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  1. Jo498

    German politics xth attempt

    I would love to see Merkel go down. And the CDU fully deserves the fate of the SPD (i.e going below 20%). And the CSU deserves a crashing defeat in Bavaria. But don't get your hopes up. They hate each other but they love power more than anything else, so they will work out some compromise and blunder on for another two years. And the Greens are fairly stable and have shown to be even more "flexible" than the FDP (i.e. spineless, opportunistic scum) so they will be happy to provide scaffolding for a crumbling government. If the AfD were not self-destructive idiots they would already be above 20%, not around 12-15. It will only get worse for quite a while. Next big thing I expect is a lynch mob trying to get at a refugee/foreigner suspected of rape or so. (There apparently recently was a lynch mob after a TV show on pedophiles. They broke into a flat and seriously beat up a person who looked similar to a suspected pedophile offender shown on TV. Needless to say, the poor guy was innocent.) https://meedia.de/2018/06/14/war-rtl-bericht-ueber-paedophile-ausloeser-fuer-lynchjustiz-ermittler-pruefen-punkt-12-beitrag/
  2. Wasn't there this huge meta-study about elementary and secondary education a few years ago that basically claimed that hardly any of the hotly contested aspects (like (early) tracking) matter all that much? Anyway, in Germany the "tradition" used to be almost no private schools but very early tracking for public schools. Children get "sorted" after 4 years of elementary school at about 10 yo (or more rarely after 6 years at about 12). There used to be three tracks: "Gymnasium" (not a gym but more like a prep school or a Lycée in France), "Realschule" and "Hauptschule" or "Volksschule". As the terms indicate until the 60s or so most people only went to the lowest form, left at about 14 (later 15-16 when another year was added) and entered an apprenticeship (while still going to some kind of trade school for about one day per week during the apprenticeship). The Gymnasium used to be mostly university bound people and the middle track was for lower level white collar jobs. These tracks still exist but a lot has changed. The lowest track nowadays is mostly for the bottom few, problem students with difficult backgrounds, poor command of German etc. The middle track (leaving at about 16 after 10 years) is for non-academically inclined who usually start an apprenticship as described above. Almost half of the students now graduate from the academic track (12-13 years, finishing at 18-19) so in theory they should be fit for college. Not all go there, there are still good options for white collar jobs that are accessed via an apprenticeship (like bank or insurance clerk) and these nowadays tend to require the "Abitur" (the diploma of the academic track school). Anyway, a hot debate in Germany since I can remember (ca. mid 1980s) is that this early tracking is supposedly the root of all evil, especially of injustice. It is claimed that it is hardly possible to sort such young children and that many end up in the wrong kind of secondary school for social reasons. Apart from the fact that it is possible to change between tracks later on (albeit with some difficulty and it seems to happen more often in downwards direction), I have serious doubts about this claim. First of all, not enough people change (forced or voluntarily) tracks later. If the sorting was more often "wrong" than correct this would have to happen far more often. Secondly, anecdotal evidence from my own school time. I know that this cannot replace "studies" but from this experience I'd put the number of children who got sorted into the wrong track at around 5-10%, i.e. about two in a classroom of 25. I think the German system was too rigid in former times but it was decent in the 1980s when I went to secondary school. I also don't quite see why early tracking should be so bad compared to tracking from, say 14/15 to the end of high school. With 14 many kids are still troubled by puberty and this will certainly act as a confounder when trying to evaluate capabilities. Also, tbh or blunt, possible injustice because of "possibly wrongly sorted" kids is not the only aspect of justice in education. There is also the aspect that bright kids in their extremely receptive years before/around puberty lose two years or so of education because they are tied down to the average (or below average). Even worse, if they are not sufficiently challenged they could develop problematic habits, expecting to always be able to coast along without any effort (because that had worked so well for them from ages 10-16 or so... been there done that to some extent). Of course one can always claim that we should have an integrated system without tracks but sufficient differentiation and options to keep the smart kids busy as well. I agree. But it has to be done and done well and I have my doubts that it is usually done well. Whereas with tracks this is roughly "built in" already. I am all for giving special support to those with tough backgrounds or special needs. But there are many ways how this can be done and I don't think that no tracking is the answer.
  3. Jo498

    March 2018 reads: share your latest books read

    Not easy to answer. I wasn't a kid but in my late 20s when I read them (around 2000 when the 4th book was due) but I found them very enjoyable. In hindsight with some re-reads during the years and waits until 2007 the first 3 books are maybe more successful than the remainder because they are not as ambitious.
  4. Taking the better students without special tests is still the standard procedure in Germany for picking the students for the somewhat more academically oriented middle/high schools (although this is usually done already after 4th or 6th grade, i.e. with 10-12 year olds). But these schools usually do not have an explicit maths/science or language focus (they might still have in some regions), they are general, only on a higher level and with more options (i.e. more foreign languages). There is usually another option to change schools after 10th grade (so only the last 2-3 years and the final exam will be at the new school) and by then the differences can be considerable. This was almost 30 years ago but I recall that we got a new student after 10th grade who had been a B+ student or so in maths at his former school and barely got the passing grade in the first math class in 11th grade (some kind of elementary calculus) at our school. Sure, private schools are the obvious "solution" for the rich. They will become more attractive (and they have been growing in a country like Germany where they were quite rare, partly because of the watered-down level of public schools). Still, I think the subtle means and the general mechanisms are important to note because they undermine the very purpose of "broadly accessible" higher ed.
  5. Jo498

    Tolkien 2.0

    It's been a long time that I watched it but another famous book by Ende, "Momo" was made into a far better movie (still not superior to the book, but the author approved of that movie as well). I guess there were a few cases where as a kid I was so happy about having ANY movie/TV show of a favorite book that I did not mind that it did not quite live up to the expectations or that some things were obviously "wrong" (i.e. different from the book). Again, my recollection is dim, because this must have been around 1980-81, but I think the British TV series of Blyton's "Famous Five" was such a case. But the Neverending Story experience put an end to that. Afterwards I tended to prefer no movie at all to one I found a travesty of the book.
  6. Jo498

    Tolkien 2.0

    I was traumatized as a ca. 11-yo. The first movie I watched in a theater was the first "Neverending Story" movie. This had been one of my favorite books for a year or so and was looking forward to it. I accepted that there would be *some* changes but not that it would be merely half of the book and have such a silly ending. (Although in hindsight that movie is fairly decent and it would clearly have been impossible to get the whole book into one movie. I was also not quite smart enough to understand that a book about books and reading could never keep its magic as a movie. The author, Ende, was still alive in the 1980s and thoroughly hated the movie.) That said, I would have been fine with even more cuts of not so relevant stuff in the first LotR movie because it drags, especially at the beginning. But under almost no circumstances I would be fine with adding trite stuff in a movie project that will in any case need to cut fairly important stuff for reasons of time. So, yes, ceteris paribus I am against changes, unless there are very good reasons. There are no good reasons for the warg attack nonsense and the scene itself is badly done, partly because the wargs look so ridiculous. But yes, I basically am a purist. I an hardly think of any good book where I like (or even prefer) the movie. (But I am probably forgetting some exceptions.) There are some decent multi-episode TV shows, though, e.g. the 1990s "Pride and Prejudice" and a few others. I also saw two rather good Dickens adaptions (Great Expectations and Little Dorrit) a few years ago.
  7. What would replace the test? A harder/different test? A combination of the old style test with some other criteria? I think one should keep distinct what would be a better admission/selection procedure and the question whether there should be selective schools at all. There is one "dialectic" in education many people do not seem to be aware of. If we make (all kind/levels of) public schools less selective because we fear that otherwise we exclude some that are already disadvantaged, this will devalue these public schools. And the end result will be that the de facto selection criteria for the higher levels of schooling and attractive jobs will be even more class-dependent than before. Because if a degree/diploma/certain GPA does not imply some distinction (because almost everyone has such a degree and good grades), these distinctions will come from study abroad, unpaid internships, other types of "social capital" that usually is far more class-dependent than mere grades/performance at a selective test.
  8. Jo498

    Tolkien 2.0

    I have no clue about computer generated effects. But the "wargs" looked so obviously horrible and clumsy. It was also bad because it introduced a stupid, superfluous and clicheed scene not in the books. (I forgot what was cut to make room for it.) At the end, the only good thing about the movies for me is the visual aspect, the landscape, most of the buildings and costumes although I have some quibbles there as well, it is generally beautifully done. Almost everything else is quite flawed. And it is also weird if the most expressive actor in a movie is partly computer generated...
  9. Jo498

    June '18 Reading - Something something witty.

    Hemingway: For whom the bell tolls. Mostly in May, but I finished on the first of June, I guess. I had read "Old man and the Sea" and "A farewell to arms" many years ago and had not found them very remarkable. Also a few short stories in English class. FWTBT seems in a different league, this is a great book, maybe his masterpiece? (I read this in German translation, so the use of archaic English for the Spanish of the guerilleros that was criticized is not present there anymore.) And in the last few days, Pratchett: Nation. This starts very promising but unfortunately gets rather stale and preachy in the last third or so. (The epilogue is completely cheesy.) Still worth a read but vaguely disappointing because of the lame ending.
  10. Jo498

    Tolkien 2.0

    I am barely refraining from calling you "sweet summer child". I remember several years of speculation and fantasizing about possible LotR movies, casts etc. in the mid-to-late 1990s in the usenet groups dedicated to Tolkien, long before the movies were even planned I saw the first two movies in the theatre. I found the first decent, if too long and slow at times. The second one has some pretty good stuff but overall I found it so bad that I never watched the last one in any medium. My complaints are mostly different from the ones you mention as having been particularly controversial. I did not like Arwen at the Ford, but it is a minor quibble. The really bad things occur in the second movie: - the Ents - the badly animated Warg attack where Aragorn gets lost and later comes back - Elves at Helm's Deep (more superfluous than horribly bad) - Theoden and Gandalf as exorcist. I find this so much worse than microwave Galadriel.
  11. Jo498

    UK Politics - From Russia with Love

    Obviously, workers from country A have to suffer a little unemployment for the greater good of workers from country B being separated from their families for most of the time, living 6 to a room and working considerably cheaper than the local (A) workers which they (B) can afford because living 6 to a room in A and what they make in A has far more purchasing power in B. All is well, both morally and economically, it's not a race to the bottom, it is only improving the wealth of the B-workers (and especially the wealth of the entrepreneur employing the B instead of A) with a small decline in utility for the A-workers.
  12. haloumi literally means "salted", so of course it is quite salty... As for cheese alternatives: Do you like cream cheese, cottage cheese or guacamole or other savory dips/spreads? Hummus is with legumes but in moderation should also be o.k. (As I remember the rules, legumes are not good but still better than most meat products for gout.) There are also spreads made from nuts and almonds, usually somewhat sweet and often quite expensive. They are favorites of vegans. And again: eggs, fried, scrambled, boiled, poached, whatever. the cholesterol craze was exaggerated, one can eat lotsa eggs and be fine, they are a good source of protein for people who have to watch out for purine.
  13. I have also had gout attacks in the past (fortunately the last one was more than 15 months ago). I still eat meat, but not much and not every day. To avoid alcohol, especially beer, is also important. (It is easier for me to avoid alcohol than meat, so I hardly drink anymore, except very little on important social occasions.) I think you can eat most carbs as most of them are low purine. Eggs and Dairy are also o.k. and probably the best source of proteine because as you know a gout patient should also avoid legumes (although they are usually not as high in purines as meat). I read that oatmeal can also be a problem but I eat oatmeal almost every day for breakfast and this seems to work o.k. It is also usually recommended to get to normal weight (say BMI 25 or lower). I am at 25 but hope to lose a few more pounds. 23,xx would be great and if I can hold that, I will not try to lose any more weight. What do I typically eat: breakfast: (quick, i.e. the non-cooking variety) oats with milk, yoghurt, sliced fruit (whatever is at hand, today banana and strawberry), a chopped walnut or two. (oats are on some no-go lists for gout but I think the benefits outweigh the risks, alternatively one could try another type of grain porridge or flakes. lunch: pasta, potatoes, rice or similar carbs, typically with some sauce, not too much meat or scrambled eggs, some (of the allowed varieties, but I think unless one eats loads of asparagus etc. purines are usually not a problem) veggies or salad, basically the only thing I really watch is not too much meat and hardly any legumes. dinner: rye bread, butter and cheese. If I had no meat for lunch, sometimes sausages, cold cuts. Sometimes fruit or a tomato, occasionally more dairy (yoghurt) or something sweet like a piece of cake or a sweet pastry (but I am also trying to cut back on that kind of carbs for weight control). I am both lazy (all that chopping) and not too fond of salads, otherwise I would more frequently go for a low carb dinner option, say a salad with feta cheese or sth. like that. (Note that since last fall I usually do intermittent fasting, i.e. I have a small dinner around 4 p.m. and then nothing until breakfast at about 7:30. If I had a big lunch (in Germany lunch is often still the main meal), I sometimes skip dinner. If I have a big dinner for social reasons I try to skip breakfast to maintain a 15-16 hour fast.)
  14. Jo498

    UK Politics - From Russia with Love

    So reality is fundamentally chauvinistic because in fact freedom of movement has been bad for workers? I certainly do not want do defend Brexit (I think it is foolish but I don't care enough to really bother to form a nuanced opinion) but it might be a "wakeup call" not only for Britain but also for the rest of the EU. Because RBPL is simply spot on wrt to the undemocratic and neoliberal character of the EU both of which became obvious in the Greek crisis. And what is more insidious is that every EU criticism along the lines indicated by RBPL is put into a rightwing/chauvinist camp to silence it. Because obviously nobody wants to be grouped with Nazis. And an enemy of peace... Peace in Europe was not guaranteed by the EU but by the Cold war, so it is fitting that we are bringing the cold war back to have peace in the future.
  15. The comparisons to the early 20th century are difficult because the genre was in a rather different stage, far more niche than in the last ca. 30 years. But it is also difficult to predict if one looks into genres that already had a broad appeal more than 100 years ago. Ngaio Marsh and many others of the Golden Age of Crime Mystery are not quite as forgotten as Merritt but no other author from the 20s-40s comes even close to Agatha Christie in popularity today, I believe. Fantasy became huge in the 70s/80s and then has developed into something far more diverse in the last ca. 20 years (Potter, Urban Fantasy, alternative history Fantasy (like Strange/Norrell), more daring SF-Fantasy fusions (although some of the best not so recent stuff like LeGuin or Wolfe already did similar fusions) etc.). It may be wishful thinking but I would also expect that the more original contributions have a better chance to survive than the LotR clones and RPG scripts of the 70s/80s. (Although that RA Salvatore is still writing and his stuff seems to be selling well does not make one optimistic... ;))