What Was Nelson Mandela Like in Person?
Answer by Paul Denlinger, China strategy, business, marketing, and finance analyst:
I attended a small private event for Nelson Mandela in August 1993 in Taipei, Taiwan. This event was hosted by Taiwan's Foreign Ministry, and he was given an honorary Ph.D. by a Taiwanese university. The real reason was to extend feelers to Mandela and the African National Congress (ANC) because Taiwan (official name: Republic of China) had supported South Africa's apartheid governments and had strong economic and cultural ties with Pretoria. The reason for this support was because both Taiwan and South Africa were considered to be pariah states, and their economies were highly complementary.
By 1993, it was clear that Mandela would run for president in the first multiracial elections in South Africa and was likely to win. Moreover, his party, the ANC, had close ties with Beijing. These ties were forged over the years while the ANC was a banned organization and when Mandela was in jail. It would be natural for a new ANC government to switch diplomatic ties from Taipei to Beijing.
Do Professors Read Their Reviews on Rate My Professors?
Answer by William B. Harrison III, English teacher:
I gave up most of my professorial indignation over Rate My Professors several years ago. It doesn't really matter whether faculty like it. Just like the massive open online courses (MOOCs), we could not will it away if we wanted to. Now, maybe once a year but not on any schedule I look at my reviews to see what students have said. I smile when students say things like, "He's nice, but don't let him fool you. He grades hard!" It does not surprise me when they say, "He's not the most organized professor." One student said I shared too much of my personal life. I thought about it and made adjustments.
I suspect that sharing the fact that a professor is an easy A may backfire. When a slack reputation gets out, gets too wide and too deep, instructors tend to attract too many lazy, handout-seeking students. Often, the next thing that happens is that these instructors begin to feel hassled and bored with unresponsive classes. At some point, they tighten up in the classroom and in their grading. One of my favorite comments was posted to a graduate school professor of mine: "Easy B, tough A." I could live with that.
What Is It Like to Be Blind?
As someone who's losing her sight to retinitis pigmentosa (RP), I face this question every day. I, however, have Usher syndrome, which couples deafness and gradual vision loss, so I'm not representative of the average blind and low-vision individual.
That being said, as someone who has moved from sighted into legal blindness, I've noticed certain interesting changes in my lifestyle and how people treat me. This isn't a subject that can be explained briefly, so please forgive me in advance for my lengthiness.
What's the Best Design for a Popsicle-Stick Bridge?
Answer by Isaac Gaetz, licensed structural engineer:
I designed a quick one of these a few months back. It was for a presentation I gave for some middle-school students. To the left is an image of me holding the bridge. It was not something I put a tremendous amount of effort into, just a quick and dirty design to show the concept. Behind me, you can see an image from the computer program I used to model and design the bridge.
I did not build the physical model that you see me holding—a co-worker did, and he did not follow my directions perfectly. He accidentally transposed certain critical areas that needed additional reinforcing with areas that did not require reinforcing. This resulted in the bridge carrying 50 pounds at the time of failure. With my original design, the bridge would have held more than 100 pounds quite easily.
How Do Soldiers Prepare for Deployment to a War Zone?
Answer by Aaron Anderson:
I have deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003, but Iraq was my first trip into a combat zone.
My first trip to Iraq was with the original invasion in February 2003. I was serving at this time in 1/75 Ranger Battalion in Savannah, Ga. With the political buildup to the war progressing, my section knew that a deployment was coming, but we didn’t know entirely when. When we did find out, I remember standing in my building with a group of fellow soldiers. My section boss had walked in looking tense and told us we are going. If I remember correctly, this was about a two-week window from notification to deployment. I’m sure other parts of the battalion was taking off ASAP, but I was not a high priority and took off with the main element.
What Are the Logistics of Life on the International Space Station?
Answer by Robert Frost, trained ISS astronauts to operate the motion control system:
There is an entire division called operations division that is dedicated to planning around the logistics of the International Space Station. It is quite complex.
Traffic pattern can be complex. That is the scheduling of visiting vehicles. There are limits on how many vehicles can be there at any one time. They have to take into account the altitude of the ISS—it's easier and cheaper to have vehicles arrive while the ISS is low. Launch windows vary, so sometimes the crew's day and night schedules have to be altered to have them able to support a vehicle arrival.
What’s the Matter With Helvetica, Anyhow?
Like most classic typefaces, the problems with Helvetica are not so much in its design as its misuse. Helvetica as often a “safe choice” for anyone who is too afraid or too lazy to choose something else. The main mistakes I see in its use have to do with a misunderstanding of functionality or context.
Functionality. The digital Helvetica (particularly) that we know today is not great for or . Its tight spacing, uniformity, and relative lack of rhythm and contrast pose significant readability and legibility issues in these kinds of settings.
Context. Designers often choose Helvetica either because it is assumed to be a “neutral” design that is compatible with any kind of content and will not distract from it. As the documentary film Helvetica demonstrated, this may or may not be true depending on the context of the use. Sometimes it is ignored like air; sometimes it is a dramatic shock to the system. Any typeface choice requires an examination of the context (cultural environment, competitive products, format, medium), and often Helvetica is blindly chosen for a project or brand without sufficient examination of its surroundings.
On the flip side, Helvetica is also often picked for reasons opposite of neutrality—the user believing it is a sophisticated and fashionable design choice that will distinguish them in the marketplace. This is also folly..
Yes, there are legitimate criticisms of Helvetica itself (especially the, but in most cases, one should blame ignorant and negligent users, not the typeface. There are , both historical and current, so it’s certainly possible to make it work. The choice just requires proper research, testing, execution, and good taste—like any design decision.
More questions on Typography:
How Do Police Handle a Suspect's Threat of Retaliation?
Answer by Bob Cooke, retired special agent in charge, California Department of Justice, Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement:
I was the target of threats on a few occasions, but only a few times did I actually consider the threats of retaliation to be serious. Most crooks believe that law enforcement officers are doing their jobs by investigating them. Cops believe that crooks are doing their jobs by being crooks. Cops are paid to stand their ground and not retreat unless looking for cover. No one would respect the police if we were easily intimidated.
How Does the New York Times Create Its Crossword Puzzles?
Answer by Deb Amlen, writer of Wordplay, the New York Times crossword blog. Constructor of many mainstream and naughty puzzles. Judge at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament since 2006. Judge and contributor to Lollapuzzoolla since 2008:
The best way to answer this is to pass the buck completely and advise you to find a good mentor who has been published, preferably in the New York Times. I'm not saying that because I work for them, but it has long had the reputation for being the gold standard in the industry. So if your mentor has been published there, you have a good chance of learning from someone who knows what they are doing. You can find such a mentor by subscribing to the discussion list on Cruciverb, the online hangout for puzzle constructors. The discussion list is called Cruciverb-L.
How Did Jennifer Lawrence and Sam Claflin Get Ready for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire?
Answer by Francis Lawrence, director, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire:
It’s a bit of a process. It starts early on when we talk about the script. I explain my approach to the script and story and how I’m going to adapt the book. Then I’ll typically start talking about any physical transformations that they might need to do so that we might deal with weight loss, weight gain, any training, anything to do with hair, etc.
Jennifer Lawrence had archery training and training to get in shape for some of the action. With some of the other tributes, they had to learn how to use their weapons and do tricks with their weapons.