Monday, May 9, 2011

xkcd conjures Marie Curie

xkcd has a great comic for students today (particularly women students, but really for everyone). I'll repost it here, along with a word of encouragement to check out xkcd's other stuff. It's a great strip.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Grammar Nazis

Those of us who consider grammar when grading student writing are often accused by students of being "grammar Nazis." Students often argue that we should evaluate what they said, rather than how they said it. This plea is particularly common in classes outside the English department: I hear it a lot when I teach business communications, and my wife hears it whenever she assigns papers in political science.

If you or someone else you know finds the above plea persuasive, try this experiment: Come up with a grade for the student essay below (which is a real essay, typed verbatim) -- as well as a justification for the grade that isn't based on grammar or mechanics. If you give it a good grade, you need a reason for it. If you give it a low grade, you need a reason for it (other than grammar). Without talking about grammar, can you come up with a justifiable grade for it at all? Imagine the student comes to you demanding to know why it got a "D" or a "B" or an "A-" (instead of an A). What's your content-based answer?

Although the paper below is an extreme case, it illustrates a real problem: Badly written papers are often difficult or impossible to evaluate fairly by any other criteria: You can't understand the content well enough to evaluate it. (Similarly, if a student's documentation is terrible, his or her research and support become difficult or impossible to evaluate.) Sure, I can evaluate the content and argumentation of a well-written paper quite easily, and the research of a well-cited paper easily.

But personally, if I were required to evaluate the paper below based on a criteria other than grammar, I'd be flummoxed. Take a look at it, and see if you can discern what I mean.

Student essay on “I Am the Enemy” by Ron Kline (2006)

With this argumentation Ron Kline wrote this I do agree so in the opening sentence started off like this one of those vilified, inhumane physician- scientists involved in the animal research. Do most of these animals that are getting tested have the rights to not be tested because the law has state that the animals have to be test on what is going around? In the first couple of sentences you can see that Ron Kline is pediatric oncologist and the former director of the bone marrow transplant program. You could say that the animal’s rights activists would suggest a fourth choice that the claiming that computers models can stimulate animal experiments thus they are making the actual experiments unnecessary to do this.

The argument is that I would have to agree in the this favor because looking at the little short statement reading on that Ron had put together a lot of good point. “ One of the terrifying effects of the effort to restrict the use of the animals in medical research is that the impact will not be felt for years and decades the drugs that might have been discovered will be and fundamental biological processes that might have been understood.” Understood to the better of one ability is what Ron put out there to make all those points since that he is that the enemy of himself. Is what the truth about this true then you could say that information is what they thought to be? Ron has this open opinion to say what has been going on for as long as we all know it was happening.

One other thing that I saw that at the in America today death has become an event isolated fro it earliest our daily existence out of the sight and the thoughts of most are believes. In common one that the doctors today watching children die today in the world that the parents and the animals grieve in the same was, I quietly understand and agree that animals have the similar way too. Argumentation

With all the technology up grates it would be a lot for the animals to be test and scientist think that it is just not right to do. Having this said the things are remain mysteries until time can be said. Knowing that the things being done are just what they are helped. The are danger that the politically expedient solutions will be found to that they will placate a vocal minority that while consequences of those decisions will not affect all of those decisions that are made on ones minds. “Fortunately most of us enjoy just being in good health and the trauma of watching one’s child die has become a rare experience

Ron has a lot of good supporting facts that are just right to the things that might be look at is that the great to site. In the argumentation is that I just do believe in that he saying because with all of the technology going on it just seems a lot of differences in medical science of the animals right today in USA.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

F#@ked by Ray Bradbury?

I'm alluding, above, to one of the recent Hugo nominees for best short-form dramatic presentation: a music video titled "Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury."

The video is ... well, exactly what it sounds like. It's an explicit proposition by writer Rachel Bloom, set to music, posted on YouTube for Bradbury's 90th birthday. It's explicit enough, I'm surprised the author survived watching it. It's also fun -- a bit of a kick. It's nice to see sci-fi getting some love from the distaff side, and to see reading getting some love from the high auto-insurance premium generation. (And by love, I mean ... er, let's move on.)

Historically, short-form nominees have been TV episodes and a few scattered short films. A couple of years ago, though, the Internet sensation Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog won, and that may have been a harbinger of things to come. (And by come, I mean "arrive." Stay focused, people.)

I think "Fuck me" might win. I'm not sure it ought to, good as it is, but I think it will, and I think the reason is worth some attention.

Bloom's erotic tribute is up against three television episodes and a short animated film ("The Lost Thing" by Shaun Tan) for the short-form award. All three TV nominations are for Doctor Who eps: two by three-time winner Steven Moffat and one by Richard Curtis (writer of Love, Actually and Four Weddings and a Funeral).

I haven't seen "The Lost Thing," but I've seen the other four. I think all three Doctor Who episodes are probably better than "Fuck Me." I personally would vote for Moffat's "A Christmas Carol." I know other people who would vote for "Vincent and the Doctor." I'll be stunned if any of the Who episodes wins.

Surprisingly, I'm not saying this because Doctor Who is up against itself, and will divvy up the Doctor Who fan vote. That's certainly a reliable pattern for the Academy Awards, but it's not quite as true for the Hugos, which often sees episodes beating up their siblings. (Doctor Who won last year despite having three nominations, for instance. And last year, I would have given the prize to Joss Whedon's "Epitaph One" for Dollhouse.)

So why do I think three-time winner Moffat will do worse this year?

Because the winner is determined by a vote of Hugo members, not by a panel of judges. A panel of judges might watch all five and compare them, but with a large membership, odds favor the show with the most viewers.

This year, that strange physics favors Bloom's let's-have-sex tape, which is likely to end up with far more viewers than any other nominee (in any category, really).

Let's put it this way: Which one of those nominees has a link on this page? A link directly to the nominated performance? "Fuck Me," that's the one. If you haven't been watching Doctor Who, no link will take you to a free, online, convenient performance. You'd have to rent it, or catch it on a TV repeat. And if you want to watch "The Lost Thing," you'll have to buy a copy on iTunes, which I haven't done yet. Have you? It might be the best of the five, but you have to go out of your way a bit to test that.

Now look at the official list of Hugo nominees. Only one of the five nominees has a "Watch now" link next to it: Bloom's. That immediate link, right on the virtual ballot, is going to give Bloom a "Fuck Me" pump that'll be hard to beat. (And by "beat," I mean rhythm. Really. I'm sure the sentence makes sense that way.)

I'm not sure it's fair to match 45-minute episodes only available on BBC and DVD, or short films only available to people at film festivals, against a YouTube video available to everyone with a computer. We'll see how this year goes; maybe I'll be wrong.

But if Ms. Bloom wins, along with sending her congratulations -- honest congrats, as the video is cool -- we might want to send Hugo a recommendation to come up with a new category for the free online stuff.

After all, we want to be fair to Mr. Moffat. He's only won three times.