Month: May 2009

Google Wave

Image representing Tim O'Reilly as depicted in...
Tim O’Reilly

What Might Email Look Like If It Were Invented Today? “That is exactly the right question, and one that every developer should be asking him or herself. The world of computing has changed, profoundly, yet so many of our applications bear the burden of decades of old thinking. We need to challenge our assumptions and re-imagine the tools we take for granted. It’s perhaps no accident that this project, carried out secretly at Google’s Sydney office over the past two years, had the code name Walkabout. That’s the Australian aboriginal tradition of going off for an extended period to retrace the songlines and learn the world anew.

In answering the question, Jens, Lars, and team re-imagined email and instant-messaging in a connected world, a world in which messages no longer need to be sent from one place to another, but could become a conversation in the cloud. Effectively, a message (a wave) is a shared communications space with elements drawn from email, instant messaging, social networking, and even wikis.” (O’Reilly Radar)

Related:

Sotomayor’s Sharp Tongue Raises Issue of Temperament

President Obama nominates Sonia Sotomayor

To supporters, Judge Sotomayor’s vigorous questioning of the Bush administration’s position… showcases some of her strengths. She is known as a formidably intelligent judge with a prodigious memory who meticulously prepares for oral arguments and is not shy about grilling the lawyers who appear before her to ensure that she fully understands their arguments.

But to detractors, Judge Sotomayor’s sharp-tongued and occasionally combative manner — some lawyers have described her as “difficult” and “nasty” — raises questions about her judicial temperament and willingness to listen. Her demeanor on the bench is an issue that conservatives opposed to her nomination see as a potential vulnerability — and one that Mr. Obama carefully considered before selecting her.(NYTimes).

Related:

Paul Hawken’s Commencement Address in Portland

Paul Hawken, Executive Director, Natural Capit...

“Class of 2009: you are going to have to figure out what it means to be a human being on earth at a time when every living system is declining, and the rate of decline is accelerating. Kind of a mind-boggling situation… but not one peer-reviewed paper published in the last thirty years can refute that statement. Basically, civilization needs a new operating system, you are the programmers, and we need it within a few decades.” Read it all (CharityFocus Blog)

A Chili Sauce to Crow About

Sriracha sauce is the bomb! New York Times article waxes enthusiastic, chronicling all the innovative uses haute cuisine chefs are finding for the stuff. However, many of us who have been cooking with it for years are way ahead of them (or is it just far less discriminating?) in which dishes we are willing to use it in.

Unicef : Land Mine

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Gotcha!

“Adhesive stickers with bottom side simulating a detonator for explosive were placed on the pavements in Zurich. When the passers by checked their shoes, they saw the message from Unicef: ‘In many other countries you would now be mutilated! Help the victims of landmines!’ ” via Adoholik.

10 Strange Species Discovered Last Year

Hippocampus sp.

It turns out that the real world is totally like the internet: If you look hard enough, you can find just about anything. This year, scientists found caffeine-less coffee plants, tiny seahorses and a 23-inch long bug that looks like a branch, not to mention a strange white slug no one had ever described that was found in a Welsh garden.

Below, you’ll find the top 10 species found and described in 2008, according to The International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University.” (Wired Science )

Related:

The story of the origin of fairy tales is a fairy tale

Hodag 01

‘ “It has been said so often that the folk invented and disseminated fairy tales that this assumption has become an unquestioned proposition,” [Ruth] Bottigheimer writes in the introduction to her most recent book, Fairy Tales: A New History (State University of New York Press, 2009). “It may therefore surprise readers that folk invention and transmission of fairy tales has no basis in verifiable fact. Literary analysis undermines it, literary history rejects it, social history repudiates it, and publishing history … contradicts it.”

Her claim is the latest chapter in — some say it should be the epilogue to — a clash almost as old as fairy tales themselves. For many scholars, the debate over where fairy tales came from is a battle that belongs to the late 19th century, when national folklore societies sprang up in the United States and Britain and established the importance of oral traditions. That principle long ago became a pillar of the work done by folklorists — influenced by anthropologists and ethnographers — even as they have used book history and manuscript evidence to put together a much more complicated picture of how the Grimms and other key collectors, editors, and writers produced their influential versions of stories.

Many of these scholars have simply moved beyond the debate. They say the really interesting work on fairy tales now occupies a shifting middle ground where the spoken and written versions play off each other: on the pantomime stage, for instance, and on the movie screen.’ (The Chronicle of Higher Educatiton)

Quack remedies spread by virtue of being useless

Photograph of three antique patent medicine bo...

“Eating a vulture won’t clear a bad case of syphilis nor will a drink made of rotting snakes treat leprosy, but these and other bogus medical treatments spread precisely because they don’t work. That’s the counterintuitive finding of a mathematical model of medical quackery.

Ineffective treatments don’t cure an illness, so sufferers demonstrate them to more people than those who recovery quickly after taking real medicines.” (New Scientist)

Fatal Deer Tick Virus Raises Concern

Adult deer tick, Ixodes scapularis.

‘While deer ticks are widely know to be the source of Lyme disease, they are now linked to a death by encephalitis. “We were concerned to find this particular virus in deer ticks which are extremely common,” said Harvard University epidemiologist Sam Telford, who first discovered the virus 12 years ago.’ (WCVB Boston )

Related:

Andrew Sullivan comments on the Cheney torture speech

Impeach Dick

“A simple note having now read the former vice-president’s despicable and disgraceful speech. It confirms the very worst of him, and reveals just how callow, just how arrogant, and just how reckless and unrepentant this man is and has long been. There was not a whisper of regret or reflection; there was a series of lies and distortions, a reckless attack on a graceful successor, inheriting a world of intractable problems, and a reminder that while serious men and women will indeed move on, Cheney never will. He remains a threat to this country’s constitution as he remains a stain on its honor and moral standing. I never believed I would hear a vice-president of the United States not simply defend torture but insist on pride in it, insist on its honor. But that is what he said, with that sly grin insisting that fear always beats reason, that violence always beats dialogue, and that torture is always an American value.” Read the entire column (The Atlantic).

Related:

Don’t judge the chemo kid, says Rahul Parikh MD in Salon:

Hodgkin's lymphoma

‘The story of Daniel Hauser, a 13-year-old boy from Minnesota with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, became tabloid fodder overnight. The boy and his mother are on the lam because the mother refuses, because of her beliefs, to authorize chemotherapy treatments for her son. Hodgkin’s lymphoma has a 90 percent cure rate with chemotherapy, and a 95 percent chance of killing a person without it. Chemotherapy will likely save Daniel’s life, and as a pediatrician I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to recommend it.

But I would also like to turn down the volume on the talk-radio chatter and outraged editorials. That’s because nobody seems to be talking about what it takes to beat Hodgkin’s (or any other cancer). What it takes is a grueling regimen that can indeed give even a dying person pause. In fact, the Hausers didn’t refuse chemotherapy outright. They defied doctors and a judge’s ruling only after Daniel experienced some of its violent effects following one round. If you don’t understand why, listen to my friend, Arun Ponnusamy, 36, who beat acute lymphocytic leukemia. “Surviving cancer is one thing,” he says. “Surviving chemotherapy is another thing entirely.” ‘

via Salon.

Related:

DEL-from-here-to-end481538d9-13b0-416f-8e72-1b9b1b5efc60″>

Montana town requests that U.S. government send 100 Gitmo detainees to its prison.

Guantanamo

‘A frequent attack on the closure of Guantanamo is the claim that no one in the U.S. wants detainees housed in their backyard. Last Sunday, Dick Cheney remarked, “I don’t know a single congressional district in this country that is going to say, gee, great, they’re sending us 20 Al Qaida terrorists.” But Al Jazeera’s Rob Reynolds reports that the town of Hardin, MT is requesting that 100 detainees be sent to its empty prison…(Think Progress)

What Goes Around Comes Around

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“Big Ant International have won a Gold Pencil for Design (Public Service Poster) at the One Show Design Awards held this week. Four posters were designed to wrap around poles, campaigning for an end to the war in Iraq, pointing to the Global Coalition for Peace web site. Grenades, rifles, missiles and tank guns come round the pole to catch up with the aggressor in each poster. What goes around comes around.”

Mockingbirds Can Tell People Apart

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Birds rapidly learn to identify people who have previously threatened their nests and sounded alarms and even attacked those folks, while ignoring others nearby, researchers report in Tuesday's edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.” (Discovery News).

This is being reported as exciting news but IMHO there is nothing at all surprising about this finding.

The 13 people who made torture possible

“…13 key people in the Bush administration cannot claim they relied on the memos from the DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel. Some of the 13 manipulated the federal bureaucracy and the legal process to “preauthorize” torture in the days after 9/11. Others helped implement torture, and still others helped write the memos that provided the Bush administration with a legal fig leaf after torture had already begun.” (Salon).

‘This is going into my “best ever” box of forum threads’

“So many of our grandparents were racist, and some of our parents are homophobes. Which of our own closely held beliefs will our own children and grandchildren by appalled by?

This was posed on Reddit, and here are some of the more interesting responses:

* That drugs were illegal
* Eating meat
* Privacy
* Our lack of racism
* Religious overtolerance
* Monogamy (or anti-polygamy)
* Nationalism
* Nudity and Pornography taboos
* Charging money for information
* Representative democracy over direct democracy
* Our aversion to eugenics or designer babies
* Imprisonment vs. rehabilitation”

via Philosophistry.

Exclusive First Listen:

Danger Mouse And Sparklehorse Team Up With David Lynch: “…Dark Night Of The Soul is an album and the songs were written by Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse, though the myriad singers featured on each track also had a big hand in composing and producing the work. The album was initially going to be packaged with a book of photos taken by David Lynch. But now there’s word that the music may never be officially released at all.

An unnamed spokesperson for Danger Mouse says that “due to an ongoing dispute with EMI” the book of photographs will “now come with a blank, recordable CD-R. All copies will be clearly labeled: ‘For legal reasons, enclosed CD-R contains no music. Use it as you will.'”

You can order the book, sans music, from the official Dark Night Of The Soul Web site. In the meantime, you can hear the entire album here on NPR Music as an Exclusive First Listen.

I’ve listened to the record all the way through at least a dozen times, and can confirm that Dark Night of the Soul delivers in every way you’d hope for. It’s beautiful but haunting, surreal and dark, but sometimes comical and affecting, with ear-popping, multilayered production work. It just gets more mesmerizing with every listen.

In addition to Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse, other artists appearing on Dark Night of the Soul include James Mercer of The Shins, The Flaming Lips, Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals, Jason Lytle of Grandaddy, Julian Casablancas of The Strokes, Frank Black of the Pixies, Iggy Pop, Nina Persson of The Cardigans, Suzanne Vega, Vic Chesnutt, David Lynch, and Scott Spillane of Neutral Milk Hotel and The Gerbils. (NPR)

Related:

A living art reborn

Photograph of Brian Eno at a 2006 Long Now Fou...

Brian Eno: “…everything other than the recorded music is becoming the valuable part of what artists sell”. (Prospect)

Some Thoughts on the Lost Art of Reading Aloud

Book collection

“Listening aloud is valuable but isn’t the same as reading aloud, which reveals comprehension and captures the physicality of language.” (New York Times op-ed). Reading aloud is a hallowed tradition and a lovely pleasure in my family. Quaint, isn’t it?

Pet Villains Strike Again In ‘Angels & Demons’

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‘The Illuminati? Langdon describes them as “a secret society dedicated to scientific truth; the Catholic Church ordered a brutal massacre to silence them forever. They've come for their revenge.”

Maybe in books and movies. But while the real Illuminati were indeed a secretive order, they were in no way violent, says University of Oregon historian Ian McNeely.’ (NPR).

Babies May Be Smarter Than Adults

A newborn infant

Jonah Lehrer writing in the Boston Globe: “…[S]cientists have begun to dramatically revise their concept of a baby’s mind. By using new research techniques and tools, they’ve revealed that the baby brain is abuzz with activity, capable of learning astonishing amounts of information in a relatively short time. Unlike the adult mind, which restricts itself to a narrow slice of reality, babies can take in a much wider spectrum of sensation – they are, in an important sense, more aware of the world than we are.

This hyperawareness comes with several benefits. For starters, it allows young children to figure out the world at an incredibly fast pace. Although babies are born utterly helpless, within a few years they’ve mastered everything from language – a toddler learns 10 new words every day – to complex motor skills such as walking. According to this new view of the baby brain, many of the mental traits that used to seem like developmental shortcomings, such as infants’ inability to focus their attention, are actually crucial assets in the learning process.

In fact, in some situations it might actually be better for adults to regress into a newborn state of mind…”

Rove To Meet With Prosecutor On Attorney Firings

President George W. Bush stands with Mrs. Laur...

Prosecutors are scheduled to interview former presidential adviser Karl Rove Friday about the firing of U.S. attorneys as part of an ongoing criminal investigation into the dismissals.

The Justice Department’s inspector general published a report about the firings that was more than 350 pages long. But the report was inconclusive. Some officials refused to be interviewed.

So, on the inspector general’s recommendation, then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey appointed a prosecutor to continue the investigation. Prosecutor Nora Dannehy has been interviewing people ever since. Friday is Karl Rove‘s turn, a development first reported by The Washington Post.” (NPR ).

Dedicated to Dick Cheney

I saw a newspaper picture from the political campaign
A woman was kissing a child, who was obviously in pain
She spills with compassion, as that young child’s
face in her hands she grips
Can you imagine all that greed and avarice
coming down on that child’s lips

Well I hope I don’t die too soon
I pray the Lord my soul to save
Oh I’ll be a good boy, I’m trying so hard to behave
Because there’s one thing I know, I’d like to live
long enough to savour
That’s when they finally put you in the ground
I’ll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down

When England was the whore of the world
Margaret was her madam
And the future looked as bright and as clear as
the black tarmacadam
Well I hope that she sleeps well at night, isn’t
haunted by every tiny detail
‘Cos when she held that lovely face in her hands
all she thought of was betrayal

And now the cynical ones say that it all ends the same in the long run
Try telling that to the desperate father who just squeezed the life from his
only son
And how it’s only voices in your head and dreams you never dreamt
Try telling him the subtle difference between justice and contempt
Try telling me she isn’t angry with this pitiful discontent
When they flaunt it in your face as you line up for punishment
And then expect you to say “Thank you” straighten up, look proud and pleased
Because you’ve only got the symptoms, you haven’t got the whole disease
Just like a schoolboy, whose head’s like a tin-can
filled up with dreams then poured down the drain
Try telling that to the boys on both sides, being blown to bits or beaten and
maimed
Who takes all the glory and none of the shame

Well I hope you live long now, I pray the Lord your soul to keep
I think I’ll be going before we fold our arms and start to weep
I never thought for a moment that human life could be so cheap
‘Cos when they finally put you in the ground
They’ll stand there laughing and tramp the dirt down

— Elvis Costello
[thanks, abby]

FDA Says Cheerios Is an Unapproved Drug

A box of Cheerios breakfast cereal.

Hey, General Mills: If you want to say Cheerios is “clinically proven to lower cholesterol,” you better get your whole-grain Os approved as a new drug by the FDA.

That’s what the FDA told the company in this letter, which says the labeling on Cheerios boxes is in “serious violation” of federal rules. The letter continues:

Based on claims made on your product’s label, we have determined that your Cheerios® Toasted Whole Grain Oat Cereal is promoted for conditions that cause it to be a drug because the product is intended for use in the prevention, mitigation, and treatment of disease.

What’s more, the letter says, Cheerios “may not be legally marketed with the above claims in the United States without an approved new drug application.” (WSJ).

Related:

‘Hallucination’ fish netted in English Channel

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A fish that has been reported to cause LSD-like hallucinations when eaten has been found in the English Channel, many hundreds of miles away from its normal habitat.

The fish, Sarpa salpa, is commonly caught off the coast of South Africa and in the Mediterranean but turned up in the nets of Cornish fisherman Andy Giles.

Sarpa salpa is a popular dish in Mediterranean restaurants but cases of it supposedly causing hallucinations have been reported.” (Guardian.UK).

Exploring the Universe, One B-Movie at a Time

Star Trek Boardgame

“Re-imagining their origins in a prequel, rather than depicting their further adventures in another sequel, is a cheeky act of cultural retro-activism, and perfectly in keeping with the ’60s show. “Star Trek” was, from the start, more nostalgic than futuristic.” (NYTimes op-ed).

Related:

The ’57-State Solution’?

The United States is promoting a peace plan for the Middle East involving a “57-state solution” in which the entire Muslim world would recognize Israel, Monday's Times of London quoted Jordan's King Abdullah as saying.

“We are offering a third of the world to meet them with open arms,” the king said. “The future is not the Jordan River or the Golan Heights or the Sinai, the future is Morocco in the Atlantic and Indonesia in the Pacific. That is the prize.” (Reuters)

Quarantine for Afghanistan’s Only Pig

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There are no cases of swine flu in Afghanistan, but there is one victim: the country’s only pig, whose lonely existence got somewhat lonelier this week, when he was taken from the small, muddy enclosure he previously shared with deer and goats at Kabul’s zoo and placed in quarantine.

As Reuters explains: “The pig is a curiosity in Muslim Afghanistan, where pork and pig products are illegal because they are considered irreligious, and has been in quarantine since Sunday after visitors expressed alarm it could spread the new flu strain.” (The Lede — New York Times)

An unusual cause for headache following massive alcohol intake

“Massive alcohol intake usually resolves in a banal headache. We report a case of a patient presenting with acute alcohol intoxication in which the ensuing “hangover” was due to a knife blade deeply retained in the brain parenchyma. This case underlines the unpredictability of retained foreign bodies without a high level of suspicion and a detailed description of the circumstances of admission.” (Emergency Medicine Journal via Mind Hacks)

R.I.P. Augusto Boal

Stage Director Who Gave a Voice to Audiences Is Dead at 78: “Augusto Boal, a Brazilian director and drama theorist who created interactive, politically expressive theater forms under the rubric of the Theater of the Oppressed, died last Saturday in Rio de Janeiro. He was 78.” (New York Times obituary)

My wife brought Boal’s pedagogical methods into the mental health world; and my son has taken a workshop with him as well.

R.I.P. poet Craig Arnold

An extended search of the Japanese island Kuchino-erabu for traces of Craig Arnold had offered up hope the poet might be injured, but still alive, among one of the island’s many crevices.

That hope died Friday afternoon once a search team announced that a trail discovered the previous day showed signs that Arnold, 41, suffered a leg injury, then fell from a steep cliff to his death soon afterward.

…Arnold graduated with a doctorate from the [University of Utah’s] creative writing program 2001 after earning his bachelor’s degree from Yale, and went on to teach poetry and literature at the University of Wyoming in Laramie in 2004. Arnold was exploring the island for a book he planned to write on the world’s active volcanos, and had been missing since April 27.

via Salt Lake Tribune.

Incubus, a poem by Arnold:

The chain uncouples, and his jacket hangs
on the peg over hers, and he’s inside.

She stalls in the kitchen, putting the kettle on,
buys herself a minute looking for two
matching cups for the lime-flower tea,
not really lime but linden, heart-shaped leaves
and sticky flowers that smell of antifreeze.
She talks a wall around her, twists the string
tighter around the teabag in her spoon.
But every conversation has to break
somewhere, and at the far end of the sofa
he sits, warming his hands around the cup
he hasn’t tasted yet, and listens on
with such an exasperating show of patience
it’s almost a relief to hear him ask it:
If you’re not using your body right now
maybe you’d let me borrow it for a while?

It isn’t what you’re thinking. No, it’s worse.

Why on earth did she find him so attractive
the first time she met him, propping the wall
at an awkward party, clearly trying to drink
himself into some sort of conversation?
Was it the dark uncomfortable reserve
she took upon herself to tease him out of,
asking, Are you a vampire? That depends,
he stammered, are you a virgin? No, not funny,
but why did she laugh at him? What made her think
that he needed her, that she could teach him something?
Why did she let him believe she was drunk
and needed a ride home? Why did she let him
take her shirt off, fumble around a bit
on the spare futon, passing back and forth
the warm breath of a half-hearted kiss
they kept falling asleep in the middle of?
And when he asked her, why did she not object?
I’d like to try something. I need you to trust me.

Younger and given to daydreams, she imagined
trading bodies with someone, a best friend,
the boy she had a crush on. But the fact
was more fantastic, a fairy-tale adventure
where the wolf wins, and hides in the girl’s red hood.
How it happens she doesn’t really remember,
drifting off with a vague sense of being
drawn out through a single point of her skin
(a bedsheet threaded through a needle’s eye)
and bundled into a body that must be his.
Sometimes she startles, as on the verge of sleep
you can feel yourself fall backward over a brink,
and snaps her eyelids open, to catch herself
slipping out of the bed, her legs swinging
over the edge, and feels the sudden sick
split-screen impression of being for a second
both she and her.
What he does with her
while she’s asleep, she never really knows,
flickers, only, conducted back in dreams:
Walking in neighborhoods she doesn’t know
and wouldn’t go to, overpasses, ragweed,
cars dry-docked on cinderblocks, wolf-whistles,
wanting to run away and yet her steps
planted sure and defiant. Performing tasks
too odd to recognize and too mundane
to have made up, like fixing a green salad
with the sunflower seeds and peppers that she hates,
pouring on twice the oil and vinegar
that she would like, and being unable to stop.
Her hands feel but are somehow not her own,
running over the racks of stacked fabric
in a clothing store, stroking the slick silk,
teased cotton and polar fleece, as if her fingers
each were a tongue tasting the knits and weaves.
Harmless enough.
It’s what she doesn’t dream
that scares her, panic she can’t account for, faces
familiar but not known, déjà vu
making a mess of memory, coming to
with a fresh love-bite on her left breast
and the aftershock of granting another’s flesh,
of having gripped, slipped in and fluttered tender
mmm, unbraided, and spent the whole slow day
clutching her thighs to keep the chafe from fading,
and furious at being joyful, less
at the violation, less the danger, than the sense
he’d taken her enjoyment for his own.
That was the time before, the time she swore
would be the last-returning to her senses,
she’d grabbed his throat and hit him around the face
and threw him out, and sat there on the floor
shaking. She hadn’t known how hard it was
to throw a punch without pulling it back.

Now, as they sit together on her couch
with the liquid cooling in the stained chipped cups
that would never match, no matter how hard
she stared at them, he seems the same as ever,
a quiet clumsy self-effacing ghost
with the gray-circled eyes that she once wanted
so badly to defy, that seemed to see her
seeing him-and she has to admit, she’s missed him.
Why? She scrolls back through their conversations,
searching for any reason not to hate him,
She’d ask him, What’s it like being a girl
when you’re not a girl? His answers, when he gave them,
weren’t helpful, so evasively poetic:
It’s like a sponge somebody else is squeezing.
A radio tuned to all stations at once.
Like having skin that’s softer but more thick.

Then she remembers the morning she awoke
with the smear of tears still raw across her cheeks
and the spent feeling of having cried herself
down to the bottom of something. Why was I crying?
she asked, and he looked back blankly, with that little
curve of a lip that served him for a smile.
Because I can’t.
And that would be their secret.
The power to feel another appetite
pass through her, like a shudder, like a cold
lungful of oxygen or hot sweet smoke,
fill her and then be stilled. The freedom to fall
asleep behind the blinds of his dark body
and wake cleanly. And when she swings her legs
over the edge of the bed, to trust her feet
to hit the carpet, and know as not before
how she never quite trusted the floor
to be there, no, not since she was a girl
first learning to swim, hugging her skinny
breastless body close to the pool-gutter,
skirting along the dark and darker blue
of the bottom dropping out –
Now she can stand,
and take the cup out of his giving hand,
and feel what they have learned inside each other
fair and enough, and not without a kind
of satisfaction, that she can put her foot
down, clear to the bottom of desire,
and find that it can stop, and go no deeper.

Arnold’s own biographical sketch of himself:

“Craig Arnold grew up in the United States, Europe and Asia. He graduated from Yale in 1990 with a BA in English, and received his PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Utah in 2001. W. S. Merwin chose his first book, Shells, as the 1998 volume of the Yale Series of Younger Poets. His writing has appeared in three volumes of Best American Poetry (1998, 2004, and 2006), as well as in Poetry, the New Republic, Paris Review, Yale Review, Denver Quarterly, Open City, Barrow Street, American Literary Review and Poetry Northwest. Among his numerous awards and honors are the Rome Prize, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, the Hodder Fellowship from Princeton, the Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Scholarship, and a residency at the MacDowell Colony. His second collection, Made Flesh, was a finalist for the New Criterion Prize and the Pitt Poetry Series, and will now be published by Ausable Press in the spring of 2009.” He is currently working on a book of lyric essays about volcanoes and the end of the world as we know it. In real life, he teaches poetry at the University of Wyoming MFA Program, where he also directs the Visiting Writers Series. He lives in Laramie with his son.”

[via steve silberman]

Bipolar disorder and its biomythology: An interview with David Healy

Cover of "Mania: A Short History of Bipol...

Q: Part of what you describe in your new book Mania: A Short History of Bipolar Disorder is a fair amount of “biomythology” about the illness. What aspects in particular do you have in mind?

A: Biomythology links to biobabble, a term I coined in 1999 to correspond to the widely-used expression psychobabble. Biobabble refers to things like the supposed lowering of serotonin levels and the chemical imbalance that are said to lie at the heart of mood disorders, ADHD, and anxiety disorders. This is as mythical as the supposed alterations of libido that Freudian theory says are at the heart of psychodynamic disorders.

While libido and serotonin are real things, the way these terms were once used by psychoanalysts and by psychopharmacologists now—especially in the way they have seeped into popular culture—bears no relationship to any underlying serotonin level or measurable chemical imbalance or disorder of libido. What’s astonishing is how quickly these terms were taken up by popular culture, and how widely, with so many people now routinely referring their serotonin levels being out of whack when they are feeling wrong or unwell.

structure of serotoninStructure of serotonin

In the case of bipolar disorder the biomyths center on ideas of mood stabilization. But there is no evidence that the drugs stabilize moods. In fact, it is not even clear that it makes sense to talk about a mood center in the brain. A further piece of mythology aimed at keeping people on the drugs is that these are supposedly neuroprotective—but there’s no evidence that this is the case and in fact these drugs can lead to brain damage.

via Psychology Today Blogs.

Oh, I wish I had time right now to comment on this at length. Some great points here, but I think he is throwing babies out with bathwater, Read the entire piece. ..

I find, increasingly, that the practice of psychiatry for me is a difficult balancing act of believing in my role while increasingly disbelieving many of the principles by which our approach is ‘explained’ and justified. Biomythology is a great term for it. The emperor has few clothes…

Open Thread

What’s on your mind? How’s life? Enter a comment, start a conversation…

The decline and fall of high-fructose corn syrup

US sweetener consumption, 1966-2004. It is app...

“High-fructose corn syrup first started trickling into our food supply about 40 years ago; by 1984, it was flowing from just about every soda fountain in the country. These days HFCS accounts for almost half of all the added sugars in the U.S. diet, but the corn Niagara may soon be over. Last week, PepsiCo became the latest manufacturer to turn its back on America’s sweetener, introducing three new soft drinks—Pepsi Natural, Pepsi Throwback, and Mountain Dew Throwback—sweetened with a “natural” blend of cane and beet sugars. Next week, Snapple will roll out its most expensive advertising campaign ever to promote a “natural” line of tea drinks brewed with “real” cane sugar. Pizza Hut, Kraft Foods, and ConAgra have also made the switch in recent months. Not even a $30 million multimedia campaign from the Corn Refiners Association has done much to reverse the trend.” — Daniel Engber(Slate)

Capitalism and the flu

“Mike Davis, whose 2006 book The Monster at Our Door warned of the threat of a global bird flu pandemic, explains how globalized agribusiness set the stage for a frightening outbreak of the swine flu in Mexico:

‘The Spring Break hordes returned from Cancún this year with an invisible but sinister souvenir.

The Mexican swine flu, a genetic chimera probably conceived in the fecal mire of an industrial pigsty, suddenly threatens to give the whole world a fever. Initial outbreaks across North America reveal an infection rate already traveling at higher velocity than the last official pandemic strain, the 1968 Hong Kong flu.’ ” (SocialistWorker.org).

Industrial livestock production and swine flu

Taken from EPA website (http://www.epa.gov/reg...

“…[I]ndustrial livestock production is a powerful driver of viral (and bacterial) evolution. […In an article published yesterday at Socialist Worker.org, Mike Davis] emphasizes that the transition “from old-fashioned pig pens to vast excremental hell, unprecedented in nature, containing tens, even hundreds of thousands of animals with weakened immune systems, suffocating in heat and manure, while exchanging pathogens at blinding velocity with their fellow inmates and pathetic progenies” creates a perfect storm for evolving pathogens likely to establish resistance to antivirals and antibiotics. This is not just the case in China (everyone’s favorite target for allocating bird flu blame) or Mexico (everyone’s new favorite target for allocating swine flu blame). To quote Davis, anyone “who has ever driven through Tar Heel, N.C. or Milford, Utah–where Smithfield Foods subsidiaries each annually produce more than 1 million pigs as well as hundreds of lagoons full of toxic shit–will intuitively understand how profoundly agribusiness has meddled with the laws of nature.” In short, in addition to animals raised for slaughter in cruel conditions, chemically enhanced and/or genetically altered meat products, environmental degradation, and unjust toxic factory work conditions, the global industrial food complex is producing some really scary microbes as well.” (Somatosphere).

Google Killer?

Twitter Search To Become Real Search: “The fact that Twitter’s search is now often faster and more relevant than any other search engine out there is not a secret anymore. It is, however, a very limited search engine: it merely indexes a bunch of tweets. In its current state, it’s great for tracking conversations, but it will never be a competitor to Google.

This is about to change. According to CNET, Twitter’s new VP of Operations, Santosh Jayaram, said that Twitter search will soon start crawling the links included in tweets. There’s a lot of links there, and given Twitter’s huge growth, soon these links might comprise a hefty portion of the overall web, making it a much more complete search engine that it currently is. It’s a big technical leap, but it shows that the folks at Twitter are serious about search.

Jayaram gave another very interesting hint at where they’re going: Twitter Search will also get a reputation ranking system. That means that not all tweets will be equal; rank will be calculated for each twitterer, probably based on several criteria such as number of followers, number of retweets and so forth.” (Mashable ).

It’s quite logical


Obama is Spock: “Our president bears a striking resemblance to the rational “Star Trek” Vulcan whose mixed race made him cultural translator to the universe.” — Jeff Greenwald (Salon)

New Show for Woodstock Vets

“Veterans of the original Woodstock festival, including Levon Helm, Paul Kantner and Country Joe McDonald, have organized a scheduled flashback of sorts: they and several other musicians who performed at that 1969 concert will play a new show on Aug. 15 to celebrate the festival’s 40th anniversary, The Associated Press reported. The new concert, whose lineup also includes the Woodstock alumni Big Brother and the Holding Company, Ten Years After, Canned Heat and Mountain, will be held at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts in upstate New York, where the first Woodstock festival took place. Mr. Helm, who played at Woodstock as a member of the Band, will be appearing with his Levon Helm Band, and Mr. Kantner, who performed at Woodstock with Jefferson Airplane, will appear at the anniversary concert with the upgraded Jefferson Starship.” (New York Times) I think I’ll skip it this time. Wonder how many in the audience will be veterans of the real thing? And does anyone know if Max Yasgur is still alive?

Predicting Flu With the Aid of (George) Washington

The best way to track the spread of swine flu across the United States in the coming weeks may be to imagine it riding a dollar bill. The routes taken by millions of them are at the core of a computer model at Northwestern University that is predicting the epidemic’s future. Reassuringly, it foresees only about 2,000 cases by the end of this month, mostly in New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Houston.” (New York Times )

Related:

Specter’s Plan to Rein In the Presidency

Arlen Specter

“The current issue of the New York Review of Books includes an article by Senator Arlen Specter, Republican Democrat of Pennsylvania, called “The Need to Roll Back Presidential Power Grabs,” which suggests that Mr. Specter has not switched parties with the intention of simply serving as a rubber stamp for President Barack Obama.

Finding Mr. Specter’s byline in the left-leaning Review would seem to underscore that, as he said in his official statement on Tuesday, his “political philosophy” is now “more in line with Democrats than Republicans.” But the article itself makes clear that the newest Democrat hopes to use his position to rein in the power of the presidency.

In it, Mr. Specter makes the case that “since September 11, the United States has witnessed one of the greatest expansions of executive authority in its history, at the expense of the constitutionally mandated separation of powers.”

He then lays out an ambitious effort to roll back those powers, in words that indeed seem more natural coming from a senator of the majority party, rather than one in the minority…” via The Lede Blog – NYTimes.

Annals of Depravity

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 19:...
The Sheikh with Tony Blair.

“Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al-Nahyan is now under investigation in the United Arab Emirates after the shocking tape showed him beating a man with a nailed plank, setting him on fire, attacking him with a cattle prod and running him over.

But now lawyers for American businessman Bassam Nabulsi, who smuggled the tape out of the UAE, have written to the justice minister of Abu Dhabi – the most powerful of the emirates that make up the UAE – claiming to have considerably more evidence against Issa.

“I have more than two hours of video footage showing Sheikh Issa’s involvement in the torture of more than 25 people,” wrote Texas-based lawyer Anthony Buzbee in a letter obtained by the Observer.” (The Observer [via boing boing]).

Related:

Boom From Universe’s Early Days

It was snap, crackle and pop in the early days of the universe. You would not want to live there. Astronomers said Tuesday that they had smashed the long-distance record in astronomy when they recorded an explosion, probably a massive early star, that lived and died 13 billion years ago, only about 600 million years after the Big Bang. The explosion was detected on April 23 as a burst of gamma-rays by NASA’s Swift satellite, which has been patrolling the skies for these powerful explosions for the last five years.” (New York Times )

In a Mexican Village With Swine Flu, Complaints About a Hog Farm Persist

“While public health officials are still trying to determine where the outbreak of the swine flu started, there has been a lot of speculation online this week about a possible, though as yet unsubstantiated, link to an industrial hog farm in Veracruz, Mexico.

As my colleague in Mexico, Marc Lacey, reported on Wednesday, “state health authorities looking for the initial source of the outbreak,” toured the “million-pig hog farm in Perote, in Veracruz State.” Mr. Lacey explained:

The plant is half-owned by Smithfield Foods, an American company and the world’s largest pork producer. Mexico’s first known swine flu case, which was later confirmed, was from Perote, according to Health Minister José Ángel Córdova. The case involved a 5-year-old boy who recovered.

via The Lede Blog – NYTimes.

Talent

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 01:  Carol Ann Duffy...

This is the word tightrope. Now imagine

a man, inching across it in the space

between our thoughts. He holds our breath.

There is no word net.

You want him to fall, don’t you?

I guessed as much; he teeters but succeeds.

The word applause is written all over him.

Carol Ann Duffy, the new poet laureate of Great Britain
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