Field and Swamp: Animals and Their Habitats

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Essays about (Human) Life

Although I was a scientific programmer by profession, the dirty little secret of my life is that I got my first two degrees in English (now more fashionably called "Language Arts" in the public schools).  More specifically, I received an M.A. in English Language and Literature from the University of Chicago at age 22.  Although I eventually went on to take enormous numbers of technical courses (including 39 graduate credit hours toward an M.S. in industrial engineering at North Carolina State University), the English degrees made me a continual target of scorn from my (mostly male) programming coworkers, none of whom had taken nearly as many computer science courses as I had, or knew what a compiler was other than a black box that they stuck code into. 

But in recent years I've come to appreciate the real value of my literature education: it taught me how to write, to think, to clarify my values about important things.  I now understand why the liberal arts once were regarded as the proper subject of study for society's leaders: all important ideas begin with soft thinking rather than hard thinking.   It's easy to get the feeling as a science student that hypotheses come out of thin air and that "real" science involves only testing them, which in turn involves mainly the application of hard scientific knowledge and reasoning by memorized rules.  But, when properly done, experimental design involves some intuitive leaps guided in part by common sense.  And critical thinking, essential for all disciplines involving investigation, is easier to learn when you are taught how to define your own values rather than simply using a set of algorithms that have been handed to you.

What is goodness and evil, and what makes a person's contribution good or evil?: Home, by Marilynne Robinson

ACB, RGB, and Where the SCOTUS Politics Come In  (21 Oct 2020)

A Thought about Antitrust Proceedings (14 Nov 2020)

A Would-Be Historian's Challenge: The Rector of Justin, by Louis Auchincloss

Not Your Typical Young Adult Novel: Charley Is My Darling, by Joyce Cary

Deconstructing The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

The Out-of-control Android Predicted by Science Fiction Is Here

Who Was the Real Athena?

Ads and Ad-blocking: Both in Need of Reform

The Head Versus the Heart: The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

A Word about the 2020 Riots

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