The sleep of reason begets monsters
posted by Winston Smith at
And then you have a beer, identify the problem, and fix it.
You're so freakin' pragmatic...Or seven beers.
Ive never taught, but Ive tutored extensively.Once I tutored someone in 100 level algebra. Being a math major, the material was second nature to me.Now I have tutored some hard knocks before. Hell, I have home-schooled a girl in the same material. But this student in particular was a real challenge.In the end I lost my temper. I thought of myself as a patient man. I thought I had the ability to translate the abstract and make it tangible. Furthermore I thought my enthusiasm for the subject was contagious. I was wrong. I agree with Richard. But I will add this: Usually the problem is you. That's the bitch of it.
I dunno, WS. You taught me about Charles Sanders Peirce, a most amazing man of the year 1900 or so, and you don't have to know the entire history of philosophy to detect that he was something special, if explained properly.He is, and you did, and therefore you are, so there.So hate on me if you want, I don't care. U OK.
Oh nos.. it happened..Welcome one and all to the first edition of Emoraptor.Cheer up, toolbag. Nothing defines Emo like someone who is depressed about something that he knows for a fact to be false.=)
I have to assume this was a low level class that made you feel as such, just remember 90% of them are more interested in getting drunk 4 days a week than they are with learning, thats not your fault.
Even students at "good" schools are dumb, per: http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5g2-8Em1L5oDKpru3KXghmCB32tCwI'm sure your school is no MIT.I place a higher likelihood on slow/lazy students than bad teaching.
I'm minded of this joke:How may psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?One, but the light bulb has to want to change.I too have done some tutoring, and had a student whose family said they wanted him to improve in math, but he would blow off tutoring sessions for a relatives' birthday party and they wouldn't cooperate to reschedule his session.
Tracie,I teach at MIT and, yes, our students are quite capable of doing dumb things.Ms Simpson (the young lady cited in the story you linked to) is clearly not dumb. Her mistake was presuming that the local law enforcement officers would not act like ignorant, paranoid, asses, particularly given their recent history.WS, I know the feeling. When I walk out of class (or lab) feeling like the worst teacher in the world it is usually because:1) I was unprepared, 2) I was tired, or3) Both.On the other hand, we don't require that our students score 100% to receive an A -- we should understand that we, too, will have those days when we fail to meet our standards. When it happens, we need to make certain that our students aren't penalized for our mistakes, to put in extra effort where required to make up for it, and to not pretend that nothing was ever wrong.Otherwise, I second Richard's prescription. (Feel free to indulge in whatever profanity is required whe
jimbales, I'm going to have to disagree: Star Simpson might be a brilliant electrical engineering student, but in my book, it's pretty dumb to walk into an airport wearing a circuit board with wires and flashing lights. Or anything that might even resembling a bomb. Everybody knows how airport security is, at any major airport.I've read about law enforcement remote detonating ticking abandoned packages, all of which were not bombs but seemed suspicious. I for one cannot fault law enforcement at an airport for freaking out over what to them looked like a bomb.Whether it was thoughtlessness or lack of common sense, it was a dumb mistake.
Thanks for all the advice and support. A few days--and a few good lectures--later, and everything's looking up.Still, this teaching stuff is HARD.
Translation:Emoraptor: "No one understands me.." *cries and listens to Fallout Boy*
Tracie,A circuit board with flashing lights and a 9 Volt battery doesn't look like a bomb. Bomb makers go to great lengths to make bombs look innocuous. This means no flashing lights (they are, of course, unnecssary). Bomb makes also don't put a bomb with flashing lights on their chests, then ask cops for directions.Finally, the device shown in the photos is simply not big enough to contain any substantive amount of explosive. The rational response of law enforcement is to ask "What is this you are wearing?", listen to the answer, and follow up with, "I'm sorry, but we cannot allow it on the airport's property, as it might scare people who don't know better. You have to take it off now and put it here." This is the crux of the matter--the law enforcement officers escalated their response without cause. In today's world, she is lucky that she wasn't Tased for the sin of wearing her art project.(Remember, the bomb that borught down Pan Am 103 was disguised as a radio-cassette recorder. TSA is right to worry about laptops -- they are not suspicious and can carry a lot more explosive than a shoe or small circuit board. If Ms Simplson was a risk, everyone at Logan that day carrying a laptop was a bigger risk. None of the latter were arrested, however.)
A circuit board with flashing lights and a 9 Volt battery doesn't look like a bomb.Because all bombs necessarily look the same - even those composed of components not intended to be used as a bomb...like a circuit board from another piece of equipment that had lights on it, but is now being used as a detonator."Bomb make[r]s also don't put a bomb with flashing lights on their chests, then ask cops for directions."Who knows what level of sanity she had? Who knows whether or not it was some crazy thing she wanted to do before she blew herself and everyone else up? One guy was fumbling with a shoe that had wires coming out of it everywhere. Bomb makers definitely do crazy things right before they're going to detonate the bomb if it's a suicide mission, and this could just have easily been one of them."Finally, the device shown in the photos is simply not big enough to contain any substantive amount of explosive."1) The circuit board visible doesn't need to be the entire bomb.2) Not big enough? You work at MIT? Those are lame arguments, Jim. The police officers did exactly what they should in a situation where someone is wearing something that appears to be both electronic in nature and so crudely constructed - both indicative of a bomb.Here's the situation:A girl walks into an airport wearing a sweatshirt that could conceal anything and an apparently crudely constructed device consisting of a visible power source and circuit board on her chest. If I were a police officer, there's no way in hell I wouldn't have drawn my weapon and done exactly what the troopers in the article allegedly did. They did exactly what they should've done. You can't just be like "Gee, ma'am, that's interesting, what is it?" If it's a bomb, as you suspect, you and many others are now likely dead.Now, be that as it may, it's not like no one's overreacting here. The police did not overreact. They did what they should've. If she had blown up the airport, and it had come out later that the police saw her walk by with a circuit board on her chest, can you imagine the uproar, and rightly so? The police should stop anyone with such suspicious characteristics, and when it could be a bomb that she could detonate, they absolutely should do it the way they did it.But like I said, it's not that no one is overreacting. The police did not overreact, but pressing charges against her for wearing a hoax device is definitely overreacting (not to mention stupid). It can only be a hoax device if it was intended to represent something else (that's the nature of a hoax, after all..) such as a bomb, and it clearly wasn't. The police should've done what they did, and then they should've, upon figuring out that it wasn't a bomb or a hoax device, told her why she was doing something stupid, and sent her on her way - maybe even a fine for being so absolutely stupid. However, it has now become overreacting on the court side of things.I'm all for noting the ridiculous claims the government makes in order to scare people regarding terrorism. I think it's become pretty clear that our government is run mostly by insane paranoid freaks. However, we can't let that make us say that every time someone gets something wrong, they're overreacting and psychopathic. That only serves to lessen the impact of our other accurate criticisms.The cops did their job. Your arguments against reacting the way they did are pretty poor. However, the courts are failing at their job, and ARE overreacting. That's all there is to it.
jimbales, I have to agree with The Mystic. It's good for you Course Sixers to hang together, but the act, if not necessarily the young woman, was a few smoots short of a bridge.
Tracie, Mystic, LL,I am persuaded, and stand corrected.(although, LL, I was actually course eight as student, despite the fact I now teach subjects in course six ;-)
There's nothing I love more than someone who can be persuaded of the opposite view when sufficient reason is presented.It happens so infrequently on this blog that I might kiss you if we had been talking in person, Jim. So, be thankful we're online because, no, I'm not a hot woman, but a hairy guy.
They should have tased her ass, bro, and asked questions later.If, as postulated, it's true she could have been so wack to have flashing lights on her bomb (and I agree with that---wack is wack), then anything less than bringing her down nonfatally---immediately!---was an irresponsible risk of innocent life.(And still the cops got crap. Geez.)(As far as her treatment by the judicial system, I agree with that too---she should get the maximum penalty for egotism and stupidity, but no more. 20 to life, I make it...)
I can't tell if you're being serious or not...But no, they shouldn't have tased her. Are you crazy? If someone's suspected of wearing a bomb that has an apparent electronic detonator visible (or even if it wasn't visible, most bombs have electronic detonators), they could set the damn thing off! Tasing someone suspected of wearing a bomb is insanity. They did exactly what they should've.
And she shouldn't get 20 to life, damn.But that part makes me almost sure you're kidding.
I agree. Heck, if put in the situation with no options other than (a) asking her what she was doing and (b) knocking her ass out, I would have to opt for (b). Anything else would be irresponsible under the prevailing circumstances.What a f*cking idiot. Arrogant f*cking idiot. And, I predict, an over-privileged little sh*t. Non-rich kids are more careful about risking jail, as their parents don't have hundreds of thousands of dollars to drop on slick lawyers...
You know, I was reading that article again, and something struck me that I didn't catch before.She had play-doh in her hands.Now I'm starting to believe this really was supposed to be a hoax rather than a dumbass mistake. I'm pretty convinced by that fact (which was really downplayed in the article Tracie linked to) that she intended to simulate a bomb. My only and best guess is that maybe she thought it'd be funny to do something like this to test airport security and she had, as her fallback, that it was just art. I mean, the news would be all over an MIT student who got such a hoax past airport security with a story about it being a school project. Maybe that was what she was after.Play-Doh + Circuit board means she probably should get the hoax device charge. Every MIT student knows what C4 is, and I'm sure she knew exactly what she was doing. I can't imagine any other reason to have her "art" on her sweater and then just happen to have Play-Doh as well. That's ridiculous.I looked in the news for an article that focused more on the play-doh aspect of the situation, and this is what I found:http://news.bostonherald.com/news/opinion/columnists/view.bg?articleid=1033468Interestingly enough, he came up with a similar theory. I gotta say, it sounds pretty plausible.
WS wrote:"And, I predict, an over-privileged little sh*t. Non-rich kids are more careful about risking jail, as their parents don't have hundreds of thousands of dollars to drop on slick lawyers"It is quite possible that the young lady in question is, in fact, a rich, over-priviledged child. However, let me note that the MIT student body is *far* more blue-collar than any Ivy League school. In large part this is because of MIT's need-blind admissions policy. The admissions process has zero information on an applicant's financial situation. Once accepted, a student is given an aid package that will allow them to attend (the size of the aid package does, of course, depend upon the student's finances). Scholarships are need-based only. (This para applies to undergraduates only, I believe.)As to the stupidity of her actions, I refer you to the comments of a fomer law-enforcement office and former university instructor, Mr. Bryan Dumka. (Bryan's comment is the fourth in the sequence.)I have been convinced in this thread that the response of the officer present was reasonable under the circumstances. But, WS, the vitriol in your comment is unsupportable. You are projecting your stereotypes onto the situation. They may, in fact, be correct. However, having been at MIT for the past 27 years, her actions are quite in keeping with the culture of the place, without the woman being a pampered rich child. If you would like to learn more about Star Simpson, there is a brief posting at Salon's blogs. I have not met her, but I have met, taught, and advised many, many, students who share her fascination with making and building interesting things with their own hands.It appears that we have let our terror rule us. Perhaps the terrorists have won.Best,Jim
Sorry, Jim, gotta still disagree.It COULD turn out that Ms. Simpson made some kind of innocent mistake. I'm open to that possibility. But all this quibbling about what real bombs really look like is beside the point.Here's what really matters:Did Simpson intend the device in question to resemble something that many people--possibly including law enforcement personnel--would think was a bomb?It doesn't matter whether or not bombs really look like that. If it's the kind of thing that is, in fact, likely to be mistaken for a bomb, and if Simpson did that on purpose, then the case is just as it seems to be.And let me make it clear: I'm not indicting all MIT students. I in no way suggest that. I don't suspect Simpson of being overprivileged because she goes to MIT, but, rather, for the very reason I gave: only rich kids risk 20 years in jail knowing that daddy's fancy lawyers will save their skins. And, of course, knowing that the very fact that they are rich will itself make it more likely that the court will go easy on them.Again: I'm willing to believe that Simpson is merely stupid, but haven't seen evidence to that effect yet.And nothing that I've said plays unduly into the hands of the terrorists.
WS,Multiple responses here:1) "... if Simpson did that on purpose ..."Aside from the fact that the people who charged the guys behind the ATHF LED signs with placing a hoax device are also charging Ms Simpson with placing a hoax device, do you know of any direct evidence suggesting her intention was to induce people to think she had a bomb?Given one recent high-profile case of baseless charges being filed in Boston, I consider it reasonable to presume that this is another such case, since I see no indications to the contrary.2) "I'm willing to believe that Simpson is merely stupid, but haven't seen evidence to that effect yet."Indirect evidence that she was simply wearing her cool pin:a) Testimony (mine) about MIT which notes that making an LED name badge as she did is typical of the culture here. For example, I had a student some years ago who made a necklace of LEDs and beads to wear to her sisters wedding. My student was beaming with pride as she showed it to me. I have no reason to doubt that Ms Simpson felt the same about her handiwork.b) Ms Simpson posts at Instructibles and is a member of MITERS -- the MIT Electronic Research Society.Follow the links to see what people involved with those organizations do.Or follow these links to work by other students. (You should follow the last one anyway, as it is simply cool. Check out Jeff's other works at http://bea.st while you are there.)c) Similar devices can be purchased, but they aren’t her name - a star.Direct evidence she was wearing her cool pin:a) Her assertion that she was wearing a work of art, not a hoax device.b) No claims by authorities that she made an explicit or implicit threat whatsoever. (If they had evidence of this, they would have trotted it out. Ergo, no threats were made.)3) "I'm willing to believe that Simpson is merely stupid”Yup. A young lady, 19-years-old, had been wearing her cool art project for days. She was going to meet her boyfriend at the airport. She was worried about meeting up with him (she asked for information on where to meet him). She was stupid to not think, “Hey, I am at an airport, so I have to assume that the people around me are ignorant of (if not intimidated by) anything technical and paranoid to boot. I best not wear my really cool LED name tag that I made.” That is stupid. (And so uncharacteristic of a teenager, to boot!)Or maybe stupid is former US Marine and aide to Senator Webb, Phillip Thompson who inadvertently had a loaded pistol in his briefcase as he entered the Capital Building. Nope, stupid is me, for I have carried pocket knifes -- in my pocket, no less – to airports and not remembered I had them until emptying my pockets at the metal detector. (Yes, each time I did this, I surrendered the knife at once.)Of course, with this definition there are only two kinds of people in the world -- stupid, and infallible.Alternatively, one can believe that all of these people are not stupid, even thought they are fallible. With this presumption, Ms Simpson's story and actions (as best as I know them) are consistent with the notion that it simply never occurred to her that her simple LED name tag would terrorize people.4) On terror, terrorism, and the actions of those terrorized.WS, my prior assertion that "It appears that we have let our terror rule us. Perhaps the terrorists have won" was not and is not intended as a comment or your statements. Please accept my apologies if it has come across as a slam on what you have said.However, collectively, we applaud the threat of deadly force over items that do not look like bombs because it pleases the public. Remember that Pan Am 103 was knocked out of the air by a bomb inside a Toshiba Radio. But the inconvenience of having our radios and laptops and MP3 players and PDAs treated as bombs while we are outside of airport security is too great. So, instead, we draw guns on people outside of the terminal because they bear an object that doesn't look like a bomb, and then we file charges against those who have no intention causing a hoax, all so that we can look tough in the GWOT. You know, parents aren’t supposed to bring juice cartons through security for their children. Talking with other parents, I’d say about 50% get through. Clearly, the efficacy of our actions is not relevant. What is relevant is that they are driven by our collective terror, not by reality.Therefore, I say, "It appears that we have let our terror rule us. Perhaps the terrorists have won."
Jim,There are some non-central points above that I don't agree with, but it's worth ignoring them in order to get to the heart of the matter:You're right.That evidence completely changes my position on the issue. It'd take some pretty hefty countervailing evidence to overcome those points, IMHO.
Winston,Thank you for the consideration of my comment and quick reply.It looks like I managed to keep enough ranting *out* of the comment so that it still communicated!Best Wishes,Jim
What the hell?I thought we already agreed that what she was wearing should've been reasonably assumed to be a bomb. It's a circuit board with a power source and she had PLAY-DOH IN HER HANDS.WTF!?Clearly something is very wrong here. Maybe she wasn't thinking about it and that's the extent of it, but I don't know how WS's position has been COMPLETELY changed here, unless he means his position that she wasn't being stupid, but rather just absent-minded.I don't know, but I'm going to think that an MIT student with a circuit board pasted to her chest and play-doh in her hands knew what she was doing. Call me dumb, but that sounds pretty damning to me. If it was just the circuit board - fine, she didn't think about it. However, circuit board, baggy sweatshirt, and play doh in hands = a big WTF from me. If she doesn't give a REALLY REALLY good reason that she had play-doh in her hand, then I'm thinking it was an intentional hoax to see if she could get by airport security with it.Jim said "So, instead, we draw guns on people outside of the terminal because they bear an object that doesn't look like a bomb, and then we file charges against those who have no intention causing a hoax, all so that we can look tough in the GWOT."What happened? We just went over how it DID give them good reason to react the way they did. Did it look like the ideal bomb? Hell no. Did it look like it should reasonably be assumed to be one? Hell yes it did! You even agreed, but now you're talking like that agreement never happened.I'm confused. I read your post, but I don't see what should be so convincing that she wasn't hoaxing it up - much less to believe that the police overreacted.Again, I reiterate - if some lady walked into an airport with a circuit board on her chest, a baggy sweatshirt, and C4 in her hands and blew up the airport without being stopped by police, I'd certainly be pissed that they missed THAT one..Given that the MIT student in question looked exactly like our hypothetical suicide bomber, I'm not going to be hard on the police here. In fact, I'm willing to postulate that the statistical probability that you're drawing your gun on someone wearing "art" and holding Play-Doh is LESS than the probability that you're pulling your gun on a suicide bomber holding C4 in that scenario.
I have a bit more information as to what Ms Simpson was holding in her hands -- I am told it was a rose she sculpted from an "air-dry clay". (The link is to a product that I believe to be similar to what was described.My source is a student who says he knows Ms Simpson and has talked with her since the event. So, what I got was second hand, and you are getting it third hand.However, I believe this gives a plausible rationale for carrying "play-doh" at the airport, particularly as she was going to pick up her boyfriend. (There has been speculation as to other rationales, some at links I posted earlier.)I know of no source asserting any electrical connection between the play-doh and the LED name tag.
The Mystic posted:Did it look like the ideal bomb? Hell no. Did it look like it should reasonably be assumed to be one? Hell yes it did! You [i.e., me, Jim]even agreed, but now you're talking like that agreement never happened.Earlier, I posted that I was persuaded by the comments of others. I did not elaborate as to exactly what key points I had been persuaded of, or of what ancillary matters I had not been persuaded of, because I took the thread to be at an end, and because the comments had strayed far from the original topic.At this point, however, I need to go back and fill in those omissions.In partiuclar, I was persuaded that a law enforcement officer who believes (with or without due cause) that a person may be carrying an explosive devive is justified in holding them at gun point. I took this position because the cop in on the street has to have that authority, subject to scrutiny after the fact, to be effective. (Or, to say it differently, I would insist on that authority, subject to scrutiny after the fact, to take that job.)I did not mean that I considered the circumstances (as described) to have established cause to belive Ms Simpson was likely to be carrying an explosive device. I also meant that my presumption that law enforcement officers get sufficent training to make the distinction was clearly false. (I might prefer that the world worked differently, but I do realize that the world is under no obligation to conform to my expectations.)I acknowledged (and still do) that the officer had the authority to draw his weapon on Ms Simpson, as he considered her a possible threat. Now, the Mystic posted:What happened? We just went over how it DID give them good reason to react the way they did. Recognizing that authority doesn't doesn't mean that this was good reason to do so. It recognizes that we have to give law enforcement significant leeway in making the on-the spot decision else we put them in an impossible situation.Did it look like the ideal bomb? Hell no. Did it look like it should reasonably be assumed to be one? Hell yes it did! You even agreed, but now you're talking like that agreement never happened.Mystic, my apologies for not going into more detail in my post time-stamped 2:53 PM. At the time, it seemd the key issue was if we should expect the low enforcement officer on the spot to have the authority to act as he did. You persuaded me that he did. But I understood that WS was arguing that the evidence in hand strongly suggested that this was a bomb hoax. I argued that, I as saw it, the only evidence that Ms Simpson intended to make a bomb scare was the fact that she was being charged. I discounted the charges, based on the recent experience with the ATHF ads.I focused on the LED name tag as that appears to have initiated the police response. (I.e., I saw no indication that she would have been stopped if all she had in hand was the "play-doh".)I argued that her story is self consistent, and cited examples of many people she associates with (in person or on line) who create similar works and display them with pride. (Circumstantial supporting evidence.)I noted that the authorities have never claimed she made any threatening statements, or ever claimed anything other than that her LEDs are art work. (Direct evidence she was not intending a bomb hoax.)Thus, I concluded that, here and now, there is no direct evidence she intended a hoax (carrying play-doh for unknown reasons is circumstantial evidence, not direct). I also noted that intelligent people do stupd things. Like me carrying a pocket knife up to the metal detectors. Like Mr. Thompson with the loaded pistol in his briefcase at the Capital. I implied that it is not reasonable to expect a 19-year-old to not make such mistakes.Comming back where we are (I believe) in agreement:Mystic, you persuaded me that a key element of my outrage was at her treatment once it was clear she did not represent a threat. You posted:=[The police] should've, upon figuring out that it wasn't a bomb or a hoax device, told her why she was doing something stupid, and sent her on her way - maybe even a fine for being so absolutely stupid. However, it has now become overreacting on the court side of things.Amen, brother. From your post I realized that this was a large part of what pisses me off.To close:A colleague of mine who teaches about failures of engineering had a comment that I found helpful (and clarifying).He said (and I paraphrase):The reason we have non-lethal responses is because most of the time cops react to a false alarm, but have to be prepared in case it's the real thing. So I will grant that the cop had cause -- barely -- to aim his submachinegun at Ms Simpson. However, once it was clear that she was absolutely no threat, the statement from the Commanding Offcer of the State Police Detachment at the airport should have been, "Our policies and procedures work. This is why we have non-lethal responses."What scares the hell out of me is that what State Police Major Pare actually said was "She's lucky to be in a cell as opposed to the morgue."
Nice exchange here b/w Mystic and Jimbales, I say.I agree with the Mystic that the cops may not be blameworthy for heir actions, and I agree with Jim that it seems likely (given what we now believe) that Simpson wasn't perpetrating a bomb hoax.And I understand the Mystic's initial confusion, and thought Jim cleared up the point well.Aren't we a reasonable bunch!
So, WS, are you on the blogging hiatus you've been mulling over? If so, we could all go over to my place for a visit while you recharge your posting batteries. I could never replace the quirky charm of Philosoraptor, but keeping your (participatory) audience together until you come back could be good for both of us. And you could keep your hand in without having to start every conversation.Whaddaya say?
Post a Comment
Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]
Create a Link
View my complete profile
Subscribe toPosts [Atom]