Friday, July 1, 2011

One Hundred

Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end; then stop. ~ Lewis Carroll

And so, at long last, we arrive at two-word titles on Measure of Doubt, some three years and four months after we began. One hundred posts. Eighty thousand words. I don’t keep comprehensive tracking statistics, because I’m opposed to writers surveilling their readers, but I do have a counter that indicates that I have had something on the order of 35,000 unique “hits” on this page.

I have more to say, of course. Consider:

- Those digital signs that span the 401: they bug me. The other day, one said, “School is out. Watch for children.” Are children playing on 400-series highways now? And if I intended to drive like a psychopath, gunning for children, would the sign make me reconsider?
- “Natural” is not synonymous with “good”.  Polio is natural. Polio vaccine is unnatural. Which would you rather have?
- The organizing principle of homeopathy cannot be true unless the laws of physics and chemistry are false.
- Oprah’s practice of having only herself on the cover of her own magazine is made all the more egotistical by the fact that she very occasionally violates the practice. It wouldn’t be a problem if it were a general policy. It’s not. It’s question of her finding someone worthy to appear with her.
- Television is both worse (reality TV) and better (Mad Men, The Wire, Breaking Bad) than ever.
- My wife makes the best sandwiches in the world. On Saturday, it was avocado and red onion on grilled French bread with a cilantro chipolte mayonnaise.
- The proper way to cook a steak is in a very hot cast-iron fry pan until it’s rare or medium-rare, not on a gas BBQ until it’s a greyish brown colour.
- One advantage of cats over dogs is that you can leave them alone for the weekend. They have this advantage over children, too.
- The phrase, “those who can’t do, teach” doesn’t apply to university professors who are active in scholarship in their field: they teach precisely because they can “do”.
- The guy who first proposed that his company should pour tap water into a plastic bottle, ship it across the country, and sell it at variety and drug stores for three times the price of gasoline deserves a big raise. And to be beaten.
- It’s hard to find good restaurants in London, Ontario.
- The greatest movie ever made is Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo.
- Nonacademics have more freedom to express their views on academic matters than academics do, even though academics are supposed to have academic freedom. You wouldn’t believe the blogs I didn’t post.
- The scariest book I’ve read in the past two years is The Shallows by Nicholas Carr. Anyone who spends more than an hour per day on the Internet should read it.
- Technology is not neutral. It changes us even when we’re not using it.
- Educated people built Auschwitz and the atomic bomb. Rationality can sometimes lead to horrible things. But irrationality always does.
- Steinbeck is overrated. That’s irrational, I know.
- Get over the Beatles, everyone. They only recorded something like 9 hours of music. Seriously. 9 hours. Move on.
- The Golden Compass series is better than Harry Potter by a longshot. And Harry Potter was good, although by the last book in the series I was skimming.
- In the 1960s, this actually happened: university administrations decided it would be a great idea to get teenagers who have never taught and never studied pedagogy to be the ones to decide whether or not university professors with PhDs, lengthy publication records, and decades of teaching experience are any good at teaching. That actually happened.
- A recent study in the United States found that between 1961 and 2003, the number of hours per week that university students spent on all aspects of their studies declined from 40 to 27. Assuming the same rate of decline continued through to 2011, the figure would now stand at about 24 hours per week.  Average grades, however, have gone up rather dramatically. Draw your own conclusions.

Well, I could go on and on, but things have value precisely because they don’t. And that is why this 100th column of Measure of Doubt will be its last. 

I’ve changed. You’ve probably changed, too. I’ve gotten a load off of my chest and have begun to repeat myself. So now it’s time for other things. 

Are you out there, readers? Are there more than three or four of you?I have no idea. I have unlocked my message board: there is no need to register. If you have read Measure of Doubt, and it has meant something to you, leave a message. I’d like to know.

Well, that’s enough, I think.  One final thought: Bertrand Russell said that the whole problem with the world comes down to the fact that intelligent people are full of doubt while the stupid ones are sure of themselves. So may you always be full of doubt, my friends.