Monday, November 09, 2009


Monday Minis

- Overheard in the hallway: "I get mad when stuff isn't online. I mean, my Mom still mails stuff. What's that?"

- Best tech idea I've heard in a while: a laptop with a built-in printer. It could hold maybe 10-20 sheets, and would spit out printed pages through a slot in front, right below the user's wrists. It's basically the old Polaroid camera technique applied to a laptop. If the hinge holding the screen were external, the paper could slide all the way up. It'd be great for printing out directions from google maps, or for simple lists, or for anything relatively short that you'd like to edit on paper. You could get about three-quarters of the utility of a printer, plus mobility.

- Much of my office art is by prolific local artists, by which I mean The Boy and The Girl. They're getting more prolific, so this is starting to get awkward. I'm thinking of moving to a 'picture of the week' system. It matters because when they come to visit, they actually check.

- The H1N1 virus is hitting in weirdly concentrated patches. Some of the local school districts have had catastrophic absence rates; others have barely been affected. Luckily, so far, TB and TG's school has been mostly spared, but I'm at a loss to explain how the next district over, with pretty much identical demographics, has been knocked flat. A similar pattern is holding with local colleges. I would have expected a more even spread, given how much interaction there is across borders, but so far, not.

- Tenured Radical has a great piece up (and a refreshingly thoughtful set of comments) about the University of California's call for instructors to teach their freshman seminars for free. It's one of those moments (by the University) that's horrifically tone-deaf, but if you really dig into it, not as absurd as it looks at first glance. Apparently, these are one-credit classes taught primarily to improve the U's standing in US News. If I knew more about it, I'd do a post on it. Since I don't, and it strikes me as the kind of thing you'd need to know the details of to judge well, I'll just recommend dropping by TR's place and checking it out.

- The Girl announced that she heard "the f-word" in school last week. I asked her what the f-word was. Beaming, she replied "phonics!"

> - a laptop with a built-in
> printer. (...) It'd be
> great for printing out
> directions from google maps, or for simple
> lists, or for anything relatively short that you'd
> like to edit on paper.

I like the idea, but there is another solution that is simpler to implement: a command "print to my smart-phone" which creates the corresponding file on your iPhone/Android/Pocket PC (or, if it is a simple text, even to a usual phone). There are already some options for "mailing to your iPhone" I think.
Re: your prolific artists - what about scanning them to a USB drive and putting them on one of the electronic photo frames so they will constantly rotate? Soon, TB will be able to scan them for you, I'm sure. ;-)
PS - love the phonics comment - the whole language folks would love that reference
There is a lot of misunderstanding and resulting confused rhetoric around the Freshman Discovery Seminars at UC. These are one (and sometimes two) hour a week seminars, which were introduced a few years ago as a way of putting freshmen in regular contact with ladder faculty in a small group setting. The intent was to pick a narrow topic of mutual interest to the professor and students -- often a book to read together, for example -- and to get a bit of experience early in small group discussions along with a relationship with a research-active professor. The hope was that every tenure-track and tenured faculty member would teach one every few years, as part of their regular teaching mix, and that the workload would be manageable for all involved. (A similar freshman seminar requirement with more substantive courses died on my campus some years ago because of faculty apathy, and as ladder faculty have gradually reduced the number of courses they teach each year, and the courses have ballooned in size, many students don't have a class with a permanent faculty member and under a hundred classmates until they are junior or seniors.) There was some funding in the first few years from the systemwide office, which was used mostly for small research fund incentives, but in retrospect that was probably a mistake given the expectations it created.
I think the general comment of "there doesn't even seem to be the idea of a bottom here" is the big deal.
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