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.”

National b(L)I(N)Ke to School Day

Regarding the title:

Now, moving on to business as usual.

DrumpfTaking a cue from the NPR game show “Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” here’s some of the latest absurdities to start us off.

The Jordanian Airline Making Money Off the Laptop Ban (Alice Su, The Atlantic, 25 March 2017): At least one airline is doing something right (and not by jacking the prices on renting you a janky, overpriced DVD player for the duration of your flight).

Meet the Everyday People Who Have Sued Trump. So Far, They’ve Won. (Vivian Yee, The New York Times, 29 March 2017): “One of the reasons I came here [from Iran] was because I thought, here we’re going to have the freedom of speech and religion and all these. But if I don’t have those freedoms, then what would be the point of staying here?”

“In a funny way, even though I’m discouraged about how they’re vilifying Muslims and using the presidential seal of approval to vilify Muslims, the lawsuits and people’s response has made me feel even stronger about this country…In any other country, when the president wants something, he gets it…The fact that a lowly judge somewhere can basically stop the most powerful man on earth with a simple ruling is gratifying, and it shows what this country’s all about.”

Religion and PoliticsMostly serious, a few silly, some liberal, some conservative.

The president as pharaoh? Trump is turning up in Passover seders. (Julie Zauzmer, The Washington Post, 9 April 2017): And I quote, “Anti-Trump activist group Indivisible Nation BK’s online Haggadah…replaced the traditional hunt for the afikomen, a piece of hidden matzoh, with a hunt for Trump’s tax returns.”

Soul-searching at Princeton Theological Seminary (Jeff Chu, Religion News Service, 12 April 2017): “Is feeling unwelcome the same as not belonging? Does having your beliefs questioned threaten one’s sense of belonging as much as having your identity doubted or devalued?”

“Humility might help us see how the attempt to honor Keller felt like dishonor to those long marginalized by the church. Humility might help us understand how we try to outshout or ignore voices who disagree with us theologically. Humility might help us resist the temptation to rank our suffering ahead of others”

Joy I Cannot Share (Serena J. Poon, Inheritance Magazine, Issue 53): “Coming out didn’t make me lose Jesus — it led me closer to Him because in experiencing the fullness of myself, I could more fully see how God loved and accepted all of who I am. I felt that I was finally fulfilling His designs for me. In this, I found joy and wanted to share in this joy with my family and friends — including my parents … A few years later, I came out again — for the final time. I endured harsh and desperate words from my parents: I would die, because if I get sick, God wouldn’t heal me; I was a terrible daughter; I gave my mom cancer as punishment for my sins; and my greatest pride was their deepest shame. Those last words hurt me the most. As an Asian American, bringing pride to my parents is one of the few ways I get to make them happy. Bringing shame to them and our family is one of the worst things that I could’ve done.”

The American Health Care Act’s Prosperity Gospel (Vann R. Newkirk II, The Atlantic, 5 May 2017): “Although public-health circles might want to believe that the view of sickness as a curse has been supplanted by epidemiology, it’s very clear that prosperity gospel has stuck around as one of the major pillars of American health policy.” (This article presents an interesting possible explanation of one aspect of the red state paradox.)

The Passion of Southern Christians (Margaret Renkl, The New York Times, 8 April 2017): “Partly this divide comes down to scale: You can love a human being and still fear the group that person belongs to.”

“My people are among the least prepared to survive a Trump presidency, but the ‘Christian’ president they elected is about to demonstrate exactly what betrayal really looks like — and for a lot more than 30 pieces of silver…But I also believe in resurrection. Every day brings word of a new Trump-inflicted human-rights calamity, and every day a resistance is growing that I would not have imagined possible, a coalition of people on the left and the right who have never before seen themselves as allies. In working together, I hope we’ll end up with something that looks a lot like a Christian nation — not in doctrine but in practice, caring for the least among us and loving our neighbors as ourselves.”

(More on the red state paradox.  Also, don’t jump to conclusions about this article just because it was published by a typically liberal paper.)

A Brief Note on Mike and Karen Pence’s Dinner Arrangements (Katherine Fritz, I Am Begging My Mother Not To Read This Blog, 30 March 2017): Yes, this is a problem because after-hours “mingling” is how you get the metaphorical (and literal) seat at the table in DC, and this categorically excludes 50% of the population from that opportunity to influence one of the most powerful people in the world, a person who is supposed to represent all Americans, not just those with a penis and not a vagina.  However, I do think the media/interwebs in general had its heyday over the wrong issue here: he doesn’t have this rule because he wants to be a misogynistic asshole (even if you think he is), he has it because of his religious beliefs (even if these may make him, in your opinion, a misogynistic asshole).  Being an asshole (perceived or real) isn’t the problem: there are lots of asshole politicians.  The problem is when a politician’s assholery impinges upon his or her ability to govern fairly and effectively.  And that’s the biggest problem here.

“Mike Pence’s religious beliefs, like the religious beliefs of many Americans, aren’t always great for women’s rights and freedoms — even though a lot of women are happy practicing those same religious beliefs…So as long as Mike Pence’s religious beliefs don’t get in the way of his ability to govern effectively, we don’t anything to worry about. He is free to dine with whomever he wants, believe whatever he wants, and pray however he wants, so long as he is governing according to the will of the people, and not to the canon of his religion.”

Also, relating to another article up and coming, “Muslim religious beliefs sound a whole lot like the religious beliefs of most conservative Americans.”

When Conservatives Oppose ‘Religious Freedom’ (Peter Beinart, The Atlantic, 11 April 2017): “After 9/11, some prominent evangelicals denounced Islam. But overall, a review of responses to the attacks noted that the Christian right is ‘refusing to vilify Islam after September 11 and remains committed to an alliance of “orthodox believers.”‘…There are several potential explanations for the growing Christian conservative hostility to American Muslims. One is surely the endurance of jihadist terrorism and the bitter failure of America’s wars in the Middle East and South Asia, which has left conservatives both scared of Muslims and skeptical of their ability to embrace ‘Western values.’ A second, less obvious, factor may be the weakening of the social conservative agenda that might have bound Muslims and conservative Christians together.”

Polarization Is for Magnets, Not for People: Also, rhetorical and political literacy is really important!

The Tricks People Use to Avoid Debate (Hanna Rosin, The Atlantic, July/August 2015 Issue): “Want to avoid a debate? Just tell your opponent to check his privilege. Or tell him he’s slut-shaming or victim-blaming, or racist, or sexist, or homophobic, or transphobic, or Islamophobic, or cisphobic, or some other creative term conveying that you are simply too outraged by the argument to actually engage it. Or, on the other side of the coin, accuse him of being the PC thought police and then snap your laptop smugly.”  I really really wish this argument had been developed further, but alas, the limitations of printed(!) media.

Checking Privilege Checking (Phoebe Maltz Bovy, The Atlantic, 7 May 2014): “To call someone ‘privileged’ is to say that his or her successes are undeserved. It’s a personal insult posing as social critique.”  Sense a theme?  So maybe the person you’re criticizing is wrong/is being insenstive/doesn’t realize they’re the beneficiaries of societal mechanics: so tell them that and why, not just that they’re privileged.  Or maybe they aren’t, and you (probably plural) need to spend some time listening and not talking.  Don’t shortcut your arguments, folks!

UC Berkeley Declares Itself Unsafe for Ann Coulter (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, 20 April 2017): “Her critics would have done well to deny her attention by treating her scheduled appearance with the ambivalent yawn every provocateur most dreads. Instead, they began playing into her hands, situating her appearance in a paradigm where free speech is cast as being in conflict with anti-racism—a wrongheaded frame anathema to civil-rights heroes and marginalized protesters the world over. It guarantees either that bigots like Coulter will be seen by many as occupying a moral high ground, or that free speech will suffer, hitting marginalized groups hardest in the end.”

People don’t like paying taxes. That’s because they don’t understand them. (Marjorie E. Kornhauser, The Washington Post, 14 April 2017): I have never thought about taxes this way before.  It’s an enchantingly straightforward solution to a complex problem, sort of like fluoridating tap water to prevent cavities.  Sure, people still get cavities for a lot of reasons (eg, genetics, drinking acidic beverages, not brushing teeth), but it’s a start.


I Am Not Your Muslim (Nesrine Malik, NPR, 6 May 2017): “to frame everything in terms of refutation is the opposite of empowerment.”  (Could also go under the heading about religion and politics, but I think this has more to do with identity politics than the sort of politics mainly featured in that section).

‘Model Minority’ Myth Again Used As A Racial Wedge Between Asians And Blacks (Kat Chow, NPR, 19 April 2017): This is a really really good summary of why anti-Asian racism was/is fundamentally different than anti-Black racism, and why using Asian Americans (a fraught definition by itself) as a measuring pole for anyone else with not-White skin is terrible for everyone.

Reporter’s notebook: Riots or uprising? 25 years since the Rodney King verdict, a Korean American story (Juju Chang, ABC, 29 April 2017): Despite being a West Coast Asian, this is an event that frankly I hadn’t heard much about growing up.

Feminism: Yes I said the F word.

seriously, the guy has a point (Greg Fallis,, 14 April 2017): “But here’s the thing: you can completely agree with the woman who responded to my comment AND you can still acknowledge that Arturo Di Modica has a point. Those aren’t mutually exclusive or contradictory points of view.” In brief: The girl statue is nice.  The girl statue derives its power from the bull statue.  The presence of the “fearless” girl implies the bull represents something fearful (eg, patriarchy, aggression, misogyny).  The bull’s artist did not intend it to represent fear; it was supposed to represent positive things (eg, strength of the American market, hope in America).  Thus the girl subverts the bull (duh, that was the girl’s creator’s intent).  This makes the bull’s artist upset because that’s not the story he wanted to tell, not because he’s a misogynistic asshole.  (This could also go under polarization but that section was huge already.)

As a woman in science, I need to conceal my femininity to be taken seriously (Eve Forster, Vox, 4 May 2017): Ugh yes.  I’m thankful not to have experienced too much of this (I work in a female-dominated sub-specialty having to do with primarily women’s health issues), but even in university coursework, the mansplaining was never incessant but almost always present.  Student-to-student, student-to-TA, even student-to-freaking-professor.

One More Barrier Faced by Women in Science (Lily Cohen, The Scientific American, 21 April 2017): “It’s not that this challenge was career ending, and after a day of over-hydration, I would not have to repeat my urination re-education. However, this charade took time that I would have otherwise put towards improving the data logger program for a precipitation monitor in the Arctic, testing our new snow depth probe, or otherwise forwarding my career. No individual’s discrimination or hostility directly led to me peeing on myself; it’s just one more challenge of being a woman entering roles that are historically held by men.” Before someone uses this as an excuse to argue that women really are just pansies, that’s not the point.  Women (and men) who are dedicated to their field don’t let things like the lack of a loo inhibit their research or work; they find a way to work around it.  Women just have more to work around than men do, sometimes at high personal, financial, or even chronological cost.

‘Penis Seat’ Causes Double Takes on Mexico City Subway (Sopan Deb and Marina Franco, The New York Times, 31 March 2017): Why is catcalling harmful?  Why is creepily staring at/leaning over/leering at/repeatedly talking to random women not okay?  Because it’s uninvited, intimidating, and just plain creepy.  How do you feel about a sculpture of a dick on a subway seat?  Because that’s about how I feel about all of those behaviors.

The pros and cons of male athletes lending support, appreciation to their female counterparts (Michelle Smith, espnW, 1 May 2017): “I think people struggled to find a woman to compare me with, so they went to men as the default. And that’s fine, but I also want to be compared with Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird and players like that.” (Kelsey Plum, UW point guard with too many accolades to name, number one draft pick 2017)

“But we also need to do a better job of promoting our stars. We want people to see that Diana Taurasi and Elena Delle Donne are great players, and not just because Kobe said so. Right now, more girls in Seattle want to be Kelsey Plum. And we’ve got to continue to push, to get the exposure and the branding and the media coverage.” (Lindsay Gottlieb, head coach at Cal)

Tangentially related, for all the bros who trash on the WNBA: if star NBA players appreciate it, why can’t the average guy?

Women in Sports: Feminism reprise

Analyze This (Sue Bird, The Players Tribune, 10 March 2016):  Wins prize for favorite narrative article.

“The disparity between NBA data — even data across all male sports — and WNBA data is glaring. Data for the WNBA is relegated to basic information: points, rebounds, steals, assists, turnovers, blocks. While worthy of being noted, those are the most rudimentary numbers in our game.  Data helps drive conversations, strategy, decision making. But data on its own isn’t terribly interesting. It needs context. It needs a storyteller. Data helps tell the story of a player, a team, an entire career.  There’s a need to value data in the WNBA because there’s a need to value the stories of our league.”

“But Dee deserves it, too. And so does Maya. And so does Elena. We all do, and so does this league.  One day, I won’t even have to tell my niece about how great Diana Taurasi was.  The numbers will speak for themselves.”

Sports, equality, numbers.  Can Sue Bird get any more awesome?  I don’t think so.

50 Years Ago, Doris Brown Put U.S. Women’s Distance Running on the Map (Roger Robinson, Runner’s World, 21 March 2017): “One of America’s greatest distance running talents had one major flaw: She was too fast for her time.”

“She’s the first woman known to have run 100 miles a week. ‘When I read that Jim Ryun was running twice a day, I tried it, and immediately my times improved, even at sprints,’ Heritage said.”

I am incredibly thankful that I got to interact with Doris just a little through my high school program.  Even more than her running accomplishments, her character and optimism is an inspiration.

Science Is Cool: One of my favorite pastimes at work is to read a weird paper (usually from Science, Nature, etc) and then drop a “So I was reading this paper…didyaknow?!” randomly in conversation.  It never fails to throw people for a loop.

Researchers Find Yet Another Reason Why Naked Mole-Rats Are Just Weird (Rae Ellen Bichnell, NPR, 20 April 2017): The naked molerat exhibit was always my favorite at the children’s museum growing up (much to my mother’s chagrin.  “But they’re so ugly!” cried she.  “Nuh uh, they’re cute!” retorted me.)  They (usually) don’t get cancer.  They resist pain.  They change sex.  And now they…use the environment to regulate body temperature? (Warning: lots of paywalls).

Octopuses and squids can rewrite their RNA. Is that why they’re so smart? (Ben Guarino, The Washington Post, 6 April 2017): Next in line for the Weird Animal Award are octupus and squid who in addition to being proteges of Harry Houdini have now also been found to edit their mRNA.

Octogenarian Couple Donates $10 Million Insect Collection (Camila Domonoske, NPR, 24 March 2017): “‘He would like me to know more about weevils,’ she said. ‘But the more I know about weevils the more I have to help him.'” I hope by the time I am in my 80s I have accomplished a fraction of this, both professionally and personally.

Science and PolicyThe weird parts are cool but science is also serious sometimes.  We’re not just crackpot academics up in an ivory tower; the stuff we study has very real political and social consequences.

Accidental therapists: For insect detectives, the trickiest cases involve the bugs that aren’t really there (Eric Boodman, Stat, 22 March 2017): Wins prize for favorite non-narrative article.

“But it wasn’t hard to see how this creature could potentially shape-shift in her mind, from a harmless half-inch garden-dweller to something much more sinister: an uncontrollable swarm. Already, these few bugs had taken up residence in her thoughts. That could happen to anyone.  And Ridge knew just how fragile the boundary could be between the insects in someone’s house and the ghostly insects of the mind…’Insects are most often not the problem,’ she said.  The problem is us.”  This is science journalism at its finest.

The ban on mentally ill people buying guns wasn’t ever based on evidence (Jeffrey Swanson, The Washington Post, 10 February 2017): Depolarize!  The world is complex!  “The gun restriction rule is a well-meaning policy that gets some things right, notably its support of federal efforts to improve detection of risky people who should not have legal access to guns. But despite its good intentions, what the policy actually does is take away the gun rights of a large category of individuals without any evidence that they pose a risk of harm to self or others, and without legal due process protections commensurate with abridging a constitutional right…When the government takes away people’s rights, usually they have a hearing, a chance to contest the proceedings, and legal representation. None of those is provided when a person is assigned a money manager by the Social Security Administration, nor would it be feasible to do so routinely. But when such a determination is later leveraged for a totally different purpose — suspension of a person’s Second Amendment rights — the lack of process becomes a legitimate civil rights concern.”

Kathryn (David Muller, The New England Journal of Medicine, 23 March 2017): “From their very first shadowing experience to their first foray in the lab; from high school advanced-placement courses and college admissions tests to grade point averages and the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT); with helicopter parents, peer pressure, violins and varsity soccer, college rankings, medical school rankings, medical licensing exams, and the residency Match, we never let up on them — and it’s killing them.”

March (Link) Madness

Before we begin: Here’s a helpful graphic that’s been circulating the interwebs lately in a few permutations.  We can quibble over exact coordinates of different points, but it’s a good starting place.  Please share with your hyper-partisan and/or cluelessly naive friends and relatives to encourage open and honest dialogue.  Fight Fake news. Know who is reputable.

Now, by theme.  Many of these broader topics bleed into each other, so I’ve tried to organize the individual articles within the headings such that they form a sort of continuum both within and between categories.

Science (jokey to serious)

Science’s Love Affair with The Lord of the Rings (Julie Beck, The Atlantic, 13 May 2015): Two of my favorite things–science and LOTR–in one article.

An Ice-Age Squirrel Found by Gulag Prisoners Gets Its Scientific Due (Sarah Jang, The Atlantic, 2 March 2017): All my next favorite things–Russian literature, rigorous science, and cute fuzzy animals.

Trump’s Hair Inspires Name for Newly Discovered Moth Species (Alejandro Lazo, The Wall Street Journal, 20 January 2017): More on taxonomy.  Scientists may be stereotyped as geeky introverts in birkenstocks and  un-ironed shirts, but they can get pretty fiesty when they need to (c.f. the social media handles for Alt National Parks, NASA, EPA, etc.)

 To Catch Prey, Frogs Turn To Sticky Spit (Madeline K. Sofia, NPR, 31 January 2017): This is almost as cool as when they figured out how cats drink.  (“Almost”, because I like cats more than frogs.  Nothing against the research, of course).

I’m not a doctor, but I play one on my CV (Adam Ruben, Science, 18 January 2017): I work in basic research lab in a clinical department at a major university hospital, and this is the constant frustration of the PhDs.  All of us–including the people with PhDs–refer to “real doctors” and “fake doctors” and everyone knows what we mean.  On a more serious note, I’ve heard plenty of women with PhDs introduce themselves as “Doctor Abc Xyz” in rooms full of mostly men–in situations where none of the men introduce themselves as Doctor Anything–presumably in attempt to get people to respect them a little more, even subconsciously.  The glass ceiling is a lot higher than it used to be, but it’s still there.

I’m a doctor who wants to treat addiction, but the rules won’t let me (Douglas Jacobs, The Washington Post, 18 January 2017): Exhibit #78915483, Why Evidence-Based Practice is Really Really Important.

Vaccines Work. Here Are the Facts. (Maki Naro, The Nib, 15 December 2014): This longform informational webcomic has been floating around for a couple years, but lately it’s received a new wave of attention due to comments made by the current president and his campaign staff/administration.  This one is also worth sharing with your honestly vaccine-skeptical or vaccine-uncertain (but probably not vaccine-hating) acquaintances, friends, and family.  It’s written at an understandable level for the lay public, but doesn’t come across as condescending or demeaning to people for having fears or concerns.  This been one of my biggest quabbles with the scientific/medical community in the whole anti-vaxxer fiasco: poor science communication!  Metaphorically SHOUTING at people, calling them stupid, dismissing their views, or even appealing to authority without explaining why doesn’t help.  I understand that after 4 years of college, 4-8 years of grad/med school, and possibly 2-7 years of postdoc/fellowship, it’s hard to accept being questioned about a field in which you are literally an expert by all conventional standards.  But to a worried parent who’s afraid that a vaccine will cause their child to have [bad disease terrible side effect big scary words ahh run away], it’s not just degrees that matter: it’s also personal experience, perceived trustworthiness, and relatability.  This is why mommy blogs have so much power to persuade.

How Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Distorted Vaccine Science (Seth Mnookin, Scientific American/STAT, 10-11 January 2017): On the other hand, there are also a lot of people appealing to authority and using it in complete opposition to evidence-based practice, all too often successfully.

What can the anti-vaccination movement teach us about improving the public’s understanding of science? (Jeanne Garbarino, PLoS, 5 January 2017): At the risk of harping too much on the importance of science communication, “At the risk of oversimplifying the issues related to vaccine hesitancy and rejection, people’s decision’s for themselves and their children might have less to do with the message, and more about how — and in what context — the message is delivered…While it may feel counterintuitive, perhaps we should stop trying to win arguments using the traditional academic approach, with data, error bars, and p-values, as these risk strengthening the emotional appeal of anti-evidence, anti-scientific viewpoints. Instead, we can present data-based conclusions in compelling and effective ways, keeping in mind the connections and disconnections between human emotion and rationality.”  For specific tips on effective ways to talk about (note: not debate) vaccines or other issues of evidence-based practice, see The Debunking Handbook.  For hear some thoughts from someone whose career is dedicated to science communication, give this episode of The Prism podcast a listen.

The Rise and Fall of a Shrimp Biologist (David Scholnick, Scientific American, 9 January 2017): “I guess the moral of my story is that when you mix science and politics, it can be just as cliquey as high school, and if you disrupt the social order, you had better be ready for some lowbrow playground antics.”

How Trump’s refugee ban hurts health care in places that voted for him (Alvin Chang, Vox, 6 March 2017): And the saga of the red state/blue state paradox continues…


The Story Behind TIME’s Year-Long Multimedia Project ‘Finding Home’ (Kira Pollack, photography by Lynsey Addario, Time, 19 December 2016): “Lynsey is a powerhouse—a fierce journalist with a fiery passion to tell the truth about the great injustices of the world. Lynsey is known as a brave war photographer, and has received accolades for her front-line reporting, but day in and day out, she has documented the lives of some of the most voiceless women in the world.”

A Yazidi Refugee, Stranded at the Airport by Trump (Kirk W. Johnson, The New Yorker, 28 January 2017): This wasn’t okay on January 28.  It’s not okay today.  It won’t be okay tomorrow, or the next day, or any time in the next four or eight years, or ever.  Don’t let what was crazy and absurd and wrong yesterday become part of the new norm in the future.  Don’t let it become just another political issue that us regular folks can’t do much about.

Facebook post by Samuel Director (28 January 2017): Thank you for taking a stand, even though, sadly, it puts you at risk of derision and criticism in some Christian communities.  <rant> Unlike another post I recently saw by a pastor of MISSIONS (i.e., the person in charge of reaching out to and caring for people who are not like us) of a church I used to attend basically arguing that Trump’s ban wasn’t that bad at all and didn’t contradict Christian principles of hospitality, love for the other, and generosity to the cast down of society because 1) all the verses in the Old Testament about taking care of widows/orphans/foreigners don’t apply to modern America and 2) if they did, we should take care of them in their own countries but sure as hell not here.  My response was somewhere between a muffled yell and a groan of “don’t confuse exegesis and eisegesis, have you forgotten everything you learnt in seminary??”  </rant>

The Lawyers Showed Up (Dahlia Lithwick, Slate, 28 January 2017): I’m about as far from a pollyanna as you can get, but at the very least, where there’s a shadow there’s a light.  For all my snide comments about the profession of lawyers, there’s some good ones out there.

Strangers in Their Own Land: The ‘Deep Story’ of Trump Supporters (Shankar Vedantam, NPR, 24 January 2017): Although my opinion on the current administration is probably quite clear by now, this can’t be a one-sided conversation.  People want to come to the US to find home, but there are also people born here who don’t feel at home anymore.  This doesn’t negate the rights of the first group or dismiss the conversation; in fact, it should elevate the dialogue.  And before the liberal-leaning crowd points out that “not feeling at home” is very different from “fleeing from ISIS”, I know.  That’s the point, and also why you should read this article/listen to the podcast.

Meet Me in the Middle

Psychology’s Favorite Tool for Measuring Racism Isn’t Up to the Job (Jesse Singal, New York Magazine, 11 January 2017): I’ve been skeptical of IATs since I first learned about them in Intro Psych.  This article does a good job of articulating some of the problems with the test itself and also of conclusions drawn from data amassed from the test.  From personal experience, back in Psych 100, it seemed like it wouldn’t be too hard to “trick” the test, so I took one on the internet and found that indeed, it wasn’t too hard to skew consciously.  Could this then have the effect of double-tricking the test?  Yup.

How the FBI Is Hobbled by Religious Illiteracy (Emma Green, The Atlantic, 26 February 2017): Getting a PhD in [xyz religion] studies is useless you say?  Think again.  Clearly, the FBI needs more of such people.  My favorite line of the article: “Although he loves Judaism, actual Jews are a problem.”  Also, moderately related, one of the weirdest things to me about the rising anti-nonwhite (and often anti-non”Christian”) sentiment in the country lately is that it’s being directed at both Jews and Muslims.  I know intellectually that historically both have been targets of bigotry by both Catholic and Protestant Christianity, but the attacks, sometimes physical, on both Muslim and Jewish people and places of worship or gathering has struck me as strangely ironic and tragic.

Why Conservatives Mistrust Even Modest Efforts at Gun Control (David A. Graham, The Atlantic,  2 October 2015): I know that firearm violence and accidents amount to what is effectively a huge public health crisis.  I know that a lot fewer people would be dead if we had no guns or even fewer guns.  I know that in some states guns are much too easy to get, even for many conservative-leaning folks.  But I also am deeply appreciative of the culture of the rural west, which has bled into many people’s (rural or western or not) protectiveness of their ability to own and use firearms.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t translate well to the legislative halls of urban state capitals or the bench of the Supreme Court, much less thirty second sound bytes on cable news (liberal or conservative).  I don’t know what the answer is other than that as with most things, it’s probably somewhere in the middle.

These Pro-Lifers Are Headed to the Women’s March on Washington (Emma Green, The Atlantic, 16 January 2017): Can we please just converge to the ideal that less abortion is better in general but also that banning it/doing everything but banning it doesn’t actually make it be less.  I think most people–both on the left and on the right–could agree that we would want the fewest women possible to be in the position that they feel like/think/know they need an abortion, but for the ones who do make that decision, it should be safe and accessible (presumably, by being legal).  Minimize need –> minimize abortion.  Everyone is happier and more morally satisfied.  Aka, evidence-based practice.  And so we circle back to our first them of the day.  WE CAN DO BETTER, FOLKS.


When Metal Goes Acoustic: Disturbed On Covering Simon & Garfunkel (Weekend Edition Sunday, NPR, 15 January 2017): Since a lot of the links are pretty heavy, this is a little lighter.  As light as Disturbed can be, anyways.  Fun fact: David Draiman trained as a hazan (like a cantor in Jewish synagogues) and also almost went to law school.  He also has had some pretty interesting interactions with skinhead fans who don’t realize he’s Jewish–perhaps the epitome of “meet me in the middle”.

Merry Linksmas

I promise I’ll work on the titles.  Also, sharing something doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing with it, just thinking that it’s an interesting/thought-provoking argument.

*articles that consume from your monthly quota from that publication are marked with an asterisk

Tuba Christmas

Tuba Christmas (Living St. Louis, Nine Network): Yup, Tuba Christmas gets an entire heading of its own.  Events consisting of musicians playing instruments in the tuba family in public spaces are held nationwide in December.  See video from local PBS station for more history and some music.

Tuba Christmas 2016 at Galleria Mall (Brian Siegfried, Youtube): You can’t quite see me (I’m hiding by the escalator), but here’s the entire video of the performance in which I played.  This has been one of my favorite Christmas-time events since I moved to St. Louis (I didn’t learn of them until the end of senior year in high school, so I never played at the Seattle one).

Things That Might Seem Obvious but We Should Still Study

Military-Trained Police May Be Less Hasty To Shoot, But That Got This Vet Fired (Quil Lawrence & Martin Kaste, NPR)

Patients Cared For By Female Doctors Fare Better Than Those Treated By Men (John Henning Schumann & Sarah-Anne Henning Schumann, NPR)

History is a Circle

Trump isn’t Hitler. But the United States could be another Germany* (Richard Cohen, Washington Post)

What Makes Today’s America Different From the Country That Incarcerated the Japanese? (Emma Green, The Atlantic)

LGBT Issues

When Eve and Eve Bit the Apple(Kristen Scharold, The New York Times): I’ve heard iterations of this story over and over.  Honestly, I don’t know where I stand theologically on this; I’ve heard so many good arguments (and plenty of bad ones too) from both Side A and Side B that I don’t think I’m any farther along than when I started thinking.  (Sometime, I hope to put up a list of reading from both “sides” that I’ve appreciated).

‘Don’t Sneak’: A Father’s Command to His Gay Son in the 1950s (Nadine Ajaka & Patrick Haggerty, StoryCorps/The Atlantic): Animated short published by StoryCorps.

Words Matter

Unfollow: How a prized daughter of the Westboro Baptist Church came to question its beliefs* (Adrian Chen, The New Yorker): Highly recommended.  Possible spin aside, it makes a good point about the value of social media and honest, thoughtful (gasp) communication.

BuzzFeed’s hit piece on Chip and Joanna Gaines is dangerous (Brandon Ambrosino, The Washington Post)*: I’ve been saying this for years.  “Conservatives,” you aren’t guiltless; “liberals,” you aren’t guileless; everyone, be nice because one day when you aren’t seen as the victimized minority (or aren’t the empowered majority), the other side will use the same dirty tactics on you.  Also, I think this is a case of the extremes of both sides being the loudest and drowning out all the “regular folks” in between.

Spring 2016 Reading List

Well, time for the next reading list.  Now that I won’t be in school (for a couple years, anyhow), I’m not sure if I’ll keep doing three “semester” lists, or possibly switch to biannual or quarterly lists, which conform better with the temporal preferences non-academic society.  It may turn out that post frequency will depend on how much reading I do.

The links go to other people’s reviews where I could find ones I thought were well-done.  Many come from NPR as I find a large proportion of my reading list from NPR articles/broadcasts.  Otherwise, the links go to product pages on Amazon (yes, I know, Amazon is a killer of small-businesses-and-publishers–trust me, I used to work for such a publisher–but the large numbers of non-paid reviews are a valuable resource)

Ink and paper books:

  • Does Jesus Really Love Me?: A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage in Search of God in America (Jeff Chu): One issue that I struggle with is the position and role of the church in LGBT issues.  I was raised pretty conservative, but a lot of the orthodox positions make me deeply uncomfortable for a lot of reasons.  Although the Bible isn’t supposed to be a comfortable book, there are a number of things that are often taught in more conservative (or even just “less liberal”) circles that I am fundamentally unsure about.  The internet is a terrible place to have a “discussion” about this, so I’ll leave it at that, but this book is worth a read to get an idea of the tension and struggle that LGBT Christians face even in a progressive, accepting larger society–and in the case of this book, the story of one relatable, personable, human individual.  As Andrew Solomon so beautifully wrote in Far from the Tree (see below), “Numbers imply trends, while stories acknowledge their chaos.”
  • Shrinks: The Untold Story of Psychiatry (Jeffrey A. Lieberman & Ogi Ogas): May be a little history heavy/textbook-y, but I thought it was an enlightening read on a specialty of medicine that often gets a bad rap, sometimes deserved, sometimes not.  Traced the development of psychiatry from pre-DSM to the present day.  Pretty accessible, but some may find it to be a little textbook-y at times.
  • A Thousand Naked Strangers: A Paramedic’s Wild Ride to the Edge and Back (Kevin Hazzard): I thought about going to EMT/paramedic school after finishing my bachelor’s (I know, backwards…).  I ended up not taking that route, but this book kind of made me wish I did.
  • Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity (Andrew Solomon): Very long, but Solomon’s writing is graceful and informative and flowing and fair as usual.  Each chapter covers a type of “difference” that individuals experience that alienates them from larger society: deafness, criminality, dwarfism, genius, and so on.
  • The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness (Elyn R. Saks): Saks is a professor of law (as well as psychology/psychiatry/behavioral sciences) who was diagnosed with schizophrenia while she was in graduate school.  She is incredibly bright and also incredibly self-aware.
  • When Breath Becomes Air (Paul Kalanithi): Kalanithi was a medical doctor in his final year of residency when he died after facing metastatic cancer.  This autobiography was written after his diagnosis and completed posthumously by his wife, also a physician.  His language is beautiful and compelling.  Wins the “best book of the semester” award for its writing, tied with A Mother’s Reckoning.
  • Proof: The Science of Booze (Adam Rogers): Pretty informative and not too dry (no pun intended).  Accessible to a general audience.
  • It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War (Lynsey Addario): Addario is a prize-winning war photographer.  Here she documents stories of her work, struggles, and life.  I heard about this book on a Radiolab podcast.
  • Furiously Happy: A Funny Book about Horrible Things (Jenny Lawson): It’s funny.  And very real.
  • A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy (Sue Klebold and Andrew Solomon): I found out about this book from a reference in Far from the Tree.  Klebold’s writing is excellent and her words are honest.  She writes about her son, Dylan Klebold, one of the shooters at Columbine, his life, and her life, before and after the tragedy.  Her story is filled with grace in the face of unspeakable pain and anger.  Wins the “best book of the semester” award for its courage and honesty, tied with When Breath Becomes Air.


  • The Brothers Karamozov (Fyodor Dostoevsky): Great book to listen to; in some ways even better than reading it.
  • The Giver (Lois Lowry): Not into dystopian fiction but it was fine.
  • Harry Potter series (JK Rowling): Finally “read” Harry Potter!  I thought the plot was really well-constructed.
  • The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett): “Read” it for the first time since kindergarten or first grade because Harry Potter seemed like it was alluding to this in a lot of ways and I wanted to know if my memory was serving correctly.  Still not certain, but I think it is (e.g., Lily’s eyes/his mother’s (Lillias’) eyes, the names Colin Creavy/Colin Craven, etc.)

Fall 2015 Reading List

Yup, it’s that time of year again.  It’s a little shorter in quantity than most of my previous fall lists since I spent most/all of Christmas break studying for the MCAT rather than reading 200 pages a day.  I did, however, read a lot of essays, long-form blog posts, and scientific papers.  Some of these may be behind paywalls, so consider yourself warned, but in particular (though in no particular order), I’d recommend:

And now, back to the books (links go to other people’s reviews–I should emphasize that I don’t necessarily agree with them, but they generally have interesting/thoughtful perspectives):

  • Under the Same Sky: From Starvation in North Korea to Salvation in America (Joseph Kim): Autobiography of a young man who escaped from North Korea through China and then to the United States.  I noticed two things in particular.  The first was that when he first arrived in the U.S., the first foster home in which he was placed did not have enough food for him.  This was hugely problematic for someone who just escaped from North Korea, and he was fortunately moved to a different home.  What was interesting to me was that the family was willing, despite their own poverty, to take in a complete stranger.  Obviously there were issues, but I think I could learn from that type of generosity.  The second was that when he was fleeing North Korea, people told him to find a church in China and that they would help him.  The people who told him this were somewhat unsure what exactly a church was, but they knew it could help: even in the (literally) darkest of nations, Christ’s light shines.
  • Go Set a Watchman (Harper Lee): I guess this was my mandatory fiction for the semester.  Somehow, it was lacking…plot structure.  I kept waiting for something to happen, except then it was the last page and nothing had really happened.
  • If You Feel Too Much: Thoughts on Things Found and Lost and Hoped For (Jamie Tworkowski): Pretty stream of consciousness/blog style.  Not dissimilar to Blue Like Jazz, which I guess makes sense, since Donald Miller wrote the foreword.
  • Understanding Sexual Identity: A Resource for Youth Ministry (Mark Yarhouse): Okay.  I’ve heard good things about Yarhouse.  The book seemed a little cookie cutter, but it was intended as a guide for youth ministry, as the title suggests, in-depth analysis.
  • Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget (Sarah Hepola): Wins the best book of the semester award.  It’s clear that Hepola is actually a professional writer, not just some person writing about her life.  But even if it were just some person writing about her life, that would be okay too, because her story is an important one to tell.  (Similar in style, writing quality, and perhaps even intent to Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan.  Liked it more than Drink by Ann Dowsett Johnston, which was more topically similar.)  As someone on a university campus where there are a lot of “you’re not alcoholic until after college” jokes (and, admittedly, as someone who has made such “jokes” in the past), there’s a lot of insight to be found.
  • Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood (Oliver Sacks): Brilliant Sacks, as usual. Perfect balance of the cool science-y stuff and the story of his childhood (much of which would be forbidden for safety concerns now).
  • Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World (Linda Hirshman): Great exposition of the histories and stories of O’Connor and Ginsburg.  Definitely has staunch feminist perspective, but what would you expect from a book about the two justices who revolutionized the legal standing of women?
  • When Doctors Don’t Listen: How to Avoid Misdiagnoses and Unnecessary Tests (Leana Wen and Joshua Kosowsky): Did not like this book.  Leana Wen is one of my favorite public health figures (if one can have “favorites” in that category?) but the entire book came across as condescending and patronizing–to both patients and doctors.  I have no idea how they pulled that off, although Kosowsky’s sections seemed a bit worse in this regard.


  • Crossroads of Twilight (Robert Jordan)
  • Knife of Dreams (Robert Jordan)
  • The Gathering Storm (Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson)
  • Towers of Midnight (Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson)
  • A Memory of Light (Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson): Finally finished the series!  There was a definite shift of…atmosphere…in the last three books, but I’m not sure how much of it is due to the fact that they were completed after Jordan’s death and how much is due to the stage of the plot.  I was never a huge fan of Rand al’Thor’s scenes in general (this is coming from the person who finds hobbits annoying and thus skims through large sections of The Return of the King and has only read The Hobbit twice compared to the trilogy four or five times), so the last couple books also weren’t my favorite for that reason, but it was still definitely worth completing.
  • New Spring: The Novel (Robert Jordan): I liked the prequel a lot; considering that my favorite characters in the entire series were probably Moiraine and Siuan, an entire (short) book of them was delightful.