Wednesday, August 22, 2018

For the Love of Maps

The Star Map from Jordan shows the sky at the center of the Universe.
I just love maps. They bring back cherished memories or they remind me of trips I'd like to take. Some are abstract concepts depicting places of which I can only dream others are concrete places I can't imagine. There is a new project spearheaded at the University of Chicago that purports to include maps from all corners of the earth and beyond--even to the spirit world.

According to Open Culture, "The project includes non-Western and pre-medieval maps, presenting itself as 'the first serious global attempt' to describe the cartography of African, American, Arctic, Asian, Australian, and Pacific societies as well as European. In so doing, it illuminates many of those 'obscure origins.'"

The heart of the world
Old maps show us how people used to view their surroundings, which some may find funny or disturbing, while modern maps represent what is real or true. The ancients interpreted what they thought they knew or what they could imagine. I wonder what our ancestors will think of our map making, both of thge physical and mental realms?

To own a cartography of this size would cost you a ridiculous amount of money for the six volumes, but now you can see all the history of world charting in one place on the internet.  Where do you want to go? What map would you like to see? What places would you chart?

Here's the index and its related links:

Volume 1

Gallery of Color Illustrations

Volume 2: Part 1

Gallery of Color Illustrations (Plates 1–24)
Gallery of Color Illustrations (Plates 25–40)

Volume 2: Part 2

Gallery of Color Illustrations (Plates 1–16)
Gallery of Color Illustrations (Plates 17–40)

Volume 2: Part 3

Gallery of Color Illustrations (Plates 1–8)
Gallery of Color Illustrations (Plates 9 –24)

Volume 3: Part 1

Gallery of Color Illustrations (Plates 1–24)
Gallery of Color Illustrations (Plates 25–40)

Volume 3: Part 2

Gallery of Color Illustrations (Plates 41–56)
Gallery of Color Illustrations (Plates 57–80)

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Up the down staircase with M.C. Escher

I know there has been a lot of news about the pitfalls of the internet and social media lately, but digital art collections is one thing that the internet is good for . The Boston Public library has digitized dozens of M.C. Escher prints and put them online for everyone to see.

If you don't know the works of M.C. Escher he definitely inspired the grand staircase in the Harry Potter films.

Escher was born in the Netherlands in 1898 and he produced many prints featured on album covers and films. His works encourages viewers to get lost in his art's myriad three dimensional spaces where the gravity connection doesn't seem to work they way science says it should.

Escher was interested in the sciences, but his "fame spread outside of the sciences in part through the interests of the counterculture. He may have shrugged off mystical and psychedelic readings of his prints, but he had an innate penchant for the marvelously weird."

So Escher started as a pop artist icon and is now seen as a fine artist. Can you think of popular artists today that might be labelled as fine artists in the future?

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Advertisements from the Past

It seems advertising has been around as long as people. I can imagine ads scrawled into the walls of Pompeii for the "Best Sandals" or "Fish Sauce." Commercials are all over television, and with its decline, they are all over YouTube and even in movie theaters, but what did they look like in your grandparents day? Let's take a look at a few.

Got a headache? How about the latest cure, Opium (with 46 percent alcohol). That will knock it out for good, and if you take too much, it will knock you out permanently.

"Opium was widely available in the 19th century, sold by barbers, tobacconists and stationers. Writers including Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Charles Dickens all used the drug, for pleasure or as medicine."

There are many Victorian novels that feature the evils of the opium den. Sherlock Holmes, that inveterate purveyor of cocaine, often had to rescue recalcitrant clients from the opium dens found in the China town.

Let's take a look at Chesterfield cigarettes. According to the company, doctors say there are "no adverse effects to the nose, throat, or sinuses." I guess they hadn't discovered cancer yet. Wrong. They had, but this is big tobacco at work.

A great show to see this kind of media manipulation at work is Mad Men. It's set at an advertising firm in the late 1950s, early 1960s and they do a whole show on advertising Lucky Strike cigarettes where the owners of the tobacco company insist that cigarettes are good for you.

Speaking of cigarettes...

Asthma Cigarettes, really? These beauties will relieve your "paroxysms of asthma." Somehow I doubt it.

There are also ads for bourbon and scotch toothpaste.

There are even advertisements for aspirin with heroin when you really want to kill your headache (excuse the pun).

DDT had a jingle, "D-D-T is good for meeee!"

At Christmas time, Colt said "Get Mother what she really wants for Christmas - a Colt" featuring a housewife wielding a Colt-45 in front of a Christmas tree. You better like your presents this year!

But the prize for the worst taste in advertisements? The blind, Stevie Wonder, selling Ataris! I mean, c'mon.

Are these things even around anymore? If they are they should just go out of business for being this insensitive. Maybe it's just that we are more sensitive to the feelings of others today, or maybe everyone in history is crazy.

Hmmm....what will your children think of us? Will we look crazy?

What ads do you see on television, YouTube, or Hulu that we might find distasteful or insensitive in the future?

What products do we advertise today that we might look back with embarrassment in twenty or thirty years?

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Nobody knows China, not even the Chinese

How many people are there in China? What's the GDP of China? How does Chinese education compare to other nations? What are the crime statistics in China? These are just some of the questions that James Palmer at Foreign Policy examined in a recent article.

Take GDP (gross domestic product) for example. Officials in the Chinese government inflate these numbers because their status, or success rate, is measured by this number. Complicating this further is the fact that the people who report the numbers are the people who benefit career-wise from these numbers. Even harder to judge are Chinese economic recovery numbers because bad economic figures are often glossed over before a recovery occurs.

What about population? China doesn't even know what their population is because "rural counties are incentivized to overreport population to receive more benefits from higher levels of government, while city districts report lower figures to hit population control targets." Beijing, for example, reports 21.7 million people, but that number may be as high as 30 to 35 million.

We don't know anything about Chinese politics. You don't see tell-all books by officials outlining corruption or political practices the way we fill Barnes & Noble's clearance bins here in the United States. Are all those arrested by the government really "corrupt, lascivious, and treacherous", or just political rivals of President Xi?

We don't know about Chinese schools because the academic measures are limited to districts that perform well. For example, "the much-quoted statistics provided by the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) that placed China first in the world were taken from the study of a small group of elite Shanghai schools. As soon as that was expanded merely to Beijing — another metropolis — and two rich provinces, the results dropped sharply." Many say that Beijing High School No. 4 is a "typical Chinese high school" when, in fact, it is often compared to Eton.

We don't know true crime figures, pollution figures, clean water figures, re-education camp figures, terrorism figures . . . in other words, we don't know much.

Sources of Chinese information "always a thin stream, have dried up almost entirely under an increasingly tight censorship regime of the last few years. Social media platform Weibo was once a limited window into provincial complaints and scandals; it is now massively censored. Private messaging groups on WeChat, an all-conquering messaging service, replaced it; last year, they were massively censored in turn."

In the U.S. we seem to have the opposite problem. There is so much information that the government has access to and gathers indiscriminately (think Facebook, secret FISA courts, and warrentless data collection) that it seems impossible to manage, except selectively - and hopefully you aren't one of those selected.

What do you think about data collection in China and the United States?

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Writing a Rhetorical Critique

The first time you write a rhetorical analysis, it may seem almost impossible, but there are some basic steps to help make it a bit easier.

Take a moment and watch the video. It has lots of good tips and strategies for writing a rhetorical analysis.

When you start your essay, you need to introduce the writer, subject, audience purpose, and occasion just like you would any time you introduce one person to another.

For example, if you were at a BBQ you might say something like, "This is Professor David Whalen, Provost of Hillsdale College, a Liberal Arts school, and we were just talking about an online essay he wrote in response to G.W. Thielman. Thielman published an article stating that colleges and universities should favor STEM education over the Liberal Arts. If you are someone who believes in the Liberal Arts, or in STEM, or anyone who ever has an argument, you would probably be interested in what he has to say." That statement introduces the writer, subject, audience, purpose and occasion.

For the subject, you would then move on to a summary of the article.

Then you move into the meat of your paper - the analysis.

Here's a short example from Whalen's article:
"The economic, political and social consequences of this or that kind of education, the cost of investment in disciplines given to self-indulgent theorizing, the needs impressed upon us by technological developments, military conditions and social necessities--all these matters matter, and all their arguments count."
When looking at this paragraph, we can see ethos, pathos, and logos at work.

Ethos - credibility. How is the author exhibiting his credibility? We know he is not just a professor, but the provost of a Liberal Arts college, so he knows what he's talking about like a doctor or a judge. He also acknowledges one of the flaws with the current liberal arts, when he refers to them as "self-indulgent theorizing"--an ethical arguer fairly presents the limitations of his claim. He shows some expertise in his use of the English language through alliteration "matters matter" to add emphasis to the idea that all arguments count.

Logos - logic. This one is pretty simple. He begins by saying all types of education are valid including STEM and the Liberal Arts because all their consequences are important ("all theses matters matter") and everyone needs to be able to form proper arguments ("all arguments count"). First you need to be educated in argument, then you can engage in a proper line of reasoning to come to a valid conclusion.

Pathos - emotion. Lots to work with here. Let's examine some vocabulary: "consequences," "cost of investment," "needs," "technological developments," "military conditions," "impressed upon us," all strike a chord of fear or imminent disaster. We have to deal with this problem right now or we may have bigger problems. On the other hand, you have "this or that kind of education," and "self-indulgent theorizing" which are both flippant. We can have either kind of education - implying that they are equal - one is not better than the other. He also says the Liberal Arts has degraded to a bit of "self-indulgence," but it still serves a purpose.

Look carefully at these three paragraphs. There is a description of what the quote says followed by analysis of what the quote does through ethos, pathos, and logos. You must do this in your own analysis. First you tell your reader what the author is saying and then you tell your reader what the author has done with ethos, pathos, or logos.

Do you think you will pay more attention to how someone is saying or writing something after writing this paper? Do you think you will be better able to form your own arguments after doing a rhetorical analysis? Why or why not?

Monday, November 13, 2017

Tourists through Time

Have you ever thought about where the ancients went on vacation? Jude Knight over at English Historical Fiction has and its surprising where the first tourists with the time and money went for fun and adventure.

People began touring as soon as there was some place to go. From Egypt to Mesopotamia people began to travel just to see new things like the latest pyramid or temple.

Romans set up beach resorts, the rich headed up to the cooler northern climes to escape the summer heat and everyone traveled to the big city to see the sights.

In Medieval Europe, pilgrimages became all the rage and these took on a religious fervor and devotion. Everyone wanted to see the holy land - and these trips could last for months, if not years. Accommodations could be found at local inns or abbeys and, rumor has it, that the Knights Templar acted as a security force for devout travellers.

Once in Jerusalem you could purchase a holy relic or even something more permanent, like a tattoo. Rozzouk Tattoo has been servicing Christian pilgrims since 1300 in the old city.

Beginning in the Renaissance, people of wealth and privilege have been making the grand tour. This was usually conducted by young men after they had completed their schooling and, again, these tours could last for months. Young women, on the other hand, might find themselves in Paris or London under chaperone for a shorter period of time.

After the Napoleonic Wars tourism took off. "The English flooded out across Europe, in a tourist boom that gathered pace and continued until the First World War. From England alone, the volume of travel grew from 10,000 in 1814 to 250,000 in 1860, to one million in 1911."

Today, we travel everywhere. No longer bound by cart, ship or foot, we can hop into the nearest plane (after a long line in your local airport) and go anywhere in the world in less than 24 hours. Where would you like to go in the future? What kind of adventures are in store for you?

Monday, November 6, 2017

Google's Free Photo Editing Software is Really Free

Google's photo editing software 'Nik' is now free to download. "Previously priced at $149, the now-free software gives users access to 'seven desktop plug-ins that provide a powerful range of photo editing capabilities -- from filter applications that improve color correction, to retouching and creative effects,'" says Open Culture.

I'm sure you're wondering what photo editing has to do with this blog, well, maybe not, because you should know how much I like visuals, and since we often write about visuals I wanted to offer you the Nik program if/when you need to do a comparative analysis.

When looking at these two separate photos, what are the subjects of these iconic scenes? Sex, adventure, science fiction, body image?

If you had to choose a second photo in order to do a comparison, what subject would you choose?

Who or what would you compare with Marilyn Monroe?

What kind of a photo would you look for to compare with ET against a blue moon?

The subjects in both photos are pop culture icons? What other photo documentary subjects would you like to study? War? News? Societal issues?

Think about any two photos on the same subject or the same event, what would you look for? This may be the basis for your next essay.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

What do you know about your school?

What happens to students at Diablo Valley College?

First, let's look at some statistics from 2013:

DVC has a total enrollment of 20,286 students - 52 percent were women, 48 percent were men.

DVC is pretty ethnically diverse. While 44 percent of students were white, 22% of students were Latino, 15 percent Asian, and six percent were African American. Minority enrollment is 64 percent of the total student body.

Most students at DVC (64 percent) are between the ages of 18-24, while 32 percent were between the ages of 25 to 64.

Scholarships or grant awards are received by one-third of students totaling about $2,477.

DVC costs $1,288 for in-state residents, while out-of-state students pay $7,925 - that's a 515% increase (2015/2016) - that's a topic for another post.

"The total tuition and living expense budget for in-state California residents to go to DVC is $19,750 for the 2015/2016 academic year. Out-of-state students who don't have California residence can expect a one year cost of $26,386. Students residing at home with parents providing food and housing should budget a total cost of $7,386."

DVC offers over 40 areas of study . . .

So where will you end up?

The latest statistics on this are from 2009/2010. The most popular destination was California State University, East Bay with 287 transfers. Berkeley was next with 240 transfers. San Francisco State University accepted 198 DVC transfers, while the University of California, Davis was the destination for 172. Many others went to other CSUs or UCs.

So once you get accepted to that school of your dreams what exactly do you want to do? Before you answer that question, go the The Bureau of Labor Statistics and look up the wage data for that occupation.

So where do you want to complete your studies and what is your major? Do you feel that the costs you will have to pay to get to your occupation are worth it? Is there a cheaper way to accomplish your career goals?

Farewell Cassini

One of Saturn's moons above its rings against star-lit space.
If you like science and dream of exploring the stars or going into space one day, then you are probably aware of the Cassini mission. The probe recently took its last photo just as it entered the Venus atmosphere, but before the camera faded to black it took many beautiful photos.

If you are not science buff, "Cassini-Huygens is one of the most ambitious missions NASA ever launched into space. Loaded with an array of powerful instruments and cameras, the spacecraft is capable of taking accurate measurements and detailed images in a variety of atmospheric conditions and light spectra."

Cassini reached Saturn in July 2004 and has been dubbed one of the most successful of NASA's many missions. It's "scripted death dive" occurred on September 15, 2017.

What are some of the missions biggest discoveries?

One of its moons, Enceladus, shows evidence of water-based ice and a subsurface ocean leading to speculation about the presence of life.

Another moon, Titan, has earth-like rain, rivers, lakes and seas - although it is liquid methane, not water. I wonder what kind of being would live on a methane planet?

The rings are a laboratory for how planets are formed, colliding and separating. Scientists even think they witnessed the birth of a new moon.

But it's the pictures - those close up and personal pictures of a planet in our solar system that attract a lot of attention. They are just beautiful.

Do you want to visit another planet someday? Have you visited the planetarium on campus? Do you think people will be living on other planets in your lifetime?

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Roman Roads Visualized on Subway Grid

I love maps. Ever since I was a kid, I would stare at them and think about what places like Copperopolis, Toad Suck, and Santa Claus look like. I mean does Santa live in Santa Claus, Indiana? I think not, but he probably doesn't live in Chicken, Alaska either....and somehow that brings me to Roman roads visualized as a subway map.

Here's the great thing about this project it was done by a college student just like you. Well, not exactly like you, but Sasha Trubetskoy is an undergrad at U. Chicago, and he created a "subway-style diagram of the major Roman roads, based on the Empire of ca. 125 AD."

Open Culture has provided a few links to larger maps for your viewing pleasure.

Trubetskov says "no sane Roman would use only roads where sea travel is available. Sailing was much cheaper and faster – a combination of horse and sailboat would get you from Rome to Byzantium in about 25 days, Rome to Carthage in 4-5 days." He also notes that money and time of year were big factors in scheduling a Roman road trip.

He did take some "liberties" with his maps leaving out some cities and minor roads.

Do you like maps? Do you want to travel back in time over some of the world's oldest roads? Can you see how this occupation (cartography) combines science and art? STEAM vs STEM?  How can you combine your hobby or something you do without anyone asking and a career? Is this wise or do you think it might lead to burn out?

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Cleaning up ocean trash

Everyday we read and see how the oceans are being overrun by trash and plastics. Animals are dying, people are surfing through garbage, and our coastlines are becoming waste dumps. Everybody gripes about plastics in the ocean, but does anybody do anything?

If Boyan Slat, a 22-year old college drop out, gets his way we will soon see a fleet of floating ocean trash collectors. "'We let the plastic come to us,' he says. The group hopes to eventually finance the operation by recycling the plastic and selling it as a branded product or raw material." Once the plastic arrives at the drifting garbage tank, it is funneled towards a central tank and then picked up monthly by ships.

But his critics believe that it is a waste of effort and too much money for something that in "10 to 20 years" will disappear.
They also list "technical limitations and concerns such as harm to marine life. 'It’s not the best solution,' says Marcus Eriksen of the ocean nonprofit The 5 Gyres Institute, based in Los Angeles, California. 'In fact, it’s a distraction from the work going on upstream.' Most environmental groups working on ocean pollution focus on reducing the amount of plastic that enters the ocean, and, ultimately, what Eriksen calls 'the heavy lift of ending the one-time, throwaway culture.'
But what about all that plastic floating around out there? I mean there's supposed to be a continent of plastic out there somewhere. It seems like a long shot to think that we are just going to stop using plastics, considering they are in everything we use. How do we reduce the plastic going into the ocean when the world seems like it can't agree on anything. Can't we collect and dispose of the trash at the same time that we look at reducing our use of plastic? What do you think?

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Criticizing with kindness

Can you be kind to your critics? You betcha...and it is especially important if you want them to listen to you, and if you want your readers to take you seriously.

If  you write counterarguments that are weak or insubstantial, all the better to dismiss them and lose ethos to boot. This is especially true if your readers are passionate about your subject.

Somewhere along the way you have to take on, and tackle, the strongest counterargument you can think of - and that can be difficult.

Daniel Dennett, one of today's best modern philosophers, asks "Just how charitable are you supposed to be when criticizing the views of an opponent?”

Here's his answer, word-for-word:
"How to compose a successful critical commentary: 
"1. You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, 'Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.' 
"2. You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement). 
"3. You should mention anything you have learned from your target. 
"4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism."
This strategy builds ethos, pathos, and logos when formulating counterarguments. Ethos by being able to re-express your opponents position plainly (you are fair). In addition, when you can show that there are points of agreement you are building ethos (again, you are fair), but this also expresses pathos since we all want to get along somehow.

You can accomplish logos by expressing the logical outcome you gained from your opponent's position (what you learned). That sometimes seems to be the sticking point for new college writer's, how can I validate the claim I am supposed to be arguing against? You don't have to validate all of it, just some of it. At times, you may not be able to validate any of it, but if you look like you can reach some kind of common ground that makes you look reasonable (again, more ethos).

So thinking of your own counterargument, how can you adopt this formula?