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Booming School 101

Posted by Stanley
on 05.22.10

This clip about the oil-spill clean up is eyebrow-raising (and kinda NSFW for language). No idea about the credibility of the expert who comes in at 1:55, but she certainly sounds like she knows what she's talking about.

Update: this post has been edited to placate ari:


 

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Christ, what an asshole

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.22.10

This is a pretty great cartoon about Dr. Wakefield, the horrible person who faked the link between the MMR vaccine and autism. (And irritable bowel syndrome! No one ran with that one in quite the same way, though.) I was not aware of his financial gain in the whole mess.

None of it is sourced yet, but I always believe anything consistent with my pre-existing notions, so I don't feel any grief.

Via.

Update: Here's his references


 

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You could care however much you want.

Posted by Stanley
on 05.21.10

This is some pretty funny little bitchery on language. I was familiar with the "could care less" thing but didn't know it was allegedly specific to the US. And I was completely unaware of the "hold the fort" vs. "hold down the fort" thing.

But it's light and silly at the same time. Weekend-y. Like all of us.


 

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It's Not A Swimming Thread, But It's All I've Got

Posted by LizardBreath
on 05.21.10

Remember that hill by the George Washington Bridge that I've been walking my bike up because it was too steep to pedal up? I biked up it just now, after nearly making it up twice earlier in the week. You may all now admire me.

(On the other hand, all that whining I did before about how the hill was just impossibly steep, and anyway the problem was that my bike didn't have low enough gears, looks pretty weak now, doesn't it?)


 

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Hot or not?

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.21.10

Many of my colleagues force their students to fill out instructor evaluations. We can log on and see who has completed them during the window in which the evaluations are available. One colleague will withhold the final exam until every student has completed an evaluation, another colleague counts it as a homework grade.

This strikes me as completely insane. If a student does not want to fill out an evaluation, I'm not going to force them to fill out the stupid thing. Granted, they can log in and leave every question blank, and be counted, but that takes a bit more innovation than the average disgruntled student is going to apply towards faculty evaluations.

On the other hand, I benefit from everyone else's rigid policies, since once the students are logged in, it's easy for them to fill out evaluations for all their classes at once. So my completion rates are as high as anyone else's.

It would be fine with me if there was a university policy that every course must include credit for completing instructor evaluations. Until then, I'm going to coast on the coattails of my nutty colleagues. Basically, there are so many layers of problems with the validity of instructor evaluations by students that this seems to be the least of it. (Online evaluations are even worse than in class evaluations for the sorts of hazards evaluations carry. In short, women are graded based on their appearance, everyone is graded on their charisma, and students don't necessarily enjoy being made to think.)

Besides all that, I suspect that for basically competent instructors, math tilts towards positive evaluations more than other subjects, because the students are clear that their adversary is the material, not the professor. They never question the content of my courses. They may believe that certain material was a waste of time, but they don't attribute its presence to me.


 

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Lumbering profile

Posted by Ben
on 05.20.10

Facebook suggests that I become friends with J/ff R/bard. For what reason I have no idea.


 

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Blumenthal Recap

Posted by LizardBreath
on 05.20.10

To sum up: Blumenthal described his military service falsely on one occasion, in a speech in 2008 by saying that he served "in Vietnam". In what seems to be every other statement he's ever made on the subject, including extensive comments in a recent debate, he's either fully and accurately described his service by noting that he never went to Vietnam, or accurately shorthanded it by saying that he served "during Vietnam" or in the "Vietnam era". In fact, in the same speech where he falsely described his service, he described it accurately about two minutes earlier.

On the question of whether Blumenthal's descriptions of his service were mostly technically true but actually misleading, Colin McEnroe, a reporter and blogger for the Hartford Courant, asked other reporters who'd covered Blumenthal what they'd known about Blumenthal's military service before the Times story broke. Of the ten reporters including McEnroe who were asked, all ten were clear from Blumenthal's public statements that he had not served in Vietnam. One photographer did believe that Blumenthal had served in Vietnam.

For what seems to be a one-time, one word slip of the tongue, then, the NYT devoted two front page and one interior stories, several additional versions on the web, an editorial and an op-ed to what they describe as Blumenthal's extended pattern of deception about his military service, including letting Chris Shays, a prominent Connecticut Republican, drivel on at length on the front page about misrepresentations that only he can remember but that he claims to have been very concerned about at the time.

After getting savaged like this, I think Blumenthal could probably use some money, and I'm going to send him some. I'm also planning to write to Clark Hoyt, the Public Editor of the NYT, to comment on their horrifically irresponsible coverage of this story. Anyone care to join me?


 

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Overheard

Posted by Stanley
on 05.19.10

"I'm not just a bunch of warm holes."


 

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Journalism

Posted by Ben
on 05.19.10

This is good: reflections on a career in journalism by a former writer for, among other things, Jezebel. (Via Emerson on facebook, of all things.) Two nice bits, one on getting fired from the WSJ:

It alarmed me, for instance, to learn that one of the companies in my "youth" sector, the mall chain Abercrombie & Fitch, made a weekly practice of purging its stores of hourly sales associates it deemed to be less than, in corporate parlance, "brand positive."

[…]

I went to great lengths to corroborate the facts, which is where I fucked up; I e-mailed a draft of the piece (a decision inspired by a respected journalist I'd read about who said he did this all the time) to a trusted source, and he e-mailed it to someone else, and eventually it made its way to Abercrombie's corporate offices and in turn to the company's fearsome New York "crisis PR" firm. And because Wall Street Journal investigations are the sort of thing that affects the stock prices of companies, this was a fire-able offense.

And one that comes from the very end:

Back in 2008, during that week after Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy and raised the curtain on the global credit crisis that would in short order serve as Nick Denton's rationale for firing me and eighteen other Gawker staffers, Denton had asked me to write a post blaming journalists for the financial crisis. This idea bordered on lunacy, and I refused, even when he explained the foundation of his argument, which basically amounted to: he had worked at the Financial Times in the late nineties, and he said he'd tried repeatedly to write stories probing the potential dangers of unregulated derivatives and the stunning amount of leverage that went along with their use, etc., but his bosses invariably told him, in so many words, to bugger off.

"I am telling you," he insisted. "I tried so many times to write those stories. It was always, 'No, no, no. Don't you understand? That's innovation.'"


 

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Let's have a thread...

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.19.10

...where every comment's written in the meter
of this poem that I got out of Becks's Google Buzz feedeeder
so that I can read along as though I'm reading from Penzance as soon
as I return from all my crap I've got this afternoon.


 

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Man, The Times Doesn't Like Blumenthal One Bit

Posted by LizardBreath
on 05.19.10

Two more stories on Blumenthal, plus an editorial and an op-ed. The story on the front page allows Chris Shays, a Republican congressman, to opine at length about how concerned he's been about Blumenthal's growing mendacity on the topic, without actually quoting or referring with specificity to any occasion on which Blumenthal said anything untrue. The interior story has that paragraph I quoted yesterday in comments where the Times quotes him speaking absolutely truthfully and uses it as evidence of deception:

The article also described how he had left the impression that he had been among veterans who returned from Vietnam to discover that attitudes toward the war had changed. In 2008, for example, he told an audience in Shelton, Conn., "I served during the Vietnam era," adding, "I remember the taunts, the insults, sometimes even physical abuse."

So for anyone who's keeping track, we're still talking about one reported occasion, in one speech, where he said he served "in Vietnam" rather than "during Vietnam" (and once in 2003 he said "we" referring to returning soldiers. Call it two occasions if you like), in a context where he's describing his service accurately in current public speech (from the first NYT story, Blumenthal in a Senate debate in March of this year: "Although I did not serve in Vietnam..."). But, you know, maybe he does it all the time, and space limitations are keeping the Times from listing all the quotes.

Let's see what the Times says about it in the unsigned editorial (there's an op-ed too, of course) titled Mr. Blumenthal's Misdirection:

Mr. Blumenthal, a Democratic candidate for the United States Senate, said on at least one occasion in 2008 that he had served in Vietnam

"At least one occasion." Yeah, that's an extended pattern of deception. The Times makes me sick. (Afterthought: Blumenthal did misspeak that one time, so I wouldn't actually be surprised if someone digs up another incident somewhere. But still, at this point the Times is hanging three stories, two front page and one interior, plus an editorial and an op-ed, badmouthing this guy's character, on one, or two if you're generous, misstatements in the period since 2003.)

(Second Afterthought: Anyone know anything about Blumenthal? I'm defending him because the Times coverage is disgusting, but I never heard of him before yesterday. Maybe they're out to get him because he eats puppies or something?)


 

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I don't care what they say about us anyway

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.18.10

From Bave, a retrospective on your love for Rivers Cuomo.

(Now I personally never listened to much Weezer, so I suspect much of the article was lost on me. Although the Buddy Holly song is fun. I like the way he crams the word anyway in at the end of that line.)


 

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Guest Post - Sifu Tweety

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.18.10

(Not that he really intended it to be a guest post. But I just posted his email, without altering much, and called it a guest post. Sucker! - Heebie)

President Obama hires crack team of superscientists to go make noises about capping the gulf oil well.

One of those scientists turns out to be a particularly galling kind of homophobe. So, that scientist gets the boot. Oops!

I wonder, does it matter? Lots of us say lots of crazy thing pseudonymously. Would we want crazy bullshit we say on unfogged to affect us in other realms of life? Is this the same? Is it different? Can we tie it to Elena Kagan? I mean, he's an astrophysicist working on an oil spill. His opinions on homosexuality are unlikely to be relevant. But his statements were very much made under his own name (they're all linked on his faculty page). It's not like he was trying to keep them separate from his professional life.

Is it an indication that this crack team of scientists business could all be kind of for show? Or do his shitty opinions on matters unrelated to his specialty indicate his unsuitability for this task?

The professor turns out to be a giant, vocal asshole along many other vectors, too. But then again, he's not so much worse than, say, any other conservative you might engage in heated arguments with. Would you hire any intelligent asshole to do whatever it is he does professionally? I probably would.

Luckily, he also turns out to have no idea why he might be helpful fighting the oil spill:
"I was honored to be invited and enjoyed the experience," said Katz. "Did I have anything much to contribute? I think I have some ideas for how to prevent this kind of thing from happening in the future, but I don't have anything very specific to offer on the present problems. It is very much in the hands of the real pros." Asked if he'd be willing to go back, Katz said: "I'd be happy to, but someone's got to send me an email or a phone call."


 

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Lincoln to Specters makes me Rand-y

Posted by Stanley
on 05.18.10

What an exciting election day we have at hand! Blanche Lincoln primaried by someone slightly to her left. Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-Democrat-turned-really-old-guy Arlen Specter faces a challenge to his credibility as a Dem. And a real-live person-with-a-funny-name might win the GOP nod in Kentucky.

Bonus points: another "family values" congressman cheated on his wife. I'm shocked.


 

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I'll judge your pants off

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.17.10

Yesterday we hung out with friends who I love. They are Buddhist, and loud and boisterous, and constantly admonishing each other not to be judgmental.

I do not crave religious structure, but if I did, Buddhism seems very compatible with my general philosophy of life. It's easy to picture a Buddhist alter-Heebie who feels obligated to constantly police herself about not being judgmental.

So when we parted, I had this wave of relief: thank fucking god I can be as judgmental as I want. I'm so glad I don't have to badger myself, because I rather enjoy being judgmental.

I can be too judgmental. I'm not saying that it's great to let the floodgates open and ignore situation-specific sympathetic factors and let the judging flow freely. I try to stay aware of where the facts end and my judgments begin. But I do so love being judgmental.


 

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I would never think that.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.16.10

"I don't want people to think I am not husbandable because of some hatred of cute babies."

All due credit to E. Messily.


 

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Xtreme!!1!one!

Posted by Stanley
on 05.16.10

This, uh, sport seems pretty intense, but they probably need to merge in at least one more sport to really earn the "Xtreme" label. MMA, perhaps?


 

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