Saturday, November 29, 2008


Beccano, Me, Suna, and TubaBoy

Photo by: Parker

Suna and I got married in the presence of more than a hundred of our favorite people. Rather than talk about it too much, here are links to various photo collections:

Friday, November 28, 2008

Validating Multiple Choice Assessments on the Cheap

Anatagonistic questions give away the answer. A question where the stem gives away the answer is an “antagonistic question.” No idea why. But without some form of internal validation, finding antagonistic questions, leading questions, and questions with more than one correct answer can be difficult to spot. Subject matter experts love their wording, even when it invalidates the question. Numbers never lie.
This post originally appeared on the Central Texas Instructional Design blog on this date.

As I mentioned last time, internal validation is a method of estimating the fairness and effectiveness of questions on a multiple choice assessment with data from the assessment itself. Note that it cannot determine the fairness and effectiveness of the assessment. That requires some form of external validation (Mehrens & Lehmann, 1973). You should not make retention or promotion decisions based solely on an assessment that has only been internally validated, but that assessment may still be of value in stack ranking learners or identifying areas where they can improve.

In this post, I give you a quick and dirty procedure for internal validation that you can perform with nothing more complicated than a PC database and spreadsheet. I used Access and Excel, but any database and spreadsheet would do.

Here’s how I structure the record:

  • Student ID*—a value that differentiates individuals but does not necessarily tie to any personally identifiable information
  • Assessment ID*—a value that distinguishes between the various assessments used in a curriculum and between versions of the same assessment
  • Question ID*—a value that distinguishes between versions of the same question but may allow the question to be used on multiple assessments
    • Note: The Question ID should link to a separate table of questions that includes the text of the stem, correct answer, and distractors.
  • Correct answer— the value of the correct option (may reside in an external table)
  • Learner Selection—a value that identifies the option the learner chose

Fields with an asterisk are part of the key. This table links to another table that contained details about the question, including the text of the stem and options.

With this data, you can determine the statistical measurements that the Measurement and Evaluation Center of the University of Texas at Austin (2006) identifies as relevant for internal evaluation:

  • Item difficulty—the percentage of learners who got the question correct
  • Item discrimination—the relationship between how learners performed on the question and their overall score on the assessment
  • Reliability coefficient—the margin of error in the overall score

You also have the information you need to evaluate the distractors, which may be the most useful result of this method. If you can determine why learners answer incorrectly, you can take steps—either in the learning environment or in the workplace—to correct this behavior.

In future posts, I’ll discuss how to calculate and interpret each of these measurements.


  • Measurement and Evaluation Center (2006). Analyzing Multiple-choice Item Responses. Austin, Texas: The University of Texas. Retrieved November 16, 2008.
  • Mehrens, W.A. & Lehmann, I.J. (1973). Measurement and valuation in Education and Psychology. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.


Thursday, November 27, 2008


Suna and I enjoy a glass of wine before Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends. More photos are on Facebook.

Photo by: Mystery Photog

We had a full house for Thanksgiving. Suna’s sister flew in yesterday, and her father arrived this morning. TubaBoy drove Suna and Beccano to the airport to greet him. I stayed home to finish a couple couple of cleaning projects and a few odds and ends around the house.

Suna’s friend arrived with her daughter, Cakegirl, and Cakegirl’s significant other. They brought a delicious duck dish and duck stuffing, in addition to working on the wedding cake some more. I say significant other because, although they are planning to get married on 10/10/10 (they didn’t say what time), they came very close to being common law married. In Texas, that’s scarily easy.

Thanksgiving dinner was wonderful, and the company was enjoyable.

I delayed Grateful Monday until today because what better time to be grateful than on Thanksgiving. Today I am grateful for family and good friends.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It’s Curtains

New curtains hang in the dining room.

Suna and I ordered some new red curtains to complete the update to the dining room and parlor. We were told that they wouldn’t be in until the 28th, but Penny’s beat expectations by delivering them the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

I was able to get the ones in the ones in the dining room hung last night and the valance hung in the parlor, but we lost some of the hardware for the parlor curtains. Suna went out this morning and bought a new rod for the curtains, and I hung them this morning.

Now everything will be ready for when the Prince arrives.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Another Manic Saturday

Suna models her wedding dress and an “up doo.” I thought the stylist might have missed a couple of spots, but she said they were on purpose.

I’ve not been a very faithful blogger this week. It’s not for lack of things happening. Rather it’s because of a lack of a lack of things happening.

I’ve been working diligently at my Fruit Company contract, and I think I’m making them happy. Then coming home after work and taking care of little things to get ready for the wedding, which is only a week away now.

So I’ll start with what we did today.

Suna and I got up early and drove to New Braunfels. She had an early appointment for the final fitting of her wedding dress. After that we went to a big box craft store to buy some beads for her current knitting project, but we ended up with lots more stuff: some fall garlands, a shell thingy that I want to turn into a ponytail holder, and such.

Then we headed back for Austin so she could make an appointment to get her hair died. We stopped on the way at Things Celtic to get me a lovely pair of Celtic cross ear studs. I got my ear pierced while Suna was getting her hair done. I also picked up a shirt and tie for TrackGrease to wear at the wedding.

I picked up Beccano from the house and went back to get Suna. I didn’t see her at the appointed place, but Beccano said, “Look. There’s Mom.”

Where? Right in front of me. She had gotten a trial doo, and I didn’t recognize her at first with her hair piled up on top of her head. I had been prepared for a new color, but not this. We spent some time discussing the pros and cons of the style. (As I write this, I have gotten used to it, but I don’t think Suna will wear her hair this way for the wedding.)

We then took Beccano shopping. He’s such an easy boy to buy clothes for. His favorite store is Good Will. He and I wandered Good Will while Suna gathered comments from her knitting friends. Beccano picked out one flannel shirt, and we came home.

So much excitement. So little time.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Gaming the Night Away

Beccano and I play Arkham Horror Photo by: Suna

Beccano helped Suna and KP prepare wedding decorations. We stayed out of the way and played Arkham Horroron the kitchen table while they worked in the media room.

I haven’t played AH since my friend from work moved up north. It is a fun game where a band of lunatics save the world (if they win) from an Elder One from HP Lovecraft’s Cthulu mythos. Of course, they are completely devoured if they lose, and all humanity suffers the consequences. No pressure there.

We were just playing to refamiliarize ourselves with the rules and game play. KP joined us just as we got started, and we played for a few hours.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Licensed and Legal

Suna holds up our marriage license Suna holds up the lovely booklets the county gave us with the license.

Suna and I had to take off work together to go get our wedding license. We got up a little early (not early enough) and drove up to Georgetown together.

When we walked into the courthouse, I set off the metal detector, even after removing my belt and keys. I patted myself down and went back through, only to repeat the same results.

At this point, one of Williamson County’s finest ordered me to “stand over here and turn your back.” He patted me down and let me through when he didn’t find anything either.

Suna and I went on to get the license, a little perplexed at why I was setting off the alarms.

The lady who issued the license was really nice and even funny. Don’t tell her boss. I’m sure you’re not allowed to be funny if you’re a county employee, even though I’ve met a judge who could do standup but for the pay cut.

On the way out, we had to wait for the elevator. I put my hands in my pocket and found a dirty spoon. I guess I got sidetracked on the way to the dishwasher with it. Thinking of the spoon setting off the metal detector reminded me of the line from Robin Hood.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Poor Thing

Poor little moth

This poor little moth kept us company for the last few days. Even Suna, who hates moths, thought this one was really pretty. Its irridescent wings seemed to glow. You can see a touch of its beauty even in death.

Friday, November 14, 2008


I heard a writer on NPR yesterday morning describe the post-Potter world. (At least I think it was on NPR. It could have been one of the local news bits they sometimes intermingle with the NPR stories. I couldn’t find the article when I looked on the Morning Edition site.) She said we need more books that get children to think thoughtfully.

Think thoughtfully? How else can you think?

Steven King discusses a drinking game that features such wit in On Writing.

And then tonight as I was getting ready for bed, I noticed TubaBoy’s book on the bar. He is reading (or has recently read) Wuthering Heights. That got me thinking. Is there an English infinitive to wuther? If not, from whence came the present participle? If so, how exactly does one wuther?

English is such a weird hodgepodge of languages. It’s a wonder any of us ever understands what anyone else says.

15 November Update: Of course, when I looked it up, Brontë was right. Never argue nomenclature with a 19th century writer. When the wind wuthers, it “blows with a dull roaring sound.”

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Wedding Prep

KP and Suna perform some arcane pre-wedding tasks, like making signs.

After a long day at work, I came home to find Suna and KP working on arts and crafts projects—making signs for the wedding. I am glad that KP has become one of Suna’s friends. They both seem to have a lot of fun talking and working together on wedding-related projects.

Buffy Tarot Dies Yet Again

Death has found the Buffy Tarot…again.

Image source: Major Spoilers

Well, I had expected it when the deck didn’t ship at the end of September. When it didn’t ship in October, the second and final death of the Buffy Tarot became almost certain. Still I hoped, but the last nail in the coffin arrived in the email this morning.

Thank you for ordering from Entertainment Earth. Unfortunately, Buffy the Vampire Slayer Tarot Cards (Item DH15339), which you ordered, has been cancelled[sic] by the manufacturer. From time to time manufacturers cancel items for a variety of reasons. No additional information was given as to why this item was cancelled, however. No units were ever shipped to Entertainment Earth. We certainly would have filled your order had this item been manufactured. We apologize for any inconvenience. The order you placed for this item has been cancelled in our system.

Things from Another Planet sent out the cancellation months ago. I can only assume that EE left the product on their site to gather more email addresses for their “newsletter,” or as I prefer to think of their daily mass mailing: marketing spam.

The good news is that I can add EE to my junk senders list now. That will keep a little of their junkmail out of my inbox.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Farewell to Michael Crichton

John Michael Crichton (-2008)

Photo source: International Herald Tribune

I learned this weekend that we lost another master last week. Michael Crichton, author of Jurassic Park, The Andromeda Strain, and The Great Train Robbery, died unexpectedly of cancer on 4 November. Many of his books, including all listed here, became successful movies. There were even a couple of blockbuster.

A former professor of anthropology at Cambridge University and a graduate of Harvard Medical School, Crichton’s science fiction was always strong on science. His books were always tightly plotted and filled with interesting, believable characters. In short, he was a well-rounded writer whose contributions will live long for a long, long time.

So this Monday, I am grateful for Crichton’s gifts to the world.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Saturday Night Live Music

Chanticleer: Thanks for the tickets, Edgar. I’ll pay for them someday.

Photo source: Chanticleer

So after Suna came back from her day of dress fitting and yarn festivalling, we went to see Chanticleer, an all-male acapella group, at First Presbyterian Church.

First, I want to say something about the church. It is absolutely beautiful. Outside is a wonderful water feature that makes a pacifying water dance. Inside, the architecture is all native limestone and timber frame. OK, they did reinforce the timber frame with some ugly painted metal, but…

Chanticleer is an amazing group. These guys even sing the soprano parts! There are at least two countertenors, who sing in the mezzo-soprano range. One is even listed as a soprano. (Suna and I wondered if they sang that high the old-fashioned way.)

More impressive: I picked four singers at random and read their bios. Three listed at least a Master’s degree in vocal performance. The other taught vocal pedagogy at Notre Dame.

No wonder these guys can hit a very fat chord (7/9 or denser, once with at least two, maybe three, stacked seconds) from a single seemingly unrelated note generated by a guy banging a tuning fork against his head. (I wonder if he had a headache by the end of the night.)

The program covered a diverse collection that spanned more than 300 years. It included three by Stephen Foster and a pair by P.D.Q. Bach.

I totally enjoyed it. I enjoyed Suna’s smile while she listened.

If you get a change to see this amazing ensemble, go.

Saturday, November 08, 2008


Water is relentless. A little drip can do a lot of damage over time.

Photo source: Pixadaus

Nobody believes me Liar
Why don’t they leave me alone?
—Freddy Mercury

Remember last week when I said I fixed the sink, and there were no leaks. I lied. There is an insidious seep leak. It takes a couple of days to leak enough to ruin paper products,

So I spent much of today on my back in the bathroom. All to no avail. The leak persists at the end of the day. Next Saturday, I’ll have to go to Home Depot for a couple of replacement parts.

“Why didn’t you get them today and be done with it?” you may ask. Well, I was the only one home today, and we were short one front door. (It was in the garage with a fresh coat of marine poly drying to a smooth, wonderous sheen.) So I was stranded home alone.

At least I know what I’ll be doing next week, and we can use the sink in the interim—as long as we keep a drip catcher underneath.

Friday Night Lights Out

This injured marcher kinda sums up the game last night—down to the popcorn in his hair.

Suna did a great job of blogging our wedding planning session from Thursday night. So all I’m left to comment on this week is last night’s football game.

It turns out to be the last game of the season for the Mavericks, just as Tuesday ended the season for those other mavericks. McNeil put up a good fight for a few quarters. But in the end, Georgetown was just too much for them.

The final score was 24-0. It was 7-0 until the last quarter, which is really good. We were supposed to be trounced much harder than that. Georgetown moves on to the playoffs. McNeil moves on.

I share the mixed feelings about the end of the season that various members of the band expressed. I am glad to have a large chunk of my life back to do other things. But I will miss the band kids and riding to the games with them every Friday. I will miss the bickering, singing, swaggering, and sweetness. I will miss listening to W. rant about the quality of the coaching and how even he could have caught that one. I will even miss the other bus parents, with whom we shared a few laughs and lots of empty water bottles.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Happy Days Are Here Again

Still, lingering doubts remain—mostly about what the Greater and Lesser Evils might do. I’ll let you figure out who I’m talking about.

Image Source: The Arkham Bazaar

Happy days are here again
The skies above are clear again
So let’s sing a song of cheer again
Happy days are here again
—Milton Ager

As happy as the election was last night, I dreaded waking up. I was afraid it would all have been a dream, and we would be in the same place we were when I got up yesterday. I waited until the sun in my eyes became irrefutable.

Then I studiously avoided the news. I did look at Facebook, where the comments and status updates of my friends were somewhat reassuring.

I don’t think it really started sinking in that we had won until I was driving to work. NPR covered all the regular stuff, but I missed their election recap. When it was over, John Aielli’s show started. I usually avoid Eklektikos because I find Aielli pretentious and annoying. He has been known to play 15 versions of the same song in a row—even the same version of a song three or four times in succession—because he feels like it. Who cares what anyone else thinks? He is something of a grumpy old man who has control of a radio station for a few hours every day.

This morning he started out with Streisand singing “Happy Days Are Here Again” followed by a string of celebratory orchestral music. I listed to the full five minutes I got to hear without even being tempted to hit the button. That is something of a record.

At work, most people are happy and relieved. I hope we can put the financial and cultural devastation of the last eight years behind us quickly.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Obama Wins!

This survey map from back in March seems to be uncannily accurate. Some of the colors will be different, I’m sure, but …

Image source: Surveys, USA

I hope I’m not going to repeat history with that headline. The election is not settled as I write this. Suna and I are spending a very nice evening at home watching the election returns. The kids are watching downstairs.

They are talking on TV about the real America and how John McCain insulted most of America by suggesting that only white rural areas of the country were the real America. We are now an ethnically and culturally diverse nation. Only our enemies try to stereotype us as white Christians. The Taliban says that about us, not admitting that there are more Muslims in this country than in Iraq. McCain made the same mistake.

The popular vote is very close as I write. I am starting to relax as Obama’s victory is starting to feel more certain. I hope that he wins the popular vote, too. I hope he can win with an indisputable mandate, something that hasn’t been done in a very long time.

We’re switching to the Daily/Colbert election coverage until we get more news about my home state. Or not. Maybe I’ll just start using Swagger from Old Spice.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Politics and Mondays Always Get Me Down

Go team!

Photo source: John F. Zur

Well, you’ve seen how busy the last month has been and how much we have accomplished. And you’ve seen how the election has turned nasty over the last month as McCain’s chances for victory evaporated. In a way, having been too busy to pay much attention to politics has been a good thing.

But the election is at hand, and I am still nervous about what will happen. No matter who wins, I will be nervous for awhile.

Still, as I mentioned in church the other Sunday, I am grateful to live in a country where politics is discussable. So many people die worldwide over politics. So many people die for saying things that are not nearly so nasty as what our politicians say about each other on a good day. So many people die for their politics—over even minor difference in ideology.

No matter how I rant about neo-fascist Republicans, I am glad to live in a relatively free and peaceful society. I am also glad that this round is almost over.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Tent for Darfur

A tent for Darfur
There was a regional sleep-in at the church this weekend. More than a hundred teenagers from as far away as Louisianan participated. Ours did not. They were too busy this weekend with band and debate.

One of the things they did was to decorate a Tent for Darfur. The kids at Live Oak had raised money over they summer to buy the tent. Everyone that participated in the gathering this weekend helped with the decoration. It is a large tent that they hope will be used as a classroom.

I hope it’s not too scary with all the smiley faces and religious symbols.

Live Oak Gardens Receive Award

Hella receives a gardening award

As part of the closing ceremony at church today, Live Oak’s master gardener Hella received an award on behalf of the church for her work in creating a wonderful native garden. The butterflies and bees showed up in abundance to help with the honors.

This is just one of the garden’s many admirers.

Hella works really hard on the gardens. And even though she has lots of helpers, I think of them as her work. She is the brains behind the organization.

As a master gardener, her responsibilities include passing on her expertise. She has a number of devoted deciples, so I am sure Live Oak’s gardens will continue to prosper long after she is gone. One day, I may even be able to count myself as worthy of studying under her.

I posted a few other pictures on a Facebook album.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

I’m a Plumber

I didn't see the point of posting a larger version of this loveliness.
I had to take the goose neck apart to get the sink unclogged.

I am a plumber now. I got the sink unplugged. Yea me!

This task was made unnecessarily difficult by the original plumber, who sealed all of the joints with plumber’s putty. A couple of master plumbers have explained that there is no need to use plumber’s putty on this fitting unless you just don’t know what you’re doing—or you want to make it hard on anyone who needs to clean the drain in the future. No putty went into the reconstructed joints.

And it even stayed dry once I put it the pipes back together.