Recent Articles

What you can make out of wet newspaper …

| October 21, 2016 | Reply

This is some rather amazing sculpture. Take a look.


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Waters of March – Video

| October 15, 2016 | Reply

I love this tune and this video.

The male singer is “Tom Jobim,” who is also the composer of that beautiful celebratory tune and many other classic bossa nova tunes, more often known in the U.S. as Antonio Carlos Jobim. I had never before heard him sing until I saw this video. The female singer, Elis Regina, melts me with her charm and voice. This must have been a tough tune and they seemed delighted to get this one in the can so beautifully intact. My girlfriend insists that there is no way to sing this song well without dancing while one is singing it. I agree.

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Matt Taibbi comments on the phenomenon of Trump

| October 15, 2016 | Reply

Matt Taibbi writes at Rolling Stone:

Shackled! Only in America can a man martyr himself on a cross of pussy.

There’s an old Slavic saying about corruption: One thief sits atop another thief, using a third thief for a whip. The campaign trail is similarly a stack of deceptions, with each implicit lie of the horse race driving the next.

Lie No. 1 is that there are only two political ideas in the world, Republican and Democrat. Lie No. 2 is that the parties are violent ideological opposites, and that during campaign season we can only speak about the areas where they differ (abortion, guns, etc.) and never the areas where there’s typically consensus (defense spending, surveillance, torture, trade, and so on). Lie No. 3, a corollary to No. 2, is that all problems are the fault of one party or the other, and never both. Assuming you watch the right channels, everything is always someone else’s fault. Lie No. 4, the reason America in campaign seasons looks like a place where everyone has great teeth and $1,000 haircuts, is that elections are about political personalities, not voters.

[More . . . ]

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The dark underbelly of competition

| October 12, 2016 | Reply

From Truthdig,

Societies worldwide are suffering epidemics of mental illness because “human beings, the ultrasocial mammals, whose brains are wired to respond to other people, are being peeled apart,” writes George Monbiot at The Guardian.

“Though our wellbeing is inextricably linked to the lives of others, everywhere we are told that we will prosper through competitive self-interest and extreme individualism.” The consequence? “[P]lagues of anxiety, stress, depression, social phobia, eating disorders, self-harm and loneliness.”

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Should Edward Snowden be pardoned?

| September 15, 2016 | Reply

Many viewpoints here, in this excellent article at the UK Guardian.

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Questions about moral equivalence by Chris Hedges

| September 12, 2016 | Reply

I do wish I could disagree with Chris Hedges, because the world view he paints brings me way down. Here are some of his questions, from a recent article at Truthdig called “Fooled Again”:

Is the Goldman Sachs commodity trader, who hoards futures of rice, wheat, corn, sugar and livestock to jack up prices on the global market, leaving poor people in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America to starve, any less morally repugnant than the drug trafficker? Are F-16 pilots who incinerate families in Raqqa morally distinct from jihadists who burn a captured Jordanian pilot in a cage? Is torture in one of our black sites or offshore penal colonies any less barbaric than torture at the hands of Islamic State? Are the decapitations of children by military drones any more defensible than decapitations of Egyptian laborers on a beach in Libya by self-described holy warriors? Is Heather Bresch, the CEO of Mylan, who raised the price of the lifesaving EpiPen by 400 percent or more and whose compensation since 2007 has risen by 600 percent to above $18 million a year, any less venal than a human trafficker who sends an overloaded boat and its occupants to their doom on the coast of Libya?

What is the endgame?

History has amply demonstrated where this will end up. The continued exploitation by an unchecked elite, and the rising levels of poverty and insecurity, will unleash a legitimate rage among the desperate. They will see through the lies and propaganda of the elites. They will demand retribution. They will turn to those who express the hatred they feel for the powerful and the institutions, now shams, that were designed to give them a voice. They will seek not reform but destruction of a system that has betrayed them.

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Odds of getting killed by armed toddlers, terrorists and falling out of bed

| September 8, 2016 | 2 Replies

Excellent compilation of various risks of death.


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Conflicting copyright instructions from legal research company

| September 6, 2016 | 1 Reply

Thomson Reuters (formerly West Publishing) sent me a DVD with Missouri Jury Instructions today. The DVD comes with a document called “Forms on Disc Guide.” That document gives me the following advice:

Although you may access the forms directly from the disc, we recommend you create a directory on your hard drive and copy the contents of the disc into that directory. The forms can then be accessed from your hard drive and the disc can be kept with the book for safe keeping.

Sounds like good advice. But wait! The Copyright Notice, another document on the same DVD, contains this warning:

© 2016 Thomson Reuters. No claim to original U.S. Govt. works.
All rights reserved. The data on the disc is licensed by West, part of Thomson Reuters, and no part of the data may be copied, downloaded, stored in a retrieval system, further transmitted or otherwise reproduced, stored, disseminated, transferred, or used in any form or by any means, including, but not limited to, use by multiple users on a wide-area network, local area network, intranet, or extranet, or similar method of distribution, without prior written permission. Any authorized reproduction of any part of the data must contain notice of copyright as follows: © 2016 Thomson Reuters. No claim to original U.S. Govt. works.

Therefore, Thomson is 1) telling me to copy its jury instruction forms onto my hard drive AND 2) telling me that if I have “copied” or “downloaded” this information on my “retrieval system” I would be in violation of copyright laws, unless I have first obtained “prior written permission” from Thomson Reuters.

This second warning is especially silly in that the whole purpose of having jury instruction “Forms” is to copy them as part of the process of using those forms to prepare jury instructions, and then “transmitting” those instructions to a court and other attorneys for use at trial.

All of this not carefully thought out by one of the world premier providers of legal products to lawyers.

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Why we SHOULD talk to strangers

| September 4, 2016 | 2 Replies

Kim Stark has made a career of talking to strangers. She made it her task to try to understand why she does that, in this TED talk. She has decided that it is better to use one’s perceptions than to use categories, such as the category of “stranger.” Using this category means that we are not treating others as fully human. There are other benefits. Some studies show that people are more comfortable opening up to strangers than to people they believe they know. We expect that people we know understand us–we expect them to read our minds. Not so with strangers, with whom we start from scratch. Sometimes they do understand us better. Maybe we need strangers, but how should we interact with them, how do we balance both civility and privacy, which are the guiding rules in the U.S. In other countries there are other rules. In Denmark, many folks are extremely adverse to talking to strangers.

Stark offers and exercise that involves smiling, and then “triangulation,” commenting on a third person or a thing. Or engage in “noticing,” such as complimenting the other person on something (and you can most easily talk to a stranger’s dog or baby). Or engage in “disclosure,” sharing a personal experience, and this tends to cause the “stranger” to reciprocate.

Stark’s main message is that we need to stop being so wary of strangers and to make a place for them in our lives.

At The Atlantic, James Hamblin follows up with his own explorations on talking to strangers.

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