Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

Below, you can hear journalist David Epstein talks with Recode's Kara Swisher about his book, Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World. In it, "he argues that the world’s most successful athletes, artists, musicians, inventors, forecasters and scientists are more likely to be dabblers, rather than people who set out to do what they do best from a young age — and, in fact, the people who have highly specialized training from an early age tend to have lower lifetime earnings overall." The #1 New York Times bestselling book makes the case that "in most fields—especially those that are complex and unpredictable—generalists, not specialists, are primed to excel. Generalists often find their path late, and they juggle many interests rather than focusing on one. They’re also more creative, more agile, and able to make connections their more specialized peers can’t see."

You can pick up a copy of Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World in print, or get it as a free audio book if you sign up for a 30-day free trial with Audible.com.

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Itzhak Perlman Appears on Sesame Street and Poignantly Shows Kids How to Play the Violin and Push Through Life’s Limits (1981)

I always champion anything that will improve the lives of people with disabilities and put it on the front burner. - Itzhak Perlman

At its best, the Internet expands our horizons, introducing us to new interests and perspectives, forging connections and creating empathy.

The educational children's series Sesame Street was doing all that decades earlier.

Witness this brief clip from 1981, starring violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman and a six-year-old student from the Manhattan School of Music.

For many child—and perhaps adult—viewers, this excerpt presented their first significant encounter with classical musical and/or disability.




The little girl scampers up the steps to the stage as Perlman, who relies on crutches and a motorized scooter to get around, follows behind, heaving a sigh of relief as he lowers himself into his seat.

Already the point has been made that what is easy to the point of unconsciousness for some presents a challenge for others.

Then each takes a turn on their violin.

Perlman’s skills are, of course, unparalleled, and the young girl’s seem pretty exceptional, too, particularly to those of us who never managed to get the hang of an instrument. (She began lessons at 3, and told the Suzuki Association of the Americas that her Sesame Street appearance with Perlman was the “highlight of [her] professional career.”)

In the nearly 40 years since this episode first aired, public awareness of disability and accessibility has become more nuanced, a development Perlman discussed in a 2014 interview with the Wall Street Journal, below.

Having resented the way early features about him invariably showcased his disability, he found that he missed the opportunity to advocate for others when mentions dropped off.

Transparency coupled with celebrity provides him with a mighty platform. Here he is speaking in the East Room of the White House in 2015, on the day that President Obama honored him with the Medal of Freedom:

And his collaborations with Sesame Street have continued throughout the decadesincluding performances of "You Can Clean Almost Anything" (to the tune of Bach’s Partita for Solo Violin), "Put Down the Duckie," Pagliacci's Vesti la giubba (backing up Placido Flamingo), and Beethoven's Minuet in G, below.

Read more of Perlman’s thoughts on disability, and enroll in his Master Class here.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, January 6 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domaincelebrates Cape-Coddities by Roger Livingston Scaife (1920). Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Download Beautiful Free Posters Celebrating the Achievements of Living Female STEM Leaders

Remember the posters that decorated your childhood or teenaged bedroom?

Of course you do.

Whether aspirational or inspirational, these images are amazingly potent.

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit what hung over my bed, especially in light of a certain CGI adaptation…

No such worries with a set of eight free downloadable posters honoring eight female trailblazers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.

These should prove evergreen.


Commissioned by Nevertheless, a podcast that celebrates women whose advancements in STEM fields have shaped—and continue to shape—education and learning, each poster is accompanied with a brief biographical sketch of the subject.

Nevertheless has taken care that the featured achievers are drawn from a wide cultural and racial pool.

No shame if you’re unfamiliar with some of these extraordinary women. Their names may not possess the same degree of household recognition as Marie Curie, but they will once they’re hanging over your daughter’s (or son’s) bed.

It’s worth noting that with the exception of the undersung mother of DNA Helix Rosalind Franklin, these are living role models. They are:

Astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison

Robotics pioneer Dr. Cynthia Breazeal

Mathematician Gladys West

Tech innovator Juliana Rotich

Pharmaceutical chemist Tu Youyou

Biopharmacist and women rights advocate Maria da Penha

Biotechnologist Dr. Hayat Sindi

Kudos, too, to Nevertheless for including biographies of the eight female illustrators charged with bringing the STEM luminaries to aesthetically cohesive graphic life: Lidia Tomashevskaya,Thandiwe TshabalalaCamila RosaXu HuiKarina PerezJoana NevesGeneva B, and Juliette Brocal

Listen to Nevertheless’ episode on STEM Role Models here.

Download Nevertheless’ free posters in English here. You can also download zipped folders containing all eight posters translated into Brazilian PortugueseFrenchFrench CanadianGermanItalianSpanish, and Simplified Chinese.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, January 6 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domaincelebrates Cape-Coddities (1920) by Roger Livingston Scaife. Follow her @AyunHalliday

Malcolm Gladwell Rebuts the Terrible Advice Given to Students: Don’t Go to “the Best College You Can,” Go to Where You Can Have “Deeply Interesting Conversations with People” at Night

Malcolm Gladwell is a writer of many contrarian opinions. His readers love the way he illustrates his ideas with rhetorical ease, in story after interesting story. Maybe he has too many opinions, say his critics, “who’d prefer it if Gladwell made smaller, more cautious, less dazzling claims,” Oliver Burkeman writes at The Guardian.

But we should take some of his arguments, like his defense of Lance Armstrong and doping in sports, less seriously than others, he says himself. “When you write about sports,” Gladwell tells Burkeman, “you’re allowed to engage in mischief! Nothing is at stake. It’s a bicycle race!” This in itself is a highly contrarian claim for fans, athletes, and their vested sponsors.




But the mischief in hyper-competitive, high dollar pressure of professional cycling is far removed from the cheating, bribing, and fraud scandals in U.S. college admissions, it may seem. The stakes are so much higher, after all. Gladwell offers his take on the situation in the audio interview above on the Tim Ferriss show. (He starts this discussion around the 57:25 mark.)

It’s true, he says, there is a gamesmanship that drives the college admissions process. But here is a case where winning isn’t worth the cost. He doesn't say this is because the game is rigged, but because it’s oriented in the wrong direction. Students should be taught to find “interestingness” by interacting with “flawed" and "interesting people.”

Instead "we terrify high school students about their college choices," making achievement and prestige the highest aims.

To my mind, you could not have conceived of a worse system. So any advice that has to do with you need to work hard and get into  I’m sorry, it’s just bullshit. It’s just terrible. You should not try to go to the best college you can, particularly if best is defined by US News and World Report. The sole test of what a good college is is it a place where I find myself late at night having deeply interesting conversations with people that I like and find interesting? You go where you can do that. That’s all that matters.

With his tendency to speak in an oracular “we,” Gladwell defines another problem: an elitist disdain for the "interesting" people.

There are interesting kids everywhere. And it’s only in our snobbery that we have decided that interestingness is defined by your test scores. This is just such an outrageous lie.

Test scores, sure they matter in some way, but I’m talking about college now. What makes for a powerful college experience is can I find someone interesting to have an interesting discussion with? And you can do that if you’re curious and you’re interesting. That’s it. Not that you’re interesting, you’re interested. That’s all that matters.

There are, of course, still those who seek out places and people of interest over the highest-ranked schools, which are inaccessible to a majority of students in any case. Gladwell may tend to generalize from his own experience, although college, he has said, "was not a particularly fruitful time for me." (Maybe ask your doctor before you take his advice about breakfast at the very beginning of the show.)

Different students have different experiences and expectations of college, but overall pressures are high, tuitions are rising, politics are inflamed, and student debt becomes more burdensome by the year.... Gladwell might have used another metaphor, but he'll likely find wide agreement that in some sense or another, at least figuratively, “the American college system needs to be blown up and they need to start over.” Now that is a subject on which nearly everyone might have an opinion.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Prado Museum Digitally Alters Four Masterpieces to Strikingly Illustrate the Impact of Climate Change

According to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels between 2030 and 2052 should it continue to increase at its current rate.

What does this mean, exactly?

A catastrophic series of chain reactions, including but not limited to:

--Sea level rise
--Change in land and ocean ecosystems
--Increased intensity and frequency of weather extremes
--Temperature extremes on land
--Drought due to precipitation deficits
--Species loss and extinction

Look to the IPCC’s 2018 Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5°C for more specifics, or have a gander at these digital updates of masterpieces in Madrid’s Museo del Prado's collections.




The museum collaborated with the World Wildlife Fund, choosing four paintings to be altered in time for the recently wrapped Madrid Climate Change Conference.

Artist Julio Falagan brings extreme drought to bear on El Paso de la Laguna Estigia (Charon Crossing the Styx) by Joachim Patinir, 1520 - 1524

Marta Zafra raises the sea level on Felipe IV a Caballo (Philip the IV on Horseback) by Velázquez, circa 1635.

The Parasol that supplies the title for Francisco de Goya’s El Quitasol of 1777 becomes a tattered umbrella barely sheltering miserable, crowded refugees in the sodden, makeshift camp of Pedro Veloso’s reimagining.

And the Niños en la Playa captured relaxing on the beach in 1909 by Joaquín Sorolla now compete for space with dead fish, as observed by artist Conspiracy 110 years further along.

None of the original works are currently on display.

It would be a public service if they were, alongside their drastically retouched twins and perhaps Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights, to further unnerve viewers about the sort of hell we'll soon be facing if we, too, don’t make some major alterations.

For now the works in the +1.5ºC Lo Cambia Todo (+1.5ºC Changes Everything) project are making an impact on giant billboards in Madrid, as well as online.

#LoCambiaTodo

via Colossal

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, January 6 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domaincelebrates Cape-Coddities by Roger Livingston Scaife (1920). Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Watch 21 Animated Ideas from Big Thinkers: Steven Pinker, Carol Dweck, Philip Zimbardo, David Harvey & More

The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, better known as the Royal Society for the Arts, and best known simply as the RSA, was founded in 1754. At the time, nobody could have imagined a world in which the people of every land, no matter how far-flung, could hear the same talks by well-known scholars and speakers, let alone see them animated as if on a conference-room whiteboard. Yet even back then, in an era before the invention of animation and whiteboards, let alone computers and the internet, people had an appetite for strong, often counterintuitive or even contrarian ideas to diagnose and potentially even solve social problems — an appetite for which the RSA Animate series of videos was made.

We can't understand what goes right and what goes wrong in our societies without understanding how we think. To that end the RSA has commissioned animated videos based on talks by psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist on our "divided brain," former political strategist (and current RSA Chief Executive) Matthew Taylor on how our left and right brains shape our politics, psychologist Steven Pinker on language as a window into human nature, philosopher-sociologist Renata Salecl on the paradoxical downside of choice, psychologist Philip Zimbardo on our perception of time, "social and ethical prophet" Jeremy Rifkin on empathy, philosopher Roman Krznaric on "outrospection," journalist Barbara Ehrenreich on "the darker side of positive thinking," and behavioral-economics researcher Dan Ariely on drive and dishonesty.

Economics is another field that has provided the RSA with a surfeit of animatable material — even of the kind "economists don’t want you to see," as the RSA promotes economist Ha-joon Chang's talk on "why every single person can and SHOULD get their head around basic economics" and "how easily economic myths and assumptions become gospel."




Freakonomics co-authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner make an appearance to break down altruism, and "economic geographer" David Harvey attempts to envision a system beyond capitalism. And on the parts of the intellectual map where economics overlaps politics, the RSA brings us figures like Slavoj Žižek, who "investigates the surprising ethical implications of charitable giving."

As, in essence, an educational enterprise, RSA Animate videos also look into new ways to think about education itself. Educationalist Carol Dweck examines the issues of "why kids say they’re bored at school, or why they stop trying when the work gets harder" by looking at what kind of praise helps young students, and what kind harms them.

Education and creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson explains the need to change our very paradigms of education. And according to the RSA's speakers, those aren't the only paradigms we should change: Microsoft Chief Envisioning Officer Dave Coplin argues that we should re-imagine work, and technology critic Evgeny Morozov argues that we should rethink the "cyber-utopianism" that has exposed harmful side-effects of our digital world.

httvs://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U&list=PL39BF9545D740ECFF&index=11&t=0s

But it is in this world that the RSA promotes "21st-century enlightenment," a concept further explored in another talk by Matthew Taylor — and one of which you can get a few doses, ten minutes at a time, on the full RSA Animate Youtube playlist. Watch the complete playlist of 21 videos, from start to finish, below.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

What to Wear to a Successful PhD Thesis Defense? A Skirt’s Worth of Academic Rejection Letters

Some people are paralyzed by rejection.

Others, like Michigan State University’s Earth and Environmental Sciences PhD candidate, Caitlin Kirby, sport rejection like a mantle of honor... or more accurately, a pleated skirt falling to just below mid-thigh.

"Successfully defended my PhD dissertation today!" Kirby wrote in a Tweet that has since garnered over 25,000 likes. "In the spirit of acknowledging & normalizing failure in the process, I defended in a skirt made of rejection letters from the course of my PhD."

The custom garment, which Kirby teamed with a dark blazer and red waistband, was organized in two tiers, with a tulle ruffle peeping out beneath.

MSU’s Career Services Network’s Director of Employer Relations, Karin Hanson, told the Lansing State Journal that rejection comes as a shock to many high achieving MSU students.

Kirby’s decision to upcycle 17 disappointing letters received over the course of her academic career was partially inspired by a Parks and Recreation episode in which the skirt of Leslie Knope's wedding dress is a wearable collage of newspaper articles about the character, drawn from earlier episodes

More to the point, Kirby’s skirt is part of an ongoing campaign to acknowledge rejection as a necessary, if painful, part of academic growth.

The whole process of revisiting those old letters and making that skirt sort of reminded me that you have to apply to a lot of things to succeed. It seems counterintuitive to wear your rejections to your last test in your Ph.D, but we talked about our rejections every week and I wanted them to be a part of it.

And, as she later noted in a tweet:

Acceptances and rejections are often based on the traditional values of academia, which excludes POC by not valuing the approaches, research questions, and experiences that POC tend to bring to their work.

Kirby’s letters were culled from a variety of sources—scholarship applications, submissions to academic journals, and proposals for conference presentations.  Unfortunately and We regret to inform you are recurrent motifs. About 8 letters were left on the cutting room floor.

But she is prepared to lower her hemline, when she starts applying for jobs, following a stint at the Research Institute for Urban and Regional Development in Dortmund, Germany, the result of a successful Fulbright application.

Follow Kirby’s example and turn your temporary setbacks into a power skirt, using the tutorial above.

via Boing Boing 

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, December 9 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain, resurrects Dennison’s Christmas Book (1921). Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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