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Fri Nov 14, 2014 at 10:13 AM PST

Please Stop Carpet-Bombing Education

by grapes

I’m just an operations and systems guy, albeit with 20+ years of university teaching experience ... but I have always bridled when people talk about “delivering” education.

That isn't right. From an operations perspective, it is a “co-production” or “service” process. In a service process, the customer (aka student) is both an input and an output. The student continuously interacts with the service provider (aka teacher) and the same student eventually emerges in an enhanced (aka educated) form. The instructional interactions that power this transformation happen quickly, perhaps many times per day.

In this type of process, the student’s subjective “experience” during the interaction can rival the importance of the content that they learn. The experience drives motivation and understanding, which drives effort by both parties. If either party is demotivated, the outcomes are degraded.     ... (consequences over the squiggy)
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I have attended YK/NN conventions since the first one in Vegas. I've only missed two ... Minneapolis and San Jose - both due to intractable scheduling conflicts. I left Detroit yesterday morning - with a lot of mixed feelings. There were some great moments. Some old friends. Some exciting panels and speakers.

But it wasn't the same.

Whenever something feels strange, I try to find a metaphor that crystallizes my misgivings. This afternoon, it hit me:

I felt like a civilian at a police convention.
I'll try to explain below:
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In today's document dump, there are a series of PowerPoint slides that appear to be the preliminary findings from a 'legitimate' traffic study. You can find them in several places, but the most complete set I have seen so far is in Exhibit E, starting on p168.

The rationale for the study was to increase total volume of traffic over the bridge by throttling inflows from local roads in Ft. Lee.

There is a slide (ExE, p171) that shows mainline flow (I-95) increasing by 2114 cars/hour and local Ft. Lee flow decreasing by 1704 cars/hour. In theory, that would mean that the experiment was a success. Throttling Ft. Lee would increase total bridge flow by almost 400 cars per hour. There is a caveat that the gain may not have been totally real, since local police quickly started to reroute local traffic to other access points that would have been counted in the mainline flow.

Think about that ... then go over the fold.

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Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 09:53 PM PDT

The obligation to retreat?

by grapes

Let me start with a controversial position - I am am not that upset about George Zimmerman's acquittal. I strongly dislike the outcome, but in the grand scheme of things, I know that there will always be judicial mistakes ... O.J. Simpson's acquittal? Don Siegelman's conviction? The hundreds of people on death row that are later exonerated by DNA?

Smart and dumb lawyers, dumb juries and ambiguous laws guarantee it.

We can't do much about the lawyers and juries, but we can do something about our laws. Zimmerman didn't get off because he was simply lucky. He got off because our laws muddied the legal waters to the point that a mediocre jury couldn't, in their own conscience, convict him.

Where did the "stand your ground law" come from? Surely, it didn't spring fully formed from the head of ALEC. It had to have more grounding than that ... and how did legislators expect it to be interpreted?

I turned to wikipedia and an article on the "duty to retreat" that many assumed to be settled law. If you look at the footnotes, you will see some legal articles and it was after reading a couple of those, that I began to grasp the tortuous historical complexities that I explore after the orange squiggly.

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Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 12:52 PM PDT

Democratically Elected Despots

by grapes

There is a strong current of opinion in the US and around the world that, because Morsi was freely elected, any attempt to remove him, other than through the ballot box, is a fundamental violation of democratic principles.

If Morsi were governing in the US or Europe or any of a number of long-standing democratic countries around the world, I would concur. However, IMHO, Morsi's Egypt fits into a special category - countries that are struggling to institute democracy for the first time in many years (if ever). Countries in this condition are especially vulnerable to a tragic syndrome.

Their first election may be their last.

If that thought is provocative, follow me over the orange squiggle.


Do you think that the threat of an elected despotism justifies the extraordinary events in Egypt?

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In Newtown, the President tasked Americans to look at the problem of gun violence with new eyes. Other diaries have proposed a wide range of remedies. In this diary, I want to suggest a thought experiment about an approach that, while not banning weapons, might seriously dampen citizens' desire to own and keep so many guns.

My idea is partially predicated on a study that just came out from the DOJ about the 1.4 million guns that were stolen from homes and businesses from 2005-2010. I will come back to this further down.

First, all proposed responses to gun ownership must pass the Second Amendment hurdle. The text of the Second Amendment is simple and direct (some argue too simple):

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
I emphasized the word keep because, although I am not a lawyer, I don't see anything in the Second Amendment that gives Americans the right to be casual or careless in how they keep their guns.

- What if they give the code to the gun safe to a psychotic relative?
- What if they leave their guns unsecured and a burglar takes them?
- What if they leave the Glock in their car and it is lost during a car break-in?
- What if they take it a bar, get drunk, they are overpowered and it is taken?

We place a heavy civil liability burden on car owners, on bar owners, on doctors, on  product manufacturers, on ... just about everyone else in American society. Lack of reasonable care opens them up to serious financial liability in civil Tort. Why should a careless gun owner be exempt?

So by all means keep and bear your gun ... but if you are a sloppy custodian and it gets used for an ill purpose, you should be held strictly liable for the consequences. You pay or your insurance pays ... if you have insurance.

I'll develop more implications after the orange muzzle flash.

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Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 08:30 PM PST

A simple strategy for 2014

by grapes

In 2008, we saw an historic election. Many, including myself, thought that we were turning a corner, entering a new era, ... pick your metaphor.

That didn't happen exactly. In 2010, after vicious obstruction, with the help of a ton of outside money and a vacuous mainstream media, the Republicans took back the House.

The big difference was turnout. When Barack was on the ticket, Democrats voted in hordes. When he wasn't ... not so much.

We just saw a wonderful outcome with Barack again (and for the last time). The turnout shocked the Republican pundits.

But what about 2014? Will we backslide again? If history is an indicator, the answer is yes. The batshit crazy Republican base will always show up. But the democratic coalition of the young, black, latino and women may not be as committed as they were on Tuesday. And the house will remain Republican for the second half of Barack's second term.

unless ... see over the squiggly

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Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 12:29 PM PDT

Deconstructing Mitt's Tax Data

by grapes

Data is a funny thing. Even little pieces of it can add up and really help to clarify a muddy picture. Of course, nothing is muddier right now than Mitt's taxes.

Nonetheless, there is now some (albeit highly limited) data that we can apply to help narrow down the possibilities:

Of these data points, only 2011 is solid. We don't know all of the details from 2010, although I suspect that there isn't anything egregious that happened that year. More likely, there is residual evidence of something embarrassing that happened earlier. I completely accept the pwc letter - but it says very little.

The weakest data point is McCain's statement. The only reason I include it is that he didn't have to make it. He could have claimed confidentiality. The fact that he stated it so clearly makes me tend to believe that it is true. Of course, McCain may differ with others on what is "disqualifying", but still ... there it is.

OK. That's not much data. What can we do with it? Find out after the symbol for the great orange satan's cool new currency.


If you were the cops, would you ...

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I was watching the Eagles vs Jets game in my local bar. There were a bunch of people talking about the Travesty in Tampa that was the Republican Convention. It's a pretty progressive clientele, so the only republican left shortly before the game.

But that discussion didn't seem to have much to do with the football game. I figured I would nurse a beer or two and leave at halftime. Which I did.

However, near the start of the game, there was an ad that had me out of my seat. I couldn't hear the commentary because the bar has 10 TVs and keeps most on mute, but I got the message. Later, I tracked it down on my phone.

You can view the "official" version of the ad below the curly something:

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Someday, this disaster will be over. Someday, the world will stop deepwater drilling. Someday, the world will wean itself off of oil. Unfortunately, none of those days will come soon enough for most of us. Meanwhile, oil companies will get government permission to drill in deep water using technology that is similar to the package that failed on the Deepwater Horizon.

In this diary, I want to share some documents that bear on the Blowout Preventer (BOP), the fundamental safety device that is the ultimate protection against a catastrophe like the GoM. These documents are not secret. They are publicly viewable on the website of the Minerals Management Service (

I warn you that the contents of these serious, industry-supplied presentations and studies will set your hair on fire. They will also prove that the Oil Industry (and their regulators) have been systematically, cynically and stupidly lying to us for decades.

If aircraft had BOPs, the documents linked in this diary would ground every plane in the world.


If you were given a used BOP:

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Mon May 24, 2010 at 10:51 PM PDT

Obama, Hayward, Salazar ... Listen Up

by grapes

The American people have been watching the slow-motion train wreck in the Gulf for more than 3 weeks. After all of the anguish of the past 2 years, they have to watch as one of America's most beloved regions is drowned in noxious sludge.

They were worried. Then they were scared. Now they're pissed.

You are hoping that the top kill will work on Wed (or Thurs or ... soon). If it does, that will shut them up. They won't give you great props, but they may get off your back. But what if it doesn't work? What will you do to keep them off your back then? As everyone is so fond of saying ... What's your f*ing Plan B?

Well, relax. I have a solution. You just have to go over the fold to see it.

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Mon Apr 06, 2009 at 10:19 AM PDT

Weapons of Mass Popularity

by grapes

Eons ago (actually Jan 08 - between Iowa and New Hampshire), I wrote wrote my take on Obama, Clinton and Edwards. (Well, OK, forget the Edwards part :-) The diary wasn't really about whether he would win or lose. I was more fascinated by his 'strategic' approach to the campaign and I speculated about its potential implications should he get the opportunity to govern.

As I watch his current performance on the world stage, I realize that I grossly underestimated the man. His strategic vision far, far exceeded my comprehension. Even more stunning is the elegance and simplicity of his strategy. It's not Machiavellian in the least. It's not even rocket science. It's far better than that.

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