Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Authenticity is Overratted




I'm always on the look out for good Chinese food. When I tell people about a good restaurant, and say it's really good, they always say something like "it's authentic?" This has always bothered me.

Let's talk about authentic Chinese food for a minute. First of all, China is a big place. A very big place. So any individual thing you eat in an American or Canadian Chinese restaurant can usuallybe found somewhere in China.

That said, there are some differences. One is that in Chinese chicken dishes, they like to cut the bones up with the chicken. They claim the bones provide important flavor. So when you're eating it, you are constantly spitting out chicken bones. There are also lots of gooey foods that just don't appeal to the western palate. In fact, I find I tend to like the Chinese food in the west more than the Chinese food I ate in China (I lived there for a year and a half) probably because the food here is more catered to western tastes.

What bothers me, I guess, is that to think that the best-tasting ethnic foods are the authentic ones is, well, a little culturally insensitive. The attitude denies that there are real cultural differences between cultures.

If authentic Chinese food tasted best to both westerners and Chinese, then that would imply that their tastes are the same as ours.

What's great about diversity is that people really are different. It's not just that different cultures have different combinations of the same ingredients. They actually think different things taste good.

Pictured is a Chinese dish of pickled Chinese cabbage and carrots. I'm not saying you would not like this.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Interview With Jim Davies on Carleton's TV Station



Claire Biddiscombe interviewed me regarding my improvisation and science. Here's the TV interview.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Help Me Choose A Title For My Children's Book



If you got an email to this effect already, you can ignore this post.

I wrote a children's book recently and I want your help in choosing
the title. I have listed a bunch of possibilities below. All would be
appropriate for the book's content.

I'm not sure what age the book is for-- think cat in the hat age or
maybe a little older.

Please let me know which titles from this list you love and hate in an email to jim@jimdavies.org. Please don't put it in the comments here, because I don't want your opinion affecting the opinions of others. 

You can
give an explanation if you wish. If you're wondering why I want the
title picked before you've read the story, it's because I see the
title as a marketing tool. When you look at these titles, think of
which one you'd most want to pick up, read, buy for a child.

Thanks!


 The Deer King's Magic Berries
 The Misty Mountain's Magic Berries
 Bear Cub Saves the Day
 Roly Poly Sprout
 Bears and Berries
 The Misty Mountain's Magic Medicine
 Roly Poly
 Roly Poly Saves the Day
 Roly Poly Rolls Her Own Way
 Roly Poly Saves Rolls Her Own Way, Roly Poly Saves the Day
 Roly Poly and the Deer King
 Brave Little Roly Poly Sprout
 Roly Poly Sprouts
 Brave Little Sprout
 A Sprout Rolls Her Own Way

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Advisor Geneology



I recently got interested in my intellectual ancestry-- my advisors, and their advisors, etc. I'm more interested in this than in my biological ancestry.  I found that I have some heavy-hitter ancestors! It's really not too surprising. Everyone can find famous people in their ancestry if they look hard enough and far back enough (I'm a biological descendent of Charlemagne.)

Turns out there's a website for tracking this kind of information-- Neurotree. Awesome!
You can see a portion of my tree here:


So who's in my past?

Rudolph Carnap is one of the most famous philosophers of science. He was a member of the Vienna Circle, and a founder of the now-infamous and discredited logical positivism.
Carnap advised Howard Stein advised Nancy J. Nersessian who advised me. In German, especially in the days of Carnap and Hempel, the advisor was called the doktorvater, or "doctor father." When  Nancy was talking to Hempel (another famous philosopher of science) he referred to her as a doktorvater. She coined a term and replied that she was a doktormutter, being female.

Gordon Bower is one of most influential psychologists of the 20th century.
Bower advised Keith Holyoak advised Dorrit O. Billman who advised me in my psychology masters.

Bower was trained by Neal E. Miller, who was trained by Clark L. Hull, a famous behaviorist.

Wilhelm Wudt (pictured) practically invented modern psychology, along with William James. The two of them advised Granville Stanley Hall, who advised Joseph Jastrow, who advised Clark Hull.

Polymath Francis Galton is nobody to sneeze at either. He trained James McKeen Cattell, who advised V.A.C. Henmon, who trained Hull with Joseph Jastrow (of duck-rabbit illusion fame; see below.) Carl Linneaus is way back there too.



Onethe most famous person in my ancestry is Sigmund Freud, who trained Anna Freud, who trained Neal E. Miller. Freud was one of the most influential people in all of psychology. Whether this is a good thing I still hear debated today. 

The site also lets you trace connections between any two people. Though I'm not connected through advisor relationships, I am connected through post-doc training and such to people like
Galileo Galilei
 Albert Einstein
and Charles Darwin.

What a fun site! Unfortunately, I don't appear to be related in any way to Aristotle. Can't win 'em all.

I encourage anyone with a Ph.D. to contribute to the site. It's a lot of fun and only takes a few minutes to add information about yourself and your advisors. 

Advisor Geneology



I recently got interested in my intellectual ancestry-- my advisors, and their advisors, etc. I'm more interested in this than in my biological ancestry.  I found that I have some heavy-hitter ancestors! It's really not too surprising. Everyone can find famous people in their ancestry if they look hard enough and far back enough (I'm a biological descendent of Charlemagne.)

Turns out there's a website for tracking this kind of information-- Neurotree. Awesome!
You can see a portion of my tree here:


So who's in my past?

Rudolph Carnap is one of the most famous philosophers of science. He was a member of theVienna Circle, and a founder of the now-infamous and discredited logical positivism.
Carnap advised Howard Stein advised Nancy J. Nersessian who advised me. In German, especially in the days of Carnap and Hempel, the advisor was called the doktorvater, or "doctor father." When  Nancy was talking to Hempel (another famous philosopher of science) he referred to her as a doktorvater. She coined a term and replied that she was a doktormutter, being female.

Gordon Bower is one of most influential psychologists of the 20th century.
Bower advised Keith Holyoak advised Dorrit O. Billman who advised me in my psychology masters.

Bower was trained by Neal E. Miller, who was trained by Clark L. Hull, a famous behaviorist.

Wilhelm Wudt (pictured) practically invented modern psychology, along with William James. The two of them advised Granville Stanley Hall, who advised Joseph Jastrow, who advised Clark Hull.

Polymath Francis Galton is nobody to sneeze at either. He trained James McKeen Cattell, who advised V.A.C. Henmon, who trained Hull with Joseph Jastrow (of duck-rabbit illusion fame; see below.) Carl Linneaus is way back there too.



Onethe most famous person in my ancestry is Sigmund Freud, who trained Anna Freud, who trained Neal E. Miller. Freud was one of the most influential people in all of psychology. Whether this is a good thing I still hear debated today. 

The site also lets you trace connections between any two people. Though I'm not connected through advisor relationships, I am connected through post-doc training and such to people like
Galileo Galilei
 Albert Einstein
and Charles Darwin.

What a fun site! Unfortunately, I don't appear to be related in any way to Aristotle. Can't win 'em all.

I encourage anyone with a Ph.D. to contribute to the site. It's a lot of fun and only takes a few minutes to add information about yourself and your advisors. 

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Carleton Cognitive Science is Hiring


Want to work with me? :)

Subject to budgetary approval, the Institute of Cognitive Science at Carleton University invites applications for a tenure-track appointment at the level of Assistant Professor, to begin July 1, 2009. Applicants will be engaged in research on human and/or artificial cognition and have a Ph.D. in a discipline relevant to cognitive science (computer science, linguistics, philosophy, psychology, cognitive neuroscience, or cognitive science), a strong commitment to scholarship reflected in publications, and demonstrated excellence in teaching. The successful candidate will be expected to teach both undergraduate and graduate courses, to develop a program of research leading to significant peer-reviewed publications, and to contribute effectively to academic life in the Institute.  Further information about the Institute can be obtained from www.carleton.ca/ics/. Applicants should send their curriculum vitae, a summary of research objectives, a teaching statement and evidence of good teaching ability, copies of representative publications, and arrange to have three referees forward supporting letters to Dr. John Logan, Director, Institute of Cognitive Science, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, ON, Canada, K1S 5B6. Carleton University is committed to equality of employment for women, aboriginal peoples, visible minorities and persons with disabilities. All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply, but in accordance with Canadian immigration requirements, applications from Canadians and permanent residents will be given priority. Applications will be reviewed beginning December 1, 2008 and will continue until the position is filled.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Improv Show Writeup: Insensitivity Training in the Dharma Arts


Our improv group was written up in "Dharma Arts." The text from it is below.

BEST MEDICINE. CHEAPEST THERAPY
Make any relationship look better next to the dysfunctional antics of Ottawa’s award-winning Improv comedy troupe. Laugh through date night with Insensitivity Training, a politically incorrect evening of inappropriateness. Playing to sold-out shows at this summer’s Fringe Theatre Festival, these guys have become the city’s edgiest live comedy show in just over a year. Their deft and deadly humour can be found busting guts every Sunday night at the Bytown Tavern (292 Elgin St.). With a $2 door fee and wait staff on hand, you can kiss your pay-by-the-hour shrink goodbye.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Skit: Small Horse in a Big World



Here is a skit by my improv group Insensitivity Training. This skit was written by Scott Goldman, directed by my, and shot and edited by Phil Genest. Starring Scott Goldman (cop) and Matthew Douglas Sloan (horse owner.)

Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Grammar, Manners, and Other Things That Shouldn't Matter


"where image takes precedence over wisdom where sound bite politics are served to the fastfood culture where straight teeth in your mouth are more important than the words that come out of it"
- From "Television, the Drug of the Nation" by The Disposibile Heroes of Hiphoprisy

Is it important to speak and write with correct grammar and spelling? It is, but not for great reasons.

Like manners, grammar and spelling are social conventions. There's nothing inherently good or bad about the way things are said. Societies agree on how to do things, and we get irritated if those rules are broken. As a result, your message will be more poorly received if it's got grammar or spelling errors.

Ideally we should try to understand the content of what is being communicated, and evaluate the communication on those grounds. Fight the temptation to disregard the content of what is being said based on grammatical and spelling errors. If you bristle at this advice, ask yourself if you think it's okay to judge what someone's saying on their physical attractiveness, teeth straightness, or how good their breath smells.

We're more likely to listen to and believe an attractive person, but that's not a good thing. One of the most irritating things in the world is a person who finds grammatical errors. More specifically, the people who can't keep it to themselves are irritating. Some of my readers might be bristling at this too, thinking that people should use correct grammar.

The problem is acute with our evaluation of foreigners. Our perceptions of people's intelligence is greatly affected by their fluency with language. This explains why we tend to think non-native speakers of our language are stupid. I hope all of my readers can agree that you shouldn't be too nitpicky with grammar when a foreign speaker is trying to tell you something important.

Grammar and spelling are only important because people think it is. As you listen to people, try to be better. Strive to treat it like physical attractiveness-- it's the gift that matters, how how well the bow is tied on the box.

Pictured is an octopus.