Archive for May 2011

#  The Plain Writing Act →

May 25th, 2011 at 11:21 // In Worth Knowing 

This is progress. Unlikely to make a dent in the mountains of unintelligible legalese that exist elsewhere (EULAs, etc), but progress.

That’s right: Pursuant to regulations promulgated thereunder and commencing in accordance with a statute signed herein by President Barack Obama, the government shall be precluded from writing the pompous gibberish heretofore evidenced, to the extent practicable.

(via Austin Kleon; though my aversion to the HuffPo is strong enough I found a different host of this AP story)

#  The Meaning of Göbekli Tepe →

May 24th, 2011 at 13:19 // In Worth Reading 

This National Geographic article does a good job challenging the validity of the argument that is its premise, but I enjoy considering the dawn of civilization so much that I don’t really care. A provocative quote to entice you:

Discovering that hunter-gatherers had constructed Göbekli Tepe was like finding that someone had built a 747 in a basement with an X-Acto knife. “I, my colleagues, we all thought, What? How?” Schmidt said. Paradoxically, Göbekli Tepe appeared to be both a harbinger of the civilized world that was to come and the last, greatest emblem of a nomadic past that was already disappearing. The accomplishment was astonishing, but it was hard to understand how it had been done or what it meant. “In 10 or 15 years,” Schmidt predicts, “Göbekli Tepe will be more famous than Stonehenge. And for good reason.”

(via ALD)

#  The Advantages of a Short-Attention World →

May 23rd, 2011 at 15:58 // In Worth Considering 

A valid and undervalued point:

Force a writer to be brief and you force him to think clearly—if he can. No, I don’t think that “War and Peace” would have profited from being written in 140-character tweets. But I do think that our impatient age might just be getting the best out of a great many artists and thinkers who, left to their own devices, would never have learned how to cut to the chase.

(via @oliverburkeman)

#  A Primer on Syria →

May 22nd, 2011 at 17:58 // In Worth Knowing 

I don’t know much about Syria. You probably don’t either. Read this to learn more. It’s that simple. The kind of thing you’ll learn:

The Alawis of Syria, who make up only 12 percent of its population [but the whole ruling clique], split from the main branch of Shiism more than a thousand years ago. Before the twentieth century they were usually referred to as Nusayris, after their eponymous founder Ibn Nusayr, who lived in Iraq during the ninth century. Taking refuge in the mountains above the port of Latakia, on the coastal strip between modern Lebanon and Turkey, they evolved a highly secretive syncretistic theology containing an amalgam of Neoplatonic, Gnostic, Christian, Muslim, and Zoroastrian elements.

#  Pendulum Waves →

May 16th, 2011 at 18:47 // In Worth Distraction 

“Mesmerizing” raves Jason Kottke.

#  The Less-Communist Future of Cuba →

May 12th, 2011 at 11:23 // In Worth Knowing 

One of my favorite things about the LRB and NYRB are their uncommonly deep but outsider-friendly explorations of countries I’m curious about. This visit to a liberalizing Havana from José Manuel Prieto is a prime example.

The crux of the debate, I gather, after penetrating the technical jargon all Havana is reading and discussing as if it were a best-selling novel, is whether a new role can be assigned to the state: Can it be imagined more as referee than as star player while ensuring that it doesn’t lose control? There is of course no question that the governing party must remain in power and “safeguard the conquests of the revolution.”

#  Local Honey Unlikely to Cure Seasonal Allergies →

May 9th, 2011 at 14:22 // In Worth Knowing 

I’d heard that a spoonful of local honey a day can keep the sneezes at bay, and was even casually interested in trying it. But, it seems one study that has been done on it showed no effect, and this hard-to-dispute point pretty well puts it to rest for me:

“Seasonal allergies are usually triggered by windborne pollens, not by pollens spread by insects,” he said. So it’s unlikely that honey “collected from plants that do not cause allergy symptoms would provide any therapeutic benefit.”

#  Cultural Vegetables →

May 7th, 2011 at 7:59 // In Worth Considering 

There’s no single solid takeaway from this essay about the culture we feel obligated to consume, but I think it’s a good and valuable thing to think about and pay attention to.

#  What Marx Got Right →

May 2nd, 2011 at 13:47 // In Worth Considering 

I’ve been meaning to write something about how wrong the popular culture is about the writings of Karl Marx, but Terry Eagleton knows more about it and probably wrote it better too.

(via The Browser)

Also of note: Eagleton’s good and favorable review of Eric Hobsbawm’s How To Change the World that I refrained from linking earlier because I love the LRB too much (and you can’t yet buy the book in the US).

#  10 Myths About Introverts →

May 1st, 2011 at 14:15 // In Worth Knowing 

Filed under “the vanity of seeing yourself explained,” I’m telling you that I liked this list. Even though it’s a list on the internet. This wasn’t a description I’ve seen before, but it feels pretty spot-on for me:

Introverts just don’t like to go out in public FOR AS LONG. They also like to avoid the complications that are involved in public activities. They take in data and experiences very quickly, and as a result, don’t need to be there for long to “get it.” They’re ready to go home, recharge, and process it all. In fact, recharging is absolutely crucial for Introverts.

(via Austin Kleon)