What will we eat in future?

“I was understandably apprehensive – if not a little curious – about an evening that came with the warning “may contain body parts”.Sure enough, What will we eat in future?, the event hosted this week at the .HBC art space in Berlin, was not for the squeamish or faint-hearted.

A collaboration between visual artist Anastasia Loginova and food systems planner Lynn Peemoeller, who specialises in coordinating farmer’s markets and fostering public engagement about where food comes from, the performance used cinema, literature and audience interaction to question what food means to us and how our relationship to sustenance is changing.” (via New Scientist CultureLab)

How to Write a Rapture Letter

“Isn’t this thoughtful? Those demented bawbags who are waiting for the Rapture this weekend have prepared a letter to help explain where they and “millions and millions” of the faithful have disappeared to.” (via Dangerous Minds). Anyone know anyone who was raptured this weekend? I’m not sure if the Rapture didn’t happen or if I just don’t know any of the righteous. I did brush my teeth and put on fresh underwear yesterday morning just in case.

First AIDS ‘cure’ in history

A bone marrow harvest.

“Timothy Ray Brown, a 45-year-old San Francisco man previously known to the medical community as “the Berlin patient,” has become the first person to ever be cured of AIDS.

After a stem cell bone marrow transplant, doctors say his HIV, the infection which causes AIDS, was eradicated.

His bone marrow donor was one of a very small percentage of people who are immune to HIV.” (via Raw Replay).

You Bug Me

Now Science Explains Why: “…There are so many things in the world that are just

A ground bug
You bug me

downright annoying.But what makes them annoying? It’s the question that NPR Science Correspondent Joe Palca and Science Friday‘s Flora Lichtman set out to answer in their new book, Annoying: The Science of What Bugs Us. For instance, why is hearing someone else’s phone call more irritating than just overhearing a normal conversation?” (via NPR)


Wal-Mart Gift Receipt Ripoff

Mounting evidence that, when you try to return a gift with a gift receipt (which does not document the purchase price), Wal-Mart refunds you less than the gift buyer paid at purchase. As if you needed another reason to hate Wal-Mart. (via CBS Philly).

You can go play with those cubs after all

The American black bear, one of the largest an...

“A sweeping study chronicling more than a century’s worth of deadly encounters with black bears in Canada and the United States is …dispelling the widely held notion that a sow protecting her cubs is the prime danger.

… the vast majority of the confrontations weren’t the result of chance meetings in the woods, but the outcome of predatory behaviour, nearly always by lone male black bears. Surprisingly, only 8 per cent of the deadly attacks were attributed to mother bears.

Even the world’s foremost bear-attack expert, study leader Stephen Herrero, was taken aback by this finding…”  (via The Globe and Mail)

Sad Little Outlaw

Tied to the tree, as I was, while my brother galloped

through the backyard, straddling a broom,

a plastic six-shooter in his hand.

I was always being left behind

in the mud, a bandage around my eyes,

until he reached out

just enough so that our fingers slipped apart

and he could ride away, calling out my name as the posse


But it wasn’t really my name

with its biblical limitations, no, he called out Johnny!!!

Johnny, that all-American from Kansas and Iowa, that Johnny

from New Jersey and Queens, a boy

people will beat their chests for as the flag is being folded

into its triangle of pity.

I was a sad little outlaw for so long!

Knowing my brother would have to live

without me. That he would be alone

in our room at night, a sheriff’s badge

pinned to his chest like a silver flower

blooming above his heart.

— Matthew Dickman

(via Narrative Magazine; thanks, Julia!).

Blackwater Founder Forms Secret Army for UAE

9agar, falcon and Nissan in United Arab Emirates

“In outsourcing critical parts of their defense to mercenaries — the soldiers of choice for medieval kings, Italian Renaissance dukes and African dictators — the Emiratis have begun a new era in the boom in wartime contracting that began after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. And by relying on a force largely created by Americans, they have introduced a volatile element in an already combustible region where the United States is widely viewed with suspicion.

The United Arab Emirates — an autocracy with the sheen of a progressive, modern state — are closely allied with the United States, and American officials indicated that the battalion program had some support in Washington.” (via NYTimes).

The Poor Quality of an Undergraduate Education

The University of Cambridge is an institute of...

“…[S]tudents are taught by fewer full-time tenured faculty members while being looked after by a greatly expanded number of counselors who serve an array of social and personal needs. At the same time, many schools are investing in deluxe dormitory rooms, elaborate student centers and expensive gyms. Simply put: academic investments are a lower priority.

The situation reflects a larger cultural change in the relationship between students and colleges. The authority of educators has diminished, and students are increasingly thought of, by themselves and their colleges, as “clients” or “consumers.” When 18-year-olds are emboldened to see themselves in this manner, many look for ways to attain an educational credential effortlessly and comfortably. And they are catered to accordingly. The customer is always right…” (via NYTimes)

I think, however, it is a mistake to look at such short term trends. The real issue is that our culture is anti-intellectual, yet since the latter half of the 20th century a college “education” has become the key to opportunity. Arguably, these need to be decoupled and a college education restricted to those with the interest in learning for its own sake and the capacity for scholarship, much like postgraduate education is now.

Fukushima update

nuclear plant

Fuel rods may have melted: I’ve been distressed, but not surprised given the fickle way the media operate, that it has been hard to find ongoing  followup on the Japanese nuclear plant crisis. Here is an update from New Scientist. Also not surprising that there is further confirmation that there has likely been a partial meltdown.

Could Gorillas Go Extinct?

Gorillas and other higher primates are noted a...
“Federal lawmakers are planning to cut vital funding for international conservation programs that save gorillas’ lives and protect their habitats.The tragedy is that these cuts are too small to make a difference in the federal budget, but large enough to completely cripple efforts to save gorillas.Send a letter to your members of Congress right now and urge them to stand up for Africa’s gorillas.” (via Wildlife Conservation Society).

Bob Dylan’s Words Find Place In Legal Writings

Bob Dylan

Alex Long, a law professor at the University of Tennessee, has researched the prevalence of quotations from popular song lyrics in legal opinions and briefs. What was originally a hobbyist’s casual diversion became a painstaking obsession; he apparently did a tabulation of the entire body of legal literature  for a single year, 2007.

Bob Dylan was the most quoted lyricist by a landslide and, although considered to be left-leaning, attracted citations from both sides of the political spectrum, including  Supreme Court Justices Scalia and Roberts. The most used Dylan lyric is, of course, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” Can you guess , as Robert Siegel of NPR’s All Things Considered found easy to do in interviewing the professor, which Rolling Stones lyrics is the most cited line from that band?

I was happy to hear that Long had  heard from a San Francisco
lawyer who tries to incorporate Grateful Dead lyrics into his legal
opinions. I suppose the most a propos would be, “Well, I ain’t often right but I’ve never been wrong. (Seldom works out the way it does in the
song…)” I wonder, in contrast to legal writings, how often one might
find quoted song lyrics in the medical literature or in particular that of my own field, psychiatry. I may just have to look into that if I have any free time… (via 

“Al Qaeda is over” — Zakaria

Fareed Zakaria, Editor, Newsweek International...
Fareed Zakaria

Fareed Zakaria argues that those reminding us that al Qaeda does not live or die with bin Laden are merely being cautious. He agrees with me that al Qaeda is a virtual organization held together by its “message and the inspiration it provided”. Where we disagree is his assertion “the central organizing ideology that presented an existential seduction to the Muslim world and an existential threat to the Western world is damaged beyond repair” with his death. He asserts, without substantiation, that bin Laden’s inspirational status will be any less now that he is gone. This is far from clear. Ideologies often survive the passing of their founders or figureheads. People can fight in his name or his memory as well after his death, in fact perhaps even more emboldened by his martyrdom. Sure, as Zakaria points out, loosely affiliated groups of terrorist thugs have always existed, but they have not always been in a pitched battle against the American Shaitan.
The other component of Zakaria’s argument is that the ‘Arab spring’ undercuts the rationale for al Qaeda, the idea that oppressive Middle Eastern regimes were propped up by the West and that the only was to achieve change was by terrorist acts against the US and its Allies. Zakaria notes that, “(i)n the past few months, we have seen democratic, peaceful, non-Islamic revolutions transform Egypt and Tunisia. We are seeing these forces changing almost every government in the Arab world. Al Qaeda is not in the picture.” The verdict is not in on this assertion. Already it is starting to seem naive to some to see Egypt as a power-to-the-people scenario,  the role of Islamic fundamentalists in the upheavals is far from determined, and the uprisings in different countries are heterogeneous. (Think for instance of the recent revelation that one of the released Guantanamo detainees is now training Libyan resistance fighters.)  In any case, my guess is that the wind will not be so easily taken out of the sails of the anti-Americans. (via Global Public Square – CNN.com Blogs)

Why I’m Not Jubilant

MIAMI, FL - MAY 02:  Bob Kunst holds a sign th...

Although there was no tone of triumphalism in Pres. Obama’s announcement of bin Laden’s killing,  there certainly was in the rejoicing in the streets. Very much like I saw in the streets around here after the Red Sox won the World Series or the Patriots the Super Bowl. But there’s no blowback for gloating then; all that we have done in concluding this chapter in this manner has been to perpetuate the arrogant unilateral projection of power for which 9-11 was blowback in the first place.

There does not seem to be any indication that there was an attempt to take bin Laden into custody alive and bring him to justice rather than assassinating him. In fact, indications are that Pres. Obama considered bombing the compound rather than storming it and that the decision hinged only on the capability of recovering bin Laden’s body.

What is at stake in how we react to this is the perpetuation of our use of the war on terror as an excuse to continue to do whatever we want in the world. There has been much talk about the potential short-term risk of retaliation.But can’t you imagine that this confirmation of American hegemonism may in fact lead to a long-term exacerbation rather than an alleviation of terrorist activity?
Bin Laden’s death has very little strategic significance but is rather being played for its symbolic value. He was not germane to the conduct of most terrorist actions around the world. Al Qaeda has never been a structured organization so much as a cluster of affiliates operating independently, without central planning, united only by sharing jihadist ends.

The rejoicing in the streets reminded me of nothing so much as the
barbarity of anti-American mob scenes that have perennially graced the
evening news reports, including the scenes of jubilation at various places around the world when the Twin Towers came down.

The Neurobiology of Revenge

jonah lehrer, wired
Jonah Lehrer

Jonah Lehrer:

“Why does revenge taste so sweet? Why do we feel the need to chant in the streets after the death of a hated man? The answer returns us to the brain, and to the fascinating ways in which those three pounds of meat mirror the ideals of game theory.” (via Wired)