How I Was Able to Ace Exams Without Studying | Zen Habits

February 24, 2010

The Way We Were Taught to Learn is Broken

Children are imaginative, creative and, in many ways, the epitome of this rapid learning strategy. Maybe it’s the current school system, or maybe it’s just a consequence of growing up, but most people eventually suppress this instinct.

The sad truth is that the formal style of learning, makes learning less enjoyable. Chemistry, mathematics, computer science or classic literature should spawn new ideas, connections in the mind, exciting possibilities. Not only the right answers for a standardized test.


check me out at posterous here.


Philip K. Howard: Four ways to fix a broken legal system

February 23, 2010
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Very good. I thoroughly enjoyed his book, “The Death of Common Sense.” Here’s hoping we make some progress on this front.

check me out at posterous here.

The Eye of the Beholder – Megan McArdle

February 23, 2010

Andrew Sullivan has been doing a lot of blogging about Ryan Sorba, the [expletive deleted] who got up on stage at CPAC to condemn them for inviting GOProud.  Andrew’s mostly given a lot of space to illustrating what a [censored] [redacted] Ryan Sorba is, and I fully agree.  One can only cherish the hope that thirty years from now he will writhe in shame at this performance, and given the vagaries of youth, there is a good chance that eventually, he will.

But [expletive deleted]s getting up at political conferences and saying asinine things are not exactly a surprising happening.  To me, the news story was this:  Sorba got booed off the stage.  At CPAC.  This seems like great news.  So why focus on the sad truth that yes, there are still homophobes out there?  Maybe this is just heterosexual privilege, but this seems like a genuinely great moment in gay rights–and the gay conservatives and libertarians who sent met that clip seemed to take it as such.  The culture war may not be over, but the allied forces are advancing on Berlin at an astonishing pace.  I feel like we should be kissing nurses in the street (male or female!)


check me out at posterous here.

Bailout Ahead, Arnold Kling | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty

February 18, 2010

The Pew Center reports,

$1 trillion. That’s the gap at the end of fiscal year 2008 between the $2.35 trillion states had set aside to pay for employees’ retirement benefits and the $3.35 trillion price tag of those promises.

…To a significant degree, the $1 trillion reflects states’ own policy choices and lack of discipline
%u2022 failing to make annual payments for pension systems at the levels recommended by their own actuaries;
%u2022 expanding benefits and offering cost-of-living increases without fully considering their long-term price tag or determining how to pay for them; and
%u2022 providing retiree health care without adequately funding it.

In explaining that the states are unable to spend more during a recession, Paul Krugman coined the phrase “fifty Herbert Hoovers.” May I suggest that “fifty Bernie Madoffs” would be the way to describe their pension decisions. Of course, unlike Bernie Madoff, the states wiill almost certainly be bailed out by the Federal government. Which itself is the 51st Bernie Madoff, making promises to future recipients of Social Security and Medicare that it has no ability to keep.

Storms on the horizon.

check me out at posterous here.

Overcoming Bias : Praise Polymaths

February 12, 2010

Once upon a time folks who traveled far were treated with suspicion.  Sure if you were rich and traveled like the rich you weren%u2019t more suspicious than other rich.  But those who traveled more than their class were suspected, correctly on average, of being less loyal to their neighbors.

Today travel is mostly celebrated; people love to talk about their trips and admire the well-traveled, even beyond the wealth it signals.  But travel today doesn%u2019t much threaten loyalty %u2013 intellectual contact with locals is limited, and usually selected to be like-minded.  Ooh look, another pretty building.  True intellectual travel, where you actually take the time to see things from different perspectives, is rare, more valuable, and yet elicits more suspicion than admiration.

You see, our beliefs are severely distorted by our culture and training, and intellectual travel remains our only remotely reliable remedy.  We all know that we would have been inclined toward different beliefs had we been raised in different cultures or disciplines.  We see consistent differences between folks trained in West vs. East, science vs. humanities, economics vs. sociology, and in different schools of thought of most any discipline.  We like to think that we correct for this, but when we realize how hard that is, we throw up our hands saying %u201Cwhat ya gonna do?%u201D

But we do know one thing that actually works –  taking the time to be trained in several conflicting cultures, disciplines, or schools.  Yes most of us don%u2019t have the time for that, but if we were really concerned about such biases we would be respectful of and eager to learn from those who take the time to make honest intellectual travel.  We would be quite curious about, and deferential toward, the conclusions of smart thoughtful travelers about which sides in these conflicts seem more right.

But in fact, we are mostly suspicious of true intellectual travelers.  We much prefer loyal ambassadors of us, who visit them to 1) make us look good, 2) make them look bad,  3) persuade them, or 4) learn more about their weaknesses, etc.  For example, interdisciplinary academics take care to show they are loyal to a core discipline, and cross-cultural pundits take care to show they haven%u2019t %u201Cgone native.%u201D  We love to point to ex-them who have converted to join us, but we don%u2019t trust those folks farther than we can throw them.

To counter these strong currents, try to celebrate, and truly listen to, honest intellectual travelers, who take the time to be trained in other cultures, disciplines, and schools, which then influences their thoughtful contributions.

check me out at posterous here.

Still Budgeting Through Footnotes in FY 2011 | Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget

February 8, 2010

A few months ago, we pointed out that the Administration was cheating in its Mid-Session Review budget baseline. Essentially it was taking policies which President Obama had signed into law as temporary, under the stimulus bill, and assuming them as permanent. The implication being that, if the policies were a part of the baseline, they wouldn’t need to be paid for when enacted.

Well, the Administration is at it again in their FY 2011 budget submission, but this time they are doing a better job of hiding it.

No bueno.

check me out at posterous here.

The best and worst Super Bowl ads. – By Seth Stevenson – Slate Magazine

February 8, 2010

Frankly, I’m getting a little of sick of Google doing everything right.

check me out at posterous here.