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Americans for Exploration Day

From boingboing:

For some reason, we’ve been unable to deal with problem of Columbus Day, but now some folks on the Internet have a solution that actually makes a hell of a lot of sense: Replace Columbus Day with Exploration Day.

The logic is quite neat. Columbus Day is about one guy and the (actually untrue) claim that he was the first person to discover America. Inherently, that’s pretty Euro-centric, which is a big part of why it sits awkwardly in a pluralistic country. But exploration is inclusive. The ancestors of Native Hawaiians were explorers who crossed the ocean. The ancestors of Native Americans explored their way across the Bering land bridge and then explored two whole continents. If you look at the history of America, you can see a history of exploration done by many different people, from many different backgrounds. Sometimes we’re talking about literal, physical exploration. Other times, the exploring is done in a lab. Or in space. But the point is clear: This country was built on explorers. And it needs explorers for the future.

Exploration Day would allow us to honor the importance of exploration — and the pride we take in being explorers — without marginalizing some Americans and without perpetuating damaging myths about our own history. Bonus: Exploration Day could double as a holiday for science. Looks like a win to me.

NYT: They Work Long Hours, but What About Results?

For a study published most recently in 2010, three researchers, led by Kimberly D. Elsbach, a professor at the University of California, Davis, interviewed 39 corporate managers about their perceptions of their employees. The managers viewed employees who were seen at the office during business hours as highly “dependable” and “reliable.” Employees who came in over the weekend or stayed late in the evening were seen as “committed” and “dedicated” to their work.

But a measurement system based on hours makes no sense for knowledge workers. Their contribution should be measured by the value they create through applying their ideas and skills.

By applying an industrial-age mind-set to 21st-century professionals, many organizations are undermining incentives for workers to be efficient. If employees need to stay late in order to curry favor with the boss, what motivation do they have to get work done during normal business hours? After all, they can put in the requisite “face time” whether they are surfing the Internet or analyzing customer data. It’s no surprise, then, that so many professionals find it easy to procrastinate and hard to stay on a task.

Digital textbooks to come online next year (California)

Gov. Jerry Brown signed two bills into law Thursday that will ease the financial burden for tens of thousands of students enrolled in the state’s universities and schools, both focused on creating the infrastructure needed to support a free digital textbook program starting next school year.

The first bill requires textbooks and course materials for 50 of the most popular lower-division courses to be provided in a digital format, which students can access using their computers or mobile devices, according to Mark Hedlund, a spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, who authored the bills.

The courses will be selected by a nine-member council made up of faculty members from the UC, CSU and community college systems.

A companion bill creates the California Open Source Digital Library, which will host the electronic textbooks and will be jointly administered by faculty from UC, CSU and community colleges.

Textbooks can be so expensive that students sometimes defer taking courses, which ultimately extends the time they spend in higher education, Hedlund said. “There’s absolutely no reason a basic biology, statistics or accounting textbook, for example, should cost $200,” Steinberg writes on his website.

On average, students taking a full, 12-unit load spend about $1,650 each year on textbooks, according to Kristin Fabos, Cabrillo’s spokeswoman.

[via ResearchBuzz]

Lifehacker: Use a Lightly Colored Mouse Pad to Conserve Your Mouse’s Battery Life

I never would have thought of this, but it makes perfect sense.

If your wireless mouse feels like it’s constantly running out of juice, weblog Digital Inspiration has some tips for keeping it alive as long as possible. One of the more interesting tips? Use a lightly colored mouse pad.

The tip actually comes directly from Logitech, who says that dark, rough, or dull surfaces can make your mouse sensor work harder. Since the sensor is the thing that draws the most power, helping it out with a reflective, lightly colored surface can help boost its battery life.

Washington Post: Water purchase deal clears major hurdle for hemisphere’s largest desalination plant in Calif - The Washington Post

The San Diego County Water Authority announced a tentative agreement Thursday to buy the entire output of what will be the Western hemisphere’s largest seawater desalination plant, clearing a major hurdle for construction to begin.

The plant in Carlsbad will produce 50 million gallons a day, enough to supply about 7 percent of the San Diego region in 2020.

Curiosity has barely been on Mars for very long, and it’s already hit jackpot:

NASA’s Curiosity rover mission has found evidence a stream once ran vigorously across the area on Mars where the rover is driving. There is earlier evidence for the presence of water on Mars, but this evidence — images of rocks containing ancient streambed gravels — is the first of its kind.

Scientists are studying the images of stones cemented into a layer of conglomerate rock. The sizes and shapes of stones offer clues to the speed and distance of a long-ago stream’s flow.

"From the size of gravels it carried, we can interpret the water was moving about 3 feet per second, with a depth somewhere between ankle and hip deep," said Curiosity science co-investigator William Dietrich of the University of California, Berkeley. "Plenty of papers have been written about channels on Mars with many different hypotheses about the flows in them. This is the first time we’re actually seeing water-transported gravel on Mars. This is a transition from speculation about the size of streambed material to direct observation of it."

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