never let a tragedy go unexploited, blue winter wallpaper, treating literature as data

Time really got away from me today. I’ve been trying to work and keep up with the Sandy news. The storm seems to have created some data bottle necks for me for stuff I get from the northeast. It hasn’t stopped, it has just been slow. That’s not a complaint, just an observation and concern. I’ve read the NYSE floor has been closed for the first time since 1888. That again is nothing to panic about since so much of trading is done digitally anyway. Though this report says it is costing traders money, Sandy’s Damage So Far: More than $20 Billion

The storm has already disrupted the U.S. economy in dramatic ways, paralyzing mass transportation on the East Coast and leaving millions without power. The Associated Press reports that more than 13,500 flights have been canceled already, and New York’s three major airports remain shut down.

The storm has also brought to life a potential economic nightmare by flooding the New York City Subway system. In what MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota called the worst disaster in Subway’s 108-year history, seven tunnels beneath the East River were inundated. Depending on how long it takes to restore the system, that damage could cause billions of dollars in additional losses.

Time has some real photos of Sandy’s effects, In the Eye of the Storm: Capturing Sandy’s Wrath

Never let a tragedy go unexploited: Romney playing campaign videos at ‘storm relief events’. As Josh Marshall notes any reporter who is repeating the Romney campaign saying they have shut down to help with emergency relief is turning a blind eye to the reality. Conservative Republican Strategist Defends Romney’s Plan To Dismantle FEMA. if you grew up in the USA you grew up with the message that conservatives are against big gov’mint. That has always been a lie. Conservatives and government are joined at the waist and always have been – that was the reason that K-Street exists. What conservatives are against is government that works, government that does any good. As one pundit has already noted, he should be shocked that Sandy is already being exploited, but he is not. This is just one of the ways, 7 Fake Hurricane Sandy Photos You’re Sharing on Social Media

a blue winter day without you wallpaper

Literature is not Data: Against Digital Humanities by Stephen Marche

But there is a deeper problem with the digital humanities in general, a fundamental assumption that runs through all aspects of the methodology and which has not been adequately assessed in its nascent theory. Literature cannot meaningfully be treated as data. The problem is essential rather than superficial: literature is not data. Literature is the opposite of data.

Data precedes written literature. The first Sumerian examples of written language are recordings of beer and barley orders. But The Epic of Gilgamesh, the first story, is the story of “the man who saw the deep,” a hero who has contact with the ineffable. The very first work of surviving literature is on the subject of what can’t be processed as information, what transcends data.

The first problem is that literature is terminally incomplete. You can record every baseball statistic. You can record every trade over the course of a year. You can work out the trillions of permutations and combinations available on a chessboard. You can even establish a complete database for all of the legislation and case law in the world. But you cannot know even most of literature, even English literature. Huge swaths of the tradition are absent or in ruins. Among the first Anglo-Saxon poems, from the eighth century, is “The Ruin,” a powerful testament to the brokenness inherent in civilization. Its opening lines:

The masonry is wondrous; fates broke it
The courtyard pavements were smashed; the work of giants is decaying.

The poem comes from the Exeter Book of Anglo-Saxon poetry and several key lines have been destroyed by damp. So, one of the original poems in the English lyric tradition contains, in its very physical existence, a comment on the fragility of the codex as a mode of transmission. The original poem about a ruin is itself a ruin.

Literature is haunted by such oblivion, by incipient decay. The information we have about the past is, in almost every case, fragmentary. There are always masses of data which are simply missing or which cannot be untangled.

If you can get by some of Marche’s attrition errors – this caused this and definitely had this effect – there is a lot worth pondering.




writing like jazz, road less traveled wallpaper, brains and responsibility

The Voice Is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac forged a voice that has come to be appreciated as a landmark literary invention in American letters. Its elements are ecstasy arising from misery (like Thomas Wolfe), catalogues of desire (think Whitman and Melville), and Kerouac’s very own technique of reaching rock bottom before emerging with a recreated world in his hands:

I was delirious . . . hurrying to a plank where all the angels dove off and flew into the holy void of uncreated emptiness, the potent and inconceivable radiancies shining in bright Mind Essence, innumerable lotus-lands falling open in the magic mothswarm of heaven . . . I felt sweet, swinging bliss, like a big shot of heroin in the mainline vein; like a gulp of wine late in the afternoon and it makes you shudder; my feet tingled. I thought I was going to die the very next moment. But I didn’t die, and walked four miles and picked up ten long butts and took them back to Marylou’s hotel room and poured their tobacco in my old pipe and lit up. I was too young to know what had happened.

His is a voice like no other: musical in the variations-on-a-theme style of Bebop virtuosi (Kerouac’s actual jazz writings, alone, would put him in that pantheon)..

Putting together, melding the rhythm of jazz and still being very exacting about meaning, getting the substance to agree with the style was/is truly remarkable. To just put words together to convey thoughts, every sentence like an equation is difficult enough.

the road less traveled wallpaper

Endangered Tattoos: Volunteers Get Inked to Help Save Species [Slide Show].


Did Your Brain Make You Do It?

ARE you responsible for your behavior if your brain “made you do it”?

Often we think not. For example, research now suggests that the brain’s frontal lobes, which are crucial for self-control, are not yet mature in adolescents. This finding has helped shape attitudes about whether young people are fully responsible for their actions. In 2005, when the Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty for juveniles was unconstitutional, its decision explicitly took into consideration that “parts of the brain involved in behavior control continue to mature through late adolescence.”

A brain characteristic that was even weakly associated with violence led people to exonerate the protagonist more than a psychological factor that was strongly associated with violent acts. Moreover, the participants in our study were much more likely, given a protagonist with a brain characteristic, to view the behavior as “automatic” rather than “motivated,” and to view the behavior as unrelated to the protagonist’s character. The participants described the protagonists with brain characteristics in ways that suggested that the “true” person was not at the helm of himself. The behavior was caused, not intended.

In contrast, while psychologically damaging experiences like childhood abuse often elicited sympathy for the protagonist and sometimes even prompted considerable mitigation of blame, the participants still saw the protagonist’s behavior as intentional. The protagonist himself was twisted by his history of trauma; it wasn’t just his brain. Most participants felt that in such cases, personal character remained relevant in determining how the protagonist went on to act.

I wonder at people’s tendency to not be able to associate harm done from a distance – removed by actual geography or income or social status – and the effect that harm has on their lives. They certainly get being knocked own and their watch smart phone stolen. The latter can have devastating consequences – the victim feeling violated. They might feel unsafe for months or even years. Yet three states or a continent away, some very wealthy men in a room determine public policy, the way they think capitalism should be structured that can take way tens of thousands of dollars over their lifetime. Diminish their quality of life. Make their cities into urban dystopias and towns more toxic. Cause disease directly or through stress, and yet reward those same thieves in silk ties and white shirts by voting for policies that perpetuate the things they say they find most disturbing about modern life. This inability to make connections between cause and effect, or built in denial mechanisms, seems to complicate the ability to assign credit or blame, and see cause and effect.

kirk douglas as vincent van gogh on the set of Lust for Life,1956. The movie was based on a fictionalized novel about Van Gogh by Irving Stone. Overall a pretty good movie, though a little overwrought. “No one has called any of my pictures obscene ever but I have been constantly blamed for an even greater sin — the ugliness.” Vincent Van Gogh.

elizabeth taylor on the set of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, 1958. The movie was based on the play by Tennessee Williams. Taylor played Maggie the Cat. Lots of heated melodrama about death, inheritance, marriage, repressed homosexuality, family loyalty, addictions and delusions. Maggie ( Elizabeth Taylor): “Truth! Truth! Everybody keeps hollerin’ about the truth. Well, the truth is as dirty as lies.”

the americana, fairy tales and health care

The Americana Hotel of Miami Beach, Florida, was designed by architect and Russian immigrant Morris Lapidus (1902–2001).  I can’t pin down the first reinforced concrete building, but the first skyscraper made of reinforce concrete was the Ingalls Building of Cincinnati, Ohio, built in  1903. The Americana, completed in 1956 took advantage of the flexibility of reinforced concrete to use curves and projected spaces that had not previously been possible. While the form is obviously different, Lapidus was inspired by the experimental shape of Frank Lloyd Wright’s late career buildings, especially the Guggenheim Museum. The Americana was part of a trend that came to be known as Miami Modern architecture style or “MIMO”, which was a part of the mid-century modernism, or the international style that begin to incorporate prefabricated materials. Even with the new curves, the building has a mathematical like repetition of pattern, almost a real life M.C. Escher in real life dimensions. My impression of the photo – the cars and general motif is more The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, than Madmen.

Mitt Romney, health insurance, and the myth that no one ever dies because of lack of health insurance

Whatever the true benefits, costs, and drawbacks of “Obamacare,” there have been sum unbelievably stupid things said about it, and I’ve even documented some of them by opponents of the PPACA, including the claim that Obama’s fixin’ death panels for grandma. Amusingly, the “Health Ranger” (a.k.a. Health Danger) Mike Adams really hates Obamacare, to the point of proclaiming shortly after it was passed into law that the PPACA would produce a health care dictatorship and doom America to Pharma-dominated sickness and suffering. He even called it a “crime against America.”

Unfortunately, laying out enough napalm-grade flaming stupid to defoliate the entire Amazon River basin is not limited to clueless wonders like Mike Adams. There are other clueless wonders out there who don’t seem to understand the real world. Unfortunately, one of them is running for President. Yes, I’m referring to Mitt Romney, who late last week made a statement so brain-meltingly out of touch with the real world that even I had a hard time believing that he actually said it. Ironically, enough, a mere couple of days after Mitt Romney put his cluelessness on display for the world to see, there also appeared a tear-inducing op-ed piece published yesterday in the New York Times by Nicholas Kristof entitled A Possibly Fatal Mistake, which described in a very personal story about a friend of his the health impact of not having health insurance for those millions of people.

The notion that emergency rooms are free medical care for those without health insurance is like believing that Little Red Riding Hood is detailed fact based account of something that happened to a girl in a forest once upon a time, talking wolves and all. Social-Darwinist Mike Adams and Mitt Romney are victims in away. They believe that if you cannot afford health care it is because of your moral failings. You lack the work ethic and moral grit that figures like themselves have in excess thus you deserve a life of pain and suffering, or death, But they cannot say that because of social pressure. Thus they are forced by that pressure to , as someone recently said, to shuck and jive around the issue with distortions, spin and lies.

The man O’Reilly is speaking to is Marc Lamont Hill, PH.D, a professor at Columbia University. The picture is by way of here. I wonder what the reaction would have been if Professor Hill had said to O’Reilly, “Let’s say you’re a Nazi – and you kind of look like one a little bit…”

Build Your Own Electric Ghost

With the slow and steady rise of household electricity in the early 20th century, spiritualists and mystics had new tools to convince people that they were able to communicate with and conjure supernatural beings. Skepticism was a prominent theme in the electrical hobbyist magazines of the 1910s and ’20s and writers who knew about how to create seemingly magical phenomena with electricity took a lot of pleasure in showing off how these tricks worked. The pages of magazines like Science and Invention, Electrical Experimenter and Practical Electrics were filled with articles explaining how the pseudo-supernatural effects were achieved, and how you could make them right at home to impress your friends.

There are some interesting pictures and diagrams at the link.

can your body sense events before the conscious mind, park trees autumn wallpaper, mitt and conservatives suddenly embrace european style economics

Can Your Body Sense Future Events Without Any External Clue?

Wouldn’t it be amazing if our bodies prepared us for future events that could be very important to us, even if there’s no clue about what those events will be?

Presentiment without any external clues may, in fact, exist, according to new Northwestern University research that analyzes the results of 26 studies published between 1978 and 2010.

Researchers already know that our subconscious minds sometimes know more than our conscious minds. Physiological measures of subconscious arousal, for instance, tend to show up before conscious awareness that a deck of cards is stacked against us.

“What hasn’t been clear is whether humans have the ability to predict future important events even without any clues as to what might happen,” said Julia Mossbridge, lead author of the study and research associate in the Visual Perception, Cognition and Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern.

A person playing a video game at work while wearing headphones, for example, can’t hear when his or her boss is coming around the corner.

“But our analysis suggests that if you were tuned into your body, you might be able to detect these anticipatory changes between two and 10 seconds beforehand and close your video game,” Mossbridge said. “You might even have a chance to open that spreadsheet you were supposed to be working on. And if you were lucky, you could do all this before your boss entered the room.”

This phenomenon is sometimes called “presentiment,” as in “sensing the future,” but Mossbridge said she and other researchers are not sure whether people are really sensing the future.

“I like to call the phenomenon ‘anomalous anticipatory activity,’” she said. “The phenomenon is anomalous, some scientists argue, because we can’t explain it using present-day understanding about how biology works; though explanations related to recent quantum biological findings could potentially make sense. It’s anticipatory because it seems to predict future physiological changes in response to an important event without any known clues, and it’s an activity because it consists of changes in the cardiopulmonary, skin and nervous systems.”

Alot of people have anticipatory feelings about what might happen. Just on the basis of feelings alone – excluding physiological and subconscious neural feedback, this article might have some conformation bias validated. It is important to note that the body may be picking up on certain cues before the conscious mind fully assimilates them. Like the example of the boss approaching. That may also coincide with some conversation in other cubicles suddenly becoming a little more hushed or stopping altogether. Or you might feel the vibrations of footsteps and not realize it. This is not unlike the scientific confirmation of humans having some kind of intuition. In that case our minds are picking up small bits of information, like out the side of our eye, but instead it is information trickling in from the peripheral part of our consciousnesses. Suddenly we realize all along that a friend or spouse was having an affair or that it was going to be unseasonably cold that weekend – I knew, I just knew this was going to happen. So there is nothing spooky going on, but rather some insights into how our bodies and brains may be sorting out our environment and information even while our conscious attention is focused on some task.

park, fall, leaves,

park trees autumn wallpaper

Conservatives hate Europe – except for their very expensive imported German cars. It became a common campaign meme to accuse political opponents of wanting to make the USA like Europe . Western Europe would be the place where they all have some kind of public health care plan – ironically much like our very successful Medicare. Western Europe would be the place where conservatives buy their cars, their wine, have their shoes made, invest their money and even have Swiss bank accounts. It many ways it is a western Europe shaped by the American Marshall Plan with some custom details varying from country to country. Nevertheless, for America to copy anything European was to sink into an abyss of evil. Now, very predictably if you keep up with the conservative tendency to ram gear boxes to suddenly reverse course, the USA should do what Europe is doing. Not the good stuff like looking out for the elderly and disabled, or creating work programs, or working with unions. It all about the imitating European austerity. So that is two or three things conservatives like about Europe. I can understand the love of the cars – the engineering in a Mercedes or BMW is first rate ( though I think Republicans buy them mostly for their value as status symbols), if only European austerity was as good as their cars, Romney’s Economic Model

But Obama’s best response could be this: If you want to see how Romney’s economic policies would work out, take a look at Europe. And weep.

In the last few years, Germany and Britain, in particular, have implemented precisely the policies that Romney favors, and they have been richly praised by Republicans here as a result. Yet these days those economies seem, to use a German technical term, kaput.

Is Europe a fair comparison? Well, Republicans seem to think so, because they came up with it. In the last few years, they’ve repeatedly cited Republican-style austerity in places like Germany and Britain as a model for America.

Let’s dial back the time machine and listen up:

“Europe is already setting an example for the U.S.,” Representative Kenny Marchant, a Texas Republican, said in 2010. (You know things are bad when a Texas Republican is calling for Americans to study at the feet of those socialist Europeans.)

The same year, Karl Rove praised European austerity as a model for America and approvingly quoted the leader of the European Central Bank as saying: “The idea that austerity measures could trigger stagnation is incorrect.”

Representative Steve King of Iowa, another Republican, praised Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany for preaching austerity and said: “It ought to hit home to our president of the United States. It ought to hit all of us here in this country.”

“The president should learn a lesson from the ‘German Miracle,’ ” Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina, a Republican, urged on the House floor in July 2011.

Also in 2011, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, denounced Obama’s economic management and said: “We need a budget with a bold vision — like those unveiled in Britain and New Jersey.”

O.K. Let’s see how that’s working out.

New Jersey isn’t overseas, but since Sessions and many other Republicans have hailed it as a shining model of austerity, let’s start there. New Jersey ranked 47th in economic growth last year. When Gov. Chris Christie took office in 2010 and began to impose austerity measures, New Jersey ranked 35th in its unemployment rate; now it ranks 48th.

Senator Sessions, do we really aspire for the same in America as a whole?

Something similar has happened internationally. The International Monetary Fund this month downgraded its estimates for global economic growth, with only one major bright spot in the West. That would be the United States, expected to grow a bit more than 2 percent this year and next.

In contrast, Europe’s economy is expected to shrink this year and have negligible growth next year. The I.M.F. projects that Germany will grow less than 1 percent this year and next, while Britain’s economy is contracting this year.

Karl Rove, that sounds a lot like stagnation to me.

All this is exactly what economic textbooks predicted. Since Keynes, it’s been understood that, in a downturn, governments should go into deficit to stimulate demand; that’s how we got out of the Great Depression. And recent European data and I.M.F. analyses underscore that austerity in the middle of a downturn not only doesn’t help but leads to even higher ratios of debt to economic output.

So, yes, Republicans have a legitimate point about the long-term need to curb deficits and entitlement growth. But, no, it isn’t reasonable for Republicans to advocate austerity in the middle of a downturn. On that, they’re empirically wrong.

If there were still doubt about this, we’ve had a lovely natural experiment in the last few years, as the Republicans in previous years were happy to point out. All industrialized countries experienced similar slowdowns, and the United States under Obama chose a massive stimulus while Germany and Britain chose Republican-endorsed austerity.

Neither approach worked brilliantly. Obama’s initial economic stimulus created at least 1.4 million jobs, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. But that wasn’t enough, and it was partly negated by austerity in state and local governments.

Still, America’s economy is now the fastest growing among major countries in the West, and Britain’s is shrinking. Which would you prefer?

I pretty much post stuff like in the same way a cultural anthropologists studies cults. I’m not going to change any minds, but it is interesting to watch people whack a rock with a stick hoping that someday that rock will bleed real blood.

About That Edison Voice Recording. It is old, but not the oldest as claimed

The oldest playable recording of an American voice will make its second public debut today (Oct. 26), when a newly digitized version is played at a theater in Schenectady, N.Y. The first playback took place immediately after the recording was scratched onto a sheet of tinfoil, at a demonstration of Thomas Edison’s freshly invented phonograph on June 22, 1878, in St. Louis.

But despite the fact that Edison was the first person to play an audio recording, he was not the first person to record audio. And depending on the chosen definition of “performance,” the 1878 phonograph recording, which features a cornet solo and a recitation of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” is not the first-ever recording of a musical performance, as is being reported.

Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, a Parisian who made his living as a bookseller, is the first person who captured sound, and he’s also the first person who recorded a musical recital, most likely his own.

In 1857, Scott patented the phonautograph, a device that, like the phonograph, funneled sound waves through a horn with a stylus on the end, translating them into traced lines on a turning cylinder.

Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville’s phonautograph,

the rules governing sex and death and the preordained, black and white park, the blue zones of longevity

Ethics are often referred to as applied morals. here is a set of beliefs, based on some system – often faith based, often based on rationalism and normative consequences. Though sometimes overlooked, it is not uncommon to combine beliefs with normative consequences, than heavily lacing the two with one’s own personal psychological framing. While I tend to think the influence of public officials in regards how people form their moral code is often overestimated, regardless of religion or politics, they do often mirror the world view of others – which would explain to some degree how some wacky characters are elected to public office, Mitt Romney Endorsed Senate Candidate Richard Mourdock (R-IN) Who Calls Calls Rape Pregnancies A ‘Gift From God’. I can safely say that in the KJV Bible there is nothing saying that rape is a gift from either the new or Old Testament. If Mourdock were catholic that Biblical omission might be explained away by an edict from the Pope, who as God’s spokesperson on earth, can add to Biblical laws. Or in the case of eating meat on Fridays, reassess the situation and make what was previously a sin, unsinful. Mourdock is applying the general belief that everything that happens in life is God’s will from the general to the particular. Not that logic has a whole lot to do with his thinking anyway, but if we were to apply the same general rule to say contraception and abortion, than those actions would be God’s will as well, since everything that happens is God’s will. Protestants have a way of moving the parameters of sin around as well, it is just not as formal, Did He Miss The Boat?

Pennsylvania Senate candidate Tom Smith apparently missed the boat with his own rape comments. Commenting on the horror of rape, Smith said he knew how bad it was since he experienced something similar.

“I lived something similar to that with my own family,” Smith said. He then described his daughter’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy — from consensual sex.

“She chose life, and I commend her for that. She knew my views but fortunately for me … she chose the way I thought. Now don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t rape.”

Smith affirmed that he believed his daughter’s pregnancy from consensual sex was similar to a rape. “Put yourself in a father’s position, yes, I mean it is similar.”

So all sex is rape. Pregnancies from rape are God’s gift. These being such tough economic times that the only way the U.S. can survive is to gut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and the U.S. had an estimated 90,000 reported ( as opposed to total rapes reported and unreported) rapes and each conviction costs about $20k per year for the incarceration of the attacker ( apparently just the father of the child in Smith’s view); would it not be in our best interests – with our moral view shaped by Tom Smith (R-PA), Richard Mourdock (R-IN) and Mitt Romney is we just let all of those convicted of rape out of prison and took all rape laws off the books. You know, just as an extension of the faith-based insights of the conservative Republican view of morality. Those being an extension of God’s will. And who are we as a nation to defy God’s will as interpreted by Smith, Mourdoch and Romney. Within the framework of the unquestionable morality of conservatism there is another option. Conservatives love “castle” or “stand your ground” laws. Unarmed and Gunned Down by Homeowner in His ‘Castle’

The last mistake Dan Fredenberg made was getting killed in another man’s garage.

It was Sept. 22, and Mr. Fredenberg, 40, was upset. He strode up the driveway of a quiet subdivision here to confront Brice Harper, a 24-year-old romantically involved with Mr. Fredenberg’s young wife. But as he walked through Mr. Harper’s open garage door, Mr. Fredenberg was doing more than stepping uninvited onto someone else’s property. He was unwittingly walking onto a legal landscape reshaped by laws that have given homeowners new leeway to use force inside their own homes.

Proponents say the laws strengthen people’s right to defend their homes. To others, they are a license to kill.

That night, in a doorway at the back of his garage, Mr. Harper aimed a gun at the unarmed Mr. Fredenberg, fired and struck him three times. Mr. Fredenberg crumpled to the garage floor, a few feet from Mr. Harper. He was dead before morning.

Apparently he was still a threat after the first gunshot wound. What if women started taking the “castle” laws as an extension of their right to defend their person against rape, which is God’s will and blessing. If women or men started shooting people – three times – that they felt might rape them or have consensual sex with them. As we know, everything that happens in life is God’s will, so an estimated 90,000 dead rapists would be God’s will. That would save tax payers about $1.8 billion dollars a year and it would all be because God ordained it be that way, otherwise his invisible hand would stop the sexual encounters or the bullets. If things do not work out for Smith, Mourdoch and Romney here, they might have some electoral success in Iran, where they share many of the social mores of the fundamentalist ruling mullahs.

black and white park benches


Unraveling the mystery of why the inhabitants of Ikaria live so long and so well

Six months came and went. Moraitis didn’t die. Instead, he reaped his garden and, feeling emboldened, cleaned up the family vineyard as well. Easing himself into the island routine, he woke up when he felt like it, worked in the vineyards until midafternoon, made himself lunch and then took a long nap. In the evenings, he often walked to the local tavern, where he played dominoes past midnight. The years passed. His health continued to improve. He added a couple of rooms to his parents’ home so his children could visit. He built up the vineyard until it produced 400 gallons of wine a year. Today, three and a half decades later, he’s 97 years old — according to an official document he disputes; he says he’s 102 — and cancer-free. He never went through chemotherapy, took drugs or sought therapy of any sort. All he did was move home to Ikaria.

When he was 60 Moraitis was told he had incurable cancer. Interesting demographic and lifestyle trend in places designated “blue zones” that have the highest concentration of long lived humans in the world  – there is Ikaria in Greece, and the women in Okinawa on average live much longer than the general populations of any other country.

Circular Terraces of Moray -Peru

The terraces were left by the Inca. It is thought they served to study climate and how it affected crop growth.

when you write you make a unique physical something, black and white flower, bain and disempowering workers

The Missing Ink: The Lost Art of Handwriting, and Why it Still Matters

It is the pleasure of handwriting that Philip Hensher sets out to evoke – the strange, even mysterious pleasure of it, the thing about it that makes me, for example, discover in detail what I feel about something only when I begin to see the words for it appearing on paper, written by my hand. I wish he had been here yesterday, when I was describing his book to a friend of mine who is in his very early twenties and was incredulous when I told him about schools not teaching handwriting. ‘But when you type the letter A,’ he said, ‘you just press a button and an A appears. When you write it’ – and he traced an A in the air – ‘you are making it’. Surely Hensher, like me, would have seen a glimmer of hope in that reaction from a person so young.

The full review of The Missing Ink: The Lost Art of Handwriting, and Why it Still Matters By Philip Hensher (Macmillan) is at the link. Things change. If we’re worse off because we do not write or cave walls anymore it is impossible to tell. I used a typewriter for a few years during college – it was a semi-word processor, able to hold some memory. I was struggling financially and one of my relatives let me use it. While grateful at the time, I can’t say I miss it. I know how to write in cursive, but usually use block point, to make sure the short note I write can be read. There is a lot to be said for writing long works/projects on paper with a comfortable ink pen with cursive. Sometimes the best thing about what I wrote is the letters I created. The substance usually is not awful, but the writing doesn’t improve regardless of the medium used to produce it. One other great thing about writing, the actual physical act of creating marks on paper is that paper is not indestructible, but it doesn’t crash.

black and white flower with grain

Interesting insights into children and how they perceive how the world actually works – Educating jurors about science may have no effect. There was a recent article that claimed that surreptitious beliefs about how life on earth evolved had an advantage because children found otherworldly explanations more intuitive. This study found almost the opposite. Children are not mystically centered by nature. On the contrary, the tendency to have unjustified beliefs grows with age,

Generally, we think of children as having more supernatural beliefs. As they age and gain education and information (as well as brain development) they abandon the supernatural for science. Right? Apparently not. These researchers show that we retain both supernatural and scientific ideas–flexibly combining or interchanging them to explain various events.

For example, “a person might explain AIDS using witchcraft in one instance, biology in another, or combine the two in a third instance”. Indeed, say the researchers, the tendency to invoke the supernatural explanation increases with age rather than decreases!

One of our favorite examples of this comes from some work we did in East Texas last year where an older white female mock juror [who happened to be a school teacher] described a popular social networking site as “the devil’s work”. The grins in the observation room quickly faded and jaws dropped as we saw numerous other mock jurors nodding grimly. She was a school teacher. None of them appeared to be kidding.

It is common for mature adults to combine rational knowledge with irrational beliefs. Especially when corned in an discussion, they will have a tendency to reach for any available bits in their base of knowledge for ways to explain what, how and why they think something is true.

carolina wren

World’s Oldest Known Auschwitz Survivor Has Died

Antoni Dobrowolski, a former Polish teacher arrested by the Gestapo in 1942 for teaching underground lessons to students, died on Sunday at the age of 108, according to a Polish official speaking with the Associated Press. He was the oldest known survivor of Germany’s largest death camp.

Banning elementary education beyond four years was one of many tactics employed by Nazi Germany after its invasion of Poland in 1939—a strategy aimed at undermining Polish culture and wiping out its intelligentsia and leadership class. A spokesman at the Auschwitz-Birkenau state museum told the AP Dobrowolski died in the northwester town of Debno.

Not the the most original insight, but of the very radical political movements that began at the beginning of the 20th century, they all, far right and left, shared a suspicious and frequent contempt for education.

Inside Romney Bain’s Chinese Sensata Factories, Where Workers Put in 12-Hour Days for $.99-$1.35 an Hour. The conservative movement must admire communists to some extent since they seem to love the idea of workers as unquestioning low paid drones. Mitt Romney talks a lot about jobs. But does he have a plan to create any?

This thumbnail photo is from this fascinating collection – Pictures from a Drawer 1915 – 1940.

Russia sends Pussy Riot women to camps east of Moscow.

the well vetted grassroots, tunnel lights wallpaper, red states stuck in a 19th century frame of mind

Social Change’s Age of Enlightenment

One of the benefits of writing a column about solutions is that it offers an alternative lens through which to view the world. This week is the second anniversary of Fixes. Much of my time over the past few years has been spent talking to people about the creative responses to social problems that are emerging across the country and around the globe. It turns out there’s no shortage of these stories. I’m often struck by how much ingenuity is out there and being directed to repair the world, and how little we hear about it.

We’re seeing a more rational understanding of cause and effect.

As a result, I often find myself out of step with friends whose views are shaped by the big news stories — money-driven politics, unemployment, war and violence, seemingly irreparable education and health systems. After looking at hundreds of examples of social change efforts, I see a side of reality that goes unreported: namely, that we’re getting smarter about the way we’re addressing social problems. In fact, I would go so far as to say we’re on the verge of a breakthrough — maybe even a new Enlightenment.

If that sounds like an overstatement, consider the comparison. The Enlightenment was a period in history when fanciful thinking gave way to a more rational understanding of cause and effect. It promoted the scientific method, challenged ideas grounded in tradition, faith or superstition, and advocated the restructuring of governments and social institutions based on reason. (It was not always so enlightened, however. While Enlightenment thinkers sought to advance the public good — producing documents like The Bill of Rights — they also used reason to justify colonialism and slavery.)

Today’s Enlightenment stems from new understandings and practices that have taken hold in the social sector and are producing better and measurable results against a range of problems.

In Fixes, for example, we have asked questions like: Is it possible to systematically increase empathy and cooperation in children? Is there a way to teach math so virtually all children become proficient? Can we prevent thousands of cases of child abuse without removing children from their parents? Can we dramatically reduce — or come close to eliminating — chronic homelessness from every city in the United States?

Creating change from the bottom up – grassroots activism, certainly is nothing new. The introduction of evidence-based decision. Looking closely at and documenting successful initiatives, than evaluating them. Once that is done, on going tweaks to focus the effectiveness of social interventions. He notes something that has been obvious to some of us for quite some time, that people do not always act in their own rational self interests – they frequently and obstinately act contrary to their interests. That did remind me of political analyst and activist David Sirota and a blog post he wrote back around 2004. He noted how some of the locals in a western state constantly complained about how dirty the rivers were getting, how often times the fish had lesions from pollutants, yet they would pretty constantly vote for people who did all they could to weaken regulations of toxic pollutants and to weaken enforcement of the regulations that did exist. America’s rivers are still in a sorry state. When Hollywood made a film version of Norman Maclean’s modern classic novel A River Runs Through It, they could not use the original Blackfoot River in Montana because it was too polluted. When people listen to politicians they get the same old red, white and blue song and dance. While not the only element that goes into a voter’s decision-making, many of the outdoorsmen who voted seemed to key in on the boiler-plate rhetoric rather than the record of the party or the substance of what was promised. Even when the issue was addressed it was always in terms of real politiks – do you want jobs and economic progress or a clean river. A false choice repeated over and over. It is possible to have both. With a history of decades of framing environmental issues and others in terms of stark either or choices David Bornstein also observes in this article that the environment comes out ahead if framed as part of preserving our natural heritage rather than we need action now or all the fish are gonna die. I find the modern work place pretty miserable. The Office manages to put a surreal comic spin on places that are cesspools of vicious gossip, personality disorders and just plain awful interpersonal skills. people can easily find training to be a wiz at CAD or Excel, but during the learning process no one teaches those people how to accomplish something in a group setting. If people are getting their cues from TV or movies they are destined to come up way short. They’ll sabotage those around them and frequently, like the fishing voters, themselves. So When Bornstein looked at training programs he noted the lack of soft skills that can make or break a working career. I think he is overly optimistic about evidence based programs being sold further up the social-political structure. For example, it is hard to believe that one of the biggest issues of this election cycle is a woman’s right to the full spectrum of modern health care, including contraception. The Blunt amendment, which Romney supported, but lied about during the second debate would have given employers the right to not give any women’s health care insurance they found morally objectionable. Nothing was said of course about denying men the right to prostate enlargement medication or erectile dysfunction medication based on an employer’s so-called moral objections. Why, because men are automatically considered the best judges of what is right for them, but their mothers, sisters and wives need constant male guidance.

jungian tunnel lights wallpaper

The voyage of life – manhood by american painter thomas cole. 1850. this is a print made from the original painting. Like Rembrandt, Cole was a master of light. a special kind of light. light from the heavens – an illumination. while there is some religious significance, the painting continues the Renaissance tradition of a religion that was more and more removed from a rigid dogma that could only be rightly interpreted by and commentary supplied by catholic clergy. the average human was capable of having some kind of divine insight or inspiration solely through their own mind and communion with God. had this painting been made in 1350, a completely representative piece, not a symbolic reenactment of any actual Biblical event, it might have been seen as blasphemous.

Blue States are from Scandinavia, Red States are from Guatemala

By nearly every measure, people who live in the blue states are healthier, wealthier, and generally better off than people in the red states. It’s impossible to prove that this is the direct result of government spending. But the correlation is hard to dismiss. The four states with the highest poverty rates are all red: Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and Texas. (The fifth is New Mexico, which has turned blue.) And the five states with the lowest poverty rates are all blue: New Hampshire, New Jersey, Vermont, Minnesota, and Hawaii. The numbers on infant mortality, life expectancy, teen pregnancy, and obesity break down in similar ways. A recent study by researchers at the American Institute for Physics evaluated how well-prepared high schoolers were for careers in math and science. Massachusetts was best, followed closely by Minnesota and New Jersey. Mississippi was worst, along with Louisiana and West Virginia. In fact, it is difficult to find any indicator of well-being in which red states consistently do better than blue states.

“Any indicator”? Well studies only go far in refuting political dogma that is held as deep down as any belief ever was. As always dogma serves as a pretty good shield against rationalism. Though Cohn makes a good case and obviously has a good heart, he might want to consider something hard to measure on any scale – that some people enjoy suffering and making other people suffer. Any psychologist will tell you how difficult is to talk someone out of an addictive fetish.

True Skin is a neo-noir science fiction short film in the tradition of Blade Runner and The Matrix. Which is also the knock it is getting from some on-line critics. Why not show us something different. They may have a point, but that does not mean True Skin or the full length movie  Zlotescu hopes to make someday is not an interesting addition to  – I don’t know – probably a sub-genre of science fiction.

TRUE SKIN from H1 on Vimeo.