Thursday, August 11, 2016

QOTD: Goal setting

Rita Rathbone:

How, exactly, does creating a goal in any way help you accomplish it? What is the point other than to establish an artificial sense of accomplishment by achieving some arbitrarily defined thing?

Apparently when I think that way it is my working class side showing.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Britain's Next Choice

Ian Welsh:

I have little patience for all the Brits who are wringing their hands about Labour and parking their votes in the Conservative party. This is a good, non-radical plan that will work. It is a plan of a government that wants to be good to the poor and the young. Corbyn is entirely credible on all of it since he stuck by these principles all thru the Thatcher and Blairite years.

If you’re planning to vote Conservative in the UK, when this is on offer, you’re just an asshole, a “I”ve got mine, fuck you Jack”, or someone who has bought so far into neo-liberal ideology that your political actions make you indistinguishable from an asshole, whether or not you think they “work”. (Especially as all the evidence is that the only work for a minority, presumably a minority which you belong to.)

Brits have something which most of the rest of us don’t in most of the Western world: the opportunity to vote for a government which is not the lesser evil, but which is actually good. If they blow it, as far as I’m concerned, the majority blame will be on Brits, not on Corbyn. This is a character test: do enough Brits still want government which tries to take care of everyone or not?

Remember, the Conservative government, among other policies, cut a program which gave disabled people things like wheelchairs. That resulted, literally, wheelchairs being taken away from cripples. That’s what you’re voting for if you vote Conservative, and yes, you should be judged on that.

Monday, August 08, 2016

QOTD: What (Danish) politicians want

William Frederiksen:

And that’s what politicians want! They want kids out of their rooms, away from screens, out there doing shit – basically what skateboarding’s all about.


This is why architects always photoshop some fucking skateboarder in the 3D plans when they propose them.


Yeah. This for instance is the headquarters of one of the largest banks in northern Europe. I called them up, told them “there’s going to be an event, we’re going to have some music, some drinking and it’s a skateboard event” – “oh we love the skaters, they hang out here all the time, yeah of course”.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Terminology Check

Like most Americans, I didn't understand this until I looked it up shortly before going to Scotland, and the "Brexit" discussion does not help because as usual, actual usage is inconsistent.


  • Great Britain is the big island containing England, Wales, and Scotland.
  • England is a nation made up of the part of Great Britain that is not Scotland or Wales.
  • The British Isles includes Great Britain, technically Ireland and thousands of other smaller islands.
  • The United Kingdom is made up of the nations of Great Britain, plus Northern Ireland.

Strictly speaking, saying "Britain" was voting on the EU exit yesterday doesn't really make sense. It was a UK vote. Most of the time when people talk about "Britain" in terms of politics, they mean the UK. In terms of culture, "British" generally means Great Britain (not Irish).

Who will take away the punch bowl?

So, Brexit won. As far as I can think of, this is the first time in recent memory that the populist right has cost the neo-liberal status quo a lot of money. It will be interesting to see what reaction this causes on both sides of the pond.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Let us praise Sly Stone, while he's still alive

Noah Berlatsky:

Stone may not be much thought about, but his music still sounds startlingly current. More than George Clinton, more than James Brown, more even perhaps than Prince, Sly and the Family Stone’s hits foreshadow the bricolage construction and magpie eclecticism of hip-hop. The first track on Sly Stone’s first album, 1967’s A Whole New Thing, opens with what is effectively a proto-sample: a horn riff from, of all things, Frère Jacques. ...

Maybe Stone would be a little more discussed or acknowledged if his message wasn’t so insistently political and uncomfortable. Still, the real reason there aren’t a bazillion Sly Stone think-pieces whooshing through the net isn’t because of that. It’s just a marketing failure. “Ain’t nobody got the thing I can hear / But if I have to I will yell in your ear,” he sang in one of his 70s tracks, Time for Livin’, but he’s been singularly bad at shouting in anyone’s ear for decades. The media needs a news peg, and when an artist isn’t releasing music, or performing, or maintaining the brand, it’s difficult to generate interest.

The one exception, of course, is that final news peg, death. If you’re not in the spotlight, nobody looks at you – until you die, at which point think piece writers are all given one last chance to consider your legacy. “You only funky as your last cut / You focus on the past your ass’ll be a has-what”, as Sly-and-Prince-disciple Andre 3000 said, back when he was still relevant and people wrote think pieces about him. Time and the media chug ahead, and Stevie Wonder’s career is less important at the moment than whatever Justin Bieber happened to say yesterday on Twitter. That’s pop, and there’s not much point in being bitter about it. Still, it’s worthwhile to take a moment now and then to think about the legends while they’re here, rather than waiting for that arbitrary online instant when everybody all at once will be allowed to remember, after Sly’s left, how important it was for him to have been here all along.

One thing I like about Sirius XM (satellite radio) in the car is that when someone like Bowie or Prince dies they dedicate a channel to his or her music for several weeks playing deep cuts and allowing me to go through the appropriate stages of semi-grieving for a great artist I've never much cared for: indifference, questioning of one's taste, guilt, remembering that 90% of the artist's work is not your thing and the rest mostly sounds dated outside of the handful of cuts you started thinking of in phase 2, smug reassurance.

Anyhow, point is the article in the Guardian is right on -- Sly Stone sounds as current and as perfect as ever. Sign me up for the Praising Sly Before He's Dead movement.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Exciting Start to Opening Day

Very clever of the ICC and MLB to have the T20 Cricket World Cup championship match end pretty much exactly as the first pitch of the Major League Baseball season was thrown. Baseball will be lucky to come up with as dramatic an ending to the World Series as the West Indies getting four sixes in a row in the final over to overtake England.

I wish I'd picked up on the T20 World Cup sooner -- it is really the only cricket tournament I'd even half-way be able to follow, unless I add some channels to our FIOS package and somehow develop a rooting interest in one of the clubs in the Indian Premier League.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Meanwhile, back in the ancestral homeland...

Kylie Hawn:

A heated argument over free expression versus racial intimidation regarding the Confederate flag took place at an emergency public meeting called by administrators of the Southern Huntingdon County Middle/High School Wednesday evening.

Superintendent Mike Zinobile said the meeting was called Wednesday afternoon when unrest started brewing in the community after nine students were suspended for displaying the Confederate flag on their vehicles.

He explained to the approximately 60 parents, students, board members and community members who attended the meeting, at which state police were present, the suspension stemmed from more than just students displaying the flag.

“We had a recent issue that was reported in the Police Log of The Daily News,” said Zinobile. “A couple of weeks ago, a student constructed a noose while he was on a district bus and hung it on the ceiling. While that was done, there were also racial slurs and comments directed at two minority students indicating they should be hanged.

OBE -> SBE -> CBE -> ?BE

I mostly agree with Peter Greene's on the malign take on what we now call "competency-based assessment." He sees it more as the return of "outcome based assessment" 20 years later, whereas I see the standards-based era as a continuous evolutionary thread of the the same theme, with slight rebranding.

The underlying problem is that there is no real theory underpinning the action. I mean, people have probably written some theory about the nature of standards, competencies, etc., but it is not cited or used in K-12 education. Nobody actually refers to it. You can never definitively say that someone's competency list is incorrectly designed, for example, because there is no recognized authority on the question of competency design.

Beyond that, there's not much alternative theory. That is, nobody really wants to defend assessing learning by Carnegie units instead of directly tracking student learning, although one can probably empirically show that it works well enough in various high performing systems around the world, despite its apparent logical flaws.

Put another way, when has anyone decided not to send their child to an elite prep school because it tracked graduation requirements by course credit, not competency?

When it comes to the administration of justice, I am in favor of legal systems based on written law, with the caveat that the efficacy of the system is entirely dependent on the quality and fairness of the laws, not to mention the many details of their implementation. Being generically in favor of outcome/standards/competency/skill-based education is equivalent to being in favor of a law-based justice system. Yes, of course! But if you don't have a good set of laws, based on a foundation of legal theory and scholarship, it doesn't get you far, and even then, the success of the system is entirely dependent on administration and implementation. In this metaphor, we're trying to write "laws," or competencies, without a constitution, law library, legal scholars or firm theory of law.