Doctoral Decision Made!

I’ve finally made a decision and applied for doctoral study. I’m starting the Doctor of Health Education program through A.T. Still University. I realize that this is a major departure from the direction where I seemed to be going, but I have good reasons.

But, if you want to know what they are, you’ll have to check out my new blog. See, eLearners.com has asked me to blog about my experience with them and I’ve agreed to do so. Check it out here!

Happy Halloween!

Boo! Although I can’t decide which is scarier tonight, the upcoming election or the fact that most people think one of those guys can fix the financial crisis. If ever anything called for a Vincent Price laugh, that’s it….

The Naming of Names

Recently an American researcher traveled to Barbados and on finding that the world’s smallest snake lived there, cataloged it and named it after his wife, with the binomial Leptotyphlops carlae.

Just one problem — astonishingly, Bajans already knew all about the thread snake, their name for the tiny ophidian living in their midst. And some of them aren’t very impressed that a foreigner has dropped by to rename their fauna as though they were somehow unaware of it.

I’m with the Bajans on this one. All too often academics from the developed world get credit for “discoveries” that give no credit to indigenous peoples who knew about them long before. I’m reminded of how old people in Dominica knew to eat old bread when they were ill long before Alexander Fleming isolated penicillin from bread mold.

I also thought it was interesting that all the images I’ve seen that show how small the thread snake is use a U.S. quarter as a comparison object rather than a Bajan one, especially since they’re the same size. I suppose I understand the point of using an object the size of which is widely recognizable but why not use a culturally neutral one, like a pencil — or a ruler, for that matter?

George Carlin, R.I.F.P.

Fresh off of a week’s worth of hagiographic logorrhea from the chattering class after the untimely death of Tim Russert comes the truly lamentable passing of George Carlin.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Russert will be be missed. I found him an interesting interviewer who did occasionally ask tough questions of his interviewees despite their being his colleagues in the political/media elite.

The loss of Carlin, however, is truly a shame. I know him more from his recent work, as the goofy Archbishop in Dogma and in the work he did for kid’s entertainment, like narrating Thomas the Tank Engine stories and playing the voice of Fillmore the spacey VW bus in Cars — yes, I have a three year old son.

I’m aware, however, that long before this Carlin was a free speech pioneer, that his “Seven Words You Can Never Say On TV” routine dragged all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, leading, unfortunately, to one of their many failures to defend individual liberties. But he didn’t always lose, and comedians have cited him as an influence and inspiration ever since. Carlin’s sort of iconoclasm is vital for avoiding a descent into authoritarian stagnation. He’ll be missed.

Fool’s gold?

Adella and I were recently discussing what currency we’d use for our savings once we hopefully soon can start to accumulate a little. We talked about the practicalities of having a savings account denominated in euros, pounds, or gold (all of which it turns out are essentially impossible with U.S. banks). So right as we were doing that, my Mom forwards me an article from her broker out of the blue arguing against the continued rise of the price of gold.

It reminded me how, because of my prior involvement in online gold-based payment systems, there were a few years there where I would occasionally be asked whether I thought gold was a smart thing to buy. Why they asked me and not some with actual money, I can’t say. But I remember always making the same two points:

  1. No matter how clever their analyses may seem, no one really knows what the price of gold is going to do.
  2. Anyone who tries to convince you that they really know what the price gold is going to do is at best mistaken and at worst trying to deceive you into buying something.

The author’s point about gold ETFs is a good one, but it’s not like mutual funds that track gold haven’t existed before that, or just stocks like Freeport MacMoRan.

Moreover, if I had to guess, I’d say that the combination of a growing middle class in India, China, Malaysia, and elsewhere, where there’s a strong cultural inclination toward gold as a store of value, combined with the inflation I expect we’ll be seeing here in the U.S. for some time to come, means that $1,000 will not be some sort of magic ceiling for gold.

But then, that’s just my guess. See point number one.

Yes, but can you really learn that way?

So, the last step before applying to any of these doctoral programs, is, of course, to finish the Master’s degree. I have two courses to go, but now that I work at Marymount I figured I’d rather take two courses there for free this term and transfer them back to GW to wrap things up rather than pay to take courses at GW, however good they may be.

So because of my concern about using too much leave, and because GW was concerned that the course I was going to take might be too similar to another I’ve already taken, I found an alternative, a nice course called “Cross-cultural/International Curricula” that, while occurring in a classroom rather than online, is still also an extremely good match for my interests. I sent the syllabus to my faculty advisor at GW, Ryan Watkins, and his response in part was:

Given the situation this sounds like a fine choice to me… it does have a nice match with your long-term interests. My only disappointment with the syllabus is that it will be a campus-based course. Can you really learn in that archaic format? Do they have to check your ID to make sure that it is really you coming to class? Can people really learn with out continuous access to the Web? Hahahahaaaa

It’s certainly nice to see butt-in-seat learning get some of the same undeserved criticism that distance learning gets for a change! Of course, at the same time, I’m also glad Ryan approved the course, you know, despite his reservations.

New Mexico may bite the dust here

A number of interesting opportunities to travel have been coming my way, so I’ve been figuring out how I’m going to sort out how much annual leave I have with how much traveling I want to do. Get this:

  1. Marymount is offering a class that I could use as my last Master’s elective. The course takes place over a single week in March, all day for five days. I’d have to use a week of leave to attend it, but that’s one course out of the way at pretty much the fastest possible speed. Plus it’s a course in Technology Leadership that looks genuinely interesting.
  2. Heather Ford of iCommons emailed me asking whether I can come to Johannesburg early next year for a gathering of people who will plan next summer’s iSummit.
  3. Wayne Mackintosh has suggested that the WikiEducator Advisory Board should meet early next year in Nairobi, Kenya.
  4. PCF5 will be in London in July.
  5. The 2008 iCommons Summit will be in Sapporo in August.
  6. I’d been considering New Mexico State University, but I’ll need two weeks of leave to do their summer residency.
Now, when I went to Croatia, I didn’t have to use leave, but that was sort of nice of my supervisor here. I don’t expect that items 4 and 5 are both going to be leave-free trips this time around.

It also occurs to me that even if can sort out all these things, I only get two weeks of leave a year, so if I do the NMSU program then barring a change of diurnal activity I will use annual leave for nothing else until 2011.

I don’t want to give up on a doctoral program but I also don’t want to give up on the work I’m doing through WikiEducator or iCommons. A friend of mine has a colorful way of describing situations like this: “I’m holding a red stick in this hand, and a blue stick in this hand. I’m going to hit you with one of these sticks, but, hey, you get to pick which one.”

So I’m trying to decide with which stick I want to be hit, basically. I’ve only used one day of leave since I got here, and I get just ten days per year (Oh, to be French!) so if I take a normal course rather than that week-long one and take NMSU off the list of consideration in favor of zero-residence (or local) doctoral programs, then between this year and next year I have nineteen days of leave to sort out all the other trips. That I think I could do. Still, sheesh!