Birthday Activity--Part 1
Today I'm seventy-five. I started writing this at 4:51 PM. And by that time, here's what I had done.
Yesterday, while making a list of things to write, I found this item: "Angel (6) de la Cruz." That's the remembered name of someone I met when I was working at SAC Headquarters, Offutt Air Force Base, near Omaha, Nebraska in the late 60's. Angel (6), as I remembered the story, had a grandfather who was in love with numbers. He counted everything. He knew how many eggs he'd eaten. How many stairs he'd climbed. He gave all his sons the same name (Angel) and his daughters the same name (Silvia?) and distinguished them by an appended number. Apparently, Angel (6)'s dad--or mom--had kept up the family tradition.
Google is wonderful. I put in "Angel (6) de La Cruz" (including the quotes) and find his LinkedIn profile, and a genealogy record that tells us that "Angel 6 de la Cruz Silva" is the son of Silvia (4) Silva Baez, and a record at the Elk's Club International site that says Angel 6 De La Cruz Silva is the secretary for a Peurto Rican lodge, a Twitter account for @a6d, and a Facebook post from an Elk's lodge in the US reaching out to their brethren in Puerto Rico and mentioning Angel.
So I sent an email to Angel (6)'s email to see if he was the man I remembered--or a different Angel (6) and if he was to ask him to retell me the story of his grandfather.
Then some more emails, and then a silly message to Daniel and Justin, pointing out that I was nearly as old as the two of them put together.
And a little time spent reading "The Science of Doom." That's a blog that tries very hard to explain climate science. The comments are heavily moderated, resulting in a useful discussion of the content of the post, rather than partisan posturing of one kind or another. This morning I was reading about atmospheric radiation and the greenhouse effect, which I had misunderstood. No surprise: so had almost everything I had read.
Science of Doom has an article "Confirmation Bias, a Feature, Not a Bug" which I liked. The article quotes Jonathan Haidt:
The worship of reason is itself an illustration of one of the most long-lived delusions in Western history: the rationalist delusion..
..The French cognitive scientists Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber recently reviewed the vast research literature on motivated reasoning (in social psychology) and on the biases and errors of reasoning (in cognitive psychology). They concluded that most of the bizarre and depressing research findings make perfect sense once you see reasoning as having evolved not to help us find truth but to help us engage in arguments, persuasion and manipulation in the context of discussions with other people.
As they put it, “skilled arguers ..are not after the truth but after arguments supporting their views.” This explains why the confirmation bias is so powerful and so ineradicable. How hard could it be to teach students to look on the other side, to look for evidence against their favored view? Yet it’s very hard, and nobody has yet found a way to do it. It’s hard because the confirmation bias is a built-in feature (of an argumentative mind), not a bug that can be removed (from a platonic mind)..
Then Bobbi sends me a review from The Intercept of the latest Star Wars movie. The Intercept is "an online news publication dedicated to what it describes as, 'adversarial journalism'. One of the founders is Glenn Greenwald, well known for being the main point of contact for Edward Snowden's revelations. After reading the review I decide I want a T-shirt that says "Rebel Scum."
A bit more email, and I write an email to Jared Golden who is will be running for the Maine 2 House seat and Jonathan Breed, his campaign manager, telling them to connect me up to like-minded volunteers. (I get an email back while I'm composing this, and spend a bit of time researching some stuff to reply to them.) But that's later.
At around 10:30 Bobbi and I research options for our trip to the West Coast. We could take a train, all the way. Or drive to Chicago and take a train from there. Then there's visiting Gil and Kiry in Boise. So I dash off an email and research possible routes. Stop in SLC and drive, then drive back to Reno and take the train the rest of the way. Or just drive the rest of the way.
We find out that Gil and Kiry are happy to have us, so we fine-tune the trip and consider alternative routes back. From LA? Through NewOrleansd and Panama City Beach? Or drive back.
Finally, over dinner, we decide to maximize freedom and comfort and drive. But on one condition: I do my writing in the morning before we leave. Non negotiable.
I read the "lost Einstein" paper, sent to me by a friend. For those who have not seen it, the paper examines innovation--using patent data as a proxy--and back-correlates the patent holders with their intellectual performance as children and teens (IQ), where they grew up, and their families economic status and their race and gender. Whew! A few things stand out. In general people with higher ability do better than those with lesser ability--but kids with higher IQs from minority groups and from less privileged economic backgrounds substantially underperform kids with lower IQsd whose parents happen to be wealthy. Women do better in a particular domain when they see older women succeeding in the same domain. Success does not transfer across domains (surprising) and it does not transfer across genders (a little surprising).
So I compose a long email to the Pioneer Prize Group and suggest that we take a different tack: try to create a culture of innovation. Give kids a chance to see adults inventing things by organizing adults who already know how to make things and teaching adults who don't know how. To back it up I do a bunch of research on hardware: Raspberry Pi ($35.00 plus another $15 for a power supply) and other programmable computing devices (under $10 for a LinkNode relay board with WiFi capability. What!) And I learn about Coding Clubs, a big thing in England, sponsored by the non-profit Raspberry Pi Foundation. There are more than 6,000 clubs in England (population about 60 million). So in Maine, there should be about 100 such. And there are probably none. I research Girls Who Code and see about the same, sad picture. And CodeDojo, another similar program.
In the meanwhile Bobbi tells me of a horror story about wetlands in Louisina threatened by climate change. So I have to research that. And find out that it's partly true--but only partly. While the sea levels are rising, the land is also sinking, and while those wetlands have historically been built up by annual floods that carry fresh silt, dams and canals have diverted the floods and conducted the silt right out to sea.
Back to research where I find CoderDojo and more Girls Who Code and Code Club info and finally send out my email.
And then I start to write this. Later, we go out to dinner. And I come back and I write some more.
That will all be in Part 2.