It’s the week from hell.

I mean, not *PERSONALLY*. I’m having a great week. But I had to be part of The Test at the lab. Like, 24/7, for two weeks, split up into 12 hour shifts. Everybody is expected to take a shift, like, even the suits, managers, and supervisors. And they’re all spread around! While it’s probably true that the drones have more of the crappier shifts than the suits did, the suits were expected to take the occasional midnight shift. The management did a great job of making everybody feel like we’re all in this together. We succeed together if we can, we fail together if we must!

Which means that I’m still recovering from Monday night. Gah. I had to work during the day on Saturday, work at night on Monday night, then be back in the office bright eyed and bushy tailed on Wednesday morning and I worked a 12 today and will work another tomorrow.

Dude. I’m beat.

As such I’m *REALLY* looking forward to this weekend. Even if I wasn’t going to do anything, I’d look forward to it. But I’m going to be gaming. Which is nice. Oooh! I picked up Netrunner which is a Living Card Game version of the most *EXCELLENT* trading card game from back in the 90’s. The upsides: two players, one playing a hacker, the other playing a corporation feels like two *ENTIRELY* different decks fighting in an entirely shared universe. The downsides: it’s a two, and not three or more, player game. So far, reading the rules, I was wondering how they’d have you build decks and it’s pretty straightforward: there are a bunch of generic hacker and corporation cards and those comprise the base of each deck. There are five groups of about half that many cards with distinct hacker/corporation flavors and you add those cards to your deck to make your deck unique. So it’s not quite got the level of customization that the original TCG did… but, jeez. It’s not like that’s around anymore, right? I’ve heard, however, that the game doesn’t feel complete unless you get all of the expansions. So… we’ll see. I’m looking forward to stretching my muscles and playing a game or three this Saturday Night.

Other than that, I’m just planning on *NOT* working a 12.

So… what’s on your docket?


Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to AskJaybird-at-gmail.com


  1. I’m at my parents house in Oshkosh, up here to meet my new nephew. Hoping the incoming storm doesn’t keep me from getting to see him (my brother lives in a rural area about half an hour away).
    Other than that I’m trying to relax a bit, eat some bratwurst and drink some beer. An old friend opened a new restaurant that’s getting positive reviews, so if the weather cooperates we’ll head up there to eat.

  2. Assembling documents for taxes. Mrs. Likko wants me to build a coffee table out of a pallet and four wheeled casters, a concept I haven’t exactly bought into yet but am executing anyway for “keeping the peace” purposes. Making chicken pot pies. Maybe trying a bit of fiction writing again.

  3. Last weekend I had 48 consecutive hours (maybe 50-some!) in which nothing unhappy and/or stressful happened. (Sidenote: I find it noteworthy that “submitting taxes” has apparently been downgraded out of the stressful category in my brain.)

    It was a refreshing change; I am hoping for a repeat this weekend. And, you know, homework, gaming, chores, errands, husband-cuddling, etc.

    • Let me encourage especially the husband-cuddling! Also, congratulations (I think) that “submitting taxes” is not a stressful activity.

      • Heh. We’ll see how I feel about it next year. This year? It doesn’t even register compared to the other stuff going on, which says more about the other stuff than it does about the taxes.

        We have come a long way since the 4-day mutual freakouts of the late 90s/early 2000s though.

  4. Nothing exciting this week. Having the oil changed in my car and getting a haircut are the only things unusual I have planned. I am going to try to cook lomo saltado. Other than that, I will just wing it.

  5. Today is the last day in my old position. This afternoon I will be carrying boxes out to my truck, cleaning my desk and tying up losse ends. The new position starts on Monday and I will surely be going through some weird emotions this weekend. Hoping to stay busy so I have less time to think about it.

    Awesome dinner out planned tonight with some good friends. New restaurant that sounds fantastic.


    Might start painting the bathroom tomorrow. Will probably head out to the farm on Sunday to pick up the last of my hunting gear. UFC 157 tomorrow night. Sleep, sleep, sleep.

      • Me too Zic (and thank you so much for that). I’m not very religious but I am trying to trust that the big man upstairs has a plan for me that I just don’t fully understand yet.

        • Ha. I’m not religious, I don’t believe there is a big man upstairs. But I do believe in the power of wishing well for others.

          My sweetie and I are both in our 50’s; I’m on the uphill side, he on the down. We see so many of the folk our age coasting toward something, and that coasting? It’s troublesome to us. Change is inevitable. Provoking it, embracing it seems better then simply being swept up in it. If I were to offer you advice, and I’m not, it would be along the lines of asking how you can bring what is more into alignment with what you dream; a return to school, even one-class-at-a-time? Vacations spent volunteering on a dig in some exotic place? Perhaps some research and organizing into exploring local digs? Working with a local school?

          In the field across from my house, I saw a rock sticking out of a sand bank one day, exposed by erosion from a storm. It looked peculiar, so I dug it out. It was a grinding stone. There were several arrowheads, and a small piece of flint, too. In my mother-in-laws yard in AZ, I’ve found pot shards that looked like the pebbles in the sand. So my non-advice is to look at what’s already around you; look with a critical eye toward your dreams.

          The things that reward our dreams usually take some prodding on our part. Sometimes more then a little. The best thing for you is that you’re of the age to prod again; the children are no longer small, and those are the years we are most yoked.

          • I spent the last six or seven years trying to get enjoymnet out of my personal life, volunteer work and the occassional trips to visit my friends at digs to get my fix. What I have found recently is that it’s not enough. I need to enjoy my job, whatever that is. So it’s mind-over-matter in the short term and maybe looking for a more enjoyable career in the long run. On the latter front, it might mean more school but I’m not going to get my masters unless there’s pretty sure potential for a job on the other end. That’s my dilemma right now.

  6. Shit-tons of grading and catch-up work.

    Speaking of games, all you gamers, I’ve recently been introduced to a fantastic game that is really radical in its design, and hella fun to play. Space Alert.

    You and your teammates are the crew of a spaceship exploring space. The game begins by you popping into some unexplored spot in space, where you try to stay alive for ten minutes while the ship’s sensors scan the area. As players you don’t do any actual exploring, you’re just trying to stay alive, because it turns out that every location in space is chock full of aggressive aliens, nasty monsters, and asteroids with regrettable trajectories.

    The real-time play lasts just ten minutes, during which time a soundtrack is playing that alerts you to all the threats (external and internal). During that time you and your teammates–5 max, to cover 6 sections of the ship–are trying to coordinate your activities through a series of 12 turns. You have cards that depict a specific type of action and a specific direction you can move, so you can use it for either the action or to move. You lay down cards to indicate what action you are taking in each turn, but they’re face down so your teammates can’t see for sure what you’re doing–it all depends on verbally communicating effectively and organizing yourselves to get all the right things done in the right sequence.

    But you may need to get to the lower deck red reactor and not be holding a card that allows you to move that direction, or you may need to fire at the incoming Nebula Crab, but not have a card that allows you to fire the guns. Or communication may break down and you’re trying to fire the guns, but nobody has gone down to the reactor to provide energy for the guns.

    At the end of the ten minutes, your ship zips back out of that sector of space–if you’ve survived–and the real-time play ends. After that you go back through the sequence step by step, turning over the cards to see what actions were taken, finding out what kind of damage you did to all the space nasties, and what kind of damage they did to you. Takes about ten-20 minutes, depending on how much time you spend cracking jokes and mocking each other’s fails.

    Chances are, you all died. And that’s part of what’s cool about this game, it’s collaborative because you’re all on the same team, you all win or you all lose. It’s tremendously fun and addicting.

    • That game sounds super fun. I don’t know that I’m prepared to spend sixty dollars for it, though. Why not post a review when you’ve played it a few times with friends, and maybe you can tempt me to change my mind?

      • Perhaps so. I have spring break in a couple weeks, and I might—might—have time to think enough to do that.

    • Sounds like a tabletop FTL, which I could totally get behind as a great reason to try.

  7. Looks like we’ll be having another snow event.

    In better news, the saps running. Maple trees all over are getting tapped, evaporators are being fired up. It’s what we do here, in the time of the year when there isn’t anything else to do.

    There’s an Abenaki story about how Glooskap changed the maple trees. He’d been off fighting the monster Pamola and a giant frog. When he returned to the village, it was abandoned. The fires were cold, the dogs ran wild and skinny, there were cobwebs in the wigwams and rodents in the caches of corn. He stopped and listened, and far off in the distance, he heard a gruntled sigh. He followed that sigh down to the river bank, where he found the people.

    Now at that time, the sap of the maple tree was thick and sweet and brown. Each of the people had broken a branch off a maple tree, and were lying on the ground underneath with their mouths open to catch the thick, sweet drops as the fell. They lay there, fat and dirty, with their eyes were closed, their faces covered with the sticky stuff, running down their chins and into their ears and their hair.

    “This won’t do,” Glooskabe said.

    He found a giant birch tree, and stripped the bark from it. Then he stripped the bark from a basswood tree, and pulled the inner bark into strips. He folded the birch bark into a basket, and used the basswood to lace it in shape. Then he sealed the seams with pitch from a white pine.

    Next, he spoke a magic word, and the basket became a giant basket. Then, Glooskabe broke the tops off all the maple trees, filled his giant basket with water from the stream, and poured it into the trees, diluting the sweet sap. Then he spoke another magic word, and the sap turned bitter.

    All the people spluttered and coughed and woke up from the stupor. “What happened to our sweet treat?” they cried.

    Glooskabe explained that they could not just lie there like that, it wasn’t good, and that from now on, they could still get the sweet goodness of maple trees, but they’d have to work for it. He showed them how to take the bark from the birch, how to lace it with basswood, how to seal it with pine pitch. Then he showed them how to tap the maple tree to collect the sap; and how to heat rocks in the fire to put in the sap baskets and boil it down.

    “But,” he told them, “you have other work to do. In the spring, you need to catch fish to smoke on the fires and plant the fields. In the summer, you must tend the fields and forage berries and medicinal herbs. In the fall, you must harvest and store the corn. In the winter, you must hunt for game. But in that time between the end of winter and the beginning of spring, there’s nothing else to do. Then, the sap will be sweet again. But you must work to get it.”

    • a gruntled sigh

      A word (well, a back formation) that gets too little use. My esteem for you has risen even higher.

      • Thank you.

        I feared nobody even read the story, one of the favorite local tales I’ve collected over the years.

        I too am gruntled, now.

        • Aw, I read it too… and having grown up northeast of you, in the Atlantic Provinces, I remembered hearing it when I was younger, and felt all warm and fuzzy. 🙂

          • Warm and fuzzy but not all sticky, I hope! As a knitter I know through hard-earned experience that ‘fuzzy’ and ‘sticky’ do not go together. Not at all.

  8. I’m sick.

    I slept most of yesterday, and I’m planning on sleeping most of today. Tomorrow is Picture Day for basketball and baseball, so I’ll have to cowboy up and take Jack to one while Kitty takes Hannah to the other, since Hannah’s baseball time intersects with Jack’s basketball time. At least Jack’s basketball picture’s don’t conflict with his baseball pictures.

  9. Well if James gets enough grading done, he will have to join me to watch our eldest daughter swim at the state meet and I will be picking up a working turntable!!!!! I can delve into listening to some of my 100s of albums that have sadly been collecting dust for far too long and introducing my kids to my collection.

    • Vinyl. Sigh.

      Needle cartridges can be tough to find, so if they have spares, grab them.

      • not since the vinyl revival – you can spend as little as ten bucks or as much as a grand.

        • I’m tempted to joke that if we spend a grand on a diamond, my wife will want it on her finger or around her neck. But then I realize, no, she’d probably rather it be on the turntable.

        • I forgot; vinyl revolution would bring needles back into availability! What a joyful thing.

          Back in the early ’90’s, we hit the used shop near Harvard University, purchased a few turn tables that would have costs several hundred dollars each just a couple years before for next to nothing. And all the needles we could get our hands on because stores had stopped stocking needles. We got whole collections of out-of-print vinyl, particularly the jazz from Blue Note, Verve, etc., recorded in the 40’s and 50’s; because people dumped their vinyl for CD. It was a good time to haunt the second-hand record stores; much like today with books and kindles; though there seems some sense that a 1st edition of some book might actually have some collector value, where as that obscure Monk recording was just taking up space.

          • I am not an audiophile or anything
            Why do I find this hard to believe?

          • There’s a difference between “I like to listen to music” and “I’m an audiophile”.

            People who spend $20,000 on a turntable, white noise generators, signal analyzers, and build a room specifically in their house for the sole purpose of listening to music are audiophiles.

            You can tell an audiophile. They’re the ones that are insane.

          • No,really, I am not. I am a big proponent of mid-range, “good enough” type equipment…not cheap, but not crazy either (though I DO keep eyeing a $400 pair of planar headphones…one day, one day).

            Audiophiles are those guys putting teak discs under the feet of their tube amps because it damps the vibrations in the sonic aether or something.

          • Patrick – I wish I had a room I could dedicate exclusively to A/V. Growing up, a friend’s dad had such a room and the crazy audiophile setup, and I must admit…it was pretty magnificent.

          • Luckily my cheapskate nature and poverty keep me relatively sane. I mostly blow my cash on music and shows, not equipment.

          • Glyph, that’s musicians, too. It always amazed me — they blow their money on music equipment (the guitar, the amp, the trap set, the horn,) and have these junky little boom box systems.

            Though most seem to have a good studio-quality set of headphones.

          • If you are going to blow your money anywhere listening-equipment-wise – do so closest to your ears (=speakers or headphones). That’s where you usually get the most bang for the buck, that you can hear.

            As a general rule, there’s often a real difference between a $100 set of ‘phones, and a $500 set; but the difference between a $1000 amp and a $3000 amp is often negligible to a casual listener.

          • I have the Bose noise-cancellation headphones and I like them very much.

          • Glyph, I’m not sure ‘blow’ and ‘close to the ears’ should be used in the same sentence; at least from my perspective watching musicians age and loose their hearing, particularly in the range of their axe.

          • as glyph and patrick pointed out, the difference between an enthusiast/nerd and an audiophile is general held up to be one of sanity. a nerd will know (and point out) that a japanese import of band xyz’s 2nd album has an alternate live take compared to the american version that makes it worth the time (and back in the 90s, the money) to seek out. the audiophile will generally focus entirely on which production run of the three major pressings of said japanese import are “the most airy”.

            “Audiophiles are those guys putting teak discs under the feet of their tube amps because it damps the vibrations in the sonic aether or something.”

            they’re musical wiccans, if you will – generally harmless unless they’re trying to sell you something.

            i’d personally spend more money on the phono preamp than the actual record player myself. and not a whole lot for either, ultimately.

          • Patrick – I have a couple different older Sennheiser cans (1 wired, 1 wireless) I sometimes use at home; but generally if I have headphones on, I am just using some NuForce in-ear ‘phones. They are decent – not noise-cancelling but do get a good seal to block a lot out, and they are fairly bass-y, which I like.

            I have heard good things about the Bose. If there’s one item I’d advise splurging on, it’s ‘phones. A good set can really make a difference.

            These are the cans I am slobbering over. But I just can’t justify it: one, I have several sets of working ‘phones; and two, I fear with small kids in the house, the open-back design will let out (and more importantly, in!) too much sound.

            Guess I need that dedicated listening vault after all… 🙂

          • dhex, have you ever been to a recording session? A mixing or mastering session?

            Audiophile’s got nothing on Neurotic Studio Engineer. He’s got speakers galore; imitating the various systems a recording might be played on; cheap tiny boom boxes, computer speakers, high-end home speakers; not just the cold sound (meaning little or no added electronic noise, no warming hiss or hum) of studio monitors. And he doesn’t just listen to those speakers, he looks at the sound from those speakers, watches the wave forms, where the spikes thrum out and eat up all the available space.

            (Sound takes space, and there’s only so much space for sound through the spectrum. Too much sound in one part of the spectrum, even though it might not be loud, will wash out other parts of the spectrum. Or so I’ve learned from observing the process.)

            Mastering Engineer might be even more neurotic, but I’ve only been to one mastering studio.

            And lets not discuss editing that goes on between the actual recordings and the mixing/mastering; that’s a seriously disturbing process.

          • “dhex, have you ever been to a recording session? A mixing or mastering session? ”

            yup, both as client/participant and as hanger-on. some of my best friends are neurotic engineers. but i see their neurosis as rooted not only in their daily bread but their craft.

            “And lets not discuss editing that goes on between the actual recordings and the mixing/mastering; that’s a seriously disturbing process.”

            i don’t know about disturbing, but it certainly time consuming. but my field of musical interest is all about blurring the real and the unreal, so it’s far less disturbing to me.

          • @ dhex – that Red Fang arrived today. Listening now.

            Prettay, prettay, pretty good.

  10. Amazingly Amazon has them for the make of turntable so I may just buy a few to save.

          • Wait we have that on vinyl? Looking for cover with red leather pants (evil laugh)

          • I’m pretty sure we do. Not sure why, but might have been one Jeffy left with us.

          • I have Loverboy on vinyl. I’m pretty sure *everybody* should have Loverboy on vinyl.

            No religion.

          • Hanleys (and anyone else reading) – as I mention often, guest posts for Wed. music are always welcomed, so if you find any lost gems – grab the YouTube video(s), write ’em up and send ’em in, and I’ll post ’em for you.

            But speaking for myself as a reader, if you go with Loverboy, that better be a hell of a writeup, ‘cos I will need some convincing. 😉

          • Heh, it was kind of an inside joke because, yes, we somehow do have that Loverboy album,* but that’s alongside such things as The Leather Nun, Nick Cave, The Damned, Jesus and Mary Chain, Christian Death, various punk bands, etc. The idea of selecting Loverboy first from among all those albums we haven’t listened to in years (like, since all our money started getting spent on kids because we turned into breeders**) just gives me the giggles.

            But that’s a good idea. Maybe we’ll pull some of the obscure ’80s stuff and see if we can find any videos online. (Of course I’ve also been thinking it’s about time someone did a good alt country post, unless I’ve somehow missed one.)

            *(actually, on further thought, I think it’s mine, picked up from the attic of my mom’s barn about a decade ago, where it had been stored since about 1988)
            **(no, we don’t have the Breeders)


            I love The Damned. “Captain Sensible” is the best nom de punk there ever was, and Rat Scabies was a fine, fine drummer. I still spin Damned Damned Damned and Machine Gun Etiquette from time to time. This is also one of my most prized old T-shirts; I think only my Bunnymen one is older. In case you can’t see it, that skull has:

            1.) Bat wings
            2.) A forked snake tongue
            3.) Vampire fangs

            IOW, it’s pretty much the greatest logo ever devised.

            Here they are on The Young Ones (note: this clip contains part of my profile description – Rik Mayall exclaiming “Only pop music can save us now!”):


            The reason The Young Ones had musical guests was that they figured out that shows classed as “variety shows” got bigger BBC budgets than “sitcoms”. So they were basically scamming the BBC, whilst getting their favorite bands to play for them.

          • One of my favorite shows was the Damned at the Hollywood Paladium. I also saw the Bunnymen and McCullough was so drunk he fell off the stage into the pit and was down there for a good half a song. The band kept playing as they slowly walked to the edge to check out his status. He popped up out of the pit, climbed back on stage and amazingly finished the entire show. It remains one of my funniest concert memories. I have both bands on vinyl of course.

          • I am a big, big Bunnymen fan as well. Very underrated band – great drummer, great guitarist, great singer, great bassist, great songs. The Bunnymen and The Furs both deserve better than to be remembered in the US as one-hit wonders, they were the equals or better than some of their more well-known peers.

            I think McCulloch is drinking heavily again from some stuff I have read 🙁 But we saw them (well, him and Sargent) a few years ago in Boston and he held it together, and his voice still sounded fantastic.

            Watch this, and wonder why it was U2 that went on to world domination and not them – they had it all, propulsion, drama, atmosphere, hooks, looks:


            (Note the cute gal in the front row with the super-80’s hair at 6:02 🙂

            Surprisingly, some of their reunion albums have actually been really good – What Are You Going To Do With Your Life (kind of like a more “adult” Ocean Rain, very orchestral/pastoral) and Flowers (more psychedelic rock/headphones record) are both solid.

          • James (and anyone else reading) – As few, or as many, as you want. You can do a one-off, or a series. It can be as short, or as long, as you want. You can document extensively with links and ground it in solid musical theory, or pull half-baked opinions straight from your rear (my favored approach, obviously).

            Go nuts.

            These are the only rules:

            1.) Make it music-related (duh).

            2.) Have a YouTube video, or some other audiovisual link, so people can see/hear whatever you are writing about.

            3.) Build something up, don’t tear something down; write about something you enjoy, not something you hate. I enjoy a good rant or takedown as much as anybody, but that’s what comments are for. 🙂

            4.) The usual MD general rule of avoiding politics or religion. Of course if you choose, say, a gospel or a protest song, this may be unavoidable; but if so, just try to handle it sensitively, so as to keep MD as free of shouting matches as possible.

          • The usual MD general rule of avoiding politics or religion.

            So, this is off limits? (No, that’s not “alt” country; that’s the horror that mainstream country has become. I hope that’s understood as aesthetics, not politics.)

          • I want a tattoo on my bicep, of an eagle with a tattoo of the American flag on his bicep.

          • The point of the rule is primarily to avoid starting fistfights that actually matter.

            If two people want to get into an argument about how Marvel is better than DC or the Star Wars Expanded Universe vs. the Star Trek Expanded Universe, that’s awesome. If you want to get into an argument about how Star Wars was an attempt to cynically cash in on post-Christian nostalgia for transcendence while Star Trek was an attempt to uncynically plant seeds of post-Communist utopianism within post-Heinlein American Soil, that is going to lead to an argument about how Star Wars was for Dalits and Star Trek for Brahmin and I don’t know that that would be appropriate.

            “I’ve noticed this about the culture” is fine. “The culture over there sucks” is going to poke someone in the eye and my vision for Mindless was a place where people can go and not get poked in the eye.

          • my vision for Mindless was a place where people can go and not get poked in the eye.

            Do you have any idea how awesome this is? How visionary?

            Kudos, oh wise one.

          • I think I needed a smiley tag behind my reference to Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A”

            Glyph, do you have an email address I should use?

          • James – just e-mailed you one. If you send it and I don’t respond right away, poke me in comments, I am not always as regular about checking that box as I should be.

          • Got it. Will take a look once the kids are put down (for the night only of course, though today was the kind of day to make the OTHER way fleetingly attractive).

  11. I’ve a question, and this seems as good a place to ask it as any.

    Is there some super-secret definition of ‘critical thinking’ that would exclude most of the critical thinking folk do every day?

    Because I really thought that it meant the skill, or perhaps the habit, of constantly re-evaluating things as you learned new information, and adjusting your working assumptions. But elsewhere on the internets, I’ve been net-slugged for suggesting this, for suggesting that complex code or design, for instance, requires critical thinking skills, and that what they really are is, and I quote:

    Critical thinking doesn’t mean just making choices, or working hard, or focusing. It means picking apart an argument in order to understand how it is constructed and why it might be wrong before offering a replacement idea.


    critical thinking must involve analyzing logical arguments, testing their validity and questioning the data they use.

    This second passage went on to make a point that the process must mobilize data (which seems to imply bits of electrons driving around in mini coopers).

    These people literally told me the skills I bring to my job are not critical thinking skills because I’m not testing arguments and mobilizing data.

    I told them they were silly.

    So here’s a follow-up question: do we have a problem with teaching critical thinking to our students because teachers like this don’t know critical thinking when they see it, or am I being overly sensitive and taking unnecessary umbrage?

    Your constructive criticism is welcome.

    • I should add that both the people involved in net-slamming me are social science professors, and implied that critical thinking didn’t much apply to mechanics/IT, etc., that was simply picking the best trick for getting the desired result.

      • Epistemological issue. My $0.02?

        Thinking critically and thinking analytically are related, but they’re not the same thing.

        Engineering is typically analytical thinking. I have constraints, and I need to produce something inside those constraints, how can I do that? Usually you can’t change the constraints (or if you can, you’re doing project management more than engineering).

        Philosophy is typically critical thinking. Dissecting a construct to find root principles, assumptions, logical flaws.

        People use the two phrases interchangeably. Project management (such as software engineering) requires critical thinking as well as analytical thinking because very often you *can* change constraints. So you need to challenge your assumptions.

        People who think you don’t need to think critically to do mechanics/IT typically don’t understand what it takes to do mechanics/IT, that’s all.

        • Thank you, Patrick. If I assume that my working definition, skill, or perhaps the habit, of constantly re-evaluating things as you learned new information, and adjusting your working assumptions meets your criteria of changing constraints, then I did understand critical thinking.

          I knew I wasn’t wrong; and I’m quite sure these nice professors didn’t feel they were, either, yet there was no meeting of minds.

          I’m once again gruntled.

        • I’m skeptical of Pat’s 2nd paragraph, but wholly in agreement with his last paragraph.

          I think analysis is analyis is critical thought. It’s all problem-solving, really. To pull a philosophical question apart you have to engage in problem solving, figuring out what all’s going on in the assumptions and the logic (how the pieces of the argument fit together). To fix or figure something out in engineering is also problem solving, requiring seeing how the pieces fit together and often requiring figuring out what the assumptions are and figuring out whether they hold. They’re both about pulling apart and analyzing some structure or system. Different specific techniques of critical/analytical thought are required–just as different specific techniques are require to throw a football vs throwing a baseball–and each can require both practice and familiarity with the specific structure/system in question.

          I really don’t think there’s that many different kinds of thinking, as a psychological/cognitive matter, just different applications.

          I don’t know that they’re necessarily teaching their students badly, but they are limiting their students’ ability to see these thinking skills as transportable from one field to another (the transportability is what I emphasize to students). They are being somewhat narrow-minded dicks, and so your umbrage isn’t really out of line, although pity for them might be more appropriate, since they are demonstrating their own ignorance in saying IT/Engineering is just “best tricks.”

          Tell ’em this social scientist said so. (For the record, I tell my students explicitly that government and policy design is a type of engineering, that they have to think about how the pieces fit together and interact, and understand that changing pieces results in different outcomes, even if the polity’s values and preferences don’t change, and so to design a functional government/policy requires careful examination of the assumptions you’re basing the structures on, and an understanding of how different institutional rules create different responses from those they affect.)

          • I don’t know that they’re necessarily teaching their students badly, but they are limiting their students’ ability to see these thinking skills as transportable from one field to another (the transportability is what I emphasize to students). They are being somewhat narrow-minded dicks, and so your umbrage isn’t really out of line, although pity for them might be more appropriate, since they are demonstrating their own ignorance in saying IT/Engineering is just “best tricks.”

            Thank you; this is pretty much what I thought, too.

            The whole notion of transporting skills from one domain to another is fascinating. That it’s not viewed as normal — not expected — indicates rigidity in how we value problem solvers. That rigidity creates barriers for career development; I became aware of it as a problem from writing about people looking for civilian jobs after serving in the military; how to you translate combat training into a civilian career? It requires flexible thinking; and probably presents a security threat to inflexible minds intent on protecting their privilege.

          • I think we’re in perfect agreement, zic. Over the past few years I’ve been thinking a lot about what it is I actually teach students, and I’ve decided that it’s that flexible thinking that is most critical, not the various facts that get chucked into all my lectures. I’ve also realized that I traditionally have been teaching the facts instead of the thinking, and that’s because the former is a lot easier than the latter. I don’t yet really know how to teach the kind of flexible analytic thinking (and our student body isn’t, on average, the type that come into college having learned that), but I’ve been revising my classes over the past few years to try to move in that direction, bit by bit. I hope to look back in 5 years or so and see that I’ve really done so, and haven’t just made a bunch of random and mostly ineffectual changes that haven’t accomplished much.

          • James, I’ve been thinking about about teaching the facts vs. teaching the thinking through the lens of authoritarian vs. authoritative. I don’t know how work that into an evaluation; but I’ll use teaching musical improvisation as an example.

            An authoritarian approach would require you to modulate this scale over that set of chord changes, and deviation from that scale would be getting it wrong. There’s a strict subjective value that limits and defines the acceptable melodies you can play over the changes, and mastery would be defined as staying within those acceptable bounds.

            An authoritative approach would use modulating this scale over that set of changes as a starting point to explore the other, more ‘out’ possibilities, giving you the confidence to explore and return to safe harmonic territory; there’s more tolerance for dissonance but also more potential for getting lost in the form as you improvise. Here, the limits of ‘acceptable harmony’ are not so important, but the skill to know how to turn your improv back to the harmonic center is essential for success, so the it actually requires more mastery of harmony because you have to know where you’re going to return.

            Authoritarian teaching defines the boxes and limits you to them; authoritative teaching builds mastery with where the edges of the boxes are and encourages you go go beyond their walls with skill to find your way back again.

    • There is no limit to the amount of work a man can do, provided it’s not the work he’s supposed to be doing.
      — Mark Twain

    • It’s snowing! It’s snowing! No moving today! (Which actually kind of socksbecause the Internet account is moving with or without us.)

          • You know, I can picture them keeping a deposit someone forfeited by not showing up to be told there’s no truck available.

          • Upheaval.


            My sympathies. How’s your daughter handling it? My guess is better then you expected?

      • Gah! After moving it today, the NAS is not registering a disk volume! All of the hard drives are registering as present, but the three attached to the extension set are showing as “Not Initialized,” which means that it’s all inaccessible.

        [Translation: All of my files are gone. NAS = Indendent file server. No disk volume = not showing any data.]

        I did a full backup about six months ago. So I can recover a lot of it. What I can’t recover (without restoring the drives)? Baby pictures. Thank heavens for Google+ and the Instant Upload feature, so I have the ones I took with the phone camera (though in degraded quality).

        This is a catastrophe. The hard drives aren’t physically damaged, so I’d really think there’s a chance I can recover the data somehow. It’s going to be a rough however-long-it-takes, though.

          • Synology DS1010 with a DX510 extension kit. The drives on the latter are showing up as “not initialized”.

  12. My Season 2 of Game of Thrones has arrived, I’ve just finished watching it, and I will be watching the last few commentaries over the weekend. This series is absolutely awesome. I’m never seen a TV series try to do anything this epic and detailed, and do it so well. The kind of work they do on settings, props, etc. is reminiscent of Lord of the Rings, and they’re doing it with a far smaller budget. Actors are all amazing, too.

    • They really do the best you can possibly do with that budget (I mean, it is HBO, but like you say, that’s not LOTR). They do necessarily skimp a bit here and there on big battle scenes, but that is totally OK by me, and they make the most of what they have (“Blackwater” being the prime example – just phenomenal).

    • Are you a fan of the books too? If so, I’d like your opinion of one of the changes they made.

      • Yes, I’ve read all the books (actually got into them in a kind of roundabout way – I heard about the TV series, picked up the first book at a garage sale because of that, read all the books, and then bought the DVDs).

        • It’s this:

          Vg’f znqr pyrne va Srnfg gung Eboo’f zneevntr (juvpu yrq qverpgyl gb gur Erq Jrqqvat) jnf bepurfgengrq ol Gljva Ynaavfgre, jub cnvq bss Wrlar’f zbgure gb guebj ure cerggl qnhtugre ng uvz naq yrg Fgnex vqvbg ubabe qb gur erfg. Va gur GI frevrf, Eboo snyf va ybir jvgu gur cerggl ahefr nyy ba uvf bja.

          Gur bevtvany, nf jryy nf orat na vzcbegnag cybg cbvag, vf fb zhpu va punenpgre sve nyy gur cnegvrf vaibyirq, Jul jbhq gurl punatr gung?

          • V unqa’g npghnyyl cvpxrq hc ba gur jubyr guvat orvat bepurfgengrq ol Gljva va gur obbxf. V svtherq gung gur ernfba sbe gur punatr vf gung Eboo’f n zber znwbe punenpgre va gur GI frevrf guna gur obbxf (jurer ur’f abg n ivrjcbvag punenpgre), naq univat uvf ybir vagrerfg or fbzrbar ur whfg zrg, jvgu arkg gb ab punenpgre qrirybczrag, jbhyqa’g jbex bhg jryy. Gur ernfba Eboo’f n ovttre punenpgre va gur GI frevrf jbhyq or orpnhfr urnevat nobhg uvf ivpgbevrf sbe n jubyr frnfba jvgubhg frrvat nal bs gurz – nf unccraf va Pynfu bs Xvatf – nyfb jbhyqa’g jbex. Univat Eboo zrrg n tvey va bar rcvfbqr naq zneel ure va gur arkg jbhyq whfg srry gbb bhg-bs-abjurer sbe n ybg bs ivrjref. Nabgure snpgbe znl or gung gurer’f whfg fb zhpu frk va gur fubj gung vg jbhyqa’g frrz perqvoyr sbe uvz gb unir gb zneel n tvey whfg orpnhfr ur fyrcg jvgu ure sbe n avtug – abg va n jbeyq jurer onfgneqf frrz nf pbzzba nf enoovgf.

            Ng yrnfg, gung’f zl thrff ng gur jevgref’ gubhtug cebprffrf.

    • Jay bought me Game of Thrones on Blu-Ray as an incentive to finish watching the last of my VHS tapes so we can switch out the 1/2 busted DVD/VCR combo (DVD half is half-busted) in the bedroom for the shiny new blu-ray player. However, he failed to notice that it was a combo Blu-Ray/regular DVD version. We’ll see if my will holds or if I spend the weekend watching it.

      Household intrigue! 🙂

      • I’d like to hear what you think of it when you do watch it! Maybe we can have a discussion thread for it?

  13. We’re doing brunch with a semi-old friend who we don’t see enough (even though she lives only about 10 minutes away and has kids roughly the same age).

    On Sunday, it’s the church’s annual general meeting, and the wife and I have to actually be there and participate. A couple of years ago, I ignored most of it, just live-tweeting snarky-yet-playful comments. Maybe I’ll do that again.

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