## Seeing Theory

Seeing Theory is a project from Brown University students using interactive visualizations to teach fundamental concepts of statistics, such as probability, linear regression, etc.

Statistics is quickly becoming the most important and multi-disciplinary field of mathematics. According to the American Statistical Association, “statistician” is one of the top ten fastest-growing occupations and statistics is one of the fastest-growing bachelor degrees. Statistical literacy is essential to our data driven society. Yet, for all the increased importance and demand for statistical competence, the pedagogical approaches in statistics have barely changed. Using Mike Bostock’s data visualization software, D3.js, Seeing Theory visualizes the fundamental concepts covered in an introductory college statistics or Advanced Placement statistics class. Students are encouraged to use Seeing Theory as an additional resource to their textbook, professor and peers.

## The Italian Cheese Bank

Credito Emiliano is an Italian bank founded in 1910 with approximately 37 Billion EUR under asset. Some of those assets happen to be wheels of cheese from local farmers. From The New York Times, who first reported about this bank in 2009:

The bank considered taking prosciutto, another of the region’s specialties, and olive oil as collateral but such products were harder to store and brand, Mr. Bizzarri said. “It’s easier to steal or replace them,” he said.

Emilia-Romagna is the only area in the world legally allowed to use the parmigiano-reggiano name for the hard, dry, skim milk cheese that was first made in the region around 1200. Sales of parmesan totaled €1.54 billion in 2008, 25 percent from exports, according to the producers’ association.

Once the bank accepts cheese as collateral it oversees the aging process, which includes turning the wheels several times a week and checking periodically for cheeses that have gone soft. As a master tester taps each cheese with a small metal hammer, Mr. Bizzarri listens for hollow sounds that would indicate the wheel is a “dud” and result in its disposal.

Most wheels pass the test, said Mr. Bizzarri, who sold financial products and managed bank branches before taking over the cheese unit. After a year they are branded with the parmigiano-reggiano logo and serial numbers and tags.

When loans are not repaid, Credito Emiliano sells the cheese to recover its investment, returning any difference to the producer. This makes the operation low risk for the bank, Mr. Bizzarri said, adding that few producers defaulted.

I don’t think there’s any food items in the U.S. that would be viewed in the same way — possibly wine? — but certainly in Spain — jamon iberico, for example — this could be possible.

## ‘The one thing that gives you value in society is the very thing for which you are hated’

“The Handmaid’s Tale” ’s most chilling resonance, though, comes from its vision of a society that compels women to keep reproducing even when it’s become increasingly difficult for them to do so. In the America of 2017, as in Gilead, birth rates are falling, not because of mysterious toxins in the air but because many Americans cannot imagine being able to afford children. Instead of Handmaids, the women most likely to be capable of becoming pregnant are twentysomethings trying to pay off student loans with wages from precarious jobs. (I recently heard one young woman say that she felt “sterilized by student debt.”) Others are barren not because of an ecological disaster but because they have worked straight through their childbearing years. Meanwhile, Republicans of today, like those of the Reagan era, continue to push to further privatize the resources that might support childbearing and child-rearing. Consider the remarkable question, posed recently by the Illinois congressman John Shimkus, of why men should subsidize prenatal care.

Only three episodes in, it already feels like Hulu’s “Handmaid’s Tale” is the most important TV show of 2017. It is an essential watch if for nothing else than to get people to read Margaret Atwood’s astonishing work of speculative fiction — one that becomes less speculative as the years go by.

FWIW’s Elisabeth Moss’s performance as Offred is one for the ages. Elsewhere: this long profile about Moss and Handmaid in Vulture is worth checking out, too.

## A Public Service Announcement

Please allow me to reintroduce myself. It’s been nearly 2.5 years and I’ve got a slow growing itch bubbling inside.

## ‘Downton Abbey’ Season Five Trailer

You know the show has secretly been not that great since season two. It’s the giant elephant in the estate. Anyway, this pretty summed up my feelings on the matter: “Mr. Carson is pooping on about Downton ‘catching up with the times.’ Someone should tell him that in less than 100 years everyone is going to have handheld devices that will be able to display internet porn and cat videos at the touch of a screen.”

That said, I’m still going to watch when it drops. September 21st in the UK (ahem, torrents for those in the US, ahem) or January on PBS stateside.

## Football is Football is Football is Tradition

Because of these obscure common origins, as far as I know, there is no other game that is played so many different ways that is nonetheless called the same thing. “Football” means Ronaldo in Lisbon, Peyton Manning in Denver, and James O’Donoghue in Killarney. All of them have different skills, and they play different games with the same name.

What each flavor has in common is spectacle. So many of the other sports seem to be relatively private and intimate. The various forms of “football” are bright and brash and, when they are played at their highest levels in the countries that love them, they blot out the sun on the sports landscape. It is this ability to create spectacle that accounts for the way the several kinds of “football” are able to engender similar forms of occasionally lunatic jingoism. There is a barely hidden element of violence to them. They all involve varying degrees of physical contact. They all involve, in one way or another, one human being knocking another one to the ground. There is a tacit understanding that all of them are a polite sublimation of the tendency of countries to make war on each other. This is not unusual in history. The early Jesuit missionaries to the New World noted that Native American tribes used three-day lacrosse games, which occasionally were contested with hundreds of players on either side, as barely disguised battles, played as a tribute to what they called “the Creator.” Mess with “football” and, as Ned Beatty says in Network, you are messing with the fundamental forces of nature and a vaguely religious concept of nationhood.

Right now, as all of its seasons at all levels are just beginning, American football is under unprecedented assault. Science is providing more and more evidence that the game is physically perilous to everyone who plays it. This forces a series of hard decisions on the participants and moral questions on the devotees. Is it ethical, or even humane, to be entertained for fun and (occasionally) profit by a sport that so inevitably destroys the people who play it? (Steve Almond’s recently released book, Against Football, poses these questions very directly.) There are only two possible approaches to these issues. You can answer them honestly, or you can duck them entirely. And the latter approach often involves cloaking yourself in the almost theological tribalism that American football shares with all the other varieties.

Think about the defenses of American football that rely on “tradition” as an argument opposing the moral case against the game. Think about how closely American football has attached itself to the U.S. military, from the in-game commercials to the now-customary flyovers of attack aircraft. Think about the 2011 Super Bowl, in which we had “God Bless America” and the National Anthem, a flyover, and a bizarre video that sought to link John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address, Martin Luther King’s speech on the National Mall, and Ali’s KO of Liston in Lewiston, Maine. Think about the way football is positioned as some kind of essentially American journey. Patriotism may be the last refuge of scoundrels, but it’s also a handy hideout for huge corporate athletic enterprises that are facing existential questions about what they do to the athletes who engage in them.

But that may be enough to help American football to survive.

## A Maze Inside a Museum

Neat project, but cooler architect to keep an eye on: “It shouldn’t come as any surprise that Bjarke Ingels would respond to an invitation from the National Building Museum with a design for a maze. The architect is known for his whimsy. When Copenhagen decided on building a waste incinerator in the city, the city turned to Ingels to create a design that would make the facility more palatable to residents; he designed the Amagerforbraending waste incinerator as a functional ski slope, one that emits exhaust (essentially water vapor) in periodic, puffy smoke rings. For another Copenhagen project, the Superkilen urban park, Bjarke Ingels Group imported signage, structures, and public design objects from all over the world, making it a sort of global, comical fair ground.”

## Redefining Classic Rock

Led Zeppelin is classic rock. So are Mötley Crüe and Ozzy Osbourne. But what about U2 or Nirvana? As a child of the 1990s, I never doubted that any of these bands were classic rock, even though it may be shocking for many to hear. And then I heard Green Day’s “American Idiot” on a classic rock station a few weeks ago, and I was shocked.

It was my first time hearing a band I grew up with referred to as “classic rock.” Almost anyone who listens to music over a long enough period of time probably experiences this moment — my colleagues related some of their own, like hearing R.E.M. or Guns N’ Roses on a classic rock station — but it made me wonder, what precisely is classic rock? As it turns out, a massive amount of data collection and analysis, and some algorithms, go into figuring out the answer to that very question.

FiveThirtyEight breaks down the math of what exactly defines a musical act as “classic rock”.

## 2014 Emmy Nominations

As if we needed further proof that broadcast television is completely irrelevant from a quality standpoint, the list of 2014 Emmy nominations should be proof. AMC, HBO, and Netflix led the way in nominations, with Netflix having received more nominations than Fox.

The only big change I would make is swapping out Netflix’s ‘House of Cards’ (awful season two and on notice) for Showtime’s ‘Masters of Sex’ in the best drama category. Regardless, stick a fork in the broadcasters when it comes to television that matters.

## “Even after 35 ft. and four years later, my wife and I still hear them”

Aaron Gouveia recounts the time he and his wife needed a pregnancy termination procedure and how the buffer zones — even at 35ft. — didn’t do much to protect them on the worst day of their collective life.

For Justice Kagan, 35 ft. on a tape measure might seem like a lot. But I have a slightly different perspective, one that is far more personal and relevant to this particular issue.

In 2010, my wife and I went to a Brookline, Mass., abortion clinic after a team of renowned Boston doctors diagnosed our 16-week-old unborn baby with Sirenomelia. Our baby’s legs were fused together, but that wasn’t the worst of it. The baby had no kidneys, no bladder and no anus. We were given the heartbreaking news that there was a 0% chance of a live birth.

Because my wife’s health wasn’t in immediate danger, the hospital couldn’t get her in for a termination for two weeks. However, that meant it’d be a 50/50 chance of being able to have an abortion or having to deliver a stillborn. After much soul searching and contemplating a no-win scenario, my wife decided a stillbirth was more than she could handle and so the hospital sent us to a recommended clinic to perform an abortion.

When we pulled into the parking lot and got out of our car, the saddest day of our lives got exponentially worse.

These issues are a lot more complex when we consider the actually human toll on something as whether or not a 35ft. buffer zone outside a women’s health clinic is constitutionally legal or whether it impugns someone’s free speech rights. Empathy is something this country needs more of.