Sunday, August 28, 2011

The big one

There's probably going to be a 9.0+ earthquake in the Pacific Northwest in the relatively near future. And when it happens, a lot of people are going to die. Wouldn't you like to know if you were likely to be one of them?
At Oregon State University’s O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory, one of the world’s leading tsunami-research centers, wave hydro­­­logists have run sophisticated ­simu­lations of a CSZ-generated tsunami hitting Seaside, Cannon Beach, and other coastal towns. The findings do not suggest sticking around. “A lot depends on wave speed,” says Solomon Yim, director of the lab. “We found that in some blocks of densely packed houses, the first line of houses took the brunt and the second line was shielded.” The specifics of the tests haven’t been released to the public for fear of causing an upheaval in the local real estate market. “If your building was one that did not survive the simulated tsunami,” says Yim, “it would be … not so good for the resale value, you see.”
Does anyone else have a problem with a state-funded research lab withholding potentially lifesaving information because it might mess with the property values of established interests? Just me? Okay.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Get it and forget it.

This was my first thought when I heard about the new contraceptive coverage requirement. IUDs are by far the most reliable and cost-effective method of birth control.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Don't miss the part about the dead nun.

Via Bookslut:
La Maupin was always willing and ready to draw the sword. One night she had the caprice at a public ball to make eyes at a lady attended by three gentlemen. The latter challenged her, supposing they had to do with a man, for she used never to wear the dress of her own sex. They left the ball-room, and la Maupin killed the three men one after the other. She got off with nothing worse than a short sojourn over the frontier in Belgium.

—from The Sword and Womankind: Being A Study of The Influence of “The Queen of Weapons” Upon The Moral and Social Status of Women by Alfred Allinson.

Friday, August 19, 2011

On teaching and grade inflation

Some professors cleverly include a "class participation" grade, and these professors pride themselves on using "the Socratic method."  Sigh.  Asking random students random questions is not the Socratic method, it's annoying,  In order for it to be a true Socratic method, the professor would have to ask the student to state a thesis, get him to agree to a number of assumptions, and then masterfully show, through dialogue, how that agreement undermined his own thesis.  In other words, the professor would have to have considerable fluency with his topic and be interested in each individual student, as an individual.  Good luck with that.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Book Rec: The Dragon's Path

It's volume one in an unfinished fantasy series! But don't run away screaming just yet. Daniel Abraham writes much faster than George R.R. Martin, and he is one of the few authors in the genre today who combine excellent storytelling in a multivolume format with creative world-building. You should try The Dragon's Path.

Abraham twists expectations and conventions in many respects. The setting is emphatically not an alternative Europe, and draws upon a deep well of weirdness. The viewpoint characters include the scion of a noble house scrambling to protect the throne from plots ... so racial slavery and feudalism can be maintained; a portly, bookish young man who is trapped in political webs of others' making ... who orders the murder of an entire city because he was humiliated; and a plucky orphan who turns from success to sot in a depressingly realistic fashion. It's like The Iron Dream, but without the historical baggage. Strongly recommended.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Book Rec: Deathless

Cat Valente is one of the best, most creative fantasy writers working. Her use of folktales and lesser-known fairy stories is superb. I really enjoyed her two-volume set, The Orphan's Tales, but didn't have time to immerse myself in Palimpsest, which has a more modern setting. Her latest, Deathless, is short and bittersweet, with a disorienting blend of Stalinist Russian history and old Russian tales. Recommended.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The fee IS by unit, not volume ....

Tell me if you think this is swingable:

You can bring in your own wine to Venue X for a $Y per bottle corkage fee.

Boxed wines (now in non-horrible varieties!) come in five liter units. That's equivalent to 6.67 bottles.

Could you successfully argue that the corkage fee for a box should be $Y, not $6Y?