R.I.P. Randy Pausch

You remem­ber all that buzz about “The Last Lec­ture” last Sep­tem­ber?1 I do hope you watched it–it was well worth the time. It’s still avail­able, too.

Randy Pausch, the lec­tur­er, died yes­ter­day. He was just 47, and leaves a wife and 3 small chil­dren. I know that he did that par­tic­u­lar lec­ture because he knew that he had ter­mi­nal can­cer, but it’s still dis­ap­point­ing that such a won­der­ful man is gone far, far too soon.

A few quo­ta­tions from the lecture:

  • “…when you see your­self doing some­thing bad­ly and nobody’s both­er­ing to tell you any­more, that’s a very bad place to be. Your crit­ics are the ones telling you they still love you and care.”
  • “Expe­ri­ence is what you get when you did­n’t get what you wanted.”
  • “It’s not about how to achieve your dreams, it’s all about lead­ing your life. If you lead your life in a right way, kar­ma will take care of itself. And dreams will come to you.”
  • [Quot­ing a CMU secretary]“This advice is good for the ladies: when it comes to men that are roman­ti­cal­ly inter­est­ed in you, it’s real­ly sim­ple: just don’t lis­ten to any­thing they have to say; pay atten­tion to what they do.” (Cyn­thi­a’s note: good advice for men and women!)
  • “If I only had three words of advice, they would be, Tell the Truth. If got three more words, I’d add, all the time.”

1 I found out today that the title of Randy’s lec­ture was actu­al­ly “Real­ly Achiev­ing Your Child­hood Dreams.”

Professional Educators say “Trauma is good for kids!”

That’s what their actions say, anyway.

Some El Camino High stu­dents in Ocean­side received the shock of a life­time. School admin­is­tra­tors and offi­cers claimed some of their class­mates died in a drunk dri­ving acci­dent, but it was all a hoax that was intend­ed to be a hard lesson.

They’d bet­ter be damned glad I did­n’t have a kid in that school.

Edit­ed to add:
I’m with Jon Car­roll on this one.

The take­away is: Don’t trust any­one. Grown-ups will lie to you and try to make you feel bad. The world sucks even worse than you thought it did. Guid­ance coun­selor Lori Tauber defend­ed the exer­cise: “They were trau­ma­tized, but we want­ed them to be trau­ma­tized. That’s how they get the message.”

These are pro­fes­sion­al edu­ca­tors, and they are com­fort­able with the fol­low­ing ped­a­gog­ic the­o­ry: Trau­ma is good for kids. It’s an effec­tive teach­ing tool. Why not teach Amer­i­can lit­er­a­ture the same way? Har­poon a real whale and watch it die — “Moby-Dick” brought to life! They’ll remem­ber that.

Maybe they’ll want to join Green­peace too. Two lessons for the price of one dead whale! And then the “dead” whale could wake up and make a mov­ing speech at assembly.

Are we that alien­at­ed from the ado­les­cents in our midst? Do we think that their feel­ings don’t mat­ter, that almost any­thing is jus­ti­fied in pur­suit of mak­ing sure they get a Life Les­son? Are we that cru­el? Appar­ent­ly we are — a major­i­ty of the par­ents in Ocean­side thought there was noth­ing wrong with this lit­tle exper­i­ment. Shake those kids up a little. 

Water from Stone?

Water From Rock, Eas­i­er Than Blood From Stone

Gyp­sum, a rocky min­er­al is abun­dant in desert regions where fresh water is usu­al­ly in very short sup­ply but oil and gas fields are com­mon. Writ­ing in Inter­na­tion­al Jour­nal of Glob­al Envi­ron­men­tal Issues, Peter van der Gaag of the Hol­land Inno­va­tion Team, in Rot­ter­dam, The Nether­lands, has hit on the idea of using the untapped ener­gy from oil and gas flare-off to release the water locked in gypsum.
Chem­i­cal­ly speak­ing, gyp­sum is cal­ci­um sul­fate dihy­drate, and has the chem­i­cal for­mu­la CaSO4.2H2O. In oth­er words, for every unit of cal­ci­um sul­fate in the min­er­al there are two water mol­e­cules, which means gyp­sum is 20% water by weight.

van der Gaag sug­gests that a large-scale, or macro, engi­neer­ing project could be used to tap off this water from the vast deposits of gyp­sum found in desert regions, amount­ing to bil­lions of cubic meters and rep­re­sent­ing tril­lions of liters of clean, drink­ing water.

That is so cool! And not the kind of thing I expect to read in the Med­ical News Today newslet­ter. There’s always some­thing inter­est­ing in it, though. This was also in it.

Body Clocks Dic­tate The Beat Of Life

Body clocks deter­mine whether peo­ple are ear­ly birds or late ris­ers, “home­bod­ies” or “par­ty ani­mals”. As Pro­fes­sor Hanspeter Herzel (Insti­tute for The­o­ret­i­cal Biol­o­gy, Hum­boldt Uni­ver­si­ty Berlin, Ger­many) now report­ed at the inter­na­tion­al con­fer­ence “Com­pu­ta­tion­al & Exper­i­men­tal Mol­e­c­u­lar Biol­o­gy” in Berlin, Ger­many, these bio­log­i­cal watch­es not only reg­u­late the sleep-wake cycle, but also blood pres­sure and blood tem­per­a­ture. “They are con­trolled by a mas­ter clock which con­sists of 20,000 neu­rons in the brain,” Pro­fes­sor Herzel illu­mi­nat­ed, “where they oper­ate togeth­er to adapt us to the chang­ing demands of day and night.”

So much for those idiots who think that being a morn­ing per­son is a char­ac­ter issue.

I must have slept wrong. My right arm isn’t work­ing prop­er­ly. It’s annoying.

But Sam fixed a great break­fast (yes, on Father’s Day). And we’ve got Firefly.

What Can All Couples Learn From Same-Sex Marriages?

Gay Unions Shed Light on Gen­der in Marriage

A grow­ing body of evi­dence shows that same-sex cou­ples have a great deal to teach every­one else about mar­riage and rela­tion­ships. Most stud­ies show sur­pris­ing­ly few dif­fer­ences between com­mit­ted gay cou­ples and com­mit­ted straight cou­ples, but the dif­fer­ences that do emerge have shed light on the kinds of con­flicts that can endan­ger het­ero­sex­u­al relationships.

The find­ings offer hope that some of the most vex­ing prob­lems are not nec­es­sar­i­ly entrenched in deep-root­ed bio­log­i­cal dif­fer­ences between men and women. And that, in turn, offers hope that the prob­lems can be solved.

One of the things the arti­cle points out is some­thing I’ve def­i­nite­ly noticed, that how peo­ple han­dle resolve con­flicts is far more impor­tant than how often they expe­ri­ence conflict.

One well-known study used math­e­mat­i­cal mod­el­ing to deci­pher the inter­ac­tions between com­mit­ted gay cou­ples. The results, pub­lished in two 2003 arti­cles in The Jour­nal of Homo­sex­u­al­i­ty, showed that when same-sex cou­ples argued, they tend­ed to fight more fair­ly than het­ero­sex­u­al cou­ples, mak­ing few­er ver­bal attacks and more of an effort to defuse the confrontation.

Con­trol­ling and hos­tile emo­tion­al tac­tics, like bel­liger­ence and dom­i­neer­ing, were less com­mon among gay couples.

Vicious Teacher Leads Bullying of Disabled Child

Teacher lets kinder­garten stu­dents vote 5‑year-old “out of the class”

After each class­mate was allowed to say what they did­n’t like about Bar­ton’s 5‑year-old son, Alex, his Morn­ing­side Ele­men­tary teacher Wendy Por­tillo said they were going to take a vote, Bar­ton said.

By a 14 to 2 mar­gin, the stu­dents vot­ed Alex — who is in the process of being diag­nosed with autism — out of the class.

The teacher, Wendy Por­tillo (portillow@stlucie.k12.fl.us), has acknowl­edged that the inci­dent hap­pened. She had been par­tic­i­pat­ing in the child’s IEP team since Feb­ru­ary, so she knew that Alex was being eval­u­at­ed for a dis­abil­i­ty (most like­ly Asberg­er’s syn­drome, from the infor­ma­tion in the article).

There isn’t be any excuse for any adult treat­ing any child that way, but a teacher to encour­age chil­dren to ostra­cize a dis­abled child? That’s even worse.

The school dis­trict has refused to fire Por­tillo, but claims that she has been moved to non-class­room duties. That isn’t near­ly enough.

Goodbye Dr. Hoffman

Dr. Albert Hof­mann died yes­ter­day, April 29, 2008. Why haven’t I got­ten one of those “urgent news updates” from CNN or the Atlanta paper? Los­ing him is cer­tain­ly more news­wor­thy than most of the things they do alert me about, like sports scores!

A com­menter (and I don’t know where the com­ment went, unfor­tu­nate­ly) let me know that I’ve con­flat­ed two peo­ple. Abbie Hoff­man, whose quote is below, died in 1989.

From his own mouth, the clos­ing words from a speech at Van­der­bilt Uni­ver­si­ty in April 1989:

We are here to make a bet­ter world. No amount of ratio­nal­iza­tion or blam­ing can pre­empt the moment of choice each of us brings to our sit­u­a­tion here on this plan­et. The les­son of the ’60s is that peo­ple who cared enough to do right could change his­to­ry. …in the nine­teen-six­ties, apartheid was dri­ven out of Amer­i­ca. Legal segregation–Jim Crow–ended. We did­n’t end racism, but we end­ed legal seg­re­ga­tion. We end­ed the idea that you can send a mil­lion sol­diers ten thou­sand miles away to fight in a war that peo­ple do not sup­port. We end­ed the idea that women are sec­ond-class cit­i­zens. We made the envi­ron­ment an issue that could­n’t be avoid­ed. Now, it does­n’t mat­ter who sits in the Oval Office. But the big bat­tles that were won in that peri­od of civ­il war and strife you can­not reverse. We were young, we were reck­less, arro­gant, sil­ly, headstrong…and we were right! I regret nothing!

Friday Links

It was a nice, bor­ing day, which means I don’t have much to talk about. Hap­pi­ly, oth­er peo­ple do.

Open Rela­tion­ships: What the World Already Has is a very good post over at Huff­in­g­ton by Jen­ny Block. I hope to read more from her. I def­i­nite­ly intend to get a copy of her book, Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Mar­riage when it comes out in June.

I can’t say that I was shocked to hear that the TSA forced a woman to remove her nip­ple pierc­ings with pli­ers before allow­ing her to board a flight, but I am dis­gust­ed. I’m glad that I don’t have to trav­el much,1 but I def­i­nite­ly think that the next time we do trav­el we’ll give Amtrak seri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion over flying.

Why is it that 29 total strangers have start­ed “fol­low­ing” me on Twit­ter, when I haven’t even logged in since the 21st?

1 Not that I would­n’t like to trav­el more for plea­sure, I just would­n’t want to do it on some­one else’s schedule

R.I.P. Arthur C. Clarke

We lost anoth­er great writer and thinker today. CNN seems to be updat­ing their sto­ry on his death by the minute. There’s no con­tro­ver­sy, but from the first ver­sion or two you’d think the only thing the man had ever done of note was co-write the screen­play for 2001: A Space Odyssey.

I know that he came up with more than just the idea of com­mu­ni­ca­tions satel­lites, but at this very moment I can’t remem­ber his oth­er non-fic­tion con­tri­bu­tions to the world. I’m sad, but 90 years is a good, long run.