Archive for February 2008
In the forthcoming New York Times Magazine, Gershom Gorenberg explores how hard it is for some be recognized as Jewish in Israel.
In an era of intermarriage, denominational disputes and secularization, Jews have ceased agreeing on who belongs to the family, or on what the word “Jew” means. Ultra-Orthodox Jews increasingly question the Jewishness of those outside their own intensely religious communities. The flood of immigrants from the former Soviet Union to Israel deepened their doubts. In the Soviet Union, when someone with parents of two nationalities received identity papers at age 16, he could pick which nationality to list. A child of a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother could put down “Jew.” The religious principle of matrilineal descent was irrelevant.
Perhaps I’m alone in this, but I’d never thought that there was anything wrong with the way innovation is done. The Economist’s Tech.view column begs to differ:
But innovating the way industry does today—where problems go in search of solutions—is putting the cart before the horse. We should be doing it the other way round: finding the problem to which a known solution is an ideal answer. Matching inventions, discoveries and other bright ideas to problems this way would brilliantly streamline the process.
You’re probably aware that conservative icon William F. Buckley Jr. died earlier this week. You may not be aware that he gave David Brooks a job because of piece of satire he wrote about the man. That and other details are in the best eulogy for him I’ve read.
“Buckley spent most of his infancy working on his memoirs,” I wrote in my faux-biography. “By the time he had learned to talk, he had finished three volumes: ‘The World Before Buckley,’ which traced the history of the world prior to his conception; ‘The Seeds of Utopia,’ which outlined his effect on world events during the nine months of his gestation; and ‘The Glorious Dawn,’ which described the profound ramifications of his birth on the social order.”
Portfolio has a pretty neat showcase of the five dollar bill through history, including the newest iteration. They also have some of those compulsary notes about its security features.
(via Daring Fireball)
Nicholson Baker tackled Wikipedia for the New York Review of Books. Before you groan and moan “first they discovered blogs, now Wikipedia,” read this:
Some articles are vandalized a lot. On January 11, 2008, the entire fascinating entry on the aardvark was replaced with “one ugly animal”; in February the aardvark was briefly described as a “medium-sized inflatable banana.”
The Economist is rather keen on celebrating the year of the potato:
Unlikely though it seems, the potato promoted economic development by underpinning the industrial revolution in England in the 19th century. It provided a cheap source of calories and was easy to cultivate, so it liberated workers from the land. Potatoes became popular in the north of England, as people there specialised in livestock farming and domestic industry, while farmers in the south (where the soil was more suitable) concentrated on wheat production. By a happy accident, this concentrated industrial activity in the regions where coal was readily available, and a potato-driven population boom provided ample workers for the new factories. Friedrich Engels even declared that the potato was the equal of iron for its “historically revolutionary role”.
I apologize for posting another kids-being-awesome video, but I just can’t resist.
Turns out the plan to suspend talks earlier this week worked. We should all be glad for that.
Kenya’s rival politicians have signed a peace deal to end the violent post-election crisis in which hundreds died.
President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga agreed to form a coalition government after weeks of wrangling, mediator Kofi Annan said.
But in his decision, he writes a New York Times Op-Ed more substantive than most the Times runs — that may be unfair, but this is definitely good.
WATCHING the 2008 presidential campaign, you sometimes get the feeling that the candidates — smart, all of them — must know better. They must know we can’t fix our economy and create jobs by isolating America from global trade. They must know that we can’t fix our immigration problems with border security alone. They must know that we can’t fix our schools without holding teachers, principals and parents accountable for results. They must know that fighting global warming is not a costless challenge. And they must know that we can’t keep illegal guns out of the hands of criminals unless we crack down on the black market for them.
The vast majority of Americans know that all of this is true, but — politics being what it is — the candidates seem afraid to level with them.
The Chronicle of Higher Education covers some interesting research about why university professors tend to be liberal.
They found that in a variety of ways, conservative students were less interested than liberals in subject matter that often leads to doctoral degrees, and less interested in doing the kinds of things that professors spend their time doing.
For example, liberal students reported valuing intellectual freedom, creativity, and the chance to write original work and make a theoretical contribution to science. They outnumbered conservative students two to one in the humanities and social sciences — which are among the fields most likely to produce interest in doctoral study. Conservative students, however, put more value on personal achievement and orderliness, and on practical professions, like accounting and computer science, that could earn them lots of money.
The Woessners also found that conservative students put a higher priority than liberal ones on raising a family. That does not always fit well with a career in academe, where people often delay childbearing until after they earn tenure.