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Breaking: Something Historians Have Known Forever!

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One of my biggest pet peeves as a historian is when news organizations take something historians have known basically forever and call it a breaking story. This happens a couple of different ways. One is how the Times or Post or other organizations will publish something from a political scientist or economist “proving” some point that historians have written about for decades. But the fetish about numbers is very real. DATA, bitches! The other is this kind of thing–when the media does their own “breaking” report that obviously steals from historians but doesn’t credit them and makes it sound like the media has done actual investigatory labor here instead of what they’ve actually done, which is read a couple of encyclopedia articles and rewrote it into a story.

Wow, you mean the Johnson administration working with congressional Republicans who thought the principle of private property far more important than giving ex-slaves land overturned Sherman’s Special Order No. 15? Huh, who knew but every U.S. historian and, at least if they paid attention, every student I’ve taught over the years in U.S. History since 1877 (which I start in 1865 because it doesn’t make any sense to start in 1877) or my Civil War and Reconstruction course? Among other things, I also covered this issue in the Labor History series back in 2018.

Of course there’s lots of ways to talk about this. Our media should be teaching people about our history. But claiming that your “new investigative report” uncovered this thing, really stop it.

There should be a solid rule–anyone who talks about the past in any way should have a historian on board (or archaeologist when appropriate). There are other ways to understand the past, but talking to the people who actually spend their entire lives studying the past in all its context and weirdness need to be on board for any of this to make any sense.

The post Breaking: Something Historians Have Known Forever! appeared first on Lawyers, Guns & Money.

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deebee
8 hours ago
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Tweet doesn’t say “Breaking” also the segment was good. What’s the complaint here? Does Loomis think the PBS NewsHour is supposed to just read his blog posts verbatim?
America City, America
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Download Free Coloring Books From Museums and Libraries

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a halfway colored-in illustration of a man with long curly hair

an illustration of a man in old timey clothes getting on a bicycle

various black and white illustrations of how a ship's rigging works

A Child's Map of the Ancient World

Hosted by the New York Academy of Medicine, #ColorOurCollections is a yearly assemblage of coloring books sourced from the collections of museums and libraries. You can download this year’s coloring books (as well as those from past years) for free from the website. (via open culture)

Tags: art · design · maps

💬 Join the discussion on kottke.org

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deebee
10 days ago
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America City, America
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Tipping Culture

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I think most of us can agree that tipping culture is out of control. First, workers should simply be paid wages. Tips are bullshit, forcing subservience. They are also a way for employers to keep costs down and push them on consumers in different ways. The tipped minimum wage is flat out evil and any state that still has that is governed by evil people. But of course workers do rely on tips, so I always tip and generously. While I would love to patronize only restaurants that actually pay their workers and don’t accept tips, that’s not possible in most of the country. So a standard 20 percent is appropriate.

On the other hand, tipping has expanded rapidly and for reasons that don’t make a lot of sense. For example, let’s say I am at a brewery. Naturally, I am going to tip on the 2 beers I have there. But let’s say I buy a couple of four-packs. Do I tip 20% on that? Even though I got them out of the cooler? It’s all on the same bill. I tend to split the difference a bit, but then I feel guilty about it. There’s also tipping for, say, food where you do the work–you go to the counter, you order, you bus your table. Now, there’s a good reason to tip in this case–there are people behind the kitchen doors doing hard work and they are underpaid. So yes, of course. But should there be a difference between that and a full-service meal? Then there’s the question of percentage. Often today, the payment screens start at 20 percent and can go as high as 30 or 35 percent. We start talking about a lot of money. And guilt is a big part of the story here.

The problem with this is manifold. Again, just pay your workers! But the bigger downside for these workers is that people are just going to stop tipping entirely, or reducing those tips significantly. We are already seeing this.

Kadesh Swanson has a rule at sit-down restaurants: He tips 10%. It’s half the norm (at least 20% these days), but it’s what he’s always done. “If servers want more, then they should put the same effort in that I took to earn that money,” he says. Swanson, 34, makes tobacco pipes and hosts taco pop-ups in Olympia, Washington, and sees a gratuity as a reflection of the service he’s offered. He’ll tip more occasionally when the experience feels exceptional, but never on takeout or counter-service orders. “You just came, did your job, and you left,” Swanson says of workers at limited-service restaurants.

A 2023 Pew Research Center study showed that people who have worked for tips are more likely to leave a gratuity. But that’s not the case for Swanson. Even running his own taco pop-ups at local breweries hasn’t changed his views on tipping. He considers his business model comparable to that of a fast-food restaurant: “It comes off the grill and someone hands it to you,” he says. Swanson appreciates a gratuity but admits that “my own business is not one that I would personally tip.” He may not be the average customer, but Swanson is not alone. There are diners across the country who view gratuity in its most literal sense—as totally discretionary.

Tipping has been a controversial topic pretty much forever—but it’s only gotten more polarizing. Stories of people shaming bad tippers are commonplace now, and tipping on everything from takeout to counter service has become the industry norm. Still, there are people among us who are actively resisting this movement. They rarely—if ever—tip 20%, and some believe that by withholding tips, they’re actually protesting an antiquated and inequitable system.

There’s a lot of these people: 5% of Americans never tip and 12% only sometimes leave a gratuity on their meals, according to Bankrate data. In a new YouGov etiquette survey, half of the more than 1,000 respondents indicated they think it’s “acceptable” to leave no tip after receiving “bad service.” That Pew Research Center survey of almost 12,000 adults found that more than half would tip 15% or less on “average—but not exceptional—food and service” at a restaurant. (One quarter of respondents said they would still leave 20% or more, and 2% said they wouldn’t tip at all.)

“I believe the role of tipping should be to incentivize and reward excellent service,” says Anda Galffy, a 69-year-old travel blogger who was born in Europe but now lives in Southern California. “It has nothing to do with generosity.”

But etiquette around gratuity has changed: During the pandemic, many Americans started tipping higher and in more situations. Even as the desire to show support during the worst of the pandemic tapered off, though, the proliferation of tip screens never really went away. In fact, you may still be prompted to tip in nontraditional scenarios such as at the dermatologist, grocery store self-checkout, and even in my meditation app. (It’s framed as a “donation” and immediately reverts the good work I’ve done on my nervous system.)

While tipping has long been expected at restaurants, some customers bristle at the fact that the norms keep increasing—and now these people are intentionally subverting them. Galffy doesn’t view it as her responsibility to subsidize the wages of waitstaff. “Most people I know allow themselves to be guilted into tipping for poor wages,” she says. “But relying on tips to make a living is a choice. If a restaurant doesn’t pay its workers a decent wage, you should go work somewhere else.” She doesn’t leave a gratuity on take-out orders but tends to round up her coffee orders to the nearest dollar and typically tips 15% at a sit-down restaurant—toggling that figure up and down based on her experience. In some cases, she won’t leave a gratuity at all.

Income and age tend to play a role in how tipping is perceived. Roughly 39% of upper-income adults say tipping is more of an obligation—something they essentially feel required to do—compared with 30% of middle-income earners and 24% of people who make lower wages. The 2023 Bankrate survey found that only a quarter of Gen Z’ers tip at least 20% at sit-down restaurants, compared to more than half of Baby Boomers, who are generally more established in their careers, if not retired. It doesn’t help that inflation feels out of control right now; food costs are eating up more of our incomes today than they have in three decades. Some customers are choosing to save a few dollars by skimping on or skipping the tip.

A couple of points here. First, it’s interesting that the guy who runs the taco truck is like, nah, don’t tip me much and I don’t tip much either. Second, the guy who wants perfect service for tips is a great reason why tipping should be banned. It’s not all about you dude. Third, and this is the most interesting, is that young people don’t tip. That I did not know until I read this. I get that they don’t have as much money as older people. But they also work in industries that are more reliant on tipping than older people.

So I guess I am not sure what is happening here. I do think we might be coming to a tipping point here (sorry, I loathe puns, but it works in this context). Do any of you have any anecdotal thoughts on this latter point? Anyway, it seems like a good conversation to have.

The post Tipping Culture appeared first on Lawyers, Guns & Money.

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deebee
16 days ago
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“Anyway, it seems like a good conversation to have.” Is what they’d put on the money if Loomis was a country.
America City, America
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The Geography Question

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Displaying all of the tact for which he is justly renowned, Loomis got himself into a fracas on twitter over the weekend.

Then I made the same case and folks got upset about points that I find both obvious and beyond challenge, suggesting that I was arguing that Black people and gay people and women shouldn’t get Ph.Ds, and also that I was a Nazi sympathizer and a White Supremacist for not understanding that the South is bad, and in general all of the things that you expect from an enthusiastic, if small-scale, twitter pile-on.

I do think that this is an important topic. Consequently, I’m going to make the argument orderly and comprehensively:

  1. People shouldn’t go into academia. When folks on twitter insist “you don’t want women to go into academia,” they’re right! Women are people, and I don’t think people should go into academia! I like my job, but the job market is awful, getting worse, and within just a few years will get way way way worse. I like my job, but it’s a lot less fun and rewarding than it was a few years ago and it’s going to continue to get worse as administration takes firm control of university life and as public esteem for higher education declines. I write letters of recommendation for Ph.D. programs only with extraordinary reluctance because I want no responsibility for someone being unemployed and in debt six years from now. This position can only hold in context of the currently-existing extreme mis-match between the number of Ph.Ds and the number of available jobs, but that’s the world we’re living in for as far as the eye can see. As such, “you should hesitate to get a Ph.D if you’re uncomfortable living in a rural, Southern community” is but a subset of the “you shouldn’t get a Ph.D” belief that I hold dear.
  2. People are allowed and encouraged to have any reason they want to choose where to live. Family, climate, politics, time zones, food, language… all of these are good reasons to want to live in one place and not in some other place, and to tailor one’s professional life accordingly. I personally find Southern culture to be tolerable and even to some extent charming, Southern politics to be dreadful and maddening, and Southern climate (especially in the Deep South) to be almost unendurable.  I would struggle to enjoy Florida less because of Desantis and more because of the weather, but it’s absolutely fine for mileage to vary on this point. I would suggest that all of the reasons that a person would not want to live in a particular area should be part of a weighted calculus rather than an absolute (I’ve applied for jobs in Florida and Alabama and I probably would have taken a job at an Alabama institution where I made it to the job talk stage about a decade ago) but to each their own.
  3. Academic jobs are unusual for “creative class” in terms of their geographical dispersion. There are faculty jobs in big cities in red states, in big cities in blue states, in small towns in red states, and in small towns in blue states.  Academic jobs are a little more concentrated in the East and the Midwest than in the West largely because many small liberal arts colleges were founded before the land grant system came into being.  One of the things that surprised me about Kentucky compared to Oregon and Washington was the number of small, private colleges (many of them quite good) distributed seemingly at random across the state. This creates the problem, such that it is, of a workforce whose cultural preferences and cultural experience tend to favor urban, blue areas while many of the jobs are located in rural, red areas.
  4. People should absolutely be aware that geographical restrictions limit their job choices, and that this should have an impact on their decision to pursue a Ph.D. If you do not believe that you can live in red states and in the rural, conservative parts of blue states, then you need to factor that into your decision to spend six years getting a Ph.D., because a) a considerable percentage of academic jobs are in those areas, and b) jobs in urban areas in blue states are super-competitive, in part because there are lots of folks with Ph.Ds who have exactly the same feeling about living in red states and rural areas.  To be sure, this is an “is” rather than a “should” condition, and maybe after the Revolution we can all be professors in Brooklyn, but if you want a career in academia you need to take “is” into account. I believe that it is incumbent upon a faculty member advising graduate students to make this clear; if the student cannot envision living anywhere other than western Washington and does not include Tacoma as part of “western Washington,” (I have known several graduate students who fit this description exactly) then the faculty member is doing the student a grave disservice by failing to make clear the professional implications of this geographic exclusion.

Two further points that have a bearing on the argument but that aren’t central to it, regarding especially the reluctance of many academics to consider working in the American South.  This reluctance is absolutely not new, and it is not limited to women, Black folks, and Queer folks; my advisor at UW told me quite openly that he had never considered applying for a job south of the Mason-Dixon Line and that he would never consider applying for such a job.  This should not be regarded as a Defense of the South (although, as noted, I do find aspects of Southern life to be charming) but rather as things you should consider if you’re contemplating moving to the South.

  1. The local swamps the regional.  Athens and Atlanta are in Georgia and Lexington and Louisville are in Kentucky, but all of those places are going to be a helluva lot more familiar to people coming out of Seattle or Eugene than will La Grande or Cheney. Liberal cultural spaces are endemic to urban life in the United States (you can find liberal small towns but it’s awfully hard to find conservative big cities). In pretty much every city of a reasonable size in the United States you will find a thriving Queer community (I’m in Salt Lake City at this very moment and was able to enjoy the city’s exceedingly enthusiastic Pride festival over the weekend).  A robust Black cultural community is more hit or miss and depends a lot on demographics, but you’re almost certain to find thriving Black spaces in any city of reasonable size in the American South (Lexington is kind of an exception to this for weird historical reasons, but Louisville definitely is not). There’s certainly variation (Plano and Eugene are NOT the same, and by and large that’s a good thing), but even in Plano you’re going to be able to find cultural space for yourself.
  2. But state laws do matter! Red state legislatures are worse for the academic profession than blue state legislatures.  “We need to take away your autonomy because the legislature is coming for us” is about 75% an administrative scam to reduce the power of faculty (the fact that the Professional Administrative Class tries to run the scam in deep Blue states is a tell), but it’s 25% real and it’s worse in Red states. More importantly, Red state legislatures are bad in consequential ways for women, Black folks, and Queer folks. The degree of the badness can be overstated (twitter is prone to overstatement, as you may know) because of point 5 (locality matters to the functioning of law) but the badness is real.  Trans folks are at risk of loss of bodily autonomy; Black folks are denied political representation and subjected to harsher legal scrutiny; women are denied reproductive rights. All of these are good reasons to decide not to take a job in the American South (or in many parts of the West or Midwest), and I would never try to argue anyone out of that decision.  I would add that anyone who has loved ones or family members that fall into these categories also suffers from this badness; if one of my teenage daughters ever needed an abortion I would need to drive or fly to Illinois. College faculty are a privileged enough class that this is usually an inconvenience rather than a crisis, but nevertheless.

I’ve worked at the University of Kentucky for 18 years, and I’ve grown to quite enjoy Lexington. I also enjoy my job.  There are conceivable professional opportunities that would tempt me to leave Lexington, and there are probably a few places (Pacific Northwest) where I would accept an essentially lateral professional move. Having lived in Carlisle, Pennsylvania for a year I know that I can manage a small town, but I’d rather be urban than rural for a whole host of reasons. I have known plenty of faculty who have come to UK with the intention of leaving as soon as possible; many of those folks have come to like Lexington or at least to tolerate it sufficiently that moving lost its urgency. Others have left as soon as opportunities presented themselves.  My final bit of advice for folks who have already done the Ph.D thing is to embrace flexibility to the extent that it is possible to do so. If your primary objections to living in the South (or Utah or Idaho or what not) are cultural and pre-emptive (you’ve decided you don’t want to go there because of what you’ve heard, not because you have personal experience) then at least consider taking advantage of professional opportunities in such places as they arise; you might be surprised with what you can tolerate and even grow to enjoy. If your objections are about the political environment I cannot gainsay, but at the same time be aware that there are lots of Black, Queer, and female faculty who have carved out productive careers and satisfying personal lives in places like Lexington, Tuscaloosa, and Baton Rouge.

The post The Geography Question appeared first on Lawyers, Guns & Money.

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deebee
17 days ago
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There are so many reasons to loathe the guy that dragging Loomis for this is like hating Donald Trump over his support for school vouchers
America City, America
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1 public comment
fxer
17 days ago
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Don’t get a PhD
Bend, Oregon
dreadhead
17 days ago
Most people I know who have one have said the same thing.
fxer
17 days ago
Wonder if it’s any better leveraging your phd in the private sector, as the author really only knows/wrote this article about going into academia
dreadhead
17 days ago
Hard to say, most of the ones I know are biologists working for the public sector (not at universities). Seems like you have to make a lot of sacrifices and you are not really rewarded financially compared to someone who just has a bachelors etc.

Can Loomis Be Replaced by AI?

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We owe it to you, our loyal readers, to determine whether the services that you require are being delivered as cost-effectively as possible. Consequently, we are examining the possibility of replacing some of our moderately popular contributors with AI:

This is the grave of Ezekiel Greene.

Ezekiel Greene was born on a small farm in rural Pennsylvania in 1810. From a young age, he displayed a keen intellect and a passion for politics, inspired by the democratic ideals of the young United States. Growing up in a family of modest means, Ezekiel worked tirelessly on the family farm while devouring books on law, history, and political philosophy in his spare time.

As a young man, Ezekiel became involved in local politics, advocating for the rights of farmers and laborers in his community. His natural charisma and eloquence quickly gained him a following, and he soon rose through the ranks of local government, serving as a county commissioner and later as a state representative.

In 1848, at the age of 38, Ezekiel Greene was elected to the United States House of Representatives as a member of the newly formed Free Soil Party. A staunch opponent of slavery, Ezekiel campaigned tirelessly for the abolitionist cause, delivering impassioned speeches on the floor of Congress and working behind the scenes to build coalitions and garner support for anti-slavery legislation.

Despite facing opposition from powerful pro-slavery interests, Ezekiel remained undeterred in his crusade for justice. He was instrumental in the passage of the Wilmot Proviso, which sought to prohibit slavery in the territories acquired from Mexico during the Mexican-American War. Although the proviso ultimately failed to become law, Ezekiel’s tireless advocacy helped to galvanize the growing anti-slavery movement in the United States.

Throughout his time in Congress, Ezekiel Greene remained true to his principles, earning a reputation as a man of integrity and honor. He continued to fight for the rights of the oppressed and marginalized, championing causes such as women’s suffrage, workers’ rights, and public education.

After serving three terms in Congress, Ezekiel returned to his home state of Pennsylvania, where he continued to be actively involved in politics and community affairs until his death in 1875. Though he may have been a minor figure in the grand scheme of American history, Ezekiel Greene’s dedication to justice and equality left a lasting legacy that inspired future generations to continue the fight for a more equitable and just society.

Seamless! The transition to AI is seamless!

The post Can Loomis Be Replaced by AI? appeared first on Lawyers, Guns & Money.

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deebee
21 days ago
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Better!
America City, America
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Build Anywhere: A Clever System for Concrete-Free Foundations

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A few years ago, I was hired for a project that went nowhere. A family living out of a trailer on a deeply rural property had inherited some money. They wanted to build a proper house. The contractor and I headed out to assess the site.

Their driveway was in horrific shape: Dirt, nearly three-quarters of a mile long, narrow, winding, hilly and badly drained. The contractor explained that before any construction could take place, they'd need to widen and grade the driveway with a tractor, lay down a layer of "rip rap" (I don't know what the non-colloquial name for this is, they're basically softball-sized stones) and cover that with "crush 'n run" (gravel). I don't remember the exact tonnage from the estimate, but the number was high.

When they asked why this was necessary, the contractor explained that no concrete company would risk sending their trucks in to pour the foundation unless the access road was up to snuff. In the end, the driveway remediation cost was out of their budget.

Stories like this aren't uncommon, but a UK-based company called RapidRoot, which I didn't know about back then, has a potential solution. They've devised a no-concrete foundation system that doesn't require heavy machinery. Their system uses a series of "MagnaPiles," which are marine-grade aluminum tubes that are easy to transport to the site.

A modular core is placed in the desired location, and the MagnaPile tubes are slid through it and into the ground, at an angle.

These cores, anchored to the ground by the MagnaPiles, are topped with pile caps. That's what the house rests on.

A soil test of the site needs to be taken, and then the company's engineers determine how many MagnaPiles are needed for each core; as little as four for solid soils, and as many as 16 for more problematic soils.


The company says their MagnaPiles offer "ultra-high corrosion resistance far superior to off the shelf galvanized tubes used by other systems" and that they can provide a design life of over 100 years. (The average lifespan of a house, at least in the 'States, is 50 to 63 years. I find that kind of shocking.)

"RapidRoot is a heavy duty concrete free footing system, a hybrid root pile /reticulated pile solution that can be deployed in any penetrable soil. It is a highly accurate and adjustable system, superior to both screw piles and ground anchors."

"Based on proven technology and established engineering methods, RapidRoot provides permanent (but removable) low impact, environmentally friendly pile foundations for housing, commercial buildings and general construction. Excavation free foundations for your building will save you time, money and mess."

In addition to making construction on a remote site feasible, these "hand portable foundations" offer speed of installation and precision.

"Compact, precise footings. RapidRoot pile cap elements are assembled and located on site, hand carried to their pre-indicated layout points. Caps are either installed directly on the ground or slightly sunken for a more discrete finished foundation.
"No heavy plant or machinery. Installation is fast and efficient. Piles are driven in a few minutes with portable tooling and entire load points with posts, with connector brackets in less than an hour. Entire foundations are completed in record time."

"RapidRoot offers speed and more importantly precision not offered by either concrete, screw piles or ground anchors. Foundations are adjustable in level, plumb and in every axis posterior to their installation."

The company doesn't have any video demonstrations of their own, but here's UK builders Echo Living putting in a RapidRoot foundation:

You can learn more about the system here.



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deebee
24 days ago
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America City, America
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