Friday, March 21, 2014

This week's sign of the apocalypse

Best reaction I've seem from Erdogan's preposterous "Twitter-ban".

Sadly, I'm stuck on the "if crap like this can happen..." part of the post. Can you help me out in the comments?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Awards season

Everyone is anxiously waiting to hear whether Barack Obama will be one of the nominees for the coveted Fredrick Fleet award.

Personally, I think he's a shoe-in:

People, if I can write crap like this, why do we even have an NSA at all?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

For the LMM

The LMM is trapped in a snow storm in a Holiday Inn in Arlington, VA.  So, for her, and for Shirley, too:  A video.

Nod to William H.  I like how the cat just sits there as if to say, "Oh, NO, you didn't just do that.  You're going to get in trouble. Oh, HELL, no, don't you come over here now, all lickin' and stuff."

Big Fat Aquatic Mammal Doing Situps

This is why Mr. Overwater invented the internet...

Nod to the LMM.

UPDATE:  Thanks to commenter for correction in title!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Monday's Child

1.  Ann Coulter is priceless.  Several howlers here.

2.  As always, my good friend Sid Kilgore will have some flowery reason why the state should have, and use, these powers to abuse citizens.  Because he cares more about control than he does people.  But this is pretty icky.

3.  Some folks say health care should be more like industry, so that you can do price comparisons.  Instead, industry is becoming more like health care, where with various subsidies and cross-subsidies, none of the prices are actually real.  I think that this is not a good thing.

4. "Trigger Warnings."  So I may have to put one on my syllabus:  "This class may contain material that you don't already know or agree with."  Wait...isn't that what a class is SUPPOSED to do?  Perhaps not....

5.  Weekend at Bernie's....for six years?

6.  Students will like you if you gesture more.  I think this means Jenn Merolla must do very well.  If she couldn't move her hands, she couldn't talk at all.

7.  This Okie must have been of Scottish descent.  Lost a $20 bill?  Well, I'm going AFTER that.  And he survived. As Angus explained to me, this recalls the invention of copper wire.  It happened when two Scots disagreed over who owned a penny.

8.  You call THIS "spring break"?

9.  How could you NOT be in favor of "net neutrality"?  It sounds so useful.  Well, there's this.  And then there's this.

10.  State of Jefferson:  The Phil Special.  Eclectic.

11.  Maybe elephants don't forget.  But how do they KNOW, in the first place?

12.  Should condoms be required, permitted, or prohibited in the legal porn industry?  Stoya has a view.

13.  Some jokes.  Number 5 is quite insightful, actually.

14.  Talk about an "open house."  Had to be a bad feeling to know the camera was there....after all...that.

15.  That's a really big boar.

16.  Putin and the thug life.

17.  Fair vote?

18.  What is it like to attend a "Magic:  The Gathering" tournament?  One fat guy with a beard goes around photobombing other fat guys with their butt cracks poking out.  But I have it on good authority that this captures the look and feel (ewwww!) of MTG quite well. Lagniappe:  A video of the "action":  I like what the Tofias look-alike says at the end.  'Cause that's really the point.  (Yes, this is likely staged, but it catches the essence pretty well).

19.  Food as a moral statement.  The alternative to education now being sold as education. This critique is a bit over the top, but it is a worrisome trend.

20.  Metadata is harmless and sterile.  Not, and not.   And these people KNEW their data were being collected.  Wow.

21.  Several handsome analysts discuss shale.

22.  Okay, so there's selection.  But is that skin/eye color combo adaptive, or selected sexually?

23.  It's not hard to cut spending.  It's just not.  The problem is that no one actually WANTS to cut spending.

24.  Ladies, Jesus thinks you are FAT.  And it's not nice to displease Jesus. (How does she get her hair to do that? It's not something you see everyday).

25.  "Thuggish bullies who went too far"?  No, just another day working for the state.   (I don't fault the police...)

26.  I can't tell if this is bad, or very very bad.  But I'm sure it's not good.

27.  Our favorite headlines: Kelly Brook’s on/off Gladiator boyfriend David McIntosh pleads guilty to crashing van full of dead badgers into bus stop.  Often, you don't need to read the story if the headline is good.  But in this case, the whole story is worth reading.  And Ms. Brooks appears to have stuffed dead badgers, or SOMETHING, into the back of her pants.

28.  This Reddit thread is worth reading in detail.  Several unexpected detours.  Overall, quite enjoyable. And, what kind of asshat doesn't put the weights back?

29.  Yawn ...

30.  Firing unprofitable professors?  Or firing professors who are simply political advocates for one narrow view and who have never done any actual scholarship in the first place?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Embrace those B's, Ladies

I was visiting one of my favorite colleges (Davidson) the other night. Had given a talk, and was having dinner afterwards with some students and faculty.

One young woman mentioned that she done very well in math in high school, and that she wished she had been able to take some math in college.  She was an Econ major, but had taken zero calculus and then took just the one required baby-stats-by-cookbook course.  (UPDATE:  Why so few women economists?)

I asked why she had not "been able" to take any math in college.  I knew for a fact Davidson offered math courses. (In fact, they do stuff like this, there). The young lady, obviously shocked, said, "I might have made a B!  Those are hard courses!"

I couldn't let that go.  I may have pointed out that she had just said that she was "really good" at math, and most people don't say that.  For a woman to say she's really good at math, she must in fact be really good at math.  And I may have said something like this was her only chance at an education, and the ridiculous courses (I may have said "underwater basket-weaving for beginners") she took instead were a giant waste of time.  Who cares if you get an "A" in that crap?  For my big finish, I said "Nobody cares about your G.P.A.  You have wasted more than $150,000 here, avoiding an education."  I may have been a jerk, in other words.

It was quiet for quite a while after that.  It's possible I was out of line.  But it's also possible I was COMPLETELY RIGHT.


“Maybe women just don’t want to get things wrong,” Goldin hypothesized. “They don’t want to walk around being a B-minus student in something. They want to find something they can be an A student in. They want something where the professor will pat them on the back and say ‘You’re doing so well!’ ” 

“Guys,” she added, “don’t seem to give two damns.” 

So maybe the better question is: Why aren’t men scared off by rigid grading curves? Male students could be more overconfident — effectively, college bros shrug off gentleman’s C’s (or, more often today, gentleman’s B’s) as unrepresentative of their true brilliance.

Please spread the word.  The "game" in college is NOT to maximize GPA.  It's to maximize education, subject to the constraint of maintaining a decent GPA.

My own rule in graduate admissions:  never accept anyone with a 4.0.  And it's better if the person has gotten at least one "C."  If there is no C in the record, it means the person is going to be just another loser who is really good at taking courses.  If you could get a job taking courses, that would be the sort of person you want.  But we want people who will take risks, and learn new things that are too hard to master on the first go.

(If it matters, this is self-serving, yes.  I made two C's:  one in an intermediate Art History class that was completely over my head, and one in Real Analysis.  Finally, I made a "B" in my Intro Econ class.  Nobody told me I was doing well.  Because I wasn't.)

An extended discussion of the problem can be found in Megan McArdle's terrific new book, THE UP SIDE OF DOWN.  It's really great, and it argues that students need to be encouraged to fail.

Or at least get a "B," fercrissakes.

(UPDATE:  Claudia S. points out, on twitter [ @Claudia_Sahm ], that my "lecture" was almost certainly completely ineffective, and even counterproductive.  And Claudia is right, of course.  If someone is unsure of themselves then being yelled at in public by a creepy old guy like me is not really helpful. Another reader pointed out that this scene from Big Lebowski is apropos...   Further, if the young woman had taken a course in math and gotten a "B," then she would no longer have thought she was "really good" at math.  My point is that you should not just take courses in things in which you are already "really good", and courses in high school don't count!  You need to try to get better at OTHER things.  Staying inside your comfort zone is the whole problem!  Figure out what you are "really bad" at, and then go take THOSE courses, to get better.  So, either the young lady was "really good," and would make a good grade, or she would find out it was hard, and she wasn't really good, and so she needed to work hard to make a decent, maybe not even good, grade.  That's why I look for a "C" in the transcript, as long as the course is a difficult one.  Take something you are not "really good" at.)

This week's sign of the Apocalypse

Video surveillance in George Orwell Square?

I don't think you are reading him properly, Ajuntament de Barcelona!

People, if crap like this can happen, why do we have a secret world government at all?