Argument for Ambiguity

I got directed to a recent piece about tolerance for ambiguity as a job requirement and a skill education should help develop through this quote from a responding blog post: “To the extent that we can provide assignments and experiences in and among classes that give students the experience of getting a little lost and finding their way back, we may be able to build some of that tolerance for ambiguity in the kind of settings Selingo discusses.” While the original article focuses more on the idea of a “growth mind-set” and encouraging students to think of perseverance rather than … Continue reading Argument for Ambiguity

Exercising my writing muscle

I was flipping through Spolsky’s Joel on Software today and, perhaps because I spent the morning working with our college-wide curriculum and some of our documentation of its outcomes, this passage jumped out at me: So why don’t people write specs? It’s not to save time, because it doesn’t, and I think most coders recognize this. […] I think it’s because so many people don’t like to write. Staring at a blank screen is horribly frustrating. Personally, I overcame my fear of writing by taking a class in college that required a 3-5 page essay once a week. Writing is … Continue reading Exercising my writing muscle

Leaving time for focus

This quote from a recent Chronicle article Infantilized by Academe struck me, particularly with the chaos of the end of the academic year: Our students are often more distracted than we are, and so inured to distraction that they are unlikely to notice it. As other commentators have argued, the process of gaining admission to selective American colleges now requires presenting an array of accomplishments so vast and varied that any reflection that might accompany them is purely incidental. This thought resonates with recent conversations I’ve been having with students and colleagues about the amount that students try to take … Continue reading Leaving time for focus

Rescue Robots in the News

This semester my intro programming students are doing a very scaled down model of how search-and-rescue robots might very stupidly explore a space while trying to keep themselves from clumping up with each other. It’s a first programming course for most of them, so have I mentioned that these simulated robots are very stupid. However, since I’ve been playing around with their project, I seem to be seeing interesting content about search and rescue robots cropping up all over the place: Last week (on April 23rd), there was a great NASA JPL livestream of a talk on Rescue Robots focusing … Continue reading Rescue Robots in the News

Where’s my plow?

The snow situation isn’t as bad here in Western PA as it is on much of the east coast, but while waiting for things to lighten up enough for me to go out and shovel, I’ve been playing around with Pittsburgh’s new snow plow tracker. The system itself is only live while snow is falling – access it through the button on the right. I like the use of the “multiple vehicle” icon to keep things legible when zoomed out. It took me a bit of playing around to realize that if you adjust the “history display” slider at the … Continue reading Where’s my plow?

Counting down

I am a crazy fan of advent calendars. In addition to my physical calendar of ornaments, I’ve got a collection of online calendars I’m “opening” each day as well. Here are my favorites I found this year: Saveur Cookie Advent Calendar: A new cookie recipe each day – check out day six’s Alfajores Erik Svedäng’s Advent Calendar: Fun little widgets to watch and, in some cases, interact with Advent of Indies: Each day another indie game is promoted alongside a freebie to enjoy (some available only on the day the door opens) LEGO Star Wars Game Advent Calendar: play through … Continue reading Counting down

Lorem ipsum ipsum ipsum lorem

“While Google translate may be incorrect in the translations of these words, it’s puzzling why these words would be translated to things such as ‘China,’ ‘NATO,’ and ‘The Free Internet,’” There is so much to love in this exploration of what happens when you feed lorem ipsum text into Google Translate from Krebs on Security (or, at least what used to happen). Automatic translation algorithms, data sparsity problems, covert information channels… A bizarre, must-read article.

Patchwriting and attribution

If I were teaching a writing skills course this fall, I would be tempted to assign this Language Log post about another recent plagiarism accusation just because of the side-by-side comparison of language and discussion of “patchwriting”. It would probably surprise some students to see the degree of difference between the compared text, and that this is a concern even though the text in question is cited elsewhere, just not for some very specific phrases. Also interesting is the analysis of the older text for whether it too used and attributed patchwriting appropriately – we’re clearly more easily able to … Continue reading Patchwriting and attribution

Free Service Botnets

How Hackers Hid a Money-Mining Botnet in the Clouds of Amazon and Others: a couple of security researchers build a botnet out of free accounts, potentially legally they claim, rather than from hijacked computers. They proof of concept tested Litecoin mining, suggesting they could have brought in $1750/week with their constructed botnet if left running. While the article cites Amazon and Google’s services as examples, the following suggests an alternate source for these vulnerable accounts: Choosing among the easy two-thirds, they targeted about 15 services that let them sign up for a free account or a free trial. The researchers … Continue reading Free Service Botnets

Buy your donuts with cash

I read this story wanting to understand if the data mining they’re doing is really appropriate for making individualized statements in the way they are claiming when they suggest that hospitals will get risk assessments based on patient shopping data through credit cards, store cards, etc. Will receiving doctors get sufficient training in the ways in which these predictions are like and unlike the predictions that medical tests make about health risks? Additionally, I read through the list of hypothesized triggers for heath risks and they seem to bank on the idea that everything I’m purchasing is for myself. Just … Continue reading Buy your donuts with cash