Use Google Docs for Anywhere Productivity

November 18, 2010

By Ralph Phillip, CIS

I love Google Docs! If you regularly use different computers at home, work, and/or school then using a web-based suite of productivity tools is for you.

Getting a Google account (also a Gmail or Blogger account) is free and easy to setup at http://docs.google.com. After you create an account you can start creating new documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and web surveys. You can organize your files within folders and with keywords.

Google Docs: documents list

Editing a document in Google Docs is pretty much like using installed software on your computer. It’s very easy to create and edit. You can also insert images, tables, charts, etc.

Then, you can access your documents from any computer. You don’t need any special software–just Internet access. So, you can start a document at work and continue it at home without having to use a portable storage device.

Google Docs: document editor

One of my favorite features of Google Docs is the sharing. You can share your documents in several ways. You can publish your document as a web page with live editing. As an example, I create my course syllabi in Google docs and share them as a web page. Students can see (or print) the syllabus at any time by going to the web page. If I make a change to my syllabus, I don’t have to republish because the published version is automatically updated. Yeah! No more printing.

You can also share a document with others whom have editing capabilities. This allows multiple people to work on the same document at the same time from different locations. This is a fantastic collaborative tool and you can see who is changing what parts of the document while they’re doing it.

Google Docs: sharing options

I’m having students create documents and share them with me. I can access their shared documents and type comments right on their document.

Give Google Docs a try. It’s free, reliable, and has many features that will improve your productivity.

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The (lack of) Logic in Politics: a case study

November 10, 2010

By Sean Rule, Math

The other night, for a few brief moments before falling off to sleep, I turned on the news for some current events, and hopefully some fodder for my morning MTH 244 class. Lo and behold, what’s on AC 360 but some snippets of a Matt Lauer interview with George W. Bush. And, what line do I first hear?

LAUER: Here’s something else from the book [in the following quotation, Lauer refers to W.’s “memoir”, Decision Points]: “I could never forget what happened to America that day. I would pour my heart and soul into protecting this country, whatever it took.” It took two wars. It took thousands of lives, American lives. Billions of dollars. You could say it taking Guantanamo and Abu Gharib and government eavesdropping and waterboarding. Did it take too much?

BUSH: We didn’t have an attack.

We can express the above question and answer in what is called a “conditional” statement. Based on W’s logic, it would go something like this: “If we haven’t had another attack on America, then it’s because of two wars, thousands of American lives’, billions of dollars (note: the actual price tag is in the trillions), etc., etc, etc.”[1]

You use these types of statements all of the time in your daily lives.  I used 7 of them last night between dinner and Max’s bedtime; for example: “Max, if you don’t get your feet off the table, you’ll get a time out”.  The logic in the statements is this: the conclusion (the “then” part) must necessarily follow from the hypothesis (the “if” part).  So, if Max didn’t remove his feet from the table, he would have gotten a time out (by the way, he didn’t, and then he did).

So what’s the issue with W’s conditional? Simple: confirmation bias. “What’s that?”, you ask. Confirmation bias is finding a conclusion that favors your beliefs. As humans, we tend to remember things which fall in line with our way of thinking, and forget those which don’t. For example, if you get a cold, then you might believe taking 3000 mg of Vitamin C each day will shorten the cold’s length. You confirm this when your cold gets better. You have biased yourself toward believing in the vitamin C treatment.

So what’s the problem? Well, cold symptoms usually decrease independently of vitamin C treatment, so you can’t prove that your vitamin C megadoses actually did anything. Short of conducting a double blind, controlled study, there’s no way of analyzing the effect of a variable on an experimental model.

W’s statement implies that the reason we haven’t had an attack on America is because of the things he listed above, and, ostensibly, for which he is responsible (two wars, Gitmo, etc.). True? Who knows? They’re impossible to prove. Here’s another, equally plausible statement: “If we haven’t had another attack on America, then it was because the CIA has gotten better at decoding intercepted information.” Why is it as equally plausible? Simple: you can’t disprove it, just as I can’t disprove W’s. However, you can’t prove his (nor mine) either, and that makes both of them, though plausible, well…vapid. There are a number of theories out there regarding why we haven’t had any more significant terror attacks, but they’re all just that…theories.

We’re all susceptible to confirmation bias in our everyday lives. Max looks for a reason that he didn’t fall off of the slide, and credits his wonderful balance skill (not the fact that Daddy was stabilizing him). I safely ride home from work every day, thank goodness, sure that my biking skills are the reason (not luck, nor the bright lights I use). W was looking for justification for his wars and defense spending, and found it in the “no more attacks” logic.

What do you think? Finish the conditional: “We haven’t had another significant attack on America, because…” 

 
 


[1] I’d like to also point out that W didn’t answer Matt’s question; he merely redirected it.  However, I’m so sick of politicians playing verbal hopscotch that I wanted to focus on something else. 


Kapitoil

November 4, 2010

By Stacey Donohue, Humanities

The 2011 Deschutes Public Library’s A Novel Idea  selection is…….Kapitoil by Teddy Wayne.

You probably haven’t heard of this book yet, but you will. It’s already on Booklist’s Top 10 First Novels for 2010. It’s been translated into French.  And Jonathan Franzen himself (whose latest novel, Freedom, I highly recommend for its domestic realism mixed with philosophical musings on the vagaries of free choice) chose it as one of the 4 best novels of the year.  Here is Franzen’s pithy review:

“A young man from the boonies comes to New York City to make his fortune. It’s an old story, but here the boonies are the Middle East, and the young man is an earnestly self-improving Muslim math whiz who goes to work for a private-equity firm shortly before the 9/11 attacks. He’s a type—the nerdy and needy young immigrant—that we’re all familiar with but that no other writer, as far as I know, has invented such a funny and compelling voice and story for. The novel unfolds as a series of diary entries, each ending with a list of American vocabulary words, and it does what novels can do better than any other art form: Show us a familiar world through unfamiliar eyes.”

Karim Issar, a native of Qatar, is hired in 1999 to do computer security grunt work by a firm in New York. He uses his financial acumen to create a program that predicts oil futures, which makes the company rich, and gives Karim a private office as well as the chance to make lots of money.

But it’s not all computers and futures. The appeal of the story for me was in the moral dilemma that Karim faces when he recognizes the global repercussions of his computer program, and in his evolving Americanization.  Karim’s demeanor and response to American social and business culture of New York City months before the millennium (think of  Spock’s “fascinating” in reaction to something truly odd about earthlings) made me laugh out loud.  Here is Karim reflecting on a session in bed with his co-worker: “I paid attention to which actions produced no effect and which yielded a net gain.”

A Novel Idea…Read Together kicks off on April 10, 2011 with three weeks of free cultural programs, book discussions, films, food tastings, music, and art – and will culminate with author Teddy Wayne visiting Central Oregon April 28 – 30.