'No Pineapple Left Behind' and the politics of American education

Seth Alter was a teacher for all of six months before quitting his job and going indie to make video games full-time. No Pineapple Left Behind, his second PC title, is more or less the story of why he left his students at a Boston charter school. As a special education math teacher, his sixth graders were expected to meet the same behavioral standards and educational expectations as their mainstreamed counterparts thanks to 2001's controversial No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which ties school funding to standardized test scores. Alter says that teacher evaluations are drawn from those scores as well. And because most charter schools are non-union, they can fire teachers for almost any reason, including low test scores from special-needs students who should have been held to modified standards in the first place. It doesn't take a genius to realize just how flawed that logic is: It's a system built to fail.

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When I was first approached about checking out the WaterField Designs $335 Rough Rider messenger bag, it occurred to me that I've never written about something as decidedly non-technical before. Let's face it: When I plop down my case and begin unloading my work stuff, my focus has always been on the contents, not the vessel. But once the bag arrived, I realized this San Francisco outfit doesn't just peddle any old type of gear; its handmade leather goods (crafted in the US, to boot) are something truly special. Still, coming from a world of ultra-padded messengers, I was worried if it would be quite good enough to do the job. So I broke up with my cushy day-to-day bag and switched to this all-leather interloper to see how I'd fare.

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Neil deGrasse Tyson has said he loses "sleep at night wondering whether we are intelligent enough to figure out the universe." It's a valid concern. We've put a man on the moon, landed on a comet and roved around on Mars, but it's really only the tip of the iceberg. There's so much that we haven't seen and don't know, it seems almost impossible to fully understand the universe.

It's not for lack of effort, though. People and spacecraft keep going up into space investigating the unknown, hoping to glean something new, or finding the Holy Grail -- a place that can sustain life. And as human beings become a more frequent presence in the cosmos we've had to establish rules to ensure that places like the International Space Station don't deteriorate into complete bedlam and that we're not fighting wars over uninhabitable swaths of Martian desert. The international community has actually come together and written regulatory guidelines for space exploration and laws that keep the final frontier from turning into the Wild West.

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'Cognitive Cooking with Chef Watson' is a collaboration between IBM and the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. Once a week, as part of an ongoing series, we'll be preparing one recipe from the book until we've made all of them. Wish us luck.

I've got to say I am pretty against the idea of wrapping lobster in bacon. While, yes, bacon does tend to make everything better, I'm also a bit of a purist. I don't like butter or onions in my hamburgers, or mignonette on my oysters. These are foods meant to be enjoyed as they are. And I feel the same about lobster. It is meant to be steamed and devoured as is (or with some drawn butter and lemon if you really must). But, I have a job, and right now that job is to cook whatever Watson tell me to. So it's time to defile one of the most delicious (and expensive) sea creatures with bacon and a lot of citrus.

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This post was done in partnership with The Sweethome, a list of the best gear for your home. Read the full article below at TheSweethome.com.

Three years after the Nest Learning Thermostat's debut, the second-gen Nest continues to offer the best combination of style and substance of any thermostat. Its software and apps are solid and elegant, it learns your routines and the particulars of your house, and it's easy to change the temperature from your phone or computer so you won't have to get up from your cozy spot on the couch. It's (still) the best smart thermostat for most people, though the competition is catching up.

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Cove

There seem to be three mindsets when it comes to the water we drink. You can care a lot about it and buy bottled; care a lot about it and have a water filter; or you just drink from the tap. Maybe it's because I fit into the third category that water filters don't really seem like a growth market to me. A casual survey of my colleagues tells me there are lots of people that do care, though. Cove is built for them. The pitch is simple: Our natural water is full of crap. Harmful chemicals, heavy metals, pathogens. You name it; it's in there. Most filters do a good job at removing chlorine and other elements, but according to some studies, many introduce bacteria into your water. Cove's new filtration system apparently solves that issue, and, this being 2015, it's wrapped up in a "smart" housing that talks to your phone.

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If Defcon is the cultural Comic-Con of security conferences, then RSA is more like the business-focused Game Developers Conference (GDC), though largely packed with government-corporate attendees.

At the midpoint of a long day during last month's RSA San Francisco 2015, the largest security conference in the United States (with a record-breaking 33,000 in attendance), Congressman Mike Rogers took the stage to debate in favor of renewing the Patriot Act's Section 215, sometimes called the "library records" provision. "Renewing the Patriot Act" at RSA was about one of our nation's most pivotal public pain points in recent history -- Section 215′s facilitation of bulk telephone record collection. Despite the high-profile nature of this debate and its critical timing, it was a bizarrely toothless, kind of clueless, softball argument that somehow managed to completely avoid discussing why the renewal of this section of the Patriot Act, right now, is such a big deal.

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Which keyboards are worth buying?

When you consider how much time we spend in front of our computers, how we interact with them should be a key concern. That said, unless you're a gamer or programmer, you probably haven't done much shopping around. Last month, we took a look at some of the best gaming keyboards that have come out recently. Now, we turn our gaze to some newer models designed for uses other than playing your favorite PC games -- including ones for work, controlling your home theater and portable units you can carry around in your bag for typing on the go.

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Our ability to drive innovation through creative visualization has helped us explore the reaches of space, put powerful computers into our pockets and design some bad-ass car concepts. There's always been a seed of futurism in automobiles: Manufacturers and hobbyists alike have been crafting unique vehicles for decades, sometimes to test out fresh, new tech and other times to indulge in space-age fantasies. Below, we explore some of the more notable concept cars that have been created over the years, from the utilitarian to the fantastic.

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'Cognitive Cooking with Chef Watson' is a collaboration between IBM and the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. Once a week, as part of an ongoing series, we'll be preparing one recipe from the book until we've made all of them. Wish us luck.

So, here's a question: Is it still a paella if it doesn't involve olive oil or saffron, and doesn't generally represent the flavors of Spain? At what point does it become a pilaf or, since this particular recipe is brimming with spices from the Indian subcontinent, a biryani? Really the only discernible quality that this Indian turmeric paella has that screams "paella" is the presence of socarrat -- the toasty, browned rice that sits at the bottom of the pan. Oh, and the presentation. And so, here we go again, Watson and his human interpreters from the Institute for Culinary education take a seemingly familiar dish and, with a little computer-generated nudge, create something wholly unfamiliar.

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