Say No to Cash Register Receipts

Have you heard about this?

“BPA is a chemical used in something that passes through our hands every day, the cash register receipt. But even though Canada has declared BPA to be toxic, many companies continue to use this chemical in receipt paper manufacturing as well as in many other common everyday household items. Why haven’t companies quit using BPA in their products; after all does BPA really pass through a person’s skin?

Does BPA really get absorbed through contact with your skin?

Recent research has proven that this harmful chemical really does pass through your skin and can be absorbed into your blood stream. In the case of cash register receipt paper, BPA is in a powdered form that coats the paper and then can be rubbed off onto your skin. The pores in your skin can absorb the chemical and then it can be transmitted throughout your body through your blood stream.” (via Yahoo! Voices ). 

Evolution has given humans a huge advantage over most other animals: middle age

The Danish, so-called "Middle Age-roads&q...

Perhaps it is not a stage of decline but a crowning achievement of human evolution? (via The Washington Post.)

From ‘Winter Morning Walks’

Kooser was recovering from cancer and a crisis of faith in poetry when he began to take early morning walks and was inspired to begin sending a friend short poems on postcards. This is one. It is National Poetry Month and today is Poem in Your Pocket Day. If you like this poem, print it out, carry it around in your pocket today, pass it around, unfold it at some time and share it. Or do so with a different poem.

The quarry road tumbles before me

out of the early morning darkness,

lustrous with frost, an unrolled bolt

of softly glowing fabric, interwoven

with tiny glass beads on silver thread,

the cloth spilled out and then lovingly

smoothed by my father’s hand

as he stands behind the wooden counter

(dark as these fields) at Tilden’s Store

so many years ago. “Here,” he says smiling,

“you can make something special with this.”

— Ted Kooser (thanks, Barbara)

First use of ‘fuck’ on American TV (1969)

Courtesy of the incomparable pipes of Grace Slick, backed by Jorma’s soaring guitar. Jefferson Airplane on the Dick Cavett Show on 08-19-1969, the day after Woodstock. If they paid attention to the lyrics, this might have been the end of the line for the Airplane’s credibility with some Cavett viewers (and the beginning of their cred for others). (via Dangerous Minds). [Do these terms mean anything to you: Grace Slick? Jefferson Airplane? Dick Cavett? Woodstock? ‘Up against the wall, motherfucker’?]

Things you’ll find from the Japanese tsunami on NW beaches

“If you visit a Northwest ocean beach this summer, you’ll likely run across objects from last year’s Japanese tsunami.

The things you’ll likely see include milk jugs, detergent bottles, tooth brushes and bottles for water, pop or juices with Japanese stamps, marks and labels. Perhaps a soccer ball or a volleyball — two that washed up on an Alaskan island have been claimed by their Japanese owners.

The things you are highly unlikely to see are human remains, refrigerators or anything else that would have to be sealed to float or can come apart, like bigger parts of houses. Months on the ocean will breakup anything with parts, experts say.” (via KPLU News for Seattle and the Northwest).

The Drywall Chronicles


Paul Krugman: “So Mitt Romney gave a speech at a closed Ohio drywall factory, which he tried to use as a symbol of Obama’s economic failure. The symbolism was perfect — not as an illustration of Obama’s failure, but as an illustration of just how stupid Romney thinks we are.

Even regular reporters noticed that the factory in question closed under, yes, George W. Bush — a fact Romney failed to mention, although his campaign scrambled to cover for him afterwards.

What I didn’t see mentioned was the point that this was a drywall factory — that is, a supplier of a product largely used in home construction. It’s one thing to say that Obama should have revived the economy as a whole; it’s another to say that he should have brought back the housing bubble!

Finally, why should we believe that Romney’s policies — basically tax cuts for the rich, as usual — would yield great economic results? Well, I guess you can point to Bush’s example; how did his administration at this point compare with Obama? From BLS data:

You can offer various excuses for Bush’s record, I guess. But on the face of it, what possible reason is there to think that Bush-like policies would be an improvement?” (via



The name of the author is the first to go

followed obediently by the title, the plot,

the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel

which suddenly becomes one you have never read,

never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor

decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,

to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye

and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,

and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,

the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,

it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,

not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river

whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,

well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those

who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night

to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.

No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted

out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

 — Billy Collins

Kevin Kelly on What You Don’t Have To Do

Kevin Kelly.

“As you educate yourself about your own talent and ambitions, you graduate from doing a task right to doing the right task. It takes some experience to realize that a lot of work is better left undone. It might be busywork that is performed out of habit, or it might be work that is heading in the wrong direction. Working smart means making sure you are spending your time on jobs that are effective and that actually need to be done.” (via Smarterware).

Gender-Reveal Parties and Cultural Despair

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 08:  Actor Thom Allison w...

“I’m typically a year or two behind any cultural trend, so you probably already know about gender-reveal parties. I first heard of them over the weekend: a couple, strangers to me, had invited friends and relatives over to bite into cupcakes at the same instant and share the moment when the blue or pink custard inside would inform them all of the sex of the baby. (The sonogram result had gone from lab to baker without being seen by anyone else, including the parents-to-be.) Other couples choose different methods of revelation: grip the knife together and cut into a cake with blue or pink filling. Open a sealed box that releases pink or blue helium balloons. Then put the scene on the Web so that everyone not invited can participate vicariously.

These events are becoming more and more popular. The first video of a gender-reveal party was posted on YouTube in 2008, but in just the last six months almost two thousand have been uploaded. You can watch one from last month. (Spoiler alert: it’s a girl.)

Maybe it was the context—I happened to hear about the gender-reveal party in a rundown inner-city café full of ex-felons who were having a very hard time finding jobs—but my initial take was incredulity trending negative. These parties seem to marry the oversharing of Facebook and Instagram with the contrived ceremonies that modern people in search of meaning impose on normal life events: food journaling, birthday parties for grownups, workout diaries, birth-experience planning. (One birth-planning center offers a “baby gender selection kit” involving three safe and natural steps that turn sex itself into a gender-reveal party.)

In the case of gender-reveal parties, couples take a private moment made possible by science and oblige others to join in, with the result—as in so many invented rituals of our day—that the focus turns from where it ought to be (in this case, the baby) to the self. At a bris or christening, the emotional emphasis falls on the arrival of a new life in the embrace of family and community. At a gender-reveal party, the camera is on the expectant father tearing up at the sight of pink cake.

That’s the nature of manufactured customs and instant traditions. They emerge from an atomized society in order to fill a perceived void where real ceremonies used to be, and they end by reflecting that society’s narcissism. Is it too much to say that gender-reveal parties are a mild symptom of cultural despair?” (via The New Yorker)

R.I.P. Chris Ethridge

Flying Burrito Brother Dies at 65: “Chris Ethridge, a founding member of the country-rock band “The Flying Burrito Brothers,”died here on Monday. He was 65.He learned he had pancreatic cancer in September, his family said.Mr. Ethridge, a bassist and a songwriter, spent eight years on the road with Willie Nelson. He played alongside Gram Parsons in the Flying Burrito Brothers and the International Submarine Band and co-wrote several of Mr. Parsons’ solo tunes.In later years, Mr. Ethridge played with Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Ry Cooder and other stars, both as a session musician and touring player.” ( obituary)

Ethridge was smack dab at the center of the musical scene I enjoyed so much back in those years. Along with Levon Helm’s passing, the music is much diminished this week.

On, Like, Eliminating Words from the English Language

“Last Friday, …we asked readers to propose a single English word that should be eliminated from the language. Suggestions were made via Facebook or Twitter, with the hashtag #tnyquestion. We started the contest with high hopes that readers would help to streamline the language, but the first wave of responses was not auspicious…” (via The New Yorker).

Some of the scurrilous suggestions are not surprising, but the runaway favorite is.

What “Mad Men” Shows About American Pop Culture


Mad Men

The Forty-Year Itch (Adam Gopnik):  “So it seems time to pronounce a rule about American popular culture: the Golden Forty-Year Rule. The prime site of nostalgia is always whatever happened, or is thought to have happened, in the decade between forty and fifty years past. (And the particular force of nostalgia, one should bear in mind, is not simply that it is a good setting for a story but that it is a good setting for you.)” (via The New Yorker).

Still following?

Here’s something I said on FmH ten years ago today:

“In case any FmH readers were wondering how I’ve come by my opinionated gall, it may have something to do with the fact that I turn 50 years old today. (Others may be thinking I probably shouldn’t be doing this at my age…). And my son turns eight today…”

So today my son is eighteen, and I’ve put on a few years too. Thanks to everyone for all the wonderful birthday greetings.


Research paper saves UCSD scientist from $400 traffic fine

Research paper saves UCSD scientist from $400 traffic fine

‘Dmitri Krioukov, a senior research scientist at UCSD, successfully appealed his failure-to-stop ticket using a physics and math argument that ultimately swayed a San Diego judge.

In the paper, entitled “The Proof of Innocence,” Krioukov offered a series of equations and graphs to show that it was physically impossible for him to have broken the law, as an officer claimed.

The judge was “very, very smart,” Krioukov told The Times. “She got my point, I think, very precisely.”

Krioukov compared the problem to the way a person sees a train approaching from the platform and thinks it is moving slowly, when in fact it is barreling down the track. Using math and physics, Krioukov determined that a car moving at a constant speed can appear to move in the same way as a car that is moving fast but stops for a short time and then accelerates again.

In other words, a car that appears to be moving at a constant speed through a stop sign could have actually stopped at the stop sign, before speeding up again.’ (via LATimes).

Across the Great Divide

Levon helm performing with The Band. Hamburg, ...
Levon Helm performing with The Band. Hamburg, May 1971.

Sad news. Levon Helm is near death, according to this note posted on his website by his family:

“Dear Friends,

Levon is in the final stages of his battle with cancer. Please send your prayers and love to him as he makes his way through this part of his journey.

Thank you fans and music lovers who have made his life so filled with joy and celebration… he has loved nothing more than to play, to fill the room up with music, lay down the back beat, and make the people dance! He did it every time he took the stage…

We appreciate all the love and support and concern.

From his daughter Amy, and wife Sandy”

The Band‘s brown album would be one of my ten desert island discs, for sure, and always has heavy rotation on my iPod. My best friend, if anything a more intense fiend for the Band, and I were always planning to get to one of the Midnight Rambles Helm had been holding on his farm. Sorrowfully, not to be. Saving grace is that he is soon to join Richard Manuel and Rick Danko in the Angel Band. (via Levon Helm Studios, with thanks to abby for the original heads-up).

And: Levon Helms’ finest musical moments. (via Recordonline)

What Happened to the Iceberg That Sank the Titanic?

“Exactly one hundred years ago Sunday, an ocean liner struck a block of ice and sank in the North Atlantic. The story of the ocean liner has been told hundreds of times. This story is about the block of ice.

[These] photos … are quite possibly the only known photographic evidence of the actual iceberg that struck the Titanic. Understandably, nobody had bothered to snap any photographs while the ship was actually sinking, so it’s impossible to make an absolutely confirmed positive identification. But both photographs feature the telltale sign of a collision with a ship, and likely a recent one at that: a streak of red paint.” (via Wired)

Best evidence yet that a single gene can affect IQ

The best front page headline ever!

“A massive genetics study relying on fMRI brain scans and DNA samples from over 20,000 people has revealed what is claimed as the biggest effect yet of a single gene on intelligence…” (via New Scientist).

But that is not the most significant aspect of this finding. The effect, although real, was miniscule, accounting for less than 2 points in IQ. So, is it any surprise that the authors conclude that, to the extent that genetics influences intelligence, it is a function of the interplay of multiple genes, not just one?

Must-See Video: Solar Flare Explodes From Sun’s Surface

“An incredibly stunning solar flare erupted from the sun’s surface, throwing charged particles and searing plasma millions of miles out into space on Apr. 16.

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured data from the flare — a medium-sized M-class event — which was turned into a movie by Steele Hill, media specialist at the Goddard Space Flight Center. The blast was not directed at the Earth and is unlikely to hit any of the planets in our solar system….

The sun is currently entering a time of renewed activity, following a quiet period in its 11-year solar cycle. Peak action is expected from early- to mid-2013. Though it is predicted to be one of the least active cycles in the last 100 years, we have already witnessed several massive flares this year.” (via Wired).

The last film in the Up series?

Michael Apted
Michael Apted

‘The latest installment of the Up Series of documentary films is due out in the UK in May. The films have followed the development of fourteen British children since 1964 with a new film appearing every seven years…the participants are now 56.

This may be the last film in the series…director Michael Apted will be 78 when the next film is due and he’s unwilling to pass it off to someone else to finish.” (via kottke) 

Any documentary lover and any Anglophile (I count myself as both) should have been following this fascinating and unprecedented series of films.

2012 Pulitzer Prizes Awarded (and NOT Awarded)

The Pulitzer Prize Photographs: Capture the Moment

“The New York Times won two Pulitzer Prizes on Monday, for its reporting on Africa and for an investigative series on obscure tax code provisions that let the wealthiest Americans and corporations avoid paying taxes. And in a sign of the changing media landscape, online news outlets made a significant mark among the winners, with The Huffington Post and Politico capturing their first Pulitzer Prizes.

Also notable this year was the absence of prizes in two categories. The Pulitzer Prize Board at Columbia University in New York, which administers the awards, did not name a winner in the editorial writing category and more notably declined to name a winner of the coveted prize for fiction. The last time no winner was named for fiction was in 1977.” (via NYTimes).

How Electroconvulsive Therapy Works

3D representation of brodmann areas.
3D representation of brodmann areas

“It has not been know exactly how ECT works. It is known that ECT reduces brain activity and raises seizure threshold (makes it less likely to have a seizure). This implies that overall neuronal activity is reduced, so perhaps ECT is inhibiting overactivity in a part of the brain that is driving the depression. That hypothesis is supported by a recent study that uses fMRI scanning to look at brain activity in nine patients with major depression before and after ECT. They found:

A comparison of pre- and posttreatment functional connectivity data in a group of nine patients revealed a significant cluster of voxels in and around the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortical region (Brodmann areas 44, 45, and 46), where the average global functional connectivity was considerably decreased after ECT treatment (P < 0.05, family-wise error-corrected). This decrease in functional connectivity was accompanied by a significant improvement (P < 0.001) in depressive symptoms

Once way to interpret this result is that some patients with major depression have overactive connectivity between that part of the brain that generates the emotion of depression and the part of the brain involved in cognition and concentration. In these patients, therefore, their depressed mood has a significant effect on their thoughts and ability to concentrate. ECT appears to reduce this hyperconnectivity, which should significantly reduce the symptoms of depression.

This is all consistent with prior research on depression, and makes good sense. Still, it’s a small study that needs to be replicated and the whole question further explored.” (via NeuroLogica Blog ).

19 Regional Words All Americans Should Adopt Immediately

A discarded dictionary sits open on a pile of ...

“When traveling across the United States, it sometimes feels like the locals are speaking a whole different language. That’s where the Dictionary of American Regional English comes to the rescue. The last installment of this staggering five-volume tome, edited by Joan Houston Hall, was published last month, and let me tell you, it’s a whoopensocker.

In celebration of slang, here’s a list of 19 delightful obscure words from around the U.S. that you’ll want to start working into conversation.” (via Mental Floss).

Police save words of blind author who wrote 26 pages after pen ran out

Losing Eyesight. Surrealism. Photograph.

“A blind woman who did not realise the novel she was writing was blank after her pen ran out has been saved after a police force used forensic techniques to recover the words. Forensics experts agreed to use a special scientific process to recover what Trish Vickers had written by examining the dents she had made in the pages.

Mrs Vickers, 59, was left devastated when she learned that her pen had run out and there was nothing on the first 26 pages of the book. She lost her sight seven years ago through diabetes and decided to write a novel to pass the time and keep her mind active. She quickly penned the opening chapters while using a system of elastic bands to keep the lines separated on the pages of paper she was using. She waited for her son Simon to visit so he could read it back to her. But when he arrived he had to tell her that the pages were blank.

Incredibly, however, the manuscript was recovered after the family took it to their local police HQ and asked for help. Forensic experts worked in their spare time to read the indentations left on the A4 pages using a system of lights. It took five months of painstaking work, but the forensic team was able to recover the whole text – and they said how much they had enjoyed it and couldn’t wait for the rest. A Dorset police spokesman said a member of staff had completed the work during her lunch hours.” (via Telegraph.UK, with thanks to Steve)

Beautiful Realtime Wind Map of the US

The , also known as the Green Mountain Energy ...“The wind map is a personal art project, not associated with any company. We’ve done our best to make this as accurate as possible, but can’t make any guarantees about the correctness of the data or our software. Please do not use the map or its data to fly a plane, sail a boat, or fight wildfires…” (via Wind Map)

Existential French cat doesn’t want your cheeseburgers

Photo by Hans Olde from the photographic serie...
Nietzsche, summer 1899

‘Henri is the anti-Hello Kitty, a morose French feline who spends his time dissecting the absurdity of his daily grooming rituals and the despair of his solitary existence. Oh, and sometimes he updates his Facebook page. “I suppose that’s my lot in life,” he sighs. “To be watched endlessly, but never understood.” After seeing this, you’ll either immediately click to get to Henri’s first video or spend the afternoon wondering whatever happened to your Nietzsche-reading sophomore year roommate.’ (via msnNOW).

Zombie Survival Maps Show Danger Zones, Armories and Food Sources for Entire U.S.

“…The Map of the Dead from Doejo… overlays zombie danger zones and potential supply locations on a Google Map of your local haunts. Red areas denote population centers where zombies might graze, while dark gray zones cover parks and wilderness areas, which are most likely to be walker-free. Supply locations are annotated with helpful descriptions — liquor stores, hospitals, gun shops, military bases and cemeteries are just some of the locations highlighted.”  (via

America turns against capital punishment – proof that the people can be trusted

“Connecticut is set to become the fifth American state in as many years to abolish capital punishment, in one of the less commented trends in recent years. It would mean that over a third of the Union’s states are free of capital punishment, but the real coup would be if abolition campaigners won the battle in California, which will decide in November.”  (via Telegraph.UK)

…a phenomenon attracting more attention in the European press than the US.

Father of the underground press turns 80 today!

“A very happy birthday to the great Paul Krassner (left, with Tuli Kupferberg and unidentified party)! The father of the underground press (although he demanded a paternity test), editor of The Realist, Yippie co-founder and inspiration to two generations of rabble-rousers, turns 80 today.” (via Dangerous Minds)

Why Are So Many Americans Single?

Review of Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone by Eric Klinenberg, a sociologist at New York University:

alone in the dark

“…[S]ingle living [is] not a social aberration but an inevitable outgrowth of mainstream liberal values. Women’s liberation, widespread urbanization, communications technology, and increased longevity—these four trends lend our era its cultural contours, and each gives rise to solo living. Women facing less pressure to stick to child care and housework can pursue careers, marry and conceive when they please, and divorce if they’re unhappy. The “communications revolution” that began with the telephone and continues with Facebook helps dissolve the boundary between social life and isolation. Urban culture caters heavily to autonomous singles, both in its social diversity and in its amenities: gyms, coffee shops, food deliveries, laundromats, and the like ease solo subsistence. Age, thanks to the uneven advances of modern medicine, makes loners of people who have not previously lived by themselves. By 2000, sixty-two per cent of the widowed elderly were living by themselves, a figure that’s unlikely to fall anytime soon.

What turns this shift from demographic accounting to a social question is the pursuit-of-happiness factor: as a rule, do people live alone because they want to or because they have to?”  (via The New Yorker).

GeekDad to Tom Lehrer: Happy Birthday!

Tom Lehrer

Tom Lehrer – mathematician, satirist, singer-songwriter and hero to geeks taking chemistry tests everywhere – was born on April 9, 1928, making today his 84th birthday! …Mr. Lehrer, from all of the geeks who loved (and were educated by) your songs as kids, and who now teach those songs to our own children – thank you, and a very happy birthday to you!” (via

Sunny Days Are Here Again — But Is That Good?

“Across the country, more than 7,700 daily temperature records were broken last month, on the heels of the fourth warmest winter on record.

While it might be time to lie on a blanket in the park, climate scientists are worried. They say all these sunny days are actually an extreme weather event, one with local and global implications.” (via NPR).

Fighting to Repeal California Execution Law They Championed

Thirty-four years after California’s Proposition 7 sailed through, making the state’s death penalty one of the toughest in the country, the two men who were the driving force behind its crafting are leading the charge to repeal the death penalty in that state. Their reasons are partly moral, but good politics as well. (via New York Times)


Google testing heads-up display glasses in public

Won’t make you look like Robocop: “The good news: Google has started testing those augmented reality glasses we heard about earlier in the year. The bad news: if the artsy shots of the test units are to be believed, they won’t make you look like some ’80s cinematic anti-hero. In fact, the things wouldn’t look too out of place in a New York Times style story. The software giant let it be known that, while it hasn’t quite got a sale date on the wearables, it’s ready to test ProjectGlass amongst the non-augmented public. The company is also looking for feedback on the project, writing in a post today, “we want to start a conversation and learn from your valuable input.” Want some idea of what ProjectGlass might offer the public? Sure, it’s not quite as good as strapping a pair on your own eyes, but interested parties can check out a video of Google’s vision…”  at the link (Engadget).

Violence Transformed

“Violence Transformed is an annual series of visual and performing arts events that celebrate the power of art, artists and art-making to confront, challenge and mediate violence.

Based primarily in the center and surrounding neighborhoods of Greater Boston and drawing upon the creative energies of artists throughout New England, Violence Transformed documents the ways in which our diverse communities harness art’s potential to effect social change and materially transform our environments.

Violence Transformed also represents a unique collaboration among artists, activists, museum professionals, academics, and community service providers from diverse segments of the greater Boston area. We share the conviction that art and art-making are essential to the well-being and vibrancy of our communities.”


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“I am the world crier, & this is my dangerous career… I am the one to call your bluff, & this is my climate.” —Kenneth Patchen (1911-1972).

Nantucket: an accidental limerick detector

The official flag of the island of Nantucket, MA

“I wrote a program that takes any text and tries to find any accidental limericks that might be hiding within (based on syllable counts and rhyme, ignoring punctuation and intent).

Limericks have a fairly loose form. The rhyme scheme is always AABBA, but the syllable count can be anything along the lines of 7-or-8-or-9/7-or-8-or-9/5-or-6/5-or-6/7-or-8-or-9. And as if that weren’t loosey-goosey enough, they can have either anapaestic meter (duh-duh-DUM, duh-duh-DUM) or amphibrachic meter (duh-DUM-duh, duh-DUM-duh)!

…(So) Nantucket is set to look for limericks that are AABBA (rhyme scheme) and 8/8/5/5/9 (syllable count per line). It currently ignores meter, but I may add that requirement in later. It also only looks at words through an American English accent.” (Danielle Sucher, via Neal Stephenson)

Creepy woman-stalking app exploited geolocation

Principle of geolocation with GPS. Data transm...

At Cult of Mac, John Brownlee writes about Girls Around Me, a creepy app that exploited geolocation APIs to make it easy to stalk women.

These are all girls with publicly visible Facebook profiles who have checked into these locations recently using Foursquare. Girls Around Me then shows you a map where all the girls in your area trackable by Foursquare area. If there’s more than one girl at a location, you see the number of girls there in a red bubble. Click on that, and you can see pictures of all the girls who are at that location at any given time. The pictures you are seeing are their social network profile pictures.

See also Charlie Sorrel’s guide to kill the Facebook and FourSquare features that enable apps like this.’ (via Boing Boing, with thanks to kerry).

Tell your daughters, wives, significant others, friends about this.

Tibet is burning



Exiles mourn latest in string of self-immolation suicide protests: “Dozens of Tibetans have self-immolated in the past year to protest Chinese oppression. In addition to dousing themselves with fuel, some drink kerosene, so that the flames will explode from within.” (via Boing Boing). Why is this phenomenon being largely ignored by the world press?

MIT discovers the location of memories: Individual neurons

“MIT researchers have shown, for the first time ever, that memories are stored in specific brain cells. By triggering a small cluster of neurons, the researchers were able to force the subject to recall a specific memory. By removing these neurons, the subject would lose that memory.As you can imagine, the trick here is activating individual neurons, which are incredibly small and not really the kind of thing you can attach electrodes to. To do this, the researchers used optogenetics, a bleeding edge sphere of science that involves the genetic manipulation of cells so that they’re sensitive to light. These modified cells are then triggered using lasers; you drill a hole through the subject’s skull and point the laser at a small cluster of neurons.” (via ExtremeTech).

Seeing and Believing

I am an image of very little consequence, and ...

A review of T. M. Luhrmann’s When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God: “Luhrmann is a well-qualified guide: an anthropologist specializing in esoteric faiths. Her dissertation was on witch-and-warlock cults in contemporary England. Later, she wrote a book on the Parsis, a Zoroastrian community in India. Her most recent book was the highly praised Of Two Minds, a study of psychiatric residents and their handling of patients who had visions, among other problems. Almost always, Luhrmann has written with sympathy, not scorn, for these convinced people.

Nevertheless, she is a scientist, and believes in evidence. She spent two years as a full-time member of an evangelical church in Chicago, and another two years in a congregation in Palo Alto. (Those are the cities where she was teaching during that period, first at the University of Chicago, then at Stanford.) Both churches were part of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship, which came together in California in the nineteen-sixties and seventies, and now has about fifteen hundred congregations around the world. Most of the members of the churches that Luhrmann attended were white, middle class, college-educated, and centrist. They weren’t Pentecostals (that is, most of them didn’t speak in tongues or heal the sick). But neither were they just conservative Christians. In Luhrmann’s words, they placed “a flamboyant emphasis on the direct experience of God.” If you made contact with him, they believed, he would become your intimate, someone “who loves and cuddles you.

How do you find this God?” (via The New Yorker)

The Sacrifices of War

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A review of War and the American Difference by Stanley Hauerwas: “…the American version of modernity is uniquely defined by two special errors: the illusion that modern freedom and Christian witness are reconciled in America and the belief that America’s wars are redemptive, replacing the truly redemptive sacrifice of Christ with the blood sacrifices of soldiers who kill and die from one American generation to the next.

These two errors become one error: American patriotism becomes a false form of Christian piety, and killing for the nation becomes a dark and devilish project of killing for God. War, as Hauerwas puts it, is America’s altar.” (via First Things)

Autism: Awareness is Not Enough

Autism Awareness

April 2 has been designated as World Autism Awareness Day (did you know?). But Steve Silberman explains why that is not enough:

“No matter where you stand on the rising numbers, there is one undeniably shocking thing about them. Once that 1-in-88 kid grows to adulthood, our society offers little to enable him or her to live a healthy, secure, independent, and productive life in their own community. When kids on the spectrum graduate from high school, they and their families are often cut adrift — left to fend for themselves in the face of dwindling social services and even less than the meager level of accommodations available to those with other disabilities.

Meanwhile, the lion’s share of the money raised by star-studded “awareness” campaigns goes into researching potential genetic and environmental risk factors — not to improving the quality of life for the millions of autistic adults who are already here, struggling to get by. At the extreme end of the risks they face daily is bullying, abuse, and violence, even in their own homes…”

He goes on to ask a group of self-advocates, parents and teachers how to go beyond once-a-year ‘awareness’ to create a truly neurodiverse society. (via NeuroTribes)

A Quantum Theory of Mitt Romney

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 22:  Kate Vlach holds a...

“The recent remark by Mitt Romney’s senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom that upon clinching the Republican nomination Mr. Romney could change his political views “like an Etch A Sketch” has already become notorious. The comment seemed all too apt, an apparent admission by a campaign insider of two widely held suspicions about Mitt Romney: that he is a) utterly devoid of any ideological convictions and b) filled with aluminum powder.

The imagery may have been unfortunate, but Mr. Fehrnstrom’s impulse to analogize is understandable. Metaphors like these, inexact as they are, are the only way the layman can begin to grasp the strange phantom world that underpins the very fabric of not only the Romney campaign but also of Mitt Romney in general. For we have entered the age of quantum politics; and Mitt Romney is the first quantum politician.” (via NYTimes)