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Wednesday, January 1st, 2025
7:42 am - Thoughts on education
I've been on lj over 12 years now, and I've had lots of thoughts on education [also, I was posting stuff on marypat.org in longer form from 1996 - 2002; I've also written a lot at the Actuarial Outpost on this subject]

So this post is simply to amass posts as I find them, and categorize them. I am defining "education" very broadly here. I may be linking to some friends-locked posts, and will note that when I link. Some of these posts may need to be moved around for better organization.

12 Days of LearningCollapse )

My thoughts for starting schools, business related to educationCollapse )

Responses to Charles MurrayCollapse )

Gifted education/IQ stuffCollapse )

Math educationCollapse )

Online educationCollapse )

Females and math and scienceCollapse )

Actuarial educationCollapse )

UncategorizedCollapse )

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Friday, May 19th, 2017
9:50 pm - Confessions of a Loud Sneezer
Yeah, I'm loud. I'm loud in many things.

But I'm an especially loud sneezer.

I may have tried to stifle a hiccup or a burp, with variable success, but when it comes to sneezing I just let loose.

I'm not sneezing right now, or I'd give audio (and possibly video) proof. Maybe I'll catch one of my sneezes in the wild at another time. I don't actually sneeze a lot... up here in Yankeeland. This is one of the reasons I stay up here. Sneezing season lasts less than a week for me. WOOT.

I like to use hankies, which I have lots of. I inherited some from my Pop Pop (my ma's dad), but when my last grandparent died this year (my dad's ma) I bought about 20 plain cotton hankies and brought them to the funeral with me (giving them to whoever needed them). Cotton hankies are great, and something something environmental something.

But just saying cotton hankies are a better conversational punctuation marker. If you can't poke a person with a cigarette, waving a hankie at them may do.

Also, you can use hankies to wipe finger marks off your tablet or phone. And make you look like a fogey at the same time. I'm just saying there's hipster value there.

If the hipsters also start sneezing loudly, I will not take the blame. The hipsters have all sorts of good ideas, like beards, and stupid ideas, like being assholes, and while sneezing loudly may be an asshole thing... wait, I'm not sure where I'm going with this.

I'm just saying that some of us fellow humans are very loud sneezers, we're unlikely to change, and you can do whatever you want about that.

I recommend giving them a hankie if they don't have one.

Because loud sneezes often accompany wide sprays if not controlled. And that's just nasty.

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Tuesday, May 16th, 2017
7:26 pm - I miss my dad
Last weekend was Mother's Day, which was not as mother-y as I'd like for a variety of reasons (mainly because I was having a really bad flare-up of my chronic pain situation).

But now that I'm on the "wrong" side of 40, I know an increasing number of people who have at least one parent, if not both parents, dead.

I'm semi-special person in that I entered that group when I was 16. My sisters were younger than that.

I'm now 43. You can do the math. I've been alive longer without my dad than with him. And I never knew him when I was an adult. But many aspects of him stick in my memory, and as I get older and am plagued with my less-than-stellar health, I can understand some of his behavior when I was a kid. For all I know, he had many of the pains I am suffering now, and in his case, his life-limiting behavior to alleviate his pain was his smoking. I have my own bad behavior that may be shortening my life to achieve some relief, so yeah I get it.

But man.

So much my dad would have enjoyed if he were still alive.

He introduced me to MST3K. I can imagine talking with him for hours over the new season (which I contributed to in the kickstarter) and whether Cry Wilderness or Carnival Magic was the most insane movie they ever covered.

My dad died before I went to college. Or grad school. But I can imagine discussing how far carbon nanotubes have gone since I was doing highly theoretical computer simulations of it, how much bullshit string theory is (a real memory: when I was about 12, my dad gave me his copy of Hofstadter's Godel, Escher, Bach saying "This is really theoretical. You'll love it."), and revisiting his idea of deep ocean farming.

We'd be talking about the new dinosaur fossil find, on compressing pop lyrics, and who is doing better in the most recent Hackerrank coding contest.

I can imagine having dueling blogs where dad made fun of my love of opera, and I point out that his love of Camelot and the Rocky soundtrack was pretty much from the same source.

Anyway, my dad died too young. And I miss him.

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Monday, May 15th, 2017
2:31 pm - The Last Time
I was reading this review of a recent opera, partly because one of the people in the Met Opera fan group on facebook said this review made them cry.

And I got to this part:

We often hear fretting along the lines of “What if this were someone’s first Rosenkavalier?” or “What if this were someone’s first opera?” What is less often asked is “What if this were someone’s last?” Some of the people around me Saturday will not see another Rosenkavalier. Indeed, I may not; no one guarantees us any number of years. If I never saw any other opera, I would feel I went out on a high today. There is a long list of things in life that time erases and memory mocks. Great performances such as Saturday’s will never be on that list.

Part of what spawned this thought in the reviewer was that this was Renee Fleming's last Rosenkavalier, because she's decided that would be her last. Similarly, it was Elina Garanca's last time singing Octavian. In the case of Fleming, she is 58 years old, and she's stepping down while her voice is still very good. Garanca is moving on to a different set of roles, because her voice is changing as she ages (she's younger than me, fwiw).

But sometimes something was the last time, and you didn't know it at the time. I'm not talking about death here, though the reviewer was saying something along those lines. There can be reasons for a last time because something has changed that you didn't anticipate.

For example, I will never ride a rollercoaster again. Now, this is not a huge sacrifice for me. I enjoyed riding rollercoasters, but it wasn't like I was a thrill ride junkie. But after my neck troubles, and even a run-in with a relatively sedate ride at Epcot, I will no longer ride on anything that has a warning for people with back/neck problems. Indeed, I'll just probably stay off most rides. But I can't remember what the last time I was on a rollercoaster was.

This is different from a last time caused by death. Here I am, knowing something will never happen again, and I have an indefinite amount of time during which I will be aware of that.

Maybe I had my last time watching live opera at the Met a few years ago I'm hoping this Rosenkavalier is picked up for my Met Opera On Demand subscription -- many, but not all, of the Met productions that are sent via satellite to movie theaters do make it onto the On Demand site (some of the ones that don't make it... it's for good reason.) But I have trouble with taking the train into Manhattan, as the train jostles me and sometimes the ride itself is such that I might as well have hopped on the rollercoaster. I love the city, and I used to love riding the train. But it's a problem. I may never be able to work in Manhattan again. I don't know.

Perhaps one day I'll have a last time I read a book, because my eyesight is gone (of course there's audiobooks...), or the last time I listen to music because my hearing is gone. Maybe medicine will catch up such that I need never fear for my sight or my hearing; there have been loads of progress there.

But even if medicine does fix my pain, I'm never going on a rollercoaster again.

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Saturday, May 13th, 2017
6:01 pm - On reading mystery novels on kindle
I was gonna say: "Don't do it!", but it turns out it was premature.

So yesterday, I saw a deal on Amazon for Agatha Christie books (just a selection) for $1.99 each... and their "normal" price is about $13 (okay, that was the upper end)


Let us ignore how idiotic e-book pricing is for the "prestige" publishers. I usually end up buying hardcover instead of kindle for those. I don't mind - I've got Amazon Prime and already have shipping wrapped into my membership (ftr: I have the Prime membership for reasons other than the delivery discount.)

But one aspect of kindle that I enjoy, which is highlighting favorite passages, making notes, and the like. But this can be dangerous.

One of the default settings is that you will see passages underlined with a dashed line if some threshold of people highlighted the passage. I'm not sure the algorithm that goes into that, and sometimes the crowdsourced "fave quotes" are well chosen.


If you're reading a mystery novel, you might notice something "special" about what gets underlined. In most of the novels I read, people underline something "quotable" -- you know, something like "Wherever you go, there you are." Something that works out of context.

But in mystery novels, people underline clues.

Now, I'm in no danger re: Agatha Christie because 1. I've basically read all her mysteries 2. Yes, I remember the solution and 3. The ones I haven't read (which are really obscure), I will probably know the solution, because she kept re-using plots.

(I will explain another time why I re-read mystery novels.)

But I noticed a few things underlined in one of the books I'm currently reading, that I thought "Oooh, most people would have missed that if it weren't emphasized by the underlining!" But then I found some people were either being tricksy or not terribly clever when I found some of the red herring items underlined as well.

In short, turn off that feature of kindle if you're reading a mystery novel for the first time. And readers, ffs, don't underline clues!

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Thursday, May 4th, 2017
1:12 pm - Announcement: plus MEEP SIGN change
So I am retiring I AM HE-MAN for right now -- it may come back, maybe when I'm 80, but I think as a woman of a certain age, I need to update my style to something more appropriate.

So this is me right now:

And the reason that is me right now is that I figured out how to use VBA in Powerpoint (having never done that before) to switch all the layouts of slides based on a certain rule system.

I need to get me hot pink lamé dress.

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Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017
7:15 am - That time when I competed against a bunch of Japanese schoolkids...
...and I was an adult.

I went digging in my Japan journal for this, but this was all I found:

Trip to Aomori - Aomori is on Honshuu, a different island from Hokkaido so
the train went through an underwater tunnel which was about 55 km long and
went to about 260 m under sea level. In the train there was a board w/ a
picture of the tunnel and lights along it indicated where we were in it.
There was an LED board underneath that every so often told us how far we
went and how deep we were.
Then we went to the Sports Festival - where we got chopsticks and a door
hanging just for showing up.

Oh, Here's the next entry:

6 Aug 94 - =one= more week!

Continuing w/ the Aomori theme -- at the sports festival, being in silly
races like bagging a goldfish, sometimes competing w/ kids, sometimes w/
their parents, everyone who participated in an event would get a prize -
but the prizes for us were special - the ones for the Japanese were stuff
like toothpaste, dishwashing liquid and foil, but =we= got ceramic dishes
& dolls and nice fans and stuff - once I found out that you get a prize
that good no matter how well you did, I tried to participate in as many
events as possible.

So this "sports festival" was just like a regular school field day, and while some of the "competitions" had parents involved, it was mainly the kids, who were about 10-12 years old, if I remember correctly.

Before we went on the trip, we were supposed to sign up for slots in the various competitions, and I signed up for a couple. I think everybody did.

But when we got there, and found out they had us doing stuff like blindfold races against little kids, a lot of people didn't want to participate any more. We were primarily college students (I was 20), and I think many felt foolish to run races against kids.

But when I saw what they were giving out as prizes (and we basically got good stuff no matter how we performed, just as long as we participated) I started taking other people's places. Now, the stuff they were handing out to us were just tourist tchotchkes, but I thought them rather nice tourist tchotchkes. I still have many of them.

For example, the ceramic apple picker doll:

I also got some sake cups, that are still somewhere around.

I have no shame.

Gimme gimme gimme.

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Monday, May 1st, 2017
9:30 am - Public Pension Primer: Discount Rate
[post resurrected from May 1, 2010]

I want you to understand the perversity of allowing a pension plan, public or private, to pick a discount rate based on expected return on assets.

The core problem is highlighted in this WSJ editorial:

The Stanford study uses whats called a risk-free 4.14% discount rate, which is tied to 1-year Treasury bonds. The Government Accounting Standards Board requires corporate pensions to use a risk-free rate. [screw up, WSJ, off the mark], but it allows public pension funds to discount pension liabilities at their expected rate of return, which the pension funds determine. Calstrs assumes a rate of return of 8%, Calpers 7.75% and the UC fund 7.5%. But the CEO of the global investment management firm BlackRock Inc., Laurence Fink, says Calpers would be lucky to earn 6% on its portfolio. A 5% is more realistic.

Last year the accounting board proposed that the public pensions play by the same rules as corporate pensions. But unions for the public employees balked because the changed standard would likely require employees and employers to contribute more to the pensions, especially when interest rates are low. For now, it appears the public employee unions will prevail with the status quo accounting method.

Well, watch this space. It's not so simple. There are a lot of complicated details, but let me show you a concrete, simplified example of the impact of discount rates by showing you what present value means.
Say you need to make a payment of $1,000 ten years from now. How much money would you need to have on hand right now [invested at a given interest rate] to be able to make that payment? That's the present value.

Before making a calculation, obviously, the higher the rate of return, the less you need on hand today as compound interest will help you. but how much?

Let use the rates mentioned in the editorial [and rounding present value to the nearest dollar]:
4.14%: $667
5.00%: $614
7.50%: $485
7.75%: $474
8.00%: $463

From the lowest rate, we get a 44% higher present value than the 8% rate. The impact is more pronounced the more years you go out and these pension benefits are projected decades into the future, not a mere 10 years.

So perhaps you can see why those wanting more lavish benefits want it to look like investments can pay for it through higher returns if taxpayers have to pay right now to fund an accrued benefit, as opposed years in the future when the payment is actually made, you'll see that the taxpayers won't let the promise be made at all.

Here is the perverse part of the current valuation policy: we generally see that riskier assets have a higher expected rate of return, but that also comes with greater volatility [more likely to have fund shortfall... like we're seeing now]. So a fund that plays it safe with the pension liability funding gets a lower discount value, and thus higher present value even if a riskier fund with the same market value [and higher discount rate on liabilities] has a much higher probability of falling short.

So by making the discount rate the expected return on assets, without adjusting for the risk, there's an incentive for these funds to get involved in deals they really shouldn't be.

Such as, oh, synthetic CDOs packaged by Goldman Sachs.

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Sunday, April 30th, 2017
11:31 am - What I would give to be bored
So, I have this thing with my favorite authors where I usually can pick a character I really identify with (for a variety of reasons). For Dickens, it's Aunt Betsey Trotwood. For Austen, it's Admiral Croft. For Conan Doyle, it's Jabez Wilson (the red-headed guy in The Red-Headed League, my favorite Holmes story).

For Pratchett, it's Nanny Ogg... but maybe it should be Rincewind. Because what he wants more than anything else is boredom (because when he's not bored, it's because the end of world is nigh and he's somehow involved.)

In any case, this is all a prelude to saying that D put a bunch of cookies in the dryer and let it run. For a couple cycles at least, it looks. So I broke out the vacuum & baby wipes. Because some of those crumbs were really baked on there. As it were.

This isn't really all that funny. I understand how Rincewind felt. It would be nice to rest.

Oh, and in the middle of this, I went back to the washer/dryer, because I did an empty cycle of bleach to try to clean out the washer (I didn't see cookies in there, but eh, it could use it); and came back to see D sitting at my laptop with the Weird Al videos on top.... he had closed a bunch of my windows/tabs to find the one where I had YouTube playing.

Thank goodness livejournal auto-saves entries as I go along. I doubt I would have retyped even that much.

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Thursday, April 27th, 2017
11:25 am - LJ 18th anniversary - and my 17-LJ-iversary

#mylivejournal #lj18 #happybirthday

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11:22 am - Opera Hijinks
So something was going around facebook re: 9 musical acts you've seen live, and one lie. I know I've seen at least 9 acts live, but I didn't care to play the game. So I changed the game:

Okay, a different game -- the following operas I've seen live (no lie) -- guess which I walked out of after the first act:
1. Samson et Dalila
2. Handsel and Gretel
3. Rigoletto
4. La Boheme
5. Tosca
6. Elektra
7. Don Giovanni
8. The Mother of Us All
9. L'heure espagnole
10. For the Love of Three Oranges

This was something of a trick question.

First, I definitely walked out of Elektra after one act.... because it is a one-act opera. And that act is plenty long.

Second, while L'heure espagnole is one act, it was paired with another Ravel opera. So I didn't exactly "walk out". Here is what I had to write about the Spanish Hour:

The first one was "The Spanish Hour" (this is all in French - I think the title is L'Heure Espagnole or something like that.) It's the day that a Spanish clockmaker is supposed to go around town doing maintenance on the official clocks, and his wife uses that day of the week for her trysts. Right before the clock guy leaves, a mule driver (who carries mail over the mountains with his mule) comes in wanting his old watch fixed. Mrs. Clockguy is pissed, because her husband tells the guy just to wait in the shop while he's out doing his duty.

Mrs. Clock doesn't want this guy hanging around, so she has the muleteer take a large clock from the show floor up to her bedroom. While he's doing this, her lover, a poet, shows up. Mrs. C wants to get it on and even grabs the poet's hands to put them on her bosom, but he won't stop singing poetry about clocks. Muleguy is coming down the stairs, so poet hides in a corner, and to buy time Mrs. C decides she wants this -other- clock up in her room - but first take the first clock back down. So she tries to get it on with poetboy again, but he's pissing her off. She gets the idea to put poetboy in the second clock (and he starts singing a song likening the clock to his casket and mortality...etc etc etc). Muleguy brings the first clock down, and hefts up second clock to go to second floor (did I mention there are three automata in the corner that get up and about doing this little routine with a clock in the shape of a heart? no matter.)

Anyway, while Muleguy is taking clock with poetboy inside upstairs, this old lover of Mrs. Clock shows up -- the guy who gave her husband the municipal clock gig (to get him out of the house). Mr. Pompous says that considering the trouble he made for her, she should give up a little of the good stuff. Well, she's intending to go upstairs to her much younger lover, so she blows him off (ahem), and trips lightly upstairs, drawing her shades after getting in the bedroom. Mr. Pomp decides he's being too serious for this young woman and hides himself in the first clock (remember, Muleguy brought it down earlier) waiting to surprise her. Muleguy comes down to the first floor singing some kind of paean to a generous hostess who suits tasks to her guests, but is interrupted by Mrs. C. yelling for him to take the 2nd clock down ("It doesn't work!").

While Muleguy goes upstairs to bring the 2nd clock down, Mrs. C is huffing downstairs and is taken aback by Mr. Pomp cuckoo-ing at her. Mr. P finally persuades her to get busy by reminding her that he may not be young, but he has more experience with and appreciation of women. She thinks, why not - first guy was a loss, but I might get a little action. So Muleguy comes down with the 2nd clock, takes the 1st clock upstairs. Mrs. C pulls poetboy out of his clock and tells him off. He sings about the difficulty of love. She's sick of this, and he decides to perservere by hiding in the clock (?)

Mrs. C goes upstairs after the 1st clock (with Mr. Pomp inside), and Muleguy comes down, singing about this lovely woman again. Again, he is interrupted by Mrs. C yelling that she can't stand the 1st clock, he must take it out of her room (it seems Mr. P is so fat he can't get out of the
clock). Muleguy cheerfully complies. She's at her wits end, then realizes there's been this young guy who can haul about large clocks with men inside. So when Muleguy asks Mrs. C what does she want to take up now, she requests him to go upstairs to her bedroom without a clock.

The two discarded lovers are downstairs in the clocks, one refusing to leave, the other unable to get out, when Mr. Clockmaker gets home. He thinks these are two customers inspecting the clocks, and he sells them their respective clocks. Then there's the only ensemble piece of singing:
a quintet bearing the motto: "Even the Muleteer gets his chance."

The End.
Did you get all that?

Yes, that's the sort of opera I like.

I did actually sit all the way through The Mother of Us All, though I probably wouldn't put up with it today. Or I dunno. Maybe I would.

The non-tricky answer, though, was Rigoletto. Mind you, this was in the late 90s, I had gotten cheap tickets for me & Stu, and googling answers/checking on Wikipedia wasn't really the thing yet.

Stu asked me what the opera was about -- I did remember that it was about a clown or jester, and told him I figured it must be a comedic opera.

We walked out after one act.

It took me many years to give Rigoletto a chance again, but come on -- all the good stuff is in the two later acts!

I mean, I like the bit with Sparafucile in the first act NOW, but I couldn't believe what we had gotten ourselves into, and just left.

Anyway, this is to note: there is nothing funny about Rigoletto. Other than I thought because it had a clown in it, it must be a comedy. I may have been in my 20s, but even I should have known then what a stupid assumption that was.

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Thursday, April 13th, 2017
8:46 pm - Notes on an Insurance Law/Regulation Meeting
a sequel to my actuarial meeting notes, I guess.

spoiler alert: I'm the only person in the intersection of these two meetings.

Names not noted because I have to work in the biz. And I don't feel like pissing off lawyers. Even if they're only law profs.

The title of the conference was Insurance in the Age of Trump, but there was actually very little Trump-related content. (Look, this is our idea of fun ("us" being the people who are into insurance regulation))

photo proofCollapse )

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Thursday, April 6th, 2017
9:21 pm - Search fails me

I =know= I once posted about how it was okay to lie in response to questions like "Does this make my butt look big?"

I know the Judge responded, and that St. Augustine was referenced, and I just couldn't win the argument except by saying CUZ I SAID SO.

So I can't find this post. I swear this was on livejournal, but the search function is crap.

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Monday, April 3rd, 2017
2:35 pm - Karamazovs on Screen
So, the Brothers Karamazov being a classic novel, I wondered what TV/movie versions are out there.

Well, there's this 1958 one with Yul Brynner as Mitya, Richard Basehart as Ivan, and William Shatner as Alyosha.

I'm not kidding. Here's the trailer:

Here's a scene between Mitya & Alyosha... and if you're familiar with the novel, you see what a mishmash they've made of the plot.

Bald, moustacheless Dmitri is so wrong. Richard Basehart is way too old (so is Yul Brynner). But William Shatner as Alyosha... surprisingly works. He's in his late 20s, so a bit old for Alyosha, but he kind of looks right. So I may have to go find the full movie. It might be worth it....but the issue is the novel is hyuuuuuge, and the movie is about 2.5 hours. A little long for a movie, but kind of short of the novel.

So I found a TV miniseries from 2008. In Russian. Some of the parts are on YouTube. I finished up part 1, which was a fairly faithful following of the novel thus far. The first part I found had only one comment on it (bitching about not finding all 12 parts), but the second one.. boy, did I hit YouTub comment territory!

The video is here.

Comments on the video:

Jan Gubat9 months ago
the actor playing dmitri karamazov is irritating as fuck
Dude, Dmitri is annoying as fuck in the novel. You want to strangle him because he's such a fool. What's interesting is that he's fairly well-educated, and not stupid in an intellectual sense. He is just a pain in the ass in controlling his behavior.

Mitya can't control his behavior, and Ivan can't control his thoughts.

While this Dmitri doesn't have the big moustaches that Dmitri should have, it's okay. The Alyosha looks very young, and the Ivan looks appropriately dour.

ROHIT KING C.2 years ago (edited)
The 1969 Movie is so much better. This 2008 Fyodor Pavlovich and others are "absolute-zero" compared to the 1969 ones :) Old is Gold !

Now I have to find the 1969 ones!

Maybe He means this Dutch version, or ...wait a sec... there's a Japanese adaptation?! I HAVE GOT TO GET THAT.

An Italian one from 1947, a British one from 1964 (ok, find that one), a meta-movie from the Czechs in 2008, and someone making a joke, I suppose.

Anyway, I think ROHIT KING meant the 1958 movie, because it has some really good reviews, so maybe I should see it anyway.

samwisegamgeese3 years ago
Well close to the book in wording but not quite how I imagined Dimitri, Fyodor is superb though and Ivan too......... the book infers a little more from Katerina (wink wink)!

Michael Meo5 months ago (edited)
I agree, the guy doing Fyodor is the best actor there. To me, the fellow playing Alyosha is totally wooden.

Alyosha would be a difficult character to play well. He doesn't speak much, and he's more of an onlooker. Dmitri acts, Ivan talks, Fyodor buffoons. Alyosha carries messages between people and slowly matures, being lovable all the while.

It's tough to do "lovable" (no matter the age or sex). It's too easy to tip over into the "you've gotta be kidding me" range. I think Dostoevsky manages it in the novel, but I can see actors having trouble with it.

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Sunday, April 2nd, 2017
9:16 am - Hanging with the Karamazovs
Since discovering Dostoevsky a couple years ago, I keep pondering whether I prefer the Brothers Karamazov over Crime and Punishment. They are both great novels, and have a few similar themes, but on one score the Karamazovs are well above Crime and Punishment: characters I'd like to party with.

Playing FMK with the three brothers is about the easiest one to consider (Mitya, Alyosha, and Ivan, obviously), and too many fanfics for any literary works revolve around the whole FMK game.

I'm more of a "who would it be fun to party with?" person. So let's consider the characters (not exhaustive)

If I wanted to get roaring drunk and have a great time: Mitya, hands down. I may be female, but I'm too old and not curvy enough for him (at least not in the right places), so I figure I'm pretty safe there.

Not so much his dad, Fyodor. Fyodor considers all women fair game. Also, he's the least surprising murdered character (look, it's mentioned in the first chapter) in literature. For a few chapters before the murder actually happens, I'm yelling GET MURDERED ALREADY. Kind of like the death of Little Nell.

Ivan would be a morose drunk. And if he starts to monolog, he's tedious.

Alyosha... not the partying type. That said, if I was in an expansive, drunken mood, he would provide an audience to whatever I wanted to say. He's a good listener. Also, I know he wouldn't gossip about me later or betray any confidence.

Grushenka: might be fun. She wouldn't consider me a threat, but she obviously prefers the company of men. Me, too, sister.

Katya: oh hell no. She's a super bitch. I end up wanting to throttle her, just like I want to throttle Mitya, but for different reasons. Katya and Ivan deserve each other.

Madame Hohlakov: I would totally brunch with her, the woman's version of partying. She'd have the best gossip. And you never know what insane thing she will go on about.

Lise - I assume she'd be part of the brunch with her dear mama. She's too young for drinking, but she'd provide interesting conversation.

Rakitin - no. He always has a hidden agenda. You can't party with people like that.

Maximov - no. He's a sloppy drunk. Same for Snegiryov. I feel sorry for Snegiryov, but not enough to hang out with him.

Marfa &/or Grigory - are you kidding me? hell no

Smedyakov - absolutely not. The guy is a murderous psycho.

Miusov - a pompous bore who always tries to one-up everybody.

Father Zossima - Absolutely. Maybe not the other monks, especially since they keep themselves separated from women, but Zossima would be good for a nice cup of coffee. I've had a good time hanging out with priests in my life. They've got great stories, and Zossima's final story in the novel is pretty damn good.

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Friday, March 24th, 2017
5:59 pm - The Art of Influence
Apply this to any situation you like whether man-driven global climate change, health care reform, Sarah Palin, Tiger Woods, or actuarial credentialing [this last one is actually what I'm dealing with] I want to ask about a particular tactic and how effective this is in influencing opinion.

Let's say there is an official position A being put out there, and then strong opposing position B. The A-supporting guys are the leaders, in position due to elections or appointments, and A has been put forth multiple times previously and every time rejected. But this time, they think, they'll be able to get it through as they outnumber the B people overwhelmingly amongst the official leaders.

But what do the onlookers think about the situation? And how to influence them?

The A-side people cast aspersions on the intelligence and the intentions of the B-siders. Is this effective in influencing the opinion of onlookers? When the B-siders are attacking the specific qualities of A as opposed to the characteristics of A-supporters themselves?

What do you think?

[A resurrected post from December 8, 2009]

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5:55 pm - Digging up Old Blog Posts from Elsewhere, and On Meep Being Pissed
So, I've blogged at other people's websites in the past, and many of those past websites are now gone (which is why I do my blogging on my own site now. It's not fancy. I don't like fancy.) Well, I've forgotten a lot of what I wrote, and I'd like to grab some of it back, and I've mainly been using Internet Archive to help me.

But first, let me tell you a story.

I read this dumbass piece this morning:

The advice hackers give when looking for dirt in a pile of data is to search for words such as pissed or angry. They suggest figuring out to whom the most emails are sent, since that signals a trusted relationship. And to use Facebook to suss out relationships--ex-girlfriends, college acquaintances--to spot dubious interactions. Deleted photos are telling, as are erased emails. And they say to always, always look in the draft folder, which houses the truly horrible stuff people are too smart to send. The draft folder is each and every one of our personal Nixon White House tapes.

Remembering my prior foray into searching my email for particular terms, I thought "why not?"

I searched on "pissed", and while it reminded me of all sorts of things, I wouldn't be the person embarrassed by those particular emails being aired out in public. I got 118 results.

Because it is almost all about actuarial politics. I'm not joking. When it's not about actuarial politics, it's about the politics of public pensions.

If they dig through the person I get most emails from, they'll find people I've never met who are sending me stories about public pensions.

I have some of the most boring email dirt there is. Mainly because I do not use email for spicy stuff. If I'm going to be nasty over personal stuff, I'll do it over the phone or face-to-face. I like the personal delivery to be close.

Here is some stereotypical text from me using the word "pissed":

Likewise, clamping down on legit emails so that you're not annoyed by various spam (and to prevent dangerous email worms) means you get more pissed-off people and more phone calls if it's not intelligently implemented, which is not necessarily increasing productivity. Especially when said system is implemented during the heaviest time for exams.

I was emailing somebody at the Society of Actuaries about their new spam filter, which they started during an actuarial exam sitting, which is when they have their highest incoming email traffic.

Even more stereotypical:

I started out on the Actuarial Outpost in dispute with fellow
actuaries (I was working with annuities, and was getting pissed off
with pension actuaries), and then started branching out beyond that
when I saw the extent of the public finance mess.

Anyway, I can just imagine people begging off on such a "hacking" assignment for me. They'd probably go... "how the hell can someone get so pissed off at a payroll growth assumption? Is that normal? I can't stay awake!"

And when I went into my Drafts folder, 38 were just empty. There actually might be more in the 124 drafts that are left, because if it's an empty email at the end of a thread, I didn't notice. Most of my drafts aren't sent because something bobbled and I forgot to delete the draft. It wasn't because I was agonizing over not sending the email. I bet at least 30 more of those drafts are empty, if not almost all.

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Saturday, March 18th, 2017
2:55 pm - Bring back finishing schools
So I read this piece by Kyle Smith at the NYP and, well, let me excerpt:

‘Adulting’ classes prove millennials’ nitwit parents are to blame

Millennials are shamelessly signing up for “adulting” classes to teach them how to be grownup. Why didn’t we ever need to use “adult” as a verb before? Simple. All of youth was spent taking responsibility, learning to be independent, achieving maturity. Adulting was simply growing up. You were mature long before you were an adult.

Not anymore. Today’s young adults seem baffled and overwhelmed by ordinary grownup stuff (see the video “Stressed Out” by Twenty One Pilots — the Crosby, Stills and Nash of the participation-prize generation). “I see a lot of suffering around not knowing how to do the ‘adulting’ thing,” Maine psychotherapist Rachel Weinstein told the online magazine Quartz. Along with elementary school teacher Katie Brunelle, she created the Adulting School, which pitches itself with these words: “We know you’re sick of feeling like you’re pretending to be a grown-up and that someone’s going to realize you don’t know the sh%#t you’re supposed to know.”

The Adulting School sets out to teach basic stuff. Really basic stuff: The first item on the “Adulting Quiz” (which is not a quiz but a series of statements to which the respondent is supposed to answer yes or no) is “I know how much money I have and how to access it.” Another is, “I’m comfortable following recipes.” Another is, “I know when to use which form of correspondence . . . for example, I wouldn’t break up with someone over a text.” Jeez, in my day, everyone knew the proper way to dump someone wasn’t via text: It was via ceasing to return phone calls.

To a certain extent, I don't think this is fair. First off, only kids from a certain level of privilege can get through childhood not knowing how to do certain substantive things. This is not an across-the-board problem. Secondly, I remember similarly clueless college kids 25 years ago at NCSU, who didn't know how to cook for themselves or do laundry. To be fair, I don't think their parents really knew how to cook, either. They could stick something in the microwave, no prob.

Yes, parents should be helping their kids to acquire life skills, but there have been finishing schools of various sorts before, so why not our own version now?

So yay with the adulting classes and getting shit done.

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Monday, March 13th, 2017
2:53 pm - Too much fun with mortality research...
...ok, I would argue I'm having exactly the right amount of fun, but whatever.

Before I share my laughs with you, I've been doing a series of blog posts on my main blog, STUMP, called Mortality Mondays.

Here they are so far: (for clarity b/c of my lj format: each bullet item here is a link to the post)

Now to my fun.

I've been reading through a paper titled "Why Men Die Younger", (Barbara Blatt Kalbenm FSA, EA, MAAA (2000). North American Actuarial Journal, 4:4, 83-111) which has a nice overview of sex-differentials in mortality -- which apparently goes back to at least 1330 in European nobility (and non-nobility from more recent periods). Even with death in childbirth, women tended to live longer than men (men have always been more likely to die of homicide and other violent causes, for example... and no, it's not only war.)

So a few items I pulled out:

If you want to cite a paper written by a monarch:

James I, King of England. 1604. A Counterblast to Tobacco, as transcribed in Two Broadsides Against Tobacco, 1672. London, England: John Hancock.

If you're interested in what King James had to write: Full Text of Two Broadsides Against Tobacco.

Here is the concluding paragraph:
Have you not reason then to be ashamed, and to forbear this filthy Novelty, so basely grounded, so foolishly received, and so grosly mistaken in the right use thereof: In your abuse thereof sinning against God, harming your selves both in Persons and Goods, and raking also thereby the marks and notes of Vanity up∣on you; by the Custome thereof, making your selves to be wonder∣ed at by all forreign civil Nations, and by all Strangers that come among you, to be scorned and contempted; a custome loathsome to the Eye, hateful to the Nose, harmful to the Brain, dangerous to the Lungs, and in the black stinking fume thereof, nearest re∣sembling the horrible stigian smoke of the Pit that is bottom∣less.

Here is a quote from a paper from 1954 on why work kills men more than women (from a public health physician named Wilson Sowder from his paper titled "Why is the Sex Difference in Mortality Increasing?", Public Health Reports 69(9):860-864.)

It is possible that women escape the consequences of worry, frustration, disappointment, and tension to a greater degree than men by being more vocal about these conditions, through tears, or occasionally hysterics. The reaction of men, on the other hand, may be in the form of coronary disease, hypertension, or ulcers"

A different theory from Herb Goldberg, from his book The Hazards of Being Male: Surviving the Myth of Masculine Privilege, published in 1976 was that the male is afraid that he can't survive without the woman.

Now that comes off as a bit laughable, but you need to remember when that was written, but also various items were quoted: higher male mortality after divorce and being widowed (see the Broken Heart Syndrome post); higher suicide rates after maternal deaths; higher suicide rates among single men than single women.

And many of these aspects do still persist, fwiw.

The sex gap re: mortality is not a new thing, though it's smaller now than it was mid-20th century... but the gap was a lot smaller in centuries past (when everybody died quite a bit more often from infectious disease).

This is 20 years old now, but in 1998, there were only 6 out of 72 detailed causes of death by the CDC where the age-adjusted death rates were higher for females than males. Two you can guess easily: breast cancer (which some men do get) and pregnancy/childbirth.

Here are the other four: Alzheimer's disease, asthma, rheumatic fever, and kidney infections.

Note that this is not merely because women tend to live longer -- these are age-adjusted rates, so that means these are more prevalent for women.

The 6 causes listed were the cause of only 7% of female deaths in 1998, though.

Anyway, I'll be looking into that more later, but I find that stuff interesting.

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Wednesday, March 8th, 2017
6:43 pm - Are advanced students being left behind in school?
I'm not quite sure that's what this study really shows:


By Matthew C. Makel2, Michael S. Matthews3, Scott J. Peters4, Karen Rambo-Hernandez5, and Jonathan A. Plucker6


Conclusion 1: Very large percentages of students are performing above grade level.
Conclusion 2: Large percentages of students are performing well above grade level.
Conclusion 3: These percentages represent staggeringly large numbers of students.


Implication 1: Federal and state education policies focusing on grade-level proficiency are irrelevant for a huge number of American students.
Implication 2: The U.S. K-12 context, which is organized primarily around age-based grade levels, needs serious rethinking.
Implication 3: States should require each district and school to report its percentages of above-grade-level performers and to disaggregate students’ average growth by starting scores.

Currently, the evidence suggests that between 15% and 45% of students enter the late-elementary classroom each fall already performing at least one year ahead of expectations. Our initial question – How many students are learning above grade level? – needs to be extended. The more important questions may be:

1. How should we reorganize our schools, now that we know that large numbers of these students exist?
2. How can we best meet these students’ learning needs, if they already have mastered much of the year’s content before the year has even started? And lastly,
3. How can schools balance the potential for excellence against the need to achieve basic proficiency, when the variation in student achievement within classrooms and schools is so vast?

Okay, there's a bunch of problems with this.

But the main thing is whether the "grade level" from these tests have anything to do with what those specific kids are being taught in school.

Here's a graph made in this blog post -- Study: Smart Kids Are Being Held Back

Here's the deal: I was never in a "nth grade English class"... in any grade! Yes, I know tracking isn't exactly popular, but it still goes on under a variety of names. I wouldn't assume that just because students are "above grade level" that they're really missing out on being challenged in the classroom -- to wit, there's nothing really connecting those test results with what they're actually being taught. Many schools have programs specifically for people who are well ahead or way behind, keeping them in age groups for social reasons, not academic reasons.

Now, the issue is that they want to say individual student progress should be measured, as opposed to comparing to a floor. I suppose that's okay.

But the "fix" isn't necessarily to advance someone to a higher grade, even. Someone who has a very high achievement level for their age is not going to perform the same way as someone at the same achievement level in terms of skills/knowledge, but at the "average" age for that achievement.

My point is that simply advancing students a grade doesn't fix the issue, because they may very well continue to learn faster than the people in the class they're in. They're still not being challenged.

The particular author of this linked blog post from the same site may have been helped by skipping a grade, but I know it wouldn't have helped my situation. When I was in calculus in high school, and I was a 10th grader and all the other students were seniors... I had a much easier time of it than they did. Even though they were advanced for the school. If I had merely "progressed" one year per year, even after being skipped a few grades, I would have been well behind where I ended up in terms of actual knowledge. It's not a fix to stick the really fast students with slower, much older students at the same level. To be sure, I'm talking about some really extreme extremes.

That said, when the student body is fairly small (as is the case for my kids), I agree that "grades" may be very unhelpful ways of grouping the students. A one-room schoolhouse model may be a better fit. You progress when you've achieved, and you move on. But that requires a lot more one-on-one work.

In any case, I don't see why any of this needs to be a federal issue. If you're going to define education policy at the federal level, you're going to try to cram the problems of huge schools from densely populated cities into the same buckets as those in rural or suburban areas. How about just providing guidance of reasonable levels of achievement for certain grades (the percents above show that perhaps these standards may be a bit low), and then let people know where they land?

I'm very pro-gifted education, and I definitely think there shouldn't be such strict age segregation in schools. There should be multi-age socialization going on, if they're concerned about social issues.

But I don't think this study really shows much. Yes, many people are better than average. Shocker.

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