Let’s Talk, Longhorns

A drawing of overlapping hands of several skin tones, some with nails painted blue and pink.

One of the most lauded features of US higher education is the opportunity it provides for interacting in meaningful ways with people from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Hmmm. How well are we doing in that area? Plenty of room for improvement, right? Morgan Pace, student at the University of Texas at Austin, home of the Longhorns, offers a suggestion in this July 2020 editorial in the university newspaper, The Daily Texan.

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Drumline Battle | Army vs Air Force (Who Won?)

A line of five Air Force officers in navy blue uniforms play the drums.

West Point and the US Air Force Academy are two elite military universities where future officers of the Army and Air Force, respectively, are trained. They compete annually in a football game that is a major event for both schools and for many people in the general public, as well. A popular pre-game custom is a battle between the two schools’ drumlines. This battle was recorded before the November 2012 game in West Point, NY.

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The Case for Capitalizing the B in Black

The word "black," all in lowercase, with the first letter underlined in red three times.

It’s a tiny detail in writing with huge implications in social reality. Wait. What? It’s tiny and huge at the same time? Really? Well, yes, really. Unless you pay a lot of attention to the inner workings of news media, publishers, and language usage guides, you might not have noticed the extensive recent discussions about the capitalization (or not) of the words black and white when they refer to social identities of people. Kwame Anthony Appiah, author and professor of philosophy and law, details the issues involved in this June 2020 essay in The Atlantic. (And by the way, who makes the ultimate decisions about what is correct? As Appiah notes, “language is a set of conventions, to be determined by the consensus of language users.” In other words, we do.)

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Trees of Knowledge

Four white-bark trees with cartoon open mouths drawn on them, making a variety of facial expressions.

Trees may not get around very much, but they do know a lot about what matters to them. Their very survival depends on being able to extract information from their environments and make appropriate responses. In other words, they make decisions. Science fiction novelist and tree scholar Sue Burke writes about trees and decisions in this December 2019 report for Slate

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Our Minds Aren’t Equipped for This Kind of Reopening

In summer 2020, communities all around the US were coming out of lockdown and making decisions about how, how much, and when to open up and resume (at least some) normal activities. Months later, the situation hasn’t changed too very much, despite the development and slow rollout of the vaccine, and we expect, sadly, that the pandemic and its conditions will be with us in some ways for a long time to come. Law and psychology professor Tess Wilkinson-Ryan wrote this analysis of risk assessment, shaming, and decision making for the July 2020 The Atlantic. Have things changed much since its publication? (We hope so.)

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Emoji Statistics

Three emojis wearing masks.

We would be exaggerating to say that emojis will soon make typed words obsolete, but 🤨🤔😼. What wouldn’t be an overstatement, though, is to say that emojis are very useful (although sometimes ambiguous, like the three in the previous sentence). Emojipedia is an online resource that helps make sense of emojis,—including what they mean, how they’re used, how they’re trending, and other must-know emoji information. Emojipedia is also a voting member of the Unicode Consortium, the international group that maintains uniform standards for typed characters on keyboards and keypads from all manufacturers in all languages, in all countries. No small job. This page on the Emojipedia site is dedicated to the latest emoji statistics, and it’s updated several times a year. We viewed it in October 2020; you may be seeing an updated version.

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I’ve Stayed Silent for Way Too Long

A black-and-white portrait of three adults and a child with a background of trees and mountains.

Lauren Holiday is a retired soccer player, former member of the US Women’s National Team and two-time Olympic gold medalist. Her husband Jrue Holiday is a member of the New Orleans Pelicans, an NBA team. Both were very private people until a recent interaction with police officers led Lauren to question their habit of taking racism in stride. She relates the incident and her change of thinking in this June 2020 essay in The Players’ Tribune.

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Metaphors Matter in a Time of Pandemic

A cartoon globe with protrusions emerging from it, meant to look like a virus..

It’s by far the #1 topic of conversation this year. You knew immediately (even without the image) what we were referring to, right? The COVID pandemic, of course. Public discourse about the pandemic and the virus that causes the disease relies heavily on war metaphors. Words like battlecombatdefeatfight, and others are everywhere in media of all kinds and in personal conversations—so much so that it seems like there are no other ways to think about the situation. Writer and columnist Virginia Heffernan argues that there are better ways to think and talk about the pandemic, and she explains her position in this May 2020 essay in Wired.

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