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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.


Killing Babies

Cross posted at Agricola

In this morning’s statistics class, when Professor J*#^% asked someone for a value, a student answered with “.4” The response prompted the professor to note that he (and most statisticians) likes values taken to at least three places… .4257 being a much preferred answer to .4.

The incident prompted him to tell us a brief story about precision.

Seems that our professor was in a Differential Equations class way back when. The class was discussing the results of a test when one student protested a 10 point deduction for placing a minus (-) in a section of his answer when none was called for. The (since deceased) professor responded with this:

Son, I was in school with a boy that eventually went on to become a pharmacist. He was pretty good, too. Well, one day, a customer came to him with a prescription, and he set right to work on filling that prescription. He performed the necessary calculations, measured out the correct proportions, and mixed that prescription for the customer. Only thing was, he put a minus (-) in his equation that shouldn’t have been there. The customer took that prescription home and gave it to her baby. The baby died. I took those ten points off your grade because I don’t want you killing any babies.

So, Professor J*#^% and his classmates embraced their professor’s sage advice. From that moment forward, whenever they compared grades, the question became: “How did you do?” and the answer was: “Oh, I killed two babies” or “Killed one baby”, or on a really bad test, “Killed 4 babies”.

Now, whether you, dear reader, are appalled or not, rest assured that every one us in that statistics class knows (forever) the value of precision.

Slave To The Groove….

Heard while watching Almost Famous….

“You’re a slave to the groove…”

Yep……slave to the groove…….

Not A Good Day

Like an anxious teenager, I have been planning and thinking about the first day of the semester from the moment summer school ended. Ordering books, gathering supplies, plotting parking strategies, fine tuning the schedule; yes, I have been thinking about this day for awhile.

Of the six classes I’m enrolled in, the two that I know the least about fall on Tuesday, which also happens to be the first day of this semester (why not Monday, I ask?): the Biology lab, a 3 hour humdinger that starts at 10:30 AM and rolls through the lunch hour, followed 90 minutes later by my Spanish conversation class (an option, apparently, but not for me).

As an enthusiastic, motivated student, I was parked at the locked door of the lab 15 minutes early. Gradually, the hallway collected a large number of fellow students also waiting on this class. A scientist friend of mine told me, weeks ago, that when she (as a grad student) taught the lab they did not start until the second week. I received no notice or advisement of any kind in regard to that notion, nor, apparently, did the other students. And so, 30 minutes later, we disbanded until next week. Back into the heat I went.

With 4 hours to kill, it was back to the house, back to the calculus review, and back across the river.

At 2:45 I was, again, parked in front of a locked door. So were some other students. Again, a 30 minute loiter, until, in disgust, I departed the building. 0 for 2.

After a walk from literally one end of the campus to the other, I arrived at the Spanish department. The department secretary haughtily informed this (stupid, old) man that the conversation class never meets in the first week of class. Again, in my scouring of ALL pre-class communications, schedules, et cetera, NO WHERE was this information disseminated.

These two classes apparently operate on long established customs that pre-date even my decades long, storied academic life.

Back into the heat of a now unbearable afternoon, facing yet another trudge across campus to a parking spot carefully selected so as to reduce the possibility of a neighborhood parking violation ($25, no appeal if you are a student, PERIOD!), thinking about all the time wasted by my attempt to be a good student wanting just to get the semester started on the right foot.

Instead, I got a bellyfull of frustration, a near attack of heat stroke, and wasted about 4 hours that I could have spent on calculus. Outraged, I tell ya, outraged!!!!!!


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.

The Future?

Sometimes, in the dark of night, when the nay-sayers are gathered together on my shoulder and whispering negative thoughts in my ear, I get anxious about my future. Who wants to hire an old guy, who’s probably stubborn, who likely won’t take kindly to some 30 year old criticizing his work product, who might be a touch slower than the rest of the crew, and who most assuredly thinks his ideas are great most of the time?

Yeah, the nay-sayers can make some pretty good arguments in the throat of the night, and their continued existence is like the inevitable drip of water from the leaky faucet – a sign that there is a larger problem.

If I let them overtake me, then this might be my future…………..

Hey, wait a minute…..that don’t look so bad!

Pic via Maggies Farm.

“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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