Category Archives: Crossposted


arrivalArrival is brilliant, beautiful, touching, and quite thought-provoking. It clears my Threshold of Awesome, and invites me to say very little about it lest I rob my readers of the voyage of discovery the film offers.

The film is adapted from Ted Chiang’s “Story of Your Life,” which can be found in the collection “Stories of Your Life and Others,” which Publisher’s Weekly called “… the first must-read SF book of the year” back in 2002.

Doctor Strange

doctorstrangeMy oldest daughter came home from college for the weekend, and insisted that I not see Doctor Strange without her. I talked to the rest of the kids about it, and one by one they each decided they wanted to see it too.

On opening night, in 3D¹.

I was $75 down before arriving at the theater, and then we bought snacks². I tweeted my forlorn hope that I was somehow going to have $110 worth of fun in the next two hours.

When the film ended, we all had smiles on our faces. We talked Marvel Cinematic Universe stuff until late, and the kids’ opinion was that this was the best Marvel movie³ to date.

My own opinion is that it’s not the best, but it’s certainly quite good. We got to see Benedict Cumberbatch play someone who grows into a sense of personal responsibility, and by the end we got to see a Marvel superhero who not only warps reality, he also chews scenery.

Doctor Strange clears my Threshold of Awesome, and I’m quite excited to see more of Doctor Strange in upcoming films.

¹The 3D turns out to have been worth it. I’ll be seeing it again in IMAX 3D just for that experience. But I’m waiting for $5.00 movie day, because ouch that first showing was ‘spensive.

²Theaters generally do not get a cut of ticket sales for the first two weeks it’s out, and sometimes it’s even longer. They depend on concessions to keep the doors open. I always buy concessions because that money (for the local cinema chain) stays in town and creates jobs.

³They have seen all of them except the Edward Norton/Tim Roth Hulk movie. We are now collecting the Blu-Rays, and we’re two Caps, two Thors, and a Hulk away from having all of them. Oh, and the first Avengers film. We have that on DVD, so Sandra says it can wait.



infernoThe trailers for the latest Tom Hanks Treasure Hunt, Inferno, looked kind of silly. The line “I left you a path… the hardest one yet” suggests that somebody has created a puzzle for Professor Langdon, and is deliberately leaving the fate of the human race in his hands.

Fortunately, the trailer is misleading.

As archaeological puzzle-solving goes, Inferno has almost nothing to offer. As a spy thriller, however, it works pretty well. Tense moments, cool action scenes, and a twisty, fun plot. It deploys some tired tropes, and then nicely explains why these things could actually happen here.

It doesn’t clear my Threshold of Awesome, but I did have fun.

A New Common Core

There’s talk these days about college educations being too expensive—and by “too expensive,” some experts have said it’s simply not worth the money. I’m not currently working in the field I studied, but I don’t regret college at all. In part, I suppose, because it’s been paid for.

Of the many things I remember from my years in school, these two stick out:

  • “You don’t know how to think until you know how to write” (from Freshman orientation)
  • “There is more than just one way to learn a thing” (from an honors seminar on epistemology)

Those two points served me very well as I moved from career to career, and I think they can be expanded upon to form their own field of study. With a substantial portion of all human knowledge instantly available to us on our handbrains¹ it can be argued that the acquisition of such knowledge needs to be cheaper than a one-year service plan.

On the down side, you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet. Per Sturgeon’s Law², “90% of everything is crap.” A formal education might be the best defense against inadvertently filling one’s head with digitally disseminated falsehood, folklore, and folderol.

The current model for formal education involves front-loading our brains with material delivered by professionals whose authority we’re not truly invited to question. They may teach “question everything,” but they never really support us questioning whether their class is worth our money.

That’s why I think that the class we all need, and which should likely be the first class taught to the rising generation, would teach the following skills:

  • How to gather information online
  • How to evaluate that information’s validity
  • How to make a decision based on the available information

Simply put, it is learning how to learn, and learning how to act on what we’ve learned. I imagine the class running for about three months, and presenting increasingly complicated problems for students to solve using online resources.

It may seem a little silly, and even a little too basic, because it’s an extension of what most of us already do. But as more and more information becomes quickly available to us, this process  will inevitably become the dominant mode for learning things. Doing it sloppily will be disastrous.

Obviously the things learned from online research will need to be supplemented with practical experience, but there are manifold paths open to us once we’ve figured out that first bit. It may be that autodidacts³ of the future will move directly into medical school, skipping the undergrad and pre-med programs on their way to becoming doctors.

Or maybe the doctors of the future will go to school for bedside manner and periodic maintenance of the surgeon-bots and all their super-precise robot friends who never forget to wash their hands⁴.

¹Have you ever had a professor quote to you from their own book, which you were required to buy as part of the class? I’ve always aspired to that level of grift. 

²What we call “Sturgeon’s Law” was called “Sturgeon’s Revelation” by Sturgeon, and he never got around to condensing it into six words of pith. 

³A fancy word for “folks who are self-taught.” Useful, but pretty much everybody I know has taught themselves a great many interesting things, so at some level the word “autodidact” simply means “human.”

Still a problem among modern surgeons. It’s the surgeon equivalent of using your turn signal when driving.