Friday, August 30, 2013

Music Friday: "Amped Up"

I got the new Richard Randolph and Family Band album recently. The first track on the album is one I told my daughter that she should do dance number to, and I then played it for her and her brother in the car. 

Now almost every time we get in the car, they're asking for this song. So now I'm bringing it you. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Stay Positive: Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow

One of the best books I've read in a while is Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow

It's a book that synthesizes all kinds of important research from psychology, economics, and other social sciences, much of it connecting to decision making and what college professors might call "critical thinking." I'm interested in what he says about our "System 1" and "System 2" thinking, and the research makes you question how "rational" and open-minded you really are. If you work in any kind of organization, Kahneman's book is a must-read. 

I'm not doing a book review, but what I want to do here is present a litany of quotations (without the marks) from the book that are going to make it into my commonplace book:
  • The best we can do is a compromise: learn to recognize situations in which mistakes are likely and try harder to avoid significant mistakes when the stakes are high.
  • We normally avoid mental overload by dividing our tasks into multiple easy steps, committing intermediate results to long-term memory or to paper rather than to easily overloaded working memory. We cover long distances by taking our time and conduct our mental lives by the law of least effort. 
  • Too much concern about how well one is doing in a task sometimes disrupts performance by loading short-term memory with pointless anxious thoughts. 
  • ...many people are overconfident, prone to place too much faith in their intuitions. 
  • Those who avoid the sin of intellectual sloth could be called "engaged." They are more alert, more intellectually active, less willing to be satisfied with superficially attractive answers, more skeptical about their intuitions. 
  • Studies of priming effect have yielded discoveries that threaten our self-image as conscious and autonomous authors of our judgments and our choices.
  • Anything that makes it easier for the associative machine to run smoothly will also bias beliefs. A reliable way to make people believe falsehoods is frequent repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth. 
  • How do you know that a statement is true? If it is strongly linked by logic or association to other beliefs or preferences you hold, or comes from a source you trust and like, you will feel a sense of cognitive ease. 
  • Robert Zajonc dedicated much of his career to the study of the link between the repetition of an arbitrary stimulus and the mild affection people eventually have for it. Zajonc called it mere exposure effect
  • "Familiarity breeds liking. This is mere exposure effect." 
  • The operations of associative memory contribute to a general confirmation bias
  • The tendency to like (or dislike) everything about a person--including things you have not observed--is known as the halo effect
  • Whether you state them or not, you often have answers to questions that you do not completely understand, relying on evidence that you can neither explain nor defend. 
  • We are pattern seekers, believers in coherent world, in which regularities ... appear not by accident but as a result of mechanical causality or of someone's intention. 
  • "The emotional tail wags the dog." ~Jonathan Haidt
  • There is a deep gap between our thinking about statistics and our thinking about individual cases. Statistical results with a causal interpretation have a stronger effect on our thinking than noncausal information. But even compelling causal statistics will not change long-held beliefs or beliefs rooted in personal experience. On the other hand, surprising individual cases have a powerful impact and are a more effective tool for teaching psychology because the incongruity must be resolved and embedded in a causal story. 
  • ... it is natural for System 1 to generate overconfident judgments, because confidence, as we have seen, is determined by the coherence of the best story you can tell from the evidence at hand. Be warned: your intuitions will deliver predictions that are too extreme and you will be inclined to put far too much faith in them. 
  • The tendency to revise the history of one's beliefs in light of what actually happened produces a robust cognitive illusion. 
  • The sense-making machinery of System 1 makes us see the world as more tidy, simple, predictable, and coherent than it really is. 
  • Facts that challenge such basic assumptions--and thereby threaten people's livelihood and self-esteem--are simply not absorbed. The mind does not digest them
  • We know that people can maintain an unshakable faith in any proposition, however absurd, when they are sustained by a community of like-minded believers. 
  • Emotional learning may be quick, but what we consider as "expertise" usually takes a long time to develop.
  • The associative machine is set to suppress doubt and to evoke ideas and information that are compatible with the currently dominant story.
  • In other words, do not trust anyone--including yourself--to tell you how much you should trust their judgment. 
  • ...the two basic conditions for acquiring a skill: an environment that is sufficiently regular to be predictable and an opportunity to learn these regularities through prolonged practice.
  • Expertise is not a single skill; it is a collection of skills, and the same professional may be highly expert in some of the tasks in her domain while remaining a novice in others. 
  • The planning fallacy is only one of the manifestations of pervasive optimistic bias. Most of us view the world as more benign than it really is, our own attributes as more favorable than they truly are, and the goals we adopt as more achievable than they are likely to be. We also tend to exaggerate our ability to forecast the future, which foster optimistic overconfidence. 
  • The evidence suggests that optimism is widespread, stubborn, and costly. 
  • The main obstacle is that subjective confidence is determined by the coherence of the story one has constructed, not by the quality and amount of the information that supports it. 
  • He [Gary Klein] labels his proposal the premortem. The procedure is simple: when the organization has almost come to an important decision but has not formally committed itself, Klein proposes gathering for a brief session a group of individuals who are knowledgeable about the decision. The premise of the session is a short speech: "Imagine that we are a year into the future. We implemented the plan as it now exists. The outcome was a disaster. Please take 5 to 10 minutes to write a brief history of that disaster."
  • The premortem has two main advantages: it overcomes groupthink that affects many teams once a decision appears to have been made, and it unleashes the imagination of knowledgeable individuals in a much-needed direction. As a team converges on a decision--and especially when the leaders tips her hand--public doubts about the wisdom of the planned move are gradually suppressed and eventually come to be treated as evidence of flawed loyalty to the team and its leaders. The suppression of doubt contributes to overconfidence in a group where only supporters of the decision have a voice. The main virtue of the premortem is that it legitimizes doubts. Furthermore, it encourages even supporters of the decision to search for possible threats that they had not considered earlier. 
  • The errors of a theory are rarely found in what it asserts explicitly; they hide in what it ignores or tacitly assumes. 
  • I call it theory-induced blindness: once you have accepted a theory and used it as a tool in your thinking, it is extraordinarily difficult to notice its flaws. 
  • The brains of humans and other animals contain a mechanism that is designed to give priority to bad news.
  • Animals, including people, fight harder to prevent losses than to achieve gains. In the world of territorial animals, this principle explains the success of defenders. 
  • Amos [Tversky] had little patience for these efforts; he called the theorists who tried to rationalize violations of utility theory "lawyers for the misguided." We went in another direction. We retained utility theory as a logic of rational choice but abandoned the idea that people are perfectly rational choosers. We took on the task of developing a psychological theory that would describe the choices people make, regardless of whether they are rational. In prospect theory, decision weights would not be identical to probabilities.
  • ...people expect to have stronger emotional reactions (including regret) to an outcome that is produced by action than to the same outcome when it is produced by inaction. 
  • The most "rational" subjects--those who were the least susceptible to framing effects--showed enhanced activity in the frontal area of the brain that is implicated in combining emotion and reasoning to guide decisions. 
  • Tastes and decisions are shaped by memories, and the memories can be wrong. The evidence presents a profound challenge to the idea that humans have consistent preferences and know how to maximize them, a cornerstone of the rational-agent model. 
  • Some aspects of life have more effect on the evaluation of one's life than on the experience of living. Educational attainment is an example. More education is associated with higher evaluation of one's life, but not with greater experienced well-being. Indeed, at least in the United States, the more educated tend to report higher stress.
  • The acquisition of skills requires a regular environment, an adequate opportunity to practice, and rapid and unequivocal feedback about the correctness of thoughts and actions.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Stay Positive: Sledgehammer vs. Toilets

Some families go to church on Sunday. Some families sleep in. Other families do their own things and don't interact much. 

In contrast, the Nasty family busted up toilets this Sunday morning. 

Since we had redone both of our bathrooms and replaced the water-wasting toilets with more efficient ones, I had our two old toilets out by the garbage can. We had planned on busting up those crappers for months now, and today after I got done mowing the lawn, we finally got around to it. 

I gathered up the sledgehammer I bought last summer, got the goggles and gloves, and the kids and I went to work as Mrs. Nasty looked on. 

We brought the pain on those shitters.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Random Notes from a Crank

Recently a couple of my FB friends provided some interesting links that relate to personality types. The first, "What's Your Animal Personality Type," connects Meyers-Briggs categories to animals. 

I'm an octopus. 

The second, "23 Signs You're Secretly An Introvert," has resonance with me because when I take the MBTI test, I'm over 90% introversion. Here are some initial reactions to specific points in the article:

  • 1 - Yes, small talk is usually a waste of time, but don't other people feel that way?
  • 2 - I go to parties to hang out with people I know.
  • 5 - I have, on occasion, been called "too intense." Those people are usually fools.
  • 7 - An afternoon home loafing and reading is pleasure. Solitude is good. 
  • 9 - I hate being in the middle of people, aka surrounded/trapped.
  • 10 - I can only take so much.
  • 13 - I hate audience participation. 
  • 14 - I don't like phones. Never have. 
  • 16 - Yep, internal monologue. You don't know want to know what's rattlin' around in this brain, folks. 
  • 18 - I don't know about the "old soul" stuff, but I've been called Stoic. 
  • 21 - When someone tells me I need to "come out of my shell," my internal monologue starts with "Oh, shut the hell up!" but the outside effect is silence. 

I wish I still had my old Risk board game. I like the old one like below that had game pieces in Roman numerals. 

Every once in a while, I feel like going for world domination. Emperor Nasty is restless...

Music Friday: "Wildflowers"

Yesterday I made my daughter cry. 

I recently bought Tom Petty's Wildflowers because it's one of my favorite albums of his, and the CD was selling for something like six bucks online.

The title track to the album is also one of my favorite Petty tunes. As I told my daughter as I was driving her to gymnastics practice, when she gets married "in a twenty years or so," "Wildflowers" is the song I'd like the father-bride dance set to. And then we listened to it. 

We didn't get through all of it, however. Toward the end, she was crying and said, "Dad, can you change the song please?" 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Music Friday: "Cherokee" with an Interview

An album I picked up this week is Out Here by the Christian McBride Trio. An excellent jazz disc, folks. 

While my favorite song on the album so far is "Who's Making Love," here's the classic tune "Cherokee" and an interview with the trio. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Random Notes from a Crank

For a critical take on how history books get it wrong, check out "Setting Free Our History" by Tim Swinehart. It was originally published in Rethinking Schools and was reprinted in Utne.

In the current issue of Utne, they reprinted "Gone Hunting For Food" by Kate Bergin, which originally appeared in This Magazine. The article informs readers about the trend of urbanites discovering hunting and people rediscovering hunting and fishing. The urban hipsters and smart environmental folks have reasserted the practices of gardening, canning/pickling, and now hunting/fishing. I've never been much of a hunter. I'm a horrible shot, but then again, I never got any practice shooting. However, I enjoy fishing even though I haven't had much luck at all around these here parts.

In animal husbandry news (never used that clause before), check out happy pigs and their mudslide via Grist.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Music Friday: "Rattling Locks"

This week I've listened to the work of Josh Ritter quite a bit. 

In the past, I featured a number of his songs a while back and his excellent song "Another New World" and the Punch Brothers' cover of it. 

Today I offer his hypnotic "Rattling Locks." One video is the studio version, and the other is live, which doesn't have the best sound or picture quality, but you get to see how they perform the song live. 

Rattling Locks
by Josh Ritter

There was a time I had the right key,
rolled the tumblers,
threw the bolt,
on every wandering eye I caught.
But something has changed.
It's all wrong.
I'm out here in the cold
with a wet face
a-rattlin' your locks.
There ain't nothin' new about the world 
that I ain't learned from 'a just standin' here in this spot.

Ain't nothin' new about the world 
that I ain't learned from just watchin' you go by.
I tell myself people are cold.
And strangers pass
separate themselves from love 
by buildin' walls a hundred thousand miles high.
Frostbite and heartsickness
ain't neither one of them so bad 
you can understand the reason why.

Black hole, black hole

Are your eyes as empty as they look?
Black hole, black hole
How can your two eyes be as empty as they look?
All along I thought I was givin' you my love,
but you were just stealin' it. Now I want back
Every single thing you took.

Black hole, black hole
Black hole, black hole

Black hole, black hole
Black hole, black hole

Black hole, black hole
Black hole, black hole

I had a dream where I was dyin',
but it wasn't no nightmare.
I was peaceful as I fell,
and if I was fallin' in to heaven.
Heaven must be hotter than the Bible tells.
I woke up sorry I was living.
Rather than rattlin your locks,
I'd rather spend the night in hell.
In hell
In hell
In hell

Black hole, black hole [Repeat]

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Random Notes from a Crank

It's come to that time of the year when I'm so desperate for college football that I'm watching a NFL preseason game. I feel so pathetic. 

On Tuesday, the OED Online Word of the Day was "monkey parade." It's a noun, and here's the definition: "An evening promenade of young people, esp. for the purpose of meeting members of the opposite sex." Because I've lived in college towns for good portion of my life ~ Kirksville, MO; Tuscaloosa, AL; and Charleston, IL ~ I recognize these parades. Monkey parades are especially prominent in small towns when college kids travel on foot to a keg parties. I've observed many of them. 

I've been making pickles close to every day since my pickling cucumbers have been producing, which is three weeks or so now. I've been experimenting with different ratios of types of vinegar (hint: go heavy on the cider vinegar and light on the white vinegar) and experimenting with hot peppers in the mix. I did one jar with a serrano pepper and a couple others with jalapenos. Mrs. Nasty tried the serrano-infused pickles the other day. She hung in there, but she said they were pretty hot. I tried them too. They're hot, but serranos impart wicked good flavor. I've also thought about making a jar with three peppers marinating the cucumbers ~ a serrano, a jalapeno, and cayenne. I think I'll call it my "walk into a bar..." recipe. You see, a serrano, a jalapeno, and a cayenne walk into a bar, and... [you fill in the blank]. 

In October, we head up to Iowa to see my parents for their celebration of their 65th wedding anniversary. I hope Mrs. Nasty and I stick around long enough to have a 65th wedding anniversary. 

While I enjoyed The Wolverine movie, reading the comic books series from 1982 was quite a treat. I was somewhat right on what they kept from the comic book for the movie. Regardless, I'm a bit of purist, so I prefer the original comic book storyline, especially because it brings in the rest of the X-Men at the end (for a wedding that goes wrong). With all that said though, the movie reinterprets the Logan/Wolverine character in a thoughtful way. 

After reading the full series of The Northlanders by Brian Wood, I got into his most recent work, The Massive. It's good. I'm looking forward to the second volume. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Fumbling Toward Culinary Talent: Jalapeno Pimiento Cheese

This is a variation of the pimiento cheese recipe I've featured before. This version incorporates jalapenos, shallots, and chives. 

10-12 oz. of shredded sharp cheddar
1 4 oz. jar of chopped pimientos, drained
4 oz. of cream cheese
1/4 cup of mayo 
2 green onions, chopped finely
4-5 chives, chopped finely
1 shallot, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, membrane and seeds ripped out, minced
Small dollops of Sriracha to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all of these ingredients using an electric mixer for approximately two minutes.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Music Friday: "Everybody's Trying" & "Bury Me Deep"

Back when I was an undergraduate, my friends and I went to a concert in Truman's Baldwin Auditorium. We had never heard of the band before, but after we went to the concert by Poi Dog Pondering, I promptly bought their new album at the time, Wishing Like a Mountain and Thinking Like the Sea

For some reason, I've never purchased another album from the band, and I'm not sure why. I really enjoy the album ~ interesting lyrics, folky vibe. In a lot of ways, the music encapsulates a certain part of my life and brings back memories. 

I've had it in my car this week, and here are some tunes from Wishing..., the first of which is their very first TV performance probably sometime in 1990 or 1991.