Texas A&M Corp of Cadets Final Review

The Texas A&M Corp of Cadets Final Review from last year. It’s not a small gathering and this year’s review is coming up next weekend. Proud of these young men and women.

Texas A&M Corp of Cadets Final Review
Texas A&M Corp of Cadets Final Review

Installing iPython Notebook on a Mac OS X Mountain Lion

Installing iPython Notebook on a Mac OS X Moutain Lion 10.8.1 for Development and Testing

The “Quickstart” is anything but that leaving off details like the recomended dependencies are basically required for a functional notebook. Here is the sequence that worked for me.

[apps]$ mkvirtualenv ipythonvm –distribute
[apps]$ workon ipythonvm

at this point pip freeze shows

[apps]$ pip freeze
distribute==0.6.28
wsgiref==0.1.2

next up the big instAll

[apps]$ easy_install ipython[zmq,qtconsole,notebook,test]

the instructions suggest running iptest. Don’t bother yet. It will fail the tests without more dependencies like “nose’ installed. Keep on. Also note the “easy_install” in front of readline is specific to set the sequence to pass the tests. Not sure why. No time to question today and I’m in a VM so it can’t do much harm. Proceed with.

[apps]$ pip install nose
[apps]$ easy_install readline
[apps]$ easy_install pexpect
[apps]$ easy_install ipython[zmq]

At this point checking packages shows

(ipythonvm)LOCAL:~/dropbox/code/apps
[apps]$ pip freeze
distribute==0.6.28
ipython==0.13
nose==1.2.1
pexpect==2.4
pyzmq==2.2.0.1
wsgiref==0.1.2

but

[apps]$ ipython qtconsole

fails. Keep trying.

pip install Tornado

Tornado works, but still errors on ZeroMQ. It comes down to this. We need ZeroMQ and PyZMQ. PyZMQ is installed (see pip freeze lista bove) but is missing the dependencie ZeroMQ doesn’t work with pip or easy_install as far as I can tell. Now we go old school. I also didn’t read the docs and was a bit tired so rather than specifying to intsall in the virtualenv I accepted the defaults and installed it in /usr/local/bin globally.

for ZeroMQ, I downloaded the Mac latest stable release from this page:
http://download.zeromq.org/

On 9/15/2012 I downloaded this one and extracted it:
zeromq-2.2.0.tar.gz 14-Apr-2012 09:53 1.8M

Unpack the .tar.gz source archive and cd into that directory. Remember I installed globally for this one package after the battle so first I had to “deactivate” in the virtual environment I was in (iphythonvm for me). Then change into that directory someplace you have “write” rights. For me I copied it from downloads to “code/contribs” which is where I put random stuff I haven’t modified but may or may not be using. Thus the next command was:

cd zeromq-2.2.0/

Run ./configure, followed by make.

But remember, outside of a VM we are back to sudo so this looks like:

sudo ./configure
password:
sudo make
sudo make install

switch back to my VM

[apps]$ workon ipythonvm

the environment now looks like this:

(ipythonvm)LOCAL:~/dropbox/code/apps
[apps]$ pip freeze
distribute==0.6.28
ipython==0.13
nose==1.2.1
pexpect==2.4
pyzmq==2.2.0.1
wsgiref==0.1.2

now we try again.

[apps]$ ipython notebook

Success! Now let’s go get somethign to look at. I created a folder in my apps folder to put the downloads and grabbed a git repository from blogger Titus of Living in an Ivory Basement http://ivory.idyll.org/blog/teaching-with-ipynb.html

mkdir iPythonNotebooks
cd iPythonNotebooks
git clone git://github.com/ngs-docs/ngs-notebooks.git

Now we test it again:

[iPythonNotebooks]$ ipython notebook
[NotebookApp] Using existing profile dir: u’/Users/eschipul/.ipython/profile_default’
[NotebookApp] Serving notebooks from /Users/eschipul/Dropbox/Code/apps/iPythonNotebooks
[NotebookApp] The IPython Notebook is running at: http://127.0.0.1:8888/

I then imported the ngs-10-blast notebook. There are codeblocks in the notebook, so for a proof of concept I just picked one that imported “blast” knowing I had not imported it. Inside of Chrome, inside of the notebook, I can click on a codeblock that begins:

import csv
import blastparser

# open the output file for reading
fp = open(‘out.txt’)

and then I select “cell run” and it runs it as if I was in Eclipse. Properly giving an error of

—————————————————————————
ImportError Traceback (most recent call last)
in ()
1 import csv
—-> 2 import blastparser
3
4 # open the output file for reading
5 fp = open(‘out.txt’)

ImportError: No module named blastparser

That is huge. Think about it. Running code inline in the middle of a web page with a compiler and debugging. Not javascript by Python in a sandbox that can import modules and do everything else you would do with idyl. And saved in JSON based notebooks that can be shared and used for testing. It sort of blows your mind.

I’m not suggesting this is a replacement for a good training video. But it is a great addition to the educators arsenal of tools for online learning in richer environments with greater interactivity. I’m impressed to say the least.

Other randome take-aways. I did not know about the pexpect package and it is pretty compelling if you work at a company. It removes the need for the C libraries for builds which means that not everyone needs to install xCode if they have to /configure, make, make install, etc.

Thus I recommend you take a look at what pexpect can do as it was new to me. Pretty cool actually.
http://www.noah.org/wiki/Pexpect#Description_of_Pexpect

science and arts both

From the article:

“Many seem to think that by narrowing our focus to just science and engineering, we will become more competitive. This is a serious mistake.

Our leaders in government, industry and academia should realize that they don’t have to make a choice between the sciences and the rest of the liberal arts. Indeed, the sciences are a vital part of the liberal arts.

The key to our success in the future will be an integrative education that doesn’t isolate the sciences from other parts of the curriculum, and that doesn’t shield the so-called creative and interpretive fields from a vigorous understanding of the problems addressed by scientists.”

and

Students and professors aren’t crossing departmental boundaries to be fashionably interdisciplinary. They join forces to address specific problems or in pursuit of particular opportunities.

and

We should think of education as a kind of intellectual cross-training that leads to many more things than at any one moment you could possibly know would be useful. The most powerful education generates further curiosity, new needs, experiences to meet those needs, more curiosity and so on.

- Michael Roth on CNN

a doctor who isn’t afraid to look up the right answer

Great read on closed book medical board exams. I want a doctor who isn’t afraid to look up the right answer personally. From the post on KevinMD:

In this era of patient safety and emphasis on reducing medical errors, it doesn’t make much sense to rely on rote memory to practice medicine.

Watson antiquates closed board exams.  Instead of sitting in a testing room, doctors should be evaluated on how well they can find the necessary information — not how well they can recall something they memorized.

 

 

Gov. Rick Perry predicted $23 billion shortfall

In 2006, former Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn sent a letter to state Gov. Rick Perry predicting a $23 billion shortfall over the next five years due to Perry’s tax plan.

and

“You find something like this and you want to go, ‘they knew’,” Haterius explained. “Hopefully, this mess will cause us to look at the funding system and that’s what we want. We just want a plan that makes sense and is supported.”

Abilene ISD Superintendent Dr. Heath Burns said he is also outraged that state lawmakers blame the budget deficit on the current economy. He told KTXS in a written statement: “I believe that any politician that feigns surprise about this issue is likely being naive. To attribute shortfalls to spending means that the politicians must completely disregard the warnings of the comptroller. This is a revenue shortfall. It was predicted. It has arrived.

Yup. There it is. (emphasis added)

A MODEST PROPOSAL TO RESOLVE THE BUDGET SHORTFALL IN THE STATE OF TEXAS

This is a cross post. Please read and comment on A Modest Proposal to Resolve the Budget Shortfall in the State of Texas on Chron.com

My friend Jason Wilson and I were taking break at a pub in our neighborhood watching the NCAA Finals recently when we overheard two men at the table next to us talking about shutting down the schools. I asked if they wouldn’t mind explaining just what the heck they were talking about. The man on the left, Frank Austin, reached into his pocket and handed us a handwritten letter he was hoping the Austin American Statesman would publish. It is the dumbest thing I ever read, but here it is in case you are interested.

A MODEST PROPOSAL TO RESOLVE THE BUDGET SHORTFALL IN THE STATE OF TEXAS
– by Frank Austin

In Texas we have a budget crisis. The two year budget being debated by the Texas House and now moving on to the Senate reflects a 27 Billion dollar shortfall.# The Texas electorate has demanded that the state cut the waste out of government and our legislators are working towards that goal with a pledge of “no new taxes” and to not “dip into the rainy day fund.”

The situation is particularly challenging for schools with the budget in the House. A few facts from the House version of the budget from Jason Embry with the Austin American Statesman.

  1. The proposed House budget costs $164.5 billion, a 12.3 percent spending reduction as compared to 2010-11.
  2. It does not raise taxes.
  3. It is $7.8 billion short of the money that current law says Texas will owe its school districts over the next two years, and it reduces public education funding by 9 percent, or $5 billion, from 2010-11 levels.
  4. It could cause about 96,000 school employees across Texas to lose their jobs, according to the Center for Public Policy Priorities.

This is a true Texas sized crisis. And as loyal Texans we believe we need a Texas sized solution. While skeptics and non-believers are mocking the patriotic emergency session on voter ID, I’d like to propose the legislature continue to do the right thing for the state of Texas.

Shut down the schools. Shut down every school in Texas for one year. This one bold action will resolve all of our current budget problems and set us up for success in the future.

When considering the benefits of this proposal, it is important to prioritize. So I will address these in order of importance to our state.

the drum majorHigh School Football. Don’t worry, we won’t lose our Friday Night Lights in the year-of-sacrifice. It is the one profitable high school sport so it must continue. And as Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in his book Outliers, the students would be in the same grade and a full year older when they return to sanctioned play a year later. And we won’t lose our best players to “grades” or “honor code violations.” Furthermore the teams will be better than ever after being freed from limited practice requirements. It would be a one year success where we can finally realize the dream of semi-pro football sponsored by local businesses to build up the state’s rainy-day fund.

Fewer Illegal Norwegians. Our state suffers under the burden of illegal immigrants from Norway who are sending their children to school in Texas to get (literally) a free lunch. While I applaud the leadership of Arizona addressing the illegal Norwegians clogging their schools, we must elevate Texas to its rightful role as a beacon of hope for America to follow. If the illegal Norwegians are not in our schools, they can’t steal food from the hard working taxpayer. And given their height, fewer Norwegians reduces the chances that some good-looking 6’8″ blond guy will sit in front of us and block our view of Ebenezer at the Alley Theater.

Fewer poor people. A year off from school will encourage these people who are choosing not to work and leave the burden of their children’s health on the majority of us to get up and get a job. If they can’t get a job for lack of photo ID, this will encourage them to return to their country of origin or at least leave our state to another more willing to tolerate such freeloaders. Someplace like California or something.

Trade Balance. If the Norwegians go home they will likely take high demand goods made in the USA home with them. This suggests to me that as the flow of goods is reversed we should see a huge increase in TxGDP from the export of automatic weapons. And as we have seen in the US, this proliferation will lead to greater safety and security in Norway and their government will thank us. A true win/win.

Teachers in time-out. Teachers are uniquely qualified for unpaid sabbaticals. They get paid to take three months off a year already. And when they are working, teachers complain about being asked to teach kids to pass tests. Why do they want to leave children behind? How hard is it to teach to a test? Just teach Johnny to Scantron for Pete’s sake. Thus we propose all Texas teachers should be fired immediately. Not since Ronald Reagan has the taxpayer been freed from the tyranny of unions with the stroke of a single pen. Perhaps some time off will help the former teachers remember what testing teaching is all about. (Bonus: We can probably hire them back at a lower salary when we start the schools back up.)

No More Teachers’ Union. The teachers union can’t debate collective bargaining if the administration is not present to debate with. And if the teachers are all unemployed they can’t pay union dues which solves the union problem when they go out of business. UNION PROBLEM SOLVED.

National rankings in Education. Sure Texas recently ranked 43rd out of 50 on spending per pupil. Yet by taking a year off they can’t score us at all. We might be number 1 after all. You have no tests and no budget to rank us if the schools are shut down. The yanks can’t prove a thing. And with enough advertising dollars to bring new businesses to Texas we can just keep pounding the point that our kids are the happiest in the country without compulsory education.

Save money on Text Books. By closing the schools for a year our elected school board dentists can finally correct the liberal bias in our children’s text books. Eliminate teaching “evolution” and only teach “creationism.” This is not only the holy thing to do, but “creationism” also requires a lot fewer pages to explain to the students. Holy cost savings!

More ART! Sure the newspaper continues to remind us of Texan Renee Zellweger and her “art education,” yet shutting down the schools is in fact a more bold step in the direction of greater art participation. Children with free time are significantly more likely to express themselves by doodling and decorating abandoned buildings. Thus the free time for our kids will increase their art education. Total art immersion in fact. Culture? Check.

Elimination of latch-key kids. If the children are home all day there is no latch-key problem. Little Kevin is not a latch-key kid, he’s just home alone. Day care solved.

Reduced domestic violence. Domestic violence will surely be reduced by the elimination of parent-student conflict over grades. There are no grades. BI-WINNING!

Texas National Defense. A side benefit of more time for video games is our kids will make a smoother transition into the militia to prepare for our next border war with Canada. Maybe offer scholarships to World of Warcraft (WOW) level 80+ “tank warrior + 3 dps rogues and hunters pref” and “holy paly or divination priest healers.” This proposal moves us past “be prepared” to “LEVEL UP.”

Money. We’ll save like 50 Billion or something. And let’s be honest, we could use the money.

In conclusion, I think the reader will agree that all of us are very pro-education in Texas. This isn’t a move away from educating our children. Rather it is a temporary hiatus designed to balance the budget and move us towards a brighter Texas future. And while critics may say we are kicking the can down the road, it is only for one year and for the good of the great state of Texas. We need to man-up and shut down the schools in Texas for one year. Please join me in contacting your legislator to move this initiative forward.

We can do it!

Dumbstruck, Jason and I handed Mr. Frank Austin his paper back. We talked. We tried to refute his arguments. We tried to explain the difference between Canada and Norway. That “Friday Night Lights” aren’t as much fun without the band. That Texas teachers aren’t evil. That Texas doesn’t have a state militia. Sadly our arguments and our use of “facts” seemed to fall on deaf ears. Mr. Austin was truly convinced that education would survive a one year shut down. That shutting down the schools for one year was the best solution. We gave up and left the building.

Yet as we were leaving the pub I found myself looking back at Frank through the window and thinking that if I truly were at war, I’d definitely want a WOW level 80+ divination priest healer to have my back. Mr. Frank Austin got that part right.

Maybe we really should shut down the schools for a year. Thoughts?

Note: this is a cross-post. Please comment on chron.com post here.

Texas to reduce public education funding by $8.8 billion in 2012-13

The vote took under 20 minutes, without any debate among members, and resulted in 18-7 in favor. The (Texas) House budget proposes reductions in two major areas: public education funding by $8.8 billion and health care by $16 billion. For the 2010-11 biennium, public education received $50 billion and health care received $65 billion.

Appropriations committee chairman and author of the bill Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, said budget writers tried to minimize cuts, but they were inevitable because education and health care comprise a large portion of the budget.

Former House member and LBJ School (UT Austin) lecturer Sherri Greenberg said the cuts of both areas are so high because they make up more than half of the budget combined.

“If the desire of the leadership is to have a bill with no new revenue, you need to [cut] where the big dollars are,” Greenberg said. “Forty percent of that is public education and another 30 percent is health and human services, and a bulk of that is Medicaid. That’s the math.”

March 27, 2011, 82nd Texas Legislature from the Daily Texan

If I did my math right, we are reducing education funding from 50 Billion to 41.2B. The author of the bill, Rep Jim Pitts, Republican-Waxahachie describes it as “the right thing to do for our economy and for the people of Texas.”

I was going to get a pull-quote from little Johnny, but apparently he still can’t read.

 

Houston Private College Loan Repayment Rates

UPDATE: The Chronicle posted a story on 9/7/10: For-profit colleges fighting proposal to cut aid, Feds’ plan to limit loans for programs with high-default rates called unfair. Which lists repayment rates as follows:

  1. Everest institute – 16%
  2. American Intercontinental University – 22 %
  3. Art Institute of Houston – 37%
  4. University of Houston Downtown – 39%
  5. HCC Central – 61%
  6. University of Houston – 64%
  7. UT Austin – 71%

This relates to my previous post on the Chron on student financial aid defaults.

In support of taxpayers on student loan defaults

This is an archive copy of the original post on Chron.com. Please comment on the Chron site if you wish to comment (encouraged!)

I wrote about student loans and bankruptcy earlier this year in “Bankruptcy and the Unforgiving Servants” on the Chron blog. Today via a facebook link, I was pointed to this protest on the Higher Ed Action Center site on behalf of The Art Institutes. The statement reads:

The U.S. Department of Education intends to issue a rule (Program Integrity; Gainful Employment) that would limit educational and economic opportunities for millions of Americans. Its proposed “Gainful Employment” regulation would make entire programs ineligible for Title IV federal student financial aid if they fail to meet a one-size-fits-all metric test that has little to do with academic quality. While student debt is a shared concern, the proposed rule is an inappropriate response to a complex problem and will limit choices and educational access for students, while threatening critical jobs across the country.

Our company employs numerous Art Institute of Houston graduates and they have proven to be reliable and capable employees. In other words, my experience has been “the product is good.” So I was taken aback to see their protest against the Gainful Employment Rule. I didn’t understand. Which made me curious.

And they aren’t the only ones commenting, Devry, University of Phoenix, Kaplan are too – and their stock prices are dropping. Senator Durbin in the Chronicle is quoted as:

Senator Durbin grilled the chief executive of the Career Education Corporation about the morality of charging $40,000 for culinary programs that prepare students for $10-an-hour jobs, calling the programs a “federally subsidized rip-off.” He also confronted the president of Kaplan University and the chief executive of DeVry Inc. about their students’ low loan-repayment rates.

So what does this rule say? A few excerpts from regulations.gov on the gainful employment proposed rule:

“There are 18 title IV, HEA loan defaults for every 100 graduates of for-profit institutions, compared to only 5 title IV, HEA loan defaults for every 100 graduates of public institutions.” – line 336

“the Department would assess whether a program provides training that leads to gainful employment by applying two tests: One test based upon debt-to-income ratios and the other test based upon repayment rates. Based on the program’s performance under these tests, the program may be eligible, have restricted eligibility, or be ineligible.” – line 348

“Programs whose former students have a loan repayment of at least 45 percent will continue to be eligible. Programs whose former students have loan repayment rates below 45 percent but at least 35 percent may be placed on restricted status. Programs whose former students have loan repayment rates below 35 percent may become ineligible.” – line 400

The proposed rule in no way limits what you can offer or sell to students. Nor does it regulate higher education any further. It simply says “hey, the taxpayer can’t pay for it if 65% (100-65=35%) of your students fail to pay the money back to us.” I seem to recall 70 being the cut off for a passing grade when I was in school, not 35.

It seems a bit embarassing to protest against a rule than seeks a mere 35% repayment rate. Why risk the PR backlash by speaking out? It turns out because the stakes are quite high. Again from the proposed Gainful Employment rule.

“In 2009, the five largest for-profit institutions received 77 percent of their revenues from the Federal student aid programs.” – line 308

Thus if you believe in the slippery slope fallacy, you would not want ANY performance standards in place as it is much easier to change the rate than pass a new regulation. Fair enough.

I am not unsympathetic to students needing loans. Quite the opposite – I have three kids to put through college! I was equally disappointed by our Governor’s deregulation of higher education which put a degree from UT or A&M (side note: Whooop!) out of reach for so many. From the article:

Tuition at Texas universities rose 58 percent between 2003, when schools were first allowed to set their own rates, and 2007. Student fees have gone up, too.

58% increase in 5 years might even beat out the health insurance companies on the zero-to-evil scale.  In fact higher education deregulation in Texas resulted in the death of the Texas Tomorrow Fund, a prepaid tuition program. Wikipedia says “Due to rising costs after state tuition was deregulated in 2003, the program stopped accepting new participants.”

Proposed solutions:

First, for the Art Institute; the lady doth protest too much, methinks. You guys have a great product, let the facts stand for themselves and let those in the bottom 35% run point. If a school falls into that category, they should raise an endowment and “self insure”, but not on the taxpayers’ dime. Common sense says if anything, the threshold of the proposed regulation is too low. (or lobby to change BAPCPA)

Second, require a free money management course in college for anyone getting a student loan. Perhaps something like Dave Ramsey’s (my young employees tell me all the cool-kids are doing it). Explain to students that they WILL have to pay it back, so don’t borrow what they can’t afford. Similarly college financial aid departments should decline students who can’t afford it.

Third, stop telling everyone to go to college. At some point we have to make something. You either dig up a mineral or make something to create a product to export. If you want to correct the trade imbalance, it won’t happen unless you get or make something. THESE people are the engine of our economy and they are sacred. That is a blog post for another day.

Fourth, drastically increase the 4 year degrees available from community colleges like they have done in Florida. We have the infrastructure in place and the cost containment measures in place to solve the higher education access and affordability problem without the 75% default rate. Additionally community college professors tend to be adjuncts, don’t rely on tenure and frequently have real world experience. In other words they are reality based and good!

Conclusion

Question 1) I am not a big fan of government in general, but government is necessary and the gainful employment rule seems like a reasonable rule given taxpayer dollars are involved. Without the money? Do your thing. But if you want the money, yes, some strings are attached. Agree?

Question 2) Why not more 4 year degrees from Texas community colleges? Any reason beyond “the Universities don’t want them to“?

DISCLAIMERS

These are my personal thoughts and opinions and do not reflect those of the chron, the company, HCC (I serve on a community advisory board but they don’t know about this post. So perhaps I’ll get kicked off soon.) or any other affiliations as mentioned on my cv.

Bill Gates talk on Reinventing Capitalism

From Bill Gates talk on Reinventing Capitalism from the Techonomy conference.

Video training resources mentioned by Bill in the talk.

  1. Math – see Khan Academy as the best
  2. Physics – see Walter Levin Classical Mechanics

Around minute 24 Bill talks about “Education Decoupling” (more) where you could complete the best-of-the-best course and still get a degree from one institution. Why can’t you take Physics from MIT and get credit at no cost from A&M? If the real goal is education, it seems reasonable.

NYT on improving students through school integration by income in North Carolina

The New York Times has a story that makes you go "duh" but nonetheless is something that should be part of the dialog on education in America. 

As Test Scores Jump, Raleigh Credits Integration by Income (reg required of course)

RALEIGH, N.C. – Over the last decade, black and Hispanic students here in Wake County have made such dramatic strides in standardized reading and math tests that it has caught the attention of education experts around the country.

The main reason for the students’ dramatic improvement, say officials and parents in the county, which includes Raleigh and its sprawling suburbs, is that the district has made a concerted effort to integrate the schools economically. (more) By ALAN FINDER

Racial segregation in America required integration to recover, but mostly because at the time race had a high correlation with economic capability.  The very success of desegregation has created diverse economic groups within racial groups so it only makes sense that integration based on economics will produce the same positive results that desegregation did.  They are the same thing, with an acknowledgement that times have changed.