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Beauty Queens
A plane of contestants for the Miss Teen Dream pageant crashes on a desert island. Thirteen young ladies survive. The island is infested with giant snakes, scary idols, an absence of food and beauty products, and no people. (OK: there’s an armed compound of privatized CIA agents of The Corporation on Another Part Of The Island™, but nobody told us about that.) We’re ready for Lord Of The Flies, with girls.

The great part of this pleasantly predictable frolic is the audiobook, read by the author, in fourteen accents for the thirteen Teen Dreamers. (One contestant starts out speaking Indian British, but a close encounter with the inevitable pool of quicksand leaves her returning to her native Valley Girl dialect.) Libba Bray sure can read.

Pilots: Too many ed tech innovations stuck in purgatory

Steve Kolowich wrote an article yesterday in the Chronicle that described the use of LectureTools, a student engagement and assessment application created by faculty member Perry Sampson at the University Michigan. These two paragraphs jumped out at me.

The professor has had some success getting his colleagues to try using LectureTools in large introductory courses. In the spring, the software was being used in about 40 classrooms at Michigan, he says.

Adoption elsewhere has been scattered. In 2012, Mr. Samson sold LectureTools to Echo360[1], an education-technology company, which has started marketing it to professors at other universities. The program is being used in at least one classroom at 1,100 institutions, according to Mr. Samson, who has kept his title of chief executive of LectureTools. But only 80 are using the software in 10 or more courses.

93% of LectureTools clients use the tool for less than 10 courses total, meaning that the vast majority of customers are running pilot projects almost two years after the company was acquired by a larger ed tech vendor.

We are not running out of ideas in the ed tech market – there are plenty of new products being introduced each year. What we are not seeing, however, are ed tech innovations that go beyond a few pilots in each school. Inside Higher Ed captured this sentiment when quoting a Gallup representative after the GSV+ASU EdInnovations conference this year: Continue reading →

Dates
You’d be surprised to know how many Tinderbox support queries we receive concerning historical dates. I remember one month where it seemed every day brought a new question about dates more than a thousand years back.

Date conversions seems straightforward. The user types a string "August 12, 2014" or “8/12/14” and the system converts it to whatever internal representation it uses.

Of course, “8/12/14” in England means “December 8”. So, we need to know where you are. In Sweden, we’d write “2014–08-12” with dashes in place of slashes. In Germany, we’d use periods and write “12.8.14.” So things get a little bit complicated.

Where life really gets tricky is for historic dates. We all agree that the day begins at midnight, but that wasn’t always true; for lots of history, the new day began at sunset. Does OS X treat sunset, or 6PM, as the end of the day for some periods?

Until 1752, New Year’s Day in Britain was March 25. This means that the day Shakespeare knew perfectly well to be 5 January 1602 falls in the year that we ca;; 1603. If you’re using the Gregorian calendar, does OS X adapt dates prior to the adoption of the Gregorian calendar?

Some aspects of the calendar depend on where you are, but of course historians often study people who lived somewhere else. If you’re in Princeton, New Jersey but you’re writing about Pharsala, I assume that all the date conventions we use are those of the US (and, before then, of England).

I ask because, for some Tinderbox users, some historic dates have an off-by-one-day error. Or, perhaps Tinderbox is right, and we’re making a bad assumption. Surely this all is documented somewhere. But where?

If you know where this is documented, please Email me.

Time Zones ?#!@!
Yesterday, I asked the world about time zones, OS X, and the idiosyncrasies and complexities of conversion.

I asked Mark Anderson whether he could narrow down the problem. The redoubtable Mark Anderson promptly pointed out that “12/31/1883” is off by a day, but 1/1/1884 isn’t.

What on earth is special about 1884?

Four standard time zones for the continental United States were introduced on November 18, 1883.

So, our handling of the shuffle between the local time zone and universal time apparently needs to take into account that time zones don’t exist before 1883? Does OS X really know about the invention of the railroad?

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