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Teaching College Is No Longer a Middle Class Job

jrminter Re:Administrators (538 comments)

There is a clear reason for the rise in tuition: The availability of "easy credit" for student loans.

In the Dark Ages when I was an undergrad, we lived in dorms with painted cinder block walls, spartan furniture, and a bathroom per hallway. We had a minimal gym facility but reasonable equipment in the labs. With some help from my parents and working had during summers and breaks, I graduated with only $750 in loans.

Now you have luxury dorms and sports complexes. Sadly, the cost increases for these facilities and the explosion of administrators made it practically impossible to pay for one's education at a top tier state school by working hard during the summers and breaks and some help from ones parents.

Let's not mention the Lake Wobegone mentality that all the children are above average. Colleges love remedial courses - they get paid and the students stay longer. But that changes the economics. Attending college is a business decision and if the graduate can't repay the debt in a few years, the ROI wasn't there.

about a month ago

IRS Lost Emails of 6 More Employees Under Investigation

jrminter Re:Massive conspiracy (465 comments)

Depends upon whether six months of backup meets the requirements of the records retention statute. If not, at a minimum all management who signed off on the policy should be fired. I could also see a statute setting different retention periods for different levels of employees. I could see a shorter period for lower level employees, but senior employees such as Lerner should have records that cover a much longer period, such as the statute of limitation for the consequences of criminal action in their position.

about a month and a half ago

Malaysian Flight Disappearance 'Deliberate'

jrminter Fuel adds weight and drag (436 comments)

Several knowledgeable sources have noted that fuel is both expensive and heavy. Extra weight creates drag. Airlines tend to load an aircraft with the amount of fuel required for a flight and a reserve to cover delays that weather and air traffic cause, not filled to the brim.

about 4 months ago

How MOOC Faculty Exploit People's Desire To Learn

jrminter Re:MOOCs are great (115 comments)

> That is... naive. It is highly unlikely that that professor has any hand in this.

I suspect you are wrong. Prof. Shiller already makes his classes available through OpenYale. I have watched several of his lectures. His lectures are quite engaging and he seems to enjoy teaching.

about 8 months ago

How MOOC Faculty Exploit People's Desire To Learn

jrminter Re:Couldn't disagree more! (115 comments)

I, too, have taken three Coursera classes for credit and done all the work. All three were well worth the effort. One was a teaser program for an expensive masters sponsored by the University. That was clear and did not diminish the value. Another was the first offering and was experimenting with peer grading. There were many problems with peer grading, but that did not diminish the value. I respect all three of the instructors and benefited greatly from the work and interaction.

One must have reasonable expectations of MOOCs. Much of the data mining is actually designed to benefit students. Andrew Ng and Daphne Kohler have written about how valuable the large sample size is for detecting conceptual misunderstanding from wong quiz answers to give appropriate automatic feedback. Two of my classes had over 10,000 participants. Compare that to the typical size of less than 200 at most universities. Seems to me that both faculty and students benefit from such research - faculty from publications and name recognition and students from better instruction.

about 8 months ago

What Keeps You On (or Off) Windows in 2013?

jrminter Re:because desktop linux is a toy and novelty (1215 comments)

It is a bit more complicated. I work in the analytical division of well-recognized company. Most of our vendors design instrumentation to work with Windows. There are rarely drivers for other OS choices. Most is also designed with an over-emphasis on graphical user interfaces, the bane of reproducible research.

I see way too much abuse of spreadsheets. According to Baggerly and Coombes, part of the problems in the Duke scandal were caused by off-by one index errors with Excel. Similar spreadheet blunders arose in the recent Reinhart-Rogoff problem.

I hate Excel. It is hard to do simple things efficiently. Try and do a scatterplot with multiple series. How many keystrokes will it take? Once you get your analysis done and your report written with Word, how difficult is it to fix if the client wants to add one more sample? Then consider the changes in VBA. We have 3rd party code that are locked and won't even open on current versions of Excel.

Over the last few years, I migrated all of my back-end data processing to R/Sweave/LaTeX. For some projects I use markdown instead of LaTeX. Everything is scriptable, plays well with version control (code is mainly text files), and runs on Linux, Mac, and Windows. I use (and contribute) to Open Source whenever feasible. Solving problems is easier and I find community support better than most vendor support.

If I could get my hardware to play nice with Linux, I'd switch in a heartbeat. There is only one application I would miss - the debugger in Visual Studio. RStudio is pretty good at what it was designed for, but that does not include debugging the C++ code that needs to be written to speed up some computationally intensive parts...

about a year ago

Mendeley Acquired By Elsevier

jrminter Re:Just be a real scientist... (87 comments)

I use JabRef and am quite satisfied. I also prefer LaTeX to Word etc and with Sweave can include chunks of R code to produce figures. RStudio is a decent IDE for all of this and

Sweave/LaTeX/BibTeX files are all text files and work efficiently with git for version control. Having everything under version control has saved my bacon more than once. An added benefit of git is that it is easy to keep work synched across multiple computers with different operating systems.

I find support from these Open Source communities better than commercial support (as long as one follows Eric Raymond's advice on "How to ask questions the smart way."

about a year ago

COBOL Will Outlive Us All

jrminter Re:Lords of COBOL (318 comments)

Clever. The Battlestar Galactica reference made my morning.

about a year and a half ago

Ask Slashdot: Do You Still Need a Phone At Your Desk?

jrminter Re:Call Quality (445 comments)

You are spot on. I work in a basement lab (electron microscopy) constructed with Hauserman partition walls (metal over drywall type core). These act like a Faraday Cage and cause cellular reception to be awful. To make matters worse, my management - trying to cut cost - decided that everybody had personal electronic devices these days and eliminated voice mail on our desk phone. What a mess. I have a hard time reading Dilbert these days -- it is too close to my reality...

about a year and a half ago

Meg Whitman Says HP Was Defrauded By Autonomy; HP Stock Plunges

jrminter Weren't the forensic accontants bonded? (237 comments)

The statement that caused me most concern was, "'We stand by the forensic review that we've seen." Excuse me? Somebody didn't look closely enough. Wouldn't a deal this big require a bond? Were I an HP shareholder, that statement would start my petitions to the BOD that Meg should go. Were I an HP shareholder, I would expect at least a statement like: "We have commissioned an independent review to insure that our forensic accountants used due diligence. HP will actively support the authorities with appropriate jurisdiction in the prosecution any fraud." Hindsight is always 20:20, but the shareholders deserve a specific analysis of what went wrong and assurance that the company will support prosecution of fraud.

about a year and a half ago

Linux Is a Lemon On the Retina MacBook Pro

jrminter Re:Why run Linux on a MacBook (780 comments)

I couldn't get the latest Ubuntu disk to boot on mine (Summer 2009). Any tips?

about 2 years ago

Linux Is a Lemon On the Retina MacBook Pro

jrminter Re:Hardly newsworthy (780 comments)

It is one thing to have an older MacBook and think about moving to a Linux distro when the current OS no longer supports your hardware, but unless you are a hobbyist who get pleasure from tinkering and wants to see "if I can...", it seems like a waste of time and money. Note that I am writing this on a 2009 MacBook Pro with Mountain Lion but I also use Linux for many aspects of my work. If I wanted a Linux laptop to just "get my work done," I would look carefully at one of these: The key is to let your supplier work out the hardware details. That is part of why one buys from a given supplier. We are all free to tinker to our hearts content, but if our objective is to use the system to do something useful, it is typically more productive to get something that works on the OS of choice. This is hardly a new concept...

about 2 years ago

Khan Academy: the Teachers Strike Back

jrminter Fallacy of the excluded middle (575 comments)

As a couple of others have noted, there is no reason to posit a false dichotomy - that one must use either Kahn Academy (or similar) or a "live" teacher. Short lessons like Kahn does are useful to review concepts/unit operations where a student is rusty. My wife teaches physics, statistics, and calculus at a small high school and is an adjunct at a local community college, teaching the CC classes in the high school. The best bang for the buck for college credits around. Anyway, her biggest complaint is that too many of her students have been coddled in lower level classes and have either never mastered the pre-requisites or simply not retained them. Kahn's videos are one of many helpful resources for such students. The goal is to transform students into self-directed, life-long learners. This is really the only path to success, because the half-life to obsolescence of any technical course of study is so short.

Prof. Jean-Claude Bradly at Drexel discovered that students actually preferred pod/vodcasts of lectures (they could pause and watch on their schedule) and it freed up class time to work problems and answer questions. I see Kahn Academy videos in this same light. Are they perfect? No. can they be improved? Yes. Will polite, constructive criticism be better received than snarky comments? Absolutely! In this regard, the cliche "everything i needed to know, i learned in kindergarten" has some merit - things are a lot better when everybody is polite and plays nice in the sandbox.

about 2 years ago

Key Gene Found Responsible For Accelerated Aging and Cancer

jrminter Re:Link to actual paper? (114 comments)

The authors found this in mice. Seems premature to assume that this same mechanism exists in humans.

more than 2 years ago

Facebook, Zuckerberg Sued Over IPO

jrminter Re:So (445 comments)

Not quite that simple. The complaint is that revenue projections were selectively disclosed to insiders. That is a violation of SEC regulations.

more than 2 years ago

Living Fossils: Old Tech That Just Won't Die

jrminter Re:Technology (388 comments)

The purpose of these new releases is to drive sales, not really improve the customer's work flow. With decreasing margins, most corporate customers - and indeed all of the rest of us - need to ask "do I really NEED this?"

more than 2 years ago

Mac Flashback Attack Began With Wordpress Blogs

jrminter Re:Msc People are awake now, this is a good thing! (103 comments)

Your point about updates breaking critical workfows is something Windows users have struggled with for years. The problem is that it is typically difficult to find out until it is too late unless one spends a great deal of time following all the development mailing lists on all software in one's toolchain.

more than 2 years ago

12 Ways LibreOffice Writer Tops MS Word

jrminter Re:LaTeX (642 comments)

I detest the modern versions of Office. Word 5 was a productive tool - versions after that were increasingly bloatware; Office 2010 was the last straw. I spent the last year transitioning to LaTeX. I have templates for technical reports, presentations, and reports of analysis (I specialize in microscopy and image analysis.) The combination of R, Sweave, and LaTeX, and shell scripts or batch files makes many projects very fast to reproduce when new data is added. This tool chain works quite well with git for version control - much better than the Microsoft "track changes." Microsoft keep breaking VBA to the point I will not use it for anything new.

The best part that I have found as a scientist is that I can create a directory hierarchy for a project, keep the source code and report under version control with git and have all the needed data in the appropriate place in the path. When the project is done, i do one final build of the analysis/report as a quality check and then use tar/gzip to make a compendium for archiving. When I need to reproduce an analysis, months later - everything is there. This has improved the quality of my work significantly compared to when there was a lot of point/click/copy/paste involved. it is also especially helpful in the middle of a project when I want to try a "what if" scenario or if a client wants to fine tune the sample set - or tosses in "just one more" before a tight deadline. Really reduced the number of "Mylanta moments" for me.

more than 2 years ago

Why Your IT Spending Is About To Hit the Wall

jrminter Re:slow where (301 comments)

Been there. Done that. Don't need another T-shirt... Most of our machines are on 24x7 and I tried to convince our WWIS folks to schedule updates and virus scans for after 7 p.m., but no.... Made my job impossible - I'd be on deadline with an internal client screaming for analytical results because a production line was down or a customer was upset about some imperfection and we needed to diagnose and fix the problem yesterday and some auto process would kick in. Our IS folks treated us all like office workers writing memos. That's why I wiped all the lab computers and and set them up as stand-alone systems in my own workgroup. My office system is the only one left in the domain and there are still times I am trying to generate a big report with R, Sweave, and LaTeX and some IT autoprocess starts sucking up all my CPU and thrashing my disk. I really want to move to a model of scientist as artisan - where I administer and use my own system and send results to my internal and external clients in the cloud. I am starting the transition, trying to use OpenSource tools wherever possible.

more than 2 years ago


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