For Your Enjoyment #46

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Ladies and gentlemen, sows and boars, the Fattest Bear of 2018 is… 409 Beadnose! Bears must eat one year’s worth of food in six short months to survive hibernation, and 409 has excelled at that. Her radiant rolls were deemed by the voting public to be this year’s most fabulous flab. Our chubby champ has a few more weeks to chow down on lingering salmon carcasses before she heads up the mountains to dig herself a den and savor her victory. What does the she win for all this hard work? Stronger chances of living through the winter.

- This may be old news (c. October 2018), but I’m already looking ahead to Fat Bear Week 2019 (image above)

There’s nothing in our background, upbringing, or education that teaches you how to deal with someone who in broad daylight has just stolen your cookies. 

- A great little anecdote from Douglas Adams (h/t DM)

"San Francisco is like living in Disney World," said Woolson, a writer and designer. "There's no place like it, and if it were affordable, I'm sure I'd move back. But there's tradeoffs - everyone knows about the city already, they're so high on themselves." The Town, on the other hand, is less "showboat-y," he said. "Oakland is not out to impress anybody."

- The Town v. The City

“It was a very awkward time. I guess I kind of lost control of the faculty at some point,” [David Badger, Key School headmaster in the mid-1970s] said. “I thought they were good teachers. I thought they were honest people. I think I was naive as hell.”

Oof, Obezags

America has the same conversation after each mass shooting – the inevitable debate about gun control versus mental-health care (rarely both at the same time). It becomes factionalised, politicised and nothing changes. Then the next mass shooting happens. But it occurred to me that the one person we never speak to about mass shootings is the mass shooter himself (and it is, almost always, a him) – perhaps because they too often kill themselves or are dispatched by police. But if we could, we might ask them this: what would have stopped you doing what you did? You tell us. Would it have been some kind of counselling? Would it have been legislation that could have stopped you getting hold of the weapon that caused so much destruction? And what was it that drove you over the edge?

- This longread is heavy but worth a read when you’re ready

Six speakers are placed atop individual plinths and attached to an MP3 player that contains only the song; the entire thing is powered by solar energy with the promise that it will run "for all eternity."

- And now for some lighter topics: All Toto, All The Time

[The] Malaysian busker was about to call it day, as not many people gathered around to hear him sing. Just as he started to sing for fun, the cutest little audience showed up…

- Best crowd ever!

“The first sweater I made of a specific landmark was the Tower Bridge in London,” remembers [Sam] Barsky. “I was inspired by a picture I saw in a magazine. I had never been there before and did not make it for a specific trip. But, once I started knitting more landmarks, like the Golden Gate Bridge and Venice, I knew I wanted to go there while wearing them.”

- This guy though

We can do better in 2019. We must. There are, of course, many predictable ways to go about it. We can limit our exposure to the raw sewage of social media. We can turn off the cable news networks and opinion-bellowing podcasts to which we have turned to reinforce the beliefs we already had. We can meditate and run and get eight good hours of sleep a night. Enjoy all of that, and I'll see you when we're finished with it on January 6. But there is something else. Something deeper, more difficult and no less necessary. Something that can go a long way toward washing our souls clean of the cruelty that is the hallmark of our modern society. Something that can help prepare us for a 2019 that promises to be more exhausting, more bewildering, more chock full o' nuts. My friends, we must reckon with what we have done to Hootie and the Blowfish.

- No time for haters this year

In some circles (read: almost anywhere music critics gather to sacrifice young bass players and dance naked around a copy of Pet Sounds), Collins is the apotheosis of blandness and ubiquity, the byword for the bleaching of soul music, the man who killed Genesis and gave American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman a reason, and a soundtrack, to screw and kill. But for a musician who can count (somehow, perplexingly, but nonetheless quite seriously) Kanye West, 2Pac, Nas and Ol’ Dirty Bastard as fans, how can he be considered almost terminally uncool?

- In other musician-hating news, here’s a bit on Phil Collins

It’s funny, man, because I get asked this all the time: How you feel about this new NBA, AI? How you feel about these boys getting into FASHION? How you feel about this next big wave of players in the league REJECTING your style? I really have to speak on this, huh. O.K. — people are getting it twisted if they think these players showing love for fashion is about rejecting my style. Nah, man, that’s not it. All you have to do is go back and actually look at what I stood for, and you’ll see what I mean. It’s crazy….. people really are just out here saying that I stood for baggy clothes? Or that I stood for fitteds? Or cornrows? Or tattoos? Or throwbacks? Or anything like that? Nah, come on. What I stood for was something way deeper. I mean — to me, if I had to sum it up? I’d say I stood for being yourself.

- This AI essay for The Players Tribune is worth a read

With major implications on everything from the classroom to the church pews, from the Capitol to the dinner table, an unrelenting demographic shift has hit a major milestone: Fewer than half the people living in Salt Lake County are on the rolls of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints…Salt Lake County has not only become less LDS over time, it also has added more people from various racial or ethnic backgrounds, noted Pam Perlich, the director of demographic research at the University of Utah’s Gardner Policy Institute, which puts out the state’s population estimates.

- SLC: Slowly Becoming Less Mormon and Less White?

Utah ranks No. 1 among the states for its population growth rate this decade — thanks to its high birthrate plus a strong economy that attracts people from other states and abroad…With immigration increases over recent years, [Pam Perlich, director of demographic research at the University of Utah's Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute] said, “We are on our way to becoming a very large global metropolitan area. We can expect the continued arrival of international people because the labor market is global at this point.” Perlich said national and state projections show most future growth will “be generated by these diverse populations who immigrate to the country and then have kids.” For example, the Salt Lake City School District says its students speak 90 languages, and most of its schools now have a majority of students who are minorities. In 2018, Utah ranked No. 3 for growth at 1.9 percent behind two of its neighbors. Nevada and Idaho led the nation, both at about 2.1 percent. “It shows the strength of the Intermountain region,” Perlich said.

- Guess we’re all moving to Utah these days

We can’t quite put our finger on why, but Washington, DC, is feeling a bit tense lately. If the idea of taking a tour of the Capitol Building has you breaking out in a cold sweat, it’s time to turn your attention to the other nearby towns in the mid-Atlantic area, like beautiful, blood-pressure-lowering Annapolis.

- The Matador knows what’s up

In October, a team of Target Malaria scientists from the University of Ghana and the University of Oxford will embark on a four-year study of the ecology of the malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae in Ghana. Ultimately, they hope to understand how fish, bats, flowers, and insects would respond if those mosquito populations were reduced—or even entirely eliminated. Previous research has danced around this question, Thizy says, but “nobody has really studied it on purpose.”…Target Malaria is careful to say its goal isn’t to eliminate all mosquitoes or even all malaria mosquitoes. Its goal is to eliminate malaria—and it is possible that simply suppressing Anopheles gambiae numbers is enough to break the cycle of transmission. Wiping entire mosquito species off the face of the Earth would be much harder, and maybe even a touch delusional. Yet mosquitoes really don’t have many defenders, even among the scientists who know them most intimately. The idea of eradicating mosquitoes to stop malaria doesn’t particularly bother Steven Juliano, a mosquito-ecology researcher at Illinois State University. “It might be worth losing one species,” he says. “It might be worth it because the burden of human suffering is pretty high.”

- What would happen if mosquitoes were to disappear?

Over here, we Scandis are the object of much envy. But not for the obvious reasons — like our high quality of life, our equality or even the fact that we’ve supplied like a third of the cast of Game of Thrones at this point. No, it’s for small aspects of our culture that a group of advertising executives somewhere saw fit to export and aggressively market as something that's frankly not really true to who we are. I'm talking about the obsession with (and, more importantly, the misunderstanding of) hygge.  Hygge, a Danish word defined as "a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being," has been practically weaponised in recent years in an effort to sell candles, socks, and blankets. Hygge was never a lifestyle, but it's certainly marketed as one over here by people wishing to cash in on the Scandi-zeitgeist.

- A word on hygge appropriation

The Ruth Bader Ginsburg celebration, therefore, isn’t strictly about RBG at all; it’s about DJT. With a president who knowingly sets himself up as an icon of one pole of American politics, it’s about picking (or even inventing) a rival icon to rally around—a way to rebel against a president who openly vows to fill the nation’s courtrooms with like-minded judges, most of them hostile to the concepts of due process and equal protection that liberals hold dear. But in its very presence as an anti-movement, a liberal call to arms to thwart Trump and Mitch McConnell and the Federalist Society, the cult of RBG furthers the politicization of the court. It’s a form of surrender to the “everything’s political” argument that enables Trump to traduce boundaries of propriety that have existed for decades, dismissing the existence of any sort of independence or professionalism in government institutions.

- RBG fever vs. the politicizing of the Supreme Court

“Typically, women should have fair skin, be 162cm to 168cm tall [over 170cm is too tall] … weigh less than 48kg, have large eyes, a perfect nose, and long hair,” said the Korean gender studies expert. “These standards are common [for women] when applying for part-time jobs that don’t require much skill. ‘If a cashier is pretty then customers will enjoy the experience better, [therefore] we should hire pretty girls’ – this becomes treated like a true statement.” Ultimately, women should be allowed to be themselves, she adds. “We should see women as they are, rather than only accepting them when they’re decorated and dolled up. 

- South Korea’s beauty standards are out of control

While Wallace Stegner’s notion that parks are “America’s best idea” has become synonymous with the nation’s love for them, there’s a little more to his famous 1983 line. The Pulitzer prize winner went on to describe the parks as a mirror for America’s national character: “They reflect us at our best rather than our worst.” Considering the problems besetting them, his sentiment now seems open to question.

- The struggle of trying to reconcile our love for the NPS vs. contributing to the problem of over-tourism

[T]he title “Greatest of All Time” is being abused. Rampantly. It’s become almost irrelevant, like Maria Sharapova, Bryon Russell or the entire AFC outside of New England. Because hardly anybody seems to care what the phrase really means. To be called GOAT these days, you can merely be among the best, or popular in that moment, or a really good quarterback with one ring. Folks talk GOAT if you win the first five starts of your NFL career. There are allegedly two GOATs on the same high school football team and three GOATs in the same sport. Do we not understand the meaning of the word “greatest” — that there can be only one?

- “We’re being overrun by a herd of GOATs

There’s a vibe here. You see it in the other guys and in Coach Kerr and the front office, and you feel it in the staff and everyone else. Nobody is thinking about anything but a championship. They carry themselves like it. I’ve been missing basketball — and playing ball, that’s what it’s always been about for me. I found a new place where I’m being welcomed with open arms. I’ll be back at 100% this season. A year from now, looking back, I know this is going to be the best decision I ever made.

- BOOGIE

…And finally, courtesy of the LA Times, here are "Five hopeful poems to usher in the new year

For Your Enjoyment #45

More than a year in the making, our new adventure jumpsuit was inspired by one of our customer favorites, the REI Co-op Sahara Convertible pants. They’re comfortable and attractive, with a zip-off design that takes them from pants to shorts. But why stop there? Why not four zippers per leg for even more adjustability? For that matter, why even stop at pants? We asked ourselves: What would the world look like if you could have a single piece of hyperlight, super-breathable and ultra-warm apparel? .... “The cape is my favorite feature. There have been so many times I’ve been snowboarding and going for a big drop, and I thought ‘I left my cape at home,’” Adam said. Plus, the cape doubles as a bib for those messy camp meals.

- REI's April Fools' product is SO GOOD (video above)

Dubbed “Project Sage Hopper” by the WWGD team responsible for evaluating the viability of Wyoming’s habitat for Australian marsupials, it has been in the planning stages for 3 years. The goal is two-fold: Create new and interesting wildlife viewing opportunities for tourists, and in several years, potentially provide additional hunting opportunities. “Antilopine means ‘antelope-like, so we are interested to see how these kangaroos adapt to Wyoming’s wild landscapes,” WMI Director Matt Kauffman said. “If they start migrating, we’ll be tracking their movements, looking to see how they learn to exploit the sage steppe and the mountains, where they ‘hopover,’ those sorts of things.”

- Another great April Fools' story (read a response from the news outlet here)

During a speech on Thursday, President Trump revealed a striking ignorance of one of the pillars of his country’s educational system. In the course of promoting his infrastructure plan, he, a bit perplexingly, dismissed the country’s community colleges, suggesting he doesn’t know what purpose they serve. “We do not know what a ‘community college’ means,” he told the crowd in an Ohio training facility for construction apprentices, moments after expressing nostalgia for the vocational schools that flourished when he was growing up—schools that offered hands-on training in fields such as welding and cosmetology.

- Just stop

“It doesn’t matter what era we live in — visibility is so important because … little queer kids need to see flamey people like me and Jonathan [Van Ness],” Kressley said. “It’s okay to be any kind of person you want to be; it’s okay to be who you are. I think that’s why it’s important that it’s back.”

- The original cast of "Queer Eye" on the new reboot (which I may or may not have binge-watched in one sitting)

"Tomi the bear was forced to live in a cramped concrete enclosure outside a restaurant in Albania where he was fed beer and white bread as an attraction for tourists," Claire LaFrance, communications director for Four Paws, told The Dodo. His rescuers believe that Tomi was in that terrible little cage ever since he was a baby. "We assume that Tomi was caught in the wild as a cub and had been living in the squalid conditions for roughly two years before we rescued him," LaFrance said. Even though he could glimpse that there was a world outside his cage, all poor Tomi could really sense was the cold concrete floor and the bars around him. But people were determined to make sure Tomi got to experience much more than that. For the past few years, people from Four Paws have been working with governments across eastern Europe to coordinate the release of bears like Tomi, who have been stolen from the wild and exploited for entertainment. Gradually, these bear rescuers have been able to bring more and more bears to their sanctuary in Kosovo — Bear Sanctuary Prishtina — which was recently expanded so it could provide a home for even more rescued bears.

- Read more about Tomi and and other rescued bears over here and here (warning: you may shed a few tears of happiness) 

For decade after decade, generation after generation, [National Geographic] reinforced and reflected racial stereotypes that its white American readers were accustomed to and with which they were largely comfortable. Flick through back issues and you see a magazine almost entirely at ease with this colonial mindset. Had that all begun to change in the 1960s, during the era of civil rights and decolonisation, there would be no need for a “race issue” in 2018. But it didn’t. ...The decision to confront its past could, perhaps, be explained away as a strategically savvy attempt by a famous brand to reposition itself for the new America that demographic forecasting tells us is coming, no matter what Trump and the “alt-right” do. But what is happening at Nat Geo feels like more than that. “We are at a moment of some reckoning in our society,” said [editor in chief, Susan] Goldberg in a recent PBS interview. She is right.

- "For Decades, Our Coverage Was Racist. To Rise Above Our Past, We Must Acknowledge It."

[The Hazelton, PA annual festival] Funfest, in Sally Yale’s eyes, became too scary. Too uncomfortable. To be honest … too brown. “You just know if you go to a public event, you know you are going to be outnumbered,” Sally Yale says. “You know you’re going to be the minority, and do you want to go?” For Yale, the answer was no. “We joke about it and say we are in the minority now,” says Bob Sacco, a bartender at A&L Lounge, a tavern on a street now mainly filled with Latino-owned storefronts. “They took over the city. We joke about it all the time, but it’s more than a joke.”

- (Not-so) White America 

 ‘Two cats + feral toms = 24 kittens in one year, and that is with us ACTIVELY trying to trap/neuter/release. If we hadn’t? CATPOCALYPSE.’

- This couple went from having 0 cats to 24 rescued kittens.

[San Francisco's] Japantown (J-Town) is not as picturesque as the tourist magnet of Chinatown, that’s several big hills east of here – but it has its own story to tell. The Japanese moved to this area after the 1906 earthquake, when the areas where they then lived burned down. J-Town has had to weather two other cataclysms: the internment of its 5,000 inhabitants during the second world war and an urban renewal scheme in the 1960s that saw most of its original buildings bulldozed. “My family was displaced by the scheme,” says Richard Hashimoto, the current head of the Japantown Merchants’ Association. “Many never came back. We went from 36 [city] blocks to nine. And, with the current tech-driven real-estate boom in the city, the mom-and-pop businesses that did make it have another struggle.” ... “Persistence is our story,” Hashimoto says. “The challenge for our small family businesses is both with rising real-estate costs and seeing if the next generation will will carry on the business.”

- SF's Japantown: its history, its culture and its future

"Overall very good first impressions. Sturdy built, totally winter-ready and waterproof. Only comes in brown but that’s actually a plus for me."

- The internets' #rateaspecies is really good

Claire’s Stores Inc., the fashion accessories chain where legions of preteens got their ears pierced, is preparing to file for bankruptcy in the coming weeks, according to people with knowledge of the plans.

- NOOOOO, NOT MY CHILDHOOD

The same industry — composed of reality television and gossip blogs — that aided and exploited [Paris] Hilton's rise also eroded her celebrity. The Simple Life was, in fact, remarkably simple, a narrative playing up a caricature of Hilton that operated in a bubble apart from the real world. And while she was able to parlay that reality television persona into a lucrative fragrance and fashion brand (and a forever-iconic pop single, if not a full-fledged pop career), she didn’t keep up with the changes of the reality-celebrity landscape. Instead, a new generation of reality personalities — from Real Housewives and Kardashians to Sur servers — figured out how to turn themselves into brands whose "real” lives were integral to their shows. Gossip blogs and social media feuds became parts of the plot, demanding a constant stream of content and convincing performances of authenticity. But Hilton only got caught being "real" (usually through an arrest, or friend feud) outside of her reality productions, and seemed unwilling to embrace the scandals of her own making as part of her brand or her onscreen narrative. The public soon grew bored. By the time Kim Kardashian appeared on the scene, Hilton had become an emblem of a quaint past where mystery could still work as PR strategy, rather than a part of the media future where nothing is private and everything — if you look at it the right way — is content.

- "Why Paris Hilton Disappeared" - This BuzzFeed article is a surprisingly good read

Similar to the rise of Cardi B, the way [Tiffany] Haddish presents herself is simply too loud, too black and too woman. A potpourri of all three. Or how Mo’Nique “had a point,” but the way she said it wasn’t sitting right with some folks. Haddish is the latest black woman accused of “cooning,” “skinnin’ and grinnin’” and “shuckin’ and jivin’.” So, I have to ask, if Haddish is doing the Nae Nae for the white gaze, who is your respectability politics boogie for? At a time when it is trendy to be “unapologetically black,” there’s something about the way certain “blackness” is excluded that doesn’t quite curl all the way over. You can’t be unapologetic with an asterisk. Blackness encompasses an immeasurable index of idiosyncrasies, and its fluidity is what makes it worthy of endearment. Haddish’s presentation of blackness is just as dope and valid as Angela Rye’s.

- "It's Hot to Be Unapologetically Black...Unless"

Simon would later describe The Wire in different ways: as “Greek tragedy for the new millennium,” with sclerotic institutions playing the role of callous, indifferent gods; as a story about “the triumph of capitalism over human value”; and as a chronicle of “the decline of the American empire”. On Homicide: Life on the Street, NBC executives would repeatedly ask the writers: “Where are the victories?” The Wire avoided victories, preferring to show corruption, failure and decay. In this show, reformers would be thwarted, crooks rewarded and ordinary people ground down by the system. The Wire was as much journalism as entertainment – a form of protest television. The most frequent question asked in this writers’ room was: “What are we saying?”

- The Wire: 10 years later 

Lifestyle vintners have also left their mark on Napa’s landscape. Most refer to themselves with straight faces as “farmers,” even as “environmentalists,” while more trees are cut on surrounding mountainsides for yet more vineyards. They loudly praise the valley’s exemplary past and glorious future while exploiting its present. For instance, a prominent computer-boom beneficiary named Mike Davis has spent more millions on his sprawling new winery than will likely ever be recovered through wine sales. Since the Napa Valley floor is all planted, only the hillsides are available for new vineyards. And Davis is bent on scraping out a vineyard high on Howell Mountain that would adversely affect a precious wildlife preserve, one of the state’s most biologically rich remnants. 

- Rich people are ruining wine

[T]hese efforts to create warriors out of teachers as a means of addressing school shootings are wrongheaded. I used to be in the Marines, and now I'm a classroom teacher. From these experiences, there is one thing I know to be true: Responding effectively to an active-shooter situation is one of the toughest challenges for a marksman out there. To train teachers for this role would be an enormous task—and policymakers who think otherwise aren’t being realistic. ...Over the course of my time in the Marines, I trained on various heavy machine guns for the purpose of convoy operations, and consider myself to be proficient with a firearm. But none of the skills I learned would truly transfer into an active-shooter situation. Furthermore, as a teacher, I know that most of my day is spent alone in a classroom with my students. Efficient communication—the type forged in the military and necessary for neutralizing an active shooter—cannot occur when teachers spend the day cut off from other teachers in separate rooms. Had I wanted to continue carrying a firearm at work, I would’ve stayed in the service or chosen a different profession after my enlistment. Having worked with high-school students for several years now, I understand that my ability to be effective as a teacher is predicated on the existence of an environment conducive to learning and trust building. This environment will not exist in a schoolhouse where teachers double as armed guards.

- Teachers are not soldiers

Once in front of the portraits, most museum goers did one of three things: They held up their mobile phone to take a picture of the painting; they turned around to snap a selfie with the painting as backdrop; or they posed next to the portraits for a companion to take a souvenir shot (making the Obamas’ Smithsonian portraits into the world’s most expensive life-size cardboard cutouts). What hardly anyone did was this: Raise their eyes from their mobile phone and use their allotted time to gaze up at the arresting, symbol-laden canvases.

- As someone who struggles with balancing documentation with the act of being present, this was worth a quick read 

In a nostalgic twist, Smashing Pumpkins announced this 2018 [reunion] tour with a video featuring the original "Siamese Dream" album cover stars, Ali Laenger and LySandra Roberts, who are now adults. Besides making any '90s kid feel positively ancient (after all, the women were just tiny kids back then) it was also a stark reminder that time doesn't stand still. The classic rock phenomenon — bands touring with a negligible amount of original members — long ago started trickling down into other, younger genres. That Smashing Pumpkins would be on a victory lap without all original members isn't out of the ordinary. It's just a tough bit of historical revisionism to swallow.

- The Smashing Pumpkins are almost reunited - and that's the problem

A jeweller by trade, [Michel] Birkenwald has become one of London’s most enthusiastic engineers of infrastructure for animals. He founded and self-financed Barnes Hedgehogs around four years ago. The group drills the holes for free and generally advocates for the welfare of wild hedgehogs. Once Birkenwald has crafted a passage, he usually affixes a sign reading “Hedgehog Highway,” with the creature’s spiky silhouette. Even with a diamond drill tip, the work can be slow going. Victorian bricks are tough, and it can take upwards of an hour to carve a shape roughly the size of a CD—the smallest circumference that can comfortably accommodate the girth of “a porky hedgehog,” says Emily Wilson, of another advocacy group, Hedgehog Streets. Whatever Birkenwald lacks in academic credentials—he doesn’t have much background in environmental science or zoology—he makes up for in earnestness. “I am just an average guy who decided to help one of our most adorable mammals,” he says. 

- Hedgehog Highways!

Our most revered institutions hold themselves to an ethical standard that does not allow accepting money from wealthy drug dealers – however tempting the prospect or worthwhile the project. They refuse to become philanthropic money launderers, cleansing dirty reputations by selling prestigious naming rights. There is one notable exception to this institutional honor code: the Sackler family. The Sacklers have made a fortune from OxyContin, the painkiller blamed for sparking the deadly opioid crisis. They are world renowned donors – despite also being world class drug pushers, responsible for almost as many deaths last year as the drug cartels in Mexico.

What do we do about the Sackler family's drug history? Also: this

Park rangers reassured the Ackleys they'd seen a family of bears, an explanation [Claudia] Ackley didn't much care for. She says she filed the lawsuit because people are "totally vulnerable to these things" due to the state's failure to recognize the Bigfoot threat. "The lawsuit alleges the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the state Natural Resources Agency have been derelict in their duty by not acknowledging the existence of the Sasquatch species, despite a mountain of documented and scientific evidence. It has had a chilling effect on the study of the Sasquatch, considered illegitimate and relegated to the category of 'paranormal research.'"

- Safety first! Also, note to self: go squatchin' one of these days.

Researchers long thought humans were the only critters out there that could see in three dimensions. Known as stereopsis, the trick takes a lot of processing power—and scientists didn’t think many animals had enough brains to do it. But that idea has slowly changed overtime. During the late 20th century, scientists found that macaques, cats, horses, owls and toads have this superpower. And surprisingly, so does the tiny-brained praying mantises. Now, as Ed Yong reports for the Atlantic, researchers equipped praying mantises with tiny goggles to figure out how stereopsis works in a critter with so few neurons. And it’s unlike anything else yet seen in the animal kingdom. They published their work this week in the journal Current Biology.

- Praying mantis goggles!

For Your Enjoyment #44

 
 

Credibly, some have noted that Patagonia and [company CEO Rose] Marcario were, at the end of the day, corporate, capitalist figures and that — despite its messaging — the company's campaign did serve to promote and help the brand (at least in the eyes of left-leaning customers). Yes, both Marcario and her company have been generally consistent and thorough in their support of environmental causes and criticism of the worst parts of the GOP agenda (they've assailed specific politicians, platform planks and bills in the past). There's no denying, however, that Patagonia is a for-profit enterprise and that, for all the good it does, it exists to make money. In its efforts to do so, Patagonia contributes to the industrialization of the environmental tourism trend which, in itself, can pose a threat to some of the very national monuments it seeks to protect.

Patagonia’s “The President Stole Your Land” raises some tough questions (image above)

“I lift up the animal’s tail,” said Joanne Crawford, a wildlife ecologist at Southern Illinois University, “and I’m like, ‘Get down there, and stick your nose near its bum...People think I’m nuts. I tell them, ‘Oh, but it’s beavers; it smells really good.'”

Ever wonder from where vanilla flavoring comes?

In software engineering, rubber duck debugging or rubber ducking is a method of debugging code. The name is a reference to a story in the book "The Pragmatic Programmer" in which a programmer would carry around a rubber duck and debug their code by forcing themselves to explain it, line-by-line, to the duck.

- I'm going to require my students to start carrying around rubber ducks (h/t DM)

The richest way to see “Le Petit Prince” is as an extended parable of the kinds and follies of abstraction—and the special intensity and poignance of the story is that Saint-Exupéry dramatizes the struggle against abstraction not as a philosophical subject but as a life-and-death story. The book moves from asteroid to desert, from fable and comedy to enigmatic tragedy, in order to make one recurrent point: You can’t love roses. You can only love a rose.

- The Strange Triumph of "The Little Prince"

“The images are shortlisted by how funny they are and the technical quality of their photograph,” says contest co-founder and co-judge Paul Joynson-Hicks, “subsequently the [finalists] are judged purely on their humour and content.”

20 Top Photos from the 2017 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards (h/t TheCoolComfort)

Poverty porn, wrote Jorgen Lissner, who first popularised the term in 1981 as an appropriate label for the aid campaigns targeting developing countries, “exposes something in human life that is as delicate and deeply personal as sexuality, that is, suffering ... It puts people’s bodies, their misery, their grief and their fear on display with all the details and all the indiscretion that a telescopic lens will allow.”

- Poverty porn: well-intentioned but harmless nonetheless?

It all started with the muffin top, that telltale spillage of flesh over the top of a tight waistband. Then came the bingo wing, the supposedly shaming droop of flesh beneath middle-aged arms; or maybe it was the cankle (chubby ankle), or the saggy knee. I forget now. It’s hard for women to keep track of which specific body part is currently being shamed to death, when it seems to be open season on all of them. But even by the demented standards of female self-flagellation, the emergence of “arm vagina” – aka the slight fold of flesh created where the average arm meets the average body – is a low point. If you’re reading this in a public place and unable immediately to check whether you have arm vagina, then let me help; you almost certainly do. Everyone does. It’s basically a normal human armpit, which tends to involve some spare capacity in the flesh department, what with it being difficult to raise your arm otherwise.

- These body-shaming fads need to stop. 

Telling the truth about sexual abuse is hard for anyone, but it has particular challenges in the conservative, Mormon community of Utah where Carol [not her real name] was raised for most of her life and where she now lives. Carol, who identifies as a Mormon feminist, sees a parallel with powerful men in Hollywood and those in the Mormon church. “It’s men in power taking advantage of their positions of authority,” she said. “In the LDS church or any patriarchal religious community, it’s even more condensed and insulated, and there’s a lot of pressure to forgive and to not rock the boat.”...According to Uniform Crime Reports, the rape rate in Utah has been consistently higher than the US rate; it’s the only violent crime in Utah that occurs at a higher rate than the rest of the nation. [Tara Tulley, a therapist practicing in the predominantly Mormon community of Utah ] said these reported rapes represent only a small portion of the actual numbers. In Utah, she said, the internalized shame runs deep. “Our [Mormon] culture objectifies women’s bodies. You’re told that if you’re wearing something immodest, you are walking pornography. It’s your responsibility to control how men see you,” Tulley said. This is reflected in Mormon literature: “Central to the command to be modest is an understanding of the sacred power of procreation, the ability to bring children into the world,” reads the official church website at lds.org. “Revealing and sexually suggestive clothing, which includes short shorts and skirts, tight clothing, and shirts that do not cover the stomach, can stimulate desires and actions that violate the Lord’s law of chastity.” 

- Mormon women and the #metoo movement

In the fall of 2013, Charlotte Lindqvist got a call from a film company making an Animal Planet documentary about the yeti, the mythical apelike creature that roams the Himalayas. So, not the kind of thing scientists usually like to mess with. “Friends or colleagues were saying, ‘Oh, watch out. Don’t get into this whole area,’” she recalls with a laugh. But she said yes. Lindqvist said yes because she is a geneticist who studies bears, and the rare Himalayan brown bear is one possible origin of the yeti legend. The team from Icon Films wanted to use science to investigate whether the yeti is real; Lindqvist wanted to investigate the enigmatic bears of the Himalayas.

- Is the Yeti actually just a bunch of bears?

I have to be honest: I really don’t understand white people. They’re confusing! I mean, white people are in charge of everything in America, they dominate government, business, finance, tech, real estate—every industry that matters—and yet guess who feels like they’re discriminated against? That’s right, white people, some 55% of whom say whites are discriminated against in America today, according to a new NPR/Robert Wood Johnson/Harvard poll. Now, this is not entirely a surprise—a 2011 Harvard study found a similar conclusion: “Whites see racism as a zero sum game they are now losing.” White people may be consistent but they’re still confusing. I don’t understand how people with such a tight grip on power in America could be so insecure about it. So I decided to ask some white people about it.

- Racial discrimination against white people: real or perceived?  

Jeremy was found dead on Wednesday. But "the sad news comes with a bittersweet twist," writes the University of Nottingham. "Shortly before his death, Jeremy was finally able to produce offspring after mating three times with another 'lefty' snail, ensuring that his legacy will live on through continuing genetic studies into his rare mutation."

- Jeremy: A Snail Love Story

The point is that [Billy] Corgan’s dissociation with truth is hardly headline-worthy news. The question is, has Corgan gone from harmless reality-star-level-insanity to purveyor of toxic ideologies, and what should we do about it?

- What do I do if the frontman of my all-time favorite band is actually kind of toxic?   

“We take a kind of vow of poverty to continue practicing our profession,” Debra Leigh Scott, who is working on a documentary about adjuncts, said in an email. “We do it because we are dedicated to scholarship, to learning, to our students and to our disciplines.” Adjuncting has grown as funding for public universities has fallen by more than a quarter between 1990 and 2009. Private institutions also recognize the allure of part-time professors: generally they are cheaper than full-time staff, don’t receive benefits or support for their personal research, and their hours can be carefully limited so they do not teach enough to qualify for health insurance. This is why adjuncts have been called “the fast-food workers of the academic world”: among labor experts adjuncting is defined as “precarious employment”, a growing category that includes temping and sharing-economy gigs such as driving for Uber. 

- Homelessness, sex work, shame, dedication and outright poverty: the glamorous life of The Adjunct Professor Next Door  

You can find house cats on every continent except Antarctica. But that wasn't always the case. How did cats make it across oceans and into households worldwide? The secret lies in ancient cat DNA, which a team of scientists traced back thousands of years. They report their results in a paper recently published in the journal Nature. Here's how cats spread across the world. 

- An animated map of how cats spread across the world!

For Your Enjoyment #43

 
 

If there’s one thing I learned in this odyssey, it’s that automatic cat feeders are the equivalent of giving a piece of dental floss to someone serving life in prison. With infinite time, you can escape anything, and (it turns out) break into almost any robot.

- Cat v. Cat Feeder (images above; h/t DM)

Netflix recently conducted a global survey of more than 30,000 couples who stream and released its findings on Monday. The new data reveals that more than 48 percent of streaming couples in the U.S. are slipping up and watching ahead of their partners. Since 2013 the number of cheaters has tripled as it has become more socially acceptable to commit streaming adultery. What’s worse is that most say they plan to keep on cheating. Indeed, 63 percent of cheaters say they’d gladly do it more if they knew they’d get away with it, and nearly half of those who do the dirty are repeat offenders — once a Netflix cheater always a Netflix cheater.

- I once caught D watching the next episode of Westworld without me, so I watched the next few episodes of Stranger Things without him. So there. (True story) 

Donald Trump had Scott Baio and a “Duck Dynasty” star. Hillary Clinton had Jay-Z and Beyonce, Katy Perry and Bruce Springsteen, Clooney and Leo, Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer, among many, many other A-listers who hosted glittering fundraisers, who raised hundreds of millions of dollars for her. One takeaway: celebrity endorsements in presidential politics don’t matter anymore. Another, more likely and long-term: They hurt. Why? It’s an old saw in conservative circles that Hollywood liberals — and, by extension, the cultural and coastal elite — are out of touch with mainstream America. This unprecedented election proves, now more than ever, how true that is. While celebrities spoke of social issues, of preserving Obama’s legacy, of the first female president, a huge swath of America voted for one reason: rage at being left behind, economically and culturally.

- Apparently even Miley Cyrus couldn't change the outcome of this election

In the pitch black of night on the Colorado River's burly Lava Falls rapid, an aluminum bar had snapped and punctured a 4-inch hole in the inflatable beam of the custom-built craft. The air hissing from the punctured tube wasn’t just the sound of trouble. It signaled the dissipation of a dream to paddle the 277-mile length of the Colorado River’s Grand Canyon in record time.

- You have to read about this valiant but ultimately failed recent attempt at breaking the Grand Canyon speed record 

Sure, coaches had talked about "changing the culture" in Oakland for years, ever since Jon Gruden was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002. From Bill Callahan's "dumbest team in America" rant to Norv Turner's painfully awkward two-year tenure to Art Shell's unfortunate one-year "fox in the hen house" return to Lane Kiffin being eviscerated in Al Davis' awesome overhead projector presser that included an intermission to Tom Cable's sanguine "We're not losers anymore" proclamation after going 8-8 in 2010 to Hue Jackson's epic meltdown to Allen's uninspiring visor and sharpie, it's been quite the chaotic ride. But none actually pulled the culture change off until Del Rio - who grew up in the shadow of the Oakland Coliseum in nearby Hayward and shared the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum with the Raiders in college at USC - arrived [in 2015]... Change the culture? You could say Del Rio, who has pictures of the Raiders' Super Bowl-winning coaches, John Madden and Tom Flores, hanging in his office as inspiration, simply dug the team's swashbuckling nature up again as if it was Sparano's football.

- Raider Nation

When are we going to face up to the fact that we have got our priorities all wrong? When are we going to stop the blame game and take the steps that need to be taken to improve conditions in our schools for both teachers and students and, in doing so, inevitably raise standards?

- The state of education. Sigh.

“I think that gnawed at Michael a little bit,” said author Max Byrd, a longtime friend of Crichton’s from their undergraduate days at Harvard, “that if you were popular you can’t be very good . . . . Michael kept talking about Charles Dickens — Dickens was both popular and good. It vexed him when people would just say, ‘Well, a pop writer or a pop scientist.’ He knew the subjects; he knew the subjects he went into better than just ‘pop.’ ” 

- Revisiting Michael Crichton's life and career 

For the Hollywood origin stories we know to be satisfying, the heroine in question must have no idea she is worthy of such attention until she is suddenly rescued from obscurity. Especially if she is to be remade as America’s next great sex symbol — as Anna Nicole Smith was in 1993, when she suddenly saturated American media, appearing on magazine covers, billboards, and screens of all kinds, and found herself touted as her decade’s Marilyn Monroe. If the heroine’s allure is the product of not just blind luck but sustained effort and intent — let alone strategic surgical alteration and courtship of wealthy benefactors, as Anna Nicole Smith’s was — then she is too powerful to remain sympathetic, and becomes an object of jealousy, rather than aspiration. It’s one thing to be chosen as a goddess; it’s quite another to claw your way to the top of Mount Olympus. And when the public finds out a goddess is in fact a striving mortal, this revelation will push her into a very different kind of myth: one whose satisfying conclusion comes not when a woman is exalted, but when she is destroyed.

- A look back on the tragic rise and fall of Anna Nicole Smith

Understand the logic of polarisation and you will understand that Trump wants a violent reaction. He wants to be able to tell white Americans that his opponents are “professional anarchists”, as he said last week. He wants liberals to treat all his supporters as if they are as debased as he is. He can then turn to his base and say liberals hate them because they are white; that they see them as nothing more than stupid, deplorable bigots. Force me from power, he will conclude, and these hate-filled enemies will come for you and give the “tremendous advantages” he was pretending blacks enjoyed in the 1980s to their favoured minorities.The alternative, and not only in America, is to go back to the despised and patronised working-class followers of the right. You should try to win them over in elections rather than march with the already converted at rallies. You should cordon off the true racists and fascists and listen to and argue with the rest with a modicum of respect. If that can happen, then perhaps the world will learn that the best way to end the power of compulsive liars is to break the compulsion of their followers to believe.

- In not-at-all groundbreaking news: the real problem lies not necessarily in the liar, but in the believers

"The outdoor industry creates three times the amount of jobs than the fossil fuels industry, yet the Governor has spent most of his time in office trying to rip taxpayer-owned lands out from under us and hand them over to drilling and mining companies. And just a few days ago, the state announced plans to sue the federal government to reverse the recent protection of Bears Ears, a site containing thousands of years of Native American archeological treasures and craggy red rocks beloved by climbers from all over the world. Politicians in the state don’t seem to get that the outdoor industry—and their own state economy—depend on access to public lands for recreation. I say enough is enough. If Governor Herbert doesn’t need us, we can find a more welcoming home. Governor Herbert should direct his Attorney General to halt their plans to sue and support the historic Bears Ears National Monument. He should stop his efforts to transfer public lands to the state, which would spell disaster for Utah’s economy. He should show the outdoor industry he wants our business—and that he supports thousands of his constituents of all political persuasions who work in jobs supported by recreation on public lands.We love Utah, but Patagonia’s choice to return for future shows will depend on the Governor’s actions. I’m sure other states will happily compete for the show by promoting public lands conservation."

- Patagonia (along with Arc'teryx and others) plans to skip this year's Outdoor Retailer show. If nothing positive comes out of the meeting planned this week, perhaps the show can take Denver up on its hosting offer?

[Rogue NPS Twitter] feeds have stepped into a space briefly opened by verifiable public employees who were promptly shut down [last month]. On January 24, the official Badlands feed posted, “Today, the amount of carbon in the atmosphere is higher than at any time in the last 650,000 years. #climate.” Coming as the Trump administration removed references to climate change from the White House website and froze the Environmental Protection Agency’s funding for research (the freeze was lifted on Friday), this bare factual tweet rang of defiance. Shortly afterward, it was taken down. Soon thereafter, the alternative accounts began to appear. NASA and the EPA have their anti-Trump Twitter doppelgangers. Even an alternative account for the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site, in West Branch, Iowa, has been reminding followers of Hoover’s warning that, “Immediately upon attaining power each dictator has suppressed all free speech except his own.” No matter who is running the alt-public feeds, the popularity of their tweets seems to come from their saying and doing things that many of the people who are alarmed by the first days of the Trump administration would love to see from public servants. That the first, actually official Badlands tweets on climate science became a cause célèbre indicates just how subversive and defiant basic science feels to critics who don’t trust the new administration to honor it.

- "The Gentle Anarchy of the Park Ranger"

For Your Enjoyment* #42, POTUS Ed.

* a subjective term

 
 

Donald Trump, a person who will never be president, has nevertheless been the nexus of the American media's coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign season.

- Gawker, September 2015 (image above)

If you're waiting for Donald Trump to pivot to become "presidential" - a candidate who will stay on message and, objectively speaking, not hurt his own campaign - then I have one word for you. Stop. Really. Because it just isn't going to happen.

- CNN, July 2016

First off, Donald Trump is never going to be the president of the United States. Whether you like him, simply find him amusing, or like most Americans, feel something between mild irritation and absolute hatred for the real estate mogul-turned-reality TV star, you probably know that his brand of fiery, accusatory, blowhard rhetoric doesn’t play well with voters.

- Ask Men, August 2016

Under “President Trump,” America would degenerate to its ugliest, darkest days. He would single-handedly destroy its reputation and the 240-year-old principles on which it stands. And that is precisely why Donald Trump cannot, will not, be elected president.

- HuffPo, June 2016

[A] new examination of the demographics and projected voting patterns in some of the key Rust Belt states underscores just how unlikely [Trump's winning the general election] really is. To succeed, this analysis finds, Trump would likely have to improve on Mitt Romney’s advantage over Barack Obama among blue collar whites by double digit margins, which is an astronomically high bar — in almost all of these states.

- The Washington Post, March 2016

So for once in Trump's long, luck-filled life, the game is rigged against him. Because Trump, unlike most of his Republican rivals, has not spent years winning the loyalty of political elites, in an arena where that's essential. The irony, of course, is that Trump has more in common with the elites who will lie down on the tracks to stop his candidacy than with the voters who profess to love him. If this is a game, Trump is not supposed to be on the field—he's supposed to be in the owners' box, deciding who gets to play. National politics is like smashmouth football, and Trump was not built to be a player. There's a reason why you never see the owners on the gridiron.

- Vice, August 2015

Donald Trump’s nomination is a sign of the Republican Party’s absolute failure and weakness, not a commentary on America’s strength. It is to the eternal discredit of the Republican Party’s that they have embarrassed the country by nominating a man like Donald Trump. But he’s not going to win in November, because he doesn’t have the votes. No matter what the angry white GOP primary voters think, America as a whole - this complex, multiracial, Information Age, economically resilient, World’s Greatest Democracy of a country - is not going to elect an angry orange clown. Donald Trump might do a lot of damage to America’s political culture, but he will never be president.

- Paste, May 2016

"What kind of a man does that? Root for people to get thrown out on the street? Root for people to lose their jobs? Root for people to lose their pensions? Root for two little girls in Clark County, Nevada, to end up living in a van? What kind of a man does that? I'll tell you exactly what kind — a man who cares about no one but himself. A small, insecure moneygrubber who doesn’t care who gets hurt, so long as he makes some money off it. What kind of man does that? A man who will never be President of the United States."  

- Sen. Elizabeth Warren, May 2016

Issues matter, plans for the country matter, ability to govern matters – and none of those things are strengths of Donald Trump. He is first and foremost a man with a tremendous ego that needs to be fed, not a man of serious ideas or well thought out positions that go beyond sound bites. His bluster and unvarnished rhetoric have gotten him farther than I would have thought but, at the end of the day, the American people will not buy what he is selling.

- US News, August 2015

Before one more straight-faced political story is written about the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump, the obvious begs to be stated: The man has absolutely no chance of winning. Zero. Nada. Write it down. Take it to the bank. Bet the farm. This preening self-parody of an egomaniac will never, ever be elected president of the United States. 

- Miami Herald, July 2015

And here's the bedrock obstacle to Trump's success: There are simply not enough struggling, resentful, xenophobic white people in the US to constitute a national majority sufficient to win a presidential election... Bottom line: The strongman approach is inherently self-limiting. It flourishes in the bizarro environs of a modern Republican primary, but there is no evidence at all, and much to the contrary, that it could be used to assemble a national majority. Yet it is the only approach in Trump's toolbox. That is why he will never be president.

- Vox, January 2016

So, could Trump win? We confront two stubborn facts: first, that nobody remotely like Trump has won a major-party nomination in the modern era. And second, as is always a problem in analysis of presidential campaigns, we don’t have all that many data points, so unprecedented events can occur with some regularity. For my money, that adds up to Trump’s chances being higher than 0 but (considerably) less than 20 percent. / There are lots of undecideds, and Clinton's polling leads are somewhat thin in swing states. Nonetheless, Clinton is probably going to win, and she could win by a big margin. 

- Nate Silver, November 2015 / November 2016

Americans have never chosen someone like [Donald Trump] to lead one of their two major parties. And now that he’s the presumptive nominee, Americans will - for the first time in their history - have a choice of whether they’ll put him in the Oval Office, to lead the country for four years. They almost certainly won’t. 

- Slate, April 2016

"I continue to believe that Mr Trump will not be president. And the reason is because I have a lot of faith in the American people."

President Barack Obama