Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Just finished taking the jeopardy online test. That was pretty stressful. Only 15 seconds on each questions, which goes by really fast when you are trying really hard to remember something you know that you know.

I've really been enjoying my latest book contest book, but I'll hold off making comments til I've finished it. I've also been enjoying very much this week a book my brother recommended to me long ago: Herman Hesse's The Glass Bead Game (also published as Magister Ludi. I'd throw out some quotations, but I left it out in the car and don't feel like bringing it in right this second. I've been really tempted to just post the quotations without any attribution to see if anyone had any idea where they came from. Just a lot of remarkable stuff in there. Plus, I think it really should qualify as sci-fi, since it purports to take place roughly 500 years in the future. The basic structure of the book is as a fictional biography of Joseph Knecht, the master of the glass bead game. To explain any of that would take way too much time though. Apparntly when it was written, the idea of an intentionally fictional biography was something of a sensation. The book begins with a quotation in Latin which I immediately assumed was phony. It turned out Hesse wrote it in German and had some of his old school buddies translate it into Latin for him, but it seems that quite a few people assumed that it must have been lifted from a classical source. I guess today were just more accustomed to fictional pretenses.

More on all of this later.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Book Contest Update

This is just to let everyone know how the book contest is shaping up right now and to give my first report. My friend David Carson submitted an entry in person which brings the total up to ten. Here are the entries (in the order submitted):

Albion's Seed, David Hackett Fischer, submitted by Lenise
Saving the Appearances, Owen Barfield, submitted by Alastair
William Pitt the Younger, William Hague, submitted by Kirk
Why Do I Love These People, Po Bronson, submitted by Thomas
Kristen Lavransdatter, Sigrid Undset, submitted by Matt
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon, submitted by Jamie
Mongo: Adventures in Trash, Ted Botha, submitted by Scott
The Future Does Not Compute, Steve Talbott, submitted by Nathan
Proof, Bill Bright and Jack Cavanaugh, submitted by Heather
The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini, submitted by David

When my family was visiting here, my mother brought a copy of Mongo, so I was able to get to that one soonest. Ted Botha's book is devoted to the culture of people who collect things which are discarded in NYC (and other places). Various chapters are devoted to things like food scavenging (by vegetarian food snobs), building materials, and even people who excavate old outhouses. While the whole thing was certainly interesting, it wasn't exactly Great Literature. It did, however pass the test of being a book I've now brought up in conversation more than once. If it sounds like something you'd like to read, you probably would enjoy it :)

Two more contest entries have been checked out of the library, so stay tuned for further updates.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

I love Grieg, and the first of these pieces is one of the most deceptively difficult piano pieces I've ever tried (and fail miserably at). Perhaps it easier on guitar? It sure sounds nice. Sorry if it takes forever to load. Just do something else while its loading.

Friday, March 17, 2006

I'm not sure I want to pick sides in this particular war.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Wrote my very own joke today, but it's pretty bad.

What do you call someone who specializes in the skin diseases of dead animals?

A Taxidermatologist.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

In Diane Ravitch's book, Left Back: A Century of Failed School Reforms, she discusses the idea which developed in late 19th century educational philosophy that the mind needed to be trained, in a general sense, and specifically that things like memory and reasoning were susceptible to this sort of training through schooling. Then follows this:

The first attempt to test the validity of mental discipline was recorded by the eminent Harvard psychologist William James, who conducted a trial of his own memory. He wanted to see "whether a certain amount of daily training in learning poetry by heart will shorten the time it takes to learn an entirely different kind of poetry." During an eight-day period he memorized 158 lines of Victor Hugo's poem "Satyr" at the rate of one line every fifty seconds; ten, over a thirt-eight-day period, he memorized the first book of Paradise Lost. When hereturned to the Hugo poem, it took him fifty seven second to memorize each line, which indicated that he had gained nothing in speed or efficience from his earlier memory feats. While James thought that one's memrory might be improved by various methods, he doubted that the faculty of memory could be strengthened merely by training. He referred to his self-test in a footnote in his monumental work, The Principles of Psychology.

James allocated only a footnote to his whimsical experiment because he did not take seriously the idea that education could become a science [my emphasis]. In his celebrated lectures to teachers in 1898, he had warned, "You make a great, a very great mistake if you think that psychology, being the science of the mind's laws, is something from which you can deduce definate programmes and schemes and methods of instruction for immediate schoolroom use."

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

You may want to read the bold sentence at the top a few times and let it sink in.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Isaac Carlisle Baxter was born on March 1 at 12:12 pm. Lenise's water broke at about 2 am, so she woke me up. We called the Nelsons who finally woke up enough to answer the phone and were gracious enough to take John for us until we are available to get him again. Lenise wanted to eat some Honey Nut Cheerios on the way out the door, so they were unwilling to do the operation until those got digested.

Isaac is fine. He likes to sleep a lot. Doesn't cry much yet.

Lenise is doing pretty well. Not nearly as much pain and nausea as the first birth. We don't know when mom and son will make it home yet. Perhaps Saturday.