Blogging Advice

Jan 312008

For my fellow bloggers, in particular 41 Reasons Why Your Blog Probably Sucks. NoodleFood does indeed suck for some of the reasons listed.

Are You Smarter Than A Super Bowl Quarterback?

Jan 302008

Both Eli Manning (quarterback for the Super Bowl-bound New York Giants) and his older brother Peyton (quarterback for last year’s Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts) are regarded as very intelligent men. What I didn’t know is that Eli is considered smarter than Peyton, at least by one standard NFL measure of intelligence. According to this New York Times article:

[Eli] Manning posted a score of 39 out of 50 on the Wonderlic, the intelligence test administered by N.F.L. teams to evaluate draft prospects. It was 11 points higher than Peyton’s score and well above the average.

If you want to know how you stack up to the Manning brothers, a sample test is available here. Just multiple the number right on these 20 questions by 2.5 to get your Wunderlich score.

Here are how some other NFL players scored and what those numbers mean:

Specifically, 21, considered an average score, is equivalent to the average IQ of 100. Higher scoring applicants are supposed to learn more rapidly, master more complex material, and exercise better judgment while lower scoring applicants tend to require more time, detailed task instruction, and less challenging job routines. 25 is the average score for quarterbacks and offensive linemen. Other positions average about a 20.

(For what it’s worth, I did better than Eli on the sample test. But I can’t throw a football spiral to save my life.)

Turn Jesus On

Jan 302008

It’s both tasteless and funny!

Spot the Logical Fallacy

Jan 292008

Today’s edition of “Spot the Logical Fallacy” comes from the medicolegal world:

1) A pregnant mother who had a prior Caesarean section now wants to deliver her next baby at home.

2) Her obstetrician warns her that it’s dangerous and advises the she have the baby in a hospital.

3) The mother ignores her doctor’s advice and has a home birth anyways.

4) The baby is born with “severe brain damage”.

5) The doctor gets sued. According to the article, “Plaintiffs told prospective jurors earlier this week that they are seeking more than $13 million in damages.”

Question: Can you spot the logical fallacy in the plaintiff’s case? More importantly, will the jury?

Answer: The doctor’s defense lawyer correctly states, “[T]he physician should not be held accountable ‘for choices she didn’t make, and for choices she counseled against.’”

Extra credit question: Would this sort of thing increase or decrease medical costs?

Thank you all for playing!

Effective Standing Orders

Jan 282008

Usually, when a person needs to remember to do something, he gives himself a standing order associated with some trigger, e.g. “check the tire pressure and wiper fluid when changing the oil on the car.” Sometimes, however, new standing orders will not stick to well-automatized actions. Case in point:

Early last spring, I bought a well-reviewed, cheap car seat heater. I’m using it regularly this winter. Unfortunately, it remains fully operational — and so drains the car battery — if left plugged into the cigarette lighter when the car is off. Predictably, I left it plugged in a few times accidentally, despite my best efforts to remember to unplug it when turning off the car. I should just be able to add it to my standard leaving-the-car checklist, I thought. That didn’t work at all, however. A few weeks ago, I finally managed to drain my car battery. (Thankfully, I did so at a convenient time, as I was home and didn’t need to go anywhere. Paul gave me a jump.) Given the inflexibility of my teaching schedule, that’s not a consequence I could afford to risk in the future.

After that, I considered buying a “battery drain guard” (like this one), but I hate to spend $20 on a silly memory problem. So I decided to try a different solution. Instead of trying to remember to unplug the heater, I plug it in in such a way that I can’t forget. I run the rather long cord over my thigh so that it’s totally out of the way — until I try to leave the car. Then I need to unplug the heater to get out of the car smoothly. So far, I’ve found it totally reliable: it’s easy to remember to plug it in via that convoluted route and impossible to forget to unplug it.

The basic reason why this new method works whereas my old method failed is that my getting-out-of-the-car routine is very thoroughly automatized. I’m not thinking of the car seat heater; I have no immediate reason to do so. That’s not true of plugging in the car seat heater; it happens whenever I notice that I’m cold. So while I’m already thinking about it, I can easily plug it in by a slightly odd route.

So I’d put the general principle as follows: If you’re trying to automatize some new action, don’t attempt to force yourself to remember ex nihilo, but instead find some way to connect to it to your natural patterns of thought.

Notably, that’s precisely what a well-managed (i.e a GTD-type) task list does. Instead of overloading your mind with the task of remembering all that you need and want to do, you only need to automatize checking and managing your task list. For people with lots to do like me, such a task list is essential not only to productivity but also to basic peace of mind.

Europe’s Philosophy of Failure

Jan 272008

The January/February 2008 issue of Foreign Policy points out that young students in France and Germany are being taught that capitalism and free markets are “savage, unhealthy, and immoral.”

If I were a betting man, I’d sell Europe short. Assuming that I could find any economically-literate Europeans who’d take the other side of the trade…

Claims Of Supernatural Powers

Jan 262008 summarizes the data nicely:

Prospectus Defense

Jan 252008

Hooray for me!
Hooray for me!
Hooray for me!

I successfully defended my prospectus today. It went fabulously well. The four (of five) faculty on my committee able to attend seemed broadly supportive of my project, with good questions, comments, and challenges. They voted to pass me, so now the only work left for my Ph.D is my already-in-progress dissertation.

Paul and I are headed out to celebrate by consuming vast quantities of delicious calories!

Hooray for me!
Hooray for me!
Hooray for me!

More Wacky Scientology Fun

Jan 252008

No comment necessary:

More Football

Jan 252008

During this football season, Paul and I have taken to watching The NFL Channel if we have some extra time while exercising but nothing to watch on DVD. The analysis shows are reasonably good — although we definitely prefer HBO’s “Inside the NFL.” The essentialized “NFL Replay” games are fun to watch, as are the significant games from past seasons. When listening to some lecture or fiction on my iPod, I’ll often watch games on the NFL channel with the sound off, as that keeps my brain occupied enough to concentrate on the audio material.

A few days ago, I watched a portion of 1998′s Superbowl 32: Denver vs Green Bay. (I was also listening to Onkar Ghate lecture on philosophy!) That’s ancient history for me, as I only began watching football two seasons later.

When I began watching football, my goal was to be nothing more than a very casual fan. I thought I’d know which teams were doing well each season, enjoy watching a few games, but not much more than that. In fact, I even said that I couldn’t imagine learning the names of players.

How times have changed! Of course, I recognized tons of players from this old game, most notably the very young-looking Brett Farve, but also McCaffrey, Davis, Sharpe, etc. The two head coaches were also familiar faces. I recognized the commentators: Phil Simms looks so much older today. However, what blows me away is that I recognized Ed Hochuli. He wasn’t nearly so buff then as he is now. And he isn’t the only referee I know on sight! Plus, I now have very definite preferences for in-the-booth commentators: I adore Chris Collinsworth above all others.

If someone had told me ten years ago that I’d be such a devoted NFL fan, I would have gotten a good chuckle from such crazy talk.

Oh, and… Go Giants!

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