Unrelated to all that, 11/22 edition

Scabs, Scantrons, and Strikes at the University of Oregon

At the heart of the dispute is a demand by the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation (GTTF) for two weeks of paid leave for illness or childbirth. The city of Eugene, which is where the University is located, mandates that all workers in the city get sick leave benefits. But university employees are exempted from the policy, so the GTTF has to bargain for the benefits.

Late last month senior administrators circulated a secret memorandum to deans and directors outlining a plan to break the strike by hiring scab labor and weakening academic standards for undergraduate education. You’ve got to read the whole thing to believe it, but here are some of my favorite parts. First, the administration moots different possibilities for conscripting scab labor from the unionized faculty ranks…

The article speaks for itself…

Deciphering the syntax of Nature article titles

We all want to publish in Nature. Papers in Nature are (supposed to be) the complete package: reliable results that show something novel; cool techniques; a famous corresponding author. And if you want to get one, you need a title that shows you are a refined gentleperson who belongs in the Nature club.

So to help you, dear blog reader, I have scoured the archives of Nature* to decipher the ideal form of Nature titles:

[research-y verb-ing] a neural circuit for [behaviour]

The 24 hour science challenge

The basic premise is to develop, perform analysis, and write up a scientific project within a 24-hour period. The results should be posted on a public repository for the world to see.

Check out the rules here.

Who’s with me?

The Poop Map of San Francisco


Why More Diversity on Wall Street Might Fight Bubbles

The results were striking. In the markets with ethnic diversity, prices became 21 percent more accurate, relative to the fundamentals of the stocks, as trading proceeded. But in the homogenous markets, pricing accuracy declined by 33 percent over the course of the simulation.

In other words, when a bunch of white guys are trading among themselves, they are more likely to drive prices to irrational levels than when there is more diversity among their trading partners.

“Traders in homogenous markets are more likely to accept offers that are farther from true value,” the authors write. “This supports the notion that traders in homogenous markets place undue trust in the decisions of others — they are more likely to spread others’ errors by accepting inflated offers, paying prices that are far from true values.”

In a way, these results are really obvious: if you add individuals to a market with a larger variety of beliefs, you’ll capture more information.

Global Fishing Patterns


Ursula Le Guin: ‘Wizardry is artistry’

In an astonishing run in the late 1960s and early 70s, Le Guin produced not just Earthsea but several of the great novels of science fiction’s postwar new wave. The Lathe of Heaven, The Dispossessed, The Word for World Is Forest and The Left Hand of Darkness fulfilled the genre’s promise, using speculation to address social, political, ethical and metaphysical questions. Since then she has continued to publish novels and short stories informed by the mystical philosophy of the Tao Te Ching and the west coast tradition of political radicalism, written in a clear, clean prose that is never tainted by inkhorn medievalism or technological jargon. A two-volume collection of stories, The Unreal and the Real, was published this summer, giving an overview of her entire career.

Because of her subject matter, Le Guin isn’t always recognised for what she is, one of the great writers of the American west, a product of a coastal tradition that looks forward at the Pacific with a wilderness at its back and the great cities of Europe very far to the rear.

Le Guin claims to “get very uppity” about the “parochialism and snobbishness” of the East Coast literary establishment. “The idea that everybody lives in a large city in the east, it’s such a strange thing for an American to think.”

The Story That Tore Through the Trees

Outdoorspeople are as varied as any other kind, except that they share one psychological stratum, a layer hard and fine laid down as in geology by the pressure of the Earth. Tim is affable and talkative and has smashed open two of the knuckles on his left hand recently enough to show fresh blood and flecks of white, and not once in an hour does he glance down at them. He was born in Helena, moved away as an adult to Arizona, wondered why, and came back. Now he manages a company that has taken people down this river since 1886, three years before Montana became a state. Some of his clients come to retrace the footsteps of Lewis and Clark, who, on July 19, 1805, “entered much the most remarkable clifts that we have yet seen.” Others come for the remarkable clifts themselves, others to fish the waters beneath them. But some come, as I have, to visit the site of the most famous wildfire in American history.

Just beautiful writing


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