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More adventurous than the average bear

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Monday, September 10, 2018

Links - 10th September 2018 (1)

Lucas Lynch - "Sorry, I'm not so thrilled about Ayanna Pressley's victory over Mike Capuano in Massachusetts, representing the district next to the one I grew up in. It does not represent the same kind of victory that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had over Joseph Crowley. At least in that race, there were some real differences on issues between the two candidates. Capuano on the other hand has been an incredibly staunch progressive for years, long before it was cool or trendy to be one... The interesting thing about this race however, is it proves a thesis I've now held for several years. That Democrats aren't really anymore in favor of one economic agenda or another, this issue or that issue. Literally all it has to offer - is identity politics. Diversity is important, but it is important because of its promise is to deliver the very best - the best candidates and the best policies, informed by the broadest number of perspectives, attuned to the needs of the most number of people. While Pressley certainly looks like she won't be a bad member of Congress, I don't see any indicators really why Capuano isn't just a little bit better. On more policies that progressives should support, he's more consistent. Sorry to rain all over anyone's identitarian parade, but if the less good candidate comes out on top on account of their identity, then we've really lost what the true value of diversity is supposed to be."

The Future of College? - "The paradox of undergraduate education in the United States is that it is the envy of the world, but also tremendously beleaguered. In that way it resembles the U.S. health-care sector. Both carry price tags that shock the conscience of citizens of other developed countries. They’re both tied up inextricably with government, through student loans and federal research funding or through Medicare. But if you can afford the Mayo Clinic, the United States is the best place in the world to get sick. And if you get a scholarship to Stanford, you should take it, and turn down offers from even the best universities in Europe, Australia, or Japan. (Most likely, though, you won’t get that scholarship. The average U.S. college graduate in 2014 carried $33,000 of debt.)... The easiest way to picture what a university looked like 500 years ago is to go to any large university today, walk into a lecture hall, and imagine the professor speaking Latin and wearing a monk’s cowl... The compliance cost of taking federal financial aid is about $1,000 per student—a tenth of Minerva’s tuition... Subsidies, Nelson says, encourage universities to enroll even students who aren’t likely to thrive, and to raise tuition, since federal money is pegged to costs... “We have numerous sound, reproducible experiments that tell us how people learn, and what teachers can do to improve learning.” Some of the studies are ancient, by the standards of scientific research—and yet their lessons are almost wholly ignored. For example, he points to a 1972 study by Fergus I. M. Craik and Robert S. Lockhart in The Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, which shows that memory of material is enhanced by “deep” cognitive tasks. In an educational context, such tasks would include working with material, applying it, arguing about it (rote memorization is insufficient). The finding is hardly revolutionary, but applying it systematically in the classroom is. Similarly, research shows that having a pop quiz at the beginning of a class and (if the students are warned in advance) another one at a random moment later in the class greatly increases the durability of what is learned. Likewise, if you ask a student to explain a concept she has been studying, the very act of articulating it seems to lodge it in her memory. Forcing students to guess the answer to a problem, and to discuss their answers in small groups, seems to make them understand the problem better—even if they guess wrong... His most recent co-authored article, in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, argues (against conventional wisdom) that the traditional concept of “cognitive styles”—visual versus aural learners, those who learn by doing versus those who learn by studying—is muddled and wrong... He calls the “hydraulic metaphor” of education—the idea that the main task of education is to increase the flow of knowledge into the student—an “old fallacy.” As Lewis explains, “Plutarch said the mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be lit. Part of my worry about these Internet start-ups is that it’s not clear they’ll be any good at the fire-lighting part.”

Purity Through Food: How Religious Ideas Sell Diets - "Foods are either natural or unnatural. They are good or bad. Bad foods harm you, and good foods cleanse you. Bad foods are sinfully delicious, or guilty pleasures. Good foods are whole, real, clean, and natural. Bad foods are fake, unnatural, and processed. The terms we use reflect idiosyncratic dietary faiths, the religion scholar Alan Levinovitz explains in his new book The Gluten Lie, in which he examines why people tend to put moral and religious lenses on food terminology. Much of people's relationships to food can be explained by religious patterns of thought. Our words are often more philosophical than scientific. And our words inform approaches to eating, and overall well-being, in deeply consequential ways... "I was shocked to learn that people thought sugar was bad in the late 1700s," he said, still appearing genuinely shocked as he told me when we met recently in D.C. "Basically as soon as it was introduced, people said it was bad." Yes, sugar was bad even before diabetes and obesity existed in the average person's mind. The reasoning? Pleasure was sinful... Even though honey is higher in fructose than the high-fructose corn syrup people now love to blame for all of our health problems, honey has long had enjoyed a halo of naturalness. It's the same halo that protects juice but demonizes soda, even though the differences at a macronutrient level are negligible... In the 1960s Mary Douglas wrote a book called Purity and Danger, where she pointed out that most food taboos can't be accounted for by medical concerns. She makes the argument that the foods that were prohibited in Leviticus had to do with animals that cross boundaries. For instance, fish without scales. They were dirty not because there was some plausible biological basis for ingesting shark and getting sick. They were dirty, Levinovitz agrees, "because they didn't fit into a neat creation scheme.” In other words, they weren't natural... Bacon is not kosher, and eating a little bit of bacon is not more kosher than eating a boat full of bacon. This is the way that many people simply choose to treat sugar or gluten: I need to not eat any of these things... People use biological arguments to justify the same belief that has been around since the beginning of time: New things are unnatural and dangerous. Stuff was better before. We're risk averse and scared of new things... If you've adopted a diet and it's become part of your identity, asking someone to reconsider something as simple as eating sugar or gluten is kind of like asking someone to give up their faith. To admit that the core of their identity is fundamentally mistaken... We have a religious understanding of moral pollution in terms of people who have consulted to corporations. In writing my book, I wanted to talk with biotech people about GMOs, but I was scared that if I even talked with them, I would be seen as tainted. Do we want academia that never talks with industry? It's equally pernicious in understanding how corporations interact with academics and journalists as it is in understanding how foods interact with the body... Michael Pollan's rule "Don't eat anything your great-great-great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food"? That's a terrible idea. My grandmother wouldn't eat any international food. Don't eat anything that contains things you can't pronounce?... That turns everyone into the Food Babe. "Cook for yourself" is safe, but it's classist. It assumes that you have a stove and the time to cook."
This doesn't talk about other religious parallels, like condemning infidels (those of a different religion) and heretics (those of the same religion, but not quite the same strain as you)

How to Make Your Open Office Less Annoying - "First, there’s an egg-shaped chair, meant to protect the person ensconced within from the racket outside. There’s also a plywood “retroreflective ceiling,” which reflects sound back toward the speaker, making the person sound louder to him or herself and thus encouraging them to speak at a lower volume. (The reverse happens when you try to talk while wearing headphones—you sound quieter to yourself and overcompensate.) Today, most offices use an “absorptive” surface that sucks in sound, Yadav says, but retroreflective coatings would help reduce the overall office-noise level... This is all part of the mostly fruitless search for a technology that might make open offices less miserable. For example, some researchers are looking into “natural” white-noise sounds, like flowing water, to muffle office sounds, or large, felt “isolation cones” that would hang from the ceiling and provide temporary privacy."

Zen and the Art of Cubicle Living - "workers in open-plan offices almost always long for more privacy, but only in certain situations, and for different reasons"

Plane-Bae Woman's Statement Confirms the Worst - "an unsuspecting woman boarded a plane from New York to Dallas and switched seats with a woman named Rosey Blair, who had asked to sit next to her boyfriend. The woman ended up with a new seatmate, Euan Holden, a former professional soccer player turned model, and chatted with him throughout the flight. What she didn’t know was that Blair, seated behind her, was surreptitiously photographing her and Holden’s every interaction, recording it all in a Twitter thread that went viral and garnered the hashtag #PlaneBae. Now the woman, who has asked to remain anonymous, has spoken out about her experience and the consequences she has suffered as a result... '#PlaneBae is not a romance—it is a digital-age cautionary tale about privacy, identity, ethics and consent.'... The woman in the thread reached out to Blair directly and gave a statement to the Today show making it clear that the tweets were misleading and that she wanted to be left alone, yet Blair posted a video encouraging her followers to seek out the woman’s personal information. Somehow, after all of this, fans of the thread still remained adamant that no wrong had been committed"

As Trump Visited the U.K., Protestors Marched in Very British Style

Trump baby blimp live: Twitter reacts to the blimp - "As it ascended the balloon leaned forward and managed to rise a mere 20ft above the ground. It appeared unstable as it wobbled over the crowd that had come out to see it... “I assumed the #TrumpBabyBlimp was going be the size of the Hindenburg. £16k for a party balloon. Hope they kept the receipt.”... “Is it good manners to launch a giant blimp of your guest as a baby (in a nappy... and with small hands)? “Agree manners are important but let's be consistent and criticise all bad manners.” @darrengrimes_, tweeted: “Tbh it’s stunts like this that make me realise that Trump is pissing off all of the right people.”"

Sadiq Khan news: Sadiq Khan balloon crowdfunding SMASHES initial target - "Demonstrators are planning to have the huge Sadiq Khan baby balloon fly over London to protest the Mayor's decision to allow an "angry baby Trump" balloon to float as part of a protest against US President Donald Trump's official visit to the UK... Mr Bruere also said that any excess collected during the crowdfunding campaign would be used to host a "Make London Safe Again" to raise awareness of the escalating numbers of violent crime committed in London."

'Free Speech Is Dead' – Khan's London BANS Pro-Trump U.S. Embassy Rally - "Mayor Khan actively encouraged the anti-Trump protests, and was active in the media defending his decision to authorise an “obscene” balloon caricaturing the U.S. President on grounds of freedom of speech and the right to protest. The restrictions on the ‘Welcome Trump’ event are only the latest example of what critics have described as double standards in this area, with the Mayor having previously provided almost £2 million in funding for an “online hate crime hub” for police to tackle mean comments on the Internet, and banned fitness supplement adverts featuring attractive women from the London Underground."

Cafe removes 'offensive' street art of mankini-clad Sadiq Khan - "A cafe has been forced to remove a provocative piece of street art featuring Sadiq Khan in a mankini after the local council branded it 'contentious'... Explaining their decision to remove the artwork, Camden Council said they considered the work to be 'contentious', a bracket that includes anything 'obscene, racist, political and religious'. But the owner of the cafe blasted the council over the decision, claiming the majority of passers-by liked it."

Theresa May calls for new laws to ban the abuse of politicians on social media - "Theresa May today called for a new legal crackdown on the abuse of politicians and other public figures on social media, saying that online “bullying” has now become a growing “threat to democracy.”"
But of course the Trump balloon shows they do have it

Labour HQ used Facebook ads to deceive Jeremy Corbyn during election campaign - "Labour officials ran a secret operation to deceive Jeremy Corbyn at last year’s general election, micro-targeting Facebook adverts at the leader and his closest aides to convince them the party was running the campaign they demanded."
Too bad it wasn't the Russians

Disabled and Fighting for a Sex Life - "Another powerful archetype, Tom Shakespeare says, is the unconscious—and sometimes conscious—attitude surrounding reproductive fitness that suggests having a disabled partner is potentially contaminating, as it could pass the “problem” on to the next generation. Disabled people have challenged this on many levels: For example, sexual relations are not all about procreation, not all impairments are inheritable, and many disabled people accept their impairment and the possibility that it might be passed on... Asexual, hypersexual, perverse, and contaminated: These four damaging tropes from history combine to form a bitter legacy for disabled people... In some countries where legislation around sex work is permissive (e.g. Holland, Germany, Denmark, and Switzerland), there is a flexible attitude towards services for disabled people. In Holland, as in Denmark, social workers ask disabled clients whether they need any support with their sexuality and may even fund limited numbers of visits by sexual assistants or sex workers."
Of course, one of the arguments for banning incest is that it harms potential children
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