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What Professors Can Learn From "Hard Core" MOOC Students

saforrest Self-reporting is inherently biased (141 comments)

This Chronicle of Higher Ed story looks at whether these MOOC addicts think they're learning as much as they would in a traditional college course.

It's been psychologically demonstrated that people who volunteer their time up-front to some activity for which they're not receiving other rewards (e.g. payment) are biased towards finding the activity fulfilling, even if it wasn't really, simply so they don't feel foolish for having wasted their time.

I have no doubt many of these people are learning things and they would probably drop out if they weren't, but self-reporting is no way to measure the efficacy of MOOCs as learning tools.

about a year ago

Scientists Recover Black Death RNA From Exhumed Victims

saforrest Re:Dear Editors (105 comments)

The second link doesn't go to a login page for me.

more than 2 years ago

Wolfram Launches Computational Document Format

saforrest What's new here? (167 comments)

All of Matematica, Maple, and MathCAD have had their own worksheet/document formats since the mid-90s at least. They have gone through many incarnations but I believe all of them now support embedding code, graphics, marked-up text, etc. Maple's Document format certainly does.

Exactly what is new about this, other than a new name and, well, further grist for Stephen Wolfram's publicity mill?

Is the idea simply to have a thin-client reader and offload most of the computation to remote servers? Because if so then that is the innovation, not some new document format.

more than 3 years ago

Scientifically, You Are Likely In the Slowest Line

saforrest Re:Ironic? (464 comments)

I guess people like the chance of getting lucky occasionally, even at the cost of utility (average wait time) and fairness?

Yes, people, and monkeys too!

more than 3 years ago

Facebook Post Juror Gets Fined, Removed, Assigned Homework

saforrest Re:Unasked Question (539 comments)

I find it hard to believe no one is asking exactly why the defendants son is creeping around looking up jurors from his father's trial on Facebook.

For all we know the juror in question mentioned the defendant's name in her FB post and it came up when the kid was Googling the defendant's name.

about 4 years ago

Ancient Cave Art May Depict Giant Bird Extinct For 40,000 Years

saforrest Re:A cousin of the Moa? (137 comments)

While the rest of the bird kingdom in NZ devolved their wings, the world's biggest eagle, The Haast Eagle enjoyed the easy life, often making short work of the Moa from time to time.

I read something once where a scientist was conjecturing about what the first interaction between a human and a Haast Eagle, a raptor adapted to carry off and eviscerate 2-meter tall bipeds, must have been like.

[Proto-Maori guy stepping out of seafaring canoe]
Wow, nice island. Hey, what the hell is that?

more than 4 years ago

Scientists Implant Biofuel Cells Into Rats

saforrest Re:Back To The Future (164 comments)

(was it 1953? don't feel like looking it up)

1955. Don't ask me why I remember that.

more than 4 years ago

UC Berkeley Asking Incoming Students For DNA

saforrest Re:Why? (468 comments)

Because for all those years student have not noticed that he or she is lactose-intolerant. Yeah, sure.

Frequently you only develop lactose intolerance later in life, though the eventual onset of that intolerance can be inferred from your DNA.

more than 4 years ago

ACLU Sues To Protect Your Right To Swear

saforrest Re:What's with the asterisk, Slashdot? (698 comments)

Replacing the vowel in profanity with some other character doesn't fool anyone. Everyone knows still you're swearing.

Back in the late 90s there was a play out called Shopping and Fucking. I remember an article in the Globe and Mail summarizing all the various ways the name of this play was rendered in newpapers around the world. Some were bold enough to print the title in full, some resorted to "Shopping and F*cking" or "Shopping and F***ing", and one very delicately never gave to the play's name explicitly but described its name as combining "shopping and a profane expression".

My favourite was some Australian newspaper which gave the title as "Sh***ing and F***ing".

The beauty of these meaningless abbreviations is that people can think you're swearing when you're not. :)

more than 4 years ago

Volcanic Ash Heading Towards North America

saforrest Re:bankers take on the grounded flights (338 comments)

From the very link you provided:

The letters C (sé, [sj]), Q (kú, [ku]) and W (tvöfalt vaff, [tvoefalt vaf]) are only used in Icelandic in words of foreign origin and some proper names that are also of foreign origin.

more than 4 years ago

Digital Economy Bill Passed In the UK

saforrest Re:Yup (384 comments)

Carne Adovada, right here in New Mexico.

Isn't "carne adovada" Spanish for "marinated meat"? If I understand correctly from the Wikipedia article it's mostly an American dish by virtue of the Mexican-American War and continuing Mexican cultural influence.

If in this food contest the British got to claim any random dish from territory their conquered over the years, I'm sure they would have a lot more to draw from (e.g. all Indian food).

more than 4 years ago

The New National Health Plan Is Texting

saforrest Re:Remember, slashdot is run by rich white guys (191 comments)

I know several Canadian citizens who moved to the states in a large part to escape the inferior national healthcare system up north. I suppose if you work part time at McDonalds, government run health care seems like a good idea, but if you have a job where you can actually afford real healthcare, it's terrible.

Amazing isn't it, how everyone has an ex-girlfriend's former roommate's Canadian cousin who has some unpleasant anecdote the public health care system, isn't it? I almost wonder sometimes if these are all the same person.

Well, I am Canadian. And I can say that while our system isn't perfect I honestly can't see it being vastly inferior to whatever you have down there, unless maybe you get wine & cheese and digital television in every waiting room.

I'm still fairly young with no major health problems, but of course I have friends and relatives have had serious medical issues (e.g. heart attacks, liver & stomach trouble, cancer) and by all accounts got perfectly acceptable treatment. Of course we have the occasional scandal: for example some doctors in Newfoundland a few years ago misdiagnosed a lot of breast biopsies, missed a number of cancer cases, and some women died, but that was pure incompetence and there's no obvious reason why a private system would've avoided that.

Canadian immigrants to the U.S. are not a statistically valid sampling of the Canadian population. I have a friend who's now in the U.S. who badmouths our healthcare system regularly, but that has more to do with his being a libertarian than from any actual bad experience, which he grudgingly admitted to after a long argument.

more than 4 years ago

8% of Your DNA Comes From a Virus

saforrest Bad summary (478 comments)

About 8 percent of human genetic material comes from a virus and not from our ancestors

Not at all what TFA says. Sure, originally we must have had ancestors without any viral DNA, but unless the virus infected us personally and not any ancestor, the 8% of genetic material comes from a virus and from our ancestors.

more than 4 years ago

Moving Decimal Bug Loses Money

saforrest Re:God Bless the USA! (420 comments)

So, do you ever get an American quarter in your change and think "Sweet, an American quarter". Until you try to use it in a vending machine.

Well, the Canadian dollar is now trading at 94.109 cents US, according to So an American quarter would get me... an extra 1.5 cents. And unless you're going to the States, you won't have anyplace to use it except as a substitute for a Canadian quarter, so meh...

In the brief bit back in 2007 when our dollar was trading above yours, it was hilarious to suddenly see people demanding to pay the American price at bookstores. They had never realized that they were getting screwed before then, even though you always could have taken the U.S. price and multiplied it by whatever the conversion ratio was at the moment and ALWAYS end up with something lower than the Canadian price. It was a pretty savage indictment of Canadian numeracy.

more than 4 years ago

Sharp Rise In Jailing of Online Journalists; Iran May Just Kill Them

saforrest Re:Dont start a post by being a dick. (233 comments)

You make a good point about not being a jerk. Honestly, I have found that once one displays a marginal degree of deep knowledge about some subject but makes a mistake, there are no shortage of "experts" willing to jump in and humiliate the poor bastard. It's as though they're delighted to find an opponent worthy enough to fight but weak enough to defeat.

All that said, Eritrea was in the news a lot in the 80s and 90s owing to its independence war against Ethiopia. That war has a lot to do with the state of politics in the Horn of Africa ever since, and is sort of the model for the attempted secession of Somaliland from neighboring Somalia. I think the fact that the name of Eritrea is not well known is a travesty on the part of the media, and I think that anyone who regards themselves as well-informed on current events should feel embarrassment at not knowing the name of every current nation-state. There are a lot of them, sure, but knowing them is the price you pay for the title "well-informed".

more than 4 years ago

Moving Decimal Bug Loses Money

saforrest Re:God Bless the USA! (420 comments)

Well at least Australia is doing better than Canada. Those poor sods drive on the wrong side *and* use the metric system on their roads.

And on top of that we have French as one of our official languages.

Nous sommes vraiment des moutons perdus!

more than 4 years ago

At What Temperature (F) Do You Prefer Your Nerd Cave?

saforrest Re:Metric: like the rest of the World! (1233 comments)

Read my reply above, French lost because it was in the interest of many rich family at the time. That defeat was a CHOICE made at the highest levels, even if few know about it (this is NOT what is told to you at school...).

Yes, that's exactly it. Pétain and his clique and the French establishment were either ineffectual or on some level Fascist sycophants.

The classical narrative that the Americans love to tell, that the French were simply cowards, is just a joke. The French were either opposing the Germans (like de Gaulle) or on some level actively or passively pro-Fascist. The French surrender was not an act of cowardice by the French elite, but an act of betrayal of their comrades and of the other Allies. I don't think they expected to be treated as badly as they were under the Germans.

I simply don't believe that Pétain was a coward. A couple of years in to the occupation, the French fleet was still sitting motionless at Bourdeaux, not taking part in the war on either side. The Germans moved to seize it, and Pétain ordered it to be scuttled. He didn't have to do that, and if he was a coward he probably would have just handed it over, after all the Germans were pretty pissed and already had him in their power. He was a murky figure whose collaboration wandered far over the border into treason, but a coward he was not.

Of course, later when the Allies were on the upswing, there were no doubt many French people who hadn't minded the Germans when they came who were now happy to complain bitterly about their mistreatment under the occupation. But in that hypocrisy they're no different than most of us.

more than 4 years ago

At What Temperature (F) Do You Prefer Your Nerd Cave?

saforrest Re:Metric: like the rest of the World! (1233 comments)

There were these two wars, can't remember what they were called, but they were pretty big, involved most of the world....ummm give me a sec I'll come up with it.

You know, Pétain was an idiot and the French government in 1940 was pretty hapless, so they don't need any bloody defending.

But it staggers me that Americans still mock the French for surrendering in 1940 when they weren't even in the bloody war yet.

more than 4 years ago

At What Temperature (F) Do You Prefer Your Nerd Cave?

saforrest Re:Metric: like the rest of the World! (1233 comments)

We did it once, they made a trend out of that. Plus, we nearly executed the guy who did it, whereas prior to his treason he was a national hero.

Yes, prior to his treason. PRIOR. Do you know what that word means?

Or are you blaming the French for not reading Pétain's mind?

more than 4 years ago

At What Temperature (F) Do You Prefer Your Nerd Cave?

saforrest Re:Metric: like the rest of the World! (1233 comments)

From the fact that in WWII, the leftist french gouvernment failed to command the french army, which in turn deeply loathed the gouvernment and just surrendered, citing missing orders from the politics.

Marshal Pétain was many things, but a leftist was not one of them.

more than 4 years ago



saforrest saforrest writes  |  more than 7 years ago

saforrest (184929) writes "Jack Valenti, a man whose influence in both Washington and Hollywood was profound, died today at age 85. He first became famous as special assistant to Lyndon Johnson: he can even be seen in the famous photo aboard Air Force One; he later recounted some of his experiences with the Johnson administration. In 1966, he quit this job to become what Slashdotters will undoubtedly know him best for: the staunchest promoter of copyright powers in America, as the longtime president of the MPAA, from 1966 to 2004."



saforrest saforrest writes  |  more than 11 years ago oderint, dum metuant: Let them hate, so long as they fear. (A favorite saying of Caligula.)

[From the New York Times, February 27, 2003] The following is the text of John Brady Kiesling's letter of resignation to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell. Mr. Kiesling is a career diplomat who has served in United States embassies from Tel Aviv to Casablanca to Yerevan.

“Dear Mr. Secretary:

I am writing you to submit my resignation from the Foreign Service of the United States and from my position as Political Counselor in U.S. Embassy Athens, effective March 7. I do so with a heavy heart. The baggage of my upbringing included a felt obligation to give something back to my country. Service as a U.S. diplomat was a dream job. I was paid to understand foreign languages and cultures, to seek out diplomats, politicians, scholars and journalists, and to persuade them that U.S. interests and theirs fundamentally coincided. My faith in my country and its values was the most powerful weapon in my diplomatic arsenal.

It is inevitable that during twenty years with the State Department I would become more sophisticated and cynical about the narrow and selfish bureaucratic motives that sometimes shaped our policies. Human nature is what it is, and I was rewarded and promoted for understanding human nature. But until this Administration it had been possible to believe that by upholding the policies of my president I was also upholding the interests of the American people and the world. I believe it no longer.

The policies we are now asked to advance are incompatible not only with American values but also with American interests. Our fervent pursuit of war with Iraq is driving us to squander the international legitimacy that has been America's most potent weapon of both offense and defense since the days of Woodrow Wilson. We have begun to dismantle the largest and most effective web of international relationships the world has ever known. Our current course will bring instability and danger, not security.

The sacrifice of global interests to domestic politics and to bureaucratic self-interest is nothing new, and it is certainly not a uniquely American problem. Still, we have not seen such systematic distortion of intelligence, such systematic manipulation of American opinion, since the war in Vietnam. The September 11 tragedy left us stronger than before, rallying around us a vast international coalition to cooperate for the first time in a systematic way against the threat of terrorism. But rather than take credit for those successes and build on them, this Administration has chosen to make terrorism a domestic political tool, enlisting a scattered and largely defeated Al Qaeda as its bureaucratic ally. We spread disproportionate terror and confusion in the public mind, arbitrarily linking the unrelated problems of terrorism and Iraq. The result, and perhaps the motive, is to justify a vast misallocation of shrinking public wealth to the military and to weaken the safeguards that protect American citizens from the heavy hand of government. September 11 did not do as much damage to the fabric of American society as we seem determined to so to ourselves. Is the Russia of the late Romanovs really our model, a selfish, superstitious empire thrashing toward self-destruction in the name of a doomed status quo?

We should ask ourselves why we have failed to persuade more of the world that a war with Iraq is necessary. We have over the past two years done too much to assert to our world partners that narrow and mercenary U.S. interests override the cherished values of our partners. Even where our aims were not in question, our consistency is at issue. The model of Afghanistan is little comfort to allies wondering on what basis we plan to rebuild the Middle East, and in whose image and interests. Have we indeed become blind, as Russia is blind in Chechnya, as Israel is blind in the Occupied Territories, to our own advice, that overwhelming military power is not the answer to terrorism? After the shambles of post-war Iraq joins the shambles in Grozny and Ramallah, it will be a brave foreigner who forms ranks with Micronesia to follow where we lead.

We have a coalition still, a good one. The loyalty of many of our friends is impressive, a tribute to American moral capital built up over a century. But our closest allies are persuaded less that war is justified than that it would be perilous to allow the U.S. to drift into complete solipsism. Loyalty should be reciprocal. Why does our President condone the swaggering and contemptuous approach to our friends and allies this Administration is fostering, including among its most senior officials. Has oderint dum metuant really become our motto?

I urge you to listen to America's friends around the world. Even here in Greece, purported hotbed of European anti-Americanism, we have more and closer friends than the American newspaper reader can possibly imagine. Even when they complain about American arrogance, Greeks know that the world is a difficult and dangerous place, and they want a strong international system, with the U.S. and EU in close partnership. When our friends are afraid of us rather than for us, it is time to worry. And now they are afraid. Who will tell them convincingly that the United States is as it was, a beacon of liberty, security, and justice for the planet?

Mr. Secretary, I have enormous respect for your character and ability. You have preserved more international credibility for us than our policy deserves, and salvaged something positive from the excesses of an ideological and self-serving Administration. But your loyalty to the President goes too far. We are straining beyond its limits an international system we built with such toil and treasure, a web of laws, treaties, organizations, and shared values that sets limits on our foes far more effectively than it ever constrained America's ability to defend its interests.

I am resigning because I have tried and failed to reconcile my conscience with my ability to represent the current U.S. Administration. I have confidence that our democratic process is ultimately self-correcting, and hope that in a small way I can contribute from outside to shaping policies that better serve the security and prosperity of the American people and the world we share.”

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