mm114: Ghost Inc.’s Ghost: The Everywhere OS

August 24, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

So, you must understand that, while I most proudly wear the badge of curMUDGEon, I also wear other hats in life, not the least of which is nerd, gearhead, geek: technologyRus

So, limited by the towering constraints of my threadbare checking account, I like to try new technical products, especially here on the web where so much is “free” (monetarily speaking, at any rate).

[BTW, speaking of free, in every glorious aspect of the concept, here’s an appreciative Happy Birthday to WordPress, wordpress Left-Handed Complement’s safe harbor (i.e., blogging host). You guys make this peculiar activity I find myself obsessing over fun, while doing the impossible, making MUDGE look sort of polished. Thanks! And I got the tee-shirt — it’s so red! Happy 2nd Birthday, WordPress, a zillion more!]

So, encountering this story today, you might imagine that I was intrigued. It’s new! It’s so goddamn new that it’s Alpha! A new low for yours truly.

So, check it out:

computerworld

August 20, 2007 (Computerworld)Ghost Inc. Ghost
Ghost is founded on the passionate belief that the Windows and Mac model of your operating system — with your precious applications and data all walled inside one physical computer — is obsolete,” says Ghost’s creator, Zvi Schreiber.

The Global Hosted Operating System, or Ghost, is the logical next step in a trend to move applications and files from client computers to the Internet, says Schreiber. It is a Web-hosted image of your desktop or laptop — a virtual computer that can be accessed by any client device via a Web browser.

Ghost doesn’t require software upgrades or patches for user machines, and it’s always backed up. But its key selling point is the mobility and device-independence it offers users, says Schreiber, CEO of start-up Ghost Inc. in New York. “Young people do a lot of computing at school, and business people don’t want to carry their laptops everywhere,” he says. “People want to get their computing environment from anywhere.”

So, of course, I signed up. Take a look at the rest of the CW story, and bop on back for my early impressions.

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Ghost Inc.’s Ghost: The Everywhere OS

So, after a very brief registration process (and don’t doubt it, these times are increasingly very PC [politically correct, I have to specify in the light of today’s topic!] — for the second time today, I was offered the option of selecting as a password reminder my father’s middle name, absolutely a first, and at two different [Ghost, and a bank!] sites in the same day!), I found myself looking at the G.ho.st desktop.

ghostdesk

The flower actually looks clearer and crisper in this much reduced image than full size on the screen, where it’s supposed to make an impression, I’m thinking, rather than be too distracting.

One early off-putter: Ghost opens up a new Firefox window, behavior I’m not thrilled with, much preferring the tabbed browsing model. And this is a totally separate entity, seemingly Flash 9, so the usual Firefox right-click context menu items are not available, and of course, moving on the desktop is a sluggish process.

The notice at the left was tempting:

ghoststoragetip

Tried this; it seemed to work; but I’m supposing that the storage they refer to is additional/different from the desktop, since I couldn’t seem to find them from there after I had dragged and dropped a couple of files. But, perhaps the FTP site is stand-alone?

And after I created a folder on the desktop, but it wouldn’t allow me to drag a file there from windows.

So, that exhausts my patience for new stuff today. It’s alpha, so the promised applications aren’t there yet; looks like there’s a browser to explore, Google access, etc., to be tried out at a less fatigued hour.

By the way, anyone else remember YouOS, a very similar concept, which also seems to be running on Amazon Web Services, and was launched earlier this year (I’m thinking). When I just found my link to look at it after many months, it seems to have become quite austere, but it’s certainly the same principle. This screen cap hardly does it justice, but there wasn’t that much to see, folks:

youOS

The concept is intriguing. We already have a lot of computer independence, thanks to the web. I can access my personal email from my PCs at the office; from my daughter’s laptop in L.A., from a hotel room in Boston — anywhere I can run a browser (and remember the link!). If my ponderously snail-paced employer ever launches the capability of providing web access to corporate mail (very scary for us, believe me), then I’m even more independent.

And though I don’t need the service, Google Documents & Spreadsheets provides PC-independent access to (reasonably) useful everyday software.

Finally, there are those 4GB flash memory sticks with the U3 “operating system” that in theory allows you to take your environment into any PC with a free USB port — and when you leave, you (supposedly) have left no trace of your presence on the host. Haven’t proven that one.

So, is Ghost a solution in search of a problem that has already largely been solved?

Maybe we’ll learn more as they head into beta (imagine them being reckless enough to allow me into an alpha!).

So, that’s technologyRus for today, kids. Don’t try this at home (surely you have better, and more productive things to do, like seeing what’s up with your Facebook account).

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm113: Elderly Staying Sexually Active – washingtonpost.com

August 23, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

I am not, nor do I ever aspire to be, Jay Leno (although I probably wouldn’t mind glomming onto a few of his classic autos!), or even Conan O’Brien. It’s so tempting to try to be humorous about this story (and you just can guess that all the late night blather will jump this story’s bones!), and yet, a joke is the (second) furthest thing from my mind.

In these perilous times, where one doesn’t know where to look the news is so unrelentingly bad, if not downright frightening (U Pik M: Iraq, North Korea, Iran, Gaza, subprime mortgages, diminished 4th Amendment rights), comes this story that just has to brighten your day.

It did mine:

washingtonpost

Elderly Staying Sexually Active

By Rob Stein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 23, 2007; A01

Many people maintain rich, active sex lives well into their 80s, according to the first detailed examination of sexuality among older Americans.

The nationally representative survey of more than 3,000 U.S. adults ages 57 to 85 found that more than half to three-quarters of those questioned remain sexually active, with a significant proportion engaging in frequent and varied sexual behavior.

Sexual problems do increase with age, and the rate of sexual activity fades somewhat, the survey found. But interest in sex remains high and the frequency remains surprisingly stable among the physically able who are lucky enough to still have partners.

“There’s a popular perception that older people aren’t as interested in sex as younger people,” said Stacy Tessler Lindau of the University of Chicago, who led the study, being published today in the New England Journal of Medicine. “Our study shows that’s simply not true. Older people value sexuality as an important part of life.”

Take a look at the entire story:

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Elderly Staying Sexually Active – washingtonpost.com

Finally, a principle MUDGE can live with (hopefully, a nice long time):

lifelesson69

What a beautiful equation. I hope it’s been a day-brightener (or night warmer) for you, fearless reader.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm112: Daily Kos: Evolution is, in fact, a theory, not a fact.

August 22, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Due to the nature of my employment, and the extraordinary nature of my specific role that requires me to venture out of the safe confines of the introverted world of gearhead IT types, and into the dangerous confines of wild-eyed intellectual activity, I meet more than a few scientists. Not daily, or even every week, but several times a month.

It’s quite bracing, actually. I keep myself (comparatively) young by encountering smart people on a regular basis. Quite tonic really.

They wouldn’t have any trouble with this material; do you?

dailykos

Evolution is, in fact, a theory, not a fact.

by Dan Quixote
Sat Aug 18, 2007 at 10:47:11 AM PDT

I’ve decided to start my diarying with a couple of entries about evolution. I’m working on my PhD in evolutionary biology, and while I can tell most people here understand that there is no logical way to reject evolution, I thought it might be helpful to clarify a few important points about evolution. Those who reject evolution often use the inconsistencies in the understanding of those they argue with to “prove” that evolution does not make sense. So I’d like to see us all on the same page.

For those of you who reject evolution as a matter of faith, it is not my goal to convince you of anything. If you were open to being swayed by facts, reasons or logic, it would, by definition not be faith. If you like, imagine this was written in a fantasy realm in which evolution is real and your genetic code is 95% identical to that of a chimp. I don’t want the comments section to turn into an argument about whether evolution is real or people on the other side are questionable. No one is going to change his mind on the topic.

I found this story at the top of the heap at Daily Kos Saturday; not a lengthy read, but as cogent a discussion of a complex, button-pushing topic as I’ve encountered in some time.

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Daily Kos: Evolution is, in fact, a theory, not a fact.

As the wonderfully appellated Dan Quixote states, he’s hardly likely to change any hearts and minds wedded to so-called “creation science” (ha!).

But he provides some ammunition to those among us who encounter the sincere but scientifically ignorant; hasn’t happened to me lately, but that’s because I don’t usually lead with my liberal chin in the HCA (Heart of Corporate America, not the real name of my real employer).

And, I gained a new perspective reading this article:

The popular view of evolution is a progression from bacteria to squiggly guys to fish to lungfish to amphibians to reptiles to mammals to primates to great apes to Neanderthals to cavemen to us us US, the pinnacle of God’s design! But wait, we are talking about science here, no supernatural explanations need apply. If we overcome our religious biases and our anthropocentrism, it becomes clear that the world’s organisms are not striving to be us. Some populations evolve to be bigger, others to be smaller. Brains get bigger and smaller. Number of limbs increases and decreases. There is no direction to it. Every population just drifts towards whatever happens to encourage survival and reproduction in their peculiar environment at that moment. There is no force driving things towards being human like.

Ow! Now I’m all bruised from being knocked off my pinnacle. But, I’ll heal.

No more than was D.Q., I’m not here to pick a fight (and, as you’ve probably sorted out by now, I don’t have the horsepower to mount much of a defense). But, fearless reader, let me know what you think of this. Kansans need not apply.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm111: Charmr: The Apple aesthetic meets the insulin pump

August 21, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Among the zillions of sites that this observer doesn’t get to nearly frequently enough, Ars Technica stands out.

arstechnica

Charmr: The Apple aesthetic meets the insulin pump

By Thomas Wilburn | Published: August 17, 2007 – 03:16AM CT

Editor’s Note: Hosted by user experience firm Adaptive Path, UX Week 2007 brought together application programmers, graphic artists, and web designers from around the world to discuss the challenges of everything from evolving Web 2.0 applications to redesigned pharmacy bottles. The event featured keynotes from professionals at Milton Glaser, One Laptop Per Child, and Nokia, as well as presentations from eBay, Yahoo!, and CNN, among others. From Washington, D.C., Thomas Wilburn provides an excerpt from the UX Week sessions.

One example of “sweet” design: Adaptive Path, organizers of the UX Week conference on user experience, showed off concept images for an easier-to-use insulin pump Tuesday. Dubbed the “Charmr” for its charm bracelet-like display component, the device would be a drastic change from the bulky pumps currently in use—a difference that designers highlighted by naming the conference session “Wear It During Sex.”

As one who has a loved one who wears an insulin pump, this one just jumped out at me. And note above the reference to One Laptop Per Child, another point of interest here.

And, in my professional life, it’s all about the user experience. Recently, I was (surprisingly to me) characterized the “manager of the web conferencing user experience” by an objective observer (who I’d never thought was that impressed with what I do).

The rest of the story is short:

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Charmr: The Apple aesthetic meets the insulin pump

Someone’s got to build this thing, pronto!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm110: Grading Mayoral Control – City Journal

August 21, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

It’s a Michael Bloomberg post!

Tying together two of MUDGE’s persistent interests, education (I’ve got a kid in the biz, donchaknow) and the national aspirations of Michael Bloomberg, is this report from a new source for this observer, City Journal.

cityjournal

Lauded in the press, Bloomberg’s education reforms are proving more spin than substance. Parents are losing patience.

Sol Stern
Summer 2007

Mayoral control, the hot new trend in urban school reform, began in Boston and Chicago in the 1990s. Now it’s the New York City school system, under the authority of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, that’s become the beacon for education-mayor wannabes like Adrian Fenty of Washington, D.C., and Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles. Influential philanthropic foundations, such as the Los Angeles–based Broad Foundation (headed by Bloomberg friend and fellow billionaire Eli Broad) and the Gates Foundation, are investing in Bloomberg as the model big-city mayor who uses his new executive powers over the schools to advance a daring reform agenda. Meanwhile, the national media’s positive coverage of mayoral control in Gotham is adding to the luster of a possible Bloomberg presidential run.

For New Yorkers, though, the original appeal of mayoral control was entirely parochial. The old Board of Education—with seven members, appointed by six elected city officials—offered a case study of the paralysis that sets in when fragmented political authority tries to direct a dysfunctional bureaucracy. New Yorkers arrived at a consensus that there was not much hope of lifting student achievement substantially under such a regime. The newly elected Bloomberg made an offer that they couldn’t refuse: Give me the authority to improve the schools, and then hold me accountable for the results.

So on June 12, 2002, Bloomberg appeared at the mayoral-control bill-signing ceremony alongside Governor George Pataki. The bill would “give the school system the one thing it fundamentally needs: accountability,” said Bloomberg. The new governance system won enthusiastic support across the political spectrum, from conservative think tanks to the New York Times and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), whose members got a huge pay raise.

Just five years later, that consensus has fractured. Some state legislators representing the city, including influential Assembly education-committee chair Catherine Nolan, promise a tough review process when reauthorization of mayoral control comes up in 2008. There’s also a significant demographic divide on the benefits of the reform. Business leaders, editorial boards, and many education experts remain enthusiastic. Constituents at the grass roots, however, feel increasingly frustrated. More than two dozen parent groups and district education councils have passed resolutions opposing Schools Chancellor Joel Klein’s latest school reorganization plans. According to the Quinnipiac poll of city residents, Klein’s favorability rating has fallen to just 37 percent, and a majority of New Yorkers want something like an independent board of education or a commission with oversight powers.

Gigantic urban school systems present a ferocious challenge. Chicago, Los Angeles (whose new supe is well known to Older Son, who worked directly for him in their prior lives), and NYC all face entrenched bureaucrats, intractable unions, and what may be the most dangerous of all, a generation of immigrant parents who, for the first time, don’t consider education their children’s highest priority.

That said, it always boils down to test scores, doesn’t it?

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

City Journal

And of course, basing evaluations of school success on test scores all too often results only in the success of those who learn how to game the system, at the classroom, school, and district levels, leaving our children no better off.

Not trying to make excuses for Bloomberg, I’ve seen similar problems with mayoral control in Chicago, where one trusted Daley technocrat after another has foundered on the shoals itemized above. And watch out, Adm. Brewer of L.A., the aggressive new mayor is grasping after your turf, too.

No child left behind — is there an emptier, sadder symbol of the fruitlessness of the past 6½ years of George III’s reign? But, the good news, we can still afford to borrow from the Chinese the $10billion per month it’s taking to lose in Iraq!

Urban schools didn’t go bad in one generation — I’m afraid it’s going to take at least one if not more to fix them, if we have the will to do so.

And, Michael Bloomberg, is your vaunted education success another Potemkin Village? Independent minded Americans want to know!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm109: Too much of a good thing department

August 20, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

William Saletan of Slate.com is another of that site’s not to be missed writers, in the bio-scientific realm.

slate

Kicking Butt – The international jihad against tobacco.

By William Saletan
Posted Friday, Aug. 17, 2007, at 8:09 AM ET

Illustration by Rob Donnelly. Click image to expand.

I hate smoking. It’s a filthy habit. It kills hundreds of millions of people, including bystanders. Just being around it makes me nauseous. Cities, states, and countries all over the world are banning smoking in public, and I couldn’t be happier.

In fact, it’s such a rout, it’s getting out of hand.

The problem with tobacco all along was that politicians and the public didn’t recognize it as a drug. They called it a tradition, a “crop,” and a “legal product.” As though coca and marijuana weren’t crops. As though a product’s legality should decide its morality, instead of the other way around. When it came to smoking, culture overpowered reason.

MUDGE has loved ones (including he who bestowed the appellation itself) who are fanatical anti-smokers, for the most popular reason: they are reformed smokers.

They helped lead the successful (by no means a certainty 8-10 years ago when they started) fight against smoking in public places, starting with restaurants (of course these really are private places open to the public) in our tiny corner of the universe.

And smoking is one of the few vices that MUDGE has never stuck with; maybe because Philip Morris never developed a pralines and cream flavored Marlboro.

But I can’t help agree with Mr. Saletan that perhaps we’ve all gone a bit too far.

Read on:

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

The international jihad against tobacco. – By William Saletan – Slate Magazine

I especially enjoyed the creative medicinal use for tobacco near the end of the article:

Instead of indiscriminately vilifying tobacco, we should reengineer it. Bypass the combustion, purge the tar, dial down the nicotine—whatever serves public health. We could even use it to cure people. Two years ago, Henry Daniell, a biologist at the University of Central Florida, proved that an anthrax vaccine could be grown in genetically engineered tobacco. Tobacco was a logical vehicle, he said, because it was prolific and wouldn’t end up in the food supply. Last month, he reported progress in growing a protein to prevent diabetes, but he had to do it in lettuce—a food supply risk—”due to the stigma associated with tobacco.” When the war on smoking has come to this, it’s time to step back and take a deep breath.

Any time you anti-tobacco activists, flush with your victories, are seeking to extend your power toward a new cause, MUDGE has one for you.

One to which I’ll lend all the grandeur and prestige accrued in the 3½ months of this blog: Come on, people, let’s ban the public, and private consumption of zucchini once and for all!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm108: Whistling past the graveyard department

August 20, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Been there. Done that. Have the tee shirt. The tee shirt has holes in it…

cnet

cnetnewsblog

August 20, 2007 2:43 PM PDT

Harvard economist: Dot-com crash won’t repeat

Posted by Declan McCullagh

ASPEN, Colo.–It may seem that there’s another Internet bubble afoot, given companies like Shelfari.com–“show off your books!”–receiving venture capital funding.

But an eminent Harvard economist says it’s not true. “The IT boom is not coming back,” Dale Jorgenson, a Harvard university professor, said on Monday. “On the other hand we’re not in the midst of another dot-com crash.”

Short and sweet, like this story, we all hope…

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Harvard economist: Dot-com crash won’t repeat | Tech news blog – CNET News.com

Of course, Dr. Jorgenson was not quoted regarding the oncoming mortgage/credit tragedy…

Different week, at a different resort, I’m sure.

It’s it for now, thanks.

–MUDGE


mm107: The War as We Saw It – New York Times

August 19, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Read. This. Now.

nytimes

August 19, 2007 Op-Ed Contributors

The War as We Saw It

By BUDDHIKA JAYAMAHA, WESLEY D. SMITH, JEREMY ROEBUCK, OMAR MORA, EDWARD SANDMEIER, YANCE T. GRAY and JEREMY A. MURPHY

Baghdad

VIEWED from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal. Counterinsurgency is, by definition, a competition between insurgents and counterinsurgents for the control and support of a population. To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched. As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day. (Obviously, these are our personal views and should not be seen as official within our chain of command.)

The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere. What soldiers call the “battle space” remains the same, with changes only at the margins. It is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes. This situation is made more complex by the questionable loyalties and Janus-faced role of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army, which have been trained and armed at United States taxpayers’ expense.

A few nights ago, for example, we witnessed the death of one American soldier and the critical wounding of two others when a lethal armor-piercing explosive was detonated between an Iraqi Army checkpoint and a police one. Local Iraqis readily testified to American investigators that Iraqi police and Army officers escorted the triggermen and helped plant the bomb. These civilians highlighted their own predicament: had they informed the Americans of the bomb before the incident, the Iraqi Army, the police or the local Shiite militia would have killed their families.

Found this sooner rather than later courtesy of the newest member of MUDGE’s blogroll, Talking Points Memo, blogroll2 turned on there (later, sorry to admit, rather than sooner) by well informed Older Son.

The writers in this Op-Ed piece in today’s NYTimes are serving soldiers. As TPM points out, courageous two ways: just serving honorably in this no-win cauldron; and speaking out so publicly while on the front lines. Citizen soldiers, manifestly.

Buddhika Jayamaha is an Army specialist. Wesley D. Smith is a sergeant. Jeremy Roebuck is a sergeant. Omar Mora is a sergeant. Edward Sandmeier is a sergeant. Yance T. Gray is a staff sergeant. Jeremy A. Murphy is a staff sergeant.

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

The War as We Saw It – New York Times

The prosecutors of this war remain oblivious to the reality of this conflict, and will undoubtedly ignore this opinion piece — after all, consider the source: the news equivalent of the anti-Christ.

So they’ll continue to ignore the hard truths.

In a lawless environment where men with guns rule the streets, engaging in the banalities of life has become a death-defying act. Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence. When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages. As an Iraqi man told us a few days ago with deep resignation, “We need security, not free food.”

I am proud to have such citizen soldiers serving and protecting us. For in spite of all of the above, and indeed, proving it by writing it, they tell us,

We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm106: Are We Failing Our Geniuses? – TIME

August 19, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Yes.

time

Read this most intriguing and lengthy story the other day in the magazine while waiting for an oil change; then found it on-line later that day courtesy of reddit.com, blogroll2 increasingly a go-to destination for this curmudgeon.

Any sensible culture would know what to do with Annalisee Brasil. The 14-year-old not only has the looks of a South American model but is also one of the brightest kids of her generation. When Annalisee was 3, her mother Angi Brasil noticed that she was stringing together word cards composed not simply into short phrases but into complete, grammatically correct sentences. After the girl turned 6, her mother took her for an IQ test. Annalisee found the exercises so easy that she played jokes on the testers–in one case she not only put blocks in the correct order but did it backward too. Angi doesn’t want her daughter’s IQ published, but it is comfortably above 145, placing the girl in the top 0.1% of the population. Annalisee is also a gifted singer: last year, although just 13, she won a regional high school competition conducted by the National Association of Teachers of Singing.

Annalisee should be the star pupil at a school in her hometown of Longview, Texas. While it would be too much to ask for a smart kid to be popular too, Annalisee is witty and pretty, and it’s easy to imagine she would get along well at school. But until last year, Annalisee’s parents–Angi, a 53-year-old university assistant, and Marcelo, 63, who recently retired from his job at a Caterpillar dealership–couldn’t find a school willing to take their daughter unless she enrolled with her age-mates. None of the schools in Longview–and even as far away as the Dallas area–were willing to let Annalisee skip more than two grades. She needed to skip at least three–she was doing sixth-grade work at age 7. Many school systems are wary of grade skipping even though research shows that it usually works well both academically and socially for gifted students–and that holding them back can lead to isolation and underachievement. So Angi home schooled Annalisee.

Time calls it squandered potential.

To some extent, complacency is built into the system. American schools spend more than $8 billion a year educating the mentally retarded. Spending on the gifted isn’t even tabulated in some states, but by the most generous calculation, we spend no more than $800 million on gifted programs. But it can’t make sense to spend 10 times as much to try to bring low-achieving students to mere proficiency as we do to nurture those with the greatest potential.

Please read for yourself.

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Are We Failing Our Geniuses? – TIME

The education of the gifted has been controversial for all of my life: this writer represented a challenge to school systems throughout his childhood, seldom met effectively. Our older children, growing up in the same supposedly enlightened district that I had, were identified as gifted, offered some sop “enrichment,” but not much else. They survived the neglect, and have thrived despite it.

One conundrum: I’m remembering that our older son was given an SAT test in 4th or 5th grade, scored off the chart verbal, higher than expected but hardly genius in math. Too bad for him. They knew what to do with math geniuses: send them off to the high school for algebra, geometry, calculus class work. Verbal: so sorry, no answers. He should join the after-school problem solving competition team. Sigh.

In Hollingworth’s day, when we were a little less sensitive to snobbery, it wasn’t as difficult for high-ability kids to skip grades. But since at least the mid-1980s, schools have often forced gifted students to stay in age-assigned grades–even though a 160-IQ kid trying to learn at the pace of average, 100-IQ kids is akin to an average girl trying to learn at the pace of a retarded girl with an IQ of 40. Advocates for gifted kids consider one of the most pernicious results to be “cooperative learning” arrangements in which high-ability students are paired with struggling kids on projects. Education professor Miraca Gross of the University of New South Wales in Sydney has called the current system a “lockstep curriculum … in what is euphemistically termed the ‘inclusion’ classroom.” The gifted students, she notes, don’t feel included.

People, as we outsource ourselves into a second-class nation, our last, best defense is our brain power, as exemplified by the gifted children highlighted in this Time piece, as honed and magnified by our peerless university system, still the envy of the world (and nurturer of the second and third world’s talent, now all too often finding irresistible the lure of newly fertile ground back at home).

That’s not to say the best approach is a cold Dickensian bed. But Einstein’s experience does suggest a middle course between moving to Reno for an élite new school and striking out alone at age 15. Currently, gifted programs too often admit marginal, hardworking kids and then mostly assign field trips and extra essays, not truly accelerated course work pegged to a student’s abilities. Ideally, school systems should strive to keep their most talented students through a combination of grade skipping and other approaches (dual enrollment in community colleges, telescoping classwork without grade skipping) that ensure they won’t drop out or feel driven away to Nevada. The best way to treat the Annalisee Brasils of the world is to let them grow up in their own communities–by allowing them to skip ahead at their own pace. We shouldn’t be so wary of those who can move a lot faster than the rest of us. *

Let’s order a few fewer F-35s and do better by our gifted children. A mind is a terrible thing to waste, indeed.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm105: Ask the Pilot Returns!

August 18, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

He never left, really, his column appears in Salon every other Friday. But his appearance in this space in July had two interesting effects.

1. For two days, the post evinced the largest readership ever for L-HC, by a two or three times.

2. One of those readers turned out to be a Salon lawyer, taking MUDGE to task for reproducing the article in its entirety, a copyright violation. They get millions of hits a day — Patrick Smith’s article pushed L-HC into the stratosphere, so to speak, with two days of 90 hits. They had every right to be concerned.

Anyway, it was Patrick’s topic, airline delays, that intrigued everyone, and he revisits that subject most brilliantly here.

salon

Ask the Pilot

Tired of long delays? Look at the bright side of flying: It’s cheaper and more accessible than ever.

By Patrick Smith

Aug. 17, 2007 | As the airlines announce their highest-ever load factors (percentage of seats sold), 2007 clocks in as the most delay-plagued year in aviation history. The past few months in particular have been excruciating, with bottlenecks victimizing tens of millions of fliers. The problem has not gone unnoticed by the media, major and minor. It seems that every last reporter and pundit, at every outlet from the Christian Science Monitor to National Public Radio, has run a feature story on the country’s ever-worsening air traffic crisis.

Up to now these stories have mostly been missing the point, failing to show that the real culprit here isn’t summer thunderstorms or faulty air traffic control equipment; it’s the airline industry’s obsession with pumping more and more airplanes — particularly smaller regional jets (RJs) — into an already saturated system. At long last, some of the coverage is getting it right. Namely, I refer you to Scott McCartney’s excellent report, “Small Jets, More Trips Worsen Airport Delays,” in the Aug. 13 edition of the Wall Street Journal. McCartney, author of the paper’s “Middle Seat” business travel column, examines the airlines’ untenable fixation with frequency. Even with a greater number of people flying than ever before, the size of the average aircraft has been shrinking. That means more takeoffs, more landings, more gridlock. The average jetliner now has 137 seats — 23 fewer than it did five years ago. The use of RJs, which carry anywhere from 35 to 70 passengers, has increased nearly 200 percent in that span.

I’ve yet to read a better analysis on the subject, and I’m glad someone’s finally taking notice of the problems with regional jets — a topic I covered extensively back in June and mid-July.

Patrick goes on to make some useful observations about how we air travel consumers have actually put ourselves in this position:

And you can’t entirely blame them. After all, we’re getting what we ask for. When airlines come around asking for opinions, their customers invariably answer yes, absolutely, they want and appreciate the opportunity to choose from no less than 35 daily departures between Los Angeles and San Francisco, Chicago and New York — even if only a quarter of those flights are anywhere close to departing on time.

So, here’s the link to the article, per our Salon-induced process. Enjoy, and say “Hi!” to their advertisers, from MUDGE.

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Salon.com Technology | Ask the Pilot

He’s fascinating when discussing the actual cost of air travel:

The real cost of air travel — the price of a ticket adjusted for inflation — has fallen sharply over the past 20 years, even with tremendous surges in the cost of oil. According to the Air Transport Association, fares in 2006 averaged 12 percent lower than what they were in 2000, in spite of a 150 percent rise in jet fuel costs. Long after deregulation, fares have continued to drop as airlines have worked to squeeze cost from their product. Amenities and customer service aren’t what they used to be — on the whole they’re acceptable, and of late they’ve been improving — but what do you expect from carriers whose per-mile profit margins are sometimes a penny or less? Airlines sell what people claim to want. And if you read the surveys, even more than wanting lots and lots of flights to pick from, people want tickets at rock-bottom fares.

Traveled to Boston a couple of weekends ago, for business, at an extraordinarily low fare (my employer never expressed the appropriate gratitude — short of paying for it of course!).

Could control outbound, scheduled for the morning (always a better bet — accumulative delays have less time to accumulate in my experience), and still departed and arrived about 45 minutes later than scheduled, par for the course and not bad, all things considered.

The return was the Wednesday evening the conference was completed; when the courtesy shuttle got us back to Logan, found some colleagues who had decided not to wait for the free bus and took the taxi due to bookings on earlier flights still glumly awaiting their aircraft — storms in the Midwest.

Our flight was scheduled for much later, as it happened giving the weather at our destination an opportunity to clear, and again left and arrived about 45 minutes later than scheduled; for that hour of the night (a bit nerve-wracking when we realized that it was the last flight to O’Hare in the day’s schedule), not a bad outcome.

And my extended stay at Logan yielded this interesting benefit.

loganrainbow

For a larger view, click here.

Yeah, a rainbow, absurdly bright; and those of us snapping it got an unusual benefit, the reflection of the retro American Airlines logo mounted high on the wall opposite the terminal’s window. Photographed and transmitted by the way, on my LG EN-V (yes, no longer does MUDGE have EN-V envy!). By the way, this reduced image hardly does the original justice.

We’ll let Patrick have the last word:

And another nice change to savor, the next time you’re turning lazy circles over a holding fix: The person next to you might be ugly, and he might not stop talking, but at least he isn’t smoking.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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