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"Facebook is trying too hard." Why some teens are turned off by Facebook.

"Facebook is trying too hard."  Why some teens are turned off by Facebook. | Ken's Odds & Ends | Scoop.it
At 13, I’ve been noticing something different: Facebook is losing teens lately. And I think I know why.
Ken Morrison's insight:

Regardless of the platform, this young writer appears to be quite media literate.  I am glad that some people are putting thought into the effects of social media.  One takeaway is that some kids feel that "Facebook is trying too hard."

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Ken's Odds & Ends
Links that I want to share and remember because they made me think more deeply on a topic. Warning: I do engage in some 'linkdumping' here. This is not a true curation page.
Curated by Ken Morrison
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An Eye on New Media

An Eye on New Media | Ken's Odds & Ends | Scoop.it

Welcome to 'Ken's Odds and Ends'. Click this link to go to my 'real' site.

Let me be the first to tell you that this "Odd's and Ends' site is not a polished Scoop.it Page. It is the 'waiting room' or 'overflow room' for my primary Scoop.it page which you can find here:
http://www.scoop.it/t/new-media-technology

The focus of that site is New Media in Society, Business & Classrooms

This site reflects those interests as well as some other scoops that don't fit directly into nice little boxes under the 'new media' umbrella.

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I am trying to streamline my primary site.  Oddz and Endz is kind of an overflow of this original site but will have content that doesn't fit into nice little  boxes under the 'New Media' flag

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The Language of Lying: Animated Primer on How to Detect Deception

The Language of Lying: Animated Primer on How to Detect Deception | Ken's Odds & Ends | Scoop.it
Our yearning to discern deception so that we can protect ourselves from abuse, is ancient and almost primal — a marketable commodity for mystics and media manipulators alike. In one of the best explorations of the subject, Sam Harris defined lying as “both a failure of understanding and an unwillingness to be understood.” Susan Sontag wrote in her diary that “ordinary language is an accretion of lies.” But language itself, it turns out, is a remarkable lie-detector — the closest we can get to peering into another’s mind to understand motive and recognize deception.

From Noah Zandan and TED Ed comes this revelatory short animation on how to spot a liar, using communications science and linguistic text analysis to explore the four most common patterns in the subconscious language of deception.



Liars reference themselves less when making deceptive statements. They write or talk more about others, often using the third person to distance and disassociate themselves from their life.
Liars tend to be more negative because, on a subconscious level, they feel guilty about lying.
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The Economist

The Economist | Ken's Odds & Ends | Scoop.it
THE coastal city of Wenzhou is sometimes called China’s Jerusalem. Ringed by mountains and far from the capital, Beijing, it has long been a haven for a religion that China’s Communist leaders view with deep unease: Christianity. Most cities of its size, with about 9m people, have no more than a dozen or so visibly Christian buildings. Until recently, in Wenzhou, hundreds of crosses decorated church roofs.
This year, however, more than 230 have been classed as “illegal structures” and removed. Videos posted on the internet show crowds of parishioners trying to form a human shield around their churches. Dozens have been injured. Other films show weeping believers defiantly singing hymns as huge red crosses are hoisted off the buildings. In April one of Wenzhou’s largest churches was completely demolished. Officials are untroubled by the clash between the city’s famously freewheeling capitalism and the Communist Party’s ideology, yet still see religion and its symbols as affronts to the party’s atheism.
Christians in China have long suffered persecutiont. Under Mao Zedong, freedom of belief was enshrined in the new Communist constitution (largely to accommodate Muslims and Tibetan Buddhists in the west of the country). Yet perhaps as many as half a million Christians were harried to death, and tens of thousands more were sent to labour camps. Since the death of Mao in 1976, the party has slowly allowed more religious freedom. Most of the churches in Wenzhou are so-called “Three Self” churches, of which there are about 57,000 round the country. These, in the official jargon, are self-supporting, self-governed and self-propagating (therefore closed to foreign influence). They profess loyalty to China, and are registered with the government. But many of those in Wenzhou had obviously incurred official displeasure all the same; and most of the Christians who survived Maoist persecution, along with many new believers, refuse to join such churches anyway, continuing to meet in unregistered “house churches”, which the party for a long time tried to suppress.
Christianity is hard to control in China, and getting harder all the time. It is spreading rapidly, and infiltrating the party’s own ranks. The line is blurring between house churches and official ones, and Christians are starting to emerge from hiding to play a more active part in society. The Communist Party has to find a new way to deal with all this. There is even talk that the party, the world’s largest explicitly atheist organisation, might follow its sister parties in Vietnam and Cuba and allow members to embrace a dogma other than—even higher than—that of Marx.
Any shift in official thinking on religion could have big ramifications for the way China handles a host of domestic challenges, from separatist unrest among Tibetan Buddhists and Muslim Uighurs in the country’s west to the growth of NGOs and “civil society”—grassroots organisations, often with a religious colouring, which the party treats with suspicion, but which are also spreading fast.
Safety in numbers
The upsurge in religion in China, especially among the ethnic Han who make up more than 90% of the population, is a general one. From the bullet trains that sweep across the Chinese countryside, passengers can see new churches and temples springing up everywhere. Buddhism, much longer established in China than Christianity, is surging too, as is folk religion; many more Han are making pilgrimages to Buddhist shrines in search of spiritual comfort. All this worries many officials, for whom religion is not only Marx’s “opium of the people” but also, they believe, a dangerous perverter of loyalty away from the party and the state. Christianity, in particular, is associated with 19th-century Western imperial encroachment; and thus the party’s treatment of Christians offers a sharp insight into the way its attitudes are changing.
It is hard even to guess at the number of Christians in China. Official surveys seek to play down the figures, ignoring the large number who worship in house churches. By contrast, overseas Christian groups often inflate them. There were perhaps 3m Catholics and 1m Protestants when the party came to power in 1949. Officials now say there are between 23m and 40m, all told. In 2010 the Pew Research Centre, an American polling organisation, estimated there were 58m Protestants and 9m Catholics. Many experts, foreign and Chinese, now accept that there are probably more Christians than there are members of the 87m-strong Communist Party. Most are evangelical Protestants.
Predicting Christianity’s growth is even harder. Yang Fenggang of Purdue University, in Indiana, says the Christian church in China has grown by an average of 10% a year since 1980. He reckons that on current trends there will be 250m Christians by around 2030, making China’s Christian population the largest in the world. Mr Yang says this speed of growth is similar to that seen in fourth-century Rome just before the conversion of Constantine, which paved the way for Christianity to become the religion of his empire.
In the 1980s the faith grew most quickly in the countryside, stimulated by the collapse of local health care and a belief that Christianity could heal instead. In recent years it has been burgeoning in cities. A new breed of educated, urban Christians has emerged. Gerda Wielander of the University of Westminster, in her book “Christian Values in Communist China”, says that many Chinese are attracted to Christianity because, now that belief in Marxism is declining, it offers a complete moral system with a transcendental source. People find such certainties appealing, she adds, in an age of convulsive change.
Some Chinese also discern in Christianity the roots of Western strength. They see it as the force behind the development of social justice, civil society and rule of law, all things they hope to see in China. Many new NGOs are run by Christians or Buddhists. There are growing numbers of Christian doctors and academics. More than 2,000 Christian schools are also dotted around China, many of them small and all, as yet, illegal.
One civil-rights activist says that, of the 50 most-senior civil-rights lawyers in China, probably half are Christians. Some of them have set up the Association of Human Rights Attorneys for Chinese Christians. Groups of well-paid urban Christian lawyers join together to defend Christians—and others—in court. Missionaries have begun to go out from China to the developing world.
Unexpected benefits
The authorities have responded to this in different ways. In places like Wenzhou, they have cracked down. Implementation of religious policy is often left to local officials. Some see toughness as a way of displaying loyalty to the central leadership. Mr Yang of Purdue University says there are rumours in Wenzhou that the crackdown there is partly the result of a local leader’s efforts to win favour with President Xi Jinping.
China Aid, an American church group, says that last year more than 7,400 Christians suffered persecution in China. And there is still plenty of less visible discrimination. But 7,400 people are less than 0.01% of all Chinese Christians. Even if the figure is higher, in this century “persecution is clearly no longer the norm”, says Brent Fulton of ChinaSource, a Christian group in Hong Kong.
That is largely because many officials see advantages in Christianity’s growth. Some wealthy business folk in Wenzhou have become believers—they are dubbed “boss Christians”—and have built large churches in the city. One holds evening meetings at which businessmen and women explain “biblical” approaches to making money. Others form groups encouraging each other to do business honestly, pay taxes and help the poor. Rare is the official anywhere in China who would want to scare away investors from his area.
In other regions local leaders lend support, or turn a blind eye, because they find that Christians are good citizens. Their commitment to community welfare helps to reinforce precious stability. In some large cities the government itself is sponsoring the construction of new Three Self churches: Chongyi church, in Hangzhou, can seat 5,000 people. Three Self pastors are starting to talk to house-church leaders; conversely, house-church leaders (often correctly) no longer consider official churches to be full of party stooges.
In recent years the party’s concerns have shifted from people beliefs to the maintenance of stability and the party’s monopoly of power. If working with churches helps achieve these aims, it will do so, even though it still frets about encouraging an alternative source of authority. In 2000 Jiang Zemin, then party chief, and himself a painter of calligraphy for his local Buddhist temples, said in an official speech that religion would probably still be around when concepts of class and state had vanished.
Increasingly, the party needs the help of religious believers. It is struggling to supply social services efficiently; Christian and Buddhist groups are willing, and able, to help. Since about 2003, religious groups in Hong Kong have received requests from mainland government officials to help set up NG O s and charities. In an age of hedonism and corruption, selfless activism has helped the churches’ reputation; not least, it has persuaded the regime that Christians are not out to overthrow it. For the Catholic church, though, the situation is trickier: allegiance to Rome is still seen by some officials as a sign of treachery.
Ms Wielander says she does not believe the flock will go on growing by 10% year in, year out. But she admits that the party is now paying more attention to the increasing religiosity of ordinary Chinese. So, in some areas, it is modifying its attitude and official rhetoric (while keeping intense pressure on Buddhist Tibetans and Muslim Uighurs, whose religious beliefs are seen to threaten the integrity of the state). In May last year the head of the Russian Orthodox church was welcomed by Mr Xi in Beijing, the first such foreign church leader to meet China’s party chief.
Now is the time for all good men...
When the Communist Party allowed entrepreneurs to join in 2001, some voices suggested that it should also allow religious believers to do so. Pan Yue, a reformist official, wrote a newspaper article to that effect entitled, “The religious views of the Communist Party must keep up with the times”. One influence was the decision of the Communist Party of Vietnam in 1990 to allow its members to be religious believers. The move went smoothly, and may even have helped to stabilise Vietnam after its turbulent recent past. In China, however, Mr Pan’s idea was ignored.
One Chinese article in 2004 claimed that 3m-4m party members had become Christians. Despite that, the party still has doubts about officially admitting them. Recent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong are likely to reinforce those fears: some of the organisers were Christians. It worries the regime that the growth of house churches may also provide more room for the growth of quasi-Christian cults, which may then—like the banned Falun Gong movement—become politicised, and turn anti-Communist. The party’s fear of such cults is rooted in history. The Taiping rebellion in the mid-19th century, led by a man calling himself the brother of Jesus, resulted in more than 20m deaths.
But some officials are becoming more discerning in their crackdowns. This has been evident in Beijing where, around 2005, two large house churches began renting office space for their Sunday services. The largest, Shouwang church, was led by Jin Tianming, a graduate of Beijing’s elite Tsinghua University. It drew an intellectual crowd from the university district. On some Sundays up to 1,000 people attended services. Parishioners could download sermons from the church’s website. Mr Jin was known to be quietly arguing for more religious freedom. He tried to register Shouwang as a legal but independent congregation, not under the control of the official church, but was turned down. In 2009, just before a visit by America’s president, Barack Obama, the government forced the landlord of the building to terminate the church’s lease. Mr Jin took his congregation into a nearby park, where they worshipped in the snow. He and the church elders were placed under house arrest and many parishioners were detained. They had crossed a political red line.
It is a different story on the other side of Beijing. In an office building just off the third ring road another unregistered congregation, known as Zion church, meets in a similar venue; its pastor, Jin Mingri, is a graduate of Peking University. Like Shouwang, Zion covers an entire floor and includes a bookshop and a café offering loyalty cards to coffee-drinkers. The main hall holds 400 people. It looks and feels like a church in suburban America. Zion’s pastors preach equally uncompromising evangelical sermons, yet the church remains open because it is more cautious in how it engages with sensitive issues.
The pastors of both churches (and the leader of Shanghai’s largest house church, before it was closed, like Shouwang, in 2010) are members of China’s 2.3m-strong ethnic Korean minority, who see the Christianisation of South Korea as a model for China to follow. Both pastors came of age during—and took part in the Tiananmen protests of 1989, the crushing of which led to their disillusionment with the party and the spiritual search that led to their conversion. Yet officials in Beijing, so far, feel they can cohabit with one of them at least.
At the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences one man, Liu Peng, is trying to assist the process. Mr Liu recommended a moderate line to defuse the standoff with Shouwang. A certificate in his office confirms that China’s then president, Hu Jintao, acted on his advice; by the standards of crackdowns on dissent, the one on Shouwang church was mild.
Mr Liu, a Christian himself, is now, on his own initiative, drafting a document that he hopes will become the country’s first law on religion. At present religion is governed only by administrative regulations; such a law might make it more difficult for officials to crack down arbitrarily. Mr Liu says the party should allow its members to be believers, since an age of toleration would benefit the party as well as the churches. There should be a “religious free market”. But he admits that this, like a law, is a long way off.
Getting bolder
Meanwhile, acts of defiance are increasing. A mid-ranking official in a big city was recently told that her Christian faith, which was well known in the office, was not compatible with her party membership and she would have to give it up. She politely told her superiors that she would not be able to do that, and that her freedom of belief was protected by the Chinese constitution. She was not fired, but sent on a remedial course at a party school. She is now back at her job, and says her colleagues often come to her asking for prayer.
Christians are becoming more socially (and sometimes politically) engaged, too. Wang Yi is a former law professor and prolific blogger who became a Christian in 2005. The next year he was one of three house-church Christians who met President George W. Bush at the White House. Mr Wang is now pastor of Early Rain, a house church in the south-western city of Chengdu. On June 1st this year, International Children’s Day, he and members of his congregation were detained for distributing leaflets opposing China’s one-child policy and the forced abortions it leads to.
In 2013 a group of Chinese intellectuals convened a conference in Oxford which brought together, for the first time, thinkers from the New Left, whose members want to retain some of the egalitarian parts of Maoism; the New Confucians, who want to promote more of China’s traditional philosophical thinking; and the New Liberals, classic economic and political liberals. For the first time Christian intellectuals were included as well. The gathering produced a document, called the Oxford Consensus, emphasising that the centre of the Chinese nation is the people, not the state; that culture should be pluralistic; and that China must always behave peacefully towards others. This was not overtly Christian, but it was significant that Christian intellectuals had been included. A summary of the meeting was published in an influential Chinese newspaper, Southern People, and most participants continue to live freely, if cautiously, in China.
The paradox, as they all know, is that religious freedom, if it ever takes hold, might harm the Christian church in two ways. The church might become institutionalised, wealthy and hence corrupt, as happened in Rome in the high Middle Ages, and is already happening a little in the businessmen’s churches of Wenzhou. Alternatively the church, long strengthened by repression, may become a feebler part of society in a climate of toleration. As one Beijing house-church elder declared, with a nod to the erosion of Christian faith in western Europe: “If we get full religious freedom, then the church is finished.”
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The Baloney Detection Kit: Carl Sagan’s Rules for Bullshit-Busting and Critical Thinking

The Baloney Detection Kit: Carl Sagan’s Rules for Bullshit-Busting and Critical Thinking | Ken's Odds & Ends | Scoop.it
Carl Sagan was many things — a cosmic sage, voracious reader, hopeless romantic, and brilliant philosopher. But above all, he endures as our era’s greatest patron saint of reason and common sense, a master of the vital balance between skepticism and openness. In The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (public library) — the same indispensable volume that gave us Sagan’s timeless meditation on science and spirituality, published mere months before his death in 1996 — Sagan shares his secret to upholding the rites of reason, even in the face of society’s most shameless untruths and outrageous propaganda.

In a chapter titled “The Fine Art of Baloney Detection,” Sagan reflects on the many types of deception to which we’re susceptible — from psychics to religious zealotry to paid product endorsements by scientists, which he held in especially low regard, noting that they “betray contempt for the intelligence of their customers” and “introduce an insidious corruption of popular attitudes about scientific objectivity.” (Cue in PBS’s Joe Hanson on how to read science news.) But rather than preaching from the ivory tower of self-righteousness, Sagan approaches the subject from the most vulnerable of places — having just lost both of his parents, he reflects on the all too human allure of promises of supernatural reunions in the afterlife, reminding us that falling for such fictions doesn’t make us stupid or bad people, but simply means that we need to equip ourselves with the right tools against them.



Through their training, scientists are equipped with what Sagan calls a “baloney detection kit” — a set of cognitive tools and techniques that fortify the mind against penetration by falsehoods:

The kit is brought out as a matter of course whenever new ideas are offered for consideration. If the new idea survives examination by the tools in our kit, we grant it warm, although tentative, acceptance. If you’re so inclined, if you don’t want to buy baloney even when it’s reassuring to do so, there are precautions that can be taken; there’s a tried-and-true, consumer-tested method.

But the kit, Sagan argues, isn’t merely a tool of science — rather, it contains invaluable tools of healthy skepticism that apply just as elegantly, and just as necessarily, to everyday life. By adopting the kit, we can all shield ourselves against clueless guile and deliberate manipulation. Sagan shares nine of these tools:

Wherever possible there must be independent confirmation of the “facts.”
Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view.
Arguments from authority carry little weight — “authorities” have made mistakes in the past. They will do so again in the future. Perhaps a better way to say it is that in science there are no authorities; at most, there are experts.
Spin more than one hypothesis. If there’s something to be explained, think of all the different ways in which it could be explained. Then think of tests by which you might systematically disprove each of the alternatives. What survives, the hypothesis that resists disproof in this Darwinian selection among “multiple working hypotheses,” has a much better chance of being the right answer than if you had simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy.
Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it’s yours. It’s only a way station in the pursuit of knowledge. Ask yourself why you like the idea. Compare it fairly with the alternatives. See if you can find reasons for rejecting it. If you don’t, others will.
Quantify. If whatever it is you’re explaining has some measure, some numerical quantity attached to it, you’ll be much better able to discriminate among competing hypotheses. What is vague and qualitative is open to many explanations. Of course there are truths to be sought in the many qualitative issues we are obliged to confront, but finding them is more challenging.
If there’s a chain of argument, every link in the chain must work (including the premise) — not just most of them.
Occam’s Razor. This convenient rule-of-thumb urges us when faced with two hypotheses that explain the data equally well to choose the simpler.
Always ask whether the hypothesis can be, at least in principle, falsified. Propositions that are untestable, unfalsifiable are not worth much. Consider the grand idea that our Universe and everything in it is just an elementary particle — an electron, say — in a much bigger Cosmos. But if we can never acquire information from outside our Universe, is not the idea incapable of disproof? You must be able to check assertions out. Inveterate skeptics must be given the chance to follow your reasoning, to duplicate your experiments and see if they get the same result.


Just as important as learning these helpful tools, however, is unlearning and avoiding the most common pitfalls of common sense. Reminding us of where society is most vulnerable to those, Sagan writes:

In addition to teaching us what to do when evaluating a claim to knowledge, any good baloney detection kit must also teach us what not to do. It helps us recognize the most common and perilous fallacies of logic and rhetoric. Many good examples can be found in religion and politics, because their practitioners are so often obliged to justify two contradictory propositions.

He admonishes against the twenty most common and perilous ones — many rooted in our chronic discomfort with ambiguity — with examples of each in action:

ad hominem — Latin for “to the man,” attacking the arguer and not the argument (e.g., The Reverend Dr. Smith is a known Biblical fundamentalist, so her objections to evolution need not be taken seriously)
argument from authority (e.g., President Richard Nixon should be re-elected because he has a secret plan to end the war in Southeast Asia — but because it was secret, there was no way for the electorate to evaluate it on its merits; the argument amounted to trusting him because he was President: a mistake, as it turned out)
argument from adverse consequences (e.g., A God meting out punishment and reward must exist, because if He didn’t, society would be much more lawless and dangerous — perhaps even ungovernable. Or: The defendant in a widely publicized murder trial must be found guilty; otherwise, it will be an encouragement for other men to murder their wives)
appeal to ignorance — the claim that whatever has not been proved false must be true, and vice versa (e.g., There is no compelling evidence that UFOs are not visiting the Earth; therefore UFOs exist — and there is intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe. Or: There may be seventy kazillion other worlds, but not one is known to have the moral advancement of the Earth, so we’re still central to the Universe.) This impatience with ambiguity can be criticized in the phrase: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
special pleading, often to rescue a proposition in deep rhetorical trouble (e.g., How can a merciful God condemn future generations to torment because, against orders, one woman induced one man to eat an apple? Special plead: you don’t understand the subtle Doctrine of Free Will. Or: How can there be an equally godlike Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in the same Person? Special plead: You don’t understand the Divine Mystery of the Trinity. Or: How could God permit the followers of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — each in their own way enjoined to heroic measures of loving kindness and compassion — to have perpetrated so much cruelty for so long? Special plead: You don’t understand Free Will again. And anyway, God moves in mysterious ways.)
begging the question, also called assuming the answer (e.g., We must institute the death penalty to discourage violent crime. But does the violent crime rate in fact fall when the death penalty is imposed? Or: The stock market fell yesterday because of a technical adjustment and profit-taking by investors — but is there any independent evidence for the causal role of “adjustment” and profit-taking; have we learned anything at all from this purported explanation?)
observational selection, also called the enumeration of favorable circumstances, or as the philosopher Francis Bacon described it, counting the hits and forgetting the misses (e.g., A state boasts of the Presidents it has produced, but is silent on its serial killers)
statistics of small numbers — a close relative of observational selection (e.g., “They say 1 out of every 5 people is Chinese. How is this possible? I know hundreds of people, and none of them is Chinese. Yours truly.” Or: “I’ve thrown three sevens in a row. Tonight I can’t lose.”)
misunderstanding of the nature of statistics (e.g., President Dwight Eisenhower expressing astonishment and alarm on discovering that fully half of all Americans have below average intelligence);
inconsistency (e.g., Prudently plan for the worst of which a potential military adversary is capable, but thriftily ignore scientific projections on environmental dangers because they’re not “proved.” Or: Attribute the declining life expectancy in the former Soviet Union to the failures of communism many years ago, but never attribute the high infant mortality rate in the United States (now highest of the major industrial nations) to the failures of capitalism. Or: Consider it reasonable for the Universe to continue to exist forever into the future, but judge absurd the possibility that it has infinite duration into the past);
non sequitur — Latin for “It doesn’t follow” (e.g., Our nation will prevail because God is great. But nearly every nation pretends this to be true; the German formulation was “Gott mit uns”). Often those falling into the non sequitur fallacy have simply failed to recognize alternative possibilities;
post hoc, ergo propter hoc — Latin for “It happened after, so it was caused by” (e.g., Jaime Cardinal Sin, Archbishop of Manila: “I know of … a 26-year-old who looks 60 because she takes [contraceptive] pills.” Or: Before women got the vote, there were no nuclear weapons)
meaningless question (e.g., What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? But if there is such a thing as an irresistible force there can be no immovable objects, and vice versa)
excluded middle, or false dichotomy — considering only the two extremes in a continuum of intermediate possibilities (e.g., “Sure, take his side; my husband’s perfect; I’m always wrong.” Or: “Either you love your country or you hate it.” Or: “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem”)
short-term vs. long-term — a subset of the excluded middle, but so important I’ve pulled it out for special attention (e.g., We can’t afford programs to feed malnourished children and educate pre-school kids. We need to urgently deal with crime on the streets. Or: Why explore space or pursue fundamental science when we have so huge a budget deficit?);
slippery slope, related to excluded middle (e.g., If we allow abortion in the first weeks of pregnancy, it will be impossible to prevent the killing of a full-term infant. Or, conversely: If the state prohibits abortion even in the ninth month, it will soon be telling us what to do with our bodies around the time of conception);
confusion of correlation and causation (e.g., A survey shows that more college graduates are homosexual than those with lesser education; therefore education makes people gay. Or: Andean earthquakes are correlated with closest approaches of the planet Uranus; therefore — despite the absence of any such correlation for the nearer, more massive planet Jupiter — the latter causes the former)
straw man — caricaturing a position to make it easier to attack (e.g., Scientists suppose that living things simply fell together by chance — a formulation that willfully ignores the central Darwinian insight, that Nature ratchets up by saving what works and discarding what doesn’t. Or — this is also a short-term/long-term fallacy — environmentalists care more for snail darters and spotted owls than they do for people)
suppressed evidence, or half-truths (e.g., An amazingly accurate and widely quoted “prophecy” of the assassination attempt on President Reagan is shown on television; but — an important detail — was it recorded before or after the event? Or: These government abuses demand revolution, even if you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs. Yes, but is this likely to be a revolution in which far more people are killed than under the previous regime? What does the experience of other revolutions suggest? Are all revolutions against oppressive regimes desirable and in the interests of the people?)
weasel words (e.g., The separation of powers of the U.S. Constitution specifies that the United States may not conduct a war without a declaration by Congress. On the other hand, Presidents are given control of foreign policy and the conduct of wars, which are potentially powerful tools for getting themselves re-elected. Presidents of either political party may therefore be tempted to arrange wars while waving the flag and calling the wars something else — “police actions,” “armed incursions,” “protective reaction strikes,” “pacification,” “safeguarding American interests,” and a wide variety of “operations,” such as “Operation Just Cause.” Euphemisms for war are one of a broad class of reinventions of language for political purposes. Talleyrand said, “An important art of politicians is to find new names for institutions which under old names have become odious to the public”)
Sagan ends the chapter with a necessary disclaimer:

Like all tools, the baloney detection kit can be misused, applied out of context, or even employed as a rote alternative to thinking. But applied judiciously, it can make all the difference in the world — not least in evaluating our own arguments before we present them to others.

The Demon-Haunted World is a timelessly fantastic read in its entirety, timelier than ever in a great many ways amidst our present media landscape of propaganda, pseudoscience, and various commercial motives. Complement it with Sagan on science and “God”.
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The Greatest Books of All Time, As Voted by 125 Famous Authors

The Greatest Books of All Time, As Voted by 125 Famous Authors | Ken's Odds & Ends | Scoop.it
Why Tolstoy is 11.6% better than Shakespeare.

"Reading is the nourishment that lets you do interesting work," Jennifer Egan once said. Th
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▶ Delhi's Incredible Growth Will Blow Your Mind - YouTube

This week, Cities of the future visits India's capital - New Delhi. Here's what the city needs to do in order to maintain sustainable growth.
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A view of New Dehli from the eyes of bike tourists, a policeman, and a politician.

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Goodbye weekend plans: Internet Archive now lets you play 900 classic arcade games

Goodbye weekend plans: Internet Archive now lets you play 900 classic arcade games | Ken's Odds & Ends | Scoop.it
The Internet Archive has added a collection of 900 video games from the 1970s to 1990s that can be played in your web browser -- no coins required.
Ken Morrison's insight:

Games

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The Hilarious Story Of Shane, The Walmart Deli Guy, Told Through Notes From His Bosses

The Hilarious Story Of Shane, The Walmart Deli Guy, Told Through Notes From His Bosses | Ken's Odds & Ends | Scoop.it
This is the ridiculous story of Shane, a Walmart deli employee. The pictures are of notes left for Shane by store management.
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How The Most Successful People Conquer Burnout

How The Most Successful People Conquer Burnout | Ken's Odds & Ends | Scoop.it
Here’s the scariest thing about burnout: It’s easy not to see it coming when you’re doing something you’re passionate about.

After several years of head-down-focused work, day in and day out, you’ll start to feel the rigorous training you’ve forced your body to adopt has taken a toll. You’ll either push through or hit the wall hard. The most successful people have all dealt with this life-work challenge at some point. Below, seven of them share what they did to reset and recover.

FOCUS ON YOUR PURPOSE AND STAY CENTERED
Angela Benton, cofounder of NewME

“Burnout is a big issue, particularly for entrepreneurs, mainly because the culture in being in a startup, especially tech startups, is ‘go go go,’” Benton tells Fast Company. “You have to be ‘on’ 100% of the time. When you’re running a startup, most people know you’re not going to have overnight success … you’re in the trenches for a long period of time.”

Before moving to San Francisco to head up NewME, Benton ran four miles every day, but startup life quickly got to her and she stopped running because she became “too busy.” She also kept forgetting to eat because she became “too busy.”

“At the time, people told me to make sure to take time for myself, but when you’re working on something you’re deeply passionate about, it’s fun,” she says, “It doesn’t feel like work … but you just cannot keep up that level of intensity.”

Feeling the time pressure and signs of burnout slowly creeping up on her, Benton decided to become more deliberate with her time last year. “I was exhausted,” says Benton. “I had gotten disconnected from the purpose of why I’m doing what I’m doing, who I’m doing it for.”

Today, the chief executive meditates around 20 minutes every morning to keep herself centered on the important things and makes sure she maintains a healthy lifestyle.

LEARN HOW OTHER PEOPLE WORK PAST BURNOUT
Benny Luo, founder of NextShark

Luo, a 26-year-old serial entrepreneur, has at least four startups under his belt. He doesn’t know how to completely separate himself from startup life and startup mentality.

“It definitely runs my life sometimes,” says Luo. “For me, every other week, I am on the brink of burning out. There’s so much uncertainty. Your thoughts are always wondering if this is going to work.”

To push past his point of exhaustion, Luo reads about other entrepreneurs or companies that have similar stories to him.

“I like those stories. They remind me that startups are very volatile that anything can happen,” he says. “They’re almost therapeutic for me.” Luo also learns how other people make it past their burnout zone when he interviews them, like this interview with Robert Greene where the famed author of The 48 Laws of Power addresses burnout:

Burnout is real and the problem that people have is that when they get frustrated or feel bored or they’re not quite challenged, they give up and they go on to to something else. There is a point here, a fine line between finding challenges for yourself, moving on when you need to move, and giving up because you are not able to push past that point of frustration. It’s a very slender line.
KNOW THAT EVERY OPPORTUNITY HAS AN OPPORTUNITY COST
Tina Martini, partner at DLA Piper

“I think one of the things I wrestle with and the reason why the whole work-life balance conversation is being had, is that it’s hard to say ‘no,’” says Martini. “It’s hard to take a step back and say, ‘This is what I already have on my plate.’”

“I think having a conversation with yourself about what’s important, taking a step back to look at your life holistically ... it becomes easier to channel those things that matter more and it’s easier to see when you’re about to be on the brink of burnout.”

Around five years ago, Martini felt herself cave in when she was wearing several hats and given additional responsibilities at her firm. To save herself, she tried to power down, not be on email and available all the time, and hired an executive coach.

“[The coach] really helped me take a step back and understand that with every opportunity, there’s an opportunity cost,” says Martini. “If you’re doing one thing, you’re foregoing something else.”

RESET, RECHARGE, AND REST
Jane Wurwand, founder of Dermalogica and FITE

To run her global company, Wurwand travels often and tells Fast Company that with the amount of traveling she does, a perfect balance is never really possible. However, she does keep a certain routine in order to remain fresh and focused.

I DON'T BELIEVE 'BURNOUT' IS A FUNCTION OF THE AMOUNT OR INTENSITY OF WORK ONE TAKES ON. FEELING BURNED OUT IS A MISALIGNMENT BETWEEN THE INDIVIDUAL AND THEIR DAILY TASKS.
"Traveling, especially overseas, means extremes and compromises, so it's all about resiliency and bouncing back after lost sleep, crossed time-zones, and crazy schedules,” says Wurwand. “For me, it's important to stay fit and work out, even when I travel for business, so that I have the stamina to meet the challenges that get thrown at us. Before I fly, I take loads of Vitamin C, oregano oil, and stay hydrated. Then, I try and follow my three R's: Reset, Recharge, and Rest.”

To reset, Wurwand suggests taking walks or simply go outside; to recharge, she takes long baths with stress relief oils; to rest, she loads up on water and turns off all smart devices at night.

TAKE SOME TIME OFF AND IMAGINE YOURSELF STEPPING BACK INTO IT
Michelle Bernard, CEO of the Bernard Center for Women

“A few years ago, I worked on the first TV special I had ever done,” says Bernard. “It felt like I was working on adrenaline for months. I didn’t feel exhausted, but 24 hours after the show aired, I felt completely spent. I felt like I hadn’t slept in a year.”

“When you work on adrenaline for weeks or months at a time, eventually your body says, ‘I need a break,’” she continues.

Whenever she does have to work through these periods of exhaustion, Bernard says she now makes sure to take time out for herself to “retool.”

“You learn the routine, the ebbs and flow of how you’re feeling,” she says. “I know when I’m reaching my tipping point, I take some time off and reimagine myself stepping back into it.”

MIX UP YOUR ROUTINE
Barbara Bates, CEO of Eastwick

Bates has been running her business for 24 years and has experienced burnout several times. “Everyone at one point in their life has been at their wit’s end but I found, for business and for your personal life, that pushing yourself to that brink isn’t healthy but also isn’t productive,” she says. “It doesn’t yield better results. It doesn’t help you think strategically or creatively.”

To stave off burnout, Bates practice flex-time at Eastwick. She also encourages her employees to do the same. She believes that in a business where most people have classic type-A personalities, the best way to prevent burnout is stopping it before it sets in. Bates also encourages her team to mix things up and try new routines to keep them from feeling worn out and spent.

INTEGRATE YOUR WORK AND LIFE
Bismarck Lepe, CEO of Wizeline

“When I first started at Google, I and the rest of my colleagues worked 15 to 20 hour days and were always available on the weekends. We did this because we were all working toward the common goal of making Google successful. Stress or burnout was not a factor, I think, because we cared about Google's success and we knew Google cared about us.”

“More generally, I don't believe 'burnout' is a function of the amount or intensity of work one takes on. Rather, feeling burned out is usually caused by a misalignment between the individual and their daily tasks. If you're plugged in--and are fully committed to, and believe, in the mission of your work--you'll never truly experience burnout. It's the difference between work-life balance and work-life integration.”
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Top 10 Hidden Features of OS X Yosemite

Top 10 Hidden Features of OS X Yosemite | Ken's Odds & Ends | Scoop.it
Yosemite is here with a bunch of new features, but a few of the best things are hidden away. Here are 10 hidden features you might not have noticed yet.
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Sloths Were Once As Large As Elephants - YouTube

The sloths we know and love today may be small and slow, but they’re survivors. The sloths we know and love today may be small and slow, but they’re survivor...
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'Your Job Is To Make Money': Coal Boss Laid Bare After Miner Deaths

'Your Job Is To Make Money': Coal Boss Laid Bare After Miner Deaths | Ken's Odds & Ends | Scoop.it


"I think that there is a misperception in the public that we have these really strong laws. If people get injured or God forbid killed on the job, then there's a penalty for that," Monforton said, "and that's just not the case."

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Leo Tolstoy on Finding Meaning in a Meaningless World

Leo Tolstoy on Finding Meaning in a Meaningless World | Ken's Odds & Ends | Scoop.it
For man to be able to live he must either not see the infinite, or have such an explanation of the meaning of life as will connect the finite with the infinite.”

Shortly after turning fifty, Leo Tolstoy succumbed to a profound spiritual crisis. With his greatest works behind him, he found his sense of purpose dwindling as his celebrity and public acclaim billowed, sinking into a state of deep depression and melancholia despite having a large estate, good health for his age, a wife who had born him fourteen children, and the promise of eternal literary fame. On the brink of suicide, he made one last grasp at light amidst the darkness of his existence, turning to the world’s great religious and philosophical traditions for answers to the age-old question regarding the meaning of life. In 1879, a decade after War and Peace and two years after Anna Karenina, and a decade before he set out to synthesize these philosophical findings in his Calendar of Wisdom, Tolstoy channeled the existential catastrophe of his inner life in A Confession (public library) — an autobiographical memoir of extraordinary candor and emotional intensity, which also gave us Tolstoy’s prescient meditation on money, fame, and writing for the wrong reasons.

He likens the progression of his depression to a serious physical illness — a parallel modern science is rendering increasingly appropriate. Tolstoy writes:

Then occurred what happens to everyone sickening with a mortal internal disease. At first trivial signs of indisposition appear to which the sick man pays no attention; then these signs reappear more and more often and merge into one uninterrupted period of suffering. The suffering increases, and before the sick man can look round, what he took for a mere indisposition has already become more important to him than anything else in the world — it is death!



The classic symptoms of anhedonia engulfed him — he lost passion for his work and came to dismiss as meaningless the eternal fame he had once dreamt of. He even ceased to go out shooting with his gun in fear that he might be too tempted to take his own life. Though he didn’t acknowledge a “someone” in the sense of a creator, he came to feel that his life was a joke that someone had played on him — a joke all the grimmer for the awareness of our inescapable impermanence, and all the more despairing:

Today or tomorrow sickness and death will come (they had come already) to those I love or to me; nothing will remain but stench and worms. Sooner or later my affairs, whatever they may be, will be forgotten, and I shall not exist. Then why go on making any effort? . . . How can man fail to see this? And how go on living? That is what is surprising! One can only live while one is intoxicated with life; as soon as one is sober it is impossible not to see that it is all a mere fraud and a stupid fraud! That is precisely what it is: there is nothing either amusing or witty about it, it is simply cruel and stupid.

[…]

Had I simply understood that life had no meaning I could have borne it quietly, knowing that that was my lot. But I could not satisfy myself with that. Had I been like a man living in a wood from which he knows there is no exit, I could have lived; but I was like one lost in a wood who, horrified at having lost his way, rushes about wishing to find the road. He knows that each step he takes confuses him more and more, but still he cannot help rushing about. It was indeed terrible. And to rid myself of the terror I wished to kill myself.

And yet he recognized that the inquiry at the heart of his spiritual malady was neither unique nor complicated:

My question … was the simplest of questions, lying in the soul of every man from the foolish child to the wisest elder: it was a question without an answer to which one cannot live, as I had found by experience. It was: “What will come of what I am doing today or shall do tomorrow? What will come of my whole life?” Differently expressed, the question is: “Why should I live, why wish for anything, or do anything?” It can also be expressed thus: “Is there any meaning in my life that the inevitable death awaiting me does not destroy?”

Seeking to answer this seemingly simple yet paralyzingly profound question, Tolstoy first turned to science, but found that rather than recognizing and answering the question, science circumvented it and instead asked its own questions, then answered those. Most of all, he found it incapable of illuminating the infinite and instead reducing its questions and answers to finite. He writes:

These are all words with no meaning, for in the infinite there is neither complex nor simple, neither forward nor backward, nor better or worse.

[…]

One who sincerely inquires how he is to live cannot be satisfied with the reply — “Study in endless space the mutations, infinite in time and in complexity, of innumerable atoms, and then you will understand your life” — so also a sincere man cannot be satisfied with the reply: “Study the whole life of humanity of which we cannot know either the beginning or the end, of which we do not even know a small part, and then you will understand your own life.”

A century and a half before Alan Lightman tussled, elegantly, with the same paradox, Tolstoy captured the Catch-22 of the predicament:

The problem of experimental science is the sequence of cause and effect in material phenomena. It is only necessary for experimental science to introduce the question of a final cause for it to become nonsensical. The problem of abstract science is the recognition of the primordial essence of life. It is only necessary to introduce the investigation of consequential phenomena (such as social and historical phenomena) and it also becomes nonsensical. Experimental science only then gives positive knowledge and displays the greatness of the human mind when it does not introduce into its investigations the question of an ultimate cause. And, on the contrary, abstract science is only then science and displays the greatness of the human mind when it puts quite aside questions relating to the consequential causes of phenomena and regards man solely in relation to an ultimate cause.

He then turned to philosophy, but found himself equally disillusioned:

Philosophy not merely does not reply, but is itself only asking that question. And if it is real philosophy all its labour lies merely in trying to put that question clearly.

Instead of an answer, he finds in philosophy “the same question, only in a complex form.” He bemoans the inability of either science or philosophy to offer a real answer:

One kind of knowledge did not reply to life’s question, the other kind replied directly confirming my despair, indicating not that the result at which I had arrived was the fruit of error or of a diseased state of my mind, but on the contrary that I had thought correctly, and that my thoughts coincided with the conclusions of the most powerful of human minds.

Frustrated, Tolstoy answers his own question:

“Why does everything exist that exists, and why do I exist?” “Because it exists.”

It’s a sentiment that John Cage would second a century later (“No why. Just here.”) and George Lucas would also echo (“There is no why. We are. Life is beyond reason.”) — a proposition that comes closest to the spiritual tradition of Buddhism. And, indeed, Tolstoy turns to spirituality in one final and desperate attempt at an answer — first by surveying how those in his social circle lived with this all-consuming inquiry. He found among them four strategies for managing the existential despair, but none that resolved it:

I found that for people of my circle there were four ways out of the terrible position in which we are all placed. The first was that of ignorance. It consists in not knowing, not understanding, that life is an evil and an absurdity. From [people of this sort] I had nothing to learn — one cannot cease to know what one does know.

The second way out is epicureanism. It consists, while knowing the hopelessness of life, in making use meanwhile of the advantages one has, disregarding the dragon and the mice, and licking the honey in the best way, especially if there is much of it within reach… That is the way in which the majority of people of our circle make life possible for themselves. Their circumstances furnish them with more of welfare than of hardship, and their moral dullness makes it possible for them to forget that the advantage of their position is accidental … and that the accident that has today made me a Solomon may tomorrow make me a Solomon’s slave. The dullness of these people’s imagination enables them to forget the things that gave Buddha no peace — the inevitability of sickness, old age, and death, which today or tomorrow will destroy all these pleasures.

The third escape is that of strength and energy. It consists in destroying life, when one has understood that it is an evil and an absurdity. A few exceptionally strong and consistent people act so. Having understood the stupidity of the joke that has been played on them, and having understood that it is better to be dead than to be alive, and that it is best of all not to exist, they act accordingly and promptly end this stupid joke, since there are means: a rope round one’s neck, water, a knife to stick into one’s heart, or the trains on the railways; and the number of those of our circle who act in this way becomes greater and greater, and for the most part they act so at the best time of their life, when the strength of their mind is in full bloom and few habits degrading to the mind have as yet been acquired…

The fourth way out is that of weakness. It consists in seeing the truth of the situation and yet clinging to life, knowing in advance that nothing can come of it. People of this kind know that death is better than life, but not having the strength to act rationally — to end the deception quickly and kill themselves — they seem to wait for something. This is the escape of weakness, for if I know what is best and it is within my power, why not yield to what is best? … The fourth way was to live like Solomon and Schopenhauer — knowing that life is a stupid joke played upon us, and still to go on living, washing oneself, dressing, dining, talking, and even writing books. This was to me repulsive and tormenting, but I remained in that position.

Finding himself in the fourth category, Tolstoy begins to question why he hadn’t killed himself. Suddenly, he realizes that a part of him was questioning the very validity of his depressive thoughts, presenting “a vague doubt” as to the certainty of his conclusions about the senselessness of life. Humbled by the awareness that the mind is both puppet and puppet-master, he writes:

It was like this: I, my reason, have acknowledged that life is senseless. If there is nothing higher than reason (and there is not: nothing can prove that there is), then reason is the creator of life for me. If reason did not exist there would be for me no life. How can reason deny life when it is the creator of life? Or to put it the other way: were there no life, my reason would not exist; therefore reason is life’s son. Life is all. Reason is its fruit yet reason rejects life itself! I felt that there was something wrong here.



And he discovers the solution not in science or philosophy or the life of hedonism, but in those living life in its simplest and purest form:

The reasoning showing the vanity of life is not so difficult, and has long been familiar to the very simplest folk; yet they have lived and still live. How is it they all live and never think of doubting the reasonableness of life?

My knowledge, confirmed by the wisdom of the sages, has shown me that everything on earth — organic and inorganic — is all most cleverly arranged — only my own position is stupid. And those fools — the enormous masses of people — know nothing about how everything organic and inorganic in the world is arranged; but they live, and it seems to them that their life is very wisely arranged! . . .

And it struck me: “But what if there is something I do not yet know? Ignorance behaves just in that way. Ignorance always says just what I am saying. When it does not know something, it says that what it does not know is stupid. Indeed, it appears that there is a whole humanity that lived and lives as if it understood the meaning of its life, for without understanding it could not live; but I say that all this life is senseless and that I cannot live.

Awake to what Stuart Firestein would call “thoroughly conscious ignorance” some 130 years later, Tolstoy sees his own blinders with new eyes:

In the delusion of my pride of intellect it seemed to me so indubitable that I and Solomon and Schopenhauer had stated the question so truly and exactly that nothing else was possible — so indubitable did it seem that all those milliards consisted of men who had not yet arrived at an apprehension of all the profundity of the question — that I sought for the meaning of my life without it once occurring to me to ask: “But what meaning is and has been given to their lives by all the milliards of common folk who live and have lived in the world?”

I long lived in this state of lunacy, which, in fact if not in words, is particularly characteristic of us very liberal and learned people. But thanks either to the strange physical affection I have for the real laboring people, which compelled me to understand them and to see that they are not so stupid as we suppose, or thanks to the sincerity of my conviction that I could know nothing beyond the fact that the best I could do was to hang myself, at any rate I instinctively felt that if I wished to live and understand the meaning of life, I must seek this meaning not among those who have lost it and wish to kill themselves, but among those milliards of the past and the present who make life and who support the burden of their own lives and of ours also. And I considered the enormous masses of those simple, unlearned, and poor people who have lived and are living and I saw something quite different. I saw that, with rare exceptions, all those milliards who have lived and are living do not fit into my divisions, and that I could not class them as not understanding the question, for they themselves state it and reply to it with extraordinary clearness. Nor could I consider them epicureans, for their life consists more of privations and sufferings than of enjoyments. Still less could I consider them as irrationally dragging on a meaningless existence, for every act of their life, as well as death itself, is explained by them. To kill themselves they consider the greatest evil. It appeared that all mankind had a knowledge, unacknowledged and despised by me, of the meaning of life. It appeared that reasonable knowledge does not give the meaning of life, but excludes life: while the meaning attributed to life by milliards of people, by all humanity, rests on some despised pseudo-knowledge.

He considers the necessary irrationality of faith and contemplates its unfair ask of forsaking reason:

Rational knowledge presented by the learned and wise, denies the meaning of life, but the enormous masses of men, the whole of mankind receive that meaning in irrational knowledge. And that irrational knowledge is faith, that very thing which I could not but reject. It is God, One in Three; the creation in six days; the devils and angels, and all the rest that I cannot accept as long as I retain my reason.

My position was terrible. I knew I could find nothing along the path of reasonable knowledge except a denial of life; and there — in faith — was nothing but a denial of reason, which was yet more impossible for me than a denial of life. From rational knowledge it appeared that life is an evil, people know this and it is in their power to end life; yet they lived and still live, and I myself live, though I have long known that life is senseless and an evil. By faith it appears that in order to understand the meaning of life I must renounce my reason, the very thing for which alone a meaning is required…

A contradiction arose from which there were two exits. Either that which I called reason was not so rational as I supposed, or that which seemed to me irrational was not so irrational as I supposed.

And therein he finds the error in all of his prior reasoning, the root of his melancholia about life’s meaninglessness:

Verifying the line of argument of rational knowledge I found it quite correct. The conclusion that life is nothing was inevitable; but I noticed a mistake. The mistake lay in this, that my reasoning was not in accord with the question I had put. The question was: “Why should I live, that is to say, what real, permanent result will come out of my illusory transitory life — what meaning has my finite existence in this infinite world?” And to reply to that question I had studied life.

The solution of all the possible questions of life could evidently not satisfy me, for my question, simple as it at first appeared, included a demand for an explanation of the finite in terms of the infinite, and vice versa.

I asked: “What is the meaning of my life, beyond time, cause, and space?” And I replied to quite another question: “What is the meaning of my life within time, cause, and space?” With the result that, after long efforts of thought, the answer I reached was: “None.”

In my reasonings I constantly compared (nor could I do otherwise) the finite with the finite, and the infinite with the infinite; but for that reason I reached the inevitable result: force is force, matter is matter, will is will, the infinite is the infinite, nothing is nothing — and that was all that could result.

[…]

Philosophic knowledge denies nothing, but only replies that the question cannot be solved by it — that for it the solution remains indefinite.

Having understood this, I understood that it was not possible to seek in rational knowledge for a reply to my question, and that the reply given by rational knowledge is a mere indication that a reply can only be obtained by a different statement of the question and only when the relation of the finite to the infinite is included in the question. And I understood that, however irrational and distorted might be the replies given by faith, they have this advantage, that they introduce into every answer a relation between the finite and the infinite, without which there can be no solution.

So that besides rational knowledge, which had seemed to me the only knowledge, I was inevitably brought to acknowledge that all live humanity has another irrational knowledge — faith which makes it possible to live. Faith still remained to me as irrational as it was before, but I could not but admit that it alone gives mankind a reply to the questions of life, and that consequently it makes life possible.

Tolstoy notes that, whatever the faith may be, it “gives to the finite existence of man an infinite meaning, a meaning not destroyed by sufferings, deprivations, or death,” and yet he is careful not to conflate faith with a specific religion. Like Flannery O’Connor, who so beautifully differentiated between religion and faith, Tolstoy writes:

I understood that faith is not merely “the evidence of things not seen”, etc., and is not a revelation (that defines only one of the indications of faith, is not the relation of man to God (one has first to define faith and then God, and not define faith through God); it is not only agreement with what has been told one (as faith is most usually supposed to be), but faith is a knowledge of the meaning of human life in consequence of which man does not destroy himself but lives. Faith is the strength of life. If a man lives he believes in something. If he did not believe that one must live for something, he would not live. If he does not see and recognize the illusory nature of the finite, he believes in the finite; if he understands the illusory nature of the finite, he must believe in the infinite. Without faith he cannot live…

For man to be able to live he must either not see the infinite, or have such an explanation of the meaning of life as will connect the finite with the infinite.



And yet the closer he examines faith, the more glaring he finds the disconnect between it and religion, particularly the teachings of the Christian church and the practices of the wealthy. Once again, he returns to the peasants as a paragon of spiritual salvation, of bridging the finite with the infinite, and once again seeing in their ways an ethos most closely resembling the Buddhist philosophy of acceptance:

In contrast with what I had seen in our circle, where the whole of life is passed in idleness, amusement, and dissatisfaction, I saw that the whole life of these people was passed in heavy labour, and that they were content with life. In contradistinction to the way in which people of our circle oppose fate and complain of it on account of deprivations and sufferings, these people accepted illness and sorrow without any perplexity or opposition, and with a quiet and firm conviction that all is good. In contradistinction to us, who the wiser we are the less we understand the meaning of life, and see some evil irony in the fact that we suffer and die, these folk live and suffer, and they approach death and suffering with tranquility and in most cases gladly…

In complete contrast to my ignorance, [they] knew the meaning of life and death, labored quietly, endured deprivations and sufferings, and lived and died seeing therein not vanity but good…

[…]

I understood that if I wish to understand life and its meaning, I must not live the life of a parasite, but must live a real life, and — taking the meaning given to live by real humanity and merging myself in that life — verify it.
Ken Morrison's insight:

Tolstoy's thoughts on the meaning of life

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Ivon Prefontaine's curator insight, November 22, 8:25 PM

Philosophy and literature is filled with many who questioned what their lives meant. In French it is an experience/experiment and in German Lebenswelt.

 

@ivon_ehd1

Steve Spring's curator insight, December 1, 7:39 AM

How to find meaning in a meaningless world.

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The Science of Procrastination and How to Manage It, Animated

The Science of Procrastination and How to Manage It, Animated | Ken's Odds & Ends | Scoop.it

TeThis is where you insert the meta-joke about what else you're actually supposed to be doing this very moment.

From AsapSCIENCE -- who hav

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The power of procrastination (and how to fight back).

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How Long To Nap For The Best Benefits -

How Long To Nap For The Best Benefits - | Ken's Odds & Ends | Scoop.it
If you’re anything like me, you love a good nap. It’s almost like rebooting your brain. But did you know that napping has some pretty far-reaching effects on your health? Shorter naps give you the ‘best bang for your buck’ according to experts, but longer naps have their benefits too.

A 10-20 minute nap can boost your alertness. Perfect for a midday break at work. But for improved memory, an hour long nap may do you good. Slow wave sleep helps with remembering places and faces, but you might feel a little groggy when you wake up. A 90 minute nap involves a full cycle of sleep, which can help with creativity and procedural memory.

As it turns out, sitting slightly upright during a nap will help you avoid deep sleep. If you start having dreams while napping, it may mean you aren’t getting enough sleep at night. Be sure to give yourself the eight hours your body needs to be healthy!

Sara Mednick, an assistant psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside, said the most useful nap depends on what the napper needs.

For a quick boost, she recommends a 10-to-20-minute nap.
For cognitive memory improvement, however, a 60-minute nap may be better, Dr. Mednick said. The downside: some grogginess upon waking.
Finally, a 90-minute nap will most likely turn into a full cycle of sleep, which aids creativity, emotional and procedural memory.
Sources

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323932604579050990895301888
http://saramednick.com/htmls/book/about.htm
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Oh. I miss my strategic naps. That was a healthy season (which I should recreate).  

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▶ Traveling Tips for India (New Delhi, India Travel Video) - YouTube

This week, Cities of the future visits India's capital - New Delhi. Here's what the city needs to do in order to maintain sustainable growth.
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A Liberal Decalogue: Bertrand Russell’s 10 Commandments of Teaching

A Liberal Decalogue: Bertrand Russell’s 10 Commandments of Teaching | Ken's Odds & Ends | Scoop.it
Perhaps the essence of the Liberal outlook could be summed up in a new decalogue, not intended to replace the old one but only to supplement it. The Ten Commandments that, as a teacher, I should wish to promulgate, might be set forth as follows:

Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.
When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.
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We're Smarter Than 36th In The World: Using Data Analytics to Empower U.S. Teachers and Students

We're Smarter Than 36th In The World: Using Data Analytics to Empower U.S. Teachers and Students | Ken's Odds & Ends | Scoop.it
very three years, a select group of 15-year-old students from around the world is tested on their knowledge of math, science and reading. In the latest round of tests performed in 2012 by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), U.S. students ranked 36th in math, 28th in science and 24th in reading out of the 65 countries in the survey. Clearly, there is plenty of room for improvement.

One emerging area with the potential to significantly improve the performance of U.S. students might lie in harnessing something that has revolutionized the business world over the last several years: data analytics. 

Because the education system places great emphasis on measurement—of grades, national averages, teacher performance, etc.—it’s no stranger to data, especially large data sets that have been used for years to analyze things such as standardized tests. These analyses tend to focus on a measurement of what has been learned and how that compares to a larger population, all of which is important when evaluating students. However, the retrospective nature of this type of information fails to capitalize on the power of data to improve student performance in the classroom while they are actively learning.

Imagine a system that provides teachers with real-time insights to understand how a student is performing. The teacher can then use the data to spot weak areas and adjust the lesson plan accordingly. This type of tailored instruction has the ability to greatly improve student performance. 

Over the last seven years, Xerox researchers have been developing such a system by spending more than 400 hours embedded with teachers, administrators and students from school districts in New York and California. They discovered that teachers wanted a simpler way to grade, analyze and chart each student’s progress. Teachers then could determine what concepts were being taught successfully and which were missing the mark—and they could do it on a student-by-student, class-by-class basis.

This insight led Xerox to develop Ignite, an automated student assessment tool that combines scanning hardware and analytics software. It not only grades exams faster, but also extracts student performance measurements and creates real-time feedback for teachers. This gives teachers the ability to quickly address the reality that students learn concepts at different paces and in different ways, and to customize their teaching, so individually or in small groups, students get the extra attention they need to achieve.

“Instead of spending time scoring tests and making sense of the data, teachers can quickly access relevant views of the data and focus on meeting the needs of each individual student. This is something that is making our lives more effective as educators,” says Principal Marc Nelson of Harris Hill Elementary in Penfield Central School District, one of several districts using Ignite in New York.

Demonstrating its broader importance, the benefits of the system go beyond even the teachers and students. Parents receive a report that shows the progress of their child over the course of the school year. Meanwhile, another report is made available to school administrators showing how students are progressing throughout their district, by class, grade and subject—information previously only available from state-mandated tests.

No one wants American education to succeed more than American educators, 98 percent of whom view teaching as not just a profession, but a commitment to the world’s future. Empowering teachers with the data and insight they need to be more effective educators is just one example of how recent technological advancements can help dramatically improve teaching and the learning experience.
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The Hilarious Story Of Shane, The Walmart Deli Guy, Told Through Notes From His Bosses

The Hilarious Story Of Shane, The Walmart Deli Guy, Told Through Notes From His Bosses | Ken's Odds & Ends | Scoop.it

nnThis is the ridiculous story of Shane, a Walmart deli employee. The pictures are of notes left for Shane by store management.

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How You Can Function on Less Than 6 Hours of Sleep

How You Can Function on Less Than 6 Hours of Sleep | Ken's Odds & Ends | Scoop.it
I don’t have a multi-million dollar company (yet), but I’m one of those CEOs who function on 3-5 hours of sleep.

No, there aren’t any drugs involved, nor is there poor management (as far as I know). It’s a variety of things.

First, reduce TV. You sleep much better, and do much more work, when you don’t watch much TV. Your brain is actually less active watching TV than when it’s sleeping. This dullness is addictive. My daughter becomes a giant mess when she watches too much TV — huge tantrums, crying, screaming, complete meltdown. She doesn’t want to eat or listen. It’s like she’s addicted, and I’m taking away her drug. My husband is very similar, without the actual crying. He just sort of grunts more. I’m not certain it happens with everyone, but I’d be surprised if most people aren’t highly susceptible to this “one more show” mentality, and the gape-mouthed stare is the death knell for good work, good eating, good sleep or good play.

Second, limit carbohydrates. For me, anyway — they just make me sleepy.

Third, limit meetings. Same as carbs. Blah blah blah — hate just droning on, or being droned at. Nothing good comes of this.

Fourth, I actually have specific hours I need to sleep to do well, not a specific number of hours. It’s a quirk of my circadian rhythm, and it’s been that way since my 20s. If I can sleep from 4 to 8am, I’m very happy. However, my home life doesn’t permit that, so I usually end up sleeping from 1-4am, and 5-6:30am. I have a hard time sleeping in the early morning hours, and love the morning (once I drag myself out of bed).

Fifth, when I get a few energy slumps, I rely on some tried and true solutions: I switch tasks to things I really like (so I save that stuff for sleepy times). I hang out on Quora (dangerous, because I’m on here WAY longer than I should be. There should be a stopwatch or a clock on this thing…!) I go outside. I email or chat with someone personal (not usually on the phone—hate the phone.) I play a set number of solitaire hands. I read the news or, if read, one of three gossip sites I frequent (I’m not proud.) Or, if all else fails, I take a nap. I usually sleep more on slower days or if nothing is happening on a weekend, but it works out.

Sixth, and most important, I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY LOVE WHAT I DO. I love it so much! I am so incredibly happy that I get to do my job. I have days that suck. I have strings of days that suck. But they are just sucky days — my life is still pretty spectacularly awesome. It makes me excited to wake up, to take the conference call I had today set at the incredibly ludicrous time of 6:30am, to take calls and go to meetings while visiting family, to get over shyness and speak to the stranger next to me on the airplane, to spend the evening playing with my daughter knowing that I’ll be working on a document until 4 am and begging Kinko’s for something (and I HATE begging.)

I mostly just think I am a very lucky person. I have a (pretty) supportive spouse, a fantastic kid, a wonderful dog. I’m healthy, I’m privileged to run a company that is about to split into 2, with customers that are acolytes that spare me marketing dollars. People believe in me and my ability to lead, they believe in what I’ve created. I do something that I think makes a difference in the world. And today I’m having a pretty good hair day.

I don’t really worry about the sleep that I get. I get what I can, and do what I have to do every day. Everyone around me is trying to help me out (for the most part), I keep my priorities in order (my kid never suffers, I can’t make myself sick), and I just focus on what I have immediately ahead and in the near future, and what I need to get those done. I truly believe it will all benefit everyone in the end, and my support group does, too.

And that’s how I do it.
Ken Morrison's insight:

Ken's Key takeaways:

Carbs and meetings make us sleepy.

Our brains are more active during sleep than when watching TV.

Some people get more cranky when TV is removed.

For this person, she knows her body well enough that she does not need a certain number of hours of sleep; she needs to be asleep during specific hours.

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A Few Maxims for the Instruction of the Over-Educated by Oscar Wilde

A Few Maxims for the Instruction of the Over-Educated by Oscar Wilde | Ken's Odds & Ends | Scoop.it
"Public opinion exists only where there are no ideas."

Oscar Wilde (October 16, 1854–November 30, 1900) was not only the twentieth
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9 Things Everyone Should Do When Reading the Bible

9 Things Everyone Should Do When Reading the Bible | Ken's Odds & Ends | Scoop.it
ery few of us have the inclination or interest in diving into three years of seminary education in order to get a better handle on the Scriptures. However, every believer should long to get a better grip on the Bible. The good news is that it does not require a graduate education to do so.

At seminary, I learned Greek, Hebrew and all manner of intimidating subjects ending in –etics, but some of the things that have stayed with me most clearly were not things from textbooks, but off-the-cuff comments from teachers who had walked with God far longer than I had. They were post-it sized truths, easily understandable and readily applicable. Years after graduating, these are the things I still remember.

1. Read ‘King’ When You See ‘Christ.’
Christ, or Messiah, means “anointed one,” and priests and kings were anointed. Substituting "King Jesus" for "Christ Jesus" when reading draws attention to the fact that Christ was not Jesus' last name, but in fact His title: one of great honor and esteem. Making that one switch alone breathes new life into reading the New Testament.

2. Read ‘You’ Differently.
Almost all the "you" words in the New Testament are plural you's rather than singular you's. The Southern "y'all" expresses it beautifully: the epistles are written to believers corporately, not believers alone. This does not diminish personal responsibility at all, though. If anything, it heightens it: we pray together, believe together, suffer together, raise the armor of God together. All y'all.

3. If You See a ‘Therefore,’ Find Out What It’s There For.
Therefore, take note in bibles where paragraphs are divided up with headings inserted by editors. If the paragraph begins with "therefore,” you might have to pick up a bit earlier to understand the context.

4. Realize That Not All ‘If’ Statements Are The Same.
This was a watershed one for me: not all "ifs" are the same. Conditional “ifs” are not the same as causal “ifs.” Some IF statements are always tied to the THEN one (if you stand in the rain, then you will get wet). Others have more risk involved: the IF statement is necessary, but not sufficient, to bring about the THEN one (if you study for an exam, then you will pass).

This makes the world of difference in studying Romans 8: "If you are led by the spirit of God, you are children of God." I had always read that and been afraid I wasn't spirit-led enough to be considered God's child. It was a glory-hallelujah moment to realize this was the first type of if: "If you are led by the Spirit of God (and you ARE!), then you are also always and forever His child.” What a difference!

5. Recognize That Lamenting is OK.
Yes, there is joy and peace and hope in Christ. But true believers still mourn and lament. There is space in the life of faith for complaining, tears, grit and depression. Just look at the Psalms.

6. Realize That Prophecy is More Often FORTH-Telling Than FORE-Telling.
So often, our focus in approaching prophecy is to ask “what did they say about the future?” However, often the prophets weren’t talking about the future (foretelling), they were explaining and interpreting Israel’s history and current predicaments in light of their covenantal behavior (forth-telling), and had little to do with the future. Israel may have painfully aware that they had just suffered military defeat at the hands of the Babylonians, but it took the prophet’s words to explain from God’s perspective why this had happened and what lessons they were to learn from their experience. Poor old Jeremiah.

7. Become Familiar with the Idioms of Your King.
Jesus' words were so often hard to understand: cryptic, in parables, couched in Hebrew idiom. He spoke of eyes being lamps and people being salt: language often so far removed from my understanding it was temping to skip over the gospels to the much more familiar epistles.

However, if we have called Jesus "King" and “Lord,” we dare not skip over His words just because they are hard. Commentaries and a little Internet research on the gospels go a long way towards filling in some of the cultural and linguistic blanks. As his followers and servants, it is our responsibility to keep on seeking understanding.

8. Remember What You Learned in English Class.
The Bible is not an instruction manual. It's not a "how-to" book for life. It is a collection of 66 books of literature, and to interpret it correctly, you need to remember what you learned in English class about interpreting different genres of literature.

Biblical truth is found in poetry, but we must read it as poetry. It is found in narrative, but we must read those as stories. It is found in proverbs, and we must treat those as such. Just a quick moment to think “what book am I reading from? And what type of literature is this?” can make a world of difference. Truth be told, the Bible is not an easy read, but it is absolutely worth the effort.

9. Read to Study. But Also, Read to Refresh Your Heart.
Amid the hours of serious Bible study, I treasured this advice. Sometimes, we read to study and understand and wrestle with the truth. But sometimes, we read to make our hearts happy. “Delight yourself in the Lord,” for “your words are sweeter to me than honey.”
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