1. While watching some of the first episode of Bettany Hughes’s “Divine Women” series last night, I was surprised to learn of a goddess, Kybele (or Cybele, or in Rome, magna mater), I’d never heard of. I consider myself moderately well-educated, and I’d studied the Greek myths before, but hadn’t heard of her. Going back to the text I learned from and am now teaching from, Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, I find “Cybele” in the index as associated with Rhea, but there’s almost no other mention). On one hand, it’s a little disturbing to feel I’d never heard of someone who had, according to Hughes, a significant amount of influence in Roman society, but on the other hand, it’s kinda neat to realize how much there is in the world for me still to learn.
2. Setting up a system of measuring and ranking performance of employees (at Microsoft) or of colleges (recently proposed by President Obama) seems to lead to those being measured to game the numbers in ways that don’t contribute to the overall mission of the institutions. This result isn’t really a surprise to a cynical person, but I want to share these stories as a way of promoting the idea that the best, most useful, evaluations go beyond what can be directly measured.
3. A post on The Dish about how, if tattoos are now widely accepted, they are no longer signify cool. I’m often surprised how many people in this rural area have tattoos, particularly those tattoos that cannot be easily covered when need arises — maybe the need seldom arises for those who get tattoos on their necks, near their ears, etc. My personal objection to tattoos is their permanence: I draw on myself, too, but with inks that will wash off or wear off. I can’t imagine there would be an image or word or sign that I’d want to permanently mark my body with — I change my mind too often.
4. A couple posts discussing the problematic implications of the British government’s nine-hour detention of David Miranda, who may have been carrying documents for Guardian journalist and Snowden-helper Glenn Greenwald.
5. An attempt to rank the weirdness of various languages.
7. An attempt at explaining why older societies believe woman inferior to men.
8. Another post at The Dish about the idea that rather than using technology to increase our free time, our jobs tend to take just as much time as they used to. I’ve often wondered why we still,in most of our jobs, consider 40 hours of work to be a full week, rather than fewer hours. In an essay I’ve enjoyed rereading at times, Bertrand Russell suggests:
Modern technique has made it possible for leisure, within limits, to be not the prerogative of small privileged classes, but a right evenly distributed throughout the community. The morality of work is the morality of slaves, and the modern world has no need of slavery.
Modern technique has made it possible to diminish enormously the amount of labor required to secure the necessaries of life for everyone. This was made obvious during the war. At that time all the men in the armed forces, and all the men and women engaged in the production of munitions, all the men and women engaged in spying, war propaganda, or Government offices connected with the war, were withdrawn from productive occupations. In spite of this, the general level of well-being among unskilled wage-earners on the side of the Allies was higher than before or since. The significance of this fact was concealed by finance: borrowing made it appear as if the future was nourishing the present. But that, of course, would have been impossible; a man cannot eat a loaf of bread that does not yet exist. The war showed conclusively that, by the scientific organization of production, it is possible to keep modern populations in fair comfort on a small part of the working capacity of the modern world. If, at the end of the war, the scientific organization, which had been created in order to liberate men for fighting and munition work, had been preserved, and the hours of the week had been cut down to four, all would have been well. Instead of that the old chaos was restored, those whose work was demanded were made to work long hours, and the rest were left to starve as unemployed. Why? Because work is a duty, and a man should not receive wages in proportion to what he has produced, but in proportion to his virtue as exemplified by his industry.
Russell goes on to suggest that 2 workers could each work a 4-hour shift, rather than one person having an 8-hour shift and the other having no work (and thus, no wages) at all. If much of our living standard is relative, if we all agreed to work fewer hours and earn lower wages, maybe we could still maintain comfortable lifestyles that would allow more leisure. Sure, that sounds like socialism, but, you know, I’m not sure why that’s inherently worse than the winner-take-all capitalism we have now. (Of course, I say that as a public employee who already enjoys working in a government institution, with decent benefits and vacations. I frankly haven’t understood why those who complain about government workers being coddled haven’t just, you know, tried to become government workers — maybe that’s just the equivalent of being an entrepreneur for those of us who prefer more time to more money.)