Monthly Archives: July 2005

Critical thinking: is it a lost art?

I think there a lot of people in the US who don’t have (or don’t use) basic critical thinking skills. This makes them very susceptible to being led around by their emotions and pseudo-reasoning than by their beliefs, principles and ideals.

I think that this is reflected in the media and in politics. How did politics come to be so divisive? If it’s possible to get any kind of information at any time, why is it that so many people choose to filter their media consumption so that they only get exposed to opinions they agree with?

I took a Critical Thinking course in college. It was nothing special… it was a lot of information I had already known, even if I didn’t have the language to express it. And yet, everywhere I see evidence of hundreds, or thousands, of people reacting to non-logical arguments as though they are perfectly valid.

At the same time I see a lot of people arguing right past each other, not just in the media, but in online forums, and even at work. It’s as if the opinions that strike a chord will get them humming, and opinions they don’t agree with will be greeted with hostility, not just disagreement.

I pride myself on being a good communicator, and especially a good listener. I am able to sort out when someone says what they think, what they feel, and what they believe, even if they are not communicating well. I am able to repeat back what I hear to verify and validate that I understand it, even if I don’t agree with it. I’m able to tell the difference between a fact and an opinion, and I can sense when people agree on basic premises and disagree on a question of degree or emphasis, even if the speakers don’t see any agreement.

I believe this level of listening involves some amount of empathy and takes a lot of practice to be good at. But, I think basic critical thinking is not that hard to pick up.

So, friends, if you’ve managed to read this far, answer some or all of these for me.
1. Do you believe you are pretty good, or at least reasonable, at critical thinking? Can you tell when an argument is logical, or when an argument is designed to appeal to your emotions and not your intellect? If so, where did you pick up basic critical thinking skills?
2. Do you happen to know any good (but short) reading material, or useful web pages, that give basic skills in critical thinking, or basic semantic analysis?
3. Someone I was talking to recently said that there are something like three basic types of information, and it was something like statement of fact, statement of values, statement of logic. Does this ring a bell and/or have you ever heard of this?
4. Do you believe that critical thinkers are in the minority? Do you think that people are easily led around by their emotions? Would a quick one-page primer on critical thinking and avoiding common fallacy arguments would help these people, or do they need more than a fifteen-minute crash course could give them?

neko-base is gone: long live “box3”

Neko users- The server has been successfully replaced. Its new name is “” but if you use the name “neko-base” it should still work.

If I have not given you your new password yet, please chat with me on AIM (nekodojo) or YIM (nekodojo_org) or give me an alternate email address where I can reach you. Or reply to this.

Expected downtime on neko-base tomorrow

Hello folks,

Well, it had to happen sooner or later… after some months of running an old Linux and failing to keep it updated, one of the accounts on the box got hacked.

I’m going to take this opportunity to reinstall the system from scratch, give everyone new passwords, and spruce up the firewall settings a bit. You will need to get the new password from me tomorrow to get back on the system or to get your mail (if it’s being stored locally on neko-base). If you haven’t logged in for over a year and you have no domains or mushes active, I will probably not create your account on the new system. If you still want the account, just ask (or if you decide you don’t need it, let me know that too).

My first priority tomorrow will be getting everyone’s accounts created, email back up and running, and then the web pages serving correctly. Mushes may have to wait until Sunday depending on how much time the other tasks are taking.

Please chat with me on AIM (nekodojo) or YIM (nekodojo_org) or give me an alternate email address where I can reach you.


P.S. No the breakin was nothing serious, I’m pretty sure they didn’t get root access and they just seem to be running some silly IRC bot. sigh.

Of servers and toilets

Yesterday, I installed Debian on an extra server. I’m checking out the new version of Mailman, which seems to be quite cool. It has better integration with Spamassassin (and I could also upgrade to Postfix 2.1+ which has Spamassassin as a real-time filter. The cool thing about the new Mailman is Topics – you can have categories like announcements, events, classifieds, off-topic, discussion, etc. within a single list, and subscribers can pick and choose which things they want to see. Means users will need to add tags to the subject line, but I think people will figure it out before long.

I would also like to evaluate HostingHelper to see if it will work well for the various sites I host. You can use it to give people accounts by which each user can manage his/her own domain names and web services, etc. Plus, it supports OpenSRS, which means I can act as a registrar for me and my friends and not have to go through GoDaddy (though the pricing ends up being about the same, I like the idea of cutting out the middleman and being able to create domain names instantly.

Today I totally switched gears and installed a new toilet. The old one was leaking from the tank to the bowl and refilling its tank a little every 55 minutes or so, which probably could have been fixed, but I used the opportunity to get a taller throne as well. Long story short, *three* attempts and *three* wax rings later, we now have a new toilet. Hopefully the next two replacements will be a bit easier.

(Thanks go to misty_shadows for excellent assistance and moral support on the plumbing project. It is appreciated.)