Cute compendium of statistical "fun facts" about literature and writing (mostly novels written in, or popular enough to be translated into, English).Cute compendium of statistical "fun facts" about literature and writing (mostly novels written in, or popular enough to be translated into, English). Maybe it doesn't always produce as much insigh as Mosteller and Wallace's work on The Federalist Papers (which got a shoutout), and probably not many of the fun-facts will stick with me, but it was worth reading.
For instance, Blatt comes up with a variant on the Bechdel test. Out of the authors he studied (some of the top classic, modern popular, and modern literary fiction authors), Jane Austen is the only one who uses "she" more often than "he" in all of her books. All the other authors in his sample, even female, have written at least one book with more "he" than "she." On the other hand, around 20 (male) authors in his sample have *only* ever written books with more "he" than "she."
There's also the nifty chart on p.71 illustrating the Mosteller and Wallace approach, using common words ("what" and "but") to "detect" which crime author was a pseudonym for JK Rowling. Although her crime novels are completely different from her books about teen wizards, the clusters on the scatterplot show that Rowling's writing is consistent across genres and still distinctive from other crime authors (in terms of how they each use these common words).
Finally, Blatt provides a good example of how to tell a statistical story well, interspersing individual details and broad conclusions among the trends and percentages, and using simple but well-chosen graphs. (Still, a few passages made my eyes glaze over. I probably should have read this book in more sittings, not binge-ing until it all ran together.)
PS -- I also loved seeing Blatt's lists of authors. He compiled "top" 50 female and 50 male authors in each of several categories. I realize now I have read far fewer of the female authors, so his lists are a great starting place for what I ought to read next....more
A delightful mystery: I found this book in my office mailbox today, in an envelope addressed to me and postmarked from Germany, but with no return addA delightful mystery: I found this book in my office mailbox today, in an envelope addressed to me and postmarked from Germany, but with no return address or note from the sender. No idea why it was sent to me, but I look forward to reading it...
It seems to be based on exhibitions by one of the authors, artist Martin John Callanan, whose business card was also in the envelope. See here and here....more
Take it with a huge grain of salt. There are some fun cocktail-party facts and some reasonable suggestions for changing your own habits, which are finTake it with a huge grain of salt. There are some fun cocktail-party facts and some reasonable suggestions for changing your own habits, which are fine as "hey, why not try it, it might work for you." It's just not much good as "scientific evidence proves that..." [For example: Experimental group improved by a "dramatic" 40%, but control group improved by only a "paltry" 30%! ... which actually meant that group A improved by 5 points out of 50, and B by 3 points out of 50! ... which is probably a statistical fluke, and even if not, it's certainly not a scientifically interesting difference! Argh.]
Also, it's kinda funny that most of the book warns against the dangers of overusing artificial metrics. Then, the last chapter suggests fixing our problems with gamification... i.e. artificial over-reliance on metrics.
But again, good fodder for suggesting new approaches. I'd like to apply a couple of these ideas in my teaching, if I can figure out how.
Fun facts: * Steve Jobs and other tech titans don't allow their kids to play with the same tech (iPads etc) that they push on everyone else. * Relief vs. reward: addictions involve positive reinforcement (a reward you'll enjoy if you do X), while obsessions and compulsions involve negative reinforcement (if you do X, you'll be relieved of the pressure to do it). Personally I think a lot of marketing etc. is more about relief than reward: it's not that you'll actually *enjoy* having this new product, but rather that you'll buy it to *stop feeling bad* that other people have it and you don't. Same with trying to "get the complete set" or rack up all the points in a game: it's not that *having* 100% completion is fun, but that *not having* it feels bad. * Check out the Internet Addiction Test. Many items seem harmless alone, but it's disconcerting once you see how many of them stack up. * "Addiction" originally meant becoming a slave to work off a debt you can't pay, back in ancient Rome. Only later did it mean other kinds of tough-to-break bonds. * Addictions are strongly tied to the setting/context/environment, not just the behavior itself. Scientists caused a caged monkey to get addicted to pressing a bar; it returned to behaving like a normal monkey when it "detoxed" outside the cage; but when put back it, it'd return to the frantic addictive behavior. So... put physical and psychological distance between yourself and the original setting when you try to break an addictive behavior. * Addictions could be thought of as a hijacking of brain systems meant for good purposes: we've evolved ways to persist in difficult-but-important things (like raising kids), but sometimes these mental systems end up helping us persist in bad things instead. * Adolescence and early adulthood are high-risk periods for addiction: young folks have many new responsibilities but haven't yet built up the coping skills, social support networks, and other healthy ways to deal with hardships. So, try to help your kids build resilience before and during the teen years. * Wanting vs liking (perhaps related to relief vs reward?): It's easy to disrupt "liking" an addictive behavior, but once the "want" is established it is MUCH harder to disrupt. You can crave something, even if you don't enjoy it when you have it. * "Don't break the streak" is a nice motivator---until you overdo it, like runners who try to keep up an unbroken streak of running every day for decades, even when they're sick or injured. The longer your streak, the more willing you are to go to extremes to keep it up. (I wonder: What if these runners didn't reward themselves for unbroken streaks longer than, say, a month? After a month, you start on the next 1-month streak, and just try to rack up many months, whether or not they are continuous. Then if you're sick, no worries, you can take a needed rest day, because it won't break your score by too much...) Also, games like FarmVille apparently use this streak-mentality to make money: if you miss a day, you can pay them (real money) to "revert the damage" to the crops you didn't water yesterday or whatever. So, they feed an unhealthy obsession *and* make money off of you: truly predatory! * The Dollar Auction Game: a brilliant little trick. Sounds like it'd be fun to expose my statistician colleagues to this and see what happens. Also apparently a good way to raise money for charity if you bid off something larger like $20 instead. * The Zone of Proximal Development: things you can't do at all are too hard; things you can do alone may be boring; but you learn a lot on the things you can just barely do with a little bit of help. Similar to the state of Flow, when your skill level is appropriate for the task's challenge level. (Right now, my PhD thesis is *not* in either of these states :P but I hope to get back in there soon!) One problem is that games, email, and other electronic distractions are designed to keep you in flow... so, one solution is to disrupt that flow artificially. Use old hardware which makes the experience slow and clunky. Don't keep your smartphone handy at all times. [Are there other suggestions out there?] * Near-wins can be more addictive than genuine wins. In a game of skill, near-wins do legitimately signal that you're almost there, you can nearly do it, just try a little harder next time! But games of luck hijack this too and suck us into spending more time on something useless or harmful (like casino games or lotteries designed to give results that look *almost* like a win. You think to yourself: I got 4 in a row and would have won if it'd just had that 5th one---let me try again!) * Sometimes the hard problem isn't knowing how to start, but how *not to stop.* When you want to build a new habit like regular exercise or healthier eating, it's easy enough to do it for one day, but what are your (unconscious) "stopping rules" that make you fall off the bandwagon? (No good answers here, sadly.) * The Zeigarnik Effect: people hate cliffhangers, and they'll better remember unresolved tasks than resolved ones. (See for example the vitriol around the waiting times between Game Of Thrones books...) I wonder: Could we use the Zeigarnik Effect in teaching/education somehow? Assign in-class problems near the end of lecture, and *don't* allow quite enough time to finish, with the hope that the students will mull over the problem outside of class? * Catherine Steiner-Adair's work on parenting: Don't be scary (rigid), crazy (overreacting), or clueless (about your kids' lives, modern tech, etc.) * Self-determination theory: focuses on 3 basic human needs, for autonomy (I'm in control of my own life), competence (I can overcome external challenges and experience mastery), and relatedness (bonds with family & friends). (Again, the process of getting a PhD really dampens down all 3 of these needs a lot of time :P ...) * Don't try to *drop* old bad habits, but *replace* them with better new ones. (So what are some good examples? Not many actual suggestions here.) Or, when resisting something, instead of saying you *can't* do it, say you *don't*: you're not playing the martyr who is forbidden by external forces, but the autonomous person of integrity who chose to take this stand. * Daimler's office emails are set to delete when the employee is on vacation, with an auto-reply message suggesting someone else who can help if the email is urgent. That sounds lovely, but also requires the whole company to buy-in; you'd probably just alienate everyone if you try this alone... * "Don't Waste Your Money motivator": set your goal and set aside money every week as you work towards it. If you fail, donate the money to someplace you don't support: an opposing political party or a frivolous cause. But if you succeed, take the money out and spend it "relationally"---a meal with friends, a gift for family, etc.---as a double-benefit reward. * Planning fallacy: When wondering whether to take up a new activity, ask yourself if you can afford to do it *today*. We tend to overestimate how much time we can free up later, but we're better if we extrapolate from the amount of time we have today. * Just Press Play: gamified educational environment. Sounds like it's not just gamifying specific computerized tasks, like assigning points and badges for online math exercises... but rather, the offline experience is gamified too, and in particular there are collaborative aspects. There's a "quest" which promises a reward to the entire freshman class if over 90% of them pass a certain difficult required course... so they found students were motivated to help each other, even getting help from junior and senior students. Maybe it's worth trying to gamify useful study habits like this.
Quotes: * p.3: "According to Tristan Harris, a 'design ethicist,' the problem isn't that people lack willpower; it's that 'there are a thousand people on the other side of the screen whose job it is to break down the self-regulation you have.'" * p.40, 229, 232, 243: several takes on the idea that kids learn empathy, understanding, and other parts of human interaction by interacting face-to-face. It can be much harder to learn these things when you interact so much by texting, posting on Facebook, etc.---you don't immediately see the impact that your words have on another person. * p.106: "...it's hard not to wonder whether major life goals are by their nature a major source of frustration. Either you endure the anti-climax of succeeding, or you endure the disappointment of failing." Even people who reach incredible successes (like breaking a world record in sports) don't savor the success---they just want to move on to the next goal. * p.114: "Counting steps and calories doesn't actually help us lose weight; it just makes us more compulsive. We become less intuitive about our physical activity and eating." (quote from Leslie Sim) * p.117: "When you approach life as a sequence of milestones to be achieved, you exist 'in a state of near-continuous failure.' Almost all the time, by definition, you're not at the place you've defined as embodying accomplishment or success. And should you get there, you'll find you've lost the very thing that gave you a sense of purpose---so you'll formulate a new goal and start again." (quote by Oliver Burkeman, partly quoting Scott Adams) ... I worry this applies to tenure in academia. I know some folks who sacrificed a lot because they *felt driven* to reach tenure; but in the end, they don't actually *savor the accomplishment* of being tenured. When are those sacrifices worthwhile? Apparently Adams suggests replacing major goals (you get there or you don't) with "systems," i.e. "something you do on a regular basis that increases your odds of happiness in the long run." For him it's creating something small on a daily basis, like a daily cartooning or writing session: "a steadier stream of low-grade highs... guides to a fulfilling life, day by day..." For me, this sounds like my project to read one of my grandpa's philosophy books each year---it's about the journey of *reading* itself, not about the destination of *having read* them all. * p.229: "Remember: once your cucumber brain has become pickled, it can never go back to being a cucumber." (quote from Hilarie Cash) ... Once you've been addicted and treated, you can't "have just one more" (smoke just one more cigarette, play just one more game of WoW) without massive risk of total relapse. Treatment doesn't erase the addiction and give you a fresh start, allowing moderation; it's most helpful if you avoid the bad thing completely....more
Seems like good advice. But we haven't yet tried to actually apply it...
Points to remember: Don't flip out, overprompt, or overhover. Be serious but noSeems like good advice. But we haven't yet tried to actually apply it...
Points to remember: Don't flip out, overprompt, or overhover. Be serious but not anxious. Don't say "It's OK"---but calmly point out what happened and what should happen instead: "Oh, you peed on the floor. Pee goes in the potty." Just like with sleep issues (sleep is natural, but they're used to falling asleep with parents in the room, so must be *conditioned* to fall asleep on their own), potty training is about taking the natural behavior (pee & poop) and *conditioning* our social expectations (instead of in the diaper, it happens in the potty).
The book could have been more concise---my addled parent-brain just wants to get to the point, please skip the filler & excess jokes!---though it's still a pretty quick read.
* p.43: We send mixed messages: are they big kids, or too-small babies? It can help them if you articulate that they are big kids who sometimes "need some baby love." * p.50: Recommends the Good Night Sleep Site---I should look it up. * p.52: Practice dressing/undressing before you start potty training, so that the kid's not learning to remove their pants at the same time as learning to go potty in time. Have a "dressing party" so kids have fun practicing by putting on different outfits. Also, set expectations for chores that play into this age's desire to be helpful: e.g., put your plate away after dinner. Then using potty at a set time can feel like just another one of these helpful chores. * p.110: "Calm jar"---a snowglobe, or a mason jar with water, a bit of oil or glycerin, and sparkly glitter. Keeps kids' interest to help keep them seated a bit longer: shake it up and watch the glitter settle, "which is calming and relaxing and takes a minute." * p.248: Have a "poop book" that you always read while pooping. Something familiar, so kids are encouraged to sit calmly but not so novel that they focus entirely on the book instead of the potty. * p.249: When entering new places like stores, always show/tell kids where the potty is (and point out any adults around who can help with the potty, if you're visiting friends for example). * p.267: For travel and rest-stops, keep a potty in the car, and also bring a foldable toilet-seat insert (they'll fit into a ziploc bag)....more
Large dose of inspiration with some solid tips. Of course, the real advice is "Work your butt off in those 3 months"---it's not "how to learn a languaLarge dose of inspiration with some solid tips. Of course, the real advice is "Work your butt off in those 3 months"---it's not "how to learn a language without effort," but rather how to focus that effort on things that'll pay off best in a short dedicated time.
My favorite tip: Only have one side project. If you want to learn a language quickly, then that should be your *only* project, outside of work & family commitments. Don't also start projects to learn the banjo, lose weight, and read the encyclopedia all at the same time. (Same tip applies to any other side project, really: best done one at a time.)
The other major tip is specific to language-learning: Work on your spoken language first, not reading / writing or listening. Along with that, set sensible goals (an appropriate "fluency" level goal for your overall timeframe; weekly mini-missions to focus on improving your weak spots). Aim for adequate conversational skills, not perfect grammar and no accent. If you can make yourself understood, even with the help of gestures and rewording (and patience from the other speaker), that's (1) a seriously practical success and (2) a great feeling that'll motivate you better than passing a grammar test. Pick a language because you want to speak to people in it, and then speak to them from day 1, even before you "feel ready."
Other tips I found interesting: * p.94: Look into InterNations.org ? He describes it like a Meetup for international folks, but I can't quite tell what they are from their website. * p.114: Nice to see he advises something I tried to do when I taught Polish: Instead of conjugating future tense verbs (like "I will travel"), you can get by with things like "I want" + infinitives like "to travel". Then you can memorize just the infinitive for most verbs, plus full conjugation of just a few specific verbs like want, can, need, go. * p.180: Traditional courses do have a place, but it's *after* you've reached at least a basic conversational level. At that point, you'll have built up enough vocab and other scaffolding that the grammar rules etc. will actually make sense instead of putting you to sleep. * p.190: Don't fool yourself by thinking that multitasking (listening while you drive or jog) is study time. It can be prep time, hearing something in the background once before you go back through it more slowly with focus later. But it's not the same as actually focusing in the moment. * p.195: As much as you can, think and even speak out loud to yourself in the language. The kinds of things you think as you go about your day are mostly the kinds of vocab and phrases you'll probably need to chat with friends & family anyway. So you may as well practice in your head, and it'll help you discover your gaps before they come up in conversations. * p.242: Really nice list of "conversational connectors"---phrases that are handy to memorize, to keep the conversation going while you think of what to actually say. "To tell you the truth..." "Thanks for asking..." "Let me ask you..." They are fillers, but they make it feel more like a real conversation (which is the whole point, right?) even before you can contribute very much real content. * p.248: "The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now." ...more
Some of the material is dated (stem-and-leaf plots). But the questions in each chapter look great. It may be a treasure trove of thoughtful questionsSome of the material is dated (stem-and-leaf plots). But the questions in each chapter look great. It may be a treasure trove of thoughtful questions to use in class for think-pair-shares etc....more