A Child’s Wisdom

Today, my son  told me he had figured out how to never make a mistake again. His solution: just never try or do anything anymore. He said it with a smile, but I think he half wishes this was an option. Unfortunately, he seems to have inherited a personality quirk (defect?) from me, which is that we are both incredibly good at self-flagellation when we make mistakes.

To cite a minor example, sometimes I’ll dwell for a couple of days on a student’s question that I couldn’t answer in class. Or if I forget somebody’s name who I am definitely supposed to know, I will swear at myself under my breath far too many times, more than most people would. And those are just minor examples. It can be a problem, one that I wish I hadn’t passed along. Dammit (see?).

To reassure my son, he is actually on the same wavelength as Alain de Botton, one of the better known modern  philosophers out there. And he’s not even 10 yet. Good for him.

de Botton

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Tradeoffs, Happiness, & the Biology of Our Cacophonous Selves

You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?” – Steven Wright  (comedian)

 It seemed like a good idea at the time.” – S.A. (neuroscientist, friend)

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Lately, I keep seeing a recurrent theme in a number of widely different sources. It’s a concept taught in Economics 101, that of tradeoff and opportunity costs – money or time invested in one object or activity cannot be spent on another. A related concept, foundational to biology, is life history theory (LHT). In his book “Patterns of Human Growth,” the biological anthropologist Barry Bogin defined LHT as:

the study of the strategy an organism uses to allocate its energy toward growth, maintenance, reproduction, raising offspring to independence, and avoiding death. For a mammal, it is the strategy of when to be born, when to be weaned, how many and what types of pre-reproductive stages to pass through, when to reproduce, and when to die.” (1999: 154)

life

you could be a winner at the game of life

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Meta Mike Little

Someone at Binghamton sent me this photo today. It’s my advisor from graduate school, Mike Little, reading this blog. This made me smile.

Mike, if you’re reading this, thanks for everything. I hope seeing this isn’t too meta.

Mike and me.

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A New Semester

These are the class rules and motivations I gave my students this semester, borrowed from the good people at KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) and Neil deGrasse Tyson. I thought it would be better to keep things simple and positive, and these sounded a lot better than a list of “don’ts.”  Continue reading

Review 2012

Below is a quick look at the most-read posts that were written in 2012, with a brief summary, in case you’re interested.* Thanks very much to everyone for visiting, and to those who have shared these writings and commented on them.

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1) Part 6. Humans are (Blank)- ogamous: Many Intimate Relationships. May 17

This was the most viewed post written this year. It looked at the variety of intimate romantic relationships that humans have negotiated into various socially recognized structures. I tried to go beyond looking at humans as naturally monogamous or promiscuous, which I think are overly simplistic arguments, taking a look at how this complexity may have arisen. There’s also a nice graphic, borrowed from David McCandless.

We obviously have a lot of cultural diversity in humanity with substantive differences in worldviews and which behaviors are deemed acceptable, but cultures – and individuals – are tasked with how to balance sex, love, intimacy, and commitment, as well as reproduction and parenting. I think this interplay between individual drives and cultures provides an alternate model of looking at things rather than trying to discern what humans ‘are’ in terms of our sexuality.”   

2) Human Nature, Humility, & Homosexuality. Feb 10

A pointed response to one conservative’s argument about homosexuality being against human nature, and the need for tolerance and the need to avoid making overly confident claims about human behavior. “I would recommend that if we have a choice, then choose humility. Choose tolerance. Choose love.”

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Inspiration

I had a burst of inspiration today, and feel pretty good about it. Let’s see if I can convert this into something more tangible. 🙂

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Why Academia Should Be More Social

A friend asked me to write something about the benefits of social media like blogging, Twitter, etc. among academics. A few days ago, she posted it on her website, Impassion Media. My approach was that there are many ways to use social media, some of which can be a waste of time, but it can also be productive. I included a few anecdotes in there too.

I’m an academic and an anthropologist, so I’ve tailored my social media use for those fields. Others may have different experiences. Certainly, I may use it for connecting with friends or family, sharing music or humor, or just venting. This isn’t to dismiss the personal – academics are people too! (so I’ve heard) – but there are more substantive benefits… A partial list includes: sharing news on research, professional networking, and engaging with a wider audience through blogging.”

The rest of the post can be found here.

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