A simple idea: an article, a link, a quote, and an angle, because the bigger narrative is better.
+“Video Shows Black Woman Chasing Confederate-Flag-Wearing Teen Who Called Her the N-Word” | The Root | Michael Harriot | 06/14/2018
“Proving that black women do not possess the genetic predisposition enjoyed by people who forget about past events like slavery, Jim Crow or that one time their boyfriend came home with stripper glitter on his jeans, a woman went full T.J. Hooker and chased down a white teenager decked in the Confederate flag just to curse him out teach the young lad that she ain’t the one.”
The Angle: The root of The Root> I grow weary of The Root. The writing isn’t as strong as it should be because it covers truly consequential stories with annoying dollops of unfunny snark. However, I give The Root lots of credit for running these “racist asshole” stories until sources like CNN picked up on the Philadelphia Starbucks story. Surely video for many of these incidents is the only reason why they make it into mainstream news. Still, I can’t figure out if these stories comprise some new kind of media porn in which Trump’s America is a prequel to The Purge, or if I’m missing a mass extinction of the social bonds that prevent us from being savages to one another. The Root should give me the context to tell the difference, but it doesn’t.
+“Why It’s Almost Impossible for Fastballs to Get Any Faster” | Wired | Robbie Gonzalez | 04/12/2018
“A 100-mph fastball reaches home plate in under 400 milliseconds. The swing itself takes about 150 milliseconds. That leaves less than a quarter of a second for a batter to spot the pitch and decide whether and where to swing. That’s absurdly fast, which may explain why the swinging strike rate for triple-digit heaters is almost three times higher than it is for lesser fastballs.”
The Angle: Fastball ceiling> Of all sports, baseball presents the most delicate balance of action and reaction. Fastballs started getting faster in the 1990s, a reaction to the steroid era as some pitchers (Billy Koch comes to mind) gained a few more miles after Tommy John surgery. Now, the kids groomed to hit 95+ mph on the gun are bringing more balance to the game. Strikeouts are up, but so are home runs. I suspect both are the result of more aggressive uppercut swinging instead of hitting grounders into The Shift. Until we become cyborgs there’s an upper limit on what the human body can do. It seems we’re right at a moment where an elite arm’s ability to add speed to a baseball is wonderfully countered by an elite eye’s ability to pick up that ball’s spin and speed. That’s good for the game.
+“Everything We Thought We Knew About The Gig Economy Is Wrong” | QZ | Dan Kopf & Alison Griswold | 06/07/2018
“The results baffled economists and other observers, who had expected the BLS numbers to confirm gig-economy growth that was already widely trumpeted in independent studies and the media. Just last week, for example, analyst Mary Meeker cited research in her high-profile “Internet Trends” report that predicted 7 million people would be working in the gig economy by the end of this year, up 26% from 2017. Other studies from gig-affiliated companies and organizations have estimated that more than 30% of Americans are freelancing, including nearly half of millennials (they do love their side hustles).”
The Angle: Gig schmig> Growth in “gig economy” work has not increased as briskly as many had thought it would from 2005 to the present. The often repeated claim that “most of the job growth since the Financial Crisis has been in gig work” needs a second look. Where are the workers we’d expected in gig jobs but aren’t? Have they moved to more permanent work? Are they making money off the books? Are they out of the workforce? I suspect they’re in long-term low wage work like warehousing which should be more economical for employers to offer than gig jobs. If this is true, then this end of the wage scale is even more dead-end than we’d thought. There’s none of the manufactured glamour of “the gig” here, none of the industriousness of “the side hustle.” There’s only precariousness.
+“Generation Pickleball: Welcome to Florida’s Political Tomorrowland” | Politico | Michael Grunwald | 06/18/2018
“They feel like Trump is on their side in a cultural war against cop-haters, their perception of scheming foreigners, global warming alarmists, and other politically correct avatars of disorder and decline; they thought President Barack Obama was on the other side, standing with transgender activists, welfare freeloaders and Islamic terrorists. And when Trump vows to make America great again, they sense that he means more like The Villages.
“They want an America that’s a little more like it was when they were growing up, and that’s what Trump is offering,” says Daniel Webster, the area’s conservative Republican congressman. Dennis Baxley, the area’s equally conservative Republican state senator, points out that The Villages offers that, too, with safe streets, light traffic, artificial lakes that provide a real sense of serenity, and hundreds of support groups for every imaginable malady or hardship. It’s a throwback to when they were children in 1950s America, without actual children.”
The Angle: Pickleball politics> Remember in the first episode of the revived “Roseanne” show when she says “He talked about jobs!” as her sister attacks her for voting for Trump? The biggest lie of the 2016 Presidential election is that working class white people—”the forgotten Americans” in “flyover country”—won it for Trump. We now know this narrative is not even close to being true. The truth is that the voters who put Trump over the top were: 1) middle and upper middle class; 2) worried more about losing their status as whites in an increasingly diverse country; 3) wanted a return to a whiter America with the traditional values they knew in the 1950s; and 4) sometimes pretty racist. All of these attributes are found in a small enclave in Florida called “The Villages.” I’d tack on “of the damned,” but that’s just me.
+“Questioning Truth, Reality, and the Role of Scientific Progress” | Wired | Philip Ball | 06/02/2018
“In addition to serving as a defender of the value of science, Massimi investigates issues surrounding “realism” and “anti-realism”: how, if at all, science relates to an objective reality. Her work asks whether the process of science approaches a singular, true conception of the world, or whether it is content with simply describing physical phenomena, ignoring any sense of whether the stories it tells about the world are true. Massimi, Italian-born and currently based at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, comes down on the side of the realists, and argues, in a position she calls “perspectival realism,” that science can make progress—a much-contested word in philosophy—despite being inevitably shaped by social and historical factors.”
The Angle: High hanging fruit> Alright, let’s get heavy. Philosophy of science will play an increasing role in the future of science because at some point we’ll need smart, articulate people who will have to explain the ways in which science won’t be able to do what it once did for us. The threat is lower returns on the investments needed to do cutting edge science. The number of patent teams is growing while the number of patents issued is declining. Some physicists are concerned because their colleagues aren’t finding more particles predicted by The Standard Model even though CERN’s Large Hadron Collider was built to do just that. We’re realizing that Einstein, Darwin, Newton, and other one-man revolutions picked low-hanging fruit. (Their books and papers can be read and understood by anyone with a bachelor’s degree.) Now Nobel Prize-winning work routinely requires huge research teams and budgets. Truly major scientific discoveries occur less frequently over time because (to push the metaphor) the reach for high hanging fruit requires more and more resources. A good philosopher of science will be able to explain to us whether this will be an upward or downward spiral.
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