Last Week’s News: A Parade of ‘Misfits’

In the spirit of Internet immediacy, here is a review of what I was reading online last week.

From your 120 subscriptions, over the last 30 days you read 5,361 items, clicked 238 items, starred 1 items, and emailed 15 items.



What You Missed in Today’s Times

“I couldn’t go to bed because I was so excited,” a viewer called niesa36 said on the Dagbladet newspaper Web site. “When will they add new logs? Just before I managed to tear myself away, they must have opened the flue a little, because just then the flames shot a little higher.”

via In Norway, TV Program on Firewood Elicits Passions –

But then about two years ago troubling questions began to be whispered. He acted odd. He was thinner. He walked stooped over. He was absent. Was he sick? Or dying? And then the spicy talk about suspicious men trooping in and out of the rectory.Finally, last month’s revelation. The priest was locked up, charged with dealing crystal methamphetamine.

via Msgr. Kevin Wallin’s Swift Fall, to Drug Suspect –

“It got me a smart audience of comedy nerds that you want. It kept letting me fail at a diversity of things and try again. I don’t know another theater that would do that.”

via Upright Citizens Brigade Grows by Not Paying Performers –


Last Week’s News: Wrestling With Disappointment

In the spirit of Internet immediacy, here is a review of what I was reading online last week.

From my 120 subscriptions, over the last 30 days I read 5,299 items, clicked 247 items, starred 0 items, and emailed 13 items.

Last Week’s News: Restaurant Week for Rats


In the spirit of Internet immediacy, here is a review of what I was reading online last week.

  1. “The subway, the sewer, a lot got disrupted,” said Mr. Wong, who said complaints about rats were about as bad as he has seen in 10 years. “There’s so much garbage out in the streets these days. Renovations because of the flood. Christmas trees. These things make it worse. For them, it’s Restaurant Week.” via New York City Rats Creep Inland After Storm –
  2. You’ve probably guessed that things are going to hell in Syria. So it is not a surprise that they won’t be improving any time soon? via After Assad, Chaos? –
  3. “The White House, however, was worried about the risks …in the midst of a re-election bid…” via Senate Panel Examines Benghazi Attack –
  4. Here’s a question for you: “So what’s different about Chicago?” via Why Are There So Many Murders in Chicago? |
  5. If you are reading along and come across this morose little sentence, “If this sounds apocalyptic, it is,” you probably should probably watch more TV. via Game Over for the Climate –
  6. Should Apple be a $200 stock?. Maybe. The argument is that its current value is built on the promise of future products (so far, meh) and the idea that everyone would have an iPhone by now (which they don’t).

From my 118 subscriptions, over the last 30 days I read 6,294 items, clicked 339 items, starred 0 items, and eimailed 14 items.

Last Week’s News: [Expletives Not Deleted]

English: Director Werner Herzog at a press con...

Werner Herzog. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the spirit of Internet immediacy, here is a review of what I was reading online last week.

From my 119 subscriptions, over the last 30 days I read 6,028 items, clicked 329 items, starred 0 items, and emailed 14 items.

Last Week’s News: Rage and the Marines

In the spirit of Internet immediacy, here is a review of what I was reading online last week.

  • Gail Collins of The Times brought up the “very specific cry of rage about the way intelligent, well-educated women were kept out of the mainstream of American professional life” via ‘The Feminine Mystique’ at 50 –
  • This rage will now occasionally be vented against foreign powers after the Pentagon lifted its not-really ban on women in combat. “The groundbreaking decision overturns a 1994 Pentagon rule that restricts women from artillery, armor, infantry and other such combat roles, even though in reality women have found themselves in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan…” via Pentagon Lifting Ban on Women in Combat –
  • College football programs are puzzling over why fan interest in the sport is seeming to wane. “What can’t you do in the rain? Text. So they stay inside.” via In era of technological, financial change, has college football peaked? – NCAA Football – News, Scores, Stats, Schedule and BCS Rankings. It says here they should start with, College football kinda sucks.
  • Mark Emmert, the N.C.A.A.’s president, seemed to agree when he called the conduct of the groups investigators “shocking…” via N.C.A.A. Admits Misconduct in Miami Investigation –
  • Here is something to think about as you prepare your tax documents. “IER estimated the worth of the government’s oil and gas technically recoverable resources to the economy to be $128 trillion, about 8 times our national debt.” via Institute for Energy Research | Federal Assets Above and Below Ground. It says here, Burn that stuff up now while we can.
  • Speaking of women: “Her old suite was searched and inside an old shoebox they found $247,200 in cash, mostly in $1,000 and $5,000 bills. They thought that was all of it until the following day, when a nurse tunneled a hand up Ida’s dress while she slept and retrieved an oilcloth pocket holding $500,000 in $10,000 bills.” via Everything Was Fake but Her Wealth | Past Imperfect.
  • I honestly did not know haggis was illegal in the United States. Sorry, but I didn’t. And I don’t feel dumb about it either. Many Americans think haggis is an animal, and they’re half right. Of course, I mean to say that real, Scottish-style haggis is illegal; there apparently are all sorts of half-assed (sorry) versions being sloshed out of kitchens whenever your back is turned. But, as they say: “Without the sheep’s lung it’s not authentic.” via BBC News – The offal truth about American haggis.
  • Am I the only one who is starting to think the United States is a super unsafe place to live? Like, “failed state” unsafe. Like, we should just chuck the laws and stuff and start over. I mean, holy crap. What else am I supposed to think when the vice president is giving advice like this: “Guess what? A shotgun will keep you a lot safer…” via Biden Addresses Preppers In Gun Debate | TPMDC.

From your 120 subscriptions, over the last 30 days you read 5,905 items, clicked 299 items, starred 6 items, and emailed 8 items.

Yesterday’s News: Enlightened Entitlement

In the spirit of Internet immediacy, here is a review of what I read online yesterday.

I am halfway through David M. Kennedy’s “Freedom from Fear,” an insightful and engaging history of the New Deal and World War II — though of only those things — and it obviously adds a lot of context to current political debates. Particularly revealing is that President Roosevelt, at least in part, imagined the New Deal as a hammer he could use to reshape the Democratic Party, drumming its Southern, conservative wing into meek, or irrelevant, submission.

The irony is, it will perhaps require a similar manipulation of the political spectrum to save the New Deal’s legacy, namely its most famous still-existing program, Social Security, and the groundbreaking appendages, Medicare and Medicaid.

“But while reports of a crisis are overblown, and conservative proposals to solve it are draconian, progressives do need to think about how best to reform the entitlement programs.” via Henry J. Aaron for Democracy Journal: Progressives and the Safety Net.

In the meantime, why shouldn’t we be spending again?

“The reason is that although the government is borrowing a lot of money, it is doing so very cheaply because interest rates are low both over all and on government debt specifically.” via What Is Driving Growth in Government Spending? –

Thence, some interesting pairings. For the first, start with a filmmaker who actually said “I’ve seen ‘The Master’ six or seven times, and I can’t wait to see it an eighth.” The quote is from an article about a movie made at Disney World without Disney’s permission. It’s notable because the critic seems to think that is the most interesting thing about the movie. via Sundance 2013: How did a newbie make an unapproved film in Disney parks? –

Finish with an author who makes a bold and possibly revealing attack on Charles Darwin, but does so in a poorly written book: “‘Mind and Cosmos’ is certainly provocative and it reflects the efforts of a fiercely independent mind. In important places, however, I believe that it is wrong.” via Awaiting a New Darwin by H. Allen Orr | The New York Review of Books.

Pairing 2 begins with a rift in the abortion rights movement. Apparently, the do-nothing 20-somethings are tired of being seen that way. “They are the generation that gave us legalized abortions, but they also screwed up,” via Why Abortion-Rights Activists Have Been Losing Ever Since Roe v. Wade — Printout — TIME.

Finish with a distressing look at the rights women were/are fighting for. “For most of history, abortion has been a dangerous procedure a woman attempted to perform on herself. In private. Without painkillers.” via Leeches, Lye and Spanish Fly –

Finally, three sentences to meditate on.

  1. “Why does it matter for our moral appraisal of pedophiles whether pedophilia is innate or acquired?” via Pedophilia, Preemptive Imprisonment, and the Ethics of Predisposition | Practical Ethics.
  2. “What are athletes doing when they play sports, and what are we watching when we watch?” via The New Atlantis » How to Think About Our Steroid Supermen.
  3. Ursus arctos horribilis, with an emphasis on the horribilis.” via Hey, Bear – The Morning News.

‘The Ape Faction Totally Up in Arms’

English: Sasquatch Yeti Bigfoot Bugerbear Yowie

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sasquatch nuclear DNA, Ketchum said, “is incredibly novel and not at all what we had expected.”

via DNA study suggests Bigfoot exists | Statesman Journal |

Not what you expected?!

What was it?

“It’s people!” cried Charlton Heston’s unnerved character in the motion picture “Soylent Green.” And so have cryptozoologists on receipt of the news, reported with seeming sincerity by a newspaper in Salem, Ore., that an apparently serious, peer-reviewed study of so-called Sasquatch DNA had been leaked ahead of its anticipated release, revealing the creatures to be “a hybrid of a human with unknown species.”

The report contains several bombshells, not including the assumption that such creatures actually exist.

•From 109 samples — hair, tissue, blood and saliva; but, I am guessing, no intact Sasquatches — it was surmised that the animals fall “in the realm of human,” as one bigfoot hunter said. (That means you, mister.)

•Sasquatches are apparently, definitively, the result of a pairing at some time in the last 15,000 years of a homo sapien female with a male of an unknown species, confirming the widely-held belief among male cryptozoologists that some dames simply can’t keep their hands off a really rugged man. “The male that procreated is unidentifiable,” said the former veterinarian who organized the research, leading her fellow female cryptozoologists to retort, Isn’t that just like a man?

•Thirteen laboratories around the world — 13! — were said to have participated in the research. That means there are 13 awkwardly-written press releases yet to be written. And 13 laboratory budgets yet to be defended from the criticism of 13 skeptical, head-scratching governing boards.

•Finally, the news has fatally ruptured an already restive “Bigfoot-believing community,” leading to hair-raising recriminations as researchers trample long-held opinions.

As one writer put it, the news “has the ape faction totally up in arms.”

These folks have, again, I am guessing, argued for years that Sasquatches are more ape than human in bald defiance of the (guessing!) probably-hairier-than-normal folks dragging their knuckles and claiming that the creatures are more like people. “They can’t back away from that,” the writer said.

No, they can’t. But there are more important things to consider.

News of intact Sasquatch genomes — apparently, lab workers were able to sequence three of them — has cryptozoologists already concerned for the well-being of the never-seen-or-captured creatures. A few mused about the potential array of federal protections that could be legislated. At least one correctly surmised that some people will want to kill even imaginary monsters.

“Because there’s going to be that faction out there, too.”

‘The Bonobos I Work With’

Female Bonobo

Female Bonobo (Photo credit: Princess Stand in the Rain)

If you’re worried that the bonobos I work with are spending too much time staring at computer screens, rest assured: They have plenty of opportunity for more natural interactions and for just goofing around.

via Apes With Apps – IEEE Spectrum.

Yes. I know.

Let’s go over that again.

“If you’re worried,” begins Ken Schweller of the Bonobo Hope Great Ape Trust Sanctuary, which I assure you is not a made-up thing, “that the bonobos I work with” — he’s presumably talking here about actual monkeys, not his human co-workers — “are spending too much time staring at computer screens,” — I tell you honestly I did not even imagine bonobos had computers — “rest assured:” — this is a phrase that should arouse suspicion in everyone every time they hear it — “They have plenty of opportunity for more natural interactions” — this seems like a euphemism for something unseemly, if not scatological — “and for just goofing around” — ditto.

In all seriousness, what Schweller is explaining is the cutting edge in primate research. As he writes, “the wide availability of touch screens, tablet computers, digital recording, and wireless networking is giving researchers the world over powerful new ways to study and unambiguously document ape communication.”

His “Apes With Apps” article is full of surprises, like this, which is both interesting and heartbreaking:

For two years, nobody suspected that Kanzi was paying even the slightest attention to the lexigram training, although he clearly liked the lights on the keyboard and the blinking projections above. It was only when Matata was taken away for a few weeks for breeding that researchers discovered how much Kanzi had picked up. After searching in vain for his mother, he spontaneously began using her keyboard to communicate with his caretakers. What is more, he understood the spoken words that the lexigrams represented, and he could locate their representations on the keyboard.

Anyway, the good news is that Schweller assures us that bonobos are not being overworked. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the rest of us.

“Even children are busy now,” writes Tim Kreider in the “Anxiety” section of The Times’s Opinionator, “scheduled down to the half-hour with classes and extracurricular activities.”

Which is not exactly surprising. Or troubling. But Kreider’s essay is interesting throughout, particular his reminder that busyness “is not a necessary or inevitable condition.”

Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.

He reminds his readers that “Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain…”

No one, it says here, needs a vacation more than Umair Haque of the Harvard Business Review, whose overheated assessment of the appalling Barclays/Libor scandal is a full-on fire hose of hyperbolic anxiety:

“The banker rigged the rates, and stole from you and me.” Who stole what from whom? Was it the banker who stole a dollar a day from us — or we who stole a life worth living from the banker? Who consents to a deal with the devil — you? Or you and the devil? When the deal is struck, has the devil stolen your soul? Or have you stolen, for a few searing moments, the devil’s due? If the basis of the contracts that govern men is consent, have you and I, with our furious pursuit of more-bigger-faster-cheaper-now-at-any-cost already consented to the compact of our own undoing; already tempted the banker with the devil’s glittering deal — and damned the banker to tempt us right back?

Speaking of fire hoses (have you caught your breath?), you will be relieved to learn that firefighters everywhere are shelving plans for sexy calendars and actually getting down to the business of being better at fighting fires. Witness:

“We’re an organization steeped in tradition and we’ve been fighting fires for many years in certain ways and they worked,” the fire commissioner, Salvatore J. Cassano, said in a phone interview. “But we owe it to everybody who works for us and the people we serve to look at the way we fight fires.”

via N.Y.C. Fire Dept. Rethinking Tactics in House Fires –

“We need to understand the conditions were facing today,” Tidwell told the Associated Press in an interview. “Theyre different than what we used to deal with. Were seeing erratic fire behavior, more erratic weather.”

via Western wildfires fuel urgency for forest restoration —

“Hoping for a debate about freedom, not fatness,” the beverage industry began a campaign in New York against the mayor’s proposal to ban big containers of sugary drinks by employing at least one person, right, who obviously does not drink a lot of sugary drinks.

This is exactly the sort of thing I would get wound up about, and I would lend my enthusiastic support if the campaign had hired mostly thick-necked people who sweated all over the petition.

But I won’t even notice. I weaned myself off big sugary drinks two years ago, which is too bad because my bladder is extra stretchy.

Think You Got Problems?

“Who knows, maybe they can teach us something about how to fight off our own parasites.”

via To kill off parasites, an insect self-medicates with alcohol.

Researchers at Emory University are guessing that fruit flies are being driven to drink by the threat of (yike!) parasitic wasps.

Seriously. Still think you got problems?

It’s true. The scientists, who published their research in Current Biology, have found that fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) may be moderating their intake of alcohol — usually by eating rotten fruit — based on whether they are infected by the eggs of freeloading wasps. As one scientist put it, fruit flies “use alcohol as an antiwasp medicine.”

It isn’t pretty. After hatching, the wasps (gulp) eat their way out. Apparently, eons of living with this unappetizing possibility has induced the flies to become hardened drinkers. As for the wasps, they seem intuitively to know what any long-suffering wife can tell you: Drunks are not good homemakers. It seems that exposure to ethanol “discourages wasps from laying their eggs” in the first place.

“Who knows,” one scientist chirped, “maybe they can teach us something about how to fight off our own parasites.”