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Ask Slashdot: Dealing With Electronics-Induced Inattentiveness?

supercrisp Don't overcomplicate this. (312 comments)

I've been there, first a grad student and now a professor. I also teach people about how to write, so I follow the research on this. First, as you age, this will happen some; it started for me in my early 40s. Second, you don't need a lot of these distractions. You might get push-back from people; you might think you need this stuff, but start aggressively using airplane mode on your phone. Use software on your computer that blocks distracting domains for a set period of time, or even go somewhere without internet access to work. Or leave your networked devices at home. Simple. Third, the body is part of this, nutrition, sleep, cardio exercise, are all shown to have significant impact on ability to concentrate. Fourth: pay attention to your moods, set work goals, don't whip up on yourself while making yourself work, etc. Fifth and final: keep all activity sustainable and form good habits (avoid bad habits like butt-chugging caffeine, popping Ritalin, or maintaining a marijuana fog).

about two weeks ago
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Republicans Block Latest Attempt At Curbing NSA Power

supercrisp Re:So basically (445 comments)

"Without the state protecting them, they will fall under their own overwhelming incompetence." - King Neckbeard.
"We learn from history that we learn nothing from history." -- George Bernard Shaw

about a month ago
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Ask Slashdot: Alternate Software For Use On Smartboards?

supercrisp There's an app for that! (96 comments)

I'm assuming the question is Windows specific, and I use MacOS and Ubuntu, and haven't really had to use Windows since Windows 3.... So I'll just be only marginally helpful and say/ask, "Aren't there a ton of apps out there that do that already?" I know on Mac there's lots of little doodads that pop up a ruler. And doesn't OneNote, and a lot of other stuff, do that handwriting recognition? I know it's baked-in on MacOS; isn't it on Windows too? And doesn't any app, really, have the ability to make a template when it has "Save as", or if the file-system can lock a file? I'd bet Windows even has an equivalent to the Mac stationery file-attribute. Me, I get by with TextEdit (rtf editor), Keynote (presentation), and a free app called Highlight that throws a transparent drawing layer over my screen. I know everyone's uses are different, but--just to be clear--can't most of your problems be solved with some screen mirroring and a regular app? The bonus then is that you can transport your stuff to machines that don't have that bloated piece of Smartboard excrement on them.

about 3 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Any Place For Liberal Arts Degrees In Tech?

supercrisp Re:Dual degrees (392 comments)

Anthropology and Sociology are not typically considered STEM but "social sciences."

about 3 months ago
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Bill Gates Wants To Remake the Way History Is Taught. Should We Let Him?

supercrisp Re:So long as it is consential (363 comments)

Common Core as a set of curricular guidelines isn't bad at all. The problems I see are: 1), the "coercion" -- cash-strapped districts really do have to jump at any money, so they rush into implementation; 2) more high-stakes standardized testing; that shit has already dominated and f*cked-up education; 3) corporate domination; Pearson and others stand to make fat, fat stacks of cash on the tests and the materials, and that's why they all poured money into the campaigns. I've seen first-hand what the Person vertically-integrated education ecosystem is like. They sell you shit in development, shit that doesn't work, and shit that's just plain shit. I hate them. NB: college professor at an institution that had a contract to use only Pearson; spouse is in instructional tech and shares my opinion. The best thing we could do is hire more teachers, pay them a little better, and start doing something to reduce the stranglehold that corporations like Pearson have on the education system. Stuff like Kahn Academy is fine, but I don't think online education gives students what they need, which is contact with an educated, adult mentor/teacher. (And, yeah, I know, a lot of teachers we have now don't fit that bill, but that's what young people need.)

about 3 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: What Old Technology Can't You Give Up?

supercrisp Re:My watch (635 comments)

I still wear an analog watch for those reasons. AND so that I can "subtly" glance at it when it's time to end a conversation.

about 4 months ago
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Slashdot Asks: Cheap But Reasonable Telescopes for Kids?

supercrisp Re:Dobsonian (187 comments)

I used to work at a planetarium helping school kids with telescopes. Our preferred scope was a dobsonian. I'd recommend a 4.5" dobsonian. The one sold by Orion isn't a bad deal, and they're pretty good quality. But that's $250. You can sometimes find a used dobsonian. A 6" or 8" would be a really good scope. I like the dobsonian because there's little to mess with. Too often the fancy scopes get between you and observing. And you might not even need a scope. There's a whole lot to be done with the naked eye or a cheap pair of binoculars (7x35 or 8x40 being good cheap choices, 7x50 being really nice). If you are on a really tight budget, a dobsonian is very easy to build. You'll need the mirrors, a spider, and a focuser. The rest of the stuff you can get at wally world or hardware stores. If you go that route, the best bang for your buck is usually a 6" f8 scope. But you can low-ball and even build as small as a 3" scope. In fact, a 3" f10 is a very, very simple mirror to grind. You'd done before you know it. You just then need to find someone to silver or aluminize it for you; it used to be easy to send a mirror off for surfacing like that.

about 4 months ago
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Is Remote Instruction the Future of College?

supercrisp Re:Trophies and gold stars are not what is wrong w (81 comments)

YES! I am a university professor, and I can tell you that books are written saying this same thing. They go back to the early 1900s. The basic argument, from the academic side in the early days (like 1930s), runs like this: "University is for theory and cultural polish, community college is theory/polish for poorer or less-prepared people. Sure, industry wants us to do their training for them in junior colleges, but they should do it themselves. Besides, professors aren't good at professional training because we'll always be trailing the innovations of industry." To a degree that's a true statement. Sure, you can pull in engineers to do some teaching. But you won't get cutting-edge engineers at the junior college, and not many engineers (or other professionals) will give up the salary to be a professional. I, personally, differ in that I believe the "soft skills" and the theory and even education in the humanities all make better engineers. But I know that is not a widely-shared opinion on /.

about 4 months ago
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Ancient Skulls Show Civilization Rose As Testosterone Fell

supercrisp Re:Men are obsolete (387 comments)

I study feminism. I don't know where you are getting your historical information, but it's inaccurate. Yes, there were the nuts and extremists, like Valerie Solanas. There were and are women who hypothesize that patriarchal behaviors--which are distinct from or are a subset of male behaviors--are bad for humanity. And there are many, many other lines of thought from utopian free-love to men-are-bad. And stuff off in other directions. After a lot of study, I personally decided that the majority of feminist thought was positive for humanity, including men like myself. You can dismiss that as thought-crime, or you can do more reading. That's a bit of work, and it IS comfortable, isn't it, to have a scapegoat or a villain on which to hang all your troubles?

about 4 months ago
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Fixing the Humanities Ph.D.

supercrisp The real deal (325 comments)

The MLA and others have reasons to not be forthright about the real issue: universities don't hire tenure-track professions nearly as often as they used to. Nowadays, over 70% of your humanities courses are taught by people off the tenure track, most of whom aren't even working full-time. The issue isn't "overproduction" of PhDs in the humanities as so many like to say. It's that universities don't want to pay for faculty. I know many may say "Good, those are useless elitest shits anyway." OK. Maybe we are. BUT consider what happens if getting the doctorate is as hard as it is now with as little payoff. Who can do that? Middle-class kids, or people who won't be taking on any risk to make this gamble? What then happens if we make it even harder to get the professorship by admitting fewer people into PhD programs. I'll tell you, from my experience, that having gone to good schools as a kid, having the right class markers, all that, those still make getting the PhD easier. As a first-generation college student, I struggled and struggled to get my doctorate and eventual professorship. If you reduce the number of people like me--ones who started out poor or middle-class or hispanic or black--you're only going to make it harder for the "token" students who do get admitted to hang in there with Biff and Buffy. Note also, I'm not talking about the Ivy leagues. I was a midwestern state school for my doctorate, and my classmates included the daughter of a VP of one of the big three automakers, the child of a megachurch preacher, a couple of heirs, and several people who were "comfortable" or who had family business they could fall back on. This was out of a group of 18. As far as I know, there were only three of us who were actually from backgrounds that meant our failure would have serious consequences. Anyway, I'm going on and on. The term for this is casualization of academic labor. Because we like big words. But what it means is that some of the things that seem like they'd punish the elites would only lead to more elitism.

about 6 months ago
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Toyota Describes Combustion Engine That Generates Electricity Directly

supercrisp Re:10 kw (234 comments)

And it won't be cheap for long in the US. The natty gas industry is lobbying for it to become a "foreign policy tool." They want to ship it across the sea, somehow making it cheaper on the European market than Russian gas. I wonder who'll end up subsidizing that? The struggling US economy, or the almost bankrupt European economies, or Germany?

about 8 months ago
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Grading Software Fooled By Nonsense Essay Generator

supercrisp Re:Quid pro quo (187 comments)

I want to add a data points (anecdote). I'm an English professor. For several years, I've noticed that students will keep repeating the same easily-corrected mistakes in paper after paper. I offer corrections, advice, and instruction in class. I began to suspect that students were not reading the comments. I gradually came to believe that the phones out in class were not being used for note-taking. This semester I have taught a content-heavy lecture course. Since it's new, and I'm up for tenure, and student feedback is extremely important at my institution, I decided to kiss some ass by recording lectures during which I gave test review--especially since about 50% of students show up for class. I then posted those recordings on Blackboard for my students. Despite this, the test scores stayed around 60%. Now, this is asking questions like "Which of the following was the first Gothic cathedral?" (We talked about that cathedral for a week) or "Which emperor started the construction of Constantinople's first city walls?" (Dur, Constantine?) And students were getting these wrong. So I looked at the statistics for the audio files I'd posted. Out of four audio files, one for each test, one had been listened to. Bog standard MP3, low nitrate. No technical problem. And students WERE logging in to check grades. Nope. They clearly just gave not shit one about studying. (NB: I don't entirely suck as a teacher; my students typically compliment me for making material interesting, etc, on evals.) I read a lot about how helicopter breeders and spoon-feeding teachers are destroying the minds of youth. About how phones, etc, are destroying the minds of youth. Well. I don't know. But something is. TL;DR? Short version: Fuck this. When I get tenure, I'm going to spend all day in my office reading comic books.

about 8 months ago
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Apple Fixes Major SSL Bug In OS X, iOS

supercrisp Re:Snow Leopard (96 comments)

I upgraded to Mavericks from Snow Leopard because a lot of my mainline apps were only getting Mavericks-compatible updates. The best thing I can say about Mavericks is that it doesn't suck as much as I expected. I'm not noticing a slowdown, but I moved to an SSD for the OS drive at the same time, and I'm on an '09 MacBook Pro with 8GB of RAM, so those things may be concealing an OS-related slowdown. At any rate, I'd say that you shouldn't make the move to Mavericks if you don't have to, especially if you have an older machine. It's mostly just a bunch of stupid eye-candy. Yes, I know: App Nap!* Memory efficiency! Battery efficiency! But my battery use was already fine, RAM is often dirt cheap, and App Nap's main function on my machine is to pop up the rainbow pinwheel when I'm in a hurry.

about 8 months ago
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Bring On the Monsters: Tolkien's Translation of Beowulf To Be Published

supercrisp Try his Gawain (94 comments)

Tolkien's edition of Gawain and the Green Knight is really good. A layperson can easily learn how to pronounce the Middle English of the text, which being a bit "Northern" is somewhat "older" and different than that of Chaucer. There's also a useful glossary. It's really a great book. If you like Tolkien, and you haven't read it, you should probably take a look at it. On the other hand, the claims above about Tolkien being the person who brought the Medieval into the Modern must come from a very narrow perspective. The Medieval was always there. Think of the work of the Pre-Raphaelites, or of Walter Scott. And Tolkien was far from the only fantasist whose work drew heavily on the Medieval. In fact, and I know this is heretical, but there are works out there that are in many ways better than his. But his world is amazing, his scholarship quite useful, and, in my opinion, he was on the right side of the issue with C.S. Lewis. (As a final note, he made an interesting contribution to an interesting little mystery, the "Nodens" ring and inscription. Also fun to check out.) A final, final note: Seamus Heany's version of Beowulf is a pretty good read too.

about 9 months ago
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Publishers Withdraw More Than 120 Fake Papers

supercrisp Re:The key here is "Conference Proceedings" (62 comments)

Some institutions intentionally don't look too closely. The university at which I work, a state university in the southeastern US, will take a person with a degree from the University of Phoenix or even with an honorary degree. Doesn't matter, just as long as you have the right political connections. The Tennessee Board of Regents actually passed a resolution or made a statement, I forget the correct terms, that a degree is a degree. This is when a basketball coach was found to have a diploma mill degree. And then there are all the faculty who are found to have completely lied about their degrees.... So, no, I think sometimes this sort of publication credential gaming is just one part of a larger and very corrupt system. (And this may draw fire: I think this has gotten worse and worse as university administrations have become heavier and heaver and costlier and costlier AND as those posts have come to be filled, at least at mid-level schools by people with no real academic credentials, among which I'd include business and education degrees.)

about 10 months ago
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Another Possible Voynich Breakthrough

supercrisp Re:Simpler answer: It was a con (160 comments)

With respect to your low uid# and the awesome bit of Schiller in your sig, I have to point that the age of the vellum does little to prove that the text originates earlier than some assumptions. Vellum was used over and over. So, unless we have some clear evidence that it has not been reused, the manuscript text may well be written on vellum significantly older than itself.

about 10 months ago
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Another Possible Voynich Breakthrough

supercrisp Re:Simpler answer: It was a con (160 comments)

I wish the author of that article provided links to the information about letter forms. I'd like to read about that. The age of the vellum doesn't help much, as vellum was often re-used. Of course, there may be evidence that this text was the first use of the vellum, though the article does mention finding previous text with a blacklight. Maybe I should be glad there aren't links to this other research. I might lose half my morning.

about 10 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: E-ink Reader For Academic Papers?

supercrisp Re:The answer is obvious (134 comments)

Do a slower and more thorough Google search. You might find out why I advised "root it and install a more capable e-reader app," you might want to Google that too. Forgive my impatience if you have a model of Kindle that isn't based on Android.

about 10 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: E-ink Reader For Academic Papers?

supercrisp The answer is obvious (134 comments)

The obvious part: Root it and install a more capable e-reader app. My recommendation: I prefer Moon+ Reader Pro, which will not only give you a highlighted and annotated file you can use elsewhere, it can also, with one click, generate a document with annotations and highlights only that you can e-mail to yourself. I should not that this is something even Acrobat Pro can't do, and also note that Moon+ is more feature complete and easy to use than is Adobe's offering for Android. NB: I don't have any stake in Moon+, nor give a crap what money they make. I'm sharing because I spent too much time wading thru all the e-reader apps to find this one.

about 10 months ago
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Adjusting GPAs: A Statistician's Effort To Tackle Grade Inflation

supercrisp Re:Use Class Rank (264 comments)

In my experience (just over 20 years teaching English courses), students in the first two years of college are horrible now compared to 10-15 years ago. At upper levels, students are indeed working much harder. But part of the harder work is a lot of flailing around because most bright students have never had to study, organize, research, or any of the basic scholarly skills. School has just been so easy. ---- I'm reluctant to address grade inflation on slashdot because so much of the discussion on teaching here is from only the student perspective, and typically from disaffected students who see education as some sort of market exchange. It's got a much older set of models, and that complicates the hell out of things. For reasons good and bad, faculty tend hang onto some Medieval ideas like mentoring, patronage, whipping people into shape, and separating wheat from chaff. As I said, good and bad reasons. ---- But major influences on grades just don't come up in these discussions, so I'll offer two: retention and rehiring. Administrators and evaluating bodies continually yell "retention." What can you do if all your students suck because they're getting shit for a high school education? Dumb down the classes and pass them. Or don't, and your department suffers. Or you do. That brings me to rehiring. Many classes, right on up to the senior level are now taught by "contingent" faculty--the majority of faculty now are contingent. Nontenured. Rehired year by year. If you're contingent, you'd better listen when someone howls retention. And you'd better make damn sure that little Pauly Privileged doesn't go running to your chair bawling because he got a C for his paper copied from Wikipedia. Better give that brat a B so that you can keep paying your student loans. Presto! Grade inflation. ---- There are other reasons. And I know everyone here is super brilliant and earned those A grades.

about 10 months ago

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