Archive for the ‘questions’ Category

What are you?

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

Just for the fun of it I was taking a series of poll questions at Microsoft’s Microphone application on Facebook this afternoon and all of a sudden this question came up and I was stumped.

Do you consider yourself primarily a:

  • Gamer
  • Programmer
  • Computer Scientist
  • Artist
  • Technology Hobbyist
  • IT professional

And I didn’t know. Clearly not gamer or artist. IT professional? What does that even mean today? I work for a computer company but not really in an IT role. And while I have done that it never defined me. So that’s out.

These leaves technology hobbyist which feels ok but not quite. And then programmer and computer scientist. I want to say computer scientist. I really do. But do I reach that bar or am I “just” a well educated programmer? I think I would have to answer computer scientist but admit that this is as much aspirational as actual. And I have to think about how I define computer scientist.

So where do you see yourself?

Solving the world’s problems

Friday, November 21st, 2008

Like many people I sometime lay awake at night trying to solve the major problems in the world. This is a frustrating experience for two reasons. One is that I don’t actually have the solution for the world’s problems and the second is that even when I do no one in a position of authority is likely to even care what I think. This does not stop me of course because I am an American and we never let things like that stop us.

So of course I think about solving the problems of the Middle East, energy needs for America, the  US educational system and that state of computer science education in the world in general and the US in particular.

I have figured out that if we solved the power/energy problem we could build a wall around the whole middle east and impose a blockade until they all worked out their problems or the end of the world – which ever comes first. No one is likely to take that seriously though so I will not suggest it seriously.

The state of education is a real mess of a scale only a little less complex and emotional than the Middle East. So while I think about it a lot I don’t see any chance for me to get involved. I’m way to Republican for the Obama team to ask for my opinion. No doubt they will ask people who have never taught, never been on a school board and who seldom talk to teachers without preaching.  Sigh.

But computer science is a little easier. Oh not easy but relatively easier. We need better teachers for one thing. That’s hard. Really hard. Even in this economy someone who really understands computer science well enough to teach it can make better money doing other things. Also we don’t really have good special training for computer science teachers. You can get a masters in teaching of math, English, world languages, science and a bunch of other things. But there is not much in the way of how to teach computer science out there. That needs to change.

Which brings up another problem. We don’t really have much good research on how to teach computer science well. A lot of the research we have seems to contradict each other as well. We have some good teachers but much of what they do is not easily reproducible. It depends of their personality or their particular experience. And sometimes on getting the right students. Yeah that is a problem.  And don’t get me started on the state of certification for pre-college computer science teachers. What a mess.

So we need more research, more teacher training, better support and motivation for CS teachers, some good curriculum and then we hit the road block that it doesn’t fit into the curriculum. That gets us to school boards and school administrators who don’t understand technology let alone computer science.

Maybe I need an easier problem – like what makes women tick? 🙂

Did you ever …

Saturday, October 18th, 2008

Sit in an airport listening them call the boarding of flights and think that they sounded more interesting then where you were going?

Get in your car to run an errand and think about just driving on and seeing where you wound up?

Wonder what it would be like to live in a completely different part of the country or the world?

Realize that you don’t have any travel scheduled for months and think “I have to fix that.”

Wanderlust – ever have it? I get it all the time. But no where without my wife is worth going to for any length of time. Still …

Stress Eating

Friday, September 26th, 2008

This has been a stressful week for me. A lot of stuff going on with some travel, some talks to give and some deadlines to meet. So naturally I have been wanting to eat a lot. I’m trying very hard to not eat every time I want to because I am trying to lose weight. Add more stress which adds more desire to eat. Why does stress make people hungry? I think I figured it out.

We all know about the basic fight or flight response to danger. Our basic primal instincts come over when there is something to dear and we figure out is we can/should run or we must/should fight. I think there is a third response – feed.

If we are under stress but there is no obviously way to fight or take flight these same basic primeval instincts come to the conclusion that there must be a shortage of food in the works. So since there is food available now we should eat it. The body at some subconscious level decides that we need to fatten up for the coming shortage. The body is looking for a simplistic answer. Modern stress seldom responds to simple solutions though.

So it should be “fight, flight or feed” that we talk about. What do you think?

Scales

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

So I got on the scale the other day to see how much I weigh. And then for a lark I decided to get on it again a second later. Somehow I gained almost 3 pounds in that second. A second later I lost half of it. I wound up standing on the scale 6 times and getting six different weights. The closest two were about 2 tenths of a pound apart and the furthest apart was about 3 pounds from lightest to heaviest. What’s up with that?

And then today I looked at an electronic parts scale and watched it move up and down in weight displayed without anyone or anything being near enough to touch it.

I figure that some of this is related to changes in air pressure. But all of it? And three pounds worth? It’s all very frustrating especially for someone who is trying to lose weight. Did I lose a pound this week or gain a pound? Crazy.

Fair Taxes and Income

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

One of the things my Dad reminds me on a regular basis is that one should not think so much about how much they are paying in taxes but how much they have left after taxes. Related to that he reminds me that the affairs of government (not a reference to Bill and Monica :-)) have to be paid for some how.

This morning I found this post in the right wing Granite Grok blog. It shows what percentage of the total Federal tax bill is paid by various levels of income earners. The top 10% of income earners (about $109k/year) pay over 70% of the income tax revenue. The top 1% pay almost 40% all by themselves. Is that fair? Honestly, maybe it is. Especially if you think about what people have left after paying their taxes.

The thing that struck me the most is how low the levels are for the top 5, 10, and 25%. Most teachers, who I tend to think of as underpaid, are at least in the top half with a few making the top 25% in some parts of the country. At the top end, Phillips Andover thinks of families making as much as $300,000 as middle class and offers some financial aid for them. I don’t think of people making $100,000 to $150,000 as rich. Well off, sure, but still middle class. And yet those people are in the top 5-10% of income earners? I didn’t expect that.

But it makes me wonder, how are the people in the bottom half making it?

Caffeine

Saturday, May 10th, 2008

I don’t get this “caffeine keeps you awake” stuff I keep hearing. I just finished a nice warm cup of hot tea (Dunkin Donuts LARGE) which should be enough caffeine to keep one awake right? And yet all I want to do is take a nap. The same thing happened to me the other day.

I don’t drink coffee (yuck!!) but I drink cold beverages with caffeine and they never keep me awake either. Is this a myth or is my system just different?

The Year 08

Monday, April 7th, 2008

I was writing the date on my taxes this morning and it hit me. I wrote today as 4/7/08. Why not 4/7/8? Why do I and most people always add the leading zero? Sure if you are writing 2008 it makes sense to include all the digits but why abbreviate the year to two digits when we so freely leave out leading zeros for the day and month?

Or sure we are not abbreviating the day or month but so what? There are forms, especially online, that want the leading zeros for days and months so it is not like we never add them. The day and month on my credit cards have leading zeros as well.

Not sure what to make of this. What is that drive for leading zeros on the year abbreviation?

AP CS AB Exam going away

Sunday, April 6th, 2008

So did you hear the news that the College Board decided to drop the AB exam and just keep the A exam in computer science? BG teaches the AB exam for now. I assume they will teach the A exam the year after next but I am not sure what other changes that will cause. Opinions?

Speaking the Unspeakable

Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

There are some things you just can’t say. Not because they are not true but because they are just too politically incorrect. I’m worried that we are missing out on solving some problems just because it is unacceptable to speak about them.

Take for example saying the Obama is getting so much attention because he is black or that Clinton is getting so much attention because she is a woman. No no you can’t say those things because saying them implies racism or sexism that we wish know does not exist. But honestly do you really think that the reason Edwards got short changed in the media is because he was not a serious candidate? Of course not. The media decided that a race between a black man and a white woman was more interesting, would sell more, and so they left Edwards out. Is that because the media is racist/sexist or just because they think the public is or is it just because people are more interested in seeing something different? Does it even matter? Probably not but I think that saying race and gender had nothing to do with it is intellectually dishonest.

We are closing discussion that might help make things better in the future.

Or take some people saying that 9-11 was a reaction to things America did in the past. What sort of idiot thinks that Moslem extremists are not pissed off at the US for things we have done? Things like supporting Israel or taking advantage of middle eastern oil or being Christians? Who really deep down when they honestly look at history doesn’t understand that Arab Moslems have reasons that in their mind create justifiable anger at the US? But you can’t say that.

That is not to say that the anger or our actions justify (certainly not to us) the actions of 9-11. That day is clearly not a rational response to most sane people. But to deny that there are other people who see the world differently is, again, intellectually dishonest.

We are closing discussion that might help make things better in the future.

And just so I can get a third strike against me, there is the debates about treatment of boys and girls in schools. There are some who get violently upset if you say that some school environments are much more comfortable for girls than for boys. Heaven forbid that you suggest that boys and girls behave differently, learn differently, or respond to teachers differently. Gasp that is sexist. And yet does anyone really believe that boys and girls are the same? Note that no one is saying better or worse, or right and wrong – just different. Demanding that people close their eyes to gender differences in schools is intellectually dishonest.

We are closing discussion that might help make things better in the future.

Without honest open, no holds bared, no topic exclude, no viewpoint unheard discussion how can real problems be fixed? We can’t just ignore facts just because they make the world look differently than we want it to be. And yet, more and more often, that is just what we are doing.