Elsewhere for February 2, 2020

You should read this for 2/02/2020:

Art , Music, and Film

CBS makes Star Trek: Picard pilot free on YouTube for a limited time

Books, Libraries, Writing, and Language

In The Internet Era, Public Libraries Are More Vital Than Ever

“Compared to a company like Google that is monetizing your pursuit of information, everyone that you interact with at a public library has a similar ethics and value framework around privacy, equity of access to information, the free marketplace of ideas, and is willing to die on that hill,” Jeff Lambert, the assistant director of digital inclusion at the Queens Public Library, told me. “As these companies get larger and more ubiquitous, and as data becomes an increasingly commodified and valuable asset, there’s a lot of public education to do.”

H/T Perks: Dear Media: Try Again. American Dirt Isn’t Cultural Appropriation. That’s Not the Issue. This is.

The problem is that [American Dirt] is misappropriating a stereotype of Mexican immigrant (and, by conflated default, Latino American) “culture,” and that stereotype sucks giant donkey balls.

Smorgasbords Don’t Have Bottoms

A decade ago, few in the industry anticipated the comeback of indie bookstores. But the numbers are unambiguous: between 2009 and 2018, the number of indies in the US grew by nearly 40 percent. Ninety-nine stores opened in 2018, up from seventy-five in 2017. The indie model depends on expertise and endless hustle — as well as the active participation of consumers who have been galvanized by buy-local campaigns.

. . .

As digital audio attains complete domination over CDs, audiobook sales keep rising, reaching nearly $1 billion in 2018, the seventh year in a row of double-digit revenue growth. Helped along by our smartphone addiction, the podcast boom, and the unending American commute, audiobooks have become the industry’s most durably growing sector

. . .

In 2012, the Obama Justice Department sued both Apple and the publishers on antitrust grounds over conspiring to fix ebook prices. Though the US district court judge Denise Cote ruled in the government’s favor, the agency model eventually became standard anyway. Print did not go extinct, but ebook sales slowed down.

Rare Charlotte Brontë ‘little book’ to go on show at Haworth

A rare book the size of a matchbox written by the teenage Charlotte Brontë will go on public display for the first time after a museum paid €600,000 (£505,000) to bring it back to Britain.

This is one of six tiny, hand-made books created by the teen aged Charlotte Brontë. This particular book contains several short stories. All five of the surviving books are now at the Brontë Haworth museum.


Classical Music Has a ‘God Status’ Problem

But since the termination of Thomas and 10 other faculty members because of harassment, Berklee has instituted new measures aimed at preventing harassment and misconduct on campus. These include a policy prohibiting intimate relationships between students and anyone working at the school, and a policy of informing potential future employers of involuntarily terminated Berklee faculty members of the terms of their termination, should prospective employers ask for a reference.

. . .

Over the past year, The Atlantic talked to more than four dozen young musicians about their experiences with classical-music education and sexual misconduct. Their accounts reveal a culture built on hierarchy, critique, and reputation, and show how such a culture can facilitate abuse.

Food and Drink

Cornstarch Does Its Best Work When It’s Hot Recipes that call for cornstarch as a thickener routinely defeat me. This article on using cornstarch in cooking has some potentially helpful tips.

History and Archaeology

Ancient poop reveals what happened after the fall of Cahokia

Based on the amounts of coprostanol present in sediment layers dating to the centuries between the fall of Cahokia and the arrival of European colonists in the area, it turns out that indigenous groups moved back into the area around the abandoned city within a century or so after its collapse. That contradicts the popular idea that huge swaths of what is now the Midwest were basically empty when Europeans showed up.

Go read the article; the data suggests that flooding led to the city being emptied, and climate change affected the ability to grow corn. Eventually grasslands and bison arrived, with the indigenous population increasing.

Science and Nature

This beautiful, hypnotic video of the sun is in the highest resolution ever taken
Purell’s Unproven Disease-Fighting Claims Get Sanitized After Fda Warning

Among the questionable claims are that Purell sanitizer:

  • “kills more than 99.99% of most common germs that may cause illness in a healthcare setting, including MRSA [methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus] & VRE [vancomycin-resistant enterococci].”
  • “can reduce student absenteeism by up to 51%… Additionally, teachers who follow this program also experience a 10% reduction of absenteeism.”
  • “may be effective against viruses such as the Ebola virus, norovirus, and influenza.”

While alcohol-based sanitizers have been shown to effectively kill many germs, that finding is different from data indicating that sanitizer use reduces infections and the spread of disease.

Short version: Wash your hands. Wash your hands frequently.


The Sims at 20: two decades of life, love and reorganising the kitchen

The Sims is so enormously compelling because it offers the fantasy of control over life itself, including all the things that are so maddeningly unpredictable in the real world – relationships, careers, family, house renovations. The rules of The Sims essentially state that if you work hard and do everything you’re supposed to do – get a job, buy a house, progress through the ranks to earn more money and buy more stuff – happiness will follow. It’s a beguiling capitalist fantasy – and even if things aren’t going well, you can always type in the “motherlode” cheat code to shower yourself in riches.

YouTube reversed my bogus copyright strike after I threatened to write this


Should Your Antivirus Software Be Spying On You?

Back in August, Wladimir Palant, the creator behind Adblock Plus, wrote a blog post detailing how Avast Online Security and Avast Secure Browser were collecting and selling the browsing data of the Czech company’s 400 million users. In response, both Opera and Mozilla pulled Avast extensions from their respective add on markets, forcing Avast CEO Ondrej Vlcek to go on a PR tour last month to downplay the issue.
Vicek’s going to have another busy week. A joint investigation by both Motherboard and PC Magazine (you should read both) obtained documents highlighting how the company collects the browsing data of its 450 million active antivirus customers, then, with the help of a third party outfit named Jumpshot, sells access to that data to a laundry list of companies:

Update: After this article was written, Avast’s CEO came out with a statement stating that the company would be shutting down its data collection and sale efforts, and terminating its relationship with Jumpstart. Again, something that would have never happened if a journalist hadn’t discovered it

See also: Avast shutters data-selling subsidiary amid user outrage
New “Off-Facebook Activity” Portal Lets You Know Where You’re Being Followed “It’s helpful to know which businesses track you, but you can’t do much about it.”

How Myst’s designers stuffed an entire universe onto a single CD-ROM

Women’s Work

“She’s more qualified than you are for your job”: Seth Meyers blasts Pompeo over bizarre NPR tantrum

It seems Secretary of State Mike Pompeo really didn’t like the line of questioning in a recent interview with NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly. So, like any respectable public figure, he dodged the question, waited until the mics were off, and threw a little tantrum. This included Pompeo apparently expressing a belief that Americans “don’t care about Ukraine” — a belief Seth Meyers easily poked holes in on Tuesday’s episode of Late Night.

See also: After Contentious Interview, Pompeo Publicly Accuses NPR Journalist Of Lying To Him. Keep in mind that Mary Louise Kellly is a solid old-school veteran journalist, who has a particular emphasis on international security, is well published, the co-host of All Things Considered, educated at Harvard University (1993) with degrees in government, French language, and literature. Two years later, she completed a master’s degree in European studies at Cambridge University in England. She knows where the Ukraine is, even if Pompeo can’t find it with both hands.

💩🔥💰 Trumpery 💩🔥💰

Video appears to show Trump ordering Marie Yovanovitch’s removal

“Get rid of her!” Trump says on the tape, reportedly addressing a White House aide at the dining table.
“Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. OK? Do it.”

Seth Meyers Brings Receipts On Trump’s History Of Bullying And Revenge After Impeachment Threats

Pay It Forward and Make It Better

How to fight racism using science

We all know someone who has casually racist opinions: the misattribution of elite athletic success to ancestry rather than training, that east Asian students are naturally better at maths; or that Jews are innately good with money. Racism may be back, so get tooled up, because science is no ally to racists. Here are some standard canards of prejudice, and why science says something different.

Planting 1 Trillion Trees Might Not Actually Be A Good Idea

The lead author of that study, however, cautions against pitting all tree planting efforts against forest conservation. “It’s not like these two things are in competition,” says Wayne Walker, a scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center. Maintaining existing forests should be a priority, but restoring trees to places where they’ve been lost can sometimes be the next best option, he says. Still, not all tree-planting initiatives are created equal. The location, species planted, and how people are involved can all jeopardize success.

Short answer: Protect the indigenous peoples and their forests in the Amazon and elsewhere, and plant appropriate trees in a thoughtful way.

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