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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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Sunday, June 14th, 2015
9:31 am - Women and STEM academia fix: Be Professional
This is not a recommendation to women in STEM academia. This is a rec to STEM academia.

You need to be more like corporations. Because we don't allow for people bitching that a senior guy gets pushed out of his position for saying idiotic stuff:


"Three things happen when [girls] are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry," he said. According to one of the attendees, the joke was greeted by a "deathly, deathly silence."

In a normal world, a world which valued the freedom to make a doofus of oneself, that should have been the end of it. Seventy-two-year-old man of science makes outdated joke, tumbleweed rolls by, The End.

......
Twitter went into meltdown. Journalists kicked up a fuss. His comments were branded "shocking and bewildering." (You find a silly joke bewildering? You really should get out more.) And then came the denouement to this latest outburst of confected fury: Hunt "resigned" from UCL, where he was honorary professor.

"Resign" is in quote marks because it's pretty clear he was elbowed out. Consider UCL's statement about his leaving. "UCL was the first university in England to admit women students on equal terms to men, and the university believes that this outcome [Hunt's resignation] is compatible with our commitment to gender equality."



HA HA HA HA HA

Sorry, was that supposed to be a joke?

Could someone explain to me how that was supposed to be funny... even decades ago, I'm not seeing how that would be funny. I'm not saying I was offended by the "joke", just that I don't see how that's a joke.
Read more...Collapse )

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Friday, June 12th, 2015
7:26 am - mornin in the grace family
stu: first it was a toy, then it was a cartoon

me: there was a Hot Wheels cartoon?

stu: it was short-lived

me: i would think so. I had never heard of it, and I watched all those crap 70s/80s cartoons... Monchichis, Snorks, Pacman....

bon: you should see the new pacman cartoon

me: there's a new pacman cartoon?

bon: it's on Disney

me & stu: Disney owns everything

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Saturday, June 6th, 2015
4:55 pm - Where I am, online
Just making a list for posterity:

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Sunday, May 31st, 2015
4:35 pm - 9 years of D
Of course, Mr. D gets his own retrospective:

day 1:
zzzzzzz

a model boyCollapse )

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4:20 pm - 12 years of Maureen
Here we go!

It all began 12 years ago:

day 1:
born to smirk

one per yearCollapse )

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Wednesday, May 20th, 2015
7:53 pm - Today's texts from stu
stu: Siobhan made a 'spinach sundae' today.
me: oh yum
stu: Baby spinach leaves with Worcester sauce
me: ooooooooookay



stu: D understands word play and puns.
stu: I asked him if he wanted to watch TMBG No! He said, "No!"
stu: I said okay then we'll watch No! He responded "No!"
me: right
stu: After a few more times he said, "No thank you."

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Saturday, May 16th, 2015
8:33 am - Checking in with my nemesis
Let's see what the ex-Numbers Guy has been up to.

Recent:


Wow, nothing in the headlines whining about how hard it all is to quantify things, nothing blatantly stupid, and nothing making me think I should have his job. Wow! Good job, dude! Keep on keepin' on!

(I still have no clue as to how 538 is supposed to make money.)

But the WSJ did hire somebody to replace Numbers Guy, and let's check in on this person:



Heck, that last one is about sparse data, and it's not whining about how hard it all is. A variety of subjects, and one (the earnings reports) that's a subject that WSJ readers are really, really interested in.

I guess I can look for something else to complain about. Luckily, I have a whole blog for that.

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Sunday, May 10th, 2015
4:40 pm - On the rectification of names
Listen up, people. The World Health Organization wants you to name things properly.


No more animal names like swine flu, monkeypox and mad cow. Avoid place names like Spanish flu, Rift Valley fever, West Nile virus, Lyme disease and Ebola (a river in the Democratic Republic of Congo).

Do not use people’s names like Chagas, Creutzfeldt-Jakob, Alzheimer and Lou Gehrig. And infectious maladies named after groups or occupations — Legionnaires’ disease and butcher’s wart — henceforth are out.

Concerned about the inaccuracies and stigmas that names of illnesses can confer upon people, animals, regions and economies, the World Health Organization on Friday announced “best practices” for naming new human infectious diseases. It called on “scientists, national authorities and the media” to heed the recommendations.

Under the W.H.O.’s guidance, a disease name should consist of a generic descriptive term based on symptoms (respiratory disease, watery diarrhea), who is afflicted (infant, juvenile, maternal), seasonality (summer, winter) and severity (mild, severe). The name can also include other factual elements like the environment (swamp, desert) and the year and month detected.


I have no issue with this as an approach to scientific names for diseases.

But it's not going to fly with the hoi polloi.

Let me demonstrate why:
In an inkling of what a new name could look like, the W.H.O. sought in 2011 to standardize the terminology for the virus responsible for the 2009 swine flu pandemic, calling it A(H1N1)pdm09.


Oh good ole A(H1N1)pdm09.

Oh wait. Even in my professional publication, I had to call it H1N1. No, we didn't call it swine flu, but we did drop the specificity of all that other crap.

To be fair-ish, even the NYTimes is being snide about this. Nobody is saying it explicitly, but the problem, whether in reporting or just communicating in general, is that it is difficult to remember these lifeless conglomerations of characters as "names".

In my job, I generally have to use the full bureaucratese in names -- I say PPACA or Affordable Care Act instead of "Obamacare". But that's because I'm writing for an audience of insurance industry experts, not for the general public. I know that the NYTimes would rather not call it Obamacare, but it has to, all the time. Some of those pieces are op-eds, but a lot of the search results are straight news stories.

I have no issue re: the bureaucratic rules for official disease names. But even governmental officials are going to have to say stuff like "swine flu" or "Ebola" in order for people to even know what they're talking about.

At the National Pork Board, an industry group in Des Moines that has been fighting the term swine flu, its top animal health executive, Jennifer Koeman, said Friday that the W.H.O. recommendations would help “prevent that needless confusion and misunderstanding that can occur.”


Yes, it's tough, but that's life. The name "swine flu" is not totally random -- there's a reason it's called that. If you want a disease endemic to pigs not to be named something relating to pigs.... good luck with that.

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Saturday, March 28th, 2015
1:38 pm - What a waste of money....Russian government paying people to troll for propagandistic purposes
...to little success, if this story is accurate

What's the point, exactly?

Let's go to the tape:


Next Assignment

Topic: Build a positive attitude toward the domestic policies of Vladimir Putin; the president personally celebrated Christmas with ordinary Russians.

Keywords: president rf, putin news, putin policies, christmas, vladimir putin

Again, the assignment begins with a post published on a LiveJournal account. The post about Putin is prefaced by a fragment from a poem by Marina Tsvetayeva, "It's a sin to soar over a golden-domed chapel and not to pray in it," which in this context seems to take on a double meaning.


So I went to the post linked to see the effect. Yes, it's in Russian, so I have to take the word of the article what's in there....but there's only one comment.

GRRM posts a burp and he gets dozens of comments.

No wonder they pay these professional trolls so little. I'm not seeing how they provide any value at all.

I mean, if Putin had Russian buy livejournal so they could really burnish his reputation, this is laughable. Let's not have Putin looking like a middle-aged schlumpmat a Christmas service. More shirtless pics of Putin taming tigers!

Those are awesome!


[note: I was not paid by the Russian government for the above post...but hey guys, I'm open to consulting offers...]

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Monday, February 9th, 2015
7:58 am - One Decade of Bon!
Let's check her out!

big big babyCollapse )

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Sunday, February 8th, 2015
9:52 am - Here is God's Plenty: The Canterbury Tales

Cross-posted from STUMP


To quote John Dryden on the master, Chaucer:



HE must have been a man of a most wonderful comprehensive nature, because, as it has been truly observed of him, he has taken into the compass of his Canterbury Tales the various manners and humours (as we now call them) of the whole English nation, in his age. Not a single character has escaped him.


All his pilgrims are severally distinguished from each other; and not only in their inclinations, but in their very physiognomies and persons. Baptista Porta could not have described their natures better, than by the marks which the poet gives them. The matter and manner of their tales, and of their telling, are so suited to their different education, humours, and callings, that each of them would be improper in any other mouth.


Even the grave and serious characters are distinguished by their several sorts of gravity; their discourses are such as belong to their age, their calling, and their breeding; such as are becoming of them, and of them only.


Some of his persons are vicious, and some virtuous; some are unlearned, or (as Chaucer calls them) lewd, and some are learned. Even the ribaldry of the low characters is different; the Reeve, the Miller, and the Cook, are several men, and distinguished from each other as much as the mincing Lady Prioress, and the broad-speaking, gap-toothed wife of Bath.


But enough of this; there is such a variety of game springing up before me, that I am distracted in my choice, and know not what to follow. It is sufficient to say, according to the proverb, that here is God’s plenty.



My favorite versions of the Canterbury TalesCollapse )

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Saturday, January 31st, 2015
10:30 am - What I've Read: The Bounty of Zelazny
I'm cross-posting my book-related posts from STUMP here.
I don"t know why it puts so much whitepace into the postsCollapse )

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Sunday, January 18th, 2015
12:45 pm - Intoxication of hope, and an injection of reality
A few updates in my continuing saga of pain:

I started doing acupuncture in December (two sessions thus far) and I'm trying a new exercise regime.

Someone asked me about why I was doing chiropractic and acupuncture elsewhere (being "alternativey" and all). Note: I do not buy the explanations given by practitioners. I do not care about their explanations. I think it is bullshit.

But, there have been some research into at least temporary pain relief via these methods. That's good enough for me. I just care if it works.

I do not want to use pain drugs for a couple reasons: the pain drugs that were effective for my nerve pain also affected my cognition. I would rather suffer pain than not be able to think.

Second, a lot of my pain comes from a physical, structural problem: the nerves/discs in my neck are screwed up. This could be due to shit posture/sedentary lifestyle/whatever. If drugs mask pain that is there due to some screw up on my part, that means I risk of injuring myself even more.

So I'm looking for treatments that at the very worst just mean I lose money, and don't put me in a worse situation than I already am.

So after my first acupuncture treatment, I noticed something: I had some short periods of time where I felt no pain.

This is big. As I said in a prior post, I generally feel pain all the time. It can be a low level, but it's still noticeable. But over the next 4 days I noticed I had periods of up to 15 minutes where there was no pain.

In addition, a week ago, I started doing the 7-minute workout using this iOS app. I skipped only one day due to soreness, but I've managed to get at least a half-assed version done 7 times.

It makes me feel great. The pain goes away for a little while, and more than that, I feel energized. That energized feeling lasts all day for me. It's amazing.

The pain does come back, though.

And it's back really hard this morning.

So I will stop typing, as typing does make it worse.

But it's hard to describe the feeling the hope of having no pain gives me. Even though the pain is back, I know it's possible for it to go away, even if for a little while. That's awesome.

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Friday, January 9th, 2015
8:52 am - My Fellow Adjuncts! You Have Only Your Chains to Lose!
I posted this in my other blog, but I figure this is the sort of thing I talk about over here as well (and I had seen a couple of people I know remarking on jumping out of adjunct hell).

Not everybody remembers my history, so to recap: I dropped out of grad school in spring 2002 and I had an MS in applied math at the time.  I had adjuncted the 2001-2002 year at NYU, and picked up other adjuncting jobs, but got out of that after the fall 2002 semester because MONEY. I started my actuarial career in March 2003. I got fully credentialed in 2007, and have worked at four different companies in this almost 12-year period.

Over a decade later, I've gotten back into adjuncting...as a hobby. I teach one night class per semester at UConn. I started March 2014, and I've been enjoying it so far.

Now to my enticement....

Leave the academic salt mines! We have coffee!Collapse )

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Saturday, November 15th, 2014
8:17 am - Teaching Your Kids Math (for free)
Having seen a lot of agita over acquaintances' children's math homework, I thought I would come bring help.

No, I am not going to say anything specific about Common Core. The issue of making arithmetic and basic math way too cognitively complicated for students (as well as the elementary school teachers, but that's for another time) goes back decades:



That was from a 1965 recording. When my mother was 13 years old.

Luckily, by the time I was in elementary school, the fad was back at drilling in arithmetic (and we still had plenty of teachers from the time when women had very few career choices). It didn't matter, mom did flashcards with me. Dad bought me math (and computer programming) books that I taught myself from.

So here is my main advice for those dealing with extremely confusing math homework for their kids: the goal is that they learn how to do the math. Not that they jump through the schools' hoops.

I'm sorry that my advice is not necessarily going to end up with good grades, but that's a superficial goal.

Math is very interlocking in its topics, and if you screw up your understanding of some very key concepts, you're going to have trouble with others later on. For example, if you don't get the hang of multiplication, you're going to have a hell of a time with division. If you don't get division, you're screwed with regards to fractions, and so forth.

My advice boils down to this:

1. Find a reasonable framework as to how these topics interlock

2. Find a starting point for your child where they have mastery

3. Have your child practice math every day by doing problems (the younger the child, the less amount of time -- I think about 10 minutes is a good amount of time to start)

4. Check what they did right after they did problems, and make them correct the problems (first, let them try on their own, and then you can help)

5. They can't progress to the next topic til they get to at least 80% mastery of the prior one

Some may recognize this as the approach Kumon takes, and indeed, that's where I get all the above.

But you don't have to go to Kumon to do the above. I like using Kumon for the girls, because they're homeschooled, and it's good to have an external check on their progress. They've both been doing Kumon since they were 5. Mo is now doing some simple algebra (about same age I was doing simple algebra), and Bon is now working on arithmetic of fractions.

So where can you get the framework to follow, and where do you get the problems, for free?

BIG ONE: Khan Academy

Just go to the front page, and they've made it even easier for parents -- just click on the button that says, "Parents Start Here" -- if you don't see that go here for a walkthrough.

Khan Academy has a map of math topics you can get started on. Here is the sequence for arithmetic. Yes, they have Common Core content - but it seems to me unlikely it will have anything to do with whatever specific textbooks and worksheets your kids' schools are imposing on them. Also, I don't recommend going there. Just go to their regular math content.

There are an infinite amount of math practice problems, and there are explanatory videos for every concept. Each student has their own "learning dashboard", so they (and you) can see their progress. One can earn badges, etc., but it's mainly to keep track that one is actually progressing. With Khan Academy, parents don't have to check the problems - the site does that for the student. Khan Academy also indicates proficiency on each topic.

Yes, Khan Academy has other topics as well, but only their math section is extremely well-developed. And some of the non-math stuff... is not exactly accurate. I don't want to get into that. The math stuff is good, and I come here to talk about math. There are also recreational math videos, but that's not really part of the "map". It's more for fun.

Speaking of fun, there is another site we use, sumdog, which has free activities but keeps trying to upsell you to subscriptions. The girls like to play on sumdog, too, but the types of questions are more restricted, there's not as clear of a map of topics.

However, the plus of sumdog is that its activities are structured as actual games, and the prizes you earn from doing well in the games are things like new duds for your avatar (which is more fun for kids than simply earning a meteor badge, as an example.) I wouldn't use sumdog for progression through topics, but I think it's good for fun reinforcement.

The point is this:

Students need to learn proper arithmetic. I don't care about the algorithm so much, as long as it always gives correct answers and the student understands it.

The only way you learn arithmetic, and math at most levels until you get to college-level abstraction (and even then...), is to do problems, get feedback as to whether or not you were wrong... AND THEN FIX WHAT YOU SCREWED UP.

Everybody forgets that last part. The way you learn to fix your errors or catch them is to actually be forced to fix your errors!

I didn't get that lesson from math, by the way, but my adventures in computer programming. I rarely got questions wrong on my elementary school math homework/tests/etc. I did screw up all the time in programming, and you have to have everything correct to get your code to work. If people think math is unforgiving, programming is really unforgiving.

By the way, while sumdog is obviously for kids, Khan Academy is for everybody. I have sent several adults (some older than me) to that site for them to brush up on math they need for professional development purposes. Yes, I've even sent people there who needed a calculus brush-up for the actuarial exams. So parents, you may find yourself wanting to do a bit of a math tune-up yourself.

I will talk in a later post about what math I think adults absolutely need to know (and no, it doesn't include the whole map at Khan Academy.)

Go forth and learn math, y'all!

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Friday, October 24th, 2014
6:12 am - Friday Fun: Orson Welles and Winston Churchill
This video tickles me every time I watch it.



My heart is warmed to see how pleased Welles is with himself and his story at the end of it.

By the way, there are loads of clips from the Dick Cavett Show on YouTube, and I highly recommend them. I might not like Dick Cavett as a person, but he ran an excellent interview show, primarily by booking really interesting people and letting them talk.

(what a concept)

The really fun stuff is when he gets people like Douglas Fairbanks, Janis Joplin, and Raquel Welch together to talk. Check it out.

If your tastes run to more serious stuff, I recommend the series of books on Churchill called The Last Lion, by William Manchester (and finished by Paul Reid when Manchester died).

Amazon.com Widgets

I have been going through the series, but perhaps in an unorthodox way. I first listened to the second volume on audiobook (if one commutes ~150 miles per day on "normal" days, and ~250 miles per day on teaching days... one gets through a lot of audiobooks.) I really knew nothing of the period when Churchill was going it alone against pacifists and appeasers. No, not totally alone, of course, but he was extremely marginalized.

I am currently listening through the third volume, and am only up to 1942. Haven't even gotten to the Battle of Midway yet. Thing is, though I do know more about World War II than the time between the wars, there are so many details I did not know.

I find these books very fair -- gives views of Churchill from his friends and his enemies. It shows where Churchill was right and where he was very, very wrong. He was excellent at seeing decades into the future, in understanding grand causal chains, but often had issues with very short-term problems.

Even though one knows how the war will end, and what happened with key events, the books manage to keep interest and suspense going -- I stop myself from looking up people's names, as I don't want to be "spoiled" as to what happened to them in the war and the years to come. I can look that stuff up later. Once a "character" dies, I feel secure in looking them up to see what I missed.

Great stuff.



The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, VOLUME ONE: Visions of Glory, 1874-1932


The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, VOLUME TWO: Alone, 1932-1940 (Winston Spencer Churchill, Volume II)


The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Volume Three: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965

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Saturday, October 18th, 2014
8:15 am - Tales of a kiddie consultant
So I see this piece on Gene Simmons' memoir:


Back when he was 7 years old and still went by his birth name Chaim Witz, Simmons decided one day that there was an opportunity in the crowds that passed by his neighborhood on their way home from work each day. He told his friend Schlomo that they were going to hike up nearby Mount Carmel and pick cactus fruit to sell to commuters.

He and Schlomo borrowed a vat of ice water from a local grocery and spent a day filling it with fruit they picked.

"We didn't realize that it was a business venture, and we wouldn't have known what the phrase meant. But we did have a sense that if we worked hard, we might make money. And that was an exciting idea: making money," Simmons writes. "It still is."

By sunset, the boys discovered they made the equivalent of two dollars, which Simmons estimates would today be about $20.

On the way home, he grabbed an ice cream cone for two cents, which he says is still the best one he's ever had.


And it took me back to my first experience as a business consultant.

My youngest sister Carey liked doing various household tasks (as a kid... I don't think this holds any more). My middle sister Amy and I hated doing these things. It really didn't make a difference to me, because there wasn't much way to punish me for not cleaning my room (what, were my parents going to tell me I couldn't read?)

But they could get Amy. Amy liked going out and being with her friends.

One day, Amy had to clean her room to go out, so she offered a quarter to Carey to clean it. This kind of exchange had happened before.

I took Carey aside and told her that $0.25 was too little and that she should ask for $2.

Carey listened to her older sister and made her counteroffer to Amy.

Amy huffed: "I will clean it myself!"

Now, this made Carey nervous. Maybe she had just lost herself a customer! There went that quarter! And even worse: the lost opportunity to clean something!

I told her not to worry. Amy really wanted to go out, and she definitely wasn't going to clean the room herself. Before Carey broke, Amy did. Carey got her $2, cleaned the room, and Amy got to go out.

Later, I heard from ma that Carey had increased her piece-rate for ironing. Ma was puzzled. I said nothing.

So that was my first experience in business consulting, but I realize my mistake (which I didn't realize until adulthood): I should've asked for $0.25 from Carey for the consulting fee.

If I was even cannier, I would've asked for a 10% take over the next few months for my advice.

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Wednesday, October 8th, 2014
9:35 am - Negotiating techniques with D
D: May I have juice, please?

Stu: First get your shoes on, then juice

D: First juice, then shoes

Stu: First shoes, then juice

[shoes go on]

D: Then juice

Stu: Somebody get D some juice

D: Then cookies

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Tuesday, October 7th, 2014
3:44 pm - ....it's been a long time, but....
I AM HE-MAN!!!!!!




just thought you'd like to know

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