Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Swords, Daggers and Punjabi Politics

A friend of mine, a local Seattle resident who recently relocated to India, is involved in the national elections there. While the western press typically presents Indian elections as a relatively pastoral exercise in democratic self governance, here are some snippets from our recent back and forth via email that show otherwise.


Hope you are well. It's been a while since we chatted. I just came back from a short campaigning trip to Chandigarh last week. The Punjab elections are still going on (voting is the day after tomorrow).


Wow, campaigning in Punjab sounds exciting or scary and probably hot.


Scary is an understatement. One of my friends, a really good guy, a professional, educated lawyer in the Supreme Court, who is contesting from one of the parliamentary constituencies there got attacked, his mother got beaten, his local president of the Congress party and his colleagues got stabbed with daggers and swords and are admitted in hospital. All by the Akali Dal guys ... they are out of control! We're asking for central police force for additional protection on polling day.


Unbelievable. Sorry to hear about your friends. Yeah, politics in Punjab can definitely be crazy. I think people haven't forgiven the Congress party for the 84 riots and subsequent total lack of punishment. Reasonable people mostly don't get involved in politics there, and when they do, they can wind up in the hospital or worse.


Actually it's not at all because of the 84 riots. Initially I used to think the same. It's amazing how some politicians use random issues to create rifts between common people, most of who are regular people who want peace and jobs and agriculture.

More on the incident at Punjab Newsline in this article titled Prime Minister concerned about violence in Ludhiana.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Semantic Web Meetup @ Evri HQ a Hoot

Thanks all for a terrific first Seattle Semantically Webbed meetup. Great food, drinks, and a chance to find out more about all things semantic. Special thanks to Alex Iskold and the rest of the AdaptiveBlue gang for coming out and giving a great presentation on GetGlue.

It's sometimes just amazing to me to experience the evolution of socialization and interactivity on the web. GetGlue reminds me of a project I started back in 1995 back when I was a researcher at GTE Laboratories. We built a system that fostered serendipitous communication between users based on websites users were visiting (all in a 3D browser based SGI built VRML world). Well VRML and SGI are basically dead, the web never did go totally 3D as we dreamed, and our project died, but it turns out we were onto something; the idea of socialization and serendipitous encounters based on browsing context lives on. GetGlue takes it to a new level adding a prime use case around product reviews that sort of inverts the closed Facebook social network phenomenon. Check it out and semantically webify yourself if you haven't already.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Stop Fuzzy Math in Seattle

The Seattle School Board is voting on Wednesday to introduce a completely discredited and mandatory fuzzy math curriculum called the "Discovery Series" city wide. Please act now to stop them. Send an email to each board member listed below and let them know how you feel. If you don't know what to write, simply state: "No fuzzy math" or something similar in the subject, and "Please support our kids right to compete on the world technology stage by choosing real math and not fuzzy math. Please choose the Prentice Hall text books." or something similar in the body along with which school your child is in if you have a child.

Board members who supported real math recently but are under tremendous pressure to reverse are listed below. Let them know you are with them:
  • Michael DeBell:
  • Harium Martin-Morris:
  • Mary Bass:
Board members who let our kids down and voted for fuzzy math and the onslaught of mediocrity are shown below. Let them know you disapprove:
  • Sherry Carr:
  • Peter Maier:
  • Steve Sundquist:
Absent from the last vote, but said to be in favor of the fuzzy “Discovery” books is:
  • Cheryl Chow:
Please spread the word to everyone you know in Seattle! Feel free to email this message, copy it, etc.

Here's a nice video of board member DeBell discussing in detail why the fuzzy math text is a bad idea.

And HERE the Seattle Times discusses why the fuzzy texts are a bad idea.

Finally, some additional talking points to include in your emails or use as a launch point into your own investigations. Please add in your own experience with district math programs at any grade level.
  • Prentice-Hall books are solid, well-organized, and mathematically sound computational algorithms and formulas are clearly stated and well motivated by examples and hands-on activities. These materials are family and student friendly.
  • Discovering Algebra and Discovering Advanced Algebra (Key Curriculum Press) have too much verbiage, too little in the way of clearly stated mathematical principles. Definitions, computational algorithms, and formulas are vaguely stated if they are stated at all. The program does not include enough practice for mastery.
  • Local and national mathematicians have expressed their written concerns about the soundness of these programs.
  • Our kids should not be subject to this ongoing failed experiment.
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