22 July 2011

US Supreme Court on Peer Grading

I'm always surprised by what I learn or see from reading Supreme Court rulings.  This time, I find an extremely succinct explanation of the positive impact of having students mark each others' test papers:

Correcting a classmate’s work can be as much a part of the assignment as taking the test itself. It is a way to teach material again in a new context, and it helps show students how to assist and respect fellow pupils. By explaining the answers to the class as the students correct the papers, the teacher not only reinforces the lesson but also discovers whether the students have understood the material and are ready to move on.
Owasso v. Falvo

21 July 2011

Is Ammyy Behind the Scammy Phone Call?

My friend just relayed to me this funny story of receiving a very scammy phone call recently.

Bottom line:
Someone with a thick Indian accent called my friend, claiming to be from "Windows Service System" based in "Otwa, the Canada state", claiming that they detected on my friend's computer many malicious malware, and wanted to show my friend these malicious files by asking him to download and run this "Ammyy Admin" software.  Based on the content of the phone conversation, and subsequent online checking, it's pretty safe to say the Indian sounding fellow's end-game is to get remote access to my friend's computer, and to force him to cough up money to "fix" the computer.  If you get such a call, just hang up on them.

Some general details:
The Telus phone company is aware of the scam, according to the Telus phone operator, and the operator's advice was to just hang up on them.  The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre [1] is aware as well, and have published a bulletin on this.  The internet chatter on this is loud and clear that this scammy type phone call is popular and old.

How the call went down:
The fellow with the Indian accent (let's call him Ishaan - not his real name) called my friend (let's call him Greg - not real name either).  Ishaan says he's calling from "Windows Service System, service provider of Windows", and he's calling because he's "getting regular pop-up alerts about how [Greg's] hard drive is about to crash-down due to malicious files".

18 July 2011

What Latin Phrases to Italicize in Formal Writing?

When writing formally, you'll probably have to use some Latin or other foreign words or phrases, like "e.g.", "viz.", "inter alia", "etc.", etc. Do you italicize them? Or do you not? Actually, some you do italicize, while others you don't. So how do you figure out which is which?

The rule of thumb is, if the word or short phrase has been so commonly used in English writing that it's immediately recognizable to an English reader, meaning the word or phrase has been assimilated into current English usage, then don't italicize it (i.e. it is anglicized and should be set in roman). If the phrase is an abbreviation of a Latin phrase, also don't italicize it. Finally, don't italicize foreign proper names, foreign names of people, institutions, places, etc., and also usually not for foreign quotation.

Otherwise, italicize the word or phrase to show that it's foreign. When writing italicized foreign words or phrases, make sure to put in the appropriate accents and diacritical marks (this means that for German nouns, the initial letter is capitalized.

But which words or short phrases are commonly used in English enough not to be italicized? It could be a tough call. To help you, here's a compiled listing of frequently used foreign phrases and whether to italicize them: