Public school education

Not an autodidact

My only education-related experience has been passive, as a recipient. From kindergarten through 12th grade, I attended public schools in Las Cruces, New Mexico. I loved learning algebra, calculus, chemistry, English literature, French, U.S. history, physics, drafting, home economics, and orchestra. I find it difficult to learn from self-instructional materials. Learning by doing is effective, but requires some guidance.

K-12 education

I perceive betrayal of public interest throughout the U.S.A., due to federal government educational policy. New York City is especially troubled. Exceptionally wealthy individuals with ZERO experience or training in education have decided that they know what is best for America’s children.

The 0.1% of the 0.1%

The Brookings Institute describes them as the 0.1% of 0.1% in assets. Assets held is a robust metric for gauging wealth. It is important to distinguish between wealth and income. Income fluctuates from year to year, even for the wealthy. Causes vary. Some have profound impact, such as significant reversals of fortune. Some are merely transitory, e.g. accounting losses reported in order to minimize impact of tax law changes. These 0.1% of 0.1% individuals choose to actively direct the projects that are beneficiaries of their philanthropy.

Philanthropy, education reform and charter schools

Most education reform activists, or perhaps investors, have no knowledge, nor experience in public school education. Rather, they are exceptionally capable leaders of global software conglomerates. Others have great prowess as hedge fund managers, venture capitalists or real-estate moguls. Several are Wal-Mart family scions. Education reformers who have children educate them at private schools like Philips Andover or Choate, yet they claim that charter school operators provide a superior education, compared to public schools in the U.S.A.

Comparison of charter and public ed chart

Statistically questionable comparison of charter versus public school performance via Wikipedia


Published in: on May 17, 2014 at 9:28 am  Comments (9)  
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Taleb and the language of risk

Last night, I read about Nicholas Nassim Taleb on English Language and Usage StackExchange (EL&U). Professor Taleb wants to introduce a new word to the vocabulary of global financial collapse, antifragility:

So let us coin the appellation “antifragile” for anything that, on average, (i.e. in expectation) benefits from variability.

Consensus on EL&U was that this was a creative but unnecessary neologism. I echo the concerns of my EL&U comrades: Antifragility might cause confusion (maybe it is “anti-fragility”). There are many adequate, extant words that Taleb could use, however, antifragility is a term that will be uniquely associated with him.

I am not convinced that there are many entities that actually thrive due to uncertainty. A delta hedge that is long volatility is the only construct that I can think of off-hand. Perhaps that was what Taleb had in mind.

The original Black Swan

book cover of black swan with navy background

The Black Swan by Thomas Mann; 1954 UK First Edition

There was a slightly less contemporary black swan, the novella written by Nobel-prize winner Thomas Mann toward the end of his long and distinguished literary career.

The plot of that short fiction work also pertained to an anomalous event, one that could be considered a statistical outlier. (more…)

Published in: on February 1, 2012 at 6:28 am  Comments (8)  
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Good Code



xkcd: Good Code.

Published in: on January 7, 2011 at 6:19 am  Comments (2)  
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Science Tattoo Emporium

Discovery Magazine’s dizzying assortment of blogs include The Loom, written by science author and Yale lecturer Carl Zimmer.  I’ve culled a few of my favorites from his gallery of science-themed tattoos, The Science Tattoo Emporium. There are over 150 images, with each tattooed scientist, engineer, mathematician or wannabe explaining his or her tattoo’s meaning and personal significance.

Chemistry PhD from Cornell Tattoo: C. writes

I got this tattoo as an homage to the pain of my graduate work. It’s a model of fulvic acid which is a representation of natural organic matter in the soil. I work with this molecule for my grad work and I figured I might as well get it etched into my skin so I can look at it and say, ‘Well, at least it hurt less than grad school at Cornell.

Organic Chem PhD at Cornell

MM, Quartermaster 1st class, USN, writes: “I have been fortunate enough to be paid by the government to get ships from pt. A to pt. B serving in the US Navy…. I was drawn to navigation when I joined. In my opinion, it is the only job in the military that is both a science and an art…. it is important for Navigators to remain proficient in the old ways to fix a ship’s position using a sextant and trigonometry. My tattoo is the visual depiction of how to plot a line of position from a celestial body using the altitude intercept method… it serves as a reminder that while technology improves, the sea remains an unpredictable place….”

Celestial Navigation Tattoo

Power of Science in Living Color

Alan writes:
“After much consideration, I decided to get an atom tattoo. But what atom? Given that I’m an graduate student in organic chemistry at the University of Michigan, carbon seemed like the obvious choice. It also has the advantage of being small enough not to look too crowded. I went for a retro 50’s Jetsons sort of look. Believe it or not, the general shape (though not the coloring) is based on a piece of Microsoft Office clip-art.”

Power of the Atomic Tattoo

Carbon Atom Tattoo

Published in: on July 25, 2010 at 5:27 am  Comments (3)  
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