Tag Archives: Behind

The Dragon Behind the Glass – Emily Voigt


The Dragon Behind the Glass

A True Story of Power, Obsession, and the World’s Most Coveted Fish

Emily Voigt

Genre: Nature

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: May 24, 2016

Publisher: Scribner


WINNER OF THE 2017 NASW SCIENCE IN SOCIETY JOURNALISM AWARD A FINALIST FOR THE 2017 PEN/E. O. WILSON LITERARY SCIENCE WRITING AWARD LONGLISTED FOR THE ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL FOR EXCELLENCE A LIBRARY JOURNAL BEST SCIENCE BOOK OF THE YEAR “[A] curiously edifying book.” — The New York Times Book Review “With the taut suspense of a spy novel, Voigt paints a vivid world of murder, black market deals, and habitat destruction surrounding a fish that's considered, ironically, to be a good-luck charm.” — Discover “[An] immensely satisfying story, full of surprises and suspense….Things get weird fast.” — The Wall Street Journal An intrepid journalist’s quest to find a wild Asian arowana—the world’s most expensive aquarium fish—takes her on a global tour in this “engaging tale of obsession and perseverance…and an enthralling look at the intersection of science, commercialism, and conservationism” ( Publishers Weekly , starred review). A young man is murdered for his pet fish. An Asian tycoon buys a single specimen for $150,000. Meanwhile, a pet detective chases smugglers through the streets of New York. With “the taut suspense of a spy novel” ( Discover ) The Dragon Behind the Glass tells the story of a fish like none other. Treasured as a status symbol believed to bring good luck, the Asian arowana, or “dragon fish,” is a dramatic example of a modern paradox: the mass-produced endangered species. While hundreds of thousands are bred in captivity, the wild fish as become a near-mythical creature. From the South Bronx to Borneo and beyond, journalist Emily Voigt follows the trail of the arowana to learn its fate in nature. “A fresh, lively look at an obsessive desire to own a piece of the wild” ( Kirkus Reviews ), The Dragon Behind the Glass traces our fascination with aquarium fish back to the era of exploration when naturalists stood on the cutting edge of modern science. In an age when freshwater fish now comprise one of the most rapidly vanishing groups of animals, Voigt unearths a surprising truth behind the arowana’s rise to fame—one that calls into question how we protect the world’s rarest species. “Not since Candace Millard published The River of Doubt has the world of the Amazon, Borneo, Myanmar, and other exotic locations been so colorfully portrayed as it is now in Emily Voigt’s The Dragon Behind the Glass …a must-read” ( Library Journal , starred review).

View this article – 

The Dragon Behind the Glass – Emily Voigt

Posted in alo, Anchor, FF, GE, LAI, LG, ONA, oven, PUR, Scribner, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Dragon Behind the Glass – Emily Voigt

Will Twitter Soon Be Overrun With Silicon Trolls?

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>

Hugh Hancock muses today about the remarkable effectiveness of efforts to turn Microsoft’s (now) infamous Tay chatbot into an asshole. It didn’t take much. Mostly the people who did it were just having a laugh, and Tay took it from there. It turns out that being an asshole is a pretty easy thing to emulate.

So what does this mean for the future? Not the far future, mind you, but next year. Hancock has an unnerving answer:

Everyone Can Have Their Own Twitter Mob

Right now, if you want to have someone attacked by a horde of angry strangers, you need to be a celebrity. That’s a real problem on Twitter and Facebook both, with a few users in particular becoming well-known for abusing their power to send their fans after people with whom they disagree.

But remember, the Internet’s about democratising power, and this is the latest frontier. With a trollbot and some planning, this power will soon be accessible to anyone.

There’s a further twist, too: the bots will get better. Attacking someone on the Internet is a task eminently suited to deep learning. Give the bots a large corpus of starter insults and a win condition, and let them do what trolls do — find the most effective, most unpleasant ways to attack someone online. No matter how impervious you think you are to abuse, a swarm of learning robots can probably find your weak spot.

There are some details to be worked out, of course, like setting up all the accounts your trollbot would need. Hancock addresses that. He figures the bots will be pretty good at this stuff too.

The unnerving part of this is that although Hancock is writing in a chatty tone, this is all very plausible. And for something like Twitter, where a bot doesn’t need much intelligence to fit right in, it’s a pretty serious near-term possibility.

So what happens? Behind Door 1, Twitter becomes an abattoir of filth and verbal war. Only the bravest dare enter. Behind Door 2, Twitter mobs become so frequent that no one cares about them anymore. Even the most sensitive among us just shrug them off. Behind Door 3, it all becomes a tedious war between semi-intelligent trollbots and semi-intelligent trollbot filters. It’s just Act II of the online production that began with email spam.

On the bright side, this might put actual trolls out of commission. How can they compete? And what will they do with all their newfound free time?

Continue at source:  

Will Twitter Soon Be Overrun With Silicon Trolls?

Posted in Everyone, FF, GE, LG, ONA, Uncategorized, Venta | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Will Twitter Soon Be Overrun With Silicon Trolls?

Music Review: “Oh My Northern Soul” by Shilpa Ray

Mother Jones


“Oh My Northern Soul”

From Shilpa Ray‘s Last Year’s Savage


Liner notes: Oozing cool as she pumps her trademark harmonium, Ray declares independence, murmuring, “I wanna be anything and everything but good.”

Behind the music: The New Jersey-raised provocateur previously fronted Beat the Devil and recorded as Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers. Aided by Nick Cave, she covered the Brecht-Weill classic “Pirate Jenny” on 2013’s Son of Rogues Gallery comp.

Check it out if you like: The elegantly wasted, i.e., Tom Waits, Jolie Holland, and Marianne Faithfull.

Continue at source:  

Music Review: “Oh My Northern Soul” by Shilpa Ray

Posted in Anchor, FF, GE, LG, ONA, PUR, Radius, Uncategorized, Venta | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Music Review: “Oh My Northern Soul” by Shilpa Ray

Is There Any Relief in Sight for Our Overtested Kids?

Mother Jones

On the second day of school, instead of playing get-to-know you icebreakers, the students in Room 202 were hunched over worn test booklets filling in bubbles in Scantron sheets. At the time, Michigan, where I taught fifth grade Language Arts and Social Studies from 2010 through 2013, administered its annual tests in October. In a desperate attempt to raise its scores, the underperforming school where I worked announced that September would be dedicated solely to test preparation. What made this mandate unusual was the way it was enforced: Fearing dissent, the superintendent decreed that students would return to their homerooms from the prior year, pretty much stepping back a grade, for the first month.

If you’re contemplating ways to suck the spirit out of a school, this is an effective one. Studies have shown the importance of the first few weeks of school for fostering relationships and building motivation in children. Instead, we were forced to take a route that was sterile and demoralizing—a school-wide lobotomy, if you will. Each morning my former students would trundle into my classroom to submit to an onslaught of questions whose responses were restrained to an A,B,C,D paradigm that rewarded compliance and rote memorization at the expense of creativity and critical thinking.

“This is wack!” Ashton, a chubby sixth grader with a habit of speaking out of turn declared amid one of our many drills. “Ms. Gross, this question doesn’t even make sense!” After hushing his giggling classmates and reminding everyone that they only had two more minutes before “pencils down,” I looked over the contentious question. Ashton was right. Depending on how you interpreted it, there were at least two potential right answers, but only one that would work-work. Smiling, I told Ashton to try and pick the one that made the most sense to him. Instead of complimenting this 11-year old on his ability to think analytically, I gave him ambiguous, impersonal feedback—which at the time felt like the only appropriate response to a question about an ambiguous, impersonal test.

So who’s to blame for this scenario—or any of the countless frustrating testing scenarios a teacher could tell you about? Select the best answer and fill in the appropriate bubble with a No. 2 pencil. (Even though many state tests are now administered by computer.)

A. Administrators and staff who neglect children’s learning needs in favor of a “teach to the test” approach?

B. Testing companies that create confusing multiple-choice questions and have a financial stake in maintaining the testing status quo?

C. The states, which spend an average of $27 per student on testing—which encourages a fast-food approach to learning: a cheap and not necessarily satisfying or informative experience?

D. George W. Bush’s 2001 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) policy, which ushered in an era of high-stakes testing by holding schools to the awesome but unrealistic expectation that all students would be 100 percent proficient in math and English by 2014, and then holding schools accountable by tying Title I federal funding to test scores?

E. President Obama waivers that release states from the strict restrictions of NCLB’s Adequate Yearly Progress goals but which do ask states to tie teacher evaluations to test scores?

F. The recently introduced Common Core State Standards, which attempt to create more rigorous academic benchmarks but also come with new, harder and longer mandatory exams.

G. All the above.

While the answer is technically G, it also cannot be boiled down to seven multiple choice options—let alone four. America’s testing zeitgeist is complicated and nuanced and, like any thoughtful assessment, requires a complete unpacking with space for overlaps and contradictions.

That’s where The Test, the latest book by NPR education blogger Anya Kamenetz, comes in. Kamenetz does the heavy lifting for us, deftly deconstructing America’s education landscape and the perverse incentives that amplify our obsession with assessments. In the first half of the book, she gets readers up to speed, breaking down the history and policies that led to our current predicament. In the second, she offers solutions for parents and teachers who want to stay above the fray. “I think it’s important for parents to realize that their kids don’t have to take all the tests, and there are a lot of tests that you can sit out without many consequences,” she told me.

Anya Kamenetz

Kamenetz is quick to point out that she’s not against accountability or metrics. Rather, she’s interested in improving the ways we hold schools and teachers accountable—specifically by being more critical, humble, and curious when it comes to evaluating how we test, the data we collect, and how we use it. “Big data is very popular,” she says. “People like the idea of making objective decisions that are data-driven, but if you’re going to put so much emphasis on data, you have to be sure that the data you’re choosing is good. And you have to be very clear about admitting its limitations…The psychometricians, the people that build these tests, are really great scientists, some of them, and they didn’t mean for the tests to be attached to all these consequences.”

By digging in with the individuals who create the tests and the testing policies, Kamentez manages to humanize a subject that’s dry and wonky by nature. We’re reminded, for example, that the architects of No Child Left Behind had good intentions. Indeed, it’s easy to forget the bipartisan support the policy garnered early on because of its goal of decreasing the achievement gap between black and white students. Asking states to break down test data by subgroups such as race was intended to make it harder for struggling kids to fall through the cracks.

“This was a way of saying we care about their performance and we’re not going to hide it behind the average for a school,” Kamenetz says. “This country has high levels of inequality, persistent levels of poverty, and a really painful racial past that is at the forefront of lot of people’s minds right now. The promise that we could address those problems by improving educational services, that somehow whatever happens between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. on a school day is going to erase the legacy of poverty, the legacy of racism in this country—that is something that is very seductive to a really wide range of people.”

Alas, as I witnessed with Ashton and his peers in Room 202, good intentions can be distorted. Because test scores can result in grown-up consequences like school closures, layoffs and budget cuts, my students were forced to sit through ‘teach-to-the-test’ styled lectures and forgo the excitement of a new school year. And it’s not just schedules that are getting reshuffled in the name of the tests, budgets are being reworked as well. At my school, students had to take additional district assessments three times a year, and since there weren’t enough computers, the middle-school kids were bused to a nearby computer center at a cost of $17,900—money that could have been put toward an arts program or a part-time social worker. It’s just a small illustration of how a test-centric model can skew priorities and lead to kids missing out or even still slipping through the cracks.

The Test couldn’t be coming out at a more critical time for public education. The book’s release was originally pegged to the fact that 44 states will be taking Common Core-aligned “accountability tests” this spring. (These more-rigorous new exams are expected to result in proficiency drops that have been dubbed the “Common Core Cliff.”) But the bigger news is that Congress is looking to reauthorize No Child Left Behind and loosen some of its restrictions—it could, for example, eliminate the mandatory state testing requirement at the crux of the 2001 policy. How this will fit in with Common Core is anyone’s guess, but mere talk of such a bill is already reviving debate around testing and accountability.

While it’s difficult at this point to imagine a world without standardized tests—even people who decry overtesting tend to use poor test scores as evidence of why teaching to the test is ineffective (talk about meta)—Kamenetz points to her 2010 book, DIY U, which looks at the rapid transformation of higher education. “One of the reasons I feel hopeful is the enormous amount of attention that’s starting to be given to what are called social and emotional skills or mindsets, what I call ‘Team Monkey’ in the book,” she told me. “It sometimes seems in education, especially K-12, that nothing ever really changes because we are still having the same debates that were having 150 years ago about poor kids, about opportunity and all these types of things, but things can change pretty quickly.”

How, in a mere 30 years, we became a nation obsessed with standardized tests could be a good example of that.

View original:  

Is There Any Relief in Sight for Our Overtested Kids?

Posted in alo, Anchor, Everyone, FF, GE, LG, ONA, Oster, Prepara, Radius, Uncategorized, Venta | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Is There Any Relief in Sight for Our Overtested Kids?

3 New Summer Songs Picked By Critic Jon Young

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>

1. “Is What It Is”

From She Keeps Bees’ Eight Houses


Liner notes: Smokey and languid, Jessica Larrabee croons defiantly, “Be not completely consumed/Do not surrender,” on this hazy ballad, with kindred spirit Sharon Van Etten singing backup.

Behind the music: Larrabee fronted the Philadelphia band the English System before teaming with drummer Andy LaPlant to form the Brooklyn-based duo.

Check it out if you like: Moody chanteuses (Cat Power, Angel Olsen, PJ Harvey).

2. “Pressure”

From My Brightest Diamond’s This Is My Hand


Liner notes: The fourth MBD album gets off to a rousing start with this joyful brew of marching-band rhythms, xylophone, brass, and Shara Worden’s big, operatic voice.

Behind the music: An alumna of Sufjan Stevens’ band, Worden’s résumé includes collaborations with David Byrne, Matthew Barney, the Blind Boys of Alabama, and the Decemberists.

Check it out if you like: Brainy art-poppers, meaning St. Vincent, tUnE-yArDs, or Joanna Newsom.

3. “To Turn You On”

From Robyn Hitchcock’s The Man Upstairs


Yep Roc

Liner notes: Hitchcock gives Bryan Ferry’s morose love song a charming, irony-free makeover, setting his surprisingly tender vocal to a delicate chamber-folk arrangement.

Behind the music: The former Soft Boys leader teamed with producer Joe Boyd (Fairport Convention, Anna and Kate McGarrigle) for this vibrant mix of originals and covers (Doors, Psychedelic Furs).

Check it out if you like: Vital vets like Richard Thompson and Marshall Crenshaw.

Originally posted here:

3 New Summer Songs Picked By Critic Jon Young

Posted in Anchor, FF, GE, LAI, LG, ONA, PUR, Radius, Uncategorized, Venta | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on 3 New Summer Songs Picked By Critic Jon Young

Music Review: Sharon Van Etten’s "I Know"

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>


“I Know”

From Sharon Van Etten’s Are We There


Liner notes: Paring her confessional chamber pop to just voice and piano, Van Etten delivers a harrowing lament: “You see me turn around and try to hide my sigh…Then you disappear because you can’t fight fear.”

Behind the music: Are We There is the fourth album from Van Etten, who has recorded with the National, Shearwater, and the Antlers—not including her appearance on a John Denver tribute CD.

Check it out if you like: Intense folks like Angel Olsen, Cat Power, and Alela Diane.

This review first appeared in the May/June issue of Mother Jones.

See original:

Music Review: Sharon Van Etten’s "I Know"

Posted in Anchor, FF, GE, LAI, LG, ONA, Radius, Uncategorized, Venta | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Music Review: Sharon Van Etten’s "I Know"

Fast Tracks: "Longer Than You’ve Been Alive" by Old 97’s

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>

“Longer Than You’ve Been Alive”
From Old 97’s’ Most Messed Up

Liner notes: A master of playing unreliable narrators, frontman Rhett Miller opts for witty sincerity on this spirited celebration of a life in music: “Most of our shows were a triumph of rock/Although some nights I might have been checking the clock.”

Behind the music: Still vital after two decades, the alt-country mainstays scored outlaw-country cred last year via the release of two tracks recorded with Waylon Jennings way back in ’96.

Check it out if you like: Americana wits Robbie Fulks and Bobby Bare, Jr.

Excerpt from: 

Fast Tracks: "Longer Than You’ve Been Alive" by Old 97’s

Posted in Anchor, FF, GE, LG, ONA, Radius, Sterling, Uncategorized, Venta, Vintage | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Fast Tracks: "Longer Than You’ve Been Alive" by Old 97’s

Energy for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines


Posted in W. W. Norton & Company | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Energy for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines