Mar
29
2010
3

Neitzsche & Buddha Quotes

Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.

Frederich Nietzsche

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.

Buddha
Not dissimilar and worth remembering.  (also a bit hard to remember in the “heat of battle”).

Written by Rob in: pedagogy,scouting |
Mar
26
2010
0

Wither GSU

GSU is going through a rethinking process about its role and mission. This is good, but can be stressful. While it has a hundred year history, starting as Georgia Tech’s business school, and even being part of UGA for a while, GSU has truly been a university for less than 20 years. (“real” universities have Ph.D. students, and a strong externally funded research presence as well as a wide area of expertise). Seen in that context, we are doing really well.

The role of GSU is morphing. We’re no longer quite the “are you breathing and can you write a tuition check?” sort of place. In fact, we’re ranked as a highly competitive undergraduate institution (with an 11th grader, we’ve been looking at colleges). None the less one of our primary missions is to take people who are not coming from a tradition of education and to give them the thinking skills needed to succeed.  The need for this should not be underestimated – the US produces more goods in industry than it ever has, but with a smaller and smaller number of (human) workers.  Another way to see this is the relative unemployment rates – High School drop out 25% or so, Ph.D. 3% or so, with intermediate levels of education falling between these fairly exactly where they should.

In order to do this, we need to continue to work for excellence, without taking on the arrogant streak that often develops. There will be teething problems (sometimes I rant on them in this blog), because it takes vision to anticipate how university services and facilities will need to scale as the size and quality of the university change. The current budget situation doesn’t make this any easier, but this is a long-term transition and the budget issues will only slow it down – not stop it.

Written by Rob in: pedagogy |
Mar
23
2010
4

A couple of rights that tend to be forgotten

With the recent passage of the health insurance reforms, there is a lot of hot air, about states’ rights and the right not to be insured. There are a couple of rights that are forgotten, and I want to state them.

  1. The Right Not to Pay for Unnecessary Critical Care.  It costs between $2000 and $4000 to pay for anyone to visit the emergency room.  When that person is indigent or simply doesn’t have insurance, then that cost gets passed on through taxes and fees to the rest of us.   Most of the time, these people are coming in with problems that had they been treated earlier at a community clinic or regular Dr.’s office or in fact were simply treated in a non-emergency manner would be $10-$100 to treat.  I want the right not to pay my part of that cost difference!
  2. The Right to Not Sin Gratuitously. I don’t usually wax religiously or self-righteously, but really is a sin to leave people ill and in pain.  As a society we are judged not by how treat the rich, but how we treat the weak.  Most of the right wing, who are highly upset about the reforms, claim to be Christians, yet Jesus repeatedly said, if you believe the gospels, that it is how we treat the poor and the ill that matters.  That’s why he said “love your neighbor” was the central commandment.  He said almost nothing (at least nothing recorded) about the rest of them, and Paul makes it clear in Romans that the formalisms of Jewish life don’t really apply to gentiles.  (which is good since I like my barbeque ;-) ).  I don’t claim to be very good about this, personally, I’m not one to hand change to the multitudinous professional beggars that try to harass the students and faculty around my institution (which is downtown), mostly because I can’t tell the professionals – who don’t need help from the amateurs – who do.  That’s why our society has organized social services.  I want the right to be responsible for my sins, not yours.

Actually, it is sort of funny.  There was a philosophy in the early part of the last century, known as “social Darwinism”, which tried to use natural selection and “survival of the fittest” as an excuse to do away with or ignore (which amounts to the same thing) poor and other unsatisfactory people.  The right wing decries this theory, just as they invoke it in terms of “unregulated free markets” and the “freedom to fail”.  What makes this especially ironic, is that “survival of the fittest” in humans has led to selection for fairness and altruism.  Take a bunch of nice food or candy and place it in a room of people and they automatically work out a means of sharing.  It won’t be perfect, but it will be there.  Do the same with our cousins, the Chimpanzees, and you have a riot.  This doesn’t mean that we don’t still have conflicts and wars, but it does mean that we are selected to cooperate.  We are naturally selected to work together and do much better than we can as individuals.

You might want to read this if you don’t believe me.

While it is in the disclaimer in the “about” section, these are my opinions (right now) and shouldn’t be confused with anybody else’s including the univeristies.

Written by Rob in: rant,scouting |
Mar
21
2010
2

Subtlety, or the art of dealing with idoits.

Subtlety, ah subtlety.  One of the difficulties with dealing with self proclaimed experts who aren’t is that they will never admit defeat in a rational argument.  To wit, after you’ve invalidated points a,b,c, and d they come up with a new bogus point e, which is validated by their years of (in)experience.

One important role of being a committee chair is to ensure that issues get dealt with quickly and professionally, but it takes both parties agreeing to be professional.

You can’t fight fire with fire.  You fight fire with water (or foam or CO2 or liquid nitrogen (pretty cool to watch) or even a rocket engine or explosive).

I realized that I could as my particular set of blowhards to advise me, hypothetically as it were (I think they understand hypothetically (well, I hope they understand it)), before we discuss the serious issue, about what to do if:

  1. Someone wanted to tear the organization (troop in this case, including firing or reprimanding an excellent scoutmaster) apart because of a perceived problem and
  2. Their proposed solution was against the organizations policies (in this case I’d read the BSA policy guide and checked with Nationally prominent, district level, other troop leaders and even one of my own old scoutmasters and received unanimous “say what?” negative responses.  The particular ‘solutions’ would have violated both advancement and youth protection policies) and
  3. They wouldn’t accept this answer, and
  4. Reliable information showed that the original problem did not really exist.

So, hypothetically, what should I do with that person?  Do we still need to discuss the issue?

While my most recent need for this has been with the scouts, I’ve run into similar problems on faculty committees so it isn’t unique to that domain.

I feel like I’m channeling Sir Humphrey in “yes minister” or one of the characters in Mark Twain’s “innocents abroad”.   I’ll let you know if I need to use this and if it works.

quote of the day.

There’s nothing like ‘Being Prepared’ is there, for what might seem possible, even if it may not seem probable.

Lord Baden-Powell

Founder of Scouting
Mar
19
2010
2

Rehydration mixes (Gatorade still rules)

One of the joys of teaching scout leader training is what you learn from the scout leaders. One, a biology professor from Emory and working with my son’s troop, pointed out that we probably should emphasize bringing some Gatorade packets along to prevent serious dehydration when a scout or adult becomes ill with what the German’s call Durchvall. (This is a very rare event, but it can happen).

Gatorade is not my personal favorite, and there are many oral (sports) re-hydration mixes on the market. Some of these come in very small packages that would be easy to include in the emergency kit. A quick pass through the REI website showed about 10-15 hits. Gatorade was the cheapest by a fair margin, and as I read the ingredients it became clear that it is still the best.

It takes both salt and sugar to make an effective mix because the molecular transporter in the digestive system uptakes water, sugar and ions (K or Na) together. Active transport like this makes sense because otherwise it would be difficult to keep the stomach juices at the right strength to digest food. The UN official mix is 8 tsp sugar, 1 tsp salt per liter of clean water, which is fairly disgusting and adding flavoring is not a bad idea. (After severe dehydration the mixture has to be changed to include potassium (“lite salt” is about 70% potassium chloride and would be much better), but this is what you would use on an ASAP basis and can make from things that are around the house).

Every one of the re-hydration mixes, except the Gatorade was sugar free. Unfortunately artificial sweeteners don’t work in the transport system, and so these won’t work. They do have neat labels though. So you pay more money – sometimes ten times more – for something that is less functional. ARRGH!

So there is a reason that both Philmont and Northern Tier include Gatorade packets in their menus – and it isn’t just the cost.

Written by Rob in: backpacking,outdoors,scouting |
Mar
17
2010
0

A Little Hero-worship.

Just poking around some of the sites that I often read when I’m trying to avoid looking at grant reviews.

Baydon Powell self portrait

Baydon Powell self portrait

Lord Baydon-Powell was quite prescient about the state of the world.  While some of his writings are a bit racist for today’s taste and he did mistake the Hitler youth for a scouting organization for a short while towards the end of his life (about 1 year), it is clear that he was an insightful and fundamentally decent man.

His final message to the scouts sets the tone I want to see today.  Even though it might drive some of the “fundies” up the wall, the Zen of it is reassuring as we work through today’s version of the same kinds of problems he saw 100 years ago.

final message

final message


(the images are from the world scouting website)

Written by Rob in: outdoors,scouting,Wildlife |
Mar
17
2010
0

More scout stuff

The chief blowhard was wheel-chaired into the troop meeting tonight.  Clearly in serious health troubles, and clearly well-liked by many.  (why escapes me, as he was and I’m sure would like to return to being quite a loudmouthed bully).  With what I know now about his activities – wanting to tear the troop apart and harm scouts all in the name of ensuring that merit badge requirements were met to his satisfaction – and that the scouts actually did the merit badge requirements at camp – I’d have had to fire him if he hadn’t almost expired from a serious heart attack.   In other words both the actions he wished us to take and the causus belli of them were bogus and reflected the serious decrease in his cognitive ability with the decrease in his pre-attack health.

I can’t participate in welcoming someone who does these things.  I really feel as if I were Jewish and introduced to a camp guard in a wheel chair.  If he’d brought up the issues, I’d have had to say some very unpleasant things.  For the moment, I’d rather be thought a coward than a cad. (though I may have to explain this more carefully to some of the adults).

On the other hand the patrols that the scouts chose using friendship lists (sociometric analysis) are wildly successful.  While the resulting groupings are pretty much what we’d expected, this has the significant benefit of having the scouts do it.  It is now their patrols in their troop.  Wonderful!

Written by Rob in: scouting |
Mar
13
2010
1

Revised and Updated Gear list

I’ve just uploaded my gear list. It’s not quite as low a total weight as I’d like but it is reasonably accurate.

Basically its a spreadsheet, where the weights are multiplied by the number of times the item is repeated and then summed.  With essentially the same total function targets, I can get weights from about 16 lbs to 30 lbs.  (obviously you want to aim for the 16 lbs).

Written by Rob in: gear lists,outdoors,scouting |
Mar
01
2010
0

shelter weights

An Etowah 8×10 tarp with kelty triptease lines weighs 413g (not seam sealed).  Not bad.  looks like a decent shelter, though the weight cost of adding a groundsheet or bivy sack will probably make it a wash in terms of weight. (it does)

None the less, it is huge compared to the size of a six moons luna solo (which is a very nice tent) and with a thermal blanket for a groundsheet (appx 1lbs) and a down bag it will be very good.

To set up a tarp single handed (how else?), stake out the corners and then add the poles.  Since sylon doesn’t stretch very much and triptease almost none, the way to tie these is a “double bowline”, where you attach the line to the tarp with a bowline and use a bowline to create a loop for the stake.  Use a clove hitch to attach the line to your trekking poles.  Gee, I guess tenderfoot knots are useful after all.

Written by Rob in: backpacking,engineering,gear lists |

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