Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Innate Intelligence Is (mostly) a Crock; Effort Matters

A colleague sent me an article from Edutopia that I found interesting, but far from surprising. Struggling Helps Students Master Math tells of how students got better at math when they were allowed to struggle with it.

So, why was this not surprising? Because it is consistent with some solid research on similar ideas. All of these are really, really important ideas that every parent and teacher should read and re-read until they are second nature.

Po Bronson: How Not to Talk to Your Kids
We don’t do a good job of praising our children and students. We praise too readily and broadly and in the process, we don’t encourage working hard to solve problems.

Malcolm Gladwell: Explains Success: It's Nurture, not Nature
As a society, we praise short term results and brilliance more than we praise effort.

Carol Dweck: Transforming Students’ Motivation to Learn and An Interview
Once students realize that intelligence can grow through effort, they get smarter.

Anyone who is involved in raising or educating children needs to understand how praise and effort relate to each other and to student achievement.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Against Big Government

A friend recently sent around an email with this quote:
"You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is about the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it."
~~~~ Dr. Adrian Rogers, 1931
To which I responded:

"Though I agree with much of the sentiment here, it strikes me as ironic when:

1) some of the same people who probably hailed this quote as worthy a couple years ago proceeded to take billions from the government to save their golden parachutes from financial companies.

2) other people will fight any attempts to stop a gravy train that runs directly (e.g., defense industry) or indirectly (e.g., health care industry) from the government to their yachts, cars, and homes.

Sorry to be a hater, but there are those who have been fortunate and who benefit from a bloated and inefficient government, but don't mind as long as the big government is lining their pockets. They only complain when people they don't hang out with are getting stuff."

I know Mrs. Kid will say this is just another example of me being argumentative. She has heard me argue with both of our staunchly liberal mothers. Relative to them, I can be seen as on the other side of this debate. My mother and mother-in-law probably think I am uber-Republican. Meanwhile, the folks to whom I replied with the email above could think I am a big-government defender. Regardless, I'm OK with being labeled argumentative.

I think that government is inefficient and too big, but I am very cynical. I distrust anybody who has ideas about what should be cut. The people who annoy me the most are people who claim to want limited government, but have made their money from the government. If these people want small government so badly, they can start by giving back their expensive homes and BMW convertibles.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Music Monday: Geeking Out

Geeks can rock it out.

Jonathan Coulton is a bit of a geek, but more importantly, lots of his fans are huge geeks.
MC Frontalot has been described as The Godfather of Nerdcore. Like Coulton, Frontalot has real skill.
MC Hawking is quite tasteless, but an amusing bit every once in a while.
Hawking has others, but they are pretty full of expletives. Still, they are funny.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Web Stuff Friday: Golf Dock Girl Spider

MiniGolf: I remember being addicted to this years ago. I just scored a 38 (10 under par), so the gauntlet has been tossed.

Print-and-fold iPhone Dock looks amazing. I might have to get one of these things. It would look great on my desk. It doesn't matter that I don't have an iPhone--I want this dock anyway. Maybe it would work for my old Blackberry.

Everyone should check out The Girl Effect. The introductory video is inspiring.

Bonus: The Wood Spider:

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ze Frank With a Real Gig: Videos for

It seems that Ze Frank has a kind of a real gig. I had no idea. I guess I haven't been doing a good job of paying attention to his career.

If you don't know who Ze Frank is, then you have been doing an even worse job paying attention than I. The Show was an inspiring year of video blogging. Anyway, here are some of his videos for
I hope he keeps these coming.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Running and Knees

I was a decrepit old man in my thirties. Any time I played soccer or tennis, my heels and feet caused me incredible pain. It got so bad that I finally stopped playing altogether. Without any exercise, I became a big, fat, ball of goo.

It became so bad that I couldn't keep up with (then five-year-old) Boy Kid or (then one-year-old) Girl Kid. Eventually, I realized that:
  • Carrying Girl Kid up the stairs left me winded.
  • It took me a couple days to recover from coaching soccer for a team of kids who where three feet tall.
  • When watching a video that was filmed at my office, I saw some guy who looked like me in a fat suit. The fat guy was me.
  • My size 40 pants were getting really tight.
Anyway, I finally went to the local running store and had them watch me jog and analyze my gait. They recommended Asics Gel GT-2010's. Once I had the right equipment, it took me weeks and weeks to be able to run a mile without taking breaks, but now I am able to run 3-5 miles about three times most weeks. Apparently, running in a straight line is not a problem for me (I am not fast--my top speed is somewhere between a saunter and a mosey), but the real culprits were the turning and changes of direction that came with soccer and tennis.

Gretchen Reynolds' New York Times article Can Running Actually Help Your Knees? is interesting. It gives me hope that I will be able to keep this up for a while. I like being healthier. I can keep up with Boy and Girl Kid, but only if they are running in a straight line. Once they discover my weakness, it will be all up to Mrs. Kid to keep up with them.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Where the Deer Roam Two

Quick quiz: Where do deer go poo? If you said "in the woods, just like bears and the pope," then you gave the same answer I would have given just a few days ago. Though "outside" is quite accurate, a more precise answer would be "in Reston Kid's backyard."

We have been seeing lots of deer in our backyard recently. Mostly, we see a family of five. Every once in a while, we see a sole buck who has a growth hanging from its throat that looks like a pair of really red, irritated testicles the size of billiard balls. We love our deer (growth and all). Being close to nature is one of the big reasons we are in Reston, so seeing them so often makes us quite happy. Plus, we aren't gardeners, so we don't mind that they eat every plant in sight.

Given how often we have been seeing deer, I should have have known what was coming, but I'm kinda slow. When I mowed the yard this weekend, the backyard had deer feces everywhere. Seriously, every square foot had at least one pile. We have had deer in our backyard before, but I don't recall them leaving so many mementos.

I also don't recall seeing so many acorns in our yard, and yes, there seems to be a connection between the two things that litter my lawn so liberally. Deer love to eat acorns, so....

You get the idea. Sorry to go all scatological on you, but it was quite the experience, so I had to share.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Music Monday: Hardcore Punks Do Mariachi

I heard these guys on NPR this evening. The Bronx are a hardcore punk rock group (here is Past Lives) who decided to put out a mariachi album as El Bronx. When asked why they sing in English, the band's singer Matt Caughtran said:
It just felt like that would be, you know, extremely fake. ... I don't know Spanish.... There is nothing worse in our heads than white guys playing funk. It kinda felt like it would add an element of cheese and it would be wrong if I did that.
Great stuff.

I Would Die 4 U: a nice Prince cover

Cell Mates: my favorite

Holy and Slave Labor have their own charms. The former is all about the guy with the thing that sounds like a washboard. The latter is all about that trumpet. Marvelous. Also great: Clown Powder.

p.s. I know it's been a while since I have posted. I have a ton of draft posts waiting to be finished up and posted. Some day I will scheduled about a month's worth of stuff.