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‘education’ Category

  1. how to operate a fragmentation granade

    June 6, 2007 by Saar Drimer

    I remembered a story from my undergraduate days… one of those things you recall and can’t imagine doing again. I took a mandatory “technical writing” class in my junior year. I absolutely hated the professor (Tara M.), who seemed to hate anyone of my gender and was not afraid to show it by preferential treatment. The first words out of her mouth in the first day of class were “I am god, and you will do as I say.” “Yeah, that’s going to go well,” I remember thinking.

    Towards the end of the term we had to give a 5 minute presentation on any topic we chose. This is peace-lovin’, hippie, lovey-dovey Santa Cruz, remember. I decided to give a presentation on types of hand grenades, how to throw them, and what to do if a fragmentation kind comes flying your way. I’m sure she (and possibly others) didn’t like me any better after that, but I was satisfied ;) I got a ‘B’ for the class and some respect from gamers. But I think that I learned the most from writing a three page formal complaint to the head of the department about her skills as a teacher. I’m not sure if that had anything to do with her leaving UCSC a couple of years later; google doesn’t show her teaching elsewhere. I suppose that “god” retired from teaching.

    Some of the readers of this weblog can vouch for the accuracy of this story (some proof-read my letter ;) Now I am going to see if I still have it and the presentation somewhere.

  2. Inspiration from the young and disadvantaged

    October 3, 2006 by philip

    (By guest blogger Philip)

    This was a great idea and a great interview. People are amazing. It is a shame the process of growing older tends to blunt so much of our ability. It makes you think everything might not be as bad as it sometimes seems if we could just expand our ideas.

    Summary: An Indian entrepeneur exposes Indian slum residents to a free PC and internet connection with no training. The results are described and an interview with the entrepeneur follows. About 5 minutes reading.

  3. two versions to every story

    July 11, 2006 by Saar Drimer

    I had an idea for a research project and pitched it to Markus… after a brief intro, Markus constructed his own version of where this will go and I constructed my own… each in our own minds. This was a couple of days ago.

    Today, we sat down to talk about it; we were both excited about the prospects… Markus laid out his mental version and I found it a bit uninteresting. Then he asked me to describe what I had in mind… after I was done, he said “that’s exactly what I was saying!”

    We figured that we both used terminology that we are used to and took it where we were comfortable with, but we were in fact having the same ideas.

    This happened to me in the past, but it was never this pronounced.

  4. some comics

    February 28, 2006 by Saar Drimer

    I’ve seen some PhD Comics strips long ago, before I actually became a graduate student. Now I found it again, and the latest is really good:

    PhD comic

    And, a couple of weeks ago Adams produced the funniest Dilbert strip ever:

    dilbert comparative literature

    (click images for larger versions)

  5. ties, battles and principles

    December 27, 2005 by Saar Drimer

    I wore a tie twice in my life; once at my high-school graduation and another at a family function long ago where I felt like dressing “up.” I presently own one jacket and no ties. Ties make me feel like a social conformist following the unreasonable rules of tradition and that makes me ill. That suffocating leash-like piece of cloth is so unnatural that it bares no reason why it even came about. I maintain that tradition is nice, but only within reason.

    Problem. I’m in Cambridge — the UK one — where a tie is mandatory in official functions (I learned this the hard way.) Do I stand my ground and fight it? Or should I give in, buy a tie and join the line? This ties in (pun intended) a must read lecture by Richard Hamming titled “You and Your Research” from 1986 where among many good things he said:

    John Tukey almost always dressed very casually. He would go into an important office and it would take a long time before the other fellow realized that this is a first-class man and he had better listen. For a long time John has had to overcome this kind of hostility. It’s wasted effort! I didn’t say you should conform; I said “The appearance of conforming gets you a long way.” If you chose to assert your ego in any number of ways, “I am going to do it my way,” you pay a small steady price throughout the whole of your professional career. And this, over a whole lifetime, adds up to an enormous amount of needless trouble… And I think John Tukey paid a terrible price needlessly. He was a genius anyhow, but I think it would have been far better, and far simpler, had he been willing to conform a little bit instead of ego asserting. He is going to dress the way he wants all of the time. It applies not only to dress but to a thousand other things; people will continue to fight the system. Not that you shouldn’t occasionally!

    Jonathan Kozol said “pick battles big enough to matter, small enough to win” (On Being a Teacher, 1981.) I can’t remember who introduced me to the concept of “picking your battles” but it has been guiding me ever since. When I am faced with a struggle, large or small, I consider the costs and benefits carefully in terms of emotions, time or money and then I choose whether to wage war; most often I conclude it isn’t worth it. I once had a rental dispute that if I had taken to court, I would have most likely won. Even the rewarding feeling of squashing those bastards wasn’t enough to take me through the time and emotion exhaustion of fighting this battle (the system is built for this outcome, but that’s another rant.)

    I don’t have principles; I evaluate every new situation on its own ground. Principles are limiting since they don’t allow flowing with the dynamic nature of our living. When people pull out principles without arguments I don’t fight it, but they often lose my respect.

    To tie all this in (yes, another) I will buy a tie, an odd one, and wear it where appropriate, it’s not worth the fight.

  6. US vs. European higher education

    September 9, 2005 by Saar Drimer

    The Economist has a series of articles comparing the US vs. European higher education systems. And, well, why the US boasts 17 out 20 top ranking universities in the world. It’s a good read with praise and criticism of bother styles. The articles are here, here and here; see also Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s top 500 university list.

    The US does one thing that is not listed in these articles which contributes the most to their success: encouraging and welcoming the youngest and brightest from around the world to be educated and stay there. Let’s start from the beginning. Each country bears the cost for raising a child from birth to maturity (aside from money spent by the parents.) Some countries invest more, some less, but there is always a cost, and it is not a trivial one (if you find a link listing numbers, please forward it to me.) What the US gets is the cream of the crop of every country without spending a dime on their upbringing. That’s genius. Check out research groups at any US university, the majority of researchers are foreign, not American, and most of them stay there for good.

    In addition to that, the immigration laws are more favorable towards people with higher degrees. You can knock down 2 years of processing time from your green card application if you have a PhD, for example.

    Meanwhile, I got an excellent resource from Cambridge entitled “Guide for PhD Candidates at Cambridge Computer Lab.” I’m not sure if any of you be interested in reading this, but if you are familiar with the research studies system in the US, you might want to compare it to this; it’s significantly different.