Stromae – Papaoutai

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Soundtrack for reading about gender inequality in education

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Great Ted Chiang story, “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling”

One of my favorite authors.  And now he proves he could be writing for Harpers… a science fiction story in the style of an extended essay.  And you learn more about how to think about the technology of writing than reading Jack Goody’s impenetrable prose.  Oddly, few reviewers mention that the Tiv are a real people, written about extensively, most well known by the anthropologists Laura and Paul Bohannan.

People consult their lifelogs for a variety of reasons—everything from reliving favorite moments to tracking down the cause of allergic reactions—but only intermittently; no one wants to spend all their time formulating queries and sifting through the results. Lifelogs are the most complete photo album imaginable, but like most photo albums, they lie dormant except on special occasions. Now Whetstone aims to change all of that; they claim Remem’s algorithms can search the entire haystack by the time you’ve finished saying “needle.”

via The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling by Ted Chiang — Subterranean Press.

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John Cochrane podcast… worth a listen

A nice interview with John Cochrane from University of Chicago on Economic Rockstars.  He has good sensible things to say about all sorts of subjects, and you learn he is an avid glider pilot.  Wow!  Highly recommended, but for me one false note.  Towards the end of the interview he is asked about his “conversion moment” from physics to economics.  He talks about a micro class where he first learns about the kinked budget constraint of poor people on welfare.  In his retelling this was a key moment: the objective tools of microeconomics could be used to understand poverty.  No more need poverty be couched in moral subjective blah blah.  He could apply physics/math tools (objective no bullshit reasoning) to address society’s most critical problems.  Except that when you look at his research page, all his research is at a very abstract level of the economy.  Poor people are just not there (poor models are, but not poor people!). Sure, macroeconomics and financial markets matter, but not at the gut level of Cochrane’s conversion story.  What happened, one thinks, is that he used physics/math tools (objective no bullshit reasoning) to address economist’s most critical problems.  Not quite the same thing.  Still, respect, duh.  The guy is brilliant.

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Libraries pass the Pritchett postulates of development test with flying colors!

From Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution:.

After promoting women’s groups in West Bengal as a route to development a West Bengali woman asked Lant Pritchett:

You all are from countries that are much richer and doing much better than our country so your country’s women’s self-help groups must also be much better, tell us how women’s self-help groups work in your country.

Pritchett’s inability to answer the question led him to what I call Pritchett’s postulates of development, four criteria to decide whether factor X is an important determinant of development.

  • More developed countries must have more X than less developed countries.
  • The developed countries must have more X than when they were less developed.
  • Recent development successes must have more X than development failures.
  • Countries that are developing rapidly must have more rapid growth of X than those that are developing slowly.

Since more developed countries don’t have noticeably more women’s self-help groups, this idea fails Pritchett’s postulates.

To which I add, community or public libraries pass this test brilliantly.  Developed countries established them like crazy during the period of rapid growth 1880-1930, and then continued after WWII.  China has seen a similar rise of libraries according to Zhixian Yi.

After the overthrow of the Qing dynasty in 1912, “the New Culture Movement” and “the New Library Movement” were in full swing with the founding of the Republic of China. With “the New Library Movement” and even or dinary people’s participation in the vigorous librarianship construction, libraries developed very rapidly. Especially in 1912, Yuanpei Cai, as Minister of Education, promoted social education and established the popular library as a social institution. With the promulgation of the library regulations, this kind of library, as one of the most important institutions of social education, developed very quickly (Gong, 2011a, p. 3). The total number of the popular libraries was 2492 in 1936 (as cited in Gong, 2011a, p.3).

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The Real Cool Killers by Chester Himes

Got The Real Cool Killers by Chester Himes from the library after reading a Burkinabè author cite him as an influence. I was like, “Who is this guy?” Fascinating and sad story. The fiction is exactly as advertised: lurid hardboiled Harlem detectives and criminals. Lots of action, no character development, impossible stereotypes.  But a fun read, of course.  Not nearly as taut as Elmore Leonard, but broader, more slapstick.  Lots of vocabulary that I am sure Google will enjoy looking up for you.

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Grammar Girl : “On Accident” versus “by Accident”

I still cringe when my children say “on accident” but I do not correct them… Barratt’s study is dead on, is my personal experience.

According to Barratt’s study, use of the two different versions appears to be distributed by age. Whereas on accident is common in people under 35, almost no one over 40 says on accident. Most older people say by accident. It’s really amazing: the study says that “on is more prevalent under age 10, both on and by are common between the ages of 10 and 35, and by is overwhelmingly preferred by those over 35.” I definitely prefer by accident.

An interesting conclusion from the paper is that although there are some hypotheses, nobody really knows why younger people all over the U.S. started saying on accident instead of by accident.

via Grammar Girl : On Accident Versus by Accident :: Quick and Dirty Tips ™.

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