Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful, it’s that they’re unconscious. They are default settings.
They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing.
And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the centre of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving…. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.
That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.
The NYT reports on a growing pile of coke, a byproduct of refining, in Detroit. In this case, the coke is produced as a result of tar sands refining; due to its high sulfur and carbon content, it is largely useless in the developed world. It seems that Koch brothers, who have purchased the coke from tar sands operations in Alberta, plan to sell it abroad.
Coke, which is mainly carbon, is an essential ingredient in steelmaking as well as producing the electrical anodes used to make aluminum.
While there is high demand from both those industries, the small grains and high sulfur content of this petroleum coke make it largely unusable for those purposes, said Kerry Satterthwaite, a petroleum coke analyst at Roskill Information Services, a commodities analysis company based in London.
“It is worse than a byproduct,” Ms. Satterthwaite said.”It’s a waste byproduct that is costly and inconvenient to store, but effectively costs nothing to produce.”
Murray Gray, the scientific director for the Center for Oil Sands Innovation at the University of Alberta, said that about two years ago, Alberta backed away from plans to use the petroleum coke as a fuel source, partly over concerns about greenhouse-gas emissions. Some of it is burned there, however, to power coking plants.
Cover-ups. A corporate culture not only lacking ethics but endorsing and encouraging amoral behavior. Unfettered greed. And excellent reporting by Katherine Eban at Fortune on Ranbaxy’s atrocious behavior. I remember not long ago reading about how much of a boon Ranbaxy could be for PEPFAR and for getting good medicines to those most in need.
Shameful behavior and a slow and unacceptable response from the US FDA. Kudos to the employees and auditors who brought the abuses to light.
The two men strolled into the hall to order tea from white-uniformed waiters. As they returned, Kumar said, “We are in big trouble,” and motioned for Thakur to be quiet. Back in his office, Kumar handed him a letter from the World Health Organization. It summarized the results of an inspection that WHO had done at Vimta Laboratories, an Indian company that Ranbaxy hired to administer clinical tests of its AIDS medicine. The inspection had focused on antiretroviral (ARV) drugs that Ranbaxy was selling to the South African government to save the lives of its AIDS-ravaged population.
As Thakur read, his jaw dropped. The WHO had uncovered what seemed to the two men to be astonishing fraud. The Vimta tests appeared to be fabricated. Test results from separate patients, which normally would have differed from one another, were identical, as if xeroxed.
Thakur listened intently. Kumar had not even gotten to the really bad news. On the plane back to India, his traveling companion, another Ranbaxy executive, confided that the problem was not limited to Vimta or to those ARV drugs.
“What do you mean?” asked Thakur, barely able to grasp what Kumar was saying.
The problem, said Kumar, went deeper. He directed Thakur to put aside his other responsibilities and go through the company’s portfolio — ultimately, every drug, every market, every production line — and uncover the truth about Ranbaxy’s testing practices and where the company’s liabilities lay.
Mornings have a consistency here, and ordered patterns take hold easily. As the sun rises, young and old alike dot the trail around Fewa Lake. Meditators face the green grey tal, their backs warmed by the sun. Water gently swishes against yellow, blue, and red dinghies. Boys and girls practice karate on a soccer field, jabbing at invisible foes in the distant, lush jungle hillsides. Hotels and cafes stir, staff setting tables with a practiced stillness. Others, meanwhile, splash water on sandy patio tiles, sloughing off the dregs of the past day’s monsoon. A man with an old hiking poll limps assuredly down the path. Every morning we pass each other; today, we knowingly make eye contact, confident in a shared, unspoken secret - that these moments, between the bustle of the daily and the quiet of the night, are precious.
On occasion, in the far distance, the craggy Himalaya emerge through thick clouds. Their summits melt into the heavens, with snow packed peaks camouflaged by puffy atmospheres. Their unmovable enormity seems impossible, their suddenness shocking. Nearly as quickly, they go back into hiding. Their indescribability evokes Ansel Adams: “When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” More precious moments, as the mind is briefly hushed by the scale of the scene.
Between 3 and 4 pm many days, the temperatures cool quickly, the skies darken, and winds pick up. Faint thunder gets closer and closer and closer until the deluge begins. Sometimes the rains last an hour, other times they last longer. The water cleans the air, thick humidity displacing the civilized smells of burnt plastic and exhaust and industry.
When we leave the office, the rains have usually paused. Our taxis perform regular miracles, weaving through wide lanes populated by all manner of beasts - bicycles, water buffalo, chickens, scooters and motorcycles, men and women and children, and sometimes boys on camels or ponies.
We eat as the sun sets. It rises again, and the cycle begins anew, an anything but boring repetition.
Haruki Murakami, author and avid runner, in the New Yorker:
Why? I can’t help asking. Why did a happy, peaceful occasion like the marathon have to be trampled on in such an awful, bloody way? Although the perpetrators have been identified, the answer to that question is still unclear. But their hatred and depravity have mangled our hearts and our minds. Even if we were to get an answer, it likely wouldn’t help.
To overcome this kind of trauma takes time, time during which we need to look ahead positively. Hiding the wounds, or searching for a dramatic cure, won’t lead to any real solution. Seeking revenge won’t bring relief, either. We need to remember the wounds, never turn our gaze away from the pain, and—honestly, conscientiously, quietly—accumulate our own histories. It may take time, but time is our ally.
For me, it’s through running, running every single day, that I grieve for those whose lives were lost and for those who were injured on Boylston Street. This is the only personal message I can send them. I know it’s not much, but I hope that my voice gets through. I hope, too, that the Boston Marathon will recover from its wounds, and that those twenty-six miles will again seem beautiful, natural, free.
Soderbergh on Cinema and parallels with doing science →
Steven Soderbergh recently gave a “State of the Cinema” talk at the San Francisco International Film Festival (embedded above, transcript here). If you’re interested in film, cinema, and the arts, it’s worth a read. Soderbergh is an excellent, intelligent storyteller.
The passages below stood out — mainly because I think his description of art, and of cinema, parallel creative scientific thinking nicely. We face some of the same problems of “entrenched ideology” — the scientific enterprise can be slow to respond to alternative viewpoints. Second, there’s a similar and interesting distinction between science and “Science” that resembles the distinction he draws between cinema and movies.
Art is also about problem solving, and it’s obvious from the news, we have a little bit of a problem with problem solving. In my experience, the main obstacle to problem solving is an entrenched ideology. The great thing about making a movie or a piece of art is that that never comes into play. All the ideas are on the table. All the ideas and everything is open for discussion, and it turns out everybody succeeds by submitting to what the thing needs to be. Art, in my view, is a very elegant problem-solving model.
Now we finally arrive at the subject of this rant, which is the state of cinema. First of all, is there a difference between cinema and movies? Yeah. If I were on Team America, I’d say “Fuck yeah!” The simplest way that I can describe it is that a movie is something you see, and cinema is something that’s made. It has nothing to do with the captured medium, it doesn’t have anything to do with where the screen is, if it’s in your bedroom, your iPad, it doesn’t even really have to be a movie. It could be a commercial, it could be something on YouTube. Cinema is a specificity of vision. It’s an approach in which everything matters. It’s the polar opposite of generic or arbitrary and the result is as unique as a signature or a fingerprint. It isn’t made by a committee, and it isn’t made by a company, and it isn’t made by the audience. It means that if this filmmaker didn’t do it, it either wouldn’t exist at all, or it wouldn’t exist in anything like this form.
via daring fireball
Dustin Curtis recounts at his blog early meetings with the founders of Pinterest and Vine and their prototypes of now-thriving visions:
… my first reaction to their earliest attempts wasn’t to give them the benefit of the doubt-it was to immediately find problems and then dismiss their ideas.
The future is extremely hard to see through the lens of the present. It’s very easy to unconsciously dismiss the first versions of something as frivolous or useless. Or as stupid ideas.
…graciousness reflects a state of being; it emanates from your inventory of self. Start with what you already possess. You, for instance, have a job. Live up to that.
When wandering the world, forget your business cards. Don’t look for more contacts. Instead, observe. Say hello to the people you see every day, but don’t make a fetish out of it. Stay interested in others. Be generous in your attentions but not showy. Don’t wink, snap your fingers, high-five, or shout, though laugh with those who do. It bears repeating: Look around. Remember names. Remember where people were born.
On the street, in the lobby, square your shoulders to people you meet. Make a handshake matter — eye contact, good grip, elbow erring toward a right angle. Do not pump the hand, unless the other person is insistent on just that. Then pump the hell out of their hand. Smile. If you can’t smile, you can’t be gracious. You aren’t some dopey English butler. You are you.
Remember that the only representation of you, no matter what your station, is you — your presentation, your demeanor. You simply must attend. Stand when someone enters the room, especially if you are lowly and he is the boss, and even if the reverse is true. Look them in the eye. Ask yourself: Does anybody need an introduction? If so, before you say one word about business, introduce them to others with pleasure in your voice. If you can’t muster enthusiasm for the people you happen upon in life, then you cannot be gracious. Remember, true graciousness demands that you have time for others.
So listen. Be attentive to what people say. Respond, without interruption. You always have time. You own the time in which you live. You grant it to others without obligation. That is the gift of being gracious. The return — the payback, if you will — is the reputation you will quickly earn, the curiosity of others, the sense that people want to be in the room with you. The gracious man does not dwell on himself, but you can be confident that your reputation precedes you in everything you do and lingers long after you are finished. People will mark you for it. You will see it in their eyes. People trust the gracious man to care. The return comes in kind.
there is so much amiss in this photograph.
I don’t know if this is a curated collection or just a fan finding every behind the scenes image he can from ESB… but it doesn’t matter. The pictures are amazing. Enjoy.
via Daring Fireball
Wired Magazine is 20 years old. They write:
In his very first editor’s letter, Louis Rossetto wrote, “There are a lot of magazines about technology. WIRED is not one of them. WIRED is about the most powerful people on the planet today: the Digital Generation.” On this, our 20th anniversary, the time has come to reflect on this generation of leaders, thinkers, and makers. These people, their companies, and their ideas have shaped the future we live in today. Below, we’ve gathered stories for, by, and about the people who have shaped the planet’s past 20 years—and will continue driving the next.
I remember when it came out, distinctly marking me as old. I also vividly remember being excited when that iconic, thick, heavy slab arrived in the mail - for years in Louisiana and then throughout college. They’ve got a number of good features looking back, including a nice historical piece; a piece by Jason Kottke about kottke.org; and a fun, old picture of Steve Jobs, captioned simply “Remembering a Legend” (attached below).
They also interviewed Bill Gates, a different kind of legend, who had some great quips throughout his interview.
20 years ago we had the idea that information could become available at your fingertips. We got that done. Now everyone takes it for granted that you can look up movie reviews, track locations, and order stuff online. I wish there was a way we could take it away from people for a day so they could remember what it was like without it.
We need a malaria epidemic in the blogging community! Either that or we need people who have seen the malaria epidemic to start blogging. Seriously, we have two communities that don’t intersect with each other. One is about a billion and a half people—families, children—who live in malaria-prone areas. The others are living pretty nice lives, and it’s great. If the malaria epidemic was nearby, this stuff would be very prominent.
People doing innovative work in technology are making a huge contribution—they don’t have to feel bad about it. But if they make enough money, they should give some of it away to causes that they personally develop a connection to. If they can have an awareness about global poverty and disease, that’d be great. Twenty years ago, I didn’t have much awareness about those things. But in 1993, Melinda and I took a trip to Africa and made the decision to focus mostly on global health.
The bombings during the Boston Marathon were horrendous and terrifying. There’s no excuse for these types of behaviors and the folks behind the bombings should be (and have been) chased with the full weight of our considerable outrage. But, that said, in the end, the sole living suspect is a naturalized American citizen… and should be treated as such. The ACLU’s executive director Anthony Romero puts it best (emphasis mine):
“The ACLU shares the public’s relief that the suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings has been apprehended,” said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU executive director. “Every criminal defendant is entitled to be read Miranda rights. The public safety exception should be read narrowly. It applies only when there is a continued threat to public safety and is not an open-ended exception to the Miranda rule. Additionally, every criminal defendant has a right to be brought before a judge and to have access to counsel. We must not waver from our tried-and-true justice system, even in the most difficult of times. Denial of rights is un-American and will only make it harder to obtain fair convictions.
Slate has a nice description of the public exception and attempts to expand exceptions under Holder.
Scientists have long known that part of the reason alcohol induces pleasure is that intoxication leads to the release of dopamine, which is associated with the use of other drugs (as well as sleep and sex) and acts as a reward for the brain. But new research suggests that, for some people, intoxication isn’t necessary: Simply the taste of beer alone can provoke a release of the neurotransmitter within minutes.
A group of researchers led by David Kareken of Indiana University came to the finding, published today in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, by giving tiny amounts of beer to 49 adult men and tracking changes in their brain chemistry with a positron emission tomography (PET) scanner, which measures levels of various molecules in the brain. They chose participants with varying levels of typical alcohol consumption—from heavy drinkers to near-teetotalers—and even tested them with the beer they reported that they drank most frequently. Because they used an automated system to spray just 15 milliliters (about half an ounce) of beer on each participant’s tongue over the course of 15 minutes, they could be sure that any changes in brain chemistry wouldn’t be due to intoxication.
Paul Gipe: "For the Amount Spent on the Iraq War the US Could be Generating 40% to 60% of its Electricity with Renewable Energy" →
If we had invested the $3.9 trillion that the war in Iraq will ultimately cost, we would generate nearly 40% of our electricity with new renewables. Combined with the 10% of supply from existing hydroelectricity, the US could have surpassed 50% of total renewables in supply.
However, this is a conservative estimate. If we include the reasonable assumptions suggested by Robert Freehling, the contribution by renewables would be even greater.
Freehling’s assumptions raise to as much as 60% the nation’s lost potential contribution by new renewables to US electricity supply by going to war in Iraq. With the addition of existing hydroelectric generation, the opportunity to develop as much as 70% of our nation’s electricity with renewable energy was lost.
And unlike the war in Iraq, which is an expense, the development of renewable energy instead of war would have been an investment in infrastructure at home that would have paid dividends to American citizens for decades to come.
The band’s sixth album, Trouble Will Find Me is out May 20/21.
I stumbled upon a Jason Molina and Songs: Ohia fansite while a junior in college. I liked his music then, and still do, a great deal. Molina had been quiescent for a few years, dealing with his health and alcoholism. A note had surfaced suggesting he was okay, on the mend. Unfortunately, he passed away on March 18.
I got to meet Molina once, back in 2005. I’d heard stories that he could be prickly and unapproachable, to the point where I hesitated to say hello, but decided to suck it up as an act of selfishness; I just couldn’t resist the chance to tell him how much I’d come to love his music. The man was sweet and warm to the point where, when we parted, he reached into his bag and handed me a sheet of paper. He’d been scribbling some strange drawings — a little reminiscent of Dinosaur Jr’s album covers, but primitive and drawn in black pen — on the back of loose paperwork while bored on tour, and figured I might like one as a keepsake. He was right.
That sheepish generosity, coming from someone whose relationship with the world could be so difficult, stuck with me, and always will.
I was a little harsh of some of the selections along the way, but the exercise is fun. The winner is the Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA, which Paste describes as “simply the best IPA in America.” Not sure I agree, but it is a damn fine beer.
Sixty-four IPAs began Paste’s Top of the Hops IPA Challenge, but there can only be one winner. After blind-tasting 60 pairs of American India Pale Ales through four rounds, four beers still had a shot at the Championship.
All 64 beers met our initial criteria—an IPA from an American brewery that was available year-round and maxed out at 7.5% ABV (meaning no Imperial or Double IPAs). Each round had seven judges, including Paste’s beer-loving staff, musicians we invited in to participate and Atlanta-area beer experts like CNN beer writer Nate Berrong, Kraig Torres of Hop City and Eddie Holley of Ale Yeah!, two of Atlanta’s best craft beer stores.
It’s been a fun project, especially in these final rounds where all four beers were simply exquisite.
This shouldn’t work, but Baldwin nails it. Listen below or read the transcript here.
As Kirk pointed out in an email this morning, the NYT missed half of the problem. He wrote:
Remarkable narrow vision to fail even to mention that household air pollution has about an equal impact in the country. Even though the GBD study shows both on the same graphs, journalists and policy makers see one, but not the other. These is also an estimated 0.2 million overlap, what we call secondhand cookfire smoke, which is the portion of outdoor air due to cooking fuels in the country. If you account that to household air pollution, than the total impact of household air pollution is greater than that from outdoor air pollution due to all other sources combined (1.2 million premature deaths compared to 1.0 million).
Our work has been showing — in India and in China — that outdoor air pollution isn’t just an urban problem; it is simply measured most commonly (and thus identified most easily) in urban areas. We’re working to quantify that contribution and to make the case that cleaning up households can help clean up ambient air — in urban and rural areas.
Pretty amazing time-lapse photography from Babak Tafreshi, a science journalist, photographer, and astronomy communicator. Captured on March 20 in northern Norway.
Happy Easter. A tale from David Sedaris (listen to him read it here), who casts all holidays in ridiculous and appropriate light.
Jesus Shaves by David Sedaris
“And what does one do on the fourteenth of July? Does one celebrate Bastille Day?”
It was my second month of French class, and the teacher was leading us in an exercise designed to promote the use of one, our latest personal pronoun.
“Might one sing on Bastille Day?” she asked. “Might one dance in the street? Somebody give me an answer.”
Printed in our textbooks was a list of major holidays alongside a scattered arrangement of photos depicting French people in the act of celebration. The object was to match the holiday with the corresponding picture. It was simple enough but seemed an exercise better suited to the use of the word they. I didn’t know about the rest of the class, but when Bastille Day eventually rolled around, I planned to stay home and clean my oven.
Normally, when working from the book, it was my habit to tune out my fellow students and scout ahead, concentrating on the question I’d calculated might fall to me, but this afternoon, we were veering from the usual format. Questions were answered on a volunteer basis, and I was able to sit back, confident that the same few students would do the talking. Today’s discussion was dominated by an Italian nanny, two chatty Poles, and a pouty, plump Moroccan woman who had grown up speaking French and had enrolled in the class to improve her spelling. She’d covered these lessons back in the third grade and took every opportunity to demonstrate her superiority. A question would be asked and she’d give the answer, behaving as though this were a game show and, if quick enough, she might go home with a tropical vacation or a side-by-side refrigerator-freezer. By the end of her first day, she’d raised her hand so many times, her shoulder had given out. Now she just leaned back in her seat and shouted the answers, her bronzed arms folded across her chest like some great grammar genie.
We finished discussing Bastille Day, and the teacher moved on to Easter, which was represented in our textbook by a black-and-white photograph of a chocolate bell lying upon a bed of palm fronds.
“And what does one do on Easter? Would anyone like to tell us?”
The Italian nanny was attempting to answer the question when the Moroccan student interrupted, shouting, “Excuse me, but what’s an Easter?”
Despite her having grown up in a Muslim country, it seemed she might have heard it mentioned once or twice, but no. “I mean it,” she said. “I have no idea what you people are talking about.”
The teacher then called upon the rest of us to explain.
The Poles led the charge to the best of their ability. “It is,” said one, “a party for the little boy of God who call his self Jesus and … oh, shit.”
She faltered, and her fellow countryman came to her aid.
“He call his self Jesus, and then he be die one day on two … morsels of … lumber.”
The rest of the class jumped in, offering bits of information that would have given the pope an aneurysm.
“He die one day, and then he go above of my head to live with your father.”
“He weared the long hair, and after he died, the first day he come back here for to say hello to the peoples.”
“He nice, the Jesus.”
“He make the good things, and on the Easter we be sad because somebody makes him dead today.”
Part of the problem had to do with grammar. Simple nouns such as cross and resurrection were beyond our grasp, let alone such complicated reflexive phrases as “To give of yourself your only begotten son.” Faced with the challenge of explaining the cornerstone of Christianity, we did what any self-respecting group of people might do. We talked about food instead.
“Easter is a party for to eat of the lamb,” the Italian nanny explained. “One, too, may eat of the chocolate.”
“And who brings the chocolate?” the teacher asked.
I knew the word, and so I raised my hand, saying, “The Rabbit of Easter. He bring of the chocolate.”
My classmates reacted as though I’d attributed the delivery to the Antichrist. They were mortified.
“A rabbit?” The teacher, assuming I’d used the wrong word, positioned her index fingers on top of her head, wiggling them as though they were ears. “You mean one of these? A rabbit rabbit?”
“Well, sure,” I said. “He come in the night when one sleep on a bed. With a hand he have the basket and foods.”
The teacher sadly shook her head, as if this explained everything that was wrong with my country. “No, no,” she said. “Here in France the chocolate is brought by the big bell that flies in from Rome.”
I called for a time-out. “But how do the bell know where you live?”
“Well,” she said, “how does a rabbit?”
It was a decent point, but at least a rabbit has eyes. That’s a start. Rabbits move from place to place, while most bells can only go back and forth—and they can’t even do that on their own power. On top of that, the Easter Bunny has character; he’s someone you’d like to meet and shake hands with. A bell has all the personality of a cast-iron skillet. It’s like saying that come Christmas, a magic dustpan flies in from the North Pole, led by eight flying cinder blocks. Who wants to stay up all night so they can see a bell? And why fly one in from Rome when they’ve got more bells than they know what to do with right here in Paris? That’s the most implausible aspect of the whole story, as there’s no way the bells of France would allow a foreign worker to fly in and take their jobs. That Roman bell would be lucky to get work cleaning up after a French bell’s dog -and even then he’d need papers. It just didn’t add up.
Nothing we said was of any help to the Moroccan student. A dead man with long hair supposedly living with her father, a leg of lamb served with palm fronds and chocolate. Confused and disgusted, she shrugged her massive shoulders and turned her attention back to the comic book she kept hidden beneath her binder. I wondered then if, without the language barrier, my classmates and I could have done a better job making sense of Christianity, an idea that sounds pretty far-fetched to begin with.
In communicating any religious belief, the operative word is faith, a concept illustrated by our very presence in that classroom. Why bother struggling with the grammar lessons of a six- year-old if each of us didn’t believe that, against all reason, we might eventually improve? If I could hope to one day carry on a fluent conversation, it was a relatively short leap to believing that a rabbit might visit my home in the middle of the night, leaving behind a handful of chocolate kisses and a carton of menthol cigarettes. So why stop there? If I could believe in myself, why not give other improbabilities the benefit of the doubt? I accepted the idea that an omniscient God had cast me in his own image and that he watched over me and guided me from one place to the next. The virgin birth, the resurrection, and the countless miracles -my heart expanded to encompass all the wonders and possibilities of the universe.
A bell, though, that’s fucked up.