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Messages - Kai

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Jackson is as you say. Indeed, most of Miss. is as you say. I'm thrilled you're continuing these series.

We see it teaching undergrads, my colleagues, I mean. They come to biobeers Friday night and bitch about their students who, being /upperclassmen/ in Biology can't seem to keep track of the fundamentals. We talk about how some people are just not ready for college. When shit goes down, like breeches of academic integrity, /we're/ the ones who come down hard. The professors are soft in comparison. I mean, who wants their students to fail? But that would actually render the meaning of our degrees worthless, and so we're hard asses, and everyone hates us because college isn't grade school, and your ACT/SAT scores don't mean shit.

And for the people who have it together, there's still this mentality to learn to the test, to worry endlessly about grades, in short, a self-sustained self-destructive bent towards their creativity. And that doesn't disappear for grad students always either. I have colleagues who are /still/ worried about grades, who concern themselves over tests. I tell them, you're in grad school, as long as you pass your classes and take something away from them, no one cares about your grades. Your research is the important thing. But the necessity of grades has been drilled into skulls so hard that the overachievers from even /my/ generation, which was mostly done with elementary education by the time NCLB was created, are still stuck in that. I thankfully let it go.

I'm seeing a shift, where undergrad is becoming a continuation of high school, and grad school is becoming Undergrad:Advanced Courses. You see this with the proliferation of MBAs, with master's degrees that don't actually require a thesis, just /another big exam/. You know what? We know how to test. Not even /undergrads/ should be taking tests. Make them write papers, make them give presentations, make them work on collaborative projects. Tests are useless piles of bollocks. I'm trying to head off a rant because I actually have a class right now where we have two exams. They're essay exams, and they require actual research and the topics are relevant but they're /still fucking exams/. There's no peer review allowed, no collaboration...what kind of scientist writes anything of more than trivial worth and doesn't have someone else take a look? What kind of worth is that? So I'm about right pissed about it. Even my prelim, quickly approaching, is feeling more and more like yet another pointless hurdle. And yesterday I talked with one of my professors about it. Traditionally, the prelim is an oral and written defense of your past knowledge, where you are grilled on your understanding and ability to think. In large schools it's usually for thinning students, because the program takes on way way too many students to support and assumes most will fail out. My school has a small PhD program, where professors are very selective about taking on students. Therefore, the prelim is only a chance for the committee to assess their advisee's knowledge and ability, and consider remediation in areas where they need improvement.

But we don't have the traditional oral/written defense with random questions. We have to write a paper. A. FUCKING. PAPER. Mind you, a rather large research paper which reviews a topic that the committee chooses. But it's still a FUCKING TEST. I talked yesterday with this professor who's on my committee and HE AGREED that it's a hoop, though he mentioned it does help assess writing ability. Do I get to talk to people about it? NO. Do I get to discuss my ideas with faculty. NO FUCKING NO. Whatever. Then I get to stand up in front of the committee and defend the fucking thing, which is like the traditional prelim but still not because they're supposed to ask me questions surrounding the subject matter of the paper. The likely conclusion will be that I pass with revisions, since no one has as of yet been booted from the program over it, since it's just a formality, since even PhD programs seem to have fallen to the dumb fucking hoops syndrome. And then this paper that I spend 8 weeks of my life on will end up sitting in some file drawer for all of eternity since it was just a DUMB FUCKING HOOP that I have to jump through before I can write my research proposal and actually sink into doing the only thing that really matters, which is my research.

That last one, V3x. Oh my god. So good.

I also enjoyed the other two, but the last one stood out because it was hopeful.

Also, this line.

and now they're huddled in the bathroom snorting Marx off the far end of the counter and snarling about Ted Kennedy selling out.

That was genius.

Hirley, you can't post shit like that! Please remove it!

We don't have any rules about bug pron.  This IS, after all, AMERICA.

But if you want a thread split, we can do that.

It's not the bugs, it's my university address on the page before.


Thanks. I guess it's not a huge deal. I don't mind if people here find their way to my real life. I just prefer to not have the inverse happen.

Hirley, you can't post shit like that! Please remove it!

We don't have any rules about bug pron.  This IS, after all, AMERICA.

But if you want a thread split, we can do that.

It's not the bugs, it's my university address on the page before.

Hirley, you can't post shit like that! Please remove it!

He is an unmitigated arsehole. Actually, I think he always has been - a smart one back in the day, but he's gradually lost that. The Selfish Gene is terribly overrated. The anthropomorphizing title itself does untold damage to the understanding of evolution.

The Selfish Gene is /excellent/. I had the same opinion as you, after the first time I read it. A few years ago I reread it with a more critical eye. It was the first time I understood how cheaters could exist in equilibrium in a population, and how Mult-Level Selection was unnecessary to the retention of any trait, even apparent altruism. There's no "good of the group", and the title, as anthropomorphic as it seems, is a good summary of the book: Evolution is going on at the genetic level, and since their only impetous is continuation (as much as any bit of replicating hydrocarbons can said to be "teleological"), they are fundamentally selfish. In the genetic sense, the only thing that matters in evolution is what alleles/genes are carried forward in time, and what are not.

Maybe this isn't a big revelation for anyone else, but during my masters degree I had several mentors who were very much in the Steven Jay Gould Multi-Level Selection camp, and I was mired in that ideology until I realized it was unnecessary.

Dawkins needs to just stop talking. Forever.

Agreed. He said some worthy things back in the 1970s, and now, 40 years later, he is speaking like he's senile and needs to /get out of the way/ before he destroys the last smigin of reputation he has. If he hasn't already.

Alty's too cool for school!

Roger is made out of whiskey, friendship, and possibly peyote.

And snot.

And back hair. Loads of it.

Or Kill Me / Re: In those days Pt. 7.
« on: November 02, 2013, 12:56:46 am »
You don't really want to know.

They sound non-Euclidean.

Or Kill Me / Re: In those days Pt. 7.
« on: November 01, 2013, 11:44:12 pm »
SOME WHEN LATE 80's -90'S there did exist a volume of books
on the PSU Library shelves carrying the official title Iran/Contra

they were of light brown-tan color each the same size & weight to the
one to their left Extending for probably 15 to 20 feet occupying a complete
shelf. By the turn of the century? Biologically speaking they had been removed
& so now i return to the evening news hour on PBS/OPB at 4pmpdT

"Biologically speaking"? What kind of libraries do you /have/ in Portland.  :eek:

Or Kill Me / Re: In those days Pt. 7.
« on: November 01, 2013, 01:41:47 pm »
Bump, because this is going to be the basis of my NaNoWritMo. They say write what you know, so....

In this version of the world/universe, Names have power. The ancients knew it, it's a long standing thing. Aristotle wrote of it in detail. But, Names are tricky. They have to actually be Bound to something in a universal way and based around actual knowledge of the thing. Names of individuals are pretty much impossible to work with. But Names of species are within the realm of possibility.

In this world, Linnaeus is looked upon as almost a demigod like figure due to his figuring out the solution: the creation of universal names, Binomial Nomenclature. The universal Binding meant that the names could be used over time. After 200 years there were many Naming Universities, which are very much like natural history museums. Taxonomy had become extremely important, since species are constantly changing (Darwin, a great Namer himself, and Wallace, figured this out). You not only needed to know how to Bind, but to Unbind names so that groups could be revised. And you needed taxonomist scholars to do this.

There's also the practical sense of Naming, which is called Guiding. It's not quite control, more like suggestion. By using the name in combination with intent, Guiding could attract, repel, and suggest organisms into growing or behaving a certain way. I should add, all of this is not treated as mysticism, but as a science, though not all the fundamentals are understood. One could talk about how to Bind a Name with description to a particular species, how to determine the Name of species that an individual belongs to via knowledge and practice, how to Guide organisms with intent and words and Names, and it was all very organized despite not knowing how the fundamental physical interactions made it so. Science had also progressed, and technology was about at 1980s stage, but that doesn't mean that what Naming was doing was understood. And technology and Naming are not at odds. Governments are of course very interested. Thank Linnaeus that the name for the human species is incredibly complicated and difficult to Guide, and that only a few are skilled enough to do this on a very local level. But biological warfare is a distinct possibility, and has been used in the past.

So, in this world you have the Heroine, who something like a PhD student at a Naming University, pretty much a natural history institution. And she's working on Binding and Unbinding, and very much a taxonomist and entomologist, focusing on Syrphid flies. Part of the conflict I think is going to be based around the "megafauna bias", and her proving her worth, maybe some Old Order vs New Order, maybe some romance, probably not fulfilled romance. Overall, just a story about an insect taxonomist grad student in a world where Names hold power.

Richard Nixon's glittering half-life sarcophagus / Re: Your top 4 threads
« on: November 01, 2013, 01:25:45 pm »
I don't have a top 4 list, but this is probably the best rant I've ever written. At least in terms of energy. Wait, there was the banana one, someone was trying to break my brain with stupid and open the rage floodgates.

I wonder if Paleo-humans had fad diets. In 400,000 BC were sun-dried purple bugs all the rage? Did cooking food with fire start out as a fad diet?

For that matter, were there cave-Ron Popiels traveling from cave to cave trading skins for the latest hide-scraping, spear-sharpening, berry-smashing multi-tool?

People in 400,000 BC didn't have time for fad diets. They were too busy trying to eat anything edible to avoid starving to death and running for their lives from saber cats, giant sloths, and dire wolves.

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