Believe it or not, these are icicles in front of my desk. This was a weekend of ice (yuk!). It started out great with a high-wind blizzard on Friday and cold, powdery snow. I generally leave a pack of hard snow on the driveway if there is thick ice underneath. We also had big icicles like the ones shown above. On Saturday night we had a surge in temperature and hard rain. The icicles disappeared , but not the driveway ice --- on Monday morning that had two or more  inches of ice smooth as glass. I fell on the ice and still have a sore back, but it's slowly getting better.

Below are some other wintery pictures including some that I shot in the holiday season when I had blue and white sparkling lights on our front windows.


A cardiologist friend from the Boston area visited with us this icy weekend. He  told me something that surprised me somewhat. There are over 300 million truly obese people in the world and probably over a billion more who are seriously overweight. In Massachusetts, and maybe elsewhere, a general practitioner or a cardiologist, who treats a patient that meets the definition of being seriously overweight, must insist that the patient must next visit a licensed dietician.

The part of our conversation that surprised me is that the doctor who orders, according to law, that a patient be treated by a dietician is also required by law to track that patient to make certain the patient follows orders to be treaded by a dietician. It seems to me that legislators have decided to force physicians to be private investigators tracking patients. This has greatly increased the time and money that already-overworked physicians must spend above and beyond directly treating their patients.

Currently most of the general practitioners around Boston are booked at or sometimes beyond capacity. Since Mass. legislated, when Romney was still Governor, universal health insurance, many patients cannot find a general practitioner even though they have medical insurance. The shortage is sometimes worse for specialists like cardiologists. Most cardiologists work on referrals who send in patient data like height and weight. Given a choice between an under-weight referral and an overweight referral, who would you choose ceteris paribus given the added hassle putting on a Sam Spade hat and tracking a fatty to a dietician? My cardiologist-friend who's about to retire doesn't screen new patients along those lines, but I suspect there are some general practitioners and specialists who avoid taking on obese patients.

This is an example of where the law is dysfunctional for the intended purpose. An obese patient is denied treatment because he/she refused to follow orders to be treated by a dietician. Or the obese patient cannot initially become a patient. I have an obese remote acquaintance in Maine who just died at age 48 from a massive heart attack. She'd not seen a physician in 8.5 years even though she and her husband had health insurance. If money was not the issue, it may well be that she either could not get a general practitioner or did not want any physician who would insist that she be treated by a dietician.

Obese people are becoming the lepers of modern society. If it's so important for them to be treated for obesity, will we soon require evidence of treatment for education, employment, and medical treatment for other disorders. How far can society go in legislating personal behavior? Will obese people soon be required to wear dog tags around their necks that reveal the names and phone numbers of their dieticians? Perhaps they will wear these dog tags just so they can get a doctor!

What else can we withhold from obese people who refuse to be treated by dieticians? Education? Shoes? Drivers licenses? Hotel rooms? Airline seats?


Tidbits on February 19, 2008
Bob Jensen

For earlier editions of Tidbits go to
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CPA Examination ---

On May 14, 2006 I retired from Trinity University after a long and wonderful career as an accounting professor in four universities. I was generously granted "Emeritus" status by the Trustees of Trinity University. My wife and I now live in a cottage in the White Mountains of New Hampshire ---

Bob Jensen's blogs and various threads on many topics ---
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Global Incident Map ---

Set up free conference calls at
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Free Online Tutorials in Multiple Disciplines ---

Google Maps Street View ---

World Clock ---

Tips on computer and networking security ---

If you want to help our badly injured troops, please check out
Valour-IT: Voice-Activated Laptops for Our Injured Troops  ---

Online Video, Slide Shows, and Audio
In the past I've provided links to various types of music and video available free on the Web. 
I created a page that summarizes those various links ---

Beautiful Video of the Fifty States ---

Hezbollah Terror Chief Killed (NYT video after a brief advertisement) ---

Two alleged burglars got more than what they bargained for when they attacked an 80-year-old man in Texas. The former firefighter --and lifelong John Wayne fan -- sent one of the suspects to the hospital ---
(This is a pretty good site in general for news video clips.)

How to Sleep Well During Storms ---

Not the Sharpest Tacks in the Box (What were they thinking?) ---

Hoover Institution: Uncommon Knowledge (Multimedia) ---

Spanish Lessons for Your Nanny (tongue in cheek humor) ---

Funny Video Links from Yahoo --- Click Here

Video review of Barack Obama's proposed economic policies (Steve Moore, senior economics writer for The Wall Street Journal) ---


Boogie (Eight to the Bar) ---

My Favorite Boogie Woogie
For Boogie Woogie Piano Dancers (GREAT!)
More free Boogie Woogie by Sylvan Zingg (on piano) ---
Other Boogie Woogie Sites (including free lesson sites) ---

More Boogie (Eight to the Bar) 

Jerry Lee Lewis (The Killer) ---

Rock and Roll ---

Bill Haley and the Comets ---

Teresa Brewer ---

Buddy Holly and The Crickets ---
(Remember "Happiness is Lubbock in my rear view mirror.")
In 1955 Bob Jensen wore horn-rimmed glasses that had no prescription (clear glass).
Buddy Holly's plane crashed in Mason City  about 50 miles from my hometown in Algona, Iowa.


Free music downloads ---

21st Century Music ---

The Library of Congress has rescued New Orleans public radio station WWOZ's extensive live broadcast collection. The collection, which was almost lost in Hurricane Katrina, includes great recordings by many New Orleans musicians, including Deacon John, Beau Jocque, and the late James Booker. It's a rare historical testament to the city's roots music.
Carrie Kahn, NPR, February 12, 2008 ---

Pandora for finding (usually not free) songs and recording artists ---

Nat King Cole: 'The Singer' ---
He was also an excellent jazz pianist
Also see

Bob Jensen listens to music free online (and no commercials) --- 

Photographs and Art

More animal pictures (slide show) --- Click Here

MSNBC's Best Photos of @007 ---

Albino Moose ---
Since the albino gene is probably lethal in moose as it is in horses, chances are that these are simply white moose caused by pink skin pigmentation instead of dark brown pigmentation. White horses have pink skin beneath the horse hair.

Dirt Roads (Paul Harvey) ---

Images of the Antislavery Movement in Massachusetts ---

Smithsonian to Open Butterfly Exhibit ---

New Dallas Cowboy Stadium ---
The two steel arches supporting the stadium are over one-quarter of a mile long and will be the largest single-span arches in the world.

Mount Rushmore America ---
Also see
Black Hills ---

Audubon: Ivory-billed woodpecker ---

Team Sugar Photos (some nudes) ---

Filip Kulisev Photographs ---

Eric Zenner Paintings (3-D effects) ---

Prince Charles, known for his periodic criticism of modern architecture, has found a campus target. The BBC reported that he called Ivor Crewe Lecture Hall, on the Colchester campus of the University of Essex, a structure that “looks like a dustbin.” University officials noted that the building has been hailed by those who appreciate modern architecture. More photos and details about the building may be found here.
Inside Higher Ed, February 18, 2008 ---

Random Links for Boring Days ---


Online Books, Poems, References, and Other Literature
In the past I've provided links to various types electronic literature available free on the Web. 
I created a page that summarizes those various links ---

Office Slang ---

From Carnegie-Mellon University
Interactive Fiction Page ---
(Somewhat dated but still interesting.)

American Life in Poetry ---

The Literary Encyclopedia ---
Note the link to new articles.

Documents dating back to the early 19th-century about historically black colleges can be viewed online thanks to a new digital collection available to the public. The site includes campus charters, student yearbooks, campus architectural drawings, and photographs from 10 historically black institutions: Alabama State University, Atlanta University Center, Bennett College for Women, Fisk University, Grambling State University, Hampton University, Southern University, Tennessee State University, Tuskegee University, and Virginia State University.
Andrea L. Foster, Chronicle of Higher Education, February 13, 2008 --- Click Here

Great Quotations (forwarded by James Don Edwards) ---

Art and Literature in Siena, 1250-1600 (Multimedia)---

Rose and Chess: Discover Two Reunited Medieval Manuscripts ---

Audio version of The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe ---

I have lost some friends by death ... others through the sheer inability to cross the street.
Virginia Woolf, The Waves (1931) ---

Each has his past shut in him like the leaves of a book known to him by his heart, and his friends can only read the title.
Virginia Woolf  ---
Jensen Comment
And for the most part, he himself cannot remember the details.

The beauty of the world has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder.
Virginia Woolf  ---

Women have served all these centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of a man at twice its natural size.
Virginia Woolf  ---
Jensen Comment
Of course this is a figurative thought by Virginia Woolf. I once read (can't remember where) that it's the literal truth when a giant draft horse sees a man approaching. If true, this is one of the ways man can intimidate a horse Actually this phenomenon may be due to a blind spot directly in front of any horse. As a man approaches the horse sees the man increasing in size and may assume that the man keeps increasing in size when the horse cannot actually see the man standing directly in front of its head. Of course this is only speculation on my part. I have the same problem when Erika says I can't see something I'm looking for when it's right in front of my nose. I think things appear bigger to her than to me.

Al Qaeda's latest display of terror has made its way onto the Internet (video), showing horrifying images of what appear to be prisoners in Iraq being doused with an inflammatory liquid and then burned alive.
Fox News, February 15, 2008 ---,2933,330810,00.html

The head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards said on Monday Israel would soon be destroyed by the "hands of Hezbollah", the Lebanese group which is backed by the Islamic Republic, Fars News Agency reported. Guards commander-in-chief Mohammad Ali Jafari made the comment in a letter to Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah to offer condolences after the killing of senior guerrilla commander Imad Moughniyah in a car bomb last week in Damascus. "In the near future, we will witness the destruction of the cancerous existence of Israel by the powerful and competent hands of the Hezbollah combatants," Jafari was quoted as saying. Iran does not recognize Israel and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has often predicted the imminent demise of the Jewish state, drawing criticism from the West which fears Iran wants to make nuclear bombs that could threaten the region.
"Hezbollah will soon destroy Israel, says Iran Guards," Reuters, February 18, 2008 ---
Jensen Comment
 Mohammad Ali Jafari should be more careful --- he might get what he asks for!

Wikipedia, the free online encyclopaedia, is refusing to remove medieval artistic depictions of the Prophet Muhammad, despite being flooded with complaints from Muslims demanding the images be deleted. More than 180,000 worldwide have joined an online protest claiming the images.... are offensive to Islam, which prohibits any representation of Muhammad. But the defiant editors of the encyclopaedia insist they will not bow to pressure and say anyone objecting to the controversial images can simply adjust their computers so they do not have to look at them. [snip]Muslims and argue the least Wikipedia can do is blur or blank out the faces. Such has been the adverse reaction, Wikipedia has been forced to set up a separate page on its site explaining why it refuses to bow to pressure and has also had to set up measures to block people from 'editing' the pages themselves. In a robust statement on the site, its editors state: 'Wikipedia recognises that there are cultural traditions among some Muslim groups that prohibit depictions of Muhammad and other prophets and that some Muslims are offended when those traditions are violated. However, the prohibitions are not universal among Muslim communities, particularly with the Shia who, while prohibiting the images, are less strict about it. 'Since Wikipedia is an encyclopedia with the goal of representing all topics from a neutral point of view, Wikipedia is not censored for the benefit of any particular group. 'So long as they are relevant to the article and do not violate any of Wikipedia's existing policies, nor the law of the US state of Florida where Wikipedia's servers are hosted, no content or images will be removed because people find them objectionable or offensive.'
Caroline Davies, The Guardian, February 17, 2008 --- 

On the other hand, she observes, "it is striking that, for much of the 20th century, most major writers, philosophers, and artists have paid relatively little attention to Socrates. Few of those who have cared about the death of Socrates in the 20th century have had the intellectual and cultural stature of Erasmus, Voltaire, or even Foucault. The dying Socrates seems to have fallen away from his central place in western culture." She asks, "Has our culture changed so much, since the time of ancient Athens or even since the 18th century, that Socrates' death no longer matters to us?" If that's so, it's unlikely Wilson's muted enthusiasm will reverse the wind. When she contemplates Socrates' death, she finds herself "torn between enormous admiration and an equally overwhelming sense of rage." Sure, Wilson advises, she reveres Socrates as "a man who spoke truth to power" and "left no traditional idea unchallenged." But she contends his "own beliefs are never called into serious question," and he appears to have been "both arrogant and dishonest," "supercilious and enraging." Moreover, "it is hard to respect a man who neglected his wife and sons in order to spend his time drinking and chatting with his friends about the definitions of common words."
Carlin Romano, "Socrates in the 21st Century," Chronicle of Higher Education, February 15, 2008 ---

Picture the life of a young Urdu-speaking woman brought to Yorkshire from Pakistan to marry a man—quite possibly a close cousin—whom she has never met. He takes her dowry, beats her, and abuses the children he forces her to bear. She is not allowed to leave the house unless in the company of a male relative and unless she is submissively covered from head to toe. Suppose that she is able to contact one of the few support groups that now exist for the many women in Britain who share her plight. What she ought to be able to say is, "I need the police, and I need the law to be enforced." But what she will often be told is, "Your problem is better handled within the community." And those words, almost a death sentence, have now been endorsed and underwritten—and even advocated—by the country's official spiritual authority. You might argue that I am describing an extreme case (though, alas, now not an uncommon one), but it is the principle of equality before the law that really counts.
Christopher Hitchens, "To Hell With the Archbishop of Canterbury:  Rowan Williams' dangerous claptrap about "plural jurisdiction," Slate, February 11, 2008 ---

"I'm turning away about 60% to 75% of the clients who come to me for a refi," said Bob Moulton, president of Americana Mortgage Group on Long Island, N.Y. "Some don't have enough equity and others have bad credit scores." During the boom years, lenders approved most anyone with a pulse. Not so today. Mortgage brokers recognize this and are now being very selective about the clients whose applications they choose to submit to the likes of Wells Fargo (WFC, Fortune 500) or Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500).
Les Christie, CNN Money, February 8, 2008 ---

The proposed rebate of about $600 per man, woman and child is transferred to people based upon some characteristic other than work effort. In fact, if you've worked too hard and earned too much, you won't get a rebate. So in some instances the rebate actually requires the absence of work effort. Now it's true that some of the people receiving the rebate may also be workers, but working is not the reason each person receives the rebate; it's simply because he or she is a human being. Thus rebate recipients are given command over real resources for doing something other than working.In this world of ours, those resources going to the rebate recipients don't come from the Tooth Fairy. They have to come from workers and producers. If the resources come from workers and producers who thereby receive less for their work than they otherwise would have received, won't they in turn spend less? Of course they'll spend less, and the people who now supply them with less will also spend less, and so on down the line.
Arthur Laffer, "That 'Stimulus' Nonsense," The Wall Street Journal, February 13, 2008; Page A27 ---

If all this (two recent scientific studies) doesn't lead to a great awakening among policy makers, we don't know what will. The studies are even more damning because they examine the issue with the theories of the global warmists and conclude that biofuels actually exacerbate the problem they're supposed to solve. On top of that, they're creating new environmental troubles like deforestation and a reduction in biodiversity that may be worse over time than whatever the importance of observed climate change. In either case, or both, they're damaging the planet more than they're helping it. Ethanol and biofuel proponents always point out that current options are little more than placeholders, temporary fixes until the technology advances and "second-generation" options emerge: "It's just around the corner," we're told. "No, really, this time it's real." That's why the Congressional energy bill put a cap on corn ethanol and, with lavish subsidies and tax credits, essentially legislated the creation of a speculative new biofuel industry from scratch. One hitch is that the technology never seems to turn that corner. Another is that, as the blockbuster Science studies imply, the unintended consequences of such divination matter more than the self-congratulation that "doing something" provides.
"Greenhouse Affect," The Wall Street Journal, February 13, 2008; Page A26 ---

There is a 50 percent chance Lake Mead, a key source of water for millions of people in the southwestern United States, will be dry by 2021 if climate changes as expected and future water usage is not curtailed, according to a pair of researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego. Without Lake Mead and neighboring Lake Powell, the Colorado River system has no buffer to sustain the population of the Southwest through an unusually dry year, or worse, a sustained drought. In such an event, water deliveries would become highly unstable and variable, said research marine physicist Tim Barnett and climate scientist David Pierce. Barnett and Pierce concluded that human demand, natural forces like evaporation, and human-induced climate change are creating a net deficit of nearly 1 million acre-feet of water per year from the Colorado River system that includes Lake Mead and Lake Powell. This amount of water can supply roughly 8 million people. Their analysis of Federal Bureau of Reclamation records of past water demand and calculations of scheduled water allocations and climate conditions indicate that the system could run dry even if mitigation measures now being proposed are implemented. The paper, “When will Lake Mead go dry?,” has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed journal Water Resources Research, published by the American Geophysical Union (AGU).
PhysOrg, February 12, 2008 ---

So what? Why should it matter to us today to whom the sonnets were written, or how earlier readerships received them? What’s wrong with this romantic Shakespeare? Well, he’s not really that romantic. And just as overly sentimental ideas of the sonnets reduce their range of emotion and psychological complexity — one of the reasons that readers really do value them — so do understandings of the sonnets that ignore their historical meanings too easily make Shakespeare’s sonnets a mirror of our own limited experience of the world. Good poetry should stretch minds, not be molded to them. So read Shakespeare’s sonnets, and read about them. But for Valentine’s day, give chocolates.
Robert Matz, "Valentine’s Day Truths About Shakespeare," Inside Higher Ed, February 15, 2008 ---

Unwavering U.S. determination to fund, train, and arm more than 50,000 Palestinian “soldiers” raises serious doubts about the repeated promises President George W. Bush has made to secure Israel’s safety and bring peace to the Middle East. If the Bush administration gets its way, $4.2 billion to $7 billion in American taxpayer dollars over the next five years may fund training and purchase arms for tens of thousands of seasoned Palestinian terrorists. Many are veteran murderers, released from Israeli prisons in “confidence building” measures repeatedly demanded by the U.S.
Rachel Ehrenfeld and Alyssa A. Lappen, "Rewarding Palestinian Terrorism," Pajamas Media, February 16, 2008 ---

That seems to be the axiom in New York these days, where Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer (D), struggling to close a $4.4 billion budget gap, has proposed making drug dealers pay tax on their stashes of illegal drugs. The new tax would apply to cocaine, heroin and marijuana, and could be paid with pre-bought "tax stamps" affixed to the bags of dope. Some critics in the legislature are asking what the governor has been smoking.
Edward Morrissey, "Spitzer's Crack-Pot Tax," Captains Quarters, February 17, 2008 ---
Jensen Comment
Critics who laugh at this must give a second thought to the fact that Spitzer was New York's Attorney General before becoming Governor. Surely Spitzer does not think rats in the drug business are going to come forward about their stash before they get caught. But after they are caught it may be possible to hit them with huge bills for back taxes and penalties and even jail time for not paying taxes. Do you remember what sent Al Capone to prison?

A "twin" of our solar system has been discovered by an international team of scientists that includes astronomers from Tel Aviv University. Its report on the revelation appeared in Thursday's issue of the prestigious Science journal. The newly discovered planets and the sun around which they revolve are very different from the 10 other solar systems discovered during the past decade. However, the new solar system is significantly similar to our solar system, especially in regard to the planets‚ relative weights and distances between them. Most of the 10 other systems were discovered by measuring the "wobbly paths" of their suns, said Dr. Shai Caspi of TAU. These variations are caused by the the gravitational pull of the planets. This is the technique used especially for discovering heavy planets like Jupiter, but in pathways close to their sun. But the new planets were discovered a different way - by the ability of mass to serve as a type of "lens" that magnifies far-off light sources, which is a phenomenon predicted by Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. This technique makes it possible to discover small planets, if they exist, that are located at large distances from the mother star. By following the light from the solar system around the clock over a period of two weeks using a network of powerful telescopes, researchers can reach their conclusions about the existence of a star orbited by a Jupiter or Saturn-like planet. While the newly discovered solar system resembles ours, it is much smaller. The mother star has half the mass of ours, and the Jupiter and Saturn-like planets have half the masses of ours, while the planets' distance from their sun is half that of our planets' from our sun. The Israeli data, provided by TAU's Wise Observatory at Mitzpe Ramon, were vital to the discovery. "Without our observations, which were carried out when it was daylight where the other observatories are located, it would have been impossible to conclude that the Saturn-like planet existed," said Prof. Dan Maoz, another member of the Israeli team.
Judy Siegel-Itzkovich, "Israel helps find new solar system," Jerusalem Post, February 17, 2008 ---
Jensen Comment
I wonder how long it will take nations of the U.S. to commence to fight over land in this "New World" frontier?

Just when it appeared House Republicans had turned the corner on earmark reform, party leaders did the unthinkable. They picked pork-loving Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) for the vacant seat on the Appropriations Committee, bypassing conservatives such as Reps. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.). In doing so, the Republicans missed a golden opportunity to show they were committed to real reform.Bonner may talk a good game when it comes to earmark reform. His record, however, is abysmal. The three-term Republican scored just 2% on the Club for Growth’s 2007 RePORK Card, meaning he voted for just one of the 50 anti-pork amendments offered by conservatives. That’s the same score as liberal Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Bill Jefferson (D-La.) and Jim Moran (D-Va.). Musgrave, meanwhile, notched a score of 94%. And Flake not only supported all 50 amendments, he introduced many of them.
Robert Bluey, "Backtracking on Earmark Reform," Townhall, February 17, 2008 --- Click Here

A leading U.S. doctors group has endorsed using marijuana for medical purposes, urging the U.S. government to roll back a prohibition on using it to treat patients and supporting studies into its medical applications. The American College of Physicians, the second-largest doctors group in the United States, issued a policy statement on medical marijuana this week after it was approved by its governing body, the group said on Friday. The group cited evidence that marijuana is valuable in treating severe weight loss associated with AIDS, and nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy in cancer patients.
Will Dunham, Reuters, January 24, 2008 ---

A 63-year-old Massachusetts federal bankruptcy judge has resigned a week after he was arrested for driving under the influence in New Hampshire while reportedly wearing a woman’s dress, heels and stockings, and carrying a purse. Judge Robert Somma, a Newbury resident, pleaded no contest to the drunken driving charge in New Hampshire and agreed to have his license suspended for 12 months, the Manchester Union Leader reported.
O’Ryan Johnson, Boston Herald, February 16, 2008 --- Click Here
Jensen Comment
It's important to note that this happened in New Hampshire. If it happened in Texas he probably would not have resigned since Texas is notoriously lenient on DWI suspects who have enough money to pay off the lawyers. In California it would be a mark of honor to cross dress. "Scandals" are often dependent upon where they happen.  By the way, his picture reveals that he's no raving beauty --- not by a long shot. I wonder if the Judge danced with Rodney Carrington earlier in the evening ---

Please Pray for the Unknown Professor's Son

One of my favorite finance blogs is written by the Unknown Professor (one time he did share his name and affiliation with me). This young professor has a young son who is now getting hard-dose cancer treatments following surgery. I appeal to all of you to pray for the Unknown Son.

You can read more about this in the February 17, 2008 blog entry at

The Washington Post Finds Distance Education More Profitable Than the Newspaper Business
The Washington Post Company continues to diversify not in journalism but in for-profit education. Last year, the company reported that it took in more revenue from its Kaplan businesses than the newspaper business. In filings last week with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Post reported that it had purchased an 8.1 percent stake in Corinthian Colleges Inc.
Inside Higher Ed, February 18, 2008 ---

Bob Jensen's threads on distance education and training alternatives are at

Why isn't this the best time to buy a new Blu-Ray DVD player/recorder even though it will be the new standard for movies on DVD disks?

Richard Campbell forwarded this sobering link ---

Blu-ray set to be DVD standard after Toshiba white flag:  Alas most of us will need new DVD players (probably new computers)
Sony's Blu-ray looks set to become the standard for high-definition DVDs after Toshiba signalled Monday that it may give up in a long-running format battle, to the relief of investors. Toshiba Corp. is reviewing its HD DVD business and "a complete withdrawal is one of the options it is considering," an industry source told AFP on condition of anonymity. Blu-ray and HD DVD -- which are incompatible -- can provide cinematic-quality images and multimedia features but the players come at a much steeper price than current-generation DVDs. The demise of HD DVD could spur sales of next-generation DVD players among consumers, who have been reluctant to gamble on one of the formats, analysts said, although Blu-ray was already far ahead in sales, particularly in Japan. Blu-ray can store more data than HD DVD but was initially seen as more expensive to make. Nonetheless, a growing number of Hollywood studios and retailers have decided to go exclusively with Blu-ray. US giant Wal-Mart gave a decisive boost to Blu-ray last week when it said it would stop selling HD DVDs.
PhysOrg, February 18, 2008 ---

 Jensen Comment
 The question for you is whether you television sets and computers can play Blu-ray disks?
 For example, Dell and HP strongly supports the move to Blu-ray, but we have to expect this is partly due to Dell and HP users who will now buy new computers.
 Dell now takes orders for a Blu-ray laptop ---

Neflix enthusiasts like me will have to enable their accounts to get Blue-ray DVD movies ---

February 19, 2008 reply from David Albrecht [albrecht@PROFALBRECHT.COM]

I'm pretty ignorant here.

(1)  Will Blue Ray work with any HD TV?
(2)  When standard DVDs are no longer produced, will the Blu-Ray DVDs work on the regular DVD player on my laptop?
(3)  If the answer to (2) is no, then will it work to pop out my old DVD drive from my computer and purchase/install a new Blu-Ray drive, or will the lack of HD on my computer screen (machine is 15 months old) destine it to the junk heap.
(4)  Is all the bother really worth it?  I mean, I watch DVD movies on my laptop, and I'm not seeing HD at all.  Everything seems fine.  In fact, all of this is better than anything I ever had before.
(5)  I pick up my DVD movies at the Walmart $5 bargain bin, and at pawn shops.  How long until I can start picking up blu-ray DVDs for the same prices at the same places?
(6)  Will getting HD improve my BMI?

David Albrecht
LD in Ohio

February 19, 2008 reply from Bob Jensen

What pretty well sealed the deal for Sony’s Blu-Ray was when Wal-Mart adopted this standard worldwide for movie disks and players.

I don’t have all the answers to your questions David, but the two technologies are not compatible. On our computers most of us have CD drives, older-style DVD drives, or in on occasion Toshiba’s standard HD-DVD drives. The CD disks and older-style DVD data disks are cheap and will probably be around for quite a while for data file recording and reading. The HD-DVD recorders and players will go the way of Betamax when the VCR standard beat out Betamax. Original DVD drives would not play HD-DVD or Blu-Ray movie disks. However, HD-DVD players could playback older-style DVD disks that you may have recorded on your computer or purchased from vendors of data and software.

HD-DVD drives will not play Blu-Ray DVD disks that will become the new equivalent of the VCR back when we rented movies on VCR cartridges and recorded television programs on VCR recorders. Older style DVD drives that are on many computers will not play Blu-Ray or HD-DVD disks.

You can get answers from the following links:

Technical ---

The bottom line is that we will have to buy Blu-Ray drives for our television sets rather quickly. Folks who purchased archives of Betamax and HD-DVD movies will be out of luck just like those of us with boxes full of 8-Track music cartridges are out of luck. You will soon have to purchase a Blu-Ray player to watch DVD movies. You will also be buying Blu-Ray recorders to record television shows for your personal use.

Colleges will have to spend a lot of money putting Blu-Ray technology in electronic classrooms and labs. Even more costly will be getting Blu-Ray technology on faculty and staff computers. This will take time. It will be possible to replace the DVD drives without replacing the computers, but my guess is that many colleges will wait until faculty/staff members are due for new computer upgrades. In the meantime you will be able to buy blank CD and older-style DVD disks for some time at places like Staples. HD-DVD blanks will disappear much more quickly.

 Bob Jensen


February 19, 2008 reply from Mac Wright [Mac.Wright@VU.EDU.AU]

So today Toshiba has thrown in the towel. But what is next? from the time Sony threw in the Betamax towel until Video CDs was (I estimate) about 15 years. then DVDs arrived, then High speed internet, now Blue ray, In the end it is up to the market (probably on the Asian Continent and Indian Sub Continent) to decide how they will take their dose of movies, and with what new technology it will be delivered (and there are very few Wal -Mart stores out there!).

Kind regards,

Mac Wright
Co-ordinator Aviation Program
Victoria University
Melbourne Australia

February 19, 2008 reply from Bob Jensen

Hi Mac,

Interestingly, Barry Rice and I had a somewhat similar debate when Barry first started the AECM. Barry argued that the CD had no future because other portable hard drives were better ways of storing data. He was correct only to a point especially with respect to overwriting files (no CD-RW at the time of this debate). Portable hard drive cartridges in those days cost about $100 and stored roughly the same amount of data as a CD. Some types of data were difficult to burn on CDs in those days. Also remember that there was no flash memory in those days such that hard drive cartridges relied on mechanical readers prone to breakdowns.

You’ve got to remember that in mid-1980s it was much more difficult to download data on the Internet and hard drive capacity on a PC was less than 1 Gb such that storage was nowhere near as cheap as it is today.

My counterpoint to Barry was that we could buy a blank CD for about $3 in those days as compared to comparable storage costing $100 on portable hard drives such as those Iomega cartridges that were subject to high failure rates relative to the less expensive CD disks. Certainly my old CD stored files are still around today whereas all my Omega cartridges and drives are kaput.

In any case, I think the Blu-Ray DVD disks will be around for at least a decade (no computing hardware technology lasts forever). Reasons include:

Blank DVD disks are still very cheap ways to store lots of data over a long time and less prone to failure than any other alternatives.

Bob Jensen

February 19, 2008 message from David Fordham, James Madison University [fordhadr@JMU.EDU]

Is it really progress?

My grad classes have some interesting takes on this stuff. Few of them know what an 8-track cartridge is, and I doubt anyone on this list remembers magnetic wire recorders (before the invention of tape) which my dad used when I was a little kid.

So what is *real* progress?

I make students question the use of the word "standard". This allows some very good discussion in graduate systems technology classes.

For instance, I take issue with the statement "the market will decide". See which is a part of my grad class from two years ago.

To quote from a paragraph late in that essay, "While the media pundits call this a "standard", it really isn't a consumer-level standard at all, but rather a "producer-level" standard. Calling the Blu-Ray-vs-HDDVD a standards war is like calling the "Boeing vs. Airbus" a standards war. What the consumer wants is irrelevant. A few large companies will decide which format they will use, because to the consumer, both deliver what is essentially the same product. Once several of the producers have selected one format over the other (due more to politics, payoffs, kickbacks, and the good-ol-boy system than any valid reason), the consumers will simply end up taking what they are given. Think about it. When was the last time an airline asked you which plane you prefer, an Airbus or a Boeing?

You were buying the end-product: the trip to Orlando, the video image, or whatever. As long as the end-product was delivered, the minor conveniences along the way were irrelevant. As that essay points out, failure to deliver convenience to consumers doesn't really matter anymore any way, a la big banks, phone companies, cellular providers, credit card companies, etc. In our inter-related technology, the need for compatibility overrides the market's wishes in terms of ALL the petty stuff. And since the large producers make the big decisions, ... well, you get the idea. The market isn't what decides.

That essay is the springboard for some interesting and thought-provoking discussions on accounting system design. Yes, accounting systems design. Think big.

David Fordham
James Madison University

The only way to increase the intellectual property value of your identity is to give it away.
"Face Value," by Barbara Fister, Inside Higher Ed, February 18, 2008 --- 

Here’s the interesting paradox: The only way to increase the intellectual property value of your identity is to give it away. That’s the only way it can be shared, linked to and recognized by others. Trading a little personal information for a public platform, whether for personal expression or self-promotion (or both), seems a fair exchange.

Does this sound eerily familiar? It should.

As scholars, our ideas gain value as we make them public, and we have been historically myopic about the consequences of trading the rights to our ideas for access to distribution channels. This unexamined practice put us all over a barrel when publishers required the academy to ransom those ideas back through prohibitively expensive journal subscriptions for libraries. The personal advancement attached to making our ideas public only added to the problem; more publications translated into higher prestige. There was just too much stuff for libraries to buy back, and not enough budget. The Open Access movement is on track to significantly change the “terms of service” when it comes to scholarly communication. Though the battle’s far from over, we’ve made real progress.

Continued in article

Bob Jensen's threads on open sharing are at

"eBayer invites buyers to rip him off:  Sony laptop punted to scammers worldwide," by Lester Haines, The Register, February 11, 2008 ---

Here's an eBay auction with a difference: an apparently innocent-looking punt of a Sony VAIO VGN-NR21J/S laptop:

There then follows the usual item description, but what makes this particular sale a little more interesting is the vendor's candid purchasing advice for users of the world's favourite tat bazaar:



Paypal is currently ebays preferred method of stealing high value electrical items off sellers. There are a number of various ways you can use to steal this laptop using paypal.

1: A Fake “Item Not Received” (I.N.R) Claim – All you simply have to do here is purchase my item using an unverified paypal account. Then when you receive the laptop, simply claim that you didn’t receive it at your registered (credit card) and paypal will give you all your money back !

2: A Fake “Item Significantly Not As Described” (S.N.A.D) This is a great way to steal items off sellers. Simply start a dispute after you get the laptop making up some lie about the item being damaged etc – You could use Photoshop to make up fake pictures of damage. Paypal will ask you to send the item back to me, but don’t bother – they never enforce that on buyers and after a short wait you will get all your money back and you will still have the laptop.

3: A fake “Unauthorised Use” Claim – This is a super way of stealing items on ebay and is widely used. Simply claim that someone hijacked your account (paypal & ebay) and that you didn’t order the laptop. Then in conjunction with a fake I.N.R claim you can simply steal the laptop and of course, get your money back.

4: A Stolen Credit card – Of course, ebay make no real attempt to vet any of its buyers, so hey, just register a new ebay account using fake ID information and link it to a paypal account set up with a stolen credit card – and hey presto – A free laptop.


Although officially banned on ebay, fake western union payments are the preferred way for Nigerian Scammers to steal high value electrical items. Simply email me (using pigeon English) telling me that you would like to buy this item using Western Union – Tell me that you would be happy to pay over the odds for the laptop and that it is a present for your mother in law. Then send me a fake western union payment notification and I send you the laptop – Perfect. This method of stealing items off sellers is very widely used on ebay and of course, as ebay do not properly verify buyers its easy to do. Make sure you use Pigeon English as I am really really stupid and it’s bound to fool me.


If you are a traditionalist like me you may prefer a good old mugging. Simply offer to meet me on some dodgy housing estate somewhere and have a load of you mates hiding behind a hedge with a few iron bars. Again, offer to pay me over the odds as there is nothing better than using a sellers greed to bait them into a scam. I would be grateful if you could avoid killing me as this will cause bad publicity for ebay which would be terrible.


In the unlikely event that you are actually a genuine buyer then you really should be shopping in a real shop and not this scammers paradise. However this laptop does really exist and is really for sale. You can email me or skype me with suggestions on how we may actually transact this item to both our satisfaction – with both our safety in mind. Don’t even think of buying it using paypal. I’ve only listed it as accepted because ebay run a protection racket that means I have to accept it. If you do pay by paypal I will simply refund your payment and give you a nice new shiny NEG.


Of course you will no doubt be aware that from May onwards you will be able to blackmail sellers into giving you free P&P / discounts etc. You will be able to give them neg feedback and they will not be able to give you any.. I regret to advise you that because this rule does not come in until May this option of scamming me is not open to you yet.


I would grateful if some sad failed traffic warden could report this auction for two reasons

1: Ebay will see this listing and will hopefully close my account, saving me a 180 days wait to do it myself.

2: You will save me listing fees, making this a free advert.

Happy Bidding!

Continued in article

Bob Jensen's threads on eBay scams and what you can do to protect yourself are at

Harvard University’s arts and sciences faculty will vote today on a proposal in which the university would publish all the finished papers of its scholars in a free online repository unless they opted out of the arrangement, The New York Times reported. In an op-ed in today’s Harvard Crimson, Robert Darnton, director of the university library, said that the new arrangement would be “collective but not coercive” and that “[i]n place of a closed, privileged, and costly system, it will help open up the world of learning to everyone who wants to learn.”
Inside Higher Ed, February 12, 2008 ---

"At Harvard, a Proposal to Publish Free on Web," by Patricia Cohen, The New York Times, February 12, 2008 --- Click Here

Publish or perish has long been the burden of every aspiring university professor. But the question the Harvard faculty will decide on Tuesday is whether to publish ­ on the Web, at least ­ free.

Faculty members are scheduled to vote on a measure that would permit Harvard to distribute their scholarship online, instead of signing exclusive agreements with scholarly journals that often have tiny readerships and high subscription costs.

Although the outcome of Tuesday’s vote would apply only to Harvard’s arts and sciences faculty, the impact, given the university’s prestige, could be significant for the open-access movement, which seeks to make scientific and scholarly research available to as many people as possible at no cost.

“In place of a closed, privileged and costly system, it will help open up the world of learning to everyone who wants to learn,” said Robert Darnton, director of the university library. “It will be a first step toward freeing scholarship from the stranglehold of commercial publishers by making it freely available on our own university repository.”

Under the proposal Harvard would deposit finished papers in an open-access repository run by the library that would instantly make them available on the Internet. Authors would still retain their copyright and could publish anywhere they pleased ­ including at a high-priced journal, if the journal would have them.

What distinguishes this plan from current practice, said Stuart Shieber, a professor of computer science who is sponsoring the faculty motion, is that it would create an “opt-out” system: an article would be included unless the author specifically requested it not be. Mr. Shieber was the chairman of a committee set up by Harvard’s provost to investigate scholarly publishing; this proposal grew out of one of the recommendations, he said.

Continued in article at:

"Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences Adopts New Open Access Requirement," The University of Illinois Issues in Scholarly Communications Blog, February 13, 2008 ---

Yesterday Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences unanimously approved a motion that would allow Harvard to place the final peer-reviewed version of all journal articles into an open access repository (an institutional repository similar to UIUC's IDEALS -

This kind of requirement is becoming more common in Europe and at a few institutions in the UK and Australia, but this is close to the first - if not the first - such requirement in the United States. Alongside the new NIH requirement for deposit into PubMed Central, this may indicate the beginnings of a real sea change.

The full text of the Harvard motion is below:

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences of Harvard University is committed to disseminating the fruits of its research and scholarship as widely as possible. In keeping with that commitment, the Faculty adopts the following policy: Each Faculty member grants to the President and Fellows of Harvard College permission to make available his or her scholarly articles and to exercise the copyright in those articles. In legal terms, the permission granted by each Faculty member is a nonexclusive, irrevocable, paid-up, worldwide license to exercise any and all rights under copyright relating to each of his or her scholarly articles, in any medium, and to authorize others to do the same, provided that the articles are not sold for a profit. The policy will apply to all scholarly articles written while the person is a member of the Faculty except for any articles completed before the adoption of this policy and any articles for which the Faculty member entered into an incompatible licensing or assignment agreement before the adoption of this policy. The Dean or the Dean's designate will waive application of the policy for a particular article upon written request by a Faculty member explaining the need. To assist the University in distributing the articles, each Faculty member will provide an electronic copy of the final version of the article at no charge to the appropriate representative of the Provost's Office in an appropriate format (such as PDF) specified by the Provost's Office. The Provost's Office may make the article available to the public in an open-access repository. The Office of the Dean will be responsible for interpreting this policy, resolving disputes concerning its interpretation and application, and recommending changes to the Faculty from time to time. The policy will be reviewed after three years and a report presented to the Faculty.


  • ______________________________________

    Here's an older tidbit appearing at

    "Peer Review in Peril?" by Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Ed, July 26, 2007 ---

    “What I worry about,” Ellison said, “is you get to a point where you can’t make a reputation for yourself by publishing in the peer-reviewed journals. That locks in today’s elite.”

    In “Is Peer Review in Decline?,” Ellison argues that the peer-reviewed journals, traditionally relevant for their quality control and dissemination functions, have become less important for well-known economists in the Internet age. When papers can be posted on personal home pages, conference Web sites and online databases, an article written by a professor who has already established a reputation can immediately “be read by thousands.”

    Professors in the top five economics departments, as ranked by the National Research Council — Harvard University, the University of Chicago, MIT, Stanford and Princeton Universities – published 86.4 papers in 13 high-profile journals in economics subfields from 1990-93, compared to 71.2 from 2000-3. That 18 percent drop happened even as many journals were “substantially” increasing the number of papers they published, Ellison writes, with the share of papers contributed by scholars in top departments dropping from 4 percent in the early 1990s to 2.7 percent in 2000-3. Meanwhile, Ellison said, scholars in the top departments seem to be writing as much as they ever were, and citations of Harvard scholars are increasing even as their number of peer-reviewed publications has declined.

    “The well-known people are going to cut back on their publishing in top journals because they don’t need the peer review anymore. They can get attention to their work without it,” Ellison said. The “slowdown” in the revisions process for peer-reviewed journals also seems to be a contributing factor to the decline in peer-reviewed publications by top department members with less to gain from the effort: It typically takes about three years for a paper to be published after its submission.

    Ellison did not find much evidence to support the alternative theory that the trend could be a result of high-profile scholars being “crowded out of the top journals by other researchers,” though he acknowledges that may be a factor. A 2006 study by scholars from the Universities of Chicago and Michigan, “Are Elite Universities Losing Their Competitive Edge,” found that elite universities have lost their edge when it comes to research productivity — in part because of changes brought about by the advent of the Internet.

    “There’s a question of whether it’s a trend on publication or a trend on the professors. I hate to say that, but if they don’t publish and others do, maybe it says something,” said Ehud Kalai, a professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and editor of Games and Economic Behavior, one of the 13 field journals analyzed by Ellison.

    “The other thing that’s a bit puzzling in this whole theory, it seems to me, is that with this explosion of information on the Internet, peer review has become even more needed because there are so many more papers,” Kalai said, adding that the number of economics journals has exploded in recent years. “They’re just multiplying like mad. If there is a trend not to publish, why are so many starting them?”

    Ellison does find that even as they’ve shifted their energies away from the 13 specialized journals examined, academics in the top departments are still publishing as much as ever in five of the most prestigious general interest economics journals: the American Economic Review, Econometrica, Journal of Political Economy, Quarterly Journal of Economics and the Review of Economic Studies. But, beyond those publications, Ellison said, “it’s fairly high up that we see people pulling out.” He added that there are hundreds of academic economics journals.

    Ellison’s working paper is available on his Web site or online through the National Bureau of Economic Research with a subscription or $5 payment. And no, it has not been peer reviewed.

  • Bob Jensen's Related Threads ---

    Census Data for Your Zip Code ---

    Bob Jensen's threads on economic and related statistical data ---

    David Pogue is one of my technology heroes ---
    Vidya Ananthanarayanan called my attention to his recent keynote speech at the
    Pennsylvania Educational Technology Expo and Conference
    "Five ways to improve technology in education," by Todd Ritter, DownloadSquad, February 12, 2008 --- Click Here

    Stay informed
    Use Really Simple Syndication (RSS) to keep up with technology news and events. To use RSS you'll need an RSS reader like
    Google Reader, NetNewsWire (Mac), or FeedDemon (Windows) to read RSS feeds. An RSS feed is basically a dynamic link that updates your RSS reader when new content is posted to a website (click the "RSS Feeds" button under our search bar to see examples).

    You can also subscribe to technology newsletters, and talk to students about websites and web services they use on their own. A majority of teachers do not know what
    Stickam or Meebo are, yet these sites are used daily by many of their students.

    Focus on the learning process, not the end product
    When little Susie uses iMovie to create a video of her class field trip to Cape Canaveral, she should be evaluated on what she's learned through the creative process, not how many wipes and sound effects she used in her final movie file. The quality and relativity of the still pictures she took by learning how to use a digital camera, or video footage from a well-designed storyboard are better barometers of a successful project.

    Work with IT professionals who understand education
    I work on the IT side of education daily, and I know it's important to unfetter technology at a school to stimulate the learning process. IT staff must be willing to bend on certain security measures and trust students with equipment so that they can be creative and not boxed in. We let students take laptops home to work on approved projects, which ultimately motivates their peers to do the same. We also have a dedicated instructional adviser who helps teachers integrate technology into their lesson plans. This often helps ease the teachers' modification of antiquated lessons.

    Become a user
    Make a
    Facebook account so you can understand the allure of social-networking sites. Add some information about yourself. Locate former school pals. Join some groups. This will let you see sites like Faceook from a student's perspective.

    To collaborate and share course materials, you can create a
    Moodle site for your class, or start a class blog. Students benefit more from teachers who collaborate and less from teachers who force-feed lectures. Also, it's much easier to teach about something that you've actually used in depth. It's time to break the stigma of "those that can, do; those that can't, teach."

    Don't be afraid of change
    Some teachers think that upgrading from Office 2003 to 2007 is using the latest technology. However, a Word document is still words and formatting meant for someone to read. Instead of being satisfied with word processing in a new version of software, why not let students create a school "newspaper" on something like
    Joomla. The news could be updated in seconds, it could be interactive (comments, updates, etc.), and it could be include user-submitted media. Google Earth could be used to give an elementary student global perspective by flying in from a world view down to the roof of his home.

    Jensen Comment
    There are other things that I would recommend. I think joining listserv of other educators is important, especially educators in your discipline ---

    It is exceedingly important to know what knowledge is being freely shared by professors and universities ---
    I hope that you will one day share your own knowledge with us.

    I think becoming a user of important technologies is important, especially video recording using Camtasia ---
    Also see the 50Camtasia.ppt file at

    Following the tools of technology in education in general is important ---

    Bob Jensen's threads on education technology are at

    "'Big Think' Video Site Not Attracting Much Feedback?" by Jeffrey Young, Chronicle of Higher Education, February 8, 2008 ---

    Big Think made a splash when it hit the Web last month. After all, the site boasts hundreds of video clips of intellectual celebrities talking about pressing issues, has the former president of Harvard as one of its investors, and got plenty of glowing press coverage (including a mention in The Chronicle, of course).

    But when T. Mills Kelly, an associate professor of history and art history at George Mason University, took a close look at the site, he says he felt like he was visiting a ghost town. “There’s virtually no discussion going on — hardly anybody has participated in ways that were anticipated,” he says in the latest issue of the Digital Campus podcast, where he is a host, along with two colleagues.

    Continued in article

    Jensen Comment
    The main problems are newness and broadness. New things take a while to catch on even in this era of electronic communication. Broadness in education often does not trump narrowness in terms of interest. Faculty seek out shared items, including videos, that they can use in their courses and in their research. These are often narrow topics found in specialized blogs rather than those education in general issues. At American Accounting Association annual meetings its amazing how many faculty skip the big plenary sessions but seek out those few narrowly-focused concurrent sessions that are more relevant to their teaching and research.

    I maintain an enormous Website that in the August 14, 1998 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education was written up as a Helper Site. My Website evolved to where it has broad-based documents (e.g., Controversies in Higher Education) versus narrow and technical documents (e.g., FAS 133 and IAS 39 documents). Over the years I would have to say, based upon a high volume of feedback from users of Web crawlers like Google, less than 10% of the feedback concerns broad issues. The overwhelming feedback is about some angel dangling on the head of a pin.

    Bob Jensen's threads on open sharing and academic videos are at

    February 11, 2008 reply from Henry Collier []

    Jensen Wrote
    I maintain an enormous Website that in the August 14, 1998 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education was written up as a Helper Site. My Website evolved to where it has broad-based documents (e.g., Controversies in Higher Education) versus narrow and technical documents (e.g., FAS 133 and IAS 39 documents). Over the years I would have to say, based upon a high volume of feedback from users of Web crawlers like Google, less than 10% of the feedback concerns broad issues. The overwhelming feedback is about some angel dangling on the head of a pin.

    The highlighted portion of your timely post is of interest to me … particularly from a teaching standpoint. At this late stage of my life and career, I find our collective lack of any knowledge of the ‘history of how we got where we are’ appalling to the nth degree. It does appear to me though, that Chua Wai Fong and Norman B Macintosh do have some clues about where we were, how we got where we are, and perhaps some guidance (normative) of where we might want to go.

    In the post graduate program at Michigan State in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s I don’t recall anyone ever mentioning the contributions made by Hatfield or Scott or MacNeil or any of the ‘giants’ of history … only passing reference was ever given to Paton, Littleton, Mattesich, or Grady, let alone accountants and researchers from outside the continental boundries of the USA, from a far more recent time. Our group was, perhaps, one of the first that set the trend into what ‘accounting’ has become today … a branch of finance and maths/statistics. Admittedly, I was not the best student in the group. Nevertheless, very few of the potential graduates ever actually finished the program. Most ‘tracked’ out into something more ‘user friendly’ or left with what was then a ‘terminal’ qualification of MBA/CPA. Some of us tried to learn a bit more about the processes of education and how to measure academic achievement … all this “education stuff” now seems to be coming back to haunt us with the AACSB assessment of learning requirements.

    I couldn’t agree with you more about the conclusion that our research has evolved into angel / pin methods without any methodology or basis on explaining or examining what it is that accounting is supposed to be or do.

    To make matters worse, we seldom talk or write about ‘education’ in our journals. The abysmal state of today’s accounting education dooms us for the future.

    Thanks for the AECM …

    February 12, 2008 reply from Bob Jensen

    Hi Henry,

    I took the liberty of forwarding your reply to the AECM and posting it to my forthcoming edition of Tidbits on February 19.

    Thank you for reminding me about Norm Macintosh from Queens University in Canada,. I knew Norm years ago and lost track of him. One time we went out to dinner together in Vancouver (as I dimly recall?). He spotted a car parked on the street with a Quebec license plate. Norm walked over and kicked the tires. He is a passionate man.

    I ran a search to update myself about Norm and stumbled on one of his recent papers”
    “Accounting - Truth, Lies, or 'Bullshit?': A Philosophical Investigation,” SSRN, August 13, 2007 ---

    This paper offers a commentary on Lee's [2006] critique from Searle's [1995, 1998] philosophical, social constructivist perspective of the FASB's recent principles versus rules initiative. Lee argues that standard setters ignore [or are ignorant of] the philosophical issues underpinning this issue and that until they come to grips with this the initiative, their efforts will remain only a “cunning plan” to legitimate the profession's standard setting activities to the public. This paper, contra Lee, speculates that philosophically the issue goes well beyond a brute reality versus a socially constructed reality. The paper draws on several strands of linguistically oriented philosophy, including Frankfurt's [2005] insightful book, On Bullshit, to analyze the accountant's agency in preparing financial statements. The paper concludes that if economic income and capital do not exist as brute realties independently of their representation, then accountants can be justified in ignoring [or being indifferent towards] the truth or falseness of these accounts. If there is no “bottom line”, no “final truth”, existing prior to the accounting for them, then philosophically it makes no sense to accuse the accountant of violating the representational faithfulness conceptual framework axiom. The paper gestures towards the bigger issue of how the global capital market relies on such ungrounded accounting reports.

    As usual Henry, I agree with your reflections on history and theory. Thank you for your replies to my wandering thoughts.

    Bob Jensen

    "Should We Teach Broadly or Deeply?" the Unknown Professor Who Maintains the Financial Rounds Blog, February 13, 2008 ---

    I just came across a talk by Robert Frank, author of "The Economic Naturalist." He talked about his book, and about the problem of why so many students don't retain key concepts from their classes. For example, on the first day of my security analysis class I typically ask students the question "What should determine the value of a security." The answer, of course, is "The amount, timing, and riskiness of the cash flows from owning the security." Fewer than 1/4 of the class knows the answer without prompting.

    Frank's explanation for why students retain so little is that we simply try pack too much into our classes. This makes our syllabus seem impressive, but shortchanges the students. As an example, we might cover 14 chapters (and 15-20 concepts) in a 14 week semester, rather than covering half that many and really drilling the concepts in.

    "But Unknown Professor", you say, "We HAVE to cover A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, and in the introductory finance class or we're shortchanging the students." The problem with this approach is that a few months after the class is done, they don't remember anything about topics A-M except that they covered them sometime in class. Add they really don;t even have all that great a grasp of critical concepts such as the Time Value of Money.

    In contrast, if you covered half as many topics, you could spend 3-4 weeks on Time Value rather than the usual week or two. This way, you could make them do about a hundred or so problems, and they'd really have it locked down.

    Continued in article

    Jensen Comment
    The problem is that many courses are prerequisites to other courses or certification examinations. Course content may also be specified by a curriculum committee of some type. To this you may have to add the problem of explaining to students why your course covers only 10%-20% on the textbook covered much more comprehensively by many other colleges. My point is that course coverage is not often the sole domain of the course instructor.

    To this we also must address the purpose of a course. Is it to inspire a student to learn more or is it mastery of content. When we teach broadly we are often trying to inspire students to pursue topics later in life. When we teach deeply we've opted for mastery of content. Many educators think inspiration trumps mastery, but only to a point. There is little value added in society from highly inspired know-nothings. This is a problem many high schools are having these days when graduating aspiring students headed for college who can only marginally read, write poorly, and at best have a sixth grade grasp of mathematics. Perhaps there teachers along the way were too much into inspiration and too little into perspiration.

    Differences between "popular teacher" versus "master teacher" versus "mastery learning" versus "master educator" ---

    February 14, 2008 reply from David Albrecht [albrecht@PROFALBRECHT.COM]

    A well-known psychologist, Milt Hakel, has said with respect to collegiate teaching and learning, "One should be able to do what one knows."

    Since hearing this, I've made it my motto. I try to design my courses so that when leaving the course, each student should be able to do something with the knowledge they picked up during my course. This has led me to omitting content unless I can figure out how to incorporate it into a student's skill set for life.

    This works to attract some students to my courses, and to repel others. Not everyone is in a position to want to learn from a particular course, some just want to check it off the required course list. Thankfully there are other profs here that suit their needs. I notice that as time goes on, students enrolled in my courses seem more and more willing to buy into what I try to get them to accomplish. But I might be fooling myself here, attributing thoughts to them they do not possess.

    Does my approach work to inspire students? Who knows?

    David Albrecht

    February 14, 2008 reply from Peters, James M [jpeters@NMHU.EDU]

    I want to add a couple of observations in favor of the "deep" approach. First, a couple of years ago I ran across a study of high school math curriculum world wide. The study found that in Singapore, who at the time had the highest scoring math students on standardize test in the world, they taught 1/3 the topics in high school math classes as in the US, which scored barely above 3rd world countries and at the bottom of the industrialized free world. Second, in 1991, I ran a conference for AOS at Carnegie Mellon University and had a nice chat with Robin Hogarth over dinner one night. His basic approach to teaching was to identify three, or at most four, key topics per semester and build his classes around them. Finally, Herb Simon was a mentor and acquaintance of mine from my days at CMU and he always used to remind me that teaching is sampling; that we cannot cover everything in one class. Clearly Herb and Robin have some expertise in cognitive psychology.

    Bob's point about external constraints also is valid. However, there also are a lot of classes for which their aren't prerequisites in accounting and where faculty do have a choice, particularly if they accept that they cannot cover everything about that topic that is on the CPA exam. For example, I teach auditing, systems, and financial statement analysis. None of these require a full blown background in intermediate accounting and only a basic background in financial accounting. Also, none of these courses feeds into any other course, at least in our curriculum. Thus, I am free to focus on depth and true understanding. Again, as long as I am up-front with students that they will have to do a lot of studying on their own if they want to pass the CPA exam sections on these topics I feel free to limit the topics that I cover. However, I believe I do a much better job of getting across the core intuitions behind these topics. To do so I have had to stop using published text books in all three areas and write my own. Frankly, published texts give me a headache and confuse students, particularly in auditing where it appears all authors do is paraphrase the SASs and ignore the 'sole of auditing.'

    What I have found, and I appreciate this comment is self-serving, is that I have a lot of former students coming back to me years after graduation and telling me they still use what I taught them every day and they have kept my texts on their shelves. One student told me that she keeps her old copy of my financial statement analysis text on the shelf right next to her copy of Shakespeare. I warned you this was a self-serving comment. :)

    These are tough tradeoffs, but we as academics should be taking more of an aggressive lead to provide education that sticks and pushing back on pressures to flood young minds to the point that nothing sticks.

    Jim Peters

    February 14, 2008 reply from Richard C. Sansing [Richard.C.Sansing@TUCK.DARTMOUTH.EDU]

    This discussion reminds me of an essay that George Stigler wrote on the teaching of economics. He argued that "the watered-down encyclopedia that constitutes the present course in beginning college economics does not teach the student how to think about economic questions" and argued that the introductory course should feature "an enormous concentration on price theory--the allocation of resources and the pricing of goods and services."

    The essay, "Elementary Economic Education," can be found in "The Intellectual and the Marketplace," a collection of Stigler's essays.

    Richard Sansing

    February 20, 2008 reply from Henry Collier []

    It seems to me that much of the controversy of ‘deep v surface’ learning is embedded in the learning styles research.  I would suggest a Google search using the terms (deep, surface, learning) for further information.  There are many citations and listings there.  Among these is this one that appealed to my prejudices and biases on the subject.  . Another paper/post that I believe is relevant is

    Again, I keep returning to the Bloom and Gagne research and publications regarding learning objectives and how individuals grow and learn.  I also am strongly biased by the Intellectual and Ethical Development in the College Years, by William Graves Perry, Jr.  Although all these publications are relatively old, Bloom from 1950, Gagne from the late 1960’s and 1970’s and Perry’s reflections from 1970, I do still believe that these papers, books and thoughts shed some light on the issues. 

    Perry’s book was one of those, a-ha!!!, experience for me … Maybe he was writing what I wanted to read.  Nevertheless, I always thought that I could see where he got his ideas.  I could always believed that I could see the ‘stages’ in the students in my classrooms.  More important to me, was that I could see the stages in myself. 

    It was pretty clear to me, particularly in the undergraduate programs, that at least a significant number of students were very ‘dual’ when viewed with the Perry taxonomy. They were looking for the ‘right’ answer and expected YOU to give it to them.  Their ‘dual’ world is right  v wrong.  Whether these students were capable of deep learning is, in my biased and prejudiced way of viewing the world, highly unlikely.  One very discriminatory way of viewing the problem is to compare it to trying to teach the slam dunk to a 4’ tall person.  That person doesn’t have the capacity to dunk the basketball. 

    All that said, I am also convinced that it is difficult if not impossible to get students to synthesize, analyze or evaluate (a la Bloom) without having already achieved knowledge, comprehension and application. 

    How we, as teachers, can move people up the learning ladder is less obvious, at least to me it is more difficult to show how what we do as teachers moves the student forward.  I believe that reflection and working together with others helps those who want to learn.  Those who are motivated by need for achievement are, IMO, more likely to advance than those who are motivated by fear of failure.  But that’s a different can of worms and may only add to the problem rather than present any rational solution …

    I suspect that much of our difficulty in teaching and learning in our discipline rests on our being embedded within the ‘empiricist’ models of research and learning.  Recent dialogue on this site about the state of what passes for ‘accounting education’ confirms this belief, at least to me. I am sure that others will vigorously disagree; particularly those with vested interest and careers embedded in the empiricist models see their world with very different lenses.   

    As I age, I become more and more convinced that the ‘ontology’ of accounting and accounting education is not a uni-dimensional ‘thing’.  I suspect that we need to decide what is worth knowing before we retreat to methods of teaching …

    Regards from the land down under.


    See, I'm not the only one!
    University of Texas Professor Praises Wikipedia
    Scholars often take swipes at Wikipedia, claiming that it dumbs down education and encourages intellectual laziness. Some professors have even banned their students from using it for research. But in an
    article this week in Science Progress, a scholar at the University of Texas at Dallas argues that such bans are irresponsible. David Parry, an assistant professor of emerging media and communications at the university, writes that students need to become familiar with new and non-static forms of communication. He encourages his students to read Wikipedia’s “history” and “discussion” pages, saying they explain how articles were produced. And he says the online encyclopedia’s entry on global warming does a good job of explaining both the controversy and the science surrounding the issue.“Like it or not, the networked digital archive changes our basis of knowledge,” Mr. Parry writes “and training people for the future is about training them for this shift."

    Andrea L. Foster, Chronicle of Higher Education, February 14, 2008 --- Click Here

    Google, Yahoo, Wikipedia, Open Encyclopedia, and YouTube as Knowledge Bases ---

    "Madame made millions in 'magic cheese con'," by Henry Samuel, London Telegraph, February 17, 2008 ---

    A French woman is facing embezzlement charges for ruining thousands of South American peasants by persuading them to produce "magic cheese", which she insisted would be sold for a massive profit to the French cosmetics industry.

    Gilbertte Van Erpe, 67, was arrested last week in Nice after nearly two years on the run.

    Police allege she made between £11 million and £13 million by persuading 5,000 Chileans and 25,000 Peruvians to invest their savings into what they believed was miraculous "cheese paste".

    "Madame Gil", as she is known, talked her unwitting victims into parting with £260 to buy a cheese-making kit, promising to pay them double that amount once she had collected and sold the product to top French cosmetics companies.

    The cheese paste, she said, was highly sought after to make soaps and beauty products.

    In reality, the kit cost £3 to make, and contained a litre of milk, bottles, moulds and a secret fermenting agent unique to Madame Gil's company, Fermex.

    In 2005, the French woman and her two local associates, who had opened 20 offices in Chile, scoured the countryside looking for recruits.

    The charming, jewellery-bedecked businesswoman apparently proved convincing.

    The first few investors received profits promptly, encouraging thousands more to jump on the bandwagon.

    But by the time they realised their dreams were turning sour, Madame Gil had already left for Paris.

    Continued in article

    Beating the NCAA to the Punch

    Florida State U. Cuts Scholarships and Places Itself on Probation
    Florida State University has placed itself on probation for two years and will reduce the number of scholarships it offers in several sports as a result of an academic-fraud scandal involving some 60 athletes, The Orlando Sentinel reported today.The scandal swept up athletes in various sports, most notably the football team, which had to play in December’s Music City Bowl without two dozen players implicated in the violations.The university has been conducting an internal investigation of the misconduct since last year. In addition to the probation, it will impose penalties that include personnel changes at several top positions in the athletics department and the firing of the “learning specialist” and tutor accused of helping dozens of athletes cheat, the Sentinel reported.
    Libby Sander, Chronicle of Higher Education, February 14, 2008 --- Click Here

    20 Florida State University Football Players Likely to Be Suspended in Cheating Scandal

    "Source: Multiple suspensions likely for Music City Bowl, plus 3 games in 2008," by Mark Schlabach,, December 18, 2007 ---

    As many as 20 Florida State football players will be suspended from playing against Kentucky in the Dec. 31 Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl, as well as the first three games of the 2008 season, for their roles in an alleged cheating scandal involving an Internet-based course, a source with knowledge of the situation said Tuesday morning.

    Florida State officials are expected to announce the results of the investigation this week. The source said university officials determined Monday night the exact number of football players who will be suspended. Federal privacy laws prohibit the school from releasing names.

    . . .

    The investigation already has led to the resignations of two academic assistance employees who worked with FSU student-athletes. The school revealed in September that as many as 23 student-athletes were given answers before taking tests over the Internet.

    Further investigations revealed additional student-athletes were involved in the cheating, according to the source.

    "If the players fight the suspensions, they'll risk losing all of their eligibility," a source with knowledge of the situation said Tuesday morning.

    The school's investigation found that a tutor gave students answers while they were taking tests and filled in answers on quizzes and typed papers for students.

    Florida State president T.K. Wetherell, a former Seminoles football player, reported the initial findings in a letter to the NCAA in September.

    Wetherell ordered an investigation by the university's Office of Audit Services in May after receiving information an athletics department tutor had directed one athlete to take an online quiz for another athlete and then provided the answers.

    The tutor implicated in the audit told investigators he had been providing students with answers for the test since the fall of 2006, according to a university report.

    Wisconsin was the last football program to suspend as many as 20 players. Days before the start of the 2000 regular season, 26 Badgers were given three- or one-game suspensions for getting unadvertised price breaks at a shoe store.

    Florida State announced in October that athletics director Dave Hart Jr. will resign Dec. 31. Wetherell appointed State Rep. William "Bill" Proctor interim athletics director. Proctor also is a former FSU football player.

    The school announced last week that longtime football coach Bobby Bowden had agreed to a one-year contract extension through the 2008 season that will pay him at least $1.98 million. Bowden, who is in his 32nd season at the school, is major college football's all-time winningest coach with 373 career victories.

    Florida State also designated offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher as Bowden's eventual successor. Fisher's new contract calls for him to replace Bowden by the end of the 2010 season. If Fisher isn't named FSU's new coach by then, the school's booster organization would owe him $2.5 million. Under the terms of the new contract, Fisher would owe Seminoles boosters $2.5 million if he leaves the school before the end of the 2010 season.

    The Seminoles struggled for the fourth consecutive season in 2007, finishing 7-5 overall, 4-4 in ACC play. It is the fourth consecutive season they failed to win 10 games, after winning at least 10 games in 14 consecutive seasons, from 1987 to 2000.

    Continued in article

    Jensen Comment
    It ended up being 25 players who were suspended ---
    Florida State lost to Kentucky in the Music Bowl (35-28)

    Bob Jensen's threads on cheating are at

    Bob Jensen's threads on collegiate athletics controversies are at

    "Physics Explains Why University Rankings Won't Change:  Constructal theory of flows governs social phenomena like rankings," by Kendall Morgan, Duke University News and Communications, February 12, 2008 --- 

    A Duke University researcher says that his physics theory, which has been applied to everything from global climate to traffic patterns, can also explain another trend: why university rankings tend not to change very much from year to year.

    Like branching river channels across the earth's surface, universities are part of a relatively rigid network that is predictable based on "constructal theory," which describes the shapes of flows in nature, argues Adrian Bejan, J. A. Jones Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering.

    According to the theory, the hierarchy of university rankings -- in which few schools consistently land at the top and many more contend for lesser spots -- persists because that structure supports the easiest flow of ideas, Bejan reported in the recently published issue of the International Journal of Design & Nature and Ecodynamics, referenced as Vol. 2, No. 4, (2007) 319-327.

    "This hierarchy is here to stay," Bejan said in an interview. "The schools at the top serve everybody well because they serve the flow of ideas. We're all connected."

    That structure also allows talent to flow and arise naturally in the "right places," he said.

    First conceived by Bejan and published in 1996, the constructal law arises from the natural tendency of flow systems to evolve over time into configurations that make their movements faster and easier.

    More recently, Bejan and Gilbert Merkx, also of Duke, co-edited a book entitled "Constructal Theory of Social Dynamics," including a collection of essays applying the tree-like patterns of constructal theory to business, crowd dynamics, legal systems and written languages, among other human endeavors <>.

    In extending the theory to university rankings, the first step was to define the flow system of the university, Bejan said, "what territory it covers, and what currents flow through it."

    He suspected that a school's rank might reflect the flow of the ideas its faculty members generate. In support of that notion, he found that the most highly ranked engineering schools are also those with the most people on the Institute of Scientific Information's most-cited listing, meaning that their work is more often referenced by other researchers.

    He also found that university rankings follow a hierarchical pattern that mirrors the distribution of city sizes. The more highly ranked a university or larger a city, the fewer competitors it has. The opposite is also true: the lower the rank, the more numerous are the candidates that compete for that position.

    "The similarity is further evidence that the distribution of sources of knowledge is intimately tied to geography," he said, and to the flow of information across the globe.

    So, is there a way to change rankings? In Bejan's view there is, but he says it takes "cataclysmic" events that encourage the free flow of ideas to alter such deeply ingrained channels. Such shifts have occurred in the past, he noted. For instance, a "brain drain" from post-war Europe after World War II led to significant changes in the academic landscape, catapulting American universities onto the world stage. Similar shifts were also seen after the launching of Sputnik, with the enormous jump in funding for basic science, he added.

    "The university is the professors, their disciples, and the disciples' disciples," Bejan wrote. "It is the ideas that flow through these human links and into the books of our evolving science and culture. In time, this global vasculature evolves like a river basin during the rainy season: all the streams swell, but their hierarchy remains the same."

    For more on constructal theory, see

    Jensen Comment
    The study seems to imply that top-ranked universities are more or less locked into place with only slight variations. This is true with respect to one set of rankings such as the popular U.S. News rankings. However, rankings do vary across different media sources (e.g., U.S. News versus The Wall Street Journal) such that Bejan's theory is more longitudinal than cross sectional.

    Bob Jensen's threads on college ranking controversies are at

    "Can Liberal Arts Colleges Be Saved?" by Victor E. Ferrall Jr., Inside Higher Ed, February 11, 2008 ---

    The 95 “true” liberal arts colleges, the pure practitioners of liberal education, are in trouble. The number of persons who view themselves as liberally educated is declining. The number who wish they were liberally educated is declining even faster and the number who think they know what a liberal education is, or even that they would like to know, is shrinking fastest of all. In recent years, liberal education’s slide has been masked to some extent by demographics, the upsurge in applicants for all higher education resulting from the flood of college age children produced by the baby boomers. The flood is coming to an end.

    A career-directed education has become the goal of many, if not most, young people eager to get ahead. A purely materialistic motivation for getting an education is now the norm, not the exception. There is economic pressure on liberal arts colleges to add career-directed courses and programs to attract students. The most prestigious colleges are to some extent relieved from this pressure by their wealth and the fact that so many of their graduates know they will go on to graduate and professional schools and therefore feel less need to collect a commercial credential at the undergraduate level; to learn what Elia Kazan’s immigrant father called something “use-eh-full.”

    Even the richest colleges, however, are not immune from pressure to expand their curricula in vocational directions in order to attract students who are more interested in getting a good job and making money than in Aristotle, Descartes and Rousseau, and to make sure top students are not lured away by so-called honors colleges at state universities.

    Can liberal arts colleges be saved or are they, to take Paul Neely’s apt analogy, becoming like high end passenger trains that went out of business because no matter how well they performed, consumers had come to prefer traveling by plane and automobile? Unless the case liberal arts colleges make for liberal education and for themselves is reformed, their curricula restored, and the across the board teaching excellence of their faculties secured, the answer in all probability is that those that survive will evolve into purveyors of career-directed, not liberal, education.

    The Case as It Is Made Now

    Much of the Case currently made for liberal education is internally inconsistent, cynically cobbled together to pander to the preconceptions of high school students and their parents, unsupported and/or simply not credible. As the steady decline in the demand for liberal education shows, the Case is not persuasive to those who are not pre-sold, i.e. those who need to be persuaded. Consider the following Case elements:

    (1) Even though it won’t get you a job, a liberal education really is useful because it teaches students how to think critically.

    The “critical thinking” mantra is an especially good example of embracing a bad argument solely because it is not laughable on its face. Never mind that no one knows what “critical,” as opposed to plain good, thinking is, or that there is no reason to suppose that one is more likely to become a critical thinker studying English literature than business management, or that there is certainly no reason to suspect that English literature professors are themselves more critical thinkers, or more capable of teaching critical thinking than business management professors. Yet no single assertion is more central to the Case made for liberal arts educations than the claim it will make you a more critical thinker, whatever that is.

    (2) A liberal education best provides oral and written communication skills.

    It is certainly true that a liberal education can provide these skills, but is it more true than for career-based education (or for that matter for the education that comes from being in the workplace)? There is no convincing evidence that the liberally educated are more effective communicators and the fact that the assertion is totally unsupported undercuts the Case as a whole.

    (3) Liberal arts colleges provide an international education.

    We live in a global world and it behooves liberal arts colleges to internationalize their curricula to the maximum extent possible. This does not mean, however, that the following common liberal arts promotion makes sense: “The globe is shrinking, we live in an international world, and our college recognizes these important facts by encouraging all students to spend a semester abroad.”

    Let’s restate this promotion from the point of view of a potential student or parent: “You have told me that spending 26 months at your college over the next four years at a cost of $150,000-$200,000 is a sound investment, but now you say I should spend more than 10 percent of that time somewhere else. Are you trying to cut your costs by giving me less or do you simply believe 26 months is more than I need?”

    Everyone knows that study abroad is a useful and often meaningful, even life-changing, experience. But it makes no sense to say that it should be done at the expense of, rather than in addition to, the 26 months.

    (4) You can study the subjects you like best and are most interested in.

    In an effort to attract students, liberal arts colleges have reduced, and some have even eliminated, course requirements. To the extent they do so they turn over liberal education curriculum design to students who by definition are not yet liberally educated and virtually insure that their education will be less broad, less liberal. Maria Montessori’s maxim “follow the child” may make sense in first grade, but not at a liberal arts college unless, of course, the college’s education philosophy is that students will find liberal education on their own without the college’s guidance, in which case why should they spend $200,000 for 26 months?

    (5) You will get good grades and this will help you get into the graduate or professional school of your choice.

    Colleges don’t explicitly include grade inflation in their pitches to students, but everybody knows it is going on. In fact, grade inflation serves only to cheapen the value of a liberal arts degree and signals to students that a liberal education is simply a part of playing the credential-seeking game, of getting ahead. Further, since everyone is doing it, it doesn’t work very well.

    The Case That Needs to Be Made

    In contrast to these frivolous, disingenuous or wrong claims, the distinctively desirable features of a liberal arts education are de-emphasized or omitted entirely from the Case because it is assumed by admissions staff that they won’t be believed or understood.

    (1) The quality of a liberal education that makes it so effective is that the subject matter studied is not “use-eh-full.”

    It is the very “uselessness” of what liberal arts students study that opens the door to their appreciating knowing for the sake of knowing, that drives home the point that learning is of value in and of itself whether or not it leads directly to a marketable skill. It is possible to realize these things while studying banking or engineering, but it is much more difficult because the student is constantly distracted from the utility of acquiring knowledge by the utility of the knowledge being acquired. The genius of the American system of liberal education is that it eliminates this distraction. Its uselessness separates knowing from need to know, learning from need to learn, desire to understand from need to understand.

    (2) The best teaching is at liberal arts colleges.

    If liberal arts colleges pay attention in hiring, training, supporting and tenuring faculty, there is really no way universities, no matter now highly ranked, can match them in teaching excellence. The mission of universities is diverse and complex, the mission of liberal arts colleges is singular, to provide a liberal education to undergraduates. For the most part, the most famous names in higher education are associated with major universities, not liberal arts colleges, but the severe limits on their worth to university undergraduates are well known: limited exposure to students, huge lecture courses, smaller classes taught by graduate students, and so on. Universities, by their very nature, inescapably focus on specialization, not breadth.

    Universities are aware of their inherent disadvantages in providing undergraduate liberal arts education and in recent years some have made efforts to shore up their performance by creating so-called honors colleges and requiring full professors to teach an undergraduate course now and then. By and large, however, these are Band-Aid efforts. A Nobel laureate once complained to me about being required to teach an undergraduate seminar. “I’m a professor, not a teacher,” he growled.

    (3) Your life will be fuller and richer if you read Aristotle, Descartes and Rousseau.

    There is no doubt that this is a tough sell for college bound, wealth-seeking, “what’s in it for me” philistines and their nervous parents, but enrichment is inescapably central to the value of the liberal arts. Before I came to the academy, I was a lawyer. I know to a certainty that one does not learn how to practice law until one starts doing it. It is not learned in law school. Therefore, a career-directed, pre-law program at the undergraduate level makes no sense, i.e., even though vocational, it is neither useful nor enriching. By far the best, and often the only, way to learn any career skill is by practicing it. Career-directed courses are always of limited value; a liberal education is always enriching. The wise person, therefore, seeks both a liberal education and an on-the-job career education.


    In the early 19th century, subject matter that made up the liberal arts curriculum was fixed: the ancient classics, rhetoric, logic, Greek and Latin. It was what a gentleman, a liberally educated person, had to know. Today, while the curriculum is flexible, taking advantage of the special skills and interests of the faculty, it still defines liberal education at each liberal arts college. It is the responsibility of the faculty — not the students, not the administration — to create a curriculum and the goal in doing so must be to make the best possible use of the faculty to insure that the college’s graduates are securely launched on a lifetime of liberal education.

    Continued in article

    Jensen Comment
    There are some professions that cannot be entered with four-year degrees in "liberal" studies. Accountancy is now a hot career ticket with plentiful openings to graduates of the required five-year (mostly masters of accountancy/tax programs). However, state laws in most cases mandate the equivalent of an undergraduate major in accountancy to sit for the CPA examination. Medical school applicants are going to have a difficult time without having a pre-med undergraduate major that is truly not in the "liberal" undergraduate tradition. Engineers must begin their engineering studies in the first year of college.

    Another factor is cost. If liberal arts graduates have to take longer to obtain graduate degrees because of having to make up undergraduate pre-requisites after obtaining bachelors degrees, they will find the added cost and time quite prohibitive relative to students who obtained those pre-requisites in the first four years of college.

    Open Sharing Threat:  Let's Hope the Blackboard Monopolist Loses This One
    The opening gavel sounded this week in a trial that is being closely watched by college and university technology officials -- a patent dispute between Blackboard Inc., which has become the giant of the education-software sector, and a smaller Canadian company called Desire2Learn. Blackboard had filed for the patent, which covers its e-learning software, in 1999. Critics say the patent is too broad and could be construed as covering many aspects of classroom software. If the patent holds up, they say, colleges that create their own course-management systems could be vulnerable to similar lawsuits. The Chronicle offers coverage of the opening arguments in the case, and the article is free even to non-subscribers.
    Chronicle of Higher Education, February 13, 2008  ---

    Bob Jensen's threads on Blackboard are at

    Bob Jensen's threads on the history of course authoring and management systems are at

    A Serious New Commercial Advance for Online Training and Education

    "Opening Up Online Learning," by Doug Lederman, Inside Higher Ed, October 9, 2006 ---

    This has not exactly been a season of peace, love and harmony on the higher education technology landscape. A patent fight has broken out among major developers of course management systems. Academic publishers and university officials are warring over open access to federally sponsored research. And textbook makers are taking a pounding for — among other things — the ways in which digital enhancements are running up the prices of their products.

    In that context, many may be heartened by the announcement later today at the Educause meeting in Dallas that three dozen academic publishers, providers of learning management software, and others have agreed on a common, open standard that will make it possible to move digital content into and out of widely divergent online education systems without expensive and time consuming reengineering. The agreement by the diverse group of publishers and software companies, who compete intensely with one another, is being heralded as an important breakthrough that could expand the array of digital content available to professors and students and make it easier for colleges to switch among makers of learning systems.

    Of course, that’s only if the new standard, known as the “Common Cartridge,” becomes widely adopted, which is always the question with developments deemed to be potential technological advances.

    Many observers believe this one has promise, especially because so many of the key players have been involved in it. Working through the IMS Global Learning Consortium, leading publishers like Pearson Education and McGraw-Hill Education and course-management system makers such as Blackboard, ANGEL Learning and open-source Sakai have worked to develop the technical specifications for the common cartridge, and all of them have vowed to begin incorporating the new standard into their products by next spring — except Blackboard, which says it will do so eventually, but has not set a timeline for when.

    What exactly is the Common Cartridge? In lay terms, it is a set of specifications and standards, commonly agreed to by an IMS working group, that would allow digitally produced content — supplements to textbooks such as assessments or secondary readings, say, or faculty-produced course add-ons like discussion groups — to “play,” or appear, the same in any course management system, from proprietary ones like Blackboard/WebCT and Desire2Learn to open source systems like Moodle and Sakai.

    “It is essentially a common ‘container,’ so you can import it and load it and have it look similar when you get it inside” your local course system, says Ray Henderson, chief products officer at ANGEL, who helped conceive of the idea when he was president of the digital publishing unit at Pearson.

    The Common Cartridge approach is designed to deal with two major issues: (1) the significant cost and time that publishers now must spend (or others, if the costs are passed along) to produce the material they produce for multiple, differing learning management systems, and (2) the inability to move courses produced in one course platform to another, which makes it difficult for professors to move their courses from one college to another and for campuses to consider switching course management providers.

    The clearest and surest upside of the new standard, most observers agree, is that it could help lower publishers’ production costs and, in turn, allow them to focus their energies on producing more and better content. David O’Connor, senior vice president for product development at Pearson Education’s core technology group, says his company and other major publishers spend “many hundreds of thousands of dollars a year effectively moving content around” so that ancillary material for textbooks can work in multiple course management systems.

    Because Blackboard and Web CT together own in the neighborhood of 75 percent of the course management market, Pearson and other publishers produce virtually all of their materials to work in those proprietary systems. Materials are typically produced on demand for smaller players like ANGEL, Desire2Learn and Sakai, and it is even harder to find usable materials for colleges’ homemade systems. While big publishers such as Pearson and McGraw-Hill have sizable media groups that can, when they choose to, spend what’s necessary to modify digital content for selected textbooks, “small publishers often have to say no,” O’Connor says. As a result, “there are just fewer options for people who aren’t using Blackboard and WebCT, and more hurdles to getting it.”

    Supporters hope that adoption of the common cartridge will allow publishers to spend less time and money adapting one textbook’s digital content for multiple course platforms and more time producing more and better content. “This should have the result of broadening choice in content to institutions,” says Catherine Burdt, an analyst at Eduventures, an education research firm. “Colleges would no longer be limited to the content that’s supported by their LMS platform, but could now go out and choose the best content that aligns with what’s happening in their curriculum.”

    Less clear is how successful the effort will be at improving the portability of course materials from one learning management system to another. If all the major providers introduce “export capability,” there is significant promise, says Michael Feldstein, who writes the blog e-Literate and is assistant director of the State University of New York Learning Network. “This has the potential to be one of the most important standards to come out in a while, particularly for faculty,” says Feldstein, who notes that his comments here represent his own views, not SUNY’s. “It would become much easier for them to take rich course content and course designs and migrate them from one system to another with far less pain.”

    But while easier transferability would obviously benefit the smaller players in the course management market — and ANGEL and Sakai plan to announce today that their systems will soon allow professors to create Common Cartridges for export out of their systems — such a system would only take off if the dominant player in the market, the combined Blackboard/WebCT, eventually does the same. “I’m not sure how excited Blackboard would be about making it easier for faculty to migrate out of their product and into one of their competitors,” says Feldstein.

    Chris Vento, senior vice president of technology and product development at Blackboard, was a leading proponent of the IMS Common Cartridge concept when he was a leading official at WebCT before last year’s merger. In an interview, he acknowledged the question lots of others are asking: “What’s in it for Blackboard? Why wouldn’t you just lock up the format and force everybody to use it?” His answer, he says, is that by helping the entire industry, he says, the project cannot help but benefit its biggest player, too.

    “This will enable publishers to really do the best job of producing their content, making it richer and better for students and faculty, and more lucrative for publishers from the business perspective,” says Vento. “Anything we can do to enable that content to be built, and more of it and better quality, the more lucrative it is eventually for us.”

    Blackboard is fully behind the project, Vento says. Having endorsed the Common Cartridge charter, Blackboard has also committed to incorporating the new standard into its products, and that Blackboard intends to make export of course materials possible out of its platform. “Exactly how that maps to our product roadmap has not been finalized,” he said, “but in the end, we’re all going to have to do this. It’s just a question of when.” There will, he says, “be a lot of pressures to do this.”

    That pressure is likely to be intensified because of the public relations pounding Blackboard has taken among many in the academic technology world because of its attempt to patent technology that many people believe is fundamental to e-learning systems. O’Connor of Pearson says he believes Blackboard could benefit from its involvement in the Common Cartridge movement by being seen “as the dominant player, to be someone supporting openness in the community.” He adds: “There is an opportunity for them to mend some of the damage from the patent issue.”

    Like virtually all technological advances — or would-be ones — Common Cartridge’s success will ultimately rise and fall, says Burdt of Eduventures, on whether Blackboard and others embrace it. “Everything comes down to adoption,” she says. “The challenge with every standard is the adoption model. Some are out the door too early. Some evolve too early and are eclipsed by substitutes. For others, suppliers decide not to support it for various reasons.”

    Those behind the Common Cartridge believe it’s off to a good start with the large number of disparate parties not only involved in creating it, but already committing to incorporate it into their offerings.

    Yet even as they launch this standard, some of them are already looking ahead to the next challenge. While the Common Cartridge, if widely adopted, will allow for easier movement of digital course materials into and out of course management systems, it does not ensure that users will be able to do the same thing with third-party e-learning tools (like subject-specific tutoring modules) that are not part of course management systems, or with the next generation of tools that may emerge down the road. For that, the same parties would have to reach a similar agreement on a standard for “tool interoperability,” which is next on the IMS agenda.

    “This is only one step,” Pearson’s O’Connor says of the Common Cartridge. But it is, he says, an important one.

    Bob Jensen's threads on education technology and distance education are linked at

    Gaps exist for adopting conflicts of interest policies among medical schools
    A minority of U.S. medical schools surveyed have adopted policies on conflicts of interest regarding financial interests held by the institutions, while at least two-thirds have policies applying to financial interests of institutional officials, according to a study in the February 13 issue of JAMA. Institutional academic-industry relationships exist when academic institutions or their senior officials have a financial relationship with or a financial interest in a public or private company. “Institutional conflicts of interest (ICOI) occur when these financial interests affect or reasonably appear to affect institutional processes. These potential conflicts are a matter of concern because they severely compromise the integrity of the institution and the public’s confidence in that integrity,” the authors write. They add that these conflicts may also affect research results. The Association of American Universities (AAU) and the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) have recommended policies regarding ICOI.
    PhysOrg, February 12, 2008 ---

    Bob Jensen's threads on conflicts of interest in academe are at

    How much do state taxes influence population migration to and from states in the U.S.?

    "States of Opportunity," The Wall Street Journal, February 12, 2008; Page A16 ---

    The United Van Lines study finds that the biggest population loser last year was Michigan, where two families moved out of the state for every new family that moved in. Americans are also fleeing New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Illinois. Without interviewing the departed, it's impossible to know the reasons for this outward migration. No doubt overall economic prospects, climate, quality of life and housing prices play a role.

    But one reason to conclude that taxes are also a motivator is because the eight states without an income tax are stealing talent from other states. They are Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wyoming, and each one gained in net domestic migrants. Each one except Florida -- which has sky-high property taxes on new homesteaders -- also ranked in the top 12 of destination states. The nearby table ranks the top five destination and departure states.

    Politicians who think taxes don't matter might want to explain the Dakotas. North Dakota ranked second worst in out-migration last year, while South Dakota ranked in the top 10 as a destination. The two are similar in most regards, with one large difference: North Dakota has an income tax and South Dakota doesn't.

    Here's another example. The only Pacific Coast state to lose migrant population in 2007 was California, which has the highest state income tax in the nation. This is the continuation of a dismal 10-year performance with nearly one and a half million Golden Staters leaving what was once the premier destination state in America.

    Meanwhile, next door, Nevada was second among the states in new families -- and a big percentage of the new arrivals are Californians. Nevada has no income tax. High income Californians can buy a house in Las Vegas for the amount of money they save in three or four years by not paying California income taxes.

    One of the few Northeastern states that gained interstate migrants in 2007 was New Hampshire, the only state in New England without an income tax. For the exception that proves the tax rule, we should also mention Vermont, a high-tax state with a big net influx last year. Maybe these folks like the Ben & Jerry's lifestyle, and we also hope they like the government they're paying for.

    We invite readers to visit the U-Haul Moving Company Web site (, where you can type in a pair of U.S. cities to learn what it costs to move from point A to B. If you want to move, say, from Austin, Texas to Southern California, the moving van will cost you $407 to rent. But if you want to move out of California to Austin, the same van costs $1,831. A move from Dallas to Philadelphia costs $663, versus $2,433 to swap homes in the other direction. The biggest discrepancy we could find was $557 from Nashville, Tennessee to Los Angeles, but the trip costs nearly eight times more, or $4,285, to move to Nashville from L.A.

    Our friends on the left say Americans are willing to pay more taxes to get better government services, but their migration patterns reveal the opposite. Governors would be wise to heed these interstate migration trends as they try to cope with what may be one of the worst years in recent memory for state finances. The people who tend to be the most mobile in American society are the educated and motivated -- in other words, the taxpaying class. Tax them too much, and you'll soon find they aren't there to tax at all.

    Continued in article

    Jensen Comment
    Total state taxations (all taxes including property and sales taxes) do not do a whole lot to explain the winners and losers in terms household shipments. The states with the highest total taxes were Vermont, Maine, New York, Rhode Island, and Ohio in 2007 ---
    New York is the only one of the "losers" on both lists of total taxes versus population migration out of the state. The lowest tax states were Alabama, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wyoming. Alabama seems to be the only winner on both lists.

    It's possible that some taxes are more onerous than others. Some states like North Carolina and Nevada and Alabama are business taxation friendly and thereby grow and attract new workers into the state. Michigan is tough on new business in spite of advertising to the contrary. Particularly discouraging are states with the highest worker compensation taxes. The population losers in terms of household shipments out of state include those big "blue" states of New York, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey. North Dakota is a little blue state. It might seem that being blue politically has something to do with being blue in terms of household migration. Texas is more popular after capping its punitive damages on medical claims.

    Interestingly, none of the winners other than maybe Nevada seem to be popular retirement states like Florida, Texas, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. But then again, many retired people do not even need moving vans since they're scaling down to condos and apartments. California is an enigma, but aside from California most popular retirement states have no/low state income taxes and estate taxes (read that Florida). Of course many retired folks are now very unhappy in Florida with their soaring hurricane taxes.

    You can read more about state taxation components among the 50 states at

    "The Coming Advertisement Revolution," by Esther Dyson, The Wall Street Journal, February 11, 2008; Page A18 --- 

    While the big news in the online world focuses on Google, Yahoo and Microsoft, a more profound revolution is taking place on the online social networks: The discussion about privacy is changing as users take control over their own online data. While they spread their Web presence, these users are not looking for privacy, but for recognition as individuals -- whether by friends or vendors. This will eventually change the whole world of advertising.

    The current online-advertising model will become less effective, even as it gets increasingly sophisticated. New players are emerging to devalue the spaces that the ad giants are currently fighting over. Companies you've never heard of called NebuAd, Project Rialto, Phorm, Frontporch and Adzilla are pitching tools to Internet service providers that will enable them to track users and show them relevant ads. This approach (called behavioral targeting and already in service by ad networks that track users through so-called tracking cookies) undercuts traditional online publishers, who employ content to lure users and to sell adjacent ads. Now, the ISPs can sell advertisers direct access to the same users.

    Take user number 12345, who was searching for cars yesterday, and show him a Porsche ad. It doesn't matter if he's on Yahoo or MySpace today -- he's the same number as yesterday. As an advertiser, would you prefer to reach someone reading a car review featured on Yahoo or someone who visited two car-dealer sites yesterday? His identity is still private: The ISP and behavioral-targeting networks don't know 12345's name and don't care. They just know what they think he wants.

    This market will get more competitive, and users will be barraged by ads to which they will pay less and less attention. Call that public space, a world of billboards and cacophony. Even though the ads will be more "relevant" than ever, users will increasingly tune them out.

    Now consider the new world of social networks. Facebook, unwittingly or on purpose, has been teaching people to manage their own data about themselves. Facebook's launch of the Beacon service -- which informs Facebook of members' activities (i.e., purchases) on other sites -- was a PR fiasco. But it still familiarized millions of users with the notion that they can control information about themselves online -- and determine to whom it is visible.

    What might seem like a horribly complex and tedious task to their elders -- categorizing "friends," managing news feeds, handling intersecting communities of contacts -- feels natural to the Facebook users of today. They want more granularity of control, not less.

    Each user determines who will get into his own garden, whether friends or vendors. Look at Dopplr (where I plan to become an investor), a site for travelers. I list my trips, and see how they intersect with my friends' itineraries. "Oh, we'll both be in London April 4? Let's get together!" Or, "Juan and Alice will be in town next Tuesday. Let's hold a dinner!" You can imagine or visit equivalent approaches for books (a hypothetical Amazon 2.0, new and more personalized), clothes ( and, and even money management.

    So what's the business model? I'll "friend" British Airways, which will say, "We see you're going to Moscow next month. Why not fly through London and we'll give you 10,000 extra miles?" I'm no longer in a bucket of frequent travelers, my privacy protected. I'm an individual with specific travel plans, which I intentionally make visible to preferred vendors. British Airways, of course, will pay Dopplr a handsome sponsorship fee to be eligible to be my "friend" (just as a Nike rep might pay to sponsor a basketball game and be part of the community). Someday NetJets may show up, offering to ferry me and my friends to a conference we'll be attending together.

    I'm far more likely to respond to BA or NetJets within a trusted site, and for a specific offer, than I am to heed their ad while reading a newspaper article on the troubles in Russia. (As for Orbitz, my old standby: After five years, it still doesn't acknowledge my preferred airlines.)

    The new model creates a more trusted environment for reaching high-value, frequent purchasers, whether of airline tickets, electronics, clothes or other items. Where does that leave the less-frequent purchasers? Probably looking to their friends rather than to advertising for advice. I'm an expert on travel; my friends may look to me for hotel choices. When I'm in the mood to buy a book or a new computer, I'll check out what my friends on Facebook are doing.

    This does not mean that traditional online advertising will go away, just that it will become less effective. Value is being created in users' own walled gardens, which they will cultivate for themselves in real estate owned by the social networks. The new value creators are companies -- like Facebook and Dopplr -- that know how to build and support online communities.

    "Solid-State Drives Challenge Hard Drives In Speed, but Not Value," by Walter S. Mossberg, The Wall Street Journal, February 7, 2008; Page B1 ---

    The hard-disk drive is so common that most computer users take it for granted as a natural part of a personal computer. But now, the hard drive has a challenger for its longtime role as the principal storage device in computers. It's called the solid-state drive, or SSD, and it has begun to show up in some big-name notebook computers.

    Hard-disk drives, or HDDs, are mechanical devices. They work by recording data on a spinning magnetic platter or platters. By contrast, solid-state drives are made of chips and have no moving parts. They are close cousins to the so-called flash memory used in digital cameras, cellphones and smaller-capacity music players. They record data to special memory chips that retain their contents even when the device is turned off.

    . . .

    I also tested launching Microsoft Word and Excel, and opening a couple of hefty PDF files on both machines. The SSD versions were faster. But in most cases, the gains were just a few seconds or even fractions of a second.

    All in all, the SSD is a promising improvement over the hard drive, but now is not the time for most users to buy it.

    "No Hands, All Ears For Sound in Cars:  Two Devices Meld Drivers' Tunes, Calls; Static Interferes," by Katherine Boehret, The Wall Street Journal, February 13, 2008; Page D8 ---

    This week, I tested two devices that bring Bluetooth technology to older cars in hopes of integrating hands-free phone calls and music with a car's stereo system. I tried the $130 Venturi Mini from NextGen Venturi Ltd. ( ) and $120 Parrot PMK5800 from Parrot Inc ( ) on three cars made in 2000 and 2005.

    Neither device offers a surefire solution; each is limited by your particular car and cellphone. But the Parrot sails ahead of the Venturi Mini by using voice activation for phone calls, something the Venturi Mini can't do. Venturi's version of "hands-free calling" requires initiating a call on the cellphone itself or by looking down at a tiny, grayscale screen and painstakingly scrolling through names of contacts. Furthermore, the Parrot worked after only a few steps, while the Venturi took much longer to set up and get going.

    Both of these are one-piece black gadgets that plug into your car's cigarette lighter and use FM transmitters to play on unused FM radio stations. Each has a tiny screen, though the Parrot screen is used solely to display the current station so as to match it with the radio. The idea is that after initially "pairing" a Bluetooth cellphone with one of these devices, the phone and device will automatically find each other whenever both are in the car and on, making calls easier and music a bit more hands-free.

    The Parrot and Venturi Mini will only play music via Bluetooth using cellphones that have a technology called A2DP, which enables music streaming. More and more new cellphones have this technology, such as the Nokia 6555 that I used, but many -- including Apple's iPhone -- don't. Most people will play music by attaching an iPod or other portable music player to these devices using cables that come with them.

    Neither the Venturi Mini nor the Parrot PMK5800 enable voice commands with music: songs streamed via Bluetooth are controlled using buttons on the devices, and music coming from a wired-attached player can only be operated using buttons on that player.

    The Parrot isn't as compact or as stylish as the Venturi Mini, but its best feature is unseen: built-in voice recognition software that guides you while using this device. If your cellphone has built-in voice-recognition software, which many do, you can plug in the Parrot and get started. Otherwise, contacts must be loaded on to the Parrot and assigned a voice tag. Large green and red buttons initiate or end phone calls, but speaking commands also works. A knob turns to different stations or can be pressed and turned for audible descriptions of menus. Three glowing Play/Pause, Skip Ahead and Skip Back buttons are easy to find without looking down so as to navigate through music.

    While I was listening to music coming from one paired cellphone, my sister called me on another paired cellphone that I had forgotten I had in my purse. The music automatically paused, and the sound of a ringing phone came from the car speakers until I answered it by pressing the Parrot's green button (speaking the word "phone" also works).

    If voice tags are assigned to contacts in your phone, the name of the person calling can be announced over the speakers, like caller ID. Music automatically re-starts after a call ends.

    I made calls on the Parrot by pressing its green button and speaking directions like "Call Allison Mobile" to call the correct number from my phone's contact list. The voice recognition sounded a bit robotic, but almost always found the right number.

    Most voice calls sounded rather clear to the people with whom I spoke, but in the car, calls suffered when stations were interrupted with static as I drove around the Washington, D.C., area. One major issue with relying on FM transmitters in major cities is the small number of unused radio stations. Static also affected streamed music, making it sound scratchy at times. Music playing from a cord-connected iPod had no trouble.

    The same static problems arose with Bluetooth calls and music on the Venturi Mini. This device's rectangular face has a scroll button in its center, which seems like it would be a useful addition. But this can't be pressed down to select anything on the screen, which is maddening. Instead, selecting anything from the Venturi screen must be done using a separate button, as if it wasn't even designed to be a hands-free device.

    To set up the Mini, a paired phone's contacts must be copied from the phone onto the device. Once these contacts are added, calls can be initiated through the device by finding the correct name on the screen using the scroll wheel and pressing more buttons to select that name and place the call. None of this involves voice recognition, and it's all supposed to be done while you're driving.

    For all its faults, the Venturi does have a few features that the Parrot doesn't, including the ability to display Bluetooth data -- like the name or number of an incoming caller and a song title and artist -- on your radio display if your car has this ability. But most older cars don't allow this, and I couldn't quickly figure out how it worked even while driving in a 2005 car. You can also charge devices through the Mini using a built-in USB port.

    Continued in article

    Should your paycheck be impacted contractually by FAS 133?

    I was contacted by the representative of a major and highly reputable transportation company union concerning possible manipulation of FAS 133 accounting (one of the many tools for creative accounting) for purposes of lowering compensation payments to employees. He wanted to engage me on a consulting basis to examine a series of financial statements of the company. It would be great if I could inspire some public debate on the following issue. The message below follows an earlier message to XXXXX concerning how hedging ineffectiveness works under FAS 133 accounting rules ---

    Hi XXXXX,

    You wrote:
    “Does the $502 million hedging ineffectiveness pique your interest?”

    My answer is most definitely yes since it fits into some research that I am doing at the moment. But the answers cannot be obtained from financial statements. Financial statements are (1) too aggregated (across multiple derivative hedging contracts) and (2) snapshots at particular points in time. Answers lie in tracing each contract individually (or at least a sampling of individual contracts) from inception to settlement. Results of effectiveness testing throughout the life of each hedging contract must be examined (on a sampling basis).

    Recall that there were enormous scandals concerning financial instruments derivatives that led up to FAS 133 and IAS 39. See
    The SEC pressured the FASB to come up with a new standard that would overcome the problem of so much unbooked financial liability risk due to derivative financial instruments. FAS 133 and IAS 39 got complicated when standard setters tried to book the derivative assets and liabilities on the balance sheet without impacting current earnings for qualified effective hedges of financial risk.

    When the FASB issued FAS 133, The FASB and the SEC were concerned about unbooked financial risk of every active derivative contract if the contract was settled on the interim balance sheet date. When a contract like an option is valued on a balance sheet date, its premature settlement value that day may well be deemed ineffective relative to the value of the hedged item. The reason is that derivative contracts are traded in different markets (usually more speculative markets) than commodities markets themselves (where buyers actually use the commodities). But the hedging contracts deemed ineffective on interim dates may not be ineffective at all across the long haul. Usually they are perfectly effective on hedging maturity dates.

    Temporal ineffectiveness more often than not works itself out such that all those gains and losses due to hedging ineffectiveness on particular interim dates exactly wash out such there is no ultimate cash flow gain or loss when the contracts are settled at maturity dates. I attached an Excel workbook that explains how some commodities hedges work out over time. The Graphing.xls file can also be downloaded from
    Note in particular the “Hedges” spreadsheet in that file. These explain the outcomes at the settlement maturity dates that yield perfect hedges. But at any date before maturity (not pictured in the graphs), the hedges may not be perfect if settled prematurely on interim balance sheet dates.

    I illustrate the accounting for ineffective interim hedges in both the 03forfut.pps and 05options.ppt PowerPoint files at
    The hedges may deemed ineffective under FAS 133 at interim balance sheet dates with gains and losses posted to current earnings. However, over time the gains and losses perfectly offset such that the hedges are perfectly effective when they are settled at maturity dates.

    The real problem with FAS 133 is that compensation contracts are generally tied to particular balance sheet dates where interim hedging contracts may be deemed ineffective and thereby affect paychecks. But some of those FAS 133 interim gains and losses may in fact never be realized in cash over the life of the each commodity hedging contract.

    What has to happen is for management to be very up front about how FAS 133 and other accounting standards may give rise to artificial gains and losses that are never realized unless the hedging contracts are settled prematurely on balance sheet dates. Compensation contracts should be hammered out with that thought in mind rather than blindly basing compensation contracts on bottom-line earnings that are mixtures of apples, oranges, toads, and nails due to accounting standards.

    Of course management is caught in a bind because investors follow bottom-line as the main indicator of performance of a company. The FASB recognizes this problem and is now trying to work out a new standard that will eliminate bottom-line reporting. The idea will be to provide information for analysts to derive alternative bottom-line numbers based upon what they want included and excluded in that bottom line. XBRL may indeed make this much easier for investors and analysts ---

    If I were working out a compensation contract based on accounting numbers, I would probably exclude FAS 133 unrealized gains and losses.

    In any case, back to your original question. I would love to work with management to track a sampling of fuel price hedging contracts from beginning to end. I would like to see what effectiveness tests were run on each reporting date and how gains and losses offset over the life of each examined contract. But this type of study cannot be run on aggregated financial statements.

    If I can study some of those individual hedging contracts over time I would be most interested. It will take your clout with management, however, to get me this data. I have such high priors on the integrity of your company's management that I seriously doubt that there is any intentional manipulation going on witth FAS 133 implementation. Rather I suspect that management is just trying to adhere as closely as possible with FAS 133 rules. What I would like to do is help enlighten the world about the bad things FAS 133 can do with compensation contracts and investment decisions by users of statements who really do not understand the temporal impacts of FAS 133 on bottom-line earnings.

    I fear that my study would, however, be mostly one of academic interest that I can report to the public. Only an inside whistleblower could pinpoint hanky-pank within a company, and I seriously doubt that your company is engaged in disreputable FAS 133 hanky-pank beyond that of possibly not fully explaining to unions how FAS 133 losses in general may be phantom losses over the long haul.

    Bob Jensen

    We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.

    That some bankers have ended up in prison is not a matter of scandal, but what is outrageous is the fact that all the others are free.
    Honoré de Balzac

    "Holding back the banks:  Predatory banking practices are likely to continue while political parties are too close to corporations and regulators lack teeth," by Prem Sikka, The Guardian (in the U.K.), February 15, 2008 ---

    Politicians and regulators have been slow to wake up to the destructive impact of banks on the rest of society. Their lust for profits and financial engineering has brought us the sub-prime crisis and possibly a recession. Billions of pounds have been wiped off the value of people's savings, pensions and investments.

    Despite this, banks are set to make record profits (in the U.K.) and their executives will be collecting bumper salaries and bonuses. These profits are boosted by preying on customers in debt, making exorbitant charges and failing to pass on the benefit of cuts in interest rates. Banks indulge in insider trading, exploit charity laws and have sold suspect payment protection insurance policies. As usual, the annual financial reports published by banks will be opaque and will provide no clues to their antisocial practices.

    Some governments are now also waking up to the involvement of banks in organised tax avoidance and evasion. Banks have long been at the heart of the tax avoidance industry. In 2003, the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations concluded (pdf) that the development and sale of potentially abusive and illegal tax shelters have become a lucrative business for accounting firms, banks, investment advisory firms and law firms. Banks use clever avoidance schemes, transfer pricing schemes and offshore (pdf) entities, not only to avoid their own taxes but also to help their rich clients do the same.

    The role of banks in enabling Enron, the disgraced US energy giant, to avoid taxes worldwide, is well documented (pdf) by the US Senate joint committee on taxation. Enron used complex corporate structures and transactions to avoid taxes in the US and many other countries. The Senate Committee noted (see pages 10 and 107) that some of the complex schemes were devised by Bankers Trust, Chase Manhattan and Deutsche Bank, among others. Another Senate report (pdf) found that resources were also provided by the Salomon Smith Barney unit of Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase & Co.

    The involvement of banks is essential as they can front corporate structures and have the resources - actually our savings and pension contributions - to provide finance for the complex layering of transactions. After examining the scale of tax evasion schemes by KPMG, the US Senate committee concluded (pdf) that complex tax avoidance schemes could not have been executed without the active and willing participation of banks. It noted (page 9) that "major banks, such as Deutsche Bank, HVB, UBS, and NatWest, provided purported loans for tens of millions of dollars essential to the orchestrated transactions," and a subsequent report (pdf) (page111) added "which the banks knew were tax motivated, involved little or no credit risk, and facilitated potentially abusive or illegal tax shelters".

    The Senate report (pdf) noted (page 112) that Deutsche Bank provided some $10.8bn of credit lines, HVB Bank $2.5bn and UBS provided several billion Swiss francs, to operationalise complex avoidance schemes. NatWest was also a key player and provided about $1bn (see page 72 [pdf]) of credit lines.

    Deutsche Bank has been the subject of a US criminal investigation and in 2007 it reached an out-of-court settlement with several wealthy investors, who had been sold aggressive US tax shelters.

    Some predatory practices have also been identified in other countries. In 2004, after a six-year investigation, the National Irish Bank was fined £42m for tax evasion. The bank's personnel promoted offshore investment policies as a secure destination for funds that had not been declared to the revenue commissioners. A government report found that almost the entire former senior management at the bank played some role in tax evasion scams. The external auditors, KPMG, and the bank's own audit committee were also found to have played a role in allowing tax evasion.

    In the UK, successive governments have shown little interest in mounting an investigation into the role of banks in tax avoidance though some banks have been persuaded to inform authorities of the offshore accounts held by private individuals. No questions have been asked about how banks avoid their taxes and how they lubricate the giant and destructive tax avoidance industry. When asked "if he will commission research on the levels of use of offshore tax havens by UK banks and the economic effects of that use," the chancellor of the exchequer replied: "There are no plans to commission research on the levels of use of offshore tax havens by UK banks and the economic effects of that use."

    Continued in article

    Jensen Comment
    Prem Sikka has written a rather brief but comprehensive summary of many of the bad things banks have been caught doing and in many cases still getting away with. Accounting standards have be complicit in many of these frauds, especially FAS 140 (R) which allowed banks to sell bundles of "securitized" mortgage notes from SPE's (now called VIEs) using borrowed funds that are kept off balance sheet in these entities called SPEs/VIEs. The FASB had in mind that responsible companies (read that banks) would not issue debt in excess of the value of the collateral (e.g., mortgage properties). But FAS 140 (R) fails to allow for the fact that collateral values such as real estate values may be expanding in a huge bubble about to burst and leave the bank customers and possibly the banks themselves owing more than the values of the securities bundles of notes. Add to this the frauds that typically take place in valuing collateral in the first place, and you have FAS 140 (R) allowing companies, notably banks, incurring huge losses on debt that was never booked due to FAS 140 (R).

    FAS 140 (R) needs to be rewritten ---
    However, the banks now control their regulators! We're not about to see the SEC, FED, and other regulators allow FAS 140 (R) to be drastically revised.

    Also banks are complicit in the "dirty secrets" of credit cards and credit reporting ---

    Then there are the many illegal temptations which lure in banks such as profitable money laundering and the various departures from ethics discussed above by Prem Sikka.

    Bob Jensen's "Rotten to the Core" threads are at

    February 18, 2008 message from Prem M. Sikka []

    Dear Bob,

    In the attached paper just published in AAAJ I provide some theory and evidence about how fraud, tax avoidance/evasion, money laundering, bribery, corruption and cartels have become central to contemporary enterprise culture. Perhaps, they always were. Accountancy firms are in the thick of it and there is little debate about their accountability. I have serialised large chunks of this paper in the UK newspapers (for example, see ) and hope to write more about it.


    Prem Sikka
    Professor of Accounting
    University of Essex Colchester,
    Essex CO4 3SQ UK
    Office Tel: +44(0)1206 873773 Office Fax: +44 (01206) 873429

    AABA Website:
    Tax Justice Network:
    The Tribune - The Thinking Person's Paper: 

    Education Tutorials

    The Road Not Traveled: Education Reform in the Middle East and North Africa ---

    Bob Jensen's threads on general education tutorials are at

    Engineering, Science, and Medicine Tutorials

    Digital Library for Earth System Education ---

    Interactives: Dynamic Earth --- 

    February 15, 2008  message from John Hubisz

    The Optical Society of America (OSA) is pleased to announce a newly designed website devoted to helping educators, parents, and students discover the exciting world of physics through the science of optics.

    The interactive website features experiments and tutorials, an optics timeline, optical illusions, terms and definitions, career profiles, and educator resources. Visit:


    John Hubisz

    Audubon: Ivory-billed woodpecker ---

    Rhetoric for Engineers ---

    Writing Guidelines for Engineering and Science Students ---

    Bob Jensen's threads on free online science, engineering, and medicine tutorials are at ---

    Social Science and Economics Tutorials

    Library of Congress: Science Reference Services ---

    MIT Security Studies Program ---

    Studies in the History of Ethics ---

    FSCME, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike ---

    Bob Jensen's threads on Economics, Anthropology, Social Sciences, and Philosophy tutorials are at

    Law and Legal Studies

    MIT Security Studies Program ---

    Bob Jensen's threads on law and legal studies are at

    Math Tutorials

    Bob Jensen's threads on free online mathematics tutorials are at

    Music Tutorials

    21st Century Music ---

    Bob Jensen's threads on free music tutorials are at

    History Tutorials

    Studies in the History of Ethics ---

    Frontline: The Mormons (video from PBS) ---

    Art and Literature in Siena, 1250-1600 (Multimedia)---

    Legacy: Spain and the United States in the Age of Independence 1763-1848 ---

    Johnson's Island, Unlocking a Civil War Prison: Interactive Dig ---

    Hoover Institution: Uncommon Knowledge (Multimedia) ---

    Rose and Chess: Discover Two Reunited Medieval Manuscripts ---

    Documents dating back to the early 19th-century about historically black colleges can be viewed online thanks to a new digital collection available to the public. The site includes campus charters, student yearbooks, campus architectural drawings, and photographs from 10 historically black institutions: Alabama State University, Atlanta University Center, Bennett College for Women, Fisk University, Grambling State University, Hampton University, Southern University, Tennessee State University, Tuskegee University, and Virginia State University.
    Andrea L. Foster, Chronicle of Higher Education, February 13, 2008 --- Click Here

    Bob Jensen's threads on history tutorials are at
    Also see  

    Language Tutorials

    Bob Jensen's links to language tutorials are at

    Writing Tutorials

    Office Slang ---
    Jensen Comment
    Because of security risks I never download screensavers.

    From Carnegie-Mellon University
    Interactive Fiction Page ---
    (Somewhat dated but still interesting.)

    Rhetoric for Engineers ---

    Writing Guidelines for Engineering and Science Students ---

    Bob Jensen's helpers for writers are at

    From the Scout Report on February 15, 2008

    Freebie Notes 3.16 --- 

    Sometimes it can be difficult to remember where one has left an important note or reminder. For people experiencing such a difficulty, it may be helpful to try out Freebie Notes. Freebie Notes 3.16 allows users to create electronic sticky notes that can be used to remind them of important deadlines, meetings, and birthdays. Users can also customize the appearance of these electronic notes as they see fit. This version is compatible with computers running Windows 95 and newer.

    Save2pc 3.25 --- 

    Save2pc is an application that allows users to download videos from a number of popular sites (such as Google Video) so that they can be used in different settings. Visitors can paste the URL of a video into the application and the selected video will be downloaded. This version is compatible with computers running Windows 95 and newer.


    Updates from WebMD ---

    "Taking Their Medicines," by Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Ed, February 18, 2008 ---

    Among the very few early clues dropped by law enforcement officials in answer to the “why” behind Thursday’s deadly shootings at Northern Illinois University: The killer, Steven Kazmierczak, had recently gone off his medication (reported to be anti-anxiety medication by the Chicago Tribune), becoming “erratic.”

    . . .

    Some of the commonly cited reasons associated with taking or not taking one’s medicine are attitudes about one’s illness and medication (fears of dependence can play a role, for instance), the relationship with a doctor and continuity of care, unwanted side effects, stigma, and, over a period of years, cost. And for psychiatric medications, some of the disorders being treated, like depression and bipolar disease, are risk factors for non-compliance in themselves. Studies have shown, for instance, that heart disease patients who are depressed are less likely to stay on medications than those who aren’t.

    But among the factors especially pertinent to college students or even young graduate students, Cooper cited peer pressure (from friends who may not see the need for the drug), alcohol use (alcohol can interfere with or be potentially dangerous when used in conjunction with most psychiatric drugs), the “practice effect” (many young people haven’t regularly taken medication before) and, not surprisingly, matters of maturity.

    “The risky period,” said Alan Christensen, a professor of psychology at the University of Iowa who has studied compliance, “clearly is late adolescence, middle-to-late adolescence. Certainly that would in part include the early college years.”

    Continued in article

    Sex differences in the brain's serotonin system
    A new thesis from he Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet shows that the brain’s serotonin system differs between men and women. The scientists who conducted the study think that they have found one of the reasons why depression and chronic anxiety are more common in women than in men. Serotonin is a brain neurotransmitter that is critical to the development and treatment of depression and chronic anxiety, conditions that, for reasons still unknown, are much more common in women than in men. A research group at Karolinska Institutet has now shown using a PET scanner that women and men differ in terms of the number of binding sites for serotonin in certain parts of the brain. Their results, which are to be presented in a doctoral thesis by Hristina Jovanovic at the end of February, show that women have a greater number of the most common serotonin receptors than men. They also show that women have lower levels of the protein that transports serotonin back into the nerve cells that secrete it. It is this protein that the most common antidepressants (SSRIs) block. “We don’t know exactly what this means, but the results can help us understand why the occurrence of depression differs between the sexes and why men and women sometimes respond differently to treatment with antidepressant drugs,” says associate professor Anna-Lena Nordström, who led the study.
    PhysOrg, February 13, 2008 ---

    US doctors group backs marijuana for medical uses
    A leading U.S. doctors group has endorsed using marijuana for medical purposes, urging the U.S. government to roll back a prohibition on using it to treat patients and supporting studies into its medical applications. The American College of Physicians, the second-largest doctors group in the United States, issued a policy statement on medical marijuana this week after it was approved by its governing body, the group said on Friday. The group cited evidence that marijuana is valuable in treating severe weight loss associated with AIDS, and nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy in cancer patients.
    Will Dunham, Reuters, January 24, 2008 ---

    British doctors should be nationally licensed
    All British doctors should be licensed by taking a national examination according to research outlined in the online open access journal BMC Medicine. A UK-based research team assessed the performance of UK medical graduates from 19 British universities in the Membership of the Royal Colleges of Physicians (MRCP (UK)) exam, which forms a critical part of the training of aspiring specialist physicians in the UK. As Dr McManus, who led the team explained, “The General Medical Council (GMC) has explored the possibility of a national medical licensing examination in the UK, as exists in the US. Our study provides a strong argument for introducing one, as we have shown that graduates from different medical schools perform markedly differently in terms of their knowledge, clinical and communication skills”. Medical graduates from Oxford, Cambridge and Newcastle universities performed better than average in the three-stage multiple choice and clinical examinations of the MRCP (UK), whereas those from Liverpool, Dundee, Belfast and Aberdeen did least well in terms of their performance. 83% of Oxford and Cambridge graduates passed the first part at their initial attempt, as did 67% from Newcastle, compared with 32% and 38% of those from Liverpool and Dundee, a two-fold difference between Newcastle and Liverpool. However medical school of training was not the only factor influencing performance in the 5827 doctors included in the research. Males outperformed females on the multiple choice examinations, whereas females outperformed males on the clinically based PACES stage of the exam. McManus and his team also examined whether differences in medical school pre-admission qualifications could explain the differences between medical schools, and found that they did so only in part, suggesting that differences between the teaching focus, content and approaches of the medical schools themselves also play a role.
    PhysOrg, February 14, 2008 ---

    "MIT: No easy answers in evolution of human language," by David Chandler, Eureka Alert, February 17, 2008 ---

    The evolution of human speech was far more complex than is implied by some recent attempts to link it to a specific gene, says Robert Berwick, professor of computational linguistics at MIT.

    Berwick will describe his ideas about language in a session at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science on Sunday, Feb. 17. The session is called “Mind of a Toolmaker,” and explores the use of evolutionary research in understanding human abilities.

    Some researchers in recent years have speculated that mutations in a gene called Foxp2 might have played a fundamental role in the evolution of human language. That was based on research showing that the gene seems to be connected to language ability because some mutations to that gene produce specific impairments to language use, and because our closest living relatives, the chimpanzees, lack both these gene mutations and the capacity for language. But the claim that the gene mutation is directly connected to the development of language is very unlikely to be right, says Berwick, who holds appointments in MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.

    “This kind of straightforward connection is just not the way organisms are put together,” he says. When it comes to something as complex as language, “one would be hard-pressed to come up with an example less amenable to evolutionary study.” And the specific Foxp2 connection is based on a whole chain of events, each of which is speculative, so there’s little chance of the whole story being right.

    “It’s so chaotic, it’s like weather forecasting,” he says. “The noise overwhelms the signal.”

    Continued in article


    Forwarded by Auntie Bev

    An elderly couple, who were both widowed, had been going out with each other for a long time.

    Urged on by their friends, they decided it was finally time to get married.

    Before the wedding, they went out to dinner and had a long conversation regarding how their marriage might work. They discussed finances, living arrangements and so on.

    Finally, the old gentleman decided it was time to broach the subject of their physical relationship.

    "How do you feel about sex?" he asked, rather hesitantly.

    "Well," she said, responding very carefully, "I'd have to say, I would like it infrequently."

    The old gentleman sat quietly for a moment, then, looking over his glasses, he quietly asked, "Is that one word or two?"

    Forwarded by Auntie Bev
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    Professor Robert E. Jensen (Bob)
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