Thursday, July 31, 2014

Jonah 4

4 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.

2 And he prayed unto the Lord, and said, I pray thee, O Lord, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.

3 Therefore now, O Lord, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.

4 Then said the Lord, Doest thou well to be angry?

5 So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city.

6 And the Lord God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.

7 But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered.

8 And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.

9 And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death.

10 Then said the Lord, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night:

11 And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Jonah 3

3 And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying,

2 Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.

3 So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days' journey.

4 And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.

5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.

6 For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.

7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water:

8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.

9 Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?

10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Jonah 2


2 Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the fish's belly,

2 And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.

3 For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me.

4 Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.

5 The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head.

6 I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God.

7 When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.

8 They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.

9 But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.

10 And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Jonah 1


1 Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,

2 Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.

3 But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.

4 But the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.

5 Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep.

6 So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not.

7 And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah.

8 Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us; What is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou?

9 And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land.

10 Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him. Why hast thou done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.

11 Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous.

12 And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you.

13 Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not: for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them.

14 Wherefore they cried unto the Lord, and said, We beseech thee, O Lord, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O Lord, hast done as it pleased thee.

15 So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging.

16 Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the Lord, and made vows.

17 Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Madhouse at Midnight -- Harry Harlow

Yes, that Harry Harlow.

I'm in this institution
On the pretense that I'm insane
But this, as everybody knows,
Is nothing but a guise
The reason that I'm here
Is very easy to explain
The War Department Thinks
I am a pair of Russian spies
Sometime I'm going to leave this place
I haven't picked the day
I'll simply push the buildings down
And calmly walk away
I'll build a little railroad
That reaches to the moon
And run a little subway
From New York to Neptune
I know where all the money
In the universe is stored
I'm the nephew of Napoleon
And cousin of the Lord.

Written by Harry Harlow and sent to his brother, Robert, chief psychiatrist of the state mental hospital in Warren, Pennsylvania.

Friday, July 25, 2014

ISIS destroys Jonah's tomb



If you blink during the video, you might miss the moment Jonah's tomb in Mosul, Iraq, explodes.

The first few frames show the revered shrine towering over its landscape. There's a sudden burst of dust, fire and smoke.
Then, nothing.
CNN could not immediately confirm the authenticity of the video, which was posted to YouTube.
The holy site is thought to be the burial place of the prophet Jonah, who was swallowed by a whale or fish in both the Islamic and Judeo-Christian traditions.
Militants belonging to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, planted explosives around the tomb and detonated the explosion remotely Thursday, civil defense officials there told CNN.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Moby Dick -- Whaling as Suicide Prevention

Pacific Ocean

There is, one knows not what sweet mystery about this sea, whose gently awful stirrings seem to speak of some hidden soul beneath; like those fabled undulations of the Ephesian sod over the buried Evangelist St. John. And meet it is, that over these sea-pastures, wide-rolling watery prairies and Potters’ Fields of all four continents, the waves should rise and fall, and ebb and flow unceasingly; for here, millions of mixed shades and shadows, drowned dreams, somnambulisms, reveries; all that we call lives and souls, lie dreaming, dreaming, still; tossing like slumberers in their beds; the ever-rolling waves but made so by their restlessness.  2
  To any meditative Magian rover, this serene Pacific, once beheld, must ever after be the sea of his adoption. It rolls the midmost waters of the world, the Indian Ocean and Atlantic being but its arms. The same waves wash the moles of the new-built Californian towns, but yesterday planted by the recentest race of men, and lave the faded but still gorgeous skirts of Asiatic lands, older than Abraham; while all between float milky-ways of coral isles, and low-lying, endless, unknown archipelagoes, and impenetrable Japans. Thus this mysterious, divine Pacific zones the world’s whole bulk about; makes all coasts one bay to it; seems the tide-beating heart of earth. Lifted by those eternal swells, you needs must own the seductive god, bowing your head to Pan.

-- Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chapter CXI, The Pacific

He was an old man, who, at the age of nearly sixty, had postponedly encountered that thing in sorrow’s technicals called ruin. He had been an artisan of famed excellence, and with plenty to do; owned a house and garden; embraced a youthful, daughter-like, loving wife, and three blithe, ruddy children; every Sunday went to a cheerful-looking church, planted in a grove. But one night, under cover of darkness, and further concealed in a most cunning disguisement, a desperate burglar slid into his happy home, and robbed them all of everything. And darker yet to tell, the blacksmith himself did ignorantly conduct this burglar into his family’s heart. It was the Bottle Conjuror! Upon the opening of that fatal cork, forth flew the fiend, and shrivelled up his home.

  Why tell the whole? The blows of the basement hammer every day grew more and more between; and each blow every day grew fainter than the last; the wife sat frozen at the window, with tearless eyes, glitteringly gazing into the weeping faces of her children; the bellows fell; the forge choked up with cinders; the house was sold; the mother dived down into the long churchyard grass; her children twice followed her thither; and the houseless, familyless old man staggered off a vagabond in crape; his every woe unreverenced; his gray head a scorn to flaxen curls!  6
  Death seems the only desirable sequel for a career like this; but Death is only a launching into the region of the strange Untried; it is but the first salutation to the possibilities of the immense Remote, the Wild, the Watery, the Unshored; therefore, to the death-longing eyes of such men, who still have left in them some interior compunctions against suicide, does the all-contributed and all-receptive ocean alluringly spread forth his whole plain of unimaginable, taking terrors, and wonderful, new-life adventures; and from the hearts of infinite Pacifics, the thousand mermaids sing to them—‘Come hither, broken-hearted; here is another life without the guilt of intermediate death; here are wonders supernatural, without dying for them. Come hither! bury thyself in a life which, to your now equally abhorred and abhorring, landed world, is more oblivious than death. Come hither! put up thy gravestone, too, within the churchyard, and come hither, till we marry thee!’  7
  Hearkening to these voices, East and West, by early sunrise, and by fall of eve, the blacksmith’s soul responded, Ay, I come! And so Perth went a-whaling.

-- Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chapter CXII, The Blacksmith

Which of course, recalls this:

CALL me Ishmael. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings toward the ocean with me.

-- Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chapter I, Loomings

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Why do you want to go to Harvard?

"Trapped in a bubble of privilege..."

The New Republic
“Super People,” the writer James Atlas has called themthe stereotypical ultra-high-achieving elite college students of today. A double major, a sport, a musical instrument, a couple of foreign languages, service work in distant corners of the globe, a few hobbies thrown in for good measure: They have mastered them all, and with a serene self-assurance that leaves adults and peers alike in awe. A friend who teaches at a top university once asked her class to memorize 30 lines of the eighteenth-century poet Alexander Pope. Nearly every single kid got every single line correct. It was a thing of wonder, she said, like watching thoroughbreds circle a track.
These enviable youngsters appear to be the winners in the race we have made of childhood. But the reality is very different, as I have witnessed in many of my own students [at Yale] and heard from the hundreds of young people whom I have spoken with on campuses or who have written to me over the last few years. Our system of elite education manufactures young people who are smart and talented and driven, yes, but also anxious, timid, and lost, with little intellectual curiosity and a stunted sense of purpose: trapped in a bubble of privilege, heading meekly in the same direction, great at what they’re doing but with no idea why they’re doing it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Maria Bamford -- OCD, Bipolar II comedienne


Things Bamford likes to talk about candidly include the fact that she has disabling bouts of anxiety and depression, that she has contended with a form of O.C.D. called “unwanted thoughts syndrome” and that during her childhood, those unwanted thoughts came in the form of constant worries she might kill her own family or sexually molest animals. And while her comedy routinely traverses more everyday subject matter — she mimics her stalwart Minnesotan parents with devastating precision; she deftly does bits about emojis, online dating and her deep lack of interest in cooking — all of it seems anchored, one way or another, in Bamford’s psychological fragility. When she does her stand-up, when she acts on television and most notably in several web series she has written and starred in, she plays an exaggerated version of herself — a tremolo-voiced woman with a stunned expression, trying to navigate a world of people whose confidence is appreciably higher than her own.
In her work, she describes having done stints at inpatient psychiatric units and also the diagnosis she received a few years ago of Type-II Bipolar, an increasingly recognized variant of bipolar disorder. (“It’s the new gladiator sandal!” she will declare onstage.) Narrating the particulars of her psychology, which also include a history of binge-eating and having suicidal thoughts, Bamford displays little in the way of anguish and nothing resembling self-pity. She appears before audiences simply as vulnerable, as someone whose ongoing presence in the world is not entirely assured.

My guess is that the Bipolar II diagnosis is just some psychiatrist's nice way of saying "Borderline Personality Disorder."

Monday, July 21, 2014

Target's Pregnancy Prediction Formula

English: Photograph of abdomen of a pregnant woman
Target knows before it shows.

Charles Duhigg outlines in the New York Times how Target tries to hook parents-to-be at that crucial moment before they turn into rampant — and loyal — buyers of all things pastel, plastic, and miniature. He talked to Target statistician Andrew Pole — before Target freaked out and cut off all communications — about the clues to a customer’s impending bundle of joy. Target assigns every customer a Guest ID number, tied to their credit card, name, or email address that becomes a bucket that stores a history of everything they’ve bought and any demographic information Target has collected from them or bought from other sources. Using that, Pole looked at historical buying data for all the ladies who had signed up for Target baby registries in the past. From the NYT:
[Pole] ran test after test, analyzing the data, and before long some useful patterns emerged. Lotions, for example. Lots of people buy lotion, but one of Pole’s colleagues noticed that women on the baby registry were buying larger quantities of unscented lotion around the beginning of their second trimester. Another analyst noted that sometime in the first 20 weeks, pregnant women loaded up on supplements like calcium, magnesium and zinc. Many shoppers purchase soap and cotton balls, but when someone suddenly starts buying lots of scent-free soap and extra-big bags of cotton balls, in addition to hand sanitizers and washcloths, it signals they could be getting close to their delivery date.
Or have a rather nasty infection…
As Pole’s computers crawled through the data, he was able to identify about 25 products that, when analyzed together, allowed him to assign each shopper a “pregnancy prediction” score. More important, he could also estimate her due date to within a small window, so Target could send coupons timed to very specific stages of her pregnancy. 
One Target employee I spoke to provided a hypothetical example. Take a fictional Target shopper named Jenny Ward, who is 23, lives in Atlanta and in March bought cocoa-butter lotion, a purse large enough to double as a diaper bag, zinc and magnesium supplements and a bright blue rug. There’s, say, an 87 percent chance that she’s pregnant and that her delivery date is sometime in late August.
And perhaps that it’s a boy based on the color of that rug?

So Target started sending coupons for baby items to customers according to their pregnancy scores. Duhigg shares an anecdote — so good that it sounds made up — that conveys how eerily accurate the targeting is. An angry man went into a Target outside of Minneapolis, demanding to talk to a manager:
“My daughter got this in the mail!” he said. “She’s still in high school, and you’re sending her coupons for baby clothes and cribs? Are you trying to encourage her to get pregnant?”
The manager didn’t have any idea what the man was talking about. He looked at the mailer. Sure enough, it was addressed to the man’s daughter and contained advertisements for maternity clothing, nursery furniture and pictures of smiling infants. The manager apologized and then called a few days later to apologize again.
(Nice customer service, Target.)
On the phone, though, the father was somewhat abashed. “I had a talk with my daughter,” he said. “It turns out there’s been some activities in my house I haven’t been completely aware of. She’s due in August. I owe you an apology.”
What Target discovered fairly quickly is that it creeped people out that the company knew about their pregnancies in advance.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Woodchucks -- Maxine Kumin (1972)

Gassing the woodchucks didn't turn out right.
The knockout bomb from the Feed and Grain Exchange
was featured as merciful, quick at the bone
and the case we had against them was airtight,
both exits shoehorned shut with puddingstone,
but they had a sub-sub-basement out of range.

Next morning they turned up again, no worse
for the cyanide than we for our cigarettes
and state-store Scotch, all of us up to scratch.
They brought down the marigolds as a matter of course
and then took over the vegetable patch
nipping the broccoli shoots, beheading the carrots.

The food from our mouths, I said, righteously thrilling
to the feel of the .22, the bullets' neat noses.
I, a lapsed pacifist fallen from grace
puffed with Darwinian pieties for killing,
now drew a bead on the little woodchuck's face.
He died down in the everbearing roses.

Ten minutes later I dropped the mother.She
flipflopped in the air and fell, her needle teeth
still hooked in a leaf of early Swiss chard.
Another baby next.O one-two-three
the murderer inside me rose up hard,
the hawkeye killer came on stage forthwith.

There's one chuck left. Old wily fellow, he keeps
me cocked and ready day after day after day.
All night I hunt his humped-up form.I dream
I sight along the barrel in my sleep.
If only they'd all consented to die unseen
gassed underground the quiet Nazi way.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

They All Laughed -- Sarah Vaughan (1958)

For those of you with attention deficits, the prelude ends at about 1:20.

They all laughed at Christopher Columbus
When he said the world was round
They all laughed when Edison recorded sound
They all laughed at Wilbur and his brother
When they said that man could fly

They told Marconi
Wireless was a phony
It's the same old cry
They laughed at me wanting you
Said I was reaching for the moon
But oh, you came through
Now they'll have to change their tune

They all said we never could be happy
They laughed at us and how!
But ho, ho, ho!
Who's got the last laugh now?

They all laughed at Rockefeller Center
Now they're fighting to get in
They all laughed at Whitney and his cotton gin
They all laughed at Fulton and his steamboat
Hershey and his chocolate bar

Ford and his Lizzie
Kept the laughers busy
That's how people are
They laughed at me wanting you
Said it would be, "Hello, Goodbye."
And oh, you came through
Now they're eating humble pie

They all said we'd never get together
Darling, let's take a bow
For ho, ho, ho!
Who's got the last laugh?
Hee, hee, hee!
Let's at the past laugh
Ha, ha, ha!
Who's got the last laugh now?"

Friday, July 18, 2014

More from Moby Dick

"Desecrated as the body is, a vengeful ghost survives and hovers over it to scare. Espied by some timid man-of-war or blundering discovery-vessel from afar, when the distance obscuring the swarming fowls nevertheless still shows the white mass floating in the sun, and the white spray heaving high against it; straightway the whale’s unharming corpse, with trembling fingers is set down in the log—shoals, rocks, and breakers hereabouts: beware! And for years afterward, perhaps, ships shun the place; leaping over it as silly sheep leap over a vacuum, because their leader originally leaped there when a stick was held. There’s your law of precedents; there’s your utility of traditions; there ’s the story of your obstinate survival of old beliefs never bottomed on the earth, and now not even hovering in the air! There’s orthodoxy!"
Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chapter LXIX, The Funeral

"‘Speak, thou vast and venerable head,’ muttered Ahab, ‘which, though ungarnished with a beard, yet here and there lookest hoary with mosses; speak, mighty head, and tell us the secret thing that is in thee. Of all divers, thou hast dived the deepest. That head upon which the upper sun now gleams, has moved amid this world’s foundations. Where unrecorded names and navies rust, and untold hopes and anchors rot; where in her murderous hold this frigate earth is ballasted with bones of millions of the drowned; there, in that awful water-land, there was thy most familiar home. Thou hast been where bell or diver never went; hast slept by many a sailor’s side, where sleepless mothers would give their lives to lay them down. Thou saw’st the locked lovers when leaping from their flaming ship; heart to heart they sank beneath the exulting wave; true to each other, when heaven seemed false to them. Thou saw’st the murdered mate when tossed by pirates from the midnight deck; for hours he fell into the deeper midnight of the insatiate maw; and his murderers still sailed on unharmed—while swift lightnings shivered the neighbouring ship that would have borne a righteous husband to outstretched, longing arms. O head! thou hast seen enough to split the planets and make an infidel of Abraham, and not one syllable is thine!’"

Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chapter LXX, The Sphynx

"Physiognomy, like every other human science, is but a passing fable."

Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chapter LXXIX, The Prairie

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Michael Oakeshott, and academia as it once was

"[Michael Oakeshott] would have found the industrial-style intellectual labour that has entrenched itself in much of academic life over the past twenty-odd years impossible to take seriously. He wrote for himself and anyone else who might be interested; it is unlikely that anyone working in a university today could find the freedom or leisure that are needed to produce a volume such as this. Writing in 1967, Oakeshott laments, 'I have wasted a lot of time living.' Perhaps so, but as this absorbing selection demonstrates, he still managed to fit in a great deal of thinking."

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

John Ruskin

London, Lower Regent Street, c. 1860

"Ask a great money-maker what he wants to do with his money, — he never knows. He doesn't make it to do anything with it. He gets it only that he may get it. "What will you make of what you have got?" you ask. "Well, I'll get more," he says. Just as at cricket, you get more runs. There's no use in the runs, but to get more of them than other people is the game. So all that great foul city of London there, — rattling, growling, smoking, stinking, — a ghastly heap of fermenting brickwork, pouring out poison at every pore, — you fancy it is a city of work? Not a street of it! It is a great city of play; very nasty play and very hard play, but still play."

John Ruskin, The Crown of Wild Olive, lecture I: Work, sections 23-24 (1866)

John Ruskin (1819-1900)
"We need examples of people who, leaving Heaven to decide whether they are to rise in the world, decide for themselves that they will be happy in it, and have resolved to seek — not greater wealth, but simpler pleasure; not higher fortune, but deeper felicity; making the first of possessions, self-possession; and honouring themselves in the harmless pride and calm pursuits of peace."

John Ruskin, Unto This Last, Essay IV: "Ad Valorem," (1860)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

SAT scores of American teachers

Most of the commentary on the paper from this table is taken frames the data as good news: "Teacher quality is improving!" Well, yes. Improving from lousy to mediocre. Let's recall what SAT scores you need to get into the 50%ile: 510 on Critical Reading (Verbal) and 500 on Math. If the median is near the mean in this score distribution, then this table suggests that half of all American teachers scored WORSE than 510/500 on their SATs!!! (By the way, the College Board considers a combined Math/Verbal score of 1050 to be the lower limit for college readiness.)

When I look at this data, I think, "Half of all college-bound high school students are smarter than their teachers." Is this how things should be? Or should teachers actually be smarter than their students?

As the paper notes:

Numerous studies show that student academic success depends in no small part on access to high-quality teachers. Many pundits point to the fact that in the United States, teachers tend not to be drawn from the top of the academic-performance distribution, as is the case in countries with higher student achievement, such as Finland, Korea, and Singapore. And the evidence on the importance of teacher academic proficiency generally suggests that effectiveness in raising student test scores is associated with strong cognitive skills as measured by SAT or licensure test scores, or the competitiveness of the college from which teachers graduate.
It also notes that:
Teaching is a female-dominated occupation, and prior to notable gender desegregation in the labor force beginning in the 1960s, the most academically capable female college graduates tended to become teachers. Over the course of the next 35 years, women still made up the vast majority of the teacher workforce, but their academic credentials began to decline. Research by Sean Corcoran, William Evans, and Robert Schwab indicates that the likelihood of a female teacher having been among the highest-scoring 10 percent of high school students on standardized achievement tests fell sharply between 1971 and 2000, from 24 to 11 percent.
The teachers that I had in elementary school: Mrs. Hay (K), Mrs. Weiner (1), Mrs. Wood (2), Mrs. Kingsbury (5), and Mrs. Conway (6) were all a lot smarter than their equivalents today. (I had male teachers for 3rd and 4th grade -- both of whom were also probably pretty darn bright; one was what we then called "a bachelor"). If those ladies were in college today, chances are that they would be aiming at law school or medical school, not elementary teaching. Mrs. Conway used to talk with our handwriting teacher, Mrs. Quigley, about the tougher items on the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle.

Why do Teach for America volunteers outperform more experienced teachers? Because they are smarter.

If anyone is serious about improving American schools, the necessary first step is improving the quality of teachers. Training and support won't do enough -- you have to start with the right raw materials. That means that no teacher should be below average in intelligence, and that most should be in the upper quartile.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Classic Videos for Intro Psych -- Visual Cliff

Good for Joseph Campos (who looks like a stroke survivor, by the way) for not over-hyping his research findings. However, the fact that 76% of babies will override their sensory perceptions ("You are going to fall!") based on social referencing (their mother's happy face) and 0% of babies will cross the abyss if the mother shows a "fear face" also significantly buttresses the concept of attachment. What's more important to a baby's survival: Depth perception or mother love?

See also: Lexicon of Madness: Visual Cliff

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Descendants of Myths -- Liu Kexiang (1992)

they invented myths
myths transformed them

mammals with dignity
strictly territorial hunters

advanced in their social organization
not at all hirsute, on a mixed diet
with a strong sexual drive
they once lived in jungles
polite, they know how to smile
but resent strangers

they can kill each other from a distance
from a longer and longer distance

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Everybody's Got the Right -- Assassins (Stephen Sondheim)

This is a modified version of the song done for the Tony Awards. The kooky visuals of the various assassins is a must-see however. The Broadway Cast Recording is below.

Hey, pal- feelin' blue?
Don't know what to do?
Hey, pal - I mean you-
Yeah. C'mere and kill a president.

No job? Cupboard bare?
One room, no one there?
Hey, pal, don't despair-
You wanna shoot a president?
C'mon and shoot a president...

Some guys
Think they can be winners.
First prize often goes to rank beginners.

How much?

Four-fifty. Ivor johnson. .32. Rubber handle. Owls stamped on the sides.

All right, give me.

Hey, kid, failed your test?
Dream girl unimpressed?
Show her you're the best
If you can shoot a president-

You can get the prize
With the big blue eyes,
Skinny little thighs
And those big blue eyes...

Got the right
To be happy.
Don't stay mad,
Life's not as bad
As it seems.

If you keep your
Goal in sight,
You can climb to
Any height.
Got the right
To their dreams...



I said "deal"

You. Wait your turn.

It is my turn.

I was here first-

Watch it now, no violence!

Hey, fella,
Feel like you're a failure?
Bailiff on your tail? Your
Wife run off for good?
Hey, fella, fell misunderstood?
C'mere and kill a president...



What's-a wrong, boy?
Boss-a treat you crummy?
Trouble with your tummy?
This-a bring you some relief.
Here, give
Some hail-a to da chief-

You gimme prize-

Anything you want.

I want prize. You gimme prize!

Only eight bucks. Cheap for "anything you want."

Got the right
To be different
Even though
At times they go
To extremes.
Aim for what you
want a lot-
Gets a shot.
Got a right
To their dreams-

Yo, baby!
Looking for a thrill?
The Ferris Wheel is that way.
No, baby,
This requires skill-
Okay, you want to give it a try...
Jeez, lady-!
Give the guy some room!
The bumper cars are that way..
Please, lady-
Don't forget that guns can go boom...

Hey, gang,
Look who's here.
There's our
Hey, chief.
Lound and clear:

Got the right
To be happy.
Say, "Enough!"
It's not as tough
As it seems.

Don't be scared
You won't prevail,
Free to fail,
No one can be put in jail
For their dreams.

Free country-!

-Means your dreams can come true:

Be a scholar-

Make a dollar-

Free country-!

-Means they'll listen to you:

Scream and holler-

Grab 'em by the collar!

Free country-!

-Means you dont have to sit-

That's it!

-And put up with the shit.

Got the right
To some sun shine-


Not the sun
But maybe one
Of its beams.
One of its beams.

Rich man, poor man
Black or white,
pick your apple,
Take a bite,
Just hold tight
To your dreams.
Got the right
To their dreams...

Friday, July 11, 2014

The psychodynamics of Moby Dick

"Panting and snorting like a mad battle-steed that has lost its rider, the masterless ocean overruns the globe.
Consider the subtleness of the sea; how its most dreaded creatures glide under water, unapparent for the most part, and treacherously hidden beneath the loveliest tints of azure. Consider also the devilish brilliance and beauty of many of its most remorseless tribes, as the dainty embellished shape of many species of sharks. Consider, once more, the universal cannibalism of the sea; all whose creatures prey upon each other, carrying on eternal war since the world began.
Consider all this; and then turn to this green, gentle, and most docile earth; consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself? For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half-known life. God keep thee! Push not off from that isle, thou canst never return!"

-- Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chapter LVIII, Brit

The Unconscious bursts forth

Thursday, July 10, 2014

"The permanent constitutional condition of the manufactured man, thought Ahab, is sordidness."

His three boats stove around him, and oars and men both whirling in the eddies, one captain, seizing the line-knife from his broken prow, had dashed at the whale, as an Arkansas duellist at his foe, blindly seeking with a six-inch blade to reach the fathom-deep life of the whale. That captain was Ahab. And then it was, that suddenly sweeping his sickle-shaped lower jaw beneath him, Moby-Dick had reaped away Ahab’s leg, as a mower a blade of grass in the field. No turbaned Turk, no hired Venetian or Malay, could have smote him with more seeming malice. Small reason was there to doubt, then, that ever since that almost fatal encounter, Ahab had cherished a wild vindictiveness against the whale, all the more fell for that in his frantic morbidness he at last came to identify with him, not only all his bodily woes, but all his intellectual and spiritual exasperations. The White Whale swam before him as the monomaniac incarnation of all those malicious agencies which some deep men feel eating in them, till they are left living on with half a heart and half a lung. That intangible malignity which has been from the beginning; to whose dominion even the modern Christians ascribe one-half of the worlds; which the ancient Ophites of the East reverenced in their statue devil;—Ahab did not fall down and worship it like them; but deliriously transferring its idea to the abhorred White Whale, he pitted himself, all mutilated, against it. All that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab, were visibly personified, and made practically assailable in Moby-Dick. He piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it.

Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chapter XLI, Moby-Dick


To accomplish his object Ahab must use tools; and of all tools used in the shadow of the moon, men are most apt to get out of order. He knew, for example, that however magnetic his ascendency in some respects was over Starbuck, yet that ascendency did not cover the complete spiritual man any more than mere corporeal superiority involves intellectual mastership; for to the purely spiritual, the intellectual but stand in a sort of corporeal relation. Starbuck’s body and Starbuck’s coerced will were Ahab’s, so long as Ahab kept his magnet at Starbuck’s brain; still he knew that for all this the chief mate, in his soul, abhorred his captain’s quest, and could he, would joyfully disintegrate himself from it, or even frustrate it. It might be that a long interval would elapse ere the White Whale was seen. During that long interval Starbuck would ever be apt to fall into open relapses of rebellion against his captain’s leadership, unless some ordinary, prudential, circumstantial influences were brought to bear upon him. Not only that, but the subtle insanity of Ahab respecting Moby-Dick was noways more significantly manifested than in his superlative sense and shrewdness in foreseeing that, for the present, the hunt should in some way be stripped of that strange imaginative impiousness which naturally invested it; that the full terror of the voyage must be kept withdrawn into the obscure background (for few men’s courage is proof against protracted meditation unrelieved by action); that when they stood their long night-watches, his officers and men must have some nearer things to think of than Moby-Dick. For however eagerly and impetuously the savage crew had hailed the announcement of his quest; yet all sailors of all sorts are more or less capricious and unreliable—they live in the varying outer weather, and they inhale its fickleness—and when retained for any object remote and blank in the pursuit, however promissory of life and passion in the end, it is above all things requisite that temporary interests and employments should intervene and hold them healthily suspended for the final dash.
Nor was Ahab unmindful of another thing. In times of strong emotion mankind disdain all base considerations; but such times are evanescent. The permanent constitutional condition of the manufactured man, thought Ahab, is sordidness. Granting that the White Whale fully incites the hearts of this my savage crew, and playing round their savageness even breeds a certain generous knight-errantism in them, still, while for the love of it they give chase to Moby-Dick, they must also have food for their more common, daily appetites. For even the high lifted and chivalric Crusaders of old times were not content to traverse two thousand miles of land to fight for their holy sepulchre, without committing burglaries, picking pockets, and gaining other pious perquisites by the way. Had they been strictly held to their one final and romantic object—that final and romantic object, too many would have turned from in disgust. I will not strip these men, thought Ahab, of all hopes of cash—ay, cash. They may scorn cash now; but let some months go by, and no perspective promise of it to them, and then this same quiescent cash all at once mutinying in them, this same cash would soon cashier Ahab.

Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chapter XLVI, Surmises

Nantucket Sleigh Ride -- John Stobart

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

"The true University of these days is a Collection of Books." -- Thomas Carlyle


"It is clear, however, that with this simple circumstance, facility of getting Books, the whole conditions of the business from top to bottom were changed. Once invent Printing, you metamorphosed all Universities, or superseded them! The Teacher needed not now to gather men personally round him, that he might speak to them what he knew: print it in a Book, and all learners far and wide, for a trifle, had it each at his own fireside, much more effectually to learn it!—Doubtless there is still peculiar virtue in Speech; even writers of Books may still, in some circumstances, find it convenient to speak also,—witness our present meeting here! There is, one would say, and must ever remain while man has a tongue, a distinct province for Speech as well as for Writing and Printing. In regard to all things this must remain; to Universities among others. But the limits of the two have nowhere yet been pointed out, ascertained; much less put in practice: the University which would completely take in that great new fact, of the existence of Printed Books, and stand on a clear footing for the Nineteenth Century as the Paris one did for the Thirteenth, has not yet come into existence. If we think of it, all that a University, or final highest School can do for us, is still but what the first School began doing,—teach us to read. We learn to read, in various languages, in various sciences; we learn the alphabet and letters of all manner of Books. But the place where we are to get knowledge, even theoretic knowledge, is the Books themselves! It depends on what we read, after all manner of Professors have done their best for us. The true University of these days is a Collection of Books."

Thomas Carlyle, The Hero as Man of Letters (1840)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

That Ferocious Pulse Under All Things Placid


From a review of Nobody is Ever Missing, by Catherine Lacey:

Ms. Lacey's writing has the churning, erratic rhythms of a mind in a torrent of grief, constantly turning back on itself and, like Elyria, finding no place to rest. "It's odd that people go to the beach and stare at the waving water and feel relaxed," she thinks as she looks at a dead stingray, "because what they are looking at is just the blue curtain over a wild violence, lives eating lives, the unstoppable chew, and I wondered if any of those vacationing people feel all the blood rushing under the surface, and I wondered if the fleshy, dying underside of the ocean is what they're really after as they stare—that ferocious pulse under all things placid."

Monday, July 7, 2014

Over 40% of us would rather hurt ourselves than think


In 11 studies, we found that participants typically did not enjoy spending 6 to 15 minutes in

a room by themselves with nothing to do but think, that they enjoyed doing mundane

external activities much more, and that many preferred to administer electric shocks to

themselves instead of being left alone with their thoughts. Most people seem to prefer to

be doing something rather than nothing, even if that something is negative.

Many participants elected to receive negative

stimulation over no stimulation

especially men: 67% of men (12 of 18) gave themselves

at least one shock during the thinking period

[range = 0 to 4 shocks, mean (M) = 1.47,

SD =1.46, not including one outlier who administered

190 shocks to himself], compared to 25%

of women (6 of 24; range = 0 to 9 shocks,

M = 1.00, SD = 2.32). Note that these results only

include participants who had reported that they

would pay to avoid being shocked again.

The gender difference is probably due to the

tendency for men to be higher in sensation-seeking.

But what is striking is that simply

being alone with their own thoughts for 15 min

was apparently so aversive that it drove many

participants to self-administer an electric shock

that they had earlier said they would pay to avoid.


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Much Madness is divinest Sense -- Emily Dickinson (1862)



MUCH madness is divinest Sense
To a discerning Eye;
Much Sense the starkest Madness.
’Tis the majority
In this, as all, prevails.       
Assent, and you are sane;
Demur,—you ’re straightway dangerous,
And handled with a Chain.


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Let's Do It -- Louis Armstrong

When the little blue bird who has never said a word
Starts to sing, "Spring, spring"
When the little blue bell in the bottom of the dell
Starts to ring, "Ting, ting"

When the little blue clock in the middle of his work
Sings a song to the moon up above
It is nature that's all
Simply telling us to fall in love

And that's why birds do it
Bees do it
Even educated fleas do it
Let's do it, let's fall in love

In Spain, the best
Upper sets do it
Lithuanians and Letts do it
Let's do it, let's fall in love

The Dutch in old Amsterdam do it
Not to mention the Finns
Folks in Siam do it
Think of Siamese twins

Some Argentines
Without means, do it
People say in Boston even beans do it
Let's do it, let's fall in love

They say, "Do it"
Oysters down in Oyster Bay do it
Let's do it, let's fall in love

Cold Cape Cod clams
Against their wish, do it
Even lazy jellyfish, do it
Let's do it, let's fall in love

Electric eels I might add do it
Though it shocks 'em I know
Why ask if shad do it
Waiter bring me the shad roe

In shallow shoals
English soles do it
Goldfish in the privacy of bowls do it
Let's do it, let's fall in love

Now if the birds and the bees and the trees do it
The monkeys and the birds, bees do it
In, in water gates they quarrel but they do it
And if they can make up and still do it baby, how about me and you?

Hey let's do it now
Let's do it, let's fall in love

Friday, July 4, 2014

We must all hang together...


"We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."
Benjamin Franklin, at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, 1776

What! You've never read Franklin's Autobiography? Take a taste here, then buy a copy for yourself here.