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Diary
By lm (Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 05:27:33 PM EST) (all tags)
In Federalist No. 1, Alexander Hamilton predicts the Rise of Ann Coulter.  It's true. You read it here first.

And not on to the fact that if we work backwards from today, we find ourselves at yesterday ...



Sunday was magnificently quiet. After the liturgy, I dropped one daughter and the wife off at the nursing home that they volunteer at most Sundays and then dropped the other daughter off at the high school for her last performance of Sweeney Todd this weekend. Then I came home and did not much of anything. It was a much needed break. Eventually I wandered out to find a 9x9 baking pan and some sichuan pepper. Eventually everyone came home and we took take out from a local Nepalese/Indian place to celebrate my wife's new job.

The day before that was quite busy. Housework, cooking dinner for a party of nine, visiting with one of my daughter's friends (and his mom and brother) from out of town. The evening was capped by seeing my daughter's ``school edition'' production of Sweeney Todd.

I was surprised by Sweeney Todd. I've vaguely known the general plot arc since I was in grade school. But I've never seen the movie nor the musical. The plot seemed very classical in some ways, like a throw back to ancient days of Greek tragedy and not at all the modern or post-modern play that I had imagined that it would be. So I liked it.

When we got home and everyone that had come over for dinner and to see the play dispersed to the four corners of the earth, I did a bit of Googling. It turns out that while the musical was written in 1979, the drama that the musical was based on was written in the late 1800s and the urban legend that the original play was based on dates back to the early 1800s. By the time Dickens was writing, the urban legend was well spread enough to garner a reference in his Martin Chuzzlewit.

On the other hand, it would appear that many of the elements that I liked, the very ones that seem more classical than modern to my sensibilities, don't seem to have made it into the narrative until treatments in the seventies.

I'm also a bit surprised that I like Stephen Sondheim production. I think he had some clever lyrics in West Side Story and all but for the most part I've never been a big fan. The music for Sweeney Todd was jarring and hooked me from the claustrophobic opening scene.

:: :: :: :: ::

Earlier in the week, I was taking my wife somewhere, either to rehabilitation counseling or a job interview, and I heard a really interesting bit on a call-in show on the radio. The topic was education reform and they had someone representing the teacher's union side of things that threw an idea out that I hadn't heard before. He suggested that when people go into teaching that they understand that they won't be making spectacular wages. But what they do get is job security in a way that most other industries do not have job security. Without this tradeoff, quite a few teachers would not have gone into teaching. Consequently, to say to these teachers that their salary, and even their position, is now going to be contingent on merit is to break an implied contract.

That line of thought makes the opposition to merit based pay for teachers a little more comprehensible to me. Union opposition to merit based pay has always baffled me. But now there is at least one context where I can understand a bit of where they're coming from.

:: :: :: ::

I think I may have found the performance/reliability problem that's been giving me fits on the Leo Tard. I had a hard freeze of http traffic again. So I pulled up a console and ran ps aux to find a zillion and a half httpproxyd services running. That didn't strike me as quite right. So I brought up the system preferences and discovered that parental services was turned on. So I turned it off.

So my complaints about the Leo Tard aren't with the http stack after all, It's with the http proxy they use for managed accounts. it's the pants and drops core all over itself, leads to metric bajillions of zombie processes and eventually stops responding at all to requests which means all the http traffic is utterly FUBAR.

But web browsing is now quite a bit faster. I'm suspecting that it will also be quite a bit more reliable.

:: :: ::

The New Yorker has a really nice piece on the history of vampirism and Dracula in
In the Blood: Why do vampires still thrill?

The New Republic has a really nice, albeit overly condensed and biased, bit on the historical differences between socialism and liberalism. It's a good starting point for those unaware of most of the history. It's also a good piece to offer up to those who keep going on that Barrack Obama is the second coming of Karl Marx.

Also, dont forget that Stalin was a really, really nasty guy.

CNN has a nice, brief primer on the coup in Madagascar.

Nestle avoided the salmonella tainted peanut butter because they used their own inspectors to investigate suppliers. This was wise of Nestle. It's also a good illustration of why, in general, turning over safety investigation to non governmental bodies is a bad idea. Just like the agencies assigning ratings to Credit Default Swaps, the agencies investigating the peanut butter factories have a vested interest in supplying good reviews.

:: ::

I've got topics approved for all three term papers now. Now I just need to get into high gear on the writing. My course on Aquinas and De Anima was giving me fits as far as writing. Turns out that there is an interesting conundrum on why Aquinas took the view of Ibn Sina's theory of intellection that he did. Aquinas is a huge Ibn Sina fan and uses his writings, usually reworked, all over the place. Probably the two most prominent are the adaptation of Ibn Sina's so called Flying Man analogy to prove the immateriality of the soul and his proof of the existence of God based on the distinction between essence (what a thing is) and existence (that a thing is). Yet when it comes to the process of intellection, Aquinas lumps Ibn Sina in with Plato and waves his hands because he's already solved the problem with Platonism.

I've also got an appointment with a professor to speak about a possible MA thesis topic.

So now I just need to get going and stay going.

:: ::

Weight wise, I clocked in at 173 this morning. That's good. I'd like to drop just over half a stone more or so but I don't know if it's going to happen. It won't hurt to try.

Running wise, there is nothing new to report. Times continue to be between 8 and 8 and a half minutes for the morning mile. I did skip Friday. I felt like crap. Dry cough, malaise, etc.

Lifting wise, I'm pretty much where I was last week. Shoulder presses are still giving me troubles. So I decided to add a fourth set of shoulder presses so that I can still do all the reps that I would have done if I had done three full sets. This morning the fourth set was at 3/4 of a full set. Hopefully if I take this approach it will build up stamina and strength and I'll be able to do three full sets more quickly.

::

I forgot to mention one of the more amusing things about Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation. The edition I have has an appendix that consists of different seriously considered theological evaluations of the subject of whether or not someone who is said to be guilty of bestiality is deserving of being put to death.

The occasion of these opinions was an event that took place in 1642 where a young man from the Plymouth plantation was found to be guilty of buggering a horse, a cow, two goats, five sheep, two calves and a turkey. The sad young man was put to death upon his confession and after pointing out which animals it was that he had buggered so that they too could be put to death and their remains burned so as to prevent the further spread of such habits.

Maybe I'm confused but I don't think that bestiality is a communicable disease. It's also sad that two men convicted of raping 8 and 9 year old girls in 1941 were merely fined and whipped. Perhaps I should just be grateful that the young girls weren't put to death like the turkey.

Also, when questioned the young animal lover said that he had learned such dark practices ``in England.''

< My life is now complete. | Cortez the Killer on the roof, with a chain saw >
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Merit based pay by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #1 Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 05:46:08 PM EST
It sounds good, but how about if you call it "a bureaucratic estimate of merit based pay"?

In practice it sounds like a recipe for pointless target-chasing. Teach to the test, spend hours drilling them on format, heavily "hint" at the answers, boost the school's rank... and teacher gets a holiday this year.

Performance related pay only works if you can accurately measure performance. As soon as you try it with a measure that can be fudged, everyone's efforts are just bent towards fudging the measure.

Also there are Joel Spolsky's objections. Almost everyone thinks they are well above average. So even if you could measure performance accurately, you'd piss off the majority of your employees who are less than that.
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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

I mostly agree with that by lm (4.00 / 1) #2 Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 06:28:28 PM EST
One of my pet peeves is that `merit based pay' in regards to teaching usually equates to scores on standardized tests regardless of the amount of time a particular teacher has had a particular pupil. I think a sensible system would, at a minimum, take into account such things as comparing each students work to the year before. And, in order for the system to be maximally accurate, it should track graduation rates (and drop out rates) for every pupil a teacher has ever taught even if the teacher only teaches the lower grades. I think there are quite a few things that could go into a sensible merit based system for teachers. But they usually don't.

But the flip side is that the US presently has the problem of most school districts not being able to get rid of teachers that are absolute crap. For many districts the present seniority based systems make it exceedingly hard to fire someone that really ought to be fired. Of course, one doesn't necessarily need a `merit based' system to reform things sensibly. But reform certainly is needed.


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
Just had this discussion with my wife by ucblockhead (4.00 / 2) #3 Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 10:37:31 AM EST
One of the things she fears is that if merit pay for teachers based on test scores actually gets implemented, it will cause a yearly fight every year wherein try to pass off all the "lower" kids on everyone else. This already happens with the "problem" kids, of course. The worst bit is that it directly punishes those teachers who like to work with poor performing kids and are good with them. They end up getting most of these and then end up with crappy test scores at the end of the year.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
Value added? by Vulch (4.00 / 1) #4 Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 06:12:24 PM EST
Take a class of students who all get the results predicted from last years exams? No bonus.
Take a class and get a bunch of them scoring higher than expected? Bonus.

That's a large problem with the UK schools tables. The ones that get splashed about are those ordered by high level exam passes, but the schools are allowed to select by ability so the supposed gap between "good" and "poor" schools gets reinforced. Schools that actually help the kids raise their standard have a tough time getting the recognition they deserve.


[ Parent ]
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