Video of the day

Check out the amazing sounds of the lyrebird.  Awesome.  More info here.



Losing a fight = license to kill?

Who needs a 00 designation, it today’s NRA world, apparently being on the wrong side of a fist fight is a license to shoot somebody to death.  The details:

A Phoenix, Arizona father shot dead an unarmed stranger in the middle of a suburban Walmart Sunday, but police have not booked him because they say the shooting was in self-defense.

Cyle Wayne Quadlin, 25, opened fire at Kriston Charles Belinte Chee, 36, following a fight at a service counter in the mega-retailer at around 4 p.m., according to Chandler police.

Detectives say the store’s surveillance video shows the two men arguing before the shooting Sunday afternoon. Quadlin told police he pulled his gun when he felt Belinte Chee was winning.

‘Mr. Quadlin was losing the fight and indicated he “was in fear for his life,” so he pulled his gun and shot Mr. Belinte Chee,’ police spokesman Joe Favazzo said.  [emphasis mine]

Belinte Chee was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead, police said. According to his Facebook page, the victim has a wife and young son.

On the bright side, both the shooter and victim appear to be white.  And seriously, last thing we need is another white guy getting away with murder because he’s scared of a Black guy.

[Forgot the link in the original posting and cannot find where I got it from.  Here’s the AP story.]

Photo of the day

From a Telegraph gallery of World Press Photo contest winners:

World Press Photo winners
1st Prize Nature Stories Steve Winter, USA, for National Geographic 02 March 2013, Los Angeles, USA A cougar walking a trail in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park is captured by a camera trap. To reach the park, which has been the cougar’s home for the last two years it had to cross two of the busiest highways in the US. Cougars are among the most adaptable and widespread terrestrial mammals in the Western Hemisphere, with a range that extends from the tip of Chile to the Canadian Yukon. They are increasingly being seen in and around towns and cities, including Los Angeles and in the Hollywood Hills. Fear of these secretive cats, combined with a lack of adequate public knowledge, tends to justify the thousands of cougars killed every year. Scientists in Wyoming’s Teton National Forest are outfitting them with GPS collars and camera trapping to learn more about basic behaviors and to lift the veil of mystery surrounding them.Picture: STEVE WINTER/NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Everybody knows dead people

love the Olympics.  In fact, I’m sure you’d be seeing more blog posts if I wasn’t spending so much time watching Super G, bobsledding, etc.  What I don’t love, though, is the coverage which so predictably focuses on the personal tragedy athletes have overcome.  Drum:

Nate Carlisle, a reporter at the Salt Lake Tribune, the hometown paper of many ski and snowboard athletes, has been running a spreadsheet calculating the number of stories featuring competitors’ dead relatives. Through Saturday, Carlisle found, there had been 25 such stories, an average of nearly three per day. On Sunday night the death preoccupation continued when NBC’s Christin Cooper prodded Bode Miller, after he won bronze in the Super-G, on the loss of his brother, prompting the skier to fall to the ground in tears and the Twittersphere to light up.

Carlisle’s spreadsheet is here. He’s now up to 29, and that’s not even counting all the tearjerking stories that stop short of death (Alex Bilodeau’s brother with cerebral palsy, for example). I get that this stuff might appeal more to other people than it does to me, but come on. Enough’s enough. We shouldn’t pretend that tragedy and pain are what motivate most athletes, or that they somehow give athletic accomplishments more depth and meaning. There are plenty of other ways to humanize the winners and losers at Sochi.

Yep.  Last year I reviewed applicants to the NCSU Honor’s program and there was a question about “obstacles overcome.”  Damn if half the applicants didn’t write about a family member with cancer.  Sadly, virtually everybody’s family has cancer in it somewhere.  It doesn’t make you special– just human.

As to Drum’s latter point, here’s a great Slate piece that there are so many more interesting things about Bode Miller than the fact that his brother died (and after reading the piece, I’d definitely have to agree).

It’s the grades, stupid

Great NPR story on a new study that uses the growing number of SAT/ACT optional colleges to see just how predictive these tests are of college success.  Surprise, surprise– not all that much.  Who would’ve thunk, but it turns out that high school grades are far more predictive of college success than are standardized test scores.  It’s a shame we needed  a big study to figure this out.  If you are like me, you probably knew plenty of people who could score well on a test, but lacked the self-discipline, ambition, organization, etc., to get good grades.  Just because they score high on the SAT is no reason to expect they’ll somehow overcome all these problematic traits in college.  Likewise, you probably knew some people who weren’t the most cognitively gifted, but worked their butts off and were ambitious.  Blessed with just ordinary intelligence (as revealed on a test) those people will definitely succeed.

Back in my day when I got my high test scores, I thought that was really awesome.  The more I’ve been on college campuses (since 1990) the more I realize how relatively unimportant these scores are.  My nephew has kicked butt on the SAT’s, but doesn’t have the grades to show it due to massive problems with self-discipline and organization.  But a lot of colleges want him because of those high SAT scores.  What makes them think he’ll suddenly figure out how to actually maximize his cognitive potential once in college– he hasn’t done it in 18 years.  Now, of course, he may, and some people do (his mother for one), but with a limited number of admission slots, it strikes me that HS grades have to be a far better measure.  Anyway, some highlights from the NPR story:

Today, some 800 of the roughly 3,000 four-year colleges and universities in America make SAT or ACT submissions optional. But before a new study released Tuesday, no one had taken a hard, broad look at just how students who take advantage of “test-optional” policies are doing: how, for example, their grades and graduation rates stack up next to their counterparts who submitted their test results to admissions offices.

“Human intelligence is so multifaceted, so complex, so varied, that no standardized testing system can be expected to capture it,” says William Hiss, the study’s main author. Hiss is the former dean of admissions at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine — one of the nation’s first test-optional schools — and has been conducting similar research for a number of years.

“My hope is that this study will be a first step in examining what happens when you admit tens of thousands of students without looking at their SAT scores,” Hiss says. “And the answer is, if they have good high school grades, they’re almost certainly going to be fine.”

Hiss’ study, “Defining Promise: Optional Standardized Testing Policies in American College and University Admissions,” examined data from nearly three-dozen “test-optional” U.S. schools, ranging from small liberal arts schools to large public universities, over several years.

Hiss found that there was virtually no difference in grades and graduation rates between test “submitters” and “nonsubmitters.” Just 0.05 percent of a GPA point separated the students who submitted their scores to admissions offices and those who did not. And college graduation rates for “nonsubmitters” were just 0.6 percent lower than those students who submitted their test scores.

(The six public universities included in the study are de facto test-optional; these schools collect scores but generally do not use them to determine admission unless a student’s rank or high school grade point average is below a given threshold.)…

The study has another clear result: High school grades matter — a lot. For both those students who submitted their test results to their colleges and those who did not, high school grades were the best predictor of a student’s success in college. And kids who had low or modest test scores, but good high school grades, did better in college than those with good scores but modest grades.

Hiss says it’s probably not so surprising that a pattern of hard work, discipline and curiosity in high school shows up “as highly predictive, in contrast to what they do in three or four hours on a particular Saturday morning in a testing room.”

Lots more good stuff in the story.  Including speculation that these tests may begin to play a lesser role in college admissions.  I think there’s probably some useful role, for the SAT/ACT, but I suspect that these tests are currently way overvalued in the admissions process for most universities.  Hopefully, that will change.

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