Archive for May, 2013

An Odd Email, and the Evolving Web

May 30, 2013 | By | Reply More

I recently received the following email from someone at aol.com to one of my regular legitimate email addresses:

Subject: What are these?

These look like dodge cars in the shape of colorful onions.

What is Buckminster and Chihuly Do Rounds?

Hmm. I get quite a few engineered phishing emails. But this one was not quite of the mold. I decided to google the phrase, and it led me to the Neighborhood Stabilization Team for the City of St. Louis home page that looks like this:

NabStabChihuly

Ah Ha! I thought. So I replied:

I had to Google the phrase to remember what you are asking about. The site rotates several images, so you may need to hit refresh a few times to get back to mine: Neighborhood Stabilization Team

The caption made more sense with the full image that they showed back when I submitted my pic to the city.

This is the pond in front of the geodesic dome of the Climatron (which showed the dome above and its reflection below the strip that they still have on display).

So the title refers to the round dome designed by Buckminster Fuller and the round glass onions designed by Dale Chihuly, with a weak medical pun about “doing rounds” or seeing what there is to see.

But the city website designer eventually chopped the aspect ratio of the banner image from 4:3 to 9:16 to 3:17, removing most of the image, but keeping the now enigmatic title.

Here’s the original:

P1020234

So what happened is that I submitted a few pix to a photo contest in 2007, and one of my shots was used as a web page banner. But as the needs changed, so did the image, until the final view little resembles the intent nor aspect of the original. And the caption that has been propagated is more absurd than intended.

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Teenaged owls

May 29, 2013 | By | Reply More
Teenaged owls

Sleep scientists urge tolerance with teenagers sleeping in.

“Making teens start school in the morning is ‘cruel,’ brain doctor claims.” So declared a British newspaper headline in 2007 after a talk I gave at an academic conference. One disbelieving reader responded: “This man sounds brain-dead.”

That was a typical reaction to work I was reporting at the time on teenage sleep patterns and their effect on performance at school. Six years on, there is growing acceptance that the structure of the academic day needs to take account of adolescent sleep patterns. The latest school to adopt a later start time is the UCL Academy in London; others are considering following suit.

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Noam Chomsky describes anarchism

May 29, 2013 | By | Reply More

Noam Chomsky defines anarchism:

Well, anarchism is, in my view, basically a kind of tendency in human thought which shows up in different forms in different circumstances, and has some leading characteristics. Primarily it is a tendency that is suspicious and skeptical of domination, authority, and hierarchy. It seeks structures of hierarchy and domination in human life over the whole range, extending from, say, patriarchal families to, say, imperial systems, and it asks whether those systems are justified. It assumes that the burden of proof for anyone in a position of power and authority lies on them. Their authority is not self-justifying. They have to give a reason for it, a justification. And if they can’t justify that authority and power and control, which is the usual case, then the authority ought to be dismantled and replaced by something more free and just. And, as I understand it, anarchy is just that tendency . . . Anarchism is quite different from that. It calls for an elimination to tyranny, all kinds of tyranny. Including the kind of tyranny that’s internal to private power concentrations. So why should we prefer it? Well I think because freedom is better than subordination.

[Emphasis added]

Chomsky compares anarchism to libertarianism:

[W]hat’s called libertarian in the United States, which is a special U. S. phenomenon, it doesn’t really exist anywhere else — a little bit in England — permits a very high level of authority and domination but in the hands of private power: so private power should be unleashed to do whatever it likes. The assumption is that by some kind of magic, concentrated private power will lead to a more free and just society. Actually that has been believed in the past. Adam Smith for example, one of his main arguments for markets was the claim that under conditions of perfect liberty, markets would lead to perfect equality. Well, we don’t have to talk about that! That kind . . . of libertarianism, in my view, in the current world, is just a call for some of the worst kinds of tyranny, namely unaccountable private tyranny.

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William James on the Truth

May 28, 2013 | By | Reply More

william james - repeated is truth

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Private prison system explodes

May 28, 2013 | By | Reply More

Now we have a powerful new industry, full of wealth, ready to buy politicians, in order to convince them to keep the prisons filled with non-violent drug offenders. The numbers presented by AlterNet are shocking:

From 1999-2010, the total U.S. prison population rose 18 percent, an increase largely reflected by the “drug war” and stringent sentencing guidelines, such as three strikes laws and mandatory minimum sentences.

However, total private prison populations exploded fivefold during this same time period, with federal private prison populations rising by 784 percent (as seen in the chart below complied by The Sentencing Project).

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Parsing Obama’s terrorism speech

May 27, 2013 | By | Reply More

Glenn Greenwald characterizes Barack Obama’s recent terrorism speech as a Rorschach test–something for everyone:

The highly touted speech Obama delivered last week on US terrorism policy was a master class in that technique. If one longed to hear that the end of the “war on terror” is imminent, there are several good passages that will be quite satisfactory. If one wanted to hear that the war will continue indefinitely, perhaps even in expanded form, one could easily have found that. And if one wanted to know that the president who has spent almost five years killing people in multiple countries around the world feels personal “anguish” and moral conflict as he does it, because these issues are so very complicated, this speech will be like a gourmet meal. But whatever else is true, what should be beyond dispute at this point is that Obama’s speeches have very little to do with Obama’s actions, except to the extent that they often signal what he intends not to do.

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Censoring PBS

May 27, 2013 | By | Reply More

How much is PBS self-censoring? I live in St. Louis, where the PBS affiliate has never included the programming of Democracy Now. Bill Moyers was long a persona non grata according to the powers that be at PBS. These two items are all the evidence you need to know whether PBS censors progressive points of view. Ring of Fire has now provided even more evidence:

America’s Public Broadcasting System, or PBS, is surrendering to private influence of the Billionaire industrialists, the Koch Brothers. “Citizen Koch,” a documentary that exposes the money driven politics that influenced the Wisconsin uprising, was rejected by PBS for fear of offending one of its key contributors, David Koch. The move by PBS was not the failed negotiation as they suggest it was, but a censorship, against their better judgment, to protect the hand that feeds them.

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The other side of parenting

May 27, 2013 | By | Reply More

I’ve enjoyed being a parent, though it has sometimes been a lot of work. I’m proud of who my two daughters are turning out to be. They teach me many things, including humility.

Recently I read this post at Huffpo, an extraordinarily sad post, or at least that is how I reacted. This website features the comments of people for whom parenting is a sad, and sometimes dismal experience. It includes a “confessional” where people often openly express their dark thoughts regarding their own children. Here’s the post, and here’s the “Scary Mommy Confessional.”

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Bernie Sanders sums up what we can learn from Denmark

May 27, 2013 | By | Reply More

At Reader Supported News, Bernie Sanders notes that Denmark and the United States are very different countries, but insists that there are lessons the U.S. can learn from Denmark:

While it is difficult to become very rich in Denmark no one is allowed to be poor.

Health care in Denmark is universal, free of charge and high quality. . . . They spend about 11 percent of their GDP on health care. We spend almost 18 percent.

Danes understand that the first few years of a person’s life are the most important in terms of intellectual and emotional development. . . [M]others get four weeks of paid leave before giving birth. They get another 14 weeks afterward. . . . [B]oth parents have the right to 32 more weeks of leave during the first nine years of a child’s life. The state covers three-quarters of the cost of child care, more for lower-income workers.

[V]irtually all higher education in Denmark is free.

In Denmark, adequate leisure and family time are considered an important part of having a good life. Every worker in Denmark is entitled to five weeks of paid vacation plus 11 paid holidays. The United States is the only major country that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation time. The result is that fewer than half of lower-paid hourly wage workers in our country receive any paid vacation days.

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