Book review: How Our Pursuit of Happiness Is Creating a Nation of Nervous Wrecks, By Ruth Whippman
Source: The New York Times
‘For nearly eight years, the presidency has been Mr. Obama’s science and technology playground, a place where he sought to become the advocate in chief for industries pushing advanced batteries, powerful medical devices and cutting-edge research.
“I’m a nerd, and I don’t make any apologies for it… It’s cool stuff. And it is that thing that sets us apart, that ability to imagine and hypothesize, and then test and figure stuff out, and tinker and make things and make them better, and then break them down and rework them.”
With less than three months left in his presidency, Mr. Obama is preparing for a life after the White House that will most likely include a close relationship with Silicon Valley. Officials running Mr. Obama’s presidential foundation have made about 10 trips to tech strongholds in California in the past year as they help him plot his next steps.
Source: The New York Times
‘I’m from a country whose democracy is actually collapsing. Stop saying Trump threatens US democracy.’
Source: German Lopez, Vox
It is quite easy to portray Trump as an “anti-constitutional” candidate. It can well be doubted that he has ever seriously read or thought about the document, and he exhibits dangerously dictatorial tendencies that we hope are precluded by the Constitution. But we should realize that his candidacy also tells us things we might not wish to hear about the Constitution and its political order in the 21st century. In his own way, he may be the canary in the coal mine, and the question is whether we will draw the right lessons from his improbable candidacy and his apparent ability to garner the votes of at least 40 percent of the American public…’
Source: Sanford V. Levinson, professor of law and government at the University of Texas Austin, Vox
‘New York radio station WQXR used to inflict this pronunciation test on prospective announcers — try reading it aloud:
The old man with the flaccid face and dour expression grimaced when asked if he were conversant with zoology, mineralogy, or the culinary arts. ‘Not to be secretive,’ he said, ‘I may tell you that I’d given precedence to the study of genealogy. But since my father’s demise, it has been my vagary to remain incognito because of an inexplicable, lamentable, and irreparable family schism. It resulted from a heinous crime, committed at our domicile by an impious scoundrel. To err is human … but this affair was so grievous that only my inherent acumen and consummate tact saved me.’
It’s a minefield. In Another Almanac of Words at Play, Willard R. Espy lists the pronunciations that were considered correct:
- flaccid FLACK-sid
- inexplicable in-EX-plic-able
- dour DOO-er
- lamentable LAM-entable
- grimaced gri-MACED
- irreparable ear-REP-arable
- conversant KON-ver-sant
- schism SIZ-m
- zoology zoh-OL-o-ji
- heinous HAY-nus
- mineralogy miner-AL-o-ji
- domicile DOMM-i-sil
- culinary KEW-li-ner-y
- impious IM-pee-yus
- secretive see-KEE-tiv
- precedence pre-SEED-ens
- grievous GREEV-us
- genealogy jan-e-AL-o-ji
- inherent in-HERE-ent
- demise de-MIZE
- acumen a-KEW-men
- vagary va-GAIR-y
- consummate (adj.) kon-SUMM-it
- incognito in-KOG-ni-toe
Getting 20 of the 25 “stumpers” right was considered excellent. But that was 40 years ago, and even at the time Espy found 21 dictionary listings that accepted different pronunciations. “So not to worry when you don’t sound like WQXR,” he wrote. “One man’s AB-do-men is another man’s ab-DOUGH-men.”
Source: Futility Closet
I certainly would not have cut the mus-TARD at WQXR! I would have pronounced at least 12 of them differently:
- flaccid FLA-sid
- inexplicable in-ex-PLIC-able
- lamentable lam-ENT-able
- grimaced GRI-maced
- conversant con-VER-sant
- secretive SEE-kre-tiv
- precedence PRE-sed-ens
- vagary VEY-gar-y
- consummate KON-summ-it
- incognito in-kog-NI-toe
A printable version for you to use:
The article collects other such works of activist art, some ruder than others. Source: Design You Trust
‘Over the past year or two, someone has been probing the defenses of the companies that run critical pieces of the Internet. These probes take the form of precisely calibrated attacks designed to determine exactly how well these companies can defend themselves, and what would be required to take them down. We don’t know who is doing this, but it feels like a large nation state. China or Russia would be my first guesses…’
Source: Schneier on Security
I love me a good astronomical mystery:
‘In 2005, a very strange event was observed. An unknown object, not detectable through visible light, released an intense flare of X-rays. It took about a minute for the flare to reach its full brightness, about 90 times brighter than its resting output and about a million times as bright as the Sun. The flare lasted for about an hour before petering out. Four years later, it flared up again.
X-ray flares are not unheard of, but this event defied classification. Astronomers normally look at the length of the flares as well as how often they occur to determine what kinds of processes produce them. These flares don’t match any known mechanism, making them mysterious indeed.
To find out more, a team of researchers decided to look over archival data from the Chandra and XMM-Newton space observatories. They wondered if similar phenomena are taking place anywhere else in the Universe. If so, it might provide clues about the nature of these strange flares. And the researchers weren’t disappointed. Their search, which included 70 nearby galaxies, turned up two more such flares…’
Source: Ars Technica
‘No person should have to be subjected to what Clinton dealt with on Sunday and, more important, no great democratic nation should be subjected to it either…’
Source: Michael Cohen, The Boston Globe op-ed
‘People across the political spectrum condemned the attack.’
You’ll either believe that Dems came to the aid of the firebombed Republican office out of a fierce devotion to democratic principles or because they saw a tremendous P.R. opportunity.
In fact, wouldn’t Trump, suffused with conspiracy theory rhetoric about the rigging of the election, insist that the point of the firebombing was to provide Clinton’s forces with just such an opportunity to save the day?
As Trump puffs “We can’t let them get away with it, folks” in incitement, his followers are increasingly calling for “revolution” and “bloodshed”.
Source: Pacific Standard
‘This week, an emergency room in the Pacific Northwest was briefly quarantined after five people—including two police officers and a hospital worker—experienced mysterious hallucinations from an unidentified illness believed to be spread by touch. According to Oregon Live, the enigmatic incident began early Wednesday morning when a 54-year-old caregiver in North Bend, Oregon, called police to report seven or eight people “trying to take the roof off her vehicle.” Police say they found nothing, but after the caregiver reported the unseen vandals a second time, sheriff’s deputies escorted her to a nearby hospital for suspected hallucinations.
Shortly afterward, however, one of the deputies began experiencing similar symptoms and returned to the hospital. Soon after that, the other deputy, a hospital worker and the caregiver’s 78-year-old patient also began hallucinating and were hospitalized. A hazmat team was subsequently deployed to both the hospital and the initial residence, but was unable to locate a common source of contamination. Blood tests also failed to find anything unusual. “The vehicles, equipment and uniforms have been checked with no contaminates identified or located on or about them.” Authorities say the investigation is ongoing…’
Mysterious environmental contaminant or mass hysteria?
It sounds as if support for Trump is in freefall not necessarily with voters but where it matters — with big money backers. “He is a dangerous demagogue completely unsuited to the responsibilities of a United States president,” said one $3M contributor. “Even for loyalists, there is a line beyond which the obvious moral failings of a candidate are impossible to disregard,” he wrote. “That line has been clearly breached.”
And poor RNC chairman Reince Priebus is having sleepless nights as he watches years of careful GOP organizing unravel. But, incredibly enough, the article cites many others who still cling to a concept of loyalty to this sexual abuser and feel that bailing on him would be cowardice.
Source: New York Times
As a psychiatrist, I’m finding it really difficult to bite my tongue and avoid doing pronouncements about Trump’s evident (and considerable) psychopathology. But there is an ethical mandate in my profession to avoid armchair diagnosis when one has no treatment relationship with someone and has not examined them face-to-face. So I think I’ll just continue to call him names instead.
Fascinating thinking by Matt Yglesias (Vox). He notes that, while complaining about media coverage is nothing new from a political campaign, Trump goes further with “a wholesale, broad-brush effort to entirely discredit the entire existing media ecosystem… Trump’s thesis is not that reporters are out of touch with the struggles of ordinary Americans or implicitly biased in favor of liberals. He argues instead that the whole enterprise is root and branch untrustworthy…” and that scapegoating the media will be the explanation for the faithful about why he lost the election (as he surely will). This will be his route to rehabilitating his unflattering image with the wider universe of conservatives who feel he has blown what should have been a very winnable race for the GOP.
“And the media is in many ways a perfect scapegoat, because it sets up Trump for a next act… Trump is likely setting himself up as a media entrepreneur.”
The CEO of his campaign, Steve Bannon, used to run Breitbart.com, where he has shown savvy in building a digital conservative brand. Combine that with the “on-camera talent” of Trump himself, as a reality TV host, and his friend Sean Hannity (thought to be considering a departure from Fox News). Add into the mix Roger Ailes, who built the Fox juggernaut before his recent ouster for sexual harassment; and Trump’s so-in-law Jared Kushner, who owns the New York Observer. Looks like the right mix to “operate a successful media company, folding the existing Breitbart and Hannity franchises together with the Trump brand to form Trump TV or Trump Media.” But this would only work if this blowhard with a pathological inability to take responsibility for any of his failings can successfully overcome the stink of a loser, A “campaign to scapegoat the establishment press for Trump’s electoral defeat makes the perfect exit strategy.”