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Comment: Re:Government Intervention (Score 1) 469

I've come to agree on this. In cases of infrastructure free market forces don't work well enough to work for the good of the consumer. Telephone, internet, highways, etc. The costs of entry are so high there's not a real market and corruption etc as you've explained well take over. In that case I agree government is better than a natural monopoly, but I don't think government ownership is the only option. An in between option is possible where a independent government sanctioned organization owns the infrastructure but has a bit more flexibility and incentives to operate efficiently. Now it may not work, think the post office where poor government oversight hamstrings their ability to make decisions, but even there it's probably better than outright government ownership. The post office does actually do their job fairly efficiently and at low cost. But in that case you're basically asking for smart regulation, and that's tough to do. Not all regulation is bad, bad regulation is bad but smart regulation is hard to do. There's a chance though it can be better than outright government ownership and retain the benefits while still adding flexibility. The structure can be anywhere on a continuum from full government ownership to full independence or somewhere in between. The more freedom the more chance for more efficiency but the more chance for failure.

Comment: Re:Study limited to sugar cane and maize for ethan (Score 2) 200

by Taxman415a (#48940275) Attached to: New Study Says Governments Should Ditch Reliance On Biofuels
Yeah you sound like you know what you're talking about, except you don't. I know the studies you read make it sound easy, except it didn't turn out to be so easy. If it were that easy people would be investing billions into it to earn the profits that the oil companies are currently earning on petroleum. The studies you read, I read too, and they are smaller scale, talking about hoping to scale up. Optimistic pilot studies are practically legend and this seems to be a case. When trying to scale up, difficulties seem to have arisen. When you look into the companies that are trying to scale it up, it isn't working out as well. The contaminants are happening, the yields are lower, the costs are higher, etc.

Comment: Re:Hello, the 1980s are calling, they caught your (Score 2) 200

by Taxman415a (#48940091) Attached to: New Study Says Governments Should Ditch Reliance On Biofuels
Yeah you've repeated the rah rah promising sounding stuff from the decades old NREL reports. It sounds really great, I've read those too. But read them carefully--they're very initial studies that never scaled up. They are full of statements to the tune of "when scaled up to commercial volumes". Excepts it's been decades and no one has been able to do it. I've followed a number of the experiments of people trying and it doesn't seem to be as easy as the NREL papers made it sound. The open raceway ponds get contaminated with lower oil strains and don't produce the oil at the rate the papers hypothesized and the closed systems are expensive and difficult to operate. I'm not saying it's not possible, but the magical oil from algae to produce 100% of our transportation fuel isn't going to be nearly as easy as it seemed. Possible? Maybe yes, but probably not economical anytime soon. Think of it this way, if it worked, oil companies would be pouring billions into making it work rather than spending those billions drilling underwater or paying despotic dictators. They don't care where their oil comes from and if biodiesel from algae worked they'd be all over it to sell that to you cheaper than the other oil companies. They are researching it and possibly when crude oil is 4, 10, 20 or more times more expensive than it is now then algal biodiesel will be cost competitive. It wasn't when oil was over $100 a barrel, but it's possible something will be figured out that hasn't been in the last few decades to make it feasible by the time it gets back there. Or maybe it won't.

Comment: Re:Really? (Score 1) 310

I love how the mere suggestion that people take responsibility for their actions and the raising of their children provokes an insult as a response. When you don't have an argument, resort to insults, right? Besides, you should look up what those words mean before using them. I may indeed come on hard times but I have a seven layer deep contingency plan to try to avoid it. If all else fails, I grew up with very little, so I know how to live on very little. I choose to plan and focus on my children because I see bringing a child into the world in part as a serious responsibility. I'll still put the focus on my children if I do "fall down on my luck". But I believe you make your own luck.

Comment: Re:Really? (Score 1) 310

More than 99.9% of those people were not forced to have children. Maybe they could have considered whether they had the ability to raise their children before having them. Yes that's making a value judgement about the value of spending quality time with children and the value of education, but the benefits of those are easy to support. And yes, there are other situations like divorce, but there are other options too, like considering before having children your ability to afford to raise them should a divorce occur, etc. I know it's crazy talk to hold people responsible for their own actions and raising their children.

Comment: More axe than maul (Score 1) 217

by Taxman415a (#46811591) Attached to: Reinventing the Axe
You can call this thing whatever you want, but at 1.9kg (4lb) and a narrow angle cutting wedge, it's closer to an axe than a maul. A maul is heavier, often 8 to 16 lbs and has a much steeper sloped wedge to split with both kinetic energy and wedging action. An axe of course has a narrower sloped cutting edge to bite in more. This also has nothing to do with a froe which is use with a mallet and a lever action without kinetic energy to control a split. And you can definitely split wood with an axe. You just have to rotate the axe at the point of impact in a similar way to what this tool is supposedly designed to do automatically. The technique for splitting wood with an axe was probably the inspiration for this tool.

Comment: Re:Where are the online Computer Science degrees? (Score 1) 370

by Taxman415a (#46579193) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Fastest, Cheapest Path To a Bachelor's Degree?

This also brings me to self-taught computer scientists: I've begun an adventure down "Teach myself math from scratch" lane because, at age 40, I'm still rather annoyed at my math education in high school. I was more concerned about learning to the test, not the concepts, and that's haunted me ever since. Anyone have recommendations for learning math starting from, say, Algebra I or II level (high school) that will actually teach in a way that will be useful rather than taking a test? Stuff that will carry over into future classes as the proper building blocks, etc? Most complete college level open education resource I've seen. The math is pretty good, starts at algebra, and even has a bridge class "Introduction to Mathematical Reasoning" to help teach proofs and other necessary mathematical rigor to be able to tackle higher level math. You'll still need to do the work and focus on the concepts and make sure you understand, not just going for passing a test, but the fundamentals are there.

Comment: Re:Um, right. (Score 1) 278

by Taxman415a (#46552519) Attached to: Don't Help Your Kids With Their Homework
The Common Core standards in themselves are a vast improvement from the patchwork of state standards that ranged from bad to very bad. The Common Core standards do a decent job focusing the standards on fewer topics allowing for deeper more rigorous learning of the important topics and a focus on understanding, not just procedure. Previous standards tended to focus on facts, recall, and mindless procedural learning, rather than moving higher up the hierarchy of learning to where students can be creative and actually use what they learn. The quality of implementation of the Common Core standards will of course vary as they move into texts and standardized tests and are used by teachers.

Now to your specific example, that's a decent problem that requires thinking to solve. If Math MS and PhD's are having a hard time with it, then they are either so focused on their limited area that they can't do anything else or they are so used to being spoon fed procedural thinking by a professor that they don't know how to think for themselves. The problem you linked to was also cherry picked out without any context or explanation of the task that likely would have been in a good classroom. Without any context or explanation though, the task does require a higher level of thinking to parse what is being asked. Higher level cognitive demand is another way to say it.

The Common Core does not only call for open ended problems like that, and does also call for procedural fluency. Think drilling. The trick is in the balancing of procedure with problem solving abilities and stretching problem solving abilities requires giving tasks with higher level cognitive demand.

There's always going to be people like you that try to drag out the negative in any improvement effort without understanding the background behind it.

I'll have to go read the linked study to see what it's all about.

Comment: (Score 1) 197

by Taxman415a (#46451133) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Online, Free Equivalent To a CompSci BS?
The time advisory is actually new since I last looked at the materials. Previously I mostly evaluated the quality of the materials and completeness. In general though actual time requirements to complete the work are going to vary quite a bit by the amount of prior preparation a student has. The time guidelines given for individual assignments I spot checked just now appear to be in the ball park. The overall totals are likely to be off more, though possibly a reasonable starting point.

Comment: (Score 3, Informative) 197

by Taxman415a (#46440913) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Online, Free Equivalent To a CompSci BS?
Saylor has one of the most complete, free, college degree equivalents that I have seen. The best part is many degree programs have links to video lectures, full problem sets and exams.

Their math stuff is decent, and that's what I'm competent to evaluate, so based on that I'd think the compsci would be good too. Some degree areas are not complete yet, but compsci is.

Comment: Re:Level the playing field (Score 4, Insightful) 715

by Taxman415a (#45943467) Attached to: How Good Are Charter Schools For the Public School System?

THIS is the magic bullet that fixes things most of the time. I work in education, and we have both "rich schools" (that get less funding) and "poor schools" (which get more funding) in the same small community, and the results are always the same. It isn't about school funding, it is about parenting. Many lower educated people are lower income people, who don't value education, and this produces a cycle of poverty.

Yes same in the districts near me. The "poor schools" get as much as 1.5 times as much funding as the "rich schools". Admittedly because of the poverty issues from the students they serve they do have higher costs. There are higher incidences of untreated ADHD, behavioral disorders, hungry kids, violence, etc. But that doesn't change the point that you're right, it's about the parents.

I'd bet, that the #1 indicator of poverty is not poverty, but values instilled by parents. I look at the recent video of a three year old boy being disrespectful and using vulgar language, raised by a 16 year old mother and a grandmother who is a convicted felon and I think, "there is no way this is going to be good for the kid". However, I've been trained not to mention any of this because people who don't know me will cry "racism" (now you know the race).

It's pretty independent of race. I see examples similar to what you point out from a variety of races. Poverty doesn't care about race.

How can we have a discussion on poverty when people who see the problems are called names because it doesn't fit the politically correct theory of the day?

Very carefully and with more understanding of the causes of racial tension than you have displayed. It's fairly clear you are from a privileged race and don't have much understanding of what it would be like to not be. A good book for starters is Lisa Delpit's "Other People's Children". It'll make you mad and she beats the point home, but eventually it will sink in and you'll get a glimpse of how different it is to be part of the dominant race vs not. It subtly affects a large number of seemingly small things that you don't need to notice when you're on the dominant side of it.

Comment: Re:Test scores (Score 1) 715

by Taxman415a (#45943247) Attached to: How Good Are Charter Schools For the Public School System?
Well when the stakes are as high as they are you can't just take the first graders result. You have to do various types of validation. A certain amount of overlapping grading and statistical validation. The first x amount of a grader's results have to be verified and at least a certain percentage thereafter. The way AP tests work as I recall is two people grade each answer then any significant differences go to a more experienced grader. So it's definitely higher than $4 per short answer, but I'm not sure what the exact number would be. It starts to add up to big numbers when large numbers of students take the tests. I do know the free response questions were removed from my state's standardized tests because the couple questions they did have cost tens of millions (could have been a hundred) of dollars in additional costs to grade versus running the scantron sheet through. The AP tests do it for a fee of something like $80 so it's not impossible, in fact, I agree it would be worth doing. If money were the only object, it would probably be better to do statistical sampling of students with a better test than the current flawed tests for all students.

Comment: Re:Test scores (Score 1) 715

by Taxman415a (#45941781) Attached to: How Good Are Charter Schools For the Public School System?

These are obstacles to overcome, not excuses to stop attempts at improvement. We absolutely need to update our testing procedures as part of a comprehensive attempt to improve quality standards in education.

Absolutely agreed. But the fact is they are being used as reasons to stop improvements.

There is no need to constrain ourselves to just multiple choice tests.

Well, except better tests cost more money to administer and score. A lot more. Simply adding one free response question to a standardized test increases the information about a student's knowledge and understanding by a lot, but increases the cost by a huge amount as well. It takes experienced graders and developed rubrics, training on those rubrics, etc. Politicians and policymakers like multiple choice because it's cheaper and gives the appearance of authoritative data.

Garbage In -- Gospel Out.