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Comment: Re:Fundamental issues (Score 1) 169

by jfengel (#47898785) Attached to: The MOOC Revolution That Wasn't

Yep. MOOCs don't serve the important part of the teacher's job. Teaching is best as a dialogue. A videotaped lecture is little different from a book, in that the information is fixed; worse, unlike a book, you don't even get to read at your own pace. It's not without value, since some things adapt well to that and different modes work for different people, but it's still missing the two-way communication that a real teacher provides.

People have pushed MOOCs largely for the learn-a-bunch-of-facts classes, such as science and tech. Technique is also a "fact"; it's stuff that can easily be tested and graded. The things that are missing are the parts that make us consider a student well-rounded: history, literature, sociology, art. These sound trivial to nerds but they're about innovation and communication. They, too, have to be practiced, and it's not something that can be memorized. Even the STEMmest jobs are ultimately about people: seeing what people want, finding ways to tell them your ideas, building up a story together. And that's something that a real teacher can help with, and a videotaped teacher can't. (Nor can a videotaped teacher answer questions or ascertain just why a student isn't "getting it". Even a "great teacher" is little more than an actor when on video.)

Teaching is too often undervalued as if they were just handed a book. It's a skill of its own. We STEM nerds often undervalue that skill because it's not easily graded on a multiple-choice test.

Comment: Re:Try Kickstarting A Novel (Score 1) 210

by jfengel (#47892729) Attached to: Kickstarter's Problem: You Have To Make the Game Before You Ask For Money

Good for you, man. I'm glad to see it happening. I don't like having publishers as arbiters of public taste any more than you do. I just think it's important to recognize that the vast majority of self-published ebooks aren't very successful, and it's not just the bad ones.

Comment: Re:Try Kickstarting A Novel (Score 1) 210

by jfengel (#47892201) Attached to: Kickstarter's Problem: You Have To Make the Game Before You Ask For Money

Taking into account, of course, the fact that you have to do all of your own marketing. You have to make your novel stand out among zillions of other indie ebooks, all of which have the same low barrier to entry.

Just having a major publisher's name on it is pretty substantial marketing. Even more so if they go to the expense to print out a physical book, which is a large sunk cost up front. That tells readers that somebody believes in the book, to the tune of a few tens of thousands of dollars. And that publisher will generally get it into meatspace bookstores, where your book has to stand out only among a far, far smaller crowd of other physical books on the shelf.

It's not impossible to do very, very well with an ebook. But much of the time that additional 45% you get to keep is 45% of a much smaller pot. (And generally the margin is much wider than that, in fact. Going rate is usually in the 10-13% range, in my experience.)

The way I see it... if you can get a publisher interested, you probably should, at least until you have a large fan base of your own. It's the easiest way to that fan base. Building it up yourself is difficult. Not impossible, and possibly no harder than getting a publisher to take an interest in you. But if I had a publisher on the hook, I'd keep it.

Comment: Re:Why is this legal in the U.S.? (Score 3, Informative) 147

by jfengel (#47890841) Attached to: Direct Sales OK Baked Into Nevada's $1.3 Billion Incentive Deal With Tesla

There is a certain amount of lock-in to the film incentives, especially for TV series. Shooting a film requires a substantial amount of infrastructure, both personnel and equipment, which doesn't exist everywhere. These people are often not employed by the studio directly, but form local service companies. And where those companies exist, it's easier for more film projects to move in.

Even if Walking Dead were to pack up and move, Georgia may still have accomplished its goals with the subsidies. I know that Maryland is similarly pushing this. They developed a lot of that infrastructure a while back during the filming of Homicide in Baltimore, and there have been a lot of follow-on projects. They're now trying to boost that with House of Cards, which is an enormous undertaking that employs many hundreds of people (at least part time). The resources of material and knowledge built up in the local economy attract other film projects that can do the job faster and better because it's already here, rather than building it up from scratch.

Of course, producers know that, and will drive up the price as far as they can. Maryland nearly lost House of Cards in a kind of game of chicken; neither side wanted the production to move but each wanted to get a better deal. In the end, House of Cards largely won, and people in the local film industry are extremely happy about that. I don't know if it's really a good deal for the state in the end, but at least for the moment it's employing a lot of people, and since it's a series they'll go on having work to do for a while.

Comment: Re:Who would have thought (Score 1) 193

by jfengel (#47884553) Attached to: The Documents From Google's First DMV Test In Nevada

Interstates are the perfect place for it: relatively few surprises and extremely boring for drivers. They're all "limited access highways", so you don't have to worry about pedestrian crossings or children running into the street.

If they just left it at that, I'd consider it an enormous advance over the present state of things.

Comment: Re:So what exactly is the market here. (Score 2) 729

by jfengel (#47865653) Attached to: Apple Announces Smartwatch, Bigger iPhones, Mobile Payments

That's kind of an interesting thought: a new market for storing your phone close enough to your device to work but not necessarily accessible.

My first thought was a kind of belt; I use something like that to hold my phone when I run. But that would ruin the line of most dresses.

Next thought... a garter? It wouldn't fit under close-fitting pants but it would fit under a dress. It could even be a kind of fashion accessory, in a "Oops, I showed you my phone, how naughty" kind of way: make it frilly or colorful. Getting it tight enough to hold a heavy phone securely without cutting off circulation would be a challenge. I never did figure out how it was supposed to work on the upper arm, but people make it work.

Comment: Re:Trust us with your payments (Score 1) 729

by jfengel (#47865467) Attached to: Apple Announces Smartwatch, Bigger iPhones, Mobile Payments

Seconds ago I just had to type credit card information in six times before I managed to get every single thing just right. I'm usually not that fumble-fingered (it's a new card and I don't have the digits memorized yet), but I gotta say that it would have been nice to have had it read for me.

Comment: Re:Science creates understanding of a real world. (Score 1) 760

by jfengel (#47864189) Attached to: How Scientific Consensus Has Gotten a Bad Reputation

I'd gotten the impression that it was a bit larger than that, though I really can't say why. The film version of the Quidditch World Cup showed tens of thousands of people. One can assume that it's practically everybody, so perhaps your guess is low by an order of magnitude, but it's still roughly in the ballpark. A few other numbers I ran also put it roughly in that area.

The thing with Snape's potions research is that he never showed his work. He scribbled notes about improvements, but never seemed to establish any kind of theoretical basis for it. That seemed on par with the rest of wizarding practice.

That kind of makes sense for her notion of a pre-scientific world that shut itself from society about the time of the Enlightenment, due to oppression. But they never really seemed to feel the loss, and I think that they were missing something important. The Wizarding and Muggle worlds had a lot to offer each other.

Comment: Re:Science creates understanding of a real world. (Score 1) 760

by jfengel (#47863327) Attached to: How Scientific Consensus Has Gotten a Bad Reputation

The graph includes the cite, so you can check up on their methodology. The sample size is 5,000, which is actually pretty good for a sample like this. (1,000 is more common, with a 3% margin of error, though since they're breaking it down into three roughly equal subgroups they'd need a larger sample.)

Comment: Re:Science creates understanding of a real world. (Score 1) 760

by jfengel (#47855665) Attached to: How Scientific Consensus Has Gotten a Bad Reputation

We wouldn't care about science if it weren't "useful" in the sense of providing value. It would be just another random bit of epistemology.

Which isn't to say that all science has to provide value immediately. We never know what's going to come in handy. Some sciences can go centuries without ever turning over anything of interest to the layman. Many are "useful" only in the sense of giving us some sort of feeling of understanding.

But that feeling of understanding is fake if you never actually apply tests to it. The evo psych stuff is a good example of that. It propagates as myth rather than as science: poorly-performed tests result in poorly-stated and overgeneralized rules that mislead rather than inform. There is, at core, something to that science, but the popular conception of it (as, sadly, with many sciences) is more wrong than right.

Comment: Re:WIl they use my tax money? (Score 1) 259

by jfengel (#47854985) Attached to: Tesla Plans To Power Its Gigafactory With Renewables Alone

They don't need it. They want it. Every dollar they save in taxes is a dollar that their shareholders (including Musk) get to pocket. And the state gives it to them willingly, in the hopes that it brings jobs to the area. Tesla really is a "jobs creator", unlike a lot of other self-proclaimed masters of the universe, and so the tax breaks really are win-win. It's not zero-sum because value is being added: raw materials come in and batteries go out.

That's what business looks like when it's working, and states compete to be in on it. Nevada won, this time, and one can hope that they're not being ripped off in the process. A lot of other companies have been lured with tax breaks in return for promises of economic value that they fail to provide. Often, it was obvious that they'd fail to provide it, but legislatures and governors can be pretty gullible when it comes to "jobs jobs jobs". I've got high hopes for Tesla, since Musk actually is interested in making money by making stuff, but we won't know until it's underway.

Comment: Re:One way to avoid (Score 1) 160

by jfengel (#47854899) Attached to: The Five Nigerian Gangs Behind Most Craigslist Buyer Scams

The scam in this case involves more expensive items, in the $1,500 range. (The limit is $1,000 rather than $100; I assume that's just a typo, but it's still above that range.)

And apparently the scammers are also on that: they're starting to work up fake money orders as well. I gather that's used more on stores than on Craigslist buyers, where the store can't validate the money order before they hand over the merchandise, but I assume it'll develop.

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