January 8, 2018 in 4,643 words

It’s official: “Shitpost” is the word that best describes the internet in 2017

More to a shitpost that meets they eye.

Each January, the American Dialect Society selects a single word or phrase that best represents the mood and interests of online discussions in the previous year. From a nominee list that included “blockchain,” “rogue,” and “digital blackface,” the society has selected “shitpost” as the “Digital Word of the Year” for 2017.


shitpost: Posting of worthless or irrelevant online content intended to derail a conversation or to provoke others.

The overall “Word of the Year,” perhaps unsurprisingly, is actually two of them: fake news.

Shitpost isn’t a judgment of the quality of an online post, though last year certainly offered plenty of objectively shitty content. Shitpost is an example of how people used the internet, in a year that made clear just how powerfully the glut of online information can be weaponized against democracy.

“Much as shitpaper means toilet paper but shit paper means, for example, the Daily Mail, the closed-up spelling of shitpost indicates that it is not just a bad post or the act of posting shittily,” explains Stan Carey on the Strong Language blog. “There’s something else going on.”

Ed. Anyone else click that final hyperlink to the Strong Language Blog?? I think I’ve found a new soure of inspiration for this Barely Uninteresting Blog.

Trump is now dangerous – that makes his mental health a matter of public interest

This world authority in psychiatry, consulted by US politicians, argues that the president’s mental fitness deserves scrutiny.


The man in the Oval Office of the White House.

Eight months ago, a group of us put our concerns into a book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President. It became an instant bestseller, depleting bookstores within days. We thus discovered that our endeavours resonated with the public.

While we keep within the letter of the Goldwater rule – which prohibits psychiatrists from diagnosing public figures without a personal examination and without consent – there is still a lot that mental health professionals can tell before the public reaches awareness. These come from observations of a person’s patterns of responses, of media appearances over time, and from reports of those close to him. Indeed, we know far more about Trump in this regard than many, if not most, of our patients. Nevertheless, the personal health of a public figure is her private affair – until, that is, it becomes a threat to public health.

To make a diagnosis one needs all the relevant information – including, I believe, a personal interview. But to assess dangerousness, one only needs enough information to raise alarms. It is about the situation rather than the person. The same person may not be a danger in a different situation, while a diagnosis stays with the person.

It is Trump in the office of the presidency that poses a danger. Why? Past violence is the best predictor of future violence, and he has shown: verbal aggressiveness, boasting about sexual assaults, inciting violence in others, an attraction to violence and powerful weapons and the continual taunting of a hostile nation with nuclear power. Specific traits that are highly associated with violence include: impulsivity, recklessness, paranoia, a loose grip on reality with a poor understanding of consequences, rage reactions, a lack of empathy, belligerence towards others and a constant need to demonstrate power.

Congress Changed 529 College Savings Plans, And Now States Are Nervous

If you’re like most Americans, you don’t have a 529 college savings plan.

If you’re like most Americans, you don’t even know what it is.

All the more reason to keep reading.

That’s because, with the new tax law, Republicans have made important changes to 529 plans that will affect millions of taxpayers, not just the ones saving for college. Before that news, though, a quick primer.

A 529 plan lets families save money for college. Think of it as a love child, born in the mid ’90s to your federal and state governments. And they named it, in a flash of creativity, after its relevant section in the Internal Revenue Code.

States generally manage the plans, while the Feds let the money grow long-term, tax-free. Thirty-three states also try to encourage savers with a little short-term reward (or not so little, in some cases): When families in those states make a contribution, they get a deduction or credit on their state income taxes, too.

“That lets people know, ‘Look, this is a tax advantage that you can unwrap for yourself right now and be a gateway to additional tax advantages later on,’ ” says Troy Montigney, who oversees Indiana’s 529 program. His state offers families a $1,000 tax credit for contributions.

But that credit means less tax revenue coming in. It’s a trade-off for states; they figure it’s worth the lost revenue if a tax break gets more people saving for college.

Now, it’s these state-based tax breaks that are driving real concern among state leaders about Washington’s recent tax overhaul.

Hmmmm: Wasn’t she really involved with advocating school vouchers and private and charter schools before she was asked to head dismantle the Department of Education?

Tears, despair and shattered hopes: the families torn apart by Trump’s travel ban

As Trump’s ban quietly came into effect last month, US citizens and residents saw loved ones’ approved visas suddenly denied – with no end in sight.


‘This administration is saying US citizens from a certain class aren’t allowed to bring their children. It’s basically legalizing discrimination.’

Five-year-old Gamila Almansoob has asked the same question for years: “When are we going to daddy?” Each time, the Yemeni girl’s mother gives the same reply: “When we get the paperwork.”

Gamila’s father, Ramy Almansoob, a US citizen, moved to Virginia in 2015 with the hopes that his wife and three daughters could soon follow and escape their war-torn home country. After a lengthy vetting process, the visas were approved on 4 December 2017. That same day, however, the US supreme court ruled that Donald Trump’s travel ban on six Muslim-majority countries, including Yemen, could go into effect.

Ten days later, instead of printing the visas, the embassy gave the family a notice saying that they were now ineligible. Gamila cried as her mother tried to explain to her that this was not the paperwork they needed.

“These children are not dangerous. If you want to make America great again, it starts with children,” said Ramy, 34, who was born in the US, but raised in Yemen. His wife was told that no waivers would be granted and that the denial was final. “I need them with me.”

The Almansoobs are among the hundreds of Yemeni families and Muslims across the Middle East and Africa who have had their lives upended in recent weeks, following the implementation of Trump’s signature anti-immigrant policy in December after months of legal obstacles. One year ago, the “Muslim ban” sparked massive airport protests and headlines across the globe, but in the first month of its enforcement, the president’s order has largely faded from the news even as families are being denied entry to the US, separated from loved ones with no end in sight.

The invisible wall: how Trump is slowing immigration without laying a brick

While Trump’s ‘great, great wall’ has yet to materialize, his administration has quietly built a barrier of bans, roadblocks and bureaucratic burdens.


A California Border Watch volunteer patrols the USA/Mexico border near Campo, California.

Donald Trump has failed to add another inch to the country’s border wall between the US and Mexico, but his administration this year has quietly erected a steep, invisible wall that limits migration to the US, according to interviews with lawyers and refugee groups.

Some of these roadblocks received considerable attention, like the three versions of a travel ban on people from Muslim-majority countries and the cancellation of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) – an Obama-era program that protected undocumented youth raised in the US.

But the Trump administration also appears to have orchestrated a more subtle attack on immigration that touches the most vulnerable populations, like refugees, as well as powerful business people who work in the US.

“I think that they’re basically hoping that five years from now we see a significant decrease in the number of people who even want to come,” Sandra Feist, an immigration lawyer in Minnesota, told the Guardian. “I think if we keep this up, that’s what we’ll see.”

Feist, who has worked in immigration law for 16 years and is a part of the American Immigration Lawyers Association media and advocacy committee, said a slew of small administrative changes have drastically slowed the visa process.

Legalizing marijuana is risky, but not for the reasons Jeff Sessions says

If Sessions wants to declare a war on marijuana, he should find a better argument.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions indiscreetly started the Trump administration’s war on marijuana this week when he revealed he is rescinding a policy, implemented by the Obama administration, that protects states that have legalized marijuana.

It’s no surprise that Sessions, who once said “good people don’t smoke marijuana,” opposes state legalization. He’s been vocal about his hostility on multiple occasions. However, his move to rescind the federal policy came as a shock to some within his own party, including Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner. This makes the war on marijuana an outlier among the long-winded list of issues the Trump administration has taken a stance on thus far, as it is not a purely partisan issue.

Why marijuana, though? Doesn’t the Department of Justice have other issues to tackle? According to Sessions’ memo on the matter, the move will give federal officials the “necessary tools to disrupt criminal organizations, tackle the growing drug crisis, and thwart violent crime across our country.”

In July 2017, Sessions sent a letter to the governor and attorney general of Washington State with a similar tone, saying that Congress had “determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug and that the illegal distribution and sale of marijuana is a crime.” In this letter he included statistics from one report, titled the “Washington State Marijuana Impact Report” published by the Northwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA). That report was from 2012, when weed was technically legal in Washington state; however, the sale of recreational marijuana didn’t start until 2014.

After #MeToo, we can’t ditch due process

There has recently been a groundswell of high profile ‘televictions’ of men accused of workplace harassment. We must find a better way to deliver justice.


‘Sexual harassment allegations have reached almost every industry and institution.’

Rushing to judgment without due process defies core values that Americans hold dear. Everybody should have the opportunity to state their case, whether a victim or an alleged perpetrator. The flip side – quietly sweeping a scandal under the rug – is equally offensive.

At a time when improper interactions between men and women, particularly in the workplace, are part of a raucous national conversation, we must find a way to ensure that everyone – the public, private and public institutions, victims and alleged perpetrators – is given a fair shake through a swift and fair process.

We must be mindful of transparency, recalling Justice Louis Brandeis’s iconic proclamation that sunlight is the best disinfectant. Of course, sunlight may also cause melanoma! How do we deal with these competing goals and ensure that a mere allegation, without compelling evidence, does not quickly morph into judgment?

The public conversation has largely been advanced through the press and social media. Stories have been generated by alleged victims who speak with reporters, or tell their stories to others, who then “go public”. Whether published in mainstream outlets, tabloids or postings on social media, the accounts often go viral. The media may fairly report allegations of wrongdoing. Nonetheless, in many instances – particularly given the number of sensational or ideological outlets – this may not be the case.

5 Underreported Acts Of Total Madness By Modern Countries

Humanity has spent millennia creating laws and refining protocols so that our many countries can get along with one other, at least for a little bit. You’d think that at this point in history, we’d be semi-competent at good old-fashioned diplomacy. And we are … most of the time. Other times, the rulebook goes straight into the fireplace and whole countries turn into the geopolitical equivalent of your crazy cousin who brought a gun to Christmas dinner.

#5. Vietnam Pulls A Batman-Like Kidnapping In Germany


Trinh Xuan Thanh was your run of the mill Vietnamese businessman/politician. Well, aside from the small matter of the state-owned company he ran, PetroVietnam Construction, losing $150 million during his tenure. Now, that’s a terrible loss, but it’s not illegal to be just … really bad at your job (thank god). Well, we should say it’s not illegal here. Thanh was charged with corruption, and unlike in America, that wasn’t a ticket to Club Fed — he was potentially facing the death penalty. The Vietnamese government had cleared him of wrongdoing, but then a more conservative wing of the Communist Party came to power and decided that they had a case against him. So instead of waiting around to see if he’d be executed, Thanh made his way to Berlin, where he applied for political asylum.

Under international law, Vietnam couldn’t get Thanh back without Germany’s say-so. But the extradition process was really long and boring. You know what’s more fun? Batman.

Vietnam stole a page from The Dark Knight‘s playbook and straight up abducted Thanh from the middle of Berlin. No one knows exactly how they did it; all we know for sure is that it involved Vietnamese Intelligence crossing the border from the Czech Republic, a white van, and balls that wouldn’t fit in the Reichstag. It might have also involved a mole in Germany’s Federal Office for Migration and Refugees.

For Germany, the whole thing was a little too reminiscent of the Soviet abductions of German citizens before the fall of the Berlin Wall. So they expelled Vietnamese diplomats and extradited a possible suspect from the Czech Republic, a dude only known as N.H. Long. Sources have yet to confirm whether he’s a Metal Gear Solid character, but search your heart, and you’ll find the truth.

Arbitrary deadlines are the enemy of creativity, according to Harvard research

Make Them Care


Under pressure.

Time can feel like the enemy to an employee in any role, and in any industry, but it’s most acutely threatening to creative types.

We may tease them for their diva-like behaviors when they feel persecuted by a deadline, but we have to admit that “develop an amazing new idea” is not something that slides into your schedule, like pick up lunch or respond to new clients. Nor can systems be tweaked and extra hands hired to help hit a goal that requires innovation, the way they can when mundane busy work is piling up. And yet deadlines are a fact of life for any company that wants to stay competitive.

In a recent Harvard Business School podcast, professor Teresa Amabile, whose academic career has focused on individuals, teams, and creativity, offers some guidance for managers who struggle to support or coax their creative talent. She explains that although the creative process itself can’t be controlled, certain structures can set up the conditions to move it along. Here’s how.

Aim for low to medium time pressures

When possible, managers should avoid tight deadlines for creative projects. In her work, Amabile found that creative teams can produce ideas on a deadline, and creative people may feel productive on high-pressured days, but their ideas won’t be inspired.

The secret lives of students who mine cryptocurrency in their dorm rooms

A New Generation


“Essentially a 2,000-watt heater.”

Mark was a sophomore at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, when he began mining cryptocurrencies more or less by accident.

In November 2016, he stumbled on NiceHash, an online marketplace for individuals to mine cryptocurrency for willing buyers. His desktop computer, boosted with a graphics card, was enough to get started. Thinking he might make some money, Mark, who asked not to use his last name, downloaded the platform’s mining software and began mining for random buyers in exchange for payments in bitcoin. Within a few weeks, he had earned back the $120 cost of his graphics card, as well as enough to buy another for $200.

From using NiceHash, he switched to mining ether, then the most popular bitcoin alternative. To increase his computational power, he scrounged up several unwanted desktop computers from a professor who “seemed to think that they were awful and totally trash.” When equipped with the right graphics cards, the “trash” computers worked fine.

Each time Mark mined enough ether to cover the cost, he bought a new graphics card, trading leftover currency into bitcoin for safekeeping. By March 2017, he was running seven computers, mining ether around the clock from his dorm room. By September his profits totaled one bitcoin—worth roughly $4,500 at the time. Now, four months later, after bitcoin’s wild run and the diversification of his cryptocoin portfolio, Mark estimates he has $20,000 in digital cash. “It just kind of blew up,” he says.

Told their treehouse must go, owners appeal to Supreme Court

Lynn Tran and Richard Hazen built a Florida beachfront treehouse that would be the envy of any child. It’s got two levels, hammocks and windows looking out on the Gulf of Mexico.

But the hangout has cost the couple a handsome sum: about $30,000 to construct and probably five times that in legal fees as they’ve fought local authorities over it, Tran said. Now, they’re at their last stop, the Supreme Court. Unless the high court intervenes, the treehouse must be torn down.

The justices had their first opportunity to consider taking the case at a closed-door conference Friday, and a decision on whether they will weigh in could come as early as Monday.

The couple’s lawyer, David Levin, acknowledges the case is unlikely to be accepted by the justices, who only hear argument in about 80 of the thousands of cases they’re asked to take each year. But he argues that his clients’ rights were violated when a Florida court “rubber stamped” a ruling proposed by the city of Holmes Beach without any evidence of independent consideration.

Tran and Hazen haven’t been willing to give up on the structure she calls their “getaway.”

“Part of me still believes there’s got to be justice out there and we didn’t do anything wrong,” Tran said in a telephone interview.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY: Hazen asked the city whether they needed a permit. The answer: No.

When The Cash Register Doesn’t Take Cash

A handful of restaurants around the country are giving up on cash.

General manager Erica Ritchie smiled politely before breaking the news to the young woman with a $10 bill in her hand.

“We’re actually cashless,” said Ritchie inside Bluestone Lane, a bright cafe in the shadow of City Hall in downtown Philadelphia.

“Oh,” said the young woman, a bit sheepishly, before handing over a credit card to pay for her small coffee.

By now, Ritchie is used to the exchange, though it’s not terribly common anymore. Most of Bluestone’s customers are regulars who come because it’s close to work — and because they rarely carry cash. They like the reassurance in this food-crazed city that they won’t need it.

“I can’t remember the last time I got out cash. Probably like a few weeks ago – a month ago? Maybe something like that,” said Samuel Foote, a social worker in the office building above the cafe, as he waited for banana toast. “And it was like to give money to my father who doesn’t have Venmo.”

Samsung just announced a 146-inch modular TV

The Wall uses MicroLED technology for a picture that rivals OLED

Samsung has come to CES 2018 with an enormous 4K TV it’s calling The Wall — and it’s also claiming The Wall to be “the world’s first modular TV.” The Wall measures 146 inches and uses MicroLED technology to produce its picture.

MicroLED shares many benefits with OLED; each microscopic LED can emit its own light — no backlight is required — and that creates the deep blacks and lush colors normally reserved for OLED sets. It also gets incredibly bright.

The wall has a bezel-less design that Samsung describes as “module-based.” Samsung says this approach will ultimately allow customers to create a TV sized just for their needs. The company isn’t yet revealing many specifics on how that will work, however, only saying ”the modular screen can be used to create a wall-sized display, or simply let consumers increase their traditional screen size to suit a new room in the home.” Samsung wouldn’t even specify how many modules were in the concept set shown at tonight’s First Look event in Las Vegas. Up close, the edges of each module making up The Wall were visible under bright lighting, but they’re indistinguishable when there’s content playing on screen. There were sample MicroLED panels on hand to get across just how minuscule the RGB pixels are, as well.

5,000-year old rock art found in India is likely the oldest depiction of a supernova

Two Moons

“Imagine looking up at the sky one night and finding two moons. If it happened in 2017, Twitter would be abuzz with people posting photos. News channels would get astronomers to explain what’s happening, and they’d say it’s not a supernatural phenomenon but likely an exploding star—a supernova. Within hours, telescopes would have nailed down the exact star that suffered the dreadful fate. And then, likely for weeks to come, you’d be able to enjoy the presence of a very, very, very bright star in the sky.

Now imagine seeing the same sight 5,000 years ago. Nobody in your tribe has any clue why there’s suddenly an extra super-bright object in the night sky. There are no records, written or pictorial, to consult. However, curious as you and your tribemates might be, you aren’t going to risk asking someone in the rival tribe nearby. All you could do is wonder about the oddity—and perhaps try to represent it through your favorite artistic medium.

Scientists say this is likely what happened back in 3600 BC. Astrophysicist Mayank Vahia and his colleagues at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research believe a rock painting found in what is today part of the Kashmir region of south Asia is the oldest record of a supernova and likely the oldest sky chart ever drawn. The artwork shows two bright objects in the sky, with figures of animals and humans underneath. A study detailing the discovery has been published in the Indian Journal of History of Science (pdf). (Vahia also spoke about the discovery for the podcast The Intersection.)


Photograph of stone carving from Burzahom.

Vahia began the study by taking many steps backwards. Rock art is difficult to date with precision, but Vahia had a solid starting point. The rock was buried in a wall (though hidden from view of residents) of a house that had already been dated to around 2100 BC. The oldest known settlement in the region was founded around 4100 BC. So the rock art is likely to have been made sometime between those two millennia—then inadvertently used to construct a new dwelling.

Next, Vahia needed to understand why someone would draw two bright objects in the sky.

CARTER’S FAREWELL

Historians usually rank Jimmy Carter as one of America’s more lackluster presidents. His term was marked by inflation, an oil embargo, high unemployment, and a hostage crisis in Iran. Result: he lost his 1980 reelection bid to Ronald Reagan by 8.4 million votes, the largest ouster of an incumbent president in U.S. history. But Carter is also regarded as one of America’s best ex-presidents. In retirement, he brokered peace deals, supervised elections, and helped found Habitat for Humanity. In his farewell speech to the nation, delivered on January 14, 1981, Carter talked about the nature of American democracy and then, with hope and understanding, he predicted many of the problems that would loom large for the world in the decades to come. Here is that address.

MY FELLOW AMERICANS

In a few days I will lay down my official responsibilities in this office—to take up once more the only title in our democracy superior to that of President, the title of citizen. Of Vice President Mondale, my Cabinet, and the hundreds of others who have served with me during the last four years, I wish to say now publicly what I have said in private: I thank them for the dedication and competence they’ve brought to the service of our country. But I owe my deepest thanks to you, to the American people, because you gave me this extraordinary opportunity to serve.

We’ve faced great challenges together, and we know that future problems will also be difficult. But I’m now more convinced than ever that the United States, better than any other country, can meet successfully whatever the future might bring. These last four years have made me more certain than ever of the inner strength of our country, the unchanging value of our principles and ideals, the stability of our political system, the ingenuity and the decency of our people.

“THE MOST POWERFUL OFFICE IN THE WORLD”

Tonight I would like first to say a few words about this most special office, the Presidency of the United States. This is at once the most powerful office in the world and among the most severely constrained by law and custom. The President is given a broad responsibility to lead but cannot do so without the support and consent of the people, expressed formally through the Congress and informally in many ways through a whole range of public and private institutions. This is as it should be.

Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

Host Seth Meyers addresses sexual harassment in Hollywood, President Donald Trump and more at the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards.

THANKS to NBC for making this program available on YouTube.

A Simple Love is taken from These Systems Are Failing, the debut album from Moby & The Void Pacific Choir. Out Now: http://moby.la/mvpcthesesystemsarefai…

Trevor asks Miss America contestants in the audience why they get harder questions than the president.

THANKS to Comedy Central and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah for making this program available on YouTube.

Haru the Shiba Inu knocks down 1,000 dominoes! It is very difficult stacking these dominos with a dog around..thumbs up for her patience!

CAUTION: Some language may not be appropriate for work or children.

Yeah nah dodgy planet.

Max is just a ball of fun today.

FINALLY . . .

‘We are stardust’


Edgar Mitchell walks on the moon during the Apollo 14 mission in 1971.


Ellen Mahoney, Boulder-based journalist and co-author of the young adult nonfiction book Earthrise: My adventures as an Apollo 14 Astronaut, can’t remember a time when she didn’t stare up at the stars and wonder about the big, humbling questions of life.

“Who I am? Why am I here? What is that we’re all a part of? Where are we going? That’s always who I’ve been, and that was who Edgar was, too,” Mahoney says.

She’s referring to her co-author, the late Edgar Mitchell, the moon-walking, alien-hunting, psychically inclined astronaut.

As a journalist, Mahoney focuses on the cold, hard facts of Mitchell’s life. But from these, she hopes to construct a more encompassing narrative, one that can lift our thoughts from scientific infrastructures to consider the mysteries of the universe with equal fervor.

Mahoney first met Mitchell decades ago, when living in sunny Palo Alto as a bright-eyed 20-something eager to volunteer at his newly founded Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS). The institute was the first home for the emerging, multidisciplinary field Mitchell founded, bringing objective scientific tools and techniques together with subjective inner wisdom in order to study the full range of human experiences.

Ed. More tomorrow? Probably. Possibly. Maybe. Not?