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Not that terrible book covers

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.03.13

This list of terrible book covers is itself terrible. They're just not that terrible! It's just a bunch of cheap shots at funny-looking people from the 70s and 80s who used "pussy" to describe their cat. Now I'm all irritated. Number 31 is exceptionally egregiously wrong.


 

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Inverse praise, revisited

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.03.13

This article, The Inverse Power of Praise, has been recirculating recently. (We did discuss it at length when it originally came out - it's the article about how kids that are told "you're so smart!" quit trying, because they believe that making an effort means they're not so smart after all, and how you're so supposed to praise the effort instead of telling the kid how smart they are.)

One commenter, elsewhere, pulled the following quote:

According to Meyer's findings, by the age of 12, children believe that earning praise from a teacher is not a sign you did well--it's actually a sign you lack ability and the teacher thinks you need extra encouragement. And teens, Meyer found, discounted praise to such an extent that they believed it's a teacher's criticism--not praise at all--that really conveys a positive belief in a student's aptitude.

First of all, I remember this clearly from high school. Second of all, it's exactly what I do as a teacher, although I'll probably be self-conscious about it now. Finally, I get the low-end praise at Crossfit, and I love it. ("You can finish! Come on! Great job!" while everyone else finished five minutes ago.) (OTOH, I'm not forming my self-identity and my self-esteem does not rest on my ability to out-crossfit a bunch of lean twenty-somethings. "Hey, you're Hokey Pokey's mom! From my 2-3 year old class at gymnastics!") Conclusion: empty praise feels great.


 

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Guest Post - Twin Prime Conjecture

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.02.13

Turgid Jacobian writes: At the UnfoggeDCon a small group of folks discussed the recent proof of the slightly generalized Twin Prime Conjecture. A relatively painless, #SlatePitch-free explanation can be found here. Basically, the Twin Prime Conjecture said that no matter how far out the number line you went, you'd always find sequential primes like 17 and 19 or 29 and 31.

A relatively unknown mathematician went and proved a version of this conjecture that said that no matter how far out the number line you went, you could find primes separated by no more than about 60 million.

Almost immediately upon publication, folks started trying to understand this using the web. People very rapidly came to realize that the asymptotic behavior that the result rested on could be tightened up and the size of the guaranteed maximum gaps thereby dramatically reduced.

Slightly more formalized--but still web-based--collaboration mechanisms were then used, and in very short order (a month), the separation went from 60 million to ~6,000. The participants seem to have squeezed most of the juice in this low-hanging fruit, though: the subsequent six or so weeks have gained them just another factor of 10. The participants
in the polymath project seem to think that fundamentally different arguments will have to be developed to drop down farther.

Some people also seem to think that the REAL answer will (in the end) be that the original Twin Prime Conjecture will prove to be true, as it's just too pretty not to be. Math, eh?


 

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Food for thought

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.01.13

In the summer, I have the luxury of hitting the grocery store right before I prepare dinner. It's the only time I really see what the cost to make a meal at home is. It's really easy for it to ring in around $15-20.

When I pick out a recipe, I'm usually going on a whim of what I feel like eating and cooking. I'm not usually picking out a recipe based on cost, and we do buy a decent amount of organic food. Nevertheless, our family can eat out at Taco Cabana for $20.

For eating in to save you money, you have to be conscientious about choosing meals involving cheap ingredients. It's not that hard - less meat, more noodles, rice, potatoes - but it's not a foregone conclusion that cooking at home is cheap.


 

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Bored Now

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.01.13

I joined Hawaii's class on an exceptionally boring field trip this morning. Being so utterly bored, for hours, is somehow so goddamn exhausting. On top of watching four year olds, which was itself not too bad.


 

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Moebius Strips

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.01.13

Tweety sends along Moebius Tube, about which he says "It is hilarious and fun! And sometimes really, really annoying!" I like the fact that they show you the time-space continuum at the bottom, with all the wurmholes.

I heard that David Lynch's Lost Highway was supposed to be a Moebius strip, and so I watched it with some fellow grad students, and I thought it was really dumb and that a Moebius strip doesn't make a good plot device. Then I used that as a contrarian party talking point: David Lynch sucks! I'd also seen Mulholland Drive and maybe a third movie of his. Someone challenged me to a Twin-Peaks-off, and we watched the series and I conceded that it is pretty goddamn awesome.


 

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Daylighting

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.31.13

Uncovering buried rivers is the new thing in urban planning. It's called daylighting. They dig the river up, add a park, and let it flourish.

But why are all these streams covered at all? Flash back more than a hundred years. In many urban areas around the world, small streams were just getting in the way. You couldn't build on top of them, and the rapidly growing populations in many cities were throwing all their sewage into open water.
Often, engineers found that the simplest solution was to bury the streams, routing the water into pipes and paving over the top. In Yonkers, "the Army Corps of Engineers put a parking lot on top of it, which everybody thought was progress," Mitroff said.

We live on a river, as you're probably sick of me repeating, and it's awesome and we spend as much time as possible in it.


 

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Causes of Obesity

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.30.13

Interesting article on the many, poorly understood, causes of obesity. Here's one thing I find interesting: obesity and starving are both health problems for a body. Yet as far as consequences for various triggers go, obesity seems to occur much more often than starvation. Obviously certain drugs make people very thin, but it's hard to think of what else. Whereas nearly everything - tampering with in utero, toxins! in our environment, aging, etc, etc - all seem to make us gain weight. (But not all of us!)

Are the consequences tilted towards obesity over malnourishment? Or are we just hyper-focused on obesity, (and plus the cure for malnourishment is pretty well understood)? (Except when it isn't. I suppose celiac's and various gluten problems are malnourishment problems. Malnourishment is a problem with AIDS.)

There are two possibilities. One is that the previous two paragraphs are total gobbeldy-gook and no one has any idea what I'm positing. The other is that the distinction will seem dumb and boring the moment I step away from the computer.


 

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Foreign pronunciation

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.29.13

When I was in high school Spanish class, some kids adopted hammy American accents just to be hostile. But of those who really could not seem to step outside of their native accent, I always thought the roadblock was that they saw the word written down. In other words, when it came time to sound out "amigo" from the page, their reading habits kicked in and overrode what they heard when the teacher said it out loud.

My kids can't read, but they can watch Dora...and their Spanish accents are ridiculously flat and American sounding. It's perplexing to me. We have the long O sound in English - why are you switching to the short O sound when you repeat the word? Why are you inserting a drawl, when you didn't hear one? It's confusing to me that they don't repeat a word as it was said, but rather pass it through some flattening American filter.


 

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Parents just don't understand.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.29.13

Disclaimer: The following dilemma is inspired by real events, but mostly just serving as Unfodder - it's true that I was at a loss and did not know what to advise, but the person in question is not looking for crowd-sourced advice, and I'm not planning on showing her this thread.

"Alice", my friend, came out to her parents years ago. They are fundamentalist Christians. They are pleasant away from the topic of her orientation, and cold-to-rude about anything concerning being gay or her longterm girlfriend.

I gather this is an extraordinarily common situation, and that the conventional wisdom goes that you must cutoff all contact with your parents, because that's the only leverage you have with them, and that many parents do come around once they realize they won't get to see their adult offspring anymore.

Alice is exceedingly scared to do this, because she thinks it will de-stabilize her father, and that he's got too many risk factors for suicide. (Family history, depression, etc.) So instead, she subjects herself and her girlfriend to rather hostile visits, and they go visit her parents, and so on.

The whole situation is a mess, but I'm convinced it's well-trod territory. How does this play out? What works?


 

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Also, plenty of things rhyme with "hug me". "Smugly", for instance.

Posted by Stanley
on 07.28.13

I tend to be at least a few months behind the curve on pop culture news, so it's entirely fitting that I first heard about Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" via this NPR story on songs of the summer. But afterwards, I didn't really give the song a second thought, except to notice that, indeed, it did seem to be playing all the time everywhere.

Fast forward to last week: I had to learn to play the tune for a cover-band gig. After we ran it through once, my first reaction was, wow, that's an incredibly minimalistic pop song—there's just not very much going on, and yet it works. Pretty impressive.

My second reaction was, wait, does he actually say "I know you want it" over and over and over again? Gross.

To which my bandmate replied, yep, and that's not the worst of it. The other lyrics include "I'll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two" and "I'm a nice guy, but don't get confused, you gettin' it" and "Do it like it hurt, like it hurt / What, you don't like work?"

Googling around later, I discovered no shortage of ink has been spilled criticizing the song (and the video, especially the unrated version). For example.

So now I'm creeped out whenever I hear it, and, were I a regular member of this particular cover band, I'd move to take it out of rotation. A potentially great song, ruined by stupid fucking lyrics.


 

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