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Below are the 10 most recent journal entries recorded in the "T. Rev" journal:
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Folk Theory of Obesity|
Obesity is strongly linked in the public mind to moral failure. One often hears remarks like, 'the solution to obesity is simple: eat less and exercise more.' In particular, obesity is linked to weakness of will, self-care and integrity.
Consider, however, the class of atypical antipsychotic/anticonvulsant drugs, used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. In many cases these drugs can help completely incapacitated people return to autonomous function.
They also cause massive weight gain.
If the folk theory is to be believed, these drugs must be impairing the patient's will and capacity for self-care. Hmm...doesn't really add up, does it? The truth is, there are no known interventions aside from surgery that have significant, stable long-term weight-loss effects. But we persist in pretending that not only do they exist, but they're simple, easy to apply and ubiquitous. What the hell is going on?
How's everybody doing? I'm spending too much time on Twitter and not enough here, but I haven't left.
Tags: filler, you tell me
Why I Am A Bad Saint|
Just to be clear about this, I am a saint. I performed three certified miracles, once upon a time, and thus was promoted from T. Rev to St. Rev, long ago. It's tested, it's proven, it's official.
I am, however, just about the lowest-grade saint ever. Here's the story of one of my miracles.
That Time I Healed a Car
So friend X had to get from Athens to Atlanta to catch a flight home, friend Y was driving him, and I was along for the ride. We were about halfway to the airport, which is to say on the highway in the middle of nowhere in particular, when Y's car broke down.
This was back in 1997, so none of us had cell phones. (I still don't!) Y pulled to the side of the road. We were miles from the nearest pay phone or other civilized amenity, so our options were limited. We all got out of the car and considered the situation. Y lifted the hood and peered at the engine. He touched it, gingerly. He got back in the car and tried to start it. He got out. We looked around. We looked at the car. Y got back in the car and tried to start it. He got out. He fiddled with a tube of some sort, hopelessly.
I looked at Y, who was staring at the engine in rapt incomprehension. I looked at X, who was getting more and more worried about missing his flight home. Y closed the hood, got back in the car, and tried to start it. He got out. I looked at the car. Well, there was no getting around this one.
I was going to have to perform a miracle.
I sighed and laid my hands on the hood. I concentrated. I visualized the smiling, idiot face of J. R. "Bob" Dobbs.
"Someone's pulling over," said X.
An SUV rolled to a stop, and our friend Z got out. She was driving past, here in the middle of nowhere, and saw us at the side of the road. So she stopped, and X got in, and she drove him to the airport.
He missed his flight.
That's the story of that time I healed a car, only not, except effectively I did, except in a completely ineffective way.
Tags: filler, religion
Thoughts On Watching Two Episodes of Downton Abbey|
There's an interesting entanglement of class and knowledge apparent in my (limited) viewing on Downton Abbey.
The lower class workers are assumed to possess narrowly constricted knowledge and interests, and are actively shamed for experience outside that. The middle class characters have a much broader range of material skills, but this wins them scorn, not respect. The aristos, on the third hand, don't know a damned thing except the rules of their social matrix, and they're fiercely proud of that. It's like the lower and upper classes form a hive organism, helpless except as a unit, and sentience is maladaptive for them. For their part, the middle class characters in their individualism are doomed.
This immediately suggests the need for a Downton Abbey/Starship Troopers mashup: Johnny Rico unexpectedly inherits the title to a Bug colony. Thrill to his hilarious adventures as the new Swarmlord! He tries to teach the drones calculus! He uses the wrong pheromones at spawning time! This could be a whole new genre: interspecies romance comedy of manners.
Someone do a Kickstarter?
Friday Poll Fun|
Open to: All, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 15
What are you doing on the Internet at a time like this?
| 1 (7.7%)
|Not allowed around decent people
| 2 (15.4%)
|Avoiding LAPD because of reasons
| 0 (0.0%)
|Tried but it keeps following me
| 8 (61.5%)
| 1 (7.7%)
| 1 (7.7%)
You can write stuff here!
Tags: polls, you tell me
Nintendo School (for gabrielduquette)|
This is a slightly expanded version of some remarks I made on Twitter a few months ago.
Here's my bias, up front: I despise modern schools. Schools, especially public K-12 schools, aren't hallowed institutions of learning. They're part-time prison camps. The Prussian model, from which all modern systems descend, was designed to condition and indoctrinate soldiers, factory workers and housewives--to turn children into docile and reliable units in an industrial economy. Human machine parts. The most important lessons they convey are how to sit in one place for long periods of time, how to carry out dull, repetitive and essentially meaningless tasks, and how to knuckle under to authority.
Burn the fucking mausoleums to the ground and start over.
How I Would Reform K-12 and Undergraduate Education
1) Phase out in-person lectures, replace with Khan academy-style videos.
Lectures suck twice over. First, they're a lousy instructional format. Second, in the Internet age, there's no need to have them constructed and delivered artisan-style by fifty thousand individual lecturers of varying (and mostly poor) ability, any more than we need all music to be performed by local chamber ensembles. If we have to deliver information in the lecture format, let's find the best one, or the best hundred (to match individual learning styles and preferences).
What about hands-on interaction, the back-and-forth of true personal teaching, you may ask? That's not lecturing, that's something that disrupts lecturing. Let's talk about that separately.
2) Fire the useless teachers, have the decent teachers become well-paid, prestigious tutor/guides, for live one-on-one consultation.
This is how many ancient academies actually worked, and it's how a handful of the greatest, like Oxford and Cambridge, still do. There's no substitute for discussion, but the modern lecture system doesn't support discussion, it crowds it out, especially in high schools.
3) Arrange the essential curriculum in the form of skill trees and gamify the hell out of it.
Again, Khan academy does this already. So do MMOs. Give students well-defined paths to follow in the essentials, and give them immediate and continuous feedback on their progress. You mastered the unit on factoring quadratic polynomials? Level up!
4) Pay children to progress.
Adults bitterly resent forced work without compensation, but we expect children to labor for thirteen years with little concrete feedback and less reward. So here's how I'd do it differently. Earned 1000 progression points? Get an hour on the Nintendo, in the school game room, or three hours reading/exploration time in the library, or two hours scheduled team sports, or what have you. Remake half the school into a rec center. This isn't necessarily a big change; make the library and sports fields places students actually go by choice, rather than another regimented mandatory-or-forbidden space in which to be ordered about.
5) Kill the clock.
We have to accept the industrial-economy constraint, provisionally, that students have to be contained for eight hours a day. OK. But with lectures-on-demand via video, asynchronous curriculum progression via computer testing, and one-on-one tutoring, it will be actually desirable to deschedule and destructure a lot of school activity. Let kids find their natural rhythm.
6) Adaptive difficulty.
This is already done with things like the computerized SAT--the program feeds easier or harder problems until it finds the natural level a student is challenged but not overwhelmed at. Smarter kids will find the curriculum getting harder, slower kids will find it getting easier, until each finds their own level.
The real point is that you tell a kid, "OK, here's your work block, get it done and you can be FREE for a while." I don't know about you guys, but that would have motivated the shit out of me. Some kids could crank out work in the morning & rest in the afternoon, others could take it easy in the morning and work in the afternoon. Some kids might save karma points up for a week and then take a couple days off. Adaptive difficulty means smart kids don't do a year's work in a month and then sleep the rest of the year, and slow kids aren't crushed.
I'm mostly trying to design a system that isn't a fucking prison farm for children. Education is secondary. I don't think that's a drawback, because it's not like the current system is any good at education.
A note on the currently fashionable problem of bullying: Consider the possibility that children are so horrible because they're thrown together in prison conditions, like rats in an overcrowded cage resorting to cannibalism. Kids don't do much of that shit outside school. Give the shy kids room to be alone, give the social kids room to be social outside a pressure cooker. Give them all a sense that they're doing something they find meaningful.
That's my attempt at 'how to fix schools'. What are my qualifications to advance a critique like this? Bitter former mathematics professor, and vastly more bitter victim of the public school system. HTH, HAND.
I Am Old :(|
The time between the release of this album and today is about as long as the time between the release of this album and the breakup of the Beatles.
Observation on Prev. Entry|
Cat pictures appear to render people less likely to comment. More research needed.
Tags: cats, filler
How are you? How's your year so far?
Here are some cat pictures.
Pokey, Dean, Ratty, Hank.
Tags: you tell me
Addendum to previous: there are (obviously) a ton of caveats and complications here. It's a lazy technique, useful for cooking with a minimum of preparation and fussing, but it's just a starting point. For heaven's sake, don't try it with eggs!
The most important thing I left out, though, was: get the pan as hot as possible before adding the meat, and dry the surface of the meat with a paper towel if that's practical. The hotter the surface of the metal, and the less moisture it has to boil off, the faster the proteins in the contact layer will break down. Don't panic if it gets a bit smoky, that means it's working.
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