Saturday, October 18, 2008

A wormy apple for the teacher

Lately I've been uploading music manuscripts to Commons and setting up texts at Wikisource. It's quite interesting and I'd love to make text pages for them all, but English Wikisource has a policy of hosting only English and several of these manuscripts are rather hard to read, let alone translate.

The dilemma reminds me of a long-ago episode. You've seen people describe the dedicated teacher who inspired them with love of a subject and gave them direction to do great things in life?

Frau Winter, my tenth grade German teacher, was not that person. It was Frau Winter who misspelled a vocabulary word and failed to catch her own error until after the test. She explained her mistake as she returned our answer sheets and every one of us who had memorized her instructions had also been marked down. Frau Winter, someday you will meet your maker and when you do the souls of two dozen fifteen-year-olds will howl for justice.

But until that happens, this post salutes Frau Winter's unforgettable style by grading the great composers

...on penmanship.

Niccolò Paganini
(displayed at top) is a typical C student. Notice the smudges and the slapdash bars on Dolci d'amor parole. It's legible, but certainly not easy on the eye. Neatness counts, Niccolò. Next time recopy before you turn in your composition if you want a better grade.
Felix Mendelssohn
This is just sloppy. The whole top wasted on crossouts, but no margin at the bottom. Don't you keep a ruler at home, Felix, to draw straight lines? Surely Elijah deserves more attention. D.
Gioachino Rossini
Not great, but an improvement. The scratchouts prevent Moïse from doing better. I'll give it a B.
Nikolai Rimsy-Korsakov
This orchestration of Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov is clean, precise, but the lettering is just a little tight. A-.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Impressive, but you crowd too much onto one page and those sixteenth notes are shaky. B+. I'll consider raising the grade if you redo this by Tuesday. And try to come up with a better title than Phantasie für eine Orgelwalze, Allegro and Andante in F Minor.
Franz Liszt
Those squiggly lines say you didn't think ahead and align your work properly, Franz. B.
Frédéric Chopin
Next time turn in your assignment without so many smudge marks. B-.
Johannes Brahms
"Vier Lieder für Singstimme und Klavier" has a pleasant look to it, but those lyrics are chicken scratch. C.
Richard Wagner
I don't like red ink on the page unless I put it there myself, Richard. Still, this is very well done. That Flying Dutchman of yours sounds like a silly title, though. A-.
John Philip Sousa
Now this is what I like to see. Class, come here and look at John's paper. Everything is in neat lines with clean notes and legible lettering. A.
Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig, Ludwig--what are we going to do with you? You may say this is the fourth movement to Piano Sonata no. 28, but I can barely make out a note of it. You'll never go anyhere with penmanship like this. Go move your things and sit next to John Philip Sousa. I'm writing you up for Saturday detention; come with plenty of paper and pencils. F.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A scientific explanation for trolling?

From today's Newsweek:

Is technology changing our brains? A new study by UCLA neuroscientist Gary Small adds to a growing body of research that says it is. And according to Small's new book, "iBRAIN: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind," a dramatic shift in how we gather information and communicate with one another has touched off an era of rapid evolution that may ultimately change the human brain as we know it. "Perhaps not since early man first discovered how to use a tool has the human brain been affected so quickly and so dramatically," he writes. "As the brain evolves and shifts its focus towards new technological skills, it drifts away from fundamental social skills."

So I read this and got into a discussion, and although I hate to say it the trolls might be more evolved than the rest of us: jettisoning archaic social skills and acquiring valuable technological abilities.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Attack of the Killer B's

Today I put up a proposal at the Village Pump that would create a new type of incentive for article improvements. It's called Killer B's and it would thank people for raising bad articles up to pretty good.

Killer B designation is for improvement drives to existing articles that start out at C-class or below, with a few requirements:
  1. The article comes to full-fledged B-class work: useful overview of the subject, pretty well written, pretty well referenced, no uncited controversial stuff, no tags for serious shortcomings.
  2. Double its word count (not counting lists).
  3. Get it to at least 1000 words.
  4. Bring it to a total of 10 or more reliable sources with inline citations.
  5. Add at least 5 new reliable sources yourself (it may already have some sources before you start).
  6. Do all the improvements within 1 week.

There wouldn't be any special designation for Killer B at the article, but we could keep a 'Beehive' to thank editors for their contributions and offer cute doodads for userspace. The basic setup would operate similar to GAC: anyone can review and the process works on an honor system.

If you like this, let's make it happen.