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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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Monday, September 26th, 2016
9:57 am - Who ever told you that you were smart? Or an elite? Or an authority?
I've been sitting on this draft, and might as well let rip now. I'm feeling pretty good (meaning physically) for the moment, which I find a better time to rant than when I'm in pain. [as I just want to swear at everybody, which is not the most persuasive of methods]

What originally kicked off this rant was seeing this post by one of my many one-sided nemeses (meaning, I have a grudge against them, and they have no idea this "relationship" exists) Nassim Nicholas Taleb: The Intellectual Yet Idiot. Here's an excerpt:

More socially, the IYI subscribes to The New Yorker. He never curses on twitter. He speaks of “equality of races” and “economic equality” but never went out drinking with a minority cab driver. Those in the U.K. have been taken for a ride by Tony Blair. The modern IYI has attended more than one TEDx talks in person or watched more than two TED talks on Youtube. Not only will he vote for Hillary Monsanto-Malmaison because she seems electable and some other such circular reasoning, but holds that anyone who doesn’t do so is mentally ill.
The IYI is member of a club to get traveling privileges; if social scientist he uses statistics without knowing how they are derived (like Steven Pinker and psycholophasters in general); when in the UK, he goes to literary festivals; he drinks red wine with steak (never white); he used to believe that fat was harmful and has now completely reversed; he takes statins because his doctor told him to do so; he fails to understand ergodicity and when explained to him, he forgets about it soon later; he doesn’t use Yiddish words even when talking business; he studies grammar before speaking a language; he has a cousin who worked with someone who knows the Queen; he has never read Frederic Dard, Libanius Antiochus, Michael Oakeshot, John Gray, Amianus Marcellinus, Ibn Battuta, Saadiah Gaon, or Joseph De Maistre; he has never gotten drunk with Russians; he never drank to the point when one starts breaking glasses (or, preferably, chairs); he doesn’t know the difference between Hecate and Hecuba; he doesn’t know that there is no difference between “pseudointellectual” and “intellectual” in the absence of skin in the game; has mentioned quantum mechanics at least twice in the past five years in conversations that had nothing to do with physics.

He knows at any point in time what his words or actions are doing to his reputation.

Wow, Taleb is as incoherent as me when blogging. I've read others of his posts. Yes, they all come off this oddly. I guess he really is heavily edited in his books.

But here's his point -- we're often heard that the U.S. is anti-intellectual. What it definitely is is anti-ignorant-people-posing-as-experts. You know, "intellectuals". It's a pose. I'm not saying these people are stupid [though some are... looking at you Matt Yglesias], just that these people don't know much of anything to depth and/or breadth. Or, if they do know such things, they are expounding on areas outside of that expertise. I really don't want to hear a mathematician's concept of politics as it should be, for example.

Obviously, having been in math grad school at one point, I definitely got to hear that.

But in many cases, I see some intellectual lazybones pretending they're super-smart because they went to the right schools, have the right opinions, tweet the right things, block the right people, etc. I mean, if you're going to act superior, you need to actually have something behind it, or people who are not part of your circle will actually treat you with contempt.

This takes me back to my old post: Charles Murray response: teaching wisdom

Here are some important lessons, some of which are explicitly noted by Murray:
1. Smart people did nothing to merit their intelligence
2. Being smart does not mean you're better than other people
3. One needs to have some humility over one's intellectual abilities
4. One needs to appreciate the work done by others
5. To excel in anything you have to work really hard

Maybe this is a subset of #5 and #3, and perhaps Murray didn't address it, but I've got a new point:

#6: Being smart isn't the same as knowing anything useful or correct.

I've met so many highly-educated idiots, I really have to wonder.

And looking up Matt Yglesias, I see he has the right connections, etc. Too bad nobody told him that it helps looking things up when you don't actually know anything about a subject. You would think they'd have told them that in Dalton, because obviously the philosophy department at Harvard didn't help. If you want a sampling of MattY's many flubs, this is a good place to start. Most of MattY's stupid stuff is political, but the one I linked isn't. Here's another.

I don't want to pick on him in particular (but it's so much =fun=). There's all sorts of examples once you start looking for them. Especially at Vox (what was it about B players hiring C players?)

Anyway, I get a bit tired hearing about "anti-intellectualism" when the sorts of intellectuals being served up are the likes of Vox-splainers. Even not-so-smart people can recognize bullshitters.

It's amazing what one can produce when one never has to worry about checking facts.

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Thursday, September 15th, 2016
7:06 am - Why are You Telling Me This?
I want to keep ragging on the Devil Wears Prada (the book, not the movie), just because there was so much that annoyed me about it (mind you, I've only gotten 25% the way in, and have pretty much decided to stop there. I will explain another time...yes, there will be a third post bitching about this book.)

For this post, I'm going to bitch about the writing style.

What's funny is that an actual fiction writer makes the point I want to make while I'm thinking of this:

Bill blinked from where he sat at his desk, looking across him at the red spires dotting the desert landscape outside the office window. “My writer’s group said I needed more description and sense of place,” he said. “But then when I put in description, they told me I had stopped the action and given them indigestible infodumps.”

“Ah,” Mike said. “Did you?”

“Perhaps a tadbit, but dang it all, man, how is one supposed to convey things like new technology without a ten paragraph break explaining the history and how it works?”

“It is difficult,” Mike said, as he scooped up the three precious coffee beans from Earth and shoved them in the little door atop the coffee maker, to allow the replicator to do its thing. “But do you really need the history? After all, most of the time, do you pause to think of the history of your shaver, or how Earth people used to scrape their faces with blades before inventing the exfulicator every morning?”

“No, but… I feel like I’m just spinning bull–” He paused, as Mike, the proper weight of replicated beans having been achieved, turned on the grinder. Why the damn thing couldn’t recreate beans already ground, Bill would never know. Even when the scientists explained. “Anyway, I feel like I’m just talking mid-air if I don’t give details.”

“People don’t want details,” Mike said. “I’ve noticed that. Except very rarely, to give a sense of time and place.” He squinted out the window at the landscape. Three hundred years after terraforming, Mars was if anything redder as the oxygen rich atmosphere instantly oxidized any exposed iron. He grabbed a mug from the wall. It came from Earth and said “Visit the Sahara Ocean resort.” He had no clue what it meant, never having been on Earth, but the picture of lush green landscape and a cartoony ocean filled with fish made a contrast to the desert outside.

You can finish the post here. I don't want to give away the end.

Well, damn, Sarah, where am I supposed to go from here?

Oh right, tell you what line it was that really pushed me over the edge about the Prada book. It was saying that the first-person-narrator's mother was stirring her tea with a spoon.

That was it.

FFS, it's fine to tell me she's stirring tea, but why tell me it was with a spoon? You need to tell me only if it's going to be different from what I expect.

As I write this specific paragraph (this post was built up over time, doncha know, like fine, handcrafted artisinal Word documents), I am sitting at my desk with a cup of Mandarin Orange Spice Tea. Why is this important, do you ask? (probably you haven't even gotten this far.) Well, I noticed yesterday that the K-cup box in our big K-cup box matrix (truly something to behold - 3 rows up and 5 boxes across in each row, stacked up and usually stable) that was labeled Mandarin Orange Spice had nothing but English Breakfast Tea in it.

Or seemingly did.

I like both English Breakfast and Mandarin Orange Spice, but sometimes I want a fruity tea with no caffeine and sometimes I want strong black tea dammit. I hate sticking my hand in a box, assuming it's labeled properly, while I'm looking at the CNBC feed on the huge flatscreen TV, and shoving the K-cup into the machine... it's all very automatic... and then I take a sip and WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?

Once, expecting Green Tea, I ended up with Chai. I was pissed.

I also just dumped out the Chai and made coffee instead.

Okay, sorry, so here's what I did about an hour ago (I think...where does time go?). I actually fished around in the box and found a Mandarin Orange Spice tea k-cup. Then while that was being spewed out the Kuerig nozzle, I pulled all the English Breakfast cups out of the box and shoved them into the English Breakfast box, which is right next to it. There was an extra cup and I just set it on the counter, and there were only 5 Mandarin Orange Spice cups in that box.

There's more to this boring story (such as how the k-cups had gotten mixed up like that, which I have a pretty good idea about), but you see that the point is people have expectations and if they are thwarted they get annoyed.

By mentioning that damn spoon, I was thrown off: "What else was she going to be stirring it with?" If she was stirring the tea with her finger, there could be a tale there, such as the tea had gone cold and she was just fiddling with her drink. If she was stirring the tea with a plastic spoon, it could mean they're at a cafe, or maybe something happened that all the spoons were currently in the dishwasher or SOMETHING. If it were a silver spoon, I'd wonder what was wrong with the woman.

It's Chekov's teaspoon. It's not so much that it will be plot-crucial, but mention a detail only if it actually adds something. Some kind of dimension. Some story. If it's what's already assumed to be going on.... why did you mention it?

Once that spoon got stuck in my craw (metaphorically), I kept noticing these issues. And while yes, some of it is flabby writing to begin with, I kept thinking -- dammit, an editor should have fixed this!

But a good editor is hard to find.

So let's hear it for the excellent editors!

And boo to the editor who left in the unnecessary spoon. (Unless said editor had tried her best in cleaning up the text and had just collapsed from exhaustion. Oh honey, have some tea. Stir it with whatever you like.)

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Wednesday, September 14th, 2016
12:03 pm - What I Learned from MST3K
Well, I've learned a lot of obscure trivia, but that's not what I mean.

(Also, if you're not familiar with MST3K, check out their YouTube channel. The annotated full episodes work only on computers, not mobile devices, just as an FYI. I =finally= get some of the jokes!)

I'm not even talking about what I learned about comedy/pacing/repeats (Watch out for snakes!) or even building a fan community.

I mean what I learned about making movies.

It's really tough to make a good movie, and also what constitutes an enjoyable movie can differ.

Some of the movies the MSTies riff on are enjoyable without riffs. I find the Russo-Finnish films to be fun - great production values, loads of music, traditional tales, and yeah, it's a little goofy but it's still entertaining. Just like my enjoyment of the Adventures of Pluto Nash -- I think it's a fun movie. No, I'm not going to argue it's a great movie (or even an artistically good one), but I do find it really enjoyable. The Hercules movies are also pretty good, not to mention Gamera.

But the main thing I notice, because Joike & the bots invariably point it out, is the craftsmanship needed to make a solid movie. At the very least, you need to be able to tell a story. It's not exactly fair to pick on the "movies" where producers took a TV series and edited it to make "movies". At least the Master Ninja and Fugitive Alien "movies" seem to make some sense, but I have no frigging clue what was going on in Mighty Jack. But again, those were crafted as TV series originally, not self-contained movies.

The example I have in mind is Monster-a-Go-Go, which again, I have no clue what the plot is supposed to be. The infamous ending:

As if a switch had been turned, as if an eye had been blinked, as if some phantom force in the universe had made a move eons beyond our comprehension, suddenly, there was no trail! There was no giant, no monster, no thing called "Douglas" to be followed. There was nothing in the tunnel but the puzzled men of courage, who suddenly found themselves alone with shadows and darkness! With the telegram, one cloud lifts, and another descends. Astronaut Frank Douglas, rescued, alive, well, and of normal size, some eight thousand miles away in a lifeboat, with no memory of where he has been, or how he was separated from his capsule! Then who, or what, has landed here? Is it here yet? Or has the cosmic switch been pulled? Case in point: The line between science fiction and science fact is microscopically thin! You have witnessed the line being shaved even thinner! But is the menace with us? Or is the monster gone?

Don't worry, it's not a spoiler per se. Because I still have no clue what this means. It's okay to have ambiguous plots/endings/etc. But your audience needs to get some sort of sense out of what you made!

I was put to mind of this, because I bailed partly through an audiobook for the Devil Wears Prada this morning, which I'm sure was just fine as a movie, and could probably do okay as a written book (because I can read faster than the reader speaks), but just could not hold my attention as an audiobook. It's okay to drop the audience into your story in media res, but ffs, something interesting needs to be happening! An argument between Achilles and Agamemnon due to a plague in the Greeks' camp? Interesting! Fighting goblins? Interesting! Trying to negotiate Manhattan traffic with a stick shift... could be interesting if you could make me care. That you're running errands for somebody doesn't make me care. Heinlein wrote a short story on a company for running errands (really, solving problems) and that is my favorite Heinlein story ever (yes, even more than And He Built a Crooked House.) [alas all the General Services I'm getting are government agencies, which is kind of a drag] I'm sure the author is doing just fine without my sniping (just as Anna Wintour is also probably doing just fine), but I keep seeing how it could have been made better.


She did finish the book and put it out there. I don't think her sequel did quite as well, which might be related to the lack of craftsmanship I noticed all over the place. Kind of like the problem with Lucas and Star Wars. But I digress.

My point: it's not necessarily simple to put together a story and make it work, even on a basic level. Making good art, whether movies, books, paintings, musicals, etc., is tough and it's hard enough that somebody even put together a completed work and put it in front of the public.

So, congrats to those who even tried and failed at it.

But man, those guys who made Monster-a-Go-Go didn't try at all. Shame on you people.

VIDEO: [Monster A-Go Go] SPOILER ALERT! The biggest F*** you ending in b-movie history!

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Sunday, September 11th, 2016
4:53 pm - Only the good bits
I have a subscription to Met Opera on Demand, and I use the hell out of it. There are audio recordings going back to at leats the 1930s, and HD video recordings from the last season (seriously, check out the Pearl Fishers)

But the thing is, sometimes I feel like shit and just want the good bits.

None of my avenues for accessing my subscription includes me doing a playlist of my fave arias (I have sent messages to management on this at least twice, btw), so I've got to have a bigger idea of the "good bits" if I don't want to be flipping through the remote too rapidly.

So I'm left with two extended pieces from Mozart operas: the finale to act two of Marriage of Figaro (I usually start at the point where Susanna comes out of the closet (literally) to get the solo to trio, etc)....and what I'm going through right now: the very end of Don Giovanni.

It's the last scene, with Leporello directing other servants to set out a banquet. At a punch, I start at the point where the statue shows up.

This is how I know whether it's worth watching the whole production: if they flub this, I don't want to see/hear the rest.

One production, they had the Don just drop dead from a heart attack, without getting the literal dragging to hell.

Look, I don't mind modernizing operas, but DAMMIT THE DON GOES TO HELL and not in some figurative sense. It's important. Also, I don't want the statue as an inanimate object on stage with the singer obscured. THAT STATUE WALKS. Again, it's important. Sure, all of this can be a drug-induced dream of the Don (or Leporello), but the whole walking statue & dragging to hell are very important points.

It's like a Hamlet where Hamlet doesn't actually die. That would suck.

Anyway, I'm only watching good ones right now. Sam Raimi as the Don and Kurt Moll as the Commendatore/Statue is my fave of this bunch. Partly, bc Raimi is so hot.

As an aside, the Don's hair is also important.

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Thursday, September 8th, 2016
9:54 am - Happy Happy Joy Joy
I saw this recent comic from The Oatmeal, and I couldn't get past the second part.

ooooh shinyCollapse )

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Monday, September 5th, 2016
3:16 pm - You Need to Live A Little Before Examining Your Life
In that prior post, I got to that WaPo "think piece" via Althouse, where she writes:

1. Why are they 18 years old? Why not mature a little by doing something valuable or stupid for a few years? Start hemorrhaging money after you know yourself well enough to decide what you want to do in life.

There are 3 other items, but I don't care about them.

blah di blahCollapse )

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11:17 am - Some of Us Have Got to Work...and Convince Others to Hire Us
Two stories, both abbreviated.

blah blah blahCollapse )

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Thursday, September 1st, 2016
2:40 pm - Enjoying abnormalities
I just finished reading The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, an early book by Oliver Sacks. Yes, it says 1998, and that's the date of that edition, but the first edition was in 1970... before I was born. And it shows.

I do find it interesting that all the old, now-disapproved, clinical terminology is there: moron, simpletons, Home for the Defective, etc. I like having that historical window.

There was a point where I thought I might be able to pick up new vocabulary -- one of the reason I enjoyed reading William Buckley, Alexander Cockburn, Chris Hitchens, etc. was that in each piece from them I'd learn at least two new words that I might actually be able to use for my own purposes at another time. Or at least just enjoy the mouthfeel of the oddities.

So I started marking up words and phrases in Sacks's book... until I realized everything I was marking were just clinical terms, and not of much use.

For example, the phrase "ictal pleasure" showed up, and I thought I had run across one of those lapidary exemplars that Buckley liked so well.


All it meant was that the people enjoyed the results of their particular epileptic seizures. "Ictal" just means relating to a seizure, etc.. He could have just have easily written about people enjoying their temporal lobe seizures, which some do.

Alas, I have no physiological/mental abnormalities I particularly enjoy. But I do have a son who has his own abnormalities, as demonstrated in the following picture:

We have all sorts of series of letters, numbers, characters, logos, etc. all over our walls. If you look closely, not only will you see normal ABCs, you'll see a greek alphabet, emojis, and punctuation. That's D's bedroom. In the dining room, he's written out some kana -- primarily katakana it looks like. D loves symbols and replicating them.


On the walls of our house.

In Sharpie.

So yes, I would say it seems he's enjoying himself.

He will also do it on paper

But it seems his preferred canvas is our walls.

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Monday, August 29th, 2016
10:46 am - Sitting on the Porch
I am not one much for the outdoors.

I do not like bright sunlight (a summer spent in Vancouver was about my favoritest summer weather ever). I dislike beaches. I hate bugs. I do like being out on the water, in a rowboat or something like that, but that requires equipment, prep, etc.

I do not enjoy messing with wildlife of any sort. I prefer my nature via videos.

I do like mountains. I love shade. I love to sit and read and just chill. Literally. I like the cold. I hate heat. That's why I moved up north, partly.

So I'm big on porch sitting.

Now, you might think I'd like a big rocking chair, but no. It jostles one's drink too much, even if the drink is in a bottle. Just regular old chairs on the porch, looking out over this:

I've not been sitting out on the porch much, because of the heat and bugs issue. But it looks like the weather is turning, so porch sitting it is. I've got a huge backlog of books to get through.

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Sunday, August 21st, 2016
8:03 pm - Physical therapy, try 2
So my pain... I don't know what to say about it other than it's always there, except when it's even more there.

It seems the origin of the problem, going back to 2010, is postural in nature. I've been trying to avoid surgery/drugs/shots for the pain, because if it's structural in nature, I don't want to mask the pain.... I could be making things worse while blissfully unaware of the damage I'm doing.

So my neurologist has recommended a new course of PT (my first try was 5 years ago -- I've been doing those exercises all along, as well as the ones from the chiropractors... which are essentially the same.) I got me a new set of exercises to do, but I've not been able to do them this weekend, because the pain gets only worse and worse. And these aren't extreme stretches by any means.

But the one plus of the new PT place are their heated ultrasound massages. OH YES. GIMME MORE OF THAT.

Not sure if it helps the problem, but it feels good. Just trying to feel good, for a few moments, is a win in my book.

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Monday, August 8th, 2016
12:56 pm - Most boring jobs
I saw this discussion at Althouse about most boring jobs:

BBC collects descriptions of the most boring jobs... and the jobs are interestingly boring, but I was surprised that they all involve repetitive physical motions. When I think of boring jobs, I think of jobs that draw on the mind.

I'm sure the boringly boring jobs were not selected for the piece. There's only so much one can talk about working as a stocker at Walmart.

In many of the jobs being bitched about, the main problem was they were pointless, meaningless, or futile:

I worked for weeks unpacking small cereal bars from large boxes and then repackaging the same cereal bars into smaller boxes. Pointless. Jude Connor

After I left school I got a summer job patrolling a stretch of canal in Burnley to stop people falling in. Problem was, the canal was drained, with hardly an inch of water in it. Following that, I worked in a factory tearing off strips of Sellotape from the tops of flattened cardboard boxes. Simon Mitchell, Sheffield
Sticking labels on animal food bags. There were three types: cattle, pig or sheep. Every few days you would switch between the types and get to stick on a different label. I actually started looking forward to a change of label. Nick, Hove
I once spent six months stapling 400 reports every day. Just stapling, every day. One of many boring jobs. Yawn! Suzy Wild

I once had a temp job which consisted of taking staples out of pieces of paper. I lasted only one morning. Mari, Kent

Those last two were a nice juxtaposition.

But I see Althouse's point: the worst job I ever had from a tedium point of view was part of a volunteering job at Holly Hill Hospital in Raleigh. To begin with, they had me tri-folding brochures. I got pretty good at that, and the great part is that one's conscious brain doesn't have to engage. It was a purely physical process, so I could daydream about other stuff while folding brochures.

But then, they noticed I was good at detail. And they had me going through the mailing list of donors (which was a huge printout...dot matrix... on those huge pieces of paper with the green/white areas) - I had the current list, and updates from another printout. It was tedious, and while it had meaning [making sure you keep in touch with donors is super-important for such orgs], it engaged just enough of my brain that I couldn't think about other stuff and get the job done.

So I cast about to find any way to get assigned to a different job, therefore I lied about knowing Aldus Pagemaker when I overheard others having a difficult time redoing the org chart. Playing with Pagemaker was fun, and I got to do interesting stuff like help design the brochures the next set of volunteers would be folding.

Anyway, I do tend to give interns very tedious jobs...and this is pretty common in many office jobs like mine, because interns just don't know enough and won't learn fast enough (usually) in the few weeks we have them to do something that requires a lot of background knowledge. In my case, I have the intern go through the annual statements of hundreds of insurance companies, look for one specific small piece of info, and note whether it changed from the prior year. [Most won't have] At a prior company, the interns were given historical mortality tables as they were in a database, and had to check against the published numbers from actuarial journals. Both of these are extremely tedious, but it doesn't take much knowledge to be able to do them.

And they're actually important.

It is simpler to explain the mortality table example -- there were two interns working on that, and I asked them if anybody told them why we wanted them to work on this. They said no. (They may have been humoring me, or wanting a break from looking at the tables. But I wouldn't be surprised if nobody told them.)

The reason why is that many insurers, especially smaller ones, were dependent on this database resource, and did not have the resources to check that the tables are correct. This affects not only their pricing but also their reserving. The reserving aspect is because the reserves for a life insurance policy is determined at date of issue, not current mortality tables. So even though some of these tables were decades old, I assured them that there were people out there who use those tables, and would implement any fixes they made.

The worst kind of job is the kind where you're being asked to do something tedious and boring... and nobody even uses it. What's the point?

That's why I tell interns and newbies what I'm using their work product before. In the case of the intern project I have, in prior iterations, it's helped my company win new business. That's pretty damn important.

It's still a boring job, though.

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Saturday, August 6th, 2016
1:23 pm - Idiosyncratic pronunciation
I'm trying to collect examples of idiosyncratic pronunciation -- when a specific individual has a non-standard way of pronouncing a certain word or related words.

I'm not talking about "nukular" for "nuclear" - that's a pronunciation that lots of people do. I'm looking for just odd/off/etc. pronunciations. And I'm not looking for the cutesy-type childhood mispronunciations. I'm looking for someone who consistently uses a nonstandard pronunciation compared to other people with their language/accent/dialect.

Sometimes, it comes from someone who has to use a word (like an actor or book-reader), who didn't choose the word, and is pronouncing the word the best they can. The quintessential example here is Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future saying "jigawatt" for "gigawatt".

Sometimes, it's a deliberate choice, like Winston Churchill's choice to pronounce Nazi as "nazee" as opposed to "nat-see".

What's setting me off is the odd pronunciations of lecturers I'm listening to on CD. In one case, I think it was an idiosyncrasy or just a brain fart. But in the other, he was obviously deliberately doing it, and I found it highly pretentious: pronouncing "hegemony" and "intelligentsia" with hard Gs. WTF, dude. This ain't Latin class. These are lectures on the French Revolution.

Any examples y'all can think of?

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Monday, August 1st, 2016
8:28 am - Pokemon Go Stories
I don't play Pokemon Go. I don't have a smartphone, I have a really dumb phone I use for emergencies. If I can find it. Usually, I use somebody else's phone.

I never played a Pokemon game. I never collected cards.

But I love Pokemon. I watched the cartoon series, and then stopped watching once they went beyond the original 150 (151? 152?).

So I know all the Pokemon in Pokemon Go, and I'm getting a kick out of people's pics and stories. I had been gathering a bunch up, but this piece from The Bloggess I got in my weekly digest makes me want to divest myself of the stories:

Today I was at my shrink’s office and I told her that I’d found a new tool that’s seemed to help with my anxiety and agoraphobia and she was like, “Is it PokemonGo?” and I screamed “IT IS POKEMONGO! WHAT THE FUCK?” and she was like, “What level are you? Let’s trade tips.” And then we did. Because apparently this super embarrassing thing I was going to admit is helping lots of people because it sort of forces you to get out of the house to play and suddenly you’re at the park at midnight and there’s a live possum next to you. That’s a bad example but it’s going to happen. Get ready.

So here are the stories I've amassed thus far:

Many of these stories (and more to come...and actuaries exchanging screenshots of their Pokemon and talking about the best Pokestops in Manhattan) are on this thread in the Actuarial Outpost.

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Monday, July 25th, 2016
3:09 pm - Arete
This horse has it:

Arete is a common theme in Greek epic and philsophy. Often, it's translated into English as "virtue" in the philosophical works, but I think that falls short of expressing what arete is.

Let's go with the wikipedia definition:

Arete (Greek: ἀρετή), in its basic sense, means "excellence of any kind".[1] The term may also mean "moral virtue".[1] In its earliest appearance in Greek, this notion of excellence was ultimately bound up with the notion of the fulfillment of purpose or function: the act of living up to one's full potential.

As noted in the article, for all the patriarchal society that ancient Greek culture was, even women could have arete.

Of course, so could dogs. (Okay, I was trying to find someone writing about the arete of Odysseus's dog, Argos, and found out there's a UK pet insurance company named Argos...well done, indeed.)

Oh right, Argos's arete was two-fold:

'This dog,' answered Eumaeus, 'belonged to him who has died in a far country. If he were what he was when Odysseus left for Troy, he would soon show you what he could do. There was not a wild beast in the forest that could get away from him when he was once on its tracks. But now he has fallen on evil times, for his master is dead and gone, and the women take no care of him. Servants never do their work when their master's hand is no longer over them, for Zeus takes half the goodness out of a man when he makes a slave of him.'

So saying he entered the well-built mansion, and made straight for the riotous pretenders in the hall. But Argos passed into the darkness of death, now that he had fulfilled his destiny of faith and seen his master once more after twenty years.

In his youth, Argos's excellence was in hunting. In his old age, he shows enduring faithfulness after hope was gone. Both are kinds of arete. That dog dies a satisfying death. Good dog.

Anyway, a horse can also display arete. And that horse (Blue Hors Matine) definitely did. I suppose the rider (Andreas Helgstrand) did, too, but everybody is looking at that horse. Not every horse could be trained to do that, I bet.

Of course, that video is from a decade ago. Matine was put down after an injury in 2010, and it seems her dressage career was short-lived due to injuries before that. As that article notes "Matine's silver medal winning kur to music is to date one of the most viewed equestrian videos on Youtube."

To be sure, not many people watch equestrian videos, but this is a kind of arete, and like Argos, her arete will live on well past her death.

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9:21 am - Have you tried turning it off and then on again?
It's amazing how often that works.

Or, rather, "works".

Last week, I had trouble with my transmission. It wouldn't shift into the highest gear, so there I was on I-84 in Hartford at lunchtime, going about 40-45 mph. I put on my hazards to try to indicate the issue.

As soon as I exited (I was going about 2 miles to get lunch), I switched off the engine and then restarted. At which point, the shifting was just fine. (And worry not, I went to the dealership and got the transmission serviced the next day. It seems okay.)

Similarly for my pain situation -- it was super-bad on Sunday (having kicked up on Saturday, but that was still within tolerance levels). So I just went upstairs and slept as much as I could. I zonked out for about an hour, did something, slept a few more hours, it was then dinner, and then fell asleep around 9. Woke up again at midnight, went downstairs and lay directly under our family room A/C unit, and then slept til 5:30am (which many know is sleeping in for me).

And all the facial agony, my neck, my jaw, etc. from yesterday was completely gone.

All the pain is currently in my left knee.

At least I don't need my left leg for driving.

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Monday, July 18th, 2016
4:02 pm - On opportunity hoarding

Good parenting, but also opportunity hoarding

Class reproduction is of course driven by a whole range of factors, from parenting and family structure through formal education, informal learning, the use of social networks, and so on. Some are unfair: playing the legacy card in college admissions, securing internships via closed social networks, zoning out lower-income families from our neighborhoods and school catchment areas. (These “opportunity hoarding” mechanisms are the focus of my forthcoming book, Dream Hoarders.)

The greater spending of upper middle class parents on “enrichment activities” is well known; recent evidence suggests the Great Recession did nothing to reduce it. American upper middle class parents are desperate to secure their children a high position on the earnings ladder. This makes sense, given the consequences of downward mobility for their economic fortunes. Inequality incentivizes opportunity hoarding, which reduces social mobility. Time, perhaps, to lower the stakes a little?

Okay, maybe not really. I'm keeping this article, because I have a guess about some of the numbers I'm seeing here [that it's more that U.S. rich are so much richer than people elsewhere, than that our median are poorer than the median elsewhere], but I found the "opportunity hoarding" term being thrown around to be rich.

I will admit to hoarding opportunities as a kid... but frankly, most of the stuff I went for, there was little competition for.

There was only one time that I went for something I didn't get, and the guy who got it did deserve it more [and has done more with that opportunity than I would have]. But in general, I see something I was interested in, and I asked... and I found they were desperate to find people for these specific things. They were fall from full up on those particular opportunities.

In other cases, it's just books in the library. I've rarely had to wait for any book I wanted to read. When the library sale rolls by, there's always loads of books left over, many of good quality [and many the mass market books nobody really wanted to read in the first place.] Our family is very well-known at the library book sale, because we're pretty much the only people who are filling up box after box of books for our own use. All five of us.

We're in the library almost every Saturday, just hanging out, reading books [I'm usually reading the Wall Street Journal, D is doing the educational games on the computer, and the girls are reading...all right]. As a kid, my ma used to drop me off at the library on Sundays, and I'd be in there for three hours, just going down the nonfiction aisles. To be sure, if I was reading the library book, then some other person couldn't at the same time. That's not true anymore with e-books. [kinda. don't want to get into that]

I understand that they're talking about specifically limited opportunities, like admission into Harvard, but in the grand scheme of things, Harvard admission means little. If you want partnership in a specific firm, sure. But the world is so much bigger than that. I don't want my own kids to have such a narrow vision.

So I will not apologize for "hoarding" opportunities in my own or my children's lives. And to others, I say: open your eyes and look around. Opportunities are plentiful if you only look. It might not be what you originally had in mind, but there's lots of good stuff out there.

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Tuesday, July 12th, 2016
7:45 am - Gotta catch em all
in this case, my thoughts

I'm about to drive to my grandma's, so here are my notes to be developed later:

mind map
pokemon go
-> socializing
-> exercise
-> depression
-> crime: facilitating, witness, suspicion of
can't give others their meaning
Mrs. Jellyby
-> stay at home parent
-> charity
-> corporal acts of mercy
-> spiritual acts of mercy
-> connection to something larger
-> effectiveness
-> what is valued
Milton: on his blindness
"i started my own business"

you're a problem to be policed
--> throwing away work
--> why actuary sucks/doesn't suck
--> interns checking mortality tables
--> programming, debugging, and controls
--> doesn't feel like real work
finding pokemon in the office toilet

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Wednesday, July 6th, 2016
10:00 pm - Please Help Vladimir Bukovsky
There's a long explanation here and the fundraiser is here, but I want to put a little more background on this.

Vladimir Bukovsky was a prominent Soviet dissident back in the day, the primary person to raise the lid on the abuse of psychiatric diagnoses by the Soviet Union as their innovative way to punish dissidents.

Vladimir himself spent 12 years total imprisoned by the Soviet Union before getting booted out to Switzerland, and he eventually moved to England.

But even after the Soviet Union fell, he's made it a rough time for the Putin regime.

A quick quote from that article:
British and European psychiatrists assessing the documents on psychiatric abuse released by Bukovsky characterized him in 1971: "The information we have about [Vladimir Bukovsky] suggests that he is the sort of person who might be embarrassing to authorities in any country because he seems unwilling to compromise for convenience and personal comfort, and believes in saying what he thinks in situations which he clearly knows could endanger him. But such people often have much to contribute, and deserve considerable respect."[c 14]

Perhaps you can see why I find him admirable.

But Putin and his thugs aren't finished with him yet. Vladimir is seen as a threat to them, which is why he has been targeted by the Russians for assassination -- from the fundraiser: "A leaked FSB document reveals Bukovsky is 1 of 5 people targeted for assassination. 2 of these people are now dead; 1 has been poisoned."

You might remember Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned by Russian agents with radionuclide polonium-210.

Though Putin and his gang have not (yet) been successful in murdering Vladimir's body, they want to murder his reputation.

From the fundraiser:
The difference: Bukovksy is fighting for his own freedom this time. The government of his new home - the Crown Prosecution Service - has brought (conveniently timed) charges of possessing child pornography just one month after Bukovsky’s testimony against the real crimes committed by Vladimir Putin himself.

The fundraiser is for Vladimir Bukovsky's legal defense in the case.

I've donated, and obviously, I'm supporting this campaign publicly.

Ways you can support:

1. Share my post or Elizabeth Childs's post - facebook, livejournal, whereever

2. Share the fundraising page.

3. Donate to the campaign.

Please consider donating.

NOTE: My last livejournal post on Russia is here. I don't think Putin is paying a lot of attention to livejournal.

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Monday, July 4th, 2016
7:38 pm - There is no spoon
Just like the trip to Belgium, there is a community out there where all I have to say is "spoons" and they know what I'm talking about.

But in my case, there are no spoons. Or, rather, if one wants to say there are spoons, I can't see them, so I don't know how many there are. I don't know.

Anyway, this is just to say this is all there is for this post. I suppose I had a bunch of spoons in the morning, because i actually got some stuff done. But the pain grow the more I type so this is it.

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