Read me

Recently finished Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky .  This is one of my favorite science fiction books I’ve read in a long time.  If you like science fiction at all, definitely give it a try.  Found this nice review on-line, and since I am lazy…

There are so many things that blow your mind when reading this book. What happens when you can live over millennia by going into a kind of suspended sleep. You sleep and wake up after say, 500 years. It wreaks havoc with the inherently linear and continuous understanding of time that our brains can comprehend. And what happens when you suddenly wake-up to have become older than those who were always older than you? What if you were on a mission where you were supposed to orbit a (sort-of) uninhabited planet for 2000 years and then wake-up and lead a normal life? Mind bends.

What is the defining characteristic of human civilization? It is breaking things or building them? What if evolution had taken a different path and favored something or someone with a very different view of the world? Adrian Tchaikovsky weaves a story that is so compelling and so well knit that you become part of the picture along the way. But while rooting for your own team (some may say species) you start wondering if you are on the right side of the battle (and history itself). In the end you lose, yet it is so much better than a victory.

If all this sounds confusing then good. It is a story like no other so you cannot really compare it with anything else. Read it.

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Quick hits (part II)

1) Like this on how Netflix owes its business model of original programming to Stephen Bochco.  Damn, did I love NYPD Blue.  RIP Bobby Simone.

2) Yes, Sinclair broadcasting does have an impact:

Critics have claimed that Sinclair — a company with close ties to the Trump administration and conservative politicians — is pushing its stations away from local coverage and toward a partisan brand of political reporting on national politics.

In new research, we find evidence that that appears to be the case. Stations bought by Sinclair reduce coverage of local politics, increase national coverage and move the ideological tone of coverage in a conservative direction relative to other stations operating in the same market.

3) So, apparently the new thing for Climate Change deniers is to claim that things really aren’t so bad for polar bears.  Pathetic and bizarre.

4) I don’t usually agree with Megan McArdle, but she’s usually thoughtful.  Honestly, though, it’s pretty funny to see somebody who should so know better still be suckered by Paul Ryan.

5) Talk about out of touch.  This Chronicle of Higher Ed piece complaining that professor salary increases were barely enough to make up for inflation.  Uhhhh, yeah, poor, poor college professors.

A rise in the cost of living chipped away at salary gains by full-time faculty members in the 2017-18 academic year, according to new survey data published on Wednesday by the American Association of University Professors.

Full-time faculty earned an average of 3 percent more than they did in the prior academic year. But that salary increase was cut by nearly two-thirds, to 1.1 percent, after adjusting for inflation.

The average salary ranged widely, depending on rank: Full professors earned $104,820, associate professors made $81,274, and assistant professors took in $70,791. The average pay for lecturers was about $57,000 while, for instructors, it was $59,400.

6) So, yeah, learning styles are a total myth:

Either way, “by the time we get students at college,” said Indiana University professor Polly Husmann, “they’ve already been told ‘You’re a visual learner.’” Or aural, or what have you.

The thing is, they’re not. Or at least, a lot of evidence suggests that people aren’t really one certain kind of learner or another. In a study published last month in the journal Anatomical Sciences Education, Husmann and her colleagues had hundreds of students take the vark questionnaire to determine what kind of learner they supposedly were. The survey then gave them some study strategies that seem like they would correlate with that learning style. Husmann found that not only did students not study in ways that seemed to reflect their learning style, those who did tailor their studying to suit their style didn’t do any better on their tests.

Husmann thinks the students had fallen into certain study habits, which, once formed, were too hard to break. Students seemed to be interested in their learning styles, but not enough to actually change their studying behavior based on them. And even if they had, it wouldn’t have mattered.

“I think as a purely reflective exercise, just to get you thinking about your study habits, [vark] might have a benefit,” Husmann said. “But the way we’ve been categorizing these learning styles doesn’t seem to hold up.”

Another study published last year in the British Journal of Psychology found that students who preferred learning visually thought they would remember pictures better, and those who preferred learning verbally thought they’d remember words better. But those preferences had no correlation to which they actually remembered better later on—words or pictures. Essentially, all the “learning style” meant, in this case, was that the subjects liked words or pictures better, not that words or pictures worked better for their memories.

7) I’ve got a student doing a really cool independent study on artificial intelligence (he’s a computer science major, PS minor, if I remember correctly).  He just read some interesting stuff on AI and our criminal justice system.  Reminded me of this disturbing Pro Publica report I think I have failed to share here about how algorithms used to predict future criminality are basically biased against Blacks.

8) Phil Klay is the author of one of my favorite books ever.  Such a great writer and so thoughtful on military issues.  His essay in the NYT about how soldiers and civilians think about each other, and should think about each other, is terrific.  Read it.

Such disdain for those who haven’t served and yet dare to have opinions about military matters is nothing new for Mr. Kelly. In a 2010 speech after the death of his son, Mr. Kelly improbably claimed that we were winning in Afghanistan, but that “you wouldn’t know it because successes go unreported” by members of the “‘know it all’ chattering class” who “always seem to know better, but have never themselves been in the arena.” And he argued that to oppose the war, which our current secretary of defense last year testified to Congress we were not winning, meant “slighting our warriors and mocking their commitment to the nation.”

This is a common attitude among a significant faction of veterans. As one former member of the Special Forces put it in a social media post responding to the liberal outcry over the deaths in Niger, “We did what we did so that you can be free to naïvely judge us, complain about the manner in which we kept you safe” and “just all around live your worthless sponge lives.” His commentary, which was liked and shared thousands of times, is just a more embittered form of the sentiment I indulged in as a young lieutenant in Iraq…

Serious discussion of foreign policy and the military’s role within it is often prohibited by this patriotic correctness. Yet, if I have authority to speak about our military policy it’s because I’m a citizen responsible for participating in self-governance, not because I belonged to a warrior caste.

If what I say deserves to be taken seriously, it’s because I’ve taken the time out of my worthless sponge life as a concerned American civilian to form a worthy opinion. Which means that although it is my patriotic duty to afford men like John Kelly respect for his service, and for the grief he has endured as the father of a son who died for our country, that is not where my responsibility as a citizen ends. [emphasis mine]

9) Almost nobody wants to admit it, but to a substantial degree, sex offender registries are pointless and counter-productive.  Lenore Skenazy on how they are also filled up with kids.

What is the most common age at which people land on the registry? Most folks I put the question to think it’s about 39. But according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, “The single age with the greatest number of offenders from the perspective of law enforcement was age 14.”

10) A mom of a child with autism talks about the incredible life-line that Facebook provides for her in connecting with other similar parents.  When Alex was first diagnosed with his rare disease, an on-line community (though a list-serve, this was prior to social media) was an absolute lifesaver for me.

11) Compared to women, men are over-confident in their science ability.  If I’m not mistaken, men are over-confident in pretty much everything.

12) Loved going to Duke basketball games way back in my day, but never spent any time camping out at K-ville.  I’ve never spent a night in a tent and I don’t ever plan to.  Certainly not in winter with a cozy dorm room nearby.  My junior year I got in line the morning of the game and got in to see it that evening.  Apparently, the system now has tents plus a “walk-up line” that actually lasts for days.  The whole thing has also, apparently, devolved not only into drunken bacchanalia, but mass chaos.  Not pretty.

13) More reason to love Pope Francis.  He actually believes Catholics should focus on humans not just before birth, but after they are born.  Atheist, Drum, with the papal post (and Drum’s emphases):

The other harmful ideological error is found in those who find suspect the social engagement of others, seeing it as superficial, worldly, secular, materialist, communist or populist. Or they relativize it, as if there are other more important matters, or the only thing that counts is one particular ethical issue or cause that they themselves defend. Our defence of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of a human life, which is always sacred and demands love for each person, regardless of his or her stage of development. Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery, and every form of rejection. We cannot uphold an ideal of holiness that would ignore injustice in a world where some revel, spend with abandon and live only for the latest consumer goods, even as others look on from afar, living their entire lives in abject poverty.

14) Interesting from Gallup, though, to see the slide in Catholic Mass attendance:

20180408_ChurchAttendance@2x (002)

15) At this point, we’ve basically reached the limit of how fast a human arm can throw a baseball.

16) The NYT article on how teenagers become “allergic” to their parents was really good.  I only did to a very modest degree.  And my oldest son, basically not at all.

Growing up involves becoming separate from our parents. This project often begins in early adolescence with an abrupt and powerful urge to distinguish oneself from the adults at home. It’s no small task for teenagers to detach from those who have superintended nearly every aspect of their lives so far.

As teenagers begin to disentangle from their folks, they inevitably sort a parent’s every behavior and predilection into one of two categories: those they reject, and those they intend to adopt. Unfortunately for the peace of the household, each of these categories creates its own problem for teenagers intent on establishing their individuality.

You may think nothing of wearing dated athletic shoes, but if your teenager doesn’t agree with your choice of footwear he may, at least for a while, find it unbearable. Why should it matter to him what’s on your feet? Because his identity is still interwoven with yours; until he’s had time to establish his own look, your style can cramp his.

Given this, you’d think that teenagers wouldn’t be allergic to the proclivities they share with their parents. But they are, precisely because the interests are mutual.

17) And speaking of my teenager, he’s also a trendsetter as, “Middle-Class Families Increasingly Look to Community Colleges.”  Presumably, if he were more “allergic” to us, he’d be more inclined to go away.  I’m not at all allergic to the thousands I’ll save over the next couple years before he transfers to a four-year university (hopefully, NC State).

18) Among certain crustaceans, those with the largest penises go extinct the fastest.

19) This is pretty disturbing.  Increasingly, among dog “rescue” organizations, dogs are increasingly purchased at auctions from puppy mills!  Whoa, that ain’t right.  We’ve had three rescues and all three were definitely found as strays.  (Or were provided to us by very good liars).

20) I never did read 1491, but damn did I love Charles Mann’s 1493.  One of my favorite non-fiction books ever.  He’s got an absolutely terrific piece in a recent Atlantic (read it!), based on his new book, that looks at two competing visions of how we can manage to feed 10 billion humans (as we’ll need to before all that long).

 

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