Category: The Absurd (Page 1 of 12)

Is the AP World History Book Racist?

My daughter is taking AP World History and tonight she came to us simply appalled by the context of her textbook.

“The textbook just can’t say anything bad about white people,” she explained. Then she read me the offending sentence

From the time of Columbus, indigenous populations had been compelled to provide labor for European settlers in the Americas .

“They just can’t say what really happened, that they were enslaved by European settlers in the Americas,” she says angrily.

“Not once did they say they were slaves, “forced labor, Encomienda, terrible working conditions, forced to provide them with labor, textiles, food or other goods – so they basically stole their shit -, but not once did they use the word slavery.”  (Later she finds the textbook does use the word, but only when speaking about Brazil).

She went on. The textbook had one paragraph explaining how the Catholic Church oppressed the native population, including using torture and executions. But right after that brief paragraph, they spend three paragraphs exonerating the Catholic Church from the evils they caused:

Despite its failures, the Catholic clergy did provide native peoples with some protections against the abuse and exploitation of Spaniard settlers.

“Failures?” asks my daughter. “They call torture, slavery and executions “failures”?

“It’s not like the book was written in 1980, it was published in 2008,” she says frustrated. (The book is the 4th edition, there is a 6th edition now, but her School District decided to spend money building fences that make the schools look like jails, and huge TV screens teachers use rather than buying books.

She goes on reading, and gets to the part about Brazil.  She grows more appalled:

“It’s so sickening, they actually talk about them like they are animals.”

Although African slaves at first cost much more than Amerindian slaves, planters found them to be more productive and more resistant to disease.

“It sounds like a commercial: ‘Get rid of your Native American slaves, get some African ones – they will be more productive and resistant to disease, buy them now.’  It’s literally what it sounds like.”



Popsugar Fedex Fun

I have often ordered packages by mail, but I’ve never paid too much attention at what they go through before making their way to me.  Apparently, I have been missing on some fun.  Last week I ordered a subscription box from Popsugar Must Have. I just checked to see what the box is up to, and it seems that it’s engaged in a wild vacation.

The box mails from Watsonville, a farming community in California.  Though Popsugar notified me on Thursday that they had mailed the box, it was actually picked up Friday afternoon (I’m writing this on Saturday).  By Friday evening, it was safe in a truck for the 170 mile trip to Sacramento.  What is funny is that San Leandro, where I live, is about half-way between Watsonville and Sacramento.  So by 1 AM this morning, it had already traveled twice as long as it needed to.

Then, at 10 AM today, the box made it back into another truck.  It’s has spent the last 10 hours in transit, but to where? I have no idea yet, but the box is not actually scheduled to arrive until next Friday!  That means that it gets to spend a week just traveling around? Will it stick to this section of northern California? Will it go further south or north, back and forth, perhaps?  Will it go to a different state?  And how much of a carbon footprint will it leave by virtue of it traveling alone?  Stay tuned.

Update: Well, the story was boring than anticipated.  The box spent all of Saturday and most of Sunday in a truck, only to make it to yet another Fedex facility Monday night.  And then from there it was delivered to the San Leandro post office, which set it out for delivery today.  So I got the box – and it only took it a little over 3 days to get here. Not too bad.

Open Letter to Judge Marco Roldan

Missouri Court Cites Woman for Bringing Breastfeeding Baby to Jury Duty

A Missouri judge has actually cited a breastfeeding mother for bringing her baby with her to jury duty!  This is the letter I sent him about it.

Judge Marco Roldan

Judge Marco Roldan 

Dear Judge Roldan,

 Like many other women across the nation I’ve learned about your mistreatment of a breastfeeding mother that was called for jury duty under you.  The woman, like any other breastfeeding mother in her situation, brought the baby with her.  Your response was to criminally cite her.
I don’t know you, so I don’t know if your actions are based in a complete disregard for mothers, for breastfeeding, for babies or for women.  It’s difficult to believe that you did not realize that the options that you offered the juror were not realistic and that they would put the baby in danger.
You suggested that the mother leave her baby at home or bring someone with her to take the baby and feed it during breaks.  Leaving aside the question of where the mother could find a babysitter to do this job and how she could pay her, which is not a trivial matter for a stay at home mom, these suggestions show a complete lack of understanding and concerns for the needs of breastfeeding babies.
First of all, breastfed babies are often fed on demand.  The baby cries or behaves in a distinctive way letting the mom know she’s hungry, and then mom picks her up and feeds her.  How often this happens depends on the baby, some do it every half an hour, some every 2 or 3, but the idea of letting a baby cry itself out and be hungry until the mom is ready to feed him has been proven to be cruel and traumatic for babies.
Your suggestion that the mother “pump” is equally ignorant.  Pumping is not something that breastfeeding women, in particular first-time mothers, can casually do. Pumping is an extremely inefficient way of getting milk out.  I was fairly good at it and it would take me 20 minutes hooked to a hospital-grade pump to get 4 oz of milk. If I used an electric one-breast pump, I’d be lucky to get 1 oz in 20 minutes.  That is definitely not enough for a baby.  And it takes time to learn how to pump efficiently.  A mom who has never done it, is unlikely to take on to it immediately.  I did not read that you offered her the services of a lactation consultant or to buy her a state of the art pump so she could serve.
Even if she could pump (and assuming that she would have stayed up the night before to pump so she could leave the milk for the baby), how do you know that the baby in question would take a bottle? Many breastfed babies don’t. It’s either breastfeeding or going hungry.  Do you actually believe it’s OK to let a baby go hungry?
Frankly, your lack of concern for this mother is deeply troubling.  If you treat a woman who is trying to fulfill her civic duty – she actually showed up to jury duty! — with so much contempt, how do you treat criminal defendants? How do you treat any other woman that comes before you?
As an outsider, I cannot believe that you can possibly be a fair judge.  Your lack of concern and humanity prevents that.
Honestly, I think you should resign and find a career where you cannot so easily harm others.
Margarita Lacabe
a mom

Media Blunder of the Day: Spanish building with no elevator, actually has 10

The Intempo building

The Intempo building

The headlines were somewhere between hilarious and unbelievable.  “Builders forgot elevator shafts on finished Skyscraper,” read the NY Daily News. ”  UPI reported “Spain skyscraper with no elevators nearly complete”, and the Daily Beast echoed “Near-Complete Spanish Skyscraper Forgets Elevators.”

The claims came from a July 20th story in Spain’s El País newspaper about the financial troubles of the Intempo building.  The article discusses the series of problems the builders have encountered during construction and towards the end reads (my free translation): “In January 2012 there was a new surprise: they had not taken into account the shaft for the elevator, as can be seen in the promotional designs which do not not show the spaces typically dedicated on the roofs to the elevator engines. ‘The space had been calculated for a block of 20 stories,’ according to the same sources”.

I will admit that I have no idea what the El País article is referring to, but clearly journalists in both Spanish and English-speaking media interpreted these sentences to mean that the builders had forgotten to build elevators into the buildings.

If they did, however, they had fixed this problem by April 2013, when a blogger visited the building, rode in one of the elevators and wrote about it.  She describes the trip as being incredibly fast, less than one minute to go up 45 stories.  According to the blogger, that’s in “slow mode”.  In fast mode, it can make the ~600 feet climb in about 30 seconds.  The blogger mentions that each of the two towers has 3 elevators.  Four elevators make the trip to the penthouses in the middle.  So in all, it has 10 elevators.  You can see one of the elevators and the space for another one in her blog posting.

She does say, however, that they had to take the stairs to make it to the roof.

Whatever El País meant in its story, it’s certain that the rest of the media that ran with the “no elevators” story did not do the most basic fact-checking of either visiting the building, looking at the blue-prints, calling the construction company, or even googling.  I found the blog posting I referred to above by searching for “ascensores intempo“.  “Ascensor” is the Spanish word for “elevator”.

The real question here is how much can we trust the media, when journalists seem to rush to write stories, repeating what they think they read somewhere, without doing the most minimum fact checking?  To be fair, so far it does not appear that the major English language media has ran with the story, but I wonder if it’s only a matter of time.  It’s troublesome enough that any journalist can be so careless to not even try to check their facts, even when we are dealing with what sounds like a very improbable mistake.

This typical floor plan for one of the towers, shows 3 elevators, in addition to stairs.

This typical floor plan for one of the towers, shows 3 elevators, in addition to stairs.

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