Feast or famine. That’s the way it usually works with freelance writing. I’m in a feast mode right now. I’m doing final edits on one article, starting the research on a second, and trying to meet my 1,000 words per day quota for a book draft.
On top of the writing work, I have been shipping out books ($$) from the Etsy shop, attending endless meetings with the school district about Ian, getting on my soapbox at school board meetings, feeding the bottomless pits that be my boys, and driving Ian around to various after-school activities, so he can have some contact with human beings.
It’s been a lot. I think tomorrow’s newsletter will about how we’ve been raising a teen with autism during the pandemic, so you’ll get more info on that.
What have we been talking about here in the former Apt. 11D?
The suckiness of Jonah’s canned YouTube classes. Half of his classes this year are YouTube videos where the professor reads his powerpoint slides. So, so, so boring, and so, so, so difficult to actually talk to someone in-person about the class. But at least none of his professors are actually dead.
With Trump out of the White House, the press is finally more comfortable pointing out the fact that closed schools are really bad for kids. I think we need plans going forward to help the kids that were most negatively impacted this year. In fact, I got on my soap box about this at Monday’s school board meeting. At the 74, Robin Lake wrote an opinion piece with the same these.
And, of course, there’s the story about Reddit day traders destabilizing global markets by buying up Game Stop stock. There is no word in that sentence that is not funny.
Picture: Just a typical Wednesday night meal here. Grilled pork chops with spice rub, brown rice, Mac n cheese, cabbage, salad, pumpkin bread. They ate almost all of it. More pictures on Instagram.
35 thoughts on “SL 820”
That’s a very odd framing of what’s happening with GameStop. Where did you get it?
What’s a better characterization? I’ve only been following superficially, based on humor tweets.
Destabilizing global markets?! How about a bunch of redditors are beating the hedge fund assholes at their own game? How about every time some hedge fund asshole goes on CNn or CNBC and pumps a stock nobody says boo, but not that they may lose money on ONE or maybe THREE stocks, those small investors MUST BE STOPPED. Because they destabilizing GLOBAL markets. Yep 3 stocks. Destabilizing global markets. So, again, where did you get that framing?
Next, the SEC outlaws outsider trading.
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I got it from someone on Twitter. Honestly, I have a shabby understanding of the stock market. I just think that anything that involves Game Stop is funny.
Laura wrote, “Half of his classes this year are YouTube videos where the professor reads his powerpoint slides.”
Our college student just dropped the in-person Calculus 3 class where the European professor was lecturing mushily through two masks when he wasn’t playing the video of the Zoom lecture version of the class, projected from his computer onto the wall. (Not sure how that worked, but I’m told it was awful in terms of legibility.) He would occasionally be talking at the same time that his Zoom video version was talking.
In retrospect, it would have been better to take the class online…with a different instructor.
We were all thrilled when our college freshman dropped that course. Maybe she’ll take it again this summer?
The rest of her professors seem to be doing OK, though.
I’ve been ranting about how STEM pedagogy seems to involve digging a moat around the subject and filling the moat with alligators.
We really need a new kitchen.
Yes, I too note Laura’s everyday meals with awe. I need a cook, and I’m not even sure that would help. Well, the teen would eat better then.
I still remember one of my uni professors reading his lecture notes aloud in a kind of a monotonous drone for 50 minutes of un-remitting boredom. As it was a first year course on Mesopotamian ancient History – students were already at sea with unexpected names and pronunciations – the in-person attendance dropped radically after the first 2 weeks. Lectures never changed from one year to the next – the same notes went on for years. I passed that paper due to reading the textbooks – I don’t think I actually learned anything in the ‘in person’ classes.
He had tenure – and a reasonable research record – so the uni could do nothing about the fact that he was totally unsuited to actually teaching….
I wonder how much of this ‘education via reading PowerPoint slides’ is due to tenure – and the universities can’t actually do anything about the unwillingness of the professors to adapt to a new mode of teaching. Certainly I’d expect the students to quickly figure out who was worthwhile signing up for – and which courses were a total waste of time (due to delivery). And share this knowledge through the student networks. Though sometimes you have to suck it up in order to get the required credit to graduate.
I certainly know people whose whole degree pathway was changed because of the relative quality of the first-year lectures. I, for example, wasn’t willing to sit through 2 years of boredom to get to some interesting English lectures/lecturers – and quickly switched my majors to History and Archaeology; and then specialized in medieval and late Roman history due to two outstanding professors [and also my inability to put up with the self-flagellating, colonization guilt-tripping, drama queens in the NZ history wing].
Ann said, “Certainly I’d expect the students to quickly figure out who was worthwhile signing up for – and which courses were a total waste of time (due to delivery).”
In the US, this is somewhat formalized.
We normally don’t use this resource (which is not exactly academically-oriented), but you kind of need to use something like that in self-defense to avoid the real stinkers.
I think a certain number of professors seem to be really struggling with the technical side of pandemic teaching.
Laura wrote, “But at least none of his professors are actually dead.”
Really jaundiced view here: I think we’d prefer a good canned lecture by a dead professor to a bad canned lecture by a live one.
(Assuming there’s a reasonably competent live person running course mechanics like grading and testing and so forth.)
But you can find those canned lectures for calculus, I think. But, I guess there’s value to testing specifically the material in the canned lectures.
My linear algebra lecturer would come to class with a random set of problems and solve them in real time on the chalkboard without talking. For me, It was pretty much like watching the comic where there’s an equation and then a miracle happens followed by the answer. I think a number of “obvious” steps happened in his head. Occasionally he’d get something wrong, and the people in the class whose brains worked just like his did would catch the error and help him out. They could see the steps that were in his head.
bj wrote, “My linear algebra lecturer would come to class with a random set of problems and solve them in real time on the chalkboard without talking. For me, It was pretty much like watching the comic where there’s an equation and then a miracle happens followed by the answer. I think a number of “obvious” steps happened in his head. Occasionally he’d get something wrong, and the people in the class whose brains worked just like his did would catch the error and help him out. They could see the steps that were in his head.”
I told your story to my husband (the ex-mathematician) on our evening walk, and he said, “See, it was educational!”
I tested into second year math as a first year college student. I enrolled, thinking of becoming a math major, but I was in WAY over my head. The low point came when the professor visited the recitation session with my assigned TA; because the TA’s last name came late in the alphabet, we were the last section he visited. The professor watched for a bit and then said (in a loud voice) to the TA: what are you going? This is all wrong. After that, I decided to be a political science major.
On an unrelated note, inspired by reading here and other friends, I have taken to posting angry comments on FB in response to memes that say: hey parents, just chill about what’s happening to your kids during this pandemic. It’s so dismissive of the concerns of many parents, particularly about the lack of services for kids during the pandemic.
I serve on the School Board here, and one of the women who serves with me is the mother of a kid with really profound needs. So we’re lucky in that she makes sure we’re always putting the needs of these kids front and center. They were the first kids we rolled at the beginning of the year, and even when we went remote in January, these kids continued to be in person, every day.
That’s great, Shannon. Thank you on the behalf of everyone overwhelmed, heartbroken parent of every special needs kid.
I had no opportunity to change my major to avoid that linear algebra class since it was required for everyone. I sometimes wonder whether that’s the right choice, to have mandatory requirements, a core, whatever you call it? Kiddo was anti-core when looking for schools (mostly because she thought they taught the white patriarchal hegemony and not to avoid math), but I did find that the common experience was useful in my UG.
A friend told me, just yesterday, about a physics teacher whose only method of defining torque was to make a gesture with his hand (presumably he could also write an equation). She’d say she didn’t understand and he’d answer by saying it’s this, while waving his hand. I think STEM fields relied heavily in the past by being a collection of minds who all worked the same way. So, teachers needed to learn how to reach someone who didn’t understand the world in the same way. If you couldn’t learn, you’d move to another field.
Now STEM is so much a part of the world that we the ripple effect of that teaching method is to exclude large swathes of people from many fields.
That’s why I admire people like URI Triesman at UT Austin.
bj said, “But, I guess there’s value to testing specifically the material in the canned lectures.”
Husband and I were noting that the freshman’s calculus textbook is a sort of custom, homebrew textbook produced specifically for Hometown U.
“My linear algebra lecturer would come to class with a random set of problems and solve them in real time on the chalkboard without talking. For me, It was pretty much like watching the comic where there’s an equation and then a miracle happens followed by the answer. I think a number of “obvious” steps happened in his head.”
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In writing papers for publication, you are often asked to make them shorter. So instead of writing out the steps, you write set-up, then “obviously this reduces to….” thus saving a page or more. I think some professors have internalized that.
Hah. Our calculus text was also home grown, written by a professor in the department. Famously, it taught integration before differentiation, and, taught my HS calculus class (which was supposed to be AP, probably what they’d call AB now) in about six weeks.
And, there was limited room on the chalkboard. But, I also think he honestly didn’t see some of the steps.
bj said, “And, there was limited room on the chalkboard. But, I also think he honestly didn’t see some of the steps.”
I once had a Slavic linguistics professor who had a number of the quirks I’ve seen attributed to math professors.
He would do stuff like write something very important very quickly on the board, run out of room, and then erase a big hole in the middle and put a completely different thing there.
Nowadays, you’d quickly take a photo before he managed to mess it up, but that was pre-cell phone camera days.
Our school district is still only serving 80 or so students of of the 8000 who have IEPs in person (and, some of those might be in outsourced programs). The president of the teachers’ union, when they agreed in September to the MOU that said that SpEd students who could not be served online should have access to in person services, said that the situation should be “rare”. I remember thinking at that point (what does “rare” mean — a quota?) and that it was unacceptable. In practice, “rare” has meant significant, multiple hoops that parents have to jump through, resulting in 1 student being served after 8 weeks, and 80 students being served after 16 weeks. It is just horrific. A neighboring district is serving half their children with IEPs in person — first by creating a category of student who was presumed to need in person services and then having identification for the others. Imperfect, but in practice a system that returned many more students to the services they needed.
Shannon said, “I have taken to posting angry comments on FB in response to memes that say: hey parents, just chill about what’s happening to your kids during this pandemic. It’s so dismissive of the concerns of many parents, particularly about the lack of services for kids during the pandemic.”
There are so many things wrong with the “chill” attitude.
For one thing, it’s been 10 months, so parents have a pretty good idea at this point whether the experiment is going well or not.
For another thing, since it’s a pandemic, we haven’t been seeing a lot of each other, so people aren’t in a position to say if other people’s kids are fine if they literally haven’t been in the same room with those kids in nearly a year.
Yes, I got into a battle (and blocked) with someone who told me that my child was going to be OK. He actually really is, but she can’t know that about my child. And, I can’t know that about anyone else’s child.
My child exploded over a post earlier in the quarantine when a teacher posted that “survival” should be the goal. He very strongly objected to “survival” as being enough. Survival is necessary, of course, but it can’t be enough.
bj said, “Yes, I got into a battle (and blocked) with someone who told me that my child was going to be OK. He actually really is, but she can’t know that about my child. And, I can’t know that about anyone else’s child.”
It is gaslighting, as well as disrespectful and callous.
“My child exploded over a post earlier in the quarantine when a teacher posted that “survival” should be the goal. He very strongly objected to “survival” as being enough. Survival is necessary, of course, but it can’t be enough.”
The timeline matters a lot.
I feel strongly that nearly all of us can do just about anything for two months. It might not be pretty, but nearly everybody is going to be OK. But once you get to a year or two years, it gets really dicey. (As I’ve mentioned before, I have a 95-year-old grandma and a mom with late-stage cancer that I haven’t seen in over a year–COVID or no COVID, the clock is ticking.)
I’m actually really sympathetic right now to the case for fully vaccinating teachers, waiting out the activation period, and then going back to school full-time, because the timeline is so short. You get a lot of benefit for waiting a short period of time. This is especially true for middle school and high school.
However, throw in the problem of the problem of these mutated variants and the potential need to wait for booster shots, and the cost-benefit analysis gets a lot less favorable for waiting. The benefit of waiting indefinitely for “after” goes down, while the harm done to children gets larger and larger.
I also feel extremely hostile toward the handful of teachers’ unions that insisted on priority for vaccinations, got priority, and are now making noises about not going back to school in person for fall 2021.
Complicating everything, I think it’s very unlikely that the post-vaccine US is going to be full of people continuing to live under full restrictions while waiting for the booster or boosters. It’s much more likely that the vast majority of people will get their shot, go back to normal, and just get the next shot, much as we would do with flu. I think that will be an acceptable level of risk for most people–I know it is for me.
I do foresee a higher level of precautions for the 2021-2022 flu season, maybe even continued masking in public settings, but as soon as my husband and I are vaccinated, we’re going to put our kids back in normal activities and start traveling.
Teachers didn’t need (not needed)
In COVID news, my FIL in Canada has gotten an April vaccine date while MIL (who is a bit younger) has gotten a May date.
I was doing some back of the envelope math and realizing that it would take 73+ weeks total to vaccinate our county in TX once, assuming current speed. On the other hand, I see that the county’s new cases per 100,000 are down to 35. Even with what feels like a very leisurely local vaccination pace, the number of new cases keeps falling. We peaked Nov. 20 at 80 cases per 100,000 and were plateauing around 60 per 100,000 for a while before the vaccine campaign started to make a dent.
Faculty at my university fall into three categories: 1) people who were already “teaching” by standing in front of their students reading a powerpoint and not taking questions, and switched to an online format by recording that lecture; 2) people who actually paid attention to pedagogy in the first place and are trying to adapt to online learning by scrambling around, sometimes successfully, sometimes not; 3) people who paid attention to pedagogy F2F but are hopeless, tech-wise or otherwise, and cannot handle making a shift at all.
It sounds like Jonah’s teachers fall into category 1, so you probably would have been angry at how they were teaching F2F if you’d known about it. Of course, when you’re in a classroom you can lean over and look at someone else’s notes (if they actually take them!) or talk to your friend who’s sitting next to you, or maybe catch the TA at the end of class. Or maybe even the process of going into a classroom and focusing for an hour works for you in a way that sitting at home does not. (Lecturing is not always bad pedagogy, and some online lectures are terrific – just not that many of them.)
Even if you are in the second category, it takes time to adapt, just like it took me a few years of teaching F2F before I felt like I could consistently make class “work” – and even then (even now, after 15 years) there are some class sessions that fall flat, for mysterious reasons. And it takes work of a different kind than we’re used to – for example, I usually prep by rereading the course material and thinking through what I want to say and how to structure discussion, but this week I was at a point I would consider “ready” for a face to face course and then spent another two hours writing questions for online polls and doing other stuff to promote a better discussion. I’ve also spent a ridiculous amount of time making my course website easier to use, doing things that our amazing tech support/course design people could do if the tech support: faculty ratio wasn’t 1:200 (with people in category 3 taking up most of their time).
And there’s the “investment” question – some of us may learn how to teach a Zoom class pretty well, and will never teach a Zoom class ever again.
One of my favorite HS teachers was my calc teacher who could look out at the classroom while he was explaining a concept and immediately identify who was getting lost. It was amazing. (It was usually me; I wasn’t a bad student, but I definitely wasn’t at the top.) You can’t do that on Zoom.
So, two types of professors are failing entirely right now? And the third type is failing half the time? That is not a great success rate.
IDK, this is so totally depressing. Jonah will survive, because for kids like him, the degree is mostly a measure of executive functioning and basic writing/math skills. In real life, nobody will ever ask Jonah to compare Plato and Aristotle’s conception of human nature, but they will care if he’s the type of person who can complete assignments on time with little oversight from a supervisor. Jonah will get the degree, get a job, and carry on the path to middle class life. There are a whole lotta people who have borderline skills in those areas and can’t manage to muscle through the isolation and boredom of virtual college education. Those people will never return to college. Income inequality will increase.
This is beyond tragic.
Oh, I don’t think these are three equally divided groups – but the people I talk to are maybe the most likely to be doing the work, so it’s hard to tell. But as several people said above, there are always some people (I hope it’s only 10% – I don’t hear about it too much) who do the canned reciting with powerpoints when they are in class. Though this is probably most often for big intro classes, so it may affect a disproportionate number of students. And I would say another 10% (I hope not too many more) just can’t handle the transition to online for whatever reason. I would guess the vast majority of us are really working at making these online classes successful. I would say one of my classes this fall was 90% successful, and the other two were 75% successful. The all-Zoom format worked pretty well; hybrid (especially having some in the classroom, with everyone distanced and masked, and some on Zoom) was very very difficult. I’ve heard similar things from other profs.
I also left off the 10% of our faculty who mostly teach asynchronous online courses during a regular semester and are quite good at it, and have continued this during the pandemic. If you structure a course well and spend a lot of time on your discussion boards, students can feel like they are actually participating. When I teach asynchronous online I spend as much time writing responses to their posts as I would discussing things with them in the classroom, and sometimes they will converse with each other. It’s not as good, but it works well for students with strong reading and writing skills. (Of course that leaves some behind.)
There are already a lot of students who have borderline skills and don’t adapt to college. It’s a terrible problem. For colleges like mine, with first to second year retention in the 70% area, we are constantly trying to figure out a strategy to make it better. One strategy would be to make admissions more competitive, but this is usually dismissed in the name of giving them “opportunities” – not coincidentally it would be disastrous for us financially. And for some, this is okay – there are a lot of people who do one year of college, and so failing out is not heartbreaking for them because they know a lot of people who did this. I don’t think it’s good – it’s a waste of their money, and/or state/federal funds, and often a waste of their time and energy – but it is very common. (Rutgers, by the way, has phenomenal retention for a state school, 93%. That’s fantastic – I wonder how they do this?) This year, our fall to spring retention is about average, and may wind up being better than average, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the pandemic did not affect first to second year retention much.
The Columbia tuition “strike’ is getting some press right now. I’d been hearing about it in its origins earlier and it struck me as mostly silly, that the tuition (when half the UG students receive more than 50K average in aid, it didn’t seem like a big lever on Columbia’s budget. We had a discussion about what leverage one could have and the frustration when it doesn’t seem like you have any power in a discussion (a lot of folks feeling that way about public schools right now).
New Zealand is about to approve their first vaccine…next week.
No rush, I guess?
“New Zealand is about to approve their first vaccine…next week.”
I think they’re making a virtue of a necessity. Our ‘Medsafe’ needs to legally approve the vaccine/s for use in NZ – which is pretty much a pointless exercise – they’re not going to turn it down, after all. But I guess they will get data (especially from Israel) on the most effective vaccination groups to prioritize.
Won’t make much difference to the roll out. They’re looking at getting (they hope) enough vaccine doses starting in April to vaccinate the frontline quarantine and border staff (this is thousands at most)
Then mass vaccinations will *start* in June. When they end, depends on the vaccine supply, and development/testing of vaccines suitable for children under 16.
No one knows how much vaccine is actually going to arrive and when. The dates have already slipped by months. And with the recent news over Pfizer vaccine shortages in Europe – I expect that to increase.
It’s pretty hard for NZ to argue that we need the vaccine more than countries which are experiencing serious death rates.
Ardern is starting to get some stick in the media over this – especially in comparison to vaccine timelines in Australia.
What’s going to be interesting is NZ’s approach to allowing vaccinated people to travel here *without* quarantine.
Currently, *everyone* (well, apart from the US ambassador) has to quarantine in a managed isolation facility (just a hotel, repurposed) for 14 days AND pass 2 COVID tests (day 3 and day 12). If you fail the test, you go into hard quarantine, and need to be clear of any symptoms for (I think) 10 days before you’re released. If you have no symptoms, it’s 10 days after the test.
Just recently – since the UK/SA variants – travellers also have to have a negative COVID test before boarding the plane.
There have already been people trying to return to NZ, who have *had* COVID – and therefore show antibodies in the test-before-boarding – so are not allowed to board the plane.
What is going to happen with vaccinated people? – they too won’t be able to *pass* a COVID test…..
How will airlines and/or border control demand proof of vaccination. Endorsement on a passport?
I wouldn’t plan on much change in our borders before the end of this year…..
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