Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Journal of unreproducible words Mark II

William has said "Daddy" or "Dada" several times now. So technically it was reproducible. But I am not sure he said in the context of addressing me. So, I am not sure that counts.

Lately he's been clucking in a strange way.Is there a normal way of clucking?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Spam spam spam spam baked beans and spam

In case you were worrying that I was censoring blog comments. I am not.
Well not entirely. Apparantly there is a new kind of spam that targets the comments of blogs. So, now, to post a comment you need to fill out one of the word recognition programs that may foil spam.
I was so excited when I saw the first one. A new reader? Interested in my blog? Wow... Oh he has a blog too, let's see. Discount air-tickets, WTF?

To hit or not to hit. the bug that is

With the now, finally, pleasant weather (mid-seventies, we've had our windows opens, and as a result had many flies buzzing around the house.
After having one land one too many times on my dinner plate, I got a rolled up newspaper and began to chase it around the house swatting at it. I killed two or three before I heard a plaintive cry.

"No Hit! Not hit bug"

Little Sophie schooled well that we are no to hit Chicken, or William or our parents, or pretty much anything caught me in my hypocrisy. I put down the paper and marvelled at my daughter's sweet defense of the flies.

So, like any good parent, I curtailed my fly swatting until she was napping or outside. Then a week or so later. We were playing in the living room, and a fly was buzzing about.

"Hit bug, hit bug!" Sophie cried miming the swatting posture.

Had I turned my innocent daughter into a killing machine?
Had she discivered how annoying those flies are?

I don't know. Thankfully it is getting cold enough the flies will disappear soon and I won't have to answer that question.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Baby bits

So I was feeding Sophie lunch or dinner the other day. And she got food all over her face, clothing and hands. Not particularly unusual. I went to get some paper towels to wipe her down, and said "Sophie, you are a dirty bird"
She responded with "Cheep Cheep!"

Yesterday we were all playing in the sun room. And Will sneezed a couple of time. Sophie said "tissue? tissue?" So I handed her the box. She took one out and gave it to Will, who of course, proceeded to eat it.
Then Sophie went to pull more tissues out (it is like a magic box of infinite fun and mess!) I said "Sophie, leave the tissues in the box!" sternly.
So she looks at me. Leans over and rubs her nose on the little part of the tissue extending from the box, then satisfied, she stuffed it back into the box.

What are we testing?

Day 3 of my four day vacation, called Fall Break. Mid-terms were as I predicted embarrassing. As part of my "relaxed fit semester" I gave my ethics students the following.

24 Questions in advance over the course of the semester.
I would write these on the board the week we studied their subjects, and I also included them on the class website. They had a review day to go over their answers with me in class. And, here is the kicker. They were allowed to bring any notes that they made (including a question by question set of pre-written answers if they constructed that). The mit-term exam consisted of 6 of those 24 questions, of which they had to answer Four.
Average grades for my two sections were 69% and 74% (the latter was for a 120 minute class rather than a 50 minutes).
Now, it is possible that the questions were so perplexing that even with the weeks of advanced notice the typical student could not grasp the answer. While they weren't the easiest questions, nearly everyone was simply a chapter sub-title reworked as a question (so studying should not have been too difficult).

This leads me to a hypothesis. I think my tests test something other than knowledge or intelligence. I think they test commitment. How much work is a student willing to do for a grade? Clearly, any student had the chance to get 100% percent by following these simple procedures (a) copy down the questions, (b) look up the answers (c) confirm the answers with me in class, or in my office hours (d) copy said answers on the test. Yet very few students seemed to do that, or do that properly. I suspect the reason was, my test was no high on their list of priorities. And that is fine, if a bit insulting.

So here is my question. Is commitment of this nature something worthy of testing and grading? In the long run, it won't really matter all that much if my students can remember the difference between Act and Rule Utilitarianism. So that was never something I was really interested in judging anyway. If grades are supposed to be evaluations of people's ability to learn (in some general way), then I am not sure my test provides a good gauge, since one could simply copy the answers from one document to another (though finding that information will likely result in some learning, I hope). My main concern is that commitment may not be something that I can teach. In other words, I am merely evaluating an independent feature of the students that my teaching has little bearing on. Granted, some of them may be inspired to levels of commitment by my stirring oratory, but I am dubious about that.
I've often thought that many tests end up testing something like the independent features: cleverness, memory, of people rather than the subject matter or what have you anyway, so I am not sure this is a particularly bad thing.
It may be of more value to say future employers to know just how committed a student can be to something not necessarily fascinating to them. Of course, at the same time, this may just be judging how interesting the subject matter (as taught by me) is to the students. In which case, poor average grades might be an indictment of either Philosophy or my teaching, or both.
Any hoo. Random thoughts.

Other lesson this term.
Just because they are Honor Students, does not mean they can operate independently.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Getting too old?

So I gamed late last night (by my current standards) leaving the game around midnight, and getting home around 12:30, to bed around 1:30am (after the necessary decompression time). The alarm went off at 7am, and I was barely able to turn it off, stumble into the shower and begin my day. Three large cups of coffee later (and 2 hours), I am still pretty groggy. Luckily I am just giving tests today (and grading) but I still feel icky. There has been a distinc tlack of sleep this week akin to the infancy of the kids. Will has been up, he was in our room two nights ago when my Father In Law was visiting, and I have been out early to school. I hope to be able to relax this "Fall Break" (Friday to Monday).
At 38+2weeks I've noticed this trend of recovery getting longer and longer. I have a cough that has lasted weeks now, my body is getting bigger and it is taking longer to lose weight, a good night's sleep is not enough to rejuvinate me. But, maybe I will be able to turn this around if I am able to start up yet another exercise routine. My main problem is fiding a routine at all. Sigh.

Carly informs me that both kids cried for several minutes after I left for the game last night. Another batch of gamer orphans (for an hour before bed time). Oh well. I've discovered my new group is filled with parents of young kids. So maybe we will start to get them all together. That would be cool. And maybe open the door to more baby sitters.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Found a very cool site

James Randi Educational Foundation

It is nice to find people even more outraged than I about the sh*t going on nowadays. The archives have lots of browsing goodness. Enjoy.

You like me, you really like me!

I got a flurry of responses to my last post, so I guess I do have a few readers.
Update on Airlines- US Air sent a short but reasonably contrite letter of apology with a vaucher for $200 of future flight. Not too bad.
I did contact a Travel Agent to buy the next round of flights to California...Dec8th - Dec 30th for those of you interested. She was able to get about the same cost of flights (as A suggested) but was able to get much better flights than I would have been relying on either the airlines phone or web service. We will actually be in before midnight without getting up at 5am. So that is good. She was not able to secure us bulkhead seating. Those of you readers with Children in Carseats can understand the need. A rear facing carseat is a huge pain in non-bulkhead seats. Well, actually any carseat is a pain, whereever it is, but particularly in Coach on a plane.
So, hopefully things will go as smoothly as possible..

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Where did the time go?

Mea Culpa, life took precedence over my blog, and if anyone still checks, I do still live. I won't try to catch everyone up. Too much work. Suffice to say there are new treasures from the kids and new trials at work.
So instead I will harp on my favorite whipping boy, the airline industry. I just flew out to California and back, and as usual, it was not the most pleasant process. They lost my luggage...sigh.

I will grant that I am not sure how the Airline Industry stays afloat. It seems like with the few people that they can cram onto a plane, and the cost of fuel is is a losing process. The recent spat of Chapter 11 bankruptcies seems to support that idea.

All the same. I would have more sympathy for them if (a) they were not one of the most heavily subsidized industries (far more than Railroads for instance), (b) they sold their product/services like any other industry, (c) they had human sales people.

(a) Apart from direct subsidies, airlines benefit from a tax payer support Air Traffic Control system, Security, and a wide variety of other government freebies. Were they to pay for those themselves, the costs bourne by the individual flyer would be quite high indeed. Of course, the vast majority of flyers are businessMen. Do they really need government handouts?

(b) I am not sure there is any sense to the pricing mechanism of Airlines. I understand that they have to respond to regional carriers and competition. Supply and Demand. So, for instance a flight from Raleigh to San Francisco (fairly high demand) is less expensive than a flight from Raleigh to Charlotte (fairly low demand). Despite the costs of such flights being much lower. While demand should have some role, you would expect supply (costs) woudl also have some role as well, yet it is not clear that it does. Aside from that however, there are more pricing puzzles.
If you were poll the eight people sitting around you on a flight (all in the same compartment) you would probably get 8 different prices for the flights. That is a little odd to me. I find that I can get as many different prices on a particular flight as there are ways to check for the price. What would happen if the prices were set for each leg, and we all paid the same? How can they justify charging me $400 and you $500? How can we be sure they are fixing prices for regions (keeping some groups off the flights) without some publicity about their prices?

(c) People used to book flights through Travel Agents. I am having trouble even finding a travel agent in Raleigh. None of the local ones have friendly web-pages. Apart from that, you used to be able to call the Airline directly and ask for some help arranging a flight, getting help with children etc..
My attempts to call United Air (I have frequently flier miles) have resulted in a connection with a computer, which is even less user friendly than their web site. Either they deluge you with options (pick the outgoing flight from this list of 20) or two few. You can fly out through Charlotte, but not back through it. I like to pretend that there is a person their with an override button somewhere who you could ask "hey can I get a flight from X to Y through Z, in the morning, with seats on the bulkhead so our car seats will fit?" but it is almost impossible to do that. It is infuriating. I don't know if a travel agent can help me. But soeone should be able to .