There are good reasons for any species to think darkly of its own extinction. Ninety-nine percent of the species that have lived on Earth have gone extinct, including more than five tool-using hominids. A quick glance at the fossil record could frighten you into thinking that Earth is growing more dangerous with time. If you carve the planet’s history into nine ages, each spanning five hundred million years, only in the ninth do you find mass extinctions, events that kill off more than two thirds of all species.
But this is deceptive. Earth has always had her hazards; it’s just that for us to see them, she had to fill her fossil beds with variety, so that we could detect discontinuities across time. The tree of life had to fill out before it could be pruned.
“Unless you’re Christopher Hitchens, who can write about dying while you’re dying, I think most writers need some distance from their calamities. I suppose I was being a quiet American on that cruise ship—amid three thousand passengers—and in that contemplative space the spectre of my mother’s death transformed itself into a story.”—Saïd Sayrafiezadeh discusses his short story in this week’s issue: http://nyr.kr/1trtYKP (via newyorker)
“Is there another form of communication besides email where the acknowledged goal is to hide all of the communication? Email has evolved into a weird medium of communication where the best thing you can do is destroy it quickly, as if every email were a rabid bat attacking your face. Yet even the tragically email-burdened still have a weird love for this particular rabid, face-attacking bat. People love to tweet about how overwhelming it all is. They write articles about email bankruptcy and proclaim their inbox zero status. Email is broken, everyone agrees, but it’s the devil we know. Besides, we’re just one app away from happiness. A tremendous amount of human energy goes into propping up the technological and cultural structure of email. It’s too big to fail.”—
I met Ana years ago in Portugal at a conference, and we have remained in contact ever since. She’s a leading advocate about making work more human, as in a recent TedX talk in Porto, so I thought I’d walk through her thoughts on that.
Scrap washing-machines are a treasure-trove of weird-shaped pieces with striking characteristics; when correctly combined, the pieces they make are both arresting and immediately identifiable as having begun their lives as washing machines.
“The fundamental advantage a Bitcoin gateway ecosystem has over PayPal is that it’s open. Any closed network will, by nature, be deprived of structural pressures that force it to improve. A third-party can’t improve a closed network; if they really want to, they first have to try to replicate the network itself from scratch. In contrast, the Bitcoin space is already seeing rapid iteration and compounding improvements.”—Bitcoin: the Stripe perspective (via fred-wilson)
“Today’s technologies – instrumented things, sensor networks, data – have the opportunity to deepen social relationships, to brings us new important kinds of social relationships that we don’t already have and to participate directly in those relations. When we start to think about our technologies as not simply providing incremental value – good recommendations or metrics for this or that problem – we give them room to grow.”—
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”—
Paul Higgins: I can do most of those, some better than others. Not design a building or program a computer which is something I must correct (the programming not the building designing)
Organizational metaphors can be helpful to think about what’s going on in work culture. Gareth Morgan’s Images of Organizationis a great compendium of metaphors: organization as a machine, organism, brain, culture, political systems, etc. I also find Joanne Martin’s analysis of contending…
“Your assumptions about the lives of others are in direct relation to your naïve pomposity. Many people you believe to be rich are not rich. Many people you think have it easy worked hard for what they got. Many people who seem to be gliding right along have suffered and are suffering. Many people who appear to you to be old and stupidly saddled down with kids and cars and houses were once every bit as hip and pompous as you.
When you meet a man in the doorway of a Mexican restaurant who later kisses you while explaining that this kiss doesn’t ‘mean anything’ because, much as he likes you, he is not interested in having a relationship with you or anyone right now, just laugh and kiss him back. Your daughter will have his sense of humor. Your son will have his eyes.
The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.
One Christmas at the very beginning of your twenties when your mother gives you a warm coat that she saved for months to buy, don’t look at her skeptically after she tells you she thought the coat was perfect for you. Don’t hold it up and say it’s longer than you like your coats to be and too puffy and possibly even too warm. Your mother will be dead by spring. That coat will be the last gift she gave you. You will regret the small thing you didn’t say for the rest of your life.
Say thank you.”—
Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar
The useless days will add up to something. […] These things are your becoming.
A bot that monitors Wikipedia for edits from Russian government IPs recorded a change to the MH17 entry, assigning blame to “Ukrainian soldiers” (a previous edit had blamed it on “terrorists of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic with Buk system missiles, which the terrorists received from the Russian Federation.”
In mice with diet-induced diabetes — the equivalent of type 2 diabetes in humans — a single injection of the protein FGF1 is enough to restore blood sugar levels to a healthy range for more than two days. The discovery could lead to a new generation of safer, more effective diabetes drugs. The team found that sustained treatment with the protein doesn’t merely keep blood sugar under control, but also reverses insulin insensitivity, the underlying physiological cause of diabetes. Equally exciting, the newly developed treatment doesn’t result in side effects common to most current diabetes treatments.
Cartoonist Matt Bors got a spot on CNN for his great, scathing critique of the narrative of the lazy, narcissistic “Millennials,” which has gone well beyond “get off my lawn” territory and into the realm of out-and-out demographic prejudice.
Dr. Miia Kivipelto from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden knew that several studies have linked some lifestyle behaviors, such as exercise and a healthy diet, as well as being more socially active, to less cognitive decline and stronger scores on memory and organizational tests. But it wasn’t clear whether people who ate better, exercised more and had more friends also shared something else in common that could explain their ability to slow down dementia symptoms.
So Kivipelto conducted one of the first studies to randomly assign 1,260 older individuals at high risk of developing Alzheimer’s to a lifestyle intervention or to normal health care, to see if the behaviors linked to better brain health actually helped to stave off intellectual decline. “We were surprised that were able to see a clear difference already after two years,”