Changing Swine, One Pig At A Time

Supplying food for the entire world is not easy, and when people have an ethical choice to make, it only makes the situation more complex. Factory farms have been under extensive, but deserved scrutiny within the last few years, and now, the somewhat daunting task of creating a morally acceptable, feasible livestock system is in the hands of the general public and the nation’s largest corporations. The pig is the most popular animal for consumption worldwide (about 40 percent of all meat consumed), making their living environment a highly controversial issue.

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When Gas Changed Everything: A History of The Flatulence Industry

I’m sitting uncomfortably in my chair waiting for her to arrive. Tucked away in the Fulton River District of Chicago the restaurant is overpriced, bland, and a bit stuffy. I’m nervous—sweating. Sweating. Sweating. Sweating. Beads of saline waste collect under my arms, on my palms, and across my forehead. I quickly wipe my forehead with my sleeve, hoping nobody notices. She’s so beautiful and much too smart for me. What’s a PhD student at the University of Chicago doing with me. I think. There’s no way she’ll ever love my farts.

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Caught in Conflict: An American in Israel

Hovering high over north Tel Aviv, fading puffs of smoke from an intercepted rocket from Gaza

The past four days Tel Aviv has been targeted with rockets fired from the Gaza Strip. They travel 40 miles up the Mediterranean coast of Israel before reaching the city. It’s a routine. The missiles are fired between the busy commuting hours of 8 and 9 am to cause maximum disruption to Israeli society. The early warning sirens go off with a modulating wail, giving people one a minute and a half to find cover in a stairwell or one of the city’s hundreds of bomb shelters, which the government ordered opened a few days ago. As the rocket approaches the city, an interceptor missile is fired at the rocket from Israel’s Iron Dome system to detonate it in mid-air.

The first day everyone in my dormitory at Tel Aviv University ran to the shelter and stayed there for the recommended 10 minutes. When we heard the two booms—first the Israeli Iron Dome interceptor missile and then the Gaza rocket—we looked at each other uneasily. The second day everybody walked to the shelter, waited for the booms, and left. The third day I just didn’t manage to get myself out of bed so early. The fourth day I was already awake but in the shower when the siren went off, so I simply closed myself in a windowless bathroom, my heart racing a little, and awaited the expected thud. Instead a series of loud booms shook the building. I looked out my kitchen window minutes later and took the above picture. High over Tel Aviv two wisps of smoke linger, presumably from an interceptor rocket.

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Bikesharing is caring: How personal transportation is changing cities

When I moved to Chicago this past September, one of the first things I did was buy a yearlong pass to its recently-installed Divvy Bike program. I’d deemed it too expensive to move my bike out from my parents’ house in the San Francisco Bay Area, but it seemed silly to spend hundreds of dollars on a new bike just because I’d moved. I wasn’t sure how much I would use the system – especially because Chicago’s public transit system, for all its faults, puts San Francisco’s to shame—but I bet that I’d get my $75 worth out of it.

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Why Aren’t Presidential Libraries Better?

See LBJ in a whole new way

On a recent weeklong trip to Texas to visit family friends, I visited the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum in Austin, Texas. It’s a strikingly ugly and dull building on first impression—beige and overbearing and bland. A life-sized faux bronze statue of Johnson greets you at the door, imposing at 6’4”.

There’s, obviously, lots of archival and historical information about Johnson in the library. A decades-spanning mural covers several walls detailing the major events in Johnson’s life. There are several floors of official archives (45 million of them), presumably about or by Johnson, that are only accessible through a Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, request.

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No. Switching Typefaces Will Not Instantly Save The Government $400 Million

“Change your typeface, save millions,” cry the masses after reading a recent CNN article. It’s the perfect sensational story. A middle-schooler has found a way to save the government money just by changing the typeface used on official documents.

14-year-old Suvir Mirchandani’s says if we change the default typeface to 12-point Garamond, the US Government could save between $62 and $394 million annually. It seems like an elegant and simple solution, but Mirchandani’s research ignores basic concepts of typography and leads to false conclusions.

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A’s For Athletes: How UNC-Chapel Hill is Fumbling for Academic Standards

“Athletes couldn’t write a paper; they couldn’t write a paragraph; they couldn’t write a sentence,” says Mary Willingham, a former academic counselor for athletes at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Some of these students could read at a second or third grade level but really that is, for an adult, considered illiterate.”

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A New Symbol for a New Age: ‘The’ Gets Shrunk to ‘Ћ’

More sketches by Mathis

When communicating 140 characters at a time, you must constantly be on the prowl to lose verbal baggage by drop a letter or word here and there. To do this, we’ve invented an entirely new kind of lexicon. Lol-ing, wtf-ing, smh-ing, and yolo-ing our roflcopters has taken control of the way we talk. Our abbreviations transcend the phrases they originally reference and become symbols themselves. Paul Mathis, a 52-year-old Australian restaurant magnate, decided to take on the most common word in the English language “the” and create his own symbol without using “t” “h” or “e.”

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Why Are the Humanities Hurting?

A slew of opinions regarding the future of the humanities have surfaced in recent weeks after a major report on the humanities called out its dire underfunding and the Wall Street Journal reported that that humanities degrees have dropped from 14% of total college degrees in 1966 to 7% in 2010. At Harvard University in particular, long considered a bastion of a liberal arts education, has waned from 36% of total majors in 1954 to 20% in 2012 [1]. They also reported that 9.5-9.8% unemployment rates for humanities majors, compared to 5.8% for chemistry majors and 5% for elementary education majors.

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How Can We Build Safe Urban Parks?

The “Radiant City” is back. Two high-profile buildings currently going up in Chicago draw on a park-centric model for development which has proven problematic in the past.

One, an office building in the West Loop, is built into a 1.5-acre park planned for the West bank of the Chicago River. The other, an apartment building in Hyde Park, rises out of a three story retail complex with a fully landscaped green roof. Renderings and rhetoric have presented these parks as beneficent gifts to the City. Yet, reflecting the “Radiant City” idealism, important questions about the safety and utility of these new green spaces have been left unanswered by the architects and developers.

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Commentary Ticker

  • Google Glass Lets You Take Photos With Your Brain
    July 12, 2014 | 4:02 pm

    If you haven’t heard, electroencephalograms (EEGs) have been getting better. Way better. Artificial limbs and even video game controllers are utilizing the non-invasive brain-wave monitoring method to guide computers by thought. Now English startup This Place has developed a way to bring the technology to Google Glass, allowing Google’s wearable to read your mind. Well, […]

  • Android Art: The Accidental Selfies of Google Art Project
    July 5, 2014 | 11:11 am

    Within the cultural centers of the world lurks a mechanical beast draped in silver spinning madly and capturing everything, sometimes even itself. In 2011 Google created the Art Project, an initiative to bring their Street View technology inside the cultural epicenters of the world. Google enlisted 17 world-class museums in short time. Institutions such as […]

  • Purple Mountunes Majesty: The Most Patriotic Playlist
    July 4, 2014 | 12:13 pm

    A while ago, Paul Lamere of The Echo Nest, a music-analysis company, took to finding each state’s most distinctive, yet popular, artist in a viral article. Spotify took note, purchasing Echo Nest for their analytical talent. Together, they’ve released a blog post documenting each state’s most distinctively American song creating a patriotic playlist for the […]

  • Emojinealogy: Where the Heck Emojis Come From
    July 2, 2014 | 3:10 pm

    On June 16th, the Unicode Consortium announced that 250 new emoji would be added to the list of symbols available to people’s cellphones and computer devices. The list of the new symbols can be found on Emojipedia. And no, the list doesn’t include the much needed minority representation, but it does include your favorite (?) […]

  • The Decline and Fall of the American Mall
    June 24, 2014 | 9:07 pm

    For ages, the shopping mall was as essential to the architecture of suburbia as Levittowns and freeways. But in an era of online shopping, these epicenters of brick and mortar yesteryear are quietly being abandoned across the country. While the U.S. currently has around 1,500, the number may soon shrink, and rapidly, leading to abandoned […]

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