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Posted at 11:26 AM ET, 01/18/2011

Is it college or camp?

By Joel Achenbach

I'm in that phase of life in which my net worth will be drained to nothingness and beyond so that my beloved offspring can go to extraordinarily expensive institutions of higher learning. The only consolation is that they'll get a great education and learn how to think critically and survive the perils of the information age and the globalization of the economy and whatnot. (Tip from professional writer: When you get that tingling in the back of your head that a sentence needs to be wrapped up, just type "and whatnot.")

Momentarily taking a breather in the book-deadline coal mines (metaphor -- it's actually about oil!), I clicked on this piece by Sara Rimer (formerly NY Times and, before that, Miami Herald, right?) saying that, in effect, college students today are basically going to camp.

Rimer's piece is based on a new study, a massive undertaking, that examined how college kids actually learn. The conclusion: They don't, much. A huge fraction of them come out of college having failed to improve in the basic skills of critical thinking. Apparently they wouldn't know the difference between a peer-reviewed scientific study and a horoscope. Fact vs. opinion: You mean there's a difference????

Rimer:

Many of the students graduated without knowing how to sift fact from opinion, make a clear written argument or objectively review conflicting reports of a situation or event, according to New York University sociologist Richard Arum, lead author of the study. The students, for example, couldn't determine the cause of an increase in neighborhood crime or how best to respond without being swayed by emotional testimony and political spin....

... Forty-five percent of students made no significant improvement in their critical thinking, reasoning or writing skills during the first two years of college, according to the study. After four years, 36 percent showed no significant gains in these so-called "higher order" thinking skills.

Combining the hours spent studying and in class, students devoted less than a fifth of their time each week to academic pursuits. By contrast, students spent 51 percent of their time -- or 85 hours a week -- socializing or in extracurricular activities.



I'm told on good authority that there are some students who bust their butts all day and all night and take huge courseloads and write long papers and carry out lab experiments and still do the extracurriculars and hold down jobs and go to the occasional party and whatnot. So I'm not going to despair, yet. I'm actually too busy for that. (I'm penciling in despair for mid-March.)

By Joel Achenbach  | January 18, 2011; 11:26 AM ET
 
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Comments

I dunno. My two seem to have worked very hard all through university and became interesting conversationalists doing it.

Posted by: Yoki | January 18, 2011 12:11 PM | Report abuse

What's this fact/opinion divide people make so much over?

Posted by: cowhand214 | January 18, 2011 12:16 PM | Report abuse

A story Mudge will appreciate. First plane landing on a ship. Perhaps he was there a hundred years ago.
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/01/17/MNDK1H97FO.DTL

Posted by: bh72 | January 18, 2011 12:27 PM | Report abuse

I opine, therefore I think.

I think.

Posted by: MsJS | January 18, 2011 12:36 PM | Report abuse

In 1990, as an adult in my declining years, I returned to college for a second degree and then to grad school for another. The coursework in computer science and math took me over 60 hours a week to do.

It was still camp if you compare it with the real world.

Who's up for imaginary lunch? I have homemade meringue covered cinnamon pecans to share.

Posted by: -dbG- | January 18, 2011 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Never fear Joel. No matter what you may think I can assure you that your kids will be even more critical after college than they are now.

Posted by: kguy1 | January 18, 2011 12:44 PM | Report abuse

kguy - my experience differs. As my oldest has gotten closer to graduation and the "real world" she's starting saying things like "Holy ****, Dad - you did know something!" Haven't heard her acknowledge that in years. :-)

One point the original article makes is that this study does NOT track learning directly related to career fields. Specifically:

"Students majoring in business, education, social work and communications showed the least gains in learning. However, the authors note that their findings don't preclude the possibility that such students "are developing subject-specific or occupationally relevant skills." "

In my own case, the daughter majoring in English and Communications spends a lot of time on "critical thinking", while the son majoring in Computer Science spends a little time on that and a LOT of time programming. (The daughter majoring in Math is a Freshman right now; I can't comment on her focus.)

You can have a good debate if you want about whether the purpose of college is to teach you how to be a good engineer, or to be a "critical thinker" who can pick up engineering skills in a vocational program. I'd recommend lots of beer if you're going to have that debate, though.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | January 18, 2011 1:11 PM | Report abuse

I think this is a case where the statistical mean doesn't tell the whole story. If you read that article closely you will see that there is a huge variation among different institutions, majors, and individuals.

The story here seems to be less that college is like camp, (Which is based on the questionable premise that camp is inherently lacking in educational merit. I, for one, learned a whole heck of a lot of useful stuff at camp. You know, like archery and painted rocks and what happens when you throw a golfball into a campfire.) and more that attending college isn't guaranteed to make you a better thinker.

And I question if this is a new phenomenon. Further, I also wonder if it is even possible to teach some of these thinking skills in a classroom setting.

When I was in college the most valuable learning didn't occur in a classroom or while cloistered away with a book in the library, it occurred in study groups full of intelligent kids with a competitive streak. This makes me wonder about the type of study groups examined.

All of which means that a study like this should be viewed as an opportunity to glean more insights into a very complex phenomenon and not a general indictment of the college experience.

Also, I hope "good authority" is doing well.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 18, 2011 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Hey, wait a minute!! I'm not ready for this kit! I still got a leftover snarky comment from the bottom of the last kit to get in first. Okay, here goes:

*sniffs disdainfully* At least Bavaria doesn't have the &^%$#@*& Dallas Cowboys.

Okay, that's it, I'm up to speed. Please proceed.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 18, 2011 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Bavaria does have Bayern Muenchen, however, a team one might reasonably term the Bundesliga's equivalent of the 'Boys... :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 18, 2011 1:27 PM | Report abuse

I think I'd like to see the internal workings of that college study. For one thing, the fact that something like half the students flunk out before their junior year ought to tell us something right there.So kinda by definition half the students right there haven't learned those skills, yes? So does the study simply examine the percentage who graduated, and who also didn't learn?

I'm kinda hoping they simply studied Republican college students, which is what the data would indicate. But it's probably everybody, alas.

Just returned from our local college, where I registered for this semester's water aerobics. When I went out to my truck it was coated in a quarter-inch-thick sheet of ice from last night's freezing rain.

Okay, must go worship at the alter of my Keurig coffee machine, from whom nearly all blessing flow, in only two minutes 20 seconds.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 18, 2011 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Scottynuke beat me to it - Bavaria doesn't have "America's Team" but they do have "FC Hollywood."

(Although I used to love watching Bayern train when Beckenbauer, Muller, Hoeness and the rest were there in the early '70s. The American sports facility, Harlaching Field, shared space with Bayern. If this works - http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=munich,+germany&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=60.894251,135.263672&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Munich,+Bavaria,+Germany&ll=48.101169,11.573324&spn=0.006377,0.016512&t=h&z=17
you can still see the baseball and softball fields in the corner of Bayern's training facility. )

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | January 18, 2011 1:35 PM | Report abuse

If college is a summer camp it is one with very, very nice amenities that the students don't even appreciate. When Atlanta hosted the 1996 Olympics, they built the aquatic facility on the Georgia Tech campus.

After the Olympics, it was given to Tech which then proceeded to UPGRADE it. It has a full NCAA/AAU pool which is usually divided in half with floating platforms because it is so dang big. There is a huge 'play' pool with waterslides and fountains. There are four basketball courts in the attic over the pool. The workout equipment with free weights and elliptical machines would be the envy of any mega-gym. If they sold private memberships, which they don't, it would easily go for over a hundred bucks a month for all those amenities.

I don't think my son has been in there once. As middle-aged guy battling Getting Old Syndrome, I would love to have these facilities available to me. These kids today don't even realize how good they got it.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 18, 2011 2:13 PM | Report abuse

ArmyBrat, I too lived in Munich in the 70s, but I cannot remember meeting you: how strange.

Posted by: gmbka | January 18, 2011 2:14 PM | Report abuse

gmbka - what were the odds, one in a million? million point two? :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | January 18, 2011 2:25 PM | Report abuse

I take umbrage at the article's rather liberal arts curriculum bias. In three years my son has learned way more thermodynamics than I will ever know. He has had to take five semesters of chemistry, as opposed to my, uh, zero.

While it's nice to be able to write a well-reasoned five paragraph essay (which my son has to do to meet state standards), there are a lot of scientific methods and engineering practices and principles the typical history or sociology major could use being exposed to in addition to their much vaunted critical thinking expertise.

I really don't want to get into the college-as-vo-tech versus college-as-the-skills-needed-for-19th-century-landed-gentry debate, but if you require four years to develop 'so-called "higher order" thinking skills', you are going to need a back-up plan upon graduation as well.

There is also a time-worn rule of thumb that each hour of college classroom instruction should require two hours of outside study, which would mean that a 15-hour course load is the equivalent of a full-time job in time commitment. That college students have an additional 80 hours of time a week for socializing is just a testament to their lack of commitment to mind-numbing drudgery like raising kids or keeping a house in good repair.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 18, 2011 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Just kidding. But it was a nice time to live there. And you were not that far away from Thalkirchen where I lived.

Posted by: gmbka | January 18, 2011 2:40 PM | Report abuse

yello-a very fine response to college as camp. I have nothing more to add.

Sadly for frostdott, but sweet revenge for me, she is discovering that college was indeed camp before she tried doing it as wife/mom/employee and on her own dime. Quite happily for all concerned she is passing classes this time around, and I believe learning to think critically. But that probably has more to do with her entire situation than her classes. Nothing focuses the mind quite like always being on the edge of complete disaster.

Mudge-thanks for the short review of Harry's Law in the last boodle. Caught it online over coffee earlier and agree that it might grow to be quite good. It suffered from the typical pilot episode exposition overload, but has potential.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 18, 2011 2:47 PM | Report abuse

I'll bet every one of those students studied know keyboarding, a skill I (imperfectly) acquired after I graduated from college. (Of course, in my day, a woman who aspired not to be a secretary deliberately did not learn to type.)

College was a good life when I was there, and from what I gather, it still is. But it's just preparation for what comes after. If you get a degree, it's better prep than not having a degree. Like most things, what you get out of it depends heavily on what you put in. And that will show, when you start in the job market.

Posted by: slyness | January 18, 2011 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Meanwhile, here's what one can do with one's engineering degree-

http://www.wtopnews.com/?nid=108&sid=2235646

Posted by: kguy1 | January 18, 2011 2:53 PM | Report abuse

When I was a student at a well-known state university in North Carolina, the mens' gym was ancient but fairly large. The womens' had been built, I think, for 500 students during World War II. That has changed drastically. In that era, even Pennsylvania's agricultural college had very limited womens' facilities, but fairly extravagant mens'. The new natatorium and outdoor pools were amazing and very unusual. The cow college, being centrally located in the state was in the middle of nowhere, which really did make it like camp, for those who took to the hills, streams, caves, whatever.

I've been puzzled at reports that typical college students put only about 20 hours a week into being students. I'm pretty sure the sciences and engineering must still be dbG's 60 hours. At least. In biology, it was realized some years ago that an introductory course required learning as much new vocabulary as an equivalent foreign language course. So I think there's been a de-emphasis of terminology. If not, there should be.

We seem to need colleges to train the swelling ranks of trust fund kids. Some sort of focus on investment management, how to be a good international tourist, art appreciation, etc. There must be some real landed gentry, so perhaps the University of Virginia needs an exchange program with Tech so that their gentry students can pick up horse care, pasture management, and fruit crops or viniculture.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | January 18, 2011 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Yes, Yello, and those 45 hours did not include writing papers and preparing for exams in my case. I found that the curse of a student was that she was never done.

Posted by: gmbka | January 18, 2011 2:57 PM | Report abuse

#1 dott will be enrolled at the college of charleston this coming fall, and will be fully metriculated by 2015, assuming she finishes in 4 years. still getting used to being a cougar dad.

Posted by: -jack- | January 18, 2011 3:14 PM | Report abuse

I am also choking on the amount tuition will cost my family starting in August of 2012. Google and Apple need to invent a college app that costs $1250.

Posted by: mcbaker | January 18, 2011 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Did Baron Munchausen play for Bayern Muenchen with Gisele Bundchen in the Bundesliga?

Posted by: baldinho | January 18, 2011 3:17 PM | Report abuse

agreed, Dave. the pyramid of trophic levels is now, simply, the energy pyramid. call me old fashioned, but i prefer the former term.

Posted by: -jack- | January 18, 2011 3:28 PM | Report abuse

As someone who went to college recently, I can tell you that college professors have no qualms about presenting opinion as fact. I only had one professor talk at all about how to look objectively at issues (who coincidentally, was often guilty of presenting opinions over fact himself).

As far as reading/writing... nobody seems to give a damn about it unless you're an English major.

None of this is new information.

Posted by: joshlct | January 18, 2011 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Gisele Buendchen is still playing for Palmeiras, Sao Paulo, Muenchhausen for Eintracht Braunschweig a long time ago (18th century).

Posted by: gmbka | January 18, 2011 3:49 PM | Report abuse

So sorry to hear of the loss of your rabbit, RD.

What *does* happen when you put a golf ball in a fire?

Good analysis of the college-as-camp issue, yello.

Posted by: Raysmom | January 18, 2011 3:49 PM | Report abuse

More bad news in an area that really doesn't need it:

http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2011/01/18/magnitude-7-4-earthquake-hits-southwestern-pakistan/

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 18, 2011 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Raysmom!! *waving*

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 18, 2011 3:54 PM | Report abuse

The only significant thing I learned at uni was NOT to buy the textbooks. Instead, go to the library and find the most recently published Journals for your course... study the papers, then write your essay. I got top marks for original papers while the others simply regurgitated the text books.

Also, skip first year and go directly into second. While first year courses are 'recommended' they are not a prerequisite. HA! There's what I learned in uni and it helped me heaps in the corporate world. Strategy. It's all about strategy.

Posted by: MissToronto | January 18, 2011 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Not even a lot of English majors, joshict -- even (or especially) those who go into law. I have read pleadings (briefs) by people who should really, really know better, that would offend toilet paper. Honestly! One's head explodes...

I vaguely remember university days, and even relatively more recent law school days have clouded over a bit. Well, it has been almost 30 years since I left that realm, after all. I recall studying hard at both, and mostly enjoying the overall experience, although there were times when I felt much to the contrary.

Ah, well.

Back to work ....

Posted by: ftb3 | January 18, 2011 3:57 PM | Report abuse

I just noticed something interesting. I was writing an Outlook email and the grammar check had incorrectly highlighted my usage of "it's" as being wrong. I noticed an About This Sentence option in the context menu when I clicked on the item in order to ignore it. The About menu item brings up a list of Commonly Confused Words which in this case is a list of contractions (it's/its, your, you're, et cetera/etc).

What I found interesting is the manner in which this information is presented. If I had chosen to present the information in that format I would have used

Incorrect: Its a long way to the station.
Correct: It's a long way to the station.

The help format is

Instead of: Its a long way to the station.
Consider: It's a long way to the station.

Well . . . isn't this a case of presenting fact as opinion? It's not like if the user is to *consider* the correct option and then, after due thought, remove the apostrophe both ways of writing the sentence will be equally valid.

Or am I way off base?

I wonder what this email I'm writing is about. I think I had a clear idea when I started . . .

Posted by: cowhand214 | January 18, 2011 4:01 PM | Report abuse

It looks like the snow is now switching to freezing rain here. It could get ugly if it lasts for very long.

We have freezing fog in the forecast for tonight. That has to hurt.

Posted by: baldinho | January 18, 2011 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Howdy! I'm hoping the Boy won't learn significantly more about critical thinking in college than he knows when he gets there, since I've already spent fourteen years trying to drill it into him and have him in my clutches for four more. It would be nice if all schools taught critical thinking, at all levels. Also proper nutrition, physical fitness, fiscal responsibility and common sense. Ah well, a mom can dream.

Poor Ivansdad teaches theater-related things, but constantly has a side line in teaching his students to (a) think and (b) write. When working for a previous university, he'd take each class on a field trip to the library every semester, to show them basic research tips. Some of the students had never been there, while others had never seen the part where they keep the books.

I see law students here who work part-time and still do things like see movies in the theater and go out for drinks. We never had time to do any of that. And, as I constantly remind my friends and relations in college and law school, the hours are nowhere near as demanding as a regular, full-time job. Particularly in law, as in cities "part-time" is 40 hours a week.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 18, 2011 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Scotty! *waving back*

Posted by: Raysmom | January 18, 2011 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Cowhand,

There are no grammar 'facts', only opinions. And I am one WHO should know.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 18, 2011 4:12 PM | Report abuse


Critical thinking is not rewarded in many classes, partially digesting and regurgitating the instructor's opinions is.

My two, one to go, have been in technical fields, in which hard work is not an option. For their breadth requirements, they paid careful attention to the reading lists. Anyone with Toni Morrison was a no go.

Posted by: edbyronadams | January 18, 2011 4:14 PM | Report abuse

I'd be interested to see what percentage of college kids who couldn't distinguish fact form opinion or write in proper english are paying for college themselves. As someone who didn't get to go to college straight from high school, I can say generally speaking, those who are actually invested in their education are more likely to actually go to class and learn. I would bet that the kids who graduated but didn't actually learn anything all to went to schol on Daddy's dime.

Posted by: jakeyrotten | January 18, 2011 4:14 PM | Report abuse

College- yeah, it's camp, but it is very easy to imagine how weaker-prepared student would have to study much harder and longer to pick up the basic skills.

For instance, I remember studying 20 hours/week for just one physics class alone. That's 5:1 study/class time, and I had a full time job besides. It wasn't that I was bad, but I had to revive old math skills and learn some basics I was supposed to already know while learning new material.

On the other hand, I don't think I studied more than 3-4 hours a week on my biology homework ever, because I am a quick reader, and I preferred to continue to learn out of class.

So either college classes are easier (which I could agree to) or students are now much better prepared for certain college subjects that it cuts their study time.

DotC, I don't think introductory biology should slash the vocabulary, because a lot of it is important in scientific literacy, and it does go easier if student learn the root words and all that and it can help them expand their English vocabulary too. Which is why I think Latin should be returned to the classroom in part.

But that prep should have happened in HS or before, so if a student has never taken HS biology (which does happen), it's an uphill learning issue.



Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 18, 2011 4:24 PM | Report abuse

And then there's the question of whether the percentage of college students who lack critical thinking skills is significantly different from the number of people in the general population who lack the same.

Knowing some of the folks I work with and many other acquaintances (including some family members and sometimes myself too) I'd have to wonder.

Posted by: cowhand214 | January 18, 2011 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Cowhand, that is a computer program and it can make huge grammar mistakes.

Here's one sample I wrote which passed MsWord Grammar Check with flying colors.

"At its worst, though, I can by accident putting suffixes where shouldn’t be and skip “it” now and be adding words too late making it look like a word soup because I don’t parallel structure where they should be paralleled."

Their grammar check is NOT authoriative.

Edbryon, what's wrong with Toni Morrison, other than her "Beloved?" What is your perceived purpose of teaching literature, anyway?

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 18, 2011 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Oh, I'm aware it's not authoritative, Wilbrod. I'm happy to make use of it when I can and ignore it when I can't but I was commenting more on the way they chose to present the information in their documentation. It just seemed odd.

I'm also aware I can easily come to rely on that kind of functionality too much. This is more the case for spelling than for grammar but I can be sadly out without the assistance. Oddly, I find that's less so when writing long hand than it is when typing into a program without a spellchecker. I'm not sure why that is.

Alright, I'm out for a bit. Laterz.

Posted by: cowhand214 | January 18, 2011 4:39 PM | Report abuse

wowiekazowie, front page alert.

Pretty durn quiet under the circumstances.

Posted by: MsJS | January 18, 2011 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Security demands you get another bunny, RD. (Sorry to hear it.)

I would have been better off at the culinary C.I.A., myself, than what college experience I had. I think. And I should have taken more math. I can't think of any career where it's not useful. Okay, maybe not polar coordinates and complex or imaginary vectors, but calculus helps figure out, at least, how other people figure stuff out. A feel for limits.

I think some middle class folks ought to consider the ramifications of having their kid be the smartest kid in a vocational school. Which might not be so easy as some might think, but it could happen. Such kid might become a happy and successful business owner taking that route.

Posted by: Jumper1 | January 18, 2011 4:51 PM | Report abuse

If you eliminated all the fluffy degrees and made everyone get a real major, you would see those kind of statistics turn around in a hurry.

It's about time we recognized that a modern society's *job* is science, engineering, and education, and everything else is a hobby or a regrettable necessity.

Posted by: hayesap8 | January 18, 2011 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Hum, another round from the fantasy land of contemporary education ideology. The conclusion people should be focusing on is the reality that higher education has returned little real value to justify the enormous inflation in tuition that has taken place in the forty years since I went to college. Higher education can get away with this extortion because of its success in marketing the value of its blessing in establishing the level of people's social status. The mindless babble about "critical thinking" should in itself be enough to demonstrate the vacuity of this shapeless abstraction. The performance of higher education should complete the proof of the absence of critical thinking among the educators who are supposed to teach it even if there was actually some real subject to teach. The reality even among the academically most talented is that in graduate school they struggle to achieve some ability to think critically about some narrow subject matter scope. The best of them succeed to some degree.

Posted by: dnjake | January 18, 2011 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Does learning history decrease the chances of bad things repeating themselves? Let's run a study...

Posted by: Jumper1 | January 18, 2011 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Did someone say something?

I normally turn off grammar check, cowhand, because I've never found it helpful.

Every job I've ever had that was worth having I got because of my writing skills. I acquired those skills in pursuit of a degree in English. Bachelor of Arts in English with High Honor, 1975.

Somewhere around here I still have the clipping of the Sydney Harris column in which he quoted Albert Speer talking about how he regretted the lopsided technical education he had. If he had been required to take humanities classes, Speer said, he might have recognized the wrong in the Nazi approach to governing. Harris' point was that humanities teach the right questions, ones that humans need to ask in every generation, that go to the heart of what it means to be a moral and productive person.

Posted by: slyness | January 18, 2011 5:26 PM | Report abuse

MsJS: front page alerts only cause traffic if they are really partisan.

I'll fall back on my boring same-old stance. People go to college for many different reasons. Not everyone needs to study the same stuff and develop the same skills to be successful, so why should all college-going people be rated against some standard yardstick that is unrelated to what many of them are looking to achieve?

It is freezing rain here now in earnest. Let's hope it doesn't last too long. Ambient ground temp according to our thingy on the side of the house is only 25. That means if it keeps raining, it could build up a lot on all the dead and dying trees left from the big ice storm 2 years ago.

Posted by: baldinho | January 18, 2011 5:28 PM | Report abuse

My, some people certainly have strong opinions about the value of a college education. One is reminded of Scarecrow's pithy comment on the relation of speech to intelligence.

One indication of the value of the ability to think critically might be the corresponding ability to cogently, even coherently, explain one's opinion of the skill.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 18, 2011 5:31 PM | Report abuse

Hey Jumper, that is *exactly* what I always say of myself. Perhaps we should go to C.I.A. together and launch brilliant new careers that way!

Posted by: Yoki | January 18, 2011 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Jumper: I will always remember the day that I actually used differential calculus to solve a problem. I almost had a Eureka! moment in the engineering trailer. People were momentarily concerned for my well-being.

Posted by: baldinho | January 18, 2011 6:02 PM | Report abuse

baldinho -- isn't that what cats do when *we* think they're only staring at walls? They are indeed solving complex differential equations and thinking about eigenvectors during their afternoon snoozies.

Much like Mudge, I'll bet.....

Spoke with a dear friend today -- originally a dear friend of my mother's. She will be 90 in July, lost her husband last Spring (he was I think shy by a couple of weeks of 93 when he died). She's a doll, and we traded book titles for future reading. She just came back from Florida with her daughter (who lives in Ohio -- she lives in Michigan) only to face a sheet of ice on her long uphill drive to her home. That is a very difficult driveway to maneuver in inclement weather, definitely. It was lovely to visit with her, and hear about her ventures and adventures. And what a terrific cook!

*and the tummy rumbles, so it must be time to have some dinner*

Hey Yoki -- when you and Jumper graduate from the C.I.A., may we all convene to eat your final exam?

Posted by: ftb3 | January 18, 2011 6:16 PM | Report abuse

Sargent Shriver died today at 95. A good guy.

Posted by: ftb3 | January 18, 2011 6:21 PM | Report abuse

Not having read the report JA links to(snow day, tinker toys erector sets lincoln logs checkers to pick up), seems to me those critical thinking skills need to be applied to those statistics. That 51% figure seems misleading to me in that 85 hours is 51% of a 24 hour day 7 day week. So sleep time isn't subtracted from the equation. We shouldn't expect college students to be productive at either work or play 24 hours a day, but somewhere between 16 and 18 hours. Sleeping may be considered either extra curricular or socializing in college, but shouldn't for purposes of this research.

Further, given a 15 credit hour full time student, and sticking with the 7 hour day 24 hour week used to reach that 51% figure above, if only 1/5th of their time is spent on academic pursuits, that would mean there's about an hour of reading/homework/research/writing per credit hour per week, which can't possibly be right. Or even close.

Where's CqP? What's your take on this?

Posted by: LostInThought | January 18, 2011 6:30 PM | Report abuse

RD, it's interesting you had good study groups. I think friends who discuss academics help each other a lot more than realized-- my old roommate comments that so much of what she knows about biological she realized she learned from me.

Still, I have never been in an offical study group where I didn't feel like I was slowing down to tutor others. I don't mind tutoring for pay, but I always ducked all study group invites. Experience. I knew I'd be used as a shortcut to actually reading the textbook, or half of the time it'd be gossip not studying.

Of course, it does really depend on the study group mix, I realize, but this is how the average study group experience was for me when I was an undergraduate, and given that, I'm not surprised that those study groups were ineffective. To actually discuss homework to good effect, you have to do it first.


Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 18, 2011 6:41 PM | Report abuse

In the 1980s while working on my M.A. in History, we had a 19th European History text that was awful. I used Ferguson & Bruun's World History text from the 1920s and sailed through the class. My prof said it was his freshman text decades earlier, while I was using it to get through my first graduate course! Anyway, I don't know what to do about all this. I'm a professor in a struggling state school and I'm stunned by the lack of knowledge and lack of curiosity the students display about the world. Then again, the state government just wants them to get vo-tech degrees and go to work in gas fields and chicken processing plants, so the critical study of history, culture and language are being crushed.

Posted by: granger3 | January 18, 2011 6:46 PM | Report abuse

So granger teaches in Oklahoma, eh?
Joke, sort of. We have some good state schools, some pretty good ones, and some struggling ones. We also have a lot of gas fields - but come to think of it, we have chicken farms, not processing plants. Never mind.

I think what you get out of a study group depends in large part on what you put into it, and what you expect from it. My most effective study group in college was one where I was the only music major amongst a bunch of engineers of various stripe. We just sat and studied individually together. My most rewarding study group was an anti-study group I joined in law school. We ate or went shopping.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 18, 2011 6:54 PM | Report abuse

I only had one text book in my university career and it was used just as an intro to topics, journals, cases and supplemental reading completed the list.

I think the basis for critical thinking needs to begin way before university both at home and in schools.

Then again I was an arts major which from some of the posts seems to have been a waste of time, not worth arguing over. I have worked with way too many techie people who were in desperate need of critical thinking and social skills - although there were some great ones as well.

Posted by: dmd3 | January 18, 2011 7:10 PM | Report abuse

The arts are not a waste. That's why I wanted a liberal arts education, not just a science major.

And I would argue that being exposed to Toni Morrison's work opens one's eyes to how grim life can be even in America, and how easily people can rationalize the worst actions possible.

I think that's a valuable insight that can only aid critical thinking and empathy. Yoki has said earlier, speaking of Anna Karevenia, that literature often doesn't teach us much life won't. Still, many important lessons of life are far better shown than experienced directly.


Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 18, 2011 7:24 PM | Report abuse

Yes Wilbrod I think most of the regular boodlers here are great examples of mixing technical/scientific knowledge with a firm grasp in the arts, and then there is me :-).

Posted by: dmd3 | January 18, 2011 7:35 PM | Report abuse

Karenina. Sorry. My OCD.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 18, 2011 7:39 PM | Report abuse

I fear that after watching most of the movies, the one area of the arts that I have some knowledge is defense against the dark arts.

My "humanities" field of study was the history of russia. That is probably the least arty of the choices I was offered at my all-engineering college.

Posted by: baldinho | January 18, 2011 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Cut to the chase and just show your SATs to the job interview panel.

Posted by: greg3 | January 18, 2011 7:51 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Mudge for the in and outs of Anna Karenina.

'Tis a honor to be copy-edited by thee.

Saves me a SCC:

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 18, 2011 7:52 PM | Report abuse

I swear it was like Dr. Strangelove, Wilbrod. It was like this alien force was controlling my right arm.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 18, 2011 8:03 PM | Report abuse

Careful, that sounds like an imperfect Imperius curse. We better call in Baldinho immediately before it gets worse.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 18, 2011 8:05 PM | Report abuse

I took a course in the history of Russia as well baldinho, can't say it has helped me in my career but it was always a talking point in job interviews!

Posted by: dmd3 | January 18, 2011 8:06 PM | Report abuse

Hi y'all... interesting kit and boodle. Daughter and I are visiting colleges next week.. our first such venture so far together. She wants to be in a city. A big city. Probably New York City. So our colleges trips will be fun, but expensive. I figure her college experience will be the same.

I have to agree with Jumper's 4:51 about vocational education. I am seeing this happen in my family right now. A good vocational program at a good community college. Business ownership has already begun, too, at the same time.

Posted by: -TBG- | January 18, 2011 8:19 PM | Report abuse

dmd: at some point I would love to spend a month or so banging around Russia. Not gonna happen for many reasons. Instead, I look for people who write about traveling there.

I believe the New Yorker had a great piece or 2-part series done by a guy that traveled the Trans-Siberian Highway or the like for a couple two-week long spurts, accompanied by local guides. It was great.

Whenever I read about what life is like today for the majority of Russian people, I think of all the Americans that are convinced that at a moment's notice Russia is going to start running roughshod all over the world.

They need to read up on Russia.... and not on right-wing blogs.

Posted by: baldinho | January 18, 2011 8:20 PM | Report abuse

Well said baldinho, that was one of the reasons why I studied the subject, we had done enough Russian history in high school to spark an interest add to that being brought up in the cold war era, my goal was to find out why everyone "hated Russia" I had always had difficulty with that concept. The course was part of a broader school of Soviet and East European studies (yes I am that old). It remains near the top of my favorite courses ever, learned a lot and do believe learned some critical thinking skills - challenging the norms.

Posted by: dmd3 | January 18, 2011 8:38 PM | Report abuse

baldhino... even as a teenager with no real technical knowledge I saw clips of Russian TV with those politicians standing in front of fancy brocade backdrops and wondered how anyone thought the Soviets were going to beat us technologically.

Posted by: -TBG- | January 18, 2011 8:43 PM | Report abuse

ok. 40-60 % of college students have reached Piaget's characterisation of formal operations, and are much better equipped to engage in critical thinking than the minimum 40% of students locked into concrete operations. i, like mudge, think that the latter group will enter the rank and file of the right. i tell ya, they should all be required to take organic chemistry. i swear that that course made me approach thinking things in a very different way. that was my junior year in what was arguably a camp like atmosphere. mmm... closer to mayhem, especially after winter broke.

Posted by: -jack- | January 18, 2011 8:45 PM | Report abuse

Jack, really?

All I remember from organic chemistry was that I felt like I was being taught how to run a chemical factory when I had signed up to learn the broader fundamentals of biochemistry.

But it really did help me later on in work.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 18, 2011 9:09 PM | Report abuse

// Nothing focuses the mind quite like always being on the edge of complete disaster.//

one of the many reasons to love frosti. Cogent, true and amusing.

Posted by: -dbG- | January 18, 2011 9:32 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of history, it seems that Senator Lieberman will soon be part of it. Any suggestions for what his next job can be?

Posted by: baldinho | January 18, 2011 9:37 PM | Report abuse

I'm pretty much with TBG: I could never quite get what all the panic was about the Russians, at least in terms of technology. I took a semester of the language (I'm not quite as fluent in it as my French, Spanish or German), and took a major -two-semester course by one of the toughest teachers in the whole department, called Modern Soviet History. This was during the era when Harrison Salisbury was my idol, and I wanted to be a foreign correspondent/kremlinologist. So I suspect I knew more about Russsia and the USSR than the average bear.

I've since concluded a good pit of the panic and paranoi about the USSR was exactly that: panic and paranoia, and irrational fears that twisted a lot of people's knickers more than it ought to. I'm not saying the Sovs weren't red-fanged bad guys; they were. But c'mon, they weren't THAT good, and not even close. They were a lot like Texas: very big, lotsa people, and all mouth, bluster and intimidation. The Soviets had a good run, 74 years, and beat Hitler and launched Sputnik and Gagarin. Then there's the downside. Whoa.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 18, 2011 9:42 PM | Report abuse

Well, there were new guys on the garbage truck today, so I suppose the city is hiring.

My best study group was in grad school. We were expected to work on class projects together. After 2 weeks everyone knew who pulled their weight and who slacked. The slackers ended up together and didn't do well. In my "dancing on thin ice" group, we'd divide up the things none of us understood well, you'd specialize and then teach it to everyone else. We sat apart from each other during exams because we'd write close to the same answers. Those 2 guys are still among my best friends.

TBG, sounds like a good time to me. Give me a few weeks notice prior to Penn. See you this weekend!

Granger3, don't be a stranger.

Posted by: -dbG- | January 18, 2011 9:48 PM | Report abuse

Sounds nice, dbG. Thanks for pointing out study groups can cover class projects, not just textbook study.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 18, 2011 9:53 PM | Report abuse

I have gone to college. I have gone to graduate school and been a TA. I have taught in a community college. I have met really very few of these unserious students who are treating college as a lark because they are going "on Daddy's dollar". I have met a number of students who are convinced that their colleagues are doing such a thing, while they themselves are working very hard to earn the money to pay for a college education themselves. Interestingly, this issue only seems to arise when justifying why the hard-working student did not take his or her coursework sufficiently seriously to do the work.

I really have no patience for those who proclaim their moral superiority because they are convinced they worked their own way through college. Personally, I worked through college, part-time work that I found myself and also in a work-study program. That work earned me a small fraction of the actual cost of my education, which was attractively-priced back then. The rest was financial aid, merit scholarships, loans, and my mother. I don't think that made me a less-serious student. I appreciated every aspect of the support I received from others and the faith they placed in my ability to make something of what they gave me.

You would need to be paid far above the poverty line in order to cover tuition, room and board, and expenses these days -- especially if you need a car and car insurance for working that job, plus your own health insurance (which you are not eligible to buy, anyway, as an underage college student, so you'd better have a parent who is willing to buy it -- but that makes you a dependent, so your parent had also better be ready to pay a piece of change for your tuition, because the parent's resources are what decides your financial aid package). The fact is, there is close to zero possibility these days for a person to work his way through college in the sense of actually paying a major portion of the bills, so it is a ridiculous canard to complain about how students today are unserious because they are not willing to undertake such labor. As far as I can tell, "kids today" are not really all that bad, no worse than we were. They have their weaknesses, but they also have their strengths. They just happen to be different strengths and weaknesses than we had.

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 18, 2011 10:02 PM | Report abuse

// Nothing focuses the mind quite like always being on the edge of complete disaster.//

See, for me, it has the opposite effect. I need a sense of security to be able to achieve a sense of inner peace from which I can be creative.

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 18, 2011 10:04 PM | Report abuse

Sort of on-kit:

http://news.yahoo.com/comics/110118/cx_peanuts_umedia/20111801#id=/comics/110118/cx_peanuts_umedia/20111801


Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 18, 2011 10:05 PM | Report abuse

Mudge-Salisbury almost proved my undoing in OCS. We had to write a report on a book, of our choosing, that could be justified as useful toward our professional development as future officers. Reading was to be done on our own time-of which there was technically none. His The 900 Days: The Siege of Leningrad was well worth every moment of lost sleep-easily the highest praise I can think of.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 18, 2011 10:18 PM | Report abuse

Mudge-Salisbury almost proved my undoing in OCS. We had to write a report on a book, of our choosing, that could be justified as useful toward our professional development as future officers. Reading was to be done on our own time-of which there was technically none. His The 900 Days: The Siege of Leningrad was well worth every moment of lost sleep-easily the highest praise I can think of.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 18, 2011 10:19 PM | Report abuse

Ha! baldinho. I'm rehearsing a Latin mass with a chamber group. I have sung the full Latin mass many, many times. There's a line in the Credo about "expectorum" - someone said it the right way, gestured as if with a wand, and the whole thing was transformed. Most amusing.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 18, 2011 10:20 PM | Report abuse

Well said, Tim. I think it's outrageous how college costs have ballooned - at the same time when even entry-level jobs require college degrees. I'm convinced it's more of a winnowing tool than a predictor of success on the job.

TBG, I recently watched the TV series Felicity, about a college experience set in NYC (those kids paid for college by working at Dean&Deluca - ha!). I briefly considered NYC for college, wound up at Georgetown for my big city experience. Plenty of good schools in Boston, too...just sayin'...

Posted by: seasea1 | January 18, 2011 10:22 PM | Report abuse

It wasn't me! (stupid movable type)

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 18, 2011 10:23 PM | Report abuse

Bravo, Tim. ***hearty clapping***

May I have the soap box when you are done.

Thanks.

I'm very perplexed at the rigor of this study. The one metric they used seems to be a written essay, which is perhaps the most unrealistic real-world benchmark colleges spend too much time teaching to.

The liberal arts bias also shows in the emphasis on amount of writing per course per student. I had some writing assignments, lab reports, project papers, etc., but mostly I cranked through problem after problem. Engineering is a methodology just as rigorous as any thesis-antithesis-synthesis process.

And there are lots of types of writing. The persuasive letter, the one page executive summary, the project proposal, and so on are all also challenging writing assignments which require sharp thinking.

As for study groups, I divide college student types into the competitive and the cooperative. Competitive students are ones aiming for med school or plum Wall Street jobs where success is zero-sum. There are only so many slots. They tend to be cut-throat to the point of sabotaging fellow students.

Cooperative students work in groups on projects or homework sets. They see college as them against the system. Some go to far and cross over into cheating, but I find the style where everybody helps a little bit more typical of actual work assignments. Some people don't pull their weight, but that is life as well.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 18, 2011 10:27 PM | Report abuse

Unless I misinterpret you, Wilbrod, that is the opposite of what I actually said. I said that literature gives us insight into lives and a human condition that we never will, nor perhaps want, to experience for ourselves.

Posted by: Yoki | January 18, 2011 10:28 PM | Report abuse

SciTim-intense focus can be seen as the enemy of creativity. Wasn't graphene discovered through goofing around?

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 18, 2011 10:28 PM | Report abuse

Frosti, "900 Days" was the book that first showed me a working journalist could also be a serious working historian, and also that journalists ought to be very well versed in history, perhaps more so than in some other things.

I have to confess that I am a bit ...intrigued?...by all this talk about study groups. As far as I'm aware, there were no such things as study groups when I went to college in the 60s, with the sole exception of law schools. And the first I ever heard about law school study groups was when I saw the movie "The Paper Chase." Until today's boodle, I was unaware they even existed (except law school). And it wasn't just absent on my radar-- it wasn't on anybody's radar. Teachers never talked about them or advised students to start/join them. The other students certainly never talked about them.

I assume they operate today more or less as seen in the Paper Chase, yes?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 18, 2011 10:41 PM | Report abuse

I think I disagree with you, frostbitten (but I'm working out my thoughts on this by writing out loud); sure, there are serendipitous findings (we all know the story of 3M's Post-It Notes as a failed adhesive).

But I think most creative people, whether scientific, artistic, culinary, whatever, and even more, really original thinkers, achieve their breakthroughs because they are intently focused; their area of study/interest takes up so much psychic energy that they spend far more time that intellectual plodders like me simply imagining how things might be. How might something, a thing or a principle, a product, a thought, be made different and still work?

In this way it is not a linear process, not a progression, but an idea that comes to one who has made her mind ready to entertain new concepts. And the only way I know to do that (ah, if only I could!) is to have been master, through focused study, of the underlying concepts.

Sadly, this is an unfocused and nebulous concept to me, still, but I think I'm getting there, step by step (turn by turn).

Posted by: Yoki | January 18, 2011 10:49 PM | Report abuse

Yoki-- "Surely Literature teaches us nothing that life does not, except that it gives us insight into lives we'll never live."
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/achenblog/2010/12/delegating_resolutions.html

I understood you. I was concerned others wouldn't.

Allow me to go deeper. When you're 18, you don't really know that you will never live a life at all like what you're reading about (god forbid) and that you will never know people like you're reading about. In fact, most great works appeal precisely because they portray character and social themes in an clear if unique light.

I can think of a lot of things I thought would never happen when I was a teenager that happened anyway. We tend to meet thousands of people in our lifetimes, most in passing, but now and then we are impacted against our will.

We can't really only think about how people just like us think to navigate life well. I was concerned about edbyron's sneer at Toni Morrison as though that signified a course that would be worthless to take.

I don't know about that. I think if anybody wants to do politics, social work, doctoring, or anything that may deal with people on a routine basis, the ability to develop empathy for others without losing moral footing is a good skill to have.

What better way to do that than through literature?

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 18, 2011 10:55 PM | Report abuse

Yoki-I think I see your point. Serendipity happens first to those with a thousand hours of practice.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 18, 2011 10:57 PM | Report abuse

Then we agree, and I did misinterpret you, Wilbrod. I'm happy about that.

Posted by: Yoki | January 18, 2011 11:00 PM | Report abuse

I agree with ScienceTim.

While the demands of being organized and efficient in time will push people to do more, too much stress too long will kill creativity.

Fortunately young people can withstand that and often need that adrenaline to get moving, but as time goes on, a more reasonable approach is needed (kind of the difference between falling in love and a long-term relationship.)

First, fall in love. Obsess. Learn, be intoxicated and sleepless. Then mature into it. Get a little bored. Gain the security and confidence to really experiment and build on your creativity.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 18, 2011 11:18 PM | Report abuse

Good evening, all.

Can't say I speak for anyone else, but my oldest is doing very well at school and is working two part-time jobs (one office, one retail) to help cover costs.

She's learning a lot from her college experience - in the classroom and out - and I am very very proud of her.

I know that my other daughters are looking at my oldest's situation and experiences, and will likely model theirs on hers. All of them are independent, strong-minded and strong-willed with senses of compassion, fairness and kindness, along with an appreciation of a the many aspects of the world, but each point of view unique to them.

It is entirely possible that when my youngest graduates from college, I'll have expended most of my material and financial resources.

And I'm OK with that. I know that when it is time for me so shuffle off this mortal coil, the world will be a better place than I came into, because of them.

bc

PS In my case, whatever limited creativity I may have can come from either direction - necessity being a mother of invention - the focus of need with determination and even desparation to solve a problem; or from allowing my mind to freely consider ideas and thoughts and information, to pick them apart and put them back together to gain perspective and (hopefully) understanding, and see if a new view of things provides a spark of creativity.

I rather enjoy the latter, but the world these days forces the former upon me more and more often.

Posted by: -bc- | January 18, 2011 11:35 PM | Report abuse

Yep, no study groups that I knew of in the late 60s, early 70s. By the time I was in community college in the late 80s, group projects were in vogue - maybe that's where some of it came from too. The other thing we didn't have when I was a youngster in school - backpacks! What idiots we were! There were dorky bookbags, but at the college level, backpacks were nowhere to be seen. Boy Scouts and campers used them. Not sure when someone had the revelation to use them for books - wish I had!

(BTW, not sure what eba's kids' dismissal of Toni Morrison means - not sure I want to. I love her writing - and so does the Nobel committee.)

Posted by: seasea1 | January 18, 2011 11:48 PM | Report abuse

How I wish I'd said what I meant as succinctly as did frostibitten.

Posted by: Yoki | January 19, 2011 12:30 AM | Report abuse

I seldom manage to say anything so well or succinctly as Frosti.

Posted by: Bob-S | January 19, 2011 2:40 AM | Report abuse

I think Mudge is pulling our legs just a little about this "study group" thing.

Groups of college students have gotten together and discussed their subject work for about as long as colleges have existed. And such interaction has been encouraged or enforced by faculty for just about as long.

Posted by: Bob-S | January 19, 2011 2:51 AM | Report abuse

Our study groups were mostly informal ad hoc organizations to review the tests from previous semesters in the course. This usually meant including at least one brother from a fraternity with a good "Word File". In some courses it was very obvious by the grades who had access to 'word' and who didn't as the tests were often only slightly changed from term to term.

The key of course was being cool enough to be invited into a study group. I'm sure the real dorks and losers never even knew there were any and struggled along on their own.

The better professors understood the system and placed old tests in the library where anybody could use them, thus leveling the playing field. Nowadays they would just post it all on the internet.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 19, 2011 5:27 AM | Report abuse

The modern pop cultural reference for study groups is the hit NBC show 'Community' which is about a wacky group of misfit students at a poorly run community college. The study group is formed when a disbarred lawyer creates a fictional study group to hit on the uptight but gorgeous dogooder in his class. Either through naivete or passive aggressiveness, she invites a demographically diverse set of fellow students including Chevy Chase to join. Being a sitcom, they don't study so much as ensue hilarity.

The episode where a campus wide paintball contest devolves into every action movie cliche ever is an instant classic.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 19, 2011 6:07 AM | Report abuse

God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Good morning, friends. Good kit, JA. My experience at our local community college was great for me. I had to read the books because of the hearing impairment, and seldom heard the lessons as explained by the teacher. Really dependent on the books. A lot stress in that situation, especially with math classes because not so good with math.

A long day yesterday, and really tired when I finally got in. I went to a funeral and then had the after-school program and most of the kids showed up, alas, I had no help. One of the kids started crying because my voice got higher while trying to give instructions, so I had to stop and ask forgiveness and explained that adults mess up too, especially when they're stressed. The kids are wonderful, they help me a lot, and in more ways than they can imagine. I do hope I'm doing the same for them. I took them all home and stopped at the store and bought candy for all. I love what I do, just wish my church family loved it too. God is good.

Slyness, it's suppose to be a tad warmer here today. I hope so, I got chilled to the bone yesterday.

Have a really bright, lovely day, folks, and love to all.

Posted by: cmyth4u | January 19, 2011 7:25 AM | Report abuse

re: Tim's comment from 10:02 yester eve: I taught Comp Sci as an adjunct professor for 10 years (because my Federal salary in those days was *so* impressive), and I could usually tell you which of my students were paying their own way, which were there completely on Mom/Dad's money, and which were paid by their employers to be there. The biggest difference was that the kids paying their own way pay more attention and ask more questions. They don't want to get cheated. They don't necessarily get better grades, or learn the material better, but they do pay more attention in class. (That's a generality; there are exceptions in both groups.)

re: Mudge's comments on study groups - my experience with them was as informal groups in grad school. "Compiler Theory and Construction" was a monstrous class that consumed your available time. But you also had to carry at least two other classes and do your work as a TA or RA to get your graduate assistantship. So you joined forces with a few other students. Bala is going to concentrate on "Theory of Programming Languages" while Tim and Maria are really into "Multivariate Statistics." So we'll help each other with projects/assignments - not do them for each other, but help, with each person relied on for appropriate expertise. A few days before the mid-term/final, sit down with the group and go over the key points to know. Allows coasting through the lower-priority classes while still getting the necessary grades.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | January 19, 2011 7:47 AM | Report abuse

So 55 (100-45) percent of students made significant improvement in their critical thinking, reasoning or writing skills during the first two years of college, according to the study. After four years, 64 percent showed significant gains in these so-called "higher order" thinking skills!!?? Good or Bad?

Posted by: q-ma | January 19, 2011 7:56 AM | Report abuse

Apologizing for blowing my own horn here, but I did want to set things in context. I went to college for six straight years back in the day - 4 years of undergrad in Louisiana (two degrees), then two years at Purdue to get a Master's. Was planning on the PhD/academia life, but frankly I got tired of being a broke grad student. I was a TA most of those two years at Purdue; then I taught as an adjunct for 10 years in Maryland, and was also a Visiting Professor at the Air Force Academy. Right now, I have three kids in college (senior, sophomore and freshman), with the youngest still in high school. So "college" is a topic near and dear to me. :-)

Sounds like I was like Tim, only maybe more so. My parents had made it clear to me that after graduation I was pretty much on my own. I was welcome to live at their house while in college, but they couldn't "support me" or pay tuition. If nothing else, I was free to enlist, like my father had.

I paid for undergrad via academic scholarships and up to three part time jobs. (Grad school was funded by an assistantship.) But I went to school in Louisiana rather than one of the "better" schools to which I had been accepted because of lack of money - there was no way I could afford those "elite" schools.

I don't regret that, it's what made me who I am, but I do wonder what things would have been like had I gone to a "better" school.

So, I always vowed I would pay my kids' tuition, so they could go wherever was appropriate for them. Yes, it costs a fortune - in the last week I've paid three separate semester tuitions, and my bank account is crying in pain. :-) (They do have academic scholarships that pay part of the fees. :-)

I do wonder if I'm doing them that much of a favor, but not making them put more of their own skin in the game, but as Tim noted, there's no possible way they could afford to pay their own way, even with crushing student debt. They seem to be focusing on their studies and doing well. We'll see.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | January 19, 2011 7:57 AM | Report abuse

I'd offer the anecdotal observation is that those "paying their own way" have often had enough "real life" experience to place appropriate value in college.

At least that's the way it appeared to me as I got my veteran butt to morning classes on time, only to see some "regular" students complaining about their weekend hangovers -- on Tuesday! *L*

*very-happy-it's-already-Hump-Day Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 19, 2011 8:17 AM | Report abuse

I'd hold off on those real estate deals on Gliese 581g, BTW:

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2011/01/18/does-gliese-581g-exist/

:-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 19, 2011 8:27 AM | Report abuse

A small-retail and mini-manufacturing couple I've known for a decade are first-rate critical thinkers. Over the past 3 years, he's revamped his operations by having invented a better design for siding for houses (his dad was an architect and he's a fine amateur designer). She's dropped the small retail as no longer viable, but had an astonishingly sophisticated operation. I think the store was something of an on-the-job retail academy for the staff.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | January 19, 2011 8:34 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Boodle.

No, Bob, I wasn't pulling your leg, and seasea has agreed with me. And she makes a good point about no backpacks, too.

P.S. We didn't have Faceboob back then, either. But feel free to doubt my observation, and claim that social networking goes back to the dawn of time. (We had to carry small change around, so when we wanted to make a phone call, we had to go into a tiny little booth, and pull the door shut, and make the call from a phone connected to some sort of cord or rope thingy. But if you want to think I'm pulling your leg, that's your prerogative.)

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 19, 2011 9:07 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, all! Cassandra, I'm looking forward to a little warmth today, it will feel good. Mr. T and I got the walk in this morning, it was foggy but felt so good to be out!

Backpacks are a wonderful invention I wish I had had when I was in school. My parents bought me a briefcase for books when I was a 7th grader, but it was too embarrassing to carry it when nobody else had anything like it, so I put it away. Ah, peer pressure.

My ex and I paid tuition, fees, and books for our kids in college. They had to do the rest and managed to do so without problem. They both have expressed their gratitude for not having student debt. Of course, they attended state universities. Great institutions, both of them.

Posted by: slyness | January 19, 2011 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Good morning boodle!

dbG, Yoki, BobS-you are too kind.

The problem with being parents of college bound/aged children is that we were children and many of us went to college too. This leads us to think we know what's what-so often a mistake in parenting.

School backpacks and wheeled luggage. Two of the late 20th century's greatest innovations? I vote yes.

The post-vacation quest to duplicate food and beverages begins. Up first, latte macchiato
http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=31329903&l=d25f294095&id=1190890982

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 19, 2011 9:46 AM | Report abuse

Morning, Boodle!

No study groups that I know of when I was in college either ('69-'74). As a Lit/Art double-major I had lots of writing and lots of 'labs' and it was all accomplished solo. I often had 20-hour course loads devoted solely to one of the majors so I could really focus my energy in one 'channel' and run with it.

Regarding slyness's comment about typing:
In my high school if you were "college prep" you weren't even allowed to take a typing course. My mother insisted (bless her) that I take a night class because she knew I'd need that skill. I made a lot of bucks on the side typing term papers for other students in college. (Bibliographies and footnotes still give me nightmares!) It's amazing how much science, economics, agricultural technique, etc. I picked up by osmosis just by typing those papers.

Posted by: talitha1 | January 19, 2011 9:58 AM | Report abuse

I see that Dr. Hu is visiting D.C. Wonder where they parked the Tardis.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 19, 2011 10:04 AM | Report abuse

ps --- pity I didn't think to charge extra for correcting misspellings and grammatical errors, not to mention the occasional rearranging of a sentence or paragraph (with permission) so that it was rendered readable. I fear that I've lost some of those skills of late as many here may attest.

Posted by: talitha1 | January 19, 2011 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Reporting on a conversation I had with my younger daughter just a few days ago, while we are on the topic of academica thinking. Although she has just jumped over the 30 yo hurdle, (having done a stint in the Air Force) she is still in (community) college, taking the toughest of math and science courses in order to matriculate to an Enormous State University (ESU) to get a degree in Aeronautical Engineering. She's pulling a 4.0, but pours tons and tons and tons of effort into it. Testing is her bugaboo. Tests just freak her out. So much so that she has obtained permission to get extra time for them. I would call this a perverse kind of learning disability.

That said, she just commented that a new phenomenon is starting to occur to her. When she reads over a math or science problem on a test or homework, her subconsious mind *immediately* solves the problem on its own. Meanwhile, her consious mind is still struggling to comprehend all the details of the problem, and organize the methodical steps to its solution. The subconscious solution is *always* correct, no matter how complex the problem. We are taking about third semester calculus and second semester physics and chemistry kinds of problems here. Yet, she cannot trust this methodology. This, too, is freaking her out.

This is all out of my league. I'm just a lowly desk-bound sailor. Is she becoming a savant? I thought that they were born, not made.

I can't wait for her to get to ESU to rub shoulders with those who are the likes of CqP.

Posted by: Don_from_I-270 | January 19, 2011 10:20 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, y'all.

Warm banananana bread, coffee and OJ on the table.

Moving off-kit, may I introduce you to the new governor of Alabama, Robert Bentley.
http://www.everydaychristian.com/news/weblink/9433/
I eagerly await his spin as to how we should interpret his post-inaugural remarks.

Posted by: MsJS | January 19, 2011 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Good luck to her, Don! I hope she learns to embrace her conscious/subconscious means for solving problems. That sounds really cool.

Several times in my life, I've had thoughts that obviously bubbled up from my subconscious, and they are always right. For instance, there was the time that I had a pap smear and then the thought that it would be abnormal but the followup thought that it would be okay. And that's exactly what happened.

Posted by: slyness | January 19, 2011 10:29 AM | Report abuse

There's already a bit of interpretation out there, MsJS:

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-alabama-governor-20110119,0,4351953.story

*rasied unibrow*

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 19, 2011 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Don, good luck to your daughter.

I often can know the answer if I don't think about it, but once I start thinking it out, applying my knowledge, logic and reason and in memory I often change my response - and usually get it wrong.

Trusting that first instinct can be hard (in my case for simple problems) I cannot imagine for complex math.

I would like to officially announce that heading into the exam friday, eldest is now passing academic science, it has been a roller coaster marks from failing to A's and everything in between, hoping this confidence entering the exam will allow her to do well - please cross your fingers, toes, pray to St. Jude, FSM, and any other lucky fates - she has worked hard - as a future arts major this was tough for her, coupled with math in the same semester she will be happy to be done next monday and ready to start 2nd term with English, History, Civics and Food/Math (redo if required). What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

Posted by: dmd3 | January 19, 2011 10:51 AM | Report abuse

I've read others' interpretations, Scotty. I'm waiting for him to respond. So far, it would appear he's not returning phone calls requesting same.

I get that folks who enter politics later in life may not be well versed in the nuances of political speaking. That's why I want him to have the chance to explain his initial remarks.

Posted by: MsJS | January 19, 2011 10:54 AM | Report abuse

For me, it was college.

Shortly after graduating from HS, my parents split, so there was no money, nor even a home to go to.

So I tried working my way through George Mason on a CS degree. Priorities were rent, bills, food and medicine (I was a diabetic with no health insurance). I paid for my books and tuition in cash I scraped up at the time. My day started around midnight, where I drove a truck to the Robinson terminal to pick up a few thousand copies of the Washington Post to distribute to individual route managers, finished around 6:00 am with my own foot route. Then it was off to campus to join the other students who were just beginning their day. Then it was off to my job at the Hair Cuttery where I washed hair, swept floors, cleaned brushes and laundered towells. Then I got a few hours of sleep, maybe, then what's the phrase, rinse, lather repeat?

Yeah, you bet I was jealous of the students that lived on campus and maybe worked a part-time job for their beer and party money. They also had a home to go back to for the holidays. These were the campers.

Ok, I tried. I failed. Something I wasn't used to doing, but the exhaustion almost killed me, literally, I can't tell you how many times I woke up behind the wheel of a delivery truck in a different lane than when I dozed off, or worse yet, looked in the side view mirror at the red lights of the intersection I just passed.

I got away with this routine with my life (and without killing anybody else), but unfortunately my vision gave out due to diabetes and poor health. I did however, get enough training in my studies to break into a computer programming career, which at the time I entered, just came out with the text to speach technology to assist blind persons.

Gosh, I've spent most my life slipping through the cracks of opportunity...

But the way I see it, I sacrificed my eyes for my college training.

No way will I ever subject any of my kids to what I went through. My oldest daughter finished her 1st year at George Mason. She is living at home right now because it's the only affordable way to get that degree. And she knows in complete confidence, that as long as I have a roof over my head, I'll share it with her.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | January 19, 2011 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Oh I think the guv's message is pretty clear: "Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and heathens, you ain't welcome here!"

Posted by: kguy1 | January 19, 2011 10:58 AM | Report abuse

It seems his office did respond, MsJS:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/18/AR2011011807034.html

"After his speech, Bentley said he did not mean to insult anyone.

Responding to questions about it, Bentley's office released a statement Tuesday saying he believes 'he is the governor of all of Alabama.'

'The governor clearly stated that he will be the governor of all Alabamians - Democrat, Republican and Independent, young, old, black and white, rich and poor. As stated in his (inaugural) address, Gov. Bentley believes his job is to make everyone's lives better,' the statement said."

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 19, 2011 11:00 AM | Report abuse

dmd, I'll even keep my eyes crossed* for her if it'll help. Good for her for working so hard!

Don, I tend to go with my instincts first, especially in my creative endeavors. Even when I have to work out a technical or mathematical solution that may be involved in the process that initial spark carries the day more often than not.

*I feel cross-eyed today anyway as I tackle some unpleasant divorce-related carp.

Posted by: talitha1 | January 19, 2011 11:02 AM | Report abuse

When I think back to the "Study Groups" from college, I guess a better term would be Homework Groups. The educational philosophy of my college was to assign a lot of homework consisting of very difficult problems. These problem sets were of a nature that it was rare for a single student, no matter how gifted, to be able to get through them all without help.

As a result, informal groups would form in which approaches to the problems were pitched, discussed, and mercilessly discarded. Even those who weren't the quickest in the group came away with a profound understanding of logical thinking and good problem-solving skills.

Now, this approach worked best for technical classes, which were the majority I took, but the framework was pretty effective in non-technical subjects as well. I remember hashing through various interpretations of Freud with a group of kids. We didn't all agree, of course, but we were forced to think our positions through.

This approach, of course, assumes you go to college with kids just as smart, or smarter, as you are and with whom you work well. And, in my view, this is the problem lots of kids have when picking schools. They pay far more attention to the details of the college, and less to the details of the other students.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 19, 2011 11:10 AM | Report abuse

when i attended suny in the mid 70' this was called retrenchment:

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2011/01/19/1991516/ncsu-to-cut-degree-programs.html

today, it may well become known as the rule.

Posted by: -jack- | January 19, 2011 11:16 AM | Report abuse

when i attended suny in the mid 70's this was called retrenchment:

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2011/01/19/1991516/ncsu-to-cut-degree-programs.html

today, it may well become known as the rule.

Posted by: -jack- | January 19, 2011 11:18 AM | Report abuse

sorry. moveable type error.

Posted by: -jack- | January 19, 2011 11:19 AM | Report abuse

WhackyWeasel's story, and Armybrat's remarks, bring into sharp focus the underlying basis for the whole discussion of the college experience. We are all informed by our experiences (as frosti said so well). This is an arena where there are many "right" approaches, depending on the individuals involved. College may be camp for some, or feel like it compared to our own experience, or it may be hard work and worry, or it may be serious joyful exploration of the self and possibilities, or it may be a chance to learn and hone a skill or talent which will translate into gainful employment. Or, it may be all or none of the above. Students who have financial help from their parents may be less invested in their education, or they may be conscious of and grateful for their good fortune and reflect that in their attitude to school.

I love the rich and diverse comments provoked by this topic, but I also enjoy realizing that they are sell valid approaches, depending on circumstances. Except those guys who scoffed at critical thinking. As we used to tell the Boy, some pictures are just bad art.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 19, 2011 11:19 AM | Report abuse

My parents paid for my undergraduate schooling, which came along with my paying "interest" in the form of emotional blackmail. This is not uncommon in my ethnic group, but I do recall paying it over and over again. For law school, I paid for the first year, got a scholarship for the second year, and my maternal uncle died at just the right time, leaving me enough to pay for the third year. He was a dear man, I must say, in many ways -- apart from this gesture.

I recall my father's telling me about his working his way through school and resenting it mightily. Yet, I do wish I had had the gumption and emotional strength I have now (took me long enough, btw) to walk out the door and never look back, put myself through school and leave all the carp behind. Nevertheless, I have come to a stage in my life where I recognize that the obstacles I've scaled have made me the woman I am today, regardless (or in spite of or because of)of the bumps and bruises along the way. No pain, no gain, eh?

I've noticed that those who -- at least outwardly -- appear to have had it easy, really don't. Witness the emotional scars evidenced by the Kennedys and the Bushes. I suspect the Kennedys (at least the younger generation) would acknowledge that, even if the Bushes wouldn't.

As for critical thinking -- I think it's the toughest and most important survival skill one can put in one's toolbox (or belt, as one may prefer). That, and a powerful sense of humor. And empathy -- yep, that, too.

Posted by: ftb3 | January 19, 2011 11:57 AM | Report abuse


The Toni Morrison comment was not on the author herself, although it would be difficult for me to mention her and Tolstoy in the same breath. It was as a diagnostic from my daughter. She said that if she was on the reading list, the class was most likely a political indoctrination in literature class clothing.

That is what is deadly, when the teacher presents things and feels the conclusions, thus the papers from the students, must contain inevitable conclusions. It doesn't do much for critical thinking process and it reduces something that should provoke thought, introspection and open thinking down a narrow defile.

Posted by: edbyronadams | January 19, 2011 12:15 PM | Report abuse

I think when we talk about paying for a kid's education we have to be careful of cause and effect.

A kid either finds the college experience intrinsically valuable or not. If the experience is viewed as valuable then financial support just eliminates the fear that something valuable will be denied.

If a kid doesn't think college is valuable, then forcing the kid to pay for it certainly isn't going to be a helpful strategy. All you will do is provoke resentment and mutual disdain.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 19, 2011 12:40 PM | Report abuse

ftb, don't forget both a Phillips head and a flathead screwdriver.

EBA, if one is reasonably skilled in criticial thinking, then one can comfortably sit in a class led by such an "indoctrinating" teacher, and be able to sort through the various types and kinds of opinions. That's why a handful of us are harping on this "critical thinking" thing.

The trouble with you guys going on as you do about "indoctrination" is you assume (a) it works, and (b) it has nefarious ends. And you fail to see "yopur side" also doing some massive indoctrination. For you, "indoctrination" is what the bad guys do. When you do it, it's perfectly okay.

And yes, a good many conclusions are indeed "inevitable."

I might also suggest gently that drawing a fairly large conclusion about what kind of lit class it is, and what kind of teacher it is, based upon a few names on a reading list is pretty shallow thinking.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 19, 2011 12:43 PM | Report abuse

"The trouble with you guys"

I ain't got anybody sitting behind me.

Posted by: edbyronadams | January 19, 2011 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, ya do.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 19, 2011 12:51 PM | Report abuse

edbyronadams... my daughter is facing that in her current IB-1 English class, supposedly a college-level course she is taking in her junior year in high school. With the right teacher, I think it would be at college level, but this teacher often tells the kids they are wrong when they present their ideas.

She most definitely has a "correct" answer in mind at all times and when the students don't find it, she talks to them like they are idiots. Fortunately, Daughter has had a few really good teachers who have inspired her to understand that what she's experiencing this year is, in a sense, also "wrong."

Posted by: -TBG- | January 19, 2011 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Which is to say, we all do.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 19, 2011 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Methaphorically speaking.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 19, 2011 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, I just have to wonder where that came from. Because ... the very last cogent words my dad spoke before he died were to my sister and I who were by his bedside. "Girls, just don't ever forget the difference between a Phillips head and a flathead screwdriver." *sniffle*

Posted by: talitha1 | January 19, 2011 12:56 PM | Report abuse


TBG, there is a fundamental problem with liberal arts classes that require analysis. Young people simply do not have the library of experience to bring to bear on fundamental issues of life that good literature should raise. They often depend on the teacher to guide them in their analysis. Alas, like many people, maybe most people, those channels of thought that some teachers bring to bear seem like the only correct channels. We all remember fondly those teachers who were thought provoking instead of mind numbing.

I suggest that your high school junior's dilemma may be more like a typical lower division college experience that you might hope.

Posted by: edbyronadams | January 19, 2011 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Oh, duh! I see it was in reference to ftb's toolbox/belt. I threw myself for a loop there.

Posted by: talitha1 | January 19, 2011 1:06 PM | Report abuse

I agree that some teachers, of all ideological persuasions, teach their personal beliefs or interpretations as "right" and others as wrong. I agree this is a bad thing, as it assists neither learning nor thought. I see where a student would want to avoid a teacher with that reputation.

I don't understand why someone would assume a course would have this defect based on one name on the reading list (or even several names), particularly when the author is established, pretty mainstream, and has a Nobel for literature. It is entirely possible to teach literature using Toni Morrison without following some sinister agenda. If one thinks
she is a controversial author, one might even argue that a good professor can draw valuable lessons from that controversy.

I don't known the particulars of this situation. However, generally speaking, the decision to avoid a class as probably biased based on a single author (or even several) might suggest more to me about the unconscious biases of the decider than of the class.

That's why this stuff can be hard. We all tend to extrapolate from our personal experience or beliefs, whether or not it is appropriate in any given situation. It seems to me that learning to recognize and examine this tendency, and to strive to overcome it, is among the most important of adult skills. Ideally, education will help the process.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 19, 2011 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Must stick up for Mudge in a posting several hours ago. I was in college in the years prior to Mudge, and never was in a study group, nor heard of a study group. No such thing existed.

Posted by: nellie4 | January 19, 2011 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Off topic here, but there is a mystery about edbyronadams posts that I can't figure out. Same thing happens to Engleman's posts too, but they are the only posters that this happens to. And it happens every single comment.

And that is, under the previous poster's comment there is a "Report abuse" link, after that, a line break, then the beginning of the next comment. All except for the 2 posters I mentioned above which the line break is missing. Why only those 2 is the line break missing.

I only say this because my voice software is programmed to read paragraph after paragraph upon a particular keystroke. When I get to edbyronadams comments though, it skips his first paragraph and goes onto the next one, so I miss his opening statement, or if he only submits a single line, I miss his comment completely.

I can't figure it out. Can anybody explain why this might be happening? Stuff like this can drive a techie nuts...

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | January 19, 2011 1:22 PM | Report abuse

I'm thinking that edbyronadams' daughter made that observation offhandedly to generalize an idea. Maybe even to be humorous.

While you could substitute Toni Morrison with almost any other name to make a point about anything, by the time Son of G was finished with high school he was so tired of reading about what a horrible person he is for being a white male that I am sure he would have made that exact same observation at the time. (Please note I said "at the time.")

Posted by: -TBG- | January 19, 2011 1:29 PM | Report abuse

whackyweasel... are they the only posters whose handles begin with the letter E?

Posted by: -TBG- | January 19, 2011 1:33 PM | Report abuse

"It is entirely possible to teach literature using Toni Morrison without following some sinister agenda."

Of course it is. In talking with other students, this just turned out to be an effective shortcut according to my daughter circa 2005. Everybody has to use some sieve when choosing courses. That is one thing that has changed dramatically since I was in school with things like "Rate my Teacher" and such. Alas, good but demanding teachers suffer from those sites.

Posted by: edbyronadams | January 19, 2011 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Good observation TBG, now I'll have to go back to a road storm boodle and check out that theory.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | January 19, 2011 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Re: study groups. In my first year of law school some study groups formed, mostly out of a sense that people should be doing so, but they didn't really last. I found in law school and in practice that most lawyers work better on their own than in groups. That's a nice way of saying most are bad team players. Business school, where I did my undergrad, was mostly team projects. This is always a good experience to go through. One phenomenon you might not necessarily expect – typically the problem was more about the keeners not wanting their mark dragged down and therefore hoarding tasks than people not contributing.

Don mentioned test anxiety; one interesting thing about law school is that the norm is 100% exams (as in, all of your mark based on the final). This causes a great deal of stress, particularly in first year. Once you get through that and you see that yes, you're still in the pack, it's fine.

re: screwdrivers. The REAL trouble with you guys is that you won't use Robertson screwdrivers.

Posted by: engelmann | January 19, 2011 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Since you have crashed my nostalgia for "The Paper Chase' Engelmann, can you at least confirm that law professors were indeed like John Houseman. :-)

Posted by: dmd3 | January 19, 2011 1:52 PM | Report abuse

I went back a few kits to check out the "e" theory, and it doesn't seem to pan out.

And not only that, Engelmann's posts have corrected themselves too.

edbyronadams comments still remain a mystery, not that I'm much concerned, but there's gotta be a logical explaination.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | January 19, 2011 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Good point englemann about competitive people shunning study groups for fear of damaging the curve. It's a shame that happens, but I can understand it.

I was lucky in that my college was structured so that it was in their best interest for every freshman to graduate. And this attitude trickled down to the students.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 19, 2011 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Fascinating, whacky weasel. That does not show up for me. All lines etc are there for all posters.

Engelmann is right about law school grades based on a single comprehensive exam. That'll put the fear of the lord in you. When I teach law, I give an open book open notes exam and am still sorry for my students. The only truly effective law school study group I had was first year, where we each outlined a section of the course and shared. I was very popular because a good friend, a third-year student, gave me his outlines for the standard first-year courses. He was scary smart, compulsive and a Law Review editor. We all did well.

There may be confusion over study groups based on definitions. A classic study group is actually more than just folks getting together. It has a defined structure.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 19, 2011 2:07 PM | Report abuse

The widespread practice of outlines and the availability of old exams negates a lot of the need for study groups. In some courses the CANs (Condensed Annotated Notes) were so good they would include the predictable jokes the prof would tell year after year.

dmd, some old school profs were (and are) still like that. They are pretty much hated for this mean, Socratic style since everyone knows that actual practice is not like that. And then you see the Court of Appeal in action and realize that it is sometimes.

Posted by: engelmann | January 19, 2011 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Got 'em both, Mudge -- several of each, as I have all my dad's tools, except for the vise, painted scarlet. I look forward to having room (outta this condo, man!) for a workbench with a space for a vise, which I shall paint scarlet. Many a year I watched him work at that bench, perched on the rickety high stool (still rickety, as I have that, too) in fascination. He was very handy and very creative, which made up for -- well, not entirely -- his more nefarious sides. Mixed memories, indeed. I seem to have those know-what-to-do-with-tools genes, too.

I don't remember our (or at least my) having any study groups in law school. I'm a bit of a loner, actually (while being very social, as well -- someone may figure that out someday), maybe only when it comes to activities requiring concentration and focus. For example, I simply *cannot* work with any kind of noise (including music, which I would ordinarily not characterize as "noise") -- there must be quiet. One of my colleagues is the exact opposite, and when we are on the phone, it's sometimes impossible to focus on what he's saying. To each, etc.

Now that my ISP is working again (Comcast, alas, but it doesn't go away often), I think it's time to git workin' again.

Posted by: ftb3 | January 19, 2011 3:06 PM | Report abuse

I can't help but assume that engelmann is pitching Robertson screwdrivers because they are a Canadian product. Comes the invasion, they will be the only ones that will work.

I'm stocking up. Semper paratus and all that.

Posted by: Don_from_I-270 | January 19, 2011 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Engelmann, I LOVE Robertson heads and drivers!! I first learned about them when I was a boatbuilder, circa 1978-80, and have been a (lonely, eccentric, ignored) preacher for them 'ere since. (I used Robertsons in the deck of our vacation house, and use them for my honey-dos pretty often.

Infintely superior to Phillips heads. (Incidentally, I once owned a 22-foot 1906 racing launch once owned by Henry Frank Phillips.)

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 19, 2011 3:34 PM | Report abuse

CqP, you will distressed to learn that Wilfrid Sheed has died. A man of letters after your own heart, I am sure, AND his da's firm published Dorothy Day. RIP.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 19, 2011 3:47 PM | Report abuse

All right, now that pekkarwood has gone too far.

http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20110119__Philly_sucks___says_Beck__in_a_Philly-less_on-air_snit.html

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 19, 2011 3:53 PM | Report abuse

I, on the other hand, find it very difficult to retain information unless I'm in a group with a dynamic of enthusiasm about the topic. Or making a game of recalling the info. Stuff goes in one eye and out the other when I read for retention, it seems. I learned to outline, outline, outline when studying solo. Not as good as the aforementioned, though, for me.

A teacher who truly loves the subject is a real boon for me.

In other stuff, decline of empathy in U.S. youngsters:
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=what-me-care

Posted by: Jumper1 | January 19, 2011 4:14 PM | Report abuse

I mumbled earlier about competitive versus cooperative programs. Law school is definitely a competitive situation. There is a bias against helping a fellow student if they could end up doing better than you.

RD and Bob-S and I all seem to have come from schools where the culture was more cooperative. Engineering and science programs emphasize problem solving and the meta-problem is how to overcome the asymmetrical knowledge base between the professors and the students. And this was usually answered by having the students pool resources. It is not surprising that both Georgia Tech and the Naval Academy have had major cheating scandals where shared work crossed an honor code line of individual effort.

In more traditional study/paper/exam courses a group, formal or informal, seems entirely optional and I can see how many fields would not have this structure at all. My wife plugged through her education masters and her ESL certification classes without cooperation with other students.

As for backpacks go, I still have my GT logoed backpack which got me through all four and a half years. It was a coarse fabric with a single large compartment for books and a much smaller back pocket for calculators and pencils.

This backpack was a good deal smaller and considerably cruder than the one my son used in elementary school. I hang on to it for nostalgic purposes, but I always seem to find a newer more appropriate carrier anytime I have a specific need for a backpack now.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 19, 2011 4:20 PM | Report abuse

SCC: "As far as backpacks go..." or "As for backpacks..."

Take your pick.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 19, 2011 4:30 PM | Report abuse

re: biased teachers - there are some, and you can either bail on the class, conform to get the grade, or be the rebel and take your chances. My first-semester Freshman English prof was well known for his biases when grading "critical thinking" essays. (e.g., contrast Bethe's views on nuclear power with Szilard's; interpret this picture; explain the consequences of a proposed legislative proposal).

He was also well known for his biases towards short, attractive, female students - and I meet none of those criteria. Since I couldn't punt the class due to schedule conflicts, I found a solution. My mother was still teaching high school English; she had a co-worker who had gone through this guy's English classes several years earlier. She guided me through his minefields - e.g., he showed a picture and told us to write an essay critiquing it; she gave me five points he'd be looking for. Also, "Szilard's a genius; Bethe's a buffoon for the following reasons."

Since I fed him all the stuff he wanted, he couldn't dock me *too* much for not being a short, attractive female. :-)

I wound up getting an A in the class, becoming the first male science major in 10 years to get an A in his course (according to the English department head).

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | January 19, 2011 4:32 PM | Report abuse

My wife went to a small religiously affiliated college which had a tenured history professor who was an extreme right-wing Conspiracy Theorist. This guy made Glenn Beck look like Laurence Tribe. However, he was also known as an easy-A since all his tests were very simple fill-in-the-blank and matching tests, albeit with 'correct' answers completely opposite more traditional historical theories.

My wife took the course and was vastly entertained all semester as she would relate to me each increasingly ridiculous conspiracy theory he taught. She got the A and to this day notes him as one of her more memorable professors, though for all the wrong reasons.

'Beloved' is a 'hard' book regardless of any sinister liberally-biased lit-crit theories the teacher may or may not have. A coworker was once reading it for a class and was aghast when I told her I had read it for pleasure. As I mentioned several boodles ago, it is now a de facto addition to the traditional Western Canon and avoiding it on principle is going to be increasingly a fool's game. However, it may be a reasonable marker that a literature class is not a 'gut' course and you may have to actually work in it and, heaven forbid, learn something.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 19, 2011 4:54 PM | Report abuse

I think it is a bit strong, calling it part of the Canon. Hardly that. Widely taught in North America, certainly, but no more than that.

Posted by: Yoki | January 19, 2011 4:59 PM | Report abuse

Yes. I don't think /Beloved/ is Toni Morrison's best book.

It attempts to be circular and poetic but it struck me immediately that the author duplicated passages to make the book longer. That strategy becomes bland after a while, which does show the danger of repetition as a book-length device.

Only a few authors of fiction can pull any kind of repetition off for the lyrical effect, Chaim Potok can do that, and he does it minimally, generally out of the mouths of characters, especially when you know they might want to say something else, but can't.

The only hard thing I found about /Beloved/ was staying interested in it. Her "simpler work" such as /The Bluest Eye/ are more effective, I think.

Just my personal reaction when I was around 20. I wouldn't have enjoyed a full semester full of plodding analysis of Toni Morrison-- but I'd say the same about Dickens and almost any other author, really. Some teachers will bore you no matter the book, and others will keep you awake even if the book is bad.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 19, 2011 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Trends come and go and some writers gain favor as others decline. I gotta guess that in any modern undergraduate survey of literature course nowadays you are far more likely to find Morrison than Hemingway, but I have absolutely no empirical evidence of that and I can probably be easily refuted.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 19, 2011 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, classic sour grapes, ain't that?

I'm guessing that Philly is better off without Beck on radio. Hopefully more markets follow suit, and pretty soon he'll run out of American cities to bash without sounding anti-American (which I think he already does, but I don't listen.)

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 19, 2011 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Robertson screwdriver heads are great, but the US seems to accept them about as much as metric speed limits.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | January 19, 2011 5:27 PM | Report abuse

My class was small enough, we started at maybe 20 freshpersons and graduated as a class of 14 that, apart for a couple of loners and a pair of nerds that eventually joined us we were a de facto study group. But study groups, in the early 80s were not in vogue in my alma mater. Backpacks were just about starting out as means to inflict severe head trauma in public transportation.

I've just about had enough of the Charter of R&F, R vs Nolet and Belief of Reasonable Grounds to last me a couple of lifetime.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | January 19, 2011 5:30 PM | Report abuse

Everyone who has put in more than one deck vows to use square drive screws ever after.

Posted by: Jumper1 | January 19, 2011 5:51 PM | Report abuse

I like those square screws, I didn't know what they were called until today-- it takes a little getting used to how the screwdriver stays in the screw, though.

Re all that work: electric screwdrivers are best anyway.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 19, 2011 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Camp: chasing bunnies
and peeing on trees. College:
same, but more indoors.

-Wilbrodog-

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 19, 2011 5:57 PM | Report abuse

I really liked "Beloved".

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 19, 2011 6:49 PM | Report abuse

You know, we've totally disregarded the premise that camp is all fun. The only camp I ever went to was boot camp. Frostdottir attended 3 summer sessions of piano camp and 2 of "Arts and Sciences," all at universities. I pretty much enjoyed boot camp-as the mom of a 4 year old it was a nice break from being responsible for anyone else. The dott had fun at camp too, but it included a lot of work in addition to frivolity.

If there wasn't plenty of misery to be had at camp, great movies like Meatballs wouldn't be so great.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 19, 2011 7:01 PM | Report abuse

See, I can hate Beloved and still argue teaching it has merit, Ivansmom.
Glad you liked it. I just found it dull, and I wasn't alone.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 19, 2011 7:05 PM | Report abuse

I really liked "Beloved", too, Ivansmom. In fact, I've enjoyed everything of Morrison's that I've read, especially "Sula" and "Song of Solomon".

Posted by: talitha1 | January 19, 2011 7:08 PM | Report abuse

It just doesn't matter
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9mf3Bypyk8

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 19, 2011 7:09 PM | Report abuse

My Enormous Cow College was, strangely, a place where I had lunch and/or dinner with roughly the same people for the whole time. Zoology, meteorology and a few oddballs.

I get the impression (from the local newsstand and the library) that there couldn't have been more than a handful of regular readers of the Sunday NY Times on that campus. Perhaps fewer than at the either of the small liberal arts colleges that didn't admit me?

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | January 19, 2011 7:17 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Mudge, for sad heads up. Dorothy Day is a saint for me, as was her spiritual brother and colleague Peter Maurin.

I have met Don270darlingdot and will love having her at EnorMouseUni....

Am pressed for time as I am training fifty instructors in, among other things, how to teach critical thinking AKA rhetoric.

Would love to respond fully but am pressed with the doing of what we speak about. IRONY!!!

QUICKLY:

SciTim is right: costs too much to work through college by self NOW. Only chance at this is to live at home, go to JuCo for two year, then matriculate to EnorMouseU close by and continue to live at home....still, you will be in debt and must work. BUT, not too many hours, as WackyWeasle reminds, because your job is to learn, which takes time and attention.

KIDS TODAY!
I manage to love all my students, with their warts and foibles and lack of preparation and unrealistic expectations AND their fresh faces and their optimism about their abilities and that sometimes they are surprised to learn and that they might fall in love today (that stance in young people is such a joy to watch, always! Two weddings began their arc in my classroom and this still thrills me!)

Who said that some profs suffer when they are tough? That would be me in a few cases. I am NEVER MOVED by the standard: "But, I worked hard on this." And, I do think the problems of NoChildLeftBehind and the testing frenzy fallout are fully upon us in the college composition classroom. That, and that many high schools have bought into the AP Lit world hook-line-sinker, pushing aside expository writing, including term papers for the lit-test prep world.

Do not get me wrong: LOVE LIT...but we need composition and rhetoric in high school too. Writing is not a fixed skill. Needs practice. Like running in the Olympics. You may win the 100 yard dash but if you resort to couch potato events, well, your dash time will suffer.

Back to workies...love to all.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | January 19, 2011 7:20 PM | Report abuse

SD, I don't know why you commented on R v Nolet, but it's an interesting read. I always like the "well, lookee here" moment in the search and seizure cases.

Anyway, here's the short version:

We conclude the young Mountie who found the dope
He found the dope after the search of the cab
He searched the cab because he saw proceeds of crime
He saw proceeds of crime when he counted a million
He counted a million when he found the cash
He found the cash when he opened the bag
He opened the bag when he felt some paper
He felt some paper when he touched the bag
He touched the bag to look for the log
He looked for the log to look for papers
He looked for papers because he saw the permit was bad
He saw the permit was bad when he stopped the truck.
He stopped the truck at the random check stop
We don't why he had a random check stop
Just a lucky cop.

Appeal dismissed.

http://scc.lexum.umontreal.ca/en/2010/2010scc24/2010scc24.html

Posted by: engelmann | January 19, 2011 7:25 PM | Report abuse

*waving to CqP*

Posted by: ftb3 | January 19, 2011 7:27 PM | Report abuse

I'm living in an enforcement community Engelmann, plenty of ex-cops. The "random" stop of a Quebec-plated empty trailer (high on its suspension) going east through SK because of an expired fuel tag was met with howls of laughter. We concluded that Justice La Forest, who found that cops looking at the electricity meter of a grow house going 3500 rpm from the outside were infringing on the tenants' privacy, is indeed very dead. It's a brave new world out there, a world where money in a zipped gym bag is found to be in plain sight by the good justices.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | January 19, 2011 8:08 PM | Report abuse

I liked "Beloved" too, and wouldn't have read it had #1 not been assigned it during her undergrad English studies; she asked me to read it and discuss with her.

There are perfectly valid sociological/societal/historical/citizenal/literary reasons to teach it to the youff-of-today in North America, but to claim that it is part of the Western Canon goes too far. We don't know that, and won't, for a long time. It is like claiming that any one of John Irving's (many fine, many not so much) novels is part of the Canon. Nu-uh.

Posted by: Yoki | January 19, 2011 8:34 PM | Report abuse

Time for an intervention. I'm watching Idol.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 19, 2011 8:53 PM | Report abuse

*intervenes*

Uh . . did that work? Well, I suppose you can watch it. Just don't worship it. I recall reading somewhere that you can get your whole community in trouble doing that.

And with that very tenuous connection I am for bed early I think.

Good night to all.

Posted by: cowhand214 | January 19, 2011 9:07 PM | Report abuse

I was as well Frosti, until eldest confiscated the remote and put on Criminal Minds.

Would someone please tell JLo to stop staring into the camera all the time!

Posted by: dmd3 | January 19, 2011 9:08 PM | Report abuse

That Alabama governor better watch his mouth, or someday he may find himself getting a noodly appendage up side of the head.

Ramen.

Posted by: baldinho | January 19, 2011 9:24 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad the Canon is being so carefully guarded. Now what about the Nikon?

Posted by: yellojkt | January 19, 2011 9:35 PM | Report abuse

Sometimes your number is just due to be drawn in bad stuff bingo.

http://www.wmur.com/news/26545807/detail.html

Posted by: baldinho | January 19, 2011 9:53 PM | Report abuse

I think Yoki makes a very profound and wise point. One key criteria for great literature is the ability to endure. And this cannot be dictated.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 19, 2011 10:01 PM | Report abuse

Brilliant, engelmann. And so familiar to me.

I read some facts today that made me laugh out loud. A probationer from another state invited an Oklahoma law enforcement officer to her Oklahoma apartment, because she wanted to transfer her probation. She consented to him walking through her apartment - the one with the working meth lab in plain sight.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 19, 2011 10:06 PM | Report abuse

This is good news for DC residents:
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/local-breaking-news/dc/pandas-to-remain-in-dc-5-more.html?hpid=topnews

Posted by: seasea1 | January 19, 2011 10:11 PM | Report abuse

Well, it's certainly good news for the local bamboo farmers.

Posted by: Bob-S | January 19, 2011 10:42 PM | Report abuse

Sorry I'm late, but that's why I call myself a lurker.

I can't really speak about my own college experience nearly 50 yrs ago other than to note that I benefited from not having a TV at home until I was 14 (thank you, parents), but I look at my daughter, who self-destructed in HS (an experience so bad it doesn't prove anything about education's relationship to development IMO), did nothing much useful for a couple of years, and then decided she didn't like the look of where she was heading and is now a junior at of all things a Catholic ladies' college -- which one would never have expected from looking at me.

I think she always had the ability to reason, think critically, write, and all that stuff, and what was required was an environment where she was asked to do that and given feedback on a regular basis without distraction. So is that what "teaching" how to "sift fact from opinion", consists of? Making those abilities visible by providing opportunities for practice? Or can those abilities be created from scratch? How did my best teachers, and some were really good, help me? I'm not sure.

LTL-CA

PS -- Regarding the discussion of why nobody can say the Tucson shooter is the shooter, only alleged shooter, perhaps newspapers are restricted and forced to act as agents of the court by their role in forming community opinion (assuming anybody reads them any more), but I believe the rest of us can and should speak the plain truth where it is clear, even in this forum sponsored by a newspaper (or is it a web site?). A judge decides what is a "fact" only in his courtroom.

LTL-CA

Posted by: Jim19 | January 19, 2011 10:44 PM | Report abuse

I haven't heard about any shortages lately, but it takes a good bit of long grass to fill panda bellies:

http://blogs.nationalgeographic.com/blogs/news/chiefeditor/2009/01/pandas-need-bamboo.html

Posted by: Bob-S | January 19, 2011 10:49 PM | Report abuse

Still catching up.

Keyboarding? The two most valuable classes I took in high school were typing and physics. In typing I was the only boy there, the others apparently girls acquiring job skills. In college I could make a pack of cigarettes a page typing papers when I needed some change; now I spend my time at a keyboard.

LTL-CA

Posted by: Jim19 | January 19, 2011 11:00 PM | Report abuse

My mom insisted that all her children learn typing. We made waaaay more money during summers than anyone else we knew (except the guys who got construction jobs).

Posted by: -TBG- | January 19, 2011 11:09 PM | Report abuse

I know it's hard to believe but I never learned how to type. But I took all kind of industrial/cleaning/dirty jobs and I believe I hardly, if ever, made less than double the minimum hourly wage. I made three times and more the minimum wage in many of those jobs. But nonetheless those "dirty" jobs were also a big incentive in getting a good education.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | January 19, 2011 11:26 PM | Report abuse

What's a study group? I never experienced one. Some sort of student small group activity, eh? Is that the same as a bridge game? Four people working on the Sunday NYT crossword? Playing College Bowl with a guy with Columbia Encyclopedia in charge?

LTL-CA

Posted by: Jim19 | January 19, 2011 11:43 PM | Report abuse

My son went to Physics Camp. He had a blast. Not literally, fortunately.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 20, 2011 12:19 AM | Report abuse

Just to flog this horse a little deader, I'm still perplexed as to whether the existence of study groups is a generational or disciplinary divide. While I am always skeptical of people solipstically universalizing their anecdotal personal experiences, the majority of boodlers familiar with the practice are less than a half century old. However, they are also clustered in the technical fields as well.

I find it hard to believe that the concept emerged fully formed as a life imitating art response to a 1970s film's dramatic conceit designed to foster inter-character dialog. Also, my personal experiences from the early 80s imply a structure and process which predates modern xerographic technologies, primarily the existence of centralized files containing totemized solitary copies of materials from previous semesters.

The World Wide Web, as with many sociological phenomenon which predate the internet, is useless. All it does is document that the current practice is fairly wide spread not only at fictional sitcom community colleges but also at similarly sketchy real-life counterparts where it has evolved and become institutionalized to the point where there are semi-formal structures and tacit collegiate administration:

http://www.princeton.edu/asap/studygroups/

If diploma mills like that foster the activity, whence did the practice originate? Perhaps there is an academic thesis in this topic. Or at least a roundtable discussion.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 20, 2011 5:55 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, all.

I have had some minor experiences with study groups, which typically consist of them scattering when I show up on a full moon.

Speaking of which, I believe 'twas a good night for most lycanthropes, though in my case, I'm tasting a little oppossum and have fewer scrapes and bruises than normal, so I think it was a relatively mild evening.

Though I have no explanation for the bead necklace I have around my neck.

Have a good day, all.

bc

Posted by: -bc- | January 20, 2011 6:10 AM | Report abuse

What color are the beads, bc? Are they sparkly? Tell, tell!

The full moon was up when Mr. T and I started our walk, it was beautiful. A lovely way to start the day.

For the fourth time since Sunday, the heat didn't come on, so I'm waiting for the HVAC tech to arrive. I haven't touched the thermostat, so I hope the tech will be able to solve the problem. Got the space heater on, but it's not making much headway.

Posted by: slyness | January 20, 2011 7:42 AM | Report abuse

So this morning I am pretending that I actually attended the State Dinner and just got so blotto on real good champagne that I don't remember it.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 20, 2011 7:55 AM | Report abuse

I'm assuming there was no silver in the necklace, slyness. And yes, a marvelous full moon for Dawn Patrol, flanked by ghostly cumulostratus...

As our good friend George once said, "I'm feeling fine, in the vicinity of dandyhood," and if I happen to achieve both states simultaneously, I do hope someone asks me how I am.

*very-ready-for-the-weekend-and-wishing-all-a-wonderful-TFSMIAF Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 20, 2011 8:02 AM | Report abuse

God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Good morning, friends. I enjoyed the critique of Toni Morrison's Beloved. I read it also, and not for a class. It was difficult for me, but I hung in there.

Slyness, the weather person is talking more cold temps this weekend, I hope you get your heat working.

I listen(strange word for a deaf person to use) or rather read the captioning of what some of the lawmakers were saying about the healthcare bill. From those on the right, I got the impression that what they're fighting about is not so much healthcare as it is their intense dislike of the President. The healthcare bill is a cover to some extent that allows them to really vent. And the lawmaker that compared the rhetoric from Republicans to that of Nazis because it is based on lies has refused to take back those words.

There's a deep discontent that vibrates daily in this country. It has always been there, but seems to be coming to a head. I pray God have mercy on us.

Enjoyed your comment CqP, a lot.

Have a fantastic day, folks, and love to all.

Posted by: cmyth4u | January 20, 2011 8:19 AM | Report abuse

Very quickly, and in homage to SciTim:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/picture-galleries/8271443/Astronomers-guide-to-the-solar-system.html

Posted by: ftb3 | January 20, 2011 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, you all.

Reading everything in the wapo about last night's State Dinner and the pictures too! I enjoyed it a whole lot more than I remember enjoying Beloved. I thought it was creepy. But then, perhaps I have a gentle spirit. And, I, too, read it for pleasure. To compound the error, I saw the movie as well, on TV, years ago.

About study groups, I graduated from Radford College in 1960, and we really didn't have them. Oh, we sometimes went over class notes together, informally, but that was about it. If I had a problem in Chemistry, one of my Bio/Chem sorority sisters tutored me; gotta keep the grade average up, dontchaknow.

My Woman's Club offers scholarships annually to college bound freshmen living within our zip codes. I always serve on that committee and I am always impressed by the students who apply. Their academic achievements, their contributions to their communities, their work ethics and in most cases the number of scholarships and grants and loans they have applied for because of financial need continue to amaze me. Very focused group of high school seniors, our nation's future.

Posted by: VintageLady | January 20, 2011 9:12 AM | Report abuse

Do you suppose that when we critique books by African-American authors, that sometimes it is the content, more so than the style of their writing?

Just asking.

Posted by: cmyth4u | January 20, 2011 9:33 AM | Report abuse

http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/01/19/whats-the-matter-with-texas?hp

*snort, chortle, chortle*

Nah. Too easy.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 20, 2011 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Astounding excellent photos, ftb. I hadn't seen them, and I'm a space buff. Hyperion especially spongerific.

Posted by: Jumper1 | January 20, 2011 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Dunno, Cassandra. Beloved was the first, possibly the only, novel that I have read by an African American author. I read it for pleasure since it had received so many awards. In retrospect, it would not have mattered who wrote it, or the style it was written in, I just didn't like reading about the supernatural.

Posted by: VintageLady | January 20, 2011 10:05 AM | Report abuse

While I'm here, will mention that HBO has a 50th Anniversary JFK as President presentation tonight. I'm looking forward to it. He was my first time at the ballot box.

Posted by: VintageLady | January 20, 2011 10:14 AM | Report abuse

I really don't think so, Cassandra, at least in my own experience. Having read everybody from Phillis Wheatley and Harriet Wilson to James Baldwin, Lawrence Hill (well, he's Canadian) and Walter Mosely, with stops all along the way, all with different styles and motifs, the only basis for a critique is the merit of the work as a piece of literature in and of itself.

Now, we can argue that some literature may have an overtly political agenda, and I think lots of A-A authors have used their work to advance a cause, but that is no different than any other ethnicity. Think of the French, the Russians, the French-Canadians, the Victorian British authors at the time of the Reform Bill...

Posted by: Yoki | January 20, 2011 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, Mudge, no sympathy here. Raise the taxes, idiots!

Heat! The tech found a worn-out pressure switch. He said it's plastic and fell apart in his hands when he took it off. He put a universal switch on and will be back to install the correct part when it comes.

Posted by: slyness | January 20, 2011 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, y'all.

Warm bananana bread, coffee and OJ on the table.

Got nuttin' to add to the college/study group or literature discussions, but it's been great reading.

As my cute cuddly youngest cousin was born on Kennedy's inauguration day, that means he's now...FIFTY!

*frantically reworking the abacus beads*

Congrats to those of us who participate in the DC and TWC commutes. We apparently waste more hours in traffic than anyone else in the Ewe-Ess these days.

I'm off to organize tax-related paperwork. Happy happy joy joy.

Have a super day everyone.

Posted by: MsJS | January 20, 2011 10:42 AM | Report abuse

I'm inclined to agree with Yoki, Cassandra. I suspect that if a reader really did have a serious racial animus, then that reader simply wouldn't have read the book/author in the first place, and would then have no basis to criticize.

I have not read Morrison myself, so have no opinion one way or the other about "Beloved." I just now read the Wiki summary of it, and can understand that some people might not like it for valid reasons, such as VL saying she doesn't like stories about the supernatural (generally I don't either). I note someone else described it as "difficult," which might also be true (I can't say). But I also note it was received a ton of accolades, is on Time Magazine's 100-best list, that Morrison won a Nobel, etc. There are plenty of "great" authors many people don't like: Faulkner being a great example. I have tried heroically to get through Solzhenitsyn and Pasternak's "Doctor Zhivago," and simply can't do it.

I also note from the Wiki write-up that one of "Beloved's" major themes is mother-daughter relationsips. There's nothing wrong with that -- but I can understand how that wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea, either. On the one hand, I feel that I "should" read Morrison -- but the prospect of a "difficult" novel about mother-daughter relationships AND with a major supernatural element to it is enough to stop me cold right there. I bogged down about a third of the way through "Love in the Time of Cholera" a few months ago; I don't know if I'll ever resume it or not. If I were 25 or 30 and had all the time in the world, I might give "Beloved" a shot...but I'm 64, and time is short, and it's just too far down on the list at this point.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 20, 2011 10:47 AM | Report abuse

MsJS, can relate on commute times, dmdspouse is affected everyday. I gave up years ago and work locally.

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/transportation/article/787400--toronto-commuting-times-worst-of-19-major-cities-study-says

Posted by: dmd3 | January 20, 2011 10:51 AM | Report abuse

An homage? I've had an homage? Cool!

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 20, 2011 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Not so gleeful-

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/slash-refuses-to-allow-guns-n-roses-music-on-glee-20110120

"Glee is worse than Grease and Grease is bad enough," he told EW. "I look at Grease now and think, 'Between High School Musical and Glee, Grease was a work of art.'"

Posted by: kguy1 | January 20, 2011 10:58 AM | Report abuse

I have a whole book on the nationally-shared culture of children, called "Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts". Not relevant to study groups, but relevant to the concept of anthropological studies of peculiar human organizational forms.

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 20, 2011 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Cynicism alert: Slash and G&R have made enough money not to need the proceeds from licensing their music for Glee. Should their fiscal fortune fade, I predict an about-face.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 20, 2011 11:03 AM | Report abuse

When did Guns & Roses become the standard for "good music"?

Posted by: dmd3 | January 20, 2011 11:05 AM | Report abuse

*begin another cynicism alert*

While respecting those who enjoy Glee, my personal view is hooray for artists who refuse to let their work be used on the show.

*end cynicism alert*

Posted by: MsJS | January 20, 2011 11:09 AM | Report abuse

'Great big gobs of greasy grimy gopher guts
chopped up monkey meat
little bitty birdie's feet ...'

I remember that song from my own childhood. Sonchild loved any and all oooky-smishy subjects when he was a child and I'm now immune.

Beloved is about more than mother-daughter relationships and the supernatural ... subjects like slavery, domestic abuse, the underground railroad ... and love. And I'm with Yoki (have read all those she mentioned and others) and Mudge regarding A-A writers or writers from any other culture. Unless there's an unnatural and ingrained animus against a culture (why?) there are universal themes in good literature that resonate with us all.

Posted by: talitha1 | January 20, 2011 11:18 AM | Report abuse


My youngest turned 17 today. He is facing the college years in somewhat of a quandary and I haven't been much help. His older siblings had natural passions in the science/technology field. They were easy to advise. Stuart is bright but not brilliant, a natural leader, an instinctive straight arrow but with general interests, not specific ones. Trying to help him find a college and/or a major isn't as easy. That wouldn't be so difficult except that the friends of my older kids who went to school directionless came out in the same mode. It seems a waste.

He is interested in government and is very passionate about people following rules. I wish I could provide more guidance.

Posted by: edbyronadams | January 20, 2011 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Sounds like he'd do well in enforcement/justice/security-related professions, ed.

Posted by: Yoki | January 20, 2011 11:32 AM | Report abuse

edbyronadams, your youngest sounds a little like me, some people take a while (or longer) to find their direction, sometimes univerisity won;t even provide it but I do not believe it is a waste.

If can be difficult if you aren't sure what your passion is, particularly if people think you should KNOW what it is.

Possible major, Poli Sci, Law?

Posted by: dmd3 | January 20, 2011 11:33 AM | Report abuse

eba,
Criminal Justice. Basically a decent social studies curriculum with some specialized courses.

Not having read a book has never kept me from expressing an opinion on it. And the existence of Wikipedia saves one the rigor of reading the Sparks Notes.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 20, 2011 11:37 AM | Report abuse

What kinds of rules, eba?

Posted by: ftb3 | January 20, 2011 11:40 AM | Report abuse

EDB -- political science and some economics and then to policy analysis in a field he is zingy about:

security
environment
health
economics

Policy analysis is the field -- in addition to law -- where the "what ought to be" is considered and diced and proposed....does not have to go to law school to do this.

Also -- immediate applied position: law enforcement but tell him he needs at least two years before entering an academy...even fire and rescue, EMT.....

Back to prepping....

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | January 20, 2011 11:41 AM | Report abuse

By the absence of solar illumination today I will be reposing on a field of silicon dioxide crystals adjacent to a large saline body of water while imbibing a sweetened alcoholic beverage festooned with a facsimile parasol. Cue the stylings of William Buffett, the poet laureate troubadour of all things tropical.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mw4xI4xkeyo

Posted by: yellojkt | January 20, 2011 11:42 AM | Report abuse

I've never read Toni Morrison, but would like to. Can't stand Faulkner. I'd like to re-read Dr. Zhivago some time (don't know if it will be before or after some Shakespeare). I adored "Wizard of the Crow" (by Ngugi wa Thiong'o) but was a bit perplexed by "Petals of Blood" and had to put it down every now and then to read other books -- it put him in prison for a reason, indeed. Loved "100 Years of Solitude" and would enjoy reading it again, but I stopped reading "Cholera" almost as soon as I started it. Don't remember why, but I suspect that I was expecting something other than what I got.

I'm looking forward to slogging through "Don Quixote" -- only two more pages of the introduction to get through before the real book starts (and goes on for just shy of 1000 pages). Not a beach book, particularly, but I'm not a beach babe anyway, so that won't be an issue.

I do like books that delineate other cultures very much. Turns out that people are more or less the same -- proving, perhaps, the adage that familiarity breeds contempt. We see it in families on the micro level, and between communities, states and nations on the macro level.

*sigh*

Nevertheless, I give books as gifts virtually all the time now. I get books back in gifts, too. Can't beat it for value, yanno.

Posted by: ftb3 | January 20, 2011 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Thinking of study groups, I don't recall such things, circa 1970 at Penn State. In particular, the idea of pre-meds joining study groups seems wildly improbable.

It would be worth trying to develop a one-act play featuring a group of premeds doing the study group thing, sabotaging each other, of course. Maybe an off-stage chem lab explosion?

A followup one-act could be something centered on treachery and swordfights.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | January 20, 2011 11:52 AM | Report abuse


Thanks for the advice. The law, law enforcement route has occurred to both of us but that doesn't really help with a major or university. I think he is tending toward political science and training in Army ROTC. That limits his choices somewhat but still suffering from the paralysis of too many choices.

Posted by: edbyronadams | January 20, 2011 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Saying Beloved is about mother daughter relationships is like saying Moby Dick is about marine mammals.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 20, 2011 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Criminology degree? Was popular at my university.

For Law enforcement, psychology, law, sociology, forensics? Please excuse any and all spelling errors - brain is tired today.

Posted by: dmd3 | January 20, 2011 12:03 PM | Report abuse

eba, I'll go out on a limb and suggest your son consider enlisting. My nephew did that, after foundering for three years in college, not knowing what he wanted to do. He came out a very focused young man, knowing what he wants to do with his life and how hard he's willing to work to get there. (He's also got veteran's benefits, which help cover a lot of expenses.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | January 20, 2011 12:04 PM | Report abuse

'Zactly, yello.

Posted by: talitha1 | January 20, 2011 12:08 PM | Report abuse

edbyronadams, your son sounds like an excellent candidate for a good liberal arts program. I am a huge fan of college as a place to explore what you think you like, find out how much more there is in the wide world, and eventually focus on a passion.

Note the important word "eventually". Some 17-year-olds, particularly those interested in science and math, have a good idea of what they want to do. Most don't. Even those who do often find that they are interested in other areas, things they simply hadn't been exposed to or which hadn't fired their imagination in high school.

There are lots of bright, focused kids who have some ideas about what they like or what they might do well, but don't know how that fits into a discipline. It sounds like your son is among these. I actively discourage such kids from feeling they have to know what they want to do. It is hugely limiting, and easy to make a wrong choice then feel you are stuck with it.

One tremendous advantage of a liberal arts school, for such people, is the ability to defer declaring a major. He's seventeen, going in as a freshman - why should he have to know what he wants to be? A good liberal arts school will actively engage the student in exploring possibilities, both within the student and in the world, in order to help him figure out what he wants and needs to do. PoliSci and ROTC sound like safe choices to start; the ROTC will provide good fitness and leadership training, and polisci is transferrable to many disciplines.

My strong recommendation would be that he not choose a college based on a projected major or discipline. This is useful if you're going into a specific field or have a particular academic goal. However, if a kid isn't yet sure where he's going, the most important thing in a college is that it be a good fit for the student. He wants to go somewhere he is happy to learn, and engaged in the process, and feels he is getting valuable education (however you and he define that). Almost any major college or university can provide a good education and help with direction for the future (despite their various claims for uniqueness).

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 20, 2011 12:15 PM | Report abuse

ftb, I loved Don Quixote so much I didn't read the final few pages. I just couldn't bear to witness that which I knew was coming.

YJ, I'm ridiculously jealous. As for boat drinks, I want a Painkiller with extra nutmeg. Probably two.

edby, sounds like a liberal arts education might be a good idea. Even if he picks a major now, he's just going to change it at the end of sophomore year. Government Affairs/Public policy sounds about right for a smart kid who is a natural leader and an instinctive straight arrow.

Have a happy day all.

Posted by: LostInThought | January 20, 2011 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Then perhaps one of you should go into the Wiki entry and fix it.

"Major themes

"Mother-daughter relationships

"The maternal bonds that connect Sethe to her children inhibit her own individuation and prevent the development of her self. Sethe develops a dangerous maternal passion that results in the murder of one daughter, her own “best self,” and the estrangement of the surviving daughter from the black community, both in an attempt to salvage her “fantasy of the future,” her children, from a life in slavery. However, Sethe fails to recognize her daughter Denver’s need for interaction with this community in order to enter into womanhood. Denver finally succeeds at the end of the novel in establishing her own self and embarking on her individuation with the help of Beloved. Contrary to Denver, Sethe only reaches individuation after Beloved’s exorcism, at which point Sethe can fully accept the first relationship that is completely “for her,” her relationship with Paul D. This relationship relieves Sethe from the ensuing destruction of her self that resulted from the maternal bonds controlling her life.[5] Beloved and Sethe are both very much emotionally impaired as a result of Sethe’s previous enslavement. Slavery creates a situation where a mother is separated from her child, which has devastating consequences for both parties. Often, mothers do not know themselves to be anything except a mother, so when they are unable to provide maternal care for their children, or their children are taken away from them, they feel a lost sense of self. Similarly, when a child is separated from his or her mother, he or she loses the familial identity associated with mother-child relationships. Sethe was never able to see her mother’s true face (because her smile was distorted from having spent too much time “with the bit”) so she wasn’t able to connect with her own mother, and therefore does not know how to connect to her own children, even though she longs to. Furthermore, the earliest need a child has is related to the mother: the baby needs milk from the mother. Sethe is traumatized by the experience of having her milk stolen because it means she cannot form the symbolic bond between herself and her daughter."

That's all I know, and that's what Wiki says. And while I'm quoting, I probably ought to throw this one in, as well: "Not having read a book has never kept me from expressing an opinion on it. And the existence of Wikipedia saves one the rigor of reading the Sparks Notes."


Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 20, 2011 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Ed, is it possible to connect your child with college freshmen or sophomores so they can talk about how they are making decisions about what to study?

As someone who was academically undecided (and proud of it) until mid-sophomore year of college, my advice is to put him in the company of people who were initially challenged by these decisions, but eventually figured it out. That way he learns how to make the decision instead of having others make suggestions on his behalf.

Posted by: MsJS | January 20, 2011 12:21 PM | Report abuse

edby....Yeah. What she said.

Posted by: LostInThought | January 20, 2011 12:21 PM | Report abuse

LiT, MsJs - great minds think alike. Right?

I was a music major, but went to an academically rigorous liberal arts school so I could take courses in other things and find out about the world. In fact, each student at the university was required to take courses in the other fields. It was a lot of work but worth it. Had I been stuck with a more rigid discipline, and with less opportunity and encouragement to explore, I would not be a fancy-pants lawyer today. If you told me at 17 that I would go to law school I would have fallen over laughing.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 20, 2011 12:28 PM | Report abuse

EBA, around here, a bachelor's degree puts you ahead of the game for public safety. As CqP says, at least two years are necessary before applying. A B.A. or a B.S. gets police officers and firefighters an extra 10% on their starting salaries in my jurisdiction...

Public safety is a good life, as long as you can adjust to the hours. Firefighters here work a 24-hour shift, one day out of three. Police officers work an 8-hour rotating shift, but there are lots of 40-hour a week jobs too.

Posted by: slyness | January 20, 2011 12:34 PM | Report abuse

EBA, when my older daughter had been accepted by a number of colleges, and was dithering about which one to go to, I asked her to do this:

Make a list of them, and write all the "pros" and all the "cons" about each one. Once she did that, it became obvious to her which one to chose. Having done that, she went there one year, and decided that it was not the school for her, after all. She moved back home, went to community college for two years, then matriculated to Enormous State U.

The take-away: it's a crap shoot any way you slice it. Also, make sure that the second choice school will accept credits from the first choice school.

Posted by: Don_from_I-270 | January 20, 2011 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Welcome, Don. I wonder whether Enormous State U's are somewhat like black holes, gobbling up stray students. Not Berkeley of course, but I think Orlando's gigantic University of Central Florida would count.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | January 20, 2011 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Wiki's entry on Beloved has much more than the 'mother daughter theme' entry that Mudge quoted but I wouldn't deign to alter it in any case. The only time I've ever changed anything on wiki was when my son's paternal grandmother's birthdate was incorrect.

Anyone interested in the fascinating story of Margaret Garner, the woman Morrison loosely based Beloved upon, can find it here.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Garner

Posted by: talitha1 | January 20, 2011 1:04 PM | Report abuse

No, no, no, it's
'Great big gobs of greasy grimy gopher guts
mutilated monkey meat
percolated parakeet ...'

This touched off some good stuff, Tim. I've already recommended the book to several and hinted simultaneously that I'd like a copy. The culture of kids is a parallel world.

Posted by: Jumper1 | January 20, 2011 1:21 PM | Report abuse

The book includes a somewhat disturbing little rhyme that goes...

a little something...

like this:

Milk, milk, lemonade.
'Round the corner,
fudge is made.

You may deduce the matching hand gestures for yourself.

The gopher-guts song has many fascinating regional variants. The amazing thing is that this song has a traceable history of many decades in a population of individuals with no significant capability for independent long-distance travel. The writing style of the research-component is pretty dull -- it certainly does not live up to the colorful cover or the title -- but the ethnographic source material is kind of fascinating. Most adults can recall singing or hearing some of these songs, but few can recall the words all the way through. Yet, they live on in full flower among the nation's 4th-graders.

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 20, 2011 1:35 PM | Report abuse

LiT -- Yeah, I figure that things will happen in this tome. You might be interested in "Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese. In addition to being *much* shorter (isn't everything?) to Quixote, it's simply beautifully written (the author is actually a physician, oxymoronically speaking -- who knew?) and that book did something to me that I don't think any other book has had the guts to do -- make me cry, not once, but twice! I highly recommend it to the Boodle at large.

Posted by: ftb3 | January 20, 2011 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Not to get too personal,but you did bring the subject up. I-mom, just how fancy are your pants?

Posted by: kguy1 | January 20, 2011 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Alas, Jumper. The older I get, the plainer my pants become. Except for the sequins, of course. And the glitter. Lots of glitter.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 20, 2011 1:43 PM | Report abuse

IMom, I can lend you my pink-green paisley numbers....and yes, I wear them in summer school. On the days I do NOT prefer my rhubarb-on cream toile pants.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | January 20, 2011 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Almost certainly a Googlenope: "Do these rhubarb-and-cream toile pants make me look phat?"

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 20, 2011 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Is it time for rhubarb yet, CqP?

Posted by: ftb3 | January 20, 2011 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Rhubarb-on-creme toile ...
Now that's made in the shade with lemonade.

What's the verdict by the Boodle fashionpolice on Michele Obama's state dinner gown? When I first saw a shot of only the bodice I was a bit put off (tired of asymmetrical necklines) but the full length shots changed my mind. It was a nice silhouette that she can definitely carry off and the fabric was perfect for the Chinese 'theme'.

Posted by: talitha1 | January 20, 2011 2:02 PM | Report abuse

T -- hunting for the image and then back to you.

FTB, because of sweet DBG, I have three more stashes of rhubarb in the deep freeze.

Mudge!!!! Please coordinate my full dress funeral observations in those rhubarb-cream toile pants...

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | January 20, 2011 2:06 PM | Report abuse

T -- the bodice seems to strike the same odd-origami-crane-wing thingie that Helena Bonham Carter's upper story did at the Golden Globes...do not like that really and would read odd in half-body shots.

I agree that the full effect from midstage is lovely...cannot tell the color of red...some images are vermillion or cinnabar or Chinese lacquer red, while others look to be heading toward coral...

what say you, dear fabrical-T?

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | January 20, 2011 2:10 PM | Report abuse

//Mudge!!!! Please coordinate my full dress funeral observations in those rhubarb-cream toile pants... //

Please don't tell me you want Mudge wearing those pants, CqP. Pass the mind bleach, if you will.

Posted by: Don_from_I-270 | January 20, 2011 2:14 PM | Report abuse

But...but...but the rhubarb-cream toile pants look lovely on CqP, Don! I don't think they'd fit Mudge, slim and stylish though he is.

Posted by: slyness | January 20, 2011 2:21 PM | Report abuse

I say Chinese lacquer red or what I call 'turkey red'. Undertones of bronze with nary a hint of pink. The print (silk-screened?) seems to be of large open fans. I trust it's silk for nothing else would do ... tissue taffeta perhaps.

Posted by: talitha1 | January 20, 2011 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Yes, I think we'd have to let the seam out a little.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 20, 2011 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Awwww-right! Don now owes talitha a free screen-cleaning if not a whole new keyboard. 8~)

Posted by: talitha1 | January 20, 2011 2:28 PM | Report abuse

I've never been sure where I fit on the color wheel. Autumn? Winter? Medieval? Late Permian?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 20, 2011 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Permian, Mudge. Clearly. For a fee, T and I will redo your wardrobe to matchy-matchy your season.

AND, you, dear in dress purples with braided gold gimp etc. FULL DRESS.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | January 20, 2011 2:38 PM | Report abuse

I take it back. New photos show the fabric to be more akin to a satin crepe faille ... substantial enough to hold the origami folds neatly but enough drape to allow the skirt to flow gently. I'm sticking with 'turkey red' but the print is more complicated than just fans and is hard to discern amidst the folds ... I see feathers in there, too.

Posted by: talitha1 | January 20, 2011 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Mudge *must* have a shako, don't you think CqP? Complete with a feathered hackle.

Posted by: talitha1 | January 20, 2011 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Not a biretta?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 20, 2011 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Both, for different occasions.

Am going to Cymbeline tonight at Shakespeare theater, suddenly and happily.

T -- when a complex print with real objects is broken in the pattern, I hang my head. So many other abstract print treatments can work with folds and drape...but I am bit of a fabric composition repeat design purist. Let us SEE the images, if images they are....YMMV...and more than one way to drape and sew and render loveliness on people...

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | January 20, 2011 3:08 PM | Report abuse

http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/01/safety_group_accidentally_touches_off_accusations.php?ref=fpb

Response:

a.) Laugh
b.) Cry
c.) Shake head in disbelief
d.) Shotgun a six pack of Yuengling
e.) All of above

Posted by: kguy1 | January 20, 2011 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Lots of good pics of the dress, and others, here
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1348813/China-state-dinner-Michelle-Obama-wears-McQueen-represents-America.html

I'm not keen on the asymmetrical neckline here. It is loose enough to look more like a bad fit than intentional feature. Love the fabric-I think it's meant to be abstract but from the rear looks like parrot tulips to me.

Would like to get a better look at Sec. Clinton's dress. Pink was a surprising choice. Mrs. Kissinger looks like Cruela DeVille.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 20, 2011 3:21 PM | Report abuse

CqP, agree completely about prints. My favorites are abstracts and (for weaverly reasons) I much prefer patterns created by the loom rather than surface application. Textile designers too often overlook the infinite possiblities of interwoven pattern and texture when creating fabric these days.

Frenvious of your Cymbeline tickets. Enjoy, enjoy!

Posted by: talitha1 | January 20, 2011 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Frosti, thanks. The print looks abstract enough for the folds. DittoHead you on the neckline (can you believe I typed that?) Spank me, later, if need be.

Would love to see Hilary's skirt in the ballerina pink bodice, with silver detailing...perhaps a bit like a fancy sorority girl twin set sweater?

Oh MY on Mrs. Kissinger's stand up portrait color and Mrs. Daley seems to be wearing a mash-up of SuzieWong-Nick and Nora pjamas...yes, she has a walker and I am sympathetic to this. But, would like to closer look at that garb...

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | January 20, 2011 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Interesting pictures. Is Vera Wang ill or has she always been that thin.

I have a question in this photo about the soldiers flanking the President and Mrs. Obama, are they holding the flags or is the camera decieving. One appears to be quite literally wrapped in the flag - on purpose. I am sorry if I am missing an obvious tradition here.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/multimedia/camera-club/in-photos/best-from-the-past-24-hours/article1876595/

Posted by: dmd3 | January 20, 2011 3:32 PM | Report abuse

OMFSM, kguy...

*off to shotgun a 6-pack of Diet Pepsi*

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 20, 2011 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Those guys are standard bearers, flag carriers. The one on the left is a soldier. The one on the right is a marine. Notice the white flag holding do-hickey across his chest.

Posted by: kguy1 | January 20, 2011 3:41 PM | Report abuse

HRC wears pink suits and dresses fairly often. She's used it well throughout her political career. Sorta like M. Albright's pins.

Posted by: LostInThought | January 20, 2011 3:42 PM | Report abuse

DMD, they are part of the color guard and I think caught at an odd moment....perhaps Frosti or Mudgie will have an idea about the pic.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | January 20, 2011 3:43 PM | Report abuse

kguy-all of the above, though I'm not sure a 6 pack is enough.

dmd-it appears the soldier in question was in the process of moving the colors when the picture was snapped. It is not typical to be holding the flag, but at times is necessary to keep it from swinging into something or smothering an attendee.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 20, 2011 3:45 PM | Report abuse

kguy, I blame Mrs. Obama.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 20, 2011 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Maggie Daley's quite ill. I'm amazed she made the trip to DC for the dinner, even if she is in her pj's.

Posted by: MsJS | January 20, 2011 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for reminder, LiT: can be a good color on aging skin. Me, that club too. I shall embrace my muted rhubarb days fully. Heck, am embracing them.

HRC did go through a phase of hot saturated colors in pant suits...bold but not her best move.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | January 20, 2011 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Meanwhile, in the rocket science department, after someone discovered a pterodactyl fossil with an egg fossilized inside, scientists have decided the fossil is a female.

Someone went to graduate school to figure this one out.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/20/AR2011012003348.html?hpid=topnews

One wonders how long it will take them to figure out the gender of a sabertooth tiger with a pen1s.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 20, 2011 3:52 PM | Report abuse

So much to comment on! Kguy, all of the above if I can substitute Diet Coke with Lime.

Yeah, what's with Vera Wang, she looks awful and her dress is meh. Hilary's dress doesn't do anything for me either. I like Michelle's dress love the folds and intricacy but not the asymmetrical neckline so much.

Just heard from #2 via FB, she's in Costa Rica and happily rearranging the drawers and closets which hubby had sorta messed up.

Posted by: badsneakers | January 20, 2011 4:00 PM | Report abuse

I'm mulling over what I think about Daley's sartorial choice. My first impression was quite good-what a lovely a piece of Chinese inspired tissue taffeta. Second impression, not so good-or was it reminiscent of a clown suit? I'm going with my first impression. If she needed something to fit over medical equipment it fit the bill.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 20, 2011 4:00 PM | Report abuse

frosti's link said Mrs. O's dress was silk organza (so my first impression of tissue taffeta wasn't too far off) but if it's organza it must be underlined to achieve that opacity.

Hope Vera Wang ate her dinner and any orts left on the table. She's one of my favorite designers (along with Donna Karan and Eileen Fisher). Sorry to hear about Mrs. Daley. I personally think the pale pink on HRC is a washout but I wouldn't answer her if she asked my opinion!

Posted by: talitha1 | January 20, 2011 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Okay, those of you boodlers who were born with the clothing gene (I was, alas, not), ought to get together with me and explain the vocabulary. I think I know what organza is and I definitely know what silk is (and I love silk), but some of the other things you mentioned are definitely Greek to me, in which case TBG has to join us.....

I do think Michelle Obama is quite classy and would look good in anything -- at least to me. But, then again, what do I know???

Too bad about Maggie Daley's health, but I admire her for traveling to the event. I hope she was able to enjoy it.

Posted by: ftb3 | January 20, 2011 4:19 PM | Report abuse

At last! I have no opinion on Toni Morrison, and wouldn't dare extrapolate my college experience to anyone, but will freely expose my lack of knowledge of fashion.

I love the color and cut of Michelle Obama's dress, but the neckline looks as if a strap fell off her shoulder. HRC's pink is fine, but the sparklies look quite matronly to me. There are those who are questioning Michelle Kwan's choice of a short dress, but I think it looked age-appropriate and quite elegant. (And I'm not usually a fan of strapless!)

At the risk of sounding like yello, does it look, in the third picture, like the Pres is checking out Michelle's cleavage?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1348813/China-state-dinner-Michelle-Obama-wears-McQueen-represents-America.html

Posted by: Raysmom | January 20, 2011 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Think the Boodle has the erudition market cornered? Think another thunk. This is from the comments thread on Cindy Boren's sports blog-
*****************
The Skins wouldn't have been able to develop Vick into the quarterback he is now, anyway. So, mute point.

Posted by: jcreech1 | January 20, 2011 1:00 PM

FYE, it's moo point not mute point and some of the stupidity in this thread is mind bottling.

Posted by: PAskinsfan17 | January 20, 2011 1:36 PM

Posted by: kguy1 | January 20, 2011 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Raysmom, I liked Kwan's short dress, too. Anna Wintour wore a short two-piece Chanel that may have raised some eyebrows but which I thought was striking. Agree about the matronly sparkles on HRC and that Mrs. O's neckline looked like a shoulder mishap ... but she's a stunner. I HOPE the prez was sneaking a peek. They're the only first couple I've ever had the courage to imagine 'enjoying' all the rooms in the White House. (The Kennedys don't count ... I was too young then and we know too much now anyway.)

ftb, my fabric gene is at your service ... what's your question?

Posted by: talitha1 | January 20, 2011 4:41 PM | Report abuse

T, you need to come to town for lunchies and fashion chat with lovely ftb...she would like some fashion advice and she begins with good bones and gorgeous hair....so, come on down, Sister FabricFashionGenie...

on to the Metro where I shall pretend to be essential government official in charge of carbon reductions off to an evening of theater.....wearing excellent heels, polished, with an oddly effected pointed square too...hope the snow and ice holds off...

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | January 20, 2011 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Gotta love it, kguy! You know my opinion of it's/its. Another one that kills me is discreet/discrete.

Mute and moot are not pronounced the same, IMHO. At least not in MY dialect.

I loved Michelle Kwan's dress and thought it looked great on her...I'm with you folks on the asymmetrical neckline on Michelle Obama's dress, it looked like one strap had fallen down. Hilary's outfit looked overdone to me. I like sparkles as much as the next grrl, but there is a limit.

Mudge, LOL.

Posted by: slyness | January 20, 2011 4:45 PM | Report abuse

And nooooooo ... not the Clintons, either.

Posted by: talitha1 | January 20, 2011 4:46 PM | Report abuse

scc: orphan comma after Clintons

Posted by: talitha1 | January 20, 2011 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Moo point! Thank you, kguy, thank you! I will treasure this.

I like to look at all the dresses, though I have nothing in the way of a sophisticated eye.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 20, 2011 5:02 PM | Report abuse

In the same vein/vain as mute/moot what about wary/weary? I hear wary pronounced as weary all the time and it drives me nuts but perhaps it's a regional thing?

"I'm a little weary of taking this proposal to the VP as it's his budget that would be negatively impacted."

Alternatively, I've been wrong for years which would shock me not at all.

Posted by: cowhand214 | January 20, 2011 5:03 PM | Report abuse

"mind bottling" isn't the accepted phraseology, but I kind of like it...

Posted by: Raysmom | January 20, 2011 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, we grrrls need to get together and chat, eh? Shall we wait until Mother Nature has one of her mood swings to the good? You know, that coupla seconds between frigid winter and sweltering summer?

Posted by: ftb3 | January 20, 2011 5:13 PM | Report abuse

"Mind bottling" is my favorite part of kguy's post. It conjures myriad images. Discovered it has three entries in the Urban Dictionary and is a quote from "Blades of Glory", too.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWkNPrXkvRA

Posted by: talitha1 | January 20, 2011 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Do moo points have something to do with cow patties?

cowhand-forgot to thank you for your intervention attempt last night. Appreciate the attempt.

Raysmom-I like "mind bottling" as well.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 20, 2011 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Yes, ftb. I've got a dead car right now for one thing ... and major oral surgury on the schedule to boot. But I've been wanting to BE with y'all for a long time now and look forward to it muchly!

Posted by: talitha1 | January 20, 2011 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Cowhand, that does sound ambiguous. Maybe you should start talking about feeling wiry?

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 20, 2011 5:21 PM | Report abuse

... surgery with an "e". I can't punctuate or spell this afternoon. Time for a libation so I'll have a good excuse. Happy evening to all.

Posted by: talitha1 | January 20, 2011 5:24 PM | Report abuse

I think moo point is udderly fantastic, but it's not my ox being gored.

Posted by: engelmann | January 20, 2011 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Moo point is the moment when you realize the cows *really* need to be milked.

Posted by: -pj- | January 20, 2011 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, some male fish and birds sit on eggs, so it does take a little time to check 1) That's really an egg 2) that egg could/should belong to that species 3)the orientation supports recent laying 4) measure all other features to see if femininity is supported.

If the egg had been inside the dinosaur or halfway out, that's pretty much convincing evidence.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 20, 2011 5:47 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, I'd love to be able to talk about feeling wiry! Sadly, I'd be wary of talking about wiry given how weary I am of my current weight.

Yes . . . I think it's time for dinner before this gets out of hand.

Posted by: cowhand214 | January 20, 2011 5:47 PM | Report abuse

My wife downloaded to her Kindle that Tiger Mom book and was very intrigued by it since she is both the daughter of an Asian style mom and is the Asian mother of a kid whom she had high expectations for. She didn't ever go quite as far as Amy Chua, but she isn't as wholesale critical of the book as many people are.

She loaned me her Kindle to read it and I probably will sometime after NaJuReMoNoMo. Instead I spent two bucks of her money and downloaded the complete works of Jane Austen. I made it about a quarter of the way through Sense And Sensibility on the plane ride down. Now there are some characters with complicated maternal relationships.

And of course, there is The Joy Luck Club for a very insightful look into mother-daughter relationships using a specific ethnic group to illuminate universal characteristics.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 20, 2011 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Strangely enough, I enjoyed (if that word can be used in context) the movie of The Joy Luck Club better than the book. I did see the movie first, which may have had some influence, but most of the time movie adaptations of books -- especially good books -- are horrendous. My mother was in the thick of Alzheimers at the time, so that probably had something to do with my reaction to it, I would think.

Posted by: ftb3 | January 20, 2011 6:06 PM | Report abuse

Ftb, The Joy Luck club had good actors, and I think the visual of the mah-johng game was a real help in understanding the opening of the book, since I had never really seen it played before.

Of course, I read The Joy Luck Club before I saw the movie, but I enjoyed both.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 20, 2011 6:19 PM | Report abuse

I'm late to report it, but a beach cam at Satellite Beach caught a right whale going by. So the cam operator dropped over to the beach, cleaned the lens, and (I think) did some video with a better camera:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOwnvxknCDA

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | January 20, 2011 6:26 PM | Report abuse

Just a quarter of the way through Sense and Sensibility, Yello? It gets a whole lot more complicated but Austen pulls it all together in the end. Great book. But then she never wrote a bad one.

;-)

Posted by: slyness | January 20, 2011 6:43 PM | Report abuse

Ah, much better now.

I was 'speaking' just last week in another forum with an Chinese-American man (and others) about The Joy Luck Club. The context of the thread was about traditional family/cultural parents, not just Chinese, vs 'new world-modernized' offspring. We both agreed that the movie version was one of those rare gems that lived up to the book. I enjoyed both, too, Wilbrod_Gnome.

PBS NewsHour just had a gentleman from the Carnegie Endowment on International Peace speaking about Chinese economic development, his specialty. His name?
Yukon Huang. I'm sorry, but I started imagining Sergeant Preston mounted on a sled behind a team of Shih Tzus with a Shar Pei as lead dog. Just shoot me now!

Posted by: talitha1 | January 20, 2011 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Those are wee dogs. Maybe Seargent Preston slowly pulled by Chow chows with a pekingese riding shotgun to watch for varmits.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 20, 2011 6:52 PM | Report abuse

I know, Wilbrod ... and I tried to erase the image of those little dogs with bows holding their forelocks out of their eyes, but it just wouldn't go away. Chows were my default image, too.

I used to know a Lhasa Apso (full size, not miniature) out in Colorado who would ride the ski lifts with his mistress and go down the slopes on this belly. He was hilarious.

Posted by: talitha1 | January 20, 2011 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Ah... tobagganing tibetian dogs.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 20, 2011 7:03 PM | Report abuse

Fortunately, we have lots of Spitz dogs that are meant to serve as sled-dogs, and I'm sure Yukon Huang would have a few Malamutes and Samoyeds in his kennel.

Posted by: Yoki | January 20, 2011 7:07 PM | Report abuse

Yoki, my son's dad had a Samoyed when I first met him and there were lots of Malamutes and Samoyeds around, brought in by the influx of folks to the new ski resort ... they fit right in up there in the Rockies. Unfortunately the local sheepherders didn't take kindly to their tendencies to hunt the flocks and leash laws were eventually adopted, not a happy thing for all concerned.

Posted by: talitha1 | January 20, 2011 7:24 PM | Report abuse

Yes, they do like to hunt and kill, and that is only one of the downsides to that family of canines. Also, aggression against other dogs and all other animals.

That is one of the reasons Himself and I have loved Bernese Mountain Dogs for so long; they are large farm/draft dogs, and live happily (for the most part) with other dogs, cats, ducks, goats, cows, sheep, and *love* their people. Also, being working dogs, they are incredibly quiet in the house so long as they can be close to their folk. I remember working in my home office in a little mountain town at a *huge* old-fashioned second-hand desk, and having three large BMDs piled upon each other in the knee-space. We broke for lunch, and then they came back happily to share that 7 c.ft.

Posted by: Yoki | January 20, 2011 7:36 PM | Report abuse

All these fashion jokes are tulle much. I can't tell the difference between gabardine and garbanzo.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 20, 2011 7:42 PM | Report abuse

Okay, I must share this. I realize that a joke based on complex mathematics won't tickle everyone, but those who get it, I hope, will laugh.

http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/complex_conjugate.png

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 20, 2011 7:54 PM | Report abuse

RD-here's a better link
http://xkcd.com/849/
that way you don't miss the mouse over hidden message

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 20, 2011 8:02 PM | Report abuse

RD, I liked the little stick figure's attitude and the pretty designs it was drawing on the blackboard. I can't honestly say I understood the joke, but I appreciate it.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 20, 2011 8:20 PM | Report abuse

Here's an obit from today's Post of Albert Ghiorso, who helped discover 12 elements above uranium in the periodic table:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/19/AR2011011906698.html

Posted by: -pj- | January 20, 2011 8:49 PM | Report abuse

yello, while garbanzo beans are known for their high fiber content I'd hesitate to buy a suit or a pair of slacks made from them.

Speaking of silk, I saw a segment on the CBS Sunday Morning show about this phenomenal weaving made from spider silk (as opposed to mulberry silkworm cocoons as is the norm). It takes my breath away to think of the labor involved but the result is a treasure.

http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/spidersilk/

Posted by: talitha1 | January 20, 2011 8:54 PM | Report abuse

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5T1abYegvE

Posted by: Yoki | January 20, 2011 8:56 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Frosty!

Okay, the joke is this. In mathematics the square root of -1 is defined as "i," (that is, if * means multiply then i*i = -1) i times any regular "real number" is called an "imaginary number." A complex number is one in which one regular real number is added to an imaginary number and is always of the form a + i*b. The complex conjugate means all i's become -i's. So when you multiply them algebraically you get (a +i*b)*(a-i*b) = a*a - b*b Note that the result lacks an i, and is therefore always real!

And to think some people question the value of mathematics.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 20, 2011 8:59 PM | Report abuse

RD.. I didn't even get past your first few words before my mind started wandering. Thanks, though!

:-)

Posted by: -TBG- | January 20, 2011 9:06 PM | Report abuse

xkcd is a wonderful strip. It isn't always this obscure.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 20, 2011 9:08 PM | Report abuse

Comedy rule #1: never, ever, explain a joke.

Posted by: Yoki | January 20, 2011 9:12 PM | Report abuse

That's true, Yoki, but I'm glad RD explained the joke. Now I can inflict the explanation on the Boy. Maybe tomorrow, when I'm feeling better. I have been sick all day and it is time to officially go to bed (as opposed to the unofficial lounging in bed I've done all afternoon).

Did you know it is possible to wear two Snuggies at once? You may laugh, but the things are darn comfortable.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 20, 2011 9:16 PM | Report abuse

talitha,

That spider silk weaving was also mentioned in last night's Nova Science Now program last night about making materials and their products stronger. The silk is being produced in goat milk and is stronger than steel, but the amounts that can be produced are still quite small. The program is a bit frenetic but it is still fun to watch.

Posted by: -pj- | January 20, 2011 9:20 PM | Report abuse

RD-I'm soooo close to understanding your 8:59. Thanks.

talitha-thanks for the link. I caught a glimpse of the textile in question on TV the other night but missed the story.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 20, 2011 9:21 PM | Report abuse

And then there's this one,

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZB3sd2BAxys

Posted by: Yoki | January 20, 2011 9:23 PM | Report abuse

RD, 40 some-odd years ago not only would I have understood that, but I would probably have laughed. Now, my eyes glazed over.

*faxing chicken soup to Ivansmom*

When they're tiny (which is not for long), BMD puppies are simply scrumptiously adorable, and when they're bigger (and really bigger) they have a sweetness about them that is enrapturing, don't you think? You've attached yourself to a sweetie of a breed, alright.

Posted by: ftb3 | January 20, 2011 9:23 PM | Report abuse

Yoki, that last paragraph was for you, but you probably knew that, eh?

Posted by: ftb3 | January 20, 2011 9:25 PM | Report abuse

When complex numbers multiply, do they get conjugate visitation rights?

Posted by: yellojkt | January 20, 2011 9:27 PM | Report abuse

TBG, you 9:06 was priceless.

And for you, this - apparently this is a raging topic out there,

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/arts/russell-smith/to-double-space-or-not-that-is-the-question/article1876000/

Posted by: dmd3 | January 20, 2011 9:30 PM | Report abuse

I did know that, ftb-love, and appreciate your words. They are our darlings. And their foot-pads smell like popcorn (Why? I don't know. It's a mystery!).

Posted by: Yoki | January 20, 2011 9:30 PM | Report abuse

I saw a blurb but not the program, pj. Not sure on what network NOVA appears here. If I understood it correctly (doubtful) they spliced spider DNA into goat DNA to enhance tensile strength? Those organic chemistry classes I took at 8:00am in college are a blur, not to mention DNA splicing was science fiction back then.

Posted by: talitha1 | January 20, 2011 9:33 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for that explanation, RD. It's bringing back some memories, mostly good, of my collegiate math. I ended up in history and sociology, but would have had a minor in math if my university handed out minors. That stuff will stretch your mind out.

Posted by: -pj- | January 20, 2011 9:33 PM | Report abuse

It's on PBS, talitha. It should be on their Web site. I never got close to organic chemistry back then. Transgenic organisms are a lot more fascinating now because they are real.

Posted by: -pj- | January 20, 2011 9:40 PM | Report abuse

Which reminds me, Yoki, of my friend Don in Toronto who gave me some leaf tea that tasted of popcorn. Very peculiar and not too bad. I'm a bit of a tea aficionado and am particularly hooked on a vanilla-blend tea, which I usually take after lunch.

Time to dig into Don Quixote, methinks. Wonder what kinds of dreams are going to lurk tonight???

On the morrow, dear boodle......

Posted by: ftb3 | January 20, 2011 9:45 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, pj. I watch PBS for the NewsHour and occasionally Masterpiece Theater (Downton Abbey, yeh!) but forget to check their schedule otherwise.

Posted by: talitha1 | January 20, 2011 9:50 PM | Report abuse

I first read the math cartoon when I was holding the girl who was pitching a fit. I came back to it when I could better concentrate, and soon afterward thought of this:

Otto plays the guitar in the garage.

Homer: Will you knock it off, I can't hear myself think!
[the music stops]
Brain: I want some peanuts.
Homer: That's better!

Posted by: baldinho | January 20, 2011 9:50 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for that link, talitha. I heard part of the story on my way home from work last night. I think it was on WGBH here and they did mention something about an associated NOVA special. Anyway, it being radio it was fascinating but I was having real trouble picturing this thing. Pretty cool!

Posted by: cowhand214 | January 20, 2011 9:52 PM | Report abuse

Earlier in the day when CqP and I were talking about patterns on fabric I mentioned that I prefer pattern that is integral to the weave rather than printed on the surface. The spider silk weaving is the perfect example of that. Gorgeous patterns, like minute Aran cable sweater designs or the mosaics in a Persian inlay.
Sigh ... heaven.

Posted by: talitha1 | January 20, 2011 10:06 PM | Report abuse

Good evening, all.

RD, I'm usually awful at mathematics (usually have to disrobe to count over 20) but I actully got that joke and I think I even got the math.

yello, I think the conjugation may produce a result of multiplication, rather than the other way 'round...

pj, composite materials science is pretty fascinating stuff to me (be it genetic splicing or metal matrix composites or ...?). That NOVA bit's interesting, and it's amazing to me how human technology can manufacture such amazing materials from dissmilar components, rearranging them in ways impossible in nature.

On another note, I never said a word to Madeline Albright about her (very tasteful) attire when I met her some time back, and thankfully, she didn't say anything about mine. Her jaguar (IIRC) pin was way cooler than anything I'll ever hope to wear upon my entire person.

Clearly, what she wears and how she wears it says something about her - isn't that true about all of us, intentionally or not? [Making a mental note to check my fly at the soonest opportunity. Or the next time I'm actually wearing pants.]

G'night, all.

bc

Posted by: -bc- | January 20, 2011 10:41 PM | Report abuse

I'm told!

Posted by: Yoki | January 20, 2011 11:53 PM | Report abuse

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMbSxOF9SVs

Posted by: -jack- | January 21, 2011 12:15 AM | Report abuse

I know the feeling, Yoki. When Mudge explained to me that I was wrong to believe that students had been getting together since (and long before) the founding of Phi Beta Kappa to discuss areas of interest within their curricula, I was surprised, but pleased to be better-informed than I had been the day before.

Posted by: Bob-S | January 21, 2011 12:21 AM | Report abuse

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1How9Bgwo4

Posted by: Yoki | January 21, 2011 12:22 AM | Report abuse

Two things:

Thing 1: Multiplying a complex function by its complex conjugate is, in my limited experience, restricted to quantum mechanics and is an essential part to forming the integrand to compute the integral of the probability density function in order to compute the probability of a transition between states in a quantum system. Therefore, the xkcd cartoon is (probabilistically) a hoot.

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 21, 2011 12:27 AM | Report abuse

I don't think 'mudge was that mean, merely curmudgeonly. Sort of ubermudgly. 'cause, you know, he's a curmudgeon.

Posted by: Yoki | January 21, 2011 12:27 AM | Report abuse

I thought about Thing 2 and decided not to go there after all. In asking my question, I answered it, and so I have no need to post it.

Carry on.

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 21, 2011 12:38 AM | Report abuse

I make no accusations meanness or curmudgeonity. I was pleased to be shown the error of my thinking.

Young kids in the 70's actually came up with something new that had never occurred to their forebears. Who'da thunk it? I'd always heard that each generation only *imagined* that it had invented every possible form of social and intellectual interaction.

Posted by: Bob-S | January 21, 2011 12:49 AM | Report abuse

That would be cumudgeonosity.

Posted by: Yoki | January 21, 2011 12:58 AM | Report abuse

I started with "curmudgeonness", but decided that was too much like "stewardess" or "ogress".

I suppose "curmudgeonliness" has the advantage of being an actual word (cited in dictionaries & everything!), but it didn't amuse me.

Posted by: Bob-S | January 21, 2011 1:07 AM | Report abuse

*Laughing* We're coining usage.

Posted by: Yoki | January 21, 2011 1:23 AM | Report abuse

G'nite, sweet dreams.

Posted by: Bob-S | January 21, 2011 1:35 AM | Report abuse

hey joel..the gov. of hawaii cannot locate obama's original birth certificate...what say you..

Posted by: dancingrabbit | January 21, 2011 1:54 AM | Report abuse

0 - 0 of 0 results
We're sorry

We were unable to find any results for your search "Obama birth certificate"


The Washington Post writes nothing the Gov. of Hawaii searched for Obama's birth certificate and could not find it. He found a "notation".

Posted by: dancingrabbit | January 21, 2011 2:09 AM | Report abuse

So, Dimitri..

One of our clerk typists...Uh, one of our clerk typists...

Went, well you know, she went a little "funny"

A little "funny" in the head.

And you know what Dmitri?

Now we can't find the birth certificate.

Dmitri...Dimitri?

Well, how do you think I feel Dmitri?

Posted by: dancingrabbit | January 21, 2011 2:19 AM | Report abuse

SCC: In my 8:59 that last - should be a +.

My apologies.

Typos. Always with the typos.

Also, just fer fun, complex conjugate is used all the time in any branch of physics that deals with waves. In optics it leads to something called a phase conjugate mirror. In acoustics the same phenomenon is called "time reversal."

Which isn't, alas, what you think.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 21, 2011 2:53 AM | Report abuse

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1R828rFd2aI
SPIDER PIG
SPIDER PIG
Does whatever a SPIDER PIG does
Can he swing
From a web
No he cant
He's a pig
LOOK OOOUUUTTT!!!!
He is a SPIDER PIG!!

Posted by: Jumper1 | January 21, 2011 3:21 AM | Report abuse

I rounded this up for Bailey in my hard copy of Norton Book of Science Fiction today and now find it online:
http://www.lexal.net/scifi/scifiction/classics/classics_archive/tiptree2/tiptree21.html

Recommended

Posted by: Jumper1 | January 21, 2011 3:29 AM | Report abuse

Bailey is reading the Tiptree/Sheldon bio, is why.

Now to go screw with my Google algorithm by searching for "ogress."

Posted by: Jumper1 | January 21, 2011 3:31 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, you all.

I, too, saw the PBS Spider Silk program with the goat segment towards the end. The silk under glass represented many spider work hours, but they did not say how many spiders gave their lives for the art, or what is the life expectancy for a "spider for art"? The spiders themselves were quite beautiful, if you're into spiders..... that is.

So, my ponder for the day is, how DO the goats feel about having a spider gene or two introduced to their bodies and after the mutation, will they eventually grow a few more legs?

Something to ------ as we go about our daze.

Posted by: VintageLady | January 21, 2011 4:37 AM | Report abuse

A female curmudgeon is a curmudgtrix.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 21, 2011 6:48 AM | Report abuse

God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Good morning, friends. Thanks for answering my question concerning Beloved. I read Beloved, but it was a difficult book for me. I thought it was about a little bit more than a mother/daughter relationship, that too, but so much more.

Slyness, you got heat?

Friday, a day to rest. Weather person talking more cold temps and possibly some moisture with that. I hope not.

Have a terrific day, folks, and love to all.

Posted by: cmyth4u | January 21, 2011 6:57 AM | Report abuse

Hawaii Law: Child born prior 1967 must have Christian name

Posted by: dancingrabbit | January 21, 2011 6:58 AM | Report abuse

'morning all. The cold is upon us. We are the anvil against which the low P systems collide and dump snow on the Eastern seaboard. Today, badsneakers will get it.

I've learned all the new tricks I could. I'm also tired of being cooped inside. It's time for real food, a reunion with the VLP and some walks outside.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | January 21, 2011 7:11 AM | Report abuse

Good morning all, hi Cassandra! Yes, we have heat! So nice to wake up to a warm house...the HVAC tech said it was a bad pressure switch. He put in a universal one and will be back to install the correct part when it arrives. Yay!

TBG, I thought you'd be interested in this story:

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2011/01/21/1996250/queens-expands-goals-in-quest.html

Posted by: slyness | January 21, 2011 7:43 AM | Report abuse

I have to say it's more than a little annoying when one finishes one's evening with a glance at a very busy radar image, then wakes up to bare ground.

Mother Nature made a great comeback, however, with a scintillating sunrise.

*not-making-the-very-obvious-comment-regarding-new-Boodlers-that-have-'i'-twice-in-their-handle-and-are-therefore-really-unreal-and-let's-not-forget-it's-TFSMIF Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 21, 2011 7:53 AM | Report abuse

More white stuff outside this morning. TODO: Form and implement weather trade pact with San Diego for the months of January and February.

The office is moving over the weekend so everything, and I mean *everything*, shuts down at 4 today. Huzzah! Due to weather I'm also working from home so all in all I anticipate a low stress day. Nice!

I hope everyone can say the same and heads into the weekend in a good mood. Happy Friday!

Posted by: cowhand214 | January 21, 2011 8:05 AM | Report abuse

Only a few inches here so far, SD. One thing I like about snow storms is that the local channels preempt the morning shows and just run with weather and location shots mixed with a bit of real news. Because there's no gossip or celebrity silliness it beats the h3ll out of the morning shows. Naturally, I'm working today so will have to decide whether to shovel, snow blow or just drive over it all and worry about it when I get home.

I thought we were free of annoying visitors, but it seems I was wrong...

Posted by: badsneakers | January 21, 2011 8:07 AM | Report abuse

Morning boodle! Seriously reconsidered my plan to travel to Chez Frostbitten today. It's -34F there now, vs. a tropical -18 here at the Hip Urban Loft. But a noon departure today will be as "warm" as an early morning trip tomorrow. Sigh.

Some cold weather pondering-
I wonder if the Gov. of VA could find my birth certificate. How would he know where I keep it?
If Al had been inaugurated would he and Tipper have divorced after leaving the White House? (ok, I wonder about this when it's warm too)
Would "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" have more listeners if the prize was Sylvia Poggioli's voice on your home answering machine?

Later gators!

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 21, 2011 8:16 AM | Report abuse

Over at the NY Times, Tommasini's back with his top 10. Perhaps best to discuss after everyone has time to check him out.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | January 21, 2011 9:06 AM | Report abuse

I had some tommasini for dinner last night. It was delicious.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 21, 2011 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Where I am, they are predicting a high of 79 and a low 77. Time to go find Old Town or 'Viey-ho Town-ay' as I hope the locals call it.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 21, 2011 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Yello! You in Albuequerque? If so, and if you're going to that Old Town, try the Church Street Cafe. It's off one of the little cross streets, but is very quiet and great food.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 21, 2011 9:56 AM | Report abuse

I hope yello doesn't make any left turns...

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 21, 2011 9:59 AM | Report abuse

New Kit!!! :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 21, 2011 9:59 AM | Report abuse

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