#  Development Funds For Dictators →

June 25th, 2014 at 10:01 // In Worth Reading 

A really interesting and worthy book review of the awkward tension that exists — and is highlighted in William Easterly’s new book — about how the huge western economic development industry seems to have a big soft spot for freedom-hating autocrats.

In 2013, Melinda Gates, on the eve of a trip to Ethiopia, described it as one of her favorite countries. “I always enjoy visiting Ethiopia,” she declared, “because I see inspirational stories and concrete leadership from the government and community health workers reaching the hardest to reach and making change.” Easterly quotes a 2013 report by Tony Blair’s Africa Governance Initiative praising the Ethiopian government’s “strong, accountable leadership in implementing the plan.”

Strong, certainly; accountable, certainly not. According to Human Rights Watch’s 2014 country report, “Ethiopia’s ambitious development schemes, funded from domestic revenue sources and foreign assistance, sometimes displace indigenous communities without appropriate consultation or any compensation.” And after describing in detail the government’s imprisonment of nonviolent opposition leaders and journalists, and denial of the right to assembly, among many other violations of human rights, the report notes that while Ethiopia receives donor assistance of almost $4 billion a year.

#  Back to Basics of Fitness →

June 24th, 2014 at 17:01 // In Worth Considering 

If you follow my sensible science skepticism tag, you’ll understand why on this I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise:

This raised a question: If all the latest cutting-edge scientific research says that outdated barbell movements have to be updated with core stability tricks and then integrated into super-short high-intensity muscle-confusion routines, how come none of that did much for me, while the same five lifts repeated for a year caused profound structural changes to my body?

The answer, it turns out, is that there are no cutting-edge scientific studies.

Also of note on this topic: I recently posted a little essay I consider quite relevant to this piece. It’s called “Simple But Not Easy”, give it a look.

#  Faking Cultural Literacy →

June 23rd, 2014 at 16:02 // In Worth Considering 

A piece I didn’t quite love by recognized myself in more than I’d like. This quote, especially, rang true (emphasis mine):

We have outsourced our opinions to this loop of data that will allow us to hold steady at a dinner party, though while you and I are ostensibly talking about “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” what we are actually doing, since neither of us has seen it, is comparing social media feeds. Does anyone anywhere ever admit that he or she is completely lost in the conversation? No. We nod and say, “I’ve heard the name,” or “It sounds very familiar,” which usually means we are totally unfamiliar with the subject at hand.

#  How Your Stolen Credit Card is Sold →

June 23rd, 2014 at 12:22 // In Worth Knowing 

Brian Krebs offers a neat, detailed, and kind of horrific, peek into the world of stolen credit card data. The vocabulary list is a great run-down of what things matter inside:

BINs: Short for “Bank Identification Number,” this is the first six digits of any debit or credit credit cards, and it uniquely identifies the financial institution that issued the card. BINs are the primary method that card shops use to index wares for sale, and all buyers have their favorite BINs with which they’ve found success in the past. There are tens of thousands of BINs in use today, and few people legitimately employed in the banking industry have comprehensive BIN lists (which most banks consider proprietary). For that, you typically need to turn to the professional card shops, which track BIN usage quite closely.

I had no idea.

#  Why America Calls it Soccer →

June 23rd, 2014 at 10:02 // In Worth Knowing 

The FIFA World Cup’s going on now, and I learned something I didn’t know as a result:

“From this point onwards the two versions of football were distinguished by reference to their longer titles, Rugby Football and Association Football (named after the Football Association),” Szymanski writes. “The rugby football game was shortened to ‘rugger,’” while “the association football game was, plausibly, shortened to ‘soccer.’”

Both sports fragmented yet again as they spread around the world. The colloquialism “soccer” caught on in the United States in the first decade of the twentieth century, in part to distinguish the game from American football, a hybrid of Association Football and Rugby Football. (Countries that tend to use the word “soccer” nowadays—Australia, for example—usually have another sport called “football.”)

#  English’s Coming Indian Decline? →

June 19th, 2014 at 14:03 // In Worth Considering 

I’d not realized it, but Samanth Subramanian points out that the latest presidential election — which brought Narendra Modi to power — there may mark the decline of English being the most important and prominent language in India:

Most recently, though, India’s major newspapers have been expanding in a different direction. In 2012, Bennett Coleman, the publisher of The Times of India, the world’s largest English daily, started a Bengali newspaper and poured fresh resources into its older Hindi and Marathi papers. Last October, the publisher of The Hindu, a 135-year-old English paper, launched a Tamil edition. Another leading English daily, The Hindustan Times, has enlarged the staff and budgets of its Hindi sibling Hindustan. And this past winter, a few months before the election, The Times of India launched NavGujarat Samay, a Gujarati paper for Modi’s home turf.

#  The Commonness of Insider Trading →

June 19th, 2014 at 13:01 // In Worth Knowing 

There are reasons people are suspicious of the stock market, and a new study seems to be a good reason to be hesitant. Insider trading, which is illegal in the US, is actually common:

A quarter of all public company deals may involve some kind of insider trading, according to the study by two professors at the Stern School of Business at New York University and one professor from McGill University. The study, perhaps the most detailed and exhaustive of its kind, examined hundreds of transactions from 1996 through the end of 2012.

 

#  Where America Is Empty →

June 18th, 2014 at 16:05 // In Worth Seeing 

Really cool map of what census blocks in the US have no people in it. It’s interesting but not surprising to compare to this old post about where American roads are.

usa-map-no-people-live-here-mapsbynik

#  “Cupcake Facism” →

June 18th, 2014 at 10:01 // In Worth Considering 

A comment on it pretty quickly captures my summary of this essay — “it’s inconclusive and a little cute“ — but it is a neat term with some analytical power underneath it.

To actually be alive and able to take up possibilities in a genuine way means being able to take a critical and thus transformative stance towards one’s environment; it is to really be a fully cognitive adult. Thus, the possibility of always remaining a cognitive child must involve the elision of the appropriate orientation to possibility. Taking up this particular possibility (to remain a child rather than become adult) means shutting the pursuit of all other possibilities down.

Hence, we see how the restrictive shape of the cupcake, its cold and uniform neatness, matches up with the infantilizing elements of twee cupcakey tropes: it is only possible, as an adult, to remain a cognitive child if you are a child without sticky fingers, drily conforming to a prescribed set of rules.

(via Buzz Anderson)

#  The Construction of the Male Anti-Social Programmer →

June 17th, 2014 at 14:11 // In Worth Knowing 

I’d been vaguely familiar with this history, but the extant of the phenomenon and the details of this article presents were new to me.

Eager to identify talented individuals to train as computer programmers, employers relied on aptitude tests to make hiring decisions. With their focus on mathematical puzzle-solving, the tests may have favored men, who were more likely to take math classes in school. More critically, the tests were widely compromised and their answers were available for study through all-male networks such as college fraternities and Elks lodges.

According to Ensmenger, a second type of test, the personality profile, was even more slanted to male applicants. Based on a series of preference questions, these tests sought to indentify job applicants who were the ideal programming “type.” According to test developers, successful programmers had most of the same personality traits as other white-collar professionals. The important distinction, however, was that programmers displayed “disinterest in people” and that they disliked “activities involving close personal interaction.”

(via @joanwolk)