Big in Japan

My husband and I buy the New York Times every Sunday. I freely admit this: I only buy it to do the crossword. We have fun solving it together and are getting faster at it, but we’ll never be invited to one of those puzzler’s conventions where people knock one out in 10 minutes. I can’t even read the clues that fast. If there’s ever a sequel to Wordplay, we […]

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Programming from Scratch

One of the things I’ve been trying to learn as I take free online classes is how to program. Programming logic does not come easily for me, and I can’t tell you why because I don’t understand why. I think I lack some internal ability, sort of like having no athletic talent. I’ve gotten college credit in C (I got an A, actually) and in formal logic as well (I […]

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Are we inherently dishonest?

I like to think that I’m honest. Dan Ariely says I’m fooling myself. I think social lies are necessary sometimes. One time I had a friend whose stylist accidentally overdid her haircut and got it down to only about an inch in length. She couldn’t fix it, she was freaked out, and she needed someone to reassure her that no, she didn’t look like a boy. To be honest, she […]

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Why do we do things that make no sense?


Last year I took a really terrific class on Coursera that behavioral economist Dan Ariely at Duke University offered. I wish it were still available to take so that I could refer you the videos, which were exquisite, both in content and in production value. I really hope he’ll offer it again. I want to take it again! The course: Behavioral economics is a pretty-new subfield of economics. It explores […]

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Globus pigmento

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I started a Latin course from The Great Courses last night. I want to be able to read St. Jerome’s Vulgate. I’m too tired to tell you why … because I spent today playing paintball with my 12-year-old son at (shouted in over-the-top monster-truck-show voice) XTREME PAINTBALL!!! This place was really cool. It has six different fields of varying terrain (including hills and woods) and lots of hiding places. They […]

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Start-up Country

Model of Tenochtitlan

I’ve been taking a world history class on Coursera, and I was surprised to learn that around 1100 AD, one of the largest cities in the world was located in what is now the United States. It’s in Illinois, and is known as Cahokia Mounds. From the Cahokia Mounds official website: A Thriving Ancient Metropolis According to archaeological finds, the city of Cahokia was inhabited from about A.D. 700 to […]

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Merry 2014


It was an up-and-down 2013 for my family and friends. Last night’s bowl game between Duke and Texas A&M seemed like an appropriate finish to the year. The Aggies were down 21 points at the half and yet miraculously pulled through for the win, thanks to Johnny Manziel’s phenomenal play and two last-minute, heads-up INTs by Toney Hurd, Jr and Nate Askew. We’ve made it to 2014. Oh, and this […]

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How MOOCs are Changing My Life


In the interest of getting back to my purported purpose for starting this blog (that is, to get some brain exercise), I’m going to start posting some of the interesting stuff I’m learning — because despite my silence on here, I’ve actually been learning a lot. And I kind of want to share it. In March of 2012, I read this article in Wired magazine and immediately knew it would […]

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The World Was Never Flat


Raise your hand if you were taught that Columbus proved to doubters that the earth was round. Yeah, me too. Our teachers were wrong. By the 5th century BC at the latest, the Greeks knew the earth was spherical. By 200 BC, Eratosthenes of Cyrene had made a pretty good estimate of its circumference using some creative means worth reading about here. Even after the fall of Greece and then […]

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