Feed on
Posts
Comments



Virtually Speaking Science

Virtually Speaking Science – Wed Jan 16 – 3pm pacific – Tom Levenson and Bora Zivkovic

Tom Levenson – filmmaker, author and professor of science writing at MIT – talks with chronobiologist Bora Zivkovic, Blog Editor at Scientific American, blogger at A Blog Around The Clock, organizer of ScienceOnline conferences, and editor of Open Laboratory anthologies of the best writing on science blogs. Follow @TomLevenson @BoraZ

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/virtually-speaking-science/2013/01/16/tom-levenson-bora-zivkovic

Studio audience via Second Life – http://slurl.com/secondlife/Exploratorium/145/56/26

Quinoa

Uh oh. These unintended side effects are why it’s best to just eat local:

Not long ago, quinoa was just an obscure Peruvian grain you could only buy in wholefood shops. We struggled to pronounce it (it’s keen-wa, not qui-no-a), yet it was feted by food lovers as a novel addition to the familiar ranks of couscous and rice. Dieticians clucked over quinoa approvingly because it ticked the low-fat box and fitted in with government healthy eating advice to “base your meals on starchy foods”.


Adventurous eaters liked its slightly bitter taste and the little white curls that formed around the grains. Vegans embraced quinoa as a credibly nutritious substitute for meat. Unusual among grains, quinoa has a high protein content (between 14%-18%), and it contains all those pesky, yet essential, amino acids needed for good health that can prove so elusive to vegetarians who prefer not to pop food supplements.


Sales took off. Quinoa was, in marketing speak, the “miracle grain of the Andes”, a healthy, right-on, ethical addition to the meat avoider’s larder (no dead animals, just a crop that doesn’t feel pain). Consequently, the price shot up – it has tripled since 2006 – with more rarified black, red and “royal” types commanding particularly handsome premiums.


But there is an unpalatable truth to face for those of us with a bag of quinoa in the larder. The appetite of countries such as ours for this grain has pushed up prices to such an extent that poorer people in Peru and Bolivia, for whom it was once a nourishing staple food, can no longer afford to eat it. Imported junk food is cheaper. In Lima, quinoa now costs more than chicken. Outside the cities, and fuelled by overseas demand, the pressure is on to turn land that once produced a portfolio of diverse crops into quinoa monoculture.


In fact, the quinoa trade is yet another troubling example of a damaging north-south exchange, with well-intentioned health and ethics-led consumers here unwittingly driving poverty there. It’s beginning to look like a cautionary tale of how a focus on exporting premium foods can damage the producer country’s food security. Feeding our apparently insatiable 365-day-a-year hunger for this luxury vegetable, Peru has also cornered the world market in asparagus. Result? In the arid Ica region where Peruvian asparagus production is concentrated, this thirsty export vegetable has depleted the water resources on which local people depend. NGOs report that asparagus labourers toil in sub-standard conditions and cannot afford to feed their children while fat cat exporters and foreign supermarkets cream off the profits. That’s the pedigree of all those bunches of pricy spears on supermarket shelves.

Warnings from a high school teacher

Wow:

You are a college professor.


I have just retired as a high school teacher.


I have some bad news for you. In case you do not already see what is happening, I want to warn you of what to expect from the students who will be arriving in your classroom, even if you teach in a highly selective institution.


No Child Left Behind went into effect for the 2002–03 academic year, which means that America’s public schools have been operating under the pressures and constrictions imposed by that law for a decade. Since the testing requirements were imposed beginning in third grade, the students arriving in your institution have been subject to the full extent of the law’s requirements. While it is true that the US Department of Education is now issuing waivers on some of the provisions of the law to certain states, those states must agree to other provisions that will have as deleterious an effect on real student learning as did No Child Left Behind—we have already seen that in public schools, most notably in high schools.


My primary course as a teacher was government, and for the last seven years that included three or four (out of six) sections of Advanced Placement (AP) US Government and Politics. My students, mostly tenth-graders, were quite bright, but already I was seeing the impact of federal education policy on their learning and skills.


In many cases, students would arrive in our high school without having had meaningful social studies instruction, because even in states that tested social studies or science, the tests did not count for “adequate yearly progress” under No Child Left Behind. With test scores serving as the primary if not the sole measure of student performance and, increasingly, teacher evaluation, anything not being tested was given short shrift.


Further, most of the tests being used consist primarily or solely of multiple-choice items, which are cheaper to develop, administer, and score than are tests that include constructed responses such as essays. Even when a state has tests that include writing, the level of writing required for such tests often does not demand that higher-level thinking be demonstrated, nor does it require proper grammar, usage, syntax, and structure. Thus, students arriving in our high school lacked experience and knowledge about how to do the kinds of writing that are expected at higher levels of education.


Recognizing this, those of us in public schools do what we can to work on those higher-order skills, but we are limited. Remember, high schools also have tests—No Child Left Behind and its progeny (such as Race to the Top) require testing at least once in high school in reading and math. In Maryland, where I taught, those tests were the state’s High School Assessments in tenth-grade English and algebra (which some of our more gifted pupils had taken as early as eighth grade). High schools are also forced to focus on preparing students for tests, and that leads to a narrowing of what we can accomplish in our classrooms.

Gun control

I have to say, Obama was at his best in today’s speech. Like most conservatives, he’s emotionally engaged when he sees bad shit happening to people he can relate to. He said our primary job as a nation “is to protect our kids.”

Here’s the list of executive orders he signed.

Google wishes happy birthday

To Frank Zamboni!

The sorrow of the Wall Street Journal

journalpix

Via reader Ron K., this tone-deaf piece from the Wall Street Journal. (Especially in light of recent tweets by owner Rupert Murdoch. Notice he does not accuse Rush Limbaugh or Roger Ailes, both gentlemen of size, of jacking up health care costs — or being on welfare and food stamps.)

The Wall Street Journal had an article providing a fairly thorough breakdown of the new tax policies that will now be in effect due to the “fiscal cliff” agreement reached by congress. The article itself wasn’t too bad, really. In fact, it was mostly an objective piece. However, it did include one little thing that I thought was worth highlighting, and that was the comic that accompanied the article.


Yes, in that comic, every single one of those families makes a six figure income, the lowest being $180 thousand, and yet because of the new tax hikes imposed by Obama, they all appear as though he ran over the family dog.


The median household income in the U.S. between 2007-2011 was $52,762, but the American people are all supposed to shed tears for those that make between three totwelve times as much? Seriously, how out of touch do you have to be to think that? Of course, this is the same outfit that supported a guy who thought making $250k qualified as “middle income”.


This is also further insulting considering right wingers bitch endlessly about government workers like teachers supposedly living high on the hog.


I have to say though, the most puzzling thing about that comic: why is that minority couple who hasn’t had their taxes increased also depressed?

Also, this.

Sitting is the smoking

Of our generation. Discuss!

Pennsylvania, land of giants

That this is the reaction here in Pennsyltucky does not surprise me:

Pennsylvania gun owners threatened to boycott the state’s largest hunting and fishing expo Tuesday after organizers announced that they would ban the display and sale of assault rifles at this year’s show.


Reed Exhibitions, a British-based company that runs the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show in Harrisburg each February, notified vendors of the change in policy over the last several days, a company representative confirmed to The Inquirer.


The presence of so-called assault weapons and high-capacity magazines might have served as “a distraction” from other aspects of the event in the wake of the recent school shootings in Newtown, Conn., and the ensuing national debate about gun policy, said Ed Several, a senior vice president for the company’s North American operations.


“Given the current climate with those products right now, we thought, ‘Let’s take a break for a year,’ ” Several said. “There’s so much more to the show.”


The decision came two months after the company announced that this year’s expo would feature several tactical-firearms vendors for the first time.


By late Tuesday, a news release on the show’s website was replaced with a statement explaining the organizer’s change of heart.


As news leaked out earlier in the day, it angered gun-rights advocates.


“I’m outraged that the show would just roll over when it comes to the Second Amendment,” read a comment on the show’s Facebook page. “We will probably be seeking a refund.”


Another comment: “Sellouts! Say goodbye to my family and money.”


Many called for a boycott.

Mind you, this was a marketing decision. As in, “Geeze, people look at this assault weapons and see 20 dead little kids, maybe it would be smart to skip the controversy until the heat dies down.” But the fevered dreams of Fox News Nation see government takeovers wherever they go (thanks to the many subscription newsletters they get through Newsmax). Oy.

Gun proposal today

Waiting for the announcement.

Huh

So even Walmart realizes we need fiscal stimulus.

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

eXTReMe Tracker