12 November 2012

Highly Irregular Link Sausages (Only Eight Remaining!)

In no particular order, we return you to our irregularly scheduled internet link sausage platter... albeit "no particular order" improperly implies that there is ever any order...

  • With inflation, I strongly suspect that this bionic hand costs a lot more than $6 million. And it probably isn't covered by insurance.
  • This almost sounds like something out of The Avengers, but it isn't. There's a fight over the Coulson phone hack legal fees; if this were The Avengers, Tony Stark would have just done it and buried any charges elsewhere, as a favor to Phil. Now, though, we're left wondering if Tony Blair will be involved in any fashion... or, at least, those of us whose awareness doesn't stop at our respective national borders will be.
  • Give the identity of one of my clients, this e-reader announcement is pretty amusing. It's got one of the critical features that I demand: It runs on commercial replaceable batteries. Linkage to a stupid phone account is bad, though, as is the store-as-a-graphic meme.
  • The record industry may be dying, or changing. Gee, given the historical 8–10 year lead time between changes in the distributed music segment of the entertainment industry and changes in the distributed text segment of the entertainment industry (a relationship that has held constant for over a century, ever since White-Smith Music Publishing Co. v. Apollo Co., 209 U.S. 1 (1908)), I wonder what this implies about the future of commercial publishing?
  • Beckett as a live radio play is, in a way, an argument in favor of limiting copyright protection; what it is really, though, is an argument in favor of designating a professional literary executor to avoid the problem of greedy and/or uninformed and/or disapproving relatives and other heirs. Sometimes that works out for the best — the delays in producing LoTR as a film, due to demands by the heirs, resulted in a much stronger film than had been previously proposed — but, on the whole, it's not a good thing for the Progress of the Useful Arts. Then again, I suspect that cranky-old-man Samuel Beckett would have really appreciated it, and perhaps gotten another play out of it, in a reflexive self-referential orgy of nihilism that could have spawned a dozen or more dissertations.
  • Maybe the Heffalumps didn't lose badly enough to force reform, like the US military — and, in particular, officer corps — after Vietnam. We need more, and more dangerous, write-in candidates to force that... but in many US jurisdictions, one cannot write in a candidate who has not been appropriately vetted by the two-party-system-captured election authorities. I expended a couple of write-ins this time on "Leave position vacant" (for positions properly filled by professionals, not elected hacks), but I couldn't have done so in Illinois... thanks, at least in part, to the Harold Washington Party fiasco. It is not a satisfactory "rational basis" to limit candidates for public office to those approved by political parties.
  • This particular higher education crisis has been coming for a long time... but it's not about higher education. It's about secondary education. Calculus, statistics, basic chemistry and physics, and many other foundation courses often effectively taught through large lecture courses in the US university system should be available in US secondary schools. However, the lock-step teaching paradigm (particularly in math) prevents all but exceptional US secondary school students from being ready for those courses before reaching college. Conversely, the large-lecture-course approach simply is not going to work well throughout the curriculum, if only because there's so much diversity at the upper levels in required and elective courses that "wide" courses will require such extensive supplementation that they'll be useless. (And don't even think about doing this for languages and literature... at least, not if actual student learning is the objective, or even one objective among several.) Consider, for example, the basic year-long course in "Western Civilization" that is taken by every history major, and a high proportion of nonmajors as part of their general education.