Reading, Drones, and Georgie Washington

Americans are still reading books, Internet and all! Younger Americans are actually reading more than older generations, which could be partially due to the fact that with the rise of texting and social media, so much of our communication is text-based, so everyone is doing a lot more reading (and writing) in order to communicate with their friends. The original study is linked in that article and in this graph:

What are some other ways to get people to read books?

Well it helps a lot if your college library not only tells you the call numbers of the book, but it gives you precise directions to the location of the book, which is pretty awesome. Much more useful when navigating a giant library, like I have access to at the university I work at, as opposed to the smaller library at the university I actually attended.

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Three Types of Health

Public health in the U.S. tends to focus on chronic diseases (like cancer or diabetes), but in other parts of the world, much of the focus is on drugs that either no longer afflict the U.S., or aren’t cost-effective to treat.

Sickle cell anemia can be treated when it’s identified early. But that doesn’t happen much in the developing world, it is still a serious issue. So a diagnostic test that is simple, fast, and cheap is ideal, and currently in development.

Malaria isn’t a disease most Americans think of unless they’re going somewhere in Africa for a trip. A new diagnostic test (developed with technology that is also used in missile detectors) can diagnose malaria in four minutes in patients that don’t even show symptoms yet, and doesn’t even need a specialist to interpret the results.

Ebola is yet another disease that is more of an edge case–devastating, but rare, especially in the United States. For pharmaceutical companies, this means that it isn’t fiscally worth it to produce a treatment for ebola:

“When pharmaceutical companies are deciding where to direct their R. & D. money, they naturally assess the potential market for a drug candidate. That means that they have an incentive to target diseases that affect wealthier people (above all, people in the developed world), who can afford to pay a lot. They have an incentive to make drugs that many people will take. And they have an incentive to make drugs that people will take regularly for a long time—drugs like statins.”

Cancer is widespread across the globe, and has been around for millennia. For some kinds of cancer, however, genetic treatment is experimentally promising. Rather than attempting to destroy the cancerous cells, targeted treatments have been shown to cause cancerous cells to mature into non-cancerous cells.

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Hobby Lobby, Facebook, and SPORTS

This week’s super important great big news:

The Supreme Court ruled that Hobby Lobby and other private, closely-held companies can use religious belief as a reason to deny coverage of certain contraceptives for employees.

Here is the decision described in plain english by SCOTUSBlog: “The families that own Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties are deeply religious and do not want to make four of those twenty kinds of birth control – IUDs and the “morning after” pill — available to their female employees because they believe that it would make them complicit in abortion.  Today the Court agreed that they don’t have to.”

Here are some quotes from Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent, which starts on page 60 of the PDF of the Supreme Court decision linked above.

For a personal reaction, The Hairpin has republished a great personal essay/history about the importance of bodily autonomy for women.

The New Yorker calls on history to identify the Hobby Lobby case (and the Harris case, about required union contributions) as the latest representation of a trend the Supreme Court has been following for years:
“in confronting a politically charged issue, the court first decides a case in a “narrow” way, but then uses that decision as a precedent to move in a more dramatic, conservative direction in a subsequent case.”

An additional New Yorker article does a great job of addressing these potential threats in further depth:
“Women’s health is treated as something troublesome—less like other kinds of health care, which a company should be asked to pay for, than as a burden for those who have to contemplate it. That is bad enough. But the Hobby Lobby decision is even worse.”

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Parks, America, and Reading

It’s Thursday! Not Friday. Go to work tomorrow. When you don’t have to work, though, you can go outdoors! Because July is Park and Recreation month. So. If you’re not working, and it is nice outside, go outside. Weekend, planned. Just for you.

Bruce is a jungle dog.

National parks are a great place to go outdoors. The National Parks Conservation Association is taking care to recognize people who identify as LGBT+ by doing more to preserve historical locations important to the legacy of LGBT+ life in the United States. More national parks, more important history preserved, lives validated. Recognized.

Mostly white people visit national parks. Fact. As of 2011, “only 7 percent of visitors to the parks system were black.” It hasn’t always been this way. The Boston Globe interviews geographer Carolyn Finney, who is recapturing the role of African-Americans in the history of the national parks system and the environmentalist movement.

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Memorials, Public Health, and Empathy

Here’s what was important this week…

The museum memorializing the victims of the September 11th terrorist attacks opened this week. Steve Kandell wrote about visiting it: The Worst Day of My Life is Now New York’s Hottest Tourist Attraction. The photographer and people-person-extraordinaire behind Humans of New York spoke to someone who also went through the museum. It opened early for survivors and family members of victims. Everyone agreed that the gift shop was in bad taste.

One of my favorite blog of odds and ends, Futility Closet, had two posts recently that speak to the difficulty of colonizing a country. When the Spanish conquered the West Indies, the conditions they imposed on the natives were so poor that they were committing suicide in great numbers. So great, in fact, that:

 “In the end the Spaniards, faced with an embarrassing labor shortage, put a stop to the epidemic of suicides by persuading the Indians that they, too, would kill themselves in order to pursue them in the next world with even harsher cruelties.”

In Puritan New England, conditions were so bad for the conquerors (I mean settlers…) that children who were captured by Native Americans often didn’t want to come back. This was a somewhat popular theme for historical fiction novels like Calico Captive (which I read when I was younger). One possible reason for this, mentioned in the post, is that “The Mohawks were much more indulgent of children than the colonists, and women were counted equal to men and played an integral role in society and politics.”

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Algorithms, Confidence, and Infrastructure

Every so often the Oxford English Dictionary adds new words. It adds them to its online dictionary with far more frequency than its physical tome, given that a physical dictionary is quite a bit more difficult to update. It released a list of new words yesterday, and while a few are new words entirely (bikeable) others are new definitions of familiar words. The “tumblr definition” of ship is recognized (and boy is the tumblr community excited about it) and a definition of thing that accounts for the phrase “is that a thing?”

a list of web domains that begin with the word important, including their IP addresses

Daniel Temkin put together an Internet Directory with a scrolling and searchable list of all registered domains with a top level domain name ending in .com

Ted Striphas was interviewed about the effects of algorithms (such as the ones that define the order of google search results, or what shows up in your facebook newsfeed) on culture. As he puts it, “The issue may come down to how comfortable people are with these systems drilling down into our daily lives, and even becoming extensions of our bodies.”

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Software, Sharing, and Music

Here’s what was important this week…

Software is everywhere lately. My boyfriend asked me what I thought the next big website would be (after the success of Google, Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), and I realized it’s just as likely (if not more likely) to be a software application rather than a website. Paul Ford took some time to enshrine some works of software in a “software canon” — Microsoft Office, Photoshop, Pacman, the Unix operating system, and eMacs (which I’d never heard of until this essay came out).

Software has had a noticeable effect on our day to day lives (especially those with smartphones), but it’s also had a huge impact on music and the way it’s created, recorded, and produced. Fact Magazine went through 14 works of software that shaped modern music (electronic music started way earlier than I thought). One of those software applications is Auto-Tune, and the Sounding Out! blog happened to post about the history of Auto-Tune.

 

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