Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Here is my plan for the following year, starting in the month of Febuary (through Feb. 2013) My goal, as per my new-years resolution is to get in the best mental shape of my life.
- February: French: Memorize to autonomy: 80% of french, 3,000 words (~100 a day) (vocab)
- March: Names/ Structures: Memorize the entire UW org chart
- April: Math: Ref. section of definitive guide to science.
- May: French: Memorize all grammar (grids)
- JuneL Work: Memorize June calendar (memorizing grid information)
- July: Science: Memorize a computer language’s syntax (vocab.)
- August: French: Memorize a French poem and english translation (poetry)
- September: Work: Memorize cognitive science facts. (factoids/vocab.)
- October: Science: Speed calculation, Dual 7 back. (Memory break/ recall at speed/ease)
- November: French memorize a french short story. (Narrative)
- December: Work (you’ll find something.)
- January: Science: Memorize Calc. and Trig. (abstract Syntax)
52 weeks of poetry (trying to memorize a poem a week):
- Shakespeare: Sonnet 55
- Hopkins: 34
- The Negro Speaks of Rivers, Langston Hughes
- Fog Portrait, Sandburg
- On Righteous Indignation, Chesterton
- The Latest School, Chesterton
- Keats, On sitting down to re-read Lear
- Hats, Sandburg
- Dream Deferred, Langston Hughes
- Golgotha, Sassoon
- A Girl, by Ezra Pound
- A word to husbands, Ogden Nash
- I wandered lonely as a cloud, Wordsworth
- Seven Ages of Man, Shakespeare
- Life, Sir Walter Raleigh
- Dulce et Decorum est, Owen
- The Charge of the Light Brigade, Tennyson
- somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond, Cummings
- The conqueror worm, Poe
- The Send-off, Owen
- Ode on the Death of a Favorite Cat Drowned in a Tub of Goldfishes, Gray
- The Crocodile, by Carroll
- The Dead shall be raised Incorruptible, Galway Kinnell
- It is not growing like a tree, Jonson
- Good Morning, Stalingrad, Langston Hughes
- She walks in Beauty, Byron
- When I have fears that I may cease to be, Keats
- Darkness, Byron
- A day of Sunshine, Longfellow
- Hopkins, 40
- Blake, The Tyger
- Chicago, Sandburg
- The bells, Poe
- Holy Sonnet X - Donne
- Elegy written in a country churchyard, Gray
- Yeats, Leda and the Swan
- A ballad of Suidice, Chesterton
- full Moon and Little Frieda, Ted Hughes
- Autumn, Longfellow
- Africa, Chesterton
- Tennyson, Ulysses
- An Ancient to the Ancients, Hardy
- A short french poem, both in french, and in translation
- In Memory of W.B. Yeats, Auden
- Ode On Melancholy, Keats
- A short french poem, both in French, and in translation
- Byron, The destruction of Sennacherib
- Yeats, The second coming
- Freedom Train, Langston Hughes
- Eliot, the Four Quartets
- Eliot, the four quartets
- Eliot, the four quartets
Watch one lecture series a month:
- Listening to Music (Yale)
- Language in the Brain, Mouth, and Hands (Yale)
- Classical Physics (MIT)
- France since 1871 (Yale)
- Game Theory (Yale)
- Computer Science I: Programming Methodology (Stanford)
- The French Revolution (Kahn Academy)
- Building Dynamic Websites (Harvard)
- Highlights of Calculus (MIT)
- Justice, what’s the right thing to do (Harvard)
- Multivariable Calculus (Berkley)
- The Creative Organization (Stanford)
- Utilities, Endowments and Equilibrium (MIT)
- Introduction to Life Sciences (UCLA)
Thursday, January 19, 2012
The first truth is moral, the second practical, but it is the same truth. Snow deaths in Seattle are meaningless. Seattle is a very technological city, and its technology has overcome weather, not through conquering the elements, but sailing upon their breeze. Seattlites work from home because - why shouldn't they? They'll get their work done by email, or they will go out sledding and do their work later. The knowledge economy has flexible hours. I worked today with a co-worker who answered emails on her phone while her power was out. Even the frailties of our technological culture are being overcome by more technology.
Seattle, a city quiet under the silence of snow and ice, outwardly surrendering, is inwardly alive with six hundred and ten thousand fibers of the Internet, sharing a memo, or sharing a video of a bus being pushed up a hill by a truck. Seattle is a city that has decided, when "Snowmageddon" is come, not to go out with a bang or a whimper, but to stay home and laugh, mostly at itself.
Sunday, January 15, 2012
Sometimes life is just too awesome for words, and all the things we make are pitiable glories in comparison to the wonders the universe provides.
This message brought to you in part by the fact that little crystals formed in the atmosphere above my head the other day. Then they started to fall. Then gusts of air hauled them back up through the clouds, and they gathered more crystals, and they fell again, and rose again, and gathered more water gems, until they grew heavy and floated down from the sky, a silent blanket of tiny, interlocked crystals. you can keep your diamonds, Africa. Revel in your crown jewels, England, but they are cannot measure the beauty of snow.
Monday, January 2, 2012
When content and conversation both miss the opportunity: Starting the new year off with some controversy
I'm a bit late to the fire, but there has been a fire. Through a series of articles: 1, 2, 3, 4, education gurus Larry Sanger and Steve Wheeler went to the blogosphere's version of the octagon with a few disagreements. I'm a little nervous about summarizing two such well-read, experienced minds, much less responding to them, but I'm going to give it what I can.
I think they both miss the point- and the opportunity. Basically, they both invent their own straw men, Wheeler opening by arguing that we get too much "content" in school - to use his examples, too many students learn that Shakespeare died in 1616, what phrasal verbs are, and how to recognize a blue-headed wrasse as a thalassoma bifasciatum. To this extent I agree with him: If that's the sort of content students are learning, they are learning too much of it, and the wrong content. I also agree that they could learn more procedures - even cool procedures, from how to write well-formed code, to how to write a poem, from how to put together a suit to how to put together a car. Many of them are never taught, and especially not taught intentionally, how to put together a research paper, an experiment, or an argument. They are expected to osmosise these things from a few textbooks, having to write research papers, and watching experiments in science class - and some of them do, but that's not good enough. There should be more procedures taught.
Larry Sanger responds by arguing that the content is vital to the conversation - essentially that so many of these procedures require background knowledge. In addition, he argues that learning Shakespeare, Latin, and Grammar, are valuable, because those things don't change. He has a point there - our procedures change all the time. The code my children (if I have any) are likely to write will be vitally different, and probably produced differently than any I will write. That's as it should be. Computing and computer languages are still in an odd sort of infancy - they will continue to grow, develop, and become more efficient. Computers themselves may change drastically. Good. I don't want to hold that back by teaching QWERTY keyboards as the proper way of interacting with a computer. I don't want to teach modern engines as the way all engines work - they may, and I hope they do, change. Besides that, markets and productions move. I've been thinking about how fortunate I have been to be raised in a fairly digital household - if my father had been a factory-line worker, I may have been a factory-line worker - and my recent job search could easily have been prolonged, drastically.
To an extent, I agree with both of them - but I also disagree. The point of teaching facts is not necessarily so that the students will learn those facts. That can be valuable - but the deepest value is in learning how to learn and research and analyze facts. If a student has experienced Shakespeare, they probably will be a better reader of a buisness case - because if they really know their Shakespeare, they know how language is used to manipulate, broadly how power functions in a conversation, and they have an emotional experience which helps ground and balance their experience in the current moment. An understanding of biology gives us valuable lenses through which to see the world - as does each language we learn that is not our own. Likewise, the point of teaching processes, or "conversation" is not the conversation or the process itself- just because Python (to take one example) may not exist after I am dead does not mean there is no value to learning it now, because with each process learned, subsequent process learning becomes not only easier but more productive, rewarding, and creative. Learn enough processes, and you may find yourself improving the next one, because you brought something from the old skills that no one else brought.
I believe this is how creativity works - we apply unusual models or facts to contexts (by which I mean either processes or facts, or both) to which they are not usually applied. Then we judge the value of those contexts or facts. This is also how learning works - by associating the things we are learing with the things we know, we learn new things, and the more we can associate with, the more and faster we can learn. This is what I believe would be really valuable to teach our children - this is the opportunity. If we teach our children the facts of how we learn (and make no mistake, we must learn many of those facts ourselves) and the processes (which we need to refine) of how to use their brains, we needn't sacrifice facts, processes, conversation or content. We can teach those children everything - and we can teach more of them more than we have ever taught before. That is the point. That's the idea I'm giving away for free because it's too good to hold in.
P.S. - I can't help but note one last irony (and push one last button). At the end of his blog post "Conversation as Curriculum," Wheeler asks teachers to apply a "truely Socratic method" the irony is he didn't learn his facts. A careful reading of Socrates would reveal that Socrates' "conversational" learning wasn't really conversational at all. Socrates led his students on a bread-crumb trail of a few facts he picked out in order to prove his own cleverness. I'm thankful that to call Wheeler's methods Socratic would be a misuse of the vocabulary content of our group knowledge. I may disagree with him, but he's not as bad a teacher as Socrates.
This blog post is worth reading: http://calnewport.com/blog/2011/12/02/is-talent-underrated-making-sense-of-a-recent-attack-on-practice/
But in refuting a basic error, it commits another one. The article it is working to refute states that "talent" (a word liberally used to refer to working memory) is important to success. I wont' go into the extra complexities here, but the article basically says that you should focus on the stuff you can control - and let the working memory worry about itself. And that's the failure.
I have read nothing to indicate that working memory is genetically determined or even genetically predisposed. I've read several sources which strongly suggest that working memory can be expanded - by direct and indirect exercise. I've certainly tested better in working memory tests since practicing Dual-N-Back. I've increased both my number and my wordspan with practice.
I will continue to experiment, and report back with updates periodically as I progress.