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by Fran on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:46:50 AM EST
Nazi Jet Fighter: The Story of Hitler's 'Miracle Weapon' - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

At the very end of World War II, Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler still hoped that state-of-the-art technology could turn the tide in his favor. One of those projects, the Messerschmitt jet fighter, found a home in a remote corner of eastern Germany. But it was too late.

It took four and a half years, but finally, on March 20, 1944, World War II -- and more specifically, the armaments industry -- came to a remote corner of eastern Germany called the Lausitz. As the Allies flew an ever-increasing number of air raids over Germany's industrial and urban centers, large weapons factories in Nazi Germany began an exhaustive search for suitable places to relocate, sites as inconspicuous and isolated as possible. Indeed, by 1943 Hermann Göring, commander of the Luftwaffe, had already forged plans to relocate the aviation industry to areas the Allies were unlikely to bomb.

by Fran on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:51:40 AM EST
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French, it's rocket science | Presseurop

Irregular verbs, rebellious participles, arbitrary genders - French is a fiendishly difficult language to master, all grammarians agree. And what if its very complexity explained the success of French mathematicians?

There are times when you have to laugh at grammarians. They describe French as a horribly difficult language, full of complicated knots that only a lace maker could pick apart. They make a living out of highlighting everything that is contradictory or uncertain in our beloved Gallic tongue, which is presented as a tissue of nutty expressions, replete with irregular verbs, rebellious participles that refuse to agree, uncontrollable adjectives, singular plurals and outmoded tenses. In short, if you believed their descriptions, you would think that French was a dog's dinner.

Take genders for example. There is no doubt that French genders are completely arbitrary, whereas in Hungarian, there is no such thing as a `masculine' or `feminine' common noun, nor is there in English. Ooh Hungarian! Ooh English! Neuters of the world, come forth and unite! Well all right, there is no intelligent reason for "le bureau" and "la Rose," or "le lys" -- and if that bothers the Magyars, big deal!

by Fran on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:55:19 AM EST
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we have a school system that values maths and science and uses competence in these fields to select the best students - so good students study maths quite intensively, and that creates a larger pool from which those that will actually remain in the field, and continue to study and teach math, can emerge in larger (and better) numbers...

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri May 29th, 2009 at 05:05:57 AM EST
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The Mosuo Matriarchy: 'Men Live Better Where Women Are In Charge' - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

How does a matriarchy really work? Argentinian writer Ricardo Coler decided to find out and spent two months with the Mosuo in southern China. "Women have a different way of dominating," the researcher told SPIEGEL ONLINE.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Coler, you are from Argentina, where macho behavior is not exactly unheard of. What was it like living for two months in the matriarchical society of the Mosuo in China?

Coler: I wanted to know what happened in a society where women determine how things are done. How do women tick when, from birth onwards, their societal position allows them to decide everything? We men know what a man is, we put that together quickly -- but what constitutes a woman? Although, I didn't get any wiser on that point.

by Fran on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 12:02:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
in such a beautiful, relaxing, pleasant place as Lugu-hu.

The Mosuo Matriarchy: 'Men Live Better Where Women Are In Charge' - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What is life like for a man in a matriarchy?

Coler: Men live better where women are in charge: you are responsible for almost nothing, you work much less and you spend the whole day with your friends. You're with a different woman every night. And on top of that, you can always live at your mother's house. The woman serves the man and it happens in a society where she leads the way and has control of the money. In a patriarchy, we men work more -- and every now and then we do the dishes. In the Mosuo's pure form of matriarchy, you aren't allowed to do that. Where a woman's dominant position is secure, those kinds of archaic gender roles don't have any meaning.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What astonished you the most?

Coler: That there is no violence in a matriarchal society. I know that quickly slips into idealization -- every human society has its problems. But it simply doesn't make sense to the Mosuo women to solve conflicts with violence. Because they are in charge, nobody fights. They don't know feelings of guilt or vengeance -- it is simply shameful to fight. They are ashamed if they do and it even can threaten their social standing.


SPIEGEL ONLINE: Are men raised to be incompetent?

Coler: For the Mosuo, women are simply the more effective and reliable gender. However, they do say that the "really big" decisions -- like buying a house or a machine or selling a cow -- are made by the men. Men are good for this kind of decision-making as well as physical labor. The official governmental leader of the village, the mayor, is a man. I walked with him through the village -- nobody greated him or paid him any attention. As a man he doesn't have any authority.


SPIEGEL ONLINE: A paradise of free love, in other words?

Coler: The sexual life of the Mosuo is very distinctive and very active -- partners are changed frequently. But the women decide with whom they want to spend the night. Their living quarters have a main entrance but every adult woman lives in her own small hut. The men live together in a large house. The door of every hut is fitted with a hook and all the men wear hats. When a man visits a woman, he hangs his hat on the hook. That way, everybody knows that this woman has a male visitor. And nobody else knocks on the door. If a woman falls in love, then she receives only the specific man and the man comes only to that woman.

fascinating interview.  last fall i was lucky enough to spend two nights on beautiful Lugu-hu (Lugu Lake) 泸沽湖, where the Mosuo 摩梭 make their home.  this was on a trip to southern Sichuan last October with a Chengdu-based NGO i was volunteering with in Chengdu, China last summer and fall.  predictably, as better roads have been extended into this very deep and hard to reach location, the tourist industry is starting up there, with all the downsides that it usually brings (gift shops, tourist inns, musical performances in traditional garb, etc.)  furthermore, the mystique of the Mosuo as a matriarchal society is very played up, as is that of the "walking marriages" 走婚 whereby a man -- of a woman's choosing -- is invited to walk over to her house, discreetly if not secretly, spend the night in her room (women of a certain age are accorded private rooms, whereas everyone else in the extended family lives in communal quarters), and then head back to his house in the morning.  while of course there is much truth behind the marketing, i felt uneasily confused about how much we were being told was accurate, and how much of it was romantization.

i was told that in fact, while the simple story told to outsiders is that women call all the shots, it is much more complicated than that, and men hold important power behind the scenes.  but i never got much detail on that.  this is what this Argentinean writer appears to be referring to above.

but Lugu-hu is a gorgeous, sensual, almost magical place.  just a pleasure to visit.  i pray it doesn't get completely spoiled by encroaching tourism, commercialization and industrialization.

below are some pictures i took:

Boating across 泸沽湖 Lake Lugu from the Sichuan side to the Yunnan side:

Mosuo children coming home from school:

Mosuo traditional architecture (home of the head lama in that region, if i remember correctly):

At performance of traditional courting dance where young men and women dance together and then line up on opposite sides challenging each other by seeing who can sing more songs -- great fun:

View onto Lugu Lake from high on Goddess Mountain (aka Lion Mountain):

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 04:15:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Great photos, marco!
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri May 29th, 2009 at 02:41:45 AM EST
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Diary! Diary! It's not just personal, I learn fascinating things!

Don't be shy!!

by Nomad (Bjinse) on Fri May 29th, 2009 at 08:51:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Would You Slap Your Father? If So, You're a Liberal | NYTimes.com - Op-Ed Columnist - Nicholas D. Kristof

... Simply exposing people to counterarguments may not accomplish much, he said, and may inflame antagonisms. <...>

The larger point is that liberals and conservatives often form judgments through flash intuitions that aren't a result of a deliberative process. The crucial part of the brain for these judgments is the medial prefrontal cortex, which has more to do with moralizing than with rationality. If you damage your prefrontal cortex, your I.Q. may be unaffected, but you'll have trouble harrumphing.

One of the main divides between left and right is the dependence on different moral values. For liberals, morality derives mostly from fairness and prevention of harm. For conservatives, morality also involves upholding authority and loyalty -- and revulsion at disgust. <...>

So how do we discipline our brains to be more open-minded, more honest, more empirical? A start is to reach out to moderates on the other side -- ideally eating meals with them, for that breaks down "us vs. them" battle lines that seem embedded in us. (In ancient times we divided into tribes; today, into political parties.) The Web site www.civilpolitics.org is an attempt to build this intuitive appreciation for the other side's morality, even if it's not our morality. <...>

Thus persuasion may be most effective when built on human interactions. Gay rights were probably advanced largely by the public's growing awareness of friends and family members who were gay. ...

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 05:12:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
From an email my friend sent me:

Hi, I don't normally use my lists to promote things, but this is worth having a look; reality TV of a different order,  Eion Bailey and his collaborators are film makers, documentarians and activists, trying to make a difference in the world. I met them last summer at the Convergence conference in Iquitos, where I learned about their rather amazing project.  The concept is unique and original; identify a community with a need (e.g., a school, a sanitation system, etc.), put together a group of multitalented folks with requisite skills, and work in collaboration with the community to address and solve the problem, within 10 days! Make a documentary of the project, and that becomes the 'episode' in the series.  I was blown away by their pilot film, with a community in the mountains around the Urubamba valley in Peru.  Now they are on the cusp of selling the program to a major network, and they need our help, both to sell it and to continue this important work. This is reality TV, alright, but of a completely different order than what we associate with that term; self-indulgent, self-preoccupied clueless gringos pretending to rough it in some third world venue.  This project is 180 degrees from that, really very inspiring and moving. Look at the web  site, watch the movie, and let your friends know about it. These folks are being the change we want to see in the world!

Imagine This! TV

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 05:40:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That is real goose-bumps stuff. Thanks.

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 08:51:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
siegestate: That is real goose-bumps stuff.

Yeah, me too.  I'm real curious to see exactly how effective these projects were, and what kind of impact they will leave on the people they are meant to help.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 08:57:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Good pilot. I've seen other (less professional) videos like this, where the tendency was to focus more on the experience of the nice white folks who are going to some exotic location to do good, and less on the experience of local children and their families. I hope the full documentary will balance that out.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri May 29th, 2009 at 02:40:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
afew: where the tendency was to focus more on the experience of the nice white folks who are going to some exotic location to do good, and less on the experience of local children and their families.

My worry as well.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Fri May 29th, 2009 at 08:19:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Autism: study finds 12-fold rise in cases - Health News, Health & Families - The Independent

Up to 250,000 children have autism or a related condition on the autistic spectrum, but have not been diagnosed, researchers say. They are in addition to the 500,000 children who are known to be affected.

The authoritative study by Professor Simon Baron-Cohen and colleagues of the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, sets a new benchmark for future studies of the prevalence of autism in the UK, and has grave implications for education and other public services which are already overstretched. The findings imply that many more young people may need intensive lifelong support.

But the authors dismissed suggestions that changes in lifestyle or the environment were behind the rise. They put it down to improved awareness and detection, and the inclusion of milder conditions within the diagnosis.

Note how the article quotes the researchers contradicting the headline - which can be casually understood as a 12-fold increase in the prevalence of autism [spectrum disorders] as opposed to a 12-fold increase in diagnosed cases.

I've been trying to collect my thoughts regarding the "medical vs. social models of disability", (h/t In Wales)

In the UK the medical model prevails - it focuses on the individual as the problem that needs fixing and to be made as normal as possible.

The social model which disability campaigners promote focuses on society as being the source of the barriers that cause disability, rather than focusing on the individual as the problem.  

given that
Autism is a disorder of social functioning which makes it difficult for sufferers to form relationships and to communicate with other people. In the 1990s it was recognised that there was a spectrum of cases from the severely to the mildly affected, and the diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome was included to cover those at the milder end.

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri May 29th, 2009 at 04:43:08 AM EST
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