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22 Oct 17:44

What Catholics Really Believe, Ctd

by Andrew Sullivan
Adam Victor Brandizzi

Que história!

A reader writes:

I want to share with you an anecdote that I think powerfully illustrates the disconnect between the hierarchy and the sensus fidelium on how LGBT people should be treated by the church.

I was born and raised a very conservative Roman Catholic environment in Texas. This was true for my home, my parish, and the private Catholic school I attended from ages 10 to 18. The liberal Catholics you describe were not only nowhere to be found, I had no idea such people even existed This picture taken 21 March 2007 shows auntil I moved to Boston during college. The Catholics I grew up around had much more in common culturally and politically with Southern evangelicals than the East Coast lefty Catholics I got to know as an adult. They still do for the most part.

I’ve spent the last several years living in DC and now Brooklyn, but my job has sent me back to the home town in Texas for six weeks of training. Last Thursday, I had dinner with two friends (both about 15 years older than me) from the parish I grew up in. We got to talking about our kids, and one of my friends mentioned that he thinks his daughter (in her early 20s) is probably a lesbian. I have the same impression but don’t know for sure one way or the other (I’m friendly on Facebook with her) and told him so. At this point, I need to explain exactly how conservative this man is. He carries a concealed weapon at all times (not that uncommon in Texas), BUT – he told us that he even carries it to church, because he wants to be ready if ISIS invades through the southern border and attacks our church, which he reasons would be an obvious target (FYI, we are hundreds of miles from the border). He is 100% serious about this. That should give you an idea of where this man is coming from. Now, after he mentioned his suspicion about his daughter’s orientation, our other friend asked him how he would react if she came out to him.

He said that he’d tell her that he doesn’t share with her what he and her mother do in bed, so she doesn’t need to share it with him, but that he loves her and always will. He also told us that he’d respect her more if she came out instead of hiding who she is. One can certainly criticize this reaction, but there can be no question that it is one of unconditional love. We didn’t discuss any matters of church doctrine, but this is the type of attitude that I believe Pope Francis is trying show us we need to take towards our LGBT brothers and sisters: First and always love. This is how everyday Catholics know to treat real people in real life.

Andrew, if the hierarchy has lost my dear friend, who is as right-wing and reactionary as they come, I honestly don’t know who they still have. Both my friend and his daughter love the church and are quite active in it. As you’ve written, Francis is forcing the bishops to finally have a conversation the faithful have been having for years. And I’m beginning to think that the sensus fidelium may be that there’s little left to discuss. We can only pray that Francis succeeds in leading the hierarchy into the light of Truth, the Truth being love. First and always love.

(Photo: Frederick Florin/AFP/Getty Images)

22 Oct 12:54

IKEA captures shopping horror with halloween tribute to 'The Shining'

Don't miss stories follow The Verge

IKEAs are terrifying. The thought of spending a weekend inside the Swedish furniture giant is the stuff of nightmares for many. IKEA Singapore takes the idea one step further by incorporating the famous Big Wheel scene from The Shining. Watch as an adorable kid wheels slowly through a dimly lit labyrinth of sofas and high-end tables, even as lights flicker and skeletons sup in designer kitchens. Gasp at the excellent camera work, and make sure to watch the clip all the way to the end. It's not quite as slyly creative as HORRORSTÖR, but the finale is adorable enough to justify the extra time.

10 Sep 11:39

The politics of personal drones, perfectly predicted in a YA novel from 1974 — The Message — Medium

Adam Victor Brandizzi

Pra vocês que curtem sci-fi.

Do you want to read a document that neatly specs out the future of personal drones — including the weird, fun, and creepy ways they’ll change society? I’ve got a book for you to read.

It was written in 1974. It was a sci-fi novel aimed at teenage kids. It is:

Forty years ago, it nailed everything we’re arguing today about personal drones, privacy, and the danger of government overreach.

(Before we go any further, take a moment to marvel at this gorgeous cover design. The color scheme! The cross-hatched drawings! That font, my god, what is going on there? They do not make covers like this anymore.)

The Danny Dunn series started in the 1950s, written by Raymond Abrashkin and Jay Williams. They covered the adventures of the eponymous teenager — who was obsessed with science and engineering — and his friends Irene (herself a physics and biology prodigy) and comic-relief Joe, an artsy type. Danny’s father was dead, so Danny lived with his mother at the home of Professor Bullfinch, a kindly Ben-Franklin-esque scientist whose inventions Danny and his friends inevitably messed with: Antigravity paint, a time machine, a heat ray. A cheesy premise, but Abrashkin and Williams were superb writers who deeply respected the intelligence of the kids reading their books. Much of their basic science was rock solid, and they frequently wove in a liberal moral message: Be curious, fight for fair play and justice, and think for yourself.

Which brings us the fascinating ethical landscape of Danny Dunn, Invisible Boy. It begins with Danny and his friends asking the Professor whether anyone could become invisible and spy on others. The Professor argues that physics probably wouldn’t allow true invisibility. But he offers a second, more pragmatic option:

Basically, he imagines a drone. Then he goes on to build one.

(I’m about to give major spoilers for this book, so on the rare chance that you’re about to buy an out-of-print copy on eBay, stop reading now!)

The drone.

A few weeks after the chat about invisibility, the Professor calls the three kids over to his lab. Surprise! He’s invented the device he envisioned. Thanks to a new semiconductor he accidentally discovered, he has been able to create the tiniest cameras, sensors and flight-control switches that have ever existed. He’s packed them into a “sensory probe” shaped like a tiny dragonfly, which the pilot can fly as far as 2,500 yards away, remotely powered by microwave.

The helmet and control gloves.

You control the drone using a keyboard box, a thoroughly funky virtual-reality helmet, and what look like a pair of souped up Nintendo Power Gloves. With head inside the hemet, the pilot sees what the dragonfly sees, and even feels what the dragonfly feels via haptic feedback in the gloves. (This is the only automagical part of the technical specs. Up until the haptic-feedback stuff, the drone’s tech was surprisingly plausible and non-bonkers.)

The kids immediately ask to give it a try, and the Professor figures hey — 1970s teenagers piloting the world’s first remote-controlled spy drone! What could possibly go wrong? So Irene straps on the controls, which in the hands of the book’s fabulous illustrator, looks completely metal:

I want a t-shirt with this image on it.

Irene zooms the drone around the lab, and then, being super interested in biology, she starts following a robin to its nest, where she gets a breathtaking closeup view of it feeding its children. “She could even see the tiny pulse throbbing in his breast, and she remembered that birds have a very high temperature and that their hearts beat as fast as ten times a second.” (Parents, there is a teachable moment like this on almost every page.)

In essence, Irene discovers something that environmentalists are realizing today: That small personal drones are great for observing the natural world. Later on, Danny suggests that drones would also be perfect for exploring other planets — something that NASA scientists are now pondering for Mars’ lower atmosphere. These are the upsides of personal drones that we’re currently exploring in today’s world. Drones are, as I recently argued in Smithsonian magazine, creating a renaissance in the aesthetics of everyday photography, in the same way that the handheld, portable Kodak camera reinvented picture-taking in the 19th century. New tools create new aesthetics.

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22 Oct 16:00

kindamindless: I laughed way too much


I laughed way too much

21 Oct 16:00

perfectlydreadful: watdawut: Not in my neighborhood The hero...



Not in my neighborhood

The hero Gotham deserves.

21 Oct 18:56

The Warrior never Rests!

by boulet
21 Oct 20:00

mihlayn: New Zealand’s finest.


New Zealand’s finest.

21 Oct 13:41

The man who magically made maths fun

Adam Victor Brandizzi

Tem mais no link

Martin Gardner

The writer and puzzle master Martin Gardner, who died in 2010, was once said to have turned dozens of innocent youngsters into maths professors - and thousands of maths professors into innocent youngsters. Maths writer Colm Mulcahy looks back at the amazing career of a man who would have been 100 this week.

Let's warm up with three gems from the vaults:

1. What angle is made by the two red lines drawn on the two sides of the cube, as shown in the illustration?

cube 1

2. A logician visits a distant planet inhabited by two groups of aliens, compulsive liars and faithful truth-tellers. She comes to a fork in a road - one road goes to the left, the other to the right. She meets two aliens there, one a liar, the other a truth-teller... but she doesn't know which is which. The logician must ask just one Yes/No question to discover which road she should take to reach their leader. She thinks for a moment and then asks her question. What question might she have asked?

3. Imagine heating a metal ring enough so it expands. What happens to the hole, does it get bigger or smaller?

metal ring

You may already know the answers to the above questions if you've read some of the 100 or so books written by the American man of letters and numbers, Martin Gardner (1914-2010). His works have long been popular with a variety of people, from science and maths types, to lovers of magic, enemies of pseudoscience, and aficionados of Lewis Carroll - Gardner's Annotated Alice, by far his best seller, has sold more than a million copies.

The most important thing about the three puzzles above is that you can work them out right now, if you have initiative and patience (and a little knowledge of physics). No mathematical training is required. There are some hints at the bottom of the page, and below that, the answers.

Scientific American cover with Escher artwork

Gardner specialised in such puzzles, having studied closely the works of the masters of an earlier generation, England's Henry Dudeney and his American counterpart, Sam Loyd.

The reward for solving puzzles like these, unaided, is to experience priceless Aha! moments. "Googling it is not the Gardner way," says the philosopher Bob Crease in Physics Today this month. "The Gardner way is to ignite your fascination so that you experience the pleasure of finding the answer yourself."

Gardner's writing has ignited many sparks over the decades, and even inspired a few scriptwriters fond of nerdy inside jokes. The logician puzzle above resurfaced (slightly repackaged) in the Pyramids of Mars episode of Dr Who, from October 1975. Maths writer Simon Singh, meanwhile, says some of the Simpsons writers - who occasionally slip hidden mathematical references into the storyline - were influenced by Gardner.

One of the last true polymaths, Martin Gardner is best remembered for the quarter century's worth of Mathematical Games columns he wrote for Scientific American magazine, where he injected a spirit of fun and play into a subject many associate with fear and drudgery. It went a lot further than puzzles - there was substance, depth and a fair share of mystery and wonder in the topics he wrote about.

Mandelbrot fractal
Gardner's column introduced the world to Mandelbrot's fractals

His lifelong passions included conjuring, chess, wordplay, puzzles of all kinds, science (good, bad and bogus), philosophy and children's literature. He wrote about all of those, extensively, in essays, reviews and books, for a period of 80 years.

His friends, associates and admirers included Arthur C Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Carl Sagan, M C Escher, Salvador Dali, Douglas Hofstadter, Stephen Jay Gould, Noam Chomsky, W H Auden, and well as magicians Penn & Teller.

Throw in leading mathematicians John Horton Conway, Roger Penrose and Benoit Mandelbrot, and you start to see how well connected he was. It was Gardner who introduced the public to Conway's Game of Life, Penrose's aperiodic tilings of the plane, and Mandelbrot's fractals.

Two classic columns

Scientific American cover with Penrose tiles

1. The Game of Life appeared in Scientific American in 1970, and was by far the most successful of Gardner's columns, in terms of reader response. It concerns a deceptively simple cellular automata model of "life," in which small organisms are born, evolve, and die according to set rules. Early computer users programmed it with enthusiasm, often at the expense of their official duties, and it soon attracted the attention of theorists. Via Gardner's column, Conway asked for a proof that infinitely growing patterns existed, and offered a cash prize for a solution. In due course, this was claimed by a young computer scientist named Bill Gosper. Conway was then able to prove that Life was in essence a Turing machine that in principle could do everything computers could.

2. In 1977, Gardner wrote about what are now known as Penrose tiles. These provide a novel and surprising way to cover a flat surface with the same two shapes, known as darts and kites, over and over, yet in such a way that no repeating pattern is present. With a little imagination, a similar nonperiodic effect is achievable using traditional tile shapes, such as squares or hexagons, though we are more used to seeing floors tiled with those in totally predictable ways. The point of darts and kites is that they can only tile in a nonperiodic fashion, something that was not even known to be a possibility until the mid-60s.

He also broke the story of the invention of RSA cryptography — the now standard way in which confidential data such as passwords, bank information, and the like, are secured in digital transmission - getting into trouble with the US government in the process.

And he was the first to reach a wide audience with a popular piece on the mathematical underpinnings of Escher's amazing art.

Two of the recurring themes in Gardner's thinking were that puzzles, far from being trivial, were:

* An effective way to engage people (especially young people) in a topic

* A fun way to discover new mathematics, and maybe even new science

"The best way, it has always seemed to me, to make mathematics interesting to students and laymen is to approach it in a spirit of play," he wrote.

"Surely the best way to wake up a student is to present him with an intriguing mathematical game, puzzle, magic trick, joke, paradox, model, limerick, or any of a score of other things that dull teachers tend to avoid because they seem frivolous. The frivolity keeps the reader alert. The seriousness makes the play worthwhile."

Readers may be surprised, he added, by the amount of nontrivial mathematics they absorb without even trying.

Penrose tiles are a good example of just how "nontrivial" the consequences of his puzzle column could be. The material scientist Dan Shechtman actually won a Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2011 "for the discovery of quasicrystals" - three-dimensional Penrose tiles - in some aluminium-manganese alloys.

"They are a marvellous example of how a mathematical discovery, made with no inkling of its application to reality, may turn out to have been anticipated by Mother Nature!" Gardner wrote in his memoirs, Undiluted Hocus-Pocus.

Ironically, despite his considerable reputation in mathematical circles, Gardner had no credentials in the field. At the University of Chicago, in the 1930s, he'd studied philosophy. "The big secret of my success as a columnist was that I didn't know much about math," he told the New York Times in 2009. "I had to struggle to get everything clear before I wrote a column, so that meant I could write it in a way that people could understand."

Optical illusions

Thinky the hollow-face illusion

In the 1950s, Gardner spent many years working for children's magazines, and was adept at designing amusing paper-folding games, sometimes featuring optical illusions. Indeed, the article which secured him a regular column with Scientific American was about a paper-folding activity called flexagons, discovered in the USA by British postgrad Arthur Stone.

Gardner's Optical Illusion Play Pack from 2008 included a reverse-motion-parallax-based item called Rotating House, in which a stationary cut-out house gives the impression of moving as one walks around it. This has its roots in the work of Martin's friend, the illusionist Jerry Andrus, and it is even more effective in the Thinky the Dragon illusion. You can print a Thinky kit, created by American puzzle entrepreneur Bill Ritchie for this year's Celebration of Mind festival in honour of Martin Gardner. (The mathematics behind the illusion is explained in this video.)

Gardner also played a key role in the founding of the US sceptical movement, countering parapsychology, psychics and other nonsense, starting with his landmark book Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science in 1952. At the same time, he loved magic — MAGIC magazine rated him one of the 100 Most Influential Magicians of the 20th Century — and was keenly aware how easily even intelligent, highly educated people can be fooled. When Uri Geller wowed television viewers in the 1970s by seemingly drawing on magic powers to bend spoons, some scientists invited him to their laboratories to work out what was going on. Gardner and his fellow debunker of bogus science, the magician James Randi, scoffed.

Uri Geller bending a fork and a metal comb

"If you want to know how Geller bends spoons, don't ask a physicist, even if he won a Nobel Prize. Ask me or Randi," he wrote.

I had the good fortune to get to know Gardner in his later years, visiting him several times in his cosy room-cum-office in a retirement home in Norman, Oklahoma, surrounded by his favourite books, with his prized original M C Escher on the wall, alongside the famous photograph of Einstein taken the day he became a US citizen. He was a shy, gentle character, with a twinkle in his eye, and an impish sense of humour.

For such an organised man with seemingly instant access to a wealth of information on a huge range of subjects, it's surprising to learn that he avoided computers and email. His secret was a fantastic card index system of his own, going back to the 1930s, stored in shoe boxes.

Martin worked away, seven days a week, often standing up, well into his 90s. He still had a childlike fascination with questions such as, "Why does a mirror appear to switch left and right, but not up and down?" and "Why are the sun and moon almost the exact same size when viewed from earth?"

The last time we spoke was when I phoned him while waiting for a flight at Boston airport. He revealed that Richard Dawkins had recently paid him a brief surprise visit, on his way to the local airport, after delivering a lecture nearby. Pleasant small talk followed, Martin told me, before Dawkins stood up to leave, but Martin said that he insisted his visitor sit down again, and for about 15 minutes, they had an "intense conversation". As Martin was telling me this, I had to cut him off, as the final boarding call for own my flight had just been announced. I never found what that intense conversation was about, but I'm confident it involved theology in some way.

Ironically, for an avowed sceptic who had no time for any form of organised religion, Martin Gardner believed in a personal God, in the value of prayer, and in an afterlife (the nature of which he refused to speculate about). Although he wrote about this at length in his 1983 book, The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener, few of his fans seemed to notice.

Fundamental questions about life and our place in the universe nagged at him his whole life. While he deservedly had a reputation as a no-nonsense rationalist, he also knew what was unknowable.

"There are dozens of monumental questions about which I have to say, 'I don't know.' I don't know whether there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, or whether life is so improbable that we are truly alone in the cosmos," he said in 1998, in an interview with Skeptical Inquirer (a magazine he'd helped to found in the 1970s).

"I can say this. I believe that the human mind, or even the mind of a cat, is more interesting in its complexity than an entire galaxy if it is devoid of life."

In a just released video of a long lost interview from 1994, Gardner tells the amusing story of how he came to review The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener for the New York Review of Books, under an assumed name. The review was scathing!

"To put it bluntly, Gardner is a simpleminded fideist," he wrote. "It is impossible to imagine anyone reading his outrageous confessional ... who... will not be infuriated by his idiosyncrasies."


1. Don't be fooled by the perspective shown. Triangulate, all things being equal.

2. Whatever she does, she shouldn't ask either of them "Are you a liar?" or "Does the road to the right go to your leader?" because she'll learn nothing from the answers to either of those. Perhaps a question that involves aliens and roads would work...

3. If your answer is "Yes", you're off to a good start. The real question is, which - bigger or smaller? If your brain is sufficiently warmed up, the mind-expanding answer is close by.


This time you're more or less on your own, at least for now. Solutions will be given on Friday in the Magazine Monitor.

Remember, you'll be much happier if you resist looking up the answers and instead try to solve them yourself.

4. An Englishman (Mr Salmon), a Welshman (Mr Green), and a Scotsman (Mr Brown) met for lunch one day. One man was wearing a salmon tie, another was wearing a green tie and the third was wearing a brown tie. "Isn't it funny," said Mr Brown to the others, "that not one of us is wearing a tie which matches our name?" "That's true," agreed the man wearing the green tie. Can you now say what colour tie each man was wearing?

5. Can you fold up a one-by-seven strip like this to form a cube with sides one unit long?

line 1

6. Can you think of two common words that begin and end with "he"? (No four-letter words please.)

7. When two opposite corners on a chess or draughts board are removed, as in the picture, a classic question asks if the remaining 62 squares can be covered with 31 dominoes, each the size of two squares.


Take a bit of time to think about this, before reading on.

Note that the two removed squares are the same colour.

Since each domino covers one yellow and one black square, 31 of them would cover 31 yellow and 31 black squares. This mismatch means that the answer is No. Mathematicians refer to this as a "parity argument": a full board and any number of dominoes have the same parity - an equal number of squares of each colour - but the board above with two missing opposite corners does not preserve this parity. The same argument applies if we remove any two squares of the same colour - the resulting mutilated board cannot be covered with 31 dominoes.

But wait, there's more: suppose that two squares of different colours are removed from such a board, for instance two adjacent corner squares. Show that the remaining 62 squares definitely can be covered with 31 dominoes each the size of two squares. This actually works no matter where the two squares are removed from. Can you construct a valid argument that works in all cases?

8. What is the significance of the repeated "little" in Lewis Carroll's All in a Golden Afternoon from Alice In Wonderland?

All in the golden afternoon / Full leisurely we glide; / For both our oars, with little skill, / By little arms are plied, / While little hands make vain pretence / Our wanderings to guide.

9. Can you fill in the blank space below to yield a true sentence?

In this sentence there are neither more nor less than ................... three-letter words.

10. Consider the magic square below. Note that its rows, columns and diagonals each add up to the magic constant 45. What else about it is interesting?

magic numbers


4. Who must have been wearing the green tie?

5. You're allowed to fold diagonally.

6. We know, it's painful until you get it.

7. No hint.

8. Who in real life inspired Alice In Wonderland?

9. Use your words. (Those of a mathematical bent should be able to suggest many solutions.)

10. When spelled out, 5 has four letters.


1. If the ends of the two red lines at the bottom left and top left are connected by a third red line along the invisible left face of the cube, then since each of the red lines joins two opposite corners of same-sizes squares, those three lines form an equilateral triangle. Hence at each corner of that triangle, two red lines meet at 60 degrees.

cubes 2

2. There are many questions that work, and it doesn't matter which alien she asks. For instance, she could point to one of them, and say to the other, "If I ask him if the road to the right goes to your leader, what would he say?" To see why this surely leads to enlightenment, consider the various possibilities that arise. First, assume the road to the right does indeed lead to the leader. If she's speaking to the truth-teller, then the other alien will say No, and this is what she'll be told. On the other hand, if she's speaking to the liar, then the other alien will say Yes, but she'll be told No instead. Either way, she'll get the answer No.

Now, assume the road to the right does not lead to their leader. If she's speaking to the truth-teller, then the other alien will say Yes, which is what she'll be told. But if she's speaking to the liar, then the other alien will say No, and she'll be told Yes instead. Either way, she'll get the answer Yes. The upshot is that no matter who she's talking to, that alien's one-word answer reveals the truth of the matter: if No, then the right road does go to the leader, and if Yes, it doesn't.

3. A heated metal ring expands outwards proportionally, so everything gets larger, including the hole.

Subscribe to the BBC News Magazine's email newsletter to get articles sent to your inbox.

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21 Oct 16:08

Hints for writing Unix tools

The workaday world of a modern programmer abounds with Unix tools, stitched together in myriad ways. While good tools integrate seamlessly with your own environment, bad ones will constantly frustrate your efforts. Good tools have a seemingly limitless application, constrained only by your own imagination. Bad tools, on the other hand, will often require that you deploy a salvo of brittle hacks to keep them barely working in your own environment.

“One thing well” misses the point: it should be “One thing well AND COMPOSES WELL”

— marius eriksen (@marius) October 10, 2012

I don’t want to attempt to explain what makes for good design; this has been discussed elsewhere. Instead, I want to outline a few established customs that you should take care to follow when writing new tools. While making a truly good tool can be an elusive goal, it isn’t difficult to avoid making a truly bad one. Unix demands good citizenry from its tools: it relies on a set of conventions to make things work, and importantly, to compose, well. Here follows a few key customs, often violated. These aren’t absolute requirements, but you should think long and hard before violating them.

Consume input from stdin, produce output to stdout. Put another way, your program should be a filter. Filters are easily integrated into shell pipelines, arguably the most important utility for Unix tools composition.

Output should be free from headers or other decoration. Superflous output will frustrate users who are trying to parse tool output. Headers and decoration tend to be less regular and more idiosyncratic than the structured data you’re really trying to get at. Don’t do it.

Output should be simple to parse and compose. This usually means representing each record as a single, plain-text formatted line of output whose columns are separated by whitespace. (No JSON, please.) Most venerable Unix tools—grep, sort, and sed among them—assume this. As a simple example, consider the following output from a benchmark suite. It is formatted by starting each record with the benchmark name, followed by a set of key-value pairs associated with the named benchmark. This is a flexible structure to work with as it allows you to add or remove keys at will without violating the output format.

$ ./runbenchmarks
Benchmark: fizzbuzz
Time: 10 ns/op
Alloc: 32 bytes/op
Benchmark: fibonnacci
Time: 13 ns/op
Alloc: 40 bytes/op

While convenient, it is quite clumsy to work with in Unix. Consider a very common thing we might want to do: look up the timing results for a single benchmark. Here’s how you do it.

$ ./runbenchmarks | awk '/^Benchmark:/ { bench = $2}  bench=="fizzbuzz"'
Benchmark: fizzbuzz
Time: 10 ns/op
lloc: 32 bytes/op

If instead each line presents exactly one record, where columns are separated by whitespace, this becomes a much simpler task.

$ ./runbenchmarks 
fizzbuzz	10	32
fibonnaci	13	40
$ ./runbenchmarks | grep '^fizzbuzz'
fizzbuzz	10	32

The advantage becomes even more evident when reordering or aggregating the input. For example, when the output is record-per-line, sorting the results by time spent is a simple matter of invoking sort:

$ ./runbenchmarks | sort -n -r -k2,2
fibonnaci	13	40
fizzbuzz	10	32

Treat a tool’s output as an API. Your tool will be used in contexts beyond your own imagination. If a tool’s output format is changed, other tools that compose or otherwise build on its output will invariably break—you have broken the API contract.

Place diagnostics output on stderr. Diagnostics output includes anything that is not the primary data output of your tool. Among these are: progress indicators, debugging output, log messages, error messages, and usage information. When diagnostics output is intermingled with data, it is very difficult to parse, and thus compose, the tool’s output. What’s more, stderr makes diagnostics output more useful since, even if stdout is being filtered or redirected, stderr keeps printing to the user’s terminal—the ultimate target of diagnostics output.

Signal failure with an exit status. If your tool fails, exit with a status other than 0. This allows for simple integration shells, and also simpler error handling in scripts. Consider the difference between two tools that build binaries. We’d like to build upon this tool to execute the built binary only if the build succeeds. Badbuild prints the word ‘FAILED’ as the last line when it fails.

$ ./badbuild binary
$ echo $?
$ # Run binary on successful build.
$ test "$(./badbuild binary | tail -1)" != "FAILED" && ./binary

Goodbuild sets its exit status appropriately.

$ ./goodbuild
$ echo $?
$ # Run binary on successful build.
$ ./goodbuild binary && ./binary

Make a tool’s output portable. Put another way, a tool’s output should stand on its own, requiring as little context as possible to parse and interpret. For example, you should use absolute paths to represent files, and fully qualified hostnames to name internet hosts. Portable output is directly usable by other tools without further context. A frequent violator of this is build tools. For example, both the GCC and Clang compilers try to be clever by reporting paths that are relative to your working directory. In this example, the source file paths are presented relative to the current working directory when the compiler was invoked.

$ cc tmp/bad/x.c
tmp/bad/x.c:1:1: error: unknown type name 'INVALID_C'
tmp/bad/x.c:1:10: error: expected identifier or '('
2 errors generated.

This cleverness breaks down quickly. For example if I use make(1) with the -C flag.

$ cat tmp/bad/Makefile
	cc x.c
$ make -C tmp/bad
cc x.c
x.c:1:1: error: unknown type name 'INVALID_C'
x.c:1:10: error: expected identifier or '('
2 errors generated.
make: *** [all] Error 1

Now the output is less useful: to which file does “x.c” refer? Other tools that build on this need additional context, the -C argument, in order to interpret the compiler’s output—the output does not stand on its own.

Omit needless diagnostics. Resist the temptation to inform the user of everything that is being done. (But if you must, do it on stderr.) A good tool is quiet when all is well, but produces useful diagnostics output when things go wrong. Excessive diagnostics conditons users to ignore all diagnostics; useful diagnostics output does not require the user to grub around in endless log files to discern what went wrong, and where. There’s nothing wrong with having a verbose mode (typically enabled by a ‘-v’ flag) in order to aid development and debugging, but do not make this the default.

Avoid making interactive programs. Tools should be usable without user interaction beyond what’s provided by the user’s shell. Unix programs are expected to run without user input: it allows programs to be run in non-interactively by cron, or to be easily distributed for execution by a remote machine. Even a single interaction forfeits this very useful capability. Interactivity also makes composition more difficult. Since Unix’s program composition model does not distinguish the output of the various programs involved, it isn’t always clear which program a user is even interacting with. A common use of interactive programs is to ask the user to confirm some dangerous action. This is easily avoided by asking the user instead to supply a flag on the command line to the appropriate tool.

I wrote this because I find myself continually frustrated by attempting to use and compose bad tools—bad tools that waste time and limit their own usefulness. Most of these tools could be made a lot better by following the above advice.

For a more general discussion of Unix tools design, I encourage you to read Kernighan and Pike’s “The Unix Programming Environment .”

Discussion on Hacker News.

Bookmarked at brandizzi Delicious' sharing tag and expanded by Delicious sharing tag expander.
21 Oct 22:15

Map Of The Day

by Andrew Sullivan


Amanda Taub highlights the work data journos at The Guardian have been doing with Wikileaks’ Iraq War logs. Each red dot on the above map – the screenshot seen above only shows one corner of Baghdad, but the project covers the whole country – represents one of some 60,000 combat-related fatal incidents (mostly IEDs) between 2004 and 2009, representing more than 100,000 deaths. And that’s not even the whole story, as Taub points out:

[T]he true extent of the violence is much worse: the map likely only shows a small fraction of the attacks from that period. The database the map is drawn from does not include deaths from criminal activity, or those that were initiated by Coalition or Iraqi forces. And many deaths may not have been officially tallied. That means that the real total is almost certainly much higher. But even seeing the number of attacks recorded here shows how devastating this war has been to Baghdad’s civilians, who must now face even more attacks.

20 Oct 14:23

Biography of an Inflatable Tube Guy

They dance on street corners and used car lots, waving their stubby arms in the wind. Tirelessly they shimmy, collapse, and bob up again, stupid grin permanently glued to their stupid faces. They are wacky inflatable tube guys, a ubiquitous advertising product that manages to be mesmerizing, hilarious, and existentially bleak, depending on your mood.

Sitting at a stoplight with nothing else to stare at, it’s easy to watch their erratic performance and wonder: How did something so strange take over our commercial streetscape?

To find out, I called a man named Doron Gazit. By most accounts (we’ll get to that later), this Israeli artist and inflatables designer is the inventor of the dancing tube guy, which made its debut, improbably, at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. But when I asked him where the tube guy’s true origins lie, he took me back even further.

“In the beginning,” Gazit told me, “it was just the airtubes.”

Photo courtesy of Doron Gazit.

While attending industrial design school in Jerusalem in the ‘70s, Gazit had a side gig hawking balloon designs (animals, hats, etc.) on the streets. Around that time he also experienced what he calls a “formative event” when, he claims, he introduced balloons to the Bedouins, whose first encounters with the inflated objects illuminated for him their whimsical, spirited quality.

Gazit credits his father, who worked in agriculture, for the inspiration to scale up from his hand-crafted creatures to industrial production. Seeing the plastic-covered greenhouses on his family farm, Gazit was struck by the potential to use these industrial structures for large-format art. He and his father visited a factory where he saw the plastic polytunnels being extruded, and from there he developed his “Airtubes” — 500-foot-long, multicolored inflatables which float, when filled, like lightweight pontoons.

He began using the airtubes as an artistic medium, with the natural landscape as his canvas and the tube as his “three-dimensional line,” citing earth artists like Christo and Andy Goldsworthy as major influences. He strung the airtubes in trees, across desert landscapes, around scaffolding towers, and into the waters of the Dead Sea.

Photo courtesy of Doron Gazit.

“Then, I also developed the technology to be able to inflate it,” he says, “I made it flame-retardant and UV-protected. The thin ones I made for my work in nature sensitive enough to be inflated by the wind; the heavy-duty ones I inflate with blowers and use them to design events and they can remain inflated for many months.”

This work got him an invitation to show his inflatable sculptures in the ’84 LA Olympics, and he decided to move to LA in the wake of the games. There, he started his commercial inflatable design operation, Air Dimensional Design, Inc., and continued to work not just with closed airtubes, but with open tubes in windy locations that would catch the breeze and dance out over the landscape.

Gazit describes this work as “visualizing the invisible,” with the tube only serving as a medium for the air flowing through it. He became an early Burning Man habitué, and continues to go almost every year, happy to take part in the “volcano of creativity” against the backdrop of one of his favorite natural canvases, the desert.

“But working with the wind,” Gazit says, “it was always horizontal.” He began thinking about how to capture that same tube-in-the-wind motion, only vertically. The birth of the tube guy was at hand.

By the time the organizers of the ’96 Olympics in Atlanta got in touch about creating giant dancing inflatable humanoids, Gazit says that he had developed fans powerful enough to project his three-dimensional lines 100 feet into the sky. He consulted with an engineer friend to design a figure that would look like they were dancing, rather than just flopping around. The Fly Guys — Gazit’s name for the two-legged dancing inflatable tube guys — were born, and premiered at the closing ceremony.

But these first tube guys didn’t look much like the simple wiggling noodle man that’s since come to dominate America’s used car lots. They were sixty feet tall, with two legs that each had a dedicated fan and a separate articulated torso, arms, and head. These weren’t tube guys. These were full-on tube gods.

Soon afterwards, the design started popping up at other big events. A company called Tubeworks, started by a man named Drake Diamond (née Austin, Diamond being a nom de tube), supplied a floppy forest of tubes to dance behind Ricky Martin’s Grammy performance in 1998, and both Diamond and Gazit were booked to provide two-legged wacky tube guys to dance along during the finale of the ’98 Superbowl halftime show, a star-studded Motown revue.

A clip from the ‘98 Superbowl halftime show.

Then the tube guys were everywhere. From the late ‘90s to the early aughts, the figures became wacky inflatable cash cows for the businesses that manufactured, sold, and rented them.

I spoke with Colleen Carol, the inflatable party decoration professional who Wikipedia falsely credits with inventing the tube guy, about the early days of the industry. With some basic sewing skills and someone else’s design to copy, anyone could start making their own tube guys and selling or renting them out. Carroll, who followed that copycat recipe to a T to make her first tube guys after seeing them at the Olympics, remembers huge orders coming in during the dot-com heyday, with everyone from Sun Microsystems to Microsoft ordering the new undulating toys by the dozens for lavish Silicon Valley bashes.

But even then, these were not the tube guys we know and love. There were the solid-colored, two-legged Fly Guys, like the ones Gazit made for the ’96 Olympics, and there were solid-colored dancing tubes, like the ones behind Ricky Martin at the Grammys. But the single-tubed guys with little arms and dumb smiles hadn’t yet hit the scene.

Chris Austin, the son of Drake Diamond and the current CEO of Sky Dancers International (Tubeworks’ successor), remembers the shift to the cartoonish single-tubed dude coming around the turn of the millennium, as inflatables manufacturers started specializing and making individual characters like cowboys, guys in tuxedos, or court jesters for clients. But no one I spoke with in the Inflatable Advertising Dealer’s Association (an organization whose logo includes an artful silhouette of the iconic tube guy) seems to be able to pin down the origin of the standard-model tube guy waggling around the world today. Some good things, it seems, just emerge from the collective wacky inflatable unconscious.

The tube guy’s golden era was upon us, but trouble was brewing in the industry. Unbeknownst to his competitors, Gazit had applied for the patent on the tube man, or as the official document calls it, the “Apparatus and Method for Providing Inflated Undulating Figures,” soon after its debut at the ’96 Olympics. Gazit’s application was approved in 2001 (the patent office moves slowly), and he quickly began enforcing his rights, dunning other manufacturers for licensing fees.

As the patent documents make clear, Gazit’s rights only apply to wacky dancing inflatable figures with two or more outlet holes — in other words, the single torso dancing dudes are exempt, as long as their arms don’t have any outlets — but his move to profit off his many imitators stirred up no small amount of bad blood within the industry.

Which is where the tube guy truthers come in. The ’96 Olympic ceremony was, as a whole, designed by a man named Peter Minshall, a renowned Trinidadian Carnival artist who’s something of a superstar in the Carnival parade design world. So, the theory goes, it was Minshall who actually designed the original tube guy, while Gazit just built it and, later, patented it.

I tried to contact Minshall in Trinidad, and received a reply from Todd Gulick, Minshall’s longtime production manager and collaborator. In short, Gulick claims Minshall came up with the idea, they had no idea Gazit was patenting and profiting off of it, and at one point they almost went to court over it, but ended up deciding it would take too much time and cost too much money.

Los Gigantes Olimpicos designed by Peter Minshall, from the segment ¡HOLA!, Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games in Barcelona, 1992. Courtesy of Peter Minshall.

I asked Gazit about Gulick’s claims, and received a respectful if dismissive response. Gazit says that Minshall “had the vision of humanoid dancers,” but Gazit ended up actually making the original tube guys, using his prior expertise with “vertical inflatables.” It was also, Gazit adds, “a great honor” to work with Peter Minshall.

Differences aside, Gazit and Gulick agree on one thing: the single-tubed descendants of their wacky inflatable Olympic babies are an abomination. Gazit calls them “very ugly and very unattractive,” and Gulick, “an impoverished version of the device.”

More than any patent issues or industry-wide controversy, low aesthetic opinion has presented the greatest threat to this American design icon. Countless municipalities (literally, the Inflatable Advertising Dealer’s Association has no idea what the number is) across the country have banned the tube guy and most other forms of inflatable advertising within their city limits. Houston, perhaps the largest city with such a ban, claims that their use “contributes to urban visual clutter and blight and adversely affects the aesthetic environment” of the city.

These bans started popping up in the mid-2000s, but really picked up speed around 2010, after the tube guy had spread to the lots of seemingly every used car dealer in the country. Chris Austin, the CEO of Sky Dancers International, says that the bans, combined with the gradual erosion of the “novelty factor,” has led to a general decline in popularity. Plus, an influx of Chinese-manufactured tube guys around the same time drastically undercut the profits of American manufacturers, forcing them to either adapt or specialize. Austin, for instance, said “the money now is in flags, as far as outdoor advertising goes,” while others have focused on innovation, using new dye techniques to offer better, photorealistic prints on tube guys, or on hyper-specific branded balloons for corporate events.

No longer novel, banned across America, and made on the cheap, the outlook for the tube guy might seem grim. But there is still a future for the bravely dancing tube dude, even if it’s no longer meant for human eyes: The tube guy, it turns out, makes a great scarecrow.

Photo: Air Ranger

Dealers and manufacturers say that landfills, farms, and warehouses have been buying up tube guys for years to keep birds away, but one company in particular, Look Our Way, has formalized the tube guy’s transition within the workforce. The company has recently started selling Air Rangers — the same tube guy as always, except with shiny mylar “hair” and “fingers,” and a mean-looking scowl instead of the normal dumb grin.

A USDA-funded study at Michigan State and Cornell has been trying to quantify the effectiveness of wacky inflatable scarecrows since 2012, and the anecdotal data from farmers and vintners involved in the study seems promising, though the researchers have yet to release any official results. Nick Kusanovich, sales director at Look Our Way, says that their research has found that Air Rangers work better than traditional anti-bird measures, like giant fake birds of prey or even sporadically exploded firecrackers, precisely because the inflatable tube guys are so wacky.

“Other products out there have some repetitive motion that works initially,” Kusanovich said, “but after a while, birds seem to figure out that it’s not really a threat.” The random undulations of the tube guy, however, combined with the noise of the fan, seem to keep birds at bay indefinitely.

But why give the Air Ranger an angry face? Are birds more freaked out by giant wiggling tubes that look like they had a bad day? Kusanovich says that they kept the face mostly for the eyes, since some farmers reported partial success controlling bird damage using balloons painted with giant eyes, which theoretically resemble the predatory peepers of a gigantic owl. The mean mouth, though, seems like the last little design touch meant for the Air Ranger’s limited human audience.

It might be a far cry from abstract landscape art or the high-concept pomp of the Olympic opening ceremonies, but the tube guy has wackily danced its way back to whence it came — Gazit, remember, was partially inspired to make the original airtubes by his father’s plastic-tunnel greenhouses, growing up in Israel.

Air Ranger promotional video

On its way from greenhouse wall to next-gen scarecrow, though, the tube guy picked up some tricks of the entertainment trade. Look Our Way has a video of an Air Ranger installation in a berry field up on its website that might as well be an art project, or an SNL short, the camera silently closing in on a single tube guy, his face contorted in rage, as he and his brothers dance alone in the countryside. It’s meant as an ad for the product, but like most videos of the tube guys, it is mysteriously hilarious.

I asked Doron Gazit what, exactly, makes his invention so mesmerizing, and so inexplicably funny. His answer reminded me of one of the prevailing theories of comedy itself, that humor comes from an upending of expectations, or a sudden collapse of two incongruous ideas. “Within the tube is a balance of static pressure and dynamic pressure,” Gazit said, “and people feel it’s something that defies physics — usually something is going down, and here is something that defies gravity.”

In a sense, the tube guy is a physical manifestation of how humor works. When you think he’s standing still, he flops down; when you think he’s flopped down for good, he pops back up, still stupidly grinning, in the face of all this calamity, still waving his little arms in the air. As with birds, the movement is just unpredictable enough to make us keep watching. To something common between human and avian brains, it almost seems alive.

Cover photo by Steve and Sara Emry/Flickr

20 Oct 04:47

Visualization: The Elements According to Relative Abundance (1970)

by David Pescovitz

An excellent graphic from 1970 by Santa Clara University chemistry professor William F. Sheehan (RIP). (via Clifford Pickover)

21 Oct 19:41

Tuesday Humor?: 0.1% "Problems"

by Tyler Durden

Presented with no comment...



Source: The Burning Platform

21 Oct 05:27

Brasileiro não sabe votar

by Valdenor Júnior

Por Beatriz Martins

Uma das coisas das quais o Brasil tem mesmo do que se orgulhar é a sua diversidade cultural. A interação entre culturas e opiniões diversas é sempre benéfica para qualquer debate, e no cenário político brasileiro não é diferente. A época de eleições nacionais pela qual passamos a cada 4 anos, entretanto, expõe um aspecto negativo dessa diversidade: a xenofobia decorrente dela.

Segundo o Datafolha, Dilma vence Aécio nas pesquisas de intenção de voto em duas regiões: Norte e Nordeste. Não por acaso seriam as duas regiões menos industrializadas do país, com os mais baixos índices de escolarização e menores IDHs. Todos esses indicadores permitem aos moradores do Sul e Sudeste acusar os governos Lula e Dilma de “populistas” e chamar essas regiões, em especial o Nordeste, de “currais eleitorais” do PT.

São Paulo é um dos estados que mais se pode chamar de “curral eleitoral” de algum partido. O PSDB ocupa o Palácio dos Bandeirantes há 24 anos e Alckmin segue por mais 4 anos no cargo. Apesar de ser um “curral” da mesma maneira que o Nordeste seria, em alguns aspectos as duas regiões são bem diferentes: São Paulo tem a maior concentração de capital e pessoas do país, os melhores índices de desenvolvimento, menor taxa de analfabetismo, dentre outros indicadores que o favorecem.

Seriam as condições socioeconômicas de cada região do país consequência de suas escolhas partidárias? A resposta, obviamente, é não. Há uma confusão frequente de causa e efeito nas análises mais simplórias da relação ação do governo/situação do estado governado. Dizer que se o Nordeste votasse no PSDB como faz o Sudeste a região já teria saído da pobreza é ignorância histórica.

Desde o século XVII, com o ciclo do Ouro, o Sudeste passou a acumular fatores que permitiram sua industrialização, tais como formação de mercado consumidor e aumento na oferta de mão de obra, decorrentes da migração em massa para a região. Estes fatores se intensificaram mais tarde com o ciclo do café, e segue sendo mantido com subsídios e investimentos na “indústria nacional” – os quais são majoritariamente destinados à indústria paulista.

Percebe-se logo que a situação econômica atual do estado é resultado de um processo muito mais complexo e longo do que qualquer gestão tucana – o que não significa que as sucessivas reeleições do PSDB no estado sejam um fenômeno independente de seu nível de industrialização.

A industrialização levou ao enriquecimento da classe média paulista e, consequentemente, também alterou seus interesses políticos, que passaram a ser incompatíveis com um governo que privilegia as camadas mais pobres do Brasil, como vem sendo o caso desde o governo Lula. O PSDB representa hoje um “antídoto” às gestões petistas simplesmente por ser o que tem maior destaque dentre os partidos que estão à direita do PT e, portanto, o que tem mais força para tirar a “petralhada” da política brasileira (ainda que a distância dos dois partidos na prática não seja tão grande assim).

Apesar dos motivos para o anti-petismo paulista já terem sido razoavelmente destrinchados (como tentei sintetizar no parágrafo anterior), os anti-petistas não veem seu discurso como ideologia pura. A necessidade de manter as aparências fala mais alto e impede que essa parcela dos eleitores tucanos afirme em alto e bom tom “sou contra o PT porque sou contra políticas que beneficiam camadas mais pobres que a minha e regiões do país distantes de onde moro”. O anti-petismo vem sempre com um esmalte de preocupação social. Dizer “sou contra o PT porque o Bolsa Família faz com que os trabalhadores se acomodem e sejam sustentados pelo governo” faz com que o locutor pareça preocupado mais com o fato de o Bolsa não ser o jeito certo de se combater a pobreza e menos com o combate a pobreza em si, que não lhe interessa muito.Preocupação tal que é puro preconceito e desinformação.

Emitir críticas ao governo é direito de qualquer cidadão, por menos embasadas que elas sejam, mas a conduta paulista passa a ser preocupante quando se mistura ao classismo e à xenofobia, facilmente observáveis nos comentários que dizem que os nordestinos não sabem votar por reelegerem Dilma Rousseff, e que os chamam de vagabundos/oportunistas por quererem a manutenção do governo petista somente por se beneficiarem dos programas de assistencialismo.

Dois pontos muito importantes acerca desse posicionamento devem ser ressaltados:

  • Não são só nordestinos que se beneficiam do Bolsa Família. 1,2 milhões de famílias em São Paulo recebem a ajuda, sendo o segundo estado em número de inscritos no programa. Repetir o mantra de que “nordestinos são sustentados pelo governo” só reforça a visão preconceituosa do Nordeste como um pedaço de terceiro mundo dentro do Brasil, o que não corresponde inteiramente à realidade.
  • A ideia principal da democracia é eleger governos que representem seu povo. Votar em um governo que beneficia sua classe social é não saber votar? Então os paulistas também não sabem votar. Ninguém sabe, exceto a “esquerda caviar” e a “direita pão-com-ovo”.

É claro que existe uma justificativa para que os paulistas se orgulhem de “votar certo”, ainda que suas motivações sejam exatamente as mesmas dos petistas: os índices educacionais. É comum se ouvir algo como “não votamos no PT porque estudamos mais, somos mais esclarecidos”. Dentro do modelo educacional vigente (tanto o privado quanto o público), que joga a sociologia para o décimo plano, ter um diploma universitário não é garantia nenhuma de consciência política, e muito menos permite que o diplomado saiba o que é certo e o que errado para o resto do país. E lá é possível definir um conceito único do que é certo e o que é errado para o Brasil inteiro?

Existem razões para se votar no Aécio e existem razões para se votar na Dilma. Mas ver sua escolha como soberana e tentar deslegitimar opositores com base em sua situação socioeconômica, nível de escolaridade ou endereço é presunção e leva o debate a lugar nenhum.


Beatriz Martins é estudante e militante feminista em formação. Tem interesse em praticamente tudo, desde política até os alfinetes da camiseta da Joan Jett (principalmente os alfinetes da Joan Jett). Se não está discutindo alguma coisa relacionada a libertarianismo, feminismo interseccional ou se esforçando (em vão) para ser vegetariana, provavelmente está assistindo a algum filme e procurando os erros de continuidade.


The post Brasileiro não sabe votar appeared first on Mercado Popular.

21 Oct 08:02

Why pilot schemes help ideas take flight

by Tim Harford
Other Writing

There’s huge value in experiments that help us decide whether to go big or go home

Here’s a little puzzle. You’re offered the chance to participate in two high-risk business ventures. Each costs £11,000. Each will be worth £1m if all goes well. Each has just a 1 per cent chance of success. The mystery is that the ventures have very different expected pay-offs.

One of these opportunities is a poor investment: it costs £11,000 to get an expected payout of £10,000, which is 1 per cent of a million. Unless you take enormous pleasure in gambling, the venture makes no sense.

Strangely, the other opportunity, while still risky, is an excellent bet. With the same cost and the same chance of success, how could that be?

Here’s the subtle difference. This attractive alternative project has two stages. The first is a pilot, costing £1,000. The pilot has a 90 per cent chance of failing, which would end the whole project. If the pilot succeeds, scaling up will cost a further £10,000, and there will be a 10 per cent chance of a million-pound payday.

This two-stage structure changes everything. While the total cost is still £11,000 and the chance of success is still 1 per cent, the option to get out after a failed pilot is invaluable. Nine times out of 10, the pilot will save you from wasting £10,000 – which means that while the simple project offers an expected loss of £1,000, the two-stage project has an expected profit of £8,000.

In a real project, nobody could ever be sure about the probability of success or its rewards. But the idea behind this example is very real: there’s huge value in experiments that help us decide whether to go big or go home.

We can see this effect in data from the venture capital industry. One study looked at companies backed by US venture capitalists (VCs) between 1986 and 1997, comparing them with a sample of companies chosen randomly to be the same age, size and from the same industry. (These results were published in this summer’s Journal of Economic Perspectives in an article titled “Entrepreneurship as Experimentation”.)

By 2007, only a quarter of the VC-backed firms had survived, while one-third of the comparison group was still in business. However, the surviving VC-backed firms were big successes, employing more than five times as many people as the surviving comparison firms. We can’t tell from this data whether the VCs are creating winners or merely spotting them in advance but we can see that big successes on an aggregate scale are entwined with a very high failure rate.

The option to conduct a cheap test run can be very valuable. It’s easy to lose sight of quite how valuable. Aza Raskin, who was lead designer for the Firefox browser, cites the late Paul MacCready as his inspiration on this point. MacCready was one of the great aeronautical engineers, and his most famous achievement was to build the Gossamer Condor and the Gossamer Albatross, human-powered planes that tore up the record books in the late 1970s.

One of MacCready’s key ideas was to develop a plane that could swiftly be rebuilt after a crash. Each test flight revealed fresh information, MacCready figured, but human-powered planes are so feather-light that each test flight also damages the plane. The most important thing a designer could do was to build a plane that could be rebuilt within days or even hours after a crash – rather than weeks or months. Once the problem of fast, cheap experimentation was solved, everything else followed.

Some professions have internalised this lesson. Architects use scale models to shed light on how a completed building might look and feel. A nicely made model can take days of work to complete but that is not much compared with the cost of the building itself.

Politicians don’t find it so easy. A new policy is hardly a new policy at all unless it can be unveiled in a blaze of glory, preferably as a well-timed surprise. That hardly suits the MacCready approach. Imagine the conference speech: “We’re announcing a new array of quick-and-dirty experiments with the welfare state. We’ll be iterating rapidly after each new blunder and heart-rending tabloid anecdote.”

A subtler problem is that projects need a certain scale before powerful decision makers will take them seriously.

“The transaction costs involved in setting up any aid project are so great that most donors don’t want to consider a project spending less than £20m,” says Owen Barder, director for Europe at the Center for Global Development, a think-tank. I suspect that the same insight applies far beyond the aid industry. Governments and large corporations can find it’s such a hassle to get anything up and running that the big stakeholders don’t want to be bothered with anything small.

That is a shame. The real leverage of a pilot scheme is that although it is cheap, it could have much larger consequences. The experiment itself may seem too small to bother with; the lesson it teaches is not.

Also published at

21 Oct 12:24

Adeus, Nokia: novos smartphones usarão marca “Microsoft Lumia”

by Paulo Higa

Adeus, Nokia — e obrigado pelos peixes! Um ano após o anúncio da aquisição da fabricante finlandesa de celulares, a Microsoft confirmou oficialmente nesta terça-feira (21) que deixará de usar a marca Nokia Lumia nos smartphones para adotar a nova combinação Microsoft Lumia. A escolha, que parece óbvia, até agora não havia sido confirmada pela empresa.


A informação foi publicada inicialmente pelo The Verge, que acrescenta ainda que a França é o primeiro país a fazer a transição para a nova marca. A nomenclatura será usada inicialmente nas contas do Facebook, Twitter e outras redes sociais da empresa. A Microsoft confirma ao Tecnoblog que o Brasil passará pela mesma mudança. Eis o posicionamento oficial da empresa:

“Como parte do processo de transição, a Microsoft está renomeando aos poucos seus canais nas redes sociais. O perfil Nokia Brasil no Facebook se tornará Microsoft Lumia Brasil em breve. O nosso comprometimento com os seguidores, usuários e fãs da Nokia permanece o mesmo.”

O anúncio significa que os futuros smartphones da Microsoft poderão ter nomes como “Microsoft Lumia 940”, mas ainda não sabemos o que a empresa fará no design — provavelmente veremos carcaças com a marca “Microsoft”, “Lumia” ou “Microsoft Lumia” no lugar onde antes havia “Nokia”. Imagens vazadas do Lumia 830 mostravam a marca “Nokia by Microsoft”, mas o produto que chegou às lojas não usou o nome.


A parte da Nokia que não foi comprada pela Microsoft continuará operando normalmente, incluindo a divisão de mapas, que está trazendo o ótimo aplicativo HERE Maps para o Android e iOS, antes exclusivo do Windows Phone. O fato é que, aos poucos, a marca que esteve no primeiro celular de muita gente irá sumir das prateleiras das lojas.

Atualizado às 17h29 com a resposta oficial da Microsoft Devices.

Adeus, Nokia: novos smartphones usarão marca “Microsoft Lumia”

16 Oct 18:36

Stepping off the Golden Gate Bridge

“Just being there for someone for some time: that’s all it is. To know someone is there.” 
-- Kevin Briggs, retired CHP Officer

On March 11, 2005, Kevin Berthia woke up early and drove his ‘96 Buick Regal to the Golden Gate Bridge.

The 22-year-old Oakland native had never really thought about the bridge. He’d never taken a picture of the bridge. He didn’t even know how to get there. But he was certain, on this overcast day in early Spring, that he’d jump to his death from its rusty-orange arches.

Kevin parked at the northern terminal and meandered up the walkway, slowly picking his way through mid-day joggers and camera-toting tourists. Just beyond the north tower, he turned off his cell phone; nobody had answered his final call. In a white t-shirt, basketball shorts, and Nikes, he could’ve just as easily been dressed for practice -- but he was here, on the Golden Gate Bridge, to jump. He stopped, leaned against the metal bars, and scanned the distant waters. There was little time to ruminate: many things had brought him to this point, and it was too late to turn back.

With two steps, he lunged himself over the railing and onto a 6-inch-wide pipe, the only lifeline between him and the swirling bay 245 feet below. Trembling in the stiff wind, he closed his eyes, bent his knees and began to let go.

Then, he heard the voice.


The couple who adopted Kevin Berthia in 1983 -- a secretary at the Port of Oakland, and a city arborist -- did they best they could to provide a comfortable life in the rough and tumble city. 

At five, he had to face the reality that he’d never know his biological parents -- that they’d abandoned him at an agency a few days into life. At twelve, his adoptive parents filed for divorce; instantly, his life was split between two worlds. He remembers “feeling depressed [and] having bad thoughts,” but opted to bottle up his pain. Sports became his coping mechanism: “three practices a day, games on the weekends, repeat the cycle come Monday.” He stayed so involved that he didn’t have time to reflect.

As he entered high school two years later, “everything started to change:”

“I was so busy that I didn’t focus on issues; I had all this pain, but I was too tired to think about anything. I knew they existed. I knew that at night, they came crashing in and I felt a certain way -- but I never really identified why I felt a certain way. I always had dark places I was in, or dark times that I was in, but I just tried my best to go to sleep and wake up knowing I had practice in the morning to distract me...

I always told the world I was fine. But secretly, in my own private time, I knew better.”

Soon, sports were no longer light-hearted and fun. Kevin was naturally gifted, but he felt tremendous pressure to succeed. Though he grappled with pain, he kept it to himself. As an African-American male in the macho, competitive world of athletics, he said talking about his feelings was “simply not an option.”

When Kevin graduated high school in 2002, he hadn’t attracted the interest of top college coaches; instead, he elected to attend the City College of San Francisco, just a 30-minute drive from Oakland. With a sparser schedule and only one sport to distract him instead of the six he’d once participated in, he began to falter emotionally. “For the first time in my life, I had this free time,” he tells us. “And in that free time, things started developing. It was time for me to think about my pain.” 

Just a few months into community college, he met a girl in class, fell in love, and dropped out to work a full-time job -- to be, in her words, “a real man.” For the emotionally-reserved athlete, the relationship proved to be taxing: “I never really took care of the issues I had,” he says, “so, this new burden of taking care of someone else was a lot. Her problems became my problems.”

For two years, Kevin worked tirelessly; long, physically demanding days in construction drained him. His grand illusions of athletic stardom crumbled, and he gradually began to consider himself a failure:

“I put an enormous amount of pressure on myself -- i felt like I wasn’t doing anything with my life. I had these high expectations, but I wasn’t playing sports, and I didn’t have any outlet. My job became my coping mechanism: I was over-worked, fatigued, so tired. I just saw myself changing.”

In 2002, after a “very intense” argument with his girlfriend, Kevin had a mental breakdown and pulled a knife on himself. He was hospitalized, went through extensive outpatient program at Kaiser, and, for the first time in his life, began to talk about his feelings -- a process that, in his words, “only made things worse.” He was paraded from therapist to therapist, each time feeling more deflated than before:

“This was my first time ever talking to anybody, and they were telling me I shouldn’t be feeling the way I feel. “None of them attempted to understand how I felt -- they were slamming a door in my face as far as trying to understand where I came from. It just made me feel worse. 

I told myself ‘I’m never going to talk about these things ever again.’ Then I left, and put on a front for the world, like everything was okay.”

He returned to City College, put his head down, and began to excel - both as a student and an athlete. Exercising his remaining eligibility, he was named captain of the basketball team and was honored as player of the year in his conference. He let sports consume him, rid him of his tortured thoughts. Slowly, over the course of two years, he regained high hopes: when his season ended in February 2004, he was extended an offer to play overseas. Things were picking up. His life was steering back on course. 


“We’re having a baby.”

The news, delivered from the lips of a new lover, came just days after he’d graduated, each word searing his chest like a hot iron. He’d always imaged his fatherhood in far-off vignettes: encouraging a first step, a first word, tossing a football in a park. And he’d told himself that he’d never leave his child -- he’d always be there. But when his daughter was born in April 2004 -- two-and-a-half months premature and weighing just one pound -- he wasn’t ready.

A fleeting moment of joy was followed by an immense wave of terror, stress, and frustration. Negative mantras tortured him: I can’t do this; I’m not a father; I’ll never achieve my dreams. He declined the overseas offer and made an effort to invest himself in his child, but with years of bottled-up emotions, and now the immense obligation to care for another life, he entered a “downward spiral.”

He felt guilt -- guilt for his daughter’s early birth, guilt for the constant arguments and uneasiness in his relationship, guilt for the way he felt, for his unpreparedness. A recent graduate, he had no job and no health insurance. The couple hadn’t expected a premature birth, and Kevin had banked on more time to find work and “get effects in order.” When the hospital bill came in the mail -- $250,000 for 8 weeks of incubation -- it devastated him.

He retreated.

Sixty miles away, he holed up with a friend and gradually shut off from the world. Ties with his mother disintegrated. Friends and family were shut out. His cell phone service was discontinued. When he eventually returned to Oakland, he was disoriented and disconnected -- “beyond repair,” he says. He spent months trying to “mend” himself, but he was in a dark tunnel that kept getting longer with no sign of light.

On the morning of March 11, 2005, Kevin woke up with nothing left to give. Every issue in his life had converged, crushed him. I can’t fight anymore, he told himself. 

Today, I leave the world.

This is it.


On the bridge, the wind comes in five-second gusts, each howling through steel beams like an injured timberwolf. It’s cold, damp, overcast. Tourists, eager to capture the fog-shrouded city, clog the walkways.

Spanning just under two miles from San Francisco to Marin County, the Golden Gate is a grand, towering structure.  On the day it opened to public use in 1937, The Chronicle declared it a “thirty-five million dollar steel harp;” it’s since been deemed “the most beautiful, most photographed structure in the world,” and is a heralded as a marvel of engineering. But the bridge has a dark side not mentioned on its website: it is, by far, the most popular suicide destination in the United States -- and the second most popular in the entire world, trailing only China’s Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge.

Estimates of the number of Golden Gate Bridge suicides widely vary -- mainly because many victims’ bodies drift out to sea and are never recovered -- but in 77 years, over 1,600 have been confirmed. Until 1995, an “official tally” was kept by the media, but as publicity mounted for the 1,000th jump (one local radio host even offered a case of Snapple to the “lucky” victim’s family), the count was disbanded. 

Still, is it well-documented that between 20 and 40 people jump from the bridge every year.

A visualization of suicide locations on the bridge (1937-2005); Kevin was found just south of the Marin tower.

When a person leaps from the platform (220 to 245 feet high, depending on tides), he tumbles through the air for four seconds, before hitting the water at 75-80 miles-per-hour. Roughly 95% of jumpers die from impact trauma -- crushed organs, shattered bones, snapped necks; most of those who don’t find themselves paralyzed and quickly drown, or succumb to hypothermia in the frigid waters.

Incredibly, 34 people have survived the jump, most by way of a fortuitous gust of wind, or a perfect entry (feet-first, at a slight angle). In post-trauma psychological assessments, nearly every survivor relates that the split-second he let go, he immediately wished he hadn’t.

As Kevin Berethia hauled himself over the rail just beyond the Marin tower, he knew none of this. He hadn’t, like hundreds of jumpers before him, driven cross-country to get there, or researched various exit strategies in suicide forums. While his decision was the result of years of self-hatred, isolation, and hopelessness, his method was impulsive. But as he let his fingers slip off the beam, he had no regrets.


“What’s your plan for tomorrow?”

The voice was gruff -- that of someone self-assured, someone who’d been there many times before. But the words, bellowed over deafening winds and rumbling semi-trucks, housed a kindness. 

It stopped Kevin, snapped him “back into reality.” He hadn’t eaten for five days, hadn’t slept in a week, and struggled to find the energy to swivel around and clasp the rail. The bar was freezing -- too cold to hold -- so he let his head fall between the bars, and dangled there lifelessly with nothing but a stiff wind holding his 130-pound frame upright. For a moment, there was silence: The voice did not bark instructions, or make false claims -- it waited for a response. It was there to listen.

And then, like an old toy slowly reanimating itself, Kevin began to talk.

“Everything that had always bothered me in life -- from the adoption, to the divorce, to my failures as a father -- everything that I never took the time to deal with was out there. The pain, the sorrow, the neglect. These things were now in front of me; I spoke them into existence.”

“For the first time in my life, I was really speaking,” he adds. “That man stole my heart hardly saying a word.”

He made himself vulnerable, gave himself up -- all the while, not once looking up to see where the voice was coming from. It didn’t matter. Kevin stood on the precipice of death for 92 minutes; for all but three of them, he spoke. It was a one-way conversation -- one that vastly differed from his traumatic experiences with therapists in the past: There was no ‘you shouldn’t feel like this,’ no ‘you need to get over it,’ no judgement. Just listening.

An hour and a half in, the conversation shifted. “You need to be here tomorrow,” said the voice, now closer. “You need to be here for your daughter.” All of Kevin’s negative energy -- the pain, the suffering, the brooding thoughts -- dissipated. “I had a newfound courage,” he recalls, “and felt empowered knowing what it was that bothered me.”

From here, Kevin’s memory goes hazy. He knows that he reached up with quivering arms and was hoisted up and over the rail. He remembers the flash of white lights, the roar of the helicopter overhead, the thickets of reporters and rubberneckers. He can still feel the hard plastic of the police car seat.

Somewhere en route to the unknown, he blacked out.


“You’re not leaving until you make progress -- that’s the rule, you know.”

It was a new voice now, much less comforting, that jarred Kevin into consciousness. He was alone in a white room at Fremont Medical Center. All was still, quiet, calm. For seven days, he he’d remain here, recovering.

At first, he was “in denial of what had happened” and refused to talk or eat; wellness coaches came and went -- each attempting to “reform” his depression without taking the time to understand where he came from:

“I didn’t even know what depression was. Where I grew up, we didn’t deal with depression, we didn’t know what depression or mental issues were. These things were never talked about, so it was hard for me to identify that this was my issue.”

After a week, he feigned his emotions, faked his way through therapy, and was released to the outside world.

It was here he saw the picture -- a blaring, half-page shot on the front page of The San Francisco Chronicle -- of himself, on the bridge. “It hurt me so bad to see myself in that white t-shirt up there,” he recalls. “I told myself: ‘I never want to see that picture. I never want to talk about it’... I just wanted to do everything I could to get over it.”

Throughout his experience on the bridge, Kevin had dislocated himself from reality; the image, in its starkness, made it factual. From then on, he did everything in his power to avoid talking about that day. Just like before, he retreated -- and this time it was even worse: He’d endured something tragic and had to return to normal life, as if nothing had ever happened.

With his girlfriend and daughter in tow, he moved to Sacramento and tried to start a new life. He landed a job in construction  and poured his “heart and soul” into the work: In three years’ time he’d ascended “from the bottom, as a will call guy,” to a warehouse supervisor running his own store; the work eventually found him relocated in San Jose -- just an hour’s drive from the bridge.

Despite his professional success, it was a period of extreme lows and dark times. After pouring his heart out to that stranger that one day in March, he slunk back into emotional reclusiveness. He refused to talk, focused on distractions, and dipped in and out of depression medication.

“It was like the weight of world was on my shoulders,” he recalls. “I couldn’t breathe. I was so overwhelmed. I created this intense self-hatred -- I hated myself.”

For eight years, he struggled to stay afloat.


After the incident, Kevin’s mother had sent a letter to the man who saved her son. “Nothing will erase the events of march 11,” she wrote, “but you are one of the reasons he is still with us; I truly believe he was crying out for help.”

Eight years later, when the man was invited to speak at an event for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, he invited her to share Kevin’s story. When she told her son the news, he refused to let her go alone: she’d just had a stroke, and it wouldn’t be safe to travel without company. Reluctantly, Kevin boarded the plane with his mother and set off for New York.

As the emcee spoke, Kevin waited anxiously backstage. In mere minutes, he’d walk across the platform and meet the man who saved his life -- the man behind the voice.


Retired Sergeant Kevin Briggs has a set of eyes that seem to smile out of their own volition. At once youthful and weary, they’ve witnessed the full gamut of human emotion -- from utter despondency to pure elation. He has the stoic, time-worn demeanor of a man who’s dealt with immense pain. His looks do not deceive.

Fresh out of high school, at 18 years old, Briggs joined the US Army -- “the manly thing to do.” After three years of service, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer; he returned, endured chemotherapy, and beat the disease.

Determined to prove his worth, he became a guard for the California Department of Corrections, where he was assigned to San Quentin and Soledad, two of the state’s most notorious prisons. While there, a friend of his applied to the California Highway Patrol (CHP), and beckoned him to give it a shot too. Despite thinking that he lacked the intellect -- “those guys are smarter than me!” he thought -- he went through training and was signed soon signed on. For four years, he patrolled Hayward, an hour East of San Francisco; in 1994, he was transferred to Marin, which put the Golden Gate Bridge in his district.

He vaguely remembers his first suicide call: Middle aged woman, early 30s, perched precariously over the rail, crying. Years before, he’d gone through officer safety training, but nothing had remotely prepared him for this. “I was terrified,” he admits. “I didn’t know what the hell to do.” In the 1990s, suicides weren’t talked about in the police force -- they weren’t something officers focused on. Briggs had to improvise, and he was successful; his patience, flexibility, and attentiveness coaxed her back over.

Sergeant Kevin Briggs, “Guardian of the Golden Gate Bridge” (Pivotal Points)

From then on, he was regularly called to the bridge to talk people down. He voraciously researched the psychology of suicidal people, trained in active listening skills, and eventually even had the opportunity to go through the FBI’s Crisis Intervention Training Program -- something “very, very few patrolmen get to do.” Over a 23-year career, he became known as  the “Guardian of the Golden Gate Bridge,” saving some 200 lives --sometimes, as many as two per month. Only two jumped after he interceded.

Often, conversations lasted late into the night -- one went 7 hours before the man climbed back to safety. They always hinged around one skill: listening. 

“I’m an introvert,” he cedes, “so its always been easier to listen than to talk.”

The day he received the call about Kevin in 2005 was no exception. “[Kevin] was very skittish,” he recalls. “My job was to build up trust with him very quickly. In that moment, I wasn’t an authority figure, I wasn’t a highway patrol officer to a civilian. It was just one joe to another.”

“Sometimes,” he adds, “it’s just easier to talk to damn near a stranger.”

As it turned out, the two strangers had much in common.

Like Kevin Berthia, Kevin Briggs never met his grandfather. “He committed suicide,” he says. “That act robbed me from ever getting to know him...I wonder, what he was like?”

Like Kevin Berthia, Kevin Briggs didn’t feel he could openly discuss his emotions, so he bottled them up. “Army, corrections, CHP -- these were all heavy-end macho jobs,” he says. “Basically you’re not allowed to bring up personal feelings, or talk about yourself if you’re going through a hard time. It’s seen as a weakness.” It’s a mentality that taxes officers heavily: In the police force, suicide death rates double line of duty deaths.

And like Kevin Berthia, Kevin Briggs is no stranger to emotional turmoil. “I understand pain,” says Briggs, with a slightly defensive inflection. “I’ve been through cancer, I have three stints in my heart from heart attacks, went through a heavy duty divorce, had a pretty significant motorcycle crash that resulted in traumatic brain injury -- all these things can lead to a mental illness, and they did.”

Kevin Berthia speaking in New York; via AFSP

Kevin Berthia emerges from behind the curtain to thunderous applause, and walks toward Briggs. He’s emotional and, for the first time in eight years, has no qualms about it: the tears come.

He’s face-to-face with the man now, shaking his hand, exchanging smiles. Briggs’ voice -- the voice that brought Kevin, and many others back -- is calming and assured. When Kevin hears it, it heals him, brings him acceptance and closure.

Behind Kevin, on a huge jumbo screen, the photo from the bridge looms. He turns around, faces it -- the white t-shirt, the basketball shorts, the Nikes -- and before the crowd of 200 survivors, researchers, and heroes, he accepts it. It is no longer a symbol of his weakness, but an emblem of his strength: I dealt with this. I beat this. I’m still here.


“I never thought that the worst day of my life could move people and change people like that,” Kevin tells us, over the phone. “I just started living mentally well last year -- it’s like I’m free.”

Today, he is a proud homeowner in Manteca, a small city in Central Valley, California, 76 miles east of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. He’s fathered two more children since the day on the bridge, both sons -- neither of whom would be here today if he's jumped that day. He's steeped in parenthood, eager to raise watch them grow.

He’s also since found gratifying work as a suicide prevention advocate. “I spend all my time learning about mental illnesses, sharing stories, helping people,” he says, with genuine pride. “For the first time in my life, I found something bigger than sports. This is my purpose.” 

Sergeant Briggs, who Kevin is "good friends" with today, has also found new purpose: since retiring last year, he’s launched Pivotal Points, an organization that strives to “promote mental illness awareness, and show folks how much we can get done just by acknowledging each other.” His storied career has made him a ubiquitous figure in the press this year -- TED talks, lectures, magazine shoots -- but he continues to stress that he’s no hero. “When people come back over, I didn’t do it -- they did it,” he insists. “It’s much harder to come back over that rail and continue on knowing that you may not improve. All I do is try to give you that chance.”

Most importantly, the macho-man has learned, like Kevin, that breaking down emotional barriers requires a special strength.

“There was a time I thought the bigger you were as a person, the more respect you would get,” cedes Briggs. “Now I know it’s not the size of you that really gets the respect -- it’s what comes out of your mouth, and how you think. It’s just being there for someone for some time, to know someone is there...”

He pauses. For a moment, the phone static is the only sign he’s still there. We’re both silent.

“It’s listening.”

This post was written by Zachary Crockett; you can follow him on Twitter here.

To get occasional notifications when we write blog posts, please sign up for our email list. Cover photo © John Storey, licensed via Corbis.

21 Oct 09:00

E se o Piauí ficasse na China?


Ambos países emergentes, Brasil e China vêm adotando, nas últimas décadas, caminhos opostos para o desenvolvimento. Aqui, a prioridade é criar um Estado de bem-estar social. Lá, os asiáticos focam em infraestrutura e em inovação.

Na China, um país nominalmente comunista, não existe atendimento médico gratuito _mesmo em hospitais públicos, paga-se até por um band-aid. “Eles têm um programa de astronautas, o Brasil tem o SUS”, resume Marco Antonio Raupp, então presidente da AEB (Agência Espacial Brasileira), em entrevista concedida a este repórter em Pequim, em 2011.

A comparação de Raupp, que logo depois se tornaria ministro da Ciência (deixou o cargo em março), ilustra bem a diferença entre os dois modelos. No Brasil pós-Constituição de 1988, o Estado de bem-estar social é prioritário, e o crescimento econômico financia a ampliação contínua desses benefícios.

Na China, é o contrário: a rede de proteção _incluindo aí a aposentadoria_ só deve ser criada após certo grau de desenvolvimento econômico. Para ficar ainda mais claro: o que é o ponto de partida aqui está mais para o ponto de chegada lá.

O Orçamento dos dois países torna essa diferença eloquente. No Brasil, os gastos públicos com saúde e com proteção social chegaram respectivamente a 5,79% e a 15% do PIB. Na China, os percentuais para as mesmas rubricas são 1,27% e 5,56%, segundo o Relatório da Proteção Social Mundial 2014/2014, da Organização Internacional do Trabalho, com dados de 2010.

As posições se invertem na comparação da taxa de investimento (inclui desde importação de máquina industrial até construção de infraestrutura). No Brasil, em 2013, a rubrica representou 18% do valor do PIB. Na China, chegou a 49% para o mesmo ano, segundo dados oficiais compilados pelo Banco Mundial.

A enorme diferença entre os dois modelos me voltou à cabeça alguns dias atrás, quando conheci Guaribas (648 km de Teresina), no semiárido do Piauí. A pequena e pobre cidade ganhou fama nacional em 2003, no início do governo Lula, por ter sido a primeira a abrigar o programa Fome Zero, logo transformado em Bolsa Família.


Onze anos depois, a cidade está muito melhor do que era, segundo os moradores. A grande maioria é beneficiada pelo Bolsa Família, que paga, em média, R$ 224 por família. Trata-se de uma ajuda vital em uma cidade em que os empregos praticamente se limitam aos da prefeitura e onde a principal atividade, a agricultura, enfrenta quatro anos seguidos de seca.

Nos últimos anos, a cidade de cerca de 6.000 habitantes recebeu ainda outras benfeitorias. Os moradores do centro, que em 2003 tinham de subir uma serra para matar a sede em uma pequena nascente, hoje contam com abastecimento em suas casas. Há unidades do Minha Casa, Minha Vida em construção, e a cidade conta com uma médica cubana do Mais Médicos.

Por outro lado, a cidade ainda espera a obra mais importante para se viabilizar economicamente: o asfaltamento de 54 km de uma estrada precária, obra prometida há 11 anos, em 2003, quando do lançamento do Fome Zero. As obras teriam começado neste ano, mas não tem data para terminar.

Além da rodovia, também seriam necessárias outras obras: um acesso ao distrito de Cajueiro, distante 30 km do centro. Ali, vivem cerca de 1.500 pessoas sem água encanada. Boa parte delas passa o dia em viagens até a fonte, distante até 4 km das casas mais distantes.

Guaribas, no Piauí - Foto de Danilo Verpa/Folhapress

Guaribas, no Piauí – Foto de Danilo Verpa/Folhapress

O isolamento e as quatros safras seguidas prejudicadas pela seca fazem com que o Bolsa Família continue sendo a principal fonte de renda de Guaribas. Quase todas as famílias estão inscritas no programa, já recebendo ou ainda à espera do benefício.

A China, onde fui correspondente por três anos, também tem o seu “Nordeste” no desértico meio-oeste do país. Um dos “Estados” é a Região Autônoma de Ningxia, que visitei em 2012.

A primeira impressão é de surpresa com a quantidade de obras em construção ou recém-inauguradas: aeroporto, ferrovias, um enorme centro de convenções, estradas e transporte público urbano.

Quase todos estavam visivelmente subutilizados, à espera de um desenvolvimento que não se concretizou plenamente. Mas esforço vem dando seus primeiros frutos, notadamente as centenas de empresas privadas voltadas à produção de alimentos halal, preparado de acordo com o rito muçulmano.

Mas Ningxia tem problemas, principalmente o da desertificação. Anos de uso inadequado de recursos hídricos resultaram na expulsão de dezenas de milhares de agricultores, que agora tentam a sorte em centros urbanos, a maioria subempregados. Se, ainda por cima, não conseguiram o hukou (sistema de registro de moradia) na cidade onde vivem, seus filhos não têm direito sequer à escola pública.

No geral, a vida em Piauí e em Ningxia melhorou nas últimas décadas. Com estratégias diferentes, China e Brasil se orgulham de ter alavancado milhões de seus habitantes da pobreza extrema, embora se envergonhem da enorme desigualdade social.

À primeira vista, a China leva vantagem: neste ano, crescerá 7,4% do PIB, enquanto o Brasil amargará um incremento de 0,3%, segundo projeções recentes do FMI.  Mas não se trata de um simples gráfico. Variáveis como meio ambiente, matriz energética e regime político certamente terão influência para completar o salto da renda média para a alta, proeza que pouquíssimos países conseguem.

Separados por milhares de quilômetros de distância, Piauí e Ningxia sofreram com a fome, enfrentam o problema da seca e tentam encurtar o abismo econômico que os segregam dentro dos próprios países. Qual a melhor estratégia? Taí uma pauta que gostaria de fazer em 2030.

Siga o blog Brasil no Twitter (@Folha_Brasil) e no Facebook (


05 Aug 20:09


26 Sep 07:39

Amazing Showers

by Radhika Seth

The Calientamigos is quite a clever showering system that uses minimum input and delivers maximum output. Allow me to explain, not all can afford the luxury of a warm bath. In essence they don’t have hot running water to heat and pressurize water for bathing, cooking and cleaning. To solve this problem we have here the three modular components: Bomba, a safe, portable electric water heater that heats 5 gallons of water to 110 degrees F in 15 minutes. Corazon, a simple to use foot pump that pressurizes the warm water; and Gota, a multi-purpose faucet head.

The whole system is capable of easily providing a good shower for 2 adults or 3 children.

Designers: Tianyi Sun, Della Tosin and Kevin Chang

Yanko Design
Timeless Designs - Explore wonderful concepts from around the world!
Shop CKIE - We are more than just concepts. See what's hot at the CKIE store by Yanko Design!
(Amazing Showers was originally posted on Yanko Design)

Related posts:

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  2. Landscaped Showers
  3. Interactive Public Showers

19 Oct 16:39


Adam Victor Brandizzi

Isto me lembra que:

Eu instalei Pou, um desses joguinhos de cuidar de bichinho virtual, no meu celular porque meu filho adora. Agora temos um tablet em casa e já posso remover o joguinho do celular...

...mas não consigo :,(

21 Oct 12:13

Creepy Ad Watch

by Andrew Sullivan

The above ad for BLAH Airlines – Virgin America’s parody of airline travel – is just a glimpse into the nearly 6-hour commercial tracing a flight from Newark to San Francisco. Jessica Plautz calls the full film “more than boring – it’s nearly Dalí-style surrealism”:

It starts out boring, as you would expect on any flight with nothing but the safety manual to entertain you. Shots go back and forth between the back of the seat and our protagonist, a gaping dummy with a bowl cut. A fasten-your-seatbelts announcement 12 minutes in is so familiar it’s uncanny. At 3 hours and 19 minutes, a dummy appears outside the window, Nightmare at 20,000 Feet style. And then it gets even more Twilight Zone. There are weird small talk conversations throughout that must have been a treat to write and produce.

Full video after the jump:

19 Oct 20:30

Falsário inventa vaga de vereador e consegue tomar posse em cidade do Paraná

Adam Victor Brandizzi

Como isso foi sequer possível?!

Andreza Matais - O Estado de S. Paulo

BRASÍLIA – Sem os votos necessários para tomar posse como vereador, um candidato da cidade de Itaperuçu, na região metropolitana de Curitiba, arrumou uma forma ilegal para assumir a vaga. Ele falsificou documentos que levaram a Justiça, o Ministério Público e a Câmara de Vereadores a empossá-lo em fevereiro do ano passado como vereador do município. A fraude só foi descoberta um ano e oito meses depois, o que levou a prisão, na quarta-feira passada, de José Augusto Liberato (PDT).

Zé Augusto, como é conhecido, disputou as eleições municipais de 2012, mas obteve somente 391 votos, o suficiente para fazê-lo apenas primeiro suplente. Ele conseguiu ser empossado vereador sem ter vencido a disputa após apresentar à Justiça Eleitoral cópia da edição de um jornal local que traria uma decisão da Câmara de Vereadores de aumentar o número de cadeiras de nove para 11 vagas. Os vereadores, contudo, nunca aprovaram o aumento de cadeiras em mais duas vagas, tampouco o jornal publicou a decisão. 

Falsário inventa vaga de vereador e consegue tomar posse em cidade do Paraná Liberato fraudou informação que Câmara teria aumentado vagas para vereadores na cidade de Itaperuçu Divulgação

Conforme investigadores, o vereador imprimiu em papel jornal a suposta determinação da Câmara de aumento de vagas e montou uma edição falsa do periódico, obtendo uma decisão judicial favorável. A Polícia Federal considerou a fraude uma “exótica falsificação”.

Além de Liberato mais um vereador foi empossado graças à fraude. Esse outro vereador, entretanto, não participou do esquema, segundo a PF.

A própria Câmara dos Vereadores denunciou o caso à PF um ano e oito meses depois de ter dado posse a Zé Augusto. Até então, a direção do Legislativo local entendia que Liberato tornara-se um colega por decisão judicial.

Uma perícia nos documentos comprovou a fraude nos papéis e levou a PF a prender o “vereador” em sua casa. Ele, contudo, continua com mandato até que sua posse seja anulada. A Justiça deve decidir agora sobre a validade dos projetos aprovados pelo falso parlamentar.

Ao ser preso, Liberato alegou que não havia falsificado o documento que o levou a tomar posse na Câmara. Na casa dele foram recolhidos diversos documentos para análise, que, juntamente com o preso, foram trazidos para a Superintendência da Polícia Federal em Curitiba. O Estado não conseguiu contato com o advogado de Liberato.

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20 Oct 19:00

A Smashed Pumpkin Festival

by Andrew Sullivan
Adam Victor Brandizzi

Keene Pumpkin Festival, o Caldas Country Fest deles.

Police say 14 were arrested following chaotic riots in Keene, N.H. last night:

— Chris Caesar (@ChrisCaesar) October 19, 2014

How many of the defiant white youth causing mayhem & destruction come from fatherless families? #PumpkinRiot

— Kevin Gosztola (@kgosztola) October 19, 2014

“Why are they tearing up their own community?” #keenepumpkinfest

— Black Girl in Maine (@blackgirlinmain) October 19, 2014

Caroline Bankoff recaps one of the stranger stories from this weekend:

Keene, New Hampshire’s annual Pumpkin Festival – which features a community-wide effort to “set a world record of the largest number of carved and lighted jack-o-lanterns in one place,” according to CBS Boston – saw at least 14 arrests and dozens of injuries this weekend as hordes of Keene State College students and their guests took to the small town’s streets for no apparent reason other than to cause trouble. The Boston Globe reports that hundreds of people were seen “throwing bottles, uprooting street signs, and setting things on fire,” as well as overturning cars and dumpsters. Cops outfitted in SWAT gear responded with “tear gas, tasers, and pepper spray.” The Keene Police Department claims that one group of rioters “threatened to beat up an elderly man” while others threatened the lives of the cops, who had to call for backup from nearby towns.

Will Bunch raises his eyebrows:

[I]f you have a few minutes, read the news accounts of what happened in New Hampshire – the youths who set fires and threw rocks or pumpkins were described as “rowdy” or “boisterous” or participants in “unrest.” Do you remember such genteel language to describe the protesters in [Ferguson] Missouri? Me neither. …

[A]t this point there have been so many “white riots” in the last couple of years – Huntington Beach, Santa Barbara, Penn State (more than once), and just this week, Morgantown, and now, most epic-ally of all-time, the great Pumpkin Festival riots of Keene, N.H. It’s gotten to the point where all of the obvious jokes, about how the white community needs to have a serious conversation about getting our own house in order, or asking where are the (white) fathers, have been made again and again and again.

Ferguson is also on Yesha Callahan’s mind:

While black people are protesting the senseless deaths of unarmed black men, white thugs are ravaging the streets because of pumpkins and football.

Freddie slams some of the snarkier coverage of the riots:

First: police violence and aggression is wrong no matter who it targets. Crazy!

Second: police violence and aggression against people we assume have social capital is a signal that those who we know don’t have social capital will get it far worse. If these cops feel that they have this much license to go wild against that white, largely-affluent crew, what do you think they’ll do when they pull over some working class black guy in a run-down car? Treating this as a barrel of laughs throws away a profound opportunity to include these types of people in a very necessary social movement against police violence, which poor people of color desperately need.

But, as Jamilah Lemieux argues, the riots “don’t even lend themselves to the conversation about overpolicing because the riot police showed up as they were actually rioting.” She adds:

For all the hashtags and the jokes, we won’t see a media assault on the youth who ruined the festival for acting in ways that were not merely inappropriate, illegal and potentially deadly, but bizarre and wrought with the stench of unchecked privilege. These causeless rebels won’t be derided as thugs, nor will people wonder why they don’t just ‘go get a job,’ (something that I heard no less than three times while attending protests in St. Louis, and have seen over and over again from Twitter trolls responding to the Missouri unrest.) Unlike the young people who have mobilized in Ferguson for an actual cause, there will likely be few serious ramifications for those who participated in making Keene, New Hampshire the laughingstock of the country, while putting themselves and others at serious risk for injury or death at a pumpkin festival.

Update from a reader:

Has anyone noted yet that John Oliver, in his recent piece on the over-militarization of local police forces vis-a-vis Ferguson, mentioned with incredulity that that Keene, NH had named their annual Pumpkin Festival as a possible target for terrorism to justify their need for military gear? About 7:30 in …

20 Oct 20:00

slimiest: a CEO walks into his office “any messages?” he asks his assistant “two anons want to know...


a CEO walks into his office “any messages?” he asks his assistant
“two anons want to know who tom petty is and one just says ‘post your ballsack’”
“got it. check my dashboard”
“that skeleton gif you like is back again”
he rubs his chin pensively “mm. reblog that”

01 Oct 01:45

I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup

[Content warning: Politics, religion, social justice, spoilers for "The Secret of Father Brown". This isn't especially original to me and I don't claim anything more than to be explaining and rewording things I have heard from a bunch of other people. Unapologetically America-centric because I'm not informed enough to make it otherwise. Try to keep this off Reddit and other similar sorts of things.]


In Chesterton’s The Secret of Father Brown, a beloved nobleman who murdered his good-for-nothing brother in a duel thirty years ago returns to his hometown wracked by guilt. All the townspeople want to forgive him immediately, and they mock the titular priest for only being willing to give a measured forgiveness conditional on penance and self-reflection. They lecture the priest on the virtues of charity and compassion.

Later, it comes out that the beloved nobleman did not in fact kill his good-for-nothing brother. The good-for-nothing brother killed the beloved nobleman (and stole his identity). Now the townspeople want to see him lynched or burned alive, and it is only the priest who – consistently – offers a measured forgiveness conditional on penance and self-reflection.

The priest tells them:

It seems to me that you only pardon the sins that you don’t really think sinful. You only forgive criminals when they commit what you don’t regard as crimes, but rather as conventions. You forgive a conventional duel just as you forgive a conventional divorce. You forgive because there isn’t anything to be forgiven.

He further notes that this is why the townspeople can self-righteously consider themselves more compassionate and forgiving than he is. Actual forgiveness, the kind the priest needs to cultivate to forgive evildoers, is really really hard. The fake forgiveness the townspeople use to forgive the people they like is really easy, so they get to boast not only of their forgiving nature, but of how much nicer they are than those mean old priests who find forgiveness difficult and want penance along with it.

After some thought I agree with Chesterton’s point. There are a lot of people who say “I forgive you” when they mean “No harm done”, and a lot of people who say “That was unforgiveable” when they mean “That was genuinely really bad”. Whether or not forgiveness is right is a complicated topic I do not want to get in here. But since forgiveness is generally considered a virtue, and one that many want credit for having, I think it’s fair to say you only earn the right to call yourself ‘forgiving’ if you forgive things that genuinely hurt you.

To borrow Chesterton’s example, if you think divorce is a-ok, then you don’t get to “forgive” people their divorces, you merely ignore them. Someone who thinks divorce is abhorrent can “forgive” divorce. You can forgive theft, or murder, or tax evasion, or something you find abhorrent.

I mean, from a utilitarian point of view, you are still doing the correct action of not giving people grief because they’re a divorcee. You can have all the Utility Points you want. All I’m saying is that if you “forgive” something you don’t care about, you don’t earn any Virtue Points.

(by way of illustration: a billionaire who gives $100 to charity gets as many Utility Points as an impoverished pensioner who donates the same amount, but the latter gets a lot more Virtue Points)

Tolerance is definitely considered a virtue, but it suffers the same sort of dimished expectations forgiveness does.

The Emperor summons before him Bodhidharma and asks: “Master, I have been tolerant of innumerable gays, lesbians, bisexuals, asexuals, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, transgender people, and Jews. How many Tolerance Points have I earned for my meritorious deeds?”

Bodhidharma answers: “None at all”.

The Emperor, somewhat put out, demands to know why not.

Bodhidharma asks: “Well, what do you think of gay people?”

The Emperor answers: “What do you think I am, some kind of homophobic bigot? Of course I have nothing against gay people!”

And Bodhidharma answers: “Thus do you gain no merit by tolerating them!”


If I had to define “tolerance” it would be something like “respect and kindness toward members of an outgroup”.

And today we have an almost unprecedented situation.

We have a lot of people – like the Emperor – boasting of being able to tolerate everyone from every outgroup they can imagine, loving the outgroup, writing long paeans to how great the outgroup is, staying up at night fretting that somebody else might not like the outgroup enough.

And we have those same people absolutely ripping into their in-groups – straight, white, male, hetero, cis, American, whatever – talking day in and day out to anyone who will listen about how terrible their in-group is, how it is responsible for all evils, how something needs to be done about it, how they’re ashamed to be associated with it at all.

This is really surprising. It’s a total reversal of everything we know about human psychology up to this point. No one did any genetic engineering. No one passed out weird glowing pills in the public schools. And yet suddenly we get an entire group of people who conspicuous love their outgroups, the outer the better, and gain status by talking about how terrible their own groups are.

What is going on here?


Let’s start by asking what exactly an outgroup is.

There’s a very boring sense in which, assuming the Emperor’s straight, gays are part of his “outgroup” ie a group that he is not a member of. But if the Emperor has curly hair, are straight-haired people part of his outgroup? If the Emperor’s name starts with the letter ‘A’, are people whose names start with the letter ‘B’ part of his outgroup?

Nah. I would differentiate between multiple different meanings of outgroup, where one is “a group you are not a part of” and the other is…something stronger.

I want to avoid a very easy trap, which is saying that outgroups are about how different you are, or how hostile you are. I don’t think that’s quite right.

Compare the Nazis to the German Jews and to the Japanese. The Nazis were very similar to the German Jews: they looked the same, spoke the same language, came from a similar culture. The Nazis were totally different from the Japanese: different race, different language, vast cultural gap. But although one could imagine certain situations in which the Nazis treated the Japanese as an outgroup, in practice they got along pretty well. Heck, the Nazis were actually moderately friendly with the Chinese, even when they were technically at war. Meanwhile, the conflict between the Nazis and the German Jews – some of whom didn’t even realize they were anything other than German until they checked their grandparents’ birth certificate – is the stuff of history and nightmares. Any theory of outgroupishness that naively assumes the Nazis’ natural outgroup is Japanese or Chinese people will be totally inadequate.

And this isn’t a weird exception. Freud spoke of the narcissism of small differences, saying that “it is precisely communities with adjoining territories, and related to each other in other ways as well, who are engaged in constant feuds and ridiculing each other”. Nazis and German Jews. Northern Irish Protestants and Northern Irish Catholics. Hutus and Tutsis. South African whites and South African blacks. Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs. Anyone in the former Yugoslavia and anyone else in the former Yugoslavia.

So what makes an outgroup? Proximity plus small differences. If you want to know who someone in former Yugoslavia hates, don’t look at the Indonesians or the Zulus or the Tibetans or anyone else distant and exotic. Find the Yugoslavian ethnicity that lives closely intermingled with them and is most conspicuously similar to them, and chances are you’ll find the one who they have eight hundred years of seething hatred toward.

What makes an unexpected in-group? The answer with Germans and Japanese is obvious – a strategic alliance. In fact, the World Wars forged a lot of unexpected temporary pseudo-friendships. A recent article from War Nerd points out that the British, after spending centuries subjugating and despising the Irish and Sikhs, suddenly needed Irish and Sikh soldiers for World Wars I and II respectively. “Crush them beneath our boots” quickly changed to fawning songs about how “there never was a coward where the shamrock grows” and endless paeans to Sikh military prowess.

Sure, scratch the paeans even a little bit and you find condescension as strong as ever. But eight hundred years of the British committing genocide against the Irish and considering them literally subhuman turned into smiles and songs about shamrocks once the Irish started looking like useful cannon fodder for a larger fight. And the Sikhs, dark-skinned people with turbans and beards who pretty much exemplify the European stereotype of “scary foreigner”, were lauded by everyone from the news media all the way up to Winston Churchill.

In other words, outgroups may be the people who look exactly like you, and scary foreigner types can become the in-group on a moment’s notice when it seems convenient.


There are certain theories of dark matter where it barely interacts with the regular world at all, such that we could have a dark matter planet exactly co-incident with Earth and never know. Maybe dark matter people are walking all around us and through us, maybe my house is in the Times Square of a great dark matter city, maybe a few meters away from me a dark matter blogger is writing on his dark matter computer about how weird it would be if there was a light matter person he couldn’t see right next to him.

This is sort of how I feel about conservatives.

I don’t mean the sort of light-matter conservatives who go around complaining about Big Government and occasionally voting for Romney. I see those guys all the time. What I mean is – well, take creationists. According to Gallup polls, about 46% of Americans are creationists. Not just in the sense of believing God helped guide evolution. I mean they think evolution is a vile atheist lie and God created humans exactly as they exist right now. That’s half the country.

And I don’t have a single one of those people in my social circle. It’s not because I’m deliberately avoiding them; I’m pretty live-and-let-live politically, I wouldn’t ostracize someone just for some weird beliefs. And yet, even though I probably know about a hundred fifty people, I am pretty confident that not one of them is creationist. Odds of this happening by chance? 1/2^150 = 1/10^45 = approximately the chance of picking a particular atom if you are randomly selecting among all the atoms on Earth.

About forty percent of Americans want to ban gay marriage. I think if I really stretch it, maybe ten of my top hundred fifty friends might fall into this group. This is less astronomically unlikely; the odds are a mere one to one hundred quintillion against.

People like to talk about social bubbles, but that doesn’t even begin to cover one hundred quintillion. The only metaphor that seems really appropriate is the bizarre dark matter world.

I live in a Republican congressional district in a state with a Republican governor. The conservatives are definitely out there. They drive on the same roads as I do, live in the same neighborhoods. But they might as well be made of dark matter. I never meet them.

To be fair, I spend a lot of my time inside on my computer. I’m browsing sites like Reddit.

Recently, there was a thread on Reddit asking – Redditors Against Gay Marriage, What Is Your Best Supporting Argument? A Reddit user who didn’t understand how anybody could be against gay marriage honestly wanted to know how other people who were against it justified their position. He figured he might as well ask one of the largest sites on the Internet, with an estimated user base in the tens of millions.

It soon became clear that nobody there was actually against gay marriage.

There were a bunch of posts saying “I of course support gay marriage but here are some reasons some other people might be against it,” a bunch of others saying “my argument against gay marriage is the government shouldn’t be involved in the marriage business at all”, and several more saying “why would you even ask this question, there’s no possible good argument and you’re wasting your time”. About halfway through the thread someone started saying homosexuality was unnatural and I thought they were going to be the first one to actually answer the question, but at the end they added “But it’s not my place to decide what is or isn’t natural, I’m still pro-gay marriage.”

In a thread with 10,401 comments, a thread specifically asking for people against gay marriage, I was eventually able to find two people who came out and opposed it, way near the bottom. Their posts started with “I know I’m going to be downvoted to hell for this…”

But I’m not only on Reddit. I also hang out on LW.

On last year’s survey, I found that of American LWers who identify with one of the two major political parties, 80% are Democrat and 20% Republican, which actually sounds pretty balanced compared to some of these other examples.

But it doesn’t last. Pretty much all of those “Republicans” are libertarians who consider the GOP the lesser of two evils. When allowed to choose “libertarian” as an alternative, only 4% of visitors continued to identify as conservative. But that’s still…some. Right?

When I broke the numbers down further, 3 percentage points of those are neoreactionaries, a bizarre local sect that wants to be ruled by a king. Only one percent of LWers were normal everyday God-‘n-guns-but-not-George-III conservatives of the type that seem to make up about half of the United States.

It gets worse. My formative years were spent at a university which, if it was similar to other elite universities, had a faculty and a student body that skewed about 90-10 liberal to conservative – and we can bet that, like LW, even those few token conservatives are Mitt Romney types rather than God-n’-guns types. I get my news from, an Official Liberal Approved Site. Even when I go out to eat, it turns out my favorite restaurant, California Pizza Kitchen, is the most liberal restaurant in the United States.

I inhabit the same geographical area as scores and scores of conservatives. But without meaning to, I have created an outrageously strong bubble, a 10^45 bubble. Conservatives are all around me, yet I am about as likely to have a serious encounter with one as I am a Tibetan lama.

(Less likely, actually. One time a Tibetan lama came to my college and gave a really nice presentation, but if a conservative tried that, people would protest and it would be canceled.)


One day I realized that entirely by accident I was fulfilling all the Jewish stereotypes.

I’m nerdy, over-educated, good with words, good with money, weird sense of humor, don’t get outside much, I like deli sandwiches. And I’m a psychiatrist, which is about the most stereotypically Jewish profession short of maybe stand-up comedian or rabbi.

I’m not very religious. And I don’t go to synagogue. But that’s stereotypically Jewish too!

I bring this up because it would be a mistake to think “Well, a Jewish person is by definition someone who is born of a Jewish mother. Or I guess it sort of also means someone who follows the Mosaic Law and goes to synagogue. But I don’t care about Scott’s mother, and I know he doesn’t go to synagogue, so I can’t gain any useful information from knowing Scott is Jewish.”

The defining factors of Judaism – Torah-reading, synagogue-following, mother-having – are the tip of a giant iceberg. Jews sometimes identify as a “tribe”, and even if you don’t attend synagogue, you’re still a member of that tribe and people can still (in a statistical way) infer things about you by knowing your Jewish identity – like how likely they are to be psychiatrists.

The last section raised a question – if people rarely select their friends and associates and customers explicitly for politics, how do we end up with such intense political segregation?

Well, in the same way “going to synagogue” is merely the iceberg-tip of a Jewish tribe with many distinguishing characteristics, so “voting Republican” or “identifying as conservative” or “believing in creationism” is the iceberg-tip of a conservative tribe with many distinguishing characteristics.

A disproportionate number of my friends are Jewish, because I meet them at psychiatry conferences or something – we self-segregate not based on explicit religion but on implicit tribal characteristics. So in the same way, political tribes self-segregate to an impressive extent – a 1/10^45 extent, I will never tire of hammering in – based on their implicit tribal characteristics.

The people who are actually into this sort of thing sketch out a bunch of speculative tribes and subtribes, but to make it easier, let me stick with two and a half.

The Red Tribe is most classically typified by conservative political beliefs, strong evangelical religious beliefs, creationism, opposing gay marriage, owning guns, eating steak, drinking Coca-Cola, driving SUVs, watching lots of TV, enjoying American football, getting conspicuously upset about terrorists and commies, marrying early, divorcing early, shouting “USA IS NUMBER ONE!!!”, and listening to country music.

The Blue Tribe is most classically typified by liberal political beliefs, vague agnosticism, supporting gay rights, thinking guns are barbaric, eating arugula, drinking fancy bottled water, driving Priuses, reading lots of books, being highly educated, mocking American football, feeling vaguely like they should like soccer but never really being able to get into it, getting conspicuously upset about sexists and bigots, marrying later, constantly pointing out how much more civilized European countries are than America, and listening to “everything except country”.

(There is a partly-formed attempt to spin off a Grey Tribe typified by libertarian political beliefs, Dawkins-style atheism, vague annoyance that the question of gay rights even comes up, eating paleo, drinking Soylent, calling in rides on Uber, reading lots of blogs, calling American football “sportsball”, getting conspicuously upset about the War on Drugs and the NSA, and listening to filk – but for our current purposes this is a distraction and they can safely be considered part of the Blue Tribe most of the time)

I think these “tribes” will turn out to be even stronger categories than politics. Harvard might skew 80-20 in terms of Democrats vs. Republicans, 90-10 in terms of liberals vs. conservatives, but maybe 99-1 in terms of Blues vs. Reds.

It’s the many, many differences between these tribes that explain the strength of the filter bubble – which have I mentioned segregates people at a strength of 1/10^45? Even in something as seemingly politically uncharged as going to California Pizza Kitchen or Sushi House for dinner, I’m restricting myself to the set of people who like cute artisanal pizzas or sophsticated foreign foods, which are classically Blue Tribe characteristics.

Are these tribes based on geography? Are they based on race, ethnic origin, religion, IQ, what TV channels you watched as a kid? I don’t know.

Some of it is certainly genetic – estimates of the genetic contribution to political association range from 0.4 to 0.6. Heritability of one’s attitudes toward gay rights range from 0.3 to 0.5, which hilariously is a little more heritable than homosexuality itself.

(for an interesting attempt to break these down into more rigorous concepts like “traditionalism”, “authoritarianism”, and “in-group favoritism” and find the genetic loading for each see here. For an attempt to trace the specific genes involved, which mostly turn out to be NMDA receptors, see here)

But I don’t think it’s just genetics. There’s something else going on too. The word “class” seems like the closest analogue, but only if you use it in the sophisticated Paul Fussell Guide Through the American Status System way instead of the boring “another word for how much money you make” way.

For now we can just accept them as a brute fact – as multiple coexisting societies that might as well be made of dark matter for all of the interaction they have with one another – and move on.


The worst reaction I’ve ever gotten to a blog post was when I wrote about the death of Osama bin Laden. I’ve written all sorts of stuff about race and gender and politics and whatever, but that was the worst.

I didn’t come out and say I was happy he was dead. But some people interpreted it that way, and there followed a bunch of comments and emails and Facebook messages about how could I possibly be happy about the death of another human being, even if he was a bad person? Everyone, even Osama, is a human being, and we should never rejoice in the death of a fellow man. One commenter came out and said:

I’m surprised at your reaction. As far as people I casually stalk on the internet (ie, LJ and Facebook), you are the first out of the “intelligent, reasoned and thoughtful” group to be uncomplicatedly happy about this development and not to be, say, disgusted at the reactions of the other 90% or so.

This commenter was right. Of the “intelligent, reasoned, and thoughtful” people I knew, the overwhelming emotion was conspicuous disgust that other people could be happy about his death. I hastily backtracked and said I wasn’t happy per se, just surprised and relieved that all of this was finally behind us.

And I genuinely believed that day that I had found some unexpected good in people – that everyone I knew was so humane and compassionate that they were unable to rejoice even in the death of someone who hated them and everything they stood for.

Then a few years later, Margaret Thatcher died. And on my Facebook wall – made of these same “intelligent, reasoned, and thoughtful” people – the most common response was to quote some portion of the song “Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead”. Another popular response was to link the videos of British people spontaneously throwing parties in the street, with comments like “I wish I was there so I could join in”. From this exact same group of people, not a single expression of disgust or a “c’mon, guys, we’re all human beings here.”

I gently pointed this out at the time, and mostly got a bunch of “yeah, so what?”, combined with links to an article claiming that “the demand for respectful silence in the wake of a public figure’s death is not just misguided but dangerous”.

And that was when something clicked for me.

You can talk all you want about Islamophobia, but my friend’s “intelligent, reasoned, and thoughtful people” – her name for the Blue Tribe – can’t get together enough energy to really hate Osama, let alone Muslims in general. We understand that what he did was bad, but it didn’t anger us personally. When he died, we were able to very rationally apply our better nature and our Far Mode beliefs about how it’s never right to be happy about anyone else’s death.

On the other hand, that same group absolutely loathed Thatcher. Most of us (though not all) can agree, if the question is posed explicitly, that Osama was a worse person than Thatcher. But in terms of actual gut feeling? Osama provokes a snap judgment of “flawed human being”, Thatcher a snap judgment of “scum”.

I started this essay by pointing out that, despite what geographical and cultural distance would suggest, the Nazis’ outgroup was not the vastly different Japanese, but the almost-identical German Jews.

And my hypothesis, stated plainly, is that if you’re part of the Blue Tribe, then your outgroup isn’t al-Qaeda, or Muslims, or blacks, or gays, or transpeople, or Jews, or atheists – it’s the Red Tribe.


“But racism and sexism and cissexism and anti-Semitism are these giant all-encompassing social factors that verge upon being human universals! Surely you’re not arguing that mere political differences could ever come close to them!”

One of the ways we know that racism is a giant all-encompassing social factor is the Implicit Association Test. Psychologists ask subjects to quickly identify whether words or photos are members of certain gerrymandered categories, like “either a white person’s face or a positive emotion” or “either a black person’s face and a negative emotion”. Then they compare to a different set of gerrymandered categories, like “either a black person’s face or a positive emotion” or “either a white person’s face or a negative emotion.” If subjects have more trouble (as measured in latency time) connecting white people to negative things than they do white people to positive things, then they probably have subconscious positive associations with white people. You can try it yourself here.

Of course, what the test famously found was that even white people who claimed to have no racist attitudes at all usually had positive associations with white people and negative associations with black people on the test. There are very many claims and counterclaims about the precise meaning of this, but it ended up being a big part of the evidence in favor of the current consensus that all white people are at least a little racist.

Anyway, three months ago, someone finally had the bright idea of doing an Implicit Association Test with political parties, and they found that people’s unconscious partisan biases were half again as strong as their unconscious racial biases (h/t Bloomberg. For example, if you are a white Democrat, your unconscious bias against blacks (as measured by something called a d-score) is 0.16, but your unconscious bias against Republicans will be 0.23. The Cohen’s d for racial bias was 0.61, by the book a “moderate” effect size; for party it was 0.95, a “large” effect size.

Okay, fine, but we know race has real world consequences. Like, there have been several studies where people sent out a bunch of identical resumes except sometimes with a black person’s photo and other times with a white person’s photo, and it was noticed that employers were much more likely to invite the fictional white candidates for interviews. So just some stupid Implicit Association Test results can’t compare to that, right?

Iyengar and Westwood also decided to do the resume test for parties. They asked subjects to decide which of several candidates should get a scholarship (subjects were told this was a genuine decision for the university the researchers were affiliated with). Some resumes had photos of black people, others of white people. And some students listed their experience in Young Democrats of America, others in Young Republicans of America.

Once again, discrimination on the basis of party was much stronger than discrimination on the basis of race. The size of the race effect for white people was only 56-44 (and in the reverse of the expected direction); the size of the party effect was about 80-20 for Democrats and 69-31 for Republicans.

If you want to see their third experiment, which applied yet another classic methodology used to detect racism and once again found partyism to be much stronger, you can read the paper.

I & W did an unusually thorough job, but this sort of thing isn’t new or ground-breaking. People have been studying “belief congruence theory” – the idea that differences in beliefs are more important than demographic factors in forming in-groups and outgroups – for decades. As early as 1967, Smith et al were doing surveys all over the country and finding that people were more likely to accept friendships across racial lines than across beliefs; in the forty years since then, the observation has been replicated scores of times. Insko, Moe, and Nacoste’s 2006 review Belief Congruence And Racial Discrimination concludes that:

. The literature was judged supportive of a weak version of belief congruence theory which states that in those contexts in which social pressure is nonexistent or ineffective, belief is more important than race as a determinant of racial or ethnic discrimination. Evidence for a strong version of belief congruence theory (which states that in those contexts in which social pressure is nonexistent, or ineffective, belief is the only determinant of racial or ethnic discrimination) and was judged much more problematic.

One of the best-known examples of racism is the “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” scenario where parents are scandalized about their child marrying someone of a different race. Pew has done some good work on this and found that only 23% of conservatives and 1% (!) of liberals admit they would be upset in this situation. But Pew also asked how parents would feel about their child marrying someone of a different political party. Now 30% of conservatives and 23% of liberals would get upset. Average them out, and you go from 12% upsetness rate for race to 27% upsetness rate for party – more than double. Yeah, people do lie to pollsters, but a picture is starting to come together here.

(Harvard, by the way, is a tossup. There are more black students – 11.5% – than conservative students – 10% – but there are more conservative faculty than black faculty.)

Since people will delight in misinterpreting me here, let me overemphasize what I am not saying. I’m not saying people of either party have it “worse” than black people, or that partyism is more of a problem than racism, or any of a number of stupid things along those lines which I am sure I will nevertheless be accused of believing. Racism is worse than partyism because the two parties are at least kind of balanced in numbers and in resources, whereas the brunt of an entire country’s racism falls on a few underprivileged people. I am saying that the underlying attitudes that produce partyism are stronger than the underlying attitudes that produce racism, with no necessary implications on their social effects.

But if we want to look at people’s psychology and motivations, partyism and the particular variant of tribalism that it represents are going to be fertile ground.


Every election cycle like clockwork, conservatives accuse liberals of not being sufficiently pro-America. And every election cycle like clockwork, liberals give extremely unconvincing denials of this.

“It’s not that we’re, like, against America per se. It’s just that…well, did you know Europe has much better health care than we do? And much lower crime rates? I mean, come on, how did they get so awesome? And we’re just sitting here, can’t even get the gay marriage thing sorted out, seriously, what’s wrong with a country that can’t…sorry, what were we talking about? Oh yeah, America. They’re okay. Cesar Chavez was really neat. So were some other people outside the mainstream who became famous precisely by criticizing majority society. That’s sort of like America being great, in that I think the parts of it that point out how bad the rest of it are often make excellent points. Vote for me!”

(sorry, I make fun of you because I love you)

There was a big brouhaha a couple of years ago when, as it first became apparent Obama had a good shot at the Presidency, Michelle Obama said that “for the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country.”

Republicans pounced on the comment, asking why she hadn’t felt proud before, and she backtracked saying of course she was proud all the time and she loves America with the burning fury of a million suns and she was just saying that the Obama campaign was particularly inspiring.

As unconvincing denials go, this one was pretty far up there. But no one really held it against her. Probably most Obama voters felt vaguely the same way. I was an Obama voter, and I have proud memories of spending my Fourth of Julys as a kid debunking people’s heartfelt emotions of patriotism. Aaron Sorkin:

[What makes America the greatest country in the world?] It’s not the greatest country in the world! We’re seventh in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, No. 4 in labor force, and No. 4 in exports. So when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I don’t know what the f*** you’re talking about.

(Another good retort is “We’re number one? Sure – number one in incarceration rates, drone strikes, and making new parents go back to work!”)

All of this is true, of course. But it’s weird that it’s such a classic interest of members of the Blue Tribe, and members of the Red Tribe never seem to bring it up.

(“We’re number one? Sure – number one in levels of sexual degeneracy! Well, I guess probably number two, after the Netherlands, but they’re really small and shouldn’t count.”)

My hunch – both the Red Tribe and the Blue Tribe, for whatever reason, identify “America” with the Red Tribe. Ask people for typically “American” things, and you end up with a very Red list of characteristics – guns, religion, barbecues, American football, NASCAR, cowboys, SUVs, unrestrained capitalism.

That means the Red Tribe feels intensely patriotic about “their” country, and the Blue Tribe feels like they’re living in fortified enclaves deep in hostile territory.

Here is a popular piece published on a major media site called America: A Big, Fat, Stupid Nation. Another: America: A Bunch Of Spoiled, Whiny Brats. Americans are ignorant, scientifically illiterate religious fanatics whose “patriotism” is actually just narcissism. You Will Be Shocked At How Ignorant Americans Are, and we should Blame The Childish, Ignorant American People.

Needless to say, every single one of these articles was written by an American and read almost entirely by Americans. Those Americans very likely enjoyed the articles very much and did not feel the least bit insulted.

And look at the sources. HuffPo, Salon, Slate. Might those have anything in common?

On both sides, “American” can be either a normal demonym, or a code word for a member of the Red Tribe.


The other day, I logged into OKCupid and found someone who looked cool. I was reading over her profile and found the following sentence:

Don’t message me if you’re a sexist white guy

And my first thought was “Wait, so a sexist black person would be okay? Why?”

(The girl in question was white as snow)

Around the time the Ferguson riots were first starting, there were a host of articles with titles like Why White People Don’t Seem To Understand Ferguson, Why It’s So Hard For Whites To Understand Ferguson, and White Folks Listen Up And Let Me Tell You What Ferguson Is All About, this last of which says:

Social media is full of people on both sides making presumptions, and believing what they want to believe. But it’s the white folks that don’t understand what this is all about. Let me put it as simply as I can for you [...]

No matter how wrong you think Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown were, I think we can all agree they didn’t deserve to die over it. I want you white folks to understand that this is where the anger is coming from. You focused on the looting….”

And on a hunch I checked the author photos, and every single one of these articles was written by a white person.

White People Are Ruining America? White. White People Are Still A Disgrace? White. White Guys: We Suck And We’re Sorry? White. Bye Bye, Whiny White Dudes? White. Dear Entitled Straight White Dudes, I’m Evicting You From My Life? White. White Dudes Need To Stop Whitesplaining? White. Reasons Why Americans Suck #1: White People? White.

We’ve all seen articles and comments and articles like this. Some unsavory people try to use them to prove that white people are the real victims or the media is biased against white people or something. Other people who are very nice and optimistic use them to show that some white people have developed some self-awareness and are willing to engage in self-criticism.

But I think the situation with “white” is much the same as the situation with “American” – it can either mean what it says, or be a code word for the Red Tribe.

(except on the blog Stuff White People Like, where it obviously serves as a code word for the Blue tribe. I don’t know, guys. I didn’t do it.)

I realize that’s making a strong claim, but it would hardly be without precedent. When people say things like “gamers are misogynist”, do they mean the 52% of gamers who are women? Do they mean every one of the 59% of Americans from every walk of life who are known to play video or computer games occasionally? No. “Gamer” is a coded reference to the Gray Tribe, the half-branched-off collection of libertarianish tech-savvy nerds, and everyone knows it. As well expect that when people talk about “fedoras”, they mean Indiana Jones. Or when they talk about “urban youth”, they mean freshmen at NYU. Everyone knows exactly who we mean when we say “urban youth”, and them being young people who live in a city has only the most tenuous of relations to the actual concept.

And I’m saying words like “American” and “white” work the same way. Bill Clinton was the “first black President”, but if Herman Cain had won in 2012 he’d have been the 43rd white president. And when an angry white person talks at great length about how much he hates “white dudes”, he is not being humble and self-critical.


Imagine hearing that a liberal talk show host and comedian was so enraged by the actions of ISIS that he’d recorded and posted a video in which he shouts at them for ten minutes, cursing the “fanatical terrorists” and calling them “utter savages” with “savage values”.

If I heard that, I’d be kind of surprised. It doesn’t fit my model of what liberal talk show hosts do.

But the story I’m actually referring to is liberal talk show host / comedian Russell Brand making that same rant against Fox News for supporting war against the Islamic State, adding at the end that “Fox is worse than ISIS”.

That fits my model perfectly. You wouldn’t celebrate Osama’s death, only Thatcher’s. And you wouldn’t call ISIS savages, only Fox News. Fox is the outgroup, ISIS is just some random people off in a desert. You hate the outgroup, you don’t hate random desert people.

I would go further. Not only does Brand not feel much like hating ISIS, he has a strong incentive not to. That incentive is: the Red Tribe is known to hate ISIS loudly and conspicuously. Hating ISIS would signal Red Tribe membership, would be the equivalent of going into Crips territory with a big Bloods gang sign tattooed on your shoulder.

But this might be unfair. What would Russell Brand answer, if we asked him to justify his decision to be much angrier at Fox than ISIS?

He might say something like “Obviously Fox News is not literally worse than ISIS. But here I am, talking to my audience, who are mostly white British people and Americans. These people already know that ISIS is bad; they don’t need to be told that any further. In fact, at this point being angry about how bad ISIS is, is less likely to genuinely change someone’s mind about ISIS, and more likely to promote Islamophobia. The sort of people in my audience are at zero risk of becoming ISIS supporters, but at a very real risk of Islamophobia. So ranting against ISIS would be counterproductive and dangerous.

On the other hand, my audience of white British people and Americans is very likely to contain many Fox News viewers and supporters. And Fox, while not quite as evil as ISIS, is still pretty bad. So here’s somewhere I have a genuine chance to reach people at risk and change minds. Therefore, I think my decision to rant against Fox News, and maybe hyperbolically say they were ‘worse than ISIS’ is justified under the circumstances.”

I have a lot of sympathy to hypothetical-Brand, especially to the part about Islamophobia. It does seem really possible to denounce ISIS’ atrocities to a population that already hates them in order to weak-man a couple of already-marginalized Muslims. We need to fight terrorism and atrocities – therefore it’s okay to shout at a poor girl ten thousand miles from home for wearing a headscarf in public. Christians are being executed for their faith in Sudan, therefore let’s picket the people trying to build a mosque next door.

But my sympathy with Brand ends when he acts like his audience is likely to be fans of Fox News.

In a world where a negligible number of Redditors oppose gay marriage and 1% of Less Wrongers identify conservative and I know 0/150 creationists, how many of the people who visit the YouTube channel of a well-known liberal activist with a Che-inspired banner, a channel whose episode names are things like “War: What Is It Good For?” and “Sarah Silverman Talks Feminism” – how many of them do you think are big Fox News fans?

In a way, Russell Brand would have been braver taking a stand against ISIS than against Fox. If he attacked ISIS, his viewers would just be a little confused and uncomfortable. Whereas every moment he’s attacking Fox his viewers are like “HA HA! YEAH! GET ‘EM! SHOW THOSE IGNORANT BIGOTS IN THE outgroup WHO’S BOSS!”

Brand acts as if there are just these countries called “Britain” and “America” who are receiving his material. Wrong. There are two parallel universes, and he’s only broadcasting to one of them.

The result is exactly what we predicted would happen in the case of Islam. Bombard people with images of a far-off land they already hate and tell them to hate it more, and the result is ramping up the intolerance on the couple of dazed and marginalized representatives of that culture who have ended up stuck on your half of the divide. Sure enough, if industry or culture or community gets Blue enough, Red Tribe members start getting harassed, fired from their jobs (Brendan Eich being the obvious example) or otherwise shown the door.

Think of Brendan Eich as a member of a tiny religious minority surrounded by people who hate that minority. Suddenly firing him doesn’t seem very noble.

If you mix together Podunk, Texas and Mosul, Iraq, you can prove that Muslims are scary and very powerful people who are executing Christians all the time and have a great excuse for kicking the one remaining Muslim family, random people who never hurt anyone, out of town.

And if you mix together the open-source tech industry and the parallel universe where you can’t wear a FreeBSD t-shirt without risking someone trying to exorcise you, you can prove that Christians are scary and very powerful people who are persecuting everyone else all the time, and you have a great excuse for kicking one of the few people willing to affiliate with the Red Tribe, a guy who never hurt anyone, out of town.

When a friend of mine heard Eich got fired, she didn’t see anything wrong with it. “I can tolerate anything except intolerance,” she said.

“Intolerance” is starting to look like another one of those words like “white” and “American”.

“I can tolerate anything except the outgroup.” Doesn’t sound quite so noble now, does it?


We started by asking: millions of people are conspicuously praising every outgroup they can think of, while conspicuously condemning their own in-group. This seems contrary to what we know about social psychology. What’s up?

We noted that outgroups are rarely literally “the group most different from you”, and in fact far more likely to be groups very similar to you sharing almost all your characteristics and living in the same area.

We then noted that although liberals and conservatives live in the same area, they might as well be two totally different countries or universe as far as level of interaction were concerned.

Contra the usual idea of them being marked only by voting behavior, we described them as very different tribes with totally different cultures. You can speak of “American culture” only in the same way you can speak of “Asian culture” – that is, with a lot of interior boundaries being pushed under the rug.

The outgroup of the Red Tribe is occasionally blacks and gays and Muslims, more often the Blue Tribe.

The Blue Tribe has performed some kind of very impressive act of alchemy, and transmuted all of its outgroup hatred to the Red Tribe.

This is not surprising. Ethnic differences have proven quite tractable in the face of shared strategic aims. Even the Nazis, not known for their ethnic tolerance, were able to get all buddy-buddy with the Japanese when they had a common cause.

Research suggests Blue Tribe / Red Tribe prejudice to be much stronger than better-known types of prejudice like racism. Once the Blue Tribe was able to enlist the blacks and gays and Muslims in their ranks, they became allies of convenience who deserve to be rehabilitated with mildly condescending paeans to their virtue. “There never was a coward where the shamrock grows.”

Spending your entire life insulting the other tribe and talking about how terrible they are makes you look, well, tribalistic. It is definitely not high class. So when members of the Blue Tribe decide to dedicate their entire life to yelling about how terrible the Red Tribe is, they make sure that instead of saying “the Red Tribe”, they say “America”, or “white people”, or “straight white men”. That way it’s humble self-criticism. They are so interested in justice that they are willing to critique their own beloved side, much as it pains them to do so. We know they are not exaggerating, because one might exaggerate the flaws of an enemy, but that anyone would exaggerate their own flaws fails the criterion of embarrassment.

The Blue Tribe always has an excuse at hand to persecute and crush any Red Tribers unfortunate enough to fall into its light-matter-universe by defining them as all-powerful domineering oppressors. They appeal to the fact that this is definitely the way it works in the Red Tribe’s dark-matter-universe, and that’s in the same country so it has to be the same community for all intents and purposes. As a result, every Blue Tribe institution is permanently licensed to take whatever emergency measures are necessary against the Red Tribe, however disturbing they might otherwise seem.

And so how virtuous, how noble the Blue Tribe! Perfectly tolerant of all of the different groups that just so happen to be allied with them, never intolerant unless it happen to be against intolerance itself. Never stooping to engage in petty tribal conflict like that awful Red Tribe, but always nobly criticizing their own culture and striving to make it better!

Sorry. But I hope this is at least a little convincing. The weird dynamic of outgroup-philia and ingroup-phobia isn’t anything of the sort. It’s just good old-fashioned in-group-favoritism and outgroup bashing, a little more sophisticated and a little more sneaky.


This essay is bad and I should feel bad.

I should feel bad because I made exactly the mistake I am trying to warn everyone else about, and it wasn’t until I was almost done that I noticed.

How virtuous, how noble I must be! Never stooping to engage in petty tribal conflict like that silly Red Tribe, but always nobly criticizing my own tribe and striving to make it better.

Yeah. Once I’ve written a ten thousand word essay savagely attacking the Blue Tribe, either I’m a very special person or they’re my outgroup. And I’m not that special.

Just as you can pull a fast one and look humbly self-critical if you make your audience assume there’s just one American culture, so maybe you can trick people by assuming there’s only one Blue Tribe.

I’m pretty sure I’m not Red, but I did talk about the Grey Tribe above, and I show all the risk factors for being one of them. That means that, although my critique of the Blue Tribe may be right or wrong, in terms of motivation it comes from the same place as a Red Tribe member talking about how much they hate al-Qaeda or a Blue Tribe member talking about how much they hate ignorant bigots. And when I boast of being able to tolerate Christians and Southerners whom the Blue Tribe is mean to, I’m not being tolerant at all, just noticing people so far away from me they wouldn’t make a good outgroup anyway.

My arguments might be correct feces, but they’re still feces.

I had fun writing this article. People do not have fun writing articles savagely criticizing their in-group. People can criticize their in-group, it’s not humanly impossible, but it takes nerves of steel, it makes your blood boil, you should sweat blood. It shouldn’t be fun.

You can bet some white guy on Gawker who week after week churns out “Why White People Are So Terrible” and “Here’s What Dumb White People Don’t Understand” is having fun and not sweating any blood at all. He’s not criticizing his in-group, he’s never even considered criticizing his in-group. I can’t blame him. Criticizing the in-group is a really difficult project I’ve barely begun to build the mental skills necessary to even consider.

I can think of criticisms of my own tribe. Important criticisms, true ones. But the thought of writing them makes my blood boil.

I imagine might I feel like some liberal US Muslim leader, when he goes on the O’Reilly Show, and O’Reilly ambushes him and demands to know why he and other American Muslims haven’t condemned beheadings by ISIS more, demands that he criticize them right there on live TV. And you can see the wheels in the Muslim leader’s head turning, thinking something like “Okay, obviously beheadings are terrible and I hate them as much as anyone. But you don’t care even the slightest bit about the victims of beheadings. You’re just looking for a way to score points against me so you can embarass all Muslims. And I would rather personally behead every single person in the world than give a smug bigot like you a single microgram more stupid self-satisfaction than you’ve already got.”

That is how I feel when asked to criticize my own tribe, even for correct reasons. If you think you’re criticizing your own tribe, and your blood is not at that temperature, consider the possibility that you aren’t.

But if I want Self-Criticism Virtue Points, criticizing the Grey Tribe is the only honest way to get them. And if I want Tolerance Points, my own personal cross to bear right now is tolerating the Blue Tribe. I need to remind myself that when they are bad people, they are merely Osama-level bad people instead of Thatcher-level bad people. And when they are good people, they are powerful and necessary crusaders against the evils of the world.

The worst thing that could happen to this post is to have it be used as convenient feces to fling at the Blue Tribe whenever feces are necessary. Which, given what has happened to my last couple of posts along these lines and the obvious biases of my own subconscious, I already expect it will be.

But the best thing that could happen to this post is that it makes a lot of people, especially myself, figure out how to be more tolerant. Not in the “of course I’m tolerant, why shouldn’t I be?” sense of the Emperor in Part I. But in the sense of “being tolerant makes me see red, makes me sweat blood, but darn it I am going to be tolerant anyway.”

20 Oct 16:00

Zen em Quadrinhos

06 Oct 00:52

Most People With Addiction Simply Grow Out of It: Why Is This Widely Denied? -

Adam Victor Brandizzi

Eu não tinha ideia da maior parte dessas coisas :O

The experiences of most young people with addiction are brushed under the carpet. Photo via

The experiences of most young people with addiction are brushed under the carpet. Photo via

When I stopped shooting coke and heroin, I was 23. I had no life outside of my addiction. I was facing serious drug charges and I weighed 85 pounds, after months of injecting, often dozens of times a day.

But although I got treatment, I quit at around the age when, according to large epidemiological studies, most people who have diagnosable addiction problems do so—without treatment. The early to mid-20s is also the period when the prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain responsible for good judgment and self-restraint—finally reaches maturity.

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, addiction is “a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry.” However, that’s not what the epidemiology of the disorder suggests. By age 35, half of all people who qualified for active alcoholism or addiction diagnoses during their teens and 20s no longer do, according to a study of over 42,000 Americans in a sample designed to represent the adult population.

The average cocaine addiction lasts four years, the average marijuana addiction lasts six years, and the average alcohol addiction is resolved within 15 years. Heroin addictions tend to last as long as alcoholism, but prescription opioid problems, on average, last five years. In these large samples, which are drawn from the general population, only a quarter of people who recover have ever sought assistance in doing so (including via 12-step programs). This actually makes addictions the psychiatric disorder with the highest odds of recovery.

While some addictions clearly do take a chronic course, this data, which replicates earlier research, suggests that many do not. And this remains true even for people like me, who have used drugs in such high, frequent doses and in such a compulsive fashion that it is hard to argue that we “weren’t really addicted.” I don’t know many non-addicts who shoot up 40 times a day, get suspended from college for dealing and spend several months in a methadone program.

Only a quarter of people who recover have ever sought assistance in doing so (including via 12-step programs). This actually makes addictions the psychiatric disorder with the highest odds of recovery.

Moreover, if addiction were truly a progressive disease, the data should show that the odds of quitting get worse over time. In fact, they remain the same on an annual basis, which means that as people get older, a higher and higher percentage wind up in recovery. If your addiction really is “doing push-ups” while you sit in AA meetings, it should get harder, not easier, to quit over time. (This is not an argument in favor of relapsing; it simply means that your odds of recovery actually get better with age!)

So why do so many people still see addiction as hopeless? One reason is a phenomenon known as “the clinician’s error,” which could also be known as the “journalist’s error” because it is so frequently replicated in reporting on drugs. That is, journalists and rehabs tend to see the extremes: Given the expensive and often harsh nature of treatment, if you can quit on your own you probably will. And it will be hard for journalists or treatment providers to find you.

Similarly, if your only knowledge of alcohol came from working in an ER on Saturday nights, you might start thinking that prohibition is a good idea. All you would see are overdoses, DTs, or car crash, rape or assault victims. You wouldn’t be aware of the patients whose alcohol use wasn’t causing problems. And so, although the overwhelming majority of alcohol users drink responsibly, your “clinical” picture of what the drug does would be distorted by the source of your sample of drinkers.

Treatment providers get a similarly skewed view of addicts: The people who keep coming back aren’t typical—they’re simply the ones who need the most help. Basing your concept of addiction only on people who chronically relapse creates an overly pessimistic picture.

This is one of many reasons why I prefer to see addiction as a learning or developmental disorder, rather than taking the classical disease view. If addiction really were a primary, chronic, progressive disease, natural recovery rates would not be so high and addiction wouldn’t have such a pronounced peak prevalence in young people.

But if addiction is seen as a disorder of development, its association with age makes a great deal more sense. The most common years for full onset of addiction are 19 and 20, which coincides with late adolescence, before cortical development is complete. In early adolescence, when the drug taking that leads to addiction by the 20s typically begins, the emotional systems involved in love and sex are coming online, before the cognitive systems that rein in risk-taking are fully active.

Taking drugs excessively at this time probably interferes with both biological and psychological development. The biological part is due to the impact of the drugs on the developing circuitry itself—but the psychological part is probably at least as important. If as a teen you don’t learn non-drug ways of soothing yourself through the inevitable ups and downs of relationships, you miss out on a critical period for doing so. Alternatively, if you do hone these skills in adolescence, even heavy use later may not be as hard to kick because you already know how to use other options for coping.

The data supports this idea: If you start drinking or taking drugs with peers before age 18, you have a 25% chance of becoming addicted, but if your use starts later, the odds drop to 4%. Very few people without a prior history of addiction get hooked later in life, even if they are exposed to drugs like opioid painkillers.

So why do so many people see addiction as hopeless? One reason is “the clinician’s error,” which could also be known as the “journalist’s error” because it is so frequently replicated in reporting on drugs.

If we see addiction as a developmental disorder, all of this makes much more sense. Many kids “age out” of classical developmental disorders like attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as their brains catch up to those of their peers or they develop workarounds for coping with their different wiring. One study, for example, which followed 367 children with ADHD into adulthood found that 70% no longer had significant symptoms.

That didn’t mean, however, that a significant minority didn’t still need help, of course, or that ADHD isn’t “real.” Like addiction (and actually strongly linked with risk for it), ADHD is a wiring difference and a key period for brain-circuit-building is adolescence. In both cases, maturity can help correct the problem, but doesn’t always do so automatically.

To better understand recovery and how to teach it, then, we need to look to the strengths and tactics of people who quit without treatment—and not merely focus on clinical samples. Common threads in stories of recovery without treatment include finding a new passion (whether in work, hobbies, religion or a person), moving from a less structured environment like college into a more constraining one like 9 to 5 employment, and realizing that heavy use stands in the way of achieving important life goals. People who recover without treatment also tend not to see themselves as addicts, according to the research in this area.

While treatment can often support the principles of natural recovery, too often it does the opposite. For example, many programs interfere with healthy family and romantic relationships by isolating patients. Some threaten employment and education, suggesting or even requiring that people quit jobs or school to “focus on recovery,” when doing so might do more harm than good. Others pay too much attention to getting people to take on an addict identity—rather than on harm related to drug use—when, in fact, looking at other facets of the self may be more helpful.

There are many paths to recovery—and if we want to help people get there, we need to explore all of them. That means recognizing that natural recovery exists—and not dismissing data we don’t like.

Maia Szalavitz is one of the nation’s leading neuroscience and addiction journalists, and a columnist at She has contributed to Timethe New York TimesScientific American Mindthe Washington Post and many other publications. She has also published five books, including Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids (Riverhead, 2006), and is currently finishing her sixth, Unbroken Brain, which examines why seeing addiction as a developmental or learning disorder can help us better understand, prevent and treat it. Her last column for was about which parts of the 12 Steps she would keep, which she would throw away and why.

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20 Oct 15:03

Como Israel-Palestina ajuda a entender a relação da Turquia-Curdistão

by Gustavo Chacra

Os grupos militares curdos são para a Turquia o que o Hamas é para Israel. Por este motivo, os turcos relutam tanto em ajudar os curdos sírios da cidade de Kobani. Seria como se Israel entrasse na Síria para de ataques do regime de Bashar al Assad os refugiados palestinos em campos controlados pelo Hamas nos arredores de Damasco. E note que este cenário, literalmente, ocorreu e os israelenses não entraram.

Antes de prosseguir, primeiro, temos de entender que os curdos se espalham por quatro países – Turquia, Síria, Iraque e Irã. E o governo turco tem uma relação distinta com cada um deles.

Curdos na Turquia

O governo de Recep Tayyp Erdogan ampliou os direitos dos curdos na Turquia, permitindo que eles possam ter publicações na língua curda e este idioma também passou ser ensinado nas escolas de áreas curdas do país. Mas o PKK, principal organização curda, ainda é visto como um grupo terrorista responsável pela morte de milhares de pessoas e seu líder Abdullah Ocalan está preso em uma ilha no Mar de Marmara

Curdos no Irã

Para a Turquia, este é um problema do Irã, não deles

Curdos do Iraque

A Turquia mantém boas relações com a região autônoma do Curdistão

 Curdos da Síria

A Turquia os vê como adversários. A principal organização dos curdos sírios é PYD, aliado do PKK. Além disso, o governo de Erdogan os acusa de serem aliados de Assad – na verdade, o líder sírio concedeu maior autonomia a eles depois do início da guerra civil

Dá para dizer que os curdos do Iraque seriam, para a Turquia, o equivalente dos palestinos da Cisjordânia para Israel. Os curdos do Irã seriam para a Turquia o equivalente dos palestinos da Jordânia para Israel. Os habitantes civis curdos da Turquia e da Síria não seriam um problema para os turcos, assim como os civis palestinos de Gaza não são um problema para Israel. Aliás, os cidadãos curdos da Turquia seriam o equivalente dos árabes cidadãos de Israel.

Mas o PKK e o PYD são para a Turquia e o que o Hamas e o Jihad Islâmico são para Israel, como escrevi acima – grupos terroristas, embora os curdos não os enxerguem desta forma. Para eles, são organizações que lutam pelos curdos contra a repressão da Turquia. Portanto, como escrevi no passado, os curdos, para a Turquia, são considerados uma ameaça maior do que o ISIS, também conhecido como ISIL, Grupo Estado Islâmico e Daesh.

A afirmação do chanceler turco hoje de que pode facilitar a passagem dos Pesh Merga é uma minúscula concessão às pressões dos EUA. Se a Turquia quisesse, derrotaria o ISIS em poucos dias ou semanas na região de Kobani. Mas optou por não fazer nada.

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Guga Chacra, comentarista de política internacional do Estadão e do programa Globo News Em Pauta em Nova York, é mestre em Relações Internacionais pela Universidade Columbia. Já foi correspondente do jornal O Estado de S. Paulo no Oriente Médio e em NY. No passado, trabalhou como correspondente da Folha em Buenos Aires

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06 Oct 18:08

The Secret to Quickly Learning a Foreign Language as an Adult

Adam Victor Brandizzi

Algo a tentar.

I've learned several foreign languages as an adult.  I was able to learn French to conversation fluency in 17 days using the following techniques.  Note that I had previously learned Spanish to fluency so this was not my first foreign language. 

In summer of 2005 I stayed with a French friend in a tiny village in the Beaujolais region of France.  No one in the village spoke English and, since my friend knew I had an ambitious learning goal, she refused to speak to me in English as well. 

I set up a routine where I did the same things every day. 

In the mornings, I woke up and wrote out longhand the regular and irregular verb tables for 1.5-2 hours.  I managed to get through an entire pad of paper in two weeks.  I still believe that writing things out by hand is the best way to memorize things.

While I wrote, I would listen to Michel Thomas' language learning mp3s (http://www.michelthomas. com/).  On the CDs you listen as he teaches French to other English speakers.  It's really helpful to hear other students make mistakes that you can learn from, just like a regular classroom environment.  In two weeks I listened to the foundation, advanced and language building courses twice.

I would run for 45-60 minutes in the early afternoon in the French countryside listening to catchy French music.  Music is a great way to learn the intonation of a language and train your facial muscles as you sing along.

I had lunch with my friend and her French friends everyday.  As they refused to slow down when speaking to me in French, it was learn or starve!

In the afternoon, if I wasn't playing darts or Boules with my French friends, I was reading "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" in French.  Reading the children's books you read as a child is a great hack to learning new languages.  Firstly, the language used is simple and secondly, knowing the story helps you to guess the meaning of new words and avoid using a dictionary.  Surprisingly children's books are more entertaining in a foreign language.

I spent at least an hour writing basic essays about myself which I had my French friend check for errors.  When you meet new people you inevitably get asked the same things:  "Where are you from?", "What do you do?", "Do you like France?".  By learning ready-made answers, you get to practice what you learned and build up your confidence.

Another good tip is to learn the filler words.  These are the words and phrases people say then all the time between sentences (alors, en fait, etc.) but have no real meaning; allowing you to buy time in a conversation and increase your confidence.

After 17 days I left the small town and went to Paris.  I met a girl in a coffee shop and we started talking.  After a few minutes, she asked how long I had lived in France.  When I told her I had been learning French for 17 days, she swore that I had lived in France for at least a year.

Hopefully there are some useful tips you can use in your learning.  Let me know and bonne chance!

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