Assorted links

by on March 6, 2013 at 1:03 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. A non-English-speaker imitating an American accent (badly).

2. Can peer grading work for MOOCs?  And troubled students in MOOCs, including MOOC murder as a concept.

3. Paul Krugman drives the deeply innocent Miles Kimball into a flurry of response.  Here are some EU interchanges and reactions with Krugman, the last tweet cited is classic mood affiliation.

4. Does Chinese have a word for “nerd”?  Here is a new book on the economics of baseball.

5. Is Los Angeles falling behind?

Andrew' March 6, 2013 at 1:14 pm

2. Read some Deming. Lots of Deming.

Ben Fenster March 6, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Krugman has been demonstrably right and the EU austerians demonstrably wrong. All this whining going on among conservatives about the tone of the debate is nauseating. The fact is that these austerians have blood on their hands. The evidence is strong that their policeis are wrong and they invoke patently dishonest and discredited arguments (Keynes would not be a Keyneisan at today’s debt/GDP ratios? Really?) The pro-austerity branch of the profession is the soure of substantial unnecessary suffering and they deserve more condemnation than a few pointed words.

NPW March 6, 2013 at 1:53 pm

If, in fact, austerity being implemented it might be worth the effort to care about this debate..

Brian Donohue March 6, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Krugman has been demonstrably worng and the Austrians demonstrably right. All this whining going on among liberals about the tone of the debate is nauseating. The fact is that these Keynesians have blood on their hands. The evidence is strong that their policies are wrong and they invoke patently dishonest and discredited arguments (Hayek would not be a Hayekian at today’s health care/GDP ratios? Really?) The sky’s-the-limit-debt-doesn’t-matter-we-owe-it-to-ourselves-governments-aren’t-households branch of the profession is the source of substantial unnecessary suffering and they deserve more condemnation than a few pointed words.

Ben Fenster March 6, 2013 at 2:33 pm

The post was with reference to austerians, but since Austrians fit the bill, we can argue about that. One has to be a rigid ideologue of totalitarian proportions to believe that the Austrian prediction of skyrocketing inlfation and interest rates has been realized. To say that the Austrians were right is to live in a parallel universe where up is down and suffering is glee. And this is indeed the Austrian universe. One can invoke Austrian slogans all you want. We all know you simply have no connection with reality. Go back to your streetcorner and preach the evils of fiat money like other whack jobs.

ad nauseum March 6, 2013 at 2:42 pm

I’m left wondering to myself if the man preaching on the street corner has more, or less, credibility than the man on the papal balcony.

ad nauseum March 6, 2013 at 2:58 pm

What do you think Cardinal Fenster?

Brian Donohue March 6, 2013 at 3:08 pm

‘we can argue about that’. Oh, you thought we were arguing?

Here: this should keep you busy for a while: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQFKtI6gn9Y

Now, tell me more of your maudlin tale of austerians with blood on their hands, and the big-hearted, compassionate drug pushers of debt, who make it all better.

Jan March 6, 2013 at 3:52 pm

On what basis can we say that austerity would work? In the countries where it is being tried (not counting the UK here) all evidence points to failure. Admittedly, Greece has problems that go well beyond debt. On the other hand, where has boosting aggregate demand actually been tried to the extent that Keynesians have actually recommended?

Political leaders have been mostly unwilling to go all in on either austerity or stimulus, so it remains all theory and ideological sniping, which you guys exemplify so well.

JWatts March 6, 2013 at 5:36 pm

“On what basis can we say that austerity would work? ”

Iceland.

Derek March 6, 2013 at 9:57 pm

Canada. Sweden.
Any criticism of austerity needs to account for the resilience of those two places that went through tough periods of austerity and for the most part avoided reimplement the policies that created the problems.

Ricardo March 6, 2013 at 11:17 pm

JWatts, Iceland implemented not just fiscal austerity but it also nationalized some of its banks, stiffed some foreign creditors, imposed capital controls and let its currency depreciate. Claiming that Iceland is a success story but then attributing that success entirely to austerity rather than to the broader package of policies the government implemented is tendentious.

JWatts March 7, 2013 at 12:26 am

I didn’t make the claim you seem to think I did. So would your post by your definitions be tendentious?

Cliff March 7, 2013 at 12:31 am

What’s the alternative to “austerity” for most of these places? Austerity just means paying back your debts, and the only alternative is bankruptcy. You really think they should greatly increase government spending in an attempt to prime the pump in the few months they would have before they were unable to pay their debts?

Brian Donohue March 7, 2013 at 9:28 am

Cliff FTW!

byomtov March 7, 2013 at 12:32 pm

JWatts,

What claim exactly did you make wrt Iceland? When someone asks,

“On what basis can we say that austerity would work?” and you respond, “Iceland,” it sure sounds to me like you are claiming austerity solved Iceland’s problems.

JWatts March 7, 2013 at 12:55 pm

The full context of my literally one word response:

“On what basis can we say that austerity would work? In the countries where it is being tried (not counting the UK here) all evidence points to failure.”

Obviously, Iceland is a case that doesn’t point to austerity as a failure.

Maurice de Sully March 6, 2013 at 5:03 pm

— One has to be a rigid ideologue of totalitarian proportions to believe that the Austrian prediction of skyrocketing inlfation and interest rates has been realized.—

I’m not an Austrian, but when someone predicts something negative is going to happen, it’s a pretty poor repsonse to say, “hah, but it hasn’t happened yet.”

People were predicting a real estate collapse a few years back. And they were being generally ignored becasue they were wrong…for a while.

Let’s see how this one wraps up before we start announcing who was right and wrong.

byomtov March 7, 2013 at 12:29 pm

…when someone predicts something negative is going to happen, it’s a pretty poor repsonse to say, “hah, but it hasn’t happened yet.”

Actually, it’s an excellent response if there has been adequate time for it to happen. I mean, if interest rates and inflation jump in say, 2022, is it really reasonable to say that recent predictions have been borne out?

It’s not like these predictions were made a week ago. We’ve been hearing them for years.

careless March 8, 2013 at 9:25 am

Depends on what time frame the recent predictions were covering, byom.

AADL March 6, 2013 at 6:21 pm

Name one Austrian who thinks there will be “sky rocketing inflation.”

Didn’t think you could.

sam March 6, 2013 at 9:52 pm

Peter Schiff? And a lot of people I wouldn’t consider Austrians per se but who mis-model QE.

Millian March 6, 2013 at 2:40 pm

“Krugman has been demonstrably right and the EU austerians demonstrably wrong.”

No. It’s trivially true that cutting G today cuts C+I+G today. It’s not trivially true that adding more and more debt to small, open economies is a good thing (especially when they have historically been very bad at reducing debt to GDP).

mark March 6, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Nailed it.

Anon. March 6, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Since there hasn’t been any austerity, what exactly is it that the austerians have been wrong about?

Andrew' March 6, 2013 at 3:17 pm

What has Krugman been right about? I seriously don’t know, but it seems like his claims are

1) The economy is bad and not getting dramatically better soon and 2) Keynesianism.

Well, everyone and his brother has theories about 1 which makes 2 unfalsifiable.

john personna March 6, 2013 at 4:15 pm

It seems that Krugman, while not completely right, was at least more right than his critics expected, and so they must now carefully define failure. As you note, none of the scary bad things happened and so … the muddle-through must be Krugman’s fault, even though he never asked for it? Something like that.

Steve J March 6, 2013 at 5:47 pm

Can someone explain the rationale behind fiscal tightening during a depression? Everyone seems to agree it will increase unemployment in the short term but claims are made we will be better off in the long run. Why will be better off in the long run? Possibly you could claim there will be more private investment later since less will be owed in taxes. But why would there be more private investment? Plenty of companies are sitting on money right now they would rather not invest. Is the worry that it is government debt that is holding back these companies from investing? Krugman has told very simple stories explaining how fiscal stimulus works. He twists the fiscal tightening story to say it relies on the “confidence fairy”. I hope there is a better explanation than confidence out there to explain how fiscal tightening works.

Mike March 6, 2013 at 6:35 pm

His argument in favor of extra debt seems to be that (1) we owe it to ourselves and (2) interest rates are so low that the money is essentially free.

#2 would make more sense if we didn’t also have to pay back the principal. Since government doesn’t actually acquire valuable assets when it spends stimulus money, borrowing today means taxes have to be higher tomorrow. The flip side is that not borrow today means taxes can be lower (relative to the stimulus condition) tomorrow. Tomorrow, in this case, is usually far enough away that it’s hard to tell whether it’s “working” in the present. If you want to see the future, check out Japan’s 200+% of GDP debt and rather low growth.

Steve J March 6, 2013 at 7:39 pm

I’m not claiming there aren’t potential problems with fiscal stimulus. I am just saying the story that explains it is fairly easy to follow as I explain below. I am hoping to find a similarly easy story to follow for fiscal tightening. I don’t see how we get around the “everyone can’t deleverage at the same time” argument.

Maurice de Sully March 6, 2013 at 6:43 pm

— Krugman has told very simple stories explaining how fiscal stimulus works —

Presumably, most readers here are familiar with Mr. Krugman’s preference for animal spirits instead of confidence fairies. Can you explain how you came to prefer one bit of folklore to the other?

I think where you are probably having the most trouble finding your answer is with respect to the concept of “works.” As was indicated previously, the fact that by increasing G you can increase C + I + G isn’t much of a revelation. Given your dislike of mythology, can you explain how stimulus “works” other than the in rather rudimentary sense just detailed in that calculation? What “work” are you trying to get done?

Steve J March 6, 2013 at 7:20 pm

My impression is that there is not much more to it than “the fact that by increasing G you can increase C + I + G”. That is why the story is so simple. Fill in the temporary reduction in C and I by temporarily increasing G. As long as C and I will return to their previous trajectory you should be able to pay off the temporary increase in G without too much trouble. Of course it is not that simple but the simplified story is very easy to understand. Where is the story for decreasing G? How does decreasing G now help C and I get back on the correct path?

Maurice de Sully March 6, 2013 at 7:47 pm

I thought you said this was simple? How do you go about determining what the “correct path” is? Charting the correct path for the aggregate economic performance of over 300 million people seems like a lot of work. Where do we find the “correct path” and how are we sure it’s actually the correct one and not simply a politically expedient one for a narrow group of people?

Moreover, simply increasing G – four years after the conclusion of the recession at this point- can’t quite be the end game can it? In that instance, your argument would insist that simply having people dig holes with spoons, and then fill them back in, would be a net benefit for the economy as a whole as such would (or could) clearly increase G. Do you believe that having the Feds pay 35K a year to every unemployed person in the country- financed at it would have to be currently- would be a net benefit for the country? That is to say, are you sure that by simply juicing the metric used to measured economic growth, we have actually created economic growth as opposed to merely changing what the meter reads? And, if so, would this growth be worth the cost?

Steve J March 6, 2013 at 8:32 pm

“How do you go about determining what the “correct path” is?”

The correct path does appear predictable: http://visualizingeconomics.com/blog/2011/03/08/long-term-real-growth-in-us-gdp-per-capita-1871-2009

“And, if so, would this growth be worth the cost?”

This I think is the tough question. The Krugman answer I think is “we should be better able to pay the costs later than we are now”. In general this has been true but there are a few things (healthcare, energy, global warming) that might make you question this assumption.

Still waiting for the corresponding story in favor of reducing G now. I suspect that one will have some not so simple parts as well.

Steve J March 6, 2013 at 8:34 pm

Sorry I just clicked on the link I submitted and it now says website down. But I suspect if you search with the terms in the link you will see what I am talking about.

Derek March 6, 2013 at 10:47 pm

The current crisis is the result of efforts to increase G. Any thing you want, infrastructure spending, Greece spent billions building infrastructure for the Olympics, roads, everything. Even the ultimate in digging holes and filling them up with the housing construction in Spain. But for this quaint notion that somewhere along the line you have to pay for it all, everyone would be rich.
What to do? The policies that got you there aren’t a solution. I don’t think there is a solution. The last time ended with most of the developed world in ruins. This after a good part of a decade spent muddling through. Just make sure you live in the nation that will come out victorious.

Cliff March 7, 2013 at 12:35 am

Steve,

Decreasing G will let you pay back your debt so you don’t default. That was pretty simple, right?

Millian March 7, 2013 at 4:00 am

But “now” has lasted for 5-6 years. Does it ever stop being “now”? The debt dynamics of many peripheral countries suggest that they do not think so.

Steve J March 7, 2013 at 10:20 am

Cliff – the only way the US can default is if Congress decides to allow it. It seems like much of the argument for cutting G lies on the idea that current cuts in G imply future cuts in taxes. And even though cutting G now will result in decreases in C and I as well the promise of future tax cuts will offset these with “confidence”. Now whether or not confidence can help a teacher find a new job when they get laid off seems debatable.

Jan March 6, 2013 at 2:20 pm

#1 is not very good, but I thought this video of how English sounds to non speakers was pretty good: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vt4Dfa4fOEY

careless March 6, 2013 at 7:56 pm

Tyler has linked it before

isley March 6, 2013 at 2:55 pm

4a. Shudaizi, pace the link, does capture the disdain for people of single-minded academic focus that is so central to the word “nerd” as it should be used (i.e., NOT a hot girl who says “lol I’m such a video game nerd”)

mulp March 6, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Reading commentary on MOOCs and seeing 2. I am struck by how many times I’ve witnessed the revolution in education since I left high school.

The current enthusiasm for MOOCs remind me of educational broadcasting which morphed into public broadcasting – CPB – with a mission to promote education and culture through innovation.

The online broadcasting of lectures continue in the “rural” regions, but the funding model is still unresolved five decades later. In NH, NHPTV has broadcast lectures at night under funding from universities running courses, with the terms of service for viewers effectively “only watch if you are paying tuition” which is obviously mere legalese in the licensing for the video of the courseware. (The programming was not listed in the program schedule, but could be found at the online course catalog.)

Similarly, In the late 60s and 70s I was working at a college with profs trying to incorporate computers in education. Several of them were trying to use computers to implement peer evaluation, and online discussions. By the late 70s, timeshare with terminals were in place to do this at a small liberal arts college with profs trying to use the system in social and physical science. One of many such efforts which were supposed to transform education. Then the Apple 2 and Appletalk networks were adopted to finally realize the dream.

What I like about Kahn Academy as of two years ago was his modest pragmatic approach of providing tutorials, but I fear he has been influenced to the dark side by Bill Gates who always over estimates the impact technology can have. I admire Gates as an effective problem solver for the things he is directly involved in, but he assumes “everyone” else is like him… Based on working with the tiny fraction of people who are like him.

de Broglie March 6, 2013 at 5:58 pm

“Khan” Academy. I see this mistake often. He is not Jewish.

Engineer March 6, 2013 at 4:03 pm

I just started a MOOC through Coursera on a comparatively new software engineering topic.

So far there has been too much basic material mixed in with the new stuff. I’ve kept thinking that instead of a MOOC what I really need is a well-written book on the topic.

john personna March 6, 2013 at 4:17 pm

I think the new MOOCs vary greatly in quality. Some I’ve quite liked, and some seemed quite raw.

F. Lynx Pardinus March 6, 2013 at 4:36 pm

” I’ve kept thinking that instead of a MOOC what I really need is a well-written book on the topic.”

I learn by reading and by doing. So reading a book will take me half of the way, but actually doing some problems sets or a project on a topic takes me the rest of the way. For me, the best Coursera courses are the ones where there’s not a lot of video but interesting assignments. The worst are where the lecturer goes on for 3 hours (seriously, I could have read the same information in a fraction of the time) and then assigns a short quiz with 3 questions.

Rahul March 7, 2013 at 1:00 am

Agreed! What I need is a great text supplemented by a great online forum.

Rich Berger March 6, 2013 at 4:03 pm

3. I scanned Miles Kimball’s piece and my head hurt. Usually, I can get some idea of what the key points are, even if I cannot initially figure out who has the better arguments. This totally baffled me.

Silas Barta March 6, 2013 at 4:04 pm

2) FYI: Coursera has peer code review for its Programming Languages courses. Though I don’t know how well that worked, since I didn’t do that part (enrolled too late to participate).

Hopefully, there was some sort of scalable meta-review, where they:

a) Gave samples of what good/bad reviews looked like for good/bad code
b) Took random samples of the peer reviews to indicate which reviews were good or bad.
c) Presented (with the students’ permission) the samples for b) for review by all the students.

With essay/entertainment writing, it’s a lot harder to make it scale.

Giancarlo Acedo March 7, 2013 at 5:50 am

I’m one of the students of the Programming Languages course that you mentioned. (It’s actually one of my favorite courses. I’m feeling guilty for missing out last week’s assignment due to lack of time.)

For the peer code review, the professor gives a clear description of the quality of a solution for it to receive a score of 5, or a 4, etc. Also, the professor actually provides sample solutions for each problem. It is stressed that the answers do not necessarily have to be exactly the same as the sample solution to merit a perfect score, since peer review is done in checking for the style of the code. (The code autograder already checks whether the program runs correctly.)

Alongside each sample solution, the professor gives helpful guidelines on how to grade solutions that might be different from the sample solution. For example, he may comment that you can only give a solution to a particular problem a maximum grade of 4 if it doesn’t use a concept taught during that week. These additional notes usually handle most common solutions of the problems for the most part. If anything, most of the complaints that I see (although I haven’t checked the forums recently to confirm this) boil down to particular preferences of the grader, e.g. whether if-then-else statements are indented accordingly or typed in one line. This would usually result to a one point deduction, which is not really a lot, although I could see other people would get frustrated.

JWatts March 6, 2013 at 5:46 pm

#5. Is Los Angeles falling behind?

Yes, no, maybe, depending on your metric of choice.

Is California falling behind?

Same set of answers, but you’ll probably find a smaller set of metrics that lead to the answer “Yes”

ivvenalis March 7, 2013 at 4:30 am

It’s not doing too badly for a Latin American city. Which probably isn’t a sign that it’s going to improve.

David Jinkins March 6, 2013 at 5:57 pm

4. I didn’t read the whole language log article, but I (a white American guy) did my masters degree in Taiwan. In Taiwanese slang there is a word that functions very similarly to nerd in English: 宅男 zai nan or zhai nan. The word is borrowed from Japanese “otaku” but it carries a slightly different meaning. The Taiwanese version is very close to what you and I would call “nerd” in English. Check out the characteristics part of the chinese wikipedia page translated to English:

Hair disheveled or very shiny
Do not pay attention to the environment or body tidy [1]
Outdated clothes, mismatches
Specific equipment (such as the plaid shirts Backpack thick-framed glasses), the actor from the drama series “Train Man” shape
Speech with far-fetched or not pay attention to interpersonal relationships (it will only talk to their favorite topic)
Do not go out at home all day nest within, not good at communication with others
Preferences animation or video games, and other related products and extend creative
Well-known Internet buzz words or cultural

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