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Submission Europe Code Week 2015: Cocktails at Microsoft, 'Ode to Code' Robot Dancing

theodp writes: In case your invite to next week's Europe Code Week 2015 kickoff celebration at the Microsoft Centre in Brussels was lost in the e-mail, you can apparently still invite yourself. "Let's meet to celebrate coding as an empowering competence, key for maintaining our society vibrant and securing the prosperity of our European digital economy," reads the invite at the Microsoft and Facebook-powered All you Need is Code website. And to "keep raising awareness of the importance of computational thinking beyond Code Week," EU Code Week is also running an Ode to Code Video Contest, asking people to make short YouTube videos showing how the event's Ode to Code soundtrack causes uncontrollable robot dancing and flash mobs. Things sure have changed since thirty years ago, when schoolchildren were provided with materials like The BASIC Book to foster computational thinking!

Submission Is Private Space Flight for the Wealthy Just a Scam?-> 1

The Real Dr John writes: The private space flight "industry", if you can call it that, is starting to sound more like a scam to get money from wealthy clients under the guise of sending them into space than a serious attempt to augment NASA's programs. The Guardian has an article about Virgin Galactic’s proposed launch site, Spaceport America, which broke ground in southern New Mexico’s high desert in 2009 with almost a quarter of a billion dollars from taxpayers, $76m of which came from the two local counties. Truth or Consequences, population 6,000 and home to the Spaceport America Visitor Center, is one of the poorest places in the state. The increased taxes, adopted across impoverished Sierra County, contributed to about $5m as of 2014. Since 2009, state school budgets have been cut and an estimated $26m in necessary repairs to the town’s water system has been put on hold. There’s no more money to pay for it. The average annual income of residents is just $15,000 per year, one third of residents live below the poverty line, and just 20% over the age of 25 have obtained a bachelor’s degree.
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Comment Re:work only in english? (Score 1) 49

Go To Hell Statement Considered Harmful: "In our definition of an algorithm we have stressed that the primitive actions should be executable, that they should be done. "Go to the other side of the square." is perfectly acceptable, "Go to hell.", however, is not an algorithm but a curse, because it cannot be done."
--Edsger W. Dijkstra, 11 May 1930 - 6 August 2002

Submission Hour of Code Kicks Off in Chile with Dog Poop-Themed CS Tutorial

theodp writes: In an interesting contrast to the Disney princess-themed Hour of Code tutorial that 'taught President Obama to code' last December, Chile is kicking off its 2015 Hora del Codigo this week with a top-featured Blockly tutorial that teaches computer science by having kids drag-and-drop blocks of code to pick up dog poop. "Collect all the shit you have left your dog," reads the Google translated instructions for the final coding exercise. In its new video for the Hour of Code 2015 campaign, tech billionaire-backed notes that it's striving to reach 200 million schoolchildren worldwide by this December. Presumably towards that end, warns that it will penalize Computer Science tutorials that "work only in English."

Comment Re:What John King [and Bill Gates] did to NY Schoo (Score 1) 30

From Goodbye, Arne Duncan...Hello, John King:

Head of Class Size Matters, Leonie Haimson, had this to say upon his leaving:

"John King was the most unpopular commissioner in the history of NY State. He showed no respect for parents, teachers or student privacy. Ironically, he was intent on protecting his own privacy, and routinely withheld public documents; our Freedom of Information request of his communications with inBloom and the Gates foundation is more than 1 1/2 years overdue. His resignation is good news for New York state; hopefully he will be unable to do as much damage at the US Department of Education."

Sadly, as the new head of the US Department of Education, Dr. King will be in quite a position to do a lot of damage over the next 15 months.

Comment Re:Hypocrisy (Score 1) 30

John King Is Named New York State Education Commissioner: "Their two children, Amina, 7, and Mareya, 4, attend a Montessori school. Over the past two years, he has been courted for several prominent education leadership positions, including the superintendent's seat in Newark, by Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook executive who has pledged $100 million to that city's troubled schools. But Dr. King said he wanted to stay in New York because of his personal ties and his desire to finish what he started with Dr. Steiner. His salary will be $212,500, up from the $186,500 he earned as deputy, but, at his request, less than the $250,000 given to Dr. Steiner."

Comment What John King [and Bill Gates] did to NY Schools (Score 4, Informative) 30

What Arne Duncan's new senior adviser did to N.Y. schools:

"You'll see the rollout of a statewide data system that will give a lot more useful information to teachers and principals about student performance and a lot more useful data for policymakers."

In the above quote, King was referring to the implementation of inBloom, funded and created by the Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation. Its purpose was to amass an extraordinary amount of confidential student data with the intent of sharing it with private software developers to create personalized educational products. Despite public outcry, John King continued to support inBloom until the legislature stepped in and pulled the plug during the spring of 2014. Shortly thereafter, inBloom itself shut down.

Submission Weekend at Zuckerberg's: Soon-to-Be US Ed Chief Was Almost FB CEO's Ed Chief

theodp writes: Before President Obama announced John B. King as his pick to replace outgoing U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan (who is returning to Chicago, where his kids now attend a $30K-a-year private school), King was Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's pick to lead Zuck's failed $100 million "reform" effort of Newark's Schools. From The Prize: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools?: "[Newark Mayor Cory] Booker asked [NJ Governor Chris] Christie to grant him control of the schools by fiat, but the governor demurred, offering him instead a role as unofficial partner in all decisions and policies, beginning with their joint selection of a 'superstar' superintendent to lead the charge. Booker’s first choice was John King, then deputy New York State education commissioner, who had led some of the top-performing charter schools in New York City and Boston and who credited public school teachers with inspiring him to persevere after he was orphaned as a young boy in Brooklyn. [Mark] Zuckerberg and [his wife Priscilla] Chan flew King to Palo Alto for a weekend with them and [Facebook executive Sheryl] Sandberg; Christie hosted him at the governor’s beach retreat on the Jersey Shore; and Booker led King and his wife, Melissa, on a tour of Newark, with stops at parks and businesses that hadn’t existed before his mayoralty. But after much thought, King turned them down. Zuckerberg, Christie, and Booker expected to arrive at their national model within five years. King believed it could take almost that long to change the system’s fundamental procedures and to raise expectations across the city for children and schools. “John’s view was that no one has achieved what they’re trying to achieve: build an urban school district serving high-poverty kids that gets uniformly strong outcomes,” said an acquaintance who talked with King about the offer. “You’d have to invest not only a long period of time but tremendous political capital to get it done.” King had questions about a five-year plan overseen by politicians who were likely to seek higher office."

Comment Holy Michael Crichton, Batman! (Score 1) 63

State of Fear (2004) excerpt:

Jonathan Marshall was twenty-four, a graduate student in physics from London, working for the summer at the ultra-modern Laboratoire Ondulatoire-the wave mechanics laboratory-of the French Marine Institute in Vissy, just north of Paris. But the suburb was mostly the residence of young families, and it had been a lonely summer for Marshall. Which was why he could not believe his good fortune at meeting this girl. This extraordinarily beautiful and sexy girl.

"Show me what it does, this machine," Marisa said. Her eyes were shining. "Show me what it is you do."

"My pleasure," Marshall said. He moved to the large control panel and began to switch on the pumps and sensors. The thirty panels of the wave machine at the far end of the tank clicked, one after another.

Submission NYT: Temporary Visas to Import Talent Help Copycats Take Jobs Abroad

theodp writes: "When Congress designed temporary work visa programs," writes the New York Times' Julia Preston, "the idea was to bring in foreigners with specialized, hard-to-find skills who would help American companies grow, creating jobs to expand the economy. Now, though, some companies are bringing in workers on those visas to help move jobs out of the country." Of layoffs at Toys "R" Us and New York Life Insurance Company, Preston writes, "They are examples of how global outsourcing companies are using temporary visas to bring in foreign workers who do not appear to have exceptional skills — according to interviews with a dozen current or former employees of Toys “R” Us and New York Life — to help ship out jobs, mainly to India." Elsewhere in tech news, ComputerWorld reports that Congress is set to make the H-1B visa $2,000 less costly for India-based IT services providers.

Submission Jeff Atwood NY Daily News Op-Ed: Learning to Code is Overrated 1

theodp writes: Responding to New York City's much-ballyhooed $81 initiative to require all of the city's public schools to offer CS to all students, Coding Horror's Jeff Atwood has penned a guest column for the NY Daily News which cautions that learning to code isn't all it's cracked up to be. Atwood begins, "Mayor de Blasio is winning widespread praise for his recent promise that, within 10 years, all of New York City’s public schoolchildren will take computer science classes. But as a career programmer who founded two successful software startups, I am deeply skeptical about teaching all kids to code." Why? "If someone tells you 'coding is the new literacy' because 'computers are everywhere today,' ask them how fuel injection works. By teaching low-level coding, I worry that we are effectively teaching our children the art of automobile repair. A valuable skill — but if automobile manufacturers and engineers are doing their jobs correctly, one that shouldn’t be much concern for average people, who happily use their cars as tools to get things done without ever needing to worry about rebuilding the transmission or even change the oil." Atwood adds, "There’s nothing wrong with basic exposure to computer science. But it should not come at the expense of fundamental skills such as reading, writing and mathematics...I’ve known so many programmers who would have been much more successful in their careers if they had only been better writers, better critical thinkers, better back-of-the-envelope estimators, better communicators. And aside from success in careers, we have to ask the broader question: What kinds of people do we want children to grow up to be?"

Submission Recalc or Die: Excel 1.0 Developers Celebrate Their Baby's 30th B-Day

theodp writes: This weekend, reports GeekWire, many of the original Excel team members are getting together to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the software’s release. "We certainly ripped some stuff off," acknowledged Microsoft Excel 1.0 lead developer Doug Klunder, "but we also did some things that nobody else had done at the time and probably hasn’t done since — some of which are really insane, and some of which turn out to be pretty handy." Klunder, who was responsible for Excel’s killer "intelligent recalc" feature, quit his job after Bill Gates decided to shift the original Excel project from MS-DOS to the Mac, but ended up coming back and finishing the project after an ill-fated stint as a farm worker in the lettuce fields of California. "Just imagine having this product where one of the key components of it is really only understood by this guy who will quit routinely and go be a migrant farm worker down in California," said Excel 1.0 program manager Jabe Blumenthal. “It was not necessarily the most traditional or stable of environments." Many of the original Excel team members still use the program today — the RSVP sheet for this weekend’s party was an Excel Online document. Before a professional naming firm came up with "Excel," the software was known by its code name "Odyssey", and other product names considered by Microsoft included "Master Plan" and "Mr. Spreadsheet." By the way, "Mr. Spreadsheet" makes his MOOC debut next week in edX's free-to-audit Excel for Data Analysis and Visualization course.

Submission China Grove 2.0: Tech CEOs Flock to Microsoft HQ for Xi Jinping

theodp writes: While U.S. tech CEOs in weren't too eager to talk cybersecurity with President Obama last February, they turned out en masse to talk cybersecurity turkey with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Microsoft headquarters this week (many will also attend Friday's White House state dinner in honor of the Chinese President). Joining a Who's Who of U.S. tech CEOs that included Apple's Tim Cook, Amazon's Jeff Bezos, IBM's Ginni Rometty, and Microsoft's Satya Nadella (Bill Gates also attended), Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg showed his r-e-s-p-e-c-t by not only trading his hoodie for a suit, but also by parlez-vousing Mandarin. Microsoft President Brad Smith joined the heads of the Univ. of Washington and Tsinghua University as President Xi presented a dawn redwood tree to the Global Innovation Exchange, the Microsoft-funded graduate-school program that is the first U.S.-based Chinese research university degree program. And on Friday, the White House announced the "One Million Strong" initiative — led by the Microsoft-backed 100,000 Strong Foundation — that aims to have one million American students studying Mandarin by 2020. So, will Seattle be the new China Grove?

Submission Imagine There's No Country: US Tech CEOs Snub Obama, Embrace Xi Jinping

theodp writes: Last February, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg joined other tech CEOs in snubbing President Obama, declining the President's invitation to talk cybersecurity at a summit at Stanford. But when Chinese President Xi Jinping talked cybersecurity in Seattle at Microsoft Wednesday, Zuck was there in his Sunday finest, joining a Who's Who of U.S. tech CEOs that included Apple's Tim Cook, Amazon's Jeff Bezos, IBM's Ginni Rometty, and Microsoft's Satya Nadella (Bill Gates also attended). Microsoft President Brad Smith also joined Univ. of Washington Interim President Ana Mari Cauce and Tsinghua University President Qiu Yong as President Xi presented a dawn redwood tree to the Global Innovation Exchange, the Microsoft-funded graduate-school program that is the first U.S.-based Chinese research university degree program.

"You must have an IQ of at least half a million." -- Popeye