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xkcd: Where Do Birds Go
[via: "It’s been raining a good deal here in central Texas recently, and whenever the rain comes and the birds disappear from our bird feeders I have the same thought, one which is memorialized in one of my favorite xkcd comics."
https://buttondown.email/ayjay/archive/notebooks-a-monk-and-the-death-of-a-poet/ ]
via:ayjay  birds  rain  weather  humanism  nature  interconnected  universal  universalism  xkcd  comics 
20 days ago by robertogreco
The Former Pope Speaks, Candidly and Acidly, On Abuse | National Review
"Although he does explain his own view that abuse can be adjudicated as a crime against the Faith, the former pope tries to transcend a debate that he views as too focused on managerial or technical solutions. Benedict XVI argues that churchmen themselves must be converted into believers who fear and honor a living God. “Why did pedophilia reach such proportions? Ultimately, the reason is the absence of God.”"
catholicism  religion  god  popebenedictxvi  crime  pedophilia  via:ayjay 
4 weeks ago by robertogreco
Andrew Yang is the most radical 2020 candidate
"Going all the way back to the Roman republic, the owners of wealth have repeatedly sought to maximize their share of the common weal at the expense of those who work for them, leading to periodic crises as the plebes rise up and demand a fairer share. We may be in another such moment. Sanders's theory of political change revolves around a political revolution — a citizenry mobilized by a champion of conviction who wins a sweeping majority to enact his transformative agenda. Warren's theory of political change is less clearly articulated, but her solutions aim to build lasting support by giving a vast array of workers and small businesspeople a stake in a more competitive and less oligopolistic economy. But both imagine a world still anchored by work, and getting workers a fair share.

If that world is passing away, then we ought to be facing the happy problem Marx described, where "society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have a mind." But the rub has always been who that "society" actually is. If a productive interdependency is going to be replaced by an outright dependency, then even if that dependency is as benevolently administered as Yang hopes it might be, we face the prospects of a more profound social revolution than he has bargained for."
politics  californianIdeology  technopoly  andrewyang  technosolutionism  elections  policy  2019  2020  society  wealth  berniesanders  elizabethwarren  karlmarx  interdependency  dependency  universalbasicincome  revolution  radicalism  via:ayjay 
4 weeks ago by robertogreco
Introducing Operator | News, Notes & Observations | Hoefler & Co.
"A monospace typeface, a monospace-inspired typeface, and a short film about type design."
typography  terminal  fonts  coding  monospace  hoefler&co  typefaces  typewriters  2016  via:ayjay 
february 2019 by robertogreco
An Essay by Miho Nonaka | Kenyon Review Online
[So good. There's really no good way to quote this one, so here are just a few sections.]

"Heavenly Worm

Mrs. Itō, our fourth-grade teacher, drew a new kanji character on the board: 蚕. “Worm from heaven,” she announced, “as you can see.” Heaven splits open like a curtain (天) and inside it dwells the worm (虫). For each student, she took out five worms from her basket and put them in a small paper box to take home. Having just hatched from their eggs, these worms were still covered in little black hairs. That’s why at this stage they are called kego (hairy baby), Mrs. Itō told us. To feed these dark babies, julienne your mulberry leaves first."



"Platinum Boy, 2006

After decades of research, Japanese silkworm breeders discovered a reliable method of hatching exclusively male silkworms. Female silkworms eat more, sleep more, take up more space, and are measurably less efficient in transforming mulberry leaves into silk. The verdict was clear: female silkworms are inferior for silk production.

Silk spinners and kimono weavers are unanimous in their praise of male silk: their thread is consistently finer, sturdier, glossier, whiter, and their cocoons are easier to harvest when boiled.

The birth site of Platinum Boy is literally black and white. When you look at a piece of paper where silkworm eggs are laid, white eggs are the empty shells from which male larvae have already hatched. They will thrive on the diet of tender mulberry shoot which, combined with their spit, will eventually turn into raw silk, translucent like frosted glass. The dark eggs contain female larvae that will never hatch and only keep darkening."



"Ten Thousand Leaves I

Compiled in the mideighth century, Man’yōshū (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves) is the oldest Japanese anthology: more than forty-five hundred poems in twenty books. In the sweltering heat of the attic, I wasn’t looking for any particular motif when I happened on poem No. 2495, composed by Kakinomoto no Hitomaro, a low rank courtier and one of the “Saints of Japanese Poetry”:
like my mother’s
silkworms confined
inside cocoons,
how can I see my love
who lives secluded at home?

Poem No. 2991 is almost the same poem by another poet, simply tagged “unknown”:
like my mother’s
silkworms confined
inside cocoons,
sadness clouds my heart
when I cannot see her

The motif of a silk cocoon as the inaccessible, lyrical interior goes back to the dawn of Japanese poetics. The cocoon encases the image of the beloved, the poet’s longing that keeps building inside, and in my poem it holds the mother as a mythical seamstress, stitching blue in each wrist of her unborn daughter."



"職人 I

I used to blame my grandmother on my father’s side, who was described to me as fierce, frantic, funny, a destructive visionary and unsuccessful business entrepreneur during the critical times of the Second World War. When I felt defeated by the radical pull of my own emotion, I would attach them to the face of the woman I had never met in person, only in a fading picture where she stands next to my young father without glasses, still a student with surprisingly gentle eyes.

My father recently told me during one of our late-night international calls from Tokyo: “Your grandfathers were both shokunin (craftsman), remember? It’s in your DNA, too.” His father had come from a large family of silk farmers. After he left home, adopting the newly introduced Singer sewing machines, he began manufacturing Japanese cloven-toed socks, the traditional kind that used to be hand-sewn, and during the war, he took the assignment to sew parachutes for the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force. While he worked under dimmed light, my young father put up his primitive drawing of warplanes on the wall, covered in fine grains of sand."



"Small Things

They say (I love the convenience, but who are “they”?) that attention to detail is a characteristic of the Japanese. I am drawn to small things: tadpoles, silica beads, star sands in a vial, a notebook the size of a thumbnail, fish scales, a nativity scene inside half a walnut shell. I am terribly myopic like my father, and I like things that are near. Large things loom over and terrify: airports, Costco, churches in Texas, the Tokyo Skytree, Mount Rushmore (those granite faces I once believed had surfaced in response to the historic atomic bombing), and that elusive word “global.”"



"Komako

It didn’t occur to me until I tried translating a few passages from Snow Country that the young geisha’s name Komako (駒子) means Pony Child. What inspired the author Kawabata to portray his heroine as a woman of equine grace? We don’t know her family name. On the other hand, we don’t know the first name of Shimamura, who is referred to only by his last name.

I imagine if your family name is a gate to the house, your first name must be its interior. In the days when the first book of Man’yōshū was composed, asking a maiden’s first name was synonymous with proposing to her. Knowing it meant possessing the person.

Komako’s body is translucent like a silkworm, and an unearthly room encloses her fruitless passion like a white cocoon. While writing Snow Country, Kawabata says he distanced himself from Shimamura, who serves merely as a foil to Komako. “As an author, I entered deep inside the character of Komako, but casually turned my back to Shimamura,” he writes in the afterward. “Especially in terms of emotion—Komako’s sadness is nothing other than my own sadness. . . .” And so it is; his heart has become subsumed into her heart."



"Body

I find it impossible to talk about the body (mine and everyone else’s) without sounding embarrassed or oddly distant. I don’t mean to self-deprecate, but it has been almost too fashionable, too charged a topic for me to feel safe around. (A cowardly thing to say—the truth is, no one is safe.)

I won’t pretend my body is a plain blockhouse, or a slab of flesh aching with desire or lack thereof. Who could have taught me to stay at home in my own body all the while I traveled from one country to another, turning from the spontaneous, if careless, music of my mother tongue to the cautious economy of English, reaching out, in the hope of actually reaching and being reached?

For the subjects most critical to me, I find no teachers. Perhaps there is not enough demand? I believe I am badly behind everyone and that I missed an opportunity to ask questions long ago. People my age in this country sound fluent in the body, discussing it with just the right amount of sarcasm and laughter without revealing much, like they have been on intimate terms with it since they learned to speak. I suppose I should have listened to the body harder, without ulterior motives."
mihononaka  silk  essays  canon  howwewrite  2017  silkworms  multispecies  japan  japanese  language  gender  via:ayjay  poetry  writing  fabric  textiles  srg  glvo  insects  history  cocoons  craft  translation  languages  childhood  change  materials  process  form  details  weaving  texture  morethanhuman  shinto  bodies  body  small  slow 
february 2019 by robertogreco
Inside and Outside the Cage – spottedtoad
"School, as I’ve said a number of times, serves this purpose already. I’ll sometimes encounter people who treat the idea that kids learn relatively little in school, that it’s a pointless hamster wheel that doesn’t get anyone anywhere, as some kind of scandal or shock. Maybe, but have you seen adult life lately? Is what kids do on an average school day so much more pointless and lonely and anomic than what you did yesterday- not than your ideal of what a ten year old or thirty year old should be doing, but what you actually, personally did? American parents are insanely competitive and push their kids and their kids’ schools to do all kinds of pointless shit, because we literally don’t have any other idea how to fill their and our days. They’re already staring at screens for nine hours a day. It could get worse. Four times as many young women 25-34 years old overdosed last year as in 1999. I don’t think school is the problem.

Maybe it’s a Tragedy of the (Missing) Commons. Maybe if you, and you, and you, and you, all pulled your kid out of school, tuned in, turned on (to Jesus or Allah or John Dewey or whoever), and dropped out, let them run around and build forts and make out or read Dante or whatever, maybe they can reinvent society on better grounds. The Benedict Option, like Rod Dreher says.  I’m not saying it’s impossible, and maybe we all need to be more utopian on our home turf even while being less so on other people’s. The ideal- or at least our own ideals- might be more within our grasp than we think. Maybe.

Or maybe what limited store of self-reliance we have is going to be destroyed, utterly, by the next wave of technology, or the next, and the best we can hope for is a benevolently paternalist technostate, the FitBit vibrating on our wrist to tell us to stop being inert, urging us to less self-destruction than we’d otherwise tend, telling us, whether we’re ten or fifty, to turn in our homework next time they see us and to remember to put our names on our papers if we want to get credit on the test."
education  homeschool  2017  unschooling  deschooling  commons  johndewey  benedictoption  roddreher  utopia  self-reliance  individualism  schools  schooling  freedom  technology  via:ayjay 
january 2019 by robertogreco
txt.fyi
"This is the dumbest publishing platform on the web.

Write something, hit publish, and it's live.

There's no tracking, ad-tech, webfonts, analytics, javascript, cookies, databases, user accounts, comments, friending, likes, follower counts or other quantifiers of social capital. The only practical way for anyone to find out about a posting is if the author links to it elsewhere.

But it is legible, no-nonsense static hypertext, good for short stories, not-short-enough tweets and adventures and all your numbers station or internet dead drop needs. Here you can scream into the void and know the form of your voice is out there forever.

Search engines are instructed not to index posts and I'll do my best to make sure this isn't used as a tool by spammers or other abusers. Nonetheless, posting will be turned off if anything bad grows out of it.

Use basic Markdown to format posts: #header, **bold**, *italic*, `code`, >quote, and hyperlinks in the format [link](http://example.com). Try !hacker and !professor and !timestamp too.

Be sure to email and tell me how to make it better.

Many thanks go to Ken Snider, @zemnmez, Ben Overmyer, Johannes Kröger and the others.

Long live the independent web!

Rob Beschizza | beschizza.com | @beschizza"
internet  publishing  onlinetoolkit  web  webdev  simplicity  robbeschizza  via:ayjay 
january 2019 by robertogreco
OECD Study Confirms That U.S. Workers Are Getting Ripped Off
"America’s unemployment rate is hovering near half-century lows. There are now more job openings than unemployed workers in the United States for the first time since the government began tracking that ratio. For America’s working class, macroeconomic conditions don’t get much better than this.

And yet, most Americans’ wages aren’t getting any better, at all. Over the past 12 months, piddling wage gains — combined with modest inflation — have left the vast majority of our nation’s laborers with lower real hourly earnings than they had in May 2017. On Wall Street, the second-longest expansion in U.S. history has brought boom times — in the coming weeks, S&P 500 companies will dole out a record-high $124.1 billion in quarterly dividends. But on Main Street, returns have been slim.

Economists have put forward a variety of explanations for the aberrant absence of wage growth in the middle of a recovery: Automation is slowly (but irrevocably) reducing the market-value of most workers’ skills; a lack of innovation has slowed productivity growth to a crawl; well-paid baby-boomers are retiring, and being replaced with millennials who have enough experience to do the boomers’ jobs — but not enough to demand their salaries.

There’s likely some truth to these narratives. But a new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) offers a more straightforward — and political — explanation: American policymakers have chosen to design an economic system that leaves workers desperate and disempowered, for the sake of directing a higher share of economic growth to bosses and shareholders.

The OECD doesn’t make this argument explicitly. But its report lays waste to the idea that the plight of the American worker can be chalked up to impersonal economic forces, instead of concrete political decisions. If the former were the case, then American laborers wouldn’t be getting a drastically worse deal than their peers in other developed nations. But we are. Here’s a quick rundown of the various ways that American workers are getting ripped off:

American workers are more likely to be poor (by the standards of their nation). In the United States, nearly 15 percent of workers earn less than half of the median wage. That gives the U.S. a higher “low-income rate” than any other developed nation besides Greece and Spain.

[charts]

We also get fired more often — and with far less notice. Roughly one in five American workers leave their jobs each year, a turnover rate higher than those in all but a handful of other developed countries. And as the Washington Post’s Andrew Van Dam notes, that churn isn’t driven by entrepreneurial Americans quitting to pursue more profitable endeavors:

[D]ecade-old OECD research found that an unusually large amount of job turnover in the United States is due to firing and layoffs, and Labor Department figures show the rate of layoffs and firings hasn’t changed significantly since the research was conducted.

Not only do Americans get fired more than other workers; we also get less warning. Every developed nation besides the U.S. and Mexico requires companies to give individual workers at least a week’s notice before laying them off; the vast majority of countries require more than a month. But if you’re reading this from an office in the U.S., your boss is free to tell you to pack your things at any moment.

Our government does less for us when we’re out of work than just about anyone else’s. Many European countries have “active labor market policies” — programs that provide laid-off workers with opportunities to train for open positions. The United States, by contrast, does almost nothing to help its unemployed residents reintegrate into the labor force; no developed nation but Slovakia devotes a lower share of its wealth to such purposes. Meanwhile, a worker in the average U.S. state will stop receiving unemployment benefit payments after they’ve been out of a job for 26 weeks — workers in all but five other developed countries receive unemployment benefits for longer than that; in a few advanced nations, such benefits last for an unlimited duration.

Labor’s share of income has been falling faster in the U.S. than almost anywhere else. Between 1995 and 2013, workers’ share of national income in the U.S. dropped by eight percentage points — a steeper decline that in any other nation except for South Korea and Poland.

And the American capitalist class has been claiming an exceptionally high share of national income for much longer than just two decades — as this stunning chart from the 2018 World Inequality Report makes clear:

[charts]

Given all this, it seems safe to say that America’s aberrantly weak wage growth is (at least in part) the product of political decisions made at the national level. A government that provides its unemployed with unusually limited job training and benefits is one that has chosen to make it riskier for workers to demand higher wages on the threat of quitting.

Further, the OECD finds that only Turkey, Lithuania, and South Korea have lower unionization rates than the United States, a fact that can be attributed to the myriad ways American policymakers have undermined organized labor since the Second World War. And a government that discourages unionization — and alternative forms of collective bargaining — is one that has decided to cultivate an exceptionally large population of “low income” workers, and an exceptionally low labor-share of national income.

President Trump spends a great deal of time and energy arguing that American workers are getting a rotten deal. And he’s right to claim that Americans are getting the short end. But the primary cause of that fact isn’t bad trade agreements or “job killing” regulations — its the union-busting laws and court rulings that the president has done so much to abet."
labor  work  economics  us  inequality  2018  comparison  europe  oecd  via:ayjay 
july 2018 by robertogreco
Micro.blog
"Today's social networks are broken. Ads are everywhere. Hate and harassment are too common. Fake news spreads unchecked.

There's a better way: a network of independent microblogs. Short posts like tweets but on your own web site that you control.

Micro.blog is a safe community for microblogs. A timeline to follow friends and discover new posts. Hosting built on open standards.

Use Micro.blog from the web or with native apps for iOS and macOS. Learn more about why I created Micro.blog."

[See also: "Why I created Micro.blog"
http://help.micro.blog/2015/why-i-created-this/ ]
via:ayjay  web  online  microblogs  onlinetoolkit  indieweb  socialnetworking  socialmedia  publishing  blogging  blogs  webdev  webdesign 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Kolakowski on conservatism
"A Conservative Believes:

1. That in human life there never have been and never will be improvements that are not paid for with deteriorations and evils; thus, in considering each project of reform and amelioration, its price has to be assessed. Put another way, innumerable evils are compatible (i.e. we can suffer them comprehensively and simultaneously); but many goods limit or cancel each other, and therefore we will never enjoy them fully at the same time. A society in which there is no equality and no liberty of any kind is perfectly possible, yet a social order combining total equality and freedom is not. The same applies to the compatibility of planning and the principle of autonomy, to security and technical progress. Put yet another way, there is no happy ending in human history.

2. That we do not know the extent to which various traditional forms of social life--families, rituals, nations, religious communities--are indispensable if life in a society is to be tolerable or even possible. There are no grounds for believing that when we destroy these forms, or brand them as irrational, we increase the chance of happiness, peace, security, or freedom. We have no certain knowledge of what might occur if, for example, the monogamous family was abrogated, or if the time-honored custom of burying the dead were to give way to the rational recycling of corpses for industrial purposes. But we would do well to expect the worst.

3. That the idee fixe of the Enlightenment--that envy, vanity, greed, and aggression are all caused by the deficiencies of social institutions and that they will be swept away once these institutions are reformed-- is not only utterly incredible and contrary to all experience, but is highly dangerous. How on earth did all these institutions arise if they were so contrary to the true nature of man? To hope that we can institutionalize brotherhood, love, and altruism is already to have a reliable blueprint for despotism.

A Liberal Believes:

1. That the ancient idea that the purpose of the State is security still remains valid. It remains valid even if the notion of "security" is expanded to include not only the protection of persons and property by means of the law, but also various provisions of insurance: that people should not starve if they are jobless; that the poor should not be condemned to die through lack of medical help; that children should have free access to education--all these are also part of security. Yet security should never be confused with liberty. The State does not guarantee freedom by action and by regulating various areas of life, but by doing nothing. In fact security can be expanded only at the expense of liberty. In any event, to make people happy is not the function of the State.

2. That human communities are threatened not only by stagnation but also by degradation when they are so organized that there is no longer room for individual initiative and inventiveness. The collective suicide of mankind is conceivable, but a permanent human ant-heap is not, for the simple reason that we are not ants.

3. That it is highly improbable that a society in which all forms of competitiveness have been done away with would continue to have the necessary stimuli for creativity and progress. More equaliity is not an end in itself, but only a means. In other words, there is no point to the struggle for more equality if it results only in the leveling down off those who are better off, and not in the raising up of the underprivileged. Perfect equality is a self-defeating ideal.

A Socialist Believes:

1. That societies in which the pursuit of profit is the sole regulator of the productive system are threatened with as grievous--perhaps more grievous--catastrophes as are societies in which the profit motive has been entirely eliminated from the production-regulating forces. There are good reasons why freedom of economic activity should be limited for the sake of security, and why money should not automatically produce more money. But the limitation of freedom should be called precisely that, and should not be called a higher form of freedom.

2. That it is absurd and hypocritical to conclude that, simply because a perfect, conflictless society is impossible, every existing form of inequality is inevitable and all ways of profit-making justified. The kind of conservative anthropological pessimism which led to the astonishing belief that a progressive income tax was an inhuman abomination is just as suspect as the kind of historical optimism on which the Gulag Archipelago was based.

3. That the tendency to subject the economy to important social controls should be encouraged, even though the price to be paid is an increase in bureaucracy. Such controls, however, must be exercised within representative democracy. Thus it is essential to plan institutions that counteract the menace to freedom which is produced by the growth of these very controls.

So far as I can see, this set of regulative ideas is not self-contradictory. And therefore it is possible to be a conservative-liberal-socialist. This is equivalent to saying that those three particular designations are no longer mutually exclusive options."

[via: http://blog.ayjay.org/against-consequentialism/ ]
politics  via:ayjay  conservatism  liberalism  security  socialism  society  philosophy  enlightenment  envy  vanity  greed  aggression  brotherhood  love  altruism  despotism  happiness  peace  freedom  humans  economics  bureaucracy  democracy  pessimism  conflict  leszekkolakowski 
november 2017 by robertogreco
David Graeber • Dead zones of the imagination: on violence, bureaucracy, and interpretive labor
"We are not used to thinking of nursing homes or banks or even HMOs as violent institutions—except perhaps in the most abstract and metaphorical sense. But the violence I’m referring to here is not epistemic. It’s quite concrete. All of these are institutions involved in the allocation of resources within a system of property rights regulated and guaranteed by governments in a system that ultimately rests on the threat of force. “Force,” in turn, is just a euphemistic way to refer to violence.

All of this is obvious enough. What’s of ethnographic interest, perhaps, is how rarely citizens in industrial democracies actually think about this fact, or how instinctively we try to discount its importance. This is what makes it possible, for example, for graduate students to be able to spend days in the stacks of university libraries poring over theoretical tracts about the declining importance of coercion as a factor in modern life, without ever reflecting on that fact that, had they insisted on their right to enter the stacks without showing a properly stamped and validated ID, armed men would indeed be summoned to physically remove them, using whatever force might be required. It’s almost as if the more we allow aspects of our everyday existence to fall under the purview of bureaucratic regulations, the more everyone concerned colludes to downplay the fact (perfectly obvious to those actually running the system) that all of it ultimately depends on the threat of physical harm."
sociology  violence  davidgraeber  2006  bureaucracy  force  coercion  threat  capitalism  property  ownership  latecapitalism  propertyrights  via:ayjay 
april 2017 by robertogreco
How Social Justice Ideology Gave Us Donald Trump | Alastair's Adversaria
"The troubling thing is the frequent unwillingness to attempt to believe better of their fellow Americans, to explore the possibility that perhaps many Trump voters are intelligent, well-meaning, and, yes, fearful people just like themselves, people who are actually opposed to misogyny and racism and only voted for Trump because they believed there was no other choice."



"Being assured that you are a victim of evil social forces, hateful individuals, and dark structural processes conspiring against your success can be a comforting belief when the alternative is to admit the possibility of a natural reality or a broadly unavoidable social reality that doesn’t function according to our egalitarian prejudices."



" Challenges to the narratives are perceived to be an attack upon the people who take refuge in them.

These narratives identify a great many genuine social wrongs, but they consistently overplay their hand, in a ‘motte and bailey’ doctrine fashion. Unfortunately, when they have assumed a sort of sacred status, one cannot challenge the overplaying of the concepts without being presumed to dismiss the genuine wrongs they identify. The cancerous theories that result can grow unchecked by healthy critical processes and steadily metastasize until they destroy their host institutions.

The result of all of this, unfortunately, is an adherence to a comforting ideological script at the expense of charitable engagement in an open public square."



"When ideological security requires protection from the cognitive dissonance of recognizing, or at least being open to, valid points in opposing arguments, or to the goodness of our critics, politics will rapidly devolve into condemnatory shouting matches. Prevailing social justice ideology is great for virtue signalling for the purpose of in-group membership among progressive liberals. It is useless and, indeed, entirely counterproductive when it comes to the tasks of persuasion or understanding."



"While they flatter themselves that they are compassionate and open—they are standing for love!—their vicious vengefulness and hostility towards people, or the way that they sacrifice even the closest relationships on the altar of political and ideological differences, is truly terrifying. The other side isn’t just driven by different yet valid group concerns, or well-meaning but mistaken, or even compromised yet open to moral suasion. No, for so many they are evil and beyond redemption, a group that cannot be won over by reason, service, or love but can only be eradicated."



"Reading liberal progressives’ own words, one can see that many of them have undiluted hatred for these demographics and just want them to perish. They complain about Trump’s statements about immigrants, but one wonders whether they listen to themselves talk about Midwesterners."



"It is clear to many Trump voters that liberals don’t just disagree with them, but truly hate them for who they are."



"That social justice ideology systematically provides cover for such venomous hatred is part of the problem (‘And let go of the illusion that ANYBODY but white people—particularly white males—gave this election to Trump. White men are scum.’). The fact that this hatred often comes from the more privileged people educationally and socially and is directed at those with a much lower socio-economic status merely makes it all the more reprehensible. Until the ideology that permits such hatred is uprooted, the progressive left will lack both the power to persuade and moral credibility."



"White men (well, apart from the enlightened college-educated progressive men who support social justice ideology) have repeatedly been told that they are everything that is wrong with the world. The same is true of evangelicals as a group. They must assume a crippling guilt and much vanish into cultural dhimmitude until demographic changes eliminate them from American society. As they represent evil, no allowances must be made for them, no quarter must be given to them. They must be eradicated."



"The social justice narrative calls for white people, and men in particular, to assume a crippling guilt, to be the scapegoats for America. Trump’s movement is exactly the sort of resistance that such a narrative will provoke."



"As Michael Story has observed, the progressive left so radically overused the necessary antibiotics of shame and guilt that they produced a shame and guilt resistant candidate and movement. When people appreciate that guilt and shame have been weaponized to force them into cultural dhimmitude, they will start to celebrate shamelessness and guilt-freeness.

As the progressive left constantly demonized their intersecting demographics, non-college educated white Christian men became more assertive about their identity and communities. As their hastening demographic collapse was celebrated on the progressive left, they became more open in celebrating their identities and communities and in reasserting the importance of their immense historical stake in the nation. In some quarters they started to exhibit the patterns of polarized identity politics voting. If every other demographic will play identity politics, why shouldn’t they do so too? And because they are such a big demographic, this is very bad news for the left."



"Repeatedly, when Clinton faced challenges or questions, the gender card was played by her supporters, as if the prospective holder of the most powerful office in the world merited gentler treatment by her critics. I am sure that many in the nation envisaged four long years of interminable feminist hot takes, by which Clinton’s sex would always be treated as if it were the most important thing about her. Voting for Clinton was a vote for a particular brand of identity politics and yesterday millions across America said ‘no, thanks’. Reading the pieces that followed America’s decision, I am sure that I am not along in feeling, on this front at least, considerable gratitude."



"The sheer scale of progressive liberals’ insulation from the rest of the country is remarkable. Not only do they not understand it: they have virtually no relationship with it. Once again, progressive liberal bien pensants on Twitter have been made to look like fools, completely out of touch with public opinion. The journalists, the comedians, the pundits, the pollsters (with a few exceptions) all now look ridiculous. They really do not have a clue and we should ask why we are still listening to them."



"After years of their crying wolf about various candidates, one isn’t surprised the public ignores them."



"From what I have seen, the people who best predicted the election were generally people who were attentive to human nature and psychology and the values that drive us, the dynamics of human societies and cultures, the qualitative differences between particular demographics, etc., rather than people operating with liberalism’s skeletal anthropology. A number of the people in question, people like Steve Sailer, for instance, are pariahs of the establishment, condemned for noticing things that one is not supposed to notice. Their analysis was primarily qualitative, rather than quantitative. Liberalism’s anthropology needs to be identified as a deep part of the problem here."



"People want to be part of something greater than themselves and desire meaning in their lives. Sadly, the study of these sorts of things is increasingly taboo within the social justice order."



"The progressive liberal social vision has taken aim against the politics of local attachments and championed ever-increasing diversity. It has operated on the assumption that human populations and persons are interchangeable. It has operated on the assumption that economics is the most determinative consideration for human action and values."
politics  election  2016  donaldtrump  alastair  via:ayjay  discourse  liberalism  left  ideology  socialjustice  identitypolitics  hate  division 
november 2016 by robertogreco
Value pluralism and value monism | Alan Wolfe
"Of all the political philosophers who have taught in the modern university, the one who has had the greatest influence on me was the late Latvian-born and Oxford-bred Isaiah Berlin. One theme ran throughout Berlin’s prodigious efforts to make sense of other thinkers, and thus of the world. We should, he wrote, be wary of all those who say that there is only one goal worth reaching and only one proper method to reach it. "Value pluralism," as his approach has been called, judges a society as liberal, in the best sense of that term, if it appreciates not only that there are many values, but also that such values can be incommensurate.

Berlin’s model for the best society should also be our model for the best university. It would value scholarship, of course. But it would also value many different kinds of scholarship, some narrow and specialized, others broad and of compelling interest to the public, just as it would give weight to teaching and serving one’s country.

The modern research university has unfortunately become increasingly susceptible to value monism, the belief that there is only one right way to advance, only one correct form of knowledge. The graduate school takeover, I hasten to add, is not the reason for my retirement: I simply felt that I had reached the age when it was proper to pass the responsibilities on to others. I just hope that whatever form the university of tomorrow takes, it leaves a place for those social scientists who resist the trend toward greater disciplinary professionalization. The liberal arts should be liberal enough to make a place for many kinds of teaching and learning."
politics  academia  academentia  alanwolfe  isaiahberlin  diversity  monism  knowledge  professionalization  disciplines  via:ayjay 
september 2016 by robertogreco
The Mystery of Carl Miller : Longreads Blog
[Great story. I've quoted here without spoiling, I think.]

"What if your last name is just the word that comes after your first name?"



"My father is so much like his mother—easygoing, pleasant to be around, completely satisfied by mild comforts and routines, modest, measured. He was a superintendent of schools for thirty years and people were often mad at him, but he was rarely mad at them. One day a woman, a total stranger, called the house and screamed at him for ten minutes. He eventually cut her off, and before he hung up, he said “Thank you for calling.” Then he came into the living room and turned on the Celtics. “People tend to get very emotional about their children,” he observed, leaning back in his rocking chair and pouring ¾ of a bottle of Molson Ale into a glass. He gave the rest to my brother and me to split."



"When I was little any time I had to fill in a family tree or talk about my grandparents I actually named my grandfather as Carl Miller and said that we didn’t know who or where he was. Since there was absolutely nothing else exciting about me I treasured this aspect of my identity. Whenever it came up I would pray to myself that they would ask me more.

“Your dad doesn’t know where his father is?”

“No.”

“Isn’t that weird?”

“I guess.”

“Has your dad ever even met him?”

“No.”

“Does he care?”

This was perhaps the best part of it all. After my grandmother died we asked my dad if he wanted to find his father. “I don’t know,” he said. “Not really.”

We asked him a million more times and a million times he seemed uninterested. As a kid with two parents I lived with and who were married and who I saw every single day, I was both astonished and impressed that my father didn’t care who his father was. Our Carl Miller conversations were free of anguish—if anything, Carl Miller was a sort of family joke. We had a long driveway people liked to use for turning around, and once in a while, if a random car paused in front of the house my brother or I might say “Maybe it’s Carl Miller,” and one of my parents might respond, “Tell him we don’t have any money.” My mother might look out the window and say, “Nope. Too ugly.”"



"I don’t mean to suggest that my father never looked for his father because my grandmother was so perfect. It’s just that she was the sort of person who was all right with what was in front of her, and my father absorbed this. In order to want to meet his father my father would have had to have some moment where he paused to think about what was missing from his life, and I don’t think my father strings together a lot of those moments. To pursue this mystery, he would have really had to believe that finding out who his father was would make an impact on his day-to-day life, or would make him, somehow, a better husband, father, school superintendent, lawn mower, fish-catcher, tidier-of-sheds, head-shaking-watcher of PBS NewsHour. He keeps long lists on yellow legal pads, and while “write NW letter re: CM” made it onto that list once, it seems that “Find out who my father is” never did.

* * *

I suppose this could sound like some paean to my father, and I don’t really mean it to be. I have very mixed, often pleasant, but decidedly unworshipful feelings about my parents. I like them best when I feel a sort of indifference. Not to them as people, not to our relationship, but to the fact that we’re related. Yes they are the people who conceived me, yes my mother gave birth to me, but they are also just the people who happened to do this. We are matter that came very close to each other in orbit. Some might think it’s kind of cold to look at your parents like this. I think it’s cold that everyone walks around with the conceit that their family is special. Imagine a world where we did not all think that those closest to us were the most worthy of attention or pardon or praise. “I’m so proud of my family,” people are always saying, and I guess that’s not a bad thing, but what if you were proud of the people who lived across the street from you? What if you were proud of every resident of your town, what if I was proud of the homeless people who manage to put together their camps and set up their coolers and stoves in the woods behind my house?

When I was a teenager I told my father I felt distant from everyone in my family. “It’s not that I don’t love you,” I said. “I just don’t feel like I’m a part of things, but I also don’t mind.”

“I think that’s ok,” he said. “I think more people feel that way than care to admit it.” The fact that he didn’t say it hurt his feelings is one of the most loving gestures anyone has ever made on my behalf."



"I have heard exactly one story about my grandmother’s parenting of my father: When he was in first grade, he got in trouble for writing with his left hand. My grandmother went to the school and told his teacher never to say a word to my father about which hand he wrote with ever again.

I never saw a moment of sentimentality between my grandmother and my father and little explicit affection. They loved each other, but they had something that is even bigger than love. It was as if each of them were both the breather and the air. I have never been around a parent and a child who had less tension between them. The last name Miller says nothing about me, but if pressed I would say I appreciate the way it evokes a beautiful neutrality, and the way it reminds me that all of us could so easily have been someone else."
via:ayjay  names  naming  ancestry  2016  families  sarahmiller  love  relationships  parenting  indifference 
july 2016 by robertogreco
The Color Gradient Reader BeeLine Shows Promise for Speed and Attention in Reading - The Atlantic
"In the era of attention deficits, the new text will not be black and white."



"The colors in this text are rendered in a precise and strategic way, designed to help people read quickly and accurately.

The most important feature is that each line begins with a different color than the line above or below. As Matthew Schneps, director of the Laboratory for Visual Learning at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, explained it to me, the color gradients also pull our eyes long from one character to the next—and then from the end of one line to the beginning of the next, minimizing any chance of skipping lines or making anything less than an optimally efficient word-to-word or line-to-line transition.

Improving the ease and accuracy of the return sweep is a promising idea for readers of all skill levels. And yet it’s one that’s gone largely ignored in the milieu of media technologies. Today many of us read primarily on screens–and we have for years–yet most platforms have focused on using technology to attempt to recreate text as it appears in books (or in newspapers or magazines), instead of trying to create an optimal reading experience.

The format—black text on white lines of 12 to 15 words of equal size—is a relic of the way that books were most easily printed on early printing presses. It persists today out of tradition, not because of some innate tendency of the human brain to process information in this way.

Meanwhile, people who aren’t especially skilled at intake of text in the traditional format are systematically penalized. People who don’t read well in this one particular way tend to fall behind scholastically early in life. They might be told they’re not as bright as other people, or at least come to assume it. They might even be diagnosed with ADHD, dyslexia, or a learning disability, or overlooked as academically mediocre.

“The book format was effective, but not for everyone,” said Schneps. “This is not just technology that could help people who are struggling with reading; this is technology that could help a lot of people.”

* * *

Our minds are not as uniform as our text. We all take in information in different ways. Some people read more quickly and retain more information when lines are shorter, or when fonts are bolder, or in different colors. The color-gradient pattern above is rendered by a product called BeeLine, developed by armchair linguist Nick Lum. He got the idea after learning about the Stroop Effect, the famous phenomenon where it becomes difficult to read words like “yellow” and “red” when they are written in different colors. Lum thought, “What if instead of screwing people up, we tried to use color in a way that helps people?”

After he won the Stanford Social Entrepreneurship and Dell Education startup competitions with the idea in 2014, Lum took to developing the technology full time. So far, the response from people tends to be binary: for some it’s a shrug, but for others, particularly people with dyslexias, it’s like turning on a light bulb. As Lum describes it, people tell him “Holy cow, this is how everybody else reads.”

The idea has been well received by reading experts, too.

“Most of the academic research is figuring out entirely what your eyes are going to do on one line,” said psychologist and Microsoft researcher Kevin Larson. “That has been such a challenge that it's rare for anyone to pay much attention to what happens during that line return movement.”

At the University of Texas at Austin, Randolph Bias has studied the optimal length of lines of text for reading comprehension and speed. The two are generally at odds: Short lines make for a quick and accurate return (the movement is easier because it allows our eyes to take a greater downward angle than if the line were longer.) The downside is that because our brains process information during return sweeps, shorter lines don't afford us that time. We also don’t get to take full advantage of peripheral vision – which is key. (He cites this as the problem with Spritz, the reading technology where single words rapidly flash before a reader.)"



"The other big opportunity for the technology is in educational settings. Later this year, BeeLine will be rolling out in libraries across California, as part of a licensing partnership. This is how Lum sees the company growing. The basic Google Chrome extension and iPhone app are free. But large-scale licensing deals with platforms and institutions like school systems could be more lucrative—and make the option accessible to people who wouldn’t otherwise think to try reading in color.

In early experiments, some students do seem to benefit from the color gradients. Last year, first-grade students in two general-education classrooms in San Bernardino, California, tried out Beeline, and many did better with comprehension tests afterword. “Because of my background in visual processing, I immediately wanted to check it out,” said Michael Dominguez, an applied behavioral analyst who directs the San Bernardino school district’s special education program. “Based on everything I know, it should work great.”"

[See also (referenced in the article):
http://www.beelinereader.com/
https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/ie/2014/03/04/introducing-reading-view-in-ie-11/ ]
howweread  reading  dyslexia  education  cyborgs  adhd  color  text  jameshamblin  kevinlarson  via:ayjay  michaeldominguez  beeline  chrome  browser  browsers  extensions  accessibility  assistivetechnology  microsoft  attention  technology  edtech  nicklum  linguistics  randolphbias  spritz  ereading  kindle  pdfs  epub  pdf 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Walking While Black | Literary Hub
"Within days I noticed that many people on the street seemed apprehensive of me: Some gave me a circumspect glance as they approached, and then crossed the street; others, ahead, would glance behind, register my presence, and then speed up; older white women clutched their bags; young white men nervously greeted me, as if exchanging a salutation for their safety: “What’s up, bro?” On one occasion, less than a month after my arrival, I tried to help a man whose wheelchair was stuck in the middle of a crosswalk; he threatened to shoot me in the face, then asked a white pedestrian for help.

I wasn’t prepared for any of this. I had come from a majority-black country in which no one was wary of me because of my skin color. Now I wasn’t sure who was afraid of me. I was especially unprepared for the cops. They regularly stopped and bullied me, asking questions that took my guilt for granted. I’d never received what many of my African-American friends call “The Talk”: No parents had told me how to behave when I was stopped by the police, how to be as polite and cooperative as possible, no matter what they said or did to me. So I had to cobble together my own rules of engagement. Thicken my Jamaican accent. Quickly mention my college. “Accidentally” pull out my college identification card when asked for my driver’s license.

My survival tactics began well before I left my dorm. I got out of the shower with the police in my head, assembling a cop-proof wardrobe. Light-colored oxford shirt. V-neck sweater. Khaki pants. Chukkas. Sweatshirt or T-shirt with my university insignia. When I walked I regularly had my identity challenged, but I also found ways to assert it. (So I’d dress Ivy League style, but would, later on, add my Jamaican pedigree by wearing Clarks Desert Boots, the footwear of choice of Jamaican street culture.) Yet the all-American sartorial choice of white T-shirt and jeans, which many police officers see as the uniform of black troublemakers, was off-limits to me—at least, if I wanted to have the freedom of movement I desired.

In this city of exuberant streets, walking became a complex and often oppressive negotiation. I would see a white woman walking towards me at night and cross the street to reassure her that she was safe. I would forget something at home but not immediately turn around if someone was behind me, because I discovered that a sudden backtrack could cause alarm. (I had a cardinal rule: Keep a wide perimeter from people who might consider me a danger. If not, danger might visit me.) New Orleans suddenly felt more dangerous than Jamaica. The sidewalk was a minefield, and every hesitation and self-censored compensation reduced my dignity. Despite my best efforts, the streets never felt comfortably safe. Even a simple salutation was suspect.

One night, returning to the house that, eight years after my arrival, I thought I’d earned the right to call my home, I waved to a cop driving by. Moments later, I was against his car in handcuffs. When I later asked him—sheepishly, of course; any other way would have asked for bruises—why he had detained me, he said my greeting had aroused his suspicion. “No one waves to the police,” he explained. When I told friends of his response, it was my behavior, not his, that they saw as absurd. “Now why would you do a dumb thing like that?” said one. “You know better than to make nice with police.”"



"Walking had returned to me a greater set of possibilities. And why walk, if not to create a new set of possibilities? Following serendipity, I added new routes to the mental maps I had made from constant walking in that city from childhood to young adulthood, traced variations on the old pathways. Serendipity, a mentor once told me, is a secular way of speaking of grace; it’s unearned favor. Seen theologically, then, walking is an act of faith. Walking is, after all, interrupted falling. We see, we listen, we speak, and we trust that each step we take won’t be our last, but will lead us into a richer understanding of the self and the world.

In Jamaica, I felt once again as if the only identity that mattered was my own, not the constricted one that others had constructed for me. I strolled into my better self. I said, along with Kierkegaard, “I have walked myself into my best thoughts.”"



"Walking while black restricts the experience of walking, renders inaccessible the classic Romantic experience of walking alone. It forces me to be in constant relationship with others, unable to join the New York flaneurs I had read about and hoped to join. Instead of meandering aimlessly in the footsteps of Whitman, Melville, Kazin, and Vivian Gornick, more often, I felt that I was tiptoeing in Baldwin’s—the Baldwin who wrote, way back in 1960, “Rare, indeed, is the Harlem citizen, from the most circumspect church member to the most shiftless adolescent, who does not have a long tale to tell of police incompetence, injustice, or brutality. I myself have witnessed and endured it more than once.”

Walking as a black man has made me feel simultaneously more removed from the city, in my awareness that I am perceived as suspect, and more closely connected to it, in the full attentiveness demanded by my vigilance. It has made me walk more purposefully in the city, becoming part of its flow, rather than observing, standing apart.

* * * *

But it also means that I’m still trying to arrive in a city that isn’t quite mine. One definition of home is that it’s somewhere we can most be ourselves. And when are we more ourselves but when walking, that natural state in which we repeat one of the first actions we learned? Walking—the simple, monotonous act of placing one foot before the other to prevent falling—turns out not to be so simple if you’re black. Walking alone has been anything but monotonous for me; monotony is a luxury.

A foot leaves, a foot lands, and our longing gives it momentum from rest to rest. We long to look, to think, to talk, to get away. But more than anything else, we long to be free. We want the freedom and pleasure of walking without fear—without others’ fear—wherever we choose. I’ve lived in New York City for almost a decade and have not stopped walking its fascinating streets. And I have not stopped longing to find the solace that I found as a kid on the streets of Kingston. Much as coming to know New York City’s streets has made it closer to home to me, the city also withholds itself from me via those very streets. I walk them, alternately invisible and too prominent. So I walk caught between memory and forgetting, between memory and forgiveness."
garnettecadogan  racism  blackness  race  walking  nyc  neworleans  nola  serendipity  anonymity  fear  judgement  fatswaller  waltwhitman  kingston  jamaica  us  via:ayjay  racialprofiling  police  lawenforcement  possibility  possibilities  grace  favor  faith  hermanmelville  alfredkazin  elizabethhardwick  janejacobs  memory  forgiveness  forgetting  freedom 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Integration hub | Britain’s ethnic minorities and the Brexit vote
"In the aftermath of yesterday’s vote for Brexit, I had several conversations that surprised me. The first, with a Romanian who had recently arrived in the UK, who claimed that all the Indians and Pakistanis he knew had voted for Brexit. The second, with Pakistani friends, was that an overwhelming majority of their friends had voted for Brexit, even though they did not normally vote. The reasons given were economic: they expected lower taxes and lower competition from Eastern European migrants in low-wage jobs.

Slough, Luton and Dagenham, all areas with large South Asian populations voted leave, and Leicester, Newham and Harrow were very close to 50%.  This may mirror a quixotic pattern that we saw in the last general election, where older Irish voters supported UKIP over Labour. Migrants, especially settled migrants in a precarious economic situation, can see other migrants as a threat, especially where they are not linked to them by ties of family or culture. Paul Collier argues that recent migrants are much more likely to lose out from further"
europe  brexit  ethnicity  2016  via:ayjay 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Britain Exits, Democracy Lives, And Everything Has Changed
"This may have been Britain's last chance to exit peacefully and democratically from a democracy-destroying, elite-flattering, and inequality-producing machine. You can say that Britain finds itself in a constitutional crisis today, but that crisis was revealed, not created, by the referendum vote. Most U.K. citizens repudiate the claim of foreign bureaucrats to rule them, and yet, on what turns out to be the defining issue of British politics in this generation, 478 of its elected members of Parliament favored Remain, and only 159 Leave. That will change.

Britain is, as David Cameron said in his resignation statement, a "special country." Its citizens are going to pay a price for flouting markets and European bureaucracies. They have gambled that what they now recover—control of their own laws—makes that price worth paying. Look at their history. They are probably right."
brexit  europe  uk  elitism  democracy  2016  sovereignty  eu  via:ayjay 
june 2016 by robertogreco
‘Nothing in Britain is exactly as it seems’ – Tunku Varadarajan
"Contrary to reports in the press, not everyone who voted Leave is malign. For all its cosmopolitan aura and depth, Britain is a prickly place, a jealous guardian of itself. Yes, Britain embraced me — at high school, university, and then at the work-place — but always on its own terms.

These were mostly happy terms, of course. I had to become British. I don’t mean passports here, but a taking on of values and manners, an embracing of tolerance and irony, being able to take a joke in good humor, to down a few pints after work (and then a few more after that), to be conservative in speech and experimental in taste, and ever-vigilant against cant and bullshit. Most of all, I had to learn to accept that those who were not British were less fortunate than the British. This last thing came easily to me: It seemed so self-evident that it didn’t need to be spelled out. (Indians, like Americans, find it easier to see Britain’s virtues than any other people do; but that is a discussion for another day.)"
europe  brexit  2016  tunkuvaradarajan  uk  via:ayjay 
june 2016 by robertogreco
'If you've got money, you vote in ... if you haven't got money, you vote out' | Politics | The Guardian
"The prime minister evidently thought that the whole debate could be cleanly started and finished in a matter of months. His Eton contemporary Boris Johnson – and, really, can you believe that the political story of the last four months has effectively been a catastrophic contest between two people who went to the same exclusive school? – opportunistically embraced the cause of Brexit in much the same spirit. What they had not figured out was that a diffuse, scattershot popular anger had not yet decisively found a powerful enough outlet, but that the staging of a referendum and the cohering of the leave cause would deliver exactly that. Ukip were held back by both the first-past-the-post electoral system, and the polarising qualities of Farage, but the coalition for Brexit effectively neutralised both. And so it came to pass: the cause of leaving the EU, for so long the preserve of cranks and chancers, attracted a share of the popular vote for which any modern political party would give its eye teeth.

Of course, most of the media, which is largely now part of the same detached London entity that great English patriot William Cobbett called “the thing”, failed to see this coming. Their world is one of photo ops, the great non-event that is PMQs, and absurd debates between figures that the public no longer cares about. The alienation of the people charged with documenting the national mood from the people who actually define it is one of the ruptures that has led to this moment: certainly, wherever I go, the press and television are the focus of as much resentment as politics. While we are on the subject, it is also time we set aside the dismal science of opinion polling, which should surely now stick to product testing and the like. Understanding of the country at large has for too long been framed in percentages and leading questions: it is time people went into the country, and simply listened."
europe  brexit  uk  2016  inequality  economics  alienation  politics  policy  via:ayjay  johnharris  class 
june 2016 by robertogreco
The referendum, living standards and inequality - Resolution Foundation
"The legacy of increased national inequality in the 1980s, the heavy concentration of those costs in certain areas, and our collective failure to address it has more to say about what happened last night than shorter term considerations from the financial crisis or changed migration flows.

Those looking to draw lessons for the future should therefore focus on some of our underlying failures – ones which we should be addressing in or out of the EU and which require us to rethink the ease with which a flexible, globalised economy can generate prosperity that is widely shared. Some of that is hard, in fact much of it is. All parties will now be rethinking their policies on huge topics, from immigration to trade. But some of this is not hard, and on those topics the lack of action only reinforces the anger people feel.

If we have the will we can build more houses to reduce rising cost pressures families across the country face. If we have the will we can provide decent routes into careers for those that don’t go to university. And if we have the will we can spend less time marketing devolution, and more time supporting and delivering the real economic leadership geographies need to change their destiny."
uk  europe  brexit  2016  economics  prosperity  politics  policy  via:ayjay  torstenbell  inequality 
june 2016 by robertogreco
The Hidden Cost of Personal Quantification | Journal of Consumer Research
"From sleep and energy use to exercise and health, consumers have access to more information about their behavior than ever before. The appeal of personal quantification seems clear. By better understanding their behavior, consumers can make the necessary changes to live happier, healthier lives. But might the new tools consumers are using—quantifying life— rob them of some of the benefits of engaging in those activities? Six experiments demonstrate that while measurement increases how much of an activity people do (e.g., walk or read more), it can simultaneously reduce how much people enjoy those activities. This occurs because measurement can undermine intrinsic motivation. By drawing attention to output, measurement can make enjoyable activities feel more like work, which reduces their enjoyment. As a result, measurement can decrease continued engagement in the activity and subjective well-being."
2016  quantifiedself  measurement  gamification  psychology  well-being  behavior  health  exercise  sleep  reading  quantification  enjoyment  pleasure  via:ayjay 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Tufte CSS
"Tufte CSS provides tools to style web articles using the ideas demonstrated by Edward Tufte’s books and handouts. Tufte’s style is known for its simplicity, extensive use of sidenotes, tight integration of graphics with text, and carefully chosen typography.

The idea was cribbed in whole from Tufte-LATEX and R Markdown’s Tufte Handout format. This page was in fact originally an adaptation of the Tufte Handout Example PDF. I give hearty thanks to all the people who have contributed to those projects.

If you see anything that Tufte CSS could improve, we welcome your contribution in the form of an issue or pull request on the GitHub project: tufte-css. Please note the contribution guidelines."
via:ayjay  css  design  html  typography  edwardtufte  webdev  webdesign 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Two Cheers for the Middle Ages! by Eric Christiansen | The New York Review of Books
"Our gratitude to that Greco-Roman civilization is seldom stinted, but those who came afterward have left castles, cathedrals, Italian and Flemish and Byzantine art, printing, plainsong, and parliaments, not to mention universities. Yet the black propaganda of Voltaire, Hume, Kant, and Mark Twain remains suspended in the air like soot in the old factory towns, while intellectuals crow over the birth of “modernity” like fancied fighting cocks. They will not enjoy the fattest of these books, a translation of Johannes Fried’s The Middle Ages, which has gone through three editions in the last six years and reads like a counterblast to the hot air of the liberal-humanist interpreters of European history.

They should begin at the end, with the epilogue entitled “The Dark Middle Ages?” where Fried shows his cards and rehearses the errors of the Enlightenment view of the period, as well as those of Romantic medievalism, with unsparing acuity. Then comes the eulogy, when he applies to the Middle Ages the terms of approval that modern periods are awarded by their fans. Western medieval people are commended by Fried for dynamism, for know-how in all fields of technology and art, for hungry intellectual curiosity, for capitalism, globalism, education, and all-around Vorsprung durch Technik. It was, he writes, the medieval pioneers who strangled the serpents of blind faith, ignorance, and unexamined hypotheses in the cradle.

Readers responsive to this rhetoric will be intrigued if not swayed by the way Fried deploys it. Even those who doubt that hot air is the best way of defeating hot air will be impressed by the main body of the work, which covers a thousand years of mostly Western and Central European history with magnificent confidence. He does justice both to the centrifugal fragmentation of the European region into monarchies, cities, republics, heresies, trade and craft associations, vernacular literatures, and to the persistence of unifying and homogenizing forces: the papacy, the Western Empire, the schools, the friars, the civil lawyers, the bankers, the Crusades."
medieval  history  middleages  darkages  ericchristiansen  johannesfried  europe  via:ayjay 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Ivan Illich, "Philosophy... Artifacts... Friendship"
"Architects drafted on paper or modeled in clay, not on a screen. True, in the time of Ford's Model A, when Thérèse of Lisieux was canonized, and I was born, the instrumental artifact moved toward its apogee; it was becoming increasingly dominant in the sensual environment. But technology was still conceived as a tool for the achievement of a telos, a final cause set by its user, not as milieu. Technology had not yet redefined homo from tool-user to co-evolved product of engineering. The nature of the object was not a quandary; it was something more or less what it had been for generations. This is no longer so. The old rules for the discernment of good from evil spirits must be complemented by new rules for the distinction of things from zombies, and objects from pictures. Temperance, what the Cappadocians call nepsis, must now guard the heart, not only from real things like sweet skin and weighty bullion, but also guide one to the sound recognition of the allurements of mere images and so-called needs....

In my own pilgrimage, I engage philosophy as ancilla: on the one hand, to resist - how should I call it? - algorithmic reductionism and, on the other, to dispel the illusion that power or organization can ever enhance the practice of charity. This double conceptual shield against loving misplaced concreta, and belief in benevolent management inevitably implies the rejection of those genetic axioms from which the topology of technological thinking arises. This topology is well protected, if not hidden, by a self-image meant to give comfort to life beyond virtue and the good. The aim to make life always better has crippled the search for the appropriate, proportionate, harmonious or simply good life - hopes easily written off as simplistic or irresponsible. Only sober, unsentimental, vernacular rhetoric can possibly demonstrate the incompatibility of mathematical modeling or systems management with the quest for faith and love. The typical artifacts of our decade are at once more intimately and deviously connected to the understanding of revealed truth than hearth or arms or mill, the res agricola, res bellica, and scientia mechanica of earlier times....

In my seminars, I have seen many a student look up from the exegesis of a passage by Aelred of Rivaulx, Héloïse, or Hugh of St. Victor, and search for a correspondence in his or her own twenty-two year-old heart, and recognize what the notions related to process, field, feedback, loop, and context sensitivity have done to their grasp. At such moments of disciplined alienation, it is then possible to foster the insight that it is almost impossible for an inhabitant of "the system" to desire an I-Thou relationship like that cultivated in Talmudic or monastic communities. Following such an awakening and finding themselves at a loss to recapture this past experience, a thirst is incited....

In the study of theology, ecclesiology was my preferred subject; and, within this discipline, liturgy. Liturgy, like ecclesiology, is concerned with sociogenesis. It inquires into the continued embodiment of the Word through rituals. Necessarily, these rituals often center on objects like tables, tombs and chalices. So, my interest in these so-called sacra led me to the theory of instrumentally used objects. I pursued the nature of the artifact in the belief that understanding would deepen my insight into virtue in our epoch, especially the virtue of charity. Therefore, the love of friendship, philia, as practicable under the social and symbolic conditions engendered by modern artifacts, has been the constant subject of my teaching. For me, finally, philosophy is the ancilla amicitiae."
sensorium  ivanillich  1996  via:ayjay  technology  objects  artificat  charity  friendship  organization  power  goodness  enough  well-being  theology  ecclesiology  liturgy  sociogenesis  systemsmanagement  management  faith  love  temperance 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Hooray for Same-Sex Concubinage!
"Simply put, mutual responsibility towards offspring naturally demands a long-term commitment (at least 18 years) while mutual attraction and erotic desire does not. What we see in the modern world is the fracturing of a very lofty ideal of marriage back into two different kinds of relationships: those which are primarily focused on children, and those which are primarily focused on erotic love. The battle over the institution of marriage is basically a battle over whether which of these two purposes of marriage ought to have primacy.

The answer that the Supreme Court has given by ruling in favour of same-sex marriage is basically a ruling in favour of erotic love. This should surprise no one. It’s the more culturally popular option, and it’s the view of marriage that the vast majority of heterosexuals already subscribe to. It’s also, in practice, the definition that we’ve been using for a long time. The truth is that most of the material and social supports that exist to help parents with the task of raising children are no longer associated with the institution of marriage in any way – and unfortunately, the pro-family groups that could be providing financial, emotional and practical support to people who are choosing traditional marriage tend to waste their resources fighting fruitless political battles instead.

The challenge, then, is for advocates of the traditional family to stop wringing their hands over the SCOTUS decision and blaming the gays for the demise of the family, and to focus instead on renewing the practice of sacramental marriage by building up communities of support so that the traditional understanding of marriage will become practicable and attractive again."
marriage  parenting  law  marrigeequality  20915  via:ayjay  melindaselmys 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Harmony, Communion, Incarnation | The American Conservative
"It is tempting to call LS a traditionally conservative document, but there is plenty in it that will unnerve free-market individualists, who generally call themselves conservative — and liberals will be just as challenged by it. What Francis has written is an encyclical that celebrates life as harmony, communion, and incarnation. He calls on all persons to revere nature as gift, and to think not as atomized individuals, but as stewards who owe a debt to others, as well as to the past and to the future.

If you have read my 2006 book Crunchy Cons, the roots of all this in traditional conservatism should be very familiar. LS is a radical challenge to modernity as both the political left and the right understand it. Catholic blogger Jennifer Fitz understands what’s it stake here, calling, tongue-in-cheekily, LS a “terrible problem” for Catholics who practice the separation of their faith from their entire lives …"



"The root of all our environmental and social problems is selfishness, is pride, is the belief that we are the center and the height of all creation. Therefore, if we are to restore the environment, it can’t simply be a matter of applying an ingenious set of technical solutions. It requires, more deeply, conversion of the heart. The core of the problem, Francis indicates, is the mistaken belief that humankind lives apart from nature, and the related belief that we owe nothing to others, either those who share this time and place with us, our ancestors, or to our descendants.

And, it’s the unwillingness to see that everything is connected, a phrase that turns up over and over in LS. For example, says Francis, there is a solid scientific consensus that the planet is warming, and that humankind dumping of carbon into the atmosphere has a lot to do with it. (He’s right that there is a scientific consensus, by the way.) This means that the industrial nations, with the activity that has both made them wealthy and that is a result of their wealth, bear a disproportionate responsibility for contributing to a condition that affects the entire planet. The poorest people on the planet, though, are those who suffer the most from the effects of climate change, yet, says the pope, the richest nations feel little sense of obligation to help those whose suffering is increased, indirectly, by the way the rich nations choose to live.

He has a point. One weakness of LS, though, is the pope’s lack of recognition of the fact that the greatest force pulling the poor masses out of poverty has been … capitalism, and industrial development. (David Brooks has a valid critique of this out today.) On the other hand, the pope is correct that the planet cannot withstand a universalization of the industrial, carbon-based system. And he is certainly right that the solution cannot be found in a “deified market” — that is, a vision that treats the free market as an end in itself, rather than as a means to an end, which is a just and harmonious life based on the common good.

“The problem is that we still lack the culture needed to confront this crisis,” says Francis. He means that our individualism and self-centeredness keeps us from seeing and doing what is necessary to meet the challenge. This, the pope indicates, is at the root of so many of our problems today — and not just environmental problems."



"Laudato Si is a rich, complex work. It doesn’t offer solutions — the Pope admits that the Church is not competent to offer technical advice — but it does provide a framework for discussing solutions. Francis says that rather than give up in the face of the immensity of the challenge, each of us would do well to live by St. Therese’s “little way”: doing what we ourselves can do, within the limits of our own particular circumstances, to restore harmony to creation by restoring it in our own hearts and lives. Even that would be a radical countercultural act, because it goes against the dominant paradigm of our time."
laudatosi'  2015  roddreher  popefrancis  christianity  conservatism  consumerism  culture  society  nature  environment  clinatechange  science  economics  ecology  harmony  communion  incarnation  via:ayjay  selfishness  capitalism 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Time to stand - All this
Thirty years ago, in the “1984” Macintosh commercial directed by Ridley Scott, a young woman smashed the big screen her fellow citizens were forced to watch and obey. You imagine them standing up and rebelling afterwards.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axSnW-ygU5g

Today, in the “Up” Apple Watch commercial seemingly directed by Stanley Milgram, a young woman docilely stands when a little screen strapped to her wrist tells her to.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8GtyB3cees ]
apple  2015  docility  screens  power  control  1984  via:ayjay  ridleyscott  capitalism  consumerism  obedience  stanleymilgram  advertising  revolution  acceptance 
may 2015 by robertogreco
We need to ditch generational labels – Rebecca Onion – Aeon
"Generational thinking is seductive and confirms preconceived prejudices, but it’s a bogus way to understand the world"



"But in real life, I find generational arguments infuriating. Overly schematised and ridiculously reductive, generation theory is a simplistic way of thinking about the relationship between individuals, society, and history. It encourages us to focus on vague ‘generational personalities’, rather than looking at the confusing diversity of social life. Since I’m a ‘Gen-X’er born in 1977, the conventional wisdom is that I’m supposed to be adaptable, independent, productive, and to have a good work/life balance. Reading these characteristics feels like browsing a horoscope. I see myself in some of these traits, and can even feel a vague thrill of belonging when I read them. But my ‘boomer’ mother is intensely productive; my ‘Greatest Generation’ grandmother still sells old books online at age 90, in what I consider to be the ultimate show of adaptability and independence.

enerational thinking doesn’t frustrate everyone. Indeed, there is a healthy market for pundits who can devise grand theories of generational difference. Neil Howe and William Strauss, authors of Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584-2069 (1991) and founders of the consulting firm LifeCourse Associates in Virginia, have made a fine living out of generational assessments, but their work reads like a deeply mystical form of historical explanation. (Strauss died in 2007; Howe continues to run the consultancy LifeCourse.) The two have conceived an elaborate and totalising theory of the cycle of generations, which they argue come in four sequential and endlessly repeating archetypes.

In the Strauss-Howe schema, these distinct groups of archetypes follow each other throughout history thus: ‘prophets’ are born near the end of a ‘crisis’; ‘nomads’ are born during an ‘awakening’; ‘heroes’ are born after an ‘awakening’, during an ‘unravelling’; and ‘artists’ are born after an ‘unravelling’, during a ‘crisis’. Strauss and Howe select prominent individuals from each generation, pointing to characteristics that define them as archetypal – heroes are John F Kennedy and Ronald Reagan; artists: Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson; prophets: John Winthrop, Abraham Lincoln; nomads: John Adams, Ulysses Grant. Each generation has a common set of personal characteristics and typical life experiences.

Plenty of kids at less-privileged schools weren’t intensely worried about grades or planning, like the stereotypical millennial

The archetypal scheme is also a theory of how historical change happens. The LifeCourse idea is that the predominance of each archetype in a given generation triggers the advent of the next (as the consultancy’s website puts it: ‘each youth generation tries to correct or compensate for what it perceives as the excesses of the midlife generation in power’). Besides having a very reductive vision of the universality of human nature, Strauss and Howe are futurists; they predict that a major crisis will occur once every 80 years, restarting the generational cycle. While the pair’s ideas seem far-fetched, they have currency in the marketplace: LifeCourse Associates has consulted for brands such as Nike, Cartoon Network, Viacom and the Ford Motor Company; for universities including Arizona State, Dartmouth, Georgetown and the University of Texas, and for the US Army, too.

The commercial success of this pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo is irritating, but also troubling. The dominant US thinkers on the generational question tend to flatten social distinctions, relying on cherry-picked examples and reifying a vision of a ‘society’ that’s made up mostly of the white and middle-class. In an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education in 2009 on the pundits and consultants who market information about ‘millennials’ to universities, Eric Hoover described Howe and Strauss’s influential book about that generation, Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation (2000), as a work ‘based on a hodgepodge of anecdotes, statistics, and pop-culture references’ with the only new empirical evidence being a body of around 600 interviews of high-school seniors, all living in wealthy Fairfax County, Virginia.

Hoover interviewed several people in higher education who voiced their doubts about the utility of Howe and Strauss’s approach. Their replies, informed by their experience teaching college students from across the socioeconomic spectrum, show how useless the schematic understanding of ‘millennials’ looks when you’re working with actual people. Palmer H Muntz, then the director of admissions of Lincoln Christian University in Illinois, noticed that plenty of kids he encountered on visits to less-privileged schools weren’t intensely worried about grades or planning, like the stereotypical millennial. Fred A Bonner II, now at Prairie View A & M University in Texas, pointed out that many of the supposed ‘personality traits’ of coddled and pressured millennials were unrecognisable to his black or Hispanic students, or those who grew up with less money. Siva Vaidhyanathan, a cultural historian and media scholar at the University of Virginia, told Hoover: ‘Generational thinking is just a benign form of bigotry.’"



"Ryder had harsh words for the theorists he called ‘generationists’. He argued that thinkers about generation on a large scale had made illogical leaps when theorising the relationship between generations and social change. ‘The fact that social change produces intercohort differentiation and thus contributes to inter-generational conflict,’ he argued, ‘cannot justify a theory that social change is produced by that conflict.’ There was no way to prove causality. The end result, he wrote, was that grand generational theories tended toward ‘arithmetical mysticism.’"



"As the French historian Pierre Nora wrote in 1996, the careful analyst trying to talk about generations will always struggle: ‘The generational concept would make a wonderfully precise instrument if only its precision didn’t make it impossible to apply to the unclassifiable disorder of reality.’ The problem with transferring historical and sociological ways of thinking about generational change into the public sphere is that ‘unclassifiability’ is both terrifying and boring. Big, sweeping explanations of social change sell. Little, careful studies of same-age cohorts, hemmed in on all sides by rich specificity, do not.

Perhaps the pseudoscientific use of supposed ‘generations’ would irk less if it weren’t so often used to demean the young. Millennials, consultants advise prospective employers, feel entitled to good treatment even in entry-level jobs, because they’ve been overpraised their whole lives. Millennials won’t buckle down and buy cars or houses, economists complain; millennials are lurking in their parents’ basements, The New Yorker cartoon stereotype runs, tweeting and texting and posting selfies and avoiding responsibility."



"Popular millennial backlash against the stereotyping of their generation makes use of the same arguments against generational thinking that sociologists and historians have spent years developing. By drawing attention to the effects of the economic situation on their lives, pointing out that human experience isn’t universal and predictable, and calling upon adults to abandon broad assessments in favour of specific understanding, millennials prove the point: generational thinking is seductive, and for some of us it confirms our preconceived prejudices, but it’s fatally flawed as a mode of understanding the world. Real life is not science fiction."
rebeccaonion  generationalthinking  generations  age  ageism  complexity  humans  society  adaptability  independence  history  individuals  neilhowe  williamstrauss  stereotypes  lifecourse  palmermuntz  sivavaidhyanathan  agesegregation  millenials  genx  generationx  generationy  erichoover  karlmannheimaugusteconte  gottfriedleibniz  normanryder  sociology  causality  robertwohl  pierrenora  bigotry  generationalwarfare  malcolmharris  digitalnatives  hypocrisy  via:ayjay 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Why (and How) I Wrote My Academic Book in Plain Text | W. Caleb McDaniel
"That only scratches the surface of what Pandoc can do. After learning a minimal amount of LaTeX, for example, I was able to turn a conference paper that looked like this in plain text into this formatted PDF suitable for depositing in my institutional repository. And the same plain text file was converted by Pandoc to the HTML version you can find on my webpage.

Learning to use Pandoc does take some time, to be sure. You can copy the plain text file I provided in the last paragraph and try it out yourself to see the kind of default output Pandoc produces. But my point here is that even its minimal functionality enables me to turn plain text files into *.docx files with relative ease. And only a little bit of reading and experimenting also enables me to distribute my academic work in a variety of formats. When sending my book manuscript to colleagues for review, for example, I was able to provide PDF, EPUB, or DOCX copies without changing the underlying plain text files at all. In short, I’m living proof that writing an academic book for history in plain text is possible. And having done it once, I’m not looking back."

[See also: http://text-patterns.thenewatlantis.com/2014/07/the-right-tools-for-job.html ]
markdown  text  writing  plaintext  pandoc  via:ayjay 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Seven Reasons We Hate Free-Range Parenting - Bloomberg View
"Danielle and Alexander Meitiv of Maryland want to raise their children as "free-range kids," which is to say giving them the kind of range of movement that those of us over 30 recall as a normal part of childhood. One of my cherished childhood memories is the long walks my best friend and I would take home from church through New York's Riverside Park, which Google Maps records as a distance of a mile and a half, stopping at every playground along the way. This is slightly longer than the walk home from the playground that caused Montgomery County's Child Protective Services to investigate the Meitivs last year, after someone called the police to report the alarming sight of ... children walking down the street alone. On Sunday, after another "good Samaritan" called the cops, CPS seized the children, leaving the parents frantic with worry for hours.

One could argue that this is a good lesson for the parents. One could also argue that it would be bracing to have the police periodically break into our homes to educate us about weak points in our security systems. In fact, the sort of abduction that CPS apparently wants the Meitivs to obsess over is incredibly rare and always has been.

Why has America gone lunatic on the subject of unattended children? Parents hover over their kids as if every step might be their last. If they don't hover, strangers do, calling the police to report any parent who leaves their child to run into the store for a few minutes. What's truly strange is that the parents who are doing this were themselves left to their own devices in cars, allowed to ride their bikes and walk to the store unsupervised, and otherwise given the (limited) freedom that they are now determined to deny their own kids. The police are making arrests that would have branded their own parents as criminals. To hear people my age talk about the dangers of unsupervised children, you would think that the attrition rate in our generation had been at least 30 percent.

Even people who haven't gone crazy are afraid of the Pediatric Patrol. A mom of my acquaintance whose house backs up to a school playground, with a gate that lets her children walk straight into the schoolyard, is afraid to let them go through the gate without an adult, for fear that someone would call the same nutty CPS that has taken to impounding the Meitiv children. She compromises by letting them play alone in the playground only when she is in the backyard, so that she can intervene if the police arrive.

Think about that: Kids have the priceless boon of a playground right in their backyard, but they can't use it unless Mom drops everything to accompany them. I am running out of synonyms for "insane" to describe the state we have worked ourselves into. What on earth has happened to us?

As it happened, I looked into that for my book, and the disappointing news is that I didn't find much good research to explain this mass shift in American parenting. I did, however, develop some theories from watching parents, law enforcement officials and others discuss the pros and cons of free-range parenting.

I should add a caveat: I don't have kids, so I lack an important perspective. And I should say that if I did have kids, I'm sure I too would be a safety paranoiac, making my own baby food from organic ingredients just in case pesticides in their unsweetened applesauce turn out to cause cancer. So I'm not blaming individual parents; this is a collective insanity, not a personal foible.

So how can we explain it?

1. Cable news. When you listen to parents talk about why they hover, you'll frequently hear that the world is more dangerous than it used to be. This is the exact opposite of the truth. The New York City where I walked to school, past housing projects with major crime problems and across busy streets, was much more dangerous than the New York of today. And that is true of virtually everywhere. The world is not more dangerous. But it feels more dangerous to a lot of people because the media landscape has shifted.

Think of it this way: There were always stranger abductions, but they were always extremely rare, perhaps 2 or 3 per 1 million children under 12 in the U.S. each year. However, in the 1970s, you most likely only heard about local cases, and because these were rare, you would hear about one every few years in a moderately large metropolitan area. This made it sound like what it is: an unimaginably terrible thing that thankfully almost never happens. Very occasionally, a case would catch the imagination and make national news, like the Lindbergh baby. But these almost always happened in big cities like New York, or to rich people, so people didn't imagine that this was a risk that faced them.

Then along came cable news, which needed to fill 24 hours a day with content. These sorts of cases started to make national news, and because our brains are terrible at statistics, we did not register this as "Aha, the overall rate is still low, but I am now hearing cases drawn from a much larger population, so I hear about more of them." Instead, it felt like stranger abductions must have gone up a lot.

The Internet also enables parents to share stories of every bad thing that happens to their children. We used to be limited to collecting these stories from people we actually met, which meant that we didn't hear a lot of truly terrible stories. Now we have thousands at the tips of our fingers, and the same failures of statistical intuition make it feel like wow, terrible things are happening all the time these days.

2. Economic insecurity. As college degrees, and particularly elite degrees, have become more valuable, parents have come to feel that they must micromanage their children's lives in order to make a good showing on college applications. The result is vastly more supervised activities. This has shrunk the pool of kids who are around to play with, making free-range childhood less rewarding.

3. Mothers working. In suburbs and small towns, stay-at-home moms formed "eyes on the street," so that even if your kid was roaming the neighborhood, there was a gentle adult eye periodically sweeping across their activity. But I don't think we can lean on this too much, because kids in cities also had a lot more independence back then, and the Broadway of my youth was not exactly a sweet, sheltered world where nothing much could go wrong.

There's another reason I think this matters, however. More mothers are paying others to take care of their children. It's easy to impose severe limits on the mobility of your children when you are not personally expected to provide 24-hour supervision. When I was a kid, there were a lot of mothers at home who believed that being home with kids was important but did not actually personally enjoy playing with 4-year-olds. Those parents would have rebelled at being told that they should never let their kids out of hearing range. Those mothers are now at work, paying someone else to enjoy playing with their 4-year-old or at least convincingly fake it.

4. Collective-action problems. When it comes to safety, overprotective parents are in effect taking out a sort of regret insurance. Every community has what you might call "generally accepted child-rearing practices," the parenting equivalent of "generally accepted accounting principles." These principles define what is good parenting and provide a sort of mental safe harbor in the event of an accident. If you do those things and your kid gets hurt -- well, you'll still wish that you'd asked them to stay home and help bake cookies, or lingered a little longer at the drugstore, or something so that they weren't around when the Bad Thing happened. But if you break them and your kid gets hurt, you -- and a lot of other people -- will feel that it happened because you were a bad parent. So you follow the GACP.

Over time, these rules get set by the most risk-averse parent in your social group, because if anything happens, you'll wish you had acted like them. This does not mean that the kids are actually safer: Parents in most places "shelter" their kids from risk by strapping them into cars and driving them to supervised activities, which is more dangerous than almost anything those kids could have gotten up to at home.

5. Lawsuits. In the U.S., the liability revolution of the 1970s has made every institution, from parks departments to schools, much more sensitive about even tiny risks, because when you go before the jury in a case about a hurt child, arguing that what happened was less likely than getting hit by a bolt of lightning is going to have much less impact than the evidence of a hurt child.

6. Mobile phones. All these strangers calling 911 to report a 6-year-old who has been left in a car outside a store for a few minutes are probably doing so because it's easy. If that person had to dig for a piece of paper and a pen to write the license plate down, then take time out of their day to find a pay phone, dial the police and stand around talking to the 911 operator, most would probably think "You know, I bet his mom is going to come out of the store in a minute, and I really need to get home to start dinner." Now you can just take a picture of the license plate and call from the comfort of your car. It would be surprising if we lowered the price of being an officious busybody and didn't get a lot more of it.

7. We're richer. Richer countries can afford more safety. That's a good thing, but there can be too much safety. There are major downsides to this form of parenting, as many authors have laid out: It's hard on the parents, may result in the kids developing more phobias, and stunts the creativity and self-reliance that we theoretically want to develop in children so that they can become happy and productive adults.

I don't think there's one easy answer to why we've become insane; rather, there are a lot of forces that are pushing in this direction. But that doesn't mean we can't push back. And a good start would be for … [more]
parenting  children  safety  meganmcardle  freedom  free-rangeparenting  2015  media  news  statistics  liability  litigiousness  law  legal  helicoperparents  helicopterparenting  labor  work  economics  insecurity  micromanagment  lawenforcement  childcare  overprotection  risk  riskassessment  risktaking  lawsuits  mobile  phones  wealth  cps  via:ayjay  helicopterparents 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Frank Bruni's Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be Review | The New Republic
"In fact, Bruni’s breezy anecdotes tend to reinforce the very assumption they ostensibly question: that prestige, power, and wealth are the major goals of education. He’s not asking his readers to examine a cultural obsession with success, so much as assuring them that they can still impress others without attending highly selective undergraduate institutions. Just look at all the people who run huge companies or work at prestigious consulting or law firms, he says. Not all of them went to Ivy League schools! There are “myriad routes to a corner office,” as he puts it. He never seriously considers the possibility that college might shape students into adults who are not interested in a corner office."



"Is influencing student motives beyond the mandate of education? The historian Jacques Barzun once described the business of education as merely “the liquidation of ignorance.” But an alternate tradition that runs from Aristotle to William Deresiewicz argues that it matters why students want to acquire knowledge in the first place. Using the mind as a means to acquire a corner office is very different from enjoying intellectual activity for its own sake. This is not a distinction irrelevant to the madness of college admissions. One girl described in Bruni’s book was so eager to assert a genuine love of the life of the mind that her college application essay depicted a time she urinated in her pants during a particularly interesting conversation with a teacher. Bruni is right to note the ridiculous desperation of the essay, but he fails to draw a deeper conclusion: that someone with a genuinely pure love of learning would probably not broadcast this love to colleges, and she would also not care about attending a prestigious school in the first place. For someone motivated by a love of learning, prestige is irrelevant at best and an annoying distraction at worst.

Most people think of education as a political issue, but it’s less common to hear talk of human flourishing or happiness as a pressing political concern. This Aristotelian perspective offers something far more valuable than Bruni’s self-serving reassurance that there are many routes to prestige and wealth—education as a vision of a kind of happiness that can be realized even in the absence of wealth and prestige. The only sort of rankings the college admissions process needs is one that recognizes a hierarchy of student motives, in which the love of learning for its own sake is supreme. For anyone with the right motives, the other rankings don’t matter.

If college brochures took their own rhetoric about falling in love with the life of the mind seriously, they would encourage students not to see their studies as purely instrumental. Career services programs love to boast that you can study German literature or philosophy and still get a job in consulting; but whether or not this is true misses the point. A school truly committed to the ideal of intellectual life would not treat philosophy as a means to higher LSAT scores. Students would learn to develop such a strong interest in a subject for its own sake that they no longer cared whether anyone else knew how much they loved the subject, at what institution they were studying it, or whether it would enhance their career prospects. The philosophy department’s slogan might be something like this: “Learn to become the kind of person who will never care about all the money you will not make by choosing this major.”"
via:ayjay  education  highered  highereducation  purpose  success  ivyleague  learning  williamderesiewicz  jacquesbarzun  lifeofthemind 
march 2015 by robertogreco
"The Riddle of the Apostle Islands" ORION, MAY/JUNE 2003
"And yet: the Apostle Islands also have a deep human history that has profoundly altered the "untouched" nature that visitors find here. The archipelago has been inhabited by Ojibwe peoples for centuries, and remains the spiritual homeland of the Red Cliff and Bad River Ojibwe bands whose reservations lie just across the water. Ojibwe people continue to gather wild foods here as they have done for centuries. The largest of the islands, Madeline, was the chief trading post on Lake Superior for French and native traders from the seventeenth century forward. Commercial fisheries have operated in these waters since the mid-nineteenth century, with small fishing stations scattered among the islands for processing the catch in all seasons. The islands saw a succession of economic activities ranging from logging to quarrying to farming. Most have been completely cut over at least once. The Apostles possess the largest surviving collection of nineteenth-century lighthouses anywhere in the United States. Finally, tourists have sought out the islands since the late nineteenth century, and they too have left marks ranging from lodges to cottages to docks to trails as evidence of the wilderness experience they came to find.

All of this would seem to call into question the common perception among visitors that the Apostles are "untouched," and might even raise doubts about whether the National Lakeshore should be legally designated as wilderness. But although most parts of these islands have been substantially altered by past human activities, they have also gradually been undergoing a process that James Feldman, an environmental historian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who is writing a book about the islands, has evocatively called "rewilding." The Apostles are thus a superb example of a wilderness in which natural and human histories are intimately intermingled. To acknowledge past human impacts upon these islands is not to call into question their wildness; it is rather to celebrate, along with the human past, the robust ability of wild nature to sustain itself when people give it the freedom it needs to flourish in their midst."
nature  wilderness  2003  naturalhistory  culture  wild  jamesfeldman  rewilding  history  humans  via:ayjay 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Wary About Wisdom | Easily Distracted
"It’s a familiar critique, and I endorse much of it. In part because I can imagine the classrooms and institutions that would follow these critiques. To me, much of what Davidson asks for can be done, and if done will show a greater and more effective fidelity to what many educators (and the wider society) already regard as the purposes of education, whether that’s the cultivation of humanity or teaching how to add. I have no trouble, in other words, arguing for the wholly conventional value of a substantially reimagined academy in these terms.

However, in any educational project that emphasizes the cultivation of humanity, at least, there is a difficult moment lying in wait. It’s fairly easy to demonstrate that specialized knowledge or skills are not present in people who have not received relevant training or education. When we talk about wisdom or ethics, however, I think it’s equally easy to demonstrate that people who have had no educational experiences at all, or education that did not emphasize wisdom and ethics, nevertheless possess great wisdom or ethical insight.

Arguably, our current educational systems at the very least are neutral in their production of wisdom, ethical insight, emotional intelligence and common sense. (Unless you mean that last in the Gramscian sense.) Davidson might well say at this point, “Exactly! Which is why we need a change.”

I can see what a learner-driven classroom looks like, or how we might rethink failure and assessment. I don’t know that I can see what an education that produces ethics and wisdom looks like such that I would be confident that it would produce people who were consistently more wise and more ethical than anyone without that education would be.

What I unfortunately can see is that setting out to make someone ethical or wise through directed learning might actually be counterproductive. Because to do so requires a prior notion of what an ethical, wise outcome looks like and thus creates the almost unavoidable temptation to demand a performative loyalty to that outcome rather than an inner, intersubjective incorporation of it.

If we thought instead about ethics and wisdom as rising out of experience and time, then that might attractively lead back towards the general reform of education towards projects, towards making and doing. However, if that’s yet another argument for some form of constructivist learning, then beware fixed goals. A classroom built around processes and experiences is a classroom that has to accept dramatically contingent outcomes. If we embrace Davidson’s new definition of the liberal arts, paradoxically, we have to embrace that one of its outcomes might be citizens whose ethics and wisdom are nothing like what we imagined those words contained before we began our teaching. We might also find it’s one thing to live up to an expectation of knowledgeability and another altogether to live up to an expectation of wisdom."
education  teaching  ehtics  howweteach  wisdom  2015  cathdavidson  timothyburke  liberalarts  constructivism  via:ayjay 
march 2015 by robertogreco
BULLSHIT JOBS | 'SEARCH TERMS'
"The answer clearly isn’t economic: it’s moral and political. The ruling class has figured out that a happy and productive population with free time on their hands is a mortal danger (think of what started to happen when this even began to be approximated in the ‘60s). And, on the other hand, the feeling that work is a moral value in itself, and that anyone not willing to submit themselves to some kind of intense work discipline for most of their waking hours deserves nothing, is extraordinarily convenient for them. Once, when contemplating the apparently endless growth of administrative responsibilities in British academic departments, I came up with one possible vision of hell. Hell is a collection of individuals who are spending the bulk of their time working on a task they don’t like and are not especially good at. Say they were hired because they were excellent cabinet-makers, and then discover they are expected to spend a great deal of their time frying fish. Neither does the task really need to be done – at least, there’s only a very limited number of fish that need to be fried. Yet somehow, they all become so obsessed with resentment at the thought that some of their co-workers might be spending more time making cabinets, and not doing their fair share of the fish-frying responsibilities, that before long there’s endless piles of useless badly cooked fish piling up all over the workshop and it’s all that anyone really does. I think this is actually a pretty accurate description of the moral dynamics of our own economy.

Now, I realise any such argument is going to run into immediate objections: “who are you to say what jobs are really ‘necessary’? What’s necessary anyway? You’re an anthropology professor, what’s the ‘need’ for that?” (And indeed a lot of tabloid readers would take the existence of my job as the very definition of wasteful social expenditure.) And on one level, this is obviously true. There can be no objective measure of social value. I would not presume to tell someone who is convinced they are making a meaningful contribution to the world that, really, they are not. But what about those people who are themselves convinced their jobs are meaningless? Not long ago I got back in touch with a school friend who I hadn’t seen since I was 12. I was amazed to discover that in the interim, he had become first a poet, then the front man in an indie rock band. I’d heard some of his songs on the radio having no idea the singer was someone I actually knew. He was obviously brilliant, innovative, and his work had unquestionably brightened and improved the lives of people all over the world. Yet, after a couple of unsuccessful albums, he’d lost his contract, and plagued with debts and a newborn daughter, ended up, as he put it, “taking the default choice of so many directionless folk: law school.” Now he’s a corporate lawyer working in a prominent New York firm. He was the first to admit that his job was utterly meaningless, contributed nothing to the world, and, in his own estimation, should not really exist.

There’s a lot of questions one could ask here, starting with, what does it say about our society that it seems to generate an extremely limited demand for talented poet-musicians, but an apparently infinite demand for specialists in corporate law? (Answer: if 1% of the population controls most of the disposable wealth, what we call “the market” reflects what they think is useful or important, not anybody else.) But even more, it shows that most people in these jobs are ultimately aware of it. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever met a corporate lawyer who didn’t think their job was bullshit. The same goes for almost all the new industries outlined above. There is a whole class of salaried professionals that, should you meet them at parties and admit that you do something that might be considered interesting (an anthropologist, for example), will want to avoid even discussing their line of work entirely. Give them a few drinks, and they will launch into tirades about how pointless and stupid their job really is. This is a profound psychological violence here. How can one even begin to speak of dignity in labour when one secretly feels one’s job should not exist? How can it not create a sense of deep rage and resentment. Yet it is the peculiar genius of our society that its rulers have figured out a way, as in the case of the fish-fryers, to ensure that rage is directed precisely against those who actually do get to do meaningful work. For instance: in our society, there seems a general rule that, the more obviously one’s work benefits other people, the less one is likely to be paid for it. Again, an objective measure is hard to find, but one easy way to get a sense is to ask: what would happen were this entire class of people to simply disappear? Say what you like about nurses, garbage collectors, or mechanics, it’s obvious that were they to vanish in a puff of smoke, the results would be immediate and catastrophic. A world without teachers or dock-workers would soon be in trouble, and even one without science fiction writers or ska musicians would clearly be a lesser place. It’s not entirely clear how humanity would suffer were all private equity CEOs, lobbyists, PR researchers, actuaries, telemarketers, bailiffs or legal consultants to similarly vanish. (Many suspect it might markedly improve.) Yet apart from a handful of well-touted exceptions (doctors), the rule holds surprisingly well."
bullshitjobs  via:ayjay  davidgraeber  economics  2015  idleness  productivity  labor  work  morality  discipline  socialvalue  capitalism  control  power  dignity  wageslavery 
january 2015 by robertogreco
If everyone’s an idiot, guess who’s a jerk? – Eric Schwitzgebel – Aeon
"Are you surrounded by fools? Are you the only reasonable person around? Then maybe you’re the one with the jerkitude"



"The opposite of the jerk is the sweetheart. The sweetheart sees others around him, even strangers, as individually distinctive people with valuable perspectives, whose desires and opinions, interests and goals are worthy of attention and respect. The sweetheart yields his place in line to the hurried shopper, stops to help the person who dropped her papers, calls an acquaintance with an embarrassed apology after having been unintentionally rude. In a debate, the sweetheart sees how he might be wrong and the other person right.

The moral and emotional failure of the jerk is obvious. The intellectual failure is obvious, too: no one is as right about everything as the jerk thinks he is. He would learn by listening. And one of the things he might learn is the true scope of his jerkitude – a fact about which, as I will explain shortly, the all-out jerk is inevitably ignorant. Which brings me to the other great benefit of a theory of jerks: it might help you figure out if you yourself are one."



"How can you know your own moral character? You can try a label on for size: ‘lazy’, ‘jerk’, ‘unreliable’ – is that really me? As the work of Vazire and other personality psychologists suggests, this might not be a very illuminating approach. More effective, I suspect, is to shift from first-person reflection (what am I like?) to second-person description (tell me, what am I like?). Instead of introspection, try listening. Ideally, you will have a few people in your life who know you intimately, have integrity, and are concerned about your character. They can frankly and lovingly hold your flaws up to the light and insist that you look at them. Give them the space to do this, and prepare to be disappointed in yourself.

Done well enough, this second-person approach could work fairly well for traits such as laziness and unreliability, especially if their scope is restricted: laziness-about-X, unreliability-about-Y. But as I suggested above, jerkitude is not so tractable, since if one is far enough gone, one can’t listen in the right way. Your critics are fools, at least on this particular topic (their critique of you). They can’t appreciate your perspective, you think – though really it’s that you can’t appreciate theirs.

To discover one’s degree of jerkitude, the best approach might be neither (first-person) direct reflection upon yourself nor (second-person) conversation with intimate critics, but rather something more third-person: looking in general at other people. Everywhere you turn, are you surrounded by fools, by boring nonentities, by faceless masses and foes and suckers and, indeed, jerks? Are you the only competent, reasonable person to be found? In other words, how familiar was the vision of the world I described at the beginning of this essay?

If your self-rationalising defences are low enough to feel a little pang of shame at the familiarity of that vision of the world, then you probably aren’t pure diamond-grade jerk. But who is? We’re all somewhere in the middle. That’s what makes the jerk’s vision of the world so instantly recognisable. It’s our own vision. But, thankfully, only sometimes."
listening  knowitalls  via:ayjay  2014  jerks  ericschwitzgebel  behavior  morality  ethics  openmindedness  integrity  laziness  unreliability 
january 2015 by robertogreco
The Charlie Hebdo attacks show that not all blasphemies are equal
"After the murder of Charlie Hebdo's cartoonists, pundits have tried to suss out where blasphemy fits into the social life of the West. Is it a necessary project for shocking Bronze Age fanatics into modernity? Is it a way of defending a free-wheeling liberal culture from the censorship of violent men? Or is it abusively uncivil? When directed at a minority religion, is it racist? Is it an abuse of freedom of speech, the equivalent of a constant harassment that invites a punch in the nose?

We have been told that Charlie Hebdo is an "equal opportunity offender." And in one sense that is obviously true. It drew unflattering pictures of Jesus, of Jews, and of the Prophet Muhammad. The spirit of the magazine was anarchic, atheistic, and left-wing. As Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry points out, it was a very French thing, anti-clerical and Rabelaisian.

But not all blasphemies are equal, because religions are not analogous. A gesture aimed at one can cause an eruption of outrage, but when offered to another it produces a shrug. The intensity of reaction may be determined by the religion's comfort with modernity, or by the history of its adherents. Western Christians are raised in pluralist, tolerant, and diverse cultures, and in powerful nations. Muslims experience the bad side of discrimination as immigrants, and come from cultures that have been humiliated by colonialism, autocracy, and Western incursion. But that doesn't explain all of it.

Pissing on a Bible is similar to pissing on a Koran only as a chemical reaction of urea and pulp. As gestures of desecration they mean entirely different things. The challah bread eaten in Jewish homes on the Sabbath and the Catholic Eucharist both have a symbolic relation to the manna from heaven in the book of Exodus, but trampling on one is not the same as the other, and would inspire very different reactions. Likewise, Charlie Hebdo's images are offered from an anarchic and particularly French anti-clerical spirit, but they are received entirely differently as blasphemies by Christianity and Islam.

After the Charlie Hebdo massacre, I tried to think of what kind of blasphemy aimed at my own faith would bring out illiberal reactions in me. The infamous Piss Christ of Andres Serrano barely raises my pulse. Although the pictured crucifix reminds me of one I would kiss in worship on Good Friday, I agree with the artist Maureen Mullarkey that it is trivially easy to avoid taking the publicity-and-money-and-status-generating offense it so desperately sought.

But a Black Mass — a satanic parody of the Catholic Mass, in which a consecrated host stolen from a Catholic Church is ritually desecrated — would touch something else in me. I followed the news about proposed Black Masses at Harvard and Oklahoma City intensely in 2014. I monitored the reactions of local bishops. And I thought more highly of Tulsa's Bishop Slattery for his tougher posture. I admired even more the renegade Traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, which organized a march and produced a beautiful video explaining the offense of a Black Mass, and why Catholics would seek to make reparation before God for the offense given by others.

Freddie deBoer says that those defending the practice of blasphemy are arguing against a shadow and doing brave poses against a null threat: "None of them think that, in response to this attack, we or France or any other industrialized nation is going to pass a bill declaring criticism of Islam illegal."

Not only does this ignore the chilling effect violence has on free speech, it is also just wrong. In 2006, the British government of Tony Blair asked for a vote on a law "against incitement to religious hatred." It was a law whose political support came overwhelmingly from Muslims.

Labour MP Khalid Mahmood argued that one of the virtues of the law was that it would have allowed the government to edit Salman Rushdie's work. Luckily, the House of Lords insisted on a revision that would exempt "discussion, criticism, or expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule, insult, or abuse of particular religions or the beliefs or practices of their adherents" from the law, rendering it toothless.

But if I thought about it, I understood the MP's reaction. He hoped that a law against incitement could function as a de facto blasphemy law. I hoped last year that laws against the petty theft of "bread" from a Church could be enforced to prevent the Black Masses.

It often seems the debate over the value of blasphemy is determined by what people fear the most. Do they fear the growth of an Islamic sub-culture within the West that threatens the gains of secularism, religious toleration, feminism, and gay rights? Then blast away. Or do they fear that the majority culture, like Western imperialism itself, is driving Muslims into poverty, despair, and a cultural isolation that encourages fundamentalism? Well, then be careful, circumspect, and polite.

Last week, I suggested that Europe's secularism was aimed at Christianity, and that in some respects secularism was a kind of genetic mutation within the body of Christendom. Charlie Hebdo's kind of blasphemy was a Christian kind of blasphemy. Christianity makes icons, and Hebdo draws mustaches and testicles across them. It pokes at the pretension of religious leaders. This is a kind of blasphemy that Matt Taibbi identifies with "our way of life."

But what if drawing a cartoon of Muhammad is not, theologically speaking, like drawing a parody of Jesus? What if it is more like desecrating the Eucharist, something I think Charlie Hebdo's editors would never do?

Obviously there are debates within Islam about what God demands from believers, unbelievers, and earthly authorities. Just as there are debates about what the Eucharist is within Christianity. And, yes, sometimes state pressure can effect a religious revolution. (Look to the Mormon church and the United States). But Western pressure seems to push Muslims away from liberality.

Fazlur Rahman and other Islamic scholars point out that when Islam was an ascendant and powerful world force it often found the intellectual resources to "Islamicize" the philosophies and cultures it encountered outside its Arabian cradle. But once Islam was humiliated and reduced on the geopolitical stage, these more daring and expansive medieval projects were abandoned. Other modernizing and liberal efforts of jurists like Muhammad Abduh have proven unpopular. Instead, the great modernist projects of Wahhabist and Salafist fundamentalism is what colors movements from the Taliban to the Islamic State.

When Westerners read the editorial from radical cleric Anjem Choudary, they are tempted to think he is stupid for asking why "why in this case did the French government allow the magazine Charlie Hebdo to continue to provoke Muslims...?"

"That's not how it works here," we want to reply. But Choudary's view that the state authority is responsible for the moral and spiritual condition of the nation is quintessentially Islamic. It is a reflection of the fact that Islam's great debates are centered on jurisprudence, on the right order of the ummah. This is very different from Christianity where the primary debates center around orthodox faith and morals withing the Church. In an odd way, Choudary's complaint against France is a sign of assimilation. He expects France to assimilate to this vision of Islam. He offers France's leaders the same complaint radical Muslim reformers always offer to lax Sultans and Caliphs.

To ask Muslims to respond peacefully to Charlie Hebdo's provocations makes absolute sense to me, because I want to continue to live by the norms set by a detente between secularism and Christian churches. I suspect many (perhaps most) Muslims want the same. But those Muslims who are faithful to a religious tradition concerned primarily with restoring fidelity to sources from the first three centuries of Islam were not a party to the secularist bargain. And we ought to be aware that we are asking them to live as Christians, and to be insulted like them, too."
michaelbrendandougherty  #JeSuisCharlieHebdo  #JeSuisCharlie  charliehebdo  freedom  freespeech  2015  france  religion  freedomofspeech  racism  islamophobia  extremism  journalism  christianity  andresserrano  maureenmullakey  blackmass  freddiedeboer  blasphemy  islam  khalidmahmood  salmanrushdie  via:ayjay  secularism  fundamentalism  fazlurrahman  anjemchoudary  jurisprudence  assimilation  matttaibbi 
january 2015 by robertogreco
CommentPress: A WordPress plugin for social texts in social contexts
"CommentPress is an open source theme and plugin for the WordPress blogging engine that allows readers to comment paragraph-by-paragraph, line-by-line or block-by-block in the margins of a text. Annotate, gloss, workshop, debate: with CommentPress you can do all of these things on a finer-grained level, turning a document into a conversation. It can be applied to a fixed document (paper/essay/book etc.) or to a running blog. Use it in combination with multisite, BuddyPress and BuddyPress Groupblog to create communities around your documents."

[via: http://blog.ayjay.org/uncategorized/assignment-commentary-and-anthology/ and
http://blog.ayjay.org/uncategorized/more-about-my-new-writing-assignment/ ]
wordpress  plugins  publishing  social  socialtexts  buddypress  via:ayjay  classideas  writing  commenting  text  bookfuturism  groupblogs  groupblog  annotation  gloss  onlinetoolkit  themes  commentpress 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Eric Metaxas: Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God - WSJ
"The fine-tuning necessary for life to exist on a planet is nothing compared with the fine-tuning required for the universe to exist at all. For example, astrophysicists now know that the values of the four fundamental forces—gravity, the electromagnetic force, and the “strong” and “weak” nuclear forces—were determined less than one millionth of a second after the big bang. Alter any one value and the universe could not exist. For instance, if the ratio between the nuclear strong force and the electromagnetic force had been off by the tiniest fraction of the tiniest fraction—by even one part in 100,000,000,000,000,000—then no stars could have ever formed at all. Feel free to gulp. Multiply that single parameter by all the other necessary conditions, and the odds against the universe existing are so heart-stoppingly astronomical that the notion that it all “just happened” defies common sense. It would be like tossing a coin and having it come up heads 10 quintillion times in a row."
science  religion  god  physics  ericmetaxas  universe  via:ayjay 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Liberalism and its discontents – Zizek
"Here we encounter the basic paradox of liberalism. An anti-ideological and anti-utopian stance is inscribed into the very heart of the liberal vision: liberalism conceives itself as a “politics of lesser evil,” its ambition is to bring about the “least evil society possible,” thus preventing greater evil, since it considers any attempt directly to impose a positive Good as the ultimate source of all evil.

Winston Churchill’s quip about democracy being the worst of all political systems, with the exception of all the other, holds even better for liberalism. Such a view is sustained by a profound pessimism about human nature: man is egotistic and envious animal, if one builds a political system which appeals to his goodness and altruism, the result will be the worst kind terror (recall that both Jacobins and Stalinists presupposed human virtue).

The liberal critique of the “tyranny of the Good” comes at a price: the more its program permeates society, the more it turns into its opposite. The claim to want nothing but the lesser evil, once asserted as the principle of the new global order, gradually takes on the very features of the enemy it claims to oppose. In fact, the global liberal order clearly presents itself as the best of all possible worlds: its modest rejection of utopias ends with imposing its own market-liberal utopia which will become reality when we subject ourselves to the mechanisms of the market and universal human rights."
politics  liberalism  zizek  2012  winstonchurchill  democracy  evil  society  humannature  tyrannyofthegood  goodness  altruism  jacobins  stalinists  virtue  humans  humanvirtue  utopia  anti-utopianism  pessimism  humanrights  capitalism  via:ayjay 
december 2014 by robertogreco
schreiberstein/lucidagrandeyosemite · GitHub
"An Automator/Apple-script to use 'Lucida Grande' as system font on OS X Yosemite. See http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1768362#22 for detail. Font patch created by vista980622, http://forums.macrumors.com/member.php?u=724241

Tested on OS X Yosemite Public Beta 2 and its public update "Developer Preview 7 (14A361p)"
osx  yosemite  fonts  lucidagrande  mac  via:ayjay 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Children Who Never Play | Michael J. Lewis | First Things
"Students in my history of architecture course are amused to discover that the final exam offers a choice of questions. Some are bone dry (“discuss the development of the monumental staircase from the Renaissance to the nineteenth century, citing examples”) and others deliberately open-ended (“General Meade overslept at Gettysburg and the South has won the Civil War; you are commissioner for the new national capital and must tell us which architects you will choose and what instructions you will give them.”) In offering this whimsical range of options, I do nothing original; my own professors at Haverford College did much the same in their day.

But a peculiar thing has happened. When I began teaching twenty-five years ago, almost all students would answer the imaginative question but year in, year out, their numbers dwindled, until almost all now take the dry and dutiful one. Baffled, I tried varying the questions but still the pattern held: Given the choice, each successive cohort preferred to recite tangible facts rather than to arrange them in a speculative and potentially risky structure. In other respects, today’s students are stronger than their predecessors; they are conspicuously more socialized, more personally obliging, and considerably more self-disciplined. To teach them is a joy, but they will risk nothing, not even for one facetious question on a minor exam.

I am hardly the only one to notice the risk-avoidance. William Deresiewicz gave a harrowing account of the problem in a widely noted New Republic essay with the incendiary title “Don’t Send Your Kids to the Ivy League.”
So extreme are the admission standards now that kids who manage to get into elite colleges have, by definition, never experienced anything but success. The prospect of not being successful terrifies them, disorients them. The cost of falling short, even temporarily, becomes not merely practical, but existential. The result is a violent aversion to risk. You have no margin for error, so you avoid the possibility that you will ever make an error.
Deresiewicz’s analysis begins with the college admissions process itself but says little about the habits and behavior patterns that these students acquired on the way to college, in early childhood. For some reason, my students were viewing playful questions as inherently risky, as if by collective instinct. Was it possible that they never learned to play in the first place?


Now if one goes by the strict dictionary definition of play as “to occupy oneself in amusement,” these young men and women have played a great deal indeed. But while thirty minutes in front of television or atop the elliptical trainer may be recreation or entertainment, it is not play. Certainly not that special kind of play that is the gleeful anarchy of children left to their own devices. This summer a woman was arrested in South Carolina on the charge of letting her nine-year-old daughter play unsupervised, something incomprehensible to those born in the 1950s or 1960s. For us, unsupervised play constituted the entirety of our childhood. Launched from the house and banished till mealtime, we roamed our allotted territory, from this house to that driveway, and not a step farther (fifty years later the electric charge of those invisible barriers still tingles). Each year the boundaries would expand, but even in the nutshell of six front yards, the child was a king of infinite space, with room aplenty for tag, hide and go seek, or relieveo.

In the last generation this sort of free and unsupervised play lost ground, along with those institutions that sustained it: platoon-sized families, stay-at-home moms, and multiple “eyes on the street.” Its place has been taken by the play date, negotiated in advance with the kind of deliberation required by the marriage of a Hapsburg and a Tudor. No longer the posse of shrieking kids, hurtling around the block, but instead the purposefully organized activities of contemporary childhood: tee-ball and soccer camp, swim class and 5k runs—the interstices filled with the distractions of the DVD and Nintendo 3DS.

For children who know only supervised play, there is no conflict that is not resolved by an adult. One never learns to negotiate and resolve conflicts with one’s peers. This was not always an amiable or tear-free process; playground justice was just as harsh and swift as medieval justice. But it was justice, and even that most brutal aspect of playground life in the 1960s, the afterschool fistfight, was regulated by the standing circle of classmates who yelled out encouragement or insults, and who stopped the proceedings when it went too far. In all of this was a restless testing of the limits of freedom, with little feints and modest rebellions. These often ended unhappily, especially when the offending instrument was a stick, stone, or pack of matches, but here were those first lessons in overstepping the bounds that seem essential for the development of an individual conscience.

More and more, parents feel obliged to steer their children toward those activities that might have a future payoff, already thinking ahead to that harrowing ivy league gauntlet that Deresiewicz describes. Such is the instrumental view, play as a means to an end and not an end in itself. But as any cultivator of plants knows, to promote one trait can cause others inadvertently to atrophy. One thinks of the modern tomato, indestructible yet flavorless, or the modern rose, exquisite and almost completely devoid of scent. And the process of producing the well-socialized, well-tempered contemporary child has inadvertently blunted some of those qualities that can only be acquired, as it were, when no one is looking. Chief of these is initiative—the capacity to size up a situation and take quick decisive action. Only those children who play under minimal supervision—“free range kids” in the happy phrase of Lenore Skenazy—get the chance to develop this sense of dash or pluck. They do this in the process of deciding what to play, establishing the rules, choosing sides, and resolving the inevitable dispute. In short, by acting as miniature citizens with autonomy rather than as passive subjects to be directed.

There is an extraordinary scene in Abel Gance’s 1927 silent classic Napoléon, which shows the future emperor as a ten-year-old schoolboy. Persecuted by older boys, Napoléon organizes an epic snowball fight and leads his small group to victory over a much larger party. In all of cinema there is no more spirited depiction of childhood play, and the moment of joyous discovery of skills and capabilities—in this case independent leadership—that will form the indispensable toolkit of the adult to follow."
2014  via:ayjay  michaeljlewis  williamderesiewicz  autonomy  creativity  play  imagination  conformity  unstructured  lenoreskenazy  risk  risktaking  innovation  behavior  freedom  childhood  parenting  education  schools  schooliness  schooling  highered  highereducation 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Gay Marriage Vs. the First Amendment - The Daily Beast
"To begin with, the First Amendment is flagrantly biased in favor of religion. As we all know, it requires Congress not to make any law “prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” What this means in practice is profound: If the beliefs you are exercising are not religious, your freedom to exercise them is not as protected by the Constitution as religious beliefs. If you like to trip on peyote because it is fun for you, or because you believe it makes you a better person, you will not receive the same legal protection as someone who trips on peyote because it is an integral part of long-standing religious beliefs to which they subscribe.

For irreligious people, this is a potential outrage of the first order. How dare the government extend special protections to religions for no better reason than that they are religions?

But for civil libertarians, whatever their degree of faith, there is cause for anxiety as well. The First Amendment implicitly requires government itself to make official determinations about what is and what isn’t a religion. No matter how necessary that may be to our constitutional framework, there is always a possibility for abuse, and in times of intense culture war, that possibility is magnified.

Unfortunately, the problem is even worse than that. The First Amendment is also biased against religion in an unexpected way. As we are all familiar, Congress “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Sorry, theocrats! But think more deeply: Congress could make all kinds of laws that aggressively establish an ideology that is not a religion."
politics  religion  jamespoulos  2014  freedom  us  constitution  rights  freedomofreligion  firstamendment  government  fait  belief  via:ayjay  marriageequality 
august 2014 by robertogreco
The ‘Libertarian Moment’ Is Really An Individualist Moment
"What we can call the utopian eugenics of our time inevitably has “statist” implications. If it becomes possible, for example, to upgrade physically and cognitively human embryos through medical technology to make their lives much longer and safer, we really won’t be able to allow people to choose against that upgrade for their children. It, of course, will require separating the sexual act from reproduction; embryos will have to be implanted into natural or artificial wombs. Mormons and Catholics might want to continue to have sex the old-fashioned way and hope and pray for the best. That won’t be allowed. All those dumb and diseased Mormons running around would be a nasty and easily avoidable risk factor for us all. Today, people claim to be pro-choice on abortion for health and safety, but their opponents, say, rightly that there’s a contradiction between choosing for health but against life. Soon enough, maybe, choice will disappear for the same reason, for what will be a genuinely coercive culture of life. When I called this possibility to the attention of the libertarian sort-of transhumanist Ronald Bailey, his response was that, well, no reasonable person would choose not to be enhanced with security in mind."



"Surely we have to conclude that lots of libertarians, from today’s pampered young to the high theorists of economics and Silicon Valley, have security issues that keep them from embracing unreservedly the freedom given to each of us by God and/or nature as beings born to know, love, and die. Because the Mormons (for example) are so confident that the security of their personal beings is not in their own hands, they have what it takes to be firmer libertarians for more practical purposes. They’re not about to surrender authentic sexual freedom with the unprecedented maximization of health and safety in mind.

Too many libertarians are indifferent to the effects technological progress has on our relational lives. Indefinite longevity surely would destroy the relationships between generations, continue exponentially our creepy trend toward a world without children, and make lifelong marriage just about impossible. But it still, on behalf of the individual, can seem to be a choice worth making.

Our hyper-technophiles also celebrate the screen on all our smart devices as quite the democratic achievement. Virtually all Americans get to see the same virtual stuff—from great texts to great games to great porn—on the screen. I’ll leave it to you to add all the obvious costs the screen has had to our personal lives, to our ability to be together in love in the present and to be serenely alone with our thoughts in our disconnected rooms. Those who use libertarian means for non-libertarian ends, of course, are becoming increasingly adept in judiciously employing the screen by subordinating the techno-“how” to humanly worthy, deeply relational “whys.”

What we sometimes called libertarianism might better be called non-foundationalism. There’s no foundation for thinking that anything trumps the imperative of keeping the people alive right now as secure and as free as possible. The trouble with foundations—such as God or Nature or History or ideology or nation—is that they get people killed for no good reason. So today we just say that everyone has “human rights,” and nobody has to or should try to explain why.

It’s All About Me

Libertarianism so understood might better be called “individualism.” Individualism, Tocqueville explains, is the mistaken judgment that love and hate are both more trouble than their worth and turn each of us into suckers. So my relationships with others should be carefully calculated, based as much as possible on contract and consent. I go wrong when I think of myself as part of a whole greater than myself—as a citizen or a creature or even a member of a family. All such thinking is “collectivism,” which diverts me from the truth that the individual—me—is the bottom line. Liberty, in this view, is a kind of intellectual liberty that separates clear thinking from relational deception. It’s a kind of liberty that easily makes the individual obsessed with the contingency of his being, and, Tocqueville predicts, all too ready to surrender liberty for the security of “soft despotism.”

All the confusion we have with trying to figure out why our libertarian convergence is so selective when it comes from libertarian principle dissolves when we think of individualism as the self-understanding on the march in our time. Maybe one piece of good news is that the selective statism of most of our young isn’t to be confused with socialism. Socialism is a kind of civic devotion to a national or international community progressing in egalitarian solidarity through the cooperative efforts of government. Nobody these days can believe that people once died for socialism or Communism, and for our young the point of statism is to spare the individual from self-sacrifice or personal discomfort. Hardly anyone these days thinks of himself as ennobled by being part of the whole called History moving toward an earthly paradise. No individual will allow himself or herself to be regarded as mere “History fodder.” In the absence of any faith in God and History, I’m stuck with myself. And nothing is more securitarian than the thought that when I disappear, being itself is extinguished.

Another piece of good news is that our young aren’t fascists, either, thinking of themselves as part of some racial or national whole. They don’t even think of themselves as citizens ready, if need be, to be citizen soldiers. We can conclude by wondering whether even libertarian or securitarian concerns can be addressed adequately in the absence of citizenship, to say nothing about those connected with genuine self-government. Our hope remains with those who counterculturally work to deploy libertarian means for non-libertarian ends, with those with enough experience of personal love (and, yes, often hate) not to make the misjudgment of individualism or wallow in self-obsession. These days especially, citizenship depends on the prior experience of being a creature, being a “localist,” and being embedded in a fairly loving and functional family."
futurism  ethics  health  2014individualism  libertarianism  libertarians  security  religion  sexuality  peterlawler  toqueville  safety  ronaldbailey  securitarianism  freedom  individuality  via:ayjay 
august 2014 by robertogreco
The Common Core Commotion
"We can assume that if Goals 2000 or NCLB or any of the other reform programs had been effective, the reformers could congratulate themselves for a job well done and go off to find another line of work. They haven’t, which brings us to the third reason that educational reform is an enterprise without end. 

It has to do with the old rule that supply creates its own demand. Over the last two generations, as the problem became unignorable and as vast freshets of money poured from governments and nonprofit foundations, an army of experts emerged to fix America’s schools. From trade unions and think tanks they came, from graduate schools of education and nonprofit foundations, from state education departments and for-profit corporations, from legislative offices and university psych labs and model schools and experimental classrooms, trailing spreadsheets and PowerPoints and grant proposals; they found work as lobbyists, statisticians, developmental psychologists, neurological researchers, education theorists, entrepreneurs, administrators, marketers, think tank fellows, textbook writers—even teachers! So great a mass of specialists cannot be kept idle. If they find themselves with nothing to do, they will find something to do. 

And so, after 40 years of signal failure, the educationists have brought us the Common Core State Standards. It is a totemic example of policy-making in the age of the well-funded expert."



"The foundation’s generosity seems indiscriminate, reflecting the milky centrism of its founder. Evidently Bill Gates doesn’t have a political bone in his body. His intellectual loyalty lies instead with the ideology of expertise. His faith is technocratic and materialist: In the end he believes the ability of highly credentialed observers to identify and solve problems through the social sciences is theoretically limitless. “Studies” and “research” unlock the human secret. This is the animating faith of most educationists, too. All human interactions can be dispassionately observed and their separate parts identified, isolated, analyzed, and quantified according to some version of the scientific method. The resulting data will yield reliable information about how and why we behave as we do, and from this process can be derived formulas that will be universally applicable and repeatable.

“One size fits all” may be a term of mockery used by people who disdain the top-down solutions of centralized power; in the technocratic vision, “one size fits all” describes the ideal.

A good illustration of the Gates technocratic approach to education reform is an initiative called “Measures of Effective Teaching” or MET. (DUH.) The effectiveness of a truly gifted teacher was once considered mysterious or ineffable, a personal transaction rooted in intuition, concern, intelligence, wisdom, knowledge, and professional ardor, combined in a way that defies precise description or replication. Such an old-fashioned notion is an affront to the technocratic mind, which assumes no human phenomenon can be, at bottom, mysterious; nothing is resistant to reduction and measurement. “Eff the Ineffable” is the technocrat’s motto."



"Exciting as it undoubtedly is for the educationist, MET research tells us nothing about how to improve the world that students and teachers inhabit. It is an exercise by educationists for educationists to ponder and argue over. Three hundred and thirty five million dollars can keep a lot of them busy."



"In the confusion between content and learning, the Standards often show the telltale verbal inflation that educationists use to make a simple idea complicated. The Standards for Reading offer a typical example. They come in groups of three—making a wonderful, if suspicious, symmetry. Unfortunately, many of the triplets are essentially identical. According to the rubric Key Ideas and Details, a student should “read closely to determine what the text says explicitly.” Where one standard says the student must be able to “analyze the development of central ideas,” the next standard says the student should be able to “analyze” “how ideas develop.” One “key detail” is to “learn details.” Under Craft and Structure, the student should be able to “analyze” how “portions of text” “relate to each other or the whole.” Another says he “should cite specific textual evidence” and still another that he should “summarize the key supporting details.” All of this collapses into a single unwritten standard: “Learn to read with care and to explain what you’ve read.” But no educationist would be so simple-minded.

There are standards only an educationist could love, or understand. It took me a while to realize that “scaffolding” is an ed-school term for “help.” Associate is another recurring term of art with a flexible meaning, from spell to match, as when third graders are expected to “associate the long and short sounds with the common spellings (graphemes) for the five major vowels.” This seems like students are being asked to spell vowels, but that can’t be right, can it? And when state and local teachers have to embody such confusing standards in classroom exercises, you’re likely to wind up with more confusion."



"THE RISE OF THE RIGHT

Most of the criticism of the Standards has come from the populist right, and the revolt of conservative parents against the pet project of a national educationist elite is genuine, spontaneous, and probably inevitable. But if you move beyond the clouds of jargon, and the compulsory gestures toward “critical thinking” and “metacognitive skills,” you will begin to spy something more interesting. There’s much in the Standards to reassure an educational traditionalist—a vein of subversion. At several points, Common Core is clearly intended as a stay against the runaway enthusiasms of educationist dogma.

The Standards insist schools’ (unspecified) curriculums be “content-rich”—meaning that they should teach something rather than nothing. They even go so far as to require students to read Shakespeare, the Preamble and First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and works of Greek mythology. Phonics is the chief means of teaching reading in Common Core, rejecting the notorious “whole language” method first taken up in the 1970s and—research shows!—a likely culprit in the decline in reading scores. The Standards discourage the use of calculators, particularly in early grades where it has become a popular substitute for acquiring basic math. The Standards require memorization of multiplication tables as an important step in learning arithmetic, striking a blow against “fuzzy math.” Faddish notions like “visual literacy” are nowhere to be found.

Perhaps most impressively, at least in language arts, the Standards require students to read and write ever larger amounts of nonfiction as they move toward their high school diploma. Anyone familiar with the soupy “young adult” novels fed to middle- and high-school students should be delighted. Writing assignments, in tandem with more rigorous reading, move away from mere self-expression—commonly the focus of writing all the way through high school—to the accumulation of evidence and detail in the service of arguments. The architect of the Language Arts Standards, an educationist called David Coleman, explained this shift in a speech in 2011. He lamented that the most common form of writing in high school these days is “personal writing.”

It is either the exposition of a personal opinion or it is the presentation of a personal matter. The only problem, forgive me for saying this so bluntly, the only problem with those two forms of writing is as you grow up in this world you realize people really don’t give a shit about what you feel or what you think.

Now, it is hard to imagine a more traditionalist sentiment than that. Yet conservative Common Core activists single out Coleman as a particularly sinister adversary, perhaps for his potty mouth. The populist campaign against the Standards has been scattershot: Sometimes they are criticized for being unrealistically demanding, at other times for being too soft. Even Common Core’s insistence on making the Constitution part of any sound curriculum has been attacked as insidious. Recall that students will be required to read only the Preamble and the First Amendment. That is, they will stop reading before they reach the Second Amendment and the guarantee of gun rights.

Coincidence? Many activists think not. "



"Conservative hostility to the Common Core is also entangled with hostility to President Obama and his administration. Joy Pullman, an editor and writer who is perhaps the most eloquent and responsible public critic of Common Core, wrote recently in thefederalist.com: “I wager that 90 percent of the debate over Common Core would instantly dissipate if states adopted the top-rated standards from, say, Massachusetts or Indiana and dropped the Obama administration tests.”

While the personal hostility to Obama might be overwrought, the administration’s campaign on behalf of the Standards has borne all the marks of the president’s other efforts at national persuasion."



"THUNDER ON THE LEFT

The administration’s bullying and dishonesty might be reason enough to reject the Standards. The campaign has even begun to worry its natural allies, who are losing trust in assurances that the Common Core is an advance for progressive education. Educationists on the leftward edge point to its insistence that teachers be judged on how much their students learn. This bears an unappealing resemblance to NCLB requirements, and they worry it will inject high-pressure competition into the collegial environment that most educationists prefer. Worse, it could be a Trojan horse for a reactionary agenda, a return to the long-ago era when students really had to, you know, learn stuff.

“The purpose of education,” says … [more]
education  reform  edreform  anationatrisk  nclb  georgewbush  georgehwbush  ronaldreagan  barackobama  jimmycarter  money  policy  experts  commoncore  curriclum  2014  andrewferguson  via:ayjay  1990  2000  1979  departmentofeducation  edwardkennedy  tedkennedy  goals2000  1983  gatesfoundation  billgates  arneduncan  bureaucracy  markets  aft  nonprofits  centralization  standards  schools  publicschools  us  ideology  politics  technocracy  credentialism  teaching  howweteach  measurement  rankings  testing  standardizedtesting  abstraction  nonprofit 
july 2014 by robertogreco
The Benjamin Franklin Effect: The Surprising Psychology of How to Handle Haters | Brain Pickings
"In sum, we are excellent at deluding ourselves, and terrible in recognizing when our own perceptions, attitudes, impressions, and opinions about the external world are altered from within. And one of the most remarkable of manifestations of this is the Benjamin Franklin Effect, which McRaney examines in the third chapter. The self-delusion in question is that we do nice things to people we like and bad things to those we dislike. But what the psychology behind the effect reveals is quite the opposite, a reverse-engineering of attitudes that takes place as we grow to like people for whom we do nice things and dislike those to whom we are unkind."
ethics  benjaminfanklin  behavior  bias  kindness  preference  preferentialtreatment  psychology  benjaminfranklineffect  haters  attitudes  self-delusion  via:ayjay 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Paper Pushers - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education
"For example, one might think that the proliferation of office jobs signals the achievement of a middle-class society, the white collar having long been a sign of respectability—and yet this is a time when the ground of middle-class stability is widely seen to be eroding, and when the average white-collar job earns you not much more, and often less, than a place on an automobile assembly line. Workplaces supposedly filled with "knowledge workers," with more potential control over their work, have not become more democratic or equal ones: Bosses fire workers, and more of them at once, with more impunity than ever before; the ones who don’t get fired are temps or contractors, who enjoy even less in the way of security. If the paradigmatic midcentury white-collar novel was The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, in which one of the central struggles was whether the protagonist could successfully rezone his enormous inherited property, meant for four houses, into a suburban development for 80 houses (spoiler: he succeeds), the defining work of our era has been Mike Judge’s Office Space, a movie in which arbitrary layoffs, mindless work in gray cubicles, and desires for revenge and sabotage curdle the "middle class" atmosphere.

In the face of this onslaught, it has been hard to see the response of white-collar workers as anything but passive. No organizations fight against the culture of layoffs, at the same time that the social safety net has been allowed to erode. In academe, temporary work by adjunct professors is simply accepted as the new normal in a violently unstable "job market" (truly one of the more mealy-mouthed and ideological phrases of our time). The Occupy movement represented an exhilarating moment of political visibility for declassed white-collar workers, allied as they were with unions and other institutions of the even more embattled working class. One can only hope that the repression that the police visited on the movement has only stifled, and not killed, its calls for real autonomy in the workplace and for an end to the harried, fearful aspects of the life of the white-collar worker that Mills diagnosed in 1951, and whose political consequences he feared. The success of such movements may yet lay to rest Mills’s pessimism about the force and power of white-collar politics. So far, however, in this respect, as in so many others, C. Wright Mills has been sadly prophetic."
economics  jobs  worl  labor  1946  2014  nikilsaval  cwrightmills  workplace  knowledgeworkers  unions  ows  occupywallstreet  workingclass  whitecolarpolitics  politics  adjuncts  solidarity  via:ayjay 
april 2014 by robertogreco
The conservative case against capitalism - The Week
"But the distributists still have something to offer contemporary conservatives, namely the ideas that economic freedom is measured by the way families flourish; that economic freedom means more than just an income with a boss or a government agency at the end of it; that real freedom is the ability to say no to tyrants in both the public and private spheres. They could profit much from Belloc's insights into how the plutocracy corrupts both representative government and the market. And they could also benefit from grounding their politics, as the early distributists did, not just in theories of liberty or trust in the invisible hand of the market, but in the supreme dignity of man."



"Chesterton, always the better stylist than Belloc, could work himself into righteous fury in defense of the distributist ideal over the capitalist one. He gave that ideal a peroration in the book What's Wrong with the World that suffices as a conclusion for this article, because it has all the revolutionary romance and inevitability of Marx, but more moral force and beauty:
With the red hair of one she-urchin in the gutter I will set fire to all modern civilization. Because a girl should have long hair, she should have clean hair; because she should have clean hair, she should not have an unclean home: because she should not have an unclean home, she should have a free and leisured mother; because she should have a free mother, she should not have an usurious landlord; because there should not be an usurious landlord, there should be a redistribution of property, because there should be a redistribution of property, there shall be a revolution. That little urchin with the gold-red hair, whom I have just watched toddling past my house, she shall not be lopped and lamed and altered; her hair shall not be cut short like a convict's; no, all the kingdoms of the earth shall be hacked about and multilated to suit her. She is the human and sacred image; all around her the social fabric shall sway and slip and fall; the pillars of society shall be shaken, and the roofs of ages come rushing down; and not one hair of her head shall be harmed.
"
capital  capitalism  conservatism  economics  via:ayjay  2014  gkchesterson  thomaspiketty  ryancooper  michaelbrendandougherty  freedom  independence  distributists  hilairebeloc  dignity  labor  property 
april 2014 by robertogreco
SiteSucker for OS X
"SiteSucker is a Macintosh application that automatically downloads Web sites from the Internet. It does this by asynchronously copying the site's Web pages, images, backgrounds, movies, and other files to your local hard drive, duplicating the site's directory structure. Just enter a URL (Uniform Resource Locator), press return, and SiteSucker can download an entire Web site.

SiteSucker can be used to make local copies of Web sites. By default, SiteSucker "localizes" the files it downloads, allowing you to browse a site offline, but it can also download sites without modification.

You can save all the information about a download in a document. This allows you to create a document that you can use to perform the same download whenever you want. If SiteSucker is in the middle of a download when you choose the Save command, SiteSucker will pause the download and save its status with the document. When you open the document later, you can restart the download from where it left off by pressing the Resume button."

[via: http://ayjay.tumblr.com/post/80353173034/streamlining ]
backup  tumblr  via:ayjay  software  tools  onlinetoolkit  sitesucker  mac  osx  applications 
march 2014 by robertogreco
It's not only adults who need comfort reading | Books | theguardian.com
"A new report into what children are reading at school shows a "marked downturn in difficulty of books at secondary transfer", it was revealed today. The books children are reading in year 7, according to the report What Kids Are Reading, include tons of Jeff Kinney's Wimpy Kid titles and David Almond's (wonderful) Skellig, along with Roald Dahl's The Twits and George's Marvellous Medicine. By year 7, says the study, which calculates the reading level of a book using software that measures the text's complexity, "students are reading at over a year below their chronological age".

According to the report's author, Professor Keith Topping, this is a "matter for alarm". According to Philip Pullman, speaking on Radio 4 on Wednesday, there's not much need for panic. "Isn't it only the natural thing to do? You go from being a big child in a small school to a very small child in a very big school. There's all sorts of new anxieties, new people to meet, thousands of new things to do – so isn't it natural you turn back to the things you felt safe with when you were younger? I remember doing that myself," said Pullman. "I am a bit puzzled why there's all this anxiety, that they're not reading for pleasure, that they're reading the wrong books. Well, no, it's not the wrong book. If the child is enjoying it, it's the right book.""
via:ayjay  books  reading  howweread  education  anxiety  readinglevel  2014  pleasure  children  schools  philippullman 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Someone Reading a Book Is a Sign of Order in the World- Poets.org - Poetry, Poems, Bios & More
"We are all one question, and the best answer seems to be love—a connection between things. This arcane bit of knowledge is respoken every day into the ears of readers of great books, and also appears to perpetually slip under a carpet, utterly forgotten. In one sense, reading is a great waste of time. In another sense, it is a great extension of time, a way for one person to live a thousand and one lives in a single lifespan, to watch the great impersonal universe at work again and again, to watch the great personal psyche spar with it, to suffer affliction and weakness and injury, to die and watch those you love die, until the very dizziness of it all becomes a source of compassion for ourselves, and our language, which we alone created, and without which the letter that slipped under the door could never have been written, or, once in a thousand lives—is that too much to ask?—retrieved, and read. Did I mention supreme joy? That is why I read: I want everything to be okay. That's why I read when I was a lonely kid and that's why I read now that I'm a scared adult. It's a sincere desire, but a sincere desire always complicates things—the universe has a peculiar reaction to our sincere desires. Still, I believe the planet on the table, even when wounded and imperfect, fragmented and deprived, is worthy of being called whole. Our minds and the universe—what else is there? Margaret Mead described intellectuals as those who are bored when they don't have the chance to talk interestingly enough. Now a book will talk interestingly to you. George Steiner describes the intellectual as one who can't read without a pencil in her hand. One who wants to talk back to the book, not take notes but make them: one who might write "The giraffe speaks!" in the margin. In our marginal existence, what else is there but this voice within us, this great weirdness we are always leaning forward to listen to?"
reading  maryruefle  george  steiner  books  booklife  whyweread  via:ayjay  2003 
january 2014 by robertogreco
The sun rises every morning. I do not rise every... - more than 95 theses
“The sun rises every morning. I do not rise every morning; but the variation is due not to my activity, but to my inaction. Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life. The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

—G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
gkchesterson  everyday  via:ayjay  god  monotony  routine  repetition  life  living  beauty 
january 2014 by robertogreco
Richard Rodriguez: “New Atheism has a distinctly neo-colonial aspect”
"Provocative thinker Richard Rodriguez challenges orthodoxy on religion, liberals and class, Pope Francis and more"



"My qualm, right now, with the political left is that it is so taken over by sexual issues, sexual questions, that we have forgotten the traditional concern of the left was always social class and those at the bottom. And now we’re faced with a pope who is compassionate towards the poor and we want to know his position on abortion. It seems to me that at one point when Pope Francis said, “You know the church has been too preoccupied with those issues, gay marriage and abortion…” at some level the secular left has been too preoccupied with those issues."

Q: You’re saying that the church — it’s not exactly Catholics, it’s the church itself, the Vatican — has been obsessed with these questions at the same time the Anglo-American cultural left has been obsessed with these as well. To the exclusion of other important issues?

Yes, particularly the very poor. And it seems to me what the pope doesn’t say when he says we’ve been too preoccupied with these issues is: why? And that is what really interests me in my description of the relationship of heterosexual women in my life. I think that the problem with women controlling their reproduction and gay men getting married is that we’re not generative, as the Vatican would judge us. And that’s a deep violation of the desert. It’s the whole point of the desert religions, to give birth, you know. And when women are not doing that, or women are choosing to control the process, or men are marrying each other outside the process of birth, then that’s the problem.



"I think that increasingly the left has conceded organized religion to the political right. This has been a catastrophe on the left.

I’m old enough to remember the black Civil Rights movement, which was as I understood it a movement of the left and insofar as it was challenging the orthodoxy of conservatives in the American South. White conservatism. And here was a group of protestant ministers leading processions, which were really religious processions through the small towns and the suburbs of the South. We shall overcome. Well, we have forgotten just how disruptive religion can be to the status quo. How challenging it is to the status quo. I also talk about Cesar Chavez, who is, who was embraced by the political left in his time but he was obviously a challenge to organized labor, the teamsters and to large farmers in the central valley.

So somehow we had decided on the left that religion belongs to Fox Television, or it belongs to some kind of right-wing fanaticism in the Middle East and we have given it up, and it has made us a really empty — that is, it has made the left really empty. I’ll point to one easy instance. Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his “I have a dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial. And what America heard was really a sermon. It was as though slavery and Jim Crow could not be described as a simple political narrative; racism was a moral offense, not simply an illegality. And with his vision of a time “when all of God’s children” in America would be free, he described the nation within a religious parable of redemption.

Fifty years later, our technocratic, secular president gave a speech at the Lincoln memorial, honoring the memory of the speech Dr. King had given. And nothing President Obama said can we remember these few weeks later; his words were dwarfed by our memory of the soaring religious oratory of fifty years ago. And what’s happened to us — and I would include myself in the cultural left — what has happened to us is we have almost no language to talk about the dream life of America, to talk about the soul of America, to talk about the mystery of being alive at this point in our lives, this point in our national history. That’s what we’ve lost in giving it to Fox Television.



Q:Where do you find yourself very conservative these days?

I would say even on an issue like affirmative action, for example, I haven’t changed. I think that the hijacking of the integrationists’ dream as it announced itself in the North, where racism was not legalized but it was de facto, the hijacking of that movement to integrate Northern institutions by the middle class and to make middle class ascendancy somehow an advance for the entire population — I think was grotesque. And so you ended up with a black and brown bourgeoisie and you did nothing with those at the bottom, and you also managed to ignore white poverty. What the left has forgotten or ignored is that it is possible to be white and poor in America. The solution to de facto segregation in the late 1960s, as the black Civil Rights movement turned north, was an affirmative action that ignored white poverty altogether. And to make matters worse, Hispanics were named with blacks as the other principal excluded society in America. Conveniently ignored by the liberal agenda was the fact that Hispanics are not a racial group and therefore cannot suffer “racism” as Hispanics. And to turn misunderstanding into a kind of cartoon revolution, it became possible for, say, a white Cuban to be accepted to Yale as a “minority,” but a white kid from Appalachia would never be a minority because, after all, whites were numerically represented in societies of power.



And totally ignores the reality or the fantastic contradictions of the word or concept of Hispanic/Latino. We are posing ourselves as a racial group when in fact we are an ethnic group. The left has no idea. The left says nothing about the obliviousness of our political process to poor whites. The fact that the Civil Rights movement managed to ignore white poverty was the beginning of the end of the Democratic party in the old South. The white poor began to turn to the Republican party, which is where it is now."

[via: http://ayjay.tumblr.com/post/71039097451/you-know-one-of-the-things-about-that-piece-that-i ]
richardrodriguez  atheism  newatheism  catholicism  2013  via:ayjay  religion  politics  conservatism  liberalism  popefrancis  bilingualeducation  civilrights  affirmativeaction  class  society  nature  desert  homophobia  culture  jerryfaldwell  poor  race  ethnicity 
december 2013 by robertogreco
STEM: Still No Shortage
"There’s another side to these STEM shortage arguments, and they are straightforwardly moralizing: the reason for our continued employment crisis is that too many students took “impractical” majors and are suffering as a result. As Virginia Postrel pointed out last year, this narrative simply is not supportable. We don’t, actually, graduate a ton of people in the supposedly impractical arts or humanities. While participation in the humanities is stable, the number of students who pursue humanities majors is low, around 12%-15%. (Incorrect claims that the humanities are in a crisis of plummeting enrollment somehow coexist with arguments that too many students are taking them as majors.) These majors are also disproportionately concentrated in elite colleges, whose graduates enjoy far better economic outcomes than the median graduate, whether through quality of education, selection bias, or some combination of factors. A quick glance at the actual data shows that the notion of an army of deluded dreamers taking supposedly impractical majors is simply not supportable. What sticks out, more than anything, is the relentless rise of the Business major, by far the largest and one which now produces a mind-blowing 350,000 BAs or so a year. (I’d be very interested to see the economic outcomes for graduates of this eminently “practical” major.)"



"The irony of all this is that the typical argument for the superiority of STEM disciplines would probably focus on these as fact-based disciplines, but the notion of a STEM shortage has almost no facts in its support. The notion of a STEM shortage is based on hype, cultural resentment against the arts and humanities, and an unshakeable American faith in technology as the deliverance from all of our problems. I genuinely believe that the biggest part of the belief in a STEM shortage results from our cultural obsession with technology and our perpetual belief that it will cure all of our ills. This discussion echoes another one of my hobby horses, the notion that technology will solve our education woes in K-12. Again and again and again in education research, rigorous independent studies find little or no statistically significant gains from using new technologies in the classroom."



"When I mentioned that point to my friend, he laughed and said, “These companies are all trying to get the same 50 students.” This, more than anything, may be the source of the persistent STEM shortage myth: the inarguable value of being a star in a STEM field. There’s little doubt that people at the top of the food chain in computer science or electrical engineering or biomedical engineering, etc., often enjoy fantastic material and economic gain. But this is a banal point: it’s good to be a star. It’s good to be a star engineer in the same way it’s good to be a star musician or a star psychologist or a star writer. What public policy and politics demand is that we pay attention not to stars but to the median person. And the median American is facing a world of stagnant wages, the arbitrary nature of the employment market, and the constant fear of our financial system’s boom and bust cycle. The problem is that by definition, very few people get to be stars. I don’t doubt that the median Purdue STEM graduate is doing well. But Purdue is a top-flight STEM school, and half of our graduates will be below the median, and many who start those majors fail out of them, and the country is filled with schools who graduate STEM students who can’t get jobs. Basing our perception of the employment market on the outcomes of those 50 star students is pure folly.

None of this is to question the legitimacy or value of the STEM disciplines. Indeed, they are absolutely central to our experience of the good life. But then again, so are the arts, and in neither case does their inherent value say anything about the employment conditions for those fields. The elementary problem here is in part the notion that college exists for the uncomplicated process of training workers in a particular field. Universities are an essential part of our society, but they were never meant to solve all of our macroeconomic problems. Indeed, this whole conversation elides the large majority of Americans without a college degree at all, who suffer far worse outcomes on average than those who have one and who are struggling simply to stay afloat. What’s required is not to blame individual students for the failures on the job market, but to take a long, hard look at the future of employment, our winner-take-all economy, and the basic American social contract."
education  humanities  stem  economics  employment  virginiapostrel  2013  freddiedeboer  rebeccaschuman  vivekwadhwa  labor  policy  us  politics  highereducation  highered  via:ayjay  technosolutionism  technology  shortage 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Nobel winner declares boycott of top science journals | Science | The Guardian
"Leading academic journals are distorting the scientific process and represent a "tyranny" that must be broken, according to a Nobel prize winner who has declared a boycott on the publications.

Randy Schekman, a US biologist who won the Nobel prize in physiology or medicine this year and receives his prize in Stockholm on Tuesday, said his lab would no longer send research papers to the top-tier journals, Nature, Cell and Science.

Schekman said pressure to publish in "luxury" journals encouraged researchers to cut corners and pursue trendy fields of science instead of doing more important work. The problem was exacerbated, he said, by editors who were not active scientists but professionals who favoured studies that were likely to make a splash.

The prestige of appearing in the major journals has led the Chinese Academy of Sciences to pay successful authors the equivalent of $30,000 (£18,000). Some researchers made half of their income through such "bribes", Schekman said in an interview.

Writing in the Guardian, Schekman raises serious concerns over the journals' practices and calls on others in the scientific community to take action."
academia  science  randyschekman  via:ayjay  2013  process  slow  scientificprocess  openaccess  publishing  urgency 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Homily for April 3, 2011: 4th Sunday of Lent
"The priest said: “I have to ask you: what happened in there?”

And the beggar stopped in his tracks, still amazed at the experience. “He asked me,” the man said, “to hear his confession.  I said to him, ‘But I’m not a priest anymore.  I’m a beggar.’  And the Holy Father took my hands in his and looked at me and said, ‘So am I.  We are all beggars before the Lord.’”

The man tried to explain that he was not in good standing with the Church. But the pope said: “Once a priest, always a priest.  I’m the Vicar of Christ and the Bishop of Rome. I can re-instate you now. ”

Well, the beggar couldn’t refuse.  And at that moment, in that room, he heard the confession of the pope.

The beggar-priest had barely finished offering absolution before he dropped to his knees in tears.  “Holy Father,” he said, “will you please hear my Confession?”  And he did.

When they were done, the pope told him to return to the Church where he had been begging, and report to the pastor.  He would serve as a priest there, with a special ministry to the poor of Rome.

And that is what happened. It is said that the beggar who heard the pope’s confession still serves at the church in Rome.

“We are all beggars,” the pope said.  Like the man in today’s gospel.  So, this Lent, ask yourself: what am I begging for?  Maybe we are begging for compassion.  For mercy.  For peace of mind.  Maybe we are hungry for love.  And like the beggar in the gospel, we may also be blind – craving clarity, and understanding.  Wanting simply to see.

But in the middle of our begging, in the middle of our darkness, Christ touches us — and our world is flooded with light.

This gospel is about discovery.  One man receives the gift of sight.  As the story unfolds, light dawns, and with each confrontation and each conversation, he gains more understanding of just who gave him that gift.  At the end, for the first time, he sees — really sees.

I think the priest-beggar was also given the gift of sight – the ability to see anew who he was and what he was meant to do.  Whether he realized it or not, he was begging for more than money.

He was begging for grace.

But aren’t we all?"
grace  popejohnpaulii  via:ayjay  2011  gregkandra 
november 2013 by robertogreco
What Google Can Learn from the Long History of Information Management | New Republic
"What is missing in this story is an examination of the inherently Promethean quality of mastering and organizing massive amounts of data. No matter how sophisticated, information management does not always work. In spite of super cross-referencing computers and epic algorithms, the most basic financial data or political intelligence can fail to get to the desk of the right analyst. Experts, scholars, and administrators practice the remarkable human activity of ignoring the data in front of them, or the very systems that they have designed to manage it. Leibniz makes a good case in point. Three hundred years before Einstein, he, too, kept a messy desk. A father of mathematics, a famous historian and philosopher, the builder of calculation machines and scrinia literaria, and the librarian of the massive ducal collection in Wolfenbüttel, Leibniz was nonetheless very bad at organizing his papers. Indeed, while he was a librarian, he attempted to catalogue the more than 200,000 books in Wolfenbüttel. Each title was written on a scrap of paper. He placed the almost 120,000 reference scraps (still only half the library) not into an organized scrinia, but into a bag. Many were misplaced or spilled, and at Leibniz’s death, in 1716, the failed project had succeeded only in closing down the library for nine years. The catalogue was not finished until years after his death.

Why did a figure such as Leibniz fail to use his own tools? Perhaps messiness was the source of his creativity. This is a fact of intellectual originality with which Google must still grapple—libraries, after all, allow for the type of manageable disorder which is often the spark of creativity. Or maybe Leibniz resisted the very order of things, over which his calculus gave him a unique mastery. If anything, the rejection of systematized information handling methods could be as common as their adoption. Humanists had the tools and even the concepts to invent the cross-referenced thematic library catalogue, but they did not do so. We do not know why it took several hundred years and the Italian director of the British Museum, Antonio Panizzi, to create a truly modern reference catalogue through his “Ninety-One Cataloguing Rules” in 1841."
messiness  organization  2011  google  cataloging  expertise  creativity  catalogs  systems  systemsthinking  libraries  manageabledisorder  disorder  cross-referencing  antoniopanizzi  leibniz  alberteinstein  scrinialiteraria  collections  memory  references  data  via:ayjay 
september 2013 by robertogreco
The Charitable-Industrial Complex - NYTimes.com
"Philanthropy has become the “it” vehicle to level the playing field and has generated a growing number of gatherings, workshops and affinity groups.

As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few, the more heroic it sounds to “give back.” It’s what I would call “conscience laundering” — feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity.

But this just keeps the existing structure of inequality in place. The rich sleep better at night, while others get just enough to keep the pot from boiling over. Nearly every time someone feels better by doing good, on the other side of the world (or street), someone else is further locked into a system that will not allow the true flourishing of his or her nature or the opportunity to live a joyful and fulfilled life.

And with more business-minded folks getting into the act, business principles are trumpeted as an important element to add to the philanthropic sector. I now hear people ask, “what’s the R.O.I.?” when it comes to alleviating human suffering, as if return on investment were the only measure of success. Microlending and financial literacy (now I’m going to upset people who are wonderful folks and a few dear friends) — what is this really about? People will certainly learn how to integrate into our system of debt and repayment with interest. People will rise above making $2 a day to enter our world of goods and services so they can buy more. But doesn’t all this just feed the beast?

I’m really not calling for an end to capitalism; I’m calling for humanism.

Often I hear people say, “if only they had what we have” (clean water, access to health products and free markets, better education, safer living conditions). Yes, these are all important. But no “charitable” (I hate that word) intervention can solve any of these issues. It can only kick the can down the road.

My wife and I know we don’t have the answers, but we do know how to listen. As we learn, we will continue to support conditions for systemic change.

It’s time for a new operating system. Not a 2.0 or a 3.0, but something built from the ground up. New code.

What we have is a crisis of imagination. Albert Einstein said that you cannot solve a problem with the same mind-set that created it. Foundation dollars should be the best “risk capital” out there.

There are people working hard at showing examples of other ways to live in a functioning society that truly creates greater prosperity for all (and I don’t mean more people getting to have more stuff).

Money should be spent trying out concepts that shatter current structures and systems that have turned much of the world into one vast market. Is progress really Wi-Fi on every street corner? No. It’s when no 13-year-old girl on the planet gets sold for sex. But as long as most folks are patting themselves on the back for charitable acts, we’ve got a perpetual poverty machine.

It’s an old story; we really need a new one."

[via: http://ayjay.tumblr.com/post/56603683692/philanthropy-has-become-the-it-vehicle-to-level ]
[A response from Robinson Meyer: http://yayitsrob.tumblr.com/post/56618708680/peter-buffett-the-son-of-warren-buffett-writes and another http://mayhap.tumblr.com/post/56607917480/a-few-years-ago-zizek-wrote-charity-is-the ]
charitableindustrialcomplex  charity  philanthropy  us  society  capitalism  power  control  wealthdistribution  inequality  via:ayjay  2013  peterbuffett  humanism  change  robinsonmeyer  philanthropicindustrialcomplex 
july 2013 by robertogreco
Essays on the flaws of peer grading in MOOCs | Inside Higher Ed
The implicit assumption of any peer grading arrangement is that students with minimal direction can do what humanities professors get paid to do and I think that’s the fatal flaw of these arrangements. This assumption not only undermines the authority of professors everywhere; it suggests that the only important part of college instruction is the content that professors transmit to their students. How many of the books you read in college can you even name, let alone describe? It’s the skills you learn in college that matter, not the specific details in any particular class, particularly those outside the major.

Over the course of my career, I have increasingly begun to spend much more time in class teaching skills than I do content. Some of this has been a reaction to encountering students who do not seem as prepared for reading or writing college-level material as the students I had back when I started teaching. However, I have also come to believe that teaching these skills is much more important than teaching any particular historical fact. After all, it really is possible to Google nearly anything these days.
education  peergrading  moocs  via:ayjay  mooc 
march 2013 by robertogreco
Who Killed the Liberal Arts? | The Weekly Standard
I was never more than a peripheral character, rather more like a tourist than a student, at the University of Chicago. Yet when I left the school in 1959, I was a strikingly different person than the one who entered in 1956. What had happened? My years there allowed me to consider other possibilities than the one destiny would appear to have set in grooves for me. I felt less locked into the social categories—Jewish, middle-class, Midwestern—in which I had grown up, and yet, more appreciative of their significance in my own development. I had had a glimpse—if not much more—of the higher things, and longed for a more concentrated look.

Had I not gone to the University of Chicago, I have often wondered, what might my life be like? I suspect I would be wealthier. But reading the books I did, and have continued to throughout my life, has made it all but impossible to concentrate on moneymaking in the way that is required to acquire significant wealth. Without the experience of the University of Chicago, perhaps I would have been less critical of the world’s institutions and the people who run them; I might even have been among those who do run them. I might, who knows, have been happier, if only because less introspective—nobody said the examined life is a lot of laughs—without the changes wrought in me by my years at the University of Chicago. Yet I would not trade in those three strange years for anything.
bloggable  via:ayjay  liberalarts 
september 2012 by robertogreco
The Sad Secular Monks | First Things
"Today, many of the most high-status jobs for the well-educated make a virtue of intensity & commitment. Investment banking boasts 80-hour work weeks; Teach for America’s emotional crucible results in a high burnout rate…Have a Type A personality? These jobs are ready to push you to (or past) your limit…isn’t that what excellence is all about?

There’s a word for people who turn over their entire waking life to one cause, and willingly sacrifice the possibility of a family for the opportunity to serve: monks…Just like the driven 20-somethings of Rosin’s article, monks & nuns have made a commitment so total that it precludes marriage. But in the case of vowed religious, the form of their service is meant to be elevating, not just useful. I seldom hear people claim that spreadsheets are good for the soul. Even for people doing high intensity work for the public good…the form of their work may still be deadening.

Most careers aren’t vocations…we need space outside them to grow & love. …"
via:ayjay  vocations  outoforder  hannarosin  tfa  type-a  work  life  careers  teachforamerica  work-lifebalance 
august 2012 by robertogreco
Revolutionary Plots | Rebecca Solnit | Orion Magazine
"But you can’t have a revolution where everyone just abandons the existing system—it’ll just be left to the opportunists and the uncritical. Tending your own garden does not, for example, confront the problem of Monsanto. … Planting heirloom seeds is great, but someone has to try to stop Monsanto, and that involves political organizing, sticking your neck out, and confrontation. It involves leaving your garden."

"The fact that gardens have become the revolution of the young is good news and bad news. Baby boomers of the sixties revolutionary variety had their hectoring bombastic arrogant self-righteous flaws, but they were fearless about engagement. The young I often meet today have so distanced themselves from the flaws of the baby boomers that they’ve gone too far in the opposite direction of mildness, modesty, disengagement, and nonconfrontation. … The garden suits them perfectly because it is a realm of quiet idealism—but that too readily slides over into disengagement…"
corporations  policalorganizing  gardening  idealism  confrontation  activism  politics  agriculture  sustainability  urbanism  farming  monsanto  2012  via:ayjay  rebeccasolnit 
august 2012 by robertogreco
The Long, Slow, Constant, Mindful Writing Life - The Conversation - The Chronicle of Higher Education
"One of my favorite cultural critics, Albert Murray, began publishing his writing at age 46. I imagine him during his 19-year career in the Air Force, mulling over the ideas that one day would dazzle me and many others. I imagine him practicing thought riffs and idea phrases so that when he decided to set words to the page, they sparkled with their elegant composition and elucidation. It strikes me as beside the point to call him a late bloomer. I’d rather call him a man who wrote on his own time—the right time. If we are open, we can see that possibility in us all."
via:ayjay  mindfulness  slowness  slow  2012  imaniperry  cv  readiness  time  writing  latebloomers  albertmurray 
august 2012 by robertogreco
Humanities aren’t a science. Stop treating them like one. | Literally Psyched, Scientific American Blog Network
"When we relegate the humanities to a bunch of trends and statistics and frequencies, we get exactly that disconcerting and incongruous dystopia of Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler: books that have been reduced to nothing but words frequencies and trends, that tell you all you need to know about the work without your ever having to read it—and machines that then churn out future fake (or are they real?) books that have nothing to do with their supposed author. It’s a chilling thought.

The tools of mathematical and statistical and scientific analysis are invaluable. But their quantifiable certainty is all too easy to see as the only “real” way of doing things when really, it is but one tool and one approach—and not one that is translatable or applicable to all matters of qualitative phenomena. That’s one basic fact we’d do well not to forget."
digitalhumanities  humanities  science  italocalvino  quantification  certainty  via:ayjay 
august 2012 by robertogreco
Kafka’s Wound | A Digital Literary Essay by Will Self
That the world is now girdled by slick and translucent info-panels on which glow all the data you would need to have to confirm the rise and fall – among English speakers and writers – of the Kafkaesque* is at once liberating and unpleasantly constricting. Think of the sharp attention the writer himself paid to human gesture and movement. For Kafka the action of any given narrative largely consists in just this: actions , painstakingly described. These, together with his use of montage and the dissolve have been interpreted as his responses to the new medium of cinema, but they seem to me quite as anticipatory of the condition of the contemporary extended mind, smeared from a static, and compulsively gestural, body into a virtual, and frictionless, space . ‘Kafkaesque’, then, with some minor peaks and troughs, steadily proliferates in English texts after 1945. It would be nice – in the sense of exact – if the data set was precise enough to identify a partial stagnation in the early 1980s, in line with a general tedium vitae in the West when it came to the Cold War, or perhaps a the sharp peak in the term’s use immediately following the fall of the Berlin Wall that would bear out my general contention, but what we can see is a precipitate decline throughout the 2000s. The instances in English texts of the name ‘Kafka’, on the other hand, display an altogether spikier profile that does indeed seem to mirror wider phenomena in the political and cultural realms.
criticism  essay  via:ayjay 
august 2012 by robertogreco
Cut/Copy/Paste: Remixing Words (Spring 2011) - Whiki
"In 1959, a German computer scientist programmed a Zuse Z22 computer to cut up and recombine phrases from Franz Kafka's novel The Castle. The string of words spit out by the program reads like a Mad Libs mash-up of Kafka's original work. Who authored these computer-generated texts – the program, the programmer, or Kafka? Are they original poems, or merely derivative experiments? If derivative, where does "fair use" borrowing end and plagiarism begin? And can we consider the computer program itself a "text" in the same way as Kafka's novel?

This computer program is only one in a long history of experimental writing that cuts up, remixes and recombines language as a way of destroying the cohesiveness of writing. In this course, we'll look at ancient Latin cut-up poems; we'll play with seventeenth-century German paper instruments used to produce poetry during live performances; and we'll pull apart simple generative computer programs. Because these "texts" were written to be experienced, we will interact with them experimentally, pulling apart and remaking them – and our own writing – as a community. By engaging in these acts of intentional destruction, we will, together, crack open the mechanisms that make good writing work. Observing where language breaks down will lead us to a better understanding of what language is, as well as what it can do.

You cannot read the texts of this class without, in some sense, writing them, and we'll spend a good deal of time doing both in and out of class. As we test the limits of language, you will produce weekly short reflective blog posts on your discoveries. You will also be expected to respond at least twice a week to one of your classmates' posts. The point of this weekly writing is not to produce beautifully structured, perfectly grammatical compositions, but to get you in the habit of writing down your thoughts. In other words, the aim is for you to become comfortable participating in a written dialogue as a member of a community.

Once throughout the semester, you will design and carry out your own writing experiment in class. This can be something as simple as setting up a series of surrealist writing exercises for the class to participate in, or sharing and leading a discussion on a work of recombinant literature you've found. The week after, you will be expected to turn in lab report discussing what your experiment taught you about the practice of writing"
digitalhumanities  via:ayjay  remixing  copypaste  kafka  writing  classideas  reading  remixculture 
august 2012 by robertogreco
Hilaire Belloc, The Restoration of Property
No man attempting the restoration of property, or Distributism as it is sometimes called, can say, “Here is my cut and dried plan.” You cannot do it, because it is normal to man, organic; it is not mechanical, it is not theoretical. What we can do is to advance something on the way, to propagate the idea, to propagate its results, to insist upon it here and there, in this reform and that, by blocking this abuse and that, until there shall be established in society a certain growth which will lead ultimately towards better distribution of property. We do not want, and it would be folly to attempt, and it is not human to regard, and it is futile to desire the equal distribution of property. If you have a society in which the norm, it may not even be the majority, but the determining number of men are possessed of security in what they do, producing with their personality and with their production fully secured for the future, you have established a healthy state, you have reconstructed property; and if you will consider that, doing it organically, without revolution, you may, in spite of the enormous obstacles in front of you, do the trick.
economics  via:ayjay 
august 2012 by robertogreco
Walking with Chatwin by Rory Stewart | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books
The Songlines was one of the reasons that I left my job and spent a year and a half crossing parts of Asia, entirely on foot. Chatwin made me imagine that I could internalize a continuous unfolding line of footprints—stretching across six thousand miles—and perhaps even be able to call these steps back, and re-create the whole long journey in my memory. I tried to compose epic poems to the rhythm of my footfalls across the Iranian desert; in India I carried the Bhagavad Gita in my hand and read a line at a time; in Nepal I focused on breathing meditation. And I imagined I would arrive like some legendary wanderer with cloak and staff, to the marvel of the villagers.

The reality was different. Rural communities—including nomads—were not interested in me, and certainly not impressed. They encouraged me to travel by bus and when I refused, they often ignored me. If serenity emerged through walking, it was at most for an hour out of each day’s nine-hour walk, and nineteen months of travel did not make me more serene. My mind flitted from half-remembered poetry to memories of things I had done back home of which I was ashamed.
modbrit  via:ayjay 
july 2012 by robertogreco
How Harry Potter Became the Boy Who Lived Forever -- Printout -- TIME
Right now fan fiction is still the cultural equivalent of dark matter: it's largely invisible to the mainstream, but at the same time, it's unbelievably massive. Fan fiction predates the Internet, but the Web has made it exponentially easier to talk and be heard, and it holds hundreds of millions of words of fan fiction. There's fan fiction based on books, movies, TV shows, video games, plays, musicals, rock bands and board games. There's fan fiction based on the Bible. In most cases, the quantity of fan fiction generated by a given work is volumetrically larger than the work itself; in some cases, the quality is higher than that of the original too. FanFiction.net, the largest archive on the Web (though only one of many), hosts over 2 million pieces of fan fiction, ranging in length from short-short stories to full-length novels. The Harry Potter section alone contained, at press time, 526,085 entries.
modmyth  via:ayjay 
july 2012 by robertogreco
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