Friday, 20 October 2017

The pattern of social fluidity within the British class structure: a topological model

an article by Erzsébet Bukodi1 and John H. Goldthorpe (University of Oxford, UK) and Jouni Kuha (London School of Economics and Political Science, UK) published in Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A (Statistics in Society) Volume 180 Issue 3 (June 2017)


It has previously been shown that, across three British birth cohorts, relative rates of inter-generational social class mobility have remained at an essentially constant level among men and also among women who have worked only full time.

We establish the pattern of this prevailing level of social fluidity and its sources and determine whether it also persists over time, and we bring out its implications for inequalities in relative mobility chances. We develop a parsimonious model for the log-odds-ratios which express the associations between individuals’ class origins and destinations.

This model is derived from a topological model that comprises three kinds of readily interpretable binary characteristics and eight effects in all, each of which does, or does not, apply to particular cells of the mobility table, i.e. effects of class hierarchy, class inheritance and status affinity.

Results show that the pattern as well as the level of social fluidity are essentially unchanged across the cohorts, that gender differences in this prevailing pattern are limited and that marked differences in the degree of inequality in relative mobility chances arise with long-range transitions where inheritance effects are reinforced by hierarchy effects that are not offset by status affinity effects.

How to Make Anxiety A Lot Less Painful

a post by Lauren Madden for the Tiny Buddha blog

“You are not a mess. You are a feeling person in a messy world.” Glennon Doyle Melton

Anxiety can be hardwired and genetic. It can be passed down from generation to generation. It can be a result of trauma and high-stress scenarios, including divorce, moving, and death. These things are out of our control, and can be really challenging to work through.

But, anxiety can also come as a result of certain behaviors, lifestyle choices, and beliefs that you have about yourself and the world. And that, my friend, is always within your control.

I want to challenge the way you’re thinking about anxiety. Take a moment to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors are leading to my anxiety?
  • How can I address these behaviors and change the beliefs, thoughts, or emotions that create the anxiety to begin with?

I used to have really extreme experiences with anxiety. I would wake up feeling this pit in my stomach, like something really terrible was about to happen at any moment. Except… everything was fine.

I had a good job, I was making a decent amount of money, I had a nice apartment, I was in a seemingly good relationship, and it seemed like everything was working out in my favor.

On the outside, I seemed fine, but on the inside, I was dreading getting out of bed in the morning. Sometimes I literally couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. I would call my manager and tell her I was having a rough start to the day (again) and would be in as soon as I was “back to normal.”

The Economic and Career Effects of Sexual Harassment on Working Women

an article by Heather McLaughlin (Oklahoma State University, USA), Christopher Uggen (University of Minnesota, USA) and Amy Blackstone (University of Maine, USA) published in Gender & Society Volume 31 Issue 3 (2017)


Many working women will experience sexual harassment at some point in their careers. While some report this harassment, many leave their jobs to escape the harassing environment.

This mixed-methods study examines whether sexual harassment and subsequent career disruption affect women’s careers. Using in-depth interviews and longitudinal survey data from the Youth Development Study, we examine the effect of sexual harassment for women in the early career.

We find that sexual harassment increases financial stress, largely by precipitating job change, and can significantly alter women’s career attainment.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Neoliberalism by stealth? Exploring continuity and change within the UK social enterprise policy paradigm

an article by Alex Nicholls (University of Oxford, UK) and Simon Teasdale (Glasgow Caledonian University, UK) published in Policy & Politics Volume 45 Number 3 (July 2017)


Social enterprise has been portrayed as challenging neoliberalism, and alternatively, as neoliberalism by stealth. Here we conceptualise social enterprise as a microparadigm nested within wider political and economic frameworks.

Our analysis of continuity and change over a period of political and economic crisis in England demonstrates considerable evidence of normative change in the ideas underpinning social enterprise policies. However, further analysis reveals that the (neoliberal) cognitive ideas underpinning the social enterprise paradigm remained intact.

This suggests that policy paradigms can accommodate normative differences within a shared cognitive framework, and hence, are more fluid, and have greater longevity, than previously recognised.

The employability of ex-offenders: a field experiment in the Swedish labor market

an article by Ali M. Ahmed and Elisabeth Lång (Linköping University, Sweden) published in IZA Journal of Labor Policy Volume 6 Article 6 (2017)


This paper presents the findings of a field experiment on hiring discrimination against ex-offenders in the Swedish labor market. Matched pairs of written job applications for fictitious male and female applicants with and without a past conviction of assault were sent to employers for nine different occupations.

Results show that discrimination against ex-offenders exists, but the extent of it varies across occupations. The past conviction of assault was associated with 7–18 percentage point lower probability of receiving a positive employer response.

Discrimination against ex-offenders was pronounced in female-dominated and high-skilled occupations. The magnitude of discrimination against ex-offenders did not vary by applicants’ sex.

JEL Classification: C93, J71, K42

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Perspectives on the role of business in social innovation

an article by Fabien Martinez (Queen Mary University of London, UK),
Patrick O’Sullivan, (Grenoble Ecole de Management, France; Uniwersytet Warszawski, Warsaw, Poland), Mark Smith (Grenoble Ecole de Management, France) and Mark Esposito (Grenoble Ecole de Management, France; University of Cambridge, UK)


The purpose of this paper is to examine the conceptual construct of social innovation in business as distinct from social innovation implemented by civil society and the state. The general absence of sustained research and analysis of this phenomenon, and the dominance of grey and policy-oriented literature, mean that a broadly accepted definition of how social innovation theorises the changing role of business in society is missing.

An integrative review of the representative literature on social innovation was conducted. The analysis focused on the key arguments made about the involvement of business actors in processes of social innovation and interweaved in this study to build a logically coherent definition of what social innovation in business means for the bulk of those who write and speak about it today. The scope of the literature review was expanded by integrating insights from the extant “business in society” and social innovation literatures, thereby adding clarity to the authors' conceptualisation.

The findings indicate that social innovation is best understood as a process driven by human relations, morality and creative capacity breaking routines and path dependencies. It fundamentally relies on the socially constructed dynamics between business and social actors who carry ideas, focus their energies, mobilise competences and create new complementarities to tackle social problems. Economic gain, in this approach, is at best an outcome of social innovation, not its engine.

What this literature review unveils that is unique about social innovation, and contributes to an enrichment of the “business in society” debate beyond the business case and win-win scenarios depicted by most scholars in this field, is that it best manifests itself as an informal social process that comes into existence at the margins of conventional ways of thinking and organising business activities. Business actors involved in social innovation are framed as self-directed and self-organised around the moral purpose of fostering social progress.

The post-crisis growth in the self-employed: volunteers or reluctant recruits?

an article by Andrew Henley (Aberystwyth University, Llanbadarn, Wales and Cardiff University, Wales) published in Regional Studies Volume 51 Issue 9 (2017)


In the context of recent growth in UK self-employment, the relationship between self-employment choices and local economic and labour market conditions is investigated to address whether self-employment is associated with local ‘push’ or ‘pull’.

Empirical analysis is conducted using UK longitudinal data linked to local area unemployment and earnings data.

Analysis shows that pull factors are more significant in driving transitions into self-employment.

Self-employed business ownership appears not to function as a significant alternative to unemployment where paid employment demand is weak. Entrepreneurial activity prospers where local wages are higher and unemployment lower.

JEL Classification: J21, M13, R11

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

How I Prioritize and Take Care of Myself Without Feeling Selfish

a blog post by Sara Fabian for Tiny Buddha

“I am worthy of the best things in life, and I now lovingly allow myself to accept it.” ~Louise Hay

Looking back on my life, I see that for a long time I struggled to take care of my own wants and needs and didn’t make them a priority. I used to find that very uncomfortable, and sometimes even selfish. I was a master of giving, but I faced serious obstacles to receiving.

By nature, I am a nurturer. I find tremendous joy and fulfillment in giving, so the old me used to offer plenty of time and energy to everyone else (my family, friends, and employers). I was always doing my best to please others and make them happy. I still believe there’s nothing wrong about that, and that my only mistake was treating myself as unimportant.

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How to Befriend the Unknown

a blog post by Margarita Tartakovsky for World of Psychology

We fear the unknown. Which is why we stay in bad relationships, in jobs we hate and in other situations that are not good for us. Because what if the alternative – the nebulous, nameless alternative – is worse?

We find comfort in the familiar – even if that comfort isn’t very comfortable. It’s the known, and the known feels as cozy as an old, tattered and torn sweater, even if it keeps us cold.

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My comfort zone is not comfortable. It has not been comfortable for years but like many people I have reasons (perhaps they are just excuses) why I stay. I can happily tell someone to get out, but I am unable to do it myself.

Do as I say not as I do!!!

Younger supervisors, older subordinates: An organizational-level study of age differences, emotions, and performance

an article by Florian Kunze (University of Konstanz, Germany) and Jochen I. Menges (WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management, Düsseldorf, Germany) published in Journal of Organizational Behavior Volume 38 Issue 4 (May 2017)


Younger employees are often promoted into supervisory positions in which they then manage older subordinates. Do companies benefit or suffer when supervisors and subordinates have inverse age differences? In this study, we examine how average age differences between younger supervisors and older subordinates are linked to the emotions that prevail in the workforce, and to company performance.

We propose that the average age differences determine how frequently older subordinates and their coworkers experience negative emotions, and that these emotion frequency levels in turn relate to company performance. The indirect relationship between age differences and performance occurs only if subordinates express their feelings toward their supervisor, but the association is neutralized if emotions are suppressed.

We find consistent evidence for this theoretical model in a study of 61 companies with multiple respondents.

Job loss and the mental health of spouses and adolescent children

an article by Melisa Bubonya (University of Melbourne, Australia) Deborah A. Cobb-Clark (University of Sydney, Australia; University of Queensland, Australia; Institute of Labor Economics (IZA)) and Mark Wooden (University of Melbourne, Australia; Institute of Labor Economics (IZA)) published in IZA Journal of Labor Economics Volume 6 Article 6 (2017)


Panel data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey are used to examine the impact of involuntary job loss on the mental health of spouses and adolescent children.

Estimates from fixed effects models show that the mental health of women (but not men) declines following a spouse’s job loss, but only if that job loss results in a sustained period of non-employment or if the couple experienced prior financial hardship or relationship strain.

A negative effect of parental job loss on the mental health of adolescent children is also found but is restricted to girls.

JEL Classification: I31, J10, J65

Full text (PDF 27pp)

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Strategic thinking in children and adolescents is determined by underlying network abilities

a column for by Isabelle Brocas and Juan Carrillo

Strategic thinking is intrinsic to societal expectations in adulthood, but the ability to think strategically develops in childhood and adolescence. This columns studies how children learn to think strategically. The results show that strategic behaviour is multifaceted, and depends on a network of interacting abilities that develop gradually. Understanding how the development of these underlying abilities impacts the development of strategic thinking is important to assess how children and adolescents react in their own environments.

Strategic thinking – the intrinsic ability to anticipate actions and act accordingly – is a cornerstone of rational decision-making. It is required to predict and internalise future choices in inter-temporal decisions, and to best respond to anticipated moves of others in games of strategy. This ability is of paramount importance in our day-to-day lives. It guides us through our education and career choices and helps us avoid being manipulated by others or suffering abusive relationships.

Strategic thinking is not only important to make adult decisions, but it is also critical in the day-to-day decisions of children and adolescents.

  • How to avoid risky options?
  • How to react to an abusive ‘friend’ or a bully?

These are all too common questions that children and adolescents have problems addressing. A natural explanation is that young brains are not developed and that thinking abilities required to strategise are not yet in place. However, little is known about their development.

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I was thinking as I was reading this that I, along with many of my friends with mental health issues, have problems with this business of strategic thinking.
I think a lot of it has to do with consequences in relationships. I learned that putting my hand on the hot stove *hurt* but I did not realise that allowing someone to walk me home would lead to … [take your pick of possible hurts resulting from this action].

And so on and so forth!!
Perhaps this also explains my inability to play chess or bridge or, indeed, any game which requires at least as certain amount of “if … then”.

Information sharing as strategic behaviour: the role of information display, social motivation and time pressure

an article by Nicoleta Bălău and Sonja Utz (VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands) published in Behaviour & Information Technology Volume 36 Issue 6 (2017)


In today’s knowledge economy, given the increasing number of online collaborative platforms, it is even more important to understand and manage the sharing of information. Although it is widely accepted that technological design affects how people use a platform, it is a real challenge to constantly stimulate information sharing (IS), also because individuals often behave strategically, that is, share relatively unimportant information, but keep the important private information for themselves.

This research aims to understand how people’s motivations and aspects of communication technology interact to affect IS. Specifically, we expand the view of IS as strategic behaviour by investigating
  1. how social motivation (prosocial vs. pro-self) and time pressure (high vs. low), interactively, impact strategic IS and
  2. how technological features (push- vs. pull-information display) can increase the sharing of private information.
Across two experiments, we found that push-information displays increase the sharing of private information. This held especially for individuals with a prosocial motivation. Additionally, we found that actual and not perceived time pressure impacts (private) IS. Implications for technological design choices and knowledge management are discussed.

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Older workers’ representation and age-based stereotype threats in the workplace

an article by Eduardo Oliveira (Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Porto, Portugal) and Carlos Cabral-Cardoso (University of Porto, Portugal) published in Journal of Managerial Psychology Volume 32 Issue 3 (2017)


The purpose of this paper is to examine the extent to which negative age-based metastereotypes mediate the relationship between the representation of older workers and two forms of stereotype threat in the workplace: own-reputation and group-reputation. Adopting a social identity perspective, this paper also explores whether age diversity beliefs moderate the relationship between negative age-based metastereotypes and stereotype threats.

A cross-sectional design was adopted with bootstrapped mediation and moderation analyses. The data were collected from 567 older workers working in 15 manufacturing companies.

The analyses provide support for partial mediation and for a moderation effect of age diversity beliefs in the relationship between negative age-based metastereotypes and own-reputation threat. The results hold while controlling for age, objective organizational age diversity, and organizational tenure.

Research limitations/implications
The limitations of this study include its cross-sectional nature and the need for further work regarding older workers’ metastereotypes about middle-aged workers.

Practical implications
For stereotype threat interventions to be effective they must identify beforehand the target and the source of the threat. Moreover, interventions should aim for the development of a sense of identity on the organization as it may pave the way for members of different age groups to build bonds and for intergenerational boundaries to be blurred.

This paper contributes to the literature by showing the importance of negative age-based metastereotypes in workplace age dynamics. It also provides further support for a multi-threat approach to the experience of age-based stereotype threats in the workplace.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Adult learning and qualifications in Britain

an article by Andrew Jenkins (UCL Institute of Education, London, UK) published in Journal of Education and Work Volume 30 Issue 4 (2017)


The importance of people gaining new, and high-level, qualifications in adulthood has been much emphasised in policy rhetoric. It is widely assumed that adults should engage in learning throughout their working life in order to adapt to changing conditions in the labour market and to ensure that national economies remain competitive in a global skills race.

Educational researchers have frequently been rather sceptical about the numbers who actually achieve such upgrading in practice and have been critical of the feasibility and relevance of policies which attempt to address this issue.

This paper provides empirical evidence on how many people acquire qualifications in adulthood, and whether they upgrade to higher levels of qualification than previously held, using British data from the 1958 National Child Development Study.

Estimates are constructed of the volume of qualification acquisition and upgrading for this cohort through to age 50. On the basis of this new evidence, it is argued that previous analyses by educational researchers may have been overly pessimistic about the extent to which individuals engage in accredited learning over the adult lifecourse.

The implications for research and policy are discussed.

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Sunday, 15 October 2017

The more-than-human city

an article by Adrian Franklin (University of Tasmania, Australia) published in The Sociological Review Volume 65 Issue 2 (May 2017)


That the modern city should be a purified space of human habitation, a humanist citadel, constructed for, and by humanity alone, was an implicit assumption in urban studies until recently. We might say that urban studies has always been part of this humanist fantasy since it is hard to find a time when non-human elements and actants were not important to the life chances of cities everywhere.

Not surprisingly, in 1970 Ray Pahl paid little attention to the non-human world but since then the politics of the ecologically minded and technical city has been populated by more and more instances of our dealings with what Latour calls the ‘extended democracy’ of other species and things.

This paper extends this understanding by showing how many natural forces, species, technologies and materialities became entangled in the social, cultural and political life of contemporary cities.

Using illustrations from Asian, European, American and Australasian cities, it shows how environmental and technical forces (such as fire, engineering, theory and flood) become incorporated into the life, subjectivities and structures of modern cities; how animals have become important companions to urbanites whose social bonds have fragmented; how animals and objects have been used to signify contested spaces; how they, together with other material objects and forces, enter into dialectical ‘more-than-human’ politics, how they form and embody the values and interests of particular city groups and how they become the focus and voice of otherwise difficult political, moral and ethical values.

It shows, in other words, how they have disturbed the politics of the city creating new, more-than-human political interests and movements around their ‘residency’, lines of flight and alliances with humans.

The Relation of Negative Career Thoughts to Depression and Hopelessness

an article by Daniel D. Dieringer (West Central Georgia Regional Hospital) Janet G. Lenz and and Gary W. Peterson (Career Center, Florida State University) and Seth C. W. Hayden (Department of Counseling, Wake Forest University) published in The Career Development Quarterly Volume 65 Issue 2 (June 2017)


Although some research literature focuses on the integration of mental health and career counseling, there has been little that examines both areas in relation to depression and hopelessness. This study investigated the relationship among dysfunctional career thinking, depression, and hopelessness in a sample of 139 undergraduate and graduate students seeking drop-in or individual career counseling services at a university career center.

The authors found that two aspects of dysfunctional career thinking, decision-making confusion and commitment anxiety, accounted for a significant amount of variance in depression.

Decision-making confusion also accounted for a significant amount of variance in hopelessness.

Implications for counseling practice include the need for more careful screening of career clients who present with high levels of anxiety and negative thinking.

Future research could involve more diverse client populations, such as unemployed adults, and explore the use of additional screening measures to assess the intersection of career and mental health issues.

The Florence Maybrick trial of 1889 and the need for Courts of Criminal Appeal

an article by Kieran James (University of the West of Scotland, Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland) published in International Journal of critical Accounting Volume 9 Number 2 (June 2017)


The criminal trial of Mrs. Florence Maybrick, held in Liverpool, England during the height of the British Empire 1889, is widely regarded as one of the greatest travesties of justice in British legal history where even the judge at the end of the trial remarked “well, they can’t convict her on that evidence” and the chief prosecutor nodded his head in agreement.

Mrs. Maybrick was tried for murdering her husband via arsenic poisoning. However, the trial became a morality trial when the learned judge, Mr. Justice James Fitzjames Stephen, linked Mrs. Maybrick’s demonstrated adultery to her alleged desire to physically remove her husband by administering poison.

The jury, which pronounced a guilty verdict, consisted of 12 untrained and unschooled men who were unable to grasp the technical evidence and were probably unduly influenced by the judge’s summing-up and by the professional status of one of the medical witnesses for the prosecution.

The case is a timely reminder today for an international audience of the fallibility and inherent weaknesses of the legal system and the desperate need to retain Courts of Criminal Appeal within the courts system.

Success-Syndrome: The Ambition-Depression Connection

a blog post by Therese J. Borchard for World of Psychology

When she was just 13 years old, Jenn Cohen fell in love with the circus and was determined to make a career out of it, which was highly unusual at the time.She explained in an inspiring TEDx talk that she worked incredibly hard to get to a point in her career where she “arrived”, performing in Europe, garnering accolades and attention – the place where she always aspired to be.

And yet she felt empty.

Continue reading

Please read the post by Therese right to the very bottom. “I’m releasing my cows one by one” could become the latest Ele Friends slogan.

Do Personal Budgets Increase the Risk of Abuse? Evidence from English National Data

Mohamed Ismail (Analytical Research Ltd, Woking, Surrey), Kritika Samsi, Shereen Hussein, Martin Stevens, John Woolham and Jill Manthorpe (King's College London, UK) and Fiona Aspinal and Kate Baxter (University of York, UK) published in Journal of Social Policy Volume 46 Issue 2 (April 2017)


With the continued implementation of the personalisation policy, Personal Budgets (PBs) have moved to the mainstream in adult social care in England. The relationship between the policy goals of personalisation and safeguarding is contentious. Some have argued that PBs have the potential to empower recipients, while others believe PBs, especially Direct Payments, might increase the risk of abuse.

This paper provides empirical evidence about levels of uptake of PBs and safeguarding referrals in England based on in-depth analysis of national data at aggregate, local council level in England, covering 152 Councils.

This is complemented by analysis of 2,209 individual referral records obtained from three purposively selected study sites. The aim is to explore whether available data could provide evidence of association between the uptake of PBs and safeguarding referrals.

Analysis of the national dataset found no significant relationships between PB uptake and the level and type of alleged abuse. However, analysis of individual-level referral data, from the three selected sites did find some significant associations particularly with financial abuse; and found the main perpetrators of the alleged abuse to be home-care employees.

The findings are discussed within the context of current policy and practice.

Full text (PDF 21pp)

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Cumulative Inequalities over the Life-Course: Life-long Learning and Social Mobility in Britain

an article by Erzsébet Bukodi (University of Oxford, UK) published in Journal of Social Policy Volume 46 Issue 2 (April 2017)


This paper examines the possibility that life-long learning promotes intergenerational class mobility. The following two research questions are asked.

  • Is it the case that further education provides individuals coming from less advantaged origins with a second chance to improve on their educational attainment?
  • Is it the case that the returns to further qualifications, in terms of chances of upward class career mobility, are greater for children from less advantaged backgrounds than for children from more advantaged backgrounds?

The analyses – that are based on the complete educational and class histories of men and women in a British birth cohort – mainly produce negative findings. Children coming from managerial and professional backgrounds seem to benefit most from further education.

More specifically, further education appears to be an effective means of career advancement for individuals of managerial and professional origins who start out in their working lives in relatively low-level class positions. Via further education they can increase or update their qualifications, and in turn enhance their chances of being counter-mobile back to their class of origin.

Overall, based on the findings of this paper, we can conclude that qualifications attained through life-long learning primarily serve to maintain, rather than to narrow, inequalities attached to social origins in Britain.

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Working History

an article by Ryan Avent published in RSA Journal Issue 4 2016-17

In a paper published in 2014, Carl Benedict Frey and Michael Osborne, of Oxford University, analysed the nature of the tasks involved in different lines of work to gauge their “automatability”. They reckoned that 47% of jobs in the USA are at risk of computerisation in the next few decades.

A paper published by the OECD in 2016 looked instead at the potential for automation of tasks within jobs, rather than of occupational categories as a whole, and concluded that while many workers will see their jobs change as certain tasks are automated away, only about 9% of jobs are fully automatable.

See The Wealth of Humans: Work, Power, and Status in the Twenty-first Century by Ryan Avent at

Ten for today: from scientists via witches to Terry Pratchett with librarians

Scientists think they are more rational and objective than others think they are
via Boing Boing by David Pescovitz

Apparently scientists tend to think of themselves as more rational, objective, and intelligent than non-scientists. Makes sense. And laypeople tend to think that of scientists too. But the scientists surveyed in a new study from Tilburg University in the Netherlands apparently see themselves as much more rational, objective, and intelligent than non-scientists. Are they overconfident or, well, right?
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Woodcuts and Witches
via Arts & Letters Daily: The Public Domain Review
witches devil doll
Witches presenting wax dolls to the devil, featured in The History of Witches and Wizards (1720) — Source (Wellcome Library)
Jon Crabb on the witch-craze of Early Modern Europe, and how the concurrent rise of the mass-produced woodcut helped forge the archetype of the broom-riding crone – complete with cauldron and cats – so familiar today.
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What if cosmic inflation is wrong?
via Science Blogs by Ethan
The Big Bang is commonly regarded as the start of it all, but that’s only the birth of what we call our observable Universe. There must have been something compelling to set it up, complete with the initial conditions that our Universe began with. An idea called Cosmic Inflation fits the bill perfectly, providing those conditions and making six explicitly new predictions.
Continue reading and see some stunning images which I cannot copy to here.

The Soviet Calendar
via 3 Quarks Daily: Tony Wood at Cabinet Magazine

Among the many things to disappear during the world-shaking turmoil of the Russian Revolution – along with czarism, the aristocracy, private banks, landownership – were the first thirteen days of February. On 24 January 1918, Lenin signed a decree ordering the country to switch from the Julian calendar, used by the Orthodox Church, to the Gregorian, bringing revolutionary Russia into line with the rest of Europe. The two systems had been drifting more and more out of alignment since the sixteenth century, so much so that by 1918, making the change meant skipping directly from 31 January to 14 February. From then on, anyone referring to events that took place before this interregnum had to be clear whether the date they were using was Old Style or New Style. The shift also explains why the anniversary of the Great October Revolution was always celebrated in November, which often puzzled visitors to the USSR.
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The Wandering Womb: Female Hysteria through the Ages
by The Chirurgeon's Apprentice
The word “hysteria” conjures up an array of images, none of which probably include a nomadic uterus wandering aimlessly around the female body. Yet that is precisely what medical practitioners in the past believed was the cause behind this mysterious disorder. The very word “hysteria” comes from the Greek word hystera, meaning “womb,” and arises from medical misunderstandings of basic female anatomy.
Today, hysteria is regarded as a physical expression of a mental conflict and can affect anyone regardless of age or gender. Centuries ago, however, it was attributed only to women, and believed to be physiological (not psychological) in nature.
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How the KGB infiltrated classical music
Emil Gilels was hounded to his death by his KGB brother-in-law, who also spied on Rostropovich. There are also now questions over Krzysztof Penderecki’s links to the security services
via Arts & Letters Daily: Norman Lebrecht in The Spectator

Soviet pianist Emil Gilels, 1967 (Photo: Getty)
Spare a thought for Emil Gilels, still revered today by Russians as the foremost pianist of the Soviet era. The first to win a competition abroad (Brussels, 1938), Gilels was also first to be let out after Stalin died to reconnect cultural ties and earn hard dollars for the state coffers, of which he got back a few cents.
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Who knew vintage oil can guitars would sound so great?
via Boing Boing by Andrea James

Hayburner Guitars makes guitars from vintage oil cans, and they look as great as they sound.
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I did not know that these instruments sounded so good, nor that they even existed. I had to make do with a tea chest, a broom stick and a bass guitar string. That’s about it except I used to stand to play with my right foot on the top of the chest.
Image result for images: tea chest bass

Design Matters: Why Are So Many Cartoon Characters Yellow?
via The Scholarly Kitchen by David Crotty
As Steve Jobs famously said, most people make the mistake of thinking “design” is about how something looks, rather than how something works. But how a product looks can play a key role in how that product works. Visual design is a complex subject, often one without easy explanations. The video below asks a simple question – why are so many cartoon characters (think Bart Simpson) yellow? While the creation of each individual character can provide a different story, there are some general principles that come into play. Color theory, for example, shows us that on the RGB color wheel, yellow is complementary to blue, and given that blue is a common background color (the sky, the sea), a yellow character will stand out well against it. Color psychology plays a role (yellow is a warm color, and seen as “active”), as do the physical properties of the human eye.

Why walking through a door makes you forget things
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder
Why do people forget what they were going to do when they walk into a room? This video explains the "location updating effect," and how you can work it to your advantage.

Best librarian characters in fantasy fiction
via OUP Blog by Emma French

“The Librarian from Discworld” by Martin Pettitt. CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Libraries often feel like magical places, the numerous books on every shelf holding the ability to transport their reader to new and wonderful worlds. In the words of Terry Pratchett: “They thought the library was a dangerous place because of all the magical books…but what made it really one of the most dangerous places there could ever be was the simple fact that it was a library.” Libraries in particular seem to have an enchanting power for writers: in many novels, the multiple possibilities that a room of books holds is transformed into literal magic, with libraries becoming doors to infinite other worlds. As the navigators of these boundless realms, fictional librarians are often also given magical powers, as the only ones who can truly understand the library’s mystical ways.
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Thanks, TfL for making a tube map for the anxious like me

via the New Statesman by Eleanor Margolis

Have you ever had one of those tube journeys where, delayed in a tunnel around fifty metres below ground, with the driver squawking in static about signal failures or a euphemistic “person on the tracks”, you start to wonder if reality is a toaster made of pencil shavings, and you’re being born backwards into oblivion over and over and over again?

If the answer is anything close to “yes” then, like me, you probably suffer from anxiety. And, also like me, crowded trains are likely to focus your panic into a toothpaste tube of pure, gut-dragging fear. So, you may be interested to know that Transport for London has published a new tube map specifically for people like us.

Continue reading and view the Tube map showing tunnels. This is the only place I've seen it. I've been up and down the TFL website without success.

Friday, 13 October 2017

(Un)beliveable wages? An analysis of minimum wage policies in Europe from a living wage perspective

an article by Brian Fabo (Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) and Central European Labour Studies Institute (CELSI)) and Sharon Sarah Belli ( Central European University (CEU)) published in IZA Journal of Labor Policy Volume 6 Article 4 (2017)


Minimum wage is one of the most debated issues in the labour policy area. Often perceived as a trade-off between employment and equality in earnings, the debate on minimum wage is highly polarized.

With regard to the undergoing discussions on the Social Pillar of the European integration, we aim to extend the debate to include the aspect of minimum living standards, by empirically showing the gap between minimum wages and the minimum living wages in the peripheral countries of the European Union.

JEL Classification: J39

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Unemployment in the UK is now so low it's in danger of exposing the lie used to create the numbers

an article by Jim Edwards for Business Insider UK
  • Government statistics put unemployment in Britain at just 4.5% — a low not seen since the 1970s.
  • But the real rate of unemployment is four times that.
  • We walk you through the evidence that shows why official unemployment numbers are so misleading.
  • Economist Danny Blanchflower and Richard Clegg of the ONS challenged this article. See more on that debate here.
  • The ONS also produced household data suggesting that the true rate of unemployment is 3 times greater than the government's preferred statistic.
Continue reading and discover lots of compelling statistics, links to other sources of data etc.

With grateful thanks to Carolyne Kershaw for the alert on this which is not a source I commonly read.

Growing Up Too Fast: Early Exposure to Sex

a blog post by Edie Weinstein for World of Psychology

Children are naturally exploratory beings. As we develop, we engage with the world around us using all our senses. Imagine yourself at 2 or 3, crawling around in a grassy field on a summer day. You feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, the gentle breeze blowing through your hair, you breathe in the aroma of the fresh green grass, perhaps even pluck a piece and sample it. A puddle from a recent rain storm beckons you and you splash about in it, drenching yourself. An ice cream cone is offered to you and you savor the sweetness and stickiness as it drips down your chin and onto your clothes.

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Talking to Yourself in the Third Person Can Lower Stress and Negative Emotions [feedly]

a blog post by Paul Ratner for Big Think

If you are feeling stressed, try talking to yourself silently in the third person. That can help you control difficult emotions, says the first-of-its kind study by psychology researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) and the University of Michigan.

What they found is that talking to yourself in the third person during stressful moments may work better than giving yourself a first-person talk. Let’s say your name is John and you are very upset. Asking “Why is John upset?” would cause less emotional reaction than “Why am I upset?” and allow you to start dealing with the underlying emotions.

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Thursday, 12 October 2017

10 stories staring with the essayist Montaigne and ending with Leonard Bernstein

Have a lover, have friends, read books. Montaigne was right about one thing
via the Guardian by Germaine Leece
woman reading book under tree
‘The writers’ festival is more than an event celebrating authors, it also celebrates the power of literature and the power of you, the reader.’ Photograph: Ian Crysler/Getty Images/First Light
The understanding that literature can comfort, console and heal has been around since the second millennium BC; it is no coincidence that Apollo was the god of medicine as well as poetry.
As a bibliotherapist, I’m interested in the therapeutic value stories have to offer us, particularly during times of stress. Here the intent around reading is different; the value of the story lies solely in our emotional response to it.
One of the greatest arguments for using literature as therapy was posited by the Renaissance essayist Michel de Montaigne, who believed there were three possible cures for loneliness: have a lover, have friends and read books. But he argued sexual pleasure is too fleeting and betrayal too common, and while friendship was better it always ended with death. Therefore, the only therapy that could endure through life was the companionship of literature.
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When will the first star go dark?
via Science Blogs by Ethan
“End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.” -J.R.R. Tolkien
Stars live for a variety of ages, from just a million or two years for some to tens of trillions of years for others. But even after a star has run out of its fuel and died, its stellar corpse continues to shine on. Neutron stars and white dwarfs are both extremely massive, but very small in volume compared to a star. As a result, they cool very slowly, so slow that a single one has not yet gone dark in all the Universe.
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A Short Analysis of John Donne’s ‘To His Mistress Going to Bed’
via Interesting Literature
A summary of Donne’s classic poem
‘To His Mistress Going to Bed’ has been called the greatest verbal striptease in English verse. In this poem, John Donne (1572-1631) encourages his lover to undress for him, in one of the most deeply erotic love poems (‘lust poems’?) in the English language. How Donne captures his mounting excitement in ‘To His Mistress Going to Bed’ deserves careful analysis. We include the poem below.
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The true color of Saturn’s north pole is a stunning blue
via Boing Boing by Andrea James

Astroparticle physicist Sophia Nasr posted a gorgeous photo of Saturn’s north pole, processed to account for a luminance layer. Instead of a reddish hue, it is a breathtaking cerulean blue. Jason Major replicated the results.
Continue for more breath-taking images

Living, eating and dreaming revolution
via The New Statesman by Catherine Merridale
The Soviet state was born in violence and shaped with merciless determination. Lenin played a central role in its creation.
A hundred years after he came to power, Lenin’s is a face that everyone recognises. We all have our impressions of the man: my own include a marble version by the coat racks in a Russian archive where I work in Moscow, and a lump of a statue on the square nearby. In Soviet times, almost all public buildings had a portrait of the leader on display, although when it came to private space a calendar with kittens was what most people preferred.
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Simple interactive Periodic Table on the web
via Boing Boing by Rob Beschizza

Periodic Stats is a dead-easy web-based Periodic Table to click around, showing all the stats and the history of each element. The only thing missing are illustrations of each one! [via Reddit]
Continue reading and get a readable version of the table!

The scientific truth about Planet Nine, so far
via Science Blogs: Starts with a BANG! with Ethan Siegel
“Finding out that something you have just discovered is considered all but impossible is one of the joys of science.” -Mike Brown
In January of last year, astronomers Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown shocked the world by proposing that there was a world larger than Earth located some five-to-ten times as distant as Neptune. That this world – known as Planet Nine – was causing the ultra-distant Kuiper belt objects we’d discovered so far to all have predicable, peculiar properties. And the observations matched up really well.
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Rude words – the image would not copy to https. It is worth linking through just to see it.

Whose Qur'an?
via OUP Blog by Shadaab Rahemtulla

The Holy Qur’an, by Amr Fayez. CC-BY-2.5 viaWikimedia Commons
The Qur’an has emerged as a rich resource for liberation. Over the past several decades, Muslims across the world have interpreted the Qur’an to address the pressing problem of oppression, discerning in the text a progressive message of social justice that can speak to contexts of marginalization, from poverty and patriarchy to racism, empire, and interreligious communal violence. These justice-based interpreters of the Qur’an have produced a complex and sophisticated body of work. I won’t even attempt here to summarize their extensive scholarship. But the core, the conceptual heart of their work, can be summed up in two main points.
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Baby whales ‘whisper’ to mothers to avoid predators, study finds
via the Guardian by Agence France-Presse
humpback mother and calf whale
Whales are known for their loud calls, but scientists believe humpback mothers and their calves whisper to each other as a survival technique. Photograph: Trish Franklin
Newborn humpback whales and their mothers whisper to each other to escape potential predators, scientists reported Wednesday, revealing the existence of a previously unknown survival technique.
“They don’t want any unwanted listeners,” researcher Simone Videsen, lead author of a study published in Functional Ecology, said.
“Potential predators such as killer whales could listen to their conversations and use that as a cue to locate the calf and predate on it.”
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My Cousin Lenny: Remembering Leonard Bernstein
via Arts & Letters Daily: Paula Marantz Cohen in The Smart Set
Growing up in suburban New Jersey during the 1960s, I always thought of Leonard Bernstein as a kind of distant cousin. All Jewish families who had emigrated from Eastern Europe had people evocative of Bernstein – charismatic, larger-than-life talents who seemed to skirt danger.
It’s not entirely clear whether Lenny, as his friends called him (though his grandmother had insisted on calling him Louis, his given name) was a child prodigy, only that he loved music from an early age and was branded a genius when he arrived at Harvard. His genius showed most dramatically in his energy and inventiveness – a restlessness that some saw as a tragic flaw.

Down the Universal Credit rabbit hole - what happened when East Lothian changed benefits systems

an article in New Statesman by Martin Whitfield, the Labour MP for East Lothian

Please just go and read it for yourself as I can't decide where to start or stop in bringing it to you.

My reaction is that this system is:
  • hateful
  • hurtful
  • harmful
  • hazardous, and many other such words but they are not alliterative.
I am so ashamed to admit that I used to work “on the other side of the counter” because people equate me with the minions in the Jobcentres who now do little to help and a great deal to hinder. Do I blame them? No, they are doing as they are told but it's a sad day when helping people is wrong.

The influence of grandparents’ social class on children’s aspiration

an article by Vanessa Moulton, Eirini Flouri, Heather Joshi and Alice Sullivan (UCL Institute of Education, London, UK) published in British Journal of Sociology of Education Volume 38 Issue 4 (2017)


Social class mobility from grandparent to grandchild is a relatively neglected topic. Grandparents today are often healthier and more active, and have longer relationships with their grandchildren than in previous generations.

We used data from the UK’s Millennium Cohort Study (n = 8570) to investigate the influence of maternal and paternal grandparents’ social class on the aspirations of children at age seven. Using path analysis and controlling for family income, mother’s and father’s education, lone motherhood, and child’s ethnicity and gender, we found very small direct effects from the paternal grandmother’s social class to the grandchild’s classed aspirations, and small, indirect effects, via parents’ class, of grandparents’ class on child’s classed aspirations.

Multi-group analyses found few differences by ethnicity and gender. There was no evidence that, at this age, mixed-class parentage raises the aspirations of working-class children (the ‘sunken middle-class’ hypothesis).

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A new parent’s guide to social media

via ResearchBuzz Firehose

Before baby, you were a Facebooking, Instagramming, texting fool, sharing everything from your perfect pasta dish to your hella-good manicure. Now, looking at your little bundle of joy, you may be wondering: Is it safe to post pictures of baby? What's OK to share and what's TMI? What are the easiest tech tools to preserve those precious moments, without broadcasting to the world? These tips can help.

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The ResearchBuzz comment: More substantive than the headline would lead you to believe.

Our Human Chain

a blog post by Janet Singer for World of Psychology

Perhaps you’ve read about the recent uplifting story of a family who became caught in a riptide in Panama City, Florida. Two brothers were struggling approximately 300 feet from shore, and when their mother, grandmother, and others swam out to try to save them, they got caught up in the swirling water as well.

After searching for helpful items such as rope, which was nowhere to be found, some bystanders came up with the idea to create a human chain so they could reach the drowning people. Quickly, 80 people became entwined and, along with a swimmer who used a boogie board and a surfboard to aid those needing rescue, brought everyone to shore.

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Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Meeting madness: counterproductive meeting behaviours and personality traits

an article by Michael Yoerger, John Crowe, Joseph A. Allen and Johanna Jones (University of Nebraska at Omaha, USA) published in International Journal of Management Practice Volume 10 Number 3 (March 2017)


When used effectively, workplace meetings serve as an invaluable opportunity for co-workers to achieve organisational objectives. However, meetings are often regarded as inefficient, unproductive, and a waste of time. Owing to meeting attendee frustration, there can be detrimental impact on employee wellbeing.

In this paper, we examine the impact of a specific type of meeting behaviour, counterproductive meeting behaviours (CMBs), which include non-constructive criticism and complaints on perceptions of meeting effectiveness. Additionally, we explore the potential moderating influence of personality characteristics on this relationship.

While meeting leaders may take great efforts in designing meetings based on good meeting practices supported by research, meeting outcomes could be largely influenced by the individual personality characteristics of meeting attendees.

This research is aimed at developing a greater understanding of how individual differences, namely personality traits, play a role in meeting interactions and outcomes. Respondents completed a survey that measured CMBs, personality characteristics, and meeting effectiveness.

Our findings indicate CMBs are negatively related to perceived meeting effectiveness. Additionally, the negative relationship was stronger for individuals who possess higher levels of agreeableness and stronger for individuals possessing lower levels of extraversion.

We discuss implications for managers and meeting attendees.

A river by any other name: Ganga/Ganges and the postcolonial politics of knowledge on Wikipedia

an article by Sangeet Kumar (Denison University, Granville, Ohio, USA) published in Information, Communication & Society Volume 20 Issue 6 (2017)


The historically established relationship between knowledge and power has enabled critical scholars across disciplines to interrogate the ways in which knowledge has served as the handmaiden of various forms of power. The ways in which that relationship operates in the digital realm however remains to be fully understood.

This essay’s analysis of an edit war that occurred over the naming of the Wikipedia page on the Indian river Ganga, seeks to understand the operation of that relationship in the networked digital realm. Through analyzing the conflict and evaluating the different arguments proffered by the opposing sides in the debate, this essay attempts to uncover the contradictions within its desired goal of apolitical and neutral knowledge that Wikipedia is founded upon.

The analysis shows that debates on Wikipedia are invariably imbued with pre-existing entrenched ideologies thus ensuring that persistence and numerical strength outweigh evidence and the merit of an argument as determining factors. This holds crucial lessons for the imaginations of a plural and globally representative web that was supposed to challenge the inequities of the offline world.

Strengthening Wellbeing in Urban Communities Through Wildlife Gardening

an article by Laura M. Mumaw, Cecily Maller and Sarah Bekessy (RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia) published in Cities and the Environment Volume 10 Issue 1 (2017)


Conserving biodiversity and advancing well-being are goals usually siloed in environment or health portfolios, yet compelling evidence is emerging regarding the relationship between these activities. There is increasing academic and practitioner interest in the well-being benefits to be gained from experiencing nature in urban parks.

Here we explore the understudied relationship between actively conserving nature in urban backyards and gaining well-being benefits. We investigate a municipal wildlife gardening program run by a community group-local government partnership in Melbourne, Australia whose purpose is to conserve the municipality’s indigenous biodiversity.

Semi-structured interviews with program members in their gardens, supplemented by material from open-ended questionnaires from program garden assessors, were analysed for the program’s impact on participants’ well-being. Participants described experiential, social, and eudemonic well-being benefits including strengthened connections with nature, place and community, derived from participating in a program that immersed them in nature at home, gave their gardening a conservation context, and involved local government and community.

These findings demonstrate that initiatives engaging urban residents on their properties to care for nature as part of local government-community collaborations have important well-being and environmental outcomes that should be recognised and further explored in both conservation and well-being policy and program approaches.

Full text (PDF 20pp)

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

10 for today start with coping with "a simple-minded ruler"

What to do with a simple-minded ruler: a medieval solution
via OUP Blog by Sophie Thérèse Ambler

Detail of a miniature of John, king of Scotland, being brought before Edward I. Public Domain via the British Library.
The thirteenth century saw the reigns of several rulers ill-equipped for the task of government, decried not as tyrants but incompetents. Sancho II of Portugal (1223–48), his critics said, let his kingdom fall to ruin on account of his “idleness,” “timidity of spirit,” and “simplicity”. The last term, simplex, could mean straightforward, but here it meant only simple-minded, foolish, stupid. The same term was used to describe the English king Henry III (1216–72), as well as John Balliol, the hapless king of Scotland (1292–96) appointed by England’s Edward I. As the élites of these kingdoms knew too well, it could happen on occasion that a man rose to office – whether he had been born to claim it, had won the right to hold it, or had found it thrust upon him – who did not have the intelligence to wield power.
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It could, of course, have been a woman who rose to high office who did not have the intelligence to yield the power of that office. But perhaps not in the thirteenth century.

Look back with danger
via Arts & Letters Daily: Simon Goldhill in the Times Literary Supplement
Friedrich Nietzsche was an alienated man and saw alienation all around: “We are no longer at home anywhere”, he wrote of modern life. This high priest of disenchantment nonetheless knew where he would feel at home – ancient Greece. “We want to go back”, he insisted, and added triumphantly that “day by day we are becoming more Greek”. Becoming Greek meant, first, thinking like the ancient Greeks; but the ultimate goal, more bizarrely, was literally to embody an antique ideal: “one day – or so we hope – we will also become more Greek in our bodies” – though I suspect Nietzsche never went to the gym to work his abs into a sculptural six-pack, or shaved off his luxuriant and very unclassical moustache.
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Scientists stunned by new findings about salt's effects on body
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder

Conventional wisdom: If you eat a lot of salt, you will get thirsty to dilute the sodium level in your blood. The excess salt will be excreted in your urine.
But a new study of Russian cosmonauts is challenging this long-held belief. When the cosmonauts ate more salt, the became less thirsty. And their appetite increased - they had to eat 25 percent more to maintain their weight.
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The Radical Works of a Young Dostoevsky
via 3 Quarks Daily: Matthew James Seidel at The Millions

At 28, Fyodor Dostoevsky was about to die.
The nightmare started when the police burst into his apartment and dragged him away in the middle of the night, along with the rest of the Petrashevsky Circle. This was a group made up of artists and thinkers who discussed radical ideas together, such as equality and justice, and occasionally read books. Madmen, clearly. To be fair, the tsar, Nicholas I, had a right to be worried about revolution. The Decembrist Revolt of 1825 was still fresh in everyone’s mind, and it was obvious throughout the world that something was happening. In addition to earlier revolutions in America and France, revolutionary ideas were spreading like a virus around the world through art, literature, philosophy, science, and more. To the younger generation and Russians who suffered most under the current regime, it was exhilarating. For those like Nicholas I, whose power depended on the established order, it was terrifying.
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Watch how librarians digitize a 6-foot wide book
via Boing Boing by Andrea James

The Klencke Atlas is a massive 350-year old bound book that has graced the entrance of the British Library maps room. Now it’s being digitized with the latest technology, and the process is remarkable.
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On Frank Capra's Apolitics
via 3 Quarks Daily by Carl Pierer
Much has been written about how the political centre today can be characterised by offering a choice between two spins of the same idea. Essentially, a choice that is not a really choice. But this point is nothing new. Indeed, this very mechanism can already be found in the 1938 film You Can't Take It With You.
In line with his other films, Frank Capra's You Can't Take It With You excels in a sentimentality and heart-warming humour that has won much popular appraisal. It is a film that is easy to watch, easy to enjoy and thus precisely of the charming sort that attracts fervent criticism. Too comforting, too nice, but most importantly too ideological. Capra's films are often seen to hide, behind a humanist façade, a stifling defence of the status quo and an outmoded idea of Americanness. This is not least due to his own descriptions in his autobiography. Against this sort of criticism, without defending Capra's non-existent ideas, it is possible to appreciate his You Can't Take It With You as a staple of ideological presentation of a pseudo-choice.
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Life lessons from Shakespeare and Marcus Aurelius
via OUP Blog by the Oxford Scholarly Editions Online marketing team

“The Storm, Shakespeare” by chaos07. CC0 Public Domain via Pixabay
William Shakespeare and Marcus Aurelius (the great stoic philosopher and emperor) have more in common than you might think. They share a recorded birth-date, with Shakespeare baptized on 26 April 1564, and Marcus Aurelius born on 26 April 121 (Shakespeare’s actual birth date remains unknown, although he was baptised on 26 April 1564. His birth is traditionally observed and celebrated on 23 April, Saint George’s Day). But aside from their birth month (and a gap of over a thousand years), what links these two venerated writers? Shakespeare’s plays are a famed source of creative and dramatic inspiration, but are also mined for their astoundingly insightful commentary on human nature. In a similar fashion, Marcus Aurelius is best remembered for his Meditations, a set of pithy aphorisms on Stoic philosophy and guidance on life.
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10 of the Best Louis MacNeice Poems Everyone Should Read
via Interesting Literature
The greatest poems by Louis MacNeice
The Irish poet Louis MacNeice (1907-63) is often associated with the Thirties Poets, along with W. H. Auden and Stephen Spender. Yet unlike Auden, who left us ‘Stop All the Clocks’, MacNeice can be more difficult to pin down to one or two ‘best poems’ or ‘best-known poems’. ‘Prayer Before Birth’? Perhaps. That classic poem, and nine others, are included below in our pick of Louis MacNeice’s finest poems.
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European Capitals Replaced by Cities with the Same Latitude
via Big Think by Frank Jacobs
Article Image
Please nobody show this map to the President. He might get the wrong idea and bomb the bejeezus out of Lisbon. Because the Portuguese capital – that red dot in the bottom left corner on the map below – is labelled Pyongyang. And that’s the name of another country’s capital. North Korea, to be exact.
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Capybaras relaxing in a spring-fed hot tub
via Boing Boing by Rob Beschizza
Sometimes I suspect that Capybaras are horses that haven't yet realized they've been transformed into giant gerbils.

Career education that works: an economic analysis using the British Cohort Study

an article by Elnaz T. Kashefpakdel (University of Bath, UK) and Christian Percy (Independent Researcher, London, UK) published in Journal of Education and Work Volume 30 Issue 3 (2017)


There is significant policy interest in the issue of young people’s fractured transitions into the labour market. Many scholars and policy-makers believe that changes in the education system and labour market over recent decades have created a complex world for young people; and that this can partly be addressed by enhanced career education while individuals are at school.

However, the literature lacks in-depth quantitative analysis making use of longitudinal data.

This paper draws on the British Cohort Study 1970 to investigate the link between career talks by external speakers and employment outcomes, and finds some evidence that young people who participated in more career talks at age 14–16 enjoyed a wage premium 10 years later at age 26. The correlation is statistically significant on average across all students who receive talks at age 14–15; but remains the case for 15–16 year olds only if they also described the talks as very helpful.

“And somehow it ends up on the Internet.” Agency, trust and risks in photo-sharing among friends and romantic partners

an article by Rebecca Venema and Katharina Lobinger (Università della Svizzera italiana, Switzerland) published in First Monday Volume 22 Number 7 (July 2017)


Photographic practices and photo-sharing have become pervasive routine communicative acts in everyday life. Photo-sharing can be beneficial for maintaining and strengthening social relationships, but it also requires a careful reflections of trustful disclosure, intimacy, privacy and vulnerability.

Several scholars have found that conflicts regarding photo-sharing arise when assumptions regarding the “shareability” of pictures and an “appropriate” amount of photo-sharing differ. This demands for further insights into which practices are considered appropriate or inappropriate and for which reasons.

The present study explores norms and rules of taking and sharing pictures and examines how these norms are defined in close relationships, more precisely in romantic partnerships and friendships. It is based on 34 repertoire-oriented, semi-structured interviews that are combined with creative visual methods.

The analysis shows that trust, confidentiality and consent are the fundamental conditions for photo-sharing in close relationships. However, when it comes to negative causes and consequences of photo-sharing, trust and confidentiality are at the same time considered as unreliable and fragile constructs. Usually, the image-makers are held responsible for unintended sharing and re-sharing.

Further responsibility is ascribed to invisible agents and insecure technological structures, while other involved persons are not described as accountable agents. This implies that the fragility of trust in relationships needs to be anticipated in sharing processes. We argue that this necessitates further critical discussions of responsibilities, agency and trust in order to sustain the value and importance of close relationships in current digitally networked societies.

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Are genetic markers of interest for economic research?

an article by Steven F. Lehrer (Queen’s University NYU-Shanghai and NBER, National Bureau of Economic Research) and Weili Ding (Queen’s University NYU-Shanghai) published in IZA Journal of Labor Policy Volume 6 Article 2 (2017)


The idea that genetic differences may explain a multitude of individual-level outcomes studied by economists is far from controversial. Since more datasets now contain measures of genetic variation, it is reasonable to postulate that incorporating genomic data in economic analyses will become more common.

However, there remains much debate among academics as to, first, whether ignoring genetic differences in empirical analyses biases the resulting estimates. Second, several critics argue that since genetic characteristics are immutable, the incorporation of these variables into economic analysis will not yield much policy guidance.

In this paper, we revisit these concerns and survey the main avenues by which empirically oriented economic researchers have utilized measures of genetic markers to improve our understanding of economic phenomena. We discuss the strengths, limitations, and potential of existing approaches and conclude by highlighting several prominent directions forward for future research.

JEL Classification: I12, J19, I26

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Prisons should mirror society: the debate on age-segregated housing for older prisoners

an article by Tenzin Wangmo, Violet Handtke, Wiebke Bretschneider and Bernice Simone Elger (University of Basel, Switzerland) published in Ageing & Society Volume 37 Issue 4 (April 2017)


The debate on age-segregated housing for older prisoners has seldom captured the perspectives of older prisoners and professionals (‘stakeholders’) working in a European prison setting. To address this gap in the research, 35 older prisoners from Switzerland and 40 stakeholders from three European countries (including Switzerland) were interviewed for the study.

Data analysis was conducted thematically, and the validity of coding was established independently from the primary author. Interpretation of study results was agreed upon by all authors.

Participants' opinions regarding age-segregated housing for older prisoners were split. An almost equal number of prisoners and stakeholders had similar arguments in favour of and against such living arrangements.

The findings encompassed three major themes: ‘prisons should mirror society’ and thus age-mixed housing was preferable as it ensured generational exchange; a ‘separate unit within the prison’ would allow continuity of personal and other relationships and at the same time respond to older prisoners' specific health and environmental needs; finally, participants felt it was important to think critically about ‘the criteria’ for placing older prisoners in an age-segregated arrangement.

We conclude that the debate on consolidated versus separate housing is bifurcated. Any push towards segregation based only on high prison violence and unvalidated context-specific information may result in unreliable public policy.

Monday, 9 October 2017

10 tales for today: cycling through to Xerox PARC via Morocco and pelicans

Google Street View used to discover ‘lost’ cycle ways
via BBC Technology by Chris Baraniuk
Cycle way
Some of the cycle ways retain a faint hint of their original red colour
A vast network of forgotten cycle ways across the UK has been rediscovered with the help of Google Street View.
Historian and cycling enthusiast Carlton Reid found the routes, which were created between 1934 and 1940, after scanning for evidence of them online.
They were originally put in place by the Ministry of Transport, but many fell out of use after World War Two. Mr Reid is now part of a campaign to reinstate some of the routes.
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The Best Sir Philip Sidney Poems Everyone Should Read
via Interesting Literature
The best poems of Philip Sidney
Sir Philip Sidney (1554-86) was one of the finest poets of the English Renaissance and a pioneer of the sonnet form and English love poetry. Many of Sidney’s finest poems are to be found in his long sonnet sequence Astrophil and Stella – the first substantial sonnet sequence in English literature – but he wrote a number of other poems which are much-loved and widely anthologised. Below we’ve chosen what we think are ten of Sir Philip Sidney’s best poems.
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Gorgeous aviary of hundreds of papercraft birds
via Boing Boing by Andrea James

The Paper Aviary just completed a successful free exhibition of beautifully-crafted paper birds. Let's hope it travels following its inaugural success!
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Is Walt Whitman’s health guide a hoax – written by Gwyneth Paltrow?
In 1858, he seems to advocate a good night’s sleep, outdoor exercise, careful grooming - and clean cotton socks in summer
via Arts & Letters Daily: Ben Markovits in The Spectator
Walt Whitman, aged 35, as he appeared in the first edition of Leaves of Grass
Walt Whitman, aged 35, as he appeared in the first edition of Leaves of Grass
A few years after Walt Whitman brought out the first edition of Leaves of Grass (it didn’t do well), he wrote a column on ‘Manly Health and Training’ for the New York Atlas. His pieces were published under a pseudonym, Mose Velsor, and have only recently been connected to Whitman by a graduate student at the University of Houston, who discovered them on microfilm. (Unless this whole thing is a joke – it’s a little hard to tell.) Boxtree has cherrypicked from over 47,000 words of manly advice to produce a cod-retro book along the lines of the Ladybird Book of the Hangover or the Ladybird Book of the Midlife Crisis or the Ladybird Book of the Hipster. In fact, the Manly Health guide is a bit like all of them.
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Map of where London’s train stations go
via Boing Boing by Rob Beschizza
I lived in Britain for 20 years and am still amazed by Drunk-Scientist's map of London's commuter drainage basins.
See for yourself

The Woman Behind the World's Oldest Library, and the Woman Who Led the Effort to Restore It
via The Scholarly Kitchen by David Crotty
Founded in the year 859, University of Al Qarawiyyin in Fez, Morocco is thought to be the world’s oldest library. In recent years, great efforts have been made to restore and reopen the library to the public. The video below explores the connection between the library’s founder, Fatima Al-Fihri, who used her inheritance to create a center of knowledge in Fez, and Aziza Chaouni, the architect responsible for the restoration.

How do pelicans survive their 40 mph dive-bombs?
via Boing Boing by David Pescovitz

Pelicans haven’t evolved much in 30 million years. That’s because they’ve pretty much nailed how to be a pelican.
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The mass trespass that opened the gates of the countryside
via The New Statesman by Lucy Rigby
In the 18th and 19th centuries, various Enclosures Acts packaged up common land and moved it into privately-owned estates. Altogether, millions of acres of common land, which had been used by Britain’s rural population to graze cattle and grow crops, were privatised. This in turn robbed many of their livelihoods and way of life.
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Scientists Suspect Genetic Underpinnings to Human Monogamy
via Big Think by Philip Perry
Evolutionary anthropology has for some time tried to understand what natural relationship pattern humans follow, if there is one. In his book Sex at Dawn psychologist Christopher Ryan posits that our prehistoric ancestors practiced multiple kinds of sexual and romantic relationships.
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Research principles from the legendary Xerox PARC
via Boing Boing by David Pescovitz
Founded in 1970 as Xerox's R&D division, PARC was a dream factory that brought the world laser printing, Ethernet, the graphical user interface that led to Windows and the Macintosh, ubiquitous computing, and many other technologies that we now take for granted. Why made the place so damn special?
Continue reading and find out