Thursday, March 02, 2006

North America Plunges into Darkness

...and that's why I carry a flashlight.

I knew I heard something drop to the floor last night as I sat down to dinner at TGIFriday's. It was a familiar sound, but I could have sworn I checked to make sure I had all my things, so I didn't investigate. After dinner, I went home, took Sudafed and Tylenol for a sinus headache, and went to bed. Sudafed makes me physically tired but makes my mind race. Tylenol disconnects my brain from my mind and also makes me drowsy. Taken together, they allow my body and brain to shut down at the same time. Unfortunately, when they wear off, my brain suddenly plugs back into my mind, which has apparently been worrying all night without me. This makes me wake up. The drugs last 4-6 hours, so I woke up at quarter to 5 AM, unable to go back to sleep.

I decided that I might as well go to work, so I set about gathering everything that I needed for the day. Checking my jacket pockets, I found that my cell phone was not there. It was also not on the table where I had emptied my pants pockets the night before. "Cell phone gone..." my tired brain said. Then it panicked. "... Cell phone gone!" I have no land line, so I had no way of calling it to see if it had hidden itself somewhere inside my apartment. But then I remembered that sound. Clack! Plastic casing smacking against the ground. My phone.

Now, I'm not used to being up so early that things aren't open yet. So it was rather frustrating that I realized where my phone was last night and might still be, but had no way of getting to it. I went to work, trying to figure out I would both remember to go back to Friday's at 11 (when it opened) and not worry about it too much until then. Solution: worry anyway.

At 11, I went to Friday's, explained that I had quite possibly dropped my phone there the night before, and asked if I could check the booth where I'd been sitting. They said sure, but didn't seem to think it would be there. I went back there and looked under the table, but I didn't see anything. I pulled out my flashlight and pointed it under the table. Sure enough, there was my phone, curled up on the floor in the far back corner of the booth, sleeping peacefully. I leaned into the booth and picked it up.

"Found it!" I said as I headed for the exit. The staff was shocked, shocked! If only I had known for sure that it was there, I could have had some fun calling it from my work phone.

TGIF: (finds the phone and answers it) Hello?
Me: Hello, Neo. Do you know who this is?
TGIF: Um...

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Quote of the Day - March 1, 2006

I'll be in my bunk.

- Jayne, "War Stories", Firefly

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Fuzzy Math

In today's Class Struggle, Jay Mathews talks about the strange math that schools in Virginia have apparently been using when determining what percentage of students passed 3rd grade reading tests. Here's the explanation from Alexandria schools testing and assessment director Monte Dawson:

"Remediation Recovery, which has been around since 2001, means that fourth grade students who failed the third grade test in 2004, got to retake the third grade test in 2005. Up until this year (2005), if they passed the third grade test, then they were included in the numerator only of the calculation to determine the third grade passing score. As illustration, if 4 out of 5 third grade students passed and 1 out of 5 fourth grade Remediation Recovery students passed, the passing percentage would be 100 percent."

Mathews explains the reason for this. "...the state school board changed the counting procedure to encourage more schools to [...] give the students who failed some extra help and let them try again. Often the second-test passing rates of students who flunk a test initially are lower than their class's overall passing rate, since they are the class's weakest students. So if those second-test results were combined with the first test results in the usual way, it would likely lower the overall percentage and make the school look worse than otherwise. School districts in Virginia figured this out and resisted the urge to work with their lowest-performing students and test them again."

Okay, fair enough. But (if I understand correctly) using this math, it is possible to have a greater than 100% passing rate. Let's say 9 out of 10 third graders pass this year, and 3 out of 5 fourth graders who failed last year and retest this year pass. Add the 3 to the 9 (but not the 5 to the 10) and you get a passing rate of 120%. I don't know about you, but I would start seriously questioning the educational standards of a school that had a 120% pass rate on a test. If the goal is to encourage schools to give extra help to the ones who fail, why not add the number of students who passed the second time to both the numerator and the denominator? It's still fuzzy math, but it will neither lower the score based on first time testers nor result in a hugely over-inflated and possibly unrealistic pass rate. In my example, the 90% pass rate of this year's third graders would become 92% instead of dropping to 80%(if you use non-fuzzy math) or jumping to 120%. In Monte Dawson's example, the 80% pass rate of first-time testers would become 83% instead of 50% or 100%.

Of course, if they would just take the freaking delta, they wouldn't have the play these numbers games in the first place! Why is this such a difficult concept? You have to know both your inputs and your outputs to know if the system in the middle is working the way it's suppose to. But no! We want to pretend that a value of ten represents a gain of ten, even when we have no idea if the input is 1 or 2 or even that very same ten. Why, why, why, why, WHY? Stupid NCLF! Stupid SOLs! Grrrrrrrr...

Monday, February 27, 2006

Could You Become a U.S. Citizen?

Considering this, you have to wonder how many people born to U.S. citizenship would be able to earn it. Check out these sample questions to see how you would do.

Quote of the Day, February 27, 2006 is my own stupid fault, as usual.

-George Michael, on his drug arrest

Sunday, February 26, 2006

"Doubt My Status as a Planet, Will You?!" - Pluto

Hubble has confirmed that New Horizons will have more to look at than just Pluto and Charon when it swings past them in 2015. Currently, the two new moons (originally discovered last year) are currently refered to as P1 and P2. I'm thinking they should eventually be called Cerberus and Proserpina (or Persephone). If they want to save Proserpina or Persephone for a planet, Styx or any of the other rivers of the underworld would be good, too.

Kathra Lesson #1: Common Expressions

It has been requested that I publish the dictionary of my made-up language, Kathra. Someone seems to think he’ll be able to translate my poem (my poems aren’t comedic, so don’t get your hopes up). However, it’s far too big (169 kB Word document, though it’s both English-to-Kathra and Kathra-to-English). Besides, the dictionary doesn’t contain the rules, which might be handy in understanding things like verb tense. So instead, I’ll write lessons. Proceed at your own risk.

Kathra is an idioglossia, even in my fictional universe. Artemis, Jade, Jo, and Destiny created it as they grew up together (a rather extreme case of forgetting how to talk, I suppose). It's mostly good for replacing common expressions in normal speech and having brief conversations. It’s quite possible you’ve heard Kathra words come out of my mouth, but didn’t realize it or were afraid to ask what I just said. Now, you can just come here, because more than likely, it’s one of these words or expressions. Pronunciation rules are pretty much like Spanish. Vowel sounds are ah, eh, ee, oh, oo. The diphthong “ai” sounds like “eye”. The last syllable is emphasized if the word ends in a consonant, the second to last syllable is emphasized if it ends in a vowel. Exceptions apply when a letter is accented. Blah, blah, blah. Rules lesson over. On to the words!

I – I, me (except it’s said “ee”, like it matters)
Ye – You
Na – she, her
Ne – he, him
Nu – it
We - we
Tem – they, them

Mi – mine
Yi – yours
Tes – theirs
Nas – hers
Nes – his
Nos – ours

Related phrases:
Mi I – myself
Yi ye - yourself

In English, you have the 5 W’s and H. In Kathra, it’s all K’s. I sense a pattern.

Kará – What?
Karí – Who?
Ketí – Where?
Kemí – When?
Koy – Why?
Kiás – How?

Move the accent to the first vowel in the first four questions, and you get whatever, whoever, wherever, and whenever.

From this, you get basic expressions like

Kiás ye? – How are you?
Koy I? – Why me?
Ketí ye? – Where are you?
Kará ocurin? - What’s happening? What’s up?
Kára ye for. – Whatever you say.

Other common utterances:

Béra – but
Draxi de dímite – freak of nature – a favorite alternative to cursing
Guen – good
I nit zim – I don’t know.
Ka – yes
Karimba – stuff - another alternative curse
Ki – okay
Kiek – stop
Kit – cat
Lena – baby
Mal – bad (“In the Latin.” Yes, thank you, River.)
Nit guen – not good
Perso – person
Por - for
Seru – mister, miss, mrs.
Tai – man
Tau – woman
Za - now
Zet - no
Zetí – nothing

Harley Quinn

I’ve been thinking about who might play Harley Quinn should they decide to include her in the next Batman movie. For a fun Harley, I’d choose Drew Barrymore. She can do the sweet innocent who’s also very creepy and possibly homicidal. We can just forget that she was one of Two-Face’s hench-women in Batman Forever.

But if you’re going for the dark stuff (which Batman Begins did, and its sequel should too), I’m becoming more and more convinced that Six from Battlestar Galactica would make a good Harley. She’s sexy, strong, twisted, and manipulative, yet very vulnerable. She’s proven that she makes a good foil for an insane genius. And she would probably be able to pull off a definitive transition from Harlene to Harley better than Barrymore. Strong, self-assured psychiatry student interning at Arkham slowly turning into a woman whose entire world revolves around an insane clown.

My only problem with her is that she’s kind of tall. Finding a body double for her to do Harley’s gymnastics may prove difficult. But I may be willing to sacrifice the gymnastics if it means doing justice to her character otherwise.