Re: Education Corporations

1

Pearson is really quite evil. They also have a near-monopoly (there are a couple of other big players, maybe?) on standard clinical psychiatric measures (like the standard IQ test, and so on) and are incredibly hardcore about going after people who try to create their own tests that measure the same thing (the weapon, natch, is spurious claims of copyright violation). These tests generally cost thousands of dollars for, essentially, a couple of notebooks full of paper tests that haven't changed for decades or longer (some of them, like the Raven's Progressive Matrices component of the Weschler IQ test, have been around for a century).


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 6:04 AM
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It's a tragedy that in the US, every level of education from pre-school to university is swarmed by grifters and con artists of every description. It makes it incredibly difficult to enact any real change because in any process involving substantial changes to the way things are done, at least 50% of the effort has to go to fighting off these people and preventing them from turning it into one more opportunity to loot the system.

Is it this bad in other countries?


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 6:39 AM
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Pearson is really quite evil.

Their flagship periodical publication did have the decency to retract a book review with the single most misguided premise ever.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 6:43 AM
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Of course they're in the MOOC business as well.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 7:02 AM
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3: I can't imagine who the hell thought it was a good idea to publish the original review. Good on them for taking the criticism, I guess.

4: Of course. MyMathLab is pretty horrible based on all our user testing. (Disclaimer: I work for a competitor.)


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 7:19 AM
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Yay finished renovations! We've got two weeks left (so we're told).


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 7:21 AM
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Meritocracy at work.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 7:37 AM
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I don't know which of these is the more depressing description of how textbook and testing companies are sabotaging our schools.

The second.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 7:53 AM
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2: This seems to be true of any large system in the US which delivers a public good: education, health care, military industrial complex, etc. Entire industries spring up at the points where these inefficient systems haemorrhage money, who then use that wealth to pry the system open more and more. It's almost impossible now to see where the grifters end and the original public service begins.


Posted by: real ffeJ annaH | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 8:06 AM
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9 is what I was just thinking. The entire federal government as well as local governments are surrounded by a layer of grifters. Sometimes that's not all that big of a deal apart from wasted money, as is the case with a lot of the military-industrial complex, but when it ends up screwing over children I get really pissed.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 8:19 AM
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MyMathLab is pretty horrible based on all our user testing.

I think some of my colleagues use this.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 8:46 AM
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We have four weeks left but are already ~10k over budget, as in we paid a deposit roughly that size to start and on the contractor's last statement it was like that deposit had disappeared. Part of that was that we decided partway through, after structural analysis, to make our attic a usable crawl space, but also fucking knob and fucking fuck tube shit wiring asshole. Sorry, where was I? Oh right, and our 18 year old water heater had a puddle around it this morning and probably needs to go. Replace it with a tank or an on demand heater?


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 8:49 AM
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Oh right, and our 18 year old water heater had a puddle around it this morning and probably needs to go.

Agggh! We had a scare with our water heater a few days ago and somehow the prospect of having to do that right on top of everything else was just TOO MUCH to bear. Sympathies.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 8:52 AM
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I don't know, but if you get a tank, it pays to shop around. We had all sorts of price quotes.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 8:53 AM
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The entire federal government as well as local governments are surrounded by a layer of grifters.

All large pools of money are surrounded by a layer of grifters. This is true all the way down to the level of individual rich people.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 8:54 AM
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15: Always, yes, but the key question is, how permeable is the protective layer around the large pool of money?


Posted by: real ffeJ annaH | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 8:58 AM
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15: This is why you should avoid having any money.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 9:00 AM
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A bunch of courses here started using MyMathLab in the last couple years. We used to use WeBWorK, which is open source. Also, some of my friends were tasked with making a calculus MOOC, and they made their own online homework system. Even though we have this open-source option and a house-made option, the department is making students pay something like $75/semester for MyMathLab. I assume this involves a zillion-dollar contract with Pearson at the university level.


Posted by: L. | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 9:10 AM
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12: Thanks for giving a little push to make this the home improvement thread rather than the education grifter thread, because the latter is rage-making. I switched to on-demand hot water a few years ago and recommend it; the slightly longer wait is balanced by the money and space savings.

On the other topic, I had some vague hope that the textbook industries' control might be undercut somewhat by increased availability of online materials and open-source software, but the more I thought through that, the less hope I had.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 9:15 AM
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Before actually posting renovation photos, I posted some heinously self-deprecating bridesmaid dress photos. Enjoy.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 9:18 AM
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If this is the home repair thread, can I brag that I successful changed the ballast on a light. I didn't die or anything.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 9:21 AM
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Did its weight become like a book against the churning sea of modern life?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 9:23 AM
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I'm sorry to say Pearson is knifecrime island's fault. Owns Penguin Books, Random House, the Financial Times, and the Economist: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pearson_PLC


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 9:23 AM
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Commenting from a position of zero first-hand knowledge, it strikes me that something like MyMathLab lends itself splendidly to distributed open source development, and that the open source solution is likely to be superior - substantively, technically, and pedagogically - to anything the commercial marketplace can produce. I base that conclusion on nothing more than the economic incentives facing the producers. Once you have invested enough to ship a commercial product, you have an economic interest in (1) spending as little as possible on further developments unless forced to to keep up with competitors; (2) hiring for adequacy, not excellence; (3) downplaying or suppressing any evidence of defects or lack of efficacy; and (4) creating as many switching costs as possible for your customers. So even if the launch version of the commercial product looks slicker than open source, I would be more confident in open source over the long term.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 9:24 AM
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23: which is a shame because Penguin and the FT are generally pretty good things.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 9:27 AM
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Renovation photos added! Remember, we just spent a lot of time and $$, so no being mean.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 9:39 AM
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I got my ballast very cheaply. From Ballast World.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 9:46 AM
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I would gladly take your before pictures in place of what I have now. Can we do some kind of hand-me-down renovations?


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 9:49 AM
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My favorite part of the renovation so far was the contractor sent pictures of the attic while we were away so we could decide what to do up there and he titled the email "addict photos"


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 9:51 AM
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I don't know, but if you get a tank, it pays to shop around. We had all sorts of price quotes.

Now you tell us.


Posted by: Department of Defense | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 9:52 AM
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26: I'm clicking eagerly on your blog, but not seeing pictures.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 9:52 AM
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20 - dear god almighty, that proposed dress was awful. You look like someone had attacked you with a sheet. Second one soooooooo much nicer! House looks great too, enjoy moving back in!


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 9:53 AM
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27 I would think your local ship's chandler should be able to handle all your ballast needs.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 9:53 AM
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In the Flickr group, LB.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 9:53 AM
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32: Full in the understanding that heebie has no regard whatsoever for my opinions on fashion, I strenuously disagree that the first dress was awful. I rather prefer it to the replacement, in fact.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 9:56 AM
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Ah. Looking at the pictures, Knecht is insane and asilon is right, or possibly Knecht is confused about which dress is which.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 9:59 AM
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24: Huh, we have a competing product and while I don't completely disagree with your numbered points in theory it's a bit hard for me to see how they apply in actuality. (Beware, corporate shilling ahead!) Our competitive edge is that we're research backed; we review the educational literature to determine what issues have been noted in teaching the subject matter, we have cognitive scientists write cognitive models (that is, the instructional content) in conjunction with subject matter experts, and we review (and have published papers on) the efficacy of our product and iterate as necessary.

Given that, on (1) we're in the process of retooling our basic architecture at huge cost due to platform issues (i.e.., or/acle fucking up jav/a), and before that we were frantically developing new content (2) the cognitive scientists mentioned above are extremely specialized and hard to to recruit, (3) we've generally been open with external reviews (but when there has been negative press--and there has--we've responded to it, which would include downplaying but not suppressing it, so fair enough), and (4) costs don't seem that high on switching, either to us (we've had some increases in sales in some parts of the country recently) or away from us (a few years ago, when the forementioned platform issues were most egregious. I suppose we do increase costs by pushing a solution that involves both software and textbooks, but there are also educational reasons for doing so.

Some of what we do would be very hard to replicate with an open source equivalent--the framework, maybe, but the quality and consistency of the content, not so much.

Well, that felt a little gross.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 9:59 AM
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Seconding 36.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 10:01 AM
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37: I acknowledged that I was commenting ex recto. If your company's product is as you represent it, then I have to revise my opinion: your company will get its lunch eaten by fast-talking competitors who scrimp on product development but spend heavily on marketing, lobbying and barely disguised kickbacks. (I'm half kidding there, but only half.)


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 10:21 AM
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possibly Knecht is confused about which dress is which

I know exactly which is which. I will refrain from explicating my preference out of respect for heebie.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 10:25 AM
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The dress in the picture of the model - a skinny person who's about 4 months pregnant - looks nice. On a normal, very pregnant person - what is that fucking neck thing??


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 10:30 AM
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Of course they're in the MOOC business as well.

I've said before that I don't think people realize the extent to which large swaths of Community College and other open admissions schools are already MOOC-ized by textbook companies.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 10:32 AM
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24 - I can't speak to MyMathLab, but I know that in the case of Blackboard, there are constraints in that a) Blackboard has some ridiculously broad patents and b) one of the major open-source competitors sounds like a soul-sucking pile of fail based on some comments from friends that I probably shouldn't repeat.

It's a hard situation, because enterprise software definitionally isn't the sort of thing people write to scratch their own itch.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 10:46 AM
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I think the Jackie o dress is a nice concept, it's just the execution that turned out awful. Also it was made super shittily, with shitty fabric, and I'm having to contest the charges because they're being bitchy about letting me return it.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 10:59 AM
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I don't think that education software necessarily needs to be open source, but it should be open standards. It should be possible for educators to mix and match products from different systems, or develop highly specialized educational content on a specific topic, and have that be able to plug in to some kind of standardized "educational software support bus", in such a way that the module can a) play nicely with wide variety other systems, and b) be resold to other organisations as a means of covering the cost of development. Ideally, you would then see a cottage industry of small educational content builders spring up, ensuring a broad selection of generally high-quality products.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 11:01 AM
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28: I genuinely felt bad about destroying a highly functional kitchen for only superficial reasons. I had to do some soul-searching and become okay with the reality that I am a superficial person.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 11:04 AM
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44: If they don't let you return it, there's got to be a terrific/awful Halloween costume in there somewhere! It's amazingly bad.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 11:22 AM
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The model was pregnant? I thought, Of course it looked bad, heebie, you need to buy a maternity dress.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 11:27 AM
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It's amazingly bad.

What is it with you people? That dress was perfectly attractive.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 11:30 AM
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It almost looks like you're wearing a 17th-Century-style three-piece suit. Like this one. You could have rocked a powdered wig with it.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 11:31 AM
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I agree with 45 in principle but defining "playing together well" in the educational space in a meaningful way is hard. There isn't a single unifying framework of education outside software. (And if there is, it's wrong.) Our stuff does work with some standard LMS setups (I think), but I'm not an expert in that side of things and am mystified by it.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 11:36 AM
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I don't understand maternity fashion, which is why I don't let myself shop from the marked-down maternity rack at Target unless it's a really good deal and I'm really sure no one will be able to tell, but I'm pretty sure a structured sheath like that shouldn't show your belly button.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 11:37 AM
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Blackboard itself is a soul-sucking pile of fail.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 11:40 AM
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50: It's about time for that style to come back. (Although I'd want a different level of contrast between the vest and the rest of the suit.)

53 is also clearly correct.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 11:43 AM
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Look, heebie, if you want to take fashion advice from a self-described frumpy lesbian and a matronly androgyne, that's your business. But if you want to know what the male gaze thinks, take my word for it.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 12:24 PM
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I like the original dress too.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 12:33 PM
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I can has male gaze and I still don't know where you're coming form, knecht. Definitely on the side of the frumpy and matronly here.

The renovations are also nice.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 12:34 PM
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We had a contractor by this morning who is going to do something very expensive to our windows which doesn't involve replacing them with the modern windows that almost everybody tells us we should obviously have. He pointed out that some of our previous contractors (the painters) had managed to sand a lot of the panes of glass, meaning we'll have to lose the cool old rolled glass panes in some of the windows. Dealing with contractors: the worse!

I'm just hoping we don't have giant ice dams this winter that cause e.g. the ceiling of our porch (and half of my office) to collapse.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 12:35 PM
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Oh, I would wear heebie's original dress! I like the interesting folds at the collars. But I sort of prefer interesting to flattering. (That may be why Lee has decided she should buy my clothes, which made me angry and hurt my feelings even though she's too lazy to actually go through with it and try to prep me up.)


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 12:38 PM
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Unless I've looked at the wrong dresses, isn't dress #2 clearly more revealing and therefore better from the MG perspective?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 12:38 PM
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But c'mon, it's a bridesmaid dress, which means presumably you'd have a few people looking like the drawing and then heebie looking like the maternity version of the drawing didn't work out. People would feel bad for her! (I wanted to say "the audience," but that sounds inappropriate for a wedding. The guests, her fellow guests!)


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 12:39 PM
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Though dress #2 is exactly the kind of flowy thing I'd be tempted to buy from a maternity discount rack, I acknowledge.

Also I really like the conversation on educational software and the like that's going on here when I'm not one of the people talking over it.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 12:41 PM
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28: I genuinely felt bad about destroying a highly functional kitchen for only superficial reasons. I had to do some soul-searching and become okay with the reality that I am a superficial person.

Hey now! Speaking from personal experience, I can assure you that you could have destroyed the original a lot more in the service of your renovations. You were very restrained! I should get the photos of our kitchen at its most gutted off my phone and into the Flickr pool to demonstrate.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 12:48 PM
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I wouldn't characterize the former state of our kitchen as "highly functional" but I will confess that people would routinely walk in and be like "oh, I love your kitchen!" to which I got to say, "Thanks! We're about to tear it out completely because we hate everything about it."


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 12:49 PM
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rfts I thought were destroying your kitchen in the service of eliminating its Old Ones-summoning non-Euclidean geometry? That seems like a pretty good motivation to fully gut it. (Sorry if I'm violating the sanctity of millions of hideos off-blog things screaming as they stare with their their unseeing off-blog eyes.)


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 12:53 PM
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62.2: I thought stepping over conversations was the point of eclectic web magazines.

Anyway, educational software is awesome (I'm having a blast with Duolingo right now) in concept but it does play into increasing the role of large incumbents in the educational industrial complex. Since we've become part of, uh, a one stop shop, I can at least take comfort that what I work on is better than the alternative (the aforementioned product) and is measurably increasing outcomes for a group of people who really deserve not to be fucked around with half-assed math software. (This is the positive spin.)


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 1:16 PM
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rfts I thought were destroying your kitchen in the service of eliminating its Old Ones-summoning non-Euclidean geometry? That seems like a pretty good motivation to fully gut it. (Sorry if I'm violating the sanctity of millions of hideos off-blog things screaming as they stare with their their unseeing off-blog eyes.)

True! Though on the other hand that means it was in fact "highly functional" from an Elder God's point of view.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 1:30 PM
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H-G, I really like the new sitting room. It's beautiful.

The dress is hilarious/horrifying. You look lovely in the replacement, though!


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 1:42 PM
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60: There's another perspective?


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 1:45 PM
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The dress is hilarious/horrifying.

Don't make me go look up something self-deprecating you said about your taste in clothes, Parenthetical.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 1:46 PM
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I have lovely but somewhat generic taste in clothing, thank you very much.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 1:47 PM
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70: I have it on good authority she only wears see-through white shirts but is too modest to mention it.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 1:48 PM
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Besides, it's not about the dress itself, it's about the fit, which is just plain incorrect. As noted above, one should not see a belly button through properly fitted clothing, no matter the style. (Well, unless it's sheer. But that's different.)


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 1:48 PM
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72 made me chortle.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 1:49 PM
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It's OK, heebie, go ahead and take your fashion cues from the self-described "unfashionable" Parenthetical. See if I care.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 2:12 PM
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You're scarily good at that.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 2:19 PM
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Did you not find anything about me then Knecht?


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 2:26 PM
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I actually gasped at the original dress and so then had to show C, who said "yikes".


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 2:28 PM
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Right. I was okay with the original dress, although skeptical that it would look okay at 36 weeks pregnant. I assumed, since it was a maternity dress, that they'd introduce darts and such for the more bulging among us.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 2:31 PM
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77: I figured your questionable taste in clothes was common knowledge.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 2:31 PM
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78: Same thing happened here. And it's his job to know when things fit or not. (Which does make him invaluable. Except for when he points out that something I want to pretend fits doesn't.)


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 2:32 PM
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80 - oh, if I had a photo of those, you'd be on my side!


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 2:35 PM
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You did a great service to humanity, h-g, in amusing us with that picture. The dress should be burned if they won't take it back; it's been a very very bad no good dress.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 2:37 PM
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oh, if I had a photo of those, you'd be on my side!

Even so, the record speaks for itself.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 2:42 PM
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I don't see anything wrong with either dress.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 2:45 PM
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Also, I hope nothing I've said has come off as unkind! Not meant as such, at all. I should start taking pictures of me stuck in various items of clothing, which happens frequently when trying things on.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 3:02 PM
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... except for the fact they're not edible.

Damn. You really are scary.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 3:04 PM
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Heebie looks great as Benjamin Franklin.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 3:08 PM
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I am not offended, P! (Or anyone else.) When I put it on for Jammies, we both had one of those teenage laughing fits where you can't catch your breath and are in grave danger of peeing your pants. (Jammies, gasping for air, "Where...is...your...neck...!")


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 3:10 PM
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You were smiling more broadly in that picture.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 3:12 PM
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Yes well obviously an edible dress would be preferable, but it doesn't seem fair to describe a dress as horrid merely for being non-edible, given the current state of the clothing market.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 7:10 PM
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Under state law, a public university in Texas can remove a tenured professor if he or she gets two successive unsatisfactory annual reviews.

Doesn't this mean public university professors in Texas can't really get tenure as it's commonly understood ?


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 09- 6-14 8:00 AM
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That HG should attend as Dolley Madison rather than as Ben Franklin is so obvious it need not even be said.

Perusing deeper into the pool is definitely worth doing, even besides the fashion debate and HG's lovely renovations.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 6-14 9:40 AM
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I've forgotten how to access the flickr pool, but I'd enjoy seeing the renovation. (And, I suppose, to see what the dress fight is about...)

A quick hint as to how to dip a toe in that pool?


Posted by: Mooseking | Link to this comment | 09- 8-14 11:31 AM
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If you were ever admitted, then it should show up on your flickr account under your groups. If you weren't, email Heebie and/or Ogged for an invite. (Maybe someone else too, but I can't remember.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 8-14 12:02 PM
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