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January 2012 Links: Paypal Problems, Inner-City Crime, Proposalese in the Media, Innovation, “Abstinence Education,” and More

January 15th, 2012 · by Jake Seliger · No Comments

* Do not ever use Paypal; this story from someone who gets their accounts frozen is fairly common. I had a nasty encounter with Paypal that guarantees I will never, ever use them again, and I can tell you from experience that their legal department is just as difficult and cruel as their so-called dispute resolution department.

* Fighting Inner-City Crime: When, and how, citizens should take action is a pressing question. Notice the author, Sudhir Venkatesh, who also wrote Off the Books: The Underground Economy of the Urban Poor, which is useful for anyone developing proposal project concepts and needs assessments.

* “As [the] Public Sector Sheds Jobs, [Women] and Minorities Hurt Most.”

* A review of the new Seagate Momentus XT. I have the old version in my laptop and will say that it was a tremendous improvement over a regular, 5400 RPM laptop hard drive.

* The Research Bust:

[A]fter four decades of mountainous publication, literary studies has reached a saturation point, the cascade of research having exhausted most of the subfields and overwhelmed the capacity of individuals to absorb the annual output. Who can read all of the 80 items of scholarship that are published on George Eliot each year? After 5,000 studies of Melville since 1960, what can the 5,001st say that will have anything but a microscopic audience of interested readers?

* The brutal logic of climate change, an important and likely-to-be-ignored post.

* “The End of Stagnation and the Coming Innovation Boom;” especially note this:

Our ancestors were bold and industrious, they built a significant part of our transportation and energy infrastructure more than half a century ago. It would be impossible to build that same infrastructure today. Could we build the Hoover Dam? We have the technology, of course, but do we have the will? In building infrastructure many interest groups can say no and nearly no one can say yes. We are beset by a swarm of veto players. Time, however, is running out. We cannot rely on the infrastructure of our past to travel to our future.

I’ve seen the veto players and automatic “no” people in watching Seattle attempt to build a light-rail system to alleviate its atrocious traffic problems. The number of lawsuits and amount of issues are staggering, so it’s taken the city and other players literally decades to get anything done. The proposed California Bullet Train is another example of the same.

* Still: Tunnels: Seattle’s boring past filled with thrills:

In a world where most work is done with a keyboard and dispersed into electronic ether, their work is refreshingly real, lasting, utilitarian. Workers seem also to share a frontier can-do spirit. Masters of a subterranean universe, not for nothing is their line of work called heavy civil: a good name for a grunge band, or a workforce that stops at pretty much nothing.

* Unsurprising: Alabama Can’t Find Anyone to Fill Illegal Immigrants’ Old Jobs.

* [Bill] O’Reilly Gets Ambushed, just like he does to other people. One definition of a bully might be someone who can’t accept what they do to others or say about them.

* James Fallows: With Mitt’s Ascent, We’re Back to the ‘Mormon Question’, a very good post and one that changes what I think.

* Without comprehensive sex education, porn is the only solid information kids are getting about sex. File this under “the obvious.”

* A fascinating and largely accurate list of what kinds of inequality are acceptable and what kinds aren’t, by David Brooks:

Status inequality is acceptable for college teachers. Universities exist within a finely gradated status structure, with certain schools like Brown clearly more elite than other schools. University departments are carefully ranked and compete for superiority.

Status inequality is unacceptable for high school teachers. Teachers at this level strongly resist being ranked. It would be loathsome to have one’s department competing with other departments in nearby schools.

And people involved in each system probably believe in both without questioning why they do or how they came to believe what they believe. I would also be interested in seeing other lists of this kind and for other countries.

Brooks ends: “Dear visitor, we are a democratic, egalitarian people who spend our days desperately trying to climb over each other. Have a nice stay.” We may also believe that equality of opportunity doesn’t imply equality of results, although that itself might be acceptable to believe while it might not be acceptable to believe in many circles that we have equality of opportunity.

* David Henderson’s “Occupy Monterey” talks are fascinating in part because they reveal the basic economic illiteracy of much of his audience. There are three parts, all at the link; some of the comments shouted from people in the audience remind me of things I’ve heard peers and profs say in English departments.

* The No-Brainer Issue of the Year: Let High-Skill Immigrants Stay:

Behind Door #1 are people of extraordinary ability: scientists, artists, educators, business people and athletes. Behind Door #2 stand a random assortment of people. Which door should the United States open?

In 2010, the United States more often chose Door #2 [. . .]

* Get Ready for Manufacturing’s Big Comeback: “As the cost of doing business in China rises, U.S. manufacturing could be on the verge of a renaissance.”

* Famous Authors’ Harshest Rejection Letters. It’s amazing to me not only how little we know, but how little we know how little we know (read that twice).

* We haven’t met the aliens because they’ve become enmeshed in video games. Alternately, the reason we haven’t met any aliens morphs with the contemporary issues we’re starting to notice; during the Cold War, nuclear annihilation was a probable parable. Today, it’s cultural suicide abetted by technology.

* The slow erosion of legal rights; “terrorism” and “drugs” appear to be the keys to removing Constitutional safeguards.

* Ending the Infographic Plague.

* I already linked to this but see no reason no to do so again, since a reader sent it to me: Bookshelf porn. Note that this involves no actual nudity; the books are closed.

* “The secret lives of feral dogs: A Pennsylvania city instructs police to shoot strays, opening a sad window on animal care in the age of austerity.”

* “The average health care insurance premium today is over $15,000 and by 2021 it may be headed to $32,000 or so (admittedly that estimate is based on extrapolation);” that’s from “The median wage figure and the health care costs figure.”

* “The fragile teenage brain: An in-depth look at concussions in high school football.” After reading about the many football concussion studies, I’ve learned that a lot of the brain damage football causes isn’t from single big hits—it’s from many small hits that accrue in practice and elsewhere. There is no way I’d let my kid play football.

Tags: Education · Links