Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect the shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind. We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss. We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe that their husband is about to return and need his shoes.
Another big round of personal emails:
I have closely read each and every miscarriage post, out curiosity and compassion. I am a single 30-year-old male who is now absolutely paranoid about the possibility of not being able to have kids one day, which I very much want to (more than I want to get married, but that’s another story). One of your recent posts mentioned guilt on the mother’s part – I would imagine the mind can be awfully cruel and somehow blame oneself for a miscarriage. But it raised another question: is the viability of an embryo totally dependent on the mother’s health? Or does the father’s sperm count/quality play any role? It feels like it would be best for couples not to know who is to “blame” in these situations.
I was reading this post at work today when my 7-week-pregnant wife called to tell me she started bleeding and is being sent to the emergency room. Now I am writing while we wait for an ultrasound and hoping for the best. If thing go badly, these series of post will have been helpful in dealing with the grief, knowing we are not alone. Thank you.
He follows up:
After a four-hour stay in the ER, it turned out that the bleeding was caused by a fairly common occurrence of the egg sack pulling a piece of the uterus lining away during the implantation process. It usually heals on its own and everything is fine, but sometimes it keeps pulling away and eventually detaches leaving the the fetus cut off from the uterus. We’re ok for now, but have to keep watching.
After 40 years of marriage and three healthy children, this still stands as the single most loving thing my husband ever did for me:
A man sings passionately as he waits for the Nelson Mandela memorial service at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa on December 10, 2013. Over 60 heads of state have travelled to South Africa to attend a week of events commemorating the life of former South African President Nelson Mandela, who passed away on the evening of December 5, 2013 at his home in Houghton at the age of 95. Mandela became South Africa’s first black president in 1994 after spending 27 years in jail for his activism against apartheid in a racially-divided South Africa. By Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.
Americans’ obsession with the furry creature is “almost impossible to believe,” according to one Chinese newspaper:
This was no passing remark: The Dec. 4 article in the Communist Party paper Beijing Youth Daily stood out among China’s sometimes shoddily-researched, state-run media with its convincing,sourced points. The paper noted that Chinese pandas on loan to the zoo in Washington, D.C. have drawn visitors from around the country, and that even frequent treks to see the pandas at the zoo “could not satisfy the demand” of the American people, some of whom watch the adorable symbols of US-China friendship online via a newly-installed Giant Panda Cam. Pandas “easily find their way into the pages of major,mainstream U.S. papers,” wrote the paper with evident amazement, “on their birthdays, 100-day celebrations, or even when they get headaches.”
America’s panda obsession – US-based news agency UPI reported the then-unnamed BaoBao’s uneventful first check-up on Aug. 25 – has long fascinated and bewildered Chinese people. In Feb. 2010, the major news site China Youth Online reported that Chinese found it “hard to understand” why fans in the United States were “brokenhearted” over the return to China of a giant panda named Tai Shan. Villagers living just miles from Tai Shan’s new home in central Sichuan province, the article pointed out, did not care: One of the bear’s new neighbors told China Youth Online that despite his proximity to the panda center, he had only seen the animals on television, explaining, “They have nothing to do with my life.” In an attempt to explain foreigners’ fixation with China’s national symbol, the article observed that pandas are objectively “adorable,” and also that the online broadcast of Tai Shan’s birth may have led its many US viewers to feel a connection to the cub.
Readers keep the popular thread going:
I think lying to kids is one of the many things that affluent parents over-think. I promise that the mother who just told her 4 year old there is no Santa that her kid is not sitting around contemplating the social and economic implications of children without coats and where is Santa in their lives. Yes, she will likely tell her peers there is no Santa, but they won’t believe her because they are in the developmental stage of magical thinking. She may know Santa is not real but she likely wonders if her toys come alive when she isn’t watching them, or some similar age appropriate example of magical thinking. Does her Mom plan to root out every magical thought she has and squash it for the sake of feeling like she is honest with her child?
Choosing to out Santa as a fake is a legitimate parenting choice, but it doesn’t need to be wrapped in high minded, socially conscious explanations. “I am uncomfortable lying to my child” will do. We give to an orphanage (yes, they still existing the US) in lieu of exchanging gifts with adult family members, and not once did our kids, who actively participate in the process, question why Santa is not providing for those children. It is possible for them to believe in Santa AND recognize the hardships faced by others.
To me, by far the most disturbing aspect of the Santa “lie” is the moral angle. The lesson is that kids should only be good for a material reward. Forget developing one’s conscience, or doing the right thing, or learning to make ethical choices to become a better human being – it’s about the cash/material payoff.
My husband and I are so incredibly committed to lying to our children about Santa Claus that we are traveling to Lapland next week with them – they are 9, 6 and 3 – to see the real Santa (as well as the northern lights, and to play with reindeer, etc):
This is mostly about the magic of childhood, storytelling and human imagination, and very little about lying in the true sense of that word. I prefer to think about it as “extending a fantasy” but I also see how it can be taken as lying. It depends on the perceiver of the extension/lie and how they wish to define lying for themselves.
If you lie because your kid is going to react badly when you tell them Santa isn’t real, they’ll still react badly when they find out it. It will probably be worse for them because it will be public or they’ll be older and even more embarrassed. But maybe it will be better for you because you won’t have to be there and at least it means you don’t have to deal with it right now. Sometimes parenting well means confronting uncomfortable or painful situations with your kids rather than leaving them to deal with it on their own without you. Sure it is easier to tell them you never did drugs or had sex but doing that tells them drugs and sex are shameful and leaves them to navigate those issues by themselves.
Another shifts gears:
This is a great thread. I’d like to make it even better by tying it in with another great thread, the cannabis closet.
Obama’s struggles have inspired comparisons to George W. Bush’s second term, and invocations of Hurricane Katrina and Iraq. But of course all kinds of consequential choices were made in the Bush White House after his approval rating reached the flirting-with-dismal level where Obama’s numbers are today — with the Alito confirmation, the Iraqi “surge,” and TARP probably looming largest, and lesser examples abounding as well.
But contra MacGillis, I think most of the writers making the Obama-Bush comparisons understand that point, and they would presumably say, “okay, yes, Bush retained the powers of the presidency, but somewhere between the failure of Social Security reform and the 2006 thumping he passed over a crucial threshold where 1) he no longer had a hope in Hades of moving big-ticket legislation through Congress and 2) he no longer had a plausible path to recovering the public’s trust.” That’s what Washington scribes tend to mean when they apply the shorthand term “finished” to a presidency, and it seems perfectly reasonable to look at a chief executive in Obama’s position — his second-term numbers mirroring Bush rather than Reagan or Clinton, his base eroding, his party’s odds of losing the Senate rising, his defenders beginning to talk about long-term policy vindication more than short-term political success — and ask whether he’s reached that point as well.
Ezra thinks not:
The drug most commonly found in Ecstasy, pure MDMA has done wonders for patients where other treatments have failed:
In a follow-up video, Doblin outlines how such psychedelics can gain more acceptance for medical and even non-medical use, and he believes the DOD and VA could play a major role:
Taking photos can worsen your memory of the things you see:
Two new studies published in Psychological Science found that people who took pictures of objects had more trouble remembering specific details about them, where they were situated, and even if they had seen them at all.
Fairfield University psychologist Linda Henkel had people take tours through the university’s Bellarmine Museum of Art. On the tour, the subjects were asked to take note of certain objects, either by photographing them, or simply by observing them. The next day participants had less accurate memories of the objects they photographed compared to the ones they had only observed. Henkel attributed this to something she called the “photo-taking impairment effect,” which is sort of like in The Phaedrus, where Plato warns that the written word kills our ability to memorize things, but with cameras instead of writing.
“When people rely on technology to remember for them—counting on the camera to record the event and thus not needing to attend to it fully themselves—it can have a negative impact on how well they remember their experiences,” Henkel said.
Best use of a bag of Doritos ever:
Reviewing David Edmonds’ Would You Kill the Fat Man? The Trolley Problem and What Your Answer Tells Us About Right and Wrong, Robert Herritt suggests that the body politic could use intellectual exercise:
There’s a healthy tendency to dismiss these kinds of line-drawing disputes as frivolous or, even worse, lawyerly. Trolley examples in particular, as Edmonds admits, have grown so complex as to “stretch the limits of our credulity and imagination – the limits beyond which intuitions become fuzzy and faint.”
And yet, we confront fine-grained moral distinctions all the time, like when the NSA tells us there’s an important difference between monitoring the metadata of our phone calls and monitoring their actual content; or when lawmakers seek to ban some mind-altering substances but not others. How are we to make sense of the judgment that, if you’re a Syrian dictator, killing your own people with conventional weapons is one thing, but using sarin gas is quite another? And then there’s the issue that Philippa Foot was trying to clarify when she created the trolley problem all those years ago: abortion.
Many of us have strong beliefs about these matters and, one would hope, reasons for those beliefs. Even if you see trolleyology as a waste of time, it at least lays bare how truly difficult it is to figure out what those reasons are, much less to determine whether they are any good.
A review of the “trolley problem” thought experiment:
How E.J. Dionne Jr. understands the Pope:
As the leader of a church that has so long been viewed as dogmatic, hierarchical, and traditional, Francis bids to turn himself into a model of a kind of mystical humility that combines a spirit of moderation with intellectual openness and a radical understanding of what the primacy of the spiritual over the material means. Benedict issued a stern warning against a “dictatorship of relativism.” Francis seems worried about something else entirely.
“If the Christian is a restorationist, a legalist, if he wants everything clear and safe, then he will find nothing,” he has said. “Tradition and memory of the past must help us to have the courage to open up new areas to God. Those who today always look for disciplinarian solutions, those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal ‘security,’ those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists — they have a static and inward-directed view of things. In this way, faith becomes an ideology among other ideologies. I have a dogmatic certainty: God is in every person’s life.”
Thus is his one “dogmatic certainty” — a thoroughly undogmatic universalism more interested in shattering barriers than erecting them. It’s a very new approach to religion in the modern world, rooted in the oldest of doctrines.
(Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images)
The NSA has been secretly using online video games to spy and recruit informants, according to the latest Snowden leaks:
American and British spies have infiltrated the fantasy worlds of World of Warcraft and Second Life, conducting surveillance and scooping up data in the online games played by millions of people across the globe, according to newly disclosed classified documents. Fearing that terrorist or criminal networks could use the games to communicate secretly, move money or plot attacks, the documents show, intelligence operatives have entered terrain populated by digital avatars that include elves, gnomes and supermodels.
The agencies also have targeted the XBox Live network, which has nearly 50 million users. Peter Suderman collects some eye-opening details from the report, filed jointly by the NYT, the Guardian, and ProPublica:
US defense forces created mobile video games designed to spy on users. “The Pentagon’s Special Operations Command in 2006 and 2007 worked with several foreign companies – including an obscure digital media business based in Prague – to build games that could be downloaded to mobile phones, according to people involved in the effort. They said the games, which were not identified as creations of the Pentagon, were then used as vehicles for intelligence agencies to collect information about the users.”
In-game communications were subject to mass collection. “One document says that while GCHQ was testing its ability to spy on Second Life in real time, British intelligence officers vacuumed up three days’ worth of Second Life chat, instant message and financial transaction data, totaling 176,677 lines of data, which included the content of the communications.”
The government spent millions of dollars on video game behavior research to reach really, really obvious conclusions. “A group at the Palo Alto Research Center, for example, produced a government-funded study of World of Warcraft that found ‘younger players and male players preferring competitive, hack-and-slash activities, and older and female players preferring noncombat activities,’ such as exploring the virtual world. A group from the nonprofit SRI International, meanwhile, found that players under age 18 often used all capital letters both in chat messages and in their avatar names.”
One thing the agencies didn’t do - prevent any terrorist attacks:
Tom Scocca defends the former against the latter:
If there is a defining document of contemporary literary smarm, it is an interview Eggers did via email with the Harvard Advocate in 2000, in which a college student had the poor manners to ask the literary celebrity about “selling out.” In reply to the question, Eggers told the Advocate that yes, he was what people call a sellout, that he had been paid $12,000 for a single magazine article, that he had taken the chance to hang out with Puffy, and that he had said yes to all these opportunities because “No is for pussies.” His response builds to a frenzied peroration:
Do not be critics, you people, I beg you. I was a critic and I wish I could take it all back because it came from a smelly and ignorant place in me, and spoke with a voice that was all rage and envy. Do not dismiss a book until you have written one, and do not dismiss a movie until you have made one, and do not dismiss a person until you have met them.
Here we have the major themes or attitudes of smarm: the scolding, the gestures at inclusiveness, the appeal to virtue and maturity. Eggers used to be a critic, but he has grown out of childish things. Eggers has done the work – the book publishing, the Hollywood deal-making – that makes his opinions (unlike those of his audience) earned and valid opinions. … Do not dismiss – a movie? Unless you have made one? Any movie? The Internship? The Lone Ranger? Kirk Cameron’s Unstoppable?
Maria Bustillos quotes Scocca:
Smarm is a kind of performance—an assumption of the forms of seriousness, of virtue, of constructiveness, without the substance. Smarm is concerned with appropriateness and with tone. Smarm disapproves.
The form of virtue, without the substance. There are whole worlds to unpack in that idea. Can we ever be sure that someone else’s assumption of virtue is fake? If so, how? If calls for civility, for integrity—for feeling and for sympathy—are to be considered suspect (“smarmy”), in and of themselves, what is to become of us? Specifically, what is to become of the poet, who approaches us with no critical armor, no theory, no formula—who demands this very absolution from us in advance?
Joe Nunweek remains skeptical of Scocca’s diatribe:
That’s what Richard Posner supports:
There is much talk about increasing the minimum wage to $10 or $13 an hour. It seems both imprudent and unnecessary to consider such steep, sudden jumps. I would favor increasing the federal minimum wage by 20 percent, to $8.70 an hour. That would yield a minimum-wage worker an annual income (assuming he or she worked 2000 hours per year) of $17,400—still very modest; but if he disemployment effect proves to be slight, as I would guess it would be, a further increase could be considered. At the very least, the 20 percent increase would yield valuable information on the elasticity of unemployment to changes in the minimum wage.
Becker also worries about raising the minimum wage too high:
A rigorous system of inflation-free grading might benefit any graduate schools or employers interested in using the transcripts of applicants while evaluating them. But Harvard College shouldn’t tailor its grading system to fulfill their needs, and needn’t worry about its students being overlooked regardless of their grading approach. Being admitted to Harvard and graduating is itself a strong signal. There’s also the argument that grade inflation is unfair. Students who do exceptional work are given the very same “reward” as students who do mediocre work. But it’s wrong to conceive of grades as the reward for acquiring more knowledge than other people. The reward is coming away with a better education.
Eleanor Barkhorn pushes back:
Midway through my time at Princeton … the school adopted new grading standards. Starting my junior fall, professors could give out only a limited number of A-range grades. The change prompted lots of anxiety and indignation from the student body—and now, nine years later, it may be rolled back. But for me, “grade deflation” was a much-needed kick in the pants. I started reading more carefully, taking more diligent notes, developing relationships with my professors and their teaching assistants. I ended up learning a lot more and enjoying my classes in a much deeper way. Yes, hard-working students should be rewarded with good grades. But a very good way to inspire students to work hard in the first place is to make good grades worth something.
Yglesias thinks the problem is inflation of another kind:
Drezner calls the deal signed in Bali over the weekend a “game changer” for world trade:
Bali helps to demonstrate the surprising forward momentum on trade liberalization. The deal in Bali comes on the same week that Congress nears approving trade promotion authority — or “fast-track’ for President Obama. If that passes, then the United States will be able to negotiate the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with Europe and the Trans-Pacific Partnership with a passel of Asia/Pacific economies (indeed, U.S. trade negotiators went from Bali to Singapore to continue talks on that deal). Fast track will signal to U.S. negotiating partners that Washington is committed to finishing a deal. Combine these negotiations with ongoing services negotiations, as well as a bilateral investment treaty with China, and you have the most ambitious trade agenda for the United States since the first year of the Clinton administration.
Robert Read is less excited:
Bali represents progress. It might not be particularly significant in the context of the original ambition for these talks, but it is still a major step forward for multilateralism. The package is likely to have very limited benefits for many countries but, more importantly, it signals a renewed commitment by WTO member countries to working together at a time of profound global recession.
Catherine Traywick unpacks the deal:
A reader writes:
When I quit smoking, my weight balloons. It doesn’t matter how much I watch what I eat or how much exercise I get, I gain a lot of weight. When I got about 70 pounds above my normal weight, I started smoking again. Within a year, I’m down to my normal weight. I eat because I need to – not because I want to. My Type II diabetes disappeared. Pains in my feet and joints went away. Yet, I am classified as practically a leper from non-smokers even though I do not smoke around them. I asked my family doctor for help regarding my appetite and metabolism, but he said he couldn’t provide anything like that because it’s so bad for you. For me, smoking was my least bad option. I will quit again by the end of this year. Then the cycle will continue.
What Kelly Quirino is describing is detoxing from a drug; she is also trying to cope with the triggers inherent in withdrawal from any substance – in this case, it is cigarettes. Oh no, she’s eating more! So what? A temporary gain in weight is hardly as risky for one’s health than an addiction to nicotine, which will increase the user’s risk to heart disease, cancer, COPD, diabetes, and so on. Even worse, her smoking hurts her children’s health, who are vulnerable to second hand smoke, and are also more likely to become smokers.
Nicotine is more addictive than heroin; 32% of those who try smoking become addicted, as opposed to approximately 23% of people who use heroin. Smoking and tobacco use are insidious addictions, partly because smokers rarely see themselves as what they are: addicts. And as addicts, smokers need to detox from nicotine, utilize medications to stop smoking, and treat their smoking cessation as seriously as one would any other addiction.
But there is one big drawback to the rehab approach:
After analyzing the company’s data-driven business model, Tim Wu argues that “much more so than a network that reaches viewers through a third-party cable operator like Comcast or Time Warner, [Netflix] knows what its customers actually like and how they behave”:
Right now, American viewers are averaging only about 45 minutes of Internet-streaming video per week, a blip in comparison with total television intake. Given that audiences trained for decades to respond to event-driven television, how realistic is it to expect more viewers to shift from traditional TV? John Steinbeck offered one answer: “It’s a hard thing to leave any deeply routined life, even if you hate it.” Any historian of consumer technology would add that machines change much faster than people.
Television in particular moves so slowly that the last time the concept of the network really came up for grabs was the late ’70s.
A reader writes:
First thought of Beijing, but then saw the palm trees. Mexico City and Santiago are both in the top 10 worst cities for smog and probably have palm trees, so I flipped a coin and Santiago it is.
I see cedars, what seems to be an Ottoman-era-inspired clock tower, and what appears to be Hebrew script (I’ve asked a Semitoliterate friend to check on that) on the blue building to the left. Maybe Haifa.
I initially wrote this week’s contest off as impossible, and maybe I should have stopped there. What convinced me to look was the Hebrew writing on the sign in the lower left, which narrows it down to … anywhere in the world with a significant Jewish population. But, the the mix of palm and pine trees is consistent with Jerusalem’s forested western edge, and the architecture isn’t too far off from some of the more modern neighborhoods. Plus, for some reason, this picture reminded me of the view overlooking the city from Yad Vashem.
This looks like Salalah, Dhofar Province, Oman during the Khareef (Indian Ocean Monsoon) season. Since many VFYW contest entries seem to be from hotel windows, I’m guessing from the Hamdan Plaza Hotel.
Another sounds the alarm:
Immaterial to my guess (Northern Coastal Spain?), someone needs to warn these people about what is clearly Godzilla emerging from the fog on the far right. Look out, folks!
Another gets the right city: