Slavery Then and Now
After winning a Pulitzer Prize for their reporting on the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, husband and wife journalists Nicholas Kristof (a Yamhill native) and Sheryl WuDunn turned their attention to what they see as one of the great humanitarian issues of the day, the oppression of women. Their book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide (Alfred A. Knopf, 2009), received a great deal of critical attention, in part due to the parallels it drew between today’s sex industry and the slave trade of old. In May, WuDunn will be on campus to deliver the Lorwin Lecture, one of many events scheduled as part of this year’s inaugural Lorwin Lectureship on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties series presented by the UO Center for the Study of Women in Society.
Our own estimate is that there are 3 million women and girls (and a very small number of boys) worldwide who can be fairly termed enslaved in the sex trade. That is a conservative estimate that does not include many others who are manipulated and intimidated into prostitution. Nor does it include millions more who are under eighteen and cannot meaningfully consent to work in brothels. We are talking about 3 million people who in effect are the property of another person and in many cases could be killed by their owner with impunity.
Technically, trafficking is often defined as taking someone (by force or deception) across an international border. The U.S. State Department has estimated that between 600,000 and 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year, 80 percent of them women and girls, mostly for sexual exploitation. Since Meena [a woman profiled earlier in the book] didn’t cross a border, she wasn’t trafficked in the traditional sense. That’s also true of most people who are enslaved in brothels. As the U.S. State Department notes, its estimate doesn’t include “millions of victims around the world who are trafficked within their own national borders.”
In contrast, in the peak decade of the transatlantic slave trade, the 1780s, an average of just under eighty thousand slaves were shipped annually across the Atlantic from Africa to the New World. The average then dropped to a bit more than fifty thousand between 1811 and 1850. In other words, far more women and girls are shipped into brothels each year in the early twenty-first century than African slaves were shipped into slave plantations each year in the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries—although the overall population was of course far smaller then. As the journal Foreign Affairs observed: “Whatever the exact number is, it seems almost certain that the modern global slave trade is larger in absolute terms than the Atlantic slave trade in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was.”
As on slave plantations two centuries ago, there are few practical restraints on slave owners. In 1791, North Carolina decreed that killing a slave amounted to “murder,” and Georgia later established that killing or maiming a slave was legally the same as killing or maiming a white person. But these doctrines existed more on paper than on plantations, just as Pakistani laws exist in the statute books but don’t impede brothel owners who choose to eliminate troublesome girls.
While there has been progress in addressing many humanitarian issues in the last few decades, sex slavery has actually worsened. One reason for that is the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe and Indochina. In Romania and other countries, the immediate result was economic distress, and everywhere criminal gangs arose and filled the power vacuum. Capitalism created new markets for rice and potatoes, but also for female flesh.
A second reason for the growth of trafficking is globalization. A generation ago, people stayed at home; now it is easier and cheaper to set out for the city or a distant country. A Nigerian girl whose mother never left her tribal area may now find herself in a brothel in Italy. In rural Moldova, it is possible to drive from village to village and not find a female between the ages of sixteen and thirty.
A third reason for the worsening situation is AIDS. Being sold to a brothel was always a hideous fate, but not usually a death sentence. Now it often is. And because of the fear of AIDS, customers prefer younger girls whom they believe are less likely to be infected. In both Asia and Africa, there is also a legend that AIDS can be cured by sex with a virgin, and that has nurtured demand for young girls kidnapped from their villages.
These factors explain our emphasis on sex slaves as opposed to other kinds of forced labor. Anybody who has spent time in Indian brothels and also, say, at Indian brick kilns knows that it is better to be enslaved working a kiln. Kiln workers most likely live together with their families, and their work does not expose them to the risk of AIDS, so there’s always hope of escape down the road.
Surviving your parent’s death can have many challenges—dealing with difficult emotions, the details and paperwork, and, sometimes, unexpected discoveries about someone you thought you knew. Such was the experience of Kim Stafford ’71, MA ’73, PhD ’79, following the death of his father, poet and pacifist William Stafford, who served as poet laureate for both the United States (1970–71) and Oregon (1974–89). This poem and others inspired by Stafford family stories related to their Midwestern roots appear in a chapbook titled Prairie Prescription, due out soon from Limberlost Press.
* * *
Blue Brick from the Midwest
After my father collapsed like a bolt of light, toppled without a word,
I was the one to enter his study, find the jagged note to our mother he
scratched as he reeled, the freight train of his departure hurtling
through his heart—
—a sentiment he did not speak in 79 years as tough customer,
affable but stern, inert when grief came, reserved as granite
when my brother died, cracking plaintive jokes when we trembled
in the hospital, mother going under the knife.
His way was trenchant, oblique. He distrusted those who
talk about God, preferring to honor the holy with a glance,
a nod, or silence. Delving deeper, the day he died, we found
in his sock drawer, under that scant set of flimsy raiment, the fetching
photo of the flirt: our mother, coy at the sink, looking back
over her shoulder, dressed only in an apron with a big bow.
No fool like an old fool.
And delving deeper, at the back of the bottom file (the niche
where one would hide the stuff of blackmail) I touched the blue
brick of love letters our mother had sent him when they
courted in the war—brittle leaves kissed snug together
and bound with string, the trove he had carried
in secret through every move since 1943. She knew
them not, nor had his. “Oh, Billy,” she said.
Father, early years taught your way with the heart’s contraband
when the dirty thirties blunted your bravado, tornado snatched
your friends, the war your tenderness, and left you with these secrets
hoarded for us to find when you were gone.
Little Things So Big
“The only music I can compose is that of little things,” once observed Giacomo Puccini, the man behind the operas La Bohème, Tosca, and Madama Butterfly. This line serves as a fitting epigraph for Brian Doyle’s Mink River (OSU Press, 2010), excerpted below, a novel as lyrical and musical as it is keenly observant, endlessly playful, and deeply rooted in the lives of the many denizens of Neawanaka, a fictional town on the Oregon Coast where stories grow and tangle and amaze like blackberry vines, and magic and grace fall down like a gentle November mist. Doyle, a nationally known writer and a recent judge of Oregon Quarterly’s annual Northwest Perspectives Essay Contest, is the editor of Portland, the University of Portland’s magazine.
Hawks huddled disgruntled against hissing snow. Wrens in winter thickets. Swallows carving and swimming and slicing fat grinning summer air. Frozen dew outlining every single blade of grass. Salmonberries blackberries thimbleberries raspberries cloudberries snowberries strawberries blueberries gooseberries. My children learning to read. The sinuous liquid flow of rivers and minks and cats. Fresh bread with waaaaaaay too much butter. My children’s hands when they cup my ancient grizzled face in their hands. Exuberance and ebullience. Tears of sorrow which are the salt sea of the heart. Sleep in every form from doze to bone-weary. The shivering ache of a saxophone and the yearning of an oboe. Folding laundry hot from the dryer. Cobblers and tailors. A spotless kitchen floor. The way horses smell in spring. Postcards on which the sender has written so much that he or she can barely squeeze in a signature. Opera on the radio. Toothbrushes. The postman’s grin. The green sifting powdery snow of cedar pollen on my porch every year. The way a heron labors through the sky with such vast elderly dignity. People who care about hubcaps. The cheerful ears of dogs. All photographs of every sort. Tip-jars. Wineglasses. The way barbers sweep up circles of hair after haircuts. Handkerchiefs. Libraries. Poems read aloud by older poets. Fedoras. Excellent knives. The very idea of albatrosses. Thesaurii. The tiny screws that hold spectacles together. Book marginalia done with the lightest possible pencil. People who keep dead languages alive. Wooden rulers. Fresh-mown lawns. First-basemen’s mitts. Dishracks. The way my sons smell after their baths. The moons of Jupiter, especially Io. All manner of boats. The fact that our species produced Edmund Burke. Naps of every size. Junior Policemen badges. Walrussssses. Cassocks and surplices. The orphaned caps of long-lost pens. Welcome-mats and ice-cream trucks. All manner of bees. Cabbages and kings. Eulogy and elegy and puppetry. Fingernail-clippers. The rigging of sailing ships. Ironing-boards. Hoes and scythes. The mysterious clips that girls wear in their hair. Boddhisatvas and beauticians. Porters and portmanteaus. Camas and canvas. Bass and bluefish. Furriers and farriers. Trout and grout. Peach pies of any size. The sprawling porches of old hotels and the old men who sprawl upon them. The snoring of children. The burble of owls. The sound of my daughter typing her papers for school in the other room. The sound of my sons wrangling and wrestling and howling and yowling. All sounds of whatever tone and tenor issuing from my children. My children, and all other forms of coupled pain and joy; which is to say everything alive; which is to say all prayers; which is what I just did.
What The River Thinks
Salmon and steelhead and cutthroat trout. Fir needles. Salmonberries dropping suddenly and being snapped up by trout who think them orange insects. Alder and spruce roots drinking me always their eager thin little rude roots poking at me. Rocks and pebbles and grains of stone and splinters of stone and huge stones and slabs and beaver and mink and crawdads and feces from the effluent treatment plant upriver. Rain and mist and fog and gale and drizzle and howl and owl. Asters and arrow-grass. Finger creeks feeder creeks streams ditches seeps and springs. Rowboats and rafts. Canoes and chicory. Men and women and children. Dead and alive. Willows and beer bottles and blackberry and ducklings and wood sorrel and rubber boots and foxglove and buttercup and rushes and slugs and snails and velvetgrass and wild cucumber and orbweaver spiders and that woman singing with her feet in me singing. Baneberry and beargrass. Thrush and hemlock and coffee grounds. Thimbleberry and heron. Smelt and moss and water ouzels and bears and bear scat. Bramble and bracken. Elk drinking me cougar drinking me. Ground-cedar and ground-ivy and ground-pine and groundsel. Sometimes a lost loon. Cinquefoil and eelgrass. Vultures and voles. Water striders mosquitos mosquito-hawks. Dock and dewberry. Moths and mergansers. Huckleberry and snowberry. Hawks and osprey. Water wheels and beaver dams. Deer and lupine. Red currant. Trees and logs and trunks and branches and bark and duff. I eat everything. Elderberry and evening primrose. Bulrush and burdock. I know them all. They yearn for me. Caddis fly and coralroot. I do not begin nor do I cease. Foamflower fleeceflower fireweed. I always am always will be. Lily and lotus. Swell and surge and ripple and roar and roil and boil. I go to the Mother. Madrone and mistmaiden. The Mother takes me in. Nettle and ninebark. Pelt and peppergrass. She waits for me. Pine-sap and poppy. I bring her all small waters. Raspberry and rockcress. I draw them I lure them I accept them. Salal and satin-flower. She is all waters. Tansy and trillium. She drinks me. Velvetgrass and vernalgrass. I begin as a sheen on leaves high in the hills, a wet idea, a motion, a dream, a rune, and then I am a ripple, and I gather the small waters to me, the little wet children, the rills of the hills, and we are me and run to Her muscling through wood and stone cutting through everything singing and shouting roiling and rippling and there She is waiting and whispering her salty arms always opening always open always o.
Tears of the Mountain (Unbridled Books, 2010) by John Addiego ’75, MFA ’77. “Tears of the Mountain chronicles a single day in one man’s life—July 4, 1876—along with a series of flashbacks that all lead up to an eventful Centennial Independence Day celebration. . . . John Addiego fills this tale of America’s coming of age with wit and lively prose, seamlessly moving back and forth through time in a novel that recognizes both our darker side and our promise.”
The Art of Exile (Bilingual Press, 2009) by William Archila, MFA ’02. A collection of poems that explore the unrest in El Salvador in the 1980s and the impact on Central American immigrants. “Archila bridges race and class, metaphor and reality with astuteness, mingling humor and pain with a skill that denigrates neither.”
The Lumberman’s Frontier: Three Centuries of Land Use, Society, and Change in America’s Forests (Oregon State University Press, 2010) by Thomas R. Cox, MS ’59, PhD ’69. “. . . Neither glorifies economic development nor falls into the maw of gloom-and-doom. It puts individual actors at center stage, allowing the points of view of the workers and lumbermen to emerge.”
On Tact, & the Made Up World (University of Iowa Press, 2010) by Michele Glazer ’79. “Michele Glazer’s poems take on questions of being and value, exploring not just what is, but how it is. . . . From this collision of passion and severity come poems that are strange and darkly beautiful.”
The Risk of Being Ridiculous: A Historical Novel of Love and Revolution (Hellgate Press, 2010) by Oregon Quarterly editor Guy Maynard ’84 is set in Boston 1969–70. Nineteen-year-old Ben Tucker feverishly pursues the long-shot love of his life, Sarah Stein, amidst his tribe of long-haired freaks who mix radical politics, a love of rock and roll, and celebratory drug use in their desperate search for lives that make sense in a world distorted by war, racism, and bankrupt values.
Alligators Under My Bed and Other Nebraska Tales (Clay Bridges Communications and Publishing, 2010) by James D. Hager ’69. “A true story of growing up in mid-twentieth-century rural Nebraska. Jim Hager weaves humorous, evocative, and educational stories from his childhood for generations of modern city folk, school children, and others like him who lived to tell their tales.”
Precincts of Light (Inkwater Press, 2010) by Henry Alley, professor emeritus of literature in the Robert D. Clark Honors College. “Set against the background of the Measure Nine (anti-gay rights) crisis in Oregon in the early 1990s, a brother and sister, both newly out, try to recover the lost affections of their children. Their combined quests are explored from five points of view in a novel of continuously rich and poetic language.”
Purely Alaska: Authentic Voices from the Far North (Epicenter Press, 2010) by Susan Andrews, MA ’83, and John Creed, MA ’83. “In the immense, roadless expanse of the Far North, storytelling has thrived for many generations. Stories range from harrowing survival adventures to tales of other exotic people, places, and cultures. This anthology captures some of these stories as told by rural Alaskans.”
Goethe’s Modernisms (Continuum, 2010) by Astrida Orle Tantillo ’85. “Tantillo explores Goethe’s role within the culture wars that have been with us for some time, his role as both a progenitor and a critic of modernity, and suggests how we might rethink aspects of our current policies, whether educational or fiscal.”
Josh Halliwick’s Madness: A Lighthearted Look at Schizophrenia (BookSurge Publishing, 2009) by Marty Weinstein ’83 and Bob Wyrick. A young man plagued by schizophrenia struggles against the disease to help a paralyzed friend. “Despite its serious subjects, the book has uproarious moments as the story of the well-intentioned Halliwick unfolds.”
Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Copyright © 2009 by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Published by arrangement with Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York. Currently available in paperback from Vintage Books.
Mink River by Brian Doyle. Copyright 2010 OSU Press.
News, Notables, Innovations
In prison, James* says, you search for events to mark the passage of time. The ton after filthy ton of hospital laundry that cycles through his work area, the gang-infused mealtimes that are stressful, often downright dangerous—these certainly don’t alleviate the stark gray sameness of the months and years. If you can afford new music, you order a CD. Then, for the next six weeks, you look forward to the delivery of that audio escape. Brief meetings with family in the crowded, bus-station-like visiting room provide just a sweet glimpse at the world that still exists beyond the electronic metal gates and twenty-five foot walls that surround the Oregon State Penitentiary (OSP).
Ten years into a twenty-five-year sentence, James was seeking productive ways to make the years pass more quickly. Good work habits and smart choices moved him beyond what he calls the “knucklehead phase”—fighting the system and other inmates—to earn respect from his peers, supervisors, and even the guards. In an issue of the Walled Street Bulletin, OSP’s inmate newsletter, James read about an upcoming class to be offered by the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program. Though he was interested, he wondered if he could hack the college-level course work. Incarcerated since he was seventeen, he had earned a GED during his first years inside, but still felt unsure of his skills. He applied for admission to the course, passed the interview process, and was accepted.
That first Inside-Out course, administered through Oregon State University, focused on juvenile delinquency. Propped against his cell wall with a pillow at his back, James read voraciously with the clanging, echoing noise of his 2,000-plus neighbors in the background. He learned about the adolescent brain and that skills like reasoning and judgment are still developing until the mid-twenties. He began to understand himself and the paths that led to his own crime. But perhaps most important, with the support of his classmates and instructor, James learned that he could learn—he passed the class with high marks and was encouraged to continue. Fortified by that achievement, James was ready to get serious and do whatever he could to ensure a successful future once he was released from prison.
UO Professor Steven Shankman had hosted Inside-Out’s founder and national director, Lori Pompa of Temple University, in 2004 when she lectured on-campus at the Oregon Humanities Center about Inside-Out and corrections education. Intrigued by Pompa’s enthusiastic description of Inside-Out, Shankman signed on for the instructor training at Pennsylvania’s Graterford Prison.
“I have to say, it was scary at first. I’d never been in a penitentiary before,” he says. But that fear quickly gave way to seeing opportunities. “Those guys have an incredible range of life experiences, and they brought that background into class discussions.” As a literary scholar, Shankman envisioned applying the inmates’ hard-knocks knowledge to deep reading of texts. Nationwide, most Inside-Out classes focus on criminology and criminal justice, but Shankman decided to highlight the works of the great Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky, who spent four years in a Siberian prison.
He enlisted other UO faculty members to take the Inside-Out training and Richard Kraus, then-director of the UO’s Robert D. Clark Honors College, promised to support the program and promote it to honors college students. The UO’s first Inside-Out class was slated for spring 2007.
Katie*, carrying a double major in Spanish and comparative literature at the Clark Honors College, had recently entered the UO as a sophomore due to plenty of AP credits earned in high school. She had no qualms about the academic demands of the Inside-Out course; she just wanted to challenge the boundaries of her white, middle-class upbringing.
The first day of her Inside-Out class reminded Katie, bizarrely, of the boy-girl seating arrangement at a middle-school dance: Students were to sit in a circle of chairs, “outside” students alternating with “inside” students. “It’s a very intense experience to be in a classroom with people who are . . . so not who you think of as your peers,” she says. “It made me realize how many prejudices I had, and didn’t even know I had.” She doubted the Inside-Out discussions would be as deeply academic as those in her on-campus courses. Her honors college classmates expressed similar concerns, wondering what they would talk about with the inside students. What common ground could they possibly find?
James, enrolled for his second Inside-Out class, chose a seat next to Katie. From their reading assignment of 100 pages, the two had selected the same Dostoevsky passage to review for class that day, a section from The House of the Dead: “There are bad people everywhere, and good ones among the bad . . . And who knows? These people are perhaps by no means so much worse than [those] who have remained outside the prison. . . .”
Katie’s response echoed the sentiments of many in the class: “So here we are, together in our imperfectness. . . I am entering into a prison in a completely different set of circumstances than the narrator, but I come with a similar set of hopes and expectations . . . I hope that we find each other to be more similar than different. People are people. That seems to me to be the point of the passage, and a vital fact in living life.”
James noted his appreciation for the author’s point of view, the way that Dostoevsky’s characters always showed empathy for the viewpoints and emotions of other people. He also saw striking correlations between life in Dostoevsky’s Siberian prison and his own incarceration. “When Dostoevsky [writes about being] on the yard, feeling frustration with the inmates around him, or when he’s in the shower, disgusted with being surrounded by so many naked men, ” James says, “. . . we feel those same things. A lot of his experiences, though they happened so long ago and in a different country, are exactly how the prison experience is today.”
There’s a magic that happens during Inside-Out classes, says Shankman, and it’s different from what he’s seen in the many regular university classes he’s taught. “It’s incredibly inspiring,” he says. “People are able to be vulnerable. . . The texts are absorbed by the students and reflected in deeply personal ways; the writing is astounding. The students step up and do the reading not because they want to please the teacher but because they feel a responsibility to the other students, to be able to have good discussions.”
James knows that part of the magic is mutual respect felt by the two groups of students. “We can barely believe these people would leave their campus and drive sixty miles to have a class with us,” he says. “The books and the discussions are great, but maybe the best part is seeing that we can still think well, and learn, and communicate with people on the outside.”
After her Inside-Out experience, Katie remained focused on corrections education. In 2009, after taking a second Inside-Out class, she also completed the Inside-Out instructor training as one of the youngest attendees in the history of the program. As part of her Clark Honors College thesis, she and James (along with Madeline, another 2009 outside student) received permission to work together as editors on a student publication, Turned Inside-Out, which was published in June 2010, the same month that Katie received her bachelor’s degree (see Web Extra below).
James continues to take classes through OSP’s “College Inside” program. “I can’t walk from my cell to the yard, or from the yard to my job without being questioned by other inmates about my classes,” he says. “Tons of guys want to know how they can get involved, too.” He recently completed all lower-division requirements and is working toward his bachelor’s degree as classes are available.
—Katherine Gries ’05, MA ’09
*Inside-Out rules state that last names of students may not be used in the classroom. That rule is applied in this article as well.
To read Turned Inside-Out online or to read “Background on Inside-Out at the UO,” go to OregonQuarterly.com
Matthew Ginsberg could be considered a traffic cop of sorts.
Research professor at the UO’s Computational Intelligence Research Laboratory and cofounder of the spinoff company On Time Systems, Ginsberg applies artificial intelligence to create, for example, “optimization” software programs that smartly route U.S. Air Force flights—conserving some twenty million gallons of fuel per year—and steer shipbuilders efficiently through unimaginably complex jobs for the U.S. Navy. On Time Systems’ latest venture, a smartphone-based application called Green Driver, taps real-time traffic light data to show drivers the quickest of many possible routes to a destination.
And while his work involves guiding people, planes, and processes through puzzling challenges, Ginsberg’s hobby is creating challenging puzzles. As a crossword puzzle constructor—perhaps crossing guard is the better comparison here—Ginsberg shepherds words across (and down) into clever, sometimes mind-bending intersections.
Ginsberg created his first crossword puzzles in the 1970s when, as a senior at Wesleyan University, he wrote software that could fill a grid with words. “It’s basically a massive search problem,” he says, “and people then didn’t know nearly as much as they know now about that class of problem.”
For about thirty years, throughout his work in mathematics, computer science, and artificial intelligence at Oxford (where he earned his PhD in mathematics at age twenty-four), Stanford, and Oregon, Ginsberg occasionally revisited crossword design. He took it up in earnest in 2007, and in January of 2008 had his first puzzle published in that most hallowed crossword medium, The New York Times.
Ginsberg since has created some of the most original and memorable theme puzzles published by the Times in recent years.
“Every puzzle of his is based on a novel, slightly offbeat idea, involving a severe constraint of some sort, which he then brilliantly executes, with a first-rate construction to boot,” says Times crossword editor Will Shortz. “Whatever idea he pursues, he likes to push it to its very limit. Every puzzle of his is a bit of a surprise. And I like that.”
Shortz surprised his crossword legions on Sunday, May 16, 2010, when he published a theme puzzle by Ginsberg called “Double Crossers.” Within its grid, ten squares, which typically would each be filled in with one letter, were further separated into four squares (see square 74 in photo). Puzzled puzzlers eventually discovered that each quadrant awaited four letters that would unite two overlapping, two-part down and across answers, each pair varying by two letters.
For example, one clue, “Like Enron,” yielded the answer “IN THE RED IN THE END,” with the two overlaying three-word phrases diverging only in the double-crossed square (underlined). The clue for the intersecting answer read “Knock again.” The answer: “RETRY ENTRY.”
“I especially liked how TIME WARNER became TIME WASTER by changing just two letters—and then had two other common words [CONVERSION/CONVENTION] crossing those changed letters in the other direction,” Shortz says.
(Having trouble visualizing the concept? See “Double Crossers,” along with Ginsberg’s twenty-one other puzzles published in the Times, at www.xwordinfo.com/authors.)
“Double Crossers” actually sparked a minor flap among the Times’ crossword diehards. Many solvers use Across Lite software to complete the daily puzzle, but the program couldn’t handle the quartered squares of this atypical grid. Before Ginsberg and the Times’ crossword blogger could piece together a patched electronic file, those who normally completed the puzzle onscreen had to print out the puzzle and solve it on paper.
“All of the online solvers were mad,” says Ginsberg. “There was this online brouhaha about whether I was a hero or a goat.” (Read comments and Ginsberg’s responses on the Times’ Wordplay blog at tinyurl.com/25r6y6v.)
Detractors aside, “Double Crossers” represented the type of technically sophisticated puzzle borne of Ginsberg’s man-machine construction methods.
“First of all, Matt has a gigantic database of potential crossword entries—one of the largest in the business—so he’s able to achieve intricate constructions other people can’t,” explains Shortz, who publishes the work of more than 100 puzzle makers each year. “He also has an excellent sense of what makes a good or great crossword entry and what doesn’t.”
Surprisingly, Ginsberg admits to being “truly horrible” at solving crosswords. “But I look at the Times puzzle pretty much every day because I’m interested in themes and I always try to do something no one has done before.”
As with his “day job” optimization work, Ginsberg’s puzzle construction begins with a problem that has myriad possible solutions. “There are many different ways of filling a grid, and you want to find the best one,” he says.
Ginsberg starts a puzzle grid by entering his theme words, which he often culls from database search results that match certain parameters. Finding the twenty pairs of slightly varied words and phrases that could unite and intersect with two others in “Double Crossers,” for example, would be a daunting task without a computer’s enormous computational power.
Similarly, man and microprocessor teamed up to concoct the portmanteau entries in “Compound Fractures,” a November 1, 2009, Times theme puzzle by Ginsberg and Pete Muller, a longtime associate and collaborator. Muller had the initial idea, and Ginsberg then wrote a program to merge words that shared sequences of several letters. Finally, the authors crafted clever definitions for the most inspired of these Frankenwords. RETROSPECTACLES became “Eyewear providing hindsight”; GUITARISTOCRAT, a “Noble Les Paul”; and SPORADICAL, an “Intermittent revolutionary.”
To help in assembling the remainder of puzzles, Ginsberg maintains a database filled with entries harvested from electronically published crosswords. This is not to make his task easier, he says, but to help him avoid overused entries. “I want to have fresh clues,” he stresses, citing “Fabled slacker” for HARE as one of his favorites.
Ginsberg uses closely supervised “auto-fill” to flesh out his puzzle grids. The computer suggests words to fill each slot, and then Ginsberg chooses the ones he likes best, revisits any trouble spots, and finally writes the clues. “I’ll gradually fill it in, usually in six to eight hours, in sort of a team effort between me and the computer,” he says.
The quality of Ginsberg’s meticulous work is apparent to Shortz.
“When I get a puzzle from Matt, I get the feeling that he’s explored all the best possibilities for the construction,” Shortz says. “I don’t have to second-guess him and ask ‘Did you try this instead?’ He already tried everything and chose the optimal result.”
Contestants at Shortz’s annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament (chronicled in the 2006 documentary film Wordplay) also don’t have to second-guess results at the competition thanks to a program Ginsberg wrote to assist human judges in scoring and scanning puzzle forms for errors.
All of this human-computer crossword crossover raises a compelling question for Ginsberg, who in the 1990s developed GIB (Ginsberg’s Intelligent Bridgeplayer), widely regarded as the first bridge software to approach the level of expert human players. Couldn’t a program also be written to create crosswords as skillfully as the best human constructors?
Well, he says, it is easy to program a computer to design “good” crosswords unassisted. That’s why he prefers to create puzzles infused with thematic links, wordplay, wit, and subtlety—the type favored by Shortz, and the kind that can be schemed in the human mind but not (yet) in the realm of artificial intelligence.
Ginsberg devised one puzzle built on the theme of contranyms, or words that can mean one thing and the opposite. Entries included “Add to or remove from” (TRIM); “Easy to see or impossible to see” (TRANSPARENT); and “Confirmation or uncertainty” (RESERVATION).
“There is this interesting bit of emotional tension in these words that mean their opposite,” explains Ginsberg who, literally, wrote the book on the Essentials of Artificial Intelligence (Morgan Kaufmann, 1993). “Coming up with an idea like that is completely beyond what computers can do at the moment. And I work with computers eight hours a day as it is, so I always try to do something with a genesis that is entirely human.”
After all, guiding words into wondrous intersections still requires the guiding hands of a gifted crossing guard.
—Joel Gorthy ’98
An enormous exterior clock four stories up its brick façade tends to draw peoples’ attention to the top of the new HEDCO Education Building that now anchors the southwest corner of campus. But Carrie Thomas Beck, PhD ’98, and her staff of reading tutors and graduate teaching fellows are doing some pretty amazing work in a far-off corner of the ground floor. That’s where Thomas Beck directs the Reading Clinic of the Center on Teaching and Learning (CTL), now in its third year of operation as a division within the UO’s College of Education.
Each term, the Reading Clinic serves thirty grade K–6 students with low reading scores from Lane County schools. The children all come from low-income families, and the service is free. In private rooms, tutors lead them through one-on-one phonics drills and oral reading exercises, while parents watch and listen from an adjoining room. Thomas Beck herself might pop in on a session to guide the student or tutor as needed. The tutors use reading programs that are classroom-tested and recognized as being among the best for intensive intervention. Some of them, with names like Read Naturally, Horizons, and Corrective Reading, were developed right here by researchers in the College of Education, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
Innovation and leadership in reading instruction are nothing new to the College of Education. When President George W. Bush launched the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, CTL served as one of the nation’s three technical assistance centers for Reading First, NCLB’s $1 billion-per-year initiative to bring struggling children up to or above grade level in reading by the end of third grade. The need for such an initiative was underscored by the National Report Card for 2003 (the first year of Reading First funding), which revealed that 37 percent of America’s fourth graders were underperforming in this crucial subject.
CTL also directly administered Oregon Reading First, the state’s piece of the national program, which reached into fifty schools around Oregon to serve 15,000 grade K–3 students. Over the course of a seven-year funding cycle that ended in September, CTL staff members trained classroom teachers to implement reading interventions tailored to meet students’ varying levels of need. The results? Performance improved in every element of reading. More and more students came up to benchmark achievement level with each year of funding, and their performance kept getting better the longer the interventions continued. Oregon Reading First upheld a core belief that has guided the work of the College of Education all along: give teachers adequate resources and the right tools for the job, and there’s no child they can’t inspire to succeed.
“We know the odds,” says the College of Education’s Roland Good, associate professor of school psychology, “If you’re on track [in reading] at the end of first grade, there’s a 90 to 95 percent chance you’ll be on track at the end of second grade. If you’re well below benchmark at the end of first grade, the odds drop to 10 to 15 percent.” But, he emphasizes, these figures are only predictions and not guarantees. The odds can be beaten. “The role of intervention is to ruin the prediction,” he says.
The College of Education was trailblazing a path to more effective ways to teach reading as early as the 1960s, when Siegfried Engelmann and UO colleagues pioneered the concept of “direct instruction.” This tightly scripted approach, with its emphasis on repetitious sound and word recognition drills, stirred up a good deal of controversy but also won many followers. And when put to the test against other leading interventions of the day in Project Follow Through (an early follow-up to Head Start), Engelmann says, “We whumped ‘em.”
Engelmann still develops programs through his own Eugene-based firm, Engelmann-Becker Corporation, and asserts that “Education is all about identifying what you want kids to know, determining what they don’t know, then designing programs to fill the gap.”
Stan Paine, PhD ’78, heads professional development for CTL and credits the direct instructional approach with helping educators move away from an outdated notion. “The old paradigm for the teaching of reading can be described as ‘constant input-variable outcomes,’ the idea being that schools taught every child the same thing, the same way, and accepted that there would be different results from child to child,” explains Paine. Today’s best interventions take the approach that every child should receive a basic level of instruction, then “kids who need more get more.” So schools, he says, must educate kids to meet benchmarks.
And what are benchmarks? Think of them as expected levels of competence to be reached incrementally over time. Measuring where kids are and how well they’re progressing in relation to benchmarks has long defined the work of Roland Good and Ruth Kaminski, MS ’84, PhD ’92. The data system they developed as College of Education researchers in the 1990s, called Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS, rhymes with dribbles), is used in more than 15,000 schools nationwide, serving more than four million children in grades K–6.
To administer DIBELS in the classroom, teachers lead students through a series of minute-long exercises in identifying sounds, putting them together into words, supplying missing words for sentences, and other basic language-related tasks. They are brief enough that teachers can work with one student at a time. The data obtained reveal students’ skill levels in key components of reading, such as phonics, vocabulary, and comprehension. Armed with this information, teachers know how much extra support certain kids may need, and in what particular areas, and can focus their instruction accordingly.
In Eugene’s Bethel School District, where DIBELS and direct instruction-style interventions have long been in use together, Reading Coordinator Rhonda Wolter ’76, ME ’83, says, “we’ve made huge gains.” Each year, Bethel’s incoming kindergartners consistently read at a level well below the national average. Yet, by the end of third grade, 90 percent read at or above grade level. Drew Braun, PhD ’92, the district’s director of instruction, affirms that kids have consistently been brought up to benchmark levels in reading within two years, regardless of what grade they started in the district.
With the expiration of Reading First funding, CTL’s next big project is developing an online version of Oregon Reading First, allowing schools to provide the same high level of intervention on their own. It won’t be “just a PowerPoint presentation,” Paine insists, but will include voiceovers, step-by-step instructions, and links to relevant resources, and will even accommodate remote coaching. To prepare for this, CTL spent the last of its Reading First funding to train a network of instructional coaches, so that districts can nurture and develop their own in-house expertise to train teachers and evaluate the effectiveness of classroom instruction.
Paine is excited by the possibilities this offers. “If I were a school principal today—and I was one for twenty-two years—I would say, ‘This is a great opportunity for us to continue to apply the lessons we’ve learned. We don’t have the money to hire instructors or trainers, but I can use this as an instructional design plan.’”
He might also have said it’s the next step in affirming the College of Education’s century-old belief that success for every child is within reach
—Dana Magliari, MA ‘98
One hundred and seventy-five. That’s how many smoothies—orange creamsicle, triple berry, and strawberry kiwi—that Gary Bertelsen is making on a rainy Friday morning in his Ben and Jerry’s store on Coburg Road in Eugene, with country music blaring, his cousin, Julie Golf, assisting, three high-tech blenders whirring, and his cell phone ringing intermittently in the background. The shop is not open yet—it’s only 9:00 a.m. The cacophony is deafening, kind of like the sound in Autzen Stadium after a touchdown. Pour, whirr, pour. Approximately ninety bananas, twelve-and-a-half gallons of frozen yogurt, about twenty-two gallons of juice, and thirty pounds of berries—combining to make more than sixty gallons of fruity goodness.
Across town, 120 UO football players are blocking, tackling, passing, running, sweating, and burning up vital nutrients and a zillion calories—in other words, it’s a routine practice the day before a game (in this case, the early-season contest with Portland State). The smoothies are for the team, part of an overall nutrition program developed by James Harris, assistant athletic director and chief nutritionist for the UO athletic department. Bertelsen has also served smoothies to the UO women’s volleyball, soccer, and softball teams, as well as men’s lacrosse during the past five years.
“After a workout, you’re exhausted. You’ve used up all your energy. You’re breaking down muscle mass. On the Friday before the game, you’ve got to replenish that,” Harris explains. The smoothies, he says, are part of the pregame plan. “It helps with recovery. There’s simple sugar and fruit juice. There’s protein, which helps to repair muscles. And it tastes incredible. The coaches love them. The players love them.”
To be clear, there’s nothing in the smoothies that isn’t in what’s sold at Ben and Jerry’s every day. No supplements, protein powder, or the like. Says Harris, “The only thing he could add per NCAA rules would be protein, but there is a calculation to determine the permissible amount.”
Bertelsen lines the smoothies up in rows, snaps plastic lids on the 175 twenty-two-ounce cups, and adds a straw for each. He moves the finished product onto shelves in his walk-in freezer. There they will sit for the next hour or so, until he gets the call that practice is wrapping up. “Not bad,” he says, checking his watch. That took exactly fifty minutes. He cleans up the sticky counters and he waits.
He uses the time to work the phones, taking care of details. One challenge: his crew is spread really thin, at venues literally hundreds of miles apart. He operates an ice cream booth at the Cuthbert Amphitheater in Eugene and he’s short a couple staff members for tonight’s show, Furthur with Bob Weir and Phil Lesh from The Grateful Dead. Many of Bertelsen’s employees who would usually be on hand to fill in are still at the Pendleton Round-Up. He and his wife, Megan Bertelsen ’92, just returned from a week at Cycle Oregon, a bicycle tour that begins and ends in Elgin, Oregon, with stops in Enterprise; Clarkston, Washington; Waitsburg, Washington; and Pendleton. Gary and Megan participated, but not on bikes—they scooped ice cream and served the hungry pedalers 800 smoothies a day. After a five-hour drive back to Eugene, Gary went directly to scoop ice cream at the Cuthbert Amphitheater, and he’ll be there again tonight.
He’s everywhere—as ubiquitous as the Bertelsen name is in Eugene. His parents, lifelong Eugene residents, own several campus properties. His great-grandfather, Hans Bertelsen, was an early settler (fittingly, a dairy farmer). Bertelsen Road is in fact named after his family, most of them Duck fans (though perhaps none so dedicated as his father, Roger, who just attended his 250th straight game at Autzen Stadium). Gary, who like Megan is a South Eugene High School graduate, is regularly seen at local outdoor events with his Ben and Jerry’s mobile operation, a complement to the two stores in Eugene he’s owned since 2000. Before that, as anyone who attended the UO in this period may remember, he and his family owned the popular Bubba’s restaurant for seventeen years, with two locations, on Alder Street and on East 19th Avenue. He’s the smiling guy who was almost always there behind the counter—but he gave that up in 2001. “You had to be married to it. I was having kids,” he says. “I didn’t want to work that hard.”
He’s a devoted dad—somewhere in the midst of running two Ben and Jerry’s stores (he sold his third store, in Bend, about a year ago), scooping ice cream for fair- and concertgoers, and making smoothies for five UO athletic teams, he finds time to share after-school pickup duties with Megan.
Family time, especially in summers, is often taking smoothies to the teams, pre- or postgame. “It’s a great way to get the whole family together,” says Megan, for whom smoothies are a bit of a departure from her career as a physical therapist with Sacred Heart’s Orthopedic Sports and Spine Therapy in Eugene. “We’ve had a good time with it.” And the smoothie gig supplies the family with plenty of shared moments and memories. “One lacrosse game, it started snowing,” Megan remembers. “And there we were waiting to hand out smoothies.”
To the family, he’s Dad, but around the UO athletic department, he’s “that smoothie guy.” As in, “where’s that smoothie guy?” which is what one of the equipment managers asks shortly before practice ends. Gary’s there, having filled three large Igloo ice chests with smoothies and ice and hefted them into the back of his dark blue Dodge pickup. He takes a prime spot near the Moshofsky Center, wheels the coolers in on a hand truck, and then runs back to grab a folding table. The smoothies stay in their coolers while he waits right outside the tunnel. Practice is running late, and he wants them to stay frozen. He waits patiently, waving or saying hello to just about everyone who comes by.
Then it’s show time.
A steady stream of football players, coaches, and other staff members emerge from Autzen, walk by the table, and grab a frozen treat. “Wait till you see them,” Bertelsen says. “On TV they all look so big. But they’re just young guys.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Hey! My favorite part of the week, right there. Thanks, man.”
“What’s good? Ok, thanks. Thank you, sir!”
There are only a few variations on this theme—a couple fist bumps, a couple thumbs up—but despite a grueling practice in the rain, every last player seems to be smiling.
And, Gary’s comments aside, some of the team members are just as big, if not bigger, than they appear on TV. Senior Jordan Holmes, a 6-foot 5-inch, 300-pound offensive lineman for the Ducks, for example. He’s tried all the flavors. Today it’s orange creamsicle, his favorite. Holmes loves the smoothies because they’re cold and he knows they’re good for him. “They’re refreshing, and pretty much delicious,” he says.
Coach Chip Kelly is among the last coming out of Autzen, after supervising end-of-practice drills. Only a few lonely smoothies remain, melting in their cups and leaving rings of condensation on the table. Bertelsen reaches into the cooler and hands the coach his very own, still frozen—triple berry with a green straw, as always. Coach Kelly takes the smoothie, thanks Bertelsen, and heads over to talk with a group of reporters standing by.
When asked how many smoothies he’s made for UO athletic teams in total, Gary laughs—there’s no way he could count, he says.
—Zanne Miller, MS ’97
Spring graduation ceremonies have been permanently moved to Monday (June 18 this year) after a successful campus-wide commencement celebration on a Monday this past June.
The UO Gospel Singers, under the direction of former UO football player Andiel Brown ’08, now instructor of gospel choirs and ensembles, took top honors in a September competition with a dozen choirs from around the country at the Disney Gospel Choir Fest at Disney World in Florida.
Mia Tuan, professor of education studies and director of the UO Center on Diversity and Community, has been named associate dean of the Graduate School. The UO’s first public records officer has been named; Elizabeth Denecke brings a breadth of experience in law and higher education, including tracking state and federal confidentiality laws with the firm of Miller Nash in Portland, and working on public records laws as senior assistant attorney general with the Oregon Department of Justice. Randy Geller is the UO’s new general counsel. He served as deputy general counsel since 2006.
• The UO ranks 111 in the “Best National Universities” list (up from 115 last year) and the UO Lundquist College of Business ranks forty-second on the “Best Business Programs” list, according to U.S. News Media Group’s 2011 America’s Best Colleges survey of 1,400 schools. Another finding: 28 percent of this year’s UO freshmen graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school classes (up 2 and 5 percent respectively from the previous two years’ levels).
• Among 222 top American research institutions, the UO’s geography, psychology, and biology programs ranked third, sixth, and eighteenth, respectively, in citations per publication, according to a recent study by the National Research Council. Geography also placed third in publications per faculty member while biology was tenth in awards received per faculty member.
• The UO has been named as one of only nineteen universities to receive five-stars for having a welcoming atmosphere for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students, as ranked in a survey of 230 schools by Campus Pride magazine.
Imagine taking a class field trip . . . to a slaughterhouse. Last year, students in Mark Unno’s “Bull in the China Shop” seminar experienced those intense sights, sounds, and, well, smells. The course explored the slaughter and eating of food-source animals across Asian religions, many of which are typically stereotyped as vegetarian.
“But there are specific episodes in early Asian texts—Daoism, Confucianism, and medieval Japanese Buddhism—that refer to the slaughter and consumption of oxen,” says Unno, who specializes in East Asian religions and Buddhism. “In order to really understand the significance of the topic, I wanted students to have a visceral experience of the facts of animal slaughter.”
The course also included readings and a campus lecture by Temple Grandin, an award-winning scientist noted for her revolutionary work in compassionate livestock care and food production practices. “Her work places these topics within her larger exploration of worldview including God, the divine, and the ultimate,” says Unno. “She even makes references to Zen Buddhism.”
Some religious studies students want to learn more about the religion in their family backgrounds; others, like Unno, are interested in studying religious customs different from their own. Some are on a personal quest for religious meaning and significance. Others want to analyze various religions for consistencies rather than looking for something to believe in. Even atheists have a place in the discussion, says Unno, since atheism is really just another kind of belief commitment.
“In religious studies, we don’t assume faith,” he says. “We don’t teach religion, we teach about religion. I’m interested in exploring with students the critical questioning of religion, while having them come away with an appreciation for sympathetic understanding.” The winner of numerous UO teaching awards, Unno insists that his students enlighten him nearly as much as his research and scholarly pursuits. “I may have the specialized knowledge,” he says, “but we’re on an intellectual adventure together.”
Name: Mark Unno
Education: BA, 1982, Oberlin College; MA, 1991, Stanford University; PhD, 1994, Stanford University.
Teaching Experience: Member of the UO faculty since 2000. Previously, he taught for four years at Carleton College in Minnesota.
Awards: Rippey Innovative Teaching Award, 2005–7 and 2009–11; Oregon Humanities Center Teaching Fellowship, 2005–6; Robert F. and Evelyn Nelson Wulf Professorship in the Humanities, 2005–6; Coleman-Guitteau Teaching and Research Fellowship, 2009; Thomas F. Herman Faculty Teaching Award, 2010.
Off-Campus: He and his wife enjoy Eugene’s many walking and hiking trails, and attending the many wine, music, and arts festivals and fairs in the Lane County area. They also like gardening, though “my wife does most of the actual work, and I enjoy the product!”
Last Word: “Be a citizen of the world, not just an accidental tourist.”
—Katherine Gries ’05, MA ’09
Downtown Portland throws open its gallery doors every First Thursday, welcoming the city to a party in honor of the visual arts. Thanks to a partnership with Oregon Public Broadcasting, the University of Oregon in Portland at the White Stag Block is extending the First Week festivities and inviting the public to celebrate independent filmmaking on the first Wednesday of every month.
The UO’s George S. Turnbull Portland Center is one of more than sixty-five sites across the country where local communities are invited to gather for free screenings of documentaries featured on Independent Lens, the award-winning PBS television series. The screening program, called Community Cinema, features independently produced documentaries followed by panel discussions featuring local experts, filmmakers, and community activists.
Both the films and the panelists are specially chosen to get Portlanders grappling with some of the most complex and thorny social issues of our times; most as multifaceted as they are hard to talk about. Last year, more than 40,000 people attended Community Cinema events across the nation, wrestling with issues such as autism, intellectual property, immigrant and refugee rights, organ donation, and the role of the elderly in modern society.
This year, the White Stag Block is host to the only Community Cinema events in Oregon, but those who live outside the Portland area can also view the films, by tuning in to OPB or their local PBS affiliate. Visit www.pbs.org/independentlens for details and local showtimes.
—Mindy Moreland, MS ’08
The Calling • December 1, 2010, 6–8 p.m.
A behind-the-scenes look at young Americans—Christian, Jewish, Catholic, and Muslim—preparing to become the nation’s next generation of religious leaders.
For Once in My Life • January 5, 2011, 6–8 p.m.
The story of a unique band of singers and musicians, who have a wide range of mental and physical disabilities as well as musical abilities that extend into ranges of pure genius.
Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story • February 2, 2011, 6–8 p.m.
Cyntoia Brown was an average teenager in an American town. But a series of bad decisions led the sixteen-year-old into a situation that ended with her killing a man who had picked her up for sex. She was sentenced to life in a Tennessee prison, meaning she will serve a minimum of fifty-one years.
For more information and a complete list of this year’s documentaries, visit turnbullcenter.uoregon.edu and click on “Turnbull Calendar.”
The UO homepage has a new look, designed to make it more functional and easier to use—especially for prospective students and their families. Clearly identified links take the site visitor to information about admissions, housing, scholarships, financial aid, arts and culture, or to a special page for parents and families. The site renovation upgrades the “Find People” tool and improves the University’s online public events calendar, while the “Bienvenidos” link provides information in Spanish. Designers worked closely with UO Disability Services to ensure the new site exceeds web accessibility standards.
See for yourself, visit www.uoregon.edu.