Once a month I teach English as a Second Language at the St. Louis Public Library. I’m assigned a small corner of a big library and I teach English conversational skills to a group of up to eight adults at a time, people from all over the world. During this afternoon’s class, a group of talkative men sat 20 feet away from our table. They weren’t part of any group, just guys talking with each other. Those men made it somewhat difficult for my students to hear each other, forcing us to be louder than normal. Eventually the Library Security Guard briskly walked up to the table where I was teaching and told my class to stop talking. I told him I was teaching ESL, but he said he didn’t care. He told me to quit talking. I showed him the sign designating our space (see the photo – “Conversation Practice”) and told him “It is my JOB to converse with these students.” He said that if I didn’t stop talking he would throw all of us out of the library.
I found the librarian in charge, convincing him that the unauthorized loud talkers nearby should be quiet, so that we could continue with our class. Eventually, the librarian agreed while the security guard sulked. My English conversation lesson for the next 15 minutes was focused on making fun of the ignoramus security guard.
NPR played a clever April Fools trick this year. It posted a link on FB with the following headline: “Why Doesn’t America Read Anymore?.”
People in La Crosse, Wisconsin are used to talking about death. In fact, 96 percent of people who die in this small, Midwestern city have specific directions laid out for when they pass. That number is astounding. Nationwide, it’s more like 50 percent.
In today’s episode, we’ll take you to a place where dying has become acceptable dinner conversation for teenagers and senior citizens alike. A place that also happens to have the lowest healthcare spending of any region in the country.
This piece reminds me that one of the main problems with the United States is that we cannot have meaningful conversations. This is refreshingly different. And important: One-quarter of health care spending occurs in the last year of life.
If you spend many months writing a journal article, will anyone read it? If you are lucky, yes, according to this article at Pacific-Standard.
A burgeoning field of academic study called citation analysis (it’s exactly what it sounds like) has found that this joke holds true for not just dissertations, but many academic papers. A study at the University of Indiana found that “as many as 50% of papers are never read by anyone other than their authors, referees and journal editors.” That same study concluded that “some 90% of papers that have been published in academic journals are never cited.” That is, nine out of 10 academic papers—which both often take years to research, compile, submit, and get published, and are a major component by which a scholar’s output is measured—contribute little to the academic conversation.
Mike Morris offers us a timely proposal at his website, Funmentionables. The article, complete with Mike’s brand of Bible quoting humor, ends ominously with a declaration that there are two Americas. Here’s his opening which, in his hallowed tradition, he supports with Bible chapter and verse:
On January 28, 2014, Representative Michael Grimm (R-NY-11) issued a direct verbal threat to a reporter inside the Capitol building by saying “I’ll break you in half” and “throw you off this f—ing balcony,” which was a direct violation of D.C. law (District of Columbia Official Code, Division IV, Title 22, Subtitle I, Chapter 4, § 22-407): “Whoever is convicted in the District of threats to do bodily harm shall be fined not more than $ 500 or imprisoned not more than 6 months . . .”
Rep. Grimm was never arrested for his actions, and Congress has taken no punitive action against him. By its inaction, the US Congress is essentially condoning a Congressperson’s right to threaten to kill average Americans, though conversely, when average Americans threaten the life of a public official, they are prosecuted to the full extent of the law. In keeping with this double standard and to codify for all time this special status, I propose the following:
Expressing support for designation of January 28, annually, as “Throw a Reporter “Off This F—ing Balcony” Day”.