Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The religious policeman

I came across an interesting site called the The Religious Policeman by a Saudi man critical of the Kingdom's policies. The site has some excellent pictures as well.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Little Sammy gets another F

According to a Washington Post article, the gap between U.S. students and their Asian and European counterparts in the sciences and math continues to grow! Perhaps China will give us Most Favored Nation Status and allow us to flip their hamburgers.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Mass-media and Democracy

Today I came across an interesting article by Agner Fog titled The supposed and real role of mass-media in democracy.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Blogging as hegemonic discourse

Anti-everything has an interesting post in which he poses the question of how to bring "positive, progressive change worldwide without imposing the form and content of that change. . . . Are blogging and other forms of Internet activism just new modes of bourgeois hegemonic discourses?"

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Birth of a new nation...

The found the following post, quoted in full from Dialogic, particularly funny.

California: Dear President Bush
(courtesy of mother in San Diego, CA--lifelong independent)

Dear President Bush:

Congratulations on your victory over all us non-evangelicals. Actually, we're a bit ticked off here in California, so we're leaving you. California will now be its own country. And we're taking all the Blue States with us. In case you are not aware, that includes Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, all of the North East States, and the urban half of Ohio.

We spoke to God, and she agrees that this split will be beneficial to almost everybody, and especially to us in the new country of California. In fact, God is so excited about it, she's going to shift the whole country at 4:30 pm EST this Friday. Therefore, please let everyone know they need to be back in their states by then. God is going to give us the Pacific Ocean and Hollywood. In addition, we're getting San Diego. (Sorry, that's just how it goes.) But God is letting you have the KKK and country music (except the Dixie Chicks).

Just so we're clear, the country of California will be pro-choice, pro-gay, and anti-war. Speaking of war, we're going to need all Blue States citizens back from Iraq. If you need people to fight in Falujah, just ask your evangelical voters. They have tons of kids they're willing to send to their deaths for absolutely no purpose. And they don't care if you don't show pictures of their kids' caskets coming home. So, you get Texas and all the former slave states, and we get the Governator and stem cell research. (We would love you to take Britney Spears off our hands, though. She IS from the south, right?). Since we get New York, you'll have to come up with your own late night TV shows because we get MTV, Letterman, the Daily Show, and Conan O'Brien. You get... well, why don't you ask your people at Fox News to come up with something entertaining? (Maybe you should just watch Crossfire. That's a really funny show.)

We wish you all the best in the next four years, and we hope, really hope, you find those missing weapons of mass destruction. Seriously. Soon.

Sincerely,

California

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

N'est pas possible.

For those who read French, there's an interesting article in Le Monde about how the current Iraqi government condones torture and refuses to recognize the judgments handed down by the judicial branch. Its refusal is apparently based on laws created under the Saddam regime. Democracy in Iraq? N'est pas possible.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Ray

I recently watched the movie Ray about Ray Charles. I would definitely recommend it as the type of movie that should be seen on the big screen.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Winning the War on . . . Iraq

Pakistan's Daily Times reports the following:

  • Twelve people were killed and many were injured in separate incidents in Iraq on Tuesday, while hundreds of people were seen fleeing Fallujah after a heavy night of US air strikes.
  • At least eight people were killed and 19 were injured when a suicide car bomb exploded outside Iraq’s Education Ministry in Baghdad on Tuesday. Another bomb exploded near the notorious Abu Ghraib prison injuring two Iraqi national guards.
  • In Mosul, a car bomb exploded near a military convoy carrying an Iraqi general, killing four civilians and wounding at least seven soldiers, US and Iraqi officials said.


Isn't this the war we're supposedly winning?

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Monday, October 18, 2004

Independent Scholars

I recently came across an interesting article on independent scholars who are breaking into academia despite a lack of university affiliations. It's a novel trend but one that's in keeping with the general democratization of networks.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Monday, October 04, 2004

Dealing with unscrupulous boatmen

I got this gem from Class Strength:

A person has 2 branches of bananas, each branch having 50 bananas on it. She has to cross a vast sea in 50 boats (since each boat will only go a short distance, after which time the rider must switch to a second boat, then a third, and so on until the 50th boat finally reaches the other bank). There's one condition: each boatman must be given a banana per branch that he carries. Obeying the conditions stipulated strictly, it would not seem that the poor rider cannot make it across since all 100 of her bananas would have been exhausted as she pays the unscrupulous boatmen. The clever lass, however, strikes upon a strange idea by which he can get across (and even bring a few bananas to her family!) Can you figure out how she did it?

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Friday, September 24, 2004

Seinfeld

Seinfeld is finally coming out on DVD! The DVD will evidently coincide with a special being shown around Thanksgiving.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Cat and mouse games

Cat Stevens was barred from entering the U.S. Evidently, he was on the U.S. terrorist list--after singing all those songs about peace trains and so on, there's little wonder! And that beard he's sporting. Heck, you can tell he's a terrorist from a mile away. Somewhere, I think there's a song in all of this.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Skimming and scanning

I've been looking for information on teaching English skimming and scanning skills to foreign students. I've come across the following links:

  • Reading Comprehension: Some very basic information on skimming and other reading skills.
  • Reading Skills: Provides an essay with intro and conclusion highlighted (as an exercise showing how much info can be inferred from these two sections of a paper).
  • Skillwise: A BBC site with useful links to lesson plans and materials dealing with skimming.
  • Skimming: This site has a basic description of skimming and scanning skills along with some good links to sites (e.g., a site for testing reading speed, etc.)

Other Reading Links:

Does anyone know of other good books or links?

Sky Captain

Last night, I watched Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, and Angelina Jolie, Bai Ling, and Michael Gambon, and directed by Kerry Conran. I think it's worth seeing, if not solely for its novelty. The movie's retro effect was done very well with a faux black and white feel (even though the film was in color) and with exaggerated illumination and shadows. I was particularly fascinated by the giant machinery, recalling an age when the future was envisioned as an era with simply bigger and stronger machines. Some reviewers complained about the lack of chemistry between Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow, but I think they expect too much from this film which is more interesting as a reflection on film itself than a reflection on subject matter.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Moodle

Through Blinger, I just came across Moodle, a course management system that evidently runs as a PhP file and is free for download. It definitely looks like something worth investigating.

Rather have someone else in office...

Rather at CBS is reported to be standing by his earlier report, insisting that the documents are legitimate. Personally, I wouldn't mind watching Bush crash and burn on this issue. Looking at little Bush's past, one can't help but be struck by the hypocrisy: a coke user who wants to send away all drug users, a pro-war hawk who uses his influence to avoid the Vietnam War (which he supported!), a "compassionate" conservative who works exclusively for the benefit of the wealthiest one percent of the population.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Should laptops be de riguer?

The Christian Science Monitor has an article on the trend for some colleges to require students to have laptops. This makes sense to me. Teachers require work to be done on a computer anyway, and if all students have a laptop, teachers have greater flexibility (to include the option of having students bring laptops to class).

Thursday, September 09, 2004

The so-called post-convention bounce

According to a recent Alternet article, Bush's convention bounce is the worst ever for a sitting president. The article, based on a new post-convention Gallup poll, points out that Bush received a mere 2-point bounce so that he now leads Kerry by a single point. (Thanks to Net Politik for the lead to this story).

Monday, September 06, 2004

A few people should get the axe!

I've finally got around to reading the 9/11 Commission Report. My general impression after the first 100 pages is that both the U.S. government and the terrorists displayed a fair amount of incompetence before and during the 9/11 attacks. In the earlier bombing of the World Trade Center, for example, one of the plotters kept going back to the truck rental company to get his $400 deposit back. (As a result, he was eventually caught.) On the U.S. side, the contingency planning was notably poor and "unimaginative" (as the commission points out). If the commission's report is to be believed, the FBI appears as a highly politicized organization that clearly failed to do its job.

Apart from the commission's report, I'm also shocked by the number of informants prior to the attack, who provided clear warnings. Paddock, of the LA Times, recently reported that the convicted terorist Jack Roche (an Australian) had volunteered information four years ago in exchange for a more lenient sentence but was "ignored by Australian and U.S. authorities." Arrested in connection with the 2002 Bali bombing, Roche evidently had information on the whereabouts of Bin Laden and other top Al Qaeda figures. He called the Australian Security Intelligence Organization 3 times and also contacted the U.S. Embassy in Canberra, but evidently the agents in both offices felt they had better things to do with their time.

So what conclusion are we to draw from all this? Is U.S. intelligence or the military terribly underfunded? Personally, I find it hard to see how more funding would make a difference. The 9/11 attacks were done with box-cutters and mace, with the perpetrators shouting that they had a bomb. It's hard to see how more tanks or weapons systems would stop such an attack. The most practical and easy step that would stop all such future attacks--the creation of a barrier between the passenger cabin and the cockpit--hasn't been taken yet!

I also feel that excessive funding of intelligence has an inevitable downside in creating a KGB-like apparatus whose activities are hidden from the American people. We are familiar with this from our history--the example oft cited being the team of FBI agents following Martin Luther King Jr. around. Excessive security measures can be used to stifle democratic dissent--as when police recently created lists and questioned protesters before the protest in New York. I find it highly suspicious that the FBI and CIA still seem to be spending so much of their time obsessed with Green Peace activists and elderly suburban peace activists like the cookie-munching Fresno activists shown in Fahrenheit 9/11.

Monday, August 30, 2004

The Autonomy Myth

I recently skimmed through the new book by Fineman The Autonomy Myth. Fineman looks at how America's mythology of independence and autonomy helps to undermine the essential role of care-givers. The author points out that all of us are inherently interdependent, but the current zeitgeist doesn't properly compensate care-givers for their essential contribution to society. I loved the book (the parts I got around to reading, anyway.) I only wish some great thinker would come around and expand the book's fundamental premise into a thorough-going critique on our society. I would argue that people everywhere need to be valued for their contribution to society--no matter how seemingly mundane this contribution may be. We need to replace Bill Gates on the cover of our magazines with the image of a street-sweeper at work or a grandmother reading to a child.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Classes

I would recommend the following two articles to all those who are skeptical about the class divide. The first has to do with the perception of poverty and the second with the meritocracy myth.

Uniter, not a divider

Slate has a good comic about how Bush is a uniter vs. a divider.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Swiftboats

Pandagon has a post with some interesting comments on the recent Kerry swiftboat witchhunt.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Poland set to exit Iraq

In today's news, Poland says it wants to pull out of Iraq as soon as possible.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Blogs in the classroom

The New York Times has a fresh article on the use of blogs in the classroom.

If all vets are liars and I am a vet, then...

According to a recent news article, Thurlow, who recently claimed that Kerry lied about being under fire, received his own citation in this incident for being under fire!

Danke to Stupid Git for pointing this out.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Big Brother.com

Wired News has a report on how corporations are increasingly being hired to spy on citizens. Even more alarming, companies such as Choice Point are apparently being hired to compile information on citizens in Latin American countries that do not go along with Bush policies (read the post on Bush League.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Blogs & news

I came across an interesting article: "There is an Orthodoxy to Our Thinking." Thomas B. Edsall of the Washington Post on How Blogs Can Enliven Journalism. I agree. In particular, I feel that bloggers living close to events can provide a perspective that journalists have a hard time providing.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Trickling like Heinz catsup

Daniel, on Crooked Timber, has an interesting post on the lowest economic quintile in the U.S. during the last several decades and the failure of trickle-down economics. There are also extensive comments on his post.

TOEFL test: Computer vs. paper versions

I've recently been interested in the TOEFL test, which now has a computerized version in addition to the paper version. The two tests provide different scores with most undergraduate programs calling for approximately 525 to 550, and graduate programs for a score ranging from 550 to 600. Some studies have been done to ascertain whether the two versions are in fact comparable. Rozendaal, for example, has a paper providing a short overview of research titled Fairness Issues with Computer Familiarity in Computer-Based Language Testing. The author concludes: "The studies reviewed in this paper, while not exhaustive, seem to generally indicate that fairness issues arising from differences in computer familiarity among test-takers can be mitigated." Sawaki has a more detailed research study that looks at the issue. Puhan and Boughton also have a study.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Grammar or vocabulary logs

Have any of you fellow bloggers used either a grammar log or vocabulary log in any of your classes? I'm thinking about including both of these as part of a mini-portfolio (essentially a notebook) in one of my classes.

I, Republican

I really liked this post from Whiskey Bar--a funny adaptation of Asimov's three laws of Robotics:

1. A Republican may not injure a corporation, or, through inaction, allow a corporation to come to harm.

2. A Republican must obey the orders given it by corporations except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3. A Republican must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Japanese nuclear accident

The SF Chronicle reports a nuclear accident today. Fortunately, no radiation was released.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Furious green thoughts

I just noticed that this blog still only has one lonely post. Of course, the initial posts on any blog are painful. It's the equivalent of scribbling graffiti in the sand at low tide. No one (and I mean NO ONE) will ever read Post Number 1. So basically I can write anything here. Hell. I dont even need be grammitical or spelle correktly. Who's gonna see? My father claims that he filled the back section of a major college paper with nursury rhymes and fairy tales knowing that the prof would never get around to reading it. So now there's this musty paper sitting in the archives of some dilapidated university, with this sudden transition from assessment theory to Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Who knows? Perhaps there's some hidden significance connected fairy tale with assessment. Or some hidden meaning between furious green thoughts and the second post of an education-related blog. Or perhaps there's no meaning at all. Perhaps it's all Bob Dylan creating insightful poetic lines from his own personal lunacy--a private world that none of us are privvy to. Or perhaps it's late... Very late.