Microsoft Stops Shooting Self in Foot

Student e-mail at the University Near Here is run by Microsoft "in the cloud", They don't do an awful job (just don't get me started on their customer support). But they have their own "Code of Conduct". And (sensibly enough) we've felt obligated to at least let our students know where to find it.

Here is where we've directed the kiddos. Calling it broad is an understatement. But one bit kind of stuck in my craw, under "Prohibited Uses":

You will not upload, post, transmit, transfer, distribute or facilitate distribution of any content (including text, images, sound, video, data, information or software) or otherwise use the service in a way that […] promotes or otherwise facilitates the purchase and sale of ammunition or firearms.

Yes, gun stuff is right out. It seems to be the only category of otherwise legal commerce that Microsoft saw fit to prohibit.

Other people have noticed and criticized this provision. (See here, here, here, here.) And the Electronic Frontier Foundation has a fuller criticism here. Also note that Microsoft has no problem in marketing the heck out of "shooter" games for the Xbox. (Is that irony? I can never tell.)

Anyway, Microsoft came out recently with "Updates to our terms of use and privacy statement" which points us here.

Blessedly absent: any reference to firearms or ammunition.

"Hate speech" is still banned, though. Which I hate.

UNH: Retirement Looking Better Every Day

One of those little coincidences. First was a University-wide e-mail from the president of the University Near Here, Mark Huddleston. The subject line:

President Huddleston Addresses Title IX and Campus Culture

Anyone who's followed recent news can only read that with a sinking feeling of dread.

You can read the President Huddleston's letter right here yourself. But I'll excerpt here:

With commencement and other end of academic year celebrations behind us, it is a good time to look ahead to the upcoming year. At the end of March, I shared the findings of an independent investigation, which in part evaluated Title IX efforts across the University System of New Hampshire. The report, among other findings, specifically identified the need for stronger coordination and collaboration related to all our Title IX efforts.

You can see the report to which President Huddleston refers here, which details alleged institutional failings in dealing with employee misbehavior at UNH and Keene State. To a certain extent, it's a natural bureaucratic response: we'll solve this (perceived) problem by creating new bureaucracy.

But wait, there's more:

However, as I said in March, our work around Title IX must move beyond rules and simple compliance. While these things are important, we must address the broader and more complex factors in our culture that keep us from becoming the kind of community to which we aspire. A safe and healthy campus is one grounded in widely shared values and deeply rooted norms of behavior wherein people respect and take care of one another.

Bottom line: UNH is getting a "task force", starting out as a "working group" which will develop an "action plan" to… Oh, I'm sure it will involve above-average arrogance and self-righteousness in service to the latest buzzwords, all wrapped up in who-could-possibly-be-against-that language.

I, for one, welcome our new Title IX overlords who will be in charge of enforcing "widely shared values" and "deeply rooted norms". Nothing could go wrong there.

The second part of the coincidence mentioned above: Jessica Gavora (Jonah Goldberg's readers know her as "the Fair Jessica") writes in the WSJ today on "How Title IX Became a Political Weapon"

Since its passage 43 years ago, Title IX has proved to be a remarkably elastic law. It has been stretched and warped from its original intent to end discrimination on the basis of sex in schools that receive federal funding. As long as Title IX’s victims were wrestlers or swimmers from low-revenue men’s sports that were jettisoned to achieve participation-parity with women’s sports, nobody much cared. But now that the law is being turned into a tool to suppress free speech on college campuses, even liberals are starting to cry foul.

Ms. Gavora's article should be recommended reading for anyone on President Huddleston's task force. Fearless prediction: it will not be read by anyone on President Huddleston's task force.

Last Modified 2015-06-09 6:51 AM EDT


[Amazon Link]

Stephenson: automatic buy. Even though I don't read a lot of science fiction any more.

Here's sentence number one (so it's not really a spoiler): "The Moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason." Whoa.

This happens in the slightly-near future: near enough so that the International Space Station is still in operation, but far enough so that we've figured out how to grab an asteroid, and attach it to the ISS for futher study. That's extremely fortuitous, because the Moon's destruction turns out to be, like war, not healthy for children and other living things. Having a big rock around helps.

The book is neatly divided in three: the first part deals with mankind's realization that the World As We Know It is ending, and most normal pursuits become irrelevant. The entire planet's resources and efforts are devoted to ensuring the survival of at least a fragment of humanity. This is not without controversy and squabble. Warning: Certain people are not to be trusted.

Part two deals with the aftermath of the end of the world. The aforementioned squabbles continue, but they become even more deadly, as the spacefaring survivors can't even agree on their short-term survival strategy. Bickering leads to disaster and tragedy.

And then, part three: set 5,000 years in the future. (Just as a benchmark, 5,000 years ago, humanity was just getting around to building the Great Pyramids and Stonehenge.) Things have changed a lot (although I won't spoil the details). But millennia-old conflicts still have their echoes, and they play out in surprising ways.

I very much enjoyed the book. Stephenson is endlessly imaginative, and (I assume) his science is impeccably hard. Parts of the text could be assigned to advanced undergrad courses in Orbital Mechanics, Aerospace Engineering, or Reproductive Biology. As in his previous books, Stephenson's heroes are competent, resourceful, perhaps a little geeky, and brave. I was simply in awe of his talent, all the way through.