Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Military Food

After listening to a recent 99% invisible podcast, I was astonished to find the amount of "regular" food that was "invented by the military" for soldiers on long tours of duty.

As de Salcedo puts it,
although most people don’t realize it, the U.S. military spearheaded the invention of energy bars, restructured meat, extended-life bread, instant coffee, and much more. But there’s been an insidious mission creep: because the military enlisted industry—huge corporations such as ADM, ConAgra, General Mills, Hershey, Hormel, Mars, Nabisco, Reynolds, Smithfield, Swift, Tyson, and Unilever—to help develop and manufacture food for soldiers on the front line, over the years combat rations, or the key technologies used in engineering them, have ended up dominating grocery store shelves and refrigerator cases. TV dinners, the cheese powder in snack foods, cling wrap . . . The list is almost endless
Apparently, 70% of US diet is now composed of processed food.

 The potential list of military inventions in food include salted meat, canning, Goldfish, granola bars, juice pouches, MacNCheese, Cheetos, McRibs, microwave oven, etc.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Universities, Safe-Spaces and Free-Speech

1. Nicholas Kristof's excellent piece in the NYT
This is sensitivity but also intolerance, and it is disproportionately an instinct on the left.
2. The reception of Maryam Namazie (also contains video)

The bullying of Namazie by members of ISOC was disgraceful. I saw the whole video, with the hope of actually finding something she said that truly qualified as Islamophobic - I was disappointed.

If somebody in a party, points out that there is food on your chin (or that your zipper is open), you can (i)  cry that somebody hurt your feelings in public, (ii) deny the uncomfortable fact with arguments (that's really a green mole), or (iii) acknowledge the merit of the claim, and take corrective action as appropriate.

The actual story has an interesting twist.

3. On the need to listen to facts and arguments that make us uncomfortable (NYT).
Consider, for example, the infamous case of Laura Kipnis, a professor of film at Northwestern University. In February, she published an essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education lamenting a supposed culture of sexual panic on campus. Writing in response to a student-requested administrative ban on student-faculty relationships, Kipnis argued that such relationships were not inherently destructive or exploitative. She further argued that the common contemporary perception that colleges are sites of mass sexual exploitation is indicative of a new Victorian take on the sexual lives of young adults. While making her case, Kipnis presented a not entirely sympathetic summary of a complaint of unwanted sexual interest that had been made by a Northwestern undergraduate against a philosophy professor. In response, students held a protest, some of them carrying mattresses, calling for formal censure of Kipnis. Worse, multiple Title IX complaints were filed against Kipnis, claiming that her essay had created a ‘‘chilling effect’’ that prevented students from feeling safe to pursue claims of sexual harassment or abuse. Incredibly, another university employee who attended Kipnis’s Title IX hearings in her support also had Title IX charges filed against him. Kipnis was initially unable to even know the names of her accusers.
4. Steve Handel on how not to grow as a person
We’ve reached a point where “safe spaces” aren’t just protecting weak and vulnerable people, but creating them and perpetuating them.

When you think about it, “safe space” is just another word for “comfort zone.”
If you’ve ever read anything about self improvement, you’ve probably seen advice about getting out of your “comfort zone,” trying new things, taking risks, and putting yourself out there. 
To grow as a person is often the result of going outside of your “comfort zone.” When we push our boundaries, and not cling to them, is when we truly find opportunities to learn and improve ourselves.
5. Jonathan Haidt "The Yale problem begins in High-School"
Me: What kind of intellectual climate do you want here at Centerville? Would you rather have option A: a school where people with views you find offensive keep their mouths shut, or B: a school where everyone feels that they can speak up in class discussions?
Audience: All hands go up for B. 
Me: OK, let’s see if you have that. When there is a class discussion about gender issues, do you feel free to speak up and say what you are thinking? Or do you feel that you are walking on eggshells and you must heavily censor yourself? Just the girls in the class, raise your hand if you feel you can speak up? [about 70% said they feel free, vs about 10% who said eggshells ]. Now just the boys? [about 80% said eggshells, nobody said they feel free]. 
Me: Now let’s try it for race. When a topic related to race comes up in class, do you feel free to speak up and say what you are thinking, or do you feel that you are walking on eggshells and you must heavily censor yourself? Just the non-white students? [the group was around 30% non-white, mostly South and East Asians, and some African Americans. A majority said they felt free to speak, although a large minority said eggshells] Now just the white students? [A large majority said eggshells]

Redefining Academic Success

Raul Pacheco-Vega writes a thoughtful essay on what it means to be successful in an academic career:
Let’s redefine success in academia not only based on books, book articles, chapters, but on what is really relevant to us. [...] I’m doing what I love and getting paid for it. And I am spending time with my parents, my friends and my loved ones. 
To me, that’s success.