Monday, March 28, 2011

Update and a New To-Do List

I’m not going to promise a Monday Summary tonight.  I have several articles selected, but I’ve had a busy weekend and can’t seem to get the sleepies out of my system today. 

My mother-in-law had surgery Friday.  Doctors discovered she had breast cancer last year and she had a single mastectomy.  They finally decided to remove the other breast this year (after she asked and kept having calcifications).  Her chances of the cancer coming back are significantly lower with both breasts gone, so she had another mastectomy on March 25th.  We spent several hours visiting Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  She’s doing great.  She went home today and is handling things pretty well.  She’s still got quite a few treatments to finish up, but we think she’s out of the woods.  Her hair is also finally growing back-she’s got one of those pixie cuts going on right now.

My hubby was also on call last week.  He stays on call from 6am until 11pm for seven days straight.  It’s very annoying and stressful.  I’m just glad he’s not on call 24/7.  However, it made the weekend just that much crazier on an emotional level. 

And it’s frackin cold again.  It was all sunny and warm and then, BAM, freezing nights and lots of cold rain.  Crazy Kentucky weather.  *grumbles*

We did get our television fixed and my Mother is coming out tonight.  Mom, Hubby, and I may just veg out in front of the TV with zombie movies and popcorn.

I am going to leave a little to-do list up.  It tends to get my butt moving on my projects.  So, here’s what I’m working on for the blog:

·       Course Summaries:  My MSLS degree courses deserve some mention, so I’m putting together some VERY BRIEF summaries of the courses
·       Monday Summaries and Friday Fallacies
·       EBooks:  I’d like to post a few comments regarding eBooks in the future
·       Databases:  I’m going to review a database or two every week starting in a couple weeks
·       Information Literacy and Critical Thinking Course Syllabus:  I’ve got all sorts of ideas for course layouts I’ll be attempting to post
·       Research:  I’m working on updating a bibliography on video games and critical thinking.  I’m also looking into some other topics, such as information literacy and critical thinking in libraries, violence and libraries, etc.
·       Reference Questions:  Believe it or not, I get reference questions all the time.  I’m not employed as a librarian at the moment, but I still seem to be the go-to person for reference.  Hell, I have people I’ve never met sending me questions through friends and family.  I’ll be posting some summaries of the interesting ones with patron permission.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Oral History LIS 642 Course Summary

As an MSLS student at the University of Kentucky, I went through the LIS 642 course, which is Oral History.  The course was fascinating and felt more like an interactive workshop than a regular class.  The professor taught us how to conduct oral history interviews along with going over several oral history examples and studies.  She recorded her weekly lectures so students could listen through Blackboard (my degree was totally online).  The final portion of the course was spent on an oral history project.

I don’t want these course posts to get insanely long, so I’m going to restrict my comments to the most important aspects and provide some links. 

 I’m also going to link a Google doc of my first weekly assignment.  We were asked to briefly answer if oral history is useful or not to the study of history. 

My final project was an interview with a tattoo artist (the interview now belongs to the KOHC, but I do not yet know if it has been archived), a paper detailing my experience, a partial transcript, and submission to the Kentucky Oral History Commission. 

I think the transcription process was one the most nerve-racking things I’ve done.  I thought the interview process would have me pulling out my hair, but it was enjoyable.  This is the recorder I purchased for the class.  It worked like a charm and let me get my hands on some new tech learning experiences. 

Overall, the course forced me to pay attention to individual experiences in addition to the overall historical perceptions of events.  It also had me watching my behavior and interactions with people from which I’m trying to get relevant information.  I listen more, allow those very important lulls and pauses to happen, and find myself experiencing peoples’ memories in a new way. 

I hope to, one day soon, do a series of interviews with my Mother.  She’s lived a fascinating life, and I’d like to preserve her memory and experiences.  The Oral History course gave me the tools to (let’s hope) pull this off.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Fallacy: Argumentum ad hominem

Another fallacy!

This fallacy is also known as “against the man.”  We all do it at some point.  We hear something from a person we just cannot tolerate, and we don’t want to believe that something, even if the evidence says it’s true.  When the crazy lady down the street says, “The sky is blue,” saying it must not be because she’s crazy doesn’t hold up.  You have to look at the evidence of the claim.

That’s probably simplifying the issue a bit. 

If you resort to insulting your opponent or calling into question an argument based on your opponent’s person, rather than the evidence, you’re committing an ad hominem fallacy. 

I hear from creationists all the time that evolution cannot be true because Charles Darwin had a deathbed conversion to Christianity.  First off, I haven’t seen proof of Darwin’s deathbed anything, let alone conversion.  Secondly, what do his personal beliefs have to do with evolution?  The theory of evolution has a great deal of science backing it up and does not depend on a “prophet” or “great thinker” to prop it up.

Another ad hominem example I can think up off the top of my head:  Politician A and Politician B are debating.  Politician A brings up Politician B’s divorce (gay child, teenage joint smoking, church membership, dancing style, favorite color, etc.) when the debate is about taxes.  Obviously, Politician A isn’t arguing against the substance of Politician B’s tax plan.  Politician A is trying to sway the audience opinion by associating Politician B with something the audience will find distasteful.  Politician B, if s/he’s caught unawares, may fall into the trap of explaining or defending against the subject of the ad hominem.     

Darwin On the Origin of Species Chapter 3

The third chapter of Darwin’s wonderful work is “Struggle for Existence” and is another short but info filled chapter.  He’s focusing on how struggle bears on natural selection.

Darwin once again points out the importance of variation:

Owing to this struggle for life, any variation, however slight and from whatever cause proceeding, if it be in any degree profitable to an individual of any species, in its infinitely complex relations to other organic beings and to external nature, will tend to the preservation of that individual, and will generally be inherited by its offspring.  The offspring, also, will thus have a better chance of surviving, for, of the many individuals of any species which are periodically born, but a small number can survive. I have called this principle, by which each slight variation, if useful, is preserved, by the term of Natural Selection, in order to mark its relation to man’s power of selection. (64)

The struggle for life is something Darwin found fascinating, yet something that humans tend to easily forget.  We don’t bear in mind that everything, even if it appears to be in a state of abundance and health, deals with struggle constantly.  On a sunny Spring day, you may see green grass and blooming flowers, several species of singing birds and various mammals relaxing in the sunshine.  What you may be missing is the birds’ constant crunching on insects.  Maybe, you’re not noticing that the cozy mammals just had a nice midday meal or the stunted plants in between the healthy specimens.  Darwin insists that without the understanding of the struggle for existence, we cannot have a full understanding of nature and several biological facts.  Darwin also points out that what he means by “Struggle for Existence.”  He doesn’t just include physical fighting and bloody death in his definition.  He includes interdependence and the success in leaving offspring, along with the struggle against the elements (65). 

Darwin spends several pages discussing the struggles of living beings.  He also discusses population growth and checks on that growth.  He has a wonderful example of the delicate balance in nature and the fact that even a small change can greatly influence populations (pages 72-4 Scotch Fir).  This struggle is ongoing, but as Darwin points out, it is so well balanced that we barely notice it.  We are amazed when we hear of an extinction event.  Or, at least, Darwin was.  It’s become quite common place nowadays. 

The struggle for existence can seem rather daunting and downright depressing at times.  However, we shouldn’t be too disheartened.  I’ll let Darwin’s final chapter comments sum up:

All that we can do, is to keep steadily in mind that each organic being is striving to increase at a geometrical ratio; that each at some period of its life, during some season of the year, during each generation or at intervals, has to struggle for life, and to suffer great destruction.  When we reflect on this struggle, we may console ourselves with the full belief, that the war of nature is not incessant, that no fear is felt, that death is generally prompt, and that the vigorous, the healthy, and the happy survive and multiply.  (78-9)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday Summary: Riddles and Computer Games (1995)

Yes, this is an older article.  I still kind of, sort of, remember 1995.  Dr. John H. Doolittle published the following article way back then:

Doolittle, John H. “Using Riddles and Interactive Computer Games to teach Problem-Solving Skills.”  Teaching of Psychology.  22.1 (1995):  33-36. 

Doolittle’s main premise is that word tables, interactive video games, and riddles aid in the development of creative and critical thinking.  His focus is on undergraduate college students.  Students learn to think of multiple solutions to problems, instead of locking themselves into only one solution.  Along those lines, students also learn to let go of wrong answers or risk failing the task.  Students are required to think creatively because the expected answers with riddles aren’t always correct.  Flexibility in thoughts and problem solving patterns emerge.

Doolittle also points out something that should be obvious.  Those of us who read or listen to stories read aloud have more developed and active imaginations.  Movies and television can be interesting forms of entertainment but do not provide the kind of cognitive development that comes from an engaged imagination and interactive participation.

Doolittle offers some suggestions for riddles and games.  He also cautions against student frustration, which can halt the developmental process.  He closes with his empirical evidence for the effectiveness of these techniques, which is very preliminary but shows possible promise. 

So, this really is a fascinating article, and I’ll be following his citations and digging deeper for empirical evidence.  I don’t think many researchers take video games seriously as a way to encourage information literacy, creativity and critical thinking skills.  One thing that did bother me a little bit with this article was the fact that nearly half of his eighteen citations were to his own papers, books, and games he’s developed.  I can understand his reasons, but it still bothers me for some reason.  I need to track down his other resources and some more updated findings. 

This article did solidify some wonderful ideas I have for the classroom.  I have a syllabus and schedule emerging from the murky depths of my mind.  Perhaps, I will have to share these ideas with my readers. 

Am I weird or what?  I’m not employed at the moment and I’m still developing courses.  I just need some imaginary students and I’m set.  I wonder if I can get an imaginary paycheck?

Oh, look.  A link to the article!  

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Wonderful Day

Bourbon and Coke with strawberry pie (courtesy of Hubby’s aunt).  Corgi-pup and Bengal-boy both got walked.  I met a nice lady with a Kindle.  And the weather is delightful.  All in all, it was a wonderful day.

And, I managed applications for three jobs.  This is good, considering all the letters I have to write and research I have to conduct in order to apply.

Now, if I can get my television fixed (waiting on a part), I’ll be a perfectly happy camper.  I miss my zombie movies and my zombie games.  I miss my zombies.

Yes, I know I’m weird.  But weirdness is good.  Weirdness is fun.

I’ll have a Monday Summary ready tomorrow.  Stay tuned.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Fallacy: Argumentum ad verecundiam

This lovely fallacy is also known as the argument from authority or faulty appeal to authority.  When you’re working on a research paper or want to sound like you know what you’re talking about, you’ll cite a source-an expert backing up your assertion.  That’s not necessarily a fallacy.  However, people often make the mistake of quoting the wrong experts on the wrong subjects. 

For example, Jenny McCarthy is neither a doctor nor a researcher.  She has no authority or credibility when it comes to vaccines.  However, large groups of people have stopped vaccinating their children due to her belief that vaccines cause autism.  This has caused great harm.  McCarthy may be a celebrity, so she has television presence.  She may be an expert in some areas of pseudo-stardom, but she is in no way an expert on vaccination or medicine.  She’s also not very information literate when it comes to these issues. 

Second example:  Your dentist makes a recommendation to have your old fillings removed because he says they cause everything from arthritis to cancer to warts.  Now, this one may seem slightly difficult given that your dentist is an expert medical professional.  Think about it.  A dentist is an expert in one specific area of human health.  He or she is not going to also be a trained oncologist or other specialist.  How does he/she know your old fillings cause those problems?  This is why second opinions are always good.

Third example:  You ask your mother “why?” about some topic.  She responds with, “Because I said so.”  Parents are considered authority figures, as are teachers, clergy, police, etc.  Does that mean they’re always right about every topic?  No.  The sooner people realize that, the sooner they start questioning and discovering answers for themselves.  That’s called adulthood.  That’s not to say that you should smart off to a cop if you get pulled over for going 75mph in a 35mph zone.  The cop is obviously correct in that situation.

A real world example:  This is a true story.  I once had a freshman student argue with me that his paper should have received an A+ as a grade.  Said paper received a failing grade.  He argued that his high school writing teacher said it was a perfect paper (apparently he had her review it before submission).  He had a hard time improving and eventually dropped the course.  You’d be surprised how many times I’ve heard that argument.  One variation is parental approval of the paper. 

Here’s a hint about this fallacy.  Anytime you catch yourself saying, “Well, my mom says that’s right,” or “Well, my preacher agrees with me,” you’re possible committing an argument from authority.  I make it a point to look up primary resources if at all possible.  Of course, we cannot spend all of our time researching.  We wouldn’t have lives.  So, find credible authorities on a subject (preferably multiple authorities) that have proven trustworthy in their subject fields.  It’s not a fallacy to cite those references.  Don’t rely on those same authorities to get you through other subjects, however, because that is a fallacy.

Is that confusing enough for tonight?  Good, my job is done.  J

Y'all have a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Information Literacy and Critical Thinking Exercises: Cracked Edition

I’ve come up with a new exercise to be done after going over basic information literacy skills and determining that the students are ready to take on a more difficult task. is a fun, yet often frightening, place full of sarcasm, crude humor, descriptions of violence, and cussing.  It’s a great place to practice info lit and critical thinking skills, but use caution.  If I assigned an exercise like this at the local community college, I’d get complaints at the least (mostly due to the cussing).  Of course, evolution, climate change, and thought provoking literature also results in complaints at that place (true story-apparently The Secret Life of Bees is heretical and unfit for the classroom and Persepolis is of the devil-who knew?).  So, you may want to alter this exercise, depending on where you’re located. is a humorous website.  It is in no way a scholarly resource.  However, this website can also be rather informative if, and only if, we fact-check the authors’ claims and analyze the resources used in the articles.

Most of the articles on Cracked are written in a countdown format (top ten…, the worst seven…, five great…, etc.).  This allows some flexibility for instructors with this assignment.

The basic assignment will have students checking the links/resources provided in the article(s).  They need to vet the links provided using the skills they’ve developed in class.  Students should also provide additional resources outside of those provided in the article(s).  This encourages fact-checking and instills the habit of utilizing multiple resources.

Assignment #1
Select an article (in numbered/countdown format) from (instructors are encouraged to provide a selection to simplify the selection and grading process-Examples here, here, and here).  Choose only one section of the article to work with.

Read your chosen section carefully.  Summarize and ask questions in your journal.  Write down comments and pay attention to fact versus opinion.

Follow the link or links provided as evidence.  Are these sources valid, relevant, up-to-date, etc?  Analyze the links and determine if the sources are credible or not. 
After vetting the provided resources, find additional resources either backing up or refuting the article’s claims.  Analyze your resources for credibility.

Paper (research based but may be considered with an exploratory slant) or Presentation (PowerPoint is always an option) should include the following:
·       Provide an overall summary of your chosen article-focusing on your chosen section.
·       Discuss your findings concerning the links
·       Discuss your additional resources
·       Critique your article section based on your research.  Were the ideas presented in the article actually facts?  Remember, don’t confuse opinions, humor, and sarcasm as hard facts.
·       Conclude with what you’ve discovered through this exercise and with any comments on the Cracked humor/info format.

Assignment #2
This is the same as assignment #1, except the student should work with a full article instead of one section.  This might be an interesting final assignment for a credit based information literacy class.

Assignment #3
This is the same as assignment #2.  However, have the students work in groups (the number of group members to be determined by the number of article sections).  Each group member is responsible for one section (as in assignment #1).  However, the final paper/presentation should be a collaborative effort with group members reviewing and checking other members’ progress.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Monday Summary – Math and Libraries

I’m starting something new.  Monday Summary may not happen every Monday.  However, I’ll endeavor to summarize and offer my thoughts on a library science related article every week.  I’m starting with a simple article this week.  One from a more popular periodical, instead of something scholarly.  I’ll try to switch up sources every once in a while.  The purpose of this is to keep me up to date on my field and to find interesting tidbits of information related to information literacy, critical thinking, or whatever tickles my fancy.  A second purpose is to inform my readers (and I have stats proving you exist even if few comment).  Most of my readers are not information professionals, but they might be interested in what librarians find print worthy.  Feel free to ask questions or post comments or email me if you want.

Fleming, Dan.  “Let Me Count the Ways.” School Library Journal.  August 2004, 42-44.

This isn’t one of those peer-reviewed scholarly journal articles that I should be digging through, but it caught my geek-eye due to the MATH.  I work algebra problems for fun and relaxation (yes, I’m one of those people).

Dan Fleming’s overall argument is that librarians should integrate math into information literacy lessons and everywhere else we can.  He focuses mainly on k-12 because of his experience.  He doesn’t want librarians to feel intimidated by math integration and recommends looking at statewide math standards as a starting point and focus for math lessons.  Fleming summarized the math standards for Massachusetts in this article.  He recommends developing math resources through collection development and finding math in “non-math” subjects (and while collaborating with teachers in those subjects).  An insert on the last page of the article provides details on the “Links between Information Literacy and Math Skills.”  The article closes with encouragement of creativity and by offering example exercises.

This article was published in 2004, and I haven’t noticed an increase in math in libraries, which is depressing.  Fleming is onto a great idea here.  Math, especially through word problems, can develop critical thinking skills.  It may also encourage an interest in math and science among students.  At the very least it may encourage an appreciation of those subjects and the way subjects bleed into one another and overlap. 

Fleming quotes one of his former students, Theresa Conroy, as stating, “The school library provides a setting for students to take a second and third look at ideas presented in the classroom” (44).  I think this is a point many people miss.  Librarians can reinforce subject knowledge, understanding, and literacy.

I think Fleming’s ideas can apply just as well to higher education.  College and university librarians should take note when it comes to information literacy courses (whether general or subject specific).  Any way we can encourage math and science should be viewed as important in the United States.  We’re already falling behind in those subjects compared to several other countries.  And critical thinking skills need constant reinforcement throughout life.

I’m one of those “math” people.  I’m always playing with numbers and automatically get interested when they come up.  So, Fleming’s article speaks to me, especially considering I never thought of this approach before.  I’ll be trying to find ways to integrate math into some of my upcoming worksheets and lessons (look for those blog posts soon).

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Fallacy - Argumentum ad populum

This is another easy fallacy and is also known as the argument from popularity or an appeal to the masses (among several other names).  When you were growing up, you might have told your mother you wanted to do something because all the other kids were doing it.  Her response probably included something about jumping off a bridge.  Your mother saw right through your argumentum ad populum if that was the case. 

This fallacy uses popularity as an argument for accuracy or relevance.  Sometimes, an action or thought may be correct if lots of people agree.  However, the majority of people could be very wrong about something and not realize it. 

I get told all the time that Christianity must be true because so many people believe it or, more generally, that a god must exist since so many people believe in him.  However, popularity is poor evidence for the truth of something.  The majority of people once thought it perfectly fine to keep slaves.  It was once the majority opinion that women were inferior and had to stay at home and pop out the next generation.  It was once considered a swell idea to burn people at the stake or imprison them for blasphemy.  Did that make any of these actions correct?  Did it make them just and right and good?

I see this fallacy as a kind of grown up peer pressure.  We always hear about teens facing peer pressure, but the need to “fit in” is just as strong with adults.  We are a social species.  The argument from popularity appeals to the part of our brain that wants to belong, to go along with the masses so we don’t stand out.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Donor Card!

Woot!  I received my blood donor card in the mail today.  I’m making it a personal goal to donate six times a year through my local Red Cross (that’s as much as you can donate in a year).  I’m excited.  I don’t get full on giddy about most activities, but donating blood is such a rush.  I feel like I’m addicted and want to go every month.  I love the idea of helping save lives.  All I do is sit there and drink a soda and eat some cookies while the nurse draws out the blood, and I save up to three lives every time.  It’s awesome! 

I also get to meet interesting people.  The nurses are very nice and informative, and I’ve met people from all walks of life-from students to owners of local businesses.  I’m trying to talk my husband into donating with me.  He’s being a little shy about the needles. 

Every single person who can donate should donate.  It’s frackin important.

Darwin On the Origin of Species Chapter 2

I'm finally posting another chapter summary for On the Origin of Species 2009 Penguin Classics edition (it's taken me long enough).

Chapter 2 is called “Variation under Nature” to differentiate what Darwin discussed in the previous chapter, “Variation under Domestication.”   This chapter is short but packed full of info.  Darwin takes the ideas from the first chapter and applies them to the natural world of undomesticated plants and animals. 

The chapter starts off by discussing the nature of species.  There’s not a clear cut line between different species as many people suppose.  There are lots of gray areas, and scientists during Darwin’s time, and even today, argue about where one species ends and another begins.  Sometimes one plant or animal can be defined as a separate species by one scientist only to be defined as a variety (of another species) by a different scientist.  This can get confusing to the lay person.  You have to keep in mind that we’re looking at constant transitions and changes in living things as opposed to clear cut distinctions and separations.  Variety is a constant in life on Earth and very important to evolution:

These individual differences are highly important for us, as they afford materials for natural selection to accumulate, in the same manner as a man can accumulate in any given direction individual differences in his domesticated productions.  (50)

Darwin goes on to give examples of various species/varieties that are contested, including Rubus, Rosa, Hieracium, and Brachiopods.  He also mentions the primrose and cowslip (Primula veris) and the several varieties of oak trees.  He considers the contested species/varieties to be invaluable:

Those forms which possess in some considerable degree the character of species, but which are so closely similar to some other forms, or are so closely linked to them by intermediate gradations, that naturalists do not like to rank them as distinct species, are in several respects the most important for us. (51)

He refers to highly contested varieties as incipient species.  These varieties have the potential to one day become distinct species.  Here’s another quote from the second chapter, which I think is important, even if it is long:

Hence I look at individual differences, though of small interest to the systematist, as of high importance for us, as being the first step towards such slight varieties as are barely thought worth recording in works on natural history.  And I look at varieties which are in any degree more distinct and permanent, as steps leading to more strongly marked and more permanent varieties; and at these latter, as leading to sub-species, and to species.  The passage from one stage of difference to another and higher stage may be, in some cases, due merely to the long-continued action of different physical conditions in two different regions; but I have not much faith in this view; and I attribute the passage of a variety, from a state in which if differs very slightly from its parent to one in which it differs more, to the action of natural selection in accumulating (as will hereafter be more fully explained) differences of structure in certain definite directions.  Hence I believe a well-marked variety may be justly called an incipient species; but whether this belief be justifiable must be judged of by the general weight of the several facts and views given throughout this work. (55-6)

Darwin spends the rest of the chapter discussing observations he and others have made concerning the patterns found in various genera.  He also makes it a point to mention that not all incipient species will actually make it to the level of distinct species.  Some will retain their current features because it is most beneficial, and some will simply go extinct.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Murray State University Libraries and Director Adam Murray

I’ve been looking into my alma mater recently.  I like to see that education and libraries are improving in this area, and MSU is making my day.  Adam Murray took over as director fairly recently at the Murray State Libraries.  He’s got praises from the ALA for his work.  He’s also got some great ideas and cares about how to reach the students and their information needs.  He gave an interview last year that was positive and informative.  He’s also spent time reaching out to local public libraries in order to build relationships and foster improved understanding. 

This is really awesome stuff.  I’m a library geek, so some of you may be shaking your heads at me right now.  It just seems rare to find passion in education and information literacy.  I think Murray State is on an upswing right now as far as these things go.  It’s an awesome time.

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Positive Note on Western Kentucky

I wanted to post something positive about my area and my alma mater, Murray State University.  After my Ben Stein post, I’m sure some readers are saying to themselves, “Why the hell doesn’t she just move?”  If my job hunt moves me out of the Western Kentucky area, so be it.  If it keeps me here, that’s ok too.  I’m not picky at this point, and Western KY isn’t a bad place.  There are some educational issues and critical thinking failings, but that happens everywhere.  

So, I thought I’d post some interesting links highlighting the area’s good points.  First up is one of my absolute favorite places, LBL.  That’s Land Between the Lakes to you non-locals.  The US Forest Service has authority over it now.  It’s a piece of land located between Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley.  I’ve lived on one or the other of those lakes throughout much of my life.  My father worked for the Ky State Park System while I was growing up, so I’m a park brat.  Most of our time was spent in Western Kentucky on the lakes.  My mother’s house overlooks the Kentucky Lake side of LBL, which makes for a lovely view.

LBL and the parks offer a lot of interesting educational and recreational opportunities.  I love hiking in LBL and fossil hunting (mostly crinoids and other Mississippian fossils).  My husband and I also spent most of our dates (many many moons ago) in LBL and go back as often as we can.  We’re planning on taking my mother fossil hunting when the weather warms up.  It’s also a great place to take your pets.

Land is also not outrageously priced in parts of Western Ky, so if we end up staying around here I plan on buying several acres and gardening to my heart’s content.  It is a decent area for gardening and fishing and sitting on your porch drinking a beer.  The humidity kills in the summer, but we don’t get the crazy winters the Northern states are experiencing at the moment (most of the time).      

We also have a couple skeptic groups popping up in Western KY (including one at Murray State University), which makes me a very happy monkey. 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Ben Stein at Murray State University in Kentucky

I know it’s been about a month since this happened, but I have to say something.  It’s been eating at me, and I can’t keep my mouth shut.  Ben Stein gave a lecture in early February at Murray State University.  I have two degrees from MSU, so this invitation for Stein to speak was disappointing.  Stein is the idiot who gave us this anti-science propaganda.  He likes to blame the Holocaust on science and scientists.  What’s funny is that Ben Stein kind of promoted science and math in the talk he gave at MSU.  And none of the advertising for his appearance mentions his rather screwy views.  I think Professor William Zingrone, a psychology prof at MSU, sums up what I was thinking in this article written for the MSU newspaper.

What really gets me is how Stein points out the lack of motivation students have in the present day United States.  My first thought on this topic is as follows:

How dare Ben Stein talk about motivation being a problem in students.  If anything he should be apologizing for it.  He denigrates scientists and other intellectuals, he condemns science as anti-human, he promotes falsehoods and lies and attempts to steal away the wonder from science-all the advances our species has made, the discoveries, the medical treatments, and more-and then, the bastard has the audacity to discuss motivation as a problem.  He’s one of the people creating that problem in students.  He should apologize for attempting to ruin American education.  I could go on, but, you know what?  I don’t want to waste any more time on this jerk.  So I’ll just sum up.

Ben Stein, Fuck You!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday Fallacy-Argumentum ad antiquitatem

In English, that’s the argument from antiquity or tradition.  This one is easy.  Just think back to a time when you asked why something was done in your family or community.  If the person you asked responded with, “Because that’s the way we’ve always done it,” you got smacked with the argument from tradition.  This is what people respond with when they don’t know the reasons or history behind an activity or ritual or whatnot.  Instead of researching and finding out why something is done, people just go with the flow. 

Tradition may not necessarily be a bad thing.  There are lots of community and family traditions that bring people together and provide social value and sometimes entertainment value. 

However, it can become a problem when a tradition becomes outdated, dangerous, or detrimental to the progress of a people.  There are many examples I can think of involving gender roles or the traditional roles of women in our society.  Once upon a time, it was traditional for a woman to stay at home and make babies.  Women were also not expected to be as educated as men.  These are obviously traditions that can infringe on a woman’s ability to live her life the way she sees fit.  Many folks still use these traditions as a means to keep women oppressed or at least to make women feel bad for not following these traditions. 

It can also be a problem when people assume a long-standing tradition when there is none.  The first example that comes to mind is the American Pledge of Allegiance.  Nearly every person I come across assumes the pledge has always been stated as it is now.  However, the original pledge was different and has been altered many times, the most recent alteration occurring in the 1950s. 

Here are a couple lists that include this fallacy:

Book Review on Salon

This is one of the best book reviews I've ever read.  It kept me from wasting time and money on David Brooks.  I'm sighing with relief since I was thinking about checking out his recent book, The Social Animal.  I'm so glad I read this first.

What would we do without book reviews?

Random Friday Thoughts

Screwy Kentucky weather.  One day it’s forty, then it’s seventy; one night it’s thirty, the next night it’s sixty-something.  Grrrrr.  It literally gives me a headache and makes me want to stay under the covers all day.  Even on the warm days, we get gloominess-rain and clouds.   I don’t mind any of that except when it’s all happening within a 48 hour period.  Then, I get aggravated.  And the corgi-pup gets aggravated by the thunder.  She’s in my lap right now, which makes it uber difficult to type. 

I need to find a job in a tropical paradise or at least near a beach- I loves me some ocean.

Speaking of jobs, I’m still looking.  I don’t mind rejection as much as I mind the non-communication that’s become commonplace in job seeking.  I applied for a job back in November of last year, sent follow-up emails and have yet to hear back.  It’s kind of like a big “Fuck you!  You’re not even worth a rejection email.”  Seriously, people would rather get rejection notices than not hear anything at all.  It forces me to move on to the next round of job applications instead of pining away, hoping to hear something.

Anyone recently graduated from library school understands my frustration.  Library Journal has talked about the job market for new librarians, and I’ve run across a few posts on librarian blogs about it.  It’s taking anywhere from a year or two for new graduates to find work.  In my geographic area it’s much worse.  There are few libraries and fewer positions.  Factor into that high unemployment and retirement postponement by current librarians, and the well gets bone dry around here.

Sorry for the rant.  I’m sure I’ll find something.  I’ve got some awesome experience as far as instruction goes (which I should probably be blogging about), and that helps when looking for reference and instruction positions.  I’ve also got some mad research and reference skills.  I got so many compliments from the staff and students at my library gig (and sometimes hugs, which is so cool).    And of course, I’m damned determined to end up in a place where I can drive home the importance of information literacy and critical thinking skills.  We need more critical thinkers on this planet!

I’m going to be sending off another round of applications soon.  Wish me luck! 

Friday Fallacy will be up later tonight.