October 23, 2012

Bits and pieces: Texas postman and Hermes, Noc the whale, Republicans more knowledgeable, writing that works, a humble politician

How a Texas Postman Became an Hermes Designer

Oliver is 70 years old. He wears his mustache trim and neat. And though he's one of the most important living African-American painters, he just doesn't understand what the fuss is about. Never mind that he's the only American artist ever to design a scarf for Hermès — which he's done 16 times.
Again, he's also an employee of the U.S. Postal Service.

"He doesn't believe he can make a living as a painter," Sheeler says. "He doesn't even believe that he's that good — those are his words. He just likes to paint.    He works overnight at the post office, comes home, paints a little bit, takes a nap and then does it all over again. He survives on two to three hours of sleep. Eats a sandwich on his break at the post office. He gets a 30-minute break, and then he goes back to sorting mail."

Pew Research: Republicans More Knowledgeable Than Democrats
In a scientific survey of 1,168 adults conducted during September and October of last year, respondents were asked not only multiple-choice questions, but also queries using maps, photographs and symbols.  Among other subjects, participants identified international leaders, cabinet members, Supreme Court justices, nations on a world map, the current unemployment and poverty rates and war casualty totals.

In a 2010 Pew survey, Republicans outperformed Democrats on 10 of 12 questions, with one tie and Democrats outperforming Republicans on just 1 of the 12.  In the latest survey, however, Republicans outperformed Democrats on every single one of 19 questions.

On YouTube, Marriage=Biology (Not Bigotry).  The best argument I've ever heard for the traditional definition of marriage.  Don't miss it.

Noc the whale who imitated a human voice

The male named Noc had a distinctly human-like voice, much to the surprise of scientists who previously thought whales typically produce sounds in a manner that is wholly different from humans.  Noc died five years ago after 30 years of living amongst dolphins and other white whales and being in contact with humans at the National Marine Mammal Foundation based in San Diego in California. the incredible recordings of the whale were revealed for the first time as the team published their findings.

However, the incredible recordings of the whale were revealed for the first time as the team published their findings. Sam Ridgway, who led the study, said: 'Our observations suggest that the whale had to modify its vocal mechanics in order to make the speech-like sounds. 'Such obvious effort suggests motivation for contact.'
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The study 'Spontaneous human speech mimicry by a cetacean' are published in the latest issue of Current Biology.

In the Atlantic, The Writing Revolution

For years, nothing seemed capable of turning around New Dorp High School’s dismal performance—not firing bad teachers, not flashy education technology, not after-school programs. So, faced with closure, the school’s principal went all-in on a very specific curriculum reform, placing an overwhelming focus on teaching the basics of analytic writing, every day, in virtually every class. What followed was an extraordinary blossoming of student potential, across nearly every subject—one that has made New Dorp a model for educational reform.
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A lightbulb, says Simmons, went on in her head. These 14- and 15-year-olds didn’t know how to use some basic parts of speech. With such grammatical gaps, it was a wonder they learned as much as they did. “Yes, they could read simple sentences,” but works like the Gettysburg Address were beyond them—not because they were too lazy to look up words they didn’t know, but because “they were missing a crucial understanding of how language works. They didn’t understand that the key information in a sentence doesn’t always come at the beginning of that sentence.”
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The Hochman Program, as it is sometimes called, would not be un­familiar to nuns who taught in Catholic schools circa 1950. Children do not have to “catch” a single thing. They are explicitly taught how to turn ideas into simple sentences, and how to construct complex sentences from simple ones by supplying the answer to three prompts—but, because, and so. They are instructed on how to use appositive clauses to vary the way their sentences begin. Later on, they are taught how to recognize sentence fragments, how to pull the main idea from a paragraph, and how to form a main idea on their own. It is, at least initially, a rigid, unswerving formula. “I prefer recipe,” Hochman says, “but formula? Yes! Okay!”

5 Life Advantages You Acquire from Experiencing Poverty

1) Once things have been really bad, you’re not as frightened of tough times and risks.
5) Being poor makes you work hard not to be destitute again.

The Anchoress on George McGovern on Realities of Market Economy and Sweeping Legislation

unlike the pols of today, he wasn’t afraid to say there was something he didn’t know, an answer he didn’t have and even something he may have gotten wrong. Such humility is unthinkable in 21st century politicking.
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In retrospect, I wish I had known more about the hazards and difficulties of such a business, especially during a recession of the kind that hit New England just as I was acquiring the inn’s 43-year leasehold. I also wish that during the years I was in public office, I had had this firsthand experience about the difficulties business people face every day. That knowledge would have made me a better U.S. senator and a more understanding presidential contender.
Posted by Jill Fallon at October 23, 2012 2:25 PM | Permalink