News 04.05.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 04.05.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 04.05.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 04.05.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@mrs.seytschlife via @dana_chels

Chances Are

Over the past few decades, we have witnessed a quiet revolution in the understanding of probability and, with it, the production of knowledge. One could call it the Bayesian revolution, after the 18th century statistician Thomas Bayes, who proposed that probability represents not an objective assessment of an event’s frequency but a subjective measurement of belief: an informed prediction about whether an event will occur.

While relatively simple mathematically, Bayesian statistics is computationally intensive, which, until recently, made it prohibitively difficult to operationalize. But with the development of modern computational capacity, Bayesian probability is ascendant, offering a way to turn the large volumes of data now being captured into predictions and “insights.” It provides the underlying logic for Google’s search engine, Five Thirty-Eight’s mode of political coverage, and algorithmic trading in financial markets. Most everything that we think of as artificial intelligence is also a product of applying statistics and probability to a growing field of problems — everything from predictive policing to online dating to surveillance assessment to targeted ads to voice detection and interpretation. Any time you see a moving needle assessing an election night outcome, use a spam filter, or receive a recommendation based on what others “like you” have done, you are experiencing the products of Bayesian probability in action.

Read the rest of this article at: Real Life

News 04.05.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

How the South Won the Civil War

News 04.05.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Not so long ago, the Civil War was taken to be this country’s central moral drama. Now we think that the aftermath—the confrontation not of blue and gray but of white and black, and the reimposition of apartheid through terror—is what has left the deepest mark on American history. Instead of arguing about whether the war could have turned out any other way, we argue about whether the postwar could have turned out any other way. Was there ever a fighting chance for full black citizenship, equality before the law, agrarian reform? Or did the combination of hostility and indifference among white Americans make the disaster inevitable?

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., in his new book, “Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow” (Penguin Press), rightly believes that this argument has special currency in the post-Obama, or mid-Trump, era. He compares the rosy confidence, in 2008, that the essential stain of American racism would fade through the elevation of a black President with the same kind of short-lived hopes found in 1865, when all the suffering of the war seemed sure to end with civil equality. Instead, the appearance of African-American empowerment seemed only to deepen the rage of a white majority. Then it brought forward Klan terrorism and Jim Crow in the South; now it has brought to power the most overtly racist President since Woodrow Wilson, openly catering to a white revanchist base. It’s a depressing prospect, and Gates is properly depressed and depressing about it.

The broad outlines of the Reconstruction story have long been familiar, though the particular interpretive pressures put on particular moments have changed with every era. Toward the end of the war, Washington politicians debated what to do with the millions of newly freed black slaves. Lincoln, after foolishly toying with recolonization schemes, had settled on black suffrage, at least for black soldiers who had fought in the war. (It was a speech of Lincoln’s to this effect that sealed his assassination: John Wilkes Booth, hearing it, said, “That means nigger citizenship. Now, by God, I’ll put him through.”)

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

Tuscany Tote in Midnight

Shop the Tuscany Tote in Midnight
at Belgrave Crescent &

One Day There May Be a Drug to Turbocharge the Brain. Who Should Get It?

It was just after 10 p.m. on an overcast September night in Los Angeles, and L. was tired from a long day of class prep, teaching, and grading papers. So the 57-year-old anthropology professor fed her Chihuahua-dachshund mix a freeze-dried chicken strip, swapped her cigarette trousers for stretchy black yoga pants, and began to unfold a set of white sheets and a beige cotton blanket to make up her bed.

But first she had to recline the passenger seat of her 2015 Nissan Leaf as far as it would go—that being her bed in the parking lot she’d called home for almost three months. The Late Show with Stephen Colbert was playing on her iPad as she drifted off for another night. “Like sleeping on an airplane—but not in first class,” she said. That was in part by design. “I don’t want to get more comfortable. I want to get out of here.”

L., who asked to go by her middle initial for fear of losing her job, couldn’t afford her apartment earlier this year after failing to cobble together enough teaching assignments at two community colleges. By July she’d exhausted her savings and turned to a local nonprofit called Safe Parking L.A., which outfits a handful of lots around the city with security guards, port-a-potties, Wi-Fi, and solar-powered electrical chargers. Sleeping in her car would allow her to save for a deposit on an apartment. On that night in late September, under basketball hoops owned by an Episcopal church in Koreatown, she was one of 16 people in 12 vehicles. Ten of them were female, two were children, and half were employed.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

News 04.05.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

What Remains

On a cool September morning in 2014, among lodgepole pines under blue mountain sky, Greg Stock shouldered a backpack full of camping gear and scientific equipment. Boyishly slender and athletic at 45, Stock is a climber, caver, and serious reader of books about mountaineering and the natural world. He holds the enviable job title of Yosemite National Park Geologist and mostly loves the work, especially the part he was bound for that day — the study of Yosemite’s last two glaciers.

Stock and several companions started their walk in Tuolumne Meadows, the high-country jewel of Yosemite and everything that I would ever wish to find in the pastures of heaven — many square miles of grass and wildflowers surrounded by white granite domes that reflect sunshine like polished glass. Stock followed the John Muir Trail south out of those meadows into an immense U-shaped gorge called Lyell Canyon, 8 miles long and 3,000 feet deep, carved out of granite by long-vanished glaciers during dozens of ice ages. Evergreens dot the sloped walls of Lyell Canyon — straight lodgepoles down low, bent whitebarks up high.

In that drought year of 2014, dry meadow grasses carpeted the canyon floor in pale gold. Down the middle, the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River trickled through wide, meandering oxbows. The great irrigator of Tuolumne Meadows and drinking-water source for San Francisco, that river thunders deep in spring but flows in autumn thanks to meltwater from Stock’s destination, the Lyell Glacier.

Seven miles into Lyell Canyon, Stock kept an eye out for white rocks in the grass. If you didn’t know what to look for, you would never find those rocks, much less guess they marked a particular spot. When Stock saw them, he turned east off the John Muir Trail and down into the mostly empty channel of the Lyell Fork. He hopped across the shallows and then walked into the center of the canyon.

Read the rest of this article at: The California Sunday Magazine

Queens of Infamy: Josephine Bonaparte, from Malmaison to More-Than-Monarch

News 04.05.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

When we left the future Empress, she was 32 and had just completed her third transformation — and name change — in as many decades. First she had been Yeyette, the coarse, uneducated girl from the colonies struggling to find her place in Paris society; then she had been Marie-Josèphe, the beautiful and popular estranged wife of a Revolutionary hero with a whiff of the courtesan about her; now she was a survivor of the Reign of Terror, a Merveilleuse famous for her revealing clothing, and a semi-professional mistress to the rich and powerful. It was in this latest incarnation that she was christened Josephine by her newest bedmate, a young general named Napoleon Bonaparte.

The young lovers had met through Paul Barras, who was both Napoleon’s boss and Josephine’s sugar daddy. After being aggressively pursued by the famously uncouth Corsican for months, Josephine had, for her own inscrutable reasons, decided to give in to his advances.

If she’d hoped that sleeping with him would somehow slake his obsession with her, she was wrong. Very wrong.

Napoleon’s fixation on Josephine only deepened once they became lovers, and often it tipped over into vicious fits of jealousy. In a letter to a friend, Josephine wrote, “I am afraid, I admit, of the empire he seems to want over all those who surround him.” She also wrote that the “force of [his] passion” made her uncomfortable, although she couldn’t quite articulate why; she knew that she should find his devotion to her attractive, but it creeped her out. Still, after weighing the pros and cons, she eventually gave in to his marriage proposal. She was getting older, and she wanted the security of a husband. Plus, he did seem to genuinely love her, even if his particular brand of love sometimes had a frightening edge.

The wedding was set for March 9, 1796. Since Catholicism was still banned in France, it was a civil service held at a small town hall. Napoleon arrived two hours late, a total asshole power move. The rest of the event was as messy as its beginning: the ages on the marriage certificate were wrong, one of the witnesses was too young to legally be a witness, and everyone was in a bad mood. It almost certainly wasn’t the wedding Josephine had expected, but she grimaced her way through it. When they got home, Josephine refused to move her beloved dog Fortuné off the bed to make room for Napoleon. When his mistress’ new husband tried to push him aside, the pug bit him. Sometimes dogs just know.

If Josephine found one bright spot on her second wedding day, it might have been the inscription on the wedding band Napoleon placed on her finger: “au destin,” to destiny. Both husband and wife believed that they were marked by fate, and nothing could have been a more fitting motto for them. Their shared faith that their marriage — and, indeed, their entire lives — had been predestined would shape many of their choices in the coming years.

Read the rest of this article at: Longreads

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.

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