Conversion from Word – (mostly) Solved!

Simplest method I’ve been able to find:

  1. Open Word file, select & copy material.
  2. Go to the demo page for CKEditor,
  3. Click the “Paste From Word” button and paste the content.
  4. Click the “Source” button in CKEditor
  5. Copy HTML source code
  6. Paste into an HTML document. I’m using Flux and RapidWeaver for that.

Amazingly, my images seem to have come through as well. There’s no horrible excess of <span> or <div> tags, no font specifications, none of that cruft. so I can add those in later to make it more meaningful. The headings and basic markup are there, nothing else.

Here it is in the “saved-from-word” HTML:

<p class=MsoNormal>&nbsp;</p>
<p class=MsoListParagraph style='text-indent:-.25in'>1.<span style='font:7.0pt "Times New Roman"'>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;
</span>What bond breaks in the first step? </p>
<p class=MsoListParagraph style='text-indent:-.25in'>2.<span style='font:7.0pt "Times New Roman"'>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;
</span>In the second step, one bond breaks and two bonds form. Which are they? </p>
<p class=MsoListParagraph style='text-indent:-.25in'>3.<span style='font:7.0pt "Times New Roman"'>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;
</span>Compare the relative energies of the reactants (t-BuCl + B<sup>-</sup>);
the intermediates (t-Bu<sup>+</sup>, Cl<sup>-</sup>, and B<sup>-</sup>); and
the products (2-methylpropene, Cl<sup>-</sup>, and HB). </p>

And the same material done from the above method:

 <li>What bond breaks in the first step?</li>
 <li>In the second step, one bond breaks and two bonds form. Which are they?</li>
 <li>Compare the relative energies of the reactants (t-BuCl + B-); the intermediates (t-Bu+, Cl-, and B-); and the products (2-methylpropene, Cl-, and HB).</li>

So I lose the superscript tags for the ions, but the list format is done properly with tags and the whole code is much more readable.  It’s a very worthy trade-off.

The images are still saved with very generic names, so I will have to come up with some kind of system for naming them properly and keeping them sorted.
(from Word)

 <p class=MsoNormal><img width=266 height=62 id="_x0000_i1027"

and from CKEdit:

<p><img src="file://localhost/Users/dave/Library/Caches/TemporaryItems/msoclip/0clip_image006.png" style="height:62px; width:266px; " ></p>

This was so easy that I downloaded the ckeditor library, from their website (, made my own local page following their tutorial. Now, the only annoying bit is fixing the images from their location in a temp folder to a meaningful location in the web site directory.


Shuffle And Remember

I had a cool idea this morning – in the shower, where inspiration so often strikes. It’s the second day of Spring semester, with the sequel O-Chem 2 course (and therefore 95% of students were in my Fall course), so after the usual first-day “welcome back, here’s the syllabus, here’s the lab reports you turned in the last days before the final” and a bit about finding summer research internships in the sciences, the students agreed that they’d rather spend a day refreshing themselves on reactions from O-Chem 1 before plunging ahead.

I thought I had some good review materials in Powerpoint clicker format, but nope. I had good review material for about one and a half chapters. So what to do? Have each student say one thing they remembered, in turn, no duplicates? Write a worksheet or maybe hand out an old final exam? Naah.

And here it is: Get two stacks of index cards, in different colors. Gave each student three cards. On one color, write (and name) an organic molecule with one or two functional groups. On the other color, write a set of reaction conditions they remember from the fall term, not necessarily related to the molecules they drew. Share the cards around, shuffled, so each student gets new cards from different people.

Then, the goal is to match conditions to cards so that all cards were paired up. The structure cards could be used as either reactants or as products, as long as the reagent cards worked. Thus, if a student had “cyclohexanol” s/he could match it with either “BH3-THF then H2O2, (as product of hydroboration/oxidation of cyclohexene), or maybe with “chromic acid” as the reactant (making cyclohexanone).

We got most of the cards paired off. They were allowed to swap cards as needed, in case of having unreactive combinations. With 10 minutes left in the period, I gathered the un-paired cards at the front to see what was left – there were a few more matches that could be made. There were also, for no good reason, three cards whose reagents were “CH3OH, H2SO4” – not sure where that came from.

I think it was a pretty good review exercise. I needed to give out a third color and have that be the missing reactant or product. Maybe it would be fun to see what kind of a “chain” I could have them make – hit something with this reactant, then that one, then that one. That would mean making many more reagent cards than reactant cards.

Anyway, just putting this out there for the inspiration of my “vast” readership of other chem teachers. How would you incorporate something like this as a pre-exam, or beginning-of-sequel-course, in chemistry or in some other subject?


PS Expecting an announcement soon….

Movie Mashups I Want To See

Here are some ideas for movie/TV mashups:

  1. Breaking Bad News Bears: a grouchy, alcoholic geezer turns around a pathetic Little League baseball team by feeding them amphetamines, just like the pros. Desperate to keep their connection, the team surprises everyone.
  2. Walking Dead Man Walking: Susan Sarandon plays a nun in prison ministry when the zombie plague breaks out. Several months later a sheriff and his friends come across the prison and move in.
  3. The Lion King And I: A cub-prince is raised on the plains of the Serengeti by his governess, a young English woman named Anna, and her meerkat sidekick.
  4. Finding Captain Nemo: After a reclusive submariner disappears, his goofy friends track him 20,000 leagues under the sea to a dentist’s office in Australia.
  5. Monty Python’s Life of Brian Jones: a young accountant is pursued by Rolling Stones fans who refuse to believe that his name is, in fact, very common.
  6. Braveheart Of Darkness: Men in kilts and blue face paint establish a bizarre kingdom in the African jungle.
  7. The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly Betty – a serape-wearing drifter in search of gold instead finds friends who give him fashion advice. Tip #1: lose the serape.
  8. His Girl Friday the Thirteenth: Classic screwball comedy about the romantic tension between a tough female reporter and her ex-husband, a mask-wearing serial killer.
  9. Enter the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: A noir mystery in which a bisexual punk hacker and a martial arts expert team up to expose corruption and opium smuggling in Sweden and Hong Kong.
  10. A Star Wars Is Born: Aging, burned-out Jedi (played by Kris Kristofferson) falls for talented princess (Carrie Fisher) and turns her into a pop music success thanks to The Force.
  11. Men In Black Hawk Down: Old story of the brash rookie and tired veteran gets a comic twist as they use their flashy pen thing to make the entire United States forget that it’s a bad idea to send troops into unstable middle-eastern countries with no clear goal except their own survival. Cameo by Donald Rumsfeld as MIB boss Agent Zed.
  12. The Remains of the Day of the Jackal: An aging assassin reminisces about his prewar relationship with the head housekeeper, realizing too late that she had loved him before his coldness and tendency to shoot at heads of state drove her away.
  13. The Princess Bride of Frankenstein: After his girlfriend is kidnapped, a young man discovers that True Love is going to reunite him with the one who was made for him – literally.
  14. The Sign of the Four Weddings And A Funeral: bashful but brilliant Sherlock Holmes (Hugh Grant) eventually gets a clue about a girl.
  15. The Magnificent Seven Samurai: oh, wait, that’s already been done.

Brains and personhood – at the end of life

Two recent posts in the Facebook feed of DeFund the Komen Foundation, plus a life event that happened to people I know, got me thinking about brain function and what it is to be a living human. (Also the vagaries of health care and insurance.)
All of these are very sad events, and I hope never to have to go through them. I’m so awed at the strength and resilience of the family I know, and I hope the other families affected can share their strength in the face of catastrophe.

In one case, the most likely for the general public to have heard of, a teenage girl suffered serious complications after a tonsillectomy and eventually was declared brain-dead. Her family is resisting this diagnosis and has planned a public march for her.

In a second case, a woman in Texas who suffered some kind of aneurysm cannot be removed from life support because she is pregnant. According to her husband, this is against her expressed wishes.

Finally, a little over a year ago, a local man suffered a heart condition that left him severely brain-damaged from oxygen deprivation. Jim’s body hung on for ten months, from ICU to nursing home and finally to hospice care. While Jim was not brain-dead, it gradually became clear that he could never recover and that his life would be a spiral of infections, hospitalizations, and very small moments.

In each of these cases, a beloved family member suffered a sudden problem that caused their brains to lose the ability to maintain the person they used to be. The responses of the families and medical communities to these events show such a range of attitudes toward life and their loved ones. The McMath family is shocked and refuses to accept the “cold” diagnosis, at least until Jahi can be examined by an independent neurologist. The Munoz family is in the opposite situation, but the state of Texas is insisting on keeping Marlise Munoz’s body functioning for the next five months to nurture the 18-week-old fetus. And the Blum family lost a terrific husband and father, in steps.

The brain supports our personal self in a way that, for example, the kidneys do not. The classic philosophical question comes from the possibility that medical science found a way to transplant the fully functioning brain of person A into another body, B. Would you say that Person B got a brain transplant, or Person A got a body transplant? (In a Larry Niven short story, the body transplant answer was used as a perfect disguise by an “organlegger”)

Is Jahi McMath dead? By some medical definitions, pretty much. Or maybe she’s just “mostly dead.” But her family says, she is warm and soft and still alive. Marlise Munoz isn’t dead, either, but Erick knows she wouldn’t want to be maintained by machines. For Jahi, the hospital wants to let her body stop supporting a brain that can no longer maintain the person Jahi. Her family is, as yet, unwilling. Erick Munoz, on the other hand, is ready to say goodbye to his beloved Marlise, in accordance with her known wishes. And as for Jim, his “Jimness” left in late November 2012, but for tiny embers of recognition, and the rest of his body outlived him by ten and a half months.

For each of these people, their essence was gone at a different time than their biology quit functioning. The brain is where we are, and the body has to support it to keep us going. For religious people, there is a question as to when, exactly, the “soul” separates from the body. Cases like these make it harder to pinpoint a time or an event. I think Jahi’s family will need to make that decision – one of the news stories referenced a minister. I don’t know what the Munoz family thinks, religiously.

I was able to chat with Jim for a little while when he visited our house on one of his last evenings as Jim. Of course, no one knew that at the time. And I never saw him again, except in a few photos from his Caringbridge page (linked above). But his family came to accept that Jim-the-person wasn’t really in Jim-the-body any more. They were fortunate not to be in a redneck state like Texas that might have interfered with their decisions because of someone else’s religious views, or because a callous hospital might prefer a wrongful-death claim to extended life support.

When my body can no longer keep my brain going enough for there to be Dave, I’m gone. Take the parts I’m no longer using, if someone else can benefit from them. Recycle paper and pancreases, cans and kidneys. And, support stem-cell research for neural injury. Jim’s widow wants you to.

Poverty of money or poverty of compassion?

The other day I blogged a little about defaulting on the debt and the trend of states with high Republican vote percentages to also have high ratios of federal dollars received to federal taxes paid. While “researching” – okay, web-surfing- I began to wonder if maybe it was because the conservative states have a lot of poor people, many of whom are non-white. I wasn’t going to go there, on account of the race-card version of Godwin’s Law, but Paul Krugman did.

Maybe that also helps explain the mysterious neglect of poverty by the Christian Right. They’d much rather focus on sexual immorality than on economic immorality. Because focusing on the poor means focusing, at least more than they usually have to, on minorities? Because it’s easier to blame poverty on the poor, for their bad decisions regarding sexual behavior and drug abuse, than to take responsibility for preventing poverty by ponying up for good schools?

Beauty and the ape…

Working off of the WordPress Daily Prompt about trying to describe or explain beauty.

I’ll riff on that a little bit. What is beautiful? Those things that give us peace, but also those things that promise variety. I will suggest that beauty is an emotion of “rightness”. Tony Hillerman’s mysteries introduced me to the Navajo concept of hózhó, which combines beauty with rightness and harmony.

‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.’

Perhaps Keats was on to something, in equating the two. Of course, he was writing about the mystery of the ages as expressed in the Grecian Urn, and there are beautiful fantasies and ugly truths as well.

A beautiful landscape is one that has features – if you think past “ugly” as an antonym, “desolate” comes to mind. “Stark beauty” is a cliche to describe, not featurelessness, but features emphasized by their isolation. Beautiful architecture has a balance of features that is neither too stark and slab-like, nor too laden with baroque detail.

An illuminated blue ceiling is somehow less beautiful than an equally blue sky, though a photo of the two might appear identical. Is it the depth of field? The promise of change? Or a trick of perception that the light arriving from the sky, though it appears the same color to us, is richer or more continuous in wavelengths than the painted ceiling? (Compare real sky spectrum to paint reflections…)

What is beauty in a person? Various research has shown that, in a face, we like a face that is nearly, but not perfectly, symmetrical. (Taking a photo and mirroring the left-right sides actually decreases attractiveness.)
Beauty is correlated with youth and health, but not strictly. Older people can be beautiful when their faces suggest a friendly and generous character, and the artificial look of a Paris Hilton plastic-surgery face decreases beauty.

Beauty is also associated with cleverness or good practice within a set of artificial parameters. Engineers and mathematicians use the word to describe an elegant solution to a problem, one that uses a minimum of complexity. In that respect (and note that this is the opposite of landscape beauty!), perhaps beauty implies economy of resources.

This afternoon, some football player will probably make a beautiful catch or a beautiful tackle, or maybe escape a tackle through a beautiful feint. And another team will “win ugly” – they’ll get more points, but somehow the win is diminished by the absence of this elegance, or by blunders from the other team. I probably wouldn’t recognize a beautiful play in, for example, British cricket, since I have no idea how the game goes.

There is beauty in music as well – perhaps coming from completion of an expected pattern? This pattern idea comes from my limited experience with P.D.Q. Bach, who uses broken patterns to produce musical jokes. The wave-forms of sound can certainly also be a source (or lack) of beauty in music – the same note in sine wave, sawtooth wave, or square wave sounds different, and synthesized music seems flat because it lacks the pattern of overtones produced by physical instruments. I have little appreciation for Chopin’s tinkly (and to my ears, dull) piano music, but someone who knows Chopin might get little sense of beauty from In Memory of Elizabeth Reed. And neither of us see the beauty in Judas Priest or this.

Music can be beautiful in different ways to different people, because it brings up different memories. So the powerful association of music and mind easily evokes beauty – a topic for another day, I can see depth there.

A beautiful symphony (or guitar jam), a beautiful face, a beautiful landscape, a beautiful proof in mathematics or a beautiful double play in baseball all provoke an emotion of beauty. They do so through different mechanisms, and for best appreciation of beauty it’s important to have some background to recognize it.

So what is beauty? The last line of the 1933 version of King Kong is, “Oh no, it wasn’t the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast.”

Maybe beauty is an emotion that sets humanity apart from the beasts. And maybe that’s because it isn’t always there for us.

Ayn Rand lives on.

People really do think like this: Time For the 99% To Give Back To the 1%. Someone sent me to that site, In response to a Facebook share of this Krugman post. At first I really thought it might be trolling. But I checked out a couple more of his columns, and (natch) Googled him, and it turns out that Dr Binswanger is a committed Randian philosopher.
Now, I don’t have a huge background in philosophy. Okay, I took a course (Philo 10, in winter term 1982) in Mathematical Logic that was later excluded from being eligible for the “History, Philosophy, and Religion” college distribution requirement, I guess for not being philosophical enough. But I do recall that one of the tenets there was that any system of logical deduction depends on both the correctness of the logic and the truth of the starting axioms on which the deductions are based.
Ayn Rand has been widely critiqued by philosophers, including here and here.
And I’m not going to try to get into that debate, except that I’ll simply assert, as a slur, that Objectivism is a religion and not a philosophy.

So let’s go to the axioms and logic as put in Binswanger’s column.

He is attacking “the popular idea that the successful are obliged to give back to the community”.
His arguments are (and these are direct quotes from the column):

  1. That oft-heard claim assumes that the wealth of high-earners is taken away from “the community.”
  2. And beneath that lies the perverted Marxist notion that wealth is accumulated by “exploiting” people, not by creating value–as if Henry Ford was not necessary for Fords to roll off the (non-existent) assembly lines and Steve Jobs was not necessary for iPhones and iPads to spring into existence.
  3. The community” never gave anyone anything. The “community,” the “society,” the “nation” is just a number of interacting individuals, not a mystical entity floating in a cloud above them. And when some individual person–a parent, a teacher [emphasis added], a customer–”gives” something to someone else, it is not an act of charity, but a trade for value received in return.

His “deductions” from these premises are, again as direct quotes:

  1. It turns out that the 99% get far more benefit from the 1% than vice-versa.
  2. For their enormous contributions to our standard of living, the high-earners should be thanked and publicly honored. We are in their debt.
  3. Anyone who earns a million dollars or more should be exempt from all income taxes. Yes, it’s too little. And the real issue is not financial, but moral. So to augment the tax-exemption, in an annual public ceremony, the year’s top earner should be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
  4. the moral praise showered on Mother Teresa [should go instead] to someone like Lloyd Blankfein, who, in guiding Goldman Sachs toward billions in profits, has done infinitely more for mankind.

Axiom one: “the wealth of high earners is taken away from the community”? Well, in a trivial sense, this is tautological. If one person has wealth (defined as significantly above-average resources), others in the same area/tribe/whatever have below average resources. And aside from the slighting of the idea of “community”, I think the heart of the sentence is the idea that the wealth is “taken away”. Yes, it is taken away.

It is taken because barriers to entry do exist and allow monopolistic concentration of trade and consequent profit above what truly competitive markets would allow. It is taken away because the externalities of pollution diminish the value of everyone’s air and water but the profits from not controlling pollution flow to the polluters. It is taken away because the Rand disciples (in practice, if not in theory) have no problem with government spending if they perceive a benefit to themselves or their businesses. For example, it’s common practice to ask governments to build roads to serve a shopping mall, which might incidentally be used by people who have other reasons to travel in that area.
So yes, if your production nets you gains and there is a cost to someone with whom you are not directly transacting, you are taking from that person.

Axiom two. Wealth only comes from creating value. Sure, wealth comes from creating value. But it comes (a) disproportionate to value created (unless you take the tautological position that “value created” is only measured by wealth), and (b) from other factors such as rent-seeking.

Axiom three. There is no such thing as “society”, it can be reduced to an atomistic collection of selfish individuals. Wow. So there is no emergent property that comes when individuals in their own self-interest act together? That, in the interest of not being robbed and murdered, individuals promise not to rob or murder? And maybe even agree to pay a portion of their hard-earned profits to someone else to prevent them from being robbed and murdered?
The Objectivist would say that it is certainly OK to hire a bodyguard, but might decide to draw the line at forcing everyone to pay (taxes) to hire bodyguards (police). And it’s fine to hire tutors for your own kids, but there’s no net gain in educating everybody’s kids?

Well, I’m a teacher. And not only am I a teacher, I am a teacher in a system that is built on the idea that some abstract concept called “society”, or at least the State of Minnesota (and of course governments are another arbitrary and ultimately deficient construct), gets significant “value received” from a more educated populace. Because of this significant value received, the State allows students to take classes without paying the full costs, supporting part of that cost by the expropriation of wealth as taxes and subsequent appropriation of  State resources.

If teachers only counted “value received” in monetary terms, it would be considerably more difficult to hire teachers. I don’t know if any teacher has ever said, “I’m just in this for the money, nothing else is important to me.” So there is a counter example.

So, first of all, the axioms are suspect. Now let’s look at the conclusions he draws:
Conclusion one. “The 99% get far more benefit from the 1% than vice-versa”. This directly contradicts his axiom of equality of trade. If 99 people purchase something for $1 from one person, and every trade is “a trade for value in return”, then by his own definition that cannot be true. So, within the zero-sum framework implied, the conclusion can’t be right. If we then abandon the zero-sum idea, the question becomes one of who (if anyone) benefits unequally. Do the 99% get more total value from the labors of the 1%, or vice versa?
Since he uses Steve Jobs as an example, let’s consider the iPad on which I’m composing this blog post. I paid for this iPad and got what I considered fair value. Did the late Mr. Jobs get all of that vast sum? Of course not. It went to a huge number of workers, from the Apple Store employees who sold it, to the trucker who delivered it there, to the software coders and hardware engineers who designed it and to the Chinese factory workers who put it together. And also to the people who built the machinery that made the components they assembled. And to the company that made the little lanyards that the Apple Store employees wear for their badges. And a little bit to the credit card company for facilitating the transaction. So of the hundreds of dollars I shelled out, only a tiny bit actually went to the 1% (probably someone at Apple, someone at Foxconn or whatever the assembly plant was, the UPS exec, assuming it was a UPS truck that brought the shipment to the Apple Store. In short, you can’t equate the money out of my pocket with any one individual’s gain.
In that sense, it is only reasonable that my gain in the transaction is not equated to any one person’s gain. That’s what money is for. No one individual would have wanted to trade chemistry lessons for an iPad (but let me know if you do).

An additional problem with this axiom comes in the area of fraud. If one party to a transaction is creating “value” through deception, and the other party is unaware of that, then the exchange can’t be called equal or fair. The Randian would probably rebut this with “caveat emptor” and leave it at that.

Conclusion two: the 1% deserve, not just our money but our thanks. Well, given the complete lack of emotion and any concept of gratitude or any moral sense aside from profit and self-interest in Objectivism, this needs little rebuttal. And of course given the failure of Conclusion 1, there is no sense in which my pleasure at owning a nice iPad should be expressed as gratitude toward a single individual. Actually, gratitude and similar social emotions come from our existence as “naked apes” . We use gratitude as -well, as a “gratuity”. It’s a way we express that we are satisfied (and then some) with a transaction. If I get a haircut, and leave a good tip, the scale of that gratuity is an expression of my “above and beyond” appreciation. If I was extra-grateful to Steve Jobs (or Tim Cook, his successor), I could have tipped. When was the last time you tipped a 1%er? I guess that means you don’t feel “gratitude”.

Conclusion three. His “modest proposal” that incomes above $1,000,000.00 be exempt from income tax? Well, I don’t really see the logic that leads to that suggestion. An absolutist might argue against all taxes. Forbes magazine, who publishes this column, advocates a flat (percentage) tax. You could argue for a per-capita tax. None of those are addressed here, nor the exemption of anyone making over $1,000,000.00. So I assume that the exemption must be as an expression of the gratitude from conclusion #2.

Finally, conclusion four. The CEO of Goldman Sachs deserves more gratitude than Mother Teresa. If gratitude is defined as the difference between value created and cash received, then you could say that Mother Teresa created significant value for those she helped but little for others. The Goldman Sachs CEO, who is ultimately responsible for the actions of his company, should have any gratitude for his accumulation of billions tempered by the fact that it was actions such as GS’s dealing in worthless mortgage-backed securities (see comment on fraud, above) that led to a speculative bubble and a huge crash, followed by an economic depression that was the worst in 80 years. So, yeah, thanks for that, Mr. Blankfein.

Finally, one note of irony. Here’s a screencap of one of the splash-screens you get on the way in to the Forbes magazine sites.


PS- very long post, been working on it for 2 days, makes up for no Saturday post.