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Education is an admirable thing,” wrote Oscar Wilde, “but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.

Two cultures revisited

by reestheskin on 28/09/2017

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I now add the phrase “learning outcomes” to the list of words and phrases that should never be used, along with “stakeholders,” “imbricate,” “aporia” and “performative.”)

Here.

Of low salaries and high tables

by reestheskin on 27/09/2017

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It was not deliberate policy; it simply seemed to be only men who applied, usually refugees from the twin miseries of academia: low salaries and high tables.

Ah, those were the days…

The Fear Index, Robert Harris

Like arguing with a table

by reestheskin on 21/09/2017

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When you ask me that question I am gonna revert to my ethnic heritage and answer your question with a question: On what planet do you spend most of your time? As you stand there with a picture of the President defaced to look like Hitler, and compare the effort to increase health care to the Nazis, my answer to you is, as I said before, it is a tribute to the First Amendment that this kind of vile, contemptible nonsense is so freely propagated. Ma’am, trying to have a conversation with you would be like arguing with a dining room table: I have no interest in doing it.

Barney Frank, in response to questioner at a town-meeting in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, broadcast on CNN (18 August 2009).

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So-called norms of so-called reality.

by reestheskin on 20/09/2017

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Just last week, when faced with a report that its advertising numbers promised an American audience that, in certain demographics, well exceeded the number of such humans in existence, judging by U.S. Census Bureau numbers, Facebook told the Wall Street Journal that its numbers “are not designed to match population or census estimates. We are always working to improve our estimates.” Facebook’s intercourse with the public need not adhere to the so-called norms of so-called reality.

Make Mark Zuckerberg Testify

Got the fags; got the phone…

by reestheskin on 11/09/2017

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It’s almost vanishingly rare that we pick a new device that we always have with us,” the historian of mobile technology Jon Agar says. “Clothes—a Paleolithic thing? Glasses? And a phone. The list is tiny.

In 2014, Wall Street analysts attempted to identify the world’s most profitable product, and the iPhone landed in the top slot—right above Marlboro cigarettes. The iPhone is more profitable than a relentlessly marketed drug that physically addicts its customers.

The One Device, Brian Merchant

You’re on Earth. There’s no cure for that

by reestheskin on 06/09/2017

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There’s a great line in Beckett,” she says, searching for a quote to capture this equipoise of light and dark. “I can’t remember who says it. ‘You’re on Earth. There’s no cure for that.’ There’s as much common sense in that as in all of Sophocles or Socrates or anyone else.”

Feels like it too.

Novelist Edna O’Brien on sex, books and a lifetime of defiance

A week in quotes: 5

by reestheskin on 18/08/2017

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“What we see unfolding right before our eyes is nothing less than Moore’s Law applied to the distribution of misinformation: an exponential growth of available technology coupled with a rapid collapse of costs.”

Frederic Filloux.

A week in quotes: 4

by reestheskin on 17/08/2017

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“In a profession that is all about untapping individual potential, increasingly impersonal corporatism hangs like a dark cloud”

Interview with Stephen Milner

A week in quotes: 3

by reestheskin on 16/08/2017

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”There are the cohorts of bureaucrats in every university making a living out of keeping score of publications and citations, manipulating the impact of papers and producing empty marketing verbiage extolling the supposed research excellence of their institutions.”

A week in quotes: 2

by reestheskin on 15/08/2017

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“Fortunately, Bowie’s schooling didn’t interfere with his education.”

 

A week in quotes: 1

by reestheskin on 14/08/2017

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“Management is the antidote to innovation.”

FT. Comment on an article about GSK.

Punctuated non-equilibrium

by reestheskin on 09/08/2017

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This is via the ever insightful Status-Q:

“A couple of months ago I quoted this phrase from Sam Altman:”

‘The hard part of standing on an exponential curve is: when you look backwards, it looks flat, and when you look forward, it looks vertical. And it’s very hard to calibrate how much you are moving because it always looks the same.’

Plotting the future | Status-Q

I talk about a variant of it that I thought Larry Summers used, although when I have tried to check my memory, I turn nothing up. I see two straight lines, one with a shallow gradient close to zero, the other with a steep one, joined at an inflection point. When you are on the shallow line, you never perceive anything is changing. And even when you know things are going to change  — or you wish for change —you have no idea when. At least with an exponential function you can calculate: with a sudden shift, all you can do is pray. An optimist is somebody who wishes the inflection point comes soon. As does the fool.

The end of an age of optimism

by reestheskin on 28/07/2017

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This is from CP Snow’s ’Two Cultures’. I have never read the book, always warming to critiques of it from others. But I like this snippet quoted by John Naughton, recently.

“I can’t help thinking of the Venetian republic in their last half-century. Like us, they had once been fabulously lucky. They had become rich, as we did, by accident. They had acquired immense political skill, just as we have. A good many of them were tough-minded, realistic, patriotic men. They knew, just as clearly as we know, that the current of history had begun to flow against them. many of them gave their minds to working out ways to keep going. It would have meant breaking the pattern into which they had been crystallised. They were fond of the pattern, just as we are fond of ours. They never found the will to break it.”

Maybe I should go back and look at it. CP Snow, Two Cultures

Failing gracefully.

by reestheskin on 30/06/2017

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Optimism is the idea that we can build things that fail gracefully

This was a quote from Cory Doctorow on a Guardian Podcast interview at the Hay Book Festival. I do not see much of this in my professional life, but he calls it right.

No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

Exam passing classes: How liberals lost touch with the ‘left behind’

by reestheskin on 24/05/2017

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Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, like Cameron and François Hollande, belong to the exam-passing classes.

FT

Values

by reestheskin on 16/05/2017

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In truth, everyone knows that values are actually marketing exercises, used by organisations as slogans. They have little to do with actual behaviour in organisations. They infantilise people, reduce them to ciphers.

Donald Clark.

Quote of the day

by reestheskin on 11/05/2017

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“Elegance is not a dispensable luxury but a quality that decides between success and failure”

Edsger Dijkstra EWD 1284

“Anyone who tries to make a distinction between education and entertainment doesn’t know the first thing about either.” — Marshall McLuhan

“Jeff, what does Day 2 look like?”

by reestheskin on 17/04/2017

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That’s a question I just got at our most recent all-hands meeting. I’ve been reminding people that it’s Day 1 for a couple of decades. I work in an Amazon building named Day 1, and when I moved buildings, I took the name with me. I spend time thinking about this topic.

“Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.”

Resist Proxies: As companies get larger and more complex, there’s a tendency to manage to proxies. This comes in many shapes and sizes, and it’s dangerous, subtle, and very Day 2. A common example is process as proxy. Good process serves you so you can serve customers. But if you’re not watchful, the process can become the thing. This can happen very easily in large organizations. The process becomes the proxy for the result you want. You stop looking at outcomes and just make sure you’re doing the process right. Gulp. It’s not that rare to hear a junior leader defend a bad outcome with something like, “Well, we followed the process.”

(Do you know what they know they want?)

Good inventors and designers deeply understand their customer. They spend tremendous energy developing that intuition. They study and understand many anecdotes rather than only the averages you’ll find on surveys. They live with the design. I’m not against beta testing or surveys. But you, the product or service owner, must understand the customer, have a vision, and love the offering. A remarkable customer experience starts with heart, intuition, curiosity, play, guts, taste. You won’t find any of it in a survey.

Jeff Bezos here. I dislike process, and in education or research, whatever promise it offers, is offset by its tendency to lead to institutional denigration of those who keep their eyes on reality.

Via Benedict’s Newsletter

Incentives matter, especially the wrong ones

by reestheskin on 10/04/2017

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Given your past views on measuring quality in universities, what do you think of the teaching excellence framework, which the government would like to use to measure teaching quality?

The government needs to think more about the evidence we have showing that measuring performance, and in particular ranking performance, creates strong incentives – but all too often the wrong incentives.

What is the biggest threat facing higher education today?

Too much emphasis on comparative achievement, not enough on the pleasure of learning or the importance of doing at least some things really well.

Amen. Nora O’Neill interviewed in the THE

On not dropping your anchor.

by reestheskin on 06/04/2017

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From the Obit of Derek Walcott.

He would cup a breast as he fondled a white stone from the beach. These propensities, noted when he was teaching in America in the 1980s and 1990s, cost him the chance to be, in 1999, Britain’s poet laureate and, ten years later, professor of poetry at Oxford. He was not concerned, for he did not want to drop his anchor long on any northern shore.

Economist

When it works……

by reestheskin on 21/03/2017

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For my studies I moved to Berlin and later to Innsbruck in the Tyrolean Alps. Innsbruck was a great place to study: The teaching in both philosophy and economics happened in small groups and the professors were fantastic teachers. Geoscience was a very broad course and had the advantage that we traveled a lot and spend quite some time out in the field.

Max Rosen

‘Some diversity training-programs, for example, are like blistering — they are somewhat painful to endure and have no beneficial effects.’

Timothy Wilson in Redirect, the book that nobody from HR seems to have read.

 

Not a literal quote, but an impressionism.

You are a participant in whatever happens… and there is chaos.

You are not stuck in traffic, you are the traffic

Optimism and pessimism all together. Joi Ito here.

It’s not the money stupid

by reestheskin on 08/03/2017

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The report’s authors wanted to know what drove nurses and doctors to join agencies, presuming it was simply a case of higher pay. But the researchers found that agency workers in the NHS had similar pay. What they found interesting was that agency workers felt better off because they had escaped the internal politics, the bureaucracy and the stricture of rotas that rarely matched the demands of home. As agency workers they believed they had more control over their lives and put up with less bullying from their employer.

A report by the National Institute for Economic & Social Research (NIESR) quoted here.

There is only one way to ensure that assessment is light-touch. Universities should rebrand themselves as banks.

Comment (Mintaka) on an article on the TEF from one of the HE commissars (Nick Hillman).

A defence of the beanbag geneticist, it is then.

by reestheskin on 02/03/2017

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In 1924, a 30-year old journalist on the Daily Express came to Cambridge aiming to interview Haldane. She was Charlotte Burghes, née Franken, and she had a young son, Ronnie. Haldane and Charlotte became lovers, but before they could marry she had to seek a divorce, a procedure that carried substantial social stigma at that time. A university committee resolved to strip Haldane of his readership, which was only restored by successful legal action.

From a review of a new biography of JBS Haldane. The article referred to in the title of this post is here.  I know of no other branch of biology that can build so much, on so few assumptions.

Doctors seem to diagnose what they know, so find out what they know before you ask them whats wrong with you.

Roger Schank

The triumph of reason over (gut) reflex?

by reestheskin on 21/02/2017

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At a lecture following the publication of his book, Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air, he was assailed by an angry environmentalist who asked him why he was “so hostile” to wind power. [Prof David] MacKay smiled sweetly and replied: “I’m not hostile to anything. I’m just in favour of arithmetic.”

I remember reading this awhile back, but came across it again on Memex