Saturday, August 31, 2013

More Scattered #hashtag

Memes are still a bit of a mystery to me. So, sometimes I have to search the internet to figure out what they mean. This Star Trek one I get; it's the same with the "One does not simply..." [Reason 10]. In the process of doing my search I came across Socially Awkward Penguin. He's awesome.

Here are some other quotes about Language/Communication:

"An immense number of thoughts seemed to have been impossible from the lack of fitting words. When these words were found - the buried treasure of bygone ancestors - the thoughts sprang to them as rider to the saddle; and with new ideas, life was regenerated." -M. Putnam Jacobi (talking about the Renaissance)

"The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a [KEEPING IT PG]. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary." -James D. Nicoll

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Immortal Conversation, Part three of ∞ #hashtag

This is part three of an ongoing series. To see the beginning, you can visit Part One: Intro/God or Part Two: Love.


What is truth? I thought I might begin by talking a little bit about Stormtroopers. Now, some of the readers might think that, like Nodding herself, I have violated Godwin's Law. No, history fans, we are not talking about the SA. We are talking about Stormtroopers, the faceless, countless enemies from Star Wars. What do Star Wars characters have to do with the truth? In Adam Savage's WIRED article he writes about dressing up in costumes at Comic-Con. He writes, "One of my main jobs as a communicator is to be honest about who I am. I must wear the costume, because that enjoyment is a distinct part of me. Wearing that costume and jumping off a roof let me be the action-movie hero I always wanted to be - if only for an afternoon" (Footnote). I admit that writing about truth had stumped me, but Adam's article got me thinking about one aspect of truth. Who are we, really?

In "Brain Rules" John Medina writes, "The surface of your skin, for example - all 9 pounds of it - literally is deceased... It is accurate to say that nearly every inch of your outer physical presentation to the world is dead" (p. 52). So, our skin is gone. It just lingers. It is the same way about the past. Every action we have taken, every memory of us, is in the past. It is dead, but not gone, just like the flakes of skin that cover us. That brings us back to the costumes that Adam wrote about. Our past represents who we were. The costumes that we choose to wear tell us who we want to be. In that way, the costume is a better indicator of who we really are. The costume represents our aspirations and our goals and ignores the failures and weaknesses that mar our past.

So if you want to really know who someone is you have a couple options. Don't look her in the face, look her in eyes. The skin is dead; the eyes are one of the few parts that are still alive. The second is to ignore the past. Treat everyday like a new day. People have the opportunity to learn from past, so there is no need to freeze people into the past version of themselves. Finally, remember the costumes. We ought to remember who we want to be and help others lead the lives they want to live. Next week, I am going to dress-up like a teacher. When I put it on next week, it will just be a costume. However, I hope to turn it into a uniform.

(Footnote) The quotation is from Adam Savage's article "Clothes make the fan: costumes turn Comic-Con into a performance" in July's WIRED (21,7) pages 45-49. I have been unable to find a digital copy of the article, otherwise I would link it.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Seja a Bola and the Wolfpack #hashtag

Today's guest speaker said, “The strength of the wolf is in the pack and the strength of the pack is in the wolf.”
Zach Galifinasasdadasdfaewaregagasdakas

Sam Glenn was the keynote speaker at today’s district wide kick-off meeting. His focus was on our attitude. There were two main items on his checklist for how to keep up a good attitude. The first was humor. Earlier he had used the wolf quotation. Naturally, when someone mentions wolves and humor in the same hour, I think back to the wolfpack from “The Hangover.” I wonder what challenges I will face in regards to age-appropriate humor. Later during the performance Sam joked about ‘becoming a motivational speaker’ and ‘living in a van down by the river.’ My mentor teacher thought aloud about how many other people in the room would get that joke. So, age-appropriate humor means, not just keeping away from the vulgar or the EtOH references, but also being able to relate to people two decades younger than me.

The second point was about enthusiasm and drive. Enthusiasm is the difference between good and great. There was a talk about never giving up. I love Churchill and the never surrender attitude. I just worry about never giving up. This is something that I have been torn by all summer long. I've been conflicted by a desire to chase after a dream and a second completely rational argument do no more harm. It reminds me of a student named Larry (Not his real name). I met Larry at the middle school this summer. When he talked about growing he, mentioned his dream of playing in the NBA. The things is, Larry isn't very tall. In fact he was the shortest kid in his grade. Too be honest, Larry isn't even that good at basketball. I got to watch Larry play a couple of times over the summer and he didn't stand out. How do we balance enthusiasm with the real world? Larry isn't going to play in the NBA and there are there are things in my life that I will never achieve. The question is, how do we separate the improbable from the impossible? How do we separate something that will always be out of reach with something that is just a few steps down the road?
Seriously, these aren't rhetorical questions. Does anybody have any ideas?

In case you were wondering, today’s meeting started off with us watching a scene from “Caddyshack” which, for reasons unbeknownst to me the film included French subtitles. So, I learned a little bit of French (Hence the title to this blog post)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Brain Rules #hashtag

Hidden in this picture is a device that will make you smarter.

It's not the telescope in the back corner. It is not the alarm clock in the box waiting for the next garage sale. It's not the board games on the dresser. It's the exercise bike.

People who exercise regularly outscore people who don't in tests of long-term memory, reasoning, attention and problem solving. Now, you might be thinking that there is only a correlation between these two variables. Perhaps people who are  physically active tend to be more mentally active and those two outcomes are caused by some third genetic characteristic. The thing is, it turns out that when people who lead sedentary lifestyles start exercising regularly, their cognitive skills improve over time.

There is actually a biological explanation. We only have one heart. So, when people exercise, blood flow is increased to the every part of the body, not just the specific muscles being worked on. So, exercise makes the body more efficient at moving muscles and getting oxygen to the brain. 

For a more in depth look at the topic, read chapter one of John Medina's book "Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School." He writes more about the biology behind exercise. I will write more about the book when I get to the next chapter. So far, it has been a fascinating read.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Why Aspiring [blank] Need Math #hashtag

Why Aspiring Economists Need Math
As much as it hurts me to repost a Mankiw post, this one was too good not to repost. I know that by doing so, I will only fall further behind in my quest to jump ahead of Mankiw in the list of Google search results. However, there comes a time when we must put aside our petty individual goals and, in the words of Grindelwald, we must do something for the greater good.

While some of the points apply only to economists, there are two points that are applicable to all people:
"3. Math is good training for the mind. It makes you a more rigorous thinker."
"4. Your math courses are one long IQ test. We use math courses to figure out who is really smart."

Beginning with the second point, when people see that I have taken all sorts of math classes, they automatically assume that I am very smart; it is only much later, after they have gotten to know me, that they come to realize what an idiot I really am. People tend to avoid voluntarily taking math classes. While liberal arts students may pick up an extra literature class to study Shakespeare or a history of video games class because they find the topics interesting, rarely does a sane person think to himself: "I ought to sign up for a Modern Algebra class as an elective." One could think of math classes like a form of advertising. It like the pick-up truck commercial that show ridiculous feats of strength. It shows people what you are capable of difficult, abstract tasks.

The first point that Mankiw makes about math being more rigorous is somewhat debatable. Math can be rigorous. It is hard for higher level math classes to not be rigorous. However, from the perspective of a prospective secondary educator, math class has the potential to be about rote memorization of math facts or a rigorous examination of how things work. We just have to focus on making it more of the latter and less of the former. In that way, math class can be less about the fancy course name on the transcript and more about helping students development the necessary quantitative reasoning skills for when they move beyond the classroom.

Mankiw closes with his best line, "The fact is, if you are thinking about a PhD program in economics, you are advised to take math courses until it hurts." Taking more math is classes is good for employment prospects, not just PhD applications. According to Fastest growing jobs, the jobs that are growing most quickly tend to be either in medicine (most of which will require passing algebra classes as part of the program) or construction (which requires an understanding of geometry to be successful). So, it might just be easier to say that aspiring [your profession] need math, too.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Poor Choice of Words #hashtag

This afternoon, I came across a full-page newspaper advertisement for "Bing for Schools". It was an advertisement for an advertisement-free search engine for schools. The irony does not stop there. The URL listed in the advertisement was As first, I thought it was a bit vulgar. To me, it seemed liked they were mashing "SCREW GOOGLE" into one neologism. Perhaps that is just my faulty mind, but I could not think of another explanation of how they crafted the URL.

Vaguely remembering the name from the newspaper, I typed in something that was very similar to to see what the website was like. Now, if I type or a dozen other misspellings, I will still end up at the standard Google search page. However, when I tried to visit the URL for Bing for Schools, it turned out that I forgot one important letter in the address. I arrived at a totally different website. Let's just say that I ended up at a website for searching for things that would not be appropriate for school.

I enjoy my PC. Windows works great for me. Office is really useful. I still have fond memories of Windows XP (best OS ever). I almost bought a Zune instead of an iPod. Still, everyone once in a while, Microsoft just messes things up. People can debate whether having a search engine without advertisements is a good idea. In fact, teaching students how to distinguish paid advertisements from less-biased publication is a useful skill. However, using the URL is probably a bad decision all around.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Recycling: Income Distribution #hashtag

This is me recycling from my previous post.

I was reading through my rival's blog post and came across a link to this article about income distribution. According to the data from the Census Bureau, the shrinking middle class is not the result of a descent into poverty but a growing upper class. Now, the source should be considered. While the author does come from the Flint campus of the world's most prestigious public university, he is also writing for the AEI. Some of the people involved with the AEI include Paul Wolfowitz, who has a BA in mathematics from Cornell along with a certain political bias, and former UN Ambassador John Bolton. Without going back into the Census data used to create the table, we will have to take what the author writes with a grain of salt.

Contrasting the aforementioned article is this piece from USA Today: "4 in 5 in USA face near-poverty, no work". The title is misleading. If I were to walk down the Mainstreet USA, 80% of the people I met would not be struggling to make ends meet. Something closer to the opposite is true; eighty percent of people are doing fine. However, at some point in their working lives (20-60 years old), four out of five Americans will struggle with some combination of prolonged unemployment, living on government assistance or living below the poverty line. That sort of economic volatility is something that has grown. It presents a different problem. The challenge we face is not one where the majority of people are locked into permanent poverty, but a world where uncertainty is around every corner. It is a world where every family we work with could end up facing economic disaster. The world is a little bit scary.

Friday, August 23, 2013

My first magic trick #hashtag

I discovered this magic trick and thought it would make a good science demonstration. There is a screen mesh covering the mouth of the water bottle. When I flip the bottle upside down, only a portion of the water drips out before it stops. I have been able to hold the water bottle upside down without it leaking for as long as my attention span has lasted.

Why does this happen?

I'm not entirely sure. I know it has to do with the surface tension of water and the low pressure area that forms in the "top" of the water bottle, but I am not sure which is more important.

Things that would be interesting to explore:
  • What happens if we use a different sized screen mesh?
  • What happens if we used a bottle with a different sized opening?
  • What happens if we use a bigger bottle? (I've done the same trick with a 20oz bottle and it works just like in the video. I am still waiting to get an empty milk jug to try).
  • What happens if we use a liquid other than water? (Maybe I don't need to wait for an empty milk jug)
  • How much water drips out before the bottle stops leaking? Is it a certain percentage of the container or a fixed volume each time?
  • What happens if I fill the container all the way to the top and then flip it?
  • What is the least amount of water that I can put into the container and still get this trick to work?
  • Does the temperature of the water matter?
  • What would happen if I put a Mentos in the bottle and then repeated the experiment? (Funny stuff happens when you do things with Mentos)
  • Are there more appropriate charms from Harry Potter to talk about freezing and melting water? (Originally, I was going to use "Petrificus Totalus" to freeze the water and "Rennervate" to bring the water back to a liquid form, but I think these spells only work on living things. "Incendio" was as good as I could get for melting, although in real life that spell would have set the bottle on fire, not just melted frozen water) [Reason #11]
  • Does the wetness of the mesh play a role? If I put the screen on after filling up the water bottle, would I get the same results?
If you have any other thoughts, feel free to comment.
(This was another attempt to explore adding music and captions using Windows Movie Maker; the science was a byproduct).

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

People with Autism (ED606) and #hashtag

Summary of what I learned about ASD in ED606.
  • People with autism have difficulty with verbal communication. They have trouble starting and maintaining conversations. As a coping mechanism, they may try rehearsing conversations or writing lists of things to talk about.
  • People with autism have trouble maintaining eye contact during conversations, but this can be overcome in part by self-coaching (Repeating, “Remember to make eye contact” etc.).
  • Most people with autism struggle with distinguishing speech tone, pitch, and accent that may indicate someone is joking or lying.
  • People with autism often suffer from distress in new social situations. This can manifest itself as nausea. They can cope with physical symptoms (e.g. vomiting) by avoiding eating during particular stressful situations.
  • People with autism tend to respond to social interactions, rather than initiate them. People with autism often have an aversion to answering questions about themselves.
  • People with autism often have a sensitivity to loud places, which makes them avoid bars with live music.
  • People with autism often struggle with empathy. They tend to have difficulty understanding how other people are feeling and have trouble reading body language. In combination with a tendency to avoid eye contact, this can lead to confusion when trying to understand other peoples motivation and feelings.
  • Many people with autism fixate on routine. They may choose to dress the same way every day or follow the same routine getting ready each morning. They also tend to get really anxious when off schedule. Related to routine, people with autism tend to be perfectionists in at least in some areas. While they might be physical unkempt, they might fixate on picking the right font or right word while writing.
  • People with autism often have above average rote memory. Many can memorize lists of states, presidents or other facts.
  • Autism is at least in part based on genetics, so people with autism might have family members, like cousins, who also have autism.
  • People with autism sometimes find certain food textures to be particularly unpleasant, including but not limited to white creamy sauces.
  • Someone who has autism likely had difficulty developing gross motor skills. So they might have not learned to ride a bike until long after their peers. Similarly, people with autism sometimes may have difficulty with fine motor skills. They might have had difficulty learning to tie their shoes and end up having Velcro shoes for a while. Sometimes they end up with poor handwriting as a result of deficient fine motor skills.
  • Someone with autism might struggle to start a conversation, but have a "Special Interest Area” or limited topics for which it is noticeably easier for them to talk about. They might have no idea how to start a conversation with a stranger, but be able to talk about math or geography for hours on end.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Recycling #hashtag

In an earlier blog I tried to Google myself. If I search for "gregnmath blog" there are now five results, all of which are about me. One of them is actually someone else mentioning my blog. Unfortunately, Google searches for "Greg Math Blog" still take to you to my slightly more popular rival Mr. Mankiw. Still, we're gaining ground. On the other hand, searching for "gregnmath blog" on Bing leads to Greg Tang Math with no mention of my blog in the top couple of pages. I am not too disappointed about the Bing results. According to Alexa, Bing ranks well behind Google is useage. In fact, Google India is ahead of Bing. 

In other news, my attempts to relearn how to speak Russian might have been unnecessary. Since I made the post joking about the surprising number of Russian "visitors", page views from the motherland have collapsed. It looks like now I would be better off learning Dutch. чепуха.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Immortal Conversation, Part two of ∞ #hashtag

[This is part two of an ongoing series, the idea of the immortal conversation is described in Part One. Another note, I used a lot of gender specific pronouns in this post; sorry about that.]

What is love? It is a question that has baffled philosophers and the Trinidadian singer Haddaway for years. The first definition that Google gives is unfulfilling: "An intense feeling of deep affection." So love is when you really like something. Is that really what love is? I propose two different definitions for love, neither of which is correct, but both of which is a vast improvement over the internet search results.

Firstly, love is wanting the best for someone. It fits. I love myself; I want the best for myself. When something good happens to a friend, I am happy for him. This type of love lets us love strangers. We hold the door for strangers. We flash our headlights to warn a passing car that there this a speed trap around the corner. We help one another and that is loving one another. Love isn't necessarily warm. When we love our students, we get angry when they don't do what they need to do. We want the best for them. It is this kind of love that leads us to do unpleasant things. You drop her off at the door and walk in the rain, because you would rather get drenched than see her suffer the inconvenience from a droplet. Love is going to the Dream Cruise for eleven hours when you would much rather take a nap. Love is when you stop calling her, so that she doesn't feel bad about turning you down. It is wanting the best for someone else that leads us to endure the unpleasantness.

Secondly, love is choosing to treat someone like they are perfect, even when we know she is not. It is about forgiveness and being just a little bit delusional. As hackneyed as it may be to write this, 'love keeps no record of wrongs' (1 Cor 13:15 NIV). Forgiving is so much easier if one chooses to forget. Moving onto to the part about being delusional, love is knowing that there might be prettier people on the earth, but preferring to see no one else. Even though I am thinking about romantic love when I use this definition, it does have a broader application. Without being naive, love means giving people the benefit of whatever reasonable doubt exists. In this way, love is seeing the best in people, no matter how hard they make it.

In Gary Chapman's miscellaneous books, he writes about the five love languages. As a marriage counselor, he focuses on the love between two partners. Still, the basic classification transfers over to love that transcends romance. Chapman talks about the five ways that we show love: "acts of service", "gifting", "quality time", "word of affirmation", and "touch"(it is an interesting list to ponder, I have noticed that there is an inverse relationship between the things I am good at and the 'language' that means the most to me). One of the key takeaways from his books is that feeling in-love is one thing and loving someone is someone else. Love becomes a way of thinking and a way of acting, it is a disposition.

So, all in all there is one conclusion on which I stand firm. Love is a verb.

[My apologies for the terrible music videos linked in this post. It started off with the Haddaway reference and then just got out of control after that.]

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Just Scattered #hashtag

I have a sticky note on my desktop with a bunch of random thoughts. I am now clearing out that sticky note. Feel free to comment on any item or ask questions if you would like to discuss any of the topics.

This video never fails to make me laugh. The language is PG.

In math, the word "distribute" means to multiply. In economics, the same words means to divide.

"Do well (adverb), Do good (noun)"

Just because you don't ask a question doesn't mean you don't want to know the answer.

There is a difference between aspirations (hopes) and expectations (thoughts).

There is a difference between being bright and being smart. Being bright means that someone picks up new things quickly. Bring smart is what someone is capable of learning. Not everyone is bright, but anyone can choose to be smart.

I wonder what percentage of students are independent learners. That is to say that they would show up to school and teach themselves even if there was no attendance and no grades.

I wonder what percentage of American students qualify for free or reduced price school lunches.

Friday, August 16, 2013

I am Smart, S-M-R-T #hashtag

In last month's issue, I read WIRED: Why Are Some People So Smart? It turns out that we don't really know why people are so smart. The article focuses on the research of Zhao Bowen, a high-school drop-out who is doing research on intelligence. Now, it should be noted that Zhao is not the typical high school drop-out. At age 17, he got permission to leave the highly selective magnet school that he had attended. He left to do research on intelligence. If you are picturing his life story, just imagine Zhao turning down a position at the Vulcan Academy so that he can join Starfleet. In this case, he postponed getting a diploma in order to get an education.

The cover graphic to the article (GENE/GENIUS) should clue the reader into the focus of Zhao's research. He is attempting to find the relationship between genetics and intelligence. The article focuses on IQ scores as the only measure of intelligence. The author suggests that the "IQ remains by far the most powerful predictor of the life outcomes that people care most about in the modern world. Tell me your IQ and I can make a decently accurate prediction of your occupational attainment, how many kids you’ll have, your chances of being arrested for a crime, even how long you’ll live." I was initially curious about finding peer-reviewed articles to support or refute the author's claim. However, that line of inquiry was quickly eclipsed by another question: Why have I never taken an IQ test? If I could take a test that was going to tell me how happy I was going to be in life, why haven't I already done so?

It is at that point that I fell into the trap. I confused measurable outcomes with happiness. People with high IQ's might live longer, but it is possible that ignorance is bliss. Taking the IQ test might give me the probabilities that I end up in upper-management or in a federal penitentiary, but it is unlikely to give me the odds that I end up happy. It cannot tell me whether I wake up tomorrow with a smile on my face or a feeling of emptiness. The IQ might predict how long I live, but it cannot predict how long my loved ones will live or how long my friendships will last. To say that IQ tests measures the "outcomes that people care most about" is hardly true.

Returning to the article, the author described the various complications in finding the a genetic explanation for intelligence. There is a clear link between the IQ of parents and offspring, but finding the specific genes connected with intelligence has been challenging. It appears that there are many genes, each of which has a small effect on intelligence and each combination has a small side effect. The researcher himself worried about some of the complications that might arise from missing the mark. Researchers suppose that there might be a connection between Asperger’s syndrome and intelligence, such that the difference in a few genes might lead to divergent outcomes.

Aside from the ethical dilemmas that always arise from questions about genetics (there is an insert about designer babies), one of the takeaways was on the nature of intelligence. The article suggests that 50%-80% of a person's IQ can be predicted by genetics. The uncited research suggests that it is probably closer to 80% than 50%. That still leaves room for teachers. Intelligence might be less malleable than we would like, but we can still make a difference. Maybe it is a "20%" difference or maybe it is a "49%" difference, but it still makes a difference in the lives of students.

Jim Gaffigan joke about what rocket scientists think is difficult.
IQ scores can accurately predict the number of children you will have.
The author never says whether the correlation is positive or negative.
...always nice to end on a lighter note.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

STATS: Random Connections (Part 4 of Many) #hashtag

Beyond the demographic information, there were a couple of connections I found in the ways that people answered their questions.
There was a group that sort of fits this cycle. It is not surprising that people who would prefer to write would enjoy doing the 649 paper. Also, people who really liked 649 might have a natural affinity for M+Box, since we used M+Box most often in that class. What was interesting is that these people preferred to wake up early and were significantly more likely to pay for a Coke than drink the free Pepsi in the Brandon Center.

There was one another connection that stuck out. The joke goes that country music is about dogs and pick-up trucks. Well, people that like country music tend to like dogs.
On the other hand, people that like rap music ("gangstas") were evenly split between cats and dogs. Somewhere, there is a joke about Snoop Dogg, I just haven't been able to come up with it yet.

When it came to answering questions, no two people were identical. Looking at the twenty-one questions where people choose there answers, there are a possible 2,097,152 combinations, so it's not surprising that no two people answered the same way. However, there were two pairs of interns who agreed on eighteen out of twenty-one questions. Maize-STEM-Young-Elsewhere(18:08) and Maize-STEM-Elder-U-M(13:12) only disagreed on whether to summarize Lakin or write an Advocacy later, the best way to take notes and their preference for exams over essays. In the Blue Cohort there was a pair of Blue-Humanities-Young-Elsewhere(15:17) and Blue-STEM-Young-U-M(23:41) who only disagreed about the best way to take notes, the more interesting exhibit at the natural history museum and the best way to upload homework, but agreed on everything else.

I think I've extracted all the interesting connections from the data that I collected. I hope you enjoyed the journey. If you have any questions about the data or analysis, feel free to make a comment or drop me an e-mail. Also, if there are any questions you would like to be included in the another survey, let me know and I'll see if we can start collecting the next batch of stats.

STATS: Let's Dance (Issue 3 of Many) #hashtag

Originally, I was going to compare the "old people" vs. "the youngsters" in the SECMAC. However, I did a bad job of guessing the median age. Originally, I was going to pick 2003/2004 as the median year, but I decided to move it back to 2004/2005. I did not move it back far enough. Even if everyone who has yet to respond to the survey were to pick the "2004 or before" choice, the "2005 or after" would still win. The most important conclusion I was able to glean from this data is that I am old.

So, what is interesting about those happy few of us elder MACer's? We are split 50/50 on whether to have a 'ginger ale' or go out dancing, whereas the younger group would much rather go out for a beverage. I have found one dancing club in Ann Arbor: Swing Ann Arbor

People who graduated after 2005 would rather visit the dinosaur exhibit than the race exhibit. People who graduated before 2004 preferred the race exhibit. I was going to make a joke about us old folks having "bad memories of dinosaurs from our childhood", but it wouldn't have mad much sense; if we were really that old, we would have lived through the Civil Rights movement, too.

There was one surprise. The older interns would rather give up TV than Facebook. By a wide margin the younger interns were willing to give up Facebook. I am not sure how to interpret this information. I don't know whether it is too small of a sample size or if older people really are that connected to social networks. Prior to starting the MAC program, I could never have imagined going two days without checking on Facebook. For the last two weeks of the program, I gave up both Facebook and TV. Now that I think about it, I gave up TV first (I also came back to TV first. While I am watching TV right now, I'm not sure about going back to Facebook).
I have formulated one hypothesis for why the older group could be more attached to Facebook than TV. Generally speaking, the older you are, the more likely you are to have a spouse and/or kids. If you have a spouse and/or kids, chances are you do not have as much free time to socialize with your peers. Facebook would be a more important social outlet under those circumstances. Secondly, if you have a spouse and/or kids, you probably don't get to pick what is on TV, so you you might as well give it up.

Moving onto the last of the demographic characteristics, I looked at people who went to U-M for undergrad as compared with those of us who graduated elsewhere. One thing that jumped out was that Wolverines preferred CTools to M+Box at a higher rate than those of us who went elsewhere. I am unsure how often U-M undergraduates make use of either of those two systems.

As was noted previously, interns as a whole would rather get punched in the face than write the EDUC 649 final paper. The breakdown was surprising. For students who earned a degree elsewhere, we were split almost evenly in regards to writing the paper or getting punched. Michigan undergrads were one-sided. Only one out of twelve would rather rewrite the paper. I am unsure if living in Ann Arbor makes people enjoy getting punched in the face or if going to U-M makes people hate writing papers. Something strange is going on there.

We are a thirsty group. While a majority of life-long Wolverines would rather responsibly enjoy an adult beverage, they were three times as likely as students from other schools to enjoy a night out dancing. That brings us back to the start. Shall we dance?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

STATS: Color-coded Cohorts (Issue 2 of Many) #hashtag

The Hatfield and the McCoys. The Capulets and the Montagues. The Israelis and the Palestinians. The Blue Cohort and the Maize Cohort. Two distinct rivals.

As I was working on the survey, I was excited to see what differences would emerge between the two cohorts. The differences between the STEM and Humanities group were kind of predictable. Those groups were designed around common interests manifested in different undergraduate majors. Now, the color-coded cohorts were supposed to be carefully crafted to be coequal. There is no reason for the two groups to do be different.

In fact, the two groups aren't all that different. There were twenty-five total questions, of which the first four were demographics. Of the remaining 21 'preference' questions, both cohorts agree on all but three. So which three were different?

The Cornhort prefers country music to rap music; that is the opposite of ironic. While the Maize cohort is jamming out to "22", the Blue Cohort will be working on "99 Problems". While the musical tastes of the two cohorts might vary, it is a small detail. By a wide margin, both groups preferred to relax with a good book rather than by listening to music. So perhaps in the next round of questioning, we will ask about each other's favorite genre of literature.

When it comes to games, the Blue group would rather strategize during a chess match, while the Maize group prefers the simplicity of checkers. Both Cohorts would rather win the lottery than experience the joy of victory on Jeopardy. So while we both might like a little bit of competition, we prefer to win (even if winning is independent of our skills).

Regarding evaluations, the Blue cohort has problems with writer's block; 58% would rather take an exam. By a similar margin, 64% of the Maize cohort would rather write a paper. There is something both groups would prefer to writing some papers. Almost three-quarters of us (73%) would rather get punched in the the face than write the paper for EDUC 649 again.

Both groups would rather work in CTools than M+Box. Both groups would rather take a walk than take a nap. By a small margin, both groups think dinosaurs are more interesting than racism. By a wide margin, both groups like dogs more than cats. Both groups would rather stay up late drinking 'ginger ales' rather than waking up early for dance lessons. There is more that unites us than divides us. We might have different inside jokes ("The Captain of my Ship" vs. "Dr. Cohen on Red bull"), but it turns out that the difference between maize and blue is rather small. We are all dolphilians at heart.

Monday, August 12, 2013

STATS: The Stuff We All Agree On (Issue 1 of Many) #Hashtag

When designing the survey, I tried to balance the questions so the each was equally likely to be chosen. I was only somewhat successful. It turns out there are some things that we agree on. 

I would rather go without air conditioning than sit in the room with the creepy mirrors. It turns out that I am in the minority. Most of us wouldn't mind the possibility of surreptitiously being observed as long as the temperature was comfortable. Almost all of us picked reading over writing, regardless of what cohort we were in. Perhaps I should have lowered the the number of pages to be written; perhaps we are all burnt out from writing papers for the last week. It looks like no one is going to mind reading about Intellectual Character over the abbreviated summer break.

Another common trait, (not graphed) was that we are cheap. We picked free Pepsi over costly Coke at a 3:1 ratio. We would also rather walk a mile than pay to park closer at a similar ratio.

What makes us different?

I was not surprised by this one. Math and science majors would rather write about quantitative analysis in Lakin. History and political-science majors would rather get involved in the political process via an advocacy letter. So, no surprises there. That leads us to the next questions.

I did not see this one coming. Humanities folks have a significant fear of failure. STEM people have a low tolerance for physical pain. Who would have thought that?

Look for more to come.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Immortal Conversation, Part one of ∞ #hashtag

It is bad form to start a piece of writing with a quote and particularly bad form to start a piece of writing with a block-quote. With that in mind, this is me babbling for a line or two so that this posting will not start with a block-quote.
We should not, however, refuse to engage in the "immortal conversation" invited by the liberal arts. The great existential questions demand our attention: What is the meaning of life? What is truth and how can it be found? What is beauty? What is good? . . .Is there a God? What is love? How should I live my life? What do I owe to others? . . .The great gift of the liberal arts has been to keep this conversation alive. It is in this sense that it is better than other forms of educations.
from, Noddings, N. (2013). Education and Democracy in the 21st Century, p. 57 (Yes, I know that isn't a proper APA citation, but no one cares who or where the publisher is from).

This is part one of an infinite series on the immortal conversation. The question I am going to begin in this discussion is "Is there a God?" The thing is, the answer to this question does not really matter. Shocking, I know, but let me explain what I mean with the use of a flow chart.
If you say that there is no God or that there is a God, but he has no plans for our lives, you end up in the same place, where God is irrelevant. The real question is, "Does God have a plan for our lives?" That is a question worth spending the rest of eternity discussing. So, we will suppose that there is a God and for the sake of conversation we'll stick to the with the perspective of Christianity, as that is the only faith on which I feel even remotely capable of discussing. Someone else will have to lead their own immortal conversation if they have a different concept of God.

So, what does the Good Book say? For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV). So God has a plan for us? But why does this verse start in the middle of a quote. Let's look at the whole passage.
This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you (Jeremiah 29:10-12 NIV). So it seems God is talking specifically to the people of Israel. He has a plan to bring them out of exile and return them home. So, I looks like God has no plan for our lives. Well, that's depressing, but probably not true either.
In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. (Proverbs 16:9 NIV) That one is pretty straightforward. So, it looks like God might have a plan for us after all. In fact there are probably a couple other verses that say something about God having something planned for us, even if the most often quoted verse for Jeremiah (the verse you see on bumper stickers) probably does not apply to individuals at all. Still, that does not tell us what the plan is like.

I made plans for this weekend. Then, when the first thing went wrong, my plans were shot. Is that the type of plan God has for us? God has a plan to lead us through a life of paradise, but the first time we step out of line we mangle the rest of plan. From there on out, the plan is shot.

The other idea of plan is one of a wide road (Yes, I have read Matt 7:13). We can pick which lane we want to be in and where we want to stop. We can slow down or speed up. At times though, the road is going to constrict. We're going to have to get into one of the lanes or pull off the expressway. Maybe that's what God's plan is like.

Similarly, maybe God's plan is like a dark hallway. In that case we sort of fumble around trying to find a direction, but run into natural boundaries (walls) that guide us either forward or backwards.

Maybe God's plan is for everything to be predettermined and there is no free will, in which case it is okay that I spelled a word wrong earlier in this sentence and there is no need to go back and fix it.

If God does have a plan for us, what should we do about it? It suddenly becomes much more difficult to make decisions. If something goes poorly, is that God telling us to stop? Have I deviated from the plan or is the challenge part of the plan? How do we make decisions when we face difficulties in life. Maybe this is my one and only shot I am going to get. It might be hard, but maybe the plan does not include another opportunity. Is failure ever part of the plan?

How precise is this plan? Is ever human interaction mapped out before us? Is it God's plan that I help the second homeless person I see on the street today and the plan for the person walking 10 minutes behind me to help the first homeless person I saw today?

So, there we have it, the immortal conversation in progress. It a process that begins with questions and ends with even more questions.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Legend of the Dolphilians #hashtag

Original Sketch:
First Graphic:
Still need a picture of the t-shirt.

Study break over; back to pounding my head against the desk.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Bane of my Existence #hashtag

"In the text, however, citation can get confusing because e-books often lack page numbers (though PDF versions may have them). Kindle books have 'location numbers,' which are static, but those are useless to anyone who doesn't have a Kindle too. To cite in text, either (a) paraphrase, thus avoiding the problem (e.g., 'Gladwell, 2008'), or (b)..." from the Official APA Style Blog

So, the official response in regards to using a direct quote from an e-book is something along the lines of "Yeah, you don't want to do that because we've decided to make it arbitrarily complicated." Who people these people in charge?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Peanut Butter and Cost Benefit Analysis #hashtag

The vending machine in the SOE sells both Reese's Pieces and Peanut Butter M&M's. They are about as similar as candies come. They costs the same and they even come in similarly colored bags (orange). Which should I purchase? I created this chart to help me decide.
I highlighted the winner in each of the categories. For fat content, I could not decide on a winner. Culturally, fats would be something to avoid, but given that I have lost a fair amount of weight this year, I am not overly concerned about taking in too much fat.
There is another difference in the size of the pieces not accounted for in the chart. While there is clearly more mass in the M&M's bag, the Reese's Pieces come in smaller pieces. I have read about a psychological effect on portion size. If you cut your food into smaller pieces, you will get full faster and eat less. So, it is possible that if I eat the Reese's Pieces one at a time, I will likely feel more full than I would if I ate the M&M's one by one.
Something going against the Reese's Pieces is the thinness of their candy shells. I discovered this by accidentally dumping the crumbs of the Reese's bag on myself. After eating the bag of M&M's, the container was empty. The Reese's contained at least a gram of chipped up shells; this would likely increase the discrepancy between the weight of what I actually eat from each bag.
On the other hand, Reese's Pieces are the original peanut-buttery bite-sized candy. Should I not reward creativity over imitation? Then again, shouldn't I encourage innovation (Apple's Lisa came first, but I still prefer Windows)?
Hershey (Reese's) is a publicly traded corporation [Hey man, the corporations are ruining American, man], while Mars (M&M) is family owned. On the other hand, Mars' revenue is an order of magnitude higher than Hershey's (about ten times as much), so I shouldn't I be helping out the little guy?
The girl (Green M&M) on the M&M's bag smiles at me; I like it when people smile at me. Reese's make me smile because I think of Officer Reese from Family Guy.

Conclusion: Life is full of hard choices.

As an aside, yes, I noticed the line "Weight (g)" in the table. I apologize to anyone that ever passed a science class. Also, it says "Reese Pieces", I should have used the possessive. Time to get a snack and then back to homework.

Blogging for School #hashtag

I went to sign into Ctools this morning and there was a "news" story about blogging as schoolwork. What a great idea!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Level Completed (ED504)

Three thoughts on Text, Search and the Screen: Three questions and their answers in the reverse order

How do we reconcile Nel Nodding's assertion in Education and Democracy in the 21st Century that "[w]ith available technology, we can always find facts and details, we need not memorize long lists of them" (p. 42) with Daniel Willingham's statement in Why Don't Students Like School when he comes to "a conclusion that is not scientifically challengeable: thinking well requires knowing facts" (Chapter 2, Kindle)?

How do we reconcile that strategies of "talking to the text" described in the Reading Apprentices Framework with the screen literacy skills required for taking computer based tests and the movement towards digital text?

Has search made citations an anachronism?

If you Google "a conclusion that is not scientifically challengeable: thinking well requires knowing facts" the third search result will offer a summary of Willingham's book. When writing a paper, I have to include the publisher in the references list because [insert plausible reason here]. For some reason, I will spend half an hour figuring out periods and commas in a citation with the goal of [insert reasonable goal here]. Certainly there is a purpose in giving credit to the originator of an idea. Beyond that, it seems like the formal citation has become an anachronism. Listing the publisher and the year printed made sense if someone wanted to find a book in a bookstore, but bookstores don't exist anymore. A Google search for "Willingham a conclusion that is not scientifically challengeable" leads to an entire first page of Daniel Willingham results, with multiple links to the book showing up. Even if you shorten the search to "Willingham scientifically challengeable" Google will still take you directly to the book or Dan Willingham's site.

Talking to the text can still work in a digital world, it will just look different. I use my Kindle to annotating and highlighting text. Again, we see search changing the way that we use text. I can easily electronically compile all my highlights into one document. I can search through my notes or for any key phrase in the text. In this case, we are still talking to the text, it just looks more like typing to the text. I am using a different input device, but still accomplishing the same tasks of noting important points and asking questions about the blurry parts. The real question comes about when taking a standardized tests, where highlighting the text on the screen is impossible. That is still a mystery as to how talking to the text will work.

Finally, Noddings later admits to the need for some basic knowledge. Willingham finds the memorization of 'longs lists of facts' useful for building up background knowledge, making connections and building new concepts. In this case, we'll trust the cognitive psychologist when he says that memorizing facts giving students a cognitive advantage.