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Why Doctors Hate Their Computers / New Yorker
The incomparable Atul Gawande with another excellent piece. This one starts a bit more slowly than most of his articles do, but it's still definitely worth the read:
A week or two after my visit with Cameron, I called him to review his laboratory results. A scan had pinpointed a parathyroid tumor in the right side of his neck, which would be straightforward to remove. A test showed that he didn’t have the genetic syndrome, after all, and a brain scan showed no pituitary tumor. I had more time for his questions now, and I let him ask them. When we were done and I was about to get off the phone, I paused. I asked him if he’d noticed, during our office visit, how much time I’d spent on the computer. “Yes, absolutely,” he said. He added, “I’ve been in your situation. I knew you were just trying to find the information you needed. I was actually trying not to talk too much, because I knew you were in a hurry, but I needed you to look the information up. I wanted you to be able to do that. I didn’t want to push you too far.” It was painful to hear. Forced to choose between having the right technical answer and a more human interaction, Cameron picked having the right technical answer. I asked him what he meant about having been in my situation. As a construction-site supervisor, he said, he spends half his day in front of his laptop and half in front of people. [...] The technology is more precise, but it’s made everything more complicated and time-consuming. He faces the same struggle that I do.
----- 3 stars -----
The Mystery of the Havana Syndrome / New Yorker
All the victims described being bombarded by waves of pressure in their heads. Unlike Lee, though, the C.I.A. officers said that they heard loud sounds, similar to cicadas, which seemed to follow them from one room to another. But when they opened an outside door the sounds abruptly stopped. Some of the victims said that it felt as if they were standing in an invisible beam of energy. The Americans suffered from headaches, dizziness, and a perplexing range of other symptoms. Later, specialists studied their brains and determined that the injuries resembled concussions, like those suffered by soldiers struck by roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan. But there were no signs of impact. One of the specialists said it was as if the victims had a “concussion without concussion.” Douglas Smith, who oversaw a team that examined the victims at the University of Pennsylvania, said, “None of us have ever encountered anything like this before.” Experts at the C.I.A. were baffled by what they saw as an alarming new threat, one of the most confounding medical and espionage mysteries to involve American personnel overseas since the Cold War. The affliction didn’t have a name, so some of the victims started to refer to it simply as the Thing.
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What I Learned About Life at My 30th College Reunion / The Atlantic
Your Real Biological Clock Is You’re Going to Die / Hmm Daily
Both of these pieces have gotten a lot of the play in the blogosophere, and many of you have probably seen them. Nothing new, and rather anecdotal, but good reflection material:
Every classmate who became a teacher or doctor seemed happy with the choice of career. [...] Many lawyers seemed either unhappy or itching for a change, with the exception of those who became law professors. [...] Nearly every single banker or fund manager wanted to find a way to use accrued wealth to give back (some had concrete plans, some didn’t), and many, at this point, seemed to want to leave Wall Street as soon as possible to take up some sort of art. [...] Our strongest desire, in that same pre-reunion class survey—over more sex and more money—was to get more sleep. [...] Those who chose to get divorced seemed happier, post-divorce. Those who got an unwanted divorce seemed unhappier, post-divorce. [...] Nearly all the attendees who had spouses had, by the 30th reunion, left theirs at home.
In our social world, in our cultural class, at our point in history, people are brought up to take the opposite view, to structure their lives as if time were something a person accumulated. One is wary of getting married too soon, of having children too young. Adulthood is a condition to enter cautiously and gradually. [...] If my firstborn waits till he’s 35, going on 36, to have a child, the way I did, my grandchild will arrive the year I would turn 71. When that grandchild finishes fifth grade, I’ll be due to turn 81. And that would be the first of my grandchildren. Are you ready to have a child? Take your age right now and add 18. And nine months, if you want to get particular about it, but call it 18. That’s how old you’ll be for high school graduation. Add 25 and picture yourself traveling to visit your grown-up child in a new city. Add 30. Add 40. The clock is running, only it’s not a clock: It’s a sandglass.
What Neither the Republicans Nor the Democrats Understand About Obamacare / Heath Policy and Market
Got this from Marginal Revolution:
Why has the Obamacare individual market melted-down in these last two years? Because its premiums and deductibles are sky high--for all but the lowest income participants. In Northern Virginia, for example, the cheapest 2019 Obamacare individual market Silver plan for a family of four (mom and dad age-40) making a subsidy eligible $65,000 a year costs $4,514. That plan has a $6,500 deductible meaning the family would have to spend $11,014 on eligible health care costs before collecting other than nominal first dollar benefits. That same family, but making too much for a subsidy, as 40% of families do, and a typical family in the affluent Virginia 10th, would have to spend $19,484 in premiums plus a $6,500 deductible, for a total of $25,984 in eligible costs before they would collect any meaningful benefits. Democrats are now arguing that Obamacare was the big winner in the midterms. Why would a law that has so devastated the individual market be a winner? And, why would it be a winner in the Virginia 10th? Because the Republican incumbent voted for the Republican House bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. In passing the House bill, Republicans were health care tone deaf. The bill would have: Arguably allowed states to repeal the pre-existing condition reforms. Made significant cuts to the individual market insurance subsidies. Made huge cuts to the Medicaid expansion. Republican House members voted for these things because they never understood what made voters upset about Obamacare. It was not the things that provided insurance security--the pre-existing protections, the subsidies, or the Medicaid expansion--it was the things that undermined health insurance security--the few lousy choices of unaffordable health plans consumers were left with in the Obamacare era.
We Thought We Knew Faith, Until We Didn’t / The Cut
Long before Faith Goldy became a poster girl for white nationalism, she was one of the most popular students at our all-girls private school in Toronto, Havergal College. A year ahead of me, Faith was larger-than-life, a natural for big roles in school plays, while most of us fought for supporting parts. Our school preached women’s empowerment and inclusivity, and Faith was a fierce student leader who proudly embodied the values we were taught. “She was magnetic,” said a former friend. “I remember just wanting to be around her. If she walked into a room, you knew she was there.” Her voice echoed through the school halls, and she became known for her fake tan and big, dyed-blonde hair she moussed into tight coils like ramen noodles. It seems Faith is still good at commanding attention, but over the 11 years since she graduated, our erstwhile high-school golden girl has plunged deeper and deeper into the bowels of the far right, culminating in a trip to Charlottesville for the infamous Unite the Right rally in August 2017, where she reported sympathetically on the alt-right and then went on a podcast from the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer. [...] In a movement mostly dominated by white men, Faith is a potent weapon for white supremacy. Her fans are fond of pointing out her physical attributes in crude, sexual terms. [...] In July 2018, Faith put in her bid for mayor of Toronto, where she ran a campaign that gleefully parroted Trumpian language like “make Toronto safe again!” and “the media is truly the enemy of the people!” When, as a fringe candidate among more than 30 others, she wasn’t allowed into debates, she painted herself as a free-speech martyr. Her campaign flyer proclaimed, “Only Faith Goldy will evacuate illegal migrants from our city and put Toronto First!” [...] In 2007, Faith’s senior year, she and I had performed together in The Laramie Project, where we made a fence out of sticks and rope and held a vigil for the play’s subject, Matthew Shepard, a young gay man mortally wounded in a 1998 hate crime in Laramie, Wyoming. It seemed impossible to me that the Faith I knew then could have changed so dramatically. For years, I thought if only I could talk to her, maybe I’d be able to understand the reasons for her metamorphosis. [...] Watching her videos, I didn’t just see a woman shilling abhorrent white nationalist ideas — I also caught flickers of the Faith I remembered, who was vibrant and had seemed so full of promise. Every door had been open to us. Why had she chosen to spend her life peddling bigotry?
‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens / Kottke
For the past few years, whenever a mass shooting occurs in the US that gets wide press coverage, the satirical news site The Onion runs an article with this headline written by Jason Roeder: “‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens”. The reason they only do it when a shooting gets big coverage is that there have been 307 mass shootings so far this year and if they covered every one, about half of The Onion’s content would be this same article. Each of these articles consists of an identical paragraph save for the dateline, the number of people killed by the shooter, the photo, and a couple of details from the shooting. [...] I’ll keep this list updated, but I’m eagerly looking forward to a time when I never have to see a new version of this article ever again.
Preschool: I Was Wrong / Slate Star Codex
Kelsey Piper has written an article for Vox: Early Childhood Education Yields Big Benefits – Just Not The Ones You Think. I had previously followed various studies that showed that preschool does not increase academic skill, academic achievement, or IQ, and concluded that it was useless. In fact, this had become a rallying point of movement for evidence-based social interventions; the continuing popular support for preschool proved that people were morons who didn’t care about science. I don’t think I ever said this aloud, but I believed it in my heart. I talked to Kelsey about some of the research for her article, and independently came to the same conclusion: despite the earlier studies of achievement being accurate, preschools (including the much-maligned Head Start) do seem to help children in subtler ways that only show up years later. Children who have been to preschool seem to stay in school longer, get better jobs, commit less crime, and require less welfare. The thing most of the early studies were looking for – academic ability – is one of the only things it doesn’t affect. This suggests that preschool is beneficial not because of the curriculum or because of “teaching young brains how to learn” or anything like that, but for purely social reasons.
Making an Ancient Roman Murderer / Lapham's Quarterly
Not very well-written at all (sorry!) but still interesting:
The story of Agrippina’s death is well known, but remains mostly remarkable for the farcical way it was carried out. Had it been dreamed up by a novelist it would be roundly dismissed as a hopelessly implausible and idiotic plot twist. Suetonius says Nero tried three times to poison his mother but abandoned the plan when he discovered Agrippina had fortified herself with antidotes. The others say that he rejected any idea of poisoning Agrippina for that very reason, not least because he knew she would realize immediately what was happening anyway. A straightforward assault on her with weapons was unlikely to work because not only would it be hard to hide them, but Nero was also worried that anyone ordered to kill Agrippina might refuse. The underlying reason for this was the simple fact that Agrippina was the daughter of the famous general Germanicus, a qualification of such exalted esteem that no self-respecting soldier was likely to agree to her murder. Under such circumstances it began to look as if Agrippina was inviolable. Fortunately for Nero, Agrippina had left a number of enemies in her wake and some of them nursed murderous resentment in their hearts.
Why Is the Fight for Free Speech Led by the Psychologists? / Marginal Revolution
If any academic field is associated with the contemporary debate surrounding free speech, it’s psychology. Haidt, Pinker, Peterson, Saad, Jussim, even Lehmann. All specialize or have backgrounds in academic psych. [...] Haidt et. al. are confident they can win the debate if they are allowed to debate. For the heterodox anthropologist or sociologist the game is already over: their discipline has already been conquered. For the economist, the threat is too remote to take seriously. Behavioral science exists in that rare in-between: methodologically, it has the tools to fight back against the excesses of the activist. Socially, it provides a compelling reason for its practitioners to use them.
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An Incredible Video of What It’s Like to Orbit the Earth for 90 Minutes / Kottke
I admit I didn't watch the full 90min video, but I figure it's still worth linking:
This is easily the most awe-inspiring and jaw-dropping thing I’ve seen in months. In its low Earth orbit ~250 miles above our planet, the International Space Station takes about 90 minutes to complete one orbit of the Earth. Fewer than 600 people have ever orbited our planet, but with this realtime video by Seán Doran, you can experience what it looks like from the vantage point of the IIS for the full 90 minutes.
The Mobbing Game / Marginal Revolution
Klaus Abbink and Gönül Dogan have a horrific new paper. Horrific because despite being in a safe, experimental setting the results are all too realistic. [...] In short, the authors give experimental participants an opportunity to nominate a victim and redistribute towards themselves. Willingness to do this is common even in cases where the victims lose a lot and the bullies gain only a little.
This Trick Won The Magic World Championships And It Has Utterly Destroyed Our Brains / Digg
Eric Chien's "Ribbon" routine — which won the Grand Prix at the FISM World Championships — is 6 minutes of color- and reality-shifting madness.
Jovian Close Encounter / NASA
A multitude of magnificent, swirling clouds in Jupiter's dynamic North North Temperate Belt is captured in this image from NASA's Juno spacecraft. Appearing in the scene are several bright-white “pop-up” clouds as well as an anticyclonic storm, known as a white oval. This color-enhanced image was taken at 1:58 p.m. PDT on Oct. 29, 2018 (4:58 p.m. EDT) as the spacecraft performed its 16th close flyby of Jupiter. At the time, Juno was about 4,400 miles (7,000 kilometers) from the planet's cloud tops, at a latitude of approximately 40 degrees north.
Duke 118, Kentucky 84 | Every Bucket (11/6/18) / YouTube
While I'm just as biased as anyone else, I try not to be too partisan in this e-mail. (I probably also usually fail, but it's the thought that counts, right?) There's no such attempt here. In Duke's first game of the year, starting four freshmen, playing the #2 team in the country in a hostile stadium, we completely eviscerated Kentucky. And judging by the response of the sports world, it was incredibly fun to watch, unless you happen to be a UK fan. Plus, it's my e-mail, so I get to include what I want. Have fun watching potentially the top three picks of next year's NBA draft in their first collegiate game -- four minutes covering every Duke field goal scored in this crazy blowout.
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