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More adventurous than the average bear

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Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Links - 1st July 2015

"Everybody" does not need to learn to code. - "if you aren’t dreaming of becoming a programmer—and therefore planning to embark on a lengthy course of study, whether self-directed or formal—I can’t endorse learning to code. Yes, it is a creative endeavor. At its base, it’s problem-solving, and the rewards for exposing holes in your thinking and discovering elegant solutions are awesome. I really think that some programs are beautiful. But I don’t think that most who “learn to code” will end up learning anything that sticks... This is my nightmare vision—“everyone” approaches programming as a set of arbitrary technical details just because he or she should. With only bits and pieces, users can’t appreciate the ways that languages are designed to solve problems, and they are left with an even larger black box. With this approach to programming, their knowledge will eventually float into the ether in the company of other meaningless knowledge, like how to talk nicely to that broken Nintendo 64 cartridge... to mandate programming as a general education requirement would displace something else that we’re already failing to teach, and that’s not good, either. We don’t need everyone to code—we need everyone to think. And unfortunately, it is very easy to code without thinking."

Brazil to sue Facebook for blocking photo of indigenous woman from 1909 - "

“For us it is a serious issue because it is an assault on our sovereignty, our legislation. It is disrespect to our cultural diversity and to the indigenous peoples of Brazil,” said Brazil’s Minister of Culture Juca Ferreira. “If the Indians may not appear as they are, it means they may not appear indigenous, which is great cruelty.”"

Facebook bans ABC trailer featuring Aboriginal women with bare breasts

Game of Thrones season 5 finale recap: 'Mother's Mercy' - "Today we use terms like “walk of shame” and “slut shaming” to describe comparatively mild everyday situations—a semi-awkward walk home, a sarcastic tweet. Thrones once again brings the medieval version of a modern idea and shows us the full horror of how humanity treats the powerless (in Cersei’s case, it’s somebody who has lost her power to somebody more powerful). As Martin explains, this sequence was not some fiction writer’s fantasy; the penance walk was a real thing.... Game of Thrones isn’t simple. This show has prompted more outraged and analytical headlines than any TV series I can remember, particularly this season. Some point to these stories and say, “Look, Thrones is doing something really wrong.” I see all the debate and wonder if any piece of popular art that generates so much passionate discussion isn’t inherently doing something right. Many will disagree with that, as is, I suppose, part of the point."

Homosexual Activist Admits True Purpose of Battle is to Destroy Marriage - "'(F)ighting for gay marriage generally involves lying about what we are going to do with marriage when we get there — because we lie that the institution of marriage is not going to change, and that is a lie'... When given the opportunity to marry, after laws have been struck down relatively small percentages of homosexuals actually bother to marry compared to their heterosexual counterparts. This raises question about the true need to unravel marriage for the “fair” extension its benefits. Only 12 percent of homosexuals in the Netherlands marry compared to 86 percent of their heterosexual peers. Less than 20 percent of same-sex couples already living together in California married when given the chance in 2008. In contrast, 91 percent of heterosexual couples in California who are living together are married. "

Predicted Consequences of Same-Sex Marriage Are Becoming a Reality - "E.J. Graff, senior fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, who said that once “same-sex marriage becomes legal, that venerable institution will stand for sexual choice, for cutting the link between sex and diapers.” Or author and radio host Michelangelo Signorile, who suggested that same-sex couples should “demand the right to marry not as a way of adhering to society’s moral codes but rather to debunk a myth and radically alter an archaic institution” (“Bridal Wave,” OUT magazine, Dec.-Jan. 1994, p. 161)... Or Boston College Professor of Law Kent Greenfield, who has written that supporters of marriage are right when they “argue[] that [redefining marriage] will lead to marriages among more than two people and between adults who are related”... Justice Samuel Alito asked U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli whether a university or college that opposed same-sex marriage stood to lose its tax-exempt status as a result, and the federal government’s chief litigation officer quite candidly, perhaps even unwittingly, admitted that “it’s certainly going to be an issue”... Not too long ago, we were told that laws passed to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity were merely designed to ensure equality, inclusion, and tolerance—they were emphatically not surreptitious attempts to seek official government sanction for same-sex relationships. “We just want to be left alone!” was the mantra. Then we were told that the state must officially recognize same-sex couples in some manner, but only for the purpose of garnering the same rights and benefits as married couples. “Why would we want marriage?” was the query. Then we were surprised to learn that by withholding the official title of marriage, the state inflicted not only an epic dignitary harm to same-sex couples, but also an unconstitutional deprivation that demands an immediate judicial remedy... Throughout this deliberate progression, activists reassuringly promised us that no Americans would be forced to compromise their faith. Any such concerns were dismissed as completely unfounded—mere scare tactics floated by recalcitrant religious cranks. But now the mask has been removed. Now we know the truth. “It’s certainly going to be an issue”... after courts rewrote the marriage laws in the District of Columbia and Massachusetts, Catholic Charities, one of the world’s most effective and reliable adoption and foster-care placement agencies, was forced to stop doing what it does best simply because its religious precepts prevent it from placing children with same-sex couples. Driving Catholic Charities from this vital work deprives vulnerable children of a great resource for finding a permanent home with a mom and a dad. Apparently, same-sex marriage advocates trot out the “for the dignity of the children” rationale only when it suits their purposes"

Richie Benaud: Golden rules of commentary - "There are no teams in the TV world called ‘we’ or ‘they’.
Never say “That’s a tragedy or a disaster ...” — the Titanic was a tragedy, the Ethiopian drought a disaster, and neither bears any relation to a dropped catch."

Is it ever OK for politicians to lie? - "it's also said that politicians can be sparing with the truth, because they rightly judge that we don't want to hear it. So let's not tell the voters about those spending cuts or that noisy new airport as they'll only get upset."

Be Aware: Your Tattoos Could Cause False-Positive Results for Cancer - "When you tattoo, some of that ink will be absorbed in the cells in the lymphatic system and migrate to levels of lymph nodes"

Language Crimes: A Lesson in How Not to Write, Courtesy of the Professoriate - "No one denies the need for a specialized vocabulary in biochemistry or physics or in technical areas of the humanities like linguistics. But among literature professors who do what they now call “theory” — mostly inept philosophy applied to literature and culture — jargon has become the emperor’s clothing of choice... The writing is intended to look as though Mr. Fry is a physicist struggling to make clear the Copenhagen interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. Of course, he’s just an English professor showing off. The vatic tone and phony technicality can also serve to elevate a trivial subject. Many English departments these days find it hard to fill classes where students are assigned Milton or Melville, and they are transforming themselves into departments of so-called cultural studies, where the students are offered the analysis of movies, television programs, and popular music. Thus, in a laughably convoluted book on the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding affair, we read in a typical sentence that “this melodrama parsed the transgressive hybridity of un-narratived representative bodies back into recognizable heterovisual modes.” The pretentiousness of the worst academic writing betrays it as a kind of intellectual kitsch, analogous to bad art that declares itself “profound” or “moving” not by displaying its own intrinsic value but by borrowing these values from elsewhere. Just as a cigar box is elevated by a Rembrandt painting, or a living room is dignified by sets of finely bound but unread books, so these kitsch theorists mimic the effects of rigor and profundity without actually doing serious intellectual work. Their jargon-laden prose always suggests but never delivers genuine insight... To ask what this means is to miss the point. This sentence beats readers into submission and instructs them that they are in the presence of a great and deep mind. Actual communication has nothing to do with it."

Bad Writing's Back - "The back cover proclaims an equable attempt "to inform and deepen the debate by asking what values, history, politics, and stylistics are implicated, on both sides," but everyone here is a theorist, believes in theory, and resents anti-theory tastes. The editors might have asked a critic of bad writing to repeat the case or compose a reply, but a few paragraphs of their introduction reveal that they don't consider their antagonists worth the time. Conservative positions turn up in caricature or in snotty asides... David Palumbo-Liu thinks a petty politics lies behind it all: "The criticism of bad writing has less to do with lofty moral issues than with social practice and power. Students are to be cured of their ignorance, but equally important for the critics of 'bad writing' is the reproduction of healthy bodies, not only to legitimate their own endeavors but to add to their numbers" (p. 175). The cheap partisan spirit reinforces the point made by Dutton, David G. Myers, Katha Pollitt, and others that the jargon and bloat of theory prose excludes every readership but other theorists—a damning claim given that the theorists purport to labor for social justice... for theorists to attribute the publicity entirely to personal or ideological factors and never to mention their own personal or ideological agendas, though a common enough tactic in humanities disputes, only makes things worse here. Non-academic intellectuals aren't as easily cowed as are professors, and they will hold up every such accusation as evidence of the elitist, smug world of the ivory tower... What the theorists lost in public prestige was balanced by their enhanced adversarial conscience. Like the theories they embrace, theorists absorbed hostile responses as signs of their own righteousness, and while the world moves on they now make the same arguments, cite the same texts and master theorists (de Man's "Resistance to Theory" surfaces several times), and trust that their interrogations are sure to make a difference beyond the classroom and the department... They defend an endeavor that profits only theorists and that only theorists esteem. In crude terms, if these theorists win, the humanities lose"

The big fat diet myth - "The well-documented “Snackwell’s Effect,” in which people overeat low-fat foods as a healthier alternative to their full-fat counterparts, led to binging on chemical junk far higher in taste-bud-fulfilling sugar and salt."

Four views on the twilight Kingdom - "“What we are seeing in the country today,” says Davies, “is the final decay of the old pillars of Britishness. British identity was built after the Act of Union with Scotland in 1707 around several pillars, foremost — the empire, the navy, the aristocracy, the Protestant ascendancy and the monarchy. What we have seen in the reign of Queen Elizabeth II is that these pillars have either vanished, or been rendered very, very brittle”... Britishness, argues Davies, was forged in opposition to things that no longer exist. A Protestant Island, on the edge of a hostile, Catholic Europe, means little in a society that no longer defines itself as Christian... Protestant ritual has evaporated in everyday Britain. In 1900, over 70 percent believed Jesus Christ was the Son of God and 90 percent of babies were baptized — whereas in 2011 only 30 percent believed in the divinity of Jesus and barely 10 percent of newborns were baptized... Since 1952, Labour has ceased to be a one million-strong British workers movement, with its clubs, galas, and parades — and become primarily a skeletal election-winning machine, its members, barely over 220,000, having joined mostly for political patronage. This, says McKibbin, is reflecting Britain’s new class structure... The Royal Navy may now have twice as many Admirals as warships"
Yet liberals still say religion is too powerful
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