Today I Learned: Not Everyone Has An Internal Monologue

Inner monologue today main 200207 4d46901579dc7c852595dba24e9868e7 fit 760w‘I would tell them that I could look at myself in the mirror and have a full blown telepathic conversation with myself without opening my mouth and they responded as if I had schizophrenia. One person even mentioned that when they do voice overs in movies of people’s thoughts, they “wished that it was real.”…’

Via Inside My Mind

As a psychiatrist this fascinated me. Interestingly yesterday I saw a patient who presented having just gotten into some trouble for talking to himself. He said that the antipsychotic medication he was happy to take because it was otherwise helpful to him has prevented him from having an inner dialogue, so he had begun to need to speak his thoughts aloud to ponder things. I had never heard of such a medication effect and puzzled over what to make of it. Then today I read this!

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Credibly Accused

Unknown‘Search lists of U.S. Catholic clergy that have been deemed credibly accused of sexual abuse or misconduct….’

Via ProPublica with thanks to Sean Bonner, who comments,

‘This info has been heavily guarded by the church so this is a really valuable resource. It’s light on details but it’s useful for confirmation and research.’

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‘The Real Lesson’ Of Donald Trump’s Pardons

Jeffrey Toobin:

Unknown’CNN’s chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin suggested “the real lesson” of President Donald Trump’s clemency blitz on Tuesday was “a story of creeping authoritarianism.”

“Authoritarianism is usually associated with a punitive spirit — a leader who prosecutes and incarcerates his enemies. But there is another side to this leadership style,” Toobin wrote in a comment piece for The New Yorker, where he is also a staff writer.

“Authoritarians also dispense largesse, but they do it by their own whims, rather than pursuant to any system or legal rule,” Toobin continued. “The point of authoritarianism is to concentrate power in the ruler, so the world knows that all actions, good and bad, harsh and generous, come from a single source.”…’

Via HuffPost

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Donald Trump ‘offered Julian Assange a pardon if he denied Russia link to hack’

3286’The extraordinary claim was made at Westminster magistrates court before the opening next week of Assange’s legal battle to block attempts to extradite him to the US, where he faces charges for publishing hacked documents. The allegation was denied by the former Republican congressman named by the Assange legal team as a key witness.

Assange’s lawyers alleged that during a visit to London in August 2017, congressman Dana Rohrabacher told the WikiLeaks founder that “on instructions from the president, he was offering a pardon or some other way out, if Mr Assange … said Russia had nothing to do with the DNC [Democratic National Committee] leaks.”…’

Via The Guardian

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Flying solo: Ravens by photographer Masahisa Fukase

Ravens by Masahisha Fukas 002’’The depth of solitude in these photographs makes me shudder,’ runs the afterword to Ravens, a little-known photobook by Japanese artist Masahisa Fukase. Full of darkness and foreboding, the British Journal of Photography (in 2010) nevertheless named it the best photobook of the past 25 years ……’

Via The Guardian

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People Born Blind Are Mysteriously Protected From Schizophrenia

UnknownThese findings suggest that something about congenital blindness may protect a person from schizophrenia. This is especially surprising, since congenital blindness often results from infections, brain trauma, or genetic mutation—all factors that are independently associated with greater risk of psychotic disorders.

More strangely, vision loss at other periods of life is associated with higher risks of schizophrenia and psychotic symptoms. Even in healthy people, blocking vision for just a few days can bring about hallucinations. And the connections between vision abnormalities and schizophrenia have become more deeply established in recent years—visual abnormalities are being found before a person has any psychotic symptoms, sometimes predicting who will develop schizophrenia.

’A myriad of theories exist as to why—from the blind brain’s neuroplasticity to how vision plays an important role in building our model of the world (and what happens when that process goes wrong). Select researchers believe that the ties between vision and psychotic symptoms indicate there’s something new to learn here. Could it be that within this narrowly-defined phenomenon there are clues for what causes schizophrenia, how to predict who will develop it, and potentially how to treat it?…’

Via VICE

As a psychiatrist treating more than my fair share of patients with schizophrenia, I had never realized this but, no, I have never had a congenitally blind schizophrenic patient!

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Never Say Wolf

UntitledImageHow taboo language turned the wolf into a monster:

’ “Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!”

So says Count Dracula to the hapless Jonathan Harker in Bram Stoker’s novel. Dracula is talking about the wolves howling in the valley below his castle in the Carpathian mountains. This is the moment in the novel when Harker begins to feel the first twinges of fear.

The howl of the wolf, and the fear that accompanies it, sounds across millennia. Comparing the mythologies of cultures that descended from ancient European tribes, wolves loomed large in their minds. There are myths of heroes brought up by wolves, of great wolves who will devour the sun, of wolves guarding the underworld, and of warriors taken over by the spirit of wolves. Archaeological digs at Krasnosamarskoe, in the steppes north of the Black and Caspian seas, have given us clues that early peoples sacrificed, and even ate, dogs and wolves. Art and collected oral literature from across Asia and Europe hint of coming of age rituals where young men would wear wolf-skins, and live lawlessly on the land, almost becoming more terrifying than the wolves themselves.

When he used the phrase “the children of the night,” Dracula was following an ancient tradition. He was avoiding the word “wolf.” In many societies, words have power, the power to summon what they name. This idea probably emerges from rituals that took place in preparation for the hunt. It was a way of calling prey so the hunt would be successful. But if words can summon prey, they can also summon danger.

Speakers had to find ways of referring to wolves without naming them. The word for wolf becomes taboo: It shouldn’t be said. Instead, the magic of summoning through a name can be tricked. By changing the sound of the word, by using another word, perhaps borrowed from another language, or by using a descriptive phrase rather than the word itself, speakers could talk of wolves, but avoid the dangerous word itself.

We can see these strategies of avoiding taboo words in English. People change the sound of words like “Hell!” or “Christ!” into “Heck!” or “Crumbs!” We have borrowed the French word “toilet” to avoid naming the place where we defecate. When the denizens of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books use the phrase “You-Know-Who” for Voldemort, Rowling is appealing to the ancient magic of taboo.

Languages change. As people move across landscapes, their languages develop in different ways. They encounter new peoples, with different languages, and this can lead to a transformation in how people speak. But some words in languages change because the original term is avoided. Taboo, tightly tied to culture, has wrought radical changes in the original term for wolf in the languages of Europe. Like a werewolf changing its skin, the word for wolf has warped across the centuries, often in quite unexpected ways, as it traveled through the continent.…’

Via Nautilus

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Why Philosophers Should Study Indigenous Languages

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’I believe there is much to be learned philosophically from the study of languages that are spoken by only a small number of people, who lack a high degree of political self-determination and are relatively powerless to impose their conception of history, society, and nature on their neighbours; and who also lack much in the way of a textual literary tradition or formal and recognisably modern institutions of knowledge transmission: which for present purposes we may call “indigenous” languages.

This is of course going to be a hard sell, given that the great majority of Anglophone philosophers do not even recognize the value of learning German, Latin, Arabic, Sanskrit, or Chinese, and believe that they can penetrate as deeply as one might possibly go into fundamental philosophical questions from a standpoint of monolingualism.…’

Via 3 Quarks Daily

Why I keep product and service reviews to myself

Unknown‘Adding online ratings is contributing to a feedback industrial complex…’

Via Washington Post

When I buy something online, the transaction is money for goods. The seller has no right to expect I’ll donate my marketing efforts to them. You might argue that if one relies on online product reviews in making purchase decisions one ought to contribute. But I don’t.

An Unsettling New Theory: There Is No Swing Voter

ImagesWhat if everything you think you know about politics is wrong? What if there aren’t really American swing voters—or not enough, anyway, to pick the next president? What if it doesn’t matter much who the Democratic nominee is? What if there is no such thing as “the center,” and the party in power can govern however it wants for two years, because the results of that first midterm are going to be bad regardless? What if the Democrats’ big 41-seat midterm victory in 2018 didn’t happen because candidates focused on health care and kitchen-table issues, but simply because they were running against the party in the White House? What if the outcome in 2020 is pretty much foreordained, too?…’

Via POLITICO

The Worst Thing About Trump’s Unhinged Victory Strut Wasn’t Trump Himself

‘Trump is Trump. While he stepped beyond where has gone before in many respects during Thursday’s “celebration,” it hard to say that no one saw this coming.

But the complicity of those in attendance — the most powerful people within the Republican Party — is what was truly astounding. Yes, the Republican Party threw in its lot with Trump (and his forced takeover of it) long ago. But to sit by or even celebrate while Trump used the White House as a combination of a campaign venue, or a bathroom wall on which to write his darkest thoughts about those who oppose him, was beyond unforgivable….’

Via CNNPolitics

Ferlinghetti’s prescient 2007 poem, “Pity the Nation,” describes actual SOTU, 2020

 

Lawrence Ferlinghetti 2012“PITY THE NATION” (After Khalil Gibran)

Pity the nation whose people are sheep
And whose shepherds mislead them
Pity the nation whose leaders are liars
Whose sages are silenced
And whose bigots haunt the airwaves
Pity the nation that raises not its voice
Except to praise conquerors
And acclaim the bully as hero
And aims to rule the world
By force and by torture
Pity the nation that knows
No other language but its own
And no other culture but its own
Pity the nation whose breath is money
And sleeps the sleep of the too well fed
Pity the nation oh pity the people
who allow their rights to erode
and their freedoms to be washed away
My country, tears of thee
Sweet land of liberty!…’

Via Boing Boing

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Disney heiress says Kobe Bryant ‘was not a god’ in lengthy Twitter thread about rape allegations

Fb7197f21ffff33d28f9bc24422ff2f6’Disney heiress Abigail Disney spoke out in two-dozen tweets Saturday about the late Kobe Bryant’s 2003 rape allegations. 

The allegations never made it to trial, and though Bryant said the sex was consensual, he eventually apologized to his accuser, The New York Times reported.

Disney said Bryant could be mourned but said people should not “deify him because he was not a god.”

…”OK, time to bite the bullet and say something,” Disney said when she began her Twitter thread early Saturday morning. “If you don’t like it, just stop following. First of all, yes, it IS my business because I’m a woman who has herself been assaulted and spent my life knowing, loving and feeling for women for whom it’s been so much worse.”…’

Via Yahoo! News

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Someone Just Edited The Senate’s Wikipedia Page In The Most Savage Way

’The United States Senate was formerly the upper chamber of the United States Congress, which, along with the United States House of Representatives ― the lower chamber ― comprised the legislature of the United States. It died on January 31, 2020, when senators from the Republican Party refused to stand up to a corrupt autocrat calling himself the president of the United States, refusing to hear testimony that said individual blackmailed Ukraine in order to cheat in the 2020 presidential election.…’

Via HuffPost

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Singapore exhibit bleakly shows dystopian future of flooding and scarcity due to climate change

Unknown’At Singapore’s ArtScience Museum, the 2219:Future Reimagined exhibition “ invites visitors to explore our world as it changes over the next 200 years.” The first room of the exhibition is titled “Mitigation of Shock, Singapore,” based on a previous installation in London by the design studio. 

“Mitigation of Shock, Singapore” shows a vision of domestic life 50 years out, when rising ocean levels have flooded cities, and people are forced to grow their own foods and turn to alternative sources of nutrition as global supply chains collapse. The creators noted that the installation, which is a prototype of a future apartment, isn’t necessarily what it thinks will happen, as much as it is one possible outcome based on evidence. 

The earlier London installation showed an apartment in a future London ravaged by climate change in 2050, only 30 years into the future. The two installations were similar, but they received very different reactions. Visitors to the London exhibit were angry and upset, while in Singapore, visitors thought the prediction was too optimistic…’

Via Business Insider

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“Shit-Life Syndrome,” Trump Voters, and Clueless Dems

35856745925 78a4e0b631 c 768x512’Bruce Levine in Counterpunch:

Getting rid of Trump means taking seriously “shit-life syndrome”—and its resulting misery, which includes suicide, drug overdose death, and trauma for surviving communities… Trump got the shit-life syndrome vote. Will Hutton in his 2018 Guardian piece, “The Bad News is We’re Dying Early in Britain – and It’s All Down to ‘Shit-Life Syndrome’” describes shit-life syndrome in both Britain and the United States: “Poor working-age Americans of all races are locked in a cycle of poverty and neglect, amid wider affluence. They are ill educated and ill trained. The jobs available are drudge work paying the minimum wage, with minimal or no job security.” The Brookings Institution, in November 2019, reported: “53 million Americans between the ages of 18 to 64—accounting for 44% of all workers—qualify as ‘low-wage.’ Their median hourly wages are $10.22, and median annual earnings are about $18,000.”

For most of these low-wage workers, Hutton notes: “Finding meaning in life is close to impossible; the struggle to survive commands all intellectual and emotional resources. Yet turn on the TV or visit a middle-class shopping mall and a very different and unattainable world presents itself. Knowing that you are valueless, you resort to drugs, antidepressants and booze. You eat junk food and watch your ill-treated body balloon. It is not just poverty, but growing relative poverty in an era of rising inequality, with all its psychological side-effects, that is the killer.” Shit-life syndrome is not another fictitious illness conjured up by the psychiatric-pharmaceutical industrial complex to sell psychotropic drugs. It is a reality created by corporatist rulers and their lackey politicians—pretending to care about their minimum-wage-slave constituents, who are trying to survive on 99¢ boxed macaroni and cheese prepared in carcinogenic water, courtesy of DuPont or some other such low-life leviathan. The Cincinnati Enquirer, in November 2019, ran the story: “Suicide Rate Up 45% in Ohio in Last 11 Years, With a Sharper Spike among the Young.” In Ohio between 2007 and 2018, the rate of suicide among people 10 to 24 has risen by 56%. The Ohio Department of Health reported that suicide is the leading cause of death among Ohioans ages 10‐14 and the second leading cause of death among Ohioans ages 15‐34, with the suicide rate higher in poorer, rural counties.…’

Via 3 Quarks Daily

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The Law and Wuhan Coronavirus

The law versus wuhan coronavirus 1050x700‘…Such Diseases are Political as Well as Biological’:

Like the Woman coronavirus, three quarters of infectious diseases are zoonotic, i.e. originating in animals and then jumping over to infect humans. These include many of the scariest diseases we face or have faced, including AIDS, Ebola, SARS, and the 1918 influenza pandemic. Zoonotic diseases cannot be eradicated by population-based public health measures such as vaccination, even once a vaccine is developed, because they persist in animal reservoirs. Some argue that environmental law should be used to reduce the risk of future zoonotic outbreaks by regulating potential sources of zoonoses such as ‘wet markets’, factory farms and confined feedlots, and wild animal importation. Warnings about tourism to hotspots should be much more vigorous.

Via JSTOR Daily

The Russian Conspiracy Theory That Won’t Die

Unknown’An unsolved mystery such as the Dyatlov Pass incident would no doubt rile up truthers in the United States, but the Russian obsession with the incident is above and beyond American internet-forum debates on Area 51 and the chupacabra. Whereas U.S. conspiracy theories often develop on the fringes of public life—a line that has admittedly been blurred in the Donald Trump era—conspiracy-mongering is mainstream in Russia, a country in which 57 percent of the population believes the Apollo moon landings were a hoax.…’

Via The Atlantic

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The Timeless Isolation of Wilderness Solos

UnknownBeing There:

Thanks to Kottke for pointing to Mark O’Connell’s take on the experience of the wilderness solo, spending 24 or more hours essentially doing nothing alone in the woods:

‘When you’re actually in it, the reality of the solo is, at least at first, one of total boredom. I cannot stress enough how little there is to do when you have confined yourself to the inside of a small circle of stones and sticks in a forest. But it is an instructive kind of boredom, insofar as boredom is the raw and unmediated experience of time. It is considered best practice not to have a watch, and to turn off your phone and keep it somewhere in the bottom of a bag so as to avoid the temptation to constantly check how long you’ve been out and how long you have left. And as you become untethered from your accustomed orientation in time — from always knowing what time it is, how long you have to do the thing you’re doing, when you have to stop doing it to do the next thing — you begin to glimpse a new perspective on the anxiety that arises from that orientation. Because this anxiety, which amounts to a sort of cost-benefit analysis of every passing moment, is a quintessentially modern predicament.…’

Via The Guardian

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Trump’s Impeachment Acquittal Will Have ‘Real National Security Consequences,’ U.S. Officials Warn

Unknown“It’s Orwellian, is what it is…”:

’“This trial,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), “may be seen as a vindication of those very dangerous ideas that foreign interference can be accepted… that the president can do anything as long as his motives are to re-elect himself, and he thinks it’s in the public interest.”…’

Via Daily Beast

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So What Exactly is a PHEIC?

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’The World Health Organization met today and declared the coronavirus from Wuhan (2019-nCoV) a public health
emergency of international concern, or PHEIC.

This does not mean that we’re all going to die, or that the disease is out of control. Rather, it means that the virus is crossing international borders in a way that requires countries to work together to prevent the situation from getting any worse.…’

Via Lifehacker

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A quick history of why Asians wear surgical masks in public

Rtrl964The reality is that the woven-cloth surgical masks provide minimal protection from environmental viruses anyway. (Surgeons use them to protect patients from their mouth-borne germs, not the other way around.) But the masks’ actual prophylactic utility is, in a way, secondary to other reasons they’re being worn, which is why they’re likely to become more common in the future—even among non-Asians….

The bottom line is that in East Asia, the predilection toward using face-coverings to prevent exposure to bad air is something that predates the germ theory of disease, and extends into the very foundations of East Asian culture. In recent years, however, mask-wearing has become rooted in new and increasingly postmodern rationales…

Studies have found that among many young Japanese, masks have evolved into social firewalls; perfectly healthy teens now wear them, along with audio headsets, to signal a lack of desire to communicate with those around them. This is particularly true for young women seeking to avoid harassment on public transit, who also appreciate the relative anonymity the masks provide.

’Masks are even becoming an element of East Asian style: In Japan, surgical masks bearing chic designs or the images of cute licensed characters can be purchased in every corner drugstore, while last month at China Fashion Week, designer Yin Peng unveiled a line of “smog couture” clothese paired with a variety of masks, from Vader-esque ventilators to whole-head riot-gear rebreathers.…’

Via Quartz

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Virologist who helped identify SARS on coronavirus outbreak: ‘This time I’m scared’

1a46c645b33c2cdbc65944d0812701f5’Like the infectious pneumonia that has killed at least 17 people, SARS was caused by a coronavirus that originated in China. But when one of the virologists who helped identify the SARS virus visited Wuhan, where this virus originated, he didn’t see nearly enough being done to fight it. People were out at markets without masks, “preparing to ring in the New Year in peace and had no sense about the epidemic,” Guan Yi of the University of Hong Kong’s State Key Laboratory of Emerging Infectious Diseases told Caixin. Airports were hardly being disinfected, Guan continued, saying the local government hasn’t “even been handing out quarantine guides to people who were leaving the city.”

The city did disinfect the market where the virus has been traced to, but Guan criticized Wuhan for that, saying it hurts researchers’ abilities to track down the virus’s source. “I’ve never felt scared,” Guan told Caixin. “This time I’m scared.”

A case involving the coronavirus was identified in Washington state on Wednesday, and cases have also been identified in Thailand, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore. A total of 639 cases were confirmed in China.…’

Via Yahoo! News

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It is 100 seconds to midnight

ImagesBulletin of the Atomic Scientists 2020 Doomsday Clock statement:

’Humanity continues to face two simultaneous existential dangers—nuclear war and climate change—that are compounded by a threat multiplier, cyber-enabled information warfare, that undercuts society’s ability to respond. The international security situation is dire, not just because these threats exist, but because world leaders have allowed the international political infrastructure for managing them to erode.…’

Via Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

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More than 25% of Americans believe Trump should be charged with war crimes over killing of Soleimani

UnknownUnknown’In the wake of the US assassination of Iran’s most important military leader, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, more than a quarter of Americans believe The Hague should bring war-crime charges against President Donald Trump, according to a new Insider poll. 

The Insider poll, which ran on Wednesday, found that roughly 27% of the 1,083 respondents said they agreed with Iran that Trump should face a war crime tribunal. The poll did not ask for respondents’ opinions on other aspects of Iran’s position, including Tehran’s desire to bring war-crime charges against the US military and federal government. 

The poll asked: “Iran announced it will pursue war-crime charges against President Donald Trump at the International Criminal Court in the Hague over the assassination of Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Do you agree or disagree with such charges?” 

While 27.4% said they agreed that Trump should face war crime charges, a far greater proportion of respondents, 35.6%, disagreed. The most popular poll answer was that a respondent “neither agree[d] nor disagree[d]”.…’

Via Business Insider

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The Macabre Science of Mass Animal Die-Offs

Science massanimals DSC 0653

’Unfolding right now across swaths of Australia is an ecological catastrophe, as massive, turbo-charged fires reduce whole landscapes to nothingness. Tens of thousands of koalas had no way of escaping. Livestock lie dead in fields. Innumerable animals have perished, with many species likely pushed to extinction. The few survivors could well starve or fall victim to predators.

We’ll never know the true toll of this mass mortality event, or MME as scientists call it, but we know this: The cadavers that litter the Australian landscape are now rotting, kicking off a cascade of ecological consequences and potentially imperiling human health.…’

Via WIRED

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Alexander Hamilton dispensed of Trump’s impeachment defense in 1788

Alexander Hamilton portrait by Ezra Ames cropped’US founding father Alexander Hamilton would probably counsel president Donald Trump to come up with a better defense than the one offered by Trump’s attorneys ahead of his looming Senate impeachment trial.

Trump’s primary argument—issued in a response to the House impeachment trial brief and summons he received this weekend—is that the impeachment is bunk because the articles fail to allege a “violation of law or crime, let alone ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ as required by the Constitution.” The president also complains that he’s been deprived of due process, relying on the standards outlined for criminal trials.

The historical record, however, doesn’t support Trump’s position that the two processes must mirror each other in form or function. Some have even called comparisons between impeachment and criminal proceedings “bogus” and “bad-faith arguments.”

Hamilton saw this coming. The prolific lawyer illuminated Trump’s claims, albeit indirectly, in Federalist No. 65, a seminal essay in the 1788 Federalist Papers. In the essay, Hamilton made it clear that political impeachment proceedings are necessarily treated unlike crimes in court, substantively and procedurally.…’

Via Quartz

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Trump picked impeachment defense team based on TV performance

NewImage
’CNN, citing a “source close to the White House who speaks to the president regularly,” said that the appointment of several high profile legal experts, including Alan Dershowitz and Kenneth Starr, reflects a desire to have a team full of big personalities capable of putting in media appearances in the president’s defense.

“Trump has been telling associates and allies around him that he wanted a ”high profile“ legal team that can perform on television, the source said,” CNN’s report said.

“It’s simply who Trump is, the source continued, adding Trump loves having people who are on television working for him.”…’

Via Business Insider

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Five Ways to Ditch Your Climate Stress and Be Part of the Solution

Images’Yes, our daily lives are undoubtedly contributing to climate change. But that’s because the rich and powerful have constructed systems that make it nearly impossible to live lightly on the earth. Our economic systems require most adults to work, and many of us must commute to work in or to cities intentionally designed to favor the automobile. Unsustainable food, clothes and other goods remain cheaper than sustainable alternatives.

And yet we blame ourselves for not being green enough. As the climate essayist Mary Annaïse Heglar writes, “The belief that this enormous, existential problem could have been fixed if all of us had just tweaked our consumptive habits is not only preposterous; it’s dangerous.” It turns eco-saints against eco-sinners, who are really just fellow victims. It misleads us into thinking that we have agency only by dint of our consumption habits — that buying correctly is the only way we can fight climate change.

Marris’ focus on systems (political, capital, etc.) mirrors that of other climate thinkers (like David Wallace-Wells) and is exactly right IMO:

My point is that the climate crisis is not going to be solved by personal sacrifice. It will be solved by electing the right people, passing the right laws, drafting the right regulations, signing the right treaties — and respecting those treaties already signed, particularly with indigenous nations. It will be solved by holding the companies and people who have made billions off our shared atmosphere to account.

…’

Via kottke

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This Striking Image of the Moon Is a Combination of 100,000 Photos

Andrew mccarthy moon 01

’Backyard astronomer Andrew McCarthy has created some arresting images of various objects in the sky, including galaxies, planets, the Sun, and nebulas. Perhaps his favorite subject is the Moon and for one of his first images of 2020, he combined 100,000 photos to make this image of the first quarter Moon.…’

Via kottke

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What fans of both Bernie and Warren should be thinking about their feud.

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’With the Iowa caucus 20 days away, Democrats who think Sanders and Warren would both be good presidents should continue breathing deeply, maintaining mindfulness, and ignoring trolls whenever the issue of either candidate’s electability, honesty, or misogyny comes up. The worst people in both candidates’ vanguards are furiously battling over a tiny patch of ground, trying to establish a persuasive narrative about which campaign is stronger and more deserving. Soon enough, one of the campaigns will demonstrate that it is better than the other at winning voters and delegates, and all that positioning will be moot.…’

Via Slate.

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NPR coverage of Trump’s Milwaukee rally shows how he’s broken the media

In trying to be above taking sides, the mainstream media does Trump a favor by making order out of his chaos:

’Describing Trump as he really is can make it seem as if a report is “anti-Trump” and that the reporter is trying to make the president look foolish.

But for media outlets that view themselves as above taking sides, attempts to provide a sober, “balanced” look at presidential speeches often end up normalizing things that are decidedly not normal.…’

Via Vox

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Putin and Assad Commiserate About the American Imbecile

‘A video has surfaced of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad laughing about President Trump during Putin’s visit to Damascus last week.

The video, originally posted by a journalist for the Komsomolskaya Pravda, comes just over a month after multiple NATO nation leaders, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron, were recorded seemingly mocking the American president at a NATO summit….’

Via Fox News

Taiwan’s single-payer success story — and its lessons for America

T7A6696How Taiwan built “Medicare for all” and gave everyone health insurance:

’The first in a Vox series on how countries around the world achieve universal health care.…In the 1990s, Taiwan did what has long been considered impossible in the US: The island of 24 million people took a fractured and inequitable health care system and transformed it into something as close to Sen. Bernie Sanders’s vision of Medicare-for-all as anything in the world…’

Via Vox

I just returned from several weeks (recreation and medical conference) in Taiwan, and the convenience, safety, and sanity of their universal healthcare system was the pride of all the Taiwanese citizens and US/European expatriates with whom I talked. 

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Hikikomori: Extreme Social Isolation is More Widespread than Previously Recognized

Unknown’Experts in the Japanese phenomena of hikikomori say the condition of extreme social isolation is more widespread than previously acknowledged, and it deserves a clear and consistent definition to improve treatment across the globe.

In an article published in the February issue of the journal World Psychiatry, experts cite a lack of broad clinical understanding of the condition.

Although hikikomori is typically associated with young adults in Japan, the researchers say many of the same criteria of extended social isolation apply to people around the world, including among older adults and stay-at-home parents. A simplified and clear definition will improve the recognition and subsequent treatment for people who suffer from the condition, the authors write.

The article highlights four key aspects of the newly proposed definition of hikikomori:

  • Confined at home: The proposed definition clarifies the frequency of time spent outside the home, while still meeting the definition of “marked social isolation.”
  • Avoiding people: Some people choose to avoid social situations and interaction not because they’re anxious but because it meets their comfort level. The newly suggested definition therefore removes the avoidance of social situations as a criteria.
  • Better defining distress: Many people diagnosed with hikikomori report that they feel content in their social withdrawal. However, as the duration of social withdrawal gets longer, their distress and feelings of loneliness increases.
  • Other disorders: Co-occurring mental health conditions such as depression should not exclude patients from also being assessed for and diagnosed with hikikomori. “In our view, the frequency of co-occurring conditions increases the importance of addressing social withdrawal as a health issue,” they write.…’

Via Neuroscience News

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This pathetic lunatic is going to get you killed

01583796 2487 4c3f 8fc7 e01a3ab0f92aTrump expected to be praised for Soleimani killing, but majority say it made U.S. less safe:

’The day after the drone strike that killed Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, President Donald Trump was feeling confident. He was so satisfied with how things had turned out that he planned to play golf that morning, according to an extensive New York Times piece that looks at the events surrounding the killing. The president’s advisers though cautioned him against doing that, worried it would send the wrong message at a time when the killing had sent shockwaves across the region.

Even though he was advised against playing golf, Trump was still in a good mood. The president fully expected to be applauded for the killing of Soleimani. The reality proved to be quite different, and the president started to become angry when many critics said he had needlessly escalated the simmering conflict with Iran. As a result, he went around to talk to guests at his properties in Florida and was seemingly joyful to receive praise.…’

Via Slate.

Related: Soleimani and the Dawn of a New Nuclear Age:

’Iranian missile attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq. Deadly chaos in Iran. A sudden halt of the fight against the Islamic State. Utter confusion over whether U.S. troops will remain in Iraq, and even whether the United States still respects the laws of war. The fallout from the Trump administration’s killing of Qassem Soleimani has been swift and serious.

But one potential knock-on effect may not come into clear view for some time: the emergence of Iran as the next nuclear-weapons state, at the very moment when the world appears on the cusp of a more perilous nuclear age. It’s possible that the Reaper drone hovering over Baghdad’s airport last week destroyed not only an infamous Iranian general, but also the last hope of curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions.…’

Via The Atlantic

And: Administration Still Struggling to Craft a Coherent Story about the Assassination

’Trump said Soleimani was planning attacks on “four US embassies,” but Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he didn’t see” intelligence about such strikes.…’

Via Defense Secretary Esper says he “didn’t see” intel showing imminent Iranian attacks on embassies – Vox

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3 tips for a better museum visit

72575132 2479584922330830 8573007290690795405 n 2Austin Kleon:

’Here are 3 things I do that make my museum experiences much richer:

  1. Draw, draw, draw! 
  2. Enlist a small child to guide you through the museum. 
  3. Don’t read the label before you look at the art.…’

Via Austin Kleon

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The Definitive Guide to the World’s Hidden Blunders

Babr ’Everybody makes mistakes. Some go relatively unnoticed—fleeting blips soon forgiven and forgotten. But others last, adding a quirky kind of charm to the attractions they grace. From a befuddling beast that became a Siberian town’s
mascot to a Nebraska jail that was accidentally sold to a teenager, here are 19 mistakes worth marveling at.…’

Via Atlas Obscura

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Was Killing Suleimani Justified? by Peter Singer

A0b652326f1d232bd25e3b8a584d2d51 2 1 large 1As an extrajudicial assassination that was not necessary to prevent an imminent attack, it was both illegal and unethical:

’In the wake of Suleimani’s assassination, Agnès Callamard, a Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, noted that there is no oversight of targeted killings carried out beyond a country’s borders. The Executive simply decides, without any legal due process or approval by any other branch of government, who is to be killed. Accepting such an action makes it difficult to find any principled objection to similar killings planned or carried out by other countries. That includes the 2011 “Cafe Milano Plot,” supposedly masterminded by Suleimani himself, in which Iranian agents planned to kill the Saudi ambassador to the US while he lunched at a well-known restaurant in Washington, DC.

The only thing the US can say in defense of its assassinations is that it targets really bad guys, and the Saudi ambassador was not such a bad guy. That puts the rule of men above the rule of law.

The other justification that the Pentagon offered for the killing referred vaguely to “deterring future Iranian attack plans.” As Callamard pointed out, this is not the same as the “imminent” attack required to justify acting in self-defense under international law. She also noted that others were killed in the attack – reportedly, a total of seven people died – and suggested that these other deaths were clearly illegal killings.

A careful reading of the transcript of the January 3 press briefing, held by three unidentified senior State Department officials, reveals the Trump administration’s real thinking. In response to repeated questions about the justification of the assassination, one official compared it to the 1943 downing of a plane carrying Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, who was visiting Japanese troops in the Pacific – an incident that occurred in the midst of war, more than a year after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Another official said: “When I hear these questions it’s like you’re describing Belgium for the last 40 years. It’s the Iranian regime. We’ve got 40 years of acts of war that this regime has committed against countries in five continents.” At one point, the official who had compared the assassination to the killing of Yamamoto blurted out: “Jesus, do we have to explain why we do these things?”2

If senior State Department officials believe that the US is engaged in a just war with Iran, as it was with Japan in 1943, the killing of Suleimani makes sense. According to standard just war theory, you may kill your enemies whenever you have the chance to do so, as long as the importance of the target outweighs the so-called collateral damage of harm to innocents.

But the US is not at war with Iran. The US Constitution gives Congress the sole authority to declare war, and it has never declared war on Iran. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi suggested that congressional leaders should have been consulted on the plan to kill Suleimani. If it was an act of war, she is right.

If, on the other hand, the killing was not an act of war, then, as an extrajudicial assassination that was not necessary to prevent an imminent attack, it was both illegal and unethical. It risks severe negative consequences, not only in terms of escalating tit-for-tat retaliation in the Middle East, but also by contributing to a further decline in the international rule of law.…’

Via Project Syndicate

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How many animals died in Australia fires? 1 billion, experts estimate.

’Many wild animals and some farm animals have been killed directly by the flames. We can see the evidence with our own eyes: Distressing images of burned kangaroos and koalas, and videos of dead animals on the sides of the roads, have circulated online over the past week.

Other animals have not been burned alive but have faced death due to the destruction of their natural environment, which they rely on for food and shelter.…’

Via Vox

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Why bipolar disorder is becoming more ‘desirable’ than other mental illnesses

’Bipolar disorder is a severe mental health condition. But in recent years it has become the one mental health diagnosis that patients are willing to accept. Research shows that to some people it has actually become “desirable” when compared with other mood disorders.

This could be because of bipolar disorder’s association with creativity. For example, Charles Dickens and Beethoven are thought to have had bipolar disorder. The de-stigmatizing effect of considerable media coverage could also be a factor. As could its association with successful celebrities such as Stephen Fry, Kanye West, and Carrie Fisher.…’

Via Neuroscience News

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Why didn’t we know this until now?

Bill Barr, warrior for theocracy:

‘William Barr, the attorney general of the United States, has …served on the board of the Catholic Information Center, although Opus Dei has officially denied that he is a member. Just as the political and media establishment conveniently overlooked Barr’s long-term commitment to the “unitary executive theory” in its most extreme form, they didn’t seem to know that he was even more committed to far-right social conservatism. It wasn’t until Barr gave a speech at Notre Dame last October that everyone finally understood to what degree he is a religious crusader….’

Via Salon.com

New Year’s Customs and Rituals

New Year Sunrise
New Year Sunrise

This is the annual update of my New Year post, a longstanding FmH tradition. Please let me know if you find any dead links:

I once ran across a January 1st Boston Globe article compiling folkloric beliefs about what to do, what to eat, etc. on New Year’s Day to bring good fortune for the year to come. I’ve regretted since — I usually think of it around once a year (grin) — not clipping out and saving the article. Especially since we’ve had children, I’m interested in enduring traditions that go beyond getting drunk [although some comment that this is a profound enactment of the interdigitation of chaos and order appropriate to the New Year’s celebration — FmH], watching the bowl games and making resolutions.

Marteniza-ball

A web search brought me this, less elaborate than what I recall from the Globe but to the same point. It is weighted toward eating traditions, which is odd because, unlike most other major holidays, the celebration of New Year’s in 21st century America does not seem to be centered at all around thinking about what we eat (except in the sense of the traditional weight-loss resolutions!) and certainly not around a festive meal. But…

Traditionally, it was thought that one could affect the luck they would have throughout the coming year by what they did or ate on the first day of the year. For that reason, it has become common for folks to celebrate the first few minutes of a brand new year in the company of family and friends. Parties often last into the middle of the night after the ringing in of a new year. It was once believed that the first visitor on New Year’s Day would bring either good luck or bad luck the rest of the year. It was particularly lucky if that visitor happened to be a tall dark-haired man.

“Traditional New Year foods are also thought to bring luck. Many cultures believe that anything in the shape of a ring is good luck, because it symbolizes “coming full circle,” completing a year’s cycle. For that reason, the Dutch believe that eating donuts on New Year’s Day will bring good fortune.

blackeye_peas_bowl_text
Many parts of the U.S. celebrate the new year by consuming black-eyed peas. These legumes are typically accompanied by either hog jowls or ham. Black-eyed peas and other legumes have been considered good luck in many cultures. The hog, and thus its meat, is considered lucky because it symbolizes prosperity. Cabbage is another ‘good luck’ vegetable that is consumed on New Year’s Day by many. Cabbage leaves are also considered a sign of prosperity, being representative of paper currency. In some regions, rice is a lucky food that is eaten on New Year’s Day.”

English: Fireworks over Edinburgh on New Year'...
Fireworks over Edinburgh on New Year’s Eve

The further north one travels in the British Isles, the more the year-end festivities focus on New Year’s. The Scottish observance of Hogmanay has many elements of warming heart and hearth, welcoming strangers and making a good beginning:

“Three cornered biscuits called hogmanays are eaten. Other special foods are: wine, ginger cordial, cheese, bread, shortbread, oatcake, carol or carl cake, currant loaf, and a pastry called scones. After sunset people collect juniper and water to purify the home. Divining rituals are done according to the directions of the winds, which are assigned their own colors. First Footing: The first person who comes to the door on midnight New Year’s Eve should be a dark-haired or dark-complected man with gifts for luck. Seeing a cat, dog, woman, red-head or beggar is unlucky. The person brings a gift (handsel) of coal or whiskey to ensure prosperity in the New Year. Mummer’s Plays are also performed. The actors called the White Boys of Yule are all dressed in white, except for one dressed as the devil in black. It is bad luck to engage in marriage proposals, break glass, spin flax, sweep or carry out rubbish on New Year’s Eve.”

Here’s why we clink our glasses when we drink our New Year’s toasts, no matter where we are. Of course, sometimes the midnight cacophony is louder than just clinking glassware, to create a ‘devil-chasing din’.

In Georgia, eat black eyed peas and turnip greens on New Year’s Day for luck and prosperity in the year to come, supposedly because they symbolize coppers and currency. Hoppin’ John, a concoction of peas, onion, bacon and rice, is also a southern New Year’s tradition, as is wearing yellow to find true love (in Peru and elsewhere in South America, yellow underwear, apparently!) or carrying silver for prosperity. In some instances, a dollar bill is thrown in with the other ingredients of the New Year’s meal to bring prosperity. In Greece, there is a traditional New Year’s Day sweetbread with a silver coin baked into it. All guests get a slice of the bread and whoever receives the slice with the coin is destined for good fortune for the year. At Italian tables, lentils, oranges and olives are served. The lentils, looking like coins, will bring prosperity; the oranges are for love; and the olives, symbolic of the wealth of the land, represent good fortune for the year to come.

A New Year’s meal in Norway also includes dried cod, “lutefisk.” The Pennsylvania Dutch make sure to include sauerkraut in their holiday meal, also for prosperity.

In Spain, you would cram twelve grapes in your mouth at midnight, one each time the clock chimed, for good luck for the twelve months to come. (If any of the grapes happens to be sour, the corresponding month will not be one of your most fortunate in the coming year.) The U. S. version of this custom, for some reason, involves standing on a chair as you pop the grapes. In Denmark, jumping off a chair at the stroke of midnight signifies leaping into the New Year.
In Rio,

The crescent-shaped Copacabana beach… is the scene of an unusual New Year’s Eve ritual: mass public blessings by the mother-saints of the Macumba and Candomble sects. More than 1 million people gather to watch colorful fireworks displays before plunging into the ocean at midnight after receiving the blessing from the mother-saints, who set up mini-temples on the beach.

When taking the plunge, revelers are supposed to jump over seven waves, one for each day of the week.

This is all meant to honor Lamanjá, known as the “Mother of Waters” or “Goddess of the Sea.” Lamanjá protects fishermen and survivors of shipwrecks. Believers also like to throw rice, jewelry and other gifts into the water, or float them out into the sea in intimately crafted miniature boats, to please Lamanjá in the new year.

In many northern hemisphere cities near bodies of water, people also take a New Year’s Day plunge into the water, although of course it is an icy one! The Coney Island Polar Bears Club in New York is the oldest cold-water swimming club in the United States. They have had groups of people enter the chilly surf since 1903.

Ecuadorian families make scarecrows stuffed with newspaper and firecrackers and place them outside their homes. The dummies represent misfortunes of the prior year, which are then burned in effigy at the stroke of midnight to forget the old year. Bolivian families make beautiful little wood or straw dolls to hang outside their homes on New Year’s Eve to bring good luck.

1cdd196c97bc4886c7d0b3a9c1b3dd97In China, homes are cleaned spotless to appease the Kitchen God, and papercuttings of red paper are hung in the windows to scare away evil spirits who might enter the house and bring misfortune. Large papier mache dragon heads with long fabric bodies are maneuvered through the streets during the Dragon Dance festival, and families open their front doors to let the dragon bring good luck into their homes.

The Indian Diwali, or Dipawali, festival, welcoming in the autumnal season, also involves attracting good fortune with lights. Children make small clay lamps, dipas, thousands of which might adorn a given home. In Thailand, one pours fragrant water over the hands of elders on New Year’s Day to show them respect.

10768-revelry
Elsewhere:

  • a stack of pancakes for the New Year’s breakfast in France.
  • banging on friends’ doors in Denmark to “smash in” the New Year, where it is also a good sign to find your doorstep heaped with broken dishes on New Year’s morning. Old dishes are saved all years to throw at your friends’ homes on New Year’s Eve. The more broken pieces you have, the greater the number of new friends you will have in the forthcoming twelve months.
  • going in the front door and out the back door at midnight in Ireland.
  • making sure the First Footer, the first person through your door in the New Year in Scotland, is a tall dark haired visitor.
  • water out the window at midnight in Puerto Rico rids the home of evil spirits.
  • cleanse your soul in Japan at the New Year by listening to a gong tolling 108 times, one for every sin
  • it is Swiss good luck to let a drop of cream fall on the floor on New Year’s Day.
  • Belgian farmers wish their animals a Happy New Year for blessings.
  • In Germany and Austria, lead pouring” (das Bleigießen) is an old divining practice using molten lead like tea leaves. A small amount of lead is melted in a tablespoon (by holding a flame under the spoon) and then poured into a bowl or bucket of water. The resulting pattern is interpreted to predict the coming year. For instance, if the lead forms a ball (der Ball), that means luck will roll your way. The shape of an anchor (der Anker) means help in need. But a cross (das Kreuz) signifies death. This is also a practice in parts of Finland, apparently.
  • El Salvadoreans crack an egg in a glass at midnight and leave it on the windowsill overnight; whatever figure it has made in the morning is indicative of one’s fortune for the year.
  • Some Italians like to take part in throwing pots, pans, and old furniture from their windows when the clock strikes midnight. This is done as a way for residents to rid of the old and welcome in the new. It also allows them to let go of negativity. This custom is also practiced in parts of South Africa, the Houston Press adds.
  • In Colombia, walk around with an empty suitcase on New Year’s Day for a year full of travel.
  • In the Philippines, all the lights in the house are turned on at midnight, and previously opened windows, doors and cabinets throughout the house are suddenly slammed shut, to ward off evil spirits for the new year.
  • In Russia a wish is written down on a piece of paper. It is burned and the ash dissolved in a glass of champagne, which should be downed before 12:01 am if the wish is to come true.
  • aptopix-romania-bear-ritual-89ecd02b044cc9131Romanians celebrate the new year by wearing bear costumes and dancing around to ward off evil
  • In Turkey, pomegranates are thrown down from the balconies at midnight for good luck.

It’s a bit bizarre when you think about it. A short British cabaret sketch from the 1920s has become a German New Year’s tradition. Yet, although The 90th Birthday or Dinner for One is a famous cult classic in Germany and several other European countries, it is virtually unknown in the English-speaking world, including Britain, its birthplace.” (Watch on Youtube, 11 min.)

So if the Germans watch British video, what do you watch in Britain? A number of sources have suggested that it is Jools Holland’s Hootenanny, “even though it’s awful and everyone hates it.

On a related theme, from earlier in the same week, here are some of the more bizarre Christmas rituals from around the world. 

Some history; documentation of observance of the new year dates back at least 4000 years to the Babylonians, who also made the first new year’s resolutions (reportedly voews to return borrowed farm equipment were very popular), although their holiday was observed at the vernal equinox. The Babylonian festivities lasted eleven days, each day with its own particular mode of celebration. The traditional Persian Norouz festival of spring continues to be considered the advent of the new year among Persians, Kurds and other peoples throughout Central Asia, and dates back at least 3000 years, deeply rooted in Zooastrian traditions.Modern Bahá’í’s celebrate Norouz (”Naw Ruz”) as the end of a Nineteen Day Fast. Rosh Hashanah (”head of the year”), the Jewish New Year, the first day of the lunar month of Tishri, falls between September and early October. Muslim New Year is the first day of Muharram, and Chinese New Year falls between Jan. 10th and Feb. 19th of the Gregorian calendar.

The classical Roman New Year’s celebration was also in the spring although the calendar went out of synchrony with the sun. January 1st became the first day of the year by proclamation of the Roman Senate in 153 BC, reinforced even more strongly when Julius Caesar established what came to be known as the Julian calendar in 46 BC. The early Christian Church condemned new year’s festivities as pagan but created parallel festivities concurrently. New Year’s Day is still observed as the Feast of Christ’s Circumcision in some denominations. Church opposition to a new year’s observance reasserted itself during the Middle Ages, and Western nations have only celebrated January 1 as a holidy for about the last 400 years. The custom of New Year’s gift exchange among Druidic pagans in 7th century Flanders was deplored by Saint Eligius, who warned them, “[Do not] make vetulas, [little figures of the Old Woman], little deer or iotticos or set tables [for the house-elf] at night or exchange New Year gifts or supply superfluous drinks [another Yule custom].” (Wikipedia)

The tradition of the New Year’s Baby signifying the new year began with the Greek tradition of parading a baby in a basket during the Dionysian rites celebrating the annual rebirth of that god as a symbol of fertility. The baby was also a symbol of rebirth among early Egyptians. Again, the Church was forced to modify its denunciation of the practice as pagan because of the popularity of the rebirth symbolism, finally allowing its members to cellebrate the new year with a baby although assimilating it to a celebration of the birth of the baby Jesus. The addition of Father Time (the “Old Year”) wearing a sash across his chest with the previous year on it, and the banner carried or worn by the New Year’s Baby, immigrated from Germany. Interestingly, January 1st is not a legal holiday in Israel, officially because of its historic origins as a Christian feast day.


Auld Lang Syne (literally ‘old long ago’ in the Scottish dialect) is sung or played at the stroke of midnight throughout the English-speaking world (and then there is George Harrison’s “Ring Out the Old”). Versions of the song have been part of the New Year’s festivities since the 17th century but Robert Burns was inspired to compose a modern rendition, which was published after his death in 1796. (It took Guy Lombardo, however, to make it popular…)

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and days of auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and days of auld lang syne?
And here’s a hand, my trusty friend
And gie’s a hand o’ thine
We’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne

Here’s how to wish someone a Happy New Year around the world:

  • Arabic: Kul ‘aam u antum salimoun
  • Brazilian: Boas Festas e Feliz Ano Novo means “Good Parties and Happy New Year”
  • Chinese: Chu Shen Tan Xin Nian Kuai Le (thanks, Jeff)
  • Czechoslavakia: Scastny Novy Rok
  • Dutch: Gullukkig Niuw Jaar
  • Finnish: Onnellista Uutta Vuotta
  • French: Bonne Annee
  • German: Prosit Neujahr
  • Greek: Eftecheezmaenos o Kaenooryos hronos
  • Hebrew: L’Shannah Tovah Tikatevu
  • Hindi: Niya Saa Moobaarak
  • Irish (Gaelic): Bliain nua fe mhaise dhuit
  • Italian: Buon Capodanno
  • Khmer: Sua Sdei tfnam tmei
  • Laotian: Sabai dee pee mai
  • Polish: Szczesliwego Nowego Roku
  • Portuguese: Feliz Ano Novo
  • Russian: S Novim Godom
  • Serbo-Croatian: Scecna nova godina
  • Spanish: Feliz Ano Nuevo
  • Swedish: Ha ett gott nytt år
  • Turkish: Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun
  • Vietnamese: Cung-Chuc Tan-Xuan

[If you are a native speaker, please feel free to offer any corrections or additions!]

Which of these customs appeal to you? Are they done in your family, or will you try to adopt any of them? However you’re going to celebrate, my warmest wishes for the year to come… and eat hearty!

[thanks to Bruce Umbaugh (here or here) for research assistance]

Can’t Sleep? Try ‘Quiet Wakefulness’ Instead

Unknown’…[A] powerful resting activity called “quiet wakefulness” … is gaining traction among sleep doctors and busy-but-health-conscious circles. What exactly is quiet wakefulness? In short, it’s simply resting with your eyes closed. It’s compelling, in part, because it completely eliminates the stress surrounding sleep — particularly that I can’t fall asleep right now so my health is going to fall apart feeling that keeps you awake…

[W]hile you might not be able to fully control exactly when you fall asleep, you can control when you rest — and that’s one of quiet wakefulness’ biggest benefits.…’

Via Elemental

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The controversy over ‘Jewish genius’

New York Times columnist Bret Stephens has provoked a firestorm of disputation and prompted calls for readers to cancel their UnknownTimes subscriptions with a December 27 op-ed piece titled The Secrets of Jewish Genius. 

Stephens has been controversial in the past, attacking climate change science, referring to “thuggish elements” in Black Lives Matter, and writing a piece about “the disease of the Arab mind.”  

In this latest piece, he poses his central premise here:

’…[H]ow is it that a people who never amounted even to one-third of 1 percent of the world’s population contributed so seminally to so many of its most pathbreaking ideas and innovations?…’

As the column ventures, he is not advancing but debunking the assertion that “Jews are smarter”. He ties Jewish intellectual contribution — and, BTW, the column is not so much original thinking as a hat tip to a book, Genius and Anxiety by Norman Lebrecht — not to the assertion that Jews think “better” but that they think “differently”. This is predicated on cultural influences:

There is a religious tradition that, unlike some others, asks the believer not only to observe and obey but also to discuss and disagree. There is the never-quite-comfortable status of Jews in places where they are the minority — intimately familiar with the customs of the country while maintaining a critical distance from them. There is a moral belief, “incarnate in the Jewish people” according to Einstein, that “the life of the individual only has value [insofar] as it aids in making the life of every living thing nobler and more beautiful.”

Most important, he observes, is that a history of perennial persecution culminating in the Holocaust, and repeated exile, has shaped an ethos that “everything that seems solid and valuable is ultimately perishable, while everything that is intangible — knowledge most of all — is potentially everlasting.”

Yet it seems most critics never read further than the initial paragraphs discussing the “Jews are smarter” trope, Yahoo News’ and The Guardian‘s coverage being cases in point. Although Stephens sets it up as a straw man argument, The Guardian‘s coverage highlights criticism of Stephens as:

  • A eugenicist
  • “using the same genetics arguments that informed Nazism and white supremacist thinking”
  • “expressing a belief in the genetic and cultural inferiority of non-Ashkenazi Jews”
  • “…a Jew endorsing the idea that certain races are inherently superior to other”

I am convinced that a close reading of the column would not support the reaction it has provoked. But Stephens is trolling us. It should be clear right from the audacity of his use of “Jewish genius” in the title that he is poking the bear of resurgent anti-Semitism. It remains to be seen whether he is doing it from a protected enough position behind the thick walls of the Times. I suppose it depends on how many people cancel those subscriptions

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What If President Trump Is In Cognitive Decline? No, Seriously

Steve Almond: 

Unknown
’if you examine the Trump presidency through the lens of cognitive decline, some of its more bewildering aspects start to make a lot more sense.

Observers — particularly those troubled by the cruelty of his regime — tend to view Trump as lazy, incompetent, demagogic and mendacious. But it seems increasingly possible that the president’s behavior is also a function of his desperate attempts to mask serious cognitive struggles…

Maybe the reason our president is reported to spend up to nine hours per day engaged in “unstructured executive time” isn’t just because he’s lazy. Maybe he’s trying to duck parts of the job he can’t handle. Maybe the reason he doesn’t read anything — including briefings — is because he can’t absorb or retain complex concepts.

Maybe the reason his unscripted speech is so often incoherent and littered with vagaries (relying on placeholder words such as  “thing” and “they”) is because he cannot summon the specific vocabulary he wants to use.

Maybe the reason Trump seeks out friendly media outlets and rallies is because he can only function in venues that feel safe and familiar, where no one will expose his struggles, where he can ramble and repeat the same slogans and stories and still receive applause…

UnknownWhat many of us don’t understand about cognitive struggles is the tremendous shame people feel. Particularly people — like Trump — who are in constant danger of being exposed.

Perhaps the reason he makes such a point of bragging about his big brain and his amazing memory is because he’s racked with doubts about both. Perhaps part of the reason his lies are so frequent and brazen — consider the whopper he told about why he skipped the climate change meeting at the G7 — is because he doesn’t have enough executive function to orchestrate his lies.

I say none of this lightly.

Trump is unfit for office based on his personal corruption, his disloyalty to the Constitution and his documented crimes.

All of these offenses are predicated on the notion that Trump is, in fact, in control of his faculties. But what if he isn’t?

That may sound like a partisan question, but it’s really a medical one. Simply put: a person in cognitive decline — whether Democrat or Republican — shouldn’t control the nuclear codes.…’

Via Cognoscenti

This Washington State Representative has been accused of domestic terrorism and won’t step down

Matt Shea’Matt Shea has served as a state representative for Washington since 2008. He’s also a violent religious separatist and a member of the extreme right-wing Patriot Movement. Shea was an ardent supporter of Cliven Bundy, the Mormon extremist who lead a face-off with the government over cattle-grazing fees and an admitted act of arson, and later joined in on the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. He also has a history of violent road rage, and has been accused of physical abuse by multiple ex-wives. And then there was that whole thing with child training camps for an impending race war.

Somehow, none of that has disqualified him thus far from serving in the Washington State House of Representatives. But that might change, thanks to a new report from an independent investigation into his activities…

To be clear: this man has a history of alleged actions and behavior that could be fairly interpreted as radical religious terrorism. And he is still serving in public office. In the immediate aftermath of this report, Shea has been suspended from the House Republican Caucus, and removed from both the House Environment and and House Energy Committees. But he is still, technically, a state representative, and has thus far refused to bow down to pressures to resign.…’

Via Boing Boing

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R.I.P. Ram Dass (1931-2019)

 

08mag talk ramdass superJumboProponent of LSD and New Age Enlightenment Dies at 88:

’Q: You’ve said that you’re ready to die. When did you know?

A: When I arrived at my soul. Soul doesn’t have fear of dying. Ego has very pronounced fear of dying. The ego, this incarnation, is life and dying. The soul is infinite.…’

Via New York Times

 

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Words for Emotions Tend to Translate Poorly

Unknown‘Equivalent’ Emotional Concepts May Not be Identical Across Languages/Cultures:

’The true meaning of words may be lost in translation, according to research suggesting the way people understand terms such as “anger” or “love” differs between languages.

For example, while the concept of “love” is closely linked to “like” and “want” in Indo-European languages, it is strongly linked to “pity” in Austronesian languages – a family that includes Hawaiian and Javanese.

“Even though we might say there is a word for anger in hundreds of languages, these words actually might not mean the same thing,” said Joshua Conrad Jackson, co-author of the research from University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.…’

Via The Guardian

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Feeling sick is an emotion meant to help you get better faster

Unknown’Animal behaviorists and neuroimmunologists use the term sickness behavior to describe the observable behavior changes that occur during illness.

Health care providers often treat these symptoms as little more than annoying side effects of having an infectious disease. But as it turns out, these changes may actually be part of how you fight off infection.

I’m an anthropologist interested in how illness and infection have shaped human evolution. My colleagues and I propose that all these aspects of being sick are features of an emotion that we call “lassitude.” And it’s an important part of how human beings work to recover from illness.

Your body sets priorities when fighting germs

The human immune system is a complex set of mechanisms that help you suppress and eliminate organisms – such as bacteria, viruses and parasitic worms – that cause infection.

Activating the immune system, however, costs your body a lot of energy. This presents a series of problems that your brain and body must solve to fight against infection most effectively. Where will this extra energy come from? What should you do to avoid additional infections or injuries that would increase the immune system’s energy requirements even more?

Fever is a critical part of the immune response to some infections, but the energy cost of raising your temperature is particularly high. Is there anything you can do to reduce this cost?

To eat or not to eat is a choice that affects your body’s fight against infection. On one hand, food ultimately provides energy to your body, and some foods even contain compounds that may help eliminate pathogens. But it also takes energy to digest food, which diverts resources from your all-out immune effort. Consuming food also increases your risk of acquiring additional pathogens. So what should you eat when you’re sick, and how much?

We humans are highly dependent on others to care for and support us when we’re sick. What should you do to make sure your friends and family care for you when you’re ill?

My colleagues and I propose that the distinctive changes that occur when you get sick help you solve these problems automatically.

Fatigue reduces your level of physical activity, which leaves more energy available for the immune system.
Increased susceptibility to nausea and pain makes you less likely to acquire an infection or injury that would further increase the immune system’s workload.
Increased sensitivity to cold motivates you to seek out things like warm clothing and heat sources that reduce the costs of keeping body temperature up.
Changes in appetite and food preferences push you to eat (or not eat) in a way that supports the fight against infection.
Feelings of sadness, depression and general wretchedness provide an honest signal to your friends and family that you need help.…’

Via The Conversation

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Cancel Culture: Chaotic Good?

UnknownIn our post-truth world, language has become more overtly dangerous, and this can be both bad or good:

’[S]ometimes it seems as though the one thing more frightening than a lone gunman (and it isn’t a young person responding to your well-intentioned life advice with “ok boomer”) is a random bunch of people who have banded together in some common cause. When this common cause is being aggrieved against someone’s problematic behavior, and results in “calling out,” silencing or boycotting the problematic behavior, we now call this “cancelling” someone. And the tendency toward this kind of behavior is called “cancel culture.”

Is the destructive power of cancel culture too much?
Perhaps more than anything else, cancel culture will be seen as an intrinsic part of life lived publicly in this decade, with the downfall of powerful Hollywood producers, racist and sexist comedians, white supremacists, and clueless corporations left in its wake. Cancel culture, not unlike cyberbullying, has also had its more “innocent” victims, ordinary citizens who said the unacceptable thing in a public forum. Is the destructive power of cancel culture too much?…’

Via JSTOR Daily

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The Best News of the Year

Images…and the bad news about good news:

Jason Kottke points to year-end lists of the good news that you may have missed (since it’s a truism that “good news doesn’t sell newspapers”). But he cautions us not to be misled by focusing too much on good news. The so-called New Optimists, led by Steven Pinker, delight in pointing out the data that there is less human misery now, by many measures, than ever before in history. But Kottke reminds us that there are good reasons to be cautious of such claims. A long piece by Oliver Burkeman in The Guardian suggests that, even if things are going well, we may not have reason for confidence either in the likelihood of continued improvement or in the ways we have been doing things politically and economically. Kottke links to several other critiques of Pinker’s work as well. (And all without any apology for being such a Downer Debbie.)

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Hong Kong protests: How unrest criminalized a generation

‘(A)lmost everyone who has attended protests in recent months has been at an event deemed unlawful. Many may be guilty of rioting, due to the offense’s broad legal definition, or of violating a ban on facial coverings at public assemblies, which city leaders introduced by invoking rarely-used emergency powers.

The number of people potentially eligible for arrest could number in the hundreds of thousands.

Many of those already arrested …are in their twenties, or even younger. They have been the drivers of the protest movement but have also borne the brunt of the reaction and could be the ones ultimately paying the cost — an entire generation criminalized, in a fight for their future which could end up costing them just that….’

Via CNN

Fifteen Ways To Survive The Coming Collapse Of Civilization

Images’1. Stockpile notebooks (and a few pens): Stockpiling food is a fool’s game. The food will mostly spoil. But notebooks will be essential.

2. Learn to frown: Americans spend entirely too much time smiling — particularly when they’re not happy. Once cameras no longer exist, smiling will be unnecessary. Practice frowning now!

3. Listen to children: Children make the best conversation. And they are geniuses at adaptation.

4. Write songs: After civilization goes bye-bye, you won’t be able to download songs by the Beatles or Lady Gaga. To hear music, you will need to write it yourself. So get started.

5. Know thyself: The first couple of years that I went to Indian restaurants, I always ordered curried vegetables. It was the cheapest entrée, and I never had much money. Then one day I noticed that curried vegetables have no taste. For another dollar I could buy aloo matar gobi (literally “potatoes peas cauliflower”), which tastes fabulous. This was a life-reversing moment. A few years later I realized that I don’t like movies. Everyone is supposed to enjoy them, but I don’t. I much prefer theater — even bad theater. I like watching people show off on a stage. This is who I am, I discovered: a movie-hating aloo-matar-gobi lover. That’s when I began to make progress in life.

6. Move beyond self-help: Do self-help books actually help anyone? Some people must benefit — or believe they benefit — from them, or the entire industry would go bankrupt. But I suspect the opposite of self-help would be more effective. I plan to write a book titled Rubbing Salt in Your Wounds. Its premise is simple: identify your greatest fault and make it worse. If you overeat, overeat more. If you’re too stingy, spend even less money. If you’re anxious, make yourself hysterically nervous. Magnify your faults until you see the abyss of self-destruction before you. What then? It’s up to you.

7.Remember the earth: Once a day remember that you live on a globe largely covered with blue water, slowly rotating.

8. Lower your standards: Here is the stupidest thing I ever said: I was talking to my mother-in-law about a relative who was aging and unmarried. “It’s easy to get married,” I blithely opined. “You just have to lower your standards.” Then I remembered I had married her daughter. Nonetheless, my advice is correct. Lower your standards. Once civilization is undone, this will be essential.

9. Listen to quiet radio: Listen to the radio so softly that you can’t hear the words. Pay attention to what the radio might be saying.

10. Observe mice: If your house has mice, study them. Where do they live? When do they emerge? Where do they scamper? What foods do they prefer? After civilization has been demolished, we’ll live much like mice.

11. Start a book garden: Clear a plot of land ten feet by five feet. Bury twelve books upright in the soil, so that only two or three inches of each volume shows. The next time a friend comes to visit, gesture toward your garden and nonchalantly remark, “I’m growing books.”

12. Wash your hands in the air: Normally we wash our hands in water, but there are other options. Washing your hands in the air cleanses your etheric energy field. Go to a remote mountain pass and rub your hands in the breeze.

13. Be a loser: “The first shall be last.” “The meek shall inherit the earth.” These are quotes from Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, which possibly predicts the world after civilization’s demise. In case Jesus is right, become a loser today.

14. Combine the happiness of honey with the sadness of salt: Follow this recipe: ½ cup clover honey ¼ teaspoon sea salt. Mix together thoroughly. Spread on toast.

15. Find a saint: In his book Be Here Now, Ram Dass studies with yogis in northern India. He then returns to Massachusetts and suddenly perceives that his aunt Sophie is an enlightened being. Look around carefully at your next family reunion or neighborhood block party. Try to find saints.…’

— Sparrow, via The Sun Magazine

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Andrew Sullivan: What We Know About Trump Going Into 2020

18 donald trump 1 w700 h467 2x’The two core lessons of the past few years are …: (1) Trumpism has a real base of support in the country with needs that must be addressed, and (2) Donald Trump is incapable of doing it and is such an unstable, malignant, destructive narcissist that he threatens our entire system of government. The reason this impeachment feels so awful is that it requires removing a figure to whom so many are so deeply bonded because he was the first politician to hear them in decades. It feels to them like impeachment is another insult from the political elite, added to the injury of the 21st century. They take it personally, which is why their emotions have flooded their brains. And this is understandable.

But when you think of what might have been and reflect on what has happened, it is crystal clear that this impeachment is not about the Trump agenda or a more coherent version of it. It is about the character of one man: his decision to forgo any outreach, poison domestic politics, marinate it in deranged invective, betray his followers by enriching the plutocracy, destroy the dignity of the office of president, and turn his position into a means of self-enrichment.…’

Via New York Mag

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Patti Smith’s Lettuce Soup Recipe for Starving Artists

Justkids pattismith’Reconstructionist Patti Smith is among the most extraordinary and influential artists of the past century, her achievements consistently demolishing the artificial wall between “high” and “low” culture by spanning from Billboard Chart hits to poetry inspired by Rimbaud and Blake, from CBGB to London’s Trolley Gallery, from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to the National Book Award. Most remarkable, however, is Smith’s self-made journey of creative discovery and fame. When she moved to New York City in her early twenties, she met legendary photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, who became her lover and comrade in arms, and they lived the quintessential life of the starving artist — not in the fashionable political-statement sense of creative poverty but in the penurious caloric-deficiency sense.

At the opening of her exhibition The Coral Sea at Cincinnati’s Contemporary Arts Center, titled after her poetic masterpiece of the same name honoring Mapplethorpe, Smith reads from her 2010 memoir Just Kids, which tells the story of the pair’s early years in New York and which earned her the National Book Award. Here, witty and wry as ever, she shares her famous lettuce soup recipe, one of the strange concoctions, at once endearing and heartbreaking, that sustained the two as they struggled to get by on virtually no money — a wonderful reminder that money is not the object of the creative life and a fine addition to [The Artists’ and Writers’ Cookbook](https://www.brainpickings.org/2013/04/17/the-artists-writers-cookbook-1961/)…’

Via Brain Pickings

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Schiff: Impeachment isn’t a failure if Senate acquits Trump

JZMUZAQ7KEI6VLMYATEX7SVPCANot ‘if’ but ‘when’, it sounds like:

’The impeachment process won’t be a failure if President Donald Trump is acquitted by the Senate, as seems almost certain, Democratic Representative Adam Schiff said Sunday.

“No, it isn’t a failure. At least it’s not a failure in the sense of our constitutional duty in the House,” Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on ABC’s “This Week.”

On the same program, Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, continued to press the Democrats’ case, saying Trump “poses a continuing threat” to U.S. national security and democracy.

“Do we have a constitutional democracy, or do we have a monarchy where the president is unaccountable? That’s what at stake here,” Nadler said…

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a top Trump ally, on Saturday rejected the idea that he must be a “fair juror” in the Senate. “I think impeachment is going to end quickly in the Senate,” Graham told CNN from Qatar, where he was attending the Doha Forum. “I want to end this matter quickly and move on to other things…

Brown and Nadler criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for vowing, in an interview on Fox News on Thursday, “total coordination with the White House” on impeachment strategy.

“The constitution prescribes a special oath for the senators when they sit as a trial in impeachment. They have to pledge to do impartial justice. And here you have the majority leader of the Senate, in effect the foreman of the jury, saying he’s going to work hand in glove with the defense attorney,” Nadler said.

On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware said that if Trump is exonerated, “he will be unbounded. I’m gravely concerned about what else he might do between now and the 2020 election, when there are no restrictions on his behavior.” …’

Via Boston Globe

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What Senators Have Said About Impeachment

Images’A number of Senate Republicans echoed members of their party in the House, deriding the impeachment as “a sham” and saying that Mr. Trump did nothing wrong. Some attacked House Democrats for delaying the transmittal of the charges to the Senate. 

A handful of Republicans followed the lead of Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, who has asserted that he did not intend to act as an impartial juror. Others said that while the House process had been political, they would conduct a fair trial in the Senate.

Nine members from both parties have not released public statements on impeachment since Wednesday, including some Republicans who have been more skeptical of Mr. Trump or represent Democratic-leaning states.

Many Democrats issued statements promising to be impartial jurors in the Senate trial and challenging Mr. McConnell, who has been coordinating with White House officials. Others addressed the evidence they have seen so far, saying they believed there was clear misconduct.

The full list of senators with recent statements on impeachment…’

Via New York Times

Solstice to Solstice

SolarcanMatrixSolstice 5Solargraph Timelapse:

’The 2019 December Solstice, on the first day of winter in planet Earth’s northern hemisphere and summer in the south, is at 4:19 Universal Time December 22. That’s December 21 for North America, though. Celebrate with a timelapse animation of the Sun’s seasonal progression through the sky. It was made with solargraph images from an ingenious array of 27 pinhole cameras. The first frame from the Solarcan camera matrix was recorded near December 21, 2018. The last frame in the series finished near June 21, 2019, the northern summer solstice. All 27 camera exposures were started at the same time, with a camera covered and removed from the array once a week. Viewed consecutively the pinhole camera pictures accumulate the traces of the Sun’s daily path from winter (bottom) to summer (top) solstice. Traces of the Sun’s path are reflected by the foreground Williestruther Loch, in the Scottish Borders. Just select the image or follow this link to play the entire 27 frame (gif) timelapse.…’

Via APOD

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No One in the Senate is Going to Follow the Rules. Try This Instead…

‘This is why all eyes are now on Chief Justice John Roberts. The “rules” suggest that he is in charge of how the Senate trial will go, but no one knows if he will opt to take the Senate trial proceedings firmly in hand or allow Mitch McConnell to use them for more smash-and-grab–style looting. Roberts has every reason to keep his head down and let McConnell do whatever he wants; it would keep both himself and the high court above the ugliness that is sure to come. Chief Justice William Rehnquist, for whom Roberts once served as a law clerk, famously said of his own role presiding over the Clinton impeachment, “I did nothing in particular, and did it very well.” Roberts would surely like nothing more than to follow suit. It is also true, as my friend Sonja West has urged, that the chief justice of the United States has a constitutional duty to behave as more than just a “potted plant in a fancy robe” in this process. The Framers installed the chief justice as the person to preside over the Senate impeachment process because, despite McConnell’s claims, impeachment is not a mere partisan political effort….’

Via Slate

Trump’s Impeachment Provokes a Deeper Descent Into Demagoguery

Dana Milbank observes in The Washington Post:

‘Trump’s impeachment provoked him to descend still deeper into the depths of demagoguery. His impeachment-night campaign speech — just over two hours long — was an alarming blend of instability and rage….’

I would add that it appears to be not merely a descent into demagoguery but into mental instability. Even with the vanishingly slim odds of conviction and removal from office in the Senate, perhaps as his decompensation proceeds the Amendment 25 Section 4 process for removing a President when deemed too disabled to discharge his functions will become more possible?

The Photographer Who X-Rayed Chernobyl

‘When Brazilian artist Alice Miceli photographed Chernobyl’s Exclusion Zone, she placed radiographic film plates used for chest X-rays on the ground, windows, and trees. She was determined to capture the unseen. The resulting images are unexpected and don’t follow any predictable patterns… ‘

Via Atlas Obscura

‘Deep Trouble’

Presidential Historian Warns Trump That It’s About To Get Worse:

‘Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley predicted that support for President Donald Trump will sink as impeachment proceedings advance. 

Brinkley was asked about a CNN poll released last week that found 50% want Trump impeached and removed from office, versus 43% opposed. 

“It just tells you what deep trouble Donald Trump’s in,” he said on the network on Friday. “I mean when you have 50% of the country wanting you not just impeached but removed from office, and the game hasn’t even gotten fast yet…’

— Via HuffPost

Maxims

  • The sooner you do something, the more of your life you get to spend with that thing done.
  • Acting the way you want to feel usually works.
  • All you need to do to finish things is keep starting them until they’re done.
  • Whenever I think I’m mad at a person, I’m really just mad at a situation.
  • If I find myself in an argument, I’ve made a mistake.