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Sunday, June 24, 2018

Summer by Karl Ove Knausgaard – review | Books - The Guardian

"The last volume of the Norwegian author’s Seasons quartet will keep his fans occupied, if not entirely satisfied" notes Andrew Anthony, writing for the Observer and for the Guardian.

Unearthing the mysteries of the commonplace: Karl Ove Knausgaard.
Photo: Richard Saker for the Observer

It’s a slightly confusing situation for Karl Ove Knausgaard fans that while the sixth and final part of the My Struggle series has still to be published in English (due later this year), a whole different cycle – the Seasons quartet – has filled the intervening lull.

The fourth book of that quartet is Summer, which again mixes diary entries and a selection of personal encyclopaedia entries ostensibly addressed to his youngest daughter, along with a piece of fiction set during the second world war and based on a story his grandfather told him, which he drops tantalisingly into his writing almost like an actor suddenly changing character.

It’s been an uneven series, by turns showing Knausgaard at his finest, as a writer grappling to see the world with utterly fresh eyes, and his most banal, trotting out his familiar tropes of domestic duties and bucolic descriptions.

For those of us who entered a kind of deep narcotic state before the mesmerising sensory overload of My Struggle, the Seasons quartet has been a bit like a methadone programme: keeping withdrawal at bay without ever quite hitting the spot.

The last book, Spring, was the most revealingly autobiographical, and thus most Knausgaardian as we’ve come to think of it. It touched on the strains within his marriage, in particular with regard to his wife Linda’s bipolar depression, and Knausgaard once more subjected his own behaviour to candid and often unflattering analysis.

Despite the uplifting note on which Spring concluded, the marriage that filled hundreds of pages of My Struggle and produced four children has since ended. Though there is no sense of its impending demise in Summer, Linda has scarcely more than a walk-on part, a silent presence in the margins, referred to mostly only by her absence.

Summer begins with Knausgaard continuing his encyclopaedic summaries of things and concepts. Having in the previous books written mini-essays on such diverse subjects as thermos flasks, pain, jelly fish, sexual desire and manholes, he turns his singular attention to slugs, bats, fainting and electric hand mixers, which, he notes, unlike almost everything else human-made, resemble nothing else in nature.
Read more... 

Source: The Guardian

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This is not your typical summer beach reads list | CNN

"In a world filled with never-ending conflict and bad news, it's no surprise that many people want to stick their heads in the sand this summer" says Katia Hetter, Writer/Producer, CNN Digital.

 CNN asked the Amazon Books editors about their favorite new books that inspire, build bridges, cross borders and bring joy. Here are their 10 picks for the summer of 2018 and the reasons why they chose these books.
 Photo: CNN

But I can't stop thinking about the injustices that have been dominating the news cycle.

That's why I'm reading Bryan Stevenson's argument connecting the US history of slavery through segregation to mass incarceration, "Just Mercy." He lays out his case about the reasons to confront this brutal history. Denying it, he argues, hurts everyone, no matter your color or race or nationality.

I'm also brought back to Ron Chernow's "Alexander Hamilton," the biography of the Founding Father that inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda -- who was reading it on a beach vacation -- to write his award-winning musical.

"A civic lesson from a slaver," says Miranda's Hamilton, calling out Thomas Jefferson in the musical. "Hey neighbor, your debts are paid cuz you don't pay for labor."

"The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family" by Annette Gordon-Reed is also on my stack of summer books, as I attempt to work through the contradictions of the man who wrote "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" while enslaving people.

Is that too heavy for summer?
Rather than ignore the unrelenting and brutal news of the day, here's another idea for your summer reading list.

Focus on books that explore other people and cultures, teach kindness and bring hope. Address the issues that trouble your mind and heart, whether they're ripped from the headlines or part of your everyday world.

"I think truly that every good book helps us to see, to imagine our way into someone else's heart, and to see our own heart more clearly," says Newbery Award-winning children's author Kate DiCamillo, whose children's books include "Because of Winn-Dixie," "Raymie Nightingale" and "Mercy Watson to the Rescue."

With those themes in mind, here are recommendations -- new works and classics alike -- to give hope, build bridges, cross borders and inspire. 

Source: CNN

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9 New Books We Recommend This Week | Book Review - New York Times

Follow on Twitter as @GregoryCowles
Suggested reading from critics and editors at The New York Times by Gregory Cowles, Senior Editor, Books. 

Science and literature are too often viewed as separate and even opposing spheres. That’s a discredit to all of the great science writers with a talent for translating the world of the lab and field, illuminating complex ideas and personalities and moral implications — in short, all the stuff of literature, and life.

Five of our recommended titles this week take science as a starting point, whether it’s the hard science of genetics and heredity (“She Has Her Mother’s Laugh,” by the Times reporter Carl Zimmer) or the quest for mechanical precision (“The Perfectionists,” Simon Winchester’s book about engineering) or the medical and psychological aspects of gender identity (Arlene Stein’s “Unbound”). There are also a couple of deeply researched narratives with a scientific hook: Eliza Griswold’s “Amity and Prosperity,” about the consequences of natural gas fracking on one Pennsylvania town, and John Carreyrou’s “Bad Blood,” which starts out as a story of scientific and medical promise and turns into a true-life business thriller about arrogance and fraud.

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Saturday, June 23, 2018

Additional literacy and numeracy education a continuing success | Community - Manning River Times

The second round of Bulahdelah additional literacy and numeracy customised education (BALANCE) commenced on the first day of term two, with a new cohort of Year 7, 8 and 9 students exploring making connections in literacy and fractions in numeracy, as Manning River Times reports.  

Year 8 students getting involved in the "balance" program.
Photo: Manning River Times

Program co-ordinator, Kim Rigley said students are encouraged to use their existing knowledge and experiences, prior learning and creative thinking in literacy to help them recognise the links to and between different texts, themselves and the world. 

“Students participate in group discussions following on from the short text read in class,” she said.

“Prompts are used to encourage students to follow their pathway of thinking and share it with the group...

As for numeracy, students have commenced their exploration of fractions and the general concepts of math as they are practiced in everyday life.

“Students have discovered fractions can be related to time, money, measurement, probability, and in the preparation of food, the latter being the most important, according to many students,” Kim explained.

“By relating these real-life everyday actions to math, it is the intention of BALANCE to make math relevant, meaningful and practical in answer to the age old question, “When am I going to use this in life?”
Read more... 

Source: Manning River Times

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Hands-on learning is a necessary part of college, but here’s what it doesn’t teach students | Grade Point - Washington Post

Jeffrey J. Selingo, regular contributor to Grade Point and professor of practice at Arizona State University says, "What employers look for when hiring graduates." 
Xavier University student Triton Brown studies in a common area on campus before going to one of his part-time jobs in New Orleans.
Photo: Gerald Herbert/AP

As college students nationwide work in part-time jobs or internships this summer, it’s unlikely many will think about how they’re using their undergraduate courses on the job or how they might apply what they’re learning at work when they get back to campus.

For students, college is a series of disconnected experiences — the classroom, the dorm, the athletic field, the internship. Yet what employers tell me gets college students hired is the ability to translate what they learned in one place (the classroom, for instance) to another that is far different from where they originally learned a concept (a project on an internship).

Educators call this “transfer learning” — the ability to generalize core principles and apply them in many different places, which becomes more important as the skills needed to keep up in any job and occupation continue to shift in the future.

The concept sounds simple enough. But today’s students, facing the constant pressure to prepare for standardized tests, rarely have the chance to learn through problem solving or to be involved in projects that reinforce skills that can be used in multiple settings. Our ability to drive almost any car on the market without reading its manual is an example of knowledge transfer, as is our ability to solve math equations involving any number once we learn the formula...

Arizona State University, where I’m a professor of practice, is testing a curriculum across a dozen majors in which students learn nearly half of the subject matter through group projects instead of a specified schedule of classes. Engineering students might build a robot and learn the key principles of mechanics and electronics from faculty members during the project. The hope is that students will be more engaged if theories from the classroom are immediately applied in the outside world instead of years after students graduate.

Source: Washington Post

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The End Of The Internet As We Know It…Could It Happen? | Information & Communication - Evolving Science

Photo: Deirdre O’Donnell
By now, many of us are aware that the Legal Affairs Committee (or JURI) of the EU Parliament has voted in favor of controversial proposed changes to copyright legislation in the region.

New proposals for articles to be included in the EU law may change the way news is viewed or shared online.
Photo: By Sollok29 - Own work @ Wikimedia Commons

These measures are related to the reproduction and distribution of some content types on the internet and are widely viewed as detrimental to the freedom involved in doing the same.
The main clauses associated with this change in how copyright is enforced on the internet are articles 11 and 13 of the proposed directive 2016/0280 (COD).

Many groups, lawmakers, and interested parties claim that the adoption of these articles will lead to vastly increased censorship online. As of 20th June 2018, the JURI votes on this subject were narrowly in favor of both proposed articles.

So, will this be the end of the ability to share links and images online?

The Potential Effects of Articles 11 and 13 
Article 11 of the proposal would require anyone who wants to share a link, even containing a short line from a news story or headline, from a publisher who provides such content, will need a specific license from the said publisher before doing so.

This means that the sharing of news may end up much more tightly regulated and monitored than ever before.

Some of the publishers hailed this proposal as a positive move in their favor. They have reasoned that this regulation will put more of the revenue garnered from news-link sharing in their hands, whereas under current circumstances, search engine leaders (i.e., Google, Facebook, etc.) see the bulk of this in the form of users searching and finding links.

However, the same publishers appear to have overlooked the fact that they are the ones who will have to pay for these licenses under article 11. This could be widely viewed as a negative step towards increasing bias, as well as a lack of access to news content online. 

The rationale behind this perspective is that those publishers who are in a position to pay licenses will be the ones releasing the stories, and thus, they are those who are in control of public perception. 

In addition, these guidelines may dissuade or entirely remove smaller publishing bodies from the market. This, in turn, can take a toll on the freedom of speech and expression online, over time. 

Article 13 was proposed by the committee to enforce the terms of article 11 since it provides for the monitoring of online content so that all links are licensed. 

Article 13 also appears to exist to legalize content-scanning for copyright infringement, in general. This can be facilitated by companies whose services are tailor-made for large-scale surveillance such as these. In addition, these agencies may be located outside of the EU, most likely in the United States. 

This cannot be good news for those who prefer to be in control of their data and activities online as much as possible. 

Also, article 13 is potentially incompatible with some other EU and human rights laws.

Source: Evolving Science

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Adobe is using machine learning to make it easier to spot Photoshopped images | Artificial Intelligence - The Verge

Photo: James Vincent
"New research uses AI to automate traditional digital forensics" according to James Vincent, cover machines with brains for The Verge, despite being a human without one.
A famous edited image of a missile launch released by the Iranian government in 2008. (This image was not used in the training or testing of Adobe’s research project.)
Photo: The Verge

Experts around the world are getting increasingly worried about new AI tools that make it easier than ever to edit images and videos — especially with social media’s power to share shocking content quickly and without fact-checking. Some of those tools are being developed by Adobe, but the company is also working on an antidote of sorts by researching how machine learning can be used to automatically spot edited pictures.

The company’s latest work, showcased this month at the CVPR computer vision conference, demonstrates how digital forensics done by humans can be automated by machines in much less time.
The research paper does not represent a breakthrough in the field, and it’s not yet available as a commercial product, but it’s interesting to see Adobe — a name synonymous with image editing — take an interest in this line of work.

Speaking to The Verge, a spokesperson for the company said that this was an “early-stage research project,” but in the future, the company wants to play a role in “developing technology that helps monitor and verify authenticity of digital media.” Exactly what this might mean isn’t clear, since Adobe has never before released software designed to spot fake images. But, the company points to its work with law enforcement (using digital forensics to help find missing children, for example) as evidence of its responsible attitude toward its technology. 

The new research paper shows how machine learning can be used to identify three common types of image manipulation: splicing, where two parts of different images are combined; cloning, where objects within an image are copy and pasted; and removal, when an object is edited out altogether.

Source: The Verge 

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Liberty University cuts costs with free textbooks for undergraduate online students | Liberty University News

As a pioneer in distance learning, Liberty University has consistently increased and broadened its online program offerings while keeping education affordable for tens of thousands of students across the country and around the world, continues Liberty University News.

Photo: Liberty University News

This fall, the university is taking its commitment to affordability a step further by providing digital books and instructional materials free of charge to online undergraduate students enrolled in online undergraduate courses. The change affects over 700 courses and is expected to save full-time online students up to $975 a year. Across the university’s online program, the total cost savings could exceed $12.2 million.

“We know from student surveys that the expenses associated with textbooks create challenges for them,” said Connie Allison, executive director of the Center for Academic Development at Liberty. “The costs may cause them to take fewer courses, buy older editions, or even wait to get their materials weeks into the course. Providing free textbooks will not only reduce their costs but also will ensure that they have access to their materials on day one of the class.”

For textbooks that have no digital option, students will be provided physical copies at no cost... 

Liberty has implemented new technologies, for example, that can identify areas where students are struggling and give guidance as they study. For instance, students may see a prompt telling them to go back and read certain portions of the material again. Companies are working with Liberty to create systems that can meet the unique learning needs of each student.

“These technologies are helping us explore the best ways to teach a subject, or a specific topic within a subject, so that the student will not only learn, but retain what they have learned,” Hicks said.

“It’s called ‘learning science,’” Allison added. “We’re integrating assignments, offering checks and balances, and, hopefully, helping students do better in true learning.”

Source: Liberty University News

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Digital learning having impact on low decile Northland schools | Northern Advocate - New Zealand Herald

"Students in low decile Northland schools are learning three times faster using electronic devices, a new report shows" notes Emma Russell, reporter for the New Zealand Herald.
Watch the Video

The University of Auckland's Woolf Fisher Research Centre tracked nearly 400 pupils aged 8 to 14 from six schools around the region who were using digital learning last year.

The cluster of schools were Manaia View School, Whau Valley Primary, Te Kura o Ōtangarei, Whangārei Intermediate, Tikipunga High School and Hikurangi Primary School.

Dr Rebecca Jesson, who led the research, said some of the students had made gains at more than three times the rate of the previous year.

"All lines are pointing upwardly for all year levels for both genders and all ethnicities, which is huge," Jesson said.

She said there was particular improvement in writing, which was a subject that often faced underperformance, and significant progress in maths.

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Why liberal arts and the humanities are as important as engineering | Hindustan Times

An engineering degree is very valuable, but the sense of empathy that comes from music, arts, literature and psychology provides a big advantage in design, as Hindustan Times reports.  

Steve Jobs gave credit for the success of the Mac to a calligraphy course that he attended. He also highlighted the importance of art and design at the unveiling of the iPad 2, when he said “It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough — it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing, and nowhere is that more true than in these post-PC devices”.
Photo: AFP

Doctor, engineer, or businessman were the three choices my parents told me I had for a career when I was growing up, with the third being at the bottom of the list. Even today, Indian parents dread the thought of their children becoming musicians or artists; engineering has become the most respected profession.

Because of the success of startups such as Flipkart and Paytm, parents don’t freak out as much when they hear that their child is starting a company any more. But engineering is still considered a prerequisite for success in the technology industry and this is what parents insist that their children study.

Some of Silicon Valley’s brightest stars aren’t engineers, they are Liberal Arts and Humanities majors. LinkedIn’s founder, Reid Hoffman, has a masters in philosophy; YouTube’s CEO, Susan Wojcicki, majored in history and literature; Slack’s founder, Stewart Butterfield, in English; Airbnb’s founder, Brian Chesky, in the fine arts. Even in China, Alibaba’s CEO, Jack Ma, graduated with a B.A. in English.

My research at Duke and Harvard documented that US technology company founders tend to be highly educated, 92% holding bachelor’s degrees and 47% holding higher degrees. But just 37% have degrees in engineering or computer technology, and two percent in mathematics. Their degrees are in fields as diverse as business, accounting, health care, and arts and the humanities...

With the convergence of medicine, artificial intelligence, and sensors, we can create digital doctors that monitor our health and help us prevent disease; with the advances in genomics and gene editing, we have the ability to create plants that are drought-resistant and that feed the planet; with robots powered by artificial intelligence, we can build digital companions for the elderly. Nanomaterial advances are enabling a new generation of solar and storage technologies that will make energy affordable and available to all.

Source: Hindustan Times

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