Friday, October 26, 2018

subjective "objective" test questions (and vice versa)

A proposition I thought about this AM: "Objective" test questions (multiple-choice, true/false, fill-in-the-blank, matching) are more subjective than "subjective" test questions (short answer, short essay, long essay). I'm going to develop this thought more fully in a writing project soon, but for now...
-"Objective" questions are more objective in terms of "correct" vs. incorrect answers. (But this is not a 0/1, since questions-- particularly those that are less simplistic and hopefully more valuable-- can have nuance and complexity that leads to better correct answers.) In contrast, teachers use (formal or informal) rubrics to lessen the subjectivity of "subjective" questions.
-"Objective" questions are (far?) less objective in terms of deciding how many questions an A, B, C, D or F student should get correct-- and therefore, the larger issue: the standard by which students should be judged on a test. In contrast, if I have a series of rubrics for each "subjective" question, it's easy to aggregate those to a coherent and relatively objective standard for what constitutes success at a certain grade level.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

weight loss 2018

Started at 215 on 1/1/18

The approach: I started to work out again, dropped desserts and sweets, and was otherwise careful with carbs. (Here's the record of this on FB.)

2/1: down 11 pounds
3/1: down 7; total of 18
4/1: down 2; total of 20
5/1: down 6; total of 26
6/1: down 3; total of 29
7/1: up 2; total of 27

Seven desserts through the first six months of this year: one each to celebrate my birthday (my favorite creation by Tonia: black-bottom banana-cream pie) and Bruce Hardesty's 50th; one each to celebrate Natasha's quincenera (flan) and Brennan's orientation at Ball State; and three excellent efforts from our family vaca (an amazing float at Fitz's and Ted Drewes' Frozen Custard in St. Louis; and a ridiculous "supreme" sno cone from Jerry's in Memphis-- Mango Tango [mango, banana, coconut] with chocolate soft-serve ice cream).

With the ministry trip to Africa in late July, watching weight was somewhere between redundant, ridiculous and insulting. So, I decided not to worry about it anymore. In mid-October, I've finally drifted back into the low 190s. So, I'm dropping back my carbs again, working to keep my weight in the 185-190 range.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Kavanaugh, the Clintons, and growing older

This is probably my last post on the Kavanaugh nomination (aside from references to this as a factor in mid-term elections). Thankfully, the moment has (predictably) died down. But this has been a fascinating, revealing, and exceedingly sad episode-- with so many angles-- so my apologies (as necessary) for continuing to think about it and discuss it.

The latest: This is another moment when I realize I'm older. I've been comparing Kavanaugh's case to the far worse case of Bill (and Hillary) Clinton-- as if people experienced "it" or remember it well. Most people probably know/remember Lewinsky. (Her case would count as assault by today's standards. But we can put that aside if you don't want to judge him/her by contemporary standards. Just make sure you're consistent with that!) Unfortunately, people may not know-- or have somehow forgotten-- Broddrick, Jones, and Willey.

Here's a recent article by a liberal trying to make a big deal of this today. (Make sure to check out the amazing details of Gloria Steinem's defense of Bill at the time.) Unfortunately, we have few liberals today-- and those we have lack the knowledge or courage to apply their standards consistently and publicly.

To be clear: This is not a matter of judging Clinton as a president. In that, I'd rate him as (easily) 2nd or maybe 3rd of post-WWII presidents, behind Reagan and maybe Eisenhower. It's not even a matter of judging his sexual predation and Hillary's attacks on his accusers and her enablement of his predatory behavior. But it is to say that if you're going to make it a big deal of the allegations against Kavanaugh-- to avoid looking like a rube or a tool-- then you must make a far-bigger deal of the Clintons (esp. given their continued/recent public prominence).

Thursday, October 4, 2018

reasons for the decline of popular scientists (hint: a lot of it has to do with biology supplanting physics)

Excerpts from a really interesting reflection on science, scientists, and pop culture-- from Brendan Foht in The Hedgehog Review...

Foht opens by noting that few people (19% in a 2017 survey) can name a living scientist. Of those, Hawking, Tyson and Nye led the list. Hawking has since died; Tyson and Nye are "science popularizers" more than "popular scientists" (Tyson hasn't done research in years; and Nye has never been a "working scientist"). 

Hawking and others like him in theoretical physics (Einstein, Feynman, and Oppenhemier) "inspired awe" and were seen as geniuses. Their views were taken seriously-- on science and other matters. But why are there so few popular scientists today? 

Foht notes several factors. First, "It’s not that science has run out of newsworthy achievements...But who could be said to deserve the credit?" To the extent that credit cannot be extended to individuals, then fame is less likely. 

Second, Foht points to the "supplanting of physics" by biology. Foht cites Alexander Fleming-- of penicillin fame-- who discovered it "by noticing that fungus he had accidentally allowed to grow on a petri plate was keeping the growth of bacteria at bay—hardly inspires awe for Fleming’s intellect." 

Third and related: "it’s understandable that philosophers would have a special respect for the intellectual achievements of physics. The elegant formulation of laws and theories that explain the fundamental features of the universe are genuinely impressive in a way that other sciences just can’t match."

Fourth and back to biology-- which "may offer ever more detailed descriptions of living things, but its explanations for the big questions about life remain unsatisfying. There are no elegant laws to account for the growth of an embryo into an adult, and while the theory of evolution gives something of an account of what the tree of life looks like and how different branches have emerged, it’s far from a satisfying explanation for the whole history of life."

Potentially good news: "Perhaps there is, in reality, no deep order to the tree of life, but that’s not a truth that generates wonder at the human capacity to know the secrets of nature. Rather, it may imbue us with a sense of humility, and even a sober intellectual recognition that not all the questions have answers." 

This could be, at least in theory. But unfortunately, I haven't seen such humility in the popularizers of biology and its most avid cheerleaders. For one thing, they conflate the science of evolutionary mechanisms with sciency evolutionary narratives-- and insist that the science takes us farther than it does (or likely can). In most cases, this is because there's much more than science at stake for them. Their philosophical priors and religious commitments trump their respect for Science and motivate their use of science for (their) larger ends. 

Foht's bottom line: "Although the cult of genius surrounding men like Einstein, Hawking, Feynman, and Oppenheimer seems to have disappeared, we can probably better appreciate the collective enterprise of science without the worship of its Great Men. With the ascendance of the intellectually humble but practically useful science of biology over the lofty and theoretically ambitious science of physics, we may also acquire a more realistic appreciation of science as less a Promethean endeavor than a very human one, serving human goals and aspirations instead of transcending them."

I Kings 17 and the Kavanaugh moment

I like this article from Jordan Harris of the Pegasus Institute. An implication is that those who want bigger government-- and a bigger federal government in particular-- have encouraged us almost inevitably to this place. When you give the federal govt much more power and you seek to arm the courts to accomplish your will, then what else can one expect, especially when the process is dominated by the power-hungry, rubes, partisans, and idolaters?

That said, I don't like the title: The era has been "coming to an end" for awhile now. One can point to sporadic confirmation spasms (Bork and Thomas), but things have trended uglier by the numbers since the second half of Bush II. (One wonders if some of us this would have been abated if Bush had limited his 9/11 response and stayed a lot more popular.) Roberts received 22 no votes and then it's been much tighter since then with Alito, the GOP biting back, and now Kavanaugh.

The best news in this re-creation of I Kings 17: the idolaters are a little more likely to drop their false god-- and the rest of us have a much clearer picture of the consequences of those idolatries.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

on-line giving and compensating for its tendency toward gnosticism

I understand the advantages of on-line giving to a church. But there are subtle disadvantages too. On-line reduces the use of our bodies in giving. If we're not careful, on-line makes us less aware and participatory in our choices to give.

Since we're beings created with body, spirit and soul, the use of our bodies has implications for our spirit and soul. Christianity often wars against a spirit/soul > body gnosticism. But with on-line giving, we're leaning toward the gnostic tendencies that war against us.

We've had a similar context in our family and I'm not sure we've handled it optimally. When the kids were younger, money "disappeared" enough that I moved most of their money into an "electronic" account that I managed in Excel. Likewise, giving and saving went electronic too. So, they were less connected to both actions. We did some small things to add the physical back into giving. But I suspect we've lost a little something that is unfortunate. Ahh, the trade-offs of our choices!

This is not a call to forgo on-line giving. But if you're giving on-line, you should look for ways to make it more physical and memorable to minimize its downside. And you should consider embracing other spiritual disciplines to compensate.