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Michal Brody
Oakland, California and Valladolid, Yucatán
Recent Activity
Is Facebook a community resource for the common good? Yes—but it is also a for-profit corporation. Can it effectively be both at the same time? Focusing on Facebook’s Safety Check feature, London-based writer Tausif Noor examines the ways in which the company’s financial mission interacts with its community service mission in this March 2017 post to the blog RealLife. Noor, "Safety in numbers" Noor lauds Facebook’s Safety Check function, but at the same time, he is critical of it in several ways. What does Noor mean when he advises that “praise for its social initiatives should be tempered with at... Continue reading
Posted Jun 21, 2017 at They Say / I Blog
If a robot takes your job, you’re not the only one who loses income. Since robot workers don’t pay taxes, the government loses money, too. That fact by itself may not stimulate too much sympathy until you realize that the government’s lost income might have repaired a pothole on your street or replaced worn-out playground equipment at your local park. Science writer Matt Simon explores the issue of taxes and robot labor in this May 2017 Wired article. Simon, “Who will pay for the future if not the robots” Why does Simon think that a robot tax is worth exploring?... Continue reading
Posted Jun 13, 2017 at They Say / I Blog
Have you heard much about genetically modified (GMO) foods lately? Neither have we, but that might be changing soon. The Food and Drug Administration, part of the US Department of Health and Human Services, has received funding to promote GMO foods, and a lot of people have a lot to say on the subject. Caitlin Dewey, food policy writer for the Washington Post’s Wonkblog, lays out the details in this May 2017 report. Dewey, “The government is going to counter ‘misinformation’ about GMO foods” Dewey reports on a complicated situation with so many stakeholders that it may seem like every... Continue reading
Posted May 24, 2017 at They Say / I Blog
A new major league baseball season is now underway, competing for attention with basketball playoffs, Stanley Cup hockey, and whatever siren song trills from the phones in our pockets. In this May 2017 Atlantic essay, sports writer Will Leitch contemplates some possible rule changes intended to speed up the game. Leitch, “The secret life of pitchers” In making his argument, Leitch uses an extended example of a pitcher whose career was derailed by one unfortunate incident. What is Leitch arguing? How does the example of this pitcher help make his point? Is the example persuasive? Why or why not? Leitch’s... Continue reading
Posted Apr 19, 2017 at They Say / I Blog
The trend toward the growing availability of online courses generates a lot of debate among university professors and administrators, among students, and among the public at large. English professor Devoney Looser was not a strong advocate of online teaching until she had the opportunity (or rather, necessity) to do it herself. She writes about her experience and change of heart in this March 2017 essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Looser, "Why I teach online" How does Looser connect the personal situation that obliged her to teach online with the circumstances of many online students? How did Looser’s opinions... Continue reading
Posted Apr 3, 2017 at They Say / I Blog
What do fax machines have in common with electric cars? More than you may think. History professor Jonathan Coopersmith, who studied the development of fax technology, argues in this March 2017 essay in The Conversation that in order for electric cars to eventually succeed, competing electric car makers need to follow the example of fax development and adopt uniform charging standards. (In case you aren’t familiar with them, fax machines were once key business communication tools, allowing a printed document to be fed into a machine and transmitted over telephone lines; a similar machine on the other end of the... Continue reading
Posted Mar 13, 2017 at They Say / I Blog
Major sports figures such as NBA star LeBron James and Major League pitcher Trevor Bauer have recently spoken publicly about their respective political stances. That’s not a new phenomenon, but it has become prominent in the news lately, accompanied by debate on the appropriateness of such public expressions. NBA reporter for joins the debate in this February 2017 post. Vardon, "Why LeBron James, Trevor Bauer shouldn’t ‘stick to sports’ in Trump era: Commentary” Vardon concludes his essay by declaring what he thinks “makes America great.” What is it? Explain his argument. Do you agree? Why or why not? Vardon... Continue reading
Posted Feb 23, 2017 at They Say / I Blog
Many of us sing the same lament: the ingredients listed on many of our food products include long unpronounceable words with mysterious purposes. What is that stuff?! Do we really need it? In this February 2017 Columbus Dispatch article, science and environmental reporter Marion Renault asserts that public mistrust of food science is actually harmful to us all, and she reports on some measures that scientists are taking to help improve communication with the public. Renault, “Are your food facts really food myths?” Renault argues that scientists—specifically food scientists—need to be able to communicate well with the general public. Do... Continue reading
Posted Feb 16, 2017 at They Say / I Blog
It’s a time-honored strategy, and unfortunately, it works very well. Newsworthy women, from Hillary Clinton to Lady Gaga to Kellyanne Conway and beyond, are often publicly skewered not for their statements and ideas, but for their clothes, their hairstyles, and their bodies. Writer and law student Meredith Simons explores the harmful effects of such public discourse in this January 2017 Washington Post article. Simons, “Don’t like what a woman is saying? Call her ugly” Simons asserts that in addition to simply being unfair and unkind, insulting the appearance of prominent women has other, more harmful consequences. What are they? Summarize... Continue reading
Posted Feb 6, 2017 at They Say / I Blog
You’ve probably had the experience. There is something you care about so deeply that you can’t imagine how its importance wouldn’t be obvious to everyone else. And yet, when you talk about it, you see the ‘so what?’ cloud forming on the faces of your conversation partners. Sociology graduate student Chelsea Johnson had this experience when trying to explain her dissertation topic—black women’s hair—to other academics and social scientists, so she decided to share some strategies she learned about “the art of persuasion” in this August 2016 blog post on The Well. Johnson, "What explaining my natural hair to PhDs... Continue reading
Posted Jan 26, 2017 at They Say / I Blog
Do you reach for your phone while you’re engaged in a face-to-face conversation? Don’t feel bad; most of us do. But our phone-grabbing habits may interfere with our ability to engage in genuine, personal communication. In this October 2015 Guardian interview, London-based journalist Tim Adams converses with author and psychology professor Sherry Turkle about—what else?—conversation. Tim Adams, “Sherry Turkle: ‘I am not anti-technology, I am pro-conversation’” What does Turkle mean by her statement, “I am not anti-technology, I am pro-conversation”? Summarize her argument and point to one specific passage from the interview that exemplifies what she means. Adams and Turkle... Continue reading
Posted Dec 21, 2016 at They Say / I Blog
Does boredom enrich your life? No, really, we’re serious. Think about it. Philosophy professor Andreas Elpidorou has thought about it a great deal, and he concludes that boredom is necessary and valuable. Read his ideas in this July 2015 essay in Aeon. Elpidorou, "The quiet alarm" In regard to boredom, Elpidorou states that “We should give thanks for it—and avoid it like the plague.” What does he mean? Explain Elpidorou’s assertion. Do you agree? Why or why not? Elpidorou draws an extended comparison between physical pain and boredom. How effective is the comparison? How appropriate is it? Why do you... Continue reading
Posted Dec 7, 2016 at They Say / I Blog
An old cartoon shows a small child with a hopeful, questioning face looking up at a perplexed parent holding a gallon jug and stammering, “Um, well, I don’t know the cow’s name, but you need to drink the milk anyway.” The cartoon is funny, but maybe the joke is on us. Harvest Public Media reporter Luke Runyon reports on a trend of consolidation among “big agriculture” companies in this November 2016 essay in Flatland, a digital magazine from Kansas City, Missouri. Runyon, “’Why you should care about ‘big ag’ companies getting bigger” Runyon concludes his essay by stating that “farmers... Continue reading
Posted Nov 24, 2016 at They Say / I Blog
“How do I know something is true? Well, I read it online, so it has to be true, right?” How silly. And yet, we’ve probably all said it, at least once. New York Times technology writer Farhad Manjoo examines some of the consequences of our easy access to abundant information (and misinformation) in this pre-election day November 2016 post from the newspaper’s technology blog, State of the Art. Manjoo has examined the ways in which information travels on the internet and concluded that “pretty much everything conspires against truth.” What evidence does he provide for his assertion? Is his evidence... Continue reading
Posted Nov 11, 2016 at They Say / I Blog
It’s that time of year again—falling temperatures and Major League Baseball’s grand finale event, the World Series. With the Cleveland team participating, increased media attention is predictably drawn to the team’s caricature mascot. NBC Sports staff writer Craig Calcaterra wants the national organization of MLB to take a public stand on the mascot, and he presents his case in this October 2016 essay. Calcaterra, “It’s time for Major League Baseball to take a stand on Chief Wahoo” Calcaterra invites Commissioner of Baseball Rob Manfred to do exactly what your textbook invites you to do—enter the conversation. What conversation does Calcaterra... Continue reading
Posted Oct 31, 2016 at They Say / I Blog
At a time when the problems and challenges of higher education make headlines every day, and when so many students struggle to earn their degrees, community colleges quietly get the job done for millions of people. Haven’t they earned a little more respect than they usually get? Instructor Brian Goedde of Community College of Philadelphia thinks so, and he proposes a small plan with tremendous potential benefits in this May 2016 article in the New York Times. Goedde, "Talk to us, Mr. President" Why does Goedde want President Obama to give the commencement address at a community college? Why does... Continue reading
Posted Oct 13, 2016 at They Say / I Blog
What to wear on the first day of school. Who doesn’t stress out over that decision? Novelist Laurie Frankel was stressed out plenty about her first-grader’s first day, but the child was calm and certain. This September 2016 New York Times article describes what happened. Frankel, “’From he to she in first grade” Frankel’s essay presents a narrative of parenthood, a story of her child’s first days in first grade. Is Frankel also making an argument? If so, what is it? Using the templates and suggestions in Chapter 2 of your text, summarize Frankel’s argument. Do you agree with it?... Continue reading
Posted Sep 29, 2016 at They Say / I Blog
What do you think of when you hear the Star-Spangled Banner? Firworks? Parades? Football? Ramparts? Recently, the silent acts of some professional athletes have led to scrutiny of the custom of playing the national anthem before major league sporting events. Journalist Zack Beauchamp explores the history of the practice in this September 2016 essay on Beauchamp, “’Kaepernick didn’t bring politics into sports. The NFL did that by playing the anthem” Is Beauchamp arguing that the national anthem shouldn’t be played before major league sporting events in the US or is he making a different point? What is his main... Continue reading
Posted Sep 9, 2016 at They Say / I Blog
Until 2007 (in June, to be exact), every human who’d ever lived did so without the benefit of a smartphone. How did they manage?!? Novelist and freelance journalist Michael Grothaus accepted his editor’s challenge to live without his smartphone for one week and write about the experience. Read about his experience in this July 2016 Fast Company essay. Michael Grothaus: "What happened when I gave up my smartphone for a week" Grothaus’s account of his week without a smartphone is perfectly straightforward and clear. What about the image that accompanies it? What does the image show? Give a prose description... Continue reading
Posted Aug 26, 2016 at They Say / I Blog
How often do you check your phone? Do you feel addicted to it? According to former Google product philosopher Tristan Harris, we check our phones 150 times per day, on average, and yes, we’re addicted. He explains why and proposes a solution in this July 2016 essay in Spiegel Online. Harris, "Smartphone addiction: The slot machine in your pocket" Harris concludes his essay by arguing that we should have smartphones that put “our minds, not our impulses, first.” What does he mean? Summarize his argument. Is his argument persuasive? Why or why not? Harris mentions more than once that he... Continue reading
Posted Aug 24, 2016 at They Say / I Blog
Health complications, environmental problems, ethical challenges—all these and more can be results of a diet rich in meat, dairy, and eggs. What to do? Free-lance journalist Brian Kateman recommends reducing consumption, and he explains his proposal in this July 2016 Washington Post article. Kateman, “’We can save the earth without giving up bacon. Here’s how.” How does Kateman propose to reduce the consumption of meat and dairy products in the US? Summarize his main points. Are his arguments persuasive? Why or why not? Explain your reasoning. Kateman calls his movement “reducetarianism,” a word newly coined for the purpose of the... Continue reading
Posted Aug 8, 2016 at They Say / I Blog
There may be as many reasons to not go to college as there are to go. In this 2016 commercial from San Joaquin Valley College, a jug of laundry detergent tries to convey a serious message to a potential future student. Would you be persuaded? Have a look and decide. San Joaquin Valley College, "Talking laundry detergent" The purpose of San Joaquin Valley College’s commercial is clearly to promote the school’s educational offerings. Who is the intended audience of the commercial? How do you know? Be as specific as possible. In your response, consider the setting, the dialogue, the characteristics... Continue reading
Posted Jul 19, 2016 at They Say / I Blog
Are granola bars good for you? If you said “yes,” you are in agreement with more than two-thirds of the general public, but with only 28% of professional nutritionists. New York Times writers Kevin Quealy and Margot Sanger-Katz conducted a survey among nutritionists and ordinary eaters about their perceptions of the healthfulness of several dozen common foods. The results of their survey were published in this June 2016 post in the newspaper’s companion site, The Upshot. Quealy and Sanger-Katz, “’Is sushi healthy? What about granola? Where Americans and nutritionists disagree” Disagreement between nutritionists and the general public on the healthfulness... Continue reading
Posted Jul 5, 2016 at They Say / I Blog
Do you remember the sex scandal a few years ago about the counterterrorism expert and her lover? No? How about the affair between the decorated general and his mistress? That one might ring a bell. In fact, in both cases, we’re talking about the same two people—Gen. David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell. New York Times writer Jessica Bennett discusses the media’s use of the stigmatizing word “mistress” in this June 2016 post in the Times Insider blog. Bennett, “’Why do people still use the word ‘mistress’? A reporter reflects” Bennett details the media’s gender bias in dealing with reports of... Continue reading
Posted Jun 11, 2016 at They Say / I Blog
If you have seen Twitter, you know that tweets can be brilliant, hilarious, informative, helpful, entertaining, and also very vulgar, threatening, and abusive. Women sports journalists are among the targets of the most vile and violent harassment. Ms. Magazine and editorial intern Jumana Bambot call attention to the situation and suggest a strategy for improving it in this May 2016 blog post. Bambot, “Watch What Happens When Men Read Abusive Tweets to Female Sports Reporters” Read Bambot’s article and watch the embedded video. Although the text quotes the video and describes some of the men’s reactions, each medium has content... Continue reading
Posted May 23, 2016 at They Say / I Blog