I gave a test in an upper level math class. There were five questions, in increasing difficulty, and I said "Pick 4 out of 5", because the class is only 50 minutes long and that seems to be the best way to help students not tank the entire test by spending too long on one question. Each question is worth 10 points, and so the test is worth 40 points.
Of the students who answered question 5, almost all bombed it. (One student got it right, and a second student got 7/10 on it.) Most students lost 8 points, and were automatically on the C/B border on that question alone.
Of the students who answered question 4, scores were much more evenly distributed between getting it right, getting partial credit, and getting up to 8 points off. Some of these students also bombed question 5, because for some reason it was popular to opt out of question 2.
Therefore, it appears that the difference between an A and a C, or a B and a D, between otherwise well-matched students, was "how well can you assess and avoid the most difficult question?"
Is that really what I want to be assessing in a test? It's not unrelated to how well you understand the material, but it's more tactical than I actually care about. OTOH, there's a real skill in research - can you recognize which problems will be easily unravelled, and which ones take more insight? Do I care that I am testing them on that?
Nick S writes:
For National Coming Out Day, a very good (and long) article about the calculations involved in a queer athlete deciding to be out publicly while playing in the NBA.
So why do it? Why come out in the NBA? In 2007, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban offered two compelling reasons. The first was practical and entrepreneurial. The player would reap huge benefits as a hero to a large slice of Americans. Marketing and endorsement opportunities would be waiting on the other side of the announcement.
Cuban also made a more emotional appeal, saying, "When you do something that the whole world thinks is difficult and you stand up and just be who you are," you're doing something uniquely American. This perception of the American spirit dovetails with what the mission of sports is about, as discussed earlier.
Do those benefits outweigh the personal costs?
So far, 100 percent of closeted gay NBA players have determined that they don't. That's not to say Cuban is incorrect -- and I tend to agree with him -- but the sale hasn't been made convincingly. That might be because agents or others close to the player in the know are offering advice to the contrary, or it might just be a visceral hunch, or fear of the unknown, or the simple belief that life, even with this burden of secrecy, has treated the player pretty well and will continue to if present conditions persist.
From Heebie: A close friend came out to her family yesterday and I was moved by it. OTOH, can we all agree that the whole "wear denim to show your support for GLBTQ" thing is really lame? It's always bugged me.
Obviously Mitt was going to trend more centrist for the general election. Obviously Republicans are lying liars who lie like their lying lives depend on it. And yet I'm finding this latest round of outright lies ("I won't roll back abortion rights", "My health care plan covers pre-existing conditions", "I won't reduce taxes on those paying more than $250K", etc etc) more infuriating and enraging than I usually do.
I think it's because briefly, around Ryan's speech at the Republican convention, mainstream media was really reporting that the Republicans tell more lies than the day is long. Currently they seem more excited to pretend it's a horserace than to report on the shocking degree of Mitt's Etch-a-Sketchness, even though we all knew perfectly well it was coming.
(Also it's infuriating because run on your goddamn platform.)
Nick S. writes: A summary of a new paper arguing for abolishing patents, which I found surprisingly convincing.
Personally, I'm agnostic about patents, but have some sympathy for the same reason that I have some sympathy for copyrights -- it makes sense to offer people a way to legally claim ownership of their intellectual/artistic work.
But I think it's perfectly correct that, however logical/intuitive that may be, there is still an empirical question about whether patent protection actually works as an incentive for R & D. The authors of the paper claim that it does not.
1) Call Dominos Pizza in city A.
2) Place a long, complex order and tell the attendant that the order is for your brother and that you are gonna put him on the phone and to read the order back so brother can "make sure you got the order right"
3) Instead of "getting the brother on the phone", switch to line 2 and call a Dominos in city B.
4) Tell dominos B that you are going to put your sister on the line to make an order.
5) Merge the lines (Dominos A will order from Dominos B), hit mute, and enjoy the ride.
I thought it got really funny at 1:45.
Am I being dense? I think loosely the joke is "Feminazis are hypocrites!" but I am not actually sure. Complicating things, this appeared in my Pinterest feed with the caption "What's good for the goose is good for the gander!"
Via several people on FB.
I assume affirmative action will be struck down with the UT case. The thing is that I agree that there are plenty of problems with affirmative action programs. If someone said "We're going to pour a bunch of resources into addressing racial inequality" then I'd be a lot more inclined to put it in early childhood programs, K-12 support, affordable housing, etc. But no one is saying that, and I suspect the appeal of affirmative action programs is that they're super cheap to implement.
Anyway, I am super sick of hearing how unfair affirmative action programs are, so my silver lining is that assholes will shut the fuck up.
I would like a really great scone, please. The last two I've eaten have been oily mush bread. I mean, it still tasted like a dessert and had chocolate chips in it, but it's not the same.
I found myself around a police officer just now, in a discussion format, and a student asked what she should do if there were an actual school shooting here on campus. He said, gesturing towards me, "Now you may disagree...But I think first, flight. Get out of there - out a window, or out however you can. But otherwise, you've got to fight. Don't bother getting behind a desk or under a table - they just want a body count."
He didn't elaborate how on earth you're supposed to fight, although he did describe a bunch more ways to get the fuck out of there. If I had to guess, the real decision is "Flight or lose any illusion of control" and so we all try to find any alternative way finish that phrase that we possibly can.
Over the weekend I played a cover-band gig at a fall festival. About halfway through the two-hour set, we got my favorite song request ever.
She approached the stage with swagger, which seemed a bit off, because she also appeared to be the quintessential Sweet Grandmotherly type. "You boys know any Kid Rock?"
We did not, in fact, know any Kid Rock.
On SavageLove they were talking about the need to distinguish porn from actual sex, in the sex talks that parents have with their teenager kids.
I think a good framework for that distinction would be this: Porn is like an action movie. Actual sex is like a three-legged race. If you go to a three-legged race thinking that you have to act like Rambo or Jessica Rabbit, your expectations about yourself and your partner will be screwy and it won't necessarily be fun. But if you go to a three-legged race with someone fun to rub up against, and you're ready to talk and cooperate, then you might have a great time. (And sometimes it's fun to pretend you're an action hero at the camptown races, sure. Just remember that you are pretending.)
There's been a fair amount of back and forth over the last week or two about whether a decent person on the left can morally vote for Obama, given the whole assassinations, endless war, indefinite detention without legal process, sort of thing he seems so enthusiastic about, or whether they can morally not vote for Obama, given that the other guy seems guaranteed to be just as bad on all the issues where Obama's contemptible and worse on anything where Obama's tolerable. (A good blogger would round up links, but I'm not one of those. Look around Crooked Timber and follow links from there if you haven't seen the posts I'm talking about.)
Mostly, I think anyone who's not rooting fervently for Obama to win over Romney is either terribly deluded or disagrees profoundly with me over what policy outcomes they want. On the other hand, I think anyone who's not disgusted by Obama's policies in the areas I alluded to above is either not paying attention or has their priorities misplaced. Through the mystic powers of the electoral college, my vote in NY isn't going to change anything: Obama is as safe here as he is anywhere. So while I'm rooting for Obama, and am really very invested in his victory, I think I'm voting for Jill Stein.
This isn't about being morally complicit -- my vote has the most minimal of actual effects (effectively none at all), and rooting for Obama makes me just as complicit, I figure, as voting for him would. But if my vote has any effect at all in this state, it's as a poll on what people think of Obama, and I can't think of any better effect it could have than making it apparent that there's some (however small) population of voters that disapproves of him from the left.
Anyone in a swing state, vote Obama. Please. But where the outcome is settled, I don't see any reason to at all. Anyone want to talk me out of it (or tell me reasons not to vote for Stein particularly? I don't know a damn thing about her -- given that she's not going to get elected to anything, I don't particularly care either, But if there's anything particularly evil about her that I don't want to be endorsing, then mention it in comments if you would?)
Today's the annual day of setting off of the smoke alarms, because we had an amazing cold front come through and I actually turned on the heater in my office. (It's not supposed to last though - back in the 80s the foreseeable future. Brought to you by Updates Too Boring for Facebook.)