Friday: Hili dialogue

May 13, 2022 • 6:30 am

Good morning on the beginning of the weekend (and, at sundown, Cat Sabbath): Friday, May 13, 2022.  Yes, it’s Friday the 13th, but cheer up: it’s National Apple Pie Day!

*The CDC Data Tracker says that there have been 996,376 deaths from covid in the U.S., while the BBC (referencing Biden) says that it’s more than a million. Actually, Biden noted the “approaching milestone” of 1,000,000 deaths, so it seems that we’re not quite there yet. But this is a quibble, for we’ll get there—and beyond. I well remember in the early days of the pandemic that experts said the death total could be as high as 200,000, and considered that an unthinkable figure. We’re now five times higher than that, and although vaccination and medicines have cut the death rate, the pandemic is still with us and shows no sign of strong waning.

*A distressing essay in the NYT by a college professor, “My college students are not OK,” recounts how, throughout the U.S., the pandemic, class interruption, and other features have induced a kind of malaise in students so that many of them don’t even bother attending live classes, and their grades are suffering.  Here’s a report by Melissa Walsh, who teaches biology at the University of Texas at Arlington:

Many students got out of the habit of coming to class at all. Dr. Walsh estimated that in her biology course for non-majors this spring, just 30 percent to 40 percent of students attended class, and only a handful watched her recorded lectures. The students who don’t attend class are missing out on the best of Dr. Walsh, who recently won a campuswide teaching award.

“What makes me an effective instructor,” she said, “has a lot to do with my personality, how I engage in the classroom, using humor. I’m very animated. I like to walk around the classroom and talk with students.” Doing so is a way not just to get them engaged but also to test their learning and adjust her teaching on the fly. “I’m not able to do that with students who don’t come to the classroom,” she said.

Dr. Walsh added that if students aren’t in the classroom, she can’t recruit them to collaborate with her on research, an invaluable learning experience. She also has little to go on when writing recommendations for medical school.

*As I predicted (and I wish I were wrong), the Taliban’s promises about treating women in Afghanistan equally have all turned out to be lies.  Promised schooling for women hasn’t materialized, in the liberal Afghan city of Herat women and men may not dine together or visit parks together (even if they’re married!), and, worst of all, the mandatory burqa has returned:

Afghanistan’s supreme leader and Taliban chief on Saturday ordered the country’s women to wear the all-covering burqa in public — one of the harshest controls imposed on women’s lives since the hardline Islamists seized power.

“They should wear a chadori (head-to-toe burqa) as it is traditional and respectful,” said a decree issued by Hibatullah Akhundzada that was released by Taliban authorities at a function in Kabul.

“Those women who are not too old or young must cover their face, except the eyes, as per sharia directives, in order to avoid provocation when meeting men who are not mahram (adult close male relatives),” the decree said.

It added that if women had no important work outside it was “better they stay at home”.

*Women are increasingly making up a large proportion of Americans who obtain degrees in higher education.  I knew this, but didn’t know how large the disparity was. Here are the data as presented by Nellie Bowles on Bari Weiss’s site:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Szaron, a timid cat, is fighting against change—all change.

Szaron: We have to reinforce our defence of the status quo.
Hili: Is there a threat?
Szaron: You never know.
In Polish:
Szaron: Musimy wzmocnić obronę status quo.
Hili: Jakieś zagrożenie?
Szaron: Nigdy nie można być pewnym.

And here’s Karolinka kuddling Kulka. (Malgorzata is working on Listy in the background.  Karolina and her mother Natasza are returning to Ukraine by train on Saturday for a joyous reunion with the father and brother.  They are happy but also a bit scared.

Paulina took five lovely pictures of Kulka. Here they are:

Andrzej’s caption: “Paulina, the camera, and a terrible beast.” (In Polish: “Paulina, aparat i zwierz straszny.”)

From DIvy, though I forgot the name of this television quiz show:

From Catspotting Society:

From Jesus of the Day. I have one of these shaped like a cow, but I use it to pour cream for coffee.

Retweeted by Titania:

From Ken, with a comment:

To paraphrase the Insane Clown Posse on magnets, Republican male logic — how does that work? (It’s as yet unclear what punishment Sen. Steve Daines (R – Montana) thinks should be visited upon female sea turtles and eagles who damage their own fertilized eggs.)

From Simon (a Brit):

We haven’t heard from Masih in a long while, as I’ve been neglectful. Here’s her report on unrest in Iran:

From Barry: a great “play dead” routine:

Tweets from Matthew. FIrst, a Slovakian baffled by ticky tacky little boxes:

Rarely are moths this colorful!

Matthew insists that this made him laugh:

I find the practice of wearing bejeweled and living beetles as jewelry to be cruel and disgusting, but we should know about it:

23 thoughts on “Friday: Hili dialogue

  1. A distressing essay in the NYT by a college professor, “My college students are not OK,” recounts how, throughout the U.S., the pandemic, class interruption, and other features have induced a kind of malaise in students so that many of them don’t even bother attending live classes, and their grades are suffering.

    Our summer lifeguards are college students. Several rising sophomores told me they were scared to go ‘back’ to college as they had never been on campus. Which I thought was a bit sad, since it can be such a fun experience. But at the same time I thought “well it’s temporary – when they get there, they’ll see.” Now I’m not so sure. If this article is right, some of them are carrying the “new normal” of working in isolation with them, to their detriment.

    It’s something I’ll be curious to ask them when the pool opens. How was it? Do you prefer in-person classes? Etc etc. I know the info I receive will just be anecdotal, but still, I’m curious to see what they have to say.

  2. Another snippet of news that I post because there has been some discussion on it in these hallowed pages:

    Elon Musk puts Twitter deal on hold. I’m somewhat cynical about Mr Musk, so I’m not really surprised he’s done this.

    Edit: By the way, the gravy cat is not necessarily the worst thing ever. They could have put the hole in the other end.

      1. I thought “Renegotiate or get out of it” but the financial consequences of bailing would be quite severe. Apart form the $1billion penalty he would have to pay, the share price took quite a hit just with the “on hold” tweet. Pulling out would tank the stock – of which he holds quite a lot. So I agree he is just trying to renegotiate the deal.

  3. “… the Taliban’s promises about treating women in Afghanistan equally have all turned out to be lies.”

    Well at least they don’t have required underwear – imagine a Y-chromosome holder ordering anyone to wear underwear.

    I trust this great news will be trumpeted as just part of the world’s rich, respectable traditions of religion and culture, of which we must be reverent – culture that nobody but those in the culture itself can understand, so who are we, to be disrespectful and irreverent.

  4. I had a similar experience last semester in my ‘big’ evolution class, with over half of the students not attending. Apparently they were hoping they could just use the lecture outlines and the Powerpoint, although it is most definitely structured to make much of the content rather cryptic if one is not in the classroom. I did not want to pry into their feelings, but I do wonder if a big reason is that they were just wanting to take precautions. Being in close proximity to so many loosely masked people was unnerving for me too.

    1. Apparently they were hoping they could just use the lecture outlines and the Powerpoint, although it is most definitely structured to make much of the content rather cryptic if one is not in the classroom.

      Was this intentional, or just part of natural difficulty of conveying complex scientific topics (and terms of art) accurately?

        1. Why the latter?

          We should definitely do that if it helps in learning. But I question the idea of designing course material that way if it doesn’t.

          I wouldn’t think it fair pool if some scientist developed a new exciting finding, and rather than put everything we other scientists needed to know in the journal article, they intentionally made it obtuse so that other scientists would have to listen to his youtube channel lecture to get the full picture of the research. Yes as a supplement, that’s great and helpful. No as a necessity, where some critical/necessary material is reserved just for that.

    2. Being in close proximity to so many loosely masked people was unnerving for me too.

      But surely you can set the level of mask adherence in your own classes in the same way that you can set the level of tolerance of irrelevant chatter on the back row.

    3. I had a similar experience. I don’t think it’s caution about coronavirus. Many of my students skipped a fun, interesting, somewhat exotic three-day field trip (think whales, Jacques Cousteau, sunsets) that was worth little toward the grade and conveyed only supplementary learning (you could do great on the exams etc. without the field trip). But many skipped it. That subgroup did vastly worse on the course overall, about 1 letter grade worse. Skipping the field trip was a marker of disengagement, and it was a strong predictor of performance. At least in that group. Lots of my colleagues report similar experiences. Question for us is whether this is a long-term effect or a transient problem among folks who started university in Fall 2020 in lockdown.

    4. Nah, I think they are just lazy and don’t want to come in.

      All the restrictions in the UK have been lifted but I know, on the days I go into the office maybe 20% of the staff will be there. They’ve got used to working from home and they like it. Actually, I should say “we” not “they”.

  5. I don’t usually plug events, but the Freethought Society is having their Friggatriskaidekaphobia event tonight. They are a Philadelphia-area group advocat[ing] for the separation of religion and government and seek[ing] to end negative stereotyping of the nontheist community as [they] promote critical thinking, education, and science appreciation.). I attended their FRI-13 event in person a few years ago, where they encouraged people to break various superstitions, like breaking mirrors and walking under ladders. The Zoom link for tonight’s event is on the event page below.

  6. The state university system in my state is pulling out all the stops trying to get attendance back up. Apparently since Covid tens of thousands of students have dropped out of college. They are starting a new program for the fall semester for high school graduates that gives them an AA or AS degree for free. And they only have to maintain a 14 credit hour class load and above a 2.0 GPA to stay in the program.

    My 2 kids are graduating high school this year. The pandemic wreaked havoc with their high school experience. They’ve barely been to school for the past 2 years. Mostly on line classes which for the first year were a complete mess. They’ve both, and many of there friends, long since completely checked out of the whole high school experience. It has been at best a secondary concern. It has been a constant struggle to get them to keep up their grades. I hope they have a better college experience.

  7. Gosh. Just think. If we hadn’t destroyed the education experience for young people, right down to playgrounds—and make no mistake, elementary students suffered, too—imagine what the death toll might have been. It might have actually got within spitting distance of a million by now instead of just “closing in on” it. Thank heaven for decisive draconian action by the teachers unions when elected governments were reluctant to act!

    I’m saying “we” here because all of us in western countries pretty much signed on to economically destructive closures of schools, businesses and gathering spaces and now we are entering the Covid recession. Governments have to allow inflation to reduce the value of their Covid debt and artificially increase their tax take. Deaths per day in the U.S. continue their exponential decline from the first Omicron spike—recall that most of the people dying now were infected in Dec-Jan. Length of stay in an ICU for people who don’t make it can be startlingly long. We’ve had people last a year in Ontario. (They only give up when they finally realize they aren’t going to get a lung transplant.) Our World in Data shows a slow rise in hospital admissions this month in America but so far minimal rise in ICU admissions. Your daily death rate per million is now lower than Canada’s, and lower than all the rich countries OWiD reports by default.

    Here I’m going to engage in a bit of revisionism. Early estimates that U.S. death toll might reach 200,000 were I think based on the prediction that it would be over and done with in 2020-early 2021 even if a vaccine never showed up. There might be a second wave in fall 2020—there was—but we’d reach herd immunity and that would be it. The nearly 1 million comes from the damn thing just lasting so long. Instead of 200k in 6 months you got close to 1M in well over two years, and that in a high-risk population that didn’t want to get itself vaccinated. I don’t know that you could have done much better.

  8. What is going on with Botany Pond? Most of the surface is covered with gobs of white scum. A few minutes ago two young women approached and one appeared to take a sample of the mud.

  9. 10 years on (age 37) how many PhD women are still active? 15 years on, how many PhD women have tenure? 20 years on how many PhD women are in leadership positions in their field or their university? Without some consideration of life choices and child bearing decisions, those figures on gender are interesting but leave a whole lot of issues unaddressed.

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