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Some school kids only given ten minutes for lunch

That hardly seems like enough time. Sixth graders: Give us time to eat at school | StarTribune.com
In the Minneapolis public schools, we are supposed to have 15 minutes to eat, which would be bad enough. But realistically we get only 10 to 11 minutes (we have been timing it). Having to rush to eat is part of the reason for the obesity epidemic, eating disorders, indigestion and kids not doing well in school. There is research that proves all of these points. Kids just need more time to eat at school. Rushing to eat high-calorie meals at school, or at home, is the cause for the gastroesophageal reflux. This is often called heartburn. Heartburn feels bad -- the symptoms are burning in the chest, overall chest pain, burning in the throat, difficulty swallowing, food sticking in middle of the chest or throat, sore throat and cough. School-age children especially need nutrition, but we are the ones who don't get a choice about how long we get to eat. We are growing and have to get energy. In middle school especially, our bodies need energy, because middle-school kids are going through puberty. It is essential that we get enough time. Younger kids, meanwhile, tend to eat much more slowly. That means they eat less in the time allotted and behave poorly for the rest of the day. . . .

April 24, 2012

Philip K Dick wrote a letter after seeing part of Blade Runner

Philip K. Dick - Letter regarding Blade Runner

April 23, 2012

Using computers to grade essay writing has some incredible flaws

Maybe I'm being a little nutty here, but I think there are some jobs that only a human can do. Robo-Readers Used to Grade Test Essays - NYTimes.com
The e-Rater’s biggest problem, he says, is that it can’t identify truth. He tells students not to waste time worrying about whether their facts are accurate, since pretty much any fact will do as long as it is incorporated into a well-structured sentence. “E-Rater doesn’t care if you say the War of 1812 started in 1945,” he said. Mr. Perelman found that e-Rater prefers long essays. A 716-word essay he wrote that was padded with more than a dozen nonsensical sentences received a top score of 6; a well-argued, well-written essay of 567 words was scored a 5. An automated reader can count, he said, so it can set parameters for the number of words in a good sentence and the number of sentences in a good paragraph. “Once you understand e-Rater’s biases,” he said, “it’s not hard to raise your test score.” E-Rater, he said, does not like short sentences. Or short paragraphs. Or sentences that begin with “or.” And sentences that start with “and.” Nor sentence fragments. However, he said, e-Rater likes connectors, like “however,” which serve as programming proxies for complex thinking. Moreover, “moreover” is good, too. Gargantuan words are indemnified because e-Rater interprets them as a sign of lexical complexity. “Whenever possible,” Mr. Perelman advises, “use a big word. ‘Egregious’ is better than ‘bad.’ ” The substance of an argument doesn’t matter, he said, as long as it looks to the computer as if it’s nicely argued. For a question asking students to discuss why college costs are so high, Mr. Perelman wrote that the No. 1 reason is excessive pay for greedy teaching assistants. “The average teaching assistant makes six times as much money as college presidents,” he wrote. “In addition, they often receive a plethora of extra benefits such as private jets, vacations in the south seas, starring roles in motion pictures.” E-Rater gave him a 6. He tossed in a line from Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl,” just to see if he could get away with it.

April 20, 2012

Do fiction writers have an obligation to ensure the science in their novels is credible?

Or, Jodi Picoult makes up a whole lot of stuff about wolves in her newest novel and pisses off a lot of people who actually know things about wolves. Why Are Wolf Scientists Howling At Jodi Picoult? : 13.7: Cosmos And Culture : NPR
Do fiction writers have an obligation to ensure that the science they import into their novels is credible? Or does the creative license that writers enjoy mean that there's no such responsibility? What happens when a novelist explicitly notes that the work in question is based on trusted science, but scientists insist is it not? These questions have been on my mind since I reviewed Jodi Picoult's new novel Lone Wolf for The Washington Post. I was disappointed by Picoult's far-out characterizations of wolves and their relationship to humans. Luke Warren, the book's fictional wolf expert, describes a joyful moment sharing a carcass with captive wolves: "I lowered my face to the carcass and began to rip off strips of raw flesh, bloodying my face and my hair ..." This was bizarre enough, but my limit of tolerance was finally exceeded with Luke's remark that, even before she is pregnant, an alpha female wolf knows the number of pups she will birth, their sex, and whether they will stay with her or go off to live elsewhere. This claim is nonsense, not to mention scientifically untestable. . . .