wintersweet: Main character from Yokohama Shopping Project: Just being alive means you've made a clear profit. ☆ 人生、生きちょるだけで丸儲け. (murata-ono no komachi-me)
It looks like they've really called Proposition 8 as a pass.

Although I was telling C. to be quiet during Obama's speech last night, it was hard not to be thinking the same things in my heart that he was muttering aloud.

I do question the power of our democracy.

I do wonder what message California has sent to the world.

Democracy? Rather, the tyranny of the majority.

Liberty? Well, don't start me.

Opportunity? For whom?

Unyielding hope? My hope has yielded pretty thoroughly to the armies of fear and hatred cloaked in the guise of Christianity.

When your opposition will stop at nothing, when they will outright lie about everything, when they don't care how much money they spend in order to impose their theocracy on you, it's very hard to fight back.

To the so-called Christians who are currently glorying in their successful effort to destroy the official standing of married couples and families, I hope you someday feel the same kind of pain that you've just caused. (And I hope you realize that those couples will still be couples and those families will be still be families--you can't change that no matter how many lies you spread.)

To the Unitarians, Quakers, Episcopalians, and other religious groups who fought this tooth and nail, (and to the small handful of Catholic and other religious officials who spoke out against their own churches), thank you. Overall, religion was a major force for evil in this mess, but the exceptions should be noted. I feel a strong urge to say that if you are a member of a religion that is behind the initiatives against same-sex marriage in various states and you are not speaking out against it in your church, though, I am really, really not happy with you right now. It's probably unfair of me to feel that way, but I do. You know, it's not hard to find a church that does almost entirely good things (e.g., Unitarians, Quakers, etc.) instead of some good things and some bad things (e.g., LDS, Catholics, etc.). I just don't understand ... but it's probably impossible for me to understand, so I should give up trying to before I lose more friends than I probably just did. I'm sorry. I'm just so angry and so hurt right now.



(The official line from the No on 8 campaign is to wait until the official count is totally completed, but I don't think things are going to change at this point. I'll be waiting for the next step and I'll try to do more this time, somehow. More thoughts later. Sorry, I'm sure you were looking forward to my shutting up about this.)

Charity

Oct. 8th, 2008 10:15 am
wintersweet: Main character from Yokohama Shopping Project: Just being alive means you've made a clear profit. ☆ 人生、生きちょるだけで丸儲け. (gokusen-me)
Sigh.

Part of me likes to think that charities are charities first and politico-religious organizations later.

Part of me is stupid and naive. And also contradictory, because when you get down to it, I guess I really no longer trust any "faith-based" charitable efforts. I don't give to random religious charities that I see soliciting for pocket change because I don't know where the money goes. Well, I don't give to any unknown charity, but I'm increasingly suspicious of religious charities because the more I learn about them, the more I hear about organizations that actively discriminate. You want to help people? Then help people. Don't turn away gay people, single mothers, people from other religions, or whatever group you hate this week.

If religious groups want to do good, I feel they should just divorce their charitable efforts from their religion. People who are moved by their efforts will still probably be drawn to their religion through personal conversations if that's what they want. But if the goal is doing good, and not proselytizing or imposing their beliefs on others, then they need to quit dancing about and really just DO GOOD.

This message brought to you by the hateful, anti-family, anti-love, anti-marriage radio ad in favor of Proposition 8 that I heard this morning, which was partly sponsored by the Knights of Columbus.

I will never donate to any Knights of Columnbus fundraiser ever again.

Sure, they also do some good things, but you know what? There are OTHER organizations that AREN'T bigoted and ALSO do good works. You don't have to give to organizations such as the Knights of Columbus and the Salvation Army. They do good with one hand and practice bigotry with the other. You have a choice. Choose an organization that doesn't discriminate and add to hatred, discrimination, and bigotry.




(NB: It's not that I won't give to religious organizations at all. I will if I am assured that their good works are no-strings-attached. Otherwise, I'm not subsidizing their crusades.)
wintersweet: Main character from Yokohama Shopping Project: Just being alive means you've made a clear profit. ☆ 人生、生きちょるだけで丸儲け. (nicklylee-boxer-unfinis)
All the back-patting (mostly by white male political figures and commentators) about how FAR we've come and isn't this all MARVELOUS and *gush gush gush*.

I haven't heard a single person say what I've been thinking:

WHAT THE HELL TOOK US SO LONG?!

Seriously, tons of other nations have elected leaders who weren't from the majority ethnic group (or who weren't from the privileged ethnic group) and/or who were female. And never mind that there's still no chance of either party nominating anyone who's atheist or gay or Hispanic or ... yeah.

We have a LONG way to go, and we need to move a lot faster if we're going to catch up to where we should be!


(I promise I'll lay off the politics now. Just had to get that off my chest.)
wintersweet: Main character from Yokohama Shopping Project: Just being alive means you've made a clear profit. ☆ 人生、生きちょるだけで丸儲け. (Default)
So in the Old Days you had to go look up the author's last name, then first name, in a physical card catalog.

Nowadays we have amazing things like computers and databases, which libraries purport to embrace.

So why is it that if I type "timothy pratt" into the author field, it doesn't automatically check for "pratt, timothy"? Progammers, that's not going to be HARD, right? Aside from issues with names like "de la Fuente" and stuff--just search the whole author field for those two strings in any order! Right? Isn't that why we USE computers?

(By the way, the results page for "timothy pratt" includes, in the middle of irrelevant results, "Your entry timothy pratt would be here ------ Change search to pratt, timothy". I guess that's supposed to be helpful, but a) Why not just search for both automatically? and b) non-fluent users probably won't even notice that, let alone understand it. Many other languages/library systems require no such name-juggling to search, so it's not something that those users would ever expect or think of.)

This complaint inspired by aclibrary.org.
wintersweet: Main character from Yokohama Shopping Project: Just being alive means you've made a clear profit. ☆ 人生、生きちょるだけで丸儲け. (Default)
I'm starting to get really irritated that when I look for information about natural food sources of nutrients such as B1 and D, the lists are suspiciously short. I suppose it's possible that all major nutrients are found in large quantities only in things that monolingual white residents of Andover, Kansas, can buy at Wal-Mart and will eat without blinking, but I kind of doubt it, you know?

It just seems awfully peculiar that the most "exotic" entries on most of these lists are things like soy milk and bok choy. How about bitter melon, matsutake mushrooms, long beans, azuki, lemongrass, Buddha's hand, lizhi, dragonfruit, quail eggs, perilla, chayote, winter melon, snake gourd, daikon, and all other things I can buy any day of the week here? (And, you know, I'm sure these things are gradually proliferating in Andover, KS, as well.) I'm sure there are a few nutritious superstars in there somewhere.

(Conversely, when I find a website that purports to give the benefits of a particular "exotic" fruit or vegetable, they're usually way over the top and totally reference-free. Bitter melon is a good example of this. So I'd really like to have a page with info that comes from an academic/scientific/governmental source.)

AGH.

Mar. 24th, 2008 10:05 am
wintersweet: Main character from Yokohama Shopping Project: Just being alive means you've made a clear profit. ☆ 人生、生きちょるだけで丸儲け. (gokusen-me)
I know that "xyz science fiction writer is a horrible bigot/homophobe/war hawk" is hardly news any more, but sometimes the things that come out of their mouths just blow me away.

Via [livejournal.com profile] ktempest: Now a fixture at Department of Homeland Security science and technology conferences, SIGMA is a loosely affiliated group of science fiction writers who are offering pro bono advice to anyone in government who want their thoughts on how to protect the nation.

The group has the ear of Department of Homeland Security Undersecretary Jay Cohen, head of the science and technology directorate, who has said he likes their unconventional thinking.
[...]
[Larry] Niven said a good way to help hospitals stem financial losses is to spread rumors in Spanish within the Latino community that emergency rooms are killing patients in order to harvest their organs for transplants.

"The problem [of hospitals going broke] is hugely exaggerated by illegal aliens who aren’t going to pay for anything anyway," Niven said.


“Do you know how politically incorrect you are?” Pournelle asked.
(source, in which the panel sounds like a bit of a debacle anyway)

*dies*

Not only is he factually way off, but ... god, I can't think of many more inhumane statements.

Like I said to [livejournal.com profile] ktempest, I know we're all supposed to separate the art from the artist. But at the same time, I don't want him to get any of my nickels, you know? (not that he needs my nickels to survive, but still.) Well, it's not like I had any urge to read Niven any time soon, anyway. I will be enjoying giving my money to writers like [livejournal.com profile] matociquala and [livejournal.com profile] scottlynch, with whom I may or may not agree on politics, but who don't make me feel appalled to be a member of the same species.

P. S. to Jerry Pournelle: Your tongue slipped--you said "politically incorrect," but surely you must have meant "dead wrong." God, I'm sick of people using "politically incorrect" when they mean "racist and/or heterosexist in a way that I personally approve of ha ha," and using "politically correct" to mean "accommodating of a group or belief that I personally disapprove of." And that *is* how the phrases are generally used, which is one reason why I almost never utter those words, except in the older, pre-right-wing-talk-show-appropriation usage of "it's politically correct in China to pay lip service to Mao while exploiting the capitalist market."

I hate...

Aug. 27th, 2007 08:10 pm
wintersweet: Main character from Yokohama Shopping Project: Just being alive means you've made a clear profit. ☆ 人生、生きちょるだけで丸儲け. (kogura_shinobu-EH?!-me)
--complex forms with insufficient instructions (health insurance).

FIX: Write a nice simple step-by-step document that includes things like the institutional code. It would probably take about 15 minutes to do, and would save multiple 15-minute queries per quarter from confused new hires.

--UC Berkeley's computer science department's contradictory information re. community college transfers. Seriously, they say totally different things on different pages, not to mention via e-mail. (Additional lost points for not actually answering Clint's e-mail on behalf of [livejournal.com profile] siderealengine, instead responding with canned links ala bad tech support.) For instance, check out this awesome page. Note the box up top with " THE COMPUTER SCIENCE MAJOR IS NOW UNCAPPED! " (in red, even!). Scroll down a bit, and then read this: "The Computer Science Major is a competitive and capped major in the College of Letters and Science." That wouldn't be a big deal if it weren't so consistent with their constant inconsistencies. It's exceedingly frustrating. We can't seem to pin them down on what they want students to have taken before applying to transfer, and the person who just e-mailed Clint directly contradicted their website which PLAINLY says that you MUST apply and be accept to UC Berkeley SEPARATELY, FIRST, and take at least 1 or 2 semesters of courses BEFORE you can apply to EECS (the school in which the CS major is). It even goes to far as to suggest preparing for a backup major in case CS doesn't let you in but you're already stuck at Berkeley.

FIX: Put one person in charge of all this. Streamline and centralize the web documents to reduce endless slightly different iterations that gradually become false as things change and the pages aren't maintained. Seriously, the way it stands now, their web-based information can literally result in students wasting substantial time and money trying to fulfill the wrong requirements. And no, [livejournal.com profile] siderealengine can't just talk to the counselors at his community college, because they are completely ignorant of the requirements for all non-A&S majors at Berkeley (i.e., all engineering/CS/business/etc. majors). They have repeatedly advised [livejournal.com profile] jenniferward and [livejournal.com profile] siderealengine to do a certain set of general education requirements (IGETC, now a running joke in our household), which is the ONE thing that the transfer pages AGREE on: Do not do IGETC if you are majoring in business or computer science, because it does not fulfill their entirely different set of transfer prerequisites.

I know I'm ranty but in both cases the bureaucracies involved are MESSING WITH PEOPLE'S LIVES BECAUSE THEY CAN'T GET THEIR GODDAMN ACTS TOGETHER. DOING THIS STUFF RIGHT IS NOT. THAT. HARD.
wintersweet: Main character from Yokohama Shopping Project: Just being alive means you've made a clear profit. ☆ 人生、生きちょるだけで丸儲け. (kogura_shinobu-EH?!-me)
I know there are a bunch of "Supernatural" fans on my f'list, so check out the various Supernatural-related interviews and such in this month's Sequential Tart: http://www.sequentialtart.com/


Manga Jouhou is having a yuri-themed week, including translations of articles and columns on yuri manga from Japanese publications: http://manganews.net/

(Yuri manga is manga with female romance themes, to varying degrees.)


Quantity wins over quality. If you're trendy, prolific, and have a foot in the door, life is gravy, I guess. For reference, please consult the ouevres of Boyd Lafayette DeMente and Christopher Hart.

Boyd DeMente is a self-styled expert on Japan and author of such classics as Bachelor's Japan (an entire tome of Asian fetish on display), The Chinese Have a Word for It: The Complete Guide to Chinese Thought and Culture (oversimplified, insulting, caricatured, and frequently linguistically dead wrong), Asian Face Reading: Unlock the Secrets Hidden in the Human Face and How to Measure the Sexuality of Men & Women by Their Facial Features (no comment), Women of the Orient: Intimate Profiles of the World's Most Feminine Women (...), and Why Mexicans Think & Behave the Way They Do! (yes, the ! is in there, and yes, apparently he's an expert on Mexico as well as Japan, China, and Korea, not to mention the Navajo and Hopi). And so many more.

Nonspecialists eat this guy up, but he's wrong on more things than he's right about--plus deeply insulting to women and pretty much every culture he writes about.

Christopher Hart is ... is ... well, check out the artwork here, which is strictly on the level of poorly copied fanart. [livejournal.com profile] divalea's little girl could out-draw this guy blindfolded. Yet he has essentially his own shelf at Borders (see all his Amazon entries), and Del Rey is going to be publishing his first "original English language manga" (OEL manga). It blows my mind. There are dozens of more skilled artists at any convention's Artist Alley. Livejournal (heck, my friends list alone!) and DeviantArt.com are crawling with more talent.

I hate to insult any artist who's trying, but look at that page and tell me you haven't seen better work done by 13-year-olds. It wouldn't bother me so much if he weren't publishing instructional books, you know? Shame on the publisher for not trying to find someone who can actually produce professional-looking art. (Please do not do your nephews and nieces the disservice of buying them these books. There are many better ones out there.)

2.5 million books in 17 languages. Wow.

I can only assume that both of these guys are great about deadlines and constantly have more ideas of things that sound publishable.
wintersweet: Main character from Yokohama Shopping Project: Just being alive means you've made a clear profit. ☆ 人生、生きちょるだけで丸儲け. (Default)
You've probably seen this by now, but this is supposed to be a first take of Weird Al's "White and Nerdy," featuring 800% more Donny Osmond. Heeheehee. I really liked Osmond's bit in the original video; there's just something so goofily joyous about his silly dancing.

Thanks, [livejournal.com profile] mactavish!


Speaking of nerdy:

I think there's a lot of wastefulness involved in buying software licenses. My university pays for MS Office(OpenOffice sucks, but less); Blackboard (world's worst UI; Sakai is far superior); iPlanet (a ridiculously crappy webmail system that everyone's forced to use; Gmail is far superior); NoodleTools (mostly does what citationmachine.net does, only AFAIK no student actually knows NoodleTools exists), and god only knows what else. I assume they use these because they come with support, but by the time you add up all the licenses, there's probably enough money for a full-time "open source support" position. >_< Or, of course, maybe they've never even heard of open-source software.

And also, all the machines default to IE. Which is free, but probably costs in terms of having lots of service calls. And no, MS did not donate the machines to us or anything like that, as far as I know.

/rant


Auctions to help [livejournal.com profile] divalea's family with their bills following an awful fire are concluding soon. Items include Nightwing #125 original script signed by Marv Wolfman, Infinite Crisis Secret Files script by Marv Wolfman, signed Teen Titans Deep Six (season 1 ep 8) script, a Star Wars Episode 1 teaser signed by Samuel L Jackson, and a True Story Swear To God 7 script/concept/sketchbook by Tom Beland.


I saw a roof duck today.
Perfectly normal mallard-type duck, chilling on the roof of the Charles Schwab building next to PJ's Bagels. I mean, I know they can fly, but they don't normally chill on roofs.
When we left the girl who works at PJ's was trying to get it come down, by tossing roll bits on the ground.
wintersweet: Main character from Yokohama Shopping Project: Just being alive means you've made a clear profit. ☆ 人生、生きちょるだけで丸儲け. (Default)
Vocab notes for anyone unfamiliar with this stuff:
Quick and subjective glossary )

So I wrote a few days ago about how disappointed I was by the apparently low standards of teaching at Ohlone (the local community college) along with how incompetent many of their administrative employees seemed to be. Today I was thinking about why I was so bothered that all of [livejournal.com profile] jenniferward's and [livejournal.com profile] siderealengine's classes base their grades mostly on tests, with no papers or anything. I was wondering if I was just being a snob or if it was a case of "I went through it; now you must suffer too!!!"--as is all too typical in academia. But I've seen some of their homework assignments, and honestly, it's not even preparation for the California State University system (based on the undergrad classes I've seen at CSUEB). For Berkeley, which is where they want to go? Forget it. It's almost like deliberately preparing students to fail. I had more advanced assignments in seventh grade, and I'm not exaggerating even a little. I am really hoping that this is some bizarre fluke and things will improve, because I can't imagine being lulled into thinking that college = multi-choice tests and end-of-chapter questions straight out of the textbook, and then transferring into university only to be hit with research papers, open-ended projects, and critical essays.

Part of the reason I'm so stunned is that I've always been a big advocate of community colleges, since my mom taught at one and [livejournal.com profile] assaultdoor's parents both do. I think the various role they fill are extremely important. In California, the system is thought of somewhat differently than in most of the rest of the US; CCs are viewed as natural steps to 4-year colleges/universities for anyone who's somewhat thrifty, for one thing. Compared to some other areas, there's less of the attitude of "it's for people who barely passed high school and couldn't get accepted into any college anywhere."

That said ... one of the big roles of CCs here really is getting students up to a minimum level of competence in English and math, the level they should have been at when they graduated from high school. I was shocked by the lack of grammar, sentence construction, and logic skills in many of my English 3000 students at CSUEB, and at the time I said I was appalled that they had been allowed to graduate from high school--and they were juniors in college!. Well, having heard more about the way high schools work in California (and Arizona), I understand better now. For many of the students, K-12 simply failed. Whether you want to chalk it up to funding, ill-prepared and uninterested teachers, underpaid and overworked teachers, or whatever, the fact remains that the educational system isn't working for many students, especially those without educated parents. It's not exactly fair that they were allowed to graduate without the minimum skills, but it's not exactly unfair, either, since I don't believe they were presented with a genuine opportunity to learn. This is an extremely complex problem that needs to be fixed.

For college, including community college, it's a different matter. There is no free pass. Today there was a headline in the Fremont Argus reading "Colleges opt to raise standards: English, mathematics requirements increased for associate's degree." Well, good, I thought. Maybe we'll get fewer ill-prepared students at the 4-year level. What are these standards? "Beginning in fall 2009, students will be required to complete [first-year] English composition and intermediate algebra before they qualify for an associate's degree."

Um.

What exactly was an AA before that? Your receipt for paying for two years of community college?

"I think it's hard enough as it is for students to balance studying, work and family," (an Ohlone student) said. "It's just not fair."

Okay, sorry. This time it IS fair. An AA is optional; it's something you choose to try for. If you can't pass those two classes, you haven't earned an AA. An AA is not a receipt. It is supposed to be proof to universities and employers that you have certain minimum skills. If you don't have those skills, you don't get the degree. Sorry. Since it is community college, and it is California, with the lowest CC tuition in the entire country, you have the chance to take plenty of developmental (remedial) math and English classes. Nearly every CC also has free math and writing tutoring. There is every opportunity to get yourself to that bare minimum level. If you can't, it is possible that you should pay attention to "work and family" only. (I admit that this would be a better solution if we had widely accessible trade schools in the US and more respect for trade certifications. Ohlone does have various certifications available, though, so students who can't qualify for an AA should at least consider those.)

"I came here because it's cheaper," said (another Ohlone student). "I think those kinds of (new) requirements should be at Cal State instead."

No, sorry again. The way transfer usually works is 2 years at a CC and then 2 years at a 4-year college/university (Cal State schools are universities). You can spend more than 2 years getting ready to transfer, but you can rarely spend more than 2-3 years after you transfer. At the CC, you're supposed to get rid of your general education requirements and any developmental classes you need to be able to pass the GE classes. This is good for two reasons: 1) it's a lot cheaper to pay the CC tuition rate if you have to take a lot of catch-up classes, and 2) you get to take your major courses at the 4-year institution, which will probably be in greater depth, with more opportunities for research, better libraries and other facilities like labs, etc. If you have scholarships or grants, you probably won't be allowed to spend more than 2-3 years at the 4-year institution. Those 2-3 years are supposed to be all higher-level courses, junior and senior classes that are more advanced and focus on your major. By the time you get there, you had better be ready for university-level work right off the bad.

This attitude may not be the student's fault, though. Very little about college is intuitively obvious, and if you don't have parents and siblings who have gotten their bachelor's degrees, it's hard to know how things work. CCs need to clearly articulate the system, procedures, and jargon to new students.

That would be assuming that the school itself is taking its transfer preparation task seriously. Obviously, many of the students don't take it seriously or don't understand the stakes, but community college staff and faculty must do better than that. The impression that I'm getting from Ohlone is that they are not focused on university-level academic preparation. I'm not sure what to do about this, not counting complaining in my blog, but I know this is not an acceptable situation. I'm hoping it's temporary and unusual and there won't wind up being anything that needs to be done other than encouraging [livejournal.com profile] siderealengine to write some accurate complaints on the end-of-the-semester evaluation forms. If it continues to be the case, though, something will have to be done.

(I don't think our roommates would take too kindly to being assigned research papers by [livejournal.com profile] assaultdoor and me, do you? No, I don't think so, and I wouldn't blame them either.)

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wintersweet: Main character from Yokohama Shopping Project: Just being alive means you've made a clear profit. ☆ 人生、生きちょるだけで丸儲け. (Default)
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