Dec 31, 2006

lightning strikes cause narcolepsy

It strikes me as plausible: a lightning bolt would probably shake up a brain's delicate mix of neurotransmitters. It's not a usual cause, however; as this article explains,
To date, we have counted 116 symptomatic cases of narcolepsy reported in literature. As, several authors previously reported, inherited disorders (n=38), tumors (n=33), and head trauma (n=19) are the three most frequent causes for symptomatic narcolepsy. Of the 116 cases, 10 are associated with multiple sclerosis, one case of acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, and relatively rare cases were reported with vascular disorders (n=6), encephalitis (n=4) and degeneration (n=1), and hererodegenerative disorder (three cases in a family).
No word on if Zeus's handiwork was involved in any of the above.

Unfortunately, this study of three narcolepsy cases following "injury by electric current" isn't accessible to me. Lends weight to your thesis, whoever you are.

[128th in a series]

the kooky craftsman: David Lynch and Transcendental Meditiation

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the quintessential transcender, once wrote, "Your goodness must have some edge to it--else it is none." A recent New York Times puff piece on David Lynch brings to mind Emerson's moral aesthetic.
Mr. Lynch writes in his book that he began meditating on the recommendation of his sister, Martha. At the time, Mr. Lynch was a year into a torturous five-year quest to complete his first feature film, “Eraserhead,” which was released in 1977, and was separating from his first of three wives, Peggy Lentz.

“There was a hollowness inside,” he recalled. “I thought, something is drastically wrong.”

He dropped in on a Transcendental Meditation center. After 20 minutes, he felt a weight lifted.

“The side effect of growing that consciousness,” he explained, “is, negative things start going away. Like fear. It’s like the suffocating rubber clown suit begins to dissolve.” Certainly, the teachings of gentle-voiced Maharishi never made Mr. Lynch go soft. “You don’t have to suffer to show suffering,” he said of the violence in his movies. The filmmaker sees no contradiction between inner harmony and external edginess.
Of course, Lynch, whose work I have only recently begun to fully appreciate--more on that later--isn't exactly a paragon of rationality.
The director’s goal is to raise $7 billion to help open seven “peace universities” around the world. He also endorses Maharishi’s belief that a mass demonstration of “yogic flying” — a so-called “advanced technique” in which meditators, seated in the lotus position, begin hopping in unison and theoretically start to hover — can radiate peaceful energy out to the world. (Asked if he had tried this, he responded: “Yes.” Did it work? “No.”)
As to Lynch's connection between meditation and creativity--he sees it as a wellspring of ideas--I'm hardly surprised. Surrealists have often used dreams as material for art, or fashioned their art to have a dreamlike quality. (Luis Bunuel's "The Phantom of Liberty," a series of non sequiturs based on the director's hypnopompic musings, is a perfect example.) Meditation, I'd wager, accesses a similar state of consciousness: a waking dream.

Dec 30, 2006

Adam Morrison and J.J. Redick Watch: Day 61

A big night for both rookies. Morrison canned 30 points, his most ever, as the Bobcats smacked the Pacers, 113-102. Redick, in an Orlando blowout of the Wade-less Heat, "[E]ntered the game to loud applause in the third quarter. He had nine points in 12 minutes."

more top ten lists

Just in case you weren't satisfied with the last offering. I may even add more later.

Moira Macdonald's ten favorite films of 2006.
It includes "Shakespeare Behind Bars," which is simply outstanding. Haven't seen "The Prestige." Really want to.

New Scientist's Year in Biology and Medicine.
Not really a top ten list. Illuminating recap, though it should be titled "The Year in Health."

The Onion's Best DVD I Watched This Year and Least Essential Albums of 2006
I've seen three Haneke films (Cache, In the Time of the Wolf, and Funny Games) and yet I still want to see his other work, all because of The Onion.

World Science's most popular stories of 2006. [via email]
1. “Missing link” walking-fish fossils awe scientists
2. First cancer vaccine approved
3. Claim of reversed human evolution sparks skepticism, interest
4. Dolphins may “name” themselves
5. One universe or many? A panel debates
6. Study: red wine substance extends life, counteracts bad diet
7. Skepticism greets claim of possible alien microbes
8. Oldest known ritual: python worship, archaeologist says
9. Drastic speedup in Arctic melting forecast
10. Human, chimp lineages interbred after splitting, study suggests

Dahlia Lithwick's 10 Most Outrageous Civil Liberties Violations.
Only the ones you've actually heard about. (Added 12/30.)

The Olympian's Top Stories of 2006
The Weather is number one. The Spar is number ten. Click through to see what comes in the middle. (Added 12/31)

Top Ten Past Torture Methods
Actually, a search term that led to this site. I'm guessing the Iron Maiden camps in the top five, but I have no idea where to place The Rack, especially since Gumby is immune. (Added 12/31)

Dec 29, 2006

Adam Morrison and J.J. Redick Watch: Day 60

MagicFan101 writes,
Ok, I believe everyone here can agree that our number one weakness offensivly is 3-pt shooting. So why the **** does Brian Hill place both JJ Redick and Travis Diener on the inactive list? Why? So that he has a roster spot for the amazing Pat Garrity? Don't get me wrong, Pat has been an important piece to this team for a while now but come on he is way past his limited prime....its time to let the young guys get the bench minutes at least.
No bench minutes needed, as the Magic lost--and dropped out of first--to the Wizards.

Meanwhile, Adam Morrison, shooting only 1 for 15, wasn't enough to keep Charlotte from beating the Lakers, 133-124. In triple overtime.

interesting changes to NFL Student Congress

Got these via email from our NFL district chair. Changes in bold; comments normal typeface. (I noted a few changes before; these are all new to me.)

Scoring changes:
A) Eight (8) points per speech not Six (6)
B) Forty (40) points per day not twenty-four (24) can be awarded
C) Presiding Officer can receive eight (8) points per hour up to 40 for the day

I wonder how this will square with recordkeeping. Sorry, former Reps and Senators. Point inflation means asterisks all around.

No more than 30 students in a chamber.

Hasn't been a problem in our region, generally.

No changes in location of a student from the registration are allowed. Alternates may replace someone in a chamber, but students CANNOT move from one chamber to another.

Good. I can't stand it when competitors try to angle their way into the "easy" house.

Standard Speech – 3 minutes with a 1 minute CX period

I didn't emphasize this last time: now there's a mandatory questioning period after every speech. I don't know what to say, other than, "Crap." I hate question time.

Authorship speeches can ONLY be given on legislation from that school submitting. If no one from the school is in the chamber, no authorship speech can be given.


Nomination for finalists:
A) The maximum number to be nominated is seven (7).
B) Judges' nomination will be used. If the nominees number fewer than seven, the top scoring individuals may be added to make seven.

Why "may?" Who decides? The tournament director? The parliamentarian?

Voting can be by preferential ranking with the parliamentarian having a tie breaking vote.

Hopefully this speeds up the laborious voting process, which used to work by elimination in round after round after round.

Dec 28, 2006

a theory of beauty

I've been having an interesting and challenging debate with my brother Matt and sister-in-law, all about whether beauty is a property of objects (their view) or a transaction between objects and subjects (my view). In other words, I argue that it is meaningless to discuss beauty in a world without subjects who understand and appreciate it--beauty doesn't exist in the eye of the beholder, but it can't exist without the eye of the beholder.

In fact, my theory of beauty-as-transaction squares nicely with some statements my brother made about meaning. He writes,
“Meaning” seems to hinge upon the “form/matter” relationship. If I typed gibberish–apsodinfapsioerhasperhzdv; nzpdifjapeorija opifjaopfnseprq–it has the matter (letters) without form. But this sentence is meaningful because the letters and words are arranged in such a way that they convey information. If a wave washed up stones that spelled, “Everyone should read Mere O all the time,” they would convey meaning, but only in a context where the governing laws for that sentence were understood, that is, where people understand the syntax. In other words, the rules that govern meaning are prior to, and determinitive of meaningful statements, and meaningful statements only occur within certain rules.
My position on beauty is similar: the "rules" of beauty, whatever their origin (either evolved, designed, declared, or what have you) exist prior to beautiful objects, actions, or processes.

In fact, let me try to restate it using his words, and see if it coheres.
"Beauty" seems to hinge upon the "subject/object" relationship. A sunset has color and depth and form arranged in such a way that they convey beauty. If a sunset occurred on a distant planet, it could be beautiful, but only in a context where the governing laws for beauty were understood, that is, where people understand "beautiful." In other words, the rules that govern beauty are prior to, and determinant of beautiful things, and beautiful things only occur within certain rules.
In my estimation, the word "people" could be generalized to "subjects," since there is no reason why an organism with senses (or a robot) couldn't also have a "theory of beauty," as some recent animal research suggests.

Where my brother and I part ways is where "meaning" and "beauty" lie: he claims they lie only in the text, or only in the object, where I see both lying in the contextual, rule-governed transaction. In other words, he sees even the rules of beauty existing independently of subjects, and I don't.

My previous aesthetic thoughts (which I think are initially consistent with what I've said here) are found here.

Dec 27, 2006

Adam Morrison and J.J. Redick Watch: Day 58

For the Bobcats, who lost a tough one to the Wizards, "Adam Morrison hit his first five shots for Charlotte, but then missed 12 of his final 14 and finished with 17 points." The dude is streaky.

For the Magic, who lost to Magic's old team, the Lakers, "PGA pro Chris DiMarco was in attendance." Redick sat.

good news and bad

Good news: I'm finally over on the new Blogger. Expect categorization, improved referencing of past entries, and a whole new attitude. Guaranteed 24% more spunk.

Bad news: the WASL, as expected, is cutting into electives. Right as we're supposed to be experiencing a renaissance in vocational education--and no, that doesn't mean Shakespeare in shop class, although that might be a good thing--a villain of Shakespearean proportions, the WASL, crashes onto the scene. It's not stealing funding, but instead filling schedules, so the problem might be surmountable if schools get creative with their time allotments.

as you were

1. I succumbed to the charms of the Wii. So did my wife, though, so we're going to work through this.

2. Blogger, no longer in Beta, still refuses to switch my other blog. This saddens me. Update: It's been migrated, thanks to a little switcheroo I performed involving different usernames. Someday I'll update the look of the blog and finish categorizing posts. (I'll finish that over here, too.)

3. The family is going to Olympia to see "We Are Marshall" this afternoon. I can't wait to be inspired.

Dec 26, 2006

Adam Morrison Watch: Day 57

As The Watch reaches its second month, I pause to warn readers that I'll be a lot more lax about following Morrison (and Redick) in the second half of the season. Morrison is making an impact, but for a team that has no chance of competing in the playoffs. Redick, on the other hand, is mostly bench-riding for a potential playoff threat.

Now, on to the most recent Morrison news: the Montana marksman scored 17 in the Cats' loss to the Mavericks. He shot a respectable 7-14 from the field, but his teammates hit only 39% of their shots, leading coach Bickerstaff to comment, "Our problem is real simple. It's putting the ball in the basket." (Or, to be more accurate, not putting the ball in the basket.)

(Did you know that Morrison is known for his candor and forthrightness? Yea, he is a veritable font of truth.)

Meanwhile, re: Redick, the Orlando Sentinel reports,
Cave Springs High School in Roanoke, Va., was well represented by pro athletes over the weekend, though only one of the two truly represented while in town.

Orlando Magic rookie G J.J. Redick didn't play in the 86-83 loss Saturday to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Tampa Bay veteran CB Ronde Barber started his 118th consecutive game for the Bucs, the most by any defensive back in the NFL.

Though their jerseys are retired at the school, Redick and Barber have never met.

"It wasn't until about his second year at Duke that I heard about him, that he went to Cave Springs, and how he basically won [the state championship] by himself,'' Barber said of Redick's career-high 43-point outburst in the Virginia Class 3A final. "Cave Springs doesn't win state championships in anything.''

Barber plans to attend the Magic's game Jan. 19 against Washington where he hopes to meet Redick and talk about the ol' homestead.
They'll have plenty of time to chew the fat, I'm sure.

the government's anti-drug: less government anti-drug propaganda

A while back I commented on a new anti-drug ad, hoping (in vain, probably) that it represents a sea change in the ONDCP's media campaign. Remarkably, the campaign is probably worse than useless: as Reason's Jacob Sullum points out, the Students for Sensible Drug Policy have a nifty chart showing a positive correlation between a decline in the ONDCP's budget and a decline in high school drug use.

A Nice Place to Visit

Last night, watching that classic Twilight Zone episode, I thought of some things I posted a while back. From the episode summary:
After being shot to death by a policeman, Rocky revives to find himself unhurt. He is in the company of a seemingly good-natured man named Pip, who says he is Rocky's guide and has been instructed to give him anything he wants. At first this is great, Rocky assumes he must be in Heaven, with Pip being his guardian angel. But he soon grows tired of always winning, always getting any girl he wants. He begs Pip to send him to "the Other Place." Pip replies, "This is the Other Place!"
Rocky's frustration illustrates the argument I made a while back about the next life: it's worse than the present, since it's just too perfect. (It also explains why God is bored.)

Dec 25, 2006

good news / bad news Christmas

Good news: Jesus was born today, in Newark, New Jersey.
Bad news: He's not getting a Wii, instead having to settle for gift cards and musty fragrances.

Bad news: the greatest pop star in existence, James Brown, is with us no more.
Good news: you can sing along to "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas," truly the greatest Christmas song in existence.

Good news: two families = two Christmas celebrations.
Bad news: two families = lots of driving.

Bad news: two Christmas celebrations = light blogging.
Good news: two Christmas celebrations = heavy feasting.

Dec 24, 2006


Watch out where you aim your spiritual weapons: you just might end up in the line of fire.
In an e-mail to supervisors, the male co-worker said he was invited to witness the praying and cleansing but became uncomfortable when Shatkin began to chant loudly and rub perfumed oil on the absent co-worker's cubicle wall.

The man quoted Shatkin as praying, "You vicious evil dogs. Get the hell out of here in the name of Jesus. ... I command you to leave."
The only ones leaving: Shatkin and her female co-prayer-warrior. Both were fired for creating a "hostile work environment" and appropriating university property. They're now suing, claiming religious discrimination because no one warned them they could be axed if they were loony.

world's smallest microbes?

The search for life outside the universe may have widened again.
Four million of a newly discovered microbe — assuming the discovery, reported yesterday in the journal Science, is confirmed — could fit into the period at the end of this sentence.

Scientists found the microbes living in a remarkably inhospitable environment, drainage water as caustic as battery acid from a mine in Northern California. The microbes, members of an ancient family of organisms known as archaea, formed a pink scum on green pools of hot mine water laden with toxic metals, including arsenic.
Life crops up where you least expect it, with the persistence of unwanted hair.

[Link via Helmut]

Dec 23, 2006

"the same": a tricky part of the January-February LD resolution

Defining the terms of the resolution is a requisite step toward success, both in argumentation and in your thinking about the resolution. As I see it, the phrase that presents the greatest difficulty is "the same."

Let's see how.

"Resolved: The actions of corporations ought to be held to the same moral standards as the actions of individuals."

1. Sameness = numerical identity.
According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,
Numerical identity requires absolute, or total, qualitative identity, and can only hold between a thing and itself. Its name implies the controversial view that it is the only identity relation in accordance with which we can properly count (or number) things: x and y are to be properly counted as one just in case they are numerically identical (Geach 1973).
Numerical identity would be a difficult, if not impossible, position for the affirmative to uphold. For example, a prohibition on adultery would scarcely seem to apply to a corporation.

2. Sameness = qualitative identity, or correspondence
Back to the SEP:
Things with qualitative identity share properties, so things can be more or less qualitatively identical. Poodles and Great Danes are qualitatively identical because they share the property of being a dog, and such properties as go along with that, but two poodles will (very likely) have greater qualitative identity.
Regarding the resolution, each moral standard would have an equivalent. This seems to be a defensible position for the affirmative. Using the adultery example from above, a corporation would not engage in any conflicts of interest--remaining "faithful" to its shareholders. This presents some difficulties, though, when it comes to applying punishments.

Given the basic ways "the same" is defined, what should the negative do in response?

1. Set out a list of moral injunctions that individuals ought to be held to. They'd have to be fair expectations, widely acceptable, with defense of your choices.
2. Define "same" as quantitative identity (and, on defense, show how "qualitative identity" permits slippery definitions, "no bright line.")
3. Show the absurdity of applying one (or all) of those moral injunctions to the actions of a corporation, thus refuting the resolution.

Adam Morrison and J.J. Redick Watch: Day 54

Matt Carroll starred for the Bobcats as they defeated Utah, a good thing, too, since Adam Morrison scored only 4 in 24 minutes, committing 4 turnovers and doing his best to keep Utah in the game.

Meanwhile, the Magic finally found some offense, but not enough in a loss to Golden State. Redick rode bench.

hash crop a cash crop: part II

Early this year I noticed a report putting the value of seized weed in Washington at around $270 million. That's only about a quarter of the actual value of all the weed in the state, according to the now-infamous Gettman report.
Washington is among the top five pot-producing states, producing a $1 billion-a-year crop that is second in value only to the state's famed apple harvest, according to an analysis released this week by a public-policy researcher....

It's among the top three cash crops in 30 states, Gettman said. He said Washington is the nation's fifth-largest producer, behind California, Tennessee, Kentucky and Hawaii.
Most inane response by a government official:
"You can look at anything being a cash crop if you don't want to make any conclusions about the damage it does," said Dave Rodriguez, the director of the Northwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, a Seattle-based division of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Sure. Anything is a potential cash crop. In fact, several of my neighbors are running a meth farm in the woods behind the Chehalis Western Trail. They harvest crank as feed for their LSD ranch. There's nothing like the endless mooing and barking of LSD to keep you awake at night.

resurrecting the past

I have about 100-odd posts that have never made it past the "draft" stage, often for reasons obscure to me. Here are a few B-sides and also-rans and outtakes from 2006.

the lazy are out in force today [12/4/06]
Search terms hitting this here blog:
fast and easy culminating projects literature
domestic violence neg case
how to get away with plagiarism
research papers on disciple simon peter

harmonica playing when computer goes into sleep mode [9/5/06]
If it's playing Bob Dylan or Git Along Little Dogies or even Blues Traveler, everything's probably okay. But if it's Alanis Morisette... well, you got yourself a real bad problem, friend. Real bad. Not even the Church Catholic has an exorcist that powerful.

in the dark of reason [7/12/06]
Jason Kuznicki writes,
No one is ever convinced during an argument.... People change in the quiet times that come in between arguments, when they are alone with their doubts, when they have in a sense become strangers to their former, emotionally invested selves.
Before launching into his own anecdote, he asks readers to remember a time they changed their mind once the former self was a wisp of a ghost.

pennies from heaven [3/12/06]
You gotta love the government. Recently arriving in the mail:

1. My jury duty check. "Thank you for jury service" to the tune of $16.23, the recessional to that jilting of justice, the copped plea.

2. Coupons for free lottery tickets, presumably to cue a gambling addiction.

stay off the furniture [5/23/06]
The Olympian, to its credit, has taken steps to become a more interactive news source.

But that comes with a price: rowdy, distasteful, rude, boorish, bigoted, and slanderous behavior from commentators. What are we to do?

nagging questions about personhood [7/18/06]
Assume that biological improbabilities are indeed possible. If you like, imagine that this is The Future, with nanobots. Nanobots can do anything.

Are conjoined twins one person or two?
Would a human body with two functioning heads and brains be one person or two?
Is a living human body with no head a person?
Is a living human head with no body a person?
Is a fertilized egg a person?
Finally, is there a consistent criterion that covers all these possibilities?

Dec 22, 2006

the nephew of the son of the mother of all top ten lists

Now, an annual tradition: the only top ten list of cultural, historical, and ethical import.

To fully appreciate the significance of the list, read the 2005 and 2004 editions.

Top Ten Top Ten Lists
Ten Most Wanted Corrupt Politicians [link via Brian Doherty]
Top Ten News Stories (AP)
Top Ten News Stories (National Geographic)
Ten Stories the World Should Hear More About (United Nations)
Top Ten Internet Villains
Top Ten Movies
BBB's Top Ten Scams
Top Ten Unfounded Health Scares
Top Ten Stories You Missed
Top Ten Google Search Terms

Even More Top Ten Lists That Don't Exist
cotton substitutes
ways to hatch a plan
wildly wrong weather predictions
petty tyrants
media parasites
presidentially-approved torture methods
wacky lacrosse highlights
prize steers

Top Ten Movies I Saw, But Really Shouldn't Have, For Various Reasons
Superman Returns
Thank You for Smoking
Wolf Creek
Mommy Dearest
The Descent
Snakes on a Plane

Top Seven Movies I'm Glad I Saw
The Descent
Casino Royale
Shakespeare Behind Bars
Grizzly Man

Top Twelve Search Terms That I Didn't Have Snark Enough to Blog About
critical analysis of Frank Peretti
literacy as a means of oppression
where to see a Punch and Judy movie in America
mental illness is God's punishment
nuclear pants
Martin Luther goes to heaven
pterodactyl beer
smell everything before touching
how to iron jeans
Roman underarm pluckers
pickle costumes
Phyllis Schlafly anagrams

Top Ten CHS Goings-On, 2006
The Litvinenko assassination featured--or not--at CHS.
Debate hits the Olympian.
I am exposed as a fraud.
Senior Projects aren't all fun and games.
Fire unites CHS staff, students.
High-quality Spirit Week art graces the halls.
I teach teachers how to blog.
We struggle with a new email server, and tragedy ensues.
We (teachers) get a contract.

Top Ten Fates Deserved by Dane Cook
Haunted by the ghost of Mitch Hedberg.
Encased in amber.
Adored eternally by shallow pre-adolescents.
Cloned; forced to watch clone perform.
Eaten by bears.
Relegated to VH1.
Permitted under the Geneva Conventions.
Deep-fried in irony.

America's Most Wanted
Jorge Alberto Lopez-Orozco ($100,000)
Usama Bin Laden ($25 million)
Diego Leon Montoya Sanchez ($5 million)
James J. Bulger ($1 million)
John W. Parsons ($100,000)
Robert William Fisher ($100,000)
Victor Manuel Gerena ($1 million)
Glen Stewart Godwin ($100,000)
Richard Steve Goldberg ($100,000)
Donald Eugene Webb ($100,000)

Top Ten Things You Should Be Doing Right Now
1. Listening.
2. Playing the Wii.
3. Taking out the garbage.
4. Reading a book.
5. Answering the door so the Mormons don't have to shiver in the cold.
6. Writing your dissertation.
7. Covering your mouth when you cough.
8. Going home.
9. Coming to the realization that envy is ignorance.
10. Smooching.

Top Ten Ways to Answer "Merry Christmas."
"Not until Saddam gets his."
"Happy Chthanukah."
"What is this 'Christmas' of which you speak?"
"Klaatu barada nikto."
"A right festive Yuletide to you, old sport."
"May the branches of Yggdrasil shield your family from Ragnarök."
"Merry Christmas, dammit!"
"Right back atcha."
"Fire in the hole!"

gift-off: Nintendo Wii vs. Yevgeny Zamyatin's We

Nintendo Wii

"What is Wii? Quite simply, Wii is fun."

Availability: Limited. Nerds with the wherewithal, spiritually and fiscally, to stand in line for hours, if not days, are the only ones guaranteed access.

Price: $249 and up.

Coolness Factor: Medium. Reduced by the fact that your mom wants one.

Warnings: May result in muscle tears, "Wii hand," or blurred vision. Not for the lackadaisical.

Yevgeny Zamyatin's We

"One of the great novels of the twentieth century."

Availability: Sold in quality bookstores everywhere. No mad rushes, no lines, no threats of mugging.

Price: $11.20 new.

Coolness Factor: High. A definite subway read. A hipster 1984.

Warnings: May result in depression, fear of technocracy, or literateurism.

speaking of things that don't add up

Elizabeth Hovde's well-meaning editorial in The Columbian showcases some of the misunderstandings that plague efforts to improve education. A few clarifications and corrections are in order. First, though, the good part:
Entry pay for teachers is fine. Their pay beats a lot of industries' entry-level wages. But the pay scale tops out way too early and not high enough. Experienced, effective teachers should be rewarded.
Amen to that. Teachers' highest salary possibilities should equal administrators' entry points, at least.
Teachers must pay hundreds of dollars to the union each year. Mandatory union dues or fees should be banned.
Remember those teacher salaries? They're bargained for by the union. Non-union teachers could be paid less, if such a thing were possible for districts.
There are good and bad teachers, just as there are good and bad lawyers, retail clerks and accountants. The process for granting a raise should more closely resemble the process found in the private sector.

Administrators and peers would evaluate teachers based on their abilities and be paid accordingly. Right now, there is no incentive to be innovative or even qualified in one's teaching job.
First, I agree that automatic pay raises and no incentive for improvement are a dangerous mix. But in the absence of objective criteria, "performance" becomes an excuse for kiss-assery. (Later on, Hovde warns against linking salaries to test scores or grades, for good reason--but suggests no alternative measurement.)

Also, Hovde is wrong in claiming there is no incentive for qualification. Teacher pay is tied to coursework in several ways: "staff development" pay, different pay scales for teachers with advanced degrees, and bonuses for National Board Certification. I'm seeking the latter next year, because I want to improve my skills--and the annual bonus helps defray the cost of the assessment.

There isn't an easy way to reform the educational pay structure in a way that promotes excellence, instead of rewarding mediocrity. My plan: boost salaries significantly, attracting a larger pool of candidates. Simultaneously, require certification as rigorous as the National Board program, winnowing out the chaff. If you want quality, you have to pay for it.

Dec 21, 2006

unhitch your wagon from a falling star

Is there anyone with any intellectual credibility in the Intelligent Design camp? 'Cause seriously, whoever that person is, he needs to get the hell out. Nothing but spin, embarrassment, and idiocy from IDers this year. John West Lynch has the whole painful recap.

[Link via Ed Brayton]

Update: Silly typo fixed.

50th Skeptics' Circle: light a candle

Or, as the Tacoma Fire Department puts it, "Candle With Care." Theo of Humbug! Online has put up a nice tribute to the late (great) Carl Sagan.

Dec 20, 2006

one of these things is not like the other

This morning, spooning beans into the coffee grinder, I chanced upon the little bolt pictured. I'm awful glad I saw it before it wrecked our Krups grinder.

I called Batdorf and Bronson immediately, and they told me to bring it down. I handed it to the manager on duty, noting that when I had taken a tour of the B&B roastery, they showed us a box of bolts, coins, and other sundries that they had pulled out of production. No major freak-out by me, grateful apologies by her.

For being "cool about it," I scored a free pound of coffee and five free drinks. "Get the expensive ones," she said.

oh, snap

What I saw on the way to a debate study session this morning. Unlike the fabled Narnian gateway guardian, this lamppost wasn't exactly cast iron.

Dec 19, 2006

the proof is in the drawing

Brian Hayes, discussing proofs, explains why you can't trisect an angle--and, as a surprise to this fan of Hobbes, describes how the great English philosopher became a "notorious mathematical crank."

"Tripoli Six" condemned to death

The evidence, a remarkable bit of evolutionary detective work, said "not guilty."
By examining viral extracts from some of the children, Oliver Pybus of the University of Oxford and his colleagues were able to work backwards to establish that specific mutations in 40 per cent of the HIV cases evolved before the nurses arrived at the Al-Fateh Hospital in Benghazi in March 1998. Likewise, 70 per cent of the children with hepatitis C, which can also be spread through dirty needles, contracted it before the arrival of the nurses (Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature44836a). The analysis concludes that both viruses spread through poor hospital hygiene.
The Libyan court, though, in need of a scapegoat, declared the Tripoli Six--five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor--guilty, and sentenced them to death, with only one more shot at an appeal.

Effect Measure calls it "extortion." PZ Myers curses Libya's "barbarity." Contact your Congressional representative, and call on them to pressure the Libyan government to reverse this miscarriage of justice.

Dec 18, 2006

the aftermath

My clothes reek of cedar pitch and fir sap; my fingers, of leather gloves and fresh dirt; my environs, of alder smoke and new sofa, downstairs where I rest to blog.

Two yards in two days. Thursday, my mother-in-law narrowly escaped a falling Douglas fir, which halted its descent in the loving arms of an apple tree as she stood horror-transfixed in the kitchen. When the rains stopped, the basement flooded, the sewer backed up, and she spent Saturday wading in muck, piling trash and waiting for the landlord.

My parents escaped the worst, for their nearest trees are hardy survivors of the last gale. Two hours' raking vacated the accumulated debris of the past two months. Hefting limbs, piling catkins and needles and pinecones atop decaying mulch, cursing the neighbors' deaf dog and its territorial mementos.

The yards rest until the next storm.

be sure the facts will find you out

Remember the false plagiarism charges that Joe Carter, echoing (but certainly not plagiarizing) the Discovery Institute, leveled against Judge Jones, he of Dover renown?

Ed Brayton reports that fellows of the same Discovery Institute tried to republish part of a book as an original law review article.
Following Irons's revelation of the virtual identity of the Traipsing book and the MLR article, DeWolf, West, and Luskin agreed with the the MLR's insistence that they write a new article, which was finally submitted on September 28, with the new title, "Intelligent Design Will Survive Kitzmiller v. Dover." This "new" article borrowed heavily from the Traipsing book, but Irons and the MLR editors agreed that it was sufficiently revised to meet (barely) the requirement of "original" work. In response, Irons wrote a rejoinder, titled "Disaster in Dover: The Trials (and Tribulations) of Intelligent Design." Both articles will be published in the MLR's next issue, in January or February, 2007.

Professor Irons concluded his study with these comments: "It seems to me the height of hypocrisy for the Discovery Institute to accuse Judge Jones of copying 90 percent of one section of his opinion (just 16 percent of its total length) [emphasis added] from the proposed findings of fact by the plaintiff's lawyers, when the DI itself tried to palm off as 'original' work a law review article that was copied 95 percent from the authors' own book. Concealing this fact from the law review editors, until I discovered and documented this effort, seriously undercuts the credibility of the DI on this or any other issue."
Of course, to undercut credibility, credibility has to exist in the first place.

Update: According to a U of M law prof, the whole issue is one giant confusion. But Ed Brayton isn't quite convinced.

Update update: It's all just a big misunderstanding based on miscommunication and faulty memory, Ed Brayton reports, hearing from the Law Review editor at last.

highly qualified

It's an aha moment for a teacher...
...our practice insures that they get hardly any practice at all, and no help from us, in mastering it.... [Y]ou’d think we’d look to maximize the number of opportunities we give our students to confront the task. Instead, we avoid them like the plague. a law school.

negative refraction hits visible spectrum

The gee-whiz:
The race to build an exotic material with a negative refractive index for visible light has been won by a team of researchers in Germany. The demonstration could open the door to a new generation of optical devices such as superlenses able to see details finer then the wavelength of visible light.
The aw-shucks:
For now, Dolling is concentrating on studying the new effects rather than attempting to build devices such as superlenses. These applications are still a long way off, he told New Scientist.

Dec 17, 2006

Emerson everywhere

In his original "read a book of the Bible for twenty days" challenge, Joe Carter quotes James M. Gray, who writes,
The first practical help I ever received in the mastery of the English Bible was from a layman.... He had gone into the country to spend the Sabbath with his family on one occasion, taking with him a pocket copy of Ephesians, and in the afternoon, going out into the woods and lying down under a tree, he began to read it; he read it through at a single reading, and finding his interest aroused, read it through again in the same way, and, his interest increasing, again and again. I think he added that he read it some twelve or fifteen times, “and when I arose to go into the house,” said he, “I was in possession of Ephesians, or better yet, it was in possession of me, and I had been ‘lifted up to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus’ in an experimental sense in which that had not been true in me before, and will never cease to be true in me again.”
"It was in possession of me," says Gray's friend, and it's a fitting way to describe what happens when you read a text--any meaningful text--for twenty days straight.

Consider how "Self-Reliance" currently dominates my thinking. I watch a Sopranos episode where Carmela visits Paris, all the while remembering Emerson's observation, "Traveling is a fool's paradise... [the tourist] carries ruins to ruins."

I read Pseudo-Polymath on the lack of modern wisdom, all the while thinking, "Society never advances." After all,
The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet. He is supported on crutches, but lacks so much support of muscle. He has got a fine Geneva watch, but he has lost the skill to tell the hour by the sun. A Greenwich nautical almanac he has, and so being sure of the information when he wants it, the man in the street does not know a star in the sky. The solstice he does not observe; the equinox he knows as little; and the whole bright calendar of the year is without a dial in his mind.
I pass the panhandler in the Santa hat, and wonder if he is my poor. I doubt that I can absolve me to myself. I worry that my goodness has no edge to it, and that I am false in all particulars. (I have not yet dreamed of Emerson, or in Emersonian, but I imagine such dreams are not far off.)

In short, I have become "like children who repeat by rote the sentences of grandames and tutors," and my tutor is Emerson.

Adam Morrison and J.J. Redick Watch: Day 48

It wasn't Morrison's fault. Not entirely. Sean May's injury immediately led to a big Boston run, and in the end, the Celtics downed the 'Cats, 106-100. Morrison ended with 16 points, raising his average to 13.8.

Meanwhile, Redick made a four-point play against the Cavs, spiritually, if not physically responsible for the Magic victory.

Dec 16, 2006

techno-wizardry for the coming year

Maybe it's not entirely relevant to education, but Popular Mechanics' list of ten to-watch technologies is still fascinating. ("Video on the Net" and "Data Clouds" have the most potential to directly affect education; see here.)

[Link via Instapundit.]

an Emerson a day for twenty days

As a form of "benign brainwashing," I decided to take up a modified form of Joe Carter's reading challenge. Carter's original recommendations, as applied to my task:

"1. Choose shorter books and work up to longer ones."
I chose Emerson's "Self-Reliance," since it's not terribly long (though it's longer than it should have been, in retrospect), it's rhetorically powerful, and it's preachy.

"2. Read at your normal pace."
Most of the time I did. There were a couple days, though, where I speed-read, due to time constraints. "Self-Reliance" is short, but it's still a lot longer than, say, the book of Galatians.

"3. Skip the commentaries."
I avoided the endnotes, and didn't read any other analyses, historical or otherwise.

"4. Stick with the process."
Did it. It wasn't as much of a slog as I thought it would be. In fact, the day after I finished, I picked up the book again to revisit a couple passages. More on that later.

"5. Choose an appropriate version."
I used Essays and Poems by Ralph Waldo Emerson. It wasn't until I picked up a different version in a different anthology that I saw the interesting changes the manuscript underwent, due to later editing by RWE. He softened some of his language over time--for example, no longer referring to certain doubters as "aged ladies."

"6. Pray."
I'm not a praying man, and it would be a bit strange to ask God (or Emerson) to open up my mind to insights from the text. Instead, I made sure I sat in a quiet place, focused carefully on the text, and resolved to take it seriously, even when I disagreed with it. (The irony of my choice was not lost on me. It would be strange to wholesale adopt the arguments of a piece that argues, "Insist on yourself: never imitate.")

"7. Begin today."
I started the day I first read Joe Carter's post (November 18), and made it all the way through, despite debate tournaments, turkey dinners, and a Canadian snow adventure.

Coming soon: I'll describe what I learned, how my outlook changed--and didn't--and why doing this with any piece of literature is potentially good and bad.

tech bleg

My wife's computer is an HP notebook. My computer is an HP notebook. Both run Conexant AC Link 56k modems, and the hardware and software on both is otherwise identical, except for her processor (it's a little faster) and her RAM (there's a little more).

Yes, we're still using dialup at home. It's cheap.

I've installed all the software updates on mine, and it runs normally. On my wife's, though, any effort to update the Conexant driver leads to slow pageloads and "page not found" errors.

I've tried about every Windows-based solution out there, with no luck. Anyone out there with a clue to the real problem?

Update: A little more info that might connect to the weirdness, or might not. My wife's computer's modem used to be set to COM 4, so, in an attempt to fix connection problems, I set it to COM 1. It's been there ever since. (My HP is set to COM 1 automatically.)

parlez vous dérivé?

The Times, always willing to spend other people's money, supports Gregoire's math initiative.
A critical voice on this must be that of Terry Bergeson, the superintendent of public instruction. It is to Bergeson we must all look for leadership as 296 school districts begin aligning their math curricula and installing teachers qualified to teach math. Schools will have to increase their math classes to accommodate students who will have to skip electives and tackle more math.

Gregoire has outlined the road map. Bergeson can lead the way [emphasis added].
Meanwhile the grandest of all unintended consequences, the Frenchification of American education, continues apace.

Dec 15, 2006

where plagiarists dare

1. Is my title, a parody, plagiarism?

2. Are "cover bands" morally equivalent to plagiarizers?

3. What about astroturfers?

4. Is Peter Jackson the world's most successful plagiarizer?

5. Is Ian McEwan a plagiarist?

Adam Morrison and J.J. Redick Watch: Day 46, Morrison v. Redick

Previewing the matchup a year ago, it would have been the greatest rookie v. rookie bout of the century, but, thanks to untimely injuries and a deep Orlando bench, the magic was all Morrison. Coming off the bench (which seems to be his best mode), Morrison lit up Orlando for 22, while teammate Sean May dropped 32. 'Cats rolled, 99-89.

May had good words for the Montana greenhorn:
"For whatever reason, we play well together," May said of Morrison. "Adam does a good job of spacing the floor, giving you an outlet, and with his ability to score he opens up so much."
Redick scored five, and "received boos and cheers every time he entered the game."

More photos here.

oh the weather outside is frightful

But the tie inside: delightful.

Dec 13, 2006

Adam Morrison and J.J. Redick Watch: Day 44

Morrison fared much better off the bench, scoring 16 en route to a loss against the Cavs. Maybe the pressure of starting was getting to him, and a bench stay helped him focus. Or maybe he just is streaky like that.

Redick played 16 minutes against Toronto--most of the year--and got a whole lotta nothin, unless you count three personal fouls.

Matsuzaka signs

You read it here first: Daisuke Matsuzaka, the hottest prospect since Jesus, will be blogging exclusively for decorabilia. It took $55 million, a no-trade clause, an all-star bonus, and a Sony PS3, but we finally roped him in. Sorry, Red Sox.

Dec 12, 2006

rumors of bees

Capital High School has an improv group, Covered in Bees, which I, like Dr. Frankenstein before me, can bear responsibility for having created. To advertise for this Friday's show, they put up a poster with this classic shot, which comes from a context I can't remember (a little help, commenters?). A two-fer:

1. A student apparently asked an nearby administrator if the fellow pictured was, in fact, coming to visit CHS. He isn't.

2. I had to quell a rumor that the fellow pictured was Alexander Litvinenko, the ex-KGB spy who was poisoned with polonium-210. It's not.

Adam Morrison and J.J. Redick Watch: Day 42

Not such great news for either of the rookies. Morrison is being benched because of a run of terrible, terrible shooting. Meanwhile, Redick, despite some key injuries in the Magic lineup, isn't seeing much time, but may get off the bench tomorrow night against Toronto. We'll see.

with the proper motivation

Gregoire, flush with a 1.9 billion surplus, proposes dumping $197 million on extra math and science funding. The plan:
• Reduce class size. The state already is working to reduce elementary school class size via a citizen-approved initiative. Gregoire's new plan would send districts money to hire more middle and high school math and science teachers, with the goal of having one teacher per 25 students. Cost: $90 million.

• Recruit 750 more math and science teachers, including faculty who are teaching other subjects and didn't major in math and science in college. Additional college and teacher training would be available.

• Offer math and science scholarships to college students who agree to teach in those areas. Cost is $14 million.

• Pay annual bonuses of $5,000 to nationally certified teachers who teach in a "challenging" school and another $5,000 if they teach math or science. Currently, 900 teachers have this extra certification.

• Expand the alternative path to certification for non-teachers in the private sector who are experts in math and science, or paraprofessionals.

The professional development proposals total $62 million.

• Provide hands-on science learning for 1,000 K-8 classrooms, using the Leadership and Assistance for Science Education Reform (LASER) program. Cost is $12 million.

• Provide extra help to students who are struggling with the WASLs. Gregoire proposes $12 million.

• Standardize math curricula across the state.
I have a better solution. We teachers are always grousing about parental involvement, and wondering why folks can't be more accountable. Want to see test scores go up? Promise parents a $1000 tax break when their lovable lump passes the WASL, at an overall cost of $82 million per annum. In two years, math scores will rise like rent on Boardwalk.

[cross-posted here]

Leviticus 19:19

Levitical law bans the mixture of wool and linen. Wool and cotton, though, are not only acceptable, but encouraged.

Cross-posted at the confluence of cool and calculation, Mr. A's world of tacky ties.

Dec 11, 2006

with the proper motivation

Gregoire, flush with a 1.9 billion surplus, proposes dumping $197 million on extra math and science funding. The plan:
• Reduce class size. The state already is working to reduce elementary school class size via a citizen-approved initiative. Gregoire's new plan would send districts money to hire more middle and high school math and science teachers, with the goal of having one teacher per 25 students. Cost: $90 million.

• Recruit 750 more math and science teachers, including faculty who are teaching other subjects and didn't major in math and science in college. Additional college and teacher training would be available.

• Offer math and science scholarships to college students who agree to teach in those areas. Cost is $14 million.

• Pay annual bonuses of $5,000 to nationally certified teachers who teach in a "challenging" school and another $5,000 if they teach math or science. Currently, 900 teachers have this extra certification.

• Expand the alternative path to certification for non-teachers in the private sector who are experts in math and science, or paraprofessionals.

The professional development proposals total $62 million.

• Provide hands-on science learning for 1,000 K-8 classrooms, using the Leadership and Assistance for Science Education Reform (LASER) program. Cost is $12 million.

• Provide extra help to students who are struggling with the WASLs. Gregoire proposes $12 million.

• Standardize math curricula across the state.
I have a better solution. We teachers are always grousing about parental involvement, and wondering why folks can't be more accountable. Want to see test scores go up? Promise parents a $1000 tax break when their lovable lump passes the WASL, at an overall cost of $82 million per annum. In two years, math scores will rise like rent on Boardwalk.

Dec 10, 2006

an economic reason to be economic with words

Take a writing course, and increase your spending power! Even if you're the government:
In the 18 months since Gov. Chris Gregoire ordered all state agencies to adopt "plain talk" principles, more than 2,000 state employees have attended classes on writing letters, announcements and documents in everyday language....

[B]y rewriting one letter, the Department of Revenue tripled the number of businesses paying the "use tax," the widely ignored equivalent of sales tax on products purchased out of state. That meant an extra $800,000 collected over two years by the department, which had started its own plain talk initiative before the governor's order.
Of course, as any credit card company knows, obfuscatory--make that confusing--language can earn just as much. Hello, "fixed rates are subject to change."

the blogging philosopher is back

Thanks to a quantum fluctuation in his neural equipment, Andrew Bailey is blogging all things free will again. If you're a philosophy nerd, and chances are good that you are, since you're still reading, you'll want to check out his blog. Welcome back, Andrew.

Adam Morrison and J. J. Redick Watch: Day 40

An exercise in futility for Adam Morrison, as the 'Cats scored 62 (a record low) in an embarrassing loss:
"That's the worst game I've ever played in my life," said Morrison, who in the past three games has eight points on 3-of-26 shooting. "It's difficult when the fans want me to shoot 23-footers with a guy in my face.

"But in the same respect it's good the fans are sticking by me. Maybe if I were anywhere else I'd be getting booed."
Redick sat all Friday and Saturday, as the Magic split a pair.
Even with Turkoglu injured, J.J. Redick was still on the inactive list. [Orlando head coach] Hill said that the injury wouldn't necessarily mean more minutes for the rookie shooting guard.

"Whose minutes does (Redick) take? Is it Keyon's or Keith's? I just don't know if I can make that move right now," Hill said. "Those guys have earned their minutes at that position. That's the way we do things around here."

the moral status of the corporation

Here's a useful resource for the January / February LD topic, "Resolved: the actions of corporations ought to be held to the same standards as the actions of individuals." [Update: for you LD researchers, this is my primary link.]

It's an article titled "The Moral Status of the Corporation," from the Journal of Business Ethics, from Volume 10, Issue 10, copyright 1991, by R.E. Ewin. (Use ProQuest or a university library to access the entire article--that is, unless you're liberal with your cash and want to pay $30 for the privilege.)

The conclusion gets to the heart of the matter:
Because they are artificial and not "natural" people, corporations lack the emotional make-up necessary to the possession of virtues and vices. Their moral responsibility is exhausted by their legal personality. Corporations can have rights and duties; they can exercise the rights through their agents, and they can in the same way fulfill their duties. If necessary, they can be forced to fulfil [sic] their duties. The moral personality of a corporation would be at best a Kantian sort of moral personality, one restricted to the issues of requirement, rights, and duties. It could not be the richer moral life of virtues and vices that is lived by the shareholders, the executives, the shop-floor workers, the unemployed, and "natural" people in general."
There are two ways this could run. For an affirmative running Kantian morality, the argument shows that corporations must be held to the same standards--"requirement, rights, and duties." For the negative running virtue ethics (or, perhaps, some other non-Kantian moral framework), it lines up well with an argument that corporations cannot be held to the same standards of approval or disapproval of various virtues and vices.

As a tangent, one must question the "natural / artificial" dichotomy that grounds Ewin's argument. Would an enhanced human, with artificial limbs, neurological prosthetics (such as a computer chip that would aid in memory) or other "artificial" characteristics be considered a "natural" person? Why wouldn't a robot programmed to obey Asimov's three laws be morally culpable for breaking them?

time after time

Why I haven't blogged recently: I've been...

1. Donating all my spare time to the speech and debate squad (two weekends, two tournaments).

2. Waiting for the switch over to Blogger Beta.

3. Grading finals, working on Sundays and in the evenings to read essays, grade vocab quizzes, assess speeches, check book reports, and catch plagiarizers--make that one plagiarizer, who thought I wouldn't check extra credit. Note to administration: if you want us to have a "meaningful" final exam--and I'm in full agreement there, irked by reports from my freshmen that "other classes don't have to take a final, they're watching a movie, and by the fact that I have to explain why we're still taking a final--if you want us to give a "meaningful" assessment, please give us the time requisite to assessing it. Thank you.

4. Becoming a media darling (see #1).

5. Still waiting (see #2).

Dec 7, 2006

another horse that was red

Cross-posted at that foofaraw of foresight, Mr. A's world of tacky ties.

give a clue

If anything represents a failure of public education, this does.
A note written on an envelope that the suspect gave the teller demanding money was left behind during the 4:30 p.m. robbery.

The envelope contained a piece of paper with two pieces of evidence - the name of a hotel and the name of the suspect's brother, said Olympia Police Commander Tor Bjornstad.

Gnarls Barkley: pretenders

There, I said it.

My proof:

1. Their ubiquitous cover of "Gone Daddy Gone" flatly copies the original, without adding any layer of substance or intrigue--like painting a diamond. Ooooooh! It uses techno-synthesizery! The rest of the album: hyperkinetic, minus "Crazy," which has the staying power of Sugar Ray's "Fly." (Yep. That's the level of depth we're talking about.)

2. Gnarls Barkley is headlining at Deck the Hall Ball. Just above Jet. Look at this list of fakes, phonies, and frauds:
The rest of the bill is like a Who's Who of modern rock: The Shins, Snow Patrol, Taking Back Sunday, Jet, Angels and Airwaves, and the folky singer-songwriter Pete Yorn
This "Who's Who of modern rock" is a Muzak Most Wanted list.

Dec 6, 2006

Adam Morrison and J. J. Redick Watch: Day 37

For Morrison, it was a tough night in a tough loss, his second in a row. The NBA's purported leading rookie went cold, scoring four (well below his average) as the Spurs exacted revenge.

Redick also scored four in his second appearance, which doubled his previous effort, as Orlando lost big to the Pacers. Sadly, Redick's best bets for playing time involve either injury or blowout losses.

a Mosaic minefield: teaching Bible as Literature

When you attempt--or, should I say, should you attempt--to teach "Bible as Literature," be aware that, for younger students, severe discomfort may lie ahead.

Non-Christian, on-the-fence, agnostic, or atheistic students will start to suspect you're out to convert them, as if reading the first book of Genesis and analyzing its literary merits is just the cheese in a trap.

Christian students will likely dominate the discussion; after all, they generally know the most. You may have to steer some ambitious ones away from proselytizing.

Some Christian students may wonder if your "balanced" perspective is going to undermine their confidence in Scripture, even if they grant that you are completely fair in your presentation.

So, before launching into a unit, ask yourself:

1. Are my students emotionally mature enough for this?
2. Am I ready to talk with parents about it?
3. Am I ready to answer some really sticky questions?
4. Am I able to be nonpartisan, and enforce nonpartisanity?
5. Do I know enough about the Bible to do succeed in #s 2-4?
6. Am I willing to be open about my beliefs, so students know where my biases are, and what to watch out for?

If you answer "no" to even one question, don't do it.

Silly String saves lives

A decidedly low-tech battlefield option:
[A] New Jersey mother is organizing a drive to send cans of Silly String to Iraq.

American troops use the stuff to detect trip wires around bombs, as Marcelle Shriver learned from her son, a soldier in Iraq.

Before entering a building, troops squirt the plastic goo, which can shoot strands about 10 to 12 feet, across the room. If it falls to the ground, no trip wires. If it hangs in the air, they know they have a problem. The wires are otherwise nearly invisible.
Shriver, thanks to corporate donations and a pilot willing to transport the stuff, has at least 1,000 cans to send.

genetic neurotopography in mice

Amazing, groundbreaking stuff:
Unveiled in its full glory today, the Allen Brain Atlas contains 85 million images, and enough data to fill 20,000 iPods. It documents the activity of more than 21,000 genes across the entire mouse brain in such fine detail that it is possible pick out individual cells. Already, the atlas has revealed that the mammalian brain contains “hidden” structures, defined by common patterns of gene activity.

“It is a profound enabling tool that is going to dramatically facilitate and accelerate research,” says Marc Tessier-Lavigne, senior vice-president of the biotech firm Genentech in South San Francisco, US. “By having all of the information collated in one place, you can do all of the searching that would not otherwise be possible.”

Ed Lein and colleagues at the Allen Institute Brain Science in Seattle, US, created the atlas using a technique called "in situ hybridisation". This involves bathing thin slices of brain tissue in chemically labelled RNA probes that bind to sequences, called messenger RNA, produced by individual genes.

The process had to be repeated for each gene, and for slices of tissue taken from different parts of the brain, to build a 3D map of gene activity that can be navigated using software available on the web.
It's only a matter of time before we'll have the same access to the human brain, and then the real fun begins.

Dec 5, 2006

meaning... what?

Since I got an email asking, "What is your poem 'altar of the apocalypse' about?," I decided I'd republish it here, and see if anyone can help me figure it out.

(There may actually be a meaning. No promises, though.)

For Ezra Pound

altar of the apocalypse

the trade school dairy
strewn with gold foil and manganese,
the steam exhaust of scented ferns

[Tie close-up added late, and cross-posted at that poetic parade, Mr. A's world of tacky ties.]

Dec 4, 2006

Doug Peltier, a model teacher

The beard is back.

When I sat in a senior-level calculus class, Doug Peltier was my teacher: wise, hip, snarky, bearded. After a while, he shaved it off, and we all freaked out. Who was this youngster, this neophyte who had replaced our beloved math instructor?

It's good to see Mr. Peltier be-bearded again.

Mr. Peltier may not have convinced me to take up derivations as a career, but his unflappable calm, sly wit, and engaging style were my template for teaching. He showed me that you can be yourself in the classroom, and your teaching will be better for it.

I remember Peltier's class mostly because of its size. We were eight nerds, all guys, boisterous and witty in our own minds. Peltier's eyes could roll nickels, and his putdowns could strip paint. By the end of a year together, we were no more mature, but we were smarter, and one of us would eventually go on to greatness. (I forget his name.)

Peltier, eventually, moved to Tumwater, despite my mom's lobbying efforts, where he's still inspiring the love of learning, and still sporting that most excellent beard.

shiny and new

I have a new class this trimester, now that Debate is done: Senior Writing, a college-prep course, which I last taught when practicing for my master's degree. This time, I have eleven students, which oughtta be fun. The change in the atmosphere since the last time: the blog, which has completely radicalized my writing, and I hope will influence my students to write more.

The Scottish Play has taken over for Midsummer in the 11th grade, which is fine by me. I can take only so much witty banter.

Freshfolks will examine the Bible as Literature, which hopefully can be done in a spirit of nonpartisanship. To make it easier, we're sticking with the Old Testament, starting with, of course, Genesis.

One more debate tournament before break. One more batch of journals to grade. Five finals finished, not yet graded. A new LD topic. You'll pardon me if I sequester myself periodically.

Dec 3, 2006

Adam Morrison and J. J. Redick Watch: Day 33

For Morrison, victory wasn't so sweet:
Morrison was held to a season-low two points on 1-of-5 shooting, but the Bobcats were still able to knock off another NBA heavyweight.
When he's cold, he's Antarctica.

For Redick, a blowout loss might have meant some playing time... but no. Orlando, way out of whack, got waxed by the Clippers.

are you ready for the revolution? Google evangelizes in the classroom

As I noted before,
Simply put, the Google PC is any PC that will soon be able to access the massive computing power of Google's servers, running network-based software at speeds far greater than allowed by puny Pentiums....

At Capital, we use a scaled-down version of this setup. Our computer labs are full of dummy terminals, screens with keyboards and mice that run software from the network server. They have no hard drives, so they're cheap and relatively fast. The Google PC goes a step beyond, so schools wouldn't even have to host software on their own networks.
We've taken the initiative, since our tech guys are fond of low-cost software. Elsewhere, though, Google is bringing its technology directly to teachers.
In October, the company posted an online guide to provide instructors with ideas on how to incorporate the applications into their curricula. In November, Google invited about 50 Northern California teachers to spend the day at its Mountain View headquarters to learn more about the advantages of the program.

Google plans to host similar programs in other parts of the country as it tries to recruit more teachers to proselytize its online software.

Some students are already learning about the advantages of Google's word processing program, which enables people in different locations to collaborate simultaneously or view and edit documents at different times.

Palo Alto High School junior Danielle Kim said that flexibility was particularly helpful when her debate team jointly worked on a presentation earlier this year. But she also saw a downside to Google's approach. "It requires you to have Internet access," she said. "What happens when you are in a place that doesn't?"

Google expects that issue to become less of a problem as high-speed Internet connections become as commonplace as electrical outlets. Wireless access would enable information to be delivered to cellphones and other mobile devices as well as PCs and cable boxes.
The gap still exists, but it's rapidly shrinking as governments and foundations broaden access to wireless internet, or the more traditional tubes. Where's your school on the road to techno-topia?

Part I, online academies
Part II, the Google PC
Part III, homeschooling
Part IV, rapid growth
Part V, Olympia goes virtual
Part VI, Microsoft's "School of the Future"
Part VII, multi-touch interface technology

a stranger in the land of the Seahawks

As an aside to his NFL announcer rundown, Bill Simmons perfectly nails Hawks fans and Seattle culture:
Some lingering thoughts on a 33-hour trip to Seattle:

1. Loudest crowd I've ever heard. Seems like it's more due to the way the stadium is built than anything else -- for instance, Monday's crowd was 20 percent Packers fans and even they sounded abnormally loud.

2. We decided that Seattle can't be considered an underrated city because everyone always talks about how underrated it is, so now it's properly rated. But can you think of another city other than New York or Los Angeles that had a bigger cultural impact on this country over the past 16 years? Grunge music, Starbucks, microbrews, Microsoft, and even all started there. What other city can come up with six things to compare to those?

3. Highlight of the trip: Finding out that Seahawks tackle Walter Jones has a daughter named Waleria and a son named Walterius..

4. Seahawks fans really, really, REALLY don't like Jerramy Stevens. It's a palpable dislike. Don't think this won't be rearing its head in January.

5. If you can't get excited to attend a Monday Night Football game when it's snowing out, you need to stop following sports immediately.
Stuck in Olympia because of the snow, my wife and I watched the game at Brewery City. The guys at the bar to our left, chowing down on pizza and a pitcher, could barely hold onto their slices whenever Hasselbeck deigned to throw to Stevens. Even the touchdown grab--a gorgeous fingertip catch--got only reserved admiration.

This week, Simmons calls it for the Broncos. Hmm... Shaun Alexander's return to form, anyone? Hawks 24, Broncos 20.

Update: Holy SAFE. (Sorry. Saw too many Volkswagen commercials during the game.) Did you see it? I was almost right--final score, 23-20, on a late kick by Josh Brown, who uncharacteristically missed a couple earlier. Play of the game: Josh Brown tackles the Bronco returner, hitting him like a DB and forcing a game-changing fumble.

Two weeks, two tough comeback wins in the cold. This time, Alexander took a while to get going, but kept the offense moving despite an off-kilter performance by Matt Hasselbeck.

What a game. Don't bet on sports.

Dec 1, 2006

I learned it in Student Congress

Compelling new rhetorical flights of fancy:

"Our country's basic beliefs are based on religion."

"They have isolated themselves, instead of doing the other."

"Anyone at all that wants to affirmate the bill?"

"We do not have a sufficient number of troops to entertain the services of our country."

Daring revisions of history:

Apparently, we fought the Second World War absent a draft.

The New York police could never quite catch up with Al Capone. (Probably because he lived in Chicago.)

If weda had separation of church and state, Thomas Becket woulda never got kilt.

A lesson for us all:

"Domestic tranquility shouldn't be disturbed, 'cause it means 'peace.'"

[See also here and here and here.]

Adam Morrison and J.J. Redick Watch: Day 31

Morrison, just named the NBA Rookie of the Month for his offensive efforts, led the Bobcats with 23 while losing to the Wonderful Wizards of Washington. Quoth Morrison:
"They're very tough, especially when Gilbert is going, and then you've got a guy like Caron, who can always hurt you. And there's the guy who's been doing it for years, Antawn... They've got such a good perimeter game that it makes it tough all the way around."
There was a lucid point somewhere in the verbiage, I promise.

Meantimes, Redick sat as red-hot Orlando won again.

the actions of corporations ought to be held to the same moral standards as the actions of individuals. (January-February LD topic)

Resolved: The actions of corporations ought to be held to the same moral standards as the actions of individuals

The January-February Lincoln Douglas debate topic isn't too shabby--it is grounded in practical experience and case law, yet gives good ground to both the negative and affirmative, and allows for a wide range of moral stances.

One key search term you'll want to use is "corporate personhood," a so-called "legal fiction" that has some of the same rights as a "normal" person, and thus, one would suppose, the same obligations. (Note that the resolution says "moral," though, and not "legal.")

I'll have more in a bit. Feel free to post your ideas or questions in the comments.

Whatever you do, be careful: many of the internet resources are from advocacy groups who may have slanted the evidence or argument in favor of their position. Try to find less biased, more academic sources for your claims.

Update 12/1: 1. Who / what is the agent of action in the resolution? In other words, who / what "holds" corporations (or individuals) to a moral standard? Society? Government? Other individuals or corporations? Themselves? (I've been reading Emerson.) God?

I like "the common good" as a value, and "deliberative democracy" as a criterion. I'll explain why when I've had some sleep.

Update 12/4: I still haven't had much sleep, but here goes. "The common good" is a useful value because it pertains to the resolution, which asks us to consider public morality (in fact, I'd have an RA that said exactly that). Deliberative democracy--which takes time, energy, and participation to consider all points of view--is a useful criterion, because it has the common good in mind.

Now, as far as which side this applies to, the arguments can go either way. On the Aff, the rights of participation in the DD process are balanced with obligations to the common good. Corporations, as players in a moral contest of wills, must be held accountable to the same standards as individuals, respecting their right to free expression, in particular. If we have different standards, the game can be rigged in either side's favor.

On the Neg, the size and scope of corporations means they are able to unduly influence deliberative democracy, in essence using the rules to their advantage. When this happens, the common good is not achieved, but instead "special interests" make the refs turn a blind eye. We must hold corporations to a higher standard. To paraphrase Spider Man, with greater power comes greater responsibility.

Update 12/10: Some useful links...

This article by Richard T. De George (Google the name for his credentials) grants presumption to the affirmative:
If Union Carbide is at all morally responsible -- as Anderson and most others agree is the case -- then the proponents of the first (or Milton Friedman) view have to explain away the overwhelming sentiment espousing the idea that companies have moral responsibility. The fact that people do not expect Union Carbide to act from moral motives, even in fulfilling its moral obligation to give compensation to those it has harmed, indicates that general opinion views corporations as having moral responsibilities without being moral persons. Such sentiment does not solve the debate over the moral status of corporations, but it does lend the support of public opinion to the third view, and thus requires stronger arguments from those who support the second view.
The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy discusses "Collective Moral Responsibility" (another useful search term, along with "corporate personhood"). Check out the arguments for and against the concept.

This article is probably accessible at a university library, and definitely available on ProQuest. (Ask your school librarian if you can get access.) Update: I provide analysis here.

Meanwhile, comment away--let's unstall the discussion. What are your good / bad / ugly ideas for V/C structures, cases, rebuttals, and the like?

Update 12/23: I discuss "the same," a crucial phrase in the resolution.

Update 1/8: I discuss the goal--or goals--of corporations.

Update 1/9: Jason Kuznicki (a fellow blogger, with a doctorate in history from Johns Hopkins) addresses the same issue, arguing that because corporations are "merely social organizations," we must judge their actions only through the actions of the individuals within them.

Update 1/10: A reader and I discuss the Categorical Imperative and the complexity of corporations.

Update 1/11: Another reader helps me hash out ideas for the Aff.

Update 1/15: Thanks to another reader's prompting, I've started a list of Aff and Neg Value / Criterion structures.

Update 1/21: On the Aff side, I show how Quinn and Jones' "agent morality" grounds a moral view of the corporation.

Update 2/1: There's a new resolution in town. "Resolved: The United Nations' obligation to protect global human rights ought to be valued above its obligation to respect national sovereignty."

Nov 30, 2006

conversations elsewhere

The real blog action is going on in the neighborhood.

1. My brother links to a Darymple smackdown of Mr. Language Instinct. While I find its elitism stodgy and its analysis oversimplified, it's certainly better than Pinker's pop-evo-psycho-linguo-babbling and laissez-faire approach to language development. Hasn't Pinker read Piaget? Left untutored, cognitive and linguistic development goes only so far. I don't teach English and coach speech and debate for nothing.

2. Mark Olson asks Two Dumb Questions.

3. Peter Wall, agent provocateur, tries to shoehorn the law into a social harms paradigm.

the Nintendo Wii is no longer cool

In the midst of a conversation over coffee, chewing on a chocolate chip cookie, I nearly spat it all over the tablecloth when, unprovoked, my mother blurted out, "That Nintendo Wii is soooo much fun!"

I checked my Apocalypse Calendar as she continued, "Never mind the oogly-boogly games--Zelda and whatnot--there's bowling and baseball and tennis!"

Yes, friends: my mom has played with a Nintendo Wii, and pronounced it good. Hope you kept your receipt.

a tacky tie for finals week

I have stacks of journals to plow through, essays to mark, vocabulary tests to bleed red upon, Emerson to read, parents to see, tournament details to prepare, lessons to plan, recommendations to write, and obligations I won't make public. Carry on.

Cross-posted at that haven of rest, Mr. A's world of tacky ties.