I passed!

Jan. 23rd, 2014 07:42 am
asterroc: We Can Do It Sinfest - Up Yours (We Can Do It Sinfest - Up Yours)
Realized I updated lots of other places but not here. I passed my quals!

Next step is my thesis proposal, called prelims here.

Originally posted on Dreamwidth. comment count unavailable comments there. Comment here or there.


Apr. 19th, 2010 09:19 am
Oh that's right, the rest of the world doesn't get today off, it's a state holiday. (And yet I woke before 9am.)

And I work from home Tues too, so it's a 4-day weekend for me, yay!

Pop Quiz!

Mar. 10th, 2010 11:37 pm
Okay gentlemen and ladies, someone's cellphone went off so it's time for a Pop Quiz. Put away your notes, put away your pencils and papers, put away your calculators, and most especially put away your cellphones and answer the following questions.

That's right, I want you to answer it without a calculator and also without even writing anything down. I assure you it's possible. Please do your best.

[Poll #1536640]

When you're done, you may turn in your papers and go back to your regularly scheduled midterm exam grading.

If you're not certain of your answer, please feel free to explain your reasoning.

Snow Day!

Dec. 9th, 2009 10:22 am
Hooray, this means I can do more work. Wanted to go to the gym (I missed the last couple weeks), but the roads are a bit messy.
asterroc: (rhino)
Woke up this morning with a low grade fever and sore throat. Or maybe "continued to not be asleep" might be better, since I didn't sleep more than an hour straight all night long. Had the AC on all night and it didn't help, so between that and the fever of 99.5F I concluded I was sick. Called the local mega-university's health services triage nurse, and she said I should stay home today, drink plenty of fluids, use my inhaler (I totally forget how often I'm allowed to use it, any ideas?), and I could take an expectorant if I was coughing. Went back to bed.

Woke up, made some soup, ate the soup, un-ate the soup, went back to bed.

Woke up shivering and took my temperature: 101.1F (as in, just over the threshold for flu). Called the triage nurse and left a message. Called again every 15 minutes for the next hour. Took my temperature: 101.5F. Emailed my students to tell them I won't be in tomorrow, and just called the school's absence reporting line. I think I'm going to call up for a same-/next-day appointment. Hopefully that won't go to voice mail too. Hopefully I won't have to call the hamthrax reporting line after that appt.
asterroc: (Smoothie)
I've got a sabbatical coming up Fall 2010. I'm seriously considering spending 6 months in Australia. For professional reasons, really! I want to see the night sky south of the equator, and I could do astrophotography. (On the personal side I really want to live in a place where cockatoos will come to my birdfeeder.)

So, I know very little about Australia except what I've just said. Help me find out (a) where I should do this, (b) how much it will cost, and (c) whether I need a visa! This's currently a pipe dream, but every dream starts somewhere.
asterroc: (xkcd - Fuck the Cosine)
I am looking for a reliable source to explain to a non-mathematician why drawing conclusions from a sample size of 3 is ridiculous.

The World

May. 10th, 2009 11:06 pm
I'm trying to understand something. Please answer the below questions to the best of your ability.

[Poll #1397877]

What I'm trying to understand - read this AFTER submitting the poll )
Time to boycott Amazon.com . They've decided to delist factual and useful books on homosexuality from their internal search engine, calling them "adult themed," so that "ex-gay" books show up on searches before other books on homosexuality. For example, the book "Heather Has Two Mommies" does exist on Amazon.com in both the original edition and the 10th anniversary edition, however it does not show up when you search all of Amazon on the title and only the 10th anniversary edition shows when you search on the title under Books only. You also will not find the book's sales rank anywhere on either edition's page (do a Find on the page for "rank" or "sales rank"), as opposed to on the page for another random book.

More details and about what's going on, including an explanation of how the sales rank is being misrepresented or deleted entirely, are on [livejournal.com profile] rosefox's blog linky linky here. And just to clarify, Amazon does say it is their own choice to filter on "adult themes", not the choice of some database they are buying into.

Edit: I have submitted the following letter (identifying information redacted) to Amazon.com's Customer Service online, and will be looking up their mailing address and sending another copy on school stationary. Feel free to copy or modify for your own letter.

I recently heard about Amazon's policy to derank books on homosexuality and remove them from the search results. I am very disappointed in this policy and will no longer be purchasing from Amazon, unless this policy is revoked. In addition, my influence extends beyond my own dollar, as I am informing my friends and family of this new hateful policy.

I am also a faculty at a community college (subject, school, and location redacted). Every year I have hundreds of students, and in the past I have recommend that they can purchase their textbooks for cheaper than the college bookstore by buying them on Amazon.com. Some of the goals of a college education is for students to broaden their horizons, and to learn to see the world from different points of view. In order to achieve this goal, we must all have access to as much information as possible. Amazon's policy to selectively blacklist certain topics that one portion of the population finds offensive is in direct opposition to the goals of a college education. Therefore I cannot in good conscience recommend Amazon to my college students as a source for textbooks. Until Amazon changes this policy, I will no longer be recommending Amazon to my students but instead will recommend competitors BN.com and Powells.com .

Edit: According to Publisher's Weekly, Amazon is backpedaling and claiming it's all just a glitch, but they do not appear to be making any efforts to fix said glitch. Searching on Heather Has Two Mommies still doesn't turn up the book, the book itself still has no rank listed, and a site-wide search on "homosexuality" still turns up ex-gay propaganda bullshit. I also haven't seen anything about Amazon's comment elsewhere - like on Amazon. I'll start listening to Amazon's comments when they start actually doing something about them.

Edit: Amazon is emailing everyone who emailed them to say it's an error.

From Amazon:

Amazon.com Customer Service to me
2:05 AM (4 hours ago)


Thanks for contacting us. We recently discovered a glitch in our systems and it's being fixed.

Thanks again for contacting us. We hope to see you again soon.

Please let us know if this e-mail resolved your question:

If yes, click here:

If not, click here:

Please note: this e-mail was sent from an address that cannot accept incoming e-mail.

To contact us about an unrelated issue, please visit the Help section of our web site.

Best regards,

Mehul Damera
We're Building Earth's Most Customer-Centric Company
[link removed, I don't want to give them traffic right now]

I clicked on "No, it's not resolved" and wrote:

Sending an email to say "we're working on fixing this problem" without providing any evidence of said work is frustrating. I hope that I am informed when this is actually fixed, because it is not fixed as of yet and I still intend to boycott Amazon until it is.

Also, you have lost a lot of reputation from this supposed glitch. I do not see how this could be just a glitch, and I feel that you simply are not owning up to a deliberate bias that turned out to cost the company money, so instead you're pretending it never happened. Fess up, get a press release out, and spend a week featuring books on homosexuality on the front page: that would build good will in the LGBT/ally community and show that it really was in error.
asterroc: (doll)
Should college police officers carry guns?

So I got the tablet early last week finally, after a bunch of hassle with Lenovo. Today was "Install Camtasia Day" so I got the CD w/ license key from the appropriate IT person, brought it back to my office where the tablet was warming up, and promptly discovered that it didn't have a CD drive. That's right, I ordered a computer without an optical drive and never realized it. So, workaround time. Said IT person recommended copying the disk to a thumb drive. Of course when I popped the disk into a computer w/ a CD/DVD drive, turns out it has autoplay software, so I couldn't look at the directory and drag'n'drop it. So I went to the command prompt, googled recursive copying, and xcopy d:/* g:/Camtasia \s-ed. Amazingly it worked, installing smoothly from the thumb drive onto my tablet, after only 10 failed attempts to type in the license key!
So y'all know I advocate for public higher ed, especially the value of community colleges since I work at one. And I also agitate for adjuncts - part time faculty who are paid per course with no benefits or even an office most of the time. They're essentially taken advantage of by the administration, and many full-timers put them down for not contributing to the college the same way full-timers do (e.g., advising and committees). So when I read the L.A. Times article on Dr. Jill Biden, I just had to see if my union chapter pres would fwd it to the membership. We shall see if she does, but here's the email meantime.

If you feel this would be appropriate for the union membership, they might be interested to know that the Second Lady (VP's wife), Dr. Jill Biden, is apparently the first to continue in a paying job while her husband was in office - and the position she is in is as a community college adjunct! She's teaching ESL and developmental English at Northern Virginia Community College.


I am pleased to see that she feels that adjunct teaching at a community college is as valuable a contribution to the country as being the Second Lady.
Downside: I hate packing.

Upside: All We Like Sheep
Good news:
I don't have to drive to campus today, get snowed in, and then take days to get back home or else stay at a colleague's house.

Bad news:
My last final's on Tuesday Dec 23, grades are due Christmas Day, and I'm just waiting for the requests for make-ups in January to start pouring in.
Another snow forecasts from Wunderground.com )

I think if campus isn't closed Friday I better bring a sleeping bag and change of clothes just in case.

I wonder what the boarder's emergency plan is if power goes out there. I'm going to ask them before I bring Kappa over.


Dec. 17th, 2008 11:46 am
Date the message was sent: December 17, 2008
Time the event occured or will occur: 10:20 AM
Subject of this message: WEATHER UPDATE

Message: Alert Message:

There will be a significant snowstorm entering the Commonwealth on Friday, and another possible significant storm on Sunday. For Friday the snow will move across the State from West to East beginning around 9 AM in the West and entering Boston around midday. This storm will drop 8 to 14 inches of snow. The heaviest snow will fall between the hours of 1 PM to 7 PM at a rate of 1 to 2 inches per hour. Worcester County and West is looking towards 12 to 14 inches, East of Worcester 10 to 12 inches, the South East to include the Cape could get 8 to 10, the Island looks to get more Freezing rain. The winds will be gusting from the North East from 30 to 40 mph. Minor Coastal flooding in the form of splash over is expected. It is advised that people do not travel in this storm. Use public transportation where possible, do not travel at the height of the storm. Sunday another significant storm is expected looking at another 6 plus inches of snow. Further details will follow as more in formation becomes available on this storm.

This message was sent by the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency

Nooooo! Friday's my last final! Curse you, New England weather!

Day and evening classes for December 15th have been canceled. Final Exams originally scheduled for Monday December 15th will take place on Monday December 22nd.

Due to the length of the power outage and storm recovery efforts we have had to revise the final exam make-up schedule. Each final exam has been put off exactly 1 week, taking place on the same day of the week in the same room at the same time. PLEASE KEEP CHECKING THIS SITE FOR UPDATED INFORMATION.

Final Exams originally scheduled for Thursday December 11th will take place on Thursday December 18th.

Final Exams originally scheduled for Friday December 12th will take place on Friday December 19th.

Final Exams originally scheduled for Saturday December 13th will take place on Saturday December 20th.

Final Exams originally scheduled for Sunday December 14th will take place on Sunday December 21st.

Final Exams originally scheduled for Monday December 15th will take place on Monday December 22nd.

IF NECESSARY Final exams originally scheduled for Tuesday will take place on Tuesday December 23rd

Messed up, no? Time to change my own plans for break. :(

Edit: Crap, I was going to send an email to all my students explaining this, but the email server just went down. All the school servers are currently running off of generators, and I'm guessing they're prioritizing fuel deliveries to them, so that's why some keep going down. I have to say I do *not* envy the IT people who must be continually resetting things b/c of this situation.
Thankfully I live in a valley, so I didn't have any problems with the ice storm whatsoever. However, my campus has been royally fucked over - during finals week too, it's worse than last year's (Dec 13 2007) blizzard. Our campus closings webpage is finally back up and running (the whole campus is out of power, and for a while only half the webpages were on backup generators, but they finally got them all up again), and this is its message:

Inclement Weather and Campus Emergency Announcements

All classes scheduled for Saturday December 13th are canceled. The make-up day for final exams is Saturday December 20th same room and time.

* Final exams originally scheduled AFTER 4:00 PM on Thursday December 11th are rescheduled for the evening of December 17th same time and room.
* Final exams originally scheduled BEFORE 4:00 PM on Friday December 12th are rescheduled for Wednesday December 17th same time and room.
* Final exams originally scheduled AFTER 4:00 PM on Friday December 12th are rescheduled for the evening of December 18th same time and room.

A royal mess.
asterroc: (doll)
So I'm applying for a dean position at a nerd camp for this summer, where I'd supervise and support the teachers of various subjects, about which I may or may not have any language. I have taught at this nerdcamp before, 2004-2005, but since there's been a gap (to 2009) I expect that I should fill out a full application. A full application includes 2+ letters of recommendation, one of which should speak to my work with children. So I'm looking for advice on who to ask for these. Application is due Jan 5.

For the "works with children" first letter the deans I worked under at this nerdcamp would be the most recent (call them collectively Choice A). They do not currently work there anymore, they knew me briefly and superficially, and I have not remained in contact with them in any form. I had two people I used in this role the last time applied (2004); of those two I am not in contact with one (but T$ is, call her Choice B), and the other is on my once-a-year mass email list (and I have an old copy of his letter that I could send back to him for revision, call him Choice C). A new option is a colleague of those two with whom I have been in more frequent contact with since then (Choice D). And a last choice (Choice E) is one of my undergraduate advisors with whom I subsequently worked in 2006 at Astrocamp (their mini-nerdcamp, I was nominally a peer of his though of course in practice he was still a mentor); I also have his old letter of recommendation that I could send back for revisions. What's y'all's opinions?

For my second letter I plan to ask my current dean in my current job.

I am considering adding a third (optional) letter from my union president. The plus is that it would paint me in a VERY good light as a person who takes responsibility, provides guidance to near-peers, and could possibly show my abilities to act as an intermediary between faculty and administration. The problem is that it's a union person, and what employer wants to have a union activist in their midst. Should I include this one or no?
asterroc: (xkcd - Fuck the Cosine)
In case you haven't heard,

Pittsburgh Public Schools officials say they want to give struggling children a chance, but the district is raising eyebrows with a policy that sets 50 percent as the minimum score a student can receive for assignments, tests and other work.
"The 'E' [failing grade] is to be recorded no lower than a 50 percent, regardless of the actual percent earned. For example, if the student earns a 20 percent on a class assignment, the grade is recorded as a 50 percent," said the memo from Jerri Lippert, the district's executive director of curriculum, instruction and professional development, and Mary VanHorn, a PFT vice president.

--Joe Smydo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

It is my understanding from this, that they should not be recording percentages at all, and instead should be transitioning entirely to letter grades or a GPA system. The two systems are not really compatible (despite what all US colleges and universities try to convince us) since they use different scales and ways of averaging.

So in the end I do not see this change as administrators requiring grade inflation. I see it as administrators who do not understanding math/statistics trying (and failing) to come up with a grading system that allows for student improvement.



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