Archive for the 'General Ramblings' Category

Moving Day

I’m in the process of moving to Typepad; the new site can be found here. Many thanks to WordPress, a wonderful site, host, and supporter. The only reason for the move is to be with a platform that will let me explore the world of css/html with my blog. So thanks, WordPress, and I’ll see you on the other side…..


The Times: Are They A-Changin?

Via Gene Expression, an interesting look at trend-lines in academia. What is interesting is that he searched not Google but J-STOR…which is perhaps a more accurate indicator of the presence of the relevant ideas in the academic world.

I searched the archives of JSTOR, which houses a cornucopia of academic journals, for certain keywords that appear in the full text of an article or review (since sometimes the big ideas appear in books rather than journals). This provides an estimate of how popular the idea is — not only the true believers, but their opponents too, will use the term. Once no one believes it anymore, then the adherents, opponents, and neutral spectators will have less occasion to use the term. I excluded data from 2003 onward because most JSTOR journals don’t deposit their articles in JSTOR until 3 to 5 years after the original publication. Still, most of the declines are visible even as of 2002.

The search terms included terms such as social construction, marxism, hegemony, postmodernism, postcolonialism, and feminism. The data reveal some interesting trends, as this example shows:

His point is that, in the academic world at least, ideas that are the hallmark of the progressive folks seems to be in decline.

It’s easy to fossilize your picture of the world from your formative years of 15 to 24, but things change. If you turned off the radio in the mid-late ’90s, you missed four years of great rock and rap music that came out from 2003 to 2006 (although now you can keep it off again). If you write off dating a 21 year-old grad student on the assumption that they’re mostly angry feminist hags, you’re missing out. And if you’d rather socialize with people your own age because younger people are too immature to have an intelligent discussion — ask yourself when the last time was that you didn’t have to dance around all kinds of topics with Gen-X or Baby Boomer peers because of the moronic beliefs they’ve been infected with since their young adult years? Try talking to a college student about human evolution — they’re pretty open-minded. My almost-30 housemate, by comparison, was eager to hear that what I’m studying would show that there’s no master race after all. What a loser.


Slave To The Groove….

Heard while watching Almost Famous….

“You’re a slave to the groove…”

Yep……slave to the groove…….


Vacation complete, summer over, and now it’s time to begin the fourth semester (not counting summer school) of the adventure. On the schedule: Calculus II, Biology, Spanish, and Computer Science. Friends, there ain’t a slide among them. Two are 4 hour classes, which means more class and lab time and thus less time for daydreams, spinning yarn, and (sigh) Google Reader. Time management will be a critical element of a successful semester; with 4 classes back to back on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I am struggling to devise a plan that provides study, food, and other commitments in correct proportions.

The Google Reader subscription list has been whacked from about 125 feeds down to (seriously) the 20 or so that I consider critical.

Lunch will be a sandwich wolfed down on the walk between classes.

Exercise will be problematic, depending on my ability to arise early regardless of weather and other circumstances.

There will be a renewed commitment to day-time study, with no distraction, part of a commitment to go to bed at a normal hour. Got to get out of the student habits of late to bed, late to rise……….

Focus, discipline, planning…..sounds like the real world.

Spanish Technology

The dog days of August signal the end of Summer School, and a short pause before the madness of another ‘real’ semester.

But every learning exercise has its own reality, with moments of tension and drama, and Spanish 102 is no different. Today was the day for my ‘oral presentation’; my three minutes in front of the class, alone but for my powerpoint presentation, an opportunity to declaim on a subject of our own choosing.

Yes, not only did I have to memorize about 381 words, but I had also to present audio-visual support! No big deal for you corporate warriors, or you students who have been doing slides since you were old enough to mash keys. For those of us in a certain age range and career skill sets, PowerPoint has always been something to be afraid of.

In the end, of course, it wasn’t that bad. Office 2007 makes PP fairly straightforward, and, well, I have been a fairly big boy in the corporate sense, so putting together a presentation isn’t a totally new concept. I was slightly pleased to see that, for all of its horrors, my business life did help me put together something with a little more, ahem, polish that some of my classmates.

There was, naturally, one student who did not bring a thumb drive with his slides; no, he went to his website and linked to a presentation that include complex graphical manipulations. But, you know, it was about food in Peru. The only thing missing was the music……

On a side note, I went to the bookstore to pick up the last book needed for my fall classes. While there, I couldn’t help but look at a business statistics textbook for a class that I will likely take in a semester or two. Not like any statistics textbook I have thus far encountered; no calculus, no integrals or derivatives, just a CD with Excel and many, many sets of statistical problems that will have to solved using Excel and, yes, PowerPoint.

¿Era diferent la vida? (Was Life Different?)

The title of this post refers to the chapter currently under study in our Spanish class. While learning to speak in the imperfect past tense (I used to drink a lot of beer), and learning to use the vocabulary and grammar that makes comparisons (I don’t drink as much beer as I used to, and I am fatter today than when I was 25), I have been forcibly marched down memory lane.

It is a source of some amusement to the class and the professor that people (like their parents) actually voluntarily wore bell bottoms. Several in-class recitations have drawn on the allegedly heroic amount of drugs consumed by the ‘older generation’ during the ’60s and ’70s as a source of humor and ridicule.

I write this with a semi-forced grin on my face. On the one hand, the behavior of my generation does, in retrospect, seem a little ridiculous, but I don’t recall any of us pushing back against the eternal tide of group behavior. And, in truth, I see the same forces at work on the generation that sits in my classes and flows around me on the campus sidewalks.

Just yesterday some chica flashed her underwear to several of us as she turned around in her chair. Her skirt was impossibly short and I can’t imagine how uncomfortable it must be for her to sit, get up, walk, etc. in such gear. Do you think her mother, who must have bought the skirt for her, was momentarily transported to the halcyon days on yon when she, too, slipped into her first mini-skirt? Are girls really all that different from their mothers in these days of “We’re best friends” or “what are you guys doing?” when speaking of the parent-child interaction?

When I heard one of my male classmates say to another PYT (pretty young thing in my generation-speak): “Like, I had to take an adderall last night to study for this test”, did I have a momentarily flash of revulsion for the scientifically approved medication of this generation, or did I flashback on the days, not that long ago it seems, when everyone knew the guy who had access to “black beauties” during exam time?

The more things change the more they remain the same.

Francis Fukuyama wrote about the end of history in 1992. I am not so sure that he is onto something. This generation, like all generations and those who write about generations, wants to believe that cultural evolution is a fact of the generational passage of time. But we may be living in a time that would be very familiar to our antecedents who lived before the industrial revolution, before the accelerated rate of change in the human existence; when generations had much more in common than not.

I’m not sure this generation is much different than mine…….and that’s pretty scary.

Swear To God

Friends, it is 10:55 PM as I write this. I am studying Spanish, specifically the third person direct object pronoun, and the various rules attendant. One of my homework questions (bear with me):

Using a mix of males and females, think of four well-known people that you either admire, detest, hate, or respect. Jot down their names, and then write how you feel about that person using the following verbs:  admirar  detestar  odiar  respetar

Modelos (example)

Barack Obama: Lo admiro porque es inteligente.

Paris HIlton: La detesto porque es tonta y egoista.

Did you get that? My Spanish textbook just used Barack Obama as an example. Today is June 22, 2008. This book, in its 3rd edition, was published in 2008.

Can I assume the authors of a Spanish textbook think enough of Obama to use him as an example in 2007?


“Life’s hard, son. It’s harder when you’re stupid.” — The Duke.

Education is a companion which no misfortune can depress, no crime can destroy, no enemy can alienate,no despotism can enslave. At home, a friend, abroad, an introduction, in solitude a solace and in society an ornament.It chastens vice, it guides virtue, it gives at once grace and government to genius. Without it, what is man? A splendid slave, a reasoning savage. - Joseph Addison
The term informavore (also spelled informivore) characterizes an organism that consumes information. It is meant to be a description of human behavior in modern information society, in comparison to omnivore, as a description of humans consuming food. George A. Miller [1] coined the term in 1983 as an analogy to how organisms survive by consuming negative entropy (as suggested by Erwin Schrödinger [2]). Miller states, "Just as the body survives by ingesting negative entropy, so the mind survives by ingesting information. In a very general sense, all higher organisms are informavores." - Wikipedia

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