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Science and Perspective.

Biodiversity monitoring and racism

Class identifies plants in a field.
Me: do you see what is different in the following three classifications?
Duchesnia indica; Medicago lupulina; Grasses

Students: *blank stares*
Me: do we recognize that grasses are a large group that includes more than one species?

Nodding. affirmative grunts.

Me: Why do you think we do that? It’s easier, we do not have the time to identify the grasses to a more accurate level. That expertise requires more effort, care, consideration. so we ignore their individual differences and lump them into one group. this means our data is less accurate and we cannot really describe the diversity of grasses or make any decision appropriate to grass conservation, the impact of grasses or whether or not individual grass species negatively impact the other species.

Students nod.

Me: It’s just like racism. *wry smile

Students stop breathing briefly.

You may not be able to change the world, but at least you can embarrass the guilty. -Jessica Mitford, author, journalist, and civil rights activist (11 Sep 1917-1996)

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Anemic Advocacy

Have you met that person that pours all their energy into helping the group/cause they feel deserves it? I mean 100% all the time, every time? This is not about them.

We have to challenge anemic advocacy. Those that need advocates are weak. They cannot defend themselves and often, they are trying their best to fight the good fight. Some of us have the power, privilege and opportunity to help. So we join in.

Are you a senior employee? a manager? Perhaps in academia, you are a graduate student, faculty member or administrator. Perhaps even a Tenured Professor (I always picture Dumbledore). You have more power than any undergrad and in the case of a tenured professor, much more power than graduate students and new faculty.

So look and listen. Your employees/students are suffering. Something is wrong, on every campus, in every business.

if you have not helped to shine a light on one challenge this year, you are not advocating for those who need you. If your reasoning includes:
“This place will never change”, “I do not have the power”, “that is not my responsibility”… you are wrong.

Don’t be an anemic advocate. Strengthen your advocacy by feeding it with knowledge of the groups around you and their challenges, knowledge of the pathways to change, and knowledge of historic successes and failures.

Share with me what group/cause you need advocacy for and I will share through this page (when appropriate). Make sure to tell me what you have or are willing to do for your group and share any tangible efforts you have completed already.

Leno

Science and Perspective

"Every human needs to understand two things at least. Another person’s perspective and science. Between the two, you can understand the world."

-Ancilleno Davis, Science and Perspective

Ancilleno Davis, AA; BSc; MSc
PPP: he/him/his/they/them/theirs
Twitter: @ancilleno
Founder/Coordinator – BEINGS
Director At Large – BirdsCaribbean

Every student needs someone who says, simply, "You mean something. You count." -Tony Kushner, playwright (b. 16 Jul 1956)

Passing

There is a test. You score high enough on some scale to be given credit for the accomplishment. You are acknowledged and given the privileges afforded all those who pass.

What happens when the scoring rubric is never given to you? What if you enter this exam from an entirely different system? Perhaps, you are overqualified and pass without even trying. Perhaps, you pass but it is a struggle and a challenge. Perhaps you don’t pass.

As international scholars, much of our extracurricular work lies in passing, much like post desegregation blacks trying to figure out how light their skin had to be or DADT era officers figuring out how “straight” was straight enough to die for their country.

We live in an era where academic culture tells us that multiple viewpoints and open discourse are the cornerstones of academic progress. International students and scholars are not just welcome, but essential to the daily conduct of science, business, social justice etc.

Unfortunately, if you look closely, you may notice your students and colleagues struggle to pass. What percentage of the English language do we need to master for the exam? With the exam test our written as well as verbal abilities? Will any of the cultural competencies from our home countries/cultures be on the exam? Trick questions. All of them. Because there is no single exam. Every day and every interaction is an exam.

Personally, I speak more slowly, about 70% normal speed is passing for American English. My accent has to be at 20% for listener comprehension, slang at 0% native use. All the time.

But there is one way I pass that was unexpected. I pass for African American. Ironically, in today’s media it seems like this is the lowest rung on the USA diversity power ladder (without factoring in intersections). I pass for the citizens most likely to be shot by police, have the worst healthcare outcomes and least lifetime earnings outside of sports.

Strangely, my pass gets me invited to the table, involved in discussions on rights, liberty, equality, justice, meritocracies and privilege. Because as a Black Man, I should know the history of race in America and support those around me that are affected daily by its lasting impacts. Usually, sometime during the planning phases of whatever action the group has planned, I pipe up. Usually there is some open answer question, like every exam ever. My response includes, what abut international students?

This is where I stop passing. No longer African American. I am just black. Except, now I am a black foreigner. The mandatory blood tests can be justified, even in the same room we talk about the STD experiments on black men or birth control experiments on Latinos. Anything racist you can think of to say, becomes ok or at least legal, when you apply it to non citizens.

(Yes the blood tests are real, happening this semester. Ask an international student).

So, yeah. I guess I can no longer pass with you. Maybe a whole bunch of international students and scholars no longer will. But maybe it is better to be recognized for being 100% ourselves, than 50% passing.

If you are an international student or scholar who finds solidarity in this, please comment and share your experience. You can do so via twitter or Facebook or anonymously on the website.

Bird songs with Google and A.I.

This is quite possibly the best audio related thing I have seen today. search for your favorite bird and see the visual of the call and click on it to hear.

https://experiments.withgoogle.com/ai/bird-sounds/view/

The downside? The Bahama Mockingbird is the only Bahamian endemic I was able to find. This definitely reflects Western Academia’s struggle for representation in my opinion.  What can we do? Next time you are visiting a remote location to record or study a federally funded species, record your federally funded species AND two or three native species. Include in your grant support for local training in the use of the equipment and funding to leave a fully functioning set in the country. Bonus points for providing a space for the in country partners to upload their data and Legend status for coauthoring papers with the local partners.

Do the math.

We have all shared a stick of gum, a jelly bean or an M & M with a friend (unless you are a horrible person).

We all remember having to learn math and basic algebra in primary or high school, but have you ever used that skill?

I did and now I appreciate each M & M (mm), jelly bean, stick of gum, etc. more than ever. Here’s why… I did the math.

A regular sized package of M & Ms candies (peanut of course) weighs 1.74 oz, but who eats M & M’s by weight? Nobody. The one I got recently had 21 M&M’s in it. A much more reasonable metric. So we have two metrics now, 1.74 oz =21 M & Ms. Now we know each mm weighs 1.74 oz / 21 M & M about 0.083 oz.

If you buy them for $1.25 that comes to about (1.25/21) 6¢ per mm (how often do you get to use the ¢ symbol?). If you buy  from the on campus vending machine for $1.40 they cost (1.4/21) 6.67¢. yes that is 10% more! but you actually never pay a fraction of a penny, so round up. 7 cents becomes a 17% price difference.

To find the per ounce price we divide the cost per mm by the weight per M & M. 6.67¢/0.083 oz is 80¢ per ounce on campus! If we got the $1.25 bag it is 73¢ per ounce. Still a ten percent difference despite rounding.

Now if we compare the per ounce price to Amazon’s 42 oz. bag for $9.39 that reduces to 22¢ per ounce! Let’s find out how much they cost per M & M, 22¢/oz x 0.083 oz/M & M= 1.8¢

So if we purchase from a store for $1.25 we can save about a penny per M & M. If we purchase the big bag, we save 4 cents each time we eat an M&M.

Now every M&M you eat from now on will either taste like guilt, or winning.

You’re welcome.

*I accept no liability for weight gain resulting from eating M & Ms based on cost.

Do the math on your favorite treat and share in the comments.

Easy ways to learn python programming

As we learn and teach one of the most important things to find is a good pedagogy that works. Simple, straightforward with useful examples is what I go for.
I am now learning more python coding as part of the adaptation of my work.
I have explored several apps from the iTunes App Store. This is the best one I have found for several reasons.
1: it is free. Though ad supported, you do not have to pay for any further content.
2: it is set up in one page chunks for easy browsing and learning.
3: the examples are clear and obvious.
The link is below the app is called "easy ways to learn python"

itms-apps://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id1239029004

Typing Alpha the easy way

I find every year I have to go through this huge pain to find the alpha symbol and insert it into my documents for science classes or this dissertation. Now that I found the easy way to do it, I thought I would write a simple How To, to share that knowledge. Check out the attached PDF. Free to distribute to all students.

How to type the alpha symbol α the easy way in Microsoft Word

You are so welcome!

Leno

Ryan’s a joke

Ryan is a shallow person. But he wants to seem deep. He went to his mom’s house saying he was "going back to his roots." But she just said "rhizome".

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