack in the middle of a fairly large urban/metro area.  the discussion centers around balancing the responsibility of the university to provide education and research withe the feasibility of keeping so many animals in an urban area.  this post brings up a good point in terms of what exactly the land grant university’s responsibility is in terms of research…there’s a fine line between research as education and progress and research as profiteering and as dictated by big ag.  aside from having first hand experience with the campus i also grew up in the land of ag land and land grant universities.  both washington state and university of idaho are land grant universities in their respective states and the campuses are literally less than 10 miles apart (they’re all up on top of each other in the map down below), set amidst miles of farmland in all directions.  in the last year or so i’ve had a number of discussion with various people in regards to what exactly being a land grant university means.  it’s food for thought, and an issue we should probably be investigation closer…in the case of washington state and university of washington they are very different schools with very different donor sources.  washington state will never be the research school that uw is, particularly in terms of subjects like engineering, ocean sciences (obviously), and atmospheric/climate research.  i could really discuss this to death with myself but i feel like i should leave a lot unsaid so that you can think it through for yourself, and then maybe we can discuss it over coffee or beers later, coffee house commons style (this will make sense after you finish reading this post in it’s entirety).




second up:  chess! i’ve been playing a bit of chess lately.  i’m not very good at it.  i get really a.d.d. about half way through a game.  i also tend to play it like i play every other sport…with a passionate love for defense and a complete lack of interest for offense (except in softball i always loved base running.  hated batting, just wanted to get it over.  but loved being on base).  anyway…i’m definitely a critical thinker, and i do like the thinking ahead aspect of chess but i’m also very lacsidasical in my approach to chess.  i think up to a certain point and then i just wing it.  roll the dice.  actually i tend to wing it right out of the gates.  i have probably the winging-est opening game ever.  so wingy that it doesn’t exist.  i have no opening game.  or end game.  i just like the middle game.  and even then i just like thwarting people in the middle game.  i have no strategy, ever really, at no point in the game.  i don’t try to win so much as try to not let the other person win.  if that makes sense.  this will all probably change as i learn more about chess or play enough to develop habits.  i over think a lot of things in my life but for some reason chess isn’t one.  also been playing a lot of scrabble…and i tend to play the word that i find the most fun, rather than the one that will get me the most points.  again this is weird because in most things i’m really competitive but…i don’t know.  this doesn’t seem to carry over into scrabble or chess.  anyway!  tangent.  this is a great article on chess for kids.  first thing i would like to point out:  30 OTHER COUNTRIES INTEGRATE CHESS INTO THEIR ACADEMIC CURRICULUM. but there is a very good reason that we don’t do this here in america:  there’s no chess portion on the standardized test.  the dummies in those other 30 countries must not be aware of this important fact.  no, but really, i would guess that a good number of those countries are also countries that are smoking us in the science and innovation field.  again, this is just a guess, i have no proof.  and i’m not saying that there’s a direct correlation between chess in the curriculum and being at the forefront of science and innovation.  i am however suggesting that there is a direct correlation between that alternative approach to education and producing scientists who are at the forefront of their fields.  again, no actual proof.  just a guess.  i had a second thing to point out but i can’t remember just now.  give me a sec.  hmm, yup, can’t remember.  anyway, go check it out, watch the video, and find a buddy to play chess with.

third up:  “studying abroad makes you a better student.” broadening personal geographies.  cultivating geographical imaginations.  important stuff.  nuff said.  (well, not entirely enough…it’ll be interesting to see what happens to these programs as funding shrinks and airfares rise…particularly as these experiences often have the greatest impact on those who will be least likely to afford them.)

and batting clean up:  this i think is a totally rad idea.  reminds me of that image i threw up with yesterdays post, and of raphael’s school of athens, and of salons and coffeehouses and teahouses and bars all that good stuff back in the day.  and of neal stephenson’s baroque cycle.  read it (actually, read them, there’s three books).  although the whole salon thing probably would’ve been too fancy for me.  i’m more of a corner bar, corner coffeehouse sorta gal.  can you really actually be nostalgic for something you never experienced, for a time you never lived?  i mean is it proper use of the word to use it like that??  i know we often use it in that context but i’m not convinced that it’s really the appropriate use of the word.  but if it is, i’m nostalgic for those times.  so often now we’re all plugged into headphones and laptops when we’re at the coffeehouse.  i understand we all got work to do but…all the time, with such limited human interaction? when i’m home in idaho i try and get up and go to coffee with my dad and whomever happens to join him, and i got two pretty great corner coffeehouses i hit up here in minneapolis.  one has a motorcycle theme going on…there’s a fair share of shop talk that goes on.  there are some of us that are plugged in but it’s nice to pull off those headphones and listen to the many conversations going down (okay, fine, it’s nice to eavesdrop…semantics).  and the other one always has chess and scrabble and all sorts of other good stuff going on.  so all in all i feel pretty lucky about the coffee shops near me.  also…does your neighborhood corner bar have to be on a corner??  if it’s not on a corner does it just become your neighborhood bar?  because the “corner” part carries something with it…it implies more than just location…there’s something that has become qualitative about the “corner” part of the “neighborhood corner bar.”  at least that’s how i feel.  anyway…someone build this coffeehouse commons thing and then let’s use it.

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