Sunday, April 09, 2006

Science Advisory Board is Abolished

So I was perusing the New York Times the other day and caught this tiny little snippet of a story: Science Advisory Board is Abolished. Apparently, Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman has abolished his deparmtent's Science Advisory Board because he judges it to be "unnecessary after President Bush set the department agenda in his State of the Union address."

What?

What does that mean?

And why is it a teeny little article?

Friday, March 31, 2006

More Steriods Stupidity

George Mitchell, what the hell do you think think you're doing?

You're a former Senator and Majority Leader. You helped bring about the Good Friday Agreement. You do any number of good works around your state. You're still considered for some of the highest jobs in the country.

(I'll forgive your involvment in Disney. A brother's gotta make some bucks.)

And what do you do? You sign up for a job that has you running around trying to find out if Barry Bonds stuck needles in his ass?

All Hail Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron. I mean everyone knows that Western Civilization will crumble if their records are surpassed by someone who may or may not have used performance enhancing drugs.

Did you know there's a war going on? Did you know that the President broke the law?

Maybe those things would be a bit more deserving of your time.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Culture Matters

I found the article that Makigirl put up the other day (two posts ago) to be pretty interesting. I have to say that I largely agree with it.

(Forgive me as I ramble about stuff I have no knowledge of. Well, I already did that with my NCAA picks, I guess.)

The basic point was that culture matters alot, but no one actually does anything about it. All the academics and people interested in education reform just worry about economics. I guess that's at least partially good. There are those people who just worry and complain about the stupid kids. I have little time for them. But, yeah, culture probably does play a significant role into why some groups of students achieve and others do not.

Unfortunately, it's really difficult to talk about. How do I, as a youngish, middle class white guy, talk effectively about different cultures in the US. How do I talk about why some succeed and others do not? It ain't easy. And I think that's one of the reasons why we consistantly fail at education "reform". A great majority of the people talking about it are just like me. We either can't see problems (because of our own cultural blinders), or we don't want to see problems (because we don't want to look and sound like some stupid racist). Conversations never get started and if they do, they devolve pretty rapidly.

I thought it was very interesting in the article how he talked about white kids moving into hip-hop culture, but then having other means of advancement when they needed them, but that culture is all there is for African American kids. I think that's very true. I can use 50cent to make me seem cool when necessary, but I can also leave him at the door and go back to being everybody's favorite geeky white boy. It's very powerful. The inverse situation must carry an equally powerful weight.

I think the solution to educational problems aren't easy at all. I complain alot about the nuts and bolts of particular educational minutiae, but that doesn't really matter all that much. I think that if all kids went through exactly the program that I would design, things wouldn't be that much different. There'd still be gaps and holes. Education is about talking. Education is about mentoring. Most importantly, education is about empowerment, but sadly, I don't think that American culture is much about empowerment.

Leaving the Academy

Here's a really interesting article about a woman who has decided to leave the tenure track and do something else. What's really more interesting to me, though is the comment thread below.

There seems to be a very large dichotomy in commenters. There are those who really agree with what the author has to say, and talk about how they either want to or have run away from the academic life, and then there are those who complain bitterly about this person's self-focus and lack of appreciation for what the academic world has to offer along with a few "you'll see how bad it is out there, yet"'s.

I think that there's something to be said about both sides, (although I'm not fond of the academic traditionalists) and that makes me sad, because it means that we could probably do something about the larger situation, but we choose not to.

I couldn't handle having an academic job when I left gradschool. I went through alot during my final couple years. Alot of it was wonderful -- getting elected to a University wide office was amazing; helping a highschool student place in the county science fair was empowering; hearing my advisor call me Dr. for the first time after my defense was the best thing I'd ever heard (up until the point my wife said, "I do"). There was also alot that was terrible. I spent too many late nights doing stuff I wasn't interested in, and sometimes wasn't even mine. I felt horrible about myself for not publishing. I couldn't handle going to meetings and thinking that I didn't have a good enough network. My advisor isn't as active, and I didn't have people seeking me out. I didn't know how to do that myself, and I sunk further down.

As much as I loved being in the University world, I just couldn't take doing it anymore. I didn't really apply to academic jobs. I didn't feel like I was anywhere near good enough. I didn't want to move across the country to who knows where, just to teach physics. That wasn't going to wake me up in the morning. Unfortunately, I didn't know what was going to wake me up in the morning. I wanted to get ahold of myself, because I felt like I was coming apart at the seams. I felt run over by an academic world that I thought I understood when I went in to it, but had passed me by somewhere.

After some time, I started getting myself together, but it's still day to day. I'm in the real world, and all I can say is that it's boring, but it pays nice. It seems to me that alot of people have this same experience. I don't agree with all the real-world posters on the comments who complain about how tenure breeds incompetance. The real-world breeds incomptetance too. Any large human system will be largely inefficient. It's what you do with that inefficiency and how you think about it that's important. Yeah, layoffs happen more in the real-world, but most people are able to find a little niche where they can hide and the world passes them by. It doesn't take much work to keep most bosses happy, and at the end of the day you go home.

I miss having an academic world of the mind more than anything. Summer break would be great, but mostly I miss being able to be able to go to coloquium.

I think my time out here has been great for me. I couldn't do the academic world before, so I'm glad that I didn't. I've dealt with a lot of problems that I never could have being a junior faculty. I got to move nearer to my family and my wife's. That wouldn't have been a given. I got to think alot about life, and I don't think that many professors get that.

What I would have liked more than anything in gradschool would have been someone to talk to, and I think the comments in the article point that out alot. Even though I would have hated having someone question my thinking as a brash young first year who knew everything, I look now at how useful it would have been. Like many introverted academics, I took everything on myself. That wasn't healthy. I needed someone to tell me that I was still worthwhile as an astronomer even though I didn't get the fellowships I wanted in my second year. I needed someone to help me figure out how to make the academic connections that my advisor couldn't do for me. I needed someone to tell me how to feel justified in not taking on everyone else's problems (my biggest flaw). I little talking then would have prevented alot of stress now. But I didn't know that then. Oh well. I do now, and that's most important.

I think I'll probably get back into academics again, but probably in different way than I envisioned as a 21 year old. I miss using my mind too much. I'm glad that I've followed the path that I have, even if it doesn't look "perfect" from the outside. But, I still have along way to go, and alot to learn.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A Poverty of the Mind

Still half asleep this morning I read this article in the New York Times about some different view points regarding the "achievement gap" between black and white young people. I'm interested to hear what you, hoagie boy, think about this. It sounds, suspiciously to me, like they are trying to say "it's their own fault that they're living a life of poverty" or "they choose not to do well in school." Is that really fair?

By the way, I am sending you good tooth pulling luck.

*maki-girl

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Isn't this the Coolest?

Jimmy Carter is one of my heros, and he's posted a diary on Daily Kos. That's awesome. The old fellow can still get around. His son Jack is running for Senate in Nevada. Go check it out.

The Final Four

Based on the picks that I made last week, here are my final four:

Duke
Gonzaga
UConn
Nova

The final is

Duke
Nova

The winner is

Nova

Philly in the house.

More Basketball Coming This Way

While I'm waiting for my tooth to be pulled next Tuesday, I'll be watching some basketball this weekend. Here's who you should pick:

Tonight:
Duke vs. LSU - Duke's too good for this one. I don't like them. I never did. I'd love to see them lose, but Reddick and Williams are too much. I bow down to their superiority. Maybe next round I'll pick against them.

Texas vs. WVU - I like Texas. I've heard alot of talk recently that WVU is a tournament based team. They're meant to get hot and run 6 games. I see that, but I also have seen how cold they can get too. Pittsnoggle has been stopped before and I think he will be here again too. The rest of the team just isn't good enough. Go with the seeds here.

Memphis vs. Bradley - Bradley's on my shit list for beating Pitt, so I would tend to pick against them anyway, but Memphis is just way too good for this. I know they're the #1 team that most people are picking to lose, but there's too much talent and experience there. Go with the seeds again.

Gonzaga vs. UCLA - I've switched alot on this. I initially picked Gonzaga, but then I went to UCLA after Gonzaga came too close to Indiana. I'm going back again because I would like to trust my gut, and I think that UCLA was placed in too high of a seed. Gonzaga should win the most entertaining game of the night.

Tomorrow:
UConn vs. Washington - UConn will have no problem until the final 4.

GMU vs. Wichita st. - Alot of people around here are climbing aboard the GMU wagon. More power to them, and I'd love to see them win, but I don't think they're the better team here. They suprised a couple better teams, but now Wichita has had a week to scout. I think Wichita gets to go and lose to UConn.

Villinova vs. BC - BC was one of my picks to the final 4 when I first saw the bracket. Disreguard everything you've read above. I absolutely don't trust myself. I like Villinova here, because I like the 4 guard offense. I like Allen Ray. I like this team's drive. I also don't want to see my friend, the Villanova grad, cry all weekend. I think his engagement party will be much more entertaining if nova's still in the tournament.

Florida vs. G'town - This could be the most entertaining game of the weekend, or the most boring. G'town's been coming on alot lately, but I think they get stopped here. They play good defense and have that nifty offense, but I think that they don't shoot well enough and that Florida is too athletic.

Yes, I'm vanilla again. The only "upset" I picked was Gonzaga over UCLA. Sorry can't help it. I spent most of my youth picking wild upsets, and did it ever win me anything? No. So now I pick the man.

You may doubt that, but if you notice the picks that I made last week, 7/8 of my regional final teams are still around. So there.

The Price of Grad School

The price of grad school is apparently one tooth. After having one of the most painfilled nights I've ever experienced on Monday, I went to the dentist and was informed that my molar is deteriorated enough that it needs to be pulled.

Now granted, I could have cut back on the sweet tea for the past couple years, but mostly I blame this on my lack of health insurance for a good chunk of 5 years. Something about the concept of preventative medicine makes me think that had I went to the dentist sometime during that time, I would have had a nice filling, but that I wouldn't have had to endure $1000's of dollars of surgury and reconstruction. I could have spent $100 bucks or so on the dentist back then, but I did need to eat and all. Oh well, I guess that's the type of economy this American life is based on.

Thank god for ibuprofen.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

More Media Outlets, Less News

Beep beep beep: We are interrupting sports coverage for just a moment ...

I was just reading an article from last Monday's New York Times about how there is "plenty of breadth in [news] coverage, but not much depth." You can find the article here. The article is reporting on a study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism. It's affiliated with Columbia University and financed by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

The study found many things that I think we have been noticing lately, but it was a little disturbing to read them in black and white. For example, they randomly chose to study May 11, 2005 and found:

-Google News had access to 14,000 news stories, but all were accounts of just 24 news events.

-On that day, print and evening network news focused on violence in Iraq, an airplane violating restricted air space in D. C., and protests in Afghanistan.

-On the same day, cable tv and morning news programs focused on Michael Jackson's court trial and a murder in Illinois.

-On the same day, local tv and radio focused on weather, traffic, and local crime.

-On the same day, blogs focused on broader, long-term issues (it did not explain which ones.) However, 94% of the blogs' content was not original.

-While cable news was the "shallowest," newspapers covered the most topics, with extensive sourcing, and with the most angles ... however "perhaps in language and sourcing tilted towards elites."

I think we know what news sources Americans use most often. This quote from the study says it all, "Consuming the news continuously does not mean being better informed."

Ok, back to your regularly scheduled Madness.

*maki-girl

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Isn't the Tournament Wonderful?

Here I am sitting at work, listening to a game on the internet, typing on my blog, and not worrying about anything job related. There really should be days off for this, but since there isn't, I'm going to continue.

I certainly didn't expect Pacific to give BC a game today. Pacific did beat Pitt last year in the first round, so they must be good.

It's amazing how games can turn. This game seemed out of reach a few minutes ago, and now with 3.9 seconds left, BC travelled and gave the ball back to Pacific with the game tied.

Ok, regulation over, now it's overtime. More excitement.

Early upsets

It seems that I already missed the upset of UW-Milwaukee over Oklahoma, and now Pacific is battling BC. Infact it's already tied.

Let me give you my third round picks to prove that I picked BC will lose to Nova

Duke
Texas

Memphis
Gonzaga

UConn
UNC

Nova
Florida

My Second round post

Well it seems there are a couple upsets brewing, but here were my original second round picks:

Duke
LSU
Iowa
Texas

Memphis
Pitt
Gonzaga
UCLA

UConn
Illinois
UNC
Wichita st

Nova
BC
Florida
Ohio St.

Madness!

Makigirl's probably rolling her eyes at this post, but since the dance is beginning in all of 2 minutes, here are my first round predictions:

Duke
GW
Syracuse
LSU
SIU
Iowa
Cal
Texas

Memphis
Bucknell
Pitt
Kansas
Indiana
Gonzaga
Marquette
UCLA

UConn
UAB
UW
Illinois
Mich St.
UNC
Wichita St.
Tennessee

Nova
Arizona
Nevada
BC
OU
Florida
Gtown
Ohio St.

I have a couple upsets picked, notably, West Virginia losing, but otherwise, I'm picking the numbers. I'll include my second round picks in a bit.