seeking knowledge and laughter, putting a bullseye on inaccuracy


Creating Blind Spots

From David Frum, a Republican reflecting on the ongoing destruction of the Republican party in "The Great Republican Revolt."

Against all evidence, both groups interpreted the Tea Party as a mass movement in favor of the agenda of the Wall Street Journal editorial page. One of the more dangerous pleasures of great wealth is that you never have to hear anyone tell you that you are completely wrong.

Unfortunately this also appears to be a blindspot of the Clintons - they surround themselves with people that either are afraid to tell them when they are wrong or simply see the world the same way. As I have built a staff, one of my goals is that those around me are not afraid to tell me when I am wrong. And I encourage them not to take it personally when I disagree. And time will tell who is right.

Future of Cities and Cars

As cars are automated and no longer require drivers, the impact on cities will be significant. Not just because of congestion in the streets, but by freeing up a ton of space currently wasted on parking. The implications are fascinating... and discussed in this Mother Jones article.

Vaclav Smil

This guy is sharp. Vaclav Smil.

Smithsonian Mag - Bunker Hill and Women in the Middle East

Both Michelle and I have been loving the Smithsonian magazine, which we became acquainted with after Uncle Seanly gifted a subscription to us. We've been renewing every since - one of the few magazines we both read regularly.

Of the many article that have captured my attention, the true story of Bunker Hill and the issues women face in a changing Middle East.

I've heard several interviews with Nathaniel Philbrick and already planned to get the book but the article only increased my interest. I thought the piece on women in the Middle East was thoughtful and a reminder that the radical Islamists are afraid of women, not unlike the conservative "Christians" in this country that want to shackle women as well. Of course, our radical "Christians" are not blowing themselves up to make their point, but then the radical Islamists don't have Fox News working for them, giving them an outlet for their insanity.

End of digression. I recommend those articles...

A Different Perspective on Schools and Education

If nothing else, the anecdote that starts this article in Mother Jones is fascinating. The article is "Everything you've heard about Failing Schools is Wrong."

Education and teaching is very complicated and for years I have wondered if we are getting better or worse at evaluating teachers.

Why Do Grandmothers Exist?

I found this way more interesting than I expected on reading the title... From The New Republic...

Browsing v. Searching

The loss of local bookstores troubles me. Whether it is Amazon or e-books, I fear for local bookstores, particularly used bookstores. A recent commentary by Leon Wieseltier in The New Republic (full article is behind a pay wall) offers a spirited defense of local businesses over online alternatives. A taste:

Browsing is not idleness; or rather, it is active idleness—an exploring capacity, a kind of questing non-instrumental behavior. Browsing is the opposite of “search.” Search is precise, browsing is imprecise. When you search, you find what you were looking for; when you browse, you find what you were not looking for. Search corrects your knowledge, browsing corrects your ignorance. Search narrows, browsing enlarges. It does so by means of accidents, of unexpected adjacencies and improbable associations. On Amazon, by contrast, there are no accidents. Its adjacencies are expected and its associations are probable, because it is programmed for precedents.

Support your local stores.

The Struggle Within Islam

Following up on my recent post, "Muslim Terrorists are Rare... and Stupid," I just read a good article in the September Smithsonian. The "Struggle Within Islam" explores how most Muslims react to the actions of the minority that commit acts of horrible terror.

“Today, Al Qaeda is as significant to the Islamic world as the Ku Klux Klan is to the Americans—not much at all,” Ghada Shahbender, an Egyptian poet and activist, told me recently. “They’re violent, ugly, operate underground and are unacceptable to the majority of Muslims. They exist, but they’re freaks.

“Do I look at the Ku Klux Klan and draw conclusions about America from their behavior? Of course not,” she went on. “The KKK hasn’t been a story for many years for Americans. Al Qaeda is still a story, but it is headed in the same direction as the Klan.”

Population Trends and Unexpected Consequences

I've been fascinated by demographic trends for a number of years -- inevitable change that happens sufficiently slowly that most seem not to notice. I'm entertained by the doomsday claims -- the Earth can't possibly support 4 billion people! Errr... 6 billion... errr 7 billion.

Earth can handle more people. Interesting, the ones doing the most damage are the few who put all the carbon in the air over the past 200 years, not those masses just starting to catch up now. At any rate, those concerned about the growing population should be less concerned because growth rates have been dropping for some time.

Such is life in the city... literally. As populations become more urbanized and women are educated, birth rates plummet. This is not a knock on women -- when they have an education, they are better able to make smart choices as opposed to being used as brood mares by dominating men (the ones who wrote most of the religious texts that perpetuate that arrangement).

But what happens when couples start having only one child? It destroys the family, something I never put together until I read The World Will be More Crowded -- With Old People by Phillip Longman in Foreign Policy -- the Sept/Oct 2011 issue.

Another related megatrend is the rapid change in the size, structure, and nature of the family. In many countries, such as Germany, Japan, Russia, and South Korea, the one-child family is now becoming the norm. This trend creates a society in which not only do most people have no siblings, but also no aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, or nephews. Many will lack children of their own as well. Today about one in five people in advanced Western countries, including the United States, remains childless. Huge portions of the world's population will thus have no biological relatives except their parents.

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