Archive for May, 2007

Since I left the last ‘Weekend Reading’ until mid-week, this one has only a few days’ worth of links.  I believe these ones date back to… last Wednesday?  Anyway, enjoy this week’s very short list!

Best of the Week – Religion: Blind Faith (Washington Post)
Some disturbing information about religious literacy in the US here – for the most Christian nation in the world, I find this horrifying.  For instance, cited in the article is that less than half of Americans know that Genesis is the first book of the Bible, that only half can name even one of the Gospels, and a little over 10% think that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife.  The title of this article is very fitting – what are all these people following?

Psychology: This is Your Life (and How You Tell It) (New York Times)
How you view and retell memories says a lot about you, and can have substantial impact on your thoughts about them.  Sad and embarrassing memories viewed and recalled in the third person can actually seem less sad and embarrassing, and the people who recall them that way seem to have apparently learned more from them.

Software/Advice: Firefox Keyboard Shortcut to Retrieve Lost Tabs
The BEST Firefox tip I’ve ever heard.  It happens so often to me: I start closing down unused tabs, and accidentally delete one that I really needed.  Pressing Command+Shift+T (Ctrl+Shift+T for us Microsoft slaves) will bring back any tab you just closed.  No more accidentally deleting the wrong tabs!

Gender/Psychology: Girls do badly at math when told boys do better (Reuters)
A study from the University of Chicago shows that when girls are told that their male counterparts are naturally better at math, they start doing badly on tests.  This was also shown to impact achievement in whatever tests or classes they took directly afterwards, and was not limited to just mathematics.

Coffee: Understanding Coffee People
Coffee can be a link category all on its own, who says it can’t?  I found this accidentally through Google hunting for myself (you know you’ve done it).  These are descriptions of a few distinct “coffee types”… the Addict, the Snob, the Teenager (proud to say I’m not one of them in this context), etc.  Which one are you?  (I’m the Addict – I like my coffee bitter, black, and lots of it.)

Nostalgia: 15 (Painfully) Unforgettable Cartoon Theme Songs
Ahhh, pre-Y2K cartoons… how I miss that blurry quality that I thought was so awesome as a kid.  To think there are kids today growing up without classics like the Looney Tunes.  This is a list of 15 memorable cartoon themes (YouTubed and embedded!) from the 80s and 90s.  (Some of these I can just barely remember, and some I didn’t even realize had stopped airing. I miss the 90s… I made a Mister Rogers joke to some kids I know and they just gave me blank looks.  I shouldn’t have to feel that old yet.)

That’s it for this week!

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EDIT: This post has been chosen as a finalist in the 2007 Edublog Awards! Thank you to all its readers! :)

Earlier today, a friend and former teacher of mine made a post (private on another blog, and therefore unlinkable) to his students about the seven ideas featured in the book “How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci”, which reminded me about a post I had wanted to make for a long time. (Quick explanation of the above, said former teacher is currently teaching a special unit on Leonardo da Vinci to some grade eights at my former middle school and using blogs as a learning device – very cool!)

The things mentioned in that book are ubiquitous in literature about characteristics that separate creative giants from the rest of us (there is indeed such literature, and a fair amount of it), give or take a few points. These seven things plus others – which I will go into greater detail with later – are the attitudes that contribute if not lead into genius… and they’re so very ignored by schools and society in general!

This is how we kill each trait that may yield another Da Vinci:

1. Curiosita (from “How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci”)
What? Intense and insatiable curiosity; constantly learning due to a desire to ask and answer questions
The Murder: In schools, for the most part, students learn only what the teacher decides they will learn. Student questions will often go unanswered if they lead away from the material (go off-topic), or if there are time constraints on what must be learned that leave no time for these questions in class.

2. Dimostrazione (from “How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci”)
What? Constant testing of knowledge through experience and persistence; accepting of and learning from mistakes
The Murder: Except in the sciences (and sometimes even then), knowledge is simply given and expected to be absorbed rather than questioned and tested. On tests and labs, wrong answers cost the students their grades, therefore it becomes unacceptable to make mistakes. Mistakes are less about learning experiences and more about losing marks. Questioning societal norms is a very negative thing, even if they don’t make sense.

3. Sensazione (from “How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci”)
What? Fully noticing and observing things with all senses, but especially sight (seeing things that others miss, seeing the details)
The Murder: Except in the sciences and a handful of other subjects, students are usually taught passively through the use of only one sense, listening, or maybe sight (diagrams, photos, etc.). Classrooms and assignments may be incredibly unstimulating to most (or all) senses.

4. Sfumato (from “How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci”)
What? An acceptance of ambiguity, paradox, and uncertainty out of a realization that life is not black and white (also an art technique using shadow famous for its use in da Vinci’s paintings)
The Murder: A student’s answer is either right or wrong, usually with no middle ground tolerated. Standardized tests are mostly multiple choice, and in the case of an ambiguous result, students must choose the best possible answer, not a possible answer, even though more than one is really correct. Life and its problems have more than one right answer; multiple choice questions have only one best answer.

5. Arte/Scienza (From “How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci”)
What? Interest in both the arts and sciences and interdisciplinary work that combines them
The Murder: High school courses are most often strictly defined as an “Art” or a “Science”, and they never mingle; interdisciplinary courses at this level are rare. In college, an undergraduate usually receives a either Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science, though there is more flexibility here than in high school. Scientists and artists have their own professional domains which almost never overlap.

6. Corporalita (from “How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci”)
What? Keeping one’s body in good shape; attending to nutrition, fitness, and general physical well-being
The Murder: Physical Education programs – especially in the United States – are being severely cut, and obesity has been described as an epidemic. Junk food is readily available and sometimes may be the only option in a high school cafeteria. Fast food is cheaper and more convenient than healthier food ($4 for an entire meal at McDonald’s or $4 for a single, small-sized fruit bowl?).

7. Connessione (from “How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci”)
What? Acceptance and appreciation for the interconnectedness of everything in life; interdisciplinary approaches and thinking
The Murder: Facts and concepts are taught in specific classes that are independent of each other, and students are moved from individual class to individual class without knowledge of how the two might be connected. Boundaries like that between art and science are rarely crossed or their connectedness even explained. Facts and ideas might be taught with no explanation of the links between them (ie, learning individual details and facts but not the big picture).

8. Drive, energy, intense focus (from various studies on creative genius)
What? Energy and desire to focus intensely on one’s work and interests (often the same thing); merging of work and play
The Murder: Each class is allotted a certain period of time that is inflexible. Despite the student’s interest in a particular class, they must conform to this schedule. Many schools have required curriculum that force a student to give up desirable or necessary electives for core classes they may not need. Students must go to school and all perform well academically, despite their individual talents and aspirations. Musicians and artists especially must break focus on their real interests to attend required academic classes, and may be too drained to work on their own by the end of the school day.

9. Confidence, willingness to take risks, and tolerance of failure (from various studies on creative genius)
What? Willing to continue on with creative work despite rejection; ability to sell oneself and one’s talents
The Murder: Many creative people must face multiple rejections until their idea is sold, and they must accept that if their idea or creative contribution is too radical, society may not yet be ready for it (many artists and writers have only been recognized after their deaths). However, as mentioned above, mistakes and failure are not tolerated in schools and this learned attitude may carry on throughout life. Instead of learning the value of taking risks, students are taught to fear any mistakes that might result. Students are often “babied” – all team mates get a ribbon or a trophy for “participation” – and do not gain the real-world skills they need to sell themselves.

10. Independence, introversion (from various studies on creative genius)
What? Willingness to spend lots of time alone working and honing skills; acceptance of possible isolation
The Murder: The social climate of high school severely discourages spending time alone, especially when spent “working”, and loners are isolated and considered antisocial and friendless. Refusing to conform and “sticking out from the crowd” is highly discouraged by peers and teachers. Creative individuals may have to accept that if the world is not ready for their ideas, they may find few people who understand and support them.

This is how we kill the spirits of our up-and-coming da Vincis. These ten things are the most commonly cited characteristics of highly creative people… and they’re heavily discouraged in the early years by the education system and social climate of adolescence. This is why we won’t see another da Vinci for a long, long time – or why, if we do, he/she would not have come from the system we currently have in place. At every turn schools and society are set on pushing back the most creative individuals. Their common traits are not welcomed nor encouraged, and certainly not nurtured. This must not persist, because I think the world is long overdue for another da Vinci-type right now.

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Weekend Reading: 05/23

I wanted to get my last post (“The city, she loves me”) out before I started on the Weekend Reading, but a lot of things delayed me from starting either of them until late. (That part is a lie, I was just really lazy over the long weekend.) Here’s this week’s inaccurately titled Weekend Reading, including links from the days I procrastinated all the way back to last Saturday. Most of these seem to be just interesting rather than serious links.

Best of the Week – Politics: Why Bush Hasn’t Been Impeached
I hate to choose this as my best of the week because, though I fully support the movement, I’m starting to really dislike the Bush-whacking crowd for the same reasons I dislike fundamentalists – too many pointless complaints flying around. (Stop complaining and quietly do something about it, I say.) However, this was the best political essay I’ve read in a very long time. It presents a very clear explanation without resorting to hate speech or pointless accusation, and had several excellent points.

Fun/Caffeine: The Caffeine Database
This is a really cool interactive chart that lets you calculate your caffeine intake. There is a gigantic list of caffeinated beverages and foods to choose from that will add up to your intake in mg, along with a message. My caffeine intake today is “Climbing the Walls” (a short coffee at Starbucks, two cups of brewed coffee, and a cup of imported black tea).

Interesting: The Mystery of the Daytime Idle: Why Aren’t You Working? (San Francisco Chronicle via SF Gate)
I have ALWAYS wondered about this. No matter what day of the week it is, there are always loads of people walking around the city during the day. Don’t they have to work? In this article, a San Francisco writer goes out to the streets during the day to ask people why they’re working. The responses were very interesting.

Business/Economics: Who Will Win in the 21st Century? (Business Week)
The annual World Competitiveness Yearbook still lists the U.S. as #1 overall, but other countries are quickly gaining on them. (Behind the U.S. are the usual suspects – Asian tigers and Northern Europe.) Also mentioned in this article is the “Happiness Factor”, which adds greater depth to the results. South American countries may not be economically aggressive, but they’re happier. Many European countries – plus Canada (whoo!) – are among the happiest.

Blogging: 27 Lessons Learned on the Way to 3000 Visits a Day and 2200 RSS Subscribers
A blog called “Pick the Brain” presents twenty-seven tips for bloggers. Some very practical tips here about content, traffic, and feedback.

Education: Study Finds College-Prep Courses in High School Leave Many Students Lagging (New York Times)
Laughable if it wasn’t sad: apparently, only a little over 25% of high school students that take a full college-prep curriculum are being properly prepared for college, and nearly 20% are not prepared at all. The problem is content, not course selection. It reminds me of another article by educational columnist Jay Mathews in the Washington Post: “In Many Classrooms, ‘Honors’ in Name Only”. Some schools attach the title “Honors” to a course on students’ transcripts just to make them sound more impressive to colleges, despite the course being of regular – or worse – quality.

Image: Al Gore’s American Life – Photo Essays (TIME Magazine)
This is a direct link to an image that I found circulating around everywhere today… it’s Al Gore’s desk. It’s messy, and quite cool (I love cluttered desks).

High IQ Link to Being Vegetarian (BBC)
A study has found that vegetarians average five more IQ points than non-vegetarians. It makes sense to me in a lot of ways… vegetarians need to plan their diet to get the right amount of protein, greater health awareness is linked to intelligence, etc. Coincidentally, I’m a vegetarian, but it has more to do with personal preference than anything ideological.

Psychology: Field Guide to the Loner: The Real Insiders (Psychology Today)
I wrote something, months ago, about the very same subject – it might become my next post (or at least a future one) when I can tweak it to sound less… angsty. The idea in this article is that most loners quite enjoy their solitude, and are just as happy being alone as extroverts are being with other people. I think this is very important for extroverts to understand. Don’t pity the loners and assume that we’re antisocial or friendless; we just enjoy being alone.

Interesting: Einstein: His Life and His Universe (New York Times)
The New York Times published this first chapter of an Albert Einstein biography, and it looks very promising. (Lots of talk about Einstein lately – TIME recently published an article about him, too.) This chapter is a basic introduction to his personal life and some of his ideas, physics-related and not.

Education: No Child Left Behind, the Football Version
If NCLB were applied to football. I think this should put things in perspective for its supporters.

That’s it for this week!

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Since my cousin moved back to Vancouver from Manhattan, I’ve noticed that she has a strange, urban serendipity about her: every time she walks to a street corner, the light instantly changes in her favor. I’m not kidding about this; every time I walk with her downtown, she never has to wait for the ‘Walk’ signal. It comes on the second she approaches the curb, and with no conscious effort whatsoever on her part. And, since I first noted this in my cousin, I’ve been seeing the same crazy luck in both my aunt and her boyfriend – who, like my cousin, are self-proclaimed urbanites living in a very trendy part of downtown.

It was all a strange coincidence – until it started to happen to me, too. Whenever I approach a street corner downtown (this does not work in the suburbs), the light just seems to change in my favor, regardless of my intent to catch it. I used to have the worst luck with my timing downtown, always just missing the light I wanted. Now… well, I don’t think I’ve had to wait for a light to change in weeks. Even my friends are pointing out to me that I have the greatest luck with these things.

I have a theory about this urban serendipity. Cities really do have a pulse. That pulse becomes the pace of the whole city… and that pace is the speed at which each traffic light turns after the other. I think that people who spend a lot of time in the city, like my urbanite family members and now myself, start to fall “in tune” with the pace of the city. Over time, we just develop the perfect pace of walking that gets us between streets right as the lights turn, because it’s such a consistent rhythm.

(This kind of pulse isn’t something I see much of in the suburbs, but I think that it has to do with the lack of traffic and the length of suburban blocks. Suburban streets are more likely to be empty, so we tend to jaywalk more often. And, at least in my neighborhood, the blocks are much larger than those in the city, so it takes a long time to walk from one street to the other – long enough to distract someone from developing the rhythm a city would have.)

With or without the logical explanation for it, the idea of being “in tune” with a city – belonging to a city – is so romantic to me. There’s comfort in knowing and loving a city inside out so much that everything between the limits feels like home. My favorite expression of belonging and comfort in a city are the opening lyrics of “Under the Bridge” (1991), the most successful and best-known song by the Red Hot Chili Peppers:

“Sometimes I feel like I don’t have a partner
Sometimes I feel like my only friend
Is the city I live in, the City of Angel
Lonely as I am, together we cry

“I drive on her streets ’cause she’s my companion
I walk through her hills ’cause she knows who I am
She sees my good deeds and she kisses me windy
I never worry, now that is a lie”

Then, later on in the song, is my favorite verse of music:

“It’s hard to believe that there’s nobody out there
It’s hard to believe that I’m all alone
At least I have her love, the city, she loves me
Lonely as I am, together we cry”

Lead singer and frontman of the Chili Peppers, Anthony Kiedis, actually wrote the song about his former heroin addiction – and the full lyrics strongly hint but not explicitly confirm this (though Kiedis himself has). This song once almost lost the potential to become the hit it did because Kiedis had hid the lyrics due to their personal nature. I thought this was odd because Kiedis has sung some pretty wicked-crazy stuff over the years. And those are just the lyrics I don’t feel guilty linking to; some are so explicit I wouldn’t even dare – and some of the above are still pretty graphic. Point is, this is not a guy who’s afraid to put it out there. (Much too literally sometimes.)

Many other musical artists and writers have similarly paid tribute in some way to the cities they love. The cities that seem to get the most love are New York City and pretty much anything in California. Wikipedia has lists (linked in the previous sentence) of hundreds of songs dedicated to NYC, the state of California, cities in California, and even individual streets in California. New Yorkers and Californians really love their homes.

Yet there are hardly any songs (I found two, neither are known widely enough to have lyrics posted anywhere online) dedicated to my city of Vancouver, even though we’re ranked third internationally for quality of life. Canadian cities just don’t get the love they deserve.

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Weekend Reading: 05/12

Yup, it’s a few hours late. It completely slipped my mind all Saturday… and I probably should have done it late Sunday because I need to be up and tackling a class of toddlers at 9am (coffee plz), but I have many, many commitments ahead for me today and wouldn’t get time to write this until late Sunday (read: Monday) if I had put it off. Luckily for me, there aren’t that many links this week.

Best of the Week – Economics: What does $456 billion buy?
What the money spent on the war in Iraq could be going – free gas for every US citizen for 1.2 years, the ending of world poverty by 2015… take your pick. It really puts things in perspective. Is this occupation really worth it? (No.)

Education/WTF?: Lousy Test Question for Fourth Graders
Wow. As an unfortunate soul caught in the standardized testing of public education myself, I’ve seen some stupid questions on regional exams… but nothing – nothing – as bad as this. This thing is just… wow. Unspeakably awful. This is exactly why I detest multiple choice questions.

Humor: The Answer is NOT Always ‘C’
This just blew me away. A student gets 0/100 on a college exam by filling in all the ‘C’ bubbles… on a completely True/False exam. The professor’s response is great… “If all else fails, go with B from now on. B is the new C.”

Gender/Mindless Facts: “she invented” – Google Search
This doesn’t really prove anything, because men have been the dominant inventors of history (representing merely a lack of opportunity rather than skill), but I thought this was… amusing. If you Google “she invented”, the top of the page will say, ‘Did You Mean: “he invented”‘?

Web 2.0/Business: You’re Nobody Unless Your Name Googles Well (Wall Street Journal)
I’m not sure how permanent this link is – the Wall Street Journal has the nastiest habit of locking all their good articles for full-paying subscribers only a few days after their release. In any case, I thought this was a very interesting article, the idea being that in our increasingly web-centered world, having a Google-friendly (ie, unique) name is very important, because that’s becoming the new way to find out about a person.

Mindless Facts: World Subway Systems on the Same Scale
All the world’s subway systems on the same scale. It even includes the rail system of my city, Vancouver! (And Vancouver’s system is very, very small and incredibly simple – just two lines. Goes to show how comprehensive this collection is.) The widest-reaching system appears to be the Bay Area’s BART (predictable), but I’d say the best overall is in London.

The Freelancer’s Toolset: 100 Web Apps for Everything You Will Possibly Need
There are a lot of great links here that are of use to more than just freelancers. Lots of online tools for project management, collaboration, and organization in general. These are really great.

Wow – this has probably been my quietest week yet. (But I’m not complaining; going to sleep now, kthnxbai.)

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I’ve done a post on coffee in the past, but I had a really odd moment of perspective this morning. Caffeine-addict that I am, I was preparing my daily intake… drip coffee for the morning and a thermos full of black tea to last me the rest of the day (tea is less expensive to brew in bulk). It’s a daily routine, so I didn’t think much of it, but when the caffeine high started to kick in on my way out, it somehow hit me that…

…Douglas Adams (author: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and various other projects) once wrote an email instructing an American tourist on how to brew a proper pot of tea. (The email was later published in a posthumous collection of some of his shorter works called The Salmon of Doubt. If you’re a DNA fan and have not read it, go do so. Now.)

…George Orwell (author: 1984, Animal Farm, and various other books and essays) also wrote at length about the proper way to brew tea. Like Adams, he was very picky about the details of brewing tea, and had his own quite strong opinions about how it should be done. Orwell had chosen some weird essay topics in his life, but I always thought this one was particularly odd.

…Malcolm Gladwell (author: The Tipping Point and Blink) wrote an article for The New Yorker about the joint cultural history of coffee and revolutionaries, with the subtitle: “How caffeine created the modern world.”

…Frank Sinatra (if you don’t know, I’m not telling you) performed a song called The Coffee Song about coffee obsession in Brazil. (“The politician’s daughter/Was accused of drinkin’ water/And was fined a great big fifty dollar bill/They’ve got an awful lot of coffee in Brazil… And when their ham and eggs need savor/Coffee ketchup gives ’em flavor/Coffee pickles way outsell the dill/Why, they put coffee in the coffee in Brazil”)

…And countless other people who have made creative contributions to society have commented on, or made tributes to, coffee/caffeine culture.

Which led to my moment of perspective, captured beautifully by artist/physicist Randall Munroe in his webcomic xkcd:

Coffee/tea is a drink.

What is wrong with us?

That feeling of sudden perspective quickly faded away, as in the comic, but the idea had already taken off. Coffee is a drink; tea is a drink. They contain caffeine, a mild stimulatory drug. It makes us more alert and energetic… not much else. Yet there’s an entire coffee-culture and tea-culture built up around these drinks. A caffeine culture.


Sugar and energy drinks increase energy and alertness, too, but do we see famous figures writing/singing/painting odes to sugar and energy drinks? Maybe if energy drinks had a longer history, but not really, no. What about detailed instructions from famous writers on how to squeeze oranges for the optimal production of orange juice? No. Do we have sugar or orange juice subcultures that have contributed to the development of modern culture? No.

Maybe we idolize and romanticize caffeine consumption as a drug that’s not dangerous enough to really harm us, but enough to give us a little buzz. It would explain the existence of Jolt and cannabis culture, but those two still fall into separate stereotypes (geek and hippie – though the latter is changing) while coffee culture is more widespread. Similarly with tobacco; though with its relatively recently discovered health complications, smoking is increasingly regarded as belonging to a more delinquent stereotype.

When I think about it, even the stimulation seems like something so trivial to build a whole subculture around… much less one that has impacted human cultural development. Coffee is a drink. A damn good drink, but a drink nonetheless. It just boggles my mind that we – collectively, I mean, over history – have become so enchanted by it. It’s an odd thing for me to say, personally, because I’m probably more addicted to and enthralled by caffeine than anyone I know (my excessive coffee consumption has raised eyebrows at many social functions). I once wrote that coffee is not just a drink but a lifestyle. But why? How is this feeling so universal? What is it about coffee and tea that holds us spellbound? Are we as a society just held captive under the effects of a mild drug?

Why does coffee have a subculture? For heaven’s sake, it’s just a drink!

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Weekend Reading: 05/05

Big stuff in the news this week! There was the HD-DVD leak-turned-user-revolt on Digg, the presidential veto of the Iraq deadline, proposed veto of the hate-crime bill (expanding hate crimes to include sexual orientation), increased talk of Cheney impeachment, and on top of that, Tony Blair announcing his retirement. Crazy!

Best of the Week – News/Society: Video – Jon Stewart on Virginia Tech Coverage (The Daily Show)
I have great respect for Jon Stewart, which only increased after this segment from the Daily Show. Stewart discusses the media’s reaction to and coverage of the VTech massacre – exploitation, agendas, and blame everywhere – in the typical Daily Show style of very thought-provoking humor. I can’t do this clip any justice in a summary, just watch it.

Ethics: On Trip to Mars, NASA Must Rethink Death (AP/Washington Times)
Now this was a great read. Since NASA’s planned trip to Mars will last several years, they have to consider some difficult ethical questions – what course of action should be taken if one of the astronauts were to die, and should the fatally ill be placed on life support or mercifully killed for the good of the crew? In mixed-gender teams, how should sexual tension be handled? Should potential crews be genetically screened first? I wouldn’t want to be the one deciding these.

Society: 1973 vs 2007
I’ve always wished I had been born in an earlier decade. These are pretty sad. Example: “Scenario: Jeffrey won’t be still in class, disrupts other students. 1973: Jeffrey sent to office and given a good paddling by Principal. Sits still in class. 2007: Jeffrey given huge doses of Ritalin. Becomes a zombie. School gets extra money from state because Jeffrey has a disability.”

Web 2.0: In Web Uproar, Antipiracy Code Spreads Wildly (New York Times) and Digg This: 09-f9-11-02-9d-74-e3-5b-d8-41-56-c5-63-56-88-c0 (Digg.com Blog)
Articles about the 2007 Digg revolt from the New York Times and Digg’s very own blog. Basic story: the code to unlock HD-DVD (above) was leaked on Digg.com, and once the users realized that administrators were trying to cover it up, hundreds of stories featuring the code were submitted for several hours until the site was forced to shut down. In Digg’s blog linked above, founder Kevin Rose announced that Digg would go down fighting rather than suppress instances of the code. (I’m proud to say that I personally was a part of the user revolt, submitting and Digging stories with the rest of ’em until the site went down.)

Download YouTube Videos 23 Ways
23 online-based ways to download YouTube videos and/or convert them to other formats.

Psychology: Confidence – Stepping Out (Psychology Today)
A article about the conscious and unconscious efforts that charismatic people have made to become as magnetic as they are; charisma is something learned, not something innate. It includes some interesting anecdotes from some famous personalities and advice for the shy.

Education/Psychology: Deciding When Student Writing Crosses the Line (New York Times)
I thought this was interesting as a spinoff concern of the VTech massacre that didn’t involve gun control (aren’t we tired of hearing that story yet?). Writing students are often encouraged to take on controversial, possibly disturbing subject matter as a way of freeing their muse… what kind of writing, in an English class, separates a Cho Seung-Hui from the rest?

History: 5 Things to Know About Harems Before You Get One
Five interesting facts about famous harems and how they were managed. It’s a horribly esoteric link – I’ve been fascinated with the structure of harems since I was properly introduced to the idea. Weird, I know, but I’m not kidding here. Even if you don’t share the same interest, this article has a good “Did You Know?” value.

Science: The Basics of Stem Cells
If you don’t know much about stem cells, this is definitely a great place to start. It discusses what a stem cell really is, plus the different types of stem cells, the controversies/research complications of each, and predicted research benefits. If you can see yourself ever engaging in a debate over the ethics of stem cell research, these are the facts you should know (if you don’t already).

Society/Internet: Why can’t you pay attention anymore? (CNET News)
An interesting article about how greater use of the internet will have devastating effects on our attention spans. We can do more things at once, but we’re just doing a more shallow job of them.

Expect another, more coherent post this week – when I’m not dying for sleep at 1:30 am.

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Why this obsession with paper?

I may know a subject cold. But where’s the completed homework? What’s the result from the standardized test? Where’s the ‘A’ next to a course title on an official school transcript? Where’s the paper that says I know what I know?

Perhaps I have the complete capacity for a job… but where’s the resume? Where’s the degree? Where’s the paper proof?

Why pay $100 to challenge a course for a piece of paper with a grade that says that I know what I know? Spend up to $200,000 in tuition for a paper that proves I know what I could have learned quicker and for free at the library? Pay to complete a certificate just to prove I can do what I can already do?

Why should there have to be a paper to prove it all?

Credentials for knowledge and ability shouldn’t be streamlined and standardized.

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