You say “artificial ecologies,” and it sounds like you’re talking about zoos or aquariums or biodomes or terraforming or something. But actually, every legal border on a map creates an artificial ecology. Nicola at Edible Geography (following a post from FP Passport) explains:
For example, the antlion surplus in Israel can be traced back to the fact that the Dorcas gazelle is a protected species there, while across the border in Jordan, it can legally be hunted. Jordanian antlions are thus disadvantaged, with fewer gazelles available to serve “as ‘environmental engineers’ of a sort” and to “break the earth’s dry surface,” enabling antlions to dig their funnels.
Meanwhile, the more industrial form of agriculture practised on the Israeli side has encouraged the growth of a red fox population, which makes local gerbils nervous; across the border, Jordan’s nomadic shepherding and traditional farming techniques mean that the red fox is far less common, “so that Jordanian gerbils can allow themselves to be more carefree.”
I’m fascinated by the fact that differing land-use practices, environmental legislation, and agricultural technology on either side of the political border have shaped two distinct and separate ecosystems of out what would otherwise be a shared desert environment.
(Note: sorry for the lack of posts this week. I’m still in hospital — with hopes of a Monday release! — and among its many other sins, the internet here blocks Google. Can’t even tell you the ridiculous workarounds I’ve had to do just to get the links for this post together. Suffice it to say, Yahoo sucks. As does having nearly all of your internet life hosted by a single company whose pages can get firewalled for no good reason.)
When I read this:
At most European universities, students receive their undergraduate degrees in three years — and Graduate School of Education professor Robert Zemsky thinks American should do the same…
First, he argues that because the majority of students now pursue advanced degrees, it is logical to find ways to shorten the time they spend in college in order to get a jump-start on professional and graduate degrees.
Second, Zemsky says in order to help American students transition to a three-year undergraduate system, their senior year of high school could be focused on developing the skills students will need to keep up with the accelerated pace.
I thought, don’t we do this already, by having most undergraduates (at least at relatively elite schools) take a year or semester abroad? Then Chris Shea backed me up:
Some American colleges–Yale, for example–used to be so presumptuous as to say that students would be better off spending all four years on the campus. The argument was that courses in the U.S. were more rigorous than most of those that students could find abroad. Want to see the world? Take a grand tour after college.
You don’t hear such arguments anymore. To study abroad is an expected, and seldom-challenged, part of the American college experience.
Writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education, however [subscribers only], John F. Burness, a visiting policy professor at Duke, says there’s more than a grain of truth to the old-fashioned view. The courses students take in study-abroad programs are often weaker than the ones they take at home. And too many students, he says, treat study-abroad programs as an extended opportunity to travel, with coursework, at best, a bonus.
Now travel is nice and all (and, to be sure, the best study-abroad programs are simultaneously challenging and horizon-expanding). But as one Marshall Scholar, a serious recent graduate, tells Burness: “For many students, study abroad is a semester off, not a semester on.”
So, the real problem seems to be that many university undergraduates really DO have a three-year college education; but that many of them are wasting their time in Europe rather than applying to graduate schools before they turn twenty-one.
The logic in both counterarguments is all about efficiency, acceleration — and implicitly, that a student should be finished with their education sometime between 21 and 25.
I will be the first to admit that is a terrible, terrible thing — really, a kind of disease — to be a twenty-nine-year-old graduate student. (Being a thirty-year-old postdoctoral fellow is a little like being in remission.) But I don’t think that hurrying the entire process along is a) where we are headed or b) where we want to head.
On the other hand, if you wanted to promote a three-year baccalaureate on the grounds that it would be easier for adults to finish their education and retrain themselves for new positions — I think I’d be a lot more sympathetic to that.
George Packer on the death of Sultan Munadi: “It’s Always the Fixer Who Dies.”
The NYT reconfigured their Baghdad Bureau blog to make At War, adding reports from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere as well as Iraq. This post by Atheer Kakan, an NYT translator and journalist in Iraq who (along with his family) was recently allowed to emigrate to the US as a political refugee, is downright astonishing: emotional and observant, sentimental and clear-eyed all at once:
My family was starving, so the first thing we did after we sat down was to bring them some food. I went to a fast-food shop and I ordered lots of American food. There was something with melting cheese. I think it was Mexican. And lots of French fries. The cashier girl was asking me if I wanted things, and I was approving everything she said.
Eventually I had lots of food to carry to my family, who were desperately waiting for me. I put down the food and we started eating, and I looked to my children, who seemed to be enjoying their time, and I released another breath as I felt that I was doing the right thing for all of us. It wasn
I like this proposal for a new stock exchange district in Shenzen—it’s got some really cool lines. (However, it lost the competition, so those lines can only be enjoyed on computer screens.)
Sometimes, every so often, somebody does something crazy to move a format forward. Robinson Crusoe. Citizen Kane. Maus.
And now: The Longest Way takes the photo-a-day video genre up a notch. Two notches. Four-thousand notches.
A few things that make this so ingenious: the characters that flit in and out of the scene, and therefore, the creator’s life; his use of photos taken in super-quick succession to create an animated flip-book effect; oh, and China.
Writing up the new Oxford Historical Thesaurus, Jason Kottke laments the lack of an advertised online version: “what a boon it would be for period novelists to able to press the ‘write like they did in 1856′ button.”
So, being a total dork, and already in love with the not-even-shipping OHT, I tweet:
I want a “write like they did in 1856″ button!
Actually, not a “write like ANYBODY in 1856″ button. I want a “write like Flaubert” button. (Quiz: what writer in 1856 would you choose?)
This is harder than it sounds. 1856 might have seen just about the greatest confluence of writers ever. Do you want to write like Flaubert, Baudelaire, or Hugo? Tolstoy or Dostoevsky? Melville or Whitman or Dickinson? The Rosettis, the Brownings, or George Eliot? In nonfiction, you could write like Darwin, Marx, Carlyle, Mill, Schopenhauer, Lincoln, or Emerson.
All that said, I’m sticking with Flaubert. That’s the year he finished and serialized Madame Bovary. (The next year, he went on trial for obscenity, and won, on the grounds that he wasn’t a pornographer, but a genius. This changed everything for modern literature.)
Gustave’s my guy. Who’s yours?
P.S.: On the Oxford University Press page for the historical thesaurus, it includes a link for an online version — it’s almost certainly going to be subscriber-only, and the link ends up with placeholder info for now. But it will happen.
And now for a note on the dark side of printed books: Michael Jensen, Director of Strategic Web Communications for National Academies and National Academies Press, collects and analyzes data about global warming and ecological collapse. At the AAUP meeting in Philadelphia, he presented “Scholarly Publishing in the New Era of Scarcity,” an argument that the combination of financial and environmental necessity compels university presses to move away from printing, shipping, and storing books and towards a digital-driven, open-access model, with print-on-demand and institutional support rounding out the new revenue model.
(I’m posting Part 2 of Jensen’s speech — the part that’s mostly about publishing — here. Watch Part 1 — which is mostly about the environment — if you want to be justly terrified about what’s going to happen to human beings and everything else pretty soon.)
This is one reason I’m kind of happy that we didn’t print a thousand or more copies of New Liberal Arts. We can make print rare, we can get copies straight to readers, we can make print more responsible, but mostly we have to make print count. And — of course — share the information with as many people as possible.
Cities may be engines of innovation, but not everyone thinks they are beautiful, particularly the megalopolises of today, with their sprawling rapacious appetites. They seem like machines eating the wilderness, and many wonder if they are eating us as well. Is the recent large-scale relocation to cities a choice or a necessity? Are people pulled by the lure of opportunities, or are they pushed against their will by desperation? Why would anyone willingly choose to leave the balm of a village and squat in a smelly, leaky hut in a city slum unless they were forced to?
Image via Wikipedia
Well, every city begins as a slum. First it’s a seasonal camp, with the usual free-wheeling make-shift expediency. Creature comforts are scarce, squalor the norm. Hunters, scouts, traders, pioneers find a good place to stay for the night, or two, and then if their camp is a desirable spot it grows into an untidy village, or uncomfortable fort, or dismal official outpost, with permanent buildings surrounded by temporary huts. If the location of the village favors growth, concentric rings of squatters aggregate around the core until the village swells to a town. When a town prospers it acquires a center
The NYT asked:
In history class, in seventh grade (or as we like to say in Canada, grade seven) we learned the story of the American Revolution — from the British perspective. Turns out you were all a bunch of ungrateful tax cheats. And you weren’t very nice to the Loyalists. What I miss most about Canada is getting the truth about the United States.
— MALCOLM GLADWELL, a staff writer for The New Yorker and the author, most recently, of “Outliers: The Story of Success”
I also liked this quip from Simpsons writer Tim Long:
I miss the snow. Yes, I know the United States gets snow, but to my Canadian eye, American snow is like American health care: sporadic, unreliable and distributed unevenly among the population.