Thursday, April 30, 2009

Higher Ed is Broken

This NYTimes article nails the problems with higher education in a way that I can only envy. In one article Mr. Taylor manages to clearly lay out the over arching problems with our education system. Not only that he lays out solutions to the problems quite cleanly:

"1. Restructure the curriculum, beginning with graduate programs and proceeding as quickly as possible to undergraduate programs. The division-of-labor model of separate departments is obsolete and must be replaced with a curriculum structured like a web or complex adaptive network. Responsible teaching and scholarship must become cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural.

2. Abolish permanent departments, even for undergraduate education, and create problem-focused programs. These constantly evolving programs would have sunset clauses, and every seven years each one should be evaluated and either abolished, continued or significantly changed.

3. Increase collaboration among institutions.

4. Transform the traditional dissertation. In the arts and humanities, where looming cutbacks will be most devastating, there is no longer a market for books modeled on the medieval dissertation, with more footnotes than text.

5. Expand the range of professional options for graduate students. Most graduate students will never hold the kind of job for which they are being trained. It is, therefore, necessary to help them prepare for work in fields other than higher education.

6. Impose mandatory retirement and abolish tenure. Initially intended to protect academic freedom, tenure has resulted in institutions with little turnover and professors impervious to change."

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Rise of the "Nones"

There is a very interesting article over at NYTimes (again) discussing the rise of the Athiests in this country. They discuss the difference between a poll in 1990 and a poll recently completed in 2008. Here is the jist:

"Polls show that the ranks of atheists are growing. The American Religious Identification Survey, a major study released last month, found that those who claimed “no religion” were the only demographic group that grew in all 50 states in the last 18 years.
Nationally, the “nones” in the population nearly doubled, to 15 percent in 2008 from 8 percent in 1990. In South Carolina, they more than tripled, to 10 percent from 3 percent. Not all the “nones” are necessarily committed atheists or agnostics, but they make up a pool of potential supporters."

Where does this put me?

Now I happen to be Agnostic. In case you don't know what that means, I basically don't believe that either side of the argument has any definitive proof on the existance of God. (Don't get me wrong, I believe in the Big Bang, Evolution, and all that wonderous jazz, not to mention I think that all that hokey crap in Genesis and various other places in the Bible, ie Revelations, is a bunch of fireside tall-tale lengend bullshit.) I mean prove or disprove the existance of God and I will be right there with either the believing or non-believing zealots. But right now, I'm on the fence and happy to be there. Show me proof and I'll hop off. 

So back to my question, Where does this put me? I wouldn't say I'm a non-believer, but I'd also say that I am definately not a believer either. I'd say I'm more comfortable around athiests, but I have some great relationships with very devout Catholics.  Anyway, here is to rationality and the God of the Utterly Indifferent.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Student Loans Underwater?

There is a loan term that has been flying around lately, "underwater" is when you owe more than something is worth. Lately, I've been hearing this term used to describe student loans- something people would have considered ludicrous 5-10 years ago. Yet here we are. I read these two (article1 and article2 from NYTimes and Slate respectively) different articles in the last two days describing the situation as the following; students who are educated and skilled cannot get jobs, have to take lower paying much crappier jobs, and can't really keep up on their student loan payments. What is worse is that student loans are FOR LIFE and BEYOND! You cannot claim bankruptcy and get out of student loans, the follow you through the bankruptcy and wait on the other side with accrued interest. What is more is that you can even DIE and they will get passed on to the closest relative. That fact still boggles my mind. 

The first article says that you shouldn't owe more than you will make in one year. After two degrees, I am happy to say that I am managing to say above that low water mark. I am sad to say, barely.

Now for the good news. I found out that all of the interest I payed on student loans (nearly $2,000 for last year alone that's $2,000 I could have burned and gotten more out of) is deductible from your income. This is deductible is in addition to the standard standard whatever $5k deduction, and in addition to the individual whatever $3k deduction. So it is possible to jack yourself into a lower tax bracket by eating rice and living in Wyoming while paying those loans off asap. This was the difference between owing the gov't and having them owe me on this year's return. Also, as the end of that second article points out, if you think that us college graduates are fucked, just imaging how the high school graduates must feel right now...but then again they didn't get sold anything...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Raise the Nation's IQ?

This article from Nicholas Kristoff at the NYTimes discusses a book written by at (ahem) University of Michigan psychology professor Richard Nisbet. Anyone who is interested in education/academia/students and IQ, I suggest you read it.

For me the most interesting section was about telling middle school/high school students that a person's intelligence is malleable and expandable. This is in some (but not all) conflict with the genetic view of IQ, which has scientific support, but there is also support for education/experience increasing a person's IQ. For example, kids IQ goes down over summer break, but then returns to higher levels when school begins again (more reason for more schooling and smaller breaks). Either way, they found that students performed better, got better grades, and generally tried harder when told that they had the power to change their intelligence. In particular girls did better at math because they didn't have the excuse that "Girls don't get math." Instead they were thinking, if I am bad at this, then I can work hard and get better. Now, granted there will always be people who are naturally smarter, and people who are particularly better at one subject versus another, however, I just think that as a principle a you-can-do-whatever-you-put-your-mind-to-philosophy is a good standard to set.

Bolinas Sea Wall

Do you like this program or think it sucks? Having fun with it or think that it is annoying?
I also published the full version over at the photoblog.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

(Nothing but) Flowers by John G. McDaid

"No horror could be worse than now and real."

From this free on-line novella, it is sci-fi post-apocalyptic goodness. I haven't finished it so if the ending sucks I apologize

Monday, April 13, 2009

Nice Large Picture Viewer

From the website comes this nice picture viewer.

And another

When you mouse over the pictures you can use your mouse wheel to zoom in and out of the picture. I recommend starting by zooming out until you can see the whole thing and then zoom in on regions of interest like the Bay and Golden Gate Bridges. The first picture doesn't work as well because the long exposure messes with the crispiness on zooming into the image.

Always Shoot RAW!

Never heard it put any better than from this 13 tips on outdoor portraits- I mean come on, trade RAW for cheap memory?

"A thousand times these words have bellowed from my mouth, and it will surely come out a million more. Raw is an unmodified compilation of your sensors data during the time of exposure. It is your digital negative. When you shoot in JPG format, everything but what the image processor needs to make a shell representation of the image you intended to capture is stripped away. For every edit you make to a JPG, you lose more data. With RAW, you can make a vast range of edits before creating the JPG. How can this make you portrait better? Think about the last time your white balance was set incorrectly, and you tried for hours to remove the color cast only to destroy the image with every attempt. RAW would have saved you by allowing you to fix the color before opening the image for retouching."

Two Protests Compared

I'd like to take a minute and compare two very different protests in two very different countries in two very different parts of the world. The first occurred a little over a week ago at the beginning of April in London, England. The protest was over the G20 summit, globalisation, world trade, etc. The hipsters showed up in their tight black faded jeans, cute little caps, and razor blade hair-dos. The thing that really blew me away was seeing all of the photographers that showed up for the event. I mean seriously guys, it's called Flickr- share. 
The second protest occurred in Bangkok, Thailand over the weekend. These protesters are all dressed in red, wearing bandannas to deal with the tear gas, have machetes, slingshots, Molotov cocktails. These folks are taking on the army rather than the bobbies, and they even blew up a few buses. Now, I am not condoning violence. Violence is bad period, and I don't like the nature of the Thais protest, but you really have to hand it to them. No gaggles of photographers following them around as they break windows, oh no, this is clearly too dangerous for that kind of coverage. Maybe it is just me, but our western protests seem practically benign compared to what has been coming out of Asia these days...maybe it is just me, but is this the difference between a newer democracy and an older one looks it just pure complacency? 

Pictures were taken from the Big Picture, and The Frame respectively. 

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Mt. Tam to the Sea Hike - via Steep Ravine

While staying at the Steep Ravine cabins we went on an epic day hike from the ocean to Mt. Tamalpais the local maximum. It was pretty rough, being 14.5 miles and 2500ft, I think I tweeked my ankle a bit, and I'm sore, but shall live on. There were many interesting things along the way. There is an inn that you must hike to with its own pancake breakfast. The stream down to the ocean was beautiful. I took the super zoom and while it was nice, I didn't take as many pictures because of lighting issues. 

Steep Ravine Campground

This last weekend Liz, Brian, and I went to Steep Ravine Campground with the Winking Lotus crew. We had to rent these cabins out in October, because the advanced reservations are that far out! It was well worth being online early in the morning many months ago for what we got in return. The cabins were on a cliff facing the ocean with huge windows. The first night we arrived the almost full moon showed up just after we got settled into the site. We had a great time hanging out with our friends, having some great margaritas, laughs etc. It really makes me wish that I had more time to spend being outside and seeing the pretty places California has to offer. 

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

AP Says Show Me the Money


This or rather the lawsuits that results may be game changing. Many more people are getting their news on-line for free which is causing a void of revenue for media generators like the newspapers. The television model will break as well if they can't figure out how to make money off of internet television. Perhaps this will all boil down to a direct transferrance between the content creator and the content consumer, skip the middle man- the content "provider" (meaning the network broadcaster, the music industry giant, or the newspaper itself.)

Monday, April 06, 2009

Cats, and Rats, and Animals!

Liz and I were walking around the financial district this weekend in a failed attempt to get some bargain first editions from a closing bookstore when we came upon this unlikely trio. They were part of a team working for their keep on the streets with a homeless fellow. Keeping these guys fed and cared for earned him some bills from the small crowd. 

Saturday, April 04, 2009

10,000 Hits!

In the lifetime of this blog it has had 10,000 hits total! Of those, 6,000 have been in the last year! 

Friday, April 03, 2009

Unlikely Defenders of Gay Marriage - Iowans

You know that the world is in a weird strange state of affairs when California rejects gay marriage and IOWA defends it! Link

The Iowa State Supreme Court unanimously (!)  upheld a county ruling saying that marriage should not be limited to one man and one woman (what about otters though).  They are they third state nationally to approve of these rights, and the first midwestern state to do so. The California State Supreme Court will be returning their ruling on the legality of Proposition 8 sometime in the next month or two. 

My thing is really WHO FUCKING CARES!!! I'm straight, why do I care what gay people do? It doesn't even effect me in any tangible way. Give them their tax breaks, give them their healthcare, give them their right to collect their partner's estate. WHO CARES!!! Religious zealots, you are not God, and thus, have no business saying what you think God thinks about gay people. For all we know, God could be a hermapherdite- both sexes. Sure as hell makes more sense than some white bearded Zeus like character, or wait that was the Pagans right?

Anyway, whoever you are, whoever really cares about this issue and thinks that family values are going to be fucked up by the gays...please, please just let it go. It really isn't that big of a deal when you consider all of the other things we could/should be doing with our tax dollars. 

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Hail! Hail! The Gangs All Here!

These are the lovely people I was hanging out with this weekend. In order; the Lady Liz, Heather and Dave- his brother Brian and Anne, Nick and Anna, the man Ray(mundo). Sorry to Ryan and Holly for not getting a good head shot of them.  

What Saturation Gets You

This first panorama always felt kinda flat and lacking color. After talking to Dave about his white balance settings, I've been a bit more generous with the saturation and have been happy with the results. I will still, always and forever, argue in favor of shooting with RAW formats so that you can always fiddle with the white balance/color settings postforma and have it be lossless. Any of you that have Canon products, like point and shoots (Powershot etc), I suggest you check out a hack that you can do to shoot in RAW (and access a shit ton of other cool options not normally available). Link

Without much saturation increase.

With a good amount of saturation increase.