Link: “How Los Angeles Annexed the Port on a Shoestring”

Original post found at: https://www.lamag.com/citythinkblog/citydig-how-los-angeles-annexed-the-port-on-a-shoestring/

As an Australian we don’t really have a concept of “city limits” in the first place, so when I visited Los Angeles and saw its quirky shape on a map, with all these enclaves cut out of it and that long corridor southwards out to the port, it certainly sparked a lot of curiosity. This is a neat little article explaining the history of how Los Angeles acquired that corridor to the south and its port.

Link: “One percent of the world’s population accounts for more than half of flying emissions”

Original post found at: https://www.lunduniversity.lu.se/article/one-percent-worlds-population-accounts-more-half-flying-emissions

I can’t say I’m surprised; it’s always seemed like those to blame for aviation-related emissions are not really ordinary people who jet off for the occasional holiday,1 but business travellers who fly multiple times a week (and as this article says, especially those with private planes).

Of course, I think wherever possible, high-speed trains should be used ins­tead of planes, being considerably less polluting as well as way more pleasant to travel on. Australia could eliminate the need for sooooo much flying if we had a high-speed line connecting every city from Adelaide around to Bris­bane. But not everywhere is easily accessible without flying (think about islands, or relatively isolated cities like Perth…). Sometimes I see “environmentalists” online basically arguing to abolish aviation, but it’s not really a huge problem if people occasionally take a long-haul flight, or a flight to one of these isolated/island places. The bulk of the emissions are from frequent flyers, who are predominantly concentrated on short-haul routes like Mel­bourne-Syd­ney that could easily be replaced with trains.

  1. Although note, the article also says that only 11% of the world’s population flew at all in 2018 (as a representative, recent pre-Covid year), so this definition of “ordinary people” is definitely skewed towards the “ordinary people” of relatively affluent, developed countries. But still. ↩︎

Link: “The Following News Release Contains Potentially Disturbing Content: Trigger Warnings Fail to Help and May Even Harm”

Original post found at: https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/trigger-warnings-fail-to-help.html

Interesting finding about trigger warnings. This study found that their use doesn’t seem to help survivors “brace” for upsetting info, and can long-term aggravate PTSD by increasing their sense of identification with their trauma (preventing healing). On the other hand, I feel like content warnings (more broadly) can be useful as just a “content you might wish not to see” filter. Like, I find stories of animal cruelty or neglect really distressing, not due to personal trauma, I just do… I’m sure a trigger warning wouldn’t help “soften the blow” of such content for me, but that’s not really the point, the point would be giving me something to filter out so I never have to see it. Hon­est­ly, I think it’s that ability to filter stuff out that’s key, so you don’t even need to see the content – but that applies more to social media feeds than uni lectures I guess.

Link: “Lift the minimum wage and employment still rises? How to anger the establishment and win a Nobel Prize”

Original post found at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-10-13/nobel-prize-in-economics-2021-david-card-minimum-wage/100531994

Quite an article. By observing and comparing fast food joints in neighbouring areas in Pennsylvania and New Jersey when the latter increased the minimum wage in the 1990s, two economists found that raising the minimum wage did not increase unemployment – in fact, if anything it did the opposite. In so doing, they incurred the wrath of “mainstream economists” who were incensed to have experimental data disproving their irrationally-held article of faith that higher wages somehow raise unemployment 😆

As an aside, I’ve never understood how economists have ever been able to get away with claiming that lower wages = more jobs… employers don’t hire people just because they have room in the budget, because that’d be lost profit! They only ever hire (or schedule) the absolute bare minimum of people who are required for the amount of work that needs to get done. cf. when penalty rates were cut here a few years ago – workers did not get any more shifts to compensate for those lost wages; all the money companies no longer had to pay in penalty rates went straight to their profits. TBH literally every single time one of those talking monkeys from the small business council or whatever rattles off these dishonest talking points I would like journalists to take them to task over it.

Link: “The world’s ‘most liveable city’ title isn’t a measure of the things most of us actually care about”

Original post found at: https://theconversation.com/the-worlds-most-liveable-city-title-isnt-a-measure-of-the-things-most-of-us-actually-care-about-101525

…the tool was actually designed to help companies decide how much “hardship” allowance they would need to pay employees who relocate. So, The Economist suggests that none of the top cities – including Melbourne, Vienna and other Australian cities – need a hardship allowance at all. But it recommends a 20% allowance for cities at the bottom of the ranking like Port Moresby, Tripoli and Karachi.

Despite the hype, the Global Liveability Index focuses on things that matter to expats, not citizens. This is different to what is important to the average person living in Vienna, Melbourne or any other city – such as housing affordability, walkability, access to public transport and education, and the number of bike paths.

With (some) Melburnians today indignant that we’ve been beaten in this year’s rankings by cities like Adelaide, Perth and Auckland, it seems like a good time to remind ourselves that these stupid “liveability” rankings are designed only to rank the lifestyles of ultra-wealthy expatriates, and not normal city residents. This is why, for example, they assess only private schools and not public ones, or why they only evaluate the infrastructure in inner-city/rich-people areas. I would be very happy never to hear about this list again 😛

Link: “Say it with us: #NoNeoNFTs”

Original post found at: https://www.jellyneo.net/nfts/

This is likely to be of interest mainly to people of a certain generation (that is, late Millennials/early Gen Z) but among Neopets’ small remaining playerbase there’s serious anger at the moment over the decision (apparently undertaken by Neopets’ parent holding company) to partner with cryptobros and start this new Neopets NFT project. Leading fansite Jellyneo explains what’s going on, and why people are so pissed off, well.

Overall, people are suspicious that this is something of a last-ditch moneygrab before the parent company shuts down the long-neglected and currently half-broken Neopets website for good. Personally, to indulge the nostalgia I have for Neopets in the Good Old Days (that’s circa 2005) I made a user account on Neopets Classic(external link), which is an ongoing fan project to re­cre­ate the site with the vibe it had at that time (except without ads, and swearing is allowed, lmao – I laughed so hard when literally the first secret avatar I unlocked read “I NEVER FUCKING LEARNED HOW TO READ.”). Copyright is a bitch but honestly, I think it’s fan projects like this one which have the potential to be satisfying in a way that the “real” website is unlikely to ever be again.

Note also: an effort to archive as much fanwork as possible(external link) from the almost 1,000 editions of the Neopian Times.

Link: “A Prayer for Our Next COVID Era”

Original post found at: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/10/covid-serenity-prayer/620343/

For me, the key take-home messages in this article and this other one that it links to(external link) are these:

  • The rate of break-through infections in fully vaccinated people is about 0.2%, or 1 in 5001
  • The chance that a break-through infection will require hospitalisation is about 4%
  • The chance that someone will die from a break-through infection is about 1%
  • If fully vaccinated, your risk of a Covid-19 infection developing into “Long Covid” seems to be halved, to about 10%

The article is also very big on individual measures you can take to reduce your personal risk, like masking up, avoiding large social gatherings, etc.. It also makes the remark that people who are sick should stay home and there needs to be more social support (like paid sick leave) to enable that to happen, and that realistically this should have been in place long before the pandemic, which is totally true. But overall it’s definitely pushing the “open up faster sooner, and if you’re scared, you take precautions” line, which I find unsatisfying, because the laziness of indifferent people affects others. I would like to see our vaccination rate much higher before I would really feel comfortable, like 90%+ of everybody (not just those aged 16+, and why are we even measuring our vaccination rate by only those aged 16+?).

See, what the article does not really go into, which is a very big concern for us here in Australia, is the health system’s capacity to cope with ongoing infections in unvaccinated people (which, after all, currently includes many disabled people who our government deprioritised for vaccination(external link), everyone under the age of 12, and 12–15 year olds haven’t been eligible for long enough to be fully vaccinated yet either). After years on end of “efficiency dividends”, our hospital system was basically running at 100%+ capacity at all times even before the pandemic – you can see the crisis at work in states like WA and SA which are virtually Covid-free, and still seeing ambulances ramping for hours and hours because there are zero beds available in emergency rooms. If we reopen now, yeah my personal risk of contracting Covid and needing hospitalisation is extremely low because I’m doub­le-vac­cin­at­ed (two weeks since my second dose today, baby!). However, if a fucking car runs a red light and mows me down while I’m walking to the supermarket, will a local hospital actually have a bed to treat me or will they all be occupied by Covid patients?

  1. The Atlantic article describes the rate as 1 in 5,000, but then goes on to say that the risk of hospitalisation is 0.008%, which sounds off because that’d mean a full 40% of break-through infections require hospitalisation. (Now, it could well be that 40% of all break-through infections that the CDC knows about require hospitalisation…) At any rate, the NIH article linked to from the Atlantic article instead describes the rate of break-through infections as 0.2%. ↩︎

Link: “Robert Menzies wouldn’t recognise the Liberal Party's employment policies today”

Original post found at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-10-03/robert-menzies-wouldnt-recognise-the-liberal-partys-policies/100509358

I’m no fan of Menzies, nor of the Liberal Party. But it’s always worth noting how things we take for granted today as “sad facts of life” like high unemployment, insecure work, low taxes = inadequate funding for the public services we depend upon like healthcare, education and infrastructure, were simply not taken for granted at all prior to 1975. The Overton window has shrunk so much that not even the so-called progressive parties are willing to challenge this orthodoxy now, and yet two generations ago it was the right-wing party presiding over an economic system that’d be denounced as loony left fantasism today! (Also, the right-wing party actually believed in and funded science at that time, too.) Australia in the 1950s was plagued by many other social ills (nationalism, racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, etc.) but it’s not like the manifestly better economic policies we had then were predicated on that bigotry. And it’s depressing that, as inadequate as those policies were (many marginalised people slipping through the cracks), they were still so much better than what we have now.

Link: “How Arabs Have Failed Their Language”

Original post found at: https://newlinesmag.com/argument/how-arabs-have-failed-their-language/

I knew that Arabic was in a situation of diglossia, where the day-to-day languages of Arabic-speaking countries (the “dialects”) are mutually unintelligible with MSA, the form used in writing, news broadcasting, etc.. (If you weren’t aware, you could compare the situation with Romance-speaking Eur­ope in the late Middle Ages, where written communication was still nearly all in Latin despite the vernacular languages definitely already being recognisable as forms of French, Spanish, etc.) What I was not aware of was that even children’s books are written in MSA, that kids get made fun of for using the MSA words they learn from cartoons but are also taught that their native dialects are just “broken Arabic”, and that even primary school is mostly conducted in MSA – in what’s essentially a foreign language to these kids! And that all of this seems to have an impact on literacy rates for Arabic speakers, which are lower than you’d expect for middle-income countries (although to be fair, I expect the political instability in many of them contributes).

The headline obviously sounds like it’s blaming speakers themselves for this convoluted situation, but really it makes a good argument that something needs to change, like greater recognition of dialects, especially in literacy-building material for children.

Link: ““Los insultos y las conversaciones en catalán nos suenan a broma””

Original post found at: https://es.ara.cat/sociedad/insultos-conversaciones-catalan-suenan-broma_130_4137236.html

Interesting article about teenagers in Barcelona, and the reasons why they largely prefer to speak Castilian (Spanish). Those include the perception that Cata­lan is a “teachers’ language”, or that you can’t be serious in Cata­lan, it’s a jokey language (even though a group of boys quoted here also claim there’s no good ways to rib your mates in Cata­lan, while a girl quips that Cata­lan is such a sweet and rhythmic language, how could she be expected to speak it with these boys, hahaha). But further points are made about how Castilian is in such wider use – there are way more TV shows and movies etc. produced in Castilian, the online “influencers” and the famous actors the teenagers know of are all Castilian-speaking – and it just seems like Castilian evolves more rapidly with the times while Catalan feels more staid and academic.

For what it’s worth, I studied Cata­lan for two years and I have a huge appreciation for the diversity of language, so my own preference would be to see Cata­lan thriving (and compared to many other minority languages, it totally is – why else was I even able to study it at my university in Australia!). But you also can’t really blame young people for preferentially speaking a language that most of the media they consume comes in, or is way more common globally, linking them to people through most of the Ame­ri­cas. And you’d have to think as well that if Catalan did change faster to “keep up with the times”, that would probably mainly mean a lot of borrowings from Span­ish (much as my uni tutor railed against “cas­te­llan­is­mes”, heh). I’m not sure that there really is an “answer”, or that there’s even a point looking for an “answer” – languages are there to be used by people, after all, they’re not things that exist independently of us. And especially in the rest of Catalonia (outside Barcelona), Cata­lan seems to be doing fine.

a cartoony avatar of Jessica Smith is a left-wing feminist who loves animals, books, gaming, and cooking; she’s also very interested in linguistics, history, technology and society.