Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘no one could have predicted

Thursday Links!

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* I have a short piece up at the Cambridge UP blog: “We’re Sorry, the Final Frontier is Closed.” It talks a bit about the recent revival of space frontier and space opera fantasy in big-budget films like Jupiter Ascending, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Interstellar…

Scientists determine the nation’s safest places to ride out a zombie apocalypse.

Woodland ‘fairy door’ tradition ‘out of control.’

Now the trustees of Wayford Woods have announced ‘fairy control’ methods which will curb the “profusion of elfin construction”.

Trustee Steven Acreman said the trend was “in danger of getting out of control” but stressed he was not “anti-fairies”.

“It’s a very complex situation and nobody’s admitting that they’re evicting the fairies,” he said.

“These beliefs persisted into recent times,” says Butler. “For example, in 1895 Michael Cleary convinced his family and community that his wife, Bridget, was a changeling. This was confirmed by a traditional fairy doctor, who attempted a herbal cure. When that didn’t work, they threatened her with fire, doused, and finally burned her to death.” Well, that’s certainly less charming.

So by all means, criticize teachers when it is warranted. But resist education reformers at all costs, particularly when they rationalize their reforms as a way to address the problems of the teaching force. Education reformers, no matter their intentions, are the enemies of a unionized teaching force. They are the enemies of public education.

Sweet Briar’s Sudden Closure Plans Leave Students and Employees Scrambling.

“The faculty and staff,” Mr. Brown said, “are feeling traumatized by this—not just by the loss of the institution, but by the way it has been handled. They seem to have no answers about anything, and that is what feels so deeply troubling.”

I hadn’t even thought about how impossible it will be for Sweet Briar faculty to sell their homes. What a nightmare.

Who Gets the Endowment? I really hope higher ed media watches the dispersal of Sweet Briar’s endowment and property very closely.

* And of course Forbes has a handwavey plan to save Sweet Briar by firing all the faculty and replacing them with MOOCs.

The Woman Behind #NAWD.

* Neoliberalism and magic.

Indeed, at the heart of the standard capitalist narrative is magic, as if the will to realize the abstract ideal of a cornucopia for all will itself — through fervent wishing and belief that can only be called religious — bring about the imagined state. It is the “invisible hand” idea from Adam Smith — the conviction that there really is a hidden force that given free rein sets everything aright. It is the God meme in capitalism and its writings, Smith’s among them, that is to capitalism what the Torah is to Judaism, the Gospels to Christianity, and the Koran to Islam: holy texts whose authenticity and reality must not be challenged or questioned unless as an adolescent moment of doubt, eventually subsumed by the re-embrace of total belief.

* I’ve always wanted a Trek anthology series. And with the ever-lowering cost of CGI effects it could be finally be done…

* In the short term, the contract faculty who teach the majority of courses at York University are striking for higher wages. In the long run, contract teaching needs to be abolished.

* The Unintended Consequences of Borrowing Business Tools to Run a University.

In some cases, regulation, not deliberative choice, has led campus leaders to rely on business advice. For example, the Taxpayer Bill of Rights II, signed into law in 1996, requires many of us to hire compensation consultants to ensure that “disqualified persons”—presidents, provosts, vice presidents for finance and administration, etc.—have not received an “excessive benefit” such as inappropriate compensation.In all situations that I have observed, this process has had unintended consequences. Using sophisticated tools developed for industry, the consultants have demonstrated that many higher-education leaders are undercompensated.

GASP! NO ONE COULD HAVE PREDICTED! I wonder if a “compensation consultant” has ever, in history, determined that a CEO was receiving “excessive benefit.”

Raped on Campus? Don’t Trust Your College to Do the Right Thing. I’d see the story about Oregon’s admin raiding the campus health center for ammo to use against its own students, but I’d never seen the outrageous legal justification for it before now.

If you are a student and seek counseling at your college’s counseling center, your medical records are most likely not protected by the typical medical-privacy laws, otherwise known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Instead, they fall under the aegis of Ferpa, just as Oregon said. And compared with Hipaa, Ferpa is about as protective as cheesecloth.

This Is What It’s Like To Go To Court In Ferguson, Missouri. DOJ Finds Ferguson Police Routinely Discriminate. Ferguson Police Tolerate Sexual Harassment of Female Officers. What Is Wrong With the Ferguson Police Department? Particular lowlights from the DoJ report.

* Ferguson, Inc: The city’s protest movement tries to find a path forward.

What’s happening here is fundamentally simple: the surveillance state enforcing surveillance as the normative form of care. The state cannot teach its citizens, because it has no idea what to teach; it can only place them under observation. Perfect observation — panopticism — then becomes its telos, which is justifies and universalizes by imposing a responsibility to surveil on the very citizens already being surveilled.

Lao Science Fiction On the Rise.

* 1906 novel predicted what New York would be like in 2015 exactly.

CSU profs: Stagnant pay pushing us out of middle class.

American Airlines To Phase Out Complimentary Cabin Pressurization.

* More Companies Are Run By Men Named “John” Than By Women. Just lean in!

Writers Block: TV Writers’ Rooms Have Even Fewer Women, Minorities Than Last Year.

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Douglas Adams made me a writer: Neil Gaiman salutes his friend and inspiration.

The power of play: The effects of Portal 2 and Lumosity on cognitive and noncognitive skills.

Lots of Cases of Synesthesia Are Based on Alphabet Magnets.

Where’s The Funding For Women’s Soccer?

* Why Don’t Men Kick Each Other in the Balls?

Stop Calling Children’s Gun Deaths “Accidental.”

* A singular event that has never happened in history before: Kenosha officer admits to planting evidence in homicide case.

* 2016 watch: Bernie’s Reasons Why Not.

* And Boing Boing has your gallery of Star Trek comic book covers.

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Monday Morning Links!

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* You’ve been waiting for it: the inevitable “Too Many Cooks” followup, “Unedited Footage of a Bear.” Here’s your instant criticism on the Adult Swim infomercial phenomenon.

* I got hooked on this after a Facebook recommendation, so why shouldn’t you? Papers, Please.

* No one could have predicted: Cuban Oil May Prove A Boon For U.S. Companies.

* NYT: Prosecute Torturers and Their Bosses.
* Andrew Liptak at Kirkus has your brief history of the Culture.

* UW-Superior to suspend 5 academic programs.

* Your guide to academic interviewing from The Professor Is In: The Question Is Not the Question. It’s a little hard for me to believe how absolutely clueless I was about all this back when, but this lesson was by far the most helpful thing I learned from my mock interview. Absolutely do a mock interview if you have the option.

* M.F.A.s: An Increasingly Popular, Increasingly Bad Financial Decision.

* Dissent on the invention of jaywalking.

* Tragedy in Brooklyn as two police officers are assassinated. Aside from how horrible this event is in itself, I’ve been stunned how immediately and how viciously this has been politicized, not just by known bad actors like Giuliani but even by middle-of-the-road empty suits like Pataki.

* NYPD Officer Repeatedly Punches 12-Year-Old Black Boy As Colleagues Subdue Him, And A Lawyer Sees The Whole Thing. Prosecutor Says He Knew Some Witnesses Were Lying To The Ferguson Grand Jury. Meet the Pro-Slavery Fairview Park Auxiliary Cop. Family of toddler critically injured by SWAT team facing $1 million in medical bills. Woman Tries To Trademark ‘I Can’t Breathe’ To Sell Merchandise. “I Can Breathe,” and the Occasional Fear of Covering Protests.

High incarceration may be more harmful than high crime.

* Appeals Court Rules People Institutionalized for Mental Illness Still Have Right to Guns.

* If Apple Were A Worker Cooperative, Each Employee Would Earn At Least $403K.

* In Defense of Economic Disobedience.

* Justine Sacco Is Good at Her Job, and How I Came To Peace With Her.

* #realtalk: Serial Sucked And Wasted Everyone’s Time. I’ll allow it, SNL.

How the NFL leaves players broken — and broke.

* Incognito mode: Americans aren’t getting married, and researchers think porn is part of the problem.

* It’s almost 2015, which means it’s time to convince ourselves that the Obama administration hasn’t been a complete and total disaster. Over to you Matt.

Indeed, this is one of the crowning lessons of Pay Any Price: that the United States is suffering from a widespread crisis of accountability, one that transcends distinctions between the public and private sectors and that encompasses both. The sources of power, real power, seem more remote and mysterious to Americans than ever before. It is no coincidence that this November’s midterm elections saw the lowest voter turnout in 72 years (a pathetic 36.3 percent). Most Americans now spend their lives hostage to forces they can neither understand nor control nor hope to shape in any meaningful way. People see themselves as objects to be acted upon, not as thinking subjects. If the architects of our post-9/11 politics believed they were subverting democracy in order to save it, that we should pay any price to keep our people safe, they should be applauded for succeeding in at least one, crucial, part of their proposition. We have paid, again, and again, and again.

Is string theory revealing reality’s deep laws? Or, as some detractors have claimed, is it a mathematical mirage that has sidetracked a generation of physicists?

* An orangutan held in an Argentine zoo can be freed and transferred to a sanctuary after a court recognized the ape as a “non-human person” unlawfully deprived of its freedom, local media reported on Sunday.

* And why do you hate the South? I don’t! I don’t hate it! I don’t hate it!

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Monday Links

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19 Regional Words All Americans Should Adopt Immediately.

* Take the New York Times‘s dialect quiz.

* CFP: Graphic Treatment: Zombies, Medicine, and Comics.

The point is truth and beauty, without which our lives will lack grace and meaning and our civilization will be spiritually hollowed out and the historical bottom line will be that future epochs will remember us as a coarse and philistine people who squandered our bottomlessly rich cultural inheritance for short-term and meaningless financial advantage. And that is why you should major in English.

* Wisconsin ranks #1 in the country for our rate of incarcerating African Americans.  The state’s incarceration rate is 12.8%, meaning that one in eight black men are currently in state prison.  In Milwaukee, the numbers are even more stark.  More than half of the black men in Milwaukee have been incarcerated at one point or another, leaving them virtually unemployable as more and more employers run routine background checks.  2/3s of them are in the cities 6 poorest zip codes.

* Rebecca Schuman v. Riverside.

* Remember Black Mountain SOLE, the big MOOC U experiment? No one could have predicted it would turn out to be a complete sham.

Our research confirms that there is a direct correlation between institutional prestige and candidate placement. If we consider the highest ranked programs, the three tied at #1, we find that Harvard University has successfully placed 239 political scientists at 75 institutions—including twelve at Harvard. Princeton has successfully placed 108 political scientists at 62 institutions—including five at Princeton. Stanford has successfully placed 128 political scientists at 51 institutions—including three at Stanford. The highest ranked public university, The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor (ranked number four overall), has successfully placed 141 political scientists in 61 institutions—including seven at Michigan. These four schools contribute 616 political scientists; roughly twenty percent of the total tenure-track lines in the discipline at research-intensive programs. The median institutional ranking for the 116 institutions covered is eleven, which implies that eleven schools contribute 50 percent of the political science academics to research-intensive universities in the United States. Over 100 political science PhD programs are graduating students that will contest the remaining 50 percent of openings. More links below the chart.

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On the ASA Boycott and Its Backlash.

The Ivory Ceiling of Service Work.

Peer review or smear review? Reflections on a rigged system.

* George Zimmerman discovers secret loophole to becoming a successful artist.

* Oh, New Jersey.

* Interactive graphic: median income across the US.

These 2 Cities Are Now Exclusively For Rich People.

Write A House Is Giving Writers Free Homes In Detroit.

The bedroom tax was designed not just to reduce the welfare bill, but to make an example of those whose benefits were cut. Britain has a housing shortage and a costly welfare state, due to high unemployment, chronic low wages, and an unresolved global economic crisis for which British banks are partly to blame. The bedroom tax sharpens a structural economic problem into a attack on the poor and sick, who are now to be considered lazy, luxuriating in more space than they need in some of the most crowded cities on earth. It’s not just about the money. It’s about making sure people with disabilities and mental health problems no longer get the basic space to live.

Across the country, public schools employ about 250,000 fewer people than before the recession, according to figures from the Labor Department. Enrollment in public schools, meanwhile, has increased by more than 800,000 students. To maintain prerecession staffing ratios, public school employment should have actually grown by about 132,000 jobs in the past four years, in addition to replacing those that were lost, said Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington.

FBI agent tries to copyright super-secret torture manual, inadvertently makes it public.

Elf advocates are successfully delaying Icelandic road projects due to concerns over the possibility of elf nesting habitats in rural lava fields. Concerns over the “hidden folk” are central to Icelandic culture — according to a 2007 poll, 62 percent of Icelandic residents think it’s at least possible that elves exist.

* Bloomberg, Dasani, and the undeserving poor at Christmas.

* Compulsory monogamy in The Hunger Games.

Why The Desolation of Smaug Is Peter Jackson’s Phantom Menace.

* How the New Yorker covered the Moon landing.

* Comedians and depression.

More simply, as they say in the article, “the Republican Party has engaged in strategic demobilization efforts in response to changing demographics, shifting electoral fortunes, and an internal rightward ideological drift among the party faithful.” Those demobilization efforts are targeted towards black voters in particular, minority voters in general, as well as the poor, all of whom tend to vote Democratic, while they seek to avoid impacting elderly (white) voters who tend to vote Republican. It’s also worth noting that both the efforts and the research is not limited to voter ID laws, but includes proof of citizenship requirements, registration restrictions, and absentee and early voting restrictions. There is a tendency, even among liberals, to dismiss such efforts as simply a legitimate effort to ensure that people have ids. Leaving aside that this still can be a barrier to exercising a fundamental right, such arguments obviously don’t apply to all these restrictions. While they found a small influence for accusations of “voter fraud” this is dwarfed by these other considerations. Targeting the Right To Vote.

* Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal runs an op-ed just straight out calling for a return to white male rule. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Thursday!

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* First we must understand that though the humanities in general and literary studies in particular are poor and struggling, we are not naturally poor and struggling. We are not on a permanent austerity budget because we don’t have the intrinsic earning power of the science and engineering fields and aren’t fit enough to survive in the modern university. I suggest, on the basis of a case study, that the humanities fields are poor and struggling because they are being milked like cash cows by their university administrations. The money that departments generate through teaching enrollments that the humanists do not spend on their almost completely unfunded research is routinely skimmed and sent elsewhere in the university. As the current university funding model continues to unravel, the humanities’ survival as national fields will depend on changing it. Via MLA.

* No one could have predicted: Citing disappointing student outcomes, San Jose State pauses work with Udacity.

* Tomrorow’s outrageous acquittals today: Here’s Florida’s Next Trayvon Martin Case.

* Possible Homeland Security pick tainted by racial profiling accusations. It would be terrible if racial politics were somehow allowed to corrupt the mission of Homeland Security.

* Eric Holder: I Had To Tell My Son How To Protect Himself From The Police Because He Is Black.

* Wyoming is a place with two escalators; it probably shouldn’t get two senators.

* As western water leaders converged on Las Vegas in December 2001, Southern California’s inability to contain its voracious appetite seemed finally to be bumping up against reality – there is only so much water in the Colorado River.

* My friend Fran McDonald has a piece in the Atlantic about laughter without humor.

The glitch aesthetic of the GIF emphasizes the uncanny quality of laughter. At each moment of re-looping, Portman performs a miniature convulsion that registers as an inhuman twitch. If humor makes us human — an assumed correlation that is so deeply written into our culture that the two share a basic etymological root — then laughter without humor appears to render us mechanical, terrifying, monstrous. It is not a coincidence that laughter without humor has become the great cinematic signifier of madness: think of Colin Clive’s maniacal “it’s alive!” hysterics in the famous 1931 film version of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or the crazed cackle of The Joker in the Batman comics.

* Today, surrogacies in the U.S. are managed by profitable “voluntary” clinic-agencies speaking the language of the “gift.” The labor (no pun intended) that commercial surrogates perform in the U.S. is not legally recognized as work but as volunteerism, though surrogacies cost at least four times the 1986 sum—whether they be traditional, in which the surrogate is impregnated with a client’s sperm, or, as is increasingly the case, gestational, in which an in-vitro-­fertilized embryo is transferred to the surrogate’s womb. Strict means-testing is used to assess a surrogate’s independent wealth, purporting to check for authentic “voluntariness.” This effectively bars working-class American women from entering surrogacy agreements. The U.S. surrogacy industry prefers to cast surrogacy as akin to basket-weaving or amateur pottery, not ­assembly-line factory work.

In India, the reverse is true. There are upwards of 3,500 so-called womb farms in the country, in which conscripted women offer the vital force of black flesh considered untouchable at home to incubate white children destined to be shipped back to Denmark, Israel, or the U.S. It’s a “purely economic arrangement” with a “mere vessel,” explains Dominic and Octavia Orchard of Oxfordshire, UK, a commissioning couple featured in the Daily Mail in 2012. To couples like these, surrogates are presented as transnational reproductive-service workers, their job description posted online and accompanied by detailed terms of service.

* And a Dan Harmon profile with more information on his firing and rehiring and plans for season five, for anyone who still hasn’t lost patience with either the series or him personally…

Thursday Night Links: Neoliberalism, The University in Ruins, Is the Pope Catholic?, and More

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* CFP: Ecology and the Environmental Humanities symposium at Rice University.

Rather than enlarge the moral imagination and critical capacities of students, too many universities are now wedded to producing would-be hedge fund managers, depoliticized students, and creating modes of education that promote a “technically trained docility.” Strapped for money and increasingly defined in the language of corporate culture, many universities are now driven principally by vocational, military and economic considerations while increasingly removing academic knowledge production from democratic values and projects. The ideal of the university as a place to think, to engage in thoughtful consideration, promote dialogue and learn how to hold power accountable is viewed as a threat to neoliberal modes of governance. At the same time, higher education is viewed by the apostles of market fundamentalism as a space for producing profits, educating a docile labor force, and a powerful institution for indoctrinating students into accepting the obedience demanded by the corporate order. Neoliberalism and the Politics of Higher Education: An Interview With Henry A. Giroux.

* “We believe the current (higher education) leadership is pursuing a bad model that will decrease affordability for students and parents, eliminate good jobs, increase inequality and reintroduce a class-based system where the rich will receive a good, four-year liberal arts education, and everyone else will get trained for jobs that will last 10 years and then disappear.” The SEIU considers higher education.

The Commercialization of Academia: A Case Study.

This has been the one constant in my experience.  Each of the ten academic years I’ve been at my current institution has been subjected to some fundamental reorganization, to the point where my colleagues have a joke about it: it’s a Mao-esque permanent revolution. In this time, my department has been based in two faculties under four (soon to be five) deans, housed in three (soon to be four) “schools”, with four different heads of school, and my department has had five chairs. The university writ large has seen a massive building program, the consolidation of branch campuses on the main campus, the reduction in faculties from eight, to five, and then a year later four. Physically, my department has moved offices twice in two years, and for some three times. We’re facing yet another physical move in the summer of 2014, as our extant offices are redeveloped into on-campus housing for students. My own major has been reduced to a minor twice; once in 2005, for reasons that remain somewhat mysterious but corresponded with the sacking of two colleagues. Following the byzantine process of validation, which I’ve now achieved a certain proficiency at, it relaunched three years later, only to have it suddenly pulled on that Saturday morning, three years ago.

* Disinvestment watch: State Budgeters’ View of Higher Ed.

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72 percent of professors who have taught Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) don’t believe that students should get official college credit, even if they did well in the class. More importantly, these are the professors who voluntarily took time to teach online courses, which means the actual number of professors who discount the quality of MOOCs is probably much (much) higher.

* Walmart “is in the early planning stages of a service that would see in-store customers rent space in their vehicles and their time to the mega-retailer to deliver products it sells online. The move would combat same-day delivery ideas from Amazon and reportedly what’s in the works with Google, which might have already signed on Target for such a service.”

* Idaho teacher investigated for saying ‘vagina’ during biology lesson. What should she have said?

* The group of 12 young people who had their feet washed and kissed by the pope included two young women – the first time a pope included females in the rite. The ceremony has traditionally been limited to men, since all of Jesus’ apostles were men. Via TPM, that “has traditionally been limited” thing appears to have some real force.

* With natural gas production on the rise—it has jumped 26 percent since 2007, chiefly because fracking now makes it economically viable to pursue gas trapped in shale deposits—and unconventional practices such as dewatering ramping up domestic oil development, the wastewater deluge is expected to get worse. Operators are injecting more water than ever into drilling wells, while boring new wells to accommodate the overflow. Yet nobody really knows how all this water will impact faults, or just how big an earthquake it could spawn. In the West, small quakes don’t often cause much damage because of stricter seismic regulations but also because the underground formations—buckled, with younger rock—absorb all but the biggest events. Induced quakes, however, are happening primarily in flatter states, amid more rigid rock, making them more destructive—a stone makes a bigger splash when it’s hurled into a glassy pond than a river of raging whitewater. Fracking’s Latest Scandal? Earthquake Swarms.

* Things you didn’t even know you needed to worry about: Are Exploding Manhole Covers In Washington DC Caused By Shocking Levels Of Leaking Natural Gas?

* Screen Daily teases The Grand Budapest Hotel.

The Grand Budapest Hotel tells of a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars and his friendship with a young employee who becomes his trusted protégé.

The story involves the theft and recovery of a priceless Renaissance painting, the battle for an enormous family fortune and the slow and then sudden upheavals that transformed Europe during the first half of the 20th century.

* Charlie Stross predicts 2043.

* Contagion was right: How The Meat Industry Is Fueling The Rise Of Drug-Resistant Diseases.

* We’re screwed: Forecasts of global temperature rises over the past 15 years have proved remarkably accurate, new analysis of scientists’ modelling of climate change shows.

* And Billy Corgan is the only rock star from the 1990s brave enough to take a stand against the lizard people.

Smartest Guys in the Room Successfully Cause Bank Run

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Cypriots reacted with shock that turned to panic on Saturday after a 10% one-off levy on savings was forced on them as part of an extraordinary 10bn euro (£8.7bn) bailout agreed in Brussels.