30 June, 2014

Newsletters You Might Actually Be Happy to Find in Your Inbox - NYTimes.com

Newsletters You Might Actually Be Happy to Find in Your Inbox - NYTimes.com: Like most people, I’m careful about handing my email address to anyone, much less somebody who promises to send me messages every working day. But because they sit in my inbox and can be opened (or ignored) at a time of my choosing, I’ve found newsletters keep me in the know about specific topics — which in my case includes media comings and goings. Here are a few newsletters that I follow and others that I hear great things about.

Following the Saints, Footfall by Footfall | Matthew R. Anderson

Following the Saints, Footfall by Footfall | Matthew R. Anderson:

In the last thirty years, a new form
of pilgrimage has gained popularity in the Western world. If you are
over 30 and living in Europe or North America, chances are pretty good
that someone you know has walked the Camino de Santiago, the "way of St
James" in Spain. That path, once the third most important Christian
pilgrimage route, has undergone a massive renaissance since the 1980s.
Just before arriving in Scotland, I had walked 250 km with five friends
over the high mountains of the St. Olaf Way, an historic Nordic
pilgrimage route that has been revived in the 2000s, five centuries
after its demise, by a partnership of church and state in Scandinavia.
From north to south and around the world, walking pilgrimages are
attracting hundreds of thousands every year, and the numbers keep

So why is this movement growing so quickly?

As Europe Now Sees, Resisting Uber Is Futile - The Daily Beast

As Europe Now Sees, Resisting Uber Is Futile - The Daily Beast: London mandates that its cabbies pass a 149-year-old exam called “The Knowledge” that requires them to master the city’s maze-like streets and know the precise location of museums, police stations, and theaters. As part of the test, they have to verbally recite detailed explanations of how best to travel from one location to another through the city’s roughly 25,000 arteries. Passing “The Knowledge” takes years of study, and most drivers fail at their first few tries. The test causes the gray matter in applicants’ brains to expand, according to one London researcher.

Perhaps the most compelling case for letting Uber thrive is that London’s brainy cabbies should devote their oversize hippocampi to contributing to fields like computer science and medical research. In an age of ubiquitous GPS devices, many of which also incorporate real-time traffic data, circling the city in a car is a profound waste of such exceptional minds. London may as well also require that cabbies master the art of saddling a horse and mending a harness.

Writers who leave their wives lost for words - Telegraph

Writers who leave their wives lost for words - Telegraph: All in all, writers, and particularly novelists, are difficult people, with periods of their greatest difficulty tied predictably to their best achievement. Those closest to them will need saintly powers of support, patience and an inability to hold a grudge. It is a mystery to me how marriages consisting of two novelists can possibly function – I suppose they settle into a rhythm of alternating creative periods. Perhaps even more puzzling is how a mind which genuinely rests on the sympathetic observation of human behaviour can have quite long periods when it, just as genuinely, could not really care less if those about them were eaten by wolves. The next time you read a passionately sympathetic study of the emotional life, you might like to reflect that it may have been written by someone utterly ignoring his wife’s daily conversation.

29 June, 2014

How can the U.S. help Maliki when Maliki’s the problem? - The Washington Post

How can the U.S. help Maliki when Maliki’s the problem? - The Washington Post: Maliki lost Sunni Iraq through his sectarian and authoritarian policies. His repeated refusal over long years to strike an urgently needed political accord with the Sunni minority, his construction of corrupt, ineffective and sectarian state institutions, and his heavy-handed military repression in those areas are the key factors in the long-developing disintegration of Iraq. In late 2012, protests had swelled across Sunni areas of Iraq, driven by genuine popular anger but backed by many of the political forces now reportedly cooperating with ISIS’s advance (essential background here). The vicious assault on the Huwija protest camp by Iraqi security forces, in the midst of political negotiations, galvanized hostility to the Iraqi state and paved the way for growing popular support for a returning insurgency. Maliki’s heavy-handed security response to the escalating insurgency across Anbar, including the bombardment of Fallujah, has predictably driven more and more Sunnis into their ranks. Maliki’s purges of the Sunni leadership discredited or removed Sunni leaders willing to play the inside game, and pushed some of them toward supporting insurgency. His exclusionary policies, attempts to monopolize power and rough security practices radicalized a Sunni community that might have been brought into the system following the civil war. Iraq’s political class as a whole has done little better.

Why The Middle East Is Now A Giant Warzone, In One Terrifying Chart | ThinkProgress

Why The Middle East Is Now A Giant Warzone, In One Terrifying Chart | ThinkProgress: As Iraq struggles to take back its cities from ISIS, the region — including countries not in the above chart such as Jordan and Lebanon — are desparetly attempting to determine how best to aid Baghdad. Iran is now calling for international support for Baghdad as the United States mulls its response. But solutions seem hard to come by given the impossibility of sealing the border between Iraq and Syria now as the civil war continues to attract arms, money, and fighters. “The disaster is that Iraqis are fighting on both sides of the Syria conflict,” said Maysoon al Damlouji, a secular Sunni politician, told the Financial Times on Wednesday. Iraq is now part of the struggle for Syria’s future, whether it wants to be or not.

The Racism Beat — Matter — Medium

The Racism Beat — Matter — Medium: Imagine an editor asking a writer to passionately articulate why a drunk driver hitting and killing a boy on a bicycle is wrong and sad. That would never happen, because a drunk driver killing a boy on a bike is a self-evident tragedy. Asking a writer to exert lots of effort to explain why would be a disservice to the dead, as if his right to life were ever in question, as if our moral obligation to not snuff out our fellow citizens via recklessness were something in need of an eloquent plea.

 When another unarmed black teenager is gunned down, there is something that hurts about having to put fingers to keyboard in an attempt to illuminate why another black life taken is a catastrophe, even if that murdered person had a criminal record or a history of smoking marijuana, even if that murdered person wasn’t a millionaire or college student. There is something that hurts when thinking about the possibility of being “accidentally” shot on some darkened corner, leaving a writer who never met you the task of asking the world to acknowledge your value posthumously, as it didn’t during your life.

Stopping Campus Rape - NYTimes.com

Stopping Campus Rape - NYTimes.com: First, our lawmakers could reduce the legal drinking age to 18 from 21. The key problem in college sexual culture right now isn’t drinking per se; it’s blackout drinking, which follows from binge drinking, which is more likely to happen when a drinking culture is driven underground.

Undoing the federal government’s Reagan-era imposition of a higher drinking age is probably too counterintuitive for lawmakers to contemplate. And obviously it wouldn’t eliminate the lure of the keg stand or tame the recklessness of youth. But it would create an opportunity for a healthier approach to alcohol consumption — more social and relaxed, less frantic and performative — to take root in collegiate culture once again.

28 June, 2014

Will California's Ruling Against Teacher Tenure Change Schools? - Dana Goldstein - The Atlantic

Will California's Ruling Against Teacher Tenure Change Schools? - Dana Goldstein - The Atlantic: Here’s where the judge is right: It is difficult—actually, close to impossible—to argue that California’s teacher-tenure system makes sense. Research shows that most first-year teachers are mediocre at best. But good teachers tend to make huge jumps in effectiveness by the end of their second year on the job, and those improvements are often visible through classroom observation and students’ rising test scores. Yet California evaluates teachers for tenure in March of their second year of work, before two full years of student-teacher data are available.

 This means that under current California law, principals are forced to make high-stakes decisions about teachers without enough evidence. This disadvantages students, who might get stuck with sub-par instructors, but it also hurts teachers, who aren’t given enough time to prove their skill. Once a teacher earns tenure, it can cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars—and countless administrative and legal man-hours—for a district to permanently remove him from his job. And in the event of budget cuts or school closings, California law mandates that the least experienced teachers be laid off first, even if they are more effective than their older colleagues, a policy known as “LIFO,” or “Last In, First Out.”

What's still wrong with the job market, in two charts - Vox

What's still wrong with the job market, in two charts - Vox: "When there are a lot of jobs and few job candidates you'd think that time to fill a position would be higher. And that's what this indicator is telling us now," he says.

That could mean that there's a skills mismatch, he says. That is, it could mean that employers can't find people qualified enough for the openings they're posting.

But it could also mean that employers are, for whatever reason, deciding to take their time in hiring. One theory here, as Catherine Rampell wrote in the Times last year, is that employers are still feeling cautious from the downturn — don't make a mistake in hiring, the idea goes, because it could be costly to pick the wrong person.

27 June, 2014

Where Are the Hardest Places to Live in the U.S.? - NYTimes.com

Where Are the Hardest Places to Live in the U.S.? - NYTimes.com:

Annie Lowrey writes
in the Times Magazine this week about the troubles of Clay County, Ky.,
which by several measures is the hardest place in America to live.

Upshot came to this conclusion by looking at six data points for each
county in the United States: education (percentage of residents with at
least a bachelor’s degree), median household income, unemployment rate,
disability rate, life expectancy and obesity. We then averaged each
county’s relative rank in these categories to create an overall ranking.

(We tried to include other factors, including income mobility and measures of environmental quality, but we were not able to find data sets covering all counties in the United States.)

10 lowest counties in the country, by this ranking, include a cluster
of six in the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Kentucky (Breathitt,
Clay, Jackson, Lee, Leslie and Magoffin), along with four others in
various parts of the rural South: Humphreys County, Miss.; East Carroll
Parish, La.; Jefferson County, Ga.; and Lee County, Ark.

overview for xkcd

overview for xkcd: It's more that you should be aware when you're making these jokes, or bringing up the topic, that just the word 'rape' feels like a punch in the stomach to a pretty large group of people, and these are often people who would never in a million years give you feedback. The people in this group aren't just rape victims. A lot of them are just ordinary members of a gender that's always been a little more afraid to walk around at night or go to parties by themselves, knowing in the back of their minds that no matter how they dress or what they carry, they always have something that some bigger, stronger person might decide to take violently. Guys making jokes who weren't brought up with this fear don't always appreciate that.

So if you want to be a decent human being, take that into account when deciding what jokes to make to what audience.

If you want to go for it anyway, that's completely up to you. You have the freedom to say anything you want. I just suspect there are a lot of people who cheerfully make these remarks and don't realize how their words are going to be received. (And if you aren't interested in how your words are going to be received, why are you talking in the first place?)

15 June, 2014

Tesla’s Radical Patent Move is a Plot to Take Over the Road - The Daily Beast

Tesla’s Radical Patent Move is a Plot to Take Over the Road - The Daily Beast: With Tesla, Musk isn’t just trying to build an electric sports car. He’s trying to build a network that relies on electricity for transport: cars, batteries, supplies and components, charging stations and equipment. That’s an enormously expensive undertaking, and one that Musk and Tesla have largely shouldered alone.

Despite the company’s supreme self-confidence and demonstrated competency, Tesla is coming to realize that it can’t take on the world by itself.

14 June, 2014

June 2 is the most important day of Obama's second term - Vox

June 2 is the most important day of Obama's second term - Vox:

Adopt a rule that's too lenient, and the president will miss a unique
opportunity to make an impact on one of the most important issues
facing the world today. Adopt a rule that's too strict and he'll risk a
congressional backlash that could ultimately undermine the EPA's ability
to do anything. Republicans are sure to cry "overreach" no matter where
the administration comes down, but they would need Democratic defectors
to really change anything. Yet energy issues are highly regionalized,
and the risk of an anti-Obama backlash from Democrats representing
coal-dependent areas is real. Striking the right balance will be tough,
and regardless of what the rule looks like it will be some time before
we know whether Obama's done it.

But either way, make no mistake this — not the Keystone XL pipeline or congressional Benghazi hearings or clearly doomed transportation plans — is the political story to watch of our time.

The Issue of Tenure for Teachers | Mike the Teacher

The Issue of Tenure for Teachers | Mike the Teacher: Tenure protects teachers’ livelihoods when we stand up to corrupt or incompetent administration. Some of you hate the new standards? An experienced teacher with tenure can shield your kids from bad standards by doing what they know is best without fear of losing their jobs. Without teacher tenure, most of us can’t afford risking our jobs, thus your kids have little-to-no protection from the whims of politicians who have no training or experience in Education. Again: you take away teacher tenure, you take away teachers’ ability to stand up to corruption and incompetence in Education. Believe me, it’s there, and teachers are the last line of defense from your kids being harmed by that corruption and incompetence.

I love teaching, but if I leave it, a large part of it will be because brain-dead rulings like this ensure I will not be allowed to make a living as a teacher when I am old. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

12 June, 2014

The Exorcists Next Door - D Magazine

The Exorcists Next Door - D Magazine: Ruth morphs into another person altogether when Larry commands these spirits to manifest. Either she is an Academy Award-winning horror-film actress, with Ferrari-smooth shifts of body and voice, or she is encountering something in a subconscious realm. At one point, she speaks the name of a demon in a distinctly foreign voice: “Ba-al.” Later, in casual conversation, the pronunciation comes out differently: “Bail,” with a bit of a twang—the name of a Canaanite god mentioned numerous times in the Bible.

She describes the experience as sitting in a passenger seat, watching things unfold beside her as though another part of her brain controls them. “It becomes our little scavenger hunt,” Ruth says cheerily. “What’s the crazy little person inside me going to say next?”

11 June, 2014

IranWire | Did Revolutionary Guards Rig the 2009 Election?

IranWire | Did Revolutionary Guards Rig the 2009 Election?: A video posted on Facebook appears to support claims that Iran’s 2009 presidential election was rigged.

The clip, which was apparently leaked, shows Revolutionary Guards Commander Mohammad Ali Jafari giving a speech about the Guards’ crucial role in Iranian politics and arguing the case for military intervention in the election. The date of the speech has not been verified.

In the video, Jafari concedes that there is widespread doubt about the election results. “The situation became complicated and many of the authorities and even many clerics still have doubts,” he says. “Many still have objections, and if things had continued the way they were going, a run-off election would be needed.” He also said that, if the election advanced to another stage, “it was not certain how things would turn out.”

Today’s Clean-Cut Teens: Less Sex, Less Drugs - The Daily Beast

Today’s Clean-Cut Teens: Less Sex, Less Drugs - The Daily Beast: I was thus pleased—but not surprised—to see that the current generation of American adolescents has been making better health-care decisions for themselves than any previous cohort since the Centers for Disease Control started collecting data. According to a massive new report on trends in health statistics recently released by the CDC and handily summarized by Vox, teenagers are less likely to do drugs, have unprotected sex, or (according to the Guttmacher Institute) get pregnant today than adolescents in previous decades.

Adjunct Responsibilities on College Campuses Extend to Mental Health | New Republic

Adjunct Responsibilities on College Campuses Extend to Mental Health | New Republic: This happens because I am in a position of authority, but I am also deeply non-threatening for being a young, blonde woman who smiles a lot. I can’t strike fear into anyone’s heart, and certainly this has a great deal to do with my age and gender, but it also means that I benefit from a very specific kind of privilege. White male privilege means the gift of easy authority and confidence, among other dubious rewards. White female privilege means being viewed as harmless, innocuous, and safe to confide in. For a teacher, this is both a blessing and a curse. But mostly, I’ve found, it is a blessing. My students write about who they really are and what they really care about, without fearing I will censor or question them or reprimand them for their candor. I like to think this makes them better writers. I know it makes me a more generous and more thoughtful human being.

NSA: Our systems are so complex we can’t stop them from deleting data wanted for lawsuit - The Washington Post

NSA: Our systems are so complex we can’t stop them from deleting data wanted for lawsuit - The Washington Post: The National Security Agency recently used a novel argument for not holding onto information it collects about users online activity: it's too complex.

2014 Virginia primary: How David Brat won - POLITICO.com

2014 Virginia primary: How David Brat won - POLITICO.com: Cantor’s aides take pride in running a strong race against any candidate — Democrat or Republican. But the $2 million Cantor spent to brand Brat as a liberal professor may have had the reverse effect, people close to him and Brat say. It showed voters there was an alternative to Cantor -and that was exactly what many voters wanted.

(Also on POLITICO: For Jewish Republicans: Oy veh)

“The negative ads calling me a liberal professor at first they started off with kind of comic strips,” Brat said in an interview here late Tuesday night. “And everyone kind of liked them. Me and my boy watched them the first night and kind of died laughing. We thought they were funny.”

“They gave me $1 million in name ID and I think that got us going, I think. I’m not a political expert on that, but I think they kind of saw that was happening and they made those a little darker, and they were black and green and looked like a Star Wars thing by the time they got done with it – it made me look like a pretty serious guy.”

10 June, 2014

Eric Cantor Defeated by David Brat, Tea Party Challenger, in Primary Upset - NYTimes.com

Eric Cantor Defeated by David Brat, Tea Party Challenger, in Primary Upset - NYTimes.com: WASHINGTON — In one of the most stunning primary election upsets in congressional history, the House majority leader, Eric Cantor, was soundly defeated on Tuesday by a Tea Party-backed economics professor who had hammered him for being insufficiently conservative.

The result delivered a major jolt to the Republican Party — Mr. Cantor had widely been considered the top candidate to succeed Speaker John A. Boehner — and it has the potential to change both the debate in Washington on immigration and, possibly, the midterm elections.

With just over $200,000, David Brat, a professor at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va., toppled Mr. Cantor, repeatedly criticizing him for being soft on immigration and contending that he supported what critics call amnesty for immigrants in the country illegally

Hundreds Gather to Remember 6-Year-Old Victim of Brooklyn Stabbing - NYTimes.com

Hundreds Gather to Remember 6-Year-Old Victim of Brooklyn Stabbing - NYTimes.com: In a rousing, wide-ranging eulogy, the Rev. David K. Brawley, the church’s lead pastor, said, “I’ve been grabbing all the babies this week. And one of the babies said to me, ‘My mommy said when you preach on Friday you’re going to be mad.’ Well, I am mad. But I’m equally sad about what happened to this community and this family and this child.”

He went on, “We’re here to celebrate P.J.’s life but we must acknowledge that his life was ended way too soon.”

He said, “We should be comfortable with God, but there’s no way we should be comfortable with what happened. You should not be comfortable in this community until our children have safe spaces.”

The more you like Obama, the less likely you are to vote this year - The Washington Post

The more you like Obama, the less likely you are to vote this year - The Washington Post: Across nearly every demographic category - age, race, gender, ideology - groups that lean Republican and tend to disapprove of Obama are significantly more likely to say they'll show up to vote this November. This isn't a new phenomenon - midterm electoral demographics have historically favored Republicans. Democrats are acutely aware of the issue and are actively working to reshape the 2014 electorate along 2012 lines.

But if these numbers are any indication, Democrats still have their work cut out for them. As E.J. Dionne and Bill Galston write in their analysis of the PRRI data, "it is hard to miss the similarities between mid-2014 and the political terrain four years ago." This year, Republicans are likely to add a few seats to their already comfortable House majority, and may be poised to take control of the Senate as well.

09 June, 2014

Interstellar 8-Track: How Voyager’s Vintage Tech Keeps Running | Science | WIRED

Interstellar 8-Track: How Voyager’s Vintage Tech Keeps Running | Science | WIRED: As long as they are still functioning, both Voyager spacecraft will continue to collect data and send it back to us through at least 2020, and possibly until 2025. Even if something breaks and they are suddenly unable to hear anything from Earth, they will keep sending data back, repeating the same sets of observations until they run out of power.

But the radioisotope batteries on Voyager 1 and 2 are diminishing, putting out four Watts less per year. Mission managers will one day have to prioritize which instruments are most important during the voyage through interstellar space, shutting them off one by one as the years go on. After that, both probes will remain within range of our antennas until perhaps 2036. Though scientific data won’t be returned, engineering data could still come back if there is enough power to send a signal. All this means that the mission isn’t yet done.

“We’ve just stepped into interstellar space,” said Dodd. “We’re just going across the horizon line and there are many more discoveries to come.”

German man locked up over HVB bank allegations may have been telling truth | World news | theguardian.com

German man locked up over HVB bank allegations may have been telling truth | World news | theguardian.com: A German man committed to a high-security psychiatric hospital after being accused of fabricating a story of money-laundering activities at a major bank is to have his case reviewed after evidence has emerged proving the validity of his claims.

In a plot worthy of a crime blockbuster, Gustl Mollath, 56, was submitted to the secure unit of a psychiatric hospital seven years ago after court experts diagnosed him with paranoid personality disorder following his claims that staff at the Hypo Vereinsbank (HVB) – including his wife, then an assets consultant at HVB – had been illegally smuggling large sums of money into Switzerland.

 Mollath was tried in 2006 after his ex-wife accused him of causing her physical harm. He denied the charges, claiming she was trying to sully his name in the light of the evidence he allegedly had against her. He was admitted to the clinic, where he has remained against his will ever since.

08 June, 2014

Why I Miss Being A Born-Again Christian

Why I Miss Being A Born-Again Christian:

During my master’s degree program, my plan of going on to do a Ph.D.
gradually dissolved — Exhibit A: me working full time at BuzzFeed, hi! —
but something else materialized: a swelling doubt about the faith I’d
set out to preserve, which hinged almost solely on believing the Bible
to be the literal, inspired word of God. As I learned ancient Greek and
Hebrew and pored over the biblical text in its original languages, and
read it in larger quantities than I’d ever read it at church, its
discrepancies began to shine a hot and uncomfortable spotlight on my
personal religious views. Pieces of the gospels contradicted each other,
I realized. Greek words, like the ones we’ve translated 2,000 years
later to mean “homosexuality,” didn’t quite mean what modern
evangelicals wanted them to mean. Early Christians disagreed up to the
fifth century on which portions of texts should even be in the biblical

More and more, I realized that the Bible was a flawed, messy, deeply human
book — and that in treating it as an unimpeachable guidebook for life
in the 21st century, many conservative Christians were basing their
entire worldviews on a text that, in my opinion, wasn’t that much
different from any other historical collection of letters and stories. I
was forced to confront the fact that I’d converted into a pre-fab
worldview: one hatched largely in recent American history from Jonathan
Edwards and the theology of the Great Awakening, and one that “family
values” politics has buoyed through modern decades.

Best of TomDispatch: Rebecca Solnit, The Archipelago of Arrogance | TomDispatch

Best of TomDispatch: Rebecca Solnit, The Archipelago of Arrogance | TomDispatch: Yes, guys like this pick on other men's books too, and people of both genders pop up at events to hold forth on irrelevant things and conspiracy theories, but the out-and-out confrontational confidence of the totally ignorant is, in my experience, gendered. Men explain things to me, and other women, whether or not they know what they're talking about. Some men.

 Every woman knows what I'm talking about. It's the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men's unsupported overconfidence.

BBC - Future - The best way to win an argument

BBC - Future - The best way to win an argument: The results were clear. People who provided reasons remained as convinced of their positions as they had been before the experiment. Those who were asked to provide explanations softened their views, and reported a correspondingly larger drop in how they rated their understanding of the issues. People who had previously been strongly for or against carbon emissions trading, for example, tended to became more moderate – ranking themselves as less certain in their support or opposition to the policy.

So this is something worth bearing in mind next time you're trying to convince a friend that we should build more nuclear power stations, that the collapse of capitalism is inevitable, or that dinosaurs co-existed with humans 10,000 years ago. Just remember, however, there's a chance you might need to be able to explain precisely why you think you are correct. Otherwise you might end up being the one who changes their mind.

07 June, 2014

The Secret Life of an Obsessive Airbnb Host | Narratively | Human stories, boldly told.

The Secret Life of an Obsessive Airbnb Host | Narratively | Human stories, boldly told.: It’s no secret that Airbnb’s housing stock is partially composed of listings that are technically forbidden by a landlord, co-op board, or city ordinance. Airbnb does not reveal data on its hosts, making it difficult to paint a clear picture of the ratio of legitimate hosts to those who operate in violation of leases and local laws. But from my interactions with other hosts, and one blogger’s survey of thousands of Airbnb listings in New York City, you get the impression that Airbnb does a sizable amount of business with people who should not be hosting and are not covered by Airbnb and thus wholly liable for runaway guests.

 A response from Airbnb customer service confirmed that sinking feeling: “We require that all hosts are legally in the right to use the Airbnb service. If you don't have that right, then that would be a violation of our terms so we must suggest you get full permission to sublet your listing. Anything that occurs outside of the listing would be handled outside of Airbnb.”

Reihan Salam’s piece on education spending is condescending, wrong | Fredrik deBoer

Reihan Salam’s piece on education spending is condescending, wrong | Fredrik deBoer: Now it happens that there is no such thing as private school pedagogy that’s distinct from public school pedagogy. Private school teachers often attend the same college programs as public school teachers, teach from the same collection of textbooks, give the same sort of tests. They are often exempt from the manic standardized testing that public school teachers have to participate in, freeing up class time, so there’s that, I guess. But it’s not like there’s some secret lesson plans that get passed around only between private schools. And here’s another dirty secret: there frequently isn’t a big difference in the day-to-day administrations of private schools, either. Oh, you can fire a teacher easier in your average private school. But there’s absolutely no reputable evidence to suggest that this is why private schools seem to have better educational outcomes than public schools. There is, on the other hand, an argument that has been supported by decades of responsible studies from thousands of responsible researchers: student demographics are more powerful determinants of educational outcomes than teachers or schools. And private schools systematically exclude the hardest-to-educate students, through high tuitions, entrance exams, and opaque selection processes. For these schools, the fact that the hardest-to-educate kids can’t attend is a feature, not a bug.

Ever Wished That Calvin and Hobbes Creator Bill Watterson Would Return to the Comics Page? Well, He Just Did. | Pearls Before Swine

Ever Wished That Calvin and Hobbes Creator Bill Watterson Would Return to the Comics Page? Well, He Just Did. | Pearls Before Swine: Ever Wished That Calvin and Hobbes Creator Bill Watterson Would Return to the Comics Page? Well, He Just Did.

Exotic Nanomaterials Claimed Their First Major Workplace Injury | Motherboard

Exotic Nanomaterials Claimed Their First Major Workplace Injury | Motherboard: What makes it a big deal, and potentially so dangerous, is that ordinary stuff like nickel or titanium have extraordinary properties at the nano scale. They have very different physical and chemical properties than the same material at even the micro size. And there are many different types of nanomaterials, including fullerenes (aka buckyballs), quantum dots, carbon nanotubes, and all manner of nanoparticles.

“It’s impossible to test every nano product for its safety,” said Journeay.

Many aren’t required to be tested because nanoscale nickel, titanium dioxide, and many other nanomaterials have the same molecular structure at the nano and megascale. Even though the sought-after properties of nano nickel or titanium may be wildly different than when they’re pea-sized, they are considered the same by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the federal nano regulator.

05 June, 2014

MUST READ: Dying Girl's Hidden Message on Mirror Stuns Her Family

MUST READ: Dying Girl's Hidden Message on Mirror Stuns Her Family: Happiness depends upon ourselves. Maybe it’s not about the happy ending, maybe it’s about the story.
The purpose of life is a life of purpose. The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.
Happiness is a direction not a destination. Thank you for existing. Be happy, be free, believe, forever young. You know my name, not my story.

04 June, 2014

The Endless Civil War Goes On - James Fallows - The Atlantic

The Endless Civil War Goes On - James Fallows - The Atlantic:

Through the past two centuries the United States has overall fared very well thanks in part to success in both these areas. Its culture, laws, policies, geographic openness, and ideas about itself have generally encouraged adaptability. And its policies have bent change in its favor—through expansion of mass education and a research established, through public investment in leading technologies, through remaining attractive as a site for immigration, et cetera. All this is on top of the incredible natural advantages the U.S. enjoys because of scale, resources, distance from enemies, etc.

• The successful American bargain has depended on relative mobility, openness, and egalitarianism, with the obvious enormous exception of slavery and its aftermath, and many other lesser barriers. As legal changes make America even more equal and mobile, it should become more successful in the basic job of adaptation. As economic and other shifts make it more unequal and class-bound, it becomes less itself, and less successful.

Don’t Harsh Our Mellow, Dude - NYTimes.com

Don’t Harsh Our Mellow, Dude - NYTimes.com: What could go wrong with a bite or two?

Everything, as it turned out.

Not at first. For an hour, I felt nothing. I figured I’d order dinner from room service and return to my more mundane drugs of choice, chardonnay and mediocre-movies-on-demand.

But then I felt a scary shudder go through my body and brain. I barely made it from the desk to the bed, where I lay curled up in a hallucinatory state for the next eight hours. I was thirsty but couldn’t move to get water. Or even turn off the lights. I was panting and paranoid, sure that when the room-service waiter knocked and I didn’t answer, he’d call the police and have me arrested for being unable to handle my candy.

 I strained to remember where I was or even what I was wearing, touching my green corduroy jeans and staring at the exposed-brick wall. As my paranoia deepened, I became convinced that I had died and no one was telling me.

It took all night before it began to wear off, distressingly slowly. The next day, a medical consultant at an edibles plant where I was conducting an interview mentioned that candy bars like that are supposed to be cut into 16 pieces for novices; but that recommendation hadn’t been on the label.

Racist Woman Repeatedly Calls Man an N-Word in Front of Kids, Is Confused Why He Is Recording Her : nottheonion

Racist Woman Repeatedly Calls Man an N-Word in Front of Kids, Is Confused Why He Is Recording Her : nottheonion: This dude handled this situation about as well as he could. Unfortunately these recordings and the ensuing rush to convene the court of public opinion distract from the actual insidious nature of racism. The conversation over racism so often gets into "If they get to say 'X' how come I don't get to say 'Y?'" If your kids came up to you to ask that, the reasonable answer would be that neither of them get to call each other names. But reasonable isn't fun.

It's very popular right now to take a moment of racism, put it online, make fun of it, have some trolls do their thing, and then move on to the next one. It's not news. It's not progress. Hell, it's barely even justice. A very fucked up woman with an obviously very fucked up life said some extremely fucked up things. Her life is going to continue to be pitiful and fucked up with or without this being plastered all over the Internet. Hopefully she doesn't get to keep custody of her kids not to punish her but to give them a chance at some stability. Hopefully she can get some help somehow so her life can quit being so shitty. It doesn't take a team of psychiatrists to see that she's imbalanced.

The thing is her rant doesn't defund schools. It doesn't deny this guy a job, a loan, or a place to live. It doesn't buy up all the houses in a neighborhood to tear them down for a parking lot forcing people to relocate. It doesn't make sure his business isn't welcome. It doesn't expand services in a city away from his neighborhood. It doesn't make sure that he stays in his neighborhood with people who look like him. And so on.

It's important that we don't take our eye off the real problem. This woman's racism sucks, but capital-R-Racism is where we really need to be pointing our cameras.

Boggle! - I’ve been getting a lot of these lately, and I...

Boggle! - I’ve been getting a lot of these lately, and I...

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a2NXEze_700b.jpg (JPEG Image, 625�נ900 pixels) - Scaled (92%)

03 June, 2014

Verbatim: What Is a Photocopier? on Vimeo

Verbatim: What Is a Photocopier? on Vimeo: In this dramatization of transcripts from a legal deposition, a lawyer becomes embroiled in an absurd argument about the definition of a photocopier.

The 100 Most-Edited Wikipedia Articles | FiveThirtyEight

The 100 Most-Edited Wikipedia Articles | FiveThirtyEight: Not surprisingly, Bush isn’t the only political figure to attract factual controversy. The Wikipedia entry on Barack Obama has been revised 23,514 times — just slightly ahead of Adolf Hitler (23,499 revisions). Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln and Bill Clinton all make it into the top 100 (Sarah Palin falls just short, in 104th place).

Articles on religion, including Jehovah’s Witnesses and Muhammed, or about specific countries, such as the United States and Israel, attract plenty of revisions. More surprising, however, is that World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) features in more revised articles than any other single body — seven — and is responsible for the second-most-revised article: list of WWE personnel.

Female-named hurricanes kill more than male hurricanes because people don’t respect them, study finds

Female-named hurricanes kill more than male hurricanes because people don’t respect them, study finds: Researchers at the University of Illinois and Arizona State University examined six decades of hurricane death rates according to gender, spanning 1950 and 2012. Of the 47 most damaging hurricanes, the female-named hurricanes produced an average of 45 deaths compared to 23 deaths in male-named storms, or almost double the number of fatalities. (The study excluded Katrina and Audrey, outlier storms that would skew the model).

The difference in death rates between genders was even more pronounced when comparing strongly masculine names versus strongly feminine ones.

“[Our] model suggests that changing a severe hurricane’s name from Charley … to Eloise … could nearly triple its death toll,” the study says.

NRA blasts Open Carry Texas after San Antonio incidents - San Antonio Express-News

NRA blasts Open Carry Texas after San Antonio incidents - San Antonio Express-News: The NRA on Friday called the Texas group's open carry displays in restaurants “weird,” “scary,” “counter-productive” and “downright foolishness” in a blog post on the NRA's Legislative Action website. Chili's and Sonic issued statements Friday requesting that patrons not openly carry firearms in their restaurants in response to the incidents.

“Using guns merely to draw attention to yourself in public not only defies common sense, it shows a lack of consideration and manners,” the NRA's lobbying arm wrote. “That's not the Texas way. And that's certainly not the NRA way.”

02 June, 2014

People With Chronic Illness Fare Worse Under Cost-Sharing - NYTimes.com

People With Chronic Illness Fare Worse Under Cost-Sharing - NYTimes.com: In France, co-pays are set by levels of sickness. Those who have chronic conditions have all of their co-pays waived. Even Singapore, beloved among conservative health care wonks because of its reliance on cost-sharing, makes exceptions for many with chronic illnesses. The rules do so explicitly to encourage them to seek care.

In the United States, we have adopted a system where those who use the most care pay the most out of pocket. That may seem “fair” in some way, but cost-sharing isn’t about fairness. It’s about reducing health care spending without negatively affecting health outcomes. It should be a scalpel. We’re using it like a club.

01 June, 2014

Notes On Surgery

Notes On Surgery: There’s not a line — before here he was female, after he is male. I think he’s still deciding on how to think about the person he was before transitioning. Every once in a while I see a picture of him before he cut his hair and changed his name and how he dressed, before he was the man I married. It’s an odd feeling. It’s him but not him. I don’t dwell on it.

I don’t dwell on my own sexuality either. I’m straight. I wasn’t attracted to him when he started transitioning, when there was still a feminine curve to his cheeks and hips. If you had asked me then if we would ever date I would have said no. It took two years of being friends before I realized I liked him (liked liked him). One day he asked me out and I thought well, why not? And then we fell in love, fast. We were almost immediately talking about our future, marriage, kids. His being transgender faded to the background. It sounds unbelievable but I still sometimes forget. He has to remind me that people he met in the past might not know who he is now. I don’t know, or care, what loving him means for my placement on the Kinsey scale, or whatever spectrum is the going standard. If I lost him I would undoubtedly date cis-men. I love him, and I love being his wife. Figuring out what that labels me as seems like a waste of time.

Are the Super-Wealthy Buying Democracy? | The Mischiefs of Faction

Are the Super-Wealthy Buying Democracy? | The Mischiefs of Faction: While most donations aren't quite at this level, they nonetheless follow a similar path, with a lot of them not really buying anything at all. To some extent, the money gives them access to politicians, which isn't nothing. But politicians are wary of boldly adopting a wealthy donor's views, and as the above graph suggests, they hear from a lot of wealthy donors across the political spectrum, who probably have conflicting ideas. The super wealthy are certainly paying a lot of money into the political system these days, but it's far from clear what they're getting out of it.

Five maps of America's massive drought - Vox

Five maps of America's massive drought - Vox: Here's NASA's Earth Observatory: "As of May 6, 2014, half of the United States was experiencing some level of drought. Nearly 15 percent of the nation was gripped by extreme to exceptional drought. For the Plains and the Southwest, it's a pattern that has been persistent for much of the past several years."

"Much of the US has been in drought since 2012"

This isn't a one-year event: at least half of the United States has faced drought on and off since 2012 — at the peak in July 2013, some 81 percent of the country was experiencing at least some level of drought.

Put together, the 2012-14 drought has been one of North America's biggest since the costly 1988-89 drought.