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07 Apr 00:46

Something Like a Star

by Pat

Tonight, Oot brought me a penny he’d found on the floor.

“Look,” he said. “It’s burned.”

Say something to us we can learn By heart and when alone repeat. Say something! And it says, 'I burn.'

It wasn’t a bad guess, everything said. A good guess, but wrong. It’s corroded.

For half a moment I thought about correcting him on this, but I didn’t.

Looking back, I could come up with some excuse for *why* I didn’t correct him. I could claim that corrosion is sort of like a slow chemical burning. But that would be bullshittery. The truth was, at that moment, it didn’t feel right to correct my boy. So I didn’t. I went with my gut.

“Maybe it got too close to the sun,” Oot said.

This was another good guess. Though it was probably wrong as well.

What pleased me is that my decision to keep my mouth shut paid such an immediate dividend.

If I’d told my boy the truth right away, he would have nodded and said, “Oh of course!” Or “Oh, I see!” And he would have gained a tiny fact. Namely, that a coin that looks like this is corroded. (Something he could have parroted back to me. But that he wouldn’t have understood in any meaningful way.)

But that’s not what happened. Instead, left to himself. His curiosity was engaged. He asked a question of himself, “How could this have gotten burned?”

Then he came up with an answer: It might have gotten to close to the sun.

This isn’t a bad guess. He knows fire would have to be pretty hot to burn metal. A match isn’t going to do it. What’s hotter than that? The sun.

And here’s the thing. He’s wrong. But the process he’s going though is good. What he’s actually doing, asking questions and attempting to figure out the answers, it’s the roots of rationality. The process he’s undertaking is the core of all true philosophy and science.

He looked at the penny again. “Actually,” He says. “It looks like moss.”

It’s called “verdigris,” I thought. It’s like rust, but it happens on copper instead of iron. Also, interesting fact, it’s mildly poisonous.

I thought that, but I kept my mouth shut.

Why? Because I am occasionally wise.

Because this is not the internet.

(Comic loveliness from the brilliant XKCD, of course.)

Because when a child comes to you in the full flush of discovery, brimming with excitement, correcting them is not the proper thing to do.

Because the truth is, facts can be small, sad things.

But learning to ask questions and guess at answers? That is the beginning of true understanding. Those are the bones of the world.

*     *     *

I have news. I’ll be posting about it as soon as I have internet in my house again. Stay tuned.

30 Mar 05:36

Happiness in a new old house

by Neil Gaiman
Tonight I can think
of nothing more perfect
than to read a new book,
as the log fire burns
and the rain beats down

01 Apr 05:15

My Giant, My Heart

by shreve

my giant my heart

I’ve had this blog on a photo-intermission because Frisco has been very sick. About a month ago, my vet – whose general bedside manner is Mr. Happy-Go-Lucky – told me to prepare for the worst. He didn’t expect Frisco to make it another week. I’ve been pretty much living in the barn, and everything in my life that I could put on pause, I have. I’ve been so sad and so scared and so dirty, but it’s also been a special time, in a weird way. Tragedy incinerates everything that is not important.

We don’t know what has caused Frisco’s decline. He recovered from foot rot in January, then this ailment came on a few weeks later. Blood tests, fecal tests, organ tests have not shed much light nor given us any definite answers, and his treatment has been varied, including everything from antibiotics to flower essences to, most interestingly, a magnet. I fed Frisco a very large, very strong, pill-shaped magnet as a measure against Hardware Disease, which may or may not be at the root of his illness. Cattle are indiscriminate eaters, and if a small piece of metal or wire or a nail or fencing staple is littered in a pasture and then baled into hay, a cow may inadvertently eat it. Once swallowed, the metal can puncture the stomach wall, nearby organs, cause infection – basically, wreak havoc within. Eating a magnet can help remedy this: the magnet draws the metal out of the stomach tissue (as long as it is not aluminum) and holds the offending piece tightly against the magnet at the bottom of the stomach, where it remains (they don’t poop it out). The magnet will also catch any future metal the animal may ingest.

The past few mornings, Frisco has been eager to leave the barn and go out to eat at the hay bunk with Daisy and Fiona. His weight loss has been severe and is very frightening, yet his eyes and spirit are bright and lively. His appetite has improved, though he is still weak and wobbly. This afternoon I was down at the corrals, leaning against the fence, watching him. He ate some hay. He drank some water. He lay down in the sun. I went over and sat next to him, leaning back against his massive shoulder. I stroked his cheek, timed his pulse rate with my phone. He was tired. He closed his eyes. And then he swooped his head around, wrapped his neck around my body, laid his head on my chest, and fell asleep.

frisco napping on me

{I wish I had a go go gadget arm to have captured this scene from a distance! Alas. This image is two overlapping photos spliced together, hence the “missing” corners.}


26 Mar 14:12

Weigh-in Wednesday: 290.2 lbs

by John Sousa
I've lost weight since I weighed myself a week ago. You'll have to take my word for it but I've lost between 1 and 4 pounds. From now on, though, Weigh-in Wednesday will be a regular feature: I'm trying to get healthy in all aspects of my life.

I started with my mental health at the beginning of the year but that's a discussion for another time but it's going well.

But my body is not cooperating. The huge weight gain happened in the year after I went up to 150mg of Zoloft, it's not uncommon. But while it addressed my anxiety (no panic attacks that whole time) by keeping my emotions bottled up, it did nothing to address the underlying despair, the wish for a peaceful, silent death by hanging. That's how I always fantasized it: a cord around my neck. Just imagining it would soothe me. I never made a plan, I never bought a rope or experimented with a belt or kitchen twine but as lie down to sleep if I was overwhelmed I'd think of that it would make me happy.

So getting a 269.89-Bipolar II Disorder  diagnosis and moving to the Seroquel has helped so much. The first month I didn't want to die. That was good. Then a week after stopping Zoloft the withdrawal effects (nausea, dizziness, vertigo) kicked in and that sucked ass. They went away after a week, and now instead of not wanting to die, which was a huge improvement, I want to live.

I'm freaking people out a little bit because I'm discovering/remembering that I'm passionate about things. I'm finding that my deep ambivalence about most things was maybe a symptom of my depression: who can muster to give a shit about something either way when you're sole focus is nodding and uh-huh-ing people along so they'll leave the house for the day, fuck yeah now I can go back to sleep.

So, as my Lenten Sacrifice I'm trying to get my body in shape. I got through a week of Focus T25 and I was having fun before my body started attacking me: my joints swole up, my ankles and knees popped as I stood or sat or walked around, and my hands and wrists especially ache and burn and hurt and are puffy and swollen. I went to my doctor and they gave me some blood tests which came back positive for the markers for Rheumatoid Arthritis. I checked my family history and my great-aunt June had it and my mom says she has and that wearing copper bracelets and anklets has cured it, which I really hope it has but it sounds to me like some homeopathy bullshit for people who don't have health insurance.

So they gave me an appointment for May 30, and I asked the lady, "What the hell am I supposed to do for the next 10 weeks?" and she said they'd call me back. Give me some fucking something. Drugs. Weed. Make it stop. Something.

I've changed my diet and I'm looking for yoga classes and I'll probably take water aerobics with the blue-hairs at the community pool.

At least I'll make friends.

When I was depressed my body hurt and it was fine, because I deserved it, I was a stupid lazy liar. I was comfortable in it: I could absorb the pain.

Now, as my brain heals, I'm deeply alienated from my body. It's trying to kick me out. I'm spending lots of time in waiting rooms now, hanging on, fighting back. Getting old.
26 Mar 09:00

A Picture-Book Like No Other

by Maria Popova

Yay! Moomin!

The gloriously illustrated story of an errand turned adventure turned existential parable.

The Moomin series by Swedish-Finn artist, writer, comic strip creator, and children’s book author Tove Jansson (1914–2001), recipient of the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Medal, is among the most imaginative storytelling of the past century. Partway between children’s books and comics, her lovable family of roundish white hippopotamus-like creatures have captivated generations since their birth in 1945. The crown jewel of the series is arguably the 1952 picture-book The Book about Moomin, Mymble and Little My (public library) — a playful and philosophical tale that falls somewhere between Øyvind Torseter’s The Hole (which was possibly inspired by Jansson) and Dr. Seuss, with a touch of Edward Goreyesque creaturely magic and Alice in Quantumland mind-bending. Parallels notwithstanding, Jansson’s singular sensibility makes this vintage treasure one of the greatest children’s books of all time, so unlike anything else that ever existed before or since that it inhabits a wholly different yet timelessly welcoming universe.

The story is driven by a clever what-comes-next guessing game as we follow little Moomintroll on an errand that turns into an adventure that turns into an existential parable. Moomintroll, brimming with the boundless optimism typical of Jansson’s Moomin family, sets out to help the distraught Mymble find her sister, Little My — an irreverent, independent-minded, sharp- and even acerbic-witted heroine who stands as the naughty but necessary anchor to the Moomin buoyancy. That dynamic — the eternal tussle between skepticism and openness that keeps life in balance — is one of the story’s powerful underlying themes, and yet it only amplifies rather than detracting from the joyful hopefulness of the overall message.

Beautifully illustrated and hand-lettered in rhythmic verse, the book features gorgeous and brilliantly placed die-cut holes, reminiscent of I Saw a Peacock with a Fiery Tail, which lend the story an enchanting quality that plays into our human restlessness for knowing what’s around the corner, cleverly reminding us that what we think we see is often a distortion of what actually is.

And while the book was Jansson’s first to be adapted for iPad, what screen could possibly replace the immeasurable tactile magic of this beautifully, thoughtfully designed paper masterpiece?

Tove Jansson with her Moomins in 1956. Photograph by Reino Loppinen.

The Book about Moomin, Mymble and Little My, translated into English by Sophie Hannah, is impossibly wonderful in its entirety. Complement it with a contemporary counterpart of Scandinavian storytelling sensibility, Øyvind Torseter’s The Hole, one of the best “children’s” books of 2013 (with scare-quotes for the reasons Tolkien so memorably outlined).

Thanks, Jad

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24 Mar 12:39

When 616 People Don’t Stop to Help a “Lost” Child

by lskenazy

Readers — Here’s an experiment carried out in London:


Would we stop to ask if she's ok?

Would you stop? Why or why not? 

A TV station had two little girls, 5 and 7, take turns looking lost in a large shopping center. Only one retiree stopped to ask if the child was okay.

Now, I don’t think that means every human who passed by the kids was and heartless OR afraid of being mistaken for a pedophile. I easily might have passed by, too, if I was in a hurry and barely noticed the child, or if she looked like she was playing a game, or if I assumed a parent was probably nearby. Nonetheless, I love this column by Carol Sarler, “The Price of Paedophile Hysteria,” on the fear that probably stopped at least some adults from intervening:

…The over-imaginative minds of adult Britain are in literally hysterical thrall to paedophilia, to the idea that danger lurks in the soul of every passing stranger, while the truth – you know, facts and suchlike – is rejected without reason.

I have lost count of the times that I have written that the number of abductions and deaths of children at the hands of strangers has remained constant since the Fifties (six or seven a year). Or pointed out that, given that our population has grown, this is effectively a reduction.

Or forcefully reiterated the dreadful reality that the physical risk to children is infinitely more likely to lie within their own homes. Nobody wants to know. They’ve got their bogeyman fixed firmly in their heads….

It is impossible to believe that in a civilised, compassionate society there weren’t many passers-by who wanted to help – yet too great was their fear of being thought to be a ‘kiddie-fiddler’, either by other passers-by or indeed by the little girl herself.

Pernicious as this fear is, it is growing apace. I have a friend who organises large festivals where, inevitably, children get lost.

Yet instructions to staff have become super-stern in recent years: if you see such a child, no matter how great their distress, you may not approach – and you certainly may not touch, so the instinctive  cuddle you ache to offer is a no-no.

Instead, they have to radio the location of the child to a central control, who will dispatch an ‘accredited’ member of staff to the scene. And if that means the child screams and panics for another 20 minutes? So be it.

Read her whole column here (it’s under the story of the experiment). And ponder whether we are making kids more safe or less with our predator obsession. – L

21 Mar 14:54

The overprotected kid

by Jason Kottke

On the reading list for this weekend is Hanna Rosin's cover story in the most recent issue of The Atlantic: The Overprotected Kid.

I used to puzzle over a particular statistic that routinely comes up in articles about time use: even though women work vastly more hours now than they did in the 1970s, mothers -- and fathers -- of all income levels spend much more time with their children than they used to. This seemed impossible to me until recently, when I began to think about my own life. My mother didn't work all that much when I was younger, but she didn't spend vast amounts of time with me, either. She didn't arrange my playdates or drive me to swimming lessons or introduce me to cool music she liked. On weekdays after school she just expected me to show up for dinner; on weekends I barely saw her at all. I, on the other hand, might easily spend every waking Saturday hour with one if not all three of my children, taking one to a soccer game, the second to a theater program, the third to a friend's house, or just hanging out with them at home. When my daughter was about 10, my husband suddenly realized that in her whole life, she had probably not spent more than 10 minutes unsupervised by an adult. Not 10 minutes in 10 years.

It's hard to absorb how much childhood norms have shifted in just one generation. Actions that would have been considered paranoid in the '70s-walking third-graders to school, forbidding your kid to play ball in the street, going down the slide with your child in your lap-are now routine. In fact, they are the markers of good, responsible parenting. One very thorough study of "children's independent mobility," conducted in urban, suburban, and rural neighborhoods in the U.K., shows that in 1971, 80 percent of third-graders walked to school alone. By 1990, that measure had dropped to 9 percent, and now it's even lower. When you ask parents why they are more protective than their parents were, they might answer that the world is more dangerous than it was when they were growing up. But this isn't true, or at least not in the way that we think. For example, parents now routinely tell their children never to talk to strangers, even though all available evidence suggests that children have about the same (very slim) chance of being abducted by a stranger as they did a generation ago. Maybe the real question is, how did these fears come to have such a hold over us? And what have our children lost -- and gained -- as we've succumbed to them?

Tags: Hanna Rosin   parenting
24 Mar 14:18

The end of polio declared in India

by Jason Kottke

In 1988, India had over 200,000 cases of polio reported. For the past three years, they've had 0. At the end of this month, the WHO will announce the end of polio in India.

America experienced the height of polio in the 1940s and '50s, when about 35,000 people became disabled every year. Fear and panic spread and parents were known to warn their children to not drink from public water fountains, avoid swimming pools and stay away from crowded public places like movie theaters. Perhaps the most famous case of polio in America was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the first president with a significant physical disability.

The development of the Salk and Sabine vaccines helped lead to eradication of polio in the United States in 1979. In India, too, vaccination was critical.

"There were three keys to our success," Kapur says. "Immunize, immunize and immunize."

Vaccines. And now my kids don't die.

Tags: India   medicine   polio   vaccines
24 Mar 19:28

My Little Brony (or, My Little Pony really ISN'T Okay)

by John Sousa

Boom! John lays it down. CONSTANT VIGILANCE!

I'm sorry that this guy's son is worried about being bullied because he likes My Little Pony.

But how could he write this:

Women’s magazines and princess movies are still a horror show of female subjugation, but the battle against that involves encouraging girls to be as masculine as they want to be. “Strong is the new skinny,” etc. But men and boys are mostly shamed for expressing anything outside of the macho ideal.

But not recognize this?


What is that fairy horse girl with the high-heeled dominatrix boots?

This guy’s son is (maybe, potentially, how would we know if he won’t actually where it outside his house) shamed for “not conforming to the macho ideal.”

I’m sorry if I have to object that my daughters, the target audience for the commercial for toys that is the “My Little Pony” cartoon that his son so loves, are being sexualized at a young age.

Am I overreacting? Look at the “Suggested Age” in the Target Ad. Ages 5 and Up.

Fuck fashion magazines. My daughters are taught that this is attractive from Age 5.

And hey, when they’re done with “My Little Pony,” they can move onto Monster High. Brats. Barbie. By the time they’re old enough for Fashion Magazines, they may have already developed and eating disorder:

Doctors aren't certain what cause eating disorders. They suspect a combination of biological, behavioral, and social factors. For instance, young people may be influenced by cultural images that favor bodies too underweight to be healthy.

And don’t get me started on the Rape Culture we live in, where girls are taught that boys want them to dress a certain way to get them to notice them, but then when they’re raped, they’re blamed because they dressed so sexily.

And it’s selling these toys, not the “Six Elements of Harmony” that the author and his son thinks are so “great,” that are the point of “My Little Pony.”

By trying to connect his son’s wearing of a hoodie (again, not in public) to his dressing like Robert Smith in high school, he’s missing the point, entirely. The Cure and David Bowie and The New York Dolls (and, fuck, even fucking POISON) challenged traditional notions of masculinity and femininity with their appearance. If his son were to seriously challenge the sexist double standard, he would be wearing a halter top, micro tutu, and high heeled boots. Instead, he’s just putting money in Mattel’s pockets by buying a fucking hoodie that nobody but guests in his house and readers will see. It’s propping up, with his dollars and bullshit encomiums to the “Greatness” of the Six Elements of Harmony, the very feminine ideal (the opposite of his “Macho Ideal) he claims to abhor.  

And of course, my daughters have loved “My Little Pony,” although they inherited the old-school, non-sexualized version; this is before they evolved into “ Equestria Girls Twilight Sparkle dolls,” which are seemingly invented for Bronies to jerk off to.

And don’t EVEN get me started on the songs.

And no, I don’t prevent them playing with Barbie or Monster High, but I do have to be vigilant, and make an earnest effort to talk to my girls about body image and self-esteem and building healthy relationships.

16 Mar 20:23

10 Different Options to Create Online Posters

by Naomi Bates

Because of the technology that educators and students are using as well as the infrastructure being provided by school districts for devices, libraries and classrooms, more and more, are embracing the paperless society.  Although advertising with paper posters can still bring buzz, more and more people are looking at websites, both personal or professional, and what is posted on them.  With that in mind, here are the top 10 online poster creators you can use (in no particular order) **UPDATE AT BOTTOM FOR NEW SITE!!  Create your own poster to share, save, or print with already provided templates you can custom design.  Incorporates QR codes as the main theme in all templates.  No registration required.

Keep Calm-o-matic –  We all know the familiar Keep Calm posters.  Here’s a place you can create your own.  After creation, it is part of the many other public Keep Calm posters created.  You can post it on social media outlets as well as save it as a pdf.  Login only required if you’d like to keep your posters private.

Poster My Wall – www.postermywall.comCreate a poster by choose a background, and  adding anything from text to photos to clipart.  Also has a flickr search function.  Download it or share it on Facebook.  You can purchase higher quality downloads if you’d like to print.  No registration required

Canva –  This site not only allows you to create a poster, but you can also create many other things including a blog graphic, presentation or a card.  Choose from hundreds of different options but be aware that there are higher quality options that cost (typically $1.00 per graphic).  Share on social media outlets or save and publish online.  Registration required.

Picmonkey –  This isn’t just a photograph editor, it can create beautiful posters as well.  Add text, background, images and frames, then take it to the editor.  You can save to your desktop or share via social media outlets.  There are parts of the site that are premium and require payment but the free parts are more than enough to create beautiful posters.  Registration required.  

Lucid Press -  This is the more sophisticated poster maker that looks a lot like MS Publisher.  It allows for more freedom of creativity with many  different functionalities.  You can share it via social media, share the link or publish it online.  Registration is required.

Flyer Lizard -  Easy to create posters that already have the templates and backgrounds to work with.  All you need to supply is the text and photo if you choose to.  There’s an option to add a QR code or even an audio clip from SoundCloud.  You can share via social media or save it.  Registration required

Motivator -  We’ve all seen the motivational posters with the black frame and a motivational saying at the bottom (usually with a soaring eagle as a picture).  Here’s your chance to create your own motivational poster.  Upload images from your own photos, Facebook, or Flickr Account.  This is a premium account and registration is required

Bannersnack -  With a free account you can create a banner and download or embed it.  With the free account, you get 1GB of storage, gif only download, and no more than 10k views a day.  Registration is required and premium plans are available

Recite This -  Choose from an assortment of poster backgrounds by sliding through your options.  The only thing you need to create is your text.  Share it via social media, a permalink or email.  No registration required. 

Muzy (app) is available for Andoid, Iphone, Ipod, or Google Play.  Create a poster using your own photos from Facebook, photo album, or Google Images (be careful with this doesn't differentiate between Creative Commons and copy written images) and add text to create an online poster.  Share it via Instagram or Facebook.  Registration required.

Tackk -
 I discovered this website through the co-founder on Twitter, and LOVED it instantly!  Easy to use, easy to share, you have your choice of backgrounds, photos and information you supply.  While the format is set, the creativity is all yours! 
21 Mar 20:45

Don't help your kids with their homework

by Jason Kottke

Don't do your kid's homework. Try not to even help them that much. It's better for their development. And it's better for you not to have to relive your school years. That seems like sensible advice. Until all the other parents in the school start helping their kids on their homework. That's when you'll be tempted. But still, really, don't.

What they found surprised them. Most measurable forms of parental involvement seem to yield few academic dividends for kids, or even to backfire-regardless of a parent's race, class, or level of education.

Do you review your daughter's homework every night? Robinson and Harris's data, published in The Broken Compass: Parental Involvement With Children's Education, show that this won't help her score higher on standardized tests. Once kids enter middle school, parental help with homework can actually bring test scores down, an effect Robinson says could be caused by the fact that many parents may have forgotten, or never truly understood, the material their children learn in school.

Tags: education   parenting
19 Mar 23:41

Where Does Time Come From?

by Jessie Roberts
by Jessie Roberts

Dr. Demetrios Matsakis, the Chief Scientist for Time Services at the US Naval Observatory, addresses the question in a terrific short documentary:

(Hat tip: FlowingData)

20 Mar 15:25

When The Eiffel Tower Disappears

by Katie Zavadski
by Katie Zavadski

paris smog

On Monday, pollution in Paris got bad enough to warrant a response:

Using a system commonly used in China, vehicles with license plates ending in odd numbers are banned from the roads today. Tomorrow, it switches to those ending with even numbers. The length of the ban will depend on the change in pollution levels. The key type of pollution driving the ban (no pun intended) is PM10 particles, which are each fewer than 10 micrometers in diameter. “The safe limit is 80 microgrammes of PM10 particulates per cubic metre, but on Friday, the level peaked at 180 microgrammes prompting authorities to urge people to stay indoors as much as possible and to leave their cars at home,” The Guardian writes. To try to cut pollution levels, the government also offered free trips on public transit over the weekend and until the ban is over.

The ban was lifted after a day, when conditions started to ease up. Feargus O’Sullivan suggests that a long-term solution for Parisians may be more pricey:

What France really needs to do, according to a number of environmentalists, is slash its dependency on diesel-powered engines. An estimated 60 percent of French vehicles currently run on diesel. This higher than average level dates from the 1960s, when French governments promoted diesel in the mistaken belief that it was cleaner than gasoline. In fact, diesel has both higher carbon emissions and carcinogenic fine particles, the form of invisible pollution from which France is currently suffering a major spike. The noxiousness of diesel has led to a paradoxical debate where far-from-benign gasoline emissions have gained the perverse position of being perceived as the lesser of two evils. France’s heavy investment in diesel vehicles means that, to date, there’s been little effective pressure to reduce the country’s diesel dependency —even this year, Paris introduced 320 new diesel-powered public buses.

Previous smog-related coverage here.

(Photo via Damián Bakarcic)

20 Mar 20:00

Restoring Pleasure

by Katie Zavadski
by Katie Zavadski

About a decade ago, members of the Raëlian religion began raising funds for a so-called Pleasure Hospital in Burkina Faso, which would restore the clitorises of women who had undergone female genital mutilation. The hospital had been slated to open in early March, but it was blocked by the local government. Sue Lloyd-Roberts reports that the American surgeons, led by gender-confirmation surgery expert Marci Bowers, moved their operating room to a local doctor’s clinic:

Bebe, a 24-year-old, is among the first. Is she scared? “No, I am not scared,” she says. “I am just angry. They cut me when I was four and it still hurts. Whenever my husband approaches, I just don’t want him.”

Bebe is given a local anaesthetic for the procedure which is a surprisingly simple one. Bowers investigates to see how badly Bebe has been mutilated. “No matter how severe it is,” Bowers explains, “we can always find the clitoris.” Although the visible part of the clitoris is cut off during FGM, it remains below the surface. “Voilà,” Bowers says as she finds it and pulls it up. “The clitoris now looks amazingly normal, part of an unaltered female anatomy.”

By the end of the first day, the team have “restored” eight women. The word is getting out, beyond the borders of Burkina Faso. By day three, women from Senegal, Mali and even Kenya come to the clinic to ask for the operation.

But the government swiftly canceled the licenses of the foreign doctors:

An official at the Health Ministry tells me that the opening was cancelled because Clitoraid [the organization behind the Pleasure Hospital] had not provided essential documents. All of which sounds reasonable until the Health Minister tells another journalist that “medical organisations should be focused on saving lives and not advertising their religion in an attempt to convert vulnerable people.”

Wendy Syfret talks to Clitoraid spokeswoman Nadine Gary:

How central is orgasm to Raëlian philosophy?

Pleasure is the most important part of the Raëlian philosophy, but the central part is simply explaining that life on planet Earth was created scientifically by people like us. Ladies like us and men who were created in their image. When you enjoy your clitoris, you can think that women creators have a clitoris just like you and have created you in their image, so you can enjoy yourself like they enjoy themselves. So is orgasm central to the Raëlian philosophy? Yes. You know we don’t masturbate every second of the day, but we don’t shy from it.

Previous Dish coverage of FGM here.

18 Mar 19:21

Busting the mattress racket

by Jason Kottke

Maybe it doesn't belong in the annals of great literature, but Seth Stevenson's Slate piece on mattresses from November 2000 has been stuck in my brain for more than a decade. Mattresses are a scam, says Stevenson:

Is there a more maddening industry? They confuse us with silly product names (the Sealy Posturepedic Crown Jewel Fletcher Ultra Plush Pillowtop or the Sealy Posturepedic Crown Jewel Brookmere Plush?). They flummox us with bogus science ("pocketed coils"? "Microtek foundations"? "Fiberlux"?). And they weigh us down with useless features (silk damask ticking?). It's like buying a used car, and almost as expensive -- I've seen mattresses going for $7,000. What's a consumer to do?

The secret to mattress shopping is that the product is basically a commodity. The mattress biz is 99-percent marketing. So just buy the cheapest thing you can stand and be done with it, because they're pretty much all the same. And that's all you need to know. But do read on -- the world of sleep products is quite fascinating, and I'd like to share it with you.

So when I had to do some mattress shopping recently, I remembered reading a thread on Hacker News about Tuft & Needle. T&N is a start-up that, in the parlance of Silicon Valley VCs, is disrupting the mattress industry by offering products of similar quality at dramatically lower prices with an emphasis on customer service. Recode recently ran a piece on the company and their founders.

Park and Marino, who previously worked together at Los Angeles tech startup Mulu, turned to mattress-making in 2012 after Marino was disappointed by a $3,000-plus mattress. So the two posed as the owners of a small mattress store and called around to vendors to uncover the real cost of making Marino's expensive purchase. The final calculation -- a total of about $300 -- confirmed their suspicions: There was significant opportunity to improve.

When I looked on Amazon, Tuft & Needle's mattresses were, as billed, the top-rated mattresses on the site. So I bought one. (I also bought a DreamFoam bed, which is even cheaper than Tuft & Needle and also highly rated.) The beds from both companies come rolled up and vacuum packed. Once you puncture the thick plastic packaging, air comes whooshing back into the mattress, inflating to its proper size over a matter of hours. This process sounds exactly like the repressurization of an airlock from any number of sci-fi movies. As far as comfort goes, I can't tell the difference between these beds and the $1700 memory foam mattress from Design Within Reach.

So yeah, if you're in the market for a mattress, do some poking might just save a few hundred dollars. (Note: these beds are memory foam beds, which are not everyone's cup of tea. I switched to one several years ago and love it. YMMV.)

Tags: business   Seth Stevenson   Tuft and Needle
20 Mar 16:02

Medieval maps from the 11th to 14th centuries

by Jason Kottke

From Retronaut, a collection of maps dating from 1000-1300s.

Maps Before Maps

How were maps perceived 1000 years ago? Did they blow people's minds with physically impossible views of cities, states, and continents? Could a circa-1200 scholar imagine himself looking down from several miles in the air and seeing the same thing he was seeing on a map?

Tags: maps
18 Mar 09:00

Meanwhile: An Illustrated Love Letter to the Living Fabric of a City and Our Shared Human Longing to Be Understood

by Maria Popova

A tender reminder that however vast our differences, we are bonded by the yearning to feel seen for who we are.

I’ve written before that every city needs a love letter. Though Meanwhile, in San Francisco: The City in Its Own Words (public library) by illustrator extraordinaire and frequent Brain Pickings contributor Wendy MacNaughton — who gave us the wonderful Lost Cat, one of the best books of 2013 — may be “about” a city, in the sense that the raw inspiration was drawn from the streets of San Francisco, it is really about the city, any city — about community, about subcultures and belonging, about the complexities of gentrification, about what it means to have individual dignity and shared identity.

Like a modern-day Margaret Mead armed with ink and watercolor, not a critic or commentator but an observer and amplifier of voice, MacNaughton plunges into the living fabric of the city with equal parts curiosity and compassion, gentleness and generosity, wit and wisdom, and emerges with a dimensional portrait painted with honesty, humor, and humility.

Beneath the individual stories — of the bus driver, of the hipsters, of the old men in Chinatown, of the librarian, of the street preacher — lies a glimpse of our shared humanity, those most vulnerable and earnest parts of the human soul that we often overlook and dismiss as we reduce people to their demographic and psychographic variables, be those race or gender or socioeconomic status or subcultural identification. Embedded in these simple, moving stories is MacNaughton’s tender reminder that there is no greater gift we can give each other than the gift of understanding, of looking and really seeing, of peering beyond the persona and into the person with an awareness that however different our struggles and circumstances may be, we are inextricably bonded by the great human longing to be truly seen for who we are.

We meet the Mission Hipsters, who might as well be the Williamsburg Hipsters*, or the Insert-Any-City’s-Neighborhood-That-Has-Become-Synonymous-With-Hipsters Hipsters, an affectionate portrait of the cultural trope, down to “hand-knit dog sweater #62″:

And speaking of dogs, any dog-lover would relate to MacNaughton when she writes, “I don’t know any of the dog owners’ names, but I know all their dogs.’”

Many of the stories, which were originally created for MacNaughton’s column Meanwhile in The Rumpus, are also a meditation on the realities, often tragicomic realities, of modern life:

Others offer a lens on the invisible and often misunderstood threads that hold a community together, like the board games people play on the sidewalks of Chinatown, any Chinatown.

We’re reminded, too, of the heartening resurgence of maker culture in the digital age.

One of the most poignant stories is that of two intersections “a block away [yet] a universe away”: 5th and Mission streets on the one hand, a mecca for rapid gentrification and $6 soy lattes, and 6th and Mission on the other, a land of homelessness and produce scarcity. There are, MacNaughton writes, four types of people on 6th and Mission: residents of single-room occupancies, folks who sleep in a shelter and hang out on 6th street during the day, those who work on 6th street, and passers-by. On 5th and Mission, the four archetypes come from a different world: programmers, tourists, business people, and … Australians. (Among the book’s many gifts is MacNaughton’s penchant for infusing even the most uncomfortable of subjects with warm and amicable wit.)

Then there are the old-school Dolphin Club Swimmers, who plunge into the freezing waters of the Bay to swim alongside the dolphins as an eccentric yet immensely life-affirming antidote to the bystander quality of modern life.

But as a lover of libraries, I found the most heartwarming section to be the one about the San Francisco Public Library, where we meet Leah, “the first and only full-time social worker dedicated to a library, anywhere,” Charles, a formerly homeless man now employed at the library’s health and safety division, and the library’s colorful patrons, a microcosm of the city itself.

Mostly, however, Meanwhile is a gentle invitation to do as the title implies — pause and spend some time with those invisible, in-between moments that often slip unnoticed as we float in the trance of our big-plan-making lives. Because, after all, John Lennon was right when he sang that “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” in Double Fantasy. It is in those meanwhile-moments, captured in MacNaughton’s beautiful ink-and-watercolor illustrations, that the fantasy collapses and the dizzying vibrancy of reality springs to life.

Bonus joy: A number of the spreads from the book are available as prints.

Images courtesy of Wendy MacNaughton / Chronicle Books

* This illustration is the only one from the book not from the Rumpus series — it was originally created for a Bold Italic piece by Stuart Schuffman.

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14 Mar 16:02

The Long Shadow of Chernobyl

by Jason Kottke

Gerd Ludwig Chernobyl

National Geographic photographer Gerd Ludwig has visited Chernobyl nine times over the past twenty years. The Long Shadow of Chernobyl is a forthcoming book collecting Ludwig's photos, which includes an essay by Mikhail Gorbachev. The publication of the book is being funded via Kickstarter. There is also an iOS app.

Tags: books   Chernobyl   Gerd Ludwig   photography   The Long Shadow of Chernobyl
14 Mar 18:18


by Jason Kottke

Interviewly presents interesting Reddit AMAs in a more readable format. Compare Bill Murray's thread on Reddit to the one on Interviewly.

Tags: Bill Murray   interviews   Reddit
17 Mar 19:58

Stand clear of the diving boards, please

by Jason Kottke

I love this rendering of an abandoned Paris Metro station reimagined as a swimming pool:

Paris Metro Pool

This and several other renderings were created by OXO Associates for Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet's Paris mayoral race. The others imagine subway stations turned into theaters, nightclubs, and underground parks.

Tags: architecture   Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet   Paris   subway
18 Mar 15:25

The shoe master

by Jason Kottke

Hitoshi Mimura

That is a bespoke running shoe made by a small company started by Hitoshi Mimura, who is considered one of the top shoe designers in the world. Mimura had great success at Asics, outfitting Olympic gold medal runners with shoes lighter, grippier, and more breathable than those worn by competitors, but now he has struck out on his own.

"I take 13 measurements of the foot, each foot has to be measured separately," explains the sensei of shoemaking. "I only trust hand-measuring. Currently, each shoe takes about three weeks to make, mainly due to determining which materials to use." Preparation is also key. "For a world championships or Olympics I check the course once or twice. I went to Beijing three times."

A NY Times feature on Mimura written before the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing emphasized the designer's reliance on rice husks in the soles for grippiness. Mimura takes his job and his responsibility to the runners very seriously:

Surreptitiously, Mimura made soles of two slightly different thicknesses, to compensate for the fact that Takahashi's left leg was eight millimeters -- about a third of an inch -- longer than her right leg. She had tried a pair of the uneven soles before the Sydney Olympics, but felt uncomfortable.

Still, Mimura felt Takahashi needed such shoes to win and to avoid a recurrence of pain caused by the disparity in her legs. Without Takahashi's knowledge, Mimura gave her the uneven soles, then wrote a letter of resignation, in case she failed to win gold.

"I decided to take full responsibility because I made this pair against her wishes," Mimura said of the letter. "I didn't have to hand it over. It's still in my desk."

That is belief in yourself and in your craft. Many people believe in "giving people not what they want but what they need" but how many of them will put their livelihood on the line for it?

Tags: 2008 Summer Olympics   design   Hitoshi Mimura   running   shoes   sports
13 Mar 21:09

Face Of The Day

by Andrew Sullivan

So handsome!


The former US secretary of state and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff facebooks:

Throwback Thursday – I was doing selfies 60 years before you Facebook folks. Eat your heart out Ellen!

13 Mar 14:39

What if What If? was a book?

by Jason Kottke

What If Randall Munroe

Fantastic...Randall Munroe is turning his What If? web series into a book. Munroe explains:

As I've sifted through the letters submitted to What If every week, I've occasionally set aside particularly neat questions that I wanted to spend a little more time on. This book features my answers to those questions, along with revised and updated versions of some of my favorite articles from the site. (I'm also including my personal list of the weirdest questions people have submitted.)

Tags: books   Randall Munroe   science
11 Mar 11:34

It’s time we lobby Congress to get rid of this natural occurrence

by dooce
I won't name any names, but I'm writing this specifically for you. And you and you and you.
07 Mar 15:26

Bill Murray on Charlie Rose

by Jason Kottke

If you're reading this site, you'll probably like watching Charlie Rose interview Bill Murray for nearly an hour. The whole thing is available on Hulu (US only):

The video is recent too: Feb 9, 2014. A clip is available on YouTube...check out that leather vest!

And from a different interview with Murray, we learn that everyone has been drinking champagne incorrectly. Here's the Murray method:

I learned how to drink champagne a while ago. But the way I like to drink champagne is I like to make what we call a Montana Cooler, where you buy a case of champagne and you take all the bottles out, and you take all the cardboard out, and you put a garbage bag inside of it, then you put all the bottles back in and then you cover it with ice, and then you wrap it up and you close it. And that will keep it all cold for a weekend and you can drink every single bottle. And the way I like to drink it in a big pint glass with ice. I fill it with ice and I pour the champagne in it, because champagne can never be too cold. And the problem people have with champagne is they drink it and they crash with it, because the sugar content is so high and you get really dehydrated. But if you can get the ice in it, you can drink it supremely cold and at the same time you're getting the melting ice, so it's like a hydration level, and you can stay at this great level for a whole weekend. You don't want to crash. You want to keep that buzz, that bling, that smile.

Buzz on, you crazy diamond!

Tags: Bill Murray   Charlie Rose   interviews   video
07 Mar 18:10

When Kurt met Courtney

by Jason Kottke

An excerpt from a biography on Kurt Cobain about how he and Courtney Love met.

Already infamous in Portland, Love was holding court in a booth when she saw Kurt walk by a few minutes before his band was set to appear onstage. Courtney was wearing a red polka-dot dress. "You look like Dave Pirner," she said to him, meaning the remark to sound like a small insult, but also a flirt. Kurt did look a bit like Pirner, the lead singer of Soul Asylum, as his hair had grown long and tangled -- he washed it just once a week, and then only with bar soap. Kurt responded with a flirt of his own: He grabbed Courtney and wrestled her to the ground.

I was listening to some music with the kids the other day and Ollie saw the cover for Nevermind in my iTunes and asked, "hey Daddy, what's that one with the floating baby?" So we played some songs and tried to explain what that album had meant to so many people, but I didn't do it justice. How do you explain culture shifts to kindergarten-age children? "Everything was the same as it was before, except that everything was different. Does that make sense?" In the end, I pulled a power-dad move and said, "I guess you just had to be there." ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Tags: Courtney Love   Kurt Cobain   music
11 Mar 13:42

Interview with Adam Lanza's father

by Jason Kottke

The father of the Sandy Hook killer searches for answers.

Any variation on what I did and how my relationship was had to be good, because no outcome could be worse. You can't get any more evil. How much do I beat up on myself about the fact that he's my son? A lot.

Tags: Adam Lanza   Andrew Solomon   guns   Peter Lanza
06 Mar 13:46

Bitcoin inventor found

by Jason Kottke

People had assumed that the name of the secretive creator of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto, was a pseudonym designed to protect his anonymity. Newsweek's Leah McGrath Goodman tracked down a man who could be the Bitcoin founder and discovered that his real name is...Satoshi Nakamoto.

Two police officers from the Temple City, Calif., sheriff's department flank him, looking puzzled. "So, what is it you want to ask this man about?" one of them asks me. "He thinks if he talks to you he's going to get into trouble."

"I don't think he's in any trouble," I say. "I would like to ask him about Bitcoin. This man is Satoshi Nakamoto."

"What?" The police officer balks. "This is the guy who created Bitcoin? It looks like he's living a pretty humble life."

I'd come here to try to find out more about Nakamoto and his humble life. It seemed ludicrous that the man credited with inventing Bitcoin - the world's most wildly successful digital currency, with transactions of nearly $500 million a day at its peak - would retreat to Los Angeles's San Bernardino foothills, hole up in the family home and leave his estimated $400 million of Bitcoin riches untouched. It seemed similarly implausible that Nakamoto's first response to my knocking at his door would be to call the cops. Now face to face, with two police officers as witnesses, Nakamoto's responses to my questions about Bitcoin were careful but revealing.

Tacitly acknowledging his role in the Bitcoin project, he looks down, staring at the pavement and categorically refuses to answer questions.

"I am no longer involved in that and I cannot discuss it," he says, dismissing all further queries with a swat of his left hand. "It's been turned over to other people. They are in charge of it now. I no longer have any connection."

Nice bit of sleuthing by Goodman. But given the interest around Bitcoin, it's amazing that it took this long, even with Nakamoto's first name change.

Update: The subject of Newsweek's story now denies he was the creator of Bitcoin.

Tags: Bitcoin   currency   Leah McGrath Goodman   money   Satoshi Nakamoto
06 Mar 20:07

The weight of mountains

by Jason Kottke

A beautifully shot short film about mountains, how they form, how they age, and how they die.

Tags: geology   video
06 Mar 22:21

Star Wars High

by Jason Kottke

Denis Medri illustrates scenes from Star Wars as if Luke, Leia, Han, and the rest of the gang were teenagers in an 80s movie like Back to the Future, Karate Kid, or Breakfast Club.

Luke and Leia in high school

Great Scott, the Force is strong in these two.

Tags: art   Denis Medri   movies   remix   Star Wars