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Comment: Re:Its a general issue for education itself (Score 1) 289

by dcollins (#46815677) Attached to: Our Education System Is Failing IT

As a college educator, I basically agree. But what I can't avoid pointing out that the system is currently set up for exactly the opposite: "open admission" community colleges where everyone with a high school diploma is guaranteed admission, and state financial aid that covers the entire bill (well, allegedly -- most don't complete the program in 2 years, but no one informs them of that until "sunk cost" settles in). See Tennessee moving in that direction this week (link).

The political pressure is to show everyone getting college degrees. The economic incentive on the schools is of course, moire students are more funding. The long-term result seems to be degrading the requirements and expectations (down to the pre-existing depressing high school level). The vast majority of people in community colleges are helpless at 7th-grade algebra (and, I'm pretty sure after graduation).

So it seems like an enormous waste of resources. But I guess the US is so overwhelmingly wealthy we can do this and not really notice. The momentum is certainly driving further in that direction.

Comment: Re:eduction system? (Score 3, Informative) 289

by dcollins (#46812859) Attached to: Our Education System Is Failing IT

"500,000+ welders are injured annually."

Impossible; there aren't 500,000 welders in the U.S. There aren't even 400,000. (In 2006: 393,000 per American Welding Society).

If we add up all the OSHA injuries of all types from all construction & manufacturing industries (incl. manufacturing of food, textiles, paper, plastics, etc.), the grand total of all injury types in a year is less than 200,000 (197,000 by my count). So 500,000 welding accidents in a year is total fantasy.

Comment: This Is Silly (Score 1) 95

by dcollins (#46810469) Attached to: The Limits of Big Data For Social Engineering

"Social scientists will be able to understand and predict the interactions of people the way physicists understand and predict the interactions of objects."

The fact that this is a century-old Asimovian fantasy that's gone nowhere aside (in the late 80's I was being taught that chaos theory had killed that hope; consider a hundred thousand attempts at predicting the stock market)...

Do social scientists even know how to do math? I was in a scholarly seminar a few weeks ago (the only STEM person in the room, everyone else was social scientists), and was nearly shouted out of the room when I did a spit-take on an sample published paper held up that involved a sample size of 8 sociology students keeping journals for two weeks. One of the other participants said out loud that she had know idea what the point was of another paper because it was quantitative (i.e., involved numbers) instead of qualitative (i.e., subjective opinions by the researcher). As far as I can see recently the whole discipline appears to be a "null field".

Comment: Re:(Said the uranium atom that didn't want to deca (Score 1) 95

by dcollins (#46810373) Attached to: The Limits of Big Data For Social Engineering

"Psychology works very similar. You can't predict what an individual person will do, but look at enough of them and you'll be able to predict what will happen if you have good enough data. YOU may have "free will" and the freedom to do what you want but as a mass we may still follow strict laws, like everything else in nature."

I think this is raw, Asimovian geek fantasy. Do you have a citation for this assertion? Social uprisings catch people by total surprise every generation. No one can predict the stock market, as much as the desire is there.

The fact that people (and thus societies) are engaged in conscious feedback loops means that they're qualitatively different from masses of dumb particles.

Comment: Re:conflating two problems (Score 1) 135

by dcollins (#46772519) Attached to: U.S. Biomedical Research 'Unsustainable' Prominent Researchers Warn

And I should also have mentioned -- The time when I was teaching at another college, interviewed for a full-time position, and pointed out my very high evaluations and observations as evidence of exceptional teaching. At which point the Dean laughed in my face and said, "We can get anyone off the street to come in and teach classes for us, we don't care about that."

Comment: Re:conflating two problems (Score 5, Informative) 135

by dcollins (#46755847) Attached to: U.S. Biomedical Research 'Unsustainable' Prominent Researchers Warn

"many researchers focus on research and are terrible at and hostile to teaching"

But that's where the incentives are, the criteria for promotion. I was told at a small faculty meeting last week at our college that teaching and service are flat-out totally ignored for tenure and promotion decisions, only published papers are counted (despite the written rule being otherwise). Although I'm not on that track (and glad of it), it's hard to blame people who literally get fired if they focus on teaching too much. That's one of the structures that should definitely be changed.

Comment: Re:It kind of makes sense...but it doesn't (Score 2) 631

by dcollins (#46753275) Attached to: IRS Can Now Seize Your Tax Refund To Pay a Relative's Debt

The following might to tangential to this particular incident, but do keep in mind that a major part of today's case law is that the government can file a proceeding where the money itself is the defendant, i.e., no human person ("you") is recognizable in the case. Historically that was used in cases where the owner was unknown, but in the drug-war era it's used for asset forfeiture even when the owner is known. If I had to prioritize things to get upset about, it would be that ongoing nightmare in our legal system.

Comment: Re:Low even for Slashdot (Score 4, Informative) 313

by dcollins (#46717827) Attached to: Double Take: Condoleezza Rice As Dropbox's Newest Board Member

Let's say Republican Senator Susan Collins took this position instead. Then: No issue and no uproar.

The problem is not that Rice is a Republican, it's that she was a part of the most terrifying Republican administration in history, and oversaw defense of torture and mass-surveillance wiretapping programs.

Comment: Why the Hell Didn't He Just Apologize? (Score 1) 1746

by dcollins (#46654835) Attached to: Brendan Eich Steps Down As Mozilla CEO

Business leaders and politicians go through this all the time -- The way to get around this one is to publicly *apologize*, and release a statement like, "It was one time, almost a decade ago, I was confused and I'm sorry, my views have evolved". Maybe a $1,000 donation to a gay-rights organization.

But Eich didn't do that. He never explained the donation that I could see. Which I would interpret as saying that he STILL sticks to his opinion on the issue, and would rather resign from his leadership than have to say that he was wrong about it. So don't let the door hit you on the ass leaving.

Comment: Re:I think this is bullshit (Score 1) 1746

by dcollins (#46654651) Attached to: Brendan Eich Steps Down As Mozilla CEO

I'm pretty sure that this could have been settled by a "That was almost a decade ago, I was wrong and confused, I'm sorry, here's a $1,000 check to a gay-rights organization." But Eich apparently didn't want to do that, and at no time did he explain himself on that particular act.

So in summary it looks like Eich STILL wants to stick to his guns over that act, and in fact would rather resign from his leadership than make the rather obvious mea culpa. He wasn't "stripped" of anything.

Comment: Re:I think this is bullshit (Score 1) 1746

by dcollins (#46654481) Attached to: Brendan Eich Steps Down As Mozilla CEO

See, the people who are all upset about Eich's resignation are just lashing out in reaction to the fact that their mocking dismissals of the OkCupid message (et. al.) turned out to be 100% mistaken. They're so irate at the moment, at of the personal sting of being wrong, that they're not even making remotely rational arguments.

This is the moment when folks switch from "then they laugh at you" to "then they fight you", in the words of Mahatma Gandhi.

Comment: Re:Who cares? (Score 1) 1482

by dcollins (#46636849) Attached to: OKCupid Warns Off Mozilla Firefox Users Over Gay Rights

These discussions honestly make me very happy. Why? Because it's become very clear that all the right-wing, religiously-tinted ink spilled on ridiculous word games and nonsense logical conundrums to hold back the advance of civil rights and equality has been for naught. It's all headed straight for the trashbin of history, with much wailing and gnashing of teeth along the way. Much like, say, decades of condemnation heaped upon the tyranny of abolitionists in the 1800's. It's delicious, beyond my expectations, and the more I read the more secure I am about which side is winning.

Comment: Re:Not necessarily hate (Score 1) 1482

by dcollins (#46632725) Attached to: OKCupid Warns Off Mozilla Firefox Users Over Gay Rights

Your post seems like a non-sequitor, because the OkCupid message never once uses the word "hate" (in accusation or anything else).

I don't very much care Eich's internal monologue -- the fact is, he's effectively attacked my friends' living situations and I'll be opposing him for that. I suppose, now that you bring it up, that the fact that he's unwilling to explain himself on the issue makes it marginally worse.

Comment: Re:Failure in obviousness testing (Score 2) 192

by dcollins (#46627783) Attached to: Supreme Court Skeptical of Computer-Based Patents

"If I were to write in a paper in medicine and try to get it published in one of the various medical journals that are out there that have a reasonably good reputation, I would be rejected so quickly if I were to try a "Algorithm for using instruments in surgery, nurse hands over knives handle first" journal article."

Well... there are good journals and then there are publish-anything journals. Sadly, I've been in some faculty meetings where the thesis has been, "anything you write can get published somewhere" (which is necessary for tenured academic advancement... fortunately I'm not on that track so I don't face the same pressure).

For example: In 2007 a medical researcher found a breakthrough method for approximating the area under a curve by means of rectangles and trapezoids (i.e., basic integration). This was published in the journal of Diabetes Care, the researcher named it after himself ("Tai's Model"), and the medical community cited the paper 75 times. (Also covered on Slashdot at the time):

If bankers can count, how come they have eight windows and only four tellers?