Friday, May 25, 2007

Graph of the Day

The Monica Effect

The Monica Effect

Thursday, May 24, 2007

To the Congressional Democratic Leadership

Just a few key points:
  • You were not put in power to enact a Republican agenda. Republicans were doing that just fine when they were in the majority. With regards to the war, that meant giving Bush whatever he wanted. Given the importance of the war to the 2006 electorate, you are betraying voters when you do the same thing.
  • Republicans will not criticize you less because you have capitulated to Bush. They will criticize you no matter what you do on the war, so you might as well do what's right.
  • The Constitution was written such that wars cannot long be run by just one branch. Congress raises armies and funds them, the president is commander-in-chief. If there is a disagreement between Congress and the White House about whether to continue a war, there is no reason that the Congress must be the one to capitulate (particularly when the president is overwhelmingly unpopular). The president can't fund his war without your help. You just gave it to him without any meaningful conditions.
  • The majority in Congress is not supposed to get rolled. By proposing legislation that all of the minority party likes and most in the majority do not, you've set yourself up for an embarrassing loss.
  • More soldiers are going to die.

Godfather IV

Nicely done.

Pluralistic Ignorance

This NY Times piece does much to explain why the mainstream media often represent minority viewpoints as conventional wisdom. It's a great read.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Celebrity look-alikes has an awesome (and free) on-line photo recognition program that will match you up with your look-alikes.

Apparently I look like Bob Saget. I guess that shouldn't surprise me. But I was kind of hoping for Ralph Macchio.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Is grade inflation really a problem?

I keep hearing about what an enormous problem grade inflation is for our colleges and universities. As the above graph (courtesy suggests, grade inflation is real. GPAs are increasing by something like .15 points per decade, on average. And I've seen solid quantitative evidence for this occuring in my own school.

But why is this a crisis? After all, currencies usually experience modest inflation, and unless it becomes rapid inflation, it's generally not considered a problem. You could buy a loaf of bread for a dollar twenty years ago and you really can't now. Big deal - our incomes have inflated, too.

Isn't it the same with grade point averages? As long as prospective employers and graduate schools are aware that GPAs are higher than they used to be, they can adjust expectations accordingly. And regardless of inflation, a person with a 3.8 GPA, all else being equal, is more likely to get hired than someone with a 3.7. Who cares what those scores would have been 20 years ago?

Granted, it's not exactly like money, since GPAs have an upper limit of 4.0. So what has happened is that the range of GPAs has narrowed - more folks are clustered up in the mid 3s than previously. But again, so what? Why is one distribution of grades better than another, so long as better students are still getting higher grades?

One concern, though, is that grade inflation is not uniform. As points out, schools like Stanford have seen lots of inflation, while Cal State Hayward has really held the line. In that sense, the schools aren't necessarily comparable. A Stanford student graduating with a 3.8 will be preferred over a Hayward student with a 3.4, even though the Hayward student would possibly merit a 3.9 if her school had experienced Stanford-level inflation. But were the different schools' GPAs ever directly comparable? And if you're weighing two job applications, one from a Stanford student and one from a Cal State Hayward student, are you really looking at GPAs?

Help me out here. Where's the crisis?

Friday, May 4, 2007

Kaddish for Gilmore Girls

Well, the CW has finally cancelled "Gilmore Girls." I feel guilty about this since I stopped watching this year. It just wasn't fun anymore. It turns out I wasn't the only one who noticed. Viewership was down 25% from this time last year.

Prior to the departure of creator Amy Sherman-Palladino, this was a really sharp show: solid, light drama; rich characters; energetic performances; and fantastic writing that was infused with enough pop cultural sub-references to choke Dennis Miller.

Even in the good years, though, they occassionally slipped up. You could tell when they were trying out a new writer or were just off their game. Instead of funny material, they would have dull material and assume that viewers would enjoy it if Lauren Graham (Lorelai) would just say it fast. Didn't really work. And there was one time when they totally blew a "Godfather" reference, with Lorelai claiming that Michael shot Solotzo and Barzini in a restaurant. (He shot Solotzo and Captain McClusky. Duh.) That was unforgivably amateurish. Anyway, the whole current season was like this (at least until I stopped watching) - just dull writing spoken quickly.

Still, I'm glad for the memories, and I appreciate that the show was, for most of its life, so well done that a guy in his mid-30s could watch a show marketed to tween girls and not feel like a total sicko.

PS: Kelly Bishop was an absolute genius on this show as the ball-busting Emily. She deserves an Emmy. So does Liza Weil (Paris).

Squeeze Sour Cream

This is truly the greatest country in the world.