Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday Quotations


"God bless America.
Land that I love,
Stand beside her and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains to the prairies,
To the oceans white with foam,
God bless America,
My home sweet home.

--- Irving Berlin (1888- 1989)

"I got plenty of nothin',
And nothin's plenty for me."

--- Ira Gershwin (1896 - 1983)

"Climb ev'ry mountain,
Ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow
Till you find your dream."

--- Oscar Hammerstein II (1895 - 1960)

I felt a surge of patriotism, inspiration, and fortitude after watching a two-hour documentary on the life of Ray Charles.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Book Review: Willpower

8/27/11. Cordelia Fine reviews "Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength," by psychologist Roy F. Baumeister and science writer John Tierny.

Professor Baumeister is the author of many books including my favorite:  "The Cultural Animal. Human Nature, Meaning, and Social Life."

Joseph Epstein: What Killed American Lit.


..."A stranger, freshly arrived from another planet, if offered as his introduction to the United States only this book, would come away with a picture of a country founded on violence and expropriation, stoked through its history by every kind of prejudice and class domination, and populated chiefly by one or another kind of victim, with time out only for the mental sloth and apathy brought on by life lived in the suburbs and the characterless glut of American late capitalism. The automatic leftism behind this picture is also part of the reigning ethos of the current-day English Department..."

James Q. Wilson: Crime and the Great Recession

Thursday, August 25, 2011

How Hard Is It To Get a Cartoon Into The New Yorker?

Jonah Lehrer: Love is the Opposite of Underwear

8/25/11. The neuroscience writer Jonah Lehrer describes "grit."

On Monday, I had the honor of delivering a convocation speech at Earlham College. I won’t clog up this blog with the full text of my talk, but I thought a few readers might be interested in the brief excerpt below. I’ve written a few times about grit, a personality trait first identified by Angela Duckworth that predicts a large amount of the individual variation in success. (To take but one example: grittier kids are far more likely to win the National Spelling Bee, largely because higher levels of grit allow them to put in more hours of deliberate practice.) While most descriptions of grit focus on perseverance, on having the strength of character to persist in the face of daunting challenges, I thought it was important to emphasize a less obvious feature of the trait, which is the ability to select the right goals in the first place. Here is what I told the students:
Grit is not just about stubborn persistence. It’s no use persisting, after all, if a goal is truly impossible. While you’ve no doubt been bombarded with successful people telling you that dreams always come true, that we just need to believe, that if you can imagine it then it can happen, the dismal reality is that not every goal is worth pursuing. I might want to play in the NBA, but I’m not Spud Webb. I still want to compose the Great American Novel, but I also know that my college creative writing professor was right: I have no talent for fiction. Unless I’m honest about my limitations, I’ll waste time chasing a farfetched future, which quickly gets very very frustrating. Because dreams do come true. But first we need to pick the right one.

So how can we sort the useful long-term goals from the futile ones? How can we make sure that all of our struggle and practice and sacrifice will be worth it? Well, here’s my advice: ask yourself if the goal passes the underwear test.
Let me explain. One of the most deep seated features of the human mind is that it quickly takes things for granted, becoming numb to the predictable perceptions and pleasures of the world. Just think of your underwear. Do you feel it? Are you conscious of it? Of course not. That’s because you’ve adapted to the feel of underwear, habituated to the touch of cotton on your bum.

And this isn’t just about underwear. Psychological adaptation also explains why the first bite of chocolate cake is better than the second, and the second is better than the third. It explains why the first time you use that new iPhone you’re pretty excited, but before long it will just be another thing in your pocket. And then, a few weeks after that, you’ll start complaining that your phone (your phone!) can only hold 10,000 songs or that it downloads streaming videos from Netflix so slowly. The delight has vanished, replaced by the usual dissatisfaction. This is because our brain is designed to be ungrateful, every pleasure a fleeting thing.
What does this have to do with grit and long-term goals? Well, the only dreams worth pursuing are those that pass the underwear test. These are the pursuits that don’t bore us, even after we put in 10,000 hours of practice. They contain the kind of subtle thrills that don’t get old, that we don’t adapt to, that keep us motivated and interested for years and years at a time. Sure, there will be frustrations along the way, but these frustrations don’t feel permanent, which is what allows us to keep on working and learning and improving. Because that’s what it takes to succeed, to accomplish something interesting. Perhaps you want to invent the cure for malaria, or bake a perfect baguette, or create the next Facebook. Whatever – don’t apologize for your obsession. Just be grateful you are obsessed with something, that you’ve found a goal worth getting gritty over. Because if your goals ever feel tedious, if you find them as unnecessary as that last bite of chocolate cake, then you’re never going to put in the necessary work. Grit requires passion. Grit requires love. And love is just another name for what never gets old. Love is the opposite of underwear.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Prevalence of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

8/19/11. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a new study showing the increasing prevalence of parent-reported ADHD among children in the United States --- 2003 and 2007.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

What Happened to Obama?

8/13/11. Obama has been criticized this week from the political left and right about what he doing wrong.

"Nothing happened to Obama," says Norman Podhoretz, former long-time editor of Commentary Magazine.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Nassir Ghaemi, M.D.: "A First Rate Madness. Why Mental Illness Enhances Crisis Leadership."

8/9/11. I just read this first rate book. Dr. Ghaemi has written books on concepts of psychiatry, mood disorders, statistics, and the biopsychosocial model ---- all worth reading. There is much to learn here that will provoke heat and light.

Dr. Ghaemi writes:

"The intuition against my thesis has its roots in stigma, I believe. This prejudice underlies the notion that a leader we dislike must be mentally ill, or that mental health inherently is better than mental illness for leadership. These ideas are based on a stigmatizing attitude towards mental illness, the view that it is inherently and completely harmful. Mental illness certainly can be harmful in many ways, but not inherently and completely."

See prior post with excerpt from this book.

Debunking the Paranormal

8/9/11. A psychology professor examines the paranormal.

Bret Stephens: "Is Obama Really That Smart?"

Monday, August 8, 2011

10 Award-Winning Scientific Simulation Videos

Monday Quotations


[Businessman talking into the telephone:] "No, Thursday's out. How about never - is never good for you?"

--- Robert Mankoff (1944 -   )

"Men with pierced ears are better prepared for marriage --- they've experienced pain and bought jewelry."

--- Rita Rudner (1956 -   )

"While taking my noon walk today, I had more morbid thoughts. What is it about death that bothers me so much? Probably the hours. Melnick says the soul is immortal and lives on after the body drops away, but if my soul exists without my body I am convinced all my clothes will be too loose-fitting. Oh, well..."

--- Woody Allen (1935 -   )