Monday, December 15, 2014

and where all children are above average

About this year's incoming Georgia Tech Students:

"looking at the makeup of the 2014 freshman class, it’s still no easy task to become a Yellow Jacket. The average SAT score (including the written test) of this year’s enrollees was 1450, the ACT 30, and the GPA a solid “A” average"

I especially like that the average is solid “A”.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Suits take our coursera SOOC off Coursera, final episode 2

[for the previous installment, click here]
[for the current course website, click here; to read about the motivation for this course click here].

The course announcement went online August 21 2015.

Georgia Tech Professional Education Dean XXX has stopped the course twice. First time -without informing me about it- it was taken down for three weeks in October. Then it was reopened on, and was kept there until December 11, when it was taken down for good, again without a warning, this time with a 10 line email signed by XXX, and 3 points explanation:
"[the course] diverges in significant ways from other Georgia Tech MOOCs both in terms of production quality and pedagogical style and it is unlikely to meet the requirements that have been set for Coursera MOOCs.  There is also an overt marketing appeal for your Chaos Book that is inconsistent with our approach to MOOCs."
Georgia Tech "Professional Education" ways are mysterious. I have, in the entire year of working on the course, had only one 15 minute conversation, subsequent to shutting down the course. And why should Georgia Tech advanced graduate curriculum be approved by GT Professional Education?

We have split up the semester-long course into two consecutive 8-weeek courses. I was counting on about 50-100 off-campus students. 8,000 signed up. Assuming linear growth over the October lock-down period, and ignoring the acceleration towards the end, some 10,000 would have signed up:

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Suits take our coursera SOOC off-line, episode 1

[for the previous installment, click here

The GaTech Suits ban our advert for the Jan 2015 course, after 3 months on the Coursera website, and take our off-line without informing me. Making it took a week of shooting, reshooting, and editing. I like the final Chesire Cat version for a reason, as a parable for a strange attractor. You can watch the banned video here:, with the caption:
This is an invitation to join our course. Click on [CC] for subtitles. The gadget on the glasses is the home-cooked Google Glass (ie, the mic for the camera). 
I asked by email what the deal is. The Suits took the advertisement down because: "The ghost movements are unacceptable and those videos will need to be reshot. All of these restrictions are made with the experience of the 20 previous Coursera courses that we've produced. The course would be removed from external access until the course is approved for release by the Executive MOOC team and made public after Dr. Baker and his team give their approval."

So, when you have a look on Internet, it's amazing how much stuff there is that does not meet  the Professional Education treshold. Here is this unprofessional Robert Reich's shaky video.

Whoever Dr. Baker of the Supreme MOOC Presidium might be - he's never talked to me or contacted me. So I wrote down the text of the add for the Professional Education, put on The Suit (I dress this way only for funerals, but nobody got the joke), went into their black room, and read the text off the teleprompter. With this version the Suits put the course back on line (after 6 weeks!).

[for the next installment, click here]

Monday, October 06, 2014

Wenches in Chainmail

America and its infinity of subcultures is amazing.

Someone on faves a nice portrait by Jim of his ex (245 people have looked at it?), so I check that person's photography. Not public, but the person is into girls with plaster casts; Wenches in Chainmail (a flickr group with 279 members); Adult Baby Girl ("There is something about a beautiful, adult woman securely diapered with her pacifier neatly tucked in her mouth"); ladies wearing casts; and so on.

Why would anyone ... oh, never mind.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Life is beautiful

March 13 it happened, and it happened so quickly: we derived the classical trace formula. Half of the class was not even here, they had no time to blink, and it happened. The course is OVER. Trace formula is beautiful, and there is nothing more to say. Just some moping up to do. Today's sequel, "The meaning of it all: From trace formula to spectral determinant" was not half bad either, except for some wind-baggery about Gutzwiller, Zagier, etc, etc.

Outside the skies were beautiful, clear and blue. Cherry and Bradford pear trees are in glorious bloom, and the temperature is quickly dropping to below zero. I jumped on the bike and biked from Georgia Tech to the dead center of downtown. There were 5000 cars going nowhere, all roads plugged up, and there I was zooming by on the sidewalks - illegal in Georgia, but there are no pedestrians, and I live only once. I smuggled the bike into dentist's office, and submitted myself to scrutiny of a dental hygienist from Pasadena. I had recommended the dentist to Kimberly Short, and guess the name of hygienist: Kimberly Long.  Kimberly stuck my head in some contraption from Trekk, and made me bite and suck on a steel rod with lips closed while pushing the tip of the tongue against the palate and kind of standing tiptoe. In this ridiculous pose the machine whirled 360 degrees around my head, ostensibly generating a 3D Xray of my teeth. But I am sure it sucked my mind out, because I immediately became deliriously happy. The tooth that was sensitive to pressure before I got to office decided not to be sensitive to anything, so I left the office (with the bike, 5 floors above Peachtree) undrilled and irrationally content.

The sun is setting, the temperature is quickly dropping, and from overpass to Freedom Parkway downtown skyscrapers are silhouetted against a dramatic sky, with large dark purple cloud blotches. Bike chain locks up - I reset it and think - maybe I should get a new bike...

I decide to explore Highland south of Ponce de Leon, and discover a bike store that I did not know existed. It's a small store, and there is a single young man standing in it. There I things in life I find irresistible: dancer's body, a woman with a voice and acoustic guitar, an intelligent, serious 12-year old, a man or woman alone in his/her bike shop. The young man's name is Seth, and he is a dropout. Why go to school when you can build your own frames?

He takes the bike, disassembles it: the chain is stretched, the bracket is loose and it misses the bolt, the right brake cable is locked up, I must get the only backlight he sells (40 bucks for a blinding red rechargeable only via USB cable), and then reassembles it again, pumps the tires to 90 psi ("You have to pump up your tires every two days"), while his Asian-American girlfriend floats in, the bicycle beautiful and with bamboo fenders, then a tall young man who sets to lovingly dusting a dirt roadbike by the light of his smartphone, and yet another gentle young Asian-American man whose business has been taken over by Starbucks floats in - it's a bike store where you hang out in the evenings. I get on the bike, and its 20 years younger - the gears just purr between my legs. I stop the next door: Sweet Auburn Barbecue. Waitress Katherine is Asian-American. The owners are not southern rednecks - they are Hmong? Malaysians? Filipinos? It's getting impossible to guess. The stone is off my chest and I do something I've been unable to do in months. I open the postdoc application folders I've been carrying with me everywhere. What an idiot I've been - I have to call C├ędric, make him an offer. Now.

It's night, the temperature has dropped bellow freezing, I'm freezing and I'm biking home, idiotically happy.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Sanity check

remember to click on Chris' blog whenever I do something especially boring in the chaos class :)