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Grading is probably my favorite thing to complain about.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.05.09

I'm starting to conclude that this experiment is a failure. At the beginning of the semester, I hand out a pretest in certain classes, covering everything you need to already know. I tell them to find the answers and memorize them, because the test - exact same test - will be in one week. I tell them that they don't have to understand the background math, because when it comes up in our class I'll be happy to go over it in office hours, but I want them to have certain facts on quick retrieval. A Calculus II class goes much more smoothly when everyone knows the derivative formulas from Calculus I.

I really want them to know the material on this test. So I make the test worth 5% of their semester grade, and I tell them it is pass/fail: if you make an 80% or better, you get those five points on your semester grade. If not, you get none. I make a big song and dance about how this test is worth half a letter grade on your semester average at each class leading up to the pre-test.

Yet 7 out of 20 kids failed the one I just finished grading. And this is typical. I mean, sheesh. I don't even know. JUST DO THE STUPID WORK, KID, OKAY?


 

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My freshman year roommate is more infamous than famous...

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.04.09

David Lynch was once roommates with the future lead singer of the J. Geils Band, but supposedly Lynch kicked the rocker out for being "too weird". This list of famous roommates contains more than Al Gore and Tommy Lee Jones. It's pretty fun.

Via Shapely Prose


 

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But it'd be an awesome cage match

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.04.09

If you put this dude's grandpa and my grandma in a jar, I'm not sure which one would eat the other. Or if they'd mate.

Via Jammies


 

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It blows.

Posted by Stanley
on 09.03.09

Was I carded for buying one of these today?

Funny you should ask. I was.


 

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Random Notes From The Bike Commute

Posted by LizardBreath
on 09.03.09

Riding no-hands doesn't impress me. The guy riding no-hands, eating a yogurt with a spoon? I was impressed.

There are fewer people I recognize as commuters each day than I'd expect. People I usually see in the morning are limited to a guy I assume is a professor at Columbia or City College; it's the only profession I can see where a wild Old-Testament white beard would be a likely combination with a spiffy road bike, cycling jersey, and general air of being a serious crouched-over-the-handlebars cyclist; and a middle-aged skinny/muscular very tan woman who jogs very slowly and looks as if she's in pain. In the evenings there's a parrot that's been in Riverside Park at about 90th street three or four times, that startled the heck out of me the first time I saw it. Large, yellow-green, and sounds remarkably human when singing. But mostly, after a month, I'm not recognizing regulars on the commute.

Annoyingly, I don't seem to be getting faster yet. The thirteen miles feel easier than they did a month ago, but I haven't put on significant amounts of speed. Biking is funny for me -- I don't seem to have the leg muscle to bike fast enough to get out of breath. Running, I can exhaust myself before my legs are tired at all, but biking I get to a point where my legs just won't keep going before I'm breathing hard. I figure I must be getting stronger, though; my quadriceps have mostly stopped being sore at all, and I'm feeling muscle strain more in some muscle on the outside of my hips rather than in my quads. Hopefully, in another couple of weeks, I'll develop enough leg strength to go faster and get a better workout.

I don't have to bike in traffic much, probably less than a mile each way. I find my main reaction to cars is a pathetic gratitude that they haven't killed me yet, despite the manifest ridiculousness of my attempt to share the streets with them. Really, drivers have been very pleasantly non-homicidal so far.


 

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Housing

Posted by Ben
on 09.03.09

This is fantastic, not only what the guy is doing, but the houses as well—check out the slideshow.


 

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unopinionated laugh track

Posted by Stanley
on 09.02.09

Was Cheers considered funny? It must have been. I don't get it.


 

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Yum!

Posted by Stanley
on 09.02.09

I propose a game. You have to guess whom the author is writing about in the following blockquote. However, if you already know (from, say, having read it elsewhere), then your rules are different: you must offer a guess that's plausible but false, but not obviously false to those who aren't in-the-know.

The prize is winning. Enjoy it.

Clear as mud?* Here goes:

The report said supervisors held near-weekly parties in which they urinated on themselves and others, drank vodka poured off each other's exposed buttocks, fondled and kissed one another and gallivanted around virtually nude. Photos and video of the escapades were released with the POGO investigation.

Also, no googling, and I don't actually expect any of you to follow the rules, because, well, I mean, you know why.

*I kind of hate this expression, and yet, there I am using it.


 

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I am totally crazy about Whitney Houston's new song.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.02.09

I know these posts never get any comments, but whatever. It's a great song.


 

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Condors are big and ugly.

Posted by Stanley
on 09.02.09

Well, now, this is most unsettling:

SANTIAGO, Chile -- A Chilean judge has issued arrest warrants for 129 former security officials on charges tied to the disappearance of leftists and the slaying of the communist party leadership during the Pinochet dictatorship.

Judge Victor Montiglio says the 129 were members of the army, air force and uniformed police who worked for the Dina agency, which has been accused of the worst killings and other human rights violations during the 1973-90 rule of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

The alleged crimes were said to have been committed as part of Operation Condor, the Colombo Operation and the Street Conference, campaigns aimed at crushing leftist opponents to military regimes in Chile and other South American nations.

There were plenty of people right here in the USA for Dick Cheney to call Big Wussies, but now he's got to think about, like, México, too? Someone should give that guy a break.


 

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Ticket To Ride

Posted by Becks
on 09.01.09

Would you go on a one-way trip to Mars? The article does raise a number of interesting practical and ethical questions. I wonder how these questions were debated (if at all) when people were setting off on other explorations, like to the New World.


 

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My hands were sad like gulls in an Exxon spill.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.01.09

I am on an e-mail list for a job I no longer have.

Beginning the week of October 27, 2008, the Custodial Services division of Facilities Services started replacing all liquid soap dispensers with a new foam soap system throughout all academic buildings on the main campus.
These soap dispensers are intended to increase user satisfaction, promote environmental stewardship, and provide cost savings. The foam soap provides an improved hand wash experience, while resulting in smaller amounts of soap used per wash and less soap product entering the waste stream. The foam soap is a concentrated, dense formula that helps reduce usage, waste and mess. The foam product provides more hand washes per package than the current product, thereby reducing labor costs through fewer refills.
The Technical Concepts enriched foam soap and dispensing system are Green Seal certified. Green Seal is an independent non-profit organization "dedicated to safeguarding the environment and transforming the marketplace by promoting the manufacture, purchase and use of environmentally responsible products and services."

I would love to be the sad sack who writes glorious descriptions of the hand-washing experience. I love this sort of thing. And at the same time, I prefer the foam-dispensers to soap-dispensers because it washes off more easily. Nothing more annoying than overly viscous soap.


 

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How I amuse myself

Posted by Ben
on 09.01.09

I sing Sinatra tunes in a ridiculous falsetto.

Also, I make vain posts to Unfogged about the radio. In a little over 13 hours AOTW (so 3pm on the west coast), you'll be able to hear music from such artist as Derek Bailey (playing guitar), Derek Bailey (speaking), Amps for Christ, Sofia Gubaidulina, Loren Connors, Jens Lekman, Che Shizu, Carlos ZĂ­ngaro, the Miya Masaoka Trio, Polwechsel, August Born, Alan Licht & Aki Onda, and more. Here, as usual.


 

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We've come to the Reading Pot Of Gold.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.31.09

It seems Reading Rainbow is ending. Apparently they can't get funding for it, in part because under the Bush administration, funding emphasis was placed on learning how to read, and The Rainbow doesn't qualify. Clearly there could not possibly be enough money to fund nurturing both the mechanics of reading and the passion and interest in reading, because that would run into the thousands of dollars. Anyway, sad.


 

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One Fat Englishman Opines.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.30.09

When I was 10 years old, I commuted alone to school across London on two buses. During school holidays, my mother gave me a little "emergency money" after breakfast and expected to see me for supper. So by the time I was 13, I was in control of large areas of my life, for some definitions of control.

So I do regret the fact that children are no longer free agents to the extent that they used to be. I don't believe it's necessary, and I'd like to reverse it.

That said, I'm totally on board with the Dutch courts in this case. What the hell are that girl's parents thinking? OK, call me an inconsistent wimp, but Dutch bureaucracy FTW!

Respectfully submitted,

OFE

I once heard Ray Suarez tell this anecdote: He grew up in Brooklyn, or maybe Queens. Or something. When he was very young, like maybe 5 years old, his mother would send him to the store for milk or something. (A gallon of bread, a stick of milk, and a loaf of butter.) Anyway, her instructions were "Go straight to the store and back, and when you come to a street, ask someone to cross you." (Meaning walk you across the street.) A charming days-gone-by story.


 

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The thing is, you see, they're on a boat.

Posted by Stanley
on 08.30.09

From time to time, I venture forth—purely in the interest of sociological observation—into the curious world of social gatherings planned by America's college-aged aspiring professionals. My most recent excursion, this weekend, exposed me to a most surprising phenomenon.

It seems this song has been met with serious reception among the sample population. That is, it's regarded as a genuine and sincere attempt at a song, rather than as parody.

I hold out hope that the joke's on me here. Possibly I'm missing something and what I saw as uncritical enjoyment of the song as a song, full stop was something more complicated. But when I queried a local DJ about the matter, he offered a heavy sigh and this dim diagnosis: "That's where we are at this point." The "Cupid Shuffle " played in the background at the time of my inquiry.


 

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Sunday Afternoon Round-Up

Posted by Stanley
on 08.30.09

A few news items that caught my eye:

1. ari sends along this piece about a fatal car accident caused by a text-messaging driver. Unfortunately, not the first such story, nor likely the last, but this struck me as just odd:

He pleaded guilty to two counts of negligent homicide, but his record will be cleared if he fulfills the sentence imposed by the judge. It included 30 days in jail, 200 hours of community service, and a requirement that he read "Les Misérables" to learn, like the book's character Jean Valjean, how to make a contribution to society.

Huh? Les Mis? Are literary requirements a normal part of a sentencing? Is this a Utah thing?

Also, page three of the article gets into some of the legal wrinkles in trying to prove someone's been texting while driving. I hadn't thought about that aspect of it.

2. Wow. Virginia's Republican gubernatorial candidate has some seriously retrograde ideas about women:

He argued for covenant marriage, a legally distinct type of marriage intended to make it more difficult to obtain a divorce. He advocated character education programs in public schools to teach "traditional Judeo-Christian values" and other principles that he thought many youths were not learning in their homes. He called for less government encroachment on parental authority, for example, redefining child abuse to "exclude parental spanking." He lamented the "purging of religious influence" from public schools. And he criticized federal tax credits for child care expenditures because they encouraged women to enter the workforce.

Also, he's on about covenant marriage? First I've heard of it, but it strikes me as creepy.

And hey, he's up by as much as 15% among voters self-identifying as "certain to vote". So that's terrible news.

3. Peter Dreier and Marshall Ganz lay out a specific plan to win control of health-care reform back from the crazies:

First, it must concentrate on winning support for a specific bill that incorporates the key principles Obama has been advocating: universal insurance coverage, no denial of coverage for preexisting conditions, the public option and controls on exorbitant drug and insurance industry costs. The Limbaugh loyalists know what they are against. But Obama and his allies have to be clear about what they are for.

Challenging the right wing's framing of the issue, Organizing for America and the activist groups need to recruit volunteers to reach out to friends, neighbors and especially the "undecided" public with the same urgency, energy and creativity that they showed in the election.

Second, the campaign must focus attention on the insurance companies that are primarily responsible for the health-care mess. This means organizing public events across the country that can articulate Americans' frustrations with the current health insurance system and polarize public opinion against the insurance companies and their allies.

Americans who are paying the price of our failure to act -- people who lost family members because they were denied coverage for preexisting conditions, people who can't afford health insurance and fear that a medical emergency would wipe them out, families who went bankrupt and lost their homes because of out-of-pocket medical expenses, and businesses that suffer because of the high cost of insurance for employees -- need opportunities to publicly confront those responsible for their plight. It is time to put human faces on the crisis by contrasting their stories with the insurance companies' outrageous profits and top executives' exorbitant salaries and bonuses.

This requires "movement" tactics, from leaflets, vigils and newspaper ads to nonviolent civil disobedience -- such as occupying insurance company offices and picketing the homes of insurance executives -- to focus attention on the companies and individuals who are the major obstacles to reform. As long as the real source of the problem remains faceless (or can hide behind seven conservative Democratic senators), the right remains free to demonize "big government" rather than greedy corporations.

Third, the campaign must educate constituents of the Baucus caucus about their senators' political and financial dependence on the insurance industry and other opponents of reform. They need to ask these conservative Democrats: Which side are you on? If they won't support real reform, they should know that a primary challenge is likely.

Good points all, and yet I remain skeptical the Democrats won't manage to kneecap themselves. Sigh.

What have you been reading?


 

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