[NASA has interactive flood maps](http://flood.firetree.net/) using Google Maps as the backend. The maps let you see how a rise in sea levels effects various parts of the world. I checked, and it looks like up to about 13 meters (about 45 feet), we’re good where we are in this part of Lafayette, but we beachfront property by then.

Here’s Louisiana with a sea level rise of 5 meters (about 15 feet):

Louisiana's Coast with a Five Meter Rise in Sea Level

The End of the Semester

As the end of the semester approaches, I have increasingly mixed emotions. On the one hand, there is the release/relief of the end of any set period of time during which a certain amount of work has to get done. It is the relief of closure. There is also the anticipation/anxiety of what comes next. For me, at this juncture, it is the opportunity to get some serious work done on my book, to move it from one-third complete to two-thirds complete perhaps by the end of May. There is also the mixed joy and sadness of seeing classes of students off: on the one hand, you (and they) have seen a lot of each other and you have come to know all the things about the other that annoy you; on the other hand, there is still so much to teach them, so much that could happen if classes were a year long and you had the chance to get past the three-month hump of annoyance — which, if you think about it, is also about the outside limit for casually dating someone and thus getting past the three-month hump is also a matter of getting past those initial annoyances and down to the more serious business of getting to know them as a person.

And this, getting to know someone as a person, is the crux of the matter for me. At this point in the semester, I am beginning to know my students as individual writers. I am beginning to understand their weaknesses and strengths, where they are lazy and where they are disciplined. I am really ready to teach them something, but there is no more time to do so.

Worse, the fact of the matter is that I do not document all of this as I should. I do not, I confess, keep careful track of who consistently turns assignments in early, who on time, who just at the last minute, and who late. I can tell you, if you asked me, but I do not record it anywhere.

Sadly, this is increasingly what the system wants to know. It is what is quantifiable, and as the systematization and normalization of all levels of education gradually transforms us — at precisely that moment when, as many experts tells us, we should be dispensing with such criteria — I find myself ill-prepared to answer the bureaucracy when it wants to know how I justified assigning a particular grade.

The irony is that primary and secondary education are more industrialized than ever before, and we seem to be well on our way, at least in Louisiana, to doing much the same with higher education. *The industrial revolution is over! Long live the industrial revolution!*

What we have then is a mis-match between the “blue ocean” proclaimed by one state bureaucracy and the red ocean strategy imposed upon the education system by another state bureaucracy. And I don’t think Louisiana is alone in this. What accounts for this mis-match between what leading industries say they want and what legislators say industry wants? Are legislators and bureaucrats that out of touch? Is it a function of Louisiana still being dominated by a very old, extractive industry like the oil business? Is it simply a cynical move by Louisiana’s status quo to keep its citizens “in their place” as some maintain? (That is, that the good old boy network, which resembles something like a twentieth-century plantation owner network, prefers its citizens to be focused on practical job skills rather than higher-order thinking.) Given the effect, conspiratorial causes sometimes seem like the best explanation.

(Let me be clear: I don’t think conspiracies are very good explanations. And, I think, everyone I know who actually works within a university or school is doing their best both to maintain the mission of the university while also serving this additional requirement by the state. It just seems like an oddity, an historical oddity, that we have to do both, and I wonder how we will consider this period in the future.)

Surely someone somewhere — someone outside the political and educational mainstream — is taking notes on these transformations and is doing some good investigative work. I don’t know that I am particularly suited to answering any of those questions. What I do know is that I really like teaching, and when my class size is small enough that I get to know students individually, I can teach them as individuals; I can offer them specific feedback on what they know and what they know how to do and what they don’t know and what they don’t know how to do … yet. The joy of teaching, I think, is seeing someone do something for the first time without their realizing, or really believing, they could do it. It’s like watching your own child’s face light up when they take their first step or when they go to their first competition.

It is the joy of being a parent, of being a part of someone else’s life. And, frankly, I just don’t see how you can quantify that in a way that will feed a spreadsheet properly.

Robot Roundup

As my daughter gets older, she gets closer and closer to that moment when I get to try to convince her to be as fascinated with robots as I am. Lego Mindstorms already purchased for seven year old? Check. Bin full of old electrical motors and gears ready for spontaneous robot making? Check. Robot events? Check:

* Robot Events has [listings of BEST events](http://robotevents.com/robot-competitions/best/).
* Carnegie Mellon has a [Robot Academy](http://www.education.rec.ri.cmu.edu/content/vex/start/index.htm).

[Traveling Salesman](http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1801123/) is a film version of math problem, more precisely about the P=NP question. Fascinating. (See this [Wikipedia entry for more on the Traveling Salesman problem](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Travelling_salesman_problem).)

[The PhD Movie](http://www.phdmovie.com/) looks interesting. It’s drawn from the web comic of the same name, [Piled Higher and Deeper](http://www.phdcomics.com/comics.php). The trailer would seem to suggest that it’s best seen with a group of people with beer to go with the popcorn.

We were looking over our daughter’s homework with her this afternoon. It’s an exercise where they review the previous week’s work, see what they did well and they did less well, and then evaluate themselves. One of her assignments was to write a paragraph. Our daughter wrote four. When we pointed this out to her, she protested that the first paragraph didn’t count:

> That’s not a paragraph! That’s a prologue.

We paused, and then we burst out laughing.

[Scientists have produced a map of the brain](http://news.illinois.edu/news/12/0410braininjury_AronBarbey.html). The lead researcher notes that they think they have found where particular mental activities occur: that is, their goal was to map, in a one-to-one fashion, links between an ability and a region of the brain. They used a large group of Vietnam veterans with localized brain injuries, who also suffered particular gaps in cognitive function:

> Scientists report that they have mapped the physical architecture of intelligence in the brain. Theirs is one of the largest and most comprehensive analyses so far of the brain structures vital to general intelligence and to specific aspects of intellectual functioning, such as verbal comprehension and working memory. Their study, published in _Brain: A Journal of Neurology_, is unique in that it enlisted an extraordinary pool of volunteer participants: 182 Vietnam veterans with highly localized brain damage from penetrating head injuries.

I need to read [the article](http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2012/03/05/brain.aws021.short?rss=1). The summary from the University of Illinois press release defines mental function rather loosely, e.g. “general intelligence.” (This, however, may be in fact a rather precise term within neurology, and thus I am only revealing my ignorance.)

Email-lore: Church Ladies

>> A little humor for your jam picked day.

>> They’re Back! Those wonderful Church Bulletins! Thank God for church ladies with computers. These sentences (with all the BLOOPERS) actually appeared in church bulletins or were announced in church services:

>> The Fasting & Prayer Conference includes meals.

>> The sermon this morning: Jesus Walks on the Water.
>> The sermon tonight: Searching for Jesus.

>> Ladies, don’t forget the rummage sale. It’s a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.

>> Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our community. Smile at someone who is hard to love. Say ‘Hell’ to someone who doesn’t care much about you.

>> Don’t let worry kill you off – let the Church help.

>> Miss Charlene Mason sang ‘I will not pass this way again,’ giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.
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For those of you who have children and don’t know it, we have a nursery downstairs.
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Next Thursday there will be tryouts for the choir. They need all the help they can get.
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Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.
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A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow.
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At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be ‘What Is Hell?’ Come early and listen to our choir practice.
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Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.
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Scouts are saving aluminum cans, bottles and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children.
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The church will host an evening of fine dining, super entertainment and gracious hostility.
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Potluck supper Sunday at 5:00 PM – prayer and medication to follow.
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The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon.
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This evening at 7 PM there will be a hymn singing in the park across from the Church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin.
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Ladies Bible Study will be held Thursday morning at 10 AM . All ladies are invited to lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the B. S. is done.
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The pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the Congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday.
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Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM. Please use the back door.
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The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare’s Hamlet in the Church basement Friday at 7 PM. The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.
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Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church.
Please use large double door at the side entrance.
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The Associate Minister unveiled the church’s new campaign slogan last Sunday:”I Upped My Pledge – Up Yours.”