08
Jul
12

Roundup – Sunshine Sakae

Line O’ the Day:

Lax bros display a certain understated confidence that critics call arrogance.

No. It’s arrogance. I assure you. And it’s not understated. There’s nothing understated about Tyler Taylor Toyler IV struttin’ around school twirling a stick and wearing a shirt that says I AIN’T LAX ABOUT CRUSHIN’ PUSSY.

- Drew Magary, Bro-Tastic Laxachusetts Lax Bros Get The Bro-Tastic Story They Deserve From The Boston Bro-be [Deadspin]

Best of the Best:

“Snow White & The Huntsman is a triumph of feminist storytelling” [Vince Mancini on FilmDrunk]

By the way, if you want to see “a triumph of feminist storytelling,” go see Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone. A movie about a tough, smart young girl who doesn’t need a man to save her, or need to strap on a sword and a codpiece and do unrealistically-male things to save herself. A movie that was, come to think of it, written and directed by… you guessed it, actual women.

Son Who Hears Voices Finds Health Care Fatally Dysfunctional [Tom Moroney on Bloomberg]

Minutes before 11 p.m. on Oct. 18, 2010, two strangers sped toward a shared fate on a highway outside Seattle. Behind the wheel of a silver Subaru wagon was Adam Knapp, a 30-year-old schizophrenic 2,400 miles from home. Eighteen days earlier, he had slit his wrists and swallowed two bottles of pills in a suicide attempt. Three hospitals admitted him afterward. None kept him, and now he had taken off in a car alone…

Elisa Mefi, 31, was driving a black Ford Explorer. The unemployed medical clerk had just picked up her younger sister from work. They laughed and talked about new hairstyles until they saw the headlights of Adam’s car coming straight at them. Adam had U-turned directly into oncoming traffic. On impact with his car, Elisa’s side of the Explorer crumbled like a candy wrapper. Once his car came to a halt, Adam climbed out, jumped over a guardrail into traffic and was hit by five vehicles, police reports say. He died at the scene. Elisa succumbed to injuries three weeks later. Their deaths lay bare continuing failures of the U.S. health care system in treating the seriously mentally ill, and in protecting the public from their disturbed behavior. Adam’s parents say he died because a series of hospitals sent him home too soon in the turbulent final months of his life.

Show Trial: Puppets Act Out Corruption Case [Douglas Belkin on The Wall Street Journal]

Mr. Maynard’s puppets—including a bucktoothed squirrel, a lime-green lawyer and an obese man with a removable beard—aren’t putting on a show for kids or some offbeat comedy revue. They are covering one of the biggest corruption trials in Ohio history—delivering their reports of real testimony and wiretapped conversations from a yearslong investigation of Jimmy Dimora, the Democratic kingpin accused of racketeering by prosecutors in federal court in Akron. The result is a cross between “The Sopranos” and “The Muppet Show” that has elicited some complaints from viewers and hand-wringing from journalism professors. But since the trial began in January, “The Puppet’s Court” has led a ratings surge for the station’s late news show and won praise from some politicians.

Ocean trench: Take a dive 11,000m down [BBC News]

Icy cold, pitch black and with crushing pressures – the deepest part of the ocean is one of the most hostile places on the planet. Only three explorers have made the epic journey there: 11km (seven miles) down to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench. As a new wave of explorers is gearing up to make this remarkable dive, take a look at the mysterious world that they will be plunging into.

Life as a Landlord (in Cleveland Heights, Ohio) [Bert Stratton via The New York Times]

I want my tenants to be law-abiding and act middle-class. That’s the goal. The riskiest tenants are bartenders and servers. They often come home late and party hard, annoying the 9-to-5 tenants. I rent to welders, bartenders, landscapers, flight attendants, legal secretaries and Suzuki violin teachers. Some of the tenants meet one another in the vestibule, fall in love and marry. Then I have another vacancy.

Teller Reveals His Secrets  [Teller on Smithsonian Magazine]

Magic is an art, as capable of beauty as music, painting or poetry. But the core of every trick is a cold, cognitive experiment in perception: Does the trick fool the audience? A magician’s data sample spans centuries, and his experiments have been replicated often enough to constitute near-certainty. Neuroscientists—well intentioned as they are—are gathering soil samples from the foot of a mountain that magicians have mapped and mined for centuries.

Top five regrets of the dying [Susie Steiner via The Guardian]

A palliative nurse who has counselled the dying in their last days has revealed the most common regrets we have at the end of our lives. And among the top, from men in particular, is ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard’.

The Writer’s Job [Tim Parks via The New York Review of Books]

None of this prepared us for the advent of creative writing as a “career.” In the last thirty or forty years, the writer has become someone who works on a well-defined career track, like any other middle class professional, not, however, to become a craftsman serving the community, but to project an image of himself (partly through his writings, but also in dozens of other ways) as an artist who embodies the direction in which culture is headed. In short, the next big new thing. A Rushdie. A Pamuk.

Everything I Needed to Know about Modern Love I Learned from the Oxford English Dictionary Quarterly Updates [Pamela Haag on Big Think]

It’s interesting to observe the lag time between the cultural emergence of the word and its OED inclusion. This could be used to measure a concept’s osmosis rate–how quickly it became culturally ubiquitous. Safe sex was in use even in the 1980s, but made it into the OED in 2005, whereas work-life balance and biological clock were included in 2006, but they were in circulation, as I recall, in the late 1990s, for a shorter lag time. Speed dating enjoyed an extremely swift ascent. It started as a practice only in 2000, but was included three years later. So speed dating ingratiated itself into the English language faster than safe sex. Oh dear.

Saudi Arabia May Be Tied to 9/11, 2 Ex-Senators Say [Eric Lichtblau on The New York Times]

In sworn statements that seem likely to reignite the debate, two former senators who were privy to top secret information on the Saudis’ activities say they believe that the Saudi government might have played a direct role in the terrorist attacks. “I am convinced that there was a direct line between at least some of the terrorists who carried out the September 11th attacks and the government of Saudi Arabia,” former Senator Bob Graham, Democrat of Florida, said in an affidavit filed as part of a lawsuit brought against the Saudi government and dozens of institutions in the country by families of Sept. 11 victims and others. Mr. Graham led a joint 2002 Congressional inquiry into the attacks. His former Senate colleague, Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, a Democrat who served on the separate 9/11 Commission, said in a sworn affidavit of his own in the case that “significant questions remain unanswered” about the role of Saudi institutions. “Evidence relating to the plausible involvement of possible Saudi government agents in the September 11th attacks has never been fully pursued,” Mr. Kerrey said.

Ethiopians Trade Holy Water for AIDS Drugs [Miriam Jordan on The Wall Street Journal]

Cast out from her family, Tigist arrived at Ethiopia’s Entoto Mountain believing that a spring here welled with holy water that would rid her body of HIV. Joining 4,000 other squatters seeking the same cure, the young woman reluctantly also started taking antiretroviral pills. Gaining strength, she married an HIV-positive man, Melaku, and started a new life in a mud-and-tarp hut amid eucalyptus forests.

When Gaming Is Good for You [Robert Lee Hotz on The Wall Street Journal]

People who played action-based video and computer games made decisions 25% faster than others without sacrificing accuracy, according to a study. Indeed, the most adept gamers can make choices and act on them up to six times a second—four times faster than most people, other researchers found. Moreover, practiced game players can pay attention to more than six things at once without getting confused, compared with the four that someone can normally keep in mind, said University of Rochester researchers. The studies were conducted independently of the companies that sell video and computer games. Scientists also found that women—who make up about 42% of computer and videogame players—were better able to mentally manipulate 3D objects, a skill at which men are generally more adept. Most studies looked at adults rather than children. Electronic gameplay has its downside. Brain scans show that violent videogames can alter brain function in healthy young men after just a week of play, depressing activity among regions associated with emotional control, researchers at Indiana University recently reported. Other studies have found an association between compulsive gaming and being overweight, introverted and prone to depression. The studies didn’t compare the benefits of gaming with such downsides.

Since Skiing Came to Afghanistan, It Has Been Pretty Much All Downhill [Charles Levinson on The Wall Street Journal]

Though Afghanistan has plenty of snow-covered mountains, skiing is an extreme novelty here. In Bamiyan, best known for its giant Buddha statues blown up by the Taliban a decade ago, mountainous villages with no electricity, kept warm by dung-fueled heaters, saw their first skier in early 2010. Since then, the effort to implant ski culture in Bamiyan has brought here urban hip-hop slang, donkey-leaping snowboarders, and indiscriminately urinating ski bums who offend local sensibilities. It has also brought a small but welcome trickle of tourist dollars. The effort faces many of the same challenges as the broader struggle for bitterly fractured Afghanistan. Though the predominantly ethnic Hazara Bamiyan province is one of Afghanistan’s safest and attracts some vacationers—mainly foreigners based in Kabul—the Taliban increasingly operate on the access road from Kabul.

When Did the United States Last Kill an Al Qaeda Fighter in Afghanistan? [George Zornick on The Nation (3/1/12)]

According to a Defense Department spokesman, the most recent operation that killed an Al Qaeda fighter was in April 2011—ten months ago. However, there was an “Al Qaeda foreign fighter” captured near Kabul in May 2011, and an “Al Qaeda facilitator” capturedin the Paktiya province on January 30 of this year. By comparison, there have been 466 coalition fatalities since April 2011.  Given [White House press secretary Jay] Carney’s repeated insistence that the “number one”  purpose of the American mission is to “disrupt, dismantle and ultimately defeat” Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, and given the ongoing sacrifices the country is making to achieve that goal, it’s very important to keep these benchmarks in mind. It is surprising Carney wasn’t aware of them, or didn’t disclose them—though, perhaps it’s not.

Attorney General Holder defends execution without charges [Glenn Greenwald on Salon]

But the crux of Holder’s argument as set forth in yesterday’s speech is this:

Some have argued that the president is required to get permission from a federal court before taking action against a United States citizen who is a senior operational leader of Al Qaeda or associated forces. This is simply not accurate. “Due process” and “judicial process” are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security. The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.

When Obama officials (like Bush officials before them) refer to someone “who is a senior operational leader of Al Qaeda or associated forces,” what they mean is this: someone the President has accused and then decreed in secret to be a Terrorist without ever proving it with evidence. The “process” used by the Obama administration to target Americans for execution-by-CIA is, as reported last October by Reuters, as follows:

American militants like Anwar al-Awlaki are placed on a kill or capture list by a secretive panel of senior government officials, which then informs the president of its decisions . . . There is no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel, which is a subset of the White House’s National Security Council . . . Neither is there any law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate.

As Leon Panetta recently confirmed, the President makes the ultimate decision as to whether the American will be killed: “[The] President of the United States obviously reviews these cases, reviews the legal justification, and in the end says, go or no go.” So that is the “process” which Eric Holder yesterday argued constitutes “due process” as required by the Fifth Amendment before the government can deprive of someone of their life.

How Luther went viral [The Economist]

In the early years of the Reformation expressing support for Luther’s views, through preaching, recommending a pamphlet or singing a news ballad directed at the pope, was dangerous. By stamping out isolated outbreaks of opposition swiftly, autocratic regimes discourage their opponents from speaking out and linking up. A collective-action problem thus arises when people are dissatisfied, but are unsure how widely their dissatisfaction is shared, as Zeynep Tufekci, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina, has observed in connection with the Arab spring. The dictatorships in Egypt and Tunisia, she argues, survived for as long as they did because although many people deeply disliked those regimes, they could not be sure others felt the same way. Amid the outbreaks of unrest in early 2011, however, social-media websites enabled lots of people to signal their preferences en masse to their peers very quickly, in an “informational cascade” that created momentum for further action. The same thing happened in the Reformation. The surge in the popularity of pamphlets in 1523-24, the vast majority of them in favour of reform, served as a collective signalling mechanism. As Andrew Pettegree, an expert on the Reformation at St Andrew’s University, puts it in “Reformation and the Culture of Persuasion”, “It was the superabundance, the cascade of titles, that created the impression of an overwhelming tide, an unstoppable movement of opinion…Pamphlets and their purchasers had together created the impression of irresistible force.” Although Luther had been declared a heretic in 1521, and owning or reading his works was banned by the church, the extent of local political and popular support for Luther meant he escaped execution and the Reformation became established in much of Germany.

Why (Almost) All of Us Cheat and Steal [Dan Ariely Interviewed by Gary Belsky on Time]

People are able to cheat more when they cheat for other people. In some experiments, people cheated the most when they didn’t benefit at all. This makes sense if our ability to be dishonest is increased by the ability to rationalize our behavior. If you’re cheating for the benefit of another entity, your ability to rationalize is enhanced.

Old vs. Young [David Leonhardt on The New York Times]

This year, polls suggest that Mitt Romney will win a landslideamong the over-65 crowd and that President Obama will do likewise among those under 40. Beyond political parties, the two have different views on many of the biggest questions before the country. The young not only favor gay marriage and school funding more strongly; they are also notably less religious, more positive toward immigrants, less hostile to Social Security cuts and military cuts and more optimistic about the country’s future. They are both more open to change and more confident that life in the United States will remain good. Their optimism is especially striking in the context of their economic troubles. Older Americans have obviously suffered in recent years, with many now fearing a significantly diminished retirement. But the economic slump of the last decade — a mediocre expansion, followed by a terrible downturn — has still taken a much higher toll on the young. Less established in their working lives, they have struggled to get hired and to hold on to jobs…Over all, more than 50 percent of federal benefits flow to the 13 percent of the population over 65. Some of these benefits come from Social Security, which many people pay for over the course of their working lives. But a large chunk comes through Medicare, and contrary to widespread perception, most Americans do not come close to paying for their own Medicare benefits through payroll taxes. Medicare, in addition to being the largest source of the country’s projected budget deficits, is a transfer program from young to old.

A Con Man Who Lives Between Truth and Fiction [Andrew Ross Sorkin Interviews Samuel Israel III on New York Times Dealbook]

What, I asked him, can an investor do to avoid being conned by the next Samuel Israel? “Seek as much transparency as possible,” he said. “If they do not understand exactly how a manager is making money, do not invest. If there is a secret process that cannot be explained, run. Go see the organization yourself, talk to the employees. The manager cannot see everyone or he could not be making money; if he has all the time in the world for you, that is a flag.”

Architects And Engineers Say These Are The Most Amazing Tall Buildings Of The Year [Jennifer Polland on BusinessInsider]

In 2011, 88 new towers over 200 meters (656 ft.) high were built in the world–a record number, compared to the 32 new towers built in 2005. There are another 96 new towers slated for completion this year, with China being the biggest builder.

The Most Important Numbers of the Next Half-Century [Morgan Housel on The Motley Fool]

Though all countries age, within four decades the U.S. will likely have one of the lowest percentages of elderly citizens, and one of the highest rates of working-age bodies among large economies. China, meanwhile, will see its working-age population plunge and its elderly ranks soar — an echo of its one-child policy. Europe falls deeper into age-based stagnation. Alas, Japan becomes the global equivalent of Boca Raton. (Note: I excluded India from the list because it has a low life expectancy, which skews the comparison.)…The U.S. is projected to grow its working-age population by 47 million between 2012 and 2050. Amazingly, China’s population of working-age citizens is expected to decline by more than 200 million during that time…For perspective, the U.S. is on track to grow its working-age population by the equivalent of six New York cities between now and 2050. China is on track to lose the equivalent of three United Kingdoms. Those, folks, may be the most important numbers of the next half-century.

The United States of America: What facts about the United States do foreigners not believe until they come to America? [Mary Wittenburg on Quora]

In the episode “True Urban Legends” of This American Life, Mary Wiltenburg asks refugees to share the rumors they’d heard about America but didn’t think were true, only to discover on arrival that they were. Examples include homelessness and Christmas lights.

The US Presidential Election: A Race Between The Two Most Unqualified Public Servants In A Century? [Michael Cembalest on J.P. Morgan Chase via Zero Hedge]

So, to find an election this light on public sector experience, you have to go back to the 1924 election between Coolidge and John W Davis, the latter a compromise candidate who had spent 5 years as US Solicitor General. Both Coolidge and Davis had only spent a couple of years as either Governor or in Congress before running. That’s one strange context of the 2012 election: a couple of “one-termers”, with neither having much prior experience at the highest levels of public service (12 years combined, by our count). The implications are subject to debate, but there’s no question that it’s an anomaly; or at a minimum, a throwback to the elections of the 19th century, when this kind of thing was more common.

A Cruel and Unusual Record [Jimmy Carter, the 39th president, the founder of the Carter Center and the recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, via The New York Times]

The United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights. Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended. This development began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has been sanctioned and escalated by bipartisan executive and legislative actions, without dissent from the general public. As a result, our country can no longer speak with moral authority on these critical issues.

Decision time for China [Rosemary Righter on The Times Literary Supplement]

Then the businessman added: “Look, I don’t lose too much sleep over China’s economic troubles; but I do worry, tremendously, about a political explosion tearing the place apart”. The dramatic political destruction in March of Bo Xilai, one of China’s most thrustingly ambitious and charismatic regional Communist Party bosses, has set off that explosion. The shockwaves are convulsing China at a crucial political juncture.

Inside Minority Report’s ‘Idea Summit’, Visionaries Saw the Future [Wired]

John Underkoffler (MIT Media Lab alum, founder of Oblong Industries): A lot of people had very disparate points of view. Remember, it was the late ’90s, just before the bubble burst. Being a futurist was still a viable vocation then.

Shaun Jones (biomedical researcher, first director of DARPA’s Unconventional Coutnermeasures program): I had some chats with Joel Garreau [principal of consulting firm The Garreau Group, in 1999 a reporter at the Washington Post], probably lamenting the lack of adequate alcohol.

Doctor’s Orders [Dave Gardetta on Los Angeles Magazine]

In 1911 in Los Angeles, a man named John T. Keough patented a handheld insertable vibrating device; the modern vibrator was born. With the arrival of electricity in homes, smaller massagers were sold directly to women of means. Advertisements in the pages of magazines like McClure’s, Modern Woman, and Good Housekeeping promised hours of relief. “Gentle, soothing, invigorating, and refreshing,” claimed one ad in National Home Journal. “Invented by a woman who knows a woman’s needs.” The course of history might have continued this way were it not for men who knew men’s needs. In the 1920s, vibrators began showing up in stag films. Sexualized, they were also demonized and by the end of the decade had vanished from the American scene. They would not appear again until 1966, when a Los Angeles man named Jon H. Tavel patented a cordless, battery-powered vibrator with variable speed settings.

Vanishing Voices [Russ Rymer on National Geographic]

When I ask university students in Kyzyl what Tuvan words are untranslatable into English or Russian, they suggest khöömei, because the singing is so connected with the Tuvan environment that only a native can understand it, and also khoj özeeri, the Tuvan method of killing a sheep. If slaughtering livestock can be seen as part of humans’ closeness to animals, khoj özeeri represents an unusually intimate version. Reaching through an incision in the sheep’s hide, the slaughterer severs a vital artery with his fingers, allowing the animal to quickly slip away without alarm, so peacefully that one must check its eyes to see if it is dead. In the language of the Tuvan people, khoj özeeri means not only slaughter but also kindness, humaneness, a ceremony by which a family can kill, skin, and butcher a sheep, salting its hide and preparing its meat and making sausage with the saved blood and cleansed entrails so neatly that the whole thing can be accomplished in two hours (as the Mongushes did this morning) in one’s good clothes without spilling a drop of blood. Khoj özeeri implies a relationship to animals that is also a measure of a people’s character.

Curiously Strong Remains:

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