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The reading file: Artist creates incredible streetscape photos by painting models

Blending in with body paint

Artist Trina Merry meticulously uses body paint to blend models into New York street scapes. She likes the effect: "Instead of a person right in front of the Empire State building or the Statue of Liberty, they're softly in the background, and you've got more of a reflective view of the person within the landscape." Says model Jessica Mellow: "It feels great to be painted. You feel the transformation process. The brush itself, it's really soft. It feels more like a massage." Read more about how and why Merry does it at and

Burger arithmetic

In the New York Times Magazine, author Elizabeth Green explains that the problem with Common Core math isn't what it is trying to teach — the principles are actually quite sound — but that the teachers themselves aren't taught how to teach it. Read "Why Do Americans Stink at Math?" in full at Here's an excerpt that captures the long-standing problem with American innumeracy.

One of the most vivid arithmetic failings displayed by Americans occurred in the early 1980s, when the A&W restaurant chain released a new hamburger to rival the McDonald's Quarter Pounder. With a third-pound of beef, the A&W burger had more meat than the Quarter Pounder; in taste tests, customers preferred A&W's burger. And it was less expensive. A lavish A&W television and radio marketing campaign cited these benefits. Yet instead of leaping at the great value, customers snubbed it. Only when the company held customer focus groups did it become clear why. The Third Pounder presented the American public with a test in fractions. And we failed. Misunderstanding the value of one-third, customers believed they were being overcharged. Why, they asked the researchers, should they pay the same amount for a third of a pound of meat as they did for a quarter-pound of meat at McDonald's. The "4" in "¼," larger than the "3" in "⅓," led them astray. But our innumeracy isn't inevitable.

Russian response

President Barack Obama gave a long, wide-ranging interview to the Economist, a text that is well worth reading in full. You may do so at Here is what the president said, in part, about Russia and Vladimir Putin.

I think President Putin represents a deep strain in Russia that is probably harmful to Russia over the long term, but in the short term can be politically popular at home and very troublesome abroad. But I do think it's important to keep perspective. Russia doesn't make anything. Immigrants aren't rushing to Moscow in search of opportunity. The life expectancy of the Russian male is around 60 years old. The population is shrinking. And so we have to respond with resolve in what are effectively regional challenges that Russia presents. We have to make sure that they don't escalate where suddenly nuclear weapons are back in the discussion of foreign policy. And as long as we do that, then I think history is on our side.

Honduran horrors

In Salon, former Tampa Bay Times staffer Cristina Silva writes about "a year in the murder capital of the world. We moved to Honduras for an escape — and entered a minefield of illness, violence and death." Read "God doesn't live here" in full at Here's an excerpt.

Even before the move, the country's unparalleled violence wasn't just a headline for my family. Only a year earlier, my husband's youngest sibling had been kidnapped from his job as a bus fare collector and then brutally beaten before the criminals rolled his body down a hill and left him to die in the street. There was no justice in Honduras, which has the highest murder rate in the world. The death was never investigated and my Honduran family soldiered on by debating the likely cause of his murder. He had had many girlfriends, someone noted. He probably messed with the wrong woman and that was it. Someone else theorized that the culprits had been motivated by the bus fare earnings. I tried to estimate how much money he might have had in his pocket when he died. Bus rides cost roughly 50 cents and the buses held at most 30 people at a time. Why would someone murder another person over so little, I asked my in-laws. They practically laughed in my face. To them, I was always the naive gringa.

Uncertain science

In the New Republic, theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli writes that "the separation of science and the humanities is relatively new — and detrimental to both." Read "Science Is Not About Certainty" in full at Here's an excerpt.

Science is not about certainty. Science is about finding the most reliable way of thinking at the present level of knowledge. Science is extremely reliable; it's not certain. In fact, not only is it not certain, but it's the lack of certainty that grounds it. Scientific ideas are credible not because they are sure but because they're the ones that have survived all the possible past critiques, and they're the most credible because they were put on the table for everybody's criticism. The very expression "scientifically proven" is a contradiction in terms. There's nothing that is scientifically proven. The core of science is the deep awareness that we have wrong ideas, we have prejudices. We have ingrained prejudices. In our conceptual structure for grasping reality, there might be something not appropriate, something we may have to revise to understand better. So at any moment we have a vision of reality that is effective, it's good, it's the best we have found so far. It's the most credible we have found so far; it's mostly correct. But, at the same time, it's not taken as certain, and any element of it is a priori open for revision.

Commandments II

In McSweeney's, David Tate imagines the Ten Commandments as re-written by Upworthy, the relentlessly trendy and upbeat website. Read "You Won't Believe What God Said to This Man …" in full at Here are two commandments, reimagined:

• At the beginning He had me confused, but by minute two I knew that I shouldn't have other gods.

• Are you making this common mistake with graven images?

Leftward ho!

In Politico Magazine, Thomas E. Ricks says "I used to be right down the middle. But America's changed, and so have I." Read "Why Am I Moving Left?" in full at Here's an excerpt:

I think there are many others like me who are just as puzzled about where our country is at now, and how we got here. No doubt there are many reasons, though I believe there are clear signs that the Reagan Revolution, which made incentive-oriented, free-market solutions the default mode of both parties, is now finally petering out. I anticipate calls for more federal intervention, especially in areas where the public good is suffering, such as transportation and the cost of higher education. We may yet see a leftish generation of senior citizens, a group of aging Baby Boomers who can make common cause with a squeezed middle class and a generation of millennials whose careers have been damaged by the Great Recession while the top 1 percent have grown even wealthier.

Manipulating tech

In the War on the Rocks blog, Paul Scharre looks at the cultural differences between the Air Force (pilots first and foremost) and the Army (whose soldiers deploy on the ground to where the shooting is happening) to explain how technology — in this case, drones — is very much affected by the attitudes of the people who are using it. Read "How to Lose the Robotics Revolution" in full at Here's an excerpt.

Nowhere is the role of culture in shaping how unmanned systems are used more apparent than in the differences between how the Army and the Air Force use their unmanned aircraft. To a lay person, the Army MQ-1C Gray Eagle and the Air Force MQ-1 Predator are virtually indistinguishable. The underlying technology behind them is the same. But they are used by their respective services very differently. Air Force Predators are flown by officers (remotely from the United States) and Army Gray Eagles by enlisted personnel (on the ground in theater). Gray Eagle operators are not really "pilots." The platform's takeoff and landing are automated, and in the air it is controlled by a human operator who directs the aircraft where to go from a console. Air Force Predators, on the other hand, are flown by a pilot — in a flight suit, with a joystick, and sitting in a mock "cockpit" on the ground. … While for Army officers deploying to war is central to their identity, for Air Force leaders flying planes is what defines a pilot. The most senior Air Force position has always been occupied by a pilot, and in fact only by a nonfighter or bomber pilot twice. The importance of this identity label explains why the Air Force has gone to such great lengths to attempt to rebrand unmanned aircraft as "remotely piloted," and why automation that takes control out of the hands of pilots has been resisted.

The reading file: Artist creates incredible streetscape photos by painting models 08/08/14 [Last modified: Friday, August 8, 2014 2:55pm]
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