Software developer, cyclist, photographer, hiker, reader.I work for the Library of Congress but all opinions are my own.Email:
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Color Pattern

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♫ When the spacing is tight / And the difference is slight / That's a moiré ♫
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15 hours ago
see also:
Mountain View, California
17 hours ago
hee hee
Earth, Sol system, Western spiral arm
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17 hours ago
This just made me realize WaveNet/Deep Voice could be used to match regular sentences to the cadence of a library of pop songs. This would have no practical use, but it would mean you could pick out pairs of sentences from a speech and sing them all to well known pop songs.
13 hours ago
That would be fun. Certain things are well known, like the fact that you can sing almost any Emily Dickinson poem to the tune of Yellow Rose of Texas or the Gilligan's Island theme, but expanding the canon would be great.
17 hours ago
Atlanta, GA
18 hours ago
♫ When the spacing is tight / And the difference is slight / That's a moiré ♫

Oklahoma state senator to resign after child prostitution charges

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(Reuters) - An Oklahoma state senator charged with hiring a teenage boy as a prostitute intends to resign as a lawmaker by Wednesday, the senator's lawyer said on Tuesday.
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San Diego, CA, USA
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Overland Park, KS
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6 hours ago
Proponent of family values, Trump campaign state leader, anti-choice advocate and fearless protector of Oklahoma's bathrooms from the scourge of peeing transpeople.
Washington, DC

The Fiscal Unsustainability Of Sprawl

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Almost a year ago, I described how Omaha, Nebraska was turning some of its paved roads back to gravel:

I bear no ill will towards Omaha: I used to have relatives there, and visited often many moons ago. But much of the growth in Omaha, even though it is a city, is exactly like that of a suburb. So you’ll never believe what happened next! (boldface mine)

It’s a model of comfortable mid-American living, with one unusual exception: thanks to a quirk in how Omaha developed, about 300 miles of streets in these nice neighborhoods are pitted with potholes almost big enough to swallow an SUV.

The bad roads have been both an anomaly and a source of complaints for years. But recently, they’ve become the center of a mini-crisis after local officials began dispatching crews to tear up the asphalt in the neighborhoods and turn the streets back into dirt roads, much like what existed in the city’s frontier days…

Nearly every U.S. city faces a backlog of needed roadwork as streets built decades ago wear out, but the situation is especially vexing in Omaha, a sprawling city of 435,000 people with 4,800 miles of road and not enough tax revenue to maintain them.

Decades ago, a number of developers sought permission to lay down asphalt roads, rather than longer-lasting concrete, in several sections in the middle of town, and to skip installing curbs and gutters preferred by the city. The city agreed, with the understanding that homeowners be responsible for occasional repaving. Some substandard roads also were in areas once outside the city but that were later annexed.

For years, the arrangement held up. But as the roads began to age and crumble, and as new residents replaced the original homeowners, resentment intensified about a city government that maintained some neighborhoods while ignoring others.

“It’s a matter of fairness,” said Omaha streets superintendent Austin Rowser. “Some property owners paid for better streets and a minority didn’t.”

He added that the city simply can’t afford the roughly $300 million bill to fix all the substandard streets.

That doesn’t fly with residents who say that dirt roads or crumbling pavement are unworthy of a well-off community with a growing population, a tiny unemployment rate and four Fortune 500 companies

According to urban planners, the dispute is a case study in how short-term deals that cities make about seemingly minor issues can backfire when the cities and circumstances change.

I’ll say. Keep in mind, Omaha is a reasonably prosperous city in a low-cost state. And it still can’t afford the current costs of road maintenance. What chance do less affluent areas have?

By the way, how do you think those property values are doing along those dirt roads…

Well, the New York Times finally got around to covering this, but they portrayed as an example of ‘urban’ decay. That’s ridiculous as this part of Omaha has a suburban density–as is the case with many cities that sprawl as much as some suburbs do. Because this is exactly what happened in too many suburbs:

Omaha’s most problematic streets were mostly built by developers decades ago who skimped on costs by paving with asphalt instead of concrete, and by forgoing sidewalks and sewers. In other cases, Omaha annexed suburban-looking neighborhoods with roads not built to city standards.

They are not ‘suburban looking’, they are suburban density. Which means they are fiscally unsustainable:

Something that’s lurking in the background of the U.S. economy, and which will erupt with a fury in ten years or so is the need to replace suburban infrastructure: underground wires, pipes, and so on. This is something new that most suburbs, unlike cities, haven’t had to confront. A suburb that was built in 1970 is long in the tooth today, and time only makes things worse. No suburbs that I’m aware of ever decided to amortize the future cost of repairs over a forty year period–that would require an increase in property taxes. In fact, many suburbs never even covered the expenses of building new subdivisions, never mind worried about expenses decades down the road.

Worse, there’s a tax base problem. That is, the value of property per unit of infrastructure (e.g., the property tax base per square foot of water main) is much lower in the suburbs than it is in cities. Relatives who live in a wealthy suburb close to D.C. (homes go for $900,000 give or take) are in a subdivision with about 40 homes on 25 acres, with a rough property value of $45 million. In D.C., I live in a building assessed at a little over $50 million that covers a quarter of an acre (the population of these two groups is about the same). Once suburbs start having to repair their infrastructure, it’s going to get very expensive to live there (and that doesn’t even include the transportation ‘tax’ of suburban living). Keep in mind, the suburban development I’ve described is definitely on the high end of things–many places will be worse off.

…While Paul Krugman’s recent column about urban inequality and gentrification has been lighting up the internet, to a considerable extent, it’s irrelevant. As I’ve discussed before, cities–not metro areas, but actual cities–will never hold but a fraction of the U.S.’s population (though hopefully an increasing fraction). The problem we will face is how to keep suburbs economically viable, both in terms of infrastructure and quality of life. Part of that will have to involve increasing ‘urbanization’ of the suburbs, while other suburbs will be left to decline. But this, not gentrification (which can be reduced with progressive taxation) is a much more difficult problem. Not only will there be resistance by homeowners to changes, but the very, well, infrastructure of the suburbs doesn’t lend itself to increasing density. Very basic and expensive things like altering the road grid (or, more accurately, turning the suburban knot into a grid) will meet a lot of political resistance, even if the funds to do this can be found.

Most people really don’t care about cities, except as a way to discuss their sentiments about those people (never mind that many of those people live in suburban areas). But this looming suburban crisis will hit many people literally where they live. People will have to change, in very fundamental ways, how they live and work. It will be nasty and brutal.

And somehow I think massive tax cuts for the wealthy and for corporations aren’t really going to solve this problem.

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6 hours ago
"Nearly every U.S. city faces a backlog of needed roadwork as streets built decades ago wear out, but the situation is especially vexing in Omaha, a sprawling city of 435,000 people with 4,800 miles of road and not enough tax revenue to maintain them." -- the bigger city down the road from me
Earth, Sol system, Western spiral arm
2 days ago
Providence RI USA
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Water bears can replace all the fluid in their bodies with a glass matrix

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Enlarge / The image shows a scanning electron micrograph of 6 tardigrades in their tun state. When tardigrades dry out they retract their legs and heads within their cuticle, forming these little balls. (credit: Thomas Boothby)

One of the great mysteries of the microscopic animals known as tardigrades is their uncanny ability survive almost anything: extreme heat, extreme cold, desiccation or drying out, and even the vacuum of space. Now, we are a little closer to understanding how they do it. The key, at least for surviving desiccation, is a special protein that tardigrades use to replace the water in their bodies with a form of glass.

Tardigrades are also known as water bears, and they normally live in moist, mossy environments. But when those environments dry up, tardigrades go into a state known as "tun"—it's a kind of suspended animation, which the animals can remain in for up to 10 years. When water begins to flow again, water bears absorb it and return to life.

Tardigrades aren't the only creatures who do this. Brine shrimp and certain kinds of worms can also dry up and come to life again. But what makes tardigrades different is that they use a special kind of disordered protein, unique to these animals, to literally suspend their cells in a glasslike matrix that prevents damage.

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5 days ago
The more we learn about tardigrades, the more awesome they become! This is also an excellent answer to the question of "why fund basic research that's just looking at some tiny animal?" Because you never know what you'll find, and now we may have a method of making vaccines last 1000x longer, or crops that don't just die during a drought! Both will be unfortunately necessary in the coming decades. :-/
Somerville, MA
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Why Has Japan’s Massacre Of Disabled Gone Unnoticed? For Answers, Look To The Past


The Conversation

On July 26, 2016 a man wielding a knife broke into Tsukui Yamayuriena, a home for the disabled outside of Tokyo and brutally murdered 19 people as they slept, while injuring another 26. Afterwards, he turned himself in to a local police station, with the explanation:

“It is better that the disabled disappear.”

Disability advocates have expressed dismay that the massacre – Japan’s deadliest mass killing since World War II – has received so little attention relative to mass killings in Paris, Nice, Orlando, Kabul and Baghdad.

Australian disability activist Carly Findlay wrote,

“There was no hashtag. No public outcry. Not even prayers.”

Disability rights journalist David Perry pointed out the irony that the attack came just one day before the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

This sad coincidence is evidence of an ongoing ambivalence toward people with disabilities. On the one hand, they are increasingly visible – often as sources of inspiration for the able-bodied. And there are many signs of progress, such as recognition of their legal rights and more inclusive schools.

On the other, disabled people continue to face prejudice, social isolation, and violence.

I have spent over 20 years researching and writing about the history and culture of people with disabilities.

My research helps me to see continuities between the tragedy in Japan and the practice of institutionalization which started in the U.S. and Europe, and remained the primary way for managing people with disabilities for over a century. Regrettably, that practice still continues in many parts of the world.

Hiding people who live with disabilities

In Japan there is a deep stigma against those who are unable to work. Indeed, it is still common to institutionalize people with disabilities, intellectual or otherwise, that impede their productivity.

By warehousing people with disabilities, institutions send the message that they need to be segregated and managed. It becomes easy for their differences to be seen as a shameful and frightening secret that happens to other, less worthy people.

In truth, disability is an aspect of ordinary experience that touches all people and all families at some point in the cycle of life.

As disability studies scholar Rosemarie Garland Thomson notes,

“The fact is, most of us will move in and out of disability in our lifetimes, whether we do so through illness, an injury or merely the process of aging.”

Yet, fear of our own vulnerability and of the stigma that accompanies disability leads us to deny this basic truth. It is easier to see the disabled as a faceless population than as individuals who deserve respect, accommodation and opportunities to thrive.

How did we get here?

A look at the past can help us to understand the attitudes toward the disabled we witness today. The history of disability has not been a path of steady progress toward tolerance and accommodation.

James Trent, a professor of sociology and social work at Gordon College, in his 1994 book, “Inventing the Feeble Mind,” describes shifting attitudes toward and treatment of people with disabilities in America since the Colonial era.

According to Trent, in the Colonial and early republican eras, “idiots” – as people with intellectual disabilities were known at the time – were recognized members of their local communities.

But beginning in the 19th century, the rise of modernity put greater emphasis on normality. A good citizen was one who had the ability to be productive and self-reliant. A new class of professionals emerged whose careers were devoted to managing human health and behavior.

By the mid-19th century, these changes had contributed to the identification of “feeblemindedness” as a social problem that needed to be identified and treated. Feeblemindedness was a broad category that included people with intellectual disabilities, but also others who were deemed unproductive or immoral, such as immigrants, people of color and the poor.

It became increasingly common to remove the feebleminded and other people with disabilities from their families and communities and place them in institutions.

Start of institutionalization

Early institutions in the United States were inspired by French educator Edward Seguin, known as the “apostle for the idiots.” He believed that people with intellectual disabilities were capable of learning and development.

Inspired by Seguin’s success, the first American institutions, led by men such as Hervey B. Wilbur, Samuel Gridley Howe and Henry M. Knight, were dedicated to education and uplift. They were intended as a temporary measure to build residents’ skills and moral character, releasing them as productive members of society.

Institutions as places of abuse

Within a few decades, the mission of institutions began to shift from reform to permanent custody of the feebleminded. It was hard to find employment for newly reformed inmates, particularly during periods of economic scarcity.

In the early 20th century, the eugenics movement contributed to prejudice against the feebleminded by proposing that they posed a threat to the purity and strength of the nation’s bloodlines.


Forest Haven, a children’s developmental center and mental institution in Laurel, Maryland, which was shut down in 1991. Jack Says RelaxCC BY-NC-ND

Institutions addressed these concerns by hiding the “undesirables” from view. They also controlled their ability to reproduce through segregation and, in some cases, compulsory sterilization.

Where once institutions had prioritized education and care, their mission shifted to social management. They became overcrowded, and residents were subjected to abuse and neglect.

Sometimes the “feebleminded” were used in medical experiments. Without their consent, they were exposed to pathogens for diseases such as hepatitis, gonnorhea and flu.

Change is hard in many countries

By the mid-20th century, the rise of a parents’ movement and a series of damning journalistic exposes of facilities like Willowbrook State School and Letchworth Village began to roll back the practice of institutionalization.

Once again, people with disabilities would be included in family, education and workplaces.

Thanks to such efforts, in the United States today people with disabilities often live within their own communities, although many of the problems introduced by institutional culture persist – albeit in different forms.

For example, people with disabilities can still be segregated into sheltered workshops where they are paid below minimum wage for dull and repetitive labor; isolated in special education classrooms and can still face diminished opportunities to work and socialize.

But in many other parts of the world, the practice of institutionalization – and its attendant problems – remains. Media reports have highlighted the appalling conditions and abuse in facilities in Mexico, Russia and Romania.

Impact of institutionalization

The point of noting horrors in other parts of the world is not to exonerate the United States, where people with disabilities still encounter prejudice, exclusion and violence, but to emphasize the lingering culture of institutionalization.

The fear, shame and misunderstanding around disability that we see today are sentiments that persist long after the facilities themselves have closed.

For example, families of those who died at Tsukui Yamayurien chose not to identify their names. I believe it is the logic of institutionalization that motivated their decisions. So great is their shame that the victims’ families would prefer the dead to remain anonymous and unmemorialized than admit to having a disabled relative.

In the United States, this same reasoning lies behind hundreds of thousands of graves marked only with numbers at the cemeteries of former state asylums and hospitals. In recent years, advocates have sought to identify the dead, both to redress past crimes and to insist on the value of disabled lives in the present.

Let’s recognize them as people

On the face of it, the massacre at Tsukui Yamayurien was committed by a single, deranged individual. But his actions belong to the long history of institutionalization.

The practice of warehousing people with disabilities sends a message that they are less than human. Even long after institutions are closed, we continue to treat their former residents as a problem to be managed.

We forget they are individuals whose lives have meaning and value. Their senseless deaths are just as tragically newsworthy and deserving of memorialization as those of all other victims of mass violence.

The ConversationRachel Adams, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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3 days ago
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Spain's female bodyguards who protect abused women

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The story of Ana, a victim of domestic violence, and how an organisation of women bodyguards came to her help.
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