9.28.2002

Ooh...Look Who's So Mature

Now, the RIAA is getting really nasty. Aside from Berman's Bill, they've now put up a website encouraging people to "care about illegal downloads."

"It's illegal and it's a drug!" proclaims the site, sponsored by a long list of music industry insiders. Its side table has a changing list of quotations, both informational blurbs, as well as quotations from a variety of artists -- from DMX to Gary Trudeau.

However, what really ticks me off -- aside from the multiple allegations that P2P sharing has hurt record sales, something which has been highly contested in light of the struggling economy -- is the "Parent's Page," a how-to guide for parents of burgeoning shoplifters.

The RIAA cuts right to the chase: But what if the offender is a minor? Well, for one thing, that doesn’t make the activity any less a crime. For another, it may subject the offender’s parents or guardians to legal action.

Police your child or we'll police you.

And, if that doesn't freak out the parents, the passage about how Kazaa supposedly publishes your entire hard drive on the web is sure to send any techno-illiterate parent into paroxysms of panic. Helpfully, the RIAA tells you how to protect your computer by uninstalling these dastardly programs.

How lovely. I think I may be sick.
I did read the piece about Mr. Stein on NRO, and I would like to see him in more acting roles, but he's getting a little bit older, and you never know what happens.

Cool technology tidbit of the day--
As I write, I'm listening to BBC's Radio Five...on the internet! It's SO cool. I'm hearing people with those great accents argue about the future of Britain's Conservative party. I would have something to say, but the technological advancements are wowing me way too much.

9.27.2002

Anyone?, Anyone?

And the thought of the day is...

I did have a test today. That wasn't bullshit. It's on European socialism. I mean, really, what's the point? I'm not European, I don't plan on being European, so who gives a crap if they're socialists? They could be fascist anarchists. That still wouldn't change the fact that I don't own a car. Not that I condone fascism, or any ism for that matter. Isms in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an ism - he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon: "I don't believe in Beatles - I just believe in me". A good point there. Of course, he was the Walrus. I could be the Walrus - I'd still have to bum rides off of people. -- Ferris Bueller's Day Off


While you're at it, read Michael Long's article in NRO about Ferris' econ teacher.
Surprise Meter Reads 0

The New York Times reports that, since the College Board decided to cease marking the reports of students who recieve un-timed tests, there has been a flurry of 11th and 12th graders seeking classification as learning disabled. Students with this classificiation are entitled to special services such as un-timed standardized tests. These tests -- the SAT, SAT IIs, PSAT, AP, etc. -- are the backbone of American college applications and can make or break an application. All are administered by the College Board, a private organization (with the exception of certain state-specific tests, like the NY Regents Exams, which are run by state school boards).

There are two aspects to this issue: the right to conceal a learning disability from colleges, and the possibility for abuse. The Times reports:

The asterisk indicating that extended time and other accommodations were made to the test-takers will disappear from student records a year from now and will be removed retroactively from tests taken previously. That means 30,000 students, or 2 percent of the 1.3 million high school seniors who sit for the College Boards each year, will submit scores to colleges as if they had been tested under the same conditions as everyone else.

This change, part of the settlement of a 1999 lawsuit, has been hailed by disability rights groups and many educators who see unflagged, extended-time testing as a way to level the playing field for those with learning disorders.

Time is a really big deal on these tests. The SAT II American History exam, for example, has approximately 85 multiple choice questions in 60 minutes. One can imagine the difference 15 minutes would make, let along one hour. The SAT II Writing examination contains an essay, for which one is usually alloted 20 minutes. Can you imagine the obvious differences between an essay written in 20 minutes and one written in 45 minutes?

Sending scores from students who recieved this huge boon unmarked is a disservice to all 1.3 million students taking the test. Not only it is more than slightly unfair to those who took the tests within the proscribed time, but it discredits the image of the entire battery of tests. What is the point of these tests? To find the "diamond in the rough" students who weren't lucky enough to attend a decent high school? To give college admissions officers the ability to compare two students from different schools? Or to hide critical information about a prospective student in the interest of giving them an equal shot at acceptance?

The College Board would like to convince you of all three. Obviously the three goals are conflicting, and cannot therefore all be true. And what is the use of test whose purpose no one really knows? Sure, it's still great to tell Harvard that you got a 1550 (the SAT is out of 1600), but what that actually means is becoming more and more unclear.

Abuse of the system is one of the primary culprits in the dissolution of the SAT's worth:

"This further privileges the privileged," said Jane Brown, the vice president who oversees admissions at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass., which is in the second year of a five-year research project on the effect of making the tests optional. "You have to be able to afford a diagnosis."

Dr. Alan Wachtel, a New York City psychiatrist with a specialty in attention deficit disorder, said it was "regrettably true" that some parents bid for the services of "hired guns." Their behavior contributed to an adversarial attitude in certain schools, he said, where he is sometimes asked, "What are the parents paying you to say this?"

I can imagine the high schools from which Dr. Wachtel's patients come. Dalton, Nightingale-Bamford, Dwight, Spence, Brearley, Trinity...anyone familiar with these schools must be rolling their eyes in agreement. The fact that the College Board continually overlooks these schools -- and their counterparts in other cities -- shows that it regretfully out of touch with the reality of college admissions. Numerically, these schools are minnows in the vast seas of American high schools, but these schools are quite significant. I believe all of them have Ivy attendance rates of 30% or higher. And that's not including the Ivy-equivalents of Amherst, MIT, CalTech, Williams, U of Chicago, Michigan. And yet, despite knowing this, the College Board takes measures that increase the opportunity for these snobbish Manhattanites to abuse it.

No one benefits from this change in policy. No one. To be fair, there are students who have a legitimate learning difficulty for whom that extra time would be a great boon. And, in reality, the ability to fill lots of little bubbles really quickly isn't a life skill: those students can get jobs that will fit their strengths and weaknesses. But still, shouldn't colleges know of this? If the extra time allotted to them allowed them to excell on the tests, their grades are high, their intellect obviously on par with the other applicants, what college officer is going to tell them that a genetic disorder with which the student has obviously coped well with is going to force the college to reject the student? Very few.

However, opening the door for further abuse (indeed, many students were diagnosed with ADD in 10th grade even when the reports were still marked) is egregiously irresponsible of the College Board, and runs counter to their efforts to rehabilite the public image of the SAT. For each of the 30,000 kids who it helps (and I estimate at least 8,000 of those students has only be recently placed on Ritalin), it hurts the rest of the 3.1 million who are forced to take a test that means less and less each time it is modified in the name of equality.

9.26.2002

Aaron Sorkin is my favorite liberal....
So, sure it was a BIT condescending, and as always, way too melodramatic, but you gotta love that the President refers to his wife as "Medea." And that two White House staffers would sit and throw rocks at an oil drum lid. All in all? B, maybe a B+ because I've been waiting so long.

9.24.2002

Welcome to Sunnydale, Check Your Sanity at the Door

(warning: spoilers for season premiere)

So, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer season premier ended just 20 minutes ago, and it was wonderful. Sort of. Not as good as the highlights of last season, but the ending was "peachy, with a side of keen." This is classic Buffy. They re-built the high school o' doom; Buffy goes bonkers on some goons in the basement, and the cages in the boiler room look suspiciously like the cages in the old library (but that may just be reusing of props). My only complaint is that the new Principal is a bit too suspicious. He's either a horrible actor or the writers have forgotten how to subtley indicate that someone is freaky. I mean, he walks up to Buffy, saying that he's been looking through her old school folders. She's not been a student there for a while (since she blew it up), yet this new guy knows her. And, on top of that, he keeps alluding to the "troubled kids" at Sunnydale, as if he knows some great secret. Plus, Xander does this whole "Look Buffy! His office is on top of the Hellmouth! Remember what happened in the library when that was on top of the Hellmouth?" Jeez.

But I'm being harsh. The ending -- Spike crouches on the floor of the basement, while some evil creature (the new monster for the season) walks around him talking about what's important in the world, and what is really essential to living. The nifty part is that as it talks, it progressively takes the face of all the villains of the series so far, moving backwards through all the greats -- Glory, Adam, Drusilla (got to love her!), the Master. It ends, creepily enough, with an avatar of Buffy, saying "It's about the power," which is also how she opened the episode as she was teaching Dawn (who's not as annoying, though, admittedly, that's not saying much) how to stake vampire.

Interesting theme for this season so far of the interconnected power of all things. Power -- pure, unadulterated energy (or mana, if you're a nerd) -- is a fascinating moral concept that I'm sure we'll all be thinking about differently as the season progresses. It's value-neutral and depends entirely on whose hand wields it, and yet, we all saw what happened to Willow*. Which is why, going back to my earlier statement, it's so interesting that it was the avatar of Buffy who said "It's about the power." We all now it's not Buffy (it's the new villain), but seeing it coming from her mouth does say something.

I'm not sure what to make of the scenery, on the other hand. This episode takes place entirely at the Sunnydale high school. Could this signify a return to the earlier, hanging-in-the-library, Buffy? Quite the opposite, I'm afraid. Dave Tepper write about how season 6 was a mid-life crisis of sorts for Buffy. I agree. We're back at Sunnydale High, but Xander is a contractor at the school, Buffy is a new guidance counselor, and Dawn is the student. Willow, meanwhile, is off in England with the rogue librarian. The scenery of Sunnydale is ominous, not because it's on top of the Hellmouth, but because it shows that this season is the start of something new: the Scoobies are, at long last, all grown up. What's that quote about the sea? "Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink."

Also, check out the Buffy BlogBurst.

*if you didn't see what happened to her, just know that she went psycho, took in too much power, turned in Badgirl!Willow, and tried to destory the world.

9.22.2002

Wouldn't the "Let's have a woman president before 2020" movement love this ? I might vote for her.