Friday, September 30, 2011

Read This Now - On Academic Careers, Teaching, & Opportunities

If you haven't guessed yet, I'm working my way through a back list of articles from earlier this year that I read and enjoyed either when they first hit the interwebs or that I finally had time to get to now (being under-employed has some advantages I suppose).

The latest in this series is a great little story from David Eisenbach about his (mostly) failed career as an academic and how seizing the opportunity to work with Larry Flynt (yes, The Larry Flynt) let him succeed as a teacher in a whole new and exciting way...

Next we moved on to a packed theater for a discussion about the book. For an hour, Flynt and I entertained more than 1,000 people with our stories. Afterward, during the book signing, a middle-aged woman said something that I'll always remember: "If only my teachers taught history like you just did, I would have been a history major." That was my career goal all along—to be a great teacher who turned people on to history. In a strange way, my failures in the academic world had helped me achieve that goal on a bigger stage.
Read the whole thing, it'll be 10 minutes of fun added to your day.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Read This Now - Moving Medicine Forward

This isn't the first time I've told you to go read something from Atul Gawande and it certainly won't be the last (I'm pretty sure I'm on the record somewhere saying that everyone should read everything he writes).

This particular nugget was his commencement address at Harvard Med School this spring covering why medicine needs to look to pit crews...

We’re all specialists now—even primary-care doctors. A structure that prioritizes the independence of all those specialists will have enormous difficulty achieving great care.
We don’t have to look far for evidence. Two million patients pick up infections in American hospitals, most because someone didn’t follow basic antiseptic precautions. Forty per cent of coronary-disease patients and sixty per cent of asthma patients receive incomplete or inappropriate care. And half of major surgical complications are avoidable with existing knowledge. It’s like no one’s in charge—because no one is. The public’s experience is that we have amazing clinicians and technologies but little consistent sense that they come together to provide an actual system of care, from start to finish, for people. We train, hire, and pay doctors to be cowboys. But it’s pit crews people need.
Gawande also hits on how health care costs are adversely affecting our education system and the necessary skills they don't cover in med school.  

Go read the whole thing, it won't take you too long and you'll be glad that you did.

Gawande is also on twitter now (see that note above about reading everything he writes)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Read This Now - Roid Rage

This piece is from last winter but it's point is still extremely valid and timely and as baseball's regular season draws to a close I'm wrapping back to say you should take a look and think about how we talk and think about the steroid era in the big leagues.

Craig Calcaterra links to a Matthew Artus piece on why we can't have an intelligent discussion about the topic.  Artus's point is that all the vilification going on means that there is no incentive for players to open up about the steroid era and we may never get around to figuring out how to think about baseball during this period, we lack a contest to discuss the players of this era as compared to all time greats (this becomes more important as we get in to the HoF candidacies of steroid era players).

I think Calcaterra makes an even more important and interesting argument in pointing out that MLB has led the way in making the main issue of the steroid era who used and who didn't and the press has just followed along.  No one has been willing to ask or answer the more interesting questions about what steroids mean or meant and how they effected the game.  He makes the damning point that MLB and the press are just sticking with the approach they took while steroid use ran rampant through the league in the 90's, lets sort of ignore it and then sweep it under the rug sums it up pretty well.  The Mitchell Report, in this light, was nothing more than an attempt to close the door on the subject and move along.

Like the Mitchell Report, the current take by most of the baseball press on steroids is lazy, misleading and close to useless.
It will only take you a few minutes to read the piece and it'll be worth the time, maybe it will even make you think a little bit.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Best Thing I've Seen All Week

Who cares that it's only Monday, this is great...

Pretty much sums up the feeling I get every time I read the good doctor's column.

(via BDL)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Talk About A Train Wreck

It's really early in the cycle but there is no mistaking that the 2012 Presidential Election season is upon us, especially given the amount of coverage the media has been devoting to the early Republican debates.

I only really catch what NPR has to say about them in the mornings, and last night's debate seems to have been quite the debacle at times.  The level of discourse and the adherence to facts displayed by the candidates are astonishingly low (not that I was expecting much).  The coup de grace was definitely delivered (if you can call it that) when Rick Perry stumbled his way through what I think was supposed to be an attack on Mitt Romney as a flip-flopper...

I think Americans just don't know sometimes which Mitt Romney they're dealing with. Is it the Mitt Romney that was on the side of — against the Second Amendment before he was for the Second Amendment? Was it — was before — he was before the social programs from the standpoint of — he was for standing up for Roe versus Wade before he was against first — Roe versus Wade? Him — he was for Race to the Top. He's for "Obamacare" and now he's against it. I mean, we'll wait until tomorrow and — and — and see which Mitt Romney we're really talking to tonight.
Unbelievably that transcript makes it sound better than it was, you can listen to the sequence here (it starts about the 2:40 mark) and somewhere there is sure to be video but I haven't looked for it.  The transcript comes from this NPR blog piece.

Also worth noting (as others have) that the crowds at these Republican debates have been cheering and jeering for some pretty embarrassing things; cheering executions and letting the uninsured die, and booing an active duty soldier in Iraq (just wow on that last one).  Not that everyone who is a Republican agrees with the folks doing the yelling but it's still ugly and at the very least it means that this nastiness is a piece of what the Republican party base believes in these days.

It's gonna be a looong election cycle...

Prompted by Greg Sargent, I want to add that the real problem and travesty isn't the way the crowds (or individuals in them) have been acting but the ways in which the candidates have reacted.

Sesame Street Gets After Glee

I don't remember Sesame Street being quite so into spoofs and/or rip offs when I was growing up, then again it isn't like you remember everything that happens when you're a kindergartener so who knows if this is a new thing or not.

Which is all just to say that I really enjoyed the Sesame Streets sponsorship by the Letter G the other day...

It helps that I've been sucked into the Glee vortex so I get all of the references and know who the characters are, which lets me say this is really spot on, right down to the jokes about the teacher's use of hair product.

It has to go way over the heads of the majority of Sesame Street's viewers and target audience though (doesn't it?).  I suppose it's nice to be able to have some actual learning about the letter g and the sounds that makes wrapped up in some nods to an older audience who is probably watching along.

(via SE)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Looking Back At The Wire

I'm far from the only person who has called The Wire one of, if not the, best things to ever grace a TV screen (even if I thought the last season drifted past credibility at times).  I think that this interview with David Simon conducted via email by Nick Hornby for The Believer back in 2007 does the best job of capturing why so many people have felt so strongly about The Wire.

Tim Carmody, who pointed to the interview while sitting in for Kottke this past spring, did a really nice job of expanding on the Greek Tragedy aspect that Simon brings up in regard to Omar Little.

If you enjoyed the show, or even if you haven't seen it and wonder where all the hype comes from, or even if you don't care about The Wire or TV at all but are interested in the art of writing and story telling you need to read this interview.  Simon's take on how The Wire is different and what it takes to tell a story the right way are fascinating. 

My favorite bit made it into the pull quote to lead off the piece...

My standard for verisimilitude is simple and I came to it when I started to write prose narrative: fuck the average reader. I was always told to write for the average reader in my newspaper life. The average reader, as they meant it, was some suburban white subscriber with two-point-whatever kids and three-point-whatever cars and a dog and a cat and lawn furniture. He knows nothing and he needs everything explained to him right away, so that exposition becomes this incredible, story-killing burden. Fuck him. Fuck him to hell.
Which also led to an exposition on Simon's shows as travelouges and the issues that smart people have with most TV.

Just go read the whole thing already!

Read This Now - In Cherokee

Click through to check out a comic book style history of the written Cherokee language from artist Roy Boney.  Even if you skim it you'll learn something: I had no idea the Cherokee Nation was printing an internationally distributed newspaper prior to the Trail of Tears.

(via botm)

Monday, September 19, 2011

In Orbit

This time lapse video from the ISS has been making the rounds over the past couple of days (this embed code comes via kottke) and when I finally watched it, well it was much cooler than I had expected.  Which means you should take a minute to watch it as well...

I think that the lightning is my favorite part. The video flies down the west coast of North America to start.

Hang 10

I only tried surfing once and it didn't go too well (I blame the cheap foam boards and the confused surf to make myself feel better) so it isn't like I know what I'm talking about but this inflatable surf board appears to be the real deal. It boggles the mind a bit in that I really don't think this should work...

More on the Surf Air can be found here (warning no one has told the designer that having music play on your website is a terrible idea).

(via DB)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

We Keep On #Winning

I don't get the worst place in the world these days so I probably won't actually watch this, but the trailer alone is awesome...

Gotta love Martin Sheen getting in on the action!

(via CC on fb)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Save Seafood Since It's Scrumptious

I've done a fair amount of fisheries work over and while it is more nuanced and complicated than a simple little statement like this post's title, if I had to boil my reasons for saving seafood down to a sound bit that would be it.

It seems that the folks at Legal Seafood are on the same page...

(the embed code is only working for one of the three videos I've seen, head to blogfish for the other two)

It should be noted that Legal has a history of poking sustainable seafood folks with a stick, and I'd bet that these ads don't actually signal some sort of commitment to redouble the chain's efforts to help make sure that seafood remains on the menu for future generations (seems like it would be a good thing to have in the business plan for a seafood restaurant though).

I'm a little surprised that they didn't do one for bluefin, speaking of scrumptious...

(via blogfish)

I Fell Into A Bowl Of Oatmeal

The comic that is.  It all started with this doozy from RG on fb...

The rest of the what we should have been taught in high school series is pretty good as well, particularly the sex ed and english lessons.  I also learned how follow friday is supposed to work and got a lesson in semicolon use.

Ah the interwebs...

Monday, September 12, 2011

More Fresh Local Fish

This Community Supported Fishery actually got started this summer so I'm a little late in sharing this video, but it does a nice job of quickly introducing CSF's and this project in particular, and man does that salmon look good...

For more info on CSF's be sure to check out

Friday, September 2, 2011

Long Walks On The Beach

I haven't gotten around to reading Ian Frazier's piece in the NY'er on Dutch artist Theo Jansen yet, but after the teaser video it's high on my list...

There are lots of other videos out there of Jansen's creations and his Strandbeest website is a good place to start.  Here is his 2007 TED Talk on the project...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Read This Now - How Broken Is Our Political System?

Very, says Ezra Klein and this shouldn't be news to anyone who has been paying attention.  I fully agree that we've hit a new low though, and I'm willing to put a fair amount of the blame on the media for continuing with the he said she said story telling mantra instead of reporting facts and making sure that the public is actually informed.

Ezra's run down is too good to not share here, you should be reading all of his stuff especially the morning wonkbook.

The last year or so in American politics has been a tragedy. With unemployment over nine percent and underemployment closer to 16 percent, Washington has stopped talking about how to create jobs and turned its attention to cutting deficits. But it couldn't get that done, either. Having agreed to focus on the wrong question, the two parties proceeded to disagree over how to answer it.

When Republicans had the opportunity to strike a $4 trillion deficit-reduction deal with President Obama, they refused on the grounds that the deal would include around $1 trillion in new revenue, even as it extended $2.6 trillion in tax cuts. So far, we've passed less than $1 trillion in actual spending cuts, and the cost of doing even that was we nearly defaulted on the debt, which delivered another blow to an economy that was already trembling.

Last night, we descended into farce. Having failed to agree on the big issues, Washington descended to squabbling over a very, very small one: whether a mostly meaningless speech would happen on a Wednesday or a Thursday.

The White House tried to get a little cute here: they left the date of the speech open and then decided to schedule it at the same time as the GOP presidential debate. But they say they ran that by Speaker Boehner's office and didn't get an objection.

Then Boehner got a little cute: he pretended that the logistics were simply impossible -- a security sweep couldn't be assured on such short notice -- and, breaking with precedent, refused to schedule the address.
Eventually, the White House agreed to schedule the speech for Thursday. That may or may not have been the best political decision -- perhaps they could have just moved the address to a roomful of the unemployed -- but it was the adult decision. It would have been a shame for an argument over the venue to overshadow what is supposed to be a proposal about jobs.

Nevertheless, in the parlance of Washington, Boehner "won." And perhaps he did. But the rest of us lost. If it wasn't already clear that Republicans in congress have no intention of working with the White House on further help for the jobless, it's plenty clear now. If it wasn't already clear to the business community that the two parties absolutely hate each other and there is no reason to believe that Washington will be able to help the economy if what little recovery we have turns south, it's plenty clear now.

To paraphrase economist Brad DeLong, last night was one of those nights when you remember that even taking into account the fact that our political system is performing worse than you could possibly imagine, it's performing worse than you can possibly imagine. Washington has made many more consequential missteps than this one. But few of them have been so thoroughly depressing, so insistent on showing us us, with brutal clarity, what the greatest nation in the world has come to.