Posts tagged “academia”

Steven Levy: "The Invention of the Perfect Cup of Coffee"

Photo by Jason Henry

A short and fun interview between Steven Levy and Alan Adler, inventor of the Aerobie and the Aeropress.

Levy:

So I recently ventured to the small suite towards the back of a tiny industrial complex near 101 in Palo Alto, the home of the Aerobie company and its unsung master maker, Alan Adler. At 75, he is still at it, the canonical independent inventor, digging in file drawers for blueprints, shuffling to a storage space to locate an early version of his long-flying disk, lining up AeroPress prototypes like the iconic illustration of Darwin’s vision of the evolution of man. Across the room is his granddaughter, who does his PR. If the Maker Movement needs someone to put on its postage stamp, Adler would be perfect.

Levy & Adler:

You didn’t go to college?

No, but but I taught college. I taught at Stanford for many years. I taught a course in sensors and also mentored mechanical engineering students and I still lecture there.

I certainly had the ability [as a student] but I didn’t always have the discipline to do all the work. I recall one incident in plane geometry class where I submitted a very unusual proof and the teacher asked me to do the proof on the blackboard for the rest of the class, which I did. And she looked sort of stunned. I realized afterward that she thought that my father must have done that proof, which he couldn’t do actually. My grades were about average. I was eager to get out and earn a living and be on my own.

Assistant Professor Henry 'Indiana' Jones, Jr: Tenure Denied

Indy’s application for tenure at Marshall College was denied (as recounted at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency). Why, you may ask?

The committee concurred that Dr. Jones does seem to possess a nearly superhuman breadth of linguistic knowledge and an uncanny familiarity with the history and material culture of the occult. However, his understanding and practice of archaeology gave the committee the greatest cause for alarm. Criticisms of Dr. Jones ranged from “possessing a perceptible methodological deficiency” to “practicing archaeology with a complete lack of, disregard for, and colossal ignorance of current methodology, theory, and ethics” to “unabashed grave-robbing.” Given such appraisals, perhaps it isn’t surprising to learn that several Central and South American countries recently assembled to enact legislation aimed at permanently prohibiting his entry.

Moreover, no one on the committee can identify who or what instilled Dr. Jones with the belief that an archaeologist’s tool kit should consist solely of a bullwhip and a revolver.

Also, don’t overlook the fact that

Several faculty members maintain that Dr. Jones informed them on multiple occasions of having discovered the Ark of the Covenant, magic diamond rocks, and the Holy Grail! When asked to provide evidence for such claims, he purportedly replied that he was “kind of immortal” and/or muttered derogatory statements about the “bureaucratic fools” running the U.S. government.

Good stuff. Via DF.

Centrally-planned development

Reading a short piece by Brad DeLong for a technology & development seminar. Opens strongly with the following quotation...

"...the bureaucratic planner with a map does not know best, and can not move humans and their lives around the territory as if on a chessboard to create utopia; that the local, practical knowledge possessed by the person-on-the-spot is important; that the locus of decision-making must remain with those who have the craft to understand the situation; that any system that functions at all must create and maintain a space for those on the spot to use their local, practical knowledge (even if the hierarchs of the system pretend not to notice this flexibility)."

Seems applicable to any program anywhere, but also extremely relevant... and not new. The lesson has not been learned.

Queue head explosion

… the effect of JSY on health-system outputs and outcomes using district-level differences in differences that controlled for differences between treated and untreated observations, and differences in treated observations that might have resulted from underlying changes over time…

Berkeley Graduate Student Instructor Teaching Conference

Today was my first real foray into Berkeley academic culture — an 8:30a - 3:30p Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) teaching conference. For those in doubt, it made apparent the serious nature of pedagogy at Cal. There were seven hundred first-time instructors in attendance. That’s a hard number for me to wrap my head around — 700 first time instructors. There are probably two or three times that number who’ve already been through the first-time instructor rigamarole.

I’ve got a sense from my limited interactions on campus that the academic environment here is more serious than other places. This could be a function of a bit of anxiety about the program; the seemingly epoch-long two years its been since I’ve been in a formal academic environment; or just the way it is. Regardless, its radical.

I was going to write about the skull-crushing anxiety about returning to a rigorous academic environment, my doubts in my own mental capability to deal with such academic environment, blah blah yadda yadda. That’s all there, and true. But more importantly is a massive rebirth of wonder and excitement. This place is awesome and I can’t wait to be mentally taxed and learn some rad new stuff.

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