Posts Tagged ‘religion’
* Coffee’s good for you again. Stay buzzed, America.
* This piece on MOOCs from Jonathan Dettman is really interesting, not least of all for its observations on running the university like a business:
According to this paradigm, the years spent at a university are not intended so much as to educate the student (either in the vocational sense or the liberal-arts sense of forming citizen-scholars), but rather to turn as many recruits as possible into “active alumni.” In the meantime, as much profit as possible should be extracted from the student, through amenities, food services, business partnerships, textbook sales, tuition, etc. Image and branding are extremely important to these efforts, but so is information. Universities now build data-driven profiles of prospective students in order to identify and recruit those most likely to be attracted to the university’s own carefully constructed market profile.
As I said on Twitter yesterday: they couldn’t have found a model that sounded a bit less… pyramid-schemey?
* This piece on epigenetics in Discover is really interesting, but my god, the reporting. It’s hard to imagine a piece that sensationalized these findings more.
* Announcing the MOOC Research Institute. Can’t we scale this up? You know, crowdsource it.
* Black Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 have an unemployment rate of 21 percent, almost triple the national average.
* Simply put, 99 percent of the increase in employed persons seen in the last year was for individuals who had attended at least some college (this removes the negative change in employment for high school grads with no college to not produce a number above 100 percent). Among those who didn’t go to college, we actually lost 284,000 employed persons from May of 2012 to May of 2013. Within the college-going categories, about 60 percent of the increase went to those with a bachelor’s degree and 40 percent to those with an associate’s degree.
* The screenplay writes itself: Gustl Mollath was put in a psychiatric unit for claiming his wife was involved in money-laundering at the Bavarian bank. But seven years on evidence has emerged that could set him free.
* The headline reads, “New long distance quantum teleportation system ‘extremely reliable.’” So, the ansible is real, then?
* Because a bunch of us have been rewatching Star Trek lately: Voyager Inconsistencies. By the numbers it’s actually a little better than I thought.
* And the LEGO museum. At least there’s that.
* Arrested Development Season 4 Timeline. We’re still working our way through, but I’m significantly more bullish on the season than most reviewers, to the point where I feel as though I literally don’t know what some of these people are talking about. I’m talking about this on Twitter now; maybe a post of some sort later. Subtle jokes of season 4. And more.
* A new study from Emory Sports Marketing Analytics concludes that Marquette University has the 9th best fan base in the country among collegiate basketball programs.
* An internal faculty report generated by professors in the College of Computing says there were “significant internal disagreements,” despite Georgia Tech’s portrayal of the deal as heavily supported by faculty.
* “You are all going to die”: Joss Whedon’s 2013 Wesleyan Commencement Speech.
* It is the one moment of genuine interest in Frank Marshall’s hilarious 1995 adaptation of Michael Crichton’s laughable 1980 novel. Marshall’s decision to replace Crichton’s white mercenary with a black character is the only time either book or film acknowledges the problem of working in a genre — the colonial adventure narrative — fundamentally constituted around imperialist-racist ideology. Admittedly, Marshall does nothing more, but even this very little sets his film apart from such epic racefails as the Indiana Jonesfilms and Peter Jackson’s inept attempt to not make a racist King Kong. But can such pulp fictions be redeemed? Or when revived are they destined merely to be, in Lavie Tidhar’s infamous description of steampunk, “fascism for nice people”? Mark Bould reviews Black Pulp.
* During the decade 2000-10 in the USA, for the first time the number of poor people in major metropolitan suburbs surpassed the number in cities. Between 2000 and 2011, the poor population in suburbs grew by 64% — more than twice the rate of growth in cities (29%). By 2011, almost 16.4 million residents in suburbia lived below the poverty line, outstripping the poor population in cities by almost 3 million people. Confronting Suburban Poverty in America.
* I’ve seen dumber things than a mayor offering to spend $173 million in tax money on a building for a private college that already has its pick of several arenas to play in—but not much dumber…. I can’t for the life of me imagine what Emanuel thinks Chicago is likely to get out of this deal, unless he really thinks that convention planners are just waiting for a 12,000-seat arena to hold their plenary sessions in, at which point they’ll start throwing wadded-up hundred-dollar bills at any Chicagoan they can find. At the very least it’s something to think about as the mayor’s appointees say they have no choice but to close the schools. Common sense on school closings.
* Good news for Gerrys: Pope Francis says even atheists go to heaven. That’s a load off.
* Precious bodily fluids: Portland, Ore., rejects adding fluoride to drinking water.
* Best Cities for Working Women in the U.S. Congratulations, Durham!
* Just stealing it from LGM outright: ESPN is a great corporation. It is ungodly profitable. It creates a mere 43% of Disney’s total operating income. Think about that. All of Disney, including Disneyland and everything else it owns. 43%. But you see, ESPN has recently acquired some lucrative properties, like more SEC football games. In order to show us more Vanderbilt-Kentucky football and build a crazy expensive new set, ESPN has decided to lay off 300-400 employees. This a mere 2 weeks after Disney’s stock reached an all-time high.
* And Octavia Butler reminds us introspection is kind of a pain.
* Sarah Kendzior and Rebecca Schuman tee up for the grad-school-backlash-backlash-backlash-honestly-I’ve-lost-count. As always, I’m very glad people are talking about exploitation, but nonetheless the unvarnished, apocalyptic negativity of some of these pieces just doesn’t reflect my own experiences in the academy very well at all. Academia contains multitudes; that’s actually a huge part of the problem.
* CEO Pay 1,795-to-1 Multiple of Wages Skirts U.S. Law. Of course, the “law” being skirted is a toothless disclosure requirement, so don’t even sweat it.
* Yglesias wept: Bangladesh to allow unions for garment workers.
Wright proposes that the central document to understanding Hubbard’s psyche is his so-called “secret memoir,” composed around 1947, otherwise referred to as Hubbard’s “Affirmations” or “Admissions.” The document itself has an interesting history: it was found by a former archivist for the Church of Scientology, Gerald Armstrong, who had been tasked with organizing the founder’s personal papers. The more Armstrong read, the less he believed. Convinced that Hubbard was a huckster, Armstrong copied the documents that he discovered in the archives and delivered them to his lawyer. He was thereafter sued by the Church of Scientology. During the trial, Armstrong tried to get on record portions of Hubbard’s “Affirmations,” under the vehement protests of the Church’s lawyers. Since then, the document has leaked to the internet. Among Hubbard’s Affirmations:
“I can write.”
“My mind is still brilliant.”
“That masturbation was no sin or crime.”
“That I do not need to have ulcers any more.”
“That I believe in my gods and spiritual things.”
“That my magical work is powerful and effective.”
“That the numbers 7, 25, and 16 are not unlucky or evil for me.”
“That I am not bad to look upon.”
“That I am not susceptible to colds.”
“That these words and commands are like fire and will sear themselves into every corner of my being, making me happy and well and confident forever!”
Hubbard emerges, in Wright’s account, as a pitiable figure, driven by relentless ambition yet also stalked by an enduring fear of irrelevance. Flawed, prone to tyranny and abusive behavior, he sought to conquer his insecurities by achieving an outsized grandeur. “If one looks behind the Affirmations to the conditions they are meant to correct,” Wright concludes, “one sees a man who is ashamed of his tendency to fabricate personal stories, who is conflicted about his sexual needs, and who worries about his mortality. He has a predatory view of women but at the same time fears their power to humiliate him.”
* Austerity comes to CTU: the new 24 will only have twelve episodes.
…these office blocks in one of London’s most expensive districts are part of a surprising secret commercial property empire owned by the Vatican.
Behind a disguised offshore company structure, the church’s international portfolio has been built up over the years, using cash originally handed over by Mussolini in return for papal recognition of the Italian fascist regime in 1929.
* “Professor Furedi, how do you get around learning outcomes?” a young lecturer asks me in a breakout session. I have just spent 10 minutes explaining the corrosive influence of learning outcomes on education to my audience at the recent Think Festival in The Hague. Nevertheless, I am caught off guard by my blunt questioner. That is probably why my reply is a bit more candid than I had intended it to be. “I just make them up and ignore them,” I say.
* The good folks on the most-excellent BBC Radio/Open University statistical literacy programme More or Less decided to answer a year-old Reddit argument about how many Lego bricks can be vertically stacked before the bottom one collapses.
* 49% of GOP voters nationally say they think that ACORN stole the election for President Obama. We found that 52% of Republicans thought that ACORN stole the 2008 election for Obama, so this is a modest decline, but perhaps smaller than might have been expected given that ACORN doesn’t exist anymore.
* And Bill O’Reilly explains how Christianity is not a religion. The War on Christmas is confusing, y’all.
* The true gloomsters are scientists who look at climate through the lens of “dynamical systems,” a mathematics that describes things that tend to change suddenly and are difficult to predict. It is the mathematics of the tipping point—the moment at which a “system” that has been changing slowly and predictably will suddenly “flip.” The colloquial example is the straw that breaks that camel’s back. Or you can also think of it as a ship that is stable until it tips too far in one direction and then capsizes. In this view, Earth’s climate is, or could soon be, ready to capsize, causing sudden, perhaps catastrophic, changes. And once it capsizes, it could be next to impossible to right it again.
* But there’s an easy solution to all this! North Carolina considers outlawing accurate predictions of sea level rise. More from Raleigh’s Scott Huler at Scientific American.
* Lessig: “There is no one in the criminal justice system who believes that system works well. There is no one in housing law who believes this is what law was meant to be. In contracts, you read about disputes involving tens, maybe a hundred dollars. The disputes of ordinary people. These disputes are not for the courts any more. Or if they are, they are for courts that are an embarrassment to the ideals of justice from our tradition. The law of real people doesn’t work, even if the law of corporations does.”
Think Progress has the details. If you ask me the crucial mistake here is the choice of venue; obviously they’d have much better odds if they filed suit in Catholic court.
‘Exorcist’ author, William Peter Blatty, to sue Georgetown University in Catholic court. I’d say more, but now that I know this is possible I have some lawsuits to prepare.
* Aside from the slave labor, why manufacture in China? Because that’s where the rare earth minerals are.
* Science proves being bad at math makes you religious. I think I have that right.
* And tomorrow at Duke: the inaugural Novel conference, with Rebecca Walkowitz, Amitav Ghosh, Jacques Rancière, and more.
Long considered one of public higher education’s finest destinations for graduate work in the humanities, the University of Pittsburgh has cut off admissions to master’s and doctoral programs in German, religious studies, and classics in response to reduced state aid.
* Suppose you were alive back in 1945 and were told about all the new technology that would be invented between then and now: the computers and internet, mobile phones and other consumer electronics, faster and cheaper air travel, super trains and even outer space exploration, higher gas mileage on the ground, plastics, medical breakthroughs and science in general. You would have imagined what nearly all futurists expected: that we would be living in a life of leisure society by this time. Rising productivity would raise wages and living standards, enabling people to work shorter hours under more relaxed and less pressured workplace conditions.
Why hasn’t this occurred in recent years? In light of the enormous productivity gains since the end of World War II – and especially since 1980 – why isn’t everyone rich and enjoying the leisure economy that was promised? If the 99% is not getting the fruits of higher productivity, who is? Where has it gone?
To me, this is the ultimate disproof of the secular liberal contention that religion is the biggest possible cause of violence. Literally nothing could be more rigorously secular than “reasons of state,” and yet this principle has led to millions upon millions of deaths in the 20th Century alone. Of course, one could always fall back on the same dodge that allows one to get around the deaths caused by International Communism, for instance — “yes, they may have been officially atheistic, but in the last analysis Stalinism and Maoism are really religious in structure” — in order to define away abberant forms of “national security.”
And I think this typical dodge shows why the notion of religion as chief cause of violence has such a powerful hold — what “religion” signifies in such statements isn’t a body of beliefs and rituals, etc., but irrationality itself. It’s this irrationality that makes “religious violence” violent, not the body count. Within this framework, then, when rational people — for example, legitimate statesmen calculating the national interest — use violence for rational ends, it is not, properly speaking, violence. It is simply necessity.
(That’s the same reason why my typical rejoinder to “religious violence” rhetoric — “ever heard of money?” — also doesn’t work: the profit motive is rationality itself and could never be violent.)
* Against lotteries: Taking money from people who have little and are powerless against even the slightest chance of escaping poverty is the kind of activity usually associated with the Mafia and street gangs. State governments are more than happy to play the part though, and they’ve gone far beyond anything organized crime ever did in terms of exploiting the desperation of the poor and selling them false hope with terrible odds. Lotteries that take their money for the explicit purpose of giving it to people who are financially better off is evidence of how completely our governments – particularly here in the South – have abandoned even the pretense of holding the moral high ground. They’ve identified the victims of an exploitative system and chosen to use that to their advantage. More here.
* Here’s an interesting wrinkle I’ve encountered in a few places. Many scholars sign work-made-for-hire deals with the universities that employ them. That means that the copyright for the work they produce on the job is vested with their employers — the universities — and not the scholars themselves. Yet these scholars routinely enter into publishing contracts with the big journals in which they assign the copyright — which isn’t theirs to bargain with — to the journals. This means that in a large plurality of cases, the big journals are in violation of the universities’ copyright. Technically, the universities could sue the journals for titanic fortunes. Thanks to the “strict liability” standard in copyright, the fact that the journals believed that they had secured the copyright from the correct party is not an effective defense, though technically the journals could try to recoup from the scholars, who by and large don’t have a net worth approaching one percent of the liability the publishers face.
* Senator Frank Church – who chaired the famous “Church Committee” into the unlawful FBI Cointel program, and who chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – said in 1975:
“Th[e National Security Agency's] capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide. [If a dictator ever took over, the N.S.A.] could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back.“
Now, the NSA is building a $2 billion dollar facility in Utah which will use the world’s most powerful supercomputer to monitor virtually all phone calls, emails, internet usage, purchases and rentals, break all encryption, and then store everyone’s data permanently.