Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Tuesday, March 31, 2021

Castrol might just be onto something by concentrating its latest motor-oil marketing message around “your dipstick”. Especially when said dipstick is brandished against you, crazed-Scotsman style:

Heck, I’m not even in the market for motor oil, synthetic or otherwise, and I’m getting my due enjoyment out of this senseless display of car-parts violence. Well done! Almost worth downloading the iPod-friendly version for on-the-go amusement.

I’m guessing the wacky Scotsman angle was devised to inject a memorable comedic accent into this creative, with a nod toward Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. I don’t know why Castrol held back on the tartan stereotype — where’s his kilt?

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 03/31/2009 02:22pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Comedy
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No particular theme behind this latest presentation of my iTouch’s latest shuffle-generated playback. It simply came out, and I simply captured it below. So there.

The number 8 coming from 8trk. Any day now.

1. “Hit the Decks”, Cirrus - Oh my god.

2. “White Trash Wedding”, Dixie Chicks - It took a nip of gin but you finally took my hand.

3. “Break the Ice (Kaskade Remix)”, Britney Spears - I know it’s been awhile.

4. “Move (Cut Copy Remix)”, CSS - So please hold me tight tonight.

5. “Express Yourself”, N.W.A. - They’d rather exaggerate a little fiction.

6. “Austin’s Theme Song”, Austin Powers Soundtrack - [instrumental, no lyrics - yeah, baby!]

7. “Xanadu (I Live In Newtown John Mix)”, The Olivia Project - The echoes of long ago.

8. “Gittin’ Funky”, Kid ‘N Play - So hyper, you’re gonna need a sedative.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 03/31/2009 08:49am
Category: Pop Culture, iPod Random Tracks
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Monday, March 30, 2021

off the island
The New York Islanders have found a relocation option more feasible than their trumped-up Kansas City/Sprint Center canard, and it’s right across the county border: New York City’s Queens borough is dangling Willet’s Point, near the Mets’ new Citi Field, for a new hockey arena complex.

Transportation is key:

The Queens Chamber of Commerce is pitching Willets Point as an ideal spot for the four-time Stanley Cup champions given its proximity to highways and the No. 7 train.

A spokesman for the city Economic Development Corp. said a request for proposals on Willets Point will go out this year, allowing developers a window of about two months to respond.

I’m thinking a location right near mass transit — subways and buses more than commuter trains — would do loads to pump up attendance. If nothing else, the Isles would be practically guaranteed sellouts when the Rangers visit, and possibly the Devils too. In fact, New Jersey’s recent move from the Meadowlands, which is chiefly car-accessible, to downtown Newark, which is on the PATH line, has a lot to do with that NHL team’s uptick in ticket sales.

Can the club still call itself “Islanders” after moving to the five boroughs? Sure can, because political-perceptional divisions aside, Queens really is part of Long Island, and even resembles Nassau County in terms of suburban/urban blend.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 03/30/2009 01:56pm
Category: Hockey, New Yorkin', SportsBiz
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His departure from General Motors has been presumed for months, well before the Great Recession-prompted chaos that has swallowed the U.S. auto industry. Still, now that CEO Rick Wagoner is officially quitting, with a not-so-subtle sweep from the U.S. bailout broom, I wonder:

Will this move serve as a rallying cry around future bailouts, especially when they lead to actual or de facto ownership stakes? After all, this is the greatest fear of nationalization in key industries: The government “running” things by firing management. Wagoner’s case is a weak example, because he was embattled long before the Federal dollars came along — indeed, that’s probably why the Obama Administration felt this was a safe move in that sense. Still, it wouldn’t take much revisionist spinning to make this look like White House micromanagement in private industry (to paint this with the appropriately broad brushstroke). Wagoner would go from being the ineffectual corporate steward to a martyr for anti-nationalization forces.

My guess is that it’ll take one more high-profile shove out the door by a similarly bailed-out industry (banking/financial, basically) for this scenario to coalesce. The evolution should be fun to watch.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 03/30/2009 12:46pm
Category: Business, Politics
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kiddin' playa
I’ll admit, I haven’t jumped onto the LeBron James bandwagon (by the way, how is it possible that this star, the National Basketball Association’s designated Second Coming of Jordan, doesn’t have his own website up and running yet?).

But after catching his new State Farm commercial, wherein he channels Kid ‘N Play in all their House Party foot-locking choreographed glory:

I guess I’m now a fan of King James. Or at least, as much of a fan as I, being a hoops-hater, can be.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 03/30/2009 12:08pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Basketball, Comedy, Movies, Pop Culture
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Sunday, March 29, 2021

when a problem comes along
The other day, I bought a jar of peanut butter (not the one pictured above, which is intended as merely a generic gif).

I wasn’t paying sufficient attention, and wound up picking up not the regular creamy variety, but the whipped creamy style instead.

Whipped peanut butter? This is a pure rip-off, isn’t it? Same sized jar as the regular creamy, but whereas that one weighs 17-18 ounces, the whipped jar weighs 14 ounces. Doesn’t sound like much of a deficiency, but let’s face it — whipping the PB full of air not only makes it fluffy, but also reduces the actual amount you get — at the same price, to boot. It’s essentially in line with the subtle shrinkage in the unit size of food packages of late.

The upshot: I think I’ll switch to chunky.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 03/29/2009 11:25pm
Category: Food
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You might have multiple online personas spread out across every social network out there, but there’s still just one Internet. So when it comes to establishing “Brand Me” for professional purposes, refinement and consistency is the key:

“Finding your niche is the key,” said Dan Schawbel, author of “Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success” (Kaplan, April 2009), and a personal branding guru (that’s his brand, by the way).

He espouses a four-step process — discover, create, communicate, maintain. That translates into: discover your passion and put it together with your expertise; create a “personal branding tool kit” (which may include a résumé, online profile, blog and portfolio of your work) that consistently reflects your brand; pitch your brand online and offline; and update and monitor any conversations about your brand.

All of which can be easily-enough undone by a random Facebook photo or Twitter drunk-tweeting. Basically, when you start working the Web, the Web still works you.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 03/29/2009 10:54pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business, Social Media Online
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The few times I’ve read Ovid’s “Metamorphoses”, I’ve always felt this epic poem practically anti-climaxes after Book 1 — specifically the particulars of the Story of Lycaon.

I’m not going to re-post the entire, turgid verse here, but rather the most pertinent lines that stick with me (with bracketed contextual clarification where necessary):

“Do you reckon
They [the earthbound demigods] will be safe,
When I, who wield the thunder,
Who rule you all as subjects, am subjected
To the plottings of the barbarous Lycaon?”

They [the gods] burned, they trembled. Who was this Lycaon,
Guilty of such rank infamy? They shuddered
In horror, with a fear of sudden ruin,…
That cried for vengeance, even as Jove took pleasure,
Then, in the gods’ response. By word and gesture
He calmed them down, awed them again to silence,
And spoke once more:

“He has indeed been punished.
On that score have no worry. But what he did,
And how he paid, are things that I must tell you.”

From there, Ovid recounts the gruesome story of how decadent King Lycaon chopped up human flesh and attempted to serve it to Jove, incurring the chief god’s wrath. The sin is less interesting than the punishment, which confirms how Lycaon ultimately retains the upper hand:

He [Lycaon] fled in terror, reached the silent fields,
And howled, and tried to speak. No use at all!
Foam dripped from his mouth; bloodthirsty still, he turned
Against the sheep, delighting still in slaughter,
And his arms were legs, and his robes were shaggy hair,
Yet he is still Lycaon, the same grayness,
The same fierce face, the same red eyes, a picture
Of bestial savagery. One house has fallen,
But more than one deserves to.

So Jove turns Lycaon into a wolf, or werewolf (lycos/lycan being the ancient root for this mythic beast). But the last laugh is with Lycaon, because he hasn’t really been transformed at all — he already was a savage beast in his original human form, so Jove’s punishment didn’t change Lycaon in a meaningful way. Thus “he is still Lycaon”, and Jove, for all his power, has to come to terms with the idea that he really didn’t make an impact. This leads to the skyfather god to conclude that no punishment less than total destruction can “fix” the human race.

To me, that’s the most powerful statement in the entire “Metamorphoses”. So, like I said: The rest of the poem seems to fall short from that core message.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 03/29/2009 08:59pm
Category: Creative
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Saturday, March 28, 2021

halv and halv
I had some fresh strawberries, and I had some fresh halvah (original sesame flavor). Had they not been sitting in close proximity to one another in the kitchen, I never would have thought to combine them for snacking purposes.

But they were, so I did. They make a surprisingly good combination. One worth remembering for the future.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 03/28/2009 06:23pm
Category: Food
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As a former newspaperman who considers the pun an indispensable tool in the arsenal of headline writing (see above), it grates on me to read this op-ed piece deriding this wordplay art as practically the lowest form of wit:

Puns are the feeblest species of humor because they are ephemeral: whatever comic force they possess never outlasts the split second it takes to resolve the semantic confusion. Most resemble mathematical formulas: clever, perhaps, but hardly occasion for knee-slapping. The worst smack of tawdriness, even indecency, which is why puns, like off-color jokes, are often followed by apologies. Odds are that a restaurant with a punning name — Snacks Fifth Avenue, General Custard’s Last Stand — hasn’t acquired its first Michelin star…

Why do puns offend? Charles Lamb, a notorious punster, explained that the pun is “a pistol let off at the ear; not a feather to tickle the intellect.” Surely puns silence conversation before they animate it. Some stricken with pun-lust sink so far into their infirmity that their minds become trained to lie in wait for words on which to work their wickedness. They are the scourge of dinner tables and the despised prolongers of office meetings, some letting fly as instinctively as dogs bark and frogs croak, no longer concerned even with drawing applause; they simply can’t help themselves.

All of which is true, generally. But that doesn’t mean the pun has no utility. The meta-comparative between a present subject matter, and a background object, creates a frame of reference that is, if not always useful, then at least memorable. Thus you generate instant gems like the recent “BERN IN HELL” headline about high-finance swindler Bernie Madoff.

I guess it’s appropriate that this linguistic critique appear in the New York Times, which, when it comes to headlines, is probably the most pun-averse newspaper I’ve ever seen (as opposed to my old stomping grounds, the St. Petersburg Times, where hed-puns flowed with abandon). Underlining the anti-punnery is that the op-ed was written by Joseph Tartakovsky, a pre-lawyer studying at Fordham — where the indoctrination of legal-talk is, by design, negating imprecisions of the tongue:

LegalSpeak is a lot like French, but without the nasal sound. French was, for a few hundred years, the common language of diplomats. This was so because the language had (and still has) very precise meanings for words. Such adherence to meaning leaves little room for jokes or innuendo, and because of this strict adherence to form and grammar, there was for too many years, a lack of humor such as is derived from puns, witticisms, and word play in the French language and culture. To twist the meaning of a word would have been high treason against such a pure language. This may shed some light onto the popularity of Jerry Lewis as a comedy king.

So if not for the pun, we’d all be a bunch of French-speaking, Jerry Lewis-loving attorneys. Worse pun-ishment, I can’t imagine.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 03/28/2009 03:28pm
Category: Creative, Wordsmithing
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Friday, March 27, 2021

Of late, I can’t seem to win when it comes to setting appointments, particularly with groups of three or more. Consider:

When the date is pegged several days or even weeks in advance, enough people inevitably pull out almost at the last minute and thus wreck the gathering. Yet paradoxically, when a call goes out for a true short-notice get-together (that night or in the following 1-2 days), nobody can commit to that either. For the past couple of months, this has been consistent in both my personal and professional spheres.

I guess there’s an ideal in-between time that would work for everyone involved? Not too far out into the future that something else will arise to take precedence, yet not so immediate as to not be able to squeeze into hectic schedules.

I’m thinking maybe a 6-day window might be the magic number. I’ll have to experiment.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 03/27/2009 11:47am
Category: General
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The couple of times I saw trailers for new release Spinning Into Butter, I got the distinct impression that it was made from a script that had been lying around since the ’90s, when college-campus racial tensions were (more of a) hot topic.

Lo and behold, that’s pretty much the case, as the film is adapted from a stage play of the same name that was first produced nine years ago (so, close enough).

Not that this spoils my movie-going plans for this weekend. Even if I had intended to take in this type of overwrought drama, I’d go more directly to the source and rent Higher Learning.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 03/27/2009 11:13am
Category: College Years, Movies
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Thursday, March 26, 2021

Christi Sothers, a jewelry store on 42nd Street (if you consider something as hideous as shiny frog sculptures to be “jewelry”), sensibly maintains and promotes the website christisothers.com.

Of course, when I glanced at that URL in the store window yesterday while rushing by, I managed to interpret it not as “Christi Sothers dot com”, but as “Christ Is Others dot com”.

Frankly, I wouldn’t have made a mental note of it had I read it correctly. I was actually quite disappointed when I later called up the site and didn’t find a religious tract, since I was intrigued with the “Christ is others” concept, just on a surface level. If nothing else, I was hoping for a long-belated rebuttal to Jean-Paul Sartre’s “hell is other people” existentialist quip.

Even though Sartre provided something of a rebuttal himself:

…”hell is other people” has always been misunderstood. It has been thought that what I meant by that was that our relations with other people are always poisoned, that they are invariably hellish relations. But what I really mean is something totally different. I mean that if relations with someone else are twisted, vitiated, then that other person can only be hell. Why? Because… when we think about ourselves, when we try to know ourselves, …we use the knowledge of us which other people already have. We judge ourselves with the means other people have and have given us for judging ourselves. Into whatever I say about myself someone else’s judgment always enters. Into whatever I feel within myself someone else’s judgment enters… But that does not at all mean that one cannot have relations with other people. It simply brings out the capital importance of all other people for each one of us. (From the Imago playbill)

So the ultimate lesson here: Christ is not to be found in a jewelry shop window on 42nd Street. And hell is other tacky frog sculptures.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 03/26/2009 04:56pm
Category: Creative, Internet, New Yorkin', Wordsmithing
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The title above says it all, regarding my reaction to the prospect of human-edited “discovery sites” tailored toward those challenged by search engine-delivered information overload.

That question mark at the end is because I’m not really sure myself. Actually, AllMyFaves is an appealing-enough interface, with visual logos neatly categorized for quick recognition. If the point of Web navigation for research/information is to reduce the number of clicks before getting at what you want, then a discovery site that’s pre-handrolled accomplishes that quickly. It does what Google and the other search-algorithm shops spend tons of time and money trying to do: Produce “relevance” — albeit by severe reduction.

Of course, that severe reduction is the double-edged sword here. At root, the term “discovery site” is just a rebranding of the preloaded directory splash pages that ISPs pipe into residential browsers. The word “discovery” is less stodgy than “directory”, and positions better to counter “search”. All in all, a marketing exercise to make a Web 1.0 concept look competitive in a Web 2.0 world. And like anything, the extreme end of the abuse spectrum would be sites that tout themselves as “discovery” resources, but are nothing more than link farms.

But again, that’s not necessarily a losing bet. Discovery sites operate on the concept of a walled garden of trusted/reliable information sources, to reduce/eliminate/filter Web clutter; so does Facebook and most other social networks. Even the old-fashioned email channel does this, and successfully. It’s obviously a popular technique because it requires little or no customization from the enduser.

It all comes down to where most of the eyeballs spend most of their time. If discovery sites are refined to the point where people are convinced there’s significant time saved by hitting them first, versus Google or any other search engine, then the advertising will follow, and search becomes relegated to a more specialized second-tier Web navigation tool. To counter that, search engines will be motivated to refine not only their results, but also their presentation, in order to remain appealing to the audience. This might be the beginning of a long evolution in that department.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 03/26/2009 02:52pm
Category: Internet
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From this story about a newly-discovered 19th-Century photo of New York City (actually a daguerreotype), an interesting little historical tidbit about Manhattan’s early road network, before Gotham absorbed the entire island:

As the Sotheby’s picture predates the laying out of Gotham’s numbered cross streets, the exact location is unknown, but a notation on the back, signed by “L.B.,” identifies it as on “the main road… called a continuation of Broadway.”

[Sotheby's curator of photographs Denise] Bethel says that was a term used by city directories of the day for the Bloomingdale Road, laid out in 1703 as one of two main north-south arteries in early Manhattan — the Boston Road, now Park Avenue, being the other. Bloomingdale was an Anglicized version of the Dutch Bloemendale, as the Upper West Side was once known.

The road cut at times through hilly terrain, now harder to see due to urban expansion of the Upper West Side, noted today for cultural institutions like Lincoln Center and Columbia University as well as gourmet grocery stores, hip restaurants and trendy boutiques.

Both roads, of course, eventually led to Harlem — or Nieuw Haarlem, as the rural community was originally known.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 03/26/2009 11:24am
Category: History, New Yorkin', Photography
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Wednesday, March 25, 2021

When Tara hit me up about running a post to promote No Fear Energy Drink’s new Earn Some Cred promotion, I first thought: I’m too old, and not skater-shreddin’ enough, to credibly (pun intended!) pimp this skull-festooned supercaffeinated pimp juice.

But hey, it’s the Web — if nobody knows whether or not you’re a dog online, then my late-30something status shouldn’t prevent me from being an online acolyte for sugarwater intended for teenaged/young adult consumption.

Anyway, enough of my lame-assed (yet soul-sucking) rationalizations. Here’s the corpspeak pitch:

No Fear Energy has launched its first-ever under the tab code promotion — Earn Some Cred. You crack open specially marked cans of No Fear Energy drink, find the code under the tab, enter that code at earnsomecred.com and start earning cred for No Fear gear or if you’re super lucky, instantly win the VIP Credentials for 1 of 8 once-in-a-lifetime experiences like a trip to a Mixed Martial Arts event, Hawaiian surf getaway, a Motocross event, or to a stop on the No Fear Energy Music Tour featuring the metal band Lamb of God.

And here’s the actual No Fear Earn Some Cred Giveaway Prize Pack, valued at 100 big dollars:

2 – No Fear Hoodies
2 – No Fear T-shirts (one of each style)
1 – No Fear Bloodshot Hat
1 - 12-pack of the new No Fear Bloodshot Energy Drink
1 – Lamb of God’s latest CD “Wrath” (released on Feb. 24)
1 – Sticky Bumps Surf Wax

So that’s what’s up for grabs. I’m at my discretion to make you jump through hoops for a chance to win that beverage-fueled swag, but I know from past experience that anything in bloggerland that requires effort fails dismally.

Instead, all you have to do is leave a comment below, with a valid email address so I can contact you for your shipping address (U.S. addressees only, sorry Canada and the rest of the world!) if you win. That’s it! Drop in your comment by midnight EST, Sunday April 5th to qualify. From there, I’ll be picking one lucky commenter purely at random to receive the No Fear booty.

And now for the disclosure. I’m not getting paid, but I am getting some freebies myself in return: A t-shirt and a 12-pack of No Fear Energy Bloodshot. Sounds gruesome, except that “bloodshot” refers to a shot of blood orange flavor. Which might do me good, since the last hyper-energized drink I really liked, taste-wise, was the now-extinct 180, with its citrus flavoring. And I actually think branding blood-orange flavoring as “bloodshot” is mighty clever. Thus do I assuage my reservations over blog-shilling…

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 03/25/2009 03:22pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Food
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I’m not saying that Los Angeles is a warzone or anything. But when Marine recruits are being embedded with the LA County Coroner’s Department for prep training on dead-body recovery before being shipped out to Iraq to handle battlefield casualties, I think the parallels draw themselves…

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 03/25/2009 02:13pm
Category: Politics, Society, True Crime
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guilty as charged
Just as deviance devolves downward, it seems that greed, and its accoutrements, devolves upward — all the way to this 0.02 carat-encrusted Visa Infinite Diamond Card, for those making $300,000 and up per year.

That leaves me and my zinc-card carrying brethren blacked out. Although in this perverse financial-status arms race, it’ll be only a matter of time before this “infinite” credit limit is far surpassed, with the residual effect being that black and the other now-exclusive shades of plastic will become devalued enough for the unwashed masses to qualify for them.

Then again, the Visa Infinite is being issued by the Eurasian Bank of Kazakhstan. Considering that the oil-primed Kazakh economy is collapsing right along with the price of a barrel of crude, this might be the first-ever toxic asset to be delivered in wallet-sized card-swipe form.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 03/25/2009 01:34pm
Category: Business, Fashion, Society
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A year ago, the dismal failure of “Quarterlife” suggested that Web-origined shows — even those with millions of built-in viewers via MySpace and other social networks — simply don’t translate to traditional television.

That isn’t stopping ABC from promoting the mommy-centric “In the Motherhood” from the online farm team to the broadcast-network big leagues. However, there were major snags during transition from Web to TV:

On the MSN.com edition of “Motherhood” (since discontinued), short segments about funny, frazzled mothers were inspired by the real-life stories that viewers submitted via an Internet forum. ABC, similarly, asked for story submissions on its Web site and said that they “might just become inspiration for a story by the writers.”

But ABC’s call for ideas from moms drew the attention of the Writers Guild of America, which said this type of request for submissions was “not permissible” under its contract with the network. This week ABC abruptly removed the language about “inspiration” from its Web site, effectively saying that the writers may not be listening to viewers’ ideas, after all.

So the intimately interactive element from the Web original will be missing. That’s doesn’t have to be a deathblow to the ABC version, unless the mommyblogging brigade gets riled up enough and boycotts the show, ala the Motrin insurrection. Even then, the impact of such an outcry might not sink “Motherhood”, since the wider audience for such a show isn’t necessarily aligned with the online contingent (i.e., more people don’t blog than do).

What’s more interesting is the source of this Web-to-TV mis-adaptation: Not the faceless corporation, but the entrenched content-creation talent. The Writers Guild effectively wants to maintain a closed shop for television writing, even on the high-concept level. It speaks of the number of barriers remaining to be broken before the presumed melding of the two mediums happens.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 03/25/2009 12:05pm
Category: Creative, Pop Culture, Social Media Online, TV
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Deeming the old A-B-C-D-F grading system to be unfairly subjective, school districts across the land are adopting a numbered 1 (lowest) to 4 (highest) scale for test and report card marks.

So at some point, the old “A for effort” and similar expressions will be antiquated. That’s F-ed up…

The new grades are supposed to be less confusing, although as deployed in suburban New York, that’s an iffy claim:

In Pelham, the second-grade report card includes 39 separate skill scores — 10 each in math and language arts, 2 each in science and social studies, and a total of 15 in art, music, physical education, technology and “learning behaviors” — engagement, respect, responsibility, organization. The report card itself is one page, but it comes with a 14-page guide explaining the different skills and the scoring.

A report card that comes with an owner’s manual-like rubric? Who’s being tested here, the kids or the parental units?

Actually, even accounting for the inevitable friction during the change and adjustment period, I don’t understand why K-12 doesn’t just install the college-style grade point average (GPA). This 1-4 system is almost the same thing, except that it’s unnecessarily imprecise by not allowing half-point gradations. Since the kids are being prepped for eventual college learning anyway, they might as well have a consistent rating structure for their entire schooling experience.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 03/25/2009 11:07am
Category: Creative, Society
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Tuesday, March 24, 2021

cold old
I’m sure this term’s been around since the twilight of Gordie Howe’s extended career; but I’ll still give credit to the announcers for tonight’s Versus NHL game for invoking it:

The conspicuously 40-something player still hacking it in the National Hockey League? Dub him the “elder skatesman”.

His on-ice role may or may not involve statesman-like diplomacy informed by wizened experience. More likely, the elder skatesman just has a wealth of knowledge made up of a huge bag of dirty tricks.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 03/24/2009 09:02pm
Category: Hockey, Wordsmithing
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