Re: Grading is probably my favorite thing to complain about.

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Could you force them to drop the course if they fail the pretest?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 9:51 AM
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I'm coming around to the idea that it's okay for college students in this country to not be expected to study anything or learn anything, for the same reason you mentioned in the earlier post about how we expect a working person's life to be a joyless slog through vacationless decades.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 9:54 AM
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1: Actually, I could. We're allowed to drop-fail students at our discretion, and if I put something like this up front in the syllabus, the administration would support me in it. But I don't know if I'd have the stomach to be so draconian.

(It's not a great predictor about who will fail and pass the class, because you'll have lazy shmucks who have taken the course before but can't be bothered to study for the test, as well as students who work their asses off but in completely ineffective ways when it comes time to actually understand the material, like Our Favorite Student from last spring. She probably passed the pretest.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 9:56 AM
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(cont'd: It is a decent predictor of who will irritate me with their half-assed ways, though. Although sometimes good students do straight up forget to study for it, and then redeem themselves with me over the semester.)(Also kids mature in spurts, and sometimes something will click mid-semester and they'll turn things around. So I hate to write anyone off.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 9:58 AM
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Maybe you don't have to force them to drop the course if they fail, but you can strongly suggest that this is the easiest test they'll take all term. Withdrawal might just be indicated if they can't pass...


Posted by: Mo MacArbie | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 10:04 AM
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1: Actually, I could. We're allowed to drop-fail students at our discretion, and if I put something like this up front in the syllabus, the administration would support me in it. But I don't know if I'd have the stomach to be so draconian.

This seems like the perfect solution. Make it very clear up front. Even give them a sheet or reference from which they can learn all the stuff you want them to know beforehand (that is, give them the answers to the pre-test). If they cannot demonstrate themselves ready for the class, drop them. Why should the students who are prepared for the class be held back by those who are not?


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 10:05 AM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 10:13 AM
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That would have terrified me when I was in college; I probably would have studied too assiduously the wrong things, thinking you were being duplicitous.

OT:

Walking through a Californian airport, Starbucks amphora-sized green tea latte in one hand, iPhone in the other, I want to punch myself for, inter alia, my uncanny spiritual communion with the shade of Thomas Friedman.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 10:26 AM
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That would have terrified me when I was in college; I probably would have studied too assiduously the wrong things, thinking you were being duplicitous.

OT:

Walking through a Californian airport, Starbucks amphora-sized green tea latte in one hand, iPhone in the other, I want to punch myself for, inter alia, my uncanny spiritual communion with the shade of Thomas Friedman.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 10:27 AM
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I probably would have studied too assiduously the wrong things, thinking you were being duplicitous.

Honestly, I tell them "Some of the answers aren't obvious, because the question is difficult to phrase. If you ask me, I'll tell you the answers. I'm not trying to withhold them. Or, if you bring your test by my office, I'll look over it and tell you what's right and what's wrong, and the correct answers for the ones you had wrong." Many, many students do take me up on this - after all, 2/3 do pass. So never fear, should you someday be a scared 18-year-old in my class.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 10:30 AM
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I want to punch myself for, inter alia, my uncanny spiritual communion with the shade of Thomas Friedman.

Which leads to the obvious question: if you did so, which would you drop, the latte or the iPhone?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 10:38 AM
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Hmm, The Latte and the iPhone does sound like a Friedman book, doesn't it?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 10:39 AM
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You could drop your iPhone into your latte.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 10:39 AM
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Is your Favorite Student Ever in any of your classes this semester?


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 10:40 AM
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12: I'm writing a book called The Mustache and the Facepunch.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 10:42 AM
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You could drop your iPhone into your latte.

Thus ruining both! Brilliant!


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 10:45 AM
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10

... So never fear, should you someday be a scared 18-year-old in my class.

So these are freshmen? And they supposedly learned calculus I in high school? If so a lot of them should have to take calculus I in college before calculus II.

If they did take calculus I at your school do you know their grades? Perhaps you should require special dispensation for anyone with less than say a B- in calculus I.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 10:49 AM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 10:52 AM
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I'd probably drop the latte, which is giving me flashbacks to the Fontana di Trevi-esque food poisoning that Starbucks bestowed upon me for a cross-country flight a few years ago, leaving me too weak, upon arrival, to protest when a woman dropped a colossal wheeled suitcase on my injured foot. Lovely times.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 10:52 AM
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You could drop your iPhone into your latte.

There's an app for that.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 10:52 AM
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14: She is! I haven't graded her pretest yet, though. I was worried she'd be bitter at me, but she has been incredibly warm and pleasant so far. And actually possibly equipped to pass the class this time.

(Although she still makes mind-boggling mistakes. Like yesterday I was helping her with a problem that had position and velocity functions as a function of time, t. We were interested in the highest point of the ball's trajectory, and she'd say "So I plug in t=0?" No, let's go over why not. "So I set it equal to 0?" No, let's go over why not. "So I set the other equation equal to 0?" Yes, but stop throwing random answers out and think about what you're saying. These are really innappropriate conceptual errors to be making in Cal 2.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 10:54 AM
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when a woman dropped a colossal wheeled suitcase on my injured foot

Beats a punch in the face.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 10:57 AM
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Yes, but stop throwing random answers out and think about what you're saying.

That type of hermeneutic drives me insane. Especially when it's coupled with interrupting/not letting the person trying to explain stuff to you finish a goddamn sentence.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 10:58 AM
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17: They're mostly freshmen and sophomores. There are prerequisites to get into Cal 1 and Cal 2, but there are also TERRIBLE teachers, (like my arch-nemesis), who pass kids for being able to rotely punch everything into their calculator. Like, Our Favorite Student got a B in Cal 1 under my nemesis. I was helping another kid who got an A in Cal 1, from my nemesis, and had no idea what the difference quotient is, and didn't think it looked familiar when I wrote it out for him.

(Which I'm sure many people here don't know/have forgotten/etc, but if you'd taken Cal 1 two months ago, you should at least recognize the phrase.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 10:59 AM
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Further to 23: I mean, don't get me wrong, there's a place for brainstorming in pedagogy, but it's not anywhere near that situation.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 11:01 AM
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To the post title only: Me too! And I'm grading this very weekend. Complainers unite!


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 11:03 AM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 11:07 AM
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We had a similar quiz early in one of the core first-year classes in my graduate program. If you failed, you were given a short oral exam, in the hopes of separating the people who were very, very lost (and who were then paired with tutors or steered to a lower-level class) from those who more or less okay on the material but who panicked on written tests (and who were then offered reassurance and tutors). Seemed like a good and humane idea to me, but it freaked a lot of people the hell out. All of these very smart students seemed convinced that the professors were just scheming to catch them out. Seriously, guys? You don't think they're more interested in helping you learn something from the class?


Posted by: Gabardine Bathyscaphe | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 11:11 AM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 11:14 AM
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16: how would it ruin the latte? Is the iphone covered in grime?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 11:24 AM
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Throw the latte in his eyes and then punch him in the jaw. Take a picture with the iPhone.


Posted by: Mo MacArbie | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 11:47 AM
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Is the iphone covered in grime?

Probably. Don't the things usually get pretty grubby?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 11:48 AM
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My iPhone is clean, like my conscience.

In unrelated news, California would be poor hunting ground for the Sartorialist. I don't know who Ed Hardy is, but he's got to go.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 12:29 PM
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If I was in charge, I would delete 7, 18, 27, and 29.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 12:45 PM
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All of these very smart students seemed convinced that the professors were just scheming to catch them out. Seriously, guys? You don't think they're more interested in helping you learn something from the class?

Everyone in the sciences has experience with "weed-out classes", don't we?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 12:59 PM
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Unpopular subjects, like philosophy and mathematics, don't do weed-out classes. Quite the reverse--we make our intro classes as exciting and accessible as possible.

Weed-out classes are mostly for hard sciences that are popular. Biology uses them all the time.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 1:26 PM
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Difference quotient: Huh. I had to look it up, and when I saw it I knew the concept, but I'm pretty sure I never heard that phrase in my years of math. Clearly you know that it's in your school's curriculum by name, but it seems to not be universal.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 1:27 PM
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I believe GB is in one of the hard sciences, though.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 1:27 PM
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If I were one of the people in charge, I would point out the grammatical error in 34.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 1:27 PM
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37: I'd never heard it called that, either, but I'm not surprised at what it turned out to be.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 1:33 PM
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On the OP, your assignment isn't hard, but it does presume college level study skills, which not all college students have. The need to be able to read through an old textbook looking for an answer to a specific question. This is a very different way to read than what some kids are used to. It is not like reading pages 23-27 and doing an exercise, and its not like reading a magazine or a popular novel. The kids may not even have their old textbook, which means they would have to go to the library, another place that requires college level study skills. And of course they don't want to go to your office, because that would be admitting that they can't do these things, and once you admit weakness to a teacher, they will eat you alive.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 1:33 PM
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but I'm pretty sure I never heard that phrase in my years of math.

I've never heard it called anything but the difference quotient or the definition of the derivative. We're using a very mainstream book (Stewart), and I've TA'd for a lot of profs, plus my own courses. I don't know what else you'd call it.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 1:34 PM
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Mathematics isn't a popular hard science. Bio majors can become doctors. Physics majors can become engineers. Math majors are more like philosophy majors.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 1:36 PM
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42: I don't remember it being called anything. I guess the definition of the derivative, but that's just like an identity.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 1:36 PM
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Anyway, he should have at least recognized the formula.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 1:37 PM
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I'm with you, prof. Gotta run to surfing class!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 1:38 PM
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I guess in Texas it'd be tubin' class.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 1:38 PM
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41 is true. But I don't know if it benefits them to make the answers more accessible, ie I'd have to give them them.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 1:39 PM
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43: I am aware of that, yes.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 1:39 PM
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I'd have to give them them.

You should. Who cares how they learn the prerequisite skills, so long as they learn them and can apply them on the pre-test.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 1:43 PM
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Is there a way to combine the pretest exercise with some admixture of ping-pong, Goldeneye, lying on the floor, alcohol, and sugar water? That would have worked for me.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 2:05 PM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 2:10 PM
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Mathematics isn't a popular hard science. Bio majors can become doctors. Physics majors can become engineers.

People who want to become engineers major in engineering. People who major in physics and later become engineers are pretty rare. I think bio is the only hard science that people major in without being interested in it per se. (Probably this means we should have undergrad degree programs for people who want to be doctors that aim specifically at making them doctors, like a lot of other countries seem to have.)


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 2:23 PM
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But biology isn't a hard science! It's a squishy science, full of juices and the vigor of life.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 2:46 PM
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Biology is hard sometimes.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 2:49 PM
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I think bio is the only hard science that people major in without being interested in it per se.

I knew several people who were in chemistry without being interested in it. You know, to work for DuPont or something.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 3:02 PM
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like when it gets to remembering things


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 3:03 PM
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Or when certain processes occur.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 3:06 PM
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You mean like volcanoes erupting all over the soft, pillowy clouds?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 3:07 PM
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36, 38: Sure, of course there are weed-out classes. In college, though, not in grad school. The presumption in my program was that the admissions committee was in charge of the weeding out; you might go on to greater or lesser success in lab, but the presumption was that if you got in, you could handle the first year's courses. With one exception I can think of, professors made a point of treating you like a colleague, TAs made a point of being friendly, and second- and third-year students did a lot of cheering from the sidelines. So yes, it was strange to me that people apparently believed all that was an elaborate hoax. It was a huge shame that they did, since they kept themselves from asking for help from any of the legions of people who stood ready.

For what it's worth, the people who freaked out were mostly the people who'd come straight from college. Those who had taken a year or two off to tech or work or travel or whatever were much more firmly grounded. I don't know whether the reason was just the passage of time or a greater breadth of experience, but it was a very marked difference.


Posted by: Gabardine Bathyscaphe | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 3:08 PM
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I think that's geology, heebie.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 3:08 PM
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No, that's actually a time of slackening, often.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 3:08 PM
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I knew a girl in college who was a chemistry major but kept expressing jealousy that I got to take all these cool literature classes and asking me for book recommendations. So one day, I asked her why she was in chemistry, just to express some reciprocal interest. She got this weird look on her face and said, "No one's ever asked me that. I... don't know."
"Well," I said, "you must find it at least kind of interesting."
"Oh my God, I don't. It's really boring."
"What are you interested in?"
"Painting! Oh my God, I think I'm going to change my major! To studio art! You have changed my life! My parents are going to kill me!"
It was really creepy, actually. I honestly don't believe her. How could you make any kind of decision like that without at least thinking of a reason? It's not like she said she wanted to make sure she had a good job, or that her parents were chemists or something. She just said she had never thought about it.

People are crazy.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 3:08 PM
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61 to 59, of course.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 3:09 PM
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It's not like she said she wanted to make sure she had a good job, or that her parents were chemists or something. She just said she had never thought about it.

Well, she never considered doing anything that wasn't associated with getting a good job.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 3:10 PM
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I was going to major in some kind of science just by default. The first semester I finally thought about it and couldn't figure out why, so I majored in something else. And now I'm many years past college and still don't have a career set up.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 3:15 PM
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65: This is probably common for children of immigrants like her. I've had a really high number of accounting majors, and when I ask them why they chose accounting, they get the same look on their faces, like, wow, I never thought about that. I think "I want to have a reliable steady job" is a perfectly excellent answer to that question, but they never say that. I'm certainly not trying to talk anyone out of a lifetime of stability and decent pay. I'm not one of those people who think your job has to reflect your soul's greatest desire or something.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 3:17 PM
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I asked my mom if, before immigrating to enter an MLS program, she'd had any interest in libraries. She said no, but there were lots of jobs in the field.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 3:19 PM
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I encountered lots of people who were just blindly going into the sciences without much thought, because they'd been told that it was what they should do. They thought I was strange for, essentially, taking the science classes for fun.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 3:20 PM
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Jammies's mom set out to raise four engineers, and she did. Everyone in that family just takes it for granted that you're an engineer, and there doesn't seem to be any real chafing. Jammies never questioned it until he'd had a job for a few years, and in hindsight, he doesn't consider it the wrong decision exactly, but more like perhaps it would have been nice to shop around before settling on engineering.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 3:22 PM
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Yeah, I'm guessing maybe people choose majors not even because of the likelihood of a good job but because they got A's in that class in high school or something. I started as a biochem major because that was something I was pretty good at in a high school full of artsy writer-painter types. So I went to a sciency college where I realized that being able to write well is actually sort of special. All my classmates in chemistry were better at it than I was, but I was always one of the best writers in my classes. That would not have been true if I'd gone to a school that attracted more humanities people.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 3:24 PM
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The "paradox of choice" applies hugely in the matter of choosing a college major. Nobody has any ability to choose one objectivey with any information on how it will determine their life. It's a terrifying notion, the idea of actually choosing a major. So, choose something at random that sounds practical, and if nothing else appears over the next few years that sounds significantly better, there you go.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 3:25 PM
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Maybe this differs from college to college, but I think the only science majors I knew who weren't gung-ho about science were the people who would have been pre-med if that had been offered as a major. Fortunately, those people weren't the only ones who wanted to become doctors.


Posted by: Gabardine Bathyscaphe | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 3:29 PM
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68: and librarian jobs are apparently pretty good gigs. That is a completely reasonable basis on which to choose.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 3:29 PM
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Similarly, despite its awful food, ugly scenery, and terrible-sounding language, I am interested in France because of the abbreviated workweek.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 3:30 PM
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and librarian jobs are were apparently pretty good gigs.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 3:31 PM
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76: what's changed? Our librarian friends seem to be doing okay...


Posted by: Gabardine Bathyscaphe | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 3:32 PM
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I think it really depends on where you end up, geographically and library-wise, and on your specialty. If you're working for a county or public school (if they even still have librarians) I think it's a pretty different thing than university gigs.

A close family friend is pretty high up on the library chain in my home county. The job has gotten progressively worse over the decades, as budget cuts increasingly make it difficult to do her job. Etc, etc.

But I'm sure eb knows more about this..


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 3:37 PM
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All of these very smart students seemed convinced that the professors were just scheming to catch them out. Seriously, guys? You don't think they're more interested in helping you learn something from the class?

You clearly are not acquainted with my graduate institution.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 3:37 PM
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(Aka, I really only know about the public library system.)


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 3:38 PM
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All the librarians I know are pretty happy people. I often recommend it to good students who are thoughtful, intelligent, and like to read, but who aren't interested in having a multi-year existence as an impoverished grad student who eventually has to write books and teach.

Working in my own academic library, I met all these people whose work isn't terribly stressful, but is intellectually satisfying. They have nice regular hours, decent pay, the ability to go out for coffee, coworkers who all like reading, and patrons who also like reading. There are a lot of interesting developments in information technology and outreach, so the work is always changing in fun ways. It seems like a nice life.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 3:41 PM
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(Our academic library is public and suffers from poor funding, but it's probably still a hell of a lot cushier than working at a non-academic library.)


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 3:42 PM
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I was under the impression, (perhaps mistaken?), that getting university library jobs was quite difficult.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 3:42 PM
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That does sound like a nice life.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 3:44 PM
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All I want for myself is a nice life.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 3:44 PM
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I'm interested in reading and sogenannte information technology.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 3:45 PM
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Are you having a bad day, neb?


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 3:45 PM
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I feel as if there's something obvious lurking right around the corner.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 3:45 PM
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Oh, well!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 3:45 PM
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Are you having a bad day, neb?

Not particularly.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 3:45 PM
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90: Good. 85 sounded like me having an existential crisis type day.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 3:47 PM
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By "not particularly" I just meant "same ol' existential crisis as ever".


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 3:51 PM
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83: It might be, but it seems that a good library science program tends to have good internship opportunities. A few people I know who've done it have been set up with interesting temporary jobs that led to other good permanent gigs.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 3:53 PM
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neb has an existential crisis type life.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 3:57 PM
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The academic library job market is a lot tougher now than it used to be. Especially right now, what with the UCs and other systems having hiring freezes. Nothing like the academic professor market, but difficult. I'm actually likely to go the archives direction, which is also tough because there are fewer institutions (but also fewer students in the library programs). Anyway, it's still a market where they tell people that you have to be willing to move if you really want a good spot.

In the 1960s, when my parents got started it was a lot different.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 4:00 PM
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They have nice regular hours, decent pay, the ability to go out for coffee, coworkers who all like reading, and patrons who also like reading.

You left out the part where they have to eat boogers. There aren't any good jobs, so there's no reason to get all sad, neb. Sometimes a job looks good from afar but then you get up close and, yep, booger eating.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 4:05 PM
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All lives are not existential crisis type lives? I never knew!


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 4:05 PM
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To have ever considered working in a library I would have had to overcome the scarring effects of all my bad experiences with librarians.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 4:06 PM
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Oh come on, librarians are "a hipper crowd of shushers"!


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 4:07 PM
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That's why you always have to ask about the boogers at job interviews. These kinds of things aren't shared without prompting. Then, what do you know, first day of work, the plate comes around.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 4:09 PM
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And there are all kinds of ways of saying boogers without saying boogers, so you have to be precise in your questioning.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 4:10 PM
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So I set ___ equal to 0? is appropriate intuition for Calc.


Posted by: Marginally econolicious of the first order | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 4:13 PM
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||

Emerson
frontpaged at Open Left, with some explanation of what he has been doing.

Meanwhile

President for Goldman Sachs makes " a move the White House said would put the economy on a stronger footing in the future." Especially when his crew of behavioral economists make it "opt-out" rather than "opt-in."

|>


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 4:28 PM
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My existential crisis type day is turning into a murderous rage type day.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 4:32 PM
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I recommend kneading something. It helps with the destressing and gives you a purpose, at least for awhile.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 4:46 PM
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Hmm. I was thinking of going the "drinking something" route.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 5:03 PM
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That works too.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 5:04 PM
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79: I'm simultaneously in two different departments at the same university. One is super-nice, where basically anybody that's admitted is welcome to stay as long as they need (needing lots of TAs facilitates that). The other department weeds out ~25% of the first years every year.

They explain it as a two-stage admissions process - one based on the application, the other after a year of classes when they know more about the students.


Posted by: pm | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 5:10 PM
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Everybody kneads somebody sometime.


Posted by: Cryptic neds | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 5:11 PM
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It is true that in graduate school the conscious weeeeding-out occurs not in classes, but in the "compterensive exam", "preliminary exam", "qualifying exam", etc.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 5:17 PM
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110: if your department has them, that is.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 5:18 PM
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Graduate departments that take on too many students in order to have TAs and then cull them with qualifying exams are evil.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 5:20 PM
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105: Maybe if you're a cat.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 5:40 PM
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I recommend kneading something.

So true! Bread dough, muscles, doesn't really matter. After a while you get into a lovely trance-like state. And it's nearly impossible to overdo, so you can keep going as long as you like.

There's also spackling. Spackling is very satisfying, what with the repairing-the-world feeling.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 5:41 PM
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Maybe I am a cat.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 5:42 PM
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That was me.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 5:42 PM
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I think I italicized the wrong word.

And I'm glad Witt understands.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 5:42 PM
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On the internet no one knows you're a cat.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 5:44 PM
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You think you italicized the wrong word?


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 5:45 PM
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118: That all changed when we hit the era of webcams.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 5:48 PM
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Speaking of which, have you heard back from lolgirl?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 5:51 PM
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Speaking of which, have you heard back from lolgirl?

I think he should liveblolg it.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 5:54 PM
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I am a cat.


Posted by: Natsume Sōseki | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 5:56 PM
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I really hate the term cougar (though not the phenomenon). I am even less pleased to learn that there is a show premiering this fall called Cougar Town.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 6:00 PM
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I've been seeing ads for that show on the sides of buses and such. My main thought was, seriously?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 6:02 PM
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124: Eh, when I think of all of the terms that are used to describe women in the society, "cougar" seems somewhere between benign and hilarious.

The TV show is another story. It's probably hopelessly swipple to say "I don't even know what shows are on TV," right?


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 6:02 PM
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Also, the pictures of Courtney Cox on the ads make her look pretty, um, young.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 6:02 PM
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126: It's not really a feminist issue for me, I just have an irrational dislike of it.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 6:04 PM
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I am a goldfish.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 6:04 PM
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no, white people totally watch television now; it's swipple to say how suddenly amazing TV is. And have you seen mad men, etc., I want one of those suits.

I do want one of those suits.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 6:06 PM
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It's probably hopelessly swipple to say "I don't even know what shows are on TV," right?

If there is one thing I am not, it is hopelessly swipple.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 6:06 PM
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Speaking of which, have you heard back from lolgirl?

No. Perhaps my attempt at breezy, insouciant chit-chat was still too calm and souciant.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 6:11 PM
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Or it's the weekend and people are busy.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 6:12 PM
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I never watch TV. If that makes me SWPL, then you can go fuck yourself.

I prefer to waste huge amounts of time reading webcomics. Preferably starting around 11 PM and going until 4 AM. Also, some netflix.


Posted by: paranoid android | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 6:18 PM
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Bob! There I was reading a Yglesias post and being irritable that nobody was mentioning Elizabeth Warren, and then there you were! How glad I was.

have you seen mad men, etc.

No, see, I have it on good authority that white people buy Mad Man for $2 an episode ($3 for HD) the day after it airs. So they aren't actually watching television, per se.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 6:23 PM
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I don't watch TV, and am hopelessly swipple. Make of this what you will.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 6:25 PM
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And yet, I do watch TV (I discovered while investigating whether or not there were any network shows premiering that I might wish to watch) and am also swipple.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 6:34 PM
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Uh, I managed to make the HTML eat Cougar Town directly after discovered in 137.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 6:35 PM
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Clearly, I am not busy this weekend.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 6:36 PM
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It's swipple to both watch and not watch television, and you're all swipple regardless of ethnicity. Whether you want to be hopeless about it is up to you.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 6:36 PM
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Does "swipple" mean "bobo", or "yuppie"? I've never been able to tell.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 6:43 PM
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"Bobo"? I've only ever heard that as a Spanish word.


Posted by: paranoid android | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 6:44 PM
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Ahh, there it is.


Posted by: paranoid android | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 6:45 PM
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"Bobo", I would think.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 6:46 PM
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But that's kind of a subset of yuppie, isn't it?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 6:46 PM
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All three terms are similar and poorly defined.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 6:50 PM
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I called the denizens of Cole Valley "bourgeois bohemians" not 12 hours ago. I wasn't sure if I was using the term correctly in doing so, but I didn't let that stop me, because I'm a wild man!


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 6:55 PM
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147: That is the second time in two weeks that I've heard Cole Valley referred to in that way. I was previously unaware of its nature.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 6:58 PM
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Liveblogging N-Judah ride: 2 LDS missionaries aboard. Perhaps this is standard, but their nametags say "ELDER [surname]". "Elder" is a bit jarring of a term in this case because they can't be much older than 20.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 6:59 PM
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It is standard and it is jarring.

I think you become an elder in the mormon church when you hit double digits, or something.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 7:03 PM
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Yes, they're either Elder or Sister.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 7:03 PM
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"Elder" is a rank in the hierarchy of the Mormon priesthood (to which virtually all Mormons belong). Elders are usually in their early twenties, the age at which they are required to go on missions.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 7:07 PM
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Update: They got off at the same stop as I did! They're standing behind me at the street corner, just the three of us. Maybe I should hand them the phone and let them try to convert you all.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 7:07 PM
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Have they tried to convert you yet?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 7:08 PM
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No, they can see the grace emanating from me, I'm sure.

(If anything, I'd imagine they're heading home for the day, given the direction of this bus route.)


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 7:11 PM
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"cougar" seems somewhere between benign and hilarious.

Ugh, really? I find it gross and depressing, and manifestly part of a nasty narrative where women become ludicrous objects as they age.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 7:26 PM
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Whoops, posting from a new computer.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 7:26 PM
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I just have an irrational dislike of it.

After reading 156, perhaps less irrational (and more of a feminist issue than I had realized) - that seems to capture much of what I feel upon hearing the word.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 7:37 PM
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"Cougar" is a word I don't think I ever heard before it came up within the last couple of years on this blog. Has it always been around?


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 7:52 PM
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So I set ___ equal to 0? is appropriate intuition for Calc.

This is her second time through Cal II, not Cal I. You should have a clear understanding that if you set v(t) = 0, you're talking about when the velocity is zero, whereas if you say v(0), you're talking about time 0. You're wrong.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 7:55 PM
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||

It seems like an overstatement to use the word "capital" in this article.

|>


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 7:56 PM
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Oh yeah, forgot about the calculus subthread. I don't believe I had heard the term "difference quotient" either. I've certainly seen that expression before, but almost always with a "lim" next to it, in which case it was referred to as the "limit definition of the derivative".


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 7:59 PM
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161: Overwrought it may be, but at least they avoided the Michael Moore route and actually used a logical murders-per-100,000-people computation.

manifestly part of a nasty narrative where women become ludicrous objects as they age

Hm. Maybe I'm guilty of mostly having heard the word in personal conversation, where it isn't the vocabulary I would have chosen, but seems to be used in a kind of playfully delighted context. I guess it's already over the tipping point of wider social usage, though, and has been contaminated by the broader context of sexism. Depressing.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 8:15 PM
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I don't know v(0) from v(o), but I do know that )) > (( forever.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 8:18 PM
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that got reformatted to make less sense


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 8:19 PM
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The New York Times has an article up about the burgeoning field of buying people's life insurance policies, bundling them and reselling them. It starts off disturbingly rah-rah, though it manages to get more substantive as it goes on. But is there any world in which this part makes sense?

But some are dismayed by Wall Street's quick return to its old ways, chasing profits with complicated new products.
"It's bittersweet," said James D. Cox, a professor of corporate and securities law at Duke University. "The sweet part is there are investors interested in exotic products created by underwriters who make large fees and rating agencies who then get paid to confer ratings. The bitter part is it's a return to the good old days."

What was the sweet part again?

I'm gonna channel mcmanus and say the part that really worries me is after Goldman Sachs sets up its food-chain of companies to sell life insurance polices, buy them back, repackage them and sell to investors, they're going to end up with billions of dollars in incentives to lobby hard for insurers, Congress, and the FDA to delay or deny approval of treatments for health conditions that will screw up their bottom line by making people live unexpectedly longer lives. It happened already with AIDS patients when antiretroviral drugs came along, and people who all the actuaries thought were goners turned out to have many long years left.

I feel like a troll; I'm banning myself so I go back to my chocolate-chip cookie making.


Posted by: Wit | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 8:35 PM
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t


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 8:38 PM
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Holy crap! 166 is the plot of Gogol's Dead Souls, right?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 8:41 PM
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|| Youtube comment: "CHESS IS FOR WHORES!" |>


Posted by: paranoid android | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 8:56 PM
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166: the idea of a life bubble, and it's concomitant collapse, is pretty hilarious. A year or so ago on the poor man I floated the idea of a catastrophe bubble inflated on the backs of reinsurance bonds, but nobody bit.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 8:59 PM
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"floated the idea of a bubble inflated on the backs of bonds" which fizzled as they were eaten by the tumbling of the oasis of metaphors.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 9:01 PM
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166:I'm gonna channel mcmanus...

You have it backwards. Think of the housing boom.

Securitization or fiancialization just creates "funny money" that is used to "capitalize" and create more new innovative forms of funny money. As long as housing prices went up, the profits accelerated. The bundlings of mortgages created a base for the creation of CDS's and CDO's and derivatives. This bundling wil do the same.

They are betting that life expectancy will rise.

AIG was, an I think still is, generally petty solid with its base of insurance policies, a lot in the Far East. It was the Financial Products division, that leveraged from that base and then gambled that was the problem.

This is just a continuation of the financialization o the economy. The problem will be that the Financial companies will hold life insurance hostage, as they currently hold pensions hostage. We will not be able to let them fail, creating massive moral hazard and insane 2nd and 3rd order gambles.

Pensions are still in terrible trouble, dependent in large part on the phony value of the toxic assets buried in the big banks. If GS would fail, most likely most pensions, maybe around the world, would be destroyed. And then the people...

This is the point we are at in our late capitalism. Obama has the choices of propping up G-S, or nationalizing (militarizing?) the economy, making FDR look like a radical right-winger.

Socialism or Barbarism. If we are lucky.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 9:05 PM
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At the base level, is it a good bet?

Probably, since people will be forced to buy health care.

Life expectancy dropped like a rock when the Soviet Union collapsed, but not for the oligopolists.

In my more paranoid speculations, the ones that forecast the engineering of a Greater Depression...


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 9:12 PM
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In my more paranoid speculations

It's so hard to rate these things though, you know? Don't want any speculations to feel left out, start constructing dark theories of why.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 9:17 PM
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"Socialism or Barbarism" is an allusion to a Rosa Luxemburg book. She was right.

Used again in 2001 by a Hungarian Marxist, Istvan Meszaros. I just opened the book up. Looks depressing.

It can get a lot worse than the 30s.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 9:22 PM
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It can get a lot worse than the 30s.

Yeah, I mean, Bauhaus did some fabulous work in home furnishings, inflation or no inflation. Where is our Gropius?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 9:23 PM
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popping bubbles that float on backs comprises a surprisingly large category of youtube clips.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 9:41 PM
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I've mentioned this before, but in the late 19th century, life insurance companies using things like "deferred dividend" plans and other schemes took people's insurance money and applied it to all sorts of schemes. Then there was a huge scandal and a big investigation in 1905 and then a bunch of reforms that made the industry less powerful politically and financially, but still quite profitable. I don't think it took a bursting bubble to break the scandal - just a bunch of infighting among insiders that spilled over into the muckraking magazines and newspapers. But there may have been a bubble on the horizon before the reforms.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 9:41 PM
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Isn't a wall street conspiracy to keep me alive and deprive my beneficiaries of a big pay out just the kind of conspiracy I'm looking for? I mean they could do worse. Unless . . .

You don't think they'd fake our suicides! Can we put it past them?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 9:48 PM
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At the start of the summer, Bank of America called me nearly every day for a week or two trying to get me to sign up for life insurance. The first time they insisted that it was "accidental death insurance" not life insurance. They never got another call long enough to make that distinction again.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 9:54 PM
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I told my parents, who got the same calls at around the same time, only slightly less frequently, that it was probably the banks' new big scam. It doesn't sound related to this, though, since it wasn't about employees.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 9:56 PM
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Commenting about life insurance on a saturday night - I should find something to do. Like laundry.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 9:58 PM
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That eb, he's such a wild man.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 9:59 PM
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I was going to go to Safeway, but I don't feel like walking there.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 10:01 PM
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you could sit in an office with the door closed, a tiny green lamp your only companion.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 10:07 PM
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Be sure to sign up for the double indemnity clause, and then get involved with Fred MacMurray.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 10:09 PM
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182 and 184 provide a view into Canadian life in the hockey off-season.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 09- 5-09 10:32 PM
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79: Huh. Interesting, Blume. I'm pretty sure that there were several professors interested in having grad students succeed in my department. One told me that he thought that it wasn't a a good idea to make a grad student the librarian for the dept. library ( a paid job), because the responsibility would make it too much for them to get their own work done. It happened a couple of times.

Your department was definitely looking for undergrads.


Posted by: Bostniangirl | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 5:54 AM
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Yeah, I'd heard of a derivative but not a difference quotient. In fact, I thought that the little video I found describing it was sort of confusing. It started by talking about the slope of the tangent

My teacher in high school yelled at our class, because everyone started with talking about the slope of a line, and he said, "No, no, no. It's a function (or formula) that will help you find the slope for the tangent at a given point value of f(x)." or something like that. It was more than 15 years ago. I also remember my Physics teacher getting mad at people who had trouble grasping acceleration and that velocity was not the same as speed. Everyone got it eventually, of course.


Posted by: Bostniangirl | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 6:04 AM
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Hey Bob,

Thanks for linking to Emerson.


Posted by: Bostniangirl | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 6:05 AM
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Off to swim the gym. (Actually the poool was thoroughly cleaned this week and is being refilled.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 6:08 AM
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190:You'tr welcome

Sorry for the apocalyptic spasm. It starts so quietly...


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 6:47 AM
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The church bells down the street are playing "O Beautiful For Spacious Skies", apparently on repeat. This song always reminds me of The Westing Game.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 7:46 AM
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"America the Beautiful"! That is a good association to have with it.

Sadly, most of Ellen Ruskin's books are out of print. It's a great pity, because everyone's read just The Westing Game and the others are delightful too.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 7:50 AM
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Oh yeah. I was thinking "America, America" and then thinking that I must have the title wrong, correctly.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 7:52 AM
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Purple waves.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 7:55 AM
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The link in 196 is aptly named.

I kind of remember reading The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel).


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 7:58 AM
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194.2: Hm, I read a couple others of hers (under her Ellen Raskin pseud, though) and didn't catch the spark. But I see that she does have a fair number more that I did not sample. But I'd definitiely rate Westing as #1 in books I encountered first through my my children's school reading. The Tripod series would probably be next.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 8:00 AM
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You know what's idiotic? When the questions on the pretest go:
Let f(x) = e^x.
Then f(1) =
f(0) =
f(x) has the asymptote:____
Graph f(x):

and the student correctly fills in the function values and then their graph does not go anywhere near those coordinates. Cal II, everyone.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 8:03 AM
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This is a nice list: When she was asked to name those people and experiences that most affected her work, she listed "Blake, Conrad, Hawthorne, James, Nabokov, Piero della Francesca, Claude Lorrain, Gaugin, Matisse, Fantasia, Oriental art, baseball. hockey, zoos, medicine, and Spain,". (Ellen Raskin, not Heebie's student.)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 8:06 AM
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And seeing Fantasia on the list, made me think I missed the real "purple waves" (at about 7:10 in).


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 8:20 AM
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44: I don't remember it being called anything. I guess the definition of the derivative, but that's just like an identity.

But it's like an identity based on what it does - its work - rather than on actualizing its inner self. It's another example of the oppression of capitalism. I think it should take a sabbatical, refuse to be objectified in HG's classroom, and maybe get some therapy.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 8:57 AM
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Bob's link explains why Emerson isn't posting here: he's hoping to organize people.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 9:05 AM
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161: If I had to join a gang in Abbotsford, I would be torn between the Bacon Brothers and the United Nations. The Red Scorpions sound less appealing.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 9:23 AM
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I'm pretty sure that there were several professors interested in having grad students succeed in my department. One told me [...]

I submit that as an undergrad, it's pretty hard to gauge personal and institutional support for graduate students.

I further submit that this is particularly so at our common alma mater, given its extreme attention to the cultivation of the Undergrad Experience.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 9:43 AM
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the Future BenefactorUndergrad Experience.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 9:48 AM
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Are we to understand that Ellen Ruskin sometimes wrote under the pseudonym Ellen Raskin? If so, why?


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 9:51 AM
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We are to understand that I cannot type.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 9:54 AM
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re: 205

Indeed. Just as an example:

The two year 'master's' that I did has a notoriously high failure rate. I think it's lower now, but it has been as high as 25% (or even more some years). The year before I sat my finals there was a particularly high failure rate and it caused a minor scandal: letters in the Times, that sort of thing.

A meeting was called at which the department and the class about to sit the finals [my class] discussed various options to make the failure rate lower. At the time there was no option to resit papers, and marks weren't compensated from one paper to another, so you could exceed the (already high) passmark by a huge amount in three of the four marked sections, and miss the passmark by 1% in the other and fail the whole degree with no option to resit.

In the meeting at which this was all being discussed one of the two faculty members present was strongly resistant to change.* He felt that the degree had to maintain its reptuation as genuinely difficult, and the price of that was a high failure rate, that was all to the good, and he had absolutely no interest in changing anything.

He was absolutely adamant that it wasn't his business to make life easier for graduate students. On the contrary, he had an interest in keeping it hard, because keeping it hard sustained the value of the 'brand'. He even mentioned the fact that _he_ had done the same degree, and he was basically buggered if he was going to makie life easier for other people.

** iirc, the change being mooted was that people could resit a paper.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 9:55 AM
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I've heard it phrased as: some departments do their filtering in the admissions process, and then intend to nurture all grad students to degree, others admit way too many, intending do their filtering during the first year. I would have crumbled emotionally in the second setting, I think. I like being nurtured, and I didn't actually find my grad program that nurturing, but I got through.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 10:02 AM
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172: Securitization or fiancialization just creates "funny money" that is used to "capitalize" and create more new innovative forms of funny money. As long as housing prices went up, the profits accelerated. The bundlings of mortgages created a base for the creation of CDS's and CDO's and derivatives. This bundling wil do the same. They are betting that life expectancy will rise.

See, I'm thinking they're going to put it in the form of a loan, with the bank taking the policy as collateral. (They may also do buys.) Then they can give out lots of money at a given interest rate, which works, because they loan some of that money the Fed has given them. That makes the loanee and asset, and the policy payments a liability, but the asset will pay off eventually, and payments don't have to be made until the future. Meantime, since they're out the loan, they securitize the payments and sell those as psuedo-bonds. To the Federal Reserve, which is buying that sort of thing, but only from the banks. Anyways, then the cash goes back into the reserves, minus whatever they made on the deal, which is bonus money.

Maybe they can work a tradeout, if they collect enough policies. That said, the flaw is obvious; people desperate enough to trade in their life insurance policies for a big, high-interest loan are going to go bankrupt.

However, they haven't done that yet. The story says:

The idea is still in the planning stages. But already "our phones have been ringing off the hook with inquiries," says Kathleen Tillwitz, a senior vice president at DBRS, which gives risk ratings to investments and is reviewing nine proposals for life-insurance securitizations from private investors and financial firms, including Credit Suisse. "We're hoping to get a herd stampeding after the first offering," said one investment banker not authorized to speak to the news media.
He wasn't authorized to speak to the media, was he? Hrmm. It's like the story is a plant - they haven't done it yet, but the phones are ringing off the hook?
That is why bankers from Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs have been visiting DBRS, a little known rating agency in lower Manhattan. In early 2008, the firm published criteria for ways to securitize a life settlements portfolio so that the risks were minimized.
DBRS is trying to drum up business, looks like. Nobody is buying yet, I'd guess, so let's have a bubble. Probably too many ifs to turn a profit.

max
[''Ratings agency going broke, tries to drum up interest in proposed scam,' might have made a better headline.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 10:13 AM
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208: I'm a little disappointed.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 10:28 AM
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"America the Beautiful" is about Colorado Springs. This does not seem to be very widely known outside of Colorado.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 11:26 AM
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210 sounds right to me. Quals weren't even expected to be a substantial weed-out step in my department, not that that stopped everyone from being terrified; I know a couple of people who hit snags and had to re-sit the exam, but no one who got booted.

I certainly interviewed with programs (including one at what I take to be Blume and BG's institution) that made it clear that there would be no nurturing, but mine really gave the first-year nurturing thing the hard sell. The downside was that my department seemed to have given a lot less thought to what would happen in the subsequent years, so when the first year ended you were abruptly left on your own. Good luck, kiddo!


Posted by: Gabardine Bathyscaphe | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 11:29 AM
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I should have followed the link. Mostly "life settlements" rather than insurance, but obviously they are closely related.

Felix Salmon doesn't think this is news, or a big deal

Yves Smith is more worried.

I don't know, there is a difference between ther life settlement industry and the securitization industry. I haven't learned much, but just as banks really don't want you paying off your credit card or finally finishing your mortgage, they aren't going to want you to die, because even if it meant a cash profit, cash is less valuable than an income stream, because the streams can create much greater possibiities for leverage.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 11:56 AM
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As I've mentioned, my program doesn't have qualifying exams, or comprehensive exams, or anything like that; we have a prospectus defense and a short talk before the department, both of which are expected to take place in the fourth year, and after the former of which one can be asked to reässess one's place in the department, but I don't think that's happened in living memory.

I think this is too bad, at least examswise.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 12:15 PM
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Standard pattern here is the 2 year thingie which, as already described, is not a cakewalk. Then into doctoral research, which is entirely unassesed except for the final thesis defense/examination. Although you do have to apply at the end of your first year of doctoral research to have your status as a doctoral candidate confirmed. Up until that point it's provisional.

The amount of nurturing you get is entirely dependent on your supervisor, and, to a certain, on which college you choose. The department doesn't really do nurturing. You could be lucky and have a lovely nurturing supervisor ... or not.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 12:47 PM
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215: I haven't learned much, but just as banks really don't want you paying off your credit card or finally finishing your mortgage, they aren't going to want you to die, because even if it meant a cash profit, cash is less valuable than an income stream, because the streams can create much greater possibiities for leverage.

I was speaking hypothetically. Any bank is going to be in the 'need cash NOW' position. It doesn't look real to me, and honestly, I don't see that dead duck flying anytime soon. I'm sure the banks are up to no good, but they ain't tellin' the New York Times about it.

max
['That was so 2007.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 12:48 PM
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"America the Beautiful" is about Colorado Springs.

It's not Colorado Springs The Beautiful, you commie.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 2:46 PM
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Nevertheless.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 2:48 PM
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216: How long is your program supposed to take? That seems like it just sets up an extraordinarily long time to degree (says the person with five years and counting).


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 2:56 PM
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It's supposed to take five years.

I'm entering my fifth, something that fills me with existential crises.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 2:58 PM
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You're supposed to finish your dissertation within a year of the prospectus? What the heck do you do the previous 4 years? This confuses me. Then again, I know this is because I have no idea how philosophy graduate programs work beyond the fact that all the philosophy grad students I know are in their seventh year or so.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 3:02 PM
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"America the Beautiful" is about Colorado Springs.

Judging from the Wikipedia article, which claims among other things that the lyric was originally written as a poem entitled "Pikes Peak", I'd say that that sounds like wishful thinking on the part of the people of Colorado Springs.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 3:04 PM
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Years 1 and 2 are coursework. In the third year one is supposed to take a lighter load of coursework and be writing up a prospectus, which is to be approved at the end of the third year. At the beginning of the fourth year, one is supposed to have about a chapter's worth of material, which is to be defended (not, technically, the prospectus, though one can be forced to change one's project entirely); at the end, one delivers a talk, and at the beginning of the fifth year one goes on the market.

In fantasyland.

Actually it does happen.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 3:10 PM
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It probably is, to some extent, but they sure believe it. They've got a big monument to it in front of the museum downtown. There's another monument at the summit of Pike's Peak with whole text of the poem inscribed on it.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 3:10 PM
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Anyway, I don't think there's any dispute that the landscape descriptions are based on the view from the summit of Pike's Peak. And what is it that you're seeing from the summit of Pike's Peak?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 3:13 PM
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225: Ah, now I see. Not all that different from our program, I suppose. Plenty of people manage to complete nice and quickly but I've been very bad (or rather, it took me a long time to get the hang of things, once coursework was over, which I loved).


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 3:14 PM
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Pike's … foot?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 3:14 PM
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227: And what is it that you're seeing from the summit of Pike's Peak?

Purple mountain majesties.

Alabaster buildings were the Columbia(?) exposition in Chicago and amber waves of grain, Kansas, both of which she had seen on the way out. Colorado Springs is, of course, close by to Pike's Peak.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 3:54 PM
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Fair enough.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 3:55 PM
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Anyway, even if the poem isn't about Colorado Springs per se, she did write it there, so there's that connection at least.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 3:59 PM
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She also wrote it in America.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 4:22 PM
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I'm sick of singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" before all the Steelers games. Baltimore is our hated rival, you know.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 5:11 PM
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So write a Pittsburgh-themed patriotic anthem.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 5:14 PM
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215

I don't know, there is a difference between ther life settlement industry and the securitization industry. I haven't learned much, but just as banks really don't want you paying off your credit card or finally finishing your mortgage, they aren't going to want you to die, because even if it meant a cash profit, cash is less valuable than an income stream, because the streams can create much greater possibiities for leverage.

This is all wrong. When you buy a whole life policy you pay the premiums and then collect the face value when the insured dies. You definitely want the insured to die as soon as possible and in the meantime you don't have an income stream you have a cash drain as you pay the premiums.

The basis for this market is that many people have been letting whole life policies with positive economic value lapse worthless because they are unwilling or unable to keep paying the premiums. Selling such policies helps them but hurts the insurance companies.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 5:16 PM
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234: A friend of mine, now a Cubs fan, but one who was born and raise in Charm City, can't help but sing the super-emphasized O! in the anthem. Also, FSK is my fellow alum so, step off, son.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 5:35 PM
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236:I understand all that.

But what is new is the securitization.

When a local bank carries a mortgage, under the old normal conditions, without reasonable market growth, there was a decent chance of making a profit or breaking even under foreclosure.

For those that bought MBS's, tranched 10 ways, or the higher order derivatives a foreclosure is nothing but bad, reducing the value and return on their security. They didn't, wouldn't, and couldn't deal with the foreclosure, even if they owned the mortgage.

We are not talking about life assessment or viaticals here. We are talking about viatical based securities. I am sure they will be tranched in many different ways, all rated AAA. But the point will not be collecting on a death, any more than an MBS was about gaining possession of a house.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 7:36 PM
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shit

238.1 should be "with reasonable markey growth" of course.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 7:38 PM
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Markey Marke growth?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 7:39 PM
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Bob Markey Growth is rob helpy-chalk's cousin in the financial services industry.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 09- 6-09 7:51 PM
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