Andrea Harner
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August 28, 2008

For a New Political Age, a Self-Made Man By Jodi Kantor, NY Times

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A thoughtful and intriguing look into Obama.

From the earliest days of his presidential campaign, those around Senator Barack Obama have heard the same mantra. He repeated it after he announced his candidacy and after debates, after victories and defeats.

A longtime community organizer in Chicago, Mr. Obama helped Irene Sanders to her car while helping out at the James Food Pantry in 2006.

“I need to get better,” he would say.

In the way Mr. Obama has trained himself for competition, he can sometimes seem as much athlete as politician. Even before he entered public life, he began honing not only his political skills, but also his mental and emotional ones. He developed a self-discipline so complete, friends and aides say, that he has established dominion over not only what he does but also how he feels. He does not easily exult, despair or anger: to do so would be an indulgence, a distraction from his goals. Instead, they say, he separates himself from the moment and assesses.

“He doesn’t inhale,” said David Axelrod, his chief strategist.

But with Barack Hussein Obama officially becoming the Democratic presidential nominee on Wednesday night, some of the same qualities that have brought him just one election away from the White House — his virtuosity, his seriousness, his ability to inspire, his seeming immunity from the strains that afflict others — may be among his biggest obstacles to getting there.

There is little about him that feels spontaneous or unpolished, and even after two books, thousands of campaign events and countless hours on television, many Americans say they do not feel they know him. The accusations of elusiveness puzzle those closest to the candidate. Far more than most politicians, they say, he is the same in public as he is in private.

The mystery and the consistency may share the same root: Mr. Obama, 47, is the first presidential candidate to come of age during an era of relentless 24-hour scrutiny. “He is, more than any other contemporary political figure, a creature of these times,” said Representative Earl Blumenauer, a fellow Democrat who campaigned this spring with Mr. Obama in Oregon, Mr. Blumenauer’s home state.

Last month, while visiting Jerusalem, Mr. Obama crammed a note in the Western Wall that was promptly fished out and posted on the Internet. The message was elegantly phrased, as if Mr. Obama, a Christian, had anticipated that his private words to the Almighty would soon be on public display.

In the note, Mr. Obama asked for protection, forgiveness and wisdom, a message in keeping with the humility he tries to emphasize. But his uncanny self-assurance and seemingly smooth glide upward have stoked complaints from his critics and his opponents, first Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and now Senator John McCain, that he has not spent enough time earning and learning, that his main project in life has been his own ascent.

Because he betrays little hint of struggle, Mr. Obama can seem far removed from the troubles of some voters. Older working-class whites may be uncomfortable with his race — he is the son of a white mother from Kansas and a black father from Kenya — and his age. But they may also find it hard to identify with him, even though he tries to assure them that they have much in common, mentioning that his mother relied on food stamps at times and that he worked as a community organizer in Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods. His command of crowds of 75,000, his unfailing eloquence and his comparing himself to Joshua and Lincoln can belie his point.

These voters are not the first to see a contradiction between Mr. Obama’s aura of specialness and his insistence that he is just like everyone else.

“I’m just a first among equal folks,” Mr. Obama’s fellow editors at the Harvard Law Review wrote about him in an affectionate but biting parody issue after he was elected its president. “But still, no one’s interviewing any of them.”

Continue reading...

Johnson’s Dream, Obama’s Speech By Robert A. Caro, NY Times Op-Ed

A great op-ed piece today: a history lesson and a lesson on history-making.

As I watch Barack Obama’s speech to the Democratic convention tonight, I will be remembering another speech: the one that made Martin Luther King cry. And I will be thinking: Mr. Obama’s speech — and in a way his whole candidacy — might not have been possible had that other speech not been given.

That speech was President Lyndon Johnson’s address to Congress in 1965 announcing that he was about to introduce a voting rights act, and in some respects Mr. Obama’s candidacy is the climax — at least thus far — of a movement based not only on the sacrifices and heroism of the Rev. Dr. King and generations of black fighters for civil rights but also on the political genius of Lyndon Baines Johnson, who as it happens was born 100 years ago yesterday.

When, on the night of March 15, 1965, the long motorcade drove away from the White House, heading for Capitol Hill, where President Johnson would give his speech to a joint session of Congress, pickets were standing outside the gates, as they had been for weeks, and as the presidential limousine passed, they were singing the same song that was being sung that week in Selma, Ala.: “We Shall Overcome.” They were singing it in defiance of Johnson, because they didn’t trust him.

They had reasons not to trust him.

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Media’s Balancing Act By Nicholas D. Kristof, NY Times Op-Ed

A nice op-ed highlighting the rough role of journalists. What would you do in the three scenarios Kristof poses???!! Here is the article in its entirety:

By early 2002, it seemed clear that the United States government was muffing the anthrax investigation. Microbiologists interviewed by the F.B.I. reported that the bureau didn’t fully understand the science involved and had allowed the destruction of anthrax stocks that might have provided comparisons with the spores used in the attacks.

In the spring of 2002, I wrote a series of columns about the anthrax investigation, including some in which I referred to a “Mr. Z” as an example of the flaws in the F.B.I.’s investigation. Some scientists had mentioned him to the F.B.I. early on as a candidate for closer scrutiny, but those trails weren’t initially followed.

Later, after the authorities tipped off television reporters before a raid of his home, Dr. Steven J. Hatfill held a press conference to deny any involvement in the anthrax case. In the process, he confirmed that he was Mr. Z.

The government later named Dr. Hatfill as a “person of interest” in the case, and agents came to trail him constantly. Government officials leaked private information about Dr. Hatfill to reporters and this year paid him a multimillion-dollar settlement as a result.

Then, this month, the government announced that the real culprit was, Bruce Ivins, another scientist who had worked in the United States biodefense program at Fort Detrick, in Frederick, Md. The F.B.I. claims that Dr. Ivins, who killed himself as the investigation closed in on him, was actually the anthrax murderer, and it exonerated Dr. Hatfill.

So, first, I owe an apology to Dr. Hatfill. In retrospect, I was right to prod the F.B.I. and to urge tighter scrutiny of Fort Detrick, but the job of the news media is supposed to be to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. Instead, I managed to afflict the afflicted.

Dr. Hatfill sued me and The New York Times, along with others in the news media and the Justice Department. His suit against me and The Times was dismissed, yet even if I don’t have a legal obligation, I do feel a moral one to express regret for any added distress from my columns.

That makes this a good moment to look at the larger question of what principles should govern the collision between the public interest in aggressive news coverage and the individual interest in privacy.

Dr. Ivins is a case in point: Some of his friends and family are convinced of his innocence and believe the F.B.I. hounded him to death. And the evidence against him, while interesting, is circumstantial. Shouldn’t a presumption of innocence continue when a person is dead and can no longer defend himself?

So don the mantle of a journalist for a moment and think about how you would handle these three hypothetical cases:

• You discover that police have seized barrels of chemicals from a group of young foreign men living in town and are questioning them on suspicion of planning to poison the local reservoir. The men’s lawyer pleads with you to write nothing, saying that the matter will be cleared up and that publicity would exacerbate anti-foreign prejudices and make it impossible for them to remain in the community. Do you write about it?

• You find that police have a new suspect in the JonBenet Ramsey case and are interrogating him repeatedly. A friendly cop lets you peek at the man’s file. The man’s wife calls up frantically to beg you not to go public, saying that an article would set off a media feeding frenzy that would permanently traumatize their three children. Do you break the story about this suspect?

• You learn that the local high school girls’ basketball coach has been repeatedly accused of sexual misconduct and has left three previous schools under a cloud of suspicion. The school authorities seem paralyzed and are encouraging the teacher to move again before the next school year, but the police have not been involved. The coach says he is leaving the area and probably teaching. He pleads with you to let the matter drop and hints that a scandal might drive him to kill himself. Do you write anything?

My own answers are yes, no and yes. In the first case, the risk to a reservoir is such a serious health concern that it demands coverage. In contrast, the Ramsey case is titillating but doesn’t involve serious public policy concerns (though any cable TV channel would break the story in a heartbeat). In the third case, the school system has failed and news coverage may be the only corrective oversight.

Naturally, it would be important to give the suspects’ points of view and to humanize them by quoting friends. But my own judgment is that while the cost imposed on individuals can be huge, where crucial public interests are at stake, we in the press should be very wary of keeping what we know from the public.

August 25, 2008

Tell No One By Guillaume Canet, Movie review series

On our drive back from the Berkshires yesterday, we saw this movie in the cute little town of Millerton, NY. It was brilliantly acted by the protagonist played by François Cluzet and the plot is every aspiring mystery writer's dream. Gripping and clever - I highly recommend it! The bonuses are France as the setting and Kristin Scott Thomas!

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In the shortcut language of a movie pitch, Guillaume Canet’s delicious contemporary thriller “Tell No One” is “Vertigo” meets “The Fugitive” by way of “The Big Sleep.” That is meant as high praise.

This French adaptation of Harlan Coben’s 2001 best seller is the kind of conspiracy-minded mystery almost no one seems capable of creating anymore, except David Lynch in his surreal way. Watching it is like gorging on a hot- fudge sundae in the good old days when few worried about sugar and fat. There are no bogus geopolitics weighing it down with a spurious relevance. Beautifully written and acted, “Tell No One” is a labyrinth in which to get deliriously lost.

Continue reading...

August 22, 2008

THIS IS THE BULLSHIT CHINA PULLS AND WE MUST PUNISH THEM FOR IT/Too Old and Frail to Re-educate? Not in China By Andrew Jacobs, NY Times

China purportedly allowed protesting in a designated area and then once citizens applied for a permit to this legal protest, they are arrested and sentenced to "re-education through labor" camp. THIS IS EXACTLY WHY IT IS ABHORRENT TO SUPPORT CHINA.

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In the annals of people who have struggled against Communist Party rule, Wu Dianyuan and Wang Xiuying are unlikely to merit even a footnote.

The two women, both in their late 70s, have never spoken out against China’s authoritarian government. Both walk with the help of a cane, and Ms. Wang is blind in one eye. Their grievance, receiving insufficient compensation when their homes were seized for redevelopment, is perhaps the most common complaint among Chinese displaced during the country’s long streak of fast economic growth.

But the Beijing police still sentenced the two women to an extrajudicial term of “re-education through labor” this week for applying to hold a legal protest in a designated area in Beijing, where officials promised that Chinese could hold demonstrations during the Olympic Games.

They became the most recent examples of people punished for submitting applications to protest. A few would-be demonstrators have simply disappeared, at least for the duration of the Games, squelching already diminished hopes that the influx of foreigners and the prestige of holding the Games would push China’s leaders to relax their tight grip on political expression.

“Can you imagine two old ladies in their 70s being re-educated through labor?” asked Li Xuehui, Ms. Wu’s son, who said the police told the two women that their sentence might remain in suspension if they stayed at home and stopped asking for permission to protest.

“I feel very sad and angry because we’re only asking for the basic right of living and it’s been six years, but nobody will do anything to help,” Mr. Li said.

It is unclear why the police have detained people who sought permission to protest. Some political analysts say the police may be refusing to enforce the government’s order, announced last month, to allow protest zones. Chinese lawyers and human rights advocates also suggested a more cynical motivation — that the authorities were using the possibility of legal demonstrations as a ploy to lure restive citizens into declaring their intention to protest, allowing the police to take action against them.

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August 21, 2008

Wildlife Conservation Society

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Hey readers and animal lovers! Look to your left at that curious lemur! The Wildlife Conservation Society has graicously purchased a month-long ad. Can we show them love by clicking on their ad and checking out their site? Also, don't forget to visit the Bronx Zoo, New York Aquarium, Central Park Zoo, Queens Zoo or the Prospect Park Zoo this summer!!

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This ad pleases me deeply because my lifelong goal is to be an animal philanthropist* and it felt like just as I was looking into what WCS was all about, they reached out to me! I've been researching organizations that would be best to support based on my intellectual interests, emotional connection and the charity's track record such as how much they allocate to programs versus salaries. So far, I have a short list of two: 1) WCS and 2) ASPCA. If you have any thoughts, let me know!

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* FYI, you need not be loaded to be a philanthropist There are tons of worthy charities that would be delighted to have your $10 a month donation! Let's consume less and donate more [end of preachy message].

Living with humans has taught dogs morals, say scientists, Daily Mail/HOW CUTE IS THIS DOG???!!!

Thanks to my brother for this article! I suppose I will give humans some credit for how awesome dogs are...

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Dogs are becoming more intelligent and are even learning morals from human contact, scientists claim.

They say the fact that dogs' play rarely escalates into a fight shows the animals abide by social rules.

During one study, dogs which held up a paw were rewarded with a food treat.

When a lone dog was asked to raise its paw but received no treat, the researchers found it begged for up to 30 minutes.

But when they tested two dogs together but rewarded only one, the dog which missed out soon stopped playing the game.

Dr Friederike Range, of the University of Vienna, who led the study, said: 'Dogs show a strong aversion to inequity. I would prefer not to call it a sense of fairness, but others might.'

Continue reading...

August 20, 2008

How to feel less depressed about being stuck in Manhattan in summer: Remind yourself you are an islander!

The other day I overheard a woman ask another woman, "Do you live on the island?" and I thought, "Island, what island?" Oh, right!! How exotic and tropical! We live on Manhattan island - not a concrete jungle!!! All of a sudden, pollution was replaced by a coconut scented breeze and my hand was fisting a Strawberry Daiquiri instead of a Red Bull*. The honking, pushing and rushing? Just mellow islanders going about their laid-back lives... Witness the delusional power of words.

Word of caution: If you overstate this point to friends, family and even to yourself, this tactic will turn pathetic in a New York minute.

* I do not drink Red Bull. I just know too many people who do.

Michael Phelps's most important swim

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* I commend whoever conceived (get it, get it?) of this and drew it - hilarious!

August 19, 2008

Manga Avatar: Introducing AndreaHarner.com's. Where's yours?

Face your manga takes 2 seconds and voila, you're cuter than you'll ever be in real life - so worth it!

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Some Hurdles Are Too High by Thomas Boswell, Washington Post

My dad sent me this interesting article on the Olympics and China, which I have excerpted here:

Think of Liu another way: At these Games, Liu is China. How it got that way we Westerners may only guess.

But it is unlikely we will ever see an athlete in greater emotional pain, or a country that takes a loss more personally, or a cast of trainers and coaches who feel more devastated.

"Liu Xiang will not withdraw unless the pain is intolerable, unless he has no other way out," said China's national team coach Feng Shuyong. Liu's coach, Sun Haiping, broke down sobbing several times at a news conference.

Time will tell whether Liu and his coaches truly thought that he had any hope of racing on Monday. What's certain is that, whatever his condition and whenever his injury occurred, Liu absolutely had to make an appearance to prove -- by falling down, by attempting a restart after it was clear he could never clear the first hurdle, by kicking a wall in anger numerous times -- that he was really hurt.

This, remember, is a country that, for generations, has seldom known what was real and what was propaganda, which of the missing were alive or dead, what official stories were true and which complete fabrications.

Even after Liu's photo gallery full of misery was on view, large numbers of Chinese -- on Internet sites and in media samplings -- felt more anger than sadness. Some said he should have crawled around the track rather than walk off.

And A-Rod thinks playing for the Yankees is tough.

If Phelps, who slipped and broke his wrist last winter, had gotten hurt and never swam here, it would have stunned and saddened America. Few would have been angry.

But this is a nation so obsessed with making an impression, and not embarrassing itself, that it has a government department dedicated to controlling the weather during the Olympics -- and it may actually be working. Military-complex security has shielded the Games from demonstrators. Every food stand is triple-staffed, every media center double-sized and, many times, a single reporter rides in a bus with 31 empty seats. For hospitality and efficiency, China has super-sized it all.

Continue reading...

August 15, 2008

Great Banksy quote

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Hawaii & Obamas

As some of you know, I LOVE Hawaii. Hawaii, Japan and Italy are my favorite places on this fine earth. And with the Obama family's recent trip to Hawaii, the place seems even more magical. Theirs is the only trip I have ever vicariously enjoyed!

Obama bodysurfing:

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The flower behind the ear is the loveliest accessory, compliments of tropical nature:

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The gorgeousness of Hawaii:

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Happiness is key to longer life

People, try to be the happiest person in your "city-state" like Andy Goh of Singapore!

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I've bolded interesting parts of this article:

Keep humming "Don't Worry Be Happy". The 1980s New Age-inspired hit got it right. New research shows being happy can add several years to life.

"Happiness does not heal, but happiness protects against falling ill," says Ruut Veenhoven of Rotterdam's Erasmus University in a study to be published next month.

After reviewing 30 studies carried out worldwide over periods ranging from one to 60 years, the Dutch professor said the effects of happiness on longevity were "comparable to that of smoking or not".

That special flair for feeling good, he said, could lengthen life by between 7.5 and 10 years.

The finding brings a vital new piece to a puzzle currently being assembled by researchers worldwide on just what makes us happy -- and on the related question of why people blessed with material wealth in developed nations no longer seem satisfied with their lives.

Once the province of poets or philosophers, the notions of happiness and satisfaction have been taken on and dissected, quantified and analysed in the last few years by a growing number of highly serious and respected economists -- some of whom dub the new field "hedonics", or the study of what makes life pleasant, or otherwise.

"The idea that there is a state called happiness, and that we can dependably figure out what it feels like and how to measure it, is extremely subversive," says Bill McKibben in his 2007 book "Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future".

"It allows economists to start thinking about life in richer terms, to stop asking 'What did you buy?' and to start asking 'Is your life good?'."

Growth in material wealth adds little to happiness once buying power hits 10,000 dollars a year per head, according to such research.

But happiness can be bolstered by friendship and human community, as well as larger social factors such as freedom, democracy, effective government institutions and rule of law.

In Veenhoven's findings, published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, a scientific publication founded in 2000, the strongest effect on longevity was found among a group of US nuns followed through their adult life -- perhaps reflecting the feel-good factor from belonging to a close-knit stress-free community with a sense of purpose.

While the lyrics from the Grammy-award 1989 "Be Happy" hit were inspired by popular Indian guru Meher Baba, nowadays, in more than 100 countries, from Bhutan in the Himalayas to the US and Australia, economists are working to put "happiness" indicators (a new kind of quality-of-life index) into the measurement of growth.

Happiness itself, according to the specialists, is generally accepted as "the overall appreciation of one's life as a whole", in other words a state of mind best defined by the person questioned.

In his paper, Veenhoven first looked at statistics to see whether good cheer impacted on the sick, but concluded that while happiness had helped some cancer patients suffering from a relapse, in general "happiness does not appear to prolong the deathbed."

Among healthy populations, on the contrary, happiness appeared to protect against falling ill, thus prolonging life.

Happy people were more inclined to watch their weight, were more perceptive of symptoms of illness, tended to be more moderate with smoking and drinking and generally lived healthier lives.

They were also more active, more open to the world, more self-confident, made better choices and built more social networks.

"For the time being we know that happiness fosters physical health, but not precisely how," he wrote.

"Chronic unhappiness activates the fight-flight response, which is known to involve harmful effects in the long run such as higher blood pressure and a lower immune response."

To improve good cheer, he said, there needed to be more research on the impact of residential conditions or on the long-term effects of school on happiness. And studies on job-satisfaction failed to address the question of life-satisfaction at work.

But these findings, he said, opened new vistas for public health.

Governments needed to educate people in the art of "living well", helping to develop the ability to enjoy life, to make the best choices, to keep developing and to see a meaning in life.

"If we feel unhealthy we go to a medical general practitioner," he said. "If we feel unhappy there is no such generalist. We have to guess."

"Professional guidance for a happier life is unavailable as yet. This is a remarkable market failure, given the large number of people who feel they could be happier."

Diaroogle.com!!!

I am loving this site I found via * via BuzzFeed! And it's not just because of its great name - it actually seems to works and you know if you're needing this service while on the go, you really really need it to work.

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* Thanks to Thrillist for the image!

August 14, 2008

WALL- E!!!

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Wall-E was so sweet, so sad and inspired. I wasn't sure I would like it because I find most American animation films to be soullessly simple and sterotypical, insipid and soporific but Zee, who knows my taste , assured me that I would love it. Zee and I watched it, she for the fourth time in the theater, and I for the first and I fell in love. I would see it four times too! An extra bonus was the clearly Japanese design influenced Eve and Mo characters!

The first 40 minutes or so of “Wall-E” — in which barely any dialogue is spoken, and almost no human figures appear on screen — is a cinematic poem of such wit and beauty that its darker implications may take a while to sink in. The scene is an intricately rendered city, bristling with skyscrapers but bereft of any inhabitants apart from a battered, industrious robot and his loyal cockroach sidekick. Hazy, dust-filtered sunlight illuminates a landscape of eerie, post-apocalyptic silence. This is a world without people, you might say without animation, though it teems with evidence of past life.
Continue reading

August 12, 2008

Harmony and the Dream By David Brooks, NY Times Op-Ed

This op-ed is so great. It sums up so many of my interests and what I spend a lot of time thinking about, since I am an individualistic American yet I am collectivistically Chinese and Japanese too. David Brooks does a nice job reflecting on this dichotomy. He also throws in some neuropsychology to highlight how important nurture is in the now very tired nature vs nurture debate. Finally, Brooks espouses the importance of relationships which is all too overlooked by the typical American (I wholeheartedly embrace Obama's use of this phrase as it is apt). I've bolded parts I loved.

The world can be divided in many ways — rich and poor, democratic and authoritarian — but one of the most striking is the divide between the societies with an individualist mentality and the ones with a collectivist mentality.

This is a divide that goes deeper than economics into the way people perceive the world. If you show an American an image of a fish tank, the American will usually describe the biggest fish in the tank and what it is doing. If you ask a Chinese person to describe a fish tank, the Chinese will usually describe the context in which the fish swim.

These sorts of experiments have been done over and over again, and the results reveal the same underlying pattern. Americans usually see individuals; Chinese and other Asians see contexts.

When the psychologist Richard Nisbett showed Americans individual pictures of a chicken, a cow and hay and asked the subjects to pick out the two that go together, the Americans would usually pick out the chicken and the cow. They’re both animals. Most Asian people, on the other hand, would pick out the cow and the hay, since cows depend on hay. Americans are more likely to see categories. Asians are more likely to see relationships.

You can create a global continuum with the most individualistic societies — like the United States or Britain — on one end, and the most collectivist societies — like China or Japan — on the other.

The individualistic countries tend to put rights and privacy first. People in these societies tend to overvalue their own skills and overestimate their own importance to any group effort. People in collective societies tend to value harmony and duty. They tend to underestimate their own skills and are more self-effacing when describing their contributions to group efforts.

Researchers argue about why certain cultures have become more individualistic than others. Some say that Western cultures draw their values from ancient Greece, with its emphasis on individual heroism, while other cultures draw on more on tribal philosophies. Recently, some scientists have theorized that it all goes back to microbes. Collectivist societies tend to pop up in parts of the world, especially around the equator, with plenty of disease-causing microbes. In such an environment, you’d want to shun outsiders, who might bring strange diseases, and enforce a certain conformity over eating rituals and social behavior.

Either way, individualistic societies have tended to do better economically. We in the West have a narrative that involves the development of individual reason and conscience during the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, and then the subsequent flourishing of capitalism. According to this narrative, societies get more individualistic as they develop.

But what happens if collectivist societies snap out of their economic stagnation? What happens if collectivist societies, especially those in Asia, rise economically and come to rival the West? A new sort of global conversation develops.

The opening ceremony in Beijing was a statement in that conversation. It was part of China’s assertion that development doesn’t come only through Western, liberal means, but also through Eastern and collective ones.

The ceremony drew from China’s long history, but surely the most striking features were the images of thousands of Chinese moving as one — drumming as one, dancing as one, sprinting on precise formations without ever stumbling or colliding. We’ve seen displays of mass conformity before, but this was collectivism of the present — a high-tech vision of the harmonious society performed in the context of China’s miraculous growth.

If Asia’s success reopens the debate between individualism and collectivism (which seemed closed after the cold war), then it’s unlikely that the forces of individualism will sweep the field or even gain an edge.

For one thing, there are relatively few individualistic societies on earth. For another, the essence of a lot of the latest scientific research is that the Western idea of individual choice is an illusion and the Chinese are right to put first emphasis on social contexts.

Scientists have delighted to show that so-called rational choice is shaped by a whole range of subconscious influences, like emotional contagions and priming effects (people who think of a professor before taking a test do better than people who think of a criminal). Meanwhile, human brains turn out to be extremely permeable (they naturally mimic the neural firings of people around them). Relationships are the key to happiness. People who live in the densest social networks tend to flourish, while people who live with few social bonds are much more prone to depression and suicide.

The rise of China isn’t only an economic event. It’s a cultural one. The ideal of a harmonious collective may turn out to be as attractive as the ideal of the American Dream.

It’s certainly a useful ideology for aspiring autocrats.

In U.S., Expert Witnesses Are Partisan By Adam Liptak, NY Times

This article discusses what we often touched on in my psych & law class last semester: the role of expert witnesses.

Here are some highlights:

...Dr. Leonard Welsh, the psychologist who testified for the state, said he sometimes found his work compromising.

“After you come out of court,” Dr. Welsh said, “you feel like you need a shower. They’re asking you to be certain of things you can’t be certain of.” He might have preferred a new way of hearing expert testimony that Australian lawyers call hot tubbing.

In that procedure, also called concurrent evidence, experts are still chosen by the parties, but they testify together at trial — discussing the case, asking each other questions, responding to inquiries from the judge and the lawyers, finding common ground and sharpening the open issues. In the Wilkins case, by contrast, the two experts “did not exchange information,” the Court of Appeals for Iowa noted in its decision last year.

“Judges think that if we could just have a place in the adversarial trial that was a little less adversarial and a little more scientific, everything would be fine,” Professor Edmond said. “But science can be very acrimonious.”

Melvin Belli, the famed trial lawyer, endorsed this view. “If I got myself an impartial witness,” he once said, “I’d think I was wasting my money.”

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Prescriptions for Health, the Environmental Kind By Amanda Schaffer, NY Times

This article in today's NY Times Health section is about our friend Natalie Jeremijenko's great new project - as always, she inspires!!!

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In a bright studio at New York University, Natalie Jeremijenko welcomes visitors to her environmental health clinic. She wears a white lab coat with a rotated red cross on the pocket. A clipboard with intake forms hangs by the door. Skip to next paragraph RSS Feed

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Inside, circuit boards, respirators, light bulbs, bike helmets and books on green design clutter the high shelves. In front of a bamboo consultation desk sits a mock medicine cabinet, which turns out to be filled with power tools.

Dr. Jeremijenko, an Australian artist, designer and engineer, invites members of the public to the clinic to discuss personal environmental concerns like air and water quality. Sitting at the consultation desk, she also offers them concrete remedies or “prescriptions” for change, much as a medical clinic might offer prescriptions for drugs.

“It’s a widely familiar script,” said Dr. Jeremijenko, 41, who has a doctorate in engineering and is an assistant professor of visual art at N.Y.U. “People know how to ring up and make an appointment at their health clinic. But they don’t really know what to do about toxins in the air and global warming, right?

“So the whole thing is how do we translate the tremendous amount of anxiety and interest in addressing major environmental issues into something concrete that people can do whose effect is measurable and significant?”

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August 11, 2008

President Bush taps Olympic ass: This photo makes me so uncomfortable

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August 8, 2008

New (adorable) Sony Cybershots: 10 pixels & Smile Shutter!

What do you think about the Smile Shutter feature? Will it be what makes everyone capture all the right moments or will it just be ineffective and annoying? Taking bets...

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10 mispronunciations that make you sound stupid, Word Nerd Series!

From Toni Bowers' list of commonly mangled words:

Previously, TechRepublic ran an article about 10 grammar mistakes that make you look stupid. The examples cited involved the misuse of words in written and verbal communications. I’d like to go a step farther here and talk about words that may be used correctly but are pronounced wrong. They also may be much more flagrant examples of stupidity.

A caveat: My ear may be abnormally sensitive to mispronunciations since in college I developed an unnatural affinity for linguistics (can you say “Get a life?”). However, people often make snap decisions about character and intelligence based on their language biases, so it’s something you should be aware of. Here are some of my pet peeves, which you may or may not ever use in your life.

Note: This article originally appeared in our Career Management blog.

#1: Realtor

Many people — I’ve even heard it from people on national TV — pronounce this word REAL-uh-ter. Is this a case of wide-spread dyslexia, transposing the a and the l? It’s REAL-tor. That’s it. You’d think only two syllables would be easier to pronounce, but apparently not.

#2: Nuclear

Do you know how tough it is to be an advocate for the correct pronunciation of this word (NU-clee-er) when the president of the United States pronounces it NU-cu-lar? I don’t buy that it’s a regional thing. Ya’ll is a regional thing; nu-cu-lar is not.

#3: Jewelry

It’s not JOO-la-ree, it’s JOOL-ree. Again with the making things harder by turning a word into three syllables. What’s with that?

#4: Supposedly/supposably

The latter is a nonexistent word.

#5: Supposed to/suppose to

I think this one is more a matter of a lazy tongue than of ignorance. It takes an extra beat in there to emphasize the d at the end, but it’s worth it. And never omit the d if you’re using the term in a written communication or people will think you were raised in a hollowed-out tree trunk somewhere.

#6: Used to/use to

Same as above.

#7: Anyway/anyways

There’s no s at the end. I swear. Look it up.

#8: February/Febuary

As much as it galls me, there is an r between the b and the u. When you pronounce the word correctly it should sound like you’re trying to talk with a mouthful of marbles — FEB broo ary.

#9: Recur/reoccur

Though the latter is tempting, it’s not a word. And again, why add another syllable if you don’t need it?

#10: Mischievous/mischievious

I know, I know, it sounds so Basil Rathbone to say MIS cha vous, but that’s the right way. Mis CHEE vee us is more commonly used, but it’s wrong.

And last but not least, my personal all-time pet peeve — the word often. It should be pronounced OFF un, not OFF tun. The t is silent.

* The Word Nerds thank BuzzFeed!

Vacation: The best movie and car

I was (and am) seriously in love with this movie. I actually wanted to be in that car with them (and Aunt Edna until she started to smell funny). The 80's were the best. This is one of my more pointless posts.

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Simply breakfast blog: Simply delightful!

Thanks to reader Amy Z, we now know of this lovely site which transports me to a cozy breakfast nook where I am wrapped in an old, soft blanket, classical or jazz music plays softly in the background and I sit down to enjoy the most important meal of the day, simply and serenely.

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August 6, 2008

I am rich and stupid app is hilarious!!

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Always avoid "always": So profoundingly true

One of five stressbusters:

Always avoid "always". One of the biggest booby traps in your life is over generalizing, first dates never work out, she always gets promotions before me, he always arrives at least 5 minutes late. Unconsciously, using "always" and "never" steers you away from feeling that you have any control over changing the things that stress or worry you, says Daniel Amen, M.D., author of Change Your Brain, Change Your Life.

August 5, 2008

Yours truly, 9th grade. Adorable. Say it with me. ADORABLE.

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* Thanks to Maggie Hogan for the picture and the memories!!

Potemkin Village Oylmpics 2008

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* For more click here.

August 4, 2008

Courthouse Confessions: An incredible project!

This is great. I only wish I had thought of it!!

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For more click here.

Shameless reposting: Tomato Angst

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I have nothing to say except I Love Japan

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Kaiten Sushi Cam!

I love this combination of technology, cultural anthropology, Japan and food!

* Thanks to reader Amy for this great link!!

August 1, 2008

TMI. SoCal earthquake. Sooooooo funny!!!

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* via BuzzFeed!

Video projects





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