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Comment: Re:Dobsonian (Score 1) 185

by supercrisp (#47741431) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: Cheap But Reasonable Telescopes for Kids?
I used to work at a planetarium helping school kids with telescopes. Our preferred scope was a dobsonian. I'd recommend a 4.5" dobsonian. The one sold by Orion isn't a bad deal, and they're pretty good quality. But that's $250. You can sometimes find a used dobsonian. A 6" or 8" would be a really good scope. I like the dobsonian because there's little to mess with. Too often the fancy scopes get between you and observing. And you might not even need a scope. There's a whole lot to be done with the naked eye or a cheap pair of binoculars (7x35 or 8x40 being good cheap choices, 7x50 being really nice). If you are on a really tight budget, a dobsonian is very easy to build. You'll need the mirrors, a spider, and a focuser. The rest of the stuff you can get at wally world or hardware stores. If you go that route, the best bang for your buck is usually a 6" f8 scope. But you can low-ball and even build as small as a 3" scope. In fact, a 3" f10 is a very, very simple mirror to grind. You'd done before you know it. You just then need to find someone to silver or aluminize it for you; it used to be easy to send a mirror off for surfacing like that.

Comment: Re:Trophies and gold stars are not what is wrong w (Score 2) 81

by supercrisp (#47684011) Attached to: Is Remote Instruction the Future of College?
YES! I am a university professor, and I can tell you that books are written saying this same thing. They go back to the early 1900s. The basic argument, from the academic side in the early days (like 1930s), runs like this: "University is for theory and cultural polish, community college is theory/polish for poorer or less-prepared people. Sure, industry wants us to do their training for them in junior colleges, but they should do it themselves. Besides, professors aren't good at professional training because we'll always be trailing the innovations of industry." To a degree that's a true statement. Sure, you can pull in engineers to do some teaching. But you won't get cutting-edge engineers at the junior college, and not many engineers (or other professionals) will give up the salary to be a professional. I, personally, differ in that I believe the "soft skills" and the theory and even education in the humanities all make better engineers. But I know that is not a widely-shared opinion on /.

Comment: Re:Men are obsolete (Score 1) 387

by supercrisp (#47598779) Attached to: Ancient Skulls Show Civilization Rose As Testosterone Fell
I study feminism. I don't know where you are getting your historical information, but it's inaccurate. Yes, there were the nuts and extremists, like Valerie Solanas. There were and are women who hypothesize that patriarchal behaviors--which are distinct from or are a subset of male behaviors--are bad for humanity. And there are many, many other lines of thought from utopian free-love to men-are-bad. And stuff off in other directions. After a lot of study, I personally decided that the majority of feminist thought was positive for humanity, including men like myself. You can dismiss that as thought-crime, or you can do more reading. That's a bit of work, and it IS comfortable, isn't it, to have a scapegoat or a villain on which to hang all your troubles?

Comment: The real deal (Score 1) 325

by supercrisp (#47185775) Attached to: Fixing the Humanities Ph.D.
The MLA and others have reasons to not be forthright about the real issue: universities don't hire tenure-track professions nearly as often as they used to. Nowadays, over 70% of your humanities courses are taught by people off the tenure track, most of whom aren't even working full-time. The issue isn't "overproduction" of PhDs in the humanities as so many like to say. It's that universities don't want to pay for faculty. I know many may say "Good, those are useless elitest shits anyway." OK. Maybe we are. BUT consider what happens if getting the doctorate is as hard as it is now with as little payoff. Who can do that? Middle-class kids, or people who won't be taking on any risk to make this gamble? What then happens if we make it even harder to get the professorship by admitting fewer people into PhD programs. I'll tell you, from my experience, that having gone to good schools as a kid, having the right class markers, all that, those still make getting the PhD easier. As a first-generation college student, I struggled and struggled to get my doctorate and eventual professorship. If you reduce the number of people like me--ones who started out poor or middle-class or hispanic or black--you're only going to make it harder for the "token" students who do get admitted to hang in there with Biff and Buffy. Note also, I'm not talking about the Ivy leagues. I was a midwestern state school for my doctorate, and my classmates included the daughter of a VP of one of the big three automakers, the child of a megachurch preacher, a couple of heirs, and several people who were "comfortable" or who had family business they could fall back on. This was out of a group of 18. As far as I know, there were only three of us who were actually from backgrounds that meant our failure would have serious consequences. Anyway, I'm going on and on. The term for this is casualization of academic labor. Because we like big words. But what it means is that some of the things that seem like they'd punish the elites would only lead to more elitism.

Comment: Re:10 kw (Score 3, Insightful) 234

And it won't be cheap for long in the US. The natty gas industry is lobbying for it to become a "foreign policy tool." They want to ship it across the sea, somehow making it cheaper on the European market than Russian gas. I wonder who'll end up subsidizing that? The struggling US economy, or the almost bankrupt European economies, or Germany?

Comment: Re:Quid pro quo (Score 1) 187

by supercrisp (#46887989) Attached to: Grading Software Fooled By Nonsense Essay Generator
I want to add a data points (anecdote). I'm an English professor. For several years, I've noticed that students will keep repeating the same easily-corrected mistakes in paper after paper. I offer corrections, advice, and instruction in class. I began to suspect that students were not reading the comments. I gradually came to believe that the phones out in class were not being used for note-taking. This semester I have taught a content-heavy lecture course. Since it's new, and I'm up for tenure, and student feedback is extremely important at my institution, I decided to kiss some ass by recording lectures during which I gave test review--especially since about 50% of students show up for class. I then posted those recordings on Blackboard for my students. Despite this, the test scores stayed around 60%. Now, this is asking questions like "Which of the following was the first Gothic cathedral?" (We talked about that cathedral for a week) or "Which emperor started the construction of Constantinople's first city walls?" (Dur, Constantine?) And students were getting these wrong. So I looked at the statistics for the audio files I'd posted. Out of four audio files, one for each test, one had been listened to. Bog standard MP3, low nitrate. No technical problem. And students WERE logging in to check grades. Nope. They clearly just gave not shit one about studying. (NB: I don't entirely suck as a teacher; my students typically compliment me for making material interesting, etc, on evals.) I read a lot about how helicopter breeders and spoon-feeding teachers are destroying the minds of youth. About how phones, etc, are destroying the minds of youth. Well. I don't know. But something is. TL;DR? Short version: Fuck this. When I get tenure, I'm going to spend all day in my office reading comic books.

Comment: Re:Snow Leopard (Score 1) 96

by supercrisp (#46821713) Attached to: Apple Fixes Major SSL Bug In OS X, iOS
I upgraded to Mavericks from Snow Leopard because a lot of my mainline apps were only getting Mavericks-compatible updates. The best thing I can say about Mavericks is that it doesn't suck as much as I expected. I'm not noticing a slowdown, but I moved to an SSD for the OS drive at the same time, and I'm on an '09 MacBook Pro with 8GB of RAM, so those things may be concealing an OS-related slowdown. At any rate, I'd say that you shouldn't make the move to Mavericks if you don't have to, especially if you have an older machine. It's mostly just a bunch of stupid eye-candy. Yes, I know: App Nap!* Memory efficiency! Battery efficiency! But my battery use was already fine, RAM is often dirt cheap, and App Nap's main function on my machine is to pop up the rainbow pinwheel when I'm in a hurry.

Comment: Try his Gawain (Score 2) 94

Tolkien's edition of Gawain and the Green Knight is really good. A layperson can easily learn how to pronounce the Middle English of the text, which being a bit "Northern" is somewhat "older" and different than that of Chaucer. There's also a useful glossary. It's really a great book. If you like Tolkien, and you haven't read it, you should probably take a look at it. On the other hand, the claims above about Tolkien being the person who brought the Medieval into the Modern must come from a very narrow perspective. The Medieval was always there. Think of the work of the Pre-Raphaelites, or of Walter Scott. And Tolkien was far from the only fantasist whose work drew heavily on the Medieval. In fact, and I know this is heretical, but there are works out there that are in many ways better than his. But his world is amazing, his scholarship quite useful, and, in my opinion, he was on the right side of the issue with C.S. Lewis. (As a final note, he made an interesting contribution to an interesting little mystery, the "Nodens" ring and inscription. Also fun to check out.) A final, final note: Seamus Heany's version of Beowulf is a pretty good read too.

Comment: Re:The key here is "Conference Proceedings" (Score 1) 62

by supercrisp (#46332853) Attached to: Publishers Withdraw More Than 120 Fake Papers
Some institutions intentionally don't look too closely. The university at which I work, a state university in the southeastern US, will take a person with a degree from the University of Phoenix or even with an honorary degree. Doesn't matter, just as long as you have the right political connections. The Tennessee Board of Regents actually passed a resolution or made a statement, I forget the correct terms, that a degree is a degree. This is when a basketball coach was found to have a diploma mill degree. And then there are all the faculty who are found to have completely lied about their degrees.... So, no, I think sometimes this sort of publication credential gaming is just one part of a larger and very corrupt system. (And this may draw fire: I think this has gotten worse and worse as university administrations have become heavier and heaver and costlier and costlier AND as those posts have come to be filled, at least at mid-level schools by people with no real academic credentials, among which I'd include business and education degrees.)

Comment: Re:Simpler answer: It was a con (Score 2) 160

by supercrisp (#46293859) Attached to: Another Possible Voynich Breakthrough
With respect to your low uid# and the awesome bit of Schiller in your sig, I have to point that the age of the vellum does little to prove that the text originates earlier than some assumptions. Vellum was used over and over. So, unless we have some clear evidence that it has not been reused, the manuscript text may well be written on vellum significantly older than itself.

Comment: Re:Simpler answer: It was a con (Score 1) 160

by supercrisp (#46293851) Attached to: Another Possible Voynich Breakthrough
I wish the author of that article provided links to the information about letter forms. I'd like to read about that. The age of the vellum doesn't help much, as vellum was often re-used. Of course, there may be evidence that this text was the first use of the vellum, though the article does mention finding previous text with a blacklight. Maybe I should be glad there aren't links to this other research. I might lose half my morning.

Comment: The answer is obvious (Score 3, Informative) 134

by supercrisp (#46254195) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: E-ink Reader For Academic Papers?
The obvious part: Root it and install a more capable e-reader app. My recommendation: I prefer Moon+ Reader Pro, which will not only give you a highlighted and annotated file you can use elsewhere, it can also, with one click, generate a document with annotations and highlights only that you can e-mail to yourself. I should not that this is something even Acrobat Pro can't do, and also note that Moon+ is more feature complete and easy to use than is Adobe's offering for Android. NB: I don't have any stake in Moon+, nor give a crap what money they make. I'm sharing because I spent too much time wading thru all the e-reader apps to find this one.

Comment: Re:Use Class Rank (Score 3, Insightful) 264

by supercrisp (#46216519) Attached to: Adjusting GPAs: A Statistician's Effort To Tackle Grade Inflation
In my experience (just over 20 years teaching English courses), students in the first two years of college are horrible now compared to 10-15 years ago. At upper levels, students are indeed working much harder. But part of the harder work is a lot of flailing around because most bright students have never had to study, organize, research, or any of the basic scholarly skills. School has just been so easy. ---- I'm reluctant to address grade inflation on slashdot because so much of the discussion on teaching here is from only the student perspective, and typically from disaffected students who see education as some sort of market exchange. It's got a much older set of models, and that complicates the hell out of things. For reasons good and bad, faculty tend hang onto some Medieval ideas like mentoring, patronage, whipping people into shape, and separating wheat from chaff. As I said, good and bad reasons. ---- But major influences on grades just don't come up in these discussions, so I'll offer two: retention and rehiring. Administrators and evaluating bodies continually yell "retention." What can you do if all your students suck because they're getting shit for a high school education? Dumb down the classes and pass them. Or don't, and your department suffers. Or you do. That brings me to rehiring. Many classes, right on up to the senior level are now taught by "contingent" faculty--the majority of faculty now are contingent. Nontenured. Rehired year by year. If you're contingent, you'd better listen when someone howls retention. And you'd better make damn sure that little Pauly Privileged doesn't go running to your chair bawling because he got a C for his paper copied from Wikipedia. Better give that brat a B so that you can keep paying your student loans. Presto! Grade inflation. ---- There are other reasons. And I know everyone here is super brilliant and earned those A grades.

Comment: Re:As an environmentalist and (former) Obama fan. (Score 3, Insightful) 343

by supercrisp (#46104435) Attached to: Edward Snowden Nominated For Nobel Peace Prize
Well. Maybe the KKK is greatly reduced, but the "Southern Strategy" is alive and well, as is racism, as both a factor in campaigns and elections, as well as in districting for elections, zoning, and education funding. Hell, what about Birmingham being back in the Supreme Court of the Voting Rights Act?

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