Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The Daily Gazette
Swarthmore College
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
Volume 9, Number 33


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NEWS IN BRIEF

1) Swatmail experiences slowdown, reverts to TWIG

2) Poole brings math, politics together

3) Hoo and Aron-Dine place 3rd at Harvard Debating Championships

4) Correction

5) World news roundup

6) Campus events

SPORTS IN BRIEF

1) Upcoming contests

WEATHER FORECAST

Today: Cloudy. High 58.
My computer has been giving me a lot of trouble lately, and in my bouts of frustration I’ve taken to calling it the devil…

Tonight: Cloudy. Low 50.
However, I realized that this can’t be true. If it were the devil, it would be in hell…

Tomorrow: Mostly cloudy. High 58.
And it’s been freezing up far too much for that to be the case.

SHARPLES MENU

Lunch: French bread pizza, crinkle cut fries, stuffed zucchini, succotash, peas, Greek bar, nutty cookie bars

Dinner: Turkey London broil, stuffed potatoes, wild rice with cranberries, manicotti, asparagus, corn on the cob, pasta bar, vegan cakes

NEWS REPORT

1) Swatmail experiences slowdown, reverts to TWIG

By Ken Patton
Gazette Reporter

Earlier in the semester ITS began the process of switching over to a new email interface, called Horde Internet Messaging Program (IMP) Webmail Client, from the older TWIG client. Horde IMP boosts new features such as search and filtering capabilities, as well as an improved interface design. These features absent from TWIG made it easier for users to find particular email messages and manage their inboxes in general.

However, these features came at a cost as Unix Systems Administrator Fran Gelfand noted “we noticed some slowness during peak times, such as in the early afternoon” after deploying Horde IMP. ITS did not initially know the reasons for the slowdown so they turned off the new Swatmail client in an effort to diagnose the problem. The condition of the mail server improved during the test but ITS found that “the underlying cause [of the slowdown] is large inboxes and trash folders” said Gelfand.

As it turned out, the new Swatmail client was not the root of the problem, but rather aggravated the symptoms due to inefficiencies in how it handled large inboxes. Some of the new features in Horde IMP required scanning through a user’s inbox when the user logged into the new Swatmail client, which bogged down the mail server when a user’s inbox was particularly large. In addition, the new Swatmail client automatically subscribed to folders other than the inbox when a user logged in, causing the mail server to load large trash folders often unknown to the user.

The older webmail client TWIG did not provide these features and therefore put less of a burden on the mail server when handling users with large quantities of email. Gelfand mentioned that only a minority of students have such large inboxes to cause problems for the mail server, but ITS is beginning to contact students in an effort to ease the burden on the mail server. Even after taking down the new webmail client, “we have still noticed some slowdown this week” said Gelfand.

However, Gelfand was hopeful that by contacting students with large inboxes, and starting a new policy of cleaning out messages more than two weeks old from trash folders, the condition of the mail server will improve in the future. While not promising anything, Gelfand mentioned that ITS would like to bring back the Horde IMP client at some point due to the features it provides that makes a user’s inbox easier to manage. One possibility would be to bring it back over Winter break, but only if the slowness it generates is resolved before then.

———-

Ken Patton works for ITS as a dorm and public area consultant.

*****

2) Poole brings math, politics together

By Andrew Quinton
Gazette Reporter

Yesterday, Dr. Keith Poole, Kenneth Lay (yes, that Ken Lay) Professor of Political Science at the University of Houston, gave a talk entitled “Political Polarization and Economic Inequality”, a discussion of the content and methods used in the book of the same title written by himself, Nolan McCarty, and Howard Rosenthal.

Before getting into the actual data, Poole showed how mathematical techniques (now performed by computers) can create visual models from data tables by showing a table of driving distances between US cities and then showing the map that a computer made from that data. It looked quite similar to an actual map of the United States. Many highly technical mathematical terms were used in Poole’s explanation, and Professor of Mathematics Stephen Maurer, who was in the audience, seemed intrigued by the ideas that were in play.

Poole started work on this project 20 years ago. He has entered every single Senate and House of Representatives roll call vote into a computer program that uses advanced mathematical techniques to create a visual model of how each candidate has voted over time. Poole then examined the visual map, applied his knowledge of political science, and determined which areas of the map correspond to a liberal voting record and which show a legislator to be conservative. The end result is a number line with each legislator positioned somewhere between -1 and 1, with zero being neither conservative or liberal. A higher negative value means that a congressman is more liberal, and a higher positive value is an indicator of conservatism. This model can then be used to predict the results of any given vote with a high degree of accuracy.

Poole added a second dimension to his analysis to account for issues that cut across party lines, such as the 1960s civil rights issue that split the Democrats into northern and southern contingents. When no such issue existed, the dots (each dot representing a senator or representative) were virtually without exception split into two groups, with democrats on the left and republicans on the right. During the era of civil rights votes, however, the southern democrat dots moved rightwards and sometimes even crossed the line onto the republican side. Those dots were also high up on the diagram to show that they consistently voted against civil rights bills, while those who voted the opposite were near the bottom.

As the Democratic Party was divided over a major issue, this was not an era of political polarization. The more polarized a political system is, the more members of each party tend to vote together. Poole presented graphs of every Congress in United States history, showing how political polarization has changed over time. We are currently in a very polarized era, with levels of polarization not seen since early in the 20th century.

Poole now came back to the main thrust of his argument by showing a graph of income inequality in the US, measured by the percentage of wealth held by the top 1% of Americans. He presented a line graph of this data, and then overlaid a line graph of the degree of political polarization onto the screen. The two graphs were very similar, with a Pearson coefficient of .81. The relationship between polarization and the Gini coefficient of income inequality is even stronger at .94.

Why does this occur? The large screen in SCI 101 displayed Poole’s main point, which was: “Political polarization and the distribution of income should move in tandem because the primary dimension of American politics has been the role of government in the economy). Historically, world wars have both caused tax rates to increase (reducing income inequality) and unite rather than polarize Congress. Political polarization increased sharply in the 1970s and 1980s, as the neoconservative movement took hold and brought the Republican Party further to the right. Ronald Reagan’s tax policies then caused an increase in income inequality. The economy can drive politics and politics can also drive the economy.

Audience questions were taken both during and after the presentation. Poole became very animated when describing how the recent settlement between several US states and tobacco companies amounted to a tax on poor people (who now have to buy their cigarettes at higher prices) as the money paid to states is not being used to help the poor. Poole apologized repeatedly for going “too long,” but it was clear that he had invested a lot in the project and wanted to share his work.

*****
3) Hoo and Aron-Dine place 3rd at Harvard Debating Championships

At the 2004 Harvard Debating Championships October 15 and 16, Aviva Aron-Dine ranked 11th as an individual, and Aron-Dine and her partner Sonya Hoo came in 3rd among all teams. 157 teams and 314 speakers participated in the competition.

(Thanks to Maria Macia for providing the results)

*****

4) Correction

In Tuesday’s Gazette it was incorrectly stated that 10,000 people are dying in the Sudan each year. The 10,000 figure is for each month. In addition, SASS was incorrectly identified as one of the sponsors of Dr. Ali-Dinar’s presentation; SASA was a sponsor.

*****

5) World news roundup

*According to the New York Times, the CIA believed that US soldiers would be greeted as liberators in Iraq, even suggesting in the spring of 2003 that small American flags be smuggled into Iraq for Iraqis to wave at the incoming soldiers. The CIA also failed to predict Saddam Hussein’s paramilitary forces putting up a fight, failed to identify enormous weapon caches and identified Iraqi police as already professionally trained.

*The United Nations has expressed concern that Myanmar’s prime minister has been placed under house arrest and that the military government may not be conforming to a “road map” to democracy. State television said that PM Khin Nyunt had “retired for health reasons.” The new ruler is conservative Lt. General Soe Win. Over the last few months, there has been persistent conflicts between Nyunt and the ruling military junta.

*A recent report ruled out design flaws as the major cause of the World Trade Center’s collapse. The 500 page report, released Tuesday, named structural damage the buildings’ core columns as the most important factor. As the fires, exacerbated by jet fuel, burned, more and more weight was transferred onto the façade and outer columns as the inner supports buckled. Engineers say that considering the situation, the towers actually held up relatively well. The most severe shortcomings were in the communications and dispatching problems of the New York Police and Fire Departments. The final report will be released in January.

*****

6) Campus events

“Getting into Grad School” with Don Asher
Science Center 101, 4:30 p.m.

2004 McCabe Lecture: Richard Harley, “Vanishing Voters No More?: Will the 2004 Election Reverse the Trend of Declining Voter Participation.”
LPAC Cinema, 7:30 p.m.

Indian film screening: “Bhumika”
LPAC Cinema, 7:00 p.m.

Tai Chi class
Upper Tarble, 8:00 p.m.

Film Society movie screenings: “Swept Away…By An Unusual Destiny on the Blue Sea of August” and “The Mascot/Puppet Love”
Science Center 101, 9:00 p.m.

Swarthmore College Republicans meeting
Kohlberg Coffee Bar, 9:00 p.m.

Pro-Choice Task Force meeting
Kohlberg 228, 9:30 p.m.

———-

Guidelines for the Fiction Writers’ Workshop, English 070B:

Students interested in the Fiction Writers’ Workshop, English 070B, led this year by Betsy Bolton, should submit a brief printed sample of their writing (complete stories if possible, or excerpts up to a maximum of 5,000 words – no more than 15 double-spaced pages) to Carolyn Anderson in the English Department office, LPAC 202, no later than Friday, Nov. 5, at 4 pm. Please do not send your submissions via email.

The Fiction Workshop is limited to 12 members. Students who have taken previous Fiction Workshops ARE eligible to apply to this one.

Final decisions about admission to the Workshop will be made by Friday, Nov. 12, at 4 p.m. and will be posted on the bulletin board outside of the English Department office, LPAC 202.

Students may apply to both of the English Department’s Spring 2005 creative writing workshops but if accepted to both may enroll in ONLY ONE that semester.

Students will be selected for the workshop not only on the basis of their own writing, but also with an eye to creating a group that will work well together. If you write in different styles or idioms, you might want to include examples of these different styles within your portfolio, even if that means including parts of different stories rather than an entire piece.

Guidelines for Poetry Workshop, English 070A:

Students interested in the Poetry Workshop, English 070A, led this year by Peter Schmidt, should submit a brief printed sample of their writing (up to 10pp. only, please, one poem per page) to Carolyn Anderson in the English Department office, LPAC 202, no later than Friday, Nov. 5, at 4 p.m. Please do not send your submissions via email.

The Poetry Workshop is limited to 12 members. Students who have taken previous Workshops ARE eligible to apply to this one.

Final decisions about admission to the Workshop will be made by Friday, Nov. 12, at 4 p.m. and will be posted on the bulletin board outside of the English Department office, LPAC 202.

Students may apply to both of the English Department’s Spring 2005 creative writing workshops but if accepted to both may enroll in ONLY ONE that semester.

Students will be selected for the workshop not only on the basis of their own writing, but also with an eye to creating a group that will work well together. If you write in different styles or idioms, you might want to include examples of these different styles within your portfolio.

*****
SPORTS UPDATE

1) Upcoming contests

Today:
There are no contests scheduled for today.

Tomorrow:
Field Hockey at Bryn Mawr, 4:30 p.m.
Volleyball hosts Ursinus, 7:00 p.m.

*****

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America.”
— Jon Stewart, to the hosts of CNN’s Crossfire

*****

Interested in reporting or writing for the Gazette?
Got a news or sports tip for us?
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Contact the staff at dailygazette at swarthmore dot edu

Managing Editor: Greg Leiserson
News Editor: Jonathan Ference
Sports Editor: Alex Glick
Living and Arts Editor: Victoria Swisher
Features Editor: Alexis Reedy
World News Editor: Roxanne Yaghoubi
Photo/Graphics Editor: Charlie Buffie
Web/Tech Support: Ken Patton
Reporters: Maile Arvin
Micaela Baranello
Anya Carrasco
Lauren Janowitz
Evelyn Khoo
Megan Mills
Andrew Quinton
Jen Roth
Maki Sato
Cara Tigue 
Photographers: Kyle Khellaf
Anthony Orazio
World News Roundup: Micaela Baranello
Campus Sports: Alex Glick

The Daily Gazette is published Monday through Friday by an independent group of Swarthmore
College students. The Daily Gazette Web Site is updated regularly, as news happens. Technical
support from the Swarthmore College Computer Society is gratefully acknowledged.

Our world news roundup is compiled daily, using a variety of sources, most notably the
Associated Press (
www.ap.org), Reuters (www.reuters.com), CNN (www.cnn.com),
and The New York Times (www.nytimes.com). Our campus sports
summaries are derived from information provided by the Swat Athletics Department (http://www.swarthmore.edu/athletics/).

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This concludes today’s report.


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