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Comment: Self-reporting is inherently biased (Score 5, Insightful) 141

by saforrest (#43775325) Attached to: What Professors Can Learn From "Hard Core" MOOC Students

This Chronicle of Higher Ed story looks at whether these MOOC addicts think they're learning as much as they would in a traditional college course.

It's been psychologically demonstrated that people who volunteer their time up-front to some activity for which they're not receiving other rewards (e.g. payment) are biased towards finding the activity fulfilling, even if it wasn't really, simply so they don't feel foolish for having wasted their time.

I have no doubt many of these people are learning things and they would probably drop out if they weren't, but self-reporting is no way to measure the efficacy of MOOCs as learning tools.

Comment: What's new here? (Score 3, Interesting) 167

by saforrest (#36836684) Attached to: Wolfram Launches Computational Document Format

All of Matematica, Maple, and MathCAD have had their own worksheet/document formats since the mid-90s at least. They have gone through many incarnations but I believe all of them now support embedding code, graphics, marked-up text, etc. Maple's Document format certainly does.

Exactly what is new about this, other than a new name and, well, further grist for Stephen Wolfram's publicity mill?

Is the idea simply to have a thin-client reader and offload most of the computation to remote servers? Because if so then that is the innovation, not some new document format.

Comment: Re:Unasked Question (Score 1) 539

by saforrest (#33456506) Attached to: Facebook Post Juror Gets Fined, Removed, Assigned Homework

I find it hard to believe no one is asking exactly why the defendants son is creeping around looking up jurors from his father's trial on Facebook.

For all we know the juror in question mentioned the defendant's name in her FB post and it came up when the kid was Googling the defendant's name.

Comment: Re:A cousin of the Moa? (Score 1) 137

by saforrest (#32412910) Attached to: Ancient Cave Art May Depict Giant Bird Extinct For 40,000 Years


While the rest of the bird kingdom in NZ devolved their wings, the world's biggest eagle, The Haast Eagle enjoyed the easy life, often making short work of the Moa from time to time.

I read something once where a scientist was conjecturing about what the first interaction between a human and a Haast Eagle, a raptor adapted to carry off and eviscerate 2-meter tall bipeds, must have been like.

[Proto-Maori guy stepping out of seafaring canoe]
Wow, nice island. Hey, what the hell is that?

Comment: Re:What's with the asterisk, Slashdot? (Score 1) 698

by saforrest (#32239760) Attached to: ACLU Sues To Protect Your Right To Swear

Replacing the vowel in profanity with some other character doesn't fool anyone. Everyone knows still you're swearing.

Back in the late 90s there was a play out called Shopping and Fucking. I remember an article in the Globe and Mail summarizing all the various ways the name of this play was rendered in newpapers around the world. Some were bold enough to print the title in full, some resorted to "Shopping and F*cking" or "Shopping and F***ing", and one very delicately never gave to the play's name explicitly but described its name as combining "shopping and a profane expression".

My favourite was some Australian newspaper which gave the title as "Sh***ing and F***ing".

The beauty of these meaningless abbreviations is that people can think you're swearing when you're not. :)

Comment: Re:Yup (Score 1) 384

by saforrest (#31781480) Attached to: Digital Economy Bill Passed In the UK

Carne Adovada, right here in New Mexico.

Isn't "carne adovada" Spanish for "marinated meat"? If I understand correctly from the Wikipedia article it's mostly an American dish by virtue of the Mexican-American War and continuing Mexican cultural influence.

If in this food contest the British got to claim any random dish from territory their conquered over the years, I'm sure they would have a lot more to draw from (e.g. all Indian food).

Comment: Re:Remember, slashdot is run by rich white guys (Score 1) 191

by saforrest (#31047092) Attached to: The New National Health Plan Is Texting

I know several Canadian citizens who moved to the states in a large part to escape the inferior national healthcare system up north. I suppose if you work part time at McDonalds, government run health care seems like a good idea, but if you have a job where you can actually afford real healthcare, it's terrible.

Amazing isn't it, how everyone has an ex-girlfriend's former roommate's Canadian cousin who has some unpleasant anecdote the public health care system, isn't it? I almost wonder sometimes if these are all the same person.

Well, I am Canadian. And I can say that while our system isn't perfect I honestly can't see it being vastly inferior to whatever you have down there, unless maybe you get wine & cheese and digital television in every waiting room.

I'm still fairly young with no major health problems, but of course I have friends and relatives have had serious medical issues (e.g. heart attacks, liver & stomach trouble, cancer) and by all accounts got perfectly acceptable treatment. Of course we have the occasional scandal: for example some doctors in Newfoundland a few years ago misdiagnosed a lot of breast biopsies, missed a number of cancer cases, and some women died, but that was pure incompetence and there's no obvious reason why a private system would've avoided that.

Canadian immigrants to the U.S. are not a statistically valid sampling of the Canadian population. I have a friend who's now in the U.S. who badmouths our healthcare system regularly, but that has more to do with his being a libertarian than from any actual bad experience, which he grudgingly admitted to after a long argument.

Comment: Re:God Bless the USA! (Score 1) 420

by saforrest (#30370814) Attached to: Moving Decimal Bug Loses Money

So, do you ever get an American quarter in your change and think "Sweet, an American quarter". Until you try to use it in a vending machine.

Well, the Canadian dollar is now trading at 94.109 cents US, according to xe.com. So an American quarter would get me... an extra 1.5 cents. And unless you're going to the States, you won't have anyplace to use it except as a substitute for a Canadian quarter, so meh...

In the brief bit back in 2007 when our dollar was trading above yours, it was hilarious to suddenly see people demanding to pay the American price at bookstores. They had never realized that they were getting screwed before then, even though you always could have taken the U.S. price and multiplied it by whatever the conversion ratio was at the moment and ALWAYS end up with something lower than the Canadian price. It was a pretty savage indictment of Canadian numeracy.

Comment: Re:Dont start a post by being a dick. (Score 1) 233

by saforrest (#30370726) Attached to: Sharp Rise In Jailing of Online Journalists; Iran May Just Kill Them

You make a good point about not being a jerk. Honestly, I have found that once one displays a marginal degree of deep knowledge about some subject but makes a mistake, there are no shortage of "experts" willing to jump in and humiliate the poor bastard. It's as though they're delighted to find an opponent worthy enough to fight but weak enough to defeat.

All that said, Eritrea was in the news a lot in the 80s and 90s owing to its independence war against Ethiopia. That war has a lot to do with the state of politics in the Horn of Africa ever since, and is sort of the model for the attempted secession of Somaliland from neighboring Somalia. I think the fact that the name of Eritrea is not well known is a travesty on the part of the media, and I think that anyone who regards themselves as well-informed on current events should feel embarrassment at not knowing the name of every current nation-state. There are a lot of them, sure, but knowing them is the price you pay for the title "well-informed".

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