Friday, 22 January 2016

Four months of silence

To be honest I had not realised that it was very nearly four months since I last posted on this blog but ... hey ho, such is life with an arthritic hip.

It’s being replaced (God and the junior doctors willing) on 27th then I have up to three months of convalescence. I’m assuming, perhaps incorrectly, that I will be able to do some catching up certainly during the first six weeks when I will be cared for away from home.

The balance between taking enough pain relief medication to be able to function and not taking so much that all I want to do is sleep.


Saturday, 26 September 2015

Trivia (should have been 23 May)

Study: Massive Amounts of CO2 Led to Mass Extinction 252 Million Years Ago
via Big Think by Robert Montenegro
Extinct
The history of life on Earth is full of evolutionary close shaves, most of which we’ll never know too much about. The authors of a new study published in Science believe they’ve uncovered a major clue as to the cause of one of life’s narrowest escapes, known affectionately as The Great Dying, a name that pretty much spells it all out for you.
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The Genetics of the Earth and Moon
via 3 Quarks Daily: Dean Raymond in Nautilus
Moon
Imagine that two very similar-looking neighbors undergo a genetic test. The exam shows that the pair’s genetic fingerprints are virtually identical. They feel a flash of shock and excitement. What does this mean? Could they be long-lost twins, separated in a hospital mixup? The Earth and Moon share a similar issue, one that poses a major scientific puzzle.
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About Thebes: 1909
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
About Thebes: 1909
“Washington Dramatic Club – About Thebes
Our second look at this nominally Egyptian-themed charity benefit staged at the Belasco Theater in April 1909 for an audience including President Taft
8x10 inch glass negative
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Data, Data, Everywhere, nor Any Time to Think: DIY Analysis of E-Resource Access Problems
an article by Sommer Browning published in Journal of Electronic Resources Librarianship Volume 27 Issue 1 (2015)
Abstract
Broken links, incorrect metadata, platform changes, and other access issues plague libraries. While libraries have workflows and teams in place to address these problems, little is written on the valuable data gathered in the process. Analyzing this data can reveal the nature of a library's access problems. This article presents the process Auraria Library used to organize data from 100 access-problem reports, the insights the data generated, and the resulting tools that created better electronic access. By simply looking at the rich data that troubleshooting teams are gathering, libraries can make real changes to create a better user experience.
Picked not so much for the content of the article but for its title. Very clever.

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The death of a friend: Queen Elizabeth I, bereavement, and grief
via OUP Blog by Susan Doran
"
On 25 February 1603, Queen Elizabeth I’s cousin and friend – Katherine Howard, the countess of Nottingham – died. Although Katherine had been ill for some time, her death hit the queen very hard; indeed one observer wrote that she took the loss “muche more heavyly” than did Katherine’s husband, the Charles, Earl of Nottingham. The queen’s grief was unsurprising, for Elizabeth had known the countess longer than almost anyone else alive at that time. While still a child, Katherine Carey (as she then was) had entered Elizabeth’s household at Hatfield; a few years later, on 3 January 1559, though aged only about twelve, Katherine became one of the new queen’s maids of honour and participated in the coronation ceremonials, twelve days afterwards. What is more, Katherine was close kin to the queen. Her paternal grandmother was Mary Boleyn (the sister of the more famous Anne) and her father was the queen’s favourite male cousin Henry, Lord Hunsdon.
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Crusade
via Daily Writing Tips by Maeve Maddox
The word crusade, used as both noun and verb, derives from a Latin verb meaning “to mark with a cross”. Middle English adopted the Old French form, croisee. When the OF spelling shifted to croisade, English speakers started spelling it that way too. Finally, in the 18th century, the spelling was Anglicized to crusade.
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Hermit crabs line up in order of size to swap and upgrade shells with one another
via Boing Boing by Xeni Jardin
“They arrange themselves in an orderly queue, the biggest at the front, the smallest at the back; they're lining up with one aim: to exchange properties. But none of the crabs can make a move because the chain is not yet complete.
They’re all waiting for the right-sized crab to come along.”
The Hermit Crab vacancy chain, as featured in the 'Home' episode of Life Story, on the BBC.

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Spiders: the allure and fear of our eight-legged friends
via OUP Blog by Laurie Kerzicnik
Picture not included here for obvious reasons!
What’s your first reaction when you see this picture? Love? Fear? Repulsion? If you are like many Americans, when you come across a spider, especially a large, hairy one like this tarantula, the emotions you experience are most likely in the realm of fear or disgust. Your actions probably include screaming, trapping, swatting, or squashing of the spider.
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The Apparatus: 1923
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
The Apparatus: 1923
Washington, D.C., circa 1923
“Unidentified ramp on field” is all it says here.
Who can help us categorize this cryptic contraption?
4x5 glass negative
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Wolf Hall: count up the bodies
via OUP Blog by Peter Marshall
ThomasMore2
Historians should be banned from watching movies or TV set in their area of expertise. We usually bore and irritate friends and family with pedantic interjections about minor factual errors and chronological mix-ups. With Hilary Mantel’s novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, and the sumptuous BBC series based on them, this pleasure is denied us. The series is as ferociously well researched as it is superbly acted and directed. Cranmer probably didn’t have a beard in 1533, but, honestly, that’s about the best I can do.
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Friday, 18 September 2015

Reducing bogus self-employment and supporting the genuinely self-employed

A blog post by Alison Blackwood, Senior Campaigns Officer Citizens Advice

Self-employment is now a mainstream part of the UK labour market: around 15 per cent of people work in this way. For most people, working for themselves provides welcome flexibility, independence and the reward of growing their own business. However, for some people who are self-employed, the reality is very different.

Continues but better to read the report Neither One Thing Nor the Other (PDF 23pp)


The spectrum of control: A social theory of the smart city

an article by Jathan Sadowski (Arizona State University) and Frank Pasquale (University of Maryland’s Francis King Carey School of Law) published in First Monday Volume 20 Number 7 (July 2015)

Abstract

There is a certain allure to the idea that cities allow a person to both feel at home and like a stranger in the same place. That one can know the streets and shops, avenues and alleys, while also going days without being recognized. But as élites fill cities with “smart” technologies – turning them into platforms for the “Internet of Things” (IoT): sensors and computation embedded within physical objects that then connect, communicate, and/or transmit information with or between each other through the Internet – there is little escape from a seamless web of surveillance and power.

This paper will outline a social theory of the “smart city” by developing our Deleuzian concept of the “spectrum of control”. We present two illustrative examples: biometric surveillance as a form of monitoring, and automated policing as a particularly brutal and exacting form of manipulation. We conclude by offering normative guidelines for governance of the pervasive surveillance and control mechanisms that constitute an emerging critical infrastructure of the “smart city”.

Full text (HTML)


Thursday, 17 September 2015

Trivia (should have been 17 May)

The moral camera
via 3 Quarks Daily: Kenan Malik in Pandaemonium
Moral-compass
Imagine a runaway train. If it carries on down its present course it will kill five people. You cannot stop the train, but you can pull a switch and move the train on to another track, down which it will kill not five people but just one person. Should you pull the switch? This is the famous ‘trolley’ problem, a thought experiment first suggested by Philippa Foot in 1967, and which since has become since become one of the most important tools in contemporary moral philosophy. (In Foot’s original, the dilemma featured a runaway trolley, hence the common name of the problem.)
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‘Munitions, more munitions, always more munitions’
via National Archives by Dr George Hay
Gun ammunition, MUN 4/1085 (3)
One hundred years ago today [13 March], the Battle of Neuve Chapelle was in its closing stages. A small village in northern France between Béthune and Lille, it played host to the first major British offensive of the war. Those three days of fighting marked a significant point in the British war experience, something confirmed just eight weeks later when fighting over the same ground during the one day engagement at Aubers Ridge. Though neither operation was successful, within a month of the Battle of Aubers Ridge the way in which the British armed forces were supplied in the field changed dramatically.
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Why Killer Whales Go Through Menopause But Elephants Don’t
via 3 Quarks Daily: Ed Yong in Not Exactly Rocket Science
ScreenHunter_1078 Mar. 15 17.54
Last summer, I met Granny. I was on a whale-watching boat that had sailed south from Vancouver Island, in search of a famous and well-studied group of killer whales (orcas). Two hours after we set off, we started seeing black fins scything through the unusually calm and glassy water. We saw a dozen individuals in all, and our guide identified them by the shape of their fins and the white saddle patches on their backs. Granny, for example, has a distinctive half-moon notch in her dorsal fin.
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Get a Quick Workout Without Even Leaving Your Office
via MakeUseOf by Dave LeClair
Get a Quick Workout Without Even Leaving Your Office
Who says you have to leave your office and go to the gym to get a workout? It’s quite possible to get some exercise from your desk and the areas around it. Not only that, but you can target all the key parts of the body!
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Which is the poorest city in the world?
via The Guardian by Nick Compton
Residents of Monrovia's West Point township.
Ranking hardship is not a simple, or happy, task – but as the world urbanises, city poverty becomes ever more important.
For most of history, and despite the stereotype of urban squalour, it has been the countryside where poverty has particularly thrived. But as the world urbanises, poverty is moving with it. Over the past decade, the share of poverty in the developing world blighting cities rather than rural areas has jumped from 17% to 28%. In sub-Saharan Africa, almost a quarter of all poverty is urban. In east Asia, half.
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Ancient cities and power: the archaeology of urbanism in the Iron Age capitals of northern Mesopotamia
an article by James F. Osborne (Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA) published in International Journal of Urban Sciences Volume 19 Issue 1 (2015)
Abstract
This paper explores the expression of power in the built environment of ancient cities, using two case studies from the middle Iron Age (early first millennium BCE) ancient Near East: the capital cities of the Syro-Anatolian city-states in southern Turkey and northern Syria, and those of the Neo-Assyrian Empire in northern Iraq. A functional approach to urbanism, which defines cities based on their influence in the surrounding region, leads to the conclusion that although the expression of power in these two cultures’ major cities is superficially similar (though different in scale), incorporating the surrounding landscape into the discussion reveals how empires are more comprehensive than city-states in creating entire landscapes that communicate power in their built environment.

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Infinite West: 1941
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Infinite West: 1941
September 1941
“Buena Vista, Colorado (vicinity). The Sawatch mountains.”
Medium format negative by Marion Post Wolcott
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Where Does Religion Come From?
via Big Think by Derek Beres
Bt-religion-origins
If we were to ask a priest where religion originated, his response would most likely be rooted in his theology. The same would hold true for a rabbi, imam, yogi and so forth. We believe that the roots of our personal faith provide an answer to questions of creation.
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Lolita’s Loathsome Brilliance
via 3 Quarks Daily: Robert Macfarlane in More Intelligent Life
Lo
Humbert Humbert, literature’s best-known paedophile, calls it his “joy-ride”. For a year he tours the back-roads of rural America, with Lolita, who is 12, as his coerced companion and his regular victim. Together they cover thousands of miles in Humbert’s sedan, gliding down the “glossy” black-top from New England to the Rockies via the Midwestern corn prairies. They become connoisseurs of motel America – “the stucco court”, “the adobe unit”, “the log cabin” – always checking in as father and daughter, and never staying longer than a couple of nights. Milk bars and diners are their mealtime haunts; tiny tourist traps (“a lighthouse in Virginia…a granite obelisk commemorating the Battle of Blue Licks”) their daylight destinations.
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From vinyl records to toys: the return of analogue products in our digital lives
via the Guardian by Emmanuel Tsekleves
Collection of vinyl records on a shelf
There is something unique and magical about interacting with physical objects. From toddlers discovering the world around them to the texture and pungent scent of a book. We live in the digital era but the latest trends in digitally-dominated markets, such as the entertainment industry, indicate strong sales for analogue products.
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Social enterprises as enabling workplaces for people with psychiatric disabilities

an article by Pearl Buhariwala, Robert Wilton (McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada) and Joshua Evans (Athabasca University, Athabasca, Alberta, Canada) published in Disability & Society Volume 30 Issue 6 (July 2015)

Abstract

In recent years, western governments influenced by neoliberalism have emphasized paid work as a key route to social inclusion and community participation for people with psychiatric disabilities.

Although paid work can offer many rewards, access to mainstream employment for people with psychiatric disabilities is difficult as they continue to encounter discrimination and a lack of workplace accommodation. One response to these challenges has been the creation of social enterprises as ‘alternative spaces’ of employment for people with psychiatric disabilities.

On the basis of interviews with key informants from 21 different social enterprises across Ontario, Canada, this paper critically analyzes the strategies used by organizations to create jobs that are both accommodating for people, but also conducive to the ongoing success of the business.


A vocational qualifications system fit for adults? Revisiting some ideas from the university for industry

an article by Stan Lester (Stan Lester Developments, Taunton, UK) published in Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning Volume 5 Issue 2 (2015)

Abstract

Purpose
The purpose of this paper is to make a case for creating a strand of negotiated qualifications in the English (and more generally UK) vocational education and training (VET) system, using the approach established through Ufi-Learndirect Learning through Work (LtW).

Design/methodology/approach
The paper identifies some limitations in the recent Whitehead review of adult vocational education in relation to people already in work. Drawing on research into learning at work, modifications to the VET qualifications system are proposed based on the LtW approach.

Findings
The VET qualifications system assumes a purpose of preparing people for occupational entry and developing essential competence. The needs of adults already in work can be accommodated provided that they can be fitted within structures reflecting this assumption. It is less able to meet the bespoke needs of individual workers or employers. The LtW approach, which enables individual accredited programmes to be negotiated, offers a way forward that preserves the integrity of the qualification system.

Practical implications
Implementing a LtW-type approach in the VET sector is structurally more difficult than in higher education, although less likely to encounter academic resistance. The main challenge is likely to come from the need to modify regulatory rules and design principles for vocational qualifications.

Originality/value
Individually negotiated qualifications have been resisted in VET due to largely unfounded fears about reduced rigour and loss of control of content. The proposed approach offers a means of meeting individual needs while retaining the integrity of the qualifications system and reducing the proliferation of units and content within it.