Public Health and Policy

How Might Trump’s Food Box Plan Affect Health? Native Americans Know All Too Well (Maria Godoy, NPR, 25 Feb 2018)

What Does It Mean to Die? (Rachel Aviv, The New Yorker, 5 Feb 2018): See also The Problem of Prolonging Life

The Problem of Prolonging Life (Katy Butler, The Atlantic, 8 Oct 2013): See also What Does It Mean to Die?

Why a Study on Opioids Ignited a Twitter Firestorm (Olga Khazan, The Atlantic, 14 Mar 2018)

Chris Christie Makes Emotional Plea To Rethink Drug Addiction Treatment (Sam Wilkes and Scott Conroy, 5 Nov 2015, HuffPost): Please try to suspend any feelings/thoughts of “Ugh not Chris Christie he’s [bridgegatenator/Trump’s manservant/other bad things]” and listen to the speech at face value.  This is so important.

Individual Spotlights

The Many Lives of Pauli Murray (Kathryn Schulz, The New Yorker, 17 Apr 2017): If you’re going to pick a long form essay to read, pick this one

The Perfect Man Who Wasn’t (Rachel Monroe, The Atlantic, Apr 2018)

How a Young Woman Lost Her Identity (Rachel Aviv, The New Yorker, 2 Apr 2018)

I thought my bully deserved an awful life. But then he had one (Geraldine DeRuiter, The Washington Post, 22 Feb 2018)

Smash the Patriarchy

When does Hope Hicks get to be a “wunderkind” instead of a “former model”? (Laura McGann, Vox, 1 Mar 2018)

I Spent Two Years Trying to Fix the Gender Imbalance in My Stories (Ed Yong, The Atlantic, 6 Feb 2018)

Patriarchy doesn’t “protect” women: A response to John Piper (Rachel Held Evans, 20 Mar 2018): Here is the original interview to which she responds


Queering the Map (Lucas LaRochelle): Troll-y “conservative” hackers took the site down for a while but it’s up and running more fabulous than ever again

Homosexuality and the Divided Church: John Lipscomb and Catherine Roskam (Krista Trippett, 8 Aug 2003): Please note that this was recorded almost 15 years ago, particularly with regards to our understanding of genetic influences on identifying as LGB as well as the validity of conversion “therapy”

The Last Frontier for Gay Rights (Tiffany Stanley, The Washington Post, 2 Apr 2018)


Joe Biden And A Homeless Veteran Have A Very Human Moment (Scott Simon, NPR, 17 Mar 2018)

How Lisa Murkowski Mastered Trump’s Washington (Susan Dominus, The New York Times, 5 Apr 2018)

The Danger of President Pence (Jane Meyer, The New Yorker, 23 Oct 2017)

Weird Stuff

$17,000 search: Coast Guard called out when someone left a bike on the Seattle-to-Bainbridge ferry (David Gutman, The Seattle Times, 12 Apr 2018): #seattleproblems

The strange, twisted story behind Seattle’s blackberries (Ann Dornfeld, KUOW, 23 Aug 2016)

Yes, People Actually Steal Tubas. Sometimes They Even Return Them (Matt Stevens, The New York Times, 16 Mar 2018): At least I picked a monetarily valuable instrument?

Canadian Hotel Forgives Guest 17 Years After Flock Of Seagulls Trashed His Room (Scott Neuman, NPR, 4 Apr 2018): Be sure to see the original apology letter too

A Political Dispute Puts A Wrinkle In Time, Slowing Millions Of European Clocks (Amy Held, NPR, 7 Mar 2018)


Tons of Links

Too many for commentary, so I’ve just categorized…


The Week My Husband Left And My House Was Burgled I Secured A Grant To Begin The Project That Became BRCA1 (Mary-Claire King, HuffPost, 15 Sep 2017)

The first woman to earn a medical degree in the US got into school because men thought it was a joke (Alison Griswold, Quartz, 3 Feb 2018)

New York City Has Genetically Distinct ‘Uptown’ and ‘Downtown’ Rats (Sarah Zhang, The Atlantic, 29 Nov 2017)

Watch a bombardier beetle escape from a toad’s stomach (Kate Langin, Science, 6 Feb 2018)

World’s tiniest 3D glasses reveal how praying mantises see the world (Kate Langin, Science, 8 Feb 2018)

Think your job is hard? Try squirting a vaccine up a camel’s nostrils (Helen Branswell, Stat, 4 Jan 2016)


Dutch cyclist who broke her back in horrific Rio Olympics crash returns to win world gold (Marissa Payne, WaPo, 19 Sep 2017)

How the ‘Shalane Flanagan Effect’ Works (Lindsey Crouse, NYT, 11 Nov 2017)

U.S women’s hockey gold medal came in great Olympic game, made even greater statement (Christine Brennan, USA Today, 22 Feb 2018)

USA’s Randall, Diggins win historic cross-country gold (NBC, 21 Feb 2018)

Ep. 4 Against All Odds – The Petra Majdic Story (Extended Version) (Olympic Channel)

Faith and Culture

Here’s What Many White Christians Fail To Understand About The NFL Protests (Carol Kuruvilla, HuffPost, 28 Sep 2017)

Mike Pence’s Marriage and the Beliefs That Keep Women from Power (Jia Tolentino, The New Yorker, 31 Mar 2017)

Why I Can No Longer Call Myself an Evangelical Republican (Pete Wehner, NYT, 9 Dec 2017)

Grace in the Crisis of Authority (Julie Rodgers, 10 Dec 2017)

My Larry Nassar Testimony Went Viral. But There’s More to the Gospel Than Forgiveness (Morgan Lee and Rachel Denhollander, Christianity Today, 31 Jan 2018)

LGBTQ+ Issues and the Christian Church

Turning a Unicorn into a Bat: The Post in which We Announce the End of Our Marriage (Josh and Lolly Weed, 25 Jan 2018)

Julie Rodgers Keynote: Q Christian Fellowship Conference 2018 (Julie Rodgers, Youtube, 24 Jan 2018)

I’m a Pastor and My Son Is Gay, Now What? Parts 1, 2, 3, 4 (Matt Boswell, The Everyday Missionary Podcast, Jan 2018)

Gender Issues and Politics

This Is How Sexism Works in Silicon Valley My lawsuit failed. Others won’t (Ellen Pao, The Cut, 20 Aug 2017)

Gender-Fluid Scouts of America (James Hamblin, WaPo, 26 Oct 2017)

My daughter got her first catcall, and I didn’t know what to tell her (Eileen Hoenigman Meyer, WaPo, 22 Nov 2017)

The female price of male pleasure (Lily Loofbourow, The Week, 25 Jan 2018)

(Mostly) American Politics and Identity

Being in Charlottesville Broke My Heart. It Also Filled Me With Hope (Katie Couric, NatGeo, 18 Aug 2017)

What Is, And Isn’t, Considered Domestic Terrorism (Greg Myre, NPR, 2 Oct 2017)

T H E H O M E C O M I N G (Stephanie McCrummen, WaPo, 2 Sep 2017)

Whataboutism: The Cold War tactic, thawed by Putin, is brandished by Donald Trump (Dan Zak, WaPo, 18 Aug 2017)

What Foreigners Don’t Get About Emmanuel Macron (Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, The Atlantic, 19 Jan 2018)

Social Science and Public Health

I used to think gun control was the answer. My research told me otherwise (Leah Libresco, WaPo, 2 Oct 2017)

Why Can’t Addicts Just Quit? (Olga Khazan, The Atlantic, 13 Nov 2017)

When Schools Overlook Introverts (Michael Godsey, The Atlantic, 28 Sep 2015)

Hopeful Stories

Asked & Answered: What happened to Tom the Guessing Doorman at Costco? (Nicole Brodeur, Seattle Times, 1 Feb 2018)

Four Bullets (Erika Lantz, WBUR, 23 Jun 2017)

Jokey Music Stuff

O Fortuna Misheard Lyrics (FamishedMammal, Youtube, 11 May 2012)

Improvising in the Style of… (Practice Notes, Facebook, 9 Nov 2017)

Criminal Law and Justice

When Cops Don’t Know the Law (Garrett Epps, The Atlantic, 2 Dec 2014)

Joseph Jiang’s fight to keep his priesthood (Jeanette Cooperman, St. Louis Magazine)

Murder by Craigslist (Hanna Rosin, The Atlantic, Sep 2013)

Miscellaneous Other Things

The History Behind China’s Obsession With Hot Water (Zhang Guowei, Sixth Tone, 27 Sep 2017)

Tea if by sea, cha if by land: Why the world only has two words for tea (Nikhil Sonnad, Quartz, 11 Jan 2018)

Brandi Carlile, with new album and Seattle concerts, reaching new heights (Charles R. Cross, The Seattle Times, 7 Feb 2018)

Living Through Death With Harry Potter (Alice Lesperance, The Atlantic, 23 Jan 2018)

Zoo Security Drills: When Animals Escape (Alan Taylor, The Atlantic, 10 Feb 2015)

New Year / New Links

Women in Sports

After Her NYC Marathon Victory, Is Boston Next for Shalane Flanagan? (Erin Strout, Runner’s World, 15 Nov 2017): A month and a half later, the answer is a definitive yes.  And for those who haven’t seen, here’s a clip of her finish and post-race interview.  Pure class.

Anything for this: The costs, benefits of life in elite sport (Mara Abbot, ESPNW, 14 Sep 2017):  Beautifully honest reflection on the risks of being an elite athlete, particularly with respect to eating disorders and general mental health issues.

40 Years Of Athletic Support: Happy Anniversary To The Sports Bra (Jane Lindholm, NPR, 29 Sep 2017): The 1999 World Cup win happened just as I was starting to get into soccer; myself and countless peers were inspired by Brandi Chastain and her shirt-waving photo.  Thanks, sports bra.


How a Philly Ob-Gyn Ended Up Delivering a Baby Gorilla (Ed Yong, The Atlantic, 14 Jun 2017): “In a nearby building, McCurdy did an ultrasound. ‘We had to remove some of her fur so I could see; I don’t usually have to do that,’ she says. ‘There were also bits of straw on her fur; that’s not usually a problem, either.'”

Blue eyes, caramel wings and other crazy facts about crows (Kaeli Swift, KUOW, 1 Dec 2017): Swift is a member of the preeminent corvid research lab at the University of Washington (it’s likely that if you hear about a research study on crows or ravens in the news, it was conducted there).  Here she answers some common questions about crows.  I’d also recommend her blog, which contains a detailed FAQ section, information on her current research, and excellent photography.

These Bats Don’t Let Scorpion Stings Get in the Way of a Tasty Meal (Kelsey Kennedy, Atlas Obscura, 31 Aug 2017): The GIF is strangely mesmerizing…

The Real Difference Between Warm and Cool Colors (Rachel Gutman, The Atlantic, 18 Sep 2017): For the next time you get into a tipsy philosophical discussion about whether your blue is REALLY my blue.

A Physicist Who Models ISIS and the Alt-Right (Natalie Wolchover, Quanta/The Atlantic, 23 Aug 2017): Math and physics isn’t just for hoity toity academics wearing tweed suits in ivory towers or dorky grad students in pants two sizes too short and shirts two sizes too large!

Merriam-Webster Word of the Year: Feminism

A Father’s Struggle to Stop His Daughter’s Adoption (Kevin Noble Maillard, The Atlantic, 7 Jul 2015): At first glance, this doesn’t look like it has anything to do with feminism.  I would argue that it does: fathers (hell, people) won’t be treated with justice in court until we have equality, and we won’t have equality until we start valuing women.  Justice is a higher value than equality, but it can’t proceed before equality.  (Also, here’s a nice follow-up to the original article).

How Will the Boy Scouts’ Decision Affect the Girl Scouts? (Elaine Godfrey, The Atlantic, 18 Oct 2017): The Girl Scouts are definitely in a bind here.  My gut reaction is that the Girl Scouts should embrace the change, since they’ve always been the more progressive (i.e., accepting and promoting change) of the two organizations, and I think they should cling to that value.  On the other hand, it is hard to ignore the fact that it does seem that the Boy Scouts are making a grab at the Girl Scouts’ population amidst declining membership–after years of at best tolerating the Girl Scouts, at worst openly disdaining them.  On the other other hand, maybe it’s good that they’re finally opening up to the idea that the world is not static (and neither are gender roles)…

How ‘Germany’s Hugh Hefner’ created an entirely different sort of sex empire (Elizabeth Heneman, Quartz, 5 Oct 2017): I had no idea about any of this before, so I have no idea how much of this article is spin and how much is real, but it’s interesting to ponder nonetheless.

Don’t Let Them See Your Tampons (Julie Beck, The Atlantic, 1 Jun 2015): “‘It’s just one more thing that dudes don’t even realize that we as women have to think about and plan,’ Mallory puts it.”

One Theory of Marriage and Kids: ‘Very Cute in the Abstract’ (Emma Green, The Atlantic, 11 Dec 2013): “‘Children are very cute in the abstract,’ she said. ‘In the abstract, they’re much easier—like, they’re much quieter. The idea of children is very appealing. But the reality is, if you ask people who have children, especially young children, life consists of chores they don’t really like doing.'”

Hillary Clinton On Losing the 2016 Presidential Election & Her Marriage to Bill (Hillary Rodham Clinton, Vogue, 10 Sep 2017): For all of the accusations that Clinton’s book lacked self-reflection, cast blame on everyone else, and so on, this article contained few if any of those pitfalls.  For a long time I have admired the Obamas’ marriage–I’ve thought often that for all the bizarre and outrageous criticisms people could throw at Obama (He’s a secret Muslim!  He was born in Kenya!  He has a secret alliance with ISIS!) the one they never tried because they knew it would never stick were accusations relating to his marriage.  For probably obvious reasons, I’ve never had quite those thoughts about the Clintons’ marriage; at best, it was something along the lines of, “Wow, HRC is a stellar example of forebearance and forgiveness.”  But recently, and especially after reading this article, I think she/they are due more credit than that.  “I know some people wonder why we’re still together. I heard it again in the 2016 campaign: that ‘we must have an arrangement’ (we do; it’s called a marriage); that I helped him become president and then stayed so he could help me become president (no); that we lead completely separate lives, and it’s just a marriage on paper now (he is reading this over my shoulder in our kitchen with our dogs underfoot, and in a minute he will reorganize our bookshelves for the millionth time, which means I will not be able to find any of my books, and once I learn the new system, he’ll just redo it again, but I don’t mind because he really loves to organize those bookshelves)…He has been my partner in life and my greatest champion. He never once asked me to put my career on hold for his. He never once suggested that maybe I shouldn’t compete for anything—in work or politics—because it would interfere with his life or ambitions…Bill is completely unbothered by having an ambitious, opinionated, occasionally pushy wife. In fact, he loves me for it.”

Other Things Not Easily Categorized

The Basic Grossness of Humans (Alexis C. Madrigal, The Atlantic, 15 Dec 2017): Another thing I had a vague idea existed but had no idea what it actually entailed…

One God, Under Trump w/ Jack Jenkins and Parker Molloy (Ana Marie Cox, With Friends Like These, 25 Aug 2017): This podcast begins to explore the nuances of “evangelicalism” in it’s “traditional” (note: I didn’t say “true”) sense and its political implications.  I think this podcast would be particularly helpful for the “stereotypical liberal elite” struggling to understand why so much of “Christian” America is pro-Trump despite the apparent contradiction of values (or for the conflicted reluctantly-evangelical-but-not-quite-mainstream Christian).

Safety Pins and Swastikas (Shuja Haider, Jacobin, 5 Jan 2017):  Identity politics?  Horseshoe theory?  Need to read this again…


Those of you who know me likely know that Saint Louis never has been and probably never will be “my city” or “my home”. I still vote in Washington state, half my wardrobe is adorned with graphics of the Seattle skyline, and my favorite time of year is whatever time I happen to be in the Pacific Northwest.

However, my loyalties and personal preferences don’t preclude me from caring about what happens in the city–and the country–in which I live. And just because social and institutional violence are more pronounced in some ways here compared to, say, on the coasts, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen there or affect people there too. Think, for example, of Trayvon Martin (Florida), Eric Garner (New York), Freddie Gray (Maryland), and Alfred Olango (California), and closer to my home, John T. Williams, Charleena Lyles, and Tommy Le.

I’m a 5’2″ (5’3″ if I wear a good pair of shoes) Asian female; although I weigh a surprising amount for my height, this is still pretty much the definition of nonthreatening.  And even from this place of privilege–I have financial resources, social capital, the benefit of being part of a “model” minority (#notyourmodelminority)–none of my interactions with the police in St. Louis have been positive.  Some have been downright frightening.  I occasionally get mistaken as being southeast Asian (probably my larger than average eyes and wider than average shoulders?) or even Native American (pretty sure these people simply have not been exposed to enough actual Native American people); unfortunately, I sometimes wonder how that would affect a police officer’s judgment of me were they to make that mistake.

I don’t lay claim to knowledge of absolute truth or justice.  What I do know is that when people are actively told that their lives DON’T matter, that’s a problem.  Although I happen to have opinions about the verdict in today’s case, that’s not ~really~ the point. This death was avoidable whether or not it was technically “murder”; denying that life was needlessly taken is to deny the value of the life in the first place.  And by extension–as one case rolls into the next and another face flashes on our TVs and through our newsfeeds–that just because certain peoples’ seem dissimilar to ours, they have less value than ours.

CS Lewis’ lesser-known works include a set of sonnets, one of which contains the lines:

You have what sorrow always longs to find,
Someone to blame, some enemy in chief;
Anger’s the anesthetic of the mind,
It does men good, it fumes away their grief.

And now a few random other thoughts:

One thing that I hear come up pretty often is, “Not all police officers are bad; don’t make blanket statements.  It’s just a few bad apples.”  This is not untrue.  But the bad ones make it a lot harder to trust the good ones.  Also, one rotten apple has the potential to ruin the entire bushel.  Perhaps most wisely, a friend who worked with police officers for their occupation once described the situation as follows: “Ten percent of officers always do the right thing, no matter what.  And ten percent of officers always do the wrong thing.  The other eighty percent, their behavior is determined by who they’re with.”  Here’s to human nature, folks.

On a vaguely related note, to the people posting with the hashtag “#ACAB” or otherwise that “all cops are bastards”: firstly, this is bad logic/doesn’t really help the dialogue, and secondly, this is/was originally a racist skinhead/white supremacist slogan (google it).  Although I recognize that reclaiming symbols of hate is a valid goal, I have a feeling that most people are using this out of ignorance rather than defiance.  So, be aware.


September 10 is National Suicide Prevention Day, which begins National Suicide Prevention Week.  My legal birthday falls during this time; although it is an observance of my birth, it’s also a nod to life in so many other ways.

Recently I’ve been asking former professors for letters of recommendation.  Typically, I give them some information about myself to help fill out their personal experience with me, including documents such as my cv and transcript.  My transcript is usually followed a comment from me something along the lines of, “If you look closely, you’ll notice that my GPA appears to follow an absolute value function over time.  This is not because I turned into a slacker for two years; I was just really depressed when I was a sophomore and junior.”  Thus far this has been met with nothing but grace and concern.

“Are you okay?”  “Yeah, I’m fine, I just wanted to let you know.”  “Okay, I just had to make sure.”  “Really, I’m doing much better now.”

“How are you now?”  “I’m a lot better.  If you need more explanation, I can say more.”  “It’s okay.  My daughter has had issues with depression too, and I know it can be difficult.”

The genuine expressions of caring–a tone of surprise and concern, then kindness; a momentarily scrunched eyebrow; a lean forwards; words of compassion–has made it that much easier for me to face the challenge of explaining the situation.  More important, if/when I hit a rough patch again, I hope that I can cling to those expressions of care, knowing that people–even people I don’t know that well, who objectively should have no vested interest in me–want to make sure I’m okay.

If you have the opportunity to be that person, take it.  For those of you have have taken it, thank you.  And for those of you who have ever needed such care and compassion, please STAY.


Today’s links will be a little more politically-oriented than usual.  To make these lists, I basically save open tabs of articles, posts, etc. that I find interesting/engaging/thought-provoking and then later go back and organize them in a way that I think would make sense to read them (this takes the longest).  Right now, there’s a lot of crazy things that fall in the political realm, so a lot of people write stuff about them, which I then read and post here.

On that note, I’d like to direct people to a few podcasts I subscribe to that I think do a good job of highlighting nuance and complexity.  Consequently, most of their episodes are also long–often over an hour.  Two hosts are relatively progressive Christians, one is a rationalist atheist, and one I don’t know what their philosophical/worldview background is.

Finally, on the headings “The Left” and “The Right”, I’d like to again bring up the notion of the political spectrum not conceptualized linearly, but instead as a circle, where the traditional left and right exist at the west and east points of the compass, traditional moderates reside at the north pole, and extreme left and right are not opposites of each other but in fact bend towards each other at the south pole.

And now, to the regular business.


Meet the Bipes: Lizards With Only Two Legs (Kelsey Kennedy, Atlas Obscura, 17 August 2017): It’s like God cursed the serpent but forgot that it had a younger brother.  Watch the video.

No one could describe the color ‘blue’ until modern times (Kevin Loria, Business Insider, 27 February 2017): I remember reading the Odyssey in 9th grade and wondering exactly how deep and stormy the ocean had to be to be “wine-dark”.

Badass Politicians

Why Trump Is Threatening the Wrong Republican Senator on Health Care (Russell Berman, The Atlantic, 27 July 2017): Lisa Murkowski has long been one of my favorite senators, along with moderate Republican colleagues such as Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe (until she retired in light of excessive partisanship; she now runs an organization dedicated to compromise and bipartisanship) and, since I moved to Missouri, moderate Democrat Claire McCaskill.  If only Drumpf could get the lesson that being a bully doesn’t get you far in life.  Or, you know, if he’d learnt that when he was in grade school when he ought.

The Limits of Bullying (Adam Serwer, The Atlantic, 28 July 2017): Also on Drump’s “do not bully” list is John McCain.  The man is a f-ing veteran, former POW, and now a cancer patient.  I think he knows a thing or two about taking a stand.  On a more serious note: “While repeal supporters’ bullying might have solidified opposition to the bill, this time, Democrats’ comity almost certainly bought them goodwill among the Republicans they needed to flip. Eventually, people get sick of being bullied.  Maybe not most of the time, maybe even not much of the time. But every once in a while, going high instead of going low pays off.”

Sally Yates and Condoleezza Rice are do-right women in a do-wrong world (Kathleen Parker, 9 May 2017, The Washington Post): They say we need a strong man of courage and character to stand up to Drumpf and co.?  That man is Sally Yates who effectively fired herself and in the process rid the cabinet of a blackmailed mole.  That man is Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski who said no to bullying and said that their constiuents’ healthcare was more than just political Monopoly money.  That man is Condoleezza Rice who experienced–like none of the talking heads–Jim Crowe firsthand and now speaks against the resurgence of the values that bred that injustice.

Senators on hot mic: Trump is ‘crazy,’ ‘I’m worried’ (Philip Bump, The Washington Post, 25 July 2017): Not very serious, but this is golden.  Also, yay bipartisanship!  “‘Did you see the one who challenged me to a duel?’ [Susan] Collins asks. ‘I know,’ [Jack] Reed replies. ‘Trust me. Do you know why he challenged you to a duel? ‘Cause you could beat the s— out of him.'”

Women and Men

To Men I Love, About Men Who Scare Me (Laura Munoz, Be Yourself, 15 February 2016): “Decent male humans, this is not your fault, but it also does not have nothing to do with you. If a woman is frosty or standoffish or doesn’t laugh at your joke, consider the notion that maybe she is not an uptight, humorless bitch, but rather has had experiences that are outside your realm of understanding, and have adversely colored her perception of the world.” This is why it’s not that “#notallmen” is wrong, persay, it’s just besides the point.

A Bizarre Case at USC Shows How Broken Title IX Enforcement Is Right Now (Jesse Singal, New York Magazine, 4 August 2017): And now we present Exhibit #1 on why nuance is really really important.  “It is important that anyone making an accusation of sexual assault or harassment be taken seriously and have their rights protected, and there have been an endless number of nightmare situations, both on-campus and off-, in which victims haven’t gotten the justice they deserved. But what’s going on with Title IX at the moment clearly isn’t working, and it shouldn’t take an example as crazy as USC forcing one of its students to be a victim to make people realize that.”

The Right

A Reformed White Nationalist Speaks Out On Charlottesville (Janaya Williams & Stacey Vanek Smith, NPR, 13 August 2017): “I think ultimately people become extremists not necessarily because of the ideology. I think that the ideology is simply a vehicle to be violent. I believe that people become radicalized, or extremist, because they’re searching for three very fundamental human needs: identity, community and a sense of purpose… But what happens is, because there are so many marginalized young people, so many disenfranchised young people today with not a lot to believe in, with not a lot of hope, they tend to search for very simple black-and-white answers.”

The alt-right is drunk on bad readings of Nietzsche. The Nazis were too (Sean Illing, Vox, 17 August 2017): “Nietzsche accepted that Christianity was central to the development of Western civilization, but his whole philosophy was focused on convincing people that the West had to move beyond Christianity. When Nietzsche famously declared that ‘God is dead,’ he meant that science and reason had progressed to the point where we could no longer justify belief in God, and that meant that we could no longer justify the values rooted in that belief. So his point was that we had to reckon with a world in which there is no foundation for our highest values.  The alt-right skipped this part of Nietzsche’s philosophy. They’re tickled by the ‘death of God’ thesis but ignore the implications.”

The Hoods Are Off (Matt Thompson, The Atlantic, 12 August 2017): “…where open racism was less acceptable, the hood offered a useful disguise. We could be anywhere, the uniform warned. We could be your neighbors.  But the images we saw in Charlottesville today and yesterday convey an entirely different sort of threat. They draw their menace not from what is there—mostly, young white men in polos and T-shirts goofily brandishing tiki torches—but from what isn’t: the masks, the hoods, the secrecy that could at least imply a sort of shame. We used to whisper these thoughts, the new white supremacists suggest. But now we can say them out loud. The ‘Unite the Right’ rally wasn’t intended to be a Klan rally at all. It was a pride march.” As my best friend has said, “There are racists everywhere, always.  It’s just a matter of how socially acceptable it is to be open about it, and how much you care about acceptability.”

When Does a Fringe Movement Stop Being Fringe? (Vann R. Newkirk III, The Atlantic, 12 August 2017): “…even the most feared white supremacists in the lore of Jim Crow were just regular white men, transformed from lives as politicians, mechanics, farmers, and layabouts by the sheer power of ideology. And often, their movements were considered ‘fringe’ and marginal—until they weren’t.”

The Left

The Rise of the Violent Left (Peter Beinart, TheAtlantic, September 2017): “Revulsion, fear, and rage are understandable. But one thing is clear. The people preventing Republicans from safely assembling on the streets of Portland may consider themselves fierce opponents of the authoritarianism growing on the American right. In truth, however, they are its unlikeliest allies.”

Are Campus Activists Too Dogmatic? (Victor Tan Chen, The Atlantic, 30 July 2017): “At the core of the issue is a troubling tendency, on both the left and right, that goes well beyond college campuses: a consuming obsession with sin. Given the right’s religious base, it’s not all that surprising that conservatives focus on moral transgressions—whether they violate God’s divine law, America’s founding ideals of liberty, ’50s-style norms of sexual behavior and good housekeeping, or other codes of conduct.  But the left can be prudish and judgmental about the evils it holds in special contempt, too. On college campuses in particular, activists often take an almost religious approach to politics, rooted in a belief—sometimes stated, sometimes implied—in the irredeemable sin of America and its mainstream”

These Campus Inquisitions Must Stop (Frank Bruni, The New York Times, 3 June 2017): “Racism pervades our country. Students who have roiled college campuses from coast to coast have that exactly right. But we’re never going to make the progress that we need to if they hurl the word “racist” as reflexively and indiscriminately as some of them do, in a frenzy of righteousness aimed at gagging speakers and strangling debate. That’s a mechanism for shaming, not a strategy for change. It mesmerizes all. It converts none.”

Real liberals wouldn’t be so defensive about UW minimum-wage research (Danny Westneat, The Seattle Times, 28 June 2017): “Compromise? Oh the humanity!”

On Statues

How Charlottesville Looks From Berlin (Maggie Penman, NPR, 16 August 2017): “To equate Robert E. Lee with Hitler would be lazy, and bad history. Hitler’s name is invoked too casually, and too often.  But since the white supremacists protesting the removal of Lee’s statue in Charlottesville brandished swastikas, and openly made the Nazi salute, the connection to 1930s Germany was invited by the marchers themselves…Often the argument for preserving Confederate statues and allowing Confederate flags is that we should not forget our history. In Germany, Nazi buildings are extremely hard to come by — nearly all have been destroyed. Yet Germany certainly has not forgotten anything: There’s just a recognition that remembering and memorializing are two different things.”

Why I Changed My Mind About Confederate Monuments (Kevin M. Levin, The Atlantic, 19 August 2017): “Can you look into that young girl’s eyes and convince her that Robert E. Lee is there to encourage her? Do you think she will feel inspired and hopeful by that story? Do these monuments help her see a future with limitless potential? Have you ever thought that if her potential is limited, yours and mine are, too?”

The Church and Culture

How Will the Church Reckon With Charlottesville? (Emma Green, The Atlantic, 13 August 2017): Let’s be  straight: silence is complicity, even if you don’t intend it that way.  A pastor at the church I went to the Sunday after Charlottesville said something that convicted me but also, perhaps strangely, gave me hope: The white supremacy and racism and bigotry we saw in Charlottesville lives in all of us.  It’s not just a thing for hood-wearing goons in the 1950s in the deep south or our racist great uncle Bob who lives in a cabin in the woods or crazy skinheads with guns and tattoos or even just tiki torch-burning, polo shirt-wearing preppy white bois.  Though perhaps not manifest as explicitly or violently, the hatred that seeds racism and supremacy lives in all of our hearts because we are all subjects of the fall.  And there can be no true reconciliation except through Christ the Redeemer, and this is why the Church is alone most truly equipped to facilitate healing and repentance and forgiveness.  For those to whom much is given, much shall be required.

After Charlottesville, will white pastors finally take racism seriously? (Jemar Tisby, The Washington Post, 12 August 2017): “I know that term — white supremacy — is unpopular. It tends to shut down conversation because folks think it only refers to racists who wear hoods and burn crosses. They think it’s too harsh to apply to them, the people they know, or the church. But let’s call it what it is. We can’t change the white supremacist status quo unless we name it and confront it.”

Same-Sex Relationships, God, and the Search for Truth (Karen R. Keen, Interpreting Scripture, 17 July 2017): This is a series of five (long!) posts on LGBT issues and Scripture/the Church.  There are dozens of books that look at this issue, some better than others (I would personally recommend Torn by Justin Lee and God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines for a Side A perspective, and Spiritual Friendship and Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill for a Side B perspective).  I appreciated this series of posts because it is accessible, relevant to the moment (eg, as a culture we’re beyond debating whether you can “change” orientation), honest, ethical, thorough, practical , and most of all, compassionate.  Of all the posts that I reference here, this is probably the one (well, set) I would most strongly recommend reading.

IAAF World Championships

Emma Coburn leads shocking U.S. steeplechase one-two (video) (Nick Zaccardi, NBC Sports, 11 August 2017): I watched this race again and again when the world seemed like it was falling apart; this made everything seem a little less bad.  Couldn’t be happier for these two.

Karsten Warholm wins 400m Hurdles Men Final IAAF World Champs London 2017 (Simple Sports, YouTube, 9 August 2017) and WCH 2017 London – Karsten Warholm NOR 400 Metres hurdles Gold (IAAF Athletics, YouTube, 10 August 2017): His face has already been made into a thousand memes, but in case you missed it, Karsten Warholm’s reaction to winning the 400m hurdles is golden.  Also, the hat he wore during his post-race interview is almost as good as what he said in response to the interviewer’s question about his future running: “Hopefully more, but you never know.  Tomorrow I could get run over by the bus, and I can’t compete anymore, so I just need to enjoy this and train hard.  So you never know what you’re going to get next.”

Rose Chelimo wins women’s marathon world title (Rachel Lutz, NBC Sports, 6 2017): Chelimo won (over Edna Kiplagat!) but the point of this is that Amy Hastings Cragg ran an incredible last few kilometers for a bronze medal.

July 2017 Links

Drumpf the Disaster

Two Dead Canaries in the Coal Mine (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, 11 May 2017): This is now dated with regards to our knowledge of the Kushner/Don Jr./god-knows-who-else Russia debacle, but some of the concerns raised are/were quite prescient.

Senate Republicans’ hard lesson: No women, no health-care bill (Amber Phillips, The Washington Post, 19 July 2017): “Leaving women out of the negotiations for legislation that affects half the population in a very intimate way was a huge optics blunder for Republicans.”  Dear GOP, Please wake up.

A belligerent man in a Trump hat was kicked off a flight as a crowd chanted: ‘Lock him up!’ (Avi Selk, The Washington Post, 22 May 2017): Lady in the pink shirt throwing some Chinese mama shade.

‘Our respect is earned, not demanded’: Mayor removes Trump and Pence portraits from town hall (Cleve R. Wootson, Jr., The Washington Post, 13 June 2017): “Dictators like Joseph Stalin required their portraits to be displayed everywhere. Luckily, we do not live in a dictatorship. We can choose who we honor.” Buuuurrrn.

Culture, Religion, and Everything Else

The Tampon: A History (Ashley Fetters, The Atlantic, 1 June 2015): All you (n)ever wanted to know.

When ‘Do Unto Others’ Meets Hookup Culture: How Christians could talk to America about sex (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, 10 September 2014): “Christians would seem better prepared than many to raise and press thorny questions about what “do unto others” implies, and better prepared than most to speak in explicitly moral language about our obligations to one another in the sexual realm.”

Why It’s a Bad Idea to Tell Students Words Are Violence (Jonathan Haidt& Greg Lukianoff, The Atlantic , 18 July 2017): The tone of this article is somewhat condescending but the argument is still valid.  I’ve long believed that a liberal college student responding to an argument by saying “that offends me” is no better than a conservative businessman crying “feminist!”

Hiding Christians in the Basement: Fear and Heroism in a Philippine War Zone (Felipe Villamor, The New York Times, 17 June 2017): There are no words.

Why It Matters That the Portland Killer Was a Far-Left Extremist: The Political Spectrum is Looking More Like a Horseshoe (Val Perry, Medium, 28 May 2017): I love the horseshoe/Pacman/clock analogy for the political “spectrum” because I think if we understand better how the people on the “other side” think, we can maybe just maybe come closer to a semblance of cooperation.  Additionally, with respect to the far-extreme “ends”, one of the first steps to countering extremism is understanding where it comes from.

Dead Certainty: How “Making a Murderer” goes wrong (Kathryn Schulz, The New Yorker, 25 January 2016): I have not listened to this podcast but from what I understand, it makes me uncomfortable in a similar way to how websites such as Upworthy make me uncomfortable: presenting a desireable, feel-good conclusion and then “supporting” it with cherry-picked facts, but in such a way that you don’t necessarily realize you’re being reeled in until it’s too late.

Science is Cool

Tiny Jumping Spiders Can See the Moon (Ed Yong, The Atlantic, 6 June 2017): Click on this Twitter post to expand (parts of) the full moment of discovery. Most fittingly, one of the postdocs involved (her office was also raining spiders) has her Twitter byline set as, “The real exciting sound in science is not, ‘Eureka!’ It’s, ‘Wow, that’s weird.'”  (Also, the astronomers involved in this are from UW–go Huskies!)

Is Every Speed Limit Too Low? (Alex Mayyasi, Priceonomics, 25 April 2017): Yay, applied math!

17 Tumblr Posts That’ll Make You Say, “Huh, I Learned Something Today” (Andy Golder, Buzzfeed, 18 May 2017): Some of these things are barely “science”, and also it’s Buzzfeed/Tumblr, so who knows how many of these things are true/if so how true, but at least some of them certainly are and they are wonderful.  Who knew–owls’ “knees” are actually their ankles.

Seminar Bingo (Jorge Cham, PhD Comics): For all the other slackers who hate seminars where the speaker doesn’t explain what the disease they’re talking about is

Medicine and Health

This Is Your Brain on Gluten (James Hamblin, The Atlantic, 20 December 2013): “‘[H]e’s absolutely right that we eat too much sugar and white bread. The rest of the story, though, is one just completely made up to support a hypothesis. And that’s not a good way to do science.’ This launches the discussion of what science is—the critical point that confronts every mainstream media health and science writer….’I also find it sad that because his book is filled with a whole bunch of nonsense, that’s why it’s a bestseller; that’s why we’re talking.'”

Whole Foods Would Look a Lot Different If It Were Science-Based (Jenny Splitter, New York Magazine, 17 May 2017): Science is a powerful.  It is also dangerous.  Use it wisely.

What Mormon Family Trees Tell Us About Cancer (Sarah Zhang, The Atlantic, 23 June 2017): I wish I enjoyed/were good enough at statistics/programming to want to study this kind of epidemiological analysis…it’s fascinating.

Lacking E.M.T.s, an Aging Maine Turns to Immigrants (Katharine Q. Seelye, The New York Times, 27 March 2017): I know a number of people who immigrated to the US but were unable to transfer/update their foreign medical licenses due to language, financial, or credentialling barriers.  It always seemed like a shame to lose that talent, and although it’s not possible to rescue all the lost skill, this is a good start.

When Your Child Is a Psychopath (Barbara Bradley Hagerty, The Atlantic, June 2017): Very long, but worth the read (or listen).

Badass Women

Astronaut Sally Ride and the Burden of Being The First (Ann Friedman, The American Prospect, 19 June 2014): “She was twenty years ahead of her time in her absolutely unstated demand to be treated as an equal…She just asserted herself in a way that said, ‘I’m here and I’m capable and I’m doing it.'”  (I found this article via the above article on tampons.  The cited paragraph contains this lovely image: “Tampons were packed with their strings connecting them, like a strip of sausages, so they wouldn’t float away. Engineers asked Ride, ‘Is 100 the right number?’ She would be in space for a week. ‘That would not be the right number,’ she told them.”)

Ready To Let You in (Mechelle Voepel, ESPN, 20 July 2017): Sue Bird to the women’s-basketball-haters: “If you’re, say, 6-[foot-]2 or bigger, and you played basketball on a decent level, and you’re still in shape, maybe you might beat me one-on-one. I actually don’t give a shit.  I am a better basketball player than you, and that’s the bottom line.” (And about the elephant in the room, yes Sue Bird is gay; in other news, the sky is blue.)

Gabe Goes for It: Carpe Diem in Nashville (Dave Albo, Lane1Photos) and Athlete gets cancer. Athlete fights cancer. Repeat, again and again… (Tim Layden, Sports Illustrated, 10 July 2017): This is strength.  (Also, she’s started a crowdfunding page for general medical expenses and travel not covered by insurance.  This isn’t usually the type of thing I’d post here but I think this is a reasonable exception.)

Life After Cycling Is Like Life After Divorce (Mara Abbott, Athlete Network): “I’ve never been great at the actual intimate relationships.  You know, the kind that involve other people.  Maybe riding elbow-to-elbow with a hundred other girls down a mountain descent was enough personal risk for me.  In any case, I do have friends who play with romance (and rebound) and they tell me their stories, and this seems like it’s pretty much the same thing.”

In Remembrance

A Tenacious Explorer of Abstract Surfaces (Erica Klarreich, Quanta Magazine, 12 August 2014): This could also go under “Badass Women”, but in light of Maryam Mirzakhani’s recent death, it seems more appropriate here.  The world has lost one of its most beautiful minds.

Remembering Chester Bennington (Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, 20 July 2017): One of my longtime wishes had been to see Linkin Park in concert.  They came to Chicago (with Rise Against!) recently, but alas, school prevented my attendance.  I regret that even more now.  As much as my angsty middle school music tastes are the object of other people’s jibes, LP was a part of those formative years of wild emotions and bitterness of soul.  They say the music you listen to during adolescence/puberty sticks with you for life because of how our neural development/pruning works: Meteora and Minutes to Midnight were the bearers of my middle school anthems.  In his own words, “[Y]our voice was joy and pain, anger and forgiveness, love and heartache all wrapped up into one. I suppose that’s what we all are. You helped me understand that.”