Is It Wrong to Give Your Kid an Extraordinary Name?

Originally posted on Painting On Scars:

Hello My Name Is... (Image by Alan O’Rourke of workcompass.com used under CC licensevia)

Every coupled friend I have here in Germany is, as of this year, a parent. And looking upon the names bestowed upon the new generation, I must say I like them all. Or at least, I don’t hate any of them. This is impressive when considering that, if my partner and I ever want to get into a fight, we simply start discussing names we would hypothetically pick for a child. Just give us five minutes and soon we’ll be shouting, “Bo-ring!” “Flaky!” “Hideous!”

And then we run up against the unanswerable question: Is it harder to have a mundane (a.k.a. boring) name or an unusual (a.k.a. weird) name?

While I enjoy the sound of my own name—as many if not most people do—I haven’t enjoyed seeing Emily end up in the top ten of the most popular…

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It’s Not Just You

Originally posted on The Daily Dahlia:

Confession: probably my biggest pet peeve on the planet is when people start a question with “Am I the only one who…?” No. You’re not. You’re not the only one who writes that way, reads that way, likes that food, likes that band, thinks Benedict Cumberbatch sounds like a Game of Thrones character or looks like someone squeezed Spongebob and stuck googly eyes on him…you’re just not. But. There’s a different kind of “Is it just me?” feeling, and that’s the stress of when you’re drowning in something and nobody’s talking about it and you feel like everyone’s got it together but you, and so you don’t wanna say a thing, and it all snowballs until you basically wanna curl up and die. I know that feeling. It’s why I wrote this post after splitting with my first agent. So in case you are wondering any of these things, I…

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Why women talk less

Originally posted on language: a feminist guide:

This week on Newsnight, Evan Davis talked to three women about all-male panels—a subject made topical by the recent popularity of a tumblr set up to name and shame them. Why, he asked, are women so often un- or under-represented in public forums? Are they reluctant to put themselves forward? Are they deterred by the adversarial nature of the proceedings?

The women offered some alternative suggestions. Women don’t get asked, or if they do it’s assumed you only need one. Women aren’t seen as experts, unless the subject is a ‘women’s issue’. The age-old prejudice against women speaking in public means that any woman who dares to voice her opinions can expect to be deluged with abuse and threats.

But while all-male panels are obviously a problem, they’re only the tip of the iceberg. Just ensuring that women are represented on a panel does not guarantee their voices will…

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Shooting great pictures has never been so difficult

Originally posted on tobylitt:

It is saying the opposite of the thing I am saying It is saying the opposite of the thing I am about to say

I saw this advertisement in the window of a shop on Tottenham Court Road, and took a photograph of it.

Annoyed by the blandness of this as a statement – Shooting great pictures has never been so easy – and, in a similar way to my question about minimal aesthetics, I have a question about photography.

Immediate aside: It’s hard to write this without sounding anti-technology. I am not – really, I’m not; (photography, pretty obviously, is technological in toto); I’m not even anti-digital (not completely).

I believe, however, that there’s an intensity of attention that is forced upon an artist by a lack of technology, or lack of easy and helpful and well-designed technology. And that, if there isn’t that deprivation of ease, there can’t be that intensity.

(This might be a.k.a. ‘the uses of adversity’, or what Yeats had as…

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The Myth of Comprehensive Data

Originally posted on Dart-Throwing Chimp:

“What about using Twitter sentiment?”

That suggestion came to me from someone at a recent Data Science DC meetup, after I’d given a short talk on assessing risks of mass atrocities for the Early Warning Project, and as the next speaker started his presentation on predicting social unrest. I had devoted the first half of my presentation to a digression of sorts, talking about how the persistent scarcity of relevant public data still makes it impossible to produce global forecasts of rare political crises—things like coups, insurgencies, regime breakdowns, and mass atrocities—that are as sharp and dynamic as we would like.

The meetup wasn’t the first time I’d heard that suggestion, and I think all of the well-intentioned people who have made it to me have believed that data derived from Twitter would escape or overcome those constraints. In fact, the Twitter stream embodies them. Over the past two decades, technological, economic, and political changes have…

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All Go Anywhere

Originally posted on Peter Shelton:

In December 1973, at the beginning of my second winter teaching skiing, my father gave me a slim picture book from 1936 that he’d rediscovered in his parents’ garage. SKI FEVER by Norman Vaughan. Fifty Cents. Fifty pages. Nipples on wooden ski tips. Pole baskets like personal-size pizzas. An unabashed paean to what was then the new sport of downhill skiing. My dad’s note read, in part, “I remember that my buddy Eugene and I devoured the contents before our first big ski weekend at Big Bear, where reality submerged fantasy.” He would have been 13.

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Toward a Saner View of Text Complexity

Originally posted on To Make a Prairie:

sanity-insanity1

As happened a few years ago, when eighth grade students took to Facebook to share reactions to a nonsensical passage about a talking pineapple from the New York State ELA test, this year’s Common Core-aligned test made it into the news again for another Facebook incident. Somehow a group called Education is a Journey Not a Race got their hands on a copy of the fourth grade test and posted over three dozen images of passages and questions on their Facebook page. Facebook quickly took the page down, but they couldn’t stop the articles that soon appeared, such as “New York State Tests for Fourth-Graders Included Passages Meant for Older Students” from the Wall Street Journal and “Educators alarmed by some questions on N.Y. Common Core test” from The Washington Post. 

PG13_rating_WaiAs their titles suggest, these pieces took a hard look at the kind of questions and concerns teachers…

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