Weekly Meanderings, 15 April 2017

Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 8.39.40 PMGood for LeBron James:

LeBron James understands what it’s like being a kid on the outside looking for hope.

He’s giving them some.

James, who has been committed to helping kids in his hometown through a variety of educational programs, is teaming up with Akron public schools to open the “I Promise School” dedicated to aiding at-risk children who might otherwise be left behind.

“This school is so important to me because our vision is to create a place for the kids in Akron who need it most — those that could fall through the cracks if we don’t do something,” James said. “We’ve learned over the years what works and what motivates them, and now we can bring all of that together in one place along with the right resources and experts. If we get to them early enough, we can hopefully keep them on the right track to a bigger and brighter future for themselves and their families.”

The school, which will be backed by James’ family foundation, will open in the fall of 2018 and focus on children in third and fourth grades. By 2022, the school will expand to accommodate students in grades one through eight.

It’s the latest initiative by the Cleveland Cavaliers superstar, whose programs have supported 1,100 kids over the past six years. Details are still being finalized on the new school by committees comprised of area leaders, educators, parents and other experts.

Good for Cyril Grayson:

On Monday afternoon, a single line of text came across the waiver wire on an otherwise uneventful NFL offseason day. The Seahawks signed a 23-year-old wide receiver from LSU. The news went uncelebrated save in a small pocket of Louisiana where folks did not see this coming, and by the man who made it happen through persistence and blind faith.

Behold, a life-changing 72 hours for Cyril Grayson.

The first thing to know about Grayson is that he never actually played receiver at LSU or any other college. He was an All-America sprinter for the Tigers who had worked out with the LSU football team for a spell, and he lobbied hard for a chance to participate in the Tigers’ pro day—multiple phone calls, emails and unannounced visits to the facility. At first the football staffers were uninterested, Grayson says, then they relented.

Grayson had been training for months for the opportunity, working on football-specific drills. He dumped what was left of his $6,300 track-and-field scholarship stipend—after rent and food—into his training. A longtime mentor donated training services. (Grayson vows to pay him back.) A kinesiology major, Grayson had put off looking into physical therapy masters programs before May graduation. He convinced himself his life would change on April 5. He told his roommate they would celebrate in advance with dinner at Roux 61 Seafood and Grill in Baton Rouge.

Bad for these prisoners:

Ohio officials claim inmates at a state prison built their own computers, hid them in a ceiling and used the prison’s internet to steal identities and downloaded hacking programs.

The Office of the Ohio Inspector General published a report Tuesday detailing the scheme, which the agency claims occurred at the 2,500-prisoner Marion Correctional Institution north of Columbus.

The agency was tipped off in July 2015, when the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) received an alert a computer had exceeded its daily internet usage threshold. The log-in credentials being used were for an employee who was not working that day.

Employees were able to trace the computer connection and found the computers, which were hidden on plywood boards above a ceiling panel in a prison training room, the report said.

The computers were connected to the ODRC computer network and were being used by an inmate to steal the identity of another inmate, in part so that he could submit credit card applications and commit tax fraud, the report said. The computers, the investigation found, also were used to illegally create security clearance passes for inmates to gain access to restricted areas and download hacking tools that could be used in network attacks.

Analysis revealed the computers had been used to make credit card applications, create passes for inmates to gain access to multiple areas within the prison and access inmate records such as disciplinary data, sentencing data and inmate locations. A “large hacker’s toolkit with numerous malicious tools for possible attacks” was detected on the computer’s hard drives.

Russia’s crusaders and apocalyptic interpreters:

As the Russian military commenced airstrikes in Syria, another important national institution applauded the intervention.

On Wednesday, a statement from the Russian Orthodox Church praised the Russian war effort, describing the mission to fight the jihadists of the Islamic State as a “holy battle.”

“The fight with terrorism is a holy battle and today our country is perhaps the most active force in the world fighting it,” said the head of the church’s public affairs department, Vsevolod Chaplin, in a quote reported by Interfax news agency and translated by Agence France Presse.

Chaplin added: “This decision corresponds with international law, the mentality of our people and the special role that our country has always played in the Middle East.”

To be sure, strategists in the Kremlin are probably not donning the vestments of Crusaders right now. As my colleague Andrew Roth reported earlier this week, the airstrikes are likely an opportunistic gamble by Russian President Vladimir Putin — a move rooted more in cynicism than any religious conviction. And senior Muslim clerics in Russia have also endorsed Moscow’s new war.

But Putin has anchored his political brand in religious nationalism, centered on the Russian Orthodox Church, which has emerged as a major pillar in the Russian nation-state after decades of Soviet suppression. It’s a key agent in spreading Putin-friendly patriotic propaganda, from anti-gay proselytizing to backing a more muscular Russian foreign policy.

[Maybe John Haggee could become an consultant.]

The Library of Congress on organizing the Alexandria Library:

It is in this library, dedicated to arts, intellectual exploration, and the advancement of science, that one finds the true precursor to the card catalog. As the scrolls began to pile up, the library staff faced a challenging job, for unlike modern books, the scrolls had no title page, table of contents, or index. In many cases the scrolls did not even list an author, and longer works, such as the plays of Sophocles or Euripides, would often take up many scrolls with no indication as to their proper order. Alexandria’s first librarian, Zenodotus, attempted to put this mass of scrolls in order. The scrolls were inventoried and then organized alphabetically, with a tag affixed to the end of each scroll indicating the author, title, and subject. These three categories came to define the traditional card catalog and are still the cornerstone of library cataloging.

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With some semblance of structure applied to the collection, the Greek poet and scholar Callimachus was chosen to devise a way to provide reliable access to the scrolls. His cataloging and classification of the papyrus scrolls made him one of the most important figures in library history. Around 250 B.C., he compiled his Pinakes, or Tables of Those Who Were Outstanding in Every Phase of Culture, and Their Writings—in 120 Books. The Pinakes functioned as both a bibliography and an aid to finding the most important Greek works held by the Library of Alexandria.

The Pinakes was arguably the first time anyone compiled a sophisticated list of authors and their works. From the surviving fragments, scholars have deduced that Callimachus divided the scrolls into separate classes, such as poetry, philosophy, and law, and then further subdivided them into a narrower range of subjects or genres. Within each class, the scrolls were arranged alphabetically by author. While this seems obvious to anyone who has ever browsed a bookstore or library, it was groundbreaking in its day. In the Pinakes, Callimachus also included data on the scroll itself, such as the total number of lines and, perhaps most important for scholars, the opening words of individual scrolls. This cataloging feature continued through to the catalog cards of the nineteenth century, where in many instances the opening lines of a book would fill the front and back of a card.

The difference an African American teacher can make:

How important is it to have a role model?

A new working paper puts some numbers to that question.

Having just one black teacher in third, fourth or fifth grade reduced low-income black boys’ probability of dropping out of high school by 39 percent, the study found.

And by high school, African-American students, both boys and girls, who had one African-American teacher had much stronger expectations of going to college. Keep in mind, this effect was observed seven to ten years after the experience of having just one black teacher.

The study is big. The authors, Seth Gershenson and Constance A. Lindsay of American University, Cassandra M.D. Hart of U.C. Davis and Nicholas Papageorge at Johns Hopkins, looked at long-term records for more than 100,000 black elementary school students in North Carolina.

Then the researchers checked their conclusions by looking at students in a second state, Tennessee, who were randomly assigned to certain classes.

There they found that not only did the black students assigned to black teachers graduate high school at higher rates, they also were more likely to take a college entrance exam. “The results line up strikingly well,” says Papageorge.

This paper is another piece of social science evidence reinforcing the case for having more teachers of color and for training teachers to be more culturally responsive. We’ve reported on instances of implicit bias by white teachers, even toward preschool students, that black students are more often recommended for gifted programs by teachers of color and that students of all races prefer teachers of color.

On tying your shoes:

The scientific evidence is now clear: we all tie our shoelaces wrong.

America’s epidemic of untied shoes can be blamed in part on faulty shoe-tying technique, according to rigorous experiments in a newly published study. But there is also a more insidious culprit: The mere act of walking loosens even a beautifully knotted lace and quickly leads to the grim fate the study’s authors call “catastrophic knot failure.”

“What was remarkable to us was how fast it happened,” says study co-author Oliver O’Reilly of the University of California at Berkeley. In treadmill experiments, after several minutes with no apparent footwear malfunction, “it took two strides for the shoelace to untie. … It explains why when you’re walking along and everything seems completely fine, all of a sudden, boom!” – you’re tripping on your lace.

Through a series of experiments, the team worked out the undoing of a shoelace. The downward spiral begins with the foot’s repeated impact against the ground, which loosens the central knot. Meanwhile, the leg’s swinging causes the lace’s free ends to whip around and gradually slide out of the knot. Finally, one lace end slips free, resulting in “runaway knot failure,” the researchers write in this week’s Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical and Physical Sciences.

The story of a jungle girl:

Amid a troop of monkeys in the Katraniaghat forest range in northern India roamed a naked human girl, playing with the primates as if she were one of them. She looked emaciated, her hair disheveled. But she appeared to be in a comfortable state, until the police arrived.

A group of woodcutters had alerted authorities after spotting the girl, believed to be 10 to 12 years old. When police approached her, the monkeys surrounded the girl, protecting her as one of their own, and attacking an officer as the girl screeched at him, the New Indian Express reported this week. After rescuing the girl, the officer sped away in his patrol car, the monkeys chasing him.

She was soon admitted to a state-run hospital in Bahraich, a city in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, where she has remained for the past two months. Doctors believe the girl had been raised by monkeys for quite some time, and her story has so far mystified authorities, sending them searching through reports of missing children in an attempt to identify her, according to the Associated Press.

In the Indian press, the girl has also drawn comparisons to Rudyard Kipling’s Mowgli, a feral child from Seoni, India, featured as the prominent character in Kipling’s “The Jungle Book.”

Based on her behavior, it appears she could have lived among the primates since she was an infant, Bahraich police officer Dinesh Tripathi told the New Indian Express. When the girl arrived at the hospital, she had wounds all over her body. “Her nails and hair were unkempt like monkeys,” Tripathi said.

The thin, weak girl looked like she had not eaten for many days. Although she was capable of walking on her feet, she would sometimes suddenly drop down on all fours.

Or, is this true? Probably not.

But other officials cast doubt on some of those details Saturday. JP Singh, the district chief forestry officer in the Katarniya Ghat area, told The Guardian that the girl was located on a roadside, not in the forest. Sarbajeet Yadav, a police constable who participated in the rescue, told the Hindustan times that “there were no monkeys around.” What’s more, many cameras in the area – used for both security and animal-tracking purposes – would have detected the girl had she been there, forest department officials said.

Officials involved in helping the girl stressed from the start that they were not certain how long she had been living outdoors and on her own, and they said they were scouring missing children reports in an attempt to identify her.

But Singh, the forestry officer, told the Guardian that he suspected the girl’s inability to communicate was the result of a disability, not a childhood among apes, and that she had been recently abandoned by relatives who did not want to care for her. Her age is still unknown.

“I think the family members of this girl had been aware that she is not able to speak, and they may have abandoned her near the forest road,” he said.”It is clear from first time view, if you see the girl, that she is only eight or nine years old, but her facial expressions show that she is disabled, not only mentally but also physically.”

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