Thursday, November 25, 2021

Be a Hedgehog or a Fox?

 Specialist or generalist?

A neighbor’s teenage son, Jayden, has become my surrogate grandson after about a year of getting paid for walking our dog, Colette, while my once-impaired hips minimized my mobility.  I’m healed, but the dog-walking gig continues, and we chat for several minutes three nights a week before The Walk.

Jayden is smart and athletic, and he became the second-string quarterback on the local high school junior varsity football team, likely to be the starter next year. He did well at the basketball try-outs that followed the football season, yet he was not selected for the team, as the coaches seemed to choose for height over most other qualities. When my younger son, Phil, faced this problem himself decades ago, I encouraged him to work on his jumping ability, already impressive, and assured him he was likely to grow taller, too. That all worked out as hoped and predicted, and Phil was one of the best players on their senior-year championship team.

I had discouraged Phil from going out for the football team. One reason was the risk of injury, another the value of specializing in basketball rather than pursuing other sports.

What to advise Jayden, who preferred football but also liked basketball?

We discussed two broad strategies, sometimes referred to as “the hedgehog and the fox.” The hedgehog (or “groundhog”) is a master at tunnel building, and this one exceptional talent serves him well. The fox has no such specialty but is clever in many ways, a mixed strategy, and it serves him well.

Specialization can be a winning strategy if you can perfect it. In much of human endeavor, the top 1% are highly rewarded and tend to be specialists. If you have a rare and desired talent, make the most of it.

“Jack of all trades, master of none” denigrates the person with many skills but no strong specialty, yet such broadly talented people are needed and rewarded in the running of various enterprises, where the narrow specialist might be lost.

I told Jayden that this relates to the two limiting evolutionary strategies: having many offspring and giving each little support versus having few offspring and providing each much support. These strategies reflect an evolution from the one-celled through many intermediaries, including insects and fish to birds and mammals and humankind. Societies, too, benefit from heavy, individualized investment, reflected in few children per family on average.  

So, if you have a particular and valuable talent, consider developing it fully, be a hedgehog.

Where you lack a particular advantage, treat your opportunities more like lottery tickets, acquire many useful skills, be a fox. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

"Are You Sad, Dearest Ting?"

A few days ago, my wife, Tina Su Cooper, and I spent an hour or so holding hands and watching a movie in our kitchen, as we do most afternoons.

We have been in love for 58 years and married for 37.

Due to multiple sclerosis, Tina (born Su Ting-ting) has been quadriplegic and ventilator-dependent, getting round-the-clock nursing at home for the past 17 years. She has weathered it heroically, appreciating the nursing care and almost never complaining.

Half a year ago, she had a stroke, reducing her damaged cognitive and communication abilities still further. After several hospitalizations over the past year, the doctors made it clear they thought she should get only minimal future care, as her prospects were grave. We disagreed, insisting on full medical care when appropriate and nursing care at home, which we did even after a period a few years ago when she was mistakenly diagnosed as being in a “vegetative state,” from which she “surprisingly” recovered.

We will give Tina the home and hospital care she can receive, not asking ourselves, “Are we there yet?” We don’t know where “there” will be.

Life includes the possibility of future pleasure. We hope that Tina finds some enjoyment, sleeping a great deal, watching television, and interacting with us for a few hours each day.

As we watched that movie together, I told her that she was our heroine, doing a very difficult thing, persevering despite the limitations, and I said I hope she was not unhappy.

I rephrased my comment into a question, “Are you sad, dearest Ting?”

I feared she would nod her head yes or remain immobile, an implied yes, but she did something she rarely does. She shook her head no.

Tina Su Cooper is not sad.

Even if her situation may make us cry, we are not sad, either.

Life is precious, and where there is life, there is hope. 

Monday, October 25, 2021


Fellow physicist Dr. Michael Guillen, whom I do not know personally,  turns the expression “seeing is believing” on its head to show the role worldview has on whether science seems to support or contradict Christianity. He succeeds in making the case that it is more rational to be a Christian than an atheist, reversing his initial worldview, which lawyers would call “reluctant testimony,” thus more credible.

Scientists like Guillen – who has a doctorate from Cornell in physics, astronomy, and math – rise in their profession by applying reason and “the scientific method,” as they understand it, to their investigations.

World-class scientist Guillen extended his passion for the truth to perform a prolonged and detailed analysis, in concert with the woman who became his wife, of both the Old Testament and the New Testament, which present two very different portrayals of the relationship of God to man.

In the New Testament especially, Dr. Guillen found much to support his scientific worldview, a viewpoint previously shaped by the seeming contradictions of quantum mechanics, the esoteric analysis physicists use with success even while admitting to being puzzled by it.

Guillen contrasts “trivial” truths, demonstrable from logic and evidence, with “profound” truths, supported by evidence and reason but unprovable. Profound truths can be both true and false in some senses simultaneously, such as whether Christ was man or God. Analogously, in quantum mechanics, for example, the electron can be both a particle but not a wave (photo-electric effect) and be a wave but not a particle (diffraction).

Truth is larger than proof, Dr. Guillan emphasizes. Imagine a Venn diagram, where the provable is a subset of the true. What can be proven is quite limited.

For example, eminent mathematicians in the early 20th century found that mathematics could not be put on an entirely logical foundation, as Euclidian geometry had been. Soon after, logician Kurt Godel went even farther and showed that there are propositions that cannot be proven or disproven within systems as complete as modern mathematics and that such systems are even capable of “proving” falsehoods. Truth extends beyond proof.

A classic example of the limitations of logic is determining the truth or falsity of “this statement is false,” a seemingly simple proposition. Is it true? Or false? Or indeterminate?

Another example of the difficulty in relying only on analysis is determining the truth of a statement as simple as “John is good.” Values become extremely hard to define and prove.

A third example is “fuzzy math,” where yes/no is usefully replaced by yes/somewhat/no.

In passing, the author notes the recent studies that demonstrated obvious shortcomings in majorities of samples of published scientific investigations. I would add that current controversies over global warming and vaccination mandates for Covid-19 have shown how some scientists selectively present only the part of the story supporting their worldview.

The author convinced me the case for science has been over-stated and the case for belief in God has been under-stated. His carefully argued and thoroughly researched work includes scores of pertinent citations.

Dr. Guillen keeps our interest and empathy with his narrative passages about himself, his colleagues, and his most significant others.

“Believing is seeing” is akin to “where you stand depends on where you sit,” as your worldview, knowledge, and your self-interest can make you highly aware of or nearly blind to the evidence for a Creator.

This statement is true: Dr. Guillen has put the case for belief in God and for Christianity on an even firmer footing.


This book by Dr. Guillen, whom I do not know, is available from


I am a semi-retired former physicist, now a coach and editor helping people write, finish, and publish their books, through my site:

Saturday, October 16, 2021


This novel by Gordon Smith reads like non-fiction, its strength and its weakness.

It opens with the central family’s reaction to the unfair accusation that got their young daughter expelled from school.

The last portion of the book is an engrossing, exciting, touching search and rescue operation in a hostile region Down Under.

In between these dramatic episodes, the earlier portions describe life on a ranch in the Outback, way out, and sketches the backgrounds and personalities of the main characters. There are events, but not much plot. Still, one gets a feeling for Australia, at least the rural life there.

I admire and like the Aussies, and I appreciate them as our ANZUS allies these past 70 years. As anglophones, we share much culture. As people, many of these, our “mates,” exude a hearty friendliness hard not to like.

We share a common language, but the editor of the book or the proofreader was not always on the alert, and too many grammatical mistakes mar the presentation. A shame.

Prepare to be educated, occasionally disappointed with the writing, and moved emotionally, besides geographically.


Monday, October 4, 2021



This link is to be a repository of Leo Cooper Chiang hit photos, sometimes accompanied by "brother" Luke. 

You cannot take too many baby pictures, right?

they will update this shared google photos album with pictures every so often:


Leo's Granddad

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Two Personal Milestones


Dear Family and Friends,


Tina was more alert than usual today, and so this afternoon, we got her out of bed and into her wheelchair to go to the kitchen to watch TV with me and get her teeth brushed.

Because she had tried to speak a week ago while in the hospital, we deflated the trach cuff,  to allow her to make sounds if she wished. We said, “Hello. Say ‘hello.’” And Tina said, “Hello,” in a raspy but understandable voice. On the way to the kitchen, I gave her some program choices, and she said, “Home and Garden.”  Then she added, “I love you with all my heart.” I was amazed and pleased, as this challenging year could easily have made her resent our inability to do more for her, and we seldom see her smile.

This afternoon, for the first time in several years, I was able to walk the one-mile road around the lake, courtesy of the skill of the Hospital for Special Surgery surgeons (Dr. Windsor and Dr. Gausden) who did my two hip replacements. (Colette accompanied me and protected me from possible assailants, none of whom dared show up.)

We persevere and advance.



Thursday, September 30, 2021

THINKING IT THROUGH: Coaching Students to Be Problem-Solvers

After many years of work, two educator-administrator authors (Drs. Michael Hibbard and Patricia Cyganovich) have distilled decades of experience into publishing this extensive contribution to educating students to become systematic, effective problem-solvers.

The book publisher's short description:

Thinking It Through: Coaching Students to Be Problem-Solvers guides educators in integrating creative and critical thinking to power the six phases of the Cycle of Problem-Solving: problem-finding and analyzing the audience, researching, generating ideas for solutions, selecting a solution, designing an implementation plan, and self-regulation and setting goals for improvement.

The authors draw from the works of Thomas Friedman, Bena Kallick, Ken Kay, Robert Marzano, Jay McTighe, Daniel Pink, Ken Robinson, Tony Wagner, Grant Wiggins, and Young Zhao in creating a coherent system for teaching to produce independent problem-solvers.

Thinking It Through provides guiding questions to focus on specific skills and attitudes needed to progress through the Cycle of Problem-Solving and four developmental levels of problem-solving.

This book is for classroom teachers, grade-level teams, content-area departments, pupil-service departments, whole schools, and school districts; the strategies are helpful in elementary, middle, and high school disciplines. It is recommended as a textbook for college undergraduate and graduate education programs.

Educators have found the Thinking It Through Cycle and System of Problem-Solving helpful in engaging a school, district, or institution in the life skill of problem-solving.

Creative and critical thinking, communication, collaboration, arts, basic skills, empathy, mindfulness, resilience, perseverance, and positive work habits are problem-solving tools. These are coherently and systematically included in the Cycle and System of Problem-Solving to give educators the theory and strategies needed to empower students to solve the problems of their lifetimes.

Ken Kay, the founding CEO of EdLeader21, concurs, "There will be nothing more essential for students in their personal, professional, and civic lives than to become self-directed, creative problem-solvers."

Noted consultant and co-author of 17 books, including the award-winning Understanding by Design series, Jay McTighe urges, "If you agree, as I do, that problem-solving should be considered a basic skill of a modern education, then this book is for you."

Martin G. Brooks, Executive Director of TriState Consortium, offers this praise for the authors: "I have seen first-hand the transformational work that Drs. Hibbard and Cyganovich initiated and oversaw as school administrators. Their focus on problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, and innovation encouraged teachers to do more profound and more meaningful work with students."

Jonathan P. Costa, Sr. Assistant Executive Director, EdAdvance, states: "I have never encountered a pair of leaders more qualified to share insights regarding student agency in problem-solving than Drs. Hibbard and Cyganovich. Thinking It Through is among the most in-depth and thoughtful examinations of the power of shifting the focus of learning to the student that I have encountered. The results represent a unique blend of theory and practice, grounded in the depth and power of the real-world examples they share and explain."

"This work is an incredible contribution to teaching problem-solving," concludes Professor Marcia Delcourt, Coordinator, Ed.D. Instructional Leadership at Western Connecticut State University.

My contribution was to coach the authors and edit the text through my enterprise.

This valuable work is available in paperback format through,, and its publisher, Amazon will be putting the book into Kindle e-reader format, as well.

Here, Amazon provides a substantial free sample  (10%) of the text, along with the opportunity to buy the book:

Thinking It Through: Coaching Students to Be Problem-Solvers