This N’ That- Sunday Morning… Feb 10, 2019

Laptops In The College Lecture Halls

When I was in college in the 1960s it took me a few years to learn that taking strenuous notes during lectures was actually worse than just listening to what the professor was saying. One of the reasons behind that is that I most often couldn’t read my quickly scribbled note more than a week after the event. So, it was not a big surprise for me to learn that students who paid more attention to their laptops than what the professor was saying, actually got lower scores on their exams.

But a growing body of evidence shows that over all, college students learn less when they use computers or tablets during lectures. They also tend to earn worse grades. The research is unequivocal: Laptops distract from learning, both for users and for those around them. It’s not much of a leap to expect that electronics also undermine learning in high school classrooms or that they hurt productivity in meetings in all kinds of workplaces.

Source: New York Times

It’s funny how one generation has to almost always learn from the same mistakes as previous generations.

About President’s Birth Places

It was surprising to learn which States the presidents have come from. During my investigation of the possibility of backing Kamala Harris, who is a senator from California I learned that no Democrat who was born or raised in California has occupied the Oval Office. Here is a list from to show that:

source: Smart Politics

As shown, Nixon was born there and Reagan lived there for a while but he was not born there. Being that California is almost always Democratic stronghold, they don’t count anyway. 🙂 Maybe Kamala will be the first. Since California has almost one-third of the total US population, it’s about time they can claim a president who wasn’t forced out of office.

I Miss My Dog

I want to end this post with a thought about Beulah. She was a Basset Hound who, like so many others, was abandoned on our country road. We took her in and she proved once again that dogs are the only creatures on this earth who really give unconditional love. I liked to call Beulah my shadow as she was seldom more than a few paces away from me. We decided not the get another dog as he would likely outlive us. But sometimes I really regret that decision. Dexter our cat, who is bugging me as I type these words, is ok but they can never claim the loyalty of a dog. I MISS YOU BEULAH!!

Me and Beulah on one of our daily walks (with Dexter following close behind)

E-Books Part 1

This Saturday post will start a short Saturday series about electronic books, otherwise known as e-books. For this particular post, I want to give you an idea of what it was like before technology came to the library.

When I was in college, many many years ago 🙂 I was a regular visitor to the university library. It was a humongous place. The main reading room had card file cabinets that were as long as a train. Now, remember this was a time before computers took over so everything in the library had a 3×5 inch index card describing where the book was and basically what it was about. The millions of cards were kept in the mile-long cabinet called the card catalog. I would literally spend hours there until I finally found just the right sources I needed for the paper I was writing.

Zipping now to the beginning of my retirement years for a personal story. When we were renovating our 1927 farmhouse in 2001 I built a ten-foot wall of bookshelves to hold many of the books I have read over the years. The shelves were designed around the ones I had discovered in Thomas Edison’s library in Menlo Park New Jersey a couple of years before. Within a year the shelves were full and overflowing with books and they started piling up at the front. Now zipping forward again to 2019 and all my paper books are now contained in two feet of the original fifty feet of shelves. The rest contains memorabilia from trips and vacations across this great country. I can’t say that I miss the other forty-eight foot at all. Many of the more treasured books are now converted to ebooks with the paper copies given to local libraries.

If you haven’t figured it out by now I do a LOT of reading. It is now split between books and electronic media sites such as the New York Times and Politico. Matter of fact, being deaf I probably spend a big majority of my day reading. Even TV is about reading the captions on the PBS Newshour 🙂

When I depended on paper books as the source of my reports I would most often cover several sheets of paper scribbled with little notes about the important things I wanted to remember. One of the problems with that was, as my class notes, my scribblings become unreadable to me within a week or two of when they were written. I write well but I don’t “write” well it seems. If my sources were my personal books, as opposed to the library’s, I would also have my highlighter handy and my personal page earmarking system.

Now that you have an idea of the “good old days” that our current MAGA president is trying to get us back to, it’s time to close out this post. Next time I will start to tell you some of the many advantages of having information in electronic form. That story will be like comparing the Space Shuttle to a steam locomotive. I will also show you some of the tools that make the task more enjoyable. It is really not as painful as you have been led to believe. 🙂

The History of Autism

I know the title above is rather ambitious for a single blog post, but I do want to give you an idea of how it came about and how some of the statistics might be deceiving. I have been studying this topic for a few weeks now and thought I knew enough to put out a continuous series of posts on the subject, but as my snippet on This N’ That Sunday mentioned I just didn’t know how much I didn’t know. So, I am going to put out bits and pieces of what I have been learning as I go along. After all, a blog is not supposed to be novel length but instead snippet of info.

To the layman, it seems that “Autism” just came on the scene in the late 1980s. Before that is was almost unknown by the general public. In reality, the term itself was coined in 1908  to describe a subset of schizophrenic patients who were especially withdrawn and self-absorbed.

Hans Asperger brought it to the forefront in the field of psychiatry in 1944 when he describes a “milder” form of autism now known as Asperger’s Syndrome. The cases he reported were all boys who were highly intelligent but had trouble with social interactions and sometimes specific obsessive interests.

After World War II there was a lot of psychoanalytic work done on autism where researchers looked solely at the negative impact on life experiences.  At that time Autism was not considered biological or genetic. In 1980 “Infantile autism” is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) for the first time; the condition is also officially separated from childhood schizophrenia.

It was not until 1988 when the movie Rain Man is released which stars Dustin Hoffman as an autistic savant that Autism became widely known to the general public. At that time Asperger’s Syndrome was not included in the DSM category.

Finally, in 2013, The DSM-5 folds all subcategories of the condition into one umbrella diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Asperger’s Syndrome is no longer considered a separate condition. I have some strong feelings about that but I will leave them to another post. ASD is defined by two categories: 1) Impaired social communication and/or interaction. 2) Restricted and/or repetitive behaviors.

Some say folding Asperger’s into the DSM category was a mistake since it is significantly different when it comes to life experiences from much of the rest of the autism spectrum. More on that in a near future post.

Footnote: The source for much of this history is from the website.

How Would You Describe Yourself?

How you describe yourself is a pretty good indication of how you see your place in the world. Most people start off with their occupation, “I am an engineer…”. Some site past achievements, others family relationships.

I think a major source of how you describe yourself must do with your future. It must be how you want to spend your remaining years on this earth. Your self-description should be about your future, not your past.

With that in mind, letting go of your “have been” life how would you describe yourself?

For most of us, this question will probably take some contemplation to get it right. It certainly did for me. I can’t say “I am an engineer” as I haven’t practiced that profession for years now. I can’t claim to be a volunteer in a soup kitchen as that ended more than a couple of years ago. Here is what I can say. I am a now:

  • Prolific Blogger
  • Nuanced Skeptic
  • Progressive Christian
  • Amateur Documentary Photographer.

I maintain three blogs and a couple of photography sites and I certainly am a skeptic about certain aspects of life. I only recently started calling myself a Christian again and that is because I shed the Evangelical label and adopted the Progressive one. (see my blog at RedLetterLiving for more about that.) One of my passions is photography particularly documenting the historical places I have visited. Looking to the future, however short it is, these are the descriptions that I put on myself.

How would you describe yourself?

Shutting Down Shutdowns

I can actually see some positive things that might come from these current times inside the beltway.

“Shutting down the government should be as off limits in budget negotiations as chemical warfare is in real warfare,” Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, said on Friday.

Source: New York Times

There seems to be a small crack in the Trump support among the Republicans in Congress. Some are actually thinking about trying to wrestle control of their party away from him. A small crack just might turn into something that will improve our dreadful situation with a ferociously lying president.

If the GOP just had the courage to do something we could end the shutdowns forever. It really is a rather simple thing to do and could be accomplished even before another shutdown could happen again in mid-February

All Congress needs to do is pass a simple three line law that says something like this

In the event that a current fiscal year budget is not passed, the budget in place at the time shall be extended for all federal agencies until a new one replaces it.

Yes, I know that there are many cowards in the Congress who are terrified of crossing this president, but surely we can find enough with a backbone to join their Democratic colleagues to override a likely veto of that bill.

Being an optimist, I can see these times resulting in rebalancing the excessive control of power currently in the Executive Branch in the not too distant future. All it took was one incompetent in the Oval Office to show us just how out of balance it has become.

The second thing I am optimistic about is that eventually, we will be able to elect officials who will actually look out for the good of the people. The easiest way to accomplish that is to put term limits on all congressional offices. I can actually see that happen!

Positive Psychology

To this layman, it seems that most of the Psychology and especially Psychiatry professions today are now focused on fixing disorders in people. If you go to someone in those professions you must be broken in one way or another. You just don’t hear about psychologists helping people to improve their lives and relationships. That field is called Positive Psychology.

While I was doing some investigation into Autism recently I came across an article that brought back a flood of memories. It was something I become obsessed with in the early 1970s after I graduated from college. I became fascinated with Psychology. I was a subscriber to Psychology Today and read dozens of books on the subject trying to understand why I had so much trouble understanding human relationships.

I devoured books by Maslow, Berne, Fromm, and Harris in what is now called positive psychology. It was all about helping people lead meaningful and fulfilling lives. Even after all these years I still remember much of what I learned and it helps me in trying to understand why people are as they are. Things like:

  • Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
  • Berne’s PAC – Parent-Adult-Child transactions
  • I’m Ok – You’re OK
  • Transactional Analysis
  • Understanding the Ego

I wonder why we don’t hear more about these types of things today?

It seems we have just quit trying to understand one another now.

We just call anyone who now disagrees with us our enemy. I think I need to re-visit these folks some more in the future and maybe even give you a lesson or two on the subject. Having a better understanding of people and their actions is just maybe something we drastically need now.

Just to give you a little taste of this field, here are some word from Wikipedia about Maslow’s theory of Self-Actualization:

Self-actualization can be seen as similar to words and concepts such as self-discovery, self-reflection, self-realization and self-exploration.
As Abraham Maslow noted, the basic needs of humans must be met (e.g. food, shelter, warmth, security, sense of belonging) before a person can achieve self-actualization – the need to be good, to be fully alive and to find meaning in life. Yet, Maslow argued that reaching a state of true self-actualization in everyday society was fairly rare. Research shows that when people live lives that are different from their true nature and capabilities, they are less likely to be happy than those whose goals and lives match. For example, someone who has inherent potential to be a great artist or teacher may never realize his/her talents if their energy is focused on attaining the basic needs of humans.

I find this stuff very interesting, even after so many years away from it.