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The ends of education

So we're into the Conservative Party leadership run-off campaign, and the two candidates are throwing policies at the base that, to outsider ears, sound increasingly bizarre. But there's a lot we can learn from them about how the Conservative elite perceive the state of the UK today, and some of it (who am I kidding? Most of it!) is disturbing.

In the latest move, potential Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (the richest MP in parliament, a former Goldman Sachs employee and hedge-fund manager who married a billionaire) has vowed to phase out university degrees that do not improve students' "earning potential":

... Yeah, I know what you're thinking: "train the serfs for work, actual education is for the wealthy elite". But there's a lot more to it than that.

The Guardian: Rishi Sunak vows to end low-earning degrees in post-16 education shake-up

For starters, "earning potential" is only testable in hindsight. Work is changing, many jobs are being automated, and the earnings of graduates with a given degree over the previous decade is not a good predictor for the success of new graduates with that degree.

I have two STEM degrees from the 1980s which are totally obsolete now and of almost no relevance to my current occupation.

You can't predict educational outcomes for future employment on the basis of priors because, like the old "job for life" culture, the degree-for-life has died. Personal anecdote: after a regrettable initial career choice—nobody needs a pharmacist with ASD/ADHD, it's a really bad combination of personality traits for that career—I returned to university (something I wouldn't be able to do today) and graduated for the second time, with a CS degree, in '90, right in the middle of a recession. The only work I could find was as a technical author (I had the writing chops and bluffed my way in). I have worked as a programmer since then, but only for 5 years out of the past 33. For 18 out of those 33 years, my occupation has had almost nothing to do with either degree. And today, a 1990 CS degree is about as useful in the CS workplace as a 1923 aerospace engineering degree (if such a thing existed).

Priors are not predictors, especially in an unstable working environment.

Here's an illustrative thought experiment: imagine you have a time machine. Now pick a worker at random from some time and place in the past 5 centuries, and carry them forward by 30 years. will they be able to earn a living?

Until 1900 the answer was probably "yes", because most work was unskilled agricultural or factory labour. (Even basic literacy was optional.)

Then it got harder. A 1945 factory worker might be able to adapt to work in a 1975 factory. But a 1975 factory worker would be utterly adrift in a 2005 factory that had gone from drill presses to CNC tools, from painting stuff by hand to using robots.

And it'd be the same with office workers, medics, miners. A 1800 doctor would have relatively little to learn to practice in 1830. Even a 1910 doctor wouldn't find the innovations of 1940 too complex to grapple with. But the shift from medicine in 1960 to 1990 is dizzying: that was the era of the pharmaceutical revolution, when all sorts of new treatments became available, things that hadn't even been recognized as disease states became medical specialities, and a whole new set of diagnostic tools became available. A 1960 doctor in 1990 who hadn't kept up with their training might as well start from scratch all over again.

So: I'm going to hammer this point again (it's vital context for understanding what higher education is for) a degree does not equip you for a job, even for a specific job for a couple of years in the very near future.

So what's Sunak really talking about?

Until the 1990s universities in the UK were private entities that ran almost entirely on government funding for higher education. (The Polytechnics were vocational training institutions, and state-owned, until they were renamed Universities and privatised in the 90s.) With privatization the government gradually withdrew the education funding: first loans were brought in for subsistence, replacing the previous student grant, then tuition fees were added on top. All to a background of trying to push as many people as possible through the institutions of higher education in order to certify that the individuals were sufficiently tractable to obey orders, perform rote tasks, and conform to expectations—necessary prerequisites for employment.

(Because in an unstable working environment HR departments can't rely on references from previous employers.)

What evolved was essentially a Ponzi scheme. Workers needed a certificate of obedience to show they were suitable employees. The universities that issued such certificates were private institutions: the more certificates they could issue, the more money they could make. At the same time, the finance sector boomed—not so much through student loans at first (the Student Loan Company was thoroughly regulated initially) but through side-projects like the highly profitable student housing construction boom. Also, once a worker-unit was certified and in employment, paying off their student debt, they could be trained to accept other debts. Credit card debt, mortgage debt, anything at all that could be monetized. And the universities that could recruit and certify the most students made the most money.

All good things come to an end, though. The slow-motion economic disaster that is Brexit (hint: 13% inflation predicted later this year, close to full employment but nearly half the in-work population qualify for Universal Credit—government income support—because they're so badly paid, economy in recession for the next couple of years and expected to shrink by about 6%), combined with a global energy crisis and a pandemic, is choking off the supply of willing debtors needed to sustain the Ponzi scheme.

The sheepskin is no longer enough to get you a job that pays well enough to cover the interest on the loans you took out to buy the sheepskin. So why buy the sheepskin?

Sunak is coming at this with the mind-set of a financier—and specifically, a disaster capitalist. His objective is typically short-sighted: he wants to deflate the higher education bubble in the UK just enough to stave off a catastrophic crash (damaging to the interest of the investor class), and he's going to do so by shedding the least-remunerative debtors, the ones who earn below the loan repayment threshold.

(Now would be a good time to sell your shares in student housing companies if you have any, by the way.)

The stupidest aspect of this is that for cultural reasons specific to the Conservative party membership he's going to trash arts education funding.

The UK arts sector includes film, media, computer games, and music: it's one of the UK's most profitable export industries. For every £1 of government money going into it, roughly £5 in foreign earnings comes back.

But it's ideologically suspect to gammons' eyes. Gammons—the Tory party membership, whose support Sunak is canvassing—are predominantly white males aged over 60 living in the South East of England, authoritarian by inclination and well-off but poorly educated.

Authoritarian followers are very conformist: submissive towards those they perceive as powerful, need rigid guidelines for conduct, and distrust and despise nuance and complexity.

Art, by its very nature, can't be conformist. So they hate it and have no use for it, and it's easy to rally them against "liberal arts" long-hairs.

So, in order to prevent a chunk of the financial sector imploding due to the higher education certification Ponzi scheme crashing, Sunak is going to wreck the UK's biggest export-earning industry.

Nicely played!

PS: this is how you get V for Vendetta.

1005 Comments

1:

PS: My beating on Rishi Sunak is emphatically not an endorsement of his rival Liz Truss, who Dominic Cummings rightly described as "a grenade" (you don't want to be around when she goes off). Typical Truss here.

2:

I returned to university (something I wouldn't be able to do today)

About that -- I returned to university in 2015 and graduated in 2020 with a PhD in Applied Mathematics. So it's not yet impossible for a person to do it. But it is very, very unusual.

3:

A higher degree isn't the same as what I did -- going back for a first degree in an entirely unrelated field I had greater aptitude for. (It's officially an MSc in comp. sci., but as a conversion degree it's basically a first CS degree that got bumped a notch -- a one-year death march because the students were all STEM honours grads who were assumed able to drink from the firehose: they threw the syllabus at us hard, sink-or-swim.) That sort of degree isn't on offer any more, it was an artifact of the Thatcher government panicking about a shortage of CS grads in the late 1980s and providing funding inducements to make up the shortfall.

4:

Is the asterisk in para 6 a typo? "I have* worked as a programmer ..."

5:

going back for a first degree in an entirely unrelated field I had greater aptitude for.

Well, that's pretty much what I did. My previous degrees were in an unrelated field -- biochemistry. That is no more closely related to AMath than pharmacy is to CS.

But as for the subject line: "The ends of education", I did it for fun. And it was fun, and I'm very glad I did. Of course, few people are in a position to set life aside for five years for fun, and of those, there are not many whose idea of fun is "get a full-time advanced degree". So as I said, it was "very, very unusual".

6:

IMHO we send way too many people to college here in the US.

For my construction sites I cannot find (even pre-covid) enough masons, cement pourers, pipe fitters, geosynthetic installers, electricians, auto/truck/equipment mechanics, etc. Covid made it worse.

None of these jobs can be done by robots.

7:
IMHO we send way too many people to college here in the US.
For my construction sites I cannot find (even pre-covid) enough masons, cement pourers, pipe fitters, geosynthetic installers, electricians, auto/truck/equipment mechanics, etc. Covid made it worse.
None of these jobs can be done by robots.

But by saying, "IMHO we send way too many people to college", you also seem to be suggesting that the jobs cannot be done by people who have been to college.

8:

Student loans are (for now) written off after a fixed number of years and the repayments are scaled by earnings, not the size of the loan. So its more a tax than a loan, but nobody wants to admit they've created a new tax. So the calculation for a student is based on the earning threshold for paying this tax and the tax rate, both of which have varied over time.

The current figures used means that very few will ever pay off their loan, which leads to an accounting loss/write-off of monies that never really existed.

The wealthy can avoid this tax by either not taking the loan at all or by finding a tax efficient way of paying it off. This provides their kids with additional nett earnings over their peers for 20+ years (irrelevant for the very wealthy, of course).

9:

Just to add that the loan write-off amounts are controlled by the government but its not clear if they will involve passing huge sums of tax payers' money to the private sector (any bets ?)

10:

I happen to have a young relative who started doing a CS degree in 2019 at a Russell Group university. He spent most of 2020 listening to videoed lectures at 1.5x speed, putting in minimal effort on his classwork, and co-running an (ultimately failed) startup the rest of his time. (He was already a reasonably accomplished coder when he started Uni).

His experience of a CS degree was that it was primarily about training software engineers how to write big software, but without ever actually getting any big software to practice on. As a result it was a mixture of noddy programming exercises and irrelevant lessons on the theory of software architecture. The worrying thing was that most of his class had zero coding experience when they started, and were struggling with the basics. They had no interest in coding, and seemed to be aiming to become managers of coders rather than actually ever getting their hands dirty at the code face.

After a year of this he dropped out, initially with an option to rejoin, but never looked back. He's currently on his third start-up. If this fails, he'll simply go for a fourth.

How this looks as a long-term career is still an open question, but I'm pretty sure that given a choice between a wet-behind-the-ears graduate who can barely code FizzBuzz and a coder with a track record of building entire product web sites in 6 months, any sane employer is going to go for experience (and the ones that demand a degree, he probably wouldn't want to work for anyway).

Apparently law in America has/had a similar problem (sorry, paywall, but double-click the reload button a few times and you can interrupt it). TL;DR law school teaches its students how to think and lots of relevant case law. What it doesn't teach is the stuff the lawyer in the room needs to do when e.g. a company merger is agreed.

I suspect that part of the problem is that an awful lot of the core Tory membership (the voters in the current election, remember) either didn't go to University or have no clue what University does for you today. I was the first generation in my family to get a degree (my father left school at 14: most people did back then). My parents saw a degree as the step up from the lower-middle class they inhabited to the middle-middle and maybe even the upper-middle with a bit of luck. And back then it was true. But I'm still at the younger end of the Tory membership; many of them either didn't go (because most people didn't), or did go and then turned that degree into a lifetime of employment in one of the big companies or the civil service (and there wasn't a lot of distinction between them in those days). They may have children or grandchildren who are carving a different path, but there is a lot of social inertia and most people still think that a University degree is the key to a guaranteed good career. They also think of an Arts degree as being a luxury, preparing you only to be a barely-surviving writer or painter, because back when they were students or leaving school that was the reality.

Equally, its quite possible that neither Sunak nor Truss believe any of this; they are politicians desperately trying to get votes, and the voters in this case are not at all like the rest of the country. Their message is pitched at Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells because he's the vote they need.

Incidentally, there is an article in the current Economist (sorry, don't know how to evade that paywall) about how the Tories are systematically alienating a key part of their constituency. There are, it seems, a lot of white collar workers in the south east who used to commute to London but now work from home. A lot of them are "woke", which is a Tory-party sneer-word for the socially liberal kind of person who worries about trans rights, institutional racism and the plight of refugees. They aren't generally members of the Tory party, but in elections they have reliably voted Tory because they don't trust Labour or the Lib Dems to actually run the country (and especially not Jeremy Corbin). Being white-collar professionals they value competence and diligence, and they object to being laughed and sneered at. As a result they may not be so happy to vote Tory at the next election. OTOH Kier Starmer is very much their kind of person. The next General Election could be very interesting.

11:

a degree does not equip you for a job, even for a specific job for a couple of years in the very near future.

Totally agreeing with the points of your post.

But a slight disagreement over this exact statement. But I think you'll agree with me.

My son really wanted to become a nurse. He wanted to care for people. After 2 years or so of doing badly in that college course program he admitted to himself that he just wasn't wired for all the crazy fact learning the degree required. Caring and empathy just wasn't enough. So to not wast his time totally he switched majors (and transferred schools) and got a double degree in anthropology and psychology. Then started a job search. 100+ applications later he got an entry position in tech support of a company even tech people have mostly never heard of. But you know most of their clients and their product is for people with 10 of thousands OR MORE Windows PCs. Now after less than 10 years he manages a group of specialty support staff.

Turns out those degrees plus his desired to help people fit in well with learning how to keep large corporate customers happy.

But drawing a line from anthropology and psychology to where he is now would never happen in any planning sense.

12:

For my construction sites I cannot find (even pre-covid) enough masons, cement pourers, pipe fitters, geosynthetic installers, electricians, auto/truck/equipment mechanics, etc.

If you want see people (parents) start plucking chickens and melting tar, go into a high school in the US and start talking about how some of the "college" bound kids should really be headed to a vocational school. Make sure you know where all the exits are for your quick getaway.

Many of those trades folks, but not all, first go to a 1/2 year or 3 of college before they flame out and start learning a trade. While paying off their debt.

13:

I'm afraid I can't agree with your claim that a 90s CS degree would be useless.

Most of the algorithms and data structures used day to day have been known since the 1960s.

The huge changes in things like CPU performance and the appearance of GPUs have changed things but not as much as you might think.

Fast CPUs, caches and slow RAM mean out of core data structures designed in the 70s migrate into memory and become awesome again. GPUs make the forgotten chapter about sorting networks in Knuth vol 2 relevant again etc.

High end graphics and GPU compute work is all about the data flow graphs.

Loads of new stuff too of course but an early 90s grad would absolutely get it.

14:

Just remembered the following Douglas Adams quote:

I've come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:

1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.

2. Anything that's invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.

3. Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

Seems germaine. The problem is the number of inventions is increasing exponentially. I mean, who would imagined you could get a career (or at least, silly amounts of money) making dumb 1-minute video clips that aren't about anything.

There is also a book "Tomorrow Now" by Bruce Sterling (sorry if that's the wrong one), where he looks at the future from 2000. His chapter on education covers much the same ground:

An information economy is inherently low in backwaters, shelters, sinecures. [...] It follows that, in an information society, a formal education aimed at vocational success would not be about values or canons. [...] It would lack the very things that teachers and scholars traditionally consider the sacred torch. [...] That is the kind of steadying education provided by fundamentalist Islamic madrassas.

15:

Most of the algorithms and data structures used day to day have been known since the 1960s.

Yes, but the difference is that today you don't need to know them. I learned how to sort a list, insert an item into a hash table and balance a red-black tree when I did my degree, along with shift/reduce parsing and a ton of other stuff. But in the last couple of decades I've used that knowledge about as often as I have done long-division, and for much the same reason. The only people who need to know that stuff are the very few who write the libraries that everyone else imports, and they can just look it up on Wikipedia.

16:

I always recommended to my students that they looked seriously at getting trades papers as well as a university degree (if so inclined), to provide an alternative income but also to learn that there's nothing to sneer at in someone who works with their hands.

Not the most popular course of action with many parents :-/

17:

The only people who need to know that stuff are the very few who write the libraries that everyone else imports, and they can just look it up on Wikipedia.

Yes. Totally. As a lead applications developers in the 80s we did our OWN DB, file structures, screen handling, and so on. We put our applications on top of that. Now days we'd be considered weird to say the least.

For the last 20+ years I've mostly been a systems admin. I tell people that 1/4 to 1/2 of what I know and use at any point in time will be unused in 2 years to so. And it is a continuous operation.

People who develop TCP/IP stack low level code may be different but to admin systems or develop applications you have to continuously learn. Not the accounting but how to implement it on modern systems.

18:

I got to see it from all sides growing up.

My father (a WWII vet) wound up a the production manager at a nuclear fuel cascade plant. But he built houses on the side. So I grew up using our small farm tractor mowing fields to earn extra money, working for my father as a construction gopher, and getting excited about computers while still in high school in 72.

The day I got my driver's license he had a talk with me. As long as you're not stupid you have the use of the car whenever he was not using it. But nearly every day he would be giving me a list of things for the crew. If they ever told him they had to stop work because they were missing something I was supposed to have delivered I'd loose the car privileges. I was stupid a few times but keep the crews supplied.

I KNOW the value of an electrician who has gone through the 4 years of apprenticeship to get licensed. Or a plumber. Or a mason. Or ... But just like college is not for everyone, being a mason isn't either. I grew up to despise working outside in cold weather. So my career in computers served me well. But I can sweat solder copper plumbing, flare copper gas lines, wire up a house for most electrical needs if I want/need to do so, frame a wall, finish sheet rock, etc... But you don't want to hire me for any of that.

My next big deal may be to buy a very small mini excavator then sell it 6 months later. That way I'm not looking at the rental clock every day I don't feel like using it to re-arrange my yard. Last time I rented one the weather forecast changed that day from 2 days of rain over the next two weeks to rain more than half the time. Sucks to be me those weeks.

My point is those parents who want their kids to go to college and not get their hands dirty need to get over it.

19:

The 'degree as qualification' idea has always been a myth. Some degrees are more useful than others, but they tend to be where they give a solid grounding in principles, and then are mostly useful if the job is vaguely related or they teach the students how to learn and think. It's both that people rarely work in precisely that area and that the details change, as you say.

I think that you are under-estimating the debt peonage aspect. The increase in renewable, fixed-term contracts and the demand for PhDs for jobs that need no more than a couple of years university-level training isn't accidental. This is done for commercial and industrial non-research jobs, too. And PhDs are of no bloody use except for people going into research in a closely related area. This is to keep the majority of technopeasants docile, nothing to do with education as such.

Despite being broke, in the 1950s and 1960s, we led the world in many areas of innovation and research. But, now? It is noticeable that the areas in which we do best are those that are furthest from central control. To take a random Website on this matter, the UK wouldn't have been classified like this even in 1990, though a lot of us in research and academia knew where we were going.

https://worldresearchranking.com/

Damn academic research. This ALSO includes innovation in areas where we desperately need solutions to real problems, and existing ones simply don't cut the mustard.

20:

I spent my life advising on this sort of thing. That is totally wrong. If you don't know the principles, you have no context to judge whether the method will solve YOUR problem and, much, much worse, when and where that method is likely to start giving wrong answers or failing on YOUR data.

No, you don't need to know the details, nor is a deep grounding in compiler theory very useful. But algorithmics, whether computer science, statistics or numerical analysis is, as is a solid grounding in practical program design, testing etc.

21:

Yeah, I've worked in UK University finance departments for 20 years (currently Assistant Director of Finance at a post-92)

The Tory policies for the last 10 years have clearly been aimed to recreate the old university vs poly divide, presumably on the basis that universities should still exist for their children, but other people's children shouldn't dare aspire, and should be happy working in supermarkets for minimum wage.

I still believe in what we are doing, in giving opportunities for people who wouldn't traditionally have gone to university, but it's harder and harder to believe in the wider context.

(It's now true that privileged kids can maybe do better outside of uni, if they have other connections to call on and family money to let them live at home while they're experimenting, but our kids - and our adult learners - often don't have those things, so for them uni may still be a better choice.)

And of course a student's access to jobs after their degree is very largely determined by their degree of privilege going in. If you don't know anyone who works in an office, getting a degree doesn't magically tell you how to impress people at job interviews, or what to wear or how to behave or anything like that.

So judging universities and degree subjects on people's earnings after graduation, e.g. LEO or similar, ends up deciding that universities which attract the greatest number of privileged kids are also magically the best at educating them, because they must have done because earnings are the determination of value.

The indices we use used to be benchmarked against the intake population, so universities were judged against how other similar populations had done, but no more. Now we're judged on our failure to produce Oxbridge outcomes without an Oxbridge intake.

22:

No, you don't need to know the details, nor is a deep grounding in compiler theory very useful. But algorithmics, whether computer science, statistics or numerical analysis is, as is a solid grounding in practical program design, testing etc.

I agree with this. The basics are very important.

Anecdote time: I have a Masters in Space Technology, with a minor in embedded systems. Mostly my degree was in signal processing and software development, though I might know what a link budget or delta-v is if asked. I graduated in 2004, after a long time (started in 1995, but let's not go into what the Finnish university culture was at the time).

I've been doing basically IT jobs for the last 18 years, mostly software development but also different IT security things. I don't use any specific things I was taught (I remember implementing multiple sorting algorithms, for example), but in my opinion the most important thing I learned was how to learn. A close second is an understanding of how a computer works, so it's easier to understand how it should be massaged to do what I want.

For my whole career, it's always been learning new stuff. The systems I did in 2005 were software development as well as the thing I'm doing now, but the specifics have changed. Most of the stuff is still old and was known earlier in principle, it's just that the particulars have changed. (I admit that doing 6510 assembler is just for fun nowadays, though.)

(In 2005 I was working with CVS, C, TCL, and had dedicated servers for compiling and building packages. Installed software went into rack computers. Now it's git, Python/Java/node.js, and the rack computers are abstracted away into 'the cloud', which is of course only somebody else's rack computer we just pay for. I find the current things more fun to work with, but principles are pretty much similar.)

I think with a 1990 degree in CS you could get up to speed pretty well in the current environments. Depends on the degree and the workplace, of course, but many things were talked about already 30 years ago.

23:
  • I can sweat solder copper plumbing, flare copper gas lines, wire up a house for most electrical needs if I want/need to do so, frame a wall, finish sheet rock, etc...* In other words, all the construction craft skills that used to be taught (in the UK) by a 4 year apprenticeship combined with one day a week day release at a technical college. Not skills you ever pursued by doing a full-time HND or university first degree.
24:

It's sound advice if you can manage it. I worked a series of part-time jobs while at university, mostly because I needed the money, but also because the jobs themselves proved progressively more applicable and useful towards eventual employment after graduation.

My IT career (admittedly not for everyone, or even most people) most likely wouldn't have gotten started without the student worker jobs in various university offices and computer labs along the way towards a CS degree.

The work experience was arguably more valuable than the degree itself, though I suspect that CS degree did open some doors for me early on which might have otherwise been closed. Dunno how true that might be today.

25:

The basics are very important.

Ha! Not too long ago I got to explain twos complement arithmetic to one of my office-mates. It's frankly a little surprising to me how often, even in these days, it can become relevant to understand how a computer actually represents signed integers.

26:

Before I get into anecdote, I want to point out something important: degree relevance to job varies both by field and by school. We've got a preponderance of CS talent here, and experience there may not translate very well to other fields.

My experience was getting a masters in botany at Humboldt State (recently renamed Cal Poly Humboldt, and high time), and a PhD in botany at UW-Madison. Then I walked out into the Bush II War on Science and that was that.

Anyway, while I was starting my masters, my uncle had retired after 20 years working for an electronics company that did military contracting. He'd dropped out of college in the 1960s, did a stint in the military including electronics school, went from there into the industry and learned to program by doing. After he retired he went back and got his CS degree at the local university. He was rather sad that what he was taught in class was easily 10 years behind what he'd been working on a few miles down the road in one of the town's local employers.

As a botanist, my biggest benefit so far has been that HSU degree. "The Humboldt Mafia" is aging out, but for a long time, the mid-level environmental bureaucrats in California were disproportionately HSU grads, and they were the ones who got stuff done. Being one of them opened some doors.

Thing is, what I did in class and research is still 10-20 years ahead of what I could do as an environmental consultant, even in California, even decades after I got my degree. This is in large part due to how governments treat environmental issues in general, and malign neglect seems to be the default. It's not a good situation.

27:

If one of the two Tory idiots wasn’t going to end up running the country it would be hilarious. Both of them spewing standard policies out of a 20 year old playbook and not an original idea in sight. Even when there’s the faintest flicker of a light bulb it’s something like Suank’s degree idea.

The concept they are pitching tax cuts to their membership who already barely pay any tax (most of their equity is in housing) would be mind boggling if they weren’t so serious about it. There are signs in pre-electoral polling that a outright majority of voters see tax cuts as disastrous whilst the country slowly falls apart.

28:

'Arts Education'

Have the Tories become so self-centered that they're deliberately blinding themselves to what goes on in the rest of the world? 'Cause there's a real-life example of how supporting the arts including arts education is a win-win-win -- South Korea.

Apart from recorded music, these grants which started around 2014 also support various types of live performance theater. Tickets for their musicals sell out in minutes - and depending on the season, most ticket buyers are foreigners/tourists (esp. from India, China).

https://www.forbes.com/sites/shainshapiro/2021/07/06/want-proof-investing-in-music-works-look-at-south-korea/?sh=188cfc43cb4b

And the above live performance arts don't come close to the money-making of K-Pop which btw has also strengthened SKorea's international appeal in many ways. BTS is this decade's contemporary musical global phenomenon - they've won the biggest/most prestigious music industry prizes recently, often have to add dates to their sell-out concerts, were invited to speak at the UN and were also invited to the White House. A few years back when BTS was becoming a big name in NA, I saw a video about this group's background/formation: most if not all of them studied performance arts (music, voice, dance, music production/recording) at some point.

Historically, 'The Arts' have been used to rate a civilization's accomplishments/status. Which particular art is most notable is a crap shoot - sometimes you get a Da Vinci and sometimes you get a Shakespeare.

And over the past couple of decades there's growing evidence that 'The Arts' actually contribute to our psychological, physical, and cognitive well-being.

Yeah, sure - 'the arts' are useless! [sarcasm]

This pol and platform policy - uninformed idiocy. [no sarcasm intended]

PS - I just checked to see whether the SKorean gov't is still providing arts support - yes!

https://news.artnet.com/art-world/south-korea-president-orders-major-arts-investment-2150304

29:

Have the Tories become so self-centered that they're deliberately blinding themselves to what goes on in the rest of the world?

Yes.

They even turned down an EU offer of reciprocal short-term visa waiver travel for performers out of fear that horrible EU musicians might get to tour the UK. With the result that British musicians can no longer afford to tour in the EU (a new visa is required for every country, meaning a new visa every night for each member of the band and the roadies: gets expensive fast). Example of the side effects: Sir Simon Rattle, conductor of the LSO and one of the pre-eminent orchestra conductors of the century, just applied for German citizenship and is moving to Berlin.

It's insane.

30:

“Have the Tories become so self-centered that they're deliberately blinding themselves to what goes on in the rest of the world? '”

Hah! Yes, that is pretty much the definition of current ‘conservative’ politics. Reality? “No thanks, we want the distorted memory of what we fantasise our parents promised us things were like in the good old days “

As long as it involves torturing poor(er) people they’re all for it.

31:
Rishi Sunak (the richest MP in parliament, a former Goldman Sachs employee and hedge-fund manager who married a billionaire)

Seems like overkill to me. But then as we all know, money goes to money.

32:

I retired from professional software development 14 years ago, but I still get a laugh out of the monthly news articles about which computer languages a dev should know to make the most money. In my experience the answer is “several different ones” and be ready to learn new ones as necessary, because the ones you’ll use on the job will change, sometimes between projects, and you may need to get up to speed fast.

I still think I was lucky to have Lisp as a first language, and 8080 assembler as a second. From there picking up 3rd Gen languages like Pascal and C was easy.

33:

This post seems contradictory and confused.

  • Contradictory: on the one hand, you seem to be arguing that university education is desirable, but then on the other hand you're deriding it as just producing obedient serfs. That seems contradictory to me.
  • Confused: University funding & loans aren't a Ponzi scheme. Graduates don't get income by bringing in new students, which is what a Ponzi scheme would entail.

Which isn't to say that the student loan system is well designed. It was introduced in part to expand university education while getting the funding off the government accounts; until very recently each loan was actually recorded as a reduction in public debt. Thankfully that scam has been stopped now, which indeed may explain why Sunak is keen to reduce university spending, as the treasury can't hide it anymore.

I see no evidence in a drop of demand for university places. if anything, the opposite; there are more people of school leaving age in the UK than in recent years and many of them are looking for a university education. The UK still attracts large numbers of international students (though less from the EU after Brexit). So if you have an investment in student housing, it's probably pretty secure.

Several people in the IT world are keen to show how people can learn IT online without having to go to Uni. That does work for some people, but not all, and it doesn't generalise to all subjects.

(As someone noted above, for most people a student loan functions as a graduate taz rather than a loan. Indeed, the wonks at WonkHE have suggested that students should be campaigning to have tuition fees doubled - the increase in university income would fund more staff to teach them and after the students graduate they'd still only be paying the same percentage of their salary each year. WonkHE are being facetious, of course, but it illustrates how the system doesn't actually function as a loan).

34:

Hah! Yes, that is pretty much the definition of current ‘conservative’ politics. Reality? “No thanks, we want the distorted memory of what we fantasise our parents promised us things were like in the good old days “

Are you sure you are not talking about American conservatives?

35:

We don't always see eye to eye but I agree with this. Libraries are fine until they aren't*, and you always need to know the characteristics of the algorithms you are using even when the details don't matter much.

I have found a niche where the ability to pull an order of magnitude speedup out of the bag is actually appreciated. Most of the time replacing standard library stuff isn't worth it but when it is it *really pays off.

36:

Also, I made a mistake. Sorting is vol 3. 2 is the unloved seminumerical algorithms volume.

37:

I have a ‘92 CS degree, and find much of it is still relevant - some of of it more relevant now than it was then - RISC, OO, Unix.

But the thing I really appreciate is the way we blitzed different programming languages and language schools - functional, declarative logic, as well as imperative. It’s a really good foundation to having to debug problems in client code written in a language you’ve never seen before.

Think I was lucky to go through before a lot of courses started focusing on Java or Microsoft stack training - CS courses should not be producing developers with very specific shortage skills, and certainly not taking direction from an industry that could not predict the rapidity with which iOS and Android would displace Windows.

But with you completely on the short-sightedness of wrecking the arts. I know someone who has working on Star Wars since The Force Awakens - props for both film and TV series, but that gig only started when he hit his 40s, after years of lower paying prop work for toddlers puppet animation shows. I know, from people working on both, that one of Madonna’s European tours opening in Cardiff because of number of local costume makers, which in turn was down to Dr Who. (And the same holds for a lot of film production in South Wales. Who was the seed capital for a lot of small film services related companies)

Or the academic in clothes and fashion with a sideline in providing consultancy to video games, and similarly for the orchestral musicians working on TV and game soundtracks.

An awful lot of the reason why the arts are a profitable export industry is that they don’t pay that well at the lower levels.

38:

Re: 'They even turned down an EU offer of reciprocal short-term visa waiver travel for performers ...'

Idiocy!

I haven't checked how this isolationism applies to other academic fields but am aware that the EU has been trying to get more integration/synchronization across educational levels and areas of expertise (e.g., medicine*) within the EU membership. Some non-EU members have also signed on.

BTW, while the UK is not listed as a participant in the Bologna Process, it is listed in the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bologna_Process

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Credit_Transfer_and_Accumulation_System

*I was trying to find out why displaced Ukrainian physicians and nurses were having a hard time getting jobs during a global pandemic.

39:

I agree on not just the arts in particular, but the humanities and sciences.

One of the things academia does is to cover a lot of crazy bets. You work people hard for low wages. Most of these bets fail to make bank (raises hand), while a few go on to be phenomenally successful and cover the rest. Academia at its best is basically nesting habitat for black swans.

The part the conservatives choose not to pay attention to is that black swan success is a crap shoot. You can look at all the failures and say it's a waste, or you can look at the whole system and see if the successes cover the bad bets.

Unfortunately, this is a complex argument. In American politics, it's been a truism for awhile that having the intelligent people on your side is not enough to get you elected. Apparently this is true in UK politics too?

40:

I object to the view that University training must be vocational.

Vocational schools and some degree tracks obviously should be focused on job skills. But not every degree is about job skills. Students should have the choice in an education to broaden their mindset as thinking person with humanities, art, music, stem, and an academic background.

Narrowly educated people make the kinds of public decisions prevalent on both sides of the Atlantic.

41:

Paul - yes, I find it fascinating how little the Conservative party is attempting to woo me - over 50, higher rate taxpayer, homeowner in Iain Duncan Smith’s constituency, nouveau riche.

By old logic, I should have drifted towards the Right, but I remain well to Left of New Labour - while repulsed by the Russia-Today-is-Great element of the Labour Party.

But I know people who voted for IDS to keep Labour out . . . who have become increasingly vocal in their criticism of the Conservatives since Brexit. I’d describe then as very mainstream in their economics, laissez-faire Liberals rather than Tories. And what they are seeing horrifies them. Too much belief and not enough ‘dismal science’

Also - they don’t have any stake in levelling up. The Conservative Party does, but these are not natural Conservatives, they are people who vote Conservative out of self-interest.

But, as yet, I don’t think Labour have anything to say to them either, because it’s not yet politic to blame Brexit.

(Even Mick Lynch will blame everything except Brexit for inflation)

42:

Just to point out two key aspects.

  • Its the STEM degrees that are being deemphasised - because they are expensive to deliver, and students don't actually want a hard time learning, they just want the piece of paper that they did something.

  • Although there is a claim of near full employment, that's not in productive useful jobs. Rather it's in 'diversity consultants', or 'health and wellbeing manager' - fluff jobs that don't positively support real earning and trade. In fact they get in the way of delivery, introducing speedbumps to justify the careers of the same people who got a 'degree' in point 1.

  • It's obviously not sustainable, but all the while those 'degrees' and 'jobs' fester - they will introduce a kind of catabolic collapse to the economy - sand in the engine of industry. Death by telephone sanitiser, third class.

    43:

    The part the conservatives choose not to pay attention to is that black swan success is a crap shoot.

    Not just conservatives…

    Back in the 80s I heard a friend's sister swearing about her boss (a freshly-hired MBA), who was demanding a timetable for her department with the dates when they would make each research breakthrough (not to mention wanting details of the scheduled breakthroughs).

    44:

    In Soviet Union there was a joke about some research institute pledging to "make a discovery of regional importance within a quarter, a discovery of national importance within a year, and a discovery of global importance within 5 years". I would not be surprised if such pledge actually happened -- it is exactly the kind of trolling Soviet scientists liked to indulge in.

    45:

    IMHO we send way too many people to college here in the US.

    Completely agree. In far too many cases, the only use for a degree is getting an entry-level job somewhere - often a job in an unrelated field, or a job simple enough to not really need a degree. Employers often (usually? always?) require a degree as a way to filter out people without them and reduce the burden on HR. Of course, I realize that testing people for their actual capabilities is difficult / impossible and almost certainly expensive.

    Requiring degrees has also spawned the growth (and profitability) of way too many colleges / universities, and the attendant rise in fees. The funding of people trying to get degrees has been immensely profitability for the financial sector.

    46:

    Re: '... her boss (a freshly-hired MBA), who was demanding a timetable for her department with the dates when they would make each research breakthrough'

    However, and it's likely that some folks here would know: when applying for a research grant (whether from the gov't or a charitable foundation) do you provide a likely timeline for research results?

    The only major research institute that I'm aware of that isn't anal about researchers sticking to their original proposal is the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

    47:

    Well, here in the US in less than another generation only the scions of the obscenely wealthy will be going for education at any level.

    They have made the teaching profession such a frackin misery, such a dangerous misery, and will not pay teachers a living salary -- or let them, actually teach either -- they are quitting in droves. As the new school year looms, schools across the country just don't have the teachers, at any level, from pre-school on up through 12th grade. Districts are going for 4 day -- even 3 day sessions. Districts are wanting to hire retired veterans to teach (why vets in particular?) or anybody at all. They are granting teaching certificates to people who don't even have degrees.

    The Reichlicans have achieved another of their long time goals of removing anything that has to do with safety, health, education from the public sphere -- now its the end of public education.

    48:

    why vets in particular?

    The only honest reason I can think of is that it could make getting the criminal-history-check and therefore the working-with-children endorsement process slightly cheaper, because veterans have a verified identity and a gazillion publicly accessible records detailing their biographies. But I forget, you guys have a national citizen identifier anyway, so that's not as big an advantage as it might be here (not that it's much of one here). I struggle to imagine another. If we can still go with the law of the excluded middle, that leaves dishonest, or at least dishonourable reasons, but I'd be more interested to hear about any reasons anyone else can think of that could be spun as legitimate to wider society, not just the flag-worship bubble. If it's just "playing to the base", it's... well we know that short-termism is ultimately self-defeating, but we also know that the people who "play to the base" are not members of that "base" themselves.

    49:

    I’m pretty sure I’m talking about all political conservatives

    50:

    Not skills you ever pursued by doing a full-time HND or university first degree.

    My implied point was that I don't look down on those career paths. They are valuable and needed. And require as much skill (different but a skill non the less) as many white collar jobs. More in many cases.

    And if you've every had to dig up a back yard sewage drain field you tend to have a different appreciation for what can go down a drain or toilet from many.

    I appreciate my father teaching those things to his kids. And I tried to pass such on.

    51:

    I still think I was lucky to have Lisp as a first language, and 8080 assembler as a second.

    Sort of like a one time acid trip. You're either enlightened or your brain is fried and you switch careers.

    52:

    Before I get into anecdote, I want to point out something important: degree relevance to job varies both by field and by school. We've got a preponderance of CS talent here, and experience there may not translate very well to other fields.

    Oh, yes, absolutely! The field and school matters hugely. I have been lucky in many ways, not least being born when I was and being interested in computers. Many other fields would be very different from what they were 30 years ago. I'm not sure how useful my almost-20-years old Space Tech masters would be now in the space technology business, not that there is much of it here anyway. I'm not sure how Arianespace recruits, either. (Building scientific instruments for satellites is done in Finland, but that's again somewhat different from building rockets and satellites.)

    ALso I don't really know how many people to educate to what degree and for what. Not everybody needs a university degree, especially not the specififc one for their job, but then I've had multiple friends doing a PhD just for fun, alongside their normal day job. I wouldn't make that impossible either.

    (Well, I have a solution but it'd be the 'UBI and let's do less damaging work and more of the stuff that a) keeps us fed and clothed b) is fun'. More of an endpoint, though...)

    53:

    Not everybody needs a university degree, especially not the specififc one for their job...

    I should point out that I quite agree with that, and with Duffy.

    It's unpopular in the US, but it might be useful to have the need or strong possibility of national service (either military or preferably non-military) for Americans in the 17-20ish age bracket, to do semi-skilled jobs and figure out if they were happier going more trade-related or more collegiate-related stuff. It would play merry hell with the student debt market, let them get some uninformed decisions out of their lives, hopefully without PTSD, and give them (possibly!) some idea of what they'd like to do. If they want to install solar panels and do the unskilled part of building affordable housing, why not?

    I also agree with doing the PhD for fun. As a challenge, it might be more rewarding than some other things one could do to prove they've still "got it."

    54:

    Elderly Cynic @ 20: I spent my life advising on this sort of thing. That is totally wrong. If you don't know the principles, you have no context to judge whether the method will solve YOUR problem and, much, much worse, when and where that method is likely to start giving wrong answers or failing on YOUR data.

    I do sort-of agree with you. My young relative asked my advice about a CS degree. I advised him to go for it, making much the same kind of argument as you do. Also others here have chimed in on the importance of a broad education in different paradigms, and that was my experience too. On the other hand I've also heard from people who were forced to do a course in Haskell as part of their degree. That meant getting maybe 30 hours of lectures and doing 30 hours of exercises, which is only enough to scratch the surface of the language. From their point of view it was just a weird language that forces you to jump through complicated theoretical hoops to do stuff that every other language does naturally, for no benefit.

    My relative found himself asking: "is this worth 3 years and £50k?", and the answer was "not really". 99% of everyday programming doesn't need degree-level knowledge. Of the remaining 1%, most can be looked up on-line (Wikipedia is quite good on CS, and there are more resources, including a lot of University undergraduate lecture notes if you want them). Of the remaining gotchas, the probability that any particular instance will have been covered by your degree, and remembered, and recognised in the wild, and not also learned elsewhere, is pretty low.

    Its always been a truism in the software business that the best developers are the ones who taught themselves out of sheer fascination. For these people (including me and my young relative) the degree is merely the cherry on the cake. For me it was an opportunity to learn more cool stuff, some of which has occasionally come in useful. My first year was primarily Pascal. My only previous languages had been BBC Basic and 6502 assembler, so structured programming and data structures were new and exciting. For my relative, who grew up hacking Java and JavaScript, the first year was a tedious recapitulation of stuff he already knew, with no particular expectation of much improvement thereafter.

    55:

    I don't think you understood my underlying assumptions, which are that education is a social good, but our universities have been monetized and turned into diploma mills to certify people as being appropriately submissive employees, thereby requiring them to get a degree whether or not they have any aptitude for academia or any desire to learn. And to get into debt in the process, which benefits people of Sunak's very specific class.

    It should (my emphasis: this is an ideal) be possible to find appropriate employment without spending four years and £40-80,000 to purchase a certificate while memorizing a bunch of stuff you're probably never going to use and jumping through flaming hoops to demonstrate obedience.

    56:

    University degrees fulfil 3 functions:

  • Education. In the widest sense of the word.

  • Academic Filtering. Proof that you are academically capable of getting that degree.

  • Social filtering. Proof that you are the sort of person who has the social status (social connections, or family money, or background knowledge picked up by being the 'right' sort of person) to get admitted and acquire that sort of degree.

  • 57:

    ...today you don't need to know them. I learned how to sort a list, insert an item into a hash table and balance a red-black tree when I did my degree...

    To illustrate how true that all is, I'm going to mention that I have a slide rule in my computer case and occasionally bring it out to check something. A slide rule! I had it out last night. But I can't remember the last time I wrote sorting code or even looked at a hash table.

    58:

    a claim of near full employment, that's not in productive useful jobs.

    IME a lot of those "more than half an hour a week means you're employed" are working shit jobs, or even shittier "not jobs" for Uber or some other giant tax evasion scam. They're precariat, in other words, and definitely not up in the better paid "diversity consultant" ranks, unless it's the "paid for one hour to teach staff, expected to have a degree and spend 3-4 hour preparing and another hour following up, then 5-10 hours trying to get their invoice paid" type of consultant.

    I know a lot more under-30's who work in supermarkets than as consultants, put it that way. And an ungodly number of 40-60 year old consultants who spent far more time chasing payment than whatever their nominal field is.

    59:

    I think it's more an understanding of how you evaluate sorting algorithms and other general principles. Why is it even important to choose a good algorithm, or how would you know that it's time to ask that question.

    Right now 99% of what I do performance doesn't matter. I have a stable codebase that performs adequately, most code is "make a small change to extend functionality, test it as thoroughly as possible, and think about how you detect problems once it is in production". The latter is the most important task by far.

    But that's also because I have explicitly delegated the "business analysis" or people management side of things to someone else. Normally half my job is understanding what I'm expected to do. "Sam wants XKCD integration ASAP"... yeah, thanks boss, I'll get right on whatever the hell that is for whoever this Sam peep is.

    I get the impression that icehawks #3 is all about the latter aspect of most jobs. It's not enough to have the official skills, you need to have the skill of "working out what the boss actually cares about" and the other skill of "making sure you do what the boss actually wants not what you're told to do".

    60:

    Rather it's in 'diversity consultants', or 'health and wellbeing manager' - fluff jobs that don't positively support real earning and trade

    You are really, REALLY, wrong about that.

    Seriously: "health and wellbeing" means that you don't get sued into a smoking hole in the ground when one of your employees ends up permanently disabled due to inappropriate working conditions caused by poor ergonomics -- for example, cheaping out on height-adjustable office equipment. "Diversity consultants" likewise ensure that, at a minimum, you don't get sued into an etc. for unfair dismissal due to racism/sexism/ageism in the workplace: but they can also direct your attention to new market demographics and explain how to attract new customers rather than alienating or offending them.

    Obviously the need for this stuff is a function of scale -- small businesses have less call for any and all specialists outside their immediate work-related field -- but I think you've been uncritically assimilating right wing culture wars garbage.

    61:

    OGH said: Seriously: "health and wellbeing" means that

    I would say that 99% of my training as a commercial diver basically falls under that category. Not dying, not killing your workmates was basically the whole job. How to actually pour concrete or weld underwater was basically an aside.

    62:

    I can't comment on a 90s degree, but I recall the gaps in 80s CS school and university level education. Books like the Knuth series teach the real deep CS. I wish more programmers would read the classic papers, like On the Design of Display Processors. https://doi.org/10.1145/363347.363368 Consider how that applies to today's "displays", e.g. browsers and server protocols etc. (Also: the risks of making your attack surface Turing Equivalent, and all the relevant papers.)

    My main issue with education in general is the lack of applied teaching. Theory is great, but applying maths and CS to real world problems also matters. See the examples above.

    Your point about caching reminds me of Terje Mathiesen's sig file. ISTR him saying a few years ago, "L1 is the new tape" in comp.arch, where he's been talking about caching for many years. I also recall an interview with one of the RAID inventors where he talked about similar issues regarding capacity and access bandwidth, suggesting that disk is the new tape. He was using FedEx to ship data in servers around the world.

    So this seems to apply at every level in the memory heirarchy. It's almost like there's some fundamental physics that always applies, and no magic "silver bullets" can make it disappear. An incomplete education may be worse than no education when the result is programmers and policy-makers who create systems that fail spectacularly and publicly.

    For some hilarity, look at the job requirements for companies like Serco. No wonder their "solutions" fail. A little CS education could've avoided a lot of wasted taxpayer's money. Nevermind the political fallout. Sadly, I've been watching gov IT fiascos for four decades, and only the names of the contractors have changed. The failure modes remain the same.

    So I can appreciate your points on the links between politics and education. Thanks.

    63:

    Employers often (usually? always?) require a degree as a way to filter out people without them and reduce the burden on HR.

    Not just employers…

    Back in the 80s when I was a community college lecturer, one of the filter courses to get into cosmetology was OAC math*. Not because you needed calculus or advanced functions for cosmetology, but because they had ten times as many applicants as openings and the college was looking for a filter.

    *Roughly equivalent to the first month or two of first-year university math.

    64:

    why vets in particular?

    Plays well to the Republican base. Military trends right-wing at lower ranks, so jobs for the faithful. Acts to distract from how little support veterans* actually get from Republicans. Assumption veterans are used to obeying orders and won't be 'woke' (whatever that means to Republicans).

    Any of the above, really.


    *As opposed to military suppliers and contractors.

    65:

    Yep. It's basically fodder to make a campaign ad.

    66:

    Re: 'Normally half my job is understanding what I'm expected to do. "Sam wants XKCD integration ASAP"... yeah, thanks boss, I'll get right on whatever the hell that is for whoever this Sam peep is.'

    Sounds like you don't have access to direct communication with your user/client. Based on personal experience, it's not a productive environment for a project team if only one team member is in on the project briefing. Weird stuff sometimes comes up and the more ears (POVs), the better for avoiding snafus.

    I'm not a techie, but ... My impression of programmers is that they've got a built-in project mapping system to navigate whatever code they think they're going to have to write to achieve the stated end result. (I've watched the assigned project programmer for startle responses/tells during briefings, as in: Oh, crap - this bit is going to be a problem!)

    67:

    XKCD integration sounds pretty awesome, actually.

    (I'm assuming an automatic link to the most relevant xkcd cartoon(s) for each post.)

    68:

    LAvery @ 7:

    But by saying, "IMHO we send way too many people to college", you also seem to be suggesting that the jobs cannot be done by people who have been to college.

    At the same time, most college grads don't WANT to work at manual labor, even if it is a skilled trade. And they expect to make more money than manual laborers, even those in skilled trades.

    69:

    Of course, I realize that testing people for their actual capabilities is difficult / impossible and almost certainly expensive.

    And in some cases illegal.

    It is illegal in US to give an applicant intelligence tests, unless the test material is directly related to the job description (i.e. if the job involves a lot of arithmetic, then it is OK to give the candidates an arithmetic test). But IQ test or something similar are a big no-no.

    So the employers use college degree as a marker to indicate that the candidate is not completely stupid. Somehow, I always felt that $100,000 is far too much money to pay for "I am smart" certificate...

    70:

    They are granting teaching certificates to people who don't even have degrees.

    Florida (of course!) just set the new low bar for begin a teacher: Military veteran or married to a military veteran. In other words, being married to someone who spent two years in the Army without catching Bad Conduct Discharge, qualifies one to be a teacher in Florida.

    When my wife saw this, she asked me: "So that means I can be a teacher in Florida? Or does my Master degree disqualify me?" My response was "no, but it will definitely put you at the back of the line".

    71:

    40 - AFAICS no-one except Rishi Rich is arguing that "university education must be vocational".

    50 - Absolutely agreed; my point (maybe not explicitly stated) was that there is no such thing as, say, a B Eng (Plumbing). OK yes there is a Bachelor's in Automotive Engineering, but that's about designing cars, not servicing them.

    72:

    Damian @ 48:

    why vets in particular?

    Veterans often have life skills that translate (mostly in training other soldiers). And frequently come with the GI Bill attached to (mostly) pay for college so they don't cost the school district as much. Veterans can get a provisional teaching certificate while still going to college part-time to earn their "education" degree.

    Plus there are Federal subsidies for hiring veterans.

    And many already have experience being shot at ...

    73:

    ilya187 @ 69:

    Somehow, I always felt that $100,000 is far too much money to pay for "I am smart" certificate ...

    Especially since the degree process doesn't really appear to weed out the stupid. Many can "earn" a four year degree and still be fuckin' idiots.

    74:

    Sorting is a hopeless example, because decent methods almost always 'fail gracefully'; computational areas that don't are common, but mostly unintelligible to outsiders. Numerical algorithms are solid with cases where it is easy to get complete nonsense and not notice. But, to move more towards Heteromeles's areas, a basic understanding of statistics is essential for handling most real data, and far too few people have it (especially among those that think they do).

    In areas like biology and ecology, there are similar issues. I have picked up some over the years, but still am woefully ignorant of far too much of the basics. Unfortunately, it is demonstrable that a huge proportion of people who work in those areas (especially at the policy and managerial levels) know vastly less than I do, and think they know more.

    This issue is separate from the original points of this thread, but is another example of how badly modern education (in at least the UK) has gone wrong, though a lot of it is NOT due to education as such. It interacts with the downgrading of technical and scientific skills in employment and politics, and the domination of policy and management by people who are both clueless and arrogant about what they are doing.

    75:

    At the same time, most college grads don't WANT to work at manual labor, even if it is a skilled trade. And they expect to make more money than manual laborers, even those in skilled trades.

    I've got to point out that the second sentence doesn't follow from the first. I personally prefer intellectual work to manual labor, but I don't expect to be paid more for my work. And I'm not. The boss of the crew who installed my solar panels was making low six figures, without going to college, and I'm fine with that. Demand is fickle, and we live in a world that pays basketball players more than teachers or firefighters. Go figure.

    Where I'm going with this is that some people shouldn't be in college at 18. Athena Scalzi (on Whatever) has been quite public about failing out, and I had a nephew who did the same thing she did. Ramming them in to an expensive failure system was and is a bad idea. They're far from alone.

    Now I'm going to strongly nuance this, because the population of people who fail out of college is disproportionately slanted towards the poor and minorities (Hispanic, Black, Native American, immigrant/first generation, non cis/hetero), so I want to make it emphatically clear that this isn't about saying "those people" are too undisciplined or stupid for college. Far from it. It's simply that there are a fair number of people who, even given the best prep and support*, won't thrive in a collegiate classroom when they're 18, and it's worth acknowledging this.

    *I'm reminded of the periodic stories of how Ordinary Children of Rich Parents get their degrees, not by studying, but by having the 'Rents make a big donation to the school, and also hiring poor post-graduates to write their term papers for them. Meanwhile, the Mundane Offspring get a rather different education...

    76:

    was that there is no such thing as, say, a B Eng (Plumbing)

    Actually in the US there is. Especially for plumbers and electricians. Past those there are (mostly union) ratings for masons, carpenters and others I can't think of. Steel workers?

    But plumbing (which includes natural gas in the US) and electrical in the US are consider life safety issues and so are fairly decently regulated. Both require 2 to 4 years of an apprenticeship to get licensed.

    But mom typically wants Johnny to get a nice office job and gets in a snit if the education system gives even a hint that maybe Johnny should skip the college route.

    77:

    And my neighbor who has been in London visiting with his daughter and the new grandson is also working to update/fix various things around her house. He got stuck staying an extra 2 months just to wait for a plumber to be able to schedule them in for some repairs.

    Demand there is.

    78:

    Part of the problem, I think, is that modern programming languages and their associated libraries are huge: to properly get to grips with one and learn it inside-out really takes 6-18 months of full-time employment-level engagement. Even if the core language itself is compact the associated tools and libraries can be vast -- and you need to understand a whole bunch of CS concepts before you can use them effectively. Just knowing there's a method called treewalk() that you can call on an object that's the root of a tree of entities doesn't tell you what you might want to do if there's some sort of pathological condition (your tree is equivalent to a linked list[*]), or how to check for exceptions, or how to handle them when they emerge, and ... that's the procedural stuff, not type safety or how to use a test harness, and so on.

    There are small/compact languages, but they're mostly old lineages or domain-specific toys or have subtle semantics.

    A sane CS course since about 2000 really ought to be split into two halves -- theoretical, and applied -- with the understanding that the applied side is what you'll need in the workplace and is all about how to do the thing, which the theory side is not oriented around any specific task but explains why you might want to do the thing.

    [*] PS: no, you do not need to tell me how to turn a linked list into a balanced tree.

    79:

    In response to ilya187:

    Florida (of course!) just set the new low bar for begin a teacher: Military veteran or married to a military veteran. In other words, being married to someone who spent two years in the Army without catching Bad Conduct Discharge, qualifies one to be a teacher in Florida.

    False. Having taught in Florida, I ain't goin' back, but it ain't as described above.

    Military spouses / former-military spouses are granted a fee waiver, nothing else. Source: https://www.fldoe.org/teaching/certification/military/

    Sources are good.

    80:

    Oops. Yes, I should have fact-checked it. I will have to console my wife that she is not in fact qualified to teach in Florida.

    81:

    A sane CS course since about 2000 really ought to be split into two halves -- theoretical, and applied

    In the US at least you can be a Computer Engineer which is more or less applied CS. In my very biased opinion it's a much more valuable degree, but due to university politics the CS professors very understandably are constantly fighting against the computer engineering department as they feel it infringes on their turf.

    82:

    SO
    No degrees for musicians - who earn vast amounts of money (m Until the tory party fucked that over with Brexit ) or artists or poets, or any of the finer feelings. Right.
    I have two STEM degrees from the 1980/90s which are totally obsolete now and of almost no relevance to my current occupation. - tell me about it! {BSc Physics later, MSc Engineering }
    Oh yes - quote: The words Culture, Secretary & Nadine Dorries should not be in the same sentence ... ahem.

    AT ONE: PLEASE DO NOT MENTION Hyacinth Truss { a.k.a. Liz Bucket } - gives me the all-over shudders even worse than even BoJo or Grease-Smaug ...

    gordycoale
    Um - correction - 120year old paybook, it's a Taff Vale director's wet dream, from about 1905 - mustn't let the serfs get above themselves.

    SFR
    over the past couple of decades there's growing evidence that 'The Arts' actually contribute to our psychological, physical, and cognitive well-being.
    LONG BEFORE THAT
    And ever since
    Especially if you know what the words mean & their contexts ...

    Charlie
    Not quite - * visa waiver travel for performers out of fear that horrible EU musicians might get to tour the UK.* CORRECTED VERSION: - visa waiver travel for performers out of fear that horrible EU AND UK musicians might be ruled by the EU court of justice, which they are utterly obsessed over.

    ilya 187
    NO
    The tories see the US "R's" & are slavering, if not foaming at the idea.

    Jules.Lt
    You must live close to me, if you are in Ian Duncan Croak's constituency ( Stella is my MP! )

    LAST NOTE:
    Qualification Apartheid
    I have an Engineering MSc, but I'm NOT ALLOWED to do even house mains wiring, because I'm NOT "An Electrician" - not that little thing has stopped me, just not for money. { Ditto Plumbing,incdentally }
    Um.

    83:

    NO The tories see the US "R's" & are slavering, if not foaming at the idea.

    I am confused. Which of my posts are you responding to?

    84:

    Damn, that would have been nice.

    Son of a factory worker and a secretary. Unfortunately, had fist kid at 20. Paid child support, starting a couple years later.

    WORK FULL TIME, for real wages, NO OTHER OPTION. Not really into reuping my math (I got as far as intro to diff eq in '85).... IMO, you are rich.

    85:

    People who go to college hope/expect to get jobs in their degree field.

    My late ex, with an MS, told me about the time she was at a high school doing job presentations, and was surprised to learn that a plumber earned as much as she did, working for the US gov't/NASA at the Cape.

    86:

    Mid-eighties, I wrote a d/b system. Had I ever gotten around to migrating it from Basica (yes, really) to C, Oracle would be toast, as it was smaller and faster IN INTERPRETED BASIC on an 8088 than anything.

    87:

    Oh, there'll be people going to college. In "blue" states. And finding jobs and creating business there. Texas, on the other hand, is in deep do-doo.

    88:

    Absol-frelling-lutely. I've done a Mickeyshaft "VB course" which would be more accurately titled "Here's What's New in VB N", and failed to actually do much more than show you some of the new methods and auto-completes. If you weren't already a practicing VB programmer, that course was dismally inadequate for making you into one.

    89:

    The DP course at Philly Community College late 70's-early 80s: first term, a pseudo-assembler with 13 instructions (including add...), written by the systems programmer (a late buddy of mine). Second term: BAL (IBM mainframe assembler). If you got through those, you really were interested in programming computers.

    90:

    Real life career: until I got to be a senior programmer, we NEVER got to talk to end users, or the managers who determined what we'd do. Ever. Std. line going back to the 80's: programmers are treated like mushrooms - keep 'em in the dark, and feed 'em bullshit.

    91:

    What a college ed really means: as far back as the mid-seventies, it proved to employers that you were fit for office work, much as decades before, a high school diploma did. It was well-known back then that Penn Mutual Insurance would hire you with any degree for clerical jobs, and I heard there were great water-cooler discussions of art history, and....

    With a buddy's help, I got my first programming job before I got my AA (2 yr degree). I did part time (see previous post about HAVING TO WORK FULL TIME FOREVER) college, on and off - skipped a few years after moving to TX, no way to have enough hours in the day with one vehicle living in the exurbs). Got my B.Sc in 95, though I'd been working as a programmer since '80. Started with Ameritech (a Baby Bell) that Sept. A few months l asked my managers if the degree helped: they told me that they didn't care, they wanted my experience... but that it helped get me through HR.

    Several years earlier, in TX, I applied for a job, had a really good interview... and then was told no. Talked to someone in personnel.. and she said, in so many words, that she didn't care if the ad said "2 years work == one year college", SHE was requiring a degree.

    And that's where it really stops: HR, what used to be "personnel" but isn't any more, is even outsource. The people there HAVE NO IDEA what the company does, or what the hiring manager wants, so they require degrees or certificates, which they take in place of knowledge on their part. And they keep asking more, the less they know. For example, years and years back, I, and others, saw an ad requiring 5 years of python... when the language had only been released three years earlier. Really.

    92:

    I loved reading both Vols 2 & 3. I may be unusual. I only read half of Vol 1 as the maths in the first half was beyond me at the time. I expect most of it still is. However, I can now appreciate the need for a firm basis on which to read everything else in the series.

    Guy Steele's lecture on the history of maths notation educated me on that matter. Whether or not his belief is correct (that a formal notation for CS could be made into a programming language) is another question. The practicality of that language would then be a follow-up question. Until then, it's an interesting project, but I suspect he may be making the same mistake as Hilbert. Even if this is so, his project and is less ambitious and something useful could still emerge from it, so I wish him all the success that is possible.

    For all I know, Steele may have already abandoned it. ;)

    93:

    Similar experience to your Python, but the advert was for a new version of Lotus Notes, released the previous month.

    94:

    but I'm NOT ALLOWED to do even house mains wiring, because I'm NOT "An Electrician" - not that little thing has stopped me, just not for money. { Ditto Plumbing,incdentally }

    In the US with a few notable exceptions you are allowed to do your own electrical work. NYC and Chicago being the two exceptions I can think of off the top of my head. But you can do it only on your own property (residential) and only only only if you do it right. The local code folks really want you to check with them before and after and if not licensed take a test to make sure you're not an idiot.

    But I think there are laws in all states that if the work will be sold or rented to someone else within a year, licensed only. Which is why when I work on my kids houses I make sure they are there and I point out what I do. The point being to keep amateur flippers from killing folks.

    Plumbing similar but less stringent. If you want to flood your house and the insurance company doesn't want to pay you for it, well, sucks to be you.

    If you collect money for someone for work in electrical or plumbing you'd better be licensed.

    I just did some checking about code on a wiring change to my son's new to him and my knowledge of physics said I could do something but the code said not. So I didn't.

    95:

    Same experience but for HTML authoring(!) with five years experience required: posted on a W3C mailing list in 1994.

    As someone replied to the recruiter, "I'm sorry but Tim Berners-Lee is busy right now."

    96:

    It's simply that there are a fair number of people who, even given the best prep and support*, won't thrive in a collegiate classroom when they're 18, and it's worth acknowledging this.

    When Ontario went from a five-year secondary program to a four-year one, profs said it was really obvious in first-year classes who was who. Not because the five-years knew more (they didn't need any more credits), but because they were one year more mature, and that made a big difference in how they handled university.

    97:

    Sounds like you don't have access to direct communication with your user/client.

    That's common in programming generally, and I was speaking generally rather than specifically. And for the most part I prefer it that way. Getting useful information from users is a skill, and telling them about limitations without offending them is also a skill. I'm not great at those skills, and I'm bad at selling (most obviously when it comes to negotiating my own salary and conditions. Like a lot of people, I change jobs rather than learn to sell).

    But also, that's what business analysts do, for the most part. Once you have users it's also what tech support does. It can be useful to have occasional access to specific users, but for the most part unless you're writing bespoke software... wait, that's "specific users". I've written software for the path lab a few floors above us, and that was great. I could go up any time and wander round talking to whoever I needed to. But it was also very specific, the second lab we sold to required quite a lot of rework.

    Burglar alarms work very differently. We manufacture hardware that we sell to (importers who sell to) installers/security companies who sell to end users. Loosely. Some of the software is free, some is app store prices, but the overall service is paid monthly. Even the "pay once, service forever" tier is not exactly a scam but it's designed for the sort of customer who will accept minimal service to save money, so it's basically "anything that doesn't cost us detectable money, less a couple of selling points for the paid services". So there's real questions about who exactly the user is, and for most of our software the person paying us isn't the user.

    The other thing is that alarm systems are surprisingly complex, so the people who set them up have a fair investment in knowing the product. They don't want change, or they want it to come in small doses. Part of what we're doing is removing the need for that, and another part is simplifying the interface. That's necessarily complex, the security industry "standards" tend strongly towards describing what existing players do rather than providing a mandatory common subset... so "we interface with everybody" means inevitably some poor schmuck has to work out exactly what the other end expects and explain that to our system.

    98:

    You are really, REALLY, wrong about that.

    I think you did a pretty good job of demonstrating my point and why its a real, significant, problem. Rather than the time, attention and money going into productive efforts, they are going into preventing lawyers from screwing over the company. In the UK we used to laugh at the litigious nature of the US - but we've now caught the same disease. Others haven't.

    And it brings on a second thought - automation is not only much cheaper for a company, it comes with none of this baggage. Where people were only ever meat sack machines to feed the business process, there's a lot of benefit in just dumping them.

    So, bring that together with the 'full' employment numbers, whilst productivity and growth are in reverse, and take that as a scenario to move forward. Historically change comes in big globules, and usually after big crashes. And we are due a big change as previous paradigms have run their course.

    99:

    The original news stories stated that being a military spouse was good enough to get the temporary teaching certificate, same as being a veteran. They were posted before the bill was introduced, so it's possible that provision was contained in a draft (or possible a reporter misread something).

    An earlier version of this article stated spouses of veterans could receive a five-year teaching voucher. The Florida Department of Education, however, has clarified that spouses are only eligible for fee waivers.

    https://www.gainesville.com/story/news/2022/07/20/military-veterans-spouses-can-now-teach-without-degree-florida/10084909002/

    100:

    Since we're trashing HR (or whatever they call themselves this week), there was one Larndarn based company who said "HR head honcho couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery".

    HRHH in question discovered that you could rent the Fullers Brewery for private functions and told everyone that her next birthday party would be on dd/mm/yyyy at Fullers Brewery in Chiswick. Come the date, come the hour everyone turns up to find the brewery gates locked because she'd booked the wrong date!

    101:

    Sounds like another case of violently swinging between the extremes whilst completely missing the problem.

    My generation (I'm 33) were sold a huge lie on universities. They were meant to be the guarantee of a good job, you absolutely had to go. I remember the utter horror of my teacher when I said I might do an apprenticeship instead. But so many of the degrees on offer are utterly dire. Not in any particular subjects, though as noted above, the arts are cheaper to teach, and often seen as an easy subject. I know far too many people who took these, got the debt but none of the supposed benefit. Something needs to be done, but it'll be done by people with very dodgy motives, as has already been said.

    I am immensely glad I took the apprenticeship route, but that seems to be dying off too. Cameron did a good job of trashing the name by turning it into a way of getting people to work for free. I've had direct comparison with other countries systems, we are well behind.

    102:

    automation is not only much cheaper for a company, it comes with none of this baggage

    I get you are playing to your username, but that's just not true.

    Automation that is cheaper is often done, frequently without a second thought. New office printer can attach to the network... done. An AI assistant for a lawyer sold as "smart search" probably comes as a hidden upgrade rather than an explicit feature.

    Flip side is that automation that isn't done is generally not cheaper. Just because the costs aren't obvious doesn't mean they're not there. There's often major investment required, and often training for people who now have to prepare inputs for the automation and clean up the output. The "baggage" often object too, and not always in the trivial luddite way, sometimes through political action and other times by sulking (dropping a shoe in the machine, so to speak).

    103:

    In other sad news Mock of the Week is ending after this season. I'm sad.

    Even Dara has been forced to accept that the show is called that. Which is also sad. But it makes me laugh, which is kind of the point.

    104:

    Heteromeles @ 75:

    At the same time, most college grads don't WANT to work at manual labor, even if it is a skilled trade. And they expect to make more money than manual laborers, even those in skilled trades.

    I've got to point out that the second sentence doesn't follow from the first. I personally prefer intellectual work to manual labor, but I don't expect to be paid more for my work. And I'm not. The boss of the crew who installed my solar panels was making low six figures, without going to college, and I'm fine with that. Demand is fickle, and we live in a world that pays basketball players more than teachers or firefighters. Go figure.

    I'm talking about recent graduates, especially NOW that a four year degree can cost north of $100K even at a "STATE" school. Try to think about it and remember what the expectations were when you went to college? What message did society send about the relative worth of a Bachelor's Degree and a High School Diploma?

    Where I'm going with this is that some people shouldn't be in college at 18. Athena Scalzi (on Whatever) has been quite public about failing out, and I had a nephew who did the same thing she did. Ramming them in to an expensive failure system was and is a bad idea. They're far from alone.

    BTDT-GTTS I graduated from High School in June 1967. I started my Freshman Year in September 1967 (at 17). I was at college for 5 years before I finally gave up chasing the degree1. During that 5 years there was only a single "semester" when I did not work a full 40 hour week to support myself and save to pay the next semester's tuition. This at a STATE University (in fact NC State University) that did not offer night school, so I worked nights to go to school during the day and worked as a laborer during the summer.

    I don't disrespect "those" people, because I know from first hand personal experience what they're going through. I just had the lucky break to go through it BEFORE you had to mortgage your future with student loans.

    Working your way through college was HARD when I did it, but at least it was still doable.

    I wish I had finished High School and joined the Army, grown up a bit and qualified for the GI Bill (which was still pretty good in 1967 before the post Vietnam War cuts kicked in). But you only have the choices you know about and I literally did not know I could do that.

    I KNEW from before the day I started first grade that I was going to college. I knew that was REQUIRED of me. I had to go to college so I could get a good J.O.B. And that fact was drummed into me again with EVERY report card I received in school.
    --

    1 I would have had that degree if not for the goddamn foreign language requirement and how I was screwed over by being REQUIRED to take Latin in Junior High and High School. I think I've mentioned that before.

    When I dropped out of college I had enough credit hours for the degree, I just lacked 6 hours (2 semesters) credit for a foreign language. I had a 3.2 GPA DESPITE having failed Spanish twice. In the early years after I left college I tried several times to take Spanish at the local Community College, but work always interfered. I just never had the time to spend in the language labs PRACTICING and by then my brain was to fossilized to learn a language just from a text book.

    105:

    I had a related experience at uni; those of us in the 2nd year of a “thick sandwich “ course (which is to say a sponsored first year at an engineering company - Rolls-Royce Aero in my case - then 3 years at the uni, with summers working with sponsor, then a final year with the sponsor) were noticeably more like adults than any of the kids that arrived straight from a school. Some experience in living alone, handling actual real money, dealing with life problems and paperwork etc made a huge difference.

    A ‘gap year’ is not really the same thing. And besides, this was the UK in the early 80s. We didn’t have any fun.

    106:

    No degrees for musicians - who earn vast amounts of money (m Until the tory party fucked that over with Brexit ) or artists or poets, or any of the finer feelings. Right.

    I think this may be a case of survivorship bias.

    Only an extreme minority of musicians make a lot of money. Very few musicians even get a record contract, but those who do sign are immediately placed in dept to the label. This dept (charges for services not yet delivered) can only be paid off by delivering albums etc. It's a lovely system for the labels, but most artists will struggle to make any money or escape from their label.

    Consider how Miles Davis made his move from Prestige to Columbia Records. He was contracted to record four more albums, so (many details redacted) he recorded four albums worth of music in two marathon sessions, fullfilling his contractual obligations. He could do that because he, and the quintet he formed for these sessions, had that much music in them. They were all outliers. Extreme outliers.

    Meanwhile, most musicians never get anywhere near signing a contract, so they don't get publicists etc. The vast machinery of the music business ignores them. So does the general public.

    Fortunately, there now exists this new Internet thing with loads of multimedia hosting sites. Some of these platforms even have a sales system, allowing musicians to make some money. Some use Patreon for support. Hosting sites also help people discover these musicians. They don't have the resources the music industry has to promote acts, so they have to do it all themselves, mainly on YouTube.

    Some of these artists are classically trained musicians. Please recall the earlier comments in this thread on musicians.

    A few classically trained musicians I follow (and others I've also discovered) sell sheet music of pop/rock music they've transcribed for their instrument. When they can, they also perform live.

    One musician I've followed for years is a Ukranian classically trained pianist now living in Germany with her mother. Her father insists on staying in Ukraine, where he has a job.

    None of them are rolling in money. There's no glamour, and no fame, but you can see from their YouTube accounts that they have followers. The subscriber counts vary; some have hundreds, while others have hundreds of thousands. I think the artists you're talking about have much larger numbers, like millions to many millions, but they're the outliers. They have a vast industry to support (and exploit) them.

    107:

    classically trained musicians ... None of them are rolling in money.

    Masayuki Tayama is a pianist who lives on a canal boat and grinds away doing canal boat music tours with a piano in his boat. Oh, and also recording his way through Rachmaninoff's oeuvre. You can buy the CDs. Has a youtube channel that is worth skimming through even if (like me) you're not really into piano music.

    But the idea of a world-level classical soloist being that close to busking while also having a "proper" career is more than slightly scary.

    108:

    I'm talking about recent graduates, especially NOW that a four year degree can cost north of $100K even at a "STATE" school. Try to think about it and remember what the expectations were when you went to college? What message did society send about the relative worth of a Bachelor's Degree and a High School Diploma?

    You're talking to the wrong guy. One of my roommates from grad school is now a professional tree-trimmer, after his timber cruising career died with the rise of GIS.

    A friend of mine, who surveys rare desert plants for a living, clocked 23 km of walking today, in the desert (posted on FacePalm). A number of my former classmates do field surveys for a living, even though we're all entering middle age.

    Admittedly, I'm a sedentary nerd (thank various gods I don't have to do those desert transects any more!), but not everyone goes to school to get a corporate desk job, BS or otherwise.

    Expectations? School I went to, everyone went to college. I was lucky that way. As an undergrad and grad student, though, I got to watch a bunch of people fail out (mostly undergrads), quit (mostly grad students), or commit suicide (one roommate). I'd suggest that, like Robert Prior, I might have a bit of knowledge about expectations and realities of college?

    109:

    A geologist I went to uni with has posted here on occasion. At one stage I think his professional work involved a mule and random bits of Chile. I suspect the adjective is "trudging" but I wouldn't want to put words in his mouth...

    https://www.antipope.org/mt/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=1&id=6693

    110:

    A geologist I went to uni with has posted here on occasion. At one stage I think his professional work involved a mule and random bits of Chile. I suspect the adjective is "trudging" but I wouldn't want to put words in his mouth...

    Trudging may be the accurate verb. However, "systematically surveying in a stratified random fashion" would better justify the mule as a line item in the grant.

    Code switching is a key academic skill after all.

    111:

    103 - Reasons why MtW is no longer a satirical show include Bloody Stupid Johnson, Demonic Raab, Rishi Rich, Liz 4x2, Kier Stammers...

    107 - Go to YouTube and search for Boogie Woogie. Then look for artists like Ladyva and Dr K.

    112:

    In the OP OGH wrote:

    The UK arts sector includes film, media, computer games, and music: it's one of the UK's most profitable export industries. For every £1 of government money going into it, roughly £5 in foreign earnings comes back.

    On the other hand Martin Rogers @ 106 wrote:

    Only an extreme minority of musicians make a lot of money. [...]

    Its one of those long tail things where a substantial fraction of the money goes to the outliers. One of the oddities of such distributions is that the average is pretty difficult to find. In fact, some such distributions don't have an average.

    Intuitively, think about taking a sample of such a distribution. You pick 10 random musicians, and of course you can find an average of their income. But then you notice that a quarter of the total income came from just one musician; if your sample hadn't happened to include them then your average would have been a lot less. So you expand your survey to 100 musicians, hoping to get a more representative sample. But then the same thing happens: one of those musicians is an outlier who earns more than the bottom half of your entire sample put together. So you go for 1,000 musicians; same thing. As your sample size increases, so does the probability of including some outlier big enough to significantly change your average. Which is part of the reason why income statistics concentrate on the median (i.e. sort into order and take the one in the middle of the list) rather than the mean (add up and divide by the number).

    This matters here because Sunak wants to limit degrees based on the income of graduates: if degree holders have low average income then, from a purely financial point of view, there isn't any point in investing money in those degrees. (Of course this ignores the non-financial value of the degree). However the expected return on such investment is, essentially, the average of the income. If the income doesn't have an average then the whole exercise becomes meaningless.

    More likely Sunak as PM will demand information about the average incomes and be given the medians, because that's what the professional statisticians at the Office for National Statistics will do. Sunak will then look at the medians and declare that therefore all these arts degrees are not worth the money because he doesn't know the difference between mean and median.

    113:

    ADDENDUM: I also have an HNC Electronics, but I'm still not allowed to work as an "Electrician" - fucking mad, isn't it?

    Off-topic: I was made to think, by a closing piece on the Commonwealth Games, today. (!)
    Now, you know my views on compulsory spurts & "games", but they were interviewing Tom Daley, about anti-LGBT prejudice { As well as horrendous legal penalties } in this area. Euw.
    And, well done Mr Daley.
    .... Which links back to Florida & it's non-education system.
    How would Florida & it's foaming Repugnats react to Tom D, I wonder, in a major sporting event?
    Could be "interesting"

    Paws
    😈

    114:

    (Damn, hit submit and then realised I hadn't finished. Continuing 112)

    Of course capitalists know about this; the whole Venture Capital industry is based on the idea of investing in lots of failures because the [one unicorn pays for the rest]. So perhaps instead of student loans for the arts, we'll see student shares: we'll pay for your degree in return for 1% of your lifetime earnings. Most of the students won't ever make enough to make that worth while, but a few will become literal rock stars and pay for all the rest.

    I'm still trying to decide if that would be a good thing.

    115:

    The other thing is that for most of us unless you're mentoring or have a suitably aged young adult around, our views on University Education are woefully out of date. What and how they teach is wildly different compared to even 10 years ago.

    My university, which I graduated from some 20ish years ago has roughly doubled in number of FTE students, from 22000 to 43000. And they're still looking for more - undergraduate education is their primary income stream, and accounts for 90% of graduates.

    So assuming 38000 undergrads doing the traditional 7 papers a year at ~1k per paper, that's $270m in fees alone, vs 185m public sector research income and 18m private sector.

    That very much is a factory definition of education. Bums on seats comfortably beats research.
    Oh, and it's all taught by just 2500 academic staff, the remaining 3500 are classed as "professional" and are largely middle management.

    116:

    I'm still trying to decide if that would be a good thing.

    Ultimately, this repayment method is essentially what UBI and especially the negative taxation implementation of UBI does, just for all industries. The actual cost of simply funding all the education* as much as it can usefully be funded ought to be pretty insignificant in the scheme of things when the system is set up so that no-one is too poor to participate.

    * With some sanity checks. When the only filter is "the market", you get some egregiously bad things passing themselves off as education.

    117:

    And again. Sorry. The one unicorn pays for the rest link is about the companies invested in by Y Combinator. It includes a really neat pie chart of their values. The average value would be a lot less if it didn't happen to include AirBnB.

    118:

    My daughter is in the last semester of an arts degree. My brother has an MSc and is in the first year of a teaching degree (which he's doing in his 50's because he's mad). He sends me his assignments to proof read.

    I can't disagree with anything Charlie has said. In fact I wish I could convey it to my brother (Lord knows I've tried). He keeps arguing with his teachers (in writing, he keeps a record of everything). He's right. Always right. Except that what he cannot digest is that he's being trained to follow orders no matter how stupid. He keeps pointing out to the staff that the orders are stupid, and explains why in excruciating detail. All this is getting him is complaints lodged against him by the staff. (did I mention he's mad?)

    119:

    A few points: It is really worthwhile following Matt Read's blog over at https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/confessions-community-college-dean to understand the pressures that the US Community College system is under. For instance the demand that they offer more vocational courses without any acknowledgment that smaller classes, specialized equipment and people all cost more than filling a lecture hall with 200 people for an English course.

    He also states that he wanted to be a lawyer until a couple of weeks in a law office woke him to the day-to-day reality.

    As has been stated on this blog before, the problem is of resource allocation: How do people at a young age find the careers most suited to them? The careers advice in most schools tends to be limited to a single 15 minute interview. Has any systematic work been done to improve on this? What seems to happen at present is that developing minds are imprisoned in the school system receiving an "education" that is of no interest to them, simply to keep the youth unemployment figures down.

    Apprenticeships have been mentioned, but they are far more limited than they were. In the early 1980's there was a MOD organisation called "Aquila" that was responsible for stress testing equipment before procurement. They had a large apprentice school, and it was made clear that most apprentices would pass their training but not join the organisation. The place was run to deliberately produce a supply of trained people for the local employers. This was seen as an unnecessary expense at privatization and was shut down.

    In my industry there have been cases of apprentices recruited at age 16 going on to very senior levels in the company, but I think the mechanisms for that have broken as the company fragmented after privatisation. I certainly think that more effort could have been made to sell this route to a debt-free degree.

    Frankly I would let people leave school at 14, with the ability to get 10 years of fully state supported education as and when they feel ready for it and know what they want.

    120:

    @100 "Since we're trashing HR (or whatever they call themselves this week)"

    In the case of my employer, "The People Team". Really.

    However, having said that, they are really good people who have helped me through some really bad events in the last three years.

    121:

    I loved reading both Vols 2 & 3. I may be unusual. I only read half of Vol 1 as the maths in the first half was beyond me at the time. I expect most of it still is. However, I can now appreciate the need for a firm basis on which to read everything else in the series.

    I think I chose my words poorly. I meant "unloved" in the sense of least used. I find occasion to refer to volumes 1 and 3 at least 3 or 4 times per year but in 20 years I haven't used anything from volume 2 in anger. Probably just an artifact of my career path but that's my experience. I doubt I will use much from volume 4[abcx] either but I'm still reading them.

    To those fans of libraries, I agree that they are great. 99% of the time it is a serious mistake to try to reinvent the wheel. That 1% of occasions when you need something really tuned or weird is when the books come out, and it can make a real difference.

    122:

    @111 "103 - Reasons why MtW is no longer a satirical show include Bloody Stupid Johnson, Demonic Raab, Rishi Rich, Liz 4x2, Kier Stammers..."

    "Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize." - Tom Lehrer, about 1973.

    [N.B. this was a joke on his part; it's not why he stopped writing.]

    123:

    As has been stated on this blog before, the problem is of resource allocation: How do people at a young age find the careers most suited to them?

    As much as I can gather, by chance, mostly.

    It was the way back in my day, and looking at the next generation seems to be the way nowadays, too.

    Though I'm starting to fight against the concept of most suited careers. Just pay everybody the UBI, make sure people can live with that and let them do intereting things. We need some people to take care of growing food and maintaining a lot of stuff, but I think enough people would like to do that, too, so we'd not starve. (Also, pay the people doing enough that they feel like doing it.)

    Basically I'd like to get rid of careers like 'investment banking' or 'making printers unusable', which some people apparently choose even nowadays.

    124:

    "Many can "earn" a four year degree and still be fuckin' idiots."

    Where do you think middle management comes from? Ours is populated with people who were crap at "the job", but first rate at schmoozing the Group Leader.

    The conversation about apprenticeships is fun too. In 1990 the organisation I worked for was privatised and their research arm vanished - so I became redundant after having finally reaching UK expert level. I mentioned it to a friend who was a plumber and he offered me a position as his apprentice. He pointed out that, he was earning more in 6 months than I did in a year and he would retire earlier than me.

    He was right. He retired 10 years ago, lives in a spectacular house and spends half the year on cruises... I've still never achieved his 1995 salary.

    The main benefit of the degrees I did has been that I have rarely been bored at work. Having worked as a student in kitchens, offices and factories I can say I consider that a big win - but a salary that more comfortably covered the bills would have been nice.

    125:

    making printers unusable

    just inkjets, or all of them?

    126:

    He was right. He retired 10 years ago, lives in a spectacular house and spends half the year on cruises... I've still never achieved his 1995 salary.

    wish i'd been open to considering plumbing when i was thinking about careers, they were coining it for years, i heard polish ones were undercutting them 20 years or so ago but perhaps brexit has smiled upon them

    127:

    But they had something now lacking.

    And yet even a gap year doing not much of anything allows the brain to develop a bit more, especially in the capacity for abstract reasoning (which tends to be important in academia).

    Back in the 90s I took a group of students to Waterloo for a computer science conference*. (Back in the days when we could do such things with only the principal's permission.) Got a campus tour from one of the profs organizing the conference, who was impressed that high school students had attended. Pulled the Dean out of a meeting to chat with the kids and give part of the tour.

    Discovered when chatting with the Dean that they counted taking a gap year as equivalent to an extra 10-20% on a student's average, based on chances of successfully completing their degree. Older students, even older by one year, tended to do better in classes and didn't go off the rails dealing with campus life.

    Whether it was the extra brain development or a chance to reflect on what they wanted so were more motivated, his data showed that a gap year out of school helped.


    *Waterloo being the place to study computer science in Canada. Back then Microsoft had standing job offers to virtually the entire graduating class.

    128:

    More likely Sunak as PM will demand information about the average incomes

    and then use it as a reason to do what he wants to do anyway, no matter what the numbers show?

    129:

    I also have an HNC Electronics, but I'm still not allowed to work as an "Electrician" - fucking mad, isn't it?

    Not necessarily. I worked with electrical engineers who were banned from the lab by the electronics techs, because replacing the equipment was expensive. Being good at the theory doesn't mean you're good at the practical bits.

    Come to that, my third-year lab partner in electrical engineering was an electrician, coming back to school in his 30s so he could get promoted at the mine. Lots of interesting stories of working with electrical machines (where low-voltage was anything under 25kV). He knew more than the profs in some areas, and at least once prevented serious injury or death.

    130:

    I once saw an advertisement for 'supercomputing' support that required the applicant to be an expert on Fortran, C++ (*), share-memory parallelism, distributed memory parallelism and a few other comparably specialist skills. I didn't know anyone else in the UK who was even remotely qualified, and it was at 2/3 my salary.

    (*) It is difficult to describe just how much non-overlap there is between those communities.

    131:

    When the only filter is "the market", you get some egregiously bad things passing themselves off as education.

    Decades ago I remember reading an article in the Vancouver Sun* about student loans, and how the interest rate on a student loan was worse than that to open a new restaurant even though most restaurants fail and most student loans are repaid. According to the numbers the reporter had, student loans to student going to public colleges and universities were the most secure loans in Canada, with nearly no defaults. Even when you included dodgy (fraudulent) loans for private colleges**, student loan default rates were lower than that for business loans, and yet business loans were given better rates.

    South of the border there seems to be a whole ecosystem of dodgy private institutions that exist to get the money the federal government loans students, while providing not much in return and leaving students in debt that can't be discharged by bankruptcy.


    *Which is not affiliated with the tabloid Sun chain of papers.

    **Such as loans for incarcerated prisoners to 'attend' cosmetic classes.

    132:

    He knew more than the profs in some areas, and at least once prevented serious injury or death.

    I think that Charlie wrote about that guy in his first Laundry Files book.

    Wasn't he at some training class (that he could have taught) and some bloody idiot did something foolish with a summoning grid?

    133:

    an expert on Fortran, C++ ()*

    I already don't know anyone who fits the requested skill set!

    134:

    What your brother probably doesn't realize is that the staff he's arguing with have very little discretion and are just passing along their orders. Making exceptions or changing those orders will cost them their jobs. He needs to be arguing with people higher up the food chain.

    If your universities are like our's, most of the staff are likely sessional not tenured, and so have little role in program planning and no role in policies. They are effectively 'at-will' employees who get hired by the course with no guarantee that they will be hired next session (even if it's a course they've taught for years). Not following department policy is the kiss of death for sessionals, so they will stick to the policies.

    Even if they have a limited amount of discretion, using it requires lots of documentation and opens them up to charges of favouritism/bias/etc so posteriors must be covered.

    Even if the staff have more discretion, the extra work required to use it may well drive those who disagree with the policies away, so your brother is left with the ones who at minimum don't mind the policies enough to fight them.

    135:

    Fortran, C++: (*) It is difficult to describe just how much non-overlap there is between those communities.

    Hey, when I was doing sciency stuff, I worked with both Fortran and C++! Fortran because it was used for some simulation stuff I needed to run, and C++ because I knew it and wrote much of my stuff in it.

    I haven't used Fortran since leaving that job, and C++ I think I last used in anger in 2012, so I'm not an expert in either, if I ever was. (Might make a slight case for that C++, ten years ago.)

    Nowadays I'd probably use either Fortran, Python with NumPy, or R for the data analysis - not sure, haven't needed to do any of that in a long, long time, and everything would start with researching on what to use and what is in common use in the field I would be in.

    136:

    He should understand. He's been in academia long enough.

    I'll try mentioning it to him. He's got problems modelling others' thoughts and motivations, but he might get it explained like that. Thanks.

    137:

    For instance the demand that they offer more vocational courses without any acknowledgment that smaller classes, specialized equipment and people all cost more than filling a lecture hall with 200 people for an English course.

    And insurance.

    138:

    an expert on Fortran, C++ (*), share-memory parallelism, distributed memory parallelism and a few other comparably specialist skills

    Two thoughts --

    1) this was an advert targetted at an internal applicant, someone the manager wanted to promote or just give another two-year contract to but due to regs they had to make the offer open to all comers. Specifying an apparently odd set of requirements keeps the outsiders away.

    2) Knowing Fortran is pretty much a Masonic handshake for anyone doing number-crunching on supers, if only to maintain and support decades-old programs and libraries. Knowing C++ means the applicant can write the wrappers for the Fortran libraries to make them actually do stuff, pipe data in and out of structured databases etc. and display results in human-readable form rather than printf to boxes of green-lined fan-fold paper.

    139:

    A few thoughts.

  • Under the previous conservative administration, the Australian government recently performed a hack-and-slash of university funding and fee structuring to promote "useful" degrees. It was so haphazard that you got a sense that targets were chosen by throwing darts at the wall. For example, clinical psychology fees were cut but fees for a bachelor of psychology were raised, which you need to get into clinical psychology in the first place. Meanwhile, the fees for engineering were cut, but no extra funding was allocated to accommodate extra places. And, of course, fees for arts degrees were hiked up. I'm at least impressed that Sunak has a game-plan beyond "arts bad, science good".

  • Arts degrees are pretty useful, though. I've had quite a varied career, and at every point I've been able to draw deeply from my bachelor of history. We're just not good at talking about them. Being able to research and consolidate information from various sources and consolidate it into a coherent analysis, for example, is an invaluable skill in business and government. It's also the basis of any bachelor of arts degree, but we tend to focus on the knowledge component as if that's what the whole thing is about. But you pick up a whole more from an anthropology degree than knowledge of anthropology.

  • Incidentally, I worked as a lab assistant in a histopathology practice for a few years, and that's a job that would suit a time-traveller well. Histopathology as a whole has changed a lot over the years, but the bulk of the work is in microtomy which hasn't changed since the late 19th Century. The meat and potatoes stuff still involves taking 4-micron slices of wax-embedded tissue specimens to hematoxylin-eosin staining for pathological examination, and I suspect it's going to be another century again before the task is successfully automated.

  • 140:

    One of the problems we have as a society is an overly strict model of how you "should" live your life - the "standard" model is compulsory education until 14/16/18 (the age has been going up over time), optionally followed by more education (apprenticeship, degree, etc), followed by a career until old age, followed by retirement.

    There's two major problems with this model when it comes to education (plus other problems):

  • Not everyone is cut out to keep being educated until they start their career - plenty of people need some development time between 12 and 25 in order to get themselves into a state where they can absorb continuing education.
  • Many people make bad choices at the tail end of their compulsory education, resulting in their desired life looking more like compulsory education -> optional education -> career #1 -> optional education -> career #2 -> (repeat previous two steps as often as needed) -> retirement.
  • With this context, limiting degrees to those that support higher earnings later in life is foolish because it encourages people to make bad choices at the end of their compulsory education (degree in something that is expected to lead to earnings, not in something that leads to a fulfilling career), without preventing people from going through 5 or 10 careers in a lifetime trying to find something fulfilling.

    It's a good way to make the total cost of education go up while trying to be seen "doing something" to bring it down - actually bringing it down would require making it easier for people to spread their education out over their lifetime.

    141:

    I think that I would have known the person - in fact, I am almost sure I would. And there is a major difference between being able to use existing codes and writing simple wrappers etc., and being able to help programmers when they got stuck in their favoured language. The requirement was for the second.

    I suspect that it was a wish list, couched as requirements.

    142:

    gasdive @ 136: He's got problems modelling others' thoughts and motivations,

    In which case he's going to make a really bad teacher.

    143:

    A young acquaintance of mine has joined IBM straight out of A levels as an apprentice Project Manager. He didn't like school and didn't want to go to Uni, but did some work experience at IBM and loved it.

    From what I understand its a formal apprenticeship, and IBM (being IBM) take that seriously; he isn't just subsidised grunt labour.

    144:

    Well, getting back to The Candidate In Question (and others), he does have an interesting set of problems.

    Possibly, he's basically shilling for the super-rich, trying to set up the entire UK as an offshore financial center, and everybody who doesn't like it can shut up or leave. Except that they also need compliant workers to handle stuff, and ways to keep them firmly under control.

    Possibly he's of the opinion I heard from a wealthy acquaintance recently, that climate change is a problem for the poor, not the wealthy, because wealth insulates people from the problem. Therefore, getting as wealthy as possible is a primary survival tactic...

    Anyone who actually thinks this (and note, I have no evidence that he does) is trying to basically set up a Jim Crow-style system, where discrimination is based on economic status, not skin color, gender, or religion. In this regard "poorly paying education" might be anything that makes for less-tractable serfs. Parallels with 19th century Korea or Russia, or 16th century England might be apt.

    On the other hand, actually espousing this to one's less well-off voters might actually not work. So how to make these policies sound appealing to the voters who matter?

    Note that this take is both cynical and very hypothetical.

    The less hypothetical part is the William Gibson idea that The Street finds its own uses for things. I pointed out on the previous thread that much of US and UK politics is the Super-Rich street trying to institute in our countries practices that they've honed for the last three decades in smaller, offshore financial havens, and that some of these practices date back to US Reconstruction.

    I'd point out that this is not the only Street, and that anyone who finds this repugnant can equally make their own uses of things to oppose it.

    Finally, I'll reiterate the UK does have real problems with societal contraction, and figuring out how to support an aging and shrinking population is going to be difficult, at least without accepting in large numbers of skilled, motivated climate refugees who are willing to do the work and take their place. Speaking of another international Street, and remembering that Englishness is about culture, not genes...

    145:

    There's more to it than that, because an increasing number of people are taking early retirement because they are pissed off with their jobs and, especially, how they are treated. That is precisely what you DON'T want with an aging population! Figures 6 and 7 are particularly cogent.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-62471260

    Short of pushing the entire population into penury, so they can't afford to retire, I can't see that the candidates have a solution to that. There are solutions that would work, but they are far too socialist for New Labour, let alone the Conservatives.

    146:

    EC, did you mean this page:

    https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/articles/movementsoutofworkforthoseagedover50yearssincethestartofthecoronaviruspandemic/2022-03-14#:~:text=Economic%20inactivity%20in%20those%20aged,(Apr%20to%20June)%202020.

    If so, can you expand on what it was about figures 6 and 7 you found so revealing?

    It does occur to me that in many cases the solution is not higher pay so much as better and more flexible hours and conditions. Keynes famously predicted that by now we'd all be working a 20 hour week (from memory) because money isn't worth much if you don't have time to enjoy it. Why this hasn't happened has always been a bit of a puzzle. Perhaps this is the cultural shift towards acceptance of such an option.

    147:

    I’ve always thought the problem with higher education was basically impedance mismatch. There are at least three semi independent goals we try to solve with a single process

    1: Making better humans. I am totally convinced that advanced education in science, art, history, etc leads to a citizenry that is better able to deal with life, make informed political decisions and have a better chance if reaching self actualization. It’s something that everyone should be encouraged to do

    2: getting a job: Training for highly technical careers. There are careers that are important to society that you simply cannot do without an advanced degree and there are many others that benefit greatly from one

    3: getting a job: A filter: Degrees are a useful filter for basic competencies (like being able to tackle hard problems over an extended time duration, being able to handle math and logic, creative skills etc etc)

    The issues is these three things are only loosely related and it’s difficult to impossible to design a single system that does all three well. And we (as a society and as students) are never clear in which bucket we are in.

    If you as a student KNOW your degree satisfies 1: but not 2: or 3: that doesn’t mean you don’t do it, just that you know you need a different solution for 2: and 3:

    Society will also judge the effectiveness of its educational programs differently based on which result those programs are aimed at.

    148:

    Yes. Look at the categories of people leaving early - basically, the most skilled, and people in the care sector. Those are the most difficult ones to recruit in a hurry and, in some senses, among the most important.

    I did say "and, especially, how they are treated". It's less the aspects you mention, than the manageritis and related social diseases - I know a lot of good people who retired for that reason.

    149:

    The big deal for employers is that there is per-employee overhead: two people working 20 hours a week is more expensive than one person working 40 hours a week on the same hourly wage. All else being equal (which is not often true - the 20 hours/week part timer probably gets more done in those 20 hours than the 40 hours full timer does in 20 hours), an employer would prefer one person filling a role to two people filling it.

    Which means that there's significant institutional inertia to overcome to get jobs split up - someone has to approve the extra overhead, and that person is almost certainly measured on the overhead, not on the total cost (i.e. they would be personally better off filling 200 hours/week with 5 full time employees, or 4 employees willing to work 50 hours/week without overtime pay, than with 10 employees at 20 hours/week each, even if the 20 hours/week employees were willing to accept lower pay for the flexibility).

    Add in the cost of living crisis, which means that part time workers are less likely to be happy to take a cut in their hourly wage to do fewer hours, and you have a serious problem. This is made worse by the "generation rent" problem - the over 50s will be biased towards people who've paid off their mortgage or have secure tenancies, while the young are stuck paying private sector (insecure) rent and need to get paid enough to afford to have a mortgage, since secure tenancies are rarely offered now.

    150:

    Oh, yes. I don't expect I'll ever design and implement my own FP library. I read code like that and learned all I needed - how to call the FP routines in the ROM on my first computer.

    Nor have I ever found a need to use modular arithmetic, but I do sometimes recall what I learned from reading Knuth's "how to". So I'm always looking at number problems and asking myself, "Can I get away with only using addition and multiplication?" So far, the answer has always been, "No."

    However, I immediately found a use for the lagged Fibonacci generator at the end of the first chapter in that volume. I gave my Forth implementation and Chi test to Gil Filby who published it in the next issue of Forthwrite. This was discussed at the next Fig UK meeting, which I unfortunately missed. I still kick myself for that; I would've loved to hear what those guys had to say.

    I also had some fun using my generator to make some pretty animated patterns. I learned some important lessons from that, like properly seed your generator. Don't just use whatever "random" junk the machine puts in RAM when it powers up. Risks include: changing the code may also change the seed.

    Simple lessons like this have served me well over the years, particularly when generalised to all kinds of state, storage, data and initalisations.

    Reading a biography of John von Neumann, earlier this year, gave me an insight into the quote at the start of Knuth's chapter.

    151:

    H @ 144
    Assuming you mean Sunak, all he's doing is the same as Bo Jon-Sun { shilling for the super-rich, that is } - whereas Hyacinth Truss is appealing to the very basest instincts of the tory party membership (!)

    EC @ 145
    * people are taking early retirement because they are pissed off with their jobs and, especially, how they are treated. That is precisely what you DON'T want with an aging population!* - Give the man a Giant Suasage Voucher for that one ... absolutrly right on the nail, yet the tory party can't, or more likely won't believe or "see" it.
    ....
    Which leads to Paul @ 146, & the inevitable (to me) conclusion, that a lot of people have given up on "employment" because they really CANNOT STAND, ANY LONGER ... being ordered around by incompetent arseholes, of whom the supply seems to be unending.
    ... And we are back to EC's answer in 148, which echoes my wail about incompetent arseholes, otherwise known as "British Management".

    152:

    Um, right. Musicians. I personally know a number of them. Some haven't quit their day job, and others have to constantly push to stay near the poverty line.

    And for big names? Arlo Guthrie says that it was THIRTY YEARS before he ever saw one penny of royalties from Alice's Restaurant. Janis Ian, in '11 or so, whenever it was, ranted about the MMCA, that she made most of her money touring, and selling CDs... and her label was charging her ->$11.00<- per CD.

    153:

    Something I read back in the sixties or seventies: the better a theoretical physicist is, the further they need to be kept away from the lab. That was followed by a story from the twenties? thirties? when Heisenberg, I think, was on a train that stopped three miles away from a lab, and someone dropped an expensive piece of glassware....

    154:

    Sorry Charlie, but your assumptions and reasoning seem to not only be starting from a false strawman argument, but they're not even internally consistent.

    The strawman is the idea that 30 years wasn't enough for anything to change. Unless you're doing completely unskilled manual work like digging ditches with a spade, that hasn't been true for a very long time. To pick one really obvious example, anyone with even a casual interest in British history can draw you some kind of evolutionary plan of castle designs, and you can certainly see massive differences between 1066 and 1096. So even your average conscripted spearman couldn't take their pre-Norman experience and expect it to still be valid 30 years later. In civilian life, craftsmen grouped together to learn from each other, which developed into guilds and similar organisations. There was never a time when skilled people didn't need to keep learning the latest skills if they wanted to stay relevant. You only stopped learning when you were dead. That's as true for your 1990s CS degree as it was for a Norman spearman.

    The consistency problem is that you're criticising the idea that degrees should be relevant to jobs - but then you also criticise reducing funding for arts degrees on the grounds that "For every £1 of government money going into it, roughly £5 in foreign earnings comes back." You can't have it both ways. Either funding for arts degrees results in (some of) those graduates getting jobs in the arts which produce a net profit, or it doesn't. Basically you need to pick which half of your post you disagree with, because all of it cannot be correct based on your own postulates.

    The truth is somewhere in the middle. For any given degree, some people will go into a job which uses that degree directly; some people will go into a side field which uses the degree indirectly (as you did with your technical writing, or for that matter writing a successful series of books with a lead character being an IT guy); and some people will drop it and go off to do something completely different. You don't know ahead of time who'll fall into which group, so you can't limit numbers to only filling the first two groups. But you certainly can check whether basically all your graduates end up in the last group.

    The thing you're really missing though is the question of where funding comes from for those "low-earning degrees". Most of that comes from the students themselves, not the government. We have a major problem where universities have every incentive to lie that their courses do lead to jobs, knowing that all their ex-graduates have failed to use their degrees to get jobs. Music technology is one I'm personally familiar with. From being in touch with people actually working in that sector, we have at best double-digit numbers of jobs in the entire country, mainly in live gigs. Most of those are filled by LIPA graduates. Meantime places like Anglia Ruskin are busy putting people through their sausage machine with shiny promises about working in recording studios, knowing for 100% certain that those jobs simply don't exist. And that's even assuming the students graduate, because universities are also happy to cynically admit anyone who'll wave money at them and then flunk them out in the first or second years after they've taken their money. The university system became simply a machine for separating students from their loans.

    You're right that the economy is a factor in this, but I think it's more interesting than that. The problem is the number of loans which are government-backed. When most people got some kind of productive job after uni (because a degree was a check-list item on the way to a white-collar job), this wasn't a big deal because they'd still be able to pay off their loans. But when your economy tanks, there aren't enough jobs to go round and too many of your students can't repay the loans, and then things go wrong.

    And for a further factor in this being a non-issue for the arts, a lot of your "£1 into £5" success stories are self-taught people who didn't need tertiary arts education anyway. That's not to say that tertiary arts education isn't valuable, but it's certainly not the only way in. You didn't need a degree in creative writing to write articles for White Dwarf or to turn into a full-on career, and the Arctic Monkeys didn't need to go to the RCM. In fact, if you look at all the bands and actors who are bringing in the £5, it's possible that actually the most important modern funding source for the arts may be unemployment benefit while they build their skills. And I'm not sure how you quantify that as a cultural benefit for the country. :)

    155:

    I've had a very varied 35 year career in IT but for the last 23 years I've worked on SAP. This was across functional, technical and abap programming.

    From the current SAP education website adding up the cost of all the courses I was sent on or when they came to where I worked to train a bunch of us it comes to the grand total of £53,535 (83 days training). And I didn't have to pay a penny of it :-)

    I would admit that's todays prices and it would've been cheaper back then though not by a lot. This doesn't include the cost of food and accomodation as their training centre in the UK is near Heathrow.

    You won't get any of the above SAP training from a university.

    156:

    Yeah, I sometimes wish I had done it.

    Though getting to the end of my 3 score and 10 and thinking "What Did I Achieve?" might have been problematic.

    On the other hand asking that question during you second month in Hawaii or The Seychelles might pull the sting a little.

    157:

    The big deal for employers is that there is per-employee overhead: two people working 20 hours a week is more expensive than one person working 40 hours a week on the same hourly wage.

    Your analysis assumes a typical 5/8 work week. For resturants and other venues where the day isn't always, or ever, 8 or 10 hours, part timers can be a better deal. For both sides. There are a lot of people who want to work 10 to 30 hours per week. And employers who can deal better with those setups.

    Then, at least in the US, you have the jerk employers who only hire people at 20 to 30 hours to avoid local/state/federal laws on full time employees.

    158:

    It does occur to me that in many cases the solution is not higher pay so much as better and more flexible hours and conditions.

    Well, modern capitalism seems to have the "more flexible hours and conditions" down pat — it's just that the flexibility is all at the whim of the employer. Zero-hours contracts, for example.

    159:

    Part of the problem, I think, is that modern programming languages and their associated libraries are huge: to properly get to grips with one and learn it inside-out really takes 6-18 months of full-time employment-level engagement.

    No kidding. I could teach just about anybody the syntax of Smalltalk (which is probably the simplest of any major programming language) in less than a day. But to teach somebody how to write useful (but fairly simple) programs in Smalltalk would take at least 6 months. To learn all the class libraries necessary for a fairly sophisticated application would take well over a year, and getting a useful working knowledge of all existing class libraries (just in case, you know) would eat up much of a decade.

    160:

    I guess the unasked question is - are universities still any good for any purpose?

    On the job side everyone has been willingly pointing up how what you learn is obsolete within a decade at most. On the education for education's sake side - well, the knowledge from a Bachelors was probably obsolete before it was ever crammed into the poor student's head.

    Knowledge, as in facts, proofs, and agreeing with a lecturer's preconceptions, is both pretty useless, and better found online. Skills, capabilities, innovation - these are not to be found in a university lecture theatre at all.

    Maybe its time to shutter the place and put up an 'Under Renovation' sign?

    161:

    Real life career: until I got to be a senior programmer, we NEVER got to talk to end users, or the managers who determined what we'd do.

    I worked for a couple of years writing VBA macros for a small group using MicroStation CAD software to do stuff like mapping farm fields for taxation purposes. All of us worked in the same small office, and I'd get immediate feedback - often within minutes - on the stuff I did for them. I gave them the tools they asked for - and believe me, if they didn't like it, I heard about it right away! :-)

    It was one of the most rewarding jobs I've ever had (although VBA would never be my preferred language).

    162:

    When I dropped out of college I had enough credit hours for the degree, I just lacked 6 hours (2 semesters) credit for a foreign language.

    All I lacked was 1 semester of French when I dropped out (I picked the wrong teacher and failed it). A pox on colleges that require foreign languages...

    163:

    They are, but I'd guess you've made up your mind the other way.

    Or at least, the US experience is. It's possible that the UK version is different enough for the points to not apply, but it doesn't seem to be.

    • Knowledge adds, it rarely (these days) completely supersedes, particularly in the broad stuff you get through stuff like biology, chemistry, but also literature etc. There's new stuff I could (and in some cases, have) learned, but the stuff I did learn isn't obsolete.

    This is even true of the specialized stuff I learned - most of the psychology stuff still applies, as does the basic concepts and principles of editing video. In the latter case, the tech has changed, but the basic skills and framework have not.

    • There's a skill set of how to research, collate and present things that's useful. To some extent, you need to have these to get to university/college, but they are also acquired there.

    • -
    164:

    Go to YouTube and search for Boogie Woogie. Then look for artists like Ladyva and Dr K.

    I love Dr K, especially in some of his interesting (weird?) duets.

    I recently discovered Karolina Protsenko, an incredible 13-year-old violinist with lots of busking videos. Her videos have over 2 billion views! The following one - with almost 3 million views - is typical:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oz4FU991k1s

    But my favorite is her appearance on the Kelly Clarkson Show:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNyBGQyF0Ro

    165:

    Waterloo being the place to study computer science in Canada.

    I agree. Any place teaching Smalltalk can't be all bad! :-)

    166:

    South of the border there seems to be a whole ecosystem of dodgy private institutions that exist to get the money the federal government loans students, while providing not much in return and leaving students in debt that can't be discharged by bankruptcy.

    Trump University being a prime example of this... :-(

    167:

    the most important modern funding source for the arts may be unemployment benefit

    There's a whole lot of artists and activists who have "multiple years on the dole" as core parts of their CVs. And this is where a UBI would make a lot of sense. Society benefits hugely from people who have something to say that can't be immediately monetised, whether that's Wittgenstein, Ramanujan or Bakunin. All of whom shared an important characteristic... being wealthy enough to spend time doing what was interesting instead of working for a living.

    I've mostly managed to fund myself with part time work, but that's from being quite employable. I've printed T shirts to fund full time activism, for example. And taken a year off to work as a bike mechanic... compared to IT, being paid bike mechanic wages is a hobby (even just in economic "opportunity cost"). Time spent cycle touring was pure exchange of money for fun, but also very small amounts of money for large amounts of fun ("see Australia for $10/day")

    I really value having done those things, and I valued them at the time. That's why I did them :)

    Doing stuff like that I got to meet a whole range of people doing similar things, from people who'd built their whole lives around environmental activism (like Jill Redwood to people whove' somehow turned being hippity hoppity youfs into careers (Urthboy, the CEO of Elefant Trax (which I still can't write without laughing at the incongruity)).

    But they're the 1%, the rest have to compromise their values and find a job they can tolerate in order to do what they care about in whatever time is left. Time that is steadily being taken from them so that a tiny number of people can enjoy being insanely wealthy. It's not feudalism, but the economic structure looks eerily similar.

    168:

    The big deal for employers is that there is per-employee overhead: two people working 20 hours a week is more expensive than one person working 40 hours a week on the same hourly wage.

    But wages are only part of the deal. The 20-hours-a-week people are much less likely to have health insurance, sick pay, paid vacation, and the other perks of a full-time worker.

    Check out what travel nurses here in the U.S. have to deal with...

    169:

    The 20-hours-a-week people are much less likely to have health insurance, sick pay, paid vacation, and the other perks of a full-time worker.

    In the US, definitely. But those workers are also more likely to suffer a whole range of other adverse events enjoy a whole lot of other benefits that come from being in the US.

    In Australia they'd get all of those if they were permanent part time, and if they weren't they'd get a (25%?) pay loading to make up for it. And while minimum wage is lower than living wage almost everywhere, it's not as derisory as the US either.

    Many countries, Australia included, are fighting back against US companies efforts to bring US employment conditions here, and often also against their illegal imposition of those conditions on their workers here. It's interesting to watch the resulting tantrums from those corporations and their pet politicians, but fucking infuriating when those things are imposed via "free trade deals" and similar anti-democratic tricks.

    On that note, binding international treaties are one of the stronger arguments that there are no democratic countries left. "the will of the people" doesn't matter if what they want would break a treaty. And often they have no say in whether the treaty gets signed, let alone on what's in it.

    170:

    Another issue on whether 2 x 20 hr/wk part timers = 1 x 40 hr/wk full timer is the type of task the workers do and the nature of the part time work.

    For example, do the tasks undertaken by the worker(s) require/need a "handover" each time the part-time workers swap (or can they overlap - which may require a double up of space/facilities/tools) and if they are actually "job sharing" the same job.

    Also like the difference between "digging 1000 post holes" vs "carrying a baby to term". The former task can conceptually be split over multiple part time workers (even concurrent ones of you have multiple shovels). The latter task cannot. (This quite often also used to come up when project planning and working on task duration - i.e. whether "using the horde" or "rent a crowd" solution to shortening task duration could work).

    171:

    Fowl Play in Sydney! Scaredy Cats and Cautious Chickens Should Get Tested! Bird Brained Lead Spreaders to Blame!

    https://phys.org/news/2022-08-backyard-hens-eggs-australia-average.html

    We assessed trace metal contamination in backyard chickens and their eggs from garden soils across 55 Sydney homes. We also explored other possible sources of contamination such as animal drinking water and chicken feed.

    Our data confirmed what we had anticipated from our analysis of more than 25,000 garden samples from Australia gardens collected via the VegeSafe program. Lead is the contaminant of most concern.

    The amount of lead in the soil was significantly associated with lead concentrations in chicken blood and eggs. We found potential contamination from drinking water and commercial feed supplies in some samples but it is not a significant source of exposure.

    The good news is that my (now ex)partner found that programme or a predecessor so we had our soil tested when we bought the house. And we came out ok. Since then I've added about 5cm of woodchips and maybe 1cm of compost to all the non-building areas so that will have helped dilute whatever problem is actually there.

    But for people who haven't/can't do that, you might want to get both soil and eggs tested.

    172:

    On that note, binding international treaties are one of the stronger arguments that there are no democratic countries left. "the will of the people" doesn't matter if what they want would break a treaty. And often they have no say in whether the treaty gets signed, let alone on what's in it.

    Sometimes that's a good thing in my opinion: for example the right to request asylum is codified in international treaties. (Not that all countries honor those, but anyway better than nothing. See for example, well, Australia, or Japan on how to either put refugees into camps or not really allow them at all.)

    I think many places have people who very much would like no refugees, but for example here the parties who would like to take no refugees at all would kind of run into those treaties if they got to power.

    (Oh, and obviously here the colour of the refugees skin matters, the Ukrainians seem not to be a problem whereas 2015 refugees were a huge deal. There might be slight racism in play here.)

    173:

    I think there was a time when some treaties were positive, but as you mention with the "binding but ignored" problem, they largely reflect the will of the ruling class rather than being an expression of the popular will. There's been an increasing trend for "democratic" leaders to put what they want into a treaty, sign it, then say "oh no, we have to do this, our hands are tied" specifically because there's no popular support.

    If you want a really good example of the global problem you could look at the various climate change treaties. Both the "let's change the climate" ones that somehow are far more binding than the "maybe we should cook ourselves" ones. Far too often the latter are binding targets with no means to get there or penalties for failing.

    174:

    If you want a really good example of the global problem you could look at the various climate change treaties. Both the "let's change the climate" ones that somehow are far more binding than the "maybe we should cook ourselves" ones. Far too often the latter are binding targets with no means to get there or penalties for failing.

    I think the Atlantic may have a better culprit for climate inaction: the US Senate. If so, last week's vote is historic, if 30 fracking years late: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2022/08/senate-climate-inflation-reduction-bill-passed/671073/

    Anyway, treaties are deals, and one old-fashioned virtue is honoring one's deals. Not that the US has form for doing this, but it is something to encourage at all levels.

    175:

    (sorry, "maybe we should NOT cook ourselves". Bah!

    176:

    (sorry, "maybe we should NOT cook ourselves". Bah!

    Useful Freudian slip in its way...

    177:

    AlanD2 @ 166:

    South of the border there seems to be a whole ecosystem of dodgy private institutions that exist to get the money the federal government loans students, while providing not much in return and leaving students in debt that can't be discharged by bankruptcy.

    Trump University being a prime example of this... :-(

    Trump University was a swindle, but it was not an actual school. You couldn't get government backed loans to attend. I don't remember it offering even phony degrees.

    The Department of Education has charged several FOR PROFIT schools with fraud and cancelled $1 Billion dollars in student loan debt for 72,000 defrauded borrowers.

    More are likely to come as the Department of Education continues to investigate.

    178:

    University taught me a whole lot more than just the facts and theories of engineering. Quite aside from the fact that the first course also covered languages, philosophy, sociology, economics, along with the obvious mechanics, stress analysis, thermogoddammits, fluid mechanics, maths, more maths, still more maths, electrical stuff, electronic stuff (pretty basic in that far off era) , software engineering.. and probably more maths, there was the whole being an adult coping with real life thing. Working with people to achieve project goals even when it’s not a group of friends. You know, all that crap that is so very obviously missing in al lithe jackasses involved in politics these days. Then the art college masters taught a whole load more about thinking, collaborating to achieve aims, handling business, law, planning, ethics.. oh, and of course technique and style and taste and stuff. I suppose there is some irony in the fact that much of my career has had nothing to do with the “core” subjects I studied but the basic attitude of engineering as a way to solve and fix and improve has been central to everything.

    It created a grownup. Yes, other paths can do that too, and for some people probably better. The world is a very slightly better place because I got to go to uni twice.

    179:

    The last couple of days I've been thinking about this blog entry and Cory Doctorow's piece about printers. I think much of the careers thought of 'worth it' are basically enablers for the really cool stuff. I mean that in many cases the thing built is not the point - for example the new NASA Space Telescope is a pretty nifty engineering feat, but it wasn't built just to show that it can be done, rather than get cool pictures and spectrographs, and maybe let us figure out something new and cool about the universe.

    This is of course not clear-cut. See for example how many people want to have a certain phone with the socially valuable features, even if they never use them, but in many cases the value of a thing is what it can be used for. Nobody really wants to have for example plumbing or electricity just for the sake of it but how they make things better and easier. I work broadly in computer security and a long time ago I realized that nobody wants to pay for what I'm doing (various things over the years), but they need to (with certain values of need) pay to be able to do the things they want to do with their computer systems.

    Going back to that Doctorow piece, I think that jobs can broadly be divided into 'enabler' and 'disabler' jobs, looking at the big picture. This is of course a simplification, but building for example a painting software or a blog framework enables people to create stuff, whereas developing printers which just stop printing after a certain number of pages disables people's ability to create stuff. I know why those disabling jobs are done: the companies are optimizing their income without considering the society as a whole, and I don't have a workable solution for that here.

    What I'm getting at in this long post is that one could think that the 'unproductive' careers of humanities, arts, literature, history, general science, you name it, are the most important things to do. Everything else is just enabling those. Even billionaires probably do something for fun and perhaps even read books, watch AV series and enjoy art.

    Of course the borders are not strict here, 'art' can be many things and just building cool things is fun in itself. Still I think we as a whole place too much value on just doing things to collect money instead of thinking a bit farther ahead. Kind of reminds me of the Soviet economy of producing wholly unnecessary stuff and cooking the numbers in addition.

    180:

    I think the Atlantic may have a better culprit for climate inaction: the US Senate.

    Many countries who are not the USA do stuff all the time that isn't affected by whether or not the US Senate wants them to. Often global stuff. I mean, we have the ICC in complete defiance of not just the US Senate but the US government as a whole, accurately representing the will of most USAians when so doing. The whole idea of stringing up one of the Abu Ghraib offenders next to Saddam Hussein is repugnant to you, let alone even suggesting that perhaps Bush the Lesser should be substituted for whatever minion got appointed scapegoat.

    So there's every reason to expect that if even a little country actually wanted action on climate or environment more generally, they could do that. Aotearoa keeps trying to make its fisheries more sustainable (actively opposed by most of their fishing industry, admittedly) despite the problem being global.

    If a government wanted to they could just sign up to one of the climate conferences, come home and pass legislation making it so. That would have consequences ranging from international trade to local discontent, I'm sure. But Australia somehow managed to survive multiple millions of people marching in the streets to oppose the invasion of Iraq, so I'm guessing that even opposition of that scale to "zero net emissions by 2000" would have resulted in similar shoulder-shrugging and sighs of "but what can we do" from the government. But it would require the level of multipartisanship we saw with Iraq if it was going to stick.

    181:

    Moz
    "The Boss" has had to explain, several times, to US companies wanting to employ people here, &/or set up subsidiaries that the usual US exploitation of workers, regarding hours, holidays & pay levels - simply will not work. { Oh, & the anti-discrimination rules, too ... }
    Alternatively, have a "nice time" with UK government employment legislation, idiots!
    She has had to repeat it several times to one or two of those who STILL don't get the message that the USA is not the planet.

    • @ 180 - which specific "ICC" were you thinking of, here, please?
    182:

    The analysis holds for as long as part timers are paid the same (including benefits) as full-timers, even if you cut full-time benefits down to nothing and just pay everyone hourly.

    Indeed, from the employer's perspective, one person working 80 hours a week is cheaper than 2 people working 40 hours per week (since you only have one set of payroll, holiday etc to manage) - and for things like warehouse work, as long as they don't make mistakes, it's all win for the employer.

    The problem the employer faces is twofold:

  • People can't work more than a certain amount of time per week and sustain productivity. The limit varies by job, with an unbreakable hard limit of 168 hours per week, leaving no time to sleep.
  • There simply aren't enough people willing to devote their time to work at the expense of the rest of their lives.
  • The first is something they're used to - the second is recurring for this generation (it happened before, as we went from a standard 72 hour week to the current 40 hour standard) as the demographics shift and they're depending more on older workers who have the option to retire now (at a cost to their quality of life) rather than continue working. Employers now have to trade off their own costs against what employees will accept - and that means that approximations that used to be OK (like using overhead per unit income to assess whether you're employing efficient levels of workers) are no longer OK.

    183:

    Just FYI but in the UK it's not necessarily cheaper to employ one 40hr worker as opposed to 2 20hr workers due to the employer's NI and pension contributions which are payable on marginal pay above the relevant thresholds. Splitting the 40hr worker's pay across two employments doubles the benefit of those thresholds / allowances.

    e.g. paying £12/hr for 40hrs/wk gives a gross pay of £2,080/mth but costs the employer roughly £2,326/mth with those additional contributions.

    Paying £12//hr for 20hrs/wk twice still obviously gives a gross of £2,080/mth but now costs the employer a total of £2,196/mth, i.e. saving them £130/mth.

    Holiday would typically be the statutory 5.6wks but that 5.6wks of that employee's working week so the holiday pay cost to the employer is the same in both cases.

    Obviously this doesn't negate the other problems people have pointed out, but in many cases there is still a financial incentive for the employer to split the role across multiple employees.

    I actually run a payroll company advising clients on issues like this and also employ 20 staff. It's always been our preference to employ people for 20-30hrs/wk as this reduces our costs compared to fewer full-timers and gives us and the staff greater flexibility to vary hours during busy periods and around school holidays (most of our staff have kids).

    184:

    Paul said: In which case he's going to make a really bad teacher.

    I find it difficult to think of anyone I've ever met who would be worse.

    He wasn't a bad university lecturer. Though I suspect that his students found it to be like drinking from a firehose. He used to do things like lecturing in a rapid fire stream, while drawing a diagram with one hand and labelling the diagram with the other while facing away from the class for much of the lecture.

    185:

    I was thinking the criminal one, but the (building) code council no doubt also offends them, and the chamber of commerce is more plausible than the cricket council. I suspect the Invercargill City Council gets on their tits just because it's local and government but not properly subservient to the US Senate...

    186:

    He used to do things like lecturing in a rapid fire stream, while drawing a diagram with one hand and labelling the diagram with the other while facing away from the class for much of the lecture.

    I had a Calculus class (Calc IV, 2nd yr, 2nd semester) where we had a fellow from India or nearby. (It mattered.) He talked in a quiet voice with his accent. Always facing the board. So no real chance to ask questions. I was lucky that I had a study group where we could trade notes as to what he actually said as our notes were mostly just copies of what he was continuously writing on the board.

    187:

    Just did my morning quick skim of news headlines:

    -war -pandemics -droughts -fires -floods -food & mfg supply chain issues -medical staff burnout -global shortages of meds (epidurals is the latest), etc.

    I'm not sure whether or how any of the Western countries' current educational systems are addressing any of this systemic problem escalation. Yeah, I know we've got some learned/trained specialists in all these fields but as these headlines show - the problem is that everyone (not just specialists) is affected.

    My belief is that education should meet both personal and societal needs. I also believe that education is a life-long process - emphasis on 'process'. Because of these beliefs, I feel that education must be free, and accessible - physically, emotionally and cognitively as in different developmental/intellectual levels, and reflect/address ongoing social/environmental changes. I also believe that knowledge (stored education) is the single most transportable, durable and tradeable asset/commodity anyone can have.

    IMO, the best education teaches and provides tool kits on how to assess and adapt. And SF (part of 'The Arts') has been a major contributor in helping people spot and assess situations that might arise and give it some serious thinking and maybe even preventative planning/action.

    Basically - it's not just about jobs as in computers/programming languages, 'The Arts' or office/biz skills. If we keep the conversation focused exclusively on these areas, some people might think that everything else is okay. Well, everything else is NOT okay.

    188:

    Nobody really wants to have for example plumbing or electricity just for the sake of it but how they make things better and easier.

    If you think about it, that is also true of MONEY. Money is worthless by itself, its usefulness lies in what you can exchange it for. I tend to bring this up with people who ask me "Why would you want higher taxes?" (or some variation thereof). I point out that the primary use of my bank account at the end of a year is emergency funds for emergencies, and if my taxes make it possible for the government to prevent or mitigate such emergencies, then I do not actually need the money.

    This really messes with some people's heads.

    189:

    we have the ICC in complete defiance of not just the US Senate but the US government as a whole, accurately representing the will of most USAians when so doing. The whole idea of stringing up one of the Abu Ghraib offenders next to Saddam Hussein is repugnant to you, let alone even suggesting that perhaps Bush the Lesser should be substituted for whatever minion got appointed scapegoat.

    That's a pretty confusing sentence. Who is "you" here? I doubt it is addressed to Heteromeles; I am fairly sure "the whole idea of stringing up one of the Abu Ghraib offenders" is not repugnant to him. OTOH, if you are saying the idea if repugnant to USAians in general, then you contradict your previous sentence: it DOES NOT represent the will of American people.

    190:

    Aotearoa keeps trying to make its fisheries more sustainable (actively opposed by most of their fishing industry, admittedly)

    Heh. That's literally what I do for a living. I also live in a fishing town, and just tell my neighbors that I am a computer programmer. I don't want my car vandalized, or worse.

    191:

    If you think about it, that is also true of MONEY. Money is worthless by itself, its usefulness lies in what you can exchange it for.

    Oh, yes. Money is just a way of keeping track of debt.

    Somewhere years ago I read about the change from making stuff to making money which happened maybe 50-60 years ago. It's kind of embedded in companies in that their stated (and the legally mandatory!) purpose is making money instead of making whatever the company makes.

    Though on the other hand we basically just need to make less stuff, or rather, use up less resources, so just pivoting from making money to making Stuff is not going to save us. ;)

    192:

    David L said . I was lucky that I had a study group where we could trade notes as to what he actually said

    Yeah, the lectures were probably difficult to follow, but he'd then have an after lecture discussion with as many students as wanted to stay back. They all worshiped him. So, as I said, not a bad lecturer.

    I think he's got a slightly warped sense of high-school though. He worked as the, I guess you'd say "Sysadmin" or general computer dogs body, at a school set up to teach Chinese students in English. None of the students were allowed to speak anything but English, and none of the teachers could speak anything but English. So full immersion.

    So being the kind of guy he is, he taught himself to write legibly and speak pretty fluent Mandarin and spoke to all the kids in Mandarin. So again, they all worshiped him, and he didn't have to maintain control or punish anyone. Meanwhile he thought all the teachers were idiots, but they were all paid twice what he was paid.

    I suspect he wants to get his teaching degree to get back at them somehow. Which is unhinged, but, as I said, he's quite mad.

    193:

    SFR
    To add to the lunacy, thanks top fucking Andrew Wakefield & subsequent idiot panics We have Polio loose in London
    Words fail me.

    194:

    Greg said: a lot of people have given up on "employment" because they really CANNOT STAND, ANY LONGER ... being ordered around by incompetent arseholes

    I packed it in at 51. I literally thought to myself "I'm too old for this shit" as I was being ordered back to work during my break because they were busy due to not rostering on enough staff. I looked at my finances, decided it was a close run thing, but I could make it work if I gave up a few things, and put in for a redundancy.

    195:

    While I'm generally in agreement with Charlie, I have to completely disagree with "And today, a 1990 CS degree is about as useful in the CS workplace as a 1923 aerospace engineering degree (if such a thing existed)." I started my university education in Computer Science in 1976. I haven't (quite) retired yet, and there's nothing in the CS component of that degree program that hasn't been useful, and doesn't still remain useful (No, I don't still program in COBOL or FORTRAN [in fact, I've never professionally used FORTRAN], but the process of learning numerous languages has remained valuable). The things I learned about thinking and designing are still completely relevant. Now, that CS education was in the framework of a Mathematics degree, and while maths is unchanging, there's none of that that I ever used except Logic and, surprisingly, trigonometry.

    196:

    An economy’s productivity rises as the number of educated workers increases since skilled workers can perform tasks more efficiently. I don't necessarily think it is the case, however, that those workers needed a degree in their field of employment in order to experience that efficiency. I think that the larger social and economic benefits of a more educated workforce depend as much on the soft cognitive and social skills that are learned, as much as on the vocational ones. These skills are almost impossible to measure, however, and so they are very rarely directly compensated. Therefore, the most valuable benefits to society are those less directly connected to employment compensation, a fact that must confuse and confound conservative politicians.

    The idea, I would have to assume, is that taxpayer money is being used to subsidize higher education, and therefore the public has a right to expect a return on their investment. For various reasons, conservatives cannot point to collective benefits as a reason to justify taxes, and so the compensation that the student earns after graduation is being used as a rough metric for the value of the degree. Which is an odd argument to make, even on it's own merits, as it isn't the public that is earning the compensation, but the future employee.

    Regardless of that, limiting degrees to those that earn more than the money that went into subsidizing the education isn't necessarily entirely unreasonable, provided that you include all benefits, direct and indirect.

    197:

    Somewhere years ago I read about the change from making stuff to making money which happened maybe 50-60 years ago. It's kind of embedded in companies in that their stated (and the legally mandatory!) purpose is making money instead of making whatever the company makes. Though on the other hand we basically just need to make less stuff, or rather, use up less resources, so just pivoting from making money to making Stuff is not going to save us. ;)

    It's worth remembering that the prime example of how to be a corporation was....the Roman Empire. It started in Italy, absorbed its competitors, ran as a growth concern (grow, enslave, let the children and grandchildren of slaves become citizen, grow, massacre, repeat) until that didn't work any more, after about 600-700ish years, with a shift from a Board of Directors dominated management style to a CEO-driven style around 450 years in. Then they hit the limits of acquisition, and after trying to be steady-state for a century or two, that didn't work, because the world had changed. So what did they do? Relocated headquarters (from Rome to Constantinople), changed corporate culture (polytheism to Christianity), operating language (Latin to Greek), spun off all the corrupt and underperforming divisions (we know these as Rome and the western imperial provinces), changed the mergers and acquistions division (the Roman legions) to a dispersed security and property management system (their feudal system), and thereby kept going on a gradually diminishing scale for another thousand years, until they got bought up in a hostile takeover from one of their former subcontractors (Islam).

    IMHO, if capitalism is going to survive, it's going to do a Rome and become something that we'd have trouble recognizing, possibly within our lifetimes. To me, this is okay. If American churches can worship guns and Mammon and call them God's power and the Holy Spirit, anything is possible, no? Rome is an example, one that's either good or bad depending on your viewpoint

    A possible drastic change I see coming (wacko pontification warning) has to do with the fundamental problem of our economy running on alienation--stuff is worth nothing in our economy until it is taken from nature. Stuff has value only when someone exploits it, and someone else buys whatever got exploited, whether it's a picture of a koala in a nature reserve, or a ton of coal from a mine.

    We're now at a point where, to grow the economy, we'll have to alienate critical parts of the biosphere systems that make civilization possible. This is the Apocalypse of Mammon that we're struggling with right now, in a real sense. We're so entrapped in economic thinking, based as it is on alienation, that it's hard to create an alternative. Mostly I think we're hoping someone will survive the breakdown and go back to (NOT BARTER) but a "more natural way of living" (Barter seems to have emerged after money, and millennia after trading on credit without money). This is the standard apocalypse/dystopia thing.

    If you want my nominee for what follows alienation in Capitalism version next, it's renaturalization, where a functional biosphere has more value than anything alienated from it. One way to think of this is as "building natural capital." Natural capital is the fundamental systems we need to live (Stable atmospheric chemistry, clean water, productive farmland, ability to recycle urban crap into useful materials). If you're a good capitalist, you don't use up the capital that you have, you live off the surplus it generates.

    This is actually what most people did up until a few centuries ago. The problem always is, a system rich in natural capital often attracts expansionistic raiders who build their empires by looting the natural capital others have built up. Rome and western colonial empires are scarcely alone in doing this, it's a fundamental trait of imperialism. We can only hope that, if and as technology diffuses and surplus energy dwindles, the world becomes technologically flat, expansionistic raiding becomes difficult to impossible, and people build up natural capital in their own countries because, well, it's that, starve, or die of thirst. Trade will inevitably continue (shipping food can be cheaper than fighting off desperate migrants), but at a much lower scale.

    Anyway, it's not 300 yet, so I've got to add in the mandatory education component: how the heck do you education the best and brightest to deal with the kind of thing I just described? To what degree do you train them in post-apocalyptic survival skills, and to what degree do you give them LSD and business management and finance courses in equal measure? (/end wacko pontification)

    198:

    Thanks for adding that Charlie. I was ready to turn on the flamethrower. "Diversity consultants" and "health and wellbeing managers" are a vital part of what can make us truly egalitarian. There's absolutely no down-side to being labeled an SJW!

    199:

    Re: '.. if my taxes make it possible for the government to prevent or mitigate such emergencies, then I do not actually need the money.'

    Agree!

    Update on China's infrastructure and economy ...

    Oops! Spoke too soon about China's comparatively healthier infrastructure (thus economy)! Per below article, China's real estate took a massive hit (down over 40% vs. year ago) and because folks there don't revere financial institutions to the same extent as Westerners do, they're telling banks/builders to put up or eff off.

    Interesting - if Xi bails out the financiers/builders, he's telling the populace that they don't matter.

    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-62402961

    200:

    We have Polio loose in London

    It's here in New York City, too. Only a few cases so far, but most people have mild / no symptoms, so who knows? I hope our anti-vaxxers don't jump on this...

    201:

    An economy’s productivity rises as the number of educated workers increases since skilled workers can perform tasks more efficiently.

    This is only true if those educated workers can (1) find jobs, and (2) those jobs require skills. With increasing automation, neither of these can be guaranteed.

    Here in the U.S., the skilled workers we need most tend to be those like electricians, plumbers, and auto repairs - not skills that are typically taught in universities.

    202:

    ilya187 @ 189:

    The only complaint I have about them "stringing up the Abu Ghraib offenders" is THEY only went after the enlisted personnel who were stupid enough to obey illegal orders they were given (plus one Army Reserve FEMALE Brigadier General who was only nominally in charge of them got demoted) ...

    All the civilian contractors and the 2 star & 3 star generals and DoD/Homeland Security/CIA officials who were GIVING those illegal orders got off scot-free.

    203:

    DeMarquis @ 196:

    An economy’s productivity rises as the number of educated workers increases since skilled workers can perform tasks more efficiently. I don't necessarily think it is the case, however, that those workers needed a degree in their field of employment in order to experience that efficiency.

    Unfortunately, our society appears to have evolved in the direction where in many fields a minimum of a 4-year degree is required to get a foot in the door, whether it is needed or not to actually do the work.

    I too believe the purpose of education should be learning how to learn (for a lifetime), with a secondary (and maybe it should be primary) purpose of teaching how to reason; how to THINK CLEARLY.

    But that's not how it works any more (if it ever did). The purpose of "higher education" now appears to be enriching university administrators.

    204:

    AlanD2 @ 200:

    We have Polio loose in London

    It's here in New York City, too. Only a few cases so far, but most people have mild / no symptoms, so who knows? I hope our anti-vaxxers don't jump on this...

    I was vaccinated as a child - first the Salk vaccine injection. I don't remember how many shots I got; however many the Pediatrician told my parents I should get when it first became widely available in 1955.

    Then when the oral Sabin vaccine became available I got whatever dose was prescribed for "Sabin Sunday" (went across the street from church to the elementary school I attended and lined up with everyone else from all the other churches in the neighborhood) ... so 62 years ago?

    I've been wondering recently how long the immunity lasts, given that Covid immunity appears to fade fairly rapidly ... are those of us who were vaccinated so long ago going to need another dose?

    205:

    Where are we going, and how did we get into this hand-basket?

    206:

    Sorry, I disagree, in spite of all the trouble I had with language. Esp. in the US, as opposed to the EU, where I unde4rstand most people speak 4-5 languages, the people here are mind-bogglingly ignorant, and a language would push them to know something at least of the country who's language their speaking.

    But we could just go back to everyone learning Latin....

    207:

    Funny you should mention that... https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2022/aug/10/brexit-stage-left-how-touring-in-the-eu-became-a-nightmare-for-british-bands
    I remember when Tom Smith (filkertom), one of the big names in filk, told us that for medical reasons, he had to stop a regular job... and in the next year, put out something like 12 CDs....!

    208:

    I agree, and for other reasons. A term in English on writing seems to have come back useful. Since the mid-eighties, I can also speak intelligently about what's wrong and right with cities, rather than just feeling it, but not understanding it, the way that an "urban studies" course showed me. (Of course, by that time, I'd already read Jane Jacobs' "Death and Life of Great American Cities", which got me brownie points with the instructor.)

    209:

    Abu Ghraib, along with the needs-to-be-waterboarded lawyer who wrote a memo saying it wasn't torture. And the Shrub and Cheney both need to be in Den Hague, ahead of Putin.

    Sorry, not education-related. Maybe if Americans were forced to read about the war crimes trials after WWII before they got out of 12th grade (high school).

    210:

    Yep. Over 20 years ago, I joked about starting the ultimate American company: print up a limited, numbered set of stock certificates (with nice artwork as the background), then sell them, and require a percentage of any resales. The company would be pre-downsized (no employees, just me as president and CEO), fully amortized (I bought my printer), and there ya go. The only purpose is ROI.

    Come to think of it... can someone explain to me why this isn't like NFTs?

    211:

    That old degree was useful. For one, it got me that job. For another... in the course of working on it, I learned IBM mainframe assembler... and assembly languages vary little from system to system, as there's only a certain number of things you do.

    The upshot was, in '95 or '96, a couple of young consultants came to me, as sr. tech resource, complaining that their library kept crashing in a linked-in third party library. I started up the program, brought it into a debugger, and stepped into the linked-in library, something they didn't know could be done. Then I stepped through until I found the function it was crashing in. And then... I read the assembly. I didn't know Sun's assembler, and all comments, etc, had been stripped out by the compiler, but it didn't matter. They moved information from this variable to there, then made the call, and it crashed right after it did this

    Then I could call the third party, and have them ask the developers what this variable was, and what it was doing in that call. All because I had studied assembly language, which I gather isn't all that common any more.

    212:

    See for example how many people want to have a certain phone with the socially valuable features, even if they never use them, but in many cases the value of a thing is what it can be used for.

    Back when I worked as an engineer, managers always had way better workstations than the rest of us peons (and ergonomic desks), even though all they used them for was writing documents and checking email*.

    A better computer than the masses was a status symbol…


    *Those that didn't have their secretary print off the emails for them to read and dictate answers to…

    213:

    Ah, yes, back in the days when Managers didn't type, that was for secretaries.

    214:

    Sorry, not education-related. Maybe if Americans were forced to read about the war crimes trials after WWII before they got out of 12th grade (high school).

    Better include the Japanese ones, where war criminals were let free in exchange for helping the Americans. Eg. MacArthur granting immunity to the physicians and leaders of Unit 731 in exchange for exclusive access to their 'research'.

    215:

    195 - FortRan is still used, not just as a programming language but also as a design tool for code in more recent languages. Been there, done that, got the tee shirt.

    206 - Not fluently, or even that adequately, but I speak or at least have some listening comprehension and reading skill in Danish, Doric, Dutch, French, Gaelic, German and Scots. I also have very basic comprehension of Italian, Portugese and Spanish.

    211 - Afraid not. :-(

    216:

    Better include the Japanese ones, where war criminals were let free in exchange for helping the Americans. Eg. MacArthur granting immunity to the physicians and leaders of Unit 731 in exchange for exclusive access to their 'research'.

    Unit 731. And the Japanese royal family, among others. And let's not forget Operation Paperclip, shall we?

    The problem with this approach is, of course "what do we need to know for the test, teacher?" Just as church ministers rightly point out that in two hours on a Sunday they can't undo the damage done by right wing propaganda for 4-5 hours/day, I don't think a history unit on war crimes is going to convince the offspring of sheet-wearing coneheads that daddy's just wrong. Likely the abuse will do it instead, and learning history as part of forming a new identity might conceivably follow.

    217:

    Not just the united States, the Mig-15 bore a strong resemblance to a planned German jet, Dr. Porsche did design work for Renault after the war and Kurt Tank* designed a jet for the Indian Air Force. There's even an education connection, if education consists of only what the blessed of Mammon deem maximally profitable, the chances of the west being caught flat footed increase.

    *designer of the FW-190 and TA-152.

    218:

    Sorry Charlie/folks for going off-topic before the 300th comment.

    Re: ' ... how long the [polio] immunity lasts, given that Covid immunity appears to fade fairly rapidly ... are those of us who were vaccinated so long ago going to need another dose?'

    Here's the latest CDC recommendation:

    'Adults in these three groups who have never been vaccinated against polio should get 3 doses of IPV:

    The first dose at any time, The second dose 1 to 2 months later, The third dose 6 to 12 months after the second.

    Adults in these three groups who have had 1 or 2 doses of polio vaccine in the past should get the remaining 1 or 2 doses. It doesn’t matter how long it has been since the earlier dose(s).

    Adults who are at increased risk of exposure to poliovirus and who have previously completed a routine series of polio vaccine (IPV or OPV) can receive one lifetime booster dose of IPV.'

    https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/polio/public/index.html#:~:text=Oral%20polio%20vaccine%20(OPV)%20is,4%20through%206%20years%20old.

    Folks:

    Please go to the site and read all of the info because there are exceptions.

    219:

    And another way the government are hitting the arts: Brexit.

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2022/aug/10/brexit-stage-left-how-touring-in-the-eu-became-a-nightmare-for-british-bands

    “The time the Beatles spent performing in Hamburg before their record contract was formative to their sound,”

    220:

    Before everyone goes off half-cocked, polio from live vaccinations has been detected in wastewater in London, that's all. A few countries still vaccinate against polio using live vaccine and it's pretty certain that's where the polio that's being detected is coming from, visitors and people travelling to or through London, especially in the summer tourist season.

    221:

    @173

    There's been an increasing trend for "democratic" leaders to put what they want into a treaty, sign it, then say "oh no, we have to do this, our hands are tied" specifically because there's no popular support.

    When I was involved in regulatory work at UK, EU, and G8 levels, we called that "Eurowashing" - float the idea to another member state or two, let it work through the Commission process until eventually we got a Directive, then say "Brussels are making us do it".

    222:

    Still haven't read past 100, but I thought I would post this anyway:

    Got my CS degree in 81 from the college of engineering. We covered a fair amount of theoretical stuff (abstract algebra related stuff, computer architecture, etc), and a good deal of applied stuff (spent the last year writing a compiler, previous year designing some simple (ish) digital circuits and implementing them in the lab. Now days you get intro to VHDL, takes all the fun out of it :) ). I supplemented my degree with classes in math (error correcting code, abstract algebra, numerical analysis) and EE (first 3 intro to EE classes, plus digital electronics).

    Over the years, I try to keep up with new developments, and I use a great deal of the stuff I learned in college in my job. In fact, it is amazing to me how much things haven't really changed in many ways. These days I can use C instead of assembly, C++ instead of Pascal or Cobol, Python/Perl instead of Snobol/Spitbol, Bash/Powershell instead of whatever scripting system I was using back then (there were several). There are more powerful libraries (thank gnu!), and they provide some very nice leverage for some things (and for other things they just provide this big learning cliff you have to climb to get anything done).

    As to job history: Worked as a student as a TA then as a "user consultant" to help the school's mainframe users use the thing. Lots of people interaction. From that job worked a "last line" fly and fix and support (there is no experience like having a VP of Bank literally breathing down your neck while trying to debug a live production system). After that I got to work in "engineering" and left customer interactions behind, I haven't missed it.

    223:

    if you are saying the idea if repugnant to USAians in general, then you contradict your previous sentence: it DOES NOT represent the will of American people.

    That's not what I meant. Let me try again.

    The US senate, the US government as a whole, and the US population in general, appear to believe that the US should be outside the purview of the International Criminal Court. They would all be offended, some of them violently, if a US citizen was prosecuted by the ICC for any reason. Especially if it was for obeying an order from the US high command. For example, to torture prisoners of war in Abu Ghraib. I vaguely recalls that the US government has said explicitly that they would take military action to rescue their troops from an ICC prosecution.

    I suspect they're react the same way if it was non-government terrorism or equivalent, but AFAIK no-one has been game to try prosecuting a US citizen for that, they just hand them over to the US and move on. It's not worth the risk.

    224:

    To pick one really obvious example, anyone with even a casual interest in British history can draw you some kind of evolutionary plan of castle designs, and you can certainly see massive differences between 1066 and 1096.

    To which I would point to the 30 year period of invasion and military pacification and occupation that your cherry-picked dates bracket: a period during which some parts of England were massacred (Yorkshire may have lost up to 90% of its population: overall there was a high single-digit death toll after the Norman conquest) and a complete change in the identity ofthe nobs building the castles and their motives for doing so.

    the idea that degrees should be relevant to jobs

    That's not my idea, that's the political orthodoxy in the UK ruling class: the idea that education is improving is met with gasps of horror (unless it's education for the aristocracy). Same as it ever was, in other words.

    We have a major problem where universities have every incentive to lie that their courses do lead to jobs, knowing that all their ex-graduates have failed to use their degrees to get jobs.

    Yes, and what part of my point that degree certificates are a Ponzi scheme marketed as a necessary piece of paper to get a job did you miss?

    self-taught people who didn't need tertiary arts education anyway

    Up the road from me is a building that used to be occupied by a local corporate success story -- Rock Star Games, makers of the Grand Theft Auto franchise. (They moved across town during the pandemic.) A point to note is that they're a way bigger generator of revenue than any rock band you can think of, and employ far more people -- not just programmers, but QA testers and artists, because all that stuff needs to be designed. Indeed AIUI the games industry is the biggest employer of artists in the UK right now, and it's kind of corporate: educational credentials do indeed get asked for.

    225:

    I guess the unasked question is - are universities still any good for any purpose?

    The core purposes of universities, going back to their origins in the middle ages, are (a) to preserve knowledge, and (b) to educate/train the next generation of academics as custodians of knowedge. A third purpose (c) is to add to that body of knowledge by research: a fourth purpose (d) is to disseminate that knowledge to the broader public: and finally we get the very recent bolt-on (e) which is to make a profit.

    Purposes (d) and (e) are peripheral, purpose (c) can be neglected for a while without doing permanent harm to the interprise, but without (a) and (b) we end up back in the dark ages eventually.

    226:

    limiting degrees to those that earn more than the money that went into subsidizing the education isn't necessarily entirely unreasonable, provided that you include all benefits, direct and indirect.

    You want to measure non-monetary values in dollars. Good luck.

    This is something that economists have struggled with since the discipline was invented. They've found ways to turn money into non-monetary value, for instance by buying the "Economics Prize in Memory of Nobel". But they haven't found a way to put a dollar value on "the right to breathe air as nature provided it" let alone "the right to live out our lives without fear of devastation" and no possible way to monetise "the right of future generations to a healthy existence".

    Pretending for a second that mathematics and economics have some relationship, one problem is the copious supply of 0 and ∞ in the equations. Which makes adding them in tricky. "market value now is zero, but replacement cost is infinite, so let's assume $1B and a discount rate of 5%" 🤯

    227:

    Before everyone goes off half-cocked, polio from live vaccinations has been detected in wastewater in London, that's all.

    If it's in London wastewater, some people in London have polio. In most cases, people sick with polio have few or no symptoms, so they're unlikely to take any kind of precautions. This means they're certainly capable of passing the polio virus to others.

    It's better to use the wastewater warning to get people vaccinated and take other precautions, Nojay. Hoping that nothing serious will happen is what got the world in trouble with Covid-19.

    228:

    From what I remember having read in passing, the strain of polio being detected in wastewater is the live virus vaccine strain, not an "in the wild" infectious strain.

    We, that is the scientific community of Really Schmott Pipple are very, VERY good at isolating and identifying really REALLY small amounts of Substances of Interest in pretty much any source. Live polio vaccine is what the reports say they're finding if I remember the press reports right, everyone else is seeing the word "POLIO!" and running around with their hair on fire. See also the big scare when 1-131 was detected in Boston Harbour wastewater streams just after the Great Tohoku earthquake and the Fukushima nuclear plant radiation releases back in 2011. This particular contaminant actually came from folks getting thyroid cancer treatments and then excreting leftover I-131 which ended up being processed and then flushed into the harbour. We're talking femtograms of I-131 per tonne of wastewater and it was still detectable.

    229:

    whitroth @ 206:

    But we could just go back to everyone learning Latin....

    I think that would be a mistake. Our education "system" should be starting language education in kindergarten or pre-schoool ... catch up with the rest of the civilized world.

    But it should be a language in common use in one of the other countries we need to engage with.

    230:

    Please don't speak for this American. I'd love to see Bush/Cheney/Yoo etc., get tried for war crimes. The bastards deserve it!

    231:

    "But it should be a language in common use in one of the other countries we need to engage with."

    I duuno. There's a fair amount of evidence that if you learn a second language, any second language, in childhood, then picking up other languages as the need arises is easy. It's the monoglots that struggle.

    So then, there's no point in trying to guess which language(s) will be in common use where by the time you're old enough to need them. Any language will do (although I would expect dialects don't count), and it could be Latin, for all that it matters.

    JHomes.

    232:

    Whether a citizen of a democratic country bears any responsibility for actions carried out by their government... I don't think that's a clear-cut no. Especially when it's the most democratic country in the world, a beacon of hope and glory to inspire everyone.

    You might not like it but you do quite literally own it.

    233:

    I think that would be a mistake. Our education "system" should be starting language education in kindergarten or pre-schoool ... catch up with the rest of the civilized world

    Oddly enough, I took Latin in high school, as did my wife. It proved to be quite useful, because much of the technical vocabulary for the life sciences is compounded gutter Latin. Having even a passing familiarity with it makes classes easier. For biology (especially systematics), you need to learn ca. 300 terms over a semester, so it is the vocabulary equivalent of a normal foreign language class.

    The thing that saddens me is that most kids now don't learn Latin roots, prefixes, and suffixes, so they can't break down a technical term into its component parts and get snowed by the vocabulary. An example from plant anatomy: microsporphyll and megasporophyll. My bet is a bunch of you would struggle even saying that? Anyway, most students now need to be taught that it's micro+sporo+phyll (small spore leaf) and mega+sporo+phyll (big spore leaf). Or, in flowering plants, stamens and carpels. We had to adapt lessons when it got to the point that few students knew how to deal with Latin compound words, just to include a lesson on how to read the vocabulary as assembled terms, rather than a forest of almost identical and very confusing words.

    234:

    Learning multiple languages when young may be easy (for certain values of the concept) but it is terribly easy to lose the facility. In early teens I could make a decent fist of Latin, Russian, Welsh (my first language, kinda) German, French and English. These days I can mostly only remember the feeling that I damn well know how to say that but buggrit I can’t get it as far as my tongue. I can still at least work out how to pronounce Welsh words most of the time. Fortunately I managed to hold onto enough German for the language requirements for that first engineering degree.

    As an almost related aside I’ve just a few minutes ago read the very-short story “Battle of the Linguist Mages” by Scotto Moore, about which Charlie blurbed “and now my head hurts”. I can only agree - if I didn’t know it was an SF short I might think it was an entry from Seanan Mcguire’s diary.

    235:

    I found myself the other day having to sing through King Kapisi's Screems's From the Old Plantation to get to "tasi lua tolu" before I could count in Samoan...

    I have some ability with languages other than English just because I love words. So I can throw together Latin-sounding words and come up with "homo ped plumbium" (lead footed ape, with the common name "motorist") but give me some random bit of German and you're more than likely going to get a blank look unless it's song lyrics (or, for reasons "achtung, ich bin ein zepplin" which is a social-group equivalent of "my hovercraft is full of eels")

    The tropes page is full of humorous examples: https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MyHoverCraftIsFullOfEels

    236:

    I duuno. There's a fair amount of evidence that if you learn a second language, any second language, in childhood, then picking up other languages as the need arises is easy. It's the monoglots that struggle.

    i've probably mentioned it, but i heard once that this was a good reason for children to learn esperanto as a second language, as its complete regularity made it much easier to learn than the alternatives

    need to be a bit of a believer to start with tho i imagine

    237:

    I voted against Bush (both times) and argued long and hard against the Iraq war. It was obviously wrong from the very start, and it's ugly, horrible beginning, middle, and end were easily predictable.

    I may own it, but I tried long and hard to turn it in for a refund, or at least store credit!

    238:

    The core purposes of universities, going back to their origins in the middle ages, are (a) to preserve knowledge, and (b) to educate/train the next generation of academics as custodians of knowedge. A third purpose (c) is to add to that body of knowledge by research: a fourth purpose (d) is to disseminate that knowledge to the broader public: and finally we get the very recent bolt-on (e) which is to make a profit.

    I want to point out that (a) and (b) are basically the core goals of any organization: to keep going on. I think some of the (c) and (d) are part of what makes them worth keeping around, though obviously (a) and (b) are more important - if they don't get done soon nothing else will, either.

    (e), however... uh, I have personal experiences as I used to do some Active Galactic Nuclei astronomy, so somewhat remote from profits, and our small department was asked by the university higher-ups what we could do to sell something as industry connections were Very Important. We didn't find it funny.

    239:

    I duuno. There's a fair amount of evidence that if you learn a second language, any second language, in childhood, then picking up other languages as the need arises is easy. It's the monoglots that struggle.

    Well, people are different, but learning how to learn makes learning easier.

    In my youth the Finnish foreign language education was not perfect by any means, but I did get a working knowledge of multiple foreign languages. English is obviously the one I'm most fluent with, but that comes from the fact that I've basically used it all the time in some capacity since I was 11 years old. At the time much of speculative fiction didn't get translated, or not fast enough, and even though some tabletop rpgs did, not nearly enough of them did, and English had its status as a 'cooler' language.

    After that, much of my studies and work has been in English, so I use it basically every day.

    Still, I think one of the reasons why it's easier to learn languages as a child is that one can dedicate much more time to it. At school I had for years something like 2-4 hours of classroom teaching and then homework on top of that, and it's hard to find the time for that kind of hours for languages nowadays. I'm taking community college courses in Japanese now, and even now as a forty-something I feel like my progress there is quite well correlated on how much time I spend on it.

    An another thing is that I feel like the more languages you learn, the easier it becomes to learn new ones. Even though they are not very similar, like Japanese which is very much its own thing, or sign languages, which are of course quite different from vocal languages.

    240:

    without (a) and (b) we end up back in the dark ages eventually

    This entire comment is one of those brilliant summaries in that mode where it seems retrospectively obvious, but is nonetheless challenging to formulate. It could be a perfect example to explain what I like about reading this blog. It's not always Charlie, who comes out with such comments, but often is.

    I know I catch myself sometimes agreeing with something but having nothing to add so not commenting. When I disagree, I've become more inclined to let it go and if I struggle to say something nicely avoid saying it at all. Neither of these responses really help the discussion. I know I can probably do better, but we're all struggling at times, we're living in times where that's the norm rather than the exception. And that means sometimes we don't want to be Hanrahan so don't comment...

    241:

    Well, (e) is a modification of the actual purpose of an organisation, which is more accurately put as "to survive", which may then involve making a net profit for reinvestment rather than to disburse to investors.

    242:

    Nojay @ 220: Before everyone goes off half-cocked, polio from live vaccinations has been detected in wastewater in London, that's all.

    According to this BBC report the issue is that the live polio virus in the oral vaccine can mutate as it passes from person to person, eventually recovering its nasty side. That's the concern.

    If there is a widespread vaccination campaign then its not a problem because the virus runs out of hosts and fizzles before that can happen. But here it seems there are people shedding the vaccine virus in a population that isn't well protected (thanks, Andrew Wakefield).

    In other news, XKCD seems to be recruiting for The Laundry.

    243:

    I learned Latin at school (I went to a public school - UK sense). I actually found it useful because it taught me formal grammars and syntax in a way that we didn't learn in English lessons. Highly useful for a computer programmer who was developing an interest in compilers.

    244:

    Similarly I had to learn formal grammar for French (modern languages), and grammar was not taught in English, because it wasn't part of the silly bus (sic).

    245:

    We did have grammar teaching in Finnish, too, I think starting from quite early on. At least explicit teaching of grammar was familiar to me on about fourth or fifth grade when my German and English classes had proceeded to the stage where grammar was nice to learn explicitly. (Though, uh, the English one has quite a lot of exceptions...)

    Nowadays my way of learning new languages needs some grammar quite soon, so when learning a new language I usually get a grammar book early on. Then again, my problem is often vocabulary, it's annoying for me to learn new words (and ways to write *shakes a stick at Japanese*). At some point much of it becomes internalized, for example I have a hard time thinking about explicit English, German, or Swedish grammar, though I like to think I am somewhat fluent in all three.

    Of course there are descriptive and normative grammars, and while I like the descriptive ones (which just tell you how people use the language) generally more than the normative (which tell how people should use the language), when learning a language the normative ones are quite useful.

    246:

    "I learned Latin at school (I went to a public school - UK sense). I actually found it useful because it taught me formal grammars and syntax in a way that we didn't learn in English lessons."

    I had the same experience with Latin, which I studied for two years in US high school (9th and 10th grades). The most valuable part was that it introduced me to grammatical structure, which was a great help when I studied Russian.

    247:

    The point is that (a) and (b) ARE being neglected, badly, in areas that don't lead to (e) or at least (c) in at least the UK and USA. This has been UK government policy since the days of Thatcher.

    248:

    There's a fair amount of evidence that if you learn a second language, any second language, in childhood, then picking up other languages as the need arises is easy. It's the monoglots that struggle.

    I was enrolled in a French immersion kindergarten and grade 1. We moved partway through grade 1 to another city where I ended up in a regular class.

    All I remember is the teachers talking like grownups in Peanuts cartoons — "wawawawawawa" — and getting in trouble because I didn't follow instructions (that I couldn't understand).

    I took 12 years of French the regular way in school (outside the brief immersion experience) and can barely ask where the bathroom is. I suspect a combination of late start, insufficient practice, and bad pedagogy*.

    I love the idea of raising children to be multilingual. I think the best time to start is pre-school, though, when children are naturally learning language anyway.


    *For example, the first few years of formal French instruction were all oral, and as I couldn't remember things from one week to the next I invented by own way of writing French so I could take surreptitious notes — which set me back because I had to unlearn that when we were finally taught how to write.

    249:

    In the Tuesday, I think it was, edition of the NYT, the week after Nixon was re-elected (1972), at the head of the public and commercial notices column, the first one read, "We, the undersigned, did not vote for Richard M. Nixon, and will not be held accountable for crimes against humanity committed by him, as they were not done in our name, but against our will." followed by a dozen or 20 names, including, of course, me, who wrote and organized this, as well as my first wife, and my folks, and....

    250:

    Similarly I had to learn formal grammar for French (modern languages), and grammar was not taught in English

    For you too?

    Being a voracious reader my grammar was reasonably good even without formal instruction (past nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs). I couldn't articulate why something was wrong, but I knew it was and could correct it.

    When I was in high school English was a double-period compared to all other subjects. I later realized that it was originally two different courses: one in grammar and one in literature. Somewhere along the way they were combined into a single double-length course where grammar was taught intermingled with literature, except that most English teachers dropped the boring grammar instruction to get extra time for the more interesting literature.

    I've seen the same thing happen currently in junior science courses where a teacher will drastically shrink (or drop) a science they find uninteresting or unimportant to devote more time to preparing students for their favourite senior science course. When I arrived at my last school the grade ten science course was almost half chemistry; not entirely by coincidence the subject the department head taught at senior levels. Trying to get the biology and chemistry teachers to cover more than 1/4 of the physics unit was a battle…

    251:

    "In other news, XKCD seems to be recruiting for The Laundry."

    That was good advice, but you need to have the right number of mouths.

    252:

    Indeed yes, to the extent that the French (and indeed German and Latin) teachers moaned that they had to do all the grammar teaching because the English teachers ignored it.

    253:

    When I was in high school English was a double-period compared to all other subjects.

    My memory is of doing grammar during most of the 8th grade and a lot of the 10th? I think. I got very good at diagramming sentences. I think that fell out of favor. This would have been latter 60s, early 70s.

    Foreign languages were a disaster for me. I quickly learned to avoid them. I have a lot of issues with pronouncing something that doesn't follow the same general trend of what I grew up with. I suspect it's tied to my other issues with patterns and such.

    David

    254:

    Same here - at least I can’t remember ever being taught any English grammar outside of other-language classes pointing out ‘this is just like the English plonkative case’ etc. Weird. How comes we’s all speak so good like I does?

    255:

    "In other news, XKCD seems to be recruiting for The Laundry." That was good advice, but you need to have the right number of mouths.

    Actually, complex vowels already exist, but they're not cursed.*

    *Tibetan monks and Taoist priests also use them, as do didgeridoo players. Check out YouTube.

    256:

    I was taught English grammar and syntax, according to the pseudo-Latin rules the Victorian dogmatists invented but, when I grew more literate, I realised how misleading it was, often verging on nonsense. Yes, the rules apply more often than not, but few of them don't have commonly-used exceptions and variations (sometimes mandatory), scarcely apply at all to speech, and pre-Victorian literature didn't follow them. All languages are like that, but English is particularly inchoate and, bluntly, it's a hell of a lot easier to teach grammar and syntax for Latin or even French.

    257:

    JHomes @ 231:

    I'm pretty sure any child beginning foreign language today can be pretty sure Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Spanish ... Swahili will still be around when they become adults, but ...

    Latin is a dead language,
    as dead as it can be
    it killed off all the Romans ...

    The benefit in having learned more than one language as a child is the flexibility from actually SPEAKING the languages. Nobody speaks Latin today, not even the Roman Catholic church.

    258:

    If you're eligible to vote for the Hugo awards this year, voting closes in a few hours time. You may want to pay particular attention to the Best Series category, or you may not...

    259:

    To be blunt, the reason Latin is easy to teach (for vocabulary, anyway) is that few speak it and it has a tiny corpus of text. Its utility is that it's the junkyard that science has been scavenging for centuries to find the pieces to build new words from, so if you're going into the sciences, especially the life sciences, having that vocabulary is useful.

    French appears easier to learn because of the Académie Française, which tasks itself with keeping French "pure." I'm not sure what they do about things like Breton or them other dialects they got. Aside from not letting them be seen overseas, except in cultural performance contexts like Celtic music festivals.

    English doesn't bother with any of that, and since most English speakers learned English as a second language, they're the ones driving it at the moment. That drive is less to complexify it, and more to simplify it, so that someone who grew up speaking Cantonese and someone who grew up speaking Wolof can negotiate a deal over a shipment of tungsten. Monolingual English speakers are stuck in the minorities, all our multitude boxcar verbs (those that might have been used) and polysyllabic vocabulary notwithstanding. We might even struggle to negotiate for that shipment of tungsten, because we'd insist on using formal legal English and thereby exclude ourselves from an otherwise rapidly made deal.

    Anyway, English isn't a monolith, it's a complex landscape of linguistic ecosystems, some of which are currently growing, some of which are currently shrinking, most of which are mutating. If and when international trade falls apart, after a few centuries or less, it's almost certain that people who insist that they are each speaking proper English will be unable to understand each other. This will mark the official birth of the "Lish" language family, although truthfully it's already been happening for over a century.

    260:

    Robert Prior @ 248:

    I was enrolled in a French immersion kindergarten and grade 1.

    I got 8 weeks of "full immersion"** French at age 10. I remember doing fairly well with it because I had other people I could talk to & practice speaking French.

    Never experienced anything like it after that one time. All rote memorization. I wish I could have continued with the full immersion French. I might speak/write a second language today.

    **Full immersion during the school day anyway - 7:30 am to 3:15 pm five days a week.

    261:

    Heteromeles @ 259:

    It may be "easy to teach", but the reason Latin is so hard to learn is that NOBODY actually speaks it anymore.

    262:

    It may be "easy to teach", but the reason Latin is so hard to learn is that NOBODY actually speaks it anymore.

    I know you're trying to start an argument, but "learn" has two different meanings here.

    If you mean people speaking and writing Latin, you're right. That's mostly limited to a group of officials in the Vatican.

    If you mean have a few hundred word roots that are used in thousands of words in many languages, you're wrong. That's what I've been saying consistently, and that's what you're ignoring.

    263:

    @262

    I completely disagree. Latin was no harder to learn than French. On the contrary, by the time we started doing formal stuff in French like "third person", I already knew what they were from Latin. My only big problem was making sure I didn't mix up the vocabulary (I was and still am terrible at remembering words of other languages).

    264:

    English

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basic_English

    Like Esperanto, Interlingua and other attempts to create a reasonably simple, usable and learnable utility language, Basic English mostly flopped, though shards and remnants remain.

    265:

    "I think. I got very good at diagramming sentences."

    Yes!

    Grammar school taught me how to diagram English sentences, which, like Latin grammar later, was really helpful in future years.

    266:

    But we could just go back to everyone learning Latin....

    it should be a language in common use in one of the other countries we need to engage with.*

    We do business with the Vatican,

    267:

    We do business with the Vatican

    That's less a country and more the headquarters of an international crime syndicate.

    If we were going to do this democratically I suspect we'd end up with Simplified Chinese using US/UK democracy, and Indian English using the Australian system (preferential voting generally gives you the least hated favourite fish). Of course any proportional system would end up replicating what we have now modulo any anti-democratic threshold effects.

    In terms of "best system" we might end up with French, but that setup is so similar to Simplified Chinese that I think the latter would win.

    And of course historically we'd prefer Latin or some other ancient language but that very quickly leads us to Australia and no-one wants to be using Yolŋu for international science collaboration. I found many terrible articles claiming that languages developed as recently as 1000BCE are the "oldest living language" so that discussion would no doubt become heated.

    268:

    Like Esperanto, Interlingua and other attempts to create a reasonably simple, usable and learnable utility language, Basic English mostly flopped, though shards and remnants remain.

    In one of Heinlein's juveniles, possibly Space Cadet, the characters are speaking "Basic" rather than their native languages.

    One of the things I tried to do as a teacher was simplify my vocabulary and grammar when writing instructions, because I had a lot of ESL students in my class. The Basic English vocabulary list was actually a reasonable place to start.

    269:

    H
    I noticed, last weekend, that formal spoken German is changing ...
    My spoken German is incredibly old-fashioned - so everyone can understnd me - but it now sounds stilted ...
    As for grammar: "Die Deutsche Grammatik ist sehr schwer"

    270:

    Re: '... the live polio virus in the oral vaccine can mutate as it passes from person to person, eventually recovering its nasty side. That's the concern.'

    The mutation can be very fast - see slide 'Reversion of P3/Sabin' at 17:02 mark.

    For folks interested in getting some background info on polio, recommend watching this special TWiV. The presenter is a PhD with 40 years' virus research specializing in polio. He's also a virology textbook co-author, respected science educator, YT presenter, etc. Because polio is his research specialty, he pulled together this 26 min. video that covers some history plus discussion of the different vaccines. (BTW - overall, I think that this is very similar to the history of polio, vaccine usage and experience, as well as the current polio situation in the UK.)

    'Polio in New York'

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-5KGHzHTsI&ab_channel=VincentRacaniello

    He also briefly (approx. 3 min.- starting at 8:51) discussed polio in this regular weekly TWiV clinical update video:

    'TWiV 924: Clinical update with Dr. Daniel Griffin'

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nv18dxXv9Zs&t=622s&ab_channel=VincentRacaniello

    And, no, I'm not going to apologize for posting the above comment because this is a real-life example of the type, level of educational expertise and universal access that we need now and going forward across all subject areas.

    271:

    Heteromeles @ 262:

    I'm not ignoring it, and I'm sorry you think I'm trying to start an argument.

    Learning Latin as a language is not required to understand a few hundred loan words in English. By that standard everyone who speaks English is also already proficient at French, German & Spanish because of all the other loan words English has absorbed.

    I hated Latin and I'm still angry 59 years later at having it forced upon me and the lasting harm that did me.

    I'm angry about how the lack of foreign language proficiency has held me back so many times in my life and I blame those who thwarted my choice of the foreign language to study for their own, goddamn selfish reasons.

    I was eager to learn a foreign language and Latin is the reason I was never able to do so, because there was NO ONE TO TALK TO IN LATIN! ... no one to practice my language skills with.

    272:

    I don’t think Labour have anything to say to them either, because it’s not yet politic to blame Brexit

    That confuses me. A lot.

    What can Labour possibly have to lose by pointing out the problems? There are senior Labour figures who said Brexit would be a disaster, it's been a disaster... point to them and say "their plan for recovery is at least based on reality". Especially when it's increasingly obvious to everyone that there is a disaster.

    Also with the "austerity will cause economic growth" bullshit being spun by everyone in the Con party, plus their backers in the media. Sure, that's never happened before and there are solid reasons to think it can't happen, but that's the rock around the neck of the con artists, not Labour. If they had real guts they'd say "look, things are fucked, we're broke, so we have to keep laundering money for crooks because that's all the Conservatives have left us. It's what they've made the UK famous for".

    But even the Cons surely have to admit at least privately that the forecasts for economic damage caused by Brexit were hopelessly optimistic and other economic shocks since then have not helped. But the UK is doing significantly worse than formerly-comparable economies, so unless the current UK government is somehow peculiarly ill-equipped to deal with economic problems the explanation has to be Brexit. And I can't see even the most reactionary Conservative sticking their head above the parapet with that claim.

    273:

    Clive Feather @ 263:

    I didn't learn to speak English from a book. I already knew how to speak it before I started the first grade. I didn't think in a different language and try to translate everything into English before I learned to read & write.

    I couldn't learn language from a book. I needed a language I could speak, a language I could THINK.

    Some people's brains are wired differently. I needed other people who also spoke the language to speak with, to expand my vocabulary BEFORE I started to learn the grammar. For a while - a very short while - I had an opportunity to learn a language that way.

    And then that opportunity was shut down and taken away from me.

    274:

    Oh, I dunno, JBS, I've found Latin tremendously useful for understanding science, English, Spanish, Italian, French, Christianity, and all kinds of fun things. I also appreciated learning about poetry that is based on the rhythm and the beat, the meter at the heart.

    I'd suggest that there might be more attention to the idea of a college or university as, not only a place to learn new things... some of which will never be useful, but it's hard to know that in advance... but as a place to meet people. It's only occasionally been to my financial advantage but, I still love the friends I made.

    275:

    I didn't learn to speak English from a book.

    There are a few comedy skits on that topic. It's almost impossible to do, unless that book is a linguistics text probably called something like "idiopathic pronunciations of English words around the world".

    We're not just talking about Worcestershire with its silent syllables, English has the full set of silent letters, unwritten letters and pronunciations that vary depending on both dialect and context. Less "no such thing as a fish" and more "27 ways to spell fish, all of which are wrong".

    There's still words that I mispronounce because I've only ever read them, and words that other so-called "English speakers" pronounce wrongly and somehow think I'm at fault. Like almost anything with the letter zed in it.

    276:

    I didn't learn to speak English from a book.

    Funny thing is, I did, mostly. From one specific book in particular, that book being 'The Dragonlance Chronicles' by Weis and Hickman. There was specfi in Finnish, both domestic and translated, but at that point I had mostly exhausted the local library's science and fantasy selection, and had started to play roleplaying games (in Finnish, with the Mentzer Red and Blue D&D boxes and Runequest), so going to AD&D books in English was a quite logical next step.

    That book wasn't very good, but it got me started, especially with those RPGs which were and still are much more abundant in English. I remember the German grammar lessons having been very useful here, especially the tenses and irregular verbs. In English (which started two years later than German, I had had it for a couple of months at this point) we only had had the present tense and no irregularities, really, so realizing that 'rose' was the past tense of 'rise' was quite the revelation.

    Of course this means I have a lot of vocabulary but often little idea of how the words are pronounced, especially when that depends on the accent. This means that my accent and dialect are both quite 'foreign' in the sense that nobody else speaks even closely like how I do. I've grown not to care about that.

    Later I did watch a lot of US media, so I think my accent gravitates towards a generic US TV-movie accent, but consciously I like many accents, so would like to use those. Never going to happen, though. (I did remember watching 'China Beach' with covered-up subtitles so I would need to listen to the language. Subtitling is good in some ways, and of course I've grown accustomed to it so I like it even now.)

    This means that I'm much more elonquent when writing. I speak a lot, and almost every day also in English (my workplace has a lot of people who don't speak Finnish and English is the company language), but still I find myself forgetting common words and expressions when speaking.

    277:

    Learning English.

    A few years ago we were in Madrid and walked into a restaurant one evening that looked nice and had some decent ratings on Google. Being only 7pm it was about 1/2 full. When our waiter showed up we asked if he spoke English. He held up a finger, left, and another fellow came back and spoke very decent English. A few stumbles but overall quite well.

    We asked him later about his English and his story was interesting. He was about 19 and had decided to learn English on his own. His path was to start participating in MMORPGs. At first just watching and listening then later participating.

    Worked for him.

    278:

    Later I did watch a lot of US media, so I think my accent gravitates towards a generic US TV-movie accent,

    One problem in the US is that how people, even well educated ones, speak in conversation is a babble. Little following of the rules of grammar. Or even complete sentences. The exception being lawyers, politicians, and such when on "display". And TV shows and movies. Most people can't believe what they read when reading a transcript of a conversation.

    I wonder at times how much this occurs in other countries/languages.

    279:

    EC said: I was taught English grammar and syntax, according to the pseudo-Latin rules the Victorian dogmatists invented but, when I grew more literate, I realised how misleading it was, often verging on nonsense.

    That's the special case of the more general rule. Which is of course

    $Student was taught $AnySubject , according to the $RND rules the Victorian dogmatists invented but, when I grew more literate, I realised how misleading it was, often verging on nonsense.

    280:

    my workplace has a lot of people who don't speak Finnish

    Same here :)

    281:

    Me: my workplace has a lot of people who don't speak Finnish

    Moz: Same here :)

    Oh! What a surprise!

    Still, I'm in kind of a special area: IT has a lot of companies where English is expected, not Finnish, but mostly companies in Finland require passable Finnish skills. Even if that wasn't really a necessity for their business. I have known people who had no problem getting a job in IT when they couldn't speak Finnish, but having their spouses have problems finding a job in a technical field with a similar degree, when the companies insisted on Finnish...

    282:

    "What can Labour possibly have to lose by pointing out the problems?"

    The next election for a start.

    The Tories only need to win 30-40% of the vote to stay in power and theres a lot of people out there who bought the Daily Mail/Telegraph/Express/Sun line that the evil europeans were ruining their lives/country and not Osborne or Cameron's moronic "austerity".

    So, if you are going to approach all those people who voted Brexit and tell them that they were suckered/duped/got it wrong, you will cause a lot of knee jerk anger - it being much easier to dig your heels in and hate those who tell you that you made a mistake, than to actually admit it.

    They have lots of their remaining self esteem invested in the fact they stuck it to the man/europe/the metropolitan elites. They have to come to the realisation they were duped in their own time rather than being banged over the head with it. It would have been pretty obvious by now, but has been obfuscated by COVID, the conflict in Ukraine and the fact a prpportion of the people involved are unlikely to give up a simple prejudice (immigrants/nameless bureaucrats/change = Evil!) that was pretty much a conspiracy theory anyway.

    When people are so pissed off, why attract some of the anger to yourself?

    283:

    Grant
    .... it being much easier to dig your heels in and hate those who tell you that you made a mistake, than to actually admit it.
    Quite, I have this problem on an almost-daily basis, though, as you point out, there are occasional cracks in the rigid structure - half-admissions that it "Could have been done a lot better" sort of thing.

    284:

    Well, yes, but English was extreme. They tried to actually change the language to make it more like Latin, and succeeded (insofar as it was taught, though not as it was used) for a while. The reluctance to teach English grammar and syntax could be argued to be a rebound.

    That being said, why? oh! why? do some writers of historical fantasy use 'thee' as the nominative. It really grates. That includes ones who definitely should know better, like Cherryh.

    285:

    That being said, why? oh! why? do some writers of historical fantasy use 'thee' as the nominative. It really grates. That includes ones who definitely should know better, like Cherryh.

    Thou art correct, I agree with thee!

    (Uh, the Ultima games had these mostly correct, I think. Of course speaking languages which use cases more than English helps here.)

    286:

    You have to admit that Finnish has a certain reputation when it comes to learning the language. We have a Finnish school in Sydney so apparently there are some of you over here torturing your locally born kids with it.

    But living in Australia is weird, the skips (British-ethnic Australians) do their usual "we speak English here" thing. (In)Famously someone was video'd screaming that at a punter speaking a local language.

    But half the country is either immigrant or second gen Australian, so there are a fuckton of "languages other than English" or whatever the current circumlocution is. More so than my memory of Aotearoa, albeit I lived in quite white bits of it (the further south you go the whiter it gets). So we get government stuff in as many languages as they can afford, and it's not too hard to find businesses that "also speak english, sort of" that cater to various migrants. Where I am Arabic is the second communal language because it's a Muslim centre, but you there are national/ethnic centres all over the place if you know where to look.

    And of course lots of formerly skip churches taken over by all sorts of people. I like the Lakemba Uniting Church ("Uniting" is a brand name rather than a description) which describes itself as "Lakemba Uniting Church. The Somang (Korean) Uniting Church, congregation and the Lakemba Seventh-Day Adventist Church also share the church building". Services in Chinese and Samoan are also available if it's the building I'm thinking of.

    287:

    (FWIW Australia doesn't officially have an official language, just a whole lot of English language requirements for immigrants and government business is conducted in English and so on. Other countries are more direct about it, when I was looking at Norway ever so briefly they were pretty "no Norwegian no immigration". Which is fair enough, but Australia has such an ugly reputation that it seems weird we don't just say "fuck you all, English is the one true language".

    I was thinking the other day about this, and specifically the person denied entry because they couldn't transcribe Gaelic. So I wondered whether we might get an MP with the guts to speak only Scots Gaelic in parliament and demand that everything be translated both for them and from them. It is, after all, a requirement of citizenship...

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attempted_exclusion_of_Egon_Kisch_from_Australia

    Aotearoa has Maori, English, and NZ Sign Language as official languages and Mojo Mathers used the latter when she was an MP (on account of being deaf). Conniptions were not had but there were non-trivial difficulties. Mostly treated as learning experiences by those needing to do so which was good to see.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mojo_Mathers

    288:

    "Of course this means I have a lot of vocabulary but often little idea of how the words are pronounced, especially when that depends on the accent."

    It's the same for native speakers of English. Hence the popularity of howjsay.com/ and the like.

    I was pleased to find that Russian and Spanish are a lot easier in that respect -- spelling sticks considerably closer to pronunciation. With some exceptions, of course.

    289:

    and it's not too hard to find businesses that "also speak english, sort of" that cater to various migrants.

    Sounds like a larger version of New York City.

    All kinds of neighborhoods where English seems a remote thing. Mostly these days in Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens. But all over Manhattan 100 years ago. And a lot of pockets of it now.

    Any any New Yorkers who want to correct me, please do.

    290:

    DavidL @253:

    I got very good at diagramming sentences. I think that fell out of favor. This would have been latter 60s, early 70s.

    They were still doing it when I was in grades 7 & 8 (Ontario) in the early 1980s.

    This was the first time I actively refused to learn something. I'd been reading so much that I knew the rules without being able to state them. Sure, it was important to know what adverbs, verbs, nouns, etc were, but I could not see the utility of single-underlining this, double-underlining that, putting brackets around the other. Seemed like an utterly pointless waste of my time.

    Learned enough so I didn't fail, but forgot it as soon as I could.

    Greg Tingey @269:

    I noticed, last weekend, that formal spoken German is changing

    Heck, I'm 54 and I'm noticing that English as it is spoken by the utes of today isn't quite the same as when I was a kid myself. Words changing their meaning (nauseous now means 'feeling sick' rather than 'causing nausea' as just one example). My dad, who was born in the late 1930s, saw even more words fall out of favour / be replaced by others / change their meaning. I imagine if I'm still going in the 2050s I'll be even more of a linguistic relic.

    291:

    Charlie:

    Congratulations on being nominated for a Dragon Award for Invisible Sun!

    292:

    Even literary English has changed, as it has for the past millennium. Some languages are more stable; others are similarly mutable. French has an official codification (for what it is worth), but the attempt to introduce one into English lasted only a century and was only partially successful then. Some of that is the massive changes caused by dialects, variants etc. affecting whatever you like to think of as the mainstream language. The OED states explicitly that its job is to describe the vocabulary, not define it.

    293:

    One example of L'Académie Française failing to hold back the tide:

    The 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac has people referring 'to kiss' as 'baiser'. 125 years later, it's meaning is apparently 'to f*ck'.

    Can't hold back the tide.

    294:

    253 - Remember what I said about "English grammar simply was not taught"? This includes diagramming sentences unless that means "subject predicater compliment adjunct".

    254 - Exactly; French teacher says "This is the perfect tense of $verb".
    Class respond "What's the 'perfect tense' Miss/Sir?"

    275 - There are really only 2 ways to pronounce "Z"; "zed" and the wrong way.

    276 - First paragraph of the Wikipedia entry on the Dragonlance chronicles: "The Dragonlance Chronicles is a trilogy of fantasy novels written by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, which take place in the Dragonlance setting. This series is the first set of Dragonlance novels, and is followed by the Dragonlance Legends series." And none of the first trilogy titles contain the word "Dragonlance".

    295:

    Heck, I'm 54 and I'm noticing that English as it is spoken by the utes of today isn't quite the same as when I was a kid myself.

    When did "one tenth" become "ten times smaller". The later just doesn't make logical sense to me but has totally taken over.

    296:

    This was the first time I actively refused to learn something. I'd been reading so much that I knew the rules without being able to state them. Sure, it was important to know what adverbs, verbs, nouns, etc were, but I could not see the utility of single-underlining this, double-underlining that, putting brackets around the other. Seemed like an utterly pointless waste of my time.

    I remember enjoying diagramming sentences, but I haven't done it in many decades. The one thing I wonder is whether, as a conlang exercise, it would be possible to create a language where the function of a word is where it is in a sentence diagram.

    With written words, this is silly, as it's normal to use a line of text (reformatted for a page) to represent a line of spoken words. Adding a few extra letters or other symbols to the lines easily denotes what function each plays.

    Thing is, quipus are sort of two dimensional, so a sentence diagram might be an intermediate between our representation of spoken language as lines of text on flat surfaces, and the Andean technique of stringing together information with knotted lengths of cordage.

    Why does this matter? Worldbuilding.

    A lot depends on what you've got to record information on. Papyrus, parchment, and paper work very differently with things like how fast ink dries, how flat they lay (papyrus rolls into scrolls more easily), and which ones are suitable for mechanical printing (some, not all, papers). Or you can go to lontar palm leaflets, silk, bamboo splints threaded together, clay, birchbark, or wood. Or, if you've got a lot of cordage lying around, you can make quipus. And if you don't have any of these, you're stuck with weird-looking mnemonic devices and decorating stones. What you have to work with determines how you "write," more than many people realize.

    297:

    Changing the subject from language arts to political science and psychology...

    We've got a compare/contrast moment in USian politics.

    On the one hand, the democrats are finally, finally breaking the Manchin/Sinema impasse and getting the US somewhere on climate change, as well as trying to do stuff about inflation andd a bunch of other big problems.

    On the other hand, we've got an abusive Republican ex-president who quite possibly absconded with nuclear secrets and/or highest level SIGINT, didn't respond to subpoenas about it, and now has had it forcibly removed from his possession by the FBI.

    And guess where the media is going? Nothing like crawling back into that abusive relationship yet again, is there?

    Anyway, once we pass 300, we can speculate on how much good the climate legislation will do, or whether Agent Orange took that info to sell nuclear tech to the Saudis, as part of a protection racket (leave me alone or I give Faux the Football and a list of the foreign leaders we've hacked), or as the stupidest trophy an ex-president could possibly take with him when he leaves.

    ...

    Or actually, we could keep talking about languages. That's more fun actually.

    298:

    Not to say un picnic.

    299:

    Or actually, we could keep talking about languages. That's more fun actually.

    Over the last hour I'm in an email exchange with someone about some tech issues on system I support.

    She was born and grew up in China. Didn't get into the university program she wanted there so got into one in the US around 10 years ago and stayed to work.

    The email exchange is taking 3 times as long due to her English being not as precise in telling me what's wrong. I can almost see her thinking in a Chinese dialect and mentally translating to write out the emails to me. Just from the verb and pronoun (mis)usage.

    Of course I have similar issues at times with born and raised in the USA. No translation involved. Just a lack of precision. Or what I call the lack of the ability to realize the person they are talking to has not been reading their mind for the previous hour or day.

    Then there is my neighbor. Born in Scotland, raised in Hong Kong, spent years in the UK and the USA and now lives here but with grown children in both countries. I have to ask him to translate what he says at times.

    300:

    Different level of language, but there's code switching.

    Normally this is meant as Black people using white English when there are white people around, but switching into more comfortable modes of expression when there are not.

    Thing is, code switching happens in academia, too. One of the more interesting parties I went to was a bunch of botanists and friends. After a time the friends left, and we realized that it was only botany grad students, no one else. And so we joyously nerded out, because we didn't have to act normal for a change.

    It wasn't a BS session, but rather fully using the jargons we were learning, that we loved. I miss discussions like that, actually. It's fun when people joyously join in, and you don't have to worry about toning it down to avoid alienating anyone.

    301:

    It's worth mentioning John McWhorter's Power of Babel, a natural history of language (2003), for those who are interested in such things. AFAIK it's only available in paper versions, but it's worth getting or checking out.

    302:

    ... whether Agent Orange took that info [nuclear secrets and/or highest level SIGINT] to sell nuclear tech to the Saudis, as part of a protection racket (leave me alone or I give Faux the Football and a list of the foreign leaders we've hacked), or as the stupidest trophy an ex-president could possibly take with him when he leaves.

    I've seen speculation that IQ45 may have been planning to use this stuff as his ticket when absconding to Russia - thus avoiding a potential prison term. Not serious speculation, I suspect, but fun none the less.

    303:

    I learned a lot of my vocabulary from books. I'm still not sure whether semester is pronounced seMESter or semesTER.

    And about Finhish... I'd been saying since something like my early 20s that with all the books I'd read with quotes in Greek, Latin, and French, and the authors expect that of course all their readers would speak that, that if I ever wrote a book, I was going to have quotes in Welsh and Finnish to get even.

    If you're read my 11,000 Years... I did it. I did have translations in the back (unlike all the authors I'd read), but my editor forced me to add translations with the quotes....

    304:

    That, of course, isn't just a language problem. Hell, a good friend of mine, who is knowledgeable including with computers yelled for help the other day, as she said her OpenOffice wasn't working.... Of course, I had to ask her to define "not working".

    305:

    As we're past 300, I've just posted a short essay on codes of conduct that includes consideration of language usage by class on my blog. https://mrw.5-cent.us

    And hi, all those who logged on from here.

    306:

    The end of education, when idiots are in power ....
    Like Hyacinth Truss or IQ45 - what fun It looks as though Trump really will go to jail - Or so we hope.
    How quickly could the US DoJ do this, if they really have found ultra-classified documentation in Florida????

    307:

    On the general subject of "English" like what she is spoke. (sic)

    Guy posts a "technical query" on a car website I post on (under my real name).
    I respond "Would you post that again, in English this time"? Him "You f*cking understood me you bar steward!" Several other regular posters (edited version) "No Paws didn't, and neither do I!"

    308:

    ... what fun It looks as though Trump really will go to jail - Or so we hope.

    Yeah - we hope. But Trump has dodged so much stuff without having to pay any consequences, that I won't believe it until a jury comes back with a "guilty" verdict.

    309:

    JReynolds @ 290:

    Heck, I'm 54 and I'm noticing that English as it is spoken by the utes of today isn't quite the same as when I was a kid myself. Words changing their meaning (nauseous now means 'feeling sick' rather than 'causing nausea' as just one example).

    Words do shift their meaning, but as far as I can remember, "nauseous" already had both meanings when I was a child, with "feeling sick" predominating.

    310:

    They were still [diagramming sentences] when I was in grades 7 & 8 (Ontario) in the early 1980s.

    I never did that is Saskatchewan — graduated high school in 1981.

    311:

    It's worth mentioning John McWhorter's Power of Babel, a natural history of language (2003), for those who are interested in such things. AFAIK it's only available in paper versions, but it's worth getting or checking out.

    https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/the-power-of-babel

    Kobo has it available as digital.

    312:

    Trump has dodged so much stuff without having to pay any consequences, that I won't believe it until a jury comes back with a "guilty" verdict.

    Naw. Don't believe it until the door is closed and locked.

    313:

    I thought quipus were not a language, though they are a way to record information. Aren't they a kind of proto "written" language, the same kind of thing as the origins of linear a and cuneiform as state record keeping for taxes? As I understand it don't the origins of written language lie not in language but in something else that is then repurposed, in the previous cases tax recording, in the case of chinese it is believed to be oracles cast by throwing tortoise shells into a fire and interpreting the cracks.

    314:

    SFReader @ 218:

    Sorry Charlie/folks for going off-topic before the 300th comment.

    Yeah, sorry about that, but the threads already appeared to be drifting. I held this to come back to it after 300.

    https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/polio/public/index.html#:~:text=Oral%20polio%20vaccine%20(OPV)%20is,4%20through%206%20years%20old.

    I did read all that before posting my question. The part I'm still trying to figure out is how to know if -I- am at "increased risk of exposure" given the ascendance of ANTI-VAXXERS in the current debate about vaccines. Is the immunity I got from being vaccinated as a child still good?

    315:

    AlanD2 @ 302:

    ... whether Agent Orange took that info [nuclear secrets and/or highest level SIGINT] to sell nuclear tech to the Saudis, as part of a protection racket (leave me alone or I give Faux the Football and a list of the foreign leaders we've hacked), or as the stupidest trophy an ex-president could possibly take with him when he leaves.

    I've seen speculation that IQ45 may have been planning to use this stuff as his ticket when absconding to Russia - thus avoiding a potential prison term. Not serious speculation, I suspect, but fun none the less.

    I made a joke on another forum the other day that "maybe he was going to sell them on eBay to raise money for his next run" ... doesn't seem quite as funny now.

    316:

    The original topic seems to be a case of government hoist by its own petard, with a certain inevitability about it.

    First we had the governmental ambition to increase the proportion of people who went to university from around 5% to 50% (I think the figure was, or something around that anyway). Which seemed to me to be a bloody stupid idea in the first place. The reason only 5% of people went to university was that not a lot more than that did well enough at school to get into a university, and not all of those wanted to. For the ambition to stand any chance of achieving some worthwhile result would require the plan to include some effective measures to improve school education to the point where nearly everyone finished school with good enough results to get into a university, and of course it did not in fact include anything of the bloody sort.

    What we did get was more of the same crap that was going on already - making school results look better by not requiring people to learn so much to get the same ranking in their results. This of course not only results in more people being inappropriately rated as up to university standard, but also in those people for whom that rating is appropriate still being less well actually equipped for university than previously.

    So for the latter cases we have universities complaining that their three-year courses need to become four years to teach people the degree material and the stuff they should have learned at school already, and for the former cases, inventing a profusion of mickey-mouse degree courses to absorb all the people who are essentially only at the equivalent of "left school at 16" level and not have them just fail. This then with utter predictability leads to lots of people wondering out loud who's going to pay for all this, and the government going "durrr, dunno, we thought it would pay for itself by magic".

    None of this was even new. People were already complaining about reduction in school standards (personal example: lots of things my dad learned in school physics which I, at the same school, did not), universities were complaining about the amount of stuff people missed at school that they were having to cram in before getting onto the proper degree material (tale: admissions tutor complaining that people could no longer answer "given two spheres of identical mass and size, one of lead encased in aluminium and one of aluminium encased in lead, and a thin external steel shell on both, how can you tell which is which without instruments?"), and governments were complaining about how much they were paying for people to go to university (we had already seen the grant reduced so that only tuition fees were guaranteed, and the rest of it, for the cost of living, depended on whether they thought your parents could pay for that instead).

    What had just happened was that all this was going to be made a whole lot worse, because the government had come up with this stupid idea of sending ten times as many people through university without caring about any consequences that weren't part of the definition of their fetish.

    The Thatcher government would not accept that the reason for high unemployment was that there were no bloody jobs because the government had fucked millions of them up. Instead they insisted that it was because the millions of unemployed weren't performing the right magical rituals. Norman Tebbit thought they should use cycling, which was easy for everyone to take the piss out of. It was much safer to rely on the standard lie about degrees necessarily resulting in jobs, because the only people who knew better were the small minority who did have degrees but didn't get them so long ago that it was more or less true then; every other bugger who had a degree, and all the much larger number of people who didn't, believed it without question, and by the time the consequences started to show up it would be some other government that had to deal with the mess.

    There was also a lot of guff going round about "Thatcher's education system leaving youth on the scrap heap" and some more guff of longer standing about "giving people low exam grades fossilises them as failures and this is bad"; part of the motivation, or at least the cover, was to appear to be addressing both of these. In neither case though is it appropriate; in the first one it wasn't Thatcher's education system at fault, it was that the scrap heap was where all the jobs had gone.

    The second one is related to the endlessly propagandised fallacy (which also formed part of the motivation for the ambition) that "everyone can "succeed"" (by which they mean, end up with lots of money), "all they have to do is work a lot" (for whichever value of "work" best fits the context). It would be more realistic and truthful to tell people "you almost certainly won't "succeed", but it's not important anyway, so don't worry about it, tell the people who think it is important to fuck off, and just do whatever makes you happy".

    There ought to be a name for this, like "pyramid denial" or something. The second one doesn't see the problem with having a pyramid with everyone on the upper layers; the first one is about stating or mis-stating the idea that you go on the upper layers or you have nowhere to go, because the bottom layers are now in China or wherever, and what do you mean that's silly.

    So where Sunak's at is sort of a reversion to type. It costs too much to use the universities to help people pretend they don't have nowhere to go, so let's go back to the "scrap heap" era and just say fuck 'em. Except this time the people who get to miss out are not those who don't do well at school, but those whose parents don't have a lot of money. It would achieve the same result more simply to just get rid of the grant/loan system entirely and go back to not having anything, rather than having a further iteration of piling kludge upon kludge, but I suppose they feel some kind of need to make a blundering attempt at being subtle about it.

    317:

    Robert Prior @ 310:

    They were still [diagramming sentences] when I was in grades 7 & 8 (Ontario) in the early 1980s.

    I never did that is Saskatchewan — graduated high school in 1981.

    We were taught that when I was in the 4th, 5th & 6th grades [grade school] back in the late 50s. I don't remember doing it in Junior High or High School. By then the emphasis was more on literature.

    318:

    The 'nauseous means sick' usage goes back at least more than a hundred years, and probably more like 400.

    319:

    Actually English isn’t an official language in NZ, only Maori and ESL. It’s obviously the main language but it’s never been put in law. Classic pub quiz question ;)

    320:

    "Trump has dodged so much stuff without having to pay any consequences, that I won't believe it until a jury comes back with a "guilty" verdict."

    Naw. Don't believe it until the door is closed and locked.

    Noted. I'm obviously too optimistic...

    321:

    I thought quipus were not a language, though they are a way to record information. Aren't they a kind of proto "written" language, the same kind of thing as the origins of linear a and cuneiform as state record keeping for taxes? As I understand it don't the origins of written language lie not in language but in something else that is then repurposed, in the previous cases tax recording, in the case of chinese it is believed to be oracles cast by throwing tortoise shells into a fire and interpreting the cracks.

    Let me back up a second to the previous point: if someone's creating a conlang that's to be "written" using knotted strings tied together in a tree-like pattern, then I think you can show it in a story, by diagramming the sentence and presenting the diagram as an image within the story. Wikipedia's got an article on sentence diagramming, and as many of us recall, it's not hard.

    Was this what quipus actually did? Well, maybe, maybe not.

    People all over the world from Hawai'i to Europe used knotted strings for tally counts, so that's the basic accounting idea. No one disputes that some quipus were used for tallies of stuff (we even have their abacus equivalents), but determining what string tallied what? That's harder. What's harder still is that it's quite obvious that some lines in some quipus were not tallies. One known alternate use was field production: if 60% of a field was to be planted in quinoa, and 40% in potatoes, that could be shown be tying a knot 60% of the way up the string. But we know Inkans did more with them.

    There are three other threads here. One is a great book, The Cord Keepers, that I tripped over years ago. It's a PhD anthropology thesis about how the student tripped over a rural Peruvian village that had been using quipus up until the 19th Century, before switching over to pen and paper. They had their old quipus in their last state, they knew what they had been used for, but no one knew how to read them any more.

    Those quipus were used to organize the work schedules of the village clans, aka ayllus. Andean life is hard, because the planting and harvest times are really compressed. If a family tried to plant their fields by themselves, they'd struggle to get it done. So what the ayllus do is that everyone plants every field in turn, rapidly, just to get all the work done on time. Ditto harvesting and everything else. The ayllus were used to organize who got which field, herd, etc., what was done with it, and also to organize multi-ayllu work (like building the village soccer stadium and keeping the canals repaired). Apparently be part of an ayllu is a lot like being in the army, but it was (and in some places still is) how rural life got organized in the Andes.

    But that's not all. There's a story from soon after the Conquest of an Inkan noblewoman sending the same message to a bunch of people by knotting a bunch of cords and sending them off. That argues for a writing-like use. American researchers, looking at existing quipu, think there was easily enough potential information (cord material, dye color, way string was wrapped, type and location of knots) to hold a written language, and there are some guesses that some colored cords are certain syllables.

    That said, if you're writing by knotting colored cords, you need a pretty big workstation to hold all the cordage and dye you'd need, and running short would kind of suck. So it's possible that the message ayllus were like African talking drums. The drums have a few dozen distinctive rhythms with known meanings, and those "words" are what they transmit, rather than the equivalent of Morse code. What can you say with a few dozen known signal knots? Depends on what you choose.

    Also on the maybe not a written language side, we know from the Conquest records that there were multiple types of quipus, so it's likely that some were ledgers and some were other things. Whether those other things are written-language equivalent? No one knows.

    There's also Lynne Kelly's work. She's got a whole career looking at all the different memorization techniques people have used around the world, and she's published a book that includes quite a lot of mnemonic devices (Memory Craft). One of the things she made was a quipu. Her take on it was that making and using it was the most like writing of any of the many, many things she'd made, and also it was one of the hardest things to use as a mnemonic device, because good memory devices have a lot of brain-catching uniqueness to them, while a big old bundle of colored, knotted strings is less memorable on a per-string basis. That kind of argues that quipus were more writing equivalent, but that's also just one woman's experience, not anything like a controlled study.

    So long answer, but I hope it clarifies my ignorance, if not yours.

    322:

    Is the immunity I got from being vaccinated as a child still good?

    I have the same concerns, as my vaccinations are in the distant past ('50s and later). I hope you checked out the 'Polio in New York' link in SFReader's post #270. I didn't realize that the two kinds of polio vaccines worked in different (and complimentary, to some degree) ways. From CDC's web site:

    Duration of Protection

    It is not known how long people who received IPV will be protected against polio, but they are most likely protected for many years after a complete series of IPV. However, adults who completed their polio vaccination series as children and are at higher risk for polio exposure can receive one lifetime IPV booster.

    https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/polio/hcp/effectiveness-duration-protection.html

    I'm guessing that a polio booster is a much lower priority right now than Covid and perhaps monkeypox (for those people without smallpox vaccinations). But - like most things in life - this is subject to change without notice...

    323:

    "Older students, even older by one year, tended to do better in classes and didn't go off the rails dealing with campus life."

    I'm going to go against the stream here. "Thick sandwich" and "thin sandwich" were (?are) sponsorship deals; what I had was a "half-arsed sandwich" where there was no sponsorship involved, but there was a requirement of the course to spend a year doing an actual relevant job. You had the choice of that interruption to the course of your education coming either between the 2nd and 3rd years of the course, or between school and the 1st year. I chose the latter because I figured it would be less disruptive.

    Apart from the first few years of school, my "social life" pretty much entirely consisted of hanging around with my friends during break times. Most of the lads lived in the same town the school was in, and there was no intersection between the set I fell into hanging around with at school and the single-digit handful spread over several years who came in from the next town 7 miles away, so I had none of the hanging around with each other outside school and wandering round to each other's houses all the time that the schoolkids round here seem to be constantly doing; nor did I know anyone in the town not through school; so I never socialised outside the restrictive school environment. I never even got drunk - I didn't understand why people wanted to or how it was supposed to be enjoyable, and I'd never encountered any alcoholic drink that tasted pleasant enough to be worth drinking for the pleasure of tasting it, so I had neither personal nor social motivation to try it.

    The year doing the actual relevant job was even less social - sitting in a lab all day and sitting in a garret all evening, then going back to my parents' at weekends partly because the rent was cheaper by more than the cost of the journey but mainly because it would have been just too fucking boring to sit in the garret for two whole days. And being paid just enough to cover this plus food but no more than that, so even if there had been any opportunity to vary the routine the means would have been lacking.

    Being at university was an absolute revelation - loads of people to hang around with living in the same actual building, and a much higher proportion with enough common interest for me to want to hang around with them than at school. And a bar in the building too, whose delights I discovered on about my second night. I'd never known anything like it, and basically I quickly ended up fucking around (in the metaphorical sense) all the time and as much as I could, while learning little beyond that I wanted to do it some more.

    On top of that, the year spent doing the actual relevant job - relevant, perhaps, but still naturally at dogsbody level with other people doing the thinking - turned out to have been a year spent forgetting much of what I'd learned in my last year or two of school. I had done well enough in maths to meet the entrance requirements by somehow managing to "get on a roll" and then sitting the A-levels with it all still hot and boiling; I got through the various school holidays without losing too much of the heat to get it going again when school restarted, but the year spent doing the ARJ was a very different matter, and it just went. (In the same way nowadays I find that programs I write in that state tend to be the ones I find most baffling to come back to six months later.)

    If I'd had to do the A-levels again at that point, I would have been fucked. Similarly when I came to bits where I needed that knowledge in the course material, I was also fucked. I'd keep finding that the pointer to something basic and simple like how to handle complex numbers, which I'd thought were pretty neat at school, was now pointing to uninitialised memory and causing me to crash. Which was shit. (It didn't help having lecturers not only scribbling stuff on the board too fast to keep up with but explaining it in the opposite direction to the direction I come to understand things in, and expecting it to become meaningful immediately, so they could then start making use of it in stuff on the next board without having to bother explaining how the connection between those two stages works.)

    I found the year doing the ARJ utterly useless for any of the purposes claimed in favour of such hiatuses. It didn't give me any cause to reconsider what I might want to do, since it was pretty much exactly what I expected; I enjoyed the work I was given, and I assumed that the shit money was merely a function of it being before and not after the university bit, so I'd be OK later. It didn't give me any knowledge that was of any help with or relevance to the university course, nor did it add anything useful to my ideas of what I expected the course to be useful for. It gave me absolutely fuck all useful life experience to help me deal with university life - it was (and indeed still is) about the most opposite and unrelated thing I'd ever experienced. And as far as doing better on my coursework goes, it was an absolute fucking disaster of counterproductivity, and I'd have been much better off not doing it.

    Since it would never have crossed my mind to "take a year out" if I'd hadn't had to, I rate submitting to the compulsion to do it (instead of choosing some other course or university) as having been a really fucking bad idea. (I'm not that impressed with the university's idea of making it compulsory either.) Probably the one thing I did get right was choosing to do it before the 1st year rather than between the 2nd and 3rd, otherwise I'd have fucked up my education and fucked up the job.

    This isn't to say it was entirely useless - I did learn one or two (technical) things that I have found useful in later life, and I also picked up some stuff which is of interest from a historical, "this is what that technology was like at the time" point of view. But I would have learned, probably not the same things, but equivalent things, in a year of any kind of relevant job. It would have been a negligible loss to have missed it. The loss of university knowledge consequent on not missing it is a lot more serious. And what I miss most of all is the knowledge from school being lost, instead of consolidated as would have been the case if I'd had to carry on using it without interruption. That's where the education-type stuff I use all the time is, and although it's not "lost" to the extent of not being able to do it at all, it is a pain in the arse having to look stupid things up all the time, and I've never got back the level of understanding (as opposed to performance) I had at school or the ability to "get on a roll" with it (though I can do that with other things).

    324:

    "nauseous now means 'feeling sick' rather than 'causing nausea' as just one example"

    I'd consider "causing nausea" a misuse. Nausea, the feeling of sickness; nauseous, having the feeling; nauseate, to cause the feeling; nauseating, causing the feeling. Imagine if Daleks were weedy and could only make people sick; they would go around saying "NAUSEATE! NAUSEATE!" and nauseating people.

    325:

    "This includes diagramming sentences unless that means "subject predicater compliment adjunct"."

    I remember this from when I was 6. Or half of it. They never mentioned the other two words. Nor did they mention "object", which I was expecting some time.

    We had the Verb, which went at the top, in a little balloon. Then we had the Subject, which was the word before the Verb, in its own balloon, hanging down from the Verb's balloon diagonally on the left. And then we had the Predicate, which was all the other words, with each word in its own balloon, hanging down in a little chain diagonally on the right from the Verb balloon. They could have called them "car" and "cdr" without affecting the pointlessness of the exercise.

    326:

    "Like Hyacinth Truss or IQ45 - what fun It looks as though Trump really will go to jail - Or so we hope."

    "How quickly could the US DoJ do this, if they really have found ultra-classified documentation in Florida????"

    Not quickly at all. At least years, given IQ45's access to lawyers.

    A jury will need to be seated (voir dire will be interesting), various pre- and inter-trial motions will be filed, the trial will be conducted, appeals will then be filed to higher courts, etc., etc., etc.

    I guess it's possible if unlikely that he'll be indicted, tried and convicted before the first Tuesday in November 2024. But if the appeals for criminal conviction were ongoing during his second term as POTUS...? Interesting question.

    Criminal conviction being disqualifying for Federal office seems to be of undetermined significance. Maybe yes, maybe no.

    327:

    I'll be optimistic for a change and disagree. If IQ45 is charged under the Espionage Act, it's pretty much equivalent to possession of stolen goods. Everyone agrees he had the documents (subject to the inevitable RQP shitstorm to try to confuse it, starting by Monday).

    The Espionage Act starts "Whoever, for the purpose of obtaining information respecting the national defense with intent or reason to believe that the information is to be used to the injury of the United States, or to the advantage of any foreign nation..." and goes on from there. Basically, if the FBI is using this and finding "nuclear information," I think we can take it as a given that this is about the military use of nuclear power, not selling reactors to Saudi Arabia. I'm pretty sure they can make the case that IQ45 having these documents is to the detriment of the US and/or foreign advantage, or they wouldn't have bothered.

    The other acts they're investigating are also pretty easy to prove ("Whoever, having the custody of any such record, proceeding, map, book, document, paper, or other thing, willfully and unlawfully conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates, falsifies, or destroys the same, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both; and shall forfeit his office and be disqualified from holding any office under the United States.").

    So basically, we're looking at an unlawful possession scenario, and it's pretty clear he had the documents. His own lawyer signed off on the receipt the FBI gave her, and she really shouldn't have done that if the FBI was planting documents now, should she? We're also apparently looking at a situation where the National Archives tried everything up to and including a subpoena to get the documents back, and IQ45 blew them all off. That procedural paper trail is already in the public.

    This isn't a month-long fraud case, this appears open and shut and could be presented in a day or two. Of course, IQ45's lawyers will do everything they can to slow the roll, but there's really not a lot for them to do but pound the table and yell like hell.

    I strongly suspect that the US Justice system will do everything they can to expedite the trial and appeals, given who IQ45 is and the inevitability that he's going to run for President again. No reason to have this overshadowing his campaign, after all. Either he's a legitimate candidate, or legally disqualified from holding office. We need to get that settled ASAP. Were I talking to MAGAts about this, I'd make precisely this case.

    328:

    Unrelated to anything: apparently the Tumblr Kids have dubbed the genre of books like Ancillary Justice and The Traitor Baru Cormorant "Lesbian Space Atrocities".

    https://st-just.tumblr.com/tagged/lesbian%20space%20atrocities

    329: 304: I find it a relief that I can nearly always say "sorry, I haven't the foggiest, I don't use that program" (and, not that infrequently, add "...for exactly that reason"). That way I only have to explain what "I don't use that program" means. 303: Dorothy L Sayers complained about people complaining about her habit of including chunks of French, in some cases up to several pages long. You can't just skip them or look up an English translation of the source because they're not quotations, they are the source, and they're part of the story. It has to be said I can't avoid being glad it was French she chose to write them in.

    The trouble with the Latin quotations is they are usually grossly incomplete, three or four words out of some much longer original sentence. If you do that with English or Welsh, say, where it's mostly the order of words that defines how they're interrelated, the snippet still retains a tolerable amount of meaning in its own right, which you can assimilate even if you don't know where it comes from.

    But with the way Latin works, what it leaves you with is something like the remnants of a tree after you randomly delete most of the pointers - a handful of arbitrary nodes with no indication of their relationship. It doesn't help you much knowing what the words mean, because the meanings aren't related; each word incorporates a pointer linking it back to some conceptual grammatical parent node to which some other words are also linked, and all you can tell from what you're given is that none of those other words are in it. You can translate the words but all you get is nonsense, and I think there are even a few cases of what it looks like it ought to mean if you parse it as English being quite the opposite of what it actually does mean when you have the complete text to translate - and the original meaning is the intended one, so knowing what the words mean actually leaves you worse off than not knowing them.

    This is reasonably true for quotations from Latin prose, if not always since prose allows words to be grouped by meaning to a certain extent, but a lot more true for quotations from Latin poetry, where they tend to chuck the words in in any old order to satisfy the complex and specific rules of the metre, and rely absolutely on the pointer structure to keep the meaning hanging together. Indeed some words are chosen or even semi-made-up because they can carry a strong enough reference that you can put them in a silly place to meet the metre without losing track of what they're associated with through ambiguity, whereas a less frantically obscure word for the same thing couldn't.

    The point is that you're not supposed to be able to translate Latin quotations. They're not parser input, they're associated-search keys to look up the English translation of the translatably-complete original Latin sentence, along with memories of sitting there while Mr King eviscerated one chap after another for various howlers until the meaning could be derived piecewise by divination on the welter of guts. That bit's probably more the point than the actual meaning is.

    Seems a bit silly, but then so is my own feeling that if instead of straightforwardly selecting and ordering words to mean some thing that comes at that part of the story, you can pick some other sequence which does just as well at meaning that thing, but as well as that it links to at least five other meanings, all of which also relate to that point in the story, through some tenuous chain of obscure associations, then it's a good idea to do it, even knowing perfectly well that the chance of anyone else following the same set of connections is extremely small and even if they do they'll never know if you meant it.

    330:

    "Thick sandwich" and "thin sandwich" were (?are) sponsorship deals; what I had was a "half-arsed sandwich" where there was no sponsorship involved, but there was a requirement of the course to spend a year doing an actual relevant job.

    I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about.

    We have coop programs here, where students have to do a number of work terms. These are paid positions, and companies often use them as a means of vetting potential employees. When I worked at BNR we often hired former coop students (if they'd done a decent job) and at a higher salary than someone without the same experience.

    We don't have entrance exams for university. The decision is made based on high school marks and other factors. Officially every high school is treated identically, but many universities apply a weighting factor based on past experience with students from each school. Many private schools are notorious for giving marks for money and some programs don't want to 'waste' a spot on someone who bought their 98%. (Others are happy to take the money and let the kids fail when it turns out they can't hack the material.)

    In any case, Waterloo had statistical evidence that students applying after a gap year tended to do better than their high school mark would predict*, so they factored that in.


    *The single greatest predictor of success at university in Ontario is a student's high school mark. Despite all the failings and inconsistencies of marks, the opinion of a dozen-plus teachers who've known a kid for a year (or more) turns out to be a better predictor than a single high-stakes test such as the SAT. (Which is mainly a predictor of the parents' socio-economic status.)

    331:

    "We're not just talking about Worcestershire with its silent syllables, English has the full set of silent letters, unwritten letters and pronunciations that vary depending on both dialect and context."

    There are still some people around who call it 'Oostershire, but it's a lot less common than it used to be.

    332:

    "I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about."

    I was being pedantic about my year between school and university being not quite the same kind as the kinds that had been mentioned already.

    "We don't have entrance exams for university. The decision is made based on high school marks and other factors."

    Nor do we. It was down to just Oxford and Cambridge doing it as an option but not a requirement decades ago (an option which few people were interested in because it was kind of pointless), and I'm not even sure if they still do that now.

    333:

    “Thin sandwich” and “thick sandwich” were common names for two forms of university course in the UK of the 80s. Thin sandwich generally meant the students would do six months at an industry placement and six months at college in each year. Thick sandwich - which I sort-of did - was a year at co. with day-a-week college courses , 3 years at uni, and a final year with the co. Remember, UK degrees were/are 3 year courses with generally rather more specialisation than 4 year US courses. In my time in the code-mines of Silicon Valley a UK degree was generally treated as at least as good as a US 4 year from a top college. A UK masters would normally get you on the same pay scale as a US PhD. May well have changed by now, 30 years later.

    The sandwich was not, by the way, a way for students to earn money to pay for their degree. Back then the UK had a decently civilised system that paid us to get edumacated- course and living expenses were provided. If you didn’t (literally) piss it all away it was tolerable financially. The year working for Rolls-Royce didn’t make me any money anyway, because the rent on a shared box room in a tatty part of Derby was slightly more than I got paid. Eating just made it more difficult. I never did the end year of my sandwich because I asked about doing a masters and they fired me without any explanation... worked out ok in the end.

    334:

    321 - Knotted strings (and notched sticks) are both historically documented forms of "writing" and/or "counting".

    330 - "Thick sandwich" and "thin sandwich" are both forms of "doing real work" and university/college courses as required parts of the same qualification; the difference in in how long the real work sections of the qualification last.

    335:

    From fading memory Cambridge only uses entrance exams for overseas students whose local A-Level equivalents can't easily be translated, althought there have been mutterings about bringing them back more generally because of grade inflation.

    Along the same lines though, all applicants are interviewed and some subjects will have the student read something while waiting and then effectively give an oral exam as part of the interview process.

    336:

    H & Kardashev
    Quote from elsewhere: It's like kiddie-porn - if it's on your computer/in your files - you go to jail

    { AND: It's trivially easy to prove. }

    337:

    Heteromoles @ 327: Either [Trump]'s a legitimate candidate, or legally disqualified from holding office.

    I assume you're referring to the bit in the laws about conviction disqualifying the convict from public office.

    Unfortunately those laws don't apply to the offices of POTUS and VPOTUS, because the qualifications for those jobs are in the Constitution, so mere laws don't apply.

    The only crime that disqualifies a POTUS is insurrection or rebellion. Which he's probably guilty of too, but that's a lot more arguable.

    338:

    "Unfortunately those laws don't apply to the offices of POTUS and VPOTUS, because the qualifications for those jobs are in the Constitution, so mere laws don't apply." Not that you could hope to tell this from the reporting on the English Broadcasting Corporation "olds".

    339:

    Not that you could hope to tell this from the reporting on the English Broadcasting Corporation "olds".

    They do tackle the question here.

    I first saw a legal analysis of this on the Volokh Conspiracy: Josh Blackman pointed out the constitutional issues, in response to:

    Several progressive commentators gleefully pointed to 18 U.S.C. § 2071.

    That was on the 8th. The BBC story covering the same ground is dated the 10th.

    I suspect that one reporter looked at the law and quoted it at face value without first running it past a lawyer (because that would cost money and hours in a newsroom where both are in short supply), and then lots of other news organisations, including the BBC, picked it up, checked that the legal quote was accurate, and ran with it. We might wish for newsrooms to be a bit more thoughtful and considered, but I can't really blame anyone for thinking that the law in question meant what it said, especially from outside the USA.

    340:

    I think question lurking behind all of the debate on the original topic of this thread needs to be brought out front-and-centre:

    What is education for?

    A partial list: teaching young people the following:

    • Things they will need to know in later life.

    • How to behave as members of a large and complex technological society. (Which often means "obey the guy in charge" because that's what it takes to make and operate large complex technological artefacts).

    • A body of cultural knowledge that isn't directly useful but is widely considered to be valuable in some way, like long division, Shakespeare, and the history of Europe.

    • That their culture is a good and wise culture, and they are fortunate to be members of it. (Is there any culture now or in the past that doesn't teach that to its children?)

    • How to learn new things, including methods of sorting, analysing and integrating new information, including information that contains contradictions.

    And there are doubtless other things too. Feel free to add your own.

    All those goals have to be maximised within a strictly limited budget of hours, and some of them conflict. So its not surprising that education is problematic. And of course even in the most generous possible government (which ours is not), there is going to be a finite budget for it.

    On top of that, the cultural goals are politically contentious because they have the potential to influence how the students will vote in later life. Teach them about the glories of empire, the White Man's Burden, the white male geniuses of the Industrial Revolution, and how post-colonial Africa unversally sank into abject misery, and you produce a generation of right-wing extremists (by modern standards). Teach those same children about the evils of empire, black history, struggles of trades unions and working people, and you get a generation who will reliably vote for much more socially and economically inclusive governments (or "left wing loonies" by the standards of the UK in 1950).

    So: what is education for? Or to put it another way, if the "education system" is to live up to the second part of its name, what requirements should it meet? Answers on a postcard please.

    341:

    That raises the interesting possibility of an imprisoned felon being elected president.

    342:

    Quote from elsewhere: It's like kiddie-porn - if it's on your computer/in your files - you go to jail

    If it turns out to be there, Trump will loudly announce (and Trumpworld will believe) that it's a plant.

    343:

    That raises the interesting possibility of an imprisoned felon being elected president.

    At which point he could pardon himself so he'd no longer be a felon…

    344:

    "At which point he could pardon himself so he'd no longer be a felon…"

    Of course, but it's amusing to imagine the circumstances under which Chief Justice Roberts would administer the oath of office. Would the CJ go to the prision? Would Trump be in handcuffs when placing his hand(s) on the bible? If the latter, who would have the honor of unlocking the cuffs?

    345:

    What is education for?

    I agree with all except your fourth point (cultural goals).

    Nothing against learning about one's own culture, but students should be able to learn the flaws and warts as well as the benefits. How else can a culture improve, except by acknowledging it's flaws?

    346:

    Unfortunately those laws don't apply to the offices of POTUS and VPOTUS, because the qualifications for those jobs are in the Constitution, so mere laws don't apply.

    Nope. The Constitution is mere law. It's already been amply demonstrated, with members of Congress, that convicted felons can't be elected. If convicted of a felony while in office, they may or may not be stripped of their jobs depending on the will of their colleagues, but they can't be elected, even though their jobs are also defined in the Constitution.

    Here's that pesky little second law that the DOJ is working on, again: ""Whoever, having the custody of any such record, proceeding, map, book, document, paper, or other thing, willfully and unlawfully conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates, falsifies, or destroys the same, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both; and shall forfeit his office and be disqualified from holding any office under the United States." [Emphasis added]

    Note again:

    --It's any officeholder, including the President.

    --By principle (not law), the President can only be impeached while holding office, not tried and convicted for their actions while serving. But there's no reason they cannot be held legally responsible for the laws they break while in office. Otherwise, why pardon Nixon after he left?

    --Officers of the United States swear to uphold the Constitution. They do not swear loyalty to the President or any other "Crown" substitute. A king is above the law. A President is not.

    Why buy into Trump's rhetoric that he's above the law? This is an important case, because billionaires have been trying to create a legal principle that great wealth grants legal immunity. That's not written anywhere, nor should it be.

    347:

    In the eyes of TPTB, the culture they are trying to promote doesn't HAVE any flaws and shouldn't be changed :-(

    348:

    "Who would have the honor of unlocking the cuffs?"
    The original arresting officer?

    349:

    On the subject of whether 18 U.S.C. § 2071 applies to a presidential race, it's a little more complex than "the requirements to be president are in the Constitution and trump (yeah, I know) everything else." The general expectation is that the President is an ordinary citizen who happens to hold high office, and that whoever holds the office will both obey the law and be subject to it's penalties. For the Extreme Court* to find that this is not the case essentially frees the president of any legal restraints, so it's a lot more complicated than one lawyer's interpretation of "what the Constitution says."

    * The current Extreme Court is stupid and fascistic-enough to rule quite wrongly in such as case.

    350:

    For the Extreme Court to find that this is not the case essentially frees the president of any legal restraints*

    I don't think so. This merely says that Trump could still become or remain POTUS after a conviction. It doesn't mean he can't be arrested, tried or imprisoned. In theory we might even see him winning the election while in prison. But he won't (at least in theory) be allowed out early because of that. He (probably) can't pardon himself. And of course he can always be impeached.

    I'm just waiting for the chants of "Lock him up" at Democrat rallies.

    351:

    Pigeon@316 wrote: "Except this time the people who get to miss out are not those who don't do well at school, but those whose parents don't have a lot of money. It would achieve the same result more simply to just get rid of the grant/loan system entirely and go back to not having anything, rather than having a further iteration of piling kludge upon kludge, but I suppose they feel some kind of need to make a blundering attempt at being subtle about it."

    Well, sure. If they came right out and admitted publicly what they wanted it would cost votes, maybe enough to lose an election and push them out of power. Do it slow and quiet and there's a chance voters won't understand their true goal until too late, like the proverbial method for cooking crabs or maybe it was frogs, gradually increase heat until they just go inert.

    352:

    Robert Prior @330:

    but many universities apply a weighting factor based on past experience with students from each school.

    A friend of mine who worked in admissions at UWO (A university in Southwestern Ontario) said that this was absolutely the case: they had databases of high schools with 'normalizing' functions built in.

    So an 80% mark from Joe Clark High School would be the equivalent of a 90% mark from Stephen Harper High School for the purposes of admission, etc.

    353:

    H
    A king is above the law - NOPE - Charles I.

    354:

    In the eyes of TPTB, the culture they are trying to promote doesn't HAVE any flaws and shouldn't be changed :-(

    Welcome to DeSantis' Florida…

    355:

    "He (probably) can't pardon himself."

    This too seems to be a subject of disagreement among relatively respectable legal scholars:

    https://www.npr.org/2021/01/09/955087860/can-trump-pardon-himself

    https://constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/podcast/can-the-president-pardon-himself

    IMO there's little doubt that he would issue a self-pardon immediately after the inauguration and the question is "What then?". I assume he'd fire the previous Administration's AG and nominate someone like Ken Paxton immediately.

    356:

    There's no point in say "can" or "can't" in regards to the President in the law - the rules are very literally whatever the Supreme Court says they are.

    Their only boundaries are 'will this get me impeached' or 'will this get the court packed'. There's no real limits on how they can rule.

    357:

    "That raises the interesting possibility of an imprisoned felon being elected president."

    At which point he could pardon himself so he'd no longer be a felon…

    It's my understanding that accepting a pardon is an admission of guilt. So his infamy of being a felon would live on...

    358:

    There's no point in say "can" or "can't" in regards to the President in the law - the rules are very literally whatever the Supreme Court says they are.

    Only until people get fed up and stop listening to the Supreme Court...

    359:

    It's my understanding that accepting a pardon is an admission of guilt. So his infamy of being a felon would live on...

    Neither Trump nor his followers would lose any sleep over that. Heck, they would see it as a badge of honor.

    360:

    It's my understanding that accepting a pardon is an admission of guilt
    A lot of people do seem to think, incorrectly, that this is equivalent to having the conviction quashed.

    361:

    Only until people get fed up and stop listening to the Supreme Court...

    At which point we will have an actual, shooting, civil war

    362:

    At which point we will have an actual, shooting, civil war

    Not necessarily. Already there are District Attorneys who have said they will not enforce certain laws. Do you think the Supreme Court is going to prosecute every one of them?

    363:

    Jury selection in a Donald Trump trial seems like a nightmare. I wonder if the Manhattan District Attorney pulled back on investigating Trump because he didn't have the budget for a trial.

    364:

    Do you think the Supreme Court is going to prosecute every one of them?

    That's not what I meant by "shooting war". I am talking about this kind of shit:

    https://www.abc15.com/news/national/growing-calls-for-civil-war-in-far-right-groups-after-fbi-search

    Even if politicians like Wendy Rogers and Mark Finchem are merely shooting off their mouths, there are enough armed nutcases who will take them seriously.

    365:

    That's not what I meant by "shooting war".

    I know. But a real shooting war - serious enough to overthrow the government of the U.S. - is just an extreme right-wing fantasy. A few individuals - sure. But tens of millions of dedicated MAGA and QAnon followers, organized into military units? Give me a break...

    366:

    Oh, I have no doubt these individuals will fail. But I think they will try, and states refusing to go along with SCOTUS decisions may be the trigger.

    367:

    I'd think an education is for a) giving you enough knowledge to start a job that is useful to society, and b) be a part of the society. If I say Hamlet, and you ask if that's a small ham, you're not part of society.

    368:

    During the vote counting, one big name idiot was pushing them to "surround and intimidate Philadelphia". Let's see, Philly is greater than 20 mi sw to ne, and a good number of miles wide. How many would it take, hundreds of thousands?

    And then there's the case of these idiots playing militia in the woods, who think they're going to intimidate, um, armed inner city gangs, who do "urban warfare", something the actual military hates and fears, and does extensive training for.

    And then, of course, the National Guard is called out, and then the Army and Air Force, and the last thing these idiots see is an A-10.

    But all of that assumes that they could organize. These are the people who will look at each other, and say "I ain't gonna do that, you ain't the boss of me."

    369:

    In the eyes of TPTB, the culture they are trying to promote doesn't HAVE any flaws and shouldn't be changed

    I think this is the main flaw with Paul's list: just by looking at it I'm not sure whether he's talking about what we think education should be for, or is for, or what TPTB think it should be for, or is for. That is, I'm not sure where it sits in terms of an is/ought distinction, and I'm not sure whether Paul is saying his own views, or projecting some other viewpoint (TPTB, "society", some sort of moral guardianship cabal, Alliance française, the Oklahoma School Board, the Australian Vice-Chancellors' Committee, etc). To me, it's missing the obvious "12 years of free-to-use child-minding", something that recent events have shown up as a required feature, not merely a happy side-effect. But that relates to the question about whose point of view the list represents.

    I have my own thoughts about how our present conceptualisation of education as a distinct activity is structured. Tolkien's conceit that Hobbits achieve majority at 30 is fun. If I ever manage to start writing speculative fiction, my world-building idea is one where compulsory education, as we consider K-12 now, extends until much later in life, at least to the individual's early 30s. The K-12 premise is very much a 20th century high industrial, modernist concept, and serves a particular set of assumptions about what eduction is for. But as we have discussed previously here, new breakthrough discoveries and inventions are more likely to emerge in areas that are not the sole focus of specific specialties, but will rather depend on researchers and inventors "with two PhDs". I think there's a lot to play with there and have quite a few ideas already, but that's an aside.

    370:

    Jury selection in a Donald Trump trial seems like a nightmare. I wonder if the Manhattan District Attorney pulled back on investigating Trump because he didn't have the budget for a trial.

    Wouldn't know, but there are other trials moving ahead. Voir dire's not an infinite process, and I suspect they'll be forced to seat a jury regardless. Give IQ45 a choice of being tried in New York City, Washington DC, or Palm Beach, Fla. He gets a lot of love in all three places.

    My guess is that, assuming DOJ goes ahead with prosecuting Trump on the documents violations, one of the things they may do is consider a plea deal: he pleads guilty to enough charges that he's disqualified from running for President again, and then he serves no jail time.

    Would he go for this? He's been in 3500-odd lawsuits, and he's settled quite a few of them. Looking at the rest of his life behind bars or not running for President again? The latter offers him more running room. Which he'll need, if he still has hundreds of millions in payments coming due in 2024....

    371:

    That kind of shooting war with military disciplined armies of soldiers is not going to happen here in the USA.

    Lookee, those damned trucker warriors moaned, whined and cried coz there was nowhere to buy lunch, or somebody to make it for them, or -- so they resorted, in Ottawa anyway, to doing what hungry armies do historically, they foraged and stole the food from the pantry for the homeless. But in D.C. they couldn't even handle the traffic they were there for, to expressly, >ahem< eff up. In California they cried because adolescents threw eggs at them.

    Imagine them camping out for weeks and months in bivouac in the mountains in winter, sieging cities in the summer, without a/c. O lordessa, as Somebody Said, we USians aren't tough enough to have a military fighting civil war.

    What we are good at though is randomly killing innocent peaceful kids and Others. Or having the cops break down doors in illegal warrantless raids, and so on and so forth. This eventually does get to all of us.

    I know -- hey the weekend our neighborhood was pillaged by professional criminals coming in and the cops not even bothering to turn on a siren -- random shootings, stabbings, shovings, beatings, all the time anywhere -- it gets to you. That we can manage, but an actual disciplined military action, no.

    372:

    Exactly. It will be a "sneak out at night and shoot your liberal/conservative neighbor" style civil war. The kind where someone kills an ice-cream vendor, complete with mis-spelled press release, because they let a brown kid get in line ahead of the white kids.

    373:

    367 - In all too many cases, an amatuer production of "A Prince of Denmark" actually is a small ham.

    368 - Typical Warthog catchphrase "Don't bother running; you'll just die tired!"

    369 - ISTR that Halflings are longer-lived than humans are now, never mind in, say, 1930 to '50 when JRRT wrote the 4 central books.

    374:

    That kind of shooting war with military disciplined armies of soldiers is not going to happen here in the USA.

    Not for awhile yet anyway. I agree with your points.

    375:

    Apropos of today's discussion, the other thing that's missing here is that this is the point in the movie where the monster's appeared again, and a bunch of people are panicking, mongering stories that make the monster more invincible than it is, and talking themselves into caving in to the monster. See The Mummy, for instance.

    Meanwhile everyone else is figuring out how to neutralize the damned thing. And its thralls. Again.

    So if you remember that movie, you want to be on the side of the final girl, not one of the extra mooks, right?

    So why, when a conman is trying to make people think the law can't touch him, why are you making up stories that support his claim? He's an effing nuisance, not a god-king. Treat him as a lesson learned, not someone to crawl back to for more.

    376:

    Exactly -- the same sort of warfare conducted by Stasi and vigilante -- the warfare of cowards.

    And women are on the front lines, as usual, due to the corrupt opus dei scotus.

    377:

    I get the impression that the US already has gangs of marauding militias using military weaponry against that part of the civilian population they think of as the enemy. They have their own alternative government that is slowly pushing the existing one out, and while that's not being done primarily or only by force of arms, force of arms is very definitely part of the process.

    378:

    I get the impression that the US already has gangs of marauding militias using military weaponry against that part of the civilian population they think of as the enemy. They have their own alternative government that is slowly pushing the existing one out...

    Groups like the Proud Boys get a lot of headlines and time on the news, but in no way are they (or any other militia) displacing our government - except perhaps some local governments in very limited areas. These militias cannot - and never will - replace state or federal governments.

    379:

    I was thinking about the cops. Who have way more influence over the judiciary and politicians than seems healthy.

    I'll believe they can't/haven't replaced your governments when I see them subject to the same laws as everyone else, at least the criminal ones. Less "qualified immunity" and more "go directly to jail". Plus "civil forfeiture" sounds remarkably like when countries used to license pirates, it functions as judicially approved brigandage.

    380:

    " when countries used to license pirates,"

    On the contrary, my dear: we are a privateer.

    Charles Stross - Neptune's Brood

    Of course, in some cases the distinction may be rather fine.

    JHomes

    381:

    I'll believe they can't/haven't replaced your governments when I see them subject to the same laws as everyone else, at least the criminal ones.

    Police get special treatment everywhere, Moz. This doesn't mean that cops are gangs out to overthrow governments - at least usually...

    382:

    whitroth said: and b) be a part of the society. If I say Hamlet, and you ask if that's a small ham, you're not part of society.

    I have no idea how you get from one to the other.

    I knew about hamlet before I started school. So education wasn't involved.

    Yet were I to say "hasta la vista baby" you'd know that it should be said in a bad Austrian accent, and why. And that makes you part of the shared experience that creates a society. Nothing to do with education.

    In fact it's education that separates me from society and makes me an outcast.

    383:

    foxessa
    So: Your "police" services are failing in their basic duty - protecting the people.
    Mind you, with the tory cuts & right-wing rhetoric, we are going down the same road. Vast amounts of snooping & surveillance & "Frightening" people but not dealing with actual threats.
    - @ 376: Precisely.

    384:

    Police get special treatment everywhere

    I haven't seen a lot of armoured vehicles used by police outside civil wars. And the US police kill a lot more people than in most countries that aren't at war.

    There's a big difference between the inevitable minor corruption that comes with power, and the extremes you get in places like India, Russia and the USA. Sure, Australian cops kill a disturbing number of people, mostly black people. But here people seem to get a lot more upset about it and push the police to stop. And that's with the USA police shooting about 3/million/year while Australia is on ~0.3. Meanwhile there's a bunch of smaller countries where the question is "did the police shoot anyone this year?" or "how many years since".

    https://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/us-police-shootings-compared-to-australia-the-uk-and-germany/q3n5pvzmu

    https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/police-killings-by-country

    But that stuff is largely a matter of degree. What I was pointing at is the difference in kind - the US is almost alone in partly funding their police by letting individual officers take money from civilians.

    In other countries cops are expected to know the law, and also to obey it. Again, the US qualified immunity stuff just isn't done in other countries. Problems like that seem to be getting worse not better.

    The goal really does seem to be a military force outside the official chain of command.

    385:

    Tosh, and provably so. The correct term is a Letter of Marque as linked.

    386:

    »The goal really does seem to be a military force outside the official chain of command.«

    There is no "goal" as such, USA's police forces are merely the formal instantiation of USA's founding myth of "A Good Man With A Gun".

    As long as that myth, prevail, including sanitizations such as "The Little house ...", police in USA will shoot people, because that is literally what the population expects from them.

    387:

    Yet were I to say "hasta la vista baby" you'd know that it should be said in a bad Austrian accent, and why. And that makes you part of the shared experience that creates a society. Nothing to do with education.

    And yet even on this blog we have very well educated and worldly people (well at least one person) saying they have no idea what is meant by references to "Vito Corleone".

    Exposed experience varies a lot.

    PS: The real catch phrase is "I'll be back". With the accent.

    388:

    And now...

    Evidence that the US isn't the only crazy place on the planet.

    https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/pseudo-science-and-fascism-the-dark-side-of-sperm-donation-5zgtrbb2s

    A bizarre mix of Cro-Magno ethos, Breix, Facism, health care rules, etc...

    389:

    A Good Man With A Gun

    It's hard to imagine an occupation more attractive to a Bad Man without a criminal record than one that gives him a gun and officially labels him as Good Man.

    Of course, that's silly... few people start out good or bad, everyone develops to a point where they can, perhaps, make choices. Usually they just adapt or conform to choices that have already been made for them by others, and need to keep the joke going lest things suddenly become not very funny at all. Calling out the joke, or doubling down on it, are both exceptional though I guess no-one is laughing anymore when either happens.

    390:

    You called? Actually, I have heard of Corleone, though not about the Vito, and have no idea why the bad Austrian accent is needed. As you indicate, I could provide plenty of shibboleths that would baffle most posters, but am almost totally unfamiliar with film.

    391:

    I think you mean "Com vith me, if you vant to livv!"

    392:

    Only until people get fed up and stop listening to the Supreme Court...

    When has that happened?

    Only time I recall was when Andrew Jackson ignored the court to seize Cherokee lands that had gold on them. But then, not American so not my history. (I only know that bit because of the Indigenous connection.)

    393:

    a real shooting war - serious enough to overthrow the government of the U.S. - is just an extreme right-wing fantasy. A few individuals - sure. But tens of millions of dedicated MAGA and QAnon followers, organized into military units? Give me a break...,/i>

    Enough violent nutcases can drive the opposition away from political engagement. Look at the number of lower-level elected officials no longer standing for re-election, because of threats to themselves and their families (not to mention the extreme abuse directed at them). This is particularly the case with women and visible minorities (who were often targets just for not being white men, no matter what their politics, anyway).

    So maybe not the fantasy troops-in-the-field conflict, but a measurable political effect especially in swing districts.

    It's happening here in Canada too. Enough right-wing supporters are credibly threatening violence that good, dedicated people are leaving the public sphere to protect their families.

    394:

    One major purpose for education AT ALL LEVELS should be Critical Thinking. At present it is only implicit if present at all. But everybody needs the ability to decide:

    "What does this [person/advert/political statement/media item] really mean?" "What is my strategy to decide whether it is true or not?"

    Of course one of the reasons this is not emphasised in school is that teaching is hard enough already, without having your every statement deconstructed and questioned.

    395:

    and have no idea why the bad Austrian accent is needed

    Arnold has used the "I'll be back." line in multiple movies. Not all a part of the Terminator series. So the phrase has gotten to be a thing people say using a very bad Austrian accent.

    I understand you have hearing issues which could exclude this bit of culture from your experiences.

    396:

    Well, it's a very convenient excuse, especially since it's the sort of reaction teachers themselves are likely to come out with of their own accord. (Though I would argue that if they're not expecting it to happen as an essential part of normal practice anyway, then the value of the teaching tends towards the level of "Today, class, we are going to memorise the 1300th to 1400th digits of π" regardless of the actual subject matter.)

    Really, though, it's an expression of the larger problem that hacking other people's brain states is considered perfectly normal and acceptable, even desirable, at all scales from personal to global (possible cultural taboos against extremely specific subcategories of it notwithstanding), and consequently any proposal to better equip the population to be resistant to it is inevitably doomed before it's fully out of your mouth. Indeed, we've just had a thread about the problems that might be expected should it become possible to add all the methods for hacking computers to the toolset for it.

    397:

    I'd be very surprised if it meant anything to my parents either, and their ears are OK.

    On the other hand they would know fine why "An error? What error?" should be exclaimed in histrionically exaggerated tones, and probably quite a lot of people on here would also, but an awful lot more people would not.

    398:

    I had to look it up. Pirates of Penzance was the reference I found.

    399:

    Your "police" services are failing in their basic duty - protecting the people.

    The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that our police have no duty to protect the people. Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

    400:

    As long as that myth, prevail, including sanitizations such as "The Little house ...", police in USA will shoot people, because that is literally what the population expects from them.

    It has long been obvious that the function of police is to protect wealthy white people from those people. Pretty sad...

    401:

    I knew about that, but assumed the context was the other quotation. On this lunacy, I have just tried the UK citizenship test - and failed! Curiously, on a question I might well have known (who 'invented' radar), but the questions I saw would have been beyond almost all British citizens, and precisely ONE related to citizenship as such.

    402:

    "Only until people get fed up and stop listening to the Supreme Court..."

    When has that happened?

    Beside Andrew Jackson, Franklin D. Rosevelt announced a plan to expand the Supreme Court to as many as 15 judges in 1937 (the Supreme Court had previously struck down several key pieces of his New Deal legislation). This intimidated the Supreme Court justices enough that they backed off, and Rosevelt's subsequent New Deal legislation had smooth(er) sailing.

    403:

    Enough right-wing supporters are credibly threatening violence that good, dedicated people are leaving the public sphere to protect their families.

    Agreed. This is pretty sad, and it's happening in the U.S. too - especially with election workers. But it's still not the same as an all-out shooting war.

    404:

    AlanD2 @ 378:

    FWIW, marauding anti-government criminal gangs are NOT the militia, even if they are dressed up in camouflage uniforms.

    405:

    That's the one. Charlie slips in the occasional Gilbert & Sullivan reference here and there, and he seems to know his audience; some commenters on here do it too. It's one of those wee extras that isn't actually important but does add a spot more entertainment value if you notice it.

    406:

    WTF? Expected response from stopping any random person in the street and asking them who invented radar is surely "ain't got a fucking clue, mate", or words to that effect. I only know the answer because there happens to be a connection with my dad's employment. I suppose the idea is to be able to immediately exclude anyone who names the German chap or the Russian chap. I wonder what they'll do with questions like that if Scotland leaves the UK - if they've got many of them they'll be in a bit of a pickle.

    407:

    It looks like both of Harry Turtledove's twitter accounts got suspended.

    The only reason I can come up with is that he called Republicans Nazis too many times.

    408:

    And others. Equoid is solid with some toungue-in-cheek references, though the only ones that are critical to enjoying it are from Cold Comfort Farm (worth reading in its own right).

    409:

    I've caught a few of them. I'm sure there were lots I missed.
    (Kim Newman is infamous for this, at least for me; there's a reference to someone - often to clasic film, which is really not my turf- on pretty much every page. And that's the ones I noticed...)

    410:

    AlanD2
    That was a very recent decision, IIRC.
    NEXT question - then w. t. f. are the police actually FOR, then?

    Pigeon & EC
    Watson-Watt? Randall & Boot? A.n. other?

    411:

    "on a question I might well have known (who 'invented' radar")

    (Merkin here) Watson-Watts?

    I think I remember that from R.V. Jones' "Wizard War". Which everyone should read, Watson-Watts or no.

    412:

    "On this lunacy, I have just tried the UK citizenship test - and failed! Curiously, on a question I might well have known (who 'invented' radar), but the questions I saw would have been beyond almost all British citizens, and precisely ONE related to citizenship as such."

    That's a traditional means to keep Those People from immigrating/voting.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Literacy_test

    413:

    410 - 411 .Robert Watson-Watt (no suffixed 's') and about a dozen others of various nationalities. Watson-Watt did hold a British patent for the systems underlying "Chain Home" in the 1930. You'll get a headache trying to unscramble the acronym soup underlying the Royal Radar Establishment, but there were about a thousand people working on Radio Direction Finding (later radar) in the UK alone by 1937 or so.

    412 - I am a UK national, and I have failed the UK "citizenship test", largely on stuff you don't normally need to know like how to get a divorce.

    414:

    Without wading through the 400+ comments, I apologize if this has been said before.

    When I was at uni, in the early to mid-1970s, the grants that were provided previously were cut back. I think it was Thatcher's admin that questioned the value of degrees that did not have direct employment potential (the irony of all those in Parliament with classics degrees..) and the threat of defunding them.

    I decamped to the US by the end of the 1980s, and was appalled by the UK following the US model of self-financing qualifications with loans. The hit to whole swathes of study was obvious. But as Charlie notes, a degree is no longer a route to a job. The US student debt level is horrendous, with many graduates unable to find decent work. The UK is following suit.

    When I graduated in the mid-1970s, the UK was in a recession, and I recall that graduates desperately looking for work were leaving their qualifications off resumes because it made them over-qualified. This was even worse in the recession at the start of the 1980s as the US treasury hammered inflation with a huge rate rise, and taking down other economies. (Britain was showing "Boys from the Blackstuff. I recall that one saying was that the only growth industry was building unemployment offices.)

    Until recently, academic and "trade" educational institutions were pushing school leavers to get a degree as the best way to "get ahead". But as Charlie notes, the skillset needed/wanted by employers is changing so fast, a degree is just proof that the student has navigated the coursework.

    There was a brief period when MOOCs were being touted as the alternative way to get qualifications. On another blog, Berkeley Economics professor Brad DeLong (https://braddelong.substack.com/p/do-i-now-have-a-problem-assigning - subscription paywall) wonders fs AI can now deliver seemingly good essays on subjects. I think the ramifications are huge in that such capabilities could undermine education in a number of ways, from ending the ability of teachers to assess student thoughts as essays, to the potential to package up knowledge far more effectively than coursework designers with ridiculously pricey textbooks. I suspect it will rapidly enter the workplace too - who needs to sweat over a project report when the AI will take your data and write it for you? DeLong can see the quality problems today but in another 20 years? This seems clearly an "Innovator's Dilemma" issue for education institutions.

    While others like Vonnegut have written about such scenarios, I like Kornbluth's "The Marching Morons" and "The Little Blag Bag" as a possible future. "Professionals" won't have low IQs, but will be completely dependent on technology to do their jobs. [I use spelling and grammar checkers, spreadsheets, etc. to save effort.] We will still need truly creative people to extend the cutting edge of their fields, but the demand for the more mediocre tier will likely decline (although it hasn't yet for writers of fiction).

    To get back to the main point of the OP, I wish that increasingly conservative governments could understand that education is not just a private good (but becoming less so) but a public good. As such it should be fully subsidized. There should be no restrictions on academic study as long as it is of quality. [In the US the right-wing wants to cripple the public school K thru 12 education. Invoking Godwin's Law - this is what the Nazis did to education - little academic work and mostly physical education for boys. But it didn't win them a war.]

    415:

    On an unrelated note: Today water temperature at 45' depth was 62 F; that's 17 C. In the freaking Gulf of Maine.

    I am not complaining about being comfortable under water... but this is alarming.

    416:

    Randall and Boot were the cavity magnetron guys. (Though AIUI Boot didn't actually have that much to do with it, and was basically lucky about having his name included.)

    417:

    Re: '... cops are expected to know the law, and also to obey it.'

    Probably most do but there are enough bad cops who've figured out how to mine the current system that it's likely things will get worse.

    Cops fired in one state can easily* get a job as a cop in another state. The states are supposed to do full background checks on all their hires but if the cop's superiors don't file accurate reports or let the about-to-be-fired-cop quit (therefore no report), background checks are useless.

    https://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/ny-florida-cop-police-officer-fired-again-20210529-q7iiah7nkjestfrfrvc5dcxzs4-story.html

    *'Easily' because they've been trained which means much faster and less expensive to get them on patrol.

    Not sure how strong or influential police unions are in this.

    418:

    Re: 'The part I'm still trying to figure out is how to know if -I- am at "increased risk of exposure" ...'

    Sorry about the delay in responding.

    As AlanD2 @322 said it's not known how long the polio vax is good for.

    I think you mentioned that you got both versions at some point - the oral and the shots? Your best bet is to speak with a doctor and lay out the details: which shots, when, underlying conditions, age, overall health, etc.

    No idea how 'increased risk of exposure' can be figured out given that the vast majority of people infected with polio are asymptomatic. (But they can still spread the virus.)

    Personally, I'd get the polio booster if it were available in my area. I'm in the boonies and so far no cases reported but that can change once uni starts. (Quite a few students from other parts of the country and other countries/continents - so if you live in a college/uni town, get your booster now.)

    Also - it's recommended that you space your COVID and polio boosters 2 weeks apart.

    I feel as though I'm plugging TWiV non-stop these days, but what the hell - the most recent episode is on monkeypox the latest 'global health emergency' per WHO. Really interesting guest.

    419:

    Main uses of the cavity magnetron being radar and microwave ovens.

    420:

    Also worth referring to the Patrick O'Brian authored novel "The Letter of Marque", one of the volumes in the "Aubrey-Maturin" series British Navy seafaring novels set during the Napoleonic era.

    In particular, from the third paragraph of the first chapter "...and Stephen Maturin had bought her as a private ship of war, a letter of marque, to cruise upon the enemy; and Jack Aubrey was in command."

    421:

    Alex Tolley said: While others like Vonnegut have written about such scenarios, I like Kornbluth's "The Marching Morons" and "The Little Blag Bag" as a possible future.

    You may not have to wait generations to see it as described in the story. The delightfully named "brain fog" seems to follow a not inconsiderable number of covid infections (including at least 2nd and 3rd infections).

    One sufferer on twitter described it thusly: I am a doctor of 22 years. Neurocognitive assessment is shit. Many domains fallen to low average or impaired. Been referred for I’ll health retirement as deemed unsafe for medical practice & no hope recovery to level needed. The OPs tweet is very accurate. I can’t count money too

    Oh joy.

    On the bright side, it's not as bad as glowing green worms in the eyes. So there's that.

    422:

    I love the idea that privateers were scrupulously law-abiding and never ever stole at sea (what never? Well, hardly ever)

    423:

    who 'invented' radar

    On a citizenship test?

    Well I guess the Italians have "Who invented radio?" on theirs.

    424:

    largely on stuff you don't normally need to know like how to get a divorce.

    Just who in the UK government thinks this is an important thing to know?

    425:

    I wish that increasingly conservative governments could understand that education is not just a private good (but becoming less so) but a public good.

    I'm beginning to wonder. The R'/conservatives in the US are splitting into two camps. One way of looking at them is:

    The smaller group seems to be those who practice critical thinking. And are public about it.

    The larger group seems to be those who pander no matter how absurd the "will of the people".

    More critical thinkers will endanger the power of the second group.

    I don't know enough about the details of politics in the UK or Oz to know if the above applies there or not.

    426:

    Randall and Boot were the cavity magnetron guys.

    My weak understanding of Radar history was that it was crude and hard to use at the frequencies that equipment could handle in the early days. And that the cavity magnetron made it possible to be small enough to go on ships then planes. And be much more accurate.

    427:

    Cops fired in one state can easily* get a job as a cop in another state. The states are supposed to do full background checks on all their hires but if the cop's superiors don't file accurate reports or let the about-to-be-fired-cop quit (therefore no report), background checks are useless.

    It's not so much an issue of moving to a new state and just moving to a new jurisdiction. The US likely has way more the 10K police groups. Maybe 5 or 10 times that. And many are independent. So you can get a city like mine with an academy, 6 months of full time training/class work, background checks, and a year or so of probation. Then you get smaller towns who either:

    Contract with a city like ours and use our training and hiring process.

    Or with only 4 or 5 police on the payroll they just tell the city manager to "make decent hires" with minimal training and background checking.

    428:

    Greg Tingey @353: A king is above the law - NOPE - Charles I.

    Oh? So Thomas Harrison, John Okey, John Carew and bunch of others were hanged, drawn and quartered without a cause? Corpses of Oliver Cromwell and John Bradshaw were disinterred, hanged and beheaded just for lulz? Oliver Cromwell's rotten head put on spike facing direction where Charles I was beheaded for no reason?

    429:

    Boris Johnson?

    I give it 2 years before his next divorce.

    Living in a smaller home, no staff running around after him, 2 young children, diminishing fame. Yep, he will be out looking for the next girlfriend as an ego boost/instant gratification.

    The current Mrs may decide that, as his income is peaking, its the best time to get divorced and live comfortably for the next 18 years. Also, encouraged by a book deal and serialisation in The Telegraph or The Express, she may write her own account of the "Downing Street years" and spill the beans on her ex.

    430:

    Not sure where you got the idea "idea that privateers were scrupulously law-abiding and never ever stole at sea" from. (And yes, I noted the hint of sarcasm in your comment.)

    The privateers were essentially pirates who preyed on/plundered the other sides merchant shipping under the dubious legality of a "letter of marque".

    And as I understand it, each "letter of marque" was essentially sold/arranged by politicians for an appropriate backhander from the recipient or even a share of any plunder.

    And I am sure I read somewhere that there was a suspicion that at least one privateer who had a "letter of marque" from both sides in one conflict.

    431:

    420 - Well, this sort of thing actually happened during the Napoleonic Wars, and it was not just Britain who issued letters of marque.

    424 - Amazingly enough, I don't know. Why don't you take one of the free sample tests, which is what I actually did.

    432:

    It is in the US Constitution.

    To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

    Article I Section 8, powers of Congress.

    My poor memory is that it most famous use was to go after the Barbary Pirates. Modern Libya. This was before we had much of a Navy.

    433:

    Yes, that's pretty much correct in broad terms, just needs a bit of expansion.

    Radar was already on planes, but the best they could do to generate the signal was a conventional oscillator circuit with conventional valves (tubes). This put severe limits on both the maximum achievable output power and the maximum achievable frequency; conventional valves start running out of steam at UHF frequencies because you can't make them small enough in relation to the wavelength. The range of a radar varies as the fourth root of the transmitter power, so you need lots of power to get the range up; the size of the antenna required for a given beam width goes inversely as the frequency, so increasing the frequency directly increases the directional accuracy you can get from a given size and clumsiness of the apparatus.

    So radar on planes was limited to low-power UHF sets with fixed antennas, and basically told you how far it was to something more or less in front as long as it was fairly close already. It was a big improvement over not being able to see anything at all, but it was still pretty rubbish. The low power and poor directionality also made it easy to jam with a ground-based transmitter.

    The cavity magnetron made it easy to generate lots of power at frequencies an order or two of magnitude greater, so you could make an apparatus with a usefully larger range and considerably better directionality, small enough to go on a plane and with an antenna small enough to make it steerable and still go on a plane. Instead of just indicating the distance to a target, the display could now also indicate what direction the antenna was pointing at the time, and so draw you a map of where all the targets within range were in relation to your plane. The system was called "H2S", which doesn't mean hydrogen sulphide but I can't remember what it does mean. This was basically the point at which radar became the kind of thing the popular imagination supposes it is.

    The advantage it gave was huge, and it confused the crap out of the Luftwaffe, because the much higher frequency was way out of the range of any detection apparatus they had, so they thought the RAF had changed to using something that wasn't radar at all. On the other hand the RAF now had to worry about planes with magnetrons on board getting shot down over enemy territory, particularly since a magnetron is basically a hefty chunk of solid copper with some holes drilled in it and can be expected to come through a plane crash with little damage. Of course this had to happen eventually, but it still took the Nazis a while to catch up; they didn't realise that the various irregularities in shape and extra bits of metal were what tuning tweaks and similar for those sort of frequencies naturally look like, and thought they were just the result of messy British engineers bodging things up, instead of doing it neatly and properly in German fashion. So for their prototypes they "tidied it up" and got rid of the "messy" features, with the result that it didn't work and the British advantage lasted a while longer until they figured out what they'd cocked up.

    434:

    432 - I think that would be correct, at least for the USA. Great Britain also used the power against the French and Spanish, and it at least sometimes backfired when licenced privateers either decided to become full-time pirates, or whilst still at sea discovered that their letter of marque had been repealed by a truce or peace treaty, with the result that their most recent capture was actually an act of piracy since it post-dated the relevant treaty.

    433 - There is no actual stated meaning for H2S, just several conjectures and anecdotes.

    435:

    [ 432: It is in the US Constitution.

    To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

    Article I Section 8, powers of Congress.

    My poor memory is that it most famous use was to go after the Barbary Pirates. Modern Libya. This was before we had much of a Navy.]

    Adams's presidency built a very nice navy, thank you, which he and Washington planned together back during Washington's administrations.

    The first thing Jefferson did was get rid of it, because the US didn't need armies or navies. He replaced the naval vessels with his 'gunboats'. Which is how we, starting with the Barbary pirates, got the term, "gunboat diplomacy."

    436:

    I think you are on the right track, but you don't have the full picture. Heavy student debt is a problem only if you are from a middle income family. The upper 10% aren't bothered by this, because they have means, and aren't expected to pay their debts anyway.

    What they are really aiming at is a population of well educated workers who will do what they are told, so hopelessly indebting them is a feature, not a but, at least from that point of view. Large swaths of useless unskilled laborers doesn't help them, and might possibly hurt them, because at some point they become numerous enough to be dangerous. So the "Marching Morons" scenario is unlikely, (esp. the part where the tireless self sacrificing elite are doing all the labor). Employers are going to start promising to help pay off student debt as a condition of employment (if someone hasn't already) and then you have actual corporate peonage (again). But this system requires that college education continue to be available in some form to the middle class, and that it acts as a gatekeeper to a standard of living above poverty.

    This is, by the way, a conservative conspiracy theory, which is where I got it. If you found yourself largely in agreement with it (before reading this paragraph), well...

    The conservatives would like to do away with public education altogether, which is a somewhat different conspiracy.

    AI is a problem, because while it saves production costs, it doesn't buy anything. Eliminating your consumer class isn't a very good strategy for ensuring that your family gives rise to a perpetual business dynasty, so, for now, I think they won't touch it. They want human slaves, not robots.

    Oh, and conservatives are rather infamous for not believing that any such thing as a public good can exist.

    437:

    "The R'/conservatives in the US are splitting into two camps. One way of looking at them is:

    The smaller group seems to be those who practice critical thinking. And are public about it.

    The larger group seems to be those who pander no matter how absurd the "will of the people"."

    Hmm, almost, not quite. Those who are still capable of exercising critical though have used it to conclude, correctly, that the libs are trying to take their traditional privileges away. That meant political war, declared back during the Nixon administration and fought without quarter ever since. These conservatives are the ones voting for Trump, because they believe they need an Alpha Male to protect them from the Other.

    It's the other camp, the ones who just adopt an ideology and parrot it for the rest of their lives, who went all in on Libertarian Prosperity Bible Imperialism, and now, God help us, constitute the "Sane" wing of the Republican party, the ones who don't trust Trump, but hold their nose and vote for him anyway. Note that I am talking about the voters, not the puppets who get elected. Those are low level expert systems wired to public opinion polls.

    As with David, my perspective is US-centric, because that's what I know.

    438:

    Correction: "Bug", not "But", but feel free to interpret as a Freudian slip of some kind.

    439:

    How we advise the kids on what to do with 'Higher Education' is a low-level dispute in our household.

    Spouse has a degree in Anthropology that opened some doors for her a long time ago. Her very successful career has nothing whatsoever to do with Anthropology, aside from that initial door opening.

    I have a graduate degree in PoliSci. Said degree opened a door for me not long after graduation where I began work in planning and policy. At no point has any employed, even once, asked for the content of my degree nor any proof of that degree whatsoever. I spend half a decade and a lot of money to be able to type 'MA' on my CV without being a liar, and if I had lied it would never have been discovered.

    While I found political science very interesting (and it was a direct pipeline into SF), all the 'skills' I used in those degrees I learned from my father in his 8th grade social studies class (how to write an essay, how to write coherently). I refined the skills at higher levels, but the core was in the 8th grade.

    I know very few non-STEM people whose work is related much or at all with the content of their education, aside from a few schoolteachers. That DOES NOT mean the education was not useful, but it is perhaps not well applied.

    440:

    Meant to say: Our kids are now trying to decide what they want to do after they finish their grade schooling.

    Son #1 is very ambitious and wants to leverage sports to get him into a high level post secondary situation, probably in the US. I have told him that school is useful if you have a goal, but not required if you have a different goal. Spouse strongly disagrees, school is a relatively safe place to spend the first few years of adulthood, and outcomes are still better with a degree than without.

    Son#2 stated at age 8 he wants to be an engineer. 5 years later that has evolved into getting a Master's Degree as a mechanical engineer at UBC (my alma mater). He is laser focused on the grades and other requirements for that goal. I am astounded, but hardly going to stand in the way. The cost of that has grown dramatically in the past 3 decades.

    441:

    You're listening to wrong-wing media, I guess. They claim that inner-city gangs are marauding and shooting, and so Good People (i.e, those who don't live in cities or, these days, suburbs) need an assault rifle.

    The self-proclaimed militias, on the other hand... no. I literally cannot see any of them taking orders from anyone else, FreeDumb, y'know.

    442:

    Technically speaking, ships with Letters of Marque and Reprisal were only supposed to attack the issuing nations enemies.

    Bucconeers didn't have the Letters, but generally did the same.

    Pirates attacked anyone they thought they could take.

    I would assume ships of other nations than the two fighting (or their allies) were fair game, depending on the captain and crew's feelings that day.

    443:

    "Employers are going to start promising to help pay off student debt as a condition of employment". Let me note that I got my associate's and B.Sc paid for - many, pretty much all large companies - offer tuition remission (you pay up front, and if you get at least ... was it a C or a B? I forget), they gave you the money back.

    444:

    Son #1 is very ambitious and wants to leverage sports to get him into a high level post secondary situation, probably in the US.

    The college sports "world" in the US is undergoing a crazy dramatic change just now. A lawsuit settled at SCOTUS and the pandemic sort of started an avalanche.

    NIL is creating a sort of wage system for un-paid college athletes. Then you get to layer on the transfer portal.

    And football money has become the total driver organizing things. It was basketball but that is now a secondary consideration. League TV networks are generating small mountains of cash based on football games. The point being that the US college system seems to be headed to a two league semi-pro arrangement based on football with everything else just along for the ride. The Big 10 and SEC are slowing becoming national leagues (they sort of are now) with the ACC caught in the middle between them and the smaller leagues.

    If this doesn't make much sense outside of the US, well it is a bit jarring to those of us here also. But $10 to $30 million per year per school creates an impetus for change. And so change we get.

    Anyway, make sure your son knows what he is getting into. US College sports life is no where near what it was just 3 or 4 years ago. In any aspect.

    445:

    I'll also note that it's well-known for decades that people in sports in college tend to take the easy classes, since a bad grade takes you off the team. They expect cheating, etc, for sports, esp. kids who have star quality.

    And if this is in the US, he should look at the national robot competition teams. My stepson was on one, and starting from "new magnet program, new team" when he entered HS, the fourth year they made the regionals.

    446:

    Buccaneers preferred to attack coastal towns and cities and avoid conflict with other ships at sea, unless they knew the cargo was seriously high value. Spain started to run in to financial problems when the annual treasure fleet was attacked repeatedly, they weren't necessarily captured but often had to divert, several ships were lost in storms and others were delayed for years waiting for naval escorts which Spain couldn't afford to refit becasue the treasure fleet was delayed...

    Alexandre Exquemelin's book The Buccaneers of America and Dudley Pope's biography of Henry Morgan "Harry Morgan's Way" make interesting reading as do Pope's tetrology "Buccaneer", "Admiral", "Galleon" and "Corsair" which are fiction but based around actual characters and incidents.

    447:

    "Anyway, make sure your son knows what he is getting into. US College sports life is no where near what it was just 3 or 4 years ago. In any aspect."

    Ice hockey for him, a slightly different animal. I find the whole US sports scholarship system bizarre in the extreme, but that won't make me stop my son from taking advantage if he chooses.

    We've been very clear with him that if he does not get a full scholarship then he is going to a Canadian university. The price of post-secondary education in the US is purest insanity.

    448:

    Damian @ 369:

    I think this is the main flaw with Paul's list: just by looking at it I'm not sure whether he's talking about what we think education should be for, or is for, or what TPTB think it should be for, or is for. That is, I'm not sure where it sits in terms of an is/ought distinction, and I'm not sure whether Paul is saying his own views, or projecting some other viewpoint

    (Sorry not to have responded sooner: currently on holiday and typing this in a tent)

    Excellent question. To be honest I'm not sure either. I tried to think about the purposes I've seen ascribed to education and then generalised. But you are quite right: these are what I (a middle class English straight white guy) think are the general purposes of education.

    System engineers and managers have a concept called wicked problems. These are problems with vague, conflicting socially-defined requirements, where the attempt to solve one element tends to reveal new unforseen issues elsewhere. They lack any kind of end-state, so there is no hope of declaring the problem "solved".

    When I asked about the requirements for the education system I was trying to take a system engineering approach: first identify your requirements, then design a system that will meet those requirements. However with a wicked problem this approach is doomed. I had not taken this into account.

    Various approaches have been suggested to wicked problems, but none look very promising. It seems that we are stuck with the status quo of random interventions from politicians who don't understand the whole problem (because nobody can really lay claim to understanding the whole problem) and a slowly shifting consensus in the education industry about best practices.

    449:

    I think Moz was talking about the police.

    450:

    Sorry, different gangs...

    451:

    If anyone else wants a go - https://britishcitizenshiptests.co.uk/

    I passed the first sample test. Not prepared to try more of them. They've definitely toned down the difficulty somewhat since I last looked.

    452:

    Link to the Times article avoiding Murdoch's paywall. Article title - Pseudo-science and fascism: the dark side of sperm donation

    453:

    In response to SFreader's post of August 15, 2022 00:36:

    Cops fired in one state can easily* get a job as a cop in another state. The states are supposed to do full background checks on all their hires but if the cop's superiors don't file accurate reports or let the about-to-be-fired-cop quit (therefore no report), background checks are useless.

    https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/biden-signs-police-reform-executive-order-anniversary-george-floyds-de-rcna30548 indicates Biden may, someday, have a functioning register of bad cops. However, we don't have it now, and Portland's alternative media is having great fun with the discovery of a local register of cops whose testimony is 'suspect'. https://www.wweek.com/news/2022/08/10/the-list-no-portland-police-officer-wants-to-be-on/

    454:

    The privateers were essentially pirates

    That was my impression but paws4thot has proof to the contrary and will no doubt chime in shortly with further evidence:

    385: "Tosh, and provably so. The correct term is a Letter of Marque as linked."

    455:

    I find the whole US sports scholarship system bizarre in the extreme

    It was bizarre 30+ years ago. Then it got crazy. And sort of drove me away from most any enjoyment. Now it is headed into crazy nuts bat shit crazy insane.

    I wish your son well. But the current crazy of football is dragging the minor sports along for the ride. Tread carefully.

    456:

    Pirates & Privateers - note the name: "Woodes Rogers", too.

    457:

    I'll also note that it's well-known for decades that people in sports in college tend to take the easy classes, since a bad grade takes you off the team. They expect cheating, etc, for sports, esp. kids who have star quality.

    Like all situations involving money and power it's complicated. I have very successful friends who are big sport fans and some who think it is all corrupt and needs to be outlawed. And both make some valid points and are utterly convinced of their arguments.

    And yes there are some not very bright or very lazy young folks who are very receptive to skating by. And there are also those who get hard degrees in 3 years. And NIL will make it easier for the former to skate. But the former make better headlines/exposes.

    Bill Bradley, Russel Wilson, David Robinson, and Roger Staubach come to mind. Not typical but definitely not all that rare.

    458:

    David L @ 427:

    In North Carolina you have to complete Basic Law Enforcement Training and become LE Certified

    Out-of-state transferees will be evaluated to determine the amount and quality of their training and experience. At a minimum, out-of-state candidates must have two years of full-time, sworn law enforcement experience and have successfully completed a basic law enforcement training course accredited by the state from which they are transferring in order to be considered for transfer to a North Carolina law enforcement agency. Out-of-state transferees cannot have a break in service exceeding three years.

    Also requires the following documentation:

    • A letter from your previous law enforcement agency detailing your dates of FULL-TIME, sworn service; and you are in good standing;
    • A copy of your Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET) course certificate of successful completion;
    • A topical breakdown/syllabus of the courses that you completed in BLET.

    The BLET is taught at the North Carolina Justice Academy down in Salemburg; included in Raleigh PD's Basic Recruit Academy and is taught at a number of Community Colleges around NC.

    I think the only Law Enforcement position in North Carolina that does not require BLET & LE Certification is County Sheriff, which is an elected official. But all the deputies in the Sheriff's Department DO have to complete the training and be certified.

    Sometimes rats will squeeze through the cracks in the system, but the NC DoJ is doing their best to weed them out.

    459:

    Re: 'Biden may, someday, have a functioning register of bad cops.'

    Thanks for posting that link - it hadn't shown up on my news.

    A few years back Charlie mentioned the huge difference in training cops in the US vs. UK. It'd be really interesting to see a point-by-point comparison of training regimens across various countries starting with the G7/G8 along with public perception polls re: intelligence*, trustworthiness and helpfulness of their various police forces.

    Same with educators - cuz it's looking like teachers in the US are on the same trajectory as municipal/county level police forces.

    *Back in 1999 there was a story on TV where some guy was told that he wouldn't be accepted into the local police force because his IQ was too high (125). Hence the prevailing PTB strategy: arm them to the teeth 'cause they're too dumb to figure out a peaceful resolution.

    https://www.cbsnews.com/news/too-smart-to-be-a-cop/

    460:

    Ice hockey for him

    Of course that means he might get into Yale or Harvard. :)

    461:

    In The Star Fox by Poul Anderson, The world government refuses to stand up to belligerent aliens, so the wealthy protagonist gets the French government to issue him letters of Marque and Reprisal.

    462:

    DeMarquis @ 436:

    I think you are on the right track, but you don't have the full picture. Heavy student debt is a problem only if you are from a middle income family. The upper 10% aren't bothered by this, because they have means, and aren't expected to pay their debts anyway.

    Heavy student debt is a problem if you come from a family BELOW the middle class. It is only NOT a problem for those in the upper economic classes (the 10%) who can afford the cost of higher education without taking on massive debt.

    463:

    Rocketpjs @ 440:

    Meant to say: Our kids are now trying to decide what they want to do after they finish their grade schooling.

    Son #1 is very ambitious and wants to leverage sports to get him into a high level post secondary situation, probably in the US.

    Depends on the sport. In the U.S. he's more likely to find a "full ride" scholarship if he plays Football than if he plays football, with the drawback that the risk of career ending (and scholarship ending) injury is much higher with the former.

    Plus the percentage of college athletes who go on to professional careers is pretty damn low, so he needs to get a degree that's going to serve him after college ... a fallback plan.

    https://www.ncaa.org/sports/2015/3/6/estimated-probability-of-competing-in-professional-athletics.aspx

    464:

    Today I was playing an MMORPG and saw this line of dialog:

    Pirates? I can't stand pirates. Now freelance, for-profit justice entrepreneurs, like myself -- that's totally different.

    465:

    It'd be really interesting to see a point-by-point comparison of training regimens across various countries starting with the G7/G8

    As some of us has indicated, for the US you'd need at least 50+ columns plus a few 1000 footnotes.

    466:

    Not that I disagree with your overall point (I don't), but the top 10% don't relate to debt the same way as normal people do. Debt is a way of life for them, they use it as leverage (the old saw about owing a million dollars to the bank).

    They have it worked out to the point where they can borrow against their debts.

    467:

    But the flip side is that as citizens you greatly benefit by having a different legal system in every local government administrative area. And they compete with each other to serve different areas, so you have a market in policing as well! And some of them are even elected, so you have the holy trinity: freedom of choice, democratic, and capitalist!

    Grateful that Australia has at least some democratic control over some of our cops, but mostly that we only have one police force per state plus a national one. Plus the various secret police forces and secret police units, but they're secret so they don't count.

    It does bother me that we in Australia are going ever further down the authoritarian path, with a steady ratcheting up of restrictions, secrecy, and laws where all we know is "everything after the introduction is secret" with rumors of legislation so secret that we're not even allowed to know that it exists (but obviously "ignorance of the law is no excuse" still applies). Sadly the new Labor government shows no inclination to reverse course, let alone abolish even the most objectionable legislation. About all we can hope for is that some of the most awful bits will be removed from some proposals (because government departments put forward proposed legislation to ministers, and obviously the fascist departments put forward fascist legislation).

    468:

    And on that note, OHSA have shut down the Australian Capital City parliament:

    A workplace inspector placed a prohibition notice on the Legislative Assembly after finding it lacked social distancing and adequate plans to prevent the spread of COVID-19. ... Assembly Speaker Joy Burch said the decision had "deep constitutional significance", and threatened to take the matter to the ACT Supreme Court.

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-08-16/act-work-safety-ban-sparks-parliamentary-crisis/101335292

    It's both hilarious and troubling, but I'm currently on the side of hilarious.

    469:

    Professional sports is not a 'plan' in any sense for the vast majority of athletes. He knows this, as do I. However, he happens to love a sport, and is really quite good at it, for a given value.

    He aspires to getting a scholarship. I'm sure there is some small voice in his heart that thinks 'maybe...' but he knows the odds. More to the point, he knows precisely how good he is compared to the people he plays against. Every time he jumps up a level he is amazed at the skill of the players already there, and somehow catches up. It is very obvious that there will be a level where that isn't possible, and it is vanishingly unlikely that will be the highest level.

    No reason not to try. I spent my teen years smoking cigarettes and playing games at the arcade while cultivating my cynicism. He is doing teenage much better than I did.

    470:

    ilya187
    It's those irregular verbs, again .....
    I am a licensed marine debt collector, you are a Privateer & he is a Pirate, eh?

    471:

    New one to me; nice. :-)