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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 )
College EducationCollapse )

UncategorizedCollapse )

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Sunday, November 4th, 2018
4:21 pm - On being an emergency plasma donor
Back in March, I mentioned how the NY Blood Center did great by letting me know where my platelets were used.

And about a week ago, I got an email:

Good evening,

I am writing from New York Blood Center because we have a critical shortage of AB Plasma. As an AB donor you are extremely special - whether you donate red cells, plasma or platelets. We are hoping that you might be able to visit the Rockland Donor Center ANY time this Saturday or during the next two weeks. Patients truly and urgently need your help.

(And the rest of the email was where to call, the times available, and how emergency donors got priority slots)

A diversion - blood types are fairly simple for most people. You've got O, A, B, and AB. Then there's Rh factors which can be + or -. You can read this info from the Red Cross page to see all the major types and what it means for donations/transfusions.

The short story is that as AB+, I can basically receive -anybody's- red blood cells. If I donate red blood cells, only other AB+ people can receive them... and it's only about 3% of the population.

The way the blood works, though, anybody can take AB+ plasma/platelets.

I used to do plasma or platelet donations starting back in the early-to-mid-2000s, when I worked in Midtown, and there was an office right over GCT. I used to study for my actuarial exams while doing these donations. More recently, I was told my platelet count was so low that it would be better for me to do plasma donations.

Part of this sort of donation is taking the blood out of you, separating out the red blood cells, and then putting the red blood cells back into you. When I did that ~15 years ago, it felt really weird when the blood started going back in, because it was slightly cooler than when it came out. But in the 10-15 years since then, they've really improved the tech. I couldn't tell the difference of the blood coming out vs. the blood coming back in. I actually watched the machine toward the end, but I really couldn't feel the difference, though I could see the difference in the cycles.

These professional blood centers are excellent... I took off my bandage last night, and I couldn't even see the puncture wound. I see a small red dot today, but that's it. I have one -really- good vein for donation - it's very easy to see through my skin and it's big & fat compared to the others I have.

NY Blood Centers are an excellent organization, extremely professional, and I've had nothing but a good experience with them.

One last observation - I went Saturday morning for a 7:45am appointment. I actually showed up at 7:30am, because that was the first time I went there. But I got started at 7:45am sharp in all the screening stuff, and was hooked up to the machine at 8am. I was done by 9am (it takes longer when they have to put blood back into you), and chowed down on all the Oreos and apple juice I wanted. They had about 8-10 chairs there, which were all full up by the time I left. All the other donors were men. I thought that interesting.

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Wednesday, October 24th, 2018
1:51 pm - Why aren't girls tops in math competitions?
Among Top Math Students, Why Does a Gender Gap Persist?

I don't even want to quote this one, because it felt so stupid to me.

This isn't about regular math in K-12, college, or whatever. It's about a specific set of high school math competitions (which I did back in the day, and did okay on them).

I've ranted about this before, and I found my rant from 2001:

I thought I'd post this little rant for posterity [posterity thanks me!]. I had fun with academic competitions when I was in high school, but my interest definitely faded over school. Truthfully, if I had not been given free pizza every year when we took the Putnam, I don't think I would've done it.

The questions were =boring= and had little to do with what I found interesting in math.
Yes, there were fewer girls in the math team and computer team in high school, but there were plenty of girls in the college bowl/knowledge master quiz teams. I knew plenty of girls in the upper-level math classes; but there were many guys as well as girls in these classes who were totally turned off by the competitions -- the attitudes of the people competing.


Even more so, as I got further along in math, I found the problems more and more boring, because I found the =real= interesting stuff was in research problems - I saw these competition puzzles as little mind-teasers, no more consequential than crossword puzzle championships (and, admit, they are little more than that.) The physics olympiad problems were, to me, boring beyond belief. I had more fun listening to the speakers talking about, and demonstrating, scanning tunneling microscopes and other ideas and equipment from modern physics. I had taken a course in astrophysics and a course in modern physics (baby quantum, I suppose) my senior year in high school, and their open questions were much more fascinating to me than figuring out some mechanics problem involving cleverness in making free-body diagrams or changes in variables. Past a certain point, the point at which one has obtained mastery of the mathematical tools of physics or math, these "cleverness exercises" are little more than intellectual masturbation. They make one's self feel good, if one can do them, but doesn't add to the knowledge of anybody else.

I did the academic competitions not only because I did well in them (I've competed in lots of things I totally suck at, but found fun, like rowing), but because they were fun. To reach top levels of math olympiad, etc., you have to practice solving those kinds of problems. I simply wasn't interested in doing the amount of work it took to get to that level, and preferred spending time reading about fractals, and other things like that. I preferred learning new math, not being "clever" about some very old math.

Back to my rant:
The last thing you want to do is to equate doing well in these competitions with some kind of necessary quality of being a mathematician, physicist, chemist, or whatever. People come to these fields from other directions than timed competitions over prescribed material. I don't think these competitions necessarily make students more interested in a field that they are already interested in; they might put some students off if they think to do well in these fields, they've got to be good at competitions.

While some top mathematicians and scientists did very well in these sorts of competitions, lots of them did not. This sort of math/science has very little to do with research or teaching. It has very little to do with STEM career success (indeed, I know some people who did extremely well in these competitions who went nowhere on that score.)

This isn't even an argument about gender. It's about not making kids feel they're shut out because they don't want to do an extremely artificial activity and that they don't find it fun. You can find these competitions fun, but not like the real business of using/developing math at work... and vice-versa.

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Sunday, October 21st, 2018
12:42 pm - Taking a little break
Usually when I do these, I just do it and don't warn anybody, but my pain situation, after being fairly quiet for a long time, has come roaring back these last two days. Generally, I get offline for a while, just listening to audiobooks or watching old DVDs.

It's not that reading twitter or facebook makes me feel worse (it doesn't - I like the things I see there), but that I shouldn't be commenting/posting when I'm in this much pain. And it's hard not to read facebook/twitter without commenting.

In face-to-face interactions, if somebody tries to make me talk while I'm in this pain, I will likely get extremely mean extremely quickly, but I can warn people about it that way. I have no excuse to put myself online just to get mean. So it's best for me to rest and watch this superlong MST3K playlist.

See y'all later.

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Friday, October 19th, 2018
1:54 pm - My non-Instagrammable Life: a day as meep
One of my colleagues came across this piece, the point of which none of us can make out. Also, we originally thought it was a parody... You can read it if you want to see why we thought this.

I'm thinking now it's intended to make working at HSBC look appealing. It definitely looks like somebody took a bunch of very carefully posed Instagram pics to stitch it into something that Millennials found attractive.

My workday life is quite different.

the glamorous life of meepCollapse )

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Friday, September 28th, 2018
5:10 pm - At Extremes, the Standard Deviation Dominates Comparative Means
In a prior post, I talked about standard deviations in a theoretical model, that was somewhat bolstered by empirical info.

Well, guess what.
no surprisesCollapse )

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Wednesday, September 12th, 2018
10:45 pm - Stratifying Math Classes is Colonialism
Or some shit like that.

This is part three of three.

Part 1: Teaching Social Justice Instead of Math is an Injustice
Part 2: Differing standard deviations give some people the vapors

time to jump into the pitCollapse )

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9:27 pm - Differing standard deviations give some people the vapors
Here is part two of the three math-related items I mentioned.

To a large extent, the following, like my prior post, is about a lot made out of something that should be minor.

It relates to distributions that could have the same mean, but have vastly different standard deviations. And some people just can't stand dealing with possibility.

don't be a dick about de-publishing a paperCollapse )

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5:04 pm - Teaching Social Justice Instead of Math is an Injustice
I came across three math-related pieces recently and was going to combine them into one post, but it got waaaaay too long.

So I'm splitting it into three posts. Here's the first of the three.

teaching what you want, because they don't pay enoughCollapse )

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Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018
8:51 pm - Waiting for a long distance phone call....
...well, waiting to do a conference call where half the people are in the Eastern Time Zone, and half are in Hong Kong or Taipei. The way this "works" is that we alternate the times so that one has an early morning call and the other a mid-evening call. Next time, I have to be in the office by 8am, which means I have to leave my house at 6am to make sure I make it in time.

So in the meantime, an update. I've let my STUMP blogging lag a bit (and a few other things) because I am just plain tired. I don't have any real reason for being tired other than it's August. It's not like I'm really doing much more than I usually do, and, as mentioned earlier, I let a bunch of nonessential stuff drop.

It's been fairly cool for an August, but still. It's August. I hate summer. I want my cold back.

Speaking of "cold" and "back", I have been waking up to a really sore left jaw, and I figure I've gone back to grinding my teeth in my sleep. If I take the Valerian Root it's worse, mainly because I sleep through the night and don't wake up til 4am. When I don't take the valerian, I usually wake up a few times during the night, have some water, mutter to myself, and fix my pillows so that I stay on my back. But thankfully, I also have a nice coldpack I can put on my face at 4am (I go downstairs, get the coldpack, and come back upstairs. I may wake at 4am, but I usually don't get out of bed until 5am or even 6.)

What's funny to me now is that with standing desks at work, I actually feel pretty good at the end of the workday, but I wake up in the morning feeling like shit.

And now, to be really depressing for a moment, it put me in mind of something I posted at the Actuarial Outpost with regards to CDC mortality info on opioid overdoses. One person assumed (incorrectly) that most of these overdoses were from people in their 20s. Maybe 30s. I knew what it really looked like:

And it made a hell of a lot of sense to me, the peak hitting age 45-54. (yes, these data are a little old, but I've seen more recent data... it's similar)

It's mainly in middle age that people finally start to run into their body falling apart, and not really coming back together again. It's the sore neck, shoulders, back, knees.... and maybe you have surgery, and maybe you don't, but it's easier for the doc to give you oxy or whatever. And some of those people become hooked on the painkillers. And maybe they move onto stronger stuff.

Anyway, this is one of the reasons I stay away from painkillers.

And here is another happy graph:

Sweet dreams... I have a call to make.

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Thursday, August 9th, 2018
3:23 pm - Hey, Teacher! Leave Those Girls Alone!
Ah, I've been out of the "MATH NEEDS CHICKS" loop lately, so what did I see via facebook yesterday?

Young Girls Creeped Out By Older Scientists Constantly Trying To Lure Them Into STEM

Oh, wait. That wasn't it (though I will get back to that one).

It was this:

Make Your Daughter Practice Math. She’ll Thank You Later.

Here is the subhed: "The way we teach math in America hurts all students, but it may be hurting girls the most."

Actually, it may be hurting boys who tend to be "over-represented" on the lower end of math achievement the most, but I'll come back to that later.

For parents who want to encourage their daughters in STEM subjects, it’s crucial to remember this: Math is the sine qua non.

You and your daughter can have fun throwing eggs off a building and making papier-mâché volcanoes, but the only way to create a full set of options for her in STEM is to ensure she has a solid foundation in math. Math is the language of science, engineering and technology. And like any language, it is best acquired through lengthy, in-depth practice.

But for girls, this can be trickier than it looks. This is because many girls can have a special advantage over boys — an advantage that can steer them away from this all-important building block.

A large body of research has revealed that boys and girls have, on average, similar abilities in math. But girls have a consistent advantage in reading and writing and are often relatively better at these than they are at math, even though their math skills are as good as the boys’. The consequence? A typical little boy can think he’s better at math than language arts. But a typical little girl can think she’s better at language arts than math. As a result, when she sits down to do math, she might be more likely to say, “I’m not that good at this!” She actually is just as good (on average) as a boy at the math — it’s just that she’s even better at language arts.

Here's something: how about requiring all your kids of doing all their work and putting effort into all of it, whether it's the basic skills of math or the basic skills of reading and writing.

Here's something else: I've always been excellent at reading and math (school math, specifically - I'll get to real math in a bit). I've not been so good at writing. I hated writing. Funny how I get paid to write now (and do a hell of a lot of writing for free, because I enjoy it).

People who are math-oriented should not get an out for sucking at writing. Everybody needs to be able to figure (arithmetic, at least, and understanding percentages, compound interest, and other basic personal finance math... I'm not even talking algebra here), read to extract information, and write/speak to convey information. Yes, speak. Oral communication should be added to reading, writing, and arithmetic. BRING BACK RHETORIC TO THE ELEMENTARY GRADES! (Also, I used to hate giving presentations. I love doing it now. It took years of practice.)

Where was I?

blah blah blahCollapse )

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Saturday, August 4th, 2018
5:08 pm - Valerian: A Field Report

It's been 8 years.

If you're saying "8 years of what?", I will give you some excerpts:

I would link to my MRIs, but it seems I put them on facebook, and facebook has been through multiple URL/whatever changes since then and I cannot care enough to show them.

I got a new theme song from that time:

I did like the end result of looking at my brains, but I still have fuckloads of pain and here we are.

Unfortunately, my primary "treatment" has been drinking far more than is good for me. Alcohol doesn't make the pain go away, but it makes me care less about the pain. Also, I laugh more.

In my livejournal chronicles, I talk about taking various neuroactive meds, a few of which did get rid of the pain, but also basically made my conscious brain useless. That was not what I considered a workable option. At least with booze, I could still think, in a manner, even if I wouldn't operate heavy machinery (including cars... and often laptops/ipads, because y'all don't need I LOVE YA MANS posts at 3am, though I LOVE YA MANS)

Stu convinced me to take Valerian root recently, and that has had an interesting effect. Like alcohol, it doesn't make the pain go away. Unlike the neuroactive meds, it doesn't make my head foggy. But interestingly, it has a kind of calming effect. It's not that I get worked up all that much (EXCEPT OVER UGLY GRAPHS OMG), but it's more like "oh, there's this pain. Well, that's unfortunate. la la laaaa"

But I can see why many see Valerian as an insomnia cure, because what it really did is cut off the chatter from my brain. I don't know if you get this, but nights where I can't go to sleep is because my brain is talking to me about all sorts of things, like "i wonder if you've looked at the correlation between peanut butter and bad pie charts", and it WON'T SHUT UP. it's all quiet. like "well, get around to the peanut butter thing in your own time"


But there's a bad side effect to the valerian.

And it's related to the source of my pain -- my neck. Whether the degenerate disc is really the source of all my pain, it definitely comes from my neck, head, and shoulders.

The problem with valerian is that when I fall asleep... I don't wake up til 5am.

So, you may think "what's the problem?" - the problem is that I have to sleep flat on my back (I put pillows under my knees to make it better). I had to stop sleeping on my right side because that's where my pain first appeared, but in 2014, it appeared on my left side. So I can't sleep on -either- side. Usually, without valerian, I wake up several times per night and can make sure I'm on my back... but if I actually sleep for 7 hours straight through, I'm probably on one of my sides for hours.

So I'm taking valerian at most every-other-day (but usually less).


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10:08 am - Photos from Mary Pat Campbell's post
Photos from Mary Pat Campbell's post

Posted by Mary Pat Campbell on 4 Aug 2018, 14:08

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Friday, August 3rd, 2018
10:06 pm - so.... i finally watched the first ep of The Prisoner what a weird show
so.... i finally watched the first ep of The Prisoner what a weird show

Posted by Mary Pat Campbell on 4 Aug 2018, 02:06

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4:01 pm - texts from stu: The girls are arguing over when vending machines were invented. Siobhan says the…
texts from stu: The girls are arguing over when vending machines were invented. Siobhan says the…

Posted by Mary Pat Campbell on 3 Aug 2018, 20:01

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9:35 am - on the members tour... Frederic Church
on the members tour... Frederic Church

Posted by Mary Pat Campbell on 3 Aug 2018, 13:35

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8:58 am - morning art break
morning art break

Posted by Mary Pat Campbell on 3 Aug 2018, 12:58

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8:54 am - Art break
Art break

Posted by Mary Pat Campbell on 3 Aug 2018, 12:54

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8:31 am - Mary Pat
Mary Pat

so current status: something is screwed up with the right side of my face/neck/shoulder that's causing problems. no diagnosis as of yet. will need to have MRIs done and see neurologist again in 3 weeks. in the interim, i'm on pain & seizure meds.

that's all i know. also, i'm getting killer headaches when the meds wear off. blah. i'm not having any caffeine or alcohol while this is going on.

Posted by Mary Pat Campbell on 3 Aug 2018, 12:31

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Thursday, August 2nd, 2018
10:33 pm - STUMP Articles Checking the Numbers: How Much are Social SecurityBenefits? 2 August 2018, 22:29
STUMP Articles Checking the Numbers: How Much are Social SecurityBenefits? 2 August 2018, 22:29

Luckily, the Office of the Chief Actuary of the Social Security Administration has lots of information so we can get a good idea. I went here, clicked through to the tables and put them in a spreadsheet.

Posted by Mary Pat Campbell on 3 Aug 2018, 02:33

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