L. Rhodes

Digest

Numb in the garden

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I enjoyed The Ponder Heart when I read it ages ago, and lately I've been thinking that it's time I revisited Eudora Welty's work. So it's fortuitous that I recently stumbled across this essay at Lit Hub, in which former US Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey explains how Welty's photography helped give substance to the past Trethewey heard about in her grandmother's stories of rural Mississippi.


How do inquisitive people involve themselves in the process of reducing a person in anguish to mere data? That's the question asked by PhD students who downloaded a dataset the National Institute of Standards and Technology is using to test facial-recognition software. Their essay at Real Life draws a direct line from the methods of training machine learning, the the dehumanization of entire populations:

The problem has stemmed from the positivist treatment of people as a means to a particular end: "data." That this data stems from human bodies, lives, and traces is (to too many scientists) an unfortunate corollary, a distraction from science's purity.


The history of white supremacist propaganda on the internet takes a curious route through Mennonite "ethnicity" in this essay at Boston Review. The focal point is Ingrid Rimland, a Mennonite novelist who scored a moderate publishing success in the late 1970s, and was eventually courted (quite literally) by nascent anti-Semitic movement. But the story is filled with pivotal side-characters, like a former SS officer turned book editor, an ex-pat neo-Nazi who funded Rimland's pioneering website and then went on to marry her, and an archivist who let his crusade to elevate Mennonite history beguile him into supporting a fascist ideologue. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the role it has historically played in providing a foothold for Nazi ideology, anti-communist sentiment plays a role in the latter plot point.


Some anesthesiologists could dramatically reduce their carbon footprints by switching the gases they use at work. To illustrate how dramatic, Dr. Brian Chesebro, profiled in the L.A. Times, deploys the ever-useful "Hummer" unit:

Hartmeyer said he was stunned when Chesebro explained that his use of desflurane was the greenhouse-gas equivalent of driving a fleet of 12 Hummers for the duration of each surgical procedure. It’s “only” half a Hummer if he uses sevoflurane. Hartmeyer noted that outside the operating room he drives a Prius, a hybrid electric car.


Farmers in Germany are using a bee-sharing app to ensure they have enough polinators on hand, according to a video report at Deutsche Welle.


Also via Deutsche Welle , paleontologists have identified an ancestor of the Tyrannosaurus Rex that stood about 3 feet in height and weighed about as much as an adolescent human. Compare that to the more familiar T. Rex, which was typically in the 1-2 Hummer range.