----- 3 stars -----

The myth of the ‘stolen country’ / The Spectator

This ‘stolen country’ paradigm has spread like wildfire throughout the British diaspora in recent years. [...] In Canada, in the greater Toronto school district, students are read a statement of apology, acknowledging European guilt for the appropriation of First Nations lands, before the national anthem is played over the PA system every morning. ​As a professional historian, I am keenly aware of the need to challenge smug, feel-good interpretations of history. I understand that nationalism and civilizational pride carry obvious dangers which were made manifest by the world wars of the 20th century. [...] ​But I also know that if the pendulum of interpretation swings too far in any one direction, things can go from bad to worse with lightning speed. [...] The narrative of the ‘stolen country’ or ‘Native American genocide’ does not stand up to scrutiny by any honest and clear-sighted historian. It is a dangerously myopic and one-sided interpretation of history. It has only gained currency because most practicing historians and history teachers are either susceptible to groupthink, or else have been cowed into silence by fear of losing their jobs. [...] This is no way to honor or respect the realities of First Nation lives and their agency. And it helps perpetuate the idea that the US and Canada are fundamentally illegitimate societies, and that by implication, every other country on Earth is legitimate. If we were to be honest, there is not a single country on Earth which did not displace natives, or which did not engage in nasty wars or ethnic cleansings at many points during its history. [...] This brings us to the question of how cultural adaptation works. Many people have been told by their friends on social media that Europeans destroyed Native Culture. The problem is this: whenever a good idea comes along, which clearly increases one’s living standards, one tends to adopt it. And who is to say that this adaptation is bad, especially if it results in higher living standards? Even as they discovered America, the Europeans were in the process of adopting dozens of superior Chinese inventions and ideas: paper money, gunpowder, pasta and fine porcelain are only the most famous. Should we accuse China of ‘cultural imperialism’ when they ruined ‘native’ Italian cuisine by introducing Marco Polo to spaghetti? Similarly, Native Americans were quick to adapt the many useful Old World ideas which Europeans happened to carry with them. To reiterate, most of these had not even been invented by Europeans, but had been adopted by Europeans from other Old World cultures. Why grind corn laboriously by hand for several hours a day, when one can use millstones instead? Why hunt with bow and arrow, when one can use a rifle? Why refuse to domesticate cattle, when they provide huge boosts in caloric intake for your family? Why refuse to adopt the wheel, for goodness sake? ​By the time Columbus set sail, then, the Old World had dozens of clear technological and institutional advantages, which for the most part, New World populations were eager to adopt as soon as they saw them. Rather than jealously guard their technological superiority, many Europeans were ready to trade anything that Native Americans might want, including firearms. This made it inevitable that New World society would be changed beyond recognition, once sustained contact was initiated.

The True Story of the Antifa Invasion of Forks, Washington / Wired

In a calmer spring—when facts weren't so slippery, social media so noxious, the country so ready to combust—what happened in Forks, Washington, on June 3 might have been a perfect plot for a farce. A giant white school bus known as Big Bertha puttered into a two-stoplight town far north on the Olympic Peninsula, in desperate need of a new battery, on the very day the town was on alert for a different bus, one full of violent antifa activists ready to riot. But this was not a calmer spring. A week had passed since a Black man named George Floyd died while a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck. People who had been trapped at home during a tense pandemic spilled into the streets, first in Minneapolis and then in other cities and even tiny towns. They marched and carried signs and chanted that Black Lives Matter. A much smaller number looted liquor stores and burned police precincts. The president tweeted threats—“when the looting starts, the shooting starts”—and smeared all protesters, including millions of peaceful Americans, as the Radical Left, “thugs,” or, most menacingly, antifa, an ideology ascribed to a diffuse group of antifascists who sometimes stoke chaos and aren't opposed to fighting the far right with violence. Twitter, Facebook, and Nextdoor crackled with claims that antifa was coming to suburbs and rural towns. They were coming on buses, on planes, wearing black, coming, always, from somewhere else.

The Students Left Behind by Remote Learning / Pro Publica

I have chosen to tell the story of Shemar’s remote-learning difficulties, with his family’s permission, because it was his plight that alerted me to the fact that remote learning was proving disastrous. As the spring went on, I grew increasingly distressed by the lack of public alarm over students like Shemar, who were sitting in countless dark rooms, safe from COVID-19, perhaps, but adrift and alone. Society’s attention to them has always been spotty, but they had at least been visible — one saw them on the way to school, in their blue or burgundy uniforms, or in the park and the playground afterward. Now they were behind closed doors, and so were we, with full license to turn inward. While we dutifully stayed home to flatten the curve, children like Shemar were invisible. [...] A number of experts were beginning to agree with Nuzzo and Sharfstein. According to reports, the rate of infection among teachers in Sweden, which as part of its less restrictive response to the virus had left most of its schools open, was no greater than it was in neighboring Finland, which had closed all its schools. “They found that teachers had the same risk of COVID as the average of other professions,” said Martin Kulldorff, a professor at Harvard Medical School who develops statistical and epidemiological methods for disease surveillance. In July, Meira Levinson, a professor of education at Harvard, co-authored an article in The New England Journal of Medicine laying out how to reopen primary schools. Levinson told me that she worried about what students would lose without in-person instruction.

The Lion City II - Majulah / Vimeo
The Daily Dish describes this well: "Just when you think time-lapses are tired, this one from Singapore smacks you across the face."

----- 2 stars -----

Inventing Virtual Meetings of Tomorrow with NVIDIA AI Research / YouTube
More impressive stuff from NVIDIA:

New AI breakthroughs in NVIDIA Maxine, cloud-native video streaming AI SDK, slash bandwidth use while make it possible to re-animate faces, correct gaze and animate characters for immersive and engaging meetings.

Acceptance Parenting / The Point

These critics of modern parenting—gentle and harsh alike—put me in mind of a person who, upon first seeing a car, demands to know where the horses are, and upon being assured there are no horses around, offers advice about where to find some and where to attach them. They simply don’t seem to understand just how fundamentally and irreversibly the parenting game has changed. The easily observable changes, from the heightened attentiveness to the increased stress levels, are but the visible signs of a deep, tectonic shift in our conception of the basic tenets of the enterprise. Traditional parents weren’t better at what today’s parents are doing; traditional parents were tasked with doing something different—and easier. [...] Traditional parents were in the business of handing to their children a settled way of life: values, habits, standards, practices, skills, sometimes a job. On this older picture, it was the role of the parent to give—“tradition” comes from tradere, “to hand over”—and the child to accept, obediently. If I were a traditional parent, I would be trying to give my child some version of my life; as an acceptance parent, I am trying to give my child something I don’t have and am not familiar with—his life. [...] The problem here is not my fear of employing discipline, or my inclination to micromanage. The problem is ignorance. Unlike my forebears, I don’t know the things I need to know in order to be a good parent, and none of the people telling me to calm down know those things either. The only one who might know, my grown child, doesn’t yet exist.

The Short Tenure and Abrupt Ouster of Banking’s Sole Black C.E.O. / New York Times

Last November, Urs Rohner, the chairman of the board of Credit Suisse, had a party at a Zurich restaurant to celebrate his 60th birthday. Among the scores of friends, family and business associates who gathered, attendees say, there was a single Black guest: Tidjane Thiam, the bank’s chief executive. The festivities had a Studio 54 theme, with 1970s costumes and hired entertainers. Mr. Thiam watched as a Black performer came onstage dressed as a janitor, and began to dance to music while sweeping the floor. Mr. Thiam excused himself and left the room. His partner and another couple at his table, including the chief executive of the British drug company GSK, followed. Eventually they returned to the party, only to be astonished again. A group of Mr. Rohner’s friends took the stage to perform their own musical number, all wearing Afro wigs. (Mr. Rohner declined to comment on the events, which were described by three guests.) For Mr. Thiam, now 58, the party was just one in a series of painful incidents that shaped his five years atop Credit Suisse, when he was the only Black chief executive in the top tier of banking. Some moments were shocking, others disturbing; most had to do with tensions around being Black in a predominantly white industry and an overwhelmingly white city. A tall, reserved, bespectacled polyglot, Mr. Thiam did the job he was hired to do: He made Credit Suisse profitable again after a long decline. But he never had to stop fighting for acceptance and respect, both within the bank and in Switzerland generally. At a shareholders meeting, his background was denigrated as “third world.” A subordinate purchased the home next to his, which was taller and looked directly into Mr. Thiam’s windows. The Zurich press rode him for not appearing sufficiently Swiss.

The Quantum Internet Will Blow Your Mind. Here’s What It Will Look Like / Discover
As often happens, the title exaggerates; still, this is pretty interesting:

Call it the quantum Garden of Eden. Fifty or so miles east of New York City, on the campus of Brookhaven National Laboratory, Eden Figueroa is one of the world’s pioneering gardeners planting the seeds of a quantum internet. Capable of sending enormous amounts of data over vast distances, it would work not just faster than the current internet but faster than the speed of light — instantaneously, in fact, like the teleportation of Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk in Star Trek.

I Shot All These Photos from My Yard — Here’s How You Can Do It Too / PetaPixel
This is a fairly detailed guide to astrophotography, and I suspect approximately none of you will follow it. But I was fascinated by the process (and impressed by the pretty pictures):

In 1990 the Hubble Space Telescope was launched into orbit to and has dazzled the world with its unbelievable images of the cosmos for 30 years. By comparison, my first opportunity to look through a telescope came only a few years ago, but I’ve learned so much in that time that I was asked to share some of it with all of you. It is worth noting that when I started I had never used a telescope before and had zero background in photography. So I’d like to think that if I can learn all of this, so can anyone else!

We binge-watched 15 hours of Amy Barrett's speeches. Here’s what we learned about her judicial philosophy. / USA Today

In her talks Barrett frequently addressed what she calls the “dead-hand objection” to originalism — seeking out the wishes and intentions of a “bunch of dead white men,” as she calls the founders. “The fact that we weren’t alive or didn’t have the ability to participate doesn’t render the law illegitimate,” Barrett said. “We accept the law as we find it, until we lawfully change it.” Given the national conversation about racial injustice, senators could attempt to push Barrett on her originalism, said Case Western Reserve University law professor Jonathan Adler, who hosted the judge last year for a lecture. “I would not be surprised if opponents misrepresent or caricature originalism on incendiary topics,” Adler said. “The fact that some founders had retrograde views on a range of subjects doesn’t control what the text itself means.” Barrett falls into a faction of originalists who seek out the original meaning of the Constitution by asking what the generally understood meaning of the text was at the time of ratification, “as opposed to actually trying to get into the head of James Madison,” said Princeton University jurisprudence professor Robert George, who hosted Barrett at the school last year. [...] She is likely to face questions, as she did in several panels, about whether the Supreme Court should overturn rulings while maintaining stability in the courts. “A primary way that the Supreme Court contributes to stability is not to grant cert (accept a case for review) when the question presented is, ‘Do you want to overturn a precedent?’" Barrett said while moderating a Federalist Society discussion in 2018. “I think that if the court is looking to keep things calm, it will be in the nature of that,” she said. The court will decline “to take up cases in which overruling precedent would be on the table.”

A Thousand Years Before Darwin, Islamic Scholars Were Writing About Natural Selection / Vice

Evolutionary musings have existed before Darwin, and some professors and museums are now striving to include that neglected history in curriculums and exhibitions. Recently, New York University professor James Higham tweeted about how he updated the lectures of his class on primate behavioral ecology, geared to upper-level undergraduates. They now "properly acknowledge Islamic scholarship in this area—especially that of Al-Jahiz (781-869 CE)," Higham wrote. "It seems clear that something like evolution by natural selection was proposed a thousand years before Darwin/Wallace." Higham told VICE News he wasn’t taught about Al-Jahiz in his own training; he knew of Al-Jahiz vaguely as a theologian, writer, and scholar, but not a biologist. “I was struck by the extent to which Al-Jahiz appears to have had not just evolutionary ideas, but many ideas that could be said to be related specifically to the process of evolution by natural selection,” Higham said in an email. “This seems to have included ideas such as competition over finite resources, adaptation in response to the environment, and speciation over time as an outcome.”

Trump's drugs / Popular Information

Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic has been erratic. But he has been remarkably consistent about one thing: hydroxychloroquine. For the duration of the pandemic, Trump has insisted that the drug, originally developed for malaria, is an effective treatment for COVID-19. [...] But Trump has not taken hydroxychloroquine. Trump's lead physician, Dr. Sean Conley, was asked about hydroxychloroquine during a press conference Monday: REPORTER: Why did you decide not to use, administer, hydroxychloroquine to the president during his time here? CONLEY: I'm not going to go into all of our debates about specific medicines and therapies, there are dozens of therapies that we were made aware of that we considered that we discussed and debated and looked at, you know, the existing literature on, um, and this is the regimen we chose. Translation: hydroxychloroquine is not an effective treatment for COVID-19. Trump foisted an unproven and potentially dangerous treatment on the American public for months. But when his own health was on the line, Trump unwilling to follow his own advice.

----- 1 star -----

Gods of Salt / Deviant Art
Some of you know that one of my favourite almost-certainly-untrue-but-more-likely-than-you-think stories is that a technological civilisation developed on earth before humans. (In brief: evolutionary history is not really a steady march towards higher intelligence, but rather punctuated by intermittent forays into intelligence across many parts of the phylogenetic tree; and the fossil / geologic record preserves very, very little of the past, such that something like our current civilisation becomes nearly undetectable in tens of millions of years.) So while I would have put my money on dinosaurs, I still enjoyed this (very) well-sourced speculation that our ancestors were slaves in an elephant civilisation five million years ago:

Let's place everything together. Six million years ago, near the end of the Miocene epoch, the natural closure of the Gibraltar Strait turned the Mediterranean Sea into a salty desert. The few inhabitable spaces provided a safe passage between Africa and Europe for many species; elephants and apes, which had been increasing in diversity for all the Miocene, were among them. The depths of the new Mediterranean basin, on the other hand, were a hellish environment that must have forced many species into desperate adaptations. Many plants learned to grow in sand, long before the Sahara became a desert, with concentrations of salt that would kill most others. Elephants, we've seen, are good at finding and storing water, using tools to prevent evaporation from reserves. They must have evolved their characteristic intelligence to deal with the unique challenges of the Mediterranean Basin. Like the Khoisan hunter-gatherers of the Kalahari desert (or for that matter the earliest Homo sapiens) they needed advanced problem-solving skill, good memory, and the ability to cooperate and trust each other. Their eventual solution to ensure themselves a food supply in the great basin was agriculture. Many Mediterranean halophytes are edible even in the seed- and fruit-focused human diet; but the sapient elephants of the Miocene could feed even on simple grass. Cereals like Polypogon - which are, after all, nothing more than especially nutritious grass - must have been a blessing. Perhaps they were even selected artificially to tolerate more saline soils, as could have been the precious argan tree. Still, the burgeoning elephantine civilization was slowed down by their sluggish reproduction and by their limited capacity for manipulation. [...] Eventually, they started working with apes.

SciFi ManCave Theater / YouTube
[Making of] SciFi ManCave / Imgur

Yes this room is TOTALLY my inner 12 year old and I make no apologies. I'm a total space/scifi/tech geek and it was really fun creating a cool theater room for my family to watch movies. (which we love to do) and NASA/SpaceX launches.

What My Sled Dogs Taught Me About Planning for the Unknown / New York Times

One of the most surprising things about distance mushing is the need to front-load rest. You’re four hours into a four-day race and the dogs are charging down the trail, leaning into their momentum, barely getting started — and then, despite their enthusiasm, it’s time to stop. Make straw beds in the snow, take off your dogs’ bootees, build a fire, heat up some meat stew (for the team, but hey, you can have some too) and rest for a few hours. The dogs might not even sit down; they’re howling, antsy to keep going. It doesn’t matter. You rest. Four hours later, you rest again. And you keep doing that, no matter how much your dogs want to keep going. In fact, if you’re diligent from the start, they’ll actually need less rest at the end of a trip — when their muscles are stronger and their metabolisms have switched from burning glycogen to fat — than at the beginning. It’s far easier to prevent fatigue than to recover from it later. But resting early, anticipating your dogs’ needs, does something even more important than that: It builds trust. A sled dog learns that by the time she’s hungry, her musher has already prepared a meal; by the time she’s tired, she has a warm bed. If she’s cold, you have a coat or blanket for her; if she’s thirsty, you have water. And it’s this security, this trust, that lets her pour herself into the journey, give the trail everything she has without worrying about what comes next. You can’t make a sled dog run 100 miles. But if she knows you’ve got her back, she’ll run because she wants to, because she burns to, and she’ll bring you along for the ride.

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