Pirate Radio and Other Urban Artifacts

Palladium makes boots. They’ve also created this ongoing exploration series of underground or abandoned urban relics and strongholds.

Exploration #6 delves into pirate radio stations, past and present, in London. My first look at the rusting anti-aircraft towers that housed original 60s broadcast centers reminded me of oil pumps in Southern California – which I later noticed is subject of Exploration #4.

Interesting both for content and as a marketing ploy. Also reminds me of the abandoned Taiwanese pod city of San Zhi.


Filed under: Design, Voodoo Media

Computer Use Considerations

Study of a Romanian voucher program that distributed computers to needy families found that:

Children in households who received a voucher were substantially more likely to own and use a computer than their counterparts who did not receive a voucher. Our main results indicate that that home computer use has both positive and negative effects on the development of human capital. Children who won a voucher had significantly lower school grades in Math, English and Romanian but significantly higher scores in a test of computer skills and in self-reported measures of computer fluency.

The clincher seems to be a significant rise in computer gaming, as these graphs illustrate – red line delineates voucher recipients on left from comparable non-recipients on right.

Apropos to my Arguments for Evaluation post on textbook findings in African schools.

Filed under: Irony, TECHNOLOGY

Firing Practices

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers talked tea-bagging with Bill Maher until the conversation veered into teacher firing territory. Maher put her on the spot with a few data points:

3 out of 30,000 teachers were fired last year in New York
11 out of 43,000 in Los Angeles
0.1% in Chicago
0 in Akron

A summary of the encounter here, along with incisive apprehension of – Her most effective point: As ornery as Bill Maher is about bad teachers, good teachers (who educate alongside the bad teachers) are orders of magnitude more pissed off.

Good Magazine in general has an excellent round-up on education today. From mass-firing in a Georgia high school: Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Collective Bargaining, EDUCATION

Jail Themes – the School to Prison Pipeline

Reports about a jail-themed playground in Bed-Stuy called to mind a public school I once encountered in New Orleans where students were outfitted in expressly prison orange uniforms.

The school to prison pipeline, which links school discipline policy and prison ranks, is of national significance but probably most telling in post-Katrina New Orleans. This report is from 2006, but describes the situation well:

…lack of resources and the failure to provide quality education, combined with overly harsh and punitive discipline policies that criminalize and exclude youth from traditional education settings – has created what many now call the School-to-Prison Pipeline…

Historical inequities, such as segregated education, concentrated poverty, and racial disparities in law enforcement, all feed the pipeline.

Other things that feed the pipeline include the entire economy of police, guards, other professions kept afloat in the prison industrial complex.

Filed under: EDUCATION, Policies & Agendas

High Stakes Testing in India

From the NYtimes

India has one of the world’s youngest populations, often called its “demographic dividend,” yet as the middle class has steadily grown, so has the cutthroat competition for the limited slots in the country’s system of higher education.

Education presents such a stubborn problem, especially access to quality education, that experts warn that the future advantages of India’s youthful population could become a disadvantage if the government cannot improve the system rapidly enough to provide more students a chance at college. Of the 186 million students in India, only 12.4 percent are enrolled in higher education, one of the lowest ratios in the world.

Most sobering,

“If you have 150 million or 160 million children who don’t go to college, what is going to happen to them 10 or 15 years from now?” asked Kapil Sibal, the government minister overseeing education.

Filed under: EDUCATION, Irony, Uncategorized

Internet as 18th Century Coffeehouse

We think of it now as a very elegant gathering, where the Internet is down in the mud and people have ridiculous names. But coffeehouses were exactly like that: an insane mix of brilliant people, lunatics, and savage thugs.

I have a split intellectual life: these ant-like projects that evolve over months and years, and then this by-the-moment blogging life

But we all thought blogging was going to transform academic life, and that didn’t really happen.

All John Holbo, quoted here, along with his next idea:

Holbo now believes his best hope for revolutionizing academia is to organize “book events,” online seminars where a dozen or so academics review the same book. The existing book-for-tenure convention forces far too many books into publication, Holbo says, and people need a better system for figuring out what to read.


Some People Say

That race is our national DNA.

People hear it’s a book called “The History of White People” and that it’s by a black author, and make assumptions.

Author Nell Irvin Painter traces the American persistent desire to create racial difference out of nothing – with nothing referring to the 99.99% genetic code all humans share – to being founded in 1789 right about the same moment that Blumenbach was inventing Caucasians – this moment of racialization.

Then to:

We’re currently in the midst of the fourth great expansion, which is an expansion of the idea of the American — that an American doesn’t necessarily need to be white to be considered American. “American” now includes Hispanics, for example, and people who identify themselves as multiracial.

And here she REALLY loses me. The blanket term Hispanic completely ignores the wide range of color within Hispanic groups. And multiracial fails to note the implication that at least one of the multi races is white. For theories concerned with whiteness there is far too much emphasis on race, and not on color. I’ve always attributed the National DNA of race to power dynamics and slavery, color as a convenient means of asserting cultural difference and perpetuating class dominance.

She also equates Stuff White People Like with really, what middle class people like. I would see this and raise it one liberal hipster grade.

Filed under: Color, HISTORY

Today in Irony

The Middle East edition.

U.S. forces are creating the Afghan army in their own image: as an institution that not only fights but hosts meetings with elders, hands out humanitarian aid, and crafts a sophisticated media strategy ahead of its battles, conveniently filling gaps left by the frail and corrupt government and justice system.

And in Iran a sigheh, the Farsi word for a temporary marriage.

Filed under: Irony

Arguments for Evaluation

Millennium Villages Project aims to develop and bring clusters of African villages out of poverty.

Without sound evaluation, it simply cannot be known-regardless of what is observed today at MV sites-whether the money devoted to the MVs is accomplishing its goals. An intervention of this scale deserves proper evaluation, which can only make it better as it expands.

A careful evaluation of the MVs would comprise two critical elements. First, long term follow-up is essential. Second, the villages that get the intervention must be compared to villages that do not get it, in such a way that which villages do and don’t get the intervention are randomly picked from an initial group. I will show with real-world examples why these elements are “must have” rather than “nice to have.”

Examples include follow up findings that children in Africa did not learn more in schools with textbooks despite studies implying otherwise, and a 1995-2000 project in Chinese villages that yielded no long term results and ultimately no difference between aid recipient and other villages.

Scalability is incredibly difficult to gauge – the act of setting policy alone is never enough because implementation is where the real work begins.

Relative Elsewhere, an argument for randomized trials.

What is missing is the political demand for tests of what really works. Too many policies on education, welfare and criminal justice are just so much homeopathy: cute-sounding stories about what works leaning more on faith than on evidence.

Filed under: Design, Policies & Agendas


Cloud Computing = machines going virtual. very fast. via the Economist.

IF YOU are tired of hearing the word “cloud” attached to every term in the computing lexicon, you are not alone. Disillusioned tech folks are beginning to succumb to “cloud fatigue”. But the concept of computing as a basic utility delivered over the internet is here to stay.

It took decades for electrical power to become a tradable commodity. Computing seems to be getting there faster. Standards bodies are working on rules that would make it easier to move virtual machines around, and a raft of start-ups are making this their business.