An awful night! Sinus drainage/blockage rather disrupted my rest. I didn’t succumb to slumber until about the time FD SCP retired. And then the educationalists were back this morning, albeit a bit restrained for some unobvious reason. Perhaps hung over or exhausted. One always wonders if there is some secret beach somewhere where educationalists go on spring break to pretend to be young.

The podcast was also a bit blah, one of those culturally correct Canadian things talking about the customs and superstitions of their descendants of Clovisites. It was basically a series of recitations of “stories” that were both mystical and logically inconsistent and contradictory. So I had plenty of attention span to divert to considering an article [Link] sent me by my colleague Magnetic Inductance Force.

The article is an actual real article, that is, a refereed article out of a real refereed periodical and not some poo mind defecated by a “journalist”. It’s a physics article about some research on how to improve test grades in freshman physics courses. The course in particular is what we used to call Freshman Physics with Calculus – I think. It’s basically freshman physics for science majors and a service course for engineering majors. The motivation for improving test scores is, I suspect, primarily the latter. Test grades are a survival thing for science majors so pimping tests would be counter-Darwinian.

Three test groups were formed: practice tests; practice tests plus homework; and practice tests plus homework and tutoring. The bottom line is that tutoring doesn’t help. That’s not surprising to me since we have known for a long time that tutoring is primarily useful in learning the subject matter, and, with a good tutor, improving confidence. Those two then make for better test grades. And, of course, practice is important which is a thing usually lost to students who spend too little time doing problems.

This latter applies regardless of major. Nerd majors have too many problems to work to work them in a thoughtful fashion, and Bog majors tend to mostly take type one courses where there are no problems, only memorization. So they have no idea problems need to be worked nor how to work them.

The nastiness of this effort is resounding. First and foremost, the article is published in a physics journal. Not many other disciplines read physics journals, especially educationalists. Unless they are physics educationalists, which is a horrible thing to even contemplate. But the authors obviously saw no reason that these results needed to be shared outside the physics community. That’s the first nasty. It’s hubris of the rankest sort.

And the second thing is that not only is it redundant, it’s redundant of work done at the same U. Back when I was a student at the campus of the Boneyard, we did an experiment with the Keller course format that essentially found the same results. And the experiment was documented. Does no one do a literature search any more? Or go to the library?

This is Eddingtonian physics at its purest.

, , ,

Grad Coding

The day looks fair to middling. It is a sundae after all, and being an ORF that is usually the worst day of the week what with mystics and superstitionists running about and abrogating the Constitution. It is also a bit on the low temperature side, somewhere at or in the thirties degF. But I assayed a constitutional in the park and had it not been for a too brisk wind, the constitutional would have been delightful. The podcast was the last part of an episode of “The Pen Addict”, which I listen to mostly to make other horrible podcasts endurable. I was upheld this morning with such a collection of grammar abuses as to make my head tingle. And not just from the sensation of cold.

I also have occasion to celebrate since this is an anniversary date of having my gall bladder extracted. I suppose this is the ORF version of a piercing?

I ran across an excellent cartoon: [Link]

yesterday, and it immediately took me back to my days as a doctoral candidate at the campus of the Tennessee.  Since I was doing a theoretical research, a lot of coding was involved. As I have mentioned previously I was working full time for the Yankee army and doing graduate schule in and around. Part of that in and around was to do dissertation coding and work coding in parallel, at least during duty hours. My schedule was to get up early – for those days – and go to the computer center at the U – this was in the days when all the computers were mainframes – and pick up runs, drive onto post, stop at the lab computer center, pick up runs, and then drive to the building where my office was where I immediately went to cafeteria for breakfast. Then I could get an hour or so of work in before the bogs and married-with-bairns arrived. I made a couple of trips to the post computer center during the day but a bit after the bogs and marrieds left, a half hour or so to clear traffic, I would head for campus. Earlier it had been to attend classes but at this stage classes, except mandatory seminar attendance, were past and I went instead to the campus computer center where I worked until shy of midnight. Thence home for a bit of sleep and hygiene before repeating.

The coding was not textbook ideal. After all, this was research code, not organizational operation code. In all likelihood, no one else but me would use it. In fact, that was almost certain since the attitude of my adviser was that coding was irrelevant – he was a horrible coder and our strongest words were about him staying away from my punch cards – so the code was mine and no one else was involved. That was how it was in those days. No group coding hugs, no library of old code. A grad student wrote his own code or dropped out.

And because of that, the commenting was non-existent, or nearly so. I made the natural assumption that what the code did was obvious and all I commented was sections, and then with terse labels. Only things that took lots of mind molting got lots of comments and those usually referred to a notebook location that meant nothing to anyone but me. I never counted the lines of code. Instead we counted pages of code. That was easier and counting was a bit of whimpery. Excellence was fewer pages, not more.

Those were wonderful days. All the code was in FORTRAN; no useless and intrusive GUI garbage to worry about. All you cared about was getting numbers out. Of course plotting was a pain and the body ached from long hours on computer center furniture, all of which was cast off from anywhere and everywhere. Even the Salvation Army and the Good Will wouldn’t have taken that furniture. They’d have burned it. Food was something one ate after submitting a BIG run. Always fast food because there were fast food places five minutes drive – maximum – from campus. And the campus cops, the night shift anyway, all knew and were known by the coding grad students so STOP signs were more suggestions than constraints.

Going to work was good. It was about the only break I got and the primary reason for sleep and hygiene. Going to see adviser was painful, mostly because the rhythm would get broken with new directions, or even writing a paper. But that’s a story for another blot.

, ,

Pruning evil

I am not an advocate of the “Great Man Theory”. But when I noticed in my daily eMail from the Encyclopedia Britannica folks that today is the anniversary of the birth of Sam Walton, it occurred to me to consider whether, if this man had not been born, the world would be a better place today?

The simplistic answer is a resounding YES. But that ignores the possibility that human society is robust and someone else could have started (the equivalent of) MalWart and that apparat might be more evil. It might also be less evil.

Since we can’t go back and conduct the experiment, it seems to be one of those gedanken experiments that are not very useful.

Of course, as Feynman observed, we may not be digging in quite far enough.

, , ,

Jock Itch

Being an alumnus of the campus of the Black Warrior and the campus of the Boneyard, both colleges with spectator sports, I find myself in a bit of a quandary over the recent decision by the Yankee government that college football (American heresy) players can unionize.

The first order, proper disrespect response is a resounding approval. But my second thought is what happens now that the fiction of college jocks actually getting an education is declared null and void? Does this mean the end of college spectator sports? Or does it mean that the players are now employees of the college and are held to higher standards than the students are?

I have not subscribed to the fiction that college jocks are actually students. The same goes at the campus of the Black Warrior for most Greeks as well, some of whom are also jocks. But the fiction has resulted in a system that works, albeit poorly, and now it seems that the system has to collapse or change.

The obvious change is to eliminate all but intramural athletics. That way the whole pay-to-play aspect goes away. And while some revenue is lost much of it is evened out by the dissolution of the costs of coaches, scholarships (sic,) and other instrumentality. And by the way, education may actually benefit. Those who come to college to party can just skip college and go directly to professional fanaticism and college will be left for the people who actually want to learn stuff. And the few who want an education.

Not going to happen. Sadly. That little bit of “profit” is too inviting. Especially to the politicians who can slight their educational responsibilities by claiming the funds come from spectator sports. So instead the money is going to be diverted from education to paying jocks who aren’t students to pretend to be students and play. So education loses. And the nation loses.

I fear that the Yankee government has really sabotaged what is left of the college system in Amerika. That may be a good thing. Waiting Is.

I also have a bit of a bleeding heart conflict. I read an article about TOMS shoes yesterday. Seems it is closely related to the campus of the Black Warrior. It’s also a BOGOG – Buy One Get One Given – business. And as much as I admire that, it suffers from a common problem of show companies. It doesn’t make my shoe width.

I feel cheated. Doubly.

, , ,

Font Flatulence

Rain again. But less so. So I went walking in the park. And no trotting jocks. Just a couple of cats and maybe the park wolf. All those high schule hormones and pheromones – and noise – surely scared him/her off yesterday. Solitary wolves are either bonkers or very insecure. And I had forgotten how noisy even silent, exercising high schule students could be. So the volume of the educationalists is natural but indicates how asentient they are.

I had occasion, in between raindrops and foggy exhalation, to consider an article [Link] I saw yesterday about some high schule kid who analyzed the type faces used by the Yankee government and how much ink – relatively – each uses. It’s a pretty good analysis, comparable with what Gartner would do, maybe a little better, but still superficial to the actuality, which is understandable in his circumstances but not in Gartner’s.

He went past the paper and such to how much ink gets used, and assumed equal density of type faces. Not a bad assumption but probably off a bit. And he concluded that if the YG would exclusively use a skinny type face they would save a bunch of money. Nice idea. Very appealing. But probably wrong.

First of all, it doesn’t apply to things printed using presses and not computer printers. Whole different dynamic and economics. Also, as noted, thing that are printed on presses tend to go to people who want to hold and read. And they need a visually conducive type face. Which probably isn’t a skinny type face. In fact, it’s probably a pretty heavy serif font. Because that works best with human reading. And that’s the basic problem with this, and most such, analyses. They over look the human aspects.

First of all, the best way to cut costs is to cut paper use. Ink and paper costs are deterministically connected. But a lot of paper use is dictated by regulation (e.g., record keeping) and human comfort. Lots of folks in government, especially those over thirty, want to read off paper and not a screen. And lots under thirty have found that you can’t take a screen to a meeting and make notes on the image. Easily, nor well. And a lot of meetings are spent editing and critiquing documents.

The best way to cur paper and ink costs, on computers at least, is to go to work group printers. That way people don’t print out pictures of cats and they don’t print stuff that isn’t important enough to walk down the hall. But many of these aren’t color printers and people don’t like walking down the hall to get print-out or they like to print out cat pictures and they convince their boss that they really need a printer on their desk for productivity reasons. And once one in the cubical farm has one, every other person needs one. It’s a social thing.

Also, while computers and printers are often controlled a bit, ink supplies aren’t. So economy of using ink means convincing managers to economize and they won’t. Because their ink costs aren’t that much of budget and hence not worth the attention.

An unadressed factor is font size. While correspondence  usually has a designated font size – thanks in large part to the Yankee Government Printing Office who got unfairly slurred in this analysis – working documents don’t. And a lot of them get done in oversized characters with extra line spacing. So editing and comments can be penned in.

I’ll stop here. It’s not that the kid didn’t do a good piece of work. It’s just that what he did is more a political bashing truncheon than actual organizational reality. A thing you usually have to be in the organization to know.

, , , ,

Freya Falls

Yesterday was rather a poor day. Had a bit of a harassment incident in the MalWart resulting in once more embracing the pledge of rejection. Hard to keep in Greater Metropolitan Arab given the negligence and greed of the conscript parents. Not sure what their goals are but looking after the citizenry is NOT one of them.

This morning has dawned differently. It dihydrogen oxide fell much of the night, rather rattling the rain conduits, so I feared that I would have to settle for a bit of interior peddling. But once up and ablutioned and attired, I found the precipitation ceased so I girded my low-heat-capacity ORF corpus and sallied forth to the park. Aside from being infested with a batch of half naked high schule jocks barely running, mostly walking, the wrong way on the path – all paths and tracks are right handed! – I had an enjoyable constitutional and experienced wetting only under the armpits except for the last quarter lap when the atmosphere reopened.

I did have to wonder a bit about child abuse. I could easily see my exhalation and needed the layers around me so I have to worry that those jocks were not being irresponsibly exposed to danger and disease by an irresponsible coach. (Yes, I am aware that is redundant.) Still, they are jocks. They are supposed to do stupid physical things and incur great injuries that will make up for their lack of survival skills and value. At least in bog society.

On which note, a murrain on the basketball apparat. This is the second week they have preempted my weekly entertainment with worthless spectator sport. As a result I was forced to endure another police opera episode. Not that I object strongly. It was, at least, 10 dB superior to the sports abomination.

, , ,