Letters to the Editor

Campus shooting should remind us to really live
The morning of April 16, I rolled out of bed around noon and watched TV before heading out to my philosophy class. At the same time, ambulances were rushing onto Virginia Tech’s campus, going to the biggest school shooting in American history.

My first thought when I heard the news was not sadness for the fallen or anger at the shooters. No. My first feeling was vindication. You see, it is times like these that make me remember why I live the lifestyle I do.

I never carry a notebook, or a computer, or anything more than pens around campus. So many students cannot understand it. They spend their days striving for straight A’s, studying three hours a day for the best grades, planning for a future that seems set in stone. And then a day like this rolls around, and suddenly, it’s all for naught.

I’ve noticed the looks I get. I’ve seen the confusion, the pity, even the aggravation at my perceived laziness. But on days like this, when your future suddenly becomes as uncertain as the changing winds, I barely blink. For me, days like these are the whole reason why I live the way I do.

Last week, postcards were being passed around campus, requesting sympathy for the Virginia Tech students. But what use is a postcard, really? It’s easy to write some worthless words on a 20-cent piece of paper. But come next semester, those flimsy postcards will be compost, and the well wishes forgotten from your minds. You will still be clutching notebooks crammed full of notes that you will soon forget. And I will be sitting in class not taking any.

On days like these, sympathetic lip service is meaningless. If you want to honor the memory of the fallen, hold on to the feelings you felt.

Remember the lesson that this tragedy has to impart. Your future may never come, and all the work you put forth at the present’s expense could be wasted effort. I’m not saying to stop going to class altogether. But don’t let grades be your life.

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Stop often to tell your family and friends you love them. You never know when it will be your last chance.

Each day on this Earth is a gift. Don’t forsake one day for another, as any day could be your last.

Niko Thomas


Warming requires more study, not drastic action
The issue of climate change is extremely complex (“Are humans responsible for global warming?”, April 17). The question really comes down to how much humans have to do with it all.

I take my hat off to the scientists studying the issues. They are faced with incredible problems. Just trying to measure the level of warming is almost insurmountable. The accuracy of thermometers means that just the error of measurement may be greater than the effect they are looking for.

It isn’t clear that the sun is responsible for the present warming, but it does seem to fit, and the correlation is higher for it than for CO2. But correlation is not causation, and given the complexity of the climate system, it may be only one factor interacting with any number of other factors.

Should we make efforts to curb CO2? I think to some extent it makes sense, but we should not take draconian efforts. Implementing technology as it develops and proves itself experimentally makes sense. Jumping in with the first generation of any technology doesn’t make sense: It is too expensive and inefficient.

We need to understand just how much CO2 comes from man versus other natural sources. As yet, there is no real systematic measurement of CO2 over land to determine just how much there is and how it is dispersed. Facts have to be available to guide logic.

Until we have a good understanding of all of the relevant factors, we shouldn’t get too carried away about the results of intensive study in just one limited area like greenhouse gases. I am not sure that the science of climatology has developed far enough as a whole to justify giving it too much credit. Some areas are well-developed, and some are just emerging.

I would say we should continue studying it, implement technologies as they reach a cost-effect level and spend our time dealing with the problems we can address with the technology we have now. Our best and most cost-effective strategy at the present is adaptation. Until we know a lot more, we may find we have been throwing money at the wrong problem.

Joseph H. Bowles
Colorado Springs, Colo.

Strong passwords don’t have to lock out users

Strengthening the password policy is good idea (“Does MyUA Portal make the grade?”, April 17). But, of course, strong passwords like that are hard to remember, especially if you have 30 of them. I’m a co-founder at an online password manager, and these are the steps I often suggest to folks with many different accounts to log into:

1. Choose a good password manager. Make a nice strong password to access this.

2. Fill it up with your current passwords.

3. Take some time to change all of your “reused” passwords into strong ones. These don’t have to be easily remembered since you can look them up. Your password manager should have some sort of generator incorporated that makes this faster.

Then you’re all set. When you need to log into a site, just go to your password manager and look it up.

Whenever you sign up for a new site at that point, use the generator in your password manager to make a strong, random and unique password. Then save it.

Despite the name “password manager,” you can also use it to store all sort of things, not just logins. Think confirmation numbers, registration numbers, software keys, emergency support phone numbers, frequent flyer miles, codes, notes, pins, snippets or even just some links that you’d like to keep private. Think of it as a private vault or a secure organizer.

Tara Kelly
Rome, Italy

Engineering is a good start, but all of UAA needs growth
I enthusiastically applaud Sen. John Cowdery’s call to back the bachelor of engineering program at UAA and his overall support for the funding parity with UAF (“Anchorage residents need to demand growth for UAA,” April 17). Cowdery is also spot-on in his assessment that Alaska needs trained specialists to deal with state economic priorities.

I would also like to offer a slightly broader view in regard to Cowdery’s encouragement for UAA support. Neither the Bachelor of Science in engineering nor any academic major or work force initiative exists in a vacuum. The BSE program consists of approximately one-third specialized engineering courses. Tripling the BSE, as adding any other major or workforce initiative, thereby also creates additional demand for English, math, biology and other general education courses, all of which UAA currently has difficulty staffing. The English department recently lost funding to hire two desperately needed faculty slots to teach general education courses because an amendment to cover UA’s fixed costs failed to pass the Senate finance committee. The university is thus required to shift money from academic programs to cover other expenses. Other departments throughout UAA face similar staffing problems with no relief in sight.

As an English professor and humanities scholar, I believe that the liberal arts are the heart and soul of true education. At the same time, I am pragmatic enough to understand that the university meets strategic state priorities. However, the two need not be opposed to one another.

If the state of Alaska continues to define the UA and UAA mission strictly in terms of business models of productivity and economic efficiency, then the Legislature ought also to be consistent in its approach to UAA needs: If you want to create more graduates, then you’ve got to have adequate resources throughout the supply chain and production line. Graduating more nurses, teachers, engineers and technicians should also mean additional investment in the core liberal arts and sciences faculty and programs that strive to create responsible, articulate, thinking citizens. In other words, producing trained specialists withouth investing equally in their development as full persons is like building a house on the sand. A solid foundation in the liberal arts and sciences is as necessary to the state of Alaska and the mission of UAA as are the specialized graduates and workforce technicians.

Daniel T. Kline


Portal was an unnecessary expense for university
I could not agree more (“Does MyUA Portal make the grade?”, April 17). Considering the amount of resources they put into this project, I am stunned at how poorly designed it is. I was looking forward to it when they first mentioned the idea, but after spending quite a while trying to figure out the quirks, I wish they would have left us with what we already have. I am not looking forward to using this system at all.

Jazon Burnell