Saturday, December 31, 2011

Read This Now - The GOP War On Voters

Ezra Klein has a good quick rundown of the various attacks on voters that the GOP has come up with over the course of 2011 in the course of shining a bright light on the hypocrisy that the Republican presidential primary candidates are now displaying after many of them failed to register to be included on the Virginia primary ballot...

The open secret of these laws is that they hurt turnout among Democratic constituencies such as students, minorities and low-income voters, which helps Republican politicians get elected. Virginia is just an odd case where restrictive ballot-access laws are hurting Republican politicians.
Read the whole thing for the details and links to other articles.  You could also take a look at this recent post from Charlie Pierce about Mitch McConnell's belief that democracy does not work.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Another Post Power Point Proposal

Power Point presentations are pretty awful, most folks agree on this and see them as pretty much the only available option which is what keeps them in use for the most part.  John Bohannon has a fun and only slightly tongue in cheek proposal for moving beyond power points, dance...

You can check out some of the Dance Your PhD videos here.

If you haven't seen Prezi yet you should check it out, it can take a little longer to build out your presentation than power point but the results can be very compelling.

(via W-M, where John and I both spent part of our junior year, but not at the same time)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Good TV, Bad Exchange Of Ideas

I'm glad to see that Barney Frank still hasn't lost his spark since deciding to retire, and I'm not surprised to see that George Will is still unwilling to actually have a discussion or exchange of ideas; he just likes to throw bombs and darts from a comfortable remove not get up close and personal and engage with anyone.

Someone will step up and give Frank his own show once he's retired right?

(via The Politics Blog, which I'm very glad to have finally found)

Read This Now - Can I Get A Fact Check?

Actually, no.

Ezra Klein has a good rundown on the problem with fact checking organizations in today's political climate and partisan arena.  It boils down to the fact that they can't manage to stay out of the he said she said model of reporting that fact checking ostensibly should be immune to.

And that, ultimately, is the problem with the fact checker model. They have no actual power, so their only influence comes from the public’s sense of their legitimacy. And about half of the public leans towards one party and about half of the public leans toward the other. That means PolitiFact and these other outlets need to find some uneasy balance between the parties, too. But that just means the parties will have plenty of opportunities to decide that these are hackish, partisan operations. Conservatives got there a few weeks ago, and now liberals are following.
Take a look at the whole thing, it'll only take you a couple of minutes.

And remember everyone is entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Strunk & White Get Krunk'd

Are the kids even still saying that?  If you never got around to cracking open your copy of The Elements of Style here's a video cliff notes version...

The Elements of Style from Jake Heller on Vimeo.

Not the greatest thing ever, but still pretty fun.  Poynter has an interview with the folks who put it together.

If you're jonesing for some more literary references check out the Condescending Literary Pun Dog (via MoJo).

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Valuing Nature

Pavan Sukhdev gives a pretty good explanation of why and a little bit of how we should be valuing the natural world more accurately...

The idea of natural capital isn't new but it is gaining interest and starting to become more mainstream, which is a very good thing for our long term survival.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Living Through Stories

As Sarah Kay points out we each only get one life to live, and while a lucky few of us manage to cram it full of different experiences stories, especially well told ones, let us glimpse at least the other view points and experiences and lives that stretch out beyond our own...

Perhaps not surprisingly Kay reminds me a little of Salman Rushdie, who is my benchmark of a great story teller.  She's also an impressively composed and captivating speaker.

You can watch another great talk from Kay on the TED website.  Go ahead and live through her stories for a few moments...

(this talk has been making the rounds of late so no specific via note)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Can You Speak Whale?

Dory speaks several dialects including a little humpback and maybe some orca...

Orcas and pilot whales actually do have dialects (different groups of whales are known to use different songs and sounds) and scientists studying these whales are looking for some citizen scientist crowd sourcing help in their research.

Through the Whale FM project you can help sort through thousands of recorded whale songs and the corresponding spectrograms looking for similar recordings that can be grouped into a matching category to help scientists work to decipher the calls.

Scientific American has partnered with researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and the University of St. Andrews to put together the website and they've done a wonderful job of making the project straight forward and accessible. You should give it a try if you have a few minutes or just check out the site if you want to learn more about the project.

Weekend Edition had a nice story on the Whale FM project recently and you can learn more about citizen science and other on going projects via Scientific American.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Endangered Species

Most folks have heard about the Endangered Species Act (ESA), I wonder how many of them think (incorrectly) that it is administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)...

Cute cartoon, I think it would have been a bit more poignant with a polar bear or maybe a wolf and referencing the proper agency would be a nice touch as well, if more complicated.

The ESA is administered by the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) with FWS taking fresh water and all terrestrial based species and NOAA in charge of marine creatures.

Wikipedia has a pretty good rundown of the ESA as well if you want some more info on the Act.

(Cartoon from Paul Noth in the December 5, 2011 issue of the New Yorker)

A New Spin On Worth A Thousand Words

Not photographs but sculptures this time around, and these bad boys actually contain thousands of words.  Indeed words, it could be argued, are the very building blocks of these incredible works of art.

An unknown artist took the Edinburgh literary / culture / arts world by storm over the past year or so with 10 incredible pieces of art constructed from books and 'in support of libraries, books, words, ideas.....'

All 10 pieces are fascinating and the corresponding story is wonderful as well.  It's an all around entertaining and uplifting snippet of life, be sure to check it all out.

(via RCC on fb)

Recognition: Authors, Portraits & Society

I know that the December 5th, 2011 cover of the New Yorker ('black friday' by Daniel Clowes) is at least most overtly about the demise of books (in actual physical form) and small bookstores but I was much more interested in the depiction of authors on the cover.

I was struck by how quickly I recognized the male authors and my complete lack of ability to place the two women.  I was a little surprised at first but when I thought about it I couldn't recall seeing lauded female authors' depicted regularly whereas the many of the men are frequently portrayed in pop-culture items like those shown on the cover.  Maybe it's just me, but I feel like this says a little something about society as well.  Seems like it's still harder to make it as a writer, at least an iconic one, as a woman than as a man.

Hemingway, Twain, and Shakespeare I didn't even have to think about.  James Joyce (in the hat) took me longer (my first thought was Tolstoy to be honest) and I would never have placed Virginia Woolf or Emily Dickinson without googling the cover.