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Weekend Reading 07/12

It’s been a while, but I’ve been working on a few small projects of mine in the past couple of weeks and all I have to say about that is, finally! It’s great to be able to focus my energy on projects that I care about rather than on making it through the school day, even if my update schedule suffers. I’ve also been reading The Brothers Karamazov (Dostoevsky) like mad this week and enjoying every page of it. It’s impossible to find a modern book with so much depth in ideology and character development. I can’t put it down, but I don’t want to finish it so quickly!

I also went to see Michael Moore’s new documentary Sicko, and it was much better than anything I expected. I walked in wondering why I bothered, and came out raving about how excellent it was. It made me realize how lucky I am to live here in Canada – I couldn’t even imagine some of the things people in the States had to go through for health care. At the end of the movie, everyone in the almost-full movie theatre was clapping, and this is Canada… we wouldn’t clap for a film about the American health care system if it wasn’t just that good.

My internet connection was down all week and it drove me insane. The thing that most bothered me about it – strangely – was the lack of access to Wikipedia. I never realized just how many times I use it every day. I have almanacs, atlases, and a full set of encyclopedias on hand at home, but none could give me the same depth and breadth of information as Wikipedia. How much of a Web 2.0 commentary is that?
Lots of links in this week’s post!

Best of the Week – Psychology/Society: Ten Politically Incorrect Truths About Human Nature (Psychology Today)
The world isn’t politically correct, so why should we act like it? This article lists ten possibly offensive truths about human nature – why most terrorists are Muslims, why blond women are more attractive, why beautiful people have more daughters, etc. (The only one I potentially disagree with is the last one, why sexual harrassment isn’t sexist, but then again I’m not an expert.)

Psychology/Society: Blame it on Mr Rogers: Why Young Adults Feel So Entitled (Wall Street Journal)
Not sure how long this article will remain fully available online – the Wall Street Journal tends to pull articles from public access after a few days. It starts blaming Mr Rogers for telling children that they’re special and perfect just the way they are without having to earn such opinions, then moves on to target overinvolved parents.

Science/Society: Scientific Savvy? In U.S., Not Much (NY Times)
Political scientist Jon Miller comments on scientific literacy in the United States. Some very sad statistics come out of his work: “American adults in general do not understand what molecules are (other than that they are really small). Fewer than a third can identify DNA as a key to heredity. Only about 10 percent know what radiation is. One adult American in five thinks the Sun revolves around the Earth, an idea science had abandoned by the 17th century.”

History: An animation of conquest in the Middle East
It’s always been an area of political turmoil. I can’t even count the number of empires that have existed there…

Psychology: Procrastination: Ten Things to Know (Psychology Today)
Ten very interesting facts about procrastination and procrastinators. They’re not blatantly obvious things like “Procrastinators get less done” and “Procrastinators are less successful”… most of them you probably haven’t heard before, ie, procrastinators seem to have more health problems than non-procrastinators.

Humor: Why God Was Denied Tenure and Why Indiana Jones Was Denied Tenure
Oldies but goodies! The first one (God) is my personal favorite of the two, though I’m too young to have really grown up with Indiana Jones, so maybe the full humor of the second one is lost on me. The first one is just gold, go read it; here’s a teaser from the second: “Criticisms of Dr Jones ranged from ‘possessing a perceptible methodological deficiency’ to ‘practicing archaeology with a complete lack of, disregard for, and colossal ignorance of current methodology, theory, and ethics’ to ‘unabashed grave-robbing’. … Moreover, no one on the committee can identify who or what instilled Dr Jones with the belief that an archeaologist’s tool kit should consist solely of a bullwhip and a revolver.”

Religion/Atheism: How to Irritate an Atheist
A list of irritating things that theists often say (I can personally vouch for a lot of these).

Religion/Misogyny: Women and the Bible (Ethical Atheist)
Some disgustingly misogynistic quotes directly from the Bible itself. There are more than two dozen Bibles in my house (no, seriously) and I’ve checked their accuracy; these are direct quotations, no bias. Misogynistic gold from these passages includes asserting that the rape of “captive” women is fair game, instructions for selling daughters, lots of polygamy, blatant incest, and Lot offering the virginity of his two daughters to his male guests.

Politics/Society: Holocaust Survivor Leaving U.S.
The author of this post has an elderly neighbour who survived the Holocaust and is returning to Germany, claiming that he has seen this sort of political climate before – in the years preceding the Holocaust.. Chillling.

Religion/Atheism: Why Don’t Theists Believe What Atheists Tell Them About Atheism?
A: “The answer, I think, is that Christians asking such questions aren’t asking real questions at all… it’s more common for Christians to only ask rhetorical questions about atheism and atheists. They are like parents asking their children what happened to the missing cookie: the parents know very well what happened and are only interested in seeing if their children will own up to what they did…Typically, the religious theist claims that the atheist is somehow “in denial” about the truth.”

Psychology/Creativity: The Creative Personality (Psychology Today)
Guest article by Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi about the ten paradoxical traits that creative individuals typically possess, adapted from a much more thorough discussion in his 1996 book Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. Creative people have the tendency to completely polarize certain traits when it benefits them (e.g., very easygoing and playful in the company of others but extremely focused and severe when working), even traits that are supposed to be constant in someone’s personality (i.e., extroversion and introversion, which very creative individuals can swap between at will).

Gender: Understanding Transgender Children (ABC News)
The story of Jazz, a transgendered 6-year-old girl (formerly boy).

Atheism/Society: The Price of Atheism (ABC News – VIDEO)
A teenage girl in Oklahoma claims to have been ostracized by her classmates and teachers when she revealed that she was an atheist, and left her high school because of their ridicule. (I wonder why her family moved to one of the most religious states in the US if they were all atheists – surely they didn’t expect a smooth reception?)

Caffeine/Fun: Death by Caffeine
Enter in your weight and caffeinated beverage of choice, and this neat little online gadget will tell you exactly how much of it would kill you. (It’s based on the lethal dose of caffeine, but with that many cups of whatever, I’d be more concerned about drowning.)

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Weekend (?) Reading 06/18

No updates for two weeks and then I return with a Weekend (not so) Reading instead of a “real” post, the third of such in a row – unavoidable and disappointing, but thankfully temporary. Friday was my last day of classes and the past month has been crazy at school as all my classes went into overdrive to make up for all their lax pace all year. Now that school is out and the pressure is off, I can finally decompress and move on with my life, which will hopefully mean more regular (possibly M/F) updates.

I only have five links today (even though it includes the past two weeks), because less time for writing also means less time for reading and web-surfing. ):

BEST OF THE WEEK – Psychology: The Total Perspective Vortex (Damn Interesting)
If you’re familiar with the actual Total Perspective Vortex from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, the message of this article isn’t much different. It’s a really intriguing – and I think very true – idea: depressed people are arguably more sane than the rest. The average person is highly optimistic about life to the point of being delusional, whereas the depressed person is more realistic about life. This delusion is a good thing, though – it keeps us from going insane.

Philosophy/Various: The Best Thought Experiments (Wired)
A list of the most famous thought experiments of all time with thorough explanations. All the classics are here: Schrodinger’s Cat, Borel’s Monkeys (infinite number of monkeys on typewriters + infinite amount of time = Shakespeare), Einstein’s light beam, etc etc.

Literature/Society: Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451 Misinterpreted (LA Weekly)
Everything they taught you in English class is wrong. Ray Bradbury recently told the press that his iconic novel Fahrenheit 451 is not about censorship. Actually, he said, it was about the television killing literature by becoming the new pastime. It would be interesting to reread the book with this theme in mind rather than censorship.

Gender: Sick Children, Working Moms
This one makes me sad. The article tackles the issue of moms (usually single ones) who sometimes have to chose between showing up to work and keeping their job or staying home to take care of their sick kids. It also takes the perspective of the kids as well, because kids can know more about their home situations than they let on.

Psychology: Unskilled and Unaware of It (Damn Interesting)
Another great article out of Damn Interesting that summarizes a Cornell study (link to the pdf) about competence. This study showed that, not only are the incompetent completely unaware of their ignorance (some subjects at the 10th percentile for certain traits would rate themselves somewhere in the mid-60 percentiles), but they can’t recognize others’ competence in that field, either. Also, while the subjects in the bottom quartile rated themselves much higher than they actually performed, the subjects in the top quartile ranked themselves much lower than they actually performed… so the ignorant think they know everything, and the smart don’t think they know anything.

That’s it for the links of the last two weeks – and my next post will hopefully be one with actual content!

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Weekend Reading: 06/05

Wow.

I’m overwhelmed with the attention that my “How to Prevent Another Leonardo da Vinci” post has received this week. When I first saw the spike on my traffic chart I thought WordPress had gone glitchy, but I’m delighted to see that I’m mistaken! So I want to thank all of you who came and read my thoughts in that post – you all really made my week. Especially those of you who blogged about my post, emailed it to someone (I see a lot of email clients on my incoming links list), or commented. The response has been amazing.

If you have some free time on your hands, I’d love it if you left a comment. I’m interested to hear who’s reading, even if you’re just passing through. :)

That said… here are this week’s links.

Best of the Week is TIE

BOTWInteresting: The Google Labs Aptitude Test (GLAT)
The recruitment questions that Google uses used to screen employees. How many of the technical ones could you answer? Some of the more creative questions are just amazing – I’d love to work for the kind of people who come up with these. My favorite: “This space left intentionally blank. Please fill it with something that improves upon emptiness”. But really, these are just GREAT.

BOTW – Gender:
Male Scientist Writes of Life as Female Scientist (Washington Post)
This was really interesting – a transsexual neurobiologist (female-to-male) discusses what it was like to be a woman in the sciences, and how differently he was treated after having a sex change. As he said, “I can even complete a whole sentence without being interrupted by a man.” Other scientists, male and female, also add their input on gender imbalance in the sciences. (Unfortunately, I can sympathize a little too well with these women.)

Society:
Trashing Teens (Psychology Today)
A great article about the infantilization of teenagers, and how it contributes to some of the immaturity we see in teenage culture. For what it’s worth, I agree that teenagers are definitely capable of more than society nowadays would expect. I remember reading memoirs at the museum written by people who had grown up in the early 1900s… only a few had even gone on to middle school, and a phrase from one memoir in particular stuck with me: “I was fresh out of grade eight and ready to get my first real job.” Nowadays many areas have made it illegal to hire someone under 16. What happened?

Education: The Lost Art of Writing (San Francisco Chronicle)
An excellent editorial about how writing should and shouldn’t be taught in schools. Maybe I’ll write an adaption this for reading, too, in a future post. All I can say is, this points out exactly what is wrong with English education in schools today. A good anecdote to go along with this comes from TIME contributor Ashley Merryman as she teaches kids the proper way to write a paragraph (a collection of sentences about an idea rather than just five-to-seven-sentences bunched together) only to have their English teachers fail them for it.

History/Interesting:
German voting ballot from 1938
The photo of a German voting ballot from 1938. The text in German reads (so I’m told): “Do you agree with the reunification of Austria with the German Empire that was enacted on 13 March 1938, and do you vote for the party of our leader Adolf Hitler?” Take a look at it… biased much?

Neuroscience/Morality/Religion: If It Feels Good to Be Good, It Might Be Only Natural (Washington Post)
A team of neuroscientists have recently discovered that morality may be hard-wired into the brain. An experiment showed that when the subjects behaved altruistically, the part of the brain that lights up is the same one that assigns pleasure to food and sex. What happens to religion and personal responsibility when morality can be explained as pure brain chemistry? I think it would be interesting to see the religious statistics among neuroscientists.

Education: How to Fix No Child Left Behind (TIME Magazine)
Last week’s feature article in TIME Magazine was a dead-on discussion of the good and bad results that came out of NCLB. It’s nothing that we didn’t already know, but a great read nonetheless, and with proper statistics and anecdotes to support it all plus some other, less obvious consequences (less obvious to me, at least). When I read the article in the actual magazine, it included a report card for all aspects of NCLB, but I can’t seem to find that report card online.

That’s it for this week.

Again, thank you to all the people who’ve visited these last few days, and if you have the time, it would be great to hear from you. :)

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Weekend Reading: 05/23

I wanted to get my last post (“The city, she loves me”) out before I started on the Weekend Reading, but a lot of things delayed me from starting either of them until late. (That part is a lie, I was just really lazy over the long weekend.) Here’s this week’s inaccurately titled Weekend Reading, including links from the days I procrastinated all the way back to last Saturday. Most of these seem to be just interesting rather than serious links.

Best of the Week – Politics: Why Bush Hasn’t Been Impeached
I hate to choose this as my best of the week because, though I fully support the movement, I’m starting to really dislike the Bush-whacking crowd for the same reasons I dislike fundamentalists – too many pointless complaints flying around. (Stop complaining and quietly do something about it, I say.) However, this was the best political essay I’ve read in a very long time. It presents a very clear explanation without resorting to hate speech or pointless accusation, and had several excellent points.

Fun/Caffeine: The Caffeine Database
This is a really cool interactive chart that lets you calculate your caffeine intake. There is a gigantic list of caffeinated beverages and foods to choose from that will add up to your intake in mg, along with a message. My caffeine intake today is “Climbing the Walls” (a short coffee at Starbucks, two cups of brewed coffee, and a cup of imported black tea).

Interesting: The Mystery of the Daytime Idle: Why Aren’t You Working? (San Francisco Chronicle via SF Gate)
I have ALWAYS wondered about this. No matter what day of the week it is, there are always loads of people walking around the city during the day. Don’t they have to work? In this article, a San Francisco writer goes out to the streets during the day to ask people why they’re working. The responses were very interesting.

Business/Economics: Who Will Win in the 21st Century? (Business Week)
The annual World Competitiveness Yearbook still lists the U.S. as #1 overall, but other countries are quickly gaining on them. (Behind the U.S. are the usual suspects – Asian tigers and Northern Europe.) Also mentioned in this article is the “Happiness Factor”, which adds greater depth to the results. South American countries may not be economically aggressive, but they’re happier. Many European countries – plus Canada (whoo!) – are among the happiest.

Blogging: 27 Lessons Learned on the Way to 3000 Visits a Day and 2200 RSS Subscribers
A blog called “Pick the Brain” presents twenty-seven tips for bloggers. Some very practical tips here about content, traffic, and feedback.

Education: Study Finds College-Prep Courses in High School Leave Many Students Lagging (New York Times)
Laughable if it wasn’t sad: apparently, only a little over 25% of high school students that take a full college-prep curriculum are being properly prepared for college, and nearly 20% are not prepared at all. The problem is content, not course selection. It reminds me of another article by educational columnist Jay Mathews in the Washington Post: “In Many Classrooms, ‘Honors’ in Name Only”. Some schools attach the title “Honors” to a course on students’ transcripts just to make them sound more impressive to colleges, despite the course being of regular – or worse – quality.

Image: Al Gore’s American Life – Photo Essays (TIME Magazine)
This is a direct link to an image that I found circulating around everywhere today… it’s Al Gore’s desk. It’s messy, and quite cool (I love cluttered desks).

Health/Intelligence:
High IQ Link to Being Vegetarian (BBC)
A study has found that vegetarians average five more IQ points than non-vegetarians. It makes sense to me in a lot of ways… vegetarians need to plan their diet to get the right amount of protein, greater health awareness is linked to intelligence, etc. Coincidentally, I’m a vegetarian, but it has more to do with personal preference than anything ideological.

Psychology: Field Guide to the Loner: The Real Insiders (Psychology Today)
I wrote something, months ago, about the very same subject – it might become my next post (or at least a future one) when I can tweak it to sound less… angsty. The idea in this article is that most loners quite enjoy their solitude, and are just as happy being alone as extroverts are being with other people. I think this is very important for extroverts to understand. Don’t pity the loners and assume that we’re antisocial or friendless; we just enjoy being alone.

Interesting: Einstein: His Life and His Universe (New York Times)
The New York Times published this first chapter of an Albert Einstein biography, and it looks very promising. (Lots of talk about Einstein lately – TIME recently published an article about him, too.) This chapter is a basic introduction to his personal life and some of his ideas, physics-related and not.

Education: No Child Left Behind, the Football Version
If NCLB were applied to football. I think this should put things in perspective for its supporters.

That’s it for this week!

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Weekend Reading: 05/12

Yup, it’s a few hours late. It completely slipped my mind all Saturday… and I probably should have done it late Sunday because I need to be up and tackling a class of toddlers at 9am (coffee plz), but I have many, many commitments ahead for me today and wouldn’t get time to write this until late Sunday (read: Monday) if I had put it off. Luckily for me, there aren’t that many links this week.

Best of the Week – Economics: What does $456 billion buy?
What the money spent on the war in Iraq could be going – free gas for every US citizen for 1.2 years, the ending of world poverty by 2015… take your pick. It really puts things in perspective. Is this occupation really worth it? (No.)

Education/WTF?: Lousy Test Question for Fourth Graders
Wow. As an unfortunate soul caught in the standardized testing of public education myself, I’ve seen some stupid questions on regional exams… but nothing – nothing – as bad as this. This thing is just… wow. Unspeakably awful. This is exactly why I detest multiple choice questions.

Humor: The Answer is NOT Always ‘C’
This just blew me away. A student gets 0/100 on a college exam by filling in all the ‘C’ bubbles… on a completely True/False exam. The professor’s response is great… “If all else fails, go with B from now on. B is the new C.”

Gender/Mindless Facts: “she invented” – Google Search
This doesn’t really prove anything, because men have been the dominant inventors of history (representing merely a lack of opportunity rather than skill), but I thought this was… amusing. If you Google “she invented”, the top of the page will say, ‘Did You Mean: “he invented”‘?

Web 2.0/Business: You’re Nobody Unless Your Name Googles Well (Wall Street Journal)
I’m not sure how permanent this link is – the Wall Street Journal has the nastiest habit of locking all their good articles for full-paying subscribers only a few days after their release. In any case, I thought this was a very interesting article, the idea being that in our increasingly web-centered world, having a Google-friendly (ie, unique) name is very important, because that’s becoming the new way to find out about a person.

Mindless Facts: World Subway Systems on the Same Scale
All the world’s subway systems on the same scale. It even includes the rail system of my city, Vancouver! (And Vancouver’s system is very, very small and incredibly simple – just two lines. Goes to show how comprehensive this collection is.) The widest-reaching system appears to be the Bay Area’s BART (predictable), but I’d say the best overall is in London.

Internet/Resources:
The Freelancer’s Toolset: 100 Web Apps for Everything You Will Possibly Need
There are a lot of great links here that are of use to more than just freelancers. Lots of online tools for project management, collaboration, and organization in general. These are really great.

Wow – this has probably been my quietest week yet. (But I’m not complaining; going to sleep now, kthnxbai.)

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Weekend Reading: 05/05

Big stuff in the news this week! There was the HD-DVD leak-turned-user-revolt on Digg, the presidential veto of the Iraq deadline, proposed veto of the hate-crime bill (expanding hate crimes to include sexual orientation), increased talk of Cheney impeachment, and on top of that, Tony Blair announcing his retirement. Crazy!

Best of the Week – News/Society: Video – Jon Stewart on Virginia Tech Coverage (The Daily Show)
I have great respect for Jon Stewart, which only increased after this segment from the Daily Show. Stewart discusses the media’s reaction to and coverage of the VTech massacre – exploitation, agendas, and blame everywhere – in the typical Daily Show style of very thought-provoking humor. I can’t do this clip any justice in a summary, just watch it.

Ethics: On Trip to Mars, NASA Must Rethink Death (AP/Washington Times)
Now this was a great read. Since NASA’s planned trip to Mars will last several years, they have to consider some difficult ethical questions – what course of action should be taken if one of the astronauts were to die, and should the fatally ill be placed on life support or mercifully killed for the good of the crew? In mixed-gender teams, how should sexual tension be handled? Should potential crews be genetically screened first? I wouldn’t want to be the one deciding these.

Society: 1973 vs 2007
I’ve always wished I had been born in an earlier decade. These are pretty sad. Example: “Scenario: Jeffrey won’t be still in class, disrupts other students. 1973: Jeffrey sent to office and given a good paddling by Principal. Sits still in class. 2007: Jeffrey given huge doses of Ritalin. Becomes a zombie. School gets extra money from state because Jeffrey has a disability.”

Web 2.0: In Web Uproar, Antipiracy Code Spreads Wildly (New York Times) and Digg This: 09-f9-11-02-9d-74-e3-5b-d8-41-56-c5-63-56-88-c0 (Digg.com Blog)
Articles about the 2007 Digg revolt from the New York Times and Digg’s very own blog. Basic story: the code to unlock HD-DVD (above) was leaked on Digg.com, and once the users realized that administrators were trying to cover it up, hundreds of stories featuring the code were submitted for several hours until the site was forced to shut down. In Digg’s blog linked above, founder Kevin Rose announced that Digg would go down fighting rather than suppress instances of the code. (I’m proud to say that I personally was a part of the user revolt, submitting and Digging stories with the rest of ‘em until the site went down.)

Internet:
Download YouTube Videos 23 Ways
23 online-based ways to download YouTube videos and/or convert them to other formats.

Psychology: Confidence – Stepping Out (Psychology Today)
A article about the conscious and unconscious efforts that charismatic people have made to become as magnetic as they are; charisma is something learned, not something innate. It includes some interesting anecdotes from some famous personalities and advice for the shy.

Education/Psychology: Deciding When Student Writing Crosses the Line (New York Times)
I thought this was interesting as a spinoff concern of the VTech massacre that didn’t involve gun control (aren’t we tired of hearing that story yet?). Writing students are often encouraged to take on controversial, possibly disturbing subject matter as a way of freeing their muse… what kind of writing, in an English class, separates a Cho Seung-Hui from the rest?

History: 5 Things to Know About Harems Before You Get One
Five interesting facts about famous harems and how they were managed. It’s a horribly esoteric link – I’ve been fascinated with the structure of harems since I was properly introduced to the idea. Weird, I know, but I’m not kidding here. Even if you don’t share the same interest, this article has a good “Did You Know?” value.

Science: The Basics of Stem Cells
If you don’t know much about stem cells, this is definitely a great place to start. It discusses what a stem cell really is, plus the different types of stem cells, the controversies/research complications of each, and predicted research benefits. If you can see yourself ever engaging in a debate over the ethics of stem cell research, these are the facts you should know (if you don’t already).

Society/Internet: Why can’t you pay attention anymore? (CNET News)
An interesting article about how greater use of the internet will have devastating effects on our attention spans. We can do more things at once, but we’re just doing a more shallow job of them.

Expect another, more coherent post this week – when I’m not dying for sleep at 1:30 am.

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Weekend Reading: 4/28

Apologies for posting a day late – real life events were particularly demanding on Saturday. First, I spent the whole day cleaning… then, my family learned that the son of a friend (fifteen years old) had just died. Of mono. This was the third death due to illness of a kid under 16 in my community this week… that I know of. There have probably been others. First I hear about another tenth grader at another school dying of meningitis, then a toddler at my parents’ church of the same, and now this friend of ours losing a son to mono of all things. It’s just so sad.

On that depressing note, here are this week’s links, and there are a lot of them.

Best of the Week – It’s a TIE! Politics/Psychology: The Ideological Animal (Psychology Today)
Similar (but not plagiarism) to an article in the New York Times a couple of months ago. Basically, political orientation isn’t a decision… it’s a lifestyle. Psychologists discovered that liberals and conservatives actually act and think differently, even from their preschool years. Dems and GOPs have completely different personality types. Consensus? The more open-minded and less fear-ridden, the more liberal. Seriously.

AND - Neurology: The Five Biggest Neuroscience Developments of the Year
Yes, neurology. I’ve recently developed a great interest in neurology, but I assure you this article isn’t purely esoteric on my part. It’s worth a read for anyone. Some of these developments are just crazy… some plain scary. Mind-reading, morality, sexual orientation, vegetative consciousness, AI… it’s all there. Go read it.

Web 2.0: Welcome to the Blogosphere (Discover Magazine)
This is just COOL. Discover Magazine has a 3-D “map” of the blogosphere, based on links, with labels and explanations… this is definitely a must-see.

Genetics: Gene Explains Why People Are Night Owls (UK Telegraph)
People who consider themselves “night owls” may in fact suffer from a genetic mutation called the “after-hours gene”. The article isn’t very clear about its role in humans, but it does say that the gene causes mice (humans too?) to run on 27-hour days instead of the normal 24 hours. Hence, with the internal clock lengthened, they become night owls. Interesting.

FUNNY: The Official Winner of the “Not My Job” Contest
A picture. This must be the laziest guy on Earth

Productivity: Six Tips for Tackling a Dreaded Task
They’re actually very, very helpful.

Financial/Business: 15 Ways Stores Trick You Into Spending (MSN Money)
Some of these you might not have suspected… some you may have already noticed. The article also offers advice on how to counter them.

Intelligence/Psychology: A Wealth of Smarts Does Not Guarantee Actual Wealth (Scientific American)
A new study shows that there is no correlation between wealth and IQ. To be clear, the article assures us that intelligence does often lead to more earning power, but not to wealth when wealth is defined as “the difference between a person’s assets and liabilities… income plus home value plus investments (plus fun, valuable stuff like stamp collections) minus mortgages, credit card debt and other debts.”

Education: Mathematics Set Chinese Test (BBC)
Wow – this article offers a comparison between math questions on a university entrance exam in China and math questions at a first-year British university. I hope us Westerners are ready to cope with this.

Interesting: Which Are The World’s Cleanest Cities? (Forbes)
My city is #10, which says something baaaaad about the rest of the world… Vancouver is actually very dirty, especially downtown and East-anything. If it’s both downtown and an East-something, you’ll probably be tripping over homeless people and used needles just walking up the street. No, really.

Gender/Psychology/Sociology: The Male Privilege Checklist
Um, this depresses me.

Web 2.0: The Latest on Virginia Tech, From Wikipedia (New York Times)
Okay, this was pretty cool. If you’re tired of hearing about Va. Tech in the news, well, this isn’t about Va. Tech. It’s about Wikipedia’s awesome coverage of the event, and how it always had the breaking information first. (Wikipedia was actually the first place I turned after I learned about the shootings that day… they had the most complete information at the time.)

Politics/Literature: Books by Presidential Candidates (New York Times)
What the books by the 2008 presidential candidates tell us about their personalities… a very good article, albeit long.

Education: Young, Gifted, and Not Getting Into Harvard (New York Times)
This just came into my feed reader just this afternoon. A Harvard alumnus writes about his experiences trying to help future generations get into his alma mater, and the changing standards for admission. “Some take 10 AP courses and get top scores of 5 on all of them. I took one AP course and scored 3.”

Psychology/Genetics (?): Sex ID: Brotherly Love (Psychology Today)
I stumbled on this one by accident, but I thought it was interesting. Apparently, there’s a correlation between having many older brothers and being gay, if you’re male.

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Weekend Reading: 04/21

Yes, it is indeed a rare two-post day. Shocking!

This week, I have a couple of fun links, some business/productivity related links, and some sobering links, among others. It’s been a very well-rounded week in my del.icio.us account, a welcome break from a plethora of links about education and gifted education (which often don’t make it here because I like to present a variety). Also, starting this week, I’m adding the ‘Best Thing I’ve Read All Week’, the most highly recommended thing on the list.

Best Thing I’ve Read All WeekReligion/Atheism/Philosophy: Atheist’s Wager
An atheist’s response to Pascal’s Wager. If you’re not familiar with Pascal’s Wager, it goes like this: it is better to ‘bet’ that God exists because there is a chance you may go to heaven, whereas if you believe he doesn’t exist, there is a chance you may go to hell (the Wiki article I already linked has a better explanation). I won’t spoil the atheist response by summarizing it here, but it’s terribly clever and great read.

Offbeat: Google Declares Stephen Colbert As Greatest Living American
Okay, this one is just funny – I’m a big fan of the Colbert Report (and even more so of the Daily Show). During an interview, Colbert was asked what search term he’d like to come up first for on Google (ie, a Google bomb). His massive fanbase has complied, and now Stephen Colbert’s website ColbertNation.com is the first result for “greatest living American”!

Sick: Group Plans to Picket Va. Tech Funerals (CBS News)
Sickening. A fundamentalist religious group known for their “God Hates Fags” and “Fag Soldiers” protests plans to picket the funerals of Virginia Tech victims. “…Shirley Phelps-Roper, said the Virginia Tech teachers and students who died on Monday brought their fate upon themselves by not being true Christians. ‘The evidence is they were not Christian. God does not do that to his servants,’ Phelps-Roper said. ‘You don’t need to look any further for evidence those people are in hell.'”

Offbeat/Sociology: Why Are Americans Afraid of Being Naked?
In some areas of Europe, it’s perfectly acceptable to publicly swim, exercise, garden, etc. in the nude – why not in the U.S.? A great, thought provoking article about the prudeishness of the United States, and how nudity should =/= sex.

Productivity: 12 Tips for an Organized Desk
A practical guide to keeping your desk neat and organized for optimal efficiency. Some are more obvious, some are less.

Neurology/Health: When a Brain Forgets Where Memory Is (New York Times)
A great article about “dissociative fugue”…. ie, amnesia. Some people literally just walk out their front doors and forget who they are, only to be found months later wandering around homeless or living another life altogether! It’s not a case of forgetting the memories altogether… it’s a case of forgetting how to access them.

Humor: Six Life Lessons from Chain Email Stories
The same strange stories you can sometimes find in your inbox, but with actually quite practical morals attached. Very funny.

Business: 12 Breeds of Client and How to Work With Them
Advice geared towards freelances, but can be applied to anyone who has to work with multiple clients. Illustrations (and humor!) are included, and despite my lack of experience in the freelance business, I think I can still say that it’s all too true.

Web 2.0/Blogging: Fear of Blogging and Developing Blog Topics
A couple of articles from two different bloggers about blogging itself. The first looks at a few common fears of new bloggers (and how to overcome them), and the second is a great list of sources for blog topics. If you blog (or are thinking of blogging), they’re worth a look.

Intelligence/Psychology: Are You a Scanner?
A ‘scanner’ is a personality type that loves to dabble. How to identify scanners (in others or yourself), tips for, and the history of scanners.

That’s it for this week – as always, links are added daily to my del.icio.us page, which also has its own feed on my blog’s sidebar (to the right).

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Weekend Reading: 04/14

The post is a day late because, happily, I was much too busy today for it to cross my mind. The central Vancouver library downtown (seven stories high!) was having a large book sale today that I spent an entire afternoon scavenging with a friend. By the end of the day, we were so broke that we had to pool our change to split a cheap dinner on the run… and so tired of staring at print that we hid our purchases in the park and fooled around the beach until past sunset (and actually gained lots of attention for acting so utterly weird – that’s us!). By and by a fun and exhausting day downtown.

But anyway, this week’s linkage is much smaller and less varied than last week’s. It was a pretty quiet week in the news.

Religion: U.S. Divorce Rates (among faith groups)
ReligiousTolerance.org put up some interesting statistics about divorce rates among religions. Guess which group has the lowest rate… atheists and agnostics! Honestly, I’m not surprised. The study is worth a look.

Health/Neurology: Pas de Deux of Sexuality is Written in the Genes (New York Times)
An argument that the brain structure of women automatically sets their sexual orientation as neutral. I’ve read a similar study in the past that proved all women were bisexual by default (straight or gay by choice), but this was much more interesting and informative.

Education: No Assignments. No Tests. No Grades. (Seattle Times)
WOW. This school in Bothell, WA, actually has zero structure. Students show up and do whatever they want. They can waste their day playing computer games or talking, or study on their own… there are no classes unless the students organize them, and the staff will only help if asked. Can an anarchy-based school actually work?

Sociology (?): Pearls Before Breakfast (Washington Post)
Okay, this article was just really cool – if a bit long. It was a great experiment, with (if you commute by public transit every day or live in a big city) predictable yet astonishing results. The Post arranged for one of the greatest violinists in the world – one who could easily work for $1000 an hour, playing a multi-million dollar Stradivarius – to play to a rush hour crowd in front of a subway station. How much would this famous violinist earn? How many people would stop? Those were the questions, and the results, well…

Education: If We Taught English the Way We Teach Mathematics…
Scary… with a point.

Web 2.0/Blogging: Would You Read Your Own Blog?
Well, would you? Some questions to ask yourself about your blog and its content.

It was a quiet week, indeed.

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04/07: Weekend Reading

I’ve decided to introduce something in the flavor of Lifehacker‘s weekly round-ups and Po Bronson‘s oh-so-misleadingly named “weekly” recommended readings. Every Saturday, I’ll post a selection of some of the best links I’ve found in the previous week. Some weeks, like this one, there will be enough links to make one uneasy… some weeks I might blog about only one. Like my regular posts, the subject matter will often change, though there will be concentrations in some particular areas. And I’ll try to make them as interesting as possible.

On a completely unrelated note, I wish everyone a very happy Easter weekend!

So, this week’s links…

Web 2.0/Advice: Several Habits of Wildly Successful Del.icio.us Users
This post is quite old, actually, but I’ve only recently discovered it. If you use del.icio.us, it has some very useful advice. Some of the tips are common sense to the Web 2.0-literate (post often, use many tags), but there are some clever specifics about the inbox, networks, and filetypes that are worth a look-through. Using the interface, networking, and ways to find new and interesting links are all covered.

Intelligence/Education: Intelligence in the Classroom (Wall Street Journal)
Also a relatively old link (January 2007), and one that I’ve come across before, but I rediscovered and bookmarked it for the first time yesterday. It’s the first of a three-part series on education by Charles Murray, the other two parts (also worth a read) being ‘What’s Wrong With Vocational School?’ (our culture puts too much emphasis on a four-year degree) and ‘Aztecs vs. Greeks’ (highly intelligent should also learn how to be wise). ‘Intelligence in the Classroom’ has been criticized by many others interested in intelligence for putting too much emphasis on IQ scores, but I still think it’s worth a read and somewhat agree with the main premise.

Politics: An Administration’s Epic Collapse (TIME Magazine)
Yes, I’m sure that everyone’s tired of hearing how the Bush administration’s ship is rapidly sinking, but this article manages to be interesting nonetheless. The article focuses on how the three sins of this administration – arrogance, incompetence, and cynicism – have ensured its demise, and ties them to the three major “scandals” of recent news: the surge, the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and the firing of the attorneys. It’s an interesting though not particularly shocking article.

Business/Music: Spinning Into Oblivion (New York Times)
I thought this one was particularly interesting. It’s a recent Op-Ed piece in the NYT by the owner of a music store that was forced to go out of business about how the RIAA has killed the industry it has sought to protect. The argument is intriguing, and I have to say, I agree.

Religion: Einstein and Faith (TIME Magazine)
Another article that really captured my attention was this one, about Einstein’s personal beliefs. His reputation as an atheist was undeserved, it seems; he definitely believed in something beyond the physical world. It’s impossible to do this article justice in a quick summary – if your interests include religion, agnosticism, free will, or Einstein in general, and even if they don’t, it’s a spectacular read.

Religion/Politics: Where (and How) Evolution is Taught in the U.S.
It’s a color-coded map of the United States about the quality of each state’s education about evolution. Can we say red-state/blue-state?

Psychology: The Male Brain vs. the Female Brain
Ten neurological differences between the sexes. Some are simply physical (men’s brains are larger but shrink faster, sex-differing ratios of grey matter to white matter), and some are purely psychological (men tend to score a few points higher on intelligence tests, and women use more words per day). It’s incredibly interesting – these certainly explain a lot.

Religion: 30 Days – An Atheist Among Christians (Google Video)
A full-length episode of the show “30 Days” in which an atheist woman goes to live with a Christian family for thirty days. Here’s a disappointing spoiler: no bloodshed. For the most part, both parties are respectful, though feel profoundly sorry for the other and their deprived way of life. Lots of debate ensues, and it’s interesting to note who always seems to leave with the upper hand. I won’t say who – that’s too big of a spoiler. If you have forty-five minutes to spare, it’s definitely worth a look.

Education: A Great Year for Ivy League Schools, But Not So Good for Applicants to Them (New York Times)
Every major newspaper with decent education coverage is running articles on this spring’s record-breaking college rejections, but I happen to like the NYT’s the best. This year has been the most brutal on record for college applicants – most top-tier colleges suffered mind-blowing rejection rates this year. Top Ivy Leagues like Harvard and Columbia now have acceptance rates of 9%, and the most prestigious of small liberal arts colleges are reporting similar rates. Thousands of students with perfect 2400 SATs and 4.0 GPAs are being rejected from their top choices. As a potential college applicant in 2009, these statistics worry me.

That’s all the linkage for this week. If you’re interested in others, my del.icio.us page has hundreds more organized by tag!

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