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What Happens In Vegas Seems To Cost An Awful Lot

Posted by LizardBreath
on 10.11.14

Heebie, elsewhere, posted about her recent trip to Vegas, and commented that twenty bucks to look at some lions in a casino didn't seem like all that much when you'd just spent thirty bucks on frozen yogurt. That reminded me that I'd had the same reaction on a Vegas weekend a couple of years ago.

I don't know where I got it from, but I had had the impression that the casinos in Vegas were all about ridiculous luxury at goofy low prices, because they were enticing you to hang around and gamble; cheap drinks food and entertainment, and they'd get your money back at the tables. This does not appear to actually be the case -- the general business model looks more like "Look, you're expecting to empty your bank account completely here anyway, so why do you care if we charge you double for whatever you're buying?"

Did the thing I was expecting to find ever exist, or did I invent it somehow?


 

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Dropkick

Posted by Ogged
on 10.10.14

Wow. Did someone order a microcosm? There are a million things to say about this episode, but I'll let y'all say them.


 

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Grit

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 10.10.14

Heebie U and Vox both love the concept of grit, as being the true strength of an individual and what schools ought to teach. Over at Salon, not so much. To be fair to Heebie U, the Salon article accuses Gritters of using it as a new way to flog kids for their own poverty, and at the college level, that's not really applicable. Also the Salon article kind of fizzles out before it gets going. Today the links are not golden.

My personal stance is that I'm mostly sick of grit and think the whole conversation is over-simplified. But over the past decade (based on math ed research, not grit pep talks) I've also shifted how I teach dramatically - away from clear explanations of the material, and towards posing questions to groups of students that make them wrestle with concepts I haven't yet introduced. It just sticks with students better and they are more willing to apply the thinking to different contexts, apparently, (although I feel faintly sad that I'm not employing the skill I'm most best at, which is giving very clear explanations of new, complex material.)


 

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Minimum wage

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 10.10.14

Oklahoma passed a law saying no city may locally raise the minimum wage. It always strikes me as especially mean-spirited when governments pass a law that says "you have to overturn this law first which accomplishes nothing but serving as an obstacle, before you pass a different law." (The only other example I can think of is all those bans on gay marriage in the 90s, so maybe there are cases where the good guys do this fence-building around a rule.)

Via Delagar, elsewhere


 

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Applied Math

Posted by Ogged
on 10.09.14

Ebola panic backlash might be a little premature.

Global health officials are looking closely at the "reproduction number," which estimates how many people, on average, will catch the virus from each person stricken with Ebola. The epidemic will begin to decline when that number falls below one. A recent analysis estimated the number 1.5 to two.

Ebola cases in West Africa have been doubling about every three weeks, and no data suggests a major change in that trendline.
"The speed at which things are moving on the ground, it's hard for people to get their minds around. People don't understand the concept of exponential growth," said Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Exponential growth in the context of three weeks means, 'If I know that X needs to be done, and I work my butt off and get it done in three weeks, it's now half as good as it needs to be.' "

...

As the number of infections increases, so does the possibility that a person with Ebola will carry it to another country. This is known as an export.

"So we had two exports in the first 2,000 patients," Frieden said in a recent interview. "Now we're going to have 20,000 cases, how many exports are we going to have?"

I think we all know that answer to that is: one million. Anyway, genuinely scary article (not so much for us in the States yet, but in the places where it's already spreading...good lord).


 

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Guest Post - Notre Dame

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 10.09.14

Rob Helpy-Chalk writes: This is troubling on several levels. Notre Dame is using the Hobby Lobby decision to seek an exemption from the contraception mandate in the ACA. That's to be expected. The troubling part is that they want to be reclassified as a house of worship. As Philodaria points out at Feminist Philosophers, this would not only exempt Notre Dame from the ACA, but also from Title IX, removing the protections students have against harassment, sexual misconduct, and discrimination.

I suppose this could backfire on Notre Dame. If they are a house of worship, would the massive government funding all institutions of higher education receive amount to the state establishment of religion?

But the extra troubling thing (for me) is that Notre Dame says that classifying it as something other than a house of worship is a violation of its religious freedom, because it goes against the Catholic belief in the unity of the Church. This seems like a massive increase in what you get to claim counts as a restriction of your religious belief. The government not only has to allow you to believe what you want. It has to re-arrange social structures as if what you believe were true.

Could classifying Notre Dame as a house of worship violate my (hypothetical) religious belief in the disunity of the church? The Buddha teaches us that things do not exist as inviolable unities with essences. Everything is a dependent origination subject to the flow of time.


 

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Twosies

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 10.09.14

1. German ethics counsel recommends legalizing sex between siblings, saying it should be a social taboo and not a matter of law. Which raises the question: why was gay sex between siblings illegal?

(Via Jammies, my brusband.)

2. We're a month out from elections. In which races will a donation make the most difference?


 

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Paleo Science!

Posted by Ogged
on 10.08.14

I don't think this guy is dead yet, so this is hilarious. Short version: paleo loving anthropologist gives himself an enema of hunter-gatherer poop. Worth reading just for the matter-of-fact report of something that's really pretty wacko.

More generally, I've been reading some paleo stuff, and my wife has been reading some functional medicine stuff recommended by a friend, and we've converged on the position that there's a lot of truth here, wrapped in an even bigger lot of bullshit. So you think I should take supplements? You'll sell me the supplements? You've really thought of everything! Here's a red flag, you can have it for a dollar.

Even more generally, it seems like we're in the midst of a big change in terms of the understanding of diet, gut, hormones, and bacteria, which is uncovering some (very preliminary) truth, but also opening up the field to a lot of people who are either half-informed or outright charlatans.


 

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Yik-Yak

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 10.08.14

I'm not on campus this semester, but I've been getting a ton of emails about the bullying problem and various forums that are springing up to discuss it, and the app that keeps getting mentioned is Yik-Yak. Faculty are describing things like how a student will come to them, in tears, and say she doesn't want to come to class anymore because someone is ripping her appearance to shreds on Yik-Yak while they're there. (The key points about Yik-Yak being that it's both geographically local and anonymous.)

The link above recommends banning Yik-Yak, which seems like an absurdly unworkable solution, but ye god, is that an awful environment to find yourself in. I can't imagine having the willpower at age 19 not to check if something was being said about me, and then not taking whatever was said incredibly personally.


 

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Leaf Blowers

Posted by Ogged
on 10.07.14

No, really, leaf blowers. Two things about them that are kind of mystifying, now that I'm living in the suburbs after many years away. Most people here have professionally landscaped yards (that they never use), tended by platoons of Mexican workers. From the first to the last bits of warm weather, you hear leaf blowers most of the day. So.

--Given all the crazy money here, and the availability of cheap labor, why hasn't it become a status symbol (hell, why hasn't the town passed an ordinance) to have lawns done manually. "Oh, I just can't stand the sound of leaf blowers. We have our yard done with rakes." I can't believe I haven't overheard this.

(I think the answer to this must be that no one actually lives here; it's all for show. That might be close to true insofar as people aren't home during the day.)

--People understand that proximity to busy streets leads to greater noise, but it seems to be one great unsaid that proximity to other yards means a hell of a lot more noise than a medium-busy street. We saw a house on a dead end recently, and the agent was telling us about how quiet it was, while we could hear the blowers in the yards of the neighboring McMansions. But that's just like squirrels laughing or something.


 

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Lena Dunham review

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 10.07.14

I read Lena Dunham's Not That Kind of Girl on the plane this past weekend. Unsurprisingly, it is a very quick, fun read - a collection of memoir-style essays.

At the risk of sounding sort of mainstream and boring (but isn't that my shtick?), I think she's great. She's genuinely an odd yet charismatic, extremely neurotic person, who writes unusually honestly. She is unusually able to shake off how the story is supposed to go, and deliver her weird, funny version. (Although sometimes her degree of privilege is a bit staggering. Not that she's in denial about it.) Voice of a generation crap - you actually feel like you're reading someone who represents a different generation, insofar as she was so young when [X] happened. Chatrooms in middle school! Well, I never.

(We still haven't made it into the second season of Girls, but in the memoir she's less...stupid than Hannah Horvath.) Anyway, it reads like excellent pop music - totally great for a plane ride.


 

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Assorted links

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 10.07.14

1. Truthers have figured out that Stevie Wonder's been faking this whole "blind" thing. The obvious isn't obvious till it's obvious, as my grandmother would quip. (Via Jammies)

2. Via you all, elsewhere, one man's quixotic fight to preserve the Louisiana coastline. Totally fascinating read.

3. When Mallory Ortberg's not busy being funny, she's all smart and stuff. The topic - what constitutes consent - is something we've already over-discussed, but boy is this a brutal takedown of an idiotic essay. It's great to read just for its surgical precision.

This one point isn't made often enough:

I believe that these women, these people, have a finely tuned sense for their safety, that when a woman reports having "a feeling that it would turn into an ordeal if I rejected him," she is not crazy and she knows what she is talking about.

I do think there are a lot of encounters where the aggressor whittles away at the other's person's "no" until the less enthusiastic party caves and participates. And this:

Framing acts of molestation and assault as things that either do or do not count as if it were a bad call in a game of tag ("that doesn't count! I wasn't done counting to ten!") is a troubling -- and worse, ineffective -- way of discussing rape. It shifts the conversation from "how can we prevent this from happening again?" and "what would justice look like in this situation?" to "how can I make sure that what I did doesn't fall under the category of 'it counts'?"

Smart. Also via you all, there.


 

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Anaconda

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 10.06.14

Natilo sends along this bluegrass cover of Nicki Minaj's song Anaconda:

It is pretty good, but I'm also pretty fond of Minaj's original (even though it makes my inner feminist cringe a LOT). Minaj is just such a good rapper:

Note: "He tossed my salad like his name was Romaine" just to tie together some threads. Also someday I'll write a proud anthem for apple-shaped women everywhere.


 

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The NSF under fire

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 10.05.14

The particulars of Lamar Smith's (chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology) war on the NSF. Gosh, what a shithead.


 

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