Archive for May, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor – Outlier?

Excerpt from The Washington Post May 26, 2009

Judge Sonia Sotomayor knew she wanted to go into law from an early age.

As a child, she aspired to be like Nancy Drew, the detective in the popular children’s mystery series. But at the age of 8, she was diagnosed with diabetes and told she might need to rethink her dreams.

Her struggle with diabetes was just one of many adversities she faced while growing up.

Sotomayor’s parents came to New York from Puerto Rico during World War II. Her father worked in a factory and didn’t speak English.

She was born in the Bronx and grew up in a public housing project, not too far from the stadium of her favorite team — the New York Yankees. Her father died when she was 9, leaving her mother to raise her and her younger brother on her own.

Her mother, whom Sotomayor describes as her biggest inspiration, worked six days a week to care for her and her younger brother, and instilled in them the value of an education.

Sotomayor later graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University and went on to attend Yale law school, where she was editor of the Yale Law Journal.

In her three-decade career, she has worked at nearly every level of the judicial system, and on Tuesday she became President Obama’s pick to replace retiring Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court.

Sotomayor thanked Obama for “the most humbling honor of my life.”

“I hope that as the Senate and American people learn more about me, they will see that I am an ordinary person who has been blessed with extraordinary opportunities and experiences. Today is one of those experiences,” she said.

Frank Lloyd Wright + Legos

If ever there was a match made in heaven, it is Prairie Architecture a la Frank Lloyd Wright and the iconic Danish toy, Legos.  In the 70s, I played with my mismatched, monochromatic Legos for thousands of hours as a child.  No longer mismatched and monochromatic–I admit, that as a father of three boys, I have over indulged in more fancy (read: expensive) Lego kits than should  be allowed (Star Wars, Pirates, City, etc, etc, etc).  But, the coup de gras is Falling Water and the Guggenheim are now available in Lego form.  I’m sure I will buy them, but not for my sons.

And, I can’t wait to tell fellow Fight Clubber, Dave, as he is a former docent atTaliesin in Spring Green and father of two sons.

Falling Water

Drunkenness Loves Company

The World Health Organization calculated the liters of alcohol consumption by country.  It looks accurate because Ireland is the darkest (I’m Irish so I can say that) – but Canada?  Something is wrong there, I know they drink more than 7-9 liters per year.

Alcohol_consumption_per_capita_world_map

Brooks and Obama Sittin’ In a Tree…

Last night David Brooks spoke at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis as part of a St. Thomas/Opus speaker series.  It turns out he has a lot of connections to Minnesota including his wife, who is from Detroit Lakes (which to him sounds like “Newark Gardens”).  He said that being married to a Minnesota woman, he learned quickly to capitulate – all the men in the audience laughed knowingly.  And, apparently, former Senator Dave Durenburger is a friend of the family and was in the front row.

Brooks was raised by liberal parents in New York, but he said he met William Buckley in college and has been a conservative ever since.  But, like his column, his speech was very complimentary of Obama.  The speech was titled “The Age of Obama” and he listed all the reasons why Obama is such a transformative figure and why he just might deliver on his hyper-ambitious plans.  He told story after story of how intellectually rigorous the President and his staff are – especially in contrast to the previous administration.  Overall, his speech left me bullish on Obama, even more skeptical of the Republican agenda, and a bigger fan of David Brooks.

Shoddy Journalism

In his PressThink blog, Jay Rosen, Journalism Professor at NYU recently posted “Why the Internet Weakens the Authority of the Press.”  He begins by referencing the 1986 book The Uncensored War by press scholar Daniel C.Hallin.  In the book Hallin articulates an elegant model that explains why journalists didn’t do their jobs in the run up to the Iraq war.

hallin-model2

When (with some exceptions) political journalists failed properly to examine George W. Bush’s case for war in Iraq, they were making a category mistake. They treated Bush’s plan as part of the sphere of consensus. But even when Congress supports it, a case for war can never be removed from legitimate debate. That’s just a bad idea. Mentally placing the war’s opponents in the sphere of deviance was another category error. In politics, when people screw up like that, we can replace them: throw the bums out! we say. But the First Amendment says we cannot do that to people in the press. The bums stay. And later they are free to say: we didn’t screw up at all, as David Gregory, now host of Meet the Press, did say to his enduring shame.

10,000 Hours of Deliberate, Strenuous and Boring Practice

The next Broken Spines bout is on “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell.  Basically Gladwell debunks the myth that great people are innately smarter or more capable than the rest of us.  He references research that shows that 10,000 hours of practice are necessary before mastering anything.

David Brooks writes in his column this morning that this research has been conducted by people like K. Anders Ericsson, the late Benjamin Bloom and others. And he recommends two new books: “The Talent Code” by Daniel Coyle; and “Talent Is Overrated” by Geoff Colvin.  Brooks writes:

Coyle and Colvin describe dozens of experiments fleshing out this process. This research takes some of the magic out of great achievement. But it underlines a fact that is often neglected. Public discussion is smitten by genetics and what we’re “hard-wired” to do. And it’s true that genes place a leash on our capacities. But the brain is also phenomenally plastic. We construct ourselves through behavior. As Coyle observes, it’s not who you are, it’s what you do.

Incidentally, David Brooks is speaking at the Minneapolis Orchestra Hall next Tuesday.

Opus Distinguished Speaker Program: The Age of Obama, featuring David Brooks


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