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Sandworms, Ho!

Posted by LizardBreath
on 03.31.15

Valedictory meetup for Barry Freed as he leaves NYC for Arrakis. Wednesday, April 8 at Fresh Salt looks good to me now, but I can be talked into almost anything (barring this Thursday and Friday, which are occupied by baking for and attending seder, respectively.)

(Have I ever told you about my father's friend, Frankie? Back in the fifties, he had family in Italy he'd visit for a month every summer. And every summer, the gang back in Queens would throw two parties in his honor: the "Too bad you left already" party, and the "What a shame you're not back yet" party. My father's friends back in the fifties really weren't decent people.)



 

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Jon New-wart.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.31.15

People have strong opinions about Trevor Noah. I do not yet, but I think everyone is being dumb. First off, I'm willing to let someone live down some very stupid tweets from three years ago. Second, it's not like all the writers are leaving along with Jon Stewart. Let's see if he can deliver the news and jokes. Third, I linked to Slate twice today. Sorry?



 

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Lobbying

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.31.15

Education companies lobby a lot. Which we knew, but still depressing.



 

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On Bodies

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.31.15

Men: do you have chest hair, or do you groom it away? I am perennially annoyed that the hairless trend has gone on for so many decades, and am perennially in favor of a return to body hair.

Diets: we've discussed here how they don't work, but I thought this paragraph is interesting:

Why do doctors keep prescribing treatments that don't work for a condition that's often benign? I suspect one reason lies in the fanaticism that often seems to drive the public debate around weight. Last January, for instance, when Flegal's meta-analysis showing a low risk of death for overweight people hit the news, one of its most vocal critics was Walter Willett, an epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health. He told a reporter from NPR, "This study is really a pile of rubbish, and no one should waste their time reading it." A month later, Willett organized a symposium at Harvard just to attack Flegal's findings.

The following two paragraphs at the link briefly discuss financial conflicts of interest and cultural biases that prevent many doctors from reconsidering their paradigm on dieting.

One passing thought on dieting: I've actually never managed to yo-yo diet. I've basically had no success ever losing weight through intentional restriction. Between pregnancies, at times, I've lost ~1 lb/month with great effort. Or zero lbs/month, with the same effort. I don't know what to make of that, but I'm fairly resigned to my new normal at this point.



 

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Viet Cong

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.30.15

I would like this article better if it wasn't in Cracked's too-cute-by-half signature grumpiness, but still good: 8 Things Vietnam War Movies Leave Out. It's not groundbreaking, but it's written by a former Viet Cong guerrilla, which is a nice perspective. (Cracked's branded grumpy tone is extra-obnoxious here because it stretches credulity that a former Viet Cong guerrilla would talk in the first person that way.)



 

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Guest Post - Asilomar, zinc-fingers, etc

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.30.15

Lw writes:Germline editing of the genome in human embryos has very recently become technically feasible.

Monkeys have been born from CRISPR-edited embryos, but at least half of the 10 pregnancies in the monkey experiments ended in miscarriage. In the monkeys that were born, not all cells carried the desired changes, so attempts to eliminate a disease gene might not work. The editing can also damage off-target sites in the genome.
Those uncertainties, together with existing regulations, are sufficient to prevent responsible scientists from attempting any genetically altered babies, says George Church, a molecular geneticist at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

This is a pretty big innovation.

Heebie's take: I know nothing! I did think the lede to the article was nice, though:

Asilomar. The word conjures up not only stunning California coastline but also vexing questions posed by new, potentially world-changing technologies.


 

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Tone Police

Posted by Ben
on 03.28.15

Many people, even some people who are affiliated with them, think of universities as centers of intellectual life. However, in fact, they are riddled with idiocy. The link is to a series of tweets mostly by first-call session sociology maven Kieran Healy about "tone of voice" guidelines for writing about/for a university, written apparently by people who haven't thought a lot about what the purpose of much of that writing is or how much one can, or even should try to, convey one's vision for the university as a whole in writing about an undergrad's research project or whatever. This one in particular is remarkable because the "before" examples seem apt to be informative and useful, whereas the "after" examples make one want to punch the face of the handiest smarmy person.



 

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Guest Post - India

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.27.15

Lw writes: Indian politics is pretty interesting. The new PM's party is fundamentalist-curious. One state has just banned beef.

There are three states that have state welfare boards responsible for transgender people, and West Bengal has just created one that covers development as well. West Bengal had been communist for decades, they were replaced there a few years ago.

Heebie's take: I know nothing!



 

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Skill

Posted by Ogged
on 03.27.15

There's not much reason for any of you to care about Illinois' horrible tax system, but this op-ed is such a model of clear and informed newspaper writing that I wanted to share it.



 

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Cooperation

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.27.15

There was a local story on NPR this morning about zebra mussels in Lake Austin Waco. They're horribly invasive and cause a lot of problems. Last year they instituted strict inspection rules before boats were to be allowed in central Texas lakes. According to the story*, one single private dock wouldn't participate, and sure enough, that's where the mussels got into Lake Waco. They are currently involved in an expensive attempt to eradicate the population before it explodes, without using chemicals - smothering them with tarps for five months, etc, and they were hopeful that it's working.

Let's talk about that one guy who wouldn't cooperate. Does he feel like a jack-ass now? Is he sorry, at the very least because I'm sure all these treatments and interventions interfere with his dock access? How does he resolve the cognitive dissonance of "Goddamn right I don't have to cooperate" and "Oh gee, look at the giant fucking mess I caused." I hate him.

I wish that the God of PSAs would take up "cooperation" the way they (successfully) took up anti-bullying. Whether or not bullying has decreased, there is now a language and widespread norm that it is bad, and that schools are responsible for dealing with it and trying to eliminate it. I'd like some widespread normative language that we should all be cooperative, goddamn it, when it comes to public goods. Not when it comes to things I disagree with, of course. Don't cooperate with those.

*which I can't find an online version of Thanks, potchkeh!



 

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