Archive for August 30th, 2009
According to the latest edition of Scientific American Mind, new research suggests that depression is not necessarily a a disease or aberration. In many cases, having a depression might increase your chances of survival.
[D]epression should not be thought of as a disorder at all. In an article recently published in Psychological Review, we argue that depression is in fact an adaptation, a state of mind which brings real costs, but also brings real benefits.
The researchers go out of their way to acknowledge that depression is a terrible problem for many people who should seek out help. Nonetheless, they also suggest that the mode of thinking characteristic of many bouts of depression is focused, highly analytical and systematic:
Analysis requires a lot of uninterrupted thought, and depression coordinates many changes in the body to help people analyze their problems without getting distracted . . . [D]epression is nature’s way of telling you that you’ve got complex social problems that the mind is intent on solving. Therapies should try to encourage depressive rumination rather than try to stop it, and they should focus on trying to help people solve the problems that trigger their bouts of depression . . . [D]epression . . . seems . . . like the vertebrate eye—an intricate, highly organized piece of machinery that performs a specific function.
According to the NYT, studies have shown that texting while driving is dangerous because those who text take their eyes off the road for extended periods while reading or sending a text.
Hmmm. Why did it take a study to come to this conclusion? Why not simply follow this logic:
A) You need to take your eyes off the road to read or send texts.
B) This is dangerous.
We certainly don’t need studies to say equally obvious things, such that it is dangerous to drive while
A)watching Youtubes on your smartphone,
B) eating corn on the cob;
C) reading novels on your Kindle; or
D) playing the trumpet.
An easy test for me is to ask whether you would mind riding on a public bus on which the bus driver was both texting and driving. I’m fully in agreement that no one should be texting while driving–I’m glad that the issue is getting some attention.
Darksyde at Daily Kos presents 10 clues for spotting fake libertarians (Republicans). Here’s one of the clues–you are a fake libertarian:
[I]f you think government should stay the hell out of people’s private business — except when kidnapping citizens and rendering them to secret overseas torture prisons, snooping around the bedrooms of consenting adults, policing a woman’s uterus, or conducting warrantless wire taps, you are no Libertarian.
Andrew Sullivan puts a bright spotlight on Chris Wallace, who pretended to interview Dick Cheney. I agree with Sullivan that this is not journalism at all. It should get Wallace fired immediately. Except, perhaps, if those who employ Wallace like it when Wallace merely pretends to interview controversial public figures.
Visit Sullivan’s post at the Daily Dish and be amazed and appalled.
We just watched the last episode of John Adams. I got the DVD from the library and we went through it in one week, all seven installments. I have to admit, the last episode brought tears. The partnership between John and Abigail was well-portrayed and deeply moving. The older I get, the more I find the strongest story resonance with depictions of deep, deep friendships, especially those that exist between lovers, spouses, life partners. I cannot imagine losing Donna, who has become exactly that for me, in spite of the fact that I have friends of longer acquaintance, good friends, too.
The casting was incredible, the make-up superb, the writing first class.
What struck me most about this as well was the marvelously-nuanced dramatization of the fundamental differences in political philosophy between Adams and Jefferson. I can’t help but think that when Adams declared that “the true history of our revolution is lost” he must have been thinking of the initial partnership and later dissolution of like-mindedness between himself and Thomas Jefferson, whom Joseph Ellis depicts an an American Sphinx.
Adams is here portrayed as an idealist who cannot separate his philosophy from his pragmatism. In the first dozen years of the new republic, there was enormous public sentiment for France and when that country descended into the frenzy of its own revolution gone mad, that sentiment demanded that we support the revolutionaries. The irony that France supported us when it was still a monarchy and now those very people that had backed us (granted, as a move in their own war with England) were the victims of the mob ascendant was lost on most people, and apparently even Jefferson, who wanted us to embroil ourselves immediately and deeply in support of the revolutionaries. Washington—how lucky they were to have him—refused. He was a militaryman by training and he understood how to assess the chances of success and how to go about surviving a conflict in which you are outmatched. He had seen more than his share of defeat in a long career and knew well that ideology needed a strong hand to keep it in check, lest it carry you over the precipice. He refused to side with France, believing that neutrality was the only way for the United States to survive. Adams shared that belief.