Monday, June 27, 2005

Great books

I heard a statistic yesterday in Sunday School that ties in with this just perfectly.

80% of college graduates will never again in their lives read a book front to back after they leave school.

That was amazing but I believe it. Most professional organizations mandate continuing education for their members because about 80% of their members wouldn't bother to learn anything new if they didn't.

Now there is The Penguin Classics Library Complete Collection at Amazon is just amazing. You might need a rich uncle to pay for it at just under $8,000 :) but you do get 1,083 volumes of some of the great books of the world. While there appear to be a few duplications, this is a great jumpstart for a library.

At the very least get the list and build it over time. And many of them are available at Project Gutenberg as well, if you want them free. We have about 7,000 books in our library and I still want this. But I may just buy these over time at used books stores.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Super Mom buys a village

I feel sorry for this family. It feels like idol worship, but the child is the idol. He is a project, not a person. Ryland lacks for nothing but the most important thing. Love.

How should it be?

Love God with all your heart, might, mind and strength and your neighbor as your self
Cleave unto your spouse and none other.
Love your children as you love yourself, teach your children from the best books, and correct them as the Lord corrects you.

Does any parent not want the best for their child? Of course not. But what a child needs most is love, the kind of love that is spelled T-I-M-E. It isn't about big parties or clothes or toys.

Children need love like they need water and food, all they want is some time with you. My daughter loves to have me chase her with her ducky into the closet so she can hide in the clothes and I try finding her, or to bounce on the bed, or just listen to me read to her.

The same book over and over is fine for me because she loves it so. Even just sitting in my lap as Schoolhouse Rock plays, over and over, I like Schoolhouse Rock even if the songs stick a little too well:) but that is good for her to learn. I think it is one of the best learning DVDs I have found so far.

Love means teaching and leading and correcting and kissing boo-boos.

Mathematical Ebonics

Since we seem to live in a world where most people don't understand history we are now seeing the rise of "ethnomathematics" a culturally sensitive way to teach mathematics.

This is an effect of the Memory Hole. If you don't know history you can be fooled by people like this.

The oldest mathematical objects, bones with tally marks cut into them, are found in Africa, So counting is African.
Our numbers, 0-9, come from India.
Algebra was put together in the Middle East.
Geometry is something the Ancients Egyptians invented to return the land the NIle had flooded to the rightful owners and to build the Pyramids.
Trigonometry was organized by the Greeks but goes back to the Babylonians.
While calculus is definitely western with Newton (England) and Leibniz (German), it could never have been made without the underlying structure provided from everything that came before.

This is obviously another attempt to keep people in their place. When you start teaching people a different language, and make no mistake mathematics is definitely a language, then you are separating them from each other. People who speak the same language tend to congregate together. This is another thing that will divide and separate people.

This is actually worse then Ebonics, at least people understand that speaking a sort-of English is bad for their children's future. Most people don't care that they are not good at mathematics. so they wouldn't notice if something like this was instituted.

Imagine going to the store and having to present your "cultural background card" so the cash register could spit out a receipt in your culturally appropriate ethnomathematical notation. I am sure cash register companies would love it since all stores would have to replace their systems to be able to do that. Printing Mayan numbers base-20 would be a lot of fun or maybe Babylonian base-60.

Mathematics is a very simple language like music, could you image teaching one student only how to use quarter notes and another only whole notes because of their cultural background. That is insane of the face of it, and so is this "ethnomathematics." It would be like teaching pink kids that a chair is called table, brown kids should call it aardvark and yellow kids should call it kumquat.
People lost their lives trying to end "Separate but equal," and this is much worse then that, it is more like "Divide and conquer."

Bored in school

Last Night I was talking to a friend and his sister is looking at homeschooling, and she was talking to a teacher about it who said, "Oh, don't teach your kids anything. They'll be bored in school."

This is in start contrast to the first grade teacher I met who said, "These kids today are not ready to learn at all. Hardly any of them know how to read. They're all bored."

School is just boring. That is the way it is. Sometimes it will be going to slow, so they'll be bored because they know it already. Sometimes it will be going too fast and they'll be bored because they don't understand what is going on. Children may be ignorant but they aren't stupid. Just because you say it is important but can't tell them why they figure that it isn't really all that important.

In public schools all subjects are taught as "the most important thing you will every learn" children panic for a while, because they don't have time to do it all, and then notice that no one ever talks about those subjects, therefore they aren't so important after all.

So what does that say about how we should teach our children? Make sure to relate the subject to its history and the real world.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

How broken does it need to get?

When it comes to math the school system is totally broken.

People readily admit to not being good at math, almost a source of pride for some people. We've experienced cashiers not being able to make change because the computer was down. It is so bad now that restaurants are adding suggested tip amounts to the check because people are not able to calculate a simple 15% tip themselves.

Without knowing math how will you know if you saved enough to fund your retirement or your children's college education? With inflation running about 3% per year is the number you are using now going to be useful in 10 years? Do you realize that will be a big deal?

Compound interest is very powerful but only in the long run. Compound interest is great if you start at 25, but is not powerful enough if you start saving at 55.

Our little cook

My wife was called on Friday and asked if she could fill in a lesson for Home, Family and Personal Enrichment for Tuesday, and she decide to make a video of how to bake bread. We spent about 6 hours filming on Monday, and then I edited it together in a couple of hours on Tuesday.

On Tuesday night she took the video and resulting bread to the meeting and she got lots of compliments on it.

I used iMovie 2 an ancient version, I think Apple's latest version is 5. And we did most of it in one or two shots and it turned out pretty good, though the sound got messed up in a few places. It was amazingly easy to edit but it was exhausting to film. I learned a lot about film making from doing this, I have done training videos before, just filmed lectures, but this was much different because of all the props and actions.

When we do something like this again, and there will be a next time, there always is, we will need a proper script with storyboards and make two or three batches so we can get several shots to cut together and do some voice over work as well.

The best thing is that our daughter wants to be like mommy and wants to have flour and bowls and measuring spoons to use. So we have given her some but we gave her some old milk powered which cleans up a bit easier for us then flour and she is having a ball. Measuring her "flour" from bag to bowl to pie pan.

She is just great and we love her.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

nonlinear feedback

This article has a fascinating discussion on prosperity and non-linear feedback. But it reminds me of the slots.

Monday, June 20, 2005

What does it mean to be literate?

I have run across too many people lately that can't even read faster then they can talk. They are still like second graders who have to sound out every letter to say a word.

To really be literate is to have the ability to read faster then you can talk. Most people can talk at only 150 words per minute.

When I was in college average reading speed was about 400 word per minute. When I hear some of the college kids in Sunday School reading out loud, they are speaking much slower then they can talk, It should not be like this.

All it takes is giving kids something interesting to read. Even if it is comic books. My wonderful mother, got me all kinds of comic books to read every week when we went shopping so I would read something. And it worked. over time I got bored of the comic books and got into real books, I can read at two thousand (2000) words per minute.

Anyone can do it given something interesting, to them, to read and practice.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Schooling is not education

I had an unusual educational experience growing up.

I clued into the fact that adults ask children to do strange and impenetrable things for no reason. In kindergarden we were to sit at our desks that had three sided shields taped on and solve a whole bunch of puzzles on paper. It was an IQ test. At other times we would have to trace out numbers and letters on weirdly colored pieces of paper, a color-blindness test. But I learned that no matter how strange it was just go along with whatever the adults wanted and they would be happy.

Of course there were more adults in my life then the teacher. My dad worked for PanAm and he would learn of all kinds of great deals in various parts of the world so it was not unusual for us to take a vacation during the school year, so I had to learn to learn on my own. Which came in very handy later.

Not that the school system didn't try. I ended up in speech therapy for a couple of years, which I though was odd, while I realized that I said a few words differently then the others no one really complained, besides I talked just like my dad. More often then not I was helping the other students who had real problems: stutters, lisps and the like. I also had to make up the lessons that I missed because of that time in therapy, which also made me learn on my own.

Then something strange happened, the speech therapist met my parents, the next day she came to my class early, took me out into the hall and asked my to list a bunch of words starting with various letters and sounds. Then she said something along the lines of, "You did great, you don't have to come to my class any more. Good-bye." Even I thought that was strange, but later learned that after talking to my parents she noticed that their English wasn't great because they were immigrants. Though ever since I have worked on making sure I speak as well as I can.

These were things that were the result of well meaning teacher trying to do their best, but then there were things that just seem crazy at best, active sabotage at worst. In junior high they kept moving me around into different classes, often more advanced, but after a month in the regular class I was way behind the others in the advanced class. I caught up but I wanted to, many of the other students won't have cared that much. The math teacher got a laugh out of my first hand-in, she was talking about squaring and cubing numbers, but I didn't yet know what they were, so I drew squares and cubes around the numbers.

Chemistry was much worse, being dumped into the middle of hydrates and oxides when the other class was still on atoms was a real pain, I got by but I don't feel I ever had a good chemistry teacher. Because of that I am somewhat indifferent to chemistry, but I do like it when it comes to cooking. But then cooking is the practical application of physics, thermodynamics, chemistry and biology to create food.

Most of my learning came from the textbooks and well timed questions. A well-timed question in class was invaluable. Teachers loved having a question that segued into the next thing they needed to talk about, but they would talk about it in a helpful way if you asked the right kind of question. Most of the time I could get several of my questions asked without asking them. It wouldn't work on teachers who didn't know the subject of course. They would talk for a long time and then ask if that answered my question, No, I think that they were hoping that I would have forgotten the question by the time they were done and would just say yes to let them keep going. I asked a question on some factor in statistics once and the teacher talked for 20 minutes and didn't even get close to what I was asking about. Back to finding the right answers for myself.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

What does the future of work look like?

For activities that, ultimately, are about processing information, the computer revolution itself has drastically reduced the minimum efficient scale. A laptop, a cheap videocamera, and the free iMovie or Windows Movie Maker software (plus an Internet connection) will let one person do things that the Big Three television networks could only dream of in Galbraith's day, at a tiny fraction of the cost. The same laptop with a soundcard, a couple of microphones, and software like Acid, Cubase, or Audition can replace an expensive recording studio. Change the software and it can replace an office full of Galbraith-era accountants with calculators, pencils and paper, or even with access to big 1960s mainframe computers. This observation is commonplace now, of course, but its implications for Galbraith-era economics have gotten somewhat less attention. It's not just that fewer people can do the same work, it's that they don't need a big company to provide the infrastructure to do the work, and, in fact, they may be far more efficient without the big company and all the inefficiencies and stumbling blocks that its bureaucracy and "technostructure" tend to produce.

Those inefficiencies were present in Galbraith's day, too, of course. People have been making jokes about office politics and bureaucratic idiocies since long before Dilbert. But in the old days, you had to put up with those problems because you needed the big organization to do the job. Now, increasingly, you don't. Goliath's clumsiness used to be made up for by the fact that he was strong. But now the Davids are muscling up without bulking up. So why be a Goliath?

That is the question that many people are asking themselves, and as technology moves toward smaller, faster, and cheaper approaches in man, many areas we're likely to see an army of Davids taking the place of those slow, shuffling Goliaths. This won't be the end of big enterprises, or big bureaucracies (especially, alas, the latter) but it will represent a dramatic reversal of recent history, toward more cottage industry, more small enterprises and ventures, and more empowerment for individuals willing to take advantage of the tools that become available. In some ways, the future may look more like the distant past than the recent past. It's not surprising that it may also seem to operate on a more human scale.

I am no fortune teller but this is a very interesting article about trends in the world.

I too think that the trends are toward more and smaller businesses rather then big monolithic corporations.

Grand Opening of the Ziggurat Math Store and Blog

It has come time to stop talking and start doing.
Our public school system is failing us in the United States. High Schools now have dozens of valedictorians but universities are replacing college math and English courses with remedial courses. And our students are falling behind in international math and science and programming competitions.

Something must be done and I am going to do something about it. I can't do everything but I can do one thing and that is to help parents teach their children mathematics.

I have launched a new blog called ZigguratMath.

I have written a book the first in a new series of books to help mothers teach their children the language of mathematics. Book one is all about teaching your children how to count. It is available as a downloadable ebook (.pdf) at the ZigguratMath Store.

A free report on why mathematics is important plus lesson 1 from the book is available there too.

For the grand opening the book is on sale at the ZigguratMath Store.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Challenge day

After reading all of the Steve Jobs speech, I surfed over to Whole Earth and found a fascinating article Challenge Day, a 16 year old girl wrote about how High School is basically like swimming in a tank of hungry sharks. Even though I have been out of High School for almost 20 years the only difference that I see is that it is somewhat more brutal today.

I can relate to the dork at the end of the story. That was me. I dove deep not to hide but to actually learn. I craved knowledge and had no use for socialization, which was all about bullying to me. I wanted to find out what all the facts we were learning were good for. I knew they were good for something even if the teachers couldn't tell me what. Not that they didn't answer the question but their answers didn't fit in with what I saw happening in the world on the news and with the developing technology. Their answers sounded good but felt wrong.

But then I started Honors Physics. The teacher of that class was fantastic, he told us why these things were important and how they are used in everyday life. He was tough, real tough, fully half the class dropped out in the first two weeks. We learning that algebra and calculus were good for something other then inducing sleep.

We actually did stuff with physics. One of the first experiments we did was to build a boat to hold the largest amount of weight possible, from a sheet of tin foil. This is were I learned thinking is a powerful tool. While everyone else started building miniature canoes as fast as they could I stopped and reviewed all the different ships I had seen, which was quite a few since we lived not far from New York City. I knew most ships are shaped like canoes, but what kept a canoe floating were the crossbars, thwarts, that held the sides apart. I didn't have material to do build thwarts so I eliminated all those designs and then the Barney Miller theme started playing in my head. A Barge was what I needed, they floated past all the time, they were big open boxes that carried huge loads. I folded up the edges to make a big flat load area and tried to fold the corners so that they would be strong. Then we started testing them, floating them in a fish tank full of water and filling them with calibrated weights. Mine ended up holding more then 10 times as much as anyone else's.

I learned a lot from that class, beyond physics and applied mathematics and just plain thinking, I learned about competition through imitation. People started copying whatever I was doing. I was annoyed about it at the time but that is okay, it happens all the time in the real world. I can say that most all of my designs won our little competition experiments, even if my personal construct did not.

I also learned that ego was a big deal to some people. Our teacher was a descent guy he would take the test with us and would throw out questions that he got wrong or that all of us got wrong. Well, I finished the first test before he did. While doing that in any of my other classes was no big deal, in this class the effect was like crash of a steel gauntlet at his feet. A class that was rather interesting became a real challenge. He pushed us hard. It soon became a major competition between the teacher, myself and two other students while the rest of the class was struggling to keep up with us.

Every test and every quiz was a race. Not just for speed but accuracy, it wasn't enough to get the paper on his table first but to get the highest score. That made things a lot tougher then just raw speed. The teacher was struggling to beat us to the finish, we raced to beat the teacher and each other, and the rest of the students sweated just to finish before the bell. That was a great class.

Competition is not something that needs to be a part of every facet of life. I once had a friend who was hyper-competitive, everything was a race to him. Then one day, when we biked out to visit someone rather far away. he exhausted himself and a trip that took less then an hour to get out there, took nearly 8 hours to get back. The story of the tortoise and the hare might be a fable but it happens all the time. Speed is good but getting all the way to the finish line is vital.

High School is a very artificial place and sometimes good things happen, but one good, challenging class out of over twenty is not a very good rate of return.

Monday, June 13, 2005

The Education of Steve Jobs

Apple Computer Inc.'s CEO Steve Jobs told Stanford University graduates Sunday that dropping out of college was one of the best decisions he ever made because it forced him to be innovative - even when it came to finding enough money for dinner.

"Your time is limited so don't let it be wasted living someone else's life," Jobs said to a packed stadium of graduates, alumni and family.

Jobs, 50, said he attended Reed College in Portland, Ore., but dropped out after only eight months because it was too expensive for his working-class family. He said his real education started when he "dropped in" on whatever classes interested him - including calligraphy.

He told the graduates that few friends could see the value of learning calligraphy at the time but that painstaking attention to detail - including mastering different "fonts" - was what set Macintosh apart from its competitors.

The funny thing is that he isn't the only one to have done this: Bill Gates and Michael Dell did the same thing.

Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein both did very badly in a public school setting.

This is just another example showing the power of having a personal interest in a subject and how powerful that can be to learning something.

You have to show your children that you are interested in something. Enthusiasm is contagious and a powerful motivator for your children.

Encourage your children to learn things that they are interested in, but also learn something that you are interested in too.

UPDATE: The full text can be found here as well as video in the sidebar.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Harsh numbers

Winners of the 2004 William Lowell Putnam mathematics competition, a very high-end test: Reid W. Barton, Daniel M. Kane, Emanuel Stoica, Ana Caraiani, Suehyun Kwon, Mihai Manea, Nikifor C. Bliznashki, Oaz Nir, Lingren Zhang, Olena Bormashenko, Ralph Furmaniak, Michael A. Lipnowski, Po-Ru Loh, Mehmet B. Yenmez, and Rumen I. Zarev.

American schools lurch after “diversity” like drunks who have discovered a bottle of Night Train on the sidewalk, and collect what educationists call “minorities.” By “minority” they mean of course non-performing minorities: Anglo-Saxons, Chinese, Jews, and Greeks are all minorities, but they are not failures, and so aren't really minorities.

I don't agree with much of what Fred has to say on his site but this one's pretty to the point.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Stories from the front lines

For example, reading, writing and math seem de-emphazised, while science is gradually dumbed down for the hordes of students who enter ninth and tenth grade not knowing d=r x t or how cells divide. Some of this may seem like trivia, but there are many students I have spoken to who do not know the basics of evolution, can not explain cancer more than two months after the cancer unit has passed, and who have no concept of what science (repeatable, demonstrable) is or is not.

It seems to ever be worsening.

A new take on infectious disease

Ewald began in typical evolutionary terrain, studying hummingbirds and other creatures visible to the naked eye. It was on a 1977 field trip to study a species called Harris's sparrow in Kansas that a bad case of diarrhoea laid him up for a few days and changed the course of his career. The more he meditated on how Darwinian principles might apply to the organisms responsible for his distress - asking himself, for instance, what impact treating the diarrhoea would have on the vast populations of bacteria evolving within his intestine - the more obsessed he became. Was his diarrhoea a strategy used by the pathogen to spread itself, he wondered, or was it a defence employed by the host - his body - to flush out the invader? If he curbed the diarrhoea with medication, would he be benefiting the invader or the host?

Some people think it's scary to have these time bombs in our bodies," Ewald says, 'but it's also encouraging - because if it's a disease organism, then there's probably something we can do about it. The textbooks say, In 1900 most people died of infectious diseases, and today most people don't die of infectious disease; they die of cancer and heart disease and Alzheimers and all these things. Well, in ten years I think the textbooks will have to be rewritten to say, "Throughout history most people have died of infectious disease, and most people continue to die of infectious disease."

This is a classic case of Famous First Words: "That's funny. I wonder ..." Lots os scientific discoveries start about like this.

We've had diarrhea for a long time and now someone actually thought about it.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

And socialization is the big anti-homeschool argument

Children's charity NCH surveyed 770 youngsters and found 14% of 11- to 19-year-olds had been threatened or harassed using text messages.

Bullies had used images taken with mobile phone cameras to intimidate or embarrass one in 10 young people.

This included singling out overweight or spotty youngsters and recording and sharing acts of playground violence.

The findings follow reports of so-called "happy slapping" attacks - where assaults on children and adults are recorded on mobile phones and sent via video messaging.

You can include me out of this kind of socialization.

The Price of Acting White

The phenomenon is one reason some social thinkers give to help explain at least a portion of the persistent black-white achievement gap in school and in later life. Popularity-conscious young blacks, afraid of being seen as acting white, steer clear of behaviors that could pay dividends in the future, including doing well in school, Fryer said. At the same time, the desire to be popular pushes many whites to excel in the classroom, enhancing their future prospects.

This is just so sad.

The Impact of Refrigeration

Refrigeration in the home lagged behind industrial applications. But by 1884, one writer noted that refrigerators were as common as stoves or sewing machines in all but the poorest tenements. The use of ice in the home was growing to keep food longer and to cool drinks.

Refrigeration had a great impact on the the world, and this is a great little article on it. It is amazing just what leverage comes from technology.

Today we took our daughter and my in-laws to the local petting zoo/historical farm. They had a bunch of old farming machines in the North 40 and they had really good explanations of how they worked. They were piles of wood and cheap metal, it would be entirely possible to tear apart and old car and turn it in a major farm productivity machine.

We were talking about how helpful these old, obsolete technologies would be a great boon to developing nations. They can't afford the GPS computer controlled Combines that can do the work of a thousand men and horses, but they may be able to find the materials to make a farm implement that just doubles his productivity, which would make a huge impact on his family. If he can then leverage that productivity into better technology he can double his productivity again and again and again, very soon they are no longer poor dirt scratchers, but prosperous and healthy.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Early to school late to rise, makes a people stupid, poor and easy manipulated

Okay so it doesn't rhyme, I'm an engineer, darn it, not a poet.

But it does look as though there are serious biological problems with how schools are run.

As any parent can attest, it can sometimes seem impossible to rouse a teenager from sleep in order to get to school on time. But a new study says the problem may not be laziness, but school hours that run counter to the natural sleep patterns of teenagers.

The sample is fairly small and doesn't give any indication on how random the sample is, but it is clear that being sleep deprived is very bad. Studies have shown that being awake for 24 hours straight is as bad as being legally drunk.

I was in the ICU for a week after our accident, and with the nurses coming in every hour checking stats, at the end it was bad enough to cause me to hallucinate. But a few days real sleep in a regular ward solved that problem.

Friday, June 03, 2005

We don't have enough smart people for jobs

he shortage of qualified workers in the U.S. power generation industry is bound to get worse in the next five years, officials said Tuesday.

By 2007, the number of power industry jobs will exceed the number of workers, said Elaine Weinstein, senior vice president and chief diversity officer for Brooklyn-based Keyspan Corp., which sells electricity and natural gas.

By 2012, the gap should widen, with about 10,000 power industry jobs more than available workers to fill them, Weinstein said, citing federal Bureau of Labor Statistics projections.

S.S. "Mani" Venkata, dean of the School of Engineering at Clarkson University in Potsdam, said the image of engineers in this country is one reason young people don't choose that field. "It's not a prestige career ... like law, or business," he said. "People in the U.S. think of it as an applied sciences degree, but it is a professional degree," he said.

He warned that the United States is graduating only 60,000 engineers a year, while China graduates more than 600,000 and India 300,000 from their schools.

There has always been worker shortages, I don't think even Cheops had enough workers for the Great Pyramid.

My daughter is only 2, in 20 years she will be entering the work force. I am no prophet but what I think will be likely to be in place at that time, given current conditions, is:
* India and China will be superpowers. So learning a bit about those cultures would be a good thing.
* Companies will not treat their workers much better or worse then they are now, so not being dependent on them is a good idea.
* Having multiple streams of income for your family is a better idea.
* Be prepared to be an independent contractor your entire life.
* Owning your own business would be a good idea.

I want her to be able to do hard jobs. Jobs that are highly creative, and that solve problems and that give people what they want.

What jobs are you preparing your children to have?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

How to find out your childrens' talents.

It is our duty to develop and share our talents and develop new ones. Jesus gave two parables that apply to this: The Parable of the Talents and the Parable of the the Candlestick.

In the Parable of the Talents the master gives three servants different amounts of money to keep until he returns from a journey. Two of the servant double the masters money and are rewarded and the other buries his share and has his talent taken away and is punished.

The Candlestick is much the same, If you light a candle you put it on a candle stick so everyone in the house can receive the light, putting it under a basket is not only counterproductive and wasteful but a fire hazard.

The number one fear of most people is public speaking. It rates significantly higher then even death. I have to give a lot of credit to stand up comedians they get up and do something that would probably kill anyone else in the audience and sometimes the audience has the gall not to laugh at them. So if you go to a seminar or something where someone gets up on stage to talk to you, give them a big cheer. Someone might do it for you someday.
I was part of an air band for a dorm activity once and even just a dozen screaming fans does wonders for your confidence.

No matter what you do you need to do some self-promotion. People just don't recognize what you do for them if you don't tell them. If you husband has ever been home to help with the housework while you've been sick, he's probably said something like,"I didn't know there was so much to do." And he tends to help out a bit more after that.

This is more important for your husband at work. He is doing all kinds of things at work that help the company that he isn't directly noticed for.

"Executives talk a blue streak about the importance of developing talent," Carol Hymowitz said in a recent Wall Street Journal column, "But many quickly form rigid opinions of staffers, and then resist changing those views despite evidence that employees have matured, become more seasoned, or possess talents that weren't apparent when they were first hired. Conversely, some bosses continue to insist that an employee is a star even though he or she was just never that talented."

He needs to make sure to report to his boss in a written memo that he did something that saved the company x amount of money, because it is saves y amount of time, and/or reduced z amount of waste or closed an n sized deal, or whatever he does. This means that he will get promoted faster, which will make it easier for you to stay home and educate your children.

The talents of your children can be very obvious. You have a good idea already:
* What does your children do all the time, favorite activities?
* Have you ever replaced a toy because they loved it to death?
* What are their favorite books?
These are all good pointers to what may be their innate talents.

These are also things that you can start anticipating and preparing for them to overcome the hurdles that will inevitably come up. For instance, many children love to draw and they want to get better at it by making it look more realistic. One of the first things they try to draw is your face, they see it all the time, but it keeps coming out wrong, and soon they stop drawing because they don't feel they can do it right. You can help them be showing them art, explaining how much great artists practiced, and how the face is made up of muscles and how they effect how the face look, plus giving them books on how to draw faces. Also help them to work through their feelings of frustration. They maybe actually be very good at drawing but they might just need the practice and techniques to get it right.

My daughter Abby is already loving to play with Play-doh to make snails. And she is getting pretty good at it. Next trip to the library I'll be looking for beginning sculpting books.

What talents do you think your children have, and what might they develop with some encouragement?

Creativity, schooling and age

...the study by Benjamin Jones of the Kellogg School finds that the age of scientists making great insights has gone up: "The estimates suggest that, on average, the great minds of the 20th Century began innovating at age 23 at the start of the 20th Century, but only at age 31 at the end -- an upward trend of 8 years."

Given that people lived longer, this could be good news: Jones suggests that extended education leads to later innovation. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to lead to longer periods of creativity. In the late 20th Century people are starting their periods of peak creativity later, but those periods don't extend to greater ages, suggesting that the additional time spent studying comes at the cost of time spent being creative:
But at the very least, Jones' study suggests that improvements in education that shorten the delay before people are in a position to make great discoveries would be tremendously beneficial, not just in a life-extended society but in today's world. Alas, my gut says that we're likely to see people living to 300 before we see dramatic improvements in education. Where, after all, are the dramatic discoveries in that field?

If that is not a terrible indictment of public education, nothing is.

There needs only be one dramatic discovery, and parents are beginning to make it: Public Schools don't work.
That is why homeschooling is taking off.

It would be great if we could reform the public schools, but given the history of reform efforts in any field, it is not a war worth fighting.

We are far better off ignoring the current system as best we can, and creating a new school system and restoring local control to local parents.

I can far more easily trust a group of parents whose own children's future are on the line then some bureaucrat a thousand miles away with his children in private school.

Children should be grouped by interest and ability in subject matter not just gathered together at random. And children whose abilities are quite different from the norm should be able to get the attention they need to become the best that they can.

Parents should be taught how to teach their children the 3R's and schools would be places where people who had been successful could impart their hard won experience to others so they could stand on the shoulders of those who had come before. Then we will see progress that we can not even imagine.

Betrayals in Public Education

Gifted children are betrayed when services are given grudgingly, sparingly…if provided at all. Too often, instead of teaching these children how to use their marvelous skills, gifted education seems directed more towards a Child Buyer agenda. Consider the label gifted. It encourages people to believe that such children received – as a gift – more than their fair share. Too often the wrong children are identified for services since classroom teachers accurately identify gifted students only 10% of the time. 10%! Classroom teachers generally think that the good, well-behaved children must be the very intelligent ones, instead of realizing that the under-challenged, troublesome children are more likely to be the superior thinkers.

One of the big problems of public schools is that they want classroom management but don't teach how to do it. Expecting teachers to diagnose children while being inundated with the pressure from the administration and the parents and the daily stresses of the children, it is amazing that they get anything done at all.

How to spot Currupt Science

Two things in particular signal the presence of corrupt science. The first is the fact that rather than working from hypothesis and data to conclusion, corrupt science starts with a mandated political conclusion and then uses this conclusion as the basis for determining what evidence, what data is to count as relevant. It is science that begins not with a question but with an answer and which sees its only task as providing the evidence that supports that answer. The second is that corrupt science misrepresents the nature of what it seeks to explain. Rather than acknowledging alternative evidence, or problems with its evidence, or admitting the complexity of the issue and the limits of evidence, it presents what is at best a carefully chosen partial truth as the whole truth necessary for public policy. Public policy is effectively manipulated into reaching a predetermined outcome on the basis of data that has been carefully chosen, falsified or massaged so as to speak in a fashion that is at odds with the ways things really are.

Another powerful reason why you need good math skills. This is only a rule of thumb and things may change.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Math in medicine

I am not a doctor but this is an interesting article on how they used mathematics to cure a terminal liver cancer patient.

The powerful thing in this is that they combine two very disparate disciplines to solve a hard problem.

I have found that in lots of cases that a hard problem in one industry or field has been solved in another quite different field, its finding them that is hard.

Too much homework

I just wonder if the public schools are not running up against the Law of Reverse Effect (the harder your try the worse you get), They have cut music and arts programs, even recess sometimes, and reduced time for lunch. All with pilling on the homework, and what do we still graduate, people who can still barely read and write, and need a calculator to make change.

I used to do my homework during lunch period, I was in a big enough school that there were three lunch periods you could be assigned to, to be able to fit everyone in. I rarely had to take homework home, but that was okay since I would use most of that time to read. Mom worked so hard to get me to read eventually finding comic books worked. but it backfired when I would get so engrossed by a book that I couldn't hear her calling me for dinner.

There needs to be down time, time for play, thinking or whatever your children need to process all the information they learn at school.

That is another problem with public school, there is no let up. Children love to learn but public school can be like drinking from a firehose, it fun for the first little bit but soon it is too much and you have to get away for a while.

The origins of paper money

This was a cute webclip that showed up in my gmail.

China developed paper money in 806 AD but abandoned it by 1455.
China had a very interesting history they developed a number of powerful inventions but later abandoned them.

They had a movable type printing press with clay type used it for several centuries and then abandoned the technology. China developed steel and gunpowder and paper and many other great inventions. These inventions could have easily propelled them into superpower status but they didn't.

I don't know why and it is a bothersome question I would like to look into but not right now, I've got some hot stuff in the fire that needs my attention for the next little while.