PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.

Some things are impossible to know, but it is impossible to know these things.

I have a day job. So every word of this is my opinion, not that of my employer. This offer IS void in Wisconsin. Except, of course, that some material in this column comes from incoming e-mail; such material is usually reproduced in the Sans Serif type font to distinguish it from the (somewhat) original material.


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Tales of Teaching 2005

February 7, 2005: P.S. A Column On Things

February 7, 2005 Vol. 7, No. 5

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Let others do it
  • Marlow in the Netherlands
  • Political Notes

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs
  • Leet

Humor

  • Parrot Joke
  • Getting Ahead

Movies

  • None

Letters

  • Warren Buffett, Suing the Dead, Don Davis Website, 1st Amendment Ignorance, Peggy Coquet, Richard Dalton, The Dan Grobstein File, Reaction To Harvard President's Ignorant Statement

General News

Let Others Do It

This is one of those weeks when other people write most of my column. I have them now and then.

Marlow in The Netherlands

Marlow is in The Netherlands right now, at Leiden University, working on her degree in International Relations. Here's what's new from her: nothing she wants to talk about. This is the last time I'm running this standing head unless there's actual news. Default assumption: she's alive and well.

Political Notes

YOU MUST READ THIS DESCRIPTION of Bulgegate. Don't let the true story of a President so dim he needed to cheat in a debate by havings his answers fed to him through an earpiece. The cynical lying and the determined effort to slander everyone working on the story as a "nutcase"-- do they sound familiar? Can anyone say Ohio? Send this link to all your friends:

http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=2012

Watch: as the proof becomes clearer and clearer, the White House will retreat, first to "So what? So he had help..." to, eventually, "our previous statements on this issue are inoperative." Actually, if Alberto Gonzales is an example of how the White House handles issues, they'll deny they ever denied Bulgegate and refuse to discuss it. Let's all bring some reality to this faith-based White House.

***

A review of the Edison/Mitofsky report [Exit polls? Of course they were wrong!] deserves to be read. Key quote: (see penultimate paragraph on page 5):

The Edison/Mitofsky report of January 19, 2005 ". . . is incomplete and inadequate, and their report ignores the alternative hypothesis that the official election results could have been corrupted."

Would Rick the cafe owner be shocked, absolutely shocked, by the suggestion of corruption? Need I remind you again that a much smaller imbalance between exit polls and reported results was one of the reasons the Ukrainian presidential election was overturned--in part with the help of the U.S.? If they can have clean elections in Ukraine and Iraq, why not here?

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

The web is the corpus: natural language understanding is a deep problem in Artificial Intelligence. A computer cannot converse freely in natural language unless it understands the meaning of words. It also needs to understand grammar and other structural elements, but those turn out to be not so hard. Computation models of word meaning are hard to construct since they have the complexity and heft of a traditional dictionary. Large systems like WordNet and Cyc have been built in the past with a huge amount of manual labor. Now comes news from the Netherlands of an AI system that uses Google to discover word meanings by examining the context of how the words are used in text on the web. They define a "Google distance" between words and use that to measure relationships. (See the pre-print: Automatic Meaning Discovery Using Google.) And now, for a completely different kind of artificial intelligence: Neurons Derived From Stem Cells.

Politics of Open Source: I love the anti-Microsoft spin of this: LA city councilman says open source = more cops. It is undoubtedly true that Los Angeles could hire more cops if it didn't have to pay the "Windows tax". But I think this rhetorical hammer is a little too big. It justifies all kinds of hare-brained cost-cutting schemes: "We could put more cops on the street if we stopped operating the municipal sewer system." Meanwhile, on the legal risks of open source software: An Effort to Help Free-Software Developers Avoid Suits.

Risks of grocery store discount cards: my wife and I have debated the costs and benefits of grocery store discount cards. She likes the discounts and doesn't mind if Big Brother knows what brand of butter we buy. I worry about the mountains of data accumulated by corporations about us all, particularly when data can be shared, cross referenced and mined. (This tie vote on policy was broken in the traditional way: we do use a card.) There was a striking example of the risks of grocery store discount cards recently in Washington state when a veteran fire fighter was arrested for arson based on the records of his Safeway Club Card. He was very fortunate that charges were dropped when someone else confessed to starting the fire. What might have happened otherwise? (via Slashdot)

Technobits: Scientific American editorializes in favor of Creative Commons, albeit ironically in copyrighted, pay-per-view content --- Graduate Cryptographers Unlock Code of 'Thiefproof' Car Key --- Sony to Release PSP March 24 in North America --- more on the VW viral ad: Fake Ad Creators Issue an Apology --- too geeky for normal people: Piezo-Acoustic iPod Hack --- iPods in Redmond see this graphic: The Structure of Romantic and Sexual Relations at "Jefferson High School" and the article --- Dick Tracy would love this: Wi-Fi Detector Ring.

Leet

Here's a little "leet" from my daughter Rae:

1 = I
4|\/| = am
t3h = the or "teh"
l33t = elite
H4x0rz = hacker (they like to change "er" to "orz")

If u cn rd ths u cn mk bg mny as a scty.

She was nice enough to say:

Don't worry it would be weird if you were fluent- you're not an acne-ridden, anti-social, computer geek. You've got good skin, a career, family, and honest-to-god non-messageboard friends. Although you do happen to know a thing or two about computers. :-)

Humor

Parrot Joke

Thank you, Don Davis.

A man gets to his plane seat and is surprised to find a parrot strapped into the seat next to him. Once in the air, the stewardess comes around and the man asks her for a cup of coffee, whereupon the parrot squawks, "Bring me a whiskey, bitch." The stewardess, somewhat flustered, brings a whiskey to the parrot, but forgets the coffee. When the man points this out to her, the parrot immediately drains its glass and yells,"Get me another whiskey, bitch." Quite upset, the stewardess returns shortly with a whiskey for the parrot, but still no coffee for the man. Unaccustomed to such slackness, the man decides to try the parrot's approach. "I've asked you twice for a coffee, bitch, now go and get it for me." In a couple of seconds, two burly stewards arrive, grab both the man and the parrot, take them to the emergency exit and toss them both out of the airplane. As they're falling toward the ground, the parrot turns to the man and says, "You know, for someone who can't fly, you're kind of a mouthy bastard."

Getting Ahead

An old joke but a good one, this time from Peggy Coquet, who writes:

From a local educator (his signature line says, "Knowledge is power - I am a power broker"), forwarded by a teacher friend. I thought you might enjoy.

From a strictly mathematical viewpoint it goes like this:

What Makes 100%? What does it mean to give MORE than 100%? Ever wonder about those people who say they are giving more than 100%? We have all been to those meetings where someone wants you to give over 100%. How about achieving 103%? What makes up 100% in life?

Here's a little mathematical formula that might help you answer these questions:

If:

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z is represented as:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26.

Then:

H-A-R-D-W-O-R-K

8+1+18+4+23+15+18+11 = 98%

and

K-N-O-W-L-E-D-G-E

11+14+15+23+12+5+4+7+5 = 96%

But,

A-T-T-I-T-U-D-E

1+20+20+9+20+21+4+5 = 100%

And,

B-U-L-L-S-H-I-T

2+21+12+12+19+8+9+20 = 103%

AND, look how far ass kissing will take you.

A-S-S-K-I-S-S-I-N-G

1+19+19+11+9+19+19+9+14+7 = 118%

So, one can conclude with mathematical certainty that While Hard work and Knowledge will get you close, and Attitude will get you there, it's the BullshiT and Ass kissing that will put you over the top.

Movies

None

Letters

Warren Buffett, Suing the Dead, Don Davis Website, 1st Amendment Ignorance, Peggy Coquet, Richard Dalton, The Dan Grobstein File, Reaction To Harvard President's Ignorant Statement

The Wisdom of Warren Buffett. If you don't know who he is, you probably aren't interested.

Daniel Dern: The RIAA sued a dead person.

My first boss, and now my friend, author Don Davis now has a website. Stop by and learn the meaning of the word versatile. And, for that matter, the meaning of the word Unipresser.

Robert Malchman, among others, notes you'd be surprised, perhaps, by how much high school students do not know about the first amendment, according to an AP story on the CNN site.

Peggy Coquet encourages you to read the Not In Our Name Statement. I do too. She also found the science hobbyist site. Weird but interesting.

Richard Dalton found this in the NY Times and passed it on to me, I assume more in sorrow than in anger:

SCIENCE | February 1, 2005
Evolution Takes a Back Seat in U.S. Classes
By CORNELIA DEAN
In districts around the country, even when evolution is in the curriculum it may not be in the classroom.

I'd like to award the NY Times website an "attaboy," since the summary accurately reflects the content of the article. The actual lead, below, would not really have told you what the story was about:

John Frandsen, a retired zoologist, was at a dinner for teachers in Birmingham, Ala., recently when he met a young woman who had just begun work as a biology teacher in a small school district in the state. Their conversation turned to evolution.

***

Dan Grobstein File

New York Times

  • TECHNOLOGY / CIRCUITS | February 3, 2005
    When the Sous-Chef Is an Inkjet
    By DAVID BERNSTEIN
    A Chicago chef makes sushi with an ink-jet printer, part of his endeavor to bring technology into the kitchen in new ways. [Kevin Sullivan also spotted this one]

***

It seems the Harvard president Lawrence Summers (an MIT graduate, alas) has drawn quite a response:

It Takes a "Yiddisher Kop" to Teach Math and Science

by Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Syosset, New York

I have one thing to say to Harvard University President, Lawrence Summers: "Bistu meshugeh"? (Are you crazy?) There are no "innate differences" between men and women when it comes to science and math. As sociologists Yu Xie and Kimberlee Shauman found, "girls are not only on a par with boys" in math and science courses, but "they attain significantly better grades." The problem: women leave science when they have kids. If you're pushing a stroller, you're not building a quantum computer. Women have to choose between the two; men don't.

Kevin Sullivan sent me this memo by a friend on the Harvard mess about women in science. Check out the full text.

By Charlie Evett

I've been thinking a lot about the recent story of Lawrence Summers' (President of Harvard) comments during a closed symposium. In these comments he suggested that maybe the reason why Harvard and other elite institutions have a small and shrinking percentage of tenured women faculty might be because of innate differences between men and women. He offered the example of his own daughter, who reacted to getting a pair of toy trucks by making one the Mommy Truck and the other the baby. Conservative commentators will no doubt be critical of the backlash that he's gotten as a triumph of political correctness. Of course, it is within his rights to say whatever he wants, but for me the question is whether gender differences can be used as a defense for observed inequality.

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