Judging the Relevance of Previously Learned Knowledge

Sometimes I get so preoccupied with what I know or wish to learn about, sometimes to the point of arrogance.  The truth is, while knowledge previously learned has found application long after it was learned, sometimes it’s best just to research it at the moment when it’s relevant.

Some things are just common sense situations, as much of say, psychology or history, is.  Coursework just adds jargon and other added insight to it.  But in the natural sciences (the area where I have overall leaned toward), little day-to-day relevance tends to be seen.  In some disciplines, like chemistry, if you were a cook wondering about why certain things behave the way they do (e.g., why oil and water don’t mix), it may make more sense to understand that area of chemistry.  Countless other examples abound in many branches of science.  But scientific knowledge is often seldom relevant (and thus forgettable) until something warrants learning about it.

Keep in mind, our days are becoming more and more “numbered” (cf. Ps. 90), and we shouldn’t pile ourselves with unnecessary baggage, in this case, knowledge that you’ll never use.  This is similar to senior citizens ridding themselves of their material things, even though that is deliberate.  In the case of knowledge, even though unintended, people retaining less of it as they age shows an internal, yet analogous process of removing “clutter.”

Any collection, aside from those created by hobbyists, has an intended purpose.  Here’s an analogy.  Food and clothing aren’t worth anything unless you eat and wear it.  Concerning weapons, an arsenal is useless unless the weapons are to be used.  Considering collections of records, CDs, or cassettes, they aren’t worth anything unless you play them.  Considering calories in your diet, if you don’t burn them, you’ll get fat.  And so on and so forth.  Accruing anything is not worth anything unless you use it.  The same is true with knowledge.  Fortunately, if knowledge isn’t used, chances are you’ll lose it!  At least here there are checks and balances!  I personally think the Lord is directing a person in a certain way when some knowledge bonds more than others.  It works just like a colander, strainer, sieve, etc.; keep what you need, dump what you don’t.

This is a natural process, and indeed apparently supernaturally directed.  You don’t truly know anything for its genuine purpose unless you have faith in God (Prov. 1:7)  Moreover, unlike wisdom from God, worldly wisdom will not solve any problems in everyday life.  (cf. 1 Cor 1:18-31).

Solomon was also right about the ever complicating process of the acquisition of knowledge.  “Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” (Eccl. 12:12).  There is no need to hold allegiance to all the facts in a book, course, or other source of knowledge.  Once you finish, you can move on.  After all, your knowledge base is meant to be retrieved from when necessary, not dwelt on.  In fact, excessively trying to salvage knowledge can be a form of idolatry, as it may not only take priority over its normal use, but also displace devotion to God.  As for the first clause of the Eccl. 12:12 passage, look no further than Google to prove that.

As a college student, both general education and major courses are designed as a foundation that directs the path for working adult life.  They are not meant for their own sake, as much of what I’ve learned so far up to now (from both college courses and elsewhere) can be a blur sometimes.  Often, only one or a few courses in the degree provide substantial impact on one’s career, the rest can be laid aside.

So, since life here on earth is short, and we shouldn’t waste our time dabbling into pursuits that are typically intended to lead to others.  Our learning should be modest, and we should come to terms with what is and isn’t important.  Quite often the most exhilarating learning just comes spontaneously.  And as far as jobs, sometimes the training received therein is more important than the source background.

Finally, “fuzzy” knowledge from years past, when applied to a current situation, may themselves lead to a learning experience itself.

Well, keep your eye out for the garbage truck headed for the “Learning Landfill!”

Why Majors Give College Its Identity

College students, who make up a fraction of the high school graduate population (since, remember, college is not for everyone), may be viewed as an “elite” group that want to further their studies in a particular field, which would correspond to the “major.”  And of course, the major, or area of specialization, is just that:  the knowledge of one student’s major will probably be of little relevance to another’s plans.

I currently attend the Community College of Philadelphia, hoping to transfer to a university in a few years.  I am registering to be a biology major, and shall do the same at the university to follow.

You can now see the material covered in a biology major would have little relevance to an art major, a political science major, a sociology major, etc.  What is taught in one major would be quite irrelevant to someone seeking a career in another.  You would hardly use information beyond your major in the career you would expect to pursue.  For example, I was recently browsing through some geology texts in Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature, which allows you to preview select books.  While I could definitely understand the material and do the work of such a major, geology is not a profession I would like, and the subject doesn’t hold my interest as much as biology anyway.  So it would be unnecessary to “dabble” in that field (or any field beyond your major) in that amount of depth.  (At least it was good I made such a judgment.)

Of course, you do have the “general education” courses, that can expose you to fields beyond your major, but in less depth than the corresponding major lineup.  The emphasis here, however, is breadth, exposure to a number of different kinds of courses.  This presents a trade-off; you usually can’t have your cake and eat it too.  Of course, if you double major (which many colleges offer), you can dabble in a second area, but it seldom has an advantage over the standard single-major approach.  Minors are a common practice, and while the courses are equivalent to that of a major, the difference is that of quantity, that is, fewer courses.  But since employers tend to pay little regard for minors, it is often a good way to prepare for a hobby or side pursuit.

Moreover, with the Internet now, there are scores of things you can dabble in, but of course, you won’t have the instructive support of a professor.  The Web is useful when you need something for a “quick-reference,” but for an in-depth analysis of a subject, schooling may be more appropriate.  But if you’re already done college, your trajectory in life is probably already set (especially concerning your career), and it would not be worth getting another degree just to merely learn about something.  God has guided you in the direction he wants, and you should be content with what you already have (Phil. 4:11, 12).

No wonder Solomon’s quote in Ecclesiastes 12:12 says excessive study “wearies the body.”  You should be able to draw the line when it’s time.  We were meant to work, indeed (typically) longer than our studies.  Information is always increasing (especially in this very century we live in now), but our personal knowledge capacities are the same.  And that’s a good reason to have specialization.  Polymaths and other generalists are basically a thing of the past, as there was less information out there then.

US President Barack Obama planned to make community college free, rendering half of a four-year (bachelor’s) degree, or an entire associate degree for direct entry into the work force, affordable.  Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, who is more of a socialist, patterns much of his politics after the Nordic lands, and hopefully (within the domain of state universities) plans to make bachelor’s degrees free.  These policies are a little too good to be true, since again, college is an elite group.

Knowledge may be power, but only enough in certain fields.  The “bliss” of ignorance of other fields certainly holds true as well, and indeed acts as a balance.

Don’t be too smart for your own good!


Reading For the Concepts Amidst the Details

Today (which includes the wee hours of this morning) I was reading through a section of a layman-level book in the Scientific American Library book, Life Processes of Plants (which is really a review for me).  I also took notes based on this material, in a summarizing fashion.  This part of that chapter was about the best time to flower and for seeds to germinate.  However, the skill I really want to convey in this post is getting the bottom line amidst the body of writing and not holding an idolatrous “verbatim bondage” to the text.  (By the way, in this post, the focus is on secular non-fiction.)

So, people may think I have a photographic memory (of sorts).  Well, I deny that, especially since claiming that is arrogant and in fact deceitful when my memory is only sub-par to such.  This is especially the case over time, for as usual, details within text tend to fade (just like the average person).  Also, excessive focus on retention and review of past readings, again, shows that bondage to memorization.  From my conscience, this can be idolatry because can potentially displace adoration to God onto secular reading material.

This thereby may put me in the dilemma of “to keep or not to keep.”  Well, here’s my take on it:

  1. When considering investigating into a topic, judge the worth of a topic and see if it is really necessary for your purposes.  Of course, you should show interest in it as well.  Our days are numbered (cf. Ps 90) and should not be wasted.
  2. Get the main points of a book, website, or any informative material.  Remember, details of anything are the elements of “who, what, when, where, why, and how.”  They shape a written work, but are not the work itself.
  3. When you are done with the book, just let it fly!  After all, if that weren’t the case, we wouldn’t check out books from libraries.  You read something, you comprehend it, and just move on!  There’s a whole world of information to explore than that tiny corner of knowledge you might get preoccupied with.
  4. Finally, last but not least, seek God’s wisdom, especially through prayer and Scriptural reading.

Of course, the details of a written work have their purpose, such as reference, or as discussed above, to steer the course of reading the work.

The Bible is a possible exception to this rule, since it can spiritually shape you along your earthly journey in different ways, perhaps using the same scriptures. But the Bible is meant to transform, not merely to inform.

In a nutshell, summarization is as important for non-fiction as it is for fiction.  (Pun intended.)

So, willing to drop everything and read, and do it again and again and again?

Site Review: Cronodon.com

Cronodon, a fictitious planet, is the home of a “curator”of a “museum of the future.”  And let me tell you, even though still a diamond in the rough, his brainchild is fantastic.

The curator, who anonymously calls himself “Bot,” to the best of my knowledge, for I am a human and hence an earthling, probably has many experts on a team.  The details are a little murky though.

Its primary areas of treatment are biology, quantum physics, and astronomy.  I have also found some topics treated as diverse as chemistry, meteorology and even some urban planning stuff.

The biological coverage is excellent, especially in the areas of botany, invertebrate zoology, and microbiology.  Alas, the only vertebrates covered are cetaceans, a group of marine mammals that includes, you guessed it, dolphins, porpoises, and whales.  But the cover almost every single kind of invertebrate.  It contains extremely rich detail yet makes it very readable, a rare marriage.  And some pages are still readable even when it could get technical (in other words, you can skip those portions of the page and still get the general message).

A central feature woven throughout the site is its robust programming base.  You may even learn to program yourself through certain pages.  In fact, many of the images are made through these methods.  Cronodon also welcomes constructive criticism (be it positive or negative), and in fact often offers a link to do so on a particular article.

Some of the downsides:

-It adds much pseudoscience to the mix, such as alchemy and certain “dark side” philosophies.  As a creationist Christian myself, the old-earth/evolution base in the biology pages could count, but since one side of the never-ending creation/evolution debate will consider the other as pseudoscientific, this leads to a draw.  Besides, personally, I typically substitute my beliefs for what is presented when I read an evolutionary material.

-Printing directly from the site is an ordeal because many of the images overlap with the text.  The extent of this depends on the browser used, e.g., Chrome and Opera have a less severe overlap of images than Firefox, etc.  I recommend that you copy it to a word processor (e.g., MS Word, Google Docs), though things can be disorganized at times upon copying.  Alternatively, you can just read it directly from the website (sometimes enlarging the text can allow for better concentration and comprehension)

-Finally, it has a British tone to the writing, so you should be aware of certain vocabulary differences.  But if you’re already British, this makes no difference!

Aside from those issues, Cronodon is a great place to learn about “science for science’s sake.”  For a Christian like me, this means getting to know this awesome world and universe God has placed us in.  I highly recommend it for any sufficiently educated adult who wishes to learn more about our beautiful cosmos.  The website is simply cronodon.com.

Enjoy your explorations all around!

Is Being Academically “Ahead of the Pack” Worth It?

Now in my second semester at Community College of Philadelphia, I am now taking Calculus I and an Introductory Chemistry course that solidly prepares a student for “college” chemistry.  It also prepares me for my intended majors Biology I course required as part of the biology program at CCP.

In both courses, there is certain material that I may already know, and know quite well.


Right now in chemistry, the professor has so far discussed some VERY basic math skills, probably none of which goes beyond the middle school level.  This includes: place values, solving pathetically simple algebraic equations (e.g., 2x + 3 = 13, something I can do in my head), the metric system, rounding (I already know 0-4 is rounding down and 5-9 is rounding up), scientific notation, operations with integers, yada, yada, yada!  It’s already like 3 weeks into the semester and it still feels more like math than chemistry!  He mentions there may be measurement units that we’ve never heard of, but the only one I know (the mole and all its kin), probably have been covered in HS chemistry classes wherein most, if not all, students have probably attended.  (I was among those that did not do so).  And last but not least, the instructor’s monotone lecturing style doesn’t help either.

At my original community college, Bucks County (Pennsylvania, USA), I have attempted majors chemistry twice unsuccessfully, and completed a non-majors chemistry course successfully (even in that situation, I was “ahead of the pack”).

Of course, to maintain the Christian value of humility, I keep silent about existing knowledge of mine, keeping compassion for the students and not being arrogant.  (cf. 1 Cor 8:1,2)

But looking on the bright side, at least I learned a good concise way of doing the scientific method, and some more appealing details amidst all the tedium.  You sometimes just have to look for the “silver lining” sometimes.


Calculus I was another Bucks course I have taken but did not complete, and I learned a lot of neat stuff then (though since I have forgotten much, this serves a good review).  At least this course is challenging, both then and now.  But especially now, due to the professor’s methodology.  One imperative rule of schooling (this applies to chemistry, calculus, or any subject) is that you should not use your existing knowledge to do work in that class until that concept is taught therein.

“Too Much, Too Soon”*

My fetish with college materials, especially textbooks, began back in high school.  In mid-to-late August 2006, shortly before school started, I obtained a botany book via Amazon, the same text (but a newer edition) a HS teacher used in his college years.  The reading of this text spanned the rest of 2006 and into 2007.  Most typical high school kids have substantial homework, but being in a situation where homework assignments were few and far between (I shall not discuss why, though).  Since then, this interest (or if you will, addiction) has become over-the-top, and has lead (and will keep on leading) to the same tedious and boring situations in classrooms throughout college.  You would think it would make college (when you reach that point) easy.  In a way it does, but it also makes lectures boring and “old news.”  This past fall’s Psychology class was fascinating, but of course, I knew little of the material prior to then.


Eccl. 3:1-8 (incidentally, the apparent source for the Byrds’ 1965 folk-rock song “Turn, Turn, Turn”), is an OT Scripture beautifully puts diametrically opposed situations in a poetic nutshell that is quite versatile even beyond the exact words.

I have also discovered that textbooks used alone are often less fruitful that when with an instructor.  Sure, you’ll learn new things, but are they they accurate?  And there might be subtle gems of information either not in the text at all or “in between the lines”

Moral of the story?  For now, I should focus on the actual curriculum and hold off on other, non-assigned academic subjects until your formal studies are past, and just take our schooling one step at a time.

*This section’s title was part of an actual blog post title in a now-defunct blog of mine.

“Pete Can Dance Silly On Camera” – A Paleozoic Mnemonic

(Disclaimer:  I do not take a solid position whether the earth is old or young, nor is it relevant.  This post is just here to demonstrate the power of associative learning, especially mnemonic devices.  Also, I am not a paleontologist or geologist, so don’t assume any scholarly accuracy on my post!)

You may think I’m nuts, but this mnemonic literally rocks!

It stands for, in backward chronological order, for Permian, Carboniferous, Devonian, Silurian, Ordovician, and Cambrian, the six periods of the Paleozoic era.  Broadly, this is life before the dinosaurs, who ruled the Mesozoic era.  Next (the era we live in now, according to evolutionary theory) is the Cenozoic, which is basically the time of modern life (especially humankind).

With mnemonic and other associative methods of learning, you can retain information better.  For example, with the Silurian (which started 430 MYA, according to an old earth), you could use the number 430 and make a statement like “it’s silly to get up before 4:30 am,” a way of relating the two.

Or, for the Cambrian, starting 570 MYA, you could consider the idea of the 570 area code of Pennsylvania, and Cambria County (which is not in 570 area code; if you were wondering, it’s in 814).  But by associating Pennsylvania, a county therein, and one of the state’s area codes, it may be easier to remember.

Mnemonics, don’t you just love them?

Summarization: A Method of Conquering Tough Material

So, in these last days before the Spring 2016 semester, I have enjoyed the diligent work of summarizing more-or-less technical information to get the main points extracted.  As well as trimming extensive detail, I’ve gone an extra step in trimming jargon.  It is a rewarding task that not only is a good method of sharing information, but of personal learning as well.  Some summarized points may appear in future works (perhaps including blog posts!).  And if I need the original detail, it is a good idea to cite the original source(s) in order to track them.

Often, it may be equally smart to give priority to websites over printed books, since information is always subject to change and while the web can be updated, books require revised editions every few years if they are to remain current.  Books can be useful, but will inevitably show their age.  The web, on the other hand, has given a “fountain of youth” to information.

While I do well in understanding deep information, not everyone does.  No problem though, you can use “lighter” materials and thus derive, of course, an even lighter summary!

This is quite “sum” labor of love here!

Get Right on Target When Googling!

Not too long ago, when I want to investigate a topic, I tend to make the error of being too broad.  Instead of Googling my intended item, I would Google a college course’s lecture notes or similar “all-purpose” resource for a subject.  While they can be doubtless rich in information, it will depend on the scope of content that the leader (often, a college professor) wants to contain on his site, both in breadth and depth.

I’m not denying their substantial information is of good quality.  I’m just recommending a different means of searching the web.

My solution here is simply to be more specific.  For example, say “cephalopods” instead of “invertebrate zoology,” or “sapwood” instead of “plant anatomy,” or “electric potential” instead of “physics.”

And once this rule of thumb is observed, you will probably unleash far more power than by doing a search on a broad topic.  You may even cross paths with those “all-purpose” sites mentioned above, such as course notes.  But since you are aiming for what you want, when you need it, it doesn’t matter what the identity of the sites are.

I wish you some “bull’s eyes!”

College Courses Just Around the Corner!

On January 20, I start my next batch of college courses at the Community College of Philadelphia, namely, Calculus I and a Chemistry course, the latter for preparation for the majors-level Biology and Chemistry in the fall (or even summer!).

Since I will be more focused on coursework (and the textbooks that go with them), I will leave the pleasure text reading aside until after the bachelor’s is complete.  If I don’t cross paths with the subject matter of the sold books (yes, Cedar City!), no problem, I’ve got Amazon (and maybe other sites) on your side in case you still want them.  (Cedar City Books is a seller in the Amazon Marketplace among many others).  Bibliographies at the back pages of books often point the way.  However, many adult duties, such as work, childrearing, etc., may get in the way, so I must always budget my time properly.

In a spirit of lifelong learning, I have a whole lifetime ahead of me to independently learn things not covered in college (if desired) through textbooks and other resources; for now, though, reading and related collegiate activities are paramount.  Indeed, we’ll never get to read all books made.  But rigorous reading not required by the classes (or any hobby for that matter) may become just another Facebook, not in its communicative nature, but in its power to distract.  Again, all things in moderation.

However, I will try to get as much Bible study in there as possible.  But that’s for another post.

Wish me a great spring semester, as my knowledge and understanding blossoms!

A Chief Weakness of Mine

With all my strengths, given the fact that no one is perfect, I must present at least one weakness.

This deals with the fact that I tend to make decisions without seeing the whole picture.  I typically impulsively decide things based on a few facets with other factors neglected.  I really shouldn’t be this hasty, and should consider all details of a decision and take my time.  Sometimes this insufficient analysis leads to obstinacy.

This includes decisions like choosing a college, those textbooks I read for pleasure, buying other products, and much more.  At my “Cedar City” business, I have sold three textbooks, have two to go, but have taken the remaining two off the market so I can, yes, read them!  When I buy textbooks (namely, for fun) while I learn a lot, I worry that I’m not getting the correct or important information.  Well, big deal.  While college professors can give you a deeper understanding, a 1978 book, aiming to provide suggestions for those adults that want the knowledge of college, said that learning is “internal,” and the lectures, homework, etc., are just supplemental.  The textbooks on the market discuss the same basic things, but professors differ just as all people do.  Colleges have multiple professors, yet you’ll probably only get one.  And since there are sundry colleges coast to coast, it’s all a luck of the draw.  Some professors aren’t that good anyway.  Therefore, I earnestly count my blessings here, particularly in comprehending information that many people don’t, which I thank the Lord for.  I also enjoy, and am quite talented in, summarizing technical/scientific information into plain English, and am indeed quite good at it.

OK, enough with the academics.  Dietary choices when shopping are often impulsive, as well as the “need” (really a desire) to eat out rather frequently.  When eating, I tend to binge, which depletes food rather quickly.  This often does warrant take-out, but if I observed portion rules better, maybe food wouldn’t be depleted so quickly.  And often, I may blunder on budgeting sometimes.

This, by the way, is a great topic for prayer.  A daily diet of Scripture is also crucial.  Pray that the wisdom of God will guide me in all endeavors, of all kinds.

Decisions, decisions, decisions, what are we gonna do?