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.”


Feel free to insult each other, forget your manners, create straw men, ignore empirical data, and commit as many other fallacies as you can, all from the cozy, anonymous protection of your keyboard.

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