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More adventurous than the average bear

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Links - 12th September 2018 (1)

The World’s Top Banana Is Doomed and Nobody Can Find a Replacement - WSJ - "There are more than 1,500 types of edible and wild bananas, but they often look and taste peculiar. Some are squat. Some are red. Others fan out in semicircles rather than neat clumps. Many have seeds the size of peas. Some are mushy, have thin skins or ripen too quickly. Some are even self-peeling, hanging on plants with their flesh exposed... Dr. Munoz of Dole is working with researchers to induce mutations in banana cells that lead to disease-tolerant variant plants... Most of the hybrids aren’t sweet enough, said Dr. Martinez. “Some have a latex flavor, or they’re very dry or too creamy. Some just have no flavor at all,” he said. Most of the hybrids aren’t sweet enough, said Dr. Martinez. “Some have a latex flavor, or they’re very dry or too creamy. Some just have no flavor at all,” he said... The fruit also needs to be able to survive journeys of up to several thousand miles from plantation to supermarket shelf without becoming mushy or discolored... consumers prefer larger banana bunches, said Agustin B. Molina Jr., a Bioversity International scientist in Manila who has spent 40 years working in the banana industry. “Lots of consumers buy with their eyes, and not for the taste” of bananas, he said"

Intersectional Bookstore Comes to a Dead End - WSJ - "A statement on its website blamed the closure on “patriarchy,” “white supremacy” and “capitalism.” The shop was founded in 1993 by a Portland State University sociologist and two women’s health activists. It billed itself as filling a niche for feminist books, but in reality it was a vanity project, supported by an exclusive contract to sell textbooks for PSU’s women’s studies courses. In 2010, PSU ended that arrangement after Congress enacted legislation requiring schools to disclose textbook information during class registration, effectively ending such monopolies by giving students time to shop around. In Other Words’ sales plummeted, and within a year the store was more than $18,000 in debt... The bookstore was open only a few days a week. It periodically ran fundraising campaigns and was entirely dependent on volunteers. It did make some money as a shooting location for “Portlandia,” in which Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein played humorless feminist bookstore staffers. The gag proved too on the nose, and the store publicly repudiated the show in 2016, accusing it of being racist, contributing to gentrification and being “trans-misogynistic.” Ms. Brownstein attempted to placate the owners by making a donation, but to no avail. They hung a “F— Portlandia!” sign in the window. I visited In Other Words a few weeks before it closed. For a “feminist” enterprise, it didn’t seem very interested in women. The storefront featured the slogan “black lives matter” in block letters larger than the business sign. Signs denouncing police, the U.S. military and immigration authorities lined the remainder of the windows... One piece of merchandise carried a label that read “Trigger warning: gendered and patriarchal language.” The offending verbiage? Instructions for using a feminine-hygiene product. I attempted to make a small purchase but didn’t have any cash. A sign at the counter declared: “Due to patriarchy we require a $5 minimum on all debit/credit card purchases.”... One protester told me she was shocked that so many women came to hear Mr. Peterson speak: “It’s just disgusting!” Sure enough, inside were many women, including women of color."
" Honestly, this store should be mentioned in management textbooks as an example on how not to run any enterprise. Horrible business model, severe restriction of a potentially universal customer pool, random and unfocused activism, an environment that comes off as a hostile hivemind rather than an inclusive space... but sure, let's blame racism, was it?, even though they painted themselves into a corner business-wise, and by their own hand. Also, a 5$ minimum on card transactions "due to patriarchy"? That's... what's the word for "sad, funny as well but then the sad kicks in again and stays that way"?"
"Kind of hard to run a business if you're anti-capitalist"


Boy Scouts name change: Getting ready for girls - "The overall impact of the BSA’s policy change on Girl Scouts membership won’t be known any time soon. But one regional leader, Fiona Cummings of Girl Scouts of Northern Illinois, believes the BSA’s decision to admit girls is among the factors that have shrunk her council’s youth membership by more than 500 girls so far this year. She said relations with the Boy Scouts in her region used to be collaborative and now are “very chilly.” “How do you manage these strategic tensions?” she asked. “We both need to increase our membership numbers.”"

Ian McEwan 'dubious' about schools studying his books, after he helped son with essay and got a C+ - "Ian McEwan, the award-winning author, has admitted feeling "a little dubious" about people being compelled to study his books, after helping his son with an essay about his own novel and receiving a C. McEwan, author of works including Atonement, Amsterdam, and On Chesil Beach, said he remained unconvinced about the purpose of asking students to analyse his work."
The author really is dead

Big corporates’ quest to be hip is helping WeWork - The capitalist kibbutz - "Research suggests that employees are happier in co-working environments like those run by WeWork. But the firm’s real genius is that it is also far cheaper for their employers. Property experts estimate that firms typically spend anywhere between $16,000 and $25,000 per employee on rent, security, technology and related office expenses. Mr Neumann insists they can get all of that from WeWork starting at $8,000 per worker. Efficient use of space is one reason. Ron Zappile of Colliers, a property-services firm, reckons that typical corporate offices use some 185 square feet (17 square metres) per employee. WeWork members get by on 50 square feet per head"

I was a Russian soldier in Chechnya. We committed so, so many atrocities that I never came to terms with. : confession - "I know that American soldiers didn't kill anywhere near that many civilians when they took over Baghdad in 2003, a city 5 times the amount of Grozny. So what did they have in place to protect that?"

Why gastronomic bias may be the last bastion of imperialism – and why Asia’s oppressed noodle dishes need some upbranding - "When a hawker or a dim sum stall wins such recognition, it feels like a barrier-breaking moment, the food equivalent of Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon at the Oscars. But afterwards, they’re expected go back to their public housing stall and keep the menu at poverty wage prices. Meanwhile, we continue to fork out thousands for a meal so hipster chefs can replenish their sculpting beard mousse."
It's easy to cry bias, but a look at fine dining margins (and restaurant margins in general) suggest that European food isn't necessarily overpriced

Parasites Can Mind-Control Animals Without Infecting Them
Misleading article headline. Affecting behavior in a group isn't mind control

Meesa-understood: the tragedy of Jar Jar Binks - "there were accusations of racism. The American scholar and race theorist, Patricia Williams, said that Jar Jar's character was reminiscent of the archetypes portrayed by blackface minstrels. Others said he traded on stereotypes of lazy Caribbean people. Lucas denied the accusations. "How in the world you could take an orange amphibian and say that he's a Jamaican? It's completely absurd," he told Kirsty Walk on Newsnight. "Believe me, Jar Jar was not drawn from a Jamaican, from any stretch of the imagination."... The loathing was so widespread that it is tempting to think it was universal. But it wasn't, quite. Roger Ebert, in his very positive notice of The Phantom Menace, didn't think Jar Jar worthy of criticism (and he had been sceptical about Chewie). Reviewing the film for the Telegraph, the novelist Andrew O'Hagan praised the Gungan debutant: "Jar Jar is the new star. A wise-cracking, pony-headed, flarey-nostrilled, slack-mouthed beast with giant feet and hands like shovels, he comes into our lives as someone who knows the ways of the universe a little better than the rest of us… He will soon be as loved as Winnie-the-Pooh."... "[The criticism] hurt a lot," Best said in a 2014 Reddit interview. "You put your heart and soul into something groundbreaking for two years and it gets slammed, that hurts." A lot of his inspiration came from silent film, he added. "George and I would watch a lot of Buster Keaton together and he would tell what he liked and what he wanted. The final battle scene in Phantom Menace is almost all Buster Keaton."... Jar Jar was hated because people thought he was out of place, but the opposite was true. The same people who went online to list ways to murder him are those who take the garbled mutterings of an antediluvian swamp-frog, Yoda, as great wisdom. Jar Jar was the whole essence of Star Wars. He was awkward but trying his best in a complex galaxy, pitted against vast forces of evil. Unlike the po-faced Jedi he didn't have magic on his side. He made mistakes but was capable of surprising feats under duress. He was funny and warm and slightly hapless. Meesa Jar Jar. We allsa Jar Jar."

Minimum wage? It's time to talk about a maximum wage | Sam Pizzigati - "In 1880, Felix Adler, the philosopher who would later lead America’s first national campaign against child labor, proposed a 100% tax rate on income above the point “when a certain high and abundant sum has been reached, amply sufficient for all the comforts and true refinements of life”."
Too bad the Guardian turned off comments, or many people would be bashing this idiotic idea. Only a Communist would believe that someone with a 100% tax rate would continue working

Why does Teen Vogue applaud when Ash Sarkar says she’s ‘literally a communist’? | Spectator USA - "a young woman called Ash Sarkar who writes for an obscure blog named Novara Media. Last week Sarkar had her 15 seconds of fame when she managed the impossible and appeared to out-arrogant Piers Morgan in a television shouting-match ostensibly about Donald Trump’s visit to the UK. The exchange finished with Sarkar telling Morgan repeatedly that she wasn’t a supporter of President Obama because she is ‘literally a communist’. The fact that she added the words ‘you idiot’ meant that sections of the internet went doolally for her. And Teen Vogue decided that she was a suitable subject for puffery, and presumably young female emulation... The most obvious comparison – which many people online have rightly made – is to ask whether the internet would have had quite such a delirious meltdown if an equally obscure figure from the far-right had similarly argued with Morgan. Would the Twittersphere have gone so moist with excitement if Morgan’s interlocutor had, by way of rider, finished their argument with the explanation ‘I’m literally a fascist, you idiot’."... many people when they hear ‘communism’ do not think of the NKVD and the knock on the door. They do not think of the graves of tens of millions of people all across the globe. The millions of wasted lives, from the wastelands of Siberia to the blackened piles of human skulls in Cambodia. They do not think of the witness of Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Nor of Anna Akhmatova, whose husband was executed in a mass shooting and whose son was later sent off to the Gulag. They do not think of her testimony of the Yekhov terror, when she spent 17 months in the prison queues in Leningrad... while the right knows where it can go wrong, the left does not. Worse, it no longer even seems to want to know. A fact that allows malevolent people to mischaracterise the whole shape of our politics."

Nurses as substitutes for doctors in primary care - "for some ongoing and urgent physical complaints and for chronic conditions, trained nurses, such as nurse practitioners, practice nurses, and registered nurses, probably provide equal or possibly even better quality of care compared to primary care doctors, and probably achieve equal or better health outcomes for patients. Nurses probably achieve higher levels of patient satisfaction, compared to primary care doctors. Furthermore, consultation length is probably longer when nurses deliver care and the frequency of attended return visits is probably slightly higher for nurses, compared to doctors. Other utilisation outcomes are probably the same"

Experts concerned Chinatown is straying too far from roots - "only 10 out of 113 Singaporeans interviewed would recommend the eateries there and only five its architecture."

Kelantan local authority to ding food outlets for exposed ‘aurat’ - "The Kota Baru Islamic City Municipal Council will now include observation of Islamic dress codes when evaluating food outlets under its purview. According to The Star newspaper today, the local authority said any failure by management and staff to cover their “aurat” or body parts considered intimate in Islam would prevent the outlets from receiving the highest “A” grade."

A world ruled by robots? This artificial intelligence expert paints a different reality - "when ATMs were introduced, people thought this will put bank tellers out of work. Right? Because they do the same job. But there are actually more bank tellers today than there were before ATMs. What happened is now the bank tellers do all sorts of things besides give cash to people, and I think the same will be true of AI. We will just have people doing very different things from the ones they do today, because (these things) became economically feasible... I think it’s very unlikely that machines will spontaneously turn evil and decide to exterminate us, because the machines, no matter how intelligent they are, only use their intelligence to achieve the goals we set for them. So as long as we set those goals and set the constraints, then we can check the results and it’s very unlikely that the machines will get out of control... The other danger we have to worry about is that we increasingly put control of important things in the hands of AI, but they (the machines) are not that smart. They make mistakes. They have no common sense. They take you too literally. They give you what they think you want instead of what you really want."

Transgender lag ‘sexually abused four female prisoners’ days after arriving at West Yorkshire jail - "The inmate was sent there despite not having had gender reassignment surgery. It is claimed she was visibly aroused when she allegedly assaulted the first inmate... The latest figures show there were 125 transgender prisoners in England and Wales at the end of March 2017, up from 70 a year earlier... transgender inmates are able to dictate how they are both searched and addressed by prison officers. They can also benefit from greater freedom in how they dress and can shower and wash clothes in private. Prison authorities have been forced to issue new regulations following a rapid rise in the number of transgender inmates and concern about their treatment... Paris Green, 26, was born Peter Laing but has identified as female since 2011. She was jailed for life in 2013 for killing Robert Shankland. She and two friends tortured Shankland to death after a row over a bag of chips. She is to receive full gender reassignment surgery after a row over claims she was having sex with female inmates in her cell."
Maybe convicted male rapists will get ideas from this

Healthcare whistleblower: Difficult to claim Eldershield using criteria 3 out of six activities of daily living - "using 1 hand to wipe yourself with a wet towel is considered as “able to bathe independently”, or using 1 hand to use a modified spork to scoop up food from a modified plate with high & curved-in sides... even if a person has both legs and 1 arm amputated, as long as he is able to sit upright and use 1 arm, it is NOT possible to qualify for Careshield or Eldershield"

Nike Says Its $250 Running Shoes Will Make You Run Much Faster. What if That’s Actually True? - The New York Times - "runners in Vaporflys ran 3 to 4 percent faster than similar runners wearing other shoes, and more than 1 percent faster than the next-fastest racing shoe... The speed increases associated with Vaporflys are consistent with the increases in a Nike-funded study by University of Colorado researchers published in the journal Sports Medicine."
So much for automatically dismissing results because of funding
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