Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Awash in SAT Words

[My column in the Sunday magazine.]

One of the great traditions and cultural hallmarks of Western civilization is reading in the bathroom. In my house, this has taken on a dramatic new element with the acquisition of a shower curtain filled with 500 common SAT words. Santa Claus brought it as a lovely Christmas present for a teenager who understands that her societal worth and the honor of her family hinge entirely on her SAT score.

The shower curtain gives very brief definitions of the kinds of use-at-your-risk words that appear only on standardized tests. The vocabulary in our house is, I can proudly report, effervescing. And yet, despite my strict policy of avoiding arguments with inanimate objects (exception: CD wrapping), I find myself getting highly annoyed with the shower curtain.

For one thing, the curtain is sometimes flat-out wrong. For example, "elude" is defined as a verb meaning "hard to pin down." No, seems to me that the definition needed there is "to avoid capture." "Hard to pin down" is the definition of "elusive," which is an adjective. (There's nothing like catching an error on a shower curtain to make a person feel smarter.)

I also can't accept "total forgetfulness" as the definition of "oblivion." That's more like "the condition of being totally forgotten," what we know here in Washington as "Dukakis Country."

But what's most irksome about the curtain is not the glitch here and there. The real problem is the underlying attitude toward words. The definitions are short, drab, dull. They are boxed mac and cheese, they're Velveeta, they're unsalted Ritz crackers. They lack the full flavor and aroma of the language as it is used in the real world. In some cases, the shower curtain might help you score a correct answer on a standardized test, but I'm not sure it will help anyone speak or write English.

"Beget" is defined as "to give birth to" without any notation that no one has used the word "beget" in 2,000 years.

"Amorous" is defined as "feeling loving." But doesn't the word usually imply a certain (why isn't this on the shower curtain?) concupiscence? Ditto with "consummate," whose yawn-inducing definition, "to bring to completion," misses the wide-open opportunity for a gratuitous sexual reference.

"Evanescent" is plausibly defined as "fleeting," but surely something that is evanescent is more beguiling, more entrancing than something that, you know, fleets.

"Manifesto" is defined as "a public declaration." But without the note of politics, dissent, obstreperousness and stale Marxist-Leninist dogma, that definition could describe someone standing on a milk crate declaring that he's president of Venus.

Dogmatic, we're told, means "making statements without argument or evidence." But to my ear it means "sticking to received doctrine and refusing to entertain alternate theories even when it is clear that you're not about to ignite a wildfire of democracy across the globe."

"Euphemism" is defined as "a figure of speech by which a phrase less offensive is substituted," which misses the important element of deceit (i.e., "revenue" instead of "tax").

"Exasperate" is defined as "to excite great anger." What about the part where the person who is exasperated puts her hands on her hips and huffs loudly? As defined, you could say, "And then I was charged by an exasperated grizzly."

The word "peccadillo" is described as a "trivial, minor offense," as though it's a parking ticket. Where's the hint of sin? The slight note of shagging the pool boy?

"Hackney" is defined as a verb meaning "to make stale; trite." I'm sorry, but this is my turf, my beat, my specialty. The adjective "hackneyed" is useful, but I'm pretty sure you have to be way above my pay grade to use "hackney" as a verb.

"Unctuous" is "oily." No more info given. You see here the problem with synonyms: Treating the words as identical can lead, potentially, to verbal disaster ("Do you have any shampoo for unctuous hair?").

But even as I rant at the shower curtain, I know I'll lose the argument. This is because the shower curtain is not educational, but functional. It is providing test answers. This is all the educational system requires anymore. We had the Baby Boom generation, Generation X, Generation Y, and now we have the Will This Be on the Test Generation.

The curtain's definitions are, I'm sorry to say, perfunctory, attenuated and unpunctilious.

By Joel Achenbach  |  January 27, 2007; 12:49 PM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: McCain-Levin Steel Cage Death Match
Next: And Then There Is Albania


Joel, you are a very clever man, but there is simply no way that you are going to convince the Washington Post to pay your water bill.

But to the topic at hand. As part of my son's education, by which I mean publicly-funded test preparation course, he keeps coming home with lists of vocabulary words and terse definitions that seem to be lifted directly from your shower curtain. (There's a phrase perhaps never before seen in literary history.) Anyway, he needs to use these in a sentence, and typically comes up with something along the lines of that exasperated bear. (His sentence about the helpful gas-station attended who portended the location of the proper onramp comes to mind.)

The solution, of course, is to have him read these words in the context of literature. But that would require my son to actually read something more ambitious than the illustrated game guide to "Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess." (Collectors edition!) However, this does suggest that there may be a business opportunity for Sat-Prep Game Guides.

Nah, that would just be inconceivable

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 27, 2007 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Portents from the oracle! Remember the wise words of Sherman: never trust a monoploy; they beget yet more monoploies.

WWWWII is at hand; gird thy dictionaries, take up your thesauri, wrap your programming code, then throw down the gauntlet and fight for independent blogging, lest you be pulverized by the hackneyed juggernaut of Google.

And THAT's what I call a manifesto of mental disturbance. But presently, I daresay I have garnered sufficient scoring renumeration on the SAT through such arduous jargonizing.

Posted by: Wilbrod | January 27, 2007 1:36 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Wilbrod | January 27, 2007 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Enroll him on the English team, RD. Sometimes a little competition helps bring out the desire to succeed.

Posted by: Wilbrod | January 27, 2007 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Yet another sex-and-teenagers fiasco...

7th grade is umm age 13,14. There is a reasonable argument that they're not ready for that kind of "step up and explain" kind of approach.

If I remember right, much as I want to block that year out, at that age sex terms were bandied around as insults by kids who had no friggin' idea whatsoever... virgin, homo, and almost anything dealing with puberty was funny, because they were pretty darn uncomfortable with the subject.

Posted by: Wilbrod | January 27, 2007 1:49 PM | Report abuse

"Beget" does not mean "give birth to," at least not for us non-parthenogenetic (don't look for THAT word on the shower curtain...) humans. Men beget; women bear. A child is begotten by his father, borne by his mother. There is a whole world of sexism in these terms, but just saying that beget = give birth does not wipe it out.

When I was in high school, we had vocabulary lists, with definitions; we didn't look the words up in dictionaries. Sometimes, I knew from my reading that the definition we were being asked to memorize was incorrect. One in particular, I remember: "altruistic: Of or related to truth." Possibly it was the searing irony of the situation that kept this forever in my brain but it was also the fact that the teacher steadfastly refused to admit that the definition was incorrect.

I think kids who take the SAT should get "handicap" points if they went to a crummy high school. (Mine wasn't so bad as some, but I'm sure it would have qualified for at least a few points.)

Hooray for the peace rally!! We have at least one boodle relative attending--"sister of TBG"--and the phrase "dispatching teenage offspring" makes me want to link to the photo I already emailed to a bunch of people, of Artist Alice at a protest a few years ago:

Posted by: kbertocci | January 27, 2007 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Joel, how fortunate you are to have a bathroom accessory which forces you, though out of sheer annoyance, to exercise your brain when others are doing well to focus on a magazine, or even the mirror. All these half-true definitions and misplacements are sharpening your wits daily. You also have the bonus of sharing this experience with your doting offspring, who I'm sure thank you often for your insight.

The Boy had to take the Iowa Test (standardized test) this morning as part of an application to a school for next year. We didn't know what it would be; it was billed as a "reading and math test". Imagine our contempt to discover that it was "just the Iowa Test". One question asked to name the number before 7. The other choices were in triple digits. The Boy has no test anxiety, as we have convinced him these things are simple and fun (me) or boring (Ivansdad). So far his experience has borne us out.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 27, 2007 1:59 PM | Report abuse

A few thougts:
--With three girls in the house, you must know the bathroom (much like the telephone) is not there for you. They're generously allowing you to use it every now and again, if they don't need it or expect to need it anytime soon.
--Sadly, the SAT will have similar one or two word definitions from which to choose.
--You know how 'lite' snacks are 20% less calories than the original, but 70% less taste? You'll find the same ratios (chance they will glance at it/specificity of definitions) shower curtains to books.

Posted by: LostInThought | January 27, 2007 2:03 PM | Report abuse


About that IBM/Intel announcement...

As always, let's see how long it takes them to move delicate benchtop experiments to the production floor. I wonder how well hafnium deposits as a vapor? And I do wonder whether they can etch 45nm features without resorting to electron beams. But it'll be a nice trick if they can pull it off.


Posted by: Scottynuke | January 27, 2007 2:06 PM | Report abuse

To reply to Scottynuke from the previous Boodle: bare-bones ex post facto (no subtleties today). A law is ex post facto if it changes, retroactively, an act committed to make it a crime, or occasionally, a different crime (oops! too subtle! sorry!). That is, if you do X in January, someone gets mad, and by May the law makes it retroactively a crime to do X, that's an ex post facto law. This is bad. However, most jurisdicions hold that sentencing decisions, for instance, are procedural rather than substantive (oops! did it again!) and thus a retroactive change in sentencing will not necessarily constitute an ex post facto law. Also, a legislature or a court may always make a statute or decision retroactive to any case which was not final (being tried or on appeal) at the time the law or decision was made.

From the article, the Georgia legislature clearly intended the revised law to apply to Wilson. To do so, there had to be specific language saying so. Otherwise the statute is presumed to be prospective, that is, to apply to cases going forward from that point. Someone screwed up. I don't buy the idea that this was the appellate lawyer's fault. Many legislators are aware of this requirement, and they have staff that certainly are. Someone somewhere along the way read that bill before the vote and should have caught this.

Aren't you glad you asked?

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 27, 2007 2:08 PM | Report abuse

This is comic to me now only because my daughter is successfully launched into her first year at University. High school education is so devoted to "teach the test" that one wonders if critical thinking is totally shoved out of the curriculum, and learned only inadvertently through students having discussions with their peers.

SAT tests are bordering on irrelevance for a variety of reasons. It's not just language, it's also math. For example, it presents no calculus problems, but I would guess the majority of college-bound students take the class. The next future concession could be Spanish language vocabulary, which, of course, would imply bilingual lectures in college.

Stop the compression of growing minds into narrow channels of testing approval!! Actually, once they enter college they get a new outlook, as usually then the teaching style changes at the decent colleges to building intellectual muscle rather than picking test bubbles. That's when the artifically prepared students get left behind.

Posted by: On the plantation | January 27, 2007 2:10 PM | Report abuse

On the plantation, I would actually guess the majority of college-bound students DO NOT take calculus. I took pre-calculus (not labelled as such)-- trignometry and basic functions. That's all you need for HS physics, which sucks. I took calculus in college.

There's a pretty heavy business in remedial math for students at colleges that aren't awesomely top-caliber; not every college-bound student is going to have remarkable math ability or education.

Math ability varies MUCH more than language skills among students of the same age, and instruction cannot be skipped.

I knew a woman who was so bright she skipped 5 grades, basically, and she suffered greatly in her math skills as a result and said she disliked math and wasn't good at it.

Posted by: Wilbrod | January 27, 2007 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Those workmanlike words are not that selcouth. I prefer the fennimbrun words, the more magnolious the better.

Remuneration, if not for the water, at least for the shower curtain. Or at least a tax write-off.

Posted by: Jumper | January 27, 2007 2:31 PM | Report abuse

I thought the number before seven already had a name. Maybe we should have a contest.

Posted by: Boko999 | January 27, 2007 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Boko, the Boy thought so too. If that one won't do, according to the Iowa Test, then I submit "freem". I like "heep" too, but we might reserve it for a number with more potential objects to count.

Loomis, the thought of an OED shower curtain makes me shiver in awe. When we married Ivansdad & I didn't register for gifts. We thought it would be nice to ask instead for everyone to pitch in for a start on a full-size OED, but were dissuaded by our relatives. We've introduced the Boy to the miniature version (the word escapes me, ah irony), explaining that this is a REAL dictionary.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 27, 2007 2:48 PM | Report abuse

I sincerely want a copy of the OED too, but the full print version would be heavy to carry around. I guess it'll have to be the CD version for me someday. Only 300 bucks, heck, that's almost cheap.

Posted by: Wilbrod | January 27, 2007 2:59 PM | Report abuse


Thanks for the clarification.


Posted by: Scottynuke | January 27, 2007 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Joel, allow Sir Edmund and I to offer you our most enthusiastic contrafibularities on your new shower curtain.

Posted by: byoolin | January 27, 2007 3:11 PM | Report abuse

An OED shower curtain? Where? How much? How fast can I get one? This may be the only venue in the United States that could actually create retail demand for one!

A cursory search in google does not reveal the holy grail. If anybody comes up with one, sing out!

Posted by: CJ | January 27, 2007 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Having taken the SAT's too many years ago,I would of have loved to have some help preparing for them.

I just googled SAT Help and got 166 million responses.Our help was through dictionaries,math and science books and of course word of mouth.

I am glad the kids today have so much help,It bodes well for the future of our country and world for that matter.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | January 27, 2007 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Apropos of nothing: I call the number before seven "half-a-dozen".

Posted by: Wilbrod | January 27, 2007 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Surely an OED shower curtain would be of such a scale that only Christo would install one.

Posted by: byoolin | January 27, 2007 3:32 PM | Report abuse

CJ, aye, and create additional demand for the matching shower titles and towels, too. I would love to wipe my face on "boondoggle", "persnickety", "gloaming" , "visage", and "meticulous" and such like words.

Posted by: Wilbrod | January 27, 2007 3:38 PM | Report abuse

SCC: tiles. And the OED shower curtain would only be a few random entries from the OED.

Although if we do ever invent electronic paper that's also waterproof, maybe we can make OED shower curtains that are scrollable and browsable.

Posted by: Wilbrod | January 27, 2007 3:39 PM | Report abuse

The most grueling part of the SATs was the time!!! 8:00 on a Saturday morning is cruel and unusual punishment for the vast majority of high school junior and seniors, never mind the fact that your brain has to be functioning.

Posted by: Tangent | January 27, 2007 5:07 PM | Report abuse

Public Service Announcement: I have just returned from escorting the Boy and Cousin to Epic Movie. I can categorically state that, from the perspective of an adult woman, this was the worst movie I have ever seen (but not epically so, alas). Let me repeat: Worst. Movie. Ever. Execrable. Regurgitative. Putrescent. Vile. Vulgarly suggestive without prurience. More descriptive words, anyone?

The boys felt differently, of course. If you resemble a pre-teen male who is just beginning to be interested in looking at large-breasted women, likes flatulence and crude humor, and have not yet heard the old chestnut beer and sex jokes, this may be a movie for you.

On the positive side, Ivansdad owes me big for this. I probably have two years worth of getting out of bad kid movies. After all, I saw Epic Movie: Worst. Movie. Ever.

Please return to your regularly scheduled Boodle.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 27, 2007 5:50 PM | Report abuse

When I was a lad, my father took me to the movie "Help!"

Only when I watched it again as an adult did I understand the sacrifice he made.

Posted by: Fifty | January 27, 2007 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom - So, like, this isn't a good idea for date night with the wife?

Belated SCC in the mistaken belief that anyone gives a doodly squat: "Gas-Station attendant" My son may not get portend, but even he isn't clueless enough to say "Gas-Station Attend".

For that you need me.

I hope that Ms. Achenbach had an exciting time at the demonstration.
Just not too exciting.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 27, 2007 6:07 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, I'll send your links about remedial math for college students to my daughter. She'll be interested.

Perhaps you are right in your assessment that calculus is not a regular part of most college-bound student's high school studies. Still, some questioning on the SAT would seem to be in order to separate those who do undertake its challenges, and motivate more to study this subject earlier.

There is a critical age, around grade 7 or 8, particularly with girls, when math either gets in the picture as a discipline or is very possibly lost forever.

I sent my daughter to two summers of Pre-Calc studies at Duke University TIP (Talent Identification Program), and then she finished off all the available high school math in the 10th grade. Next she took Calc II and Calc III at the local college while in high school. This transferred to Georgia Tech and left her with no remaining math requirement for an undergraduate degree. That was a disappointment actually, as she enjoyed doing calculus problems as a way to wind down and relax after a difficult day. Sort of like knitting.

The lesson is, I think, it should be taught earlier, and as fun, and involving girls. In the world of subjective educational answers and goals, math provides one avenue for answers that are objectively correct or not. Discerning young minds like that concept a great deal.

Posted by: On the plantation | January 27, 2007 6:24 PM | Report abuse

Since I found calculus much more fun than lower math, I can't disagree much there. I will say that the GRE barely touches on some basic calculus concepts, and it would be unfair to have the SATs be tougher than the GRE.

I also found my indifferent study skills hurt my ability to get top grades in math, especially since calculus was so fast paced to learn.

Math alas is as much a procedural skill as it is a thinking skill-- practice, practice is required for me to rapidly do complex math problems under time constraints such as daily quizzes. A lot of the variation in math ability also involves calculating speed.

As I have a sibling who is pursuing grad school in math, I personally don't believe I am incapable of learning any math CONCEPT out there, but raw calculation speed is something that takes constant practice and memorization, and I'll always be very good, but not topnotch.

And math ability declines with age. It wouldn't be fair for returning older students to be expected to pass tests on calculus when they might have finished out on algebra II over 10 years ago.

Until we learn to teach math better and faster, we'll have to stick with what students actually are required to learn to finish their diploma.

Posted by: Wilbrod | January 27, 2007 6:40 PM | Report abuse

By the way, I had a math teacher around grade 9 who convinced me to join the junior varsity math team and basically do drills after school.

That suited me well; I was never good at homework, finding it mostly busywork that was ungraded, but I enjoyed the timed competitions (basically homework in a different guise).

I think a lot of things can be done to motivate math better, and a lot of it is about valuing the work the student actually puts in and showing that back to the student.

Posted by: Wilbrod | January 27, 2007 6:42 PM | Report abuse

I am much better at language logic than math logic, so I didn't take advanced math in high school. My biggest mistake was taking Algebra III/trig, because I didn't need it to graduate, and my second biggest mistake was not dropping it. The worst grade I ever got on a report card was the C minus I earned third quarter in that class. I didn't feel too bad, though; that was the quarter all my smart buddies flunked calculus.

OTOH, I brought my SAT math score up 70 points after having some trig...

Posted by: Slyness | January 27, 2007 7:10 PM | Report abuse

My wife, a mathematician and former math tutor, strongly opposes routinely teaching calculus before senior year in high school. Brains require time to mature. If you push advanced math too early, you can frustrate the students and alienate them from the subject for life. Even exceptional students really do not come into their own until their late teens and early twenties.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 27, 2007 7:12 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, I too own the minaturized OED. As I recall, the complete version is twenty or so folio volumes. Large books, too large even for my bookcases. Oh well, thank heavens you can look stuff up on line:

Posted by: Slyness | January 27, 2007 7:14 PM | Report abuse

RD, I believe your wife on that one. It's nice to learn math but USING it is another story. It's good to have the fundamental maturity in place.

Can you point me to any research, though, that backs her point of view?

Posted by: Wilbrod | January 27, 2007 7:28 PM | Report abuse

She bases this on her experience as a math tutor. I don't know of any research on the topic.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 27, 2007 7:30 PM | Report abuse

A search on math + maturity covers a lot of articles on girls and math.

Maybe On the plantation would find those articles interesting.

Posted by: Wilbrod | January 27, 2007 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod: //And math ability declines with age. It wouldn't be fair for returning older students to be expected to pass tests on calculus when they might have finished out on algebra II over 10 years ago.//

You just go back and retool. When I returned to school for my 2nd bachelor's degree, my computer science major required a concurrent minor in math. I was 37, and couldn't even do long division any more, was totally innumerate, and hadn't gone beyond algebra in HS or 1st college degree.

I spent a semester in pre-calc, learning more than I'd ever known math-wise, and then moved into various calculus courses, linear algebra, advanced linear, discrete, did stochastics in grad school. While my basic math skills hadn't changed when I began, I'd learned a lot about what it takes to succeed, and I just did what it took. In my case, about 40 hours of homework a week for an A- in calculus and even more for an A in advanced linear (which I found much more interesting).

When Case Western accepted me for a PhD in Computer Engineering they commented that they'd never accepted a student with my Verbal GREs (98%) or my Math GREs (68%). While I knew how to do all the math problems, I didn't have the time. I also didn't study for the Verbals, and spent all my time preparing for the Math.

Give innumerates a reason to do math, they will! I couldn't have made it through my computer classes without the math I was also learning, and couldn't do my job today without either.

Posted by: dbG | January 27, 2007 7:50 PM | Report abuse

Aha, this fits my gut instinct that true mathematical ability requires an overall balance in mental development.

I saw a study calling for ASL-speaking women to see if they in fact had a slight advantage in spatial thinking and thus math compared to their non-signing peers. (this would have to be in spite of educational background, apparently).

ASL does tend to utilize both sides of the brain a bit more than most languages and incorporates a lot of spatial referents.

But as somebody pointed out, somebody playing video games or practicing something hands-on like shop, car repair, etc, would also be more apt to develop extra visuospatial thinking skills as well.

Posted by: Wilbrod | January 27, 2007 7:59 PM | Report abuse

dbG, you're a tale of inspiration. I would say 40 hours a week is about bang-on, and that leaves less time for all those other classes...

I've always gathered the impression that computer programming does not require the superior math skills than most people assume; three of my friends who majored in computer programming actually needed to take remedial math.

Computer engineering, probably a different story.

The difference is that a person with low math SATs (versus GREs) needs the chance at college courses to retool; high schools don't normally accept adult students back long after they've completed their diplomas. So I'm not sure I buy that line of reasoning.

Posted by: Wilbrod | January 27, 2007 8:09 PM | Report abuse

Interesting theory, Wilbrod.

I have a friend from grad school who was a math prodigy. Our GREs were mirror image. When we play Scrabble, we're pretty evenly matched--he plays for number totals, I play for words.

I'm not sure this is true for most computer engineers, however. Virtually all of my colleagues are hard-wired, left-dominant cog brains (not that there's anything wrong with that). There are meetings where everyone but me is in agreement on the *only* way to do something (I'm center brained after all that cs and math). When they need an innovative solution, however, they knock at my cube.

Posted by: dbG | January 27, 2007 8:13 PM | Report abuse

Center-brained! What a fabulous concept, dbG! Wish I could do it, being right-brained myself...

Posted by: Slyness | January 27, 2007 8:24 PM | Report abuse

Depends on what you're programming. If you're coding graphics, you need a good knowledge of linear algebra. Other specialties might require derivatives, stochastics or imaginary numbers. Mine mostly requires being able to estimate times/throughput in my head, where a number needs to have the same significance a word might.

SATs/GREs. Do adults *take* the SATs if they're returning to college?

Posted by: dbG | January 27, 2007 8:25 PM | Report abuse

Slyness, that's where I started out. If I can do it, anyone can!

Posted by: dbG | January 27, 2007 8:27 PM | Report abuse

We all know those who excel in math and can't say much of anything normally.

Language is predominantly in the left hemisphere, which normally controls reasoning, particularly emotional inhibition.

A "more equal distribution" could mean a language deficit, or strengthened right-brain communication to the left brain (something you really don't expect in men versus women, but there is evidence that the key may be the gray matter-- the glia, which normally supports neurons and dampens signals).,,1409903,00.html

I also want to mention that language thinking skills is still useful in math, especially at the very high levels where new math is being created and new connections are made; or a problem is being analyzed in words/mathematical components in order to be solved.

Posted by: Wilbrod | January 27, 2007 8:33 PM | Report abuse

I see you have research backing you up, Wilbrod, *smile*.

How does that jibe with the popular conception I'm working from, as seen in ?

I also wanted to clear something up: although Case offered me a full ride, I got my M.S. from another very fine institution which offered me a full ride and $$. The day I got Case's letter, however, was one of the finest in my life.

Posted by: dbG | January 27, 2007 8:43 PM | Report abuse

dbG, I'm so glad you used the word "jibe."
Far too often, people mistakenly use "jive."
(I wonder if either word appears on Joel's shower curtain?)

Posted by: Tom fan | January 27, 2007 9:03 PM | Report abuse

We all use both sides of the brain, dbG.

The difference is that women tend to have more connections through the corpus callosum, which seems to improve women's ability to explain procedures and math compared to men. Tend to... sex differences are always a matter of degree.

That said, the brain hemispheres ARE normally lateralized in their functions-- not completely.

The work done on lobotomy patients has indicated that the right brain is pretty limited in language skills, generally, and has a different personality from the left brain, as a lot of "initial, rapid processing/emotion" occurs in the right brain and is (normally) communicated to the left brain. But there is some plasticity in function.

Local processing vs global processing, the precise point studied in those math students. I hope I remember correctly the difference between the two, as I was just reading about this very recently.

"I need to lead" vs "I need lead"
The meaning lies in local processing-- "to" indicates the word "lead" is a verb, not a noun.

"I'm gold, you're silver; I'm a champion, you're a loser; I'm a king, you're a.... (fill in the blank)...

That does require a bit of global processing and the ability to see patterns/parallels and to come up with several possibilities.

Likewise: 2+2= 2+X=4

But you can also propose math problems that require a general knowledge of a rule, without doing the specific crunching. |a|= -a.

(a must be: positive; negative, either. )

The "right-brain" education is a bit overrated; we are all emotional to start with, and maturity and education and thought consists largely of making our whole brain work together nicely. The studies are based on lobotomy patients, and we are only beginning to get a grasp of how an intact brain works on various problems, thanks to fMRI and detailed analysis of brain damaged patients.

Posted by: Wilbrod | January 27, 2007 9:07 PM | Report abuse

Tom Fan, I have never understood that misuse of "jive".

I mean if you're asking how a dancer will jive/jibe with your company, then that's about the only possible way both words could fit in.

Posted by: Wilbrod | January 27, 2007 9:20 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps most people have only heard it instead of reading it. Likewise, jury-rigged vs. gerry-rigged and kitty-corner vs. katty-corner (have I heard katter-corner)?

Posted by: dbG | January 27, 2007 9:27 PM | Report abuse

I'm with you on the difference between jury-rigged and gerry-rigged, dbG, but what is the difference between kitty-corner and katty-corner? In my part of the world, I think they mean the same thing, as does Katter-corner. (Meaning being the opposite corner of an intersection.)

Posted by: Slyness | January 27, 2007 10:03 PM | Report abuse

I work in a tech shop where we program computers and make a decent salary. About 10% of us can prove a triangle has 180 degrees and about another half of us knows that a triangle actually has 180 degrees.

Math for 14 year olds!

So much for education.

Success is knowing how to play the game...

Posted by: Pat | January 27, 2007 10:16 PM | Report abuse

Slyness, I think you're right, they're all the same.

Pat, educational requirements vary with the job even in tech, and I would argue that success comes from not playing games. *smile* YMMV.

Posted by: dbG | January 27, 2007 10:54 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if Martooni can back me up on this. I think when I lived in Ohio, it was katty-corner. In Philadelphia, it's kitty. Where are you, Slyness?

Posted by: dbG | January 27, 2007 10:58 PM | Report abuse

Pat, you gave me a scare. I can prove that the interior angles of a triangle sum to 180 degrees ... can't I? I had to think a bit, but alright! I'm in the 10%.

dbG: I'll bet your strong verbal skills serve you quite well in engineering. Few engineers work alone and the rest of us have to design, document, convince, and collaborate mostly in words.

Posted by: Fifty | January 27, 2007 10:59 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Fifty (and good to see all the posting you've been doing)! I'm a Software Engineer, and probably 75% of what I do involves other SEs, developers, analysts. I'm fortunate to work with some people who are very bright and very nice, and I just try not to be the person who writes it all up.

What do you do?

Posted by: dbG | January 27, 2007 11:05 PM | Report abuse

Hi dbG and thanks. I'm also a software developer. I write up more things than I'd like because others don't like to write. Those who defer the writing to me cede some control of their design. I try to avoid that.

Posted by: Fifty | January 27, 2007 11:26 PM | Report abuse

Lot's of interesting stuff today/tonight. I personally was never a stellar math student (until I started paying for my own college classes out-of-pocket), but semi-regularly read math stuff for my own amusement as an adult, and even haul out a textbook & work some problems sometimes.

Wilbrod, I have to say that I'm flabbergasted about something here:
"I saw a study calling for ASL-speaking women to see if they in fact had a slight advantage in spatial thinking and thus math compared to their non-signing peers. (this would have to be in spite of educational background, apparently)."
Posted by: Wilbrod | January 27, 2007 07:59 PM

I would swear that we both were reading about similar studies (although the study you mentioned was in prep, not actually underway yet, right?), but we cannot be. The study I remember reading about was undertaken among ASL-communicating women (in order to filter out certain other language- and gender-related variables) and according to preliminary results, seemed to indicate that ASL fluency was negatively correlated with high-order mathematical thinking - in other words, was linked approximately like other languages with language fluency-vs-math smarts, which was the point of the study, I think.

Interesting. I'll have to do some digging and see if I can find the original article about the preliminaries (on actual dead tree in a magazine in my house, I think), and will definitely be looking for a paper with the final results.

Posted by: Bob S. | January 27, 2007 11:38 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod - Obviously, the study I read about has nothing to say about ASL users versus non-ASL users with regard to math proficiency. But within the somewhat restricted world of female ASL users, it appears that math geeks are (like all the other math geeks the world over!) slightly less comfortable expressing themselves!

Posted by: Bob S. | January 27, 2007 11:55 PM | Report abuse

Fifty, in my tech group our 2 developers are known (seriously) as *Genius #1* and *Genius #2*, which gives you some idea of the esteem we hold them in.

I do systems integration, business resiliency planning, audit & technical project mgt. and also am a dba.

One thing I don't think anyone has written is that higher math is important because it teaches a system of thought and ways to process information. You learn to think in the ways of your discipline, one of the goals of computer science education too (to name just one other major).

Do I spend time every week thinking about the area of a rectangle? Not unless I'm redecorating. But pattern matching, debugging, every day.

Posted by: dbG | January 28, 2007 12:15 AM | Report abuse

dbG - Actually, over the past decade, I've read a few articles which discussed the utility of "pointy" math types within corporate structures, because of the benefits to be gained from a (sometimes slightly wierdly-narrowminded) focus on a logical path.

Posted by: Bob S. | January 28, 2007 12:25 AM | Report abuse

"Wierd", "weird".... I dunno. It all looks the same to me. Maybe I'm too wired!

Posted by: Bob S. | January 28, 2007 12:28 AM | Report abuse

Doesn't follow the rule *i before e except before c or when ending in a as in neighbor or weigh* does it?

I'm wired myself. 'Night, all! Thanks for the discussion.

Posted by: dbG | January 28, 2007 12:33 AM | Report abuse

dbG, excellent point about math teaching a system of thought and I think also standards of proof, quality of information, stuff like that. (I saw sales projections once with amounts expressed down to the penny. It was hilarious! And sad at the same time.)

With debugging so essential to what we do, doesn't it irk you when the doctor can't/won't diagnose? When the car mechanic can't figure out why the engine sometimes won't start?

I do kernel-level work (system programming). A little product development, but mostly troubleshooting of various sorts.

Your work sounds more fun. I've always been on the product rather than the business side.

Good night!

Posted by: Fifty | January 28, 2007 12:47 AM | Report abuse

A quick trip to found this:

If Achenblog had awards, what would they be called and what would the categories be?

And now, really, truly, offline.

Posted by: dbG | January 28, 2007 12:48 AM | Report abuse

Fifty, I find myself telling people a process took *approximately* x milliseconds.

Posted by: dbG | January 28, 2007 12:51 AM | Report abuse

Fifty - You might get a kick out of the following e-mail exchange between myself and a WaPo writer (another Joel, Mr. Garreau) last year. The numbers in question involved drug sales:
Bob Sewell wrote:

" I enjoyed the article very much. But, please be careful about uncritically slinging statistical crap around. The following is both silly-sounding and almost certainly imprecise (no matter how precise it sounds!):

"Adderall sales are up 3,135.6 percent over the same period. Provigil is up 359.7 percent."

Ummm, if I were being picky about these hyperaccurate-sounding statistics, I'd start by asking about whether the figures were active ingredient sales by milligram, retail dollars by prescription total, or wholesale dollars by dosage unit. At any rate, let's not get TOO crazy about throwing extra decimal points into figures that are probably only rough guesstimates anyway.

This is (obviously) just my point of view about how numbers should be treated generally. I enjoyed the article thoroughly! "

Joel Garreau replied:

"Thanks, Bob.

You're right of course. That crap was thrown in at the last minute ... (it's total sales in dollars, from fy 2001-2005, fyi...."


Well, actually, I won't include all of his reply, because it MAY have expressed some frustrations about the way that work changes between composition & publication. But he agreed with the point about false precision.

Posted by: Bob S. | January 28, 2007 1:09 AM | Report abuse

Bob, wow 5 significant figures on the Adderall sales increase when "30 times more" would have made the point more clearly.

dbG, I've starting rounding my figures to the disfavor of what I'm trying to establish to save saying "about." I think I'll go back to my best numbers plus the caveat.

Posted by: Fifty | January 28, 2007 1:31 AM | Report abuse

Bob S, remember Tom fan's wise words:
We are weird.

Posted by: mostlylurking | January 28, 2007 1:36 AM | Report abuse

Now, to the kit...
I'm durned if I know how to get them kiddies to enjoy reading. And my memory of the SAT is that there's no simple way to game the system. Short term prep work can give certainly give a bit of a boost, but broad knowledge of words and proper usage is gained only through ("Stand back, everyone! Thunderously obvious statement coming!!") regular exposure to words being used properly.

I was lucky. Both of my parents read for pleasure, I'm sure that they must have read to me as a very young'un, and there were always a ton of books around the house ranging from little kiddie stuff to Saki, Sabatini, Stowe, Spyri, Swift & R. L. Stevenson to Shakespeare, Solzhenitsyn, Shelley (the chick AND the dude), Stendhal & Stein (Gertie, I mean). My point isn't that I had a particularly intellectually rich upbringing, so much as that I had examples of avid readers before me, and a whole bunch of books from which to choose. Somehow, that worked out to a pretty substantial SAT score, and I don't know how to shortcut that in any significant way.

(Obviously, lots of practice on lots of pratice tests would help, if they are, in fact, pretty similar to the actual test. I don't think that these were as widely [or inexpensively] available back in the dark ages, but it makes little sense not to take advantage of them now, I suspect.)

Posted by: Bob S. | January 28, 2007 1:56 AM | Report abuse

// Do I spend time every week thinking about the area of a rectangle? Not unless I'm redecorating. But pattern matching, debugging, every day. // and...
// dbG - Actually, over the past decade, I've read a few articles which discussed the utility of "pointy" math types within corporate structures, because of the benefits to be gained from a (sometimes slightly wierdly-narrowminded) focus on a logical path. //

I think I'm especially right-brained -- inclined that way basically IMHO, and left-handed, plus since age 7 infection and subsequent operation effectively deaf in right ear, which causes audio inputs, at least, to come to right brain only. I do a lot of my software analysis and design work by simply filling my head with facts about the problem while waiting for a seed crystal to fall out of the sky into my brain. I am intrigued by folks who seem to have predetermined ways to deal with classes of problems, perhaps like the mathematicians mentioned. I can classify some problems immediately as an instance of X which is best dealt with by solution Y or Z, but there are others where I feel it's best to wait for more information and for more understanding to develop (which is of course not the same as gathering more data). Occasionally a manager has gotten irritated that I don't start on a "solution" immediately, but typically they recognize you need to understand the problem first. BTW, I think that's the opposite of GWB, who seems to been looking for an excuse for his war from the very beginning.

Posted by: LTL-CA | January 28, 2007 1:59 AM | Report abuse

Hey, if your only tool is a hammer...

Posted by: Bob S. | January 28, 2007 2:14 AM | Report abuse

LTL-CA -- When I was in the Air Force, I briefly incurred the wrath of a colonel who expressed the opinion that I didn't seem to be responding to a call (concerning the malfunction on an about-to-launch aircraft of a system for which I was responsible for the maintenance) with a sufficient sense of urgency to suit him.

One of the best compliments that has ever been paid to me came from the (lower-ranking than the the colonel, but much higher-ranking than me at the time) woman who was driving the truck, who said to him, "Sir, I've dropped a lot of these guys off to fix a lot of problems. And unlike some of the others, by the time Airman Sewell gets there, he usually knows how to solve the problem." The colonel dropped it.

I glowed for days. Heck, I'm still glowing! The broader point being that I, also, tend to want to ponder things for a bit while I formulate a solution to problems.

Posted by: Bob S. | January 28, 2007 2:30 AM | Report abuse

Well, I'm probably gonna call it quits soon, but here's a little offering for 'mudge (and all ye piratical folk!):

(from the introduction to 'Treasure Island')

"If sailor tales to sailor tunes,
Storm and adventure, heat and cold,
If schooners, islands, and maroons,
And buccaneers, and buried gold,

And all the old romance, retold
Exactly in the ancient way,
Can please, as me they pleased of old,
The wiser youngsters of today:

--So be it, and fall on! If not,
If studious youth no longer crave,
His ancient appetites forgot,
Kingston, or Ballantyne the brave,

Or Cooper of the wood and wave:
So be it, also! And may I
And all my pirates share the grave
Where these and their creations lie!"

Posted by: Bob S. | January 28, 2007 2:44 AM | Report abuse

OK, darn it, somehow I can't let go of 'Treasure Island' yet. How about this for a fairly cool sentence, full of the promise of later thrills?

Often enough when the first of the month came round and I applied to him for my wage, he would only blow through his nose at me and stare me down, but before the week was out he was sure to think better of it, bring me my four-penny piece, and repeat his orders to look out for "the seafaring man with one leg."

OK, OK, maybe I'm just easily amused!

Posted by: Bob S. | January 28, 2007 2:58 AM | Report abuse

In honor of the upcoming Superbowl, Dave Barry's "Visitor's Guide to Miami" is on the front page of the Miami Herald today.

Sample paragraph:

"Chances are you'll arrive -- Lucky you! -- at Miami International Airport. Here you will find a spacious, modern, convenient, well-designed, passenger-friendly, state-of-the-art facility depicted on murals showing what the airport allegedly will look like if they ever finish it. This is unlikely to happen in the current century because the airport is under the control of Miami-Dade politicians, who traditionally fall into one of three categories: (1) incompetents; (2) criminals; and (3) incompetent criminals."

Posted by: kbertocci | January 28, 2007 6:23 AM | Report abuse

Morning all!! *waving*

dbG, let me see if I've got it straight:

"I do systems integration, business resiliency planning, audit & technical project mgt."

So, the Geniuses devise the systems and you try to break them before the clients do. ;-)

And I totally agree with Bob, regular and prolonged expsoure to proper use of words is the best SAT prep. Thanks again to my parents for the wall of books in the living room and all the magazine subscriptions we had as I grew up.


Posted by: Scottynuke | January 28, 2007 7:03 AM | Report abuse

Not that I'm all grown up now or anything.

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 28, 2007 7:04 AM | Report abuse

Good Morning.
I witnessed a wonderful sunrise this morning. A light ground fog stirred by a slight breeze suspended ice crystals that added dancing sparkles to washed orange and pink, streaked by clouds that varied from brillant white to deep blue.

Posted by: Boko999 | January 28, 2007 8:15 AM | Report abuse

I enjoyed the sunrise too and singing to the radio on my way home from work.

Now the sun is out and we are getting flurries....maybe I will see a snowbow.

Sometimes the simple little things make me so happy.

Everyone enjoy their day.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | January 28, 2007 9:01 AM | Report abuse

Joel, my deepest sympathies [reason given below].

You don't explain in your Rough Draft how your daughter came by her new shower curtain--whether it was purchased by someone in your household or was given to her as a gift by a close friend or family member.

However this particular shower curtain may have come under under your roof and made it into one of your bathrooms, may I offer a suggestion for a better one, a replacement, really a true upgrade?

It probably costs a few dollars or a few British pounds sterling more, but the Oxford English Dictionary Shower Curtain can't be beat*.

For distaff teen deb geniuses, Dior offers a deluxe OED Dictionary CD ROM shower curtain--available in a variety of feminine fabrics and hues to match any decor, with a faint doily pattern underlay. Versace offers its own designer version, which includes italics and other font choices.

*Dr. W.C. Minor would be one happy man, were he alive, of course--and missing his own noodley appendage, to know that a minor is possibly reading some of labors.

Posted by: Loomis | January 28, 2007 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Our shower curtain has pineapples on it.

*Pineapples*, I tell you. And we've never been to nor even discussed visiting Hawaii. All I can say is that pineapples are not conducive to "taking care of business". Maybe it's the pineapple's size and rough pointy skin that throw me off.

What they need to come up with is a "magnetic poetry" shower curtain.


Here I sit
Broken hearted
Tried to sh...

Then again, maybe not.

Posted by: martooni | January 28, 2007 9:29 AM | Report abuse

*saying in my best town crier voice*

They're coming!
They're coming!
(Well, maybe not by land and sea, more likely by airplane...)

The Heavy Hitters are coming!
They're coming from both coasts--the Left and Right coasts.

We're gonna be in the (*gasp*) "national spotlight." (according to day's front page blurb--not a story but a blurb, above the fold and below the banner. Who made up THAT word, "blurb"? Quick, lickety-split, get the homeless out of the downtown!)

In a paragraph that runs 69 words, the San Antonio Express-News today, in reverse text accompanying a large graphic, informs readers that the grand, grand opening on Monday of the Center for the Interpid and Two Fischer Houses at Brooke Army Medical Center will be a star-studded event.

Do you recall that I blogged both here on the Achenblog and at Arkin's WaPo blog about how President Bush would be missing in action at the dedication of the $50 million state-of-the art rehabilitation facility for the worst of the war wounded, the facility paid for not with tax dollars but private contributions?

About 3,000 guests are expected to attend, including these mega-watt personalities: Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. John McCain, and (in alphabetical order) rocker John Mellencamp, comedian Rosie O'Donnell (what, no Doanld Trump?), and actor Denzel Washington.

Given the Who's Who of the emerging guest list, do you think that Gov. Rick Perry will be on hand? On foot? Do you think for a Texas minute that he might attend the celebrity event at BAMC earlier on Monday, stop by a fancy River Walk hotel or bistro for a bite to eat, and conceivably hot-foot it to the 7 p.m. meeting that same night at Helotes City Hall where he can hear local residents' concerns about the burning mulch pile? Why not just segue froma national disgrace to a state disgrace?

I would like to be at both events, but am afraid that I would be too emotionally overwhelmed seeing and interviewing the soldiers, the survivors, who've been severely injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. And I haven't been invited, to boot.

Let's just hope the national spotlight stays where it belongs--on the sacrifices made by our brave troops. Let's hope that the two opposing presidential contenders don't make political hay over their own attendance, and that the Hollywood personalities bring a little bit of West Coast sunshine, figuratively, not literally.

Posted by: Loomis | January 28, 2007 10:25 AM | Report abuse

*saying in my best town crier voice*

They're coming!
They're coming!
(Well, maybe not by land and sea, more likely by airplane...)

The Heavy Hitters are coming!
They're coming from both coasts--the Left and Right coasts.

We're gonna be in the (*gasp*) "national spotlight." (according to day's front page blurb--not a story but a blurb, above the fold and below the banner. Who made up THAT word, "blurb"? Quick, lickety-split, get the homeless out of the downtown!)

In a paragraph that runs 69 words, the San Antonio Express-News today, in reverse text accompanying a large graphic, informs readers that the grand, grand opening on Monday of the Center for the Interpid and Two Fischer Houses at Brooke Army Medical Center will be a star-studded event.

Do you recall that I blogged both here on the Achenblog and at Arkin's WaPo blog about how President Bush would be missing in action at the dedication of the $50 million state-of-the art rehabilitation facility for the worst of the war wounded, the facility paid for not with tax dollars but private contributions?

About 3,000 guests are expected to attend, including these mega-watt personalities: Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. John McCain, and (in alphabetical order) rocker John Mellencamp, comedian Rosie O'Donnell (what, no Doanld Trump?), and actor Denzel Washington.

Given the Who's Who of the emerging guest list, do you think that Gov. Rick Perry will be on hand? On foot? Do you think for a Texas minute that he might attend the celebrity event at BAMC earlier on Monday, stop by a fancy River Walk hotel or bistro for a bite to eat, and conceivably hot-foot it to the 7 p.m. meeting that same night at Helotes City Hall where he can hear local residents' concerns about the burning mulch pile? Why not just segue froma national disgrace to a state disgrace?

I would like to be at both events, but am afraid that I would be too emotionally overwhelmed seeing and interviewing the soldiers, the survivors, who've been severely injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. And I haven't been invited, to boot.

Let's just hope the national spotlight stays where it belongs--on the sacrifices made by our brave troops. Let's hope that the two opposing presidential contenders don't make political hay over their own attendance, and that the Hollywood personalities bring a little bit of West Coast sunshine, figuratively, not literally.

Posted by: Loomis | January 28, 2007 10:26 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, all. Daughter No. 2, her husband, and four kids are visting for the weekend. At the moment, granddaughter Kiara is sitting on my knee and wants to type something. Say hello to the boodle, Kiara:

tredds lkfgdfskaisff57ysbvjsdg42dwdhdrytr gjy httut6680iyowr hyu4u94r4.9
ur8uyi8iujiu6 nm,mh;hl,jl
u6u56yu596ii97795j5yy66u98989nbgfh- jj7++++byyjkkei8+ritiu hty57887676



9 46u6895u8497584u95r3fuf5885u64wy6t843649767647689628u899648

Thank you, Kiara. I believe you may have just made boodle history, being the first boodler grandchild to have posted on the Achenblog.

As you can probably tell, Kiara is not real good yet on some of the fundamentals. But we're working on it.

(She pust picked up a book from the bookshelf, opened it in the middle, and exclaimed, "Wow! It's got nice words!")

Uh, now I have three rugrats clambering over me...gotta run...

Posted by: Curmudgeon | January 28, 2007 10:56 AM | Report abuse

You've got it, Scotty.

Just include that I document every way I broke it and every step we took to fix it for the auditors' edification.

Posted by: dbG | January 28, 2007 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Kiara obviously has GrandMudge's gift of gab. Wonder what she'd say if she watched the Great Favog?

And dbG's a professional breaker! Now THAT is a cool job.


Posted by: Scottynuke | January 28, 2007 11:14 AM | Report abuse

13 year-old pooch returns home...,1925,KSHB_9424_5310254,00.html

But, CUJO? Who the *&^(% names a golden retriever that?

Posted by: Wilbrod | January 28, 2007 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Hi, folks!

I was going to say, I couldn't tell where Mudge's Boodling stopped and Kiara's started, other than the colon. It all spoke "Mudge" to me.

kbertocci, thanks for that link to the Barry piece.


Posted by: bc | January 28, 2007 11:33 AM | Report abuse

'Mudge... I've run Kiara's post through a babel-fish-type language interpreter i've been toying with and here's what comes back:


You haven't noticed any rectangular black monoliths in your back yard, have you?

Posted by: martooni | January 28, 2007 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Estimating Mudge's age at 106, Kiara would be, what, 42? Calling a middle aged woman a rugrat seems a little disparging to me.

I met a guy with Great Dane named Tiny. Clever, eh?

Posted by: Anonymouse((( | January 28, 2007 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Kiara is definitely highly intelligent, having signed off her post with the ham radio sign "73".

Posted by: Nellie | January 28, 2007 12:54 PM | Report abuse

fennimbrun= knicknack, trinket
magnolious= splendid, magnificent etc.
selcouth= unfamiliar, rare, strange

Posted by: Jumper | January 28, 2007 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Danke schoen, Jumper. I couldn't find what fennimbrun meant.

Magnolious is a nonce word coined on Blackadder, so wouldn't show up on a SAT or the OED quite yet.

Selcouth is an obsolete word.

Posted by: Wilbrod | January 28, 2007 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Wow! Both Joel and I blogged about the SAT this weekend.

In two years we can both blog about eating mac and cheese while we try to pay for tuition.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 28, 2007 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Yellojkt, you plan to afford mac and cheese? With those prices, You might be lucky to get by on ramen and drinking in other people's food with your eyes.

Posted by: Wilbrod | January 28, 2007 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Awash in Dropouts

(as listed in today's San Antonio Express-News' Metro Section):

San Antonio Independent School District:
48.0 percent

Northside Independent School District:
25.4 percent

Edgewood Independent School District:
60.1 percent

(Remember the Supreme Court decisions in Edgewood I and Edgewood II?)

34.2 percent

*Scotty, *please* fax to Texas thousands of the Achenkid shower curtains, pronto. FedEx? FexFax?*

Posted by: Loomis | January 28, 2007 2:52 PM | Report abuse


The word originated in 1907. US humorist Gelett Burgess's short 1906 book "Are you a bromide?" was presented in a limited edition to an annual trade association dinner. The custom at such events was to have a dust jacket promoting the work and with, as Burgess' publisher B. W. Huebsch described it,

"the picture of a damsel--languishing, heroic, or coquettish -- anyhow, a damsel on the jacket of every novel"
In this case the jacket proclaimed "YES, this is a 'BLURB'!" and the picture was of a (fictitious) young woman "Miss Belinda Blurb" shown calling out, described as "in the act of blurbing".

The name and term stuck for any publisher's contents on a book's back cover, even after the picture was dropped and only the complementary text remained.

Posted by: Loomis | January 28, 2007 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Okay -- my first post on the boodle since surgery -- nearly four weeks ago.

kbertocci -- I laughed so hard at the Dave Barry article my little laparasopic "wounds" hurt! I feel the same way Barry does about Rep. Tancredo -- and of course, I'm from Colorado.

dbG -- I'm sorry, but your discussion about your job, with Bob S.'s and Scottynuke's inclusions leave me completely befuddled. I suspect I may have been good at math had I not been humiliated by teachers in my freshman and sophomore years of high school. I developed such anxiety about it I could be reduced to tears in college trying to solve problems in statistics.

I took calculus for the first time (geared toward architectural design) when I started a graduate program in architecture. I struggled with the math, but I loved the concept.

Since then I've enjoyed reading books *about* mathematical concepts and theorems.

Am recovering, albeit more slowly than I had hoped. I had some major complications (the surgery itself went very well) and ended up in the hospital for 9 days. I was home for a 30 stint around the 7th, but had to be rehospitalized. As we all know, the more time one spends in bed, the longer the recovery. But I'm driving now, and walking the track at the Rec Center. Geex! The geriatric set passes me with ease! Very humbling.

Mudge -- there's an editorial in the NYTimes today on the Consumer Reports' messed up child safety tests. For some reason my computer is not allowing me to link. It's titled "Crash Test Dummies." Thought you, or maybe Kiara, would be interested in reading it.

More later. I'll entice you all with some details (maybe) of the 48 hours of audio hallucinations I had due to the morphine. :-)

Posted by: nelson | January 28, 2007 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Here's the New York Times link to "Crass Test Dummies" mentioned above.

Posted by: Maggie O'D | January 28, 2007 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Glad to see *squinting* you up if not round Nelson.

Posted by: Boko999 | January 28, 2007 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Happy to see you back on board, nelson!


I too, have color in posting area. The letters of my name are purple. Except for the "e"s, which are black.

Posted by: nellie | January 28, 2007 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Maggie O'D and nelson, one should note for the record that the linked article in the NYT on child safety seats was:

1) NOT an "editorial" (which are written by staff, and represent the newspaper's considered opinion [for good or ill]) but rather is an "op-ed" piece, and like all op-eds, could have been written by any ol' Tom, Dick or Sally [some of our favroite nutjob wacko pundits, for example];

2) In this case the op-ed was in fact written by Jane Claybook, who is, yes, a former NHTSA administrator TWENTY-SIX FREAKIN' YEARS AGO (and so, in my considered opinion, might be a wee tad out-of-touch with current and recent NHTSA issues and procedures, though she no doubt likes to think otherwise). She is also a past [until only recently] board member of Consumer Reports, the magazine that utterly botched it's testing (as she admits in the article, though she wants to blame NHTSA anyway because...well, just because). A wee bit of conflict of interest there? A former board member of Consumer Reports' parent corp. saying, hey, it wasn't all our fault? Yeah, sure;

3) Claybook is currently and has been president of a lobbying group called "Public Citizen," about which anyone can Google and get info and form their own conclusions. But I wouldn't be a bit surprised if people inside NHTSA probably consider Claybrook a bit of an over-the-top thorn in their side whom they try to ignore as much as possible. Maybe she has earned that reputation, or maybe not; I can't say, having never dealt with her or her outfit. Just let us agree that there are a number of theoretically "well-intentioned" do-gooders out there, some [many?] of whom are competent and reliable, and some of whom are not.

This is the blurb at the bottom of the op-ed: "Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, was the administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from 1977 to 1981. She served on the board of Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports, from 1982 to late 2006."

Now, here's something I find utterly inexcuseable: Claybrook concludes her piece with this: "At the same time, the safety administration should devote its resources and energies *not just to pointing out the grave mistakes of others,* [phrase in asterisks for MY emphasis] but to fulfilling its own mandate."

In point of fact, NHTSA made exactly ZERO effort to "point out the mistakes of others" (meaning the Consumer Reports article) but steadfastly REFUSED to make a statement of ANY kind while the topic was under [intense] review. Instead, for two weeks, the agency gots its PR head bashed in, until the Consumer Reports retraction came out. Only THEN, after CR acknowledged it had screwed the pooch, did NHTSA issue any kind of statement. I wouldn't be surprised if NHTSA had been in a total internal lockdown about commenting on that report until after CR admitted its mistake. I would be shocked if anyone could find a quote or statement from NHTSA "pointing out the mistakes" of CR or anyone else during this two-week period on the Internet or anywhere else. I'll even bet--just as a guess, of course--that NHTSA staff people who sat in on meetings where the issue was discussed were told in blood-curdling terms to not say anything until a proper policy position and statement was worked out by the top brass.

Claybrook also has this to say:" [NHTSA] still does not test to evaluate survivability in rollovers; it doesn't measure the effects of size differential when a passenger car collides with, say, a light truck; it doesn't test vehicle structure in frontal, off-center crashes; it doesn't test fuel tank vulnerability in rear-end collisions; finally, it fails to test how badly pedestrians are injured when hit by vehicles. Most of these consumer information tests are performed, or are being developed, in Europe, Australia and Japan."

"What's more, the tests that are done are simply too weak. Cars are not tested at high enough speeds; sport utility vehicles are tested against insubstantial barriers. Take all this together, and consumers are ill served."

"Last year, Congress finally added more money for crash testing and required that test results be posted on the vehicle price sticker in the dealer showroom, but the safety administration should have done this on its own."

Let's say, for argument sake, most of this is true. Where is NHTSA supposed to get the money to perform this work? Are they supposed to do it "off the books"? Pay for it out of employee's own pockets and pot-luck suppers and bake sales? If the federal government doesn mandate the work and allocate the money, it just doesn't get done. Like any other government agency, there are probably hundreds of things an agency would "like" to do if only it had Congressional support and budget.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 28, 2007 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Maggie, I think I like your title for the article the best. We could all use a few crass test dummies sometimes.

Nelson! *waving* It's so good to hear from you! I had problems sending an electronic get-well card to your physical address, else you would have heard from me earlier.

Posted by: dbG | January 28, 2007 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Study of my shower curtain (a clearly magnolious selcouth fennimbrun, though perhaps neither as magnolious nor as selcouth as the Achenbach curtain) would aid in passing the biology component of the SAT. Maybe--are there biofilm questions?

Posted by: Anonymous | January 28, 2007 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for pointing out my error. A million years ago, when I had a typing class, I could see a classmate's typos from 100 paces.
Mine? Hardly ever, probably because my deep belief in my own infallibility. I was taught to proofread backwards: from the last word to the first, from bottom to top. Advice, needless to say, that I seldom heed. Instead, I seem to embrace the O'D family motto: Often Wrong; Never in Doubt.

Posted by: Maggie O'D | January 28, 2007 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Nelson's back! Yay!

Keep up the good work, grrl, you'll be ahead of the geezers soon.

Back from the mountains, where it was cold, windy, and snowing. Yesterday, we saw a pileated woodpecker in the trees off our front porch. Wow! I never knew woodpeckers got that big - the site I googled said they are 12-15 inches long and this one certainly was! Now we know who made the holes in the trees at porch level. We saw the male with the scarlet crest, a beautiful bird.

Today we went riding, as that is one of the spouse's favorite activities. (As long as he buys the gas, I'm good for the ride!) At one point, an animal crossed the road about 30 yards in front of us: a big, black, lumbering creature. I could swear it was a bear; husband thought it was a dog. I still think it was a bear! It's been so warm, they may not be in hibernation as normal.

When we left, the temperature was 26, according to an electronic sign about a mile from the cabin. Temperature when we got home was 56, but it's going down to 21 tonight, according to I may wait till tomorrow afternoon for my walk, instead of taking out at 8 a.m.

Posted by: Slyness | January 28, 2007 5:46 PM | Report abuse

The number before "7" will be 2pi, as soon as the guvmint gets around to simplfying the tax code (in order to facilitate the circular reasoning that will guide the simplification process).

"Up to 50 percent of the Internet is actually malign to the human condition." Quote from Frederick Forsythe, in Der Spiegel this week. Novelists often mis-estimate the human condition malignity inherent in phenomena, as few novelists have the knowledge or ability to apply the appropriate mathematical concepts. Perhaps those boodlers with the proper mathematical (and/or computorial) background could advance a better estimate? After all, there's got to be some real-world application for those talents, right?

Posted by: MedallionOfFerret | January 28, 2007 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Welcome back, nelson. Glad to hear that you are up and around both driving and walking. Keep up the good work.

I Googled "shower curtain" and "SAT words". Achenblog was the fourth item mentioned. Not bad for something that's been up for only 24 hours.

Posted by: pj | January 28, 2007 6:06 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, your granddaughter is obviously a genius.

iu65yu8u3486yg4uu8ut4y5 clearly states, I think, therefore I am.

Posted by: dr | January 28, 2007 6:09 PM | Report abuse

Maggie O'D, sorry, I didn't mean to point it out as an error. I was perfectly charmed by it.

Posted by: dbG | January 28, 2007 6:37 PM | Report abuse

At 8 p.m. EST, CSPAN2's Book Talk show is doing the Miami Book Festival (biography event)--isn't that the event TBG and bertooch went to? Maybe we'll seem them on it?

Posted by: Curmudgeon | January 28, 2007 7:23 PM | Report abuse

Medallion: given that Forsyth has neither cell phone nor computer, his 50% estimate may be approximate.

Posted by: Fifty | January 28, 2007 7:25 PM | Report abuse

Wonderful piece on "60 Minutes" about computer geeks, "Geeks on Vall," and the profusion of computer chips in all kinds of electronics--and the utter, total inability of most of society to hook anything up without profession advice. Throw in the horrible instruction manuals written by (say) Korean engineers, etc. At the end of the segment there was a "reefer" referring to the 6o Minutes Web site that had pieces of the segment, plus other parts not aired, etc., for anyone interested.

But in general, I found my self watching and saying, "YES! You're right! I hate my three remotes, too!"

Posted by: Curmudgeon | January 28, 2007 7:37 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, your link posted Jan. 27 at 7:48 include one article linking gender identification with stereotypes and math performance. That certainly can be one factor in girls' performance. In the case of my daughter, she started martial arts at age 6, so she does not think there is anything unusual with females kicking male butts.

I visited her on campus today, discussed the topic, and soon got dispatched on another branch of inquiry. She commented on how deficient the test grades were with her freshman peers (at a top engineering school in this country), so much so that severe curving of Calculus grades is essential to keep from losing the entire flock. She mentioned one other girl who didn't make higher than 40s in tests, but was curved to a low B.

Knowing this now, I am relieved that she got her Calc II and III classes at a local methodist college that emphasizes teaching rather than research. Small classes with fewer than ten students, and no curving on anything, but daily homework with grading completed by the next class (and, yes, conforming with a stereotype, taught by a brilliant Korean-American), did the trick. The math-education problem is a consequence of problems with teaching capacity as well as with student maturity and fears. I really feel blessed that she was attended to by good diligent instructors. Whew, that's done.

Posted by: On the plantation | January 28, 2007 7:51 PM | Report abuse

'Mudge, funny you should mention that CSPAN2 show; as you were typing that, I was watching a Youtube video of Carl Hiaasen and reminiscing about his talk at the book fair.

There were an awful lot of interesting, talented, entertaining authors at that event--chances of seeing the Achengirls is low, but I'd bet it wouldn't be a waste of time to watch that Book Talk program. If anybody would like to tape it for me, I would trade some valuable Achenblog memorabilia* for a videotape of the program.

*being defined as a certain object or objects that have no market value to speak of, that any boodler would be proud to own, but would be unable to explain to any normal person WHY he is proud to own it.

Posted by: kbertocci | January 28, 2007 8:05 PM | Report abuse

Who's out there watching the SAG Awards show? Helen Mirren just won the actress award for Elizbeth the First, where she tore up the scenery. Great performance.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | January 28, 2007 8:08 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, there are big exceptions to the idea that math (i.e. logic) abilities are indicators of weakness in language abilities. I'll get personal again. My daughter's minor is Russian studies which she devours (and French as a parallel study although a logically less interesting language). I couldn't hope to get the Russian alphabet, but she finds the Russian language much more "logical" than French or English. There are about a dozen reasoned examples offered up, one being that the sentence position of an adjective doesn't really matter because its ending determines what noun is modified.

The strength or weakness of the link between math ability and language ability might be determined by the rules of the particular language. Anyway, that's her observation.

Posted by: On the plantation | January 28, 2007 8:12 PM | Report abuse

I dislike award shows almost as much I admire the wonderful Helen Mirren. The Canadian History Channel is having an all submarine day (again) to be topped off with a screening of "The Bedford Incident."

Posted by: Boko999 | January 28, 2007 8:20 PM | Report abuse

I certainly didn't take umbrage at your pointing out 'crass vs crash'. I just was reminded of my rather humiliating typing class. The fact that I had a broken shoulder while in that class led to my miserable performance (or so I would like to believe....).

Posted by: Maggie O'D | January 28, 2007 8:23 PM | Report abuse

Curmudgeon, thanks for the pointer to the 60 Minutes piece Get Me the Geeks.

Interesting quotes from David Pogue who himself writes some of the "Missing Manual" series. The successful software makers have defunded their manuals, leaving it to the open market. At first I found this frustrating, but I realize now that the 3rd party manual writers have to compete on quality. I save a little money on the software product and I pay it back on my choice of manual. Not bad. David Pogue writes well.

The article also quotes Don Norman, the perennial source about usability.

If people find, for example, wireless routers hard to set up, it stands to reason that the maker of the easier-to-use router will command a higher price. (At least until everyone else copies the usability features.) To encourage better usability, we all need to return this junk we can't get to work.

Posted by: Fifty | January 28, 2007 8:47 PM | Report abuse

As Joel states, context and nuance are very important in understanding words. "Evanescent" does have a very ethereal fleeting implication. On the other hand, "Evanescence" is a goth crypto-Christian rock group that means you will never, ever have any chance of sleeping with the lead singer.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 28, 2007 9:12 PM | Report abuse

Nothing below should be construed as bragging, but I am very familar with the state of the art in high school math curricula, because I have had to keep track of it for the past six years.

I was extremely advanced in math starting at the junior high level. I was one of eight eighth graders (and one seventh grader) that took Geometry at the adjacent high school. This progressed to me taking the CalculusAB AP test my junior year. I spent my senior year studying probability on an independent study basis because my high school had no other math offerings.

My son has been outpacing me. He took the CalcAB test last year as a sophomore. He is the one of three juniors in his CalcBC class, which has about a dozen students altogether. Next year he will either take Probability AP if his school offers it or do something else.

He is one of maybe two or three dozen kids in the county on this track. Many take differential equations on the community college level their senior year. Kids his age can learn calculus, but they are rare and exceptional.

Georgia Tech assumes all its incoming freshman will be taking Calculus. They require Trigonometry or the equivalent from the high school level. A 4 or 5 on any level of AP Calculus test gets one semester of calculus credit. Their rationalization for being so stingy is that their Calculus II includes concepts not covered by the AP test.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 28, 2007 9:18 PM | Report abuse

I am watching the SAG awards conducting my own mental judging in the most flattering low-cut gown competition. That Ugly Betty girl sure cleans up well.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 28, 2007 9:29 PM | Report abuse

yellojkt - you are quite right to be proud of your son, and I am sure you know what is best for him. But be careful. When I was in college I knew more than one student who basically flamed out in math because they did too much too soon.

I know lots of mathematicians. It is my opinion that sometimes the ones who paced themselves and took a slower and more leisurely route through the field are the ones who have ended up really advancing the art.

One in particular didn't even take her first calculus course until college, and is now known internationally for doing something in topology that I only vaguely understand.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 28, 2007 9:43 PM | Report abuse

Medallions: //After all, there's got to be some real-world application for those talents, right?//

Sure there is. That's what they pay us for!

Posted by: dbG | January 28, 2007 9:47 PM | Report abuse

So, can they do an all-mom barbershop quartet with basses now?

Posted by: Wilbrod | January 28, 2007 9:58 PM | Report abuse

And back to the SAT. Weird observation. Many of the physics students where I went to college had slightly higher verbal SAT scores than math SAT scores. And an awful lot of them have gone on to do some pretty impressive physics.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 28, 2007 10:05 PM | Report abuse

If I had gone to your fine school, Padouk, I would have been one of those oddballs. But I went somewhere else, where it was rather more unusual to get a very high verbal but only moderately high math. At least, I like to think it was moderately high. It feels better than admitting that it was below average for physics students. Of course, now I'm an astronomer. When I get around to writing papers, they generally can be equation-free.

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 28, 2007 10:12 PM | Report abuse

Time for the spouse and me to drink coffee, fold and hanger laundry, and watch Master and Commander, or as I am referring to it for definiteness: the Boat Movie. Friday night was Ferris Bueller's Day Off, the "Bueller, Bueller" Edition. This is the problem with Netflix -- you feel like you aren't getting your money's worth unless you tear through these movies. I tell you, it's a burden.

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 28, 2007 10:15 PM | Report abuse

This link about a contest to name the new 7 wonders of the world --

-- was of particular interest to me, because this evening I ran into a colleague who is writing a book on the 7 wonders of the ancient world. I was able to name 3 of them off the top of my head, but beyond that, drew a blank. she said my 3 put me in the 75th percentile -- possibly generous grading there. Does anyone out there know all 7? Only one of them is easy.

Posted by: Achenbach | January 28, 2007 10:17 PM | Report abuse

Hanging Gardens of Babylon
The Mausoleum
Colossus of Rhodes
Pyramids of Egypt (Gizeh grouping)

Hmmmm. I'm thinking that there's a temple of Artemis or Apollo in ancient Ionia that Herodotus included, but I'm not certain.

That's all I've got. "X"-best lists never much interested me, unless they included me or my kids. Or a friend. Which is why I remember that I know personally the only American to finish the course in the 1954 Olympic bicycle road race. And I was sold on my folding mountain bike by the winner of the resumed Olympic bicycle road race in whichever darned year that was. Some even-numbered year. Of course, by the time I got around to buying it, he had moved to a new job, so he never got his sales commission.

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 28, 2007 10:24 PM | Report abuse

Regarding the ancient list of 7 wonders (as opposed to the modern), I believe I was one. Back in the day, anyway. Nowadays (being nearly 900 years old), not so much.

You may resume your Sunday evening TV viewing.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | January 28, 2007 10:30 PM | Report abuse

Same as SciTim, and I'll add the lighthouse at Pharos.

Drawing a blank on the other two for now.

Posted by: Wilbrod | January 28, 2007 10:32 PM | Report abuse

The Lighthouse at Alexandria?

Posted by: Boko999 | January 28, 2007 10:33 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, you'd have been one of the wonders of the Dark/Mediveal Ages.

I believe you were ranked up there with Notre Dame at one time. But quit lying about your age, we all know you were old enough to help Sumerians transition from cunieform to papyrus ;).

Posted by: Wilbrod | January 28, 2007 10:35 PM | Report abuse

Hey Boko -

Just went looking for another Molly Ivins column. No luck. Found this:

Her cancer is back "with a vengeance." So no more from that brave, funny voice. I'm sad.

Posted by: Wheezy | January 28, 2007 11:12 PM | Report abuse

Can you see the Lighthouse at Alexandria from the Wilson Bridge?

Posted by: nellie | January 28, 2007 11:18 PM | Report abuse

Wheezy | Terrible news. She's been catalogueing the lies of the Bushies and the Christocrats for years. Nobody who's read her work can claim they weren't warned.

Posted by: Boko999 | January 28, 2007 11:24 PM | Report abuse

The seven wonders of the ancient world:

The Great Pyramid of Cheops at Giza
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia
The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
The Colossus of Rhodes
The Pharos (Lighthouse) of Alexandria

Posted by: Random Commenter | January 28, 2007 11:25 PM | Report abuse

Pat will never know how lucky he was that he didn't tell this joke at the last BPH.

Posted by: Wilbrod | January 28, 2007 11:28 PM | Report abuse

I am so sorry to learn about Molly Ivins' cancer recurrence at only 62. I feel like I've reading her all my life. Somehow I assumed she was of the same generation of Mary McGrory, another hero of mine. And yet Shrub, as she called the Current Occupant, thrives.

Posted by: Maggie O'D | January 28, 2007 11:38 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Wilbrod, I needed that.

Posted by: Boko999 | January 28, 2007 11:44 PM | Report abuse

That is sad news about Molly Ivins - so acerbic and funny at the same time. I hate to see her knocked down so early.

Maggie, I recently read "The Best of Mary McGrory" - a collection of her columns from The Star and The Post over the years - it came out last year. It was really wonderful - I miss her so much. One of the joys of the web was being able to read her columns online, and she was the main reason I kept coming back to the WaPo online. Before the Achenblog, of course.

Posted by: mostlylurking | January 29, 2007 12:14 AM | Report abuse

dbG, are you equating paid positions with real-world application? That would appear to be neither a sufficient condition nor a necessary one. Consider, for example, the current POTUS. Or, if you are in the 32%, consider Tom Cruise.

It's OK. Fifty also avoided addressing what may not be an easily solvable calculation. From other sources the actual answer appears to be 42.

Posted by: MedallionOfFerret | January 29, 2007 2:01 AM | Report abuse

The whole general presumption that strong math and language aptitudes repulse each other can be called into question on one key point; it depends on the language.

Less logically structured languages might have such effects (e.g. English), but others (like Russian or Latin) might have a great affinity for the mathematical mind.

Aside from the institutional reasons, the basic sloppy rules of English might contribute to an Anglo culture of math under-achievement where there is less than great care in teaching to navigate around the conflict. One would think that youths acquiring skills in computer programming would be a great boost to better clarity in learning how to approach and solve math problems.

Posted by: On the plantation | January 29, 2007 2:43 AM | Report abuse

New Wonders department: The new expressway from Taiwan's capital city of Taipei to the east coast city of Yilan (or Ilan) charges through formidable mountains and is largely underground, complete with a 12.9 kilometer tunnel. Robert Moses would be awestruck.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | January 29, 2007 3:52 AM | Report abuse

Morning all!! *waving*

Nelson!!! Wonderful to see you! Keep walking! :-)

Sorry to be responding late to so many, but I've been up all night faxing shower curtains.

Maggie o'D, thanks for posting the op-ed. For some reason, I'm now seeing Joan Claybrook in the "Audience with the Great Oz" scene, waving her hands and saying "pay no attention to the [lack of intellectual honesty] behind the curtain."

I think 4:32 was close with this remark:
"Just let us agree that there are a number of theoretically 'well-intentioned' do-gooders out there, some [many?] of whom are competent and reliable, and some of whom are not." From where I sit I'd have to widen the discrepancy and reverse the percentages.

Most of them fall into the "I'm saving the world and therefore can't be bothered by reality" camp. Yes, every group can benefit from outside review and criticism, but all too often the critics find more support (particularly in fundraising) the further they get from the truth. *SIGH*

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 29, 2007 3:57 AM | Report abuse

Medallion, although I agree with you in the larger sense, for the purposes of this boodle, I'd assume it's true. I may be wrong, it just may be my job.

If you hold global mutual funds, my being awake at this hour probably means your broker will have the trading information she needs by 5 a.m., just in case she decides to log in before the more typical 6 a.m.

Posted by: dbG | January 29, 2007 4:42 AM | Report abuse

I understand that there is an accepted list of the "7 wonders of the ancient world" but if we had an Achenblog version (you know, the one that includes Curmudgeon) I would vote to put the library at Alexandria on there too.

Posted by: kbertocci | January 29, 2007 6:16 AM | Report abuse

NPR did a story awhile back about several competing 7 Wonders lists. You don't need a lot of credentials to just make up a list. I also caught the tail end of a Discovery Channel 7 Wonders show. The did the lighthouse, so that's the only reason I remember it. It seems if eventually fell from beach erosion.

There also seems to a thousand way tie for Eighth Wonder. Some one needs to make a list of the runner-ups.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 29, 2007 6:40 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, all. 'Morning, scotty; you're up early!

Yes, I'd have to agree with you when you wrote: "From where I sit I'd have to widen the discrepancy and reverse the percentages [re" the 4:32]. Most of them fall into the "I'm saving the world and therefore can't be bothered by reality" camp. Yes, every group can benefit from outside review and criticism, but all too often the critics find more support (particularly in fundraising) the further they get from the truth. *SIGH*"

As I reporter I spent a good deal of time interviewing do-gooders of one stripe or another, starting, I guess, with the very first Earth Day event way back when. And I suppose I'd have to toss in a good many "politicals" such as the Anti-war movement of the 1960s and 1970s, the Civil Rights movement (which I was sort of in, for a little while), to many various and later species of do-gooders, "goo-goos" and activists. And while I tend to be sympathetic to many of their causes, I just never liked most of them as people. They were often humorless, suffered (very) badly from tunnel vision, and had streaks of self-righteousness and sanctimony that were often hard to take. And after you've heard the song-and-dance routine a few times, you'd ask them, OK, what else you got? And usually there WAS nothing else: no humanity, no sense of fun or play, no self-awareness, no irony, no flexibility, too intense, too severe. Yes, they are often "on the side of the angels," but that just never seemed to be enough.

Between us, we could probably draw up a pretty long list of such people we've run into.

In other matters, it was a pretty interesting issue of "Book World" this week from an Achenblog point of view, including a review of Carl Sagan's last book, "The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God," a topic discussed on the boodle (not very amicably or successfully) from time to time (some people may not be aware that the title is a riff on William James' book "The Varieties of Religious Experience"). Also in Book World is a favorable review of Marc Fisher's book on the history of radio, "Something in the Air," written by prominent historian Douglas Brinkley.

Daughter No. 2 and SIL No. 2 took us out to dinner (sans rugrats) last night at our local favorite Chinese restaurant, Szechuan Gardens (by universal agreement the best Chinese restaurant we've all ever eaten at). My daughter, who used to waitress there and knows the menu backwards and forwards, chided me over my tendency to order the same old thing every time (I'm addicted to orange beef), and so she got inside my head, and I would up going for something new and different, finally deciding to give Crispy Shredded Beef Szechuan Style a try (the two Mai Tais may have lubricated my thought processes and sense of daring). Well, it was to die for. A new addiction was born. Made me weak in the knees. Wife had the General Tso's, which she ordered the previous 700 times we've been there. Daughter had the Crispy Whole Fish Hunan Style, which was an entire red snapper, head, tail and all, served on a huge plate about 15" in diameter, with a spicy Hunan sauce that was also terrific.

And on Saturday morning we went to oldest daughter No. 1's church to pick up four cases of oranges the church was selling (they have a big orange sale every year, with tons of oranges and grapefruit shipped up from Florida. The "medium" Honeybell tangelos are about the size of softballs, and we got one case of the "large" ones, which are about the size of grapefruit.

(When daughter #2 saw them, she started doing the "Daddyyyyyy..." thing, begging for a box to take home with her to Virginia Beach. It's going to be VERY hard to say "No." And we both know I'm going to cave, so resistance is futile.)

On Saturday night, I made her Asian Three-Mushroom soup using Portabellos, Shiitakes and Chantarelles, which was very good, and she's taking that leftover soup home with her, too.

In conclusion, a superb culinary weekend.

Time to jump in the shower, grab an orange and the leftover Chinese, and head for the bus. See you all shortly.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | January 29, 2007 6:49 AM | Report abuse

The 7 Achenwonders of the World?

I'm going to have to think about that one (and yes, I agree that Mudge should be on the list).

I made lasagne for dinner last night; not exactly haute cousine, but it hit the spot on a cold winter night.

Lotta good buzz about Marc's book, which is all right by me, I'm looking forward to reading it. I kinda wished he'd called it "Radio Gaga" instead of "Something in the Air," though. I'd rather have a Queen tune cootie than an Abba tune cootie, for what it's worth.

As far as math goes, I can't count past 10 without being barefoot, and believe me, you don't want to be around if I have to count past 20.


Posted by: bc | January 29, 2007 8:23 AM | Report abuse

I think there's a physics problem with the following statement from the carseat article.

//The lab conducted the sled test at 38 m.p.h. instead of 20 m.p.h, thus doubling the crash forces of the government standard.//

If I remember correctly the crash forces would be quadrupled.

Posted by: Boko999 | January 29, 2007 8:26 AM | Report abuse

I guess the 7 wonders of the ancient world were of the known *civilized*world.What I mean is known to the Mediterranean civilizations.Because I would have to throw in Machu Picchu and The Great Wall,maybe a few others as well.

A beautiful day here,cold,but very pretty.The stillness of winter has always pleased my soul......

Posted by: greenwithenvy | January 29, 2007 8:34 AM | Report abuse

Re: tune cooties, mine for radio is "Video Killed the Radio Star" which is great because I only know that one line, and it just repeats over and over in my head.

And coincidentally to the 7 wonders discussion and tune cooties, I've had Stevie Wonder in my head all last week, and last night was humming Ebony Eyes:

She's a Miss Beautiful Supreme
A girl that others wish that they could be
If there's seven wonders in the world
Then I know she's got to be number one..

Posted by: kbertocci | January 29, 2007 8:42 AM | Report abuse

I am so envious, mudge. Honeybell tangelos are the best citrus in the world. I just love those things. When we lived in West Palm Beach, my wife used to pick them up from an outlet by the bag. The season for them is very short. Just late January to early March.

In high school for breakfast, I used to just pick grapefruit off the trees in the backyard. I am lost without my grapefruit knife and spoon.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 29, 2007 8:43 AM | Report abuse

In news related to both this kit and our boodle from a few days ago, Jay Mathews, self-appointed high achiever guru, reports that kids that take AP tests do better on the follow-up courses than kids that take course in college.

Usual statistical hand-waving applies. No word on whether the tests were given at 20 mph or 38 mph.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 29, 2007 8:47 AM | Report abuse

greenwithenvy | Machu picchu may be too new to be considered ancient. I'm sure there's lots of older 'New World' structures that would qualify.
//It is thought that the city was built by the Sapa Inca Pachacuti, starting in about 1440//

Posted by: Boko999 | January 29, 2007 8:57 AM | Report abuse

I was going to quit boodlehogging, but then my boss just e-mailed me this clip:

Every parent has certain dreams for their kid, but sometimes the reality is just too unthinkable to bear. We need support groups to help parents deal with the trauma such a discovery can induce.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 29, 2007 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the info Boko,I never knew that.I learn so much from here,just like in school but way much more fun.

Should I end that sentence with a *Dude*

Posted by: greenwithenvy | January 29, 2007 9:07 AM | Report abuse

The Knack... very funny.

Posted by: Dolphin Michael | January 29, 2007 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Yo Greenmeister | Didn't mean to come off all, you know. Your point about Euro-centrism is well taken though. Yum.

Posted by: Boko999 | January 29, 2007 9:20 AM | Report abuse

On a related topic, I want to clarify to rd in particular, that we have in no way been pushing our kid academically for math. If anything, we have applied the brakes a few times.

In second grade, he and a girl in his class were pushed up to the third grade "high" math class. That meant that in third grade, they both went to my wife's fourth grade Gifted and Talented math class. The girl transferred to a different school and they just bumped her up a grade rather than deal with the logistic problems. My son finished my wife's fifth grade class in fourth grade.

The county runs a Super Secret Middle School Math Program (SSMSMP) for high achieving math students. They usually start it in seventh grade, but the occasional sixth grader gets admitted. They refused to let my son take it in fifth grade, so he cooled his heels for a year with extra credit and busy work. My wife has another boy at her school in the same situation right now. It's hard for her to explain to parents that they can't go any faster since the kid is already working three grades above grade level.

The SSMSMP covers two years of algebra and a year of geometry in two years. For sixth graders that enter it, the third year of the program is another holding pattern year of special topics. For ninth grade, the graduates of the SSMSMP then go back to their "home" high schools for whatever they call Trig nowadays. Since the SSMSMP is county wide and has maybe fifty kids a year in it, no individual high school has more than half dozen students coming from it. That is how you end up in Calculus your sophomore year.

BTW, rd, my son's SAT scores are being reported to HMC.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 29, 2007 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Mudge writes at 7:37:

Wonderful piece on "60 Minutes" about computer geeks, "Geeks on Vall," and the profusion of computer chips in all kinds of electronics--and the utter, total inability of most of society to hook anything up without profession advice.

***As significantly, CBS 60 Minutes' Steve Kroft (he being Conantspouse, his wife Jenent having written about Alfred Lee Loomis) interviewed, as part of the segment, professor Don Norman, the author of "The Psychology of Everyday Things"--among my most favorite books.

At 6:49 a.m., Mudge writes:

In other matters, it was a pretty interesting issue of "Book World" this week from an Achenblog point of view, including a review of Carl Sagan's last book, "The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God," a topic discussed on the boodle (not very amicably or successfully) from time to time (some people may not be aware that the title is a riff on William James' book "The Varieties of Religious Experience").

***Which as a very roundabout way of saying that this weekend I started Richard A. Clarke's (he, formerly of the Bush administration, the one who handled ops from the White House on 9/11 and now an ABC News consultant) third book and second work of fiction, "Breakpoint."

As you know, I was looking for inexpensive escapism this weekend, at the same time starting the OTC antihistamine Claritan-D. The movie "The Last King of Scotland" fit the bill quite nicely on Friday night.

The dedication at the start of Clarke's book immediately nabbed my attention: "To those who seek truth through science, even when the powerful try to suppress it."

I was very pleasantly surprised in the first chapter by Clarke's thorough understanding of the basics of telecommunications, satellites and packet-switched data nets among his areas of expertise. By the second chapter, Clarke's focus is supercomputers and computing grids.

Strong cast of characters, as well as the ususal suspects--a high-ranking military commander who has Peter Principled his way to his grossest level of incompetence, members of the CIA and FBI who snipe at each other rather than pursue the case, and a presidential aspirant from a southern state--yes, this senator is meant to resemble someone we know too, too well.

It's fast-paced reading and I'm enjoying Clarke's book more than I care to share because of Clarke's command of *many* high tech-fields, genomics and robotics included. Won't give it a thumbs-up or thumbs-down until I finish it.

Posted by: Loomis | January 29, 2007 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Final SAT comment of the morning:

In high school, my verbal and math scores were identical. A girl at my school got very indignant that I had somehow taken her verbal score (we had the same math score). She felt she deserved it way more than me. I told her she was welcome to it since I didn't need it where I was going.

She ended up under-grad at Cornell and becoming a vet from Gatorville, so my petty larceny didn't seem to hurt her career goals any.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 29, 2007 9:31 AM | Report abuse

SCC: Jenent

Jennet Conant

Posted by: Loomis | January 29, 2007 9:34 AM | Report abuse

I actually met Richard Clarke once, briefly, at an Internet-centric conference. Sat at a lunch table with him, Vint "Father of the Internet" Cerf and a few others.

Clarke's grasp of technical subjects might be a matter of some dispute. Lunch got downright uncomfortable as Clarke and Cerf squared off on the technical feasibility of real-time scans 'Net backbone traffic for suspicious packets. Cerf was rather less than impressed with Clarke's faith in being able to spot the veritable grain of sand on the beach.

'Mudge, sometimes ya just gotta be awake at that hour, yanno?


Posted by: Scottynuke | January 29, 2007 9:46 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: yellojkt | January 29, 2007 09:23 AM
BTW, rd, my son's SAT scores are being reported to HMC.

Her Majesty's Counselors?
Herr Meister Chorale?
Holy Marine College?

Posted by: Wheezy | January 29, 2007 9:46 AM | Report abuse

SCC: scans of 'Net backbone traffic

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 29, 2007 9:48 AM | Report abuse

HMC=Harry Mudd College

HMC is somewhere in prestige between Starfleet Academy and the Vulcan Science Institute.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 29, 2007 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, yellojkt. I had never heard of it, so I googled it. Is it new? Newish? Only 18 entries.

Posted by: Wheezy | January 29, 2007 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Scotty, thanks.

As I said, a [Clarke's] thorough knowledge of the *basics* of telecomminucations, etc.

Posted by: Loomis | January 29, 2007 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Actually, HMC is a satellite campus of the Ferengi School of Business.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 29, 2007 9:59 AM | Report abuse

SCC: all typos..under tremendous pressure today by Loomispouse not to Boodle but to do x,y,z jobs around the house.

And I'm not missing that 7 p.m. meeting in Helotes for nuttin'. Hasta noche, perhaps hasta manana.

Posted by: Loomis | January 29, 2007 9:59 AM | Report abuse

For Boko and Shrieking and all the other Canucks. Just saw the new Canadian Forces add on TV this morning. Watch for it. I'd be interested in your comments.

Posted by: dr | January 29, 2007 10:11 AM | Report abuse

dr, I have seen some of the new ads and thought they are outstanding.

Posted by: dmd | January 29, 2007 10:13 AM | Report abuse

The Lighthouse! The Lighthouse! The Lighthouse! How could I have forgotten the Lighthouse?

The name "Ephesus" was floating around my brain, but it refused to stick to "Artemis" and form something like a coherent thought.

No way would I have gotten the temple of Zeus entry to the ancient list.

The 7 Wonders list was specifically a Greek thing, so it would not have included Machu Picchu, even had it been built yet. Inclusion on the list is qualified by having been included on the list compiled within a parochial worldview, 2000-some years ago. It is not an objective assessment of wonderfulness and is not subject to modern evaluation or revision, only replacement. It's not like any sensible person claims that there were only 7 wonderful constructions (notice that they all specifically are engineering "wonders") back then; but there were only those 7 on that particular list. Don't make too big a deal out of it.

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 29, 2007 10:14 AM | Report abuse

yellojkt - I certainly didn't mean to imply that you were pushing your son. I would never be so presumptuous. But I have seen lots of rather sad cases of brilliant math students who just got sick of the topic by their sophomore year in college and bailed.

I have always viewed HMC as kind of an academy for scientific Jesuits.

But with more explosions and way better parties.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 29, 2007 10:15 AM | Report abuse

The morning got off to a rollicking start. Ended up chasing our Dane about the neighborhood in my underwear in front of God and everybody. This transpired fifteen minutes before we headed out to drop the children off and then head to work. The Dane thinks this is great sport. I could only think that 18 degrees feels rather bracing if you aren't dressed for the weather...

SAT word of the day: Pusillanimous

Posted by: jack | January 29, 2007 10:23 AM | Report abuse

dr,these are the ads you ment, correct?

Posted by: dmd | January 29, 2007 10:25 AM | Report abuse

The Rutles are the only band I know of to have used that word in a song.

"You're so pusillanimous, oh, yeah/
Nature's callin' and I must go there..."

Posted by: byoolin | January 29, 2007 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Anagram of pusillanimous: Maul soil in pus.

Posted by: Raysmom | January 29, 2007 10:33 AM | Report abuse

My mother would get very offended when my grandfather and her father-in-law would go outside to pick up the newspaper in just his boxer shorts. She was afraid one of the neighbors would see him "flapping in the breeze."

Posted by: yellojkt | January 29, 2007 10:34 AM | Report abuse

I'm sorry byoolin. I've never forgiven Nasty for saying The Rutles were bigger than Rod.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 29, 2007 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Did Harry Mudd get into Harvey Mudd College?

Posted by: pj | January 29, 2007 10:39 AM | Report abuse

OK Tim. As the wonderful list is a geek thing, I'm out. Let me point out you wrote more about it than me and the Greenmeister put together. My panties ain't even scrunched.

Posted by: Boko999 | January 29, 2007 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Was that geek or greek? Not that there's anything wrong with either. *smirk*

Posted by: Boko999 | January 29, 2007 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Yello - sorry. I googled Harry Mudd College, not Harvey Mudd College. A few more entries when I do it correctly!

Posted by: Wheezy | January 29, 2007 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Just FYI and admittedly nitpicking (not that anyone on the boodle would ever stoop to such a thing!), but the Great Wall of China also wasn't built in time for assembling the list of Seven Wonders. Yes, the Chinese started building walls circa 200 BCE (and in some cases even earlier), which may not have been in time for the Wonders List. However, what we know of as the Great Wall today was begun after a Mongol invasion and defeat of a Chinese army in 1449, and the wall was completed about 150 years later, more or less. So it was built WAAAAAY too late to make the old list.

And just for the record, all this talk of boodlers with bright kids and good/great SAT scores is depressing me (not that you shouldn't be proud, or should stop, or anything). If you added up the SAT scores of four of my five kids, I don't think you'd break into three digits. My youngest, who is about to turn 21, called me up the other day and said, "Dad, I'm doing an online quiz on MySpace and need to check something. How many states are there? 52, right?"
I said (in my exasperated parent's voice), "David!!!!"
We got that straightened out and then he asked, "OK, what year did Columbus discover America?"

It was all I could do to refrain from putting a bullet through my head. This is the kid who has memorized the names, colleges, and stats of roughly 2,000 pro football players, can name every single NASCAR driver, their sponsors, their car types, their records, their wives/girlfriends/significant others, and who scrapped who on the 187th lap at Darlington in 2003. He knows every C&W singer's every album and Stetson hat size, and his command of classic rock as well as war movies circa 1940-1975 surpasses virtually every other 21-year-old kid in the country. When he was 12 he could name every single major league baseball team from memory and could correctly identify Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin, Hitler, Mussolina and Tojo, and tell you who led which country during WWII.

But I doubt he could name any six presidents of the U.S. in any order, or find more than five states on a map.

Kids. I think I need a couple of Mai Tais.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | January 29, 2007 10:46 AM | Report abuse

I'm interested to see that calculus is viewed as a special niche activity in high school (assuming I'm quickly reading this correctly, playing catch-up). About 45 years ago, I was in a huge HS with about 650 in our grade. That supported a calculus class of a few more than 30, about 5%, having come through what was called analytical geometry in 11th grade. Are those numbers different from today's?

Posted by: LTL-CA | January 29, 2007 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Aye, 'Mudge. A student once asked me "Are french fries really from France?" Closer to home,I just recieved a belated Christmas gife from my dear wife that included a hot-off-the-press silkscreened ttee shirt. The front is festooned with a cow and the titling "Grateful Dead Live at the Cow Palace". My daughter (blonde, don't take offense...she does exceptionally well in school) took one look, scratched her head and said: "They really live in a Cow Palace????"

Posted by: jack | January 29, 2007 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Mudge - I have spent quite a lot of time explaining to both of my children that high intelligence is a gift and not a virtue. It's a lesson they both need to understand.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 29, 2007 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Trust me 'mudge, that level of sports trivia will get him a lot farther than any list of state capitals or the ability to recite "The Village Blacksmith" from memory. I am certain my sports illiteracy and general lack of NASCAR knowledge has cost me at least one promotion.

The brain can only hold so much and I wasted a lot of space on partial differential equations I will never have to solve.

And wheezy, the Harry/Harvey slip was an intentional attempt to get a rise out of rd, but I think that gag got played out on the boodle a long time ago. It's tough to stay up on the in-jokes from our rather insular terrarium here.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 29, 2007 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Yes, yellojkt - I am far, far too mature to fall for the ol' Harry Mudd taunt.

You should be hearing the helicopters any minute know.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 29, 2007 11:02 AM | Report abuse

SCC: now - see how riled up I've gotten?

Posted by: Anonymous | January 29, 2007 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Yellojkt's being informal ... more google hits on Harvey Mudd.

Careful though. If you send your lad out to sunny California, he may lose his appetite for a full four seasons.

Posted by: Fifty | January 29, 2007 11:05 AM | Report abuse

"Are french fries really from France?"

If they were, they'd be cold, soggy and unappetizing by the time you got to them, now wouldn't they?

And now all I can think about is either a large order of 'em from le P'tit Riv in Sturgeon Falls, Ontario, or from that chip truck in front of the Toronto Convention Centre where they come out of the oil and the guy takes them out of the basket *with his bare hands* to put them into the box.

Posted by: byoolin | January 29, 2007 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Whenever I come across anything related to high IQ or high SAT scores, I'm reminded of a classic Far Side that shows a kid pulling on a door that says "push" and the sign over the door says something like "Washington School for the Gifted".

Whatever. Smart is as smart does.

Mudge... if you're making mai tais, I wouldn't complain if you faxed me several dozen of them.

Posted by: martooni | January 29, 2007 11:07 AM | Report abuse


It's the Midvale School For The Gifted

My mother gave it to me on a tee shirt as a present one year. Since my wife is a gifted and talented teacher, I keep threatening to wear it on back to school night.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 29, 2007 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Good morning. Being a music-type, filled with logic but not math, I avoided calculus altogether. Our high school didn't formally offer it, and I stopped at trig. Rice math began with calculus and they taught the typical 1st-year course in one semester. Wisdom dictated that I stay away. Math tip: trig is easier if you haven't skipped basic geometry. I still have nightmares where I have to go back to high school because I didn't take geometry.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 29, 2007 11:17 AM | Report abuse

That would be the one, yellojkt. ;-)

Posted by: martooni | January 29, 2007 11:24 AM | Report abuse

The Lovely Mrs. byoolin is not mathy person. Yesterday she came to me and asked me to solve for y:

3x-5=y, 2x+5=y.

Her delight was evident when my answer was the same as what she'd calculated.

Posted by: byoolin | January 29, 2007 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, LTL-CA, for the reminder! It was trig/analytical geometry which ended my math career. I suspect I suffered from my lack of basic geometry in the analytical geometry portion. I blocked the whole thing out of my mind.

For modern seven wonders of the world, how about one of those giant telescopes? How about the supercollider or Fermilab stuff? Can we count the tools we sent into space, or does it have to remain here on earth? Help me, sciency types!

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 29, 2007 11:25 AM | Report abuse

martooni - smart certainly is what smart does. A graduate school advisor once told me that although many people are intelligent, few of them are wise.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 29, 2007 11:27 AM | Report abuse

I mistakenly signed up for the "regular" calculus (i.e., the stuff they teach future engineers) in college. After one humiliating class (in which they appeared to be speaking some fast-paced, jargon-laced dialect of English I was unfamiliar with), I withdrew and went to the Business Calculus (i.e., calc-Lite, slower-paced and easier, but sufficiently difficult to weed out a good percentage of would-be Business majors.)

Scotty, please fax me more parentheses. I've already used up my daily allotment.

Posted by: Raysmom | January 29, 2007 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Jack! I SAW the Grateful Dead at the Cow Palace! New Year's Eve! Ushering in 1977! The opening act was a forgetable band headed by the son of one of lead guitarists for Quicksilver Messenger Service. God, I'm old.

Posted by: CowTown | January 29, 2007 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Here ya go, Raysmom. Being an editor working for the gummit, I gotta whole closet full of 'em left over from some senator's punctuation earmark from 2003.



Just mix 'n' match. (Lemme know if you need any semicolons.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | January 29, 2007 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Dearest CowTown: The show you saw is immortalized in the form of a 3 disc HDCD format, "Grateful Dead, Live at the Cow Palace, 1976". It is listed in the Grateful Dead store or through Rhino records' web site. Cool. I'm was at a Kinks show at the Landmark theatre in Syracuse many moons ago and part of a Kinks live set was recorded there. That was the loudest show I ever heard, followed by the Outlaws, and the J. Geils band.

Posted by: jack | January 29, 2007 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for covering for me, 'Mudge.

Damn shower curtain got jammed on the fax's output roller.


Posted by: Scottynuke | January 29, 2007 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Let's see, a list of candidates for modern wonders...

Being non-parochial, we should include items that are not part of modern Western civilization but that still exist today. I'm trying to stick to projects that represent a single intentional engineering project. No natural wonders, that would be too much competition. It shouldn't just be hard to do -- it should be the outcome of extraordinary engineering ambition. The builders had to *intend* to do something difficult and new, and succeed at doing it. That argues for the inclusion of "wonders" that might be much easier to do with modern technology.

The Interstate Highway system
Great Pyramid of Cheops
Great Wall of China
The Netherlands
The Nazca Figures
Hoover Dam
Aswan High Dam (smart or dumb, it's a major engineering project)
The Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (
The Arecibo Radio Telescope
The Saturn V Rocket
The Very Large Telescope Array (soon to be supplanted by ELT -- The Extremely Large Telescope project)
Notre Dame (the cathedral, not the University)
The Pantheon in Rome
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge
Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station

Not a single funerary monument in the bunch of 'em.

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 29, 2007 12:00 PM | Report abuse

I went to a math and science high school--the cartoon Martooni mentioned was posted all over the school.

It's often mentioned in the Dooley household when one of us does something bone-headed (which, between the three of us, is practically always).

Posted by: Dooley | January 29, 2007 12:02 PM | Report abuse

This might not be quite up to some of the others, but I think the Falkirk Wheel is a pretty amazing new wonder.

Posted by: dmd | January 29, 2007 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Does it say something about the Boodle that a Kit about words eventually led to a discussion of math?

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 29, 2007 12:06 PM | Report abuse

new kit

Posted by: Anonymous | January 29, 2007 12:25 PM | Report abuse

As an actual high school student, I find the easiest thing to do is to.......dare I say it..... READ! With a father who writes for one of the most highly acclaimed newspapers ever printed (or uploaded), it seems to me your daughter should have no need at all for this shower curtain.

Posted by: Sam | January 29, 2007 10:41 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company