Archive for: January, 2010

In which the school newspaper's article on H1N1 vaccination angries up my blood.

This, our first week of classes of the Spring semester, also marked the return of regular publication of the daily student newspaper. Since I'm not behind on grading yet (huzzah for the first week of classes!), I picked up yesterday's copy and read one of the front-page articles on my way to my office.
And dagnabbit if that article didn't angry up my blood.
The trouble is, I'm having a hard time figuring out where properly to direct that anger.

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25 responses so far

Friday Sprog Blogging: ferrets.

Jan 29 2010 Published by under Critters, Kids and science

The elder Free-Ride offspring, always a fan of mustelids, has lately taken a particular interest in ferrets.
Given that Casa Free-Ride is located in the great state of California, this interest in ferrets has also spurred an interest in state law. In California, it's illegal to keep ferrets as pets.
According to the elder Free-Ride offspring, there is much to appreciate about ferrets:

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10 responses so far

An open letter

... to the student in my "Ethics in Science" course.
Today was our second class meeting, which is essentially the first real class meeting -- the one in which, instead of just focusing on the overall arc of the course, and the assignments you'll be doing, and the mechanics of finding the information you need on the course website, there was actual content to discuss.

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6 responses so far

Last-minute weekend plans.

It's true that I recently returned from a fairly geeky conference, but I just found out about one happening practically in my backyard. And, given that I don't yet have any papers to grade, I figured I should check it out.
(Today is the last day to register without paying the late registration fee, in case that helps you make up your mind.)
From the web page:

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One response so far

Search term hilarity.

Jan 26 2010 Published by under Blogospheric science, Passing thoughts

While I meet my students and try to mitigate freak-outs about enrollments, I offer for your consideration some of the search strings that brought people to this blog during the month of January:

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12 responses so far

Spring term faculty meeting: it's still an exploding monkey factory in here.

Jan 25 2010 Published by under Academia, Passing thoughts, Personal

(As before, I'm still not sure whether, in the metaphor, the factory is building monkeys or staffed by monkeys. Perhaps, really, we're in the business of making educated monkeys, and the problem is that our administration views this as akin to making widgets. Anyway, the point is: Explosions! Chaos! Shrieking! Brachiating along the pieces of wreckage!)
We had our beginning-of-the-semester faculty meeting today, and I have to conclude that our department is in an abusive relationship with the university (and system) administration.
Why I'm convinced of this is the simple fact that we have little to no idea what will make them spank us, at least not in advance of being spanked.

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10 responses so far

Friday Sprog Blogging: getting organ-ized.

Jan 22 2010 Published by under Kids and science

Early this month, my better half got something for the Free-Ride offspring that is somewhere in the realm of "this will be edifying, but maybe they'll find it cool, and if they don't then at least the grown-ups will have fun playing with it".
So far, it has been all of the above.
It's a human anatomy model (not life-size, thanks), and here's the state I found it in this morning:


Obviously, this isn't going to stifle my children's creativity.

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5 responses so far

Civility and politeness.

In a comment on a post at Henry Gee's blog (I'd link the comment itself, but for the life of me I cannot figure out where the permalink is), Ed Yong offers his view on the relation between politeness and civility. Quoth Ed:

My objection comes when people mistake politeness for virtue rather than what it actually is - artifice masquerading as virtue. Politeness is what you teach children to tell them when and how to speak and behave before they are fully rational and capable of thinking through the moral consequences of their words and actions.

Adults, being (technically) able to do this should arrive at their words/actions through more sophisticated means. It's the difference between "I won't say that because it's rude and is therefore wrong" and "I won't say that because it has the following consequences and is therefore wrong".

Politeness is a route towards true civility and not an endpoint in itself. It's civility for beginners. The big problem is that when people forget this fairly basic difference and focus on the polite/pleasant aspect without the deeper, underlying stuff, all sorts of incivil behaviour goes unnoticed because it's said under the veneer of politeness.

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10 responses so far

What to do with the cheater once caught.

Back in December (or as we academics call it, Exam-Grading Season), esteemed commenter Ewan told us about a horrifying situation that was unfolding for him:

Probably not totally relevant, but frankly I'm still in a little shock.
Graded exams Friday evening before heading out for weekend. Noted some really strong efforts (take-home exam), some really lame, nothing special. Then: two word-for-word identical, typos-and-all, answers with *many* unique characteristics compared to all other answerers of that Q, even down to the same joke-aside-to-the-professor.
Ack, really? Check. Yep, really, and true for about four Qs (of 27) on this short-answer format take-home final (given this way because somewhat akin to Janet, I also want them to demonstrate knowledge even if they have to use a book or the net for some facts/help. Anyway..).
I'm still in shock; some details adding to shock are unpostable b/c of identification possibilities in public.
I send email to the two: "I need to speak to you regarding your final; are you around next week?"
From A: detailed reason, perfectly fine, why no. Also unbloggable.
From B: "Yes. If this has anything to do with similarities between A's paper and my own, I want to talk with you privately."
Well, there goes any possibility that I was wrong, huh? Wow. And what a response to send!
Oh, and: f*ck.

That last part of Ewan's comment is relevant because I suspect some students believe that the people grading their papers are giddy with glee when they find evidence of cheating.
We are not.

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28 responses so far

#scio10 aftermath: first thoughts on "Online Civility and Its (Muppethugging) Discontents."

There was one session at ScienceOnline2010 which I did not Tweet as it was going on -- the session I led with Sheril Kirshenbaum and Dr. Isis. Here's how that session was described in the conference program:

Online Civility and Its (Muppethugging) Discontents - Janet Stemwedel, Sheril Kirshenbaum and Dr.Isis

Description: Janet, Sheril, and Isis regularly write about the role of civility in dialog with the public and other scientists. In this session, we will discuss the definition of civility, its importance in the communication of science, and how the call to civility can be used to derail discourse. Additionally, we will discuss the importance of finding the appropriate balance of civility and tolerance for what gets labeled as incivility in reaching and engaging each other. We reserve the right to use the words "balls," "muppethugger," and "wackaloon," to FWDAOTI liberally, and cannot guarantee that at least one of the moderators will not lose her junk. Discuss here.

The session was ... eventful.

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14 responses so far

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