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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Links - 18th July 2013

Why I sent my child to a private school - "Five years ago, if someone had told me I'd have a child at private school, I'd have laughed. I'd have said I resented parents buying privilege through private education. That was before I became a parent... I don't regret my decision one bit, but I've done a lot of soul-searching. There have been snide comments that have forced me to question some of my beliefs. I've been asked how I can reconcile writing about education for the Guardian with having a child at a private school. I remember reading about Diane Abbott's decision to send her son to the £10,000-a-year City of London school. She said she was a mother first and a politician second, a point that resonated strongly with me. While I am an "accidental" private school parent, deep down I don't think I ever really had a problem with private education. It just didn't seem socially acceptable to say so... By sending your child to private school, you are using the means you have – money – to get the right education for your child. But the state sector is full of parents buying advantage. They kid themselves that what they are doing is somehow morally superior. The truth is that every person who moves house to get into a catchment area is playing the system. So are those who pay private tutors, or consultants to help with school appeals... Many friends have confessed that if they had enough money – or weren't happy with what their local state school had to offer – they would consider private education. Curiously, most still profess to oppose fee-paying schools"
Comment: "I used to have principles until I decided with my massive income it was a luxury I could no longer afford."

The secrets behind national anthems - "God Save the Queen, published in 1745, became the first recognised anthem when it was adopted by what was then the Kingdom of Great Britain. The tune became so associated with nationalism it was soon used by other countries for their anthems too, just with different words. Liechtenstein still uses it today for its anthem Oben am jungen Rhein (Above the young Rhine). This has led to a degree of confusion when Liechtenstein have played England at football... Most anthems were originally very long, featuring six or more verses. Today, only a couple are likely to be sung. But the missing verses are often the most revealing about the history of a country. Just take a look at the full anthems of South American countries. In those, you can see just how happy the countries were to be free of Spanish rule. In Argentina's, the Spanish get called everything from "bloody tyrants" to "vile invaders" who "devour like wild animals" anyone in their path. In 1900, those lines stopped being sung to avoid causing offence... Under Olympic rules, anthems cannot last longer than 80 seconds so any new words would be in danger of not being sung."

The untold love story of Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi - "When I began to research a screenplay about Aung San Suu Kyi four years ago, I wasn’t expecting to uncover one of the great love stories of our time. Yet what emerged was a tale so romantic – and yet so heartbreaking – it sounded more like a pitch for a Hollywood weepie: an exquisitely beautiful but reserved girl from the East meets a handsome and passionate young man from the West."
Marry someone you can't live without, live for a cause you would die for - and kill yourself if the two conflict with each other

A comparative study of the semantics and pragmatics of enfin and finalement, in synchrony and diachrony - "This article compares and contrasts two related adverbs, enfin and finalement, in synchrony and diachrony. Both are polysemous in contemporary French, and largely intersubstitutable in many contexts. However, the functional range of enfin is much greater than that of finalement. Evidence is presented for the existence of a division of labour, such that speakers seem to favour finalement for more ‘literal’ functions, i.e. for the expression of temporal sequence, whereas enfin is preferred for more abstract, non-propositional functions. This is attributed to the respective formal properties and degree of grammaticalisation of the two expressions, which can also explain why enfin has developed a vastly greater range of abstract, non-propositional functions than finalement. The argument is supported by diachronic evidence that the functional extension of enfin has gone hand in hand with significant changes in the formal status of the expression, while functional extension of finalement stops at approximately the time when enfin begins to expand its range."

Hairy stockings aimed at deflecting unwanted male attention

Fur coat made entirely from male chest hair goes on sale - "Despite promotional material featuring a model with a clean-shaven chest, the company said the coat represents a protest against the ‘manning-down’ of British men, particularly via emasculating fashion"

Chinese students and families fight for the right to cheat their exams - "The relatively small city of Zhongxiang in Hubei province has always performed suspiciously well in China's tough ''gaokao'' exams, winning a disproportionate number of places at the country's elite universities. Last year, the city was cautioned by the province's education department after it discovered 99 identical papers in one subject. This year, a pilot scheme was introduced to enforce the rules... At least two groups were caught trying to communicate with students from a hotel opposite the school... By late afternoon, the invigilators were trapped as students pelted the windows with rocks. Outside, more than 2000 people had gathered, smashing cars and chanting: ''We want fairness. There is no fairness if you do not let us cheat.'' The protesters claim cheating is endemic in China and that sitting the exams without help puts their children at a disadvantage... In Paris, meanwhile, a 52-year-old woman faces prosecution after being caught trying to sit a baccalaureate English exam in place of her daughter. Dressed as a teenager, including Converse trainers and low-waisted skinny jeans, the woman made it into the exam hall at a Paris high school"

Go to Church or Play a Game? - "the psychological benefits people get from religion stem from the social aspect, and not the doctrine. So while people often use findings like this to make a pragmatist's case for religion, a better interpretation is that people would be happier if they joined a group of some sort with regular meetings. It doesn't have to be a church; it could just as well be a regular gaming group. Back in high school, I did both, and guess which one gave me more happiness!"

Hipster or Homeless

SURVEY: 'Sexless' marriages top 50% - "Japanese husbands and wives are getting on with their busy lives rather than getting it on, it seems. Married couples in Japan have sex less than twice a month, and more than half of them think they can be classified as “sexless,” a survey showed."

William Shakespeare's Star Wars - YouTube - "In time thy powers have weak become, old man"

Ultimate Tic-Tac-Toe - "Once at a picnic, I saw mathematicians crowding around the last game I would have expected: Tic-tac-toe. As you may have discovered yourself, tic-tac-toe is terminally dull. There’s no room for creativity or insight. Good players always tie... But the mathematicians at the picnic played a more sophisticated version. In each square of their tic-tac-toe board, they’d drawn a smaller board"

Squeezing breasts 'could stop growth of cancer cells' - "However, the team do not envisage fighting breast cancer with a new range of compression bras."

Introversion - "la plupart des gens croient que je suis malheureuse... Mais ce n'est pas le cas. J'apprécie juste le silence"

Airplane Etiquette: What To Do When You Have To Fart On A Plane - "flying increases flatulence due to a change in pressure and that it does the body good to pass the gas... [holding it in] may have dire consequences, like discomfort, indigestion, pain and stress... "The future frequent flyer may develop the ability to "sneak a fart" by wearing charcoal-lined underwear thus experiencing a comfortable flight in harmony with fellow passengers," suggests the study"

Researchers Develop First Test to Accurately Evaluate Motivations Behind Suicide - "contrary to popular belief, the participants didn't attempt suicide because of impulsivity, a cry for help, or an effort to solve financial or practical problems. Instead, the motivations, which were universal in all the participants, were hopelessness and an overwhelming emotional pain. The researchers also found that when a participant was influenced to commit suicide because of social factors, and they asked for help or tried to get someone to influence their decision, their intent to die wasn't as strong. This is compared to participants who were motivated by internal factors, who kept their "hopelessness and unbearable pain" a secret — these people showed the greatest desire to die... addressing a person's feelings instead of policies on racism or cyberbullying may be more effective."

England and foxhunting bans - "A recent study has revealed that more foxes have been wounded rather than killed by the new culling methods adopted since hunting was banned, resulting in the animals suffering long, agonizing deaths. A survey of six hundred sheep farmers has shown that shooting and snaring has replaced hunting as the means by which farmers control the fox population. The result, as the pro-hunt lobby predicted, is that genuine animal welfare has been sacrificed for a political victory over hunt supporters. This is a fact that needs emphasizing because, for all the rhetoric about "animal rights," the campaign to ban hunting was motivated more by class hatred than by a desire to protect foxes... the urban proletariat had no right to override the wishes of the majority of people in the countryside to pursue their ancient traditions unmolested. No foxes are hunted in Hampstead or in Birmingham. No stags are pursued through the streets of Liverpool or Manchester. What right, therefore, do the people of these areas have to dictate what the people of Much Wenlock or Moreton-in-the-Marsh can or can't do in the fields surrounding their villages?... it says a great deal about the intolerant "tolerance" of "progressive" liberalism that there is a right to choose to kill an unborn baby but no right to choose to hunt a fox... The following is a true story, though it may seem surreal enough to belong in a Monty Python sketch. A charity game, in which the people of the Dorset town of Lyme Regis attempt to knock each other over with a five-foot conger eel, has been banned because animal rights activists complained that it was "disrespectful" to the dead fish. I kid you not... The same people who complained about "disrespectful" behavior toward a dead fish would no doubt defend the right of a woman to exterminate a living (unborn) baby. Such is life in our post-civilized age"
Subsidiarity has an interesting parallel here in abortion laws
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