Music Monday: Music to Grade By (plus flamethrowers)

February 1, 2016

Walking in today, I asked whether Zoe would do something silly (and outrageous) for me. Upon getting the expected “No”, I asked whether my making bambi eyes would change her mind. (The answer, as you might expect, was still “No”.  For all my practicing, bambi eyes have rarely worked! Didn’t even get me a flamethrower! Thanks for the misinformation, Calvin!)

For some reason, saying “bambi eyes” approximately 10 times in short order made me think of the ABBA song “AngelEyes”:

It’s REALLY funny if you replace “angeleyes” with “bambi eyes”:


Ah-ha-ha, ah-aaaah
Ah-ha-ha, ah-aaaah
Ah-ha-ha, keep thinking ’bout his bambieyes
I keep thinking, a-aaah

Last night I was taking a walk along the river
And I saw him together with a young girl [Note: Too much creepiness in ABBA songs]
And the look that he gave her made me shiver
‘Cause he always used to look at me that way
And I thought maybe I should walk right up to her and say
Ah-ha-ha, it’s a game he likes to play

Look into his bambieyes
One look and you’re hypnotized
He’ll take your heart and you must pay the price (of a flamethrower)
Look into his bambieyes
You’ll think you’re in paradise
And one day you’ll find out he wears a (deer) disguise
Don’t look too deep into those bambieyes
Oh no no no no

Ah-ha-ha, ah-aaaah
Ah-ha-ha, ah-aaaah
Ah-ha-ha, keep thinking ’bout his bambieyes
I keep thinking, a-aaah

Sometimes when I’m lonely I sit and think about him
And it hurts to remember all the good times
When I thought I could never live without him
And I wonder does it have to be the same
Every time when I see him, will it bring back all the pain?
Ah-ha-ha, how can I forget that name?

Look into his bambieyes
One look and you’re hypnotized
He’ll take your heart and you must pay the price
Look into his bambieyes
You’ll think you’re in paradise
And one day you’ll find out he wears a disguise
Don’t look too deep into his bambieyes
Crazy ’bout his bambieyes
Once he took my heart and now I pay the price
Look into his bambieyes
You’ll think you’re in paradise
And one day you’ll find out he wears a disguise
Don’t look too deep into those bambieyes
Oh no no no no

Ah-ha-ha, ah-aaaah
Ah-ha-ha, ah-aaaah

Ah-ha-ha, keep thinking, ah-aaaah
Keep thinking ’bout his bambieyes
Ah-ha-ha, keep thinking, ah-aaaah
Keep thinking, I had to pay the price

In other news, it turns out that the ABBA corpus is excellent music to grade too if you filter out all the sappy downbeat numbers (Fernando! I’m loathing you, but not only you). I think it’s the fact that they are peppy, melodic, and familiar that makes them so good for grading.

Update: BTW, if you don’t like this French version of “On and On and On” you have no soul!

Academic Freedom, Shared Governance, and HR Policies

January 28, 2016

A core feature of effective academic freedom is devolution: The most academic control should be at the most local level. Thus, individual instructors and researchers are free to chart their own teaching and research. Evaluation is primarily done by those most expert and experienced in an area (i.e., peers), thus promotion or censure should be managed at a very local level. Similarly, organisational decision (e.g., who chairs the department/is head of school) should be a bottom up decision in the normal order. Similarly for hires. Similarly for program structure.

This isn’t to say that there are no reasonable external constraints or default constraints. It’s perfectly reasonable for the university to set the academic calendar, general exam requirements, etc. There should be substantial input from lower levels, but there is value in uniformity in some areas. These areas of uniformity should be very carefully delineated and managed. They are a regrettable necessity, not something to be sought after.

In particularly, we must be very careful about seeking “efficiency”. Efficiency is laudable in a lot of cases. But efficiency from a central perspective can impose costs on and inefficiencies at a local level and the local level is key.

For example, Manchester Computer Science used to have its own Research Office funded and staffed by us. It was relatively large as we generally have a lot of research funding. Everyone liked it because 1) it was very good with great people and 2) it in our building in a central place so you could just pop in if you had a question or issue.

Several years back the next unit up (“Faculty”) decided to reorganise all research offices and share them between Schools. So roughly every two schools gets one research office. We share ours with Math (which is not a horrible fit intellectually) but they got the office in their building. Which isn’t far, but I’ve never been to their office.

So, are there efficiencies? Maybe? I don’t see the bottom line so I don’t know. They added funding so they weren’t trying to save money, but they claimed they wanted better coverage, etc. But I don’t feel that things at that level have gotten better. We got a wonderful local research support officer, but she’s the only one I have any contact with. Things that used to be handled in a minute now can take days and I won’t know why. I’m more alienated from the process in general. Most people I talk with miss the old arrangement (though we’d like to keep the support officer).

This was a decision that was thrust upon us, against our expressed wishes. That alone is a cost. The distancing and alienation is another cost. The efficiencies of propinquity are also lost.

Autonomy and independence are things that require nurturing and a suitable environment to thrive in. Stripping people of decision making power tends to blunt that. People get less used to making decisions or withdraw from various collective activities or both. This degrades a university.

Of course, control, autonomy, and freedom can be abused in all sorts of ways major and minor. I don’t think a school should be free to discriminate on the bases of sex, race, etc. Students need rights that are enforceable against local units. Cronyism is the flip side of collegiality. The tyranny of PhD supervisors and research lab leaders should not be unchecked.

But a university functions best as a confederation not a corporation. Just as we local units should recognise the dangers of unchecked local control, so too the centre should be careful not to degrade and destroy local autonomy unnecessarily. The head of a school should be primarily answerable to the school. To do that, they must be selected by the school. The centre can ratify, but that ratification should be very light touch.

APIs on the Web Platform

January 26, 2016

blog post about Microsoft Edge (their new browser) contains an extraordinary tidbit. They are talking about compatibility with other browsers and one metric is “shared APIs”. Then they have this nifty little table:

Google Chrome 48 Apple Safari 9
Internet Explorer 11 4076 shared APIs 3769 shared APIs
EdgeHTML 13 4724 shared APIs (+16%) 4157 shared APIs (+10%)

Ok, clear improvement, but what’s staggering is the sheer number of APIs to share!!!

Is there even a list of these APIs publicly available?! And 4724 needs to be regarded as a lower bound on the number of APIs (even standard APIs)! One of the comments complains about lack of RSS support! So even very common APIs didn’t make it in yet.

The web platform is extraordinarily complex.

I am practicing British understatement.

Music Monday: Three versions of Bing Crosby’s “Great Day”

January 25, 2016

In my first year of college (at Dickinson), I did the sound for a show that required 20s-40s music. There was a good music library and one of the music profs gave me a collection to use. Several tracks featured Bing Crosby (surprise surprise), but the stand out for me was this rendition of “Great Day”:

I found this pretty shocking, as my prior exposure had been the Kellogg’s commercial versions:

It’s a catchy song! But I had NO conception of the original nor that it was so thoroughly religious. Perhaps it’s a gospel song? It’s hard to Google.

I found a few other versions by Crosby that aren’t up to snuff:

Meh. Underproduced and no chorus back up makes it feel a bit weak.

This is like a jazz-disco version and I hate it!

McCartney’s version definitely echoes Crosby’s:

I’d never heard this before. It’s not bad at all! I think a straight cover could be interesting, esp. if Paul would do it all bluesy.

Some quick Googling has not turned up the history of this song! Or even whether McCartney’s is an homage.

I find it a bit grim! Though Gabriel’s horn rootin’ tootin’ cracks me up every time.

Ah, Grading

January 24, 2016

Lost track of posting and lots of other things due to the whelm being over but not done. Some of the grading is going OK. Exams should be sortable. I hope to be back on posting track tomorrow.

MLK was not conservative on economic matters

January 20, 2016

Exhibit one, Where do we go from here: Chaos or Community?

With Selma and the Voting Rights Act one phase of development in the civil rights revolution came to an end…For the vast majority of white Americans, the past decade—the first phase—had been a struggle to treat the Negro with a degree of decency, not of equality. White America was ready to demand that the Negro should be spared the lash of brutality and coarse degredation, but it had never been truly committed to helping him out of poverty, exploitation of all forms of discrimination….

When Negros looked for the second phase, the realization of euqality, they found that many of their white allies had quietly disappeared. The Negroes of America had taken the President, the press and the pulpit at their word when they spoke in broad terms of freedom and justice. But the absence of brutality and unregenerate evil is not hte presence of justice. To stay murder is not the same thing as to ordain brotherhood….

Up to Selma there had been unity to eliminate barbaric conduct. Beyond it the unity had to be based on the fulfillment of equality, and in the absence of agreemtn the paths began to inexorably move apart.

Just to keep handy the next time someone blathers on about MLK and misuses the “content of their character” quote.

MLK day-after irony

January 19, 2016

Of course, the UK doesn’t celebrate MLK day (which was yesterday) so I was at work. Boo! C’mon UK! As the 51st state, you should get with the program!! Or programme, even!

My MLK library is scattered across two continents with a big chunk in Swarthmore, so I decided to get an ebook copy of my favourite of his books, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? It’s a great great book and a useful antidote to Teddy Bear Having Dream MLK that some people will throw at you (universal basic income? it’s in there!). The title alone is worth contemplated: It does feel often that the (good) answer to the threat of chaos is community. But community is extremely difficult to achieve in most societies esp. with big legacy hatreds. The question of avoiding chaos is a fundamental question of political science and a lot of the answers aren’t good.

In any case, Amazon (boo!) does have it as a Kindle book. It’s not super cheap, and I wish someone would pay the MLK estate to make all his books public domain. Or they would just free some up. I want more people to read these.

The irony came from the Amazon algorithms:

On the page for MLK's book, there's a recommendation for Trent Lott's book "Crises Point".

On the page for MLK’s book, there’s a recommendation for Trent Lott’s book “Crises Point”.

Trent Lott? You’re going to recommend a book by Trent Lott? Ok, coauthored by Tom Daschle (and a ghost writer), but still. None of these schmucks are worth recommending by themselves (much less Yet Another WankerFest About Broken Politics By Third Wayers), much less for their instantly forgotten book.


Read MLK! Read Letter from a Birmingham Jail if nothing else.

Read the good stuff. Life is too short for the crap.

(I also have Dyson’s April 4, 1968 up on Scribd. I find Dyson worth while but a decidedly mixed bag. It’ll be interesting.)

Music Monday: The Monster Songs

January 18, 2016

My beloved’s brother, Toby Mulford, and his sweetie, Rachel Spicknell Mulford, have a Kickstarter for their album of “monster songs”. They have an act that goes with it with the characters Dr Dour and Peach. Toby’s been writing these songs for literally decades, so it’s pretty exciting that some of them will finally be recorded!

Contribute! Or enjoy!

We have a song about Godzilla’s (much shorter) kid:

Hopefully more videos will appear on their YouTube channel.

If you go to their Kickstarter page, in addition to some cute videos with them doing their schtick, you can listen to a home demo of “The Ballad of Johnny Roller and the Bones”. It’s a lot of fun, both lyrically and musically.


January 15, 2016

I’m a citizen of at least three countries. I was born in Philadelphia, PA, USA thus am a US citizen by birthright. I naturalised as a UK citizen a few years back. I’m very happy with both these citizenships and have no desire to give up either. I’m also an Iranian national in virtue of my father having been an Iranian national when I was born. This citizenship doesn’t mean much to me as I’ve only been to Iran once, when I was 5. I have a reasonable cultural identification with Iran, but I’ve never felt any political allegiance. It’s not that I’m renouncing it (I don’t know if they even recognize renunciation), but I’m not particularly interested in it. As a political system, I’m not in charity with theocracy (that the UK has an official religion irks me).

My mother’s mother’s parents were immigrants from Germany. I have lots of cousins wherein some were born in the US and others not (so slightly wacky citizenship patterns!).

One thing I strongly believe is that countries should be generous about citizenship and should be generous about political participation. I identify this most with my Americanism. That is where I learned it. Countries should open their arms to citizens by choice. They should be generous to people who come to live and work there. They should hold in esteem their citizens living elsewhere.

For their citizens and others living in them, don’t just let them vote, encourage them to vote! Make voting as universal as you can! Voting is one of the wonders of humanity — a shining, glorious achievement that shines all the brighter the more it is shared. Other forms of political participation are better for being more open and accessible to people. So don’t restrict who we can chose to be in our government. Let anyone who can get the votes be President. If you want to restrict it to citizens, well, ok, but don’t fuss about them being naturally born. This Cruz nonsense is both nonsense and against our best ways of being.

Citizens in a free society form a community of mutual and group regard and responsibility. The more regard and shared responsibility the better. There must be limits to that circle for the functioning of the political system in our current, fractured world. We have our sibling citizens and we have the wide circle of humanity. Our regard should be for all, though our responsibilities to each differ slightly. But we should be joyously enthusiastic about bringing people closer, and sad when practicalities prevent us from doing so.

The spirit I seek is well expressed by the inimitable Patricia Williams in The Alchemy of Race and Rights (get it! read it! hat tip to Lynne Tirrell for assigning it when I was a grad student:

The task for CLS, therefor, is not to discard rights, but to see through or past them so that they reflect a larger definition of privacy, and of property: so that privacy is turned from exclusion based on <i>self</i>-regard into regard for another’s fragile, mysterious autonomy; and so that property regains its ancient connotation of being a reflection of that part of the self which by virtue of its ancient connotation of being a reflection of that part of the self which by virtue of its very externalisation is universal. The task is to expand private property rights into a conception of civil rights, into the right to expect civility from others.[]

In discarding rights altogether, one discards a symbol too deeply enmeshed in the psyche of the oppressed to lose without trauma and much resistance. Instead, society must give them away. Unlock them from reification by giving them to slaves. Give them to trees. Give them to cows. Give them to history. Give them to rivers and rocks. Give to all of society’s object and untouchables the rights of privacy, integrity, self-assertion; give them distance and respect. Flood them with the animating spirit which rights-mythology fires in this country’s most oppressed psyches, and wash away the shrouds of inanimate object status, so that we may say not that we own gold, but that a luminous golden spirit owns us.

eBook Sucking: Skeuofunctionality Limitations

January 14, 2016

Oh ebooks. I want to love you more. I’m fine reading them, but the endless sucking of all aspects of the software miffs me.

Given that we’ve lost stable pagination, you would think that issues with selection would be eliminated. Nope! As you can see from the following screen shots (of Scribd on iPad) that you cannot make a highlight that spans a page boundary. But the “page” isn’t a thing! It’s just a bogus limitation that comes from slavishly adhering to a tiny part of physical books. Keeping page turning is good and functional. Keeping highlighting within page boundaries is daft.

I want to select the paragraph starting at the bottom. So I select the bit there at the bottom of this page...

I want to select the paragraph starting at the bottom. So I select the bit there at the bottom of this page…

...then I select the rest of the paragraph on the next page...

…then I select the rest of the paragraph on the next page…

...and I have two selections instead of one :(

…and I have two selections instead of one :(


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