There are things we know that we know, there are things that we know we don’t know, and there are four previously unknown ozone-eating gases that we now know are eating the ozone. (It goes something like that, right?)
No, we are not back in 1985, when scientists first discovered that the ozone layer had sprung a serious leak. Back then, 40 countries banded together to take unprecedented global action to restrict the nefarious chlorofluorocarbon gases (CFCs) responsible for the problem. The Montreal Protocol came into effect a mere four years after the threat was identified, culminating in a total ban on CFCs in 2010, tying up the loose ends once and seemingly for all (and, by happy accident, slowing the scourge of global warming by a 10th of a degree or so).
Researchers from the University of East Anglia looked deep into Greenland’s old snowpack, which contains an air-bubble record of atmospheric emissions over the past century, and determined that the new gases had only been around since the 1960s. This data, plus air samples collected in Tasmania, led the researchers to estimate that some 74,000 tons of the new gases had been released into the atmosphere by 2012.
Though the peak ozone-obliterating ‘80s — all that hairspray! — saw emissions of more than a million tons of CFCs a year, this tiny toot is disturbing because it might point to a leak in the treaty. As things stand, the ozone layer is still several decades from total recovery, so a new source of CFCs, however small, is troubling. As Johannes Laube, the study’s lead author, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.:
“Two of the CFCs do what you would expect for CFCs — they increase in the 1980s, they slow down their increase in the 1990s, and then slowly start to decline. But the other two gases, they don’t do that,” he says.
“The other two gases are actually becoming more abundant and this indicates that they are still being emitted into the atmosphere.”
So where are these gases coming from? (Wasn’t me!) The scientists suggest that agricultural insecticides or solvents for cleaning electronics might be to blame. We have one solid clue to go on so far: Differences between air samples taken by passenger jets suggest that the secret source of these gases lies in the Northern Hemisphere … but considering that most of the world’s polluters live on this side of the equator, that doesn’t really narrow the lineup of usual suspects. (Well, I guess you’re off the hook this time, Australia.)
The media was impressed by a piece of good news on Monday: Last year, the number of trips Americans took on mass transit reached its highest point since 1956, according to a report from the American Public Transportation Association. Unfortunately, stories on the subject are leaving out an important statistic: How many Americans were there in 1956?
The answer, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, is 168.9 million. In 2013, the population was 314.1 million. Keep that in mind when you read articles about transit ridership’s rebound.
The New York Times, for example, devoted 651 words to its story on the new report. It listed the well-established reasons that transit use is rising: Gas prices are going up and younger people are less addicted to driving. And it notes the relevant fact that mass transit ridership is rising faster than population growth. So it is rising in relative terms.
But the Times neglects to point out the larger relative term: Compared to 60 years ago (when mass transit systems were actually less comfortable; the New York City subway wasn’t even air-conditioned), transit ridership is way down. The important number, after all, isn’t total transit trips taken, it’s total transit trips divided by population. Since our population has nearly doubled since 1956, that means our transit use has been cut in half.
Americans made a series of disastrous decisions in the 1950s through roughly 2005, moving us heavily toward suburban sprawl and driving. And we kept on making them even in the face of gathering evidence that they were contributing to the environmental catastrophe of climate change. A shift back toward a better system is worth celebrating, but keep the champagne corked until we’ve actually increased the percentage of Americans taking mass transit, not just improved slightly from a terrible low point.
First things first: DuPont’s chloride-route titanium dioxide, or TiO2 — the chemical that makes paper and paint so white — is NOT used in food. DEFINITELY not. Don’t even think that it might be what makes the filling in Oreos so white, because DuPont says that is NOT true. Nope nope nope! (Mondelez International, the company that makes Oreos, is just like “ummmmm we’re not saying either way.”)
Now that we’ve established that TiO2 ISN’T the key to Oreo filling — it must be something naturally white, like fluffy clouds! — here’s the dish. Two guys were just convicted for trying to sell the recipe for TiO2 to a Chinese company for a cool $20 million. (TiO2 earns DuPont $17 billion annually, according to the Consumerist.)
After the state-owned Chinese company, Pangang Group, repeatedly tried and failed to buy the formula legally, things turned illicit. A former DuPont employee stole the secret to Oreo filling white paper, and China was getting ready to mass-produce the chemical, even planning a 100,000-ton TiO2 factory in the Chongqing industrial district.
Now the two crooks are potentially looking at two decades of jail time. That’s what happens when you come between Americans and our cookies!
There comes a time in every home cook’s life when you bid farewell to a favorite cutting board and replace it with something better. My cutting board, for the past five years (or longer), has been a neon green rubber affair, one that I purchased at Williams Sonoma after getting knife lessons at the Union Square Cafe for my first book. The advantages were pretty clear: you could scrub the hell out of it and it wouldn’t warp. You could even throw it in the dishwasher. It was big, sturdy, and, most importantly, didn’t damage your knife. I loved how versatile it was (oh no, I’m talking about it in the past tense). You could put raw chicken on it and you didn’t have to worry about salmonella seeping into the pores. You could put several vegetables on it at once and still have room to maneuver. It really was a thing of beauty.
Check it, dude, climate change is gettin kinda aggro. It’s wiping out those bomb sets that come up on Bondi Beach. These brahs say there’s gonna be fewer days with sick waves on Australia’s central east side, cuz global warming’s been dropping in on the storms that make them. They’re sayin’ greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are keeping the squalls that provide the righteous rides out there, called east coast lows, from happening. Like, waves taller than 13 feet are gonna drop by as much as 40 percent by the end of the century, and by about 20 percent by 2044 — bummer!
“If you like to surf the large waves, in the future you might have to pick your days to go out a bit better,” report co-author Andrew Dowdy of the Bureau of Meteorology told Guardian Australia.
“Our results show that some change may have already started.”
Totally lame. Even in the best case, if greenhouse gas emissions were slowed down, there’s fo’ sho gonna be 25 percent fewer of the gnarly swells that are bigger than 19.5 feet. Might be time to bag Bondi and head north, where the juicy waves aren’t driven by storms. Man, that’s wack!
California is experiencing one of its driest years in the past half millennium. It also happens to also be the country’s leading dairy supplier. With profits surpassing $7 billion in 2012, the California dairy industry is far and away the most valuable sector of the state’s enormous agricultural bounty. Unfortunately, as the chart below shows, dairy products use a whole lot of water.
Why is our dairy so thirsty? According to a 2012 study in the journal Ecosystems by Mesfin Mekonnen and Arjen Hoekstra, 98 percent of milk’s water footprint comes from cows’ food.
Now, cattle eat all sorts of things, but a dairy cow’s diet in the United States consists primarily of alfalfa hay, grass hay, corn, and other grains like soy or canola. Alfalfa hay is a superfood of sorts for dairy cows — it’s high in protein, high in energy, and it’s digestible. “When you feed alfalfa, you produce more milk,” says Dan Putnam, a plant scientist at the University of California-Davis. “That’s the bottom line.” In a University of California alfalfa blog (yes, that exists), Putnam and his colleague wrote, “The next time you have pizza (with cheese), milk on your cereal, or ice cream, thank alfalfa.”
Putnam used a University of Wisconsin study to estimate the amount of milk an acre of alfalfa hay can to produce in a year. If you consider Putnam’s calculations and the California Department of Water Resources’ statistics on the yield of an acre of alfalfa, the water footprint of a gallon of milk looks something like this:
Given the size of the state’s dairy industry, it may come as no surprise that, as of 2010, alfalfa led the state’s crops in total water consumption and was a close second in total irrigated crop area. Here are some of the other top water users:
The vast majority of alfalfa grown in California is fed to California’s cows, but as the New York Times recently reported, some of the state’s alfalfa hay — Putnam estimates about 10 percent — is shipped abroad, where farmers can reap higher profits.
Unfortunately, the water footprint of meat products is even bigger than that of dairy. According to another study by Mekonnen and Hoekstra, it takes a total of 425 gallons of water to produce a four-ounce serving of beef in the United States. The same size serving of pork takes 165 gallons of water; for chicken, 66 gallons.
The same New York Times piece suggests that replacing half of the animal products in your diet with plant-based substitutes reduces your food-related water footprint by 30 percent. Going vegetarian reduces it by 60 percent.
My Momma got cancer in her breast, Don’t ask me why I’m motherfucking stressed, things done changed
– The Notorious B.I.G., in “Things Done Changed” from the album Ready to Die
Yesterday marked the 17th anniversary of the death of “Brooklyn’s finest” hip hop artist, The Notorious B.I.G., a.k.a. Biggie Smalls, who was gunned down in Los Angeles when he was just 24 years old.
Biggie’s murder seemed part of some self-fulfilling prophecy that God perhaps took too seriously. His inaugural 1994 album, Ready to Die, is a series of tone poems illustrating the kind of drug war gunplay that would eventually claim him as a homicide statistic. The Brooklyn rapper imagines multiple scenarios under which his death might occur: In a shootout with cops while pursuing pathways out of poverty that President Obama would not approve of (“Gimme The Loot”); killed by jealous acquaintances who want to rob him for his riches (“Warning”); or, by his own finger on the trigger (“Suicidal Thoughts”).
Most of my friends (and Biggie fans in general, I’m sure) took the album as pure artistic liberty, no different than Martin Scorsese’s cinematic canon on mafia life. We no sooner thought that Biggie would actually die in a shootout than we did Robert De Niro would get shot like his character Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver. When Big, whose birth name was Christopher Wallace, was actually killed by gunfire, it stunk too much of life imitating art.
But of all the ways Big imagined himself dying on that album, none of them reflected the real climate of death that existed in Brooklyn at the time, or even today. Deaths for African Americans in Brooklyn usually look less like Wallace’s murder and more like his mother’s life. When he rapped about his Momma having breast cancer, that was true. Voletta Wallace survived two bouts with the deadly disease, in both cases proving that she was not yet ready to die.
Her health conditions as a black woman in Brooklyn, or even in New York City, were not unique. Cancer was the second highest cause of death in her borough at the time Ready to Die was released, according to a 2002 report from the New York City Department of Health. (I’ll get to the top killer in a second.) From 1992 to 1996, there were 104 cancer deaths in Brooklyn for every 100,000 people. Of the seven leading death causes, homicide was in last place, with 11 cases per 100,000.
All of this is to show that while Biggie and many other young black people were worried about gun-strapped stick-up kids and hustlers, many of their mothers were worried about killers with no guns or faces. As for Biggie, perhaps we should have been asking why he was motherfucking stressed. Had he not been killed by gunshots, his life could have been claimed by stress, which was a primary cause of Brooklyn’s No. 1 killer at the time: heart disease.
Cancer and heart disease are still the top causes for premature deaths in Brooklyn today. Environmental factors have long been suspected as possible causes for both. The National Cancer Institute conducted a study in the 1990s in Long Island (just north of Brooklyn) to examine the role of environmental factors in the high breast cancer rates in that area. The researchers found a “modest increase” in cancer risk due to exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), cancer-causing agents formed mostly from burning fossil fuels. A 2008 study found a link between PAH exposure and heart disease, and concluded that “chronic environmental stress is an important determinant” in cardiovascular disease risk.
The Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn where Biggie grew up is situated among two large former industrial areas — the Brooklyn Navy Yard to the west and the neighborhood of Williamsburg to the north. Starting in the mid-1800s, Williamsburg was a central location for numerous hazardous chemical plants, radioactive waste dumps, and garbage transfer stations.
During the same period Biggie was writing Ready to Die, black folks across the river were organizing with Vernice Miller-Travis and the group WEACT for Environmental Justice to clean up garbage transfer stations in Harlem. At the time, Harlem had some of the highest child asthma rates in the country, and Brooklyn wasn’t far behind. A section of Bedford-Stuyvesant that today is called Harmony Park has held asthma rates that are twice New York City’s average rates, according to New York state’s Department of Environmental Conservation.
The hospitalization rate for asthmatic children in 1990s Bed Stuy was also substantially higher than that for the city, with 1,264 out of 100,000 kids headed to the emergency room, compared to 720 per 100k for the city. Asthma, which scientists tie to air pollution with damn-near certainty, did not spare the young Christopher Wallace nor the adult Biggie Smalls. In fact, in his song “Runnin’ (Dyin’ to Live),” which featured his fellow (also slain) rapper Tupac Shakur, he joked that he couldn’t run from the cops because he’d have an asthma attack.
Biggie rapped that he was stressed about his mother’s breast cancer in “Things Done Changed,” but the reality today is that things haven’t changed that much. Black women are still most likely to die from breast cancer than all races of women, though they are less likely than white women to be diagnosed with it. That mortality gap has widened since the 1990s.
And despite being a prolific rapper with amazing vocal abilities, all accounts show that Biggie had virtually been dying to catch his breath throughout his years as an asthmatic. The rapper was generous enough with us to share his mother’s brushes with death. But we should also unpack that his own life could have ended in ways he never imagined on record. To that point, while Big’s autopsy report showed that it was definitely his assailant’s bullets that killed him, one article found in his possession at the time of his shooting was telling: a Primatene Mist asthma inhaler.
For Lenka McGee (June 4, 1975 – February 26, 2014)
Good news about the world’s most famous clock! Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster are gonna get a little greener in the coming months. Specifically, Parliament is thinking about adding solar panels to the iconic clock’s face. (You can’t turn back the hands of time, but you CAN make them greener.)
The idea came from one of Parliament’s passholders. The palace and clock need to boost energy efficiency by a third by 2020. (According to Parliament, that could “save 22 power stations’ worth of electricity.”) So Parliament asked its stakeholders for energy-saving suggestions, and voila!
[T]he House is carrying out a number of other green measures this year, including installing voltage optimization technology to reduce energy wastage, exploring energy efficiency improvements for all buildings, and replacing lights with low energy LEDs.
Some of the flat roofs on the Houses of Parliament will also get slapped with solar panels next year, so Big Ben’s face would be in good company. We hope the clock gets with the times!
In "Doubletalk of the month", Mark Liberman presents a virtuoso display of a woman skillfully mimicking the sounds and intonations of numerous languages. You can do this kind of imitation with written forms as well.
For example, here is a takeoff on Chinese seasonal couplets:
Such couplets used to be ubiquitous on the gates / doors of Chinese homes and in more traditional areas still are.
I remember a poignant scene from "Yellow Earth", a 1984 film by Chen Kaige, where poverty stricken peasants on the loess plateau of Shaanxi Province pasted couplets on their doors. Unfortunately, because they were illiterate and couldn't afford to hire even a low-level scribe, their couplets looked like this:
O O O
That is to say, they drew empty circles to stand for the characters that they didn't know.
Returning to the English couplet "à la chinoise" at the beginning of this post, this is an instance where mimicry reveals dimly some essential features of the genre being imitated (antithesis, heptasyllabicity / seven words, grammatical parallelism, etc.).
The Darren Aronofsky-produced “Noah,” with its depiction of the divinely inspired deluge and the building of an ark that saves surviving species, is the target of a fatwa issued by Al Azhar, a leading Sunni Muslim institution.
The fatwa, which is an Islamic ruling by religious scholars that is binding on believers, came amid ongoing controversy in Egypt regarding movies and television productions that depict prophets mentioned in the Koran, the Muslim holy book. Noah is among them.
“Such productions contradict the higher stature of prophets and messengers, and affect the constants of Islamic law,” said a statement by Al Azhar’s Highest Scholars Committee in calling on Sunni Muslims to not attend the film. “They also provoke believers’ emotions.”
Noah is scheduled to open in Egypt and other countries across the Middle East at the end of March. Previous objections against Hollywood blockbusters deemed blasphemous came from Coptic Christians in Egypt. While The Passion of the Christ was shown without incident,
The censorship board had previously succumbed to pressures from the Egyptian Coptic Church’s objections to releasing The Da Vinci Code, and the movie was eventually barred in Egypt.
An outright ban on Noah is already in place in Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, on the grounds that the movie “contradicts the teachings of Islam.” The studio, Paramount Pictures, says it expects the film to be outlawed in other Arab countries too, including Kuwait and Jordan.
You can understand why some Christians would feel threatened by the attention given to atheism over the past several years. Atheist authors tend to spawn headlines with every book and we’re quick to respond when religion is found at the scene of societal ills.
In the excerpt below, apologist Sean McDowell answers the question: “Are Science and Christianity at odds?”
(Note: Normally, I don’t post excerpts from Christian books — certainly ones that contain ideas I strongly disagree with — but I thought I would make an exception in this case because the editors have agreed to read your comments and respond to them at a later date.)
The conflict between religion and science is unavoidable. The success of science often comes at the expense of religious dogma; the maintenance of religious dogma always comes at the expense of science. — Sam Harris
Science is at war with religion. The conflict can be traced back to the Dark Ages, a period in which the church vigorously asserted dogma and persecuted anyone who questioned its authority, including scientific pioneers such as Galileo, Copernicus, and Bruno. Fortunately the Enlightenment came along in the eighteenth century and validated methods of acquiring knowledge through evidence and testing. These methods freed scientists to pursue truth without fear of recrimination from the church. Thus the scientific revolution was born. Yet the war between religion and science continues to this day.
If you believe this rendition of history, there’s a good chance you’ve been reading a public school textbook or the New Atheists. The idea that science and religion are at odds is a popular myth in our culture, perpetuated by news headlines like “God vs. Science” in Time magazine. Of the perceived conflict, Christopher Hitchens writes, “All attempts to reconcile faith with science and reason are consigned to failure and ridicule.” Richard Dawkins writes, “I am hostile to fundamentalist religion because it actively debauches the scientific enterprise… It subverts science and saps the intellect.”
Although it is widely believed that science and Christianity are at odds, the opposite is actually true. There is no inherent conflict between Christianity and science. We don’t mean to suggest that religious antagonism to science has never existed. It has and does. But the history of science shows that such claims of antagonism are often exaggerated or unsubstantiated. “Once upon a time, back in the second half of the nineteenth century,” says Alister McGrath, “it was certainly possible to believe that science and religion were permanently at war… This is now seen as a hopelessly outmoded historical stereotype that scholarship has totally discredited.”
The scientific enterprise as a sustained and organized movement emerged in Christian Europe. During the sixteenth century, people from every culture studied the natural world, and yet modern science emerged in Europe, a civilization primarily shaped by the Judeo-Christian world- view. Why? Because Christianity provided the philosophical foundation as well as the spiritual and practical motivation for doing science. The Christian worldview — with its insistence on the orderliness of the universe, its emphasis on human reason, and its teaching that God is glorified as we seek to understand his creation — laid the foundation for the modern scientific revolution.
Most scientific pioneers were theists, including prominent figures such as Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543), Robert Boyle (1627–1691), Isaac Newton (1642–1727), Blaise Pascal (1623–1662), Johannes Kepler (1571–1630), Louis Pasteur (1822–1895), Francis Bacon (1561–1626), and Max Planck (1858–1947). Many of these pioneers intently pursued science because of their belief in the Christian God. Bacon believed the natural world was full of mysteries God meant for us to explore. Kepler wrote, “The chief aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order which has been imposed on it by God, and which he revealed to us in the language of mathematics.” Newton believed his scientific discoveries offered convincing evidence for the existence and creativity of God. His favorite argument for design related to the solar system: “This most beautiful system of sun, planets, and comets could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being.”
Christopher Hitchens discounts the religious convictions of these scientific pioneers, claiming that belief in God was the only option for a scientist of the time. But this puts Hitchens in a curious dilemma. If religious believers get no credit for their positive contributions to society (e.g., shaping modern science) because “everyone was religious,” then why should their mistakes, like atrocities committed in the name of God, discredit them? This is a double standard. One cannot deny religious believers credit on the basis of “everyone was religious” and also assign blame on the same foundation. To make the case that “religion poisons everything,” Hitchens has to ignore evidence to the contrary. And he is more than willing to do so.
Dawkins accepts that some early scientific pioneers may have been Christians, but he believes Christian scientists are now a rarity: “Great scientists who profess religion become harder to find through the twentieth century.” However, in the same year that Dawkins published The God Delusion (2006), three leading scientists released books favorable to theism. Harvard astronomer Owen Gingerich released God’s Universe, arguing that an individual can be both a scientist and a believer in intelligent design. Internationally renowned physicist Paul Davies published Goldilocks Enigma, in which he argued that intelligent life is the reason our universe exists. Francis Collins, former head of the Human Genome Project, published The Language of God, in which he presents scientific and philosophical evidence for God. Incidentally, President Barack Obama appointed Francis Collins as the director of the National Institutes for Health, one of the world’s foremost medical research centers.
Naming scientists whose Christian worldview motivated their work doesn’t settle the issue of how science and religion relate. Entire books have been written on how science and religion intersect. But we do hope you see that many early scientific pioneers, as well as cutting-edge scientists today, derived their motivation for scientific research from the belief that God created the world for us to investigate and enjoy. These scientists did not view Christianity as incompatible with science.
There you go. Have at it. As I said before, the editors of the book will respond to your comments soon!
Now THIS is gonna melt your brain: Women comprise a mere 49.8 percent of the global population, yet we can HAVE AN EFFECT on climate change, despite our elfin farts and doll-like hands. So says a special blog post from CNN titled “Why women are the secret weapon to tackling climate change.” (Did YOU know about this top-secret segment of the population?!)
Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, writes that women around the world face the brunt of climate change — both because they’re farmers and don’t have a lot of rights — yet they can make shit happen:
[W]omen stand at the front lines in the battle against climate change: as providers of water, food, and energy or as leaders in businesses, communities and politics. Women are in a unique position to recognize some of the opportunities that climate change provides.
No beef there. (In countries other than America, women are even allowed to run the nation!) Women developing low-smoke stoves in Darfur or bamboo bikes in Ghana are awesome; we’d never want to pooh-pooh them.
The problem is that Figueres focuses on minor personal changes, conveniently setting aside the fact that the people with the power to make major environmental decisions are overwhelmingly male. She also ignores the fact that the U.S. and Europe contribute WAY more to global warming than the entire continent of Africa. Take this, for instance:
[I]n Australia, 1 Million Women has grown to become the country’s largest women’s environmental organization — with a goal to get one million women to take small steps in their daily lives that shrink their carbon footprint.
Of COURSE a million people doing something small adds up to something big (I didn’t medal at Math Olympics for nothin’). But patting women on the head for using reusable shopping bags seems condescending and misguided. Guess who’s the CEO of BP? A man. Monsanto’s CEO? Also a dude. Ban Ki-moon, U.N. Secretary-General and organizer of a global summit on climate change this fall? Not a lady. All four chairs of the worldwide C40 Climate Leadership Group? Also male. (One cool exception: The EPA is led by a woman.)
The point is, we need more than ladies knitting sweaters for penguins. We need to prevent the next BP oil spill (hint: stop Keystone), ramp up clean energy, improve access to contraception to stop overpopulation — shit like that. The hard truth is that women worldwide still don’t have enough say in those issues. Women can definitely help stop climate change — but we’ll be able to do it faster and better the more powerful we get.
Thanks for all your great comments on the last post! I'm very interested in your thoughts in this matter, and please keep talking. Here are a few more thoughts.
The default character is male. I first realized this was true for me when I had my first child. I found myself identifying all of his toys and stuffed animals as "he." In books, too, animals and characters that didn't have obvious girlie eyelashes or wear skirts were all "he." The characters that made up my son's world were 95% male. I began to question that in myself and supply "it" instead or assign "she" to several stuffed animals, in a perhaps ridiculous attempt to help him grow up surrounded by a more diverse cast of characters. Parents, have you noticed this male-first tendency too?
When I do school visits, often I'll bring up 4-5 students to make up a story on the fly. The first question I ask them, one by one going down the line, is "What is the name of your main character?" I try to put the girls on the end and start with them. Boys always choose a male MC, and if the girls go after the boys, they also always choose a male MC (this data is based on doing this exercise perhaps 100 times). But if the girl goes first, sometimes she'll choose a female (though 75% of the time she chooses a male too). This is a strong indication to me that we are used to main characters being male, even in the younger generation when the world is filled with book choices that feature girls. Are movies to blame, which rarely feature female MCs? Are these kids not getting the books that have female MCs? Or do girls not feel like the MC in their own lives? Do boys have the imagination to consider girls potential MCs? Is it possible that some boys do not think girls really matter as much as boys, aren't worthy of their own stories, aren't, perhaps, even as real as boys are?
The default character is white. As a writer who is white, I definitely fall into this trap. If a character isn't white, I often describe that, but if they are white, I don't describe because it's assumed. For the first time writing this book, from the POV of a character who isn't white (she's half white, half Latina), I found myself realizing I had that habit. In Dangerous, when we first meet two important characters, Dragon and Howell, I had Maisie describe Dragon as a "black man" and Howell as a "white woman." Interestingly, the copy editor noted that and asked if the "white woman" signifier was necessary. Because "white" is default, assumed, even if you don't specify. But I thought Maisie would specify so I left it.
I want to challenge myself and all of you to become more observant of this. To toss out the "male and white are default" ideology that's so deeply written into our brains. Change comes after awareness.
I remember when I first told my husband that some suggested that teens wouldn't be able to identify with Maisie because she was too unique in too many ways. That teens like to read about a character most like themselves. And Maisie just had too many points of difference: she was half Latina/half white, she had one arm, she was home schooled, she was a science geek, she was obsessed with space.
He said, "When I was a teenager, I couldn't relate to growing blades out of my knuckles or having super powered healing, or being chased by the Canadian government or having no memory of my past. But I could relate to feeling like a freak, to being an outsider." (he's talking about Wolverine)
I really believe it's not the details of a character's appearance or particular circumstances that most draw in a reader but the shared human the emotions. Books are a great place to realize that, where the visual is in our head and we are inside the character's head. I think we just need to read more books about characters who don't look like us, whatever we may look like, and eventually any misgivings that may still linger about Specific characters being unrelatable will become meaningless.
Thanks to everyone who is talking about this book. You really make writing a book like this possible. Thanks to everyone who came out to my events in Massachusetts and New Hampshire last week! It's great to be home. I'm back to touring next week and I have lots more events this spring so check out my event page.
The U.S. agriculture and energy sectors might be facing a Jets and Sharks situation: Our railroad system just ain’t big enough for the two of them! Unfortunately, this scenario is unlikely to involve a highly choreographed mambo dance-off, not that we wouldn’t love to see Rex Tillerson’s moves. He’d make a great Bernardo.
American farmers are becoming concerned that coal and oil companies’ increased use of railroad shipping will crowd out grain trains. The Western Organization of Resource Councils warns in a recent report that railway congestion will only increase in coming years, especially as coal export facilities are built up in the Pacific Northwest. The report largely focuses on traffic between the coal-rich Powder River Basin region of southeastern Montana and northeastern Wyoming, and port cities such as Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver, Wash.
Compounding the coal issue, oil transport by train has exponentially increased in recent years. There were more than 40 times as many oil shipments by rail last year as there were just five years prior.
From the WORC report:
The voluminous and very profitable [Powder River Basin] to PNW [Pacific Northwest] export coal traffic and profitable Bakken oil traffic to the PNW would consume most of the existing rail capacity, which would displace traffic and result in higher freight rates for other rail shippers.
Kremlin, Mont. wheat farmer Ryan McCormick says he hasn’t yet had any problems moving his crop from the state’s remote northern border. But he senses trouble on the horizon. BNSF, he said, “has been well in front of telling us there are going to be some issues in the next couple years.”
Farmers like McCormick don’t have other options for moving large quantities of grain for export. It would take about 400 truckloads to move the same amount of grain carried by the typical 110-car train.
Railroad traffic jams won’t just affect industrial shippers, either. According to the WORC report, Amtrak romantics can expect significant congestion on the Empire Builder line, which runs between Chicago and Seattle.
What could be more American than a gang rivalry between nonrenewable energy and wheat, our nation’s two great loves? Time to pick sides!
Robert Irwin has an interesting TLS review of Reading Darwin in Arabic, 1860-1950, by Marwa Elshakry, about the reception of Darwinism in the Arab world (thanks for the link, Paul!). Most of it is not of particular LH interest, but I was struck by this:
For a long time, the reception of Darwinism was bedevilled by the need to find either neologisms or new twists to old words. As Marwa Elshakry points out, there was at first no specific word in Arabic for “species”, distinct from “variety” or “kind”. “Natural selection” might appear in Arabic with the sense “nature’s elect”. When Hasan Husayn published a translation of Haeckel, he found no word for evolution and so he invented one. Tawra means to advance or develop further. Extrapolating from this verbal root, he created altatawwur, to mean “evolution”.
Who cares if there’s a “specific word in Arabic for ‘species’” (an infelicitous phrase, it seems to me)? Russian, for example, gets along without one perfectly well: вид [vid] means ‘species’ and род [rod] means ‘genus,’ and both are ordinary words meaning ‘kind, sort.’ Context, as always, is all. I note that English does not have a “specific word” for family (the rank above genus); we make do with an ordinary word for a group of people affiliated by consanguinity, and nobody seems the worse for it.
Incidentally, Darwinism was popularized quite early in Russia, in an 1864 article by the radical critic Pisarev, Прогресс в мире животных и растений [Progress in the world of animals and plants]. (By “popularized” I mean “introduced into the tiny world of the intelligentsia”; relatively few Russians would have heard of Darwin’s theories for decades, and most of those who did disapproved of them, just as in other countries.)
You might know the Irish actor Chris O’Dowd from the TV series The IT Crowd and various movies, including This is 40 and Gulliver’s Travels.
On his side of the Atlantic, actors who are atheists, like O’Dowd and Daniel Radcliffe, appear to be able to speak their minds with less caution and equivocation than their American counterparts, such as Brad Pitt and George Clooney.
Actor Chris O’Dowd thinks following a religion will eventually become as offensive and unacceptable as racism.
The Irish star … says he grew up respecting people of faith despite his atheist views, but has become “less liberal” as he ages.
Now he says religious doctrine is halting human progress and brands it “a weird cult.”
“For most of my life, I’ve been, ‘Hey, I’m not into it, but I respect your right to believe whatever you want’. But as time goes on, weirdly, I’m growing less liberal. I’m more like, ‘No, religion is ruining the world, you need to stop!’.
“There’s going to be a turning point where it’s going to be like racism. You know, ‘You’re not allowed to say that weird shit! It’s mad! And you’re making everybody crazy!“
(I take it that O’Dowd doesn’t mean that religious opinions ought to be literally outlawed — that with the phrase “not allowed,” he means there will be social repercussions for pious babble, not legal ones. In which case, I agree with him — but that’s a non-negotiable caveat!)
An experimental blood test can identify people in their 70s who are likely to develop Alzheimer's disease within two or three years. The test is accurate more than 90 percent of the time, scientists reported Sunday in Nature Medicine.
The finding could lead to a quick and easy way for seniors to assess their risk of Alzheimer's, says Dr. Howard Federoff, a professor of neurology at Georgetown University. And that would be a "game changer," he says, if researchers find a treatment that can slow down or stop the disease.
But because there is still no way to halt Alzheimer's, Federoff says, people considering the test would have to decide whether they are prepared to get results that "could be life-altering."
But having a prediction with no prospect for a cure is not, in my opinion, the biggest problem with tests of this kind.
As we can learn from the cited publication (Mark Mapstone et al., "Plasma phospholipids identify antecedent memory impairment in older adults", Nature Medicine 3/9/2014) , the "more than 90 percent of the time" accuracy is defined as "a sensitivity of 90% and specificity of 90%" for identifying participants who had unimpaired memory at the beginning, but would begin exhibiting cognitive impairment during the study.
One small point is that the size of the study was not large enough to be very certain about these numbers:
We enrolled 525 community-dwelling participants, aged 70 and older and otherwise healthy, into this 5-year observational study. Over the course of the study, 74 participants met criteria for amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI) or mild Alzheimer's disease (AD) (Online Methods); 46 were incidental cases at entry, and 28 phenoconverted (Converters) from nonimpaired memory status at entry (Converterpre).
The blood tests are converting participants in the "Converterpre" category from the "Normal Controls" (NC) category, and 28 is not a very large number.
If the study cohort's 5% rate of conversion from normal cognition to mild impairment or Alzheimer's disease is representative of a real-world screening population, then the test would have a positive predictive value of just 35%. That is, nearly two-thirds of positive screening results would be false. In general, a positive predictive value of 90% is considered the minimum for any kind of screening test in normal-risk individuals.
Let's unpack this. We start with a 2-by-2 "contingency table", relating test predictions and true states or outcomes:
Reality is Positive (P)
Reality is Negative (N)
Test is Positive
True Positive (TP)
False Positive (FP)
Test is Negative
False Negative (FN)
True Negative (TN)
In the context, the "sensitivity" is the true positive rate: TP/P, the proportion of real positives that test positive.
The "specificity" is the true negative rate: TN/N = the proportion of real negatives that test negative.
And 90% sensitivity and specificity sounds pretty good.
But what doctors and patients really learn is only whether the test is positive or negative. So suppose the test is positive and the true prevalence of the condition is 5%. Then out of 1,000 patients, there will be 0.05*1000 = 50 who are truly going to get AD; and of these, 0.9*50 = 45 will have a positive test result. But there will be 0.95*1000 = 950 who are not going to get AD; and of these, 0.1*950 = 95 will have a positive test result.
So there will be a total of 45+95 = 140 positive test results, and of these, 45 will be true positives, or 45/140 = 32%.
Thus the real problem with a positive test result, in this case, would not be learning that you're fated to get AD and can't do anything to prevent it. Rather, it would be believing that you're 90% likely to get AD when your actual chances are much lower.
The estimated annual incidence (rate of developing disease in a one-year period) of Alzheimer’s disease appears to increase dramatically with age, from approximately 53 new cases per 1,000 people age 65 to 74, to 170 new cases per 1,000 people age 75 to 84, to 231 new cases per 1,000 people over age 85.
Even at a rate of 53 per 1,000, the chances of "converting" within three years would be (1 – (1-0.053)^3) = 0.151, so the positive predictive value of the test would be more like 62% than 32%. But 62% is still not 90%, and the general point is an important one.
I do understand that the machines in my office aren't alive. Of course, that means they can't be reasoned with, threatened, or coerced. I can't promise my printer an extra treat if it will make that black cartridge last just ten copies longer, or reward my hard drive with a spa day if it will just regurgitate the missing manuscript page.
But I can't help but take it personally when they refuse to cooperate. Since I am machine-stupid, this happens far more often than I want. Recently, my computer refused to recognize my keyboard. This meant I could type all I wanted, but it wouldn't appear on the screen . . . a guarantee of a low production day.
I bought a new keyboard, not an instant process since I always use a Logitech ergonomic keyboard. Sure my problems were solved and that harmony would reign in my home office, I introduced the new keyboard to the grouchy old computer. It still refused to admit that the keyboard -- brand spanking new! -- was there. It was like the old dog spurning the new puppy.
I had to leave town, so my husband kindly offered to work on the situation while I was gone. Since I am an optimist, I went to Mississippi blithely sure that by the time I returned we would be one big happy family again. Of course . . . not so. At the end of a trip that included food poisoning and cancelled flights, Hal let me know that the old computer had to go to the hospital -- um, the repair shop. Sadly, the patient was terminal, and could not be resuscitated.
I know these machines (or infernal devices, as I call them some days) are really just mechanical parts, mass produced, but since these are the tools I use to ply my trade, I take them very personally. I confess, I was so angry at Old Computer that I haven't grieved a moment. I know . . . ungrateful of me.
Now I have a shiny new computer sitting in front of me. It has to learn my ways, and it has to be best friends with the keyboard and the printer. I'm introducing them to each other slowly. I haven't had to threaten anyone with unplugging, yet, but it's early days. Each night I whisper, "Play nice!"
Here are cattle farmers’ two least-favorite words: scrotal frostbite. (Actually, they’re probably lots of people’s least-favorite words.) This extremely frigid winter could affect not only bulls’ balls, but how potent cattle jizz is and thus the price you have to pay for beef this year.
According to Steve Boyles, an Ohio State University Extension beef cattle specialist, the subzero weather that blanketed much of the Midwest can spell infertility for bulls. (That’s what happens when you put the “icicle” in “testicicle.”) Bad news during a year that’s already facing a beef shortage.
Here are the gory details:
“Older bulls with lower-hanging scrotums are more frequently adversely affected because they are not as able to pull their testicles up close to the body to keep them warm,” [Boyles] said. “Defects in sperm are proportional to the severity of the frostbite lesions, testicle adhesions, and swelling of the testes.”
I think we can all agree on the importance of warm nuts. Forget snail sweaters — clearly we should all be knitting cozies for bull balls.
In just 6 1/2 minutes, CGP Gray offers a humorous and info-packed account of Daylight Savings. He tackles the historical rationale, the role of the equator, the contemporary debate, and the wildly wacky situations it causes today, including health problems and loss of productivity. It’s all even wackier than you probably already imagine. Enjoy:
To those who seek to better the world through the understanding of God’s physical laws and innovation of practical solutions. In honor of Dr. William ‘Ed’ and Glenda McCracken.
Purdue, as a public institution, didn’t want to appear to be endorsing religion (or open the door to other donors making similar demands, I figure), so they said they couldn’t accept the dedication as written.
So McCracken did what any generous donor would do: He threatened to sue, making sure the school’s legal costs would undo any money he ever gave them. Contrary to his lawyers’ argument that this was “private” speech and therefore not a violation of the First Amendment, Purdue’s side responded with reason:
We have a great deal of understanding and sympathy for the disappointment of the McCracken family. If we had confidence that the courts would find this private speech as the donor’s counsel argues, then we would agree immediately — and strongly.
But given the facts here, our status as a public institution, and the hopelessly muddled state of jurisprudence in this particular area, we could fully expect lengthy and expensive litigation that would wipe out the value of this donation many times over, and we just don’t think that’s advisable for either the donor or the university. Still, we remain open to continued discussions, as we’d much prefer to be in the mode of expressing gratitude, not disagreement, to our donors.
That is a bit of a cop-out, saying that the only reason the school won’t litigate this is because it would cost too much money instead of saying outright that a plaque is a promotion of religion appropriate at a private school but not a public university, but you can understand the PR-reasons for it.
It’s all moot now, though, since both sides have reached an agreement: The plaque will go up with the godly wording, but it’ll be very clear that McCracken, not the university, is saying it:
The revised language reads as follows: “Dr. Michael McCracken: ‘To all those who seek to better the world through the understanding of God’s physical laws and innovation of practical solutions.’ Dr. Michael and Mrs. Cindy McCracken present this plaque in honor of Dr. William ‘Ed’ and Glenda McCracken and all those similarly inspired to make the world a better place.”
However, the University will be adding an additional plaque accompanying McCracken’s which will clarify that his words are not the speech of Purdue and that the University is aware of its neutrality obligations by law.
That doesn’t strike me as much of a compromise. Any stranger who saw the homage to God in the original inscription would know it came from the donor, so does the change really make much of a difference?
To see why this compromise solution is problematic, imagine someone donating money for other public facilities, like courthouses or elementary schools, and then insisting that the facilities post the palpably false statement that morality or science or whatever are “gifts of God.” Then the courthouse or school simply adds a disclaimer plaque saying that those words aren’t theirs and they’re cognizant (as they damn well better be!) of obeying the Constitution. That wouldn’t fly, so why would it fly in a public university? There seems to be some feeling afoot that public universities are somehow Constitutionally different from public secondary schools or other public institutions. They aren’t.
I can’t wait for an atheist donor to give $12,500 to the school with the caveat that it installs a sign saying, “This donation was the result of my hard work; God had nothing to do with it.” Purdue can add a disclaimer to that all it wants. It won’t matter. The point is that the floodgates have opened and Purdue has set a low bar on how much money it would take for donors to buy a shout-out to God.
Just wait. It won’t be long before other Christian donors make the same kind of demands — and Purdue will have no choice but to acquiesce.
Fish farming gets a lot of flack, and salmon often bears the brunt of it. Much of this has to do with the fish food — namely, the old saw that it takes an average of three pounds of wild fish to make one pound of domesticated salmon.
But then why is the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s vaunted Seafood Watch program, for the first time ever, giving ocean-farmed salmon its seal of semi-approval as a “good alternative”? What’s more, these salmon, from Verlasso, were spawned by agri- and aquacultural behemoths, DuPont and AquaChile, and fattened with the help of genetically modified organisms.
Let’s be clear: We’re not talking Frankenfish, as many have dubbed AquaBounty’s super fast-growing Atlantic-Chinook-salmon-eel hybrid. This time, the GMO in question is yeast — a bizarre microbe to begin with — with an algae gene spliced in. Since the frankenyeast (not as catchy, right?) is chock-full of the Omega-3s that salmon require, it can be used to replace most of the fish oil and fish meal in Verlasso’s feed.
That’s not a bad idea. About 87 percent of the world’s fish oil goes toward aquaculture, and about half of that is just for salmon farming. Since most fish oil is produced by juicing the small forage fish that make up the base of the already-strained ocean food chain, it is probably not in anyone’s best interest to turn them all into aquarium pellets. (Or nutritional supplements, but that’s a whole ‘nother can of fish guts.) While some fish oil can be rendered from leftovers that humans would rather not eat — livers and fish skin and brains, oh my! — at the moment this reclaimed oil only corners about a 10th of the market, according to fish food specialist Ron Hardy at the University of Idaho.
Since farmed pelagic fish need some long-chain fatty acids to grow, and humans need some to feel better about their diets, finding a viable source that doesn’t scourge the sea is probably a good idea. While you can also feed the fish straight algae, which is where the Omega-3s show up in the first place, at the moment, massive algae farms are, Hardy clarifies, “very spendy.” By moving the Omega-producing gene from ocean algae into the yeast, Verlasso gets an oil that’s less expensive, high in Omegas, and low in bycatch: Verlasso lox is produced with a slim ratio of one pound of wild fish in for every pound of salmon. (If GMOs get your goat, may I recommend our panic-free series on the subject.)
The company, whose tagline is “Harmoniously Raised Fish,” earned further eco-brownie points by stocking its pens with half as many fish as the industry standard, which helps keep all that salmon poo from piling up in the water system. It also leaves the fish healthier, less stressed, and much more svelte. Plus, the pens are left fallow for an average of six months at a time, to stave off devastating outbreaks of Infectious Salmon Anemia and plagues of sea lice without resorting to heavy preventative doses of antibiotics or pesticide. (It’s worth noting that the one category Seafood Watch watched a warning red flag was Verlasso’s chemical use, which makes up part of its integrated pest management system.)
All of which is reason to be optimistic about last month’s news that Verlasso landed a deal to test-market its salmon at Costco, the biggest of the big-box stores. With such supersized friends, Verlasso is not quite the spunky salmon maverick we might like to imagine, David-ing the Goliath salmon farms of a polluted yore — but that’s not a terrible thing. You don’t have to be an artisanal fisher feeding your family of four to be a careful steward of the environment. In fact, with sustainable seafood near the top of the list of restaurant trends for 2014, we think there’s lot to be said for big players who use their muscle to shift the scene in a green direction.
And other salmon is likely to be joining Verlasso in Seafood Watch’s good graces. In January, the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, a nonprofit certification program for responsibly farmed seafood, endorsed its first salmon farms. The first ASC-approved salmon went on sale in February. Fifteen of the world’s largest salmon outfits — responsible for some 70 percent of the market, including AquaChile — have committed to ASC-certify 100 percent of their fish by 2020.
And lots of other people and companies are looking at replacing the wild fish in food for salmon and other tasty teleosts (that’s for you, amateur ichthyologists). Some proposed solutions include soybeans, algae, or insects. “The aquaculture of the future is going to have to change worldwide from what aquaculture of the present is,” Verlasso director Scott Nichols told Grist. “People all over the world are going to need to raise their fish in different ways. So I don’t think that advancing the sustainability practices of aquaculture is something that is just a niche; I think it has to be very wide spread.”
So far, Hank Campbell, the founder of the Science 2.0 website, is not too impressed with ‘Cosmos,’ the 13-part documentary presented by Neil deGrasse Tyson and executive-produced by Seth MacFarlane that launched last night.
Campbell received an advance review copy of only the first episode, “Standing Up In The Milky Way.” If that episode is any guide, Campbell huffs, the people behind Cosmos
… think the audience likes scary, factually incorrect cartoons about religion burning scientists alive. …
It starts out well. Tyson tells us we are going to explore the very large and the very small and then he flies us through space, a lot like he does in his brilliant Hayden Planetarium show. We get rogue planets, distant suns and 100,000 light years of context in just a few minutes.
Then suddenly we get a claim that Giordano Bruno is responsible for the concept of the universe — because he read ‘banned’ books. Lucretious wasn’t science — there was no scientific evidence for his claim that wind caused earthquakes or worms spontaneously generated — it was philosophy, and his book was not rare in 1600 AD, people were also not martyred for reading it, and yet we get told a philosophical belief in infinity was what got Bruno into trouble.
It’s an immediate disconnect for people who know science history because it smacks of an agenda.
There’s a whiff of pedantry in Campbell’s post, considering that he pans the whole thing based solely on the Giordano Bruno gaffe (if that’s what it is). Campbell might have been more convincing if he made the case that there’s a pattern of misinformation that mars Cosmos, but.. no dice.
As a Hulu Plus and Netflix customer, and not having a cable or a satellite subscription, I haven’t yet seen the episode in question, but I find it hard to imagine that Bruno’s story was given substantial screen time, especially when viewed in the context of 13 hours of programming. Besides, Bruno is arguably an interesting footnote in science history, and he most assuredly wasburned alive for his views.
Yes: Mistakes may be criticized, and it may be useful to have evidence of an “agenda,” as Campbell alleges the team behind Cosmos does.
The authors spend a fair amount of time at the outset of this unsettling book explaining that they don’t have a political agenda, but the book’s subtitle, combined with its stated purpose — “to inform you about a disturbing trend among highly influential progressive activists who misinterpret, misrepresent, and abuse science to advance their ideological and political agendas” — might lead some readers to conclude otherwise.
I look forward to eventually watching all episodes of Cosmos, and I expect that, over time, the series will hold up better than Campbell’s carping does.
It was after 6 p.m. and approaching 0 degrees Fahrenheit on a March evening when Doug Turner started the second milking of the day of his 42 cows at the family farm in Waitsfield, Vt. In a work-worn orange hoodie and flannel-lined jeans, the third-generation farmer started from the southeast corner of the barn, attaching one of his three milking machines to the swollen udder of a black and white cow.
“This one’s my oldest,” Turner told me, patting Bianca, a Holstein approaching her 13th birthday.
The milk flowed out of the barn, through a steel hose, to the tank in Turner’s cramped, old-fashioned milk house. Every other day, a milk truck from Organic Valley picks up this dairy and brings it to a processing facility — the closest ones are in Connecticut or New York — where it is pasteurized, homogenized, packaged, and dispatched to the grocery shelf.
All told, the average American gallon of milk travels 320 miles from udder to grocery store shelf, a journey that often crosses state borders. That seems like a long way to go, given that milk is produced in all 50 states.
But farmers don’t have much control over where their milk goes, or how much they get for it. If Turner can’t get by on what Organic Valley will pay him, he’s short on options. Striking out on his own, and setting his own price, would mean massive costs of starting his own processing plant. Now, new developments in micro-pasteurization from a Vermont company could change that.
Many of the farms that were here when I grew up in central Vermont have closed now, and much of the milk produced by the remaining few goes straight out of state. I set out to look at this technology to see if it could be the key to cutting down on dairy miles and saving small farms.
The LiLi pasteurizer — short for “Low Input – Low Impact” — is the first of its kind. Small-scale pasteurizers have long been available in the form of vats, essentially cauldrons that heat milk to at least 145 degrees F for 30 minutes. But the LiLi is a small-scale High Temperature Short Time (HTST) pasteurizer, which holds milk at 161 degrees for 15 seconds. It’s the first one to get FDA approval.
HTST makes for a quicker, more energy efficient pasteurizing process. According to Steve Judge, the founder of Bobwhite Systems and the man behind the LiLi, it also makes for better milk.
“The idea was to pasteurize the milk and have it be as much like raw milk as possible,” Judge said.
It took seven years and three models, but Judge and his colleagues finally found the winning formula. The LiLi, which is about the size of a refrigerator, went on sale after FDA approval last November. It costs about $70,000, which may seem like a lot, but it’s nothing compared to the alternative of building a creamery, which can easily amount to a million dollars or more.
Back in 2006, Judge, a 45-year veteran of the dairy industry, wanted to offer the community the chance to buy milk from the four Jerseys in his hobby barn in Royalton, Vt. He could sell raw milk from his farm, but he wanted the option of selling pasteurized as well. Looking around, he found no technology that would suit his needs and meet US regulations, so he set about creating it.
The LiLi, however, is not just an answer to Judge’s personal needs. It fits into a vision Judge has of how dairy farming should operate. Through nearly half a century in the dairy industry that took him from owning a herd of 90 Jerseys to managing a water buffalo farm, he watched the modus operandi of dairy evolve. Big herds got bigger, small farms either expanded or went under.
“I really don’t like the idea of having dairy be industrialized like chicken or pork,” Judge said. “I think it’s a really important part of our cultural heritage.”
That’s when he began considering methods to eliminate the middleman and connect farms directly to their consumers. If milk could be pasteurized onsite, it could skip the processing plant altogether. Instead of selling to big companies run from halfway across the country, farmers could sell directly to the buyer.
“It’s better milk for the consumer, it’s a better way to treat the cows, it’s good for the community,” Judge said.
When Turner started milking cows at age 15, many of his neighbors milked cows as well.
Now, at 59, he’s feeling lonely.
Challenges started mounting for family dairies, like high feed costs and low milk prices. Conventional dairies were faced with expanding to make ends meet, or finding a different edge. One of Turner’s neighbors switched over to beef cattle. Two others gave up all together.
“All of a sudden I’m the only one down here,” Turner said.
Facing the pressures himself, Turner picked option No. 3: He maintained his size and went organic. Organic dairy farming complicates everything. It stipulates specific practices relating to grazing, feed, medical treatments — but it also pays better.
“It was getting very hard for the farm to survive with the highs and the lows and the pricing. This offered a steady income,” said Turner. “The cows are definitely healthier.”
Six years on, the pressure has not relented. Feed prices have continued to rise, requisite organic products are a big expense, and natural disasters like 2011’s Hurricane Irene have delivered hefty bills and a mountain of paperwork. But the payout for organic milk hasn’t gone up to match expenses.
These days, Turner makes about $2.60 per gallon sold to Organic Valley. He makes nearly twice that selling raw milk off the farm at $5 a gallon.
So, could Turner benefit from leaving the Organic Valley network and going it alone with a LiLi?
Bob Parsons, an agriculture economy specialist at the University of Vermont is not convinced.
“It’s not just the pasteurizer,” said Parsons. “You have to find a market for your milk.”
Parsons emphasized that pasteurization is just one step in a long process getting milk from cows, into bottles, and to the stores that will sell it.
“You’re running a retail business and all of a sudden you’re not a dairy farmer anymore.”
Besides, he notes, Vermonters only consume 15 percent of the milk produced in the state. The rest goes out to other markets. More than 70 percent of Vermont’s total farm dollars come from dairy.
For some dairy farmers with an entrepreneurial streak, the chance to sell their milk directly to their neighbors could be enticing. But for a multi-generation farmer like Turner, already putting in 15-hour days, onsite pasteurization is an extra layer of work.
“Most people doing dairy farming do it because they like the dairy farming,” Parsons said.
In fact, the value of the small-scale HTST pasteurizer may not be in cutting out the middleman between dairy farmers and consumers, but in creating a new kind of middleman. With its hefty price tag — beyond the reach of cash-strapped, leveraged-out family farms — the LiLi could be best suited for a local dairy co-op, or an entrepreneur looking to process at a community level.
Judge recognizes that the LiLi might not be the answer to everybody’s problems. But, he notes, there are plenty of people who’d consider it. Bobwhite Systems has sold one of the $70,000 pasteurizers to an upstate New York farm, and is in negotiations with a Vermont farmer to place the second. They’re marketing the LiLi beyond the barnyard as well, looking to people who buy milk to produce other things, like yogurt or cheese.
“We’re not out there trying to sell them to everybody, but we know based on the response so far that there is interest,” Judge said.
“For me, the issue is a matter of locally produced milk from sustainable farms versus commercially produced milk from factory farms.”
Miss F and I have plans to travel to Aspen for almost two weeks for Spring Break. Because of that, C didn't fly home for the weekend before the big trip. So what's a girl to do when she has a free weekend? Dinner party time! I stocked up on our favorite champagne, Piper-Heidsieck, along with a refrigerator full of wine for our evening. It is always so nice to get together with friends for an evening of food and fun.
We started the evening with a dinner party favorite, artichoke tarts, along with a new recipe for Roasted Shrimp Cocktail. I made 48 artichoke tarts and every single one was eaten, they are always a crowd pleaser and they are incredibly easy to make. I want to try a spinach and artichoke version next time I make them. For the salad, I prepared Mixed Greens with Creamy Dijon Vinaigrette, the egg yolk adds an incredible richness to the dressing. For the main course, I made Balsamic Filet of Beef, Potatoes Dauphinois and simply steamed green beans. For dessert, we devoured an entire cheesecake with strawberry basil topping.
I made three simple flower arrangements for the centerpiece. There are some amazing flower markets close to my house, but my most favorite has buckets full of flowers for 75 cents each stem, it ranges from carnations to roses to daisies. They are basically remnant flowers from arrangements made earlier. The tricky part of this scenario is that you cannot go in with an idea in your head of what kind of flowers you are looking for, you really have to be open to anything because you never know what they are going to have in stock. I went in hoping for either pale yellows or deep pinks, but the flower shop had a different idea for me. The buckets were full of a gorgeous variety of purple flowers, so even though it was not at all what I had envisioned, it turned out just perfectly.
We ended the evening with dancing, a few party crashers and lots of selfie taking. All in all, it was a great success and I can't wait to host my next dinner party.
Q.I am about to have a baby. I had planned to use cloth diapers after the first two weeks, but given the California drought, I am not sure that is the best idea. I’ve read much of the literature about sustainability of cloth diapers over other alternatives, but given the state of emergency, I wonder if the benefits still hold over disposables.
Marisa R. Irvine, Calif.
A. Dearest Marisa,
Congratulations on your impending bundle of joy! It sounds like you’re well-prepared for one of parenthood’s primary side effects: A 1,000-percent increase in the amount of time spent thinking and talking about poop. As diapers are about to become a major part of your life, it makes sense to get your strategy pinned down now.
The party line here at Ask Umbra is that disposables and cloth diapers are basically a draw, environmentally speaking. As spelled out in a comprehensive life cycle assessment from the British Environment Agency, disposable nappies create a much larger landfill burden, but cloth ones require much more water, both to grow and process the cotton and also to wash the diapers. However, a severe drought does indeed change the calculus here.
In a shortage such as the one plaguing California, water is precious — and the priority should be local water conservation. In these cases, then, conventional wisdom has it you’d do best with disposable diapers, thus eliminating the need for all those extra laundry loads. If this is a workable plan for your new baby’s bum, go forth and worry no more about your choice.
If you just can’t abide sending all those diapers to the landfill, there are steps you can take to reduce the impact associated with cloth diapers. Namely:
Wash only a full load whenever possible, and do it in a high-efficiency washing machine. Line-dry the nappies to save electricity in the dryer.
Cut back on other water use in your home to help offset the laundry: Take shorter showers, check for and seal up leaks, implement the “if it’s yellow, let it mellow” rule, and consider a low-flow toilet. (Check out this forum discussion from other California moms for more great tips.)
You may also want to consider a newish hybrid option, Marisa: reusable diapers with flushable/compostable inserts. The idea is that you have to wash the outer diaper cover less frequently, conserving water over regular cloth options, while the inserts are diverted from the landfill. “Wet” inserts can be composted in a backyard pile, but the, er, solid variety go into the toilet and are flushed away for treatment. If you go this route, it’s worth making sure your plumbing and your local wastewater treatment plant can handle the stuff first, and know there is a knack to it.
Now — as cloth-diaper devotees will undoubtedly point out — there are all kinds of variables that may swing you back away from Team Disposable Hybrid. These include how much water your toilet uses per flush, how many flushworthy events your baby is producing daily, whether or not you have a high-efficiency washing machine, and how efficient your laundry habits are in general. I’ll leave it up to you to crunch these numbers for your household.
And finally, Marisa, no diaper chat is complete without a nod to “none of the above” option, or elimination communication. It takes some practice, but many parents swear by it — and I’d like to see the newfangled diapering option that can beat it in terms of eco-friendliness.
A student paper crossed my desk this week, in which the author wrote that the Letter to the Hebrews "pathed the way" for an understanding that Christ's superior sacrifice renders redundant the daily sacrifice in the Temple.
A quick Google check for the phrase (new to me) shows about 167,000 results; it doesn't seem to show up in the eggcorn database or the forums (though I may be searching poorly). The substitution makes ample sense (apart from the nonstandard verb "pathe"), but I hadn't noticed it until today.
I suspect that the Google search count is an unreliable as such counts generally are, but the pattern is certainly Out There (though many of the examples have clearly been written by people whose native language is other than English):
Mr Moog helped path the way for a whole range of electronic music genres [link] With the consecutive poor financial results, it is time for me to hand over the responsibility to a new leadership team to path the way for a new era. [link] However, after September 11, we are challenged to path the way for a kind of sustainable human rights awareness! [link]
These new techniques pathed the way for modern surgery and also contributed to Aesculap's breakthrough. [link] In the middle period Petri Kontiola, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Stanislav Chistov pathed the way for the win before again Kuznetsov added another one at 52:52. [link] This pathed the way forward for the Shorthorn breed and gained back industry respect/reputation and demand amongst the commercial beef industry in Australia. [link]
Rugby scholarship paths the way for future stars [link] Real-time marketing paths the way to delight consumers [link] Explore and experience together the lively celebration of 500 different activities which paths the way for you to interact, express yourself, communicate with style and have fun in your own way. [link]
Is Samsung pathing the way for cable free charging? [link] C-Cure is pathing the way for a healthy ticker [link] Seeing as my concept addresses almost every issue, pathing the way for more complex additions, what is it they are hoping to accomplish and is my idea any good but not something they would ever think of pursuing? [link]
And there are a handful of literary precedents, e.g. William Watt's A Prayer (1860):
May my sins be all forgiven Through His all-atoning blood, Which hath pathed the way to heaven In an overflowing flood.
But there are two paths to verbal pathing. One is the always-available conversion of a noun to a verb, of which Calvin famously said that "Verbing weirds language":
The other path involves an analogy to the pair bath/bathe, in which the verbal form falls into the FACE lexical set, and thus becomes phonetically confusable with pave.
It took a while for this second version to occur to me, so that at first I was puzzled by the re-interpretation of "paved the way" as "pathed the way". But when pathed is pronounced with the FACE vowel, the only difference between pathed and paved is the interdental voiced fricative /ð/ vs. the labiodental voice fricative /v/, in a syllable-final cluster before /d/. And /peɪðd/ vs. /peɪvd/ is about near to a homonymous pair as non-homonyms can get in English.
The FACE-vowel version has been around long enough to make it into the Oxford Middle English Dictionary as pathen, v., and into the OED as pathe, v., glossed as "In early use: to pave (a street, floor, etc.). In later use only fig. in to pathe the way = to pave the way".
The OED speculates, plausibly enough, that this is "Apparently a variant of pave v., probably by association with path n.", and further remarks that
Examples from before the 20th cent. not having the -ed or -ing form are rare, so that the spelling and pronunciation of the base form are unclear; but compare paithmentn., with Middle English long ā and its later reflexes. In recent use the base form (with and without the 3rd singular present ending -s) has been spelt pathe, implying the pronunciation /peɪð/ .
Vicki Betts, a librarian at the University of Texas, put together a neat list of female names using the 1860 census records for Smith County, Texas.
Here’s some background information, per Vicki:
Ninety per cent of the people had emigrated to the county within the preceding ten years, 95.8% born in the states of the future Confederacy, 1.8% in the border states, 1.6% in northern states, and 0.8% in foreign countries. Therefore, these name should be fairly representative of Southern female names in general, with the exception of Alamo, Texas, Texana, etc.
And now the names! Here are the names that appeared most frequently on the 1860 Smith County census:
The Story of Ellen Axson Wilson’s Tragic Return to Rome, Georgia in 1914
Please welcome guest author Nancy Loveday Smith. Smith is a graphic artist, marketing consultant and long-time volunteer board member of the Rome Area Council for the Arts, the organization that is hosting the 2014 Ellen Axson Wilson Homecoming. She is a native of Rome, Georgia and grew up on the Berry School campus. She is a graduate of Mercer University, Macon, and resides in Rome with her attorney husband, S. David Smith, Jr. On March 11, Smith will present a slide-lecture and discussion about Ellen Axson Wilson and the 2014 year of activities planned in Rome at the Rome Area History Museum. The public is invited to attend the free lecture. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fifty years after the Civil War, a new era of progress was dawning in Rome, Georgia. Electricity had arrived, new manufacturing facilities were opening and the population was growing. Newly elected Chamber of Commerce President Wright Willingham declared that the town needed a large celebratory event to mark Rome’s progress as a regionally emerging city of culture and commerce.
Willingham organized an event to be held in October 1914 to be called “The Homecoming.” Romans past and present would come together to celebrate the progress of the city. He proposed $10,000 be raised for the event. To insure the success of this event he planned to personally invite former Romans—and the First Lady of the United States, Ellen Axson Wilson, was the most famous former Roman of the day.
Ellen Axson in 1882 (This was the year her mother died and the year before she met Woodrow Wilson). Courtesy of the President Woodrow Wilson House, a National Trust Historic Site, Washington, D.C.
The invitation issued by Willingham was accepted in a letter from the White House received in May of 1914. Rome’s own First Lady would be the Guest of Honor at “The Homecoming”. Her husband and three daughters were also invited; however Mrs. Wilson’s letter indicated that she was not sure they could attend.
The ironic and sad fact is that Ellen Axson Wilson did indeed “come home” in 1914, but not to enjoy parades and illuminated streets, but in a coffin to be buried beside her parents in Rome’s Myrtle Hill Cemetery. She missed “The Homecoming” by three months, as her funeral and interment occurred in Rome on August 11, 1914.
ELLEN AXSON – GROWING UP IN ROME
Ellen Axson was the eldest of four children born to Presbyterian minister Rev. Samuel Edward Axson and his wife Margaret Jane “Janie” Hoyt Axson. She was born in Savannah on May 15, 1860. During the years of the Civil War, the young family moved several times, from church to church and from relative to relative. Rev. Axson served briefly as a Chaplin in the Army of the CSA. Shortly after the War ended, Rev. Axson was called to lead the First Presbyterian Church of Rome.
The family moved to Rome in March of 1866. Ellen’s mother, Janie Hoyt Axson, had been college educated and taught her daughter to read at a very young age. The Rome Female College was reopened 1871, and 11-year-old Ellen was enrolled as a “novian.” She was instructed in algebra, philosophy, logic, natural history and botany; but the subject at which she excelled most was art. Her art instructor, Miss Helen Fairchild, had been trained in New York and Paris. When Miss Fairchild submitted a portfolio of her best students’ work to a Paris art competition, Ellen received a bronze medal in drawing at age 14.
Ellen had three siblings born in Rome: two brothers, Stockton and Edward, and a sister, Madge, born 21 years after Ellen. The birth of Ellen’s sister Madge caused her mother to suffer “child-birth” fever and die within weeks of the birth. Ellen was left to assume the duties of raising her brothers and managing the household. Her baby sister was sent to her mother’s sister in Gainesville, GA.
In April of 1883, when Ellen attended her father’s church, she entered that Sunday morning in a black dress and veil of mourning, holding the hand of her youngest brother, Edward. A casual observer would assume she was a young widow; however Woodrow Wilson was no casual observer. He noticed her beauty, and sensed her intelligence and high spirit.
Wilson was in Rome visiting relatives, and on legal business for his mother. He asked his relatives who this lovely young lady might be, and was told all about Ellen. That afternoon he went to call on Rev. Axson. Wilson’s father was also a Presbyterian minister, so a visit to another minister’s family was considered proper. His actual intention was to see Ellen again and find out more about her.
That spring and summer, he returned to Rome many times. A romance blossomed between Ellen and the young Atlanta lawyer. Woodrow decided that summer to abandon his legal practice and return to school to obtain a doctorate in political science. He planned to enroll in Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, MD in late September.
By coincidence, Ellen and Woodrow met in Ashville, NC, in September of 1883. Woodrow persuaded Ellen to stay an extra day and see him off to Baltimore before she returned to Rome. On the spur of the moment, Woodrow asked Ellen to marry him before he boarded his train, and she accepted.
Ellen returned to Rome to care for her ailing father. She had to make the sad decision to leave Rome in November 1883, taking her father and brothers back to Savannah. Several months later, her father was admitted to the Georgia Mental Hospital at Milledgeville, where he died in May of 1884.
Woodrow and Ellen wrote each other many letters during their engagement period. Their love deepened through this correspondence. Fortunately, Ellen’s father left a substantial inheritance that allowed Ellen to pursue her dream of attending art school in New York City.
In September 1884, she enrolled in the Student Art League in New York City. Her art talent was enhanced there, and she was quickly promoted to advanced classes in drawing and painting.
In the spring of 1885, Woodrow Wilson asked her to give up art school to marry him immediately. He had been offered a professorship at Bryn Mawr, a female college in Philadelphia. They married on June 23, 1885, honeymooned in North Carolina, and entered the academic world that fall, and Ellen disclosed that she was pregnant with their first child.
Ellen returned to Georgia in May 1886 for the birth of her first daughter, Margaret. She also returned to Gainesville in 1887 for the birth of her second daughter, Jessie.
Woodrow accepted his second teaching position at Wesleyan College in Middletown, CT, in 1888, and their third daughter, Eleanor as born there in 1889.
In 1890, Woodrow accepted a teaching position at Princeton, his alma mater. He quickly rose in the ranks and became President in 1902. As Wilson was often away, Ellen had time to return to painting. She began to study her favorite subject again at their spacious Princeton home, Prospect House. She also loved the outdoors and established a well-landscaped garden.
However, tragedy continued to haunt her life. She sunk into a depression after the untimely death of her youngest brother, Edward, who drowned in the Etowah River in Cherokee County, GA. As a result of Ellen’s friendship with Martha Berry, a scholarship was established in Edward’s memory at Berry College. Woodrow encouraged her to spend the summer at an art colony in Old Lyme, CT, where many American Impressionists gathered to paint plein-air.
Wilson left Princeton in 1910 to run for Governor of New Jersey. Ellen became the perfect political wife as she helped stage advantageous political meetings with dignitaries such as former President Grover Cleveland and William Jennings Bryan.
Photo taken just after Woodrow Wilson was nominated for President in July 1912. The family was at Sea Girt, the New Jersey Governor’s summer residence when they got the news in August of 1912. Woodrow and Ellen are in the front row and the three daughters, (L-R) Jessie, Nell (Eleanor) and Margaret are in the back row. Courtesy of the President Woodrow Wilson House, a National Trust Historic Site, Washington, D.C.
Woodrow served as New Jersey’s governor for less than two years before being nominated for President of the United States by the Democratic Party in the summer of 1912. He was elected in November and was inaugurated the 28th President of the United States on March 4, 1913.
Ellen was uncertain about becoming First Lady, but quickly rose to the task. She soon set her own agenda by becoming involved in Washington social causes, and hosting receptions of all sizes. She also added beauty and art to the White House. She redecorated the living quarters, using bright colors and Appalachian quilts and art. A top floor art studio with natural lighting was also included in the renovations. She took the White House gardener back to Princeton to visit her Prospect House gardens, and they designed the White House Rose Garden within her first year as First Lady.
During all of this, she still had time to arrange the marriage ceremonies of her daughters, Jessie and Eleanor, in the White House, and mentor a young assistant cabinet member’s wife, Eleanor Roosevelt.
In the spring of 1914, Ellen became ill and sustained a serious fall in the White House living quarters. Her health declined rapidly, and she died in the White House on August 6. The main cause was listed as Bright’s Disease (a kidney disorder).
After a White House memorial ceremony on August 10, a private train brought her body to Rome, to be buried in Myrtle Hill Cemetery beside her parents.
Rome’s Homecoming Committee was quickly turned into a Memorial Committee, as the small southern town had to rapidly prepare for a national ceremony. A memorial service was held at Rome’s First Presbyterian Church, on August 11, 1914, where her father had served as minister.
Thousands of people flooded into Rome to pay their respects to the President and his family. The buildings and bridges along Rome’s main street, Broad Street, were draped in black and white bunting. Hundreds of floral arrangements from throughout the world were sent for the service, and were taken to the gravesite.
President’s carriage on the way to Myrtle Hill Cemetery. Courtesy of the President Woodrow Wilson House, a National Trust Historic Site, Washington, D.C.
Wilson and his daughters returned on their private train that evening to Washington. Wilson never returned to Rome, and he remarried sixteen months later.
Wilson’s initial plans were to be buried in Rome beside Ellen; however his second wife had other ideas. He died in 1924, and was buried in the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. His widow, Edith Galt Wilson, lived until 1961, and by virtue of surviving almost 50 years after she was First Lady, it is she who is largely remembered as Wilson’s wife.
HOMECOMING 2014 in Rome, Georgia
The Rome Area Council for the Arts, Oak Hill and the Martha Berry Museum, and the Rome Area History Museum are planning a year of memory to Ellen Axson Wilson during 2014. An exhibition of twenty of Ellen’s original oil paintings will be on display from July 1 until October 31, 2014 at the Martha Berry Museum, a Centennial Memorial Service is planned for August 11, 2014, and an exhibit at the Rome Area History Museum will honor Rome’s First Lady, who missed her own Homecoming 100 years ago. The President Woodrow Wilson House, a National Trust Historic Site, Washington, D.C. and the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library in Staunton, VA, are assisting in the exhibition. As a result of the activities of this year, the Rome Area Council for the Arts is planning a permanent memorial statue to serve as a lasting legacy to Rome’s own First Lady. RACA invites contributions to the Ellen Axson Wilson Memorial Fund, and encourages visits to RACA’s website, for more information about the events and the memorial.
• Ellen Axson Wilson: First Lady Between Two Worlds.
By Frances Wright Saunders. (Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 1985.)
• Ellen and Edith, Woodrow Wilson’s First Ladies.
By Kristie Miller. (University Press of Kansas, 2010.)
• My Aunt Louisa and Woodrow Wilson.
By Margaret Axson Elliott (Chapel Hill, The University of North
Carolina Press, 1944.)
• The Priceless Gift, the Love Letters of Woodrow Wilson and Ellen Axson Wilson. Edited by Eleanor Wilson McAdoo (McGraw-Hill Book Co., Inc., 1962.)
• Rome Tribune Herald of 1914. (Microfilm of various newspaper articles
at Rome-Floyd County Library).
If only mom had an iron lung to attach me to, then she could be SURE I’m breathing!
[The American Academy of Pediatricians advises] “Avoid commercial devices marketed to reduce the risk of SIDS. … There is no evidence that these devices reduce the risk of SIDS or suffocation or that they are safe.” And: “Do not use home cardiorespiratory monitors as a strategy to reduce the risk of SIDS. … They might be of value for selected infants but should not be used routinely.” (In fact, there’s some evidence that they might not be safe: In November, monitor behemoth Angelcare voluntarily recalled 600,000 under-mattress sensor pads after two infants died of strangulation when the cord attached to the pad wrapped around their necks.)
The point is clear: Infant monitors, even the newest generation of smartphone-friendly wearable tech, do not reduce the risk of SIDS. And while the creators of devices like Mimo agree, Dr. Claire McCarthy, a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital and a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, calls Mimo’s claim that it is not presenting its device as SIDS protection “disingenuous”…
Lenore here: Disingenuous is a nice word for “Hucksterism.” Not only can’t these devices prevent SIDS, they actually spread EXCESS worry by making it seem like a sleeping baby is in danger every single second. No wonder parents are so crazed with fear. NOTHING — not even a baby in a crib — is safe enough for us to let our guard down a sec.
And so begins the great parent freak-out, brought to us by the endlessly inventive and seemingly recession-proof Child Safety-Industrial Complex.
This Project Gutenberg eBook for English As We Speak It in Ireland, by P. W. Joyce (London: Longmans, Green & Co., Dublin, M.H. Gill & Son, Ltd, 1910), was recently linked on MetaFilter, and I would be remiss if I did not pass it on to my own readership. It’s chock full of delights, from the Preface (“My own memory is a storehouse both of idiom and vocabulary; for the good reason that from childhood to early manhood I spoke—like those among whom I lived—the rich dialect of Limerick and Cork”) to the chapter on affirming, assenting, and saluting (“The Irish ní’l lá fós é [neel law fo-say: it isn't day yet] is often used for emphasis in asseveration, even when persons are speaking English; but in this case the saying is often turned into English. ‘If the master didn’t give Tim a tongue-dressing, ’tisn’t day yet‘ (which would be said either by day or by night): meaning he gave him a very severe scolding”) to the chapter on swearing, which begins:
The general run of our people do not swear much; and those that do commonly limit themselves to the name of the devil either straight out or in some of its various disguised forms, or to some harmless imitation of a curse. You do indeed come across persons who go higher, but they are rare. Yet while keeping themselves generally within safe bounds, it must be confessed that many of the people have a sort of sneaking admiration—lurking secretly and seldom expressed in words—for a good well-balanced curse, so long as it does not shock by its profanity. I once knew a doctor—not in Dublin—who, it might be said, was a genius in this line. He could, on the spur of the moment, roll out a magnificent curse that might vie with a passage of the Iliad in the mouth of Homer. ‘Oh sir’—as I heard a fellow say—”tis grand to listen to him when he’s in a rage.’ He was known as a skilled physician, and a good fellow in every way, and his splendid swearing crowned his popularity. He had discretion however, and knew when to swear and when not; but ultimately he swore his way into an extensive and lucrative practice, which lasted during his whole life—a long and honourable one.
If you don’t find hours of entertainment in it, ’tisn’t day yet.
Pastor Zach Zehnder loves the churchgoers who’ve done just that.
“It speaks to their dedication of not just the church, but them following after Jesus,” Zehnder said. … “We touched on the idea of tattoos and I kind of flippantly… said I’m so not against tattoos that if anybody out there wants to get one, the church would find money for it.”
I guess the journalist for the local newspaper forgot to ask Zehnder to what extent he actually follows the Bible he professes to adore. The Good Book expressly forbids tattoos, after all:
Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.
Followup question for the reverend: “What other Bible parts do you choose not to follow, and how does that reflect on the holiness of the bits you somehow do regard as inviolable?”
Science junkies meet couch potatoes for a TV spectacle both should enjoy. Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey is a new, 13-episode documentary series hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson that kicks off tonight at 9:00p (ET) on Fox, National Geographic, and eight other cable networks. It will also be be shown in more than 175 countries across the globe, says the L.A. Times.
The paper has an interview with executive producer Seth MacFarlane, who implies that he helped fund the project.
I was crossing paths with [Tyson] … and I always thought to myself, I have a connection there to the scientific community and things are going well financially and I wanted to see what I could do to throw some of this extra money around in a positive way. Science is, in many ways, more and more underfunded. I was thinking in terms of research projects, I asked him if there were any research projects that need funding in any field of science.
“For argument’s sake, let’s say “Family Guy” is not family-friendly, then I would say “Cosmos” is the first thing that I’ve done in my career that you can sit down with your entire family. It’s for young people and old people. … I think that there is a hunger for science and knowing about science and understanding of science that hasn’t really been fed in the past two decades. We’ve had a resurgence of creationism and intelligent design “theory.” There’s been a real vacuum when it comes to science education.
The nice thing about this show is that I think that it does what the original “Cosmos” did and presents it in such a flashy, entertaining way that, as Carl Sagan put it in 1980, even people who have no interest in science will watch just because it’s a spectacle. People who watched the original “Cosmos” will sit down and watch with their kids.”
The producer also explains why, even as a an atheist and a liberal, he was actually with Newt Gingrich when Gingrich became an advocate for space exploration a couple of years ago:
You look back at the ‘60s and ‘70s and there was great pride in scientific achievement in this country, particularly in the area of space travel. Our advancements as human beings were important to us and something that we wanted to see continue to evolve. In 1969, we all thought that we would have a permanent manned presence on the moon by the year 2000. And then in 2012 Newt Gingrich suggested we should have a moon base and everyone thought he was crazy. And I was thinking, I’m a liberal Democrat but I’m 100% with this guy. He’s exactly right. They thought this would happen 10 years ago and here he is making this suggestion and suddenly he’s a crackpot. …
In the ‘90s, there were sci-fi shows on TV that at least made an attempt to explore things like quantum physics that have some basis in reality of theoretical physics, and now we get vampires, witches and zombies, which is also a symptom of that.
MacFarlane expounds further on the series in this video, where he’s joined by deGrasse Tyson and writer/producer Ann Druyan.
According to a recently-released report from the Pew Research Center, only 36% of Millennials (ages 18-33) feel like the description “religious person” describes them well:
Today’s young adults are also less likely than middle-aged and older adults to describe themselves as religious. Roughly a third (36%) of Millennials say the phrase “a religious person” describes them very well. By comparison, half of Gen Xers (52%) and 55% of Boomers say this description fits them very well. And among Silents, about six-in-ten (61%) say this description fits them very well.
Again, the tendency of Millennials to shy away from this self-description is not unique to this generation of young adults. In 1999, 47% of Gen Xers said that “a religious person” described them very well, compared with 59% of adults ages 35 and older. Still today’s young adults are significantly less likely to identify themselves as religious when compared with Gen Xers at a comparable age (36% vs. 47%).
It’s not surprising at all given the demographic trends. You may recall the hockey stick graph we saw in 2012 when it came to Millennials who said they never doubted God’s existence. Instead of remaining near 90% like their more devout older counterparts, the younger group’s numbers plummeted beautifully to 68%:
Over the last year or so I've received several letters from an admirable organization called the Trident Society with the words "Free Pre-Paid Cremation! DETAILS INSIDE," on the envelope. Ordinarily, I don't open advertising letters, but the third time I got one of these I couldn't resist the urge find out what the writer(s) could mean by these words, which appear to pose a double conundrum. (1) What could a pre-paid cremation contrast with? A post-paid cremation? How would that work? (2) Anyway, if it's free, how can it be paid, pre- or post-? You might want to stop reading for a second and try to guess what's going on.
I'm afraid the answer isn't all that satisfying. Inside there is a card on which the reader can express interest in learning about cremation services. The card also features the announcement: "WIN a pre-paid cremation. Return this completed card today …to be entered … " So I'm invited to participate in a lottery for which the prize is a cremation paid for before my death. I guess I would have been just as happy with a free cremation.
By now, you may be saying , "Oh c'mmon, you know perfectly well what they meant!" Yes, of course, but what I find puzzling about the whole thing is the question of the relative shares of linguistic ineptitude and huckstering flimflam that went into it.
The Samburu pastoralists of Northern Kenya co-exist with African elephants, Loxodonta africana, and compete over resources such as watering holes. Audio playback experiments demonstrate that African elephants produce alarm calls in response to the voices of Samburu tribesmen. When exposed to adult male Samburu voices, listening elephants exhibited vigilance behavior, flight behavior, and produced vocalizations (rumbles, roars and trumpets). Rumble vocalizations were most common and were characterized by increased and more variable fundamental frequencies, and an upward shift in the first [F1] and second [F2] formant locations, compared to control rumbles. When exposed to a sequence of these recorded rumbles, roars and trumpets, listening elephants also exhibited vigilance and flight behavior. The same behavior was observed, in lesser degrees, both when the roars and trumpets were removed, and when the second formants were artificially lowered to levels typical of control rumbles. The “Samburu alarm rumble” is acoustically distinct from the previously described “bee alarm rumble.” The bee alarm rumbles exhibited increased F2, while Samburu alarm rumbles exhibited increased F1 and F2, compared to controls. Moreover, the behavioral reactions to the two threats were different. Elephants exhibited vigilance and flight behavior in response to Samburu and bee stimuli and to both alarm calls, but headshaking behavior only occurred in response to bee sounds and bee alarm calls. In general, increasingly threatening stimuli elicited alarm calls with increases in F0 and in formant locations, and increasing numbers of these acoustic cues in vocal stimuli elicited increased vigilance and flight behavior in listening elephants. These results show that African elephant alarm calls differentiate between two types of threat and reflect the level of urgency of threats.
Unlike the smaller and more vulnerable mammals, African elephants have relatively few predators that threaten their survival. The sound of disturbed African honeybees Apis meliffera scutellata causes African elephants Loxodonta africana to retreat and produce warning vocalizations that lead other elephants to join the flight. In our first experiment, audio playbacks of bee sounds induced elephants to retreat and elicited more head-shaking and dusting, reactive behaviors that may prevent bee stings, compared to white noise control playbacks. Most importantly, elephants produced distinctive “rumble” vocalizations in response to bee sounds. These rumbles exhibited an upward shift in the second formant location, which implies active vocal tract modulation, compared to rumbles made in response to white noise playbacks. In a second experiment, audio playbacks of these rumbles produced in response to bees elicited increased headshaking, and further and faster retreat behavior in other elephants, compared to control rumble playbacks with lower second formant frequencies. These responses to the bee rumble stimuli occurred in the absence of any bees or bee sounds. This suggests that these elephant rumbles may function as referential signals, in which a formant frequency shift alerts nearby elephants about an external threat, in this case, the threat of bees.
We post a new episode of Appalachian History weekly podcast every Sunday. Check us out on the Stitcher network, available on mobile phones, in-car dashboards and tablets worldwide. Just click below to start listening:
We open today’s show with a piece by guest author Nancy L. Smith. Smith, a Rome, GA native, chronicles the rise of one Ellen Axson from her beginnings in Rome, to her days in the White House as Mrs. Woodrow Wilson. “Ellen was uncertain about becoming First Lady,” says Smith, “but quickly rose to the task. She soon set her own agenda by becoming involved in Washington social causes, and hosting receptions of all sizes.” On March 11, Nancy Smith will present a slide-lecture and discussion about Ellen Axson Wilson and the accompanying 2014 year of activities planned in Rome at the Rome Area History Museum.
We’ll pause in between things to catch up on a calendar of events in the region this week, with special attention paid to events that emphasize heritage and local color.
We’ll wrap things up with guest author Gordon Belt, discussing his new book John Sevier: Tennessee’s First Hero. “Sevier’s story is one of contradictions,” says Belt. “On the one hand, he rose to prominence as a legend on the frontier and a hero of the American Revolution. He demonstrated political savvy, guiding Tennessee to statehood and becoming its first governor. On the other hand, Sevier was human, and his actions revealed a man less than perfect.” John Sevier: Tennessee’s First Hero is published by the History Press, and will be available March 25.
And thanks to the good folks at the Berea College Southern Appalachian Archives, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music from Bill & Jim Fuller in a 1965 recording of Eighth of January.
So call your old Plott hound up on the porch, fire up your corncob pipe, and settle in for a dose of Appalachian history.
I’d wager that some of that has to do with the identifiability of the group. The worst of the Christian tipping behavior is perceived to take place on Sundays, when Christians are extra-visible as a group on account of their church clothes and/or their time of arrival (shortly after church services end). When these groups leave paltry tips, selective perception on the part of the staff may lead waiters to assign a pattern of behavior to them that could apply just as well to not-overtly-Christian groups, except that the latter don’t share any obvious characteristics.
Black people, too, face the stigma of being regarded as lousy tippers — in part, perhaps, for the same reason. They may stand out in servers’ subconscious perception with an easy identifier. If, in a particular restaurant, during a particular shift, five groups of black diners leave a really meager tip, and five groups of white diners do the same, waiters are probably more likely to grumble about the tips left by black people than by white people, especially if the restaurant typically draws more white than black customers. (I smell a good Freakonomics piece here.)
As far as the Christians go, this certainly isn’t the whole story. A 2010 Cornell study (PDF) correlating God-belief to tipping behavior found that
… Christians are not in fact bad tippers; they gave an average of 17.3% for good service, well inside the 15% to 20% norm.
… 13% of Christians left less than 15% for good service. That’s a small minority of Christians, but still almost double the percentage of unaffiliated diners who left that amount, and more than six times the percentage of Jewish diners who under-tipped.
So while it is statistically false to say that Christians are bad tippers, it is true that Christians are more likely to stiff their servers than people of other religious (or non-religious) bents.
The reason I’m revisiting the topic today is that there is a new website called “Sundays Are the Worst.” It was launched by Tennessee pastor Chad Roberts (below), who wants to give waitstaff maltreated by Christian Scrooges a place to vent — and who’d like to do what he can to right the wrongs. Cool.
Roberts said that his church members are planning to write out apologies to every single poster. They will also send a server a Food City gift card that can be used for groceries or gas. The campaign will last until Easter Sunday, when Roberts is asking his parishioners to double their tips.
“The two goals we have with this are number one, that Christians would begin to realize that their attitude really matters when they go to eat,” Roberts said. “The second goal is that particularly unchurched servers would understand that not all Christians are rude, impatient, lousy tippers. That’s what we want to communicate.”
Roberts has his work cut out for him, because a slew of waiters and waitresses have already been commenting on the site.
[O]ne man [from a church group] asked me why I was waitressing. Well, at the ripe age of 24, I was waitressing for two reasons: I was putting myself through school, and supporting my three-year-old, because I’m a single mother. The gentleman then proceeded to tell me that if I would have contributed more to the church monetarily, god would have provided her a father who would’ve stuck around. “But don’t worry, if you provide more now, he may change his mind and provide you with a husband.”
My mouth instantly dropped. I’m very outspoken and proud to be a mother. Never in my life has someone [said that] the reason her father [left was] my fault. And to suggest god punished me because of the money I don’t donate to a church is a far-fetched idea to me. Then to suggest I buy god off to find me a husband was appalling.
I politely said “maybe I’ll try that” and walked away. For the gentleman who gave me that great advice and left me a $2 tip on a $35 check, maybe your tipping is the reason I can’t provide more for the church.
Unfortunately, while Robert’s reply condemning the behavior of the man seems entirely sincere, he soon falls back on
A true Christian would not act like that.
If he would please note how much the No true Scotsman fallacy grates on many of those who are neither Scotsmen nor Christians, we might be getting somewhere.
One day last month, Doug and his classmates watched part of a Disney movie during one of the many wasted class periods he’s had this year (thanks to the busiest, most pointless, and most disruptive standardized-test schedule I’ve ever seen). He liked it, he said, and he’d figured out that the person who voiced a dragon in the movie was that guy who had done Donkey in Shrek.
“Oh! Mulan!” I said. “That’s one of the last movies your mom and I saw before you were born.” I also clued him in on the name of “that guy who did the voice of Donkey,” as he and his classmates think of Eddie Murphy. He wanted to put it on our Netflix queue so he could see the rest, so we did.
I didn’t tell Doug my secret reason for putting Mulan in the queue: a line in one of the songs that I’ve occasionally considered blogging about, but hadn’t wanted to go to the trouble of watching the movie again so I could get the exact wording. But if Doug wanted to watch the movie anyway, I could conveniently accomplish the goal.
So last weekend, I saw Mulan for the second time. Adam pointed out that the voice of Mulan herself was done by one of the stars of Agents of SHIELD. Doug noticed that the enemies that were clearly supposed to be Mongols were actually referred to as Huns, probably because Huns was easier to rhyme in a song than Mongols. (They rhymed it with sons.) The wife noticed an “American Gothic” reference she hadn’t remembered. And I got to hear the line in the song I’d been trying to remember. I had to pause and rewind a couple of times before I could write it all down, but luckily, nobody minded.
It comes in the song “A Girl Worth Fighting For,” as the members of the Chinese army who are prominent enough to have names sing about their dream women. About 40 seconds into the song, the baby-faced big fat one, named Chien Po, sings
I couldn’t care less what she’ll wear or what she looks like.
It all depends on what she cooks like.
Hah! Looks like … cooks like! Oh, and notice the standardly negated couldn’t care less, too. But still: You can say someone looks like a god, or cooks like a chef, so why is looks like … cooks like so funny?
In the question what she looks like, the what corresponds to the missing object of like. But the key, I think, is that what she looks like has essentially the same meaning as how she looks, where how could be standing in for an adjective (she looks good) or a prepositional phrase (she looks like a statue). With these two equivalent sentences available, we can set up an analogy:
how she looks : what she looks like :: how she cooks : X
What does X equal? what she cooks like, naturally! But why is it so funny?
How is the question word we use in order to ask about a predicate adjective. Questions like How do you feel?, How does it taste?, How did they sound?, and How does she look? are typically answered with adjectives: great, good, bad, swell, or maybe prepositional phrases such as like a million bucks. But how is also the question word we use to ask about the manner in which something was done. Questions like How did he do it? and How does she cook? are typically answered with an adverb, like well or poorly, or some other kind of phrase that tells how something was done: with a ball-peen hammer, for example. Only the how corresponding to an adjective means the same thing as what … like, and the analogy that gets us what she cooks like totally ignores this fact.