“That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon him. Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I’d strike the sun if it insulted me. For could the sun do that, then could I do the other; since there is ever a sort of fair play herein, jealousy presiding over all creations. But not my master, man, is even that fair play. Who’s over me? Truth hath no confines.”—In which we are once again reminded that, really, Moby-Dick has no peer.
I was a little bit surprised that the report didn’t spend much time tackling the hardest issue, which is why do they need to have so much revenue? It’s because their cost structure is made for print. When you look at how much revenue comes from print and the scale of their operation because of print, the challenge that they’re facing moving forward is how do they move into a post-print world….
It just seems like if you’re reading a secret internal report for The New York Times, the things that people would be stressed about, isn’t that, oh, the website’s not good enough, or they haven’t moved fast enough with this feature or that feature, but more like how do we deal with this very different cost structure of our future business, compared to our past business.
”—Finally getting to Felix Salmon’s really great Medium interview with Jonah Peretti. This point about the NYT innovation report was absolutely my reaction. That said, the problem is that the cost structure is both the most vital thing to address, and at the same time the one thing that never truly will.
American policy has generally worked from the assumption that the problem lies in basic weaknesses in the structure of our educational system with its inherent inequalities and the way in which our school curricula are constructed. These certainly have contributed to comparatively weak scores. I have long been convinced that one of the reasons Japan’s educational system is better than the U.S.—at least in the sense that a very broad swath of the general public receives a good and equal education through high school—is related to funding. The U.S. system generates inherent inequalities in school funding by depending upon property taxes. Even in states where there is some (usually grudging) redistribution of wealth to support public schools in poor areas (in Texas it is called the Robin Hood law), it is obvious that children in wealthy areas receive a better education with far greater academic and other resources than those in poorer areas. In Japan, because there is a national curriculum and a significant portion of the funding for public schools comes from the national government, in addition to funding from prefectural and municipal governments, there is considerably less inequality in distribution of and access to quality education than in the U.S.
Unfortunately, the troubles with the U.S. education system are much deeper than distribution of funding or curriculum weaknesses, although these are both a byproduct of the cultural issue that Asimov observes. The troubles lie in the cult of ignorance and anti-intellectualism that has been a long-standing part of American society and which has become increasingly evident and powerful in recent years through the propagandizing and proselytizing of groups like the Tea Party and the religious right.
The fundamental reason that countries in places like East Asia present such a significant challenge to the U.S. politically and economically is not because they have a lot of people or big militaries, or seem to be willing to grow their economic and political might without concern for issues like damage to the environment (China). The problem is that these countries have core cultural values that are more akin to a cult of intelligence and education than a cult of ignorance and anti-intellectualism. In Japan, for example, teachers are held in high esteem and normally viewed as among the most important members of a community. I have never run across the type of suspicion and even disdain for the work of teachers that occurs in the U.S. Teachers in Japan typically are paid significantly more than their peers in the U.S. The profession of teaching is one that is seen as being of central value in Japanese society and those who choose that profession are well compensated in terms of salary, pension, and respect for their knowledge and their efforts on behalf of children.
In addition, we do not see in Japan significant numbers of the types of religious schools that are designed to shield children from knowledge about basic tenets of science and accepted understandings of history—such as evolutionary theory or the religious views of the Founding Fathers, who were largely deists—which are essential to having a fundamental understanding of the world. The reason for this is because in general Japanese value education, value the work of intellectuals, and see a well-educated public with a basic common knowledge in areas of scientific fact, math, history, literature, etc. as being an essential foundation to a successful democracy.
Um, they would never let a female TSA agent pat down a man, ever. The TSA is some bullshit but that is a cartoonized jab.
Reblogging because I’m somewhat a connoisseur of the airport pat down; I have an artificial hip and have been borderline assaulted in 16 countries! FYI, nicest place for a pat down, hands down, is Brazil; they’re super friendly and apologetic.
“Uber, like Amazon, has allowed a small number of people to become extremely rich by evading regulations and/or taxes that apply to their middle class competitors. Amazon and other Internet-based retailers have used their tax advantage to put tens of thousands brick and mortar stores out of business”—
current technolibertarianism: taxes, regulation, government, institutions themselves as merely a momentary impediment, “middlemen” heavy and solid with history to be inevitably washed away by the fast, fluid efficiency of “high tech”
“Taxes are not just a burden. They are also a benefit when used to create and maintain the commonwealth property and services that enable wealth creation and jobs. From educating children to making sure bridges are safe to operating the civil and criminal justice systems, taxes produce benefits that more than pay for themselves.”—David Cay Johnston (via azspot)
Actually we are not quite sure where to start, because you are mining a very, very rich vein here! But here are a few absolute favorites:
Graceling by Kristin Cashore: Katsa lives in a world where some people are “graced” — they have mismatched eyes and special talents. Katsa’s incredible skill for killing makes her a useful tool for a corrupt king, but everything changes when she meets a prince whose fighting skills are almost as good as her own. Graceling is the first of three linked books; we love Bitterblue most of all, but you should definitely start at the beginning.
Sabriel by Garth Nix: Sabriel has been raised just across the wall from a magical kingdom, in which her father is the Abhorsen, whose job it is to control the dead. When something terrible happens to the Abhorsen, his tools fall to Sabriel, who must cross into the Old Kingdom and learn to use a necromancer’s bells to keep a nasty spirit at bay. That sounds like a lot of death, sure, but these books — three are out now, with Clariel due out this fall — are beautiful and gripping. (And there is a magical cat.)
Chime by Franny Billingsley: Molly’s sleeper YA favorite is about a girl named Briony who is certain she’s a witch. She knows it’s her fault her stepmother died, and her fault her sister’s mind is damaged, and she’s just waiting for the knife to fall. Set in a swampy, pre-industrial world, Chime is mythic and gorgeous and mostly about the damage we can do by telling ourselves the wrong stories. (It might make you cry. Fair warning.)
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman: Seraphina is a court musician in a world where dragons exist alongside humans — and can appear as humans (though they have to wear bells to indicate that they are dragons in human form). When a member of the royal family dies under suspicious circumstances, Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, where of course she uncovers all kinds of fascinating secrets, including a big one about herself. One of the best dragon books of, well, ever.
Ash and Huntress by Malinda Lo: Lo’s Ash is a lovely Cinderella retelling in which it is not the prince our heroine falls for, and the fairies are not exactly the godmother sort. Huntress takes place in the same world, but years earlier, when the human and fairy world are both out of alignment, and only an unlikely pair of young sages-in-training can put things back to rights.
The Books of Bayern series by Shannon Hale starts with a rewrite of the fable of the goose girl (The Goose Girl) and then launches into a whole world of adventures from there filled with magic, hard choices, politics, and good friends.
And last but not least, you’ll want the ass-kicking ladies of A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray to be your new best friends. They may be living in a pseudo-Victorian society, but that’s not going to stop Gemma Doyle and her classmates from learning to use their powers and take control of their destiny — whatever it turns out to be.
The classification of human inquiry into the Sciences and the Humanities is a rough but useful one. In essence, the part that concerns itself with what can be measured, we call “science,” and that concerned with what cannot be measured, we call “the humanities”. The former field of study provides us with the means to operate more effectively in the material world. The latter (and the latter alone) grants us the ability to judge what goes on out there. This is a question of balance. The study of the humanities is for judgement, and it’s judgement that our age is sorely lacking. We seem to have forgotten that we even need it.
These two ways of looking at the world and considering our actions therein are like the right and the left hand of human consciousness. It’s far easier to navigate the world with the full use of both. But the irrelevance of the humanities is trumpeted through the media on a daily basis. We live in a scientific age, we are assured. Everything must be tallied, measured, “explained” (LOL until I die a thousand times) with a chart or a bunch of incomprehensible psychedelic blobs on an MRI scan. We no longer need the fuzzy, meaningless mumbo-jumbo of philosophy or history, or the airy-fairy study of literature, impractical ivory tower disciplines for people who “don’t live in the real world”!
This conviction is widespread, with the results that you see all around you.
“As Iraq descends into chaos again, more than a decade after ‘Mission Accomplished,’ media commentators and politicians have mostly agreed upon calling the war a ‘mistake.’ But the ‘mistake’ rhetoric is the language of denial, not contrition: it minimizes the Iraq War’s disastrous consequences, removes blame, and deprives Americans of any chance to learn from our generation’s foreign policy disaster. The Iraq War was not a ‘mistake’ — it resulted from calculated deception. The painful, unvarnished fact is that we were lied to. Now is the time to have the willingness to say that.”—Dennis Kucinich (via hipsterlibertarian)
The name of the game — Piketty’s book fairly screams it — is capital: who gets to own it, benefit from it and derive political power from it. Accordingly, it may be of some interest to note that in significant part because of the pain and failure of our current reality, many of those local laboratories of democracy are, in fact, exploring new (and sometimes old) ways to own capital and are seeking to democratize it.
Even as union membership has trended steadily downward, for instance, the number of people involved in worker-owned firms has increased, from 250,000 in 1975 to about 11 million working in more than 11,000 firms today. Add to this approximately 130 million Americans who are members of some form of co-op, another type of democratized ownership; this number is increasing daily just beneath the surface of what our hollowed-out local newspapers are able to report on. Credit unions — member-owned one-person, one-vote banks — control more than $1.1 trillion in assets, as much as those of some of Wall Street’s largest financial institutions.
The biggest risk, and I completely understand how media companies are scared of this, is that if you do social media well you’re basically empowering your whole staff to speak for you, and they may say things that are inappropriate or damaging to your organization. To do social well requires a high degree of trust in your staff.
On the other hand, I mean, you should have that trust in your staff, or if you don’t, at least work to develop that — teach them how to behave in public if they don’t know already. The rewards are crucial, because online engagement is EVERYTHING. Ultimately the places that will win will be the places that create a personal connection between audience and reporter, and you can’t do that if your entire interaction on social media consists of “read my story” Tweets.
“If restoring the minimum wage to the level of more than four decades ago actually destroyed economies, then Washington state, with its nation-leading $9.32 an hour minimum, should be a wreck. Facts show otherwise.”—
“Few people are prepared for the ferocity with which children siphon up every available resource in terms of time, money and brain space. It’s easy to be magnanimous and reasonable when every evening is available and every dollar disposable. Husbands and wives can discuss their finances at a leisurely pace over old-fashioneds in a local boîte. Mothers and fathers, on the other hand, usually find they take up the subject in enraged whispers around bedtime after they’ve discovered that the credit-card bill has gone unpaid yet again. Women, studies show, are still bearing the brunt of child rearing and housework. This is not always because the dads are lazy; sometimes well-educated and competent women decline to delegate child-rearing responsibilities to other people. But either way, the marital-financial equation is exponentially harder to solve when there are offspring. And there’s less time to solve it and less room for error or experimentation. As divorce lawyers know, many ex-wives feel that if they were making most of the money and doing most of the child rearing and homekeeping, there was very little point in having a husband.”—