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Comment Copyleft / BSD Android / iOS (Score 1) 573

I teach a class to non-hacker non-lawyers which includes a little bit on free software / open source / copyleft. I keep wanting to illustrate the difference between a "liberal" license like the BSD license and a copyleft license like GPL by showing what Apple did with BSD to get iOS and what Google did with Linux to get Android. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to disentangle a clean story.

Is there a clean story? If so, how can I find it? Or is Apple's being as liberal as they want with BSD and Google's pushing the to limits of copyleft (or beyond) with Android making it truly too messy to use as an illustrative case?

Comment Re:Here's a "Don't", IMO (Score 4, Insightful) 197

Sorry to hear it sounds bad, because I think that's the best explanation if not the best sales pitch. While people play for different reasons, I think the most common element is the fun of playing make-believe. The trouble is for many people (including me) as we grow up we lose some of our ability to do ad-hoc make-believe. We want to be able to have some restrictions on what's appropriate in a given game, how to get around the [I shot you! Did not!] problem and so forth. So, D&D-style RPG's provide enough framework that we can play make-believe even with more adult minds.

We can argue for a lot of the benefits that come from that (good social interaction, creativity, maps, math, blah-blah) and all of that's fun, but why RPG's instead of book clubs, poker games, or jam sessions? I think it's the make-believe.

Comment heterogeneity and probability (Score 1) 265

First, it might not be important, but the title bugs me: statistics isn't a natural science.

I teach economics, and the biggest thing I note about my students is the heterogeneity in mathematical capabilities. I always need to keep on my toes about who I'm boring because they can handle that math in their sleep and who I'm leaving in the dust so that they're not even close to learning what I'm talking about. In a hard science program, there will presumably be some of that, but a bit more pressure on the low end which will make the students more homogeneous.

What to teach depends partly on whether you imagine this is a terminal class for a lot of the students. If so, teach general ideas which they'll be able to dredge up 6 years from now when the ideas are relevant, because they'll forget the details. If it's not a terminal class, try to teach some of the example applications which they might see in future classes.

Behavioral economics is pretty hip these days. Pulling examples from that literature (such as the popular stuff by Dan Ariely) is likely to interest a lot of students and be directly applicable for psychology students (since lots of behavioral economics is more about psychology than economics).

I have a strong bias about how statistics should be taught these days, though I've never tried it and could be proven wrong. I think that statistics should be taught as (1) probability theory, followed by (2) monte carlo methods, and then follow that up with more classical statistics and nonparametric tests. Monte carlo testing gets at the core concepts of what rejecting a null hypothesis means, what confidence is all about, etc and it's straightforward to do these days. Once the ideas are clear, then you could move on to the standard t-tests and so forth. But if you start with monte carlo, the students will grok the notion without knowing calculus as opposed to spending all their time trying to memorize formulas.

Comment My favorite sexy female scientist... (Score 1) 404

...just opened up a dead LCD monitor, and replaced 4 capacitors, and it's good as new. That was HOT (in the figurative and literal sense, since there was soldering involved). She wasn't wearing heels or make-up while doing it, however. And it wasn't really science, I guess, since the electronics is a bit of a sideline for her, but anyway...

There's nothing wrong with sexy scientists, but if you're trying to show sexy scientists, you should try to show how doing the "STEM" (wow, I hate that abbreviation) is sexy itself.

Comment Go to the comic shop (Score 1) 372

A bunch of commenters are saying that superhero comics are too grown-up now. That's an obvious real trend but Marvel at least--and probably DC, though I don't know for sure--knows there's a market and aims at it. So there are versions of Marvel comics aimed specifically at younger kids which have more funny stuff, less angst and less blood and grittiness. But they still have the same characters.

Your best way to test these is to go to a local comic shop (if you have one). There will likely be a kid's-comics section and helpful, knowledgeable folks, and you can browse a few different ones.

That said:
1) I think the superhero comics aimed at the kids are total schlock (but my 8-year-old loves them).
2) I think comics are a read-to-yourself medium, not a read-to-your-kid medium, and would stick to reading other kinds of stories to your kid.

Comment Re:Personally.... (Score 1) 372

I've been on the reading-to side of that, and I hated reading comics to my kid, for exactly the reasons you mention. It's (when well-done) a nonlinear medium that doesn't take well to a linear reading. So, in our house, I would happily read lots of things with my kids, but left comics as a "you have to read it yourself" medium, and possibly therefore encouraging reading skills.

Comment $75 per hour (Score 1) 435

How much per hour does it cost to get an OK Cobol programmer to come fix stuff versus an OK Java programmer?

There are lots of possible reasons for the disparity, including, as others have pointed out, that a "line of code" doesn't mean the same thing between Cobol and Java, but if it's going to be reported in dollars instead of hours, then it needs to be made meaningful by the difference in costs for the two languages.

Comment I always buy my gas at the highest price! (Score 1) 676

O wait, no I don't.

"Economic models are always wrong", geez. So, when interest rates fell people didn't take out more loans? When unemployment is high, overall demand doesn't tend to drop? When cellphone service is provided by just a few carriers prices don't rise?

*Some* models are very sensitive to their parameterizations. And yeah, they'll be really tricky. Lots of economic models are really, basically, correct.

Comment Give yourself extra time, OR do post-hoc (Score 2) 211

At my university, I own the copyright by default, but when I tried to either do it public domain OR creative commons, the office which handles such things flipped out. They weren't angry or anything, they just didn't get it. It came down to doing things the usual way OR being late submitting and so not graduating. So, I have a typical copyright on my thesis.

However, now that I think about it (and you could do the same thing), since it's my copyright, there's nothing to stop me (or you) from re-publishing with a Creative Commons license after-the-fact. Hmmm....

Comment Hard to read aloud (Score 1) 127

It turns out not to be needed for our kid, who loves a bunch of different books, but I tried to motivate learning to read by nearly refusing to read him comics. That wasn't because I think they're bad, but because comics (once that use the medium well, at least) don't read aloud easily. As the reader, you constantly have to be deciding the chronology of which sounds/thoughts/voices come when, and whether to whisper, and when to say, "and Batman's thinking..." or whatever. And then you've got maybe a bunch of panels with no words at all, and do you say anything for them or let the pictures speak for themselves?

Blah, It's just not fun for me reading those aloud. So, they're reserved for solo reading.

Comment Nerds dominate media (Score 1) 401

OK, maybe overstated. But I think it was 2 years ago or so that I saw Conan O'Brien interviewing Quentin Tarantino, and WOW, those are two enormous nerds. From what I've seen of Tarantino, he can't help himself, and maybe O'Brien can but instead makes fun of himself for it. These are the people defining pop culture, and they're us (well, except they're a lot better at it than me, but...)

Comment short stories (Score 2, Interesting) 1021

Stick to short stories, exclusively or almost exclusively. Short stories have always been the medium which best captures SF, gets to the point the, "here's an idea, let's explore it some" nature of SF, while when things expand out to novel size it loses some of that (in spite of many great SF novels).

Plus, doing short stories makes it easier to keep people's attention, and less likely to lose people who've fallen a few chapters behind in the reading. Either you've read the story or you haven't. Changing stories day by day / week by week / whatever means you can get different styles in that appeal to different kids and break any monotony. It also gives you more flexibility to change your mind about course direction in the middle-if it seems like a good time to change direction, you don't have to finish slogging through the current novel first.

Also, you're not going to be able to cover the span of what you'd like to cover in one class, you'll have to leave things out. If you go with novels, you'll have to leave more things out.

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