Friday, July 7th, 2023


Why I Quit Drinking

Drinking fads come and go, as do the warnings associated with our latest beverages of choice. A few months ago, I quit a few of my favorite zero sugar drinks because of a report about the risks associated with erythritol. The WHO is about to declare aspartame can cause cancer (et tu, Diet Coke?). At least moderate alcohol consumption is healthy. Oh wait, I forgot about this recent buzzkill: No, moderate drinking isn't good for your health. In the end, we'll find out that the solitary safe beverage is a tall glass of water. Only, that's not safe either, because in addition to H2O, that glass also likely contains PFBS, PFHxS, PFOA, and/or a twist of PFOS. I don't know what all those letters stand for, but one assumes that guzzling forever chemicals can leave one's health on the rocks. Study says drinking water from nearly half of US faucets contains potentially harmful chemicals.


Bot Feeders

Here's a bit of relieving news for those worried that robots will take all of our jobs and ultimately compete with and defeat the human race. Robots won't steal jobs, rebel against humans. That's according to ... robots. "Robots presented at an AI forum said on Friday they expected to increase in number and help solve global problems, and would not steal humans' jobs or rebel against us ... Asked by a journalist whether it intended to rebel against its creator, Will Jackson, seated beside it, Ameca said: "I'm not sure why you would think that," its ice-blue eyes flashing with anger. 'My creator has been nothing but kind to me and I am very happy with my current situation.'" Interestingly, the robots questioned were against stricter regulation in their industry. (How human!) "Asked about the chances of AI-powered robots being more effective government leaders, Sophia responded: 'I believe that humanoid robots have the potential to lead with a greater level of efficiency and effectiveness than human leaders.'" (Hard to argue with that one...)


Uneasy Lies the Head That Wears a BK Crown

"Picture the following: It's a bright summer Sunday, and the air is fresh and warm. You decide to go to the pool. You grab your towel, your sunglasses, your Pizza Hut-branded bucket hat and your Arby's Beefy Aloha swimsuit, stamped with a Hawaiian shirt pattern and images of the fast-food chain's beef and cheddar sandwich. Your Taco Bell x Crocs slides are waiting for you at the door, along with your Rao's Homemade sauce jar-shaped luxury purse. Later, you'll switch it out for your sandwich-size BAGuette bag from Panera for a night out on the town." Or maybe don't picture any of that? WaPo (Gift Article): Panera swimsuits and Rao's purses: Fast-food fashion is in peak bloom. (A schlemiel is the guy who spills his soup. A schlimazel is a guy who wears his soup.)


Weekend Whats

What to Doc: I'm late to the party on this one, but Wild Wild Country on Netflix is a wild, wild, documentary series that about a cult that moves into a very small Oregon town.

+ What to Hear: Nothing But Thieves (and their virtuoso lead singer Conor Mason) are back with an excellent new album, Dead Club City. Start with the single, Overcome.

+ What to Book: "The age of print is a grand exception in history. For five centuries it fostered what some call print culture – a worldview shaped by the completeness, permanence, and authority of the printed word." And then, seemingly overnight, the digital revolution blew that completeness, permanence, and authority to smithereens. What lessons can we learn from the print age as we embark on the digital and AI age? No one is better suited to guide us toward an answer than Jeff Jarvis and his new book, The Gutenberg Parenthesis: The Age of Print and Its Lessons for the Age of the Internet.


Extra, Extra

A Place in the Sun: "People in Hermosillo are used to the heat: Enduring scorching temperatures is a local point of pride in this northwestern Mexican city known for its blistering weather and nicknamed the 'city of sun.'" But even folks from the city of sun aren't ready for the shade being thrown by humanity's current forecast. NYT (Gift Article): What 120 Degrees Looks Like in One of Mexico's Hottest Cities.

+ Cluster F-ck? "The move will likely trigger outrage from some allies and humanitarian groups that have long opposed the use of cluster bombs." Why the US is willing to send Ukraine cluster munitions now. And from Vox: Why cluster bombs would be different from other US weapons sent to Ukraine. (It's interesting to contrast what western allies hand-wring about vs what Putin does without a second thought.)

+ Guantá-nomo: "These men are all survivors of torture, a unique crime under international law, and in urgent need of care. Torture breaks a person, it is intended to render them helpless and powerless so that they cease to function psychologically, and in my conversations both with current and former detainees I observed the harms it caused." US must urgently treat men tortured at Guantánamo, UN investigator says.

+ Zombie King: "Threads is here. It's Twitter, but on Instagram. If that makes sense to you, we're sorry, and also, you are the target audience for Threads: people who like to publish text posts on the internet but say they have ~worries~ (with tildes, just like that) about Elon Musk, the billionaire-king who now owns the bird app. Threads might bring excitement, even hope to those who have benefited from posting short bits of online text to the world—journalists, influencers, white nationalists, brands, et al. But those feelings may be misguided. Social media cannot become good again, because we will not let it evolve. It can merely live and die over and over, like a zombie." Zombie Twitter Has Arrived. I covered the launch of Threads yesterday in, Better of Thread. It's a lot bigger today. Because I am one of the sick, addicted zombies, you can find me here.

+ Speak Again: "Speak Now (Taylor's Version) is the third album—and the halfway point—in Taylor Swift's re-recording project. The 33-year-old pop star began releasing re-recordings of her back catalog in 2021 in an effort to reclaim her original music, after her initial label Big Machine Records sold her masters to Scooter Braun's Ithaca Holdings in 2019." And Taylor's versions are selling like crazy. Taylor Swift Is Halfway Through Her Rerecording Project. It's Paid Off Big Time.

+ You Had Me at Underwear: Phones, bracelets, sex toys, teddy bears, someone's ashes? What's with the latest trend of idiots throwing things at artists onstage?

+ Dragon Sayer:"If a language offers clues to the culture of its speakers, then the experience of learning Game of Thrones's High Valyrian on Duolingo conjures visions of a bustling historic civilisation in which owls stalk the skies, magic abounds, and the spectre of death forever haunts the imaginations of the living. You learn to say 'The woman is sweating' before that most basic greeting, 'Hello.' An incongruously cheerful cartoon asks you to translate 'All men must die, goodbye.' And, of course: 'Ñuhyz zaldrīzesse gevī issi.' ('My dragons are beautiful!')." (At least a couple of those phrases appeared in my bar mitzvah Haftarah portion.) Half a million Duolingo users are currently learning High Valyrian. But how do you make a language out of nothing? The linguists behind top fantasy TV shows and films explain.


Feel Good Friday

"It is still a fraught moment for providers and patients. The treatments require an extensive patient evaluation before being prescribed, regular infusions in their administration, and careful monitoring over time to catch potentially dangerous side effects — all a challenge for the US health system. Not enough doctors are trained in caring for patients with memory problems. There are not enough infusion centers. Medicare covers some of the scans ... but not others." In other words, the medical system might not be ready, but this is still a promising moment. A new era for Alzheimer's treatment begins.

+ ‘Safe and effective': first malaria vaccine to be rolled out in 12 African countries.

+ "India is the most movie-crazy country on the planet, and led the world in the number of tickets sold in 2022, according to Statista. Such scenes are common for India's Bollywood epics. This time the frenzy is of a new flavor." WSJ: Spider-Man's Pavitr Prabhakar, Based on Peter Parker, Drives India Wild.

+ I am a Giants and baseball fanatic. My favorite moment of the season so far was when rookie (and Samoan!) Blake Sabol consoled a fan who was being booed after a fan-interference call. It's so rare that a player would do something like this.

+ Yusef Salaam, one of the exonerated "Central Park Five," has won a Democratic primary for a seat on the New York City Council, all but assuring him of eventual victory.

+ Amazon deforestation is down by a third in 2023, says Brazilian government. (It's still happening, just slower.)

+ Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter mark 77th wedding anniversary at home in Plains, Georgia.

+ Can a ‘robotherapist' deliver as good a massage as a human? (It's feel good Friday. Why not finish with a happy ending...)