Jonah Lehrer’s tight spot

Jonah Lehrer - Pop!Tech 2009 - Camden, ME

‘This week, …Jonah Lehrer of the New Yorker …has found himself in a tight spot. On Tuesday morning, the media reporter Jim Romenesko pointed out that the opening paragraphs of Lehrer’s mid-June post to his New Yorker blog, Frontal Cortex, had previously made an appearance in an October Op-Ed Lehrer wrote for the Wall Street Journal. By midday, a reporter at New York magazine’s Daily Intel blog spotted a few more double-dips — anecdotes and examples reused in different stories — and everyone was off to the races. The New Yorker added unhappy-sounding caveats to most of Lehrer’s posts (“We regret the duplication of material”). A freelancer began cataloging, on his Tumblr, passages from Lehrer’s old New York Times Magazine pieces that later resurfaced in Lehrer’s posts at Wired. By Wednesday morning, the literary blogger Ed Champion had compiled an incredibly long list of repurposed material in Lehrer’s books and articles, and he was only a couple hundred pages into the book. Late yesterday, Lehrer finally commented, to the New York Times, that “It was a stupid thing to do and incredibly lazy and absolutely wrong.” But so far, he still has a job at the New Yorker.’ ( Salon).

Why the Dalai Lama is Hopeful

Jonathan Mirsky: ‘ “I told President Obama the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party are missing a part of the brain, the part that contains common sense,” the Dalai Lama said to me during our conversation in London Wednesday.

“But it can be put back in. I am hopeful about the new Chinese leadership beginning late this year. The Communist leaders now lack self-confidence, but I have heard from my Chinese friends that after a year or two the new ones will take some initiatives, so more freedom, more democracy.”

The Dalai Lama, with whom I have been talking periodically since 1981, was in an ebullient mood even for him. He was here referring to his meeting with Obama in 2011. I had asked the Dalai Lama about those national leaders throughout the world, from South Africa to Britain, who refuse to hold formal meetings with him because they fear Beijing’s anger. President Obama declined to meet him in 2009, the first rebuff from an American president since the Tibetan leader began visiting Washington in 1991.’ ( The New York Review of Books).

The crayola-fication of the world

“In Japan, people often refer to traffic lights as being blue in color. And this is a bit odd, because the traffic signal indicating ‘go’ in Japan is just as green as it is anywhere else in the world. So why is the color getting lost in translation? This visual conundrum has its roots in the history of language.

Blue and green are similar in hue. They sit next to each other in a rainbow, which means that, to our eyes, light can blend smoothly from blue to green or vice-versa, without going past any other color in between. Before the modern period, Japanese had just one word, Ao, for both blue and green. The wall that divides these colors hadn’t been erected as yet. As the language evolved, in the Heian period around the year 1000, something interesting happened. A new word popped into being – midori – and it described a sort of greenish end of blue. Midori was a shade of ao, it wasn’t really a new color in its own right.

One of the first fences in this color continuum came from an unlikely place – crayons. In 1917, the first crayons were imported into Japan, and they brought with them a way of dividing a seamless visual spread into neat, discrete chunks. There were different crayons for green (midori) and blue (ao), and children started to adopt these names. But the real change came during the Allied occupation of Japan after World War II, when new educational material started to circulate. In 1951, teaching guidelines for first grade teachers distinguished blue from green, and the word midori was shoehorned to fit this new purpose.

Reconstructing the rainbow. Stephanie, who blogs at 52 Kitchen Adventures, took a heat gun to a crayola set.

In modern Japanese, midori is the word for green, as distinct from blue. This divorce of blue and green was not without its scars. There are clues that remain in the language, that bear witness to this awkward separation. For example, in many languages the word for vegetable is synonymous with green (sabzi in Urdu literally means green-ness, and in English we say ‘eat your greens’). But in Japanese, vegetables are ao-mono, literally blue things. Green apples? They’re blue too. As are the first leaves of spring, if you go by their Japanese name. In English, the term green is sometimes used to describe a novice, someone inexperienced. In Japanese, they’re ao-kusai, literally they ‘smell of blue’. It’s as if the borders that separate colors follow a slightly different route in Japan.

And it’s not just Japanese. There are plenty of other languages that blur the lines between what we call blue and green. Many languages don’t distinguish between the two colors at all.” (Empirical Zeal).

Why Republicans Oppose the Individual Health-Care Mandate

“The Republicans have made the individual mandate the element most likely to undo the President’s health-care law. The irony is that the Democrats adopted it in the first place because they thought that it would help them secure conservative support. It had, after all, been at the heart of Republican health-care reforms for two decades.”

In 2010, no serious constitutional scholar dreamed that the individual mandate could be overturned on constitutional grounds. Now, most says its chances are around fifty-fifty. ( The New Yorker).