Wednesday, January 20, 2010
I also have a thing for chairs.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
excerpted from the AWP's The Writer's Chronicle:
Computerized Exam Markers Fail Hemingway, Churchill, Golding
Some of the world’s most well known writers have received failing marks when submitted to a new computerized marking system for British school essays, the Times Online reports. Winston Churchill’s 1940 speech exhorting his countrymen to “fight on the beaches” had a style that was too repetitive according to the computer. The speech was rated below average. William Golding and Ernest Hemingway came up short as well, ranking less than standard in the American equivalent of an A-level English exam. A passage from Golding’s Lord of the Flies was docked for its two-word paragraph: “A face.” Graham Herbert, deputy head of the Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors (CIEA), an umbrella body for exam boards and other organizations, said: “The computer was limited in its scope. It couldn’t cope with metaphor and didn’t understand the purpose of the speech. We also tried a passage from Hemingway. It couldn’t understand the fact that he had a very spartan style and (it) said he should write with more care and detail. He was also rated less than average.” This system, already in use in the United States, was created using a range of comments by human graders in response to exam papers. While the program recognizes sentence structure, other elements such as style and purpose are not recognized. According to Herbert, some children in America had “cracked the code” by learning to write in a style that the computer understood. This was called “schmoozing the computer,” he said. “At the moment we do not have a reliable and valid way of assessing English language using a software package, although this is something for which there is demand.”
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Friday, January 1, 2010
Just before Christmas, I found the little white card where I jotted down my resolutions for 2009 last January. Out of six, I checked two completely off (find a church community I can live with and publish more) and made some progress on a couple others. Clearly, publishing my first book of poetry was the professional (and perhaps personal) height of my past year, although learning to put up five-dozen jars of Drunken Fig Jam was definitely a highlight. Too bad it wasn't a resolution.
I cringe at the fact that the first thing on my 2009 list of resolutions is also the first thing on my 2010 list--the ole "lose weight & get in shape" goal--not because it isn't a worthy or, lord knows, necessary resolution, but rather because it is the superlative cliche of the entire cliched act of making resolutions, as anyone who has sat through a round of network TV commercials in the past week can attest to. At least I don't smoke.
The trick to doing an acceptable list of resolutions is the Boethian half of the model I propose--it's no fair including such whimsies as "straighten desk" or "write thank-you notes" on a list of annual goals. These are the stuff of refrigerators and pocket calendars, not New Year's Resolutions. To have resolve, after all, is to dally with earnestness. One must be philosophical about the passing of time, if nothing else.
Nonetheless, I did include "going to the dentist" and "renewing my passport" on my 2010 list. I need at least a couple resolutions I can cross off in a slightly-more-than-philosophical sense.