Friday, May 29, 2009

Metacognition, Motorcycles, Marmots

Just got back from a quick trip to Huntington Lake, where the thunderstorms were building again by 11am. In addition to the usual deer, we saw a marmot. First one I've seen at Huntington in over 40 years. Not to be confused with the pika, or the water ouzel of Sierra lore.

Not exciting enough for you? Try this: A lot of people are finding truth in "The case for working with your hands", published in the NYT Magazine. It takes a while to get there, but the author compares and contrasts being an electrician, an over-educated abstract writer, and a motorcycle repairer. And even works in metacognition:
Cognitive psychologists speak of “metacognition,” which is the activity of stepping back and thinking about your own thinking. It is what you do when you stop for a moment in your pursuit of a solution, and wonder whether your understanding of the problem is adequate. The slap of worn-out pistons hitting their cylinders can sound a lot like loose valve tappets, so to be a good mechanic you have to be constantly open to the possibility that you may be mistaken. This is a virtue that is at once cognitive and moral. It seems to develop because the mechanic, if he is the sort who goes on to become good at it, internalizes the healthy functioning of the motorcycle as an object of passionate concern. How else can you explain the elation he gets when he identifies the root cause of some problem?
It reminds me of Dirty Jobs guy's talk.

  • Interesting, short interview with the Nature Conservancy's advisor on freshwater.
    Worldwide, about 70 percent of freshwater goes for agricultural use, 20 percent for industrial use and 10 percent for human use. Other beverages, including beer, require far more water to produce than you would think.
  • What do emoticons really do? A Cognitive Daily study.
    For the insulting statements, both the Smile and the Wink led to more complimentary ratings, while the Exclamation Mark's ratings weren't significantly different from statements with no punctuation. For complimentary statements, both the Smile and Exclamation Mark led to more complimentary ratings, while the Wink's ratings weren't significantly different from statements with no ratings.

    So adding a wink or a smile can enhance the positive perception of a negative statement, but a wink doesn't change the rating of a positive statement. Smiles and exclamation marks both improve positive statements.
  • White paint to fight global warming.
    The Lawrence research he refers to (which we wrote about last fall) says that white roofs and pavements could mean a one-time reduction of 44 billion tons of carbon dioxide. That, Art Rosenfeld said, translates to removing all the cars in the world for 18 years.