Monday, August 26, 2013

Reason #456 for why it should be mandatory for kids to learn programming logic in school.

Came across this video today on a site that presented it with the headline of "Black Woman Pretends to Be White, Job Offers Skyrocket"

 

 

Alternate headline for this story could just as easily be something like "Woman discovers sort order affects job opportunities" with a sub-caption of "Job hunters on Monster.com having first names beginning with letters near the beginning of the alphabet have an unfair advantage over people with first names beginning with letters near the end of the alphabet."

With 4 very screamingly obvious differences in variables in the 2 accounts she created (race, first name, last name, email address), perhaps even more, the woman and the guy presenting this story, both choose to believe there was only one variable difference, ignoring the rest, and jumping to illogical conclusions, assuming it's the most unlikely of the 4 (or more) variables that caused the difference in the number of job offers, and never thought even for a second that it was all to do with some much simpler and more plausible reason, like type of default alphabetical sort order.

What is even more amazing is that so far, nobody (besides me) pointed out this obvious error in thinking, in either the comments on the story or on Youtube. Perhaps the other variables would have instantly leaped out at everyone like it did for me, if they had some sort of programming classes while growing up and were trained to think with that sort of logic that programmers do.

Employers and recruiters were never shown the race answer, it doesn't appear on anyone's profile, so there would be no reason to believe that race had anything to do with it. She did however choose a first name beginning with B for the fake "white" account, while her real account had a first name beginning with Y. If a default sort order that employers and recruiters are seeing does so by first name, it would explain the big difference. Their jobs are likely filled long before they ever get to the Ys on the list, especially if there are thousands in that list. Even if you change the race on the real account, "Bianca" (the name on the fake "white" account) would still come way before "Yolanda" (the name on the real account).

The same could happen if the default sort order is based on email address or even user name (if Monster requires those and not an email based login) Without knowing the actual names used for those, I can't say for sure if it could or couldn't be a possibility in this case. It could also be based on some sort of random number assigned when she created the accounts, to which she might not be aware that it even exists.

For me, the only conclusion I would be willing to jump to, would involve some advice for job seekers with names like William or Robert, to use nicknames like Bill or Bob in place of their full, formal first names, when setting up an account on monster.com. It might give them an advantage.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Free Online Educational Offerings from Saylor

Screenshot - 8_22_2013 , 7_06_27 AM Ever consider going to college and perhaps majoring or minoring in Computer Science, but don't really have the time to show up for classes, don't really want to go into debt paying for 4 years of college, and really don't want to fuss and bother with taking a bunch of classes that have absolutely nothing to do with your chosen major? (skip things like Psychology, Modern Dance, English Literature, and Art History?)

Maybe you should look into the offerings at Saylor. They have 2 different Computer Science offerings, depending on whether you want to major or minor.

They use all free materials that are available online, including materials that are unique to their program. Once you have completed all of the materials for each course, there is a final exam that you can take that does count, to prove your mastery of each course.

Once you have completed all of the courses in the program, they will issue you a certificate, free of charge. While this isn't exactly the same as a 4 year degree from a traditional college, you'll pretty much have the same knowledge as someone that paid for their schooling, except perhaps all the unrelated nonsense from courses having nothing to do with Computer Science, that one is usually forced to take. See their FAQ for more information.

And if you aren't quite ready for taking the required math courses to complete their Computer Science program, perhaps need to brush up on Algebra first, or fill in some of the holes left over from a less than adequate high school education, you can go back and take the high school math courses that you may have missed out on or forgotten the material.

Not interested in Computer Science? Perhaps Business Administration, Communications, or Political Science would be more towards your liking. Or maybe you really do want Psychology, Art History, or English Literature. (sorry, they don't have Modern Dance)

Or maybe you need some Workplace Skills, Job Search Skills, or some courses to help with Career Advancement.

Take a look, pick something that seems interesting and give it a shot. With 305 different courses, you are bound to find something that you'll like or need. And you really have nothing to lose. It's all free!

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

World's Largest Afghan: A Dream or a Nightmare?

afghan

A couple of months ago I wondered if there was a Guinness world record for the largest crocheted afghan. Then I wondered how long I'd have to crochet to break it if there was one. And if there wasn't, how large an afghan would be if I just kept crocheting the same one for a year, 2, 3, 5, 10, 20, 30 years.

Then it dawned on me how heavy something like that would be after 30 years of crocheting*. I'd need an extra insurance policy, much like those that own water beds in apartment buildings are required to have, if they are even allowed to own one.

Then I thought about how large it would be and how much space it would take up. Imagine an entire room stuffed full of crocheted yarn, till you can't cram any more in there.

And just how would we get it out of the apartment for the Guinness people to measure it? Who would be able to lift an afghan made from over 1.5 short tons of yarn and carry it down the stairs, even with help?

And the cost of making it? I can't afford that!

And the biggest question of all, how the heck would I be able to even crochet something that big, if I can't lift it to turn it as I am making it? (I was working on a round afghan at the moment that I was thinking about all of this)

So, yeah, screw it.

I don't want to be the world record holder that badly. :-D


*In case you want to do the math yourself, I can realistically expect to be able to crochet about 2 lbs of yarn per week, if I had a constant supply of that much yarn to work with.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Why What Ann Romney Thinks and Says Is Relevant

Ann_Romney_CPAC_2011 I posted this link on a social network, and an interesting discussion spawned, involving the idea that what Ann Romney thinks and says is irrelevant, because she isn't the one running for President, her husband Mitt is.

While on the surface that idea might seem logical, in reality, it isn't.

 

No married President comes alone to the White House. What their spouse thinks and believes is relevant when it is their spouse that they will be sleeping next to, talking to, getting advice from, while behind closed doors.

A marriage is still a marriage, and I think most of us married people, who know just how much influence we have on our spouses, know why what Ann Romney thinks, does matter.

Would anyone be willing to deny that Hillary ever had an influence on Bill Clinton during his Presidency? If you'd say yes about her, but not the spouse of any other President, why?

I guess in the case of Ann and Mitt Romney it would come down to and depend on who is influencing who, wouldn't it? And we have no real way of knowing that. Maybe her comparison of military service to missionary work is hers and hers alone, and she has no influence on how her husband views military service or anything else. Or maybe she does. Or maybe that is her husband's views and he has influenced her.

And this isn't really about her views on just this one topic. It's about everything that Mitt stands for, thinks, and does. It's also about the spouse of every married President, past, present, and future.

Some questions for all the married people out there, anyone that has ever been married in the past, in a close relationship, or grew up in a two parent household (in this case, answer the questions based on your observations of the behaviors of your parents) ...

  • Did you ever come home and discuss your job with your spouse?
  • Did they ever discuss theirs with you?
  • Did either of you ever give the other any sort of advice?
  • Ever listen to that advice?
  • Ever act on it?
  • Did discussions with them on any topic, work or non-work related, ever lead to you changing your point of view on anything?

I think what I am asking is if you had a normal marriage based on teamwork that spilled outside the bedroom?

Because the only way one wouldn't understand the relevance of what Ann thinks and says, is if they didn't, and the concept was unheard of to them.

And I don't believe that for a moment. Every marriage contains a certain amount of teamwork and influencing of each other.

(and yes, this was all rhetorical, I am not trying to pry into anyone's personal business, so don't answer...just think about it.)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Why We Need to Tax the Hell Out of the Wealthy

 

Trickle down economics doesn't work. Every Republican President since Ronald Reagan has tried to boost the economy by cutting taxes on the wealthy, only to drive the country into a recession. Check for yourself. Cross reference the list of US Presidents with the list of recessions in the US and see where the economy was at the end of each Republican Presidency since Ronald Reagan.

So, if cutting taxes on the wealthy doesn't create more jobs and a stronger economy, what will?

How about trickle UP economics? Would that work?

Poor people do not take money out of the economy because they spend everything they get. They don't have enough to save or hoard. All of their money goes right back into the economy. Social programs that put more money in the pockets of the poor, put more in our economy.

The middle class, that can afford to save some, do take some of the money out of the economy, but only temporarily. The money they put away for retirement gets spent when they reach retirement age, back into the economy. And if there is anything left over, it goes to their heirs, who will spend it soon after getting it...right back into the economy.

The wealthy, their money keeps growing out of control. They can't spend it fast enough. It is not possible for them to spend the wealth they have accumulated within their own lifetime. They pass it on to their children, who can't spend it all during their lifetime either, so it gets passed on, and on, and on, growing and growing with each generation. And every one of those dollars is not part of our economy any more, can't be unless it gets spent, which will never happen unless it is forced to be spent.

And that is one of the purposes of taxes. High taxes on the rich keep the nations money supply moving around as part of our economy, instead of pooling in huge masses at the top and removed from the economy.

Keep the money moving and everyone keeps working. Take it out of the economy and people stop working.

This is why we used to be a prosperous nation when we taxed the wealthy more heavily and spent more on social programs for the poor, and why our prosperity went out the window when trickle down economics took over and we started punishing the poor. It doesn't trickle down because it can't.

Taking some of that money from the top and putting it at the bottom, in other words giving it to the poor, is the fastest way to jumpstart the economy. Taking from the top and giving to the bottom, where it then goes right into the hands of the middle class as soon as the poor spend it, then right back to the wealthy, where you take it again and give to the bottom again -- lather, rinse, repeat -- strong economy. The money keeps moving.

I said it when Bush was handing out stimulus money to the middle class, who then used it to pay down credit card debt instead of spending it on goods, which sent that money right to the top, taken right back out of our economy; that the best use of that money would probably have been to hand every poor person in the US a gift card and double their food stamps for a month. That would have worked so much better. They would have bought more of what they need to survive, not just hand it over to the wealthy and have nothing to show for it.

I consider wealth to be anything left over after taxes, after paying for all your necessities, food, housing, utilities, medicine, etc. Wealth is what you have left over to do with as you please, especially the money you can afford to save.

The poor don't have that, the middle class saves some for later, the wealthy save for never, because they have too much to ever be able to spend in their lifetime.

This leads to them becoming reckless with their money, investing becomes a game to which the goal isn't really making money to have more to spend. It's making money for the sake of making money, at whatever cost, in order to win a numbers game that win or lose has no effect on their lives. But these risky behaviors do have an effect on the entire economy, which this last recession was the result.

Now before you jump all over me and say that it isn't right to take from the wealthy who earned it and give it to the poor who haven't worked for it, that it's somehow unfair, understand this: it's not really a matter of taking from the rich and giving to the poor, it's more taking from the stagnant pool before it grows into toxic cesspool and investing it where it will do the most good, for all.

It's not good for any of us to have so many people living in poverty, to have the middle class slip into poverty themselves. It is not good to have high crime rates because the poor can't find jobs or lack the skills needed to earn a living. Investing in them is investing in all of us. Teach them some skills, like building and fixing roads, then fund the road repairs, then set them loose to do the job. The result will be that we will all have smooth roads to drive on, including the wealthy, and the poor that built those roads will have the money they need to buy the basic necessities of life...and they will have earned it. It's not a hand out; it's a hand up. Things like this will raise the quality of life for everyone.

President Clinton helped boost the economy through Welfare reform, which poured money into job training programs to get people off of Welfare and into jobs, and not low paying McJobs, either...real jobs. He handed over a prosperous country on the right track to George Bush, who then proceeded to undo everything good that was done, in favor of more tax cuts for the wealthy, more deregulation (which triggered more reckless investing), and more unpaid for wars.

Investing in job training for the poor and unemployed, and funding projects for those newly trained people to work on, is one of the things that helped our country come out of the Great Depression of the 1930's. Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal invested in our infrastructure and gave jobs to some of the poorest people in our country. That infrastructure is still used today, but is aging and in bad need of repairs. Why not help fix our economy by repairing that infrastructure, and even modernizing it?

This idea that war is good for the economy has to stop, too. All it can hope to do is decrease the demand for jobs by decreasing the population that is left to need jobs. And the more recent wars the US has been involved in, didn't even do that. It just racked up more debt for the whole nation, making the problem even worse.

Use the environment as a good example of how it should work. Consider the oceans to be the wealthy and the mountain tops to be the poor, and the rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds to be the middle class. Unless enough evaporation takes place, mostly from the oceans, no heavy snows will fall on the mountain tops, no snow means nothing to melt and feed the rivers, nothing in the rivers to flow to lakes and ponds, nothing to flow back to the ocean. It has to keep moving and at a rate to sustain it, or it all dries up and turns to desert, surrounded by ocean.

Trickle down economics doesn't work unless you flip it over and put the poor at the mountain tops and tax the heck out of the rich's ocean to feed the whole system. Let it trickle from the poor back to the wealthy, creating prosperity as it moves along.

If you don't, then it all ends up in the hands of the rich, nothing in the hands of the poor and middle class, and then even the rich won't make any more money. Then the entire economy completely collapses because the money stopped moving, there is nowhere for it to move to. And when that happens, even the rich will starve because their money will be worthless when there is nothing more to invest in.

Yes, that might seem a bit far fetched. We will most likely never get to that point, but how much closer do we need to get to it? How much worse does our economy have to get before this trickle down lie goes away? How much worse does it have to get before we force the wealthy to invest where it is the most needed, through taxes, and not on reckless Wall Street games? How many more have to fall from the middle class into poverty? How much worse does the life of the poor have to become before we change direction, before we all get it and flip it over so the cash can flow freely again?

I don't want to punish the wealthy. I want them to keep earning, keep enjoying the lifestyle they have. I want them all to be happy, today and tomorrow. The only way to do it is to tax them more.

It worked before and it can work again. We can level the playing field a little, invest in the lowest classes of this country, put them to work, and make the American dream a reality, once more.

 

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(Some crowd-sourced links provided by Bryan Fuselier, Jason Nichols, and Michael Cohen)