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More adventurous than the average bear

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Links - 30th May 2018

The Not-So-Surprising Survival of Foursquare - "Foursquare can now pinpoint a phone’s location with an accuracy that matches, and may in some cases surpass, that of much larger rivals. “Facebook has a much larger sample of data points,” he said, but “Foursquare has more accurate and reliable data.” Fourquare says its map now includes more than a hundred million locations, many of them in tightly crowded areas, like office buildings and malls, that other services still struggle to identify. “Knowing that we’re on the tenth floor versus the Equinox downstairs is a really difficult thing”... The accuracy of Foursquare’s Places database has led more than a hundred thousand other apps and developers—including Snapchat, Twitter, Pinterest, Uber, and Microsoft—to use its application programming interface (A.P.I.) to power their own features. Meanwhile, Foursquare gets access to some of those companies’ data in return, using it to further enhance its picture of the world. Foursquare likes to show off its data-crunching prowess with predictions. It forecast the sales figures for the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, for instance, and the decline in revenue, almost to the burrito bowl, for Chipotle following the E. coli mess. The company currently derives ninety per cent of its revenue from allowing a variety of businesses to use not just its A.P.I. but its data, too... it’s a simple matter to tie even a small amount of anonymized location data to an actual person. A 2013 study determined that ninety-five per cent of individuals could be positively identified based on just four locations they’d visited... Foursquare boosters have recently taken to heralding the company’s modest size as a selling point, especially for partners wary of basing their survival on the benevolence of Facebook and other Web behemoths. “You don’t want to live in a world where three or four companies have all the location data,” Wenger said. “That would be a very, very bad world.”"

BBC Radio 4 - From Our Own Correspondent Podcast, Losing Its Sparkle - "The Hungarian Jazz pianist János Gonda was called into party headquarters to explain his passion for a musical genre which came from that bourgeois capitalist nest of vipers the United States. You misunderstand the pianist told the representative of the agitation and propaganda department of the party. Jazz is the music of the slaves, the oppressed of the earth dragged in chains across the Atlantic Ocean to serve the white oppressors. They are our friends. The party secretary bowed to his wisdom and permitted a jazz scene to grow and multiply which is still flourishing in Budapest to this day"

BBC Radio 4 - Living With The Gods, Living with the Dead - "[On China] The man in our portrait has a panel of splendid embroidery on his chest, a badge of rank. But fascinatingly it may not be his rank. If a son or a grandson got a promotion the ancestor would also be promoted. A new portrait would be painted - a close copy of the first but now featuring a higher ranking badge and the older portrait would be ritually burned. Ancestors treated in this way sharing in the family's successes would bring further good fortune from the birth of sons to increasing wealth... not until four or five generations had passed did a person's relative become what is known as a distant ancestor. The spirit no longer needing offerings of food or wine, their portraits no longer needing to be displayed. But ancestors not properly venerated could wreak havoc and among other consequences of Mao Tzetung's one child policy is a widespread worry among those now old that there may be no one in the future to pay proper honor to their spirit"

BBC Radio 4 - Living With The Gods, Holy Killing - "'Those gods, they can't eat anything. So what they're actually receiving is the smell of the sacrifice. So the smell's got to be able to reach them.' In theory at least the animals had to consent to being sacrificed and so water would be splashed on the heads of the bigger beasts to make them nod before they were killed"

BBC World Service - The Food Chain, Contain Yourself! - "Fish and chips can no longer be sold wrapped in newspaper. In nineteen seventy six the European Council issued a directive which stated materials that come into contact with food must not change its composition, appearance, taste or smell or endanger human health. Soon afterwards British law changed amid concerns that newspaper ink could be toxic"

BBC World Service - The Food Chain, My Life in Five Dishes: Antonio Carluccio - "Instead to say: come and see my etchings to girls I could say come and eat my pasta and it was very successful. So now I started then to cook all the time... A cook does it for passion and for love and does is when he wants and the chef has to do it when he has to...
'I saw for example spaghetti bolognse which they don't exist in Italy. Exists tagliatelle bolognese. A the bolognese is different and secondly it is a flat noodle, the original recipe and not a spaghetti. That was the first faux pas'
'But it still tastes good'
'That's the point. You put exactly the finger on the spot. Tasting good and tasteing very good, there's the difference. And for an Italian with 600 shapes of pasta you can vary so much that one pasta fits perfectly to a type of sauce and the pallete sort of reacts a little better for example to the squarey shape of the tagliatelle. Spaghetti the more wonderful for aglio olio and peperencino for spaghetti with fish'"

BBC Radio 4 - Living With The Gods, Fire and State - "The close link between the fire of Vesta and female political power becomes even clearer when you turn the coin over. Here you find not the Emperor as you might expect but the Emperor's wife Julia Domina, wife of Emperor Septimius Severus. This coin suggests that she like her husband has a supremely important role. As the mother of the state she will join the Vestal Virgins in tending the flame which guarantees the safety of the family and the Empire. It's an image of female political authority that fascinated and attracted powerful women long after the end of the Roman Empire. One canny user of this imagery was Elizabeth the First of England whose unmarried state kept the country safe from Civil War and from foreign threats. And so on more than one occasion Elizabeth had herself painted not as the English virgin queen but as a Roman Vestal Virgin...
[On the Parsis] 'Ultimately it takes at least two and a half year to consecrate one fire temple. It's not that we just make the logs of wood and just burn it up and then the fire takes place. There are sixteen different types of fire which are consecrated. Each one by one. Fires from the finest meat, fire from the dive maker, fire from a warrior, from the house of all these places'
'So from every heart in the community'...
There is one state which still officially venerates sacred fire as a symbol of the whole of society - France"

BBC Radio 4 - Living With The Gods, Mother and Child - "Commonly pregnant women in Japan wear pregnancy sash after the fifth month of pregnancy. Traditionally after a so called quickening - after you feel the baby inside... They compare omamori to an electric battery. So the blessing or the force that protect you is going to run out after a while. Certainly for pregnancy the recommendation is that you shouldn't reuse the same omamori for subsequent pregnancies. So you should keep buying new omamori for the second, third, fourth babies"

BBC Radio 4 - Living With The Gods, Becoming an Adult - "Modern western society hardly lacks for rites of passage - from the school prom to the first holidays with friends or descending into muddy drunken festival chaos at Reading, the v festival or wherever. But we moved away from a model of elders initiating children into an adult world, children joining their parents in a new role after an intergenerational transfer of wisdom. Instead the young now initiate each other into worlds of their own with joyous baptisms of beer, song and dance. Adulthood may become something into which we stumble in more ways than one with no clear transition"

BBC Radio 4 - Living With The Gods, Lines of Communication - "The angelus bell didn't call people to church - it called them to stay where they were but to redirect their thoughts away from the immediate everyday concerns and towards God. A public summons to a private act. But by the time our engraving was produced in eighteen eighty one, the tradition of the angelus - indeed the idea that you might stop to pray in the middle of the day's work - was to most Europeans living in cities at best a memory"

BBC Radio 4 - Living With The Gods, The Power of Song - "In all three Abrahamic faiths great pains are taken to mark this transition from ordinary life into time set aside for presenting yourself to God and to one another. One of the ways in which you can show on this day the focus of your life has shifted is to dress up. To don what in the Christian world used to be called your Sunday best"

Why Is the Alt-Right Obsessed with Pedophilia? - "Rosenthal struggled to understand the right’s fixation on pedophilia. Cautioning that this is mere speculation, he says some on the right have resorted to the pedophilia accusation because lesser “charges”—homosexuality, interracial marriage, one-parent households—no longer have the power they once did. “What are you gonna do to make them seem worse? I offer you pedophilia,” he says."

Botanist Calls Out Wellness Blogger for Putting Toxic Flowers on Food - "The flower featured in the piece, a variation of lily, contains the toxic substance lycorine, which can cause symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea, and nausea if consumed even in small amounts. Hey, at least it’s vegan."

What Is the Angelus? - "Designed to commemorate the mystery of the Incarnation and pay homage to Mary’s role in salvation history, it has long been part of Catholic life. Around the world, three times every day, the faithful stop whatever they are doing and with the words “The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary” begin this simple yet beautiful prayer"

Teachers Explain How 风和日丽 Became the Default Composition Intro - "“The general trend is that schools are taking the approach of teaching a “third language” for mother tongue. Students will encounter sample vocabulary in sentence structure questions, and they are supposed to just substitute the vocabulary – it’s just like how I study Korean,” says Bei Jin. Yet, the styles of teaching Chinese still varies across different primary schools, and this can have an effect on students’ performance. “Some schools like ACS even use a bilingual approach by printing English words on Chinese worksheets. It all depends on the learning outcomes that each school aims to achieve,” shares Bei Jin."

Crypto coin company 'disappears with millions', leaving one-word message: ‘Penis’ - "For hours, the site for Prodeum simply read: ‘Penis’. To make the joke even better, Prodium is a medication designed to reduce infections of the urinary tract. The site had masqueraded as a blockchain start-up which would use crypto technology to ensure fresh vegetable delivery, with its own coin offering. It had reportedly raised millions in venture capital money"

Biscuits and chocolates take the 'shrinkflation' test - "Chocoholics and biscuit-lovers have been outraged in recent years by news of so-called "shrinkflation". That is when food manufacturers reduce the weight of their products without shrinking the price... Four of our 19 products have got cheaper per 100g, while others have risen sharply."

Winston Churchill-inspired 'Blighty cafe' is stormed - "Halimo Hussein, 24, stormed the Blighty UK cafe in Finsbury Park, north London, and urged customers to boycott it for 'colonialism' and chanted 'Churchill was racist'. The politics student, who is the co-president of Equality and Liberation at SOAS, University of London, later asked the owner to apologise to the local community... 'Without the bravery, courage and leadership of Sir Winston Churchill, we would not be living in a free country where we have the freedom to express our personal views, regardless of how, in their case, ridiculous or offensive they are.' Michael Fabricant, Tory MP for Lichfield, told MailOnline: 'It is thanks to Winston Churchill that fools like these are able to hold their childish views and not be thrown into a concentration camp. 'They should think about this before the next time they behave like yobs... Police were called after the nine campaigners stormed the eatery, which has already been under attack from vandals and more Labour activists... He was also forced to remove a giant mural of Churchill after it was daubed with graffiti which branded the former prime minister 'scum' and and 'imperialist Mr Evans said: 'If you cannot celebrate Britain and great Britons you are just erasing history. And if you cannot celebrate Churchill, you cannot celebrate anyone.' It has now emerged that the group's leader, Ms Hussein, is an avid Labour supporter and Jeremy Corbyn fan. Ms Hussein, whose family fled the civil war in Somalia, could be heard shouting: 'We have nothing to lose but our chains.'... It also emerged that she has backed the anarchist online trend which uses the hashtag #RobThisEngland. People on social media who use the hashtag are seen to be committed to not paying for services and goods."

The secret to becoming a famous writer - "It's understandable that very successful writers would see writing as a meritocracy. When you work hard to reach a goal, you naturally attribute any success to the hard work. Yet many talented people toil a lifetime and never become J.K. Rowling or Stephen King. On the other hand, some folks like, say, George Will or Maureen Dowd churn out piffle with no particular craft or insight, and are rewarded with cushy sinecures and prestigious bylines. The truth is that, in writing, as in any profession, merit is only tangentially related to success, if at all... Become really famous doing something else first. In writing, as in all things, who you are is more important than what you do. If you're a widely recognized politician or actor, it's relatively easy to parlay that notoriety into a writing career... If you can't be somebody important, the next best thing you can do as an aspiring writer is to know someone important... Be privileged... Be lucky"

Tat Will Tell: Tattoos and Time Preferences by Bradley J. Ruffle, Anne Wilson - "Forty percent of Americans under the age of 40 have at least one tattoo. Yet survey and experimental evidence suggests that the tattooed are viewed negatively and may face discrimination in the labor market and in commercial transactions. In view of the potentially adverse economic consequences of a tattoo, the decision to get one may be regarded as short-sighted and impulsive. We collect numerous measures of time preferences and impulsivity of tattooed and non-tattooed subjects and find broad-ranging and robust evidence that those with tattoos, especially visible ones, are more short-sighted and impulsive than the non-tattooed. Almost nothing mitigates these results, neither the motive for the tattoo, nor the time contemplated before getting tattooed, nor the time elapsed since the most recent tattoo. Even the expressed intention to get a(nother) tattoo predicts increased short-sightedness and helps to pin down the direction of causality between tattoos and short-sightedness."
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