January 30, 2006

Is the U.S. Citizenship Exam Too Easy?

Posted in Me, Politics at 8:59 pm by mj

Yinghua’s citizenship interview is coming up, so we went looking for questions for her to study. I figured, “Lord, if I had to remember every facet of government that was instilled in me in 7th, 8th and 10th grades, and perform flawlessy in front of a strange government employee, I’d never gain my citizenship.”

I was shocked to discover how easy the questions are.

What shocked me even more was that all questions asked during the interview come from the 100 Sample Questions [pdf] document. So you narrow your studying down to 100 questions.

What was even more amazing to me is that this list contains the answers.

I wish I’d had it that easy in middle school.

And the answers are simplistic, and simple-minded. Consider, for example, this question:

Question. What is the Constitution?

If you have any grasp on history and philosophy, or if you went to a decent school growing up, you’re probably wondering how many single-spaced typed pages are required to earn a “C”. Uh-uh.

Answer. The supreme law of the land.

Um, yeah.

Did I mention that, apparently, getting 60% of the questions correct is considered a passing score? I didn’t see that kind of grade inflation/performance deflation until college, fercryinoutloud.

The only positive thing I can say about this exam, at least from what I know of it at this point, is that it’s not multiple choice (contrary to many of the online interactive “Could you pass the U.S. Citizenship Exam?” sample tests). That counts for something.

And yeah, I do realize there are some deep philosophical dilemmas with respect to requiring knowledge of history and government in order to gain citizenship. Maybe this is the best compromise that some very intelligent people could come up with. I doubt it played out that way, but… maybe.

January 29, 2006

Information Architecture Summit 2006

Posted in Me at 8:13 pm by mj

File the 2006 IA Summit under “conferences I (think I) want to attend.”

I’m trying to make up my mind whether it would be worth attending. Some of the papers being presented sound interesting, but only half have full descriptions, and many of those aren’t aimed at engineers. Tagging and faceted navigation feature prominently, of course.

Most of the value of attending conferences is in the social and professional networking that takes place. I’d wager that you learn more from reading the published papers on your own schedule, than listening to a presentation or participating in an average half-day workshop. And since I’m not much of a socialite, I’m not sure how much valuable professional networking I’ll accomplish.

On the other hand, attending a conference does provide one an excuse to set aside a few days to think and read about a particular set of topics, whereas, otherwise, one might be going about one’s normal daily activities.

I am currently leaning in favor of attending, especially if I can convince my employer to pay my way–I just don’t want to come back and have to tell them it was a waste. Any bets on whether they’ll pay for a five day excursion to Vancouver, with two months’ notice? 🙂

Details on the promising new avian flu vaccine

Posted in Health at 4:02 pm by mj

There’s a great explanation of the new H5N1 vaccine from the University of Pittsburgh. While most reports have been slim on details, this is an excellent article explaining how the vaccine was produced, how it differs from traditional flu vaccine production, and what the obstacles are to making it effective in humans.

After reading this and several other articles, I’ve added Effect Measure to my reading list. Yeah, it’s left-wing, but there are a ton of excellent posts over there. This post on the vaccine was apparently written within 24 hours of reading the original paper, and demonstrates a more thorough understanding of the topic than many articles you’ll read that take weeks to compose. I wish I could be that productive and concise.

Link via Silviu Dochia’s Avian Flu blog.

January 25, 2006

I’ve hit the big time!

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:04 pm by mj

Six spam comments in six posts in a single session! Woohoo! I’m a star, baby!

In case you were wondering, yes, I am alive. Really. I have neglected my blog way too much since the holidays. I will get back on track this weekend.