Weekend | 17 March 2013

lunch

LUNCH WITH NOAM CHOMSKY
Jim McDermott | The Financial Times

. . . Chomsky thinks about how hard to hit his targets. He admits as much as our soups arrive. “Suppose I criticise Iran. What impact does that have? The only impact it has is in fortifying those who want to carry out policies I don’t agree with, like bombing.” He argues that any criticisms about, say, Chávez, will invariably get into the mainstream media, whereas those he makes about the US will go unreported. This unfair treatment is the dissident’s lot, according to Chomsky. Intellectuals like to think of themselves as iconoclasts, he says. “But you take a look through history and it’s the exact opposite. The respected intellectuals are those who conform and serve power interests.”

creativity / design

THE ORIGINAL PARADOX
Kate Cullinane | Design Observer

[Salvador]Dali did not try to be original with his design, just brilliant. The artist is quoted as having said, “Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing.”

Unfortunately, the pursuit of originality is chronic amongst designers. Having a piece of work described as original has become a sought-after compliment, but such a compliment is specious.

politics / war and peace

THE SEQUESTER, AS SEEN FROM INSIDE THE MILITARY
James Fallows | The Atlantic

And now that sequester has hit – while we’re still in Afghanistan, mind you – what is it that the military is cutting? We’re not cutting any missions – all those will continue on, somehow, despite a cut to half of our operational budget. But instead, our training and readiness funds have been cut to the bare minimum. The belief is that it’ll come back when things go “back to normal.” But worst, of all, our benefits have started to get cut. DOD civilians – who have grown in number as uniformed personnel have shrunk – have just been given a 20% paycut across the Pacific. And for the military, college tuition assistance funds have disappeared across the services.

I don’t know whether to rant against Congress, or our military leadership, including the President. I know Congress is responsible for the sequester. But it’s the Pentagon who has decided to cut pay and benefits rather than cut missions. We’ve been doing “more with less” for a half a decade now, all while waiting for things to “get back to normal.”

finance / economy

DAVID ZERVOS: I FEEL SORRY FOR THE BEARS
Joe Weisenthal | Business Insider

His latest note to clients is probably one of his most important yet, as it’s addressed to the perma-bears that hate any notion of easy money, the Fed, or stimulus, and who argue that we’re just in a sugar high period that will all come crashing down.
You know who these people are that he’s talking about, even though Zervos doesn’t mention them by name: Rick Santelli, ZeroHedge, Jim Grant, etc.

In his note, Zervos writes:

I actually feel a bit sorry for the bears. They have warned us for years about the dangers of central bank balance sheet expansion and monetary accommodation. And their “elite” have even banded together in the WSJ to sign protest petitions against QE. But the spoo keeps rising, jobs keep getting created and wealth keeps getting generated (at least for those who didn’t follow the bears’ ill-conceived advice). I feel sorry for them because they are simply living in the dark ages of monetary policy theory. They are stuck thinking like witch doctors rather than modern medical doctors.

What does he mean, specifically?
What he’s saying is that these policy bears argue that we need a hard dose of Austrian-economics, Great Depression-style pain to clear out the “rot” from the system. And that after we’ve taken our lumps and inflicted pain on ourselves (sending unemployment to over 10 percent in the process), then we can start to form a true recovery that’s not built on debt and low interest rates.

THE MOST BEAUTIFUL CORRELATION BETWEEN STOCKS AND THE ECONOMY CONTINUES TO BE PERFECT
Joe Weisenthal | Business Insider

For years and years we’ve been tracking this chart: Initial jobless claims (red line) vs. the S&P 500 (blue line).

The purpose of the chart is just to indicate that, despite all of the griping about how this is a Fed-juiced market and so on, stocks reflect what’s happening in the actual, real economy, as evidenced by the fact that for years, stocks have moved right in line with jobless claims.

When jobless claims improve (we had to flip the line over, so that the line goes up upon improvement) stocks go up. During periods of economic weakness, stocks have gone down.

This week, we hit fantastic levels in both.

claimsvsstocksmarch16
.

science / roller derby

ROLLER DERBY TEAM MATES GIVE EACH OTHER A BACTERIAL HUGS
Kate Clancy | Context and Variation | Scientific American

A roller derby pack is not unlike a microbial community. Diversity of strategies and skills are key – some of our blockers are better at containment, some at big hits, others at offense, even if pack coordination is the primary goal. And a diverse microbiome tends to be correlated with better health outcomes, provided the main bacterial types are the “good” kind (think Lactobacillus, found in cultured food like yogurt, but also our guts and our vaginas). This diversity is what makes it possible for the “good” bacteria to outcompete the “bad.”

In a paper out today at the new open access journal PeerJ, Meadow et al (2013) explore the ways in which the contact sport of roller derby provides a great test scenario for understanding variation in and transmission of skin microbes. One of the authors is a former skater, and their materials and methods indicate they understand the sport well.

science of sleep

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF DREAMING AND MORE ON CIRCADIAN RHYTHM
Shane Parrish | Farnum Street

Despite differences in terminology, all the contemporary theories of dreaming have a common thread—they all emphasize that dreams are not about prosaic themes, not about reading, writing, and arithmetic, but about emotion, or what psychologists refer to as affect. What is carried forward from waking hours into sleep are recent experiences that have an emotional component, often those that were negative in tone but not noticed at the time or not fully resolved. One proposed purpose of dreaming, of what dreaming accomplishes (known as the mood regulatory function of dreams theory) is that dreaming modulates disturbances in emotion, regulating those that are troublesome. My research, as well as that of other investigators in this country and abroad, supports this theory. Studies show that negative mood is down-regulated overnight. How this is accomplished has had less attention.

film / documentary

EDUCATE GIRLS AND CHANGE THE WORLD
OBlog | Design Observer

Girl Rising – Montage from Sarofsky on Vimeo. Sarofsky worked with the filmmakers to create many of the interstitals and graphics.

Girl Rising — a new documentary from Oscar nominated filmmaker Richard E. Robbins — consists of nine different girl’s stories of how education factored into her life circumstances. Each girl was paired with a female writer from her own country, and then her story was filmed and narrated. Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Liam Neeson and other acclaimed actors contribute voice performances to the film. For more information on how to see the film, click here. To read the New York Times review, click here.

music

BEACH HOUSE: WISHES
Directed by Eric Wareheim | Youtube

VOWS:NIGHTTIME
Village Basement Sessions | Vimeo

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