Gaming the System

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

~ From https://fs.blog/2013/02/gaming-the-system/

A long time ago, a social studies teacher had been giving the same multiple-choice, high school, final exam, every year, for [as I recall the story] decades. The catch was two-fold: First, each year he cut the exam into strips separating each question. Yes, by hand, with scissors. He then shuffled the strips, scotch taped them onto a new sheet which did have sequential numbers on it already, and then ran it through the mimeograph machine. There was no way to create a “cheat sheet” for this exam based on previous years (even if we could have gotten a previous test.) Second, the test was insanely long; hundreds and hundreds of questions long. In fact, it was—intentionally—impossibly long.

When he graded the exams, he noted the total number of questions each student attempted. To be clear: He’d note the number of the last question you answered. So if one skipped around, you’re doomed since you definitely get wrong, the ones you didn’t even try to answer. So the incentive is to start at the beginning and just work straight through; recall, they’re totally shuffled. He then computed the average number attempted, and that average was used as the total possible points on the test. If you scored above the possible points (unlikely, but possible,) the points got added to your semester’s total points. (So if you score +2 on the final, the first extra point, brought up your 9/10 quiz score to 10/10. That second extra point brought a homework up from 5/7 to 6/7.)

Have you spotted how you game this system?

Bonus question: I regret what we did, (there were 3 of us.) But, can you tell me why I regret it?

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Nearly ripped my heart out

Depending on how well you know me, you’ll have differing ideas about how much of a “softie” I am. I’ll be clear: I’m a big softie; all bark and no bite.

Here on the ‘ol blog—3,000 posts is coming up fast—I don’t normally bother even mentioning entertainment—”tv” colloquially… Well, I just finished watching Halt and Catch Fire (originally from AMC, but streaming on Netflix.)

Now, maybe it’s the fact that I basically lived through what the show is about. Maybe it’s because, you know, I was the Wizard behind the curtain who built those things and lived through those creations and wrote the code and pulled the wires and bent stuff until it caught fire. Maybe it’s because I’m getting up there in years. Maybe it’s because the thing just had to fucking end on Peter Gabriel’s, Solsbury Hill. Maybe because 30 years ago I made some life-long friends listening to that music… Maybe it’s because I still believe I’ve not accomplished anything and absolutely understand the pull… Or maybe it was just Gordon’s words…

Or maybe I’m not conveying the feeling at all.

…but perhaps—just maybe—you’ve caught a glimmer of apprehension…

So.

What are you gonna’ do with that, Craig?

And hey, what are you going to do next?

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25 years?

Twenty five years ago today [edit: August 25, 1995], Microsoft released Windows 95. It was undoubtedly a technical leap forward, but its biggest, most lasting impacts are about how it changed popular culture’s relationship to technology.

~ Anil Dash, from https://anildash.com/2020/08/25/what-windows-95-changed/

I had completely forgotten about Windows 95; I certainly never knew the specific date of its release. It certainly was a big deal at the time—not because I or the people I worked with used it, but because we were running an Internet Service Provider and our customers used it. So we had to know how to support it.

At the time we were in the midst of creating an “ezine.” It’s probably hard to explain how cutting edge this was—bear in mind that Wired started in ’93. (We had started publishing an online “magazine” in December ’94.) I’m bragging, sure, but also just trying to give you the context of the jaw-droppingly old web page I’m about to link you to.

Here’s my tongue-in-cheek article about drawing the short straw and having to go buy a copy of Windows 95 for our office: In a Plain Brown Wrapper, Please.

Granted, we moved that entire web site once when we sold the domain it was on along with the Internet Service Provider. But otherwise, those are literally, 25-year-old web pages.

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I would dazzle you with brilliance

I like this life just the way it is,
And the castles all around me have been melting now for years 
And it kills my brain to think of all the time I wasted here: 
All the efforts, sweat and broken hearts, the screaming and the tears.

~ Danny Elfman from, Change on the album ‘Boingo’

Coherent words fail me, but I’ll try to convey this…

I came of age—cut my teeth so to speak—as Elfman… The Mystic Knights of the Oingo BoingoOingo Boingo… and eventually just Boingo… blew the doors off what I thought music could be. Some of their later stuff is on par with Pink Floyd. Your mileage may vary; haters gonna’ hate and all that.

Visions— not memories, but visceral visions— Visions strike me when I listen to this music, (not just Change but a lot of it.) Riding in cars and trucks as a teenager… Going to bicycle races (both to race and to watch)… Lots of hard work with a boom-box or headphones… I once drove fence posts, by hand, around a small field powered by Oingo Boingo… I once saw them perform in a tiny hall, god-only-knows-where, in Manhattan, maybe in ’91 or ’92… I still have an Oingo Boingo shirt from, it might be, 1990?, that was given to me as a gift… I even have the double VHS of their final concert—and I know of noone with a VHS player any more…

Oh, God, here’s that question now! The one that makes me go insane!
I’d gladly tear my heart out if you never change!
Never change!
Never change!
Never change!
Never! Never! Never! Never!
Change…

~ Danny Elfman

Great music. Great memories.

Who do you want to be today? Who do you want to be?

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King of the sky

https://www.brainpickings.org/2018/08/13/king-of-the-sky/

Twelve hundred miles he’d flown, from somewhere far away he’d never been. Steered north and west, finding his direction from the sun and the force that guides a compass needle. Flown until he saw the shape of humpbacked hills, the lines of little houses and the chimneys, heard the clanking towers, smelled the soup and coal dust.

~ Nicola Davies

You know you are old when a summary of a stuipid story about a kid and a pidgeon tugs at the ol’ heart-strings.

Go ahead. I DARE you . . .

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I Stand, Despite

popehat.com/2016/08/30/i-stand-despite/

I stand loving America, aware that I often fall short of what that love should mean. When I say I love America I mean I love certain shared values and founding ideals like the rule of law and equality before it, liberty, and self-determination, and what people have done to achieve them. I love the values as lofty as the right to speak and worship and as humble as the right to raise a family and work and live as I see fit. I love it knowing that these ideals are more aspirational than descriptive, more a to-do list than a resume. They are what Lincoln called “unfinished work” and “the great task remaining before us.”

~ Ken White

I happen to be that sort of middle-aged-softie who is deeply moved by our National Anthem.

…but, when I stand for the National Anthem, I do not judge those who do NOT stand (even if they are in the row behind me talking loudly). I love America all the more for its ensuring their right to a freedom of expression; An America where they should never be forced to declare their adoration for the State as a precursor to watching some random sporting event.

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25 years ago

25 years ago, on a Friday night, Tracy and I went on our first date.

There’s a wonderful, socially ackward story about me chickening out of the original plan, then a late-evening missed phone call, and an eventual midnight movie. If you ask us nicely, we’ll tell you our conflicting versions of the story. There even a bit of debate about the exact movie we saw; We’re pretty sure it was Silence of the Lambs. (Yes, we opted for a midnight showing for our first date. I’ll let that settle in for a few moments.) On the other hand, the movie might possibly have been a spectacularly horrible movie titled Warlock, which no one has ever heard of. So sometimes we tell the story with it being Silence of the Lambs and sometimes it’s Warlock. Long ago, I think we used to argue about this when we told the story… now, I can’t even remember which of us argued for which movie.

I digress.

Tracy is awesome, and I love her very much! We are still in love. …but, this isn’t a ‘Happy Anniversary!’ card addressed to Tracy.

I firmly believe that there’s no single perfect person for me. I am not a “special snowflake”. And if – as the old saying goes – Tracy “is one-in-a-million,” then she’s one of about 8,000 perfect people for me alive at this very moment.

What makes me special in some ways is the same thing that makes her special in some ways: We have both invested a large portion of our lives in each other. We’ve both spent 25 years working each on our own selves, and have continued sharing the improved versions with each other. The “institution” of marriage doesn’t magically make our relationship special; I, and she, made the relationship special by working on it.

25 years ago I was a totally different person. I was (just simply by definition) on some path through life. There was absolutely no way I could have selected the perfect person for me. I didn’t know myself. I didn’t know my future. I didn’t know how my path would evolve. How could I possibly pick someone who was compatible then, and would grow and change to remain compatible for 25 years.

In one sense, I was extremely lucky to find someone who turned out to be able to adapt and grow in some sort of way that somehow remained compatible with my ever-changing general insanity. But in another much more important sense, we both have spent huge amounts of time talking, arguing, discussing and growing together. So today, it’s not that the luck we had years ago was special or unique – because “humans meet” happens constantly every day – it’s that we somehow stood by that bit of common, every-day luck and worked on it for 25 years.

People change. People age. People get sick and die. Life moves ever forward. The love at age 20 is nothing like the love at age 40, or – as far as I can tell at this point – the love at age 80. (eg, Old Love.)

What matters most to me is that I continue to honestly work on who I am. Only by doing that work do I continue to be worthy of a relationship such as we’ve created so far.

Here’s to another 50 years! Huzzah!!

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1979 Cruising Permit

In 1979, my mom and dad, and their friends the Hollisters, started a long-time tradition of chartering bare-boat sailboats in the Caribbean.

As I’ve been working my way through things I kept from the house, I recently got to scanning this cruising permit which my father had always kept framed on the wall near his work bench.

To all whom these presents may come
greetings
know all men that by
the powers vested in me by the Government
of the Virgin Islands
Bruce Constantine
Master of the Vessel Kona Kai
with his gallant crew of 4
is entitled peacefully to cruise and enjoy
the waters, beaches and reefs
of these blessed islands
from the 18 day of Nov 1979
to the 25 day of Nov 1979

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What’s lost as handwriting fades

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/03/science/whats-lost-as-handwriting-fades.html

Cursive or not, the benefits of writing by hand extend beyond childhood. For adults, typing may be a fast and efficient alternative to longhand, but that very efficiency may diminish our ability to process new information. Not only do we learn letters better when we commit them to memory through writing, memory and learning ability in general may benefit.

~ Maria Konnikova

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