When a colon replaces a period

Great teaching example I’ll use this fall, from George Gopen’s Expectations: Teaching Writing from the Reader’s Perspective:

The film has been modified from its original version. It has been formatted to fit your TV.

versus

The film has been modified from its original version: It has been formatted to fit your TV.

(Gopen capitalizes the independent clause after a colon. I don’t, so I would write this without the second capital.)

In the first version, a number of modifications could have been made: change in length, removal of bad words, elimination of explicit sex scenes.

In the 2nd version, just one change has been made, and we know what it is. The film has been formatted to fit our TV. The end.

Gopen says the colon in such sentences functions as an equals sign, and I like that way of thinking about it, though colon-as-equals-sign is too abstract to help students decide when to use one, obviously.

But as an analogy, it’s interesting and fun.

How to end a sentence

A sentence from John Brennan on the subject of UFOs:

I think some of the phenomena we’re going to be seeing continues to be unexplained and might, in fact, be some type of phenomenon that is the result of something that we don’t yet understand and that could involve some type of activity that some might say constitutes a different form of life.

How UFO sightings went from joke to national security worry in Washington

I think I’ll use this when we discuss hedging in class next fall.

Sex and the semicolon

George Gopen on his introduction to the semicolon:

To be completely straightforward with you, for a very long time I harbored a suspicion that the semi-colon had something to do with sex. I remember the day – I was 12 years old at the time – when my English teacher reached the section of our textbook that dealt with the semi-colon. With a noticeable amount of emotional discomfort, he told our all-male class, “We won’t go into the semi-colon. You don’t need that now. You’ll need that later.” He was relieved not to have to tell us; we were relieved not to have to face the unveiling of the mystery. We were feeling that way about a number of concerns at that particular stage of life and had seen our fathers undergo the same discomfort and the same escape by avoidance.

My teacher was right, of course. I didn’t need the semi-colon at age 12. Unfortunately, by the time I was grown up enough to need the semi-colon, there was no one around to explain it to time. By then, I was somehow supposed to know all about it. I went around for years thinking I was one of the few people who did not understood (sic) this mystery. I now know that most people are just as insecure about it as I was.

The Sense of Structure: Writing from the Reader’s Perspective by George D. Gopen, p 161

Guide, side, teach, tell

Barry Garelick’s Out on Good Behavior: Teaching Math While Looking Over Your Shoulder (Katharine reviewed it here) is a terrific book: funny, affecting, and real. One of my favorite passages, from the Introduction and Dedication:

I want to share some advice I received from Ellen, one of my two “parole officers” whom you will meet in this book….

“Students have more faith in something they think they came up with than something the teacher tells them.”

…Some teachers have told me that they are not allowed to answer a student’s question directly. In fact, the quote from Ellen was her response to my question of why it’s acceptable for students to show other students how to do a problem, but it’s not acceptable if a teacher does so….

From time to time, however, most, if not all, teachers will answer a student’s question by telling them what they need to know in order to solve a problem. And most, if not all, teachers (myself included) feel guilty doing this, because we are taught that that’s giving away the answer and we are handing it to the student, or to put it in more educational terminology: “teaching by telling.”

The Hundred Years’ War.

Can the captain of an airplane teach 5th grade?

One thing led to another, and we found ourselves, mid-January, on a flight to Aruba.

The announcements began not long after we boarded.

“When you purchased your tickets with Jet Blue, you agreed to a contract stating that you would wear a mask on the airplane. If something has changed between that time and now, and you feel you are no longer able to wear a mask, please contact the stewardess and she will help you make other travel arrangements.”

Mask contract?

?

Continue reading

‘We don’t need AI, we just need I’

I love this!

About 12 minutes in, “ZDogg” and Marty Makary talk about their problems with AI censorship. ZDogg says he’s had whole pages taken down by Facebook, no reason given; Makary says he’s managed to evade the AI censors thus far, but it’s probably only a matter of time.

Makary says he’s constantly getting people telling him ‘What medicine needs is artificial intelligence.’

Makary also says the UK medical establishment has done a much better job than ours … and that the two risk risk factors they found most predictive of COVID mortality (I think it was mortality per se) were sickle cell anemia and kidney disease. Which means vaccines ought to be delivered to dialysis centers, but no…)

His complaints about medical-journal style sheets are hilarious.

Good writers, good readers

Terrific explanation of the relationship between reading and writing from Brock Haussamen a few years back:

The most important job-related ability that an employer can assume when looking at a well-written cover letter is that the applicant can read well. A good writer is always a good reader. This is important, for even in jobs that don’t require any writing, reading — of forms and instructions at least — is usually essential. Good writing also suggests, though it hardly guarantees, that the applicant is capable of thinking clearly and has a solid work ethic.

But turn such equations around, and they don’t hold. A weak writer is not necessarily a weak reader, especially if the person has English as a second language; for non-native speakers, comprehending written English comes more easily than writing it.

“What Good Writing Indicates, and What It Doesn’t” 8/13/2012

Please, no more improvements

Oh my.

Have just logged onto the blog, and discover that … WordPress has made improvements.

More improvements, looks like. After the improvements of just a few months back.

User interface a mystery.

Fleeting, pop-up directions for restoring old user interface, now seeping out of working memory as I type. (Pop up is stored where, exactly?)

On the bright side, apparently I can now change text color.

More virtual training for virtual teachers, subtitle edition

My God

I’m watching a Zoom training video, which suffers from the usual problem of the trainer rapidly and efficiently clicking tiny little icons and then moving on before I can spot which tiny little icon she clicked and where it was on the screen.

Have we learned nothing about video training in the decades we’ve been subjecting people to video trainings?

But even worse, this particular training video also has a very large subtitle at the bottom of the screen obscuring the icons being clicked.

OK, problem solved. “Closed captions” was set to “On” for some reason.

So after spending a good 20 minutes trying to figure out how not to have subtitles in a language I don’t speak obscuring the bottom of my screen, I will now spend another 10 minutes re-watching “Meeting Controls.”

Good thing I speak English. If I needed subtitles to learn Zoom, I’d be in trouble.

Also: good thing I’ve been using Zoom for book club and union meetings. I’m thinking about all the adjuncts whose first hands-on experience of Zoom is going to be the first day they use it to live stream their socially-distanced classrooms two weeks from now.

Zoom on