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Quick shorts for the new academic year
By Tod Massa
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I hope the new academic year is off to a great start on college campuses across the Commonwealth. I spent much of August traveling to Minneapolis for the State Higher Education Executive Officers annual policy conference and then for a two week vacation. I cam back refreshed and relaxed...for an entire week before I got hit with the flu. Life is like that sometimes. Things move and change quickly. Watching the coverage on Hurricane Irma I'm wondering about the possible destruction of entire higher ed institutions in the Virgin Islands and the other Caribbean islands that have been devastated and look to be hit again by Hurricane Jose. 

The Equifax security breach looks disastrous with data for 143 million individuals compromised. The news traffic I'm reading is disturbing in the simplistic approaches being taken. For example:

In other words, a simple datetime stamp. Apparently they have been doing this since 2007. I suspect there will be quite few object lessons to take from this case. We have got to take information security much more seriously as nation.


This article from is one that I found fascinating. Not so much because of its implications for biology and herpetology, but because, without meaning to, it gets to the heart of what I consider to be the most fundamental issue of counting - definition and how to count from zero to one.


To study life on Earth, you need a system. Ours is Linnaean taxonomy, the model started by Swedish biologist Carl Linnaeus in 1735. Linnaeus’s two-part species names, often Latin-based, consist of both a genus name and a species name, i.e. Homo sapiens. Like a library’s Dewey Decimal system for books, this biological classification system has allowed scientists around the world to study organisms without confusion or overlap for nearly 300 years.


But, like any library, taxonomy is only as good as its librarians—and now a few rogue taxonomists are threatening to expose the flaws within the system. Taxonomic vandals, as they’re referred to within the field, are those who name scores of new taxa without presenting sufficient evidence for their finds. Like plagiarists trying to pass off others' work as their own, these glory-seeking scientists use others’ original research in order to justify their so-called “discoveries.”

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If you have the time, it is well worth reading. It really makes the Classification of Instructional Programs seem quite simple and well-managed.


Just before leaving on vacation, I decided write out my philosophy of counting and measuring. You can read it here and it will give you a better idea of what I try to do and what I have learned in this job over the last 16 years.

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