Are you sick of TED too?

Guys, pat yourselves on the back right now… That pat on the back is for saving the world.

Best TED talk EVER!!!!!!!!

Actually, this talk may be the best summation of the absurdity of the TED ideology: Compost-Fueled Cars: Wouldn’t That Be Great?

Yeah, yeah, I know. TED talks can stir the imagination. They can also provoke exploration that goes deeper than the streamed microlectures. If I had anything important to say, I too would love to address that overclass audience, win favor, and join the retinue of some latter-day Medici.

Still, take a look at Benjamin Bratton’s anti-TED TEDx talk. He captures some problematic aspects of TED, such as “placebo politics,” and “middlebrow megachurch infotainment.”

Academic employment: worse than Walmart?

Walmart’s employment policies and pay look pretty good in comparison to the higher education industry. I wonder how Walmart workers’ pay and benefits compare to adjunct professors’? I bet the Walmart greeters get a better hourly wage.

There were some unique circumstances in this infamous case of an elderly adjunct professor whose life ended in squalor and poverty. Still, American universities should be ashamed of how they treat adjunct faculty. People entrusted with the education of our youth shouldn’t be a permanent underclass relying on public assistance and charity to make ends meet.

What Really Happened to Margaret Mary Vojtko, the Duquesne Adjunct Whose Death Became a Rallying Cry?
On Friday, Aug. 16, Margaret Mary Vojtko, an adjunct French professor who’d recently lost her job at Duquesne University at the age of 83, suffered a cardiac arrest on a street corner in Homestead, Pa.* Vojtko collapsed yards from the house where she had lived almost her entire life…


“…the action most worth watching is not at the center of things but where the edges meet. I like shorelines, weather fronts, international borders. There are interesting frictions and incongruities in these places, and often, if you stand at the point of tangency, you can see both sides better than if you were in the middle of either one.”

Anne Fadiman in the preface to The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

A new “game changer” for Baltimore post-Grand Prix

With the end of the Grand Prix in Baltimore, maybe we should seize the moment to propose some new models for encouraging visits, business, and better quality of life for all Baltimore. What are your ideas? Can you think of one or more events or programs that would cost the city little and greatly enhance our surroundings?

Here’s one idea to kick it off:

Turn Charles Street between North Avenue and Pratt into a no-cars playground for Labor Day weekend. Run busses in a loop around the area. Let the existing businesses sprawl on to the sidewalk. Fill empty storefronts with pop-up galleries, handicrafts, etc. Give arts and community groups space as well. Food trucks and restaurants will serve everyone. Create pop-up parks and games along the way.

Your thoughts?

Grand Prix of Baltimore canceled through 2015, and likely beyond
Race cars may have burned rubber on the streets of Baltimore for the last time earlier this month, as Grand Prix of Baltimore organizers announced Friday calendar conflicts doomed the event for the next two years.

Do you like ironic reclamation of negative symbols? Do you dislike decaying vacants and urban blight?

If you are a fan of Baltimore Slumlord Watch and/or ironic reclamation of negative symbols, you may be interested in this shirt/fundraiser:

Fight Baltimore Blight
Throughout Baltimore (and many other cities), decaying vacant homes have been marked with a white “x” on a red background. Fire departments, wary of losing their brave firefighters, have determined these buildings are so unstable that they should not be entered unless lives are at stake. It’s a haunting icon of decay and resignation.

The city is trying to demolish dangerous vacants, and there’s a program to help renovate those that can be restored, but more needs to be done.

Let’s reclaim this symbol of despair and send a little support to the people fighting blight by ordering this T-shirt. The modest proceeds of these sales will be donated to Housing Policy Watch.

Episcopalians in decline, Hindus on the rise

For armchair sociologists, haters of the NY Times, and the flat out envious, the Times’ wedding announcements is a revealing projection and a finely-tuned barometer of what high status people think is high status. Of course the results are often unintentionally funny, irritating, or depressing, but what has changed over the years?

WASPs and debutantes have declined precipitously (Whit Stillman was right) and “bourgeois bohemian” values have made an appearance, but here are the trends over time as documented by word frequency analysis:

ATodd – When Harvard Met Sally: N-gram Analysis of the New York Times Weddings Section
The New York Times’s wedding section is a perfect natural experiment designed to answer the question: What do the world’s most self-important people think is important

Bridging Kindle books and print

This seems like pretty big news for those of us who are still heavily invested in print. Of course, I will always collect quality hardcovers of classic literature and other “keepers.”

Amazon’s Kindle MatchBook will let you buy cheap digital editions of print books you already own
Summary: Amazon’s new service, Kindle MatchBook, will let users buy discounted digital versions of print books that they’ve already bought from Amazon. But the service isn’t available for every book.

Teaching in the ether

Michael Roth is the president of Wesleyan–a college that values teaching first. In the Wall Street Journal he writes about his experience teaching a massive online course on a subtle, sophisticated topic. His verdict?

Wesleyan's Russell House

Where Wesleyan philosophers usually teach

When I mention online learning to my colleagues at Wesleyan University, most respond initially with skepticism. But based on my experience, I know that real learning can take place on the Web.

I am currently teaching a massive online open course, or MOOC, on Coursera. Most MOOCs have great attrition, and mine is no exception: There were almost 30,000 students registered at the start, yet 4,000 remain active as we near the end of the semester. Unlike most MOOCs, which focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, mine is a classic humanities course. “The Modern and the Postmodern” starts off in the 18th century with Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Immanuel Kant, and we work our way toward the present.

Read on: Michael S. Roth: My Global Philosophy Course

It’s been a long, long, long time since I fancied myself an athlete, but on May…

It’s been a long, long, long time since I fancied myself an athlete, but on May 11 I’m running the Maryland Half Marathon in memory of my dear friend Matt Hilburn. If I can wheeze my way through 13.1 miles, can you help me raise money for people fighting head and neck cancers?

In Matt’s Memory | Andrew Hazlett’s Fundraiser on CrowdRise
In July 2012, I lost a very dear friend to cancer. In his memory and to help others who are in the same struggle, I am running the Maryland Half Marathon on May 11 and raising funds for an outstanding…

Plea of the introvert

A plea on behalf of introverts in an era of triumphant extroverts. I find this analysis clarifying and downright therapeutic. via +John Hagel

Caring for Your Introvert

The habits and needs of a little-understood group

…Science has learned a good deal in recent years about the habits and requirements of introverts. It has even learned, by means of brain scans, that introverts process information differently from other people (I am not making this up). If you are behind the curve on this important matter, be reassured that you are not alone. Introverts may be common, but they are also among the most misunderstood and aggrieved groups in America, possibly the world.