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Archive of posts filed under the Literature category.

Discussion with Steven Pinker connecting cognitive psychology research to the difficulties of writing

Following up on my discussion of Steven Pinker’s writing advice, Pinker and I had an email exchange that cleared up some issues and raised some new ones. In particular, Pinker made a connection between the difficulty of writing and some research findings in cognitive psychology. I think this connection is really cool—I’ve been thinking and […]

Sorry, but I’m with Richard Ford on this one

I just read the new Colson Whitehead book, the one where he plays poker? I like it at first, he had some great bits, but then it got boring. And, really, is there any gimmick less appealing, at this point, than “author/journalist goes and tries his luck at the World Series of Poker”? I don’t […]

The plagiarist next door

In a comment on this chess-related post, Matt Gaffney pointed me to this wonderful page full of chess curiosities by Tim Krabbé. My nederlands is not what it used to be, but Krabbé has posted lots of material in English so that’s no problem. I started reading his “Open chess diary” (i.e., blog), it’s updated […]

Another benefit of bloglag

In the classic Philip K. Dick novel, The World Jones Made, the main character has the ability to see the future, in particular he knows what will happen a year in the future, with this window moving forward relative to present time. Sounds cool, huh? But that’s not the character’s perception; instead: It’s not so […]

“Surely our first response to the disproof of a shocking-but-surprising claim should be to be un-shocked and un-surprised, not to try to explain away the refutation”

I came across the above quote the other day in an old post of mine, when searching for a Schrodinger’s cat image. The quote came up in the context of a statistical claim made by a political activist which was widely promoted and discussed but which turned out to be false. As I wrote at […]

What to do in 2015: Your statistics diary

For the last two weeks of our class on statistical communication, I gave my students the following assignment: Every day, you will write an entry in your statistics diary. Just set up a text or Word file and add to it each day. The diary entries can be anything. They can be short slice-of-life observations […]

Relaxed plagiarism standards as a way to keep the tuition dollars flowing from foreign students

Interesting comment thread at Basbøll’s blog regarding the difficult position of college writing instructors when confronted with blatant student plagiarism. Randall Westgren writes: I believe the easiest part of the patchwriting [plagiarism] phenomenon to understand is why writing instructors are leading the charge. Professor Howard is caught between a herd of high-value (i.e. full-tuition and […]

Sometimes you’re so subtle they don’t get the joke

T. A. Frail writes: When Andrew Gelman, a professor of statistics and political science at Columbia University, wrote that Who’s Bigger? ‘is a guaranteed argument-starter,’ he meant it as a compliment. In all seriousness, I wish people would read what I wrote, not what they think I meant! My quote continued: This book is a […]

Defense by escalation

Basbøll has another post regarding some copying-without-attribution by the somewhat-famous academic entertainer Slavoj Zizek. In his post, Basbøll links to theologian and professor Adam Kotsko (cool: who knew there were still theologians out and about in academia?) who defends Zizek, in part on the grounds that Zizek’s critics were being too harsh. Kotsko writes of […]

Saying things that are out of place

Basbøll points us to a column by Michael Shermer, a journalist and self-described skeptic who’s written a lot about skepticism, atheism, etc. Recently, though, Shermer wrote of an event that “shook [his] skepticism to its core”—it was a story about an old radio that didn’t work, then briefly started to work again, then stopped working. […]