My dad tipped me off to Sam Harris' response to this year's World Question:
When evaluating the social cost of deception, one must consider all of the misdeeds—marital infidelities, Ponzi schemes, premeditated murders, terrorist atrocities, genocides, etc.—that are nurtured and shored-up, at every turn, by lies. Viewed in this wider context, deception commends itself, perhaps even above violence, as the principal enemy of human cooperation. Imagine how our world would change if, when the truth really mattered, it became impossible to lie.
I've never heard of this org before, but it seems to be worth a troll.
I'm not a big fan of Seinfeld but I am a fan of this sort of thing:
The debate over religious displays in the Illinois Capitol's rotunda took a farcical turn this week when a student at a Lake Forest boarding school put up an aluminum pole to honor Festivus.
For those in the dark, Festivus is a mock holiday popularized by a 1997 episode of "Seinfeld." The pole is a Christmas tree-like symbol, and semi-ironic celebrations of Festivus, usually observed on Dec. 23, include such traditions as the "Airing of Grievances" and the "Feats of Strength."
Michael Tennenhouse, 18, said he was home in Springfield on winter break, taking in impeachment hearings at the Capitol, when he came across a nativity scene, a menorah and an atheist group's display in the rotunda. The exhibits have stirred up controversies, all of which struck Tennenhouse as silly.
I also remember a story I heard years ago. It seems that a missionary had trouble translating important concepts to a tribe in the Amazon. So now, years later, the tribe build an enormous mound of earth and entertain it all day on December 25th. Because on this day, the ton of sod was bored, you see.
Yeah, I know, but I can't get it out of my head.
Via James Fallows, a perfect holiday shopping idea from writer and Wait Wait! panelist, Roy Blount, Jr.:
I've been talking to booksellers lately who report that times are hard. And local booksellers aren't known for vast reserves of capital, so a serious dip in sales can be devastating. Booksellers don't lose enough money, however, to receive congressional attention. A government bailout isn't in the cards.
We don't want bookstores to die. Authors need them, and so do neighborhoods. So let's mount a book-buying splurge. Get your friends together, go to your local bookstore and have a book-buying party. Buy the rest of your Christmas presents, but that's just for starters. Clear out the mysteries, wrap up the histories, beam up the science fiction! Round up the westerns, go crazy for self-help, say yes to the university press books! Get a load of those coffee-table books, fatten up on slim volumes of verse, and take a chance on romance!
I direct this specifically to readers I know I have in Durham, N.C. (Regulator Bookshop), San Francisco (Stacey's Bookstore), Chicago (Powell's and, though they're going out of business, Brent's), and New York (pick one). You know who you are. Shop.
This morning the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced the economy lost 533,000 non-farm jobs last month, giving us a main-line unemployment rate of 6.7%. This is the highest since 1993, which, along with the usual credit-crisis indicators (like the 3-month Treasury now at zero), is quite sobering.
Appropriate, then, that today is the 75th anniversary of the 21st Amendment, repealing Prohibition.
I've just gotten from Amazon two of the best movies ever made, worth the extra few bucks for Blu-Ray:
That said, I'm under my dad's orders to finish Deadwood before watching anything else...
Because the ParkerCam just isn't enough for some people, I commend to you the Puppy Cam. Yes, they are adorable, I have to admit. And more technologically advanced: live, streaming video vs. a once-a-minute static JPEG. But I have no idea who these puppies are. They might even be Communists, or worse, the way they're all in one bed together like that.
Via James Fallows, a profile of Dogfish Head Brewery (and other extreme beers):
Dogfish makes some very fine beers, [Brooklyn Brewery brewmaster Garrett] Oliver says. But its reputation has been built on ales like its 120 Minute I.P.A., one of the strongest beers of its kind in the world. I.P.A. stands for India pale ale, an especially hoppy British style first made in the eighteenth century for the long sea voyage to the subcontinent. (Hops are a natural preservative as well as a flavoring.) A typical I.P.A. has six per cent alcohol and forty I.B.U.s—brewers’ parlance for international bittering units. [Dogfish brewmaster Sam] Calagione’s version has eighteen per cent alcohol and a hundred and twenty I.B.U.s. It’s brewed for two hours, with continuous infusions of hops, then fermented with still more hops. “I don’t find it pleasant to drink,” Oliver says. “I find it unbalanced and shrieking.”
Others find it thrilling. “When you’re trying to create new brewing techniques and beer styles, you have to have a certain recklessness,” Jim Koch, whose Boston Beer Company brews Samuel Adams, and who coined the term “extreme beer,” told me. “Sam has that. He’s fearless, but he’s also got a good palate. He doesn’t put stuff into beer that doesn’t deserve to be there.”
Long read from the New Yorker, with the magazine's usual wordiness, but interesting. And it's making me thirsty.
Beloit College professors Tom McBride and Ron Nief annually compile a list of assumptions that first-years bring with them based solely on the year of their birth. It's fascinating:
This month [August 2008], almost 2 million first-year students will head off to college campuses around the country. Most of them will be about 18 years old, born in 1990 when headlines sounded oddly familiar to those of today: Rising fuel costs were causing airlines to cut staff and flight schedules; Big Three car companies were facing declining sales and profits; and a president named Bush was increasing the number of troops in the Middle East in the hopes of securing peace. However, the mindset of this new generation of college students is quite different from that of the faculty about to prepare them to become the leaders of tomorrow.
The class of 2012 has grown up in an era where computers and rapid communication are the norm, and colleges no longer trumpet the fact that residence halls are “wired” and equipped with the latest hardware. These students will hardly recognize the availability of telephones in their rooms since they have seldom utilized landlines during their adolescence. They will continue to live on their cell phones and communicate via texting. Roommates, few of whom have ever shared a bedroom, have already checked out each other on Facebook where they have shared their most personal thoughts with the whole world.
For these students, Sammy Davis Jr., Jim Henson, Ryan White, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Freddy Krueger have always been dead.
- Harry Potter could be a classmate, playing on their Quidditch team.
- Since they were in diapers, karaoke machines have been annoying people at parties.
- They have always been looking for Carmen Sandiego.
- GPS satellite navigation systems have always been available.
- Coke and Pepsi have always used recycled plastic bottles.
...and 55 others that will make you say, "huh."
After tooling around other years' lists, I say: Xers unite! (As if...)
I must say, the new terminal at RDU looks great. I hardly believed I was in North Carolina. And the last time I was here, it was a red state. Now it's blue. Tempus fugit.
Actually, I'm kind of sad I'm not staying longer. My host couldn't stay tonight (the S.O. is unewell) so I'm on my own until a 9:00 meeting tomorrow morning, about which more later, and after which I'm back on a plane to do work related to the trip for, like, ten days. Everything from this trip is due on December 1st.
I could like Durham for a while, I think. But I won't leave Chicago until the revolution comes, absent a tremendous bribe.
Sorry I'm being cryptic. When things settle down, I'll fill in the details.