Thursday, August 6, 2009

Born late, '78

Been archiving old photos again. Today: pics from 1978.

This one's nice, eh? (Click on it.)
Nowadays, this area is part of the city of Rancho Santa Margarita. Back in the 70s, as I recall, it was a vast, empty plain: Plano Trabuco.

This is the magnificent Ildy Pie. Very sweet and very smart. A great watchdog. Amazing athlete.

Visiting with my sister somewhere on the coast north of San Francisco.

Attila the Pup, atop Santiago Peak (Saddleback Mt.).
Attila seemed to enjoy the magnificent view.

Things occasionally got a little "physical" when my brother Ray came around. Attila would always break up these fights.
What a sweet guy!
He was my best pal.

Graduation day (UCI), with my best friend Greg.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Unscientific America — today

The topic for the last part of Patt Morrison’s radio show (KPCC, 89.3) today (2:30 p.m.) is Scientific Illiteracy:

Unscientific America
Despite the fact that the United States leads the world in scientific breakthroughs most American citizens can not name a living scientific role model. Why has our nation fallen so behind in science and does it really matter? According to Chris Mooney it does. Patt sits down with the co-author of “Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future.”

Guest: Chris Mooney, co-author of “Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future.”

Listen to the program (any time) here.

Mooney lectures. Listen at least to the first few minutes.

Students sharing course notes online

In this morning’s Inside Higher Ed:

Taking Notes Beyond the Classroom
In 2001, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced an OpenCourseWare system that would post videos and other course materials for virtually all MIT classes online for the world to see, thereby starting to break down the traditional barriers to higher education.

Eight years later, we may be seeing the student response.

The development of free note sharing Web sites, where students upload their class notes to share with their peers, has begun to create an open stockpile of downloadable information that some say is further leveling the academic playing field. With an influx of note sharing sites – from the innocuous sounding GradeGuru to the most "college" sounding isleptthroughclass.com (soon to be relaunched as Wise Campus) – many of them advocate the spread and collaborative use of knowledge beyond the classroom and university.

The possibilities are great for "open educational resources," like note sharing, said Steve Carson [of] MIT Open Courseware, but one must differentiate between sharing information from credentialed teachers at accredited institutions and sharing student notes that are not verified or fact-checked. Note sharing could lead to issues of questionable factuality similar to those that arise with the user-updated Wikipedia.

And because of the controversial nature of sharing notes, these Web sites have raised eyebrows across academia, especially with regard to professors' intellectual property. Some, too, have expressed the concern that these websites blur the line between cheating and doing one's own work, which could be seen as propagating laziness among students. And some professors worry that these sites could devolve into gossipy commentary on the course….

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

No handlers?

As OC Weekly’s Nick Schou notes, local “birther” queenpin Orly Taitz was interviewed yesterday on MSNBC by David Shuster and Tamron Brown. It didn’t go so well--Schou describes it as a "meltdown." (I can't help but think that her thick accent is a huge disadvantage. A little generosity please?)

Taitz is seriously unsavvy about this sort of thing, it seems—it does not occur to her to just get to the point—and so she seems even wackier and more clueless than she actually is.

I guess.

Clearly, the woman doesn't have handlers. If she does, they're Obamaphiles, fer sher.


Remember the recent "wedding/dance" video? It has inspired a spoof:

So what does it all mean? (the July board meeting)

As you know, owing to a bout of self-interest, I missed the July 21 meeting of the SOCCCD board of trustees. Having now viewed much of the meeting (video is available at the district website), I can report that July’s meeting exhibited the following features:
Uneventful.
Boring.
Civil.
Brief.
Neat.
Sweet.
Petite.

Here are my notes:

Board Prez Don Wagner asked board clerk Tom Fuentes for his report on "actions taken" during the closed session that had just then concluded. Tom archly reported that, during that session, “the board did nothing.”

It was the apex of good feeling for this meeting.

Trustee Marcia Milchiker’s invocation focused on the expectation that everyone present (i.e., the trustees?) would be thoughtful and civil. “I know” everyone will be, she said. (Perhaps Marcia was alluding to a failure of civility & thoughtfulness recently exhibited—by board members? Dunno.)

Chancellor Raghu Mathur got his chance to run the “Did You Know?” video, which failed to flicker during June’s meeting owing to a technical snafu. According to the district website, this “electronic presentation” is “about the technological revolution in the world today and its impact on all segments of education.”

In truth, the presentation was just what you might expect: a sequence of images designed by people who believe that an audience can be enlightened by a quick succession of discrete, unexplained (and often dubious) factoids.

I.e., idjits who confuse knowledge with "information."

Among these factoids: that we are training people for jobs that do not yet exist; that “We are living in exponential times.” (I did not know that "times" could be "exponential.")

One motif was that the world is being overwhelmed by Chinese and Indian people. (I watched Mathur’s face. He snickered in silence.)

The video's background music was a bland bit of thumping pop featuring a woman chanting, “Right here, right now.”

The presentation ended with the question: “So what does it all mean?”

That was it. Silence. Nobody noted, let alone answered, the ending question. There was awkward and feeble applause, which (as I sat, staring at my Mac) caused me to chuckle.

Evidently, the presentation came to the board via Fuentes, who got it from some friend in New Mexico or someplace. (In fact, the video is readily available on YouTube. See below.)



(NOTE: the creators of "Did You Know?"—educators Karl Fisch and Scott McLeod—explain their video here.)

Public comments: Saddleback College’s Bob Cosgrove noted that the outside lettering that identifies the “Ronald Reagan" room refers also to the “trustees” meeting place. Bob carped about the missing apostrophe. Illiterate, that, said Bob.

Nobody cared. Williams nudged Lang and asked, "What's an apostrophe?"

Board reports: Jay was absent, so his report was unusually crisp. Padberg or Fuentes offered nothing. Wagner briefly noted the state budget cuts' impact on education. Milchiker declared her super-duper membership in some alumni association.

Trustees Dave Lang and John Williams (and the student trustee) offered no report.

Mathur spoke. According Tracy’s board highlights,

Chancellor … Mathur commented on the state budget deal which cost California community colleges close to $1 billion, mostly in categorical programs such as EOPS and DSPS. If passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor, fees will go up from $20 to $26 per unit starting this fall, which will be challenging to implement because fall registration has already begun. … Orange County Treasurer Chriss Street met in the Chancellor's Office recently … to discuss the impact on our basic aid revenues of the decline in value of … properties assessed in Orange County. Indications are that property values will be down 1.2% this year, 5% next year and then stay down for a number of years….”

There were two discussion items: 4.1: the foundations; 4.2: “My Academic Plan” (MAP).

Saddleback College Prez Todd Burnett presented the Saddleback College Foundation's new prez, Gary Capata, a lawyer. The latter spoke of the foundation’s accomplishments, including receipt of a gift. When Capata said, “[The gift] will help with technology,” some of our technology immediately broke, and a tech guy had to come up and fiddle with faders and dials while Capata grinned awkwardly at the three people in the audience.

Board meetings are such fun.

IVC Prez Glenn Roquemore introduced IVC’s Al Tello, who offered a PowerPoint presentation. Blah, blah, blah, said Al who, as always, seemed to sport good hair.

Bob Bramucci, who does not sport good hair, got up to explain that even ATEP has a foundation. He was very brief. Marcia noted that she did not know that ATEP had a foundation. Well, yes, it has had a foundation since 2005, said Bramucci.

Next, Bramucci explained “my academic plan” (MAP), which is a reportedly excellent career planning program that is available to our students. We don’t have enough counselors to help every student with academic plans (hint, hint), and so students can use MAP instead. It's got lots of bells and whistles.

Do you ever get the feeling that, if all the counselors and librarians were to disappear one day, nobody'd notice?

Just kidding. Actually, I'm just testing to see if anybody actually reads this. I suspect that, at this point, what with summer and all, I am writing to no one.

And yet. --And yet ... I am writing to the cosmos.

Ever get all existential like that?

Bramucci handed off to Jim Gaston, who explained that MAP has received awards, expressions of interest from other districts, and so on. We’re approaching “50,000” plans done, said Gaston. “I’m a geek,” he added. He joked about installing “GPS chips” in “students’ necks,” which yielded guffaws. Somebody actually snorted.

Bramucci and Gaston did a good job, as usual. I do believe that Tracy offers a link to video of the presentation in her “Highlights.” I wouldn't bother with it though.

Trustee Williams, who has recently received harsh criticism for his phenomenally shitty performance as county Guardian/Administrator, persisted in his strategy of acting as though everything were just peachy-keen. He yammered uselessly about MAP. He was twinkly. Mathur joined him in this (not the twinkling, the yammering). Padberg offered “kudos.” She never twinkles.

Trustee Dave Lang quibbled--or, indeed, beefed--about something somehow misleading in the “basic aid” report. Gary P tried to shrug it off, but Dave did not join in Gary's shruggery, maintaining intead his beefery.

Gary seemed irked.

Wagner, exhibiting pure and pithy Wagnerian peevitude, publicly spanked Marcia for turning something on, then off, on her console. Trustees were too focused on the prospect of the meeting's impending end to roll their eyes or chortle.

It was a trivial event, like all of the events of this meeting.


P.S.: I've been plowin' through the first season of HBO's drama "True Blood." It's about a vampire and his girlfriend living in some sleepy Louisiana town. From the creator of "Six Feet Under."

I recommend it. Cool metaphors. Check out the bluesy opening credits sequence below. (Singer: Jace Everett.)

I feel like that vampire right now. Thsssssssssssssss (glug, glug).


P.P.S.:
TigerAnn's Lithuanian cousin, Tige, a musician, has finally hit the big time. Check out this recent performance:

Monday, August 3, 2009

Exploring an enormous inexplicable meatball at the bottom of the ocean

Wrong answer, College Boy!

According to today’s
Guardian, biologist John Beddington, the “Chief Scientific Advisor” to the UK government, has issued some advice. (See Don't alienate your advisers, chief scientist tells ministers.)

Like the U.S. government, the British government is routinely advised by academics—scientists and other experts.

That’s good. By and large, we have every reason to suppose that such people are in a privileged position of knowledge and understanding relative to their fields.

And, especially nowadays, the average Joe (or Jane) is an ignoramus about almost everything.

Like I said, our British cousins routinely rely on, or at least solicit, advice from academics. But, warns Beddington, there’s a problem: “Government … is in danger of eroding the relationship and squandering [academics’] expertise.”

What's this? People who actually
know something might just take the ball and march home?! How come?

Well, it seems that Britain’s ministers often blow off expert advice for political reasons. And then, to add insult to injury, they reprimand scientists for their impolitic advice!

According to the Guardian,
The situation is particularly fraught when eminent scientists are asked to advise on politically sensitive issues, such as the government's drug policy. A debate over the risks of recreational drugs erupted into a public row in February when the former home secretary, Jacqui Smith, vetoed recommendations from her own drug advisers to downgrade ecstasy from its class A status.

A parliamentary report published last week directed further criticism at ministers for demonstrating a cavalier attitude to
scientific evidence, which was often viewed as "at best a peripheral concern, and at worst as a political bargaining chip."

Gosh. It sounds like the Brits are as backward as we are. Backwarder even.

The report “called on chief scientists within government departments to name and shame ministers who flout scientific advice when formulating policies.”

Would "shaming" somebody work? Maybe in the U.K. Here, it would likely ensure the guy’s standing as a real American.

Plus they’d replace “flout” with “flaunt.”

The chair of the committee (that issued the report) isn’t demanding that government policy always reflect scientific evidence. He’d be happy, it seems, if ministers were to refrain from making “false claims.”

Whoa. What an unreasonable guy.

I don’t think Beddington wanted his advice to be made public. Those clever
Guardian scribblers used the Freedom of Info Act to acquire his letter to a former government official. That’s where he was doing his squawkin’.

In his letter, Beddington referred specifically to a dust-up created when home sec "Jacqui" admonished an academic advisor for “
comparing the risks of ecstasy with horseriding in an academic journal shortly before the council announced its recommendations on the drug.”

Yeah, but what if they're actually comparable? Those Brits fly off horses a lot.

The admonition and subsequent media brouhaha "will discourage scientists from working with government," wrote Beddington.

Beddington’s esteemed predecessor has weighed in, emphasizing the importance of scientists giving "honest, rigorous and independent advice" to government.

He added:

"During the Bush period in the White House, scientific advice was not only ignored but sometimes absolutely overturned for no good reason at all. Documents were altered by the White House, including Environmental Protection Agency documents on climate change, with absolutely no scientific input to explain why. There's a situation where the scientific community have every right to say there's little point in working with this government”….

Well, I’m glad that we Americans are so useful. –As an example of how absolutely
not to do things.

Stupid People are, you know, an interest group with real clout

Meanwhile, many Americans (aka Stupid People) are convinced that Prez Obama’s health care proposal is a plot to kill old people and to provide reparations to African-Americans for slavery. Others (of the GOP "base") are convinced, overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that Obama wasn’t born in the U.S. and thus he is the amazing
Illigitimate Negro Prez.

Some of these people hint at the need for revolution. They keep eyeing their guns. They mutter about "one world government."

"End times."

Many prominent Republicans have gone out of their way not to discourage these spectacular ignoramuses and racist yahoos. It’s a new low for Republicanism. And that’s really saying something.

I'm starting to get worried.

BACK TO GOVERNMENT AND SCIENCE:

Prez
Obama has pretty consistently indicated that he means to reverse the Bush administration’s de facto exclusion and/or perversion of science. In the case of the space program, he created the “Augustine committee” to review NASA’s plans and projects.

Good idea. I think Bush wanted us to return to the moon to get cheese.

Alas, physicist and government watchdog
Bob Park reports that (the NY Times reports that)

a panel of the Augustine committee favors a plan for human space flight that would go beyond low-Earth orbit, but avoid the deep-gravity wells of the Moon and Mars. What's left? The article suggests Lagrange points, asteroids and the small moons of Mars.

We’re gonna send people to Lagrange points? For all the potential importance of Lagrange points, their intrinsic interest is zero. Is this just an indirect way of saying there is no role for humans in space?

Politically, it’s easier to fund the space program if it offers “humans in space.” People just love to see astronauts in their space suits on big Hollywood adventures. For many Americans, essentially, the space program is an adventure epic (“We do it because it's hard”) with splashy action sequences—like, say, exploring an enormous inexplicable meatball at the bottom of the ocean.

Cool!

Scientifically, humans in space means
absurdly inefficient research, since robots and gizmos can do more for much less. If scientists ran the show, we’d bail on humans in space and send mechanical surrogates every time.

But where does Bruce Willis fit into all this?

He
don't.

So guess what? We’re gonna put people back in space, even if it means checking out scientifically uninteresting “points” and wasting vast shitloads of money.

We don’t really give a damn about science, do we?

OC Republican attacks a power pole

(From OC Reg)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Excellent!

One bright spot in all this educational upheaval is the new “G.I. Bill,” which kicked in yesterday:

Veterans get a boost in education funds (The Press Enterprise)

Despite rising student fees, Ivan Krimker can finally rest easy about paying for his senior year at UC Riverside. The Marine Corps reservist will soon get a boost from the biggest increase in veterans' education benefits since after World War II.

The Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, which took effect Saturday, doubles tuition and education benefits for veterans nationwide. More than 2 million veterans live in California, and at least 30,000 attend colleges and universities here. When the money starts reaching schools this fall, the bill will provide considerably more benefits than the current G.I. Bill, which Krimker has been using for the past three years.

"It's a night and day difference," he said.

The bill, signed into law by former President George W. Bush last summer, will pay undergraduate tuition and fees up to the cost of the most expensive public university in each state—California's is UC Berkeley, at $6,586 per term.

A plan called the Yellow Ribbon program was also set up to pay the difference for veterans who want to attend private schools that cost more than the most expensive public university.

The benefits will be available to any active duty service members, National Guard personnel, reservists and veterans who served a minimum of 90 days after Sept. 11, 2001. The benefits are proportional to the amount of time a veteran served (maxing out at four years), and will be available up to 15 years after the end of their service. Active duty personnel will for the first time be able to transfer benefits to their spouses or children if they have served for six years and agree to serve four more….

8-14: do you regret all the lying?

✅ Trump Encourages Racist Conspiracy Theory on Kamala Harris’s Eligibility to Be Vice President NYT ✅ Orange County Sees Overall Coronavirus...

Goals and Values and Twaddle

blather: long-winded talk with no real substance*
The whole concept of MSLOs [measurable student learning outcomes] as the latest fad in education is somewhat akin to the now discredited fad of the '90's, Total Quality Management, or TQM. Essentially, the ACCJC adopted MSLOs as the overarching basis for accrediting community colleges based on their faith in the theoretical treatises of a movement.... After repeated requests for research showing that such use of MSLOs is effective, none has been forthcoming from the ACCJC [accreditors]. Prior to large scale imposition of such a requirement at all institutions, research should be provided to establish that continuous monitoring of MSLOs has resulted in measurable improvements in student success at a given institution. No such research is forthcoming because there is none….
The Accountability Game…., Leon F. Marzillier (Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, October, 2002)
In the summer of ’13, I offered a critique of the awkward verbiage by which the district and colleges explain their values, goals, and objectives —aka SOCCCD'S G&V (goals and values) blather.
I wrote a post each for the district, Saddleback College, and Irvine Valley College efforts. (See the links below.)
This verbiage—stated in terms of “values,” “missions,” “goals,” “visions,” and whatnot—is often badly written. It is sometimes embarrassingly trite.
It occasionally communicates something worthwhile.
No doubt you are familiar with the usual objections to jargon. Higher education, too, has its jargon—an irony, given typical college-level instruction in writing, which urges jargon eschewery.
Sure enough, SOCCCD G&V blather is riddled with jargon and with terms misused and abused. For instance, in the case of the district’s dubious blather, the so-called “vision” is actually a purpose. Why didn't they just call it that?
As one slogs through this prattle, one finds that "visions" tend to be awfully similar to “missions,” with which they are distinguished. The latter in turn are awfully similar to “goals,” which must be distinguished from “objectives.” But aren't goals and objectives pretty much the same thing?
These perverse word games will surely perplex or annoy anyone armed with a command of the English language. In fact, readers will be perplexed to the degree that they are thus armed. Illiterates, of course, will be untroubled.
Here's a simple point: the district and colleges’ G&V blather tends to eschew good, plain English in favor of technical terms and trendy words and phrases (i.e., it tends to be bullshitty and vague). Thus, one encounters such trendy terminological turds as “dynamic,” “diversity,” “student success,” and “student-centered.” Even meretricious neologisms such as ISLOs and “persistence rates” pop up, unexplained, undefended.
Does anyone see a transparency problem with all of this? Shouldn't the public, or at least the well educated public, be able to comprehend statements of the colleges' goals and values?
In the case of the district, to its credit, all it really seems to want to say is that it wants to teach well and it wants students to succeed. Admirable!
So why all the ugly, common-sense defying, buzzword-encrusted claptrap?

Districtular poppycock: our “vision” and our “mission” and our tolerance of twaddle - July 31, 2013

THEY BUZZ: Saddleback College's "Mission, Vision, and Values" - August 4, 2013

IVC’s vision, mission, and goals: nonsense on stilts - August 5, 2013

THE IRVINE VALLEY CHRONICLES: no ideas, just clichés & buzzwords - Sep 30, 2013

*From my Apple laptop's dictionary