Thursday, July 31, 2008

Worth reading: For teachers

From Teacher Magazine: "Teaching Secrets: Five Tips for the New Teacher" by Cindi Rigsbee:
I feel strongly that it's important to be cheerleaders for our profession. I am weary from hearing "if you can't do ... teach" and other misrepresentations of what we do every day. We have to market ourselves as the professionals we are. Some folks have the idea that teachers are still Charlie Brown's wa-wa-wa-ing lecturers, whacking kids with yard sticks if they misbehave. But we know real teachers are committed professionals who believe in purposeful instruction and who have our students' best interests at heart. As we speak to others, in the grocery store or by the neighborhood pool, we must embody that professionalism—not fuel the negative fires that surround so many schools.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A victory for intellectual property

I am often critical of "my generation" and its habit of entitlement - specifically, thinking that everything belongs to them.

From the Boston Globe:

NEW YORK - Facebook Inc., owner of the biggest US social-networking site, said the developers of Scrabulous stopped offering the word game in the United States and Canada after a lawsuit by Hasbro Inc., the maker of Scrabble.

Facebook members who try to access the application receive a message that says the game, which has 509,505 users a day, is disabled until further notice.

Users have started more than a dozen groups urging Facebook to keep offering Scrabulous. The largest had more than 45,000 members as of yesterday.

Scrabulous is no exception. Intellectual property is just that - property. People don't have the right to steal the ideas of others, even if they acknowledge the theft, and most especially, they don't have the right to profit off of those ideas.

Scrabble the game is a concept - and the Scrabulous creators sold ads and made money off their wildly popular app - but it was not their intellectual property to use. (In the interests of not covering up hypocrisy - I played Scrabulous. )

I'm glad Scrabulous is shut down, and even more glad that there is a legal version available. We buy knockoff purses, download movies and music for free, and accuse the people who create them of being corporate sellouts. But nothing is truly free, and our desire to always get something for nothing is an appalling characteristic.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Math Is Harder for Girls by Heather Mac Donald, City Journal 28 July 2008

Last week, the New York Times reported that boys and girls perform equally in math, as quoted: “researchers looked at the average of the test scores of all students, the performance of the most gifted children and the ability to solve complex math problems. They found, in every category, that girls did as well as boys.”

The excellent City Journal points out the fallacies and distortions in the claims made by the Times.
Math Is Harder for Girls by Heather Mac Donald, City Journal 28 July 2008: "The Wall Street Journal, it should be noted, had no difficulty grasping the two main findings of the Science study: that “girls and boys have roughly the same average scores on state math tests,” as Keith J. Winstein reported on July 25, but that “boys more often excelled or failed.” That the New York Times, in an article over twice as long as the Journal’s, couldn’t manage to squeeze in a reference to the fact that boys outperformed girls at the top end of the curve should put its readers on notice: trust nothing you read here."
I note this for two reasons: one, to suggest that there is nothing untrue about stating that boys are different than girls, and two, to mock the New York Times.

As a teacher of teens and pre-teens, it is a daily reality to me to see students whose genders are somewhat predictive of their abilities and choices. Boys will be more likely to blow off work simply because they don't care; girls are more likely to let interpersonal conflicts take priority over everything. Women outnumber men in education programs and men outnumber women in college-level math. (Predictably, anecdotal evidence suggests that at Harvard, where I am currently studying math education, the women and men are evenly numbered.) What's wrong with that?

Feminism exists to fight the culture that told women they must be X because they are women. That's discrimination - closing doors on the basis of gender, and gender alone. In a world where women can choose any profession and lifestyle, the Lawrence Summers brouhaha is nothing but a long-dead horse that classical feminists love to beat. But if women choose not to take math in college, who is crying foul if these women do prefer cooking, fashion and scrapbooking? There is a small area at the top - 99th percentile - where there is a substantial gender gap for whites. The rest of us have no need to care about this statistic as anything other than an oddity reflecting the occasional significance of the possession of a Y-chromosome.

The feminists of our era could find better uses for their time and political capital - like maternity leave policies in this country and breast-feeding in the workplace - two tasks that even the most enlightened man can't take on.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Associated Press: Prof whose 'last lecture' became a sensation dies

The Associated Press: Prof whose 'last lecture' became a sensation dies

Randy Pausch died today. This video is well worth watching:

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Who doesn't love the train station?

From today's Boston Globe:
Change is brewing in Newton. And resident Denis Goodwin is boiling mad.

Last week, Goodwin created an online petition to protest the closing of the Starbucks at 70 Union St. As of late yesterday, nearly 100 people had offered support at

Starbucks Corp. plans to close 600 stores nationwide, seven in Massachusetts. There are efforts afoot to save other stores across the country.
As much as I love Starbucks, I agree with this guy that the decision to close the train station Starbucks is a really stupid one. It's a great Starbucks - vast, comfy, and unique. There are 187 signers of the petition, but that doesn't strike me as a blow to corporate America.

Sad times, I suppose.

Monday, July 21, 2008

On wedding presents

Here in North America, actual gifts are just as common as ones of cash. And while Ari and I had a registry for items like plates, cutting boards and the garlic press, we also deeply appreciated the cash we got for things like an eventual down payment on a house, and paying off student loans.

The Israeli custom of only bringing monetary gifts is one of the many things I don't "get" about Israel. Consider this:

Gift credit

We’re in the thick of the Israeli wedding season and wedding present methodology has just reached new heights of absurdity.

Wedding hosts can now rent an automated teller machine that takes guests’ credit cards, allowing them to punch in a shekel figure and leave a ‘gift’ for the bride and groom that is transferred into their bank account the next day. The machine, which is rented for NIS 500, even prints out a deposit slip for the guests who can sign a quick mazal tov and slip it in a box for the happy couple.

Posted using ShareThis

I have strong opinions about not buying returnable gifts, having wished many times that people had not wasted their money buying me art that is not to my taste and items I'd never find useful. But ultimately, a gift needs to be freely given to be a gift ... otherwise, it's noting but extortion.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Some fun Canada-day themed stuff online

The original "I am Canadian" commercial:

The second, better "I am Canadian" commercial:

And, of course, the Canada Day quiz from Maclean's. (Don't worry, I failed, too.)

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Next Food Network Star: Who I Love and Who I Tolerate

My current favorite is Lisa Garza, profiled on the "Serious Eats" blog as "love her or hate her".
It's totally true - I was not into her at all in the first episode. She came across as unapproachable and snobby. In the last few episodes, she's totally come to life and shown her fun and vulnerable side. I think her cooking is cool and I would totally watch her on Food Network.

My second choice to win is Kelsey - she's also what I would describe as "a lot of fun". I watch Food Network obsessively, but I am only drawn to shows that don't take themselves too seriously - like Ace of Cakes. I could watch a Kelsey show - maybe not always.

I'm not so into:
1. Adam. He's hip and fun, but he is too much of a goofball for me. Also, I don't watch many shows centered around male hosts.
2. Shane. He's a good cook, but not memorable.
3. Aaron. He's also a good cook, but not so articulate.

As for the people who went home - I'm sad for Jennifer, but I wasn't so impressed with her authority. I could do what she does. Otherwise, I don't miss anybody.

Go Lisa go!