As I wrap up work on _The Makers of Things_, I came across this video that Greg Frugé shot of one of his boats crossing a levee. That’s Frugé laughing as the boat crosses. It is one of the most delightful sounds you have ever heard: someone rejoicing in something he made doing what it is supposed to do.
It is no surprise to anyone in higher education, especially anyone in higher education in Louisiana, that things are fairly dire when it comes to the job market. The poster below reveals some of the larger trends at work across all departments: the humanities are not the only ones “in crisis.” Higher education, in general, it could be argued is under attack. Yes, the economy has been tough, but that does not explain the glee with which state governments have hacked at higher education budgets. Critical thinking and science are simply too inconvenient for the political forces that have emerged, largely on the right but also some disturbing ones on the left. That university administrations have taken advantage of these economic and ideological trends not only to hack away full-time faculty but also to increase their numbers and fatten their salaries is not unexpected, given the rise of MBA-think among them.
The crazy thing is, most university administrators don’t have a clue that they are re-purposing MBAisms from the 90s, which proved disastrous to corporate America in the following decade: even Harvard, birthplace of the MBA, is re-thinking the degree’s nature and focus. Unfortunately for higher education, lessons are not as learned as quickly here, buffered as we are from fools quickly being run off when things go wrong. And so we will probably face at least another decade, if not more, of high-sounding rhetoric making all the wrong decisions.
So, yeah, take a look at the last graph or so in the poster: the one that reveals that retention and graduation are highest when you have full-time faculty at the front of classrooms, be they physical or virtual.
The poster was, I think, originally from Marc Cortez, but I can’t find the link now.
I love old product literature from the thirties, forties, fifties, and sixties. It’s partly the modernist design impulse; it’s partly the optimism about the future. Mix in the possibility of computation and you have the [Computer History Museum’s collection of brochures](http://www.computerhistory.org/brochures/decades.php).
> We have an economy in which [46.5 million Americans live in poverty], the real [unemployment rate is above 12 percent], and our [400 wealthiest citizens enjoy as much wealth as the entire bottom half of the population].
— [Eric Levitz]
As Father’s Day approaches, I found myself remembering all the time I spent in my own father’s office, playing with the various bits of office material as he tried to get work done. My father was an architect, and one place to park me was in front of the typewriter which was in the reception area and not in the immediate space where he worked, bent over a drafting table. I don’t know how many pages of his stationary I burned through writing various bits of nonsense, but maybe that love of typing, the sense of committing words to a page in a way that seemed more important than writing them by hand, was one of the things that later drove me to write. (In the same way that some painters say they paint because they love the smell of the paint itself.)
Sometimes, though, I would wander into his work space and play with the various tree stamps on pieces of tracing paper, or, perhaps best of all, I would get to handle the various hand tools which seemed to hold almost mystical power. Things like slide rules or scales. Or there was the entire collection of outlines of furniture in various scales that were in sheets of cut out plastic. Among those objects was a plastic curve maker:
Forgive the Amazon link: it was the best example of the exact thing I used to play with. In fact, I can remember my father letting me have it, and I took it home and drew my own version of a sports car, in profile, carefully considering the appropriate placement of the curves to be included. Later, when I started experimenting with drawing programs, I re-discovered the joy of curves, which I learned had a more interesting name, [Bezier curves], named after the French engineer who used them to model, believe, curves on cars at Renault.
And now I find myself re-immersed in the world of math, not only because I find it fascinating and a possible research path for myself but also because I have a daughter who has a talent for math and I want to encourage it. I can only do that if I know enough to be useful to her. And so I start collecting links like this [Reddit thread] on cure simulations. Check out these [animated Bezier curves], for example, or this [Bezier curve simulation].
Why should you care about Bezier curves?
[Bezier curves]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bézier_curve
[Reddit thread]: http://www.reddit.com/r/InternetIsBeautiful/comments/27bsdl/curve_simulation/
[animated bezier curves]: http://www.jasondavies.com/animated-bezier/
[Bezier curve simulation]: http://tholman.com/bezier-curve-simulation/
An amazing D-Day photograph, ostensibly of a road leading into Normandy, but, really, what draws my eye is the harbor-like nature of what’s happening near the shore:
(Of course, I love the presence of the Cromwell and Sherman tanks in the foreground, too.)
So nicely done:
I’ve gotten to meet a lot of great people during my research for _The Makers of Things_, and one of them is Mark Frugé, who like a number of the crawfish farmers has more of a market presence than rice farmers. I knew that. I knew that. And, yet, this still surprised me:
Check out [Cajun Crawfish][cc] for yourself.
An elderly couple had just learned how to send text messages on their cell phones. The wife was a romantic type and the husband was more of a no-nonsense guy.
One afternoon the wife went out to meet a friend for coffee. She decided to send her husband a romantic text message and she wrote: “If you are sleeping, send me your dreams. If you are laughing, send me your smile. If you are eating, send me a bite. If you are drinking, send me a sip. If you are crying, send me your tears. I love you.
The husband texted back to her: “I’m on the toilet. Please advise.”
Drones. I’m actually thinking about drones. (More later.)