Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Internet Soap

An article in the UK Times Online reports that:

Microsoft has just been awarded a patent for technology designed to automatically detect and remove “undesired words or phrases” from all manner of digital communications, ranging from YouTube broadcasts to internet chat and songs.

The patent describes a system that listens out for phonemes (word fragments) likely to be part of a swearword. If it thinks it hears a forbidden phrase, the software either fades out the offending syllables or simply replaces the rude word with a similar-sounding but clean alternative lifted from earlier speech without a second’s delay.

With Microsoft’s software put in place by parents, children could listen to the most explicit rap music and hear nothing stronger than “gosh darn mother flippers”. Theoretically, the software could monitor thousands of digital TV broadcasts, radio stations and web chats simultaneously.

I suppose it's all well and good if parents want to use this to clean up what their kids listen to. (However, I do wonder why parents can't just tell their kids "hell no, you're not going to listen to that garbage in my house" the way my parents did.) But what about other potential uses of the technology, such as government censoring the Internet to keep bloggers from criticizing its actions? I see a potential for violation of free speech.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

This is Maddening

I thought you might find this article interesting. It is about how much money banking executives are continuing to be paid despite their banks' being recipients of bailout money. Here's an interesting nugget from the article:

At one point last week the Morgan Stanley $10.7bn [billion] pay pot for the year to date was greater than the entire stock market value of the business. In effect, staff, on receiving their remuneration, could club together and buy the bank.

Maybe I'm reading this all wrong, but it seems that we the taxpayers are being swindled, big time, worse than what we initially thought.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Campus Excitement

As I type, a campus building has been evacuated and the fire department and police and the county Decon unit are inspecting the building for a "suspicious substance."

Threats and fires last week, and now this. You'd think I work in a public school. Oh wait....


Update: 10:54 a.m.

Just got the all clear. We can resume our daily routines now. Channel 2 is here to tell us all about it.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

What are they teaching kids in school these days?

Yesterday, in a class of college sophomores, I used the word extrapolate. The word fell out of my mouth just as naturally as you please. I remember learning this word in high school science classes.

Several of my students, however, were unfamiliar with the word and asked me to define it for them. I defined it and told them that they should have learned this word already, and that they likely would encounter it in chemistry class. They assured me that they would not be taking chemistry.

I've come to believe that most university students tried very hard not to learn anything when they were in high school, and they have come to the university with the goal of learning as little as possible while still getting out with a degree. Fewer and fewer students ask substantive questions anymore. Typically their questions deal with process--how to get the assignment done and achieve the highest possible grade with the smallest amount of effort.

I love my students, but sometimes I fear for our world if they are to be our future leaders.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

I'll bet you didn't see this on the news!

Lots of people showed their opposition to the bailout by protesting on Wall Street.

I wonder why Katie and Brian and Charles didn't tell us about this?