U.S. high schools are "obsolete"
It isn't clear what, exactly, he meant by "obsolete," by Microsoft chief Bill Gates wasn't paying a compliment to the high schools when he spoke at a recent Governor's conference on this topic:
"America's high schools are obsolete," Gates said. "By obsolete, I don't just mean that they're broken, flawed or underfunded, though a case could be made for every one of those points. By obsolete, I mean our high schools _ even when they're working as designed _ cannot teach all our students what they need to know today."
Summit leaders have an ambitious agenda for every state: to raise the requirements of a high school diploma, improve information sharing between high schools and universities, and align graduation standards with the expectations of colleges and employers. Governors say they're in a position to unite the often splintered agendas of business leaders, educators and legislatures.
But such changes will take what Gates singled out as the biggest obstacle: political will.
Requiring tougher courses for all students, for example, could face opposition from parents and school officials, particularly if more rigor leads to lower test scores and costly training.
The conference was attended by at least 45 governors from the 50 states and 5 U.S. territories. Their concern appears to be genuine.
The nation's governors offered an alarming account of the American high school Saturday, saying only drastic change will keep millions of students from falling short.
"We can't keep explaining to our nation's parents or business leaders or college faculties why these kids can't do the work," said Virginia Democratic Gov. Mark Warner, as the state leaders convened for the first National Education Summit aimed at rallying governors around high school reform.
It's all about O
And the woman in the ad is as unique and interestinga she appears; here's the report on a recent phone interview:
The lovely Sabine Ehrenfeld (pronounced "Sa-BEAN-uh") was driving back from a snowboarding trip with her children, on her way to casting calls the following day. Still, she found time to chat in a delightful and disarming manner. I learned the following:
In addition to German and English, Sabine speaks French and Italian. She is proficient in basic tactical pistol skills, because she thought it would be a fun thing to learn. She also has a private pilot's license and 350 hours in the air. After reading the Richard Bach book Biplane, she was inspired to fly solo—in an old-style, aerobatic tailwheel plane—from California to Montana. With camping gear in the back so she could land along the route to sleep and refuel. I am not making this up.
It's generated more interest than the Oscar's broacast.
He's an artist, too
Ward Churchill made it from working as staff at the University of Colorado to full, tenured professor in one year, but his scholarship is now being challenged. His ethnicity -- he formerly either claimed or implied that he was a Native American -- is disputed. And now his art has received some criticism.
At right are two pictures -- an original by the late artist Thomas Mails (copied here from a book) and an "original" called "Winter Attack" signed by Ward Churchill. Some have noticed striking similarities. It's possible that Prof. Churchill got his own independent artistic afflatus that just happened to be the mirror image of an existing creation. But even then, a person knowledgeable of this area of art would be aware of the similarities and reference the earlier work. Other explanations for the similarities are less respectful of Prof. Churchill.
A reporter tried to get an explanation from Prof. Churchill:
[The reporter, Mr. Chohan, asks:] "This is an artwork we've got called 'Winter Attack.' It looks like it was based on a Thomas Mails painting; it looks like you ripped it off. Can you tell us about that?" Chohan asked.
That prompted Churchill to take a swing at Chohan while he held a stack of papers in his hand.
The exchange continued:
Chohan: "Sir, that's assault, you can't do that. Can I ask you about this? It looks like you copied it."
Here's a video of the exchange.
His artwork, speeches and disputed ethnicity claims can't be adding much to the University of Colorado's reputation as an institution of higher learning. Why don't they do something?
The Rocky Mountain News depicts the CU administration as practically paralyzed with fear at the possible retaliation Churchill could visit on them should they attempt to chastise him.
There is the possibility of an "early retirement package."
University of Colorado officials are considering offering Ward Churchill an early retirement package that could end an increasingly uncomfortable standoff with the controversial professor. ... David Lane, Churchill's attorney, said he has not been contacted about a buyout offer. But, he said, while his primary focus is on protecting Churchill's constitutional right to speak out, he would be willing to listen to a university proposal. "If they offer $10 million, I would think about it. If they offer him $10, I wouldn't," Lane said.
And herein is, unfortunately, a lesson in financial planning for anyone working at a large state institution of higher learning. These institutions depend on their state legislatures for funding increases and the state legislators that vote for these funding increases must explain their votes to their voting constituencies. Lengthy legal procedings played out over months or years in the press can be viewed negatively by the local public and, in turn, may lead to decreased motivation among legislators to support budget increases. So "early retirement package" is often the weapon of choice when these universities must discipline one of their employees. One way to get a better retirement package may be to create enough problems for the university that they are motivated to pay more to see you leave. It is a safe bet that no other faculty at CU are having their lawyers talk about $10 million retirement packages (though here the statement appears to be hyperbolic, though maybe it is just setting the range where negotiations must start).
Check out this graphical representation of the most popular names over the past 10 decades -- colorful, dynamic (move the cursor over the graph or type a name) and informative.
The dark side
There is more "dark matter" in the universe than there is normal matter -- the baryonic matter of which planets and stars are made and that is visible. Dark matter's presence can only be inferred by its influence on visible matter -- it can't be seen. And a lot of it has just been discovered:
Astronomers have discovered an object that appears to be an invisible galaxy made almost entirely of dark matter.
The team, led by Cardiff University, UK, claims it is the first such object to be detected.
A dark galaxy is an area in the Universe containing a large amount of mass that rotates like a galaxy, but contains no stars.
The galaxy is so large that if it were an ordinary galaxy it would be easily visible with an amateur telescope.
Astronomers say the discovery marks an important breakthrough because, according to cosmological models, dark matter is five times more abundant than the baryonic matter.
Phoenix gets relief from drought
Three years ago, Arizona was in the midst of a drought and the reservoirs were at their lowest levels ever. The rain of the last four months has changed the picture considerably:
Roosevelt's contents as of today - roughly 1.32 million acre-feet, or almost 81 percent of capacity - is historic because it's more water than the lake has ever held. SRP and the Bureau of Reclamation raised Roosevelt Dam by 77 feet in 1996, creating new space for storage, flood control and dam safety.
The lake has now begun to fill that new space, rising above its old capacity and, in the parlance of engineers, getting the concrete wet for the first time.
SRP has no doubts about the new structure, even though it's never been put to a real-life test. It was built to withstand the "probable maximum flood" - the worst flood conditions hydrologists could think of - as well as the "probable maximum earthquake."
"If you're going to build a dam above a metro area with 3 or 4 million people, you want to make sure it's a very safe dam," Ester said.
Epitaph: Last photos of the Thai tsunami
These are the last pictures taken by a vacationing couple in Thailand -- the one on the right (click to enlarge) is the fifth of six pictures that show the wave coming to shore. The couple was caught in the wave and died. Their digital camera was destroyed, but the photos on the memory card were preserved.
Librarians and Google
Some time ago someone suggested that Google was making the job market for research librarians a little thinner. What do librarians think of Google and the digitizing of millions of books so that not only is the web searchable but so are many books? Here are some comments from Michael Gorman, President-elect of the American Library Association:
[I] question the usefulness of Google digitizing millions of books and making bits of them available via its notoriously inefficient search engine. The Google phenomenon is a wonderfully modern manifestation of the triumph of hope and boosterism over reality. Hailed as the ultimate example of information retrieval, Google is, in fact, the device that gives you thousands of "hits" (which may or may not be relevant) in no very useful order.
Those characteristics are ignored and excused by those who think that Google is the creation of "God's mind," because it gives the searcher its heaps of irrelevance in nanoseconds. Speed is of the essence to the Google boosters, just as it is to consumers of fast "food," but, as with fast food, rubbish is rubbish, no matter how speedily it is delivered.
Feel aggressive in the kitchen?
This might not help; on the other hand, maybe this knife holder (click to enlarge!) will help you feel like you are dealing with the aggressions constructively.
Looking for a facelift for your interface? There are many here for both MAC and Windows operating systems. Take a look.