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Friday WTFuckery

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.31.17

It's never a slow week in these times, is it. Crazy and/or depressing stories from the past week in politics here. For me, probably the rollback of Obama-era coal regulations.


 

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Also Good

Posted by Ogged
on 03.31.17

I've, uh, tracked down things in this way. Persistence and a few reasonable inferences can go a long way, for reasons Kieran Healy explained in his classic Paul Revere post.


 

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Good Work

Posted by Ogged
on 03.30.17

School quality plotted against home prices--noting commute times--for several large US cities. This is A+ data journalism.


 

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Big Media Matt

Posted by LizardBreath
on 03.30.17

On Twitter: True confession:I have read it mentioned a million times but I have no idea what the school-to-prison pipeline is.

Have a little shame, dude. No one knows everything, but on an important issue, look it up rather than admitting it as if it were cute not to know.


 

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The Equidistribution of Lattice Shapes of Rings of Integers of Cubic, Quartic, and Quintic Number Fields: an Artist's Rendering

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.30.17

A Dissertation Presented to the Faculty of Princeton University in Candidacy for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

Abstract A fascinating tale of mayhem, mystery, and mathematics. Attached to each degree n number field is a rank n−1 lattice called its shape. This thesis shows that the shapes of Sn-number fields (of degree n = 3, 4, or 5) become equidistributed as the absolute discriminant of the number field goes to infinity. The result for n = 3 is due to David Terr. Here, we provide a unified proof for n = 3, 4, and 5 based on the parametrizations of low rank rings due to Bhargava and Delone-Faddeev. We do not assume any of those words make any kind of sense, though we do make certain assumptions about how much time the reader has on her hands and what kind of sense of humor she has.

I have not had much time on my hands, but this sure seems promising.


 

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Your Totally Useless Guide To VPNs

Posted by Ogged
on 03.29.17

This is a solid article on the state of things. Basically, yes, a VPN is a good idea, but you need to really trust your VPN, and there's not much beside scraps upon which to base that trust, and even ones that aren't malicious often have security holes. The "easiest" roll-your-own option seems to be this, which I installed last night, and, some Google captcha hassle aside, is working beautifully on my laptop and iPhone. But even so, I had to jump into their Slack to figure out why I was getting compiler errors. Good luck! It sure would be nice if so many people with power weren't trying to abuse it.


 

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Culture of helplessness?

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.29.17

I sort of recognize this. We do offer a bunch of student success classes designed to help the kind of student who would have dropped out 20 years ago. There is an actual trade-off where facilitating the success of marginalized students provides a buffer of room to slack for students who aren't close to the borderline of failure.

I also know that most people do not take responsibility until the rubber meets the road, when failing is actually an option, or after actually failing. If consequences stay make-believe, then we don't take them seriously.

This, however, is ridiculous:

But the majority of my interactions with students these days -- especially via email -- are not of the substantive or academic variety but rather banterings about whether an assignment is really due on the due date, or what we did in class last Tuesday if last Tuesday was an exam. I also occasionally receive the late-night rant in which an aggrieved student wants to know why he is failing the class, just because he has submitted a long series of failing papers and/or not submitted the papers at all.
I respond to those emails -- I respond to every email -- returning the ball back over the net and awaiting the next missive. I explain and repeat, reiterate, reaffirm. Yet I wish, as I am typing my fingers into nubs, my students might take their education into their own two hands.

Culture of helplessness indeed, this instructor is acting like she's at the mercy of a ruthless boss. You're the authority figure, set some boundaries and enforce your boundaries without the existential angst. Maybe she seems to feel like she has to also feel these intense feelings in order to be a nice person? I can't tell. Just have compassion for your students (without making your own feelings ache) and run an environment where you assume the other player is an adult.

I personally just treat these emails in a half-assed fashion, ie, "Check with a friend? I don't have the textbook with me" at times, and the kids generally rise to the occasion.


 

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Guest Post - Regulate Social Media like a Utility!

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.28.17

K-Sky writes: Ideology watch:


They aspire to monopoly, often unapologetically, and have been instrumental in rehabilitating the concept. (The logic is seductive and often self-evident: Facebook is more useful if everyone is on it, therefore everyone should be on Facebook.)

It's true that FB works much much better with everyone on it than if you had some MySpace friends and some Ello friends. The simplest solution is that they should become public utilities, heavily regulated or even owned by the public, like water and power companies or railroads. It's telling what is "self-evident" and what is literally unspeakable.

Fortunately Benjamin Kunkel got there years ago.

Heebie's take
: full disclosure, I just yoinked this wholesale from the other place. I did check with K-sky first, though. I really liked the sentence It's telling what is "self-evident" and what is literally unspeakable. Also, I note that Halford and others have beat this drum before.


 

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Climate Dread

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.28.17

Here's a roadmap of steps that details out what it would take for the world to meet the goals set by the Paris climate goals. Instead Trump is issuing executive orders to undo what meager progress he can. Dump your existential despair here.


 

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Tell me something good.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.28.17

I'm about to post on climate change, so can we please have a happy thread to balance out my existential terror? Tell me nice things here.


 

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Make America Barely Tolerable Again

Posted by Ogged
on 03.27.17

God damn, few things are more depressing than the wall of local GoFundMe drives that appear after you donate. Here's a kid with cancer, here's a kid who needs a wheelchair, here are some young kids whose mom just died. Holy shit. And they all need money, because somehow throwing in $100, or $200, or $500 a year to the ones that happen to affect people we know, or happen to catch our eye, seems like a better option than saying "raise my taxes, and take care of everyone."


 

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I'm only surprised it took till 2017.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.27.17

I love this story so much:

In an unwitting piece of postmodern art, the final 10 contestants in Channel 4's reality show Eden have left a remote corner of the West Highlands in Scotland to find not celebrity and book deals but that the show has not been on TV in months and has long since dropped out of the collective pop cultural conversation.

Oh dear. What was this show?

Intended as a combination of reality TV and sociology experiment, the participants were challenged to create a new model of society. But just as in the Biblical Eden, temptation proved too strong on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula. With the group torn apart by sexual jealousy, hunger and feuds, more than half the cast quit. Struggling to live off the land, they resorted to smuggling in junk food and booze.

Switching topics, that last paragraph is an example of me taking the liberty of not preserving paragraph structure in the original because it annoyed me. I'm sorry.


 

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Guest Post - Howard Stern

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.26.17

A Presidential Commenter writes: I got into an argument the other day with a friend, on the amount of Trump-blame that should be placed at Howard Stern's feet. Some of the different angles that were pursued were:
- to what degree did Trump develop his taste for fame and the media on the Stern show? (probably a lot.)
- Would he have developed that taste otherwise? (who knows.)
- Is that how he honed his ability to talk to Tea Party voters? (This starts to feel like a stretch to blame that on Stern.)
- To what extent does Stern hold responsibility for the rise of Fox News? (not much, ime, except that they're a part of a media evolution towards a 24 hour shock-jock un-PC news cycle.)

My opinion is that Stern is complicated, with lots of bad parts, but also some decidedly good parts. As far as culpability for Trump being a famous real media-loving real estate mogul-failure, Stern played a big role. As far as crossing the bridge to politics and becoming the actual mother-fucking president, Stearn's not even in the top 50 of things I blame.

I intended to write this even-handed, without tipping my opinion, but I guess I failed.

Heebie's take: have at it, commenters. I agree that Stern has good and bad parts. How culpable is he?


 

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