Sunday, 13 April 2008

April 13 Roundup

  • Incomes grow faster in all sectors under Democrats, but disparity grows faster under Republicans [from, via]
  • Forget about those 8 glasses of water.
  • The French are upset; the English are underusing the semicolon.
  • "Instead of [foot patrols] watching to prevent crime, motorized police patrol became a process of merely waiting to respond to crime." [from]
  • More from the unintended consequence files: some municipalities have decided to "reduce the yellow-light period and increase ticket revenue." [from]
  • One of the oddities of American politics is the partisan split on education. Democrats, who traditionally favor nationalized programs, align themselves with the National Education Association in supporting local control for public schools, while it is the Republicans--traditionally favoring local regulation--who have recently enacted national education standards. Almost everyone I talk to agrees No Child Left Behind is a terrible plan, but Sean says (and I agree) national standards could be a Good Thing.
  • John Wilkins says science and religion have different epistemologies. In particular, "science is something nobody who is sane and informed can reject," in part because it is universal, while religion is local. As a result, "science constrains rational religion, while no religion, Plantinga notwithstanding, constrains rational science." Possibly it is unfair to compare only rational modes of thought, but (like John, I suppose) I have little patience for systematic irrationality. I'd only add (clarify?) that science is a process, not a product.
  • "Semiconductors are like Democrats," in case American politics is less confusing than chemistry.
  • why buying from ebay is like a complicated toaster [from, via]


Zachary Miner said...

I can relate somewhat to the issue of eBay being like a complicated toaster, but the second link (where the person compares the Blackboard system to the new Microsoft Word or eBay) is just whiny. The new Word does suck a great deal - it is not intuitive at all, and there is no way to get back to the way the menus used to be. So the author is correct on that front.

Blackboard, on the other hand, is pretty good. The author complains about having to make three clicks to change a grade. Boo-freaking-hoo. Grade changes are not typically something you do with great frequency (or at least *I* don't) and so it doesn't warrant the proposed "'change grades page.'" The system already HAS such a page. It's called the Gradebook, where one of the options is to change grades. This is like complaining that you have to click FIVE TIMES to get to your most used documents: click the power button on the machine, double-click "My Documents" and then double-click the file you use most often.

The designers of this system do not need to change their programming just to accommodate your insane amount of grade changes any more than Dell should create a "Start the computer and go directly to Chad Orzel's lecture notes" button on all of their computer cases.

Rant over. Thank you.

4ll4n0 said...

One thing about the graph. It sort of neglects the fact that the House of Representatives and Senate were often not controlled by the same party as the President at the same time confusing the issue significantly.

Isaac said...

Zac: I have to side with Chad on the issue of blackboard. Having used much better systems for each of the various functions blackboard provides, it is simply frustrating to be stuck with an inflexible bureaucratic homogenizing tool like blackboard. CCnet (though not a delight in every respect) provided some handy grading tools and produced curves and histograms with ease, for example.

Furthermore, I typically use either one click or three keystrokes to get to my oft-used documents, so I would complain about five.

Isaac said...

4ll4n0: Doesn't that make the correlation even more impressive?