Tuesday, April 17, 2012

N is for "Now, how can I screw up this alphabet today?" (A To Z, Blogathon, Probably Other Stuff.)

That video is for the song "Ho Hey," by The Lumineers and it really has nothing to do with this post, but if you've read this blog for even five minutes you know that nothing on this blog really has anything to do with what the stated subject of any given post or blog is, so just roll with it, baby, as Steve Winwood would say.

About my references, and in response to Rusty Webb, whose drawings you should really check out because they're good, so good that I would hire Rusty to illustrate an animated series based on my life only in the animated series I would have the power of telekinesis for real instead of for pretend (to pretend to have telekinesis just throw stuff at people and act like you did it with your mind)(that last parenthetical statement brought to you by the antimatter version of Dale Carnegie's book)(I'm lost in my parentheses here so let's get back to the topic at hand)

Which is why Rusty is wrong and I am right that there's no difference between "Googling things" and "just knowing things." Recently, I asked people to let me know if they got a reference without googling it, and Rusty, who is on the side of people who believe that Googling things to learn about them is evil (I may be exaggerating, but only a little) took that as proof that I've converted to his side.

I have not.

To put it as succinctly as I can: there is no better or worse way to learn something.  If you know the answer to a question, it doesn't matter how you got the answer (provided you didn't make a deal with the Devil, which I would disapprove of.)

So when testing one's knowledge, as in the Star Wars Blogathon, I take the stance that it doesn't matter how you get the answer -- whether you "knew it" from watching the movies, or "knew it" because you Googled it and then answered -- because at some point you learned it from some method.  People who oppose Googling to get answers place a premium on how you learned something, not that you learned it, but consider this:

Suppose you are out in public and begin choking, and I am the only person around -- me and my smartphone.

You make the universal gesture for "I'm choking because I really thought that this Cadbury Creme Egg would go down in one bite," and I say back:

"I'd like to help you but I missed the Health Class where they showed us the Heimlich Maneuver.  I'd be more than happy to put a splint on you and/or treat your rattlesnake bite by sucking out the poison, if you'd like."*

*Note: those are both actual things I remember how to do from my eighth grade health class.

In such a situation, I could google the Heimlich Maneuver, save your life, and probably get rewarded by your generous uncle you never knew you had, but if you are the type of person who thinks having previously known something is preferable to learning it when I need to know it, you'd no doubt like me to let you die rather than be saved by inferior knowledge.

Learning isn't done best one way or another, necessarily, and a true education is one that teaches you how to think and learn as you go on.  Our schools place too much of a premium on rote memorization and learning things that don't matter, and too little emphasis on learning how to learn.  That's why people think it's unfair to Google an answer to a quiz even though Googling an answer to a quiz is no different than learning it in some "traditional" way: because they have been conditioned to think that memorizing the answers ahead of time is somehow better knowledge.

I think that knowing how to find the answer is better in almost every walk of life. 

So the reason I wanted to know if people got the answer without Googling it wasn't because I think that's a better way to know something.  I simply wanted to know how dated my references were getting, since that particular reference is from a Steve Martin stand-up concert from about 30 years ago, one in which he says something about how he likes to open the show by doing one thing that's impossible and will therefore snort a Cadillac up his nose.

I couldn't find video of that, so here's this: 

Anyway, that's the entry for "N."  I was going to say something about the Voynich Manuscript, but that, like the dolphins, will have to wait for another day.

 Here's today's question, worth 24 points:

What academy was it that Luke wanted to go to, but Uncle Owen said he'd have to put it off?

Also, yesterday I didn't name a number of commenter to get the points, so on any day when I don't do that, I'm going to give the 10 points to the very last commenter, as judged by when I put up the next post.  That will encourage people to keep on commenting.  I get an email alert everytime someone comments, so more comments makes me look important in meetings.


Remember: You can get 1,000 points by mentioning the Yellow Hill fundraiser on your blog; here's the post where I explain that, and you can  click here to go directly to the Yellow Hill fundraising page.  If you don't want the points, you can in the alternative link to/mention it and get a free book of mine.(Find my books here.)

Stephen Hayes, last week's winner in the weekly drawing, chose Eclipse (by me!) and Slipstream (by Michael Offutt!) as his books for the week. 

Have you written your blogfest entry? The Triweekly Blogfest Challenge -- prize is $10 -- is to post something on the theme of "Han shot first, but Time-Traveling Elvis shot second" by April 29.

Here are the standings, with the curiously-absent Emperor Blutonatine still in first.


Stephen Hayes said...

I think the fun part of a trivia contest is to see what people already know, not what they can Google or look up in an encyclopedia. I haven't answered any of the Star Wars questions because I don't know the answers, but if we were all sitting here with our fingers on the keyboards waiting for the questions it seems to me it becomes a competition of who can type the fastest. But yes, if I'm choking please look up the Heimlich Maneuver, and be snappy about it.

PT Dilloway, Superhero Author said...

Didn't he want to go to the Imperial Academy? I should Google to see if there's a fancy name for it.

Aha, here's from IMDB:
While the film does not specify, the novelization of the film indicates that Luke was referring to the Imperial Academy. A deleted scene wherein Luke talks with his recently graduated friend Biggs indicates that Biggs was planning, along with several friends, to jump ship and seek out the Rebel Alliance after beginning their tours of duty on the vessel Rand Ecliptic. Luke already knows this information when he has the discussion with his uncle, but the text of the missing scene, as well as Luke's later talk with Ben Kenobi, show that Luke was very uncertain of the idea of joining with the Alliance despite his voiced opposition to the Empire, and likely was not desiring to attend the Academy for the same reasons as his friend (though Biggs didn't necessarily go to the Academy with the intention of joining the Alliance and may have heard about it while in school and decided where his true loyalties lay). Luke views the Academy as his likeliest chance to make a life for himself away from home.

PT Dilloway, Superhero Author said...

I guess Darth Vader never looked at Imperial Academy admissions then, eh? Which really after the prequels and one of your posts pointing out holes in Star Wars I got wondering why Vader never realized that his son was staying with Uncle Owen. I mean from the prequels we know he knew Owen and the kid there is going by the name Luke SKYWALKER, so why didn't he ever check on that and realize his son was right there? Especially when they were over Tatooine at the beginning of "A New Hope"?

Kind of like how could Vader be right there with Leia and not realize through the Force that this is his daughter? Or maybe even to see a resemblance between her and Padme.

I guess he just wasn't the brightest star in the galaxy.

Andrew Leon said...

Oh, man, I should have known that was Steve Martin from the one impossible thing line, but it went right past me. And I didn't google it because you asked us not to.

Here's how I look at this whole thing:
My head tend to collect useless information all on its own. Like, recently, I took my wife to see the re-released Titanic. There was some conversation about when we saw it the first time. She was a bit hazy on any details beyond the fact that we'd seen it and couldn't figure out why we'd never gone to see it again even though she loved it. So I went through the whole story of why we only saw it the once. She gave me this look and said, "How do you remember all that?" And the answer is, "I don't know." My head just collects information the way I used to collect comic books.

All of that to say that google provides me a way to -not- have to keep even more useless information in my head, and I really like that.

@Grumpy: (or should I switch to PT? Except that would make me think of PT Barnum everytime I'd type it...) I'm not thinking Vader ever went to visit his step-brother. It's not like they had any kind of relationship. Certainly, he never went back to Tatooine and freed the slaves, so I think he just stayed as far away from the place as possible. Why go back there, you know? Besides, he thought his kids died with Padme, so he had no reason to be looking.

Rusty Webb said...

Why sir, I believe you did misstate my argument - then attack that version. Very sly. Now, I actually have no idea what my actual argument is but I'm sure it's much more nuanced than what you said it was. Probably.

I have no issue googling something in order to learn about it. I take issue with people knowing something I don't already know. Wait - that may have come out wrong. Let me try again.

It's like folks who take calculus in college and mutter under their breath how stupid it is for them to actually bother learning how to actually do stuff because they have calculators that can solve all their problems. It's the mathematical equavilant to googling a question to write down an answer on an exam. What happens if your batteries go dead? Does society crumble because you don't know how to plot something on the Z-axis? It might.

And that day the computers begin their inevitable war with humanity... I'll still have my trusty old books and my head full of trivia. All locked away and ready to use as the remnants of society gather around makeshift fires and try to rebuild society. I might not be able to help - but dammit, I can warn them all about how googling things made us weak and dependent on machines for knowledge. Then I can talk about old Seinfeld episodes.

Rusty Webb said...

Oh - and Luke wanted to go to Wookie Academy.

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

Oh my goodness...the Chubby Chatterbox is gonna read my book :) Thanks Briane. I have no idea what the answer to the academy question is. My brain is too tired having been up all night listening to father and his panic attacks at feeling his own mortality.

PT Dilloway, Superhero Author said...

In response to Rusty's comment, I would say that humans have always relied on tools. That's how we were able to take over the planet. It's just the nature of the tools that's changing now. Whereas before the tools were more to do physical labor for us (axes, knives, etc.) now we're building machines to do complex thinking for us.

Although I do agree you shouldn't let the computer do so much thinking that you can't do any for yourself. Which echoes an episode of "Wishbone" I saw on PBS a long time ago where this kid was having a garage sale and his mom tells him that he shouldn't lean on the calculator so much because what if it breaks? Naturally the calculator does break and he has to make change for people on his own, which teaches him self-reliance and such stuff.

Of course if there weren't computers to do thinking for us, I'd have to write this down and mail it to your house, which would take days. Though the post office would be in a lot better shape.

Rusty Webb said...

PT - Did you know helium was discovered by staring at the sun?

Take that Google.

My point, I have no issue using a computer as tool, or as a means for learning. But anybody can sound like a genius on the internet by looking stuff up, blog posts feel like conversations to me, trivia certainly feels like a test of things you've already know. Googling for answers might be acceptable, within the rules even. But I don't like it, it makes me think I'm having a conversation with a half human half computer. It's damned eerie.

Andrew Leon said...

I have to say that I wish the questions were harder since we get to look them up. I mean, I've only had to look up a few questions, the rest I've just known. It's kind of upsetting, at that point, to see an answer copied directly from wookieepedia get the win just because they got here before me. I mean, I even knew the one about gargoyle bust, because we have the issue of National Geographic World about that.

Anyway... I suppose what I'm saying is that I feel like this is math homework, but the answers are in the back of the book, and the teacher forgot to make us show the work, so everyone else is just copying down the answer, but I actually know the answers.
Or like in English in high school where I was the only one actually reading the assigned book.