The Homework Myth

I've gotten on a binge of reading (or at least skimming) Alfie Kohn's books: the current one I finished is The Homework Myth, which argues that homework is in general a bad thing. I think his argument boils down to a bunch of varied points:
1. Kids get too much homework. Can't argue with that one, if it's true.
2. Kids who are forced to do something as homework learn to dislike that task. I find it hard to disagree with that, although sometimes there are things that one should learn despite disliking it.
3. Homework is drudgery. Bad homework is drudgery, but certain skills can only be learned through practice.

In any case, I'm tiring of his books: they raise very valid points, but they beat those points to death.

Lewis Black

We went to see Lewis Black (In God We Rust tour) at NY City Center. The lead-in comedian, John Bowman, was pretty funny. Lewis did a great set, although the end of the show tapered off a bit in intensity. It felt like his cold/allergies (which he riffed about early in the show) were getting to him by the end. Still, quite funny!

Sky High

This superhero-teen-angst-high-school movie was amusing: I thought the final line of the movie was typical of its tongue-in-cheek humor. Roughly, it was: "My girlfriend became my arch-enemy, my arch-enemy became my best friend, and my best friend became my girlfriend. That's high school for you." Entertaining, if mildly predictable. Kurt Russell is great at these campy roles (such as the role he played in Big Trouble in Little China!).

Heading Home With Your Newborn

This is one of the better books I've read in preparation for the arrival of our little one.

The Cartoon Introduction to Economics

Cartoons, economics. Fun to read; and I learned something about economics, as well: tax equivalence was something I hadn't read about before.


We watched this old Hitchcock film on DVD. As Ming said during the film, "Cary Grant never plays a bad guy." He's good at being nasty, though: the role reminded me of his role as TR Devlin in Notorious.

Mildred Pierce

Here are some photos from the HBO production of Mildred Pierce with Kate Winslet. They are filming exteriors in our neighborhood: when I looked out our bedroom window this morning onto the adjoining alley, I could see the top of Kate Winslet's head as they were rehearsing a scene. They had constructed a mini-set in the alley, which was all gone by the time I got home from work.

A Touch of Greatness

This film about an inspiring teacher is really worth watching. It is indirectly an indictment about our educational systems as well. Both uplifting and depressing at the same time.

The Duchess of Duke Street

This BBC series is available over streaming Netflix. I found the first few episodes of the first season enthralling (the main character is quite the "character"), but I got somewhat bored while Ming watched the rest of the season. Still, it is high-quality television.

Op-Ed Contributor - Allergy-Free New York -

Op-Ed Contributor - Allergy-Free New York -

This article about trees and pollen in New York City is fascinating. Humans are causing more allergies through selection of trees to plant!

Peter and Max

This book, based on the universe from the comic book Fables, is a delightful read. Like the comic, the characters are drawn from familiar children's story characters (mostly): it tells the story of Peter Piper, Bo Beep, and the Pied Piper of Hamlin (who is Peter's brother). Like the comic, it also has some of its weaknesses: most of the characters are developed without much depth (in particular, Max the Pied Piper), and the ending just slams the book to a halt. Nonetheless, if you like Fables, you should read this book.

Punished By Rewards

This book talks about the problems with using carrots (as opposed to sticks) with children, in the workplace, and in society. A bit long-winded and full of anecdotal evidence, but the book presents a very plausible theory of how people dislike any efforts to subvert their control (whether real or perceived) over their lives.


Wow, a remarkable performance by Sean Penn: he truly lost himself in the title role of Harvey Milk. Not enough time to write something that does justice to this movie, so I'll just say I loved it.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

This morality play is entertaining (if a little black-and-white, both in its plot and literally in the film color). Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne: two of the great actors of their generations. The difficulty of Jimmy Stewart's position would have been made clearer with a bit more exposition of his life as a Senator, but that's just nit-picking. Well worth watching.


Fascinating film about an event of which I have no recollection; of course, I was only 8 at the time. Who knew that Diane Sawyer worked for the Nixon White House?

Economic View - When a First Choice May Not Be the Best Choice -

Economic View - When a First Choice May Not Be the Best Choice -

This article is funny: especially the point about CEO's.

Noguchi Museum

We finally made it out to the Noguchi Museum (or more accurately, had the opportunity to stop in on our way home) today. It is a lovely little museum out in the hinterlands of Long Island City: difficult to reach by public transit.
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Aging and vision

Well, I've hit the age where males start noticing bodily changes. Besides various internal inspections of organs, I was finally told I need bifocals for presbyopia. Everyone said it would happen at 40, and it eventually did!

Being female must be so much more difficult than being male: so many more physical changes over one's lifetime! And, of course, pregnancy...

xkcd: Computer Problems

xkcd: Computer Problems


I've been reading Alfie Kohn's fascinating book Punished By Rewards (which I was led to by Daniel Pink's book Drive), which argues for a radical rethinking of how we interact: in particular, with respect to rewards.

As I read more about him online, I found the article linked to by the title of this post. That article summarizes his philosophy with respect to praise (as a reward) and parenting. I like the philosophy very much, but it is also a troubling indictment of our incentive-driven society.